5 things that happened when I went vegan
This is not an article designed to convince you to go vegan.
There are a thousand of those voices out there already — preaching about how clear your skin will be, how energised you’ll be, and how you’ll sleep so well you age backwards.
But what can you, a normal human, actually expect from making what feels like a MASSIVE change to your day to day life?
I mean, really. No more cheese? Can it be worth it? Will I really look twenty when I’m eighty?
Everyone’s story is different. All I can tell you is what happened to me.
So here goes.
1. I got over cheese
I don’t even miss it.
Well, I miss it, but I don’t worry about caving and eating it. I suppose what I miss is being oblivious to what goes into producing it.
I was a cheese FIEND. The stronger the better. And because I’d been veggie for so long, I had it every day. Usually twice a day. It was my meat replacer.
If the vegan cheese available to me were tasty, I’d have been vegan YEARS ago.
There are good vegan cheeses out there (Tyne Chease is the best by far), but they’re few and far between, and sometimes quite spendy.
Most supermarket varieties taste like coconut oil infused with vomit. Not really what I’m after when I’m craving a grilled cheese.
2. It’s not difficult
I have a website all about veganism, and the most popular post by far is something like ‘10 easy meals’ because despite what Google seems to think, there aren’t that many actually easy meal ideas out there.
I’m talking vegan sausages, mash, gravy, and peas. Chilli made with either soya mince or lentils. Burgers, chips, and salad.
Meals that require one pan, a baking tray, and no chopping.
You know, easy.
People ask me what I have for breakfast, and are disappointed when I say Weetabix. I’m not scrambling tofu at 7 am on a Wednesday, and you don’t have to either.
For lunch I have soup. Or a sandwich — Quorn vegan ham with tomato and Sainsbury’s coleslaw. Just…food. Normal food.
I’d love to have the time to rustle up a nourish bowl, but I don’t.
(Also, I can’t be bothered, and I’d rather have a sandwich.)
3. I learned more about the power of language
This is a bit out there but bear with me.
Have you seen the ‘I pet that dog’ kid on Twitter?
(If not, go and look — it’s cute as hell)
He refers to the dog’s caregiver as a ‘caregiver’, rather than the more traditional ‘owner’.
It bugged me at first because it was so obviously different. It seemed…clunky. What was wrong with owner?
But I made myself use it. A caregiver is different from an owner. Animals shouldn’t be property. I modified my language to reflect my beliefs.
Although wanting to change the name of a town because it’s called Wool is a waste of everyone’s time.
4. I accepted you can eat meat and be healthy
I’m not healthier than all meat eaters because I’m vegan. It doesn’t work like that.
Some people are healthier than other people because of what they eat, not their belief system. I know that there are a lot of meat-eaters that eat far more vegetables than I do.
There’s no point going around preaching the health benefits of a vegan diet to people, because there may not be any.
Especially if 50% of your diet is potatoes like mine is.
Nothing to do with being vegan — I’m just big on potatoes.
Don’t give unsolicited nutritional advice. You can’t turn people vegan like that, but you can piss them off.
5. Being vegan isn’t peak human
You also have to be a good person. There are plenty of bad people who are vegan, and plenty of wonderful people who aren’t.
So, if you can’t go vegan, but want to help the animals volunteer at a local dog shelter. We’ve walked dogs for Blue Cross for about five years and it’s amazing.
I love dogs, but they don’t fit with my lifestyle — I have a house rabbit instead, who shares my love for toast and doing nothing.
If you want to help the environment, the easiest thing to do is go vegan. But there are other things you can do which have a similarly big impact, i.e. not having children and not flying.
If you want to be healthier, you know what to do. We all know. Eat more fruit, veg and beans. Eat less processed food. Done.
But going vegan wasn’t quite the experience I thought it would be
I had high expectations of what would happen to me when I finally put down that final piece of cheese. But even that didn’t go as planned.
1. I didn’t have a last omnivorous meal
Ever gone on a diet and eaten the contents of your fridge the night before?
Yup, me too.
I don’t actually remember the last non-vegan food I ate.
The transition started about ten years ago — I hadn’t drunk dairy milk or had dairy yoghurts in years. I didn’t eat eggs much.
What is frankly BIZARRE is that I refused to make risotto without butter. Of all the easy swaps to make, butter for oil is the simplest one going. I thought it would ruin risotto.
No. It tastes exactly the same.
I am a pretentious idiot.
2. My body didn’t change at all
My experience transitioning to a vegan lifestyle was…unremarkable.
I mean, I missed cheese a lot and relied far too heavily on Linda McCartney sausages, but I expected more.
What is absolutely ridiculous about this is that I originally gave up meat because I thought it would be an easy way to lose weight.
It’s been nearly two decades and I’ve gained a stone, which I’m classing as basically zero weight change.
My skin, teeth, and eyes are the same.
I’ve always had a super-fast metabolism, so I lose weight quickly, and this hasn’t changed since becoming vegan. I’m also very greedy and have little to no willpower, which explains why I haven’t lost any weight.
For reference, I’m neither fat nor thin. I have stick-thin arms and legs and a round belly (from all the potatoes).
3. I didn’t become automatically healthy
I can’t lie, I’m a bit annoyed about this.
Clearly it’s my own fault, but surely it’s easier to be healthy if you’re vegan.
Whilst Veganuary is a great way for non-vegans to give being plant-based a go AND maybe shed a few Christmas pounds, it’s an exercise in self-restraint for vegan.
You see, it’s a great marketing opportunity for food manufacturers. January is a minefield of vegan steak bakes, mozzarella sticks, and ice cream.
Please don’t think I’m complaining. I live in a market town in rural North Yorkshire. I have to travel for hours to find these products. I’m merely pointing out that I thought I’d be healthier as a vegan, but I’m the same greedy guts with no concept of portion control.
4. I don’t take supplements
I really should. But I forget.
This stuff is important — B12 deficiency has been linked to all kinds of brain issues including dementia. I do eat a lot of fortified foods, but a pill is the best guarantee to make sure you’re getting enough.
Take your vitamins folks — B12 and D. Even you, non-vegans, especially if you’re 50+.
5. I think everyone else is vegan
I never thought I’d be the kind of person to tell everyone I’m vegan, but I do.
And not because I want to preach, but usually because someones asks me some innocuous question…
- How do you like steak cooked?
- Is that real leather?
- Are you lactose intolerant?
- Ever fancied shooting a lion?
…and the words ‘I’m a vegan’ have shot out of my face with such speed I wonder if I’ve been taken over by a compassionate alien.
Being vegan just…happened
This was the strangest thing.
As I mentioned, I’ve been vegetarian for nearly twenty years (I’m 33 now). It took me a while to give up fish, and then one morning I just woke up and knew that I’d never fish again.
The same thing happened when I went vegan. What had one day seemed inconvenient (to both me and other people), restrictive, and hard to stick at was just…not.
So don’t be discouraged if you find the transition difficult.
One day everything will fall into place, and it’ll be the most natural thing in the world to show up at your inlaw’s house with a suitcase full of soya milk, non-dairy butter, and three packs of Quorn nuggets.