If you’ve chosen to try Veganuary this year then a massive well done to you. Not only is it a great step for both animals and the environment, but the health benefits of going vegan and cutting meat and dairy out of your body are insane.

For example, did you know that ‘studies show that cholesterol levels are lower in vegans than in the standard population’? [Source].

Despite this, many people see making such a huge change as daunting, even if it is just for a month. When I first pledged to try it, many family and friends told me I was crazy and that going from one extreme to another would be bad news – I was told I should have gone vegetarian first and then vegan.

Although it worked out great for me, there were many times I wanted to pack it in. It has got easier over the years, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I’d struggle with meal planning and giving into temptations and I didn’t do half as much research as I should have done.

I’d recommend visiting the official Veganuary website for professional advice, but for those of you who might be struggling mentally – wondering how the hell you’re going to get through it – I approached Nicki Kelly, the founder of Nicki’s Vegan Weight Loss Cafe on Facebook.

Nicki knows her stuff. She has achieved several nutrition related diplomas, ran her own large weight loss business in Australia for 25 years and now offers private coaching. She also launched Nicki’s Vegan Weight Loss Cafe where she supports women by showing them how to balance meals using vegan whole foods without oil or sugar and shares other top tips and advice on being vegan.

I asked her to share some tips with me when it comes to keeping a level head during Veganuary and here’s what she shared.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!
I’ve also said this a million times before but Nicki cannot stress enough how important it is do research before switching switch to a vegan diet. She states that it’s not done simply by omitting animal based foods. It’s a bit more involved than that. Read up about why you want to do it and how you’re going to plan ahead. Research more into the meat and dairy industry to understand why people choose this way of life. Think about what this is going to do to your body. Which brings us to..

MAKE A LIST OF IMPORTANT ‘MUST HAVE’ VITAMINS
One of the most popular arguments meat-eaters give vegans is that they miss out on essential nutrients and vitamins by not eating meat. Well, yes. Which is why we refer to other sources to get these essentials! Nicki suggests adding easy to obtain supplements like B12 and vegan D3 vitamin supplementation to your list, then learn how much protein you should consume for your unique needs and what other nutrients to look out for. Not everyone is the same, but it’s definitely worth understanding what needs to be supplemented when not eating meat and dairy. My boyfriend and I take all round Holland & Barrett Vegan Multivitamin & Mineral tablets, which consist of vitamins A, D, E, C, B1, B2, B6 & B12, calcium, iron, zinc, folic acid and other minerals. It’s our go-to supplement and stops us worrying about anything we might be missing out on by not eating meat and dairy.

LOW STARCH VEGETABLES ARE YOUR FRIEND
Taking part in Veganuary is going to make you super healthy of course but if you really want to lose weight or tone up, Nicki recommends stocking up with low starch vegetables on your plate (think kale, spinach, courgettes, broccoli, rocket salad, cucumber etc) with all other plant foods being the supporting factor. This is great, as things like rocket salad go with most meals, whereas spinach always works well with rice, pasta and inside stuffed mushrooms. And why are they good for you? Low starch vegetables are low in calories, but are rich in vitamins, minerals and sometimes fiber too.

GET CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN
It’s super important to not be too hard on yourself this month. Going vegan is a huge change on your body, so it’s important to stay in a healthy place mentally too. You probably will slip and mess up – whether that’s giving into a meat craving or misreading ingredients and accidentally eating something with dairy in it. It happens. Write it off and move on. Being vegan isn’t just about strictly cutting out meat and dairy – it’s about trying your best, even if that means just starting with Meat Free Mondays! To make it more fun and less of a challenge, Nicki suggests enjoying vegetables and fruit with a variety of colours and textures – rainbow pizza, anyone?! Not only does this tip ensure you have a variety of plant based foods, but it also looks great on your instagram.

COMMUNITY IS KEY
Finally – if I had to add one tip, it would be that you don’t have to take on this challenge alone. There are plenty of online forums, websites and Facebook groups to check out, such as Nicki’s Vegan Weight Loss Cafe and Veganuary and they’re super helpful. Although they’re great for finding recipes and advice, it’s always nice to have someone to talk to (or a whole community to talk to!) when you’re feeling frustrated. Many people log onto these Facebook groups to vent about cravings or family members not supporting them – the amount of posts I’ve seen asking for proof to prove someone wrong that you can be vegan and still get necessary nutrients is crazy! – and each is all round really helpful.So there we have it. With it now being my third year of taking on Veganuary, I can safely say that going vegan isn’t just about cutting out meat and dairy. One of the most important factors of making this change is to stay healthy mentally and not put too much pressure on yourself – I hope this post has helped!If you’d like any further tips, recipes or advice, visit my Vegan tag here.

Are you trying Veganuary this year? Let me know!

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Veganuary 2017 is well and truly over and after treating myself to one small Happy Meal, a Chinese and a Thai Curry (but no Pizza Hut god dammit!) since being able to eat meat again, I find it’s time to reflect on my experiences of eating vegan for the entire month of January.

Luckily, I’d also set myself the same challenge from last year so I had a little experience. This time around, I understood what I was getting myself into, I knew to do a big shop in advance and I already had a bunch of fail safe vegan products and recipes I could use again in 2017.
But did this make it easier or not?
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IT WAS ONLY A TINY BIT EASIER THIS TIME
Having already gone through it the once helped a bunch, but the four week stint wasn’t without it’s challenges. The first one was that I’m only working part time at the moment, whereas last year I was working full time, so I didn’t have enough money to spare. I had to do my shops carefully, which meant having a few of the same meals multiple times. In hindsight, this was a good thing, because it helped me plan ahead a lot more again.
I didn’t miss meat as much this time around, but some of last year’s issues still affected me – there were days I just couldn’t be bothered to cook at all and then, of course, around the halfway mark, I got sick and had to pack the whole thing in for a couple of days.
I ONLY VARIED MY FOOD A LITTLE BIT MORE
I introduced some new recipes into my diet and also relied on some from 2016, but I still didn’t get round to experimenting with quorn or tofu. On the other hand, I ate/snacked less and instead focused on more filling dinners and this time around I also stocked up on potatoes and vegetables, which I did not do this year.
I found myself eating a lot less in January, but I think that’s because I was filling up on the good stuff (potatoes, vegetables etc), so I can’t complain.
MY WILL POWER STAYED STRONG
I did consider for a second giving up once or twice, especially when I got sick, but then I remembered that being a vegan isn’t being harsh on yourself and instead it’s about trying to be vegan as best as you can. So there were a couple of days where I had no energy to cook or go and buy vegan stuff in, but I still tried my best on these days by still avoiding meat (just not dairy). I could have very easily of given up after this but instead I decided to continue.
This had challenges too, because afterwards, I was often tempted to just have a small slip up here and there, thinking that as I’d messed it up for a couple of days already, an odd little treat here and there wouldn’t make much difference.
I definitely waived within the third week, but by the fourth and final week I was back to my determined self.
MY THOUGHTS LOOKING BACK
Looking back, I’m super proud of myself for achieving Veganuary yet again, and I’ve come away feeling more confident in the kitchen again and more savvy about eating healthy on a budget. I’ve got a couple more go-to meals that I’ll continue to eat and overall, I’ve felt so much better in myself. According to my sister, my skin and hair looks better and more vibrant, and overall I look like I’ve lost weight.
I admit, I did weigh myself this time around out of curiosity, and found that over the course of the month, I lost half a stone.
I have been taking on lots of fitness classes too, but I’ve no doubt that by eating more vegetables and generally just eating more green/healthy, it’s made a big difference.
WHAT NOW?
As always, I’ve treated myself to a couple of things I missed in January, but overall I have been trying to continue to eat healthy or at least more balanced meals ever since.
This time around, instead of attempting to stay 85% vegan for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided I’m going to try to be ‘flexitarian’ (yes, that’s a thing). It means to be someone who is primarily vegetarian, but occasionally eats meat or fish and I think this is quite suited to me.
I’ll still be eating vegan as much as I can – I find no problem whatsoever with using vegan alternatives for butter, or milk and cheese in cooking, and the rest of the time I’ll be sticking to vegetarian. I will allow myself to eat meat occasionally, perhaps just on a weekend, or for example, if I’ve gone out for dinner during the week and eating a meat based meal is just the easier option.
I actually found it really easy to give up meat for two, three weeks at a time, so although I may allow the option of eating it once a week, it’s more likely that it’ll be once every few weeks. An occasional treat, if you will.
It’s not a huge change, but it’s still a step in the right direction and if I’m really honest, I’m doing this for me more than any other reason. Going vegan made me feel so much better in myself and I simply want to continue that feeling. But due to my living circumstances and working just part-time right now, it isn’t always a viable option.
So I’ll be trying, but labelling myself as a flexitarian. This works for me, and also see’s me doing my little bit to help animals too. According to stats, each person that takes part in Veganuary saves up to 30 animals by doing so – and that makes me feel damn good!
Keep an eye out for a couple more Veganuary posts throughout February, such as my favourite recipes this time around.
Would you ever try Veganuary? Let me know!
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Well, I’ve done it! I’m happy to say I proudly completed Veganuary for the second year in a row, but before I go into how I felt about it overall, here’s my fourth week in review.

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SUNDAY 22ND
Today I had vegan pancakes for breakfast (a new firm favourite of mine) and, for dinner, spicy Mexican three-bean burgers from Tesco. These were a mistake. It wasn’t that they weren’t tasty…they were just way too spicy for me. I had them in a bun with some rocket salad on the side, and then after realizing I couldn’t eat them that spicy, I added some hummus into the bun to cool them down. This just tasted wrong though, and in the end, I chalked the dinner up to a fail. I had a Nakd bar later on, then went to bed hungry.
MONDAY 23RD
Today I had mushrooms on toast for lunch (so delicious), followed by golden breaded mushrooms, bite sized roast potatoes and roasted vegetables. I’m really getting stuck into the rut of having roast potatoes and vegetables with nearly every meal, but I can’t complain, because it’s really balancing out my food and seems to be working. 
TUESDAY 24TH
On Tuesday, I had a big lunch: hummus and tomato mezze, which is a firm favourite of mine. This was really filling, so dinner was light (a couple of vegetable grills from Tesco), and later, I snacked on some carrot sticks and hummus. Yummy.
WEDNESDAY 25TH
Wednesday I actually went round my Dad’s for dinner and he bought stuffed mushrooms and made fajitas. They were definitely veggie, but I’m not sure how vegan they were. Still, he tried, which I appreciate, and there was no harm done. I think it was one of those things where the mushrooms didn’t have anything in them that was dairy, but there might have been a small bit of milk in the ingredients or something. I don’t worry about this too much (in this case, anyway), because he still went out of his way to choose something that didn’t contain dairy. I also read somewhere that a lot of products have to list that there may be a tiny percentage of milk/butter etc because of where the product was made, and though it’s unlikely to, their backs are covered if, for example, it has come into contamination with butter and someone has an allergic reaction to it – if that makes sense…I also had avocado on toast for breakfast today, and a light snack of a Nakd Bakewell tart bar.
THURSDAY 26TH
I had tomato mezze again today just to use up the ingredients – it’s a firm favourite of mine, but because I can never find smaller tubs of hummus, a lot of it goes to waste. I also had my standard vegetable grills with mixed vegetables and bite sized roast potatoes, and, for supper, some oreos 😉
FRIDAY 27TH
Friday I had no appetite whatsoever and had little in the house, so I had avocado on toast for breakfast…and again for dinner. Super boring, but sometimes these days just happen.
SATURDAY 28TH
I also had little to no appetite on Saturday (maybe it was cause I was PMSing) so instead I stuck to vegetable grills with vegetables/potatoes etc for dinner and then, later on, some amazing soya ice cream. This vegan ice cream is so delicious, especially with a few oreos thrown in.
SUNDAY 19TH
Today I had stuffed jacket potato (finally mixing it up a bit here!) with vegetables/potatoes and again, vegan ice cream in the evening. I knew by now I was getting boring, but with only a few days left, I was just using up what was left in the cupboard.
MONDAY 30TH
I pretty much had the same again but swapped my jacket potato for…yep, you guessed it, vegetable grills. Hey, it’s a tasty meal!
TUESDAY 31ST
Finally, for my last day, I had a few Nakd bars as snacks and decided to make an old favourite of mine; stuffed mushrooms with kale. Only we didn’t have any kale, so instead it was spinach. 
And then….I was done! Another year under my belt! Even though I struggled a little bit towards the end, I still managed it! I’ll be blogging soon about the overall conclusion of Veganuary 2017 but in the meantime, I succeeded!

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So, it’s safe to say I’ve struggled a lot this week.
I’ve found that in between feeling sick (nearly everything I’ve been eating I’ve been puking back up again) and being so busy, I haven’t had much chance to meal plan or buy vegan specific food.
In my last post, I actually left off at Monday, so this post for this week will be a bit shorter.
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TUESDAY 17TH
Today I started off well with some vegan pancakes which did not go well and, later, some plain toast, which luckily I managed to keep down. So far, so vegan…until around 1am when I was starving and had to give in and have a Mars bar, with nothing else light and/or vegan in the house. What a fail.
WEDNESDAY 18TH
Wednesday was avocado on toast and I met my dad for dinner. I don’t know what was going through my mind, but well aware that nachos are vegan as long as I don’t have the cheese, for some stupid reason I associated the fact that tacos are very similar to nachos and would be the same. I got to the pub and was so hungry and hyped up for tacos that despite the fact they come with cheese and lots of meat, I ordered it anyway. I only had a small bit of meat, but I felt horrible afterwards because at the very least I could have gone for something veggie. Still, this made me feel unwell nonetheless, but I was at least able to keep it down. I blamed feeling unwell for my mistake.
THURSDAY 19TH
Thursday I was determined to get back on it and had (vegan) pancakes for breakfast and, for dinner, vegetable grills with mixed vegetables and garlic breaded mushrooms. I had a late supper of avocado on toast too. 
FRIDAY 20TH
Friday was another bad day for me as I had such a busy day, I skipped breakfast. I went out to visit my sister and we went for a long, long walk to the foresty centre, and for lunch I had a cheese and onion toastie with salad and crisps. The crisps were vegan, as was the salad obviously, but the cheese and onion toastie = not so much. Still, at least it was still veggie.
SATURDAY 21ST
Finally on Saturday I managed to get a proper shop in and get my head back in the game. I was sure to pick up lots of vegan treats and light food, like oreos, Chipstix and Nakd bars, but I couldn’t find any courgettes for my beloved stuffed courgettes! I filled myself up with a mushroom and garlic pasta though and had some packets of Chipstix as a snack.
I think I’ve been terrible this week, but with having such a volatile stomach, I could have done a lot worse. I must admit, I’ve been trying to choose some food to settle my stomach, regardless of whether or not it’s vegan and I finally seem to be feeling a bit better.
I have taken solace in the fact that I haven’t given up completely and where I have had non-vegan meals, it’s not been on purpose. For example, when I was out with my sister, I’d skipped breakfast and there were no vegan options on the menu, so I chose the nearest thing to vegan. So there have been a few slip ups here and there, but none intentionally.
There have of course been many points I’ve been tempted to pack it all in and drive to McDonalds since, y’know, I’ve already slipped up, but I persevered!
Saying that, my sister commented on how well I looked which made me feel good! I hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks and she pointed out that apparently my skin was glowing, my hair looked good and I’d lost weight – so that was nice!
Now that I’ve got my final big shop in I should be okay. I have plenty of supplies so if I’m absolutely starving at night and it’s too late to cook, I have snacks that are vegan luckily.
There’s not long to go now – only ten or so days – and I’m determined to be 100% vegan this last week! Wish me luck!
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Over the weekend, I hit the halfway mark of Veganuary.

That happened so quickly and I can’t believe that I’ve already succeeded in eating vegan for two weeks.
Here’s how I got on.

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SUNDAY 8TH
Today I had a busy day followed by a date (!) so I skipped a big dinner today and instead opted for some avocado on toast for lunch and a large salted popcorn at the cinema. Please note, the popcorn was to share. Today is the first day I also found my appetite reducing. I don’t know if it’s because I was so busy or just because I’ve been filling up on more vegetables but I definitely began to eat less.
MONDAY 9TH
Today I also had avocado on toast and some butternut squash risotto I’d purchased ready-made from Morrisons. It was rank. I have no idea what possessed me to buy it.
TUESDAY 10TH
On Tuesday, I had just one big meal. I was busy running errands most of the day and I’ve been also upping my water intake loads, so I focused on pasta with a garlic cream sauce and mushrooms. It was nice and I actually managed to flavour the sauce for once!
WEDNESDAY 11TH
By midweek, I sort of got my appetite back a little. I had vegetable grills and mixed vegetables for lunch, then met my dad for dinner at a Hungry Horse, where I scoffed down a delicious Tandori Veg Malasi. It was lovely, if a little hot for me! I’m always pleasantly surprised at how many veggie and vegan options on offer at Hungry Horse. There was a lot and as it was a tad hot, I couldn’t finish it all. By the evening, I was feeling a tad peckish, so I treated myself to a simple home favourite, spaghetti on toast.

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THURSDAY 12TH
Thursday was another busy day for me, so I stocked up on water and treated myself to a big dinner of Fry’s Family Chicken Nuggets, bite sized roast potatoes, garlic breaded mushrooms and some mixed vegetables. I’m loving mini bags of mixed vegetables lately. You just throw them in the microwave and because they go with everything, I’ve gone easily from barely eating any vegetables to eating them nearly every single day with at least one meal.
FRIDAY 13TH – SUNDAY 15TH
This weekend I was away at Centre Parcs with some friends. To make it cheaper, we agreed to all cook for each other and I told myself I would try my best to stay vegan but not beat myself up too much if I couldn’t, as obviously most of our group weren’t vegan. I said I’d add an extra weekend onto Veganuary, but as it goes, it was pretty easy. One of the girls is a full time vegan and my other friend is doing Veganuary with me so we had no meat all weekend. I did have a couple of sides that I’d picked up thinking were vegan (but turned out not to be) but didn’t beat myself too much about it, as I’d already chosen to be a bit more lenient that weekend.
MONDAY 16TH
I don’t know what it was but Monday I felt horrible. At first I thought I’d just overdone it over the weekend, as I’d had a pretty bad hangover on the Saturday, but my stomach was killing me too so I thought maybe it was where I’d barely eaten with having no appetite. Anyway. I shamelessly gave in. I tried to eat some avocado on toast which I puked up again mere hours later and found nothing would stay down. I couldn’t be bothered to cook so had some doritos which weren’t vegan at all. I puked these up too, and I think Monday marked the end of Veganuary for me.
Having not been able to keep anything down for the past few days – but not at all blaming Veganuary, cooking and eating vegan has been the last thing on my mind. The result of my sickness could well be the change in diet, but it could also be something as simple as a pro-longed hangover and not eating.
After two weeks/reaching the halfway mark, I came close to giving in for many reasons. I went as far as to end this post stating the reasons why I decided to give up – I’d already given in and eaten some non-vegan items when feeling unwell, and also that my circumstances had changed from last year and I was no longer in a position to splurge/stock up on vegan items every week being that I now only work part time.
But I also wrote about how proud I was for reaching the halfway mark and how good I felt in myself. I have noticed a huge change so far, I’ve lost weight, I had a lot of energy in the first week (when I was eating properly) and in general felt better in myself.
And then I decided that I’d just admit that those two days of feeling so terrible in myself can be marked down as a write-off and that I’m allowed slip ups now and then. It wasn’t that I’d intentionally decided that I didn’t want to try anymore and went out to scoff a massive bacon sandwich; anything I ate was not staying down, I turned to home comforts (like soup) to settle my stomach and just had no energy or motivation to cook.
So after a bit of a rough end to my second week, I’m hoping my third week will be a lot better!
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