30 Days of Veganism

Picture an ice cream sundae, smothered in gooey hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top; a slice of pepperoni pizza with golden, crisp crust and ribbons of melted cheese dripping from the edges; tender steak cooked just right; a baked potato on the side with all the fixings of butter, cheese, bacon bits and a dollop of sour cream. Whew! Sounds delicious, right? These are but a few dishes that a "normal" college student might enjoy, but not everyone can be so lucky, gastronomically speaking. A student who has chosen the vegan lifestyle is forced to be more creative in their quest for flavor and satisfaction. I'd fall into the "normal" category. What's a chocolate chip cookie without the milk? Or breakfast without an omelet (loaded with ham and cheese, of course). Vegans, however, choose to eat food containing no animal products whatsoever.

Two and a half months ago I started dating John. He called himself a vegan, while I just called him "difficult." I can't understand how he can take on the difficult task of consuming zero animal product. "Not eating animal products is not the difficult part," he told me. "Living in, and being questioned by a society full of animal product consumers is the difficult part."

As I learned more about vegan ideals from John, the more sense it made to me. There is the inherent health risks associated with consuming too much animal product (cholesterol being a hefty example) as well as concern regarding the mistreatment of animals by the food industry. Even now, as I write this, John is sitting next to me and finds it apropos to look up videos on YouTube exemplifying such mistreatment. Some horrific examples show sickly cows, violently pushed around by forklifts, pigs constrained to cages hardly bigger than their bodies, and hundreds of male roosters being piled into a trash bag, tied up inside and suffocated. Their lack of egg production is useless to the dairy farmers.

After hearing all this hoopla regarding veganism, I have decided to do a little experiment. For the next thirty days, I, the perpetual animal product consumer, will attempt an entirely vegan lifestyle.

This means that for the next thirty days I will consume no meat, eggs or milk, and I will not wear any clothing derived from animals (wool, leather, silk). I will document my new eating habits, brushes with temptations and whatever changes in my physiology that may occur. I will watch documentaries geared toward vegans and non-vegans about the food industry and its mistreatment of animals. I will order vegan items at "regular" restaurants, as well as vegan-friendly restaurants and find out if one can really find delicious cuisine that contains no animal products. Finally, I will speak to doctors, fellow vegans, and students like you to get their opinions on the subject.

Halfway through this experiment, I'll update all of you on how I'm holding up. After 30 days, I'll give you the run down on everything I've been through, and who knows? Maybe I'll be a convert for life.

In preparation for this month-long lifestyle change, I visited my general practitioner, Dr. Lesley Debrier. I had visited her a week before to have my blood drawn, and today we spoke about possible changes my body might go through. Dr. D told me that vegans often lack vitamin B12, which is found in dairy products, fish, meat or poultry. A deficiency in B12 can leave you feeling fatigued, and even lead to anemia. My blood work showed that my B12 was a little low to begin with, so she gave me a shot in my upper arm and that was that.

"Should I come in halfway through and do another work up?" I asked her. "Not unless you feel any significant changes in your body." Her calmness quelled my worries momentarily. However, in the next breath she warned me to watch out for weight gain. "If there's one thing vegans can eat, it's carbs." We bantered back and forth about vegan chocolate chip cookies and how they're so good, they're bad. I asked her medical opinion on eating vegan, and she said she's heard it both ways:

"I've seen studies that show we are not meant to eat a strictly vegan diet. Vegans have very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in plants. Too much omega-6 is inflammatory, and will cause inflammatory conditions such as acne or arthritis to worsen. It needs to be balanced out with omega-3, which is found mainly in fish. Vegans should take omega-3 supplements to aid this imbalance."

Dr. D also mentioned the importance of monitoring what we're putting into our body in relation to how we're feeling. "Eastern and naturopathic medicine look closely at vitamins and nutrition in relation to your health. Western Medicine doesn't." She added, "[An] understanding of nutrition is in its infancy in western medicine. Nutrition and vitamins are not taught in medical school here. Everything I learned about nutrition, I had to learn on my own."

With a clean bill of health and the go-ahead from Dr. D, on my last day of eating freedom, I will spend my last day of eating freedom by consuming an entire Chipotle burrito. Cheese. Chicken. Sour cream. More cheese. And after the videos John just showed me, this may be more difficult than I'd planned.

You can check out my progress every week at thecorsaironline.com, where I will also post vegan versions of your favorite recipes and vegan restaurant reviews. Happy (and humane) eating, everyone!