Saturday, November 12, 2011

a vegan review

In case you hadn't noticed, it isn't October anymore.  Hence, in Visual-Feast-land, it isn't "Vegan Month" anymore either.  But, with the backlog of responsibilities and hecticness that resulted from the end-of-October snowstorm (and multi-day power outage), we never got to properly wrap up our vegan adventure. 

So, without further ado, here it is...

A Vegan Adventure in Review (in nice, neat, easy-to-digest bullet points)

Heather's thoughts...

  • Spending a month as a vegan was eye-opening in countless ways.  The biggest, perhaps, was the way that it altered my outlook on life, eating, and food.  This occurred mostly in positive ways but in not-so-positive ways as well.  I don't want to use the word negative, because I didn't see the difficult aspects of the vegan lifestyle as negative but rather as challenging (see bullet #2). 
  • Social situations were the hardest.  Being vegan means eating differently than most of the world (or, at least, differently than most of those in our circle of friends and family members).  I couldn't help but feel slightly (or sometimes more than slightly) guilty when we'd politely decline the main dishes (opting for salads or side dishes instead) or when family members would go to extra trouble to prepare special vegan options just for us.  I hate being a bother, so this really challenged that part of my personality.  Whether or not others actually felt we were a bother, I don't know.  But, I was hyper-aware of the fact that our presence at meals caused additional forethought and adaptation, at the very least.
  • On the flip side, cooking at home was really fun.  It led us to many new recipes that I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.  Now that they're in my collection of favorites, however, these vegan dishes will be on regular rotation.  No doubt.  I already have a craving for Vegan Mac & Cheese.
  • We became strict label-checkers, which made us much more aware of what we were putting into our bodies.  I hope this trend continues, because I am becoming more and more in tune to the icky things that show up on ingredient lists.  If I can't pronounce it, I am leery to be eating it.  Also, when the ingredient list on a package is dozens of lines long, I don't even bother checking.  I just put the package back on the store shelf.  Should bread really have thirty ingredients?
  • You may be wondering..."OK.  So you went to all this effort.  Did you feel better physically?"  Well, that's a tough one.  I didn't notice as drastic of a change as I thought I would.  I do think that my body had an easier time digesting the foods that I was eating.  In the first few days, I noticed that when hunger struck, it struck hard.  I don't mean that I wasn't hungry all the time, but when it came time to eat, I had a deep, real hunger.  A friend suggested that this could have been from the fact that my body was actually digesting the dairy-less, meat-less foods more efficiently.  I agreed.  All in all, I felt really good, and I certainly believe that my body was being energized by more quality ingredients (due, in large part, to a lot of homemade meals and label-checking).  I guess I was just expecting an overwhelming difference, and I can't say that I experienced exactly that. 
  • Energy levels didn't change too much.  I had about as much energy as any mama of a 16-month-old who is teething and waking multiple times in the night for the entire month.  Perhaps if "Vegan Month" had not coincided with "One-Year-Molar Month," I would have noticed a bigger change in the energy levels.  Alas.  Life with a babe is even more adventurous than an experimental month of vegan eating!
  • Perhaps the biggest question, though: Are we remaining vegan?  I must answer, somewhat sadly, no.  I truly loved our month as vegans, and I enjoyed eating less of the heavy cheese, dairy, and meat that we often incorporated into our diets.  However, I feel that the "upkeep" is bit much for us right now.  Undoubtedly we will eat vegan and vegetarian meals several times a week.  I do feel that this is the healthiest way to live.  We've never eaten huge amounts of meat anyway, but this most recent adventure has shown us that dairy doesn't need to play such a prominent role in our diets.  Soy and almond milks are great alternatives, I've loved the incorporation of flax seed as an egg substitute in my baking, and cheese can certainly take on a secondary role instead of always being the star of the show.  I have a great appreciation and respect for vegans.  I am proud to say that I was one for a month.  Perhaps someday I will return to veganism.  But for now, my aim is to eat healthy foods and to keep a good balance, never allowing one thing to take over my diet. 
Experiments are wonderful.  Adventures even more so.  If you are up for either (or both, as it was in our case), I would highly encourage you to attempt even a week of vegan eating.  It's eye-opening, challenging, fun, and creative.  And how can anything that's all those things be bad?

Mandi's thoughts...

Being vegan for a month was an extremely interesting experience. I truly enjoyed the process and the way I felt while taking part in this strict diet. Now, I don't use the word diet, to make you think that we went vegan in order to lose weight. That wasn't our intention. Our intention was to try something new, to discover new things about ourselves, and to experiment even more with our recipes. At least those are some of my reasons.

  • The first thing I noticed after about a week or so, was that I felt lighter. I contribute that to the lack of cheese in my diet. I think I told you before that I LOVE cheese. Well, I discovered that I have the will power to let it go if I want to. As much as I love it, I love feeling heathy more than eating cheese and crackers.
  • I discovered was that I was much more prepared for what I would eat every week. I had to be. I couldn't just scrounge around the kitchen and find something to eat if I was in a grabbing a can of tuna fish for a fast sandwich. Tuna was out. Meat was out. Cheese was out. I had to prepare myself in advance in order to have food that I could actually eat!
  • I realized that it's VERY hard being vegan while out and about. At home, it's easy because I bought all the things I needed. But when I was out at a restaurant, I found it difficult to find things that I could eat. A person can only eat so many salads before they need something a bit more exciting.
  • I liked sharing my latest recipes with my friends and coworkers. They were intrigued by our vegan adventure. I brought in some vegan mocha chocolate chip muffins and my coworkers were in love. I guess you don't need milk or eggs to make a chocolatey dessert lip smackin' good.
The vegan diet provided me with a variety of food options that I might never have discovered or even tried before. It's edgy and exciting trying something new and by going ahead with this diet, it was very rewarding and gratifying in the end. As an artist, I felt the ability to be creative with my food options because I had to find new, interesting ways to make recipes. Despite having to give up so many food items that I was used to, I didn't feel like I was lacking anything. I wasn't starving or feeling desperate for milk or meat. I felt nourished and completely content living as a vegan for a month. Overall, it was a fun experiment and I'm definitely going to stick with a lot of the habits I picked up during our vegan month of October!

V - Variety
E - Edgy
G - Gratifying
A - Artistic
N - Nourishing

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