I invited my dear friend Kat to write a blog on choosing to follow a vegan diet as if you have been following this blog, you will see that I’ve recently started to learn more about eating mindfully. I don’t know if I could follow a vegan diet myself (I struggle with vitamin deficiencies so it might not be wise at this moment!) but I was interested in finding out more about it. So a big thank you to Kat, and I hope you all enjoy reading about her experiences 🙂
Being vegan by Kat Djali
My girlfriend and I were travelling in South East Asia. It was Christmas, and we were on the island of Koh Tao, in the South China Sea. We were getting our food from street vendors most evenings, and eating from plastic plates whilst sitting on children’s garden furniture – it was perfect. We weren’t vegan at the time, but we noticed how meat was valued and savoured – tiny little pieces adorning rice or noodle dishes, no steaks, no whole chicken breasts. We were enjoying this food more than any other and this got us thinking – we eat far too much meat in the UK, and we don’t even appreciate its abundance. At this point, we both decided that when we went home, we were going to use meat in this careful and thoughtful way, and consciously reduce the amount we ate.
Back in the UK, the cough that I have had most of my life returned. I hadn’t noticed it was gone when we were travelling and what was different was that I was eating dairy at home. In that instant, I decided to cut out dairy and eggs, and whilst I was at it, I decided to formally cut out meat, as our meat consumption had naturally become so low that it was almost absent from our diets. Noticing I had become vegan, I decided to read a little bit about it…
First of all, I visited some vegan websites, ones that told me about animal rights, ones that told me about the environmental benefits of a vegan diet, and ones which told me about the incredible health benefits. This really began to cement my decision – my body was beginning to tell me it was happier with this new diet, and everything I read made sense to me, and seemed unarguably ‘right’. My initial reasons for veganism were all about health, but as you will see, it was and is a journey I’m still on, and the reasons become deeper each day. I’m not going to say it was a flawless transition, or that it has always been easy, but if there’s one thing to take from this, it is just that – it isn’t always easy. Becoming vegan meant questioning myself, opening myself up to the criticism, ridicule and judgment of others, criticising myself, and above all, failing.
Let’s talk about failure. In the early days of being a vegan, when I first failed – by eating a double cheeseburger – I thought that was it, no second chances; you can no longer call yourself a vegan. That is the rhetoric of self-punishment, something which nobody needs. It was also coupled with shame, as I knew there were plenty of people waiting for me to fail – waiting for the slip-up to confirm that it was all just a pointless fad, because hey, if you slip-up, it mustn’t be worthwhile. That’s not true, and failure is not the end of it. It’s a commitment to a cause that is so much bigger and more important that I am. For me, veganism is less about what I do and do not want to eat, but the political decision to represent an alternative choice, one which represents a world in which violence, exploitation and dominance cease.
On to success; there are a few things which I know have really helped me be 100% vegan for the last 2 ½ years. The first is not a pleasant one, and it involves the confrontation and criticism of yourself, and exposure to unpleasant realities. When I first went vegan, I needed to be informed, and I needed to open up a part of me that has been shut down since childhood – ‘no exceptions compassion’. What I had to do was watch documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives, watch YouTube videos such as this one by Philip Wollen, and this one from The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. I had to observe some unpleasant footage from inside slaughterhouses, and generally watch things most people would usually avoid. I did this often at the beginning, keeping my reasons at the forefront of my mind, reminding myself that this choice meant more to me than my self-declared freedom to eat and exploit living beings. The second is to be kinder to myself and others, giving a little to get a little…inviting people for dinner and sharing with them food that I have prepared, dispelling the myth that vegan food is tasteless and unsatisfying, and talking honestly and factually when people are interested. The third thing which has helped is the change that has happened over the last few years – most places have a vegan option on the menu, the range of vegan foods is ever growing, and the internet is full of vegan versions of almost every food.
The change in my life has been amazing; I am more compassionate, happier and healthier. Taking violence off my plate, and replacing it with foods which nourish me, and don’t contribute to the decimation of the planet has removed a stressor in my diet and life which I wasn’t aware of until it was gone – like that moment when the washing machine stops and you all of a sudden realise you’ve been shouting over it. My constant cough has gone, I’ve lost weight I didn’t even really know was there, I’ve built more muscle and strength swimming since becoming vegan than I did my whole life until then, I have more energy, less headaches. I have not had a single cough, cold, sore throat or bug of any kind since becoming vegan.
I look in the mirror and how well and happy I feel is reflected; there is no conflict.”
If you want to know more about vegan recipes or how to cook for any vegan friends, Kat and Rebecca have a brilliant blog with lots of tasty recipes that you can cook for you or your vegan friends. I can personally recommend the poppyseed, orange and polenta drizzle cake! For more information, see: https://vegansfordinner.wordpress.com/
Do you follow a vegan diet? If so how do you find it? Please share any of your favourite recipes in the comments.