I’ve been pescatarian for nearly ten years now – for anyone who doesn’t know this means I don’t eat meat but I do eat fish and dairy. Basically a vegetarian plus fish. When I was a teenager I was very attuned to political and ethical issues, but unfortunately as I’ve got older I’ve stopped being so switched on to what goes on outside my bubble. I think studying politics at university burnt me out, and I haven’t managed to re-engage outside of the big events like General Elections. Caring about stuff is very exhausting. Back in the day, shortly after I left home I did go through a phase of eating vegan more often than not. I remember the thrill of finding really cool freefrom stuff in the supermarkets. It was quite rare back then, and it used to reeeeeally excite me. Sainsbury’s did chocolate buttons and stuff which I LOVED.
The idea of going vegan for a month is super exciting for me. There’s so much more choice now and it’s a lot more mainstream. I’ve done a Sainsbury’s shop and I’m honestly so impressed. I’ve got vegan cheddar on the order, but it was SO HARD not to add all the many vegan cheese options they offer. Oh, and jus-rol puff and shortcrust pastries are vegan too! Pies here I come!!!!
Anyway, apart from nostalgia and food excitement, there are a few, more legitimate, reasons I’m giving up eggs and dairy for a month:
There are people who will say that I’m a terrible human for knowing what goes on in the dairy industry while still consuming cheese, milk, eggs etc. Maybe I am. As a pescatarian I always feel like I’m a pariah of dietary choices. Meat eaters question it and vegans don’t like it. It’s either too much or not enough for everyone except fellow pescatarians.
Thing is, I do care about animals. I don’t like that calves are torn from their mothers, I don’t like how chickens are crammed in, I don’t like the cruel living conditions of livestock. But there are lots of other things I don’t like about the world too, and everyone had to draw the line somewhere. At least, for one month, I won’t be contributing to the industry. If it goes well then I’ll consider going vegan for one week every month or something. I’m not sure I want to do it full time, and I’m very much of the (controversial) view that encouraging people to make small changes can have a bigger impact in the long run because more people are likely to do it.
Climate change and the degradation of habitats are issues that keep me awake at night. I used to work in sustainability so I’m very aware of the issues and the consequences we have ahead of us. The meat and dairy industries are horrible for the planet and a horribly inefficient way to feed such an expansive population.
Not eating meat mitigates some of this, but going fully vegan makes a much larger impact as it cuts out anything to do with animals. Of course all farming comes with its problems – deforestation for soya beans for instance. However a vegan diet is largely believed to have a far less significant impact on the planet than a diet containing meat and dairy. Again, if more people would make small changes the impact could be huge.
As it’s just been Christmas my body is screaming at me for all the crap I’ve eaten. SO MUCH CHEESE. I’m basically MADE OF CHEESE at this point. It can’t do me any harm to stay off the cheese for a bit after the binge is over.
I don’t think a vegan diet is automatically healthier, in fact there is a greater risk of nutrient deficiencies if you’re not careful. However eating a more restrictive diet means I will be thinking more about what I’m eating anyway. I’ll have to make sure I’m getting enough vitamin B12 and iron and all the other things that are usually sourced from animal products. Being conscious of it will probably mean I actually get more than usual. Plus I’m far more likely to eat my five fruit and veg every day if my diet is primarily plant based.
A test of willpower
I LOVE food. That is no secret. Food is life and food is love. It’s going to be really, really difficult not eating some of my favourite foods for a whole month. I managed to give up chocolate for lent last year, which was hard enough. This is cheese, chocolate, cake, eggs, biscuits…. uuuuuugh so much tasty food. Of course there are substitutes, and we will see how much they help me banish the cravings.
My willpower does need exercising. I need a way to remind myself that I can say no to food when offered, and that I can still eat a lot of tasty meals without some of the more fatty stuff. I love vegetables, I’m not fussy at all. But for some reason I still always opt for the cheese and sugar instead. Well, I’m not going to have that option and hopefully successfully completing veganuary will reset my capacity to eat the right stuff.
Find out more about veganuary at veganuary.com