Kickboxing at the national level in Peru

Living in another country. A dream for some and a reality for others. What is it like to emigrate and live as a vegetarian or vegan in a country other than the Netherlands? I go in search of the stories of women who eat vega(n) and decided to take the plunge to live abroad. What is their story?

Kickboxing in Peru

Today the professional kickboxer and vegetarian Lisanne explored in the jungle of Peru. After two years, she decides to move from the Netherlands to Peru. Why Peru? And what is she all doing there? Read her beautiful story.

Who are you and how did you end up in Lima, Peru?

I am Lisanne, born in Groningen and lived in Almere for the last few years before moving to Peru. I worked as a full-time elementary school teacher and was a professional kickboxer. After a three-month internship in the jungle in Peru called Iquitos, I wanted to go back. In 2012, I went back again for a six-month internship.


Now I am part of the national selection Muay Thai and represent Peru at various championships


Then I decided I wanted to do more for Iquitos. I started my own Foundation in 2013 to accomplish two projects: a kickboxing project and a reading project. Then I moved in August 2014 to start the projects in Iquitos. A few months later, I married my husband. The projects went well and were completed in April 2016.

Then I moved with my (Peruvian) husband to Lima, where his family lives. Now I am part of the national Muay Thai selection and represent Peru at various championships. My husband is the coach of the national selection. I am vegetarian and as long as my husband eats at home, he joins me. But outside, he does eat all kinds of animal products.

As a vegetarian in Peru

Why did you start eating vegetarian or vegan?

I never liked meat but ate it because my parents forced it on me as a child. Then at age 15 I saw a movie where an animal was skinned alive for its fur, and that was the straw for me then. I walked to the living room and told my parents that I refuse to eat meat and fish anymore. Since then I stopped but at 19 I still started eating fish occasionally because of the protein my body demands. So far I sometimes eat fish and eggs I do eat daily given my athletic background.

What is it like to live in Lima as a vegetarian?

In Lima it is quite doable, they are a bit more open minded here and there are quite a few vegetarian and even vegan restaurants. At the markets, you can also find lots of plant-based products that are high in protein and do not contain added dyes and flavors. Generally, I also cook for myself because I have to keep a close eye on what I eat because of my irritable bowel.


As far as restaurants go, the Netherlands could learn a thing or two from this.


In Iquitos, it was much more difficult. There, many people didn’t even know what vegetarian is and you couldn’t get vegetarian snacks outside. Unless you order a pizza and specify what ingredients you want on it. There, too, people often looked at me strangely when I said I was vegetarian. They still always offered something from meat even though I said I don’t eat it. Meat substitutes are also not available but in my case that is not a big deal because I can’t eat it anyway. Because of my irritable bowel, I can’t digest that very well.

Dilemma: elite sports with irritable bowel

How do people within your hometown or country react when you tell them you are a vegetarian ?

In Peru, people are beginning to become more aware of good and bad food. There are several vegan restaurants, although they usually have foreign owners, where you can eat healthy and delicious food. There are also vegetarian restaurants that do own Peruvians, and often those restaurants are heartily full at lunchtime. Vegetarian diets are also prescribed for certain diseases by doctors here. I just don’t know for a moment what diseases those are. As far as restaurants go, the Netherlands could learn a thing or two from this.
Most people in Lima ask why I am a vegetarian, and after explaining, they understand why I am. Often you still get the comment afterwards that they themselves could not resist the meat, because it is so delicious. But they agree that it is not very healthy. My training buddies often do comment and joke that I should eat meat to have more energy during workouts. Sometimes I have anemia (anemia. ed) because of iron deficiency and then their answer is to eat kidney from the cow even though they know I don’t eat meat.

Exercising 4 hours a day as a vegetarian with irritable bowel syndrome. How do you do that?

Since I exercise 4 hours a day, I do need some extra vitamins and minerals. As a vegetarian or vegan, this is quite doable as long as you eat foods that are iron-rich. For example, legumes and beans are then very important. Vegetables such as broccoli and spinach and green leafy vegetables are high in iron. Certain fruits can also help you absorb iron from certain foods. But when you have irritable bowel, things are unfortunately a little different.
Legumes and beans cause gases which in turn cause abdominal pain. As well as broccoli and many other vegetables and also many fruits because of all the sugars that fruits contain. Of course, you can choose to take that tummy ache for granted, which I regularly do in the evenings. But when you have to kickbox afterwards, which is a very tough sport and punches and kicks to the stomach are also quite common, you can’t do that. Because of this problem, I cannot get enough iron from my diet and if I don’t pay attention for a while I suffer from anemia and I am overtired and my body does not want to cooperate well.


Chinese natural supplements

For this reason, I will not become a vegan, even though I would like to. I have to – when I am in preparation for a competition – eat fish daily, even though I prefer not to eat fish. I have to eat at least five eggs a day while I prefer not to eat eggs. When I am not in competition preparation, I never eat fish and also much less eggs, despite feeling tired. Recently I started taking Chinese natural supplements that help me against the anemia and make sure I have enough energy and my hemoglobin is not too low. That works fortunately, otherwise I would have to switch to meat and I refuse that anyway.

Exercising regularly with abdominal pain

Even though I pay very close attention to my diet and try to do everything the best I can, my bowels let me down often enough. I regularly train with abdominal pain and often have competitions while I have abdominal pain. It is very annoying, but it is no different, I have been living with it for 10 years and have learned to deal with it.


What does it cost to eat healthy and varied food as a vegetarian or vegan in Peru?

Fortunately, food is not very expensive in Lima and various parts of Peru. In Lima, I spend an average of seven euros a week on vegetables and potatoes. If I would eat fish every day also about seven euros per week. Because of my sport, I eat a lot of eggs which costs about six euros a week. Everything in total comes to a maximum of 30 euros per week, including nuts, quinoa, oatmeal and various flours.
In Iquitos, though, everything is a lot more expensive except for fish and eggs. Iquitos is actually an island and everything has to come by plane or boat. Many vegetables do not grow in Iquitos so they come from other parts of the country and because of transportation, prices shoot up. Then we talk about Dutch prices, while Iquitos is the poorest city in all of Peru. So vegetables are generally not eaten there either.

From the Netherlands to Peru

What did you find most difficult about your emigration? And what did you like best?

The hardest part of my emigration was, adjusting to the slow culture and unclear information. In the Netherlands, I had set up my foundation in two weeks. To accomplish the projects, I also had to have a foundation in Peru, which I hoped to have in place within three weeks. Then I even kept in mind that it would all take a little longer.


The kickboxing project was the biggest success where we had more than 100 students.


If you ask any agency for information about supplies to start or apply for something you will only get half of the information. Then you come back with everything you’ve been told you need and then it turns out that there’s still something missing that they haven’t told you, therefore. So you lose another day and the next time something turns out to be missing. So what you could have done in one day, you now take three days to do. That was very frustrating. In the end, it took six weeks to get everything set up and running.

Lisanne van der Molen kickboxing peru

Girlpower: stay away from my body

What I enjoyed most was working with the children. The kickboxing project was the biggest success where we had more than 100 students. I saw great changes in behavior and self-confidence in the children, adolescents and women. They gained confidence in me and my husband (one of the trainers). They told their personal stories which allowed us to learn more and more about the culture in Iquitos. By the way, that culture is very different from the culture in Lima, despite being the same country.


A woman who was first abused by her husband was no longer touched by him after training for a while. He even became afraid of her and went for a run when they got into an argument.


Many stories were very miserable and sad, they go through a lot at a young age but that they felt so good during the training sessions did me good. Many children were already waiting for my husband an hour before practice and ran to him when he arrived. They also stayed long after their training because they felt so comfortable with us. A woman who was first abused by her husband was no longer touched by him after training for a while. He even became afraid of her and went for a run when they got into an argument. She started walking with a straight back and raised head and her clothes changed and you could see her beaming with confidence. Wonderful was that.


Again, I hit it but for me personally. I get to represent Peru at championships, and thanks to winning medals, I get a monthly salary from the Peruvian government. I can live on this salary and not have to work in addition to sports. I can focus 100% on my workouts. This is something that would never happen in the Netherlands since the Dutch government does not subsidize this sport. In fact, I wouldn’t do anything else at all, I’m very satisfied and I think everything that happens, bad or good, is a lesson.


Do you plan to return to the Netherlands someday?

I have always said that I will go back to the Netherlands when I have children of elementary school age. Now I look at it a little differently, the stress in the Netherlands, which the children also experience, is not good for our health. The pressure on schools for teachers and children is also not good for health. If this continues it will only get worse, I know what I am talking about as a teacher. So I don’t really want to go back to Holland at all. I don’t miss Holland at all either. My friends do, but not the country, even though we have a lot of good things in the Netherlands too.
However, I would still like to live in other countries and my husband would like that too so I can see us living somewhere else over time actually. Where, I don’t know yet but we are not staying in a fixed place.


Has foreign countries changed your view of the Netherlands? How do you look at the Netherlands now?

Education in the Netherlands is generally good, despite the fact that the pressure is now extremely high. The order in the Netherlands is also nice, although it could be a little less. But it provides clarity.


Stress is not good for us but all 1000 rules in the Netherlands cause stress


The traffic in the Netherlands is quite quiet compared to Lima, still wonderful to be able to drive 120 on a highway, especially when you can max out at 80 here and there are no highways. In the Netherlands most people keep their appointments and are on time, that shows that you respect each other too, I sometimes miss that here. In Iquitos, I missed the Dutch honesty and directness very much. There the culture is really based on lies and deceit, fortunately in Lima it is not so bad.
What I dislike about the Netherlands is that too much is expected of everyone. Everything must and nothing is allowed, you can’t cancel anything or let it be known that you need some rest. We are being automated like a robot in Holland and forgetting our natural nature. That is a shame, we are human beings and have feelings and a body that responds to what we do and do not do. Stress is not good for us but all 1000 rules in the Netherlands cause stress. The IRS causes stress and everything agencies running after you because you have to pay something. In the Netherlands, everything has to be done NOW and can’t be done a little later and little understanding is shown for problems and little help is offered. We can show more solidarity in the Netherlands.



Emigration Tip

Lisanne: “do you want to emigrate?”

I would like to pass along as a tip that you should first spend some time in a particular country to know if you really want to live there. Then I am talking about a period of at least six months and then actually going to work. Going somewhere on vacation is always fun, but once you have to live and work in a country it is often different. Be sure it is a place where you feel at home. Also realize that there will always be cultural differences, sometimes you don’t support it and sometimes you can understand it, but you can’t change it.

What tips do you have for other vegetarians and/or vegans to when they come to Lima or Peru?

In Lima there are a lot of restaurants and in a lot of places they have vegetarian options as well. For vegan food, though, you have to be at the special restaurants. In the districts of Miraflores and Barranco, which are a bit more touristy, you can easily find restaurants where you can eat vegan or vegetarian.

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Lima

The tastiest restaurants are in Barranco:

  • La pannateria 1 block walk from the plaza and ´germinando vida´ that serves 100% vegan.
  • In miraflores you have a restaurant where you can make your own salad but also have vegan options on the menu, I don’t know the name but this is the address: Berlin 536, Miraflores, Lima.
  • In Iquitos, my favorite restaurant is Bistro Amazonas on the boulevard, whose owner is French and the food is really French with real French fries fried by Peruvians. May not be Peruvian food but it is really delicious and you have delicious vegetarian options.