…. how I came to believe, “we are what we eat and how we live!”
I have a confession to make. I have vegan friends. Ok, fine. I have a couple of infuriating vegan friends. Most of them seem to be quite upbeat (and sometimes braggy) about their life choices, especially food choices. Let me be honest, I have issues. Particularly food issues and if you’re interested in knowing about my complicated relationship with food- then here’s a perfect read for you. But that’s not the point. Here is what it is!
I am contemplating on what should I write in this post. The headline is perhaps misleading. But so are many things in life, especially the most important ones. That’s what 2018 taught me. It therefore only seems apt, that I begin my blogging journey for 2019 by carrying forward the most important lesson I learnt as I turned 30 this year.
So, when I had the opportunity to meet Vinita Contractor, on her ‘Down2Hearth’ wellness retreat, at Govardhan Eco Village (disclaimer: I was invited for the same), I heartily accepted. She did not brag. She didn’t look at me condescendingly or judge me for the food I ate (she didn’t at anybody at the workshop. She is such a warm and genuine person and that’s why I loved her so much! <3), she just nudged me to try out something new with an open-mind.
The workshop, spread over a weekend was a retreat from my strenuous writing job and was more than welcome. Vinita a nutrition coach, a wellness chef and food consultant based out of Mumbai, turned vegan in 2015 and founded Down2Hearth, where she regularly conducts Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) cooking, baking workshops and retreats.
Vinita’s warm and welcoming nature is what perhaps got me hooked on to her thoughts and somehow, I am forced to reckon the power of ‘veganism.’ Personally, I have nothing against ‘veganism’, vegans or my ‘vegan friends.’ “I think, what puts off many people off veganism, is the activist nature of some of our young friends,” Vinita told me in one of the solitary moments, I managed to get with her on the retreat. “I don’t believe in it. I think, the better way to do it is, tell people the benefits of a wholesome lifestyle and then let them embark on their own journey!” I hear you, Vinita! 🙂
There are many things I learnt about food, lifestyle and the impact our food choices have on the quality of our life. There are umpteen number of articles out there that do the job of benefits of veganism out there, or listing the chronicles of exploitation in the animal husbandry/dairy industry worldwide. But that’s not what this blog post is for. Here are my takeaways from Vinita’s workshops and why I am opting a new lifestyle, come with 2019 with much deeper belief and gratitude:
Whole Food Plant Based Lifestyle: Although some times used interchangeably, Whole Food Plant based lifestyle (WFPB) and Vegan lifestyle are different albeit with subtle differences. Veganism- the core philosophy is based on abstaining from animal cruelty. According to The Vegan Society, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” Vegans may indulge in processed food (think vegan friendly chips). On the other hand, WFPB lifestyle, emphasizes on whole food & fruits eating, consuming lot of whole grains and consuming no (or minimizing animal products & processed foods for health reasons).
Climate Change: Recent discoveries in environmental sciences have shown that increase in a whole food plant based lifestyle could actually reduce carbon emissions and help increase the balance between varied climatic factors. A study published, last year in the journal Nature points out that population growth and exceedingly meat dependent diet could increases the strain on the food system by upto 90% by 2050. “Live fresh, eat organic and grow more plant” seems to be a step, therefore in the right direction.
It’s about humans, and not just animals, Silly!: One of the most striking features of Vinita’s workshop and consultation are the fact that she puts people back into ‘veganism.’ Sure, we all need to love animals and respect other living beings on the planet. But before, we do that, we need to love and respect our own bodies and well-being that was created by this beautiful nature. Human bodies are not really meant for animal consumption. If anything, research and various studies indicate that millions of years of human evolution have shaped our bodies in a way, that is not at all suitable for meat consumption! In fact, it is well known that a WFPB lifestyle lowers risk of obesity, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Also, point to ponder: We can stop cruelty to animals, only when we stop being cruel to ourselves, our bodies and their foundations.
Mindful living: Beyond diets and environmental concerns, a whole food plant based lifestyle or even veganism, really asserts on what is the secret to a happy life. At the workshop, Vinita urged us to learn more about yoga asanas, spiritual living and ultimately mindfulness- i.e. being present in each and every moment- whether it is eating, cooking or just about anything else. Practicing a WFPB lifestyle has definitely shown me the results, bringing more cheerfulness to my life and most of all- balance of mind, body and soul. It has also definitely helped my anxiety and depression (with other therapies off-course!)
The eternal debate: Vegan, no vegan. Food, no food. Animals or plants. The debate is endless and off-course, there is no solution to all the maladies of humans and planet earth. As such, there could never be “one size fits for all” approach either, as that would mean end to “freedom of choice” for ever. But if I have learnt, something from Vinita and the workshop- it is this- “our choices will determine our lives and how we shape our lives, is a choice we all live with!”