Takia McClendon is an all-or-nothing kind of girl.
So when she read mounting evidence that a plant-based diet could improve her health, she dove in headfirst.
"A lot of people in my family are really sick and I had started to read that if you incorporate more plants into your diet, you can definitely see some improvements in your health," said McClendon. "So I thought I'd give the vegan diet a try and I've just never looked back."
In 2013, McClendon started helping her friend Kiera Smalls to adopt a plant-based diet in an effort to lose weight.
Under McClendon's guidance, Smalls lost 100 pounds in less than a year.
"All of a sudden, a lot of people were asking us, What did you do to lose weight? How can we do this?" McClendon recalled. "We started to bring some friends to our workouts and it just grew from there. It all happened very fast."
And so City Fit Girls was born. The company was created as a resource to connect inner city women with diet and fitness tips and inspiration to live a lifestyle free of health problems and disease.
McClendon likes to stress the importance of eating real, whole foods to their followers.
"My favorite breakfast is a mixture of quinoa, black beans and sweet potatoes and when I eat it in the morning, my mom looks at me like, Why are you eating dinner for breakfast?" McClendon joked.
"I tell our members, as long as you're adding fruits, vegetables and real (unprocessed) food to your diet, your body will thank you."
For McClendon, veganism is about focusing on what you can eat, instead of fixating on what you can't. She believes it's OK to treat yourself as long as you focus on balance.
But there are pitfalls of a veganism that McClendon warns those new to the diet should look out for.
"There's a lot of bad vegan food out there. You don't want to be eating foods with ingredients that you can't pronounce," said McClendon. "Read the labels on your food, know where it's coming from and you'll be fine."
Below, in her own words, McClendon shares her typical day of vegan eating:
Breakfast: Oatmeal smoothie.
"I make my morning smoothie with peanut butter, hemp seeds, oatmeal, almond milk, a banana and cinnamon. I also take a B12 vitamin. Vegans can't naturally get B12 (only found in animal based products) so I have to supplement."
Snack: Avocado topped with salt and pepper.
Lunch: Sautéed kale with sweet potatoes and tofu
"I usually cook my lunch in the morning but if I don't have time, I'll go to honeygrow for a stir-fry. I also focus on my water intake throughout the day. At work, we all have giant Nathan's water bottles that we carry around. I am for about 64oz by the end of the work day."
Snack: Megan's Nuts Picky Bar and coffee.
Dinner: 2 black bean-quinoa patties.
"For a side, I sautéed broccoli with kale and onions and leftover lentils. Then I watched Men In Blazers and allowed myself a handful of pretzels and bbq chips."
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