Going Vegan: The Good and The Bad
I thought now would be a good time to discuss some of the changes you may encounter in your first couple of weeks of going vegan.
There are some positive changes but there are also negative effects too. I want to stress the negative effects because they are what put a lot of people off the diet at the very start.
The misunderstanding of what they are feeling can result in people giving up in the first week. You will find many articles online from people claiming they tried to be vegan and stopped because it was making them ill. This could be the transition phase or the improper nutritional understanding of a vegan diet.
So, here are the 10 things you should expect to see and feel when initially going vegan.
Let’s start with the bad things. These are all normal to experience in your first week or so of going vegan. Don’t fear!
1. Headaches and Nausea
The reason for these symptoms is usually a lack of calories. You’re not eating calorie dense meat and dairy anymore. Make sure you are eating the right amount of calories from the get-go. Eat a varied whole foods diet. Increase how much you are eating and don’t be afraid to snack, think nuts and seeds. If you feel hungry then eat. Listen to your body.
Another reason for headaches and nausea could be your body detoxifying. This heavily depends on your diet before going vegan. If you were particularly unhealthy and consumed many highly processed foods it’s likely your body is pushing out toxins. Your body just needs time to adjust. Keep hydrated.
Recent studies have shown that a long-term vegan diet actually reduces the occurrence of headaches and migraines.
2. Stomach Discomfort
Some people can experience discomfort in their stomach. This is most likely the shift in the microbiome in the gut. In other words, your gut is moving away from digesting flesh that has an increased potential for growth of bad bacteria to a more friendly and supportive gut microbiome. It’s a good thing.
You can relieve the symptoms by increasing the number of leafy greens in your diet. Leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens are good choices. Leafy greens promote cleansing and help to lower inflammation.
If you really struggle with your digestion at the beginning try using a digestion enzyme to aide your stomach in breaking down the new influx of fibre.
3. Decreased energy levels
For the first few days or weeks, you may feel lethargic and more tired than usual. This is caused by consuming fewer calories than your body is expecting. Meat is more calorie dense and that is what your body is used to. It will take time for your body to adjust to this change.
You can help yourself by ensuring you eat lots of plant-based protein-rich foods and healthy snacking is a must. Once this initial reduction in energy is overcome it is going to get so much better as detailed later on.
When you move from a standard diet which most likely contained lots of salty, sugary and fatty foods it is very normal for the body to crave for those foods.
A way to help keep the cravings at bay is to not become too restrictive in your diet at the start. Gradually remove animal products from your diet one by one. Start with the least favourite and knock them off until you no longer have anything left.
Adding a food-based greens supplement is a great way to nutritionally support the body and keep cravings at bay.
Yes, not all the effects are physical. Emotionally you may feel depressed at the beginning of your veganism. You are telling your body it can no longer have the things it used to have. Initially, it can make you feel down but through awareness and patience, it does not last long.
Once your body starts to feel the benefits of all the healthy food you are now eating this slump in mood is soon converted into happiness.
Now on to the good things you can expect to experience. Some of these you may experience straight away and some may only come after the bad things we discussed above.
This one is difficult to explain as you have to experience it to understand what I mean. Your body will feel lighter, agile and you will feel an increase in energy levels after the initial slump. It’s like you have more of a bounce in your step.
This is a result of your body focusing less on trying to digest chunks of meat and dairy which can cause inflammation. Once you remove the stress of heavy digestion and inflammation from the body, you will feel physically lighter.
2. Your Gut and Poo
Sorry to be so graphic but this for me has been one of the most life-changing results from going vegan. Being regular and having good poos is heavenly.
The change to a vegan diet will most likely result in a much better intake of fibre via fruit, vegetables and nuts. This helps your body’s digestion and helps create better bulkier poos.
Fibre should not be underrated, it has many benefits other than helping with digestion.
3. Better Skin
If you look up any article on the internet about the side effects of going vegan, I guarantee better skin is one of them. After a few weeks, I noticed that I had fewer spots, my skin was clearer and I had a slight ‘glow’. Many people claim going vegan significantly reduced or even cured their eczema.
The link between dairy and bad skin is also now becoming very clear. It turns out the hormones in milk are causing the worldwide epidemic that is acne.
Ditching the dairy and increasing the amount of nutritious veg and fruit in your diet results in better-looking skin.
Maybe not straight away but you should soon find it much easier to sleep at night. As you go vegan you will likely increase your intake of bananas, sweet potatoes, broccoli, peanut butter, avocados, kale, almonds, walnuts, spinach, and squash. All contain vitamin B6, tryptophan, and magnesium.
All three of these benefits your sleep cycle by creating serotonin. Serotonin regulates anxiety, happiness and mood. It also creates melatonin which aides your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle).
Never underestimate the importance of good sleep.
Many vegans report a boost in focus when changing from their old diet. This is a mix of all the healthy foods you are now consuming, the boost in nutrients and a better sleep cycle.
Personally, since going vegan I feel like it’s had a ripple effect on the rest of my life. I reassessed my old habits to form new healthier, more conscious lifestyle choices.
I am continuously making self-improvements and picking up healthy habits. Waking up early every day, exercising more, working more. I started this blog and always have a book on the go. In fact, I’ve read more books in the last 4 months than I did in the previous 29 years of my life.
Confidence is the result of the all the above coming together.
Our diet affects so much of our personality and in the future, this will become clearer. The studies coming out now all point to a direct link between our gut and our physical, mental and emotional well-being. You are what you eat.
Each person is different, you may feel some of these side effects when going vegan but equally you might not experience any of them. It’s important to remember to listen to your body, seek help where you can and educate yourself on what you need to be a healthy vegan. You can start with my top 10 tips for men going vegan.