January is a time for New Year’s resolutions, challenges and getting a kickstart on your health - which is why many are attempting a whole month of veganism. Dubbed ‘Veganuary’, it’s seen as a chance to try something new. How hard can it be?
Well, pretty hard, it turns out.
In 2016, I attempted my own month of veganism, purely to find out more about where my food comes from. Of course, the challenge side of it was appealing, but I went in with the mindset of changing my life and perspective of food. Although I’d set myself a month, I viewed it as a diet overhaul that I hoped would stick, despite being a dairy and meat lover.
I watched documentaries, researched recipes and joined countless Facebook groups in order to help make the vegan journey just that little bit easier. I went in full pelt, giving away most of my food that contained animal products, as I truly wanted to approach veganism with an open mind and, well, fridge.
This was probably my first mistake - I realised that most vegans had slowly weaned themselves off of these products, and my body was pretty confused by my diet change. I didn’t see it as a big deal though, but I’m certain that this was a pretty bad decision.
The first thing I did was get a big shop full of vegan-friendly products. I mostly shopped at Tesco as they have a pretty great vegan range, but I did have to pop to my local Holland & Barrett for more options. My absolute favourite was any type of chocolate almond milk, which remains a permanent feature in my fridge.
A lot of products, specifically those from H&B, were significantly more expensive, but that really does depend on what you’re eating. As I was choosing a lot of ‘fake meats’ and substitutes, my overall food shopping bill would be higher than a vegan who ate mostly carbs and fully natural products.
At first, I was pretty obsessed with all of the food - I couldn’t believe how many options there were, let alone how good they tasted. My go-to meal was Quorn’s spicy ‘chicken’ burgers in a wrap with peppers, bbq sauce and a big helping of spinach. Unfortunately, I did find myself getting very bored. It probably didn’t help that I’m not much of a cook, nor a fan of most veggies. All the recipes I found mainly included piles of veg that I wouldn’t even look at in a supermarket, let alone know what to do with them. I’d say you’d probably find going vegan a lot easier if you already love greens and experimenting in the kitchen.
Big cities have a lot of vegan restaurants, whereas Lincoln only had one at the time. I dragged my friends along, and although it was nice, I found myself leaving bored and not satisfied. This ended up being a common trend that month, but as I said, this was probably due to my lack of cooking skills. As a third year university student with a busy schedule, I found it impossible to dedicate my time to veganism, which I realised you really had to do at the beginning.
So, at the end of the month, had I fully converted to veganism? I’m afraid to admit that the answer was no.
My vegan journey came to an end well over a month, when all I wanted in life was a cheese pizza - it was honestly slightly terrifying how much my body physically craved it. It sounds selfish (because to be fair, it is), but with my two girl pals by my side, I couldn’t have been happier to head to our local takeaway. I was very disappointed afterwards, but was still a bit pleased to have gone over my goal of a month of veganism.
Saying that, I haven’t come out of it as a complete lost cause. More often than not, I still purchase vegan alternatives to meat, chocolate and dairy - often preferring these to animal products. I never purchase milk, and always reach for soy mince rather than beef. When I’m cooking for myself, my meals are still largely vegetarian, if not vegan; it seems to mostly be when I’m eating outside of the house or when someone else is cooking that I eat animal products.
Whilst I’m happy with the lifestyle I’m currently living, I’d like to think that I’ll give veganism another proper go once I’ve left university or have more time and money to invest. When vegans say that it’s a lifestyle, not a diet, they really are telling the truth. I have a lot of respect for those who commit to it, as it really is a selfless choice.
Despite everything, I really would recommend giving veganism a chance - at the very least, you’ll end up realise that animal products don’t have to be used with every meal.