Katie Phillips, SU Welsh Officer
In 2017, I went vegetarian overnight after watching the documentary ‘What the Health’. It opened my eyes to the destruction caused by the meat and dairy industry, and to health benefits of a plant-based diet. In 2020, I signed up for Veganuary. I found it extremely hard and restrictive because I made the switch overnight. I went from eating cheese daily to going cold turkey, which gave me severe headaches every day, which I never usually get. There is an addictive component in cheese, so I was essentially having withdrawal symptoms. I found it hard to plan meals and craved foods that I didn’t usually eat just because I knew I couldn’t have them. The combination of exams and restricting my diet had a negative impact on my mental health. Veganuary showed me that I needed to slowly transition if I wanted it to be a sustainable change.
Fast forward to October 2020 and I had fully transitioned to veganism. For the past year I have researched thoroughly, found alternatives to my favourite foods, and familiarised myself with ingredients lists and accidentally vegan foods. I cut down on cheese heavily over the year so that I wouldn’t have withdrawal symptoms again. For me, a slow transition was best for my mental health, as restriction often led me to binge-eat. Everyone is unique and you’ll know what’s best for you. There are so many vegan junk food options now – such as Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, Domino’s pizza, and Greggs sausage rolls – that I never have cravings for meat or dairy foods.
At first veganism seemed very restrictive, but I eat such a wide variety of foods now that I would never have eaten as a meat eater, when my favourite meal was pasta and tinned meatballs. I would never have thought to try foods such as asparagus, avocado, dates, tofu or tempeh. I learnt how to cook food from scratch, became creative with meals, and ate more nutritious food than ever.
Knowing your ‘why’ is key to the longevity of your veganism. Reading scientific studies, watching documentaries and following vegan influencers on social media increased my passion and motivation to go vegan. Intersectional veganism is connected to my personal morals and identity. Understanding that it’s not possible for everyone to go vegan, the destructive impacts of the meat and dairy industry on BIPOC, and the negative mental health effects on slaughterhouse workers aids my activism and reminds me why I want to help others make these sustainable changes.
The most important thing to note if you are thinking of going vegan is that it is a lifestyle, not a diet (plant-based). There is a lot of pressure in the media and sometimes guilt tripping which is extremely harmful and causes a lot of eco-anxiety. Consuming meat and dairy does not make you a bad person. Any steps you take will benefit your health, the environment and animals. Whether it’s taking part in Meat Free Mondays, opting for a vegan option when eating out, or switching to plant-based milk alternatives, every action counts. Whether you decide to go vegan or not, we should all know where our food comes from, and who these systems negatively impact.
The China Study by Colin Campbell
How Not to Die by Michael Greger
Game Changers – Netflix
Cowspiracy – Netflix
AvantGardeVegan – YouTube
Rachel Ama – YouTube
Earthling Ed – YouTube
Mic the Vegan – YouTube
VeganBrownTing – Instagram
UglyVegan – Instagram
QueerBrownVegan – Instagram
AccidentallyVeganUK – Instagram