To celebrate World Vegan Month- Emily Justice shares her story of going plant based with Female First.
You thought going vegan might be too restrictive so what gave you that impression at first?
I was very focused on thinking of everything I wouldn’t be able to eat and the food I would miss eating, rather than thinking of all the food I could still eat and how much healthier I would be.
My mind set was I want it but I can’t have it, so I tried to change it to I can have it, but I don’t want it because I knew it was better for my health, but more importantly better for other living creatures.
Were you vegetarian or a meat eater before making the leap and how difficult was it?
I had been a vegetarian after going to a holiday in Bali a couple of years ago. The change from vegetarian seemed a lot more difficult than it actually was. There was a lot of support from the team at Veganuary (lots of recipes, restaurant suggestions, health advice). The hardest thing was changing a habit, but that’s like giving up coffee, or sugar, where the first few days/weeks are challenging then you adjust.
Why did you decide to do Veganuary 2017?
I’d considered going vegan, I just didn’t have to support which I think was important to me. Veganuary was the best way to start a vegan lifestyle as there is so much information and support that it was easy to change my lifestyle. They provide recipe ideas and gave me a chance to be more creative with my cooking and ultimately made food preparation more enjoyable!
Why have you stayed vegan since finishing the challenge?
I stayed vegan because I educated myself into the food industry and decided I didn’t want to be a part of an industry that exploited animals. When I opened my eyes to the reality of what happens it was hard for me to ignore it. I started to see meat and animal products no longer as food, but as a part of an animal. I think society has normalised consuming animal products and with mass production and farming it’s no longer a necessity to consume animal products to the extent that is happening. We can live and function without eating animal products and still be healthy. To me it’s a no brainer.
What physical and mental benefits have you noticed since giving up meat and dairy?
The physical benefits have been huge! The biggest change was my skin. I’ve always had issues with my skin since my teens, and it completely cleared up when I cut out dairy! I even wear no make up to work now, this has dramatically improved my confidence too. I also experience less PMS symptoms, I’m not as tired, and I feel my digestion is more efficient. I get about 7 hours asleep and get up early for the gym and don’t feel tired in the afternoon at work like I’d used to when I ate dairy.
How did you used to feel on a typical day on meat and dairy?
Ever since I was little I always had a sensitivity to dairy, and I just got used to the symptoms of being bloated, or having reddish/bad skin. Since cutting out animal products I have more energy, I’m less tired, and my muscles recover just as fast from strength training.
Every single year I would get a cold when the seasons changed, and this hasn’t happened this year! Its things like this that are signs my body responds healthily to more plants in my diet, and it can function well and fight off colds.
I also feel like my taste buds have woken up – food just tastes so much better especially fruit which tastes so sweet and delicious!
You say that it has made you experiment more with food- so what are your favourite foods to make at home?
My favourite food is a stir fry – lots of veggies (edamame beans, broccoli, capsicum), cashew nuts and red kidney beans, or a tortilla wrap with a veggie pattie, we’ve also discovered Linda McCartney vegan sausages! Also I have a nice big creamy smoothie every day and this is really nice on my tummy and fills me up (spinach, banana, tahini, turmeric, ginger, nuts, berries, chia seeds)
I see every meal as an opportunity to fuel my body with vitamins and nutrients to fight every day at full strength so I try to get a variety of veggies and listen to what my body craves – it may be homemade potato wedges or some steamed broccoli!
Why do you think there so many people assume that all vegans eat are vegetables fruit and nuts?
I think there is a perception that a vegan lifestyle is restrictive, and very limited. But if you think about it, if people think that there is nothing to eat if you cut out meat and animal products then maybe they’re eating an unhealthy amount of animal products.
The truth is that if you like a meal that has meat, eggs, dairy there is definitely a vegan alternative out there!
There is variety of vegan food to be tried, it just might require a bit more investigating when starting out but you’ll soon learn all the great shops to visit (Planet Organic, As Nature Intended, Raw, The Grocery)
Why is it important to eat fresh whole foods when you’re vegan?
I think there’s a misconception that if you’re vegan you’re healthy, and can eat anything so long as it’s vegan. But it’s crucial to eat a balanced diet and make sure you eat lots of greens and a variety of food which are nutrient dense. Whole foods are full of fibre which make you full for longer, and have a higher protein content, great for muscles!
You’ve confessed that it has completely changed your life- so in what way has it made a difference?
The biggest reason for me is I know I’m not contributing to animal cruelty. As well as the physical benefits from cutting out animal products (better skin, balanced hormones) there is the social responsibility we have to make our planet a fair place for all creatures.
Also, my partner is now a vegan and started his own business as a vegan nutritionist/personal trainer for women, so it’s created opportunity for us!
At the beginning of the year I was afraid to share I was going vegan because I thought I’d get funny looks or have to explain my decision, but I realised we need to talk about where our food comes from and what we’re putting into our bodies. Even if people don’t adopt a vegan lifestyle they should still educate themselves about where their food comes from. Or start out slowly by having a vegan meal once a day/week/month - that’s something!