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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Veganism: A trial by fire

My relationship with food had always been a difficult and complex one. I have never quite had a true balance. I found myself gravitating toward unhealthy behaviour as food seemed to be my singular source of control. So eat I did. And everything in sight for that matter. As I got older it became evident this was going to be detrimental to my health. So I decided to become a herbivore.

Being a vegan however has been the greatest test of my self discipline I’ve ever had to experience thus far, and that’s saying something considering the fact that I recently lost the equivalent of a small child (nearly 30kg) in weight. Perhaps the switch helped. But no diet or meal plan had tasked me as brutally as veganism has. This is not a scathing review of this lifestyle. It’s actually an applause of it. Anything that causes me to discipline myself so intensely is a triumph. I found that I could in fact retain that control I sought but with a flip. Now I had to be ethical and conscientious about my food choices. It meant I could decide what I put into this temple and how I serviced it.

Veganism is activism. It goes beyond dietary restrictions or aesthetic purposes. It is a decision to devote one’s existence to the preservation of life beyond one’s own. I find it noble to think beyond one’s self to how your actions can affect the planet. Many are extremely callous about this. Being unaware that the destruction of the planet is actually self destructive. I am on the path of self reconstruction. If preserving the world around me will do so, why wouldn’t I make that choice.

It is also a form of worship. An adoration of the maker of all things. To treat creation as sacred and honoured.

I commenced this journey on and off a few years before, thanks to information on how animal husbandry affects the ozone layer. But shortly after, the conviction firmly hit me one night while petting my late cat. Muggles. He’d been a great source of comfort for me. I am a rather solitary person. I fear people. I am very mistrusting of them. But animals are pure. They are incorruptible. They are at their base more human than most humans could ever hope to be. Not evil. Not demon spawn. Not wroth with selfishness and deception. This particular animal had had his little leg in my hand and as I played with his paws, I realized how similar his thigh looked to that of a chicken’s (he was the runt of his litter, a rather small thing). I was incredibly perturbed by the thought. I felt myself recoil from him and put him away. It wasn’t till a little after his death I truly committed to it but that experience firmly left a mark on me. He was not just an animal, he’d become my friend; my emotional support being. A firmly autonomous being of his own. It bothered me that my mouth watered when I looked at his little leg. Perhaps this a silly reason to want to change my eating habits but this was the cementing factor for me. I can not consume my friend. Familiar and cliché  rhetoric perhaps but all too real for me at the time and till now.

The journey has been a tedious one if I’m being honest. I only recently broke my tenets over a rubbish serving of poorly roasted fowl. But I wasn’t in my own home and was ravenous and there’d been nothing else to eat in sight. I felt sick after. Hunger was better. Chicken is my greatest weakness. Oh don’t forget beef jerky or as called  colloquially, (“Kilishi”). I can do without dairy ironically. And eggs are revolting most times. But freaking chicken…

Nigeria is a mecca for phenomenal cuisine. Everything is so disastrously well seasoned. Imagine the level of temptation. Perhaps however, this is why the conversion to veganism here hasn’t been so trying. Everything tastes so good you don’t even realize you’re not consuming meat. Try a bean cake (akara) or a serving of some roasted yam, plantain (bolé) and sauce. Give our vegetable soup ago. Or the undefeated Nigerian jollof rice. You’ll eat your hands too. You’ll never understand why people consumed animals.

I think my biggest hurdle has been explaining my reason for my transition. I am often looked at as mildly delirious or being divergent for the mere sake of it. But I have experienced far more benefit from it than otherwise. Being plant based requires your consumption of food to be far more intentional. My body has thanked me. I have the body fat of an athlete and can certainly boast of the stamina of one too. Exercise has been far more exciting as picking up my body is much less tasking. I have experienced a change in perspective also in how I consume fashion and amenities. I carry around a foldable shopping bag and a water bottle often filled with water now. Most of my toiletries are either biodegradable, recyclable or reusable. I thrift and ensure I recycle as much as I am able. My commitment to ensure a minimal and clean space means that I am required to buy only what I need and what I can responsibly dispose of.

I am by no means saying that I have reached an elevated state of consciousness or well being by doing all this. I just feel less weighed done by life now. More attune with myself and those around me. I can even boast a deeper relationship with God. Less focus on the material had drawn me closer to the eternal. I presume many on this path can attest to it. I am by no means perfect. I still have a pizza every now and again. And I can’t part with my leather doc martens. But I am happy to be consciously making better choices toward a more sustainable tomorrow. Not just for me. For posterity.

Deborah Paul-Enenche



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