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I Became a Vegan for 2 Weeks and It Wasn’t Worth It

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I, Terra Brown, lover of baby back ribs and bacon-wrapped anything, am becoming a vegan for 14 days. For two weeks, I’m forsaking all animal by-products with the exception of raw, unfiltered honey (my coffee needs it, okay?) and supplementing animal protein with a vegan protein powder and lots of almonds.

I’m going into the experiment with a small crop of new pimples near my hairline, and severe sleep deprivation—although I’m not sure if that’s due to my own sleep issues or the new golden retriever puppy I just brought home. At the end of this experiment, I’m going to analyze how my body feels and how my skin has changed. I’ll be monitoring my energy levels throughout the experience and will check for any physical changes on day 15. I’m also heading to the lake as soon as this is over with, so I’m hoping to have less body fat to show off in my bikini.

I learned I was allergic to dairy at 5 years old, so I’ve spent most of my life following a dairy-free diet. I cave and eat ice cream sometimes, but for the most part I avoid anything that contains dairy. Even crackers and bread. So veganism shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

Theoretically, it’s not that big of a change. I work hard to eat as many veggies as possible each day and to make at least half of them raw. Emotionally, I think a t-bone sounds like it’ll hit the spot. However, I want to see for myself if the physical benefits of veganism are as amazing and life-changing as my two vegan co-workers say. I have trouble sleeping and my stomach is becoming increasingly sensitive to foods, and I’m hoping veganism will help remedy these two problems. If my skin cleared up too, that’d be fantastic.

I want to be clear: I’m doing this solely to see how a diet entirely based in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains affects me physically. I’m not doing this to make a statement about the ethical treatment of animals, although I respect those that do.

Anyway, this is what happened.

Week 1

Day 1: Is MiO Energy Vegan?

The first day of my new vegan lifestyle honestly didn’t seem like that big of deal. I didn’t realize just how much I already follow veganism. My morning coffee (with almond milk and honey) and the smoothie recipe I’ve been following for years were already in-line with the rules, so it’s smooth sailing right now. I was tired this morning because I had just gotten a puppy three days ago (I woke up at 3:46 a.m this morning.). The coffee flowed all day long.

My first challenge came before lunch. There were two large canisters of Chicago-style popcorn in the office kitchen, which is one of my top 15 favorite snacks, and I couldn’t have any. I resisted temptation shockingly, and kept reminding myself there will still be Chicago-style popcorn in the world after these two weeks.

Meals were a piece of cake today. My main demon was a severe need for caffeine, and coffee wasn’t cutting it. I don’t normally allow myself MiO Energy, but I was desperate. And I think it’s still vegan.

By the end of day one, I felt fine. I didn’t feel deprived at all, and didn’t even miss meat at any of my meals. My spaghetti squash was pretty dope though, so that’s probably why. I didn’t feel any leaner than normal, but I kept checking for abs just in case.

Day 2: Three Cheers for Panera Blueberry Bagels!

It was a wild morning by 9 a.m. I came to work super excited about my oatmeal and blueberries, and then was shown a bag of bagels for a morning meeting I forgot about. I LOVE bagels. I was celebrating my good fortune when my editors reminded me bagels aren’t vegan. It was crushing. My fist pumps of joy turned into clenched fists of frustration. I began to contemplate if I wanted to cheat already.

And then the heavens shone down on me with a quick Google search. Panera’s blueberry bagels are not made with any animal by-products! A bagel-fest commenced.

(I’m like a hobbit. I need to eat first breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, etc.)

I intended to make a huge salad when I went home to play with my puppy at lunch, but all three of my lettuce containers were full of frozen greens. $15 WASTED. So I had no choice but to eat a small portion of spaghetti, and then I made a watermelon, strawberry, lemonade, and protein smoothie for dessert. I wasn’t really that upset about the lettuce once I drank that.

Around mid-afternoon of day 2, I realized I hadn’t made a conscious effort with my protein intake, so I spent the rest of the day keeping that at the forefront of my meal choices. Quinoa is a great source of protein, so I whipped up a large batch after work to mix in with all of my pasta sauce. It was just as good as normal noodles and filling without leaving me bloated.

Day 3: Recipe Revelation

The morning of day three, I woke up feeling satiated and lean. I was definitely sleepy from a night of begging my puppy to go to the bathroom in the rain, but I was feeling pretty good in terms of bloating. In fact, the quinoa and protein shake I had for dinner was so filling I wasn’t even hungry for breakfast until 9, which is not normal for me. I packed a lot of protein-rich foods for the day (peanuts mixed with almonds, a protein shake, quinoa mixed with spaghetti squash and sauce, and an apple with peanut butter) so I should be covered on that. I left my house wondering if I had overdone it with the protein.

I began to struggle with my food limitations on day 3. Mainly because it was a cold and rainy day and all I wanted was some creamy pasta or a chicken pot pie. Instead, I went home to a bowl of lettuce and the same vegan spaghetti I’d been eating all week. I realized I needed to find some actual recipes to try.

In order to satisfy my warm, comfort food craving without having to cook anything, I chose to splurge on some Amy’s Kitchen frozen meals and a package of veggie burgers. The red curry by Amy’s was phenomenal and the veggie burger was okay in comparison, but it was nice to have those to heat up the rest of the week.

Day 4: I. Love. Oatmeal.

I woke up dreaming of the red curry from the night before, but also stoked for a hot bowl of oatmeal since it’s so chilly and rainy outside. It might have been my hopeful thoughts, but my obliques looked nice and cut this morning. I also started to wonder if I should set a limit to how many Amy’s Kitchen dishes I can eat throughout this experiment.

Day 5: The Start of a Vegan Weekend Gone Awry

I didn’t know what was in store for the coming weekend when I woke up on Friday. My two best friends were showing up at 6 p.m. to take me out for a birthday surprise, so I didn’t even know if we were going out for dinner or what. I was reminded once again how perfect they are when I opened my birthday card to a pop-up of Luke Bryan and tickets to his concert. Seriously – the best birthday present ever.

Well, here’s the thing about concert venues: They don’t offer vegan options. At least not here in Arkansas. My best bet was a chicken strip basket with fries. After four and a half days of a vegan diet, the fried food was a bit of a shock to my system. I didn’t get sick, but I did fill up super fast and was incredibly dehydrated by the end of the concert. Shockingly, the whiskey and cokes I was downing all night did not help solve the problem. That was just the start, though.

Day 6: Brunch is Not for Vegans

And on the sixth day, I was asked to a brunch date unexpectedly. You would think this would be an easy minefield to navigate, but it was not so easy. I could have gotten a salad, but no one wants to eat a salad at brunch. I opted for a veggie omelet without cheese with a croissant and potatoes on the side. Not terrible, right? The butter in the croissant definitely weighed me down the rest of the day. Despite that, it was a heavenly pastry, and I would eat it again in a heartbeat.

I was so full from brunch I wasn’t even hungry when my mom and cousin stopped by for a late lunch at 4. We went to a Mexican joint down the road since my mom ALWAYS wants Mexican food. Quite miraculously, I was able to resist the queso. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even want any of it. I stuck to the salsa and ordered a guacamole salad, which was just iceberg lettuce and mountains of guacamole. Since I wasn’t hungry I mostly picked at it, but the guac was so, so good.

Dinner at home was strictly vegan, but I’ve forgotten what it was. Whoops. I was still hungover from the concert, so please forgive me.

Day 7: Back on the Vegan Track

Sunday was devoted to grocery shopping, meal prepping, and playing with my puppy. I wanted to have more clear-cut meals for the final week, but I had random veggies leftover so I just cooked some cauliflower alfredo, sauteed cabbage, mashed sweet potato, and whipped up a batch of protein balls. At this point, I just wanted to keep it simple.

Meals for Sunday were super vegan. I had some coffee, ate a banana for breakfast, finished my spaghetti squash and spaghetti sauce off finally, snacked on an apple with peanut butter, and finished my meals with a bowl of quinoa, squash, zucchini and cauliflower alfredo sauce. I’ve realized it’s so easy to eat vegan when eating at home. Mainly because there’s no way to cheat when your fridge only has fruits and vegetables.

Week 2

Day 8: The Beginning of the End

I woke up feeling incredibly lean and light despite my sojourn into animal-based protein the previous days. My meals were packed the night before and I had a busy day to keep me distracted from cheating. Naturally, there had to be a mental challenge: As soon as I walked into the kitchen to make my oatmeal, I spotted a large, pink, strawberry cake sitting on the table. Strawberry cake is my weakness. Yet, I managed to refrain by telling myself it was probably a terrible cake if someone brought it to work.

My editor tasted it and had a different opinion about it. Go figure.

I realized as I was driving back to the office after my lunch break (now used solely to walk my pup and play with him) I hadn’t had any unexplainable moments of hunger like normal. Before going vegan, I was always hungry. I ate nonstop. Since then however, I had only been hungry when waking and when I got home from work. Everything else was a normal hunger I could easily satisfy with the meals I’ve packed. A weird but awesome side effect.

Day 9: I Swear I Didn’t Cheat

It was a busy morning. I chugged some coffee and shuttled my pup to the vet while ignoring the stomach ache I had. A few sips into some peppermint tea at work, and my stomach felt better, and hunger hit like a runaway train. I really wanted some pizza and to eat at a restaurant without food restrictions. Alas, I still had six more days of veganism.

And this is where things got irritating and I couldn’t write about it without seeing red.

Day 10: Began to feel weak and desperate for a large t-bone and a basket of rolls.

Day 11: I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was so over quinoa, but all of the Asian food at my disposal gave me life. Red curry for days, y’all.

Day 12: Happy hour is vegan, thank you Lord. On day 12, I was chomping at the bit for some melty, cheesy, greasy pizza. The remaining 2.5 days seemed like an eternity, and I was sure I wouldn’t survive off of the exact same cauliflower alfredo I’d been eating all week. Only the knowledge I would meet my mom after work for some PF Chang’s got me through it. Once again, I was reminded what a blessing Asian food is.

Day 13: I had a fridge full of quinoa, cauliflower, and cabbage — and by full, I mean all shelves were empty except for the one containing those three things. I spent this unchaperoned Saturday distracting my stomach by packing for my Spring Break family vacay, walking the puppy, and scarfing down the cauliflower while watching Friends. I was determined to clean out my fridge before leaving town.

Day 14: FINALLY. The last day arrived, and I was so glad until I realized I still had to be vegan for the whole day. While pondering this cruelty and playing with my pup, I decided Screw It. I had gone almost two weeks without a morsel of beef, chicken, cheese, or bread (not counting the previous weekend). I grabbed my keys, scooped up the dog, and we headed to Sonic for a double bacon Sonic burger. IT. WAS. GLORIOUS.

And that brought my vegan experiment to a close. I spent two weeks double-checking everything I ate and dreaming of all the foods I could cook in chicken broth and cover in cheddar. There were ups and downs; physically, I felt great (despite no visible change in my body), but my soul ached for all those hearty foods I’d grown up on. I actually spent more time thinking about those foods when I wasn’t allowed to have them than when I didn’t place a restriction on it. For me, this whole experience was a killer mental battle. Cheese isn’t even something I buy at the grocery store. I only eat steak when I go home to my parents’ house. But knowing that I had to strictly avoid anything related to animals made me want it all and want it right then.

So of course when the experiment was done, and I headed to vacation with my family, I went bonkers with my diet. I didn’t worry about what I ate, how many calories were in it, whether or not it had nutritious value, and I certainly didn’t even think about how hungry I was. I was out of control. It took about two days for me to realize I was on a runaway train I didn’t want to stay on. It also took two days for my skin to completely freak out. I’m 25 and had the worst breakout of my life when I stopped eating vegan.

I also felt sick, tired, bloated, and just plain gross because my face looked like every teenager’s worst nightmare. So will I be a devout vegan for the rest of my life? Not exactly, but I want to follow it 80/20 like I do exercise. I plan to follow an 80% vegan diet so that 20% of the time I can enjoy special foods, like my dad’s steaks and birthday desserts. Strictly cutting out certain foods makes me miserable because I know I can’t have something. Depriving myself has never worked, which is why being a full-on vegan went a little sideways. I don’t want to turn down certain foods because I do have to live my life, but I also want my body to feel its best most of the time. A vegan diet did make my body feel great, and that’s not something I want to lose.

Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3

Last modified on February 21st, 2017

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