I’m waiting in line to order lunch at one of the five restaurants inside the UK Parliament, before I have to sprint across the estate to get to my next meeting. My colleague is looking at the daily specials. Jerked chicken with rice. “That’s what I’m having”, he utters, looking my way salivating. “Are you having the same?”, he asks.
This is the point where I am forced to make use of labels. I don’t like labels. They put people in boxes. Even worse, they become part of your identity. In an effort not to sound weird, I look at my colleague and reply, “No, I’m Vegan”. Usually, I get different types of responses, ranging from ignorance to ridicule. In this instance, my colleague proceeds with, “are you sick?” and this is where I have a trigger ready short answer for this comeback.
The Short Answer
The easiest way to answer the question is to say, I do it for health reasons and because I want to save the planet. In this way I manage to get labeled a Vegan and a tree hugger.
I realized over the years that for most people’s idea of health is one-dimensional. Some think about the body, some think about the mind and few about the whole. This answer covers everyone.
The true answer is that I want to be the best version of myself, in a holistic sense and inspire others to do the same for themselves. Veganism is one of the frameworks to get there. In the dictionary there are two definitions for Veganism.
- The practice of eating neither meat nor other animal products, such as fish, milk and milk products, eggs, and honey.
- A way of life which strictly avoids use of any kind of animal products and services that are based on exploitation of animals.
That’s not how it started for me 10 years ago when I became Vegan but I guess I made a decision to embrace non-violence through my food choices and gradually find alternatives to animal by-products where possible.
In addition to the above, something I heard recently that resonates with me on being Vegan is from actress Teressa Palmer. She said, “I just decided I don’t want to add to any more suffering in the world, including suffering of any sentient beings.”
Veganism is not just another fad diet. It is a shift in consciousness. As Henry David Thoreau said years ago, "I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual development, to leave off the eating of animals."
Product of my Environment
While I do have a short answer, the story of why I became Vegan is more involved.I spent the first 25 years of my life following all the culturally accepted systems. The school system, the medical system, the religious belief system that was accepted in the region I grew up in. I grew up with antibiotics, had every vaccine mandated by my country and took Panadol like candy when I felt I was getting sick. I used to regurgitate all the expressions, like “I caught a cold” or “I caught a bug” or “I’m coming down with something.” At the same time I was left feeling like an addict, dependent on modern medicine for my survival and that answers were somewhere outside of me.
I was trapped, as in my mind there were no alternatives, but every now and then I would see something or read something that gave me permission to re-visit and question inherited beliefs, like this quote from Rolling Thunder.
"People have given their health to their doctor. Their money to their banker. Their soul to the preacher. Their children to the school system. And in doing so.. Have lost their power to control their lives."
There was truth in these lines for me, as I felt like most people do, that we know nothing. Who are you to talk about anything? You’re not a doctor, you’re not a teacher, you’re not a priest, you’re not an expert.
My sense of being useless growing up was being affirmed by my environment but that was ok as everyone around me felt the same and I had company in my miserable comfort zone.
Reliving The Past
Fast forward a few years later. I’m 29 years old, still following the system like a good citizen. I’m working in London and it is during the swine flu epidemic. The fear mongering from the media, combined with long commute times and stress at work, results in me falling very ill. My fever was spiking and every breath felt like a punch in my chest. I was afraid to breathe. My wife was pregnant and I was scared not to get her sick as well.
I took a taxi to the accident and emergency unit at our local hospital. As I waited there for four hours to be seen by someone, I was feeling horrible and overcome with fear for my life. When I finally got to see the doctor and got an examination, I was shocked to hear that I had no infection and that I just needed rest. I was so confused. I was sure that I had a virus or something that was wreaking havoc in my body. Being sick was part of life and a yearly phenomenon in my mind.
The Turning Point
One night our son was crying so loud and I couldn’t hear a thing. My wife, frustrated and exhausted, punched me on the shoulder and I rolled over and fell off the bed.
The sleepless nights, combined with a daily four hour commute to London and bad diet led to me being ever more useless than I already felt. I wasn’t able to be there for my wife and son and didn’t have the energy for anything else.
That was the defining moment for me, as I was upset enough with myself to do something about it. I started thinking that there is more to the story that we are not being told and I wasn’t going to wait for permission any longer.
Back then there were mostly books and not many documentaries on healthy eating. These days documentaries like “Game Changers” have been enough for people to switch or at least try a Vegan diet.
I started researching online about ways to increase my energy naturally. I had already felt the side effects of too many Red Bulls and four hour caffeine boosters. After a few days of searching online, I stumbled upon a guy named Tony Robbins. I found a program he had created called “Living Health”. It was six CDs. I listened. I took notes. I listened to the program 2-3 times and everything clicked and made sense. He talked about dairy and meat and detoxifying your body.
I started thinking about how many things we do for our car to keep it running but we don’t realize that our body is a far more advanced machine that needs maintenance and downtime too.
Listening to Tony, I was in some sense, re-affirming the thoughts and beliefs I had deep inside but could not discuss or contemplate with my family or circle of influence.
On 6th July 2012, I put the first raw broccoli in my mouth. I started eating raw foods only. I went cold turkey on coffee and diet sodas. Within seven days I had so much energy from eating raw foods, that my eye gaze widened and I felt unstoppable, without drinking Red Bull or coffee.
I stopped having brain fog, which resulted in me being more present when spending quality time with my wife and son. I lost 20kg of weight and I started regaining my childlike optimism for life.
The next 12 months that followed, myself, my wife and our one year old, had all been eating raw, organic food and drank green juices.
Something else profound happened in that first year. My chronic high blood pressure disappeared. Also, my overall stress and anxiety diminished significantly.
The most amazing change was that I stopped being sick. No runny nose in the winter, no fever, no coughing. Nothing. I started learning about energy lines in the body called meridians and how to balance the energy through Qi Qong exercises.
We threw out all the Panadol and sick medicine and for the last 10 years we haven’t been sick not even once.
Being Vegan has allowed me to think clearer and allow my body to repair itself and be a great vehicle for me to experience life. Try it for a week, you will be happily surprised.