Retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has announced that he’s going vegan, during a May 2 interview with Rip Michaels, host of the show Urban Eats & Treats. He had previously followed a high-protein, low-carb diet, but he’s realized that following a vegan diet, including vegan versions of many of his favorite junk foods such as cheeseburgers, gives him many advantages, including enabling him to continue to eat the way he prefers, while avoiding packing on too many pounds.
At 7-foot-11, and 320 pounds, the former NBA star is now 50 years old and wants to look after his health, while still enjoying his favorite foods. He has discovered that is possible, by frequenting a vegan restaurant in Atlanta where he can get a cheeseburger without the guilt. He used to think that a healthy diet consists of salad, steak and fish, but finds that eating vegan food helps him feel lighter and more energized, and healthier than he used to feel.
For breakfast, he enjoys a vegan smoothie, with blueberries, peanut butter and bananas, inspired by vegan NFL star Tom Brady. Shaq joins many other vegan athletes who have discovered the benefits of a plant-based diet, including female athletes such as tennis champion Venus Williams and soccer star Alex Morgan.
Twenty-six year old Australian actor Sam Corlett went vegan while he was in acting school, “to live more in line with his values” he says. While his body was not naturally muscular he needed to appear so, first as Caliban in the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more recently as Leif Erikson in Vikings: Valhalla.
In order to get as big as possible, he feasted on massive stir-fries that included microgreens, veggies, tempeh and kimchi, along with chickpeas, black beans or tofu, and relevant spices depending on the cuisine he was trying to create. He also did heavy lifting sessions in the gym along with more restorative yoga practices, to help him bulk up. He was able to gain 22lbs and the expected physique of a Viking!
Billie Eilish, a vegan pop icon, has just embarked on a world tour named “Happier than Ever”, the title of her 2021 album. This tour is billed as eco-friendly and has a unique vegan twist in that as part of the tour, she is encouraging fans to choose at least one plant-based meal every day for the next 30 days.
To make this tour eco-friendly, she has partnered with Reverb, an environmental nonprofit which is working with Eilish to “green” her tours. Reverb’s Music Climate Revolution program works to not only reduce the tour’s overall environmental footprint but also support initiatives eliminating greenhouse gases. These combined efforts aim to make the tour “climate positive,” meaning it goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions and actively removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Runner David Verburg was a 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 4×400 meter relay. He’s also a vegan. It started over two years ago, because he was doing a lot of work with animal recues and became a big advocate for the animals.
In 2018 in Clemont, FL, Verburg ran into traffic at an intersection to rescue a turtle that had wandered into traffic. A video of this went viral on social media and made him an unexpected star. He subsequently started the Golden Tortoise Rescue Foundation in his home state of Florida.
Paul Wesley (full name Paweł Tomasz Wasilewski) went vegan over a decade ago, citing his compassion toward animals, and he has been a powerful advocate for avoiding animal products ever since. He initially became known for his acting role in The Vampire Diaries, and subsequently went on to direct and then produce the series. He has appeared in a variety of movies, including Mother’s Day, Convergence, and The Baytown Outlaws. More recently, he joined the cast of the CBS series Tell Me a Story.
The news of his vegan diet became public when he co-hosted the Humane Society of United States’ H-Couture 2012 event, a fashion show that features vegan designers. Since then, he has been seen attending a variety of animal-rights events hosted by Mercy for Animals and other organizations to help spread the word about veganism and the need for better treatment of animals.
Australian Morgan Mitchell went vegan at the age of 19, in 2013. After competing in the 4×400 meters relay event at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games, she switched focus to the 800 meters and rapidly improved to come in sixth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (held in July 2021).
She has appeared in the media talking about the positive impacts a plant-based diet has had on her performance. She describes what she eats each day as focused on protein-rich meals like breakfast burritos, vegan chicken salads, smoothies, burgers and Buddha bowls.
But eating vegan is more than just about health and performance. When asked about her diet, she says: “the life of an animal and the wellbeing of the environment means more to me than any amount of money or the career path I wish to take” because the lives of the farm animals and the future of the environment depend on what we do.
The Belgian female champion powerlifter, Sahyuri Lalime, has just taken home the Belgian national title for the fourth year in a row, and she is vegan. The plant-powered athlete won best overall female lifter, lifting a total of 412.5kgs: 152.5kg squat, 80kg bench, and 180kg deadlift, which shows that you don’t need to eat meat to be strong!
Lalime has been vegetarian for nearly 20 years, and vegan since 2015. She went vegetarian when she left home for college, based on not wanting to kill animals. Having lost her mother as a child, she became very sensitive to death and didn’t want to be a part of causing others to experience the same trauma. At college, she learned about how dairy cows were treated and realized that a vegan lifestyle was preferable. Sahyuri explains that the transition took her a while:
If we can see further today it’s because we’ve been standing on the shoulders of giants. This is certainly true of the veg movement. One of those giants is Frances Moore Lappé, author of the wildly popular book, “Diet for a Small Planet”, which came out 50 years ago and yet even today its influence is still being widely felt.
Lappé explained that a vegetarian diet was much better for the planet and was healthy for us. Ms. Lappé was 25 and attending graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, when she began to question her life’s purpose. Like many in her generation, she was inspired by the ecological movement that led to the first Earth Day.
New York City has just elected its first vegan mayor. Eric Adams, a former police captain, ran on a campaign to restore New York to its former glory after being ravaged by the pandemic, but the fact that he’s vegan could have a big impact. We’ve previously written about how Adams went vegan 5 years ago, while suffering from Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and he was losing his eye-sight. Within 3 weeks of changing his diet, his vision improved. Within 3 months, his nerve damage recovered and he has not needed to take any more medications. With such a dramatic improvement, he has become passionate about the importance of a healthy diet.
He has previously been able to use the power of his position to share the importance of eating healthy and the benefits of a plant-based diet as widely as possible. As the Borough of Brooklyn president, he was able to ban processed meat from schools in 2019. In addition, in June he provided a discretionary grant of $10,000 to State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate College of Medicine, so that medical school students there could study the benefits of a plant-based diet. The money will help fund a new initiative entitled “Food as Medicine.” It will act as a supplemental program to the college’s existing nutrition courses.
While he has many other challenges on his plate as the mayor of New York City, we look forward to watching what other changes he is able to make to encourage more plant-based eating in New York.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka and renowned American DJ and record producer Steve Aoki, along with NFL quarterback Cameron Newton, have made high-profile investments in a vegan chicken startup business called Daring Foods. Los Angeles-based Daring Foods was founded in 2018, with meat alternatives made from a very simple list of ingredients. They have seen 900% growth over the last year, so they’ve been seeking additional funding for the expansion and development of new products. They have recently launched their product line in more than 3000 Walmart stores across the country. Their products can also be found in Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Kroger stores (Fred Meyer and QFC are both part of the Kroger family, so you may find their products locally in those stores).
While not vegetarian herself yet, Naomi is an elite athlete having won several tennis grand slams who needs to keep her body in tiptop shape, so she’s very interested in food. She aims to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day to get the fiber and other nutrition she needs, with plenty of smoothies and other drinks to keep her hydrated. In May of this year, she became an ambassador to the healthy food chain Sweetgreen, where she reportedly dines several times a week while training. As part of the partnership, Sweetgreen took her regular order and put it in their menu. Let’s hope that this investment indicates an interest in moving toward a plant-based diet herself.
In 2012, Steve Aoki was designated the highest grossing electronic dance music artist in North America from tours. He has spent a good majority of his life as either a vegetarian or a vegan. In 2015 he needed surgery on his vocal chords, as he was told that he was at risk of losing his voice, so health and nutrition have taken on a more important role in his life since then, which he sees as something of a blessing in disguise. “It’s still not 100 percent but the road to recovery and the road to strength has been very life affirming. It’s more about maintaining and having a healthy environment for my voice to be strong again,” Aoki adds. Hopefully his investment in Daring Foods indicates a continued dedication to healthy vegan food.