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Sunday 4 March 2018

The Secret Vegan

The problem was that it was my SISTER daring me to do it. My LITTLE sister. And if there’s anything a big sister can’t take, it’s being beaten in something by a little sister. It’s pretty much against the laws of the universe.

However, what she was challenging me to sounded if not impossible, then very nearly so. It sounded miserable, torturous and a downright slog. In fact it sounded a DREADFUL idea. 

But it was my little sister daring me to do it.

Ah crap. I was going to have to give it a go. With 31 days of misery ahead of me, I notified my triathlon coach, organised a nutritional check 3 weeks in (in case I was dying or could bribe her to provide me with a valid excuse to back out), stocked up on things that had never appeared on my grocery list before (what the actual frog is TOFU and is it supposed to taste like a mix of frogspawn and scrambled eggs?) and bought a veritable Holland & Barretts worth of supplements, vitamins and pills.

So what was this awful challenge that I was dreading? Veganuary. Yep, me a self-confessed creme-egg addict and cheese devotee was considering giving up all things animal based for 31 days. There were caveats however; part of my work uniform is leather  (no - I’m NOT some sort of bondage mistress before you even consider asking that) and I was still cooking animal products for my daughter so I wasn’t a ‘proper’ vegan by the strict terms as I was still using some animal products even if I wasn’t eating them. 

So how did I get on?

The Downsides:

  • Farting. Oh my God, the farting. I got away with it for the first few days as no-one could believe that the stench was from an actual person rather than roadkill, a sewage plant or some truly appalling drain problems. I actually had to check that I hadn't inadvertently crapped myself several times. 
  • Eating Out. I was panicking that I wouldn't be able to eat out at all but actually most places I've been to have have offered at least one vegan meal option. And if I was really stuck, then there was always chips. Mmm chips. However one thing I HAVE needed to check was that the place I was going to offered options that were not only vegan but also had no gluten in as should that happen I'd probably dissolve into a puddle of farts and actual manure. 
  • Code Browns. Every single bloody time I've run a speed session in January, l had a code brown. In other words I had a 3 minute warning either during or immediately after that I needed a poo. An urgent poo. However I'm not sure I can blame this entirely on Veganuary as this is a standard January thing for me. No idea why. It's possibly my body complaining about having to run fast after a nice long sit down for the entirety of December. 
  • Meal Planning. Rather than just being able to stick the contents of my freezer drawer into the steamer and press the on-button, I was having to actually plan my meals in advance unless I was prepared to live off tins of baked beans and bourbons (I don’t believe in living off salad - it’s not real food - this was what I was concerned about when my sister first suggested it. I thought my diet would be brown rice and lettuce which sounds joyless and quite frankly shit.) This meant I was having to bulk cook and pot everything up in little plastic pots in the fridge. The microwave was my new best friend.  
  • No Creme Eggs. No cheese. These two alone were almost deal breakers for the 30 days. 

The Upsides:

  • Proper Athletes. There are PROPER athletes who are vegan. Scott Jurek is vegan. He doesn't seem to have any problems smashing out the miles and winning all the things.Rich Roll, ultrarunner and triathlete is vegan and other notable vegan Brits include Fiona Oakes, Sally Eastall and Jack Maitland. Doesn't seem to be holding this lot back at all.
  • I Learned To Cook. I had to learn to make food. Things were no longer as simple as chucking a bit of fish and some veg into the steamer. I went through a phase where I was eating curry for every meal. Actually it’s not a phase. I’m still doing this. It’s fucking awesome. 
  • Eating Less Crap. I didn't realise quite how much shit I ate until I couldn't eat it in January. I almost had a melt down when I realised that there would be crème eggs and no cheese. But then again they're not really top of the list when I think of things likely to improve my triathlon performance. However surprisingly I found out that most dark chocolate was vegan as were doritos, peanut butter, party rings, Fox’s custard, pringles, a lot of the Mr Kipling cakes, several of the haribo (phew!), bourbons and most importantly Aspalls Cider was also vegan. 
  • I Like Animals. And I don't just mean in a sizzling pan. I've always been a bit unsure why my cat dying was a tragedy to me but I was happily eating pigs, cows and sheep without a second thought. I've always avoided watching anything on intensive farming too as it's something I'd rather not know about. At least this month I was actually being the person I probably should be all the time. 
  • Tummy Friendly. I don’t get bloating. Yes I’m farting like a … I’m not quite sure what actually. But my family are appalled at the smell and I’ve become shameless at farting on the treadmill at the gym which means the snow really does need to hurry up and go away as the gym will be charging me for people leaving soon. It was interesting to have a flat tummy for the first time in years though even if that comes at a cost of trumping like a whoopee cushion. 

I kept the fact that I was doing Veganuary quiet as it was a personal challenge for me. Well .. between me and my sister anyway. It was interesting seeing the judgement from both sides - from the vegans who were calling people eating animal products ‘murderers’ and from the omnivores commenting on the vegan posts and getting quite affronted at people eschewing bacon and cheese. It made me see that it wasn’t just a diet choice, but a lifestyle and one that made people feel very strongly on both sides. 

However, what really shocked me was the in-fighting in some of the groups. People asking each other who was the ‘most vegan’ and telling others that they weren’t ‘proper’ vegans. As far as I could see, for whatever reasons people choose to follow a plant-based diet or lifestyle, we should be supporting each other, shouldn’t we? It’s all contributing to less animal deaths and promoting better health, isn’t it? I could see how vegans get given a bad name if this infighting is how they behave towards each other before even starting on people who eat meat.  

However, it was a positive experience for me. I learned how to cook some cracking curries, I cut out a lot of junk food for a month and I’ve discovered I have the ability to simultaneously clear a room and toot a tune with a fart. 

Winner, winner, lentil dinner.    


  1. I don't think i've commented before but this is brilliant. I went vegetarian a few years ago and never looked back for all the reasons you liked being vegan, plus the BIG one that everyone eating vegetarian instead of eating meat will make a real difference to world hunger! But YES to the farting and the code browns :) Couldn't stop laughing. It does get better though as your body adjusts.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments ref the infighting about 'labels'. It drives me crazy. I eat fish a few times a week so technically I'm pescetarian but who the heck uses that word? The more people eating plants, the better.

    Do you think you'll continue vegetarianism in any form now?

    1. What a lovely comment - thank you so much! Phew!! I am relieved that the farting will improve (decrease?!) as my body adjusts ... I’m about to be handed divorce papers from my husband if I carry on like this!

      Agree! Completely agree! What is with all the labels? We’re contributing to a better world. Less labels, more yummy food! :)

      I’ve been carrying on being plant-based since the start of this year. It’s suiting me and it’s been nice having easy options to grab out of the fridge in between shifts or after training. I’m not sure I can see a future for me without cheese or Creme eggs but I’ll deal with that when I get to it! :)