A lot of vegans are asked why they choose the vegan lifestyle and I thought I’d use this post to tell you about how I ended up becoming vegan.
Growing up my Mum had always had an interest in vegetarian cooking and we had a couple of vegetarian cookbooks at home. (Good old fashioned 70s/80s style!) We ate Quorn probably about once a week, either as mince in a bolognese/chilli or pieces in a stir fry. Talking to my Mum about this she said the reasons were mainly health ones but also it was convenient and it gave us another option food wise. We also had a number of vegetarians/pescatarians in the family so my Mum was used to catering for them when they visited.
I had never been a great lover of meat. I didn’t eat pork or ham and I couldn’t stand bacon. I think this was somewhat influenced by having to walk behind the kitchens when I went into school every morning and the smell of bacon frying at that time of the morning just turned my stomach. I wasn’t particularly fond of beef and found chicken boring/bland.
I started drinking soya milk when I was at uni in 2003/4 again as I wasn’t particularly fond of cows milk and I’m glad to see the dairy free milk industry has come on leaps and bounds in terms of products and availability since I shunned dairy milk.
I decided to go vegan at the end of 2009. I had been eating less and less meat throughout the year and it just seemed right. My reasons were more environmental at first and it just seemed so unnecessary to use all these resources to produce food I wasn’t particularly enjoying when I could eat a wholesome vegan diet. In November 2009 my Mum and I went on holiday to Vienna and we came across a lovely vegetarian restaurant and my eyes were opened to high end vegetarian catering!
I had decided the last meat I was going to eat was at my work team’s Christmas meal. I had steak and it was alright but it didn’t make me doubt my decision at all. I went into plant based eating full on and although I had read a lot I did find it quite difficult and limiting at first. After about 9 months I faltered and decided it would be easier to be vegetarian. I was still drinking soya milk but introduced cheese/eggs etc back into my diet. I had also had a flair up of anxiety following buying my flat and as I was getting a lot of help from my now husband and family I didn’t think it was fair to expect them to cook fully vegan meals for me. I was still drinking dairy free milk and all the baking I did was still completely vegan.
I was vegetarian for about 18 months after that but it still didn’t sit right with me. I continued to educate myself online about the dairy and egg industry and joined a couple of groups on Facebook. In 2012 I decided to transition to veganism but this time I was going to do it differently. I started eliminating the animal products I still ate slowly one by one and not beating myself up if I accidentally ate something or gave in to temptation. This started with not buying or cooking eggs, but I would still eat products that contained eggs. This took the pressure off as I didn’t have to frantically scan every packet I was buying. I then stopped eating cheese on weekdays, allowing it only at weekends as a treat. Then it easily became none at the weekends either. I replaced products I used regularly containing milk/egg/honey with animal free alternatives and then checking new products didn’t seem so overwhelming. I would say by May 2012 I had fully transitioned to a vegan diet and I have assigned May 15th as my veganniversary!
“But, Plumes” I hear you cry! “veganism isn’t just a diet! What about other lifestyle changes?”
Well in terms of clothes I didn’t own much leather/wool/silk to begin with but equally I didn’t throw anything out as I didn’t want to create waste. I just started checking any new items I bought and investigated vegan brands. (I’ll have to do a whole other post on my fave vegan retailers!)
By joining communities on Facebook and in real life (!) via the London Vegan Meetup Group I found my knowledge expanding through word of mouth and lots of my questions were answered in passing. I found this a lot less isolating then when I had initially tried veganism on my own.
I don’t wear a lot of makeup but again like clothes I didn’t have a huge clear out either. I just replaced my items as they ran out with vegan alternatives. Like many I was naive regarding animal testing in the beauty industry and as it seemed such an antiquated idea to me I couldn’t believe it was still so widespread!
Again I didn’t beat myself up as I learnt new things. I particularly remember someone asking a group for vegan toothpaste recommendations and thinking to myself “What?! Toothpaste’s not vegan either?” But you just adapt as you go along.
I have already blogged about my preferred cleaning products here, but this was another learning process of asking what other people used and recommended and trying things out for myself.
I said at the beginning that my initial reasons for going vegan were environmental but as I’ve learnt more about production methods in the agriculture industry I feel like I have become more compassionate towards animals and by not causing them pain, suffering or death I feel a closer affinity with them. I have also seen health benefits since turning vegan. I used to suffer from bacterial ear infections frequently as a child and into my mid-twenties. I also found I took a long time to recover from colds and had a lot of mucus (gross right?) as well as what I call an itchy inner ear which caused me to do this weird thing with my throat to try and scratch it. I have heard this referred to as clucking but my brother named it goomping due to the noise it makes! Since I have been vegan I have not had a bacterial ear infection and I definitely have a lot less mucus. I do still goomp occasionally, but I think this is usually when I am dehydrated and it is a lot less than I used to!
The support I have received has also really helped me. My Mum is a total star and if you are a regular visitor to my blog you will know I go swimming and have dinner with her every week and she is forever coming up with new meals from recipes she has researched online or looked up in her now growing vegan cookbook collection! She has been really responsive to all the information I have given her and in January I challenged her and her partner to go vegetarian for a month. She really enjoyed it and both of them have to decided to no longer eat meat although they will eat fish. My Sister-in-law has been vegetarian for over 20 years and transitioned to veganism over the last couple of years, its great to have a partner in crime at family events and I love discovering new vegan eats with her. My husband is not at all vegetarian but he eats mainly vegetarian at home and is becoming more and more willing to try new things. My Mother-in-law also goes to a great effort to cater for me when we frequently visit her home and she also introduces me to new products I haven’t been aware of before. I also love the online vegan community, especially on Twitter. I have chatted with so many great people and its great to share recipes, ideas and tips with other like-minded people. #veganhour is Tuesdays 7pm – 8pm UK time and is great place to chat to vegan peeps.
At my 30th birthday I decided to offer a totally vegan buffet. It was my party and I wanted to be able to eat everything! Some people had asked me prior to the event whether it would be fully vegan and I think they were pleasantly surprised (or they just ate before they came!) My vegetarian great-aunt sent me card after saying how much she enjoyed the party and how lovely it was for her to be able to eat everything. Something she had never experienced at a party.
Veganism moves more and more into the mainstream as time goes on. There is a lot more exposure of the lifestyle in the media and supermarkets and restaurants are offering more and more options to our growing demographic. Part of the reason I started this blog was to show people what vegans eat and how its not all weird ingredients you can only get in specialist health food shops. The feedback I have received has all been positive. I try to share information in an encouraging, non-judgemental way and although I don’t claim to be an expert I’m happy to try and answer any questions or let you know where you can find the answers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and learning a bit more about me!