I’m finally at the end of my “30 Day Vegan Challenge”! That’s right, I’ve made it 30 days eating no animal products at all, no meat, dairy (or any other animal derived products). I’m not in total disbelief that I made it as when I set my mind to do something when I believe in it wholeheartedly, I commit to it, whatever the challenge may be!
It was interesting though at the beginning of the challenge to see how I would fare giving up dairy as I wasn’t 100% sure (particularly in social situations) whether I may break after a couple of glasses of wine and have some cheese or chocolate or something! I’m glad to say that I stuck to it and I’ve been writing an honest account of my experience at the end of each week and kept a weekly vegan vlog of my time on the “30 Day Vegan Challenge”. In this post I’m reflecting on the last 30 days and revealing my final results…
My first week was a real eye opening experience for me. It wasn’t until I started eating cleaner as a result of going vegan (and having fewer food options!) that I realised how much bad food I was eating. I had been drinking up to a litre of diet fizzy drinks for as long as I could remember and in less than one week as a vegan, I’d managed to kick the habit of a literal lifetime.
After having withdrawal symptoms (and a grinding two day headache!) my bad food cravings had mostly stopped and I had started to crave healthy options like fruit and veggies. I never imagined that I would be one of those people, especially being the fussiest eater in our family growing up!
I started to enjoy trying out different recipes and getting creative in the kitchen, especially making curries. I’ve found them to be so versatile. I can google whatever ingredients I have in my fridge and a recipe will pop up so I can use everything I have left instead of wasting it.
Next up on my quest was to find healthy alternatives for my usual ‘naughty’ snacks. This included a selection of healthy ‘crisps’ replacements like lentil chips and pop chips and some vegan chocolate bars. I also picked up what has helped stave off my fizzy drink cravings (when I occasionally had them) which is innocent juice with sparkling water. They’re just like fizzy drinks but all natural and without all the chemicals and rubbish they usually put into them to make them sweeter.
In my first week I also made it made it through my first night out as a vegan, finding something off on the pub menu to have for diner and googling whether prosecco was vegan (it is, yay!).
My second week was so much easier than the first as I was starting to find my vegan groove.
I took a long weekend as a group of us were going to Alton Towers to take advantage of the quieter mid-week and after looking on the website there didn’t seem to be a lot of food options so I took a packed lunch with lots of healthy snacks. I thought I would feel like I was missing out food-wise but I only actually felt that way when the rest of the group got ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream though, Nitrogenie (my favourite!).
Despite how delicious they looked, I stayed strong and just had the apple I’d brought instead. Before these 30 days I would have relented and totally gone for one of these but it’s surprising how quickly the moment is gone and it just didn’t bother me missing out after that and we just went onto the next ride.
I ended up eating my packed lunch at the table over lunch as there were no vegan options, which luckily none of the staff minded, but a part of me did feel like saying, “well why don’t you cater for other dietary requirements? And what if people who eat a standard diet want more options than fast food or fast food?” I didn’t want to have this debate with them when having such a great day in the park so was happy I just came prepared in the first place.
On the Saturday, I attended my first vegan festival where I tried a variety of delicious vegan food, attended talks and spoke with other vegans about how they make veganism a part of their lives. Before I went to the Northern Vegan Festival I had thought about carrying on after the 30 days, eating a little less dairy and still incorporating more fruits and veggies into my diet. But after finding out more about industrial farming, I was starting to seriously consider a mostly (if not fully) vegan lifestyle…
…I also discovered vegan cake which made me feel a lot more comfortable about staying permanently vegan ?
I found my third week to be a real turning point in the challenge. Some days I felt like I had always eaten this way and other days I had to remind myself to check labels. I found week three pretty effortless as I’d started to get the hang of being vegan in my daily routine.
Sunday was such a fantastic start to week three as me and fellow travel blogger, Becky from Girl Goes To spent a day being tourists in our hometown of Manchester. We took a walking tour of Manchester’s recently rejuvenated city centre, explored the historic John Rylands Library and had cocktails at the Hilton’s Cloud 23 bar.
For lunch, Becky looked into a vegan restaurant for us to go to in support of my 30 day challenge, which was so sweet of her (love you Becky!). She tweeted me a link to V-Rev, a vegan diner based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I couldn’t believe a restaurant like this existed on our doorstep. Here was me thinking I’d never eat cheese again and here was a place that offered proper cheeseburgers and chips…vegan style!
V-Rev’s had all the american classics like hotdogs, mac and cheese, cheeseburgers and milkshakes but I opted for one of my favourite childhood classics, cheeseburger and fries. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t eating real cheese, so much so that I checked with the waitress just to be sure because it tasted just like the real thing. But the biggest testament to the tastiness of the food was that Becky (who eats meat and dairy) loved it too. I was so relieved!
Friday night I decided to take Mr Footsteps to try V-Rev’s and when I told our friends, Ant and Nick that we were going, they seemed curious about giving it a go so I invited them to come along with us and see what it was all about.
I was confident that they would like the food as Becky had enjoyed it so much being a non-vegan but I was still a little nervous they might not like it. Our friend Ant is a passionate cook, so as our group’s resident food critic, I knew if he enjoyed it, everyone would!
I’m so pleased to say that they all loved it and said they would definitely come back, phew! Nick even let me try his mac and cheese and non-dairy milkshake, which were just delicious. Mr Footsteps enjoyed it however still isn’t sold on vegan cheese.
Whilst we were there, I couldn’t believe my newbie vegan eyes when I clocked this red velvet cake doing a memorising cake dance in the dessert cabin behind the bar on the way in. I was pretty full from my cheeseburger and chips but I wanted to take advantage of a vegan pudding option for once (plus I could share it with the table so they knew how yummy vegan cake could be!).
Over the weekend I headed to Liverpool to see family, with some belated birthday presents to deliver and to catch up with everyone.
My Gran is a bit of a feeder so upon hearing of my new found veganism she went to the shop to buy a load of vegan friendly snacks and told me she had spent ages reading labels to make sure that it was all ok for me to eat. How cute is that? She wasn’t sure what to make for dinner and a lot of the time when I’m there we usually have a takeout for the ease of it but this time we made soup using her fancy schmancy soup-maker. We added broccoli, carrot, sweet potato and onion into the mix and it made this delicious golden soup.
Despite having some reservations, my family were largely on board with me going vegan and seemed intrigued as to whether I was going to carry it on. There were a few vegan jokes in there but we wouldn’t be a family if we didn’t take the mick out each other and it was all in good fun.
I interviewed my Gran in my week three vlog about and what she thought about me staying vegan and she gave a surprising response after initially calling me a nuisance upon my arrival! Check out her interview at the end of my week three vlog and her thoughts on what we’re going to eat if I stay vegan, she’s so ace! ?
Week Four (final week!)
In my final week I had barely even thought about being vegan as it was starting to feel so natural to me. I continued to experiment with cooking and attempted to vegananise a meal I loved to eat before going vegan, creamy leek pasta. I found a recipe for a cashew sauce and combined garlic and herbs to create this gorgeous pasta concoction. I didn’t quite get the measurements right as I ended up putting a full bag of cashews into the sauce which made it a bit too thick (and probably a bit too fatty too!). It was lovely though and will be another addition to our ‘go-to’ meals list.
Week four fell during Easter break, the time of year I eat copious amounts of Easter eggs in the lead up to Easter, during Easter and after Easter so I was a little worried that I would have to miss out…when Hotel Chocolat swooped in to save the day.
Mr Footsteps and I exchanged Easter eggs as usual and he came home with a Hotel Chocolat Easter egg (with truffles) and a dark chocolate Lindt Easter bunny. O. M. G, they were amazing! I didn’t feel left out in the slightest as he cracked (pardon the pun ?) into the big Lindt egg that I had got him. He even veganised an Easter roast dinner for me with a nut roast and yorkshire puddings without the egg. The yorkies still need a bit of work as they hadn’t risen properly but I’ve found a batter that doesn’t required egg so that’s another vegan obstacle that has since been overcome.
On the final day of my “30 Day Vegan Challenge” I decided to host my very first three course vegan meal for our friends, Ant and Nick in celebration for getting to the end of the challenge…with a little bit of vegan-friendly Prosecco of course ?
I had perfected my curry making skills over the 30 days with different combinations of veggies so decided to stick to what I was good at and cook a sweet potato, red pepper, chickpea and spinach curry. I ended up burning it a little whilst preparing the golden veggie soup starter, which was a shame but went down pretty well with the popadoms and mango chutney.
For dessert I tried making raw vegan cupcakes which involved making a fresh ‘batter’ out of carrots, ginger and cinnamon and a creamy orange cashew frosting. I even piped the frosting on top of the cupcakes to make them look professional.
I know vegan is one thing but being raw vegan is quite another so I thought I would give it a go and it wasn’t too bad. Nick even took another cupcake home for later, success!
I’m sure you’ve been thinking whilst reading this post, “come on Mel just get to the good bits, what were the results??” Well ladies and gentleman, without further a do, after 30 days on a vegan diet, here are the results…
1) Loads more energy!
My energy over the last 30 days has just skyrocketed. I’ve found this to be a positive side effect of eating healthier and taking a lot of the processed food I used to have out of my diet as a result of it having dairy in it like chocolate and biscuits. I also dusted off my old juicer and started taking fresh juice everyday to work which helped me pull away from anything unhealthy.
2) Clearer skin
This is quite a vain positive result but I’m totally down for that because my skin has never looked better! After only two weeks on a vegan diet break out areas around my jaw that I have had for as long as I can remember have now disappeared. I credit this largely to giving up the many fizzy drinks I used to have and cutting back on sugar. But I have heard that dairy is also notorious for causing breakouts so by removing that from my diet, my skin has really started to glow.
3) Establishing healthier eating habits
The “30 Day Vegan Challenge” has allowed me to kick start healthier eating habits as a lot of the processed food and snacks I used to have had dairy in so during the challenge I had to find healthier alternatives like chopped apples and carrot sticks to keep me going throughout the day. This has been a great kick starter for me and I plan to keep these newly formed habits now I’m at the end of the challenge because I feel great!
4) Weight loss!
It wasn’t a goal of mine to lose weight during the “30 Day Vegan Challenge” but having been eating healthier for 30 days I was thrilled to jump off the scales seven pounds lighter…without even trying! This was a pleasant surprise because I didn’t modify my portions or cut back on food in any way. On a usual “diet” you would expect to lose two to three pounds per week so I thought this was a really healthy weight loss.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into this challenge but after watching documentaries like, ‘Forks over Knives’ and ‘Vegucated’ I wanted to see if I felt different on a vegan lifestyle after they had raved about the health benefits. There are so many studies that show the benefits of eating a plant-based diet like the ‘China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell, which examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and chronic illnesses that I thought I’d give it a go.
After 30 days on a vegan lifestyle I honestly feel absolutely fantastic. I thought I may actually feel more tired without dairy because it has a lot of protein in it but I found out that most plants do and the protein is actually better for you!
I’ve felt better than I ever could have imagined just by taking dairy out of my diet. I honestly did this as an experiment and I was so surprised and equally thrilled with the positive side effects that I have decided to stick to a predominately vegan diet with plans to slowly transition onto a fully vegan diet.
Since finishing the challenge, I have had a couple of dairy items which included an Easter egg that was gifted to me and a few cookies that one of my colleagues brought into the office but I’m currently spending most days fully vegan and I’d say I am vegan 90% of the time at the moment.
I think with any permanent change you want to make in your life it should be a gradual thing. When I went vegetarian four years ago, I still ate fish for a little while before I packed that in and went fully vegetarian. I plan to do the same with going vegan and slowly introducing more layers to it until I feel comfortable that I’m not going to go back.
As most people are, I am a work in progress but one thing is for sure, I’m determined to take better care of myself after spending the last 30 days putting the right foods into my body.
I hope these “30 Day Vegan Challenge” posts and vlogs have inspired you to change any bad eating habits you may have or want to try the challenge yourself. If you do, you know where to find me ?
Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me throughout these 30 days. For more on my final week as a vegan, check out my fourth week’s vlog below. You can also follow my ongoing progress on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Tell me, have you ever tried a vegan lifestyle? Would you give this challenge a go? ?