• Whitney

Why I Went Vegan

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

A vegan diet means that I do not consume any animal products. I do not eat any dairy, eggs, or meat. Not even fish! No cheese, no ice cream, no milk. Lol There's a lot of confusion about what veganism is, so hopefully this description helps everyone understand what I do not eat. Though, the fun part is what I DO eat! **Oreos are vegan.

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That's a coconut milk latte, bae

In July of 2017, I went vegan. Gasp. I know. I don't do diets. Me going vegan had nothing to do with me wanting to lose weight, because I was truly my happiest at my highest weight. My mother has multiple sclerosis (she was diagnosed before I was born) and her doctor suggested that she try a vegan diet because doctors know so little about the disease and a vegan diet has shown so many benefits for people suffering. My dad said that if mom did the diet, he would do it too. Immediately, both of my parent's health transformed. My Mom has been in remission ever since. She also reversed her diabetes, has more energy, lost sixty pounds, etc. My dad has always been a really fit guy, but he did have high cholesterol and acid reflux. Within a few days of being vegan, his numbers returned to normal and he no longer has heart burn. After a few months, my brother was inspired by them to try veganism. He's a big, strong firefighter, so I didn't really see him sticking with it, but two years later, he's still vegan and all of his numbers are healthy.

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When I initially thought of becoming vegan, it was overwhelming. I envisioned people eating celery with hummus... Something I would only eat in Hell. I tried going vegan three times before I actually committed. The first two times, I focused on cutting out meat. Within twenty-four hours, I would always succumb to dairy. Our restaurant sells these elaborate cheeseboards and it was just dairy! Dairy wasn't meat, right? Then, I saw a gif that changed my life. There was a mother dairy cow who had just given birth to a male. The farmer caught the baby cow before it touched the ground and whisked it away to be killed. The mother cow was screaming for her baby. That's the only word that I can think of to describe it. My grandparents owned a cattle farm growing up and in all of my time around cows, I had never seen or heard anything like that. The more I researched the dairy industry, the more horrified I was. These poor factory-farmed cows are hooked up to machines that pump them for milk non-stop. As soon as they give birth, they are re-insiminated. If the baby is a boy, it is either killed on site or killed and sold as veal.

I look at my basset hound, whom I call my little cow, and I am horrified that I have spent almost thirty years of my life killing an animal who looks just like a bigger version of the one who sleeps on my pillow at night. We are taught to look at meat in plastic wrap and not see the life that was stolen for it. We add dyes to make the salmon more pink, the steak more red, package them in neat, identical containers like we're displaying shoes and handbags. We have completely lost touch with impact that our choices have on others.

So, I changed my focus. I made my focus cutting out dairy, and the strangest thing happened, I stopped craving meat. It took about three days, but I walked by a tray of bacon in the restaurant and I actually back-tracked, because I felt nothing. That was it for me. In the past, I had always had to stop and take a piece of bacon off that tray. It did take me time to figure out how to properly feed myself as a vegan, but after you get past the fact that you don't have to have meat on your plate for a meal to be complete, it's actually super easy. I asked my brother for his favorite go-to's and he said, "I put beans in a pot once a week. It's chili." Lmfao, so... not that difficult to make vegan food. His other recipe was rice. Men...

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What's the difference?

I felt inspired by my family. I also learned about the environmental impact that eating meat, dairy, and eggs has on the planet.

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I get paper bags, recycle, reuse water bottles, don't buy aerosol products, but it had never occurred tome that the food I was eating was impacting the planet too. For every burger skipped, you can save enough water to drink for 3 years! That's just by not eating one burger! I was on the vegan train and I was excited. Really excited! Vegans are excited people. Iftwo vegan strangers meet, they instantly connect over being vegan. I had a cab driver tell me he was vegan and by the end of the trip, we were best friends. There are so few people who even understand what being vegan means! At most restaurants, if I tell the server I'm vegan, they begin pointing out the fish options for me to eat. It can be so frustrating! But my energy was better, my skin was better, I was sleeping through the night, and my pain was less intense. I felt incredible! It's funny because I didn't even note the day that I officially went vegan. I didn't think I would last that long, but now, I have been fully vegan for over a year with no intention of ever going back!

If you decide to go vegan, the number one question you will hear is "Where do you get your protein?" We've all been beaten over the head for our entire lives that we need protein from animal meat for muscles. We need dairy for strong bones, right? Turns out, we don't!

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You can get plenty of protein from eating beans, spinach, brussel sprouts, kale, and so much more! I was completely shocked. And then I started shopping for vegan foods and found that all the foods I thought I would miss by going vegan also had a vegan variation available! There's fish-less fish, crab-less crab cakes, vegan fudge, coconut milk ice cream, vegan macaroni and cheese... the list goes on! And the taste is incredible! I was a complete skeptic and I became totally enthralled by the idea that I could cook all of my favorite foods cruelty-free. I began testing recipes at the restaurant. One night, I made vegan mini shepherds pies and gave out free samples. I didn't tell any customers that they were vegan and people kept telling me that they were the best they'd ever had. Once you make the choice to go vegan, it is actually a lot of fun!

Going vegan also means that I have lost weight, which is surprising to me because french fries and Oreos are vegan and I consume both items often. I do strive to be more plant-based. I also still weigh more than I did when I won America's Next Top Model. I have some theories about why I looked bigger on TV than I really was, but I weigh more now and that's important that my fans and followers know that. I don't want people to think that I've lost too much weight or that I represent an unhealthy image. Losing weight was not my goal when I decided to go vegan. 

I also started a non-profit for low-income kids this year. We have thirteen gangs in our city and no youth programs. We don't even have free basketball courts and the school system only desegregated three years ago. My "kids" ask for groceries and toiletries for Christmas. There is so much need here. It is exhausting and overwhelming, but I am really proud of the person that I have become. It's presumptuious, but between going vegan and working with the teens, I feel confident that I am leaving the world a little better than it was before I was here. 

I am not saying that you have to go vegan, I do own a restaurant with a vegan menu as well as an omnivore menu and it's not my place to judge you. I just want everyone to understand their options. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments!

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