Food showdown, part one: the vegan challenge

I’m headed back to Whitman tomorrow, and as soon as I get there, I’ll be starting my first food challenge for the year: one month being vegan.

I’ve been a vegetarian (or pescatarian, more accurately) for most of the last twelve years, with a brief hiatus this past year to travel (Ghana and Ecuador are not veggie-friendly countries) and explore the world of local, grass-fed beef (which is probably a better choice than processed soy in the long run). Being a vegetarian is incredibly easy for me—while I like the taste of meat, it’s not something I crave or feel that I need to be healthy. I get plenty of iron and protein from other sources, and I pretty much subsist on beans, lentils, yogurt and cheese. (I try to steer clear of soy because of its role in deforesting the Amazon, the way it’s usually grown in monocultures and the way it’s processed using a neurotoxin which can cause severe health problems in workers. But sometimes, you need to have pho or pad Thai.)

Being vegan is a whole different ballgame. I love cheese. It’s like, my favorite food. I recognize that being as outraged as I am by factory farming while conveniently ignoring where my cheese and yogurt come from is hypocritical, and I’ve tried to get better about that in the past year. While I’ll eat cheese when it’s served to me, I try to only buy happy local cheese when I’m in charge of my own food. But the majority of the animal products I do eat come from the same factory farmed sources I’m always complaining about.

I’ve gone into detail about my food philosophy a million times on this blog, but quick recap: I don’t think being vegan is particularly healthy for most people, I think framing veganism as the solution to factory farming is really disingenuous and alienating, I think the ability to be vegetarian or vegan is often a function of privilege (knowledge, cooking facilities, time, money) and I don’t think individual choices are a valid solution to anyenvironmental problems, especially not something as complicated as the industrial food juggernaut. BUT, I’m also a person who thinks and talks about food and food politics a lot, and if that’s a thing I’m going to be doing for my life, I think I should at least know what it’s like to actually be vegan. I figure a month is long enough that I’ll get an idea what it’s like and won’t just spend the entire time counting down to my next quesadilla, but short enough that I can stick it out without being miserable or unhealthy if it doesn’t agree with my body.

I’m interested in exploring how I feel during this month, especially since I’m following it with a no processed foods and no added sugar month (and then going back to being a regular pescatarian). As many of you know, I have an adolescent dragon named Chester who lives in my stomach and likes to throw temper tantrums and/or loud parties. So anything which makes his life a little easier works out well for me too. I’m going to be recording general impressions (do I feel healthy? full? hungry? craving certain foods? well-nourished?), as well as weight (I’m guessing I might lose weight, but probably not much, given that Tim’s Cascade Chips are vegan), energy levels and anything else different that I notice. My hope is that I’ll use this month to explore new recipes and come out of it with some healthier and more conscious eating habits. Stay tuned…


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