I heard of Veganuary for the first time last year, I started a regular yoga practice Autumn 2017 and through this started following a lot of local yoga teachers on Instagram. Between what they shared online and what I spoke to them about if ever the subject came up it sparked my interest on this subject, largely because it became harder to be blissfully ignorant to all the things that make people choose to go vegan.
I wasn’t ready to commit to Veganuary last year, it seemed too overwhelming so I adopted Vegan Mondays which myself and my boyfriend did for a few months, between one thing and another it fizzled out before the summer and I let it. The time wasn’t right.
I’ve read a few articles this year, I’ll link the main ones at the bottom for your info, the most hitting one for me was called The Last Pig, written by a pig farmer who visited a ‘humane’ slaughter house and discovered the effect that losing their peers had on pigs. I couldn’t shake this, it was so relatable to my dog and his large personality and what if this happened to him? I surely wouldn’t accept it and eat a Dexter Butty that’s for sure.
I read further articles about chickens and the dairy industry which bothered me, I’ve been using plant based milk for several years now but do consume other diary. I followed a ‘clean and lean’ lifestyle diet for around 6 months a few years back which was almost totally diary free, especially cow products as it highlighted how humans aren’t actually built to be able to digest cow’s milk/dairy products.
As much as I know about the nutritional side of us not being totally compatible with dairy I can’t deny how much I enjoy eating cheese. And it was my love for cheese and eggs which were making Veganuary seem impossible. I knew we would be having an over-indulgent Christmas as per usual, and I won’t pretend I didn’t fully enjoy every minute BUT I also wanted to feel better in and about myself and saw this month as a chance to trial Veganism whilst taking the health benefits from it for selfish reasons as much as it being fuelled by doing my bit against Animal Cruelty.
2019 is a big year for me, there’s a lot of changes happening and a hugely exciting trip to India in October and November. I want to be the best possible version of me I can be, that doesn’t just mean how I look but also how I feel, how my skin is, my energy levels the lot. So I pledged to go vegan for January along with a heck of a lot of other people from what I’ve heard, I signed by boyfriend up too (he’s here for the health kick!) and we’ve gone at it with full force. With the year I have ahead of me it’s so important to look after my body, fuel it and care for it and then it will give more back to me in my practice. I think this has played a huge part in my enjoying this month and the changes I’ve made.
I haven’t made changes to my life in the sense of not using my leather handbag, changing my makeup etc. just yet but we have eaten a 100% vegan only diet since January 2nd (there was Christmas chocolate to consume on the 1st!) and we’re committed to doing so until 2nd Feb when our month ‘ends’. And I’ve been actively checking any newly purchased beauty products are cruelty free for around 2 months now. I was ignorantly plodding along convinced that by 2018 everything would be cruelty free when I found out it’s shockingly not!
When I signed up I fully expected to find it a struggle, I was convinced I’d miss everything I was used to eating; meat, cheese and eggs and never be able to find the time to read the ingredients in things! I guess one thing that has helped is I’ve been conscious ever since my ‘clean and lean’ days to always checking ingredients, avoiding things with too much added sugar etc. and avoiding overly processed food so that side has actually been a doddle. A tip I read on the Veganuary website about skimming for the items in bold for allergens has made it so easy!
How do-able I’ve found it has been magnified by the fact that I feel so great! We’ve done Dry January alongside this (Which was been much harder trust me!) and eating a plant based diet that has totally fuelled my body, add to that no booze, when we’d usually have a few drinks Friday’s and Saturday’s, we’ve taken vitamin D and B12 supplements and I’ve done almost daily yoga and I have had the most energy filled and positive January I’ve had in years. It highlights the benefits living a healthier lifestyle, no January blues, no January flu (touch wood), lots of exercise and lots of good food.
We’ve tried out a whole range of plant based meat alternatives, Fry’s, Linda McCartney, Sainsbury’s and Iceland’s own to name a few and have been so pleasantly surprised! They vary in additives which is something I want to step away from moving forward, so we focus on the ones that are more pure, I also don’t want all meals to require a meat alternative and instead I’m trying to have some 100% natural plant based meals such as veggie curries and stir-fries. But it’s all about balance.
The meat alternatives have made this month a lot more accessible for my boyfriend as he’s a huge meat eater so they’ve helped him not miss meat as much as he would have and I accept 100% that we’ve picked an amazing time to do this, it’s all much more accessible than it ever has been before. I’ve surprisingly not missed meat anywhere near as much as I thought I would (if at all), the substitutes and packed out veggie meals have been amazing. I’ve really challenged myself to be invented and managed to create vegan versions of some of my favourites including carbonara (completed with ‘crispy bacon’ made from maple and miso soaked coconut chips!) fajitas and lasagne. It’s made me attempt things that are new, such as boiling cashew nuts but it’s been genuinely fun.
I’m not sure how I feel about January ending. I’m almost enjoying being confined by abiding to it by the fact I’ve committed to this ‘Veganuary’ thing. The fact that I do miss some dairy items (Halloumi!!! No vegan replacement comes close) means I have to acknowledge I’m not ready to go 100% vegan yet. I’m very aware of the downsides to the dairy industry and it’s an internal battle between knowing this and loving cheese but this is my journey and I need to do this in my own time.
I’m adopting an adapted version of the millennial term ‘flexitarian’ from February onwards, I refuse to commit to any one thing just yet. I’m just not ready, and we need to be true to ourselves to truly pursue happiness. I’ll be actively eating as vegan as I can, but if I have a few things that aren’t I won’t get mad at myself. From a nutritional point of view and based on a conversation I recently had with a vegan friend I will continue to include fish in my diet in small doses beyond January, but I will source the most sustainable version I can. I’m going to enjoy exploring vegan alternatives and continue to investigate reasons behind people choosing veganism to fully educate myself.
My review of Vegnuary: try it, what have you got to lose? It’s been interesting and enjoyable and I’m so happy I did it. The main thing I’ve taken from this whole thing and all the avenues I’ve investigated is how important it is to look after myself, my body is possibly more important to me now than it has ever been with the journey I have ahead and the path of yoga I’m pursuing, and the more I look after it the more it will look after me. But don’t ever do things like this because you feel you have to. Educate yourself and make your own decisions in your own time.
Top tip? Talk to vegans, new vegans, established vegans, transitioning vegans, get tips and tricks and advice and recipes off them and ask them what they struggle/used to struggle with to help you feel better about any wobbles you might have.
Recommended articles to read:
Edit: the blog I read back in the summer about dairy I’m unable to locate. Since writing this post I’ve read the one I’m about to link below which is much more graphic and detailed than the one I’d read before and it has genuinely upset me. I feel horrible to have written about having an awareness of this treatment of cows but still want to eat cheese. It’s something personal I’m going have to continue to think about, it’s my journey and I’ll get there in my own time,