Happy Herbivore Blog

August 14, 2012

Newly Vegan

I've been getting a few emails and messages lately along these lines:

* I went 100% plant-based last week. I have more energy and feel great except I feel bloated, have gas and sometimes my stomach really hurts. What gives?

* I went vegan, but I feel really tired, I thought I was supposed to be full of energy? I'm also HUNGRY.

* I'm happy I cleaned up my diet and eat whole foods, but the cravings for junk are killing me.

First, congrats! I'm so proud of your positive change!!

Now, let's first talk tummy troubles: Depending on your previous diet, and how you transitioned (i.e. gradually or overnight), your body may need some time to adjust to the change. This can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks (it's different for everyone).

When people switch to a plant-based (vegan) diet, they usually start eating more fiber and carbohydrates, which then produce more gas than normal. Long process short: Whatever food your body is not able to digest or absorb before it reaches the large intestine will produce gas as it's broken down.

The good news: Your body will adjust to the change in diet and you'll be able to digest more foods before they reach the large intestine, so you'll have less gas as time passes - be patient.

There are also some plant foods that produce gas no matter how long you've eaten them, like beans and broccoli, but there are a few ways to reduce gassiness and combat it without GasX, see this post on flatulence for more information. Now, let's talk energy and hunger: I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, but here are my experiences: First, make sure you’re getting enough calories. When most people switch to a plant-based diet, they continue to eat the same volume as before, except that plant foods tend have less calories, so you actually need to eat more volume. Calculate your daily needs, then count up your food choices to make sure you're meeting your needs (our plant-based meal plans are perfect for getting you on track when you're new to this lifestyle).

Second, include a good bit of whole grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other healthy starches or carbohydrates. I love a big salad. A really big salad, but if I only put vegetables in it, I’m stuffed for an hour and ready to eat again because my salad was more like a “snack” in terms of calories. If I add grains or rice to it, however, I stay full. My body doesn’t zip through a potato as fast as it zips through lettuce.

Finally, eat more. If you’re hungry, eat. Don’t allow yourself to go hungry. Anytime someone writes me asking this question, I have them send me their daily diet and 90% of the time, they weren’t getting enough calories or incorporating enough grains and once they eat more, the problem is gone :) Finally, let's talk about addictions. I've written about food cravings and addictions before as well as how to deal with cravings and addictions .To quickly summarise those posts, know that processed foods and some animal products, like dairy for example, are physically addictive like a drug and you have to break the addiction and go through withdrawal which can last days, or weeks, depending on the person, but that's just the physical part. There are mental issues as well. You have to break old habits, adjust to a new mindset. It all takes time. Stay strong, you'll be glad you did.

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