Over the past four weeks I decided to try changing my diet to vegan, much to the amusement of my family and friends. There seems to be a lot of talk about so many diets and people raving about it changing their life. Previously I always assumed that veganism was a dietary choice made by a tree hugging hippy but it is very much on the rise with lots of celebrity advocates raving about its benefits so I wanted to give it a go.
There are lots of reasons people chose to become vegan. Some people chose this dietary choice for health and well-being reasons and other for their personal plight for the prevention of animal cruelty. Personally I don’t eat a lot of meat, but my dairy consumption is a huge proportion of my daily diet, so I knew this would be a huge personal challenge.
My first task was to clear out my fridge and cupboards of all non vegan temptations. Chocolate was the first thing to go! Sad times!
I then set myself out a meal plan. Daily planning has become an everyday part of life for me and one that I have found increased my productivity ten fold (see blog for details). Setting out a meal plan meant that I could do an internet shop that would purchase all the items needed for those meals and also prevent the unknown lunch time hungry shopping which I knew would lead me to failure.
I researched some interesting vegan meals and set to work. When my internet shop arrived I spent the day alternating between the kitchen and my balcony herb garden completing what I can only describe as a cookathon. Making my meals for the month, labelling and freezing portions that I could just take out the day before. Luckily for me my housemates rarely use the freezer so it was filled to the brim with silver trays, sandwich bags and lunch boxes.
Day one I was enthusiastic and ready to go…… that was until I had my morning cup of tea with almond milk. Almond milk to me has the after taste of marzipan, which was unpleasant to say the least. My obsession with cups of tea is something that I am well known for, often consuming more than ten cups a day, it’s the one things that gets me out of bed in the morning and still brings me excitement when someone unexpectedly makes me one. That warm cup of loveliness brings me so much joy and comfort that putting almond milk in it felt like I’d just thrown a bucket of paint over a masterpiece…. Ruined!
I thought that with any dietary change you just have to get used to it and there are always going to be things that you find you don’t like along the way. I swiftly changed to soya light milk, and although still not the same, it was pleasant enough to drink. At work I had black tea and by the second week I was actually enjoying both and in turn drinking a lot less tea. Probably a good thing.
Eating my meals never left me hungry but it did often leave me unsatisfied. I found myself craving chicken, chocolate and cheese a lot. I even found myself trying to self sabotage when I entered Tesco hungry! My thought process being “if you eat that chocolate bar no one will ever know”. This was until the rational side of my brain reminded me that this was actually my choice and decision to do this so nothing could be gained from defeating myself.
I really missed my food indulgences. You will often find me with my face in the biscuit tin, without thought of consequence, so during those first few weeks no amount of raw food date bars or seaweed snacks ever cut the crave. I would often console myself with a nice large soya latte which set my coffee shop bill on the high side but it felt like my only ‘treat’.
Breakfast was easy for me as I love my morning smoothie and the meal plan worked 95% of the time. The issues came when I either went out for a meal or forgot my lunch. Luckily for me I work in an area of London where it is probably assumed that you are vegan until proven otherwise. There are lots of very over priced cafes catering for your dietary choice exhibiting beautiful parsley decorated tofu burgers that will set your bank account back a couple of hours pay. Thanks to the meal plan this didn’t happen very often but on the times my empty stomach had the enter the food filled isles of other stores only to find you have one lonely option for your lunch was a little depressing.
The couple of times that I went out for a meal my choices were extremely limited, at best one or two options and even then I wasn’t overly convinced that even when I informed the waiter that I was vegan that he fully understood what that entailed.
I sent my friend into a culinary melt down when I went to hers for dinner. I think they were happy to humour me for the month but if I had continued for any longer then my next cooked meal would have consisted of a plate of chopped carrots and a face of ‘you made your bed!’
The one thing I did discover, that came of no surprise, is that Laura+Alcohol=Carnivore. There was no part of my alcohol induced brain that had any time for veganism. This did lead to a few vegan failures, as demonstrated in the picture below showing the next morning text messages.
Going vegan has certainly made me more aware of the contents of my food. Reading the labels of some of the food I usually liked to consume was a little scary. I had to google so many ingredients to check even what they were let-a-lone if they were vegan or not. My ignorance to the contents of my food was apparent on several occasions, one of them being when I went to tuck into a strawberry jelly only to have my friend look at me in despair before explaining where gelatine comes from. I knew this but just didn’t associate the two together in that moment.
Dairy was my biggest barrier! Its in absolutely everything! I ate half a bag of sensations crisps before realising there was dairy in it! I still don’t understand how or why but its in there.
Overall I have to admit by the end of the month I felt much healthier. I lost half a stone in weight and my vegetable consumption had gone through the roof. I think its always important to eat in a way that makes you feel at your best. I know that when I eat too much meat I feel like I’m walking around in slow-mo. and I certainty did feel better on the vegan diet when my dairy consumption disappeared. My craving for cheese, meat and chocolate subsided and I was really enjoying the meals I was consuming.
Although I have talked about a lot of the challenges I faced changing my diet I did find it easier than I anticipated. Those first few weeks were the worst but after that I felt quite content with my diet.
Moving forward my diet will definitly change. A friend of mine once told me she was flexitarian. Basically it’s a completely non-committal vegetarian but I think this is exactly what I’ve become. I will definitely implement a lot more vegan choices into my diet but I can’t see myself strictly sticking to it completely, especially after a few too many cocktails 😉
See you Tuesday,
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