in which there is a feat of strength


I decided to take on what I’ve come to call The Vegan Experiment on a bit of a whim.

Out of a desire to live a heathly, low- environmental impact life, we don’t eat much meat, and we are careful to know where our animal products come from- one of the many reasons we use South Mountain Creamery’s delivery service. I want the ability to visit the site, see the animals, and know that nothing untoward is happening.

I do believe we are meant to eat meat, and some animal products; I buy into Michael Pollan’s, “Eat less, mostly plants,” motto. I just think we should eat very little meat, and that the meat we eat should be humanely raised and not full of chemical garbage. This means we eat almost no meat, but very high quality meat- the price alone keeps us from over-indulging.

Still, I felt like we were relying too heavily on eggs and cheese to get by. My need for goat cheese and labneh is epic and legendary; I put it in almost everything. I wanted a break from that reliance on the easy answer, a time I’d dedicated to really exploring non-animal options. As a lapsed vegetarian, I’m already ahead of the game, but veganism has always been beyond me. So on the first of May, I became a vegan for a month.

It turns out that with the exception of Maryland Sheep & Wool festival, it is pretty easy. (Oh, my god, those gyros smelled AMAZING.) The really challenging part is dealing with people’s reactions.

Folks tend to react one of three ways when they hear about my experiment.

1. The Dissuaders: this will kill me, it is unhealthy, have I read book X, I need to start taking ALL OF THE SUPPLEMENTS RIGHT NOW (if only they cold see my truly epic collection of meds and supplements for my MS alone!), I’m going to end up some weird PETA freak job by the end of the month, why am I wearing leather shoes, dammit?

There’s something scary to them about my taking this on- a fear I will make a different choice than they have, and somehow judge them. It is strange, and- if I am feeling grumpy- entertaining.

2. The Evangelicals: these folks want to talk about animal rights, and the purity of the body, and almost always, wheatgrass. Wheatgrass is gross, guys. Find a new talking point. These are the people who tell me that a month just isn’t long enough to truly experience the radiant inner peace that living a vegan lifestyle will bring. (That last statement is near verbatim from an Evangelical.) they talk about hummus as though it is going to change the world, and they scare me.

These folks also seem scared- this time scared that I won’t make their choices- again, back to judgement.

This isn’t about judgement, or being stronger than anyone else- this is about fun, and exploration, and learning. There are so many delicious things I just didn’t bother eating before, like edamame, and slow cooker lentil soups, and quinoa!

Then there are…

3. The Curious & Incredulous: they want to know how I feel, is the hype true, how do I do it, it must be just impossible, they could never do anything like this, what a weird thing to chose. Their war cry is definitely: BUT SARAH, THINK OF ALL THE BACON!

Then they usually ask me about my poo. No joke, they ask me about my poo. I do not want to talk at length (ha, ha) about my bowel movements with anyone but my doctor, thanks, but wow, these people really NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW HOW MY POO HAS CHANGED.

The incredulity strikes me as strange- hell, anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it, and this is a pretty minor step for someone like me: I love middle eastern food, Asian food, loads of low- meat/ no- meat cuisine. I actually love tofu when it is properly made- which a lot of people have never seen, based on their shuddery reactions to the word, “tofu”. This isn’t like running a marathon, it’s just food.

The “wow, that’s just impossible” attitude makes me sad: I feel we should always be giving ourselves Feats Of Strength and mini- challenges. It helps me grow, and gives my willpower/ self- discipline a good workout. I wish more people would do monthly Swear Jars, or things like that. (Remember my swear jar? So expensive.)

Next month, I will take on another Feat Of Strength- one I’ve failed at many, many times. I’m going to try and quit smoking, AGAIN, and hopefully for good. Who is with me? Nothing is impossible, especially with accountability and enough support. Shit, I made soy tzatziki today- quitting smoking should be a breeze. Who wants in?

  One thought on “in which there is a feat of strength

  1. Alicia Howard
    May 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I can’t imagine anyone asking you about your poo! (Funny story, in middle school I went to visit my Grandmother during the summer, every day she would ask if I had had a BM. I had NO IDEA what that was and just looked at her to try and figure out what answer she wanted!!! It was hysterical when I figured out what she was talking about!!!)

    I’m not sure how you withstood it at MDSW!!!! That’s some serious dedication.

    • May 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      Seriously, I’m amazed at how many times I’ve been asked about my poo. I’m just going to start giving honest answers and inquiring after their bowel health in return!

  2. Mel
    May 16, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Feats of strength, I love it.

    I get loads of questions about my diet at work because I’m always eating something that apparently seems weird. The dogma of any kind gets me… I’ve dabbled in raw to varying degrees as well, and I won’t even go there in discussion – I’m already smack dab between the people who think I’m about to join a cult of some sort and the people who are actually sort of cult-ish about it. I know it’s confusing that I don’t eat mammals or birds, but I occasionally eat fish and I’ve stopped eating dairy (again), but I do eat eggs. What I eat actually has nothing to do with anyone else, but everyone seems to take it personally. We’re all so self-centered!

    Good luck with the smoking challenge. You can totally do it (if you can give up goat cheese!!! You can do anything!!!)

    • May 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you, Mel! I’m having a lot of fun experimenting with this. I don’t see my adding much back in the way of eggs- I’ve never much liked them- but good yogurt will return, certainly. It looks as though we are opposites there. 🙂

  3. Radishcake
    May 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I love your joi de vivre! You are so curious and smart and I love the idea that life is a quest for knowledge and happiness. You inspire me in my daily reflections. Thanks and you can do it on the smoking. It’s wicked tough but so are you. Mwah!

    • May 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m really enjoying this. I hope you’re right about the smoking- I need that to be over.

  4. Heidi
    May 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I loved your post. There’s not enough research into nutritional treatment of chronic disease.

    It’s interesting (funny? sad?) that people would get so worked up because you’ve decided to try following a vegan diet. You didn’t call it a diet dictatorship or a diet manifesto — you called it a diet experiment. You even gave parameters and a time limit. That suggests a logical approach in which you’re planning to observe the results, continue if it helps you, and not continue if it doesn’t. I say, rock on! I hope it helps you.

    • May 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      Heidi, I completely agree. I’m really enjoying watching how folks react to this- it was a completely unexpected side benefit.

  5. May 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I’d like to join you with a challenge next month but I don’t smoke so I can’t do that one. I’ve been thinking of doing away with gluten for a bit. I have a friend who recently found out that her health issues were due to gluten intolerance and I’d like to feel a bit more of what she is going through. The changes she is having to make. So I think I will take on that challenge for June.

    • May 17, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Gluten free sounds interesting- you quit gluten, I’ll quit smoking, then?

  6. May 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Hmm, I’m not sure I fall into any of those categories. I’m like you, almost vegan except for a deep love for goat cheese. If offered meat as a guest at someone’s else, I’ll have some. I have friends who are vegan and friends who eat lots of meat. I try not to talk about food choices in public since I’m mostly gluten and dairy free, it freaks people out which I don’t get at all. Choose what makes you feel good, respect your body and other peoples choices, that’s what I say.

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