simple and easy.
I want to help you get Fit & Healthy
My Full Story
In my mid twenties I had body dysmorphia.
In my mid twenties I had body dysmorphia. I lived in Rochester, Minnesota. I had just moved into a beautiful townhouse as an excited newly wed. During this time in my life my dysmorphia made me feel extremely insecure. Dysmorphia is a mental health condition where you can’t stop thinking about one or more of your perceived flaws or deficits in your physical appearance. I had almost no self-confidence. I became socially avoidant and I fell into depression. I could not tell anyone around me what was going on because internally I was freaking out all of the time and did not know what was going on. I did not seek help. It impacted my entire life because I became so focused on the internal negative dialogue that I became distant and withdrawn from those closest to me. I felt that they would “see” my physical “flaws” and judge me. It even affected the levels of intimacy that I had with my new wife at the time. My skin crawled and my heart rate went through the roof at the thought of being touched! I was not comfortable in my own skin.
While all of this was going on internally, externally in society I was experiencing prejudice and bias firsthand. I was constantly bombarded with news reports about police brutality towards communities of color i.e Mike Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and George Floyd to name a few. I felt hopeless, powerless, and constantly afraid.
I knew that I needed change.
One day I was driving in my car on highway 52 heading south back home in Rochester. It was a beautiful spring day. It was just me and the road. My cousin called me in the car. He was so excited he could hardly speak. “You gotta see this, this is life changing!” So then I got excited. He enthusiastically recommended that I check a film. He was talking about the documentary Cowspiracy.
At the time I didn’t know what it was about. I watched it later that evening as soon as I got home. I watched it alone without any pretense. I was curious what it was all about. About halfway through the film a light went off in my head. Although it was a tough watch there was a freeing movement in my system. “So this is where all the problems come from!”,the thought exploded inside me like a picture coming into intense focus . Right then and there I decided to go vegan!
It was like the documentary was speaking directly to me. It addressed the environmental and animal reasons for transitioning to a plant-based diet. The social justice and health impacts hit the hardest.
“While pollution is almost everywhere, certain communities are burdened with a disproportionate number of facilities that fill the air, soil, and water with contaminants. Typically found in black and brown communities and low-income communities, industrial polluters such as landfills, trash incinerators, coal plants, and toxic waste dumps affect the well-being of residents. Their health is also often compromised due to a lack of access to healthy foods in their neighborhoods. Those who work on environmental justice issues refer to these inequities as environmental racism”. ( https://foodispower.org/environmental-and-global/environmental-racism/)
If black and brown communities are the most disproportionately affected by the ill effects of animal agriculture (aside from the animals), then why wouldn’t I choose to take action by changing the things that I add to my grocery list? If black and brown communities are more disproportionately affected by poor health outcomes due to lack of access to healthy foods and nutrition education, then why wouldn’t I choose to take action and lead by example to become the change that I wanted to see in the world?
Well...it wasn’t that simple!
As I stated I had only watched half of the documentary before I was all in and by the time the credits rolled I was already texting people “OMG I just saw this thing. We ALL gotta go vegan NOW!”. I felt like I had just discovered the answer to all of life’s problems and mysteries. My cousin was in! For three weeks anyway. After he dropped off, it felt like no one really cared! Literally no one. So I went vegan all by myself. “Not a problem”, I thought, “ I can do that!”.
I went vegan cold turkey.
I instantly removed meat and dairy from my menu. As I transitioned I learned that going vegan has its own set of obstacles that I would soon encounter.In 2017 when I transitioned only .5% of the US population identified as vegan. ⅔ vegans are female and the majority are white. Why was this an obstacle? Because I was already an ethnic minority struggling to deal with society, and now I was joining a social minority group with even less societal representation! I’m a black vegan man and only about 8% of vegans are black. I could feel the social isolation in my bones. But I persisted.
In addition to that, I had no clue about nutrition.
I could cook and eat, but I didn’t understand macronutrients, I didn’t take the time to learn...as a result, I lost muscle mass, became “skinny fat” and fell even harder into my depression.
I was ashamed to tell people that I was vegan because without fail I would get the question “where do you get your protein?”. I would rattle off answers, but because I didn’t look fit and healthy myself, people would challenge it or roll their eyes like “sure”,
Another obstacle was the fact that I had never tried vegan food before I transitioned, so I didn’t know how it was supposed to taste. As a result, I made a lot, and I mean a lot, of bad food. As a result, I ended up choking down a lot of stuff that tasted terrible. Because I felt like I was alone in the vegan cause, I just kept it all to myself.
There was another action I took at the time. I learned to manage the social aspects of being vegan by becoming a diversity trainer. That is a trainer in equity and inclusion. I started being a voice to the voiceless, I got on stage and taught about bias, microaggressions, invalidations, and teaching people how to respond when they see hate and bias in their communities. It was an amazing job, but after work, I would still need to eat. So I understood the social aspects of being a vegan. But I was missing the nutrition and nice menus, and therefore my health was compromised. Therein lies my biggest struggle yet!
What did I eat?
To answer this question I would go to youtube and follow a few recipes or make dinner based on a blog article, but how was I supposed to eat all day every day? How was I supposed to eat fast food or at restaurants with such limited available options nearby? How was I supposed to get enough protein? I looked high and low for answers and solutions and tried just about everything, I still wasn’t enjoying my food, I was still struggling to eat things that I hated, and I was skinny fat.
In 2020 I decided to make a change once and for all.
It was a tough year for everyone no doubt, and it was for me too, but this was the year that I decided to make a change in my vegan journey for good. I chose to hire a professional vegan nutrition coach/personal trainer. I had to spend some money but it was well worth it. Working with a coach 1:1 who provided meal plans and nutrition education was the best thing that I did for myself. He helped to normalize and validate my concerns about being vegan, he provided practical advice and solutions, and he customized my meals so that I actually enjoyed the things that I was eating. This helped me get lean and shredded in the process. Let’s do the math 2017-2020… Those are 3 years of my life that I did not enjoy eating. Having a coach inspired me so much and after I finished the program I was reinvigorated! I gained back control over my life, I got self confidence like I never experienced before, my health stabilized and improved! I also took control of my body dysmorphia through work with a professional psychotherapist. All this started with making a choice and investing in how to make it work. I also got divorced and I am current self-partnered, meaning; I am single but I am not looking to mingle.
The personal insights, growth, and success I experienced inspired me to further my own education and become a certified nutrition coach myself! This allows me to use my personal experience and hard won wisdom to support others on the path.
I also did something else this year. I decided to become a men's physique competitor!
Me in october 2020
Me in october 2021
I am today for you, who I needed back when I was new in my vegan journey.
To me, being a nutrition coach is about being able to help vegans just like you, build their nutritional knowledge, kitchen skills, meal planning options and increase the self-confidence that they need to live healthy and happy lives while enjoying everything that they eat. I want to make this journey easier and more fun in hopes that you will get to enjoy the benefits I know are possible for you!
Simbaa k. Akamaru, CNC