five people on how Veganuary changed their lives

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‘I feel healthy, physically and mentally’: five people on how Veganuary changed their lives

Here, five readers share how they fared with Veganuary since it launched a decade ago.

‘The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner’

I tried veganism in January 2014, which coincided with the first Veganuary. I only committed for six weeks, thinking it would be too difficult to go without cheese. I still remember taking a couple of hours to do my first food shop, reading all the labels. Now I’ve been vegan for 10 years, the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. I don’t even think of meat as food any more. It’s like eating a dead body, which I know sounds a bit extreme.

Veganuary is just about trying something for the month to see if it suits you or not. If you’re going to change your intake of food, you do need to do research. But I do think it’s just as easy to be an unhealthy person who isn’t a vegan as it is to be a healthy vegan. Grace Fielder, 44, Milton Keynes

‘I found a kindred spirit through veganism’

I started Veganuary in 2020, before the world descended into Covid chaos. I’d been leaning that way already, eating less meat, when a friend said: “Give it a go, you love animals” – so I did. Little did I know this would change my life. I started following social media accounts for vegan recipes and came across a vegan guy in Scotland. I liked his food pictures and he grew vegetables like me. One night, he opened his DMs for those finding Covid hard. We were soon talking daily about vegan food, failed marriages, politics, our love for the Guardian cryptic crossword and of course life during the pandemic. We graduated to phone calls, video chats and watching Gardeners’ World together over a livestream. We found a kindred spirit in the chaos.

At the time he lived in Scotland and I lived in Ireland. But in Christmas 2020, you could travel with a negative Covid test – so I visited him and we were engaged at Edinburgh Castle. When I had to go home, the staff at the airport were very kind to the woman sobbing in departures. In January 2021, there was a similar let-up of Covid restrictions and my Scottish vegan man packed up his life and moved to Ireland. We married in September of that year with a vegan cake. Amber McKay, 52, Roscommon, Ireland

‘My wife and kids withdrew from our vegan expedition’

For me, [doing Veganuary] this year was all about making a small, positive change for the sake of the environment. I have learned that good vegan food needs to be thought out. The key is having the right ingredients in the cupboard: miso, good pastes, coconut milk, nuts, dried fruit, dried mushrooms. You should treat each ingredient individually to make the flavour. Dry roasting veg helps add depth to the food. To hit the creamy notes, the vegan cheese is just a no for me. However, the vegan coconut-based yoghurts are so nice for a chilli burrito or making a raita.

It has been fun and enlightening and I had some shocking periods in the kitchen making vegan mozzarella for our weekly “pizza Fridays”. This was the point at which my wife and kids fully withdrew from our vegan expedition.

I’m not going to be fully vegan now. Not having chocolate and cakes is really good, and I don’t miss it. I’m going to be vegan in the working week and then do whatever I wish on the weekend. Matt Haley, 37, Bramhall

‘I’m not being strict’

I’ve done “half-arsed Veganuary”, where I try to reduce my dairy and egg intake as much as I can, but I’m not being strict. I’ve been vegetarian for years so the meat part isn’t hard. I’m a massive chocoholic, though, so I’ve missed milk chocolate, but I’ve had dark chocolate instead.

The hardest parts have been avoiding ultra-processed food, which so much vegan shop-bought food is, and when I’ve had less choice – such as when visiting motorway services or attending a family funeral where the spread at the wake was all meat and cheese-based and my vegan option was ready salted crisps. I am not going to start checking through all my beauty products, for instance, to see if they’re vegan. I already check to see if they’re tested on animals. I will make changes to reduce dairy and egg content from now on, but I don’t think I’m going to go fully vegan. Claire, 32, Birmingham

‘I am still vegan … What’s not to like?’

I registered for Veganuary in January 2018. Previously, I had been a vegetarian for a long time, but had started buying organic meat. I was under some misapprehension that this was friendly to other species. I remember slicing some organic chicken during 2017 and I had what felt like an epiphany. This was a living, breathing, sentient being and I decided I didn’t want to be part of this anymore.

However, I believed that being vegan was quite extreme, so I wasn’t sure where to start. That’s when my friend suggested Veganuary. The experience was fascinating and challenging. I had told my family that I wouldn’t be buying or cooking anything that wasn’t vegan, and they agreed to join me, which helped. I subscribed to a vegan magazine which helped with the meal planning and I bought the Veganuary book which has encouraging advice as well as reminding me why going vegan is important.

I watched the recommended films and read widely. All of this made the month really easy. There have been some bumps along the way – eating dairy by mistake – but I am still vegan and love it! I’m much more confident with cooking vegan dishes and feel healthy, physically and mentally. What’s not to like? Claire Hardman, 57, Leicester