3 months vegan & why I’m sorry

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I don’t want to start this blog post by saying “I have been vegan for 3 months”. I ate almost a whole bag of prawn crackers that came free with an (otherwise vegan) Chinese takeaway in a moment of madness during my October time-of-the-month. That is just one of a few slip-ups. Although I am researching and investing in cruelty-free products, I am still using the make-up I own from Benefit Cosmetics (who test on animals, click here to check whether your brands do too) and wearing old, woollen jumpers (although not ‘harmed’ in the shearing process, sheep are bred and enslaved to provide products for humans and then sent to the slaughter). There are some ridiculous ingredients like Acetylated Lanolin Ricinoleate, Desamidocollagen and many more that come from animals and mean nothing to me when I check the back of food packages (I’ve just googled them to make my point). Who knows how close I actually am to actually achieving veganism.

vegan definition

As I explained in a previous blog post, I chose the vegan lifestyle for health reasons first, the social and environmental implications of the meat & dairy industries second, and for the support of animal rights third. The more that I read and learn, the more these intertwine in my head in to one, impenetrable reason to continue with this change. If anyone would like me to write in more detail about these 3 reasons to go vegan, please let me know. I understand that the majority of people that choose these lifestyles are doing so to support animal rights beyond anything else, which I totally support and am starting to open up to more over time. Anyway, back to my point.

My god, it’s tiring. And do you know what makes the whole thing so much more difficult? People casting their judgement on you and your lifestyle and making you feel like you aren’t a ‘real’ [insert lifestyle choice here]. This is something that I am massively guilty of in the past. There was a girl I used to be friends with before I decided to ‘go vegan’ who called herself a vegetarian in that she chose not to eat meat or fish. She was extremely educated and passionate about her lifestyle and would get quite riled up when expressing her point if we were to ever talk about animal rights. However, she openly admitted to eating gelatine (found in lots of sweets and cakes) despite being aware that it is a protein obtained through the boiling of skin, tendons, ligaments or bones from cattle. She had no argument for this and expressed her admiration for the vegan lifestyle often, explaining that it would be “too difficult” for her to give up dairy products such as cheese and milk, regardless of what the farm animals were put through to produce it. In an unrelated argument that ended our friendship, I sent an awful text to this girl telling her that she was a hypocrite who couldn’t possibly stand for animal rights, and was simply trying to come across as compassionate in order to boost her ego.

label8I regret that text for so many reasons, but mainly because I have realised that a change in lifestyle is about intention rather than perfection. If a person wants to make a stand for animal rights based on their own values and beliefs, a change in diet for example is a step in the right direction for them. At least this girl was doing something, you know? And that is admirable, I realise this now. It is very difficult to give up meat in a western society where it is constantly promoted. So kudos to her, and all the other vegetarians that I have most likely offended in the past. You are all making positive change. It’s very similar to the pacifism or communism argument people have. “Well it’s a nice idea in theory, but it won’t actually happen and I can’t make a difference“. If we all have the attitude that our contribution to change, however small, won’t mean anything, then of course we won’t move forward as a society! Anyone that has made an active choice to change something about their lifestyle, be it choosing not to purchase products from Nestlé (click here to read why) or having a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones (click here to read why) is making a positive change. If you want to stand for what is right for you, do something, ANYTHING to take action! (This does not mean that I condone Hitler’s fascism and mass-murder, father. Honestly, the shit I get).

I suppose this blog post is a sort of tail-between-my-legs apology. The girl I mentioned isn’t the only person who I have attacked for their beliefs. I remember being steaming drunk one night recently and lecturing a random vegetarian guy I had met about 10 minutes before with something along the lines of: “I don’t get vegetarians. If you care about animals, why would you consume dairy products that are produced by putting animals through absolute torture? An animal being slaughtered and served in a supermarket isn’t the only way it can be exploited. You’re just as bad as a meat-eater…” blah blah blah, drink a-sloshing and digging a continuously deeper hole for myself. The poor guy was actually very nice about the whole thing; clearly he was in a place where he was comfortable in his choice.

label6My opinion has changed so drastically in the last few weeks and I think it’s important for me to share this in the hope that it will give people something to think about – especially those like me who have been quick to critique others who are contributing in any way towards making the world a better place. Could it have been denial? Jealousy? I don’t know. The girl I mentioned before is doing a great thing in her vegetarianism, but she, myself and all the others in whatever lifestyle they lead, have to stop judging and comparing others. To me, in that situation a few months ago, the vegetarian girl wasn’t doing ‘enough’. To an elderly vegan who hasn’t been near an animal product in food or otherwise since the womb, I might not be doing ‘enough’. 100% vegan is almost like the holy grail of lifestyle choices to me. It is so pure and so intense that it is very difficult to achieve, especially if you have been brought up in a family of meat and dairy eaters and are surrounded by ambiguous products containing these 6-syllable ingredients that make no sense.

vegan not real

Am I a vegan, or am I ‘transitioning’ to the vegan lifestyle? Is it right for me to call myself a vegan when I knowingly am still using my leftover non-vegan beauty products, or when I had that minor blip and ate the prawn crackers? Can anyone and does anyone ever avoid all animal products in a Western society? Definitely something to think about.

Any person who is doing whatever they can to move towards change should be applauded, and that is something I am working on. Any person who has the right intentions, be it veganism, another lifestyle choice or just generally, is a good person in my eyes. The key thing for me and my readers to take away from this is the focus on INTENTION, not perfection. There are no perfect people in the world and everyone has their own shit going on that we’ll never understand. As an all-or-nothing person, I went from cheeseburger-loving, milk-guzzling maniac to upholding quite a strict vegan diet. 6 months ago I would have bowed down to the holy entities that managed to have enough self-control to give up bacon butties on hangover day. I have made a huge step forward and I should feel proud of myself. I shouldn’t be made to feel embarrassed or struggle with whether to use the label ‘vegan’ or not in case I’m not good enough. And I shouldn’t be inflicting any of that on anyone else, either.

For me, veganism is the attempt to move away from as many animal-derived products as possible. I will take a medicine prescribed to me to help me survive whether it contains animal ingredients or not. I’m not going to walk around in wooden-soled shoes or never use a computer again (rubber and plastics potentially contain animal by-products) but in accepting that maybe it isn’t possible to be ‘100% vegan’ I’m not going to let that get me down. The less of a product we purchase, the less it will be produced – that is simple supply and demand. I truly believe that I and many others are making a difference towards the end of cruel and systematic factory-farming and disgusting animal testing practices in the purchasing of cruelty-free alternatives.

I don’t eat meat, eggs, fish or dairy products 99.9% of the time, and to my knowledge. One day I hope to be there 100%. I own items that include animal products or have used animal testing, but am replacing everything with cruelty-free substitutions at my own pace and with the limited budget I have. Sometimes I sit and have intense and almost sexual thoughts about eating a massive bowl of spaghetti carbonara. I consider myself to be a vegan and I feel a million times better than I ever have before. We should all support one another in the positive lifestyle choices we make, and I am sorry to anyone that I have made to feel like their journey is not important.label5

Veganism?

I’ve been researching the vegan lifestyle recently and it’s becoming increasingly interesting to me. To say that my ‘normal’ diet consists of bacon butties, cheeseburgers and carbonara, I’m not sure how I expect to live as a thoroughly pure vegan, or if I even want to. All I know is after many hours of reading blog posts and articles, watching hundreds of YouTube videos and scrolling down page after page of heated debates on message boards, I’ve completely changed my opinion on what I want to eat.

My blog’s ‘About Me’ page mentions my love of food several times (which I blame entirely on my Italian blood) and I don’t think that will ever change. I’ve learnt that you can love good food, and enjoy eating it just as much and maybe for different reasons. There’s something so satisfying about filling your body with good stuff. Yes, I’m aware of the obvious cue I just created there for an ejaculate joke, (semen is actually said to be good for you, so not entirely irrelevant…) but let’s move on.

When I was a young girl of around 6 or 7 I chose to be a vegetarian. Now I can sit here and pretend that I was wise beyond my years and had a very grown-up outlook on the world with a sensitivity towards animals, but I was simply a fussy eater who would spend almost an hour at the dinner table if I was ever presented with chicken. I mean obviously the idea of animals being kept in horrific conditions and then slaughtered by the thousands upset me, but never enough to put me off eating meat. Basically I’d gotten away with not eating foods I disliked by giving myself this controversial label for someone so young, and I felt good being a bit of an outcast. I don’t think this phase lasted more than a year and I can’t really remember why I started eating meat again. It was more than likely the constant “you need meat for protein and iron” argument I was getting from my mum, who I guess was just trying to look out for me.

I was brought up on a good, healthy diet for a growing child both before, during and after my vegetarian ‘phase’. I was definitely the ‘bag-of-carrots’ kid at my school and gazed in adoration at the packets of crisps and chocolate bars everyone else had in their packed lunches. As I got older and had opportunities to have more of a say in what I was eating, I rebelled and started to pig out on junk food. I think this combined with working in pubs until 4am and then dragging myself to school the next day had a detrimental effect on not only my physical health, but my state of mind. I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression in my late teens and struggled with even getting through everyday tasks for about 2 years. It is only in retrospect that I can see a correlation between these negative feelings and all the crap I was putting in to my body.

It’s probably been about a year that I have started thinking about changing to a healthier lifestyle, and not even a month that I’ve been slowly putting some ideas in to practice. It has been constantly feeling lethargic and coming down with all sorts of illness and some noticeable weight gain that made something click in my head and want to stop relying on this empty food for fuel. And although I realise that 22 is still young, I’m aware that it’s only downhill from here in terms of metabolism and what I can get away with eating (or not eating).

I’ve known I’ve wanted to make a change for a while, but my research on a vegan diet only started in the last few weeks. Never did I ever think I would be considering cutting out all the foods I loved, and I actually found people who proclaimed to be vegan extremely annoying and self-righteous in the past. Awful, I know. There isn’t anything wrong with being passionate about something and living your life the way you feel is best. And nowadays I wouldn’t blame anyone for being proud of their vegan lifestyle and wanting to share it with the world. I suppose in a way I was jealous of people who could take control of their lives, be so strong and live so pure. It sounds dramatic, but cutting out meat, eggs, fish and all dairy products must be difficult, especially if like me you love your food and have spent years gorging yourself with these products from the multi-billion pound meat, egg and dairy industries.

I feel like I want to move towards a vegan diet to benefit my own health rather than for ethical reasons. I’m not some soulless monster that is unaffected by the images of battery hens crammed in to tiny cages or geese having tubes forced down their throats and pumped with fat to prepare their livers to be cooked and served as ‘foie gras’ (not that I’d ever eat something stupid like that anyway, but you know). I support vegetarians and vegans in their choice to make a stand for animal rights, but for me it’s more the new-found knowledge of what’s in the food I’m eating every day and therefore what is being put in to my body. Our bodies are our machines that we use to live each day; we need to respect them in order for us to live a long and fulfilling life. And for me personally, I know that what I eat can greatly affect my mind just as much as my body.

This isn’t going to be an over-night change, especially since I am jumping from a full-on ravenous carnivore to a more vegan-inspired diet without properly trying vegetarianism first (which seems to be the usual path people take to a vegan lifestyle). I’m definitely an all-or-nothing person and am motivated more by drastic change rather than something more slow and gradual. My research on the vegan lifestyle has inspired me and what I want to change within my diet and has massively put me off certain foods and food groups. I will go in to more detail of my ideas and how this progresses in later blog posts, but I just thought I’d give a bit of background to my diet to begin with.

Hopefully the journey towards a vegan-inspired diet might be interesting to some readers from this perspective that might be considered a little different. And for anybody that wants more information from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, click here and find out more about veganism.

Let’s talk about Ciretta

Here are 10 things that make me happy, just because:

1. Those Tesco Value knock-off custard creams that are like 40p for a pack. I also kind of hate these though because you don’t feel bad for eating the whole lot in one go seeing as you get them so cheap and then you feel really sick because all of the sugar and need to make yourself a slice of buttery toast. Then you get the urge for something sweet-tasting again and the cycle continuous that like of the sun rising and setting each day.

2. The colour green. It’s always been my favourite colour. I think when I was younger I just wanted to be different to all the girls wearing pink and thought I was über-cool and original to like green. Now it reminds me of nature and vegetables and the carpet in my old house.

3. Notebooks. My ex-boyfriend would wake in the dead of night to find me still tapping away on my laptop in the dark shopping for beautiful notebooks online. There are so many god damn varieties that I have a huge collection of unopened notebooks that I just like to look at and dream of what could be filling the pages one day. Notebook shopping is one of very few shopping experiences I can tolerate.

4. Friendly strangers. In some villages of Yorkshire when I’ve been doing the walk-of-shame home from a party at 7am there will be those early risers (usually old people) walking their dog or whatever in those hats that look like something a farmer would wear. We all know what I’ve been doing. I am clearly in yesterday’s dress. Every so often this is overlooked and I get a genuinely friendly stranger conversing with me, just because I’m there. “Hello dear. Bit nippy this morning isn’t it?” People are always so weird about talking to strangers, especially on public transport and that. To be honest I find it odd sitting on a bus surrounded by people staring into the distance in silence as if they’re the only people in existence. There are so many people in the world we completely ignore who might have a million things in common with you or really need your help if you gave them a chance.

5. Writing. I had the privilege of a ‘Social and Literary Studies’ graduate as a father who was my original inspiration for wanting to know about everyone/everything and then write as much as I could about it. When I was little I wrote loads of stories in between the tiny spaces of the lines in newspaper articles. I think that was because my parents spent a small fortune on printing paper for me to write on and it eventually had to be rationed.

6. Clothes with owls on it. Now, this is a HUGE issue for me. My family and I support Sheffield United FC, fondly known as ‘The Blades’, and the nickname of our rival team (Sheffield Wednesday) is ‘The Owls’. I have this real cute jumper with an owl pattern printed on it which I’m not allowed to wear in the house. I understand. I have to suffer for my disloyalty.

7. Reptiles. As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts I am not a massive fan of animals. Anything cute and fury usually just secretes their fluff all over my clothing as if they’re saying “don’t you dare forget about me you horrible excuse for a female”, or I convince myself there’s something in their eyes telling me they’re hatching a plot to take over the world. However, I do own two beautiful leopard geckos which I love more than any other living being. They remind me of dinosaurs and I love dinosaurs. Cats and dogs are so 2013 – REPTILES are the pet of the future. Also when I went to the zoo last year there was a humongous Komodo dragon that I felt some weird instant connection with. Everyone else ran off to laugh at the monkeys and I just pressed my head against the glass of his enclosure and stared at his beauty. Did you know that when Komodo dragons attack their prey, say a deer, they go for the feet first to knock them off balance? THAT’S SO CLEVER AND EFFICIENT.

8. Going out to eat. I sound like a middle-aged professional here but sometimes I genuinely do prefer getting dressed up and going out for a meal with friends than anything else. I love takeaways. I love home-made food. Sometimes it’s a nice change to sit and have everything done for you AND it not taste like heart disease. Devouring a meal with a glass of wine is also an excuse to people-watch. Sometimes I like to sit and make up stories about the people sat on tables around me. That couple on my left are on their 3rd date and they’re going to get laid tonight. You can tell because they ordered oysters.

9. The blissful naivety of children. I have a 4 year-old sister and a 2 year-old brother who are the apples of my eye. I’m not really a “kid” person but when they’re related to you and can’t pronounce your name properly you’re gonna be biased. I learn a lot about myself in just watching them play or during conversations with them. So many simple things fascinate them. They can be entertained for hours on end by the same tedious game. If I change the tone of my voice they can find something previously dull extremely interesting and it really makes me think about the simple pleasures of life we all overlook as adults. Scarlett and Jude are never bored. They can pick up a crayon and create a whole fantasy world in their head about King Crayon and his quest to find the people of his kingdom over Pencil Case Hill. It’s inspiring, really.

10. Elves. I’m not really sure where my obsession with elves came from. It could have been when I was dragged to the cinema to watch Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers back in 2002 (which was the start of all my love for LOTR) or when I created my first ever Wood Elf character on the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back in 2003 when we first got an Xbox. A rogue elf character with a bow and arrow and x1.5 sneak damage for a ranged critical hit? Nothing cooler.

Someone will accidentally read this and spicy bananas will become a thing.

I am currently reading a book called ‘Blogging for Happiness‘ by Ellen Arnison. Ellen has just suggested that I write a very quick, very simple blog update using something floating around aimlessly in the back of my mind and which I don’t really feel the need to talk about. So here is that thing.

Choosing to eat spicy food is something I struggle to come to terms with. I swear, in my top 10 list of worst torture methods I’d put being forced to eat a Vindaloo quite high up there along with being tickled and having my fingers chopped off. You can’t taste anything when food is that spicy. It’s literally just spice. Oh hey, I fancy spice today. I need a pint of milk with my meal because it’s basically just spice on spice. I go red in the face and start choking but man do I love curry. WHAT? Explain yourself guys.

I get that hot food is a part of some cultures but I am British and my palate can stretch as far as two different kinds of potato with my Christmas dinners. There is a reason I put salt and pepper on everything: my taste buds are so limited that I need this familiar flavour on practically everything I shovel into my mouth in order to finish a meal. And I’m really ok with that. How do you holy entity-like creatures of this country MANAGE these dishes?

I remember ordering a takeaway with a good friend one evening while watching reruns of ‘Friends’ – it was from an Indian restaurant but I still ordered a cheeseburger. My friend got himself a huge, hot curry with actual full pieces of chili just chilling on his plate like they weren’t going to so very soon destroy his mouth. And this is what he said after the first forkful: “man, I’m gonna shit well tomorrow”. I can’t even begin, guys. The hot food fad is beyond me. Like, I appreciate toilet time just as much as the next human being, but I wouldn’t purposefully eat something that is 100% going to give me the shits the next day. Is it a man thing? Men don’t really seem fazed by poo. I don’t know. I’m getting worked up just thinking about it.

The one thing I have constantly been picked on for by my male mates is my inability to eat hot food. One time, in 6th form at school, my friends and I were queuing for our lunch. We’d left it quite late and the choice was limited, so I picked up a chicken tikka wrap which I had never tried before – and oh my god. I had tears running down my face and I am told that chicken tikka is not even considered a hot food. Is there something wrong with me or can at least one reader relate to my bafflement? I’ve even Googled “health disadvantages of eating spicy food” as some kind of feeble attempt of a back-up argument and found nothing. I feel like I am going to die every single time I am forced into eating something spicy; I was sure chilies slowly burned the inside of your stomach lining until it killed you.

Do you know what I like to eat? Cheese, and stuff. I like food that doesn’t alter bowel movement or set off volcanic explosions in your mouth. What pleasure do you people gain from wanting to rip your own tongue out of your head? I have been in situations where I have to rest my tongue in a pot of petit filous yoghurt for an unnatural amount of time in order to cool it down. Eat a banana, they said. It’ll help with the spice, they said. NOW I CAN JUST TASTE SPICY BANANA. THERE’S A REASON THAT IS NOT A DELICACY.

I don’t really know what I expected to come of this blog post. It’s just a rant, I guess. I usually try and spread some helpful message but I simply just don’t understand the love for spice and needed to vent that. Knowing my luck someone will accidentally read this and spicy bananas will become a thing. I don’t need that in my life right now.