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As I’m writing this, today marks my one year anniversary of making the decision to go vegan. I say ‘making the decision’ purely because I can’t attest to actually being vegan for a whole year, yet! But, I'll touch on this later.
Even though it’s been a year, it hasn’t always been plain sailing, and I’ve certainly had my fair share of difficulty when it came to changing my life choices and exploring a new diet suitable for this lifestyle.
I decided to go vegan off the back of a documentary recommended by a work colleague, ‘What The Health’. What was first just a weeknight Netflix watch, turned out to be hugely influential and shockingly eye-opening when it came to the lifestyle I lead. It held a harsh light up to the meat and dairy industry and made me realise I no longer wanted any part of it.
A year ago, veganism was still not properly understood, I remember having to endlessly answer questions like, ‘so what do you even eat then!?’ I also, still now actually, have to keep reminding family members that, yes, being vegan means I can't have cheese either! Shortly after choosing veganism, I realised just how little restaurants offered in the way of vegan options too. I felt like I was speaking a foreign language when trying to explain my diet to restauranteurs. The only foods I found myself being left with were salads without dressing or a side of chips. On the rare occasion, I’d be able to order the ‘accidentally’ vegan option if I was lucky, which was usually the one vegetarian option that just happened to not have cheese in. Plus, you could forget any hopes of having dessert!
A lot of people ask me how hard it was to transition from full-on meat eater to plant-based foods only, and the answer is: pretty easily. It was kind of a natural progression for me though and started when I was a teenager. I suffered from cystic acne and my doctor (along with prescribing some super strong meds) suggested I cut out dairy to help my skin. I did, and so got into the habit of having almond instead of cows milk, turning down ice cream and saying no to parmesan in Italian restaurants (it was tough). Then, at the start of last year, I went for a health check and found out that I was almost at the point of being considered overweight for my height and age. This sparked a fire in me and I knew I needed to shed a few pounds so I started eating cleaner, healthier foods, cutting down portion size and going to the gym. It got to the stage where the only meat I was eating on my 'lean' diet was chicken, and from the advice of my doctor in my teenage years, I was barely eating any dairy too, so I thought why not try and go all the way?
Looking back to when I first went vegan, I can see I struggled with not knowing exactly what nutrition my body needed, not fully understanding veganism myself yet, and also got fed up not enjoying my meals when at restaurants. So, I started allowing myself dairy again when eating out. I would cook vegan meals at home during the week, but on the weekends I threw caution to the wind. This meant I had a few more options and could even have a dessert (or two). However, re-introducing dairy in and out again after long periods of time meant I experienced some not-so-fun digestive problems, and it wreaked havoc with my tummy. This just showed me how detrimental it was to my health and so resolved to completely cut it out and drive forward on a totally plant-based diet. It's now been four months of propper veganism and I've never felt healthier.
I think an important part of being vegan is understanding what nutrition we miss out on and may need to replace with supplements. For example, B12, iron, and protein are aspects you need to make sure you're getting enough of, but it was surprisingly easy to ensure these were incorporated into my diet.
There have been so many benefits that if I listed them all, you'd be reading for days, but mostly, my health has never been better. My family also adopted a part-time version of sorts of my vegan diet in which they consume much less meat. My dad has lost two stones and no longer suffers from heartburn or indigestion, ever! For me, I sleep better, I've lost over three stones (alongside exercising), my skin is glowing, I have more energy and I never feel uncomfortably full or lethargic.
Fast forward to now, and veganism is the new hot topic. Since becoming vegan, I’ve noticed a huge influx of celebrities, friends, and colleagues also making the switch, highlighting how super trendy it’s becoming. I've also witnessed some not be able to sustain a fully vegan diet, which is OK; it's not for everyone. But I'm also pleasantly surprised to see a lot more restaurants introduce more vegan options and sometimes even separate vegan/vegetarian menus. The boom in veganism that I've seen in just one year is exciting and something we should be proud of. I now understand veganism, and it's the best choice I've ever made.