Dr. Anuradha Ayyar, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgeon, based in Thane, Mumbai, talks about the empowering changes she experienced after she chose to become vegan in a discussion at the Global Vegan Business Expo 2020.
I was raised as a vegetarian and in my earlier years I always very vocal about opposing animal cruelty with my meat-eating friends. At the time, I was not aware about the ill effects of dairy. It was only in my 30s that I saw some documentaries and was shocked to see what goes on in the animal agriculture industry. Later, I had gone to the US for a few months and for easier access to my preferred food choices (for my convenience), I initially chose vegan food or whole foods during my staying there. But when I returned to India, I reverted to my vegetarian food choices that included dairy.
In 2016-17, my sister had started watching a lot of animal cruelty documentaries and she had turned vegan. So, I was waiting for some signs of protein deficiency (laughs), but she lived a very normal and active life. So one day, I went through some documentaries about the actual happenings in the dairy industry. This was when I confronted my own hypocrisy and gave up dairy as well. I was concerned about vitamin deficiencies, but decided I would rather fall ill than cause harm to the animals. Two years went by, and I was (healthwise) doing better than before.
All members of my family are animal lovers and today, I am an ethical vegan. We all make sure that we do not buy leather or any products that is derived from animals. Eventually, I learnt the health aspects of being vegan. Besides health, turning vegan is the best decision that one can make for the environment as well. At an individual level from your home, by choosing what you want in your kitchen, in your fridge and on your plate, you still have the power. You do not need a high government position or accumulate a lot of wealth to help the planet, the animals or the environment. And you can make such a significant change with just your shopping list–which is very empowering.
Also, despite running so many marathons, there was still some resistant fat in my body–I was chubby earlier. Last year, I got dengue and had stopping running for a year, and could only focus on work and playing my violin, which was not good w.r.t. fitness. Yet, since I was following a whole food plant-based diet, I am at my slimmest today.
Dr Rupa Shah add, “Yes, wfpbd brings us back to our original shape. Initially people think veganism is a cult, a diet or a fad and you will get over it in a while. They wonder how long they will suppress your food cravings.”
Anuradha responded, “Yes, when it comes to cravings, I used to polish off ½ a kilo of Bengali mithai in one shot because I had a strong sugar craving. But since I have shifted to veganism, my sugar cravings have reduced significantly, although I am not sure why. Today, I just eat a small amount and I am done.”
During the lockdown, I had a lot of time and I got into cooking and I realized that there are so many simple healthy vegan desserts you can refer to from the web, and make with ingredients that are available locally. You can use bananas and dates as healthier sweetening agents and I have had my fill of cakes for the rest of the year.
I have observed that my energy levels are not very high. I used to be very mentally exhausted after an operation, and I could only finish one task a day. However, these days, here is my schedule: Every day, I play the violin and I practice the piano. During work, I see patients in the OPD, I operate, when I return home and play with my dogs and still have time for Netflix and everything else, and again I practice the violin. I barely sleep for 5 hours, so veganism is a magical decision I think (laughs). So once you experience such a guilt-free vitality in your being, there is a degree of mental peace and calmness that you experience… a certain burst of creative flow. I can’t explain it, but veganism has freed up the mind. I am not as anxious or as obsessed with a goal-oriented schedule anymore. I have become more free-flowing; for me, I have experienced both, physical as well as mental benefits, and have seen a big difference… and yes, I don’t miss my Bengali mithai now (laughs).
Dr Rupa Shah, added, “It’s a question whether food has power over you, or you have power of food. Food does not call us or make us dependent anymore. We enjoy and relish, and you are satisfied as the food nourishes you. And there are other beautiful pleasures of life that you have energy for.”
“I don’t feel I’m deprived of anything; I don’t miss anything. I love Mysore Pak, and I order it from Vijay Sweets. For other guilt-free cravings, I stick to brands that I am comfortable with. Another area where my sister guided me was buying vegan products, especially when buying soaps and shampoos, and I am very happy about that. I do believe that for people who have addiction to animal-based foods, but want to start somewhere, start by choosing cruelty-free products, which contain fewer toxins. Once you have started there, your motivation to shifting to cruelty-free products and food choices also increase.
Dr Rupa Shah, “Whether we use the work vegan or not, many people are eliminating animal-based foods from their plates. Many non-vegan eaters choose to eat vegan food once a week, which is a great start. Whatever changes you may introduce are good enough for the plant, for the animals and four ourselves as well.