Within the past few years, regular gym attendance and devotion to health fads have become a popular value of both society and social media. The younger generations have become obsessed with gains, protein and exotic ‘superfoods’. Like a lot of people, I have jumped onto one of the most notorious diet and lifestyle choices of them all – veganism. However, being vegan is relatively varied; in essence it means you eat only plant-based foods and therefore cut out any meat or dairy from your diet. There’s often a stigma concerning vegans; that you’re a nature loving, self-righteous person who forces their beliefs (especially regarding meat) on anyone whose views differ from their own. Along with most stereotypes, this perception has proved to be exaggerated and inaccurate in regards to the majority of the community.

‘Veganuary’ is a movement encouraging awareness of the meat industry and how it affects our world today. It encourages people like me, a meat eater, to try to be vegan for the month of January. The movement discusses how (as a large amount of pollution is a by-product of mass animal production) the most effective way to help the planet and lead a healthier and happy life is to live by a plant-based diet. The registered charity’s website states ‘veganism is one of the most effective choices a person can make to reduce the suffering of animals, help the planet and improve personal health’.

On the 31st December I made the decision to become vegan. Neither the health or environmental benefits were a catalyst for my decision – it was purely because I liked the idea of a challenge. It’s now the end of January and I’m yet to stray away from the plant-based diet. Now I bet you’re thinking: I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t cut out cheese, I couldn’t cut out chicken – that’s the normal response when I tell people I’m taking part. If you want the honest truth, it isn’t nearly as hard as you expect. Despite the questionable vegan cheese, the majority of substitutes really do taste the same (some even better than the original).

Being vegan has, in turn, provided me with a deeper understanding of the food industry, and where the food in our supermarkets actually comes from. The vegan community is consistently growing and inspiring more people to join because of these reasons. Regardless of the constant public debate over whether you should eat plant-based foods alone, or just cut down on meat and dairy, being vegan is mainly just a personal choice reflecting each individual’s personal story. This year 50,000 people signed up to Veganuary, which is more than any other year. Even though January is almost over it is never too late to try out the vegan diet. If you are interested in exploring a new healthy diet in the New Year, it may be worth doing your own research and considering a vegan lifestyle.