Off the wagon - FamilyEducation

Off the wagon

March 01,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

My name is Professor Mom, and I'm a vegan dropout.

That's right--after six months on a vegan diet (I've been a vegetarian for fifteen years, but wanted to try going vegan), I fell off the wagon. In the end, I didn't cave to a particular food, as I thought I might; instead, I just couldn't fight the overall, all-consuming urge for dairy that's been slowly by surely creeping over me. Last week was incredibly stressful and nothing I brought to work with me for lunch seemed to fix the cravings. I felt hungry, run-down, depleted of resources, and all I could think about was...cheese. I went to the grocery store and I found myself wandering past the cheese case; I opened the mini fridge at work and my eyes were drawn to my office-mate's string-cheese. I couldn't stop thinking about yogurt--not the soy kind, but the real yogurt I used to eat each day. I know exactly what happened: stress and lack of time had resulted in a stretch of poor eating for me: not that I was eating bad things, but I didn't have the time to cook up adequate nutritious substitutes, or to get to a specialty store to stock up on vegan essentials. I hadn't factored in how much work--how much time and energy it would take to balance a healthy vegan diet with the chaos of our daily lives. Because I had given myself "permission" six months ago to stray from a vegan diet if it made me miserable or stressed, I felt okay with taking a few steps back. 

I ate yogurt.

I sprinkled some paremesan on my pasta.

I had a SLICE OF PIZZA on Saturday--the first slice I'd had in six months.

It did taste kind of weird to me, though, and the experience wasn't as pleasurable as I imagined it would be. Going vegan for six months turned me off dairy quite a bit. I have no desire for "heavy" dairy like ice cream, and I have zero desire for eggs anymore. The vegan experience did teach me a whole lot more about nutrition and diet and food resources, and what stress can do to your body. It did reinforce in me the importance of supplementing properly in order to replace the absence of a food group; if you don't, your body will let you know. I was glad to find out that I didn't miss dairy as much as I thought I might (for six months, at least), and that my body is healthy enough to be so sensitive to what I need. I'm grateful for the conversations my vegan diet sparked around our dinner table, and the interest so many people had in why I had made that choice. I hope that my short experience with veganism helped my kids think more about how to feed themselves sensitively, carefully, morally, and responsibly. I will still plan on "veganizing" as many recipes as I can, and I'm very pleased with how unnecessary eggs are in baked goods. But I guess I'm not a vegan anymore--for now. I'll call myself a vegetarian-who-doesn't-eat-eggs, and who is trying to limit dairy, and who might try the vegan thing again--when and if life ever calms down enough.