It’s coming to the end of January 2020. The Christmas lights and tinsel are packed away, and the festivities are a dim and distant memory. You may have joined a gym or made new health and fitness goals. If you have, you won’t be alone; in the UK, 4.5 million people have gym memberships and 12% will have joined at the start of the new year. And you may even have taken part in the Veganuary. In 2019, just over a quarter of a million people participated in Veganuary, with 47% confirming their intention to remain vegan once the month was over. For 2020, it is expected more will have signed up. But, with all the hype surrounding Veganuary, it is easy to overlook the fact that for some, avoiding animal-based products for a whole month is no mean feat. While the intention is there, a month may prove a step too far, and February cannot start soon enough.
But does it need to be this way? Let’s explore some of the best strategies to make eating vegan food pleasurable (even exciting) and ensure Veganuary is rewarding rather than gruelling.
I am a firm believer that what motivates one person won’t excite everyone. For some, the knowledge they are doing the best they can to reduce their environmental impact is enough to keep them going. Scientific studies have made a robust case that the ecological impact of producing animal products for food is far in excess of vegetable agriculture. One 2019 research paper by Poore and Nemecek found that “the impacts of animal products can markedly exceed those of vegetable substitutes, to such a degree that meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use ~83% of the world’s farmland and contribute 56 to 58% of food’s different emissions, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories”. For another person, the driver may be personal health (eliminating animal products from our diet may protect against some cancers and heart disease), and for another, it may be about animal welfare and kindness.
Get informed about the benefits
One way to truly become fired up about removing animal products from your life is to watch some of the many informative and insightful plant-based and vegan documentaries now available, such as:
- ‘Forks Over Knives’ (Netflix) – focuses on the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
- Dominion and Earthlings – both look at the realities of the animal agriculture industry (which some may find challenging to watch)
- The Game Changers – shows that athletes can excel on a wholly plant-based diet and breaks the myth regarding lack of protein.
Watching movies on the benefits of a vegan diet can go a long way towards firing motivation and reminding you of why making this change is so valuable. Becoming educated about the scientific basis for veganism provides confidence that the potential outcomes are real, not mere opinion.
Another common ingredient for vegan success is discovering foods and recipes you love. If you view vegan food as lots of bland vegetables or salads, then, for you, Veganuary will be a harsh, brutal, and short experience. If, on the other hand, you have been inspired to be truly creative in the kitchen, you will succeed. Look for recipe books by culinary geniuses such as Gaz Oakley, Meera Sodha, Áine Carlin, the Bosh Brothers, and Matt Pritchard. What comes across in their cooking is that by using spices, herbs, and new ingredients, vegan food can be full of bold flavour, colour, and just as rewarding (if not more) than meals containing animal products. And if there is a specific animal-based product or recipe you miss the most, whether it is a cheeseburger, spaghetti bolognese, or pizza, be assured, there are plant-based versions which leave you feeling totally satiated.
Going vegan is a significant lifestyle change. Few succeed without motivation and inspiration. Will-power is not enough. By getting educated and creative, switching to a vegan diet can be truly transformative, and most importantly, fun.