Veganuary update (and why you must never pet a baby cow)
Well, it’s mid January and my Veganuary experiment is halfway done. I am so pleased with how its going so far – I feel great, I’m cooking and shopping much more purposefully, and the annoying stomach pain that I get from eating food (that I’ve had and largely ignored for four or five years) has genuinely decreased by about 90%. I’ve certainly been eyeing the Smarties I have left over from Christmas, but so far I haven’t felt like I’ve really missed out on anything at all. In fact, it’s all felt quite normal.
Okay, frankly, I’m already a little bored by this post – I really didn’t anticipate that a 1000 word blog post about someone else’s dietary choices could be so dull, but trust me, I’ve tried to write one, and it’s super dull. So I’m going to do my best to give you just the headlines. Please try to bear with me, but feel free to skip to the end where I’ll do a bit of a summary. Cool? Here comes headline number one:
Veganism is easy
I know, right? I was really surprised too. I was worried that it would be really restrictive, and I was anxious about trying to eat out or at friend’s houses. I’m pleased to say that the biggest thing I’ve learnt about veganism so far this month is that it’s really, really easy.
I’m really lucky (and grateful every day) to have friends and flatmates who are really supportive, and not the kind of people to comment on what I choose to eat. Everyone is already super chill about making vege food, and I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to adapt vegetarian recipes to be vegan by making little changes like requesting that we buy wheat noodles instead of egg noodles, or that cheese is kept as a side to be added at the end. Easy peasy.
Vegan shopping was easier than I thought, but I couldn’t find any mayo.
I did a fully vegan supermarket stock-up shop last week and it was honestly a breeze. I bought a lot of the things that I normally buy (fruit and veggies, rice, pasta, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, peanut butter and sauces – all reliably vegan), as well as vege sausages and even vegan butter which was really easy to find. I’ve also discovered that tons of unexpected things – like my favorite bacon crisps, Jus-rol puff pastry, certain brands of pesto and almost all dark chocolate – are vegan too. I left the shop with a bag full of tasty and healthy ingredients that I easily made into a week’s worth of meals.
Mayonnaise was a bit of a problem for me admittedly (every single type and brand contains egg!) but I figured that if that was my biggest ‘sacrifice’ this month, I’m not doing too badly at all. I really struggled to eat at Wetherspoons without mayonnaise though. I’m frankly a bit worried about how integral mayonnaise is to that whole experience for me. Might not dig too deep on that one, don’t want to open a psychological can of worms…
I don’t have a six pack, but I remain hopeful
Thinking consciously about my food choices has definitely motivated me to be healthier in other ways, and I’ve been making more of an effort to be active. It’s quite a complicated issue for me, but I do feel more positive because I feel like every time I eat I’m actively making healthy choices in order to nourish and care for my body.
I ran a mile
Alright, bit of a tangent, but this really is a big deal for me. Oli is training for a half marathon and my health kick motivated me to go out in the pouring rain and the freezing cold, hungover, on a Sunday, to run around the park. I ended up jumping on a boris bike after a mile or so (he was too nice to say it but I was reallllly slowing him down) and for the remaining four miles I cycled beside him. Probably looking like some kind of psycho girlfriend who didn’t trust her boyfriend to go for a run around the park alone. lolz.
I snack less – way less. Also possible that I used to snack way too much.
Let’s talk about the food that I’m not eating! Namely, the abundance of birthday cake and chocolate bars in my office (I work for the team which designs the Cadbury chocolate bars so there is a lot of chocolate around all the time), the chocolatey snacks which I would sometimes look down and find in my hands with no idea how they got there, and the cheese-heavy dishes which I loved but always felt guilty for eating.
I’m definitely not saying that it is a bad thing to indulge in a chocolate bar or two, or eight, or however many you like, but because I’m specifically trying to eat more healthily, I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to have a hard and fast rule for avoiding those kinds of snacks. Especially because I’m a bit of an all-or-nothing gal when it comes to things like this (as my family will attest to, having witnessed me tucking into a full cheese board while explaining that I try not to eat dairy).
Eating out is actually totally fine
Eating out has been shockingly easy. A simple substitution – ‘I don’t eat egg so please can I have avocado instead?’ – is enough to make vegetarian dishes vegan, and many restaurants will offer at least one vegan option. The humble Wetherspoons has four or five vegan dishes, and Zizzi’s is doing a vegan pizza this month which I am so excited to try. I’ve even found that I don’t really miss cheese at all (even when eating out). It’s kind of the same way I felt about bacon after going vegetarian. Bacon is, undeniably, absolutely delicious, but unless someone’s eating a bacon sandwich right in front of me, and I can see and smell it, I really don’t ever think about it, and so I never miss it.
OKAY GEORGE BUT IT CAN’T ALL BE ‘SO EASY’ AND ‘THE BEST THING EVER’?!?!
I know that I’m always super positive and chipper about most things (‘this city is my favourite city in the whole world‘, ‘the train journey was hell on earth but it was also the best day of my life‘ etc…) so of course, I’m excited and positive about Veganuary. But it’s not all great, surely? Well, yes, I’ve had a few challenges. Here they are:
In the first week I was hungry a lot, probably because I hadn’t figured out how much to eat of what, and I wasn’t eating enough legumes.
In the second week, I overcompensated and ate huge portions of everything. It filled me up (and I enjoyed it a lot) but it was way too much food. I was eating multiple times a day and one day I ate five clementines as a snack. My coworkers were alarmed.
This week I’ve evened it out a bit and am making sure my meals are filling enough that I don’t have to snack in between times. Although I still keep a box of grapes and a bag of clementines at my desk just in case.
I went to Dinerama and I was too hungry (and a little too drunk) to check that everything I ate was vegan. It was definitely all vegetarian and I didn’t eat any cheese or eggs, but I didn’t check, and in that particular situation (a ‘street food’ style market), I think it might have been quite challenging to do so.
On the second day of Veganuary I ate some pesto that wasn’t vegan, and later figured out that it wasn’t even vegetarian. My bad.
There you go. I’ve found Veganuary shockingly easy (so far), and I really haven’t felt desperately miserable, or found it hard to go out or eat in with friends. I’ve felt better physically and emotionally, and my actions this month haven’t resulted in the death or cruel treatment of any animals. My carbon footprint has decreased, as has my water footprint and my impact on the environment in almost every measurable way. I know that sounds horribly self-righteous but it is technically true, and it really didn’t require any massive sacrifice on my part (apart from the mayonnaise, that was a sad day).
I would whole-heartedly recommend a trial month of veganism for anyone who is curious, or who wants to improve their health, or to reduce their environmental impact. I am certainly not saying that it is the best thing for everybody, but I do think a rendition of ‘if you never try, you’ll never know’ (from that Coldplay song) is entirely appropriate here.
Thanks, and final remarks
Thank you for following my little experiment with an open mind, I really hope you’ve found it interesting, or that it has inspired you in some way to pursue your own goals (I am all about the #goals). I will drop by with a little update at the end of the month won’t that be thrilling.
I’m going to go and pet a baby cow now* **,
*I’m just kidding, I would never pet a cow, baby or otherwise, because they are the living embodiment of evil itself, you can see their desire for bloodshed glinting in their eyes, and they would trample me to death for a single blade of grass without hesitation or remorse.
** But I still don’t think we should exploit them or slaughter them or forcibly take away their little babies, I’m just really, really afraid of cows.