How I have survived as a vegan…and you can too!

In this post, I cover my trials and tribulations in a vegan lifestyle, the common misconceptions about it and, how someone (maybe even you!) can approach it. My hope is not to evangelise but for convincing, go here, watch this humorous vegan dystopia BBC piece called Carnage or read my rationale.

[I intend to be posting more regularly from now on, Santa gave me lots of coal over Christmas which kept me busy.]

How did I go Vegan?

Well, the truth of it is, I did not mean to!

As I wrote about in ‘Why I have become Vegan’, I did not intend to go vegan because I thought it was too much effort. Therefore, it was deeply ironic when I accidentally found myself vegan thanks to my laziness and stinginess. Whilst I have developed a better rationale, veganism can be easy and convenient.

Then I did…sort of

When I returned to the UK, there were considerably more non-vegan choices and I took a relaxed approach. I gleefully ate honey, went to a wine & cheese party where I gorged on brie and accepted milk in my tea.

I am still quite proud of this joke, I feel it is underappreciated

Then I really did…

Over Christmas, thanks to watching my recently-vegan friend Toby Cowell refrain from milk and whey extract I was inspired to cut those out. Then I spoke to long-time vegan Paul Aste and I was inspired to try a bit harder. If they could do it properly, so could I. I have, and still, miss honey….

Happy, and cold, Vegans!

Common misconceptions

It requires a lot of thought…

To be frank, I do not give it any time or thought. As I remarked earlier, I stumbled into it. In fact, I save time when at supermarkets or restaurants and I am not paralysed by infinite choices – I go to the carbs section, followed by tinned vegetables, beans and pulses and then fresh vegetables and fruits.

PROTEIN, PROTEIN, PROTEIN!!!!! (and other deficiencies)

This is a classic concern and if we turn the clock back fifteen years ago, it was the same fears which prevented people from accepting vegetarian as a healthy diet. These concerns are now considered unfounded and we can all name a few vegetarians amongst our friends. As such, these reactionary fears about a vegan diet are to be expected and also, somewhat, unfounded.

A plant-based vegan diet can include all the nutrients required except for B-12, which is the only supplement I take and is recommended by all vegans. For protein, there are many good alternatives, as seen in this picture below and proven by Popeye.

My general ethos is: eat a lot and eat healthily. A large amount of eating is thanks to my daily exercise and is not a requirement for others. Given my exercise, one would expect that I would be acutely aware of any protein deficiencies but so far, I have not had any problems. A greater testament to the potential of a vegan diet is this website devoted to the many great vegan athletes. Disclaimer: please do your own research, I am not a doctor! These are good sources, nutrition facts and NHS.

It is healthy….

Hang on, am I not contradicting my point in ‘Why I have become Vegan’ that it is a ‘Healthier living and feeling’? Not quite. A vegan lifestyle is generally far healthier as it eliminates a lot of unhealthy animal-processed items but there are alternatives. Fat vegans are possible.

It is a preserve for the hippies and tree huggers…

Veganism is definitely popular amongst these groups but they are not the only ones who are ‘radical’ enough to adopt this diet – I am not ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ but am vegan. This is a quickly-growing group which includes celebrities like Leonardo Da Vinci, Brad Pitt, Ellen DeGeneres, Alanis Morisette and Moby.

In 2016, Ipsos Mori found that there were at least 542,000 vegans in the UK – or 1.05% of the 15 and over population in England, Scotland and Wales. In 2017 it had reached 1.3% and continues to explode. This article tracks the history of this movement very well.

There is not much to eat and it is not tasty…

I have been pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to maintain variety, flavour and colour in a vegan diet. As I wrote in this post, there is research to show that you change your taste buds as you eliminate meat from your diet, garnering a better appreciation for other food. There is a whole host of vegan recipe sites and books, just have a look at this list of sites.

I also have been amazed that restaurant chains and supermarkets have begun catering to vegans. In WH Smith and Sainsbury’s, I have found Vegan Meal Deals! So, worry not – there are lots of tasty meals on offer.

How could someone go vegan?

The first thing to note is, there is no need to go completely vegan. If you are vegan 90% of the time, that makes much more difference than pushing from 90% to 100%, becoming disillusioned and giving up. Alternatively, first try going vegetarian. An unhappy vegan is not going to convince anyone to become vegan!

Many people prefer moderation and if that is more effective for you, chose that path. As Mark Twain wrote, ‘I smoke in moderation. Only one cigar at a time’. Personally, I prefer extremes, find them easier to keep to and enjoy the discipline challenge (more on self-discipline). As such, I am completely vegan partly because if I did allow ‘treats’, I know I would regress into a carnivore. Meat has never been a real craving and whilst I loved milk & honey, once I gave them up then I no longer cared for them. My real ‘cravings’ are limited to these Ikea biscuits. It is funny but when you stop for a while, the thought of consuming animal products becomes a bit revolting.

Know what works for you and pursue that, others are different and have different reasons for why they can be more or less vegan. Choose your challenge, ideally pick a friend to do it with and start! Maybe you can do Veganuary, in February? Or try one, two, three days a week of being vegan? Or, like Beyonce, go vegan for 22-days? Below is the story of four very different vegans and there are countless blogs (like this one) on people’s stories, this is a particularly good article.

A Tentative Conclusion

My path to becoming vegan was not linear. I strayed, and swayed, and then stayed. Along the way, I was fortunate to have friends and family who were willing to support or put up with me. I have tried to address the main misconceptions about veganism but the only way to prevent common misconceptions is for individuals do to their own research, do not defer to my judgement!

Lastly, why not a try vegan challenge of some kind? What do you have to lose….not protein!

Relevant posts – Interested to read more about how to push towards being vegan with Self-Discipline: keeping your worst-self in check and A human centric world: are humans really central?.

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A hypocrite who enjoys engaging with ideas, challenging my own and exploring new ones.

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