Last week I participated in San Diego Veg Week. No, not the vegging you do around the house… lying on the couch for a week watching movies; although, that sounds awesome. The kind of veg week we are talking involves a lifestyle change in eating habits for just 7 days.
The “veg pledge,” as it has be fondly referred to, finished it’s 3rd year with over 1,600 participants, up from 700 in 2010. When you sign up you indicate your veg pledge level, your current veg level and what issues prompted your pledge. I consider myself to be partly vegetarian already (eating only a little meat, cheese, eggs per week) and committed to the week as a vegetarian, with a personal pledge to attempt to eat at least 50% vegan.
“Vegan?” you say, “That’s hard.” Well that is what I set out to understand. How hard is it really? For me, an ordinary vegetarian lifestyle that includes dairy, eggs, and animal by-products, seemed easy. Often people who attempt a meatless diet fall back on cheese and dairy. Subtract the dairy, egg, honey and other animal by-products and most people freak out. I’m hear to tell you my story.
My personal concerns around attempting this diet were both for health benefits and environmental concerns. Animal cruelty is sad, and I know it happens. I haven’t seen Food, Inc., but I get it. I feel like taking on veganism by addressing concerns about the environment saves two birds by holding back one stone. It is statistics such as the following that tug at my heart and gut in imagining the future for my son:
- Livestock use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface
- Seafood world-wide may run out by 2050
- Switching to a vegetarian diet from the average American diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions as driving 8,000 miles per year
This stuff terrifies me and I know that global change must come from more than an individual, but I still feel that a little change is better than none.
So with these notions in mind, I set out to be immersed in a culture for a week that included everything from entertaining sideways glances of intolerance to secret looks of approval, and self-education to sharing results with others. Here are a few highlights about my experience:
- Whole foods, not the store, are the life blood of a vegan. Knowing what goes into your food and eliminating the varieties of chemical compounds that make up many foods is something I can get behind.
- Avocado is essential for vegan sushi. I love me some sushi but I think I just love avocado, the salty goodness of soy sauce and seaweed salad more than the fish.
- Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Cookies. The chocolate chip variety are my favorite. Yum!
- Larabars. Made of only unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices. Each flavor contains no more than nine ingredients. Simple and so good.
- It’s possible to take veganism to the extreme by eliminating animal by-products used in the process of creating food. Some examples I found, you wouldn’t be able to eat at all unless you made the food yourself.
- Barnivore, an awesome vegan drinking resource. Its fairly comprehensive listings include whether a brewery/company is vegan friendly or has some options for vegans.
- Resources galore are available for anyone attempting to try this lifestyle change. Here are some that I enjoyed: VegWeb, Choose Veg and Veg San Diego
Now that the official San Diego Veg Week is done, my husband asks, “What are you going to do now?” And my response is that I will do what feels right. Everybody’s body is different. To me, the diet change was cleansing and gave me energy, but others, I heard were rolling on the floor in hunger. Meat and dairy sit heavily in my stomach while nuts and plants seem to be the right fill. I will try to maintain a fairly vegetarian (even vegan diet) with the occasional meat or cheese thrown in there. I feel it is the best I can do for myself and the environment we live in.