Why I'm Going Vegan

On July 14, 2017, I made the decision to go vegan –or at least to start a one-week challenge free of eating any animal/animal products to see what happens. What caused this sudden change of heart about food? Well, for starters, I watched the new documentary “What the Health” on Netflix and I encourage you to do the same.


I’ve been an athlete all my life, playing competitive basketball since the age of nine and throughout college. I grew up in the gym lifting weights, running lines, and doing basketball drills, and that manifested its way into my adult life.

My 12U AAU basketball team 

My 12U AAU basketball team 


But it’s been awhile since I could call myself a gym rat. Throughout my years as an athlete, my eating was always subpar at best (that metabolism though?!). I remember my junior or senior season, my coach suggested I see a nutritionist because I was running out of steam in games. In my head I was thinking there was good reason for that. As the point guard on the team, I handled and distributed the ball 90% of the time, and guarded the other team's best player 75% of the time. I also had curves -- black girl booty, hips, and thighs to carry around! I saw the nutritionist, who recommended peanut butter, mixed nuts, and string cheese for energy boosters, and went on my way. Looking back, I wonder if going vegan would have enhanced my sport performance. Vegan athletes swear that it does.


My first college season at Mercer University

My first college season at Mercer University

Running point at Emory University

Running point at Emory University


After graduate school, I spent some time as a personal trainer and considered myself a fitness enthusiast.


"Don't wish it was easy. Wish you were better." - My training days circa 2014

"Don't wish it was easy. Wish you were better." - My training days circa 2014

At the age of 25, I felt really fit. I was a lean 135 pounds with abs, a sculpted back, and toned legs. I ate oatmeal, protein shakes, carrots and hummus, dry chicken, yogurt, fish and broccoli. Still, I consumed meat. I once tried tofu while in college at the cafeteria on campus and found it to be disgusting. I tried once more for good measure but had the same result. Yuck! If I had to substitute tofu for meat in order to get the necessary protein in a vegan diet, then I would NEVER be vegan!



About the time I graduated from grad school, I started having increasing stomach issues. I visited a gastroenterologist twice and she diagnosed me with IBS. Some of my symptoms included: extreme bloating, gas and stomach distension. Basically, there were times after I ate when I would look like I was six to eight months pregnant and have extreme discomfort. The doctor couldn’t pinpoint the culprit and neither could I, although she assessed that it was more than likely connected to my diet and eating too fast. I chalked it up to maybe consuming too many vegetables or having food allergies.


So there’s a little of my backstory with lifestyle choices. I am now 28 years old (almost 29) and a new mom. I'm currently still nursing my little one, and the thought of passing along toxins and unhealthy habits to him makes me feel terrible. 



But why vegan? I could always just strive for vegetarian. I mean, chicken has been my homeboy, but I could settle for grilled salmon and shrimp.



Well, keep reading…


Here are the reasons I’m giving veganism a serious try:



1.     I watched "What the Health" on Netflix


This documentary is eye-opening! Here are a few of the arguments made in the hour and a half film that stood out to me and compelled me to make a change in my own life.


We treat disease instead of preventing disease. 


Do you know who sponsors the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and Susan G. Komen organizations? Hint: These large corporations receive money from the same food companies that produce meat and animal products, which studies have shown increase the risk of the very diseases these organizations are suppose to be helping fight against. On the documentary, you see leaders of these corporations dodging interviews and questions concerning diet. A Chief Scientist at the ADA is shown getting offended when asked why www.diabetes.org consists of a meal plan page with meat recipes when studies have shown that meat consumption increases a person’s risk of diabetes drastically. Additionally, these corporations are also sponsored by a number of pharmaceutical companies. You know, the people that make the medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. It makes sense to me that the large companies making millions of dollars off of human disease and discomfort expect us to be ignorant and uneducated. They don’t want us to know about the dangers of food and instead invest in marketing campaigns to confuse the consumer.


Food laws protect the food companies.


The United States laws allow food companies to black out information on public documents released about their food products under the guise of “company secrets”. In “What the Health” countless documents released by certain food companies are shown with omitted material to protect themselves. Don't we as consumers have the right to know exactly what we're eating and putting into our bodies? By the government's standards, we don't.


Most doctors aren’t well-versed in nutrition.


Apparently, there was an outrage when a nutrition organization moved for a bill that would require doctors to take seven hours of nutrition classes. Seven hours? That's it? And yet, it was met with extreme opposition.

My pediatrician just advised me to switch my son to cow’s milk once I wean him from breastmilk. The doctors and pediatricians on "What the Health" stated explicitly that infants do not need cow’s milk to thrive whatsoever, and that milk consumption is not linked to strong bones or the prevention of osteoporosis.


I'm confused.


I guess that's the point (as the documentary details). 


The conditions in which hogs and cattle are raised, inspected and slaughtered are terrible.


Seeing the hog farm in North Carolina and how pigs are treated and disposed of will make you want to leave bacon in the past. The documentary shows footage of decomposing pigs in a trash bin which a local resident says will be incorporated into the food they feed back to the pigs. Read that again. I said they feed the pigs dead pigs! I won't get into all the bacteria and disease associated with that practice. I was also shocked to learn that there wasn’t a proper waste system for the particular hog farm shown and that the community was suffering because of it. The issue of civil rights also came up, since hog farms seem to pop up in predominantly African American and Hispanic areas. 


Sugar isn’t the problem.


Sure, too much sugar isn’t healthy, but the doctors on the documentary exposed the myth that sugar and/or carbs cause diabetes and many other health-related problems. Instead, these doctors all pointed to the animals and animal products (eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk) we eat as the problem. When they say animals, this includes fish and chicken as well...tough. 


Protein deficiencies are a myth.


One of the doctors said he had never in all his years of practice seen a patient deficient in protein who was getting the proper number of calories. A fiber deficiency is generally the problem. And as far as going vegan? Meat is not protein--it has protein. I was surprised to learn that all protein comes from plants.


Note: If I have to watch food documentaries once per week to stay motivated and on track with a plant-based diet, that’s what I’ll do! 



2.     Vegan testimonials


Have you seen the people who are vegan lately? I mean the ones I’ve witnessed have amazing bodies and glowing skin well into their 40s and 50s! My personal references are: J.Lo, Miko Grimes, and Beyoncé. I also like hearing about the professional athletes who are vegan. These athletes have muscular physiques, but more importantly, rave about how much better they feel and how their sport performance has skyrocketed since giving up meat and its byproducts.



3.     I’m curious


I want to see what making the change can do for me. I gained 60 pounds while pregnant with my firstborn. Through hard work and the help of a few trainers, I was able to shred the excess weight in about 10 months. However, my body still isn’t where I want it to be. I have goals to return to the physique I had a few years ago. More importantly, I want to feel my best! I’ve noticed a lack of energy since having a child. I don’t remember the last time I had a good night’s rest or slept six hours straight. I fight to balance the roles of wife, mom, CEO, daughter, sister, friend, volunteer, and church member daily. I’m interested in operating like a well-oiled machine because I have to. Other people are depending on me to be my best. Yes, I’m human. But I believe I was put on this earth to operate with a spirit of excellence. I believe going vegan is part of that journey. Helping the planet in the process is a bonus.


So pray for me and all the forthcoming Summer BBQ's... and refrain from giving the evil eye if you see me slip up with a bison burger or chicken wing.




LeShonda Martin


Interested in joining my vegan challenge? Request to be added to the FB group here.



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