To describe the past few weeks of my pilot trials of veganism, I bring forth this adage whose origin I do not know: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I should start by explaining that progressing to complete (minus honey) veganism was really not much of a change for me in the first place. People are asking me if it’s hard, but I already transitioned to eating mostly plant-based a while ago, so just kicking out the occasional dairy or egg product is much more of a matter of will power than of planning or learning. I certainly know how to eat this way at home and in the dining halls. Restaurants are another story now, because usually it was when I’d eat out that I’d permit myself to eat some animal products. Now, though, I have to ask waiters much more frequently about ingredients and substitutions unless there are vegan designations on the menu, which is happening more and more often. Family functions are also new territory. Thanksgiving will be…interesting. And desserts—I skip tasting sweets that I would have probably tasted before, because most baked goods have butter or eggs in them. It’s less disappointing than I thought it would be, actually, because it’s not about calories anymore; it’s about my values, and I take a lot of comfort in that. Besides, now I get to worry less about overeating.
Or do I?
Now, I’ve only been eating this way strictly for a few weeks now, but the couple pound creep-up I’ve been noticing on the scale over the last several months seems to be continuing, to my horror. (For those of you rolling your eyes at me, I know I’m still at a perfectly healthy weight, I just feel like I’m losing control when this happens.)
I think it may have something to do with the spectacular plant-based shmorgasbord that one of the dining halls on campus whipped up for the Food Day celebration last week, where I ate two helpings of everything and three helpings of vegan ice cream (which is no health food, mind you). It also might have something to do with alcohol. I feel like because I’m eating less desserts I can drink more or more often, but those calories add up fast. I also may just be subconsciously licensing myself to eat more food in general because it’s vegan.
My slightly insane food anxieties aside, the point is that simply removing animal products from your diet is not enough to lose weight or prevent weight gain. I still maintain that the higher proportion of your diet is whole plant foods, and the lower the proportion of your diet is animal based and highly refined foods, the easier it is to keep weight off. But alcohol, sugar, oil, and refined flour are all made from plants, and thus moderation is key in a vegan diet as in any other.
Ever since I initially lost a significant amount of weight in high school and had to learn how to keep it off, I’ve had to work hard on my diet and exercise. It’s gotten to be much more a part of my routine, and I love eating healthy foods for how they taste and how they make me feel. But my weakness for rich and sweet foods hasn’t gone away, and it’s something I actively have to resist all the time. I’m just not one of those people who can eat whatever they want without gaining weight. If I were, I’d probably be pursuing an acting career and never would have become interested in nutrition. But I digress. What I’m trying to convey is that even though eating fewer animal products is beneficial for a myriad of reasons, don’t be fooled into thinking that it means you can eat as much as you want if, like me, you feel the need to watch your weight. I could write a whole separate post (or several) about my body image and whether my diligence is justified considering I’m in perfectly good health, but that’s a different issue.
That got more personal that I expected. Oh well. Peace, love, plants.