Being vegan in the south is one if the craziest things you can do. In most rural areas veganism is nearly unheard of. So how did I end up embracing the vegan lifestyle in the unhealthiest state in the nation?
I live in Mississippi, aka Soul Food Central, so I grew up on a steady diet of fried chicken, fried pork chops, and fried catfish paired with any vegetable you can load down with fat back, butter, and salt. To outsiders this sounds ridiculous, but everyone around me ate this way; not just my family, but classmates, teachers, even my physician spent our visits telling me about the good ol’ neck bones and collard greens boiled with bacon he’d had the night before. Basically there was no concept of eating to give your body adequate nutrition. No one goes vegan. Here we only eat for pleasure.
My wake up call came during my junior year of college. I checked Facebook and saw my favorite cousin was in the hospital. What was wrong with her? She was on the verge of slipping into a diabetic coma. At 19 years old she could have lost her life to a condition that she didn’t even know she had. She received treatment, made a great recovery, and now lives a healthier life, but that scare got me thinkin’. Of course I already knew my mother and father both had diabetes and high blood pressure. Of course I remembered that my diabetic grand mother had already suffered a heart attack. But they were old. A 19 year old with diabetes and hypertension made it real for me. At 21 years old, I looked down at my scale reading 298 lbs. I knew I was next. I had to lose weight.
I’d tried diets before in the past, lost 30-40 lbs, then went about enjoying my new body without working to maintain the weight loss. Of course this resulted in gaining back every pound and then some! I really had to make a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix crash diet. I set out to do research and about 50 videos later, I was sure becoming vegan was the way to go.
Though I found it easy to make the switch (not dying at 22 is one hell of a motivator), it did not come without challenges. The first challenge is learning how to eat vegan. Its not just eating grass, fruit, and nuts like opposers love to say. With a quick youtube search, you’ll see the vegan meals don’t have to be boring. Vegan meal options are endless. I love to watch channels channels like SweetPotatoSoul for beginner tips and meal ideas.
The biggest challenge of all is definitely maintaining discipline with visiting or living with people who still eat the standard Mississippi diet. We’re the fattest state for a reason- the food is good. Its comfort food. Its the food grandma makes. Its what we eat at Church gatherings. Its what we learned to make in the kitchen with mama. Soul food just feels and tastes like love. But you have to love yourself and your well-being more than you love Auntie’s Mac n Cheese. (Vegan option here)
It has been 2 years since I began my vegan journey. It has not been with out its ups and downs. There have been many times that I’ve fallen back into old unhealthy habits, but I make it a point to accept my failures then get right back to work. I have lost 70 lbs total and I know if I keep working towards better food habits its all down from here!