My life as a vegan

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By MILDRED SAKINA
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Have you ever imagined giving up meat, not for a day or a week but for life?  In recent years,  there has been a sudden surge of people ditching meat for an all-green diet. Some may say it is a fad, or even call it a scare tactic, especially with recent documentaries such as What The Health on Netflix.

Vegetarians exclude meat, poultry and seafood from their diet. Some vegetarians also exclude dairy products, some don’t, and some may consume eggs. Vegans avoid meat, poultry and seafood, but they also take it a step further by eliminating all animal products from their diet. This includes any type of animal milk and eggs. Vegans avoid foods produced using animals or animal products in any way, including honey.

Taruri Gatere,32, a life and wellness coach based in Nairobi, is a vegan. She shares her journey with Nation.co.ke:

I went vegan in 2011. I was in Italy and decided to take that opportunity to do a lot of  self-improvement. I was working on my spirituality and also wanted to become healthier. So I stumbled on some videos on the PETA ( People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)  website.  They had a two-week vegan challenge. I tried it out and I felt amazing.  After the two weeks elapsed, I decided to just continue with the diet.

 When I came back to Kenya, it was hard to maintain the lifestyle. Everyone wanted to take me out for things like nyama choma and there were very few vegan options back then. My resolve started to wane. I specifically remember when I backslid. My dad came to visit during Christmas, and he cooked chicken. He was shocked that I would not eat his meal, especially because he had been away for so long, and so I obliged and ate it.  For about two years after that, I followed an omnivorous diet, but I never forgot how good I felt on the vegan diet. So in 2013, I made the choice to be completely vegan.

It is important to have a solid reason why you are doing this. I did my research and found out how cruel the food industry is to animals. I could not be a part of that and so I found my ‘why’.

My struggle with sticking to veganism was, one, the community aspect of food and second, culture. People bond over food and so when they noticed I was not eating nyama choma and maybe only ugali and kachumbari, they wondered what was wrong. I  would get lots of questions about why I don’t eat meat. At first it was exhausting and annoying but I understand that I am an anomaly outside the culture. For most people, I am the first vegan they have met. So I tell myself to just be patient. I have heard all the jokes about vegans, but I take it in stride.

Being vegan means I have had to reduce going out. Most vegan restaurants are expensive but Indian and Italian restaurants are very accommodating. It has also taught me to be creative and find out ways of hanging out with people like having picnics where I can control what I eat. 

Aside from the challenges, the benefits are immense. I have more energy, my skin is glowing, and I can control my weight.

I would advise anyone who would want to transition to use this principle I came across. Add on before you take out. Eat more fruits, more vegetables as you slowly phase out the meat. Substitution is also a great way to do this. Instead of milk from animals you can use milk from nuts or instead of meat balls substitute the meat with vegetables.

There are also some people who experience some adverse effects from going vegan, having breakouts, getting sick. To them I would say do your research. It is a huge life change and subjecting your body to that at once can be extreme. We also have different body types with different needs, which means our diets won’t be the same.

Contrary to popular belief, veganism is not an expensive lifestyle. Don’t go for high-end stuff — most of these vegetables you can even find from your mama mboga. Learn to make meals yourself. I have a Facebook page, The Kenyan Vegan  that has lots of recipes, and you can also research for more on the internet. I also have a YouTube channel.

For anyone who has been trying to transition or getting others to do the same, be patient. If you want to introduce it to your family and friends, share as much information as you can and get involved. Offer to cook or help out with meal preparation.

In the end, I would say cheap is expensive. I would rather invest in my body now than end up paying dearly later on.

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