I’m Mary, I’m 33 years old, and I work in PR in London. I’ve been a pescatarian since the age of nine. At the start of this year, I cut out dairy from my diet, and by the end of the year I fully intend to have cut out fish and eggs too, making me a fully-fledged vegan!
So I’m in the midst of my vegan journey, and it’s been really interesting so far…
How did it start? After my nine-year-old self watched a documentary about cruelty to chickens, I turned to my Mum and declared that I wasn’t going to eat meat ever again. 24 years later and I’ve stuck to my word.
I come from a meat-loving family of foodies who lived in Paris for a long time. Mealtimes were the most important part of the day for us. Even though the rest of my family loved meat, I never remember them pressurising me to eat it. Thankfully my diet choice was accepted, and even somewhat embraced by my parents.
So what changed? Like many others, Cowspiracy was the catalyst that set me on course to becoming vegan. I’ve always felt strongly about environmental issues, and the statistics in the documentary were eye-opening and alarming. Now clearly – and especially against the backdrop of today’s fake news agenda – there are always two sides to every story. Take everything with a pinch of salt. Don’t believe everything you read or are told. Be a filter, not a sponge.
But the arguments for becoming vegan were undeniable – the impact of animal agriculture on global greenhouse gas emissions and water resources; the terrifying rate of wildlife and habitat loss; and the cruelty inflicted on farmed animals.
This was enough for me to take the brave step of totally cutting dairy out of my diet at the start of this year, coinciding quite nicely with Veganuary! Unlike a lot of people, I have never been addicted to cheese. The hardest thing for me has been cutting out my beloved chocolate, crisps, cakes and sweets – many of which contain milk or milk powder – and finding affordable vegan alternatives.
Although I’m still not a “proper” vegan, I have found the advice, tips and social media presence of Veganuary immensely helpful.
For anyone reading this and considering taking steps towards becoming vegan, here are my five top tips!
- Take it slow – Don’t feel like you need to cut everything out at once. Start with one food group – meat, fish or eggs – and take it from there. Also, it’s never a good idea to significantly alter your diet without consulting your doctor first.
- Nobody is perfect – There’s no such thing as a perfect vegan! Animal products are in SO many everyday items, from paints to clothing to bandage strips, let alone food. Don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally find yourself sporting a pair of leather shoes. For me, veganism is about demonstrating compassion towards animals and the Earth we so often take for granted.
- Get creative – The most enjoyable part of my vegan journey so far has been discovering different types of food and ways of cooking. My favourite things to eat are scrambled tofu, overnight oats with chia seeds and almond butter for breakfast, and bean stew with avocado and brown rice for dinner.
- Eat out – I’m lucky to live in London where most places cater for special dietary requirements. Restaurants and cafes like Zizzi’s, Pret a Manger, Leon and Chilango’s all have great vegan options. I’ve discovered new places such as Cook Daily in Boxpark (DIY vegan restaurant frequented by grime artists such as JME) and Fed by Water in Dalston. The latter does a fantastic vegan carbonara for anyone who misses their creamy pasta dishes!
- Research and share – There are so many wonderful resources online that publish great tips and advice, vegan recipes and guides, including Veganuary.com itself! Documentaries such as Cowspiracy, Earthlings and Forks Over Knives will give you great information on the various benefits of a plant-based diet and the reasons behind vegan living. There are also lots of YouTube videos and Facebook groups that offer guidance and support, as well as the chance to connect with others on the same path as you.
Thank you for reading, and enjoy your journey!