A word on veganism and why I’m not one (yet!!)

This is a long one… but very relevant

In my opinion, being vegan is an amazing way of living.

To be able to walk this Earth knowing nothing that goes in your body or on it has been at the expense of another living creature, is beautiful.

It’s environmentally friendly, and also enables you to be more mindful of what you eat in general. If care is put into it, you can sustain a very healthy entire life being vegan, doing whatever you want. Marathon Runner? Lifting champion? Someone that manages to drag themselves to the gym a couple times a week? Someone that wants to sleep and eat all day? You name it, you can be it, just as effectively as if you were eating an animal based diet. You can also get every nutrient you need from plant based and fortified foods – whilst vitamins like B12 were once harder to come by on a vegan diet, nowadays cereals, non dairy milks, bread, and many other staple items of food are enriched. Of course, just being vegan is not a sure fire way to be healthy – I’m looking at you, oreos, jus-rol pan au chocolat, mini chocolate chip hot cross buns from tesco, practically everything bacon flavoured.. (?? does that not make you worry about your food when the bacon crisps are vegan?). But, just like a non vegan diet can be healthy, you can be just as healthy, twice as healthy, being vegan. Don’t even think about mentioning lack of protein to me, my eyes will roll right to the back of my head.

4 years ago, I was vegetarian for a year, but also abstained from dairy milks and butters, and eggs – so I was touching on being vegan. The reason I can’t say I was totally vegan was because whenever I was really ill, really sad, or really hungover, my one saviour was a plain ball of mozzarella (my love of mozzarella goes deep, as I wrote in my last post), a comfort food created from years of my Italian Nonna giving me huge family size logs of the stuff and being convinced I was ill if I didn’t eat it all (love you to bits Nonna). But other than that, I was. Eating wasn’t too much of a problem most of the time as I was in a school that had an ENORMOUS and VAST selection of food in the canteen – practically excessive – and so when my family were eating meat, I just ate at school, which provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner (technically you had to sneak into dinner if you weren’t a boarding pupil, shh..).

Eating out however was a whole different ball game. Not only did places not have vegan foods, but vegetarian foods were hard to come by! Numerous plans had to be changed once I realised the only vegetarian food (come on, do you have to but bacon bits or pancetta on everything??) was the chips – oh wait, fried in animal fats?? Nightmare. As a penniless teenager with a family that never eats out, this only affected me once a month or so, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for other people! However, nowadays, that’s no excuse! I can’t remember the last time I walked into a restaurant and there was no vegetarian option. I’m now even shocked when there’s no vegan option – sometimes I just don’t fancy meat or cheese goddamn. But its rare.

As someone that cooks for themselves, being vegan is also relatively inexpensive! Fruit and veg and grains aren’t expensive if you know where to get them, whereas meat will always be pricier. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, make your own hummus, make your own dough, then it can be dirt cheap. Your freezer is your friend!

When I was vegetarian (and it was less trendy to be so), people would constantly try and make me eat meat, or try and educate me about what I’m missing out on. I would never comment on others plate as in my personal opinion commenting on someone else’s food negatively is incredibly rude and can encourage disordered eating, so why take it upon yourself to comment on mine? There are a small percentage vegans out there that decide to barrage meat eaters with furious criticism. I’ve not met one, but trust me I read comments and I know! There is also a small percentage of meat eaters that do the same to vegans/vegetarians. This is equally bad. However, 0.5% of the population is vegan (in the US, more or less in other countries) – they’re a teeny tiny minority. And a teenier tinier minority in that group is vocal – yet they’ve stirred up quite the fuss! So perhaps we should listen. Not if they are being rude – but scout out the ones that aren’t, and try and open your mind a bit. The vast majority of vegans have not always been vegan, and so they know what its like to eat meat. Possibly for years on end, decades. Their minds were open, and they looked at the facts and decided on what to do. The vast majority of meat eaters, haven’t been vegan for even a month of their lives. That’s okay – but should  hopefully make you step back and look at the big picture. Plus – any movement that is striving for less suffering in any way, is always one to take a look into.

I obviously support and will defend veganism to the end and back. SO… why aren’t I vegan? Let me start by saying that I intend to be vegan one day. Not one day in twenty or thirty years time, one day in the foreseeable future. Now is not that day. My diet is pretty low in animal products, and I make a conscious effort to reduce them. My skin gets bad with dairy, I’m very untrusting of the quality of supermarket meats, and to be honest I just never think about buying eggs. I also always check the packaging to see if there are any unnecessary animal products, and avoid those just out of principle – my housemate found milk protein in her plain couscous ingredients the other day. WHY. Also, why has some dark chocolate got milk in it? Go away. But I’m not totally vegan, or even vegetarian.

I went totally vegan, this February. Thought, now’s the time! Okay, now was not the time. There are many reasons for this, but I will cite one big one. A little fact on veganism – Vegans need to eat TWICE the amount of iron that non-vegans eat. The body does not absorb plant based iron as well as animal based iron, and so to get the same amount, a vegan has to eat double (approximately). About a week after being vegan, I had my period (sorry boys, bout to throw this one in here). I have polycystic ovaries, and this was a h e a v y period. Now, I was eating a hell of a lot of iron. I stuff my face with spinach, I’m mad for seeds and nuts, lentils can come at me like no other, and it was my period, obviously I stuffed my face with dark chocolate. Apparently it still wasn’t good enough. I was literally bed bound the whole week. So anaemic I couldn’t get out of bed. I was pale, dizzy, and headachey. I didn’t attribute this to my diet at first, and was worried I was dying or something – what on earth could wipe out a young healthy woman who’s had many periods in her life, this one wasn’t special – but wasn’t the flu? There were no sniffles or anything, or any food poisoning. I was staying with my mum that week at home, and she was very kind in accommodating for my veganism all week. I had to stay a few extra days due to various mishaps in my plans (and me like, dying), and so she ran out of vegan food. Further to this, it was my little sisters birthday, and the pizza place had no vegan options, so my mum ordered a vegetarian one without consulting me. So for the two extra days I stayed, with no vegan food left (my mum meal plans, so what’s in the house is all for specific meals), so I thought well, these things happen, I’ll just give the veganism a rest for a couple days until I get home to London. And I started to feel better. And I had some fish. Some meat. And I felt astonishingly good. Just, full of energy, and strength.

And happier. This is my most important reason. My happiness is firmly linked to my food. I’m well aware of that. I become very happy when I stay healthy, and stay away from very sugary foods, which cause slumps in my mood. But as someone that so fiercely supports veganism… I didn’t realise how drastic a couple meat or dairy products help me. That mozzarella ball that saves me from my worst moods, has yet to be recreated by coconut oil cheese, or soy cheese (don’t you dare point me towards any kind of mozzarella slices, I can’t stand even the dairy ones – has to be a proper ball). And as a part Swede who goes there with family yearly, fish is a truly warming experience for me that is also yet to be replaced. (This is tied to very specific foods mostly – steak will do nothing for me happiness wise, for example.)

I expect that as times change, there will become replacements for these things. Also, I will change, and not rely on these things as much to maintain my happiness. But right now, as a very stressed, very cold uni student with a problematic uterus, I’m not quite ready to make that change. I’m sometimes a little disappointed in myself for that – I know that my little pleasures shouldn’t come at the price of another living being suffering. But at the same time I believe you should listen to what your body is telling you – truly listen – and if it takes a couple more years to achieve the eating patterns you want, then let it take a couple more years. Just one conscious decision to avoid an animal product a day will help the world. After a while, increase that to two. When you’re ready, three. And so on. That’s the only way to make a truly sustainably life change anyway.

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