God, January is but a bleak memory, or like a lingering omen – I will probably return to that bitterness and that self-preservative iciness demonstrated most excellently in my New Year's piece once more, but for now, I feel great.
March was a turning point for me. It seems to most people that I have become deficient in something non-specific, but for me, I have been filled with something new and filling.
You see, folks, and I say this with trepidation...on March 1st, I became a Vegan.
There was the self-conscious-trying-to-look-ok-with-it ‘Oh, that’s great – I couldn’t do it’, and then, the dreaded, ‘So, where do you get your protein?’ If I had a penny for every time I hear that question (by the way, the answer is plants…it’s in most, if not all, of the food I eat).
I’m not really going to sit and write down all of my seemingly-smug and oh so goody two shoes reasons for changing my lifestyle, though I may give an overview. I am not going to militantly convert you to joining a cause, but I will recommend the change. I am not here to cause a fuss. I am simply going to tell you how this small change has changed my life for the better.
So, just to get a few things straight…I don’t eat meat or animal products including honey, I only buy cruelty-free products, I’m not rich and elitist, I am not a pious do-gooder and I am not a hippy. I still eat pizza, burgers, ice cream etc. just not in the same way! Good, let’s continue.
I used to mock my husband every chance that I could for being a vegetarian. A fully-fledged meat eater, I was the norm and therefore he was something to be laughed at, when secretly I knew how grossed out I got about preparing meat, how tasty his food was and how much healthier he was than me for not eating meat (this changed when I truly researched dairy products – we were both as unhealthy as each other in the end!) I knew that killing something for my greed was wrong. I was deflecting, trying to ignore the feeling in my gut that actually, I quite envied his resolve, and felt quite terrible about killing animals, especially when I’ve owned animals in the past. These days, I still mock him and myself publically about being a Vegan. You see, I like to get the first punch in myself, because other than the aforementioned reactions to Veganism, the other common response is laughter.
‘How do you know if someone’s a Vegan? They don’t stop going on about it!’
It’s funny because it’s so true. But, why is it that Vegans go on about their lifestyle so much? What has them so passionate and vocal about something regarded as being so backwards, pious, restrictive, deficient, sacrificial?
To me, it is a flip in perspective. I took this on as a 30-day trial – always one to make sure that there is a way out if I need to run. Some hardcore Vegans like to make fun of trialling such a big lifestyle change because it’s ‘all or nothing’, you want to make the change or not…I disagree. It makes sense to try before you buy into something. Of course – it is major to those who are not used to a variety of food, who are used to specific meals which are chosen as part of a schedule, familiar in taste, preparation method, cost. People who eat in a certain way because that’s what generations in their family have done. For those who simply hate change. It’s what we are used to and what our society promotes. What conglomerates make money from. Changing a mindset takes time.
I started for health. I was fed up of my restrictive eating. I didn’t eat much food when I was a meaty because my meat cost too many calories and made me feel full with very little nutritional value. I was fat to the point where it was uncomfortable to sit, to climb stairs, to be in hot weather. I was sick, lacking nutrients I needed. Fruit and salad were punishments. Adverts fetishised junk food with subliminal messages, telling me that it is okay to indulge. It’s naughty, but it’s okay, we’re all doing it. Love your body no matter what you are doing to it. On the other side, diet clubs were telling me to restrict or control the amount of calories I was imbibing. One refers to ‘cheat food’ as ‘sins’ – how backwards to refer to food as a ‘sin’. That’s so unhealthy in my mind, and is definitely not a rule that I would ever live by. I saw all food as sins, would punish myself by not eating for a day, and then binging on sweet sugary food when I was hungry because my body was craving what is often the cardinal sin – carbs. Carbs carbs carbs – our bodies crave carbs because they are good – they fill us and give us the energy that we need. We are a society of ‘No carbs before Marbs’ and promoting protein that we don’t need. 1 egg has 20-25% of the protein we need in a day and 60% of un-needed cholesterol…and we are promoting protein rich foods. Protein is fashionable at the moment and so many companies are making money from this new fad.
Letting go of these things as a Vegan was so liberating. It was revolutionary to my mind to not be bound to this restriction, to notice my real deficiency – there was no way I was healthy before and there was certainly no chance of me getting the nutrients that I needed to be my best. And it showed in my body, my mind, my mood.
So, what changed in my life?
Food in abundance is the best thing about the lifestyle, although it can be a curse. My taste buds changed (or maybe it was my mind) first. I had to think about what I ate, to make sure I wasn’t eating something I now didn’t agree with so I was more conscious about what was going into my body. This consciousness made me taste my food. I used to shovel my food in (still do) but previously, I didn’t think about what was going in, because I didn’t need to. I’d pick up any sandwich in the lunch queue even if I didn’t want to eat it, because I just needed something quick. Now, I need to prepare meals in advance, but they are not as intricate (mostly) as the meals I had before. Preparing in advance adds anticipation to my eating habits. All morning I look forward to my huge lunch and I know I can’t wait to eat it and I also know it has everything I need in it to full satisfy and nourish me. I eat more plainly, because I enjoy the pure taste of the food I eat. I was learning what food tastes like all over again and my endorphins were going wild. They still go wild – eating is the best. Plus, due to calorific density, I get to eat, like, four times the amount of food I did before. As well as nutritionally, psychologically, my need to put food in my mouth is being fulfilled – great for an ex-binger. However, at first it is really hard to train your stomach to take in that much food. It’s something that I am still getting used to, but in the end, I think eating more food is pretty manageable and something I can get certainly get used to!
A side-note to the ‘food in abundance’ is that my food now is much more pretty and appealing, less grey and yellow! I taste a rainbow so to speak! I enjoy trying new recipes and how quick it is to make tasty, guilt-free food.
My mood has changed. A buzzword between Vegans is ‘compassion’. It is often described as a lifestyle of compassion. This is not just about seeing animals as equal with other sentient beings, and not only about not exploiting animals for their products, but it is about loving the planet we are lucky enough to live on, as well as the people in it. Veganism has the potential to solve world hunger and water problems (not by itself, of course) and it has an impact on our own personal health and mental well-being. It is a lifestyle of love. As soon as I realised this, I knew that I couldn’t go back. I’ve become more patient at work, more kind, more at ease with myself, more motivated, peaceful. Happy. This is a combination of what Vegans believe and live out and the dietary benefits giving me more energy, making me less sluggish. When I cut out dairy, straight away my body expelled the crap inside of me (quite literally, in fact pooping is something you can look forward to a lot more of) and a lot of my excess weight melted away. I now do very moderate exercise in combination to continue this (I still have a way to go before being healthy. In this case I mean by my standards. According to the NHS’ BMI scale, at 5’2”, I should be 9 stone which just makes me laugh and also, shudder) When we eat crap, we ruin our metabolism. When eating Vegan for a few months, you start to repair this, and this is when you start to lose weight.
There’sso much more that I could say, so many reasons to go Vegan and I hope the benefits that I have found so far are appealing. I promised not to be preachy, but I couldn’t help being passionate! Finally, I would say, go and read about the lifestyle, watch YouTube videos (you’ll soon see through the many ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos that there are so many choices!) and try it out. If you are worried about what you are getting nutritionally, use Chronometer to chart it if you must.
Most of all…love and respect all life and live peacefully.
Recommended Reading and Watching
Condensed overview of health benefits: http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-foods-powerful-for-health
Stella Rae: https://www.youtube.com/user/vlogmakeupbeauty
The Vegan Society: https://www.vegansociety.com/