I went vegan, or “plant based” (the term I prefer) over a year ago now. Before that switch I’d been pescatarian for a couple of years. Cheese was one of my favourite foods.
Pre-pesce, I ate everything. I actually recall a younger me declaring that veganism was mad and ridiculous and way extreme.
There are lots of reasons why you might be interested in adopting the diet, from health, to environmental and animal welfare. What I want to talk about though, are the hows. Things to look out for and ways I’ve managed it without impacting my lifestyle too much.
I’m definitely fortunate to have made the switch at a time when restaurants and shops were facing increasing pressure to provide vegan options.
According to the world Vegan society, demand for meat-free food In 2017, increased by 987% in 2017 and Google search for ‘vegan’ quadrupled in the 5 years between 2012 and 2017. It now gets almost 3 times more interest than vegetarian and gluten free searches.
This meant my options were more open, so my lifestyle hasn’t had to adjust much. But a drastic change of diet still isn’t easy. So how did I do it?
First, I didn’t commit for life. I didn’t know how I was going to find the diet, so rather than committing for life, I committed for 3 weeks. There’s a wide spread theory that it takes 21days to form a habit and given 21days isn’t much at all I figured, why not?!
The first challenge came on the first day when I went to a Mexican taco restaurant with work. Whilst the other five people shared an extensive array of mini tacos, melted cheese dips, fried enchiladas… I had corn chips and guacamole, followed by grilled cauliflower. Now I love guac but gotta admit the cauliflower main was underwhelming and the option to “start tomorrow” was there (as it always is). However I’d made my decision and was sticking to it.
Switching yogurt and milk to soy – the days before oat milk – my breakfasts didn’t change too much. My taste buds actually adjusted pretty quickly to soya yogurt. Then it was batch cooking curry for lunch and a variety of dinners, typically stir-fry or something involving hummus.
The three weeks passed with little temptation. I was surprised at how easy it was, I think in large part because I had made the decision. It wasn’t something I was considering every meal time. It was just a very simple, menu scan, shelf scan. What can I eat? Great, I’ll have that.
Because of this, three weeks rolled into a month, which rolled into three months, and here we are.
I also focused on what I could eat and didn’t stress about the portions of these things too much. Since being vegan my diet has, without doubt, been cleaner. Focusing on what I can eat means eating far more vegetables and clean fats like avocado (obviously), nuts and olive oil.
Occasionally you go to places which aren’t naturally ‘fresh’ in their approach to food and the vegan option will be something like, a “vegan hotdog”. These things tend to be so processed, you can tell they were selected by someone who definitely is not vegan. And probably doesn’t think much of vegetables.
Did I miss things? I don’t know. I mean honestly, not really. Your taste-buds adjust pretty quickly and your cravings change. And gratefully they change to wanting things which are generally better for you.
It’s important to acknowledge that I live in London. Veganism is now so common here that every cafe has a milk alternative and most restaurants have animal free options. Occasionally if I go away or go abroad, I will eat vegetarian as I never wanted my diet to significantly impact my exposure to opportunities and experiences. I believe we should all make the decisions that work best for us based on our lifestyles and 90% committed is much better than 10%.
I do have a cheat food
One more thing which has helped *personal prep for criticism*: I eat croissants. Plain ones. I absolutely love them, they genuinely bring me inner peace and I’m not giving them up for anybody.
On that note though, when you’re starting out it’s important to be really black and white about your rules as you need your taste-buds and body to adjust in order for the change to become permanent. Then maybe, after a time, if there’s something you really miss – having an exception to the rule won’t make you total fraud.