No pizza. At least, not the real thing.
One — if you’re lucky — choice on most restaurant menus, and even then it’s usually something lame, like a veggie wrap.
The feeling that, even when friends are nice enough to cook vegan food for you, you’re kind of being a pain in the ass.
Given all of this not-so-great stuff that comes with the choice not to eat animal products, it’s probably hard for people to understand how I can say, when my friends ask me how veganism is going, that it has been easy.
Incredibly, remarkably, astoundingly easy.
“Don’t you miss cheese?”
No. The reason I went vegan after two years of being vegetarian is that cheese stopped appealing to me, for the most part. I still ate it out of laziness and convenience (pizza, most often), but once I made the decision not to do that anymore, it’s been easy.
Twice I’ve ordered pizza without cheese. It’s not as good as it was with cheese, but it’s still good and it still fills me up. Does that count as “missing” cheese? I don’t think so. It’s not like I go through the day longingly wishing to have cheese back in my life.
The trick was phasing it out. After each of my previous vegan trials, I lost a little bit of the taste for dairy, and when I finally made this decision, dairy represented only a tiny portion of my diet.
“Isn’t it hard to get protein?”
If you’re looking for 40 grams of protein at each meal, then yes. But if you’re shooting for only 10-15% of your calories to come from protein, like I am, then it’s really not hard at all.
The fact is, most of the best vegetarian protein sources are vegan. So getting protein as a vegan isn’t so different from getting protein as a vegetarian; you’ve just got to replace the dairy and eggs with other forms of protein.
I’m lucky in that I didn’t eat eggs to begin with (they always smelled like gym socks to me). And as I mentioned above, I had mostly phased out dairy by the time I decided to go vegan. So getting enough protein didn’t pose any new challenges.
One thing I will admit is that as a vegan, I need to pay more attention than before to make sure I consume enough calories throughout the day, not necessarily protein. To help with this, I’ve added a whole wheat bagel with homemade raw almond butter and a touch of maple syrup to my morning routine, which packs in close to 600 calories on top of my breakfast smoothie.
“What do you do when you go out to eat?”
Eating dinner out used to be a big deal for me and my wife. We loved it. To spend a few hours and $200 at an Italian restaurant, with appetizers, main courses, desserts, a bottle of wine, and a cup of coffee or glass of port to top it all off was about as perfect a date as we could imagine.
We don’t have that any more, but for those exceedingly rare occasions when we travel to a city that has vegan options. And even then, the grandiosity of the meal is never the same.
And you know what? I’m glad about that. Consuming so many calories and so much wine that I can’t sleep, blowing that kind of money on a meal, and even making food the focus of our time together are things Erin and I happily do without now.
You know how monks and minimalists find satisfaction in giving up material things and earthly desires? Without trying to sound holier-than-thou, that’s the best way I can describe it.
A few more things people are curious about
- Not being able to eat honey is one of the more annoying parts of this. It’s in a surprising amount of foods (no barbecue potato chips for me at poker last night), and as much as I care about animals, I don’t feel too badly about taking honey from bees. But for now, I’m going along with the no-honey rule because it’s the vegan thing to do.
- Our one year-old son is not vegan. I’d like to write more about this someday, but for now you can check out this post to get a feel for our philosophy about raising him as a vegetarian. Example: The other day when we were in Philadelphia for the Broad Street Run, we stopped at an ice cream truck with our friends. I realized at this point that if my son were old enough to want an ice cream cone, it would break my heart to tell him he couldn’t ever have it because of a rule Mom and Dad made for him that he couldn’t really understand.
- Only once so far have I knowingly eaten something that wasn’t vegan (tzatsiki sauce on falafel). When I went vegan, I made the rule that I wouldn’t waste food that someone served to me that wasn’t vegan, and that’s what happened here. (For the record, I think the waiter who told me there was no dairy in the dish was high. No joke.)
- I eat bread and drink beers sometimes without checking if they’re vegan, if it’s not easy to check. If I know they aren’t vegan (like Guinness, for example), I don’t eat or drink them.
- I feel stronger physically than I did when I was vegetarian. But although I ran the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago, I haven’t put my body through any intense training recently. I’ve just started running hard again, for the first time in over a year, so a lot will be revealed in the next few weeks and months.
As you can see, I’m not yet a perfect vegan, if there is such a thing. But I’m thrilled with how it’s gone so far, and based on how I feel (both physically and emotionally), I have no doubts that this was absolutely the right decision for me at this point. I have a sense of satisfaction with my food choices that I honestly didn’t expect to feel, and that’s been awesome.
If you’re on the fence between vegetarian and vegan, then I hope this helps you just a bit. And of course, if you’ve got any questions about making the switch, just ask. 🙂
P.S. New Balance 890’s winner announcement coming this weekend!