6 Months of Veganism – My Thoughts

In Health by Gemma Tomlinson37 Comments

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I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now, weeks in fact. I don’t usually have a problem expressing myself, yet recently every time I start typing it’s as if someone superglued my thoughts to my brain, sticking them firmly in place and preventing them from coming out. There’s so much that I want to talk about that it feels like I have everything and yet nothing to say all at once, but I want to finish this blog post and try to express what I’m feeling, so I’m curled up with a heated blanket drinking a Mars hot chocolate and with a sleeping puppy by my side. Let’s give this a whirl.

It’s been six, (actually seven now, told you I’d been struggling to write this) months since I made the decision to go vegan, and ever since then my brain has been working overtime – learning, reading, watching, researching and mulling over lots of things. My blog has suffered as a result, I didn’t want to churn out mindless content that my heart wasn’t in, and I also began to think more about the brands I was promoting on this site. As some of you might know the beauty items featured here have all been cruelty free as of mid August. That meant clearing out a lot of my makeup, donating boxes of stuff, ending lucrative professional relationships and finding alternatives to the products I’ve used for years. I discovered a whole new community on YouTube and within the blogging world, found people who share my beliefs and made new friends.

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Throughout this I have wanted to just sit down and talk with you about veganism: my reasons, how the first six months have been, why it’s become incredibly important to me and how it can be so so easy. This is where it got a bit scary for me – how do you talk about something you’re so passionate about without being overbearing? How do you share information without lecturing? How do you share enthusiastically without coming across as aggressive? It’s hard, I wont lie, and I’ve noticed that vegans online tend to belong to one of two camps – there are those that go out onto other people’s content and try to inform them, educate them and talk about veganism and those who stick to their own corner of the internet and essentially only mix with other vegans. The former can often come across as aggressive whilst the latter seem to be closed off, neither of these were things I wanted to be. I’ve always been very open online, sometimes to a fault, and it didn’t seem right to all of a sudden gloss over what has quickly become a very important part of my life.

When I decided to go vegan I didn’t want my blog to change much, after all there are so many wonderful brands who refuse to sell in China because they don’t want to test on animals, amazing plant based recipes to be made, and fantastic fashion labels that make lustworthy bags and shoes that aren’t made from the skin of dead animals. I wanted my blog to carry on as normal, to show that veganism wasn’t something wacky or restrictive, that you could be a regular person and still choose a cruelty free lifestyle, that it wasn’t hard. Whilst all of these things are true, I do also think it’s important to share why I decided to make the change, what my thoughts and feelings on the topic are and share some resources with you so that if you want to, you can find out more and make your own mind up. That’s really my only aim here, I’m not trying to make anyone vegan but simply to educate so that people can make a choice for themselves. There’s a whole world out there that’s intentionally hidden from us and I think we deserve to see it, we are smart and should be able to decide for ourselves what we stand for.

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I put off writing this post and even debated whether or not I should say anything, it’s an issue that really seems to get people’s backs up and causes a lot of drama online – the mere mention of the word vegan elicits the rolling of eyes and the usual jokes. I’ve been warned off talking about this by many people who think it could come across as irresponsible to tell people that it’s ok to cut out food groups (more on this later) but this is where I get very frustrated. It’s a well known fact that if you are veggie or vegan everyone in your life becomes a dietician – if you’re tired you’re not getting enough protein which has made you anaemic (despite the fact that anaemia is about iron, not protein) and if you feel a bit run down it couldn’t possibly be because you have a virus or there’s a bug going around, you need some ‘proper food’ to sort you out. Nobody really cared when you were scarfing down meat and dairy, even if they came in the nutritionally poor form of McDonalds cheeseburgers. I think you get my point.

There are lots of bloggers posting about ‘omg epic‘ burgers in trendy London joints, ‘insaneeee‘ pancakes smothered in cream, and the blogging world keeps turning. They are just treating themselves! It’s normal! They are living life! They are promoting balance! So please, please understand why it’s so frustrating to talk about eating things that grow in the ground, that nobody died to produce and be told that you’re promoting an extreme way of living, that your younger blog readers will blindly follow and that they might become unhealthy or develop an eating disorder.

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Firstly, I give even my youngest readers more credit than that because I speak to them, I get emails from them, I see them challenge me on things and spot when I might be being hypocritical or have made a mistake. They are smart, and they also follow the burger-obsessed bloggers who do cupcake videos every month topped with a tub of buttercream. Nobody is worried that reading those blogs will lead them to develop early onset diabetes, give them an increased risk of heart disease or cause them to gorge on only burgers and cupcakes all day everyday until they cannot move. I think you know where I’m going with this, my readers are not sheep.

I understand the initial skepticism, mostly because I also used to brush off the very issues I’m now really passionate about. I was vegetarian for twenty years and totally ignored what was going on in the egg and dairy industry. Twenty years. Trust me, I know how it feels to want to switch off, to wish someone would just shut up because it can’t be THAT bad, to not want to change your diet or lifestyle. “I could NEVER be vegan” – I said this an alarming number of times, talked about cheese the way meat eaters talk about bacon and totally ignored anything that tried to convince me otherwise. I convinced myself that by getting eggs from a local farm I wasn’t contributing to anything harmful and that I didn’t eat that much cheese. So, I get it, I really do. I thought vegans saw themselves as superior and they knew everything, but I now realise this isn’t the case, mostly because now I am one and I still do shitty things sometimes and I definitely don’t know a lot about so many things.

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I don’t know why things really clicked for me but I do know that in this amazing digital age we have a veritable wealth of information at our fingertips. I can log into Pinterest and have hundreds of meal ideas pop up, I can watch informative documentaries with little to no effort, I can chat to people who share my opinion, and also those who don’t. In this day and age there’s no excuse not to educate ourselves just because we might not like what we see. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this whole process it’s just how healthy it is to challenge what you think you know, not to blindly carry on, and that one person can make a difference.

This is all getting a bit ‘motivational speaker’ here, I’m sorry, but I’m so bloody passionate about this that I can’t help it. I promised I wouldn’t preach so I’ll reign it in a little, I swear. Today is World Vegan Day which is what finally kicked me up the arse and made me finish this post, just to share some information and put it out there. This blog has always been a total reflection of my life and I will continue to share my latest lipstick find and also share some heartfelt life experiences with you. A lot of you have been with me through thick and thin for the last seven years, it didn’t feel right to hold back on something so important to me for fear of alienating you. I think we are better friends than that, and whilst we might not see eye to eye on this, how will we ever know if we don’t educate ourselves and talk openly?

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been chatting with people of all ages and all walks of life and it hit me just how much we are kept in the dark when it comes to our food production, and how many lies we tell ourselves because we don’t want to challenge what we have been told. I’ve met incredibly intelligent people who genuinely thought cows just always produce milk and have to be milked or they will die. I’ve met people who are SO passionate about the environment and go out of their way to use less water, conserve energy and recycle, but tell me this over a huge steak dinner, not realising that animal agriculture is the main cause of climate change. I’ve spoken to self confessed animal lovers who show me photos of their dog, sit eating a lamb kofta and talk about how awful the Yulin dog meat festival is. These are not bad people, and when I share information with them they are truly shocked. We have a huge disconnect going on and just carry on regardless without even thinking about where our food is coming from.

You might not be an animal lover, you might not care about climate change, maybe you could kill an animal for food yourself if you had to, but I think the majority of us are different. I try not to talk about veganism in terms of health because I think you can be a healthy vegan or an unhealthy one. I still eat pizza, cheese toasties, hot dogs, curries, chinese takeaways, chocolate, burgers, cupcakes and sweets. I eat out, at all the same restaurants I used to and I still like a beer or  cocktail. So often online I see people claiming that going vegan will cure cancer, make you thin or make you a better person. Personally I hate that, it’s not a diet, you don’t have to be super healthy and it’s not like you’re all of a sudden winning the lottery. You’re living the same life, just not causing any harm. I don’t want a medal, I don’t want anyone to tell me I’m awesome for not doing something hurtful, after all we don’t congratulate people for not stealing, not being mean or not upsetting others, why should food be any different?

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Do I feel good for going vegan? Yes, I do. It feels nice to sit down to a delicious meal knowing that the only things to suffer were my poor eyes as I was chopping the onions, I’ve become more adventurous and tried new things and I’m having fun sharing recipes with other people and experimenting. Is my life drastically different? No. We eat the same foods, we are the same people and sadly I did not become a supermodel overnight, shockingly. I still have cellulite and my jeans are still a touch too tight, although I did lose two inches all over my body whilst still scoffing chocolate so who knows. For me it’s not really about that, if I want to go on a health kick that’s a totally separate thing to being vegan. We all need protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals so when I am accused of “cutting things out” it frustrates me. It’s like your favourite clothing shop closing down, you don’t go naked in public, you buy them from somewhere else. I get my calcium and protein from plants now, I don’t just cut them out and I certainly don’t think anyone else should.

I’ve shared some links below that are all very educational and informative things to watch. By all means, watch things that tell you the opposite, see both sides and make your own mind up. We can debate all day about whether or not eating meat is bad for us, who is healthier, who is superior but for me it’s about not causing harm – that’s enough of a reason in my book. I’m glad that I managed to finish this post that by now is all over the place (sorry) – I still have a lot to say, a lot of resources to share and to be honest I am not sure if people want to see them. I could do posts on vegan sources of protein, on tips for eating out, storecupboard essentials and lots more, so I will leave it here for today and if you want posts like that thrown in amongst the eyeshadow and recipes, let me know. Because I still have so much to say I don’t quite know how to wrap this post up with a nice little bow so I’ll finish by answering the one question I get asked every time I meet someone new these days: “Why did you decide to go vegan?”

Basically, if I can be healthy, happy and eat delicious food without anyone having to suffer or die to make it, why not?

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If you want to know more, I highly recommend watching the following documentaries and videos, no matter how skeptical you might be. You might come out with the same opinions but why not educate yourself and see?

If you’d like more posts about veganism or are just curious, let me know and I will fit them in occasionally. Thanks for reading this far and Happy World Vegan Day.

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