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…

Making a splash…

I know, it’s been a while since I posted, but I started this year, and this blog, with the attitude of writing when I wanted to, and when I had something to say, so that’s what I’m doing.

I have something to share with you, but first a little story. Last time I posted, back in June, I had just attended a wellness brunch at my favourite cafe, Foundations. Not long after that I went on a whirlwind trip to Japan, and then just as I got back I attended another workshop, this time with the theme of Body Positivity and Food Freedom (more on that soon).

That workshop was my first glimpse into the world of Body Positivity, and as I left the cafe with this brand new concept spinning through my head, I happened upon a stall selling colour changing bikinis at the Bristol Harbour Festival. I wasn’t in the market for a bikini at all. In fact, this year, I had bought my first ever bikini (yes, at the age of 36), and yet still hadn’t had the nerve to wear it. I had always had the thought in my mind that “people like me” probably shouldn’t wear bikinis. That bikinis were for “skinny people with perfect bodies”, not “fatties” like me. That’s what I told myself.

So why did my attention get drawn to a stand selling bikinis? It was the poster that did it. Mermaid in England, it said, and what I saw on the poster was a group of beautiful, REAL women. Women like me. All shapes and sizes, colours, ages. REAL women wearing bikinis, proudly, happily. It was an image like this:

Mermaid in England

The image was like this, very similar, except this image above was taken only a few weeks ago… and I’m in it. That’s me, bottom left, punching the air with joy, having the time of my life with a group of amazing women, wearing an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, colour changing red bikini!

You see, on that day at the Harbour Festival, I didn’t buy a bikini, but I had a chat with Antonia, the face behind Mermaid in England, and I put my name down on a list, just in case Antonia was ever looking for models in the future. But I still told myself it probably wouldn’t happen, and I would never have the nerve to wear a bikini for a photo shoot. People like me didn’t wear bikinis, certainly not in public. That’s what I thought anyway…

But you know what? People like me do wear bikinis. And people like you. In fact, this myth of the “bikini body” is no more real than an actual mermaid. It’s time to love ourselves in the bodies we’re in. You only get one life, one body, one chance. Make the most of what you’ve got, look after it. Don’t hate your legs for a bit of cellulite – be grateful that they help you to run and dance. I’m not saying it’s easy, and believe me I’m still going through this process of learning to love myself, but let’s try. ❤

Links

Mermaid in England

Viktoria Kuti Photography

Wild Thing Design

English Rose Makeup

Shari Knowles Makeup

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.