I realize that this is sort of old news (two years isn’t that long ago, right?), but I was thinking of it in the context of my recent post about going vegan for Lent and it seemed like a good time to revisit the idea.
For anyone who may not be familiar, Mark Bittman, is a famed food columnist for The New York Times and author of several best-selling cookbooks. While promoting the release of his book, “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes” a few years back, he unveiled his personal strategy for improving his eating habits: eating vegan everyday until dinnertime. After 6 p.m., anything goes.
At the time, Bittman explained that he’d come up with the idea after his doctor recommended a vegan diet to combat his struggles with high cholesterol, high blood sugar, bad knees and sleep apnea. Being a super high-profile food writer, Mark felt like full-on veganism would be far too limiting and difficult to undertake, so he found a realistic middle-ground:
My arrangement with myself is that from the time I wake up until dinner I eat only fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I don’t even eat white bread during the day. And then starting at dinner, I do. I have one meal a day when I do pretty much what I want, which is normally quite indulgent.
Apparently, this plan has worked out pretty well for him. Within three or four months of starting, he lost 35 pounds, normalized his blood sugar and cholesterol levels and banished the sleep apnea. As far as I can tell, he continues to follow the same eating pattern to this day, more than two years later.
I know there are those that feel like the “vegan till 6″ plan is just half-assed veganism. By definition, it sort of is. But for some people, like Bittman (and a lot of people I know), full-time veganism just isn’t going to happen. I understand that, and as you might expect, I don’t think it has to be a zero-sum game. I completely welcome any attempt to consume less meat on a regular basis because, truly, every effort means less animals are suffering.
In any case, the “vegan before dinnertime” plan would be a great way for someone interested in trying out the vegan diet to get started. Even if you have no intention of ever going fully vegan, it’s a fantastic means to expose yourself to new foods and ways of cooking.
As Mark’s experience proves, being “vegan till 6″ could also be a good strategy for optimal health and weight loss. I mean seriously, people do crazier things to lose weight, right (ahem…HCG diet, anyone?)? This way, you improve your situation, and that of countless animals at the same time. It’s a win-win!