2019: The Year I Discovered I was a Vegan

Around this time last year I decided I was going to give Veganuary a go. Veganuary is a charity and a movement which encourages people to go vegan in January and supports them in their vegan journey throughout the month and if they choose to keep going. As a pescatarian and former vegetarian who hasn’t really eaten meat for the best part of 25 years, I planned to just go vegan for January and then go back to eggs and fish at least. Dairy I wouldn’t miss – it didn’t always agree with me anyway – but I didn’t really think I would be able to give up eggs and fish as they seemed so essential to my diet.Veganuary

My main reason for giving Veganuary a go was for the culinary adventure. I wanted to get back into cooking and try some new food, and I wanted to get out of some of my stale habits. There are lots of reasons one might choose a plant-based diet, and if the focus is to be plant-based rather than vegan, the reasoning is more likely to be health and diet. That being said, I ate a lot of amazing vegan junk food and cake in January, so I don’t want anyone reading this to think it’s all lentils and chickpeas! I also don’t want to give any wrong impression that veganism or choosing to eat plant-based is a ‘diet’ in the sense of it being a plan with which to lose weight. It’s not, although there can of course be fantastic health benefits to any change in what one chooses to eat, and cooking more from scratch and eating more vegetables and pulses can only be a good thing in terms of health.

Culinary Adventure

So, it was all about food to start with. I was excited by how big Veganuary was this year – all the supermarkets had lots of exciting new things to try, and of course there was the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll too!

Greggs

The Gregg’s vegan sausage roll – so many excited vegans across the country!

However, as the month went on I began reading, watching documentaries and educating myself, and I learnt more about the other reasons one might choose to be vegan. Of course, the main reasons are usually the environment and animal welfare. Although I’ve always been someone who likes animals and cares about the environment, I didn’t think eating a bit of fish and a few eggs were that big a deal. What did it matter if I put a bit of honey on my porridge or my shoes were made of leather? I never thought about the plastic my food and beauty products came in, and I certainly never checked to see if my products had been tested on animals or contained animal products such as lanolin and collagen.

Horses

A friend to the animals even at a young age…

But at some point early this year, perhaps even in the middle of January, just a couple of weeks into my vegan journey, I made a decision that this wasn’t going to be just a month-long experiment. It was like I took a good look inside and found a label that said ‘vegan’. It was a light bulb moment of ‘oh, this is what I should have been doing all along!’. I didn’t know I was a vegan, but suddenly it all made sense and I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

The definition of veganism according to the Vegan Society states:

“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

During my journey this year I have cut out all animal products from my diet. That was instant, and coming from being pescatarian I can honestly say it wasn’t difficult at all. I haven’t craved anything or missed anything really, and there have only been a few odd occasions where I have had trouble finding something to eat or have felt a bit left out. But, on the contrary, there have also been some lovely moments where I have felt so included; where friends or colleagues who aren’t vegan have made deliberate choices to provide a vegan option because they know I will be there, and that makes me so happy.

Making changes in other areas of my life is more of a process and not something that can happen overnight. As I use up a beauty product I try to replace it with something vegan, cruelty free and with as little plastic as possible. I’ve made the switch from bottles of shower gel to solid bars, and other products are slowly being switched over as I can. When I’ve needed to buy new clothes I have tried to look for vegan and sustainable options too – who knew a pair of trainers could be vegan! I just never thought about it before.

boots

Vegan boots from Vegetarian Shoes in Brighton

Above all else, this year has made me think so much. I just never considered whether it was right or wrong to use animal products, and I didn’t know about the exploitation of animals in order to provide us with everyday products like a pint of milk or an omelette. The environmental impact of eating meat and fish had never really occurred to me, and I was used to choosing the simple and fastest option, without thinking about how sustainable it was.

So, this was the year I discovered I was a vegan. I’m not writing this to preach at anyone else – you do you – but I do want the world to know I’m a vegan and I’m proud. I will continue to shout about it on Instagram, because I want people to see the delicious food a vegan can eat, to see how healthy I am (not protein deficient!) and to see the choices I make which make less of an environmental impact. Perhaps my choices can help to inspire another person’s choices, and that’s all I can ask.

Vegan

I know this blog has been silent for over a year, but I’m back! Watch this space for more adventures as I continue in search of my ikigai…

Weekend Wellness

After a bit of a rubbish week it would have been so easy to take my grumpiness into the weekend. I’ve been feeling stressed out and overloaded, and it’s at times like this that I usually turn to comfort food and spending my time in a way that doesn’t really benefit my health. But not today. Today I chose to start my day with a Wellness Brunch at my favourite Bristol cafe, Foundations.

Although the event was taking place in a space in which I felt comfortable, and I knew I would know at least one person there, attending an event like this was still a little bit out of my comfort zone. But, as I learnt today, sometimes it does us good to step just a little way out of our comfort zones and into our ‘stretch zones’; it’s good to push the limits a little bit.

I hoped to find myself in a room of like minded individuals wanting to think about health and wellness, and I knew that if nothing else, at the end there would be waffles.

Foundations protein waffles

Waffley good.

As it turned out, there was so much more than waffles!

Cat Taylor of Nudge Yourself was brilliant. She ran the event with a perfect balance of looking inward and looking forward, laughter and mindfulness, breathing and punching. Yes, there was boxing, and there was also drawing with pencil crayons. What better way to start the weekend?

We thought about happiness more than anything else, and what it takes to achieve this.

There is no path to happiness

One of my favourite happiness quotes

After the workshop, boxing gloves off and pencil crayons down, we enjoyed a healthy brunch and had a good old chat. I met some lovely women – really interesting people, all very much on the same wavelength. We talked about journeys, and it was inspiring to hear other people’s stories and to meet some strong women, following their passions, trying to live their best possible lives.

Because that’s all we can do really, isn’t it? Live each day in the best possible way, get up when we fall down, and just BE HAPPY.

Why stop with dry January?

I decided to start this year with a healthy month of no alcohol, chocolate, cakes or biscuits, and I’m pleased to say I’ve made it to the end successfully! But why stop there?

As soon as January ended everyone around me was asking if my ‘diet was over’ now and if I could go out and get drunk now, and I’ve been trying to explain that it’s just not like that.

I’m not on a diet. I can have any food I want, and I can drink alcohol if I want to. I’m just choosing to limit what I put into my body at the moment.

One of the hardest things about nutrition and eating healthily is making the right decisions and not slipping into old habits. If I’m ‘trying to be good’ I find it hard to have any chocolate around me at all. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, and if I don’t ban chocolate completely I’ll eat every chocolate in the box.

In the past I’ve been guilty of comfort eating, and that’s a habit I desperately want to break. Food shouldn’t be a reward or something I have for consolation. It should be something I have for nutrition or something I enjoy because I want it, whether alone or with friends.

Alcohol? Well I can take or leave it to be honest. I like a nice cocktail every now and then, but I honestly haven’t missed alcohol at all in the last month. So why fill my body with all of those extra calories and all that sugar? Luckily my evenings are filled with dancing, and alcohol doesn’t help me one bit when I dance – I’m better without it!

So, ‘dry January’ is over and February is here, and I’m going to try to maintain my new healthy habits. I’m not saying I’m never going to have alcohol, chocolate, biscuits and cake, but for now I’m doing just fine without them.

Foundations

Nutrition is the foundation of any healthy eating plan, or so I’m told, but it’s something I’ve struggled with a bit over the last year. A year ago I got a personal trainer at the gym and it’s made a massive difference to my health, strength and wellness, and we talk about food a lot. He’s not one of these PTs who dictates a certain diet plan or tries to get you replacing meals with shakes or anything like that – we just talk about what I eat and why I eat it.

I have issues with food, and could definitely be called an ’emotional eater’. If I have a bad, busy or stressy day, I eat. If I’m tired, I eat. If I;m sad, I eat. And when I eat, I eat all the wrong things. Chocolate being the main vice.

Over the last year I’ve tried to get into food prepping; planning my meals ahead, making a schedule for the week, and cooking healthy meals to take to work for lunches. I’ve done OK… I mean, I’ve definitely made an effort, but there have still been a number of days where I’ve given up on my healthy thoughts and gone to the local food market for a less than healthy (and very expensive) take-away lunch. In the worst cases, I’ve bought a ready-meal.

Planning and prepping food takes time, time which I don’t usually have, and I find it quite stressful. It’s boring to eat the same thing every day (I LOVE food) and expensive (and sometimes wasteful) to keep lots of varied ingredients in my fridge.

That’s why, when I popped into my favourite new healthy cafe (run by a friend’s PT) just before Christmas, the sign for a ‘Meal Prep Club’ caught my eye. I almost wrote it off as ‘bound to be too expensive’, but luckily I didn’t act too quickly and stopped to find out more.

Foundations Cafe is a great, healthy cafe on Baldwin Street in Bristol, which happens to be close to my office. They serve delicious salads, baked sweet potatoes, sandwiches, protein shakes and all sorts of things, and it’s become of of my favourite places to eat out in Bristol. The Meal Prep Club they are offering is simple, and surprisingly not at all expensive. In fact, my lunches are working out at just over £3 a pop!

2018-01-02 12.47.25

Smoked Salmon Box – Smoked Salmon flakes, brown rice, goats cheese Waldorf salad & fattoush salad on a bed of spinach & lettuce

This week I have have my first few lunches from Foundations Cafe, and I can honestly say each one has been delicious and, most importantly, stress free! I simply order on a Sunday for the week ahead, and collect my lunch each day. One of the things I have really enjoyed so far is the surprise each day, because by Tuesday I have completely forgotten what I ordered!

2018-01-03 12.19.54

Winter Superfood Salad – Lentil & chickpea salad, lemon & roasted veg couscous & beetroot & goats cheese salad on a bed of lettuce & spinach

My lunches have contained things I would never think about putting in my salad, such as walnuts and apricots, and things I would never include as I just wouldn’t keep them in, like feta.

2018-01-04 12.26.59

Sweet Jacket Potato with lentils & chickpeas, spiced carrot, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella & cashew pesto

Joining up to Foundations Cafe’s Meal Prep Club is one of the best decisions I’ve made this year so far! I feel like in doing this I’ve set myself up to a really good start and with a really strong foundation to have a healthy 2018. I love food, and I don’t want to go on some crazy diet or deny myself of things all year just to lose weight. I just want to eat healthily and happily.

If you’re in Bristol and want to find out more, check out the Foundations Cafe website: https://www.foundationscafe.com/meal-prep-club.