Friday, October 4, 2013

Why Vegan (revisited)

I wanted to revisit the Why Vegan topic that I wrote about when we did go totally vegan at the first part of the year. It was really fantastic, and I really did enjoy it. But we couldn't make it into a habit, even after 2 solid months. I had a couple of expectations going into it that were all met, and a few that were disappointing.

Lately I've had vegan/vegetarianism on the brain again. Once you get into a plan like that for a couple of weeks, how it makes you feel, how you look, it's all very appealing. But those are the side affects of the lifestyle and it's not easy to maintain.

The biggest side effect that I was hoping for was faster recovery from the workouts, and I certainly got that. Only a few hours after a hard run and I'd be feeling great. Run in the morning and I'd be totally recovered for the swim that night.  Get some good sleep and I'm ready to hit the bike the next morning. That's the rhythm of Ironman training, you can keep up or get injured or get left behind.

The other thing that really worked for me was "looking my age". Meat and other animal products contain carcinogens and other elements that come naturally or are created through most cooking methods that prematurely age people. So what we normally think a 37 year old man should look like is what people used to think a 50 year old man looked like. When I had been vegan for a month, most people guessed my age at 25, but I got a few 23's in there and even started getting carded at bars again.  Once after showing a bartender my driver's license he actually said "holy shit man, good for you" because I looked so "young". I could challenge that concept by arguing that most others looked older than their actual age so the concept was skewed, but I really had no problems accepting that I looked over 10 years younger than I actually was.  it was pretty awesome.

What disappointed me was the weight loss. Weight loss is a side effect of a vegan diet, not an intended consequence. The body "right sizes" itself by getting rid of unneeded body fat. I knew from the way I was working out that I needed to get down to a certain weight (175 lbs, under 20% body fat) and I thought that being vegan would get me there. It did not.

The other thing that didn't work was the portion sizes. Supposedly you can eat just massive quantities of plants and fruit without gaining weight. Since I like eating massive quantities of food, that's what I did. The weight did not come off, there was no "right sizing", I stayed over 180 lbs and over 20% body fat the entire time. Now that is a totally normal weight for my height, and nobody would call me overweight or obese with those numbers. completely normal. But I wanted to get lean. The way I work out has to be fueled with a lot of energy. So I think the portion sizes I used were still out of control.

There are still plenty of bad vegan foods you can eat. French fries, potato chips, breads, pasta ( no egg noodles), and I really did stay away from most of those. We did mostly whole foods. It was really some incredibly tasty stuff. And no animal products at all. So when the weight didn't come off it just didn't seem worth it to me. The biggest problem is that I have a bowl of cereal every night before bed, and have since I was a teenager. Vegan milk, while fantastic in my oatmeal, sucks on cereal. And cereal is all processed carbs that have no place in a whole food based diet.

So you can imagine how I felt when the tendonitis put me on the sidelines for a few weeks. Fast recovery from the workouts is paramount to preventing injury, and that's one of the benefits of being vegan. I started back on the cereal wagon in March, and then added more dairy and eggs back in. Then by the summer we were cooking meat. The workouts get longer the farther you get into the training plan, and when I'm burning 2500 calories a day just during the workouts, and it can be really tough to get in 2500 calories a day total in a vegan diet, much less adequately fuel the body for the rest of the day after those work outs.

Yes we're not plant based anymore and haven't been for several months now. We just couldn't make it a habit once the workouts started getting harder and the weight wasn't coming off. I still read lots of books about diet and believe the science behind things like the Paradigm Diet and Vegucated. But my lifestyle takes milk and eggs. I'm still also frustrated with the amount of belly fat I'm carrying even though now my weight is down to 174 lbs and 18.6% body fat. I'll find the right way to get lean eventually, but this didn't turn out to be it. Close with some very nice benefits, but either it didn't work or I didn't do it right.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I think Vegan would be a hard lifestyle to 100% commit to. I feel like I already have so many restrictions, adding more is tough. But I do know there are benefits to that lifestyle, I just tend to lean towards vegan, but not 100%. Bottom line, I can give up bread/pastries/etc, but I could never give up eggs, honestly!!

CautiouslyAudacious said...

I've been vegetarian for over 10 years now and will never go back. However, what keeps me from becoming vegan is I eat cheese sometimes. I find when I go out to eat and order vegetarian a lot of times they try to put cheese in everything. I did lose 10 lbs right away when I went vegetarian and felt lighter! But now a days there are more and more processed vegan products available so it is becoming easier to eat "unhealthy" vegan foods.

hebba said...

I, too, have found that the diet part of any program is the hardest part. I guess we just have to keep doing what you are doing...experimenting to find what works best for your body.
(I start my eat clean challenge next week!)

Alecia Taylor said...

I've been thinking about going vegan again. My problem is eating out, especially now with all our awesome food options. I definitely have to cut out the bread. I'm working on that right now.

I'm getting frustrated though, because my diet hasn't been that bad. Even when we eat out I go with the vegetarian or lighter option. This week 3 of doing T25 + weekend long runs and the weight still isn't coming off.

Diana said...

I'd often thought of trying vegetarian, could never go vegan, but I do enjoy a good steak! I'm not a bread/pasta eater at all....I'm mostly meat, eggs and veggies, but like you still has to do with "portion" size.
I removed a long, long, long time addiction from my life, that being diet Mt Dew and having that aspartame gone has also cancelled all the "sweet" cravings I had. I dropped 5lbs just getting that can full of chemicals out of my life!

Vegaia said...

I've been vegan for 25 years and consider it one of the best decisions of my life (my doctor agrees). Here's a video to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice and why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years.:

Also, here's a link for everyone who wants to join the revolution: 21-Day Vegan Kickstart

Sarah said...

What about the flip, have you done research on lean meats, fresh veggies and fruits? I'm curious about that. My partner researches the crap out of this and keeps trying little tweaks here and there to get rid of her belly fat (ahem, which I can't even SEE). I'm working on cutting the junk that comes with mid-day boredom and stress snacking, otherwise, we have a pretty nice whole foods diet.