Feeling weak and /or hungry

Natalie Hayes

Mar 13, 2016
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  1. Vegan newbie
I really need some advice from you fellow vegans as I am really struggling. This is my background.

I never liked fruit and vegetables as a child and my diet consisted of processed meats entirely. My only milk and egg consumption was from bought products (cakes, soups) and I ate cheese a few times a week. 18 months ago I decided to go veggie ( I suddenly woke up to the realities of the animal's treatment). I immediately swapped all that meat to fake meat and had no problems.

I always knew that really I wanted to go vegan and about 4 months ago I took that step. This meant changing my diet all over again. I could no longer consume Quorn products and other fake meats and there for had to replace all this with actual fruits and vegetables.
Now I struggle constantly and have a terrible feeling of weakness that generally lasts all evening, sometimes I am also hungry with it. I have read a lot about my dietary requirements, I know good sources of protein and carbs, I take vitamins, I accept that I need to eat more now than on previous diets. Today for example I consumed about 50 grams of protein and yet as I type I feel terrible. I am also regularly weighing myself and apart from initial weight lose (from the switch in diet) my weight now holds steady at 8 stone 7lb (which is a good BMI for me)

This feeling of weakness is not new to me. I would have the same feelings a couple of times a week when I ate meat and when I was veggie, but now it happens every day.

Please if anyone suffers the same or has any answers I am desperate to know. It would break my heart if I had to consume animal products again.

It's hard to know where to begin. Obviously your diet previous to going vegetarian or vegan was absolutely not healthy at all. If there are any fruits and vegetables you do like, I encourage you to eat them and lots of them.

There really isn't a significant difference between vegetarian fake meat and vegan fate meat - the vegan meats mostly just skip the albumen (this was the case with Quorn and, just so you know, Quorn now stocks vegan meats too!). If you like to use fake meats like a food crutch (we all probably have something we turn to for comfort), there is no reason why you cannot eat vegan fake meats of which there are plenty. There's more than Quorn ;)

As for the timeline you speak of, anecdotally people who have transitioned into veganism tend to refer to the first few months as the 'detox' period. However, there are no scientific studies that have yet been conducted to substantiate this claim but in my significant experience of engaging with the veg*an community (vegetarian and vegan), it exists. It could be that you are still in this transition period. This is called the Herxheimer Reaction, or when we give our cells a chance to shed the toxins they have been forced to hold. For further reading:

Dairy, eggs, and protein are not energy foods. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. It's quite possible that your response is psychological, like a placebo. You've had such an ingrained relationship with meats, hated or feared eating plants as a child, and this can run deep - subconsciously this might be causing you to doubt or wish for your new diet to fail. I'm not saying 'it's all in your head', though! but I'm trying to make sense of the information you've given.

There is another explanation for your low energy and that would be an iron deficiency. Have you been eating iron-rich foods such as dark leafy greens or supplementing iron? Iron absorption is affected by iodine, B12 and folic acid, so if you're low on either of these - regardless of whether you are supplementing iron - your body might not be taking it in. Vegans tend to neglect iodine, especially, since seaweed is the best vegan source of it; I was also very well-read when I transitioned but I completely messed up over the iodine. Dairy is a source of all these: iron, B12, folate, iodine. I.e. your body might have been too heavily relying on dairy as a nutrient source - it's worth getting a blood test if supplementing these does not make symptoms ease within one week.

...Ah, I've now read that these symptoms were persistent even on previous, non-vegan diets. This indicates it is most likely a nutrient deficiency and, again, I urge you to have your blood tested and consult a nutritionist. I do not believe the vegan diet is the culprit here, but decades of not eating well might not have helped you. I am sure the body can react in all kinds of mysterious ways to something like that.

Also, are you drinking enough water and sleeping well?

Protein is not a source of energy - it's used by the body to take care of our muscles. Unless you are putting your body in a position where you are, on a daily basis, compromising your muscles then protein is not the issue here. Please read this.

The symptoms you describe are not symptoms that I've heard are impossible to eliminate on a vegan diet, so I don't think there's any reason for you to return to animal products at this point.

Wishing you the very best of good luck! Plants are your friends. :):sun::party:
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I don't know how fast your transition was - was it immediately to vegan diet or gradually?

I transitioned gradually and that gave me time to realise how very little of beans, veggies and fruits I really had in my previous diet - fruits were almost zilch! :scream:

The gradual step gave me time to think about my food like I never had before. I had extremely poor and ugly relationship with my food - bad addiction and habits through and through. Giving myself time to test out food, meals and methods gave my body time to adjust and for me to understand what was best for me. The gradual process particularly gave me the opportunity to not have that initial pressure one gets when they completely take on vegan diet without proper guidance, knowledge, examples and previous experience. I saw that those who instantly took on a diet didn't know what to eat and therefore ate very little and caused havoc in their bodies and minds. Taking it slow helped me to take my time to learn about food - their properties, what each food will supply to my body, which is good for what functionality etc. This way I started to understand each food properly and implement it slowly into my existing diet by replacing parts of it for a vegan portion, and then I eventually took over a meal in my day and then all my meals gradually turned vegan. What I learned is the three meals a day will never work for me because of my lifestyle (consist of exercise and moving around all day) but also because of how much energy I was getting from them (very little because lack of variety in my diet - each food has different levels of energy). Three meals could work if I ate huge portions but huge portions all at once was hard for me to digest so that meant having small 6/7 meals throughout the day (three meals cut down) and this way energy was constantly supplied to me throughout my day. You need carbohydrates!

I think you might be experiencing shortage of energy due to keeping to the same portion and numbers of meals as you did in your previous diet. Try to have the 3 meals in the day that are full of legumes and veggies and then incorporate handful of fruits and high protein food like dried fruits - nuts, dates, raisins etc. in-between your meals. I call them snacks which I take an hour before each meal.

If you are relying on just green leaves and few fruits you will run out of energy pretty quick. You also need something that burns slowly and throughout the day like legumes and rice.

You can also meet with your dietitian and draw up your dietary requirements according to your lifestyle. You will have the opportunity to discuss types of food available to you and best for you in the perimeters of vegan diet. I don't know where you live but I live in U.K and doctors and dietitians are more aware of vegan lifestyle and learning to help patients out accordingly. My doctor alone discussed what I need to add in my diet more in order to maintain good health. Here's the NHS' recommendation: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx

Educate yourself about food and their functions/properties, discuss the matter with your doctor and dietitian, go to vegan festivals/events if you can, coming on forums is good too, and keep learning and adapting. Studying is the best!;)
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Hi. I'm not sure if my 2pence worth is necessary as the above posts are excellent and have taught me things after 1.5 years of being vegan ... however two additional aspects might/not help ... 1. fun, and 2. distraction. I use both, while taking a multivitamin each day (!) These two things help me remember that while vegan eating is tremendously important beyond me, within me it is "just food". I'm sure my actions of being & thinking vegan exhibit my goals as much as what goes into my mouth. Focusing on something else like sustainability (I'm experimenting with plant towers right now) gives a vegan-thinking alternative to what's for dinner... and it's fun. :)

The above was not to diminish what you're going through - please don't feel I'm undermining that. I remember it being tough ... ohhh, yes. However I think you are mostly there ... this last little bit is rough but it will get better. If it were me, I'd rely on every prop I could to get through it and then alter my vegan diet to be healthier. I've yet to see the vegan Quorn in my area, but have access to Linda McCartney's excellent vegan products (careful, not all are vegan, but they are labelled). I've also yet to see the Ben&Jerry's vegan icecream, but I have boojabooja waiting for me on Easter morning - yes, chocolate for breakfast is an option. Personally I find an extra iron tablet once a week helps me jump out of bed in the mornings, but we are all different. Some think supplements aren't ideal but honestly, if it helps you stay the course ...
And if your goals aren't met this week ... start again tomorrow. It's okay. You're doing good things for yourself and the planet just by trying. Thank you.