About a year ago, when Oprah Winfrey had Michael Pollan on her show, Winfrey also had Alicia Silverstone on extolling the virtues of a vegan lifestyle.
Oprah must have been rather impressed with what Silverstone said because she issued a challenge that finished one week ago for herself and 378 staffers to go vegan for a week.
Most people don't have their boss force a significant eating change on them, but if you work for Oprah Winfrey, you can't be surprised when it happens.
Now, it has been a week since those staffers — and Oprah — went vegan for a week. Some went longer than a week, but most stopped at 7 days.
Of the 378 staffers, 300 were successful. And even the other 78 learned a lot from the experience.
Now, going vegetarian — even for a week — would be a challenge for most Americans. Going vegan, well, good luck.
Going vegetarian for a day is seen as easily attainable, thanks to programs such as Meatless Monday. Going vegetarian accidentally for a day without being aware is actually possible.
Yesterday's "Jeopardy" had a whole column on vegetarian options — "Don't have a cow, man." "What are lettuce, tofu, (fakin') bacon, soy, and portabello (mushroom)?"
Going vegan does feel like the thought of riding a motorcycle when your bicycle still has training wheels.
The outside of the rules are simple: eat vegetables, fruits, and grains while avoiding meat. The tricky part is the new stuff: butter, cheese, eggs, even gelatin is off limits.
Quinoa, beans, peanut butter, whole grain pasta — there are plenty of sources of protein that don't involve animals. But being vegan means a lot more forethought to finding the food supply that fits this lifestyle. Being omnivores requires much less work.
The pressure of having to go on national TV and admit that you "failed" would put pressure on you to give it a good try. Those in real life don't have those pressures nor do they get the benefit from having that pressure.
Silverstone's story didn't speak about the cruelty to animals; her concerns were about health and personal energy, both of which improved for her after going vegan.
But Silverstone shrugged off the ease in transitioning to being a vegan. This was a life lesson opportunity — a teaching moment — that was lost.
Why won't most people try being a vegan — even for a week? A lack of knowledge and a fear of failure. Oprah and her 378 staffers have a great story after having gone vegan for a week.
That story isn't necessarily that they succeeded or even that they loved it. Their best stories will be the point of temptation, and yes, even a few failures.
Making changes to your eating habits is one of the most difficult transitions to make. Unlike heroin and cigarettes, you still have to eat food every day.
Did Oprah and her staffers try eating more vegetables or did they use seitan, tofu, and other non-animal sources of protein? Did they accidentally consume an animal product? What was the hardest part of the experience? What was your worst temptation? Did you feel better? Healthier?
We got a little bit of that, but would love to have seen more struggles.
And for those who criticized the show for emphasizing fake meat over adding more vegetables, well, that bandwagon needs a few more floats to hold all the people who agree with that assessment.
Being vegan or vegetarian doesn't have to be the answer, and there are many good ways to go about that, should you make that decision. And the prestige of a national show draws needed attention to different options.
Just don't feel the need to do it because Oprah said so, and don't think the way on her show is the only way to make changes.