The Kind Diet's version:
What I realized/learned through three weeks of being a vegan:
1. Going vegan is totally doable and surprisingly, not as hard as I thought. Though at first it was a bit of a shock to my system, after about the tenth day, my body and mind began to adjust. Specifically: the question of what Matt and I were going to eat for dinner didn’t feel as panic-inducing as it did throughout that first week. Being a vegan became part of the routine. And instead of elaborate, time-consuming vegan meals like the almond tofu with soba noodles, we went back to some old standards like pasta with marinara sauce (sans grated Parmesan) and southwestern corn and potato soup (with vegetable stock). And what do you know? We were happily surprised to find that these meals still worked.
2. I am a bit out of touch when it comes to the whole mind/body connection. Throughout this challenge, people asked me how I felt. “Don’t you just feel great?” or “Do you have more energy?” or just plainly, “How do you feel?” and honestly, apart from the low-level anxiety I experienced early on in the challenge, I can’t say I’ve felt much different. Matt, on the other hand, reported that after the first week, he felt he had more energy and clearer focus.
3. As further evidence to my poor mind/body connectivity, I submit the fact that it took me two whole days to pair my sudden, persistent low-level anxiety with the fact that I had completely ousted all animal products from my diet, something I have never done before. At first, I was trying to connect the feeling to anything but the change in my diet. I figured I was just stressed. I was deep into Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and blamed the book for bringing up buried anxieties about my life, career, etc.—et cetera, always the worst of all. And then I thought it was because of something else and then something else and it wasn’t until I was listing all of these explanations to Matt when he finally interrupted me by saying: “Or maybe it’s because you just changed your diet in a very fundamental way.” that the connection was finally made. Duh. As previously mentioned, I starting taking a Vitamin B supplement and began feeling much more myself.
4. People, including me, like to make fun of people with dietary restrictions. Why? It’s different. Different is funny.
5. I read in a few different places that a plant-based diet leads to glowing skin. I got really into this idea, staring at myself in the mirror for prolonged moments and wondering if it was happening yet. After three weeks, I'm not sure I've noticed much of a difference. But here is a before and after shot taken without any touch-ups or makeup so that you can decide.
6. Avocados were essential.
7. To be a vegan for real (i.e. longer than a 21-day challenge), I think the diet must make absolute sense to you and fit your lifestyle, which brings me to my next list.
What makes sense to me:
1. Eating foods that keep you well. This challenge has reminded me in a big way about the immediate (but oddly easy to forget) connection between what you eat and how you feel.
2. Real Food Daily’s Club Sandwich.
3. Butter (in moderation). (Please see below for further explanation)
What doesn’t make sense to me:
1. Non-dairy butter/margarine. As someone who has never experienced any form of lactose intolerance, non-dairy butter/margarine (expeller pressed natural oil, water, salt, crushed soy beans, natural flavor, soy lecithin, lactic acid, naturally extracted annatto for color) makes much less sense than butter (shaken cream).
2. A friend lent me her copy of The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading during this challenge. Silverstone’s optimism and enthusiasm for her vegan diet are definitely contagious and the recipe portion of the book inspires, however, with that said, there were a few passages that made me take pause and scratch my head. One of those passages: Silverstone makes a case against dairy with the argument that “Our bodies are not meant to drink any milk except our own mother’s milk, and only when we are babies!” She continues, “Did you know that we are the only animals that drink another species’ milk? Pandas don’t drink gorilla milk… dogs don’t drink goat milk…” And while I can get behind other potential reasons not to ingest dairy products, I must say: this is an argument that really gets my goat(’s milk). It’s just hard for me personally to buy into the if-an-animal-doesn’t-do-it-we-shouldn’t-do-it argument. If animals had the ability to retrieve another animal’s milk and then the know-how and patience to churn it into smoked gouda and then grill it up between two pieces of bread, they would. In fact, it’s a favorite snack of my grandma’s dog! Further, and this is really pushing it, but I’m going to go there anyway: other animals do drink other animals’ milk! Can we all please collectively agree that this is what’s happening here?
All qualms aside, veganism is a personal decision, and from someone who respects other people's dietary persuasions, I'm into it. Shades of the vegan diet are for me, but not strict veganism as a whole. And so, in conclusion, I am so very glad I took on this challenge. I feel as though I’m returning to my normal diet with not only a newfound appreciation for the foods I’ve missed, but also a newfound appreciation for my good health.
But maybe I’m speaking too soon. We shall see. Tomorrow is my first day post-challenge and I have no idea what's on the menu... See you on the other side?
Mochi Waffles Drizzled with Lemon-Walnut-Rice Syrup via The Kind Diet
Serves 4 to 5
1 cup walnuts
1 to 1 1/2 packages plain mochi (Grainaissance brand is good)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until just starting to turn golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
2. Transfer to a bowl to cool, and chop coarsely. Set aside.
3. Preheat a waffle iron. Cut a package of mochi into 3 large pieces, widthwise.
4. Slice each piece into long fingerlike pieces, about 1/4-inch wide.
5. Using 6 to 8 strips for each waffle, place the mochi strips on the hot, ungreased waffle iron and close the top. Cook until puffed and slightly crispy but not too hard and dry, about 3 minutes, or until your waffle iron signals that it's done.
6. Remove the waffle and place on a plate. Do not stack the waffles because they will stick together.
7. While the waffles cook, combine the rice syrup with 3 tablespoons of water, lemon juice, and toasted walnuts in a saucepan.
8. Stir together over medium heat just until warmed. Pour over the waffles, and serve.
9. Serve and eat waffles as soon as possible — they are best hot and crispy.