Darlene's Vegan Health Story: Total Vegan Fitness Bad-Assery
I met Darlene, a 33-year-old nutrition and fitness coach and fitness competitor from Long Beach, California during my training to become a Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator at the Mainstreet Vegan Academy in New York City. The more I get to know about her life and her health philosophy, the more I realize she is a total vegan bad-ass in the best possible way: Mentally, physically and spiritually.
Darlene had digestive issues most of her life
Darlene never liked the usual kid meat foods such as hot dogs and pepperoni but as she grew up, forced herself to eat them anyway. During college, while constantly bingeing on cheese pizza, grilled cheese, Philly cheese steak and bacon she had chronic digestive issues and found out that she also had high cholesterol even though she was an athlete on the college track team.
Little by little as the years passed and her interest in fitness competing grew, she removed more and more of the foods that made her feel sick, starting with chicken and dairy.
"I started doing Bikini Competitions in 2012 and ate a lot eggs, fish and some turkey. At first I felt amazing once removed the dairy from my diet. Whenever I did try to have dairy I felt immediately sick and I realized I did not need dairy in my life," said Darlene. "Even still, doing shows back-to-back, my digestion was getting worse and I didn't know why."
The wedding that changed her life
In September 2013, Darlene went to an all vegan wedding and was amazed with the food.
"It really opened up my eyes to how amazing vegan food tasted," said Darlene. "But I was still skeptical because my perception of vegans were either they looked malnourished or they were obese. I thought there was no such thing as strong lean vegans."
More bad-ass strong, lean vegans
When Darlene met Torre Washington, the vegan bodybuilder, she knew it was possible to fulfill her fitness goals on a vegan diet.
Next she searched for some female vegans among all the vegan bodybuilders.
"I was more convinced once I found all the female body-building vegans and I knew it was 100% possible to become a strong fit vegan athlete and competitor," said Darlene. "I actually reached out to Torre Washington, Melissa Hauser and Koya Webb to see what they eat, because I wanted to eat the way I wanted to look. I thought if I want to look like that person, I will ask for their advice, because the proof is in the pudding. So as a fitness professional, I had to trust my idols."
"After my National Competition in November 2013, I told myself I would make the switch to a whole food plant-based vegan diet," said Darlene. By the stroke of midnight, January 2014, Darlene could call herself 100% vegan and she never looked back.
"Now I feel like a vegan bad-ass at the gym. I have better stamina than before and I just love lifting heavy weights and knowing that my strength comes from whole foods!"
Darlene's doctor says she's doing it right...
Darlene says she noticed the first 7 days after she went vegan, she experienced none of the bloating and digestive issues some other people report when they transition to a whole foods plant-based diet and instead her digestive issues disappeared that quickly.
"I already noticed that my digestion was awesome. I felt great and had none of my usual stomach pains and I felt happier right away," said Darlene. "In 30 days, I noticed my skin was great and I still maintained my post-show weight and felt strong."
Darlene had blood work done after 3 years after being vegan, checking everything because she wanted to be sure she was eating the right nutrients and not lacking anything.
"Also, since I am so into health and provide meal plans to my clients, I want to make sure I am providing the right amount of nutrients for them," said Darlene.
Once she got her blood work results she was ecstatic.
"My doctor said I know what I am doing and my clients are lucky to have me. My cholesterol, vitamin D level, vitamin B12, iron, protein and everything else is perfect and there were no deficiencies on my vegan diet," said Darlene.
She has even written the e-book, the "Affordable Vegan Diet" to show that great vegan nutrition does not have to be expensive.
Building a strong vegan relationship
Darlene was lucky enough to find her vegan bad-ass soulmate, Fat Tony (if you want to know why he has that nick-name, you have to read his story!) and they are getting married later this year.