Beyonce’s recent Good Morning America publicity blunder to announce her semi-vegan lifestyle and celebrity endorsement and launch of her and her trainer Marco Borges’ (pricey) new vegan meal delivery service called 22 Days Nutrition may not have been in vain.
Even though it took years of reading works like By Any Greens Necessary, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Callus On My Soul, and Sistah Vegan to force me to rethink my relationship with food—where my food came from, how it was made, the connection between racism and food choice, and food’s impact my health and wealth, Beyonce’s big “reveal” and star-studded stamp of approval could have inspired many a Black girl to reflect on what they eat.
I’m confident that somewhere under the rubble of Beyonce’s public relations snafu, there were a few black girl vegan-converts.
I had the chance to speak with Naliaka Wakhisi , a Miami-bred eclectic artist and founder of NYC Vegans of Color, to deepen this conversation. In my interview, Wakhisi shares how veganism can be the best thing for Black women’s health and financial wellness.
MadameNoire: How can a vegan diet help Black women?
Naliaka Wakhisi: Because of African Americans’ unique relationship to food, we are prone to many diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes…
Black women especially are encouraged and pressured into not only cooking unhealthy comfort food, but also keeping up with a “thick” body that may be detrimental to their health. It is possible to be thick, fit and healthy! Being vegan shapes you into a person who is making better choices. You are no longer eating all the sugars and fats but incorporating more vegetables and plant-based foods that really are in line with our connection to the earth and wonderful health benefits.
MN: What are common misconceptions about veganism that may deter Black women from considering a vegan lifestyle?
NW: When I became vegan I was ridiculed for adopting a “white” and “elitist” diet. I was told that only privileged people can afford to eat vegan food. I don’t think people know what vegan means.
Almost every week people ask me “So, you have to save up to pay for all your specialty items, right?” No, not at all! When I go to the grocery store, I leave with a bag of black beans, yams, collards, quinoa, and almond milk trust; it’ll cost WAY less than fish, meat, eggs, cheese, boxed foods, packaged snacks, and unhealthy desserts. In fact, because I am vegan, there are so many things I no longer buy that were pretty costly. Also, a lot of people think that you will get skinny and look unhealthy. If anything, I’ve kept ALL my curves AND I’ve slimmed down, it’s harder for me to gain weight, my skin glows, and I am HAPPIER!
MN: Why did you become a vegan?
NW: I am one of those Black women where disease runs in my family. I went to the doctor and they said I had high blood pressure. My body fat percentage was also very high. I decided to change my entire life. I became vegan because it really forced me not to eat brownies and cakes every day. It also encouraged me to cook more and create my own delicious meals. I’m very picky and do not like most vegetables. Being vegan forced me to really explore that and find veggies that I like. Lastly it gave me self-control. I lost weight and learned a great deal about real food.
MN: How can we save when going vegan?
NW: This is a great question because I got this advice before becoming vegan. I was encouraged not to eat all the processed fake meats and also not to eat all the raw vegan snacks and crackers and baked goods. That’s what gets so pricey. You spend so much money trying to buy things that taste like meat when really you can use vegetables to achieve fulfillment. You can make cauliflower nuggets instead of buying fake meat nuggets. You can make kale chips instead of going heavy on regular chips and buying the fancy $6 a pint raw kale chips at the store. You can eat more fruits and dark berries and blend them into desserts instead of buying vegan cheesecakes and vegan ice creams which really hurt the pocket book. If you focus on shopping the outer isles and buying nuts, seeds, vegetables, and berries you will notice that it’s not expensive at all.
MN: What advice do you give to those of us that have tried to transition but have failed? What should we be doing differently?
NW: The biggest reason people fail is because they do not have support. When I became vegan none of my friends supported me. Everybody made fun of me. (And still do!)
The best thing you can do is find a community. I joined so many Meetup groups and went to a lot of vegan events. There you meet people just like you who have gone through what you went through! If you cannot find a community, then make one!
As a Black person I wasn’t seeing a lot of Black folks at these vegan events, so I created Vegans of Color and I found over 700 of us so far! Many people in the group who weren’t vegan successfully are now FULLY vegan. Community really does help. And if you are not a big organizer, no worries: cook vegan dinners or have a vegan potluck, invite your friends to the dinner or potluck and that way they can get a glimpse of your life and they can support you more. I have hosted many vegan dinners and potlucks and all my meat-eating friends were very impressed and satisfied.
If you’ve considered converting to veganism but thought it was too big a change, consider the big benefits that you can reap with the smallest of shifts.
Kara is founder of the personal finance and lifestyle blog The Frugal Feminista. Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at www.thefrugalfeminista.com Get your FREE ebook: The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan: Eliminate Debt, Know Your Worth, and Heal Your Relationship with Money in Just 5-days at www.thefrugalfeminista.com