Ella Simola has swum at the Finland Junior Championships, tried her hand at karate, Muay Thai and MMA and is about to begin boxing training. She is also a vegan.
The 21-year-old from Tampere made the switch to a fully plant-based diet at the age of 15.
“I had always been an animal lover – just like any other kid, I would have never wanted to hurt them,” she told me. “But it was hard to make that connection as our society sees animals as products. One day I accidentally saw a part of a documentary about slaughterhouses, and I was shocked.”
Horrified by the cruelty she had witnessed, she started doing research about changing her diet.
“I transitioned to vegetarianism at first, and when I was a bit more familiar with nutrition and such, I went fully vegan. It was the best decision of my life.”
Switching to a plant-based diet not only put the young adolescent’s conscience at rest, but it also boosted her swimming.
“It seemed like my body had been waiting for me to change to this diet all along. I noticed a change in my energy levels immediately,” Ella said.
“I didn’t feel a need to take a nap before training anymore, and my swimming felt easier. Also, my skin got clearer.”
“My love for martial arts comes from the same reason why veganism appeals to me as a lifestyle so strongly- the goal to live a peaceful life. And peace always starts at the dinner table”
Ella is an advocate for everyone at least trying veganism.
“There’s a lot of research suggesting that plant-based diet is the healthiest choice, but also a lot against it, although most of this is basically propaganda, as meat, dairy and egg industries are big gold mine after all.
“From my own experience I can say that I have never felt better. I sleep better, have energy to work out and have restored a healthy relationship with food.
“I have heard many people tell how they have cured from eating disorders with the help of a vegan diet. A lot of athletes, also bodybuilders, do great as vegans and are able to build muscle without any problems.
“I have also learnt to listen to my body’s needs now, and know how to nourish myself with the right foods.”
In 2010, Ella also took another radical turn in her life, this time deciding to give up swimming for the Koovee Club even though she had excelled in the pool.
“I quit because I just didn’t feel like I could stay dedicated to it any longer. I trained seven times a week and basically didn’t have any free time.
“It was a huge thing for me to quit, because swimming had been my whole life for eight years, and it had provided me with such amazing memories.
“I don’t regret my decision, though, because afterwards I had time to invest my energy to other things. I found out that I was talented in other sports and I started enjoying training again. ”
Martial arts became her focus , and she initially took up karate.
“When I quit competitive sports and left swimming behind me, I became fascinated with self-defence. I discovered David Meyer, who does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and speaks proudly about animal rights,” she said.
“Inspired by him I did karate, Thai boxing and MMA. The thing about these sports is not that you become more violent, but that you learn to avoid confrontations.
“My love for martial arts comes from the same reason why veganism appeals to me as a lifestyle so strongly – the goal to live a peaceful life. And peace always starts at the dinner table.”
Ella’s next sporting challenge is boxing: “I have totally fallen in love with boxing and I do want to compete in it. Considering my combat background, I hope it will happen soon.”