Vegan 30: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Giving Up Meat and Dairy

Our assistant digital beauty editor gave up meat and dairy for a whole month, here's what happened.

Virginia Lowman Mar, 10, 2016

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I am a beauty and health social experiment enthusiast, so giving up a product or trying a product for 30 days is nothing new to me. However, following a vegan lifestyle plan for 30 days was no walk in the park. The first two weeks were definitely the roughest, after learning that fish was also off limits I found myself scrounging to find anything chewy that could substitute for meat. I even inquired about eating escargot (snails cooked in butter—vegan, of course) but even snails were off lmits. Anything with a heartbeat was a no-go. So for 30 days I lived off of tofu, rice and a lot of salad. 

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Following such strict diet and cutting out saturated fats proved to be beneficial. Not only did my skin clear, but I also lost 6 pounds (just in time for bikini season.)

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The change in diet affected everything, including my period. It still lasted for its usual 3-5 day span, but I didn't experience any cramps. Usually, my first day is pretty terrible and practically unbearable without Midol. On the vegan plan, my cramps were minimal and almost non-existent.

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On weekends when I didn't have time to meal prep for the week, I was often forced to rely on the salad bar in our cafeteria. However, because many o the dressings and topping options in the cafeteria had animal by-product, I was often limited in my topping options. So, it wasn't uncommon for me to be hungry an hour or two after a meal. As such, I found that I drank water more frequently to maintain hydration, which also suppressed my hunger.

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I've never been a fan of bananas, coconut or oatmeal, but once I pursued the vegan diet, I didn't have many options in terms of quick foods. Fruit was a go-to and because the fruits that I like (pineapples and strawberries) aren't always readily available in the office, I had to consider other options. While I can't say that I'm a fan of bananas and coconut, I can stomach eating a whole banana or coconut bar. Oatmeal on the other hand, has once again become a favorite breakfast option of mine; it also helps me to remain full in the mornings for a longer period of time.

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Prior to starting the diet, I read about the tendency for vegans to be slightly prone to anger if they are lacking certain vitamins of nutrients in their diet. Because I wasn't paying strict attention to my vitamin intake, I do think that I became more prone to aggravation. Going forward I will be sure to be more mindful of what I'm eating and what it adds to my diet, as opposed to just eating healthy food to combat hunger. Following a plant-based diet doesn't negate the importance of your food nutritional value.

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I was eating a healthier diet, but I wasn't getting the nutrients that I needed to maintain a strong immune system—I was also running on only a few hours of sleep (thanks Fashion Week), which didn't help. By the third week, I had contracted tonsillitis so I ended up breaking my vegan meal plan for three days to recuperate, because chicken noodle soup, ice cream, and antibiotics were the only things I could bare to swallow without discomfort. 

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By the second week, I noticed that my hair felt much drier than usual, even when I followed my standard conditioning regimen. By the end of the month, I had a dime-sized patch at the center of my crown where my hair had fallen out. It is growing back now, but I later learned that this was caused to an iron deficiency in my diet.

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You read articles about cutting dairy from your diet to clear your skin, but doing it for a week never actually does the trick. It generally takes three weeks for your body to process a diet change. By the end of my 30 days, my skin was glowing, clear and smoother than ever before. My skin is still radiant from the diet change, and I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't considering giving up dairy for good (except for on holidays.)

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By week 3, I had become quite comfortable with the vegan lifestyle. I felt lighter, slept better, and never felt sluggish or tired after meals. I also feel like I digested food better, had more energy and my skin really was—and still is—better than it has ever been. I have resumed eating meat, but I find that it makes me feel much more sluggish than it did prior to undergoing this experiment. I now limit my consumption of dairy products to weekends, and I've given up dairy milk entirely in exchange for cashew milk.

Going forward, I am heavily considering maintaining a plant-based diet five days a week and following a pescatarian diet on weekends. I recommend that every try a plant-based diet for a 30-day period, particularly if you have cystic acne, adult acne or unexplanatory breakouts that may be caused by your diet.