My week as a vegan

Apparently you can’t even eat eggs

To some people, I’m a sadist.

Not in a Christian Grey way – my interests are a bit more carnivorous.

I’m a meat eater – and to vegans, I’m a problem. My everyday diet makes it seem like we can kill or imprison animals for our own pleasure. And I don’t usually care.

Me, not too long ago

Granted, I don’t go out and hunt the animals myself, but I can’t remember the last time I actually thought about the consequences of my diet.

So trying to be more conscious, I decided to go vegan – proper vegan – for a week.

This wasn’t going to be some half-hearted attempt where I moped around my house for a week eating carrots and Quorn, moaning about how hungry I was.

I was going to do it properly, by getting rid of any and all animal products in my life.

My provisions for the week

I’ll admit I was scared, mainly because I wrote a meal plan for the week, and every single lunch option just read “Beans?”

So to help I got in contact with the “Leeds Vegans and Veggies” on Facebook. Within minutes I was inundated with responses: recipe ideas, where to shop, who made the best vegan pizza in Leeds, and so on.

I don’t know what it is about vegans, but they all seem to be really nice. Maybe it’s because they don’t spend most of their time gorging themselves on the flesh of living beings.

Day 1 – Wednesday

I know what you’re thinking – Wednesday seems like an odd day to start. It was Ash Wednesday though so it was more poignant.

And I just couldn’t face starting on Pancake Day.

I wake up and have a shower, but not before I’ve done a quick Google check of whether my shower gel or shampoo are animal tested. As far as I can tell, they seem OK.

After that it’s a breakfast of oats, almond milk and banana, which is surprisingly tasty. I wash it down with a cup of green tea, because it seems appropriate.

Sainsbury’s Local will only get me so far so I’m forced to venture into town in search of vegan-friendly shops.

I head out after a lunch of avocados on (unbuttered) toast, but I’m forced to leave my watch, leather jacket and boots behind. Lucky the leather on my £2 wallet is fake or I’d be carrying around loose change all week.

I return home with the obvious, fruit, veg, nuts – and some ominous “chicken style slices”.

In the evening I head to Get Baked with my mates, and end up hating everyone. As I sit there staring enviously at their greasy burgers and poking an unappetising pile of crispy seaweed, I realise that this is going to be harder than I thought.


Day 2 – Thursday

Rushing to uni means I don’t have the time to make a vegan breakfast. I bolt down oats and water with a banana and suffer hunger pains all morning.

I’m saved with lunch from The Salad Box in Union – I’ve previously never even given it a second glance. I’ve never been a lettuce fan so I opt for couscous with chickpeas, peppers, sundried tomatoes and falafel. I feel very smug that I’ve finally found something delicious I can eat, until a friend informs me that she thinks there’s mayo in the falafel.

I proudly tell another friend about the challenge, pointing out how I’ve left my leather watch at home. She asks if the jumper I’m wearing is wool, and I’m quickly silenced.

My phone looked like this most of the time

Dinner is bean chilli which at least makes me feel normal. My stomach ache is gone.

Day 3 – Friday

I’m apprehensive about the next two days as I’m going to see my brother in Manchester – eating vegan is all well and good when you can prep all the food yourself, but on the road it’s a different story.

I pack up some avocado sandwiches and bananas and set out on the train, although those are gone by lunchtime.

You can never have too much avocado

I’ve started to criticise eateries for their lack of inclusive options – vegetarian choices are sparse enough usually, but vegans are rarely even considered when most restaurants compile their menus. Bastards.

Luckily the pub we meet in has a vegan-friendly sweet potato and bean burger on offer (although I have to ditch the mayo).

After a few drinks, dinner is harder – I’m in a rush and end up eating yet more avocado on yet more bread.

It definitely takes me a lot less than usual to get drunk and as the evening gets hazier, I have to be extremely careful not to let my desire for a 4AM kebab take hold.

Day 4 – Saturday

I always assumed that my big Saturday hangover was going to be the hardest day, being so accustomed to days like this spent festering in bed with last night’s pizza or Sainsbury’s Basics chicken goujons.

My salvation comes in the form of Fuel, a vegan café in Withington. I assumed that the classic hangover staple, the humble fry-up, would be completely out-of-bounds. My friend opts for cheese-laden burritos, but I’m delighted to find a fry-up alternative here. The bacon is conspicuous in its absence, but the strawberry and banana smoothie with it is an added bonus.

The ‘Full Vegan’

Granted, I start to flag a bit later on –  I just want something with a bit more substance. The carrot and coriander soup I order before I get the train home is a bit bland, and I can’t eat the bread that comes with it because they’ve buttered it without me asking.

Back in Leeds, I go to bed tired and hungry – although I can’t help but feeling like I’d feel worse if I’d given into the countless greasy takeaways I wanted to order.

Day 5 – Sunday

I attempt to recreate the vegan fry-up with (moderate) success.

The only thing that I struggle with is my housemates, who were out last night and are attempting to cure their hangovers with all kinds of unhealthy (and distinctly un-vegan) treats.

My own attempt

I turn to the tofu chunks I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use. “Add 150ml of water and leave to swell” – that’s something that I never really wanted to hear from my food.

The stew I end up making is quite nice though, even if the tofu has a weird consistency and tastes like could be trying to substitute literally any meat in the world.

Day 6 – Monday

Since I started, a lot of people have asked: “Has it not made you feel ill?”, and I realise that so far it’s actually been quite the opposite – until now.

I’m not sure at what point in the morning I realise I’ve gone completely blind in one eye, but by the time I’ve shut my laptop and crawled into bed it’s become pretty clear that I’m having a migraine.

A low point

The next three hours are spent in bed, feeling like someone has filled my head with broken glass and pushed me down some stairs. Apparently severe headaches are quite common when switching to a vegan diet, whether from the effect of the detox or the drop in blood sugar.

The fact that my housemate’s friend is on the way to the house with cookies that are “anything but vegan” doesn’t help my already foul mood, so I try to cheer myself up with some baking. My vegan flapjacks with dark chocolate and dairy-free white chocolate aren’t even that bad.

Although I’d still probably rather have one of those cookies.

The remnants of vegan flapjacks

Day 7 – Tuesday

I still feel a bit ropey, even after another lunch at The Salad Box.

Despite eating a lot, I still have to come home from uni on account of how rough I feel – although it’s probably more to do with the drastic change in my diet, and not because I’m hungry. If giving up animal products can make me feel like this, it makes me wonder if I should be eating them in the first place.

Luckily I’ve still got the rest of the flapjacks when I return home, and to go out with a bang I make a big vegetable stir-fry with egg-free noodles, soy sauce and ginger for dinner.

Another low point

I wanted to do this week without moaning, but I can’t help that it’s made me feel lethargic. It pains me to say it but I can’t wait to get back to normal.

That said, I’ve enjoyed it. It hasn’t been as hard as expected, and it’s actually expanded my diet rather than restricted it.

I might lay off the avocados for a bit now though.