I've been vegan for almost 5 months and have experimented with just about every branch of veganism out there. At first, I simply replaced the yogurt and eggs I ate with more fruits, veggies, and grains, but as I immersed myself more in the culture of veganism and discovered various bloggers and their lifestyles, I became curious about High Carb Low Fat (HCLF), Raw Til 4, Starch Solution, etc.
Raw Til 4 jumped out at me most because the idea of eating raw, hydrating fruits and vegetables first in the day and saving my grains, starchy veggies, and beans for later on intrigued me. Of course, I just had to give it a try, and after doing some research, I was eating buckets of salads and more fruit than I ever have. I loved it! Raw Til 4 encouraged me to eat, eat, eat and not worry about the carbohydrates, but rather focus on getting sufficient calories each day. There were even a few times when about 18-20 dates constituted an entire meal - part of me LOVED that, and the other part felt a little strange consuming that much sugar in one sitting. In one day, for that matter. After about a week, I didn't want to buy that many bananas, nor could I fit that many into my belly for breakfast. I didn't want to bring three tupperware containers of salad with me for lunch everyday. I didn't want to have to consume three to four plates of rice and potatoes and beans for dinner each night just to make sure I hit my calorie goal. This part was hard to admit, but I also noticed that my weight was dropping pretty quickly, my joints were aching, and I was more tired than usual, and that combination terrified me.
So, I transitioned into a kinda/sorta combination of Starch Solution and HCLF. While it did feel more balanced and "normal" than Raw Til 4, I still found myself feeling somewhat restricted and labeled. The common guideline for a HCLF diet is 80/10/10, meaning 80% of one's calories should come from carbohydrates, 10% from fats, and the remaining 10% from protein. The days of obsessive calorie-counting immediately came to mind, but I tried my hardest to push them out because I wanted to experiment more with everything under the vegan umbrella. I didn't count my calories, but I probably should have, because I definitely wasn't consuming enough protein for my activity level. On the bright side, my skin cleared up in the blink of an eye!
But HCLF/Starch Solution didn't last long, and soon enough I discovered the beautiful, decadent indulgence of vegan cake, cookies, brownies, etc. In other words, I found heaven on earth, pretty much. Oh man, I could eat this junk everyday... if it didn't make me feel like junk, that is. I still ate relatively healthy, but I definitely let myself loose when I heard anything about pizza or falafel or vegan cheese. Soon enough, I realized my jeans weren't fitting quite like they used to, some unfamiliar pimples were making themselves comfortable on my chin and cheeks, and my workouts didn't feel as energetic as they used to.
Which brings me here. Where is here? Well, "here" is in my room, munching on one of the cashew butter cookie dough bites I made last week, while simultaneously dipping some mini granola bars from Graze into a jar of peanut butter #doublefisting. I'm ditching the vegan prefixes and trading them in for a more relaxed lifestyle. Now, I'm NOT saying that anyone who follows those lifestyles is crazy and restrictive or weird or whatever - props to them for finding a specific lifestyle they love! All I'm saying is that those aren't for me. I've gone in waist-deep in each of their waters, which is exactly what I wanted to do. Without having experimented with Raw Til 4, HCLF, and Starch Solution, I may not have finally found this place of balance, this happy-medium.
Again, I'm not bashing those branches of veganism in any way - I know tons of people who seem happy as can be following a fully raw, raw til 4, starch solution, HCLF, or whatever it may be kind of lifestyle. I've just learned that sometimes I like oatmeal in the morning, and sometimes I like heaps of peanut butter along with that. I like the blank palette of veganism just the way it is :) I also wanted to post this for those of who are transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and to encourage you to, above all, do what works for you, what YOU love most. Just because a million vegan girls are posting pretty pictures of their fruit plates of mangoes and bananas and dates and papaya for breakfast doesn't mean you can't post a picture of your oatmeal muffins, your PB & J, or your mouth-watering vegan-cheesy pizza, for that matter! On the other hand, don't be ashamed of your simple vegan salad if you're surrounded by deep-fried donuts, massive burritos, or thick slices of sugary cake.
Just be vegan, and be your kind of vegan. MY kind of vegan includes coconut-date rolls and peanut butter, tofu quiche and veggie calzones, baked, caramelly, mushy sweet potatoes, and LOTS of nice cream :) I'm eating happily ever after and loving every minute of it!