Well, maybe that should say 'Veggan' actually.
For the whole of October I gave up meat, (all meat, including all seafood, including the fact that they use anchovies to make a lot of sauces!) and dairy, but I didn't give up eggs.
Firstly because it seemed a little too overwhelming to go cold turkey ('scuse the pun), but mainly because I don't agree with the fact that Vegans don't eat eggs: they are produced naturally every day by chickens, so eating them is no weirder than pilfering periods. (Admittedly, very weird). Incredibly, many people seem to believe that if us horrid humans didn't eat eggs, they would hatch and turn into chicks! Hmm...
Now, I'm aware a lot of the chickens are kept in terrible conditions and as soon as they lay below quota, are killed off, I tend to try and buy local eggs from farms, or from reputable companies that I've researched. So eggs stayed.
Why? I decided to try being Veggan for a month purely out of interest.. my instagram tends to push me towards vegan accounts a lot and I was intrigued by the creativity that comes from a restricted diet. I thought I'd try new foods, cook fresh, and maybe feel a bit healthier... plus I like challenging myself from time to time. Also, my boyfriend agreed to do it with me which would make life easier. So October came, I stocked up on dairy free spread, soy, almond and hazelnut milk, and thought 'here we go.'
Day 2 and said boyfriend is tucking into a bacon sandwich. He'd woken up feeling strange, fainted and decided that it was his body's way of telling him bacon needed administering urgently. Now, I'm all for listening to your body to tell you what you need to eat, and admittedly it was a bit weird. But I thought after a quick hit he'd join me on the vegan journey. Nope, he was done! I was on my own.
The first difficulty I found was the fact that we were staying at his Dad's house for the first four days. Being a vegan guest is not fun, and although he is a great host and tried very hard to accomodate, I couldn't help feeling guilty having to answer most of the 'Can you have.... can you have..... what about....?' questions with ...'No!'.
I was pleased to find I could still drink booze, and felt 'normal' when enjoying a G&T with some crisps in the evening (salt & vinegar usually a safe bet).
Now I assumed most of my meals would involve twelve types of fruit and vegetable, herbs and healthy stuff, looking something like this:
Occasionally it did, and was delicious and smug-inducing, but equally it often looked like this:
An average day consisted of avocado or tomatoes on toast with olive oil and salt, or cereal with a 'special' milk, with a smoothie or a tea. Lunch could be a sandwich (homemade- it's unbelievably hard to find ANY vegan snacks or sandwiches in shops), usually hummus and salad, some crackers and fruit... and supper was anything from vegetable curry to 'schnitzel', chips and beans. I feel like that sounds boring, but it'd be far worse if I shared my food diary with you in detail! Suffice to say, I ate differently every day, depending on what I fancied, although looking back, I definitely had a lot more avocado, sweet potatoes and hummus than ever before! Must've been missing fat!
Speaking of fat, I weighed myself before starting, and a couple more times during the month. I was surprised to lose 3 kilos (6.5 lb) in the first couple of weeks. I don't think I looked particularly different, and was getting enough calories most of the time. Annoyingly I didn't feel different either! Having read a lot of blogs, I was expecting a hellish first week, and a miraculous second week where I would awaken fresh as a daisy, leap from the bed with 'clear' skin (why do people want clear skin? Surely that would be gross and show veins etc..), golden shiny hair, singing an aria and full of energy to run a marathon.
Didn't really happen! I'm generally a healthy person anyway, I do like to sleep a lot, although my job often doesn't allow for that, but I have such a varied and unpredictable schedule that it's hard to tell. Definitely no change to hair, and skin probably got a little worse (keratosis pilaris aka 'bobs' on my arms), and I'd say I felt the same.
One change I did notice though, was that I didn't experience that bloated, stuffed, undo-the-jeans fullness after my meals. I'd finish and feel pleasantly full, but never like I needed to lie on the sofa in elasticated trousers which is often the case after a good meal (I suffer from greed and not being able to leave food on plate!). So that was interesting.
Another thing was being so conscious of exactly what I ate. Occasionally I'd absentmindedly pick something up, and as it zoomed towards the dark hole that is mouth, something would send up a little alert and the hand would be stopped (often grudgingly). Normally this is far too regular.. I can go a day and only remember a quarter of what I've eaten because it's been so unconscious and automatic. Being 'mindful' was a necessity. Also I enjoyed thinking up what I would eat next... It was far easier to be creative at home in my own kitchen, and I did come up with a few excellent recipes that were delicious. (Examples at the bottom).
All in all, I enjoyed the experience. To summarise: I was hungry more often, (good), I was conscious of exactly what I consumed (good), I tried some new recipes (good), I had to check every menu and call ahead before going to a restaurant (bad), I lost about 4 kilos (good) ..probably because I couldn't have cheese (bad).
Now I'm not going to continue being fully veggan. But... If everyone paid attention to what they eat, and I mean at every stage; looking at where your meat comes from, and understanding how the animals are treated to produce your burger/ egg/ milk. If everyone understood how bad some of the conditions are, and got 'closer' to the animals (I grew up on a farm and often ate lambs who's names we knew), the food industry would be much healthier.
No more 'I don't eat anything with bones/eyes/face'. Just cknowledge that you've chosen to eat an animal and make sure you're happy with your choices. And if to do this, you need to buy locally farmed eggs, meat and milk, do that. And if that means you can only afford meat twice a week, and two pints of milk instead of four, do that. And be happy!
You really won't miss it as much as you think you will!
Now... anyone who's interested and wants a couple of recipes to include in your weekly rota... here are a few of my favourite 'didn't even notice it was vegan' recipes.
1: 'Sushi Bowl'. I love sushi, and this gets all the taste but is super easy and can be changed a hundred ways.
Simply put cooked brown rice (I liked it still a little bit warm), chopped avocado and cucumber, and if you like them: peppers, snow peas, spring onions, any veg you fancy, in a bowl.
Add pickled ginger slices, and pour over some soy sauce, and optional sesame oil and chillies.
2: 'Raw tomato pasta'. Cook some fusilli or spaghetti pasta. You can get 'corn pasta' which is egg/gluten/dairy/fun free which is actually very nice if you want to go full vegan.
While it's cooking, cut 2 or 3 large tomatoes in half horizontally. Grate them, cut side to box grater on the coarsest hole until only the skin is left, into a pasta dish. Add salt and pepper, a little olive oil and some fresh basil leaves. Mix it all up and it's surprisingly delicious!
3: Aubergine caponata... really yummy dish of aubergine, olives, capers, tomatoes... but I'll let Jamie tell you how to do it best: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/incredible-sicilian-aubergine-stew-caponata/
4. Pineapple stirfry. Any combination of veggies plus chopped fresh pineapple, stir fried in a little sesame oil, with white onions, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce, served with rice noodles and fresh herbs. So tasty...
5. Banana 'ice-cream'. I thought I came up with this but apparently it's a mega fad in the vegan world: freeze chopped bananas and stick them in a blender: it is unbelievably similar to regular ice cream, but it's just fruit! Believe me... you'll be surprised. Add blueberries or whatever you fancy to change the flavour up.