An Experiment: My Day as a Vegan

An Experiment: My Day as a Vegan

Who thought being a vegan was so exhausting? Graphic by Neloise Egipto '13

Veganism: dietary extremism that only about one percent of the United States is able to practice. Imagine what it’s like not to put a single animal product in or around your body for months, or even years. I couldn’t possibly. I suppose that’s why the theoretical council of vegans made October Vegetarian and Vegan Awareness Month.

I investigated what it was like to be vegan for a day because there’s no way I could hold out for two. It would mean no cheese, eggs, honey, leather, or film (Film and matches use gelatine— who knew?). Obviously, no meat either, but that wasn’t much of an adjustment for me.

This experiment would be difficult, but I was determined.

Assignment: Measure the effects of one day of strict veganism against the body.

Hypothesis: No animal products would make this lab rat (a.k.a me) irritable, tired and famished.

Materials:

One log, to chart my experiences during the day.

The willpower of someone stronger than me.

No animal products.

No preparation.

The Night Before: I found myself in my closet, checking the labels of sweaters, shirts and pants for wool or silk. This was not too difficult, merely annoying. The day of my experiment was forecasted to be cold and rainy, but I couldn’t wear my rain boots for fear that the glue that held them together was animal-based. I wore canvas Toms, bought under the pretext of being vegan. They weren’t the warmest, but they were the best I could do. I wrote “veggies” on my hand in bright green Sharpie, so I wouldn’t forget my experiment. Mood: apprehensive.

6:30 a.m.: When I scanned my shampoo’s ingredients for anything verboten, I found cochineal, a dye made from beetles. Seriously? My routine was already off, and I hadn’t been awake for 10 minutes.

6:40 a.m.: I had apple oatmeal for breakfast, with cinnamon sugar (instead of honey) for sweetener, with another apple on the side. I drank extremely strong decaffeinated tea instead of coffee, which would require milk.

6:45 a.m.: Still half asleep, I realized that driving to school meant leather, everywhere—seats, steering wheel and console. I chalked this one up to bad preparation, and reasoned that unless I walked the three miles to school, I would have to make an exception for this.

7:30 a.m.: First period gym meant sneakers, which were questionably vegan. I wasn’t about to send samples of the glue away for testing, so again, poor preparation called for another exception.

9:05 a.m.: I went down to the cafeteria to refill my mug, and was assaulted by the smell of tater tots. I felt my stomach growl. All I could think about was how I couldn’t eat these delicious tots. Tots tots tots tots tots.

I kicked myself for not having my computer. I needed to know what tots were fried in. What composed that delicious crust? Could I eat it? Please? I walked away from the cafeteria with my veganism (mostly) intact.

10:55 a.m.: Usually, I bring my lunch from home, but part of the experiment was to see what was vegan in the cafeteria. All I wanted today was something hot, but both soups were made with chicken broth. Bread was only questionably vegan, so sandwiches were out. Salad was cold and gross and thus eliminated. Though I truly loathe barbecue chips, I settled on a bag on the advice that they were vegan.

11:10 a.m.: Disaster. After eating the entire bag, I read the ingredients. Midway through the list, I found the dreaded natural flavors. In ignorance, I accidentally ate not only milk, but also chicken.

I ate chicken that I wouldn’t have eaten on any other day, on the very day I couldn’t have any animal products. I wish I had just eaten the cold, limp lettuce leaves.

2:20 p.m.: Still upset over the chicken incident. I went home sulking and hungry, with a headache from not having any caffeine all day. I ate a bowl of Cap’n Crunch with warm almond milk to cheer me up.

3:20 p.m.: Fatigued from the day, I slept for two hours. I decided not to continue veganism in my own self-interest. I had fish, string beans, and rice pilaf for dinner. It was the best meal of my life.

Conclusion: Hypothesis correct. I was groggy and irritable for the duration of the experiment. Failing at veganism, even accidentally, made me disappointed in myself. The amount of obsession over nutrition labels also seemed unhealthy.

What I learned from this experiment was that veganism, if attempted at all, must be done with much more research and preparation.

Me, I’ll take my Honey Nut Cheerios over oatmeal any day.