Sitting down to write has been a little tough lately. I don’t get writers block, in the sense that I can’t think what to write–I plan too much–so I always know what I need to get down on the page. It’s just that writing relies on me wanting and being able to write. I’m just getting over a cold, which has dragged on for about a month. It left me feeling pretty wiped out, lacking concentration, and just wanting to sit and be. Prior to that there was some stuff going on around me which made me feel very set apart from everyone as I did not think or feel in the same way as everyone else seemed to, it kind of compounded some personal wider established thinking around this, so I was a bit distracted, in my own head and feeling a bit stressed and miserable. So, it hasn’t been the best time for writing for me. All that is heaped onto some struggles I have with writing in general.
One year vegan and… not dead. Yay us! That being said, I’m writing this feeling like death thanks to a cold, so while our vegan diet hasn’t killed us it hasn’t made us invincible either. I could drop anecdotal comments about how my hay fever symptoms reduced, I didn’t get my usual winter cold and how I haven’t had back ache since the diet change, but it’s hard to say whether that’s anything to do with the diet or just natural fluxes in my condition over a year. It might also not be directly due to the food I’m eating, but the lifestyle changes going vegan prompted. So, instead of this post being about actual physical health improvements I’m going to talk about the impact going vegan has had on well-being, which is about how we have felt in this process and feel now.
Okay, start with the negatives… I’ve been health conscious for quite a while now–if not so healthy in my actual diet–and would watch sat fat and try and moderate the treats, but going into a vegan diet for ethical reasons we were worried that we could be jeopardising our health. Every spot, tummy wobble and head ache, had us questioning whether we were making ourselves unhealthy through our diet. Ironically, this wasn’t the go-to explanation we would have come up with on our meat, dairy and egg filled diet! I also lost nearly a stone in under 6 months, which was a bit of a worry as I am already quite light. However, in the last few years my weight had crept up from 9.5/10 stone to 10.5/11 stone, so I’m taking the drop back down to 10 stone as my having lost the onset of middle-age spread. So, result for me. Rob has not lost weight, but we don’t talk about that… He had hoped he would. The only difference in our lifestyle seems to be that he eats crisps and doesn’t exercise as much as I do as I usually cycle a lot in the week through work. Thankfully, reading around and watching the films ‘What the Health’ and ‘Forks over Knives’ and Mic the vegan’s YouTube channel, we felt somewhat reassured that through our food choices and supplements we would be getting a balanced diet. In the midst of all this angst we had to do a bit of ‘calm the f*** down’ and stop being so quick to recognise health issues and blame them on our diet.
The first question I had when I heard about the vegan diet, was ‘But, what do these vegans eat?!’. This question changed and became edged with despair when we actually adopted a plant-based diet ourselves to ‘But, what the f*** do we eat now?’. In previous posts I’ve shared our joy at how we got to keep biscuits in our biscuit barrel, and my unease with fake meats, but now, 10 months in to this plant-based eating, and as it is ‘veganuary’, I thought it would be good to share the snacks and meals which have become part of our regular diet (most of them with recipes linked). If you’re vegan curious and fancy fooling around with some plants to see how you feel about it, then this post might be useful to you.
Ah, 2017. A year that will be long remembered in our home, for it was the year of the great and terrible vegan biscuit purge. Gone were the chocolate digestives, the all butter cookies, even the plain digestives which were just there to make us feel a little better about our choices. All gone. Well, eaten. And for the last time.
With loss comes emptiness–and an empty biscuit barrel and tummies with room reserved for biscuits. We thought the biscuit barrel would be filled with uncanny valley vegan fake biscuits–biscuits that look like a biscuit favourite, smell like them, even feel like them–and then turn to tasteless dust in the mouth. Maybe a funky aftertaste if they used fake chocolate. But, there was a new hope… One biscuit remained after the great vegan biscuit purge. The
humble gratuitous double-stuffed Oreo biscuit.
Yes, a mainstream biscuit that we could eat! And eat them we have. In fact, most Oreos (check the ingredients) are accidentally vegan! Woohoo, unintentionally ethical biscuits! Awesome.
We hit the biscuit aisle and read lots and lots of labels. And then read them again. And then found ingredients the other had missed (whey–I didn’t really know what that was, but it’s not vegan, and honey–not in bold because it seems no one is actually allergic to honey). We have now begun the great biscuit restoration. Yes, some biscuits are irreplaceable, and the biscuit barrel is different to what it once was, but we have guilt-free treats that hit the mark! Well, when I say ‘guilt free’ I mean no animal
suffered was required for the biscuit. I’ll start our list of our picks with the star of the show…
At the start of our 40s, my partner and I have decided to give up breast-feeding. I’m too squeamish to keep doing it. We just can’t stand the thought of drinking the secretions of a cow anymore. I’ve always been a bit squeamish about milk because of the thought of where it comes from, but like most of us, I didn’t think about that very much, and somehow was able to put it out of conscious thought. I also don’t like the creaminess and the way it coats my tongue and throat. Ugh. Gross. There’s no way I could’ve ever downed a glass of milk straight—not without seeing it again. Thankfully milk was often just an ingredient in my diet and flavoured and disguised by other things—on a day to day level as a functional splash on my cereal and in my regular cups of tea through the day, and the holy transmutation into thick milk shakes and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I would’ve been going ‘mmmmmm’ at the thought of Ben and Jerry’s before watching Simon Amstell’s Carnage, and seeing what cows have to go through for our tastes. Even if I could be ok with breast feeding, the methods and practices of the dairy industry is offputting enough. Watching that, my squeamishness around milk was triggered and reinforced, and I knew I wanted milk out of my diet.
Watch this and make your own mind up about dairy.
The lifestyle change for me and my partner to vegetarian and then vegan has been a process of giving up life-long staple, favourite and comfort foods.
Beyond the peace of mind this gives me I find myself wondering whether I will ever see food in the same way again, and enjoy it as much as I always have.
This irregular series of non-preachy blog posts will follow us, two regular guys, meat and dairy eaters for all our lives, as we explore the reasons for and the challenges and rewards of a plant based diet as we go on our new veg munching adventure…
Why go vegan?
Burger and thick chocolate milkshake. Chicken tikka masala. Tuna pasta bake smothered with cheese and crumbled crisps. Fish finger sandwich with salt and vinegar crisps and a pint of cider. Peperoni pizza. Fish and chips. Chocolate. Cake. Cake. Cake. While these weren’t our everyday food choices, and we made the effort to balance our diet with fruit and veg, these were–are?–our favourite foods. The go to options for date nights or chilling out together. Experiences and treats we shared. However, we also share a care for the world and animals. As many people do. And just recently we came to think more about how our food choices were a big contradiction of our claim of caring about the environment…