It has amazed me how many different vegans I have met over the past few months! The only problem I have found continues to be the fact that many vegans don’t know each other. “Discovering Vegans in Wyoming” is my effort to bring all of those different people together by sharing each person’s story. Every month, I get to share the story of one of the many unique vegans here in Casper, WY. Each time I have the pleasure of meeting another vegan, I am reminded that I am just scratching the surface. I have enjoyed getting to hear everyone’s stories, and it continues to inspire me. It reminds me how important it is to grow and build a local community.
This month I had the opportunity to interview Ciara Foldenauer. Ciara has been vegan for two years. She actually didn’t start off wanting to go vegan. “I started off wanting to get to the root of my health concerns, and ended up being mostly plant based.” Just over two years ago, a doctor misdiagnosed her with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). “After the quick assessment, the doctor prescribed a moderate protein, high fat diet.” For many, this diet means a lot of animal meat and dairy products. She tried that for about two months thinking that “a doctor knew best”. In that short period of time, the symptoms weren’t getting better and her cystic acne got worse! After a trying the moderate protein, high fat diet with such disappointing results, she took matters into her own hands. Her research led her towards more plant-based, health promoting foods and habits. When Ciara saw many different avenues within the vegan diet, she wasn’t sure which one would work best. Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die was an important resource for her during this time for the way it takes a scientific, systematic look at America’s top killers and how to prevent them. (Hint: it’s a whole food, plant based diet!) Since then, she has been learning as much as possible about vegan diets, from 80/10/10 and whole food plant based to junk food vegan and beyond. She has found that the answer to most of our chronic pain, illnesses or disease is simply “fewer and fewer animal products”. “Dairy was the first thing I cut out”, Ciara said, noting that simple change made her immediately felt better. Over time, she had more energy, regular periods, and a lighter, happier mood. It was truly life changing. “The long-term benefits are what have been really exciting. You get to a natural, healthy bodyweight without even trying; your acne clears up; you sleep better!” Ciara changed everything so gradually that it wasn’t too difficult, but the real difficulty was the fact that she didn’t have any family members that were vegan. She would visit family or stay with a friend and find herself needing to plan ahead, bring her own food and hope she wasn’t offending anyone. Luckily, her family members are all very supportive. Like any vegan, Ciara gets asked where she gets her protein from—but this was something she had to ask herself too. She really enjoys lifting weights and building muscle, “and in the bodybuilding sub-culture, it is very common to have high protein diets, so people might assume you won’t make gains without eating meat — which just isn’t true!”
When it came to food, Ciara first started out eating food that was “quite boring”. She would have “bananas for breakfast and rice and beans for lunch”. Her personal philosophy is one of simplicity, so she carries that into what she eats. Since becoming vegan, she has noticed that “you feel really good when you eat simply. It is really just about going back to the basics.” After a while, she received Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die cookbook and Pleasure Not Meating You as gifts from supportive loved ones. She combines recipes from these cookbooks to create her own meals. On the go, Ciara will reach for one of her favorite No Cow protein bars. She loves the way the owner has built up his company! When she doesn’t cook at home, she really likes Pho Saigonlocated at 12th and Beverly. They do a veggie bowl with vegetable broth, and will add extra vegetables! When she gets out of town, she likes to go to Voodoo Donuts in Denver, CO because they have a whole vegan shelf.
To end the interview, Ciara’s advice to a new vegan is to be humble and be your own scientist. She says “be humble” because she believes that vegans can be very harsh towards non-vegans. “I’ve been there and I’m ashamed of it!” For her, the best way to combine both pieces of advice is to “speak your own truth”. “It doesn’t do veganism any justice to talk like you know what is best for other people… It is important to be open minded and constantly growing and learning.”
I really enjoyed talking with Ciara! Her story is unique and I haven’t talked to anyone who has experienced drastic health benefits like she has. She has such a strong testimony, and it reminds me that anything can change at anytime with the human body. I hope her story inspires others as much as it has inspired me.
If you are interested in being interviewed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.