Thursday, January 21, 2016

NW Veg 22 Day Veg Challenge: Week 1

First week of the challenge is done (actually, more like halfway through the three weeks by the time I'm finishing writing this)! Here are the daily assigned tasks we were supposed to do, and how it was all going. 

Saturday 1/9
Watch Forks Over Knives.

I'm planning to do a longer post with some thoughts about, probably combined with some other documentaries I'm planning to watch. Ultimately, this one is almost exclusively focused on the health aspects of a plant-based diet. There's literally maybe 3 minutes total (within the last 20 minutes) that briefly touches on the environmental impact and treatment of animals. 

The main point seems to be that going vegan is the obvious choice. They present a lot of compelling evidence (mostly - though general opinion about the impact of dietary cholesterol has since changed), and I certainly agree that there are health benefits to a plant-based diet. However, they take it further than that, and are essentially asserting that (1) most people will see dramatic health changes by adopting a plant-based diet, (2) you can either be really healthy or really unhealthy - nothing in between, and (3) you have a moral obligation to live as healthy as possible.

I have problems with all three of those assertions. There is still value in the underlying facts and discussion surrounding those thing, but they are not the clear conclusions that the documentary makes them out to be. Plus, in basically the same breath as assigning this to watch, the organization shared an article in the 22-day challenge facebook group that points out that understanding the ethical reasons for going vegan are much more important in convincing people to stick with being vegan compared to the health reasons. Sure it all has a place, but if the ethics are more important, why make the very first task learning about the health benefits? 

You can see what I ate this day here. I definitely felt a bit deprived. I have a bit of a sweet tooth anyway, but just knowing that there were certain things I "couldn't" have, I really wanted to eat whatever junk food that was in the house that was allowed. That feeling went away a bit over the course of the week, and it was more about just logistics of figuring out what my options were, rather than feeling emotional about it.

Sunday 1/10
Discover your "why", write it down, and put it somewhere to remind you every day.

I wrote this on that day, thought it didn't fully hit home until the end of the week when we went to the farm sanctuary. Hearing from someone who's seen the industry up close, and seeing animals who would otherwise be used and abused for our sake made an otherwise just theoretical belief more tangible.

Monday 1/11
Clean up your kitchen to remove animal products. 
Use the "Is It Vegan" app to help make decisions in buying.

We have a huge block of cheese and a container of ice cream in the freezer, that had been purchased and opened shortly before the challenge began. We're planning on using those up after the three week challenge, even though in terms of buying new stuff we expect to lean more on the vegan side of things. We gave away a partly full carton of eggs to my SIL to use up. 

I checked out the "Is it vegan?" app and it's pretty slick. One really important feature is that it lets you indicate whether you want processed sugar to be viewed as vegan or not - in theory, it might not be, due to including bone char as part of the processing. But one thing I found recently said that that's probably only about 25% of the sugar, so it's not like it's all or even most of the sugar that's being used. While I'd be nice to know for sure that I wasn't eating stuff associated with that, it seems like it's a relatively low risk, and I should be aiming to avoid processed sugar in general anyway, so not a huge portion of my diet as a whole.

Thank goodness my diet coke is ok for a vegan lifestyle!

Tuesday 1/12
Cook a new vegetable.
Google "cute farm animal sanctuary photos". 

Talked to some coworkers (one who's also vegetarian-ish (later found out he eats seasfood), one who's eco-aware, and has played with it in the past, who happened to both in the kitchen) about the challenge - I feel like I would have cheated by now (hot chocolate mix - that contains milk - sounded pretty good for an afternoon pick me up) if I hadn't been putting out awareness of my goal to hold myself publicly accountable. 

Wednesday 1/13
Find a new vegan recipe and share on social media or with a friend.

While there are tons of vegan websites and blogs and other sources, one blog that's not vegan specific but that Abe and I have had a lot of success with for trying new recipes is Budget Bytes. 

These are some vegan recipes on there that we've liked:
Kale, white bean, and tomato salad
African peanut stew
Vegetable stir fry with noodles
Black bean enchiladas

And some new ones I picked out this week to try. We actually did try the two noodles dishes over the weekend.  I wasn't a huge fan, but Abe didn't mind them. They both just had some strong ginger and other tastes that aren't my favorite. 
Hummus and grilled vegetable pizza
Singapore noodles
Teriyaki noodle bowls

Singapore noodles

Thursday 1/14
Look through your closet for non-vegan items.

I've avoided leather the whole time I've been vegetarian, so I don't have any of that! I occasionally buy wool (I don't seek it out, but if I find something I like and then realize it has wool it hasn't been a deal breaker) - like with eating, my line through this point is whether or not you can obtain the product without actually killing the animal. So while not all wool is necessarily cruelty-free, in theory, at least, you should be able to obtain it from an animal that is treated well and has a reasonably good life (though, cheap mass produced stuff from Target probably doesn't fall in that category...). (Though of course, I'm now leaning more towards that we don't have a right to use them even if they're treated "well".)

I found one partially wool sweater in my closet right now. Although I can see the purpose of not wearing animal products - you don't want to send mixed message or make people think that vegans are ok with things like that - there's also the broader environmental message that things shouldn't go to waste. Going forward I'm going to expand my clothing "rules" to not buy anything containing wool, but for the moment I think it's better to use a wool sweater I have than replace it with something else and thereby be using up more resources overall. 

A couple resources provided by the challenge:
What's wrong with leather? (OMG I'd never heard of slink leather before. Would have creeped me out even before I was a vegetarian.)
What's wrong with wool?

This day for lunch I went to Chipotle and got a bowl without cheese. :( I always thought I really enjoyed the cheese, but it didn't have quite as big of an impact as I expected! 

Friday 1/15
Familiarize yourself with the ethical arguments for going vegan.

As I mentioned above for 1/9, the group running the challenge says that going vegan for ethical reasons makes it more likely to be a lifelong change. This has always been one of my biggest reasons for going vegetarian, so it only makes sense to expand that mindset to being entirely vegan. 

Check out this video (mildly graphic - not blood and gore, but cages and obvious suffering) about animals.

Saturday 1/16
Visit Wildwood Farm Sanctuary.

As I mentioned in the post about the visit to the sanctuary, seeing this part of the reality up close was a bit of a game changer. I'm really leaning towards sticking with this. And another game changer - we went to Vtopia that afternoon. Really amazing vegan cheese.

I don't think I can 100% vegan, all the time - I wouldn't have a social life! Despite the Portlandia reputation, I live out in the suburbs. There are not any all-vegan restaurants in the vicinity of my office, and many of the regular restaurants even only have a couple vegetarian options; vegan dishes would be incredibly hard to find at a lunch with coworkers. But I can still lean towards things that are closer, that include animal products as more incidental instead of as a main component (e.g., go to Thai place and get a noodle dish that might have fish sauce included, versus going to the steak house and getting a cheese pizza or the breakfast place for an omelet). But making our house vegan and eating that way when I'm on my own is something that is appearing more doable. 

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