Sustainable Eating, Unsustainable Living

Reflecting back on the few weeks I went vegan, I am glad I made the choice to return to “normal” food.

Cauliflower+stir+fry+is+served+at+Death+or+Glory+in+Delray+Beach.

MCT Campus

Cauliflower stir fry is served at Death or Glory in Delray Beach.

Jenna Barackman, Managing Website Editor

Jenna Barackman
A typical breakfast: banana and peanut butter with a smoothie to go.

If there’s anything that I learned from my three-ish weeks of going vegan, it’s that a diet is a mindset. And my mindset going into this was in the right place: I had been a student in AP Environmental Science and had a passion for the earth, so I thought that such a sustainable diet like veganism would greatly reduce my carbon footprint. 

I had always wanted to attempt to live the vegan lifestyle- my brother’s girlfriend, friends and other family members had tried it and seemed happy and healthy all while sustainably eating. What’s not to like? 

So I made the decision at the end of January to try to go vegan for only a month and a half, with the diet ending at Spring Break, just in time for my trip to Mexico with my friends. I even got one of my friends, senior Sela Kincaid, to do it with me. 

And I really loved it. Everyone told me it would be really hard, but I was able to eat three full meals every day and actually enjoy what I was eating. When my friends would go out to eat, there were always vegan alternatives. Better yet, having a friend go through it with me was the backbone of it.

Jenna Barackman
One of my favorite soups to eat, always accompanies with Saltines.

Overall, I felt happier, healthier and I could see physical effects like my skin clearing up. I felt like a better person reducing my carbon emissions, and though there was a lot of temptation when my friends would eat Mac and cheese in front of me, I could usually resist with ease because I enjoyed what I was doing. 

However, as time went on, the ideas about my diet became blurred. Every time I mentioned I was vegan until spring break, the first thing they’d say is, “Oh my god, you’re going to lose a ton of weight.”

The next time I’d see those same people or try to update them about a new food I discovered, the first question would always be, “Have you lost a lot of weight? You’re getting Spring Break ready!”

Jenna Barackman
My favorite snack, vegan or non-vegan, is hummus with Sriracha and pretzels.

All of this troubled me, and I started feeling like since I was on a “diet” I had to lose weight in order for it to be valid- that wanting to live sustainably wasn’t a good enough reason. Because I’m a teenage girl, I must be dieting to lose weight. 

But the truth is, I hadn’t even weighed myself before I embarked on the diet because that wasn’t my goal. As I got more and more questions about my body and weight, I began to scrutinize myself and convinced myself that maybe I did need to lose weight. 

Jenna Barackman
For dinner, I discovered a zucchini and lentil pasta that I think is better than regular pasta.

I know myself well. I knew I did not want to go back down the path of self-hatred and become body image-obsessed, so I pulled myself from the diet halfway through. 

I knew it meant being ridiculed by the people who told me I wouldn’t be able to do it for six weeks, but it was important for me to look out for myself. I could feel myself getting anxious when I looked at food and constantly thinking about what my body would look like in a swimsuit on Spring Break. Where before I enjoyed eating things like rice and soy sauce, fake meats, chips and salsa and hummus and carrots as snacks, I now felt guilty eating them because everyone was telling me that a diet means losing weight. I started swapping the vegan foods I liked and ate less frequently with less calorie-rich foods.

Jenna Barackman
When I felt a sweet tooth, Halo Top ice cream always hit the spot.

I didn’t want to live like that and I especially didn’t want everyone else to decide for me what my food means, so I wanted to take a break from my diet until I could get myself and my mind in a healthy place. I plan on returning to this diet relatively soon because I enjoyed it, but I need to control the toxicity of it.

I don’t regret changing my diet because it introduced me to so many new, sustainable foods I still eat to this day. However, when starting to diet, I would give this advice: make sure your mind is as sustainable as the food you eat.