It's official, I have been vegan for 1 year! It's so crazy to think that I made such a huge change to my life in such a short space of time but it's a decision I will never regret. 2019 has definitely been the year of the vegan revolution and it's so amazing to see so many people are gradually making the transition towards veganism. For all you newbies, more experienced, and future vegans, here are 12 things I've learnt from my first 12 months of veganism...
The first few days are the most difficult. To be honest I never really found my transition to veganism hard, but it's definitely a different experience for everyone. In the first few days challenges I found were getting out of old routines, learning the best places to look for vegan food in supermarkets and checking food labels, but after a few weeks it became second nature.
I can still eat all of my favourite meals - A large amount of people believe becoming vegan means giving up everything you love, but I've personally not found veganism restrictive in the slightest. I still eat pizza, burgers, cake and ice cream, and so many foods are also 'accidentally vegan' including oreos!
Cooking is actually really fun - In the beginning I found that I had to put a lot more effort into my meals because I was cooking with ingredients I'd never used before like aquafaba and nutritional yeast. However this experimentation led to me falling in love with cooking. I now put a lot more thought into what I'm putting into my body and have even started to grow my own vegetables!
You'll probably be met with some resistance. The 'but bacon' argument gets old very fast *sigh* and even after a year I still get people saying 'Oh I bet you wish you could have some of this cake don't you!' (like vegan cake doesn't exist...). Ironically no there is not a single non-vegan product that I miss, there are so many amazing cruelty free alternatives and recipes, I could never miss an omnivorous diet. Although I get these comments less often than I did initially, sadly it is likely to continue. The only advice I can give is try not to let it get you down and just be yourself, post tasty recipes and pictures of yummy vegan food to show people what they are missing out on.
Eating out isn't as difficult as you may think - With the recent exponential rise of veganism there are so many local and chain restaurants now offering vegan options. I'd definitely recommend downloading Happy Cow which allows you to find vegan friendly restaurants near you, I even use it when travelling abroad - It has never let me down!
It's as expensive as you make it. Vegan is often branded as being expensive, which it easily could be if you lived purely off meat replacements, ready meals and only shopped at whole food stores. Don't get me wrong I love all of these, however I have found my supermarket shops definitely don't cost any more than they used to and can often be cheaper, especially when I home make meat substitutes (e.g. seitan) myself. Although I do often get tempted and treat myself to a couple pints of vegan ice cream.
You can build muscle on a vegan diet. Veganism is one of those things where some people will view you as super healthy eating mainly salads and fruit whereas others will think of you as protein and nutrient deficient - There really is no winning. Being a regular gym-goer, I was a little anxious at first that my sudden change in diet may affect my progress. However I have thrived on a vegan diet. I am definitely not protein deficient and consume plenty of protein rich foods in the form of mock meats, tofu, beans, chickpeas, just to name a few. I am the strongest and healthiest I've ever been and I can't wait to see future growth fueled by plants.
I've noticed major health benefits. I was never 'unhealthy' before going vegan, but I had a few nutrient deficiencies and suffered quite a lot with severe stomach cramping. In just one year I have improved my cholesterol profile (reduced my bad cholesterol and tripled my good cholesterol) and improved my vitamin D, calcium, and iron levels. I very rarely ever have stomach cramps anymore and that is without having to exclude things such as gluten and onions which was originally suggested to me. No fad diets like keto or paleo, I eat a well balanced whole food plant based diet (with the occasional treats) and I've never felt better.
Not all alcohol is vegan. I'd never even considered that drinks such wine and beer may containing animal products, it's not on the label so it's safe right? Unfortunately many brewers use products such as gelatin and insinglass (from fish bladders) to clarify their alcohol, making them unsuitable for vegan consumption. Thankfully there are many drinks which are vegan friendly include Corona, Guiness, Rekorderlig (newly vegan) and most clear spirits.
The vegan community is extremely welcoming. I personally believe that I found my transition to veganism so easy because I had a lot of support from both friends and strangers in the vegan community. I'm lucky to be part of an amazing local vegan group in my area (vegansuponhull) which shares tips for newbies, great food deals in supermarkets and plans meet ups. Other groups to join are veganfooduk (or similar page depending on the country you live in) and ratemyveganfood. I would also 100% recommend attending Vegan Camp-Out, it was honestly one of the best weekends of my life surrounded by so many inspiring and friendly people, and not forgetting an abundance of incredible food.
Veganism isn't just about the food - Although food is a large part of veganism (particularly for a foodie like me), being vegan is an ethical stand against the cruelty and mistreatment of animals. Therefore veganism also involves avoiding materials which have been derived from animals (such as leather) and products which have been tested on animals (such as cosmetics). There are so many ways to speak out against animal cruelty, whether this through social media activism, protests or joining a group such as Anonymous for the Voiceless, there is a place for everyone.
Anyone who can be vegan, should be vegan. As someone who used to live on a diet which almost exclusively consisted of chicken nuggets and cheese, I can safely say that a vegan diet is achievable for the majority of people. Not only are you saving the lives of countless animals but are also helping to save the planet and your health at the same time - It's a no-brainer really.
After a whole year of veganism I can honestly say my only regret is why didn't I do this sooner! I can't wait to continue along my vegan journey and see what the future of veganism has to hold.