Healthy Living

My journey to veganism. Food choices are incredibly personal… | by Hanné Koster | Oct, 2021

My journey to veganism

Image by Silviarita from Pixabay.

Food choices are incredibly personal, and we each have our own journey, obstacles and challenges.

For me, a reluctance to eat animals led to my choice to become a vegetarian around 1998. By 2016 I was ready for the next step, adopting a vegan diet. That is a long time of considering and weighing the options before taking action.

I find the prescriptiveness, animosity and aggression around different dietary choices challenging and unnecessary. In the community where I grew up, animal products form an integral part of the diet. In this farming community in rural South Africa, where just about every farmer owns cattle and sheep, a meal would not be considered complete without animal products on the table.

Of course, it would be wonderful if people could become more compassionate and start seeing the illogical thinking between saying “I love animals” and then dishing up parts of an animal and eating it. I cannot even count how often I encounter this.

But this is not my fight. I do not intend to spend every second of my life in battle. Some people were born to be activists, and that’s great. But that’s not me.

I do not particularly enjoy other people telling me what to do or what I should be eating. And similarly, I do not feel that I have the right to prescribe to them either. Whatever decisions other people make is their choice and their karma. It does not have to become a burden I carry with me. I have no control over that. I am only responsible for my own choices, my decisions, my body. That is a lesson that took me some time to learn.

For many people, it is essential to be right. The thinking behind it is: I am following the correct diet, and therefore you must be wrong if you are eating differently. A simple duality is not applicable here.

Some people can eat primarily plant-based, with animals products now and again. That is what they feel ready for, and it does make a difference. Every little bit helps.

When I decided to move to veganism, I implemented the transition incrementally, giving my body and mind time to adjust and get used to the idea. I followed a vegan diet during the week, and on weekends, I could eat whatever I wanted to (which meant vegetarian). After a few months of that, I realized that I did not actually feel like eating cheese or other dairy products when the weekend came. My body and mind had adapted, I was ready to move on. For me, the slow pace of adapting worked well. And there were unexpected positive outcomes: losing weight and gaining strength. I did a lot of research about making responsible choices and being healthy as a vegan. Cycling, hiking and gardening are three of my hobbies. Physical strength and endurance are vital to me.

Again, I do not want to be prescriptive. Find whatever works for you. That is perhaps the most crucial point of all. In order for humans to co-exist, tolerance is imperative.

You cannot completely understand another person’s journey because you are not experiencing that journey yourself. You are only responsible for your own choices. I am satisfied with the choices I have made. Veganism works for me on all levels.

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