First published at Veganuary, the campaign to support people in trying a vegan diet in January, 2015
I became vegan by accident, and consciously chose a plant based diet around 2003. I was already a third generation vegetarian; my grandparents were exploring diet and nutrition for health reasons and became wholefood vegetarians in the late 1930s.
My father was involved in the Vegetarian Society in the 1960s, back in the dark days of British cuisine when the idea that diet = health was outlandish, ‘Cordon Vert’ was restricted to a smattering of esoteric eateries, and proponents were considered cranks. As was I, as a kid who was ‘the only vegetarian in the village’ most of the time in the 70s and 80s.
I was a happy, healthy and energetic vegetarian, and through the influence of my Swiss mother enjoyed varied and pungent cheeses at the dinner table. That changed when I spent some extended time in south east Asia, where milk and cheese is unheard of and just some occasional egg found its way onto my plate. On my return to England, I noticed changes that took me by surprise as my body was again asked to digest the usual dairy fare.
I feel fortunate now, for the opportunity to re-sensitise during the unintended break from my habitual diet. I imagine I would never have noticed the effects that dairy and eggs were having on me otherwise. The most striking symptom was that my digestion seemed slower and out of balance, but as I started experimenting with cutting out and reintroducing animal derived products what intrigued me was the more subtle benefits I was discovering for the first time. I noticed myself feeling lighter, sharper, and brimming with gusto. It just seemed to work for me, and felt right.
Fascinatingly, I eventually discovered that my beloved aromatic cheeses just didn’t taste so good anymore. Eggs left a faint nauseous aftertaste, and milk just smelled off. My plant based meals, however, tasted even more delicious, and felt ‘cleaner’ somehow.
Moreover, I was joyous that something that just felt really good, that involved easy adjustments to my culinary repertoire, also reinforced a sense of doing the right thing. Today, the moral and environmental arguments are an important part of my reasons for continuing to be vegan. It is said, for example, that a vegan driving a 4×4 has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat eater on a bicycle. I’m more aware now of the impact of my choices beyond my plate, and how those choices help to build a future I want to see…. or not.
The transition was pretty easy for me, but some friends have told me that it took them a little time before it was effortless and natural, and to adjust their habits especially. So I’d say have fun with it and take your taste buds on an adventure. Going plantivore is a brilliant excuse to get more imaginative in the kitchen and to rethink your nutrition and health. Enjoy!
Martin Grimshaw provides tools for personal, organisational and planetary wellbeing @ThrivingPlanet