365 days of vegan eating. Actually, it's probably been more like 358 days of eating vegan what with our deliberate consumption of pizza, the few accidental times when we found out we'd eaten animal product, and the time when Jane was purposefully given something to eat that wasn't vegan (by someone who knew better, no less). However many days it's been that we've actually succeeded at being vegan, today marks the one year anniversary of our conversion to a vegan diet.
I have a confession to make. When we decided we were going to eat vegan, I thought to myself that over time we would settle on a mostly-vegan plan -- and that once or twice a month we would go out for some sashimi or lobster, or a turkey burger. I thought to myself that having that "out" would make the "sacrifice" of eating vegan palatable. I didn't share my thinking with Jane, I just figured it would play out that way. When we went vegan, however, we jointly decided that we were going to allow ourselves Thanksgiving. It has always been a special day for us and we had our own traditional menu. We knew that we would feel "deprived" if we were not having our poblano chili-cornbread stuffing, or turkey, or mashed potatoes laden with butter and heavy cream. It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without all the old standards. But a funny thing happened. By the time Thanksgiving actually rolled around, we were committed to our new way of eating, the switch had been flipped. We felt weird about buying a turkey. We simply couldn't contribute to that cruelty, and so we had a vegan Thanksgiving. Yes, we missed the turkey and the gravy... but the sides were delicious and more than satisfying. It was at that point that I truly understood we were vegans.
People are often scared to go vegan because they believe their diets will be limited, and that it's too hard. I will admit that our first few forays into the supermarket were tough. Shopping wasn't a quick stop anymore. It often took us an hour to get through our list, reading labels, and looking for alternatives as our old staples were often off-limits. And some of the ingredients we were looking for, weren't readily available. (Good luck finding Kombu in your local Ralph's.) But over time that's all changed. We've become habituated to shopping for vegan products. Many of the things we buy are staples, so there's no need to read the label every time we restock. (And we probably could have done our shopping much quicker if we'd simply done some research at home.) As for a limited diet... eating vegan has resulted in a much more varied menu than we used to eat.
How are we faring a year later? Neither of us had any real health issues to speak of, so we can't proclaim that our health has improved dramatically. I had my physical in November, no marked improvements, no deterioration. Neither Jane nor I felt badly before, and we're not feeling badly now. As I mentioned recently, we dropped a few pounds effortlessly at the onset of our change in eating. Things have stabilized and we're maintaining... we both could stand to lose a bit more weight, but Jane's addiction (SnapPea crisps) and her Daring Bakers ventures might be responsible for that not happening easily. (Or could it be middle age or a sedentary lifestyle?) The only change that we notice is what is and is not on our plates these days.
As for food, we don't find ourselves feeling deprived anymore. We've often said we will reserve the right to eat pizza when we go back to New York, but I wonder if we will when we're actually there. We still have the odd craving for things we'd eaten for decades. More often than not it's driven by marketing campaigns, or strategically placed items in the grocery store. Occasionally, we'll get a whiff of something and say to ourselves, "oh, I'd love some ________," but those instances are usually just a moment or two and they pass without any real sense of deprivation.
It's been an interesting journey so far. We've learned a lot and made some wonderful, supportive friends in the vegan community. These days, when I hear people exclaim that a vegan diet is too hard to follow, I look at Jane and myself -- we're just ordinary people... we have no special strengths or willpower. If we can do it, anyone can.