Updated: Dec 10, 2019
I've been vegan for 4 years and it has been the best decision I've ever made.
I don't say that "being vegan was the best decision" as a joke or casual comment. I mean it. I didn't know going vegan would change my life so much for the better but looking back, it has. My health, wellbeing, self-confidence, conscious, wallet, and compassion have improved and expanded since going vegan. I'm going to tell you all about why my life leveled up after going vegan and why four years is just the beginning for me.
My Culinary Skills Went from 0 to 60
When I went vegan in October 2015, I took the plunge for health and ethical reasons. I attended a VegFest in my local city of Tampa, FL and saw one of the most horrible animal cruelty documentaries of all time: Earthlings. That day, I went cold turkey and began looking for jobs in the vegan food industry. I was new to Tampa and was still getting my footing with work. I knew that if I was going to go vegan, I needed to learn how to cook for myself.
After scoring a job at a juice bar, I soaked up every piece of information I could about vegan health, juicing, raw foods and plant-based meals. At the time, I was serving as kitchen staff at a small juice shop in Tampa. I was working under a certified vegan chef who took a liking to me and showed me her ways.
Everyday for a month, I studied under one of the most talented and creative chefs I've ever met. She taught me how to make vegan cheese, nut mylks, raw nut meats, sauces, soups, salads, overnight oats, chia seed jars and everything in between. I began to take these recipes home and work on them myself. I would create and recreate different combinations of almond mylk, experimenting with vegan cheesecakes, trying out new recipes for raw tacos and whipping up kale smoothies in the morning.
Four years later, I no longer work at this job but I can say that this plant-based cooking foundation took me from barely ever cooking to considering myself a vegan chef today. I now serve black women all over the world healthy plant-based meals and host workshops and seminars to educate folks on how to make delicious and nutritious culinary meals at home.
I Have Been the Same Weight Since Going Vegan in 2015
For the majority of my childhood, I was "the fat one". I grew up closely with my eldest sister who was naturally endowed with my mother's skinny genes while I took after my father's more muscular genes. When I was 12 years old eating McDonald's every Friday and barely lifting a finger to workout, excess weight overtook my little body and created quite the obesity problem.
I remember when I was 12, I would stand against the wall and measure my stomach. It was almost the same size as a woman who was 6 months pregnant. Believe me, I wasn't the only one who noticed. My sister would call me "Miss Piggy". Whenever I would watch sports on TV with my family, if there was a "big" or "small" competitor, my family would always refer to me as the "big" one. I've been called every name in the book for someone who is overweight or obese.
Then one day, I decided I wanted to feel better. I wanted to eat better, look better, and be perceived as the person I always felt I was. I remained obese until I was 13 when I began running around my local park in the mornings and soon after joined my middle school soccer team. After that, I was a decent weight but it always fluctuated. It was never constant.
When I became vegan in 2015, I found a way to manage my weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. The truth is, eating plant-based foods (and I mean really plant-based not vegan processed soy products) is such an easy way to maintain a healthy weight. Plant foods contain much less fat than other foods but contain nearly all of the nutrients one needs to function as a healthy human. When I stopped eating fatty fast foods and focused more on raw, plant-based foods, I noticed that my weight no longer fluctuated. I no longer struggled with being obese or even thinking about it at all. The foods I ate were naturally able to keep my weight balanced. Since 2015, I have been the same healthy weight and it's been such a game changer for my self-esteem and health.
My Skin, Hair and Body Have Glowed Up
One of the biggest benefits I've noticed is that my skin, hair and body have glowed up significantly. I remember how hard it was to grow my hair and nails during the days when I was heavily eating animal products. I don't think animal products were as much of the problem as was nutrient deficiency. I experienced various nutritional deficiencies by not eating enough vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and water.
People think going vegan means that you limit your body. That not eating animal products is unhealthy and prevents your body from working optimally. This may be true for some but not for me. When I got rid of animal products, it made room for me to feed myself properly and increase the amount of nutrients I was eating. This nutrition shift is what helped my nails, hair and body glow up.
All of the sudden I was eating almonds, drinking water, making avocado toast, consuming coconut oil and other foods and drinks that contain biotin and vitamin E. These two nutrients are what helped my body level up. Biotin is known to help increase hair growth and vitamin E is essential for healthy skin and nails. It was the increase in eating nutrient dense plant-foods that made my body glow up. For me, becoming vegan was the way I was able to achieve that.
Now, my hair is bra-strap length, my skin is acne free (expect on those special days of the month), and my nails grow and grow.
I Realized Eating Plant-Based is NOT Expensive
I was told that going vegan would be expensive. That healthy plant-based foods are pricey. And in some areas, that's true. If folks live in a food desert or in places where its hard to farm, this can be true. But it wasn't true for me. I lived in states like Colorado and Florida which are known for agricultural production and a diversity of food products. Colorado is one of the healthiest states to live in. In Colorado, I lived in Boulder which is an extremely privileged community that has more than 10 natural grocers in a 10 mile radius. I also lived in Florida where sneezing on the ground can help you grow a plant. The soil is so fertile in most parts of Florida that growing any plant from a papaya tree to kale is extremely possible and affordable.
When I am surrounded by places that have a culture of healthy food and the ability to grow all sorts of produce, I found it easy to find healthy plant-based foods for affordable prices. In addition, comparing to meat prices, buying a steak can be $10 a pound. Buying two portobello mushrooms and making grilled portobello mushroom steaks can be as cheap as $2 a pound. Kale is $2 where I'm from. Bell peppers are $1. Garlic is $0.50. Pasta is $4. You can make portobello steaks sauteed with kale, onions and garlic with pasta on the side and have a hearty meal for the same price as a pound of steak.
For me, price is a concern but not the biggest one. When I discovered the true price of eating unhealthy foods over the course of 10 years, I realized that saving my health and eating plant-based foods pays off way faster than dealing with health issues like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. The very diseases that plague several members of my family.
In the long run, is a $10 per pound steak really worth the health implications? This is why I still choose to eat plant-based four years later. It turns out eating plant-based is not so expensive after all. I can go buy healthy food, grow my own and save on my medical bills by choosing a plant-based lifestyle.
My Compassion has Grown
Before I became vegan, I wasn't exactly a jerk, but I also didn't care too much for others. I never thought about the implications of my actions or how other creatures or beings were being affected. I never thought about where my milk came from or who picked my tomatoes. When I dove into this vegan journey, I was exposed to new information. I began following vegan instagram pages, reading nutritional blogs, exposing myself to food justice conversations and animal justice activism. I began to realize that every single part of my food journey is connected to something and someone else.
There is no harm-free food. With every meal I consume, there is always someone or something that gets the shitty end of the stick. Whether it's the animals, the people who cultivate my food or the planet. There is no perfect solution to food but I have found that veganism is a good start.
By going vegan, I save thousands of gallons of water, I reduce my impact on the planet's CO2 levels, I eat more locally and therefore more sustainably, I buy food from companies that treat their farmers with respect, and so on. It's not the perfect lifestyle but it sure makes a difference. The longer I stay vegan, the more my compassion grows and the more aware, awake and careful I am about my food and lifestyle choices.
I needed to go vegan to wake up. and I'm glad I did.
Want to Go Vegan? Now is the Time
It's almost a new year and there's so many opportunities and resources to get you started. I offer plant-based coaching designed to help women of color get started on a vegan lifestyle and get acquainted with some of the benefits that I've experienced. I coach women to be able to cook for themselves, do their own nutritional research and take agency over their lifestyle and food choices. I'm here to be of service as a vegan chef and feed folks healthy plant-based foods that help them level up. I offer a vegan membership program that combines so many of my services and skills into one package to be utilized monthly, daily or however often you like. Do plug into my services and see how I can help you experience a healthy plant-based lifestyle that you love.
For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org