Photography by Unsplash.
Vegan curiosity has never been this prevalent. Like it or not, veganism is on the rise, even in South Africa. Staff writer Michelle October gave it a try – and stuck with it. Here, what it’s really like to go vegan.
Like the average human, I’ve never been very health-conscious. But working at a health magazine will quickly change the way you do things, from how often you exercise to what you eat. So after working at Women’s Health for over a year, I thought I was doing really well. I was eating a ton of veggies, had cut out junk food completely, and had already lost a few kilos through our fitness challenge. But I wasn’t feeling 100% in my tummy, so I decided to give up dairy first. I’d read about how dodgy it is for your health and my skin cleared up a bit after a few weeks. Then, I wrote a story about veganism and couldn’t find a good enough reason to eat meat. I ignored the ideas I’d read, about how red meat is bad for you, or how chickens are filled with antibiotics and could even contain arsenic. It wasn’t until one day, when I watched a YouTube video (DISCLAIMER: this is pretty graphic) about the dairy industry that I threw in the towel and gave up animal products for good.
Phase One: Easy Breezy
Because I’d already given up dairy, saying no to meat was really easy. I didn’t replace meat or eggs with anything – I just removed it from my plate and ate veggies and good carbs. I’ve always been lousy at cooking meat anyway, so I was really having fun with flavour combinations and frying up different versions of veg every day. Added to that, I’d started losing even more weight. Like, a whole five kilos. Without trying.
Here’s a pasta I made in zero time, 100% vegan.
Phase Two: Being Busy
For a while, I was managing everything really well: I made the time to cook food, buy the veg, and come up with my own recipes. But somewhere along the line I got bored of my own flavour combos and got busy and stopped cooking as much. For vegans, this is not something you can do – it’s like going for a five-hour hike in your ballet pumps and thinking your feet will be fine. You’re going to suffer. I ended up spending tons of money on food on the go (always bread-and-something), or put myself in situations where I had to cave and eat something with dairy or egg. I felt guilty and a little sick. It was also stressful to be out and have to explain to people in stores or restaurants what dairy is. Most waitrons don’t know that the food they serve is made with egg or dairy. Things were getting expensive and I was getting stressed.
Phase Three: Making It Work
I realised I needed to work a little harder than everyone else to stick to it. After all, I was doing it for the animals, but mostly for my health: since going vegan, my cholesterol has dropped and I’m way healthier than I was before. I know that it’s a healthier way to live, so the minimal effort I need to make it work isn’t that bad. Now, I eat lots of pulses and mushrooms with healthy carbs (potatoes are my best friends) and I pack lunch and breakfast and always have a snack with me. Plus, one weekend I went away with a friend and she happily ate vegan food the whole trip. When she got back home, she texted me to say she really missed my cooking. Obviously, being vegan isn’t all that bad.
This is what I look like now.
Looking for more info on vegan food? Here are eight vegan food swaps that are total game-changers.