Saturday, July 23, 2016

Experience Report: 2 Weeks On a Raw Vegan Diet

I've been doing a mostly raw vegan diet these last two weeks.

As an interesting side effect, I didn't have any alcohol (except on fridays) and no coffee, though I did cheat a little bit by drinking green tea, and I had maybe 3 or 4 cups of coffee throughout the whole time. The coffee turkey led to some interesting withdrawal symptoms.

After the first week, I decided to reintroduce bread, and I decided not to look extremely closely at the label of hummus and some spelt grain spread, because I developed extreme cravings for those two things and the other option would have been to step down to a cooked vegan diet, which presented no challenge at all, as I already know I can do that.

There were no cravings for sweets (interesting), no cravings for alcohol (very reassuring!), and none for meat (yeah that was pretty neat).

Digestion was not a problem -- to the contrary. If anything, it was better. With a somewhat meaty and fatty diet, I always had some acid reflux issues. On raw vegan, this was gone. As for what came out at the other end... well, let's just say it was shockingly much.

My conclusion is twofold.

One is that this is not sustainable in the long run for me. Too many variations of taste, temperature and consistency go amiss, at least as long as one doesn't buy a desiccation machine and a juicer (which I definitely won't do just for an experiment). Fermentation can make things interesting, but what it all boils down to (haha, pun so intended!) is that everything has extremely strong tastes - either very sour, or very salty, or very sweet. There are no in-betweens. Nothing is mild and gentle. To my surprise, this is exactly the quality that makes meat so tasty - it's good precisely because it doesn't taste like very much.

And also, keeping this kind of diet healthy would require amounts of planning ahead that I am simply not prepare to invest.

One fun and very instructive part: It's incredible how fast raw food will rot. For example, I took raw oatmeal to work, ate a bit at about 8am, and forgot to put it in the fridge. At 1pm I thought I'd have a bite. By that time, the thing had already gone bad. And that, my friends, is why we invented cooking in the first place!

On to the positive: I had been going through a year-long spell of low energy. I came home from work and only wanted to watch a few videos and go to sleep. I put it down to the job, which indeed was quite stressful.

But over these two weeks my energy level improved with every day. It was truly amazing. My gf felt it, too. ;-) I even took up reading, like, actual books, again, which was utterly out of my reach for at least a year. (This might actually be due to drinking no coffee.)

What I take from it is this: I'll dive even more into vegan cooking than I did in the past. I'll have way more raw stuff in my diet. I'll reduce non-vegan options to when I eat at a restaurant or am invited to parties.

But for a long-term diet, raw vegan is completely and utterly unsustainable. You'd have to put in tremendous amounts of planning, reserve lots of time just for eating (a salad just takes way longer to eat than a steak or pasta), and even then you'd have to start supplementing B12 at some point. Not to mention that it is rather expensive, since you'd have to buy organic fruit in large quantities all the time. But for a short spell, just to lose a bit of weight, it's actually a fine option.

The Road To Vegan World-Domination

If I were a vegan, (which I am not and never will be), and my goal was to convince meat-eaters to become vegan, here's what I should not do:

Tell people that meat is murder, and try to convince them on moral grounds and with all the brute force of my strict, stringent, wonderfully compelling logic.

Here is what I should focus on instead:

Convince people with the glow of my renewed energy. Seduce them with extremely delicious, beautiful food. Add my greens to their barbecue. Actually enjoy my own food and let them see my enjoyment.

You see, I am a not-quite-but-almost-vegan for the simple reason that I enjoy the food I cook for myself. I look forward to that wonderful Koshari, that intensely aromatic Chili Sin Carne, this excellent Curry with tofu and greens. I really like my oatmeal and my smoothie. And I'm truly sorry, but I just don't feel for the poor cows, even though I know I probably should. It's just not there, on an emotional, visceral level. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but the fact is I could not care less even if I tried real hard.

Forget logic and morality. People are rarely ever won over by those. Their experience is that meat tastes yummie and that society won't punish them for their creature comforts. And the simple fact is that experience trumps rational reasoning. It doesn't matter whether that seems unfair or illogical or just plain wrong to you. That's just how humans work. If you actually want to make the world a better place, instead of being comfortable on the moral high ground, you better start working with nature, not against it.

Let's assume that the goal is to reduce suffering. Then, turning 1% of the population into 100% vegans is way less effective than turning 30% of them into people who eat small amounts of meat.

It's also less catchy, of course.