Formation February series: Amina Salah

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This salad bar doesn’t have enough croutons in it. Dan Gold via unsplash

Pandemic has been a bump in the road, but we can do it

Health is one greatest luxuries we have today. For many, the pandemic has been a struggle for their health. With lockdowns and shutdowns, my health was not necessarily the best. For the first time in my life, I saw my weight fluctuate like never before. It took me a long time to get things back in order, and even today, I still have a lot more to learn.

My health journey started in 2016. Meat and dairy have been at the heart of my diet for my whole life; as an African girl, I was raised on it. When I decided that I wanted to go plant based, it came as a surprise to everyone because of how much I loved meat. I did not want to do a slow transition, and I completely cut everything out, cold turkey, overnight. I did not want to eat beef, chicken, milk, cheese, dairy, fish – pretty much any animal product. I wanted to take control of my health.

It is important to preface that everyone is different. I made sure that I would increase my supplements and vitamins because with a plant-based diet comes new challenges. Your body is not getting all the nutrients it normally would have gotten from meat or dairy when you cut both out. I am extremely anaemic, so I was under my doctor’s supervision. I made sure I was taking my medication.

This is a privilege to me for the simple fact that I am not in a food desert. I am able to have access to many different kinds of foods. It is easier for me to eat a plant-based diet than it would be for someone else living in a different place. It is a privilege that I have the means to better my health.

By 2019, I was steadfast in my journey – until the pandemic hit and practically ruined it for me. University being online made things even worse for me. As a result, I gained weight because I was mostly at home. I’m the type of person who needs to always move my body or go on walks, and this was practically impossible at the start of the pandemic. With my mental health suffering in the gutter, it was difficult for me to get back up. I am sure that this is a universal feeling. Slowly, I started finding my way back up. The most important thing for me was to ensure that I was not eating restaurant food and especially not ordering anything. This meant that I had to delete all of my meal delivery apps from my phone. It was difficult, but it was necessary. Every now and then, I have to remind myself that it gets easier with time. I am naturally someone who loves to cook, and I know that there is no recipe in this world that I cannot make. If I am craving pizza, I simply just make it at home and use plant-based cheese as a substitute; it is better for my health.

A big part of health is what you eat, but it also involves working out. The best ways for me to stay active is to go to the gym, but I also enjoy yoga and Pilates. According to Hopkins Medicine, yoga is beneficial because it aids in supporting your health. It improves balance and flexibility, among other things. Yoga is also important as it eases and relaxes you, making it easier to have proper sleep. It is a wonderful tool that can also help relieve back pain. The wonderful thing about yoga is that there are so many free resources available online for those who want to try it. Yoga with Adrienne one of the best yoga resources on YouTube. It is also completely free.

 I also enjoy Pilates because it helps keep me slim and it improves my flexibility and core strength. Everyone is different. Health is about finding out what works best for you. It is completely fine if something works for you but does not work for someone else, or if something works for someone else but does not work for you.

One thing that I wanted to drill into my brain was to stop thinking about the past and find ways to move forward when it comes to my health. For the longest time, I have been constantly thinking about the past, and that has done nothing for me. Weight fluctuates and that is completely normal. My main goal is to eat as clean as I possibly can whilst giving myself the space to indulge every once in a while. I am still following a plant-based lifestyle because that is what makes me happy and is efficient for me.

I love meal prepping, but I also like to make daily meals if I want something different. At the end of the day, health is not linear. It is a journey that comes and goes in waves. The most important thing is to ensure that your sleep is stable. Without adequate sleep, there is no health, and it becomes much harder to maintain your health. In my opinion, health is wealth. It is self-care. We owe it to our bodies to love them, to take care of them, to nourish them, and to be patient and kind throughout it all. You have one body, and it is your duty to be good to it.

In my opinion, my physical health goes hand in hand with my mental health. If my mental health is in the gutter, then so is my physical health. Everything is interconnected. If one aspect is not taken care of, it is difficult to maintain everything else. It is easy to fall for diet culture, but the most important thing that I have ever done is a lifestyle change. To this day, it is something that I do not regret. Learning about the world of plant-based foods and veganism has educated me a lot about nutrition and sustainability. It has helped me stay educated on what I put into my body.

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