Sunday 7 February 2016

Finish line

It's been a month since I turned vegan and I am now at the end of my challenge. From monday I will, if I choose to, be able to eat and drink animal products again.

On sunday, I went to Tescos. I already had lunch sorted with some left over veg stew, but I wanted to get some bits for the week. I thought I was going to load up on the kind of things that I used to buy and eat but when I got there, I found myself resisting the urge to return to my former diet. The time has come to decide whether or not I'm going to carry this on.  After a month of watching upsetting videos, debating the for's and against, what have been the benefits of my vegan experiment?

I've lost 5.9 kg, which is almost a stone in weight. Mainly from my belly which was getting a little out of control. I don't seem to put weight on anywhere else and I'm pretty sure it's a direct result of my sweet tooth. I'm concerned about diabetes (my father has it) and I wasn't enjoying looking at myself in the mirror. However, in the past 30 days, I have now almost lost that belly and I feel much better. I wouldn't want to lose any more weight but I have enjoyed getting in shape. I wore a pair of trousers this morning that a couple of months ago I couldn't do up. If you're looking for a way to lose weight I truly recommend a vegan diet. I've never had to go on a conventional weight lose diet before and they've always seemed to be a fairly big waste of time. If you're at a loss of what to try next, give veganism a go!

I feel much better in myself. I want to be careful not to just to criticise a meaty diet but I have no doubt that doing this challenge has made me healthy. Call it a detox, call it a break from the norm, all I know is that a plant based diet concentrating on fruits and veg can really make you feel amazing. Vegetables have gone from something on the corner of my plate to the main part of my meal. This was about how I felt. If you feel good about yourself and think that you have a good diet, carry on doing what you are doing. However,  like me, a few weeks ago you have trouble sleeping and concentrating, feel tired and grouchy and feel heavy after a big meal then perhaps its time for a change. Be honest with yourself, What do you really eat. Not what you tell people you eat. Be honest. Start a food diary for a week and see what you put inside yourself. Next, try to find out where that food comes from, where it was farmed, how it was killed. Don't just bury your head in the sand and be defensive if people ask you questions. It really is a win win. If you eat better, you feel better. Less waste, more health. Less guilt, more pride. I promise you it's worth it.

This is a tough one. I was surprised at some peoples reaction to me being vegan. There have been a couple of occasions over these past few weeks I've felt a little alienated. The fact is that vegans are different from the majority of society. When you are a vegan, the stereotypical remarks and 'concerns' from the meat eaters around you are frankly ridiculous. However, I also accept that being vegan is, I'm sorry to say a little... annoying. I wish it wasn't, but it is. It should be easy to be a vegan, but we're just not there yet. I have had more debates, discussions and arguments this month than I can remember. I have to be honest and say that I caused alot of them. I found myself wanting to tell people about it. I developed a really annoying habit of making jokes about meat eaters food before they ate it. (If you're a vegan and you do this, stop it. It's not cool) I also got into the habit of watching loads of documentaries and assuming that everyone else has been watching them too. And that, like me they are all as passionate about saving animals. Of course, this wasn't the case. Most people were just trying to get through a rainy Tuesday and here I come to tell them that their pulled pork sandwich is murder and the oceans are running out of fish.

I have found eating out quite difficult. Going to your average restaurant is simply not very fun if you're a vegan. I'm sure that there are some vegans out there who get it right and I truly respect them, In fact, I envy them. I struggled to find somewhere to eat if I was out and hungry. I probably missed loads of places that could have surprised me. Maybe I was just too lazy to try hard enough. There were times when I found this challenge truly difficult and just wanted to gobble down a burger.

My friends have been great. Nearly all of them have either taken an interest or at least pretended to care which is great.  This has not been the first time I've become obsessed with a new idea, hobby or interest. The trouble with me is that I tend not to keep things to myself. I apologise to anyone who has found me annoying this past month.  My friend said to me recently that you can always tell if someones a vegan because they immediately tell you that they're a vegan. I was defiantly 'that guy' this month. I told friends, colleagues, family and strangers. I started conversations with people just to tell them I was a vegan. I brought it up in meetings and I crowbarred it into small talk. I have no excuse for this other than it just seemed to help. For some reason, talking about it helped me get through the tough bits. The Friday nights, the Sunday afternoons the 3pm tea time. It brought the meaning of my challenge to the forefront of my mind. It made it easier to say no to meat, milk and chocolate and It helped me to find the motivation to go home and cook healthy, meatless meals.

The jokes (which, if you're vegan, there's no escape from) I found easy to cope with. I'm comfortable laughing at myself and I'm not really offended by anything. The concerns from friends and family about health were boring to listen to, especially the old fashioned, non scientific nonsense like... 'where do you get your protein?' As if vegetarianism hadn't been a successful way to eat, live and thrive for quite some time. Ultimately, if you try anything that is different from the normal you have to expect a little negativity. There were times in the month that I really wanted to answer back to some of the voices of concern but I managed to keep quiet. I've tried to keep my vegan comments strictly comical and not preachy.

The environmental arguments surrounding veganism were as frustrating to have as any environmental discussion. The truth, unfortunately can be awkward and uncomfortable to hear. Especially if it criticises a way of life you enjoy. As a vegan it's also hard to remember at a drop of a hat all of the scientific facts in order to take on a pub table full of meat eaters in a discussion. This is possibly the worst bit of being a vegan. In most social situations, you're alone. Or at the very least one of a couple of people. This challenge has taught me the importance of being consciously aware of the environmental impacts of consuming food, we really need to wise up. Ok you love meat, but seriously, have the decency to remember it was an animal and take the opportunity to buy it responsibly. We have to wise up to the reality of our over consumption. Unfortunately it's sentences like this, that can lead you to not being invited to dinner parties anymore.

If you are serious about trying veganism, don't let you family or friends talk you out of it. Try it. If you don't like it, stop. But don't just not bother because dad likes cooking Sunday roast or your friend loves Macdonalds. Have the courage to make your own decisions and give something new a try. At the very least, find out where your food comes from. The only other social advice I'd give someone thinking about doing this is, if you come up against a stubborn meat eater that loves their food and doesn't like listening to rational arguments, just stop the conversation. It's not worth it. To be fair, that also applies full on vegans too. Both sides need to learn the important lesson of how not to be a d**k.

True change is only achieved through knowledge. I believe the best way to learn about something is to first be intrigued by it. I genuinely care about animals and I have often felt guilty about eating them. This month, I have found out so much information that I am no longer ignorant. I can safely say that I am aware of what we, as humans do to animals. If I choose to eat meat again it will be a decision that has not been taken lightly and I will have to deal with the knowledge of the impact that my diet has. This challenge has led me to want to pursue working with animals. In the short term, I have started to volunteer for a dog rescue that saves dogs from Romania. It's a direct way for me to feel that I am making a small but useful difference to something I care passionately about. In the long term, I'd like to move our school to a farm and combine education with animal awareness. I would like to run a sanctuary farm that houses animals that have suffered abuse and combine it with the school.

So... I definitely love animals. Will I eat I continue to them?


We live in a world where identity is very important. People have always liked to join and be associated with certain social and political groups. For the past 30 days I have been a member of the  'vegan community'. Tomorrow, I will no longer be part of that group. I have experienced huge benefits of living as a vegan and I will continue to enjoy a plant based diet. However, I will also return to eating fish and chicken and very occasionally a burger. I will not panic if someone puts milk in my tea, but I will carry on having coconut milk on my granola. In short, I will try my best to eat and live well. I will try to make good decisions with where and how I shop for food and ensure that I don't waste anything. I want to host vegan dinner parties not to change people minds but to enjoy the food. And there is ALOT of amazing vegan food. I want to explore new types of cooking with new types of food. Things like raw cooking and dehydration. There has never been a more exciting time to discover new food and there has never been a better time to make health and environmental changes.

The most inspiring vegans I have spoken to, read about or watched over this past month have not been aggressive or defensive. They haven't been weird or annoying and they haven't been preachy. They have been happy. They enjoy the huge health benefits and embrace the challenges. I would love to one day fully commit to the vegan community. For now, I'm afraid I cannot join the gang. I will eat a mostly vegan diet throughout the week and I will enjoy my luxuries at the weekends. I won't be eating pork and beef for some time (if ever). If I do, it will be for a special treat. I will definitely struggle to eat pigs and cows having seen the videos I've seen. I'm looking forward to eating fish but I would like to look into the reality of 'sustainable' fishing to see whether it is truly 'sustainable'. I will probably eat chicken again but it will be only be once a week.

I'm a little disappointed with myself for not continuing with a vegan diet. Perhaps I'll change my mind over the coming days and weeks and return to veganism. However, I can't wait to eat a pizza tomorrow! I am however, happy to say though that I will be having a vegetarian topping. Not because I have to, but because I genuinely want to. The days of my old favourite ham and triple beef dominos are over for good. The thought of it makes me feel sick. Ground up beef from various different cows no longer appeals. Give me tasty vegetables any day. Same applies to chocolate and fizzy drink. I just don't need it. I'll enjoy them from time to time but for at least 4-5 days a week I will be treat free. Having lost this belly, I'm not in a hurry to grow it back.

Change is difficult and you should always be careful with drastically changing your diet. I became a vegan and joined a gym. I've been training 3-4 times a week and I am sure that has had an effect on my health and weight too. I have eaten better in the last month than I have ever eaten in my life and I really hope I can keep that up. Let's face it, there aren't many overweight vegans queuing up to get into hospitals.

If you love animals, take the time to learn about what humans do to them. Learn about animal testing, abuse, industrial farming and over fishing. Learn about the realities of the dairy industry. Look beyond the picture of the farm on the bottle. Don't just see the word organic and think everything is fine. Find out for yourself what goes on and find out what you truly feel about it. If it disturbs you and then act on it.

If you're thinking about trying veganism, do it. I've loved it. It's hard but it's worth it. It's a nice feeling to know that nothing had to die for me to eat this month.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Feeling normal

It's been over two weeks since I turned vegan and it feels normal to me now. On valentines day I will be able to eat meat again should I choose to. The last thing I ate before starting the challenge was a pizza so I will probably have a pizza to celebrate the finish but it will almost certainly be a vegetarian topping. Not just because I'm not sure I could eat meat again but also because I just crave vegetables. It's one of the great side effects of doing this. Fruit and veg become so important to you. They are the corner stone of my diet now and I find myself thinking about them alot of the time. I used to crave chocolate and burgers now it's garlic pokchoi and satsumas. So if you're trying to lose weight or change your diet and you have a sweet tooth, I highly recommend doing this challenge. It simply eliminates junk from your diet and it doesn't seem quite as hard as it would normally.

Books: (links are for amazon, but you can find them elsewhere too.)

The New Vegan
Really great recipes, I highly recommend the Jerk Cauliflower.

Everything you need you have

Netflix recommendations:

If you're on Netflix, I recommend watching the following documentaries. They may get you thinking about what we eat and how we eat it. Please remember, I'm not trying influence you to do anything you don't want to do. In the weeks leading up to this challenge I was feeling ill, I was unhappy with my health and I concerned that I was damaging my body with the amount of meat and sugar in my diet. These documentaries inspired me to do some research into the vegan diet and it has given me a great understanding of the huge benefits of eating a plant based diet.

Fat sick and Nearly dead
- Don't be afraid of the title, it's a great doc about juicing. There's also a part 2, also on Netflix.

Food Matters
Hungry for Change
Really good docs about nutrition and plant based diets.

A good doc on three New Yorkers going vegan for six weeks. It's not the best doc you'll ever see but there's some really good points made. Worth a watch if you're thinking about going vegan/veggie.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Vegan chilli

Thursday 21st January

It's been over a week now and I feel great. I've definitely got more energy and my general health is improving. Since the start of this challenge, I've been concentrating on the environmental effects of animal farming. Over the last few days, I've turned my attention to the animals themselves. I've been trying not to become the kind of vegan that makes others feel guilty. Apart from a couple of jokes aimed at meat eaters and I've tried my best to stay on the right side of annoying, but it can be hard. Especially when the reality is, every time we eat meat, we're eating an animal. That's the truth. We can justify it all we like, that's just the way it is. Now that I am half way through my challenge, I'm starting to wonder what I will do when it finishes. Will I stay a vegan? Will I become a vegetarian? Will I go back to meat?

Last weekend, I tried to find a way to eat my pre vegan favourites without meat. My most successful was a vegan chilli, using black beans and lentils and a little bit of vegan mince. I made it from scratch and made it fairly hot. I was delighted with the results, really tasty and packed full of goodness.

Alongside changing my diet I've joined a gym and I've been going three times a week. I also play sport two or three times a week with the school and I've noticed a big difference in my fitness levels. I've also noticed that after sport, I'm craving healthy food instead of fatty sugary stuff. I'm also drinking alot more water and eating ALOT of fruit. 

Whatever happens after this month, I will never see vegans as wimps or lacking in something. It's quite the opposite, I've never eaten as healthily as I have done in the last two weeks. 

One more thing, I used to drink up to two pints of milk a day. On my cereal, in my tea, and by the pint with biscuits. I now drink coconut milk and soya milk in my tea. I now only have 1 cup of tea a day. I don't miss milk at all. I just don't need it. Coconut milk on my granola has been the best part of this challenge. I highly recommend it. 

Friday 15 January 2016

Hitting the wall.

Friday 15th Jan

I was warned by a few people that at some point I would hit a wall. It's fair to say that I've basically been surviving on meat and sugar for the past 33 years, so a week without either was bound to effect me sooner or later. Last night I suddenly felt like I needed to munch on something. I had cravings for ice-cream, chocolate and anything meaty. After a good sleep the cravings past but I woke up this morning feeling terrible. This was made worse by having my first training session at the gym. By 8am this morning I was ready to give up. But, after a really big breakfast I feel much better. I'm hoping that the cravings have now past and I'll just be fine.

I'm trying to go to the gym at least three times a week, I'm finding it useful to go early in the morning,  helping me to avoid tea, toast, butter, jam and rich tea biscuits!

Had a great morning with some of the students at the allotment, it's a gorgeous cold sunny day today and it felt great to be out there. We have come back and Kieren and Jonesy have just tried their first cup of tea with Soya milk, whilst AJ enjoyed a homemade juice made from blueberries, apples, carrot and kiwi fruit.

I'm now the end of my first working week as a vegan, I have no intention of giving up yet.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Getting used to it.

Wednesday 15th Jan

For the past 12 years I have taught a class in a clinic down the road from here. Every Wednesday, after I've finished my class I eat lunch. The food is amazing, for the past 12 years I've enjoyed selections of cold meats, beef chills, pork ribs and other treats. Basically, it's like having a buffet every week. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about eating lunch today. I had never taken any notice of what was on offer for vegetarians or vegans for obvious reasons. But today, I had no choice and I'm delighted to report that I worried for nothing, the veggie option was excellent. I had a vegetable stew, couscous with veg and a side salad. I left full and happy just like always. The only difference being that this lunch was far healthier than usual.

Dinner was great, still had some black bean chilli left overs, added some hot sauce to spice it up a bit (accidentally vegan hot sauce) and nailed two plates. I'm defiantly eating more than I usually do. Three big, healthy animal free meals a day. I've not felt hungry or uncomfortable so far this week at any point.

Re: video recommendations:
I hope you've enjoyed watching the videos, I'm careful not to recommend any vids that have anything too hard to watch. However, I think it's important to understand the truth behind the food that we eat. You have a choice on what you eat and where it comes from. Be honest with yourself and find the courage to seek the truth. Especially when it comes to organic and free range. If you care enough to buy free range, care enough to research how the animals are actually treated. If, after that you're happy with what you find, it's your decision. I've watched and read alot of vegan material over the past week or so, some of it has been extremely distressing. Be warned, if you are seeking the truth behind what you eat and search for videos, be prepared to be shocked. I will continue to recommend videos that I have found inspiring and useful.

Things to watch:

How to be vegan

30 min Vegan doc. A lot of the stuff you'll see is from the USA, this is made in England. Felt a bit closer to home. A couple of hard bits to watch but nothing too bad, easy to look away. Some interesting things. The restaurant SAF looks brilliant too!

Recommended websites


Really great products on here, buy in bulk and save money. I'm really trying to reduce my use of harmful chemicals I use on a daily basis.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Nakd bars and Soya milk

12th January End of day two.

I'm not missing meat and I'm not missing milk. I AM MISSING CHOCOLATE BISCUITS AND CAKE.
Between 3 and 4pm, school's finished, tea is being made and people are handing out biscuits... This is the danger zone. However, I have found a solution. Nakd bars (pictured). I've also had my first soya milk tea today, which doesn't taste like milk but it does taste good. Patty kindly made me another delicious dinner, she's been a veggie for 33 years, she was pregnant with me, looked in a cow's eyes the rest is history. She seems to be enjoying making me dinner, perhaps it feel shoo to finally be able to share her meal with someone! Another good day in planet vegan.

Dinner: Black bean casserole, with wild rice. Full of protein and goodness. 

Something to watch: 98 year old vegan doctor

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Day One

Monday 11th January

It’s 8pm, end of day one. Just had a lovely dinner, bean casserole, sweet potato and crispy kale. It tasted great, I felt good afterwards and no animals died so I could eat. That's is a good feeling. I’d never really registered before that every time I eat meat, I'm eating a dead animal. I think it’s important that we understand where our food comes from, not just geographically but literally. The beef on my pizza last night used to be a cow. (Probably many cows!) I, like many meat eaters try to deny the truth to myself, but we owe the animals that provide their lives for us to have a burger, the decency to admit to ourselves that it is/was an animal. It had a life, relatives, friends, feelings just like all of us. I would absolutely call myself an animal lover so it feels good that today, I can say that, having not eaten one! 

Too soon to tell if I feel any different yet, but I definitely felt less heavy and full after dinner. Interestingly, I also didn’t feel the need to have anything sweet after it either. I’d like to say thanks to my mum Patty for making the bean casserole. 

Breakfast: granola with coconut milk (I LOVE this breakfast), banana, satsuma
Lunch: M&S Moroccan spiced butternut salad 
Dinner: Bean casarole, sweet potato, crispy Kale

Things to watch: 

Cowspiracy  - Netflix

Really interesting documentary, hard to watch at times, but some really important information on the environmental effects of agriculture on the planet.