One Year On As A Vegan

31 December, 2018

You may remember at the end of last year I penned a post titled "One Year On As A Vegetarian". Well, this year I'm sharing my first year as a vegan. Yep – in the most millennial move I've ever made, I've declared myself as a bloody vegan. 2018 has been dubbed over and over as "The Year of the Vegan" and when you look at the changes and figures from the past 365 days, it's easy to see why. 

The Vegan Society has discovered that this year, there are over 600,000 vegans in the United Kingdom making up 1.16% of the entire population. Whilst those numbers may seem small, almost half of those vegans (42%) transitioned over to a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle this year, including myself, which emphasises at just how fast the movement is growing and people are choosing a more compassionate, cruelty-free lifestyle.

How did it begin?

At the start of the year, I decided to participate in Veganuary and cut all animal products out of my diet for the first 31 days of the year. This year, over 168,000 participants signed up to the Veganuary campaign compared to 59,500 the previous year.  Whilst I had always believed in the ethics of veganism throughout living on a vegetarian diet the year before, I just didn't believe that I could fully commit to omitting cheese entirely out of my life. I have been drinking plant milks since I was a teenager because quite frankly I'd always found the idea of drinking cow's milk kinda gross, but I still had a weakness for  cheese. So, I expected to complete the thirty-one days I had signed up for before indulging in myself with a mountain of cheese of February 1st. But, despite being adamant that I couldn't live without cheese, it turns out I can.

A feast from London's very own vegan fried 'chicken' and junk food restaurant, Temple of Seitan

Why I stuck at it? 

I mentioned before that I had always believed in the message and the ethics behind veganism, be it for the animals and the environment. I've always considered myself an animal lover and I truly wanted to not only commit to stop eating living sentient beings but also reduce my harm and impact on them as much as I possibly could by cutting out all animal-derived products. Why yes, I did love cheese but I came to the realisation that my consumption of it was purely selfish, indulgent and most importantly, it went against my moral standpoints – the dairy industry is incredibly cruel and its impact on climate change is undeniable. So, I decided to essentially act upon what I truly believe is the right thing to do for myself, the animals and the planet.

That first month taking part in Veganuary gave me a taster of what it was like to live as a vegan and in all honesty, it really isn't as bad as you'd expect. After a few weeks, I found my cheese cravings had pretty much diminished and I found a taste vegan cheeses (I'm looking at you, Violife!). I started scanning through the ingredients lists on the back of packaging in supermarkets a lot faster and started to write a bucket list of vegan restaurants around London that I wanted needed to try. By the end of January, I knew there was no going back and I was excited at the idea of such a positive lifestyle change!

Homemade vegan Buddha bowl with sweet potato, spiced chickpeas, onion, broccoli and kale

Have there been any challenges?

It'd be naive to think that such a big commitment wouldn't pose any challenges. It can take a while to get used to thoroughly reading through the ingredients list on the back of food packaging and looking out for any animal-derived ingredients; in a perfect world, everything would be labelled with a huge 'vegan-friendly' sign of the front but unfortunately it's not. I've been caught out a couple of times by grabbing products I would have once assumed were automatically vegan,  e.g. I once got home to realise that the vegetable stock cubes I had bought had milk powder in.

The move to a vegan lifestyle meant not only omitting animal-derived products from my diet but from my wardrobe, my toiletries and the rest of my household products too. Whilst I haven't thrown out any of my old leather, silk or wool products that I purchased before I went vegan, I haven't bought any garments from animal hides or materials this year. Thoroughly checking through your wardrobe, toiletries and household products can be a bit of a ball ache in the beginning but it becomes easier once you find ethical brands that you can re-purchase from.

M&S Vegan Christmas No Turkey Sandwich

How has difficult is it to eat out & travel as a vegan?

I'm considerably lucky to live in London, a city that is thriving upon the vegan wave. The past couple of years has seen a boom in the vegan food scene across the city. This year has seen a rise of vegan restaurants and pop-ups, as well as a gargantuan growth of vegan options across all of the major UK supermarkets making veganism more accessible than ever for those across the country. Popular chain restaurants, including Wagamama & Pizza Express, introduced vegan menus for their plant-based customers, which brought veganism to the forefront of dining out. No longer do vegans need to seek out specifically vegan restaurants to get a bite to eat as the likelihood is that most major restaurants will have at least a couple of vegan options to choose from. And if they don't, they're seriously missing a trick by not catering to one of the fastest growing segments of the food market!

It's fair to say that I've travelled quite a lot this year so I've experienced some incredibly vegan-friendly cities (hello, Berlin!) and I've faced some trips where it's been not so easy. During my time in Romania for Electric Castle Festival back in July,  I struggled to find food on the festival site that was vegan so I pretty much lived on a diet of chips and vegetable spring rolls whilst I was there. Admittedly, it was difficult but I survived and made sure to stock our apartment up with bits from the local supermarket so that I could make fresh avocado, tomato and houmous sandwiches every day; if you're in a particularly not-so-vegan-friendly destination and you're staying in an apartment, it's easier to cook for yourself at the apartment and make your own packed lunches – plus, you'll end up saving the money on what you would have spent eating out!

Vegan 'meat'balls in gravy with sweet potato fries from a Christmas market in Budapest


Finally, that age old question that every vegan faces on a regular basis – do I miss cheese?

Yes and no.

I'd be lying if I said straight up "no" as there have been times I've missed certain cheeses. A baked camembert with garlic and rosemary was a firm favourite of mine before I went vegan and unfortunately there are no decent dairy-free substitutes for it on the market at the moment. Especially over the past month, I've truly missed camembert but I haven't missed it enough to start eating dairy once again. I'd much rather live without the occasional baked camembert and live with a clearer conscious... oh, and obviously clearer skin, which is an added bonus from omitting dairy from my diet!


If you're thinking about taking part in Veganuary and have any questions, feel free to drop me a tweet and I'd be happy to answer.

You can sign up and pledge to Veganuary here: https://veganuary.com/register/

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2 comments

  1. Loved this post - congratulations on your journey a year on! I felt the same way about cheese but it gets even easier as time goes on! I also felt the same about not throwing away old leather etc and either donating or using it until it is worn out which to me is at least all the better for the planet, rather than buying new :) So thanks for saying it as I know some people are very against this concept but it's a very personal decision!

    Hannah
    blog.doodleheart.co.uk

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  2. I found this so useful and interesting to read Leigh! I've moved to a plant-based diet (still very, very new to it) and it feels like a daunting move, but I think it'll be the best thing I've done once I get over this first hurdle of reading every label in the supermarket! x

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