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I tried being vegan for a week, and this is what I learnt

Words by Hannah Cole

Illustration by Twylamae

Here’s my newfound wisdom.

We’re well familiar with the vegan stereotype – questioning every waiter to the point of sweat, abusing Instagram’s #vegan, evil-eyeing your choice of footwear. I’ve been quick to pass judgement and avoid all animal or food-related topics of conversation with these plant-based purveyors. I’m sure you have too.

But, after conversations with newbie vegan friends recently, my opinion started to sway. I’m not convinced that the eggs from my parents’ backyard coop are inhumane, but the astounding health benefits of the vegan diet speak to me. Better skin? Yes, please. Less bloat? I’m in. And a vegan diet can aid overall happiness, increase collagen intake (pls rid me of my wrinkles) and help balance hormones.

The downside? No milk, yoghurt, eggs or cheese (glorious cheese). Which is why I settled on a one-week-only trial period.

I must also preface with this: I am often told that I eat like a rabbit. I am a sad desk-salad devotee Monday through Thursday, an infrequent snacker and a *pseudo* vegetarian. This challenge was more of a Sunday jog than the all-out marathon it would have been were I an avid meat-eater or allergic to vegetables. In saying that, here’s what I learnt along the way:

I’m not cut out to be a scientist

Lesson #1 was a brutal re-awakening of why I never pursued a career in the sciences. My controls were lax (non-existent) in this DIY experiment and would have put my Year 10 teacher to shame. I couldn’t tell you if I lost any weight: I didn’t weigh myself before. I attempted “Before” and “After” shots at Days 3 and 5 (Wednesday and Friday), but eye-bags ensconce my tired face at 6am regardless of diet. But did I “feel better”? 100%. The bloat mostly disappeared, and I felt light, energised and prepared for each day even amidst a high-stress work week. I have also confirmed that the placebo effect exists.

Not all substitutes are created equal

In this day and age, being a city-dwelling vegan is easy. Cafes cater to all kinds and supermarkets are laden with substitutes galore. But friends, please do not try the “cheddar cheese” block made from almond milk. If the wobbly packet wasn’t a warning sign, then it’s freakishly simple to grate properties, and lack of melt certainly are.

On the other hand, almond milk in coffee is finally a delicious substitute thanks to *science* with adequate frothing capabilities and zero curdling. Coyo should be a fridge staple. Cashew cheese dip will confuse even the most pro-dairy of your friends. And, cooked right (to not look like a slab of squished goo), tempeh is the perfect protein alternative.

Vegan desserts arguably trump their non-vegan counterparts

Because #vegandessert has over 500,000 tags, they’re obviously a big deal. People froth over dates and cacao and hemp seeds and ∼bliss balls∼. I’m not even a real vegan, and I love them.

In embracing the wonder of the animal-free dessert, I challenged myself to make a vegan chocolate mousse – out of Aquafaba (aka the water you cook your chickpeas in). Sounds gross, but, I’ll tell you, this was the greatest success of the week. Not only did a) the recipe work, b) my non-vegan partner also liked it, but c) it is 85% guilt-free. (And if you don’t believe me, I am willing to send you a portion so you too can experience this mouthful of heaven).

Vegan wine is your best friend

Research claims that vegan, or natural, wine lessens the effects of a hangover. And I concur, even when mixed with multiple margaritas. So, not only are you saving the planet by supporting chemical-free farmers but protecting your precious head also.

It’s hard work thinking about every mouthful, all the time

I went hard for five-and-a-half days (until bridesmaid duties called). The worst part was not the tempting French cheese sitting near my desk for two whole days but the constant brain activity it requires. Every morsel I placed in my mouth had to be well-researched and accounted for. I ditched my vitamins for a week because they didn’t stipulate any vegan-ness. I Googled every possible ingredient before I committed to eating. If anything, I applaud vegans for their steadfastness and alertness.

So, would I do it again? Could I ever go *full vegan*?

After my almost-week of #vegansofInstagram, I am making *slight* changes. I’m upping the budget and buying Coyo forever because it is a dreamboat. And I’m sticking to nut-milk alternatives where possible to cut the bloat. But completely cutting out cheese from my diet will forever be a no-go – what’s a girl to snack on at the next Bachelor party then?

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