I’d been looking for an excuse to trial a vegan diet for close on 6 months. Ever since learning that athletes and jacked animals like Chris Hemsworth, Scott Jurek, and Kelly Slater were all subscribers to the extreme way of eating at some stage of their lives, I’d been wondering if that was the key to their elite status. Heck, even Albert Einstein dabbled in veganity (not a real word I know, don't @ me). I write about the benefits of a vegan diet on a weekly basis, but how could I truly know the benefits unless I had experienced them myself? Could I possibly unlock the gains of Thor and walk on water like Slater simply by avoiding animal products?
The original idea behind this article was to trial a plant-based way of eating for at least 2 weeks, with my own hidden agenda of continuing beyond the experiment. Obviously not long enough to experience a total physical transformation, I figured that 2 weeks would be enough to provide a change within. I already had this article mentally written; I was going to go into depth on how my mind had cleared, my skin was great, I had abundant energy, learnt to levitate, could now talk to animals, and that I was never going back.
My work was already done, and I even contemplated writing the article in advance. This was going to change my life, and I was genuinely excited about the process. And so I started Week 1 with a grocery shop, loading up on fresh vegetable, nuts, milk substitutes, and grains. I was ready to vegan-up, and head into the world armed with a carrot in one hand, a macca-latte in the other, and absolutely no expert nutritionist-backed advice in sight. Boom. Mistake number one.
Despite researching scholarly articles surrounding vegan eating on a regular basis as part of my job, I don’t have the depth of knowledge required to complete eliminate animal bi-products unassisted. Veganism is an extreme way of eating, and jumping into it one Monday morning on a whim expecting to eliminate 30 years of eating habits with success was simply naïve and stupid. I’d never avoided meat before, and simply eating the same meals I always had but removing the eggs/chicken/milk wasn’t going to cut it. There is a serious amount of research and planning that needs to go into eating vegan in a health way, and I simply failed to do this.
This failure to plan also left me with a severe lack of variety in my diet. Not that I usually stray far from meat, vegetables and rice in my usual diet. I’m a guy who doesn’t enjoy cooking; the admin, the process, and the clean up just don’t do it for me, and as a result I eat to live, not live to eat. I can definitely appreciate a good meal, and admire people who can cook, it’s just not for me, and I’ve made peace with that in the way I shop and eat.
But by eliminating one of my pillars of food I wasnow down to rice, steamed veges, rice, roasted veges, and rice. Oh and the occasional bowl of porridge. Followed by rice. This actually made eating a chore, and I found myself skipping meals or snacks just because I was totally bored by my restrictions. Forgoing a meal was more appealing than hitting the rice and vege combo yet again.
“Why not just opt for vegan snacks?” I hear you, and that was my initial thought when entering this trial. However in the big bad world of marketing and food advertising, ‘vegan’ doesn’t necessarily equal ‘healthy’, a way of eating that I definitely subscribe to. You see, sugar is vegan, so a vegan snack can taste incredible… thanks to a huge sugar content.
Of course there are thousands of vegan-friendly options with lower levels of sugar that I could have opted for, I just simply lacked the creativity to hunt them down, and thinking so hard about what I was eating really wore me down.
And this lead to my second major issue; going vegan means that food literally rules your life. I have never talked about my diet so much in my whole life. Can I eat this, should I eat that, what’s in this, what will happen if I eat so and so, where can I eat, what’s a good substitute for this… it sent my head into a spin. There was no joy in eating, and I got vegan-fatigue. To be fair, I did anticipate this aspect, and even contemplated undergoing the trial without mentioning it to my friends, family and colleagues. The truth with veganism is, it’s simply not possible, and I now understand the jokes surrounding how vocal vegans are about their choice. The truth is, if you eat as a strict vegan, you actually have to be vocal so that those around you can either support you, be understanding of your choice, or make allowances for your diet. Yet making this much noise about a personal choice just didn’t sit well with me, which fed into my main dilemma.
My main issue with going vegan was that it immediately left me ostracised (at least in my own mind). Eating is a huge part of our social culture. When you work full time, your week-day catch ups, work functions, or even family time revolve around meals, namely dinner. In my inner circle, there are very few vegans, and avoiding animal products in cooking or choosing restaurants is simply not a consideration in making plans for my family or friends. And why should it be? By the same token, I am personally extremely adverse to confrontation, and would never be ‘that guy’ who dictates where we can and can’t go for dinner. Perhaps I was subconsciously looking for an ‘out’, but I couldn’t bring myself to make venue (or menu) changes around my new found diet. Going vegan was my own choice, and I couldn’t justify impacting those around me based on a choice I had made. It wasn’t their fault I’d cut out delicious steak from my diet, and I wasn’t about to make them suffer as a result. Not that they would have been anything but supportive, however I simply struggled to impose.
I definitely plan to revisit veganism at some stage down the track, and the effects of this short trial have had some flow on effects. Since giving up, I’ve found myself opting to forgo animal products and am a slightly more conscious consumer.
I firmly believe in a vegan’s ability to solve a whole host of environmental issues, not to mention the personal health benefits, however after this epic failure, I now know that it needs to be done properly, with a solid plan and professional advice in place.