Something I Didn’t Expect When Going Plant-Based

When I made the decision for my health to change my diet to a plant-based one, I knew it would be challenging. Nearly two months in and I’m already seeing health benefits. First and foremost, my acne is clearing. Living with polycystic ovary syndrome I have terrible cystic acne that makes me incredibly self conscious, along with a handful of other unpleasant symptoms. My endocrinologist’s nutritionist stated that a plant-based diet would help with these and I was desperate to try anything that would help. My acne has decreased significantly. My mood has increased tenfold (before, I was tired all the time, and bordering on asking my doctor about depression medication). I’m seeing weight loss, which is superb, but not exactly the reason I’m doing this. It’s true that I’m also seeing a big improvement in my other PCOS symptoms, which by itself makes this change worth it for me.

The biggest problem I have is during social encounters. Going out to dinner with friends or even eating with coworkers on my lunch break often elicits conversations regarding my food choices. I welcome questions, and I even enjoy talking about this new (for me) lifestyle. Before I know it, people seem very concerned about my protein and calcium intake, or how much I eat or don’t eat. My argument is that if anything, I’m able to eat more now that I’ve gone plant-based because the things I’m eating are healthier for me. I’m not counting carbs or calories. I’m never restricting in quantity because the quality is great – so I’m not ever hungry like I would be following a restricted diet.

Today, we went to a burger place that was, unfortunately, sold out of the ‘impossible burger’ which is vegan. There wasn’t much else on the menu that was vegan besides a small side salad and a side of black beans and rice. They were small, but filling enough – and I was able to snack on some guacamole from another friend’s appetizer with some tortilla chips. However, I kept getting comments such as “you don’t eat much, do you”, “what about protein”, and “just eat like a normal person”. I wasn’t offended by any means – as I’m difficult to offend, and I understand that this lifestyle change is difficult for many to understand because at the end of the day, it’s not for everyone. There are a handful of places to eat with more healthy and vegan options. It’s not that I “don’t eat much” – it’s that I don’t eat meat or dairy and a lot places don’t cater to that way of eating. I don’t eat out as much as I used to for this reason.

As far as the “eat like a normal person” comment, my only argument is that I’ve never been ‘normal’ – so why start now?

In the handful of times I’ve been brave enough to ask waiters or food-service staff for help making something vegan, or whether or not something was made with vegan ingredients, I end up causing a fuss of some sort that I don’t want to cause. “Let me ask my manager.” “It’s vegetarian. Will that work?” “We can’t guarantee any of our ingredients are vegan.” I never want to cause a fuss. In fact I’m very shy, so the less I’m noticed, the better. Normally before going out to eat, I try to find the menu online or scour vegan forums so that I can see if there are any food meal options that are plant-based. I didn’t realize how much inquiry and research was involved in simply going out for dinner for a special occasion. I honestly thought that the change itself would be hard, but it seems to be the social events and eating with others that is the hardest. I still don’t regret the decision to go plant-based, and hope that I’ll become better at handling these situations in the future as I become more experienced.

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