So maybe you don’t want animals to die. Maybe you feel bad about the suffering some of them go through. Maybe you really wish you could live a life that’s as sustainable and caring as possible. But how? How can you even think about limiting or discontinuing your consumption of animal products? It’s such an ingrained part of society. It’s everywhere. We’re taught that it’s natural, that it’s normal, that we as human beings have superiority over non-human animals. That it’s our right to consume them. But is it our right to allow them to suffer? To be the cause of their suffering? No.
Do you think as I do? Does it sadden you when you see those horrific videos of pigs in cages too small to move? Where farmed animals may never see the sun or fell the grass under their feet, where their lives are taken advantage of purely for our purposes of consumption? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider at least limiting your impact—and here’s my little handy guide of how.
This is probably one of the easiest things to change, because of the variety you have in what you choose to drink. There’s so many choices! You’ve got multiple types of soy milks, each creamier than the next, or almond milk, sweet rice milk, coconut milk, macadamia milk and hazelnut milk. Whether its cooking or coffee, these things work just as well. Personally, I think the cheap soy milk is great—and bonus, it contains lots of protein and nutrients to fill you up.
This is often the most difficult thing I hear people say. In fact, I used to be one of those people. Having been vegetarian for 7 years before becoming vegan about 10 months ago, I would always respond with yes, I’m vegetarian! But I could never go vegan. I love cheese. Dairy is my favourite food group. And it really was. But after researching what a lot of dairy cows go through—that they’re (often) artificially inseminated and kept pregnant their entire lives to produce dairy, with their babies taken away to become veal or future dairy cows—I decided no food could ever be worth their cries.
Even so, replacing cheese was really difficult for me. Some vegans avoid substitutes all together, by using other ingredients—like avocado or tomato paste—for that “melty” effect. However, as a former dairy lover, I do enjoy cheese—but fear not! There is plenty of choice for cruelty-free dairy! Biocheese happens to be a favourite of mine, and for around $7-9, it’s certainly worth it. The texture is a little different to your usual cheese, but it’s super creamy and to die for when melted—even better than actual cheese, I’d argue. There’s also Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream, both of which are super creamy, tasty and useful in cooking. Any health food store will sell plenty of these kinds of things—and even Coles and Woolworths. Furthermore, I’ve recently discovered you can make your own cheese, using things like cashews, and nutritional yeast flakes, which have together create a creamy, cheesy flavour. Google is your best friend—explore, experiment and have some fun eating some tasty creations.
Meat is probably the easiest thing to replace, give up or reduce. We really do not need it to survive—you can get all your nutrients and more from plants. But if you do long for meat, there are vegan alternatives. Firstly, you have things like grilled mushrooms, or other veggies—using the right flavouring, they can be quite similar. Tofu is also a great substitute when cooked well. A personal favourite of mine is to thinly slice tofu and coat with paprika, salt, pepper and garlic, before searing it and making a delicious dipping sauce to go with it—healthy and super easy for lazy people like me. There’s also plenty of fake meats. The frozen section of supermarkets normally have a great choice of burgers, sausages, pies, schnitzels, and so on. Textured soy protein is a new personal favourite of mine—it’s super cheap at around $3 for a big bag; just add water and heat. It can be used for the same kind of thing mince is used for.
There’s also plenty of online shops where you can find all sorts of goodies! Lam Yong has a physical and online store, and they sell everything. I am crazy excited to try vegan prawns, soy duck and vegan drumsticks.
There’s really plenty of options. I’m not here to force you—I’m just expressing my experiences in attaining a healthy cruelty-free lifestyle. Going vegan has been the best thing I’ve ever done, and my life, as well as the lives of the animals who are slowly being saved by this movement, is better for it.
Going to the gym is hard.
I find I often start off with the best of intentions, only to find myself falling into a pile of procrastination and excuses. If it’s in the morning, I groan as I put my alarm clock to snooze for the seventh time (I am not kidding, I need this to even consider waking up in the morning). Then I think to myself, I work hard at uni. I have such long days. I deserve a sleep in, yay me. Night time is quite similar—I think, well, it will probably be crowded now it’s after 5pm. Honestly, I just want to go home and make some kind of delicious elaborate food. Maybe I’ll study. Maybe I’ll even have a bubble bath. Do I do any of these things? Absolutely not. My routine normally consists of lazy (yet still somewhat healthy) vegan meals and a lot of time procrastinating either gaming, watching movies, or binge-watching TV shows and anime.
So, how do you make yourself change? I asked personal trainer Melanie Hawksley for her best tips—along with some probably embarrassing anecdotes on my part.
- Find your motivation
What do you want out of exercise and healthy eating? Is it for the right reasons? As women, we’re so often bombarded with a relentless stream of people telling us how we should and shouldn’t look. Maybe, sometimes we just want to feel sexy and confident. I’ll admit, I often feel the need to work out because I am unhappy with my body. However, this can become a bit obsessive. Instead, I like to repeat Jennifer Lawerence’s ideas of body image. When training for her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games, she famously argued:
“I’m never going to starve myself for a part . . . I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner . . . I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”
Instead of thinking of working out as a way to get sexy, think of it as a way to nourish and strengthen your body. After all, it will carry you for life.
- Find like-minded people
Specifically, people who will keep you motivated. People who have similar goals.
“You need to find someone (or a group of people) who will push you to the gym, and you to them, even when you may not feel interested,” Melanie Hawksley said.
This is difficult for me. I’ve recently moved to a new area, so I know pretty much no one. I briefly considered posting in random Facebook pages (but they could possibly turn out to be total psycopaths). My solution: I started a Facebook chat group with my friends who have similar goals. We motivate each other (mostly) and try to keep ourselves accountable. We even have friendly competitions to spur each other on—like who can run the most in 20 minutes, or improve the most in a week. Any and all achievements are celebrated.
- Set specific goals
“If your goals are not important enough, then it is likely you won’t follow them through.”
Are you training for a certain marathon? Is there an occasion you’re working towards? A holiday where you want to feel confident and sexy in formalwear and swimwear?
For me, I want to be happy with my body. I want it to be strong. After all, it will support me in all of life’s ups and downs. And honestly, I really like eating food.
“So many people do [it] just to look better but it is often not a powerful enough reason to keep you going back month after month. There needs to be a very powerful driver to keep up the motivation as you go,” Mel added.
This is why a more wholesome approach to health is far better—if your goals are to be healthy and nourish your body, you’re more likely to stick to it than if it was just to look like a Victoria’s Secret model.
- Keep a diary
I don’t mean some kind of obsessive calorie-counting record. Buy a cute diary, fill it with motivational quotes and pictures (Jennifer Lawerence for me), as well as your goals and progress. I also wrote a note to myself: never give up. Any time I felt like giving up, I’d read this and usually get a sense of motivation enough for me to change into gym clothes.
- Find a form of fitness you love
Try joining a local sporting team, take a yoga class, go for a walk on the beach, try pole dancing, or even random every day exercises at the home or gym. Find something you genuinely enjoy, and it won’t feel like a burden to you.
Personally, I’d love to either learn pole dancing or self-defence. But then I remember I’m poor, and stick to my cheap gym membership.
- Don’t feel like you have to conform to societal standards of beauty
All my life, I have struggled intensively with my own body image. I remember sitting in Kindergarten, and having a fellow classmate whisper to me: “you know you’re fat, right?” to which my five-year-old self nodded. Since then, I’ve struggled with eating disorders and fad diets. Honestly? They’re not worth it. Seriously. Don’t waste your money on Isagenix or any other tea tox. Yeah, you might lose weight, but that is because you are not eating. It’s not healthy, and it’s not sustainable. But time and time again, I try these things because I felt I needed to be skinny to feel happy. Wrong.
My dear reader, if you ever feel like this, I encourage you to metaphorically (or literally) yell: “fuck that!”. Because you are beautiful. Because you are powerful. Because you are strong. Because you’ve overcome every single challenge you’ve come across. Because you know true beauty is in the person you are, and how you treat those around you. Make a change for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
And most importantly?
Love yourself. Know that what you look like does not decide your worth as a human being. Screw society’s beauty standards.