by Kelsey

When does restriction lead to liberation, and how does one balance between holding on and letting go? We sit down with Stephanie, a 25-year-old Environmental Earth Systems Science graduate, as she shares her thoughts about being a vegan.

March 22, 2023

Food holds different meanings for different people. To some, it is merely a necessity for sustenance; to others, it is a deep enjoyment or even an expression of love. There are also those who have an unhealthy relationship with food, as Stephanie recalls a point in time where she developed an unhealthy relationship with food.

Restriction that led to liberation

Stephanie’s transition from a fully carnivorous diet to a whole-food, plant-based one took some time. She remembers how adopting a plant-based diet changed her inside and out, physically and mentally. She regained health, her complexion cleared up and there was a marked improvement in her work performance due to a better attention span.

The most salient consequence of the journey she took, was how it led to her regaining her once-lost self-confidence, and rekindled her love for food.

This is evident in the way she enjoys mealtimes now, as she chronicles her vegan food adventures on Instagram (@delightful.vegan). It may come across as ironic that, from restricting her diet to a plant-based one, she has been able to derive more joy and purpose out of it.

A community of support

At the beginning of her transition back in 2016, veganism was such a foreign word. “I had to go from one end of Singapore to another just to eat vegan food”, she muses. It is significantly more convenient these days, as many plant-based eateries have emerged around the city. Places such as Analogue, Privé, The Plant Food and Love Handle are some of her favourite spots.

Some food escapades of Stephanie, more @delightful.vegan

As lonely as it may seem, Stephanie is not alone in her vegan journey. She has found that there are many Telegram and Facebook groups a vegan can join. A group named “SG Vegan Kakis” on Telegram shares new promotions of vegan places or simply the latest happenings. Another group, “Vegans of Singapore” has open discussions about pursuing a vegan lifestyle. “Through these groups and communities, I forged friendships with vegans alike, some of them are still vegans whilst some are not.”

Stephanie is thankful for the friendships she built during her tougher periods when she was struggling to rebuild a healthy relationship with food. More than mere friendship, she was able to gain companions she could relate to. After the pandemic lockdown, they started going for spin classes and food adventures together. Since everyone went through similar struggles, they were able to connect on a deeper level.

Last Lunar New Year, one of her choir friends hosted a house visit gathering, and he enquired if she had any food requests. To which, she replied that she was fine with any dish as long as it was meatless. He then prepared a savoury vegan soup for her since they had a hotpot. These gestures from friends make her feel grateful, especially when they accommodate her dietary needs. To her, it is perfectly fine to have non-vegan friends; as long as they respect each other’s lifestyle, everyone can get along harmoniously. Occasionally, she brings her parents and partner to vegan eateries and is glad to see them genuinely enjoying the food.

“Initially, my parents kept asking me if am I sure about pursuing the vegan lifestyle since I looove Ya Kun eggs a lot”, she recollects with a faint grin.

Tea time with Stephanie at Hvala Chijmes

Fortunately, her love for Ya Kun eggs completely subsided and she does not crave for it anymore. From asking about her food preferences to remembering her favourite foods, Stephanie has a soft spot for people who go the extra mile to accommodate her dietary restrictions because for her, veganism is not a phase, it is a lifestyle.

Her deepest why

All along, she had an avid interest in studying the environment and topics relating to sustainability. “Humans and nature have to co-exist, there is no one of higher (importance),” she postulates. Her love for Mother Earth grew profoundly when she was in university. Going on educational tours to countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia opened her eyes to the real world, such as the negative impacts that the daily activities of human beings have caused towards the environment.

Through these experiences as well as meeting people from different walks of life, her purpose for pursuing the vegan lifestyle solidified.

She has found her deepest why — to preserve Mother Earth through her life in ways that she is able to.

Some of Stephanie's educational field trips

In her own little ways, Stephanie tries to reduce her carbon footprint. She recognises that it may not be perfect — some may view it as a minuscule effort in the grand scheme of things, but she is firm in the belief that every small step counts.

Holding on, and letting go

That became her philosophy after having a deeper connection with the environment — it is the intention, not the perfection. In some ways, it has been a balancing act in trying to reduce her carbon footprint. Her ardent love for travelling is something Stephanie has continued to hold on to, while counterbalancing with other actions to offset her carbon footprint.

One of Stephanie's leisure travels in Sydney, Australia

A plant-based diet is a step in counterbalance, as is the conscious act of using reusable items. It is letting go of the foods she once loved, the convenience (of single-use items) that she once availed herself of; small sacrifices made in daily life that contribute to bettering the environment.

“Being vegan is not hard, it’s like a mindset thing and it made me have a lot of compassion for the environment. And I think that even if you cannot be vegan but still want to contribute something to the environment, you can do it through other ways.”