5 Catalysts That Made Me Go Vegan(ish)!

Photo by Josua De on Unsplash

Twelve months ago, if anyone would of told me I would go vegan(ish), I would of said ‘WTF’, yet in the past six months, my mindset has changed completely.   Firstly, the reason I say vegan(ish), is because I am vegetarian, moving towards veganism.  I don’t eat meat, eggs, milk, but have the odd occasion over the past 6 weeks or so had a small amount of chocolate and crisp that contain milk (yes this did cause me to go on a guilt trip).  I have found having a vegan lifestyle a challenge, mostly because I simply wasn’t prepared, and the times I have not planned or been prepared are the times I have failed, but I continue with my vegan aim.  However, I am now learning more about vegan friendly products and foods.

I don’t believe anyone changes overnight, I believe seeds are planted, these seeds grow, often without you realising, before you make a change.  These little seeds, some seemingly insignificant on their own, can be the catalyst to making a change.  After some reflection, I have realised the following 5 events / occasions were when those seeds were being planted for my vegan journey:

Catalyst No. 1 – Healthy eating

I made a decision earlier this year (2018), that I wanted to eat healthier, I started doing smoothie’s and generally eating what I thought were healthy foods, organic grass fed meat (whenever I could) and goats milk kefir, wild caught salmon etc.  I started my ‘healthy eating’ in January and started to gain weight because I thought I could have as much ‘healthy’ food as I wanted ………. WRONG, I was having up to 4 smoothies a day, not as meal replacements but as drinks in between meals, using lots of fruits including avocados, berries, bananas etc., most of these fruits once blended increase in sugar, yes it is natural sugar, but it has higher calories.  I was also  having Natures Path Nice and Nobbly Granola as a snack, I just have to squeeze in here, this granola is the best I have ever tasted, which by the way, I could not tolerate (because of the oats).  I was using lots of honey (before my vegan days), and baking peanut butter cookies etc.  What I didn’t realise is, yes whilst these are healthy, they can become unhealthy if you don’t use in moderation, lesson number 1 learnt!

Catalyst No. 2 – Forks Over Knives

Realising I had much to learn about healthy eating, I watched the Forks Over Knives documentary about healthy eating, this planted the first seed (no pun intended) for a plant based diet.  It was watching this documentary that made me realise we really don’t need animal foods in our lives, either for survival or health, in fact, we could be healthier without eating animal products.  This was a bit of a revelation for me, although I knew of vegetarians and vegan’s I had not really delved in to the impressive health benefits of a whole food plant based diet.

Catalyst No. 3 – My Dog Dying

This was probably the most significant seed for me, my dog’s premature death (age 3) shook my world.  Having never owned a dog before, I didn’t even consider the emptiness his passing would leave, this really was life changing for me.  This led me into watching You Tube videos of dogs, funny ones to start with to cheer myself up, then animal rescue videos, which made me cry but warmed my heart, then dogs and other animals rescuing and helping other animals and people.  This made me realise, just like people there are some very special animals out there, these videos are magical to watch and helped to restore my faith in there being a reason why we are all here, including animals.

Catalyst No. 4 – Earthling Ed

From watching animal videos, I came across a video by Earthling Ed, called  ‘You Will Never Look at Your Life the Same Way Again – Eye Opening Speech‘ I am not going to say much more, just watch it and then you will start to question the world in which we live.  This video really changed my mindset and made me want to educate myself about what is really going on.  It was this that led me to Catalyst No. 5.

Catalyst No. 5 – Earthlings

Be warned, the documentary ‘Earthlings’ is one of the most horrific things I have ever watched, it is not a gruesome horror film.  Although, it is real life horror for tens of millions of animals, animals that feel pain and fear, that do not deserve to be treated the way they do.  Oh and don’t be fooled by the ‘grass fed’ produce, these animals eventually meet the same barbaric fate as the rest of them.  Earthings is the most shocking thing I have ever watched, whilst I had always avoided watching anything to do with animal slaughter (like most meat eaters do), I felt I needed to know the truth, and so I watched.  I watched through floods of tears, on occasion I even shouted at the screen Noooooooo!  Such was my disbelief in how cruel so called humans can be.  Watching this, whilst haunting, gave me a completely new appreciation and respect for ALL living creatures, creatures that deserve to live free without unnecessary pain and suffering afflicted by us.  One thing that really struck me, is the emotions animals feel, similar to our emotions, love, fear, and maternal instincts.  Whilst this documentary is extremely difficult to watch, I urge you to watch as we should all know the truth, no matter how painful.  If you watch this and don’t change in any way, that is absolutely fine, at least you haven’t buried your head like I did for so long.  I also watched other documentaries after Earthlings on Netflix.com and YouTube.com these include ‘What the Health‘, ‘Cowspiracy‘ on Netflix,  and ‘Dominion‘ on You Tube amongst others.

Things are changing, be part of that change!

Whilst there are more vegan options out there, we are the consumers who can and should dictate what food is produced.  Vegan options are extremely limited in some places, if I have to eat whilst I am out by either picking something up in a shop for a quick lunch or a pub lunch, it is not uncommon for me to only have one or two options.  This is really not good enough, there is strong evidence that points to a plant based diet being one of the healthiest diets, read The China Study so why are we bombarded with unhealthy choices?  It could be resistance to change, profits or both, who knows.

Vegetarian or vegan are two words that seem to offend some people, before I was vegetarian, I would rarely try the vegetarian / vegan option in a restaurant.  I assumed they would taste weird or by ordering them would put me in the ‘weird camp’.  I was wrong, now some of the best food I have eaten are vegan.  I would like to see more people not necessarily turning vegan, unless they are ready to, but open your mind and try some vegan dishes, you may be pleasantly surprised.  The benefits of this, is that they are often more healthy and your choice of one vegan dish, can save unnecessary suffering.  I have read recently one vegan in effect saves the lives of 198 animals per year, most of which are bred to be enslaved for produce and slaughtered.  I have not researched the truth in this because numbers don’t matter, as long as I do my part and no animal suffers or dies because of me.  This illustrates that the little choices we make do matter, your choice matters.

Veganism is a social movement, change is happening right now as we speak, some corporations are responding to demand, there has been a huge increase in plant based milks for example (well they are delicious), and other vegan products, even ‘Greggs’ the bakers (UK) has announced they will be doing vegan sausage rolls.  I feel hope, hope for the future of animals, the environment, people’s health, hope that farmers will change what they farm, as demand grows, supply will meet it.

In my diet and lifestyle change, my soul is feeling purer than it ever has, nothing else has ever felt so right, I seem to be seeing things and people for what they are.  One day, I believe the ‘Kind’ in ‘Mankind’ will be well deserved!

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7 Things to Consider if you Want to go Vegan!

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Photo by Mariana Montes de Oca on Unsplash

To Vegan or not to Vegan

So, you have made the decision or you are toying with the idea of going vegan, congratulations, you have officially opened your mind.  If you decide to go vegan or eat a plant based diet, you will be doing a highly commendable act not only for the environment and the planet, but all human and animal kind.  You will feel cleansed and as free as much as you can be from the animal producing corporate  system, we have all unwittingly become a part of.  A system that put profits above everything including; animal slavery, animal torture, inhumane executions and the future of human and animal kind.  In going vegan, you will no longer fully support this abhorrent system.  As your body cleanses, you will seek knowledge about veganism and the truth will unfold, you will be as shocked as I was about how long your mind has been closed.

To me veganism is a journey, you cannot force someone or make them feel bad about eating and using animal food and products.  Only education of how these products come to be in the supermarkets you buy from will seal the deal for many new vegans.  Whether your decision was initially made to improve your health, animal welfare, the environment or a combination of these, you will gain a new more compassionate perspective on life for all living beings that feel pain and emotions.

So you have made your decision, now what …………  well for me, I naively thought I could go vegan literally overnight, some vegan’s may disagree with me, but I think as a meat eater, you need to transition slowly from vegetarian before progressing to veganism.  By doing this, you are more likely to successfully sustain a true vegan lifestle.

There are a lot of things to consider, I was extremely naive, thinking I could go from full almost daily meat eater to vegan overnight.  I was wrong, in the initial stages you may ‘fall off the wagon’, don’t punish yourself, you are still doing more than most people do in a lifetime.

So here are 7 of the things I didn’t really consider before attempting to go vegan:

  1  Food

Okay, obviously you need to consider food, this tip is more in preparation of going vegan.  Firstly, you need to collate some vegan friendly recipes before day One.  It is no use waking up with no plan in place, this is when you will be tempted to call into Greggs on the way to work, they’re breakfast menu only consists of meat, meat or errm …….. meat.  Day one of my ‘vegan lifestyle’ was a fail as I did not take breakfast to work, I purchased a bacon balm en-route, it was not an easy breakfast to eat, I just kept picturing eating a baby pig.  I learned that day to prepare my breakfast in advance, I now take either overnight oats or a smoothie with banana bread …..  obstacle overcome.  There has been only one day since day one, in the past two weeks I arrived at work with nothing (because I had not shopped) and I went without, rather than purchasing an animal product.

Consider your favourite dishes, can these be adapted to a vegan dish, one of my favourite dishes was cottage pie, I used quorn mince instead of beef mince, the quorn was the only item I changed, yes it was not as tasty as my beef mince but it was quite nice.  This week when I cook it I am going to put some extra salt, tamarin sauce, a splash of tabasco sauce and some lentils.  I will go easy and see how that comes out, whether it works or not I will be eating it (I can’t waste food), and if its a food fail, I will just make some slight adjustments until I get it spot on.  Beware, since making my cottage pie, I found out not all quorn is vegan friendly, it is vegetarian friendly but some do contain eggs.

The first time I went to the supermarket to get my ‘vegan’ groceries, I took about 4 or 5 times longer than usual, because there is not a ‘vegan  aisle, the vegan logo / symbols are not always highly visible on these products. I ended up searching looking for a staff member to help, which one did (reluctantly) as she explained she was already trying to help three other customers.  I usually shop online, but wanted to go and ‘see’ what I was buying, have a proper mooch around to see what the vegan options were.  Make sure you allow plenty of time for your first few shops, so you can explore the options, search for vegan products and learn where they are situated.

  2  Go at a snails pace

If you are opting for the whole food plant based diet, unless  you have a lot of money you may have to buy things gradually.  I am not saying it is more expensive, my shopping came out cheaper because meat and fish are expensive.  However, if you have never ate nuts and seeds and you want to be a healthy vegan, you could start introducing one variety at a time.  I started with sunflower seeds, sprinkling them on my overnight oats, my next purchase I will add pumpkin seeds, I want to use at least 4 different varieties for ………… variety of course.

I have just completed week two of my vegetarian / vegan diet, I have surprised myself that I have achieved more than I thought I would I planned to do it very slowly, but I have eliminated, meat, fish, eggs, I eliminated cows milk a few years ago and kefir goats milk a few months ago.

3  Have a clear out

If there is no-one else in your home that will eat your past-life foods such as meat, eggs, fish etc.  give them away, I gave mine away, then I filled my fridge / freezer with healthy plant based foods.  If you have no animal products in your home, you will not be tempted to fall back in to old unhealthy practices.

Also check all labels, you will be surprised the foods that have animal products in, watch out for gelatine, it is made from animals.  Although, there are other products that surprised me, some Bisto gravy granules for example is vegan friendly.

4  Beauty Products and Toiletries

My beauty products and toiletries was not something I really thought about when I decided to go vegan, it clicked probably on day two or three, that if I wanted to be vegan I have to do it fully.  So I started looking through my beauty products and toiletries I had at home, not one of them had a ‘vegan’ symbol on and although some said 100% natural, none stated they did not test on animals, I assume they do, if they don’t state otherwise.  I have the option to give or throw all these products away, but that would cost me a substantial amount of money to replace, so I have decided to replace bit by bit.  I purchased a roll on deodorant  Dr Organic Tea Tree Deodorant which is vegan from Holland and Barratt, I will try other items over time.  I really like the deodorant, it smells lovely and clean, I feel fresh all day long.  I also discovered to my surprise that Superdrug do a good range of their own vegan products, look for the bunny symbol.

5  Household Products

My next consideration was household cleaning products such as washing powder , washing liquid.  I have not got that far into veganism yet, so need to do more research, looking at the vegan eco friendly products on Amazon, they seem expensive.  I am aware, there are cleaning products out there that do not use animal products or test on animals, but you would not necessarily associate them with vegan products.  One such brand is Astonish.  Astonish state on their website We’ve never tested our products on animals or used animal ingredients’.  This is good news because, they are reasonably cheap products and I already have some in my cupboard.  I need to do a lot more research on household products and explore the idea of making my own cleaning products at home.

6  Clothes

Apart from the obvious, leather shoes and bags etc. I never even considered other clothing, a true vegan does not wear wool.  I recently purchased a hat with winter coming in, then found out vegan’s don’t even wear wool, lucky for me when I checked the label it was polyester……. phew!  Okay, I admit I did not do my research on veganism, but I could not understand why wool was not okay, don’t sheep need shearing to stop their coats getting too long and matted, so what’s wrong with shearing them? do we not get haircuts? do we not get certain breeds of dogs trimmed?  I did a little research on this and found PETA gave the clearest explanation ….. now I get it, no wool for me then.

7  Temptation Is All Around

In the UK, when you need to grab lunch to takeaway, there is meat everywhere, the vegetarian options are limited, the vegan options even more so, although city centres seem to be better.  I went into Marks and Spencers to pick up lunch on the way back from a meeting and I could not find anything that didn’t contain meat, fish, cheese or eggs.  I asked two members of staff if they had any vegetarian options, I purposely didn’t ask for vegan options as I struggled to find anything without animal products in.  As nice and helpful as the staff were, they looked at me, looked at each other, one of them screwed her face up, I know she didn’t mean to, but it did make me feel like an ‘awkward customer‘.  Nevertheless she helped me look, we found one dish, a pasta spinach pine nut salad, I wasn’t exactly spoilt for choice, so I purchased it.  I highly recommend making your own lunches.

I still have a lot of self-educating to do, I expect my full vegan journey to take between 1-2 yrs, if that seems like a long time, it is.   During this time I will probably be 80-90% vegan, and the remainder vegetarian, but I expect it will take me longer to get to the 100% vegan mark, which I can sustain for the rest of my life.

One final tip, not really a consideration, but ask around, tell people you are going vegetarian / vegan, you will be surprised who is vegan or can point you in the right direction.  Talk to these people because you can learn from them, they have already passed the stage your at and can offer useful advice / tips and even recipes.

I am finding my feet in the vegan world and don’t expect to be galloping in these early days, but over time, I will learn all about this new, clean, ethical and healthy lifestyle.