My name is Carolyn May Strickland and I live in Montgomery, Alabama. I’m not originally from anywhere because my parents were Air Force and I went to 10 different schools by the time I graduated from high school! I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a background in developmental pediatrics, autism, and child/adolescent psychiatry, and I currently work part-time in the field of adoption. I am also a fitness instructor with our local YMCA, teaching 7 or 8 classes a week. I went vegan in June of 2009 after reading the books Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Prior to going vegan in 2009, I had not eaten any red meat in 30 years, but still ate chicken, fish, and eggs. I guess I started out being an ethical vegan, but after reading and learning more about the health benefits and the impact on the environment, I am vegan for my own health, the health of the planet, and for the animals!
Did you notice any changes going plant-based?
Definitely! I weigh 30 pounds less than I used to and have much more muscle strength. If you had told me when I was in my 20s or 30s that I would be a fitness instructor in my 50s I wouldn’t have believed you! I have much more focus, stamina, and energy now than I did 20 years ago! I also had numerous gastrointestinal issues prior to going plant-based and they have cleared up entirely.
Who inspires/inspired you with cooking?
When I was a small child, my mother told me, “You are what you eat.” I was confused at the time (and a bit intrigued!), but now understand that every bite we eat becomes a part of us and can have a huge impact on us in the short term and the long term. My mother is a great cook and taught me what she knew whenever she could get me to stop long enough to listen. I was responsible for cooking one meal a week for our family from the age of 8! There were a few fiascos, but they became learning experiences. I am happy to say that my mother is now eating a much more plant-centered diet due to my influence!
What is your ultimate goal/dream for your cooking?
Since becoming vegan/plant-based in 2009, I have noticed a slow but steady cultural shift toward the acceptance of the terms “vegan” and “plant-based.” Fewer people roll their eyes at those terms and the terms have become more a part of the mainstream. I hope to influence enough people in my community toward this lifestyle that it becomes normal to see vegan/plant-based options at every restaurant – and maybe see more totally vegan restaurants in my area (we currently have one – and it just opened in May 2020!). In my classes, I focus not only on what a plant-based diet can do for our physical health, but for our mental health. As a therapist, I know there are many emotional reasons that influence the choices people make in eating, so I address those in my classes as well. Ultimately, I have the goal and dream that pushing my community more toward a plant-based lifestyle will have the outcome of seeing vastly improved physical and emotional health, with fewer hospitalizations and healthcare dollars spent for things that could have been prevented.