21 days to break a habit: weeks 2-3 of my vegan challenge

They say that it takes 21 days to break a habit (by they, I mean Jay-Z and Beyoncé who ‘famously’ went vegan for 22 days). Well, it’s day 21 of my vegan challenge and I haven’t broken out in a cold sweat yet. People have been asking me a lot recently how I’m coping as if I’ve genuinely lost something. Sure, there have been times when I’ve lusted after a baked camembert with crusty bread, or lingered a little too long by the Easter egg we still have in the cupboard, but overall being vegan hasn’t had any adverse effects. Eating out hasn’t been as much of a mare as I thought – London is a city with lashes of choice after all, but I have even made it through a trip to Belfast unscathed (diet wise at least).

 

Health wise, I have had very few issues with my stomach so perhaps the heaviness of dairy was also a contributing factor to those issues. A few people have commented that they think I’ve lost a bit of weight. I don’t weight myself but imagine that any possible difference could be to do with not eating cakes, chocolate and biscuits whenever they’re available. I’ve only had vegan chocolate once and not missed other sweet treats as I don’t really have a sweet tooth – but I will eat cake if it’s put in front of me, without even thinking about it!

One thing that I haven’t achieved is being as creative in the kitchen as I was hoping – trying out all the vegan recipes I have saved such as vegan mac cheese, vegan lasagne with a cauliflower sauce (thanks Emma!), snack bars, homemade tofu… May has been such a busy month that I’ve barely been in the kitchen at all. Cashew butter is about the only ‘new’ thing I have made.

My awareness of hidden animal products is slowly increasing – last night I noticed that the chilli sauce we bought in Brazil contains carmine, which is made from the crushed shells of beetles. Also called E120, this ingredient is in a lot of artificially red-coloured foods and should be avoided by vegans and vegetarians alike. And I didn’t really consider vegan-friendly alcohol until at least two weeks in (the refining or colouring ingredients are often animal products, including carmine but also gelatine, honey, casein – the latter a protein derived from milk). But when I did realise, I came across Barnivore – a great website for checking what drinks are and are not vegan. Aspall yes, Symonds no is the most important thing I’ve learnt! I’ve had the usual jibes from friends and colleagues about poached eggs in my drinks as people don’t widely consider that animal products are actually in beverages. I’ll be honest though, I haven’t been checking every single bottle of wine purchased since, but will try and make a concerted effort going forward, especially as carmine isn’t something I should even have as a veggie.

I  have kept a day-to-day account, as per my week one diary, but some of the days were rather repetitive so for this post I’ve included some ‘highlights’ from the past two weeks.

Day 8

 I flew to Northern Ireland for the weekend, where my friend was freaking out at the imminent arrival of a vegan.  What can I eat? How would she cope?  Very well it seemed, as on my arrival I was welcomed with a martini (post-election day must) and various snacks: popcorn, humous, breadsticks, olives, mushroom pate – all vegan! Followed by a super green risotto with courgette, spring onions, asparagus and leek. No complaints here!

Day 9

Last weekend’s sausage sandwich was divine so I repeated that dish, along with some soya yoghurt and granola, for breakfast and we were set for the day. Dinner was spent at Molly’s Yard, probably one of the best places for veggie/vegans in Belfast. A starter of pea shoot and broad bean salad followed by an artichoke barigoule (a soupy stew), washed down with several cocktails was a perfect way to start the evening.

Artichoke barigoule at Molly's Yard
Artichoke barigoule at Molly’s Yard

Day 10

Today I could have gone off the wagon. There was a huge, homemade chocolate birthday cake at a 1st birthday party we went to, and 10 hours of Belfast drinking the day before was having an affect. But I resisted. So instead today consisted of beans on toast and chip butties… Oh, and a Bloody Mary for a bit of much needed vitamins! Not the healthiest of days, but oh well!

Days 11-14

Back in London. For most of the week we lived off a massive pot of bean and veg chilli that Tristan made on the Monday night. It was the pot that kept on giving – much needed in the lead up to pay day. Only one day I had an exciting boss salad – a bit of a mishmash of whatever food we had left: chickpeas, walnuts, potato, spinach, peppers and cherry tomatoes drizzled with lemon juice, chilli, balsamic and oregano. My typical snacks of Ryvita, nuts and fruit saw me through. Sophie at work livened things up one day by buying and sharing a pineapple. I ate mine with slices of cucumber – it was all a bit cray.

Day 15

Payday! And a treat of a big pot of tofu and button mushroom pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) at the aptly named restaurant Pho, saw me into the weekend…

Days 16-21

The third week of veganism saw my first major, but accidental, blip: egg noodles. On Sunday night, whilst a bit delicate from the weekend just encountered, I without thinking, cooked egg noodles with stir-fry. It was only on Wednesday when I was making another similar dish that it dawned on me. If only I’d remembered we had soba noodles in the cupboard too! I was so gutted as I’d been so conscientious, but it’s not like I purposefully feasted on a cheese board, so I got over it. Even Tristan felt bad for me – knowing how hard I’d been trying, which was really sweet.

Other than that, I continued with my usual diet. I only ate out once this week – at Kerb’s Indian street food market at Alchemy Festival. I would usually have gone for one of the paneer dishes but instead opted for a moong dahl dosa from Horn Ok Please. More dosas yes please, it should be called!

And here I am on day 21… Tonight I’m going to make vegan brownies for a wedding this weekend, and the day after the wedding we’re going to VegFest in Bristol which is a big vegan and veggie food and health show – I’m most excited about seeing the vegan bodybuilders! Will report back on both the brownies and the bodybuilders.

11 days more of my challenge but feeling the way I do just now, I may just continue longer…

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