30-Day Vegan Challenge (From a Meat-Eater’s Perspective)

30-Day Vegan Challenge (From a Meat-Eater’s Perspective)

(c) 2014 By Randy D Pearson

I’ve been a lifelong meat eater, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Not at all. Meat is tasty. I’ve always had a particular fondness to KFC extra crispy chicken and bacon double cheeseburgers.

But then on May 24, 2014, I married a vegetarian, and my diet changed.

Not that she’s ever, and I mean ever, given me any flak over eating meat. There’s no guilt, no “meat is murder” conversations, no evil glares when I order a steak quesadilla at Taco Bell while she’s getting her bean burrito. Not long after we started dating, we had a conversation about our respective diets. I told her I had no problem eating whatever vegetarian meals she prepared as long as she didn’t mind me scarfing the odd tuna fish sandwich or pepperoni pizza. It’s worked quite well for me. Most weeks, I’ll end up eating meat with three or four of my meals, generally either eating out at lunch with my co-workers, or the occasional restaurant dinner. Overall, I find the “fake” meats we eat are very close to what my brain expects when it thinks about meat. Some, like the “hamburger” crumbles she puts in our nachos, has an identical taste and texture to the real thing. Others are not so convincing. The “facon” is clearly not bacon and never will be confused as such, but still tastes fine to me.

I’m sorta a pseudo vegetarian-ish man at the moment. So why am I going to become a vegan for the next 30 days? For me, it’s a mixture of opportunity and curiosity. See, my wife went to the doctor last month and had her cholesterol tested. Her LDL or “bad” cholesterol came back 14 points higher than her doctor thought was healthy, and wanted to put her on the cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor. She said no, rather vehemently, and instead went full-on vegan for a month, until her next test.

When that next test came back, she’d lowered her cholesterol by a whopping 96 points. Think about that for a moment. Down 96 points in one month, by merely switching from no meat to no cheese, eggs, sour cream, or milk. It boggled my mind!

Then, a few days later, I found out that my employer had switched wellness plans, and part of that new plan gave us a free biometric screening in mid-October. They’re even coming right to the office to do it. Since I’d already had a full screening back in May, this seemed a bit redundant. But then I realized this offered me a unique opportunity. After all, my total cholesterol was 196 in May. This is still in the healthy range, but just barely. Anything under 200 is apparently fine. My LDL, at 127, is only three points below the top of the healthy range. The doctor didn’t seem concerned, but last year, the overall number was 186. That’s a bit of a jump in one year, and a trend I’d rather buck.

I suddenly had a perfect opportunity to test out my wife’s miraculous lowering of her cholesterol on a, shall we say less-healthy subject – me!

Beginning Monday September 23 at lunch (my place of employment is catering in breakfast on Monday, and I don’t want to miss those cheesy potatoes, sausage quiche, and especially that ultra-thin bacon…drool!), I will become a vegan, until Tue October 21st, when I will be tested at 9:40am.

Initial thoughts on my vegan challenge

I’m switching my diet from a few meat-meals a week to none, and from a lot of dairy to none. That part, in my mind at least, won’t be all that tough. I don’t seem to crave much in the way of food, other than chocolate, and my dark chocolate is already vegan, so yay on that. Not eating meat doesn’t seem like a major stretch. Even removing eggs and milk and sour cream doesn’t seem like a huge deal. Though obviously time will tell.

I’m a very structured person in general, and my meals are no different. Most days, my breakfast consists of a bowl of cereal. It’s usually a sugary one like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cocoa Krispies, drowned in fat-free cow’s milk. (It really seems so odd to put “cow” in front of milk. Before I met my wife, I would’ve said, “Duh! What other milk is there?”) However, I’ve been using some vanilla-flavored almond milk lately, which really does tastes a lot better than cow’s milk. It’s more expensive, but I find the Aldi brand almond milk, at $2.50 per quart, is priced well enough to not make it cost-prohibitive. I also think I’ll take this opportunity to wean myself off the overloaded sugar cereals, and try what is probably still very sugary options like Chex cereals or a raisin bran. Most weekends, I’ll have an egg-cheese sandwich from our breakfast sandwich maker, or we’ll eat out and I’ll have an omelet, so those are out.

Lunch is usually a sandwich – I tend to opt for peanut butter and honey on whole wheat, a fat-free overly sugared yogurt, and fruit, either fresh or a Dole-style snack-cup. Though I understand some vegans even forego honey because we apparently aren’t nice to the bees, I probably won’t go quite that far. Though I inadvertently bought Agave nectar instead of honey at Aldi, so I think I’m actually still adhering to full-on veganism here. (I believe we’re allowed to abuse plants.) Or I can go with jelly/jam, as well. I’ll have to skip the yogurt, unless I can find and afford some almond or soy alternative. Instead, I’m opting for a small salad. My wife tells me I don’t get enough vegetables in my system, and I’m sure she’s right about that. And, of course, fruit is fruit, so I’m good there.

Dinner will be a bit trickier. A lot of evenings, my loving wife makes us a vegetarian meal, which I happily eat. She’s agreed to help me stay on the vegan path, so those meals should be okay as well.

My biggest concern will be eating out, which just means I’ll have to be a lot more diligent reading the menu. Also, sometimes at work they feed us breakfast and lunch, and it’s pretty much all meat/dairy filled. My first test on that will be Thursday, when I look at the big tray of cheesy potatoes and the vat of bacon, and instead grab a muffin and some fruit. Then we’ll see what cravings are really like!

I am told my body will go through changes, with the lack of any meat/dairy. Perhaps headaches, perhaps “flushing” issues will occur… Only time will tell!

I will also have to make sure I get enough protein. That’s always the first thing people say. “Not eating meat or cheese? You won’t get anywhere near enough protein.” According to an article on the About.com website by Vegetarian food expert Jolinda Hackett, “The truth is, most Americans get way too much protein, and vegetarians can easily get more than enough protein in their diet as well.” She suggests many items, such as beans, nuts, seeds, chick peas, soy, tofu, and even those fake meats, will easily give me enough protein.

I’m actually surprised as to how much I’m looking forward to doing this!

Day 0

Weight 159

Sunday, September 28, 2014 – Day 6

Weight – still 159 – Stomach size 38 in

I’m six days into my new vegan lifestyle. So far, so good. No craving issues or strong desires to “cheat” and my body isn’t freaking out. I’ve had a few more headaches, but nothing too serious. The hardest part has been dealing with food away from my scheduled meals. Thursday and Friday were both rather challenging. I’d been anticipating Thursday’s breakfast and lunch at work. As I mentioned, sometimes they feed us – or a better way to describe it is, when they have big meetings, they cater in meals, and whatever’s leftover, we get to eat. There’s usually plenty but it’s almost never vegan-friendly, so I planned ahead, by bringing a packet of oatmeal. I figured I’d see what they had for breakfast, and when it wasn’t much of anything I could eat, I’d head back to my desk with a few pieces of fruit or whatever and eat it with my oatmeal. Well, they threw me for a loop by actually inviting us to the meeting to eat. I really couldn’t bring my food to the meeting, so I went through the line, passing up ham and cheese croissants, sausage roll-ups, those wonderful cheesy potatoes, and other egg-meat items. I walked to my table with a biscuit and some honey. Never mind that after I ate it, one of my co-workers pointed out that it “probably wasn’t vegan.” Sigh.

This brings up a problem for me. I don’t bake, cook, or even grill. I really have no idea what’s in most food. I rely on the backs of packages and my wife to tell me what’s vegan. I looked at the biscuit, thought bread, and figured, sure, that’s safe. But I’m constantly amazed by what has animal-based stuff in it, from eggs to milk to whey… And if you’re like me, you have no idea what whey is. If you’re curious, it’s the by-product of cheese-making, the liquid that’s left after milk is curdled. Thank you, Wikipedia.

Back to my non-planned meals – What they served for Thursday’s lunch was champagne chicken, but they had enough salad, broccoli, and diced potatoes to make a meal for me. They also fed us breakfast and lunch Friday, but I skipped going to breakfast to eat my oatmeal, and lunch supplied me with another salad. I had to skip the pie. Cherry with a flaky crust and whipped cream… lemon meringue… okay, so perhaps I do have a few cravings, but again, I passed it by.

I also ate out Friday for dinner, skipping the fast food joints and instead opted for a Mediterranean restaurant. They had a few vegan choices, but I had a hankering for hummus with pine nuts. Filling stuff, that.

Some days are harder than others. Today we went to the Country Mill to get apple cider and doughnuts for the family. Obviously, their doughnuts aren’t on my menu (though I ended up eating one… a man can only be so strong, after all) but the cider, raw honey, and pumpkin seeds are.

My work week begins again Monday, and I’ll be bringing more salad and fruit to work. My wife also makes a fantastic egg-less salad (with tofu, vegan-aise, mustard, and other spices) and tu-no salad (with chick peas) which both taste and feel amazingly similar to what they’re pretending to be. They will end up on whole wheat bread, and will make wonderful lunches.

I think what amuses me the most about this lifestyle is the way other people react. I’ve heard sympathy. “Oh, I’m so sorry you can’t eat this fantastic lasagna.” My wife likes to remind me that it’s not that I can’t eat it, since clearly, I can walk up to the tray and stuff a big piece in my mouth. It’s apparently better if I say (to others but especially to myself) I’m choosing not to eat it. Not sure if it helps, but really, it is 100% in my control, so there’s that.

I’ve heard anger. “I am completely against veganism for women – they don’t get the proper nutrients.” That one was funny and interesting to me, since (other than the fact that I’m the opposite of a woman) she said it while I was standing near to the one other person in the office who at times in his life was vegan and is currently a vegetarian, so the two of them had an interesting back-and-forth about how as long as a woman eats the right proteins, they will do just fine with this lifestyle.

Mostly what I get is either puzzlement or bewilderment, “Why would you possibly do it?” with an added, “I could never stop eating meat, cheese, etc.” While explaining what I like to call the ‘fake meat technology’ to an avid meat eater, the look on her face was the combination of amusement and shock, with just a hint of disgust. I’m not lying when I say most of the fake meats these days have the taste and texture of real meat, but most people can’t get past the fact it’s simply not meat. (My wife believes fake meat came into being more to make meat eaters feel better about eating less meat, not so much for non-meat eaters who would much rather just eat tofu. My step-daughter, also a vegetarian, usually won’t eat the fake meats, especially the ones that act a little too much like the real thing. Grosses her out.)


Sunday October 5, 2014 – Day 13

Weight – 158 (Hey, down a whole pound!)

I haven’t seen much of a point in making this a daily blog-thing, since things really don’t change a whole lot from day to day, and I doubt anyone really wants to hear about my every meal. Yawn, indeed. But I figure highlights are never a bad idea.

I’m around the halfway point now. No major cravings, no significant cheating (barely any insignificant cheating…more on that in a moment) and I haven’t felt the need to knock anyone down and steal their Whopper with Cheese. Two weeks in, and the weirdest things is, I still don’t seem to miss meat. I know it’s because “fake meat” tastes, looks, and feels enough like the real thing to satiate my carnal need to kill and devour the flesh of critters. I haven’t resorted to ambushing squirrels in the yard or anything. That’d be tough to explain to the neighbors. “What? No, we’re just playing. Isn’t that right, Squirrelly Joe? Oh, uh, shhhh… he’s sleeping.”

We spent the weekend in Defiance, Ohio (cool name for a town, huh?) with my step-daughter’s family. We talked, laughed, drank wine, played the “card game for horrible people” (if you don’t know what that is, you’re most likely not a horrible person and be sure to count your blessings – but if you really have a need to know, Google away, since it’s a super fun game) and ate some good food. There were enough vegan alternatives that I wasn’t in fear of starving, but I will admit to having two forkfuls of Grandma’s cheesy potatoes. Seemed rude to completely pass those up. I also tried to have a homemade chocolate chunk cookie, but the Vegan gods were looking out for me. The cookie I tried to grab was glued to the one below it, so all I got was a single chocolate chunk. As chunks go, it was yummy! Otherwise, veganism intact.

I’ve been quite amazed that I don’t freak out over wanting what others are eating, or feel deprived with my own selection. For instance, we went out Sunday afternoon to a sports bar, the eight of us. Interesting mix in that half of us were vegetarians or vegans (okay, I’m the only current vegan but two of the others have done it at times), and they all ordered pizza with some veggies on it. The other half… well, they ordered a giant meat-filled pizza. When I ordered the veggie quesadilla, Tim looked me and said, “Really?” I just shrugged. When their pizza arrived, I did my level best not to drool directly onto their food. But really, it was fine, since that quesadilla tasted amazing!

This leads me to my next revelation. The food I’m eating is starting to taste incredibly good to me. My sometimes-vegan co-worker asked me last week, “Is food starting to taste better yet?” I hadn’t heard that my taste buds would wake up and smell the tofu, but I’m sure glad they are. I never knew a yellow pepper could taste this yummy without being submerged in ranch.

Thursday October 9 – Day 17

Weight – 157 (Look at me disappear!)

When I wake up, I sometimes do a half-hour on the elliptical machine while watching The Daily Show or The Colbert Report on Hulu. Sometimes I sleep in and, well, don’t do those things, and feel a titch guilty about it. But I always weigh myself. I do it in the morning and at the end of the day. I’ve been recording the end-of-day weight above, because they seem more, I dunno, reliable I suppose. In the morning, I always weigh a bit less. This morning, I weighed 154 pounds. I’m not really doing this for any weight loss, but y’know, a smaller belly would be groovy.

Still no major cravings and no intentional cheating. Absolutely no meat in 17 days. Dairy/eggs/lard/cheese – none purposely. But I swear the powers-that-be hide that stuff in every freakin’ thing! I’m getting adept at reading nutrition labels and deciphering what things mean. For instance, here’s something that will probably blow your mind. Many products, like breakfast cereal, are not vegan because they have sheep in them. Or more specifically, they have vitamin D added. Right, I know that sounds goofy, since vitamin D is what we get from the sun and from cow’s milk. (Still weird to write that – cow’s milk.) But when they add vitamin D3 to cereal and other items, it’s derived from lanolin – sheep’s wool. From the article “Vitamin D and Lanolin” by Christine Wells and Laura Schults from the website gentleworld.org, “Lanolin is a waxy substance derived from sheep’s wool. One of the medicinal uses of lanolin is in the manufacture of Vitamin D.” If you see D3 on a label, it’s almost always from sheep, and thus is not vegan. (I’m not being that militant about my vegan challenge, mind you. I just found that fascinating, and a bit disgusting.)

Still the hardest part is eating at restaurants. That really tasty quesadilla I mentioned a few days ago? I suspect it was cooked in a butter-type oil. Probably why it tasted like the Gods themselves prepared it for me. Dude! Seriously. See, I don’t generally put butter on things. I don’t smear butter on bread or toast, or even normally melt it on popcorn. But in a baked good or food at a restaurant? Goodness. But I have found a couple of places to eat at that I can trust. For lunch, there’s a fantastic place called Leaf. It’s essentially a giant salad bar. They have dozens of options so I could completely skip the meat/cheese/egg section and pile my spinach/lettuce combo up with veggies, tofu, chick peas, sunflower seeds, and Wasabi peas. (On a salad? Yes please!) They also have soups, and one is always labeled as either vegetarian or vegan. Today I had the vegan minestrone. Wow was that good! Spicier than I would’ve expected, and quite filling.

At work today, on the kitchen counter sat a little slice of what I seriously suspect was decadent heaven. Someone had brought in a brownie/cake looking thing with chocolate swirls on the upper-most layer and walnuts sprinkled upon the top. I walked by that thing, oh I dunno, let’s say eighteen times. I kept trying to decide if I should hack off a corner, or cut a square in half and devour that, or pick up the whole thing and cram it into my mouth while making wildebeest noises of delight. I mean, I’ve been super good after all, and chocolate is, scientifically speaking, the best thing God or mortal humans ever invented. That’s a proven fact that I just made up.

But in the end, I simply decided not to eat it, each of those eighteen times. I am surely torturing myself, you may think, but it’s another of the odd things that’s going on in my brain. I realize that I’m NOT ON A DIET. I’m not doing this to lose weight. It’s scientific curiosity, pure and simple. I just looked at it, and decided I didn’t need it. I’m more interested in the results than in eating that surely delightful blob of bliss. But I also reminded myself that I have some almond milk mocha ice cream bars at home that taste a lot better than they may sound. They really do.

How do I feel after 17 days? Well, my neck had been sore but has felt better this week. However, I’ve had a headache every day this week but today. I essentially traded one pain for another. Not sure if it has anything to do with the food choices, but I have been told to expect headaches as the “toxins leave my body.” I’m sure I still have plenty of toxins left to expunge, from the refined sugars to the dirty thoughts in my head, so I don’t know if that’s anything or not. But it’s fun to think about. (The toxins, not the dirty thoughts. Though those are also quite enjoyable.) I was also warned about what I so delicately referred to earlier on as “flushing issues.” I had one so-called episode that woke me up at 3am earlier this week, but that’s been pretty much the long and short of it. (I was going to say “the thick and thin of it,” but that may leave a bit less to the imagination than is necessary for polite conversation.) Suffice it to say it has not been a major problem.

I have been more tired this week, but some of that is not getting enough sleep. It may be that “lack of protein” the masses tend to go on about, but I know that if I don’t get 8 hours of sleep a night, I’m all kinds of yawny. Still, I’ve had more afternoon coffee than I’d care to admit. I’ll try to sleep more next week and see if that helps.

So, I still feel like me – a bit more headachy, a bit sleepier, and a couple of pounds less – but still that happy, silly me that apparently has dirty thoughts about toxins, or something.

Sunday October 12 – Day 20

Weight – 156

Here’s two seriously important words about soy: Male boobies.

Now that I have your attention, here’s a bunch more.

One of the accepted staples of a vegan diet is soy. However, I’d heard a few rumors about soy that I didn’t care for, so I did some research. The first website I ran across was Men’s Health. The article had the alarming title, Is This the Most Dangerous Food for Men? It starts by introducing us to a man who had painful, swollen breasts, with nipples the size of gum-balls, decreased sexual desire, and a slowly feminizing body (hair loss, increased emotion, a sudden love for shoes… okay, I made that last one up). Reading the article further (they spent way too long getting to what we already knew, given the point of the article and all) they finally point out that this dude was drinking three quarts of soy milk a day for a long time, and it was doing things to his body. In fact, his estrogen levels were eight times that of a normal man!

According to an article By Ireland Wolfe on Livestrong.com entitled Is Soy Milk Bad for Men? Soy milk contains isoflavones which, according to the American Cancer Society, can have weak estrogen-like activity. (Another article, from eHow.com by Jill Corleone, said soy contains a plant form of estrogen known as phytoestrogen.)

The Livestrong article, quoting a Harvard study, says isoflavones reduced sperm concentration in men. Although the reduction was small, it was considered statistically significant, though the study indicated that it most affected overweight or obese men. (This isn’t that worrisome for me personally. I’m not overweight, and I think my kid-having days are pretty much behind me anyway.)

The article also sites that some research suggests large doses of soy may decrease penile function, but the study was done on rats, and really, no one wants to run into an aroused rat in a dark laboratory room anyway.

In addition, the article proposes that there could be behavioral issues with ingesting soy. Researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center did tests on monkeys. (Again with the animal testing! What is it with scientists and force-feeding stuff to animals?) The monkeys fed the highest amount of isoflavones demonstrated more aggressive and submissive behavior than their counterparts. They also spent less time with other monkeys and increased their alone time. (Honestly, if I was a monkey locked in a lab and hopped up on soy, I’d probably be angry, passive, and just leave me alone already, Mr. Mumbles!)

However, I read a few more articles and found some good reasons for men to take soy. According to the eHow article, Men with high intakes of nonfermented soy foods — tofu, soy milk and soy oil — have lower rates of prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The eHow article goes on to say populations that have a high intake of soy have lower rates of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Additionally, eating soy protein instead of animal protein may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Also, it says soy contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein. And, unlike meat, soy does not contain unhealthy saturated fats.

So, depending on which of the dozens (and dozens… I really should be in bed now) of articles you choose to read, soy will either give you male ta-tas and a floppy tally whacker, or will help you live longer and be healthier.

My take on it is this – I’ll continue to put a fair amount of soy into my diet, preferably from tofu which seems to be the healthiest version – some studies indicate that cooking soy will neutralize the estrogen-causing effects. But regardless, I certainly won’t be guzzling quarts of soy milk every day. Everything in moderation, that’s been my motto for a good share of my life, so why abandon it now?

Friday October 17 – Day 25

Weight – 154 / Stomach Size – 36 inches

Now that I look at the calendar, I see it won’t be an exactly 30 day challenge, since I do my biometric screening on Tue 10/21. But calling it the 29-day challenge didn’t sound as cool.

So far, I’ve lost five pounds, and a couple in inches off my belly. Not huge, but not bad either. Of course, I’m not doing this for either of those things, so the big “reveal” will be after I get the results of the biometric screening.

One of the big questions I’ve had is in whether or not I’m getting enough protein. Really, I have absolutely no idea how much protein I’m even supposed to have, so I went to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Internet.

The first website that responded to the question, “How much protein does the average man need?” was livestrong.com. An article named after exactly my question says the average fella needs 56 grams of protein daily, and upwards of 113 grams if said dude is working on a resistance training program, or is climbing mountains or running from zombies. I told this to my wife (the 56 grams bit, not about running from zombies…she’s already told me she’ll be zombie fodder so her daughter and I can get away… bless her heart!), and she thought 56 grams was insanely high. So, let’s see what other websites have to say.

An article by Michelle Kerns on a website called Healthy Eating also says 56 grams for the average male, but at least it defines the word average. The article, quoting statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states the average American man weighs approximately 195 pounds and is 5 feet, 8 inches tall. For this height and weight, the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board also recommends about 56 grams of protein each day. Of course, I’m not that tall and nowhere near that heavy, so I’m probably closer to needing 40 or 45 grams daily. However, this same article goes on to say that plant-based foods, other than quinoa and soy, lack one or more of the amino acids needed for protein synthesis. But as long as I eat different plant-based proteins together or even throughout the day, (the article gives the example of eating whole-grain bread at breakfast, rice at lunch, and beans at dinner) I’ll be fine.

Honestly, I still can’t say that I feel much different. I haven’t been headachy this week and I’ve been getting regular sleep so I’m not going gangbusters on the coffee intake. I’ve noticed I’m not eating as much overall, which certainly can’t be a bad thing. I do find my attitudes toward food and particularly desserts has been different. I went to a funeral for a dear friend yesterday, and afterward the members of her church had a potluck. Like good Episcopalians, they had a lot of cakes, cookies, and brownies, as well as a plethora of meat-based foods. However, I was able to fill my plate with fruit, veggies, and pasta, so it was all good… and okay, a small square of brownie found its way onto my plate as well. In the past, that plate would’ve been essentially meatballs and desserts, so that’s a plus for me. However, I ate two bites of the brownie and asked my wife to eat the rest. I got a taste – a wonderful, decadent taste – and I was satisfied. I have to wonder if this portion control will continue after Wednesday. I certainly hope so, but we’ll see.

Home stretch – four more days to go!

Thursday, October 23, 2014 – Final Thoughts and Test Results

Weight – 153 Pounds / Waist – 34 inches

After 30 days (I ended up going an extra day, cuz I really wanted a round number), I ended up losing around six pounds and two inches off my waistline. Not bad, but the main reason I did this was for the metabolic screening that my employer administered to me on Tuesday 10/21. The results in a moment, but first, some perspective.

I have two other metabolic screening results I can compare with – One done 3/18/2013 and the other from 4/30/14. This gives me a before and after comparison, as well as a previous year look-back. Here are the results:

Test Name                                          3/2013                  4/2014                  10/2014                Ref Range

Total Cholesterol                              186                         196                         189                         125-200

LDL “Bad” Cholesterol                    109                         127                         110                         <130

HDL “Good” Cholesterol                   57                           46                           54                           >40

Cholesterol to HDL Ratio               3.3                          4.3                          3.5                          <=5.0

Triglycerides                                       98                           113                         126                         <150

Glucose                                              83                           94                           85                           65-99


As you can see, my vegan challenge lowered most of my numbers to near my 2013 levels. One way to look at it is, in one month I erased 70-90% of what it took a year and a half to accumulate. Not bad at all.

The one number that surprises and concerns me is the triglycerides, since it continued to increase. So what are triglycerides? Darn good question that, so I went online to find out. According to WebMD, triglycerides are fat in the blood and are used to provide energy to the body. They are the main type of fat in the body, and the end result of digesting and breaking down fats in our food. Some triglycerides, it also says, are made in the body from other energy sources such as carbohydrates.

This could explain why mine continued to increase. Since I didn’t cut out carbs from my diet, my body was probably getting its fat from that source. While I’m still below the reference level, it still concerns me that it went up so much. But overall, my levels dropped quite nicely after only one month.

Here are my final thoughts on my 30-day vegan challenge. I didn’t find it difficult, for the most part, not eating meat. Between the fake meats and the enjoyable-tasting substitutions, I honestly didn’t miss the lack of meat in my diet. I must’ve kept up my protein levels, because I didn’t notice any ill effects. However, avoiding cheese, eggs, and dairy was the toughest part. Eating at home or preparing my own food was a lot easier than eating out, since most restaurants have few options for the complete vegan. Still, I enjoyed some fine food in the real world.

Though I can’t say I had tons more energy, in the last few days I did feel I had a bit more of a pep in my step. I didn’t have any headaches that last week either, and I made sure to get my eight hours of sleep so I felt awake and alert. I also noticed that my wedding ring was a lot looser. My wife noticed the same thing when she did her vegan challenge, so I suspect not eating dairy must do something like reduce the amount of water retention. Or going vegan is a diet for the fingers. Either way, I have to be careful not to wash my ring right off my finger!

The logical next question is, what did I eat the day after the challenge? Well, I didn’t run out and pound a Quarter Pounder, gnaw on a stick of butter, or tackle and devour a gazelle. In fact, I didn’t have meat or dairy until the next day. My first bit of animal flesh came about at work, where they catered in breakfast on Wednesday. They sure do feed us a lot, huh? I had a scoop of cheesy potatoes and a slice of quiche with sausage embedded in it. (My plan was to take a veggie quiche slice, but they didn’t have that option.) I also saw the vat of bacon, and thought why not? While I tried to tong-out just one strip, they are paper-thin and I ended up with two. I figured the God of Carnivoria wanted me to have it, so I ate both pieces. Oh my, was that scrumptious! My taste buds were still in overdrive, and these bits of flavor wowed me like nobody’s business.

However, an hour or so later and my stomach started rumbling and aching. Uh-huh… not the smartest move, eating that much non-vegan stuff after a month of abstaining. When my chest started hurting, I got a bit worried. Oh great, I thought, the first bit of cholesterol I ate in a month went straight to my heart and is gonna kill me right here! Obviously, all melodrama aside, I was fine a little while later, but it was something to think about. I’d planned on easing back in, but not so much of a win there.

In the week that’s followed, I’ve only had a couple of bits of meat. A cocktail weenie here, a small mound of pulled pork there. However, I’m back riding the dairy pony big time. Sour cream, yogurt, ranch dressing, cheesy potatoes, cheese soup, cheesy cheese cheesers with cheese topping. Sorry, I just made a Homer Simpson-esque sound deep in my throat.

Overall, I am planning on making meat a once to twice a week treat only, and will try to avoid the extra-added cheese and cream toppings whenever possible. Both times I visited a restaurant this week I ordered the vegetarian meal, but I can’t seem to say no to sour cream… though I’m going to start giving it a try. I figure if I can keep the cholesterol to a minimum, all the better for my health.

So there you have it. While I’m obviously not saying you will drop tons of cholesterol, or even lower yours like I did mine, eating a bit less meat and dairy can only help you in the long run. Take it from me, a meat eater whose gone semi-vegan.