I replaced dry January with plant-based January: Here’s what I learned

2020 is a big deal for me.

A new decade. A huge birthday in a few weeks. A lot of intentions and things to work on. I even started therapy a few months ahead of the new year to get focused and clear on how I wanted the next decade of my life to FEEL. I didn’t just want to set a few goals, I wanted to change intimate characteristics about my life that no longer served me. There is a lot more to this story.

But for now….

I decided I’d try a different focus area each month of 2020. Something that I wanted my life to mirror year-round, but with a real intention to get after intensely it for a few weeks, with the hope that much of it would become habit and enter into my real, daily life.

The first focus area for January was switching to an entirely plant-based diet. No meat. No dairy. I am (was) a major dairy consumer. Yogurt, cheese, milk — the whole lot of it. Meat was more moderate, but I did rely on meat (and diary) for the majority of my protein consumption.

I wanted to go plant-based for a few reasons.

1) Shock the system: I have been tracking food and working out regularly for a long time now. It is habitual for me and not a ‘diet’ or a way to lose weight. It is just the way I live. I was interested to see if moving to a plant-based diet would improve my athletic performance or change my body composition. I also wanted to see if eliminating dairy would truly decrease any kind of inflammation or improve digestion. I really hadn’t changed the way I ate in a foundational way in a long time, and I was ready to see what kind of changes I would FEEL eating an all plant-based diet.

In the end: I feel pretty good — but not super different. I feel satisfied more often than I thought I would. I will say, tracking calories on a plant based diet isn’t as easy (or rather keeping them low). And finding low-calorie alternatives is basically impossible. For example, it is really easy to find low-fat cheeses, but low-fat plant-based cheese? That doesn’t really exist. However, reminding myself that I was consuming whole and super foods on a regular basis made me feel better. The food was more satisfying and I do think in general, I ate less. And for those wondering, I only lost about 2 pounds. I do however, feel a general lightness and feel as though my body composition has slightly changed. I think that the adjustment period was longer than I thought it would be. I feel like I am just now starting to feel real benefits such as higher energy, mental clarity, a general happier mood and body composition change. Which is why I’ll likely keep most of this diet in play.

2) The environment: I am not going to get too into this — we all know that a plant-based diet is better for the environment and that our meat and dairy production is ruining our planet. I can’t change everything at once, but this was one thing I can be more mindful of. I wanted to see how easy or difficult it was to drastically cut meat and dairy — and then move towards fueling my body with food that also fuels a healthier planet.

In the end: I feel really damn good about eating plant-based for one month. I know that my consumerism when it comes to food creates change. What’s the saying? “With every barcode scanned when you grocery shop, you vote” — or something like that. Well, I voted for a lot of vegan, organic, whole food shit in January. 🙂 That makes me happy.

Also, maybe a few animal lives were saved. And hopefully, my carbon footprint saw a major decrease.

Major takeaways?

Here’s how will I move forward.

I am not going vegan.

But, I AM going to keep focusing on eating a diet that is probably about 80% plant-based. This isn’t an all or nothing game for me. Consuming a vegan diet for one month was intended to help me move into a space where eating plant-based the majority of the time was doable. And that has 10000% happened.

Here is what I am planning on adding back in right away:

1) Eggs. Because they are one of my favorite foods and I have missed them an incredible amount and frankly, I am not willing to give up eggs for the rest of my life.

2) Sustainable seafood. Because to me, fish is an incredible addition to a healthy diet and out of all of the foods I have eliminated, I have missed seafood the most.

And that’s it really. I am not saying I’ll never eat meat or dairy here and there. A good cheese plate is not lost on me. But for the most part, dairy-free substitutes have kept me satisfied. I won’t be adding back in cow’s milk. But I am not saying that I’ll never eat something that has milk in it.

Moderation. Flexibility. This is the area I thrive in.

The most difficult thing about eating plant-based for a month?

Eating out. I went to several vegan restaurants this month, and they all left me with a 24 gut rot that I can not handle. Salt Lake City has some great places for vegan food and drinks, and I enjoyed the food I ate. But, I don’t know if it is an over consumption of substitutes for meat and cheese, or an increase in fiber — but nope, not for me. Even while eating completely vegan at home, the food cooked up in vegan restaurants really made me feel ill. However, choosing vegan items at regular restaurants didn’t have the same effect.

As a foodie and cocktail nerd, I can not overstate how much joy I get from an evening out enjoying amazing food. Sure, I’ll choose more plant-based options from now on, but I’ll also enjoy a bit of charcuterie from time to time. 

Coming away with new favorite plant-based foods:

Cooking totally plant-based at home has meant finding new things to love. For one, vegan butter: totally a substitute that I will never go back on when cooking at home. Also bless the veganise, nutritional yeast, loads of tofu, maybe a gallon of kimchi, cashew cheddar spread, lentils, all the beans, and chickpea pasta that filled my fridge and cabinets all month. These will all be in regular rotation. I actually even found a few cheese alternatives that I really like.

Violife cheese slices are magic to me.

But TBH, I could still stand to add in even more veggies.

So, that’s it really. I am super happy that I set the goal, saw it through and learned a lot about plant-based eating. I feel like I have a million more options to choose from when it comes to food, and many of the habits I formed over the month are here to stay.

I would highly recommend going plant-based for one month to anyone who is considering lowering their meat and dairy consumption. Going 100% all out in the beginning has been a really great way make plant-based eating part of my lifestyle moving forward.

 

And, I didn’t even have to give up booze for a month.