To celebrate World Vegan Month, Charlotte Sims tells us about her transition from vegetarian to vegan diet all thanks to Veganuary.
You have been vegetarian since you were a child, so why did you decide to omit meat so young?
I was lucky as a child to have pet cats and hamsters and grow up around horses. My family often took me to farms on the weekend and I loved animals so much. I guess I must have made the connection early that if I loved animals, then why would I want to eat them?
You took part in Veganuary 2015, so what made you go for it at this point in your life?
I had hit a plateau with my fitness training and I was eating a very boring vegetarian diet of egg whites and vegetables for most of my meals. I started to watch a lot of YouTube videos where vegans were eating such a variety of foods and they looked great. I found out lots of athletes such as the Williams sisters were Vegan too and it made me realise I could be fit and healthy and at the same time eat yummy nutritious food.
At this point I wasn't aware of how cruel the dairy industry is, I just wanted to experiment with food and eat a more varied plantbased diet so I thought what better way than to give it a 30 day trial with the support of Veganuary!
You take part in body building and bikini fitness classes so how much has going vegan helped you to sculpt your body?
At first I was worried I would not be able to get enough protein in my diet living as a Vegan but I soon realised it was easy with Vegan protein shakes, tofu, beans and even vegetables! I eat a lot more Carbs now and I feel like I have more energy to train in the gym! My strength has improved and my body recovers quicker from hard workout sessions! I am not bored with my food choices and I now cook lots of exciting meals which means I can stick to a healthier diet more easily without reaching for junk food at the weekend!
Do you feel any different inside?
I feel happier knowing that I am not contributing to animal cruelty within the dairy industry! I have tons more energy, my skin looks better and I sleep deeper too! I feel more confident and I will be competing in my first bikini fitness competition next year where I hope to promote that you can achieve a toned body on a Vegan diet!
Do many other body builders follow this way of life?
The typical diet of a bodybuilder contains a lot of chicken and fish. However over the past few years, Vegan Bodybuilding is definitely becoming more popular. I think it helps that a lot of famous athletes are promoting Veganism and it shows that you can still be strong using plant based protein. My favourite female Vegan athletes are @naturallystefanie @tairamacauley and @fitveganchef
Why do you think many vegetarians overlook the dairy industry until someone alerts them to it?
I think we grow up in a society that promotes the dairy industry. It is seen as normal to have milk on your cereal, butter on your toast, ice cream as a treat. We are led to believe that cows live a long happy life in nice big green fields without being subject to cruelty. Being vegetarian you feel as though you are doing enough to support animal welfare but as soon as you realise how cruel the dairy industry is, you wish you had become Vegan sooner! My favourite documentarys are Earthlings, What the Health and Cowspiracy.
Dairy is not only bad for the animals, there is tons of research to suggest that it is also damaging to your health!
When you researched into the dairy industry what shocked you the most about it?
I was shocked at the conditions the cows are kept in, how they are artificially insemenated and as soon as the calf is born they are taken away from the mother within 24 hours. The majority of male calves are killed at a young age.
You were passionate about being vegetarian before going vegan so are you approaching this with the same drive and enthusiasm?
100% ! I will never be a Vegan activist marching up and down the streets but I like to believe my social media promotes Veganism by showing that you can be fit, healthy and happy by eating a plantbased diet! I am very passionate about being Vegan and I like to attend and support local Vegan events, whether it be fairs or meet ups! I am always on the look out for new Vegan products or places to eat and I love to support Vegan businesses!
Have you noticed any changes since going vegan in 2015? Is there more hype around Veganuary this time around?
As time goes on Veganism is definitely getting more popular! When I first turned Vegan, I relied on soya milk as a milk alternative but now every supermarket sells a variety of almond, hemp, rice, coconut and even hazlenut milks!
Restaurants have really upped their game too with the likes of Zizzis, Wagamamas and Ask Italian having their own Vegan menus with lots of options!
Ben and Jerry's have also recently launched their own dairy free ice cream! So there are more and more options than ever before!
I have definitely noticed more people taking part in Veganuary this year. My best friend and her parents participated and they are still Vegan now!
What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking about or doing Veganuary this time around?
- Plan your meals in advance. Use this time to experiment with food and create exciting new dishes! Eating a plantbased diet is never boring!
- Look for easy swaps for your regular items, for example almond milk in your tea, Violife cheese on your jacket potato or Linda Mccartney sausages for your bangers and mash!
- Look for a list of accidentally vegan foods, we don't have to live off grass things like Skittles, Oreos, Lotus biscuits, Coop jam donuts and Greggs Belgian Buns are all vegan!
- If you are eating out ask for the Vegan menu. If they do not have one you can always ask for a pizza with no cheese but extra toppings or jacket potato and salad.
- Try to take part with friends and family so that you can support each other :)