5 things I learned during my first year of being vegan

Today marks my one year veganniversary!

I already kind of celebrated last weekend by going to my favorite vegan cafe in Seattle with my other half. If you’re in this area, you should definitely check them out.

But, at the end of February I’m having a party and making a bunch of food for a group of friends. And they are all omnivores! I hope I can pull it off.

When I first went vegan, I was listening to the wrong people about how I should be feeding my body. I thought I could lose weight and be fit by eating 90 percent of my diet as fruit and the other 10 percent as potatoes. Boy, was I wrong. It sucks that it took me almost 10 months to realize the fallacy in this plan, but I’m glad I was finally pointed in the right direction.

I’ve learned a lot in the last 12 months and I want to share a few of those things with you. These are things that I wish someone would have told me before/while I went vegan.

1. You can’t survive on fruits and root vegetables alone

If you’re on YouTube at all, I think you’ll know who I’m talking about when I say “DON’T ‘go fruit yourself!'” I don’t have anything against fruit, in fact I love it. However, the 80-10-10 (80 percent carbs – 10 percent protein – 10 percent fat) diet that this certain individual on YouTube is promoting could have actually killed me. And that’s not an exaggeration. Will it nearly kill everyone? No, probably not. I have an endocrine condition that makes me far more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes if I don’t watch which carbs I eat. So, I have to stick with low-glycemic carbs (whole wheat, berries, coconut, etc.) and pair everything with a protein. Eating a five-banana smoothie was not only spiking the shit out of my blood glucose, it was also packing on the pounds. Despite what everyone thinks (vegans always lose weight), I gained about 20 pounds in my first year as a vegan.

From Flickr: michaelpickard

From Flickr: michaelpickard

2. Eating fat will not make you fat

I know that eating fat is often associated with getting fat (becoming overweight) but that’s just not true. The only reason why a high-fat diet would result in weight gain is because each gram of fat is 9 calories, whereas carb and protein grams are 4 calories each. Obviously, if you’re eating a high-fat diet and you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll end up eating less volume than someone who is eating a more balanced diet of say 45-30-25 (carbs-protein-fat), because you’ll reach your caloric cap faster. In addition, if your fat intake is less than 15 percent of your total calories, you can suffer from some major health issues.

From Flickr: Robyn Lee

From Flickr: Robyn Lee

3. There’s nothing wrong with soy

Soy gets a bad reputation, especially in the vegan community. Some vegans swear by it, while others swear it’ll give you cancer (not true – quite the opposite actually). First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with soy unless you’re allergic to it. Women especially can benefit from eating soy. A study found that eating soy was associated with decreased breast cancer risk because of the decreased ovarian hormone levels. And guys, unless you consume a CRAP TON of soy, your hormone levels should stay just fine. From Vegan Health, “At moderate amounts, soy does not cause feminine characteristics in men. At high amounts, as in twelve servings a day or more, a small percentage of men who are particularly sensitive to soy might develop tender, enlarged breast tissue.” (emphasis added)

From Flickr: donsolo

From Flickr: donsolo

4. Diets don’t work

This doesn’t really have much to do with being vegan, but it’s true nonetheless. When I say “diets” I mean the get-fit-in-30-days gimmick that is sold on infomercials. I also mean the skinny-pill diets that people try to sell you with their “shocking” before and after photos. In terms of health and fitness, if you’re taking it off fast, chances are you’re not just losing body fat. You know that commercial for some diet pill, maybe it was called Lipozene or something, that says, “the weight they lost was 78 percent fat!” Is that supposed to make me feel better? That means I’m probably losing at least 15 percent muscle (the rest being water) at the same time which will inevitably reduce my BMR and slow my metabolism. That does not sound like a solution to my problem.

Diet pills and these meal plan things that make you change something temporarily won’t work in the long term unless you keep forking out money to them. That’s how this is a BILLION dollar industry! There’s a quote (don’t know who said it originally) that says, “If you eat what you’ve always eaten, you’ll weight what you’ve always weighed.” Google it, there are plenty of memes and inspiration posters at your disposal.

It’s true, though. If the changes you make to your diet and exercise aren’t permanent, then your weight loss won’t be either. It’s gotta be a lifestyle change. Like going vegan, it’s not just a diet (that would make me a plant-based dieter). There’s nothing wrong with people on plant-based diets either! But, veganism is not just about food.

5. Nobody is perfect

You may slip from your path, but as long as you own it and get back up from the fall, you’re fine! Some say I’m not a “perfect” vegan because I go to Taco Bell (and order vegan food). “You’re supporting the slaughter industry!” Well, so are you if you purchase ANYTHING from any major grocery story chain. The truth is, nobody is perfect. The sooner that you accept this about yourself and other people, the happier you’ll be.

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