Design by Nicole Skarlatos

If I told myself last year I would attempt a vegan lifestyle, I would have laughed and placed a bet that I wouldn’t last at least a week. This happens to be exactly how some of my friends reacted.

Now, this was an attempt to see how long I could last dining like a vegan and as you can tell by the headline, I didn’t last too long. Before I tell why I stopped, let me tell you why I tried in the first place.

Like most vegans, it started with a documentary.

The goal of “What the Health” is to show viewers the link between diet and disease. You follow co-director Kip Andersen and his journey to proving that most food products and health organizations are trying to deteriorate your health as a part of a money-generating government scheme. Andersen also happens to co-direct another popular documentary “Cowspiracy” that explains the effects of cattle farms on the environment.

Before I watched the pro-vegan documentary, I had some knowledge of the reasoning behind the choice to go vegan: the negative impacts of the meat industry on the environment, animal cruelty, and health. A few of my closest friends are vegan and I always felt awkward eating meat or dairy products in front them. I was never open-minded to the idea of cutting meat and dairy completely out of my diet nor did I believe that one person refusing to eat these products could shut down an entire food industry. Pessimistic, I know.

However, what really caught my attention was the health aspect of going vegan versus what I was putting in my body. Yes, being vegan is clearly one of the healthiest diets due to being completely plant-based but the research presented in “What the Health” took me by surprise. Andersen was throwing stats left and right about how meat and dairy are basically killing you. Did you know that eating one egg is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes? Or how one serving of processed meats per day raises the risk of diabetes by 51 percent? Crazy, right? These stats accelerated my motivation to jump into the deep end of the vegan pool.

Especially since diabetes runs in my family, this was the push I needed to ensure I avoid inheriting the disease and attempt to reverse the disease from those who have it in my family.

I immediately began asking my vegan friend for a rundown of what she ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I feverishly jotted down notes and even asked her to take me grocery shopping. I wanted to act quickly so I gave most of what was in my fridge to my carnivorous friends and began to prepare for the diet of a lifetime.

Next thing I knew, my fridge was stocked with vegetables, tofu, and almond milk. I should make it known that I had already replaced milk with almond milk and lowered my consumption of red meats for a couple of years. This made the switch easier but not entirely.

The issue that I found with attempting the vegan lifestyle was the time it took to cook creative meals and the lack of outside restaurants that prepared these meals in a quick manner. Not only am I a full-time student but I work two jobs and don’t have time to cook at home or the funds to order take-out all the time. I found myself becoming bored with the meals I could prepare on the go and this made it difficult to want to pursue the diet. I was sick of tofu by the end of the week and god forbid I make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

In addition to time consumption, the aspect of culture posed a challenge. I plan to study abroad this summer and I did not want to force my body to adapt to a diet that would prevent me from eating a majority of the meals abroad. Moreover, I did not want to impose diet restrictions on a homestay family when my eating habits were not completely necessary. As a friend once told me “Food is a gateway to another person’s culture,” I did not want to prevent myself from that experience of learning abroad and immersing myself in the lifestyle.

Lastly, as a journalist, fact-checking becomes second nature in the era of fake news. The facts I mentioned earlier were not entirely supported by definitive data. I researched articles on the claims made in the documentary and found that a few of the reported stats were extremely exaggerated and accompanied by research that was cherry-picked to prove a statement.

I’m not here to discredit the documentary as a whole because the film does include details of the food industry that are true. Such as the excessive amount of antibiotics used in the food industry business and the financial relationships between health organizations and meat and dairy farms. However, those stats are what created the buzz that made everyone want to become vegan.

I believe all food is good in moderation and veganism is certainly on the rise. After a week of attempting the diet I did feel ‘cleaner’ and when I went back to eating meat I would feel nauseous subconsciously knowing the process behind these meals. Whether it’s for moral reasons or health, I recommend you give the diet a try. Sometime in the future, I may return to the diet but for now, I’ll keep my intake of meats and dairy at a low.