Interview with a 14-Year-Old Vegan
CAROLINE Wellborn is a 14-year-old high school freshman currently studying in Georgia in the US. She is a self-proclaimed fruit addict who loves to inspire people towards a healthy and positive lifestyle. With a passion for fitness, health and travelling, Caroline communicates to people the most through her Instagram and Tumblr pages – where any follower will find colorful snapshots of nutritious dishes, motivating quotes and encouraging tips. At such a young age, Caroline has also chosen to take on the plant-based lifestyle and become vegan. Having taken such a dramatic change so young, I interview Caroline to find out more about what influenced her and about the healthy life she now leads.
How long have you followed the vegan lifestyle?
I have been eating a 100% vegan diet since December 2013. However, I had been a vegetarian two years prior and starting in the summer of 2013 I slowly began cutting out animal products. It wasn’t very difficult to limit my consumption of animal products, but I am glad I did it gradually as it allowed me to become more knowledgeable of the plant-based lifestyle as well as allowed my parents to adapt to my new way of living.
What was it that made you turn towards this plant-based lifestyle so young?
My whole life I have always been an avid absorber of information. I am constantly learning, researching and thinking. In the seventh grade, I discovered the horrors of the processed food and meat industry through various blogs and websites. I quickly realized that this ‘food’ the industry was producing was not something that I wanted to put in my body. Watching the documentary Food Inc. solidified my beliefs that humans are not meant to consume animals, so I became a vegetarian. As I grew older, I began a quest to put only the best, high-quality, whole foods in my body. Through more research and a lot of inspiration from Instagram and Tumblr, I realized that animal products were not meant to be consumed, were not making me feel my best and that the dairy industry is just as atrocious as the meat industry. I wanted to do what was best for my health and well-being, the animals and the Earth, so adopting a plant-based lifestyle was the obvious choice of action.
Do your friends or family ever give you a difficult time about it, or have you positively influenced them towards the lifestyle?
I am very blessed to have an incredibly supportive family. From buying me 40+ bananas a week as well as my own groceries to being recipe-testers for my recipes, they never fail to support my decisions. I believe that they realize that this lifestyle is what makes me thrive, and if eating copious amounts of bananas or very green smoothies makes me glow, then they are more than willing to facilitate it. While my family is still omnivorous, I have definitely educated them immensely on the industry and have greatly decreased the amount of processed food in our household. As for friends, I can’t say that they really understand the lifestyle. Often times people think I’m weird or crazy. Sometimes people are in shock that I can actually survive without animal products. My true friends support me though, and I honestly don’t care about any negative opinions other people have.
Do you intake any processed foods in your diet – certain tofus or tinned foods? If not, why do you avoid them?
I do not eat any processed foods as they do not make me feel well and do not allow me to function at my best. Sure, some might taste good in the moment but it’s not worth the inevitable energy crash and overall sick/sluggish feeling.
What would you indulge in, if you were to treat yourself?
Hmmm…This is hard! I would have to say either a very high-quality bar of dark chocolate, some coconut ice cream or a bowl of ripe mango with tahini and coconut sugar.
How often do you exercise? How important is fitness in your life?
I exercise everyday, but I listen to my body and if I’m not feeling well, I don’t force it. Fitness is extremely important to me. It is my passion. I feel best when I am active and moving. I am in my element when I am working and moving my body. My dream is to be a personal trainer one day, open my own space and ultimately have my own brand like Lorna Jane. I couldn’t imagine my life without fitness.
What are the benefits you have felt since you have taken on the plant-based lifestyle, mixed with your fitness regime?
I cannot even begin to tell you how alive I feel! I honestly am thriving. My mental state has never been better, I have limitless energy, and I feel as if good vibes are vibrating everywhere. My physical appearance is the best it’s ever been, and I am constantly amazed at what my body can accomplish. Most importantly, by nourishing my body with what it was meant to thrive off coupled with doing what I love by exercising, I have learned to love myself.
Your Tumblr breeds a lot of positive and insightful quotes, what is one that never fails to inspire you?
A quote that I am constantly telling myself is “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly.” 2013 was a very rough year for me personally, and at some points, I couldn’t fathom ever surviving the storm. Yet I did, and I emerged a better, happier and content person than I ever have been. I have become the butterfly. There is always sunshine on the other side.
In a generation obsessed with its image, new technology, unhealthy processed foods and so prone to depression, what would you advise to people to keep positivity and optimism present in the lives?
In order to keep positivity and optimism present you have to rid your life of anything that is making you unhappy or not serving you. I have seen so many people continue on with something, whether that be a relationship or occupation, because they are either afraid of what other people will think or are scared of what they will become without it. We need to learn to stop worrying about the (often negative) opinions are of others; they are invalid. Most of us also spend most of our lives sleepwalking. We continue on a path that is not necessarily serving us or bettering our lives and mental well-being simply because we are fitting into the pre-determined societal mold of what is acceptable for us. In order to truly live, we have to follow what our soul is telling us to do without letting outside influences affect us. It all boils down to listening and being true to yourself and realizing that people who don’t support the true you are simply meaningless.
You were quite young taking on this lifestyle change; do you think you will ever not be a vegan?
I cannot imagine myself ever again consuming animal products. As far as I am concerned, animal products are not meant for human consumption. This lifestyle is what I thrive off, so why would I want to compromise that?
What is your ultimate feel-good delicious vegan, homemade dish?
My ultimate feel-good meal is definitely a large baked sweet potato topped with cinnamon, coconut sugar, banana slices, goji berries and either almond butter, peanut butter or tahini!
Lastly, what are some tips for people hoping to integrate veganism into their lives?
First of all, people looking to incorporate veganism definitely need to do research on the lifestyle to ensure they are being adequately nourished. It’s not as simple as replacing every hamburger with a salad. Secondly, someone is much more apt to stick to the lifestyle if the change is gradual. I suggest cutting out milk first, then all dairy products, then eggs, etc. Lastly, remember that this isn’t a quick-fix diet – it’s a lifestyle change. Do what makes you feel your best, and I promise you that if you treat yourself well, you will do nothing but thrive and glow.