My name is Julie Harris and welcome to my blog, Truly Julie Vegan. If you’re here, you most likely want to make a lifestyle change or you might’ve already. This blog is not just a recipe blog but a guide to transforming your lifestyle to becoming a raw-vegan to improve your health and hopefully prevent or reverse common diseases or health issues. Before we begin, I want you to get to know me a little better so that you can understand where I started and what led me to this part of my journey.
I spent most of my life in a lovely small beach town called Delray Beach, Florida in a middle class family with a Texan father and West Virginian Mother who both enjoyed cooking. As lucky as I was to have two loving parents who served up well-planned home cooked meals every day, I grew up eating tons of animal products, processed foods, and few fruits and vegetables. In fact, if you would’ve given me a veggie pop-quiz, I probably would’ve failed at basic identification.
As a teenager, I started suffering from stomach pains and struggled eating breakfast every morning before school. My breakfast consisted of one glass of whole milk often disguised with a couple of scoops of Nesquick chocolate milk mix (90’s kids problems) and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread. I often felt uncomfortable, bloated, had few bowel movements, and suffered from frequent migraines. I started seeing doctors for the stomach pain and headaches and all of my test results for allergies and illnesses come back as negative. As a student athlete, the symptoms, especially migraines, inhibited my performance and usually made me irritable towards friends and family members. However, looks can be deceiving because I always maintained a good physical appearance. On the outside, I was a thin/athletic fresh faced all-American girl who enjoyed being social and had few worries and responsibilities even though I was suffering so much physically on the inside.
I never thought (or knew) about the connection between diet and physical and mental wellness until I completed my undergraduate degree at FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University). Unfortunately, my American dream crumbled as the recession hit my family extremely hard. Rather quickly my father developed a severe form of dementia dubbed “Picks disease” at the young age of 54. As the main breadwinner for our family was incapacitated, our family home where we had shared so many memories was sold to avoid foreclosure and we had to downsize quickly. Throughout this time, I became extremely anxiety prone and lost my appetite for food. I went from a consistent 140lbs, which is pretty normal for a 5”10 athlete, to a mere 115 lbs.; literally skin and bones. I wanted to eat, but was too depressed by my emotional circumstances. Soon thereafter, my mother tragically took her own life, as she felt incapable of watching the love of her life deteriorate and suffered greatly through our dire financial situation. Obviously, this was a devastating situation for my family as she was such an amazing Mother whom I owe everything to.
Soon thereafter, my brother and I resumed care for my father who quickly deteriorated and passed a mere two years after my mother. Throughout this difficult journey, food was only thought of as whatever was most convenient for us. Usually, my brother and I were too tired to spend lots of time cooking so we relied on the cheapest TV dinners and ready-made meals that most impoverished Americans are forced to rely on. Both my brother and I began suffering from severe stomach pains and loss of appetite. My friends at FGCU began stopping me in the hallways concerned with my outward appearance.
I looked the worst between the ages of 22-24 when stress, anxiety, and poor-diet overcame my once girl next-door good looks. My skin looked almost gray and dull, I started to gain all the weight I had drastically lost back quickly and as solely fat, varicose veins began to develop on my legs that I used to believe were my best assets. My hair started falling out in clumps, and my body would frequently seize up as if I was starting to get arthritis.
By now, I was living in Miami with my loving husband and I was working as a Teacher for Teach For America. My brother continued residing in Fort Myers, and started taking a vegan cooking class with close friend, Warren Wright. My brother, who always struggled to gain weight and feel healthy, would call me everyday explaining how he was starting to change his diet to become vegan full-time. I was shocked and confused. How could you do that? And what exactly does it mean to be a vegan? Over time, my brother and Warren started cooking meals for me when I would visit them in Fort Myers and I was immediately hooked; how could plant-based meals taste so good? How could I feel immediately better after eating this way?
At my core, I am an avid researcher and explorer. So I began researching what a Vegan is, and what kind of implications a poor omnivore diet can have on health. I had the realization that I would end up developing a disease, possibly dementia like my father, if I continued eating so poorly. I don’t have kids yet but I plan on having them and sharing this joy with my husband, and I don’t want them to be my caretakers or watch me suffer in their early adulthood. My initial motivations to change my diet to vegan came from selfish motivations to feel better, look better, and improve my quality of life. As my journey continues, I now understand how important it is to be cruelty-free and to educate others in what I believe has been the best decision of my life.
This blog is about exploring my journey where I work on starting a new life cruelty-free as a vegan, friend, sister, wife, and chef. I promise to include only the best recipes that actually turn out good that only promote health, happiness, and great quality of life. Also, I want to give real life tips for going vegan in the urban, non-vegan friendly atmosphere that is Miami and offer a specific guide for Miamians and others in similar areas that feel like it’s almost impossible to get started on the vegan path.
Remember, I am the daughter of a Texan who taught me to know the difference between all types of steak and to add about a half a stick of butter and scoop of brown sugar to make most recipes better. If I can make this change, you can too! I feel the need to get behind the keyboard and attempt to inspire others because this period of my life has been the healthiest and happiest and everyone deserves to feel this good!
Peace, Love, and Happiness Forever!