Some people may have heard of a new internet trend called Veganuary, where anyone can participate and try to go vegan or plant-based for the month of January. It’s a sort of kickstart for veganism. Veganuary is an annual challenge run by a U.K. nonprofit organization that promotes and educates about veganism by encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle during January and possibly throughout the year. A vegan is a person who doesn’t consume any animal products or animal byproducts. I started to get the idea to participate in Veganuary in my head in December. I saw ads on social media for it and thought I might give it a try after a month of eating junk food from Christmas cookies to chocolates to cakes. I thought my body might need a healthy cleansing of sorts. So I did my research and I decided on Jan. 1 to go vegan. The next day I decided to go vegan for good.
On Jan. 2 I had gone down a rabbit hole of documentaries on animal cruelty, climate change, and health problems that all came from eating meat, dairy and eggs. As I went from the documentary “Cowspiracy” to “What the Health to The Game Changers to Earthlings” I became increasingly certain that this was the path for me. Now all I needed was to learn how to cook.
The truth is I never imagined that I could go vegan. I love food, and I thought that going vegan meant never loving food again. But I was wrong. Through my short journey so far I have learned to cook vegan food staples like tofu and seitan and have experimented with different Indian and Thai curries from vegetable curries to soya chunk curries to potato and chickpea curries. And yes I know that sounds like a lot of curries, but I promise there have been other foods too. The one reason I’d suggest anyone to try vegan curries is because of the amount of spice and flavor in them. Indian food specifically is great for going vegan or vegetarian because 20-40 % of India’s population is vegetarian and many of their dishes rely on different spices to be flavorful, which means you can pick an Indian curry that may originally be made with chicken or lamb and you can substitute the meat for tofu or soya chunks. There are also many Indian foods with lentils in them that are originally vegetarian. I have also embraced a variety of other Asian dishes from fried rice, to stir fry, to miso soup with tofu. I’m planning on trying some vegan sushi soon as well. One of my favorite Thai foods that I used to get from Bamee was the Gra Prao made with chicken, but I recently tried it with tofu and it was just as delicious as the chicken version. I’ve also made vegan Mexican food, making quesadillas with tofu and vegan cheese, burritos and burrito bowls with beans, vegan cheese and some plain vegan yogurt as sour cream. With some guacamole and salsa on the side of course. There has also been a lot of oatmeal in my life and lots of smoothies and açai bowls as well.
I decided to go vegan for not just January but for the rest of my life after my devastation at the loss of my dog, Lucky. After she died I felt increasingly depressed and hopeless about life, then the idea of going vegan sparked something in me, it made me feel like although I couldn’t save her I could guarantee that other animals would be living happier lives. I found the best way to make myself feel better was to give my love to all animals. I felt a sense of hope with the realization that I would be saving other animals and treating them as I would treat pets like dogs or cats. My perspective changed and I decided there was really no difference between farm animals and dogs and cats, the only difference was my perceptions of them. This isn’t to say I would demonize anyone who isn’t vegan, it also isn’t me saying that I don’t understand how tasty meat, dairy and eggs can be. But for me, I find that my decision to go vegan has made me feel better and has given me a new purpose.
One reason I thought that I could never be vegan is because I didn’t like the idea of being a picky eater. I’ve always been the type to eat whatever someone gives me, so the idea of inconveniencing people intimidated me. But all doubts aside, I’m happy with my decision. Although it may be an inconvenience, it’s still worth it for the animals that I am going to save and the climate. My energy has been high since I started my new diet and the foods I’ve been trying have been far better than I expected. I’ve learned that the taste in food that I’ve always loved comes from the right flavoring and spices. I find if I season tofu like I used to season chicken it will taste just as good. I even have a new appreciation for fruits and vegetables and am more conscious of what I put into my body. I’ve even veganized meals that I used to eat often and find I enjoy the vegan versions more and more.
My main reason for this big lifestyle change is my love for animals, which I’ve realized is much stronger than my love for foods like fried chicken, eggs, and steak. I used to eat five or six eggs a day but I really haven’t been missing them. My second reason is my commitment to being more sustainable in the new year. I’m terrified of climate change. The destruction of our planet and all the species on it has called me to action. I want a future for all like on Earth and for that to happen we must change our ways which are warming our planet at alarming rates. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 % of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. This statistic alone shows the need for every person to lower or eliminate their meat and dairy intakes.
The last reason is health. A whole food plant based diet can prevent and even reverse heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and various cancers according to multiple studies like the China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Thomas M. Campbell. At 21 years old I’m not too concerned about my health, but my dad, who had stage 0 colon cancer a few years ago, has decided to join me on the plant based diet to prevent the return of any cancer and to lower his cholesterol. He has already said he has more energy than before the change and is excited for the future. My mom has also decided to go vegan because of her love for animals. My brother likes the idea of it, but he’s having a hard time giving up chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. He’s a work in progress. My boyfriend decided to go vegan with me after watching Cowspiracy, he’s committed to the lifestyle to reduce his carbon footprint. He has also said that he likes how light his body feels and loves all of the food that we have made recently. Now it may seem like I’ve forced everyone around me to go vegan and I promise that’s not the case, although I may have given them a little nudge in the plant-based direction. This lifestyle is something people have to choose for themselves, but if you feel you might be interested or saw a documentary like “The Game Changers” and want to give it a try, I encourage you to do your research to make sure you will get all of your vitamins and nutrients and see a doctor first if you have any medical concerns.
Although Veganuary is coming to an end, you can try veganism and vegetarianism whenever you want, just remember not to put too much pressure on yourself in the beginning. My stomach felt a little uneasy the first week but it feels great now, truthfully I think it’s because I had never eaten so many vegetables! If you are interested in the lifestyle give it a chance and also look up vegan chefs and influencers. One of my favorites is Tabitha Brown and I highly suggest looking her up on TikTok, YouTube or Instagram for some flavorful vegan food. All in all, I’m proud of being vegan for almost a month and I’m excited to keep trying new foods and vegan restaurants. To any who have recently tried to go vegan or are interested now, good luck and happy eating.
Photos courtesy of Shawn Latulippe