Vegan for a Week

Give yourself a black eye, get a nose ring, dye your hair, take yoga or meditate. These were suggestions for the latest assignment in my sociology of body and health class. For one week, I had to change something about either my physical appearance or behavior. I recorded not only my personal experiences, but also the reaction of those around me. I choose to tackle a vegan diet as my project because I thought it would be an intriguing and challenging experience. Read on to learn about my initial thoughts and concerns, the rough patches I hit along the way and the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a homemade brisket sandwich.

Day before start

I think going vegan for a week is definitely do-able. That being said, I am quite worried about how this week will go. My main concern is my lack of knowledge about veganism. I know generally what the diet entails, but I am unsure of ways to continue to eat healthily while maintaining the diet. I already found a shopping list online, which will be helpful. I also plan on finding a few good recipes that should last me throughout the week. In relation to this uncertainty, I fear that the lack of knowledge will lead to longer shopping and cooking times. I won’t be able to simply grab a cheese stick on my way to class… and I don’t even want to think about not being about to put milk in my coffee. Another reason I am hesitant about this diet is because I have a number of food allergies to most raw fruits and vegetables. My diet is already restricted, so adding additional guidelines will definitely be a challenge.

Day 1

So far, going vegan has not been that difficult. I am actually enjoying shaking up my normal eating routine. Shopping vegan at Trader Joe’s forced me to look at new products and discover new foods. I am still figuring out to what extreme I will be going vegan. I do not think it would be terribly hard to simply avoid milk and eggs for a week. On the other hand, I am interested in trying vegan foods to get the true experience. I bought soy ice cream sandwiches and rice milk, two foods that not only would I not buy on a regular basis but that I am also fairly certain I dislike.

As for interactions, I have found that going vegan is a great topic of conversation. I posted my diet change as a status on Facebook and received a mixed bag of reactions from joking responses to “Lauren. Why?” The guy at the check out counter at Trader Joe’s was pleased to alert me of all the vegan options they had to offer.

Day 2

Today was my second day eating vegan, and I’m not starving yet. I tried meatless chicken nuggets from Trader Joe’s for dinner. I actually thought they tasted decent, but that might have been in part due to the puddle of ketchup I dunked each piece in. I don’t feel any different physically. I’m not even sure my vegan diet is any healthier than my normal diet. If anything, I’m probably consuming more calories, sugars, carbs, etc. as a result of focusing too much on the vegan aspect and less on the overall health part.

I have been offered baked goods twice in the past 12 hours. While it was difficult to turn down pumpkin bread and carrot cake, it was more important to me that I see this project all the way through. When I explained my situation, the adult who offered the pumpkin bread was intrigued by my new diet. My roommates, on the other hand, jumped to the conclusion that I was trying to lose weight. One friend even said “are you going ani on us?” as if it imply that I was becoming anorexic.

Day 3

Nothing out of the ordinary happened today in terms of interactions. One friend asked me how long I was doing the experiment. I had a craving for Red Mango fro-yo while at the mall, however I resisted the urge to buy it. Usually I think of the reasons I shouldn’t purchase it (extra money, extra calories), but I buy it anyway. This time, because of the experiment, I stayed away.  

As for food, I had a large salad for both lunch and dinner. I also made lentils and mixed them with couscous and beets from the CSA. For lunch I had a delicious wrap with hummus, artichoke spread, lettuce, avocado and tomatoes. I think grocery shopping on day one of this experience was the hardest. But now that I’ve stocked up on vegan-friendly items, the challenge has been taken out of the game.

Day 4

Today I left the comforts of my apartment and visited my friend at Tufts. Cooking dinner wasn’t too difficult because she likes to eat healthily, which means she already had a lot of vegan-friendly food. For breakfast I had oatmeal with brown sugar. I’m still getting used to coffee without milk in it.

I explained to my friend’s roommates how I’ve found mostly negative feedback about the vegan diet during my week experiment. One girl, whose dad is a vegan, said she was surprised to hear that. Having grown up around veganism, she said she was used to the alternative food choices. 

Day 5

Today I drove home to Western Mass. for the long weekend. Finding something to eat was a challenge at the fall festival I attended with my dad. Most of the food options were not vegetarian, never mind vegan. I ended up eating some left over challah at my house before leaving and a baked potato with salsa at the fair. The lack of vegan options gave me a glimpse into a downside of veganism. It is easy to fall into a trap of either consuming unhealthy foods or developing unhealthy eating habits (like only eating carbs) because nothing else is around.

Day 6

Last night I slept over a friend’s house so I had to once again navigate non-vegan waters for breakfast. Luckily, there was some toast, peanut butter and banana. I also added honey to my sandwich, after which I wondered if honey is vegan. It turns out the debate on honey is controversial. Some people believe that honey “exploits” bees, while others believe that bees are only assisting the process. (Plus, the bees would make honey regardless of whether or not we ate it.)

For dinner, my brother and I made a half-vegan pizza (cheese on half). I told my brother we could put cheese on the whole pizza to not be difficult, he insisted I stick with my plan. My mom bought me vegan cookies. (Although it turned out they contained almonds and I couldn’t eat them anyway. Reason number #19 why I can’t actually be a vegan.) I was surprised at how supportive my family was about my vegan diet. I think part of this understanding is because they know it’s a school project. They might be more skeptical if they didn’t find it so amusing.

Day 7

Today is the last day of my vegan diet. Overall, it has not been as hard as I thought. The most frustrating part of the experience was that I had to turn down homemade baked goods, going out for ice cream, etc. I don’t usually eat a lot of sweets in general, but I do believe in “everything in moderation.” I think I also wanted all the treats more just because I couldn’t have them. Before I left home today, my mom packed me a brisket sandwich. Lunchtime tomorrow can’t come soon enough.