A Review of Veganuary and Dry January

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“BOTH? That’s brave.” This January I decided that I would do  Dry January which I have done for four or five years. No big deal (for me personally.) It’s a nice reset after extra holiday season celebrations. If you are considering doing Dry January or just challenging yourself to try a sober month read this. 

Along with the typical Dry January,  my fiancé and I also decided to try something new and commit to Veganuary which is a huge trend in the U.K. It’s just like what it sounds like, eating a fully vegan diet for the month of January.  I even got the chance to do a t.v. interview with Bristol TV about my experience click here to watch the segment! 

Many people try one or the other, but doing both I got a lot of side eyes and eyebrow raises. But you know I’m always up for a challenge. I also am passionate about the mindset first approach. Any type of short term challenge you partake in you should go into it looking at it as an experiment and not restriction. 

NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM RESTRICTION.

Nothing exciting comes from deprivation.

But an experiment… now we’re talking. 

I wanted to wait a little while after January to see what it was like to transition away from the plant based lifestyle but something surprising has happened… I haven’t. 

Here is my honest review of my experience with Veganuary. I want to set the stage a bit if you are new here. I am a wellness coach. Neither of these challenges are revolutionary for me and I won’t pretend they are. I have been eating a balanced, healthy diet for about five years now and I was leaning toward pescatarian before I started this.

I cut out red meat about three years ago because I had an experience of going to the emergency room in Australia with a fever and tonsillitis and I couldn’t eat solid food for about five days. After five days, I was completely disgusted and turned off by red meat and most meat in general. I didn’t really have an explanation for it. I stuck to eating fish, eggs and occasional turkey. I eat a lot of plant based food anyway because I believe every healthy diet should be heavy on the veggies! 

Quick story: On the first day of January I was gifted a lovely stay with Bristol Habour Hotel @bristolhabourhotel to check out their facilities and their gym! They delivered a cheesecake to us upon arrival (which was so kind) but both my fiancé and I had to resist the temptation because it looked absolutely amazing. It was the first day of Veganuary too, so we thought should we just eat it? But, you know me. We committed to the experiment and couldn’t go down the first day. Luckily, we had a lovely fully vegan meal in their restaurant that night and realized that forward planning & communication definitely applies to these type of experiments!

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These are the most surprising aspects of Veganuary and switching to a fully vegan diet for a month

  1. The transition HANGER- The first week I was hungry every couple hours. I just could not fill up. I was eating 3 big meals and 2-3 snacks and replacing any animal protein with a plant based option but I just couldn’t get to a point of feeling full.
  2. I didn’t miss meat. At ANY point. Not even a little bit. I still don’t. 
  3. Grocery bills increased. I thought that cutting out meat and fish would make our grocery bills go down a bit but the sheer volume of food we needed to keep ourselves full made it go up. We were also trying out a lot of meat substitutes, vegan sauces and new and unique veggies so I’m sure if this was our normal lifestyle we would learn how to cut costs. 
  4. Eating out wasn’t difficult. I don’t think the U.K.  gets enough props for how vegetarian and vegan friendly it is. In my personal experience, it is leaps and bounds ahead of the United States. Every grocery store has a plant based section and they actually rolled out tons of new and speciality products for Veganuary. We cook a lot at home but the times we did eat out it was simple, painless and delicious. 
  5. Plant-based vs. Vegan- Just to clarify because I think some people use them interchangeably. I spoke to a lot of friends and followers about this. Plant based is just referring to an eating style. Veganism refers to a whole lifestyle that is against using animal products in any way. No wearing them or using beauty products tested on animals.  Veganism is all encompassing while plant based refers to just food. 
  6. Not an end in sight– I don’t like labels but I wanted to be transparent about how I transitioned away from my sober & plant based month.  Harry kicked off February 1st with a Stella & turkey sausages. I had no desire. It’s the middle of February and I’ve only had a couple eggs and prawn so far and one or two drinks. 
  7. Carbs carbs carbs- I think it’s easy with ANY style of eating to eat too many carbs but I found it especially easy with the vegan diet. You have to be mindful about keeping your macros more balanced. Luckily I know how to do that 😉

I have a lot of close vegan friends and amazing accounts I follow on Instagram. I love learning about veganism and hearing others opinions. I would be happy to share if this is something of interest for you. 

I personally do not believe strongly enough in this way of life yet to abide by it 100% but I have the utmost respect for those who do. I am so proud to know so many vegans who are not pushy about their choices and beliefs and speak their truth in a nurturing and compassionate way.

Some U.K. brands/restaurants I felt really stood out for plant-based options: Cauldron extra firm Tofu, Linda McCartney sausages, Beyond Meat Burgers (on the pricey side but closest to meat), and Alpro coconut yogurt. I had great vegan meals out at Loves Cafe and Brunello Lounge in Weston-Super-Mare, Wagamamas, Koocha, Mary Jane’s Coffee, Pinkman’s Bakery and the pop up for Hummusapiens all in Bristol.

I also went to a Eat Vegan festival @eatfestivals in Weston and stumbled upon some amazing local brands I think deserve a shout out. Hullabaloos @hullabaloos_rocks which has the most amazing American style lemonade and a range of other drinks like my personal favorite ginger beer. The best handmade vegan chocolate I’ve ever tried (No, I’m not kidding) from the cutest couple at Chocolateeha @chocolateeha. A woman owned peanut butter company, Butter Bike Co. @butterbikeco which had the most unique flavors including Smoked Chili Peanut butter which didn’t last long at our house. And finally some handmade tofu from Herby4 @herby.4. I have included their handles so you can check them out on Instagram because supporting small business is very close to my heart! (These are not sponsored or gifted in any way. Just a happy customer. I am transparent if they are. )

TOP VEGANUARY TAKEAWAY: I will continue to eat plant based for as long as I please and I don’t feel that I need to categorize myself one way or another.

If you do think everyone needs to be categorized based on their dietary or drinking preferences…I challenge you to think about WHY that is.

The only label that I will currently give myself is flexitarian because it means I eat what I want when I want. I think we can ALL agree that eating more vegetables is a positive for nearly every eating style. I’m not here to convince you…just share my experience. 

As far as going Dry at the same time. I actually love periods when I commit to not drinking. It feels really freeing. I don’t really enjoy drinking all that much which is incredibly hard for people to understand. It is hard for people from my past to understand how the life of the party grew out of that stage. It seems as if people assume if you don’t drink, it’s because you were a full blown alcoholic or you’re just boring and anti-social. I am so glad I have been introduced to the #sobercurious movement because it makes me feel understood. Based on the feedback I’ve received when posting on Instagram about my journey with alcohol many people can relate or are redefining their relationship with alcohol too. 

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The U.K. also has some incredible brands popping up of non or low alcohol beer, wine, cider and spirits. My friends at Wise Bartender@wisebartenderuk do an amazing job of making these brands accessible online. They gifted me a care package to end Dry January and it was so fun to taste a variety of brands and styles. If you are looking for kombucha (my personal favorite) or  low or no alcohol options, head here to check them out.  Everyone’s reason for NOT drinking (or as much) might be different but whatever yours may be, it’s valid. 

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 Needless to say, on February 1st I wasn’t running for a pint and a burger. I actually was invited to attend a BoozeLESS brunch by Socialight @socialightapp at Revolucion de Cuba @decubabristolwith a local non alcoholic spirit brand Caleno @calenodrinks. We had a mocktail master class & delicious brunch! (which I had an egg because as I said #flexitarian) We talked a lot about the stigma behind not drinking in social settings and how for some people who are just cutting back or struggling with alcohol, it’s nice to have an option that isn’t just a soda or tap water. 

It may have been ambitious to do both Dry January and Veganuary but I think that continually questioning our habits is crucial to a life of contentment. I don’t want to wake up 30 years from now, desperate to have made better choices and wondering why I’m dependent on so many things.

We have the power to rewrite our stories and sure, you might try to give something up and find you really want it in your life! But you could also realize you don’t actually need it, want it or like it as much as you thought you did.

Giving something up or reducing your intake of it needn’t only be if you have a serious problem with it or you’re adhering to a specific lifestyle such as veganism. Put that Inspector Gadget hat on and get to experimenting! 

This blog post itself is a bit of an experiment, as it’s different than my usual style, but I am looking to create more content exploring my love of experimenting going forward.

I think we can all agree, we could all use a little less booze and a bit more veggies in our life. And yes, I am still really fun at parties! Dry January and Veganuary- I will see you again next year. I can’t say the same for my fiancé but hey, at least he gave it a try!

Have you tried any extended challenges such as Dry January or Veganuary?

What was your experiment like? Here’s to a life full of experimenting! CHEERS!

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