Were you one of the 23,000 people who took part in Veganuary this past month?
Since 2014, people across the world have been pledging to keep dairy, eggs and meat off their plates in growing numbers (only 3000 signed up in 2014 — that’s a 600% boost in just two years!). I’ve heard the word ‘trendy’ thrown around quite a bit recently in regards to veganism. Some liken it to the recent ‘gluten-free’ craze among people who don’t actually have a gluten intolerance, or to any of the numerous fad diets that seem to come in and out of fashion.
So are all of these Veganuary participants simply hopping on the bandwagon, only to abandon it when the next ‘trendy’ diet comes around? How many of them are continuing to live a vegan lifestyle after January? And — possibly the most important question of all — is it pronounced vej-anuary or veeg-anuary?
While I don’t have an answer to the latter question, the official stats seem to at least give some insight into the first two. According to participants who completed the end-of-January survey, 81% of them intend to continue with the changes that they’ve made during Veganuary. That’s huge!
I decided to get some insight into why so many seem to be sticking it out for the long haul. I was also interested to hear from anyone who participated in Veganuary, but will not continue with the changes made past the end of the month. So, I turned to Facebook, and asked people to share their experiences — good, bad or ugly. Here’s what they said.
Jane: “I was full dairy and meat eater before. I was thinking what I’m going to eat come Wednesday and I really haven’t missed anything. If anything it would be fish and chip shop fish. But I’ve discovered new foods that I’ve enjoyed so much. I decided to try it as I wanted to broaden my knowledge of food, see how my body would cope, have more of an understanding of how and why people live as vegans etc etc.
The most challenging was people’s comments and I couldn’t just accept a cup of tea and a biscuit, I had to be ‘the awkward one’. I have noticed no changes, good or bad, I feel the same. My bowel maybe a little more productive I feel you know what I mean and I seem to be eating all the time, but was a good eater before! I am definitely making changes to my lifestyle from February but can’t say I will be a vegan. My meat consumption will greatly reduce, I am not going to consume cow milk products and will likely stop buying eggs or occasionally have them and buy the organic free range.”
Sharon: “My vegan daughter persuaded me to try it so I did. Biggest challenge was finding an alternative cheese! Sainsburys Gary came to the rescue! Found most of it easy, as long as I’m organised and have emergency ready made meals in the freezer so I didn’t fail. Think my taste has changed and no longer smother my food in salt. Definitely sticking with it as I don’t feel as bloated, feel better in my mind that I’m doing my bit for the environment too!”
Aviva: “I have been slowly changing to vegan over a year but, after the Vegan Life show, I decided to commit properly. Miss halloumi so much! My go to lunch is definitely quinoa salad with avocado and pomegranate. Also use protein shakes. No more migraines and better skin! So much easier than when I tried 25 years ago, with so much advice around. Also much easier now to find food when out and about!”
Elaine: “Hi I was vegetarian for 34 years before trying Veganuary and did it for health reasons and to give myself a massive kick up the butt to get back to cooking from scratch again, as felt I’d become a lazy cook relying on convenience foods to feed myself and my 3 children. It started off really well as 90% of the meals we were eating were actually vegan so no real change. I don’t drink hot drinks so milk for me wasn’t an issue but I bought several for my children to try and of course all 3 prefer a different one! My big crisis happened 2 weeks in when I needed cheese. Shops near me the choice is minimal (Sainsbury’s don’t stock any vegan cheese!) I even tried making my own but each one just wasn’t hitting the spot but after mixing them together along with a few other things I got my ‘hit’! And am now over the cheese thing as this was my problem as it was making me fat! I’ve lost 7lbs which is mad as I’m eating more than I did before just no cheese! I’ve got loads more energy, my eczema has cleared up and I feel great so will definitely be sticking with it. The only downside is I fart like a trooper but they don’t smell!”
Laura: “The one thing I missed was eggs, of course I’ve been using substitutes such as chick peas juice and flax seeds, but if I did have the odd egg it would be free range.I’ve been making vegan pancakes ! Sprinkle of cinnamon topped with coconut yogurt and berries. Delicious!”
Nicky: “I wanted to see how easy it was transitioning from veggie, finding the best milk for coffee was the most challenging (first world problems).Buying a quick work day lunch is a pain too. Go to dishes have been a lot of my usual veggie dishes that are already vegan. I have lost a few pounds and I think my skin looks a bit brighter. I was worried it might make me feel a bit rough but it didn’t happen. I will continue with it– I’m going to follow the vegan slimming world diet from the end of Jan. I will use the veggie things e.g Quorn in my freezer but won’t replace them once gone.”
Samantha: “I’ve found it very hard cake wise and eating out. I feel better health wise.”
Marty Lou: “I went veggie-vegan on Boxing Day and have never looked back. Primarily for health reasons, but also because I love animals. I now have no tummy issues, more energy (lots of chronic health problems) and a whole new enthusiasm for food & nutrition. This page [Vegan UK on Facebook] in particular has made it so easy, compared to when I tried 20 years ago (and failed). No downside in my experience, apart from people’s lack of understanding at times – I live in very rural Wiltshire.”
Sam: “A friend who was already mostly vegetarian and trying to cut down on dairy/other animal products said she was going to try it and asked if I’d like to try it with her. We also figured it would be a good way to kickstart 2017 with a healthy diet. Being the gullible fool that I am, I agreed. The most challenging part was giving up eggs. Prior to Veganuary I was a big egg eater. I’d have them at least twice a week, usually more often, and had done since I was a child. I honestly thing January is the longest I’ve been without eating eggs since I was first weaned onto solid foods as a baby. It doesn’t help that with eggs (particularly boiled/poached eggs) there is no vegan substitute. At least with cheese there are products which taste a bit and look a bit like cheese. There’s nothing similar for a boiled egg, so I had to go completely cold tofurkey. Very difficult.
Most of it was surprisingly easy! I keep joking to my friend that we’re doing the vegan thing wrong, given that it has been much easier than either of us anticipated. Eating out hasn’t posed any real problems, work lunches, breakfasts, nothing has been particularly difficult.
At the start of Veganuary I was worried I’d have to learn to cook a whole load of new meals, but when I thought about it a lot of the meals I cooked were already vegan for the most part and it was just the accompaniments I had to change. For example, I was already cooking bean chillis and vegetable & lentil curries. I just had to swap out the sour cream for cashew cream, or dairy yoghurt for non-dairy.
I’ve lost 5 lbs so far! Admittedly that’s been partly through calorie counting too, but even so. Many vegan dishes (at least those cooked from scratch) are low in calories, which is great. I’ve also felt a lot lighter after eating. I can finish even a large meal and feel satisfied, whereas with a meat dish I might feel sluggish and overstuffed. I’ve also found my mood is better generally, and my skin appears to be getting clearer.
I definitely plan to continue eating this way! It’s been a great learning journey for me, I’ve tried loads of new foods, vegan twists on existing favourites and generally I’ve just felt so much better about the food I’m eating”
Interestingly, 87% of official Veganuary participants were female. This overwhelming majority is reflected in those who responded to my Facebook posting. This raises a whole new question — where are all the vegan guys at? It could have something to do with the antiquated belief that ‘meat = manly’, and that going vegan is somehow emasculating. Perhaps this (unfair) branding makes it more difficult for guys to publicly commit to it. Maybe Veganuary’s mission for next year should be to lure in more men (ignore how creepy that sounds). If you’d like to have a look at some more interesting Veganuary stats, here’s the full infographic.
If you’re reading this — did you also take part in Veganuary? Did your experiences match any of the above? If you didn’t, what held you back?
If you’ve missed out on this year’s Veganuary, there’s nothing stopping you from doing a vegan or vegetarian trial month of your own. It’s often less intimidating to start small, and to have a potential ‘end date’ in case it doesn’t work for you. Perhaps you could give Veg-ebruary a go! Maybe skip out on March though, unless you’re happy telling people that you won’t be partaking in the cheese platter because you’re doing Vmarch. It just doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.
Thank you to everyone who responded to my posting. Best of luck and huge high fives to those of you who are continuing to cut down on your animal consumption, in whatever way is realistic to you. You’ve got this!