Spotlight: Dani Engum

Name: Dani Engum

City: Minneapolis, MN

Occupation: Lead singer of Cold Kingdom, music educator

3 words to describe yourself: Determined, Neurotic, Quirky

What inspired you to switch to a plant-based diet?
I became a vegetarian when I was a kid after I ate some raw chicken that made me sick. It was my birthday, and my little sister wanted to make me chicken parmesan which was my favorite at the time. We were 9 or 10 and I knew we were eating chicken, but as my mom described it to me as the muscle, ligament, tendon, etc., it completely grossed me out and I stopped eating meat.

Once I got to college, I went to the U of M and worked with Compassionate Action for Animals and Peta2 and learned about what happens in the dairy industry and the egg industry, and I became an animal advocate. 

What are some differences you noticed when you went plant-based?
The first time I went completely vegan, I did it the wrong way. Everything was processed, and I would eat replacements for everything. I said "screw this" but then my digestive issues got worse, and my skin was horrible, and I decided to switch to plant-based again. I cooked more at home and learned more about whole foods, and my health has completely changed. My energy levels changed, I started running marathons, and I'm not looking back. If do accidentally have dairy now, I feel horrible. 

[A plant-based diet] gives me energy for the stage, too. I have a grueling work schedule, then on top of road life, I don't know how I would do it if I still felt like I did before.

What are some common reactions you receive when you tell people you're vegan?
The most annoying reaction that's also a good opportunity for education is, "Where do you get your protein?" That's always fun.

Someone once used a biblical reference that because animals are eaten in the Bible, God wants us to eat them.





What film would you recommend to people who are interested in learning more about veganism?
Forks Over Knives
is really great for the whole health aspect. Cowspiracy is undeniable and irrefutable. It's great hard evidence and doesn't seem preachy. 

Favorite local restaurant:
Triple Rock because it's great to be able to go and be indecisive because there are so many options. Pizza Luce is killer. Now that you're doing lunch here [at The Herbivorous Butcher], I'm excited.

Favorite place to buy groceries:
Eastside Co-op or Whole Foods. In the summer, I love to go to the farmers market because I can't grow things to save my life. Target, strangely enough, because they have great stuff. They even have vegan tuna which is awesome, and their options are a lot better than other grocery stores.

Favorite animal:
The fox, hands down. There's something so mysterious and beautiful about them. 

What's one thing on your bucket list?
I would love to hike the Pacific Crest Mountain Trail. I don't know when I'll ever get that much time but I would love to be completely by myself and get in touch with nature. 

What advice would you offer someone who's interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet?
When you're eating substitutes, try not to think of it as a substitute. Instead think of eating a bacon alternative as eating something that's smokey and crispy and delicious for breakfast that's good for you. Do your research and cook a lot. I learned a lot by finding cookbooks like Chloe Coscarelli. Find what you like and dislike. Try a lot, cook a lot. 

 

Read more

Spotlight: Ryan Nelson

Name: Ryan Nelson AKA Big Nelly

City: Minneapolis, MN

Occupation: Personal trainer (Ryan Nelson Fitness) and vegan body builder

3 words to describe yourself: Compassionate, Energetic, Outgoing.

What inspired you to switch to a plant-based diet?
I came to the realization of how many animals were being sacrificed for me to do body building. At that point, I decided it was no longer necessary for me to eat animals and that I didn't want to harm them anymore.

What are some differences you noticed when you went plant-based?
My recovery from my workouts improved. My hair grew faster and thicker, and my fingernails grew faster. Those were interesting things that I noticed right away. Mentally, I'm a lot more clear.

 

 

What are some common reactions you receive when you tell people you're vegan?
Commonly, I get a weird reaction. There are a lot of stereotypes that go with a plant-based vegan diet, like that you can't build muscle or be big or that you're going to be some kind of hippie tree-hugger. I know several other vegan body builders who have grown muscle on a vegan diet and look great. 

What do you do to stay physically active?
I have a pretty strenuous routine. Currently, I'm doing 5 days days a week of strength training. Leading up to a show I'll include more cardiovascular work and work out 5-6 days a week. 

What film would you recommend to people who are interested in learning more about veganism?
Cowspiracy takes a really great look at veganism from multiple angles. It's great for people to hear the facts that are presented in it. I don't always go towards Earthlings but it can be a helpful tool for some people.

Favorite local restaurant:
I really like Ecopolitan. I take a lot of people there and go there myself probably too frequently. French Meadow has some good vegan options.

 

A photo posted by Big Nelly (@alphad307) on

 

Favorite place to buy groceries:
I shop at The Wedge Co-op and I come here [to The Herbivorous Butcher] because you guys have lots of vegan options. 

Favorite animal:
I really have a thing for pigs. I don't have any animals that live with me so I've been thinking about getting a pig. I think I need to get something different than what everyone else has. I recently went out to LA and spent a week at Have a Heart Animal Rescue Foundation, which was a really cool experience for me and brought me back to my childhood. A lot of my childhood was working on a farm and ranch. It was cool to be there with a different perspective on things now.

What advice would you offer someone who's interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet?
Reach out to people you know who have successfully transitioned to vegan. Get as much help from those people as you can. Do research on your own online to see what people are doing and what can work for you. Reach out to local stores and restaurants that offer vegan options and make sure you can keep a really good variety in your diet. Doing some nutrition tracking initially can help too.

Read more
Back to Top