If you’re thinking about joining the Veganuary tribe, or even going vegan permanently, you should read this first. With its hippy-stigmatism and fussy-eater connotations, we decided to speak to London resident and fashion editor Gemma Louise Deeks for a realist point of view.
Turning Vegan is quite the lifestyle change. Just to recap, it means abstaining from any animal-based foods including meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey. Gemma turned Vegan in April 2017, just before her 25th birthday. The UK-born fashion editor, now 29, has dressed everyone from Kris and Kylie Jenner to Helen Christensen, she’s pulled all-nighters with the Victoria Secret models and she does, in our opinion, put a bit of glamour into going green.
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Do you think there’s a stigma attached to being Vegan?
“At first I used to be embarrassed to say I was vegan – people would give you a look which implied you were either being fussy or difficult! Since moving to London it’s been easier than ever though. There are so many amazing vegan cafes and restaurants, I was actually shocked! My two favourites at the moment are Mildreds (they’re a small chain) and Farmacy in Notting Hill. The supermarkets feel plentifully stocked and people are generally a lot more accustomed to it. Planet Organic and Wholefoods are my love language. In general, I think Veganism and sustainability are having such a massive moment that it can only continue, it’s exciting!”
What were your thoughts on Veganism before you became one?
“I was vegetarian for 20 years before I became vegan, but even still, it wasn’t the easiest transition. Veganism wasn’t very popular at the time – it’s become more so recently – so it wasn’t on my radar, and honestly, I didn’t know that much about it.”
Why are you vegan?
“At the risk of sounding preachy, I just ended up learning more about the ethics of Veganism, I watched a few documentaries and realised it didn’t make sense to only be vegetarian anymore. I felt that animals were still being exploited, even without being killed. And I felt it was ethically the right thing to do going forward – for myself, my health and the environment.”
Were there any blips or setbacks?
“At first I didn’t eat properly at all. I wasn’t substituting the right foods, taking supplements, or having a balanced diet with the right amount of protein or nutrients. I didn’t feel very well and it affected me mentally for months. I’ve always been slim but I lost too much weight. After a lot of research as to why I was feeling so awful, it seemed it was related to deficiencies like B12 so I started making sure I was getting the right quantities in my diet.”
What have been the benefits so far?
“After I started to learn what I should be eating, I quickly fell in love with cooking. I was cooking for myself up to three times a day – when time permitted – and enjoyed knowing what I was putting inside my body. It sounds like such a cliché but I have never felt better! I wasn’t eating any bad foods, so I had tonnes more energy and generally felt good in myself.
How did you find a healthy balance?
“I tend not to eat any meat substitutes as a lot of them are processed foods. But for protein, I eat a lot of nuts, seeds, pulses and beans – the usual suspects. I have a variety of different milks like almond and oat. I make a smoothie every morning full of greens and goodness, it’s a super-easy way to get your nutrients in one go”
Are there any chefs/ vegan personalities that you look up to and follow?
“I have followed Deliciously Ella for years and years, her recipes are perfect for every day meals and are generally quick and easy. Also, Max La Manna – who is also a host on BBC Earth – his recipes are low-waste and very creative in the way they use things you might normally throw away.”
You set up Plant-Based With Gemma – can you tell us about it?
“I had just moved back to the UK after living in the UAE for seven years and was staying with my parents during the summer of 202, I was in quarantine and cooking fo them every day. It started as a little passion project for myself, and to show people that vegan cooking doesn’t need to be complicated or require crazy ingredients, and I was genuinely surprised at how much people loved it – so I have kept it going. I love making anything pasta related, especially pestos – they always seem to be a hit when cooking for family and friends. And, if I can make someone else’s journey into Veganism a little less bumpy through sharing what I’m eating and cooking, then I’m happy.”
Is there anything you still crave?
“Yes. Cheese Toasties! But there are so many great-tasting plant-based cheeses available that melt amazingly. White chocolate and fudge too, although I have found great alternatives, the IChoc White Vanilla Vegan Chocolate from Planet Organic is up there with the best of them and the Cotswold Fudge Co do great Vegan Vanilla Fudge. Oh, and I do miss a garlic and rosemary Camembert, I haven’t quite found a good alternative to that yet!
What’s your advice for anyone considering doing the same?
“Stock your cupboards with all the vegan essentials and it will make cooking a lot easier. Do your research and write a list of the foods you should be eating. Start following vegan chefs on Social Media for recipes and inspiration. Look on Pinterest, and start collating recipes that inspire you. There are so many amazing alternatives to eating animal products nowadays, we are very lucky. It really doesn’t have to be complicated, but you have to be a little more organised. Take things slowly, swapping cows milk for plant milk is a great start.”
See below for Gemma’s pick of the best vegan books available now…