So I didn't exactly announce this on social media but I took part in Veganuary this year. If you aren't sure what it is, then Veganuary is a really positive movement that encourages people to try eating plant based (no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or other animal products) for the month of January. Being vegetarian since February last year (2018) I wanted to take on the challenge of cutting out dairy and eggs to see how I got on.
Why did I take part in Veganuary?
As I mentioned I was already veggie, so for me trying veganism/plant based eating was the next step and I wanted a challenge. Since being vegetarian my beliefs and reasons for why I was choosing to eat that way were really amplified. People tend to choose to eat a vegetarian and vegan diet for 3 main reasons:
1. The Environment - you cannot deny that we are slowly (or should I say rapidly) killing our planet through our over consumption, over population and unconscious ways. Eating a more plant based diet is the best way to help the planet and live a little more consciously. The reason behind this is to try to reduce agriculture ( one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions - more than transport), reduce ocean plastic (commercial fishing nets are the number 1 cause of ocean plastic that is literally killing our oceans and everything in it) and reduce resources such as land, water and energy (just to give you an idea 27kg of CO2 is generated per 1 kilo of beef in comparison to 0.9kg per kilo of lentils - the maths speaks for itself). I hope I don't come across as a preachy vegan here but we need to change. The mindset that you can't make a difference because you're only one person is just ignorance in disguise. Your actions matter and you can make a big difference with every single choice you make. Ignorance is not bliss.
2. Animal Welfare- A lot of the time peoples main reason for becoming vegan is because they refuse to be part of the suffering and killing of animals simply to eat them. This is fairly self explanatory so I won't go into too much detail. The main idea behind this reason is why should we be okay with killing and eating some animals (such a sheep or piglets) but would never dream of killing other animals (like dogs and horses).
3. Our Health - vegetables are good for us. That's just common knowledge. So eating a more plant based diet can have a number of health benefits to us including a lower risk of high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, strokes and some cancers.
What was I nervous for?
In all honesty. the only thing I was nervous about was people being nasty to me. I know it sounds crazy but for some reason, people get very angry with those of us that choose to not eat meat. I've come to realise that when people are sarcastic or try to belittle me about my choice of food (even though it has zero affect on them personally, go figure) it is because of their own insecurities. The fact that some people make fun and try to poke holes in such a positive movement is truly beyond me, and in my opinion one of the reasons why our planet is dying. So how did I cope with people making ignorant and often very rude comments, directly to my face? If I'm being totally honest, I got angry. I couldn't understand the blatant ignorance. But then as the month went by I remembered that once I would have made fun of vegans and vegetarians. A younger, more closed minded Georgia used to get pissed off with vegans and vegetarians because I didn't like how it made me feel. That was my conscience talking. It made me feel bad about myself that I was consciously making decisions that would have a negative impact on the planet. So how did I deal with it? I said vegans and vegetarians were stupid and annoying...look at me now! Oh the irony.
How did I find it?
If I am being totally honest, I found veganuary pretty easy. I think being vegetarian already before hand for 11 months made the transition a lot less overwhelming as I was already used to not eating meat or fish. I also really enjoyed getting to experiment with new recipes and trying replacements and substitutes. Actually, some vegan options are so much nicer than non-vegan ones.
How did it make me feel?
Being vegan for a month made me feel so empowered and purposeful. Eating for a reason bigger than myself was really amazing and I felt really proud of my food choices, knowing I was contributing towards positive change. That might sound dramatic but the feeling of being vegan and making conscious decisions with what I ate was truly brilliant.
Physically, I was expecting to feel tired and lethargic but the opposite actually happened. I had more energy and felt less groggy as the day went on. I did also supplement with a vitamin B12 though, as if you are eating a vegan diet then you will most likely be deficient in B12 which can cause fatigue.
I'm not going to lie though, vegan life is gassy af. Sorry if that's TMI but I want to keep it real with you all. There was a lot of bloating and umm, regular movements shall we say. But after a bit of research, I realised that was completely normal due to the increased fibre intake and over the last few weeks my body has definitely adjusted.
Overall, I think I have definitely eaten a lot healthier and made more nutritious choices which is a win in my eyes.
All in all I felt great. I would say from an aesthetic point of view, I feel my body looks the same, but then I don't really pay much attention to that anyway so who knows. I don't weigh myself so can't comment on if that has fluctuated either.
What did I find hardest?
Again, this was probably people being negative towards me once they noticed I was doing it. I got comments like 'this is just a phase', 'just eat some proper food', 'oh i couldn't do that!', 'that's a bit drastic isn't it?', 'But you have a phone and that has animal products in it' (seriously the lengths people go to to justify their own decisions and make themselves feel better is hilarious). And above all numerous aggressive eye rolls. That was probably the hardest thing. The feeling of constantly being judged and mocked. But I was very lucky and had a lot of positive support and encouragement from people online (mainly Instagram) and my husband was supportive.
Eating out was pretty difficult as vegan options are very limited in my area. A lot of restaurants are getting better on the vegetarian front but still have a long way to go with vegan options.
Also, it's mad learning just how many products actually have dairy or animal products in. Seriously, you would be so surprised (even some crisps aren't vegan...wtf). So not that I missed out but I just had to say no to a few things that I would never have imagined I couldn't eat. But that made me try new things that were vegan friendly and have forever changed my life. Biscoff biscuits, I'm looking at you. Vegan or not, you have to try these bad boys.
What have I missed?
Pizza. Hands down. I bloody love a pizza and I would be lying if I said I haven't missed a proper cheesy margarita. I made my own vegan pizzas which were actually delicious (I shared the recipe in another blog) but I have to admit I haven't found a vegan cheese that I love. It's just not the same.
What can you do to make more conscious decisions if you aren't ready to fully commit to being a vegetarian or vegan?
Despite what most think, being vegetarian or vegan isn't always and all or nothing mindset. Or at least it doesn't have to be. Any small changes you can make in your diet can have a big impact. Here are a few things you could consider if you wanted to start living more consciously:
1 - Meat Free Monday. Try eating vegetarian just one day a week. Meet free Monday is a fantastic movement that encourages people to reduce their meat intake simply by choosing to eat more plant based foods on a Monday.
2 - Try eating vegetarian/vegan for 1 meal a day. If switching to a completely veggie/vegan diet right now seems a bit overwhelming but you want to help then a great way to start is to eat one veggie/vegan meal a day.
3 - Switch to plant based milks rather than dairy. This was something I actually really enjoyed doing because I got to try loads of different alternative milk options rather than just being stuck with 1 milk (cows milk). My favourite is Oatly Oat Milk (Barista Version) as it makes the perfect cup of tea.
Will I continue eating vegan?
The question everyone has been asking me! I think I can safely say, I will always be a vegetarian, and eating meat/fish is not something I see in my future. However, will I continue eating vegan? I haven't fully decided yet if I'm honest. I think I will stick to a predominantly plant based diet because it seems to really suit me. I enjoy eating this way, it makes me feel good in my body and it gives me a sense of purpose. which I love. I don't really want to put a label on myself and my dietary choices right now but I would say I will probably continue eating a 90% vegan diet. Perhaps with an occasional square of dairy milk chocolate and margarita pizza without shaming myself or beating myself up because I'm not a 'perfect vegan'. I believe any changes we can make are positive and if that means eating plant based 90% of the time, then I'm pretty happy with that.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this blog and if you also did Veganuary I would love to hear your experience! Please be kind, I'm surprisingly nervous to post this!