Sunday, 12 June 2016

The 9 Most Shocking Things About Being Vegan

When I became a Vegan earlier this year I never dreamt it would have such a profound change on my life. As a dairy avoiding vegetarian I wasn't expecting the diet to be much of a departure. Sure I worried that I was letting myself in for an inordinate amount of cooking and (in the early days) lots of label checking but I  couldn't imagine how fundamentally different the diet would be to my previous one, or to how different I would feel on it.
I also wasn't prepared for peoples reactions. Who knew that saying no to animal products could inspire such an extreme level of both congratulation and  criticism. 

As a plus size fashion blogger of many years, I felt I was well acquainted with on-line snark, aggression and judgement by strangers, but being a vegan really opens your eyes about how complex our relationship with food is.  To some people, what you choose to put on your dinner plate can push a huge amount of buttons.
I totally respect that many people who follow plus size bloggers avoid diet talk at all costs. To this end you will never see me discuss anything about my vegan diet regarding any effect on my weight or body shape. 
That said I don't feel I have to conform to any notion of what it is to be a plus size blogger. I've always felt its a broad church and that there is room for us all to celebrate our individuality.
I will be discussing food, my relationship with it and health in this post. If that's not your thang, no worries but now I feel settled into being a vegan I thought I would share some of the highs and lows of my new diary and meat free reality.

#1 Everything Has Animal In It (well almost)

When I first started food shopping as a vegan I was astounded at how many foods contain animal derivatives and eggs or milk (whey powder) I took for granted that yoghurt, cakes and cheesy sauces would contain it but it really is shoehorned into the most strange things. Doritos (but not all flavours) pesto, bread (but not all brands) even extra strong mints. For years I had been living under the assumption that I ate a mainly animal product free diet but only once I became vegan did I realise that gelatine, bone (found in a lot of sugar) and beef stock is contained in a ton of foods you really wouldn't imagine. It was a total eye opener regarding what a load of rubbish is pumped into the most innocent looking foods. 

#2 There Are Lots Of "Accidentally Vegan" Products 

Just as you are about to despair that you will never again enjoy a Jammy dodger or that a crisp butty will be a thing of a past you discover the "accidentally vegan" gem. There are whole websites and instagram accounts dedicated to the foods, that somehow didn't get the memo that everything must contain animal DNA, and are unwittingly Vegan. I quickly learnt that Vegans pass this information around via facebook pages, forums and twitter hashtags like animal loving town criers. The news that bacon flavoured frazzles were pig free kept me going for weeks and don't get me started on the joy of discovering Oreos were vegan.

#3 Vegans Are Viewed As Extremists

I was a rubber shoe wearing, almond milk drinking, cruelty free make up wearing vegetarian for years. In that time I can honestly not recall receiving one negative comment, or having the piss taken out of me once (well not for my dietary habits) Wow what a difference a word makes. Take out the terian and suddenly it as if you have started advocating for Donald Trump, or are sharing Britain First Memes. Some people really think you have gone batshit crazy. Being a Vegan is a bit like being a fat woman. There is a widely held consensus that its absolutely fine to make uninvited comments, to be rude, aggressive and to treat us plant eating folks as totally other. In the same way fat haters hang their bullying on "health" vegans bashers will constantly quote bad science and rejoice in telling us how crankish and daft we are. Quite why they are so threatened by someone eating tofu is beyond me.

#4 People Assume You Are Vegan For The Animals

Its not all about you Mister Truffles

Its a widely held view that all Vegans are animal obsessed nut jobs who value  furry friends over humankind. Whilst the cruelty of meat and diary production was of course a huge factor for me, my reasons for becoming vegan were actually  much more complex than that. From an environmental point of view beef production is destroying miles and miles of rain forest every day. It takes gallons of water to produce one beefburger and if we stopped giving all the grain to animals we could solve world hunger. It became impossible for me to compartmentalise my  compassion. The planet is in bad shape and our obsession with eating huge amounts of meat is leading to damage to the eco system which will probably make the world a really tough place for our grand kids to live in. I just started to realise that I could recycle until I was blue in the face, could cycle to work, buy fair trade coffee but these things were just gestures, good yes but they didn't really tackle the wider issue. We all need to tread a lot more lightly on this earth. Not just because its a "good" thing to do, not because it makes us feel sanctimonious but because if we don't, there wont be much of a planet for us to live on sooner than you think. And I happen to think planet earth is a rather beautiful place to live.

#5 Its Not Expensive (but it can be)
A typical weekly shop from Aldi

Not long ago I saw a delightfully snarky twitter thread full of vegan haters saying how impossibly middle class it is to be vegan. How working class people haven't got the time or money to be soaking blackbeans overnight and how we all "thought we were so healthy" whilst eating pringles and oreos. I was sad to see the person spouting this was a fellow plus size blogger. Its the equivalent of saying all fat people are unhealthy. Its just ill educated, and very judgemental.  Of all the myths to debunk the one that says eating a plant based diet is more expensive is the biggest. I shop mainly at Aldi, I have filmed my food shops for my Youtube channel so people can see exactly what I buy and how much it costs (around £60 a week) If you buy only organic fruit and veg, buy a lot of free from items and stuff from whole food shops of course it will add up but you can eat really well on a budget. I know, I do it.

#6 You Can Still Eat Really Badly-Its Not All Quinoa Chips

When you first start eating a vegan diet you tend to want to replicate what you know. I used to eat a lot of quorn meat substitutes and found myself hunting down similar products which were vegan. These are fine and dandy in moderation but a lot of them are still GMO foods and can be packed with additives. Similarly whilst woman can not live by salad alone, its easy to fall into the "Its vegan, I can eat it, I shall eat it" mentality. Yes Pop tarts are vegan, but they are also full of sugar and things you cant pronounce so should probably not form part of your daily diet. Eating vegan foods does not mean taking zero interest in the nutritional content of what you consume. Sure a lot of the heavy lifting is done for you by the sheer fact that a lot of foods no longer feature but the whole point is mindful eating. For me giving palm oil the swerve kind of put the kibosh on a lot of high sugar foods anyway and after the initial thrill of gorging on Vego chocolate bars had passed I moved into a more balanced approach. Eating what I want but making sure I'm packing in a lot of fruit, veg and supplements. Yes I want to save the planet and stop animal cruelty but I also want to have enough energy to juggle my busy life.

#7 Vegan Farts

Switching to a vegan diet instantly made my husband and daughter feel amazing. Nicky Rockets was almost evangelical about how well he felt. For me it took a bit longer. I have always suffered from mild IBS, triggered in the main by dairy (hence eating very little before becoming fully vegan) and in the first few weeks I really struggled with stomach cramps, bloating and a lot of wind. I joked that I wasn't sure I was helping the planet at all with the amount of methane I was producing but I didn't feel great. I can only compare it to feeling like my body was detoxing, like a two week hangover. It was tough. I started to wonder if I would simply have to reintroduce some diary (something I really didn't want to do)  when almost overnight all my symptoms disappeared. I had read up that my symptoms weren't uncommon in the early days and had tweaked my intake of fibre and laid off the beans and it was as if something clicked. I started to feel really, really well. My nails were strong, my skin was clear and my monthly bouts of pre menstrual blues were less fierce and shorter. Put simply I have never felt better. I can only speak from my own experience, this may not be the case for everyone but for me its been nothing short of extraordinary how well I have started to feel, both physically and mentally. Thankfully the vegan farts have gone now too. 

#8 Its Made My Relationship With Food Really Healthy (No pun intended)

As someone with a history of disordered eating one of my biggest concerns when becoming vegan was that my old food demons would rear their ugly head. It took me a really long time to stop attaching personal moral judgement to what was on my plate and I had no interest in becoming obsessed with what I ate. I'm going to write more about this element because it deserves a whole blog post but becoming vegan has made my relationship with food the healthiest it has ever been. I now realise that the food I buy has a much wider impact than simply sustaining me. By taking responsibility for how my food choices impact the planet I have also freed myself from buying into the notion that foods fall into "good" and "bad"  categories. I feel that when you eat a vegan diet you don't have to consider if you are "eating clean" or "smashing diet culture" its a far more loving and less self obsessed approach to food. For me it really works. 

#9 I Go On Culinary Adventures

Now if we go out for the day and plan on stopping somewhere for lunch I will research where serves vegan food. This has led to me and my family visiting some wonderful places which we simply wouldn't have bothered with previously. For example we went for a long weekend to Glastonbury because we heard it had lots of vegan restaurants. This led to us visiting magical wells and climbing ancient ruins. Yesterday we nipped into Liverpool and found ourselves having lunch in a cute little independent cafe, hidden up a side street which served the most delicious food on 1970's pottery and had live folk music playing. Cooking has become fun, even the disasters (my lentil burgers aren't great) are entertaining and when you create a really yummy vegan dinner it feels like such an achievement. To live a beautiful, peaceful life, full of delicious food really doesn't feel like a sacrifice, it feels like a gift.

Check out this weeks cruelty free beauty picks 

Check out my Youtube channel for vlogs, beauty, fashion  and vegan inspired reviews.


Brand New eco Design  over at  Nicky Rockets
Printed on climate neutral, fair trade tees in water based ink. 

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