I am not a hippie; neither a ‘cool kid’ nor a judgemental health preacher.
It seems that I have had to defend my decision; some people find the diet an outrage. You cannot even say the word vegan without a person wanting to know why – which they will then argue, and they must inform you that they love their meat and milk.
I loved it too. Never did I see myself not eating it. What a stress it was when my vegan friend came round for dinner. I could not find a dessert that was acceptable for her to devour (I had to take away the egg from my caramel bananas and hope for the best).
The road somewhat narrowed when my dermatologist insisted that I was intolerant to dairy. I am a cheese addict, yes I ignored her. Well, I refused to believe it. But then everyone commented. I knew it too. My spots went away when the food group was out of my system.
From then on, I could not fully enjoy. I cut back drastically and in my weakest moments, cursed myself for not having the control of those health gurus.
Modifying my diet to vegan was not a simple change. I tried to swoon aboard like I was stepping into a hoop on water, and found myself going upside down on a rollercoaster.
I was SO hungry. I got my scales back out and I said Laura – you are gaining weight. You just ate 5 slices of bread with jam. You just munched through those vegan ginger biscuits and that pasta should have been quinoa!
I think it is because of others worrying me about all the items that I would be cutting. Nobody just says – “can you not eat dairy?”
They say – “you can’t eat dairy? You can’t eat cheese, or pizza?”
When did I last eat ginger biscuits or jam? In contempt of banning, I added and added. Anything which was vegan was perfect. I wanted baked beans, tomato ketchup, free-from crackers, and free-from chocolate spread.
Heck, I have not had a hotdog in ten years but if it’s vegan…
Because of this rising trend, supermarkets and stores are now customising more than ever. My possibilities are less limited, which means a vegan diet does not necessarily equate to health. Due to acknowledging how appalling I was eating, I took it upon myself to do hours of research.
By the second week, I felt ‘normal’. I came across vast recipes and made pizza from scratch, chickpea dumplings and black bean fritters.
In general, the food has been delicious. Perhaps once or twice, I have tried to convince myself a meal was tasty, when really it was just ok. It has been the same with products. The first cheese I bought was horrific. Not only was the smell as empowering as gone off produce, the texture was dry and crumbly. The second on the other hand, has been almost too scrumptious – weaning myself off of it.
If you do veganism the right way, you will be focusing on consuming plants; everything else is less important. And if you take the time to see what is out there, you will know that it is not all Buddha bowls and salads.
Since increasing my fruit and vegetable intake as well as variety, the wonderful benefits have appeared. I have the energy of a child consistently asking why, I cannot recall feeling sluggish and my mind has been positive – maybe that one is not 100% related. I also feel more obliged to appreciate carbohydrates. It turns out that I have actually lost a sizeable amount of weight – however I am a believer of encouraging health and not advocating this as a weight-loss plan.
Overall, time is certainly a healer. Each week is a little easier and my confidence is growing.
Typical questions answered:
Do you miss eating dairy, meat or fish?
If I am honest, occasionally yes. I have become a fan of Quorn fish fingers and Cauldron sausages. They are available if I face a craving. Vegan cheese is good enough for me and I can now make homemade mozzarella with cashew nuts – seriously, try it before you write it off.
What is the hardest thing about going vegan?
Food is incredibly social and society is not fully prepared for the vegan lifestyle. I went out to my first restaurant since the switch and I could literally eat one main meal from the menu – luckily it was superb. I then went to the theatre and the only popcorn on offer, was fancy chocolate covered or caramel with milk proteins.
I did experience a near mourning sensation, when it suddenly dawned on me that I would not be able to buy an ice-cream with my little sisters or go to a BBQ and have the same offerings. I know that I could ‘cheat’ and pretend that I am not vegan anymore, but that now goes against my beliefs.
How do you eat more plant-based?
Put plants as the main focus. There are countless bloggers, chefs and websites out there, all promoting more plant-based eating. Some searches on Google can help determine who they are. In addition, stock up on your beans, lentils, nuts etc.
Vegan swaps can be healthier. Check beforehand because it is not always the case.
Is it more expensive?
Like any diet, it depends on what you buy. You make savings from the food you cut out nevertheless; the high nutrient products can be costly.