Vegan August | Week 4 & The End!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

vegan august

WE DID IT!

So it's now September, and I'm really happy to say that we successfully completed 'Vegan August' and I'm so proud of us for doing it. The final week and a bit was probably the hardest as we knew that we were so close to the end. I spent a lot of my time dreaming about the chicken fajitas that I would be eating on the first of September. I didn't think at the time that I felt any healthier or had any more energy than normal, but just one week after and I can tell that I feel so much worse now we're eating meat and dairy again. That being said, we're definitely not eating any where near the amount of meat that we used to and have made an effort to buy free range instead of the cheaper factory farmed meat.

Our final week of meals:

Saturday: leek mushroom and pea risotto
Sunday: vegan sausages with spaghetti hoops and cous cous
Monday: vegan burritos (peppers & onions, mexcian style rice, re-fried beans, salsa, etc)
Tuesday: mushroom stir fry
Wednesday: vegetable fingers with wedges and spaghetti hoops
Thursday: courgetti with chunky vegetable sauce
Friday: sweet potato and red onion pie with braised red cabbage
Saturday: penne arrabbiata at Prezzo on a hen do!
Sunday: chilli beans, cous cous and veg
Monday: leek, mushroom and pea risotto

Jono wrote a summary of his experience of 'Vegan August' and I thought that I would share that today as he has written it far better than I could:

Tonight marks the end of our Vegan August. I got the idea from a motivational talker I saw in London (Mark Shayler) who said he was on day 45 of the Vegan 30 day challenge. I decided to try the challenge for several reasons. One was simply the mental challenge which I enjoyed from my Dry January challenge (and extended to the birth of my son, Zach). But also because I was curious of the statement made from Mark, who was 15 days past the completion or expiration of the challenge and had decided that it felt so good he was going to continue. I couldn’t believe that cutting out animal products would make you feel so elated and healthy that the only way to find out for myself it to try it.

The other reason for doing the challenge is because since becoming a father I have had an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I realise before me is my future in its physical form and it is my job to nurture this child into the next generation who will live in the new world very different to my own, just as I live in a different world to my parents and theirs before them. I am troubled by the current world and concerned about the future world being created right now. I worry of the direction of the most powerful nations of the world, the welfare of the planet and the animals we share with it. Over the recent years I have seen first hand the result of pollution and climate change. Climate change is not myth or a scientific debate. It is scientific fact and there is not an accredited scientist in the world that disputes that climate change is happening. There are differing views at the rate it is happening, but there are several corporations out there that are trying to keep your focus away from that or even use it to sell their products.

I’m not sure I would describe myself as an animal lover – but it’s safe to say it is true I have an affection for them (especially cats, birds and reptiles) and I abhor any form of cruelty to any living creature. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to eat them. I believe in the eco system and as animals we should eat a varied diet that includes meat from animals, just like many other animals do. So becoming vegan was not because I didn’t want animals to be slaughtered. In a national supermarket you can buy a whole chicken for £2. I understand the concept of economies of scale etc but there is no way you can produce a healthy, happy, drug free chicken for just £2. That chicken has been grown in a cage, in a barn with no windows (so to keep the heating bill down). It has had the end of its beak cut off so that it does not peck its neighbour to death. It cannot move in its tiny cage so rests in its own excrement, dosed on antibiotics to prevent it from getting ill and dying prematurely. Because it doesn’t move its muscles are fatty and will be covered in gristle. Most people reading this will say “but they’re going to die anyway” which is true. This animal though is in worse condition than road kill, but I’d bet you’d turn your nose up at that, despite the fact the roadkill has never had any antibiotics, eaten only organic food, have tender muscles with less fat and gristle – oh and also a life beforehand.

As a petrol head it’s a bit of a contradiction to be concerned about global warming – but personal cars make up a tiny proportion of pollution compared to energy creation, precious metal mining and freight transport (land, sea and sky). But the number one cause of global warming? Intensive animal farming. If everyone in the world went vegetarian for half the week there would be a significant reduction in world CO2 emissions.

So that’s what I am going to do. And I’m not going to be strict about it, because if you’re too strict you then go off the rails and fail, and then give up. But loosely I am going to try and be a week day vegetarian. This is not a new concept. Prior to WW2 this was how most of the world lived. Meat was a treat for the weekend, often Sunday with the potential left overs in Monday’s sandwiches. But after the war, there was a food shortage and technology invested in the mass production of food to feed the thousands. Populations then massively increased and production has not ceased since. And why would it? Food manufacture is now a wealthy global industry – why would they want to stop this?
I wasn’t completely strict on my vegan challenge. I drank beer that had been filtered through animal products (although didn’t contain them), ate at restaurants where the ingredients were ambiguous and ate food that included “may contain traces of milk” on the label. There was also no way I was going to ride my motorcycle without leathers. But my choices were ethical and that’s what I will continue with now. When I buy meat, I want it to be meat that will actually be of sufficient quality and I don’t think that’s a pompous thing to say. To use a pompous example: if you describe yourself as a wine connoisseur, you wouldn’t buy wine that costs £2 because you know it would be mass produced rubbish. I used to think meat should be included in every meal, because I love meat. So now is the time to make it the treat that it is and not the staple. Now I will take my daily meat budget, add it together to create a weekly meat budget on one quality meat product.

Do I feel amazing like they said I would? Not really. I feel good – I feel really healthy. Without being more active I seem to have more energy and I have lost 6kgs (which is almost 1 stone or 13 pounds) so maybe that healthy feeling comes from losing weight and being further away from the overweight mark. I’ve definitely absorbed more minerals and vitamins than my previous diet but my eczema and other allergies haven’t miraculously been cured.

People didn’t really understand why I was doing it. They questioned where I was going to get all my nutrients from; I didn’t question where they were getting theirs from in their frozen ready meals and take aways. Most people thought I would be eating very little, but in fact I have eaten the most varied diet of my entire life; unlike my repetitive diet of before. I was teased as expected but stayed strong even on a stag do where everyone ate mountains of meat. Soon I didn’t miss meat, and oat milk in my cereal seemed like an improvement. However the one thing I did miss was cheese. There is no vegan alternative for cheese that comes anywhere close which effectively eliminates pizza from the vegan diet. So I think that might be my next sin from a local Pizza takeaway chain.

Thanks for reading this far if you did – but I thought it was good to get down my observations not just for my own personal record but for anyone else who might be thinking of taking the Vegan 30 Day Challenge. Being vegan isn’t for me, nor is vegetarianism. But I hope to make more ethical and responsible choices about the food I put into my body. That way I can stay around for a long time to watch my son grow up and any future children he may have – if there is still a world left for them to grow up in.

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Thank you for reading about our 'Vegan August' challenge! If you haven't done so already please go and read the other posts about our challenge! 

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