Living with two militant vegans, a beige food addict (someone whose diet revolves around ham), and a lapsing vegetarian, it's easy to not know where I stand on the food industry spectrum. For thirteen months I've been a vegetarian, and for the last three of those I've been contemplating veganism. Going to the University of Glasgow and working for Lush results in me being surrounded by vegans everyday, and I was basically already halfway there, so why couldn't I do it? It would at least give me something to add to my Instagram bio. Therefore, when January rolled around, it only made perfect sense for me to participate in Veganuary.
As a vegetarian, I've never really had to be concerned with food label reading; as long as it doesn't have any animal carcass in it, I'm pretty much good to go, with the odd exception of pesto and marshmallows. However, everything that I love in this world apparently contains milk, eggs, or some other animal by-product, which results in me checking a lot of labels. In the beginning, I assumed everything that was vegan would be labelled "vegan", but often many products considered vegan are not labelled-so due to them being produced in the same factory as products that handle non-vegan items. Where you stand on this as a vegan depends on the individual, but already surviving without halloumi was a sacrifice enough for me not to care. Reading labels at first was a laborious task but now, I find myself not only scanning the back but actually learning what I'm putting into my body. It has become part of my usual routine and after some time you learn which of your favourite foods can be consumed and cannot. All things considered, reading backs of packets is not my biggest hindrance concerned with veganism, but I do wish I had spent the first three days not avoiding Walkers Salt and Vinegar out of fear of them accidentally sneaking milk into the ingredients list.
This month has made me consider what food I can swap with an alternative in a simple but effective way. One of the biggest shocks to me was the swap for my usual Lurpak butter to plant based Vitalite made with sunflower oil. Not only was this swap healthier but tastes just as good as any butter made with cow's milk. Another substitute I found effortless was milk: from cashew to coconut there is something to tickle everyone's taste buds. Luckily, I think I've picked the best January so far to take on the challenge of veganism; I have been blessed with the new McDonalds' vegan range, Greggs' vegan Sausage Roll, and the promise of vegan cheese on Papa John's pizzas in the near future. From the astounding reaction to all these new alternatives it is clear that veganism is here to stay and I'm sure the animals are thankful for it. With the growth of plant based diets, it's becoming easier to swap environmentally damaging produce to healthier substitutes.
The last month has caused a lot of upheaval with changing my lifestyle. Veganism is about so much more than just what you eat: it's how you shop, what clothes you buy, and what skincare you use. Fortunately, I work in a cruelty free cosmetics store with over 80% of the merchandise being vegan, and I'm also a student, which means I don't have enough money in my bank account to even think about buying regular clothes, never mind ethically sourced ones. What this month has shown me the most is that veganism is certainly not for the faint-hearted and whether you agree or not with the principles it is grounded in (Piers Morgan I'm looking at you), recognition must be given to the dedication these people have to creating a healthier environment with less cruelty for animals. Leading a plant based diet is something that is very easy to get wrong healthwise: if you're not being cautious of what and how you're eating, the slippery slope to an Oreo and Quorn chicken nugget diet is effortless to slide down. Personally, in spite of all the fantastic advice given from my two resident vegans, I can't deny that I have struggled mentally and physically with the changes to my diet. I have found that in my plant-based time that my body tells me a lot faster when I am not getting the nutrients I need. Believe it or not, I think I have managed to be only the vegan to ever to gain weight by taking chocolate and cheese out of my diet.
With all these new discoveries I have decided to live my life Vegan(ish). I'm returning to my trusty vegetarianism but with the intention to not drink milk, eat eggs nor butter. Despite all that I have learnt in regards to the great impact veganism has on the planet and how good I have felt being able to eat anything I wanted guilt free of killing any animals, I can’t deny the cheese cravings have been phenomenal. Whilst I will be returning to munching on cakes and eating mayonnaise by the spoonful, I want to cut the amount of dairy I eat in half with the intention of one day becoming a devoted vegan. Trying to do better for planet does not have to be an all or nothing task - instead try taking small steps toward a happier and healthier planet.
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