30 Day Vegan Challenge – New Year, 2015

I’ve been vegan now since about the end of June, 2014.  It’s been a very disruptive “journey” to say the least.  I really had no idea just how hard it would push me to face up to things that I had been pushing away for a while.  Mostly, it has been unexpected.

The logistical and behavioural aspects of changing my diet were not nearly as challenging as I expected them to be. I thought I would miss eating cheese and eggs, but since learning what eggs and dairy really are from the perspective of the cows and chickens (even the so-called ‘free range’ ones) the thought of eating these “foods” again generally makes me feel like vomiting. The same for fish.

One part of my brain still recognises this as food, as food that brings pleasure, until it connects backwards to where it came from. Suddenly, the anticipated pleasure is gone, replace by sadness, nausea and self-disgust.
One part of my brain still recognises this as food, as food that brings pleasure, until it connects backwards to where it came from. Suddenly, the anticipated pleasure is gone, replace by sadness, nausea and self-disgust.
I used to be vegetarian. I had honestly never thought logically about the consequences of consuming the breast milk from a cow - what it means for the cow and her offspring.
I used to be vegetarian. I had honestly never thought logically about the consequences of consuming the breast milk from a cow – what it means for the cow and her offspring.

When I look at milk now it connects me to a living, feeling female (and her offspring) brutalised by a terrible system.  A system that doesn’t see bodies and lives, but objects from which to extract a product to sell for profit.  Because objects  have no emotional, inner lives of their own, because objects feel no physical pain or illness, because objects can’t ‘understand’ this system has no problem using them without compassion or consideration.   Now I am starting to become more fully aware of this connection between my own behaviours or desires and the direct harm done.  It is difficult to find pleasure in ‘cheese’ (something I did only a few months ago) when it is the direct result of a forced pregnancy, the almost immediate separation of a child from his or her mother and the subsequent neglect, abuse and slaughter of a baby.  There is no pleasure to be found in that.

[Lives of Dairy Cows in New Zealand]

The possible personal health benefits to myself in changing to a plant-based diet are an added bonus (though I made chocolate cake yesterday, so plant-based does not automatically equal healthy!). The same for the environmental footprint of animal agriculture. We as a global community and the environmental movement have to wake up fast to the reality of animal agriculture.  Going vegan has allowed me to actually see this situation without the previous self-interested blindness.

Christmas dinner ...
Christmas dinner …
... is his life, and the terrible conditions under which he lived and died.  Eating with those I love no longer brings me any pleasure. (c) http://www.safe.org.nz/pig-welfare
… is his life, and the terrible conditions under which he lived and died. Eating with those I love no longer brings me any pleasure.
(c) http://www.safe.org.nz/pig-welfare

What has surprised me are the social and emotional consequences of going vegan.   Things like eating out are not the problem.  I used to love eating out, but if there is almost nothing on the menu you want to eat, it soon loses its appeal.  I do find eating with some people difficult and not enjoyable.   The only way to cope with people shovelling dead flesh into their faces is to fall back on mental habits of ‘not seeing’ the animal.  Trying to switch my cognitive dissonance back on.  This, of course, becomes almost impossible when people want to talk to me about it.  So, instead of being relaxing and fun, it’s just stressful.  I don’t want to ‘switch off’ my new awareness, but neither do I want to end up hating humanity, especially those humans I love the most!

The practical logistics of going vegan are, for me anyway, child’s play compared with learning how to navigate the social world and dealing with the emotional upheaval.   I’ve started to come right now, but for awhile I was an emotional whirlpool.  I did my best not to let this leek out. I didn’t want to do or say anything that might damage relationships. I needed to understand  myself what was happening. [I want to write about that sometime.]  In many ways I feel like I am relearning how to be in the world, how to live with myself and how to live with and respond to others.  But on a deeper level, I feel more connected to who I “really” am.

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feOne writer and pod-caster I have found especially helpful is Colleen Practick – Goudreau.  I brought her book the 30-day Vegan Challenge.   For the next few weeks I am going to go through her book. It is supposed to be one chapter a day, but since there is so much information packed into each ‘day’, I have decided to let each day run over 2 or 3 days.  I feel like this will give me the foundation I need to consolidate most of what I have already been doing on a plant-based diet in a more systematic, concentrated way – before moving on into other areas of my life.

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6 thoughts on “30 Day Vegan Challenge – New Year, 2015”

  1. June for you too, eh? My wife and I made the decision in May, but spent about a week using up the groceries that we had so as not to waste them. The timing landed us right on June 1st for our first day as vegans. I was surprised how easy the change was. My wife was a long-time vegetarian but I was an omnivore and thought I’d miss a lot of things… but it was the opposite! I opened up a whole new world of food and I began discovering the joys of a plant based diet and even found I have a knack for cooking! I would say I miss convenience more than anything, but that’s a small price to pay for the well being of other sentient creatures.

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    1. Yes, I totally agree with you about the “whole new world of food”! I have fallen in love with cooking again. I hadn’t realised how much of a food rut I had fallen into. I almost feel like every year banning a handful of things I seem to be eating or preparing all the time, for six months just to make myself get back out and explore more.

      I know what you mean about the convenience thing, but I am actually seeing this as an advantage at the moment. When I started reading labels again (and getting annoyed at how much milk goes into everything) it meant I was really looking at what was in food. In many ways it is incredibly easy to be on a healthier diet because most of the supermarket is now a dead zone. I feel like some bizarre hippy-1950s Housewife hybrid! Fortunately, where I live it is very easy to get cheap, fresh seasonal produce.

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      1. Totally! Too much milk, eggs and cheese in everything where you wouldn’t expect it! I’ve even found mustard with dairy!

        Along with cutting out animal products, i’ve tried to limit sugar as much as possible… This eliminates probably 95% of processed junk, ’cause if it doesn’t have animal products then it’s bound to have sugar in one form or another!

        I’ve found several good starter recipes in the book Vegan Planet, and then tweaked them until i’m satisfied with the results. It’s so cool when you can have excellent tasting food and be in control of everything that goes into it!

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      2. Yes sugar is in everything you wouldn’t expect as well! Apparently it helps act as a preservative, a cheap filler and sweetness is something we humans are especially fond of. It makes sense given our ancestry, but now we are destroying ourselves with it. It such a big part of our culture, we give sugar to kids to reward them or comfort them, We use sugar to make ourselves feel better or to feel ‘decadent’. But now it is out of control.
        There is more than enough in fruit and vegetables without adding what can add up to kilograms a week. A while ago a colleague added up the total amount of sugar she ate in a week, most of it ‘hidden’, and the number was disturbing. She was on a typical diet. Going vegan has forced me to become conscious of what I am eating.

        Thanks for the book recommend. I started looking at it – very useful.

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    1. Thanks. I never fully appreciated how much of social life revolves around food and sharing food. When you don’t enjoy that any more it’s weird how much it changes. Suddenly I am acting different in social situations, but at the same time I don’t want to be the weird one.

      I think there is a vegan group that meets once a month in my town for a pot luck. I think I want to go, just to get that feeling back of being out with people and enjoying being social around food without the problematic side of it always hitting me in the face. Or having to be super conscious of what I say or talking myself through it.

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