Here’s What I Found Out Going Vegan for a Month
Before you ask: yes, I am getting enough protein.
I’ve been vegetarian for most of my life- my Mum was for most of my childhood, and I never particularly loved meat (I’ve never eaten steak in my life, which so many people seem to think is a legitimate black mark against my character), so I just…didn’t eat it. Eventually, as I got older, I found some vague moral reasons to back up my choice and that became my primary purpose for continuing to avoid meat.
So meat has never been a big part of my life, but other animal products were. Just to make it clear here: I don’t particularly give a shit about what you eat or why you eat it. I’m sure you’re broadly acquainted with the ethical reasons people go vegan or vegetarian (if not, I would really recommend this video by Unnatural Vegan, who has a lot of really awesome stuff about vegan advocacy and anti-fad veganism), and this article isn’t about why you should go vegan and why you’re a scummy fuck for not.
But, after being vegetarian for a total of twelve years out of the twenty-two I have under my belt, I found myself drifting towards veganism. Part of it was because I was cooking a lot of healthier stuff, which often happened to be vegan; and, mainly, I started seriously looking in to stuff like animal rights and what goes into producing the animal products that I consume. Now, I’m an overthinker at the best of times, so as soon as these things were in my head, it was kind of inevitable that I was going to eventually go vegan (Pretty much every action I take in my life is to assuage some sort of raging guilt over something or other, because, you know, I’m British). I spotted Veganuary- which is pretty much what it sounds like- and decided that the new year was as good a time as any to stop eating fried eggs when I have a hangover and kick the animal products altogether. So, here’s what I found about living as a vegan over the last thirty-one days.
Vegan isn’t a baseline for health
It seems like, because veganism cuts out animal products, people assume that simply eating vegan makes you automatically healthy. This is not the case. Not only is it insanely easy to live on junk food (Oreos and Prawn Cocktail crisps are vegan, heyyy!) as a vegan, but even if you don’t, it’s easy to miss out on key nutrients if you’re not careful. I tracked my food intake with Cronometer the first couple of weeks, and that helped me make sure I was actually eating a reasonable amount of the stuff I needed to stay healthy (I found protein pretty easy to fill up on since I live and die for lentil soup, but some minerals like iron and calcium were tougher to come by for me). It’s easy to be unhealthy regardless of whether you’re eating an omnivore diet or a vegan one, but I feel like I did have to track a little more closely eating vegan just to be sure.
…Or for happiness
Before I went vegan, I found a lot of people writing about their experiences dropping animal products from the diets. And the way they told it, vegan might as well give you sodding superpowers- they had more energy than ever before, they slept perfectly, the weight fell off them, they felt amazing, they looked better, etc. I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t notice a huge change in how I felt physically. I ate a pretty good diet before this, and I eat a pretty good one now; I take care of myself well enough that when I started eating, I don’t know, a bit more spinach of an afternoon my life didn’t change overnight. I don’t think these people are lying, necessarily, just that if you’re going into veganism expecting it to change your life, you might be dissapointed.
It was way easier than I thought
Look, if, like me, you have the bare minimum cooking skill, you can probably go vegan and not end up dying in a pool of your own chickpea farts. I did push myself to make some really interesting stuff a few times (a roasted chickpea-sweet potato bowl with tahini dressing, drool), but I also created a monstrosity that I entitled “lentil slop” (lentils, sweet chili sauce, and chopped-up Linda McCartney sausages) and ate that with gusto more than I would care to admit. I relied on pre-packaged stuff a lot at the start of the month, but found myself cooking a lot more as the month went on because I feel better when I cook most of my food from scratch. But that’s true vegan or no. I would recommend Cheap Lazy Vegan if you’re looking for, uh, cheap, lazy vegan recipes.
It Was Outrageously Cheap
I don’t go out to eat much, and when I do I’m more a “turning to my best friend after four bottles of wine and telling her that if I don’t get to eat French Toast in the next two minutes I’ll die” kind of woman. I love cooking (I work from home, so I have loads of time to do it) and have a little cabal of easy recipes I fall back on that were easily veganised (stir-fry, curry, pasta, etc), and I found that my weekly food shop became just stupidly cheap once I figured out how to eat meals that didn’t involve a bunch of fake meats. I live with my partner, who is an omnivore in the truest sense of that term in that he eats everything, and found that cooking vegan meals for the two of us meant I was spending £10-15 a week less on food. Veganism has a bad reputation for being an elitist diet for people who can afford twenty-dollar salads and coconut water, but if you are worried about the price of going vegan, it’s not too difficult to do it cheaply with some planning.
I’m not going to lie: for the first ten days, I was wafting around on a small cloud of farts as my body got used to all the extra fibre I was consuming (because beans and pulses are my preferred source of vegan protein). It does get better pretty quickly, but your partner may refuse to be in a room with you. Even I, a person who considers farts the highest form of human comedy, could only muster a chuckle by day five.
People are going to be weird about it
Every time I mentioned that I was planning on going vegan in January, someone in the room would wrinkle up their nose and go “just don’t become one of those vegans, alright?”. And I knew exactly what they meant- they didn’t want me to become a traitor in their midst, lecturing them about their pepperoni pizza and leaping out behind trolleys at the supermarket to slap blocks of cheese from their hands. I tried to make a point not to bring up the fact I had gone vegan unless I was asked (this article aside), but since a lot of my social life revolves around food, it just did. No-one was really a dick about it, but almost everyone, at some point, would feel the need to defend their food choices to me, which never happened when I was vegetarian. I think that’s true of whenever you encounter someone with a different set of ethics than you, that said, and because food is such a central part of interaction and existence, food-related ethics comes up a bit more.
So, yeah, that’s been my experience going vegan over the last month. I’m planning on sticking with it, as long as I feel good physically and mentally about my choice. If it’s something you’re considering (or even if you’re just thinking about reducing your animal product consumption), there are loads of great resources out there to help you do it, some of which I’ve linked to below. But, as a non-expert who just did this for a bit, I would say go for it- it’s easier than you think, and you’ll learn to love chickpeas in a way you never thought possible before.
VeganHealth.Org– A useful site for building a healthy vegan diet, from a registered dietician.
Unnatural Vegan– Lots of interesting videos about vegan advocacy and rational veganism.