By Rosemary Kelly
About 22 years ago, when I was just an eight-year-old in third grade, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. I remember walking to the lunchroom with my best friend and telling her all about this new change I was going to make. As we walked up to join the rest of our classmates in line, I noticed that it was hot dog day. Hot dogs used to be one of my favorite meals as a child—along with mac n’ cheese, steak with ketchup, chocolate chip cookies, fish sticks, salami, and all of those other healthy choices. So, I did what I would do every other day. I loaded up my tray with milk, veggies, and, obviously, a hot dog. I still remember the look my best friend was giving me when I sat down, and I looked back at her when I picked up my hot dog and said, “What? Tomorrow is a new day.” And that it was. “Tomorrow” wound up being the first day of the new me.
I went through my entire childhood being the girl who ate “weird.” I was always asked questions about what I ate and why. I basically had to go through my entire childhood explaining to people how I ate and why I ate it. I remember feeling like it was not fair to have to explain myself all of the time. I also remember being confused at how rude people were to me about this. All I knew when I was little was that I was a vegetarian because I could not wrap my head around why an animal should suffer and die because I had a craving to eat its flesh. To me, an animal’s life was not worth a meal or an extra topping to a dish I was making.
When it was time to venture off to college, I knew I wanted to learn more about the benefits behind this vegetarian lifestyle I had been living. I wound up studying nutrition and graduated with a degree in Health Communications with a focus in Nutrition. I always found it odd that we go through our entire lives wanting to know how our televisions, cars, phones, and so on works, but we have no desire to understand how our bodies work.
On July 24th, 2013, my life was forever changed. One of my best friends wound up going from a huge meat and dairy consumer to a strict vegan. I knew a lot about vegetarian lifestyles, but I had no idea about vegan lifestyles. She suggested that I watch the documentary, Vegucated on Netflix. Since my boyfriend, who is a meat eater, was out of town, I decided to relax on the couch and watch Vegucated. My entire life was changed. July 24th was another first day and another new me.
Again, as a vegan, people were curious as to what I eat, how I get nutrients, where my protein comes from, how I can possibly be alive, etc. And again, people looked at me more confused when I started explaining nutrition to them. Like the quotes thrown around on Instagram say: “No one cares about your protein intake until they find out you are vegan.” Most of the people who ask had no idea that protein is made up of amino acids!
By the end of 2013, I was ready for a new challenge, so I decided to sign up for a body building competition to compete as a vegan bikini competitor. So I did. On March 26th, 2014 I walked onto that stage after a three-month vegan prep and it was amazing. People were more curious than ever about my diet. I was walking around toned and lean, and people’s jaws dropped when I told them I was vegan.
As of October 2014, I am near the end of prepping for my second bikini competition. I spend hours in the gym and the kitchen preparing for this event. Not only am I a vegan competitor, but this prep I have not had any gluten or soy. I have basically lived off of vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, and Sunwarrior protein shakes. Sunwarrior is my hero when it comes to prepping for these events. It is a staple in my training diet and has become a staple in my offseason diet as well. I post a lot about my diet on my Instagram page because guess what? People still ask me about my nutrients. So go ahead and follow me @bikinirawkinvegan and check out my educational posts and amazing recipes using real ingredients.