Last month, I received an email from PETA asking if I would be willing to participate in their 30 Day Vegan challenge. Since I have been a vegetarian for 5 years, and have been thinking about going "all the way" and becoming vegan, I looked at this as an opportunity, a sort of coming of age. I was ready to take on this challenge, or so I thought.
Why is This Such a Challenge?
Eating out. Sounds simple right? Try having a simple meal in say... an Italian restaurant. Cheese is everywhere. Parmesan, rears it's stinky feet scent every where - on pasta, on salad, on top of spaghetti, all covered with snow... oh that's another song. Well... it's part of being a vegan. You have to ask a lot of questions from the wait staff. You have to sound like Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally", "Is the soup made with chicken or beef stock?" "Are there eggs in your veggie burger?" "Can I have double salad, since your rice is made with chicken stock?" You can't be afraid to speak up, otherwise, after clearing out your system of all animal-related/made products, you could make yourself very sick.
Everyone assumes you are an activist who stands on your self-made pedestal to look down upon the people who ingest animal carcasses and frown... what a bunch of hooey. I will tell you a little secret, being vegan has made me calmer and less concerned about what other people are doing - more concerned about what I am doing. How can I walk my talk? I really don't want to spend the energy defending my eating habits, nor trying to convert you or anyone else into eating vegan. This is my journey, your journey is yours. Maybe we'll meet in the middle somewhere and I am totally cool with that.
People, even strangers feel the need to explain to you why they are not vegan. Why? It's not an easy path to take. No problemo, people. Eat what you want - have it your way, as Burger King would say.
Pizza and Lasagne - need I say more? I do miss them.
OMG! Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me There's a Detox Element?
The first two weeks of being a vegan were not fun, in fact, I would even describe them as painful and even sometimes gross. Even though I was vegetarian prior to going vegan, I still endured a nasty detox.
If you ever take on a vegan challenge like this, please be aware, it doesn't start very pretty, and you will truly wonder how healthy your previous food choices were.
Yes, There Have Been Benefits
It wasn't all gross and challenging, there have been some shining moments in my vegan experience so far.:
I have more energy than I have ever had in my life... scary, but true. I had read that this is one of the benefits and it is a fact. I am having a blast with it (and getting tons of things done). It is most noticeable to me in my daily yoga practice.
My nails are like well... nails. They are so strong and growing so fast, it's amazing! I had a split in three of my nails for years - no more. The splits have split.
Cost of food has gone down tremendously. I didn't think that I would notice much of a change between being vegan and vegetarian in my grocery bill, but good/organic yogurt and cheese are expensive. Also, not many vegan prepared foods are available, so I have had to cook more - this saves money.
I have a smaller carbon footprint. Most of my diet has become local-grown, organic produce. It is an absolutely beautiful, colorful and healing way to eat.
I am now less snotty than ever. It is super helpful with my morning yoga routine to finally be able to truly "use the breath".
Less stinky poos... okay, this is going down the drain. Most polite people won't discuss this subject, but if you would like to improve the scent of your B.M.s, simply eliminate all dairy, eggs and flesh from your food intake.
Less cellulite. I said less, not none, but I'll take the improvement, thank you very much. It's only been a month, so I am hoping that this is something that will improve even more with time. Wouldn't that be a wonderful miracle? I don't know the science behind this - if there is any. I can only speak for myself.
I like myself more... this one I can't explain. Maybe someone can explain it to me.
Busting Out My Crystal Ball - Looking Ahead
Do I want to spend the rest of my life without pizza as I know it today? No more gushy slab of lasagne? Truth is, yes. As much as I miss those things, I have found ways to have my pizza and eat it, too. I have found a rice cheese I like, made by Rice Dreams. I still make great quesadillas, pizza and yes - lasagne - all with rice cheese instead of the dairy variety.
I have decided I like feeling more energized, more connected, more alive. I like the way my desk looks right now - clean and clear, just like my skin. It's marvelous.
And lastly, my family has been great about it. They are not vegans. They are not even vegetarians, but they sit at my table and eat whatever I place in front of them - vegan chocolate whacky cake, black bean chili, vegan banana pancakes and even vegan corn bread. And they never have complained. Not once.
Ana Lewis - CEO of Co-Op Web, Inc and Founder of Women on the Verge