Now that the Clean Program cleanse is officially over, I figured it now was a good time to reflect on everything I’ve learned and decide where I’m going to go from here. I’m definitely glad that I did the cleanse. I sometimes felt a bit left out, like when my boyfriend’s family had cookie cake for his birthday, or when they ordered Chinese food and I was sitting there with my salad, but it really wasn’t that bad. I enjoyed most of the food that I was eating, and I never felt like I was starving to death or anything. I was hungry a lot of the time, certainly, but in a good way. I’ve spent so much of my life eating when I wanted food, or when I felt any sort of discomfort in my stomach. It was nice to actually have my stomach growl and know that I was eating because I was actually hungry.
Things I learned while on the cleanse:
• You don’t need added sugar to make a delicious smoothie. Bananas, strawberries, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk are good enough.
• I do not like frozen blueberries.
• A smoothie can actually keep me full for hours, at least as long as any breakfast sandwich ever did.
• I can survive without caffeine.
• I can be social and vegan; it just takes a little bit more planning.
• The second plate of food is almost never necessary.
• Fruit really is a great snack (particularly apples).
• Fuji apples are delicious (I used to only like green apples).
• Roasted chickpeas are also delicious.
• Putting 12 hours between dinner and breakfast is not difficult.
• I will drink more water if I have a 4-cup bottle next to me than if I have a single cup.
• A big salad is more filling than a piece of pizza, with far fewer calories.
• It’s okay to be hungry.
• When a recipe says it makes 4 servings, you actually get 4 servings out of it.
• I don’t need dessert after dinner.
• I don’t need cheese.
• Brown rice is actually pretty good.
• I should have gone vegan “cold tofurkey” a long time ago.
When I first decided I wanted to go vegan last April, I tried to do it in stages. At first, I was only going to eat meat when my eating it did not affect the amount of meat that was being made – for instance, at Thanksgiving, when they’re going to make a big turkey whether I eat meat or not, or when my dad brings home leftover chicken that would just have been thrown out anyway. I planned this mostly so that I would not inconvenience my boyfriend’s family.
But then I learned more about the health aspects of eating meat, and I decided that I didn’t really want to keep eating meat. I did want to be able to eat at the same places that others ate at, though, and I liked my Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar, so I decided to eat vegan at home and vegetarian when I was away from home.
As time went on, I kept changing what I wanted to do. I always knew that vegan was the ultimate goal, but it all seemed like too much work. If I could just stay home all the time, being vegan was easy. It was going out in the real world that was tricky. There was so much delicious-looking food everywhere, and it was very tempting. We visit my boyfriend’s family every Friday, and I felt bad enough asking them to make vegetarian food. Asking them to make vegan food was just too much. And hanging out with people when I couldn’t eat anything that they were eating – that was just so difficult.
So I didn’t do it. I made up excuses. I told myself that since I was eating fewer animal products than before that it didn’t really matter, that it was still better than nothing. And while that is of course true, it’s not good enough, at least not for me. I’m not trying to condemn anyone else who just wants to cut back on eating animal products – that is a perfectly valid choice, and if that is what you want, that is wonderful. Everyone has different goals and beliefs, and I’m not trying to discredit or belittle anyone else’s choices.
But I know that wasn’t enough for me. I believe that eating animals is wrong. I believe that the way we treat animals in this country is horrible. I also believe that a vegan diet is the healthiest choice for me and the planet. So, really, the only reason I wasn’t already eating that way was because I was lazy. I liked fast food and pizza and other junk food. I didn’t want to make a scene by being different. So I decided that laziness was more important than my beliefs. And that is horrible.
This cleanse helped me overcome that. It got me used to bringing my own food to places. Now I don’t have to bother my boyfriend’s family to feed me – I can just bring my own food. Problem solved. Sure, eating out with friends is more difficult now, but it’s not like I do it that often anyway. And now that I’ve gone 3 weeks without any animal products, it’s not hard to just keep at it. I’ve been prolonging this moment for so long, and I’m not sure why. I’m sure for many people slowly eliminating animal products from their diet makes a lot of sense. But for me, it just doesn’t work. I don’t see the point in continuing to enjoy food that I know I’m going to eventually cut from my diet anyway. I’d rather just stop eating it right now and start looking for other food to replace it.
So I’m going to stick with the vegan diet. It’s been working so far, and it’s what I’ve wanted to do for the past year. I’ve also decided that I’m going to go a week without tracking my food. I’m going to keep a list of what I eat, but I’m not going to track the calories. I’m going to see if I can continue to lose weight just by eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Hopefully I can still lose weight. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.