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Meet Danielle Morris: A ‘NOLA girl gone vegan’

Written by  Danielle Morris
Editor’s Note: Ms. Danielle Morris and I go way back. Both Gentilly-ans, we finished McDonoh #39 Elementary School together and rode the bus Uptown to Eleanor McMain High School together. Nowadays, Danielle is educating our youth and living a vegan lifestyle and she’s taking us on her journey of vegan living IntheNOLA!
 
I’m Danielle Morris, a highly spirited, NOLA born and raised, creative soul. My vegan journey started about 18 years ago when I stopped eating beef and pork after dissecting fetal pigs in 10th grade and being traumatized from it! However, even as a young child, I would go back and forth with eating chicken and turkey and I wasn’t a fan of red meat. One week, I’d be OK with just eating around the meat in beans and then the next week, I couldn’t stand the taste of the beans because of them being cooked with meat.
I was also a chubby kid. In high school, dance became my creative outlet. At one point, I was on the school dance team and attending an arts high school and a private dancing school. All the dancing I was doing helped me to shed the extra pounds and I was thriving…or so I thought. But in truth, I was barely eating and I ended up losing weight the wrong way. 

During high school, the instructors at the arts school I was attending informed me that I needed to lose 20 pounds over the summer or else I wouldn’t be able to return for another school year. I was devastated! I was at my lowest weight ever, a size 8, and to hear that my weight was going to prevent me from doing the one thing that I loved so much was unbearable. At the end of the summer, I didn’t meet the goal, so I was not asked to return for the upcoming year. And how did I deal? I ate. After that, food became my enemy and my pacifier; I was living to eat. I didn’t have the self-actualization at the time to know how to cope with my feelings and as a result, I started packing on the pounds. I eventually got all the way up to a size 24. 
 
At that point, I had had enough. I decided to start working out because I wanted to feel better and have more energy. In the process, I got wind of a book called The Beauty Detox Solution: Eat Your Way to Radiant Skin, Renewed Energy and the Body You’ve Always Wanted by Kimberly Snyder and it completely changed my life. The book focuses on food pairings and how the order in which you eat your food impacts digestion.
 
As a result, two years ago, I released chicken and a year ago, I let go of seafood and arrived at the lifestyle where now I eat to live! Vibrant, electric, living foods are what sustain me and it’s been such a healing journey. At the end of the day, we are all healing from or trying to heal from something. Pain and anger are toxic for the body. When you get to the root of what’s causing the pain and confront it head on, you tap into your power, begin to heal, and become a better version of yourself. I believe that the intention alone to heal will cause the Universe to move on your behalf to make it happen.   
 
Because of my lifestyle change, I’ve lost 75 pounds and I did it the right way. While being vegan hasn’t been the driving force behind my weight loss, it has made me feel more amazing than ever. A lot of people say, “I want to lose weight, so I’m going to go vegan,” but what they don’t realize is that you can go vegan and still eat all the wrong foods. You have to make better food choices at the end of the day whether you’re vegan or not.
 
So how does one be vegan in New Orleans with our well-known eating motto: “We don’t eat to live, we live to eat!”? For sure, it can be difficult and I found myself feeling that way. However, the first thing you have to do is to gain control over your mind and you do that by educating yourself on the food industry. Surprisingly, NOLA is becoming more and more vegan friendly and I find that even if restaurants don’t have vegan options, many chefs are still very willing to accommodate if asked. In fact, I’ve never had a chef refuse yet. Some of my favorite vegan restaurants are: Carmo, Seed, 1000 Figs, Good Karma, Del Fuego, Sneaky Pickle, Kebab, La Casita, and almost any Thai, Vietnamese, or Japanese restaurant.
 
Of course, I’ve had my temptations throughout this journey...the biggest being releasing pizza and ice cream! But my greatest reward has been finding replacements for both of those things. The Whole Foods on Broad, in particular, makes some amazing vegan pizzas and they also allow you to grab anything off of the fresh food bar to create your own pizza. For ice cream, homemade vegan ice cream has become one of my specialties…Pistachio Almond, Lavender Blueberry, and Strawberries and Cream are a few I make. 
 
What I miss the most would have to be king cake with big dollops of cream cheese filling, but it’s just not for me anymore! You know when it’s no longer serving you because it makes you feel bad physically. When I would eat it a few years ago after adopting a cleaner diet, the bread would give me a headache and all the sugar would just make me want to take a nap. But I’m the queen of creating healthier options of my favorite old treats! I plan on making a special homemade king cake for Mardi Gras 2017, so stay tuned!
 
For anyone thinking about going vegan, remember that it’s a process. Everything ain’t for everybody, so you have to do what serves you. For some people, it may be about moderation, not deprivation.  If you feel like eating a cheddar bacon burger, go for it, but just know, the cleaner your diet, the more your body will start to reject certain things. Lastly, work on your mind, body, and spirit; they have to become one. Ask yourself every day, “Have I done something today that serves my mind? Did I reflect and act on the things that will help me be the best version of myself? Did I do something today that serves my body? What physical activities did I engage in? Did I spend time in nature? Did I do something that serves my spirit? Have I connected with my Divine?” 
 
At the end of the day, being vegan has been a total mental shift for me and I love it. Preparing meals is a part of my creative expression now, so after a long day of work, I get to go into my creative mode and express myself in a way that no one can ever take from me. There’s always work to do, but in the meantime, I feel quite magical!    

***All the pictures of food were made by Danielle...and ALL VEGAN!
Last modified on Thursday, 25 August 2016
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