I was always told that a VEGAN diet is a HEALTHY diet, but recently I learned that the two don't always go hand in hand. I tried a vegan diet for one week in Ecuador, and this video shares what I learned through the experience. While there are many ethical, societal, and humanitarian reasons to go vegan (which I'd never try and convince you otherwise), I learned that a vegan diet can be as unhealthy (or worse) than a non-vegan diet. You can also watch and share this video on Facebook and YouTube.
I'm a big fan of doing challenges to get out of my comfort zone and push myself past my limits. (Remember my 100k Jump Rope Challenge from earlier this year?) That's why, when the thought crossed my mind a few months ago about whether or not I could ever go vegan, I didn't hesitate to issue myself a challenge. Normally, I like doing 30 day challenges, but my friend Liz was living with me in Quito Ecuador at the time, and I wanted her to participate with me. I knew I could never get her to agree to a month long vegan challenge, so we settled on a week, and she agreed, albeit kicking and screaming the whole time.
Well, actually, she didn't agree right away. It took some negotiation. I needed her to decide by the end of the day if she was going to do the challenge with me (because I was starting the next day), so I leveraged my social network into bullying her. She said that if I could get 50 Likes on Facebook by the end of the day, that she would go vegan with me for one week, so I took things way too far (as usual) and created a special page called Help Liz Go Vegan For A Week. Then I boosted the first post for $40. Ready to see the results?
By the end of the day, over 4700 people had Liked the post! My bullying tactics worked. (Luckily for me, Liz is a long time friend and a good sport, so she's used to my “over-the-topness” and wasn't upset with me for the stunt.)
That evening, we went to the grocery store and loaded up on vegan supplies.
We documented our journey throughout the week with a few videos on that Facebook page, but the day-to-day is pretty boring, so let me give you the cliffnotes below.
What it was like eating vegan for a week
- I never actually missed meat. Granted, it was only a week, and maybe things would've changed if I had gone a month, but I never once craved meat. I have weird eating habits anyway, and I typically only eat meat once a day during my main meal, but I was surprised that I never got a single craving for meat during the week.
- Cooking is not something that I enjoy. Once in a while, I go on a baking bender, like the time I baked brownies with Gema for 30 days in a row to perfect the recipe, or when my buddy Scott and I went on a casserole marathon for a few months. But in general, I don't enjoy cooking, and I eat out every day. So having to prepare more meals at home wasn't fun for me.
- Liz hated it more than me. Liz has a “normal” eating schedule, and like most people, if she doesn't eat, she gets hungry (and sometimes “hangry” which I quickly learned is a combination of hungry and cranky). I, on the other hand, forget to eat all the time, and sometimes don't eat my first meal until like 8pm or 9pm without thinking twice about it. Part of the challenge for me was being accountable to someone else's eating habits for the week. I felt obligated to not leave Liz hanging in the food department, since I had ultimately bullied her into doing the challenge with me.
- Everyone knew I was vegan. Somehow me being vegan found its way into every conversation, and I didn't like that, but when it came to eating at restaurants, I had no choice. “Does this sauce contain dairy? How do you cook your rice? Is this real cheese or vegan cheese?” I mean seriously, shut up Paul! (That's how I felt.) I've never had any sort of dietary restrictions, and I learned how difficult it is to eat at restaurants when you have to ask how they cook your food. My sympathies to anyone with a food allergy.
- Lots of junk food is vegan. This was the biggest takeaway I got from my week of vegan. I've never given a vegan diet much thought before. I had just always been told that vegan diets were healthy – but that's not always the case. Vegan diets can be healthier, but that's not guaranteed. Much depends on what you actually eat. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are definitely vegan, but so are potato chips, cotton candy, and many fried foods.
Would I go vegan for longer than a week?
I can't imagine going completely vegan again in the foreseeable future, especially while I'm traveling. Like I mentioned in the video, I like the healthy balance I've created in my life in regards to my diet. But I'd never rule out a vegan lifestyle completely. I'd just want a little more of a stable life before attempting the diet again though (like a house with a kitchen, local vegan restaurants and grocery stores to frequent, etc). Plus I'm heading to Argentina next week, and you're out of your fucking mind if you don't think that I'm going to be eating some of their world famous steaks!
What are your thoughts on veganism?
While I can agree that the meat industry does raise ethical and sustainability concerns, I don't agree that everyone going meatless is the only way to solve those problems. However, this video wasn't about whether or not veganism is right or wrong, but rather my surprising discovery that not all vegan diets are healthy ones. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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