Veganuary: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In December 2020, I decided that I would take part in Veganuary. Prompted partly by reading Rich Rolls book “Finding Ultra” and “The Game Changers” on Netflix was determined to prove to myself I could manage it and if it lived up to all the hype. After much research, and signing up to the official Veganuary website, I was excited to get going.

Before I start, it’s important to mention that I’m by no means a cook. I don’t enjoy it and I’m not particularly good at it. Alex explained that she had little to no interest in becoming vegan and that I would be “going it alone”. I started this journey as a through and through meat eater. I love burgers and partial to a cheeky Nandos and my Christmas dinner consisted of no less than 5 types of meat (I’m including pigs in blankets as 2)

Veganuary was fast becoming a bigger undertaking than I imagined and it hadn’t even reached January 1st.

Armed with the The No Meat Athlete Cookbook (a very welcome Christmas to present) and some government enforced spare time (thanks BoJo), I set about trying to remove all meat and animal derived foods from my diet.

This blogpost aims to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ll let you know what I found easy and where the biggest challenges were.

Meals

Meal planning was step number one on my vegan journey. I set out with the ambition of not only going vegan but trying to eat whole foods. I quickly learned that this was a step too far for me, certainly as a first attempt, and I readjusted my goals.

I knew if I was going to make this work, I’d need to get better at meal planning, batch cooking and somehow finding the motivation to cook after a long day at work and a run.

One Pot Pasta

The meals were surprisingly straightforward. From homemade vegan meatballs to plant-based lasagna, I explored the different dishes and made some successful meals. Of course, I also had my fair share of “that needed more spice” and “it didn’t taste of much” meals. Essentially, I managed to eat the things I would usually eat by replaced the meat for lentils or beans.

Better Than Take-Away Curry

Snacks

I have always had a sweet tooth. Something that is directly linked to my weight. Now before I get reminded about “calories in/out and no food is bad food”, I want t point out that I have always very much been a 3 chocolate bars for £1.50 at the petrol station and they have all gone before I pull off the forecourt. My relationship with sweets is a love/hate one. I love eating them but hate how it makes me feel

Tenzing – 100% Vegan Energy Drink

I was wary of vegan snacks at first. Would they be tasteless? Would they be readily available?

The answer is a mixed bag. Some vegan snacks are delicious. I’m a big fan of the Graze cocoa and vanilla flapjacks and Eat Natural vegan bars. However, I also tried my fair share of blant, stodgy snacks.

In the most part they are pretty easy to pick up. Sainsbury’s and large Tescos seem to be the best. Tesco express, budgens and coop all had a few but not real selection. It’s also worth noting that many are considerably more expensive than normal treats.

So, that’s the basics. Now for my summary. I’ve divide this section into the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good (Top 3)

  1. I have dropped about 5kg since going vegan. It has been a steady weight loss without much effort. Losing 5kg in a month is relatively slow for me. When I have been on Slimming World in the past I can lose almost 5kg in a week. This hasn’t felt like I’m missing out and it I certainly haven’t felt hungry.
  2. My energy levels appear to have increased, although I’m not 100% sure I can put this all down to the vegan diet. Until I the day-to-day hectic nature of my life resumes (which will inevitably coincide with lockdown ending) it will be hard to say for sure.
  3. My mental wellness has improved. The vegan journey was never about being an “Eco warrior” or “Animal activist” but there is something surprisingly satisfying about knowing that my actions are having a positive impact on the world.

The Bad (Bottom 3)

  1. Vegan food is still considerably more expensive that non-vegan food. An example of this can be found with milk, where a 1l bottom of Alpro is £180 as opposed to £1 for the equivalent amount of cows milk. This is probably not the most extreme example (Easter eggs, chocolate, cheese) but it does highlight a problem. I can only see the prices becoming more comparable as more people chose “the lifestyle”.
  2. Although this hasn’t really applied, given my inability to go out, but I could imagine the vegan options when eating out are limited. I did some research on local restaurants and while everywhere did have a vegan option, it was quite often only one. If you eat out a lot like I do, it’s probably something to be mindful of. Definitely important to check the menu before booking.
  3. Some of the recipes are bland! Not just a little blank but extremely bland. I know that’s a case of seasoning but for a novice chef like me, I’d like to have had more default recipes with strong flavours.

The Ugly

There are no two ways about it. Veganism, or at least the transition to veganism, is a real shock to the system. Without going into too much detail, the aroma is extremely unpleasant for the first couple of weeks. Be prepared!

Plant Based Ice Coffees are amazing!

In Summary

I have found the transition to veganism far easier than I would every have imagined. It has been straightforward and I’ve enjoyed trying new foods and, dare I say it, doing all my own cooking.

The No Meat Athlete Cookbook – My vegan cooking bible

Would I recommend veganism? Well let’s put it this way, as I write this review I’m currently on week 2 of Vegebuary (see what I did there). I won’t be going back to animal products in my diet anytime soon… although the summer BBQ season is definitely going to test my resolve.

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