The start of the year seems to offer a tantalizingly clean slate for some, the opportunity to shed a bad habit or take on a good one. But even I, a Dryuary aficionado, was surprised to learn of Veganuary (difficult to pronounce until you emphasize the “gan” syllable). The Guardian reports that a surprising number of people have signed up to adhere to a plant-based diet for the first month of the year: “Rich Hardy, head of campaigns at Veganuary, said that on Sunday alone 14,000 people pledged to go vegan for the first month of 2019—a rate of one every six seconds.”
So the month-long resolution appears to be a fairly recent, and increasingly popular, new trend. It certainly seems more doable, at any rate: How many people do you know who really stuck to their New Year’s resolutions all the way to the end of the year? But, as some commenters questioned in my Dryuary essay, how much does a month really matter? Wouldn’t I just be better off drinking more moderately throughout the entire year? What’s the point of all this? I bet some Veganuary followers are fielding similar questions.
Speaking solely for myself, I found that doing Dryuary last year was a welcome battery recharge. It helped me shift to an alcohol-free life after a few months of holiday partying. Just those 31 days were enough to alter the way I drank for the rest of 2018. I imagine a meat-free month, or sugar-free, or whatever, would offer the same advantages, especially at the beginning of the year when it’s easy to find other people—in real life or online—who are trying for the same thing. And as Time points out, even giving up for a month has its benefits, and “can lead to short-term health improvements that may spark long-term change.”
But if the all-or-nothing approach doesn’t appeal to you? No matter. There’s no Veganuary police out there to penalize you. Maybe you just go vegan during the day. Or on weekdays, not weekends. Or, do what author Mark Bittman suggests with his VB6 technique: Eat only vegan foods before 6 p.m., then anything you want afterwards (this seems doable!). Personally, I want to try to get into the habit of making Meatless Monday dinners this year (vegetarian, not vegan)—but if I decide to go out for tacos one week instead, I’m not going to throttle myself or anything. Or give up the MM effort overall.
I think that’s the main hitch with the overall give-up: If you tumble, it’s easy to toss the whole effort, tossing the Dryuary baby out with the delicious cider bathwater. But it’s also just as easy to get right back on again. Or find a more flexible method that works better for you, yet still improves your healthy lifestyle. Maybe you hate giving things up—add a positive habit, like a piece of fruit at lunch or re-upping your gym membership instead. Last year I also resolved to only take the stairs at work, never the elevator. (The fact that our elevator is wobbly and terrifying easily aids this effort.) Sure, I still took the elevator about 50 times last year. That’s still a lot less than the 500 times I took it the year before.
Listen, I am not a medical professional, and I am far from the picture of health. But for the sake of my family, and myself, I’m working on it. Every morning, every mealtime, every evening out gives you the opportunity to make a better decision for yourself—so why not give something different a whirl at the beginning of a whole new year? I think any of these kinds of efforts should be acknowledged and rewarded—whether you do it for a year or a month or even a single day.