CHICAGO — She
misses pizza and hamburgers, and she longs for eggs.
runs that would have taken an hour now take two, due to
factors such as the need to scan labels for hidden
But a week
without meat or animal products has already yielded rewards,
she says, from less puffiness under her eyes to what feels
like a bit more speed in her morning run.
always had a lot of energy, but it’s a different energy,”
said Penny Shack, 37, of Lincoln Park.
“My sleep is
so much better. And so far, I don’t feel hungry or
Shack is one of
tens of thousands of Americans who have signed up with the
British charity Veganuary this year, agreeing to try a vegan
diet free of all animal products. Participants are free to
just try going vegan for a meal or two, but some — including
Shack — are attempting a full January of veganism without
even honey (yes, it’s an animal product.)
226,000 people have signed up for Veganuary (Vee-GAN-uary)
this year, up from 168,000 in 2018, according to a Veganuary
spokeswoman, who said the charity does not yet have a figure
for U.S. signups in 2019 but the number is up from last year.
welfare and environmental concerns are the biggest reasons
Americans go vegan, according to Veganuary U.S. trustee Seth
“If you were
to rank them, you’d probably go health first: ‘What’s it
going to do for me? Is it a healthy diet?’ And then you’d
go into animal welfare, and then you’d go environmental,”
said Tibbott, the founder and chairman of the Tofurky Co.,
which makes vegan meat substitutes.
the environmental reasons are taking a bigger and bigger piece
of the pie, now that there’s all the concern about, ‘Hey,
what’s the climate doing? And are we going to be able to
live on this planet?’”
high-profile campaign in Britain, provides information for
newcomers, including recipes, tips for eating out and
nutritional information. Vegan eating is different from the
popular meat-free diet the Daniel Fast, which allows fewer
foods and has a religious component.
Shack, a sales
representative for a nutritional company, said she frequently
tinkers with her diet and actually went raw vegan — or vegan
without cooked foods — for about two years, starting around
2009. But that experiment didn’t go well; she gained 40
pounds and developed a thyroid problem from which she has
She was moved
to try Veganuary this year in part because her 2018 diet,
heavy in fruits and vegetables with some meat and dairy, was
already fairly close to vegan, and in part because she wanted
to take her healthy eating to the next level.
“I think a
majority of people, come January, they just want a reset. They
want some sort of cleanse or detox,” she said. “I figured
let’s take it up a notch.”
cravings and feelings of missing out, she said. Vegan cooking,
shopping and meal planning (including finding recipes) take an
extra 30 minutes a day, and while her husband is supportive,
he’s still eating meat, as is her 2-year-old son, so she has
to take their diets into consideration as well.
There have been
uneasy moments, such as when she was cutting up chicken for
her son and, without thinking, almost put a piece in her own
harder than I thought it would be,” she said of going vegan.
excited about the challenge and about new recipes for curried
lentils, and vegan lasagna soup with vegan ricotta and a
she’s going to continue as a vegan in February, she said she
can see making a reservation at a steakhouse Feb. 1. On the
other hand, she’s curious about the benefits of four weeks
without animal products.
honestly going to feel so amazing that I’m not going to want
to back?” she said. “I don’t know.”