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Vegan in San Diego: Branden Williams

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PHOTOGRAPHY by
Olivia Hayo
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January 2, 2019
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“I like to say that I went cold tofurkey,” Branden Williams explains in a manner that sounds like a joke but implies that he’s dead serious. “Vegan and sober. Everything happened all at once.”

He says that he looked in the mirror and knew that he could do better.

“I was like, I’m not going out like this,” he says.

He was 5’10” and 270 pounds. “I ate lots of food that came out of a box, I wasn’t active, and I didn’t know how to be myself without alcohol,” he says. If he was going out with friends to a concert, he’d drink before going out to loosen up. If he was home, he’d drink to relax. If he was out, he’d drink to enjoy himself.

“One day, I realized that everything I was drinking and eating was making me feel bad,” Williams says.

He went to the doctor to figure out why he was suffering from horrible migraines, irritability, and poor sleep. After lots of testing and a CAT scan, there was no clear diagnosis. No one told him to change his diet. He figured that out on his own.

“I just thought, I’m already living in one extreme and it’s clearly not working for me, so why not try the reverse,” he says. Williams was also motivated by his aunt who had been following a vegan diet for more than 30 years. She was 62 years old and had none of the health complaints he was dealing with.

“It saved my life. Really. I can’t imagine what I would be like if I hadn’t made that change,” Williams adds. Now, he says there is no going back. When he switched his diet, he also started going to the gym regularly to lift weights.

“I didn’t know what I was doing the first three to four months but I kept going,” he says. The same was true of his new vegan diet, but he studied and gained expertise about the physiology, vegan cooking, animal cruelty, psychology, and politics.

He’s now a personal trainer and he’s committed to being a lifelong vegan. His son and his fiancée are also vegans. When Williams and his fiancée first met, she was skeptical about vegan diets.

“She was saying the same thing everyone else parrots: ‘I could never,’ ‘What about your protein?’ ‘Aren’t you hungry all the time?’ And I was like, damn, you’re cute but you just don’t get it,” he says. They didn’t talk again for months. When he saw her again, she looked different and her skin was glowing. She had switched to a vegan diet on her own.

Williams says that his son saw the change in his dad and embraced vegan food without much resistance.

“He could see me as an example. He saw the before and the after. He saw round, unhealthy, angry dad,” Williams says. He’s lost more than 80 pounds, although that’s not as important as how he feels.

“I’m calmer. It has changed my overall mental and physical health,” he says. “But no one could have come to me the day before I started and forced me to be vegan. I had to be ready. So I don’t preach to anyone, I just live as an example. People will change when they are ready.”

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Favorite Restaurants: Loving Hut in Mira Mesa, Donna Jean, Evolution Fast Food, Plant Power Fast Food, Mission Square Market for the vegan deli

Go-to Salad: Spinach leaves, diced bell peppers, diced black olives, diced red onions, diced tomatoes, avocado, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans with Annie’s Goddess dressing

Go-to Snack: Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Debra Bass
Debra Bass is a former daily newspaper reporter who covers business, travel, fashion, food, wellness, and culture. Her work has appeared in nearly every major newspaper in the country as well as random appearances in publications in Guam, Australia, and Kuwait. In her free time, she studies Spanish, swimming, and attempts to make the perfect popover.
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