Vegan Tales: the Daily Titan dietary challenge

In Fitness, Sports
ROBERT HUSKEY/ Daily Titan

Through the month of September, members of our Daily Titan staff decided to challenge themselves and each other. The competition was to not eat meat or animal products for an entire month, in other words live the life of a vegan. Some flourished, others fell short but everyone had a story to tell in the end.

Alvan Ung:

Being vegan wasn’t easy.

Part of me didn’t think I could it; the other part of me just wanted steak for dinner. But I reluctantly signed up for the vegan challenge.

The first week was pure shock. My life changed, and I had to learn so much. The Internet became my Bible on all things vegan. I analyzed the ingredients list of everything I wanted to eat.

The aroma of fresh Costco hot dogs nearly broke me.  “It’s not for me, it’s for them,” I chanted. I needed to remind myself that I was buying this food, this delicious, sensual-smelling food, for other people. It taunted me devilishly and told me I couldn’t be vegan. That served only to fuel the fire within me.

So vegan it was. Chips and dip, fries, salads, vegan burritos and vegan bowls became staple foods. And everything became delicious to me. It was either be vegan or starve.

And even now, I still have a bit of vegan in me. The other day, I had to force myself to add bacon to my entirely-vegan-friendly Which Wich bowl.

Yes, it was delicious.

Andie Ayala:

I have to take partial responsibility for having coerced my dear peers into suffering for a full month. The vegan challenge was no piece of cake for any of us, literally.

It began spur of the moment after William, a vegetarian, suggested that I try vegetarianism. We somehow decided to try veganism for a month instead, and a few other friends decided to join in. In the beginning, I was surprised negatively every time I reached for a cupcake, chocolate milk or any of my usual favorites (aka heavy carbs and generally anything unhealthy.) When I went out with my friends, it upset me to have to decline sharing a pizza or be the only one with regular fries instead of animal style fries at In-N-Out Burger.

Life had changed, I became that annoying girl who took her food back to the cashier saying, “Um, excuse me, I didn’t want cheese in that,” or “Can you make extra sure there’s no mayo in this?” I sensed the annoyance, felt the disapproval and worst of all, hated the judgemental comments my friends made; “You know you’re not getting enough protein, right?”

But after awhile, I began to notice positive changes; I felt more energetic and I was saving money. When I had an urge to eat something non-vegan, I texted my friends in the challenge and over time, we bonded over our experiences. We ate vegan foods together, shared vegan recipes and shared our daily vegan challenges. It was all going very well until the day I forgot to eat breakfast.

I walked into work where there were sliced up pieces of cake. There was a sign in front of the cake that read, “Delicious cake, please take some.” That word “delicious” brought back an intense sense of nostalgia in me. I remembered pleasant tastes and frankly, I could no longer resist. I grabbed a piece of cake and ate it as quickly as I could. Every bite was pure euphoria. While I knew I’d fess up to my friends, I couldn’t help cracking up while eating, as it was my idea and I was the first to give in.

Overall, I feel like the experience taught me a lot, I have a greater understanding of what most foods are made of and definitely am more used to eating vegetables now. Would I do it permanently? Hell no. Omelettes are too good.

Kymberlie Estrada:

I’m 5 feet 5 inches, 90 pounds and a vegetarian. You would think that going vegan would come easy to me. It wasn’t.

My current diet consists of non-dairy milks, yogurt, eggs, cereal, a lot of fruits and vegetables and other vegetarian substitutes.

Going vegan cut out essentially everything I had in my pantry such as eggs and yogurt, which account for most of the protein in my diet.

I found myself eating an apple for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Since most vegan delicacies require actual cooking; rather than your standard pre-packaged microwavable meal, I found it difficult to stick to the vegan competition.  Since I was constantly on-the-go and frankly have not one cooking ability bone in my body, fruits and vegetables were convenient grab-and-go foods.

I dropped nearly five pounds in less than two weeks. I became weak and tired. Clearly, something was wrong.

Two weeks in, I walked into The Habit and broke. The warm, crisp smell of onion rings made its way towards my table and well…you get the picture.

Nereida Moreno:

As awful as it may sound, my decision to join the vegan challenge had nothing to do with morals or camaraderie  the way it might have been for other people. I was subjected to the most classic form of peer pressure by fellow editor Andrea Ayala.

It was a dark and stormy night. I was standing outside of my car, ready to go home when Andrea and photo editor William Camargo began shouting like mad men from the depths of William’s minivan. I was exhausted and willing to agree to anything in my fragile state.
I could not have been in my right mind by agreeing to be vegan for a month.

I love meat. I could live off meat!  Well, that’s not completely true. But I was accustomed to eating meat on a daily basis thanks to my hectic work schedule that limits my food options to the restaurants across the street from College Park
.
When I realized my mistake, I tried my best to talk myself out of the challenge to no avail. I did however manage to rework my contract into a vegetarian challenge instead of a vegan one.

I knew I could give up meat if I really wanted to, but I am simply not strong enough to give up cheese or ice cream.

To be honest, my concessions were not nearly as difficult as the one my competitors had to make. The only days that were truly difficult were the ones that I was back home in San Bernardino. Having to say no to my mom’s famous chicken mole was almost more than I could bear.

Perhaps I am too competitive, but I was so determined to come out of this nonsense a victor. I was willing to do anything, even reject my loving mother.

I consider myself a winner. From my understanding, the deal was to end the challenge as soon as the first person broke. Given Andie’s cake incident, I had a clean conscience walking into the Habit to enjoy the classic char burger.

I haven’t looked back since.

William Camargo:

I could say being vegan was easy, but I won’t.  I’ve been vegetarian for more than a year and thought going vegan would be simple, especially going against all the meat eaters in the challenge.

Looking at everything I bought became a nuisance as I learned that many of the things I wanted  actually had dairy products in them.  This was disappointing because I was already preparing myself to become a vegan one day.

I knew that I needed to replace the cheese so the next best thing for me was fries. That wasn’t a good switch though. I decided to try and and be a healthier vegan by switching to fruits and vegetables because of the research I had done.  Luckily, I had the support of my mother who would pack me at least three apples a day.  My mother still thinks I’m vegan and continues to pack vegan lunches for me. I don’t mind it at all.

The first thing I bought once the challenge was over were mozzarella cheese sticks. I then grabbed a grilled cheese sandwich with animal style fries from In-N-Out Burger and asked for double cheese which was ridiculously filling.

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  • Patrick

    If you care about your health, the environment, world hunger, and animal cruelty, then vegan is the only way to go.

    The livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading causes in the loss of biodiversity, while … in emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution. (Livestock’s Long Shadow, Steinfeld et al. 2006, 267) Eating meat is a major contributor to serious environmental harm and human hunger. If we can reasonably do it, we should avoid eating meat.

    The first six months after I became vegan were difficult because I just couldn’t figure out what to eat except salad. But I soon realized that millions of people all over the world have been eating happy and healthy vegan/vegetarian diets for hundreds of years and it didn’t take long to learn about the many varied and delicious foods and how to cook them. Indian, Thai, Ethiopean, vegan pizza, and everything in-between. Now after ten healthy vegan years, I can’t imagine eating any other way.

  • Val

    It was quite interesting to read about this vegan challenge, and unfortunately, what got lost in the experience of these students was a real understanding of veganism. Having been vegan for over 10 years now, I can say going vegan was pretty easy for me since I chose to do it to eliminate the suffering of other beings. This choice was not about “making sacrifices” but about preventing others from abuse. Once I educated myself about where my food was coming from and the extreme suffering and cruelty that was involved, I knew that I personally could not continue to consume animals or any products that were made from animals. “Not fitting in” with others didn’t matter to me because the choices I made weren’t for “me” but for the billions of animals suffering under horrendous conditions. Also, I was not coerced into making this decision, and
    that’s when problems arise. These students only looked at being vegan as having to remove foods from their diet, instead of thinking about adding real foods to their diets – foods that are truly delicious, but are often overlooked or ignored. Perhaps if they had all really delved into learning about where their food comes from and how it gets there, from start to finish, they would be thinking twice about consuming that burger or hotdog. Having been in a slaughterhouse for a school assignment, I can tell you that such haunting images never leave your mind – the terror, fear and pain that is caused so that someone can chew a piece of flesh for 10 seconds and swallow it, only made me resolute to never again consume the flesh of animals.

  • Thank you so much for your informative article. To see how the meat you are eating gets from the farm to the fridge check out MeatVideo.com. It’s a short yet informative video. Also if you already are veg, check out ChooseVeg.com for a great resource including articles, tips and recipes!

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