How long have you been vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian? And what inspired your journey?
I’ve been a vegetarian since April, 1985 (26 years). I am lacto-vegetarian and do not eat meat, fish, poultry or eggs. I do eat some dairy products (rennetless cheese) but very infrequently.
I am a vegetarian for spiritual reasons, and became one after meeting my husband (we were just dating at the time). He introduced me to a way of living that included not taking higher forms of life in order to eat, understanding that there is a karmic price to pay for every action so if we want to make spiritual progress we should try to keep our karmas light.
I INSTANTLY resonated with this message and went from a meat eater three times/day to a vegetarian overnight. The problem was that I LOVED soul food (I am from Detroit with southern roots) so I literally had NO IDEA what to eat. Since then, I have perfected our approach to vegetarian soul and ethnic food that everyone loves, my non-vegetarian friends as well.
Also, my two children (Kamaal – 24, and Londale, Jr. – 23) were both conceived and raised vegetarian and have remained so since birth. My son is 6’6″, weighs 200 lbs and even played Division 1 College basketball and has never eaten meat. My daughter played rugby in college and traveled abroad her freshman year (Costa Rica), and has never eaten meat. My husband was a cop for over 20 years and has not eaten meat since 1982. I think we may be one of the few if not the only African-American fully vegetarian family!
Has vegetarianism, veganism, or pescatarianism enhanced your health? Why or why not?
Absolutely! Before I became a vegetarian, I had horrible stomach pains and was always constipated. I was too “dense” to realize that it was due to my “meat-at-every-meal” lifestyle. Since making the switch, my digestion is normal, I have NO problems with my weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. At 48 years old, I still wear a size 4 and can swap clothes with my 24 year old daughter.
I KNOW this is due to the diet and not to genetics. My father died at age 66 fro heart disease, and my mother, who is now 80, is 100 lbs overweight, has high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. She is a victim of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) with a “soul food” slant.
The good news about her is that last year, her health became so bad that we moved her to an apartment closer to us (it was either that or a nursing home) so that we could provide for her care and her meals. For the past 15 months, she has been on a vegetarian diet (with the rare exception when my sister brings her “contraband”) and her health has GREATLY improved.
Here are some quick facts:
1) in the first 3 months after switching to a vegetarian diet, she lost 35 lbs
2) Her doctor took her off insulin (this was after 15 years of taking shot 3x/day)
3) Her doctor took her off cholesterol medication
4) He doctor reduced her blood pressure medication
5) At her checkup last Wednesday, her blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol WERE NORMAL. Her doctor is now sold on a vegetarian diet because he said he had NEVER seen such an improvement for someone so elderly and sick.
Mind you – she eats exactly what we eat. Nothing extreme. We use vegetarian meat alternatives and other products and are not fanatical. So she was able to get these results from a very easy, balanced, simple approach to eating.
In retrospect, how do you feel about meat? Or do you have any thoughts on America’s meat industry?
There is no place in my life, or my family’s life for meat. I would no sooner eat an animal than I would one of my own children. I do not put animals into classes as “pets” vs. “food” – to me they are all the same and my family and I are living proof that you do not have to eat dead animals in order to feel satiated and be healthy and vibrant.
That said, I would never criticize any industry or individual. It is just not fair. Everyone is at their own level of understanding and I am not one of those “angry vegetarians.” Before the day my husband introduced me to this way of life, I was not “tryin’ to hear” ANYTHING about vegetarian living. He was not judgmental which is what peaked my interest even more. I am totally about sharing information that can help but not forcing my beliefs down anyone’s throat. It is not right and it actually turns people off.
Was there a community of black women that helped you along your meatless journey? And if not, what are you doing to change this for others?
NO!! Being Black and vegetarian 26 years ago was like being a Martian! My husband and I were on our own! We have to survive many family visits answering “why don’t we eat no chicken!”
Sharing this message with Black women is so close to my heart because I am one and I know we need it most!! So, In 2007, when my daughter moved from a dorm to an apartment on campus, she finally coerced me into writing up all of my recipes. Those recipes evolved in our first book, “Throwin’ Down Vegetarian Style” which is available on my website and on Amazon.com. I have also written a “7 Day Vegetarian Starter Kit” which is on Amazon, or for free as an eBook from my site. I wanted to do a free book so that EVERYONE could at least have some info even if they are on a strict budget.
In addition to this, I have done numerous free presentations here in Los Angeles at libraries, churches, community centers, schools, and for groups such as AARP, Sisters Staying Healthy, and Black Women for Wellness.
Finally, I have a website, blog, facebook page and YouTube channel where I share info and cooking tips and hopefully inspirational support for those who need it. Sharing this message with Black women is so close to my heart because I am one and I know we need it most!!
Are you a vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian? Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be featured in the Black Female Vegetarian Series. Check back every Tuesday and Friday for a new profile! Click to read past profiles here.