It all began when I wanted to make a change in my lifestyle back in 2014. I was always feeling sluggish, falling sick all the time, constantly bloated and constipated, and I was also struggling to maintain my weight! I wanted a change - I wanted to feel better, stronger, and fitter! So I started eating better (or what some would call eating clean) and also started working out.
My Diet Before
Typical Malaysian diet. I would skip breakfast (because back then I thought skipping meals could help me lose weight), have char kuey teow/ chicken rice/ pan mee/ fast food or our beloved hawker stall meals, have KFC cheesy wedges, fried banana or lekor for tea, and dinner I would eat out as well – think hokkien mee, fried rice, maggi goreng ayam and at one point I had maggi sup/ roti telur for supper almost everynight!
Why I Made The Change
The main reason was ethical. I love animals! Since I was a little girl, I couldn’t stand the sight of a suffering or dead animal by the roadside, what more cause them harm! Towards the end of 2015, I learned the truth about the meat industry from watching “Earthlings” (I couldn’t even finish the entire film! It was too much to handle emotionally) and vegan channels on YouTube. The following day, I became a pescatarian.
I continued doing research to learn more about the industry, learning about nutrition and how to eat less meat but still getting all the nutrients my body requires, finding alternatives and exploring meatless recipes. Early this year, I decided I was ready to change to a vegetarian diet (ovo-vegetarian to be precise – which allows for the consumption of eggs, but not dairy products) and slowly as I discovered ways to replace my protein sources with plants, I then eliminated eggs from my diet as well. These days my diet is mostly plant-based.
Science has shown that consuming less meat prolongs our lives. A plant-based diet is healthy, environmentally-friendly and causes no suffering to any living creature.
How I Did It
I did a lot of research and got help from a friend who was vegan (back then we were working for the same company). I carried out my own research on nutrition, what vegans would need to eat more of to replace the nutrients found in meat such as B12 (which we can still get from nutritional yeast), iron (from spinach, sea plants), calcium (from tempeh, sea plants). I researched on food alternatives such as vegan milk – almond, cashew milk, plant protein – nuts, quinoa, amaranth, legumes. Lastly, constantly experimenting on nutritious recipes.
I don’t find it difficult to stick to this diet especially since I love vegetables. Another important point for me is asking myself, “If I’m not able to kill a chicken, or pig to eat its flesh, why am I willing to pay someone else to do it?” – and I’ve never looked back. It’s been more than a year since I last had meat.
Getting supportive/encouraging feedback is rare; there is something about changing your diet that ticks people off. Something about not eating a certain food that gets people worked up. And I got many negative reactions and comments. But then there was a handful of supportive people who I’m so grateful for that has been there encouraging and supporting me, and one of them is my BF. Though many of our adventures and trips are food quests, he has never once tried to change my mind. These days, our food quests are more adventurous! We discover more good food, cook with weird ingredients and surprise ourselves with the delicious results! Examples of what we’ve enjoyed are black bean vegan brownies, vegan ice-cream, cauliflower chocolate mousse and vegan banana bread!
I feel light even after a full plant-based meal. I don’t feel sluggish in the afternoon and I notice I never yawn in the afternoon anymore! (Unless I’ve had a really rough night)
When I first started going vegetarian, I lost a bit of weight because I wasn’t eating enough. Fruits and vegetables are fibrous and have high water content, making you feel full faster but it might not be caloric dense enough. So for me, I lost a little bit of weight at the start but I quickly put the weight back on by eating in abundance and having a good variety!
I also started working out (I wasn’t active at all after high school!). I discovered Kayla Itsines back in 2014 and she has changed my life!
Back when I was eating meat, I never felt grateful for the meals that I had. It was just like any other thing; a necessity and I didn’t care much about where my food came from - the process of it, the ingredients in the dish, the method of cooking or the texture. These days, I feel grateful and happy for the simplest things - like fresh vegetables or a perfectly ripe papaya. My taste buds have become so sensitive that I’ve learnt to truly appreciate food in its natural form. I can pick out ingredients in a dish and this has made eating so satisfying. Every time I finish a meal and feel satiated, I feel happy that I’m full and my body is nourished without harming any animals. This feeling reminds me why I chose to make the change, and it keeps me going.
I’d recommend switching to a plant-based diet (I’ve never regretted my decision). If you’d like to make the switch, I offer some advice based on my own experience.
Prep your own meals - Not only do you know what’s in your food, you can ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need!
Do your research - Make sure to do your research, find alternatives and make sure they are things you like to eat. If not, be adventurous and try cooking the food in a different way - grill, steam, bake! (Try roasted broccoli - it is on another level – just lightly oiled and seasoned!)
Have snacks handy - Have some vegetarian/plant-based-friendly snacks in your bag and at home (in case you get an attack of the munchies). Make sure you eat til you’re satisfied and don’t deprive yourself.
Don’t see it as a restriction - You are not missing out, but actually discovering more! What many of us crave are things like cheese, fried chicken, steamed fish, sashimi etc and if you think about it, that’s because our bodies have been conditioned to want those foods. We’re told that we need all these foods through clever and effective marketing and we swallow it hook, line and sinker. Take milk for example – we think we need milk as an important source of calcium (as that’s what the giant milk industry would have us believe) but many studies have shown that consuming milk increases calcium loss from the bones. Changing your diet opens up a whole load of (food) possibilities.
Be open minded - Be willing to find alternatives, and try different foods. There’s a whole load of stuff for you to try out there!
Eat mindfully. You may just surprise yourself.