Every Veganuary experience is different, with each participant facing their own joys and challenges. Here, five Veganuary alumni share the tips they wished they’d known when they first started out.
Kate, Devon: “don’t overthink it”
Kate ate meat and dairy with every meal before taking part in Veganuary – a month that proved to be a game-changer in terms of her health, fitness and future. Kate had tried to lose weight for many years but her weakness for cheese (with wine, and more cheese) was a stumbling block.
Fast forward to January 2021, and absolutely everything changed. Within three weeks of being vegan, she was noticing the difference – getting out of bed was easier, and her energy levels were rising. Since then, Kate has taken up running, paddle-boarding and sea swimming, and is preparing for her first ever full-length triathlon. Veganuary has changed her life, and she hopes it can change yours, too.
Kate’s advice: “Don’t overthink it. It doesn’t need to be complicated. The two biggest challenges I’ve had are the lack of cheese and other people’s remarks. As for cheese, there are new brands to try all the time and there are other ways to make that creamy cheesy effect. As a full-on cheese lover before I can honestly say, the plus side of being vegan is far worth it. As for others feeling they need to mention my diet all the time, they do eventually give up. And, when you get really annoyed just say “if you really need to worry about what people are eating, worry about homeless people. My diet is bloody brilliant!”
Follow Kate’s progress at My Tiny Positive Actions.
Rachel, Ireland: “take it slowly”
Rachel is from a small village in Co. Tipperary and had been vegetarian for many years. She was moving more and more towards veganism when she signed up to Veganuary 2021. That month helped her replace the dairy products and other non-vegan items she was used to buying, such as certain brands of biscuits.
Rachel says she has always been “as healthy as a trout” but loves her food and had experienced some weight issues over the years. Since becoming vegan she does less “mindless nibbling” and, having lost half a stone, says her weight is now stable and under control. At almost 70 years old, Rachel has shown that vegans of every age can reap the benefits.
Rachel’s tip: “Try a meat-free or plant-based day a week or just start by replacing a meaty meal with a vegan meal one day a week and build up slowly. Try big hearty stews full of veg and beans, and fill your boots! I really think a person will feel the health benefits of it. For motivation, look at the calves and little lambs, and those gorgeous wriggling piglets, and imagine what their end will be – more specifically, their journey to that end, and the last few hours of their lives.”
Shaun, Kent: “embrace the different experience”
Shaun joined Veganuary 2018 but was already well on his way to becoming vegan. He’d already seen how chicks were treated in one investigation and boycotted the fast-food outlet they were destined for, not realising that this treatment was industry-wide.
He’d also seen a number of documentaries that had left a lasting impact and so he was ready to make the change. Like many vegans, Shaun says he wishes he had done it sooner but now that he has, he has found a passion for helping to restore the planet and promoting the kindest diet of all.
Shaun’s advice: “My top tip for Veganuary would be to embrace the differences you are going to experience because no doubt you’re used to certain types of food that you’ve had for most of your life. Becoming vegan can be quite overwhelming because you’re thinking ‘what am I going to eat now?’ But actually, there is so much variety out there and all the places where you’re used to eating probably have alternatives for you. And there are loads of flavours you’ve probably never tried before. Embrace it! Go for it! And stick at it!”
Connect with Shaun at thatsomethinglife.
Christina, Merseyside: “let the internet help you”
Animal-lover and lifelong vegetarian Christina took part in Veganuary 2017 after she learned how chickens and cows suffer for eggs and milk. Her motivation may have been purely for animals, but she experienced a very welcome and unexpected benefit.
For many years Christina had suffered from a serious allergic response to an unknown cause that had left her double-dosing on antihistamines just to try to manage the frightening symptoms. Within a week of being vegan, Christina felt so good that she was able to reduce her medication. Within two weeks, the itching rash that had tormented her for years was completely gone and by the end of Veganuary, Christina was able to phase out the medication altogether.
Christina’s tip: “My vegan tip would be to use the internet. There are so many vegan apps now, such as HappyCow that will let you find your nearest vegan restaurant or even non-vegan restaurants that have got really good options. We use Google Translate a lot when we are on holiday or away for a weekend. We put in a few key phrases and show it to staff in restaurants and everybody has been so accommodating.”
Maria, Glasgow: “make the meals you already love”
Maria had been in a vicious diet circle for many years, and the more disheartened she became, the more she craved junk. She says that Veganuary changed her life. It reset her relationship with food, and now her diet is a rainbow of colours.
She found she didn’t crave the fatty, sugary foods she had once found so hard to resist. The changes came quickly: her digestion improved and she felt less bloated, she slept better and her skin cleared. She felt better than she had in a long time! Aches and pains disappeared, and she says she felt alive again. And yes, the weight came off and stayed off. For Maria, Veganuary was the start of a whole new and very positive chapter.
Maria’s advice: “My tip for Veganuary is to make meals that you already love and just substitute meat for vegan alternatives, or use lentils, vegetables or beans instead. Most supermarkets do amazing vegan ranges to suit everyone’s cooking abilities. Try to make a meal plan in advance so you’re organised for your week ahead as that really makes things easier. And relax! This should be fun, not something you have to endure!”
Follow Maria’s life-changing progress at The Scottish Happy Vegan.