It is Veganuary. If you are trying it out this year you are one of a huge number of people taking the pledge: 400,000 signed up last year, and every pledge had a unique motivation behind it for wishing to give up animal products for the month of January. For myself, a lifelong vegetarian who starts every year with a Veganuary pledge, January begins with a fridge full of vegan treats and dairy substitutes. I get on a roll and I’m up for the challenge of keeping it going for the rest of the year.
From around March, however, I often find I haven’t been organised enough with the weekly shop and there is nothing but cheese for my sandwich…and so begins the downward cycle which culminates in a Quality Street session right about Christmas time. Cue Veganuary again! Why keep doing it?
As we know, January is a time for resolutions when we try to improve our physical and mental health and set our aspirations for the year. Even if we do not succeed for long, setting a strong intention has a profound effect on the choices we make. It is the only way we can actually change our habits.
People have many reasons to do Veganuary, perhaps they are vegetarian through the year and want to try being vegan with the extra support and community Veganuary provides. Maybe it’s for a short detox after Christmas. Maybe it is to kickstart a new permanent diet change. Some people even do Veganuary as a support partner or someone else in the household who is trying to drop the dairy, so they can cook together. Whatever the starting point, taking a pledge to change for the better is a positive action.
If you are doing Veganuary for the first time, here are a few things which I found helped me along the way:
1. If you know any vegans, ask them for their recommendations for substitute cheeses, milk products and chocolates. They have probably tried them all and can tell you the tastiest and best (also the ones to avoid!)
2. If you normally eat meat, try not to compare meat alternatives to the real thing, I am told some are very realistic but don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting them to be the same, or cook in the same way. Just think of them as a completely different and delicious foodstuff!
3. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you eat dairy by accident, it’s hidden in so many foods and even long term vegans get caught out sometimes.
4. Eat healthily and limit the processed food.
5. Keep reminding yourself why you made the pledge, it helps!
I come back to my pledge year after year because it makes me feel better – spiritually, mentally and physically. It helps me feel aligned with the natural world and makes me feel more compassionate. And yes, if I do end up back on the Quality Street for Christmas 2021, I will start again in January 2022.