When I decided to take on Veganuary three years ago, I never expected to enjoy it so much – after all, I’d never even tried a vegan diet before.
There were a few years as a teenager when I became vegetarian after being put off eating something that used to run around fields.
But back then veganism was barely even entertained, which meant my diet was limited to a very unhealthy and endless supply of beans on toast.
When I did try veganism it was never with the end goal of becoming a vegan for life.
I think that’s one thing that can put non-vegans off trying Veganuary at the start of the year – the idea that after the 31 days you have to become vegan forever.
But you don’t. Even though I am an ambassador for the campaign, my diet is not completely plant-based and I still eat animal products.
I first signed up because I’d been watching films and documentaries about veganism. There were a lot of pro-plant based discussions and my husband was interested in any connections to health and fitness that introducing a more vegan diet might achieve.
However, my biggest motivation for exploring veganism was climate change and the environmental impact we all make in our lifestyle choices. I have two children – if we don’t make some fundamental changes to how we live, our planet will look so different for our children and future generations, and that terrifies me.
I owe it to my kids to try and do something. What’s the alternative – ‘It’s your mess and you deal with it?’ I can’t live like that.
So, I decided to give it a go – and I fell in love with the challenge. The month went so quickly. I felt really good and had loads of energy afterwards.
The biggest thing is once you’ve done it for a month, you will find it will seep into how you eat moving forwards
Throughout the first month, I saw how varied vegan food could be. As a result, my family have made some fundamental changes. We don’t really have any dairy products as I actually prefer oat milk and I am happy to have a vegan yoghurt. Some of the swaps made absolutely no difference or were even better.
But there’s nothing to which I would say ‘I would never eat that’. It’s become natural for us to eat a lot more vegan meals because we have these recipes we enjoy now in our rotation.
One of the recent things I discovered was a vegan haggis! I had that instead of making a nut roast and served it with roast potatoes and vegetables. There’s lots of oats and flavours and spices in it. It’s delicious, I really love it!
Still, I’m not committed to being vegan all of the time.
I am not very good with labels – I have heard extraordinary terms like ‘flexitarian’ but I’d rather not use any of them. Since I finished Veganuary, just giving it a go as much as possible has changed my life.
A lot of people choose to become a vegan because they simply don’t want to eat animals, but I have more of an issue with the way animals are farmed and the cruelty they suffer.
On a really primal level, I believe that we are designed to eat meat but we certainly shouldn’t be consuming as much as we do. The planet can’t support that level of intake.
Even if you were vegan 50% of the time, the impact you would have on climate change would be really significant. It benefits your health to have more vegetables that don’t contain anything processed and also your mental wellbeing; you start the year detoxifying from all of the heavy, unhealthy, Christmas food.
The biggest thing is once you’ve done it for a month, you will find it will seep into how you eat moving forwards. You might even think ‘I feel great eating a vegan diet, I might as well go for it, this is for me’.
It’s a win for you and it’s a win for the planet. You shouldn’t go into it thinking ‘oh god I have to be a vegan now’. It’s about exploring a vegan diet, seeing where it takes you, and it’s a lot less daunting when you do it on your own terms.
I can see why people are wary of taking part – no one likes being told what to do, especially by people we see as righteous. I feel if I am being ordered to do something, I probably won’t want to do it!
But we spend all December stuffing our faces with cheeses, chocolate, alcohol. This year especially, it’s important to start the year with a bit of hope and healthy feelings.
I would urge anyone who is interested to go and sign up to the register. They give you ideas and recipes.
They really supported me and answered questions and it’s good socially – you can do it with friends, meet new people and it can be a shared journey.
And, what’s more, both you and the environment will be amazed at the results.
You can sign up to take part in Veganuary here.
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