The Vegan Experiment


Have you ever seen something that you were convinced would change your life? It could be a piece of exercise equipment, a beauty product, or even a tool. For me, it was a book. Specifically, Veganist by Kathy Freston. I have been home the past two months on maternity leave and frequently watch daytime television. Last week, I watched an episode of the Ellen Show. Ellen is a proclaimed vegan, and she had Kathy Freston on as a guest who was promoting her book. I have never heard of Kathy Freston before that day but her segment with Ellen moved something in me.

I am a vegetarian, specifically a pescetarian. I don’t eat beef, pork, or poultry, but I do eat seafood and other animal products such as milk, cheese, and eggs. I have been a vegetarian for three years. My choice to lead a vegetarian lifestyle is a moral decision. I am a proclaimed animal lover and have been disturbed by many stories about how animals destined for the dinner table are treated.

My moral discomfort started after reading the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. This book focused on the fast food industry and how it is intertwined with the beef industry. I wasn’t just appalled at the treatment of the cows but also of the employees of the slaughter houses. After finishing the book, I was moved but still not ready to eliminate meat from my diet or lifestyle.

Why couldn’t I make the decision to become a vegetarian? In retrospect, I think that I was afraid of walking away from a comfortable diet. I grew up eating dinners of a meat, a starch and a vegetable, and as an adult, those were the dinners that I prepared. I was worried that as a vegetarian, I wouldn’t know what to eat. I was also worried that I would say that I was becoming vegetarian, but after a few weeks, it would be too challenging trying to find appropriate meals and I would resort back to a carnivore lifestyle.

The day that I made the decision to make the change was in February 2008. I was stuck in traffic on a major highway and there was a tractor trailer transporting chickens next to me. The top of the back of the truck was open and I could see that it was filled with crates of chickens. Each compartment for a chicken was very small. My first thought was horror at a truck filled with dead chickens. Then I saw a wing move. These chickens were all alive. They were shoved into tiny spaces, stacked on top of each other, and thrown on to a truck that exposed them completely to the elements. I don’t believe that chickens are very intelligent animals, but I have no doubt that they feel pain. To this day, I still can’t get that image out of my head. I told my husband that night that I was going to give up meat for Lent.

After Lent was over, I was committed to being a vegetarian. My husband isn’t a vegetarian, but he has been extremely supportive of my decision. When he cooks, he always prepares me something vegetarian. I usually cook vegetarian meals, but every once in a while, I’ll buy him some meat and weekly, I buy him deli meat. Now we have two children. The oldest eats solid foods, and I feed him meat at least once a week. I am often asked why I am not feeding him a vegetarian diet. My answer is always the same. I made the decision to be vegetarian. He will have the choice to make that decision for himself. Fortunately, he loves vegetables, and those are the first things that he eats off of his plate. We’ll see if he keeps that up over the next few years.

Kathy Freston on the Ellen Show talked briefly about the health benefits that are detailed in her book, Veganist. That immediately captured my attention. The segment also included her visiting a family with two small children and showing them how they can overhaul their approach to cooking to prepare vegan meals. The food looked delicious and easy to prepare. All day, I kept thinking about that book. The weekend went by, and Monday morning I was still thinking about the book. By Monday, I knew that I had to have it and went out Monday night to buy it. This act is significant because I never buy books. I am patron and regular visitor of the library and borrow books but never buy them. Not only did I buy this book, but I bought in hardcover. I was committed.

The first chapter talks about how a healthful vegan diet will naturally lead to weight loss. I was hooked. My youngest child just turned two months old, and I have some baby weight to lose. I’m also in my mid-thirties, and it is definitely more difficult to keep any additional weight off. Freston promises that choosing a vegan diet will help you lose weight without even thinking about it. You won’t feel hungry, and you can eat as much as you want. Yes, I am doubtful but hopeful.

I can’t imagine myself a vegan for life. I think that my doubts of making this a lifelong change is really because I don’t have a moral dilemma with milk or eggs. If we don’t drink cow’s milk, then what is the purpose of a cow? I have the same question with eggs. I buy my milk from the dairy farm up the street. You can walk through it and see the cows and calfs. Their living conditions are humane and the cows look healthy and happy. The farm even allows people to watch the cows being milked. It’s a small dairy farm, and I feel good supporting a local business and buying a good quality, hormone-free product. I take the same approach with eggs. Unfortunately, there isn’t any local place from where I can buy eggs, but I do try to choose cage-free eggs. That decision makes me feel pretty good.

Of course, there are a lot of gray areas with choosing to drink cow’s milk. For example, I buy dairy products in the grocery store. None of the cheese, yogurt, or sour cream that makes it into my shopping cart is made with cow’s milk from a dairy farm that I know. I turn a blind eye every time I eat them. Maybe I need to stop ignoring the obvious and make a change. Now I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.

For thirty days, I am going to try and be vegan. Notice the word try. I know that it won’t be easy, but I am curious to see what changes I will experience physically and physiologically. Freston promises that a healthful, vegan diet will regulate blood sugar, give you energy, and curb those unhealthy cravings. It will also help you to lose weight. I keep using the phrase “healthful, vegan diet”. I understand that vegan foods can also include chips, pretzels, and candy. I’m sure that I will eat some of them in next month, but I plan to stay focused making healthy decisions.

At the start of this experiment, I weighed 140 pounds and love afternoon snacks. I also always have some sort of sweet on hand. Cookies are usually ready and waiting after dinner. I’m sure there will be cookies on the counter at some point in the upcoming weeks, but I have already been researching vegan cookie recipes and will be using them instead of my tried and true recipes. My rules are simple. Eat vegan. Eat healthy. Eat when hungry. Don’t count calories or measure food. Time to get started.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. What an interseting experiment! I completely admire you for giving the Vegan lifestyle a try. I love to eat meat, but understand that eating animal products isn’t exactly healthy. I’m going to subscribe so I can follow your thirty days. Good luck!

    Reply

    • I think that a meat-eating lifestyle can be just as healthy as a vegetarian lifestyle. We hear this over and over again – everything in moderation.

      Thanks for following! Hopefully you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

      Reply

  2. Well don’t worry if you slip up a litte. We all do sometimes. It make us human!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Vegan on October 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    “If we don’t drink cow’s milk, then what is the purpose of a cow?”

    Whatever was before agriculture. How could you even start thinking that a species exist because you like to drink it’s fluids? So if you see any free animal in a forest you think that it’s a waste of milk or it doesn’t know what to do because he has no purpose? Amazing…

    What is the purpose of humans?

    Reply

  4. Posted by Vegan on October 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Although it’s good you tried at least.

    Reply

  5. […] a great protein option for a meal and totally delicious.  I discovered tempeh during my vegan experiment and have been hooked ever since.  This sandwich was a great new way to enjoy it.  The tempeh […]

    Reply

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