I’m Sorry I Farted, But I’ve Gone Vegan

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“Vegan Before Six” for those who can’t quite break up with meat

My husband is a true carnivore. When we began dating, we joked that sex and bacon were tied for first place in our relationship priorities. He’s talked about roasting a whole pig in our yard and spent endless hours watching YouTube videos on how to make sausage. You can imagine my surprise when he told me he wanted to go vegan.

He recently watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, which advocates a plant-based diet, and when he declared his intention to go vegan I nearly choked on my rib-eye.  “Good luck,” I snickered, as I anticipated this lasting for a full five hours.  Instead I watched in awe for the next six weeks as he poured almond milk over his homemade oat mix and coconut creamer into his coffee. He consumed copious amounts of brown rice, legumes and vegetables, easily rejecting the shepherd’s pie I made for dinner. He had more energy. He slept better. He lost weight. And he farted.

To say that he farted is an understatement. He was like a human whoopee cushion. Any amount of pressure on his body caused him to expel gas – loudly. His stomach was so distended that he looked pregnant. One night, as he writhed in agony from the gas pains, I couldn’t take it anymore. “Eat a fucking cheeseburger and end this already!”

He refused, but did agree to bring some animal protein back into his diet. That’s when I discovered a wonderful balance for him: Vegan Before Six. The philosophy is detailed in Mark Bittman’s book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . For Good. 

Anyone interested in the modern food movement has heard that a plant-based diet is the way to go. I’ve read several of Michael Pollan’s books, and walked away with strong motivation to follow his mantra: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. As with most mantras, however, it’s the execution that trips me up.

Mark Bittman’s philosophy, however, has some real promise because of its easy-to-follow guidelines. Bittman, a food writer for The New York Times, suggests that during the day we should try to eat only plant-based foods. Once the clock strikes six, all bets are off and we’re free to dive into a bowl of beef stew with an ice cream chaser. I felt ready for the challenge until I pictured my morning cup of coffee with coconut milk creamer. It looked sad and gray; nothing like the creamy cup of goodness to which I’d grown accustomed. But the diet allows for slight transgressions. It’s more about creating awareness and changing habits than a strict adherence to some unrealistic way of life. I decided to give it a try.

The first two weeks went smoothly. I ate better than I had in months, if not years. I made big batches of chickpea and cauliflower curry stew that I poured over brown rice for lunch. For breakfast I enjoyed my creamy morning coffee with pumpkin oatmeal or coconut granola. I felt less hungry, and my desire to eat meat-based foods diminished. I became very aware of much how animal protein I used to eat, as I was forced to reject most of my typical meal choices and scour the internet for acceptable substitutes.

I never experienced a moment of deprivation because if I craved a slice of aged Gouda or pasta with sausage and broccoli, I could satisfy that craving later.  Admittedly, going out for breakfast or lunch presented its challenges, especially the day I met my sister at Newport Creamery, home of the golden cow. But I ate a veggie burger with no cheese or mayonnaise, skipped the Awful Awful, and walked away feeling fine. My husband joined me and continued to lose weight, but no longer looked ready to give birth. And the best part: farting returned to its normal levels. Life was good in our VB6 household.

At week three, however, everything started to go awry. Christmas was fast-approaching, and there was no time to make a big pot of curry stew or pumpkin oatmeal. So I ate bagels, first with peanut butter, then with cream cheese, finally eggs and bacon. Next thing I knew, the entire diet was blown and I found myself ensconced in cured meats and gorgonzola cheese, dripping with golden melted butter. Chaos ensued. Weight that was lost was once again found. We were back to our old unhealthy ways. Damn you, Christmas!

As we begin the new year, my husband and I decided to try VB6 again. In my desire to live a healthy but deprivation-free life, this philosophy feels right. The biggest hurdle is that eating healthy takes time. Most vegan meals require actual preparation – not ideal for an on-the-go eater. However, I feel it’s worth a few hours of my weekend to cut vegetables and prepare a few vegan soups and stews for the week. I know there will be some mornings when I will eat eggs and bacon for breakfast, and I might have an Awful Awful at Newport Creamery. So what? I’m not a vegan – and never will be.

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