I did it! I spent 31 days being a Vegan during January. Ok, I did slip up a few times when I was really ill with flu (eggs were pretty much only thing in the house I could or wanted to eat and Alex cooked pizza for me) and when in London I had to find dinner in half an hour and I couldn’t find anywhere that was vegan. I also accidentally ate dark chocolate with milk in (I thought all dark chocolate was vegan!) and I once ate crisps with milk in (why is there milk in crisps?). As someone who is a bit fussy, hates cooking and is pretty bad at it, having to find and cook yummy vegan recipes has been a challenge!
But I’m still really proud of what I have achieved, especially as I can find it so hard to stick to things like this. I tried to give up cheese for lent last year and failed miserably in a few days. This month I proved to myself I could do it and that I can live without dairy, eggs and all other animal products. Whilst I’m not ready to go full vegan yet I’m certainly several steps closer and could see myself going all the way one day. I’ve certainly developed an aversion to dairy products now.
Here’s what I learnt over the month:
- The art of scanning ingredients in the supermarket. Luckily the key non-vegan ingredients in most food are also allergens (milk and eggs) so they are always printed in bold capitals so they are super easy to spot quickly.
- You need to eat more food. I was constantly starving in the first few days. I had to take more time and effort in making sure I was eating enough. Though the flu did not help at all with that.
- Humans can’t get iron from spinach (yes it’s full of iron but our bodies can’t absorb it), I feel I’ve been lied to all my life!
- Lots of meat eaters really love having a judgemental opinion about vegans and seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to insult and cast judgements on someone else’s lifestyle choices that have nothing to do with them!
- Just being associated with the word vegan will have you labelled by some as a radical militant protester that values animal lives over humans. This mass generalisation is ridiculous on so many levels. Veganism is just a diet. For example, vegans eat plant-based food for all sorts of reasons, some of them have nothing to do with animal welfare.
- People will always assume you are not getting enough protein. Odd when I’ve been vegetarian for 2 years. I’m not exactly a stranger to getting enough protein.
- I learnt that with the massive physical strain put on dairy cows from constant breeding and carrying unnaturally heavy amounts of milk for extended periods of time, they often only live around 5 years instead of their natural lifespan of 20 years. There’s also the emotional distress they go through each time their calf is taken from them. It’s heartbreaking.
- Most vegan cheeses are really disgusting. Violife and sheese seems to be the only ok ones but I think I’d rather just go without.
- Dairy products are in nearly everything! Crisps, sweets, naan bread, brioche, Quorn, to name a few.
- But despite that, I discovered so many accidentally vegan foods. Thank goodness for Doritos and dark chocolate.
- Asking for vegan food in a supermarket will often result in being directed to the free-from section. Not the same thing.
- Coming into the office when everyone has made cakes or brought in sweets is the WORST.
- Overall, the vegan online community is the BEST! Apart from a few judgemental preachers, nearly everyone on the Veganuary Facebook group were really supportive. They are different from the perceived image everybody has of them.
- Don’t ever assume food that your friend has put in front of you is vegan even when they know you are vegan. That was totally my bad!
- Nothing is black and white. I knew this of course but this experience has reaffirmed it to me. Many vegans see things as black and white, killing animals is always bad, if you cause them harm you are wrong (and evil). But, as ever, it’s never that simple. Death is part of life and part of natural balanced ecosystems. Humans tend to have an unnatural fear of it. It’s impossible to live in today’s society without causing some level of cruelty and harm to other life, whether you are vegan or not. Everyone has their own perspectives, their own moral code and it is up to them to make that decision on how to live.
- Overall, it’s a really rewarding positive experience. I did far better than I thought I would and my perspectives have changed. I had highs and lows, with several bursts of tears and frustration. But guilt-free eating does give you an amazing proud feeling, which somehow even beats the taste of cheese!
Did you take part in Veganuary? What did you learn?
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