Vegan Like Me aims to profile fellow vegans, from all walks of life from everywhere in the world! We’ve all been beginners and I think its important for folks to hear people’s stories in order to motivate themselves to keep going. This feature is intended to do just that. If you are vegan and would like to participate, get in touch with me and I’ll be sure to send our questionnaire along to you.
Name: Amanda Just
Where do you live? Tampa Bay, Florida
How long have you been vegan? ”Vegetarian since 1995, vegan since 2004″
What inspired you to take on a plant-based (vegan/vegetarian) diet? ”When I was 10 years old, a relative at a family dinner turned my world upside down when he “playfully,” pointed out that the steak we were all about to eat was a cow. I was in shock. I had never thought about my food before! I swore off all meat that night, but my mother, concerned about “protein,” convinced me that chicken was okay. But with age comes wisdom, and shortly after I turned 11, I was completely vegetarian.
During my later high school years, I unintentionally started learning more about the dairy and egg industries. Specifically, I stumbled upon an article that stated there was pus in milk, and I immediately switched to soy milk. Giving up cheese was easy, but ice cream took time. After about two years of transitioning, I went completely vegan in 2004 and never looked back. “
What do you love most about being vegan? “I feel lighter, not only in my conscience, but from head to toe. And I want to clarify that I only began to feel lighter physically once I balanced my diet. I was a “junk food vegetarian” for years, and a “junk food vegan” the first year, and I felt awful all of the time. Sick, heavy, sluggish… Ditching the dairy helped a little, but once I taught myself to cook and started to really explore the produce section (and, for me, cutting out wheat products), I finally felt lighter and cleaner.”
What three items do you always have in your pantry? “My fridge always has Sabra hummus, almond milk (unsweetened plain and sweetened chocolate), and a glass shaker jar of nooch (nutritional yeast).
The freezer always stores a variety of frozen vegetables (especially broccoli and Brussels sprouts), frozen fruit (usually blueberries and banana slices), and, lately, frozen servings of homemade stews and chilis for quick and easy dinners.
My pantry shelves always have black beans and chick peas, Medjool dates, and Bragg’s liquid aminos. “
What is your favorite vegan comfort food? “Tater tots and chocolate (but not together)”
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about taking on a plant-based (vegan) diet? “There’s the usual advice that is truly helpful: listen to your body, educate yourself, experiment in the kitchen, watch “Forks Over Knives,” etc. But beyond that, I would say hook-up with a local vegan group for that support system. Growing up, I was the only vegetarian I knew, and it felt isolating at times. Thank goodness for the Internet, which connected me with other vegetarians and vegans around the world. It helped tremendously! Then MeetUp.com made it even better. I’ve found vegan groups in different cities (I moved a couple of times) and it’s SO NICE to hang out with a group of like-minded individuals. If you don’t have a vegan group in your city, START ONE!”
Do you find anything difficult about being vegan? “Years ago, I would have said either “going out to eat,” or “comments from non-vegans.” Going out to eat is pretty easy, and much easier than it was when I first went vegan. The same goes for other people’s comments. Veganism is becoming more and more mainstream and more people are aware of veganism and the reasons to become vegan. Between celebrities going veg and movies like “Forks Over Knives” and “Vegucated,” I’m surprised if someone DOESN’T know the V word!”
Any other comments you or words of wisdom you would like to add? “I write the blog, Hungry Vegan Traveler and contribute to several other sites, including This Dish Is Veg and ForksOverKnives.com. I’m very active in the vegan scene of beautiful Tampa Bay, Florida, via co-organizing vegan events and groups, running local Facebook pages, volunteering, and teaching.”
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Amanda! I have recently started attending a monthly vegan meet-up locally, and I agree with Amanda when she says how awesome it is to hang out with folks who feel the same way you do. The vegan community is endlessly amazing!