Eating more plants is a win-win for both our own health and the health of the planet. However, sometimes deep down, we know a particular way of eating is not working for us. However, the influence of external factors is too strong or convincing to warrant us making a change. If you are trying a vegan diet, read below to see five signs that it is not working for you.
Your Digestive System Is Upset
Vegan diets are typically quite high in fiber because legumes are a popular protein pick. Additionally, other mainstays of a vegan diet such as vegetables, oats, fruits, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are also high fiber. If your diet pre-vegan was relatively low to moderate fiber and overnight you shift towards a high fiber diet, it’s not unreasonable to expect some digestive ill-effects such as bloating, abdominal pain, excessive wind, increased bowel motions, diarrhea or it can even swing the other way and lead to constipation. Digestive upset is not only uncomfortable but it can also lead to an unnecessary nutrient loss if we are going to the toilet too frequently or too soon after eating.
This means it’s really important to slowly increase fiber intake over the course of a few weeks when changing your diet. If you did start slow but after a few weeks, things haven’t settled down and your digestive system has a mind of its own, it’s probably time to reassess whether you can afford to rely on plant-based proteins as your main protein source. An easy fix may be bringing in a small amount of animal-based protein to balance it out.
Lack Of Vitality And Low Energy
Lack of vitality and low energy and two big signs you aren’t fuelling your body correctly. Iron and B12 deficiency can easily occur when consuming a vegan diet, despite trying to consume plant-based iron and B12 sources, especially for menstruating women and women who do a lot of exercises. If experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath upon exertion, light-headedness on standing, general weakness and pale skin, its time to see your GP for a blood test to check your levels.
Unwanted Weight Changes
If you started a vegan diet without any intention to gain or lose weight, but find either is happening at a fairly fast rate, its time to reassess your diet. The fix may be as simple as eating more or less calories but for some it can also mean the balance of fats, carbs, and protein isn’t right for your body type. For example, if you previously easily maintained your weight on a low-moderate carb diet and all of a sudden carbs become the mainstay on your diet and you don’t do much exercise, it may not be suiting your body type.
The first step is to keep a food diary to get a handle on exactly how much you are eating and make a few adjustments from there. If things don’t start heading in the right direction, think about making bigger shifts in the balance of your diet.
Have you become one of those people who go to the fridge or cupboard immediately after eating looking for what’s next? Or have you found yourself daydreaming about food all day and the first thought when you wake up every morning is breakfast?
It’s not uncommon to feel hungry when eating vegan if your meals do not contain adequate protein and healthy fats. These are the two most satiating macronutrients but vegan diets can often favor carbs over fats and proteins and that is why people tend to consume more food and feel hungrier. Keep a food diary for a few days. Then, you can assess whether you are actually consuming firstly enough calories and secondly adequate fats and protein per meal. Also make sure the carbs you are consuming are whole grains, high in fiber and not refined carbs.
Poor Relationship With Food
I am sure we can all agree, having a diet brimming with nutrients loses its shine if it’s causing stress, despair, and anxiety on the inside. If you start to develop a poor relationship with food such as feeling like you’re missing out, feeling resentful towards food or even feel fearful and anxious around food, its important to take action to turn things around before they become worse. Speak up and tell others how you are feeling because the support from others can truly make a difference and it may also be how others are feeling.
Overall, if you are currently experiencing any of the above, it doesn’t automatically mean a vegan diet isn’t for you, so don’t necessarily throw the baby out with the bathwater! Instead, it means you need to change your current vegan diet. Use these insights to adapt your current diet to help change your perspective. Shift closer to the right kind of diet for you. If you want to stay up to date with the latest nutrition news and be inspired by new recipes, sign up to Zoe’s weekly email. While you’re here, check out nutritionist Jessica Sepel’s guide to exercising with kindness.