Laurice Brewer, a vegetarian from Long Beach, CA, first appeared on our social media radar in April 2014. We saw her posting about her Whole30 experience on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, using a hashtag we hadn’t seen much—#vegetarianwhole30. 

While we provide resources on our website and in It Starts With Food for vegans and vegetarians doing our Whole30 program, the program wasn’t designed to exclude animal products and rely on plant-based protein sources. For many who want to implement our framework within their own self-imposed dietary restrictions, the idea of tailoring our program for a vegetarian or vegan diet can be daunting. That’s why we were so encouraged to see so many support threads in our Whole30 Forum devoted to this topic, and discover Laurice leading the way on social media.

We interviewed her here, to find out more about her background, her specific food restrictions, why she chose to take on the Whole30 as a vegetarian and vegan, and what she gained from the program.

Why are you a vegetarian?

In 2004, after reaching and maintaining my top weight of 320lbs for 7 years, my doctor became increasingly alarmed at my blood test results and urged me to go for further diabetes testing. I refused, mostly terrified of the results, and decided I would make drastic changes to hopefully produce immediate, healthier results. I had tried every diet and exercise known to man, and I just knew my life-long food addiction would prevail once again. After proper research, I discovered the vegan diet, a type of vegetarianism. The more I read about being vegan; I realized it was a lifestyle change, not a diet. Viola! That was just what I needed, a lifestyle change! Within the first 3 months, I was able to take off 45lbs, steering me clear from a diabetes diagnosis for the time being.

Once I fully delved into the vegetarian lifestyle I became aware of FDA-approved practices in the meat and dairy industry, which furthered my commitment to a plant-based diet. I also noticed a vast improvement in my skin, and my psoriasis (a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears as red, scaly, rough patches on the skin).

What animal products (if any) do you eat?

Throughout the last ten years, I have tried many versions of vegetarianism. When I started my first round of vegetarian Whole30 I was eating eggs occasionally, no dairy at all, and fish frequently, so I continued that. During my second round, I eliminated fish from my eating plan. During my third round, I limited my yogurt intake. I’m currently in my fourth consecutive round, with the intention to do my fifth round as a vegan. I’m rarely eating yogurt, limiting egg consumption to condiments and sauces, and actively use ghee (oh ghee, how I love thee!).

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Why did you take on the Whole30? What were you hoping to accomplish?

In 2008, I finally decided to commit to my health. I had hired a personal trainer and was dedicated to a 1,200 calorie vegetarian diet for 3 years. I took my 275lb frame down to 160lbs and was able to maintain the weight loss; however, I still hadn’t developed a healthy relationship with food. My obsession with food was still ever present. When life hit me hard and I went through a divorce in 2011, bad habits resurfaced. I was terribly depressed and food was what I turned to for comfort. Yes, even as a vegetarian one can have an extremely unhealthy diet, and boy did I ever.

A family member turned me onto the Whole30 in April 2014. It was so similar to my then vegetarian/vegan mostly raw eating plan, and I was in dire need of change. Between October 2011 and April 2014, I had gained back 96 lbs. I was horrified and so disappointed in myself. I knew something needed to change and immediately. I could already foresee my frame expanding to 320lbs once again. A week after hearing about Whole30, I went to the website and downloaded the Vegetarian/Vegan shopping list. I then went on Amazon and ordered It Starts With Food and a spiral veggie slicer (both are must have’s in a Whole30 kitchen).

Armed with the basic knowledge of the program and my shopping list, I embarked on my first round of a vegetarian Whole30 on April 28, 2014. When I started the vegetarian Whole30 plan, I was hoping to kick-start my commitment to a healthier relationship with food. I was searching for freedom from a debilitating food addiction, but I had NO idea what an epic, life-changing program it would be for me. After 30 days, I just couldn’t stop! Not only did I feel crazy good, but, I didn’t quite trust myself yet to make healthy choices with so many food options. I felt comfortable within the restrictions of the program and wasn’t ready to venture away from that.

Were the resources we provided for vegans and vegetarians helpful?

The resources provided by Whole30.com were helpful pertaining to the eating plan. I felt I also needed a bit more emotional support as a vegetarian, which is why I joined the Whole30 Instagram and  Facebook communities. I had no idea what I’d find, but I figured if nothing else I could document my journey, which may help other vegetarian Whole30’ers, and it would keep me accountable to followers.

How did you approach the Whole30?

I approached vegetarian Whole30 with an open mind, willing to be flexible and make adjustments as I learned what worked best for me. I also wasn’t focused on my weight—I was doing this for my health, not my appearance. I was (am) doing this to develop a healthy relationship with food and to become a healthier person.

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What were your challenges, and what was easier than you anticipated?

Nearly every aspect of my vegetarian Whole30 was easier than I had anticipated. Eliminating meat alternatives was really the only part of the program that presented a challenge, mostly because it limited my ability to eat out socially, but I managed to live. (Ha!) Most of the challenges I face are not food related, they are related to the emotional aspect of using food as a coping mechanism when dealing with depression and adversity.

I hadn’t even considered cheating or quitting until day 83, which I believe was a result of reintroducing a triggering food item, the beloved white potato. At that time I was able to resist the incredible temptation to eat ALL the sugar at my local 7-eleven, and carried on to a Whole120.

What kind of results did you see with the Whole30?

I saw (am seeing) a vast amount of results from following the vegetarian Whole30 plan. During my first vegetarian Whole30 round, I started to view food differently for the first time in my life. I was breaking away from old habits of wanting to eat to celebrate or chase away every emotion. I saw how what I was eating was playing a huge role in my depression. In my first 30 days my mood was steadily lifting and the depression was more stable than ever. My food cravings actually diminished and I couldn’t believe the freedom I was feeling. Prior to my vegetarian Whole30, I was dealing with cystic acne, but during the program, my face acne completely cleared. I also worked off 15 lbs.

In my second vegetarian Whole30 round, I really felt my relationship with food shift. It transformed and I began dealing with reality without running to food–even healthier food choices were not on my list of coping strategies. Symptoms of acid reflux were completely gone. I was sleeping better, waking up easier, and generally had more energy. That heavy lethargic feeling was no longer part of my daily life. I also dropped an additional 8 lbs.

My third vegetarian Whole30 round was a confidence-builder. I started to see my commitment to a healthy eating plan and dedication to my health. Clean eating was keeping my head clear, I was able to focus more, and as a result, I started making better decisions and not just related to food. I also worked off another 4 lbs.

Currently in my fourth vegetarian Whole30 round, I am working towards healing my autoimmune disease (psoriasis) and further releasing my addiction to food. Not having an obsessive, compulsive, overeating mindset, provides me with a daily opportunity to reflect and evaluate my progress and what I’d like to do differently. Once I feel completely in control of my eating disorder thinking, I will likely transition to a vegetarian-paleo diet. For now, having the restrictions set forth by vegetarian Whole30 continues to teach and stretch me as I find my balance.

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Did the Whole30 change the way you view food, or eating animal products?

The book It Starts With Food and the rules of the vegetarian Whole30 have completely changed my view of food. I very much believe in the spirit of Whole30 and I use that to gauge my food choices and the reasoning behind any cravings or temptations I feel. Food holds less power in my life and my passion for cooking is more about the activity of creating rather than eating. The program has not changed my view of eating animal products; if anything it has furthered my commitment to maintaining a vegetarian/vegan diet. It has even encouraged me to try a vegan Whole30 plan.