“No one in this world knows everything about life. So listen to your gut, stand up for yourself, explore the world through your own eyes and don’t be afraid of change. The biggest regret is not knowing what could’ve been or who you would’ve been,” – Elina Nasution
Although born in Klang, Elina has been raised in Indonesia most of her whole life where she was first introduced to spicy food, culture, and one of her favourites, tempeh. Most people would know her through powerlifting or the vegan community. But how did all of it all begin?
Back in university, her friends were trying to figure out the difference between vegan and vegetarian. Through their bickering, Elina managed to get a better grasp of these two diets. A year later, she took up a 30-days vegan diet challenge together with her two friends to lose weight.
“I took up the challenge because I was severely insecure of my body weight from a terrible binge eating phase that lasted for almost 2 years,” Elina shared.
However, her two friends soon gave up halfway but Elina held on to win the challenge due to her competitive nature. What made her pull through and stayed on a vegan diet was seeing how animals are being mistreated.
“There was a scene where a baby polar bear was being chased by a hunter while in the background was the cub’s mum who was already brutally killed. I was watching that scene with my cat in my arms and I felt extremely conflicted with my morals inside about eating meat while feeling sad for the way humans treat animals.”
From that night, she began her journey to being a non-meat eating person up to this day.
It took her several months to change her lifestyle from being a meat eater to avoiding by-products of animals. Cheese is also known to be a big no-no when it comes to the vegan diet. But for Elina, letting go of cheese was a breeze. “Fortunately, I’ve never been a cheese person where I used to always give my brothers or mum the cheese part of my pizza and only eat the bread with the tomato sauce!”
Throughout her vegan journey, she has learned a couple of things along the way. Here are some of them:
Respect all living beings. “For example, I used to absolutely HATE spiders and demanded them to be killed, but after eating a vegan diet more frequently, I would just shoo them away and not kill them,” Elina shared.
Be mindful of actions whether they are big or small.
Appreciating vegetables. “I used to hate the greens but now I eat them as if they are my mains.”
Taking care of the mind, body and heart.
Elina wasn’t always a powerlifter. She actually started out as a long distance runner, performing a lot of HIIT workouts, half marathons and short runs of 10-16km. After several years, she resorted to binge eating when she was going through a strict diet. This caused her to gain up to 20kg!
However, her life completely changed after she was introduced to a gym by the staff members, educating her about the fundamentals of lifting.
“Powerlifting entered into my life when I was introduced to a gym where the staff members were educating me on how to do the fundamental lifts: Bench, Deadlift and Squat. I was fortunate to be introduced to the sport by them as they were experts themselves and made the learning fun.”
Due to her competitive nature as mentioned during her vegan challenge, she continued to strive every day by improving herself, with a community that is just as passionate and competitive as she is. She eventually joined a powerlifting competition as well and won 2nd place! Incredibly impressive for a first-timer!
We asked her how powerlifting impacted her life overall, with the most important factor she learned throughout the journey is that anything is possible, as long as you work hard for it.
“In school, I was the skinny girl who couldn’t even do a push up! I played a lot of team sports like basketball, badminton and football but never thought I could lift anything heavier than a small grocery bag. It felt like a huge accomplishment to be able to say that I can carry things on my own – no need for my boyfriend to carry for me!” Elina enthusiastically shared.
Aside from that, she also learned how to be more aware of the functionality of her body.
“For example, when you carry grocery bags, you’d think to use mostly your arms. In actuality, you should use your back and core muscles as they help with the hold of the weight while your arms just need to help grip onto the bags.” Through all this knowledge, she shares it with her loved ones to help them prevent any injuries when performing their daily tasks.
Discipline and patience were something that Elina learned throughout her powerlifting journey as well.
“If you want something, work for it, but also accept that things may take longer for you than it would for someone else. Just be honest with yourself and don’t cheat your way out of success.”
Lastly, Elina managed to take better care of herself, especially with her diet. Not only did her period cycle become more regular, she also generally became a much happier person.
“With a more balanced diet, regular period cycle and active body, I felt very content and sometimes up-beat about life as a whole.”
Let’s get to know Elina a little bit more! Her favourite place on Earth is a place with endless green fields.
“As a kid, I was fortunate to grow up in a housing area where it had really big green fields where I would either ride down with my bicycle or cut up recycled cardboards to slide down with my friends,” Elina shared. Another fun fact about Elina during her younger days was that she used to join singing competitions because she really loved singing.
She also is one of those who can’t live without rice! Even when she went to Paris, the first meal she wanted to have was none other than fried rice. Speaking about Paris, she is able to speak, read and write French! C’est incroyable! (Yes, we had to google for this. It means ‘That’s amazing!’)
It would be awesome to have a celebrity as your BFF, even better if it is Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler, which is Elina’s top choices! “I admire how they can make people around them happy and laugh even if it means they have to look silly.”
Practicing self-care and dealing with stress are issues that most people aren’t able to cope well. We asked Elina how she does it both, and working out seems to work for both! Her regular self-care routine also includes dedicating some time for herself without having to answer anyone aside from herself, saying no whenever necessary, and reminding herself to stop being a perfectionist and simply just embrace the moment.
To relieve stress, she would take frequent breaks such as walking outside when at the office or simply playing with her cat while listening to piano instrumentals. She would also call up a friend as a self-reminder on how she isn’t alone.
I’m sure by now, some of you might consider being vegan after getting inspired by Elina’s journey. We asked Elina for some advice for those who aren’t vegans as well as for those who are already implementing veganism into their life. This is what she has to say, in her own words:
“After hosting multiple vegan events and also being part of the community for a few years, I had come across so many types of vegan-diet adopters. There are the raw vegans, high carbs low fat, wholefoods only, junkies, flexible vegans, environmentalist advocates and more.
The most important advice that I want to share is to respect and be open to one another. It’s a shame that there are conflicts at times among different groups of vegans when we all share one common end-goal and vision.
The common arguments centralize around whether one or the other is more vegan or not vegan enough! For the vegans who question whether they are vegan enough – take your time and don’t compare yourself with the guy or girl next to you who eats more vegetables or does more advocate work than you.
Be open to your journey where it takes you and most importantly, reach out for help! You’ll be surprised how helpful others can be once you open up completely. Let’s remember that we are all humans and tackling each other down isn’t the answer for progress.”
“DYOR – Do your own research. Veganism lifestyle became trendy in 2018 and a lot of people started jumping into it very quickly (even those who are in my personal life) but then dropped out very quickly too. Learn your reason why and that will guide you to make your own decision of what suits you best.
As I mentioned previously, there are so many types of vegans. You don’t need to follow one type of rule to have a vegan diet. The definition of veganism is, ‘Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’
The keywords are ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ within your comfort zone. If you accidentally eat meat or by-products for a day or so, don’t give up completely. Remember that everything takes time (you are changing not only your mentality but 360 the way you function your whole life!) and every small action you make still matters!”
We hope Elina’s story has inspired you the way it inspired us! Do you have your own story to tell? Drop us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elina’s Instagram: @elinagives
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