Guest Blog #1. CarrotsnCashews on Veganuary
"... I think it's about time we all took control of our health, helping the planet in the process, loving the animals that never did anything to harm us in the first place, and living longer, healthier, happier lives. Going vegan ticks all these boxes."
Hi! I'm Billie, I'm 28 years old, I run a small business that I set up in 2012 teaching kids various fitness classes in schools, I'm a mum to a 14 month old little boy, a wife to my childhood sweetheart, and a vegan.
Calling myself a vegan is a very new thing to me. Having just completed Veganuary 2017 I'm extremely new to this, but I definitely see myself as a vegan now and I'm seriously enjoying this new journey that I'm on.
So how did I get here? Well let's go way back to 5 year old me. I remember I was eating chicken at the time. I turned to my mum and said, 'I don't like this, I don't want to eat it' after which I stopped eating meat and have never sat down and eaten meat in my entire childhood or adult life after that. My mum is a very good cook, and coming from Italian roots, food - cooking it and eating it, was big in our household. I never remember my family pressuring me to eat meat - even though they all ate it. I was the vegetarian in the family, and it stuck (Funnily enough they ended up turning vegetarian a few years ago!)
So that was me, happy and healthy, not eating meat, or eggs (never liked eggs). I didn't drink milk but I absolutely loved cheese and pretty much had it in some form in every meal.
I always said I didn't eat meat because I don't like the taste/texture of it. Which is true, even now I don't eat 'fake meat' (as I call it) it's just too close to the real thing for me! I never considered the impact on the environment or animal well being. In my mind, yeah ok animals were killed, but I didn't eat them. Free range eggs are fine and dairy cows are treated really well because we want their milk so it's fine. (How many people are face-palming right now?)
Fast forward to 2016, and I kept getting sick. All. The. Time. It was awful. The dr had no idea what to do with me, and eventually I decided to take matters into my own hands and cut dairy from my diet… I went vegan! Luckily for me it was coming up to veganuary (a campaign that gets people to try going vegan for the month of January) so I signed up, having no idea what to expect and dreading not eating cheese! It started off innocently enough, mainly cooking simple vegan meals, finding my feet. I decided to try and educate myself in what being vegan actually means. I read articles, spoke to people on Facebook groups, and then, I fired up Netflix. I watched every doc going, you know the ones -Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives, Food Choices, Vegucated… Once I started I couldn't stop, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I felt like I'd been asleep for 28 years and suddenly someone had poured ice water over my head.
What. The. Hell.
The suffering of the animals, the huge money driven conspiracy keeping us believing we MUST eat meat and drink milk. The huge effect on the environment. The truth about nutrition and what is in our food. Worst of all, I had been walking around happily as a vegetarian, having no idea I was eating animal products every day – and what was in those products! It all suddenly made sense! Why didn't more people know about this?! Why isn't this public knowledge?! Suddenly this was no longer a health thing, this was much more than that. When you actually start to break convention and look at what food actually is, things start to make sense. Once you start asking questions, you can't stop.
You can absolutely get all the nutrients and vitamins your body needs from plants. Calcium? Leafy green veg is full of it. Protein? Check out quinoa, lentils and other grains and pulses. There's nothing you can't get from plants, plus they don't have any of the nasty cholesterol, fat and various other things that are in animal products. So why are we eating so much of the bad stuff?
Veganuary was an enlightening and amazing experience. Clea and the rest of the team are wonderful and their great emails and social media presence really help keep you motivated and educated. You can still sign up now and get loads of info and support!
As usual my parents were really supportive and continue to be. My husband jumped on board and feels great eating the food I cook! Have I mentioned how incredible 'vegan food' is? (I hate that term, I think it should just be called food!) I don't miss cheese whatsoever. If you're needing a cheese sauce in your life, check out Isa Chandra's Mac & Cheese recipe on YouTube. Seriously good. (Thanks Clea!)
My favourite things to eat are scrambled tofu for breakfast, squished chickpea and vegan mayo toasted sandwich for lunch (don't knock it till you've tried it) with tomatoes, and a vegan moussaka for dinner (I made a béchamel sauce using coconut milk, it's just awesome). To get inspiration I follow tons of different vegan channels on YouTube. Some of my faves are The Happy Pear, Deliciously Ella (although not technically vegan, her recipes are mostly vegan), Lisa Lorles and more recently the Avant-Guarde Vegan. There's also a guy called Vegan Geezer, check out his talk he does around schools. He's brilliant. I also have an obsession with vegan cook books, Thug Kitchen being my favourite at the moment!
I've learned that you can make anything vegan. Any of your favourite meat based foods can still be made vegan. The vegans that have come before newbies like me have thought of everything! Nacho cheese sauce? Easy. Thick juicy burgers? Done. They have a recipe for everything. And it all tastes SO good!
The way we are living is not sustainable. Something has got to give eventually. I think it's about time we all took control of our health, helping the planet in the process, loving the animals that never did anything to harm us in the first place, and living longer, healthier, happier lives. Going vegan ticks all these boxes.
As Veganuary came to end I thought about my month as a vegan. Would I continue? Is this my life now? Thinking things through, I reflected on how much better I felt, how I was no longer sick, how, even when my little non sleeper kept me awake all night, I still had tons of energy. But not only that, I felt more positive, more calm, and, well, happier! It was a no brainer. So here I am, a brand new, excited vegan!
For anyone reading this and thinking you would like to try going vegan-first of all I say do it! Here's some tips to help you:
- Do your research, watch some docs, read up, ask questions, educate yourself on the benefits, the food you should be eating etc. You will find it really motivating, plus you will be able to answer those questions that will no doubt be asked of you if you wish (Protein deficiency anyone?!) There's loads of groups on Facebook that offer support, vegan recipes etc and they are a great place to get advice and inspiration.
- Take it slow! Don't go wild and go to the supermarket and buy every funky thing that has vegan written on it. That will be heavy on your bank balance and your body won't thank you! Remember so many simple meals are already vegan-stir fry (with wheat noodles not egg), pasta with a tomato sauce, vegan sausages sweet potato chips and peas. Let your body start to adjust!
- Don't miss the food you love! No one wants you to be miserable! There's so many replacements for cheese, milk, and meat out there. Some are nicer than others, none of them contain cruelty. Find which works for you!
- Finally, enjoy it! What you're doing is joining the future. I truly believe that one day this will be the norm, more and more people are making the change, there isn't really a reason not to do it. So enjoy your journey, feel great and love every minute!
So that's my story so far. I feel like I should put 'to be continued' at the end because this is only the beginning. If you want to continue following my journey, I'm on Instagram- CarrotsnCashews
Thank you for reading!