Saturday, 17 May 2014

My top 5 tips for new vegans



Hello! Me again! For what seems like the hundredth time, I must apologise for abandoning my blog for a short while. Since I've been gone I've been spending all of my free time on 'self-improvement' which is what I'm here to chat about.

I am not going to be one of those people who says I was unhappy with their weight and had tried everything to fix it. Yeah, I knew I wasn't in the best of shape, I'd tried a couple of times before but I'd never really tried tried. My idea of trying was eating salads for about a week and then switching right back in to pizza mode.

When I was at secondary school I lost quite a bit of weight for my end of year prom, however I had time on my side back then (hello? Metabolism? What happened to you, old friend?) and also my method of weight loss was to eat one stick of Drifter and one cheese string for lunch every day, with the occasional Ribena ice lolly thrown in (sorry, mum!)

It worked - although I wouldn't recommend it - and I went to my prom in a size 8 dress which has never seen the light of day since. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I was looking at said dress in my childhood wardrobe and wondering if I would fit a solitary thigh into it or not. Probably not.

I've been a vegetarian for 12 years, after watching a Peta video featuring pigs. It made me cry, and when my mum served up bacon that same evening, I just knew that was it, I'd never eat meat again. Once again, sorry mum.

I found vegetarianism easy, a lot of people think it will be hard, it isn't. There are always delicious options at restaurants, you can still eat cheese and pasta, what's the big deal? Well, that was kinda my problem. The cheese and pasta thing. And cake. And chocolate. And before I knew it, I was squeezing myself into a size I never thought I'd see and being gently nagged by the nurse about my BMI.

So, I made a change. And I am sitting here, four weeks after I decided to make said change, celebrating losing my first stone in weight (with a banana).

I've used a combination of things to lose said stone, one of which is Fitness Blender's 8-week fat loss programme for busy people (I'll do a blog post on this when I've completed the whole 8 weeks but if you haven't heard of Fitness Blender, you're seriously missing out), and the other has been making the change to a vegan diet.

As I said, I was already a vegetarian, so the switch to a vegan diet wasn't too big of a change for me. But I've had to re-learn what is vegan friendly and what is not, and I have learned a LOT over the past month, so I thought I'd share with you my top 5 tips for going vegan, and I really hope they help you out too if you're thinking about switching to veganism.

1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Planning your meals is the most important step you can make when embarking on a vegan lifestyle. A lot of vegan recipes will require fresh ingredients or ingredients you can't necessarily pick up in your local Spar ("Excuse me, where's your tempeh?" is probably not going to get you very far).
Most of the ingredients you'll need can be picked up in your local supermarket, so save yourself a headache, and think about the week ahead before you do your food shop.
It's also worth noting that your local takeaway is unlikely to be vegan friendly so you can't rely on your usual pizzeria if you've let your plan slip. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons I have lost a stone.

2. USE BLOGS TO FIND RECIPES
I don't know about you, but I turn to blogs for pretty much everything. Fancy a new eyeliner but not sure which ones are any good? Blog. Got some Topshop vouchers for your birthday but can't quite decide what to try on? Blog. Looking for delicious, healthy vegan recipes for your meal planner? BLOG, DUH.
I have found some amazing vegan blogs and honestly haven't had a bad meal from any of them. Here are just some of my favourites:

  • Oh She Glows - ohsheglows.com (Angela, who runs OSG, also has an incredible cookbook which is well worth purchasing)
  • Oh My Veggies - ohmyveggies.com
  • Finding Vegan - findingvegan.com (This deserves a special mention, for it is a true vegan mecca, collating vegan recipes from across the World Wide Web into one handy place. It is BRILLIANT.)
  • NE Veggie - neveggie.blogspot.co.uk (Another special mention here, this one's my fiance's blog and he made that scrummy sweet potato in the picture up top, it was gooood)

3. TURN TO SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE HUNT FOR BARGAINS
I LOVE a bargain. I think getting a good bargain is one of the most satisfying feelings in the universe (besides having a sneeze when you really need to sneeze.) 
One of the questions I've been asked most since switching to vegan is, "but isn't being a vegan really expensive?" The long and short of it is, yes, being a vegan is more expensive than being a vegetarian. However, I wouldn't say it was more expensive than being a carnivore (although I have never bought my own meat, I have seen the price of meat and it is not cheap). 
Luckily, us vegans are a friendly bunch, and we love to share tips and ideas, so joining a vegan group on Facebook (such as Vegan Special Offers UK) really helps on the quest for cheap vegan eats.
It's also a good idea to check out the Facebook pages for bargain supermarkets like Aldi, who run a 'Super 6' promotion of reduced fruits and veggies every fortnight. 
Once you've checked what veggies are cheap this week (usually between 39p & 69p), you can use Finding Vegan to search for recipes using those veggies. Super scrimping, guys.

4. DON'T SWEAT THE SWEET STUFF
"But I just COULDN'T become a vegan. I love chocolate too much!"
I'mma stop you right there. Vego make the best chocolate, of all time. Of all. Time.
I went to Alternative Stores a couple of weeks ago and got chatting to the owner about my recent switch to veganism. Alongside being very friendly and helpful, he also gave me a free bar of Vego vegan chocolate. Oh. My. God. It's better than any chocolate bar I have ever had in my life and renders the above comment completely invalid.
In short: Vego.
One of the other things which has really helped is the Vegan Kind box. The Vegan Kind is a monthly subscription - like a Glossy Box - containing yummy vegan treats and household items. I've had two months so far and loved everything I've received, which has ranged from seaweed to chocolate 'milk', from laundry detergent to teabags, love love love The Vegan Kind. Also the customer service is second to none, really can't recommend it enough.
As an alternative there's also Scrummybox which is the same sorta deal but without the household items, but I haven't tried that.

5. GET VEGUCATED
Finally, if you're just looking for your last excuse, educate yourself on the benefits of veganism, not only to your health and wellbeing, but also to this planet and all who sail on her.
I'm not going to preach to anyone about animal welfare, but it's obviously a major factor in my decision to go vegan and - more importantly - stay vegan. If you're looking for some sorta Beyonce style fad diet, go ahead and give it a try, you'll probably really enjoy it and lose a few pounds. But I challenge anyone to watch Vegucated and go back to eating a 'normal' diet after 28 days.
Since switching to veganism I have more energy, I've lost weight, I'm not bloated, and I have lost count of the amount of people who've asked me if I've changed my foundation because I'm 'glowing' (I haven't).
People have cured themselves of disease by switching to a vegan diet. It literally saves lives. What better excuse than that?

If anyone is thinking of going vegan, or would like to chat about it, or ask any questions, please leave me a comment below, or if you've recently switched to a vegan or veggie diet, go ahead and share your tips, too!
Please no negative comments about why "eating meat is what we're supposed to do" or anything equally silly, thanks.

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