Deva Argue (18) has been a strict vegetarian since birth. On the 8th of July this year, the Constantia Waldorf scholar completed her obligatory Class 12 personal challenge project and simultaneously fulfilled a lifelong ambition to summit Mount Kilimanjaro – a day ahead of schedule – despite the misgivings her guides had about her diet.
“The 6-month project was the perfect incentive to embark on the physical and mental preparation required to achieve such an ambitious goal,” she says.
This preparation kicked off a year ago with 2-kilometer runs up very steep, uneven trails daily and hiking as often as possible with friends and family. Three months before the trip she intensified her training schedule to include two 1.5 hours weekly cardio training sessions with her personal trainer that would focus specifically on building leg, core and shoulder strength.
Deva has always followed a strict vegetarian diet that excludes eggs but includes a small amount of dairy such as yoghurt and chocolate in her diet. Her healthy and balanced diet did however ensure that she didn’t have to modify her eating in any way to accommodate her intensified training regime.
“The first time I ever had egg for breakfast was when I was on the mountain, the guides could hardly understand no meat, let alone no eggs,” she laughs.
"However, being a vegetarian doesn't mean subsisting on almonds but rather about being mindful of maintaining a balanced and healthy diet that includes vegetables that contain protein – personal favourites include broccoli, green peas, artichokes and spinach – and of course, nuts, seeds and legumes. I also eat soya and vegetarian products that provide a great source of quick, easy and delicious protein. People don’t realise it but even certain fruits contain protein. And of course, bananas are the ultimate energy food so it's great to include when doing a hard work out.
"I believe in the way I live and I've never struggled or been tempted to eat meat. There are so many yummy vegetarian meals like melanzane, Indian curries and of course, I love Italian-style pastas and Oriental style stir-fries. Supplements have also never been necessary to maintain my energy levels or athletic ability. I don't take any fish oils or anything like that,” she emphasises.
According to registered nutritionist Caryn Davies, nutritional health can’t simply be justified or guaranteed according to dietary exclusions or inclusions.
"It is the overall balance of the diet which is important, and a well-planned vegetarian diet can certainly be complete for sports and endurance. As with any type of diet, every ‘body’ is literally quite different and every athlete will have unique dietary needs," she emphasises.