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Thoughts on Going Vegan: Week 4—The End?

Thoughts on Going Vegan: Week 4—The End?

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Meal Ideas & Afterthoughts

I've successfully completed the fourth and final week in my month long vegan challenge. As for eating, this week was smooth sailing, with plenty of delicious vegan food. There was, however, a very huge, life-altering realization. Here are a few personal observations about my fourth week*:

  • I've had very few cravings for non-vegan food this past month (and even they were quite fleeting). The first week of the challenge I was worried about missing my favorite foods so much that I sought out vegan alternatives—which weren't very good. I worried for naught. Occasionally I'd get a pang of nostalgia for some of my favorite foods, like Fettuccine Alfredo, but the feeling passed as quickly as it came. Without non-vegan cravings, going vegan was really quite easy and I didn't feel like I was missing out.

  • I accidentally ate half a chip that had milk listed on the ingredient label. I never expected potato chips to contain milk; in between popping a broken one in my mouth and turning over the bag to look at the nutritional information, the damage had been done. It was half a potato chip and whey was the last ingredient on the label, but I felt guilty about it for days. In fact, I still kind of do, which is why I'm confessing it to you.

  • The day after my vegan challenge ended, I went out for a celebratory brunch with my sister and re-introduced myself to dairy and eggs. I had scrambled eggs (without cheese), cream cheese on a bagel, french toast, and half a slice of bacon. After a month of avoiding animal products, I was not expecting that I wouldn't actually like non-vegan food again. They tasted differently than I remember, with a texture that was strange and completely undesirable (especially eggs/meat). I didn't get sick afterwards, but it was an unexpected experience for me.

  • Since the vegan challenge ended, the vast majority of the food I've eaten has been vegan. Here or there I'll eat an old favorite, such as my favorite turkey sandwich or ramen noodles (a guilty pleasure), but they don't taste right and I find that I have to force myself to get it down. While eating turkey sandwiches, I dream of eating humus and vegetable ones instead—a sandwich I didn't even like all that much when I was vegan. Maybe my taste buds have changed? Is that even possible? I wonder.

  • After growing to love vegan food, I think it will definitely have a new role in my diet. It's generally healthy, tastes delicious, and my body feels good when I eat it. Just as there was an adjustment period when I went vegan, there is an adjustment period going back. It may be a few weeks before I can eat and enjoy meat again, but the recipes and lessons I've learned from going vegan will stick with me for a very, very long time.

  • Lastly, it's time for the big realization. I've been plagued with uncomfortable and sometimes painful digestive issues my entire life. While I won't go into detail, it's a condition I've seen several different doctors about, been prescribed different treatments for, and gone through a colonoscopy to try to resolve. No method has fixed the problem and the doctors couldn't sort out what was wrong—for all intents and purposes I was "normal," even though I clearly wasn't. I assumed this was just a problem I would have to live with for the rest of my life.

    Two weeks into my vegan diet, the problem I had faced continuously for twenty-four years disappeared. Disappeared. I could have cried. For the first time in my life, I had a normally functioning digestive system and it was glorious. While there aren't many allergies associated with eating meat, there are quite a few associated with consuming dairy. After a little research, the symptoms I had been plagued with seemed to match up fairly well with a milk protein intolerance. It is a hypersensitivity to the proteins, casein and whey, which are found in milk; this is not the same thing as lactose intolerance, but the treatment, avoidance of all dairy products, is the same. I've always been a big milk drinker, typically consuming 1 1/2 cups every single day with breakfast. If I really did had an intolerance to milk proteins, I never would have gone long enough without milk to notice a difference until now.

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to continue to cut dairy out of my diet while re-introducing meat to see how my digestive system reacts. If it's true that I do have a milk protein intolerance, the diagnosis is really a double edged sword. On one hand, it will shape the way I eat and the way I approach baking for the rest of my life. On the other hand, it may solve my digestive issues, making me feel healthy for the first time in a very long time.

After the fourth and final week, I am sincerely glad, in a hundred different ways, that I took on this challenge. It introduced me to a new lifestyle, new recipes, new flavors, and a new outlook on healthy eating. If I hadn't gone vegan for a month on a whim, I never would have discovered a potential solution to a lifelong health problem. I feel greatly indebted to my time spent as a vegan and urge you to give vegan dishes a chance. You might just like it.

*I mean no offense to those who have gone vegan for moral beliefs and obligations (in fact, you have my utmost respect). This is just a record of my personal experience with the lifestyle.

Reader Comments (18)

I've been fascinated by your experiences during this challenge and it's really interesting to see the effect that even one month of eating can have not least if it manages to help you identify what's causing your stomach problems!
07.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn
I've really enjoyed reading about your journey through this challenge. And am fascinated that your doctors never picked up on this potential intolerance. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed as being intolerant to both dairy and eggs, and he'd been eating 3 eggs for breakfast every day for the last 20 odd years! Amazing what different foods can do to you.
07.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf
Congratulations on completing your challenge! And thank you for sharing your experience - it's been very interesting and enlightening to follow you on your vegan journey. And how fantastic that it helped with a lifelong health issue!
07.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
Wow. Thank you for sharing these exciting 4 weeks with us. It definitely has me wondering about vegan food (the non vegetable/fruit part) maybe when I'm in college (which I start in about two months) I'll try doing a few vegan things. Bug it's also amazing that you found out about your stomach problems through this experience! At least there are still milk-like products to replace milk. My sister used to drink lactaid (milk without lactose is what the carton describes) in not sure if it tastes the same as milk or if it's not what you need but I suppose you can give it a shot :/

Anyways thank you again for these posts :)
Congratulations on completing! Learn something new everyday..would never guess chip would have milk. As someone who's gradually being a vegetarian, I am amazed at your achievements. I cheat once since I started, and I feel guilty. Hopefully I could last longer.
07.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMimieJay
Your weekly updates were SO interesting to read! I really enjoyed them. I'm so glad to hear that your feeling better because of it, too. So many people think "I'd never be able to go vegan" and so they don't even give plant based meals a chance :)
I loved reading your thoughts on going vegan. Thank you for sharing this! I am also too for the most part with the occasional omlet and cheese, but mostly cook vegan. A great book I found was Vegan Yum Yum and she did put a coupld different recipes for alfredo sauces in it. I have to say I was pleased as punch to finally have a vegan Pad See Yew recipe :D
07.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterangela
glad you gave it a try but i would restrict myself from the dairy if you know it cause an irration and how could you go back to meat after all this discovery. why try it. my husband just crossed over to vegan side his last steak was july 4, 2012 and he's loving losing weight and changing his diet.
07.5.2012 | Unregistered Commentersaniel
That is such an amazing realization that you came across. I'm really happy for you if you've pinpointed the cause of your digestive troubles. The good thing is that there are so many ways to eat well with a restricted diet these days, as you've realized from your vegan experiment. It's also been really interesting to hear about how your body has adjusted to a vegan diet. Thanks for sharing your journey with everyone!
07.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrighteyedbaker
It's great hearing that being vegan for just a month has benefited you so much! And I love your vegan recipes as I always have something against using butter( no offence to butter lover, its just a personal preference). Looking forward to more of your vegan baking recipes! :)
07.5.2012 | Unregistered Commentermylene
Hello Kristin,

I think that it is my very first comment on your blog (that I discovered a few weeks ago, and read it in silence until now).
Your thoughts at the end of you "month vegan challenge" is so interesting to read...
Thanks for sharing this experience ♥

A lot of people have dairy intolerance, but do not know it, and live "perfectly" well for years !
As there are several "degrees" of intolerance, some even live an entire life without knowing it (their symptomes may be discomfortable, as yours, but they can still live with it).

Sometimes, some experience (as you did), are so beneficial for us :)

I am not vegan, but vegetarian (for 1 year a half), and I am thinking of becoming vegan...
I do not drink milk (and never did, since childhood, by habit, not choice), but I do consum a lot of vegetal drink (oat milk, rice milk...), they are such tasty, and the choice is so large !
One of my favorite is coconut milk ♥ Discover it a few weeks ago, and I fell in love with with :)

There... I just wanted to pass by, say a little "hi", and how much I enjoy reading what you write ✿
Have a beautiful great day Kristin ☼
07.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMély
Hi, there!! Great to hear you had a successful trial on the vegan diet. I personally have been vegan for 2 months now and I love it. I wish you good luck in your upcoming diet journey and can't wait to see some scrumptious vegan recipes from your site!
07.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
Hey! I don't eat dairy either (and was never a huge fan of Alfredo sauce) and the other day I found this recipe online: I haven't tried it, but I love avocados and it looks good! I loved hearing about your journey. :)
07.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia
I have a full dairy allergy so I feed my family a dairy-free diet. My husband was told he had Crone's disease as a teenager and has been in and out of the doctors offices/hospitals for 25 years. Then he met me. He has been symptoms-free for the last 5 years. The doctors swear dairy has nothing to do with it. Really?? LOL
07.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVicki
This was such an interesting project to follow! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!
great challenge and Im happy you managed :)
I would love to try but to scared of living without milk. I cannot imagine latte with soy milk in the morning. Maybe almond milk would work then :)
anyway always nice to read other people experience.
Greetings from UK :)
07.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOla
Hey, I was amazed to read that you had no dietary problems after becoming vegan, could you please post examples of what you have eaten during your vegan month?
07.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie
What a great post!
I am on my 3rd week of being Vegan and I love it! My digestive system is also working wonderfully, although I didn't have as severe of problems as you describe. My bloated stomach however is now half the size - I no longer look 4 months pregnant!
I am not missing meat at all, and except for the occassional desire for cheese, I'm finding dairy not too difficult to do without either. I've discovered that Almond milk and Amand yogurt tastes perfectly in my overnight oats.

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!
08.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

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