Updated: Jul 20, 2019
The fireplace burned with hot embers, my face mask soaked into my skin, my Matcha Chai latte sent steamy wafts of sweet spices to my nose and I put my feet up to watch a movie. 2018 was coming swiftly to a close, and for the first time that I can remember, I had the opportunity to enjoy this New Year’s Eve alone.
As the first of the fireworks started to disperse into the night sky in a colourful display I could both see and hear from my living room, I put out these vibes for 2019:
Care for My Body
Uplift My Spirit
As you know from my 12 Months of Simple Living, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions in the traditional way. I like to go about my resolutions slightly differently, tackling one thing at a time. And I already knew what the first would be.
If you read about my Vegetarian month, you may have picked up on the fact that I live with Vegetarians. One thing I didn’t know at the time was that I am lactose intolerant; yes that’s right, I can’t eat dairy! So when one day in December Val told me she’d signed up to going Vegan for January, I was keen to join her. It made sense for two reasons, first being that we usually share meals and second being that it was my chance to go 100% dairy free.
Prior to this, I’d been avoiding the biggest triggers of my intolerance; Cream, Milk, Butter & most Cheeses. But I hadn’t cut dairy out completely having a cheeky chocolate here and there, biscuits, cake and all sorts of dairy laced delights. It wasn’t doing a world of good for my body with break outs, tummy aches and sometimes more severe symptoms.
I saw Veganuary as an opportunity to look after my body by cutting out dairy, and also to eat even more healthily by having more fruit and veg. I’d have to cook most meals from scratch, meaning more nutritious meals, and I’d have to take food into work with me, saving me money.
But on a non personal note, here are some reasons why swapping vegan meals into your diet could benefit you:
Environment; a huge percentage of man-made pollution comes from the meat industry. Cutting it down can literally save our planet.
Economy; as referred to in my Vegetarian month, in the UK alone we throw away apx. 34k tonnes of beef each year. In the same space we produce 165lbs of beef, we could grow 20k potatoes. Cutting down beef consumption could help feed more people and reduce waste.
Health; vegans have low rates of obesity, lower BMIs, lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So, I sat by the fire with my hot Chai latte watching Bridesmaids, and I finished my absolute last dairy treat of the year; a chocolate brownie. And the clock chimed midnight, the fireworks started going and Veganuary began!
It was all going so well…
The first couple weeks of Veganuary, I was fire! I made some banging Vegan dishes, if I say so myself. I got some of my inspiration from the many vegan cafes I visited in Bali. But, in case you haven’t experienced the gorgeous Bali cafes, here are some vegan ideas for you;
-Coconut & Cherry Pancakes
-Strawberry, Banana & Coconut Smoothie Bowl with Granola & Goji Berries
-Beetroot & Coconut Curry with Quinoa
-Avocado, Tomato & Fresh Basil with Walnuts & Vegan Parmesan
-Chilli con Vegetales con Arroz (Vegan Chilli)
-Vegetable Lasagne with Vegan Parmesan
As you can see, there are lots of delicious options available for the vegan diet. Some of the products I was really impressed with were;
Oatly Crème fraîche
Trek Cocoa Coconut Protein Flapjack
Blue Skies Mango & Passion Fruit Ice Cream
Walls Swedish Glace – Vanilla
Vitalite Dairy Free Butter
Waitrose Vegan Spinach Ravioli (but this one was hit or miss depending what you had with it)
And they are not even paying me to endorse them (you are so welcome guys, I’ll accept freebies, thanks).
So, it was all going well, things were going easier than expected, I was resisting the urge to go to KFC with my work colleagues, saying no to all the cakes and treats that usually show up in the same spot at work each week. I was being really smug about it… but that was totes about to change.
What went wrong?!
Around two weeks into Veganuary, I came home from work one day and Val decided to confess that she’s given up Veganuary! What?! Why? I asked, concerned. It had been her idea after all! She just wasn’t feeling very good on the diet, she’d been lethargic and weak and just didn’t feel like her body was getting enough nutrients.
I thought about it, actually I hadn’t been feeling so great myself. I was even more tired than usual, I was getting unusually hangry between meals and I felt generally weak. But I was stubborn, there was only 2 weeks to go! I decided to soldier on, after all, what difference would 2 weeks even make?
So what I hadn’t realised about the vegan diet, is that my calorie intake had to be higher to get the nutrients I needed. My intake was actually lower than before, because I was saving some of my dinner to be able to take into work for lunch. I was also skipping breakfast as usual (I know, bad) and so I was finding myself to be very shaky by the time lunchtime came along.
The other thing I hadn’t realised, was that I needed to be swapping in alternatives, rather than just leaving out the non-vegan part of a meal I would usually have. So, I was just cutting out the quorn or meat option, using random vegetables to replace it and cutting out dairy, usually replacing with soya. That didn’t bode well for my body.
My nutrient and calorie intake was low, I was getting stressed with work, I wasn’t drinking enough water (yeah this is still a problem, remember my Water challenge?), and the first nail in the coffin came when I decided to let my hair down with some colleagues at a leaving do. I drank way more than I should have (but also way less than I have in the past), and my immune system must have crashed at this point. I stayed true to Veganuary even in my drunken state, and I am proud of this! But the next day, I was pretty hung over.
I was still unaware of my immune system crash at this point, I thought I’d got away with it as I powered on through my hangover. But two days later, I had one small glass of wine with my vegan dinner and my body said “no!”. Within a couple of hours, I felt the familiar tingle of an oncoming cold sore and before I could do anything, it was a blister. I thought, okay, I can deal with this. I treated it and went to bed, pleased with myself. The next day, the sun was out and I knew I needed a pick me up, so I took a 5 minute walk in the sun and by the time I got back, one had turned into six! I was devastated! But I realised at this point, I couldn’t go on any longer like this. My body had given up, and I also needed to.
So I gave up Veganuary. And I’ve been trying to recover since, drinking water, taking vitamin supplements and avoiding alcohol.
How to not fail at Veganuary
So having been through all of this, I think I’m qualified to advise on what not to do at least! I recently met a lady who has been a vegan 3 years now and started her own vegan meal plans as a business, she had some great nuggets of advice for me.
Don’t try to do it all at once! The sudden change, especially from eating meat to not at all can have a shock impact on your body. Some great advice I received for those who want to become vegan, is to ease into it. Try going vegan 4 or 5 days a week first, and eventually you will get there. Even swapping one meal a week to vegan can have huge impacts on the environment, and your health.
Do swap suitable alternatives in. So, instead of just leaving out the non-vegan elements, like I did, try to be purposeful about replacing the element with a suitable alternative. For example, in a vegan lasagne, instead of just using veg, try adding in some beans. I’ve been told that blended white beans makes some bangin’ bechamel sauce!
Eat more calories! If you are used to meat, you will be used to having something slowly digesting in your stomach over time. A vegan diet can be much quicker to digest leaving you with an empty stomach, this may have been why I was feeling sick a lot of the time and getting much more hangry between meals. Additionally, to get enough nutrients, you will need to eat more.
Listen to your body. If you aren’t feeling well, or you are getting lethargic and weak. Do what you need for your body! Whether that means getting additional supplements to aid you, or taking the vegan journey slower. Maybe 3 days a week if you are doing 5 days. It’s not a one size fits all, so put your body first!
Do your research! Most people are concerned about protein in the vegan diet, but you actually get enough protein from plants. 5 grams of spinach or 18 grams of lentils will do for your daily intake of protein, so do your research. The only thing that does occur naturally in animal-sourced food is Vitamin B12. This vitamin is important to help with brain and nervous system functions. You will have to source fortified food for this vitamin, such as fortified cereals and tofu. There is a fortified yeast that can be sprinkled onto certain foods to add nutritional value.
So, I hope that if you have been considering a Vegan diet, I haven’t put you off too much. But it is important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Knowledge is power after all!
Did anyone else do Veganuary? If so, how did it go for you? Leave a comment.
Any of you full time vegans? Leave your tips in the comments below!
Thanks for reading ya’ll, ciao! x
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