Welcome to the second of our Plant Fuelled People series in which we talk to various vegans with different lifestyles about how their vegan journey began, why a plant fuelled diet is important and how it can be very easy too!
In our second interview we spoke with Sofia Zaman, 16 year old student at the Royal Ballet school London, about her life as a vegan dancer.
When and why did your vegan journey begin?
It began at the beginning of 2019; it was something I had been thinking about for a while but it’s only when I began to research it that I had to change.
It was purely for the animals at the beginning, I watched ‘earthlings’ and lots of footage of behind the scenes of animal agriculture industries. I’d always classed myself as an ‘animal lover’ but couldn’t believe what I had been funding for so many years.
After that I got really into the health and environmental benefits of this lifestyle. I’m now not afraid to speak up for the animals or share content on my Instagram to spread the work and educate others about it.
What is your favourite thing about being vegan?
My favourite thing is knowing that I am not funding these industries that exploit animals anymore and I am living a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s honestly amazing to eat and live in a way that you know isn’t causing direct harm to animals and is healthier for me. I know it’s hard when people you are close too aren’t as open minded as you or even ‘disagree’ with you but know that you are doing the right thing.
I can’t stress how much of an amazing decision it has been. It may just seem like a change to your diet, but I can assure you that it is so much more than that. I’ve never felt so content with the way I’m eating, what I’m buying and how mindful I am with how I choose to spend my money and time. It gives you a deeper understanding of the world and the only regret I have is not changing earlier!
If someone was looking to go vegan what advice would you give?
Watch some documentaries. I’d recommend ‘Earthlings’, ‘Cowspiracy’, and ‘What the Health’, or another one that interested me was ‘Game Changers’ because it was about how a plant-based diet is beneficial for athletic performance.
Also, follow some activists and vegan foodies on Instagram and experiment with some new recipes. Have a bit of fun with it like trying out different plant-based mylks and delicious protein powders (and I would recommend Roots ‘n’ Shoots). I’m not a health expert but I would do look into what supplements you may need such as B12 (which animals are supplemented too so it’s not ‘unnatural’).
An important thing to remember is that veganism is an ethical lifestyle not a ‘diet’. It’s crucial to know the purpose of why you chose veganism.
As a vegan ballerina, tell us about your journey as a dancer.
I began dancing at the age of 4 but started training seriously from around the age of 11 and went to a vocational school. Ballet is a passion of mine and my dream in the future is to have a career in dancing, however I will have to see where life takes me because life can throw obstacles at you and becoming a professional ballet dancer is hard!
A common misconception about veganism is that it is a restrictive diet and I often get a lot of questions asked about whether I have enough energy and adequate protein on a plant-based diet and I can assure anyone that as long as they are eating enough calories from healthy sources, eating a variety of plants and having balanced meals then there is no need to worry.
I love sharing my creations and recipes on my food account on Instagram such as my smoothies and porridge bowls because my followers seem to be really interested In what dancers eat, so I use this platform to share another side of my life.
I love making my food and meals look pretty and I get a lot of inspiration from other accounts on Instagram, so for me it’s a bit of fun too! I think social media in moderation is a wonderful way to share ideas and inspiration for eating well, so I love being part of that community.
With the uncertainty of current events in the world right now, how are you keeping to a normal(ish!) routine?
I make sure that I wake up fairly early so that I have time to have a coffee and a nourishing breakfast before starting my workouts and online classes in the morning. I find that writing a to do list for the day or sticking to a flexible schedule is the best way to go. Also, I try to keep myself busy otherwise I have the tendency to snack all day while watching TV (which by the way is okay every now and then)! I never used to go on runs a lot and I have been trying to do that more often for some exercise as well as doing a ballet barre at home every day.
Any tips on keeping your mental health on track too?
Try something that you have never had the time to do before! I have started doing lots of yoga which I wish I had the time to do before because of my busy schedule and I’ve been really loving it.
Also keep in touch with family members and friends that you can’t see at the moment because sometimes being by yourself can make you feel a bit lonely. Maybe try meditation, journaling, practising artwork or learning to play the piano etc. as you never know what new passion you may find that you love! Exercise regularly, whether that’s going on a walk, or a vigorous at home workout… anything that gets your blood pumping and eat healthy whole plant foods so that you feel your best inside and out!
Which flavour of Roots ‘n’ Shoots is your favourite?
In the colder months: ‘crazy good cacao’ and in the summer months ‘blatantly good berry’ because I can’t choose!
How do you use your Roots ‘n’ Shoots?
I love using the chocolate flavour in a warming bowl of porridge in the morning when it’s cold out. But for something more refreshing then a fruity smoothie with the berry protein powder is my go-to.
What is your favourite plant food and why?
That’s a hard question… I’ll have to say tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and coconut!