It’s January 16th 2016 and I’m here with Andrew Warren — who happens to be my younger brother — and I’m interviewing him about his participation in Veganuary.
Is this your first time participating in Veganuary? No, I did it last year as well. Last year was the first time I heard about it. I think I had the intention of not doing it this year, but then you came and visited for the holidays and you remotivated me.
That was going to be my next question — what motivated you to try it again? That was you of course [laughs]. I had a good experience with it last year. I like the concept of Veganuary because it doesn’t seem so permanent and it’s an easy way to get people interested. It’s like, “Okay, I can do this for a month.” And then during that month you might start to like it and take it further.
Did you do any advance preparation? Well, I actually started a few days before January and I hadn’t done any preparation, so it made it a little tricky. But that’s not really the way I like to do things anyway. I was having a conversation with somebody and told them I was going to do Veganuary. They said, “Well why are you waiting if you actually feel the way you do about animals and the whole concept of being vegan?” Waiting didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. I didn’t have many groceries, so I had to go out and pick some things up right away.
So we’re two weeks into Veganuary and, in your case, you’re about three weeks in. How are you feeling? I feel amazing! I’ve been losing weight. I’ve been watching what I’ve been eating for a couple months now, but I think over the last three weeks my diet has affected my weight further. I’m getting to a healthy weight. And I’m… more regular [laughs] and haven’t had any stomach aches. I have a pretty sensitive stomach, but haven’t had any issues with it since I started. I don’t know if it’s because of what I’m eating or the fact that I don’t have the same eating habits — as in, I’m not stuffing my face and eating way more than I should. I went to the doctor yesterday and my blood pressure was perfect. It’s usually pretty elevated and that was why I was going to get it checked, but it was just fine.
What have you been eating? Well, I’m not very good at cooking in general. I’ve always eaten out a lot, but there aren’t many vegan options to do that where I live so I’ve been forced to buy groceries. I’ve been trying to stick with what I know. I ‘ve been eating Tofurky and Vegenaise on sandwiches, or granola with almond milk. I eat nut bars throughout the day. Or frozen burritos that say vegan on them or whatever packaged food they have at the grocery store that I can take to work because it makes it easy. I have every intention of finding more recipes, but for me it’s not about learning how to make things vegan; it’s learning how to make things period because I’ve never been much of a food preparation type person, so I have to start from the beginning now and it’s taking me a little bit of time.
Are there any foods or meals you found particularly fantastic? I think I have more of an appreciation for the simple things now. Nothing is standing out to me as a fantastic dish unfortunately. To be honest, I’ve been eating so simply — a piece of toast with tomato on it or toast with banana and cinnamon — and I’ve been more appreciative of it instead of mindlessly eating stuff that’s full of fat or sugar. It’s been more satisfying.
How much are you utilizing the Veganuary website and resources? Not much. I got an email from them that said congratulations, I reached Level 2. I wanted to know what that meant but… not enough to click on it. The fact that they are into it — that’s some motivation just to know that. I did start following them on Instagram, so I get emails and see their pictures, but that’s as far as I’ve taken it.
What would you tell someone considering participating in Veganuary? Don’t let yourself get in a sticky situation. It takes a lot of forethought. We get addicted to food. When you’re addicted to something and you’re trying to quit, if opportunity and desire line up you’re going to end up going with what you want. So if you find yourself really hungry and you’re surrounded by McDonald’s, Burger King, etc… I mean, let’s face it, you’re going to eat there, especially if you’re pretty new to veganism and don’t have a lot of discipline built up. So just try not to get into those situations. Plan meals in advance and let everyone know how you’re eating now to make yourself more accountable. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite.
What has helped you stick with it? I feel like if you prepare and have vegan foods available at home and you don’t have animal products in the house, that’ll eliminate those temptations. If you’re concerned about sticking with it at work, let everyone know what you’re doing. Then you’re not about to go get a cheeseburger because you don’t want to be a hypocrite. It hasn’t really been all that hard since I made the decision and committed to it. I used to feel like being a vegan would be restricting, but it’s not really because that’s what my values are. When your values and your actions line you up, you can have serenity. It’s actually pretty freeing and liberating.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Feeling like I have an ailment [laughs] — like I can’t go out. Not only am I not eating meat or animal by-products, but I’m also not drinking [alcohol]. It feels like I’m basically cutting myself off from outings, opportunities and social events. Especially where I live. Feeling like I’m unable to participate in certain things like going out and being forced to get the one [vegan] thing they have. Sometimes in social interactions and conversations where it comes up, people get very defensive about their choices and a natural reaction for a lot of people when they get defensive is to attack you. So there are people who, not even meaning to, will say really rude things about veganism. And then of course I get defensive. I don’t want to lose any friendships or relationships or be unable to participate in certain events, so those have been challenges for me. I’m so used to eating whatever I want when I’m hungry and it’s challenging to not have that option. I can’t go to work without having a plan about what I’m going to eat, which I’ve done my whole life. I’ve always just worried about it when I got there and then I’d just go out for lunch. But I can’t do that anymore. I don’t have a lot of skills as far as food preparation goes, so I might bring something to work that doesn’t taste that great, but that’s cruelty free. Then my co-workers will all go out for fast food and their lunch is more appealing than mine. But at least I know mine is moral and ethical and that’s what’s important. I also know that I can have really delicious meals — it’s just my skill level. Cooking is just a skill I have to develop.
I hear what you’re saying about when you’re making a decision to go against the grain. Like you mentioned, people get defensive — especially when you’re doing something that you think is the moral thing to do. Others might feel judged, guilty, shameful or defensive and that can feel like it’s your responsibility to assuage their guilt. How have you managed those situations when they’ve come up or how do you intend to manage them in the future? Well I think it’s important to be well researched. To know what you’re talking about and to be able to back up your arguments. I’m not trying to preach to or provoke anyone — that’s not necessary. People already feel provoked when confronted with veganism because their choices and actions are called into question. I take their defensiveness as a good sign. It means that they are feeling something — and I can work with that. I take the attitude that veganism is a personal choice, even though it’s not really a personal choice because it involves others. But I don’t feel like I have a lot of room to talk because it’s only been three weeks. At this point, I’m using the fact that I’ve made a change as ammunition — because somebody changing is a pretty strong incentive for others to think they can change too.