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As I have mentioned earlier, a friend of mine is going through a month-long vegan challenge. At first I thought I would hop on the ride for a few days. I didn’t have a set plan for how long I’d do this or what my clear goals were. So far I think I could go the whole 30 days. So, on day 12, here is what I have learned so far.

1. You have to decide for you what vegan means. Are you going to skip pad Thai w/tofu because your local Thai house uses fish oil in its dish? What about honey? What about processed foods in general? I know we could get in a riotous argument about who’s the holiest vegan but it’s self-defeating. Any one who is doing whatever they can to eat less animal products is pretty awesome by me. You’re making an effort for a compassionate lifestyle that lives in harmony with animals as best as you can and it’s a step in the right direction.

2. I’m in love with Tal Ronnen, especially his cookbook.  I have made his Old Bay tofu cakes on a bed of pan-roasted summer vegetables with a garnish of apples and beets and a drizzle of horseradish cream; the pinenut-encrusted Gardein chik’n with braised kale and fingerling potatoes; the twice-baked fingerling potatoes with horseradish cream, the whole-wheat penne pasta with san marzano tomatoes, and more. Nothing showcases vegan amazingness like “fancy” meals. That is how my carnivorous husband referred to them. People ask him how he feels about me flirting with veganism and he just responds that our dinners have been pretty impressive.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on the cashew cream. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

3. Speaking of my husband, I have also learned that he really is awesome for being so open-minded about my journey. I’m incredibly lucky that he’s not a picky eater. I know some of my friends have commented that their spouse would never get on board with tofu or wouldn’t touch a fake meat product. I’m fortunate that he has been such a good sport. He has never pressured me or made me uncomfortable about my choices. When he cooks a steak to eat with our pasta, we’re both fine with that.

4. Big family gatherings are going to require a lot more thought if I become a bona-fide vegan for the long haul. I’m talking about Easter. I haven’t eaten ham in years so that wasn’t a loss; however, there were no cheesy potatoes for me, no deviled eggs, no french toast, no quiche, no chocolate-covered strawberries, no muffins. I ate a fruit salad and a house salad and that was it. Admittedly, I knew this was how it would be with my family. I ate a granola bar and a bowl of red quinoa and berries before leaving the house. In the future, I would probably want to to bring at least two dishes to pass and make them something that appeals to vegans, carnivores, and flexitarians.

5. Joyously, I have never had that “O my god, undo my belt buckle, let my gut hang out” overstuffed feeling. I feel perfectly content after my meals. I don’t end up starving and I don’t end up bloated. Here’s to keeping my pants zipped!

6. Along with not overindulging at dinner, I’ve had the willpower of an Olympian when it comes to avoiding treats. We’ve had cookies and cupcakes in the break room at my work. I was surrounded by an army of candy and chocolate on Easter, and I never broke down. Most likely those items had dairy or eggs and since that’s not in my vegan model (see #1), I just walked by them. I only cried a little. HAH!

7. This might be cheesy and I can see my carnivore friends rolling their eyes, but I have felt really at peace knowing my actions are in line with my beliefs. No cow was mechanically and brutally milked for me this week. No chicken was put in a tiny, wire cage and forced to live in its feces because of me. That goes a long way to reinforcing my motivation!

8. Let’s just say, if you’re struggling with constipation, why not try a vegetarian or a vegan adventure. You most definitely will not have any troubles with your colon!