The Vagaries of Veganuary

“I cheated on being vegan, and it wasn’t even with a rasher of bacon”

She writes:

“…I failed. Nothing to do with the smell of bacon, in the end it was the Cool Doritos that proved to be my downfall.

Didn’t you know? Cool Doritos contain dairy products. As do muesli and Garibaldi biscuits and, as I’ve ranted before, there’s egg in Quorn and also a lot of vegetarian sausages. Some sugar-coated cereals contain hidden gelatin to make the sugar stay on.

I felt healthy and light after an indulgent December, but I simply couldn’t stay the course. Why? Because going vegan is gruelling. It requires a degree of application, vigilance and sheer 24/7 dedication that you can’t fake, not even for a month. 

Because you can’t be a vegan and not mention it; in a meat-eating world it’s too central to your character to omit. And because people (like me, before this steep learning curve) tend to treat vegans as jokes, weird aberrations or dinner guests from hell, it inevitably makes them feel a bit defensive.

But numbers are growing, especially among young people, hence you can buy everything from vegan mayonnaise to vegan make up. An estimated 150,000 people will have taken part in Veganuary in the UK, I’m not entirely sure my attempt actually counts, but I hope so.

I tried to stay vegan, I really I did. Not eating meat was the easy part. I had no interest in roast chicken, but the loss of eggs was a blow and the absence of cheese really quite depressing.

Anyway, I have been happily making porridge with soya milk and will continue to do that regardless. I assumed my spouse was putting soya milk in my coffee too, and was very impressed at how much it resembled full fat dairy.

Then I caught him in the act of using real milk and demanded to know why. He showed me why; the soya milk separates in the hot drink and curdles. He felt it was too revolting to serve.

Apparently if you warm the soya gradually it’s less of a problem, which is why coffee shop soya flat whites are more palatable.

Anyway, this unwitting dairy transgression alone transformed me into a chegan (vegan who cheats) and I was already teetering on the brink when Dorito-gate happened.

I’m not even sure I’ll go back to eating meat; vegetarianism is a walk in the park compared to veganism which is more like struggling to reach Everest Base Camp in flip flops only to discover all they have to eat is custard and mince.

For me, Veganuary was an experiment, but in truth I was hobbled by my lackadaisical attitude from the start; “giving it a go” isn’t the same as believing in it as a cause and being prepared to make no compromises. 

But some good has come of it: most notably I have not just a new tolerance, but an admiration for vegans. 

It takes real strength of character to eschew all animal products, all the time, when so many foods are booby-trapped and irrationally indignant meat eaters constantly grill you about your life choices.

Would I try it again? For an occasional week, absolutely. But even if I don’t, I hereby solemnly swear to never (ever) ask a vegan where they get their protein from.”

Joe’s Comment

“…vegetarianism is a walk in the park compared to veganism which is more like struggling to reach Everest Base Camp in flip flops only to discover all they have to eat is custard and mince.” Brilliant!

However, the transition from being a vegan to eating a whole food plant-based diet (with no salt, oil and very little added sugar) is a whole new experience, and something that takes dedication and planning. Is it worth it? You bet ya! The health benefits of making the quantum leap from veganism (which includes those who tuck into the odd processed vegan sausage and ice-cream to those who hate veggies and “survive” on chocolate and chips) to a WFPB diet are profound and well-documented. (1.)

Eating the modern western diet it like setting a house on fire – but the fire is inside your body. And even if you go 6 days out of 7 without animal protein, on that 7th day of eating meat it’s like pouring petrol on flames that were nicely dying down.

As Dr. Michael Greger points out: “even in a population consuming a really plant-based diet with little meat and fish, true vegetarians who completely avoided animal flesh, while eating more healthy plant foods, have lower odds for prediabetes and diabetes after accounting for other risk factors.”  (2., 3.)