Struggling for years with a sensitive stomach, about a year ago, I was told by my specialist to take Gluten off the table. I thought I was finally getting somewhere and had stomach pain just because of gas or indigestion – until, decided to take the challenge and try going vegan for a week.

My first thought once I agreed to try it out was okay cool, I can totally do this. I’m going to make all those cute, colorful recipes that I save to my Pinterest boards for ‘one day’.

But here’s what really happened…

1. Groceries were harder to do.

I sat there writing my grocery list for about half an hour since I normally base it around meals I plan for our week. Cue the panic. I couldn’t put feta cheese or ice cream on my list, my two favorite foods. Tempted to just buy myself a big fat bag of bird seed and some celery, I started poking around on my favorite websites for recipes. My favorite go to’s for any and all recipes are; The Minimalist BakerOh She Glows, Thug Kitchen, and basically any recipe on Pinterest that looks easy enough for a busy schedule.

I picked a few recipes and wrote out the ingredients, making a separate list (of reminders) of things I couldn’t have for the week…ALL THE TASTY THINGS.

The no-no list:

  • Ice Cream
  • Cheese
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Honey
  • Eggs
  • White cheddar popcorn topping!
  • Chicken
  • Burgers
  • Salmon
  • Cheddar Rice Cake Minis
  • Ribs
  • Did I mention ice cream? 

The yes list:

  • Fruit & Veggies
  • Tofu
  • Birdseed

2. The Meals Were Actually Pretty Good

Okay, so it wasn’t THAT bad. We made some wicked stir-fry’s, vegan tacos, potato and asparagus salad, a killer gluten and dairy-free pasta salad and then I may or may not have eaten not one, but two Beyond Meat Burgers from A&W (they were seriously so delicious, I am convinced they are better than any real meat burger. I think I finished them within a block of leaving the drive-thru).

3. But, It Was Interesting

All in all, it was a great week! There were some extra difficult times though. A few recipes did not go as planned and I still feel scarred by the veggie dogs that I tried to eat just dipped in ketchup. Blah. I actually had to spit it out. Cooking was especially difficult because I am always cooking for two. My boyfriend was a good sport for most of the week, but I still had to consider some meals that could easily have meat added to them for him.

4. It Was Hard To Change Things Up

The first couple days I had to work extra hard not to repeat meals for us and to make sure that I was asking questions about ingredients in anything people were offering me. Thank goodness for great friends, who made some awesome vegan dishes for a potluck dinner we had. I’d say it took the first three days for my body to understand that there would be no meat or dairy. I was hungrier, had gas (probably because of so many more fruits and veggies than normal) and I was getting hangry much faster than normal. This meant I got to pack in more (healthy!) snacks and plan meals that were easy with short prep times.

5. My Energy Increased, Skin Improved

I think the morning of day four, I woke up feeling fabulous though. Aside from the food itself, I experienced a lot of changes in how I saw myself. I was more energized, and oddly enough I found it easier to wake up in the mornings. I looked into this after the first couple days and found that there are LOADS of benefits to being a plant-based eater, including more energy. Not only was I well-rested, but I dropped most of my cosmetics by the end of the week, thanks to my new-found healthy glow. I also suffer from keratosis polaris and have noticed a significant difference on my legs within the last few days. I decided not to moisturize them as much and see if I thought my diet might be having an effect. I am still in awe of how my skin is feeling and looking.

6. Ultimately – I Felt Great!

I think I may have even lost some weight in a week! Maybe it was the extra trips to the bathroom or the fact that I was eating far fewer carbs, who knows! I am by no means an unhealthy weight or unhappy with my body, but damn I have been feeling good ever since. I normally have a ton of indigestion and bloating throughout the day, especially right before bed. During my Vegan week though? I was ready to bust out my bikinis. I even wore a fitted top on day seven that I have been avoiding. I’ll admit, the first few days, I was hungry, but then I was totally looking for new recipes to try (and maybe also checking myself out). It was a really great way to expand my food preferences and look at myself differently. A change in diet that results in more natural, plant-based meals, is also a great way to concentrate on starting a better and healthier lifestyle. There is a lot of attention on diets in the world today, and looking at what you eat, instead of how much you eat, is a good thing.

8. I Just Might Stick With It

I started a gluten-free diet about a year and a half ago and I thought I would never solve the lingering stomach problems and discomfort that had become so normal to me. While I now know that if I eat a bagel or a whole wheat sandwich, I’ll be in pain within an hour and running to the washroom, I knew there was still a missing piece. I went through a (fairly lax) vegetarian phase in high school, but could never part with my dear ice cream and cheeses. Not eating red meats certainly helped me to digest my meals and avoid fast food, but I knew there was something else that was bothering me.  Trying a vegan diet meant cutting down on those meats that tempted me to give in to fast food, but also to finally cut out dairy. I am definitely not going back! My medical specialists have been encouraging me for a while to cut out some things in my diet for extended periods of time. Now that I finally have, I am feeling so great I am going to stick with it for longer and see how it goes.

8. In The End, It’s Your Body

The thing with diets is that you are the one that knows your body best. You know what feels good, what you like, how much you will commit to something and most importantly what you want to gain and learn from it. The best way to find a diet that works is to TRY MORE! Take your time and listen to your body. Maybe it’s not a matter of a whole diet, but maybe certain foods. Elimination diets can be helpful, but you have to show patience and be willing to pay attention to how your body is reacting. Sometimes it isn’t a whole diet your body needs to feel better either, it might just be an intolerance to certain things.

My Favourite Alternatives

  • Coconut Ice Creams
  • Sol Cuisine Spicy Black Bean Burgers
  • Yves Mexican Veggie Rounds and Falafel Balls
  • Becel Vegan Margarine
  • Hungry Buddha Coconut Chips
  • Vegan Singer’s Caesar Mix (of all my favorite drinks, I was most worried about losing this one)

My Least Favourites

  • Veggie Dogs 
  • Dairy-free Shredded Cheese

My three biggest takeaways?

  • I need to make bigger meals because my new recipes are not as filling.
  • I’m going to stay the hell away from veggie dogs.
  • I promise to become aware of as many coconut ice cream flavors as I can.

Final Thoughts…

While Veganism is not for everyone, I’m going to stay away from meats and dairy products for a while longer and see how I feel. It’s been a great experience and definitely the most effective change in diet I have ever tried!

Brianne McCrossan

Bri is a food lover and jewelry designer from Guelph, Ontario, where she lives were her boyfriend Kevin and their dog Tobi. Her favorite way to spend a Saturday is checking out the hidden gem restaurants and shops downtown, or taking part in a local artisan market.

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