#7. ONE YEAR VEGAN!
Firstly I just wanted to say that I had no idea how much going vegan would impact my life in such a positive way. I'm so happy that I no longer contribute to such wide scale suffering, but I also feel much healthier, happier and I've been able to connect with some amazing people through social media that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. I'm also much more creative when I'm cooking at home and I can easily rustle something up to scran in less than 10 minutes. This is such a time saver for me because I used to make meal plans and put lots of thought into what we would eat on a weekly basis and I no longer need to spend the time and stress worrying over ingredients and how to make the perfect meal. Hurrah!
Was it hard at first? Personally I found it hard without dairy and most people do. But those cheese cravings genuinely passed after a few weeks as I began to incorporate new foods and plant based alternatives into my diet. Lots of people go vegan overnight and I think that's incredible. All I can do is share my experience and for me, going vegetarian/pescatarian first did help with my transition. Now, I'm not saying I don't like the taste of meat because I do and there are so many meat alternatives out there now us vegans are spoilt for choice. Finding Linda McCartney's Vegetarian Shredded Hoisin Duck and those Hot and Spicy burgers from Quorn's vegan range have been a revelation - did I mention you can get your hands on them in Tesco?
Did you have any slip ups? Of course! I've accidentally eaten honey and milk on a few occasions when I haven't read the label properly. It took a while for me to realise that those Veggie Percy Pigs at M&S use beeswax. Six weeks into being vegan we went on holiday to Lagos and this was tough for me. Eating fruit for breakfast every day just didn't do it for me until I realised I could scoff down beans on toast - game changer! I was craving fish the whole week we were there and I did eat it on two occasions (vegan fail) but I actually felt sick and really guilty after this. Since this, I've never eaten animal products on purpose since and I know I won't ever do it again. When I see animal products now my mind automatically takes me back to those slaughterhouse videos. I guess it's a bit like Aversion Therapy.
How was the food though? I've eaten so much amazing food over the past year it's been incredible and it's SO hard to pick my favourites. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I don't just eat grass - although I do love sautéed greens, rice and Buddah bowls! However, I have also eaten an array of incredible vegan junk food. From Cheeze Fries by Club Mexicana, Pizza at Zizzi's, Burgers and Mac n Cheese at V-rev to Salted Caramel Ice Cream at Ice Shack these are just some of the highlights over the year. How can I forget some of the amazing food we experienced in Berlin... vegan donuts from Brammibal's Donuts and some of the best Vietnamese food I'veEVER eaten in my life from 1990 Vegan Living. Honestly I could have cried it was that good! Can you tell I like food? This is what I try to explain to people all the time... being vegan doesn't mean that you're sacrificing taste and enjoyment from food (even the healthier food you make yourself at home) in fact it's probably the opposite. There's SO much amazing food out there and you only need to scroll through social media to see what everyone is shoving in their faces :)
Have your noticed changes in your physical health? I know I've spoken about my allergies in a previous post and I haven't taken antihistamines now for over 18months. I still find this hard to believe considering I've taken them since being a small child. I've managed through the summer (and hay fever season!) without becoming ill with my allergies and I can cuddle my bunnies and other animals without sniffing and sneezing for days. I know this might not be everyone's experience as I know other vegans struggle with hay fever but for me the change has been absolutely incredible!
Don't you worry about your Iron and B12 levels? As I've been feeling dizzy recently, I decided to get my bloods checked at the GP and the results said that everything was within the normal range - even those B12, Iron and Protein levels! Now although I didn't have a blood test before going vegan, just knowing that everything is within the normal range assures me that being vegan is perfectly safe and healthy providing you eat a balanced diet (yep all those veggies) and you'll be fine! I mean you could eat chips and vegan cake all day but it probably won't do you any favours (trust me on that one - I've piled on the pounds recently).
I just wanted to take a moment to talk about my blood pressure too. So here come the stats from the NHS website:
- 140/90+ is classed as 'hypertensive' (high)
- 120/80-140/90 is classes as pre-high blood pressure
- 90/60- 120/80 is classed as normal (anything below this is classed as 'low' blood pressure).
In January there was a big drive at work to check everyone's blood pressure and mine was recorded as 134/88 which is classed as high-normal. The guy was concerned about this and told me to take some active steps to reduce it; such as eating less salt, moving my arse more, losing weight, cutting caffeine and drinking alcohol in moderation (I'm not a big drinker so this didn't really apply to me). So that was it then... I stopped using salt as much, started running and cut back on junk food. In March I had it checked again and it was 119/81 and I actually couldn't believe how much it had reduced within 3 months. I went back to the doctors for routine checks about my asthma and that's when I asked what my last blood pressure reading was (pre-vegan) -> 140/85. The GP could clearly hear the shock in my voice and told me it was 'normal'. This reading was taken in July 2016 before I went vegan and when I was consuming more cheese than I had done in my lifetime. At the time I had the check I remember the GP told me this was 'fine' and didn't encourage me to make any changes. I thought nothing of it because I didn't know what the numbers meant, but on reflection it wasn't normal at all - it was classed as pre-hypertensive and I walked away thinking my blood pressure was fine. So... being vegan did reduce my blood pressure and eating plant based with less salt and moving my arse has reduced it further. I have to say though, I was pretty annoyed at the GP!
How have other people reacted to you being vegan? The response from people when they hear I'm vegan has been overwhelmingly positive. It's been really good to break down some of those stereotypes and myths by sharing food items such as Vegan Cheese, Cakes, Cookies, Brownies etc. I'm not blowing my own trumpet here but people always say "Wow... I would never have guessed this was vegan!" and that's when I try to appear cool and not say "I told you so!"
Don't get me wrong there have been times when people have been arsey with me, made sarcastic comments or rolled their eyes but that's been minimal. There have been times when I've experienced a backlash for my comments on social media but I'll save my thoughts on that for another post.
The majority of people have been interested in my reasons for going vegan, what I eat and whether I've noticed any changes in the way I feel. Some of my close friends are now vegetarian and looking at dairy alternatives and my younger sister has now been vegan for nearly 10 months. My friends have bent over backwards to accommodate me and Mr B at social events which has been kind and much appreciated. At times people haven't realised that milk is often hidden in most products and that has caught us out but its been a genuine mistake and a learning process for all of us. You'll often see me with a carton of Soya milk in my bag wherever I go so I can always have a brew when I see family and friends.
Why is veganism so popular all of a sudden? There have been SO many vegan documentaries that have been released over the last year. From the amazing and hilarious Carnage made by Simon Amstell (if you haven't seen it then you must!) to Okja on Netflix (admittedly this isn't a 'vegan' documentary but does talk about capitalism and mass farming), What the Health (also on Netflix) and a new free documentary which is being classed as the UK's version to Earthlings called 'Land of Hope and Glory'. Admittedly I haven't watched it yet because just like everyone I find it really hard to watch this sort of footage and wonder whether it's necessary now I am vegan. But maybe that makes me a hypocrite? Let me know what you think in the comments down below!
There isn't a better time to go vegan and the movement continues to grow with new products hitting supermarkets and restaurant chains every month - I mean they would be silly not to jump on board and earn all that vegan dollar!
What's next for Definitely Vegan? Okay... so people don't actually ask me that but... I want to continue to expand this site to include lots of information to help people make that transition and hopefully help other vegans out with some new meal ideas. I'd like to go to London VegFest and meet some of these lovely vegans in person! I've had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca (@thezestylime) and she's an absolute joy to be around! So I'm excited to meet other vegans that I talk to through Instagram and Twitter (internet fwends).
I know what you might be thinking... I'm talking a lot about health and food and wondering whether I'm an ethical vegan. Of course I am. I care deeply for the animals and I want to do as much as I can to spread the word.
If you have any questions about my journey or you're thinking about going vegan then feel free to send me an email or leave me a massage on Instagram. I'd love to help you if I can :)
Lots of love,