I went vegan in the summer of 2015, right before launching my business. I had just finished spending a solid year helping my sister Shawna create her online nutrition programs for her business Synergy Nutrition. It was the first time I really paid proper attention to my sister's wealth of knowledge and talent for food (I was the bratty younger sister who didn't want to listen). I always knew she was a nutritional genius but I guess I never really took much interest because I thought there was NO WAY I could ever eat like her –the idea of going vegan seemed far too difficult, plus I LOVED meat and didn't want to think about anything that conflicted with that habit.
As I continued to work with her, I learned about and got to eat all the delicious raw vegan recipes that she was teaching. I was surprised by how easy it was to eat this way and I became addicted to all the new flavours of food. Plus it made me feel amazing! I was starting to warm up to the idea of going more plant-based but I still didn't think I'd ever fully go vegan. At this point, it was just for the great taste and high energy it gave me. I had yet to dive into the deeper ethical reasons behind this growing movement.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
I was still very much disconnected from the fact that even though I claimed so strongly to love ALL animals, I had no problem funding their slaughter so that I could eat them every day. But shortly after we finished making the programs, the movie Cowspiracy came out... I decided to watch it one night, along with the documentary Forks Over Knives. It was an extremely eye-opening experience. Even though it was mostly the same information my sister had been trying to tell me for YEARS...I was finally listening. My eyes and ears were finally open and the reality of my choices hit me like a ton of bricks.
That was it for me, I decided right then and there that I would never support these industries again... I didn't realize how powerful my daily food choices were and going forward I wanted to cause the least amount of harm possible during my time on earth. I made the commitment to go 100% fully vegan that night and have been vegan ever since.
Going vegan was an intensely transformative experience for me and also very painful at times. Not because of the food, the food was great, and the vegan lifestyle in Vancouver is super easy to have. It was painful and difficult learning about what the animals go through and finally acknowledging the cruelty I participated in for so many years.
The first 3-6 months after going vegan, I went through a roller-coaster ride of emotions (to say the least). I felt sick when I thought about the animal suffering, species extinction and the cost animal agriculture has on the planet. I became obsessed with researching the facts and learning as much as possible. Learning the truth, no matter how upsetting or uncomfortable, was a crucial step for me to stand by my choice. I think if I had skipped over any of that (especially the factory farming video footage), I wouldn't be as dedicated or committed to this decision. For me it just came down to focusing on the victims (the animals) and not myself, that shift in mindset alone really changes what I formerly thought would be "too hard" to do.
It might sound surprising, but it actually took quite a bit of time to forgive myself for not going vegan sooner. I was desperately wishing I had listened to my wise older sister, who for 15 years was patiently leading by example with her compassion for all earthlings and love for nutrition. (she went vegetarian at 10yrs old and has been vegan since 2001).
HOW VEGANISM HEPLED MY BUSINESS
Going vegan was one of the catalysts for me to launch my business because it filled me with so much passion and energy. But it also made me angry... the good kind of angry, the kind that makes you take action and DO something to create a change. For me, that meant starting a business that would give me freedom over my voice and provide a service that aligns with my values. I wanted to be more like my sister Shawna: to lead by example, love what I do and help improve the life/business of others.
Although I don't exclusively work with vegan businesses, I can confidently say that all of the clients I choose to work with share similar values and ethics. The businesses I work with share the common goal of putting more GOOD into the world and express their passions. This is why I so strongly believe that together, we can help create an economy that's based on ethical products and practices. These changes in the business world are already happening and I love being part of it! I get so much joy and fulfillment from seeing new, compassionate, creative, free-thinking business women launch and succeed!
I honestly don’t think I would have had the energy, persistence, drive, or courage to do everything in that first year of starting up, without the change in my diet and without Shawna's guidance. It has given me a positive sense of urgency and perspective on what truly matters in life. It boosted my confidence, self-love, and clarity for my mission.
The best part has been discovering a whole new community of wonderful people who also care deeply for the planet and are passionate about creating change by aligning their morals with their daily actions.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE
Before going vegan (or making any drastic diet changes), I recommend working with an experienced nutritionist who specializes in plant-based health. I know not everyone has a nutritionist sister who can guide them and feed them delicious food, so I'm happy to share mine with you.
Shawna Barker has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Food Nutrition and Health as well as Diploma in Holistic Nutrition. She also teaches Raw Chef Certification Classes and has a gift for coming up with mouth-watering recipes.
She has been a Nutritionist since 2009 and on top of her seven years of education, she continues to stay up to date with the latest findings and food related health facts. Shawna has made it her life mission to help heal and energize people through food and nutrition. She believes a vibrant life starts with vibrant health.
*There is a TON of conflicting information in the nutrition world, and with some "Nutritionists" having less than one year of training it is important to research the credentials and expertise of whoever you decide to work with.