At the start of the summer, I decided to go vegan. Before you come at me (plz chill) I know there are a billion articles about how it ruins my health, destroys the environment, and exists only as trendy holier-than-thou diet (thinking of you, Gwyneth Paltrow!)
People loveeeee to hate on vegans. Sure, we have a rep for being pretty judgmental hypocrites (like Phoebe from Friends and her love for her fur coat in that one episode—but tbh in the spirit of journalistic integrity, she was vegetarian, not vegan, but still). And I was one of those haters. I used to think veganism was a fad diet that wasn’t even that healthy. Also, how do you even get enough protein? Tofu, a chalky white sagging blob I’d seen at my dining hall’s salad bar, didn’t seem a particularly appealing alternative.
So what changed? Well, I moved to California and was brainwashed started learning more about veganism. One of my best friends at college is vegan, so I learned more about it this year by eating with her. Obviously, we went to the most extra vegan restaurants in LA, but that was the first thing that convinced me: I actually liked the vegan food.
Judging by my super healthy diet of vodka and brownies, by the end of the school year I felt like crap. I needed a lifestyle change, and this summer was the perfect opportunity for that. I would be cooking all of my own food for the first time while living in a dump old frat house on the Row at Stanford.
My family was concerned by this idea—well, actually, I didn’t tell them initially because I knew they’d freak out, but had I informed them of my plans before, these are the questions they would’ve asked:
What will you eat for breakfast? Ummm….seaweed and hummus? Some nuts? Kale chips? Tofu? Realistically a really weird assortment of food, but also, like, who even eats breakfast? I’m in college. Coffee counts.
What do you eat at restaurants? Since one of my best friends is already vegan and since California is the Mecca of vegan restaurants, it isn’t hard to find restaurants that served, like, salads and tofu.
Can you still drink? JK, my fam wouldn’t have asked me that, but for all the concerned alcoholics out there, vodka is vegan. In fact, all liquor is, though some wines and beers are processed with animal products. Yet another reason shots reign supreme.
It’s 11pm and I’d just arrived at “The House,” aka the
trap fraternity house where I’d be living this summer. Even though it’s no longer a frat house, it still feels like a frat house. The state of the house may seem irrelevant to my diet, but the kitchen is a disaster. It’s a place where we’d all made blackout quesadillas at 2am during the school year, so using the same pans crusted with our drunk food seems rather unappetizing.
After moving all of my stuff up three flights of stairs alone (chivalry is dead), I head to Whole Foods to scour their vegan options. This being California, they have loads of options. I buy what would become the starting lineup for my summer diet: eggplant and tofu from the salad bar, a few pre-made salads, kale chips, seaweed, pickles, hummus, and vegan jerky. I feel so healthy.
A few vegan days pass. Do I feel any magical results? No. I do not feel less tired, as some people have promised. I do feel healthier though. Like those vegan models that I follow on Instagram, with my Bragg’s Nutritious Yeast (vaguely cheesy powder?) and zucchini noodles (these taste like zucchini, not pasta, don’t let others convince you otherwise).
That Friday my friends and I go to San Francisco. It all fun and games until everyone decides they want to go to IHOP for some drunk 3am pancakes. I then realize I can’t have any because they aren’t f*cking vegan. I eat some kale chips instead to soak up all the extra vodka in my stomach. The next morning I want to kill myself. Kale chips aren’t a good drunk food. My hangover is deadly. Who would’ve f*cking thought?
Weeks 2 & 3
The glow of being healthy is fading. First of all, I’m worried I’m anemic because I’m tired, like, all the time. Literally, allll the time. All I want to do is sleep. I went from being fine on six hours of sleep to wanting to sleep 12 hours. What college student sleeps for 12 hours? HOW IS THIS OK.
Also I really, really, really want something sweet. I’m craving chocolate like mad. So I buy some Hu Chocolate from Whole Foods and happily eat an entire hazelnut-butter dark chocolate bar. It’s vegan, so ha!
Realistically, there isn’t much more to say about these weeks. They pass in a sort of foggy blur of vegetable eating. I don’t go out because of my summer courses. This is shaping up to be the best summer ever, wow!
I questioned stopping. But that would be giving up, now, and I’m no quitter.
This weekend, I drive down to LA with my vegan best friend, and naturally, she brings me to all of her favorite vegan restaurants. The Green Temple for the best tofu sauce (literally I want to drink the sauce). Café Gratitude has absurd buffalo cauliflower and honestly it’s expensive ($11 for a side of cauliflower? What is the profit margin here?). By Chloe (there are multiple in New York too!) has the best vegan kale Caesar salad I’ve ever tried in my life. It has shitake bacon and almond parmesan and literally, this is why I became vegan. Also, there’s a little sign that says how much waste you’ve prevented by eating vegan food inside By Chloe, which just made me feel like a really great person.
The next day I get a migraine and lie in bed for the entire day. Soooo fun. Exactly what I drove six hours for! We go to Whole Foods that night though, to find dinner stuff, and I’m delighted by their eccentric chip selection (jicama chips. WTF?) and extremely elaborate salad bar selection. They also have about five types of vegan mac and cheese, which is like, absurd.
We head to the Farmer’s Market in Hollywood the next morning. Everyone makes fun of me because I buy a jar of pickled brussels sprouts and a tin of soy shitake mushrooms to eat for breakfast. Yes, I get that’s a really weird breakfast. But seriously, anyone who knows me by now should realize that I thrive on eating really strange foods. And pickled (well, technically fermented but stick with me) foods are good for your gut health. It’s why so many people are obsessed with drinking apple cider vinegar!
We drive home, stopping at the Ostrich Farm on the way through Santa Barbara. This trip has taught me:
- LA has the best vegan restaurants. New York may have By Chloe and Candle 79, but LA just has sooooo many more options.
- I actually can drive for seven hours without killing someone. Genuinely a miracle!
- Ostriches are vaguely cute.
- There is nothing to do in LA besides workout, eat food, and sit in traffic (while occasionally visiting ostriches).
I feel less tired, so maybe my body was just adjusting. Or maybe I am anemic and should start taking iron supplements. My doctor keeps bugging me to do bloodwork and I keep putting it off because I’d have to fast before getting it done and that’s so annoying. Yes, I am a responsible adult, thanks for asking.
I make the mistake of telling my mom that I decided to go vegan, and receive a whole lecture about how it’s a horrible idea. You will ruin your health and become anemic and are you getting enough protein and don’t you know about living life in moderation?
I give her a speech about animal rights and the environment (yes, this is a little late to the game, but I started following all these vegan Instas because I needed more motivation), and the environmental benefits of veganism. It really tugs at the heartstrings. But photos of cute little pigs with the caption “is eating bacon really worth it?” kind of make me want to cry.
Now that my mom hates my vegan diet, I’m even more motivated to continue. I’m massively stressed studying for my summer course midterms, but at least I’m stress-eating seaweed and hummus instead of cookies. After I finish midterms we go out that weekend to celebrate one of my friend’s birthdays. Personally, I blame my later behavior on the restaurant for lacking vegan options. A plain salad is not an ideal pre-drinking meal, tbh, and my lack of memory for the rest of the night can be entirely explained by my meager dinner of iceberg lettuce in conjunction with the seven shots of ginger vodka I had later.
Weeks 6 & 7
These two weeks are also a blur. My family comes to visit the first weekend and are genuinely incensed that I refuse to eat meat. We all go out to dinner to some non-vegan place where the only thing I can eat is a kale Caesar salad without dressing (because of the fricking anchovies). So I basically eat a bag of dry kale for dinner. Yummmmm. But I can’t back out on being vegan now. That would mean my mom was right. Again. I abandon my family after dinner to run to Whole Foods to buy a late night snack of eggplant and hummus (why am I so weird?!).
The next day, my mom treats me to dinner at Nobu, which opened in Palo Alto at the start of the school year. I’d been dying to go the entire year, but it’s not exactly a place you go with your friends when you’re in college on a budget. My mom orders sashimi for the entire table and I eat a piece of tuna.
YES, I BREAK MY VEGAN DIET. NO ONE IS PERFECT K?!
Seriously though, the tuna is fine. High-quality fish, but ultimately not even that tasty. Honestly, one thing I’ve realized is that food tastes good because of the sauces and spices on it, not because of the base. It could be cauliflower or steak, chicken or tofu, all that really matters is the sauce. (Okay, clearly I’m not a steak connoisseur. Red meat has always grossed me out and I know theoretically a good steak doesn’t need any sauce. This is why I’m a mostly successful vegan, and my brother will never be a vegan. He thinks vegans are wussies and real men eat wagyu beef.)
My family leaves, and I’m getting bored of eating the same 10 foods every day. So I start exploring some of the other weird vegan foods that Whole Foods sell. Vegan cheese dip, for example, is disgusting. It’s a mix of pureed potatoes and cashews, and it does NOT taste like cheese and now I feel nauseous. I also buy chocolate covered chickpeas a few times, which sound gross but taste like chocolate covered pretzels. They are as addictive AF so consider yourself warned. Banana brittle (pureed dehydrated bananas with coconut flakes) is also incredibly addictive. As is chocolate mousse made with silken tofu and cacao powder.
If I sound like a raving lunatic who has lost all concept of what good food actually tastes like, it is quite possible that veganism has addled my brains.
I spend the entire week studying for my finals. Woohoo. All I want is to go home and sleep. The fatigue never entirely left, so maybe I really am anemic. But I honestly feel much healthier. My body is more toned, my hair is thicker, and my complexion is brighter. Most importantly, I don’t feel gross every time I eat. It’s nice to finish a meal and not regret eating junk, but instead feel happy knowing that I’ve put healthy nutrients into my body.
Even though I’ve been eating less protein, I feel more muscular too. Until I have to move all my crap and I realize I still lack basic upper body strength. Veganism forced me to abandon my mini fridge since I don’t have enough strength to carry it down three flights of stairs (if anyone wants a mini fridge HMU. I warn you though, the freezer has about an inch of congealed apple vodka on the bottom because my idiot friend put a bottle of vodka in it sans lid). I fly back home to New York and eat a bag of coconut chips for dinner because the airplane has no vegan food.
Week 9 – ???
Now that I’m home and no longer cooking for myself, I guess I could stop being vegan. Despite the fatigue, I really have enjoyed it. It forced me to cut the unhealthy junk out of my life but still allowed me to treat myself by eating things like chocolate covered bananas or vegan brownies. Moderation!
I did finally get some bloodwork done and it does turn out my iron levels are dangerously low (oops?), I can always start taking a supplement to fix that and start drinking blackstrap molasses because apparently, that has 20% of your daily iron per serving. Yum. Besides that, I really do feel much healthier. I feel fit again, instead of constantly stressed about what I’m eating. My hair and skin both feel amazing.
It’s honestly not hard to find food to eat, either. I just eat the vegetables my mom makes for dinner and heat up some tofu for protein. Now I’m campaigning for my dad to join me since his cholesterol is through the roof and I know he’d benefit from less butter and red meat. (I’m really trying to not become one of those preachy vegans that try to indoctrinate everyone though, don’t worry.)
If you’re still not convinced
a) I don’t care
b) it’s fine, you can join my family, who are still convinced that I went to school in California and became “some sort of new-agey hippie.”
Realistically, will I stay vegan forever? I have no clue considering it’s been only 10 weeks and forever is, like, a really long time, but I have no concrete plans to stop anytime soon. Unless I actually do become anemic from an iron deficiency. Then my mom might start force-feeding me red meat again…