In honour of Veganuary I have asked my dear friend Mark to write about his experience of choosing to follow a vegan diet. Some of you might remember Mark’s guest post way back in 2017, for anyone that missed it the first time round I will pop a link at the end of this post.
A huge thank you to Mark for this honest, funny and thought provoking post. A real reminder that even the smallest change can make a difference, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing 🙂
“We’re currently six days into a brand new decade and already the news is full of more doom and gloom than ever. World War III is looming, Australia is on fire (and has been since September FYI, but just in case you only just got the memo) and of course, the vegans are having a recruitment month because it’s January!
I first remember hearing about Veganuary about four years ago and year on year the participants whether long or short term are growing astronomically worldwide. I had initially had a bash at going plant-based (ever so slightly different: being plant based is where you eat a plant based diet for reasons other than animal welfare, veganism is largely to do with the animals) in 2016 because I was on yet another fad diet to “get skinny” and I quite like animals this was a nice side effect. However, I still wore leather and fur and I’ve always firmly believed that you can’t pick and choose when it comes to cruelty – you either embrace all of it or none of it, or at least that was my view point at the time and for some strange reason I decided to embrace all cruelty because frankly, my vintage fox fur coats were too gorge to give up on. So I continued on with fur, leather, Feathers (for those who’ve read Chrissy’s blogs before, I’m a drag queen and frankly a drag queen without feathers was a painfully depressing thought) fois gras, fillet steak, vintage cheese – you name it, I did it, all in the name of the all or nothing principal I’d founded in my own head, all the time knowing that it didn’t sit right with me. My mother has always said that I choose to learn the hard way, it’s the only thing she’s not wrong about…
As the coming months passed, I’d watched countless videos on my timeline and learned an awful lot about the conditions we mass produce animals in, about the challenges our planet faces in feeding a growing population and the effect all this has on our environment. I’ve often worried about the amount of pressure we put on our planet, especially in recent years to the point of anxiety about how much more it can tolerate. My youngest sister had gone vegan in 2016 – world’s fussiest eater at the time I might add, followed by my Dad to support her. Now my father used to work in an abattoir very briefly and grew up in the country side and was raised in a farm like environment. He ate all sorts of cuts of meat and offal because that was what was available at the time and in those days, you ate what was put in front of you or you didn’t eat at all. It got me to thinking that if my then 54 year old father could see the good in giving up animal products for the benefit of the animals, the planet and his own well being, then I, at 29 could do the same.
What I haven’t mentioned is during this time I was plagued with health problems, especially to do with my digestive health. Without going into graphic detail; my toilet habits had changed, I was losing blood and I was constantly bloated (side note: if any of you are suffering with these symptoms, please go and see your doctor). The consultant had spent a couple of months scratching his head and after all the camera work he decided that I was allergic or intolerant to something as they couldn’t find anything internally that could indicate where the problems were coming from.
Frustrated with the amount of time it had taken to get all this done (and I’d used my private health insurance, our fabulous NHS would have been far quicker – be grateful for this wonderful gift we have) I decided that the best thing to do would be rather than go for more tests, I’d just cut foods out of my diet and see how it went (also, don’t try this at home. Please go and see doctors when recommended to do so, It’s not big or clever, it just happened to pay off in my case) so as New Year 2017 came, I decided now was as good a time as any to go vegan. My health was suffering, our planet was suffering and all the cute fluffy animals were being packed in cages or dark sheds on a mass scale so it felt like the best option for me at the time.
Two weeks in, low and behold my symptoms had stopped. No more blood, no more bloating, no dashing to the loo and since then I’ve had no more issues…other than when I’ve had meat or dairy – I’ll come onto this in a moment. The thing about veganism is, it’s not so much a destination as it is a journey it takes you on. You will mess up, you’ll initially dip into things that you miss whilst trying to find your balance with it. Overall, I’d say it’s really important whether you’re going vegan or cutting back on meat and dairy is listen to your body rather than your own wants and needs. Our choices are driven by releases of dopamine to the brain to reinforce those choices so that we make them again and again, even though it can be of huge detriment to our own wellbeing – which is why we are compelled to grab that tempting chocolate bar when we’re on a diet. Ultimately what I’m trying to say is, whatever your choices are; put your own health and well being first, don’t rush into it and don’t feel bad if you can’t do it all at once. If you cut down even by having a meat free day (or better, a meat free and/or dairy free meal every day), you’re having a positive impact on the world around you.
If you find yourself wanting to make a change for any of the above reasons, it sounds like you’re questioning the belief system we’re all given by society that we can and should eat animal products. Remember, it’s your life and your journey and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for any slip ups you might make, any accidental snacks (crisps ALWAYS catch me out – milk central) and If you choose to go vegan and decide that it’s not for you the same rule applies. Any reductions you make are a conscious effort to building a better future, no matter what your reasoning. We all get one shot at life and we all must make decisions that are right for us – no one is perfect and only your self-assessment matters. Anything anyone else has to say about you, is not your business so don’t concern yourself with it.
Controversially, I don’t believe in the ethos of extreme veganism. I don’t believe in telling people they’re wrong for their choices, I don’t believe in shouting at people in the street for wearing fur, I don’t advocate extreme displays in the streets where people willingly subject themselves to the same torture we put animals through. I do believe in having a conversation and educating people on a topic they aren’t familiar with (particularly if they’re taking an interest) or offering an alternate world view, I do believe in recycling or even still wearing your old animal product clothing or buying vintage leather or fur – it has far less environmental impact than plastic alternatives and you’re not creating any new demand for farming, I do believe in kindness to other humans and other creatures alike – one of my favourite phrases in life is you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar (granted, not the most vegan thing in the world catching flies with honey but you get the principal).
I can’t say that the benefits I’ve had from veganism or my beliefs are shared across all vegans. I can say:
-That I’ve not suffered with any deficiencies, I don’t take supplements for B12 or Iron very often as I get most of my iron from my diet and b12 is a little harder to come by naturally for vegans but nutritional yeast is a good source of it, as is marmite!
– Your taste buds will change, you’ll crave things you never thought you’d crave – everyone says cheese and chicken before they go vegan, generally I find most people crave fish or eggs. The things you think you’ll miss will eventually wither away and you’ll forget about them
– Your body will more than likely feel lighter and less congested
– You won’t die of a lack of protein. All mammals need protein to build muscle. How many buffalo, rhinos, elephants, horses or giraffes have you seen wolfing down a mixed grill to stay that big?
– People will come at you with ridiculous made up facts to try and tell you that you’re wrong when they’ve done zero research on the topic
– It will hit you harder if you gym train, try and make the change gradually as it will affect your energy levels and your ability at first. Go steady!
– The internet is your friend. It’s laden with information whether it’s health benefits, statistics, environmental impact of farming or recipes to get you started. You’ll even make friends online who can help you with the changes.
– You’ll become a better cook! You learn clever ways to replace things or curb cravings.
– Vegan cheese sucks, unless you’re a fan of plastic cheese but things are improving all the time
I could go on and on about this but there are plenty of websites to help you along the way if you want to know more. What I will say though for those of you that are happy with your current choices, please don’t mock people for showing compassion to other living things. If you’re happy with your lifestyle then there’s no need to justify yourself, unless of course you feel there’s a slight chance that deep, deep down…we just might be on to something. We generally liked how meat and dairy tasted just not the ethics behind it so if we’re choosing an alternative lifestyle, it’s only of benefit to you, your children, your grandchildren and beyond.
As a planet, we’re currently in the worst environmental crisis and whilst the biggest contribution is from big corporations, mass farming is a huge contributor to deforestation and global warming. We’re on the verge of a global mass extinction, Sir David Attenborough isn’t lying to you but your newspapers and governments are.
Remember all big changes start with one person and all small changes we make as individuals add up – both positively and negatively. Imagine if we all applied the same rule of “one person doesn’t make a difference” to recycling – imagine how much more plastic would be in the sea and how much more litter would be on the streets.
Above all things I’ve learned is that kindness in all formats pays dividends no matter how small you start, whether it’s respect for your friends or families choices or even giving Veganuary a go yourself – who knows, you might just find it’s the answer you didn’t know you were looking for.”
Thank you again to Mark for taking the time to share his experience! I’d love to hear if you are giving Veganuary a go or if you are considering making changes to your diet or lifestyle.
As always, thanks for reading!
And you can find Mark’s previous guest post here