My name is Grace and I am so excited to be one of the Engine 2 Diet college interns! I am twenty years old and a junior at New York University majoring in Nutrition & Dietetics. Going vegan was not only the best decision I have made for my mental and physical well-being, but it has also been the best investment I have made in my education. I became passionate about health and wellness when I decided to become a vegetarian when I was fifteen. And by vegetarian, I mean I was eating everything but meat. I was eating fish, baked goods, dairy, butter – the works. I eliminated sugar and wheat from my diet, along with meat and poultry, and lost seventeen pounds. This was a big feat for me, since I went from knowing nothing about nutrition to immersing myself in the scientific knowledge behind calories, nutrients, exercise and food in general, and then actually seeing results. And I was not alone on this journey; my mom was with me every step of the way and has been ever since.
However, after four years as a vegetarian, I knew it was time for a change. My sushi obsession was becoming unappetizing, and constantly cracking eggs and melting butter was beginning to really make me think about where the ingredients I used were actually coming from. I had also gained back all the weight I had lost and added wheat and sugar back into my diet, as if no change had ever occurred. I was always broken out, I had eczema up and down my arms and I began to notice that my hair was broken, brittle and split on the ends. On Christmas Eve in 2011, I picked up Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet, on converting to a vegan lifestyle, and threw it into my shopping cart along with all ingredients for Christmas dinner & dessert: tuna, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, chocolate, caramel, sugar, bread, etc. One week, a few chapters, and all the Christmas left overs later, my mom and I decided to go vegan.
It was like flipping a switch. We quit all animal products cold turkey. However, for the first year of being “plant-strong,” we barely ate plants. We were eating all the vegan substitutes for regular food: vegan chicken, veganaise, vegan burgers, bagels with vegan cream cheese, smart balance, vegan BBQ wings, vegan desserts made with processed oils and vegan butters…
The list goes on. It wasn’t until we had been eating these “transition foods” for a year that we actually adopted a plant-strong lifestyle. We began eating kale, chia seeds, quinoa, tempeh, tofu, hummus, avocados, tons of fruit, collard greens, and vegetables we had never even heard of before! It was like being given the key to a whole new world.
All of a sudden, my skin was glowing, I leaned out and began to see muscle again, and my hair was full and healthy. We realized that was the key – being healthy. Not simply finding substitutes for everything you’re used to, but adopting new habits and actually changing your life.
Since then, I have encouraged my entire family to watch Forks Over Knives, in the hopes that it will spark curiosity and excitement in them as it did in me. Along with my mom, my dad, my aunt and two of her young daughters have since adopted a plant- based, whole-foods lifestyle. Even my little sister (who is eight years old) became a self- proclaimed vegetarian when she was six, and has more understanding and passion towards animals than I have ever seen in a child.
Through my studies, I hope to become a Registered Dietitian and further immerse myself in the field of plant-based nutrition. I know that Forks Over Knives and Engine 2 Diet will only continue to inspire people in all stages of life to adopt a whole-foods, plant- based diet and change their lives by taking their health in to their own hands, just as their books, recipes and documentary have inspired my family and me to do the same. I am so excited to be interning with Engine 2 and I can’t wait to spread the word about living a healthy, vibrant, plant-strong life!