So you want to try Veganuary?
I love the concept of Veganuary. What a way to make people worldwide question what they eat and try out Veganism. I tried (and failed) it last year, which is a why I wanted to write up some advice for those of you setting out to change your diet for 31 days, and hopefully even longer! So here's my advice for Veganuary 2018, in the hope it helps someone out there to not pack it all in for cauliflower cheese on day two, like I did...
Don't be too harsh on yourself
Don't give up just because you messed up once, twice or thirty times. I tried Veganuary but didn't go vegan until March. You can ask my friends and my boyfriend, I was pretty useless. Nevertheless, the amount of animals I saved in that month was still higher than the amount I'd have saved if I hadn't of tried Veganuary at all. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. Food choices are habits. Nowadays I wouldn't dream of grabbing a BLT at lunch or a mac and cheese ready meal after a tough day, because eating vegan has become a habit for me. I'm used to toast, vegan margarine and Marmite when I have a tough day, or finding a Co-op or Tesco for a vegan friendly meal deal if I need to grab a quick lunch.
If you do eat something not vegan after a stressful day or because you can't find even one animal free piece of food in your work canteen (how does this still happen in 2017), don't hate yourself for it. Who cares? you weren't vegan at all a month ago so why does it matter if you made a slip up. Think how many animals you saved by making all the changes you did manage! Keep going and you'll get there.
Work out why you're doing this
It's weird looking back at the reason I tried Veganuary. I'll be 100% honest, it was to lose weight. Nowadays I'm a pretty outspoken animal rights warrior who will happily debate anyone at the pub on the ins and outs of veganism, but this time last year as I headed blindly into Veganuary, I had no idea what veganism was really about. I basically followed a lot of fit vegans on Instagram and figured if I gave up cheese and chicken nuggets, I would also become fit. I'd been vegetarian on and off for a while so I think there were some ethical reasons in there too, but overall it was to shift some weight. This was undoubtedly a large part of my failure because there wasn't much drive for me to carry on. I'd failed many diets before, so what was the issue with failing one more. When I started seeing veganism as an ethical belief as opposed to a diet, I started to do a lot better. You find yourself saying "I don't want to eat cheese because they torture cows for it" as opposed to "I miss cheese but I can't have it because I'm trying to be vegan", two very different ways of thinking.
I would really advise watching a few documentaries or doing a bit of online research to give yourself some passion behind your decision to try vegan. The treatment of animals in this country and worldwide is horrendous and understanding a bit more of what's going on in the meat, egg and dairy industry is a pretty good push in the right direction for keeping you on track.
You'll find there are 3 main reasons behind why people go, and stay, vegan. For your health, for the animals and for the environment. All the documentaries below cover all 3 reasons and give you a pretty good overview.
What the Health
Forks Over Knives
And if that really hasn't done it, try Earthlings and Land of Hope and Glory which can be found online. Disclaimer - I've only managed to watch clips of them as they are so distressing, but if we can't even watch it due to the horror of these practices, should we really be funding them with the purchase of animal products?
Clear the fridge and cupboards of your non-vegan things where possible to reduce temptation. Try to donate them to food banks or friends if you can to reduce waste! Obviously this is easier for some than others, don't go chucking out all your mums food if you still live at home and she doesn't have any plans to try Veganuary (or do #veganactivism). But most importantly, don't forget to fill them with all the fabulous vegan things you can buy in your local supermarket. To name a few: Chili Heatwave Doritos, Oreos, Choc Chip Hobnobs, all vegan Linda McCartney products ever made (trust me), almost all crisps, dark chocolate (Bourneville!), bread, crumpets, Co-op donuts (jam or custard), pasta, free from chocolate etc... The list goes on! I focused far too much on what I couldn't have, busily throwing out all my favourite foods, that I forgot to look at what I could have. Which lead to occasionally saying yes to my friend's offers of non-vegan snacks because I was so desperate for some actual food.
How will I live without Cheese?
This was THE biggest worry of mine last January. You basically have two options: go without for 31 days, or try and find a substitute you like. I remember reading a discussion post in which someone was desperately asking which vegan 'cheese' was most realistic to the beloved cow's cheese we all grew up with. The only answer everyone could agree on was that no one thinks any of them actually taste like cheese. Once you get that idea in your head, it becomes a whole lot easier! Find a cheese substitute you like in its own right, not just because it almost tastes like cheddar but with undertones of feet.
The best piece of advice I have, is to give it all up. No cheese for 31 days. Trust me once you forget what cheese tastes like, the vegan substitutes become a whole lot more palatable. I officially stopped all dairy in March 2017 and it took a good 2-3 months before I liked any vegan cheeses. Now I can't get enough of Violife Original slices, or Violife grated on pasta. So my advice would be go cold tofurkey (pardon the pun) on the cheese and reap the benefits in months to come. Also, once you understand the dairy industry you won't want to put that stuff anywhere near your mouth anyway.
Meet your cravings the vegan way
Missing bangers and mash? Veganise it! Missing mac and cheese? Veganise it! Missing spag bol? Veganise it! You get the picture. Veganism has blown up in the past few years and it's no longer just health enthusiasts adopting a vegan diet. There are tons of vegans who loved the taste of meat and dairy, myself included, but chose to go vegan because of their ethical views. This means the internet is flooded with recipes that beautifully recreate the rich and comforting home cooking we all grew up with! Trust me, what ever you're missing, there's a recipe for a vegan version out there. You can now buy vegan creme fraiche, vegan milk, vegan duck, vegan bacon, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan butter, vegan egg etc... Half the time when I'm looking for recipes I just use a non-vegan recipe and substitute where needed. I would probably advise sticking to vegan recipes whilst you're getting used to vegan ingredients though!
Try new types of food
Asian food is often the easiest to veganise! European food such as British, French or Italian food is heavily influenced by eggs, meat and dairy, making it hard to make vegan whilst you still remember/love the taste of those foods. However Asian food doesn't often contain dairy and it's well documented that the Asian population are actually largely lactose intolerant. Vegan meat substitutes are pretty decent nowadays, making it very easy to just whack some 'chicken' pieces or 'beef' strips into a curry or stir fry just as you would with meat. It's unlikely you'll find yourself missing cheese in your sweet and sour noodles.
Most importantly, Enjoy!
Veganism boasts an amazing community of compassionate and caring people who are all part of a wonderfully progressive and exciting change happening worldwide. Join the movement!
Take the Veganuary pledge at https://veganuary.com/register/ and they'll keep you updated and motivated throughout Veganuary with delicious recipes, meal plans and helpful tips, such as where to get your nutrients and how to stock your cupboards!