The Power of Stories
I would describe my journey to become plant-based as a dynamic and fruitful experience. However, it was not without its own struggles and uncertainty.
Like many others who have made the transition, mine was unique at each step, shaped by my personal values and character. I’m excited to share with you my story today on why I became plant-based and hopefully this may inspire you to go on a similar journey of your own.
I truly believe in the power of stories and human experiences. No matter who we are, where we live or how different our circumstances are, we can all take and learn something from another’s experience. This is after all, what makes a community bond and grow stronger.
So please feel free to comment below on your journey – no matter what stage you are at. You can also send in your story via our contact page. I absolutely would love to read it and learn new things from and about you.
I was first introduced to vegetarianism when I was primary school age. My Mum, a Buddhist, followed the lunar calendar. There were certain days where she cooked vegetarian food and encouraged the family to be vegetarian. In hindsight, I am so grateful that this happened as the concept of becoming vegetarian/vegan wasn’t all that foreign to me when I was older. Also, I love how she approached the topic with kindness and care. Mum always encouraged us to be vegetarian with her. She explained that it was only a few days out of a month and told us we would develop strong qualities from it such as resilience and willpower. However, it was always our choice at the end of the day and of course, Mum was more than happy if at least one of our meals of the day was plant-based!
Throughout my teenage years, I subconsciously danced in and out of the plant-based lifestyle without realising. I wasn’t a big meat eater and preferred vegetables in my meals. My parents would often comment on the leftover meat pieces on my plate.
However, I didn’t explore the idea of going plant-based much later in my early twenties. This also coincided with moving out of home (aka adulting!) which meant I had to cook for myself and my partner. Cooking was seen as a chore for me back then because I didn’t enjoy it at all. I remember being quite uncomfortable at holding uncooked meat and it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Eventually I started making more plant-based meals which were much simpler (perfect for a beginner cook) and surprisingly, my love for cooking and plant-based foods grew.
One of my main reasons for going plant-based is for health. Being naturally slim, I grew up eating whatever foods I wanted – healthy or unhealthy. Of course, the unhealthiest, most processed foods tasted the best so that made up the majority of my diet. My relationship with food became shakier when I ventured into the world of fitness. I was overwhelmed with Instagram posts telling me to count my macros or to eat more to achieve a curvier figure… or eat even less to take full advantage of my fast metabolism!
Honestly when I got to the core of it, I just wanted to eat delicious, healthy food that made me feel good and look good. So I began my research into all the different types of eating. I believe all the quality studies and evidence points to a plant-based lifestyle. It is also one that complements my lifestyle.
This coincided quite nicely with my other world of being a senior medical student and future doctor. Through my medical school training, we’ve been largely taught about intervention and treating patients. Yet the best treatment for everyone is prevention. I aspire to become a doctor who focuses on nutritional and exercise health, offering my patients opportunities to be the healthiest that they can be from the start. Thus, it is important for me to have integrity and practice what I preach to my patients.
I have always been an animal lover. When I moved out of home, one of the first things I did was adopt my two beautiful dogs that are my life and joy. It’s amazing to see the intelligence, differing personalities and especially the trust that they naturally bestow upon you to give them the best life possible. A dog’s most vulnerable position is to lie on their back with their belly up. Yet my dogs (and many dogs within the second of you meeting them) do this with the trust that you’ll give them a cheeky tummy rub, without any harm. I extend this mindset with all other creatures on earth.
One of my consistent answers to ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’ as a kid was to be a vet. When I was about eight years old, the coverage of Asia’s dog meat industry hit the news. It was a shock to me as a young child to see the confronting images of dogs crowded in cages, stacked on top one another. I remember my friend and I wrote out speeches and we stood on the couch to address the world on why the industry should be banned.
A strong drive for me to become plant-based was seeing the harm placed upon animals through documentaries and later on, connecting with these beautiful animals in real life. It was a compelling paradox for me to start my plant-based journey.
We all have a part to play in nurturing this wonderful world. For me, sustainability is the reason why I maintain my plant-based lifestyle. It is also an aspect that I’m still learning and researching about. However, the more I’m reading about it, the more I’m becoming passionate about it.
Like many people who grew up eating meat, cravings were one of my biggest barriers. I missed my favourite dishes from my local restaurants and I certainly missed my Mum’s cooking. So I often slipped up when I went out to eat with friends or when I ordered takeaway. These slip ups would occur after a successful two weeks to three months of plant-based eating. This led to myself becoming my own harshest critic and it took a toll on my mental health.
This led me to want a gentler and more holistic transition. So I became a ‘flexitarian’ on my own terms. I chose to fully commit to eating only plant-based foods at home and I was flexible in what I ate outside of home. This tuned my mind to become more kind to myself and eventually, I became so used to eating plant-based foods at home (considering I didn’t eat out as much as at home) that I craved less and less meat and would order plant-based meals when I was eating out!
One of my biggest barriers to becoming plant-based was judgement. As with many of us who choose to become plant-based, I wasn’t blind to the critics of the movement. Unknown strangers arguing on Facebook is one thing, but when you receive judgement and critique from your own social circle of friends and family, it’s another thing. Thankfully, the majority of my friends and family were supportive.
My last hurdle was overcoming the pescatarian lifestyle. Being pescatarian was easier for me as I didn’t have much exposure to sea life and fish when I was growing up. Therefore, I lacked greater appreciation and connection with these wonderful creatures. However, that all changed when I snorkelled in Phuket and Hawaii and finally saw the beauty in a world I had never delved deep into. This sounds very cliché but I still remember the moment when I had that epiphany. I was snorkelling in the clear blue waters of Hanauma Bay in Oahu and was loving every second of it. My mind was also wandering about lunchtime. We had planned to buy poke bowls for lunch and that was when I saw the absurdity of the whole situation. The paradox definitely ruined my appetite and it was strong enough to make me jump over my last hurdle.
Although I have made the transition and beginning to see the flowers, my plant-based journey is not over.
For myself, it’s about maintaining my plant-based lifestyle with happiness and overall wellbeing. The world is also too wonderful to stop there. I strive to learn something new everyday. Whether it is about a new plant-based recipe, finding ways to veganise an old favourite dish or learning more about sustainability, we all can continually grow and flourish!
I’m also very excited to finish my last year of medical school next year and graduate as a doctor. I want to be able to share the research, evidence and wonderful fruits of a plant-based lifestyle with my patients. I also want to extend the message to many people around the world who also want to make a positive change to their health and wellbeing. This is why I share my recipes on Youtube and other nutritional articles on my blog.
That being said, I believe the approach to all this should be with compassion and kindness. We’re all human, coming from different experiences and stories on this journey together.