What foods I had to quit, what was the toughest part, how did I get my protein, did I become weak, is it good for weight loss? etc…
I have been a vegetarian for almost 15 years before I decided to turn vegan about a year back, Oct 12 2014 to be exact. That date is also significant because I ran a marathon on that day. To begin with, I will have to admit, I am only, probably 97% vegan, as I sometimes eat a birthday cake or something like that. In other words, i am not too religious about being a vegan.
When I thought of switching to Vegan diet, I thought I will have to quit milk, yogurt/curd, cheese and eggs. But I did not realize how many food products actually have milk or egg in them. Quitting pizza was hard, and then the ice cream, the cake, almost all baking products, one after other followed. In the last one year, following vegan diet has certainly become easier. Of course I still get some flashes whenever I see a diary based food item, a cow appears in front of me, saying “ambaa” or “moo”, and it is not a happy moo.
In the beginning it was hard to stop eating plain yogurt/curd. Curd rice was one of my favorite. I eat it every single meal since childhood. So quickly I started to search for a vegan alternative. I tried soy yogurt and some other varieties, they all tasted bad. The closest thing was coconut milk yogurt. Then I also bought some non-diary based probiotic tablets, mainly for compensating the digestive benefits of curd rice. Within a month or so, I stopped both of these. I got used to the new diet, and I didn’t miss them much.
I always loved spicy food (and I used to eat really spicy). Another thing I learned was, without the coolness of curd rice at the end of the meal, I couldn’t handle spicy food. I rapidly reduced spice content in my curries. I cut down on Indian pickles as well.
Apart from the question “Why”, I frequently get asked how do I get my protein. Actually, I think I am getting more protein now than ever before. This is mainly because I am eating protein consciously now. I eat a lot of beans, daal, tofu, kale. In addition, I also make green smoothie with vegan based protein powder (vega or Orgain – you can get both of them at Costco). Btw, the question “why” has often become an ice-breaker, whenever I go out to lunch with a not so familiar client.
Ice breaking part is nice, but it is also hard when others try to plan the restaurant based on my eating habit. I generally don’t even bring it up with the colleagues when we discuss about going out. Because I am sure I will at least find a green salad ( I ask them to put any dressing on the side) wherever we end up going. Most recently, we decided to go to California Pizza Kitchen. I was caught up in a meeting, so I told my team that I would join them directly at the restaurant. By then time I went there they already ordered for me, “vegetarian” pizza. I felt bad telling them, being a vegan I can’t eat pizza (they finished that pizza also). One of my colleague asked, “oh, you are a vegan, so you can’t eat potato also, right”. I took a deep breath, told myself “no judgment, no judgment”.
4-5 months later, after switching to vegan diet, I decided to lose weight. I hit the gym hard, and I started eating a lot of salads. And yes, I did lose weight, also gotten stronger and added muscle. Obviously this was not directly related to vegan diet, but I think one good choice makes way to the next. But if you ask me, if vegan diet helps lose weight, I would have to say no. We can consume a lot of carbs, deep fried food never eating meats or dairy products.
What was the toughest part of being a vegan? When I turned vegetarian in college days, the one and only reason was, it just didn’t make sense why we need to kill animals for our food (taste). But if someone asked me, I didn’t know how to articulate my answer, and I didn’t know how to answer all the follow up questions. So I never tried to convince anyone. I just kept it to myself (99% of them time). Now digging into this a little bit more, I felt, what happens in industrialized dairy farms is not much better option for the animals than becoming meat.
When I decided to turn vegan, I wanted to keep it the same way, just as my personal choice, not to convince anyone, but more importantly not to judge anyone. I think it is a little harder this time, as I am more equipped with answers. I also learned that as soon as we try to do something good, we unconsciously try to declare a moral victory on others. This is what drives many of us to do something good, so we can feel better about ourselves. The way I learned not to judge others is turning the focus inside. It’s more about what I want to do, than what the next person is doing. And understanding that it’s not about morality, it is just being myself.