But Calista, why on Earth would you want to do that?
Well, concerned reader, there are plenty of reasons I chose to test out the vegan lifestyle. It probably helps to know that I've already experimented with veganism, so I know vaguely what I'm stepping into with this plan. I didn't last because, frankly, I didn't have the desire to stick with it (and I love dairy). This time, I was prompted by watching several others around me make the switch successfully, a true desire to lose weight (I'm down about 15 pounds in the last few months), and by the gross-out factor of several food documentaries (Food, Inc. seriously disgusted and fascinated me). I already generally can hang with the veg heads, so why not make the full leap? Lent is non-committal, a mere 47 days counting Sundays, so I really see nothing to lose in giving it a whirl.
Basically what I'm trying to accomplish is test my will and take a bold step towards greater health and a more sustainable diet. It is probably also worthwhile to mention that I have no qualms with those who roll omnivore style. My boyfriend would eat red meat and eggs everyday if he could, so I can peacefully coexist with non-vegans.
What do you define as "vegan"? What are the ground rules?
Vegan technically means no animal products whatsoever (see this link for more definitions), but I am only following veganism in terms of diet. In layman's terms, that means no meat, no dairy, and no animal by-products in my food and drink. Here are some other ground rules I'm following:
- Honey is allowed. Some vegans considered it not okay because it comes from bees, but I have no issue with it. The bee isn't killed in the process (at least not that I'm aware), so it doesn't have the same risks and humanity issues as meat or dairy does.
- Other than honey, I am trying my darndest to avoid as much animal product as humanly possible. I have a Droid app with a list of common ingredients and whether they have animal origin, and armed with that I do a lot of label reading. Fun fact: did you know refined sugar (the white stuff we know and love) is sometimes processed with animal bone char? Gross!
- If a non-vegan item is already in my fridge (i.e. the cottage cheese I wasn't able to finish before I started this challenge), I'll allow myself to eat it. This is mainly an effort to not waste food. If it's a freezer or shelf stable item, however, it is off limits.
- The only items I will not fully question are alcoholic drinks. No, I won't order white russians, but I am enacting a "Don't ask don't tell" (too soon?) policy with beer and wine. What can I say? I'm an accountant and it's busy season-- I need at least one vice!
What are your biggest challenges and concerns?
- Dairy. I love milk, cheese, ice cream, pudding. . .I love it all. Luckily, I also love soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc. I can get on board with butter and ice cream subs, and I'm not a huge egg eater. I am still on a quest for a tasty vegan cheese (suggestions welcome!).
- Living with a non-vegan. Remember that carnivorous boyfriend I mentioned? Yep-- we live together, and he has expressed no interest in partaking in my vegan challenge (though he is cooking it himself if he chooses a non-vegan meal). That means I will constantly be exposed to all of the things I no longer eat. Challenge indeed.
- Eating out. I am 24, so naturally my lifestyle involves a fair amount of restaurants and bars. This will be especially tricky, since there are no ingredient labels to read, but armed with the internet and some common sense I can make it work.
- Not getting enough daily vitamins. I already have issues with my iron, so this is especially important. I'm trying to put a lot of variety into my diet to ensure I'm maximizing the potential of the good stuff, and supplementing the rest with a multivitamin. Also taking suggestions for one of those-- the current multi I have is not vegan.
Anyone else have a big Lenten challenge?