When I told my friends and family and let’s face it; everyone else I have run into these past few weeks that I was becoming a vegan for a month, this is what I heard in return; “You?” “Aren’t you the one who makes fun of those people?” “Why would you do THAT?” “Do you remember getting probed by an alien in the past couple of weeks?”
These comments aren’t really too far off base either. I AM the person who makes fun of THOSE people. I never thought I would do THAT. And while it would make a good story to be probed by an alien in the past couple of weeks, I don’t recall it (unless of course you count Oprah and her show on veganism).
I decided to try being a vegan for one reason only. The reason is not that I oppose a good filet, pork tenderloin, chicken tender or lobster roll. I absolutely love those foods. The reason is not that I rented Food, Inc. and decided to not only change my digestive system but the fate of the world’s chickens in the hopes that they will soon be singing “Free Bird”. In actuality, I’ve never had a desire to watch that film. The reason is not that veganism is the new trendy thing to do in Hollywood. I don’t take celebrity’s advice anyway. If I did I’d be wearing wing pants, ankle boots and extra large hip belts.
The reason is simple. I just wanted to see if I could. What I never expected to find, however, was that I feel better. I mentally and physically feel better about myself, about others, and about the world. I know this sounds extreme but it’s true. And I swear it’s not my mood stabilizers talking here. It is my new outlook on eating and the control I have allowed myself to take on my body and my life.
It is important to understand the actual definition of veganism (according to veganaction.com). A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.
Therefore, no matter how many times a friend says to me “At least you can have pizza or an omelet.” the answer is still no I can’t have cheese and no I cannot have eggs. That would make me a vegetarian. It is hard for some people to even rationalize this, including me until I actually tried it.
The truth is I love animals. I dream of one day working with and owning many of them. The other truth is I love my $400 leather boots I got from Fluevog for my birthday and while I don’t condone animal testing one bit, I like to pretend it just doesn’t happen.
To understand the extreme change in me is to not only look at how I eat; but also how I think and how I live. I can say a few things about myself I was certain of a few weeks ago.
I was certain that I was not the person who shopped at Whole Foods or Trader Joes as a general rule of thumb. I would go there occasionally to buy a salad for lunch but I always had (and always will) have to hold my nose in the cheese section and try not to laugh at the people looking up the ingredients to flax seed granola in the cereal aisle. I always wanted to scream out, “Oatmeal, nuts and flax seed!”
I was also certain that I was not the person who carried a recyclable grocery bag or a nalgene bottle to work. In fact, my red recycle bin that sits outside my apartment in Watertown has had the same few cans and bottles in it a few weeks ago that it did the year before. I was certain that I was the only lesbian in the world who couldn’t be bothered to recycle and I would laugh when I threw away my jar of Prego tomato sauce in the trash.
I was certain that if I saw a woman on match.com who said she was a vegan, I would immediately roll my eyes and quit reading her profile even if she offered other amazing qualities. I would ironically think to myself, “What would we eat together? She is probably so judgmental of what I eat anyway.”
Now, just a few weeks into my new vegan diet, I find myself questioning the things I was so certain of. I find myself thinking and doing things I never would have been caught dead doing before. Don’t get me wrong, I am still goofy and sarcastic and will laugh at you if you take yourself too seriously when it comes to something as silly as granola or organic fruit. I am just a healthier vegan version of that person.
The day before my challenge or “the last supper” I called it, I was chowing on a burger from Wild Willy’s and a Reeses Pieces sundae at Friendly’s. I was very nervous about what the next four weeks would mean to me. My first few days as a vegan were filled with a few interesting changes in the world as well. Prices of gas were going up all around us but it was completely free in veganland! It makes sense with all the beans and salad and vegetables I was putting in my system but even still, it was a huge change which made me question why I was doing this! Then my mom taught me about this magic pill called beano and I have to say those little pills actually work. I ran to the store and bought a huge bottle of them.
I started to take words out of my vocabulary such as hamburger and ice cream and I replaced them with phrases such as “I need to buy a box of tofuttis”, “Vegan patties are actually delicious over Israeli couscous and vegan teriyaki sauce and “I can’t wait to try the multi-grain tempeh I bought last night in my stir fry.”
I started to seriously look at the ingredients that were in my food and I spent a few moments before putting something in my cart and thinking to myself, “Maybe that is what those people were doing all along.“ It is amazing how much you can fill up a grocery cart with vegan products. I went to the grocery store last weekend and was so impressed with the amount of healthy food I put in there and besides the beano being the most expensive thing in the cart, my total for food for the week was only around $60.
I learned that vegan desserts are amazing. I ate carrot cake, cookies, cupcakes and they tasted just as delicious as anything else I’ve eaten except they don’t have milk or eggs. My tooth is sometimes called the sweetest thing about me and I can say for sure that those cravings were met. This area is lacking in the vegan pastry genre and I started to think I could finally open my restaurant/bakery and help to cater to those crazy vegans out there with delicious and creative products.
Speaking of restaurants in the area, I think the biggest shocker of all was that there ARE vegan restaurants right near where I live. The only food I thought I could get in Watertown was diner food, fried food, and meat on a stick! I tried one such place and bought an $11 smoothie. I thought that seemed a little high but how am I to know what young coconut meat, young coconut water, cacao powder, a bunch of nuts, and some Himalayan crystal salt is worth? I am new to all of this. I didn’t even know coconut meat grew up!
My greatest find has been sitting in front of me for awhile but I never noticed it: Red Lentil vegetarian and vegan restaurant. I pulled open the thick curtain and walked into this amazing and beautiful place and thought to myself, “This is the mecca of veganwomanhood”. “These are where all the vegans and lesbians come in Watertown! People even travel here from JP!” It’s now my go-to place when I don’t want to cook.
To my surprise, in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that the more I told people about this, the more I found out that other people around me did this too. People were ready and willing to try vegan recipes with me and were intrigued in my challenge. This vegan diet was allowing me to meet new people, develop amazing new friendships with people who also wanted a challenge and a healthy way of life; two things which I think I subconsciously wanted out of this diet too.
Will I stay a vegan for life? No. Will I stay a vegan for a year? No. I do know this, though. I will continue to eat healthy; to take what I have learned this month and use it on a daily basis and then add things that I love to eat such as ice cream and lobster and use those as treats for myself. I don’t believe you have to take everything out of your diet in order to be healthy; you just have to put in the things that make you feel good and stop putting in the things that make you, to put it mildly, feel like crap.
So to all those vegan haters out there. I was one of you. And with 100% certainty I can say I am no longer. But if you try to tell me to grow my own garden and start composting when you see me at Whole Foods, I’m going to kick you in your behind with my red leather boots.