Fifty Shades of Vegan: "Seven Days Deep"
This is the first little dear diary I did a week after turning completely vegan.
I remember being pretty shellshocked at the time, the new diet had some pretty physical symptoms that were beginning to reveal themselves. I was sleeping long hours but having trouble with fatigue, the adrenaline of it all was wearing thin and my reserves were pretty low.
It's pretty funny to read it a whole year later. I had re-read it once or twice about a month after writing it, but until I read it again now I had basically forgotten about it. It was really quite entertaining.
I'm amused at how negative it sounds! I don't feel like it reflects my current attitude much at all, I've calmed way down and it's all pretty rosy though the tone of this entry definitely suggests otherwise.
"It'll all be OK in the end! If it's not ok, its not the end."
(NB: I endured the struggle and won the fight! I've never been more in control of my nutrition than right now)
-- SEVEN DAYS DEEP -- 16/10/2015 7:42pm
Ok. Somehow I’ve done it. I’ve gone 7 full days without having any meat, dairy, eggs, or any other animal products. Well… not intentionally anyway. I’ve had a couple of minor fuckups - I ate about 8 slices of quinoa-rye bread before checking the ingredients on the bag and discovering there was cultured whey (milk solids) included. Since when did powdered milk go into bread, ew. I’ve had bits of honey here and there by accident too. BUT I’ve been having a shitload of vegetables, tofu, rice, oat milk, smoothies and fruit each day. I’ll save you the trouble of asking - the answer is yes. My bowels have indeed been pulling some uncomfortable reactive shenanigans. And yes, as anticipated there are times when I have been very, very hungry. But I also haven’t died yet which is a plus.
Having less food available for my consumption has been sobering to say the least. More than once in the last week (…/last few hours) I have resembled the meth addict at the end of his second session of Narcotics Anonymous, the initial confidence of overcoming withdrawals all but diminished, replaced by a screaming, raging bull (lol, irony) holding a shotgun to my brain demanding insertion of some food produced by another species of mammal. Something with some fucking density.
I don’t like being hungry. Those around me don’t like me being hungry. I turn into a cranky 5 yearold, with the comparative maturity and equivalent mass of three 5-yearolds who are playing with a fuse that becomes shorter as my stomach growls grow louder. So it’s sortof in everyone’s best interests I’m satiated. I know, I could just grow up and learn to deal with hunger, or maybe you could just take that opinion to the kitchen with you while you make me some food? I’m hungry now if it isn’t obvious.
As a young male 20-25 years of age in a commercialised society - where excess muscle mass and washboard abs is somehow the expectation, rather than the more common, certainly more achievable and significantly more sustainable “dad-bod” - the last thing I want is to lose weight. My previous dietary approach included some consideration of my caloric intake, but I was pretty flexible with it. Luckily I have a hard time sitting still and consequently I am a very active human. That’s ‘active’ by today’s standards, by the way. When the mainstream norm is daytime office hours punctuated by a 30 minute gym session, by default my personal norm of frequent surfing, cycling and a job I do on my feet puts me wayyyyy up the top of the ‘active’ spectrum. As such, until now I could basically eat whatever I bloody wanted, as long as I mainly focused on wholesome, savoury eating and a healthy wariness of highly processed (a.k.a ‘shit’) food.
So as you may therefore imagine, my dietary approach has seen some drastic changes over the last week. I now eat like a man possessed. I have learnt that the scarcity of vegan food means that you eat whatever is in front of you like its the final bits of food you’ll ever see. “You haven’t been organised enough to know what your next meal will be yet, so hoe into this one like it’s your last.” Even with this Robin-Williams-in-Jumanji-esque approach to consumption, I haven’t felt full once. Like I’ve been satisfied-ish, but not full full. Not Ribs and Rumps, Grill’d burger and chips, or Guzman burrito with all optional trimmings full. That’s the full I’m used to, but even now when I sit here and consider the sheer weight of those meals, I sortof feel queasy (maybe I’m starting to adapt physiologically already?!).
So the last 7 days - challenging. Heaps of veges, mainly carrots and celery, heaps of greens, a smidge of beetroot here and there (which tends to make my wee go a funny colour which is unnerving… I’m going pretty easy on the beets). Lots of tofu, which I actually don’t mind. Smoothies are a great way of using tastes you like to disguise tastes you hate (which is unfortunately most of the stuff that’s really good for you).
I’m on the same supplements I was on - these being fish oil and a daily multivitamin. I know, fish oil is an animal product and counterintuitive to vegan culture, but it’s too important for my health to completely pause while I try and find vegetables and grains with enough long-chain Omega-3 to allow me to stop taking it. “BUT HOW CAN YOU CLAIM TO BE VEGAN??! DON’T YOU REALISE YOU’RE EATING AN ANIMAL PRODUCT YOU DICKHEAD?!” Oi. I know but I don’t care. I’ve gone from 0-100kmh in like half a second on this whole thing, and I can’t afford to justify compromising my health as swiftly and brutally as I’ve compromised my tastebuds. And besides yes I do know, thanks.
Oat milk in my Weetbix. That’s been one of the big adjustments. I eat a lot of weetbix, enough that I’m at a stage of appreciation where I just run them plain with milk. 8-12 in a sitting, no banana or syrup, nothing fancy. I need no garnishes to have a fucken great time eating Weetbix. But the oat milk has been challenging. I chose it in Woolies over its other non-dairy rivals (almond, rice, soy) because it has more protein and less sugar, and also ‘oat’ sounds more breakfasty than rice. I also simply can’t stomach the heinous flavour of any of the other varieties mentioned. The first bowl went ok, but the flavour of oat milk seems to be catching up with me now too. I’m good til I get about halfway, at which point any delicious flakiness the Weetbix once had is gone, and all I can taste is warm oat milk. Etch.
In the past week I’ve also had the first few occasions where I’ve been publicly restricted from eating. I had a big group dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, where I thought there would be enough people that I might get away without saying a word about it, and just subtly be picky with what I ate. I had also eaten a bit at home so I wouldn’t actually be that hungry in case there was nothing decent. Turns out the numbers were a fraction too small for my awkward plan of hiding newfound veganism. Not being hungry also wasn’t enough of an excuse for a couple of my closest friends, who watched me decline the waiter his offer of some fucking A-grade crispy pork belly. These people know me well enough to be familiar with my affinity for pork belly, and so immediately (and loudly) enquired why I wasn’t eating it. Maybe it was just lots of pre-dinner wine but they were borderline upset. Like in saying no I had personally wronged them, I had committed some crime and they wanted fucking retribution.
Trying to explain all this to my friends was always going to be a challenge. Having 11 of them round on me sitting together at a table in a Vietnamese restaurant, concentrating hard on my answers to their questions, all with far too much wine bolstering the confidence of their rebuttals, this challenge was exacerbated. So I pussied out, and just said “oh I’ve just had a lot of meat today, I just feel like veges for dinner”. Another friend thankfully arrived right on cue to diffuse the sudden tension at the table. I copped more than a few weird looks over the rest of the dinner but I was quietly glad to have escaped what was shaping up to be a thorough interrogation, without having needed to explain the full extent of what I was doing. It struck me that keeping my head down as I journey through this, only logging my experiences here like a personal diary, is hopefully going to be an asset.
(WARNING: VEGAN RANT IMMINENT, MAY IRRITATE SOME/ALL READERS.) I think that my reasons for being vegan should be everyone’s reasons for being vegan, animal rights advocate or not. We all live on this planet, and it’s wellbeing dictates our own. I don’t understand people who are unconscious of the terrifying fragility of our environmental predicament. We have as much of a vested interest in sustaining the environment as any animal: we face extinction if we don’t look after it properly. Duh. So with this (let’s face it, pretty fucking basic) common sense in mind, being vegan is in my opinion a small sacrifice to make, to give a big per capita contribution towards bio-stewardship.
It’s struck me that this is where the brakes are on vegan culture, and why more people aren’t doing it. It’s like anything non-mainstream - if you push it too hard on non-participants, they’ll more often than not just write it off as crazy, and completely close themselves to any actual discussion about it. Drugs, alternative medicines, politics - get in someone’s face too aggressively with obscure information and you can forget it going beyond the cartilage of their earlobes.
It’s therefore dawned on me that I’m much better off keeping quiet. I’m better off just bloody doing it, recounting, reflecting and learning solely on my own time. Chewing peoples ears off about what I’m doing and why they should be doing it too is only going to demotivate them and fuck them off. And anyway, it’s a personal choice. I like our democratic systems but I also advocate the benefits of socialist fundamentals - let people sort their own shit out and for the most part life will run pretty smoothly. So I’m not going to push this on anyone. I’ll sleep better knowing that what I’m doing is making a difference, and frankly that’s all I care about.
This way as well, if and when the vegan conversation arises in the future, I’ll have something to back my contributions to the debate. Currently, as far as everyone else knows, I am the vegan antichrist. Too many people have seen me eat too many steaks to believe that I could ever be vegan. But this is secretly a good thing, the secret, because if I can do it, anyone can. Hopefully this will be a much more hard-hitting and relevant tool to educate others on the ability to live a vegan lifestyle, rather than standing outside Maccas in hemp clothing with a banner screaming about what cattle do to the environment.
So one week down. I must admit it was easier than I thought it would be, but I entered into it seriously pessimistic. And it can only get easier from here, right? Maybe not… Fuck.