Well folks, it’s official: at 5 p.m. yesterday I completed the 30-Day Vegan Challenge. And I gotta say, it was a lot of fun. And surprisingly, a whole lot easier than I would have guessed. Granted, I think a lot of the simplicity was thanks to the fact that September was a relatively quiet month for me. Which brings me to the main point of this post: my list of what is awesome about being vegan as well as what makes veganism a little more on the challenging side.
What is awesome:
- It does wonders for your insides. Seriously. I read a lot about how veganism can make you feel better from the inside-out and I definitely see what people were talking about. I literally didn’t have an internal issue in the entire month period. And as someone who tends to have tummy aches, poor digestion and/or abdominal pain multiple times a week — this is a pretty awesome and welcome change. And by some bizarre chance of fate, it actually worked out that I had plans to go to a restaurant with no vegan foods whatsoever at pretty much the hour I had finished the challenge — and my body definitely felt the effects.
- Although it is certainly possible to eat vegan unhealthily, it does eliminate many of the usual bad options you might be prone to turn to. Think about it, how many bad foods can you think of off the top of your head that don’t contain some kind of animal product? Not a whole lot. Pizza, cream sauces, chocolate bars, ice cream, burgers, candy, etc. all involve animal products. So if you go at it with the right approach, it’s very easy to totally recalibrate your eating habits.
- The majority of vegan recipes don’t just remove the meat or dairy and call it a day. They tend to experiment with a huge variety of different grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables and more. I haven’t tried this many different healthy foods in such a short amount of time in so long! Very satisfying.
- It can help you eliminate some of the things you weren’t really loving in the first place. I’ve never particularly liked milk or eggs or red meat but I felt as though there were no alternatives. So experimenting with flax eggs, soy/rice/almond milk and tempeh/tofu were welcome changes that taught me a lot about how easy it can be to reduce your impact on animal production.
- You find super yummy new things like using ground cashews as Parmesan cheese and putting alfalfa sprouts on everything.
What is less awesome:
- There were lots of people that were very welcoming of the changes I was making and were excited to learn more and share their experiences and thoughts. But I also encountered some people that responded in very odd ways which was upsetting. Some looked at me like I was crazy, others seemed angry and a select few actually made fun of me. And as someone who doesn’t really know how to handle confrontation, this left me feeling sad, confused and even embarrassed. If you’re considering going vegan, don’t let worry of such attitudes deter your — there are definitely more positive people than negative. But it can be challenging at times.
- Eating out is undeniably different than eating out when you aren’t vegan. I got in the habit of making big quantities of food and then packaging them individually in case I had to go somewhere and would need a meal which made it a lot easier. But if you’re going to someone else’s home or have been invited to a restaurant that doesn’t have vegan options, be prepared for big changes.
- For me, I think one of the biggest challenges was feeling as though I was inconveniencing people or offending them in some way. In most cases I don’t even think it was anything they said or did, I was just overly worried that I’d be putting someone out. As someone who has loved being able to respond to the question “I made ____ is that okay?” with “Of course, I eat everything!” — this was a big change for me and not one I think I could easily get used to.
So where does all this leave me?
I suppose you could say it leaves me enlightened but confused. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to speak to someone who has fully research the both sides of the debate and she helped me figure out how I feel about everything. I do believe that human beings are meant to eat meat. But I don’t believe that we need quite as much meat as we have become accustomed to and I don’t believe that animals should be treated the way they are treated in order to satisfy our mass consumption. It also frustrates me that there’s this notion that we’re at the top of the food chain and that entitles us to eat as much meat as we want. But the factories we get most of our meat from don’t have cows grazing around a field until it’s time for them to be used. They’re stuck in unbearable circumstances that no living creature should have to endure. If a cougar tracked down a person and ate them, that would be the circle of life. But have you ever heard of a cougar tracking down a person, tying them into a miniature cage, force feeding them food and hormones to make them gain weight, impregnating them so they would produce milk, taking away their baby at birth so the baby could be used for baby meat and then killing and eating them? Nope. Cause that’s not how the circle of life is supposed to work. But I digress — all this is just to explain why I think changes do need to be made — although I don’t think it has to be all or nothing. There are plenty of naturally raised farms in Canada where the animals are treated very humanely and even enjoy equal or better lives than they would in the wilderness. I’m just not a fan of how treating animals cruelly in the name of meeting demand has somehow been deemed okay. But it’s obviously a complex issue and I do believe there are dozens of worthwhile ways to look at the issues. Now, where was I? Oh yes… I have also come to realize based on a lot of research that the whole notion of drinking another creature’s milk or eating their eggs just doesn’t make sense to me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go to a restaurant and ask if each item on the list contains the products — but I am going to stick to cooking with flax eggs at home and drinking soy or almond milk wherever possible.I definitely respect vegans that are able to cut them out entirely no matter where they are, but I don’t know that’s where I am yet.
I read a wonderful book called The Main Street Vegan that opened my eyes to the possibility of being an “at home vegan.” Where essentially you eat in a vegan way at home and make vegan choices when available while you’re out but if they aren’t available that’s okay to. The author suggests that living this way can help people gradually move towards being more vegan if and when they’re ready, or if not, they’re still doing something to help the world and that’s great. If anything, these 30 days have taught me it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can still do my part to help the animals while I’m at home but I can also enjoy the health benefits that come from eating healthy meat products when I’m out. And I can also not worry about offending someone when I’m a guest in their home or not being able to pick an option I can eat off the menu. These beliefs might change with time and that’s okay too. We’re all just trying to find that happy balance between what we feel is right and what makes us happy — and as long as we keep fighting to find that, we’re doing okay.
Most importantly, I hope I haven’t offended anyone in writing this. Whichever side of the debate you may sit on (or somewhere in the middle!) I hope you can understand that I’m new to this and am just another person trying to find my way and discover what I think is right. As I’m sure we all are! But I’m always open to new perspectives — so please feel free to share your thoughts!