Veg, falafel and humus plate

Vegebruary Vegan challenge: The Final Week

I’ll start off right away by saying that this week was hard. It was the hardest yet! It was also the last week of my vegan challenge. I was unwell so spent a lot of the time lying in bed or sitting on the sofa feeling sorry for myself, missing my usual comfort foods. All these facts put together made it a rather challenging week to get through on a vegan diet for me. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel because it was my last week and so I pulled through and I did it!

My vegan meals for the week

This week the main meals were a vegan Sheppherd’s Pie (made with plant-based mince), Aubergine Schnitzel with Garlic Cream (from the Vegan Made Easy cookbook), Rice & Bean Burritos (from Vegan Made Easy), Bean with chilli and mushroom fried rice, vegan golden crumbed cutlets with green beans and polenta, vegetable and tempeh massamun curry, and a vegan tagliatelle pasta (filled with basically all the leftovers I had in the fridge!). Because I wasn’t eating much during the days, due to feeling like rubbish, I tried to make sure that we had a decent dinner.

Aubergine Schnitzel

The aubergine schnitzel recipe was particularly good. It felt really solid and filling even though it was just aubergine with a breadcrumb coating. It will definitely be a recipe I will be using again because it was so easy to make. I could try a chicken parmigiana but replace the chicken with an aubergine schnitzel instead. And voila! One of my favourite meals turned vegan without me feeling like I’ve made any big sacrifices.

Rice & Bean Burritos

The Rice & Bean Burritos were so satisfying that I ended up eating them 3 times this week! We had them for dinner, they then made the perfect lunch the next day…and the day after that. My bowels, on the other hand, were less than pleased about the overload of beans!

Hand holding a vegan bean burrito
Bean and rice burrito…times 3!

Vegan mezze platter

One of my lazy lunches was what I would have once thought was the epitome of a vegan meal! It was just raw vegetables with some falafel and hummus, making it a vegan mezze platter which felt really nice and clean to eat.

A few months ago I would have looked at this meal and thought of it as ‘boring’ but now, after having had a vegan month, I can appreciate it for its health benefits, its fresh ingredients, its vibrant colours and its simple and clean flavours. It was truly delicious to eat and best of all, no cooking required!

Veg, falafel and humus plate
The epitome of a fresh and healthy lunch…and it was good!

Finally, a take-away!

On the last day of the month, our last day of the vegan challenge, we ordered in a meal from one of our favourite restaurants in Brighton, Moonstone. It’s a Sri Lankan restaurant in Brighton and Hove, and by nature, Sri Lankan cooking lends itself really well to vegan diets.

Yes, Sri Lankan cuisine has a lot of meat and fish, but it also has so many incredible vegetable dishes that are mostly coconut milk based, so no dairy. We had a feast on the last night and we were both really proud that we made it through the month with minimal moaning!

The vegan challenge is over…and I did it!

It is now March 1st, which means February (Vegebruary) is over! I’m really proud to have been able to do a whole month of vegan eating considering what my diet consisted of before I began this challenge. I’ve also discovered a world of new ingredients and food products – some of which I will be adding to my regular diet while others I will avoid at all costs!

Summary

At the end of the month-long vegan challenge, I can tell you that I have not lost any weight. In fact, I am feeling a little heavier and bloated than I would on my usual diet. This is not to say that a vegan diet is not good for your body or for weight loss. I put this down to the fact that I have been trying a lot of new ingredients, including eating a diet where soya became one of my staple ingredients. I’ve also eaten much more legumes (beans, lentils) as well as mycoprotein than I ever have.

My body has had to undergo a complete change in what is put into it and this can take a while for your digestive system to adjust to. I think that if I kept going on a vegan diet, I’m sure the bloating and the feeling of heaviness would dissipate and eventually I’d start to feel lighter and possibly even lose weight. (This is based on other people I know who have gone vegan and have lost weight and advocate that eating a plant-based diet has helped them to feel much healthier.)


Final thoughts on a vegan lifestyle

I’ve been a full-fledged vegan for a month now. (Yes, I’m completely ignoring the faux-bacon bagel incident from week 2!) I have avoided all animal products, including dairy, and have tried my best to make it a healthy month. This meant choosing whole foods and healthy options while doing most of the cooking at home from scratch.

Yes, I did eat out at a few restaurants but that was not the norm. I even managed to have a visit to a fast-food joint! (Who knew they had vegan options!)

What will I do now?

I have learned a lot about myself this past month like what things I want to continue eating, for instance, and what things I can live without. After having time to reflect on what I used to eat, I have made some decisions on where I want to go from here.

I have decided that at this point in my life I’m not going to be vegan. I will certainly not go back to same diet I was living off of before though. I’m not making any definite rules that I’m not allowed to eat any meat or animal products but I know that I would like to veer in the direction of living on a diet that closely mimics that of a pescatarian – with limited amounts of chicken. I’m not 100% ready for a vegetarian life yet.

Changes I will make

As of today, there are some foods that I have decided to stay away from. There are also some foods that I want to cut down on. These decisions are mostly based on moral and ethical reasons or simply because they’re not good for me.

Meat

One of the foods I want to drastically cut down on is meat. I have come to realise that I don’t need it in my diet. This doesn’t mean that I will never ever eat red meat again. However, I will try to replace it with healthier options such as chicken, turkey, fish or plant-based proteins. I will also try my hardest to find ethically sourced poultry and fish products that support my moral choices.

Dairy

Removing cows milk from my diet and replacing it with alternative milks such as oat, soy or almond milk is a choice I have made. I have developed a moral issue with the dairy industry and the ethics involved in the production of cows milk. To be clear, this is a personal decision and by no means a critique against someone who chooses to drink cows milk.

I’ve been drinking milk all my life so I am in no position to criticise anyone else for doing the same. Everyone makes their own decisions based on their own personal reasons and that’s the way it should be. You should never do something simply because someone else does or because they guilt-tripped you into it.

As a result of cutting out cows milk, I will also consciously stay away from cheese. This will be a little more of a challenge as I love cheese and used to eat it almost daily. Again, I’m not saying that I will never eat cheese again but I certainly will make an effort to eat less of it. And no, I will not be substituting it with vegan cheese! If you read my post on Week 3, you know my feelings on that!

The illusion of being ‘healthy’

Being more conscious about the ingredients that make up food products is also something I want to make a priority. I want to try to stay away from heavily processed foods – even if they give the illusion of being ‘healthy’. As I talked about in week 3, just because it’s marketed as a healthy food or labeled as ‘vegan’, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. If there is little to no nutritional value in something, then I will try to find a better substitute.

(Obviously, I will allow for the odd anomaly because we can’t be perfectly healthy all the time! Did you know Burger King has a vegan Double-Whopper…?)

On the whole, I want to focus on eating foods that my body benefits from – foods that I feel good about eating. I have become much more aware of what goes into my body and the overall effect it has on my health.

I feel empowered!

My mission of being vegan for a month is over. Have I been converted to being a vegan for the rest of my life? No. Has being vegan for a month had a positive impact on my life? Most definitely.Has it helped me learn something important that will help shape my future and how I fuel my body? Yes!

Choosing not to be a vegan doesn’t feel like a failure in the slightest. In fact, it has had quite the opposite effect.

I feel empowered knowing that I did it and could do it again. It also makes me feel empowered knowing that I make choices for myself based on what is right for me. It feels empowering knowing that the changes I will implement in my life from here on forwards will be beneficial changes that will have a positive impact on the world around me, even if ever so slightly.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself

Do a challenge and stick with it in order to see how it makes you feel. If, after a challenge, you decide to stay as you were, there is no failure because the things you learn along the way are worth it. Overall, I have learned that there is no right or wrong. There is just what is right for me at this point in my life.

Thank you for being a part of this journey. Perhaps I have inspired you to try a vegan challenge to see what you can learn about yourself. Why not start the Veg-ay or Veg-pril movement? In the end, it doesn’t have to be Veganuary or Vegebruary. Do whatever works for you!

(But if you need inspiration, remember that February will only have 28 days next year!)

Love, Martina

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