Recently I joined the 21st century and sprang for DVR. Besides the realization that it only costs a few bucks a month, there was one driving factor in my decision to get it – Oprah. As soon as I heard it was Oprah’s last season I knew I wanted to record the magic. I had been a peripheral fan for years, but in this final year I anticipated that day after day she would be doing something spectacular and I did not want to miss it!
Man did she not disappoint – Oprah’s favorite things, a new sister, everyone is going to Austraaaaaaaaaliaa and Barbara Streisand’s insane house tour are just some of the highlights of what is sure to be the best $7.50/month I ever spent.
So last week after a particularly stressful day, I began to watch “Oprah’s Vegan Challenge,” what I assumed to be a lighthearted episode where Oprah struggled not to become a cannibal at work after eating only carrots and lentils for days.
Instead Oprah brought on vegan goddess Kathy Freston (who just happens to be the wife of Tom Freston, Oprah’s OWN business partner) to lead a vegan bootcamp for all 378 of her staffers, challenging them to forgo meat and animal products for one week. Freston was plugging her new book, The Veganist and Michael Pollan also appeared to promote his books and advocate for a conscious diet that included some animal products.
Each staffer received a vegan starter kit prepared by Whole Foods (plug!) and filled with Kashi goodness (plug! plug!) The Harpo cafeteria only served vegan meals all week and several staffers received personal menu planning for their families from Kathy Freston, who I began calling skinny bitch under my breath every time she appeared on-screen.
At the end of the episode, I thought, “I can do this. I can go vegan for one week and I will be glowing and invited on Oprah as a success story!” I decided to begin my own personal vegan challenge and aim for sticking to a meat and dairy free diet for an entire work week (my weekends are for chowing down, ok?)
Although I don’t eat a ton of meat, the episode did make me think more consciously about where my food came from and how meat made its way to my table, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise. Plus, did I mention that Kathy Freston is one skinny, skinny bitch?!?
Things did not exactly start on the right (tofu)foot. I had a friend in town during the weekend and decided to roast us a chicken before a particularly dance fueled evening at Vegas Lounge. Naturally I used the remaining chicken to make a stock. For the next 5 days I would have all this delicious chicken and chicken soup lying around, unable to eat it.
This proved to be my downfall.
On Superbowl Sunday, I organized catering from Taylor Gourmet, and promptly ate 3 meat filled hoagies as my last supper before V-day. If I was going to out, I was going to out with a bang!
First day of vegan challenge:
- Monday morning – I had some dry cereal for breakfast which I carefully checked to make sure had no animal products. So far, so good.
- Monday afternoon – Luckily the Sauca food truck stopped right in front of my office and I had a delightful veggie wrap full of flavor for lunch. Bonus points for the fact that it was also quite filling.
- Monday night – I made myself roasted brussel sprouts and quinoa. I also ate about 3 handfuls of mini saltines to fill up.
- Monday midnight – I am starving. My stomach is growling, I cannot fall asleep. My best friend tweeted at me regarding her late night strip steak, further taunting me. I watched several episodes of the Barefoot Contessa including a red wine and short rib tutorial to try to get a contact high from the beef, but to no avail. Finally at 12:30 I ripped off the covers, opened the fridge and ate some roast chicken. I had to, I was simultaneously unable to fall asleep and about to pass out. It was a nightmare!
As soon as I had some chicken I could feel my blood sugar stabilize and my panic subside. I simply had not had any protein all day and it was throwing me out of whack. I don’t understand how vegans or vegetarians do it, and I gave up animal products for only one day!
Looking back on this short-lived experiment there are a few things I would have done differently:
- Buy vegan foods in advance. If I had more options lying around I think I would have been less tempted to raid the fridge.
- Clear out all meat and meat by-products from my apartment (which would have been a feat since I have a butter supply that could last through a nuclear holocaust.)
- Research recipes so that I have a nutritious balance at every meal.
Although I lasted only 24 hours, I did take away a few lessons from Oprah’s Vegan Challenge.
- I realized my diet contains so much meat and animal products, it’s hard for me to eat without depending on it for sustenance and flavor.
- There are plenty of tasty ways to have animal-free meals. In the future I will give more vegetarian foods a try rather than always choosing meat. Unless it’s steak, then all bets are off.
- Living without butter is hell.
Overall it was an interesting experiment, and one I might try again in the future. For now, I think I will take a less drastic approach and enjoy foods of all nature, but always remember to appreciate where it comes from.
If you are interested in taking the Vegan Challenge, the Oprah starter kit is available here.