In his lifetime Jason Samuel has partaken in many food-related challenges. He spent 15 days eating nothing but potatoes, 30 days as a vegan, 60 days as a vegetarian, and now he’s attempting once again, to exclude meat, eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived ingredients.
Samuel, general manager of Globe Radio and assistant professor of communications, is attempting to go vegan for the full year — 366 days to be exact, since it’s a leap year.
The stakes for the challenge are high with a $1700 bet on the line. Samuel was originally offered $500 to go vegan for two years by his brother, but managed to renegotiate to increase the stakes, decrease the duration and include more people to contribute to the bet.
When Alyson Prigge, a senior public relations major and PR manager of The Globe, first heard about Samuel’s decision to go vegan she was shocked. “That is such a big commitment,” she said. “I could never do it and honestly wasn’t sure if he was going to stick with it.”
However, Samuel’s decision to go vegan isn’t solely about the money at stake. The bet is only a small part and the entertaining side of his reasoning. The true motivation and bigger stake is his health.
“The bet is a good cover up, it’s a good cover story for the fact that I was headed for death,” Samuel said. “I could feel it. I couldn’t walk from [the] Newcomer center to the Rott without being in pain. I could not walk all the way up the AD building without having to almost stop.”
Samuel explained that before the bet was even set, he was already thinking about going vegan. He describes himself as a food addict and was ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle.
“If I’m happy, if I’m sad, if I’m angry, if I’m confused, I want to eat my feelings,” he said. “It feels SOOO good for 15 minutes and then I hate myself for 15 hours.”
“I was living a lie,” he said. “Telling people I was doing great when I wasn’t doing great because I was in a lot of pain, I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t sleep, I was miserable and it was largely due to my own self-destructive behavior.”
Like any addict, Samuel explained that the desire to make a change has to come from within. No matter how many people try to help you, you have to want to make the change for yourself. “He [Samuel’s brother] could have bet me $10,000 and if I wasn’t ready it wouldn’t have mattered,” Samuel said.
But unlike other addictions such as drugs or alcohol, Samuel noted that humans need food to survive, which makes combatting it more difficult.
“I was trying to make food fun instead of punishing,” he said. “You still need to eat to live, so with the vegan thing, I can still eat, feel satisfied, and I don’t feel punished. I really don’t feel bitter or that I’m missing it.”
After starting the challenge on Jan. 1, Samuel explained that the hardest part of going vegan is attending events where people don’t know or cater for vegans.
“I went to an event, I didn’t plan on being there more than just a couple of minutes, I was there eight hours and all that I could eat was some pitas,” he said. “All the other food had either meat or some kind of animal product.”
To combat this, Samuel ensures that the last thing he does before leaving the house to go to an event is eat. He also prepares by taking vegan granola bars with him as a standby for fuel. Aside from attending events with limited food options, Samuel stated that the change hasn’t been that difficult. He has always enjoyed cooking and making lunches for him and his wife Jenny, the only difference now is the ingredients he uses and the meals he makes.
Since making the change, Samuel has noticed a clear difference. “I feel so much better, it’s hard to quantify,” he said. “I feel so much better than I did Dec. 31, 2019. I noticed I started feeling better after about two-and-a-half weeks.”
“He talks about it all the time and I know that he’s really dedicated to it,” Prigge said. “I’m proud of him for dedicating himself to such a healthy lifestyle.”
Samuel notes a recent trip to Indianapolis in which he spent hours walking through downtown Indy and through three stories of a mall with no pain. “We were running around Indianapolis, I could not have done that, I could not have done that,” he said.
“I hurt a lot less when I wake up in the morning, I hurt a lot less during the day. Mentally, I feel better about myself,” he said. “Man I feel good!”
Samuel is having fun with the challenge, experimenting with new foods and vlogging his progress on Facebook as the Manic Vegan. He is confident that he’ll last the remaining ten and a half months and states that anyone who truly knows him, understands that the bet is over. “I might as well spend the money,” he said. “I’m a hard-head too. I’m manic and here’s the thing: I love to win and be right.
“Assume I’m vegan until you see me on the side of the road, sitting on a broken down pizza box with hamburgers all around me,” Samuel said. “When you see that, then you’ll know I’m not vegan anymore.”