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Q&A with The Skeptical Vegan

1. When did you go vegan and why?
I went Vegan in February 2020. I wanted to try Veganuary but spent a large amount of January skiing and didn’t think the French Alps would be the most ideal place to start a plant-based diet! I started my second year of University in February, so it was easy to start a clean slate and fill all my empty cupboards with lots of plant-based staples. As I wasn’t vegetarian before, it was important that I had no animal products at all in the house, so there was nothing to test my will power, which definitely helped to begin with. To start with it was just a challenge, and as shallow as it may sound, I thought it may force me to eat a bit healthier and help me lose some weight. It did do that, but I also started to see some really positive effects, such as increased energy and better sleep. Therefore, I carried on. I have to admit I do love a challenge and proving people wrong so that fuelled my motivation for a while, but now I just generally enjoy it and love learning about the positive effects I’m causing through not eating any animal products.

2. Are any of your family or friends vegan?
None of my family are vegan, which is why it was so much easier to start once I was living on my own. None of my family are even vegetarian, so they weren’t exactly jumping for joy when I told them the news. However, now they realise I take it seriously, I think they admire my willpower and stickability. I definitely don’t think they’ll ever consider going vegetarian or vegan but as I do all the cooking at home, they now realise I don’t just eat rice and beans! I have two friends who are vegan, and I remember I used to think they were crazy. However, now it’s lovely to have people to share recipes and snack recommendations with.

3. Would you consider yourself a healthy vegan?
On the whole I would say yes, I am a healthy vegan. However, that does not mean I’m healthy 100% of the time. A lot of people say it’s just as easy to be unhealthy whilst on a vegan diet, but I disagree. It depends on where you live, but if your local takeaway doesn’t do a vegan option (like mine), you just don’t have the takeaway. In many restaurants I have to have the salad as it’s the only option! However, I understand that living in a big city may be slightly different due to the vast amount of vegan dining options. At Uni I went from having 1 takeaway a week to 1 a month, purely because I had far less options. I also try not to have too many ‘fake meat’ products as they tend to be quite processed, and the whole reason I started eating plant-based was to avoid that. I’ll tend to eat vegetable based ‘fake meat’ such as veggie burgers and shroomdogs. Overall it’s about balance, I have definitely had my fair share of vegan cakes and brownies but on those days I may have a salad in the evening instead of a curry!

4. What's your fav vegan snack?
This is a hard question! I have tried SO many vegan snacks I have lost count! Recently, I have been loving the salt and vinegar Popchips but it is so difficult not eat the whole bag in one, which I have done many a time. I have also always loved Bournville chocolate and Chilli Heatwave Doritos and so it’s great that both of those are vegan. Another favourite is Lovecorn’s salt and vinegar crunchy corn – as you can tell I’m obsessed with salt and vinegar. That wasn’t exactly one but there are so many amazing vegan snacks out there. I also love to support small business that are trying to do good for the planet!

5. What's your fav vegan meal and have you had to learn how to cook differently being vegan?
Another tricky question! I love to cook which definitely made going vegan easier. I did a ski season three years ago where I worked as a chalet host and had to cook five course meals, so I gained a huge amount of experience there. My favourite meal has to be risotto, both in terms of cooking and eating. I have always loved to cook risotto; it requires a lot of attention but that’s what I like about it. I much prefer cooking something that needs my attention as it forces your mind to focus so is great if you’ve had a full-on day. I haven’t necessarily had to learn to cook differently, more just learnt to cook different foods. The skills don’t change but the ingredients do. I also love to cook for other people, such as my family as it’s great to show how tasty plant-based food really can be – vegetable curries are a firm family favourite.

6. Do you feel better physically/mentally for being vegan?
100% yes. Physically I feel great. To start with it was great to see weight loss but now I notice more changes. I used to suffer from a constant blocked nose but now that has completely cleared up, which is probably due to the lack of dairy. I feel slightly better mentally but I think that’s due to the positive physical changes. I have more energy, I sleep better, I am more energised in the morning and my skin and hair have never been better. Even if it is all one huge placebo effect, I don’t care as I feel great!

7. Has it improved your life?
Yes. I love having a goal and a challenge and a vegan diet provides me with that. It is also nice to have something new in your life. It’s something exciting, there’s always a new recipe to cook or snack to try! I also love having my Instagram account to document my experience. It holds me accountable and the community online are amazing, everyone has been so supportive. It is also great to learn about the positive environmental impacts a vegan lifestyle can have!

8. Are there any negatives about being vegan?
The main negative for me is actually relating to other vegans. On the whole everyone is so supportive, but I see a lot of posts about how you’re not a ‘proper vegan’ if you make a slip up or occasionally have the veggie option in a restaurant that doesn’t cater for vegans. I think this is extremely discouraging to a lot of people and causes the perception that vegans are over the top. Everyone should be able to do what feels right for them and when other people begin to judge them it causes more harm than good. For example, if you accidentally eat a non-vegan snack or decide to eat a non-vegan meal on a rare occasion where you feel its right, then so be it. If you are chastised or people comment negatively then I believe it is actually more off putting and is the reason why a lot of people quit eating plant based. If people tell them they are not ‘proper vegans’, why would they be motivated to carry on? I believe it’s best to aim for a full plant-based diet but if that takes people time or isn’t feasible 100% of the time, then that is absolutely fine as they are still giving their best efforts. If an athlete misses a day of training or doesn’t perform well in a race, they are still an athlete. If a vegan has one meal that isn’t fully plant-based or a snack that contains honey, they are still a vegan. In my opinion there is no difference. Apologies for the rant, but I want everyone to know it’s normal to make mistakes and people shouldn’t make you believe that a big lifestyle change is going to be easy!

9. Where do you buy all your vegan food - do you have to go to more than one shop?
Buying vegan food is actually really easy. I always do it in one shop depending on the supermarket near me. I usually shop at Sainsbury’s which has an amazing selection of vegan snacks. It is easier for me because as long as they have tofu and shroomdogs, I’m happy! If I am doing a more complicated recipe, I may have to go to 2 shops, however Waitrose stock a lot of different ingredients and have a great ‘World Foods’ section!

10. What advice would you give someone that was thinking about going vegan?
Try it! If you have managed to get down to this last question, then I hope you are really tempted to just jump in and give it a go. I went from eating meat and dairy every single day to 100% plant based and I was surrounded by people who thought I was mad. Six months later and I feel amazing! However, please take my earlier advice. Do what feels best for you, if you just start with one day a week you may find it easier and it doesn’t mean you’re doing ‘badly’. Also, do your research and make sure to have a good supply of multivitamins. Finally, do it because it’s fun! Try new snacks, order from small businesses, cook new food and maybe even start an Instagram account to share everything you try with like-minded people!

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