• Clare O'Sullivan


This weekend I imagine lots of people are marching themselves to the pub. Or the nearest chicken shop. The start of February calling time on Dry January, Veganuary and possibly any other self-improvement regimes. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re staying off the booze… and the cheese fondue.

Dry January isn’t something I believe in. I feel January is miserable enough without staring longingly at an unopened bottle of wine. I tried Veganuary years ago. #plantlife did not suit me. I turned grey in the face and failed miserably. Partly because I was in Ireland and it's illegal to milk nuts there and partly because at the time ham was a major food group for me. My lifestyle has changed quite a lot since then and I certainly feel better for it. I have been vegetarian for four years and this year I thought, sure, why not? I like vegetables, I think the planet is pretty important and believe animals should be treated with respect. Let's give Veganuary a go! It can only be a good thing.

I wish I could say that the past month has changed me, that I feel enlightened, have a deeper connection to cows and look positively glowing. I don’t.

The first question most people asked me when I said I was taking part in Veganuary was why? On the first day of January I hadn’t quite figured that out, other than that I was curious. Since changing to a veggie diet I have not been a massive dairy eater but I do think it morally wrong to leave a cheese board unfinished. And it’s virtually impossible to eat brunch in London without a poached egg getting involved. So animal products are a part of my day to day. Not in a huge way, but let’s just say there is always Kerrygold butter in the fridge for emergencies.

I was curious to see how difficult or easy it actually is. I did my research. I wondered if my energy levels would soar, as reported by shiny, beautiful vegans. I liked the idea of brighter, clearer skin. More plants = more health, right? I thought about the environmental impact and if I would, after a month, continue with a lifestyle that gives this planet and its furry and feathered inhabitants a break.

Animal welfare was a big one. I thought about the difference my one less box of eggs and block of halloumi a week would make. I wondered if the animals suffered, if they struggled, or if they were completely unaware. Growing up in Ireland stomping around fields, farms and milking parlours I never saw any signs of distress. I saw farmers care for their livestock- and it made sense- these creatures provided for their families. I saw them treated with respect and consideration. Back in those days I never once imagined eating yoghurt to be an offence to a cow. I didn’t think having a cheese sandwich involved any babies being torn away from their mothers. It wasn’t a conversation. Today it is. There was a lot of thinking going on last month for me (which works up quite an appetite. Usually one only satisfied by milk chocolate digestives).

To be honest I’ve still not made up my mind.

I still don’t have the answers to the pondering above, but here are some things I did discover during my plant journey (yes I went there; journey)

1. Lots of meal prep is required if you don’t want to exist solely on rice cakes and hummus.

2. Brunch options are smashed avocado on toast or toast and smashed avocado.

3. There is a LOT of hummus involved. All flavours. All textures.

4. For the good I did for the environment during the month, I probably did just as much damage considering the volume of toxic gasses produced. Like the stereotype or not, vegan life is gassy and bloated af.

5. Most pubs don’t know if their wine is vegan or not. (Let’s be honest, I was willing to take the chance.)

6. I actually don’t need cheese as much as I thought.

7. I need eggs more than I thought. I found myself daydreaming about them.

8. I ate approximately 2kg of nuts. It was insane. Nuts were the answer to everything.

9. I’m pretty sure I gained weight. I blame the nuts.

10. Bacon fries are vegan

I ate scrambled eggs this morning. And there will be a croissant later. Because, come on, it’s been a long month.

So I’m not turning into a full-time vegan, but I am going to consider where I get my animal products from. I think we can go through phases with food and what we need more or less of as the seasons change. Doing Veganuary allowed me tune into what my body needs a bit more. It has made me listen a bit more carefully to the subtleties of craving and instinct around food, rather than just eating what I think I should have, or what I am in the habit of buying. For that alone it was worth the challenge.

I will also continue to eat bacon fries knowing that the piggies sleep soundly.

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