“Before I went vegan, I could deadlift about 50 kg. Now 50 kg is my warm-up. And 75 kg is not even my maximum.”
When Nidhi Mohan Kamal suffered a severe hand injury, she was alarmed. She had been a strength trainer for over 14 years and would work out for two hours every day. How would her body cope with the sudden drop in physical activity?
Little did Nidhi know that this accident would lead to an increase in strength, better cholesterol levels, increased energy and much more.
How? She turned vegan!
Well, it wasn’t that straightforward. After the injury, Nidhi began by turning her focus to yoga instead. The practice would ensure her exercise but also give some rest from all the intense workouts she would otherwise do.
“Once I took up Yoga, I started putting more thought into my food too. Initially, I had given up several animal-based foods due to my intolerances and allergies. But post-2013, when I started doing yoga, I made a more conscious choice to have an entirely plant-based diet, and in 2015, I went vegan,” she tells The Better India.
But what about nutrition?
When I decided to give up meat and fish for good, I too, faced similar questions.
“Your bones will go weak. How will you get protein?” people would ask.
However, Nidhi’s decision was especially concerning because a vegan diet keeps her from having dairy milk, butter, cheese etc.
Even her training as a nutritionist had hinted at this.
She goes on to answer our questions about how she gets her dose of calcium and protein. “Two bowls of beans will give you 700 mg of calcium. This is 70 per cent of the ideal daily intake (1000 mg). On the other hand, you require one and a half litres of milk for this intake,” the nutritionist shares.
If you choose the right kind of dal and make your diet rich with nuts, whole grains and pulses, they take care of your protein intake too.
“The important thing to remember is these pulses and grains need to be unpolished. Have them with their peels still on, so you get adequate protein,” says Nidhi.
She mentions that her most significant achievement as a vegan was to understand where her food comes from and opened her eyes to the fact that we consume a lot of processed food. “The fewer the steps, the better it is for our health,” she tells TBI.
Has veganism changed her life?
“I went almost cold turkey in 2015. More people and enterprises are open to the idea of veganism now than they were four years ago, so it took me a while to understand my decision. For example, I had never associated honey as an animal-based food,” she shares. But every failure was a lesson in disguise, and the strength trainer/ yoga practitioner took it in the right stride.
Instead, she became more aware (the practice gradually extended to her clothes, cosmetics, etc.) and realised that her previous diet had very little advantage over her vegan lifestyle. Even as she replaced eggs, milk, butter and cheese with pulses, whole grains and nuts, the Delhi-based Instagram influencer observed no change in her energy levels.
Four years later, the results are in.
“Before I went vegan, I could deadlift about 50 kg of weight- which was approximately my body weight. Now 50 kg is my warm-up. I can comfortably deadlift 75 kg. And that’s not even my maximum,” Nidhi shares proudly.
What’s more, her blood profile is almost perfect, haemoglobin is almost constant at 13.5 or 14 (the ideal for an adult woman is above 12), bone density is normal, the liver is in good health, cholesterol levels are stable, and Vitamin D level is also quite healthy.
“I used to get cravings, but I learnt to manage them. Sometimes I indulge in the slightly expensive vegan cheese or such food items, but I am never going back. Veganism is now my life,” she tells us confidently.
What does she advise people who want to turn vegan?
“Thankfully, in India, it is quite easy to turn vegan, especially if you cook most of your meals. Switch from cooking in ghee to cooking in coconut oil. Eat more dal and most importantly, take a genuine interest in where your food is sourced from,” says the 36-year-old yoga trainer.
Nut butter, almond milk, healthy vegan oils and sweeteners like yacon syrup, coconut sugar etc. can make your work of turning vegan super easy. You don’t have to miss out on your favourite dishes that way.
“One of my clients would eat four chicken-based dishes every day, and his grandmother was concerned about him killing so much life to complete his protein requirement. I convinced him to go plant-based, he improved a lot, started looking younger and fitter. And I got a message from his grandmother thanking me for this change,” Nidhi concludes.
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(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)