Gladiators Eat Their Greens: Why This Challenge Can Be Vegan Easy
I always say I was vegan for ‘about twenty minutes’. In reality it was more like two weeks. I had decided that since I was already a vegetarian, and lactose intolerant, that I might as well just get it over with and eliminate eggs (as vegans know, ‘free range’ eggs are rarely farmed in the humane way you would hope). But when I was at a local pub enjoying a boutique beer, I realised that at least at the beginning, veganism isn’t all that easy.
I waited till I was half way through my pint of beer to find out if Fat Yak was vegan. A quick Google search determined that that particular brand of sweet, floral ambrosia isn’t even suitable for vegetarians. ‘Oh, crap,’ I thought. ‘It’s a life of Carlton Draught for me.’
But for people like Noah Hannibal, vice president of Animal Liberation Victoria, veganism has been a manageable shift and a way of life for years. “I have been a vegetarian all my life and when I was fifteen I started learning about what animals go through in the egg and dairy industries. In many cases these animals suffer more than animals raised and killed for their meat. I thought, if I’m a vegetarian because I’m against animal exploitation, I’m really not being consistent by eating products like eggs and milk. So I made the decision to try going vegan and have never looked back!”
Animal Liberation Victoria started The Vegan Easy Challenge three years ago, and asks people to go vegan for 30 days, this year for the entirety of November. They provide challengers with a welcome pack of vegan products and information, and participants can win up to $500 worth of vegan gifts and vouchers. As well as providing a wealth of information on veganism and heaps of recipes, veganeasy.org provides a suggested 30 day meal plan to make the shift that much smoother.
“We started the Vegan Easy Challenge to make the transition as easy as possible. In addition to our website we’ll be running workshops, vegan bus tours and a vegan cheatsheet which will list hundreds of vegan products available in Australian supermarkets (often things you would never suspect, like Oreos!).”
A silver medallist in the Australian National Bench Press Championships, Noah proves it’s possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enviable fitness level by only eating vegetable products. “There is no ‘magical’ ingredient in animal products that you can’t get from plant-based foods,” he says.
Like many vegans, he subsists on lots of greens, tofu and tempeh, lentils, black beans and snacks on nuts between meals. He bolsters his protein levels with vegetable protein powders and insists that building muscle is surprisingly easy to do without the aid of animal products.
‘People are surprised to know that Roman gladiators were fed a vegan diet, but there are many high level athletes – like UFC champion Mac Danzig, ultramarathon champion Scott Jurek, and multiple Olympic medal-winner Carl Lewis – who trained as vegans.’
Noah recommends converts try new foods and recipes: a task that isn’t difficult considering the wealth of information available online and in famed cookbooks like Vegan with a Vengeance. It’s also particularly easy for Melburnians because of the number of cruelty-free culinary delights available at places like Vegie Bar, White Lotus and Lord of the Fries.
“Do some reading: learn about vegan nutrition to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet. Many times you will hear people saying ‘I went vegan but it wasn’t for me...’ Almost always this is because they just dropped animal products from their diet and didn’t replace them with suitable vegan alternatives.
Experiment with new foods. This is one of the often overlooked benefits of going vegan: you get to try so many new foods you might never otherwise have tried. If you’re eating out with friends at a restaurant that serves meat, call ahead to check what vegan options are available. Most places will already have vegan options or otherwise be happy to prepare you a vegan meal.’
BY DIANA KUMURDIAN
Sign up at veganeasy.org and swap stories and recipe ideas with other participants at the Vegan Easy Challenge Facebook page.