During my month in Chiang Mai last year, I was scrolling through the hashtag #chiangmai and stumbled across Mary from Mantras and Mangos who was there on holidays. We chatted a while through Instagram and spontaneously decided to meet up, and so we went for dinner with a couple of other girls atImm Aim for some delicious Thai vegan food.
So here we are, sitting in this little cafe in Thailand, complete strangers from different parts of the world and we instantly clicked. Even though we barely knew each other, we started sharing our stories with our food struggles and journey to plant based living over lovely fresh food, followed by vegan ice cream, steamed buns and mango with sticky rice.
I remember leaving that evening bursting full of energy, excitement and gratitude. Full of energy because I felt so positive about everything, excitement because all girls inspired me to keep moving forward on my own health journey and grateful because I think it's just so damn amazing how social media allows us to connect with other like-minded people.
Since I last met Mary, her Instagram and Youtube channel has exploded (you rock girl!) and it's in awe that I follow her inspiring story. After reading this talk, I'm sure you'll become a loyal follower too!
What was the catalyst that turned you into a healthy foodie?
As I was growing up, I never had any problems with food. I just ate whatever I wanted, I was athletic and I truly was happy within my body. It wasn't until my late high school years that stress and bad relationships led me to complete despair and I began to drown in anxiety and depression, which in turn – developed into an eating disorder. I battled the rest of my high school years with anorexia. After "recovery" (I put this in quotation marks because I believe I was not fully recovered), I still dieted – hard! I counted everything! Every bite, every calorie, every ounce and every inch of food. I was an extreme clean eater, I became heavily addicted to exercise (which I wasn't enjoying compared to my athletic past), I began to develop health issues such as hair loss, acne, amenorrhea and, I hated my body! This extreme dieting developed into another eating disorder. Bulimia took complete control over my life. It was like my mind was hungry, but my body wasn't. I lived with this for two years. I felt like I lost two years of my life living through that. It truly is all a blur.
One night, I was at my whits end. I could no longer keep living a life like this – a life of restriction, guilt, fear and anxiety.
That night I prayed for a sign... "Help me! Please! Give me something so I can make the right decision! I don't want to live in fear anymore!". So, that night, I had a dream about fruit and how good it is, and about animals and how much I love them. So, the next day I did some research about fruit and animals... and everything just fell into place from there. It was like a trail was guiding me to the right destination. From that day on, I became vegan and immediately adopted a cruelty-free, plant-based lifestyle, and I've never looked back.
Why do you eat the way you eat?
It makes me feel so incredible! I never knew that my body could feel this good just by the foods I eat. It's true guys, 'we are what we eat'. I completely immersed myself into learning about vegan nutrition, experimented on what foods worked best for me and really listened to my body. I am now the happiest and healthiest I have ever been!
Describe your day on a plate.
I love talking about food. The only downside is that after I write this paragraph I will probably get hungry and go eat. Actually, what am I saying? That's totally an upside! I get to eat haha. So, my day on a plate... Every morning I have a ritual of having a cup of warm tea or water with lemon whilst I read in bed and meditate (this is my complete personal down time, I don't even film this part for YouTube). Then I either exercise or head straight for food. I have one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses before I eat. Breakfast is usually oats with soy milk and lots of fruit toppings such as banana, mango, passionfruit, berries – just whatever is in season and some nuts. For lunch I may have whole wheat sandwiches filled with all the salad you can think of with tahini, hummus or I will make a quick rice bowl. This usually consists of white and red rice cooked in the rice cooker topped with every vegetable you can think of plus sauerkraut and tahini! For dinner, it could be anything from curries, pasta, lentil Dahl, pizza, sushi – just whatever there is. I like quick dishes that don’t take long to cook (I'm pretty lazy like that). For snacks I may have fruit, nuts, hummus and carrot sticks, toast with nut butter, raw treats and so on. Most evenings I have a square of Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate for extra antioxidants (and who doesn't love chocolate?).
What are the 5 things we will always find in your fridge/pantry?
- Canned beans
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Tomatoes (we get these babies in bulk!)
What’s the biggest nutrition misconception you are always having to clear up for people?
But, where do you get your protein? Being vegan, this is the most common question that people ask. It's a misconception that if you don't eat meat you're not getting enough protein. The WHO states that we only need 5% of our daily calories coming from protein. I also believe that a lot of people don't actually know what protein is, but just go by what they hear on the media that you need it for 'muscle growth' etc. Protein is amino acids which are the building blocks of life. Amino acids are also found in plants, the same plants that cows and chickens eat that help them grow, so then you can eat them to get protein! Doesn't make sense right? Plants have protein – beans, legumes, greens, grains, and if you are eating a variety of foods with a sufficient amount of calories on a vegan diet, then you won't have to worry about protein!
Tell us about your workout routine.
For a long time I wasn't doing any exercise besides yoga and walking, since I was travelling for the last eight months. Now that I am finally settled somewhere long term, I have recently gotten back into my running and I also bought a brand new road bike, so I can get back into cycling as well. I still plan on continuing with my yoga practice a couple of times a week, too. Super excited to get back on the fitness bandwagon!
I know that you’ve been travelling a lot lately – what has been your favorite place and do you have any travel life lessons to share with us?
Oh, that's a tough one! My favourite place would have to be home. Home for me is Australia ( I swear I'm not bias haha I honestly believe Australia is the most beautiful country). However, if I had to choose somewhere else it would be The Himalayas in Nepal. On this trip we trekked to the Everest Base Camp and the views that we saw along the way not only took my breath away (literally - altitude sickness) but the beauty had me in complete awe that I found myself with tears of joy. There's something magnificent and unique about nature and The Himalayas that nothing man made could ever rival. In The Himalayas, I felt calm, connected and at one. It truly is a holy and magical place. One of my favourites! Also, a travel lesson would have to be – always keep your eyes, your mind and your hearts open. You will experience more that way!
When we met you mentioned you wanted to become a health coach. Is that still a goal of yours? Where do you see yourself in a year from now?
Yes, I'm still completing my course and am currently coaching a few clients. Since I'm already a Registered Nurse, this came easy for me as I am experienced in Primary Health Care Nursing and working with people and their goals. I hope to complete the course as soon as possible and hopefully within a year, I will have a successful coaching business where I can continue to help and inspire people to becoming the best versions on themselves.
What advice could you give to anyone reading this who wants to transition to a vegan diet? Where to start?
Educate yourself! I highly recommend on educating yourself on the truth of what the animal agriculture industry does to the animals' welfare, the environment and the harmful effects eating animal products does to your health. YouTube is an amazing tool for this. There are also thousands of videos and documentaries about veganism, as well as websites and other platforms. I highly recommend watching 'Earthlings', Forks over Knives and Cowspiracy (it's also free on Netflix), which is a documentary about how animal agriculture is destroying our earth and oceans. Be the voice for the voiceless and let's change the world!
What does living a wholesome lifestyle mean to you?
Wholesome living means everything. Not only nutrition (although this plays a huge part in one's health) but I believe a balance of all aspects of life contribute to a wholesome, fulfilling and wonderful lifestyle.
Mind, body, soul, friendships, relationships, work, self awareness... All these aspects fall into it. Balance is the key to life.
A recipe from Mary - Raw Vegan Brownies
Raw Vegan Brownies
Equipment You'll Need
Food processor or high powered blender
2 cups of walnuts
1 cup of cacao
1/4 tbsp of salt
2.5 cups of juicy medjool dates
1 cup of roughly chopped almonds
1/2 cup of desiccated coconut
1. In your food processor or high powered blender, place in 2 cups of walnuts and pulse until they are finely grounded.
2. Then, add in your cup of cacao and sea salt and pulse to mix the ingredients together.
3. Then, add in your 2.5 cups of medal dates but add them ONE AT A TIME! I made the mistake once of adding them all and my blender was not happy! Once you have pulsed them into a nice, crumbly mixture they are ready to be scooped out of the blender (or processor) with your trusty spatula. If your mixture doesn't stick together when you press it with your fingers, then just add in some more dates!
4. Once it's all scooped out, add it into a big bowl and then add your finely chopped almonds (you can also add other little things like goji berries if you like) and mix it all up with your hands.
5. Then, get your desiccated coconut and sprinkle it through the mixture and then spread it onto a tray lined with baking paper. You can also add more coconut once it's all laid out for extra taste and decoration.
6. Then place the tray in the fridge or freezer until it's set (not squishy).Once it's hardened up a bit, you can cut it into squares and EAT YOUR HEART OUT!
Thank you Mary for this great chat, it was a pleasure having you & I'll definitely keep following your journey!