Go vegan for 21 days. That was the initial promise.
And today marks Day 21.
I'm not quite sure why I did it, other than the fact that as a mostly lactose intolerant vegetarian, giving up eggs and honey didn't seem too much of a leap. But cynical about how easy it really was combined with being not too fond of any kind of "forever," I decided on the arbitrary number of 21 days. Three weeks. No animal products. 1 2 3 Go.
Wait, wait. This isn't a post about my discovery of fake meat and chicken-like substances that are actually made from wheat. The thing is that even as a vegetarian, I avoided fake meat. Other than the highly processed nature of the stuff, it seemed a little weird to miss meat - which I really didn't - on a vegetarian diet. Tofurkey, vegan deli "meats," Tofu pups...they all seemed a little too alien to grace my plate. Besides, eating real food - vegetables, fruits, and whole grains - made me feel better. Why fix something that's not broken?
Unfortunately, veganism, I've found, is a little different. The small "vegetarian" notation on a menu becomes meaningless because you can't eat butter, milk, or eggs. Suddenly you have to be annoyingly inquisitive about your food. You start scanning ingredient labels for things like casein and whey while your friends roll their eyes behind your back. Veganism is to nutrition, I've found, what paranoia is to mental health.
Which is why I tried to avoid the nutritional equivalent of constantly looking over my shoulder. I ate lentils and vegetables and fruit, forgot to take my B12 supplements every day, didn't monitor my protein intake, and got massively depressed as a result. Go me.
Okay, okay, I was PMSing, too. But we're talking about the kind of off-the-charts crazy that had me weeping over not getting enough protein and crying over not being motivated enough at everything. Even on the level of insane in which I usually operate, things were not normal. I creeped out a bunch of my friends. Some advised me to eat some yogurt. I considered it.
But we're talking about a mere 21 days. So instead, I ate some tofu, invested in a tub of nutritional yeast, and toughed it out. I researched plant protein sources and bought my first ever bag of protein powder, feeling like a ripped jock in the process. I learned about the controversies behind unfermented soy and steamed my first batch of tempeh. Beans are my new best friend, and popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast is one of the best snacks I've ever had. End result? In 21 days, I've learned a lot, but not quite enough.
So I'm going to keep at this. Maybe for 4 more weeks. Maybe for 4 more months. Who knows? I do know, though, that my bag of hemp protein powder probably won't get consumed otherwise. And with the smoothies I'm mixing them into, that would be a damn shame, vegan or not.
Protein Paranoia Smoothies
[Inspired by Alton Brown's Buff Smoothie, this is a versatile recipe in which the mixed berries can be switched out for plain raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries. Alton Brown adds 2 ounces of acai juice, but I prefer to just use more almond milk. Of course, you can use any milk alternative of your choice as well.]
Ingredients 4 oz. unsweetened almond milk 2 oz. banana [about half of one, if using frozen, thaw it first] 2 oz. frozen peaches 2 oz. mixed berries 1 tablespoon hemp protein powder
Directions 1. Combine all the ingredients in the blender the night before. Place in the fridge. 2. In the morning, mix on low for one full minute. Then blend on high for 30 seconds. 3. Double-fist with coffee. Or enjoy solo.
Makes 1 serving.