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I’ve been trying the vegan diet for a month now. It is one of my thought experiments that has become a life experiment.

What is a vegan anyway?

It’s not just eating “rabbit food” as some of my friends have joked with me. In trying to define what vegan is, it occurred to me that what I’ve become is an herbivore. Nothing to be ashamed of there. I love animals and herbivores include some of my favorites–the gentle and patient cow, the swift and powerful horse, the formidable rhino, the majestic and intelligent elephant. So I’m a vegan, but not a rabbit.
What was the hardest thing to give up?

Definitely the milk in coffee was the last thing to go. Now I leave out the milk but make the coffee stronger, add a cinnamon stick to the cup, and then sugar. It actually tastes better this way. The vegan diet wasn’t about taste, but then when it comes to coffee, it is about taste.

How does it feel to be a vegan?

I feel great. An unexpected pleasure is that I feel lighter, cleaner, less confused and guilt ridden about what I’m eating. I had heard that eating animal products is linked to feelings of anger and aggression. The origins of the food may affect the person who eats it, and so for example an animal that suffered can transmit suffering. This seems like an extension of the physical truth that things don’t cease to be, matter is not created nor destroyed but is ever changing form. Remembering scientist Jane Goodall’s analysis in “Harvest for Hope: A Guide for Mindful Eating”, it’s clear that vegan eating is lighter on the planet.

Have a look at her take on our responsibilities to the animals and the earth in this talk she gave at TedTalks embedded here.

What do vegans eat?

Lots of new things here in the categories of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Capers and black olives on marinara pizza without cheese are wonderful. Paper thin pastries filled with guava and fried are sinfully pleasant. Dried strawberries are a surprising spring treat bursting with the taste of sunshine if it has a taste. Varieties of hummus I hadn’t thought of before and couscous, millet, barley, which are staples in some communities but new to me…the discoveries of new foods continue.

One caveat, I only feel great if I remember to include at least one high protein item, like a soy shake, and take an iron supplement each day. This is essential for feeling energetic.

I didn’t lose any physical weight but have shrugged off a different kind of burden, a psychological one of guilt.

I think my new self classification in the herbivore group is going to last for quite some time.

For Jane Goodall’s book see http://www.amazon.com/Harvest-Hope-Guide-Mindful-Eating/dp/0446533629
For the photo of African Wildlife:http://www.awf.org/section/wildlife/rhinos