Going vegan is a challenge in itself, but made more difficult if you don't know anyone who had gone through the process. If you don't know people in your own lives who have made that switch, you can always live through celebrities. And since a lot of us feel like we know celebrities, well, that's "just as good."
Jay-Z and Beyonce are 10 days into their 22-day vegan challenge. Already the two music stars have an advantage, since Jay-Z knows someone going through the process (Beyonce) and Beyonce knows someone going through the process (Jay-Z). And they're both celebrities.
If Jay-Z and Beyonce aren't at your speed or you don't even know who they are, Al Gore is another recent convert to being vegan, joining former President Bill Clinton.
A brief check of celebrities who are vegans unveiled names such as Lea Michele, Jared Leto, Ellen and Portia, Natalie Portman, Russell Simmons, Sandra Oh, Alicia Silverstone, and Daryl Hannah. Silverstone even plays a vegan in her recent film, "Butter."
Jay-Z says the idea came from a vegan friend of his who "challenged me to embrace a 'plant-based breakfast' every day. So he had 2 things on his side: 1) someone who knew the landscape of being vegan, and 2) a direction to experiment with one meal in a day.
The first smart move is identifying this as "plant-based." In the rapper world, "vegan" might sound hippie-like, but "plant-based" might also sound like Snoop Dogg would be doing the challenge instead of Jay-Z.
Going 22 days as a vegan or eating a plant-based diet isn't a challenge to those who are vegetarian and lean vegan, or a well-established vegan. Doing so without having that much of a background, especially around holiday time, is a significant challenge.
Jay-Z announced this quest on his Life and Times blog. Jay-Z doesn't leave his followers in the cold on how to go vegan. The initial blog entry provides a link to a Web site conveniently entitled 22 days nutrition complete with 22 days of menus for vegan options.
Here is the menu from the first day:
Breakfast: Vanilla chia pudding with 1 cup fresh berries
Lunch: Crunchy red cabbage and green apple sesame slaw with 1 cup steamed, cubed sweet potato (or 1 small sweet potato, baked)
Afternoon snack: 1/4 cup hemp hummus with fresh vegetables (carrots, celery, romaine leaves, bell pepper, etc.)
Dinner: Black bean and quinoa salad with quick cumin dressing
Dessert: Dark chocolate
Celebrities, especially those who have to keep in good shape, have perks in their lives that average people don't get to enjoy. Fewer meals on the go, no commuting pressures — you can control more of your lifestyle.
The former vice president cited the impact of meat in climate change as a reasoning for going vegan. Gore's path has been quieter and a lot more subtle. Even when Gore knew how meat impact greenhouse gases, he still kept eating meat. Then again, Gore has been a vegan longer than 22 days.
If you, non-famous person that you are, chooses to go down the plant-based path to being a vegan, you can follow a more-publicized short-term path such as Jay-Z or a quieter, in for the long haul, journey such as Al Gore. Or you can dig to find out the backstory of other Hollywood vegans. Having a friend who is a vegan who will answer your questions is better than following a celebrity path.
No offense to Jay-Z and Beyonce, but a public spectacle over a 22-day period proves tempting to downplay any bumps in the road. If people are going to follow the path of celebrities, they would benefit from knowing about what to do in times of temptation or trouble. What about road trips? What about dinner parties? Was there a moment where you gave into temptation?
The 22-day method is designed to give a person time to change their ways. This shouldn't be about going 22 straight days without any animal products. The advantage to Gore's method is any slipup exists in real time; not about perfection, but finding a consistent path over a lifetime.
Often when talking to non-famous vegans on how they decided to go vegan, usually they were already vegetarian to start or a part-time vegan. Can't recall how many times I heard the phrase "I never really liked meat anyway." They weren't jumping from classic omnivore to strict vegan; even their path was an evolution, though a few of them seemingly had a head start down the path.
Jay-Z is trying to be realistic about going vegan full-time, not sure about the future. "I don't know what happens after Christmas. A semi-vegan, a full plant-based diet? Or just a spiritual and physical challenge? We'll see …"
Props to Jay-Z: no promises, no guarantees, giving a 24/7 plant-based diet a shot. Props to Beyonce, too. Good to have a loved one by your side in going down a difficult path.