03 Jan Veganuary
You must have seen it by now. Veganuary – the pledge to go vegan for the month of January. It’s grown exponentially in the last few years.
1,500 participants in 2014 to 52,000 in 2018.
I want to start by saying that I have absolutely no problem with people being vegan, I was vegan myself for years, vegetarian for many more. A few years on, I eat pretty much everything – still paying attention to animal welfare. I don’t need to share any of the reasons why I eat or ate the way I do, but I will say that it was probably veganism that got me so interested in nutrition and cooking in the first place.
I had to learn to cook (there wasn’t much vegan fare out there back then!) and I had to figure out how to replace things I wasn’t getting with a vegan diet.
I do, however have a wee problem with some of the language used in the Veganuary campaign. The language used by those taking part in Veganuary can be elitist and exclusionary, shaming people into changing the way that they eat.
It also smacks of clean eating – seeming to pin health and wellbeing purely on going vegan. Something I thought we’d be steering away from in 2018. Their advertising says it all, really:
...One participant told us: I didn't realise how 'sick' my body felt until I realised what 'healthy' feels like.
This can present veganism as a new diet ‘fad’; a diet that means you’re morally superior and a quick fix way to ‘get healthy for 2018’, that foods are good or bad or get lean by ‘shedding extra pounds’… whatever. Oh hai diet culture. This can also lead down a dangerous path for those who may be susceptible to, or recovering from an eating disorder.
Think about orthorexia nervosa – a condition where disordered eating is developed in the pursuit of ‘health’. This leads to needlessly excluding foods in order to achieve ‘health’ goals, which in the end will only lead to issues with physical and mental health.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to eat more plants and I’m not saying don’t do Veganuary – just try to be careful of the language you use and be considerate of other people’s viewpoints.
There’s no question about the fact that reducing our intake of animal products would have a positive effect on the environment in the long term. If you really want to test the waters in the name of the environment but don’t want to go vegan then just making small changes like cutting out meat for a day can make a big difference. If we all did it then it would make an even bigger difference.
Animal welfare is obviously an emotive subject and I am (as most humans are!) all for better conditions for animals and better farming practices. I also agree that we need to be better informed about animal welfare in order to make informed decisions when we’re buying our food.
However, people are free to make their own decisions and eat what they want without judgement being thrown in their faces.
Long story short
There’s no need to go hell-for-pleather into a fully vegan diet if you don’t fully want to. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t mean you’ll be unhealthy. Eating more plant based foods undoubtedly has a positive effect on the environment and for our health, but do it on a level that makes you happy. Don’t force yourself into something you don’t want to do in the long term in the name of health or weight loss – it likely won’t end well.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a well-planned vegan diet. Veganism has been around since who-knows-when and it’s not about to disappear in February. If you want to try it then make sure to do your research, there’s things you don’t want to be missing out on – a vegan diet is restrictive by its very nature and it can be hard to get what you need without a bit of planning.
If you’re in Brighton and you do want to learn more about a vegan diet, sift through the nutribollocks and make sure you’re not missing out on some vital nutrients then come join us on 29th January for a Vegan Nutrition and cookery Masterclass. We’ll be cooking up three delicious vegan dishes and there’s a Kombucha mocktail in it for you too (or non-kombucha if ‘booch ain’t your thing!). Keep an eye on the Events page for more info on upcoming events.