Whilst many people are trying out vegan living for the first time as part of Veganuary this month, Emily – our social media and content producer – has been vegan for 4 years. For anyone thinking of making the step, here’s what she’s learnt:
“I started my vegan journey completely unintentionally 4 years ago. I had found myself in a Youtube rabbit hole at 2am in that weird time between Christmas and New Year. ‘I bet I can make you vegan in 5 minutes’ was the title of the video the algorithm had served me and I chuckled to myself thinking “go on then”. I should preface that at this point in time I was a big meat-eater. I loved my weekly chicken-wing nights with my friends, holed up in dirty diners in London and I ate poached eggs for breakfast every single day. But what I saw in this video shocked me so much not even from an animal point of view but more so from an environmental point of view that I had to research the matter further. Is it possible that we really use 85% of soy for animal feed rather than to feed humans directly? This made no logical sense to me. And so started the documentary exploration to uncover the truth. The next day I triumphantly declared myself vegan. My sister placed a bet that this would last two weeks before I’m back onto my salmon & avocado toasts at brunch. Something that we have both come to laugh about now.
“So, it’s safe to say after 4 years being vegan I have learned a couple of things.
1. Ignore judgement and focus on yourself
“There’s a long standing joke: how do you know if a person is vegan? They’ll tell you! But more often than not I end up being introduced to new people as ‘the vegan’ before we’ve exchanged more than a couple of conversations. I actually usually avoid this topic as I know it inevitably ends up with a lot of questions and the same statements around protein, leather, soy and bacon. I am more than up for a healthy debate and discussion but sometimes I just want to eat my vegan burger in peace! It’s my decision to eat this way and I hold no judgment for those who choose to eat differently. Each to their own. The point being there will always be someone passing judgement on your lifestyle choices, vegan or not so you do you and what makes you happy.
2. Give yourself some slack
“Ease into it. This is the best course of action for a long-term lifestyle change. But if you’re the type of person who has to do a clean break, go with that. If you need time to phase out foods then go down that route. For me, I used to eat a lot of fish, so this was the hardest aspect of my diet to change. I let myself eat fish once a week for a few months before making the decision to remove it entirely. Be mindful that there will also be times that you make mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up about it, sometimes your favourite salt and vinegar crisps just will have milk powder in and won’t have realised. And that’s okay. Eventually you’ll know all the brands which are vegan-safe off the top of your head and when you don’t a quick scan of the food labels will let you know.
3. A plant-based diet is more varied than a carnivorous one.
“Hear me out. My main reason for believing this is because when you go plant-based you’re suddenly faced with the strange question of, ‘but what can I eat now?’ This forces you to get creative. I looked to Youtube, Pinterest and started following vegan chefs and bloggers on Instagram for inspiration. I can safely say now my diet is far more varied, fun and satisfying than what I ate before. There will be a lot of foods and flavours you’ve never ever heard of before that end up being staples in your diet. Tempeh? Tofu? Nutritional yeast? The last one sounded particularly unappealing to me, but once you know the magic of this ingredient I can guarantee you’ll never be without it in your cupboards. Foods you would have turned your nose up to before will become your favourites and you’ll end up being more adventurous with food than ever before. That bland white tofu block you wouldn’t have looked twice at? After 4 years vegified you’ll see tofu as about 8 different potential meals, the same way you might view chicken right now.
4. Change your perspective. Prioritise what feels good rather than restrictive
“Okay, so now you’ve started making some new recipes, some you liked, some you didn’t. Focus on the new tastes and foods you’ve discovered that you enjoy and make more of that and different varieties of it. Remember this is a process. At first you might be lusting after your friends creamy pasta dish because the restaurant ‘doesn’t do vegan cheese yet’. But once you start discovering new recipes you like you’ll become more and more content with your lifestyle and won’t see your diet as restrictive, rather colourful, interesting, balanced and fulfilling in every sense. This is also a time for discovery. My favourite thing about going vegan was all these new restaurants and pop-ups I could go to to sample incredible foods I’ve never had before. Have fun with the challenge of turning plant-based.
5. Remember the reasons why you chose this lifestyle
“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t occasionally say to yourself, why am I doing this again? I can tell you that’s more likely to happen after a few glasses of wine on a Friday night and you’re craving a greasy pizza the next day…But it’s likely you ended up turning vegan because you felt the environmental, animal-welfare or health benefits outweighed the need to have meat on your plate. Follow like minded people on social media, read publications and books which inspire you, watch more documentaries. These will all remind you why you chose this lifestyle and keep you invigorated in your mission! There are so many resources and ways to connect with similar individuals online now to help you stay inspired in your journey.
“After 4 years being vegan I can safely say once and for all; no, I do not miss meat, yes, I have enough protein and controversially, I prefer the taste of vegan cheese more than dairy cheese now. Taste buds will change! This has been the best, most eye-opening, challenging and transformational decision I ever made and I couldn’t be happier to be celebrating my veganversary this #Veganuary2021 as a healthy and content 28 year old! If you’re just starting your vegan journey, I hope these reflections help you in some way and I hope you have a brilliant time if you’re setting out on your own vegan journey.
We have shared a number of vegan recipes in the ‘Living Gluten Free’ section of our website over the last few weeks, and all our vegan products can can be found in the ‘Products & Shop’ section (results via this link are filtered already).