Four weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to start eating vegan more regularly. I decided to start eating exclusively vegan during the week, and let myself eat whatever I want on the weekend. The experiment has been going well so far, and I want to take the time to reflect on the past few weeks and walk through my motivations for this mostly-vegan diet.
I had been thinking of going vegan for a while, but there were a few things that finally made me start doing it. I had the realization that going vegan is pretty much the best way to eat healthy, humane, and environmentally friendly all at once. I read this article on Zen Habits and found it to be incredibly compelling. Leo appeals mostly to our need to be compassionate and help reduce animal suffering. Around the same time, I also attended The Meat We Eat: Forum on Industrial Animal Farming, a conference put on by Harvard’s Food Law Society. This is a nice article summarizing some of the more salient points. At the conference, I learned more about the environmental impacts of the meat industry. One particularly powerful moment for me was learning that while grass-fed beef may be more humane than grain-fed beef, grass-fed cattle actually produce more methane than grain-fed cattle. Many believe that grass-fed cattle are actually worse for the environment (per cow), although this point is a bit controversial. My takeaway from this was that while eating local, more humanely produced goods might make me feel good, it might come at a cost of a worsening impact on the environment. Locally sourced products aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be better for the environment.
After I had already started being vegan during the week, Slate also ran this article on what would happen if everyone in the world went vegetarian or vegan. While the scenario of everyone all going vegan at once is pretty unrealistic, it does do a good job at exploring the impact of eating animal products on the world.
Why vegan during the week?
Once I decided I wanted to start eating vegan, I had to think about how I could effectively make the transition. I’m really busy with school right now, and I knew that changing my diet from no dietary restrictions to veganism would be difficult, especially since I haven’t had much time to cook. I also knew going vegan would be hard because I’d miss eating certain foods, and it is much harder to eat with other people as a vegan.
I decided that I wouldn’t go vegan full time, but would start easing myself into it. I’d read about both Meatless Mondays and Vegan Before 6 as strategies for eating more consciously without going full vegan, but I chose to be vegan during the week instead. While I haven’t had much time to cook lately, I’ve also been eating most of my meals during the week by myself, so I realized that even if I’m buying my meals, I have enough control over where I’m eating that I could be vegan without too much hassle. Then when I spend time with other people on the weekend, I can eat what I want (often still choosing to eat vegan when I can).
How has it gone?
I found that being vegan during the week actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I woke up one Monday morning and just decided to do it and see how long I could go for. After four weeks, I’d say it is going well enough that I’ll just stick with it.
One of the most challenging parts of being vegan has been finding vegetarian food without cheese in it. We Americans really love our cheese. I’ve found that I haven’t really craved meat much, but that I have craved both cheese and chocolate. Fortunately, many dark chocolates are vegan, but I haven’t tried any cheese substitutes, so I’ve mostly been allowing myself to indulge in cheese a bit on the weekends. I’ve also been eating eggs on the weekend for protein. I have to be much more mindful about making sure I eat enough protein during the week, because otherwise I can get pretty hungry and wind up snacking on a lot of carbs. As long as I keep myself full, I’ve found that I can manage any non-vegan food cravings pretty effectively. While I haven’t been eating a super diverse set of foods, I actually enjoy what I have been eating, and look forward to meals still.
I wound up catching a cold during this experiment, so it is a little hard to comment on the impact of my veganism on my health and energy. I would say that eating vegan is having a great impact on my GI tract (probably all the fiber), and my skin has been pretty clear. I would say that my energy is definitely not any worse than before, and maybe even a bit better, although it is hard to tell.
My plan is to stick with my weekday veganism for now, and maybe start reducing my weekend indulgences as I get more used to it.