Not long ago, telling people you were vegan would’ve elicited a unilaterally hostile response.
There would’ve been gasps and sighs and maybe even condolences offered, as you mourned the death of your bordering-on-obsessive halloumi habit.
Now, when plant-based diets are more popular than ever before, vegans are far more likely to be met with congratulations than commiserations – probably from fellow vegans – and after having been vegan for 10 weeks myself, I can already see why.
I’ll admit, I was sceptical at first. For me, Veganuary – where non-vegans commit to trying veganism for the entire month of January – was predicated by parmesan cravings and actual dreams about pizza (in case you hadn’t guessed, cheese and I had a special relationship).
However, when I once didn’t think I’d make it past a full day (day one of Veganuary was obviously New Year’s Day and my hungover self was desperately seeking doughnuts), I’ve now been completely plant-based for 10 weeks and I don’t see myself giving it up anytime soon.
Let me explain.
While I don’t quite identify as an evangelical vegan – I don’t take pictures of my meals and ‘I <3 vegetables’ is not listed on my dating app bio – the positive changes I’ve noticed in such a short period of time have been enough to keep me going.
Sure, there are a few non-vegan foods I find myself yearning for (no points for guessing what), but on the whole, the mental and physical benefits I’ve noticed far outweigh the few niggling cravings.
Ethical and environmental benefits aside, there are endless studies that document the myriad health benefits reaped by vegans, including lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and protecting you against diabetes.
So, here are just a few of the things I’ve noticed since I went cold (and meatless) turkey.
I’ve become a yoga-obsessed radioactive unicorn
Okay not quite, but this is probably one of the sarcastic jabs I would’ve made last year when vegan friends raved rabid about the benefits of chickpea pasta while I happily scoffed down a cheeseburger.
I have however, discovered a newfound love of yoga. Again, I’m not quite at the enlightened “spiritual” level that the vegan yogi stereotype perpetuates – whereby I hiccup in “oms”, end sentences with “namaste” and sweat coconut water – but I relish in this slower and more mindful way of exercising, which just so happens to neatly align with my more mindful way of eating.
In fact, restraint is one of the key components in the classical definition of yoga, known as “ahimsa”, which in Hindu and Buddhist traditions also translates to “compassion”.
My digestion is tickety boo
Studies show that vegans benefit from good gut health thanks to an increase in fibre intake. This can subsequently lead to lower levels of inflammation and elevated digestive health. This is definitely something I’ve noticed.
Despite eating no more or less than I was before in terms of calories, I find that I digest almost every meal I’ve consumed within the hour – regardless of how quickly or greedily I might’ve eaten it. Plus, on the odd occasion when I do eat a little more than I probably should (because vegans are only human too), I feel back to normal in no time.
Whereas a heavy meal the night before would’ve once left we rising the next day with a heavy stomach plagued by pangs of self-loathing, now, it’s like it never happened.
Also, I’m hardly ever bloated: a godsend for my high-waisted jeans, which can now make it through even the most gluttonous of days fully zipped and buttoned.
I have more energy
“But, aren’t you tired all the time?” said every non-vegan to every vegan ever.
Actually, no. Obviously if I’ve had a night out on the tiles till 4am like the wayward 23-year-old I am, then yes, it’s likely that I will feel a bit sleepy the next day, regardless of my diet.
But for the most part, I feel more energised than I ever did in my meat and cheese-feasting days.
For example, I no longer get that 4pm slump after one too many cappuccinos and most mornings I wake up before my alarm – I know, I am virtuous vegan, hear me roar.
My skin is clearer
This was something I read might happen – and to be honest, I wasn’t convinced until I returned to work after a holiday in the US – at which point I was a six-week-old vegan – and three colleagues complimented me on my “glowing” skin.
Naturally, I proceeded to walk around the office for an entire week like the smug, spotless vixen that I now am.
I have learned to indulge ‘the vegan way’
Ah hummus, pitta bread and peanut butter, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Ah raw vegan chocolate… I do love thee too, but your £8.99 price tag bears the black mark of retailers capitalising on “vulnerable” and “hungry” vegans who ought to know better.
After just a few weeks of being vegan, I quickly learned that there are ways to indulge in plant-based treats without succumbing to the inflated price tags and readily-available junk food staples that just to happen to be vegan (think Oreos and French fries).
In fact, there are a number of indulgent vegan foods on offer that are both pocket and waistline-friendly, when consumed in moderation.
So, if you have recently gone vegan and you find yourself slowly sinking into social Siberia, where people judge, scorn and impose their preconceived notions onto you of what veganism should or shouldn’t be (this happens quite a lot to me), remember that your identity is not dictated by your diet – and thank goodness for that.