Still Ve.gan, af.ter all these months – 8 and counting

With a sprinkle of salt and pepper flakes

Still a vegan after 8 months, correction, still following a vegan diet. Why do I make the distinction? Well, I still think of this meatless, dairy-free, plant-focused diet as an experiment. Now, if I make it to the New Year, without giving in to temptations – I think I will have earned the right to call myself a vegan.

Full disclosure: I might not be the best spokesperson for causes that attract some to the vegan way. I do love animals but am not an animal rights activist. If I’m being honest, I don’t have a particular affinity for cows and pigs except for the ones in Animal Farm, and of course, Arnold the pig on Green Acres. What’s more, I have a fishing license and enjoy catching (and releasing) large mouth bass. Fishing is in my DNA. Though, in the main, I’m not a fan of animal cruelty on farms, and the thought of slaughterhouses is appalling. For the record, I don’t have a problem with scientists experimenting on lab mice in pursuit of medical knowledge. Nor do I have a particular problem with people who choose to eat meat. I also have to acknowledge that up until recently I had been a life-long meat eater and felt no shame or guilt whatsoever. It would be highly hypocritical for me to shame others for doing what I had been doing my whole life.

What I do have a problem with is the meat packing industry, especially now during the pandemic, as workers have been forced back to plants, at great risk of catching COVID-19 all because their jobs have been declared essential by an unfeeling and unhinged president who ignores science (unless it benefits him personally.) To my credit, I’ve been down on the meat packing industry ever since I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle back in college years ago. Similarly, I don’t support Big Agri with their profit over people AND the environment model. I find their tampering with genetics, use of pesticides and herbicides, and low standards for cleanliness, not to mention their giant carbon footprint, to be inexcusable. Read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring for some historical context on the dangers of toxic chemicals widely used today in homes and on farms and lawns. She was one of the first environmentalists and were she alive today, she’d be appalled by the growing anti-science movement.

And while I do want to reduce my carbon footprint and do my part to mitigate the affects of climate change, and while I enjoy being a part of a community of like-minded people, the main reason I am becoming a vegan is for my own health. It’s not that I was unhealthy before, but I did carry a few extra pounds that I could not shed in the normal course of being, and my cholesterol levels could have been better – they weren’t off the chart bad but still. As of this week, I can report with pride that after 8 months, I’ve dropped 12 pounds, my total cholesterol is down 14 points, my LDL number has dropped precipitously, and my HDL is up by nearly 20 points. And while my white blood cell count is down, apparently this is a thing peculiar to vegans, it’s still within the normal range. However, to maintain a normal count, I am going to begin taking a vegan friendly B-12 lozenge several times a week.

I’ve been tracking my food intake to ensure I get enough protein, and to monitor my intake of calories. I’m not disciplined enough to make or buy a constant supply of protein shakes and frequently run out of protein bars, so at times, I fall short of my daily target of 60 grams of protein. Getting enough protein has been one of the main challenges of the diet. But I usually can get close even without a shake, by eating bread, peanut butter, quinoa or rice, lentils, and other beans, fortified cereal, hemp hearts, tofu, yogurt and nuts. And I’m fortunate to have another vegan in the family who enjoys cooking vegan meals. I pitch in when I can be useful even if only to clean the pots and pans. Recent dishes have included soups, beet falafel, chili, pizza made with nan dough, vegetable stir fry, biscuits and white gravy with fake sausage, and veganized omelettes made from mung beans with onions and tomatoes.

To be honest, I continue to indulge my sweet tooth with vegan ice-cream (Ben and Jerry’s offerings always satisfy), Oreos (on rare occasions), vegan jelly beans (Jolly Ranchers are said to be vegan – no confectioners glaze), and Twizzlers – the Orange Cream Pop, oh my. And I’ve found a vegan bakery that makes pies to die for.

On the balance, I feel great. I have plenty of energy. I’m not constantly craving junk, despite my sweet tooth and love of chips. Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili are vegan, by the way. I don’t even crave beer or reach for the occasional glass of wine anymore. I’ve not had a drink in a month, unless you count Kombucha. About wine, I’ve had some trouble finding vegan friendly wines I like. Wait, you might ask, aren’t all wines vegan? It’s just grapes, sugar and some yeast, right? Well, not always. Some winemakers, most in fact, use animal products like fish bladders and egg whites as fining agents in the filtering process so that the wine doesn’t come out lumpy and crunchy. You want to drink, not eat wine. Fortunately, there are winemakers who produce unfiltered wine or use alternative fining agents that are considered vegan friendly. Natura, pictured below, is one such brand.

I’m just a few months away from calling myself a vegan. And when that moment comes, I’ll raise a vegan friendly glass. Cheers!

Vegan friendly unoaked Chardonnay from Chile

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