Jez Kaur, Hipster Veggie – Fighting the Good Fight TogetherNovember 21, 2018
Jez Kaur is a vegan YouTuber bringing to light the importance of compassion for self and empowering your health with organic, plant-based foods. Having grown up in London, embracing her Punjabi heritage has helped Jez radically transform her outlook on life. We caught up with her to find out more…
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be vegan…
I think the first thing that made me switch my diet was when I was about 18. I was on holiday for a week with my friends. It was a week of very unhealthy living and I came back and my brother was in hospital and no one had told me. It turned out that he had diabetes and my father has always said that he was the healthy one in the family.
He always went to the gym; he followed the men’s health lifestyle of a high protein-low carb diet, something that we believed to be very healthy back then. And he’s only five years older than me, so he must have been about 24 when he got diabetes. Some of my other family members had high cholesterol and cancer. Cancer was just popping up everywhere around me.
I went vegetarian and then I went vegan. I began talking to my parents about how they used to live. I started to read about how our lifestyle has changed so much from how it was even in my parents’ generation and that this can be a factor in the high cancer rate. I realised that our body and health is affected hugely by what we eat.
We can have a genetic predisposition to being obese, having heart disease or cancer, but if we adjust our lifestyle we can limit those genes from expressing themselves.
It’s about taking our health back into our own hands.
How would you define self-care? And how does that show up in a practical way in your everyday life?
Self-love is being selfish in a sense, but being selfish has a really negative connotation in society today. But we need to get rid of that because being selfish can be a first step to being self-less. When you can cater to yourself, you start to be able to be better equipped to cater to other people without feeling so overwhelmed because now you are running on full fuel.
How this looks in my everyday life is apparent in what I choose to eat. Obviously I go out. I don’t stop my social life from existing, because that is also a part of self-love. I have friends, I have a social life but on a day-to-day basis I only consume organic food. I only buy from local shops when I can and that is how I see me loving myself. I want to consume certain foods because I see my body and my health as being very important. It deserves the best food that I can provide.
You’ve mentioned before that vegetarianism is quite common place in many Indian communities, but a lot of Indian families that come over to the UK or to other Western countries leave their previous lifestyle behind and it begins to become detrimental to their health. So from your perspective, what are some of the biggest health challenges that are facing your community?
In terms of disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes are the top three threats to my community. It’s so common amongst us and I think it’s one of the risks of being an immigrant. You literally leave everything that you know behind and you have to change the way that you behave once you come to this new soil. Nothing is familiar to you so you try to change your lifestyle. You no longer eat those organic fresh fruits and vegetables. You’re eating these convenience foods and they’re using ingredients totally alien to you and your ancestors.
I think those are the things that really affect the South Asian community. Heart disease is something that comes along, obviously because of food, but also because of stress levels. Being an immigrant is a very, very stressful thing in itself. I think all of that combined – changing the food, changing the environment – really takes its toll on the body. I can’t even imagine being a first generation immigrant, it must be really difficult.
You learned Punjabi to connect and learn from your grandparents and they have really encouraged you to embrace a
simple lifestyle. What are some of the most important lessons that you’ve learned from them?
My granddad’s literally the coolest guy on the planet. He’s got a huge beard and he’s a Sikh, so he carries around a sword with him all the time. How can you not be a cool guy looking like that, right? He’s awesome.
There are a few things I’ve learned, but the first one would be the importance of growing organic fruit and vegetables yourself. He has his own garden and it’s not a big garden, just a couple of metres, but he’s got so much. He’s got his garlic, his kale, his spinach, his beetroot, his carrots.
And he’s grown so much in abundance.
And he stresses so much that we don’t need to add chemicals to our produce because it’s from Mother Earth. From God. We don’t need to tamper with it because it’s perfect the way it is. He’s a firm believer that there is a Creator and we are the created. We should be looking after ourselves with that kind of respect.
They also taught me how to embrace being Punjabi and that we have come from a small village. I used to think it was the most un-cool thing in the world when I was younger. I remember one of my earliest thoughts was I wished that I was white because of where I grew up. I look at that now and I see that was so messed up.
Having dialogue with my grandparents makes me realise that being who I am is really cool and there’s so much to learn about from the ways back home.
At the Vevolution Festival that was held in London in 2016, you were on a discussion panel and one of the questions that came up was, “How can we ensure the vegan movement is more inclusive?” Can you recap on your thoughts on this for any readers that weren’t present?
That was a great question because it’s one thing identifying a problem, but we also need to come up with a solution. I think one of the biggest things we can do is be open with our dialogue so that we aren’t just speaking to vegans or those that follow a plant-based diet.
We should encourage people who eat meat, people who don’t love themselves, people who don’t love animals and talk openly with all of them about why they should give veganism a go without making them feel intimidated about it or that they are going to be labelled.
We need to realise that there’s a massive world out there. As vegans, we’re still the minority and we need to engage with people who are the majority. You’re never going to agree 100% with anyone on this planet, so if you can find some common ground cling to that. Everyone’s different and we need to identify our similarities and fight the good fight together.
For more information on Jez’s work visit her website. You can also connect with her via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
As a writer, Emma’s work has been featured in other popular well-being and spiritual websites such as Elephant Journal, IVORY magazine, and she’s part of the Huffington Post’s team of regular bloggers. Her writing was also included in the Tiny Buddha book 365 Love Challenges from Tiny Buddha,released in 2015 by HarperCollins.
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