For the past twelve days I have been vegan. Well that’s not technically true. I have been 98% vegan, except for the duck breast I had on a salad one evening and the wagyu burger I had last night I have avoided all animal products for almost a fortnight.
As a committed meat eater this is a big thing for me. The whys will be in a blog post later this week but to say it has been a revelation would be an understatement. I feel so much better for it, and have now been pondering whether I could be a vegan for good. The trouble is though, being a vegan, or a vegetarian is cut and dried. You either are, or you aren’t. One of my most treasured possessions (okay four of my most treasured possessions) are my Mulberry handbags and purse, if was suddenly to declare myself a vegan I would have to stop using them. I don’t want to stop using them though, they are treasured, the result of Mr B’s hard work, and his desire to spoil me.
So can I have a leather handbag, and call myself vegan? Well it looks like I can actually. There is a new movement called Reducetarian and I found them online when I was wondering if there was such a thing as a Monday to Friday vegan, or a weekend veggie. They say there is. Brian Kateman is the co-founder of the movement and in a recent article in the Guardian it says:
He grew up eating steaks and buffalo wings, but as a student decided to go vegetarian. When his sister called him out for eating a small piece of turkey at Thanksgiving, he explained his decision wasn’t about being “perfect”; it was just about trying to eat as many foods as possible that were good for his body and good for the planet.
“I’m a utilitarian,” he says. “I’m more interested in outcomes than processes. The reason people eat less meat isn’t for some badge, some public status, it’s because it has a meaningful impact on the world.”
And that pretty much nails my current thinking, though selfishly this isn’t about having a meaningful impact on the world right now, though obviously I do care about that (I was a vegetarian for about two years as a teenager. Whilst engaged to a butcher. Long story), what I care about more right now is feeling better physically. For over two years I have had shocking physical health, relentless daily headaches and chronic fatigue syndrome to name but two. By cutting out meat and dairy (and booze, caffeine and wheat) I have felt better than I have done in years. I am also the lightest I have been in ten years.
Whilst still eating huge amounts of food (including a takeaway curry) I have lost 10kgs in ten days. Not pounds, kilos. My skin looks brighter, my hair is shinier, I am more awake and feel like in less of a fug. Yes, I have also been drinking more water so that will contribute towards this glow but on the whole I think cutting out meat and dairy has had quite a profound effect.
My diet now consists of much more fruit and veg than it has ever done. By avoiding meat I have to make a really conscious decision about what I will eat. Meat is a convenience food, invariably it is quick to eat and avoiding it means you have to plan a bit more, buy more fruit and veg and prepare them for lunch and not just shove two bits of a ham in between two slices of bread. It is a far more balanced diet if you cram your plate with fruits, vegetables and pulses rather than a simple lump of meat and some potatoes. A prepared salad of giant couscous and roast veg from M&S rather than a hot sausage roll.
But can I keep it up? Well I am determined to give it a go, to avoid meat as much as possible, but at the same time taking that pragmatic approach that Kateman talked about. I don’t want to have to tell my friends that I am vegan and therefore hard to cater for when we go for dinner, or be sitting in a restaurant thinking “I really fancy the smoked salmon but should have the kale burger because our friends think I am vegan”. I want to be able to have a bit more flexibility when the decision isn’t mine or have the steak when I want the steak. To have a barbecue with the family once a month, and eat Christmas dinner and pork pie on Boxing Day and not feel guilty about it.
Having those things doesn’t make me a failed vegan, it makes me a reducetarian and I quite like the sound of that.
Plus I get to keep the handbags