7 Side Effects of Giving Up Meat & Dairy

Just over one month ago I decided to do something I never thought I would do; give up meat and dairy for 1 month. I have always lived on a high protein diet, chicken once or twice a day almost every day for pretty much my whole life and I order steak almost every time I go to a restaurant. I always believed that to maintain a healthy weight, I should avoid too many carbs and that my plate mostly consist of greens and protein. As I have mentioned on my Instagram before, on my post-partum weight loss journey I became EXTREMELY restrictive. I ate 3 times a day, and good portion sizes, but I avoided any carbs at all, including vegetables I considered ‘too carby’ and also avoided any type of sugar at all, including all fruit/agave/honey/etc. Anything from carrots & aubergines to bananas or kiwis was considered too heavy for my restrictive weight loss plan. Instead my Post-Partum diet consistent of eggs and avocado, chicken salad and then more chicken salad. Sure, it served a particular purpose which was to get me back to feeling like myself again after putting on almost 6 stone in pregnancy, but then even after I got to a place where I felt good in my body, it wasn’t that I wanted to lose more weight, but that I didn’t know how to maintain my weight without being so restrictive because it seemed that whenever I ate anything outside of my limited choices, I would feel different in myself quite quickly afterwards. It was frustrating and so bloody boring and I realised that even though I was eating what I thought was a healthy diet and exercising very regularly, I was still feeling lethargic much of the time and suffering from terrible bloating, which is both uncomfortable and physically quite exhausting.

While me and my partner Wade were in LA earlier this year, he decided to give up meat for purely ethical reasons. I was shocked as he, like me, has always been a big meat eater! I noticed that 6 weeks after making that change he was totally different physically – he had SO much more energy, his dark circles under his eyes had disappeared, and he simply looked healthier and felt better. We then sat down to watch Game Changers and I was absolutely shocked by what I heard about the effects of animal protein on the body. So I thought, ok, let me just give this a go and see what happens. Here are the side effects that I experienced giving up meat and dairy for a month:

  1. INCREASED ENERGY – My energy levels have been remarkably better, I have not had any dips in the day, and have been sleeping a maximum of 7 hours a night, simply because I feel so excited and ready for the day.
  2. INCREASED STAMINA – My overall fitness and stamina within my online workouts has been much better, possibly because I’m simply exercising more consistently during lockdown, or because my blood flow is better on a more plant based diet.
  3. REDUCED INFLAMMATION – I used to wake up with a puffy face or swollen legs and ankles almost every other day. I just seemed to always have some degree of inflammation and I found it so fustrating. One of the most incredible things I’ve found from giving up meat and dairy is that I can’t remember the last time I woke up with this kind of puffy feeling.
  4. I EAT A MUCH MORE BALANCED DIET – The truth is, I do feel really happy with my body and have been able to come to a place of acceptance and self love (FINALLY!) and I want to maintain my body shape as it is because I am happy where I am, but the problem I was finding previously on my high protein diet was that to simply ‘maintain’ my body weight I was having to eat in a very restrictive manner. I simply didn’t want to do that anymore. I made a decision when I gave up meat to just totally relax and to eat more delicious, nutritious food and a much wider variety of it. And now I do; I eat almost triple the amount of food as I did before, I never count calories and I eat SUCH a wide variety of food; nuts, vegetables, complex carbs, good fats, fish, fruit… and for this first time in my life my weight isn’t constantly changing – it is stable. I have a much healthier relationship towards food now, and I love being create wonderful recipes. I am NOT saying that a vegetarian diet is the answer to weight loss, so please do not mistake what I’m saying for that, but I do think that my body seems better able to digest food on the whole and therefore maintain a stable weight rather than constantly going up and down.
  5. MORE BLOATED – One thing I had really hoped a more plant based diet would help me with was that it would help reduce my bloating but I have to say that it is much, much worse. Even though I am totally gluten, dairy and refined sugar free and I avoid onion & garlic (common bloating triggers for a lot of people), and I take multiple probiotics every day, my bloating has been worse than ever, every single day. A lot of people who are on a predominantly plant based diet seem to have a similar experience with that, so I am going to be exploring how I can manage the chronic bloating but still enjoy this new way of eating.
  6. REDUCED PMS SYMPTOMS –  I always suffer from quite bad PMS symptoms for about 3 days leading up to my period; I become extremely swollen, especially in my face, feel very low in mood and generally feel flat and tired which is entirely different to how I feel on the majority of other days in the month! I noticed this month that I had absolutely NO PMS symptoms and was absolutely shocked by this as I hadn’t not expected this to be a side effect at all. I wonder if all the hormones pumped into chicken could have previously contributed to my PMS?
  7. GENERALLY ELEVATED MOOD – I guess the overall thing I’ve noticed the most is just a feeling of lightness and I have felt particularly joyful and uplifted. Of course, maybe this is circumstantial, but people do say that when you ingest meat you ingest the energy of the animal and I wonder if this is true, and if not having animal products has changed my mood or energy. Of course I don’t know for certain, but my instincts tell me that this is the reason why.

Overall the benefits of removing animal protein from my diet have been incredible. The only thing I’m struggling with is the bloating, but I’m working on ways to manage that! Will I go back to eating meat? I can’t see myself ever eating meat again at home. But would I still go to my favourite restaurant and order a steak? Yeah I think I probably once in a blue moon! I don’t like to label myself as anything, because things are always changing, but for now this is working for me. I love enjoying food again, I love sharing delicious recipes, and I love knowing that by reducing my intake of animal protein I am doing my bit to help the environment too. 

I hope this was helpful to you! If it was, please share, tag me @roxienafousi and let me know if you would try it, or if you have tried it and how your experiences without meat have been!

Sending love to you all, Roxie xx