10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Taylor Wolfram
Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, is a dietitian based in the Chicago-area and a vegan of ten years. I first met Taylor some years ago when she first moved to Chicago after college and a friend introduced us because Taylor wanted to plug in to the animal advocacy community more. Over the years, I have seen Taylor evolve into someone who is as invested in promoting compassion to animals as promoting self-compassion. As someone who sees how much body-shaming and weight stigma is done in the guise of “helping” others, Taylor presents fact-based evidence about plant-based nutrition as well as a commitment to supporting people, body, mind and spirit. I am so grateful to have Taylor in the vegan community, where her Health at Every Size approach is sorely needed. Please check out Taylor’s website and business, Whole Green Wellness, and if you leave your email, you’ll get her free guide to intuitive eating. Looking for a gimmick-free and evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle coach who never shames? Get in touch with Taylor.
1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?
I went from vegetarian to vegan when I learned about the abuse occurring in the egg and dairy industries. I was in college and joined my university’s animal rights organization and eventually became its president. I was active in my city’s animal rights groups and attended protests, demonstrations, speaking events, etc. It was fun several years later to go back and present on vegan nutrition as a registered dietitian! Michelle Cehn and Jen Kaden were two influential people in my life when I first went vegan and we’re still friends today.
2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?
I think a gentle, probing conversation asking me how much I knew about how animals were treated on farms would have opened my eyes. I knew I loved animals but had no clue what was happening in the animal agriculture industries. If someone would have asked me why I treated cats and dogs with such kindness and compassion but not cows and chickens, that really would have got me thinking.
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
For me, it’s leading by example as a happy, healthy person who participates in mainstream society. There are so many negative stereotypes about vegans and when people see you can still go out to eat, attend holiday celebrations, enjoy cultural foods, etc. it shows that veganism is accessible. I used to be really intense about sharing graphic content on social media when I first went vegan and I no longer feel that is an effective strategy (at least for me). I don’t push veganism on anyone but I am open about my lifestyle and very compassionate when people ask me questions about it. There is definitely a fine line that most activists learn to balance over time.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
Our numbers have grown astronomically since I went vegan 10 years ago, which is great. The amount of vegan options available at mainstream grocery stores is mind-boggling. Not only does it make being vegan easier, it helps non-vegan folks incorporate more vegan food into their lives, which is always a win for the animals.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
I’ve noticed a lot of disordered eating getting tangled up in veganism. With all the documentaries and books pushing plant-based propaganda, I see many people sliding into orthorexia (a harmful obsession with “healthy” eating). Veganism isn’t about dieting at all — it’s about minimizing harm to animals. One need not eliminate oil, sugar, salt, processed foods, etc. to advocate for animals (or even enjoy good health).
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
I like to say that I treat others how I want to be treated, including animals. The “golden rule” is pretty simple to me in that way. I also am a huge advocate of body liberation of humans as well, so I say I am pro-liberation of both human and non-human animals.
7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?
Ginny Messina, MPH, RD, is my biggest professional role model, along with Jack Norris, RD, of Vegan Outreach. They’re both evidence-based dietitians who also are ethical vegans. They don’t sensationalize the health benefits of being vegan like so many other health professionals do. Their book Vegan for Life is my favorite book on vegan nutrition that I recommend to vegan clients.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?
I’m pretty boring in this way but Netflix, yoga, meditation, massage and sleep are my go-to ways to relax and replenish my energy. But I need to schedule them in my calendar otherwise I will get carried away with work!
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
I wish vegans were as compassionate to humans as they are to non-human animals. There is so much weight bias, fat-shaming and healthism in the vegan community which is super harmful and makes veganism less accessible. Body liberation for all animals is important if we are to make significant progress in any of these social justice movements.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is…”
All about compassion. Compassion to all animals, including ourselves and other humans.