Today we catch up with Elliot Forde, a freelance graphic designer who works with a mostly vegan and veggie client base. He tells us his vegan story and how social media and his Mum helped him find his path.
How long have you been vegan?
I’m one of those people who forgets – I don’t really have a date because I didn’t write it down. I can pin it back to about 2 and a half years ago.
I remember going veggie for the shortest amount of time. I was vegetarian for about 3 months. The only reason at the time was to impress a girl I was seeing. It was definitely the wrong reason but it worked out well in the end!
So there was no real definitive reason for you?
I say now that it started for selfish reasons, because I wanted to feel better about myself and eat healthier. It was nothing to do with ethics, or the environment. I was quite big on recycling and things but hadn’t made the link back to what I was eating. There was definitely a moment when my reasonings changed and I found a proper reason for doing it.
What changed those reasons?
It was a process of discovery on social media. The scene has changed so much. When I go on Facebook now it’s 90% veganism related. Back when I started it was very different. I’ve made lots of new connections on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and I’ve seen how people practise veganism differently.
The community really inspired me to be more creative in the way I was cooking, and helped me realise that not everyone is doing this for the same reasons.
What did people say when you first made the switch?
I am a 6’5” ectomorph so no matter what I eat it doesn’t make any difference! I lived with 5 people in my flat at university – I would cook my meal and then they’d all cook after me. Luckily, they were really kind people about it. They weren’t really interested, it was more a case of ‘you do your thing and we’ll do ours’.
My Mum was vegan for some time before me. I was very into cooking as a teenager and I thought her being vegan was just limiting her options. I was suspicious of it. I have her to thank, really. She’s the most supportive person to have on board.
I thought her being vegan was just limiting her options. I was suspicious of it.
Did you stick to the vegan diet in your first month?
I woke up really early one morning to go to campus and I was really hungry because I’d skipped breakfast and I was in the cafe and the smell of bacon was in the air and my instincts kicked in. It was self-serve so I justified it to myself and had a bacon sandwich.
One of my classmates came over and said “what are you doing?” and I was trying to hide the sandwich. I held my hands up and said I’d messed up. After that, I cut out everything completely. I guess I guilt tripped myself into completing the transition.
What was your go-to meal for the first month?
My quick, easy, slam-it-all-in-a-pan meal back then was bean chilli because you can just throw it all in and it’s comforting and calorific and tasty. Anything tomato-y, too. It started as pure, high-carb, greasy deliciousness for the first month. Then your tastebuds adapt and you start craving different foods and your diet changes completely.
Did anything change in that first month?
I actually felt more creative because veganism changed way I cooked. It used to be so easy to cook and this forced me to open my horizons. I found the creativity filtered into my work, and helped me emotionally. Physically I started to feel healthier, but only after a few months when I put the Oreos down.
What really helped you through your first month?
Just looking what was out there. I went to Holland & Barrett and got lots of Fry’s stuff and thought ‘why haven’t I tried this?’ it’s just as tasty. I was a mayonnaise fiend so I was really grateful to find alternatives that taste just as good.
I was a mayonnaise fiend so I was really grateful to find alternatives that taste just as good.
What have you learned from your journey that you wish you’d known at the beginning?
I wish I’d expanded sooner to a broader sense of veganism – not just the way I was eating. Instagram taught me so much so quickly that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, really. The new circle of people around me were giving me hints and tips and being encouraging. I guess if I’d wanted to do anything sooner it would be getting more involved in the community and going to events.
What would your advice be to new vegans or people thinking of adopting the lifestyle?
There’s so much passive aggressiveness and criticism of veganism. People saying ‘oh but cheese’s so tasty’ and all that. It can be overwhelming. I’d say choose your reason and make it about just that.
There’s so much to take on – ethics, environmental resources, animal cruelty, overpopulation and the rest. Choose your reason and don’t worry about the others. Sure, bring them on board gradually but you’ll have more success if you focus on what’s important to you. Find the real reason you’re doing it and don’t burden yourself.
Choose your reason for doing it and don’t worry about the others.
It can feel like a big weight when you start because you’re going against what 99% of the country does and it can feel like you’re standing on your own sometimes. But there are plenty of people out there to stand with you. Find the support network. Find the friendly people out there who want to give you advice and reach out to them.
That network will carry you through. It’s all about why you’re doing it at the end of the day. Choose a personal reason and do that.
Any other advice?
Make things. It doesn’t matter what, but if you feel comfortable then make something for the community and give back. You get people talking and you get a broader perspective. It brings people closer. Make zines, write things, share things. Producing things is amazing.
And check out the rest of our 31 Vegans’ First 31 Days stories here.