This year I’ve taken on something of a lifestyle change, particularly in terms of my diet, and I thought it was about time I broached the subject on Sophar So Good.
For the first month of 2017 I took part in Veganuary. For those who don’t know, this is where you pledge to go vegan for the month of January; it’s an initiative that started in 2014, and nearly 60,000 people took part this year. This post will act as a review of that experience and the impact it has had on me, which I hope will be useful for anyone considering doing it in future years – or at least interesting even if you’ve never considered a vegan diet. I’m going to use the questions I’ve been asked along the way as the framework for the post. Here goes!
What were your reasons for taking part?
I find this difficult to answer, because in all honesty I’m not sure why I decided to do it. I’m the kind of person who likes to set challenges and have little projects, I guess, and as I’ve been interested in health/fitness/diet for a long time, I thought it sounded like an interesting thing to try. There was definitely a growing awareness of the animal welfare related reasons in my mind – but equally I wasn’t even vegetarian, I was still eating meat, fish, eggs and dairy so I can’t claim that that was something I was already very passionate about prior to this. Either way, I had the urge and I went with it!
How was it?
It was great! I learnt loads about food, became so much more conscious of what actually goes into what we eat (I can’t even tell you how many packaged foods that you wouldn’t expect have dairy in them) and had fun experimenting with new recipes. After a matter of days I found I had more energy, less spots, and I was still more than adequately fuelled to smash the standard January workout regime. Best of all, I genuinely enjoyed the food I was eating – in particular I found that I could feel full and satisfied without ever getting that uncomfortable, bloated, yucky feeling which is something I struggled to avoid when I was an omnivore.
Veganuary email you throughout the month with various resources and just to check in and their website is full of useful bits like recipes, eating out guides, and general information so as a charity they are really helpful and support you through the process.
Did you manage to stick to it for the whole month?
Yes! Omitting the animal products was relatively easy in the sense that I didn’t actually miss any of them enough to be a problem – I found that it was only when I was hungry and felt like grabbing a tuna sandwich or a twix that I had a craving for meat, fish or dairy. As soon as I had something to fill that gap, like a veggie burger, dark chocolate, bean chilli, milkshake made with almond milk (okay getting hungry now), I wasn’t fussed. However, it’s probably worth noting that although I was an omnivore before January I was an absolutely rubbish one. I didn’t like red meat if you could tell it was meat – steak or pork chops were my food hell.
What was the hardest part?
Not what you might think (especially considering I bloody loved cheese)! What was difficult was eating out and being worried that they wouldn’t have anything. Or only having one choice at a lot of restaurants, and not wanting to be the difficult person who asks if we can please go somewhere else as I can only eat pasta and tomato sauce if we go to the place that’s been suggested. Harder still though, and the most difficult part of the whole thing, was dealing with the reactions from those around me. I was (and still am) completely happy to discuss it and answer any questions if people were interested, and had many conversations free from judgement with with people who were curious which was great. However, reactions from some were as though I’d announced I was joining a religious cult or stopping eating altogether. Some didn’t ‘get’ it (hint: it’s not something for you to ‘get’) and some people demanded to know my motivations and then tried to argue with me about them. Not cool, mate – you just worry about what you put in your mouth and I’ll worry about what I put in mine (if you didn’t see an innuendo in that you are a far better person than me).
Did you carry on when the month ended?
The big question…yes! (although I must caveat that by saying please do read the next answer). There were a couple of instances in February and March where I ate animal products but not since then.
Have you eaten meat, fish, eggs or dairy since?
Yes, I have. I’ve eaten meat once – I had a Five Guys burger on 1st Feburary, and do you know what, it was not the great occasion I was expecting after a month off it. In fact, it was kind of gross, and that was my decision made on the meat front.
I’ve had a couple of dairy-related accidents – once I was at my friend’s birthday and for some reason I merrily went and dunked a tortilla in some sour cream. That’s not vegan Soph. I don’t know why it just didn’t even register that it was an animal product but I guess that says something about the way we view our food. I also ate vegetarian at times during a weekend in Marseille in March as I wasn’t getting on too well avoiding butter/cream/cheese in France – however I think I would manage it now I’m more experienced at dealing with it.
Will you be vegan forever now?
I have a long long answer for this question which I expect I will blog about at some point but this is already rather long, so for now; this is the right choice for me at the moment, and I have no intention of stopping.
Would you recommend taking part in Veganuary?
It’s a massive, resounding YES from me – even if you don’t plan on taking it further than January, even if you have no interest in actually living a vegan lifestyle in the future, even if you think all vegans are a bunch of tossers (we aren’t, I promise). The month is a massive learning curve. You’ll learn so much about food and probably a lot about yourself as well (even if it’s just that you simply don’t want a life without steak). If your experience is anything like mine you might have some of the best meals of your life while you’re at it.
What I think is really great about Veganuary is that by positioning it as a month long challenge, there’s far less pressure to commit yourself to a massive lifestyle overhaul, making the prospect far less daunting. That was certainly my thought when signing up – but just over four months after January ended, I’m still loving it!
Have you ever tried going Vegan – or would you be tempted to?