I did Veganuary and this is my surprising conclusion
There are several resolutions I swear to uphold time and again when the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve and I (eventually) go to bed hoping to wake up a new and improved version of myself. The most popular resolution would be the one I’ve been telling myself for the past 6 years: it involves donning a swimsuit and getting into a large mass of water to learn how to swim. That hasn’t happened yet, though I always allow myself the first 6 month buffer until it gets warm enough to motivate me. The second most popular resolution is to clean up my diet and to choose a healthier lifestyle that benefits me and the planet. Behold Veganuary, a month-long commitment to plant based eating and self-education and the perfect way to prepare for 2019. Little did I know that it would, in some sneaky ways, be harder than I thought.
A little back story might be required at this point so I’ll wait until you have your cup of tea to begin. I am NOT a meathead. In fact, most people would think I was vegan to begin with because I dislike the taste of milk and eat copious amounts of tofu instead of meat. But I haven’t actually been able to commit to veganism for longer than half a year at a time for reasons I will share a bit later. Therefore as the reluctant-to-submit-to-the-term-flexitarian that I am, veganuary didn’t require heavy thinking and it was fairly easy to prepare for. What caused me to fumble however, were those few careless occasions I didn’t think would be an issue.
Occasion one: The quick grab
When one is being rushed to the cash desk because the grocery store is closing and one makes the fatal mistake of going at closing every time, one is bound to grab items carelessly. Case in point, chips. You may think that because chips are usually potato based that the majority of them are vegan unless something obvious like “Cheese-flavored” or “Sour Cream and Onion” is stamped on the bag. Well, you’d be wrong. I can’t tell you how annoyed I was when I hastily snatched a bag of rosemary flavored chips, paid for them, brought them home, set up a movie, and right before snacking read the ingredient list only to find milk powder was on it. The hilarity of this whole predicament is that a few days later when out shopping for food again, I was in the chip aisle and realized the bacon flavored chips were vegan. Go figure.
Veganuary: 1 Aya: 0
Occasion two: Jag var hungrig
Swedish cuisine is something I’ve been introduced to by non-Swedes via Ikea and if you happen to be Swedish and reading this, I deeply apologize for summing up your country’s cuisine by ways of one measly (yet glorious) food court. Yes, it’s true that just one year ago, the only Swedish words I knew were köttbullar and kanelbullar, but things have progressed and I can finally ask for a pen (får jag låna en penna). But why am I talking about Swedish food? Well, as you have read in previous posts, I was around town during fashion week and attended a seminar on sustainability in fashion at the Swedish Embassy. Foolishly I had eaten no lunch or dinner that day (apart from one protein bar) and as I watched the guests piling skagenröra (shrimp salad) onto slices of bread and picking up tiny towers of seared salmon on crackers, I snapped. Snälla förlåt mig (please forgive me).
Veganuary: 2 Aya: 0
Occasion three: The pile of pastries
One morning I walked into the office kitchen to find a plate of pastries staring back at me. They seemed to be winking and whispering sweet nothings to me, which I thought was a bit rude since we never had a proper introduction. I took a long whiff, detected butter, and said adieu.
Veganuary: 2 Aya: 1
Occasion four: the healthy kind of fat
Halfway through Fashion Week, we had a team dinner. Upon just finishing our conversation on Veganuary and veganism in Berlin, I accidentally started to eat the avocado toast that had feta on it. There isn’t much I hate more in this world than food waste so I proceeded to finish the could’ve-been-vegan appetizer.
Veganuary: 3 Aya: 1
Based on this scoreboard, you might think I failed throughout the entire month but apart from those few occasions, I kept to my word. I peeled, baked, sauteed, and roasted my way through January with relative ease. The only question that remains is how I will eat moving forward.
Until this point, food has and always will be a celebration of sorts. A celebration of tradition, of family and friendship, and of myself. To fully commit to veganism would mean losing that connection to my dad’s special sunday omelettes or my boyfriend’s continued attempts at the perfect pizza. Of course I realize that these moments shouldn’t be dependent on the food but the people I share them with. I am not yet ready however, to let go of the ritual of sharing a common meal, whatever it may be. My diet and lifestyle is always a work in progress but I like knowing that at the moment my eating habits are unlabeled. It allows me to listen to what my body wants and needs without the pressure of trying to make the best choices by societal standards. I did really enjoy the health benefits that came with veganism though (hello clear skin!) so I will continue to eat a diet rich in plants and I urge others to do the same. It may be daunting to completely change your diet, but if you make the effort to create small, sustainable changes that fit your lifestyle, it becomes part of daily life and not just another veganuary.