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
20 responses to “Vegan for a Month”
Thank you for posting such insightful entries, Jennifer. I read through some of the comments, and I decided to add to the conversation. I was especially interested in Cynthia’s comments about Christianity and the Bible. As a Roman Catholic Christian, I never perceived the “idea that the earth is here for us to ‘use.’” If anything, I’ve been taught to be respectful of all of life. I think of Saint Francis who was a lover of nature and animals. Others prominent people such as Mother Teresa led very peaceful lives with a respect for life. Many lines within the Bible must not be taken too literally. We have to consider the time period and the mind-set of the people who produced these writings. I believe that we humans have been given the freedom of dominion, but we must honor that freedom and not abuse it.
Kristin thank you for remembering Saint Francis as an example of love for fellow creatures. He is one of my very favorite people looking at the arc of his life, how he was able to understand animals. One sweet thing about the vegan diet experiment is that I feel closer to the animals I love.
Jenn, I don’t see humans as more important than animals either. But we do have a greater ability to influence our environment, for better or worse, than any other single species. We possess technology that can literally burn the entire earth to ash, if we were to unleash it. Can you name an animal species with that ability? With our greater ability comes greater responsibility. When I spoke of the bible and dominion I was ONLY speaking of Christianity, since the bible is Christianity’s book and not any others. I don’t think other religions have quite the same beliefs toward animals as Christians do, and this is because the Bible very specifically states that “man has been given dominion over the earth”. I am not a Christian, but I was raised as one, and the idea that the earth is here for us to ‘use’ is very prevelant in THAT religion. I don’t agree with the intrepretation. I feel we are caretakers. And should act accordingly. You are correct that there are religions that teach a greater compassion toward animals. Those that recognise that the spirit that animates me is not different then the spirit that animates my little dog. We are simply God expressing in different form.
That is my belief.
Just wanted to make myself clear 🙂
I applaud your decision to become vegan, and wish you success with it.
Hi Cynthia, Yes, the bit about “dominion over the earth” always has confused me. We had more Christian ministers in the family than I can even remember and church was the place many of my first impressions of community, shared views, were formed. But I’ve always wondered how we got ourselves into the position of dominance as a species, and don’t think its a very good place to be with so many people making decisions that are bad for mother earth and her creatures. The species dominant now is unlikely to remain so, history teaches. My time may become known as the time of the insect in the future, measured by weight and just the plain tons of creatures around. I wonder about our place in the world a lot, and what will be thought of us ages and ages from now. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
This is such a great post! I am a vegetarian by choice and I really enjoy it when someone who’s not vegetarian try it for a while…. and like it! Because what’s not to like, hey? It’s healthy and there are plenty of things you can eat, not just salad!
Noellee thank you for the comments and it’s great to have support from like minded people like you about the diet. I appreciate it so much.
I love your story! And I also love cinnamon in coffee. I try not to rely too heavily on soy products for my protein. I cook a lot with lentils when I can, which are easy and delicious. Giant lima beans, heirloom varieties like Good Mother Stallard from Rancho Gordo, and chickpeas that I’ve soaked and cooked myself – these things are all really wonderful. Best of luck to you 🙂
Thanks and your dragon fruit blog at wordpress is great, I love it. I’m in Brooklyn also, and find we are lucky to have so many fresh fruit and vegetable sellers, literally on every corner here. I’ll try the lima beans too. Thanks for the encouragement.