Veganuary Can Be a Game Changer

It’s that time of the year when people are starting to set goals for the New Year.

One popular goal is to be healthier, so I thought I’d share some information on one initiative that focuses not only on being healthier, but also more compassionate, and more environmentally friendly.

Veganuary is a UK-based non-profit organization that encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond. During the 2019 campaign, more than a quarter of a million people took the pledge to try a vegan diet, while more than 500 brands, restaurants, and supermarkets promoted the campaign, and launched more than 200 new vegan products and menus in the UK market alone. Since the event began in 2014 participation has more than doubled each year, inspiring and supporting more than half a million people in 178 countries.

We happened to be in London in January 2018 and were amazed at how many pubs and restaurants were participating in Veganuary. As a vegan, I was thrilled.

Participants sign up online and receive a downloadable “starter kit” and daily support emails. They’re offered an online “vegan starter kit” with restaurant guides, product directories, and a recipe database.

For 2020, Veganuary has put together an ad that is meant to get people interested in the initiative, but I’m not convinced it will do much to persuade anyone to try Veganuary. However, I have to give them credit for trying a different approach. Here’s the ad where people are asked to choose between different alternatives:

I know that choosing what you eat is a highly personal decision, but my sense is that many people simply do not put much thought into such a decision. They simply eat like most everyone else, focusing on what tastes good, and not necessarily on what’s good for them.

I also do not think that most people think much about the impact of their diet beyond the effect it has on their health (if they even do that). But what you eat could also have a major impact on animal welfare and the health of our planet.

If the video above doesn’t get you excited about trying a new way of eating, then I highly recommend the recently released film “The Game Changers”.

The movie is currently available on Netflix, and has a 70% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Directed by Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul, The Game Changers tells the story of James Wilks — an elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner — as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance.

Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength.

Here are some of the vegan athletes featured in the documentary:

  • Patrik Baboumian is one of the strongest people on the planet and holds the record for the heaviest yoke carried over 10 meters, managing to carry 555.2 kg (1,224 lb).
  • Nate Diaz is known for his unexpected victory in the UFC 196 fight against two-time world champion Conor McGregor. Diaz follows a raw vegan diet while he’s training as he believes it enhances his performance, but does eat some eggs and fish when he is not in training for a fight.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former muscly-beyond-belief bodybuilder who was synonymous with “manly” meat consumption, is now a strong advocate for a more plant-based diet.  Schwarzenegger is not 100% vegan and occasionally eats meat, fish, and eggs. However, he’s drastically cut down on these products since his bodybuilding days, for both health and environmental reasons.
  • Dotsie Bausch, who credits her full vegan diet for enabling her to cycle more quickly and repair more quickly than her teammates, is an eight-time U.S. national cycling champion, a two-time Pan American gold medallist, and an Olympic silver medallist.
  • Carl Lewis went vegan in 1990 and went on to win the 1991 World Championships 100 meter final, setting a new world record of 9.86 seconds in the process.
  • Ultrarunner Scott Jurek completed a run across the entire Appalachian Trail, breaking the speed record by over three hours. He finished in 46 days, eight hours, and seven minutes.
  • Several members of the NFL football team the Tennessee Titans, who just qualified for the playoffs today.
  • Farriss Kendrick a vegan since 2014, was the only U.S. male weightlifter to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The movie, like many documentaries, has had its share fair of critics.

But maybe it’s my confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance kicking in, but I think the movie, on balance, offers enough persuasive evidence to at least get people to think about what they eat.

And I think if it does that, I would consider it a success.

Here is the trailer for the movie, which has been viewed more than 10 million times:

16 thoughts on “Veganuary Can Be a Game Changer

  1. this is such a great initiative, I’ve been trying to eat pretty healthy (and thoughtfully) for the last couple of years. while I’m not a vegan, my diet has changed to 90 clean and non-processed foods, with very little red meat. every step helps I think

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  2. I’m certainly eating less meat than I once did, although I wouldn’t give up eggs and dairy.
    Bodies of any species adapt over time to get the best from whatever diet is available, but I would be happier if more honest information was given up front about protein combination and the vitamins and minerals you won’t be getting from meat and will need to find either from (processed) supplements or knowledgeable food combining. Especially for children.
    The human body is, after all, designed to be omnivorous.

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  3. I can only imagine that being in the U.K. during one of their campaigns must have made you feel like you were at a vegan Disneyland. What a treat! As always, you provide excellent information in a clear and concise way. I don’t know if I can commit to a whole month of vegan diet, but I am interested in trying it for a week, just to gauge how difficult it can be to avoid meat. Great post!

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  4. I love rice, pasta and vegetables, mushroom, lentils; lots of our meals are vegetarian, but I would find it hard to exclude the dairy. I am always curious as to what vegans eat and if you are feeding children it would be vital to know they were getting all the proper nutrition.

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    1. I know for a lot of people, dairy is hard to give up. I guess I was one of the lucky ones, I didn’t really miss it. And as for kids, I think any way of feeding them needs to be given some careful thought.

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  5. As a vegan as well I love the idea of veganuary. Like you said what a person eats is their choice but I think this is great if you’re thinking of going vegan or trying to make your diet mostly vegan/vegetarian.

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  6. My daughter is avoiding dairy and eating mostly vegan to avoid painful inflammation of her stomach (the lining of which is peppered with tiny tumours as a development from ovarian cancer). She has meat perhaps once a week – mostly chicken – which is probably enough to keep the B12 topped up.
    The packaging in the recycling bin has increased exponentially though, bearing witness to a plethora of highly processed vege-products, which seems to be a step backwards, whatever you’re eating.

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    1. there are a lot of highly processed foods out there, both vegan and non-vegan. I agree that less processed food is the way to go. I wish your daughter the best with her health issues.

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  7. Very informative post, Jim. I enjoyed the videos. While I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I have reduced my meat consumption. My daughter has been vegetarian since teenage years. We often enjoy vegetarian meals together.

    Anyway, just popped in to thank you for your support throughout the year and to wish you a wonderful 2020. May you find joy in all you do!

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  8. I’ve been veggie since the age of reason. I hate the utter cruelty of the meat industry. I mean to create animal corpse as a food product you are hurting and killing animals on a mind blowingly massive scale. That’s a lot of pain and unwanted violence in the world. And that’s the tip of a horrifically sadist iceberg of animal exploitation, captivation and mutilation. It’s good more people are ditching meat now. I watched The Game Changers and watch most stuff like that. At an early age I removed meat from my diet. Any step towards a plant based diet is good on every level. Admire anyone that tries to make the shift.

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    1. I agree, even one day a week (Meatless Monday) is better than nothing. Did you watch Forks Over Knives? That was another one of my favorite documentaries regarding plant-based eating. I also think if you eat plant-based for more than just your own health reasons (animal welfare, the environment), it makes it much easier to stick to it.

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