It’s January once again! Are you one of the vegan-curious who’s starting the new year by signing up for the Veganuary challenge? For the past few years, the month of January has become synonymous with Veganuary. In 2023, 700,000 people worldwide joined in, and seeing that participant numbers rise with each year, 2024 may again see a record number of people signing up.
What is Veganuary exactly?
Veganuary is an annual campaign that was started by a non-profit organization in the UK in 2014. The idea of the challenge is to encourage people to try a vegan diet for the whole month of January. Since the beginning of a new year is the time many consider committing to a new resolution, trying out a vegan diet for 31 days is an appealing goal.
When it was launched nine years ago, the founders were hoping at least 1000 people would join in. 3000 participants ended up committing to the challenge of going vegan for a month, and the number of participants signing up from all over the world has skyrocketed with each year since then. The rest is vegan history…
Veganuary has become a global campaign that’s so popular that many businesses such as your local supermarket, or even fast food chains, introduce new vegan products, or launch “Veganuary specials” all month long.
What does a vegan diet look like?
Going vegan means eating a diet of foods that don’t contain any animal products. Not only does it exclude meat, but also eggs, dairy, and honey. These are replaced by plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Dairy milk is the easiest to replace, with so many plant-based alternatives on the market… soya, oat, rice, and cashew milk are only a few examples. Cheese lovers can easily find cruelty-free substitutes, while those who have a hard time cutting out the meat have many mock-meat alternatives to tuck into.
The benefits of Veganuary
The idea of Veganuary is to have an open mind, try going plant-based for a month, and see what happens…
What does happen after 31 days?
Many people are surprised by how quickly they see and feel the benefits of a plant-based diet. Better digestion, clearer skin, an increase in energy, improved mood, and a positive change in body weight are some of the health benefits of eating vegan.
By trying out new foods and recipes, and tasting plant-based alternatives, many people realize that going vegan is really not as hard as they thought. Not only that, they also learn that it’s not a diet of deprivation as they once imagined, but one that opens up a whole new world of delicious possibilities.
Mindful of food choices
31 days of a plant-based diet also does something to the mind – it makes you more mindful of your food choices. Before taking a bite, you ask yourself how this food affects your health and well-being, but also how it impacts animals and the environment. It’s no secret that animal agriculture has a significant impact on the earth’s ecosystem, and is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. As for animals, it’s not too difficult to imagine how humans adopting a vegan lifestyle affects them. They get to live.
A transformative experience
While for many, Veganuary is a month-long experiment, for others it can be a transformative experience. Some people go back to eating animal foods once the 31 days over, but decide to reduce their meat and dairy consumption by including some of the alternatives into their regular diet. Others are inspired to make a lasting change and adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle long-term.
Shane Williams joined Veganuary in 2020 as a way to get out of his comfort zone, and once the 31 days were up, never went back to his former meat-heavy diet. He told My Protein that he was a “serious carnivore” who was convinced once he starting feeling the mental benefits of a vegan diet, and when he found he had the energy to reach his fitness goals. “I’ve got more energy now, I’m more focused when I do train and I think that’s partly because mentally I feel a lot clearer in terms of what I’m thinking about and what I’m doing,” he shared. He also discovered that his lifelong eczema cleared up, and that he longer suffered from hay fever, and mild asthma.
For Cambridge University PhD student and climate change researcher, Clara Ma, taking part in the Veganuary challenge a year ago completely changed her outlook. She was shocked to learn about the environmental impact of industrial farming practices and quickly came to the conclusion that they’re unsustainable. “Animal-based agriculture in particular is a leading driver of deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, antibiotic resistance, zoonotic disease transmission and the overuse and degradation of land and water,” said Ma on a Cambridge University blog https://www.cam.ac.uk/this-cambridge-life/the-phd-student-who-wants-to-change-the-way-we-think-about-food. “We need to address these issues not only to fight climate change, but also to protect human health and animal welfare, and to feed our growing population without doing further damage to the planet.” She decided to switch her research focus from studying the decarbonisation of land-based transport to looking at sustainable protein alternatives as a solution to climate change.
How to join the Veganuary challenge
If you haven’t already joined in, it’s not too late… you can still take the plunge. Actually, you can join the Veganuary challenge any time you like, during any month you like! The key is to commit to 31 days.
Once you sign up, you can download a starter kit designed to provide support via some handy tools and resources. These include a meal planner, recipes, meal and snack ideas, a shopping list of plant-based foods, a guide to vegan nutrition, and information on vegan alternatives to milk, cheese, meat, and other animal products. Also thrown in are a few tips on transitioning to a vegan diet, eating out as a vegan, and how to handle social situations.
There’s also the option to receive daily support emails. Many Veganuary participants share recipes and tips, as well as their experiences and challenges on social media using the Veganuary hash tag. This is a great way to feel like you’re part of an active community, and get some moral support over the 31-day challenge.