Hey there! I’m Hannah, I’m a New Zealander living on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan in Thailand. I have recently joined the team at Our Botanicals, and over the past month I’ve been posting almost daily on our Instagram account (you can check it out here). I’ll also be regularly posting here on the blog from now on and to begin with, I’d like to share my health journey with you.
From Omnivore to Vegetarian
My health journey began on the heady market streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I was eighteen years old, and had gone there to volunteer alongside my classmates. I took the pungent smells and humid air in my stride, after all I have always loved to experience the exotic, but what I couldn’t handle was the meat. For the first time in my life I was encountering meat that was still recognisable as a creature. Chicken feet, duck foetuses, various parts of a cow, spider’s legs and pig snouts were all inescapable reminders of what meat is… A dead animal. Something in me changed and I began to order the vegetarian option. I had no compass when it came to alternative diets and I’d certainly never considered why I ate meat, I simply did because I always had.
After my return to New Zealand, on the evening of October 31st 2010 I was sitting at the dinner table. The meal was blue cod and vegetables. I ate all the vegetables first, and then pushed the cod around my plate with my fork for a few minutes, before declaring to my parents that I was now a vegetarian.
Over the years of being vegetarian, I intuitively moved towards veganism. I was never tempted to eat meat again, because my decision to eliminate all meat came from a desire to do it, not from any sense of obligation. My perspective on it had shifted anyway, and I now saw it for what it was, flesh. Dairy and eggs were more difficult to eliminate because of societal prevalence and pressure, as is the case for most people.
My Struggle with Acne, Weight Gain and Hormonal Imbalance
2011 was a stressful year for me as I moved out of home and entered law school. My intake of fresh fruits and vegetables suffered as I was eating food from my hall of residence. I was also eating junk food regularly and struggled to get enough sleep. I started getting acne for the first time in my life as well as indigestion. Hormonal acne, triggered by stress and certain ‘foods’ would become a struggle for me over the coming years. It also greatly affected my sense of self-esteem.
I went to a local doctor and was prescribed the contraceptive pill to manage my acne outbreaks. It was not a long term fix. What followed was years of going on and off the pill. I was becoming more cautious of pharmaceuticals and growing more inclined towards natural health. As a result started to learn more about the importance of supporting the body’s natural balance and detox process. After a few weeks of being back on the pill, I would stop taking it. You can imagine what this back and forth did to my hormones.
I spent the summer of 2011/2012 working at a cherry farm. As employees, we were allowed to eat as much of the produce as we liked. I imagine that I ate over half my weight in cherries that summer! I was also living by myself, and so made myself nutritious vegan meals and went running and swimming on my days off. It was amazing. My skin was flawless, my weight dropped and I had no stomach issues. I was determined to carry this on. During my second year of university, in 2012 I was living in an apartment with fellow vegans. This was like heaven for me! Finally I was surrounded by likeminded people and could continue to focus on my health and eating well. I completed my first juice feast in April and attended many raw food potlucks throughout the year.
From Vegetarianism to Veganism
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing since then. In 2013 I studied abroad in Argentina, Buenos Aires to be exact. It was so much fun, I met wonderful people and I have a bundle of fantastic memories from that time, but my healthy lifestyle suffered. I struggled to find vegan food, with the exception of one cafe and a (very expensive) raw vegan meal delivery service. Cheesy empanadas, pizzas and creamy pastas made up the majority of the vegetarian options at most eateries. Upon returning to New Zealand, I realised I had reached my heaviest weight and once again went off the pill, but this time it was for the last time.
I worked in Melbourne for the last half of 2013 and first half of 2014, and managed to contract glandular fever only a few months before I was scheduled to leave on a Round the World trip. I still went, but was plagued by exhaustion. The plan was to relocate to California and work there, but I had to return to my parent’s house in order to recover from the chronic fatigue I was experiencing. This 180 degree turn in my life plan turned out to be a very healing experience.
On November 1st 2014, four years after becoming vegetarian, I decided to commit fully to veganism and natural health. I was tired, literally, and craved the level of health I had experienced in 2012. It has been over two years since that decision and I am 14 kilograms lighter than where I was in 2013, no longer battle with acne and have to remind myself to be grateful that the stomach pain I experienced is now a distant memory.
Over the past two years I have continued to strengthen my intuition in order to guide me towards what my body needs. I eat what feels good for me, both during and after I eat it. I’ve also learned the importance of finding peace and calm. My meditation practice has brought a level of clarity to my life that it spills over into every aspect of my existence. But more on that later…