My Vegan Experiment

I consider myself a pretty fit guy.  I’m athletic, my weight is under control and I feel healthy most of the time.  However, I do have a sweet tooth and far too often I’m tempted by quick and easy food options that aren’t good for me.  In the off-season when my triathlon training slows, I inevitably put on weight.  It’s obvious that I’m controlling my weight with exercise and not with my diet.  I know it’s not healthy, and so to get a better sense of how my diet is affecting me, I have decided to experiment with eating vegan.  I’ll be using blood tests and other measures to try and quantify the results for you as best as possible.

Check out this video of me explaining the reasons for the experiment.  You’ll also get to meet my son, Caelan.  (If you’re reading this via an email or RSS subscription feed, you may need to visit Stop & Breathe to view the video.)

 

I should note that I have been a pretty big meat eater for most of my life and have followed what I believed to be a healthy paleo approach to eating at times.  However, in the past six months I have gradually been loosing my taste for meat.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to barrage you carnivores out there with a feel good rant about why I don’t think we should be eating animals.  I actually think there is an argument for eating responsible meat sources.  The primary reason I’ve lost my taste for meat is because I’ve been listening to my body and practicing mindful eating.  I’m simply not enjoying meat as much and I have found that I feel healthier and more energetic after a good plant based meal vs. a steak or chicken.

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My naturopathic doctor, Kandis Lock, has arranged my first round of blood tests and I am waiting for the results.  I have also taken note of other factors such as sleep, energy levels, strength, endurance, etc.  I’ll eat vegan for a minimum of 30 days (perhaps longer) and at the end of that period will have tests done again so I can compare the results.

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The diet itself is pretty straight forward.  I’m eating all plant based foods, which consists mostly of fruits and veggies.  I’ll also eat some grains, but I’ll try to avoid gluten all together and will limit the amount of processed grains I consume.  I have a big sweet tooth so I know I’ll still be consuming sugar, but I’m going to have much less and I’ll try to get sweeteners from less processed sources such as maple syrup.  In the past I have taken one-a-day vitamins, fish oil and other supplements, however I won’t use those supplements throughout the experiment.

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The only supplement I will take is a vegan protein from Genuine Health.  That said, I won’t take it in large quantities.  I’ll simply use it in fruit smoothies from time to time.  My goal is to get protein from whole vegan sources as much as possible, such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.  I won’t eat “fake meat” such as soy burgers or soy ground beef.  I want to experiment with how easily a vegan diet can be followed using sources as close to the way nature intended them, not simply find alternatives that trick me into thinking I’m eating meat.

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I’m already six days into the experiment and have noticed some interesting results, but I’ll wait to share them with you at the end of the experiment.  In the meantime, I thought I’d include some pictures throughout this post of the meals and snacks I’ve been eating so far.  There’s a list at the bottom of this post describing each photo.  I have to say that preparing healthy vegan meals really isn’t difficult or time consuming (quite the opposite) and with the mix of spices and herbs I’m using, the food is amazingly tasty.

If you have any questions about the experiment or would like recipes for the meals I’m posting, ask in the comments.  I’ll also be posting updates in the comments throughout the experiment, so be sure to subscribe for updates or check back if you’re interested.

 

Picture descriptions:

Header photo – almond, dried cranberry and toasted coconut trail mix.

1.  Veggie sandwich on toasted gluten free bread.  Made with humus, onion, tomato, cucumber, sundried tomato, spinach, pickle

2. Fresh veggie/fruit juice – beet, carrot, apple, ginger

3. Baked sweet potato wedges tossed in olive oil, rosemary and sea salt.

4.  Vegan mint chocolate cupcake from Auntie Loo’s Treats

5.  Salad with spinach, tomato, red pepper, onion, toasted almonds, broccoli and carrot slaw, avocado, cilantro and Thai peanut dressing.

6.  Slow cook oats with almonds, raisins, toasted coconut and maple syrup.

7.  Vegan and gluten free chocolate peanut square.

8.  Refried black beans, lime and cilantro sautéed veggies and avocado/tomato/cilantro/onion/lime salad.

9.  Home made guacamole and salsa with organic blue corn chips.

10.  Curried veggies with lentils and steamed rice.

11. Apple wedges with almond butter.

12.  Tomato slices with raw zucchini and home made garlic/basil/pine nut pesto.  Cucumber slices with humus.

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Picture descriptions:

17 Comments

  1. very interested in hearing the results Jason… mostly interested in hearing about your energy levels, sleep patterns and difficulty/simplicity of preparing and following this plan as you get further into it or as life throws you those ups and downs and your ‘prep’ time gets pressed. I’m a huge fan of my steaks and chicken, but since the wife has difficulties with these food sources, I’ve always toyed with a possible switch to avoid the double dinner prep etc. Also, are you eating out at all during this experiment, if so, could you comment on how difficult is it to follow such a plan in most restaurants and maybe list a couple of places which you found to be vegan friendly. Best of luck for the rest of the month.

    • Jason Billows |

      Will do Steve. Check back for comments and the final results.

      It’ll be interesting to see how it affects training. I’m certainly not training as hard as I was pre-Ironman, but I should still be able to get a good sense of how it affects me.

      Yes, I’ll be eating out and already have been. Living in downtown Ottawa makes it pretty easy for me to eat vegan. Herb & Spice, Wild Oat, Green Door and The Table are all go to’s when I’m looking for some vegan meals. We’ve also got Zen Kitchen just down the street for some higher end vegan options. I’m going to make a point of visiting some mainstream restaurants to see how easy or difficult it is. My guess is that there will always be options available, it’s just a matter of making those choices and not giving in to temptation. Although, so far I haven’t been feeling tempted to deviate from the vegan diet and I’m really enjoying the food.

    • Holy Toledo, so glad I cleickd on this site first!

  2. Hi Jason,
    I’m excited to hear about your experiment, having been vegan for 12+ years, and very interested to see how it progresses. I made the choice for different reasons, but share your commitment to (trying to) live an intentional life. I’m particularly intrigued to see what emerges in terms of your observations/analysis of the impact of and on sleep, energy levels, and the lab work.
    And, having a sweet tooth myself, I would kindly ask you to include me on the list of recipes you might share…namely, the vegan and gluten free chocolate peanut square!
    Cheers, good luck, and enjoy.

    • Jason Billows |

      Hi Aimee.

      Thanks for your comment. 12+ years is a great accomplishment. I’d love to hear about some of the keys to your success in sustaining your lifestyle/diet for so many years. Please feel free to comment here or use my contact form.

      I’m looking forward to sharing the results with you. Unfortunately it’ll be hard for me to share the recipe of that chocolate peanut square. It was purchased at a local grocery/health food store. I’m trying to find out the recipe and will keep you posted.

  3. Very Interesting Jason. The food looks amazing.
    My fear howerver would be how much I consume of it, as it’s dips and potatoes, and sweets
    I love this type of food and I tend to eat way too much of it
    … do you find that you are consiously having to watch how much you are eating?

    I’m working on a high protein diet at the moment, and I find myself less puffy, and losing weight, but not sure how it’s affecting my energy levels because as well I take a multi-vitamin and greens.

    I’m very much the same, I gain weight from the food I eat, not the lack of working out…
    so any ideas to improve my eating habits, I’m encouraged to try!
    Well, I’m interested to read the effects you are receiving from this experiment!
    and I’m just waiting for my utube video to load so I can see Caelan!!! and listen to you of course 🙂

    Thanks for doing this!
    Is Tracy trying it as well?

    • Jason Billows |

      Hi Nancy!

      Actually, I find it quite the opposite. Instead of limiting my portions, I’m eating far more. The secret is choosing the right foods to eat in large quantities. You’re right that potatoes or dips may ramp up your calorie consumption, but it’s hard to eat too many veggies for the most part. Load up on whole foods and avoid the processed stuff. I tend to eat lots of big salads and stir fried veggies, then smaller quantities of sweets and starchy veggies/grains.

      Tracy (my wife for those of you who don’t know her) isn’t following the diet as closely as I am, but for the most part we’re eating all of the same foods the majority of the time.

  4. This has gotta be a success with a guy named Jason (like me too!). I’ve been vegan 20+ years and never once felt like I was denying myself good food. Though I went vegan for different reasons to yourself (ethical), I have found it to be healthy.

    You might be interested in reading Brendan Brazier’s excellent book called The Thrive Diet especially considering that you are a triathlete. http://www.brendanbrazier.com/

    I’ve very excited to hear how your experiment goes.

    Best of luck,

    Jason

    • Jason Billows |

      Hi Jason.

      20 years! Impressive. I’d love to hear some of your suggestion for sustaining a vegan lifestyle in the long term. You can email me via my contact form or simply post in the comments.

      Although my primary reason for trying this diet is for health reasons, I must say that it feels good to have reduced my contribution to the suffering of animals and the environment. I expect that it will influence my approach to eating after this experiment, regardless of whether I decide to stick with the diet entirely.

      Thanks for the link to Brendan’s website. I’m familiar with him, although I haven’t read his book. I’ve added it to my list of books to read and hope to get to it in the next couple of months. I’m also a big fan of Scott Jurek, who is an ultrarunner and vegan.

  5. I’m very interested in the outcome, especially because of the blood tests (I love numbers!) The way someone feels physically has a lot to do with their emotional state, therefore i find it hard to judge how food influences well being. Good luck and i’ll check back later

    • Jason Billows |

      Hi Eveline.

      I agree that your emotional state can certainly affect how you feel physically…. psychology influenced physiology and vice versa. I also think that only crunching numbers can be too one sided. There are so many variables that will affect the numbers, some of which you may be aware of, some you may not.

      Ultimately I think a balanced approach is needed, taking note of both the numbers and the less quantitative results. And if I’m being honest with myself, I think that the way I feel, regardless of whether it is influenced by my emotional state, is the best indicator for me.

      I can’t wait to share all of the results with you in a few weeks.

      Thanks for visiting the blog.

  6. Jason Billows |

    Last night was the first time during my vegan experiment that I felt limited by not eating any animal products. A friend took my wife and I out for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Ottawa, Domus.

    When I looked at the menu it was filled with meat options, very few vegetarian options, and no vegan options. This was frustrating, but I thought “no problem, I’ll just ask them to make me something special.” Then the smell of some passing steaks, duck and seared scallops wafted up my nose and I was immediately salivating. I suppose my taste for meat is still strong.

    When the waiter took our order I simply asked him to surprise me. If you read my earlier post titled “Surprise!” you’ll see that this isn’t uncommon for me. This time around, I just told him to surprise me with something vegan.

    I won’t lie, when our meals came I was feeling jealous of the meat options my wife and friend were enjoying. Then I tried my vegan options and I immediately forgot about what I wasn’t eating, and began enjoying what the chef had prepared especially for me. At the end of the meal I was thoroughly satisfied.

    Eating vegan isn’t always easy I suppose, but if this one experience is any indication, I think that the minor inconveniences and cravings for other food can be easily overcome. And the enjoyment of vegan food ultimately can be just as good, if not better than meat options.

    • Now does the restaurant get frazzled when you make such requests??? I’d be nervous walking into a restaurant and just flat out asking them to make me something that isn’t on their menu. I’d think if I was that waiter or chef, I’d tell the client to simply “go home and make it themselves… or pick something off our menu” LOL Glad you were able to find something you enjoyed

      • Jason Billows |

        No, they weren’t frazzled at all. They went out of their way to make me some really amazing food. Domus is a class act. I don’t know if you’d get that kind of service everywhere, but in my experience most places try to be as accommodating as possible. And my guess is that most chef’s enjoy creating new dishes rather than continually pumping out the same plates night after night.

        Vegan requests aside… I actually make it a point at most restaurants to just ask the waiter/chef to surprise me with their favorite dish. Sometimes they make me a meal that isn’t on the menu at all, and in the years I’ve been ordering like that, I’ve only been disappointed a couple of times. They always want to impress you and end up making extra effort.

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