Mastering a vegan diet is no easy task but after having a health scare at a doctor's check-up, Jennifer Wilson, a Senior Theatre major at North Carolina A&T State University, made her final decision to change her diet once and for all. The choice to eliminate meat from her meals not only transformed her body but set an example for the students on campus and for her family as well. Without careful planning, a college student may find themselves surviving on noodles with pasta sauce because many universities aren’t the best at accommodating those with plant-based diets. Thankfully, Jennifer shares some vegan survival tips so you can make the most of your first four vegan years away from home:
1. When did you realize you had no choice but to make a lifestyle change?
The summer of 2014. I was ending my freshman year at North Carolina A&T. I weighed 290 pounds. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so unhappy. I couldn’t fit any of my clothes that I came to school with and I was constantly uncomfortable and sick. After a checkup with my doctor, she told me that I was .2 points away from being pre-diabetic. Diabetes runs in my family. My grandmother learned she had diabetes when she was 47 years old, my uncle learned he had it at half her age. Based off of the rate I was going, I knew that if I didn’t change my lifestyle I would be headed down the same path.
2. How did you say goodbye to a beloved friend... meat?!
I went cold turkey! I'm the type of girl that has to put 110% in everything I do. Logically to me, if I could eat cheese, there was nothing wrong with eating meat. They both come from the same animal. So I knew that I needed to go vegan. It was in the middle of June of 2015, I was eating a Chicken Sandwich. After talking to a friend who had incredible results after going vegan, I absent-mindedly said I could turn vegan cold-turkey if I wanted to. He laughed and bet that I wouldn’t last until the end of the year. It is 2017 and I'm still going strong.
3. What are some of your favorite vegan recipes?
All of my favorite recipes are the same from before I became a vegan. I just had to find vegan substitutes. My favorite food is still Macaroni & Cheese. Instead of regular cheese, I use a combination of Mozzarella Dairy-free cheese and Daiya Alfredo Sauce. It still tastes just as good to me!
4. Do you see yourself working in fitness and health and the future?
I most definitely see myself working with fitness and health in the future. I hope to lead fitness classes like Zumba and Cycling. I also plan to open up “Jenn’N’Juice” A healthy Juice Shop. Also, because I am a Theatre student, I will still pursue starting my nonprofit organization "Love The Art," that teaches at-risk youth to effectively communicate through means of theatre as well as continue to my growth in professional acting!
5. As a student, how do you manage to stay healthy, especially when some school cafeterias do not have a wide variety of healthy, vegan and vegetarian options?
It was honestly a lot easier for me to stay healthy when I moved off of campus. The year I became a vegan I had an apartment with no meal plan. Because of this, I was forced to cook my own food. I just made sure that I didn't get any unhealthy foods to tempt myself. When I was a Junior, I moved back on campus to be a Resident Assistant. Although, the cafeteria had made efforts to accommodate the vegans at the school, it was more of a challenge. The vegan lines were closed from Friday night to Sunday Afternoon. To avoid being hungry and just eating Salads on those days, I bought vegan snacks and food that I made in my room. I kept things like canned vegetables, brown rice and a large assortment of fruits.
6. How can a college student eat healthy on a budget?
Use the money that you would use on fast food for healthy snacks. I know it’s easier said than done but it is possible. Start couponing!!! Once I started doing that I started saving about $10-$15 per grocery trip. Buying things in bulk also helps reduce cost.
7. Workout music is a major key to a successful workout. What do you listen to?
I listen to rap. Anything that has a fast and hard beat is something that I play during cardio. I love music. Listening to the beat gets me hype and helps me get through the workout. I also add R&B and to my playlists. When those songs play, I’ll take the time to steady my heartbeat and prepare for the next round of high-intensity cardio/weightlifting.
8. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with her image and weight loss journey?
- God made you in his image. Never see yourself as less than because you don’t have what somebody else does.
- The best things in life come after you learn to love yourself. It’s the journey, not the destination that makes everything worthwhile. All of the challenges you face while you’re trying to obtain your goal is what helps you grow and appreciate where you end up so much more.
- Fall down 7 times, Stand up 8. Never give up on your goal. What may take somebody 7 months might take you 7 years & that’s okay.
9. All Jokes Aside, people say Avocados are the food of the millennial generation... are you down with Avocado?
I am 110% here for the avocado movement. It’s one of my favorite things to eat. You can add avocados to anything. I just wouldn’t eat too much in one day. Even too much good things at one time are bad for you. Moderation is key.