I’ve now been vegan for 2 years so I thought I would write an updated post, in case you were wondering about how I was getting on and what it’s actually like being vegan in 2021.
I guess I should go back a bit and tell you how I came to this point, it’s quite the story so grab a drink and I’ll tell you all about it.
My Journey To Becoming Plant-Based - September 2017 – January 2019
It all started with a documentary on Netflix called ‘What The Health’, I’d heard about it on social media and was beginning to get curious about perhaps changing my diet so I popped it on and watched it.
Coming from a background which involved working on farms, raising lambs and understanding what happened for the food to end up on our plates I wasn’t surprised to see inside the abattoirs but it still made an impression on me.
Although the documentary was based in America, a lot of the same practices applied and it really opened my eyes to the cruelty which happens at abattoirs all over the world.
Obviously, it’s never going to be a pleasant experience for the animal involved but there are ways it could be made less stressful, but perhaps that’s a fight for another day.
I remember thinking after it finished that there was no way I could continue eating meat.
So I didn’t. I literally went into that documentary viewing being a carnivore and came out of it pescetarian as I was still eating fish at the time.
(I stupidly thought that fish didn’t feel pain when they were caught. I thought I’m not eating meat but I’m not giving up fish! Thankfully that all changed soon enough. I also recommend watching ‘Seaspiracy’ on Netflix)
I remember doing the food shopping after watching ‘What The Health’, wondering what I was going to eat for tea that night and what milk I was going to change to; because, oh yes, that documentary opened my eyes to more than the horrors of the abattoir.
If I didn’t know before, I definitely knew now what happened to dairy cows and their calves. I’ll admit here that changing from dairy to plant-based milk was the hardest change I had to do.
I’d be messing around with my gut biome and possibly upsetting my stomach, but it was worth it to know I wouldn’t be drinking another species’ breast milk! (because that’s essentially what cow's milk is.)
Thankfully I found soya milk was a good fit for me and so that is what I changed to for my morning cereal and cups of tea.
Finding a plant-based milk for my coffee proved slightly tougher as you need a slightly higher fat content to ensure it doesn’t split when put into hot coffee!
Whilst you can wait until it’s cooled down to add the milk or heat up the milk first, this all seemed like hard work and I just wanted something to put in straight away as I had before with cow’s milk.
Oat milk was the one I settled on – firstly finding Oatly which until very recently was the absolute best for coffee amongst other things!
I’ll not go into why Oatly is such a bad company here but it's safe to say I no longer buy anything from them and try to avoid having oat milk in my coffees when I’m out although this can be hard to avoid completely!
Thankfully there’s an Oat milk from Aldi which does just as good a job so I use that mostly. Occasionally I’ll pick up another from the supermarket when it’s on offer – usually Alpro Barista which is another good option should you be on the lookout for a simple and easy swap.
As I said, at first I went pescetarian which allowed me to still have some food freedom. In the early days I was still eating dairy chocolate too – the last and most difficult food for me to give up completely.
Trying Veganuary - twice
In January 2018 and 2019, I tried Veganuary – the month dedicated to trying veganism for 30 days. I had always been curious about it to be honest and with my newfound interest growing into something that could potentially be life-changing, I thought why not give it a go and see if it’s really a lifestyle I could get behind?
I enjoyed this and found it relatively easy (despite the extra time spent shopping of course!) my second attempt in June that year wasn't, I found it quite difficult and not as much fun as I had in January.
I just couldn't make the same connections with it and eating no was longer fun because I felt like I couldn't eat anything.
Opening the cupboards or the fridge and starting at foods I couldn't eat, plus I was eating dough balls at work all the time and as lovely as they were, it got a bit repetitive.
January was successful so I decided to give it another go in June of 2018 as well. This month was called ‘Go Vegan’ and had quite a lot of success with quite a few people.
As for me though it all got a bit too much, mainly because I was also not eating chocolate or drinking! Quite a fun person to be around that month I’m sure!
There wasn't anything fun at lunch and dinner times anymore, as much as I love eating salads and plates of vegetables, when I don't have the income to match up with buying all the ingredients for all those vegan recipes you find it leaves you feeling sad.
Which isn't how I want to feel about food! I want to be excited at mealtimes! I felt like I had let myself down because I couldn’t make the ‘Go Vegan’ month stick.
But looking back now I think everything got on top of me and I needed more time for my body to adjust to not eating meat.
Thankfully in 2019, I tried again and this time it stuck! It definitely felt like if I was going to commit to veganism full-time, this was the best month to try.
Greggs brought out their now infamous (and now menu staple) vegan sausage roll. It was so popular when it came out that whenever they baked it, it sold out in minutes so you had to be quick!
I finally nabbed one on 5th January 2019 and it was absolutely delicious! After January ended, I found I was able to continue with veganism, having successfully given up both dairy and eggs.
I was excited to see the restaurants, supermarkets and other food brands could come up with in the vegan food space!
Hitting Road Blocks Along The Way
I’m not going to sit here and say I tried Veganuary twice and it was easy because it wasn’t. I actually suffered from iron deficiency in late August/early September 2018 after giving up meat completely.
I started to feel tired all the time, lethargic with little energy and wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
There were a lot of other factors going on in my life which in some way (I believe) contributed to my state of the mind at the time, so I thought that if I managed to sort those out then I would begin to feel better.
Why I was still feeling that way a month later I really had no idea.
I then went to see the doctor to get some answers to my problems, a chat and a blood test later I had my results. Apparently, I had incredibly low ferritin (iron) levels, so low in fact, I was bordering on anaemia.
It was suggested I go on ferrous iron tablets to get my levels back up to normal and then do another blood test to see how they were.
Thankfully, after taking them for a few months the next blood test showed that my levels had improved so much that I needn’t take them anymore.
Instead, I would research iron-rich foods which I could then incorporate into my diet.
This is something I need to keep an eye on throughout my life but there are iron supplements available over the counter which I can take without the quite frankly, awful side effects from the ferrous iron tablets!
Where I Am Today
5 years, 11 months and 20 days on from giving up meat and 2 years, 7 months and 23 days from going vegan I can very confidently say going plant-based/vegan was the best thing I could have ever done.
I love knowing that I’m not having as big an impact on the world as someone who eats meat, drinks cow’s milk and has eggs for breakfast.
Everyone who thinks lowering your carbon footprint is as easy as taking shorter showers, using less plastic, using public transport or cycling everywhere is fooling themselves because by far, the biggest impact on the Earth’s resources is agriculture!
Plus there are more places than ever turning up online to shop everything vegan, so it’s not even that difficult to find the products you’re looking for anymore.
Plus there’s a whole community of like-minded people willing to share their tips, favourite foods and restaurants to try! You’re never really alone in the vegan community.
For me now it feels normal to have veganism at the forefront of my mind.
I get repulsed by the sight of meat and get frustrated at people who state at length why they could never give up meat, love the taste of bacon, could never give up cheese...yada yada…..
It gets boring after a while so I just don’t entertain them! I’m happy to chat to people with an open mind but sometimes it’s nice to have a break you know?!
Anyway, this post is long enough now! I hope you’ve enjoyed it, let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried veganism!?