Good news for celebrity vegans attending the BAFTA awards (Sunday 14th February) as this year vegan food is on the menu. Hoorah! Finally, a plant-based diet without dairy or meat is coming out of the shadows and being noticed by the mainstream as something desirable to try.
I was away for most of January but it seems Veganuary was a huge success. According to the organisers, around 23,000 people had pledged to give up meat and dairy so far, up from 3,000 in 2014. Very impressive.
I’ve been a vegan for around 10 years now (and vegetarian since I was nine) so it’s no new thing for me but there’s never been a better time to go dairy and meat-free.
Blogs and websites are full of inspiration for cooking and health (Green Kitchen Stories, Natural Kitchen Adventures and Sprouted Kitchen are a few of my favourites) and supermarket shelves are exploding with non-dairy produce. Years ago I’d be lucky if found one variety of non-dairy milk. Look at it now! (That picture was taken in Morrison’s a few weeks ago.)
Years ago it was a very uncool thing to do. I was usually too embarrassed to say the V-word in case people thought I was weird let alone promote it as something to try. I would always say I’m ‘vegetarian and I didn’t eat dairy’ mumbled quietly and quickly before anyone really noticed.
Now doing the big V is like proudly wearing the latest wellness badge and touted as the must-try new thing to help you lose weight, stay slim or eat more superfoods. Luckily they were never my primary motivations but definitely an added bonus of not eating butter, cheese, cream, eggs or meat. Some people will try Veganuary as it’s another trend to try, for others it will resonate more deeply and they will hopefully stick with it.
Sticking to being vegan has never been that hard because it was never a fad or fashion.
I did it for fairly strong ethical and health reasons of my own will. It came from an unwillingness to support the very act and nature of meat and dairy farming. I realised the problems that motivated me to be vegetarian (inhumane, unnatural and intensive farming) still very much existed in the dairy industry so it didn’t make sense to eat dairy and not meat. The more I read about the dairy industry the more I knew I couldn’t support it.
I didn’t want to buy into an industry that’s unethical in its practices (see ethicalconsumer.com report here), pumps its animals with antibiotics and growth hormones which we end up ingesting, puts unfair pressures on farmers to meet unrealistic supermarket quotas, and intensive farming methods that have massive environmental and human impact. I don’t agree with any of those things and don’t want any of them on my conscience.
So whatever your reasons for going vegan, whether it’s to less meat, be more healthy, lose/manage weight or even do your bit for the environment, the secret to sticking to Veganuary after January is to make sure the motivation comes from within.
The more it resonates with you personally, the more likely you are to stick to it.
Read up about what you’re doing, learn how to make it work, what sacrifices you may have to make, and how to eat well – being vegan means you omit a few major food groups so it’s important to substitute well so you don’t fall weak or ill. Discover where your boundaries lie (e.g. will you eat honey, but say no to a leather sofa? Or are you happy to have a bit of cake on special occasions (like I am!) particularly if your friend has baked it, but won’t wear a leather jacket. Experiment and you’ll discover what’s right for you and your lifestyle and where you can draw the lines.
If you’re going from full meat eater to vegan then it’s a massive jump so take small steps rather than going cold turkey, excuse the pun. Don’t be hard on yourself for having a bit of cheese after dinner and be open to trying new and alternative ways of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. In restaurants, be creative with the menu but always smile sweetly at the waiter/waitress when making your extra special requests.
Remember, it’s not a punishment so enjoy it. Done with an open, relaxed and flexible mind it can be a really vibrant and creative way to eat.
It’s the best thing I ever did and if you’re giving it a go, let me know how you’re getting on and hope you love it too.