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Blog: Vegan for a month in Thailand

My experience of being a vegan Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand

Whilst on my travel to Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand I decided to go vegan for the month to see what changes to my body will occur. Normally I follow a practice of intermittent fasting (one meal a day, OMAD) which consisted of eating virtually a paleo/ketogenic diet (high protein and low carb).

I had my bloods and health screenings carried out before and after my experience to track the changes. So I’ll go over my personal account and results/findings.

On the island of Koh Pha-ngan where I stayed it had a great selection of specific vegan/vegetarian restaurants. On my street alone there was around 4-5 dedicated vegan restaurants and most, if not all the others served and vegan/vegetarian options. So I found it effortless experience to follow a vegan diet. Perhaps it was the nature of the place, but it was also quite easy to go refined sugar free. Aside from fruit I didn’t consume and refined sugar whilst being on the island.

Generally I would say my will power and dedication to following a strict diet is very strong. If I set my mind to a task or a goal, no human on this earth can persuade me otherwise. I found that the people I was with had a similar mindset in following this diet protocol for the duration on this month, as we where all attendees of a teacher training course in yoga. With an exception to a few individuals eating meat and fish, everyone else decided to go vegan for the cleanse. I did find that those that wasn’t eating vegan diet had a bit of a sabotaging nature but not to the extent that I have seen if we were back home. I stopped doing the intermittent fasting during this month to keep with the routine of the food provided from the yoga course.

What did I actually eat?

Well I mainly stuck with traditional Thai cooked cuisine, with a lot of tofu and fresh vegetables, but dishes included Pad Thai noodles, fried rice, Tom yum and Tom Kha soups, Buddha/salad bowls, Thai salads, Thai curries, fruit salads, fresh coconuts, vegan burgers and wraps. With the range of restaurants to choose from, plus food being so cheap it was easy to just cycle around and try something new every day.

Changes to my body.

Physically I noticed that I had lost weight by the 2nd week of eating a vegan diet. From the results I had lost 2.5-3kg during this month. Visually I noticed that I wasn’t as bloated and during the morning before I had consumed any food, and I would have a really flat abdominal section. As soon as I consumed any carbs I noticed that I would distend a bit which may last for a few hour/to the next morning. My muscle mass decreased which was noticeable on my biceps and thigh and waist becoming leaner. My visceral fat (fat around the organs) also decreased from 7% to 5%. Total body fat from 19.0 to 17.8%.

Cholesterol on the whole dropped from 5.35mmol/l to 4.24mmol/l, HDL 1.29mmol/l > 1.03mmol/l, triglycerides 0.91mmol/l > 0.80mmol/l and HDL/triglyceride ratio from 0.77mmol/l to 0.7mmol/l.

On average we did 3-5 hours of physical yoga practice every day plus theory lessons. Energy wise, I didn’t notice any loss in energy/performance in physically exercise however concentrating was difficult for theory lectures. I would more likely say that the concentration issue was likely due to the intense heat and humidity of the location rather than the diet. Perhaps our routine was also a factor as our daily routine in the course was from 5:30am-19:10.
There wasn’t any changes in my mood and I didn’t notice any hunger pangs during the course of eating vegan. In fact most days I felt full all the time and didn’t really feel the need to eat. Perhaps that might be due to the fact that I’m normally intermittently fasting, so transitioning from one meal a day to three meals a day was more of an easy task.

Not all sunshine’s and rainbows

One thing that I noticed that my bowel movement of being on this diet wasn’t as good as what I’m use to. Most of the days I would notice very loose bowel movements and also undigested food in stools. I believe that my body wasn’t really geared up to digest so much plant based food perhaps I should have used probiotic before and during this diet change. I expected that my body would purge a lot during the first 2 weeks of the diet changed, but it didn’t really settle down for the while 4 weeks. By the time I came back to England I notice that things improved and the bowel movement became normal again. A part of me thinks that my gut didn’t like some of the bacteria or ingredients such as spice. My body doesn’t like spicy food in general, and I did try my best to avoid any spicy food in Thailand. However a few times I did notice that their was spices in my food. So their could be more factors to the bad digestion than looking at the diet change alone.

What next?

On the whole I’m happy with the progress of changing the diet and will continue experimenting to see if I can reach more optimisation with my health.
It’s been strange for the first few days back as I was a bit unsure as to how and what I would eat. I’ve gone for a vegetarian approach, introducing eggs back into the diet, as I feel my plant based protein levels are not adequate for my muscle mass. I’ve gone back to my intermittent fasting and seeing what changes might take place with this new combination. The next challenge is going to Canada next which I’m sure will cause some disruptions in my diet plan. So what this space…