New year, new me, new… blog name?
January is the perfect time for a fresh start. And if you know me, you’ll know that I love a clean slate. The first page of a new notebook, a pristine white wall, an empty apartment – they all elicit a thrill of excitement within me.
So I wanted to start this year off with a confession. After almost three years of avoiding all animal products, I am no longer a vegan.
This decision wasn’t made lightly. I’ve been reflecting on my life a lot during the past few months, tweaking things here and there. Changes are coming, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The truth is, my diet hasn’t really changed that much. I still cook all my favourite plant-based meals and order from the vegan menu when eating out at restaurants.
But there is one major difference.
I’ve started to add oily fish to my diet two or three times a week – specifically, this sustainably-sourced salmon with the RSPCA’s stamp of approval.
So, what made me decide to abandon my vegan diet and reintroduce the occasional fish fillet?
Basically, it all comes down to research. I felt completely fine with my fully plant-based lifestyle, and my blood tests have always been consistently great. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that by blindly following a vegan diet without even considering other options, I could be missing out on some amazing health benefits.
I’ve been fascinated by the traditional Okinawan diet for some time now. The people of Okinawa, a chain of islands south of Japan, are famous for being some of the longest living people on the planet. Their secret? Simple, unprocessed foods.
Their diet features a lot of vegetables, plus their famous purple sweet potatoes and regular consumption of fish. By regular, I mean around a half serving per day. They eat less rice than you would expect, and their daily diet has only 30% of the sugar and 15% of the grains of the average Japanese diet.
I’m always amazed by how active and mentally aware the elders of Okinawa are, and how often they consistently live to over 100 years old. In a place when an 80 year old is considered young, they must be doing something right! The Okinawan’s rates of heart disease, diabetes and of course obesity are far lower than almost anywhere else in the world, and many people credit this to their plant and fish-based diet.
So, I decided to experiment. A few months ago I began eating small fillets of salmon two or three times a week and including purple sweet potatoes (I buy mine at Waitrose) along with lots of leafy greens. My diet is still predominantly made up of vegetables, fruit, starches, legumes, nuts, seeds… all that good stuff!
This new way of eating may not last forever. I pride myself on being fairly open-minded and willing to try different things. But for now, I’m happy.
At first it felt a little strange adding salmon to my weekly grocery list, and figuring out ways to cook it. It feels even stranger to realise that I can no longer call myself a vegan. In a way, it feels as though I’ve lost a part of my identity! I’ve been ‘the vegan one’ amongst friends and family for the last three years, and it’s been a bit of an adjustment.
I chose to keep quiet about my dietary change over here on my blog until I was completely sure that I wanted to continue with it. You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as much, and it’s simply because I didn’t feel comfortable writing as ‘My Inner Vegan’ whilst secretly eating fish. But now, everything is out in the open – hence the new blog name!
I haven’t yet been brave enough to venture away from my trusty oven-baked salmon. I recently attempted to eat a crispy piece of cod from the local fish and chip shop, but only managed a few bites. The thought of anything else makes my stomach turn!
I keep it as simple as possible, with just a drizzle of lemon juice and sprinkle of dried herbs. Wrap in foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, and you’ve got yourself a delicious piece of salmon that literally melts in your mouth. I like to serve mine with a baked purple sweet potato and a generous helping of greens – just like the traditional Okinawans.
Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins, which can be a little tricky (but not impossible!) to get enough of when following a vegan diet. Eating a few servings per week is an easy way to hit all of my nutritional requirements, while still avoiding all other animal products.
I’ve decided to be very discerning regarding the type of seafood I put in my mouth. It needs to be responsibly-sourced, as healthy as possible (smaller fish are ideal, as their mercury levels will be far lower than larger breeds) and cruelty-free. This article explains it really well!
I’m not alone in my dietary changes. I follow a lot of vegan influencers on social media, and recently a couple of them have decided to reintroduce meat and/or eggs into their diets. I didn’t really think too deeply about these changes – they’re still eating far fewer animal products than the average person!
So I was surprised to see how much anger and bitter criticism was directed at them, from both vegans and non-vegans alike. As I wrote in my Why I’m Not A Perfect Vegan post earlier this year, we should all focus on doing our best rather than being completely perfect.
Although I now eat fish, I still continue to avoid all other animal products. I choose to celebrate the positive impact that I’m making to the planet, and feel proud knowing that I’m doing much better than I was five years ago!
Things will be a little different around here from now on, but not too different. I’ll still be posting health tips, creating plant-based recipes and sharing little snippets of my life, and I hope you’ll continue to follow me as I venture down this new path.
I have a good feeling about 2019. Here’s to fresh starts, big changes and new experiences!