It was about a year ago that I decided to go vegan after 22 years of being vegetarian. For years it had seemed like the next logical step and after learning more about food and nutrition it also seemed more and more possible so I went for it. Here is what I have learnt so far.
It is easy. I wasn’t expecting it to be. I thought I would need to be convert slowly and eliminate different foods at a time until I found substitutions or new recipes but it wasn’t hard. There are loads of delicious ‘milks’ to use (I like oat milk on cereal, soy in coffee and nut milks for cooking and flavours) and although mock-cheese is revolting I don’t miss cheese anywhere near as much as I has assumed I would.
They hide milk. Milk powder is everywhere. It is hiding in things I would never have expected to find it. Salt and vinegar crisps? WTF?! Going vegan means avoiding processed food but I don’t see that as a problem – it just means that you eat better.
It wont affect your training. Pick up a fitness magazine and its nutrition pages will be full of lean chicken breast and milk for recovery. No Meat Athlete was a major inspiration in going vegan along with Ultra-runner Scott Jurek and they helped to show it isn’t only possible to be a vegan athlete but can be advantageous. There is plenty of protein out there.
Do your research. OK, I said that going vegan was easy, and it was, but it pays to do your research. You don’t have to read nutrition textbooks (although they are pretty interesting) but at least look at the basics of nutrition. I also think it is worth keeping a food diary for a few days every now and then so you can just check you are getting enough protein/calcium/iron. Some people claim that this shows that veganism is hard work if you have to plan your diet but I would argue that this is something that everyone should be doing regardless of their diet.
It is fun. Going vegan is exciting. You start to think about food in a new way and it forces you to be more adventurous in the kitchen. A recent study suggested that most people in Britain cook the same 10 meals throughout the year and rarely try anything different but during the past year I must have tried dozens of new dishes and even more new ingredients. There are some excellent cookbooks out there (Isa Chandra and Bryant Terry are two of my favourites) and some fantastic blogs with recipes.. hint hint.
There is a community out there. Hello to all my friends on the Brighton Vegan page 🙂 Read through some blogs, pick up a magazine or have a search on Facebook and you will find a vibrant community of vegans just waiting to embrace you in their patchouli arms. Just remember that there are some nutters in this otherwise wonderful bunch. There will be a minority who will try and tell you that nothing you do is ‘vegan’ enough and will make all kind of outrageous claims. Ignore them. You will find them in any community.
You will not lose weight. Well you might. Heck you probably will if you are over weight and been stuffing your face with processed meats and dairy. However I have been trying to shift the same 7lb all year without much success. Veganism is not a panacea – it is a bloody good start though 🙂
You will find hundreds of ways to avoid talking about veganism. When someone asks why you aren’t eating that disgusting lump of carcass and you say you are vegan they will then ask why. You will tell them. They will then spend the rest of their lives talking about how preachy all vegans are. They are idiots.
It has been an excellent year and I can’t wait for the next one. Exploring a plant based diet opens up all sorts of ideas on growing food, living sustainably and running lightly on the earth. I am very aware that I still have a long way to go but at least I know I am on the right trail.
- Help to create and sustain new vegans (indybay.org)
- How I became a hardcore fat vegan. (theveganhardcore.wordpress.com)
- 10 Benefits of Going Vegan (ladylux.com)