I’ve been looking for a good excuse to try veganism for a while now, constantly finding reasons why the time was never right, then I watched a documentary that would change my perspective completely. A friend of mine had recommended a Netflix documentary ‘The Game changers’ to watch, not in a preaching way, but purely as a compelling documentary that would be interesting to watch and then discuss. It was a game changer. I’d always thought going vegan was just about saving the animals, which is a great cause in itself of course, but this was also about my health and shockingly so.
Veganuary (pledging to go vegan for the month of January) seemed like the perfect time to give it a go. Making the change a little more challenging I combined this with giving up alcohol, moving country to the USA and basing myself in the Deep South Louisiana where most people look at you blankly when you say you’re vegan and then say they feel sorry for you!
January always sees me getting back into more consistent training and healthy eating anyway and by going vegan I’ve found it a great way to politely decline peoples ideas of showing hospitality by treating you with food that is ultimately bad for you and it’s certainly saved my wallet as there just aren’t as many options to dine out, particularly in Louisiana so that was a win:win in my book. With making most of our meals at home I haven’t found it particularly challenging to find alternatives to animal products, there is such an amazing range of meat substitutes as well as dairy. What did surprise me was just how many products are made from animal products in our normal grocery lines, in most mainstream supermarkets it certainly felt that apart from the fruit & vegetable section the stores are about 95% animal products which is a shocking eye opening thought. Also shockingly you’re not able to eat McDonalds fries or hash browns in USA as they are made with beef fat, why? Not that I’m an eater of McDonalds or any fast foods but this would be such an easy offering for them to have.
There is a lot of confusion as to what vegan actually is too, I’ve found people commenting how it’s amazing that I don’t eat any sugar or gluten, or that you’re starving yourself and that all you eat is bland lentils and kale and never consume anything tasty. Trust me I know because I used to think it too and never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever consider a vegan diet.
Vegan food can be really tasty! Though it can be expensive; it’s really disappointing to see how cheap junk food is compared to healthy food, whether it’s vegan or not. To me this certainly underlines a major root cause of the health epidemic the world is facing with obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart issues and the list goes on. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration for food ideas from the Veganuary newsletters and I’m following some amazing people on Instagram such as @elavegan @vegolution.co @glowingplants & @thevegansclub to name a few of those I’m constantly pinching recipes from and creating delicious, tasty and exciting meals. Not to mention mouthwatering cakes and treats too, just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy which is another misconception and trap people can fall into if they’re not paying attention to what they’re eating. But everything in moderation I think, including the odd treat.
I’ve found my perceptions of consumer advertising have changed dramatically during this time frame, to the point where I feel nauseated by some of the advertising out there about eating meat. I’d never noticed it before but things like a caricature of a pig roasting itself actually made me feel nauseas and question the necessity of it at all. I’ve also found a new respect for vegans, realising now that they’re* (*we’re) not trying to make life difficult with our choices, but please can more cafes, shops & restaurants get on board and make choices available.
I’ve been enjoying thinking more about my food choices and making more conscientious decisions which has overlapped into other aspects of my life such as consumerism, waste and my overall impact on the environment. This has made me more sensitive to the shocking lack of awareness and care the majority of the population has towards all of this. But that’s a whole other blog!
My body has felt the changes too. I haven’t suddenly dropped a couple of stone in weight, I don’t have boundless energy and feel supercharged all the time; I have however stopped suffering from stomach cramping/IBS which at times over the last 20 years has been so debilitating I’ve not been able to walk. After all those years of trying to cut out certain foods or coffee, chocolate etc I think I may finally have solved my own problem. I generally feel healthier and happier about my food choices, I feel confident and proud of the choices I’m making. In January alone I probably saved about 4 chickens lives by not eating my usual food and when I put it into a number, that makes me feel pretty darn proud too.
I haven’t been an angel though. I did 6 weeks 100% vegan and then decided to indulge in a steak meal as a farewell from Louisiana with our hosts. It felt odd, I was conflicted as it felt morally wrong to be eating the steak but then after 41 years of being a carnivore it also felt ‘normal’ so overall it was a bittersweet enjoyment. This however was then compounded the following day with stomach cramps, was this the steak? Or was it because I’d had alcohol too? Either way the feelings of both physical and moral discomfort have put me back on the path of a more plant based diet.
Will I be 100% vegan? I can’t say that I will be 100%, I think sometimes it’s difficult in certain situations to be vegan and still be true to yourself about health, lifestyle and happiness but I certainly see myself being primarily plant based. I’ve learnt so much in this short time and have so much more to learn but I have learnt that I don’t ‘need’ or actually want meat. I want a world without animal farms and slaughterhouses and to lead a healthy and long life.
My top tips for trying a plant based diet:
Give it a try
Try new things – experiment
Vegan doesn’t always equal healthy – choose wisely
Accept mistakes will happen
Don’t give up