I've successfully completed the second week in my month long vegan challenge. The second week went much smoother than the first, but it did have its fair share of hills and valleys. Vegan eating is starting to feel a little more natural (and a lot less like work). Here are a few personal observations about my second week*:
- On Monday, I awoke to a pounding headache for the third day in a row. I felt weak, tired, and sore, as if I had gotten the flu. I was retaining fluids. When I finally crawled home after a long day at work, I collapsed on the couch. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicions. I had 11 of the 13 symptoms for a protein deficiency. Twelve days into my vegan challenge seemed too soon to be having such real symptoms, but I didn't eat much protein before the challenge either (with all of it coming from milk, eggs, and turkey slices).
- It was the first time since taking on this challenge that I began to question whether it was the right move for me. In that moment, when I scarcely had the strength to walk around, I seriously debated quitting the challenge and cooking up a frozen chicken breast hidden in the depths of the freezer. My body was craving it, needing it. I didn't give in (the thought of standing that long seemed intimidating) and headed for bed instead, with the resolve to find a way to overdose on protein the next morning.
- Protein has been, hands down, the biggest challenge for me. So many of you have pointed me in the direction of beans, nuts, and lentils to satisfy this need. However, I am deathly allergic to tree nuts (besides peanuts and almonds) so nuts aren't really the right direction for me. I also have a confession to make—I've never cooked with beans or lentils before. Growing up, they were never a part of my diet so I've never had a positive experience with them. This isn't an excuse, of course, but it doesn't make getting protein any easier when you don't have any tried and true recipes using them.
- For the most part, I've stopped craving non-vegan foods. Unless you waft a greasy hamburger beneath my nose, I don't feel like I'm missing out. In fact, the thought of eating cheese right now is almost repulsive because it seems like it would be way too rich.
- There was not a single search in my browsing history this week asking "Is _______ vegan?" I'm getting better at this game.
- I still struggle with finding a quick lunch during the week that's vegan, but filling enough to hold me over until I get home from work 7 hours later. I've started making hummus sandwiches and, while they taste all right, I find my stomach growling 4 hours later.
- For the first time since starting this challenge, I can start to imagine what it is like to be vegan while surrounded by non-vegans. It's similar to those (like me) with allergies, where you can't accept "foreign" foods and have to eat on your own before you visit with friends (or pack your own meal). It's certainly not convenient, but it's starting to seem closer to the realm of "doable."
After the second week, I feel a little more comfortable with being vegan and it doesn't seem to take as much willpower as it did the first week. I still struggle with my on again/off again protein deficiency (when I wake up with a headache and no other symptoms, it's my body's way of giving me a warning sign), but I'm trying to open myself up and consciously base every single meal around protein rich foods, like chickpeas and quinoa. Let's hope week three is much healthier (and headache free)!
*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.
(The photo above features a vegan hot dish I threw together with a wine sauce, peppers, mushrooms, and onion with soy meat that looks/tastes quite similar to the real thing).