So, this is my very first post. Enjoy!
On the 1st of January 2016 I set myself the task of becoming completely vegan for one full month. The experiment was simply to have an experience of the lifestyle and to note all the ups, downs, benefits and drawbacks of this particular and let’s face it controversial way of life.
Just a small disclaimer, I did not attempt this experiment out of any kind of ethical reasoning, nor did I start it for any sort of health benefits and it most certainly was not a ‘diet’ of any kind. The purpose was just to get a reasonable cross section of the vegan lifestyle within a small period of time. That’s it!
The first thing I did was set myself out a meal plan. Adjusting to a vegan diet wasn’t that difficult, I was already an avid drinker of almond milk over cows milk and I rarely if ever touched dairy past the odd bit of cottage cheese or occasional pizza. I knew I had to get correct amounts of protein, carbohydrates and good fats and while this wasn’t rocket science hard, trying to make up the protein was a little tricky at first because it couldn’t just be any old guff under the protein banner as all protein sources are not equal, or I should say are not complete. Let me explain…
Protein is made up of amino acids and the body can synthesise amino acids quite well apart from 9 of them. These are called the “Essential amino acids” and must be supplied through diet (the proper use of the word as a nutrition plan, not the magazine weight loss crap!). Protein can come in two forms: ‘Complete’ meaning that they contain all the essential amino acids or ‘incomplete’ meaning they contain only some. Animal meat/eggs are always a complete source of protein so to non-vegans/vegetarians this isn’t a problem. but for the rest it can pose a bit of an health issue if this isn’t researched right. In order for the body to get all it’s amino acids to form complete proteins which the body needs for repair and growth it’s required that two correct types of incomplete protein are consumed together to form a complete source source…and this is where people tend to slip up. Looking at a packet and seeing the word ‘protein’ isn’t enough. You must know what type of protein it is, lest you become deficient in a specific type of amino acid(s) by not eating it with another protein which contains the other amino acids missing from the first source. A good example of this is peanut butter on a slice of wholemeal bread. The incomplete nut protein and protein from the grain compete the essential amino acid compliment to provide all that is needed.
After my research into protein types I was still faced with the problem of not getting enough from whole food diet alone. The problem being that unlike animal sources which are almost pure protein, plant based sources whether complete or incomplete unfortunately come with almost equal or more amounts of carbohydrate or fat. To get enough protein for the day it would send the carbohydrate or fat amount through the roof, so I decided on advice from another vegan chum to supplement in the form of vegan friendly hemp, pea and brown rice protein powder. This allowed me to easily balance my macronutrients (how much of protein, carbs or fat I needed for the day) and while not the best mixing protein powder I’ve ever had (and sweetened with some dodgy sucralose) it nevertheless gave me a tasty excuse for a bit of a chocolate (almond) milkshake in the morning with my oats and walnuts and one in the afternoon which had the added side effect of curbing my horrendous sweet tooth!
Vitamin supplementation is also key on a vegan diet as most notably B vitamin deficiencies such as B12 which are commonly found in egg yolks are commonplace among the unprepared.
After I made my meal plan and encountered a small faux pas with a block of tofu which caused much hilarity amongst my friends, I can honestly say that there is next to no inconvenience in adopting a vegan based diet. My meal plan took about 10 minutes to work out, so don’t let anyone, including yourself fool you. Becoming a vegan (food wise anyway) is not any kind of a hassle, in fact it’s so ridiculously easy that there really is no excuse if you want to make that your lifestyle, otherwise you are kidding yourself and are probably a boring shit who says they want to be vegan to look interesting but won’t give up the steak.
The biggest obstacle (if you can call it that) was eating or in my case drinking out. There are a few vegan places in Glasgow that I knew off hand which was cool but I didn’t want to keep going to the same pubs and cafes every time I went out although it looked like I’d maybe have to. Cue a trip to Glasgow’s premier vegan and vegetarian pub (as well as cult gig shrine and home to Devil’s Own recording studio) the 13th Note cafe. Thirty seconds in the door and I discovered a vegan beer list sat on the bar which pretty much gave me all the information I needed for the night and I was surprised, nay shocked to find local pishwater Tennent’s lager on the list. Other surprises included American atrocities like Budweiser being vegan cool as well, which for an absolute beer philistine and general all round cretin like myself was sheer honey on the toast (and meant I could still frequent my old watering holes if I so desired). The weight was fully lifted with the introduction of Barnivore.com by a friend. Barnivore is an online database of just about every type of booze there is and it will tell you within second whether it is vegan friendly or not so after some quick finger thumping on the old dug and bone I was delighted to find out all my regular tipples, mixers and other elixirs which generally make me an unbearable cunt on a night out were all 100% free of any animal matter.
Being a vegan goes beyond just changing your diet, and although that was a massive part, it’s very much a complete lifestyle. You have to be very careful of animal products in just about everything, not just food. For example near the end of my month I went to a gig wearing my old biker leather jacket, not even giving it a second thought, but that would for all intents and purposes have broken my vegan streak clean in half. Of course being the sensitive, caring (and cheap) man that I am, my jacket as it turns out is made from fake leather, so my two seconds of panic were unjustified but still an uneasy reminder that the brain must be on at all times, which for anyone who knows me is rather a lot to ask!
Easy or not, it’s nice to have a bit of help from friends, and I have some pretty cool friends it must be said. I knew I was going to be put through the banter wringer for this project but that’s just how we roll in Glasgow. However once the jokes, vegan memes and being barred from local pubs etc. calmed down I started to get a lot of help from people. Interestingly enough, the most support I had was from my non-vegan friends who would send me recipes, vegan tips videos or just general things that they thought that I might be interested in that was related to the project.
Now we get to the bit that may be mildly unpleasant. The vegan movement is for the most part ok, but you cannot ignore the fact that it’s still heavily loaded with aggressive and judgemental types who love nothing more than to lecture someone, cause upset and get into a verbal fight. Near the beginning of my research I joined a random vegan forum and things started off ok but after explaining my project some people started to become deeply offended. Apparently I was “disrespectful” “a fake” and one person even said “you can’t be in it just for a month”. After some more abuse I grew weary and deleted my account on the forum but it did offer an insight in to the way ‘some’ vegans must think.
To my mind, if I was active in a particular movement and someone came to me saying they were going to try out my lifestyle then I would be overjoyed and would heartily encourage such a move. Surely it’s better to encourage and inform rather than to belittle and insult? Apparently not, and the general message that I got from these people was that veganism is an exclusive and elitist club. A club that is not interested in acquiring new members or even changing opinions but serves only as an excuse for people to be shite to other people.
Of course this is crap, there are lovely vegans out there, but let’s not pretend that the other kind doesn’t exist. If however, you are a nice vegan who is active in the movement then don’t defend your shit stirring counterparts simply because you share a label that says your ethics are somewhat similar.
So on the 30th of January I sat down to my last vegan meal which was a pretty stinking Seitan burger from 13th Note light pub Mono (located pretty much across the road from said Note). Chewing the 3 day old batter off a deep fried tramp bell would have been more appealing, but the chips were good and that as they say was that.
It would have been a little disrespectful I think if I had done my month and not even considered a full turn to veganism if it so agreed with me, and I did say that if I liked it then I would stick to it. In the bigger scheme of things though, a month is practically nothing. Perhaps six months would have been a better experiment, but for the sake of curiosity and experience it was entirely adequate and quite a nice stepping stone if you are considering the the big turn. As it turns out, I decided not to continue with the lifestyle as hand on heart it just wasn’t for me, but there are lots of things I have learned and have taken away from my month. I now use and prefer vegan blend protein powder over whey, I have increased my nut and seed consumption (chia is ace!) and there are many many alternatives to flat out meat which I find rather tasty and would happily have on a regular basis. So, while I may not be ditching the flesh for good, I’m certainly reducing the amount I consume which for my wallet and more importantly, for the animal is probably a good thing.
Giving up bacon was never an option though.
Swings and roundabouts!