OH HAI. For the month of October, or Voctober as we’re now calling it, my work friends and I have taken on the struggle that is veganism. The idea for this came about quite randomly, we wanted to do something for October (because what else really happens, except Halloween?), but we didn’t want to Stoptober because alcohol is nice. So we thought we would combine a little bit of health aspiration with sustainability goals and take on a new dietary challenge.
Vegans are renowned for making their veganism well known to everyone they come across in their day to day life, and we embraced this vegan culture muchly. How do you know someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they will tell you. Within a day of being vegan pretty much the whole office was aware. Hi, I’m joy, I’m vegan. Oh what’s that you’re eating? No can’t have that, I’m vegan. What did you do at the weekend? Well I’m vegan, so… We probably managed to get the word vegan into every sentence. We became so obsessed that we started asking if wine has animals in it (does it? DOES IT??) and if the shredder is in fact vegan. There were positives to this ‘raising awareness’ scheme. As well as becoming very agitated with us, our colleagues also took to bringing us vegan food and making us vegan cake (most likely to shut us up). Whatever the reason, it was much appreciated, because we actually genuinely had no clue where to start.
Like the fact that to start with we only really considered cutting out the meat and dairy. Then we remembered the eggs, dammit, but we came to terms with that. No eggs for us. Which also means mayonnaise. Like srsly what. Then we remembered gelatine, and realised M&S mints have beef jelly in them. Why, M&S, why? THEN we remembered honey. I had not even considered this because who ever thinks about cruelty to bees? BEES LIKE MAKING HONEY. And I like granola and honey in my tea. But hey, vegan is vegan, and rules are rules. Whilst on our vegan journey we composed a couple of vegan catchphrases:
1. Vegans don’t take risks.
When you are vegan you MUST read all ingredients labels. I was rather lax on this and ended up eating a digestive mistakenly, oops. We decided that ‘may contain traces of’ was allowed, just about.
2. Vegans don’t complain.
Vegan is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice. We must embrace our choices and the sacrifices that come with them. Even when the whole office is eating the scrummiest cake in the world filled with chocolate and cream and those DAMN EGGS. It’s okay, I love having fruit for my afternoon treat.
To be honest, the mealtime foods I adjusted to quite easily. I always use almond milk in my porridge/cereal anyway, and soya yoghurt is an okay-ish substitute for yoghurt. Cous cous salad is my ideal lunch, and homemade dinners aren’t too tricky if you just make them sans-everything-that’s-nice. The thing I found most tricky was snacking. I am a SERIOUS snacker. Like totally addicted to snacks. Uh-woah-woah. Mostly I’m not even hungry I’m just bored and need something to chomp on to pass the time. In veganism my choices were basically crisps, or naked bars. Which can get slightly boring after a while. I was so desperate for snacking material at home (a crisp free zone) that I ate a tomato whole. Just bit it like an apple. Not okay.
However, all hope was not lost! Somewhere along our vegan journey, we made the best discovery. Guess what is vegan? OREOS. Oh yeah baby. I mean, I don’t want to think about what they are actually made of if it’s not dairy, but score one for vegans. PLUS peanut butter is allowed so Oreo dipped in peanut butter = a parent trap dream made in heaven. After that discovery we basically inhaled our entire body weight in Oreos whenever the snacking monster inhabited us, which was great. Also not vegan, weirdly, jelly. It sounds like gelatine so surely it is? But no, jelly is a-okay for vegans. I don’t actually like jelly so no yay for me but there you go.
You think you might lose weight going vegan? You are wrong. Well unless you’re one of those types that actually has self control. Lack of meat and dairy doesn’t cut down calorie intake, it just forces you to eat more carbs. BAD. I also ended up replacing my usual foods with beans and beans and lentils and beans. And dates. All the farty foods. Do vegans fart a lot? So it’s actually not great for your digestive system either, thanks pulses you mean food group you. The one thing that made me MEGA HAPS was all the falafels I was allowed to eat. Falafel treat Friday was very much a thing, with all of the houmous. I mean I love falafels at the best of times, so this was just an excuse to eat more.
The most awkward time to be vegan is when eating with lots of decidedly meaty carnivores. I had a dinner party during this time which was okay because I was in charge, but I ended up having to eat the saddest looking tofu lasagne in the world whilst everyone had oozy cheesy goodness on their plate. My friend was like ‘where is the rest of your lasagne?’ ITS NOT THERE BECAUSE VEGANS DONT HAVE FUN. Cheese is definitely the second thing I missed most, after snacks. There is NO substitute. But worse than that is going to someone else’s house for food. Because who ever wants to be that person that’s like ‘I can’t eat anything you want to cook, soz.’ Rather not, thanks.
Left to my own devices though, I actually made some surprisingly nice vegan recipe discoveries at home. With limited eating out options I ended up cooking a lot, which also saved me money (double bonus). After pinteresting A LOT of vegan foods I came across a few meals that were fast faves, including Banana Fried Bread, Tofu Scramble, Peanut Butter Cookies, Sweet Potato with Beans & Kale, and Energy Bites (snacking saviours).
All this being said, I am sad to confess that I did not make it through the whole month. Alas, not two weeks had gone by when I found myself tempted to break free from my vegan chains. I’m going to justify this by the fact it was my sisters 21st and celebration is not at it’s most when you’re not eating a lamb shank. That’s right, shank of lamb is how I broke vegan. And also sushi the next day. After that failure debacle I decided I would at least be a weekday vegan, because at work was the easiest with the support of my fellow veganites. That lasted another couple of weeks, and then the final hurdle came and every one of us crumbled. You could say we had only one more week so why not complete it? You could also say we had rediscovered our meaty lover roots and there was no going back. I’m not really sure we can say we completed it, but we can say we gave it a good old try. My friend who actually stuck to vegan right until the last week then discovered a month old yoghurt in her fridge that had been neglected during vegan times. So she decided to eat it, because yolo, what is life without gone off yoghurt. It was apparently surprisingly yum and not of the tangy variety. What a way to re-enter the world of dairy.
All in all, I can now say that I fully understand the struggle vegans face on a day to day basis, and I am not jealous. It is DAMN. HARD. Especially when you are used to all the milky meaty goodness that a non vegan diet allows. Personally, I have very little self control when it comes to food, so such a restrictive diet was probably never going to be a good idea for me. If I had felt healthy benefits from it straight away then maybe I would have had had more incentive to give it a proper go, but I actually just felt more bloaty and ill (all the beans beans beans). I guess a sudden extreme change in diet is never going to make your body very happy, gradual would be a better idea. But where’s the fun and challenge in that? However, I am definitely going to take away some new habits and recipes from this, and I’m also going to be very aware of what’s vegan and what is not, so there’s that. Whether I make vegan choices is another question. We don’t have to go vegan to change the world, but we can make little changes. We can do meat free Mondays, or meat free lunches, or just choose the vegetarian option every now and then. But overall in life, I am decidedly of the opinion that we CAN eat meat and dairy because where would I be without all the Ben&Jerry and pizza nights. I need that in my life please. Ever since my sad tofu lasagne experience I’ve had proper lasagne cravings so tonight I’m treating myself to a real cheesy affair, thanks me. Here’s to NON vegan November, may we have all the cakes and turkey sandwiches our hearts desire.