A Semester in Veganism

sara

My aunt has tried a lot of different types of diets over the years, and the only one she ever stuck to for longer than a few months was veganism. It’s also the only diet to which she has ever tried to convert me. About a year ago, when I visited my relatives over summer, she handed me a book called The Kind Diet. She knew I had gained the freshman fifteen, and that my blood sugars were not ideal.

Of course, she didn’t really know much about the blood sugar part. “Veganism has cured diabetes before,” she claimed.

I wasn’t convinced that switching to a vegan diet would be helpful for my blood sugars but, one thing was for sure, they certainly would not improve unless I made some sort of dietary change. I was curious to see if I could even do it. No hamburgers, no cheese, no yogurt, and no ice cream! It sounded like an enormous challenge and I wanted to know if I had the necessary self-control.

College is a surprisingly easy place to attempt this dietary change. The dining halls have at least one vegan entrée per meal. They also always have a salad bar, vegan tofu patties, brown rice, vegan spaghetti sauce, and even vanilla soymilk.

Nonetheless, I was overwhelmed for the first few meals. I craved everything and I didn’t fully understand what I was and was not ‘allowed’ to eat. I made some adjustments. Honey, since bees produce it, is not vegan but, since I was doing it for health reasons and not for animal reasons, I allowed myself to add it to tea or coffee. On days when the salad looked brown or they ran out of rice, I opted for vegetarian pasta.

Long story short:

    • My A1c on Aug. 29th, two days before my vegan month: 7.8
    • My A1c on Oct. 5th, shortly after my vegan month: 6.8
    • My Lantus dose on Aug. 29th: 12units/day
    • My Lantus dose in September: 6units/day
    • Average Humalog per day before veganism: 10-15 units
    • Average Humalog per day during veganism: 5-7 units
  • Weight before: 136lbs
  • Weight after: 128lbs

You might be wondering:

Did I starve myself? Did I purposely withhold insulin?

Absolutely not! I was never hungry. In fact, from what I’ve read, eating lower glycemic foods like brown rice helps you to digest more slowly and over a longer period of time. Yes, I still ate carbs and no, I didn’t withhold insulin for no good reason. But, even when I ate a lot, the doses of insulin that I had previously been taking would make me go low almost immediately.

There are lots of reasons why this may have happened. Veganism helped me avoid temptations and desserts. It made it more difficult to snack. After about two weeks, I stopped craving everything but cheese (I love cheese) and it forced me to eat more fruits and vegetables instead of heavier carbs and fat.

Although I initially only tried it for a month, I’ve started again and am noticing the same effects as before. Granted, I take more insulin now because I’m still getting out of a long honeymoon period, but my vegan long-acting dosage is a little over half of my omnivore dosage and, after struggling with gradual weight gain for the last year, I’m finding it almost too easy to lose weight.

Whenever anyone finds out that I’m vegan they initially find it strange. I’ve found that most people associate veganism with radical animal rights protestation, unshaven underarms, and general weirdness.

A vegan diet isn’t for everyone, but I’ve found that it really works for me. Sometimes I cheat and order a burger when I’m out with friends and it immediately shows up in my blood sugar readings. In fact, I did that the other night and woke up this morning at 311. Its important to make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients, so when someone asks me about trying it out, I recommend reading up on it first.

My aunt still calls from time to time to check in on how veganism is treating me. “So, do you still have to take insulin”, she asks?

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