I’m barely getting this post up on Wednesday, but the rough weather here in the Midwest had my interwebs on the blink, so I’m posting today, now that things are a bit more calm. I’m excited to present another interview, this week featuring Claire of eatwellpartyhard. She made the switch to a vegan lifestyle and she shares her tips for making the switch without going crazy!
What does a vegan diet consist of?
A vegan diet is one that excludes all animal products—in addition to avoiding meat, vegans also refrain from eating eggs or dairy, and some go so far as to cut out honey, as well.
This isn’t near as limiting as it may sound, as the possible combinations that can be created from plant-based foods are just about endless! A well-planned vegan diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, and these staples make up the bulk of what I consume.
Vegan junk food, though, is just as easily accessible as “regular” junk food. In addition to big-name brands that can be found on grocery store shelves—Oreos, Lays potato chips, etc—fast food restaurants exist that cater specifically to the vegan lifestyle are popping up across the United States, as well. Having lived on the East Coast for the past five years, I’ve become especially partial to Foodswings in Brooklyn—Crunchberry milkshakes and buffalo-style drumsticks? Lord, give me strength.
Do you also apply veganism to your beauty routine?
I’m just now beginning to do so. After two and a half years of vegetarianism, I just made the switch to full veganism a few weeks ago, and am still phasing out old standby products. I’m enjoying the hunt for more ethically produced cosmetics, but it’s definitely a challenge at times—I’m still on the search for new lipstick, as my all-time, wear-it-every-day brand does indeed test its products on animals. This was a heartbreaking discovery; I love this lipstick, but don’t believe an animal (or several? Or a warehouse full?) should be sentence to a life of pain and fear just so that I can look good.
I’m actually going to be teaming up with the lovely Ashlee Piper over at The Little Foxes very soon to discuss cruelty-free products—homegirl is a pro when it comes to the vegan beauty routine.
Was it difficult to make the change from the typical Western diet? How did friends/family react to the change?
Had I quit consuming animal products cold turkey (no pun intended—seriously!) I do believe that going vegan would have been more difficult. However, my transition was extremely gradual, which made each little step manageable.
I entered college with no regard for my diet, and no real contemplation about what food evenwas—it was simply whatever happened to be on my plate. Food was Pop Tarts from the dorm vending machine, food was strawberry fro-yo by the bowlful in the cafeteria, food was pepperoni pizza to satiate 3am munchies. I knew that fruits and veggies are good for us and that junk food isn’t, but that’s about as far as my knowledge went.
When I moved off-campus junior year, I gave up meat—not for ethical reasons, but for economical ones. Beans and rice were just cheaper than chicken breasts and burgers, and I had very little money to spare. I was still a rampant omelet, ice cream and cheese eater, but I slowly began to lose cravings for meat.
Thanks to the use of a generous friend’s NetFlix account, I began to really think about where my food was coming from. Documents like Food, Inc., Supersize Me and King Cornfascinated me—they made me process the fact that the bag of Doritos I was munching on didn’t just materialize on a grocery store shelf, but was the result of a vast array of ingredients, taste tests and marketing efforts. There was a huge industry bringing my food to me, and if I was going to put that industry’s products into my body, I felt obligated to learn more about it.
The more I learned, the less I liked, and the more my cravings for processed foods waned. A Snickers bar just isn’t as appealing alongside the knowledge that the milk in the chocolate comes from overworked, undernourished cows, that the egg whites come from chickens who will never see the light of day or move in a diameter greater than a few square inches, or that the oil (which was produced from genetically modified soybeans) has been chemically altered to ensure that it remains a solid.
After more reading (In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, and Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, are incredible resources) and more documentary watching (try Forks Over Knives or Vegucated), I knew I could no longer support an industry whose practices I so strongly disagreed with. I pulled the plug on vegetarianism and went full vegan, no longer with just my wallet in mind, but with my health, the support of small farms (rather than massive food production corporations) and with the ethical treatment of sentient beings, as well.
My family has never been entirely sure what my diet is or isn’t, and even now, the best way to describe what I eat would be to break down for them the concept of “clean eating,” rather than of “veganism”—which, unfortunately, is still oft-associated with images of hemp bracelets and communes. They’ve made no moves to join me in veganism, but have also have not criticized or looked down on me for my food choices, for which I’m extremely grateful.
My boyfriend, who’s very loosely pescetarian (he refrains from beef and poultry but still consumes fish, eggs and dairy), has also been very supportive, if a bit incredulous; his response was something along the lines of “That’s fine, but how will we ever got out to eat again? You know how much I love cheese!” Thankfully, he’s open to exploring new foods just as much as I’m open to cooking them—and I love to cook!
What have the benefits of going vegan been for you?
Above all, the biggest benefit of this process is a greater awareness of how the food industry works and where food comes from. Knowledge is, of course, power, and I’m using that power to maintain better health, to expand my palate and to become a more conscious consumer.
I’m a total geek when it comes to discussing food, its industry, its nutritional properties and its preparation, and am always happy to connect with people looking to learn more about it—or to just make friends with fellow vegetarians, vegans, and the veg-curious! This geekery led to the start of Eat Well. Party Hard., where recipes and chats about the real-food lifestyle appear a few times a week. I’m always reachable over there, or at eatwellpartyhard (at) gmail (dot) com.
Thanks Claire! Your knowledge, willingness to educate/illuminate and all-around awesomeness make it sound easy to switch to a vegan lifestyle! Super excited to read your work with Ashlee Piper on cruelty-free products! Check out Claire’s awesome blog eatwellpartyhard.com for more info/cool stuff!