Oprah Goes Vegan

I’m trying something new today with this post – let’s call it blogging in real time.  

I rarely watch Oprah, but today’s episode caught my interest: “Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan: The One-Week Challenge.” I’m jotting notes during the show, then will do a quick edit at the end and add in links…then up she’ll go onto the website!

3:58 p.m. – TV on!

The challenge, as described by Oprah, is to consume nothing that comes from an animal for seven full days. Oprah invited the staff of Harpo Productions to participate, and 378 staffers volunteered. Day one – her staff receives gift bags from Whole Foods and Kashi – I’d be motivated to take on the challenge, too, after being bribed with gifties from these two healthy food Super Powers!

What I’m hoping to see in today’s show: how Oprah and her staff found the seven days’ experience most interests me. Did most people find it tough? easy? any cravings?

4:05 p.m. – first guest: Michael Pollan, Journalist and Food Expert

– he still eats meat 1-2 times a week, just is picky about where he gets it from

– the concern is with how much preventable disease Americans have, how much processed food is eaten

4:13 p.m. – tour of a meat processing plant. Lisa Ling reports from the Cargill slaughterhouse. The bolt to the head (to kill the cattle) is not shown, but the carcasses hanging from the ceiling, is. [I found this report to be respectful and fair journalism; rep from Cargill plant stresses that they never forget the dignity of the animal].

4:26 Oprah tries a variety of vegan snacks [they all look great!]

– Oprah can’t taste the broccoli in the smoothie! Oprah loves Kashi [can’t you see it? Ka-ching for Kashi sales!!]

4:27 p.m. guest Kathy Freston, author of “Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World

– where do you get your protein?? asks Oprah. Beans, legumes, tofu, seitan, tempeh, says Kathy. There are lots of options/sources.

4:33 p.m. Harpo Productions cafe is going to do Meatless Monday from now on. Kathy and Michael think this is a great way to ease into the lifestyle.

– Michael worries about the effect of veganism on farmers; also, he’s concerned that people will flip over to refined carbohydrates on a vegan diet, which in itself, is not healthy

– Kathy says it’s not her business to tell anyone how to eat

– Oprah’s not ready to commit to the whole thing; maybe she’ll be “vegan-ish!”

Humourous Moment I: Oprah asks director, Joe, how his bowel movements have been – “great!” says Joe [gee, thanks! TMI, much?!]

4:37 p.m. Real Life Moment: Staffer Monica gives a b!tchy opinion of her meatless burger; Kathy soothingly calms her, stating nothing is going to taste good if you’re addicted to fast food. It’s like trying to take alcohol away from an alcoholic.

4:41 p.m. Kathy’s easy alternatives for your family’s meals: Staffer Jill and her daughter go to Whole Foods for vegan options to thie supper staples: pizza and spaghetti with meat sauce. Kathy promotes the idea of leading in to a vegan lifestyle. Products Kathy suggests:

Daiya cheese [I’ve bought it! it IS delicious]

Gardein brand meat substitutes [the sodium would be my concern…]

Tofurkey sausages pulsed in food processor to make “meat sauce” for spaghetti

– soy, almond, rice milks [I love almond milk, although the nutrient stats cannot match organic cow’s milk, IMO]

Vegenaise [tried a sister product – tastes like mayo]

Earth Balance [tried it! does taste just like butter!]

[Very happy to see that the products mentioned on the show are readily available in my neighbourhood, despite the fact that I’m not in the U.S., and I do not have easy access to Whole Foods].

Humourous Moment II: Staffer Jill’s Family Feedback on the “meatless sauce:” husband: “it was awful.” son’s response to ‘did you like it?’ “NO!” (stated emphatically).

My opinion of this show: very balanced, fair look at both the benefits and downfalls of vegan and omnivore diets.

4:50 p.m. Feedback from the Staffers [this is what I was hoping for!…]: Kathy cheated on pizza; Lesia very excited to eat an egg tomorrow; Rich lost 11 pounds in one week – ate horribly before the challenge, now he doesn’t – migraines gone; Tommy lost 5 lbs, going to continue in to February [I want to hear Oprah’s opinion! She never does end up sharing how she fared…]

Staff stats: 444 lbs lost, 84 gained, record amount of tp used!!!

4:54 p.m. Michael speaks up, and is going to “cast a shadow on this ‘dietary revival meeting’ ” – there is nothing evil with meat, having it in your diet; Kathy agrees but eating meat “does not sit right with her soul.”

Humourous Moment III, from Michael: “Animals lead very happy lives, and have one bad day.”

Michael continues…How much meat to eat is different for everyone – it’s overwhelming the American diet, the system is brutal – need to reform the system.

4:58 p.m. Final shout-out to Kashi by Oprah [I really dislike blatant product placement]…

Oprah’s Final Thoughts: Be more conscious about where your food comes from. Decide what’s right for you and your family.

To close, Oprah mentions the latest books by Michael (Food Rules) and Kathy (The Veganist) – [These will now be on top of the Amazon/Chapters Best-Selling Lists by tomorrow morning, mark my words!]

My Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed watching this episode! Although not a regular viewer, I am an Oprah fan, and appreciate that when she publicizes a topic, people pay attention. I liked the balanced viewpoints (experts Michael vs Kathy), the respectful tone. It’s always hard to condense a rather broad topic – in this case, veganism – into a < 60 minute TV show, but I thought the end result was interesting and informative.

So…the million dollar question: Would I try a 7 day Vegan Challenge? Yes! Would I try to convince B to join with me? Double yes!

Hmmm, now that the wheels are turning…this could be a great New Experience, couldn’t it?? Watch out, B! 

Would YOU try a 7 Day Vegan Diet??

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  • Kelly  On February 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Cathy! I’m glad that you found my blog through Mama Pea and left me a comment! I just read your post on the Oprah episode and found it interesting to hear a non-vegan’s opinion! I look forward to reading about your own 7 day challenge if you do it 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      i *think* i can get the husband on board for the seven day challenge! if so, it’ll be later in february! we shall see…i might have just caught him at a weak moment! 🙂

  • Dorry  On February 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I love this post! So fun that you live-blogged about it. I agree with a lot of your points about the food products, especially the sodium content in the “fake meat” products. I don’t eat any of that processed stuff – it doesn’t appeal to me. I eat a vegan diet most of the time (100% dairy-free but occasional fish and products with honey). I’m glad Oprah did this show since it really spreads awareness with the huge audience and viewership she has.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      thanks, dorry! i’ve loved reading comments (and other blogs) about people’s choices and preferences for vegan vs non…so much variety! i think i’d miss shrimp, crab and salmon if i went 100% vegan forever…and honey!

  • Lisa  On February 2, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I’m with you—an oprah fan but not a regular watcher.
    I enjoyed the show, and the only thing I wasn’t crazy about was that it kinda gave the idea that all vegans eat lots of fake meat. Maybe I’m wrong, but I actually never eat fake meat (I’m also not vegan, but I don’t really eat much meat at all). I can see how it would be easier to transition with substitutes for the meat versions of things…so I don’t really have a big gripe with it 🙂
    I’m a Michael Pollan fan!
    I agree—they took a respectful look at Cargill. I think some hardcore animal rights people will not be happy with that—because essentially none of their issues were brought to light in the way they would have discussed it. Although, Freston did have a chance to make the comment about looking into the cow’s eyes, etc.
    SO! I think it was probably very strategically a totally PC way of presenting the topic to avoid any specific group being able to totally go up in arms about it.
    I’m 100% for it, and think that no matter what the reason for trying veganism is…it’s good for the general public to be exposed to the idea. I’m certain it positively impacted people, so it’s good in my book 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

      thanks so much for your insightful comments, lisa! i appreciate the “discussion” via the comments! 1) i don’t like the fake meats, either. in my grocery store, they carry the “yves” brand – one look at the ingredient list is cringe-inducing – and the sodium is no better than real meat products like wieners and sausages. my take is that they were meaning to show how quick n easy vegan eating can be – ie pop the fake meat in the micro for 5 minutes and you’re ready. 2) the look at cargill was balanced, to my mind, too. esp the way lisa was wincing as she watched the “bullet to the heads” of the animals. but many activists would find the reporting one-sided, i’m sure. 3) “very PC” is a very applicable turn-of-phrase for the episode – good word choice! glad you caught the show and thanks again for sharing!

  • Gina Unger  On February 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Found your blog interesting, as usual! Love Oprah, but don’t watch her shows (maybe once a year, if that) so love when people fill me in on Oprah stuff.
    Would I try a 7-day vegan diet? Yeah, I’m always up for new challenges and if someone else was doing the vegan food prep for me for a week so I wouldn’t have to I’d definitely eat the food. Love to!
    But when it comes down to it, my “eating stance” (if you want to call it that) is to just eat a variety of foods all the time, making sure there are lots of whole foods (i.e. avoiding processed when I can) and whole grain products in our diet. With my job, my dinners are always planned out with a chicken, beef, pork, vegetarian, and fish meal for each of the 5 weekdays, using a variety of veggies and starches, as well. It works for us, but not for everyone.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

      quite a few bloggers have written responses to the oprah show, and the over-riding response seems to be that everyone needs to do what they’re comfortable with, but just to be aware of where you’re getting your food from is important. and i totally agree with less processed food in general, whether it be vegan or not. you can have a “bad diet” as a vegan or meat-eater, really! love how you have five different themes for each supper – that’s great variety!

  • Zo  On February 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Wow. I feel like I have whiplash from reading this. This is really interesting and I’d like to check out some of the resources and products mentioned. I am often intrigued by the idea of being vegan, but I’m not even a total vegetarian (I still eat poultry) and if I were, think I’d have a hard time not eating eggs and cheese. I was thinking about trying to make sure I have one vegan meal a day (I suspect I do this most days anyway).

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 2, 2011 at 9:12 am

      as oprah would say, it sounds like you are “vegan-ish!” very interesting where on the vegan-meat eating scale people fall…one extreme, the other, the middle – so many variations! check out the daiya cheese, if interested – i found it very cheese-like.

  • Tammy  On February 1, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I missed this show and it would have interested me a lot — thanks for posting! I have been a pesce-vegetarian for 16 years and it is the best decision I ever made. I’ve always loved animals, and when I was 12 years old, I thought to myself, “I just can never eat another cow, chicken, turkey, etc. again.” It made me sick to think of myself eating animals because how is a cow or a chicken any different than my pet dog or cat? I do still eat fish for the Omega 3s (there are certain kinds that you can’t get from walnuts and flaxseeds and other vegan sources), and I eat dairy and eggs. I would be very interested in trying a vegan diet for a week, because I’ve heard that milk is a major cause of acne, and I’d love to see if it clears up my skin. Alicia Silverstone is a vegan, and she just glows. I’d love to see if I felt and looked better, too. It would be difficult, because I absolutely love dairy, eggs, and seafoods, but if the benefits outweighed the costs, I could totally see myself transitioning to a vegan lifestyle!

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 2, 2011 at 5:21 am

      thanks for sharing your insights, tammy! i appreciate the balance you have right now between consuming animal products for health benefits vs staying true to your animal ethics. i noticed that i was less “phlegm-y” when dropped cow’s milk…i, too, would miss eggs, dairy – and i do feel that some animal products just provide the most “bang for your buck” when looking at nutrient content. i liked that the show proposed a seven day trial – much less intimidating than 21 days or a month!

  • Deb  On February 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Tried the gardein (previously recommended by Oprah in another show) Could NOT do it, nor could Dave. Found the scent the worst – it was floral even though it was “seasoned” in sauces.

    Two final thoughts – could I do it? Better question do I want to…NO.

    Will you get B to agree to try the vegan way for even 7 days. Honestly I don’t think he’s gonna be into it, but best of luck to you.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      ooo, appreciate your feedback on gardein. i’ve seen the gardein brand, but have never tried… you’d like michael pollan’s point of view about incorporating quality meats/knowing the origin of your meat. and i think michael pollan would totally give mark mcewan’s products the thumbs up! haha, i casually brought up the 7 day vegan idea to b tonight – he was very uninterested!! but since he’s had earth balance, daiya cheese, vegenaise without knowing it (!), i think i’d have to go that route to get him veganized for a week!

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