Going vegan was a turn our life upside down and inside out moment. For help and advice on this way of life I turned to the internet in the search for like minded people. I found them, lots of lovely vegans sharing product finds and recipes. It was great. But I noticed that there were some vegans that seemed to suggest that their vegan was bigger than others–some one upmanship about their veganfu.
It got me thinking about the different type of vegans there seems to be out in the world and this need to have the biggest vegan….
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.
In switching from carnist to vegan, the easiest option to us seemed to just swap out the animal ingredient with a fake food equivalent. An easy way to transition, right? Eh. Not so much for us. Skimming through forums and blogs, we found plenty of vegans enthusing about certain alternative foods. I don’t know how long they were vegan, but it must have been quite a while for them to think that some of these foods are replacements for meat and dairy. Milk was fine, but meat and cheese would seem to be a greater challenge. It’s only when we tried something that claimed to be like a certain food, we appreciated how much goes into the identity of food–look, texture, smell, taste–and that just any one of these being amiss makes for an uneasy experience. It’s the food equivalent of the dead eyes of one of those robots made to look as close to a human as possible–and not quite succeeding.
Here are some of our experiences, starting with the bad, the ugly, but thankfully ending on the few examples we’ve tried of the good stuff. Now, these are just our opinions, and you might LOVE some or all of these, so it’s always worth trying them yourselves. A lot of these are recommended and successful brands, so they’re certainly doing something right for their customers. We’re just sharing our experience of them because we found this process a little disheartening, and wanted to show that while it can be a trial, we found some things we liked for us, and it helped us to some conclusions around what type of vegan food we want to be eating…
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.