So, I don’t recommend it.
And yes, you read that right. One jiggly 15-ounce block of tofu, every day.
Why eat that much in the first place? I signed up for a six-week weight-loss/body fat challenge. To get results, we were supposed to sweat through three days of CrossFit a week and shovel down a high-protein meal plan—about 100g of protein daily.
As a vegan, my options were pretty limited (according to my coach). I didn’t want to drink five protein shakes a day. I didn’t want to eat processed meat-alternatives regularly, either.
That left me with tempeh, seitan, and tofu. I don’t know how to cook tempeh and seitan in an appealing way and their textures are less than savory. So, I was left with tofu. Which is fine, because tofu is versatile.
But still my gut reaction was, “MAN, that’s a lot of tofu.”
And it was. I was sautéing and air-frying tofu for hours every week—tofu consumed my life.
At first, my results were great. I dropped five pounds week one. Week two was iffy. By week three and week four, I had gained it all back and even gained one percent of body fat. What the heck happened?
I was uncomfortable. I knew something was wrong but I chose to ignore it. Like my past relationships, I ignored the red flags. I believed giving tofu a free pass and unlimited second chances was going to resolve itself.
Let’s get to the gross stuff.
Bloating, gas, and constipation—even constipated diarrhea if that’s a thing. I felt like a drowned possum, distended and leaking rancid odors. To complete my discomfort, I was gifted with an early period. Two weeks early. I ignored all the warning signs, saying “It’s probably fine, no big deal. Maybe it’s the stress.” You know, things people say in abusive relationships. It’s probably fine to feel like a drowned, rotting possum.
And boy was my relationship with tofu abusive.
I thought if I kept shoving the tofu down it would eventually get pushed out. My body can only hold so much, right? Friends, please do not make that gamble.
Would you like soy science with that?
While soy is touted for many health benefits, that unassuming green legume has a dark side. For those sensitive to soy, you could experience varying combinations of misery, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, swollen lips, hives, or anaphylaxis.
Or you could be like me, eating truckloads of the stuff. Even if you’re not sensitive to soy, there’s a good chance you’ll experience digestive disarray if eating enough. Where “enough” lies is ambiguous.
Soy contains protease inhibitors. Protease is what your body uses to break down and digest proteins. Furthermore, proteases break down wastes and toxins. So when protease function is blocked, undigested proteins, wastes, and toxins sit in our gut and make us sick.
Soy also contains phytoestrogens, which mimic our body’s own estrogen. There’s a lot of debate whether these phytoestrogens are beneficial or harmful for the body, so keep an open mind to future research and take your edamame with a grain of salt.
If you’re eating soy in reasonable amounts though, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
How did I get out of this mess?
First, I spoke to my coach. I wanted to be compliant with the meal plan but I knew I couldn’t. She’s a great woman—inspirational, honest, and energetic—but as a nutrition coach, she fell short for me.
She didn’t know tofu was soy. She didn’t know how eating a ton of soy could affect a person. While I respect her as a person, I wish she had done her research before prescribing an unusual meal plan and making me into a biology experiment.
I can’t blame it all on her though. I ignored my gut (literally and figuratively). I study nutrition fervently on the side and I chose to brush off my own skepticism and place all faith in another human. Not that trusting others is bad—just don’t disregard yourself.
She recommended adding psyllium husk powder and more veggies. I was already getting enough fiber according to MyFitnessPal—a calorie and nutrition tracking app—but maybe my body needed more.
Nope, that wasn’t working.
Because my coach was uninformed about tofu and soy, I took matters into my own hands. I’m going off the meal plan to get my shit together.
Then I tried laxatives.I started with magnesium citrate, what doctors have their patients drink before a colonoscopy. It’s supposed to clear everything out. Unfortunately, it only scraped the surface. Not only did I still feel like an inundated possum, but I was also feeling more discouraged and concerned than ever.
Okay, let’s try a holistic approach.I needed to be patient, too. Screw the 6-week challenge. My body took four weeks of abuse and it’ll take time to heal those wounds.
“Let food be thy medicine.”Hippocrates
I knew soups are easy for the body to digest so I started cooking those. I rediscovered prebiotics and incorporated them into every meal: leeks, oats, asparagus, bananas, onions, garlic, lentils, and so on. I dove into probiotics—my top two choices were kimchi and kombucha.
Between meals, I drank chai tea. The spices typically found in chai – cloves, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and fennel – all support digestive health. On top of that, I drank an herbal tea laxative. I only drank it twice and I did it a week apart. You have to be careful with laxatives so your body doesn’t become dependent on them.
…And it’s working! It’s a huge relief to feel my body return to normal. The takeaway message is to listen to your body. How many times do we have to hear that to believe it? You are the expert of you. I am the expert of me. Recognize when something isn’t working for you and stand up for yourself.
Needless to soy, tofu and I are on a break.