Natalie Bowkett

Natalie is an engineer currently managing a team responsible for the structural design of the Athlete's Village at the 2012 London Olympic Games

When not working she enjoys sports, dancing and travelling, especially to Thailand where she has recently been active volunteering with orphaned and disadvantaged children, and with rescued elephants.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I work as a structural engineer, it’s a demanding job but very rewarding. To balance my work pressures I love to keep fit – touch rugby and running being my main outlets. I love to experience new things all the time, whether it’s travelling to new countries, meeting new people, finding cool new bars or experimenting with new foods! I have a passion for people, animals and the wonderful planet we all share. My friends mean everything to me and are the family I choose. My friends will also tell you I am a party girl at heart and I have been known to dance on tables in bars till the wee hours of the morning!

How and why did you go ve­g­an?

Natalie volunteering at Elephant Nature Park

Volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary for rescued elephants

I became vegan 3 years ago after becoming involved in some animal charities. I had been vegetarian for 13 years but had never made the connection between milk and eggs and animal cruelty. Another vegan very gently and rationally pointed this out to me and I was shocked. I realised I had subconsciously been deluding myself for so long and wanted to make the switch. My friend Garry also wanted to become vegan so we made a pact. The rest is history! It was the best decision I have ever made and the most life changing one in so many positive ways!

Did you en­coun­ter any dif­fi­cul­ties? If so what were they and how have you dealt with them?

The only difficulties I really faced were from other people’s misguided and naive comments. Actually switching to a vegan diet was so much easier than I ever had expected. Initially it took a little bit of extra effort and thought but now it’s just second nature. I used to get very angry and defensive about other peoples comments but now I just let it go, it serves no purpose. I realise it’s not their fault as they have been brainwashed for so long by the meat and dairy industries. I actually feel very privileged to have been made aware of the many benefits of being vegan and feel like these people are missing out!

How have your fam­i­ly and friends re­act­ed to your ve­g­an­ism?

Natalie Bowkett - Structural Engineer

Natalie at her current worksite

Initially they were a bit shocked. Veganism isn’t as mainstream and accepted as vegetarianism. A lot of people don’t even know what it is or have erroneous ideas about what it entails. There are a lot of negative misconceptions about a vegan lifestyle too (largely propagated by the meat and dairy industries), so it’s understandable. But with time they have all come to accept my decision and some have even made changes in their own lifestyle as a result.

Is there any­one who has par­tic­u­lar­ly in­spired or helped you? Have you influenced anyone else to go vegan?

There are many wonderful vegans and people in the animal rights movement world wide who are so inspirational! Phil Wollen is probably my main one! He is a vegan and philanthropist who tirelessly runs and funds several hundred animal, environmental and humanitarian charities world wide. He exists on about four hours sleep a night but is always positive, energetic and focused! Above all he is a gentle, beautiful soul! Another amazing lady is Ruth Heidrich. She is a recovered cancer patient, a raw food vegan, in her late sixties and runs marathons, ultra marathons and triathlons. She is a vegan superwoman!

I have influenced many people to become aware of what they are eating and some have become meat reducers, cut dairy or made other changes to their lifestyle. But this has come not from preaching but leading by example. They see how happy and healthy I am and they all want a piece of it!!! And yes I have influenced a couple of people to go vegan and it’s a wonderful feeling! It’s very exciting helping them along their vegan path!

How do you feel switch­ing to ve­g­an­ism has im­pact­ed your health?

Bann Dada children's home

Volunteering at the Baan Dada Children's home for orphaned and disadvantaged children

In so many positive ways! I have more energy then I ever had before. I am bright and alert and my body feels cleaner and purer. And whilst this is largely due to my diet there is also a strong psychological and spiritual aspect to it. It puts you at so much more peace knowing you can enjoy a meal without that subconscious thought that another being suffered for your food. Veganism is not just a diet it’s a whole way of life!

Can you de­scribe some of your favou­rite meals, take­away or home cooked?

Currently I am in love with Raw Lemon Cheesecake, made with almond cheese and agave syrup instead of conventional cheese and sugar. It’s guilt free and to die for! There are so many wonderful vegan foods! I love curries, chillies, pastas, stir fries. My favourite is a stir fry veggies with tofu and cashew nuts. Just fry onions, chilli, garlic, ginger and any other spices in sesame oil or coconut oil, chuck in your favourite veg, some tofu, and some tamari (or soy sauce), then top with fried cashew and sesame seeds. Serve with rice or quinoa. It’s quick, nutritious and very tasty! For eating out food my favourite place in London is Vanilla Black in Chancery Lane. Its amazing! Its vegetarian and vegan. I also like Peking Palace, Mildreds and Tibbits.

Have you en­coun­tered any ab­surd stereo­types, com­ments or neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes?

Every single day! It’s funny as people’s misconceptions are very strong but so often not guided by logic. For example people will tell me to my face how unhealthy my lifestyle is and yet are blinded by how obviously fit and healthy I am! My skin glows, my eyes sparkle, I am full of energy and positivity, and almost never get sick! People also like to taunt you which is a way to mask their own discomfort at the cruelty involved in their lifestyle. And of course the old protein myth! Look at elephants, the largest land mammal. They are purely vegetarian! And they have loads of strength and energy!

What do you think are the most ef­fec­tive ways of help­ing ve­g­an­ism to be­come more main­stream?

I think the best way to promote veganism is live by example. Be a walking advert. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, be the change you wish to see in the world! By openly promoting to the people around you the wonderful benefits of a vegan lifestyle (and there are just no negatives), people will eventually see what positive and amazing thing being vegan is, for the animals, for the planet and for you!

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