I spoke with the inspiring Maria Karélina about how having an awareness on what we consume in our bodies most definitely has an effect on our mental health, as well as physical health.
Maria is an actress, graduating from The MTA (The Musical Theatre Academy). Maria has worked with organisations such as Pukka Herbs, promoting organic, eco friendly products. Maria describes herself as "a learner in this world".
"I have found that having a plant based diet has changed things for the better more on a conscious and psychological level than anything else."
I didn't want to speak to Maria about how we can help others to become vegan, but instead to bring awareness and some advice if it was something you wanted to consider but didn't know where to start.
I grew up eating meat until the age of 17, when I began looking into the ethical, moral and environmental factors of having a more plant based diet. I was pescatarian for a year and then vegetarian, and I, like Maria, am still exploring a fully plant based diet. But I most definitely found cutting meat from my diet had a HUGE effect on my mental health. I have only felt better since and would never look back.
Have you always been vegan, Maria?
"Of the many years of being veggie I had a whole year of going back to eating everything - fish, eggs and meat. And at that time I felt I wasn’t ready to go vegan as my body was still trying to gain strength from lack of certain other vitamins because I didn’t realise the proper and healthy way of being a vegetarian. I then got put in touch with a nutritionist expert, Wilma Kirsten, who introduced me to a balanced vegan menu. I now also research more and more nutritionists on plant based diets and it’s really helped me to feel that I could make the shift of going vegan safely. I feel it’s just important to make the best choices we can and be ‘conscious’ consumers."
Do you believe that what we eat can have an effect on our mental health?
"I definitely feel there is some sort of link between mental health and your diet. I always find the days I eat healthier, I feel much lighter. And going vegan naturally makes me eat healthier anyway. Putting that together makes me feel much clearer and more ready for the day. I am also someone who used to constantly be tired and have zero energy. But that has been shifting and I believe my diet choices have played a huge part in that.
Something that’s stuck with me is the way Vedic Science talk about food and energy. So for example, some foods eg. processed or artificial have a much lower and degraded energy to real, natural food from earth. And that’s always been like a mantra I remind myself of before choosing to buy or eat something. I have always dipped in and out of a plant based diet, but going fully vegan I also feel like I am making a better and more conscious choice and can do my bit in helping the animals and contributing to the planet."
Do you have a few simple steps to help people transition into a more plant based diet?
"For easy steps if you’re thinking of trying a plant based diet, I would recommend:
1) Start gradually - I started cutting out fish first, then meat and then dairy. Going ‘cold turkey’ might not work for everyone, we’re all different.
2) Find like minded people you can turn to - if you’re passionate about a vegan diet and need/ want advice, seek for nutritionists or medical advice that supports that and can recommend something adjusted for vegans. I highly recommend Wilma Kirsten.
3) Ask yourself - Is this essential for me to eat this or am I consuming it because I just like the taste? Will it benefit my mind and body/ will it benefit the planet?
4) Speak to other fellow vegans - or plant based pages for tips and what works for them, so you can figure out what works for YOU.
5) Don’t compare your journey - to other journeys and get sucked into negativity that can come with media regarding these subjects.
Plant based pages you can follow to start off with simple vegan recipes:
@organic_angelina (Russian but each post allows you to click translate)
"I would say above all, it’s really important to LISTEN to your body and allow time to get to a particular place you might want to be in regarding a plant based diet."
- Paris Hoxton
Illustrations by @red_cheeky_drawings