Veganuary, Red January and Dry January: How have people got on?

By Duncan Leatherdale
BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images

For many, January is the month for giving things up or taking things on. Three of the most popular challenges are Veganuary, where people follow a vegan diet for the month, Red January, where they exercise and raise money for mental health charity Mind, and Dry January, where they give up alcohol. We spoke to some participants to find out how they got on.

Red January

Physical fitness and its impact on mental health is a familiar concept to fire crew manager Laura Herdman.

She was at "peak fitness" two years ago, but a serious back injury and severe breathing difficulties curtailed her exercise, sending her into a spiral of depression, weight gain and stress.

"It was horrible," said the 32-year-old mother-of-two from Padiham, Lancashire, who also promotes mental health within the fire service as a Blue Light champion for the charity Mind.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself. I lost my self-confidence and couldn't sleep.

"In my job, fitness is my life. It affects my work and the people I'm trying to save."

image copyrightLaura Herdman
image captionLaura Herdman has been with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service for four years

"Physical health and mental health go hand in hand," Ms Herdman added.

"Red January has been really good. It had been hard to overcome the mental blocks I got from my injuries, but this has shown me I am capable of doing it."

Her daily exercise has consisted of a mix of running and cycling on an exercise bike.

"I will keep exercising after January but probably not every day."

"I've got two children and studying for a degree as well as my full-time job so time is a bit of an issue."

Her next challenge will be a charity cycle ride from London to Paris in April.

image copyrightJoe Wainman
image captionJoe Wainman gets up at 05:00 to go for a run

Having a challenge has also worked for Joe Wainman, 32, from Seaham in County Durham.

"I'm the sort of character that needs something to drive me and work towards, so Red January was just what I needed," he said.

"I wouldn't always have been motivated to do it myself, but knowing I have people sponsoring me means I can't let them down. I need that push."

Having lost two-and-a-half stone last year doing another fitness challenge, Mr Wainman decided to give Red January a go.

The call centre team manager also enlisted people at work and fellow Leeds United fans who he met through social media.

They are all doing different forms of exercise with Joe's preference being a run along the seafront near his home.

He has started getting up at 05:00 GMT every day to ensure he has time for a run. In the first 22 days had completed 71 miles.

"I've enjoyed it. It's been a change of mindset and I am 100% confident I will keep it going. At the end of January I might have a couple of days off but then I am going to the gym and I want to start yoga.

"It's been really good for me health-wise, I'm starting to get a bit toned, I'm even seeing signs of an ab starting to develop."


Jen Stanbrook was inspired by her 15-year-old daughter Ella - a "committed" vegan for the past two years - to give Veganuary a go.

"I could have done it any time I suppose but January seemed like the natural time to start something new," she said. "I probably did get caught up in the whole Veganuary hype as well."

The 50-year-old lifestyle blogger from Nottingham said she was motivated by the "environmental impact of animal agriculture" and health reasons, as well as her daughter's example.

"I did lots of research because I wanted to support her and show her I was taking what she was doing seriously," she said, having previously written about feeding a vegan teenager.

"We have been carnivores forever so it was going to be a big challenge but I have actually found it much easier than I expected.

image copyrightJen Stanbrook
image captionJen Stanbrook has gone vegan for January

"I wondered if I would find it tricky to give up milk chocolate, and I must say you still cannot beat a Dairy Milk, but there are so many vegan alternatives that are easily accessible.

"My daughter gave me good advice which is wait for the cravings to go before you try the vegan alternative."

She said she has also discovered a whole world of new recipes, tofu stir fry being a firm favourite, and has found her weekly shops cheaper than before.

"If you buy processed vegan foods then yes, that is more expensive, but if you cook from scratch with plant based products then it is cheaper.

"One thing I have missed is the texture of the food - you do not get that bite you might get with meat products.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionTofu stir fry has been a hit in Jen Stanbrook's home

"A lot of vegan food is quite soft and that is something I became aware of. But, a lot more vegan products are being made to have the more familiar texture.

"We had vegan chicken Kievs the other day and you wouldn't really notice the difference from the originals."

With January up, will she now revert to her former ways?

"No I'm going to keep it up," she says.

"I really enjoy it, I love the food, it feels good and I feel less guilty about what I'm eating.

Dry January

Members of the Marlborough Town Ladies Football Club, in Wiltshire, gave up alcohol for a month in memory of teammate Abbii Demir.

The 21-year-old joined the club six years ago and, despite moving to Derby University to study law, maintained close connections with the club.

Her teammates were all heartbroken by her sudden death shortly before Christmas.

"Abbii was a beautiful young lady," said Emma Brown, the team's 45-year-old striker.

image copyrightMarlborough Town Ladies FC
image captionAbbii Demir had been a member of the club for six years

"She was absolutely stunning, when she walked into a room she lit it up.

"She was very kind hearted and would do anything for anybody. We decided to do something for her and her family."

About 18 members of the club have given up alcohol, while the rest have sponsored them to do it. Funds are being raised to buy a headstone for Abbii.

Ms Brown said it had been a challenge for some of the team, especially when attending matches as fans where others were drinking alcohol.

"That was a little strange for them," she said.

image copyrightMarlborough Town Ladies FC
image captionEmma Brown (bottom row, left) said the club had rallied round

Opponents have also raised money on match days.

"It just shows that although we are opponents on the pitch, we are really just one big football family.

"The club and Abbii's friends have rallied around and we want to show just how much she was loved."

The initial target of £200 was met within two days. It now stands at more than £1,300.

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