So the final day of my Vegan month has arrived. And in all honesty, the 1st March has been just as interesting and challenging as the 1st February. After fulfilling my month-long craving for cheese, I felt very underwhelmed. Allowing myself to eat non-vegan food again was like my parents offering me alcohol for the first time: a day I was partially waiting for, but once it was happening, I realised I only really liked it because it was forbidden.
Shopping today was just as daunting as shopping for a new Vegan diet. I had no clue what on earth I could make for my meals. Looking at the meat counter churned my stomach the same way chickpeas had 4 weeks ago. I felt lost and overwhelmed by choices. But then I begun to shift my focus away from the immense task of the food shop and towards what I have learnt from this experience. And there has been a lot. So here I’ve conveniently written these thoughts all down in underlined bullet points for you, because I’m nice like that.
- Milk: I’m not 100% sure I’ll ever consume milk in its liquid form again. I think the dairy industry has been such an unknown process to me before this month, that the discovery of how milk is actually produced has been by far the most shocking. Something I do find I need to constantly remind myself is that anything related to milk, but may take a different form – cheese, yogurt, cream, creme fraiche – are all still very much milk, and are all still contributing to the problem. From now on I will consider using as many substitutes for dairy products as possible. Soy lattes are definitely here to stay.
- Healthy: Whether or not my preferred non-Vegan foods happened to be rather unhealthy (which I really wouldn’t consider them to be), I cannot deny that I’ve felt a lot less bloated and stodgy. I’ve always been pleasantly full throughout this month and, if anything, I’ve had a lot more energy than when eating meat and dairy. My skin has been very clear, and I honestly feel like I can push more in my exercise classes than normal. I would claim I lost weight, but I don’t weigh myself because…well…I just don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
- Cooking: I fell in love with cooking again. At first it was daunting, sure, but I became much more imaginative with my food. I tried so many different combinations, and every week I’d love discovering a new Vegan substitute for my favourite meals. Also, I found choices really aren’t that limited. I bet you that you’ve all actually been consuming a Vegan meal on the regular at some point in your lives. More importantly, the changes required for Veganism aren’t as big as I first thought – its all just a matter of putting in a little more preparation than normal.
- Vegans Are Not Assholes: I’m actually yet to meet a horrible, judgemental Vegan. Perhaps because I’ve technically been on their side, but either way I think this stereotype, as with the majority of them, needs to be forgotten or updated. The ironic thing about this presumption is that in reality Vegans are Vegans because they care. They care about the planet, they care about animals, they care about humanity. Yes, the debates can get intense, but so are all conversations about people’s beliefs. The common misconception is that Vegans announce their Veganism to the world and lecture anyone who isn’t. Its just not true. In my four weeks on being a Vegan, I’ve never once started the conversation. It has always occurred by someone asking me a question, showing an interest, having heard I’m going Vegan and wanting to know more or making a humorous comment. The interest and the intrigue is certainly there, its just a matter of people’s willingness to actively learn more about it. I’ve already learnt so much in the past few weeks and I’ve also told people a lot things they had no idea about. As with everything, it just takes a little desire to explore and understand new things before a judgment or stereotype should be made.
- I Really Love Animals: I doubt there are many of you reading this thinking that you don’t, and I obviously did love them before this month. But having a step away from meat and consuming other animal by-products, I’ve regained a new love for our four-legged friends, and it has definitely affected my eating habits. Before, Chorizo, Chicken or Bacon was my go-to choice of food when eating out, now I’m drawn straight to the Vegetarian options. My new life goal is to own some piggies, not to be taken to the meat industry, but as beloved animals that I will adore and look after.
- Eating Out Is Hard: Like, really hard. I’ve often had to drag my friends around town to find a Vegan-friendly restaurant or Cafe (I love you all dearly – thank you!), because my insistent awkward Britishness stops me from ordering a pizza “without the cheese” or requesting a Vegan menu. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any fantastic places to eat really delicious Vegan food, but it has certainly been the most draining part of this month. It has even got to the point where I will turn down invitations because its just too much of a fuss.
- Always Try Something New: The one thing that this whole experience has confirmed for me is how important it is to try something new. Whether it be full Veganism, choosing Soy Milk in your coffee, attempting to eat chickpeas (I’m not a fan – can you tell?), or watching a documentary you didn’t think you’d be interested in. I now feel healthier, know more about something I do everyday that I used to not give a second thought about, and have a new appreciation for the actual effects the meat and dairy industry have on us, as individuals, and on humanity.
THE VERDICT: I haven’t really struggled with Veganism half as much as I thought I would have. Once you get the hang of looking at the back of packets and finding other options (which there are many) it really becomes second nature. The only downside I can see is eating out, but this will only improve if more people are open to trying Veganism and restaurants seeing that there is an interest and demand for it. Similarly, eating at someone’s house or visiting friends poses the same inconvenience, and often develops into an awkward exchange of apologies and explanations on Veganism. For these reasons, I believe I will leave this experience primarily Vegetarian, taking as many Vegan options that I possibly can. But lastly, I do really encourage people to try Veganism, even if for just a week. Forget what you think you know, and just try it. I guarantee, you’ll be greatly surprised.
Header Image Credit: Photobucket – babyhubb192