Eight months ago I decided to try giving this whole vegan thing a go. Yup, a girl who devoured McDonalds cheeseburgers on a weekly basis and lived for milk chocolate, decided to do Veganuary – 31 days of being vegan.
I was shocked by the results; from how much I learnt about the food industry, in particular the farming industry, but also how easily I was able to give up the foods I had loved, such as beef and pork (aka burgers and bacon).
On February 1st I made the decision to continue the challenge on a permanent basis and become a full time vegan.
Well, seven months on from that moment and I have a bit of a confession to make. I am technically no longer a ‘vegan’.
*hangs head in shame*
So what am I then? A vegetarian? A pescatarian? A freegan?
Where did it all go wrong?
Let me explain…
I was loving being a vegan. I’ve never cooked so much in my life as I did in those first five months. Things I thought I would struggle to give up I hardly missed – such as milk chocolate (because trust me, I was seriously addicted to the stuff) and meat being the easiest food to let go of.
I felt proud to be a vegan and I was loving the benefits – I was waking up earlier, I enjoyed longer days, I had more energy, I lost a little weight, I was learning more about food and cooking all the time.
Of course it was challenging and sometimes I would mess-up; I was never going to be 100% vegan from the get go, not even all supposedly ‘guaranteed’ vegan products are vegan.
I cannot recommend Lucy Watson’s ‘Feed Me Vegan’ book enough, perfect for those starting out. Click here to purchase (only £6!)
But the real mess-up came when I travelled to Sierra Leone for the 2018 SLM. Trying to eat vegan, in a West African country, while preparing to run a marathon, proved quite the challenge (put it this way I had to pack my own soya milk as I was told by the organisers I wouldn’t get any out there). And whilst I didn’t eat any meat out there, I gave into a bit of fish pre-race day, as there was so little vegan options for food and I knew that I needed all the food I could to power up.
However, when I was attacked during the marathon and the trip turned into a bit of a disaster, my vegan diet went out the window as I ended up comfort eating for the rest of my time there, I even ate chocolate and ice cream at one point!
When I returned to England at the end of May, I really struggled to get back to being vegan, especially when I was hungover and I would crave a proper sloppy Tuna & Cheese melt and I would find myself genuinely arguing with brain about whether I should have one or not (I always agreed that I should).
What followed where weeks I would feel guilty so I would force myself to be a strict vegan, followed by a week where I would practically binge on dairy and fish.
Then about a month ago, I made the decision to stop torturing myself and just switch from being vegan to being a vegetarian.
I loved the vegan challenge. I felt like I was doing my bit to make a difference in the world whilst also becoming this creative person in the kitchen. But once I’d tasted that first Tuna and Cheese melt, I knew I would want it again, I just didn’t want to admit it. Fish is something I love and it just kept creeping back into my diet, as did egg and cheese. Then three weeks ago I had all three in one sitting – a cream cheese and salmon bagel with a poached egg on top, and as I took that first bite, I knew I could no longer keep posting about being a full vegan.
I honestly felt so much shame. I felt like I was failing and I HATE falling, especially when I could sense that so many people out there had wanted me to fail at this. So many people told me I couldn’t do it.
I also felt guilty.
I’d convinced myself I was doing this partly for animals. I felt it was my duty as an animal-lover to protect all animals, and do my bit to help aid a movement that if grown big enough, could one day end crulety to animals.
But how could I believe this and then sit there and eat eggs and fish??
Upon changing from vegan to vegetarian I then got quizzed about exactly that – how could I eat fish? Apparently eating fish takes away my vegetarian status and makes me a pescetarian. I quickly found myself starting to get stressed about what category I fell into, or how I should be describing myself – veggie? Pescie? Plant-based? Or maybe just a girl who can’t make-up her bloody mind.
That’s when I realised that the hardest part about this whole thing, even from the very beginning, has been defining who I am to others in regards to what I eat.
What I eat shouldn’t define who I am. I shouldn’t be stressing about labels.
Why did I care so much about what other people thought of me or labelled me as?
Why did other people care so much about what label I was? Or what I was eating?
That has generally been the hardest part of this all, other peoples reactions, and feeling attacked just for choosing to have a different diet to others.
Veganism is still a huge part of my life and my diet, I still plan to cook lots of vegan meals and share the recipes. And in January I will 100% be doing Veganuary again and trying to encourage as many people as I know to do it too.
In fact there are some things I have fully converted to such as soya milk and tofu
(…and other things I’ll always crave, such as Tuna *feels a pang of fish guilt*)
Ultimately I want to enjoy my food, whilst also looking after myself and of course trying to do my bit for a better world, and I can honestly say I think that is something I am currently achieving.
I have learnt so much about food over the past eight months and I want to continue reading and studying this and understanding everything that I am putting into this very precious body of mine.