I used to think that the big changes in my life started with stopping drinking but, before that, I changed how I ate.
In my twenties, I lived on sugar, ready meal curries, cigarettes and snacks, occasionally supplemented by a super-green smoothie. In my thirties, I had two babies within two years and decided to cook from scratch for them. I also began noticing what I ate. One of my memories of my son being a baby is of me eating Monster Munch for lunch and thinking: I really need to be setting a better example. Not that there’s anything wrong with Monster Munch (Roast Beef and Pickled Onion being my favourites) but I did want to set a good example and so I made changes to how I ate and to how we ate as a family.
I began getting a veg box. I started a blog about food. I started cooking seasonally most of the time. Luckily, pizza and fish fingers are always in season and we ate plenty of snacks still but I mostly enjoyed the challenge of finding things we could all eat and the blog was popular among my friends. I am very aware of how lucky I was to have the time and resources to do this.
Then, in 2014, I stopped drinking. I also began exercising and started writing my first novel, Appetite. And, then, everything changed. You can read more of my story or watch my TEDx talk on relationships and change but, tl;dr, I separated from my husband of ten years, moved to London and got divorced. Now, at the end of 2019, I live alone with my kids and two ragamuffin kittens. I identify as bi and also solo-poly. To me, these words mean that I enjoy sexual and non-sexual connections with people I’m attracted to and that I don’t have a primary relationship beyond the one I am developing with myself (and London). I have the most amazing group of friends and lovers in my life and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
And, as for food? Well, the book I wrote was all about sugar, food and change. And that research has continued since. My understanding about what’s happening within the food industry, with the meat and dairy industry and, in particular, their role in climate change have all developed.
I’ve been fully, or partly, vegetarian on and off over the last few years and I’ve also been building a repertoire of vegan meals as I began to meet more and more people with those kind of dietary needs. Being non-monogamous or poly, queerness, kinkiness and veggie or veganism seem to overlap A LOT. I also noticed that I was pretty inconsistent, tended to fall back on familiar choices and was feeling increasingly uneasy. With the Australian bush fires raging and the unseasonably warm and wet winter we are having in the UK, I began to think more and more about what change I might make next.
And so, like 300,000 other people in the UK, I decided to try veganism for a month in January. I didn’t think this made me a better person, or a morally superior human being. It was just a choice that felt more aligned with my values.
As I now manage a mix of vegetarianism and veganism, I see that choice to make the change was, for me, about hope. I don’t know if we can even begin to undo the harm we’ve caused the planet. I do know that the Earth will be fine even if we, as a species, are not. I’m hopeful, however, that if more and more people can make enough changes to how they behave then maybe, just maybe, things will change for the better, for Gaia and for us.
As the forests burn, as the rivers swell and as people and wildlife die, I think hope is something we could all do with more of.