In the last days of 2016, Mark and I talked about the idea of going Vegetarian for a month to challenge ourselves. He was inspired by a male Vegetarian bodybuilder he follows on Instagram and wanted to see if it would offer us any benefits by trying it ourselves. Before I share the changes I noticed in the thirty days, I want to share why we decided to take this challenge. We both discussed the idea of hormones in animal protein (non-organic) and how the animals are treated as well as the idea of eliminating dairy. A few other thoughts were the expense of so much added protein to our weekly grocery bill, the idea of eating more vegetables and finding other natural protein sources as well as doing something to challenge ourselves and doing it together. My husband is a big guy with lots of muscle and he is the most health conscious person I know. When I first met him, I asked him what is most important in life to him and he replied, “My health.” At first, I didn’t get it, as my answer was, “Love.” And when I started my personal health journey of Fiercing Forward, I began to understand. Without your health, what do you have? It’s a question worth considering. We wanted to do something together that challenged us.
So that night, we ate the rest of our chicken and began that next day. And you’re darn straight I wore my committed Armor throughout the challenge, especially during social functions when my dad made his homemade smoked ribs. While there are many different hybrids of Vegetarianism, in the last week of the challenge, I began incorporating more fish into my diet for added protein which is classified as Pescatarianism.
Pescatarianism: the practice of following a diet that includes fish or other seafood but not the flesh of other animals (as defined by Wikipedia)
Our challenge ended on Friday, with a whole 30 days under our belts of eating mostly Vegetarian, then adding fish in the last week and me being completely dairy free. Here are the main changes I noticed:
1. My allergies disappeared.
I have always had pretty bad allergies. Being allergic to pollen, it pretty much goes full blown in the spring and summer and throughout the rest of the year, I’m a sniff factory. This is one of my husband’s biggest benefits he enjoyed for the month, my sniffing and coughing episodes subsiding completely. By the end of week one, I didn’t need to reach for a kleenex once. This was HUGE for me. Just two years ago, I had sinus surgery and it still didn’t help overall. So them disappearing completely, was life changing for both me and my husband.
What happened when I reintroduced dairy in my diet? This weekend, I made one of my favorite soups and this time added this healthiest-version vodka sauce I’ve ever come across to the mix and within two hours, my nose started acting up. The next morning, I needed a box of kleenex by my side the whole morning.
The verdict: I clearly have a physical reaction to dairy in the form of allergies. I will not be eating dairy.
2. Vegetables & the stool.
Most often, I would only eat vegetables at night with a side rice and chicken. I never loved them to be honest, that is, until I started craving them during this challenge. I even started making my own soup creations, blending, adding potatoes and learning how to cook with lentils. I found myself loving being in the kitchen and creating. I was eating vegetables roasted, blended, raw and at EVERY MEAL. The first week, I had more gas than I think I have ever had in one month together. Then, my stool had never been so fluid. And I don’t mean that exactly literally, I just mean it was in and out. Bing, bang, bata boom. Definitely a healthier stool than I have ever had before.
What could cause this? The amount of fiber I began taking in from vegetables and lentils most likely. We did some reading on what to expect for first time Vegetarianism and a softer, healthier stool was one.
The verdict: I am continuing to eat a plethora of vegetables each day. My goal is to aim for almost every meal having some sort of vegetable in it.
3. I lost 9 pounds.
I definitely noticed that my protein consumption started to be replaced by the carbohydrates and so I did my best to try to find more protein in other sources. The first 3 weeks, I dropped 9 pounds. I don’t know exactly if it was fat or if it was toxins and inflammation that I had been storing from my bodies response to dairy as well as hormones from meat. I’m not sure I’ll know exactly however I felt less puffy and the next benefit I share is the most valuable to me.
4. I felt less stress from the foods I consumed.
I have had anxiety since I left college and moved to San Francisco. It began then and showed up again when I came home and started my personal banking job (the one I eventually left to start my own business) and then again when I started my business. I still have it and it’s almost a physiological reaction at this point and it’s very difficult to turn it off when it starts. I do my best to manage it and it was during the second week of the challenge that I noticed myself feeling more balanced if you will. I felt more energy, I noticed myself not reaching for the afternoon cup of coffee and overall, I was feeling so good that my stress subsided significantly.
The verdict: I believe what I was putting in my body was extremely non-toxic because it was all whole foods and by eliminating dairy (something my body clearly has a negative reaction to), I believe I both took stress out of my body and kept it from going in by way of my food choices.
5. Best sleep in a long time.
I usually wake up three times to use the restroom in the middle of the night. I can’t blame it on having kids as I haven’t yet but I definitely have a small bladder and my sleep is very sensitive. I wear ear plugs, have a body pillow I can’t sleep without and need a pitch black environment. Let’s just say, sleep is something I cherish. During this thirty days, I had some of the deepest sleep I have had in a very long time. I can’t even remember the last time I had sleep like that without popping a tylenol pm after a night out at a party. Even last night, it was one of my top 5 nights of amazing sleep. If you’re like me and require sleep to fill your cup, you know how valuable this is.
The biggest challenge during the thirty days was getting enough protein without overeating carbs and fats (felt nearly impossible to balance that equation) and deciding if this would be something I wanted to sustain after the challenge. The biggest challenge for me personally in terms of difficulty during the thirty days was eliminating dairy. I’m a cheese plate and wine kind of woman and this challenge really brought an awareness to me of how much dairy I actually consume. It wasn’t easy to omit it from my diet but I’m so glad I did, because now I know what sparks my allergy attacks and if you’ve ever had allergies, you know how debilitating they can be.
What we decided:
Mark and I have both slowly added in a chicken breast per day (which is progress from my normal 3 breasts per day pre-challenge) and would continue eating the amount of vegetables we had been eating. We will cut back on the carbs such as lentils and whole grain bread and replace that with the added animal protein. I am continuing on with no dairy in my diet, with the exception of goat cheese. We both sat down this weekend and talked about our biggest takeaway and that was a new awareness. We both loved how we felt eating more vegetables and for me, eliminating dairy. There were times I did notice lower energy (more so towards the end of the challenge) and I am not sure I feel my absolute best on a higher carb & fat, lower protein diet. We will be limiting our meat intake and focusing on keeping the whole foods and vegetables in our daily diet.
Our next challenge:
We decided to keep this going and to challenge ourselves to yet another big goal: eliminate liquor for the next 30 days. We begin today to take us to the end of February. This has always been one of the most difficult things to balance for both of us when working on a goal. Most everyone we know drinks socially and so this will be more challenging as we have two birthdays coming up: my mom’s 60th and my 35th. We are telling ourselves that we did one and we can do another!
Want to start your own challenge?
I think it’s so important to challenge yourself. I remember the times I had found myself wandering through life like a zombie, feeling like I was existing vs. really living. This challenge sparked in me the truth that I can do anything I set my mind to. Sometimes we can forget. With challenge, comes change. And with change, comes growth. If you want to start a challenge of your own, I recommend picking something that you know you could 100% commit to. Maybe even starting with 14 days vs 30. I knew that by having a partner in this, it would be much more doable because my husband would be doing it right along side me. If you want to try going vegetarian for 14 or 30 days, comment below and I’m happy to offer some resources. Never stop challenging yourself and never stop fiercing forward for you!
Have you ever considered eliminating something from your diet with the sole mission to challenge yourself to be healthier? I’d love to hear from you, comment below.