becoming vegan

For my first blog post, I thought I would discuss something very pivotal in my life - my transition into becoming vegan, how it happened, mental challenges and where I was at that stage of my life  to accept this change. This is actually quite a difficult topic to discuss in one post, so the following will be very honest and raw.

Where do I start? I suppose it only makes sense to give this a bit of context and outline where I was prior to this change. 

I’ve always been physically active, but prior to December 2016 I was particularly into working out at the gym and learning about how our diet effects the physical results of lifting. My obsession with “protein” and eating clean (to me at the time this was the simple chicken and broccoli/greens meal 2-3 times a day) I would say sky rocketed. I was having supplements, 6 or so eggs a day, salmon, chicken, bacon every week - you name it. Not one meal didn’t contain animal products. With living with my parents in an Indian household - having to participate in religious days where no meat was allowed in the house would make me furious. I would beg/negotiate with my parents to still allow fish just so I could stay “on track” because god knows what I would eat in replacement of meat. I was also the only family member to not go vegetarian (either permanently or for a period of time), it was a dead no from me. After running into an injury that forced me to slow down, I would be going around in circles resting so I could heal only to then follow the same routine that would resurface this injury. To me, the appeal soon wore off as it started to mentally break me down. I had to accept that lifting heavy wasn’t sustainable and in order to properly heal, I needed to find an alternative way to stay fit that wasn’t going to put my body under significant stress.

How does this relate to me going vegan?
It allowed me to do some serious thinking about what was important to me. What really mattered. It allowed me to be more open minded so that when veganism was eventually presented to me, I was in a position and state of mind to accept a change that wouldn’t have crossed my mind previously. 

My sister had the lead role in making this change possible. She was sick and had been recently diagnosed with Endometriosis.

Quick tangent - for those that don’t know what that is, please learn. It’s a disorder where the tissue lining the inside of the Uterus starts to grow outside of it causing pain and discomfort. About 1 in 10 females suffer from this illness and according to my sisters gynecologist (and most others), you can’t ever stop it from growing back even following surgery to have it removed. Most females will undergo surgery after surgery and as recommended, they will take the contraceptive pill to suppress symptoms (side note - what does the pill do exactly? It alters the lining of the uterus to prevent an egg from growing in there…so very interesting that this “apparently” suppresses endo symptoms… could it not be the cause?)..

Where was I? Oh yes, after the gynecologist informed my sister this would never fully go away, my sister being her very determined self was adamant she was going to rid hers. Following some in depth research she came across a piece of information outlining that a plant based diet free of any animal products can effectively reverse this illness. She was willing to try anything that sounded fair and reasonable so all she needed to do now was find out how she was going to stick to such a ‘drastic’ diet change. Enter google, and type in the search bar, ‘how to go vegan’. After watching the recommended documentary ‘Earthlings’, the change took place instantly. Understanding the sole purpose of veganism which is the ethics side gave her more reason to commit than her own health.

Now, how exactly does this relate to me? Well my sister and I are ‘same same but different’, we talk everyday and after seeing what she had been through - it was enough for me to not want this illness myself and considering the place I was at mentally, I told myself I would eventually transition into this. My plan was to start off being a pescatarian for a month or so, then vegetarian and eventually going vegan within the next year. In reality, I was more open minded than I realised and the change from full meat eater to complete plant based happened all within a month. 

What next? 
Veganism was on the rise at this point so the amount of information and food options/replacements available via the internet and in New Zealand made this easier and therefore enjoyable. It was little effort - this is coming from a big eater and massive foodie. I will admit - any change can be over complicated so it’s not like this can’t happen. Just eat as many whole foods as you can, ensuring you get a wide variety and you can’t really go wrong. When you commit to veganism, you develop a more in-depth understanding of other worldly issues that are connected to the essence of veganism which is to stand up against oppression - all forms of oppression. Don’t let this be a deterrent, instead, look at it is as your moral compass and obligation to care as a human being. I plan to do a post on how to live a vegan lifestyle and many posts discussing these other worldly issues. 

What were my concerns?
I didn’t have any concerns around making sure I was getting all my nutrients or not. I felt the same when I changed and haven’t experienced any issues from the diet itself. As I said before, there is so much information available on the internet by professional qualified doctors, researchers and athletes - enough to fully equip you with all you need to know. My performance physically hasn’t changed either, I’m still fit and my strength is coming back rather quickly after having only consistently trained for the past 3 weeks.

To be completely honest, I don’t think I fully realised or grasped the negative stigma associated with the word ‘vegan’ when I first made this change. It wasn’t a consideration. The small insecurities only came to surface after people found out that I was vegan and I saw their reactions or the way that they would respond to a statement around it. 

Due to the huge disconnection you naturally develop from a young age, ethics weren’t the main reason I changed - I did it for health. During the first year is when the understanding and purpose started to develop and it’s not until you have this that you realise it doesn’t matter what people say or think of you. To me having an understanding of this oppression/‘movement’ and how it effects our environment, health and the animals is much larger than our own individual social network and society’s conformities. 

After confiding in one of my peers of the slight insecurities, he reminded me that it’s only after we chose to make a significant personal development (like veganism is for me) that we understand who our true peers are. 

The way I see it now:
I actively post about veganism through my social media forums and if people want to see this then they can follow but if not, I won’t take offence. By being a vegan activist it doesn’t mean I’m now a self-righteous a-hole (remember, I used to eat meat not long ago and support all sorts of animal exploitation), it’s raising awareness and giving these unacceptable practices exposure - planting a seed and providing others with food for thought so you too can understand the impact by making a small change to your lifestyle. A negative response will always be derived from ignorance and denial when our comforts are challenged. To be able to turn a negative response to a positive one, change your perspective and don’t look through a lens that will only tell you what you’ll be losing, look at what you’ll be gaining. To name a few things: 

  • knowing you are on the right side of history and don’t support any form of oppression. It’s an upward battle. We are still dealing with racism and slavery today (and many other forms) but once upon a time it was the minorities who were fighting this. 

  • saving billions of animals who feel pain, have families and their own communities from a lifetime of pain and suffering. You develop the ability to put yourself in the position of another species (I would just say putting yourself in their shoes but they don’t wear shoes). True purpose or fulfilment can come from eliminating suffering, stress and pain from another life and providing them with happiness. 

  • knowing you are significantly reducing your footprint on the earth and preserving what this planet has to offer for future generations. Note, a vegan tends to have the lowest carbon footprint. 

  • having better health by eating natural whole foods, free of any hormones and disease

  • creativity and a passion for cooking. Trust me, you become so creative when you learn what you can do with fruits and veg. 

My last thoughts:
If you want to grow as a person, you need to allow yourself to be challenged in ways that make you feel uncomfortable and upset. Without this understanding, it’s hard to move forward and grasp that there are issues larger than just us (that’s not to say day to day issues aren’t important). Veganism is just one of the pieces contributing to achieving a healthy and peaceful planet. It first and foremost supports equality amongst all species - even within the human race. You could call it opening a can of worms which most people (including myself once upon a time) wish to stay ignorant towards OR you could call it waking up to the reality of issues taking place on this very planet that need the human race to step up and make a change. 

Note: haven’t referenced anything above because I’m lazy. Most of it is opinion based but there are a few points I’ve made that are backed my scientific evidence/research. May edit later and add in references.

sonali franklin - becoming vegan