Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jessie Haws, I live near Cleveland, Ohio and I am a stay at home mom to my rambunctious 4-year-old little boy! I also work for Fraser and Lauren Bayley of Evolving Alpha Instagram: (instagram.com/evolvingalpha), who are Vegan nutrition, fitness and lifestyle coaches! I actually have been a client of theirs, first and foremost, for over 2 years. I love everything that they are about and couldn’t be more proud to be part of their team! My personal Instagram is instagram.com/jessiehaws and you can also find me on Facebook 🙂 I’m most active on Instagram sharing mindset motivation and my journey from being overweight struggling with depression and anxiety, to completing my first marathon this fall!
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
My health first led me to a plant-based diet. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Once I finally transitioned to a fully vegan diet, the spiritual awakening I felt slowly but surely was surprising. It led me to learn more about the ethical and environmental aspects, and now I’m proudly vegan for all the reasons! 🙂 I’ve now been vegan for about 2.5 years
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
I was never much of a fan of most red meats, to begin with, so that was easy to give up. The “lowest hanging fruit” so to speak. Then with all of the emerging mock meat options, it was pretty easy to just slowly integrate those in place of any animal flesh. Eggs were also easy for me to let go off. Dairy was the thing I struggled with and took me an additional 5 months to let go of completely. I immersed myself in articles, videos, any information I could find about the dairy industry, the health repercussions of consuming dairy, and also the physiological addictive aspects of cows milk itself and why it can be so hard for one to give up cheese. Diet was first for me, then I slowly phased out household products, beauty products, clothing etc. buying vegan cruelty-free items as I needed them.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?
My son was basically the reason I wanted to finally commit to veganism. I knew in the bottom of my heart that it was the right thing to do, so I wanted to be a good example for him as he grew old enough to understand what was on my plate. So I transitioned my son as well when he was about 2 years old. Although he was vegetarian for a while before that even. I got to the point where I could not have any animal flesh in my house. So my husband only ate meat when we were out or he was on his own. He eventually went vegetarian to help with some digestive issues he was having. I eventually was strict about not having any dairy in the house as well so he ate vegan only at home. Fast forward a couple years and he decided to make the commitment himself, and he has been vegan for almost a month now 🙂
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
Yes, I do! I believe there is an age that is more appropriate for that, but I’m still undecided on what that age is. My son is 4, and I don’t feel comfortable showing him certain footage. But I do explain to him that some people eat animals and that an animal had to be killed in order for them to eat it. I try to explain it in the best way I can for him to understand the compassion of not harming any other living beings, also while making him understand that some people think we NEED to eat animals and that is just what they were taught. So I’ll get back to you on what age I feel he’s ready to watch actual slaughter footage!
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? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?
This is a very good question and brings up a lot of controversies! It does extend to not killing insects or bees for me. I always think back to my son. I don’t want to teach him that some lives are more important than others. It’s the root of all oppression! It starts with teaching our children not to kill insects at a young age! I’ve seen too many children laughing and stomping on ants or spiders. It’s horrific to me. What is that teaching them? As far as vegan companies that are owned by nonvegan parent companies: I feel that this is an example of how we cannot be perfect when it comes to veganism. We’d have to live in a bubble and starve to death. I will always support any vegan options, voting with my dollar, no matter who the owners or parent companies are. We need to drive up the demand for these vegan products and tell the companies this is what we want more of. This is how we get veganism to grow. As far as other humans: YES! I think there are many vegans who miss the part of showing compassion to our fellow human beings. Everyone has their own story, their own struggles, their own issues. We are all walking this path of life together, and we should help one another.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
Yes, BUT I think there are many different ways to be an activist and that every single one of those ways is completely relevant and effective. For example, I’ve never done street outreach or have attended a vigil or anything like that. My activism is through sharing my story, sharing information and meal ideas, being an approachable, encouraging friend to anyone who is curious to learn more and needs help. I do this through my own social media, and working for Evolving Alpha. I help them in whatever they need so they can more effectively reach people, I help their clients where I can and I am an active participant in their Facebook group called “Plant Strong Fitness”. Fraser created the group years ago after he was tired of seeing so much judgment and hate in vegan Facebook groups. He decided he would start his own group and only accept kindness, positivity, and encouragement from every single member. It would be open to anyone and everyone (curious meat eaters to long-time vegans alike) to learn and grow with, and if anyone is preachy, rude, judgmental etc they are banned from the group, no questions asked. We have over 18,000 members now and have been able to keep the space a positive one because of the strict rules we enforce. It is a safe haven for those who have felt bashed in other groups! I’m so proud to be part of it. I feel a strength of mine is being able to relate to those struggling, show a lot of empathy and help them find their way. I believe every vegan should reflect on their strengths and figure out how to advocate for veganism using those strengths authentically 🙂
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I try to be as compassionate and empathetic as they show me 😉 I understand that everyone goes through their own journey and awakening. Everyone has their own habits, beliefs, traditions… things that they were taught from a young age and may not be open to learning more quite yet. I just strive to be a positive, healthy example of the lifestyle and gently encourage through my story. These days there are PLENTY of people curious but just don’t know where to begin. THAT is where I focus my energy—the people and places that will make the most difference.
Any recommended Vegan books?
I haven’t delved into too many vegan books yet but “Thrive” by Brendan Brazier was my first look into vegan fitness! Rich Roll’s “Finding Ultra” is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I know that Fraser and Lauren highly recommend “The World Peace Diet” by Dr. Will Tuttle. That book was what brought them into veganism.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Of course www.evolvingalpha.com, their facebook page and their group that I mentioned above called ‘Plant Strong Fitness’ (no affiliation to Rip Esselstyn, and not a strictly WFPB group). My favorite food blog is Minimalist Baker, and I also extremely enjoy The Rich Roll Podcast.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Some of my favorite youtube videos when I was first going vegan include Gary Yourofsky’s “This is the Best Speech You’ll Ever Hear”, James Aspey’s “This is Your Wakeup Call” and also “101 Reasons To Go Vegan”. Also, this video from my coaches is a super helpful one talking about the biggest mistakes and barriers new vegans come across when trying to transition!
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
If you’re ever in Cleveland, Ohio, you HAVE to check out Cleveland Vegan Cafe and Catering. I’ve never once been disappointed there. All of their food and bakery is so amazing!!
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
It’s more of a holiday recipe but absolutely one of my favorite things that I look forward to all year haha, is this Green Bean and Artichoke Casserole! Every omni family member or friend that has tried this has LOVED it! It’s SO easy, and I always throw it together the day before and then bake it the day of 🙂
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
I would say not to get discouraged, especially if you’re not perfect right out of the gate. Imperfect action over perfect inaction will win every time. Take the steps you need to in order for it to stick. If I didn’t take steps to transition, I don’t think I would be vegan today.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
It’s really pretty great here in Cleveland, although having a 4-year-old we don’t get out that much haha. But we have some great activists and organizations here that continue to grow!
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Don’t push social media aside! Yes, you can go to local meetups and events. But honestly, some of the BEST vegan friends I have met have all been online, from ALL over the world! Most of them I have never met in person, but I consider them my family!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
As I touched on a bit on a previous question, I definitely believe it should extend to our fellow human beings as well. Everyone has their own issues and struggles, maybe have even been through extreme trauma, things that we don’t know about or understand. A little kindness can go a long way for someone! I think it means to be a positive energy in any way possible, contributing to the least harm possible and be loving and kind.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I use a lot of Seventh Generation and Dr. Bronner’s products!
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
I honestly have not come across that problem yet 🙂 With the idea of vegan all natural products becoming more popular, and the ability to order things online, I am very grateful for these companies and my access to be able to order anything I would ever need, delivered right to my doorstep!
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
My transition was hard because I was not in a good headspace. I found that I had to work on my mental health and mindset simultaneously with transitioning away from animal products and more whole food plant-based foods. I struggled with not feeling enough, as you always hear about people who just overhauled everything overnight and made it sound so easy and like that was the only way that was acceptable to go vegan.
So I’ve definitely made it part of my mission to encourage and be a positive mentor to anyone who is even slightly interested in bettering themselves, just knowing how much of a struggle it was for me. I know that my mentor, Fraser (Bayley), was the pivotal component in my journey who kept me on the right path towards a vegan lifestyle through nonjudgmental, encouraging help.
So I still struggle today with the “unapologetic”, purist vegans who are against transitioning with baby steps. I understand we need a vegan world TODAY, but sadly that is just not realistically possible. So I do my best to be that positive role model and influence in a community that portrays quite a bit of anger and hostility. Fraser has always said, “be the vegan you would have wanted to meet before you became vegan yourself”. So I do my best to emulate that 🙂
Tastemaker Supply – 100% Vegan Footwear – Pictured – Women’s Taste Artistry (Red)[/caption