|this cutlery looks so menacing I'm laughing|
For some context, I'd been raised on a standard meat, dairy, veg, carbohydrate diet my whole life and for a good, well nearly 18 years, had very little awareness of any other ways to view and eat food (besides the school's vegetarian sausage on offer every christmas dinner, I was clueless). Combine some overweight early teenage years and a period last year of dishing myself smaller and smaller portions thinking that was the way to being 'healthy', it's fair to say my body and nutrition weren't on the same page. To add to this, my face began breaking out more and more around last Christmas, which led me to Googling acne causes. After some reading I found articles listing the downsides of cow's milk - you can imagine after over a decade of drinking a cup of the stuff each morning to round off breakfast, I was pretty shocked. I immediately made mental notes of some of the facts and talked mum into buying some alternative milks to test out for my skin's benefit.
A week later, I (naturally) felt the need to bake brownies and stumbled upon TheVeganCorner's YouTube channel, quickly falling in love with their brownie recipe. Some YouTube clicks later, I came across a speech about this newfangled 'Vegan' ordeal and gave it a watch. One sitting of "101 Reasons to go Vegan", and I was completely convinced to give plant-based foods a try. It just made sense - I'd always been an animal lover, not much of a meat person (besides the bacon) and had been trying to become healthier for months, just not in a healthy way. This can sound extreme but it felt like a total awakening, part of me was angry; I had no clue about animal agriculture and it's physical, environmental and ethical repercussions. After all, dairy calcium and meat protein had been drilled into me from a young age as diet essentials, hence I didn't question what I was putting into my body. The other part of me was incredibly curious about the whole vegan thing, it was completely new territory and unbeknownst to me would become one big never-ending learning experience. From that video followed many others. Not just speeches; I was reading new recipes, preaching to my parents, telling my friends, researching more studies, writing grocery lists... I'd known of vegetarians and pescetarians for a while but had never even considered veganism.
I don't want this to get preachy, but I do want to let you know how much this switch has positively changed my life. First of all, it made me question a lot. I had been a total designer bags obsessive for a while (I was even adamant on saving up for a Chanel bag for my 21st birthday), spending my time online perusing leather bags I couldn't afford or fancy suede boots I'd be too afraid to scuff. These days, after a period of feeling torn between committing to a plant-based diet or a wholly vegan lifestyle, I've decided that the leather goods aren't cutting it for me. I've now realised I'd rather have the £1500 going towards a holiday or driving lessons than be in the knowledge that the bag in my hand was essentially an animal's skin dyed and crafted into an accessory. Don't get me wrong, I still adore fashion, bags and shoes and still totally admire the artistry of designer goods, but from now on I've been trying my best to source faux leather options and avoiding fast fashion whenever I can. Instead I choose quality clothing pieces which may cost more but will last longer, and am constantly scouting out animal friendly accessory brands, my favourites being Stella McCartney and Matt&Nat.
Even me a year ago would've said this was crazy, but from initially just switching to plant foods, I now feel so much more aware of other elements of my life; beauty products, clothing, the environment, wildlife and even to my choice of pillow to avoid down filling. The discovery of veganism was quite the eye opener concerning the realities of animal agriculture (I won't elaborate but the likes of Cowspiracy/Earthlings will have you covered), something which I now do my best not to support.
The change has also benefitted my body tremendously; my weight doesn't fluctuate, I feel keen to move more, my skin has drastically cleared (besides the unavoidable hormonal breakouts), my hair grows faster, nails are stronger, I feel much less cranky and bloated, and my own confidence has boosted as a result. The whole body and mind connection thing has begun too, I'm more understanding of my body, my outlook is more positive, I have less down days and I've gained so much knowledge simply through swapping out some foods for alternatives.
The only downside I've encountered as of yet is eating out. Unfortunately this will be a bit of a bummer until more vegan-friendly joints open up or more options are available at stores. Though this hasn't been a crisis yet and many places will either gladly take dietary requirements or alternatively to save the hassle, vegan options (from local places to chains) are listed on sites such as HappyCow or TripAdvisor. On the bright side, even in the past several months the amount of vegan supermarket options has increased dramatically; from the days of having only cows milk or soy milk on the shelves to having a dairy-free milk option available from practically every nut/grain available. There's also been an increase in the specific veggie/vegan sections emerging in shops, and not to mention all the commonplace goodies which are unintentionally vegan.
Woah that was a hefty post. To round off, if you're curious about the lifestyle, maybe add in a vegan dinner to your rota once a week (MinimalistBaker.com is a good place to start), or switch up your regular milk carton for a plant-based option. It's the small ingredient changes, recipe experimentation and research that make the potential big step less overwhelming. Amazingly, from me clicking on that speech back in March, both my dad and my best friend now eat plant-based diets! How cool is it that such a positive lifestyle is catching on, and actually has the potential to change/heal the planet :O Congrats if you've made it to the end, and remember to leave me any questions in the comments and I'll get back to you ASAP.