We’ve made it to a week! The new year is a little over a week old and hopefully, things are getting back to normal after the festive season.
(Apart from the first week back at work traffic. After an hour shifting between first and second gear, I squeezed my rose quartz so hard it dented my hand, which I’m sure is the exact opposite effect)
Rather than make resolutions this year, I decided I would implement positive changes. I know, sounds pretty much the same, right? Well… no. Resolutions, for me, have traditionally been focused around weight loss, changing myself to fit an ideal that’s been sold to me. It’s been about exercising to get skinny, not strong, and eating to a schedule rather than for pleasure.
For anyone who’s struggled with weight issues, eating disorders and body image, it’s an extremely triggering time. Eventually, enough was enough. Yes, food and exercise play a large part in the improvements that I want to make. This time though, it’s for different reasons. I want to go to the gym to get stronger and fitter, because I owe it to my body after the train-wreck of my twenties. I want to eat to nourish my body, to help it perform at its best and make sure it’s getting what it needs.
For me, that means going vegan.
A dietary choice which eliminates certain food groups seems counter-active to this whole point. But there are other factors, too: a growing sense of environmental concern, for one thing. There are countless articles, blogs, magazines, detailing why going plant-based can alleviate our impact on the climate.
However, the biggest reason for me, other than health, is animal welfare. We visited a farm at the end of last year, and Lucas’s favourite animals were the cows. Bold as anything, he ran right up to them, shouted “moo!”, and one of them came up and looked straight at us. I can kid myself on that not eating red meat makes me a friend to them, but it doesn’t. Seeing them up close really shattered the last of my cognitive dissonance between being an animal lover and eating dairy.
Now that I’ve made it through the first week, I’m finding something of a rhythm. Even if, for now, that rhythm only means making double the amount of food and taking the leftovers to work for lunch.Hopefully by the end I’ll have amassed enough plant-based wisdom to dispense helpful advice but for now, I’m pretty much a beginner too.
The biggest hurdle is replacing dairy. I’ve been vegetarian for more than half my life and cheese has always been my stumbling block. Even Quorn- which, as an often lazy veggie, I rely on to fill out midweek meals- contain egg whites (although their vegan range is rapidly expanding and pretty decent). But I Could Never Go Vegan! is a great book- it’s full of plant-based versions of all your faves. I’m almost there, but I think I’m about 95% done with the perfect vegan macaroni cheese.
The main sticking point for me- like many people, omni, veggie or otherwise- is “I just couldn’t do it” or “I love [insert non vegan/veggie food] too much”. OK, so if you’re really into eating meat, I’m never going to convince you that you can have a vegan version of a sirloin steak. You can’t. However, many of the foods you eat are either already vegan or can be adapted. Accidentally Vegan is a great resource: it lists commonly found supermarket products that aren’t marked vegan, but actually are (hello, Oreos and Biscoff spread).
If, like me, you find it hard to go (urgh, sorry) cold turkey, that’s cool. Every little change is a positive one. Have a meat-free meal one day a week (Meat Free Monday is pretty manageable), go vegan before 6pm, go vegan during the week then cut yourself some slack on weekends. Whatever your method, don’t sweat if you’re not going all in right away. Write wee reminders to yourself to keep going, experiment and expand more and more, take note of your progress and yes, take damn pictures.
Take it easy on yourself. If you have a slip up, that’s cool. It’s not some points counting, weekly weigh-in, good and bad foods diet. I mean, it might be. Veganuary noted that health is the second biggest reason for going plant-based, a part of which is watching what you eat. But it’s only one reason. My last vegan trip was all for the wrong reasons, so make sure you’re doing you, boo.
Above all- whether it’s for health reasons, animal welfare, sustainability, whatever- you’re on your way, and that’s what matters.