Veganuary: What’s it all about?
By now we’ve all heard of Veganuary, but how many of us are doing it? And what’s it really all about?
Veganuary & the changing face of veganism
Veganism has been around for years, often brushed aside by the mainstream as something fluffy bunny, tree-hugging sympathetics do to get attention. But those days are long gone, thank goodness!
A plant-based way of life is so much more than that. Yes, many vegans do care about the welfare of animals. Shouldn’t we all, whether we eat meat or not? But now more than ever, we’re recognising the impact meat consumption has on our bodies and on our planet. Understanding this fact has empowered us all to make more informed choices and, as always, retailers are quick to pick up on our changing behaviours! Suddenly the mainstream has embraced what used to be the awkward dinner guest and is serving up meat-free, plant-based whole foods for everyone.
The difference between a vegan diet and plant-based living
Although similar in many ways, the main difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet is that vegans abstain from all products derived from animals, usually for ethical reasons. Whereas those leading a plant-based way of life consume lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains whilst minimising their intake of animal products and processed foods, usually for health reasons.
Why cut the meat?
We weren’t designed to eat meat every day. That’s just a symptom of our rich western way of life and it’s one that research now shows is killing our planet, as well as harming our bodies in many ways. For those of you who watched David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, you’ll know that David urged everyone to cut down their meat consumption as it’s the single most effective change any of us can make to protect our planet.
This new enlightened view of commercial food production is re-shaping the way we think about the food we consume. And the new choices we’re making are having a positive impact on our bodies and our planet. Some research even suggests a plant-based diet can improve our mental health.
Once thought to be undernourished and weak (sorry, not my personal view!), vegans and plant-based dieters alike have taken the sports world by storm:
- Scott Jurek, ultra-marathon runner
- Carl Lewis, olympic sprinter
- Patrik Baboumian, strongman
- David Meyer, martial artist
The list goes on…
When you’re consuming more calories than any normal human being is supposed to, it changes your view on what you’re putting in your body. Especially when you’re working so hard to achieve that peak performance. You want to make sure everything you eat is working for you, not against you.
So now there’s a whole library of amazing nutrition and recipe books out there for people seeking a more natural way to fuel their bodies for sporting success.
Having lived by a few myself in recent years when training for mountain biking and trail running events, my personal favourites are The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook by Anita Bean and The No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier. And the vegan nachos from The Plantpower Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt… they will change your world forever, I promise.
Follow the seasons and choose local
Becoming more conscious of our food, where it comes from and what impact it has, is helping people to reconnect with the source of their sustenance. Instead of mindlessly picking up plastic-wrapped packages from the supermarket shelf and stuffing them in our basket, we’re questioning: where does it come from, how was it produced, is there a healthier or a kinder option? These questions are changing the face of consumerism as we know it. For the better.
For those that do choose to consume meat, we’re beginning to make better decisions around seeking locally sourced products from small scale, often organic farms. As well as often being superior quality, meat produced in this way has a much smaller environmental impact as it’s farmed in a more sustainable way. Plus with no lengthy air, rail or road journey to travel from farm to fork, the carbon footprint of your lamb chop can be a fraction of the supermarket alternatives.
We’re also becoming more in tune with choosing fruit and vegetables that are in season. Locally grown food, produced in natural conditions (ie without the need for artificial environments) has a much lower carbon footprint. That’s because it doesn’t need to be flown in from around the world, just so we can enjoy strawberries in January or leeks in June!
Sustainable diet choices bring about positive impact at every step of the way.
Modern life is rubbish (as a certain britpop band once said…)
So movements like Veganuary are helping us to become more mindful when it comes to choosing what we eat. And with other New Year favourites like the ‘Digital Detox’, we’re becoming equally aware of the stresses our modern lifestyle places on our minds.
This increased awareness is leading to more and more of us seeking ways to reconnect with nature. To not only make the most of our downtime, but to put more effort into making more downtime available. And to use that time to revitalise ourselves both physically and mentally. To escape our concrete jungle and get back to a natural way of living, through everyday lifestyle choices and through one-off experiences.
Foraging for food
Foraging for food in the wild is a fantastic way to reconnect with nature and to completely eliminate food miles while you’re at it! Nature is so abundant with fresh fruit during the summer and autumn months, it’s easy for any of us to find. And it’s free!
A simple stroll down a country lane can have your pockets brimming with juicy damsons and crisp apples. Venture into the forest and before you know it, your hands are stained with vibrant purple bilberry juice as you pick your way through those overladen bushes. And not to mention the wild garlic in summer… my family know when that lush green beauty is in season because I return home from every dog walk with bagfuls of the stuff! Well it does make a mean pesto.
If you know where to look, what to look for and when, you’ll find that nature keeps on giving all year round. Whether it’s from the hedgerows, the forest or the coast, there’s natural nutrition around every corner.
Joining a professional forager in a guided group is a fantastic way to get outdoors more and truly reconnect with nature. And they can show you what to look for depending on the season. And of course what not to eat! Nature is a little tricky like that so you do need to know what you’re picking before you start stuffing handfuls of everything you see into your mouth.
Reconnect with your roots
How about taking it a step further and learning how to cook your foraged goodies in the great outdoors too? Bushcraft skills courses are becoming ever more popular. You can learn traditional knife skills to whittle cooking utensils and have an expert show you how to prepare your freshly picked (or caught, if you’re off the Veganuary wagon by then) wild food.
All of this not only teaches you new skills and introduces you to healthy sustainable foods, it also gets you into the great outdoors. Where you can disconnect from the world and reconnect with your life. And trust me, it feels amazing!
Try something new
So what is Veganuary all about? It’s about giving the mainstream a taste of what life could be like if we all just made our decisions a little more mindfully. It’s putting aside old preconceptions. And it’s kickstarting a potentially new and enlightening way of life for all of us.
If you want to give foraging a try and get hands-on with picking your own fresh vegetables straight from the field, check out our Wild Wellness Retreat. It’s the perfect introduction to reconnecting with nature and this all-inclusive retreat is packed with delicious plant-based meals.
The Discovery North Wales multi activity adventure also includes a 2-day foraging and bushcraft experience, complete with 1 night of glamping. This adventure also includes hiking Snowdon, exploring Anglesey’s coastal nature by power boat and river rafting – everything you need to truly discover the natural world.