Veganism is the practice of living a lifestyle that uses no animal products. There are varying shades of veganism from people who are extremely activist and believe all use of animals for everything should be banned through to the other end of the spectrum of people who won’t use any animal products in their diet when they are at home, but do not seek to insist that others (friends, family, restaurants) accommodate their needs. Within that there are various shades from people who won’t eat anything that is an obvious animal product, e.g. cheese, to those who are obsessive packet readers who won’t use any product that has sugar in it because the sugar is likely processed using bone char.
For a period of about three months I have been experimenting with veganism. Early on I made the decision that I was not going to be the activist obsessive packet reader. It was to be an entirely personal experiment to see if it worked for me. Even within my experiment I did not stick to it with religious fervour. I allowed some deviation at weekends and when I was out and about.
The first thing that struck me was how genuinely easy it was in the initial stages. Honestly I thought I would be craving meat, cheese, eggs, milk, chocolate, and all the things I love to eat. Not so. In the first few weeks I stayed away from the “vegan alternatives” to the traditional ingredients and stuck to whole foods. Vegetables, nuts, rice and replaced milk in tea with Soy milk.
After reading a number of blogs and consulting the university of YouTube as well as talking with the one friend I have who is vegan, I got myself a B12 supplement and some national yeast and I was all set.
The transition was easy and for about a month it was totally fine. I missed cheese a little, did not miss meat at all which really surprised me. I did start to crave milk though. A little background is needed here. I’m Irish. Having milk with your meal is the done thing in Ireland and it has been forever. It was drilled into me as a child. To an Irish person there is nothing more refreshing than freezing cold milk. I did not, at any time in my vegan experiment, find an alternative that worked for me. I tried all of the milk substitutes, oat, hemp, rice, soy, almond…the list was endless. None of them stood up to the taste test when drank on their own.
All was not lost. I resolved to having Tea with my meals, the only acceptable alternative in Ireland. As with the milk, a love of tea is bate into us in childhood. I’ve been drinking tea since I was probably four years old.
As I moved into month two and on into month three, things started to go downhill. The energy that is often ascribed to being a benefit of a plant based diet was not forthcoming. In fact the opposite was true. I had no energy, really had to fight to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve never been a spring up and go sort of guy but generally one press of the snooze button is enough. It got to the point however where I was still lying in bed an hour after the alarm went off trying to dream up a plausible reason to go back to sleep.
My health wasn’t going well either. I hadn’t lost the weight that every blog and Youtuber you meet says you will lose when you make the transition. My weight stayed basically constant throughout. Due to the lack of energy I wasn’t exercising with my normal vigour. I was still cycling to work every day, because that’s what I do, but it wasn’t anything you could call training. My stomach became irritable. Frequent, often fairly urgent, trips to the bathroom became the norm. Sorry, TMI, I know.
My mood suffered as well. Again, I can be inclined to get a bit morose in the winter but a spin on the bike or a bit of sunshine at the weekend usually sorts me out. Not so this winter. Low motivation. No vigour. I was grumpy and unhappy all the time.
After three months I called a halt and went back to my normal eating habits about a week ago. All of the issues above have resolved. My mood is lifted, my energy has returned and I’m no longer walking around like I’m stuck in an exceptionally depressing Leonard Cohen album.
Ed Rating: 6/10
I am glad I tried the experiment. Veganism isn’t for me. I could put up with the restricted diet if it did not have the negative side effects I experienced. I took some positives away from it. Overnight Oats with soy milk are delicious. Scrambled Tofu is awesome. Soy cream with onions, mushrooms, pepper and pasta is divine. I have also become keenly aware how I can do without meat for extended periods without issue. It just wasn’t something I missed.
The reasons for going vegan are many and varied from ethical animal cruelty reasons, to environmental reasons, to health reasons, the environment and even religious beliefs. I admire and have a great respect for those who can sustain the lifestyle. Ethically it’s hard to defend doing anything else, from an environmental and an animal cruelty point of view it is the morally correct position to be in. Hats off to all the vegans out there who are making it work.