For 30-odd years I’d been an ‘unconscious vegetarian’. I didn’t eat any meat or fish, but I didn’t really give much thought to the rest of my diet or the products I used. Social media played a big part in my wake-up call, until I reached the point where I couldn’t carry on pretending that eggs and dairy and wearing leather were okay.
I made several half-hearted attempts to switch to an entirely plant-based diet, but each time I’d find some obstacle that made me think veganism was all about eating boring food and being miserable. That was about two years ago. I knew in my heart that I couldn’t feel comfortable with myself until I’d embraced veganism, but I realised that the overnight switch from vegetarian to vegan simply didn’t work for me.
In September 2015 I decided to transition gradually. I spent time trying out plant milks to find one that suited me, looked into alternatives to cheese, and I worked on veganising my favourite recipes. Because I allowed myself the gradual transition (and told myself I was aiming for ‘veganish’ and that I wouldn’t beat myself up if I never became a fully-fledged vegan) I was much less stressed about the process, and pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it could be.
Non-dairy ice cream, I discovered, tasted near-as-dammit the same as the dairy version. I baked vegan cakes that no one would have known were vegan. I learnt how to improvise with non-vegan recipes, bought lots of cookery books, and drooled over vegan food blogs. I cooked with ingredients I’d never used before, and instead of restricting my diet I found that I’d actually opened myself up to a whole new world of flavours and cooking techniques.
In short, I became a bit of a foodie, and at the same time a near obsession with my weight disappeared almost overnight. I stopped dividing food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, because now it was all good, because it was cruelty-free.
I’m aware that veganism is often seen as something embraced particularly by millennials, but it’s not only young people who are taking on board the problems facing the planet or the horrors of intensive farming.
What I like about Veganuary is its welcoming, inclusive vibe. I appreciate that living vegan can be a challenge for many people, for a variety of reasons, but if the only thing holding you back is a fear of not eating tasty food any more, you really shouldn’t worry. The Internet is filled with amazing vegan recipes (Veganuary has a great recipe database!) and there are also some fabulous magazines like ‘Vegan Life’ and ‘Vegan Food and Living’ which offer yet more inspiration and guidance.