Veganism is the epidemic taking the UK by a storm. The plant-based lifestyle is everywhere; you can’t scroll through Instagram without your favourite bloggers preaching the benefits of a plant based lifestyle, and restaurants everywhere are popping up with their own vegan dishes. So, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I ditched the chicken nuggets and gave ‘Veganuary’ my best shot.
*Just a quick disclaimer, I’m not here to preach or educate anyone because I really don’t know much about veganism myself, I just want to let you know how I found the transition to a plant based diet.*
Veganism has interested me for ages and for the past year I’ve been eating pretty much vegetarian. So, I adopted the ‘new year, new me’ attitude and decided January was a great opportunity to make the change I’d been contemplating. One reason I really wanted to make the change is a bit cliché... I watched a selection of documentaries on Netflix (Cowspiracy, Chasing Coral, and Fed Up to name a few of my favourites) and they really broadened by insight into exactly what I’m eating and the impact it has on the environment. They really spurred me on to throw myself in to ‘Veganuary’ head first. Although I do think being veggie already makes the transition to veganism a lot easier!
Instead of just going cold turkey, I tried to make myself as prepared as possible. I spent time finding some substitutes, little things like switching my beloved Lurpak (I miss you) to Flora or buying dark chocolate instead of Galaxy. To be honest, I found it pretty easy. What I quickly learned was it’s actually not expensive to eat a plant-based diet as you’re not buying meat (which accounts for a large quantity of the shopping bill), and if you do decide to buy substitutes like Alpro yoghurts or milk, they’re pretty much the same price as the dairy version.
After about a week I started to get stomach pains, I was really bloated and I didn’t understand why. But, after some research, I found it’s actually really normal to get bloating and wind because your body takes time to adapt to any changes in your diet (and being vegan usually means you’re increasing your fibre intake). However, when this bloating subsided I felt absolutely fine and found the whole plant based diet really, really easy…
To be honest, what I found most difficult was when my friends asked why I wasn’t a adding mound of parmesan to every meal and I had to awkwardly admit ‘Oh I’m eating plant-based’. However, I quickly got over the initial embarrassment and realised you don’t need to be ashamed of your diet, and you definitely don’t need to tell people unless they ask (completely dispelling the preachy vegan myth).
What made it easier was that Leeds is actually really well equipped for a vegan diet so I never had to miss out on ordering takeaway or eating out. I’d like to give a special shout out to Oranaise in Hyde Park who do the most delicious vegan pizzas with incredible melted ‘cheese’ and Water Lane Boathouse who have the doughiest pizzas going.
Now that January is over I can genuinely say I feel energised and happy with my diet. I’ve definitely not deprived myself of anything, and think for the most part I’ll continue eating plant-based. However, if I do crave some cheese or chocolate I’m not going to restrict myself. I watched a helpful video by fitness blogger Zanna Van Dijk who said her motto is ‘progress not perfection’ which really resonated with me, she said she’d consider herself plant based but every so often would indulge in a Lindt chocolate if she wanted one. As a foodie, I don’t see the point in depriving myself of something I LOVE (I’m looking at you baked camembert) but if I don’t crave things I won’t eat them, and the more I educate myself I won’t WANT to eat certain things. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a vegan, I’m making changes in the right direction; I am going to keep up a plant based diet 80% of the time until eventually I’ll hopefully be 100% there.