By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
There’s a huge pressure that a person faces when changing a part of their life in ways that are perceived as ‘drastic’ or even ‘extreme’ to others who do not share the mind-set. The pressure of being labelled under a certain diet can turn a positive opportunity into a somewhat negative, pit-of-your-stomach feeling. Declaring yourself as ‘Vegan’ is one thing — but living up to what society thinks you should be, do, say, or consume is another. You may feel trapped in a commitment that was ultimately your own dietary choice. You may feel you have to act in a certain way, or avoid certain things, for fear of not living up to what a ‘Vegan’ would do.
I consider myself a head-strong person, I often have clear goals and objectives in life, be it for work or leisure, for my expectations of the day ahead or for my new year intentions. I adopt a leadership role in Qatar’s growing Vegan industry, and find myself advocating for the plant-based lifestyle in at least 3 conversations per day. I’m continuously talking about how veganism has positively impacted my life, how I’m benefitting, and how the other person could feel those same health benefits if they were to take (at least some of) my advice.
I’m proud, I’m dedicated, I’ve explained, I’ve analysed, I’ve tried, and I have tested. My vegan journey was a process that was ultimately life-changing; it’s something I think of each and every day. But there comes a time during the day that I must remind myself, and those around me — I too, am only human. I am a human being, subject and exposed to the same world we humans all live in together. I am not immune to the challenges and difficulties you face, nor does my veganism protect me with a 100% guarantee that I’ll not get colds or shivers, coughs or a sneeze. Does my healthy plant-based lifestyle combined with my strict fitness routine reduce my chances of feeling unwell? Absolutely. But as the weather changes, or as I move from a heavily air-conditioned gym into the warm middle-of-the-day heat, do I get days where I just don’t feel my best? Yes. I am only human.
I feel this is necessary to highlight sometimes as my commitment to a healthy lifestyle is often branded something ‘extraordinary’ or ‘super-human’ — leaving me exposed to the reality that I sometimes feel I must live up to the ‘super-human’ title a person has given me. What if they think I don’t appear as healthy as they expected? What if their interpretation of what a ‘healthy appearance’ is, is totally different to mine? What if I’m unable to say that I had caught a common cold while travelling for the fear of people who would conclude that somehow my strict regime was failing me?
It’s at that moment that reminding myself of the fact that I am only human ensures that I’m comfortable and living my healthiest life, while being aware of the fact that there are elements, several elements of life that I simply cannot control.
Looking ahead to 2020, one of my many resolutions is to be more comfortable with how others may be perceiving me when I meet them for the first time, based solely on the fact that I am leading my vegan life in a way that satisfies me, benefits me, and brings joy and motivation to my life…all while remembering those all-important four words: I am only human.
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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