Monday, March 22, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: The Conclusion

Well, my friends, the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart has come to a close! What, you might ask, have I learned over the past three weeks?

New Foods

Even though I was already a vegetarian, over the course of these 21 days I have tried or cooked with several new-to-me foods. Those include: nutritional yeast, dairy-free cheese, radishes, Earth Balance, vegan-friendly marshmallows (you HAVE to try Sweet & Sara's--way better than normal marshmallows!), tahini, black lentils, arugula, coconut milk yogurt and ice cream, bulgur wheat, hemp protein powder, cheese-free pizza, brussel sprouts and tempeh. Heck, I've even made peace with kale!

New Recipes from New Cookbooks

A HUGE benefit of doing this program has been getting myself back into the kitchen. I've cooked from Vegan Yum Yum, Veganomicon, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, The Vegan Table, The Joy of Vegan Baking, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Vegan Soul Kitchen and Vegan with a Vengeance. I already owned most of those cookbooks but the Kickstart got me actually using them! I also found a great recipe for Sweet Potato Quinoa Black Bean burgers on the web and made that too!

New Ideas

Every since watching "Earthlings" sometime in February, I have been on a quest to learn as much as possible. Through several vegan resource books, VegNews magazine, internet searches and other films, I've soaked up SO much new information on the agriculture industry and the way animals are treated. As much as I didn't want to learn this stuff, I am so glad I did. Ignorance is not bliss. Educating myself has been an invaluable experience.

New Habits

-I cook for myself way, way, way more than I previously did. I actually left the mall early the other day because I didn't want to eat fast food and wanted to come home and make something yummy!
-Even though I still have them from time to time, my cravings for sweets have significantly decreased.
-I read more labels.
-I'm more adventurous and more sure of myself in the kitchen.
-I eat more vegetables and whole grains.
-I've tried out cruelty-free lip balm and bought a vegan purse.
-I am WAY more conscious of what I am putting into my body.
-I've developed a green smoothie habit.
-I sought out vegan-friendly restaurants and bakeries in the area.
-I do feel lighter and like my mind is clearer.
-The sense that I could actually do this has empowered me in other areas of my life. I'm back at the gym and yoga on a regular basis.

The Downside

Unlike vegetarianism, there were a few times where I felt like veganism was pretty isolating. There was a friend's birthday where I couldn't partake of her favorite birthday cake, a work lunch where my Thai dish came covered in eggs, a work celebration I couldn't enjoy and all of my out-to-dinner experiences have been at Indian, Thai or Chinese restaurants, which is fine for 21 days but I don't know about a whole lifetime. Often a restaurant will have one or maybe two vegetarian dishes and they likely aren't vegan. It can be stressful to eat out of the house sometimes.

The other downside is that I have found that I don't like the label "vegan" and that some vegans themselves have been militant on the subject. I'm not going to toss out all of the leather shoes I currently own. I may use lip balm with honey in it. Someone may eat a vegan diet for health or environmental reasons and not just animal rights reasons and I refuse to judge them for that. I'm just not okay with people getting worked up about a label and what is or is not "going far enough" with someone else's diet.

...But will I keep it up?

Maybe. I think I will likely continue the way I was always eating. That is to say, no meat at all, no eggs except maybe in a baked good here or there, and avoiding dairy where possible since I shouldn't really have it due to not having a gall bladder and a lactose intolerance. However, I think being so strict about my diet has brought about flashbacks of other diets. I don't like feeling restricted and I don't like labels. I just want to eat fruits, veggies and whole grains 95% of the time (and maybe the occasional piece of pizza or grilled cheese) and leave it at that.

That being said, this was a great experience and I will always be thankful for what I've learned, what I've cooked and the new habits I've acquired.

{Photo credit: AuntieP}


Analiese Marie said...

I've really enjoyed reading about your vegan kickstart! And I completely agree about the whole labeling aspect. That's why I've purposefully chosen not to label myself as "vegan" even though I am technically eating a nearly vegan diet. And by the way, your blog and your journey toward eating more healthily was a major source of inspiration in my decision to change my eating habits!

City Girl said...

I really appreciated this post - both for its honesty and also how much it resonates with me. As you know, I have been on a very restricted diet for several months, and while as long as I cook for myself, I have tons of choices, it feels really isolating in terms of eating out and going to social events.

Carolyn said...

Woo hoo congrats on finishing!!! I couldn't have done it without you. :)

A "cheery" disposition said...

congrats on following thru with this.

Rachel said...

It's been great reading about your journey over the last 21 days.

My thoughts on long term maintenance these days are to just live life in balance. It's easy to have a nearly vegan diet but I found that there are times when you need to be less strict with yourself. Realising that helped me enormously, both healthwise and in terms of other other people catering for me.

Melita said...

congrats on completing your vegan kickstart. i've enjoyed reading about your journey. hugs!!

Anonymous said...

Loved reading about your journey. And I love your honest approach to your lifestyle.

I have chosen to label myself as a vegan (more of that on my blog later) - but I feel that I don't take the label to the extreme. I also don't like a militant approach, labels or making people feel morally inferior based on their personal choices.

I totally applaud you for giving the kickstart a try and for continuing to eat a mostly plant based diet :)