Post photo credit “Killing It” Andy Balas
Hi, I’m Anna Hagley, The Wonder Vegan. I grew up in Columbus, OH and currently live in Buffalo, NY. I am a medical social worker and freelance writer. I also run The Wonder Vegan LLC, a vegan health and wellness blog and social media presence. The Wonder Vegan LLC will soon be offering personal training services as well. I am also active in the fitness competing and modeling realm and enjoy inspiring others on my Instagram: @thewondervegan.
What was the moment you realized that you wanted to go vegan?
I was 17 years old and met a Pit Bull puppy. Prior to that moment, the only time I heard the term “Pit Bull” was in passing on the news, spinning a negative story about something awful that had happened. As I looked into the innocent puppy’s eyes, I realized everything negative I had heard about them may not be true. That led me to think, what else am I misinformed about? I started paying more attention to everything from an objective standpoint rather than a learned or conditioned standpoint. Long story short, the more I paid attention, and the more research I did on animal welfare and mistreatment, the more I wanted to stand up for all animals.
How long have you been Vegan?
I have been vegetarian since 2008 and vegan since 2014.
Why is being Vegan important to you?
What came along with researching animal welfare and mistreatment was an incredible self-awareness that I did not want to participate in ending the life of anything, and that I also wanted to be healthy. I am passionate about not contributing to harming or ending the life of animals for my convenience or consumption. While there are definitely unhealthy vegan foods, it is amazing what a healthy balanced vegan diet can do to improve one’s health. The longer I am vegan, the better I feel, both mentally and physically.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Vegan cookbooks keep getting better and better. Some of my favorites are “Thug Kitchen,” “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch” and “Vegan Fitness Food eBook.” “Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style: A No- Nonsense Guide to Cutting the Crap Out of Your Life” is a great non-food book that indexes cruelty-free and non-toxic solutions for everyday needs.
Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?
When I first began my journey into vegan food, www.ohsheglows.com was a lifesaver for amazing recipes and inspiration. I felt somewhat alone in my sadness about animals being harmed for food and needed to see examples of people living happy and healthy plant-based lives. This site was one of the first that I stumbled upon.
When I decided to become more active in vegan fitness and health, I began working with Crissi Carvalho (veganfitnessmodel.com), who has taught me much of what I know about these topics. She has trained me for about a year and a half now, helping me prepare for 2 bikini competitions, placing 1st in one and 4th in the other. Anyone who has ever competed in bodybuilding knows how difficult it can be to place in top 5. Crissi takes an all-natural approach to training and puts health first in every aspect of her work. She has really been paramount in transforming my life and helping me streamline my passion for inspiring others.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Vegan Fitness Model Youtube channel will be featuring a vlog to show behind-the-scenes footage of bikini competition prep week through the day of a recent competition. A group of 10 of us Vegan Fitness Model clients came together to compete and/or support each other. It was a life-changing experience, as we are from all over the US and Australia.
Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
I utilize my experience in fitness and modeling to promote veganism, and specifically, how healthy one can be on a vegan diet. Competing in bodybuilding competitions and modeling allows me to reach many people in a positive and motivational way. Inspiring others is what inspires me to continue on this path, just as others have done for me. In addition to that, I enjoy the social media platform to discuss mindset, recipes and fitness tips. You can see me in the 3dots – fitness app on your mobile phone app store, on Instagram @thewondervegan, on The Wonder Vegan Facebook page and at my blog www.thewonderveganblog.com
What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?
There is a stereotype that plants don’t have protein, but it is very easy to get protein from plants. Typically people ask where I get my protein, and I respond as honestly and completely as possible. I enjoy getting protein from beans, vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, tofu, nutritional yeast, nuts, tempeh, seitan, grains, lentils, and the list goes on. I aim to be “the vegan I would’ve wanted to meet before I was vegan.”
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
One of my favorite places to go in Buffalo is Sweet_ness 7 Café. It has both vegan and non-vegan food items. Their house-made English muffins and vegan sausage are unlike any I’ve ever had!
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
There are too many to choose just one! But I actually love my morning oatmeal with protein powder, cinnamon, and bananas. I never get tired of it. If I add cashew milk and coconut sugar into it, it feels like I’m having dessert!
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Be forgiving to yourself. It is almost impossible to go completely vegan in one day. There will be times in the beginning where you forget to read labels or eat an animal product because you’re used to the convenience of availability. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t “perfect” right away.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
Protein noodles from the Explore Cuisine brand. They’re made out of beans, have tons of protein and are amazing!
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
It has never felt like a struggle to eat a vegan diet. When I made the transition to being vegetarian and vegan, I approached it with a forgiving and fluid process, instead of a “cold-turkey” all-or-nothing approach. This allowed me to phase foods out over time and I don’t miss animal products at all. There is so much amazing vegan food to make the transition easy as long as you have an open mind. That being said, what is a struggle at times, is seeing that so many animals are still suffering. Surrounding myself with other inspirational people that want to end suffering helps keep me going!
What is one question you would ask other Vegans? Please answer it.
How do you handle people treating you poorly for your decision to be vegan? My answer to this is generally that being cruelty-free, to me, isn’t just about causing no harm to non-human animals, but also about causing as little harm (physical or mental) as possible to human animals. People lash out or treat others poorly for a myriad of reasons, many of which have nothing at all to do with you. As much as possible, I strive to treat people respectfully regardless of their behavior towards me.