VI Owner, Foodie, Blogger & Planet Enthusiast
VI Owner, Foodie, Blogger & Planet Enthusiast
Hi! My name is Hazel Thornicroft. I am 37 and am originally from Cambridge in the UK, but am currently living Quebec, Canada with my husband, Keith.
For the past three years, I have been working for myself, starting my marketing and graphic design business after being made redundant. Before that I worked as an events manager for eight years, and even now that planning side of me hasn’t gone away!
This is my story of how I became vegan. It wasn’t a smooth ride to begin with, and started with Keith trying for 18 months to persuade me. Eventually, as you’ll see, I came to realise why it was so important.
Go vegan? No way!
My first response to my husband, Keith, suggesting that we should go vegan was a resolute NO! He had recently shown me a few nasty slaughterhouse videos, so I knew that the cruelty towards animals was affecting him. I just thought these were pretty isolated incidents though, and couldn’t be the norm. Plus, whilst I was doing pretty much all the cooking, there was no way I was going to turn vegan. Not just the fact that I wouldn’t have a clue what to cook (and surely it would take a lot more time), but most of the protein foods that I could think of, I was intolerant to; nuts, beans, pulses – and that included soya – so no tofu.
I was already dealing with an even longer list of things that my body struggled to cope with. They included, wheat (gluten), garlic, onions, apples, cashews, pistachios and lactose as well as the legumes I mentioned earlier and quite a few more things. You might recognise this as part of the FODMAP diet (short-chain fermentable carbohydrates). How could I then even consider taking away even more food from my diet? I had struggled with food all my life and spent a lot of time reading food labels in the supermarket. I remember walking round the supermarket a few times, barely able to hold back the tears because literally one whole aisle I couldn’t eat anything at all from. Adding extra pressure on to how I was already feeling, and the changes to recipes that I already had to make on a daily basis, seemed like far too much to cope with.
Is Our World in Chaos?
Separate from this, I had, for some time now been getting increasingly concerned about the state of our planet. It seemed that the number of natural disasters was increasing rapidly, and they tended to hurt the poorest people on our planet. Plus the population level, which had been exploding in the last 50 years, seemed unsustainable at the current rate. We appeared to be using up the world’s resources and destroying animal and fish populations as well as vegetation across the globe. For a long time, as far as I could see, there was nothing that could be done about this, we were headed for a potential disaster without any way to turn back the tide. I was just about to find out how wrong I was.
In May 2017, 18 months after Keith first suggested going vegan, I watched Cowspiracy. I’m sure that most of you have heard about this documentary or maybe you’ve already watched it. It’s made by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. If you haven’t, I really recommend you watch it – you can check it out here.
The film focuses on the affects of the animal agricultural industry on global warming. As I was watching, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I, like many people I’m sure, thought that using cars, and heating our houses etc, were the main reasons we were using up so many of the worlds resources and that was why we were facing climate change. I’m sure you try to conserve water and electricity wherever you can, and recycle as much as possible. But to learn that to make 1 beef burger, used 660 gallons of water and that we are destroying 1-2 acres of rainforest every second with 91% of that as a direct result of animal agriculture, took me completely by surprise. I was shocked.
I watched the film to the end and as soon as it finished, I turned to Keith and said, ‘well that’s it, there’s no choice now, we’ve got to do it.’ I didn’t know how I was going to do this but suddenly I wasn’t doing it for myself, I had a much bigger purpose and motivation now. I was doing it for the planet, for the people in it and for the animals and nature in general. That was bigger than my complaints of how hard it was going to be to change my eating habits, there wasn’t even a debate in my mind that this was the only thing to be done.
My Vegan Transition
So, how to start? As I’m sure you can know or can imagine, going from eating meat and dairy all my life, to no meat and dairy, seemed more than a little daunting. At this point I knew how to make the grand total of ONE vegan dish and that was it (unless you count my homemade chips!). So, I researched proteins (did I mention that Keith is 6ft5 and at this point was still playing rugby) and recipes and tried to find things which would suit my intolerances. But, we were still eating meat or fish on a daily basis. Keith had started eating a vegan breakfast a while before this (swapping his milk over to soy in his porridge) and was eating a vegetarian or vegan lunch at work, so he was already halfway there. But I wasn’t doing so well. It was partly because I didn’t know what to make still, and partly because this was such a big jump, that I had begun to procrastinate.
In June, a month after we had watched Cowspiracy, Keith and I went camping in Cornwall (England). We tried to do our best with meat substitutes (but of course they usually contain lots of soy and gluten, not to mention onion and garlic). We also managed, quite successfully, to eat vegan when we were at restaurants. Although Cornwall is known for its seafood, it surprisingly had a lot of options when it came to good vegan choices.
A week later we arrived back home, and the next day I went out and bought fish for dinner. I knew I needed to make the change properly, but I still hadn’t got my head wrapped around the idea yet. Changing my eating habits of over 30 years is not something which I found easy, and picking up some fish just seemed so much easier.
That night Keith and I ate the fish, but it was the last night we ever ate meat or fish. Having eaten vegan food for a week whilst we were away and then going back to eating animals, suddenly felt wrong and uncomfortable. Almost like the feeling that something isn’t right and that my perspective had changed without me realising.
Athens and Dairy
A couple of weeks after this epiphany, Keith had a work trip to Athens, and I jumped at the chance to tag along. I was so excited; Athens was definitely on my hit list of places to visit and it didn’t disappoint, it is an incredible city. The people were so friendly and helpful and the architecture, and general ancient sites, just seemed unreal. If you haven’t got Athens on your bucket list, you should definitely add it!
But, during the trip, I was a bit concerned. Not being able to eat legumes and pulses, I was worried I wasn’t going to get enough protein, so I decided to include some feta cheese with my evening meals. It seemed like a harmless thing to do at the time, and necessary for my diet. Then, one evening, a couple of days into the trip, we decided to watch What the Health, made again by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. I was astonished to hear fact after fact explaining the negative effects that meat, fish and dairy have on your body. The number of conditions linked to dairy was astounding, including peer reviewed research showing that countries consuming the highest amounts of dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis. What? Surely this was the opposite of what I had always understood – I mean, milk makes healthy bones right?
The documentary continued by showing the strong links to cancer promoting growth coming from meat and dairy and the elevated risks of what have become ‘the most common affluent western diseases.’ I learned about the number of drugs, including vast numbers of antibiotics, which are pumped into the animals, helping us on our way to a post-antibiotic era. They even showed that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) admitted that eggs cannot legally be labelled as nutritious, low fat, part of a balanced diet, low calorie, healthy, good for you, or even safe! It got me convinced; feta cheese wasn’t the way forward and from this point on I turned completely to a plant-based diet.
Taking My Vegan Diet Seriously
So, this was it. I turned my attention to researching on a new level now. Whilst I was in Greece, I took time to see what their cuisine had to offer – and there was plenty as it happened. The number of huge batches of fava I made for my husband (a dip a bit like humous but made from yellow split peas) after this trip, seemed countless! A few swaps on some of their dishes that had butter or cheese in them and I was away. But this all took time. Cooking with plants and only plants, for me, was a whole new way of cooking. I spent so much time looking for recipes, changing recipes to suit my dietary requirements, and time in actually cooking the new dishes. It was pretty exhausting. I worked from home, and I’m convinced that if I had gone out to work, this transition would have taken far longer because not travelling to and from work gave me that extra time I needed to research.
You may have noticed that I’ve used the term plant-based because even though Keith would have said he was a vegan at this point, I couldn’t say the same thing about myself. Sure, I was eating plant-based food, but as I was to learn, and what has kept me from turning back the clock and eating meat or dairy again, is to do with our behaviour towards animals. In the months to follow, I was to learn what I had always believed were isolated incidents about how the agricultural industry operate and how they treat their animals, with organic animals often being treated no differently. The pain and suffering of these animals, so that I can enjoy the fleeting taste of them, seemed to me to be totally unjustified. But it’s easier to take that on board whilst you’re not consuming them. I cannot say what my reaction to this violence would have been if I had seen it whilst I was still eating meat and dairy. I would have liked to think it would have changed my mind, but I have a feeling that I would have made an excuse to justify it so that I wouldn’t need to feel the guilt that would have inevitably been hiding in the back of my mind. Now I consider myself a vegan. I’m not perfect, but each day I try to do the best I can for myself and the people and world around me.
My Vegan Journey So far
So that’s it. The journey so far hasn’t always been plain sailing, and still today there are times when I just want to reach for the frozen chips, vegan nuggets, peas and sweetcorn. It’s not always easy. Initially I missed meat on occasion and fish for a longer time, but that has now ceased. Now, I just miss scrambled eggs on toast, and maybe one day that too will go. But at least I have an alternative weekend Full-English breakfast, which is so tasty, is always too large for me to finish (but I think I mentioned I have a 6ft5 husband right?) and makes me feel good afterwards, rather than sleepy. Talking to my friends, I realised how they felt about cooking plant-based food. It sounds complicated, hard work, expensive and probably doesn’t taste like chicken. So, whilst I was writing a recipe book for myself (to make converting recipes each time I use them, easier) I realised, I’m not alone. People struggle every day to try vegan food or to keep going on a vegan diet. So, I’ve created a site which can come to your aide when you need it most. You’ll find recipes, nutrition information (I’m not a doctor by the way, I’ve just done a lot of research), hints and tips to get you through as well as a section which includes a weekly menu planner. Here you’ll find recipes for the week with a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need. Life needn’t be so complicated, well at least this can be one less thing to worry about!
I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried vegan food before or are keen to give it a go for the first time? Maybe you’ve been vegan for a while now and you could just do with making your life that bit easier and less busy. Tell me your story, where you are in life and what support you could do with. We have just one planet, so as far as I can tell, we’re in this together.
Kickstart Your Vegan Journey
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