Saturday, July 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Vegan Experience

Hold the Facon jokes and jump on board the vegan experience. Veganism is unquestionably hot in the celebrity world right now, and it is a trend that is not going away…

I’d be lying if I said compassion for animals had driven me to experience veganism: a friend had poked fun at my incessant love for meat and cheese, challenging me to go vegetarian for the week. Not being one to resist a dare, I foolishly extended my elimination of meat to a full vegan diet. The moment the words slipped from my mouth I knew I would regret it – as did she.

I knew a vegan diet would be difficult for me to convert to, with meat and dairy being the focal point of all my meals. Lulling myself into a false belief, I professed: ‘How hard can it be to stay away from meat, milk, eggs and butter?’, but upon scouring the internet for a beginner’s vegan cookbook I was left with a feeling of panic and horror.

To begin my vegan experience I had to make sure I was prepared. As an eater of convenience, I was forced to plan my meals ahead, and obligated to subject my groceries to a strict label-review prior to purchasing. To make sure I stuck to my challenge, I religiously followed the Vegan Outreach starter booklet.

The hardest days were the first few, as I stared longingly at those around me snacking on their dairy-filled goods. That was before I’d got my rhythm down. Within a few days I was rather enjoying my healthy routine, and the meals I prepared were so much more filling and satisfying than my usual convenience meals that I didn’t feel an urge to binge on unhealthy treats. How I felt on the vegan diet? In a word: great. I admittedly did slip up by having a drop of milk in my coffee, and was often frustrated at being unable to indulge in my usual snacks. Surprisingly I didn’t miss my meat intake, and felt inclined to continue cutting out meat once the week was up. Within only a few days I felt physically alert. Even minor tasks like taking the bins out didn’t seem so arduous and I felt I had a spring in my step – not a characteristic anyone would usually associate with me.

That being said, life without cheese takes some adjustment, and I learned during the week that being vegan isn’t for me. I simply don’t have a strong enough reason to make it work. Despite this, I’m so glad I went through with the challenge. The change in my attitude was invaluable, and has convinced me to lead a much healthier lifestyle – as well as to eat at least one vegan meal each week. No matter where you stand on the ethics, I think most people would gain a lot from going vegan for a week. I wasn’t unhealthy to begin with, but I felt remarkable within the first few days of my vegan diet. If nothing else, you get a first-hand idea of what meat and dairy do to your system. In my case they were taking away more from me than I knew, and I’m really glad I gave it a go.

5 Top Tips for Going Vegan: 1. Grab a guide. If you’re going to try being vegan this really helps – if only to learn how to keep your dietary bases covered. The most widely recommended book is Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis. 2. Visit the supermarket. Changing your diet is the best excuse to stock up on lots of wonderful different foods you’ve always wanted to try but never have. Be adventurous! 3. Be organised. If you know you are short of time, try and prepare food the night before – and have emergency vegan snacks available to you at all times. Some packed fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables can be a life saver! 4. Don’t dwell on slip-ups. If you have slipped up, don’t panic and quit! Just do the best you can – the moment you begin to doubt changing your lifestyle you’ll find it more difficult. 5. Keep motivated! The first few days are always the most challenging, but once they’re past things become easier. Soon it’ll become so ingrained in your lifestyle, you won’t even realise you’re doing it.