Alison Bender   Fitness  

Jose Mourinho Manchester United Football Manager

I wrote this blog a year ago after completing Veganuary, and I wanted to post it to say that a year has passed and the things I learned in that month have really stuck with me. So it’s never too late to try something new, push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn (or unlearn) things.

I want to start by saying thanks Pulsin’ for opening my eyes. Veganuary has been a real experience for me, and life is all about new experiences right?

Before I go on, let me just say it’s February now and I am typing this while sitting in Whole foods eating a soup and bread and for the first time ever I skipped the butter, butter just feels a bit weird now. So there you have it, this experience has changed me.

After I had agreed to this, I thought “What on earth am I thinking?” I have a 9 month old baby, a 3 year old boy and I work part time, I barely have time to plan a normal meal, let alone something as restrictive as this, but when I agree to something I am pretty stubborn and so the challenge began.

The first thing I did was emptied my fridge and cupboards of all the things I can’t eat. I absolutely hate food waste and so it was great to see there are brilliant apps out there for passing on unwanted food – I also took a big bag to a friend’s house.

My husband was kind of hilarious, for a smart guy he can be a bit stupid at times. Is this vegan? Then he went through a big list of things that were totally obvious to me (but clearly not him) this included fish and carrots! His reaction when he found out fish was on the “no” list was priceless. I know, I know!!!

At this point I should mention I actually bullied him into doing this. He’s all for great challenges, especially when they involve being healthy and so he was keen to take part. Pulsin’ kindly sent him a starter pack and so it began. It actually helped me a lot, because I felt I wanted to impress him with delicious meals and recipes and so it stopped me from living on hummus for a month!

So 2018 began with a hangover – I was at a friend’s house and had failed to bring any of my vegan stuff with me. A hangover panic around her kitchen ended with a tasty slice of toast with mashed avocado, how millennial. The leftover lemon merengue pie I had baked for the occasion was on the kitchen counter looking very tempting, on a normal day I’d have devoured it, I felt very proud of myself.

Later that day when I was feeling a little sorry for myself a friendly follow on twitter for veganuary with some words of encouragement perked me up, as did my pulsin’ snack bar (Maple and Whey for those who care), thank goodness for that vegan pack.

As the days went by it got easier. I felt proud of myself for not eating cakes and biscuits like I regularly do – and not shovelling up my kids leftovers. Eating became a little more mindful and deliberate.

I began following various sites on social media and was encouraged by the positivity and help I received. Learning that Tesco were bringing out a huge range “Wicked Kitchen” was exciting. I turned up at my local Tesco and presented the article to them and they looked blank. Someone went out the back and took a pile of boxes off the crate- hot off the press, I felt very ahead of the curve, I was one of the first people to try this range, it’s great by the way.

A lot of the literature that was sent to me was really useful. “What the health” was eye opening and gave me plenty of ammunition when speaking to friends who think vegans are weirdos, difficult and too preachy. I had an answer for everything. I pulled out the whole “World’s strongest man is a vegan” thing on many occasions. I really enjoyed being on Veganuary and wore my wrist band with pride, telling anyone who would listen that I was doing it. I even had a conversation with David Moyes, West Ham’s manager who said he needed something like that as he was starting 2018 with a health drive.

Jane Land, the founder of Veganuary has done a wonderful job, the marketing campaign has been incredible- everyone knows about it. She was kind enough to email me with recipe ideas and even put me in touch with Fry’s who sent me some products to try that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Veganuary has had its challenges, but I have done it! A whole month and I feel great. This was supposed to only be a month’s challenge but it has changed the way I think about food. Powerful and surprising!

I just want to end by saying something that may surprise you. I became vegetarian when I was four, yes four! When I was 10 I tried meat again, just to make sure, but it didn’t really suit me and I didn’t much like it. My poor mum was criticised everywhere she went. “A four year old vegetarian? How ridiculous!“ The thing is, it wasn’t my mum, she likes meat and eats it all the time, it was stubborn little me. A friend had showed me leaflets of animals in slaughterhouses and it stuck with me. My mum tried tricking me as she was pretty desperate (back then there were very few veggie options) but I knew exactly what I was doing. The reason why it surprises me is that my own son is four and I guess I don’t give him the credit he deserves. I remember making this decision very clearly, and understanding what it meant, so don’t underestimate what a young child can feel. It was also sad because I spent my whole life explaining myself and trying to justify my decision, but I wasn’t armed with any of the stats, facts or health benefits we now know. I guess my message is don’t be afraid to swim against the crowd. It was hard, but now I feel grateful I made that decision, something that may have hugely benefitted me over the years.

Ali x