Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Anya L. Amorim! (@anyalitvinenko on Insta) I am 26 years old; I currently work for my step-fathers corporate catering business in Boston. I’m originally from Ukraine, my mom brought us to the US when I was 9yo so my first language is Russian. Now I am married to my vegan Brazilian husband, Oliver, so I also speak Portuguese apart from English/Russian. I run a vegan blog on Instagram and post all the vegan goodies there at @vegexpertboston
I enjoy taking photos and being in front of a camera, bright, colorful fabrics when it comes to clothing that I put on my body, dancing is my other passion; I spread vegan health and awareness every opportunity I get, and I love to try new vegan restaurants all over the world!
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
When I was around 23, I went to an intermittent fasting and detox camp in Ukraine with my mom, and there I decided I would transition to being vegan as soon as I got home. That was in August of 2016. I officially became vegan in October 2016 with the help of my vegan friend, Nina, so it took me 3 months to phase out all animal products out of my life, little by little. My mom also had an influence in me going vegan because while I lived with her in my early 20’s, she did not buy and bring animal products into the house and she would always complain when I would cook anything not plant based.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
So, my friend Nina and I, who I mentioned previously, one day took the time to watch all vegan documentaries in a row. (Earthlings, What the Health, Forks over Knives) Something inside me clicked that night and I got home and gave away everything non-vegan from my fridge (some frozen seafood I had, protein powders, whatever else I could find) and basically became vegan overnight while before I had doubts and didn’t really care about dairy consumption (for example) but after the movies, it revolted me. The next day, I went to the grocery store and got some basic necessities. I had to get creative and think outside the box in the beginning to figure out what to cook/what to eat for each meal of the day. At the time I was bodybuilding so “protein” and counting macros was a big deal to me. It isn’t anymore. In terms of clothing, I donated a lot of clothes I didn’t use to Goodwill and Red Cross but I did not own a lot of animal derived clothing to begin with. Other items like make up, I always bought the cheapest stuff I could find which for me was Elf and NY Cosmetics which was vegan anyway. I don’t really wear make-up too often and now I only buy products from Pacifica Beauty, Alba Botanica, Insta Natural Beauty, and maybe a few others.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
When my boyfriend, now husband, was moving in with me around April 2017, he was ALMOST vegan anyways, he ate eggs and fish, while he lived in Florida before moving in with me. After he moved here to Boston, I made exceptions only for him and took him to a few non vegan places to try a cannoli for example from Mikes Pastry in the North End and some crazy pancakes from In A Pickle in Waltham. (I did not eat participate in consuming them, it was only for him to experience) The reason I did that is because he’d only been in the US six months prior as a visitor so he had never heard or tried these foods and crazy “concoctions” before and I did not want him to feel like missing out on life or anything so now he can’t say he didn’t if and when people talk about it.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
When Oliver and I have kids, we will definitely raise them 100% vegan. We both have the same values when it comes to understanding that humanity is fully capable of living without harming other species for unnecessary consumption. Especially when every nutrient, vitamin, and mineral can be found in the thousands of plants that grow on Earth today. When our kids will be really young, there would not be any use in showing them gruesome videos but as they get older, I would definitely show them footage of the real conditions in which animals that are raised for consumption are grown.
What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies?
Being vegan, to me, means having compassion to all living things in this world. I think it may be hard for people to grasp that simple concept because people today may not be capable of showing compassion to themselves, let alone other species, so it is hard to get the point across sometimes. I’m happy that I am on the younger side of life and vegan, and I regret not going vegan sooner, if only someone taught me certain information sooner rather than me learning it by myself later in life. I try to only eat out at vegan places of business because I don’t want my dollars to be supporting the meat-consuming industry but when I don’t have a choice, for work, or for a social gathering, then I adapt.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
I feel as though there are different types of activism, some you need tougher skin for, some not so much. I think it depends on people’s personalities, how informed they are to object the common stereotypes of veganism, and to relate to everyone because we have to remember that we were once the same as everyone else too. I definitely think that every person has a responsibility to talk to their friends/family about it at some point, that counts as activism too, since it all starts on a small scale from our closest relatives, to co-workers, friends, etc, etc. Raising awareness about a plant-based diet should be everybody’s responsibility. We all have a voice, and probably a social media platform, and we can use it to tell our story and spread compassion.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I would say I am pretty empathetic to non-vegans but recently I have just been disappointed with people’s excuse, especially my friends/family. My husband and I have had an impact on my in-laws and my sister, for example, but I think everyone has to be ready to receive certain information at their own time because we can’t go around beating a dead horse. So, I just live my life and I am human so I get tired of repeating myself but I try to keep a positive attitude and keep doing the good work because I know we are on the right side of history and eventually it will pay off.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Definitely, How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger, my favorite book ever! Also Living Vegan for Dummies, by Alex Jamieson which is an easy beginners guide and has all the basics you need to know.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Nutritionfacts.org is the best resource to dismantle societies prejudiced biases of what they think they know based on real scientific evidence and proof.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
I would definitely recommend watching The Game Changers on Netflix which is a recently watched docu I saw that I think is great for friends and family to watch too!
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
My all-time favorite vegan restaurant would have to be Veggie Galaxy in Central Sq. Cambridge, Massachusetts, because they have everything from comfort food, to healthy food if I am in the mood, to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in-house made desserts, the best shakes EVER, and so much more! I am hungry just thinking about them!
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
Since I love pizza, I always use recipes from The Minimalist baker which uses 10 ingredients or less, 1 bowl, and 30mins. of less cooking time, I used her vegan pizza recipe whenever I wanted to make a simple at home pizza. Here it is: https://minimalistbaker.com/my-favorite-vegan-pizza/
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Definitely hang in there at the beginning. You may have craving, you may have been addicted to cheese, or lifelong family traditions, but nowadays there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that can’t be veganized or already be found in stores that you may be craving. And it is okay to slip up sometimes, in the beginning, we are all human, so don’t punish yourself for it, just get back on the horse and you will be okay. Turn to friends/family for support (who are already vegan), or an online community, if you don’t have anyone else, and someone will always help you or answer any of your questions.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
In Boston, I would say, we have a pretty decent vegan scene. We have lots of solely vegan restaurants, even the non-vegan places have at least a few decent vegan options on their menus now. I have also met a ton of friends from activism opportunities here in Boston. And I’ve made a ton of friends in real life from Instagram because people with common interests tend to gravitate towards one another so I am thankful for that. And I am happy for our annual Veg Fest where a ton of great vendors and speakers get a chance to shine every year.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Reach out to people on social media. With technology being super popular in this era, you can follow a lot of great vegan individuals and you can reach out to them through a message and potentially make good friends! I know a lot of vegan people who host events for networking opportunities so it is always great to see our community growing!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treat other humans too?
Cruelty-free means that nothing or nobody was harmed in the making of certain products or foods. It does extend to humans because things like child labor aren’t okay. Animal testing. The whole bit.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
Non-food? Arghh! This is a hard one! I would have to say probably AbillionVeg and HappyCow which are cellphone apps to find vegan meals/restaurants/products around you, which can come in handy when travelling. Also ethicalelephant.com which has lists of all vegan skincare, beauty, and healthcare products and that is helpful when I’m shopping for a specific product.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
Croissants!! I haven’t been able to find or make vegan croissants in forever! And I am hoping a grocery store like a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes can start carrying them because then all my dreams would come true! I don’t need them, I just really really like them LOL.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
I think for me, the beginning was the hardest part. Having to explain to people why I am doing what I am doing. I didn’t have the words to explain myself when I started my journey, I just knew inside of me that I was doing the right thing. Over time, I definitely learned more and am now not afraid to talk about my experience, and to spread awareness about why veganism helps us, the environment, and most importantly, the victims, which are the animals themselves. I think cravings were harder to battle in the beginning because I didn’t know what was out there in stores but now, I am a Veg Food Expert!