On the 22nd of September, 2022, I became a vegan. This was about 3 weeks after I decided to shut down the coaching side of my business and focus more on my health, wellness and nutrition. The result of that decision was that I started paying attention to what I was cooking at home and more specifically, what I was putting into my system.
*Standard disclaimer: When you read this or any other post on veganism/fitness/nutrition on my blog, please be advised that these are all personal experiences. I have no certification or qualification as a nutritionist/coach so kindly do your own research and consult with a healthcare or fitness professional before making any changes to your lifestyle.
- WHY I WENT VEGAN
- WHY I STAYED VEGAN
- SKIN CHANGES
- THE UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECT: WEIGHT LOSS
- READING NUTRITION LABELS BECAME THE NORM
- BUT ISN’T VEGANISM EXPENSIVE?
- SHOULD YOU GO VEGAN?
- RESOURCES/FURTHER READING
- My Health Story: How/Why I turned to Veganism
- Study 1: Milk Allergy Causes and Symptoms
- Study 2: Study Shows Diet Causes 84% Drop in Troublesome Menopausal Symptoms—without Drugs
- Study 3 Hormones in Dairy Foods and Their Impact on Public Health – A Narrative Review Article
- Study 4: A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes
- Why You Should Go Vegan
- What the Health: Documentary
- RESOURCES/FURTHER READING
WHY I WENT VEGAN
To be honest, the very first reason I went vegan was for my health. I have an autoimmune condition called urticaria. Additionally, every month, my menstrual cycle would cause havoc in my body resulting in severe cramps, brain fog, mastalgia and other symptoms including shortness of breath. In my research to help me combat these issues, I came across studies that suggested going for a dairy-free diet could help both conditions. In other words, it was quite possible that I was intolerant/allergic to milk and milk products without even knowing it. But having grown up on a vegetarian diet in India, milk was an integral part of everything that I ate, so it was a bit of an eye-opener for me.
Of course, since health was my first priority when it came to changes in my diet, I also researched all the nutritional drawbacks of going vegan. This brought me up against a list of possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which could be managed effectively with a carefully planned food diary. And that’s when I really got interested in nutrition, because this was now personal.
WHY I STAYED VEGAN
The last study (link provided in the resource section below), in particular, lists the number of hormones that are present in dairy milk and that led me down a very different rabbit hole: The idea of hormonal injections and the concept of artificial insemination of cows to keep them producing milk all year round. This was something I hadn’t even considered, let alone debated, until I watched the documentary What the Health on Netflix. The effect of that was instantaneous. I decided to go vegan immediately and did it overnight.
In addition to all of the health benefits I could sense from going vegan, I slowly began to embrace the idea of ethical veganism too. There’s still a lot more that I need to do on that front, but this just made it even easier for me to stick with my decision to go plant-based in my diet.
One of the curious things that happened after I turned vegan was the effect it had on my skin. In mid 2020, I developed melasma (hyperpigmentation) on the left side of my face and neck. Speaking to my doctor confirmed that nothing much could be done about it and it was mostly a cosmentic issue. When I did my research I discovered that it was heavily influenced by hormonal imbalances.
I figured: What if veganism could help with that too? After all, I was practically working on hormonal balance through my diet in any case. The result? Quite impressive, I must say!
THE UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECT: WEIGHT LOSS
Now, as a consequence (which wasn’t completely intentional), I watched as the extra pounds on my body fell off. So much so that I managed to lose about 20 pounds over the course of 4.5 months. This was done gradually and I didn’t do any crash dieting, before you start wondering. Just changing the composition of what I ate made a massive difference to my entire body composition. I also began to feel stronger and healthier than I had in many years.
As a result, one of the more frequent questions I get asked these days, by friends and family alike when we meet, is this one: ‘How’s your diet going? Still sticking with it?’
You see, that’s the thing. I don’t follow a diet. Because a diet is difficult to stick to, for a variety of reasons. Instead, what I follow is a lifestyle. Diets are a short-term quick fix with a much higher chance of falling off the wagon and returning to unhealthy patterns. But a lifestyle change is for the long term and is much more likely to help you sustain your good health for your foreseeable future.
I am now vegan for life and as a result, staying healthy has become easier. As for the weight? Maintaining it has never been simpler.
The caveat I must mention is that going vegan or plant based, by itself, won’t help you lose weight. You have to ensure that you’re eating nutrition-rich vegan foods which automatically takes care of your caloric needs. The best part about this is that you don’t need to do any form of calorie counting (at least in my experience), as long as you’re following a balanced meal plan with the right amount of proteins, carbs and healthy fats together with essential vitamins and minerals.
READING NUTRITION LABELS BECAME THE NORM
Going plant based from the nutrition perspective helped tremendously here because I also consciously minimized junk food, processed foods and deep-fried foods in my diet. Studying nutrition labels had always been a thing of sorts but after going vegan, I was extra cautious about reading them. That’s when I realized how many packaged products on our shelves contain dairy products or added sugar in one form or the other.
Chocolates were an obvious culprit, but brown bread? I hadn’t thought they’d use milk, but they do! Packaged cereals were obviously sugar loaded, but ‘sugar-free’ muesli? Those just used artificial sugar substitutes, which were even worse.
Pretty much most Indian sweets such as gulab jamun, rasgulla, pedas, burfis were all milk-based and/or used ghee. So eliminating them from my diet immediately meant that I wasn’t consuming sugar in any form.
Nowadays, what do I do when I feel like having something sweet? I reach for fruits, dry fruits, dates and the like. On the days I feel like indulging in something a bit sweeter, I end up baking my own cookies and muffins since I can regulate the amount of sweetener I add to them. Since I don’t add any preservatives, the batches are small in number and are usually finished in a day or less. Natural portion control for the win! 😉
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional indulgences such as vegan ice-creams or cakes, but they instinctively become just that – an indulgence and not a regular affair.
BUT ISN’T VEGANISM EXPENSIVE?
I know that this has been the general understanding about veganism. The reason that’s the case is because dairy, as a product, is heavily subsidized by the government in India. As a result, most of your vegan milks are expensive in comparison.
However, when I decided to go vegan I also decided to start experimenting with vegan milks and curds, making them at home. Doing this on a regular basis spurred me to make even more items such as peanut butter, almond butter, cookies, breads etc all of which are usually heavily processed in the market. The more homemade products I started to make, the more I realised that veganism is highly possible on a budget. That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy commercial vegan/ plant based products, of course. I just find it easier to make most stuff at home, once or twice a week.
Roshni Sanghvi, a renowned plant-based sports nutritionist and holistic health coach, wrote a very good article on this topic: Is Veganism Expensive? What Broke Vegans Eat (Indian version)
SHOULD YOU GO VEGAN?
Honestly, I would love it if you did, but in my experience, I’ve learnt that whatever decision people take must be motivated by an intrinsic and powerful why. Yes, posts like these and books/articles/videos/films by experts can go a long way toward helping you make that decision. But the only way you will stick with that decision for the long term is if you have a very strong reason to do it in the first place.
I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about my vegan lifestyle and journey thus far. If I can help clear up any doubts or queries you may have on the subject, feel free to ask me in the comments below and I will answer them there or in a follow up post on the blog.
In my follow-up posts on this topic, I will cover what I have learnt about:
- Nutrition Tips while Going Vegan (This will be a multi-part post)
- How to go vegan on a predominantly Indian diet
- How to meal plan on a vegan diet
- Fitness, workouts and veganism
Hi, I’m Shailaja, a blogger who’s been writing since 2007. My interests include books of all kinds, digital minimalism, veganism, health, nutrition, fitness and staying open to learning all the time. Welcome! Click here if you’d like an email when I publish new posts