My (mostly) vegan experiment gone horribly wrong

A little over 6 months ago, I began to transition from my vegetarian eating habits to a new regimen of eating (mostly) vegan.

I was already restricting my diet, but I decided that to further my health goals of lowering my cholesterol, I was going to give up all dairy and egg yolks, but – I decided – that I’d continue to consume egg whites for protein.

And I can tell you that for the past 6 months, I have … for 99% of the time … not consumed any dairy. No cheese, no pizza, no milk, no ice cream, no sour cream… nope. Every once in a while, I would get a craving for toast with a little butter on it, and I’d estimate I ate a slice of buttered toast less than once a month during that time. That would have constituted ALL dairy ingested, which is – to say the least – such a miniscule amount as to be nearly nothing.

As for eggs, the vast majority of the time I was consuming egg whites, although every once in a while … again, very rarely and mostly while on the road, I would eat whole eggs.

While all this was going on, of course I consumed absolutely no meat, chicken, seafood… nada. Zero. Zip.

I ALSO added a daily, high-dose Omega 3 supplement too…which has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. I have been taking Omega 3’s every day, without fail.

I was SO excited about the fact that I’d given up 99% of any and all sources of cholesterol in my diet, that I admit I began slacking off on taking my cholesterol medication. I was fully prepared to go in to see my doctor after 6 months and for her to tell me, wow your cholesterol has dropped tremendously, of course you can go off your meds!

Since I have already written the title of this post, you know this isn’t a good news story.

BAD RESULTS

After 6 months of a lot of sacrifice, my triglycerides are HIGHER than what they were 6 months ago. My LDL (bad cholesterol) is HIGHER than it was 6 months ago. And my HDL, while still in a good range, is still lower overall than it was 6 months ago.

This is TERRIBLE news. It is a horrific result based on the many, many changes I have made.

Moreover, it’s very clear to me that I need to be taking my cholesterol meds religiously, NO exceptions.

Eating (mostly) vegan has literally done nothing at all to lower my cholesterol levels. (And if you’re going to tell me that eating the equivalent of less than a teaspoon of butter in 6 months was the thing preventing me from lowering my cholesterol, I will knock your block off. The changes I made were serious, and difficult.)

Now, some people would take that news and use it as an excuse to fall off the bandwagon and start chowing down on pizza and ice cream and whatever else happens to come across their path.

Not me.

I’m WAY too stubborn for that.

In fact, I’m going to up the ante on myself. Not only am I going to start taking my cholesterol meds every night, I have already started removing white carbs from my diet. That means: no white bread or pasta, no white rice, and sadly … no white potatoes.

Why remove white carbs? Because eating white carbs can drive up the amount of sugar your body produces, and when the body has an excess amount of sugar, it stores it as fat on the body. When the body stores fat, it can elevate your triglyceride levels (particularly fat stored in the abdomen.)

I’ve been clinging to eating eggs for the past 6 months, and maybe it’s time for me to bite the bullet and try to go the next 6 months without eating them, to see if I can do it.

Also, I want to say, for the record, eating like this SUCKS. It’s HIGHLY restrictive, and it makes for some difficult conversations with friends about “where to go for dinner” when I eat out. Yes, I cook for myself a lot at home, but with the new restrictions, it’s going to further limit what I can eat and will require me to change up my habits yet again.

You know, you’d think with all these restrictions, plus the amount of exercise I’m doing every week that I would have been losing weight too, right? But no, I’m not. I have been working on increasing the amount of exercise I’m doing, and I with the additional restrictions I’m imposing on myself, I hope to break through the plateau I’ve been at, weight wise, for many months.

I am not happy to be writing this post, but I AM being honest. The changes I undertook have not really seemed to make a difference in contributing to my health, and that is extraordinarily disappointing.

Once I go back to taking my cholesterol meds every day, religiously, there will be no way for me to tell if any further changes to my diet have helped reduce my cholesterol … and at this point, I no longer have cholesterol reduction through dietary changes as a goal because it seems completely unrealistic.

However, I do want to see my overall health improve. I want to lose weight and achieve a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI).

I’ve been dabbling with the idea of seeing a holistic nutritionist to help craft a strategy with me. I’m very knowledgeable about nutrition, supplements, the glycemic index and eating habits in general, but I’m not a professional … and maybe it’s time to “up my game” and go the extra step.

In the meantime, I’m going to have to figure out how to readjust my eating habits yet again…

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4 Responses

  1. Hi there. I’m really sorry to hear about this struggle. I would just say not to punish yourself, because it’s not actually your fault. These things are so unique from one person to the next, like personalities. So if your cholesterol is genetically a ‘thing,’ then don’t blame yourself for lousy results (in regard to cholesterol numbers without meds). Overall you will end up being healthier because you are ADAMANT about it. I am sure you already are versus two years ago.

    By the way, thank you for the input on white foods and triglycerides – I’ve been struggling the past couple of years with some love handles. I think I do too much white food (which is annoying, because it is SO MUCH LESS than several years ago) and too much sugar generally. Though I have cut off most soda intake. Sigh, I think even ginger ale is a marked can.

    • It’s true, I’m sure I’m healthier overall than I was 2 years ago. I feel it and look it (according to people who are close to me and have seen me over the years.)

      However, it’s still disappointing to know I really won’t have a chance of cholesterol reduction without medication, because it means I’ll be on those meds for the rest of my life…which, hopefully, will be a long time, but you know what I’m saying.

      I was thinking further about other things I can do to be healthier, and I could give up fried food, which certainly contributes to elevated cholesterol levels. I enjoy fried eggplant with tomato sauce (but no cheese) and I hadn’t given that up.

      So, I’m asking myself … where is all this going?

      There’s already a very long list of things I’m not ingesting:
      – no meat / chicken / fish
      – no dairy
      – no caffeine
      – no alcohol

      And now, also…
      – no white carbs
      – no eggs

      I’ve been starting to “joke” that I don’t eat anything anymore. And it’s meant to be funny, but it’s not that funny to me now because it’s starting to feel too true to be funny.

      Because anything that I do has to be sustainable, and it has to be a set of changes I can live with everyday. Right now I feel like I’m hovering near an invisible line between what I can reasonably sustain as a way of living, and a step too far due to taking on too many restrictions.

      I’ve got to find a better way to achieve balance…

  2. BDDM>> Hey there luv. Its perhaps peripherally relevant, but I’m recalling all of Deb’s vegan celebration. Me myself an I, since finding myself a T1 diabetic, need to avoid mostly anything sugar and anything ….well, for lack of a better word, *white*. Bread, eggs, etc, etc., if its white, then I’m probably going to require additional insulin in the mix. Wishing you well, and hoping you find your balance. BB! 😀

    • Hey Brian, thanks for weighing in!

      Any comments related to the glycemic index are totally welcome. Insulin is a very powerful bodily regulator and a hormone, and Type 1 Diabetes is (obvious to you, I’m sure) a serious condition.

      Your comment really is appreciated because it’s further “proof” that giving those things up is a good step as a preventative … not just for elevated triglycerides but to help prevent increased blood sugar too.

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