It’s that time of year again for me! August marks the month I decided to go vegan, and that was now 13 years ago.
Strictly speaking, I didn’t move to a total, never-going-back vegan diet until about a year later, due to the fact that my food addiction was such that occasionally I would say yes to a free brownie that had milk in it. However, after August 2005 I never again had meat or fish, never bought eggs or dairy again, and knew in my heart my desire was to be all vegan.
Once I sorted some of that intense compulsive eating out, I was able to say no even to the free non-vegan baked goods and after that point everything was history.
I love being vegan. I’m so grateful to have found the information that I did as young as I did and it has only enhanced my life in so many ways. I also love teaching other people about a vegan lifestyle: why it’s important and how to go about it. I love everything about being vegan. I love learning and talking about how it prevents further environmental damage, I love gushing over happy cows on farm animal sanctuaries and I love teaching about all the ways you can make a chia parfait.
For several of my “veganniversaries”, I have created a blog or video answering questions from my readers, and this will continue this year too. I’m in some transition at the moment and video filming will have to wait a bit longer, but videos will come back eventually, in case you were wondering! So this year we have a good ‘ole blog to answer your questions.
At the bottom of this post, I’ll link you to the last few years’ posts along with the questions I answer in each one, so in case you are curious about those questions you can also check out my answers to them. There are many answered there that you may be wondering about.
I hope my suggestions and thoughts are helpful in some way for your plant-iful vegan journey!
Question from Amanda: “There are lots of different forms of healthy vegan eating guides out there – no oil, low salt etc do you feel they are healthy?”
Indeed, there are so many ways to do a vegan diet, and even many ways to do a healthy vegan diet! In my 13 years experience personally and seeing thousands of people embark on vegan diets, I have observed that there isn’t one way of being vegan that is best across the board for everyone. I don’t believe in any regimens which strictly exclude or limit foods which, to me, are foods that are pretty objectively healthy. For the average person, I feel a diet that calls for no oil ever, or no grains ever, or no fruit ever, etc. is unnecessarily strict.
I have seen people thrive on low-fat diets and high-fat diets (healthy fats), on low-carb diets and high-carb diets (healthy carbs), on no-fruit diets and lots-of-fruit diets.
In terms of health, I have also seen people with varying vegan diets be physically healthy. My belief is that the human body is meant to be vegan and get everything it needs from plants without there needing to be great concern about becoming deficient in anything.
I recommend experimenting with various ways of eating, and various amounts and frequencies of any particular foods. Experimentation is the best way to individualize your own diet and find the “right” vegan diet.
It is also important to do research and gain an education about vegan nutrition wherein you can come to learn things like where to get protein and calcium and how to feel balanced physically. Certainly you want to have some knowledge so you can do it properly and so you can feel good.
For example, in my case, I don’t feel good if I eat lots of oil, but I am fine with some. Same with lots of other foods: I don’t feel great if I eat too much quinoa or dates or salt, so I just don’t eat excessive amounts of them. I don’t feel good if I eat late at night when it’s close to bed time, but I don’t have a strict end time for my eating that I pressure myself to always keep.
In my vegan diet, there are zero rules (the only “rule”, if you could call it that, is being completely vegan). However, I have no foods which are off-limit, “bad, “I-can-never” foods. I am still working on developing a fully healthy relationship with food having come from years of dieting and binge eating, but in my recovery it has seemed that moving completely out of the diet mentality, and rather focusing on the “why’s” of why I would go overboard on oil or bread or sugar, is the best priority.
I know for many people not having strict guidelines of how many grams of carbs per day or how many teaspoons of oil etc. can be scary. Many of us feel we need strict rules, we need the dieting mentality in order to be healthy or achieve and maintain our ideal weight. But I have come to believe this is a false belief stemming from a remaining fear of ourselves. We get scared of what we will do without guidelines because we still have within us emotionally the root causes of why we use food excessively and compulsively. The more we work through these root causes, as well as experiment with different ways of eating a vegan diet and pay attention to how we feel, the easier it will be to develop our own personalized diet we can maintain for the next 10, 30, or 70 years.
Question from Bill: “What are your thoughts on tofu? Good, not too much? Fermented or non fermented? Too much phytoestrogens?”
When I first went vegan, I was told tofu and soy were definitively bad and I should avoid them at all costs. Without actually looking at research, I went along with this and avoided it almost completely for my first 5 or 6 years being vegan. However, in the 7 or 8 years since then, I have regularly eaten soy products and personally I have had no problems whatsoever from that. I have soy milk often in tea or decaf, I average a couple blocks of tofu a month and tempeh is one of my favorite things.
However, it should be said that I have always had very strong digestion, and I know some people cannot digest soy as easily. If this is this case for you, then tempeh (fermented soy) will be easier to digest than tofu (non-fermented soy) or any highly processed soy products. I believe fermented anything is always better than its non-fermented counterpart, so try out tempeh, which is a great source of protein! Additionally, edamame is a less processed form of soy that some people do well with.
I have also known many men who eat soy regularly who have not had issues with it either.
To research more about soy, I recommend reading the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.
Also, an acquaintance of mine named Kris Carr wrote a fantastic article called “Understanding How Soy Foods Impact Your Health” which I totally agree with, and she cites many academic studies you can read into as well.
As always, I recommend experimenting with your diet and how you feel as a result of your experiments, in order to determine if any food is right for you. You can also easily have a vegan diet without ever eating soy products; I did this for 5 or 6 years and also did not have any issues with not eating soy. Other sources of protein can be found in spirulina, chia seeds, other beans and legumes, and just your regular veggies and fruits.
Question from Sheryl: “My problem is that I want to be able to make some fast food type choices not involving meat as an ingredient because I sometimes work 13 hour days driving for two companies. I have no time and fast food chains are a temptation. I carry nuts, seeds, nutty granola bars, apples sliced thin like chips, dried fruit and fresh fruits and veggies. But I would like other things that I can make fast and take on the go.”
First off, great job on what you’re already doing for preparation! All those items mentioned: nuts, seeds, granola bars (especially ones that are more meal bars than dessert bars!), apples and other fresh produce, and dried fruit are all great options for on-the-go eating.
For days where you are outside the home for a very long time, I recommend having a transportable cooler/ice chest with you to keep food fresh. In addition to the above items you mentioned, other suggestions for quick meals and snacks are veggie sticks with hummus, and celery or apples with peanut butter. You could also make a green smoothie in the morning before you go, and if it is kept chilled, then it would last for later on, especially if you shake it up. Chia pudding made the night before is also a great on-the-go option.
For those with busy work lives outside the home, I also recommend doing a lot of planning ahead with your shopping meal preparation. You are likely going to want to have more substantial meals also, instead of just feeling like you’re eating nuts and apples all week, and so I can understand the temptation for fast food that may feels more like a “real meal”.
To remedy this issue, I recommend choosing at least one day per week which you dedicate to be your shopping and/or cooking day for the week. In preparation for this day, go online or search your recipe books to find a few recipes which you could make ahead of time, keep in your fridge and then bring along with you in your cooler during the week. These kinds of meals could include wraps, sandwiches, or anything you can put into a sealable container and eat with a fork or spoon, such as salads, macro bowls, or meals with grains or beans as the base. Then, shop for this cooking day according to recipes, and do a few hours of meal prep to get you prepared for the week.
This way you can open your fridge when the 13-hour days come and pop what you’ve already made into your travel cooler.
The craving for hot meals is probably the remaining challenge. I’d say first of all that the most healthy foods are raw and so you’re probably on a healthy track if most of what you eat is actually not cooked. However, you may want to enjoy your cooked meals mainly on days off when it is more practical and you are near a stove, oven etc.
I hope these tips and answers are helpful! Here are questions and answers from recent years, and the links you can go to in order to watch or read them.
In last year’s 12 Year Veganniversary Q&A, I answered the questions:
What inspired you to go vegan?
Would you ever consider not being vegan anymore?
How is your teeth and gum health being vegan 12 years?
Where do you get your protein?
What is the best aspect of being vegan?
In my 10-year veganniversary post Advice From A 10-Year Vegan, I answered the questions:
Do you get meat cravings? If you do, what to do about it? Is there a place with a vegan diet for mock meats? Or have we not released the desire for meat yet?
How do you balance enjoying eating out with others without asking for multiple adjustments to dishes?
How did it influence your health?
How do you handle being around people who are eating animal products? Is that hard for you?
Do you need any supplements at all for the lack of animal products in your diet?
What resources would you recommend for going vegan?
Do you have any recommendations for connecting with other vegans?
Cheese is the thing that prevents me from being vegan. How can I possibly get over cheese cravings?
Do vegan diets perpetuate eating disorders or compulsive eating?
What are the highlights of your 10 year journey being vegan?
In my 8-year Veganniversary post, I answered the questions:
What was the initial thought or experience that sparked your decision to go vegan?
What were your early struggles?
Who were your first mentors in going vegan?
Would you share a few of your favorite products that have been helpful to you?
How do you feel about periodontal health?
What would you dub the most substantial, or the most important reason why you are vegan?
Why did you go vegan?
Has staying vegan for 7 years been hard?
Till next time everyone!