Hey all! Meet Carrie AKA So Freaking Vegan, one of my plant-loving friends on the other side of the world. Going vegan saved her life, and now, she's spreading the word through her awesomely funny Youtube channel. To me, she's the perfect example of the energy and spirit of veganism, making me laugh, making me think, and motivating me every day. I'm all for anyone that makes compassionate living look this fun! That smile though, am I right?
Tell us about the day you went vegan - what changed?
For most of my life, I was an omnivore. I ate a SAD (Standard American Diet) full of meat and cheese at every meal. When I went to graduate school in 2011, one of my roommates was a vegetarian. I was interested in the lifestyle, and she helped me get started cutting out meat. I was a vegetarian (meat-free, but continued consuming lots of dairy and eggs) for about four years, until I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I was prescribed multiple medications to help manage my horrendous symptoms. The side effects from the drugs actually caused me to feel worse. I not only felt physically ill, but also emotionally ill - struggling with the fact that I had an incurable disease. I began researching PCOS and found overwhelming information on the negative effects of dairy on women’s bodies and the healing benefits of raw fruits and veggies. Right then, I decided to go vegan.
Within a few weeks of living on a raw vegan diet, every single PCOS symptom vanished. My energy skyrocketed. Issues were clearing up that I never even realized I had my whole life. And I no longer had any need for my prescription drugs. I began learning more about how a whole foods vegan diet can prevent and even reverse many of the leading killers in our communities (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes)! I realized that I had the power to take control of my own health.
After being vegan solely for health reasons for a few months, I came across a film called Earthlings on YouTube, which opened my eyes to the realities of how humans use and abuse animals for profit. Never before had I made the connection that as a meat eater and as a vegetarian, I was contributing to such violence towards animals. The animals weren’t just willingly giving their bodies to us. They were innocent beings who wanted to live, just like you and me. At this point veganism became bigger than just myself. I knew I would never again be a willing participant in their abuse and exploitation. I was vegan for life!
Can you remember your first vegan meal?
My first vegan meal was a vegan pizza! I remember going to a pizza restaurant, new to the lifestyle, and being so worried I would mess up and order something non-vegan! When the waitress came to take my order, I remember asking her so many questions: Are there eggs in the crust? Is this made with milk? What’s in the sauce? Is the cheese dairy-free? My super patient waitress eventually stopped and asked, “Are you vegan?” I told her yes, and that today was my very first day. She told me she was vegan too, and had been vegan since she was 11 years old! She convinced me not to worry. She would order me something she always gets, and it would most definitely be 100% vegan! I was so thankful she was my waitress, and thankful to meet another vegan in my city on DAY ONE of my vegan journey! My waitress Charis, and I actually kept in touch after that day, and although we live hundreds of miles apart now, she continues to be one of my greatest, closest friends! By the way, I ended up ordering a gluten-free pizza with vegan cheese, loaded with veggies! Delicious!
What's up with the fruit challenge? Tell me more!
I hosted a 31-Day Fruit Challenge in July and a 30-Day Fruit Challenge in September for detoxification. For those entire months, we feasted on nothing but sweet, juicy, delicious fruit! This 100% fruit detox was so wonderful for my body – a month full of self-love, self-respect, and detoxification! I had been doing research on how humans are natural frugivores. Our bodies are designed to thrive on mainly fruit. Fruit is nature's most perfect gift that we crave exactly as nature prepared it... in its raw, natural, ripe state.
These were the challenge rules:
1. Eat raw, high-water, sweet FRUITS
2. No high fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts
3. No botanical fruits like tomatoes, zucchini, or squash
4. Stay hydrated with water or coconut water.
5. Eat when hungry. Stop when satisfied. No calorie counting.
6. Don't forget to exercise
7. Post daily using #30dayfruitchallenge or #31dayfruitchallenge
From doing the challenge, I experienced amazing digestion, clearer skin, increased energy, and fat loss. I plan to host another fruit challenge next year!
What's your favourite fruit?
My favorite fruit would probably be jackfruit. It is so incredible sweet, delicious, versatile, and massive! They are incredibly hard to find (and expensive) where I live, so having one is such an amazing treat!
Your youtube channel and vegan paraodies present veganism in a fun, entertaining way. Do you think people respond better to that kind of playfulness and positivity?
Thank you so much for saying that! I started the So Freakin’ Vegan YouTube channel in March 2016 to bring awareness to veganism – the lifestyle that saved my life. Through parody music videos, discussions, and of course food, I want people to know that veganism can be simple, healthy, satisfying, accessible, and a lot of fun! My goal is to help people help themselves, while making this world a better place for future generations.
I do believe people respond better to positivity around the vegan philosophy. When we bring our message to people with kindness and compassion, I’ve noticed that it’s better received. We can be kind, yet firm in our values. And we can be understanding, yet uncompromising. When we talk to people, I believe we should assume each person is a compassionate person, who is just unaware of the violence they are contributing to. And we should speak to the compassion within that person! Everyone has a natural instinct to protect themselves when they feel attacked. Our message can be 100% correct, but if its presented in a way that makes someone feel attacked, they will get defensive and miss the whole message.
I believe that planting seeds is so important, and very powerful. We cannot make people change, but we can present the facts and tell our truth. It may not seem like much at the time, but that person will always carry around with them that seed you planted.
What's it like being a vegan in your corner of the world?
I live in North Carolina, located in the United States. The vegan movement here is growing. I’m meeting new vegans in my area all the time! I’ve seen more vegan options being added to grocery stories and restaurant menus. There have been a lot of positive changes towards veganism in my community even in just the 2 years I’ve been vegan. However, North Carolina is a leading producer of pork. Right now in North Carolina, there are more pigs than people! We are home to the world’s largest slaughterhouse. Smithfield Processing Plant in Tarheel, NC kills an estimated 33,000 pigs every single day at just that one facility. Although veganism has come a long way in my corner of the world, it’s got a long way to go.
What are your top 3 tips for going vegan for the first time?
My first tip for going vegan for the first time would be to educate yourself. To be successful you must know, and really understand, why you are making the change. You can do this research by reading books, articles, and watching documentaries. When making any major lifestyle change, if your “why” is strong, you will figure out your “how.” Two great books to read are How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger and The Happy Vegan by Russell Simmons. Some amazing films to watch are: What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.
My second tip is to understand that veganism is not about perfection, but progress! I’ve noticed that many new vegans become intimidated by veganism, thinking that in addition to being vegan, they have to be organic, non-gmo, raw, 80-10-10, gluten-free, sugar-free, non-processed, low-fat, non-hybrid, etc. This can be incredibly overwhelming for a new vegan, or even a long-time vegan! You do not have to be perfect. Just focus on cutting out animal products first, then progress from there. Take it one day at a time.
Lastly, change your mindset. Many people tend to focus on the things they can’t have – the things they’re giving up. However, your whole perspective will change, if you focus on all that you can have. When we are omnivores, we are looking in only one direction when it comes to our food choices - ignoring the hundreds of amazing plant-based foods behind us. When we give up those foods we were once so used to, we tend to feel like we’re missing out. However, if we change our focus, and just turn around to look in a different direction, we will find so many amazing, new plant-based foods and combinations of foods we have yet to even try! You can choose to have a mindset of deprivation, or a mindset of abundance. What you focus on expands!