It was Easter Sunday. Not the ideal day for food shopping but I had just returned from an out of town excursion and had a hankering for some fruit and cereal. Seeing that I’m a petite woman, the Whole Foods employee yelled out, “let me know if you want me to grab something for you.” Two minutes had barely passed before I solicited his help and we began to discuss organic labeling and GMO crops. I wanted a GMO free cereal brand that didn’t taste like cardboard. He blurted out, “I’ve just become a vegan, what about you?”
Given that he was so forthcoming, I asked if I could interview him for my blog. We met the following week in Carroll Gardens where he currently lives. This is what Brian, the passionate vegan, had to say about his new lifestyle.
How long have you been working at Whole Foods?
And how long have you been a vegan?
Oh, wow. What happened when you were hired?
During orientation, this woman, Tonya, told be about the Engine 2 Diet. When I went home, I watched the film. That day I decided to try being vegan.
What did you grow up eating?
My family is Puerto Rican so we grow up eating typical Hispanic food … rice n’ beans, chicken or pork chops with fried bananas (plantains).
What is your earliest memory of food?
I would always remember getting pizza. My mother would work from early morning to the evening, she would leave us money and my brother and I would go to Smith Street to the local pizzeria for slices that costs a dollar twenty-five each … And sometimes, she would bring us to my grandma’s where she would make the same Puerto Rican food like EVERY SINGLE day… the food I just mentioned plus once in a while some canned tuna fish. And, of course, other American standards like burgers and fries, etc. I had terrible eating habits back then.
When we met, you mentioned that you lost a lot of weight since becoming vegan. Tell me about this.
As a kid, I was always chubby or chunky. Then when I became a teenager, I would lose some weight before the summer by beefing up on cardio workouts. But then when the holidays rolled around, I would eat a lot then gain the weight back until January 1st when started another diet.
Why were you so concerned about your weight? Did someone poke fun at you?
No, not really. I just wanted to look good, to be in shape … Then, in my mid-twenties, I started taking my weight more seriously . . . and now I’m 34 years old now. I fell in love with working out … you know, feeling strong and being able to wear tank tops and not worrying about my belly showing … stuff like that.
Let’s go back to your orientation day at Whole Foods when you decided to become a vegan. How much did you weigh at that time?
204 pounds (93 kilos) and now I’m about 164 or 165 (75 kilos) So I’ve lost almost thirty nine pounds since starting at Whole Foods. The Engine 2 brochure Tonya gave me instructs you to cut certain items from your diet each week until you are eating completely vegan. Me … I just gave it all up in one shot. After orientation, I went to the health food store in my neighborhood and bought some organic tofu plus a bunch of vegetables. I had no clue what I was doing.
What did you make?
The first meal I made was … a tofu veggie dish … see I made it with water because the Engine 2 diet tells you to cut out oils and only use the oils extracted from the food so I put water, chopped onions, tofu and veggies in the pan and ate all of it. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. I felt like I could do it but needed to do more research. I found that there is so much food to eat when you’re vegan as opposed to people who pretty much only prepare chicken, pork, steak and carbs. It has forced me to explore more. I just love it. It’s the best choice I’ve made in a long time.
So what does your family think about your new diet?
Oh, they’re happy. The other day I made my Mom, this meatless wrap with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, and avocado and added a meatless soy product. I seasoned it just as I would regular meat. My mom said, “Brian, this is so good but I thought you were vegan.” When I told her that I used fungi and veggies and no meat, she tripped out.
I’m so happy I did this. I mean honestly, I feel like a different person. I was working two jobs until recently and I would feel this crazy amount of energy — even on six hours of sleep. Plus I meet different healthy people at Whole Foods, like how we met, and they always comment on how clear my skin and eyes look. It makes me feel good. I’m getting chills because it’s weird. My friend was like, “dude you’ve created a new identity for yourself.” I told him to try eating a plant-based diet just 3 days out of the week, and watch how his body will crave more of it.
The crazy thing is, I’m Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York and I’m craving hummus with Ezekiel bread and steam veggies.
And every day, I’m learning more about myself and food and I like that. I wake up, excited to have almond milk and whole grain cereal with bananas.
– Eat whatever you want as long as it isn’t animal and watch out for your sugar and sodium.
– Also, to read the ingredients, it’s best when products have no more than five ingredients and you can understand them all.
Usually, the next comment I get when I give advice about eating healthier is, it’s too expensive, do you get this too?
Yes, all the time. I say you can go buy yourself a Gucci bag, that’s only going to make you look good externally but if you spend money on good food, you will feel good on the inside and look great too. You get more bang for you buck when you eat better.
What makes you happy?
Now … well, food makes me happy. Like right now, I’m thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner tonight. I enjoy cooking and trying new things. I even pack my food for work and write down what I make every day just to keep track of my recipes. I also love that I am inspiring other people via Instagram and social media. Makes me feel really good.
If you could do anything for yourself right now, what would it be?
Lately, I’ve been thinking of how great it would be if I could open my own vegan restaurant. I found this passion for food and being fit and I want to share with others. It’s amazing what the human body can do when you’re mind is right and you’re eating better. I also want more for my son whose a picky eater but I hope this will change soon. He knows his Dad is vegan and eats healthy. He repeats it all the time. That’s cool for me.
Back in the day, my perception of vegans was anorexic-looking people…eating grass and carrot sticks all day, but it’s not like that. Today, I’m proud to say I’m vegan.
Below is an image for one of Brian’s favorite quick sandwiches: The Lite Veggie Heat.
He says it’s very simple yet tasteful and satisfying. Steamed broccoli on Ezekiel bread with fresh Whole Foods jalapeño hummus topped with fresh spinach and beef steak tomatoes.
You can follow Brian on Instagram at bfury. Brian is available for support, meal planning, and inspiration.
Thanks to Brian for your time, energy, and passion :) it was a pleasure.
p.s. if you’re in Brooklyn or want to take a trip to Bed-Stuy, BK, I’ll be giving a WDIET eating well WORKSHOP this Saturday, May 17th from 11am to 12 noon. It’s FREE and open to the public. If you can, RSVP at wdietworkshop[at]gmail.com. If not, that’s fine. Come anyway and bring a friend or family member. Check out my Facebook page for more details. Thank you!