When New Years Eve rolled around last year I committed to Veganuary for a generic New-Year-New-Me health kick, with no intention of keeping up a vegan lifestyle beyond the 31st of January.
Alas, here I am 10 months later loving the lifestyle and no intention of ever turning back.
Veganuary is an annual global campaign that urges people to give a plant-based lifestyle a try for the first month of the year and what better day than World Vegan Day to explore the perks of plant-based living that I’ve experienced since I made the switch.
Having been vegetarian on and off for four years before 2018, I didn’t think my commitment to the cause would be a staunch one but I honestly don’t see myself ever returning to an omnivorous or even a vegetarian lifestyle.
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Less Bloating and Easier to Stay Lean
Bar one experiment with soy isolate protein powder (the painful results of which you can see here) I have experienced far less bloating than I previously did.
Before I went vegan I regularly convincingly looked as if I was carrying a full-term baby due to digestion issues brought on by my body having a tough time digesting meat and dairy.
After I got used to eating much more fibre during Veganuary, it has been smooth sailing for my less balloon-like belly.
As an avid gym goer with a penchant for weightlifting, my plant-based lifestyle has also made me realise I don’t need any protein powders to reach my optimum physique.
Staying lean has been a piece of vegan pie since making the change to a plant-based diet too, which for me, is a big enough selling point in itself.
I was, before I went vegan, what my mum termed a ‘lazy vegetarian’ in that eggs formed the basis of far too many of my meals.
The result of this was near permanently present cystic acne breakouts, which according to one of my friends who had suffered through a similar skin situation, was due to the hormones in the eggs.
Now neither of us are qualified dermatologists but when I dropped the eggs, the breakouts disappeared too. Big win!
My increased intake of fruit and veg also meant I was consuming far more micronutrients on a daily basis which I feel has had a great repercussions for my skin and hair.
The knock on effect of eating more whole foods meant that my plant-based lifestyle left me feeling far more energised than I had previously.
As well as staying lean with ease, as I mentioned above, I noticed my strength and recovery time improving during and after workouts.
Brain fog and malaise that had frequently plagued me were alleviated too so I believe the lifestyle switch improved my mental clarity as well as my physical health.
I believe in a holistic approach to wellness and if you’re curious about other knock-on effects of a plant-based diet, I found Forks Over Knives and What The Health to be exceptionally interesting documentaries.
There’s a common misconception that this lifestyle is somehow far more expensive than an omnivorous one and that’s simply not true.
Meat and cheese tended to be the most expensive things on my shopping bill and in their absence, I’ve been treating myself to fancier fruit, veg, nuts and seeds and still coming in well under my previous budgets.
If you think of the Aldi and Lidl super six style promotions it’s easy to fathom how much vegan eating you can do on a shoestring budget.
There are of course some pricy vegan alternatives you can indulge in, like these Ben and Jerry’s tubs, but super affordable icecreams from Alpro and M&S offer reasonable treats too.
Get to Eat More
Vegan cinnamon pancakes Pic: FionnualaMoran.com
As a total foodie, getting to eat more was something I thought was too good to be true starting off in the new lifestyle.
For the first month, I used the app My Fitness Pal to track my food intake and surprisingly I was undereating.
Switching to a plant-based diet almost entirely made up of whole foods meant my caloric intake wasn’t as high as it had been.
As a result, I got to eat a lot more of the amazing recipes I was getting familiar with.
Obviously, you can go vegan and eat nothing but calorie-dense processed food but if you’re going down the whole foods route, which I recommend, you’re going to have a ball gorging through homemade veg curries, stir-fries, salads etc.
I know so much more about food now than I did this time last year.
Making what some people would consider quite a drastic lifestyle change has forced me to learn lots about the different foods I can have and the variety of ways I can enjoy them.
I previously thought plant-based living would be quite restrictive but the alternatives to dairy etc are amazing and you’d be surprised by how many treats are vegan.
Skittles, almost all dark chocolate and a variety of different meat flavoured crisps are among the treats I discovered I didn’t have to go without.
Veganism was the biggest food trend of 2018 and in keeping with that there are amazing vegan restaurants in Ireland that are proving how magnificent a plant-based plate of grub can be.
Veginity on Dorset Street is leading the pack with honorary mentions going to the Sova Vegan Butcher also in Dublin, Sweet Beat Cafe in Sligo, the vegan pizza in Platform Pizza in Bray, Cafe Letterario also in Bray and the Happy Pear in Greystones and Clondalkin.
Working in a media office is lethal for someone with as little food-related willpower as myself!
With trays of doughnuts and stacks of pizzas being sent in every other day, the amount of unplanned treats I previously racked up each week was far from healthy.
Now that I’ve gone vegan, it has taken the willpower element out of the equation.
It’s like a switch went off in my head after the first month that now just says, ‘Oh I don’t eat that.’
Before my weak, ‘I’ll only have one,’ voice always caved and snowballed into accidentally having a full pizza after I’d already eaten the lunch I brought in. Not ideal.
I absolutely still have treats, just less and they’re more intentional consumed now, which is no bad thing.
How cute are our little piglet friends? Pic: Getty
Here comes the inevitable preachy one.
I live in Bray and love going to Killruddery for coffee with my parents.
There’s a farm up there with the cutest little piglets and occasionally the pigs disappear and ham sandwiches appear on the menu…
I’m not saying the two are connected up there specifically but in general, once I made the connection between the cute animals with emotions that I love to pet being the same ones on my plate, it was very hard to forget.
My main motivation is environmental as the production of meat is the single most unsustainable human activity destroying the planet, but for me, animal welfare comes in a close second as a reason to keep going down the plant-based path.
Less Existential Dread
As someone who regularly experiencing intense bouts of existential (or fairly justified) dread about how little time we have to reverse or at least stall global warming, veganism has given me a surprising amount of internal calm.
The Happy Pear twins told me before that ‘politics starts on our plate,’ and they’re not wrong.
Knowing that I’m not contributing to the mass destruction and pollution of our environment for a food choice that isn’t essential, is something I find intensely calming.
I won’t harp on about this but if you want more information I’ll let you know that the Netflix documentary Cowspiracy turned me vegetarian and Earthlings on YouTube turned me vegan.
Neither make for easy watching but they’re incredibly important.
More Environmentally Conscious
Vegan eating is a gateway drug to getting addicted to trying to environmentally educate yourself and amend your actions accordingly.
I’ve just completed a ‘no shopping month’ in an attempt to break my capitalistic shop-on-a-whim-not-out-of-necessity habit and restructure my relationship with consumerism.
Trying to break up with fast fashion and that environmentally destructive attitude that we need new outfits for every event is an article for another day.
We’ve all seen the devastating consequences plastic in our oceans is having, so in keeping with that, I’ve also tried to drastically reduce my single-use plastics.
It felt contradictory to continue using makeup that tested on animals and contained animal products so I began updating my makeup bag to only include vegan and cruelty-free brands, something which was far easier than I imagined.
The list goes on but with less than 12 years of the world as we know it left, and with the destruction of habits wiping out up to 60% of the earth’s wildlife in the last 40 years, we no longer have the luxury of being able to wait until tomorrow to make simple changes that have drastic consequences.