October 2017 marks exactly one year since I finished up all of the meat and dairy in my fridge/freezer and decided to go vegan. In all honesty, my main reason at the beginning was a selfish one – I’d heard and read so many things about how meat and dairy makes eczema worse and as someone who has suffered with it for 27 years, I decided enough was enough. It was only after starting my Instagram account, watching documentaries and doing more research that I realised there were so many, arguably more important reasons, to keep at it. I’ve always referred to myself as an ‘animal lover’ and never really thought about how hypocritical I was being whilst still supporting such cruel industries. Not just food wise either – it has completely changed my perspective on how I buy beauty products and clothes too. At times it’s been hard but I don’t regret my decision at all. In fact, it feels great to be doing my little bit to help the animals and our planet!
I’ve learnt a lot about the world and myself over the past year and below I’ve listed five things I wish someone had told me when I started this journey. Enjoy!
1) It’s okay to make mistakes
No matter what the internet tries to make you believe, nobody is always 100% perfect at this whole vegan thang. It’s so easy to slip up, especially at the start when you’re not into the swing of things, but it’s totally okay! It just makes you human. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve bought something thinking it was sfv only to realise later that it wasn’t. It doesn’t make you a bad person, we’re all out here just doing our best.
2) Google is your best friend
I’m sure my most googled term is “is….vegan?”. More often than not Google finds exactly what you need to know within one or two clicks. I have noticed that a few websites pop up regularly which are packed full of amazing info, including The Vegan Womble & Vegan Society. Even if you think you’re sure about something, a quick search can easily put your mind at rest.
3) Double checking ingredients is key
This is sort of connected to point 2) I suppose but I think it deserves its own number too! These days most packets put all of the main allergens in bold, which is really helpful for quickly spotting milk and eggs in things, however there can be pesky hidden ingredients that you may not be looking out for. Honey for one will most likely not be in bold, so keep an eye out for that. There’s also the issue of E numbers and vitamins. For months I was happily eating Veggie Percy Pigs before someone broke the news that E901 was in fact beeswax. Another one to look out for is Vitamin D3, found in a lot of cereals, which is made from lanolin. It’s a bloody minefield! But like I said above, you can only do your best and mistakes will happen but hey, it’s a learning curve.
4) Yes, you can live without cheese
If I had £1 for every time someone said to me “I could be vegan but I just CAN’T give up cheese” I’d have enough money to create my own dairy free range. To be honest, I know I’ve said similar things in the past and I am not going to pretend it was an easy transition to make for me. When I was trying to eat less meat a few years ago I would literally eat cheese with everything. I still sometimes get cravings for it now but luckily there’s a huge range of vegan cheeses available to help take the edge off. No, they don’t taste anywhere near the same as ‘normal’ cheese, but the key is to try and think of it as a different food altogether. Once you stop comparing things to the stuff you used to eat it becomes a lot easier. I still live in hope that someone, somewhere, will create a vegan cheese that tastes exactly like cheddar, but until then, Violife and Sainsbury’s freefrom range will have to do.
5) Vegan doesn’t equal healthy
There is still a common misconception that vegans can only eat salad and therefore must be healthy. My god, how wrong these people are! I’m actually sat with some chocolate whilst I write this. A vegan diet can be looked at the exact same was as any other; if you want to eat healthy foods you can but if you want to eat burgers, chips and nuggets every day you can do that too. I’m certain I eat more biscuits and treats now than I ever did before. It is in no way a restrictive lifestyle – the only thing you cut down on by going vegan is your carbon footprint. I do take a daily vegan multivitamin (and extra Vitamin D during winter) to ensure I get all the stuff I need but I think MOST people should be taking these anyway, no matter what they choose to eat.
So there we are! My hope is that this blog post may help anyone else thinking about going vegan and is feeling a little bit overwhelmed by it all. By even considering the change you’re doing an amazing thing, so keep going! 🌱💚