Sunday, 8 March 2015

Blog hijack: Mrs P’s take on the Vegan Challenge

I have been watching Mark’s 40 before 40 with mild amusement, and of course, encouragement -  I’m a nice wife like that. And I’ve been happy to sit on the sidelines, until the vegan challenge came along. I was intrigued. I’ve been happily tucking into meat, dairy and eggs throughout my 32 years – yet I find vegetarian food really tasty. It would broaden our eating horizons, be better for the planet. Plus I thought it would re-boot my diet and lifestyle and get me out of a weight loss and fitness plateau.

Mark and I approached the challenge in our usual style. He told anyone who would listen what he was up to (just as well he’s in PR), while I, being the strategist, did a LOT of reading. Meal planning, research, shopping lists, thinking about what I could eat for different meals.

And this is what I discovered – the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good:
My skin feels so much better. I suffer with stress, and it shows in my skin – beauticians have been horrified at how dry it has been this winter. Not anymore – take a bow, avocados, nuts and seeds.

I felt my energy levels were up. I was the sprightliest I think I’ve ever been on the school run!

A rainbow of colour on my plate. I finally was making my 5 a day! A full spectrum, from beetroots and carrots to leafy greens.

Reduced caffeine. Bog standard PG Tips tastes a bit gross with almond or oat milk. Plus I work in an office of 9 people – whilst they don’t all make tea, there are at least 6 tea runs on an average weekday. So I stuck to the odd cup of earl grey and hot water and lemon. And I haven’t missed it.

Not missing meat at all. That was surprising.

God bless Archie Browns – the ultimate veggie café where I could have a working lunch and feel normal. My fellow diners loved it too.

Discovering some great bloggers with inspirational recipes.

The bad:
Not particularly a cheap week on the food bill – nuts and snack things plus anything you might need to boost nutrients are ludicrously expensive. I wanted to get Chia seeds, swayed by the likes of Millie Mackintosh and her Instagram diet, to go in a nut roast and my breakfast smoothies. Not happening at about £12 a bag. That’s more than I pay for wine!

At least two slip ups involving dairy. Some contraband goats cheese on Wednesday night at a PR dinner. Mark also smuggled me some cheese-board remnants from another dinner, probably because he succumbed too and wanted an ally. I also snuck some cow’s milk into a single cup of tea on Saturday.

Loop holes. I am a professional diet cheat – did you know that curly fries are vegan? And Tesco value falafel? I suspect processed frozen food isn’t really in the spirit of things.

Late night toast binges with avocado or humous. Because if you’re used to high protein, lower carb, you never quite get the same “full” feeling.

Nothing to report in terms of weight loss – call me vain, but I was expecting some sort of action there. Probably explained by the two points above.

Discovering some smug bloggers. And as much as I’ve loved Deliciously Ella, she’s a bit too sunny and positive for this cynical, frazzled mummy.

The ugly:

I ended on Saturday night with an intensely bloated stomach. I’ve not eaten this much carbs or sugar for a long time. I looked pregnant again. All this gas can only emerge one way….

The conclusions:
I’ve taken a break from the vegan challenge today to take stock, and it’s been lovely. I’ve had eggs, smoked salmon, cow’s milk in my tea, all enjoyed mindfully, and I’m about to tuck into some amazing sausages from pork reared by friends of ours.

I’m really happy to cut down on my meat intake – for environmental and sustainability reasons more than anything. I also feel the milk industry is totally unsustainable. The girls drink a LOT of milk so we currently buy 4 pints of semi skimmed from Tesco for £1, which is kind on our household bills, but how is this kind to the farmers, much less the cows pumped full of hormone to produce it? For less than a price of a bottle of wine, I’d like to start sourcing our milk at a fairer price.

But in the medium and long term –I feel empowered that I can actually give something up (meat particularly) for a week without thinking about it. I think my efforts are best spent cutting down on my wine intake (sad but true).

I reckon clean and lean is the way forward for me. I’m thinking a kind of 5:2 vegan/veggie diet is the way forward. A couple of days a week vegan, a few veggie and a few with a bit of high welfare, decent meat. Minimal wheat and less alcohol.

I think that’s what old-fashioned dieticians would call a “balanced diet” and “everything in moderation”. Funny, that.

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