Nearly three weeks ago I adopted a vegan diet. Since the 12th of April I have not eaten anything containing animal products, except for a few vitamin pills until I got hold of some vegan ones.
I’m not sure why I am doing this. I just had a feeling it was the thing to do. Usually I don’t pay too much attention to feelings and would make decisions based on conscious reasoning but as an experiment I am trying to pay more attention to feelings. So this diet could be called a meta-experiment.
If I had to rationalise this notion, I would note that I had a vegetarian diet for much, perhaps even most, of the time when I was travelling recently. This was simply because of what was available and practical. Meat and milk do not survive well if you live outside in a hot climate. I felt good when I was away and perhaps associated eating less meat with this, even if there is no causal relation.
When I returned to this meat eating household I was very aware of when I ate meat. In some cases, such as ready meals, it seemed slightly unappealing.
I had also become more aware of food in general, particularly if it was expensive or rare, like fish for example. I did not object completely to eating it, but thought that if one is going to eat something of which there is a limited supply, and which is not necessary, then it ought to be appreciated. If the reason to eat a certain fish is flavour and pleasure, making oneself happy, then one should pay attention to the eating and enjoy it, not watch TV while doing so, otherwise it is mindless destruction.
Whatever the reason, I decided to eat vegan, with the idea I would probably try it for a month and see how I felt. I started because of a feeling so I will also use that criterion to decide when to stop, if at all.
I am not calling myself a vegan. Partly this is because I am trying to be
careful not to over-use labels, but mostly it is because this one does not seem
to apply. The Vegan Society says,
A vegan is someone
who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals,
people and the planet.. The definition requires a certain intention, not
just action. I don’t think I am motivated by the given reasons. It is probably
the simplest way to describe my diet though. I am not a vegan, I just eat like
I had some problems in the first few days. On days two and three I woke up unusually hungry. Someone later told me when he was vegan for a month he was hungry all the time and ate lots of sugar to relieve it, but I found this resolved itself by the fourth day and it has not recurred. For the first week perhaps, I was also producing Type 6 on the Bristol Stool Scale and needed to go to the toilet more often. Perhaps I was eating much more fibre than I was used to, but that is probably a good thing. It seems to have settled down now. Otherwise, I have found it quite easy so far and learnt some things about food, cooking and veganism.
I don’t seem to crave meat or cheese. If tasty animal food was put in front of me, such as good quality meat or some cheese for Mellis’s cheesemonger, I would like to eat it, but I rarely think about it otherwise. I miss eggs and butter on toast.
One thing that requires some effort though is cooking. This is probably not because vegan cooking is inherently more difficult than cooking with any ingredients, but because the things I know how to cook are not vegan. Therefore I need to learn a lot, fast, to avoid becoming bored with a few dishes. It’s also hard to learn because the way I learnt to cook many things I know is by discovering them somewhere, like a restaurant, and then cooking it myself. That way I knew what I liked and what it was meant to be like. I do not have the experience of vegan food to know what is good and what things should come out like when I try recipes.
The positive side is that I am being forced to learn. I have discovered new ingredients I would never have tried before and have probably diversified my diet. I have become a fan of chickpeas and lentils, and would eat these more even if I also ate meat. I’ve tried various grains, beans, soya flour, soya milk, oat milk, agave syrup, and tempeh. I’ve also started cooking Indian food, which I had been meaning to do for some time.
I also eat less processed food. Ready meals and other prepared foods often have animal products in them, or in many cases, unspecified “flavourings”. Not eating these is probably a significant health benefit. Another side effect of the diet is reading ingredients carefully. I have learnt what some E numbers are, and in some cases they are things I would not want to eat whether vegan or not.
It’s also a good excuse to organise a Vegan Crunk Night!
I’ve got lots more to say on this subject but will leave it at that for now.