Whatever Veganuary had in store for you, Clea Grady has your next steps covered…
On January 1st, I celebrated my five-year ‘Veganniversary’. I went vegan after trying it for a month back at the start of 2014, so I have a few tips on how to transition from a fun 31 day trial to a permanent and enjoyable lifestyle.
Looking back, I’d like to think that I would have gone vegan with or without Veganuary, but one of the things I am sure of is that it made my transition much easier for the people around me and that, in turn, made it easier for me.
But I’m probably getting a little ahead of myself. In order to look at where we’re going, it makes sense to review where we’re currently at. First, let’s see how January was for you…
It was easier than I expected!
I’ve heard this a lot over the years. In fact, it was one of the many revelations I experienced when I first went vegan. After the initial confusion, I was surprised at how quickly I settled into a ‘new normal’ and how much I enjoyed researching, cooking and, more importantly, eating vegan food.
If this is you, then I imagine you’re wondering what you now tell the people around you. It probably feels a little too early to come out completely, but is also much more than a month-long challenge that you can just move on from. If that’s the case, then I recommend saying something along the lines of what I said to my husband: “I think I might keep this up for a while and see where it takes me”. If your month was anything like mine then it’s unlikely it will illicit much surprise from your loved ones.
I fell off the wagon a few times, so I feel like I failed…
Because you’ve taken part in a challenge, it’s easy to assume that any slip-ups or difficulties are out-and-out failures and you should just give up and forget the whole thing – especially if you’re seeing masses of people on social media shouting about how easy they found it.
Rather than feeling disheartened, I suggest you ask yourself why you tried going vegan in the first place. This can be a bit like pushing a reset button and may be all you need to feel a renewed sense of confidence and purpose.
Equally, rather than focusing on what you didn’t achieve, try to concentrate on what you did. For most of us, trying vegan is a significant lifestyle change with an associated (and sizeable) mental shift, i.e. it’s not actually easy, it’s just easier than a lot of people expect.
Don’t beat yourself up for what you didn’t do, because you really deserve a rapturous round of applause for everything that you did. Wobbles are natural, and you might consider trying vegan again in February before taking those training wheels off.
It was okay, but I still miss milk in my tea and I’m really not a fan of vegan cheese!
You’re not alone here! One of the brilliant things about plant-based milk is that there are so many types and flavours to choose from, but one of the worst things about it is that there are so many it may take you a while to find ‘your milk’. It took my household a good couple of months to settle on one and it remains our favourite today. You may have to try a few options, but there is definitely a milk for you out there!
Vegan cheese has come on leaps and bounds in the past five years and we can now choose from supermarket own-brand to artisan, and everything in between. I was such a fan of dairy cheese that I basically didn’t touch plant-based cheese until I knew I was a fully committed vegan. By that time, my taste buds had changed so significantly that many of the vegan cheeses actually hit the spot. But I eat very differently now, so cheese is a treat rather than the daily requirement it was in my vegetarian life.
Wait… what? I missed the memo… I only heard about it last week!
Trying vegan is for life, not just for January! Try it today, try it tomorrow, or ready your kitchen and try it next week. There is no time limit on when, how or where you can make changes and there is no end of support out there.
If you have vegan friends, then reach out to them, because vegans love to talk about being vegan! I share or buy the new vegans in my life my favourite cookbook as a way of paying forward a present that was given to me when I first went vegan. You may even score a few dinner invites out of it as well!
Top Tips to Stay Vegan
Take it day by day
You don’t have to make sweeping declarations of intent to everyone you know. This is your choice and you are allowed to do it your way. Going vegan is a marathon and not a sprint after all.
This is especially relevant in the areas of your life outside of food: clothing, shoes, toiletries, make-up, household products etc. When you go vegan it’s shocking to discover how animals are used in so many things that we take for granted, and it can feel totally overwhelming. Take it product by product, a bit at a time. When something runs out, replace it with a cruelty-free version; when something wears out, find a vegan alternative.
A happy vegan is a permanent vegan. I’m not saying that everything is going to always be rosy and there won’t be moments when it feels like the tougher choice, but being vegan is genuinely a joyful thing. Even on days where I feel like I’ve not really achieved anything, at least I’ve done all I can to cause the least harm on this hurting planet of ours. Being vegan is the thing I most like about myself.
Explore and discover
Like anything, it’s easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut. Keep vegan life fresh and fun by trying new menus at restaurants, learning different recipes, having pot-luck dinners with friends and sharing ideas on social media. The vegan train is moving fast, so there’s no need to be bored by plant-based life.
Remember the reasons for going vegan
Whether it was for your health, our environment, animals, or a combination of all three, taking time to remember is a way to stay on track if you feel you’re wobbling. Talking about it also helps and you’ll find that even the most ‘vegan of vegans’ have had moments when they feel a bit lost.
Despite the pace veganism is moving, a simple truth remains: about 70 billion land animals are slaughtered every year by humans. 70 billion as unique and aware as the dogs and cats with whom we share our homes – each with a personality and a desire to live. As Angela Davis once said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.