My success as a plant-based lifestyle advocate wouldn’t go anywhere without my local plant-based community having my back. And I wouldn’t have been introduced to most of the community, if it weren’t for a flower called Elina Nasution.
For the past couple of years, Elina has organized some of the most successful vegan pot lucks in the Klang Valley. Her natural exuberance has earned her popularity as ‘Elina Gives’, a vegan vlogger and Instagram influencer. With her hobby of powerlifting and now adding another feather to her hat as beauty pageant candidate, Elina proves that anyone who eats their greens can be fit AND fabulous.
Elina is the second featured profile in the ‘Vegan Vantage’ series on this blog, celebrating how the plant-based lifestyle has transformed Malaysians in positive ways. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Elina!
If you know of anyone who has or is experiencing an amazing shift in health, emotions and mindset through a shift in their diet, please send them my way (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)! I would love to share their stories too.
What was your health and outlook on life like before going vegan?
Before I became vegan, I began my fitness journey in 2014. During that period, I centralized my goals around aesthetics. I used to believe that if ‘I looked healthy’ then ‘I should feel healthy.’ My pursuit for aesthetics through diet restrictions led to many health issues. For example, physically I was below my healthy average body weight and felt weak and tired. Mentally, I became very insecure of my own body and cut out anything that I feared could be “bad” for my health – to the point that I eliminated salt, carbs and any flavouring to my meals. After a lot of restrictions over time, the effect backfired. From losing 10kg, my body underwent an immense amount of weight gain up to 20kg within a span of 2 months.
In late 2015 I decided to take charge of my life and try out veganism. I used it to help me – instead of restricting food – to actually love and appreciate my food. I allowed myself to eat as much carbs as I wanted. Since then, I learned that success in health or life should not be about what you see on the outside but what you feel on the inside. If you treat your body good with nutritious and delicious food and adequate exercise, your body will reward you with great energy, healthy mindset and positive outlook on life.
What was the strongest motivation for you to try out a plant-based diet, and the breakthrough moment that you realized it was benefiting you?
As mentioned above, one of the motivations was definitely to be healthier. But one of the strongest motivations that has kept me on the diet for many years is definitely the ethics behind it. After a few weeks of transitioning into veganism, I was still not yet convinced about the ethical argument. Then I decided to watch the documentary called Earthlings. I remember watching it with my cat in my arms. There was one particular scene whereby a baby polar bear was being chased by a hunter. I immediately felt tears running down my face and as I looked at my cat, I thought to myself: how ironic of me to love my cat while I contribute to the pain and suffering of others through my food choices. I did not feel right in my gut to continue a non-vegan lifestyle because it went against my values – which is to advocate for peace and harmony. The breakthrough moment was definitely when I felt more hopeful about the world, realizing that veganism could help people like myself align their life choices to those values.
You took 1st Runner-Up place in your category at the Malaysia Powerlifting Open 2018, which is an astounding achievement. How does your diet work in your favour as a powerlifter?
Thank you! Eating plant based definitely helped me as a powerlifter in many ways. Firstly, it definitely helped with recovery – naturally eating vegan food means eating more wholesome tofu, vegetables and carbs with high fibre and more nutrition. Without a doubt it helped me to not only be fueled and ready for either my training or the competition itself, it helped with faster recovery and stronger mindset. Secondly, it helped so much with my budget! Haha. People think that veganism is so expensive – only if you go for the imported goods you find at your grocery stores! Also, being on a lifestyle whereby you need to eat a lot and more frequently can be expensive to maintain. Fortunately, fresh local produce such as tofu, tempeh, beans and vegetables are accessible at local markets and small grocery stores at a much lower cost! I was a student when I began my powerlifting journey and I didn’t have other sources of income to support an expensive lifestyle – so being able to financially support my journey through veganism was definitely possible!
You have been busy on an exciting new journey in the world of pageants, vying for the crown of Miss Grand Selangor 2019 this weekend. What is your view on the connection between a plant-based diet and positive body image?
It has been an eye opening experience – especially coming from a gym junkie like myself who likes to lift heavy weights and yell at the top of my lungs when I do PRs (personal records). It felt very uncomfortable to make the transition between the two contrasting lifestyles. However, it was also very rewarding because of the new knowledge gained and the amazing people I have fortunately met throughout this journey. It has opened my eyes to how there are platforms such as Miss Grand Selangor, made to allow ordinary citizens like you and I to advocate for the causes we believe in. One of the things I aim to bring forth to the wider scope of audience is the importance of positive body image. In order for us to help others, we need to learn to love ourselves. I believe that one of the ways to love ourselves is definitely through how we nourish our bodies and mind with healthier food choices.
What advice would you offer to those who are skeptical or afraid of trying out a plant-based diet?
Just like with everything in life that we do not know or understand: Try. If you do not try, you will never know what you are missing out on! 🙂 For tips and advice, I highly recommend to use Facebook community groups, YouTube and simple Google search. We are so fortunate to be living in a time where information and knowledge are literally at our fingertips – just type away and ask those questions! I have learned, over the years, that people genuinely want to help other people. So trust me when I say that seeking help online is one of the best ways for you to take a step forward into the plant based lifestyle.
If you wish to support Elina as the next Miss Grand Selangor, here’s what you can do:
VOTE FOR MISS SOCIAL MEDIA
Today is the LAST day to vote for Elina as Miss Social Media.
Voting window ends February 23rd, 2019 (11 pm Malaysian Time).
ATTEND THE CORONATION NIGHT
Event happens on Sunday night at Empire Hotel Subang. Purchase your tickets here and get ready to cheer!
All the best on your special night, Elina!