I just want to state something first and foremost: A vegan diet definitely isn’t a “fad diet”. Sure, some people might think of adopting the diet in that way, but for most, it’s based on a complete lifestyle change. Something I’ve learned this week is that veganism is hard work. But, we’ll get into that later.
Veganism is defined as abstaining from all animal products – while vegetarians avoid eating meat, vegans avoid products that were created by animals. Milk, eggs, cheese, and clothing made from animals as well. I figured I could easily adapt to a vegan diet because I practiced vegetarianism for around 7 years. I gave it up about two years ago, because – well, you know, bacon. (I mean – my husband Greg does most of the cooking, and also – bacon.)
This week has been one of the most challenging and rewarding weeks of my recent life, and I’d love to share it with you if you’re thinking about becoming vegan/want to be highly entertained. Instead of taking pictures of my food (I tried, but the fuzzy pictures of black beans I took would depict this project as being similar to “I was in jail for a week, here’s what they fed me!”) I decided to illustrate as I would with a real diary – with the magic of MSPaint.
If you don’t believe my love of MSPaint, here’s a drawing I did of “Sexy Puumba” back in 2008.
But back to the important stuff! I started on Wednesday, May 15th. My grocery day is Tuesday, so I figured I could stock up on all the food I needed if I started mid-week. Turns out, I did a very poor job of this.
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
I must have had about 40 nightmares on Tuesday night leading into Wednesday, and the first thought I had upon waking up was, “I can’t have greek yogurt today?!” Typically I start my day with a Chobani, but this morning was a new chapter.
While downstairs, I tripped over two bags of unpacked groceries before settling on a banana, a glass of orange juice, and the blandest granola bar I ever ate in my life.
I warned my boss about vegan week prior to – while making sure to choose a diet from the HelloGiggles list that would accommodate an 8-5 job, I’m a very scheduled person and knew that a change as minimal as a lack of a morning yogurt would affect me. Upon entering, he asked me if I was as grumpy as I had predicted I’d be. I totally was. But maybe it was the nightmares, and not the bland granola.
For lunch, I had white rice and black beans. Yet by 12:45, while prepping, I was hangry as all get-out, and almost punched a wall after not finding a can opener for a solid 5 minutes. It ended up being in the sink.
For dinner, it was a spinach salad with vegan chicken, almonds, cucumbers, and not much else. This will be my meal for a few days, so I’ll try to avoid sounding repetitive.
After eating, around 6:45, I got a call that my sister was going into labor (!!) I was proud for the opportunity to tell my new niece that “Aunt Karen was a vegan when you were born”.
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
For some reason, the second day was slightly easier. I still had a few “moments” like this:
At least, my brain got used to the idea that yogurt wasn’t happening, and I realized that Peanut Butter Puffins Cereal and Rice Milk (plus banana!) was a pretty sturdy breakfast plan. Back in the vegetarian days, Puffins were a hit. I actually was amped to put them back in my grocery cart for a solid reason. Even omnivores, or straight up carnivores (Atkins diet?) need to check out the magic of Puffins.
For lunch, it was a black bean soup courtesy of Amy’s. I was always a fan of her No-Chicken-Noodle soup, even though typically when the bowl was nearing its end, I was sickened by all of the stuff in the soup I couldn’t identify. “What are all those random black specks and unidentifiable mushy vegetables?!”
Note: I didn’t buy that can of soup on Tuesday. It might have been sitting in the cupboard for two years. “Can I eat expired soup?” is on my google history list, as well as “Is _______ vegan?” How did vegans survive before the internet?
The President/Owner of my company stopped by work and asked me what was new. I told him about my sister giving birth, and how I was a first-time proud Aunt.
He’s such a nice guy that I was actually kind of honored that he joked around with me about my personal life. I’m not just saying that because there’s a 1 in 5 chance he’ll be reading this.
Friday, May 17th, 2013
Things were old hat by Friday, even though I’m only 70% sure I know what that phrase means. It’s possible that by then, I could eat an old hat for the protein I wasn’t getting from meat and eggs. I continued with the Puffins, and the spinach salad, and the rice and beans. In fact, I even got creative and mixed some frozen peas in there as well. Who did I think I was, Guy Fieri?! It minimally upped the flavor!
I was actually looking forward to Friday – after work, Greg and I would be on the road to see my sister, brother-in-law, and fresh new baby in Brooklyn. I viewed Brooklyn the way the dinosaurs from Land Before Time viewed The Great Valley. “Brooklyn has so many vegans that I’ll finally get a real meal,” I told myself. “Brooklyn is where all of my dreams will come true.”
See, when Greg and I travel, we stop at Sheetz prior to. For those unfamiliar with Sheetz, it’s a gas station that also has amazing made-to-order food. I have a feeling that out-of-state friends visit me solely to visit Sheetz, and I’m just an afterthought. Upon successfully researching that Sheetz had vegan-friendly bread, I had the most boring (yet satisfying) vegetable sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. Because I got to eat it in the car! From a place that makes food quickly! Just like Normal Karen would have!
Saturday, May 18th, 2013
Last night, I came out to my Dad as a vegan. Next time, I shouldn’t start out my admittance of a dietary change with, “Dad, there’s something I got to tell you.” I think he was expecting me to reveal a negative diagnosis from the doctor. Joke’s on you, Dad! I don’t GO to a doctor!
Here’s a rough transcript:
Saturday morning, I awoke to the sweetest gesture. My Dad stopped at the grocery store before I woke up, and bought a bunch of bananas and a big tray of fresh fruit. It doesn’t take much, but let me tell you – those cantaloupe wedges touched my heart.
While stopping for coffee, I grabbed some legitimate trail mix for the car ride over/in case my dreams of a Brooklyn feast were a mirage caused by low levels of cheddar cheese in my blood. By legitimate, I mean there were no chocolate pieces, or questionable things in it that made it taste really good. I’m talking about peanuts, pineapple pieces, banana chips, and random unpopular nuts as filler. (I know you know what I’m talking about)
As expected, my sister looked amazing, my niece was beautiful, my brother-in-law should have been awarded a trophy for Best Father To A Three-Day-Old-Child 2013, and I was shaking when I realized it was getting to be late in the afternoon and food hadn’t happened yet. Dreams of it magically raining down fresh spinach were suddenly dashed. I called myself a genius, while eating that aforementioned trail mix like there was no tomorrow.
Since our lunch came from the grocery store, I had some hummus and gazpacho. This was the day I learned my true feelings for gazpacho; I kind of hate it. I do like saying it, though. Gazpacho.
Sunday, May 19th, 2013
Can I mention once more how much those cantaloupe wedges touched my heart? It was nice waking up without the panic of wondering what the heck I was going to eat.
Greg and I left my Dad’s house around 2, and after being on the road for about 2 hours, I felt like I was going to gnaw my own arm off. Yet being that this was still vegan week, I’d be throwing away days of progress by doing so.
Guys, being a vegan while traveling is tough. We stopped at a rest stop with a Burger King, and I figured their BK Veggie – without cheese and mayonnaise – was a sure bet. Sadly, the internet told me later that it wasn’t. It was the smartest thing I could have gotten there, but something about the patty (while being MorningStar brand) or perhaps the bun – didn’t pass the vegan test when it debuted in 2002. I feel like I’ve failed you all!
For dinner – ever try Vegan Hot Dogs before? They’re actually best referred to as “Protein Links”.
I actually forgot I bought these on Tuesday, and whipped them out to give them a go. While taking them out of the packaging felt like I was removing something from the Play-Doh factory, they didn’t taste terrible. They’d taste even better if I hadn’t eaten a hot dog at any point in the last three years, so I wouldn’t have a strong point of reference.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
I actually stopped by the grocery store to buy more Puffins. Sure – I had enough to last until Wednesday, but that stuff is going to become a staple from here on out.
To be honest, today was the first day I just didn’t think at all about being a vegan. I had my routine, was getting more adventurous with my meal choices, and forgot about the “label” entirely. My original plan of buying this on Wednesday
Turned into me planning to just eat these instead.
You might not know this about me, but I can eat an entire shrimp ring by myself in a small amount of time. It’s on my resume, under “Special Skills.”
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I only began the countdown of “One Day Left!” near the end of the night – at approximately 7:47 PM. But just approximately.
This was the day I pretty much reflected on the week, and how different I felt from Wednesday morning. For one, I never really drank milk, but I really dig soy milk. Another bonus – it doesn’t expire as quickly as real milk, and it won’t smell like poisonous death if you sniff it to check if it expired.
Secondly, it’s probably good to substitute the things I did for things I’d otherwise be eating. You realize the effect food has on you – almonds will keep you full, and I don’t need to eat an entire jar of them to feel satisfied if I pace myself.
My last night really wasn’t very eventful – it was a simple Tuesday. I didn’t blast “We Are The Champions” at midnight while eating ten pounds of ham. You know, like my typical Tuesday.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
At work today, a coworker stopped me and said, “You know Karen? For all the time you’ve been here, I never knew you were a vegan!” I responded by saying that I no longer was, and it was for an article I was writing.
And then, I got the worst case of acid reflux in the entire world.
My Dad (who isn’t a doctor, but is quite a wise gentleman) said the reaction may have been from the fact that I pretty much ate 9 billion pounds of fruit in the past week (I will still never forget you, cantaloupe.) My original culprit was the orange juice I had every morning. Greg said, in general, it might have been the dietary change. WebMD said I had lung cancer and cat-scratch disease.
The weird thing about Wednesday was, I felt like I kind of had Stockholm Syndrome. I had my Chobani, and felt wrong about it. I reflected on the happy memories of the week, and felt like if Vegan was a boy, I made a bad breakup decision. Maybe Vegan was “The One”.
As days passed, I realized that – no. Vegan and I weren’t meant to be. However, I learned a lot from that relationship.
I looked more closely at the labels on my food, ate more fruit and vegetables, and realized that I don’t necessarily need to eat a lot of meat to get the protein I need. But there’s still so much about the vegan diet that’s incompatible with my everyday life.
If you’re thinking about veganism, remember – this is a lifestyle change. Eating out with friends is tough, spending the extra half hour trying to identify whether a red dye may have been made out of beetles is tough, and you might feel healthier, but certain things might turn unhealthy if you don’t completely research and do your math correctly (see: Brooklyn Shaking Trail Mix Explosion.)
As far as weight loss went, I lost about a pound in a week. But I’m pretty sure I gained it back within a day or so totally gained it back, plus a pound more.
I hope you enjoyed my experience, and if you have any questions, I’ll gladly answer them in the comments section! (And if your question is, “do you really wear the same shirt every day as your MSPaint drawings suggest?” my answer is, “maybe.”)