Food

It doesn’t matter if you fell off the vegan wagon this Veganuary

It doesn't matter if you fell off the vegan wagon this Veganuary
Just lying here thinking about Lindas, to be honest (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I’ve been vegetarian for 11 years and first gave veganism a go four years ago.

It wasn’t even about the ethics – I was blissfully ignorant of how unfair the dairy industry is – I was at the end of my tether with adult acne, and I’d heard that cutting out dairy products could help, as it eliminates unnecessary extra hormones from your diet.

So, I gave it a go. I had a vegan pal at work who helped me along, and was given books to read which enlightened me to the mean nature of dairy.

While it didn’t help my acne (sad times), it did open my eyes to the horrors that humans can inflict from the top of the food chain – whether dairy farmers love their cows or not, I don’t personally believe it’s all that nice to use another animal for your own gain.

However, even after knowing about the ethical side of it all, I struggled. Going veggie was easy for me, but ditching dairy was harder. It’s so much easier to detach the cow from the cheese, than the cow from the burger.

So I slipped up – a lot.

It was mostly when I was out and about and hungry, or hungover. I partied a lot back then so I was hungover a lot. Which meant many blocks of halloumi, Walkers cheese and onion multipacks, and poached eggs passed my lips.

Plus, there’s something about me and restricted diets that do not get on – the more I can’t have something, the more I want it.

I used to eat bags and bags of crisps a day, and every time I tried giving them up for Lent, I’d fail massively. I’ve tried to be sober numerous times and just couldn’t do it. I like the odd slurp of tequila too much.

So, cold turkey veganism just didn’t work for me.

It doesn't matter if you fell off the vegan wagon this Veganuary
It can be hard to stop thinking about the food you used to eat (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I went ahead and allowed myself to have the occasional egg or dairy product.

However – ironically – by taking the pressure off and letting myself eat cheese when I felt like it, I started wanting it less and less.

I’d let myself eat halloumi when I was hungover, and the funny thing was that it became less tasty with each mouthful.

I still remember my very last Dr Oetker mushroom Pizza Ristorante, a food that used to bring me so much joy (honest to God, I swear I used to keep those guys in business), that left me feeling nothing with my last mouthful.

The party in my mouth had morphed into that part of the after party where the last few stragglers are hanging around and you want to go to bed.

I think it was partly to do with the fact that my taste buds were changing from eating less dairy, and partly down to the increasing guilt I was feeling. It became more and more difficult to detach the cheese from the cow.

Fast forward to the present day and the thought of real dairy turns my stomach. Christmas 2016, I told myself I could have some brie if I wanted, as it used to be one of my favourite things about Christmas. Guess what? I didn’t touch it. I’d made this incredible pesto ‘goat’s cheese’ dip and that satisfied all my needs.

Which is hilarious when you think that I was one of the, ‘But how will I give up cheese?‘ crew just a few years ago.

Eggs on the other hand? These were much harder to kick and the last thing I gave up.

I’d let myself eat them every few months when I really craved them and they never got less delicious – even when I told myself as I was munching on them that they were chicken periods.

So, I had to go hard. Every time I felt like having a runny egg on my Marmite toast, I’d watch a video of male chicks being crushed.

And suddenly I didn’t want those eggs.

I had my final nudge onto the full-time vegan wagon last June when I watched Simon Amstell’s vegan mockumentary, Carnage, which is based in 2067, showing future generations looking back with horror at how their relatives used to eat.

simon amstell vegan

I wasn’t eating much dairy at the time anyway, but it was the final push I needed to swear I’d never eat it again, and I haven’t (knowingly) touched dairy since.

I’ve written before about how it’s fine to slip up and I stand by the fact that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is the right route for many people – it certainly worked for me.

I don’t care what anyone says – turning vegan can be hard. It requires research, restocking your food cupboards and discovering new recipes.

Which can seem incredibly daunting.

If you’re feeling bummed that you didn’t have as successful a Veganuary as you’d hoped, don’t get frustrated and jack it all in come 1 February.

Look back with positivity at all the foods you did manage to swerve, and if you really want to stick with veganism? Maybe gradually transitioning is the way forward for you.

Start by asking what you found easiest to give up. Milk, butter, cheese? Cool.

Scrub those off the list permanently and work on your next easiest, until you’re left with the most difficult foodstuff.

Still struggling? Go hard in researching how the food is produced, then remember this info with each craving.

More: Food

I’m fully aware that this route just isn’t good enough for many vegans, and if you’re the sort of person who can give up all their favourite foods overnight then hats off to you, but don’t sit there judging those that find it a little more difficult.

Extend some of the compassion you have for animals to your fellow human beings, and instead of telling them how sh*t they are, why not offer advice, recipes or restaurant tips to help them along their way?

PETA’S hectic style of activism certainly does work for some, but the majority of people don’t like being told how terrible they are.

We need to engage people with educated discussions, not shock tactics.

Take vegan activist Joey Carbstong, for example. A video of his recently went viral, showing him having an adult, calm chat with two police officers outside of a dairy plant.

He asked them to view the dairy industry with a different perspective, pointing out that they condemn rape in other contexts, so why not in this context?

(Oh, did you not know? Cows are artificially inseminated, before having the resulting calves taken away from them, so humans can drink the milk instead. Cute, huh?)

By staying calm and not being patronising or pious, he engaged the officers, and you could see the female officer was visibly moved.

I shared this video on my Facebook and my friend text me saying that her boyfriend – who usually jokes about me being vegan – was convinced to try veganism because of it.

When you’re struggling, remember to be kind to yourself, and remind yourself why you’re doing it – you’re making a difference, which is great, but tell yourself there’s still work to be done, and that you can make more of a difference.

Think of the wailing baby calves when you’re reaching for that milk, the screams from the slaughter house when you’re salivating over a burger, and the sickening sound of chicks being crushed when you fancy a fried egg.

We’re lucky that veganism is hitting the mainstream in a big way and that there are plenty of products in the shops that aren’t a begrudging replacement for the foods you used to eat – they’re legitimately delicious foods in their own right.

So, we have it so much easier than the vegans of yesteryear.

But if you do sometimes slip up? Dust yourself off and get back on that wagon.

Because, who knows? Maybe this will be the time you stay on for good.

Struggling? Check out Metro.co.uk’s tips for sticking with veganism.

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