White Gloved Vegan - a movement to break stereotypes associated with veganism and inspire others to adopt a plant-based lifestyle - was born out of a terrifying medical emergency.
Founders Brittany Kruse and Alex Miller created the movement after discovering Alex had serious heart issues - and was told he'd have to 'eat like a cow' if he wanted to thrive.
Now more than 14,000 people follow White Gloved Vegan on social media, learning about how to find alternatives to animal products, as well as the health benefits of ditching them.
Plant Based News spoke to the pair to find out more.
Can you tell me a little bit about what brought you to a plant-based lifestyle?
At the age of 32, Alex started experiencing chest pain and was led to believe by doctors for two months that it was merely heartburn or anxiety.
Alex was in great physical shape up by weight training at least five times a week at the gym. So to say the least, heart disease never crossed our minds in the realm of possibilities that could be wrong.
Doctors didn’t take his symptoms as seriously as they should have due to his age, no family history of heart disease and normal blood pressure and cholesterol. After passing out from the pain in May 2017, Alex checked himself into the Emergency Room.
He was admitted to the hospital immediately and endured five-day testing-filled stay. Finally, Alex had an angiogram done, and we got our answer. The result, a 99 percent blocked widow maker artery and an insertion of a stent.
This is extremely rare for someone Alex's age, and the surgeon said it was a miracle that he survived for so long with this dangerous blockage. While in recovery, the first thing the cardiologist told us was that if Alex wanted to stay alive, he would have to eat as a cow does.
At the time, we couldn't fully process this statement due to utter shock, but it stuck with us, and we knew we would do whatever it took to keep Alex alive. After grasping the events that unfolded, we decided to dip our toes into the plant-based lifestyle.
What movies/resources do you recommend for people looking for more information about plant-based living?
The first documentary that we watched (and that truly opened our eyes) was What the Health on Netflix. The reading material that we highly recommend is The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger.
We strongly suggest to take the time out to read about the diet itself so that you can form a genuine connection and for it not to become a 'fad' diet. It’s important to understand the real benefits of eating this way and realize that food is thy medicine. What you put in your body is either going to help or hurt you.
How does your previous diet compare to what you eat now?
Coming from the standard American diet, we truly believed that we were eating healthy, protein-rich meals. After extensive research, we discovered that the ideal diet is avoiding all meat and dairy, eradicating everything we were told was right.
Our diets were mainly made up of animal protein with smaller portions of carbohydrates. Presently, our diet consists of vegetables, legumes, beans, tofu, and whole grains.
People believe that carbohydrates are the enemy but we have proven that that is a myth. We are no in the best shapes of our lives physically and mentally.
How has changing the way you eat changed your lives?
Between the physical, mental and environmental benefits that a plant-based diet has given us, it has opened our eyes to truly appreciate our lives and everything around it.
It opened up an underlying passion that we never knew existed within ourselves. There is not a single day that we ever regret or question our decision to make the health-conscious switch.
Through the silver lining of an awful circumstance, we found our life’s purpose and mission. We have become plant-based experts and want to inspire others to do the same.
How do you spread that message?
After making our positive lifestyle change, we were surprised to find that people didn't receive it as well as we thought they would. How could one look down upon another for wanting to be healthier?
In fact, we received stereotypical comments about becoming hippies and eating grass. We became downright determined to alter this narrow-minded way of thinking and with that, our blog, White Gloved Vegan was born.
White Gloved Vegan is a movement to break stereotypes associated with veganism and inspire others to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. The 'white glove' signifies that a vegan can be a class act high standing individual and not be ridiculed for going against social norms.
By being vulnerable and sharing our health scare, we have caught the attention of many.
We instituted 'White Gloved Wednesdays' within our region which piggybacks off of the endlessly popular 'Meatless Monday' and 'Taco Tuesday' theme.
One Wednesday a month, we encourage others to find a local establishment that offers plant-based/vegan food options and try out at least one meal.
What other initiatives have you implemented?
We created Vegan Gold Cards which are thank you cards that individuals can hand out to restaurants, farmer's markets and/or grocery stores that offer high quality, plant-based options.
A simple thank you goes a long way and can often lead to a bigger change so it's important that we recognize those that are going out of the cultural norm to appease a different population.
We are so proud of how far these gold cards have traveled – across the United States and into many different countries! We hold monthly vegan gold card giveaways on our social media accounts.
Have you reached many people - what kind of feedback do you get?
Within the past year, our social media has gained 14,000 followers, and we were recently featured on the cover of our city's newspaper. Our motto is, 'vegan for any reason'.
Whether you are doing it for the animals, your health, or the environment, it’s all positive! We also praise individuals that are testing the waters with a meatless Monday or switching their dairy milk to almond milk.
By being a positive reinforcement zone, we are gaining the approval of more people that are not plant-based and enticing them to dip their toes into this lifestyle.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to continue to travel more, meet others that share our same passion, continue to spread the message and of course, try more plant-based food!
We want to set an example for others to show that anyone anywhere is able to make changes to live their healthiest life possible.
Anything else to add?
Alex has his heartbeat and the coordinates of where he passed out from the blockage tattooed on his wrist. It reminds him daily of how precious this life is and how proud we are to be thriving on a plant-based diet.
Prompted by Alex's health scare, we decided to go on a cross-country road trip. We popped a camper onto the back of our Ford F-150 pickup, slapped a White Gloved Vegan decal on the side and spent 25 days visiting plant-based restaurants across the country.
It was the most amazing experience we have ever had.
Find out more about White Gloved Vegan here