On the weekends, please enjoy the Retro Throwback where I share my favorite posts from some time ago. Vegan Challenge Day 4: Why Do This? was originally published in January 2013.
I had an interesting comment on Day 3 yesterday which was:
…I have one question – maybe I missed this – why vegan? Is cheese bad? I can see vegetarian and the meat stuff, but why vegan? It seems like a lot of work for no real benefit. Vegetarian makes sense, but vegan? Or is it just the challenge you like and not something it’s actually going to contribute to your health? Cheese is not going to cause your health to demise…
So first, why vegan? Well honestly it’s because I read about it on Facebook. The Triangle Vegetarian Society posted about it, and I thought it sounded like something worth trying. You can read more about how I initially got to this challenge by going to an earlier post. But I also love challenges. I love to find ways to push myself that I believe will be beneficial. I like to see that I can do something good for myself that I never even imagined I was capabale of. I think I might also like a good struggle.
Next, Is cheese bad? I don’t know. I am not the authority of if cheese is bad for us or not. I have read so much stuff, and seen so many documentaries, on vegetarianism, veganism, and the politics of food. However, I have not yet internalized it to a degree where I can present my understandings of everything I have encountered in a coherent way. I don’t know it well enough to explain it, but I know what I know well enough to make an informed decision for myself. Make sense? My general verdict is this: We really have no business or need to utilize cow’s milk. There’s no health benefit that we get from cow’s milk (or sheep’s milk or goat’s milk and so on…) that cannot be derived from a plant. In fact, if we are not careful there are negative benefits from eating products made from animal milk. Do you really want to eat cheese that comes from a cow whose been laced up with all kinds of hormones and God-Knows-What? And that’s just coming at it from a personal/health angle. I’m not even getting into the ethical issue. In case you haven’t noticed, but I’m sure you have, food is highly political. What gets subsidized and what doesn’t in the food industry comes down to politics.
I will tell you this: I know one thing about cheese – it is yummy. I do not however believe it is good for me to injest on a regular basis in large quantities. This is a decision I have made for myself based on my own research. It is up to you to make your own decision.
Next, It seems like a lot of work for no real benefit. Vegetarian makes sense, but vegan? It’s actually not that much work. It would have been difficult to go from meat and dairy eating to vegan. That might not have been a smart move. But going first to vegetarian, and having been there for about a year, and then to go vegan for 30 days hasn’t been that much work. It hasn’t been a cake walk these first four day. I have had to look old habits in the eye. It’s like going to Bikram and looking at yourself in the mirror. Eventually you start to see things that have to be dealt with. That’s coming up for me already in this challenge.
There is some extra work in that I am having to go back to reading labels a bit more closely. But I had to do that when I kicked high fructose corn syrup products out of the house. The first week I did that I spent about 90 minutes in the grocery store. Why? Changing a habit. Learning a new one. Takes time to get a handle on it all. I know that eventually all the extra work I am running into now will pass and I’ll get over that hump. So that’s ok. Don’t worry. I’m still going to bitch about it. I promise you won’t miss a thing.
I don’t know why vegan doesn’t make sense. Really, here’s what I had left in my diet that came from animals: cheese, butter, and eggs. I ate cheese by the truck load, used a lot of butter in my cooking, and pretty much just used eggs when I baked (which has become rare). I think there’s enough literature out there on why plant-based diets are awesome that being vegan makes more sense than not.
Finally, Or is it just the challenge you like and not something it’s actually going to contribute to your health? Cheese is not going to cause your health to demise… I do like a challenge! But I also believe it’s going to contribute to my health. There are plenty of examples of people who have become vegan and have improved their health, and there are athletes who are vegan (see Rich Roll, Scott Jurek, and Brendan Brazier) and perform extremely well. Cheese may not cause my health to go down the toilet, but that doesn’t mean it’s good to eat it. It’s like drinking a coke. I drank my one soda today (down to eight a week – woo-hoo!). That is not going to cause me harm. I could probably let myself drink one soda a day and no one would argue it was a terrible thing given the other aspects of my lifestyle, but we all know it’s not a good decision. It’s not doing me any good to drink the coke. At this point I am not committing to never eating dairy again for the rest of my life. What I am committed to doing is examining the role of dairy in my life and questionning it’s need to have a regular place in it. That’s what my 30 days are largely for.
To my reader who left the comment that inspired this post, thank you. I hope you are ok with me taking it apart and responding to it like this. It really got me thinking, and I thought it deserved some space.
Tonight’s dinner (and your resource for the day): Chana Masala from Smitten Kitchen. It is amazing. This is also tomorrow’s dinner. Makes enough for two nights unless you come home from Bikram and eat a ton, but then you can always make a bit more tomorrow to round it out. I was just really, really hungry!
Tomorrow: Mini Juice Fast. Let’s see how that one goes….