I live in New Orleans but am originally from the Boston area. I am a USAPL-affiliated powerlifter and (as of June 2017) hold four Louisiana state records in the 52kg/114lb and 57kg/125lb weight classes. I grew up playing ice hockey for 15 years and was a goalie for much of that. I also ran track in high school and am an avid slalom waterskier.
I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand and Leon, Mexico as well as in the Boston area. I also spent six months in Santiago, the Dominican Republic during college and one and a half years in Beirut, Lebanon after college. I am a dedicated traveler and have been to about 30 countries, largely in southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America.
I studied architecture in college at Connecticut College and then received my master’s degree in urban planning and international development from New York University. After working at various international development organizations in New York City and Boston, such as UNDP, Accion, and the World Bank, I moved to New Orleans and work at a community foundation that serves southeast Louisiana.
What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?
My sister and her now-fiance decided to go vegan and I wanted to try it out as well. I found that it was really easy so I kept it up. I was essentially raised vegetarian since I was about five, although I would eat meat a few times a year until I officially went vegetarian when I was about 15. Since I had been a vegetarian for so long, the transition to vegan was very easy for me. I was relieved to discover how many vegan ice cream options there are since I love ice cream!
How long have you been Vegan?
About five and a half years.
Why is being Vegan important to you?
There are so many sustainable and healthy food options now that do not deplete the environment or put animals through unnecessary torture (both while alive and in the moments leading up to their death) that I do not see any other option for myself. Veganism is the future, and I like to live my life on the “right” side of history. I believe in 50 years people will look back on the inhumane treatment of animals and the destruction of the environment that are associated with meat consumption as one of the black marks in history. On a more personal level, the vegan diet is the healthiest diet. I want to feel as good as possible for as long as possible and not succumb to many of the health issues associated with meat consumption.
Any recommended Vegan books?
For cooking, I love the Vitamix recipe book, Chloe’s Vegan Kitchen books, and the Ultimate Book of Vegan Cooking. Fast Food Nation was the straw that broke the camel’s back and persuaded me to become vegetarian years ago.
Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
My Instagram is @TheJoesterr and I post mostly powerlifting and travel content.
Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
I run my own workout and vegan meal planning business through my Instagram account. I actively promote veganism on my Instagram and highlight my strength and muscles development on there to demonstrate that many people’s misconceptions about veganism are just that: misconceptions. I also promote veganism in person when people ask me about my diet and workout routine. People are often surprised to hear that I am vegan because so many people incorrectly think that veganism impedes muscle growth and strength gain. People often tell me that I changed their idea of what can be achieved with a vegan diet and I have inspired a number of people to go vegetarian or vegan.
What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?
The first question people always ask me is “But where do you get your protein?” People do not realize that plants have plenty of protein and that the average American consumes too much protein and not nearly enough fiber.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
In New Orleans I love Breads on Oak, Sneaky Pickle, Lilly’s, Carmo, and Hi Volt. I also love two small operations that sell their vegan goods to restaurants and cafes: Girls Gone Vegan and Little Jim’s Ice Cream.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
My go-to recipes are Thai lentils, curry lentils, rice and beans, and burritos.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Being vegan is much easier than the general public would have you believe, especially now that so many restaurants offer vegan options and there are so many companies making vegan food alternatives for grocery stores. The benefits of being vegan (personal health, environmental sustainability, and animal justice) far outweigh the occasional inconvenience you might encounter finding food to eat at events or restaurants.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
I feel good knowing I am not ingesting an animal that was raised and killed in a factory farm under cruel, torturous conditions. The fact that so many people are ok with or ignore the inhumane conditions animals face is very worrisome and baffling to me.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
It’s easy for me to find everything I need, even in meat-centric cities like New Orleans.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
When I am traveling and there is a language barrier, it can be difficult for me to explain what veganism is. Honestly, when I am in another country with a language barrier and there is not as much awareness of veganism, I am much more flexible about what I eat. For instance, in India, I’m sure I ate some gee because it was often difficult to know all the ingredients in your food. When I travel, I don’t want my trip to become focused almost exclusively on my diet restrictions; that starts to erode the point of being vegan for me. Of course I never intentionally eat something non-vegan.
What is one question you would ask other Vegans? Please answer it.
Question: how do you try to spread veganism to others in a tactful way so that they will consider changing their diet?
Answer: I do not force my diet on others. If people are curious about veganism and want me to tell them about it, I do. When people ask me about my choices, I do not hesitate to tell them exactly what I think about omnivore diets. I often tell people that if everyone chose one large issue to seriously tackle on an individual level (such as climate change, animal cruelty, carbon emissions, recycling, deforestation, etc.), the world and everything living on it would be much better off. For me, I tackle two large-scale issues at once by being vegan: climate change and animal cruelty. Everyone needs to do their part for our planet, but so many people choose to do nothing.