I celebrated my two year vegan anniversary in June. It's been a long journey which has had its fair share of ups and downs.
Apricot Flapjacks by Viva!
I thought I would talk about how it's changed my life, the way I feel and the challenges involved to try and encourage other people to at least try one vegan product this week.
Firstly, what made me go vegan? I've outlined this before on this blog but it was getting involved with green groups which made me think about meat consumption and how it linked to my carbon footprint. Someone somewhere mentioned 'meat free Mondays' and I felt ashamed about my meat consumption. I'd been a vegetarian as a teenager but it had only lasted a year or so.
So I went away and tried cutting meat out on Saturdays. It was great. I ate a veggie burger to replace my usual lamb mince homemade burger and it tasted amazing. The range of tastes in my mouth made me hate the dull meat burger. Eventually I went veggie full-time as I was reminded of how wonderful a plate of food could be. As a result of following vegans more on social networking sites I then thought about going vegan. One of my favourite foods was cheese, and it was a big step.
At first soya milk tasted weird. It took a few attempts to get used to it and then gradually soya marg appeared in the fridge along with more salad.
The worst thing about going vegan, or so I thought, would be cutting out chocolate but I found an array of dairy free and dark chocolate which satisfied me.
My advice for anyone thinking about going vegan would be:
1. Do it gradually and don’t panic if you don’t like soya milk at first. You’ll soon get used to it. Put it in the cup first if having coffee and stir well. Costa coffee serve free soya milk in their outlets. Try a soya latte if you don’t want to fork out for soya milk. Also, supermarkets do their own brand of soya milk now so you won’t have to break the bank.
2. Don’t panic if you lapse. If you’ve been vegan for a while and you have a moment of weakness like I did about six months ago you’ll soon notice the massive difference in how you feel and refrain in the future.
3. Learn to cook if you don’t know how. Learn where the vegan ingredients are (mostly in the health food shop but soya milk, marg and tofu is sold in shops like Sainsbury’s) and make sure you get lots of recipes.
Things which have improved in my life since going vegan:
1. My concentration has improved ten-fold. I can hold things in my head for longer and have found things like reading, making and studying much, much easier.
2. My sinusitis has completely gone away. I used to experience palpitations and panic attacks. These have been completely eliminated. My asthma has neither improved nor worsened and I unfortunately still get hay fever.
3. I have significantly reduced my risk of heart attack/cancer/stroke (but may still be susceptible due to genetics!)
4. Obviously my fruit and vegetable intake has increased four-fold. This in itself has made me feel healthier and stronger physically and mentally.
5. Skin related things like acne and nail fungal infections have cleared up by 90 per cent.
6. I have more energy and don’t find myself slumping as much.
7. I feel soothed by a vegetable-based diet and most of the time my stomach feels simply amazing. I was never diagnosed with lactose intolerance but feel sick if I lapse and drink dairy milk. Apparently you can be drawn to food which you are intolerant to and indeed become addicted to it and crave it.
8. I feel amazing whenever I exercise as a result of having more energy. I had piled on weight and was a big size 16 (almost 18) in 2010. Now I'm a size 14 and can sometimes fit into a size 12. Although losing weight isn't the main priority for me.
9. I feel excited about food as my irritable bowel syndrome has been reduced by about 80 per cent. It sometimes got to the point pre-vegan where I was anxious about eating due to the indigestion I would feel afterwards.
10. I have reduced my carbon footprint and am not participating in the slaughter of animals. I don’t believe an animal based diet suits everyone.
If you are thinking about going vegan don't do it all overnight. Try cutting one meat night out a week or just try a soya coffee in Costa Coffee until you’ve weaned yourself off meat and dairy. You may just notice how good you feel straight away!