My name is Anita, born and raised in South Africa but transplanted to England over 20 years ago with my mum and one of my older brothers.
My life has been an interesting journey to where I am today. Getting used to living in England was particularly challenging especially with the weather, but the personal safety it gave me and my mum, was worth every other moment of discomfort. So many people asked why we left all the sunshine and warmth behind, but unless you had lived there, its really hard to explain.
Living in England has given me so many incredible opportunities to travel. Often with my mum, and also on my own. I have been to the US including Alaska, Canada, China, Australia, Morocco, France, Holland to name just a few. So many more on my list to visit but it all takes time and money.
I have been overweight, I think since I was about 17 when I first went on the Pill for health reasons. My weight went up and down like a typical yo-yo and my dress size went up to an 18 before I even really realised it.
In 2013, we started a challenge within the team I worked with to all lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks. I was the only woman in the team and managed to do it somehow. I’m still not quite sure how.
But in the beginning of 2014 at the start of my 50th year, I started putting on weight again. I was so disappointed with myself, but put it down to overeating at Christmas. In hindsight, I think my body was probably trying to tell me something was wrong as in March that year, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I cannot tell you what a shock that was.
I had not told anyone about the lump I had found, and went to all the initial tests on my own, until after my biopsy and ultrasound when the doctor confirmed it was cancer. I walked to my car just wandering how on earth I was going to tell my mum. I was terrified. I called both my brothers and asked them and their families to come to the house so I could tell everyone at the same time.
I remember walking into the kitchen at home and just blurting the news out to my mum who was standing making dinner. It was really hard having to admit it to everyone.
I had surgery in April where they removed a large lump, followed by 6 months of chemotherapy and a final round of daily radiotherapy sessions for 18 days. It all sounds so easy, but it wasn’t fun and I was incredibly lucky not to be sick through any of it. I even managed to keep working. I am just so thankful to have fully recovered.
Even with all of that I really did not think about what I was eating and what it would do to the rest of my body or my long term health. The weight crept on slowly again and even though I managed to lose some again last year before my holiday to the US, it has just got worse.
I weighed myself in January and I was the heaviest I have been in more years than I care to think about. I realised I had to make a change, not just a quick fix, but something sustainable where I didn’t feel like I was starving or missing out on anything.
Which is where my new “vegan adventure” began.
There wasn’t really a lightbulb moment that made me do this, but I was eating so much meat and let’s not even talk about the biscuits or cakes. I will admit to having a terrible sweet tooth, even now.
I think my last taste of real meat was in March and I haven’t missed it at all. I was initially buying some vegan ready made food such as sausages or “steak” or even pies, but then found so many websites and YouTube channels talking about a Whole Food Plant Based way of eating, that I have now followed that since about the end of May. I have also cut out added salt, oil and as much added sugar as I can. I rarely buy anything processed, although accidentally bought canned chickpeas with added salt at Costco :).
This is just the start of this amazing adventure which I hope will help me to live a long, happy and more importantly, healthy life.