• The Great Vegan Experiment – Week 01

    photo (3)So! Remember when I decided to go vegan for (at least) 30 days? Well, we’re one week in now, so NATURALLY I’m an expert and you all want to hear my wisdom about a plant-based diet, right?

    Expected Challenges

    Let’s start with the hurdles I was worried about coming into this challenge.

    • I hate cooking. I want my meals to have minimal prep (ideally, I just open a can or a bag and dump contents into some sort of cookware) and I want the actuall cooking to take place in the oven or the crockpot or the microwave. I don’t like to have to watch over it on the stove. And once it’s “done” I want to eat it, don’t add another step where I have to cook it somewhere else.
    • I can’t eat raw or even lightly cooked vegetables. My stomach gets REALLY angry at me if I eat raw or even just barely cooked vegetables. Not all vegetables, but it’s common enough that I don’t like testing the theory out with vegetables that haven’t killed me yet. It makes me have stomach cramps that will, quite literally, having me writhing around the floor in pain. I had a cold salad one time with tiny pieces of raw broccoli in it and I begged for death that night. All of my veggies have to be cooked well, and then maybe mashed up just for comfort.
    • I don’t like the texture some vegetables add to meals. Like…if you put green peppers in a tomato sauce, I hate that sudden texture in that bite. Or onions. I want my vegetables all soft and mushy and mixed in with all of the other textures. I don’t mind the different flavors, just hate the different textures.

    Spoiler Alert: None of these things actually caused me problems this week.

    I put a bit more of an effort into some of my meals than normal, but nothing in the OH MY GOD I HATE COOKING territory. I ate a lot of canned beans (BABY STEPS you people who only eat foods straight from the ground…BABY STEPS) and steamed a lot of frozen veggies. I also ate hummus sandwiches (which I ate before pretty regularly) and fruit oatmeal. I ate a bunch of sweet potatoes nuked in the microwave and olives as snacks. 7 days and I still didn’t have to ground any flax seed or whatever all of that stuff was I was terrified about having to do. So far, it’s been easy for the lazy-in-the-kitchen girl.

    Expected Behavior

    Another thing I was worried about, was that I would take the “easy” out for this Vegan trial. You know, hit up the Accidentally Vegan list and eat off that for 30 days. Did you know Oreos are Vegan? I did not either!

    Luckily, I went into this really wanting to do it as close to “real” as I could. I didn’t just want to wear that badge that says “VEGAN!” and have it be true. I didn’t want to eat rice and bread all week. I wanted to eat how a real vegan would eat if it was their lifestyle. Yes, they probably wouldn’t eat from cans or frozen bags, but this is ME and I hate cooking so that’s as good as it’s going to get for awhile. ANYWAY – I guess the lingo is “plant-based/whole foods”. I wanted to eat as close to that classification as possible. And in reality – I have! The only time I’ve eaten anything super-processed was when I accidentally made Nikki’s cereal with Almond Milk (a mistake I’ve made before) and instead of throwing it out, I ate it. I’ve had the periodic hummus sandwich, and I have eaten corn tortillas once or twice, but in reality? It’s all been as close to “whole foods” as one can get and still hate cooking. I’m quite proud of myself. Setting out and saying, “This is how I’m going to eat” has never worked for me before, I have no idea why it’s working now.

    Unexpected Assistance

    I did something on Day 05 that I think helped more than I knew it would…I watched the documentary Forks over Knives. Let me start by saying: I ABHOR FOOD DOCUMENTARIES. I watched Food Inc awhile back when everyone was talking about it and it just irritated me. A lot of these activists spend their time basically saying, “The only choice you have is to buy all of your food from your neighborhood farmer or you’re going to die of cancer and fund an evil food behemoth while you’re doing it.” And – here’s the thing. Eating that way is EXPENSIVE. And impractical. And I get very frustrated and depressed because, I want the industry to change, I don’t want to double my grocery budget and the time I spend in the kitchen. That movie just upset me because I felt so screwed and helpless.

    I also don’t like the ones that focus on the treatment on the animals because – I KNOW THE ANIMALS ARE TREATED LIKE SHIT. I wish that had helped me stop eating them, but it didn’t. I knew all of that before I started this experiment, I don’t like watching it because I feel like these documentaries are TRYING to shock me without realizing that none of that will really help change the minds of the average middle class (MIDDLE middle class and lower) American because animal products mass produced are still CONVENIENT and CHEAP. BEGIN RANT –>Yes, we should make decisions based on our health and our planet but we don’t because we are too busy to think about it just and just need to feed our entire family for under $10 and we don’t want to fight the kids about what they’re eating because this is the ONLY time we sit down together and we don’t want to spend it arguing about how they need to eat their damn vegetables already.<-- END RANT

    I repeat: I HATE FOOD DOCUMENTARIES.

    But for some reason, I decided to watch Forks over Knives. I needed background noise and it was on Netflix. Now, would I have enjoyed it if I hadn’t started eating a “Whole Foods/Plant-Based” diet five days earlier? I don’t know. But it was exactly the type of logic I needed to keep me on this experiment. It didn’t deal with the tragedy that is our food system, it just focused on the medical histories and outcomes of people who eat Whole Foods/Plant-Based v/s people who eat Animal Based foods. It was basically 90 minutes of citation of medical studies that show why it’s better to eat Whole Foods/Plant Based. It didn’t make me feel hopeless and it didn’t make me feel judged for wanting to feed myself on a budget. It made me want to research meals I can cook for my family that are whole foods/plant based, so that maybe I can help them eat less animal products. But it didn’t make me feel like my choices are A) Shop at the local farmer’s market for everything or B) Die a horrible death.

    Conclusion Days 1-7

    I went into this thinking it would be 30 days. But now I think I’m going to do at least 12 weeks because I’ve had a few people tell me you really need to stick to something that long before you judge it as a permanent choice. And that makes sense, 30 days isn’t that long. I definitely didn’t think this is something I could ever do forever. But seven days in and I already think I could see myself sticking to it. I’m not really seeing many changes yet (I did lose 2lbs! Of the 10 I had gained back…sigh) but I’m optimistic.

    I think the biggest benefit I’ve seen so far is that I feel very good about how I’m eating. I don’t know if I had guilt or what before, but I only felt good if my calorie count at the end of the day was below where it should be. My opinion of my eating always related to how MUCH I was eating. But this week I’ve actually carried some pride in my diet, and I don’t think I’ve ever had that before. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked at my day and thought: You treated your body beautifully today, Zoot. But I have! It’s weird.

    And that feels like I have a much better relationship to food already…and that’s a perk I can’t even place a value on.