A Health Coach And Fitness Trainer Reveals How Going Vegan Changed Her Life And Got Her In The Best Shape Of Her Life
Hi friends, I'm back with a brand new interview. This week, I'm featuring someone I've have a major girl crush on: Lindsey Diane (@ladolcelindsey)! She candidly shares the pressures of being a model, the meme that made her rethink her food choices, her rocky transition to veganism and so much more. Read on to be inspired about what it's like to live an authentic, mindful and balanced life.
What was your relationship with food and your body like growing up?
Growing up I had a pretty positive relationship with food. My mother was the cook in the family and was a subscriber of the organic life since before it was a trend, so I grew up in a household where food was treated as nourishment and consuming it was considered honoring our bodies. I took on this perspective early on that eating healthy was really just the right thing to do.
However, besides my mother's beliefs on nutrition, I also inherited her body frame; petite, or, real petite depending on how active. I ran long-distance track and rowed crew (both lots of cardio) so well into my high school years I was picked on for being too skinny. I was told many times to "eat a burger" or asked if I ate at all. It absolutely crushed me when people judged me, looked at me like I was ill and there was something wrong with me, when in reality I was standing in front of them, a perfectly healthy human-being just doing everything she could to care for her body. I think because of the negative reactions and comments I got, I felt shameful of my relatively small build during these years, never really learning to love the body I lived in because others kept asking me why I'd choose it, as if I had a choice. After I left for college though, I finally added on a few pounds that made me look more "acceptable" to societal standards and so I stopped worrying about how I looked, until I started modeling that is.
Did you ever struggle with restricting your food intake?
When I was working as an agency signed model in NYC, extreme calorie restriction seemed to be interwoven into the fabric of the fashion industry. Without realizing how it might deeply affect my perception of my own beauty and the beauty of those around me, I blindly accepted that in order to thrive as a model I'd have to suit a very strict mold of how I was supposed to look. I accepted that losing weight (from 110lbs to 100lbs at 5'7) as suggested by my agent and doing everything I needed to attain optimal physical appearance for the job was just "the way business was" and I promised myself I wouldn't take it personal. I insisted that I'd remember that I was beautiful regardless of what the fashion industry thought was beautiful. Although that wasn't how it played out. I learned one of the biggest lessons life could have taught me while modeling - that you truly become who and what you surround yourself with.
It was a part of the culture for girls to bond over food talk. But this wasn't regular food talk. Rather than talking about food we loved, it was us congratulating one another for how little we were able to eat in a day or cheering each other on for tracking only a handful of carrots on our fitness pal app, all while none of us had more than 18% body fat to begin with. It was seen as being a type of support system for your girlfriends when they called you moaning about how they were starving and you lovingly cheered them on to "keep up the hard work" and drink a green juice, and "lots of water to fill your tummy"! It was so widespread and treated as so normal to deprive ourselves of calories that it almost never occurred to me that I had started acting with anorexic tendencies, and it never even dawned on me until long after I left the modeling industry. When your boss is telling you not to eat for a week and only drink raw vegetable juice, you assume this is a normal part of industry standard and that it must not be too harmful. And while doing that for one week every now and then to clean out the system may not actually be that harmful, in this world it became a constant cycle of drastically depriving my body of calories. It became a part of life learning to get around managing hunger, consuming as little as possible; obsessed with how I looked all the time. This type of mentality was everywhere. Us girls bonded over these struggles. But we all seemed to see ourselves as being strong for following through. It was like a culture, never referred to as anorexia, but as we referred to it, #modellife.
Looking back, it’s crazy to think how accepted it was to really put ourselves through all that, and I wonder how agents are still getting by making these recommendations. Of course they always told me they were "just looking out for my best interests." Luckily, I snapped out of it one day and realized what I had in mind for my best interests were a lot different than what they had in mind for me.
Did fitness play a huge role in your life?
I was always active, absolutely. And competitive. I loved the playfulness of competing in sports in grade school and how it drove me to be better. This carried through into my adult life when I discovered how fun beating my personal records in the gym were. Now I compete against no one but myself, and I still use it as a massive tool to better myself.
What led you to become a personal trainer?
Becoming a model, I felt I could be a role model to others of "perfect health" and inspire them to be healthy as well. Since I only saw skinny girls in ads and all over the media, I assumed it was healthy for us all to be ultra skinny. I thought if you looked any different you weren't healthy. Once I realized that most of us really weren't really healthy at all, and that healthy bodies came in all shapes and sizes, it all became rather shallow and unattractive me. I got rid of the ridiculous notion that strutting my physical DNA around like it was supposed to be the perfect vision of how God created woman to look was helping absolutely nobody, and that's when I made the connection that I needed to switch lanes to make a meaningful impact.
Since fitness has always been a baseline for me for feeling my absolute best, I just figured why not start there! A lot of positive change in my life has come from building up my mental stamina in the gym, so teaching people that, helping them to empower themselves, was something I felt eager to do. Now I just had the time to do it.
What inspired your decision to become vegan?
A series of thought-provoking memes. I know, there are still some that joke about the "meaninglessness" of Instagram but baby I beg to differ. I think this is one of the reasons I am so obsessed with the power of social media to help us connect, grow and learn. I saw one random meme that made me stop and think. "I argued with a vegan and found myself defending animal abuse." I could never forget it. Because when I saw it, I immediately thought of every argument I had against veganism, and with it came a sinking feeling in my gut. I felt like this was kind of true. But then I knew, "we need meat"! I dove into that account, searching for justification or something to be able to say this person was wrong, that I was not an animal abuser even though I ate meat, and that I did still love animals even though I ate some of them. I searched for something to make me feel like I wasn't the reason that animals were treated the way they were treated in factory farms. I knew it was awful, but it wasn't my fault. Over the next week or two I kept coming back to this whole concept of being someone who supports animal cruelty all because I ate meat. I like to say I accidentally reeled myself into it by doing too much research. Once you find out the reality of the way your food is made, and discover the all the dangerous health risks that come with it, it really is impossible to ignore. I ended up deciding within 2 weeks of stumbling upon that meme that I only had one choice if I wanted to live authentically from then on out.
What was the most challenging aspect of that transition process?
Definitely feeding myself. I cried, and cried, and cried! I'm not a planner, I was always very much a girl on-the-go type eater. I never made a dish dirty that I owned; in fact I didn't really even own dishes before I went vegan! So when I realized that there were few to NO options for quick, delicious food in my small town in Westchester, it was a hard shock, especially since I almost refused to make food myself. I relied on a few staple salads, veggie burritos I'd beg my husband to cook for me, and looking back I just think God knows what else! I was nourished, but I was far from satisfied.
It wasn't until I radically accepted that I needed to take full responsibility of my own life and stop complaining about how everyone else around me had it convenient. When I got over that mental block, I gently cheerleaded myself into trying new meals twice a week so that I could gain experience and really learn how to feed myself well. Almost 2 years later, I can proudly say I'm not only a pretty good cook but I've built up an arsenal of recipes I've memorized, can go back to, and that take zero mental energy to whip up.
Your physical transformation after transitioning to a plant-based vegan diet has been drastic and amazing! At what point did you start to realize these physical differences?
After around 10-14 days I started observing notable changes. The first thing I noticed was that the little love handles I had my entire life just fell right off to reveal a shape I'd never seen before (even as a model!). My skin even started looking noticeably different, appearing more clear and even-toned. Within the first couple months, I started to catch on to other changes. My hair and nails seemed dramatically healthier/stronger, my periods became way less painful and more regular, and I got this fantastic spike of energy that made me feel light on my feet like I'd never felt before.
What about mentally and emotionally? Have you experienced any shifts?
ABSOLUTELY. The most shocking, unexpected and yet undeniable change I experienced going vegan was the improvement in my mental health. It was bewildering to me, how after just a few weeks of eliminating meat and dairy from my diet, I had started experiencing this sense of just having my shit on lock; of being crystal clear-minded and just not so worrisome. I grew up with anxiety, and was on and off prescription anxiety medication since I was 15. I was told it was a chemical imbalance I was born with. I did make improvements with counseling and learning how to incorporate meditation, but nothing could have fixed me like actually fixing the chemical imbalance I no longer believe I was born with. It was the food. I stopped taking medication within 2 weeks of going vegan, and I haven't even thought about it since.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans?
The biggest misconception is that we don't get enough protein, but the notion that you need meat or dairy for protein is a myth. If you just look at some of the greatest athletes and champions today, you'll see what I mean. Tennis elites Venus and Serena Williams, Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris, UFC fighter Nate Diaz, even Mr Universe 2014 Barny Du Plessis was and remains plant-based today. The truth is that plants have protein, and when you eat a balanced whole foods diet, you're provided with all the energy and recovery fuel you need. Have you ever heard of anyone having of a protein deficiency? You've probably only heard of people getting too much protein.
What would you say to those who are interested in transitioning to veganism but feel overwhelmed?
Start with your "why." Whether it’s for your health, for the animals, or for the planet, and stick firmly to it! Having a big reason motivating you will help give you the mental energy needed to form new habits and adopt this new, very different lifestyle. It requires a lot of learning if you've always depended on a different food pyramid, so get creative with where you look for your resources and inject them into your life.
My favorite suggestion is to consume through your favorite social platforms. I've filled my Instagram feed with resourceful pages for learning and constantly getting inspired with new recipes or foods I've never tried. For the best recipes follow @minimalistbaker, @thisrawsomeveganlife, @rebelrecipes and @thefirstmess, for nutrition education follow @simply_happy_kitchen and @nutrition_facts_org, for staying updated on how the world is going vegan follow @livekindlyco!
What does living a balanced life mean to you?
To me, it’s doing what it takes to be effective. It's taking care of yourself so that you're able to contribute your gifts and talents meaningfully. It's doing what you need to in order to find yourself a steady mind, so that you can roll with the punches and be adaptable. It's giving and receiving. Working and relaxing/enjoying. But it's mostly all fun and games. If I'm laughing and having more fun than anything else, I feel I'm living a balanced life.
ON TO THE FUN STUFF! 5 more questions before we wrap this up 😊
Walk me through your self-care routine.
I wouldn't say I necessarily have a routine. I think it's easy to get caught up in doing all this stuff for other people, and that can really drain you if you forget about your own needs. I see giving my mind & body regular TLC as a key part in being effective at everything I do. At some point it kind of stopped being routine and just became a lifestyle. It's just - caring for myself, and knowing how to give myself what I need when I need it.
This means aiming to be mindful of how I'm feeling inside and out each day. It means I'm drinking lots of water, I'm making moments for meditation here and there throughout the day, I'm making sure I get healthy whole foods in my body, exercising in some way, getting good sleep and doing things like buying myself flowers, lighting candles and taking hot baths often to fill myself up mentally and emotionally.
What's the most flattering pair of workout leggings you own?
Can't even lie, of all the brands I own, I have this one pair of Forever 21 leggings I just refuse to part with. And it's been like, a year! I'm obsessed; mostly because of the way they lovingly hug my peach, but it doesn't hurt that they're super soft & comfy too!
Favorite ab workout right now?
Since I did the #stabilizetosculpt video workout series on my IG I've been obsessed with using the bosu and stability ball for abs. Love challenging my whole core and feeling a real burn!
What's your favorite high protein vegan snack?
Right now I'd say either chickpea salad or protein bliss balls. If I'm on-the-go it always falls between a Cliff bar or a Lenny & Larry's complete cookie.
What's your go-to homemade meal when you're craving comfort food?
can't get enough? FOLLOW LINDSEY on instagram, discover 5 holistic ways to improve your workout progress or try some of her delicious vegan recipes.
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knowing what to say to those who are struggling can be uncomfortable and awkward.
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