A Veganuary January: Questions I Asked Myself
This January I have chosen to eat a vegan diet. I’ve chosen to go vegan for the month for a number for various reasons which I will explain, including to benefit my health and wellbeing, and so I’d like to share the experience with my Smile Being You readers.
Although I decided on this challenge before I’d heard of the concept of ‘Veganuary’, it seems that people worldwide are going vegan for January. Veganuary is a campaign and global charity, launched in the UK in 2014, that encourages people to try a vegan diet for the first month of the year. Visit www.veganuary.com for more info.
In this blog I’ll share with you some of my thoughts about eating vegan and some of the questions I asked myself.
In an accompanying blog post ‘A Veganuary January: Month in Review‘ I provide an update after each week, reflecting on the the positives and discoveries that have made me smile, and the challenges and learning that has made me frown! I then review the month and discuss my future eating choices.
Firstly, I will try to answer some questions I asked myself about veganism…
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is one that is plant-based and free from all animal products including meat, fish, shellfish, insects, dairy, eggs and honey. Vegan eating focuses on having plenty of vegetables, fruits, pulses, grains, nuts, seeds and such.
So why follow a vegan diet??
You might wonder why I’ve chosen to eat a vegan diet this January. The are many informational resources that will list plenty of reasons, but here are my key personal reasons:
- Animal welfare – I haven’t eaten meat for almost 16 years now. I’ve been pescatarian (eating dairy, eggs & fish, but not meat) for the past 8 years, and prior to this I was vegetarian for 8 years. A big part of this lifestyle choice has been wanting to reduce animal suffering, not liking the way animals are raised, kept and killed in the meat industry. A reason for going a step further than vegetarianism is that I’ve been learning more about the suffering experienced by chickens raised for eggs and dairy cows. Sadly ‘free-range’ eggs doesn’t mean the chickens have a good life, with some not even seeing the outside and the male chicks being killed. Although humans have been drinking milk for a long time, the dairy industry has changed greatly over the last century to meet demand, subjecting cows to much more gruelling regimens. Search and you will find many more sad stories.
- Environment – I care about the planet we live on and eating a vegetarian or vegan diet can make a big difference to the environment. Animal agriculture creates around 50% of the global green house emissions, and uses a huge amount of land. Vast areas of rain forest are destroyed every day to provide land for animals to graze and to grow animal feed, and fishing and water pollution has damaged many wildlife habitats around the world. The production of meat and dairy also uses a huge amount of energy and water. All of these environmental impacts are greatly reduced through a vegan diet.
- Health – Although I already eat pretty healthily, consuming plenty of fruit, vegetables, salad, nuts, seeds, pulses and such, I always strive to improve my diet. And, like many I will admit I have a sweet tooth and I did indulge…just a tad… over Christmas! Vegan doesn’t mean less calories as some may believe, it’s still possible to over-consume particularly if you hit the nut butters and coconut milk hard! It will though help me reduce unhealthy, unnecessary snacks as they’ll simply be less readily available. For example, it will help me decline those free cakes or biscuits at work that I don’t really need. Choosing to be vegan will also make me think more about the nutrients in my diet, to ensure I’m getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals my body needs. I also intend to do more home cooking and most vegan recipes, particularly savoury ones, are full of lots of healthy nutritious ingredients.
- Variety – Although I do already consume vegan associated items by my own choosing, such as almond milk, soya yoghurt and vegan proteins, cutting out dairy, eggs and fish is encouraging me to try new recipes. I easily get bored of food, so it’s great to be inspired to try new ingredients and flavour combinations, and there seems to be plenty of vegan bloggers online sharing delicious sounding recipes.
- Learning – As someone who already cares about what I put in my body, this is a great opportunity to educate myself more about food, nutrition and healthy eating. To ensure everything I consume is vegan I’ve taken some time to do read more about eating vegan, non-vegan ingredients and nutrition. Veganuary’s Vegan Label Reading Guide page is really useful, as are their Vegan Essential and Accidentally Vegan Products webpages. There’s a lot more foods that are vegan that I thought! I expect I may also learn that there are some foods that I actually thought were vegetarian that are not from my renewed attention to labels and ingredients.
- Challenge – I love a good challenge that gets me doing something new – you may have seen that I completed a 7 day juicing challenge in December. I wanted to do something for longer than a week that could benefit my health and as much as I enjoyed my juicing challenge I actually thought a month of eating vegan would be easier. Plus, all of the juices and blends that I’m continuing to enjoy making are already vegan, or easily can be by substituting any milk/yoghurt with plant based alternatives, so I will continue trying new juices. New activities are great for personal growth and I’m supporting something I care about. Plus by sharing my Veganuary challenge with you I hope to inspire others to give a vegan diet a try.
Why just for a month?
You might wonder if going vegan for just a month will have any benefit on the planet and animals? Okay, maybe if it was just me, it wouldn’t have an discernible impact. However, in January 2016 Veganuary report that 23,000 participants registered across Europe, America, Canada, South Africa and Australia and anecdotally thousands more took part. Veganuary estimate that as many 24,000 animals were spared from the result of efforts in January 2016 efforts. Also six months later 63% said they were still vegan, reducing the suffering of thousands more animals. I don’t know at present whether I will decide to continue being vegan after January or go back to a pescatarian or vegetarian diet. Whatever I do though, I’m sure after this month I’ll make more informed choices when shopping and consume more vegan food that I used to.
But veganism is more than just eating vegan foods??
Yes it is and the Vegan Society define ‘veganism’ as ‘a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’ However, the easiest way to start being vegan is by changing your diet. Changing household products and beauty products, or swapping your leather shoes and bags for synthetic versions, take a lot of effort and could be pretty costly! Some vegans will choose to adopt the whole vegan lifestyle, whilst others will focus purely on their food choices. These dietary changes alone have a huge impact. Plus, I think to whatever level you take vegetarianism or veganism to, there will still be conflicts in your lifestyle as it’s impossible in the developed world to live in a way that doesn’t harm the environment at all.
How can I find out more?
There’s loads of useful written and video information online if you’d like to know more about vegan eating. Here’s a selection of vegan information websites:
- Veganuary https://veganuary.com
- Go Vegan www.govegan.org.uk/
- Vegan Society www.vegansociety.com/
- Vegans UK http://vegans.uk/
- Vegan Directory http://vegandirectory.uk/
- Vegan Recipe Club www.veganrecipeclub.org.uk/
- Vegan Action http://vegan.org/
- Vegan.com www.vegan.com/
- PETA Foundation – Free vegan starter kit www.peta.org
- Viva – Free 30 Day Vegan Program www.viva.org.uk
- NHS Chocies – The Vegan Diet www.nhs.uk/Livewell
There’s also lots of people sharing delicious looking vegan recipes through blogs and social media. Just search for vegan food on Instragram or Twitter and you’ll find plenty!
How can I join in?
Even though January has begun it’s not too late to join in with Veganuary, there’s no reason why you can’t start now till the end of the month. Or you could try it for February or another month in the year and you’ll still be able to access all the resources. You might also be inspired by hearing how those who took part this January got on.
Any inspirational viewing?
Change isn’t easy, but I find knowing more about a topic can really help increase my determination to do something! If you’d like to watch some documentaries that might inspire you to go vegan or even just stop eating meat, here’s a list of some documentary films I thought were an interesting and enlightening watch (mostly available on either Netflix or Amazon Instant Video)
- Food Choices (2016) www.foodchoicesmovie.com
- Cowspiracy (2014) www.cowspiracy.com
- Live and Let Live (2013) www.letlivefilm.com
- Hungry for Change (2012) www.hungryforchange.tv
- Vegucated (2011) www.getvegucated.com
- Foodmatters (2008) www.foodmatters.co
What’s it like eating vegan for a month?
I’m going to share through this blog how my month of vegan eating goes. Check this page for my weekly updates!
Interested in other wellbeing topics…?
My vegan journey
Find out how I got on eating vegan in my accompanying blog ‘A Veganuary January: Month in Review‘.
Thank you for reading.
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