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One Small Change

7 Lessons from 2 Weeks as a Vegan

Pizza with soy cheese. Doesn't look half bad, right?

I’ve been vegan now for 13 days, 7 hours and 14 minutes. But who’s counting? On a business trip last week, my host took me to the best steakhouse in town. He ordered the Porterhouse while I had to settle for the penne pasta with cherry tomatoes. Instead of a sports jacket, I felt like I should have been wearing a skirt. And at a local street fair last weekend, I stood around enjoying the aroma of barbecued ribs for nearly 10 minutes. (Tell me, is inhaling the scent of meat also against vegan values?) But I’m still determined to make it through the month (read why I'm doing it). In case you’re also experimenting with veganism or are considering it, here are seven important things I’ve learned so far:

1. All vegans are not alike. Unlike Harley riders and Teamsters, there doesn’t appear to be a strong brotherhood among vegans. I’m guessing that’s because there are so many different types. There are those who avoid meat, fish and dairy, plus clothing, furnishings, cosmetics and anything else made from living creatures. Then there are those, like myself, who follow the diet but enjoy the hell out of leather. To further complicate things, there are those who don’t eat meat or fish but consume dairy (lacto vegans) or eggs (ovo vegans). Combine the two, and you get a lacto-ovo vegan. There are also raw vegans who won’t heat their food beyond 115 degrees F. (Hot-plate no-no vegans?)

2. This diet takes an awful lot of work. Now I know why so many vegans seem to be young and unemployed. This diet is a full-time job. It takes effort to meal plan, effort to shop, effort to balance nutrients, effort to cook, even effort to chew and digest. But on the positive side, this gets you thinking about every single thing you put in your shopping cart and your mouth, which is a great lesson for everyone—even if you have no interest in going vegan. (Click here for another way to become a more mindful eater that doesn’t involve going vegan.)

3. Cheese-less pizza becomes your default food. Couldn’t get to the supermarket? Order a cheese-less pizza. No time to cook? Call for a cheese-less pizza. Out of oatmeal for breakfast? Nuke some leftover cheese-less pizza. Despite how bland it sounds, if you load a whole-wheat crust with extra tomato sauce and lots of veggies, it can be almost as tasty as the real thing. Plus, some pizzerias will make your pie with soy cheese or Daiya (DaiyaFoods.com) Mozza- or Cheddar-style cheese substitute, which is derived from tapioca.

4. Vegans can be very unhealthy people. Believe it or not, Oreos, Twizzlers, Cocoa Puffs, Frosted Flakes, Cracker Jacks, Kool-Aid, and even French Fries and donuts (if made without animal fat) are all vegan. My personal favorite—and something I’m willing to defend like a junkyard dog at this stage of the experiment—is Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos. They’re the only Doritos chips made without cheese. For an extensive list of vegan junk food, click here.

5. It’s tough to say ‘I’m vegan.’ Maybe it’s just my misguided male ego, but I found it embarrassing to preface my dietary questions to waiters, bakers and party hostesses with this definitive statement. I mean, it’s not like saying “I’m a veteran.” Rather than commanding instant respect, I’ve found it tends to put people on the defensive, to expect hassle. So I often wimp out and say things like, “My wife is vegan, so can you tell me if this bread is made with honey?” But I’m working on it.

6. Expect to be hungry 24/7. Even though the amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, bolts and other vegan-friendly foods you ingest is mountainous, about an hour or so after eating I’m usually hungry again. I guess this makes sense. In the ultimate gesture of compassion toward enslaved livestock, vegans have transferred the feedbag to themselves.

7. Don’t expect your pets to treat you any differently. My two Jack Russells, Guinness and Bailey, have been unimpressed by my newfound affinity with their comrades in farms. They aren’t listening to me any better and, in fact,appear visibly disappointed that their table scraps now consist of tofu and couscous. And because of how loudly my stomach has been growling, I think they suspect another dog is living in the house.

Hey, are those pork chops I smell?

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Nutrients, Health, Cooking, Fat, Food