In this four-part series, Naa Ako-Adjei documents a month of eating vegan, including recipes, restaurant write-ups, and product reviews. Read previous installments: Week One, Week Two, and Week Three.
When my monthlong experiment as a vegan ended, I decided to quietly reflect on what I had learned while eating a pulled pork sandwich. I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t learned anything. OK, just kidding. I still haven’t eaten meat or dairy even though the month is over. And I did learn a few things, although nothing of Proustian profundity, so don't expect anything too insightful.
First, no matter what Alicia Silverstone says about how healthy veganism is, a vegan diet can be as unhealthy as any other — fries, tortilla chips, soda, and Oreos are vegan. This may explain why Alec Baldwin has managed to stay pleasantly plump even after becoming a vegan.
Second, once you become a vegan, most of your friends and family will try to avoid you like they would a date with a cold sore. If people are still willing to hang out with you, make sure that you pick restaurants that vegans and non-vegans can enjoy. Also, seriously think about bringing a vegan dish to dinner parties because most households don‘t stock soy cheese. As for whether I think there are any health benefits to becoming a vegan, the answer is a little more complicated than I anticipated it would be before I started.
Before I started my vegan diet, I read reams of testimonials about people who became more focused, lowered their cholesterol, rid themselves of chronic headaches, and slept better almost immediately after becoming vegans (see the reading list below). From what they wrote, you would think veganism had the curative powers of penicillin. Some writers were so fanatical about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, they ended up sounding nuttier than Mel Gibson.
But after a month as a vegan, nothing really changed for me. I wasn’t sleeping any better, I still got migraines, and I didn’t feel an increase in my mental acuity. Clearly, there is something wrong with me because I seem to be the only vegan who has not aged backwards or grown exponentially smarter on this diet.
As for my cholesterol, don’t ask me if my numbers improved because I have no idea what they were before I started. During my last physical my doctor didn‘t tell me to expect imminent death so I assume that means that my overall health was good before I adopted a vegan diet.
The only significant change I’ve noticed since becoming a vegan is that I lost weight. The fact that I lost weight is shocking considering I am the only one I know who managed to gain weight after I had my wisdom teeth removed. In case you wanted to know, my starting weight: none of your business. My end weight: still none of your business, but 10 pounds lighter.
But what everyone really seems to want to know is if I cheated during my month as a vegan. The answer is yes and twice. I drank wine when I had dinner at a friend‘s house and sparkling wine at a party. Each time I thought I would feel guilty for the slipup, but I was able to convince myself that because I refrained from gorging on Manchego or eating a plateful of cookies, that my relapses weren’t that awful. I know that these are the kind of ethical gymnastics that land politicians in jail, but the liquid temptation was too much to resist.
Even though my experiment as a vegan is officially over, I still haven’t eaten any animal-based products. After more than a month as a vegan, I’ve grown accustomed to almond milk, curries without meat, and, honestly, the vain part of me likes the weight loss. But I know that I won’t last much longer as a vegan because given the choice between slimmed down thighs and a lifetime without cheese, my vanity doesn’t stand a chance against my appetite.
Going Vegan Reading List
• Going Vegan, The Associated Press,
• Trendy Dieting, by Grace Dickinson, The Temple News Online
• V for Vegan, by Kathy Freston, Los Angeles Confidential
• Why Vegan?, by Steve Pavlina, Stevepavlina.com
• Part-Time Vegetarians, by Karen Springen, Newsweek
• Vegan in Vogue: Doctors, Celebrities, West Michigan Residents Tout Health Benefits of Eating Meat & Dairy-Free, Sue Stauffacher, The Grand Rapids Press