Wednesday, 22 January 2014

#WIAW - An Early End to My Vegan Challenge

It is WIAW and after 3 weeks of my vegan challenge I faced a dilemma. I had already decided that going vegan long-term was not going to be something that worked for me. I also faced a weekend of socializing where I was guaranteed little to nothing to eat matching my new vegan perimeters. So I had 2 options...

1. Continue the challenge for the final week on principle, or
2. Call it quits and enjoy the weekend, because my long-term decision was already made.

I went back and forth about this, we even had quite a serious debate happening on Facebook, but in the end I opted for Chicken Wings.

And as crazy as it is to say this about chicken wings, I felt 100x better. So let's break down my vegan challenge shall we? What worked? What didn't? And all the rest in between?

Why did I do the Vegan Challenge in the first place?
So I am not sure if you have noticed, but I have not exactly been blessed in the whole "rocking body, pure-raw talent" department. And while I have come a long way when it comes to embracing my many Darwinian Failings, there is a very loud type-A voice that lives inside my head that wants to be competitive. And that loud voice knows I can only truly make progress through some hard-ass work and tenacity. So in truth I was looking for an edge. I was hoping that going vegan would help me tap into some unknown resource of power, strength, and endurance.

What worked?
So one of the amazing things about taking your diet and totally turning it upside down, is it helps you take a good hard look at what works and what doesn't. It also asks you to get creative, try new things, incorporate new recipes, and just generally do things a little differently.

I tried a lot of new things over the last 3 weeks. I discovered some fantastic new recipes that will now be staples in my weekly meal plans. I tried some different products and new ingredients that I never even knew existed. I discovered new fueling techniques. And just generally gave my diet a good solid once over. All of which has helped me move forward better educated and with a better understanding of what works for me and my body.

What didn't work?
There are actually three reasons I don't think going vegan worked for me. The first reason is a combination of the increased fiber intake and my hiatal hernia. So it sounds confusing because fiber is generally thought of as a good thing because of its filling slow-burning effects. But the excess fiber actually causes acid reflux, nausea, and bloating with a hiatal hernia. The hernia already slows down digestion, and then excess fiber makes it even slower, making me much more prone to the side-effects I mentioned.

The second reason is portion size. Vegan meals are extremely nutrient dense, but not exactly calorie dense. You need to take in a lot more food to reach your necessary calorie-intake. I have generally be sticking to smaller more frequent meals to manage the symptoms of my hiatal hernia. So I found the larger portion-sizes counter-intuitive and counter-productive. I was really struggling with my energy last week, and I think that had a lot to do with not being able to take in enough calories to make this diet viable.

The third and final reason is restriction. I felt very restricted on this diet, especially in social situations. I felt panicked about eating out and finding something that met my dietary requirements - and that is not something I could imagine experiencing long-term. Restriction is idea I dislike, especially when it becomes restriction for restriction's sake. I perfer to eat intuitively and enjoy food when I want to enjoy it. I am willing to make changes and sacrifices if it will be better my health and over all well-being. But I am not will to modify my diet just because. And by the end of week 3 that is how I felt - like I was doing it just because, like I had to stick it out because I said I would do this for 4 weeks. So I opted to call it a day.

Where do I stand on the diet front?
So Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean wrote an amazing post that actually sums up a lot of my feelings on this subject. I have spent a lot time over the past couple of years trying LABEL my diet and to fit into a prescribed bubble. I have tried a lot of things - vegetarian, paleo, pescatarian, gluten-free, vegan - and everything in between. But to be honest I feel most balanced, happy, and healthy when I eat intuitively. And my happy-healthy-intuitive diet generally means focusing on...
eating whole-foods, 70-80% of which are plant-based, but does include some meat and very limited diary, all while enjoying treats and delicious-ness when my body and soul craves it
It is not complicated. I don't count calories or macros. There is no real label for this. And while I know very little about nutrition, I know that this is what works best for me. I will continue to strive to learn more and incorporate healthy changes as my journey progresses. But I will strive to do all of that free from dietary labels.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,