Why I Was Vegan and Why Now I’m Not.

As some of you know, I was vegan from May-ish until October-ish. While I ultimately decided that I enjoy turkey sandwiches and easy healthy food options too much to be vegan, I learned a lot from those 5 months.

For those of you who might not know, vegans avoid animal products, which, in addition to meat, include milk, cheese, butter, eggs, and for some folks, honey. Basically, vegans only eat the plant-life that the earth produces (or things that are made only from that plant life). The fact that I live in a Vegan-friendly area made this whole experiment a lot easier, too.

I’ll try to keep the hippie bullshit to a minimum, but I’m a little bit of a hippie sometimes, so it’s challenging. Also, standard “I just Google Things” disclaimer.

Why I Was Vegan Once And What I Learned

The theory behind Veganism & clean eating intrigues me for a number of reasons, mostly because a ton of cultures survived healthfully off the land without using animal products (or by using animal products sparsely). The earth provides what humans need in order to live; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t still be around. I appreciate the “back to our roots” approach to food. Eating vegan made me feel more like I was fueling & nourishing myself than just eating. It was kind of neat.

Ful, Kale, & Tomatoes

I read somewhere that our bodies more easily digest plant based items than meat based items, and when I was vegan, I definitely felt like I was getting a lot of bang for my buck, food wise (in terms of the amount of energy it gave me). I also read that it’s easier to digest and get nutrients from complete foods that grow right from the earth. Like. A grain of wheat has a ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that is very close to the exact ratio that our bodies require.

Chickpea-Barley Stew

I also read that our bodies need a lot less protein that we give them, especially in terms of concentrated protein (like meat). I read that in order to digest protein, a bit of carbohydrates need to be nearby. All vegan protein sources (that I can think of…) include at least a bit of carbohydrates, so that makes sense.

I also enjoyed being vegan because it encouraged me to pay more attention to food labels and ensure that I wasn’t eating foods without protein in it — some pieces of bread have 1 gram of protein, and some have 7 grams. If the majority of the carbohydrates are from sugars, I know my body will process that quickly and it won’t sustain me as well as a more fibrous/nutritionally dense item. Basically, since I was actively changing my eating habits, I started to pay more attention to exactly what it was that I was eating.

Ginger-Chili Tofu & Plantains

Instead of always having a meat, a vegetable, and a starch for dinner, which is essentially what I had been eating every night since I had teeth, veganism forced me to become more creative with my meals, and explore foods with which I wasn’t yet familiar. I did some cool stuff with tofu, decided that fake meat product is weird, and mostly just enjoyed experimenting with lentils & chickpeas. I used spices a LOT more, which was really fun. Since it’s actually easier to cook vegan food (if you over or undercook plant products, they just are weird, not gross and/or bad for you to eat), for some reason I allowed myself to get a lot more creative in the kitchen. Also, I started to look for more complex foods, like all those ancient grains and stuff, so had a nice time exploring wheat berries, kamut, and similar things. Basically, switching up the kind of food I ate encouraged  me to see what other kinds of food and other cooking methods were out there.

Purple & Orange Tofu & Soba Noodle Soup

And then as soon as I stopped being vegan, I had no idea how to cook anymore.

Plus, dishes were way easier to clean. Chickpeas just don’t leave that stuck on mess that hamburgers do.

Why I Am No Longer Vegan

Usually, I am in charge of my food, but when I was not (when traveling, when out to eat, when a dinner guest), it was VERY hard to find nutritious vegan options. Most vegetarian options contain cheese, and when the cheese is removed, most vegetarian options are lacking in sustenance. White pasta with vegetables on it can contain a fair number of calories, but all of those calories are from the white flour (read: simple, easily digested, not providing much long-term sustenance for the number of calories), and, well. There’s just not much lasting energy there. It was always hard to find a true vegan meal anywhere, and humus sandwiches, while delicious, got boring. I don’t feel like this paragraph is making much sense–the point of it is that it was challenging to find good food that I wanted to eat when I wasn’t cooking it. I became frustrated that veganism, which I see as a very natural and simple way to eat (everything is a plant. Plants are simple), was so hard to nutritionally execute outside of my kitchen. Being a vegan in public eating places made me hate America, basically.

I also realized that, since it was hard to get good vegan food outside of my kitchen, I was thinking about food a lot more than normal. I didn’t like that much.

But, I think that the main reason I stopped being vegan is quite simple: I wanted a turkey sandwich. When people ask why I’m not vegan anymore, this is my response, and they think it’s a joke. But it’s not a joke. I freaking love turkey sandwiches. I also love fried eggs. In fact, I just had a fried egg in a turkey sandwich for lunch. It was great.

How I Eat Now

Now, my life isn’t all turkey sandwiches and fried eggs — I do continue to eat a lot of the same things that I did when I was vegan. I love lentils & good grains, and right now I continue to prefer soy milk (unsweetened) over regular milk. But if I want to cook chicken, I cook chicken. When I go out to eat, I get what is most appealing, not what is most lacking in animal products.

And no, I didn’t “miss cheese” or “long for steak” or whatever — I wasn’t hungry.  My body was operating really well. I felt great. After 5 months, I wanted a turkey sandwich. I wouldn’t eat one, because it wasn’t vegan, so I started eating other things to try to fill that turkey sandwich craving (like a lot of granola and dark chocolate). I wasn’t really eating so healthfully anymore. So it was time for another change.

My stint as a vegan made me more aware of the nutritional bang for caloric bucks I consume. I don’t want to eat things that aren’t nutritionally complex. I want foods without nutrition information on them (read: produce/bulk things), and if there is nutrition information on something I eat, I want there to be at least a little bit of fat, carbs, protein, and fiber. Everything that grows requires each of those things, so I should eat them together.

Essentially, I’m glad I was a vegan because I learned a lot. I’m also glad I’m not anymore. Plus, it’s tough to say, “I’m a vibram wearing vegan” without people assuming that I also live in a tent with a lot of endangered animals, hate jokes, and refuse to shower. I love jokes.

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9 Comments to “Why I Was Vegan and Why Now I’m Not.”

  1. I think this is my favorite post you’ve ever written and certainly one that I should incorporate more into my everyday life. This should be required reading for everybody!!

  2. How it your foot doing? Back running again I hope?

  3. This post is awesome! I just went through close to the same thing. I was vegan for two months, but found it was becoming too much of a hassle to find healthy options and I was spending way too much time thinking about food (planning, worrying, etc.). It just wasn’t worth it. I still haven’t eaten cheese yet, but I had some delicious, healthy chicken last night. I loved being vegan, but to me there are other more important things than constantly having to worry about my next meal.

  4. This is me almost exactly. I think you put it in words that I wasn’t really able to, though, in your simple statement “I wanted a turkey sandwich.” But it’s exactly why I quit being vegan.

  5. I just stumbled across you blog, and wanted to say great post! I am vegetarian, and I totally get what you’re saying about paying attention to what is nutritionally dense and and complex. And it does seem that most places give vegetarian options that rely heavily on dairy because they just can’t wrap their head around a satisfying meal that doesn’t involve an animal in some way. Thanks for sharing what you learned 🙂

  6. I am so loving your blog! I arrived here because I googled “mushy spaghetti squash” and have been having a wonderful time hopping from post to post. You just never know where you’ll end up and I am so glad I landed here! I had spaghetti squash tonight with home made spinach pesto. It was on the mushy side and now I know how to fix that : ) Thanks!

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