We were lucky to meet Ally Iseman in Los Angeles in October last year when we went to bear witness at a Pig vigil run by the Los Angeles Save Movement. This was followed up with hanging out at Vegan Fashion Week. We realised after spending time with Ally, that she’s one of those rare humans that you can’t get enough of. Not only is she a modern triple threat – actor, writer, and producer – working in and around Hollywood, but has spoken on numerous panels about gender parity and inclusive feminism. Ally’s great humour gives easy access for people listen and connect with her passionate voice about many issues, particularly the voice that supports voiceless animals. In her own words, Ally is driving social change through comedy.
What was your motivation for becoming a vegan?
For me, it started with compassion for the animals. In high school, I co-founded Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (S.E.T.A.) with a friend to raise awareness in the student body of rural and suburban Maryland about what was happening on factory farms. I got a lot of pushback from fellow students since I had not yet adopted a vegetarian or plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle. I wasn’t there yet, but that didn’t stop me from wanting people to be more educated about their food choices.
Did you have an “ah-ha” moment that sealed the deal?
What pushed me over the edge into starting my plant-based journey was one of the first viral videos of slaughterhouse and factory farm footage narrated by Alec Baldwin. I remember it so vividly. I finally SAW what I had only HEARD about and that visualization sealed the deal. I stopped eating most animal flesh that day. I told myself I would only consume animal flesh once a year and it had to be something that was deeply sentimental and meaningful. That lasted only one year as animal flesh never tasted the same after removing it from my diet.
Being from Maryland where crabs are a really big deal culturally, I still ate seafood so I was a pescatarian, but after about 6-8 months I even stopped eating fish. A few years later, I had let go of dairy and eggs. I then started researching the products I was buying and did my best to only buy vegan goods. I still consider it to be a journey of continued growth and exploration as we’re always learning. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan. If you’re on the journey and you’re educating yourself and doing your best to grow and do less and less harm to the animals, the planet, and yourself, you’re doing great in my book.
What have been the biggest challenges since transitioning?
When I first transitioned to a fully vegan diet, I suffered from a protein and iron deficiency because I was only thinking about what to take off my plate and not what else I had to put on it. Since doing a lot of self-education on optimal nutrition. I now have what I call an 80-20 diet: 80% whole foods organic clean eating with 20% non-organic or processed foods. I find it to be a good balance. I live in a city with an abundance of amazing vegan restaurants and activities, which makes it easy to dine out and meet like-minded folk, but I have found the dissension among the community (people judging who is or is not vegan enough, who is going about their activism in the “right” way, etc.) to be the most challenging in addition to dating.
Is there anything you really miss?
I miss sentimental foods and meals I would share with family when I was younger, the culture of my home state, but that’s just the community and connection I’m really missing, not the flesh. Sometimes I miss eggs.
What are your vegan kitchen cupboard and fridge staples?
Fresh produce from the farmer’s market! I always love picking something up that I’ve never seen before and learning what to do with it. I make surethat I’ve got cans of beans and legumes stocked up in addition to some organic tofu and tempeh along with seasonings like nutritional yeast (aka nooz) and the Japanese seaweed sesame seed topping furikake. And chocolate. Lots of dark, dark chocolate.
Tell us your favourite vegan dish that you cook
My friend just taught me how to make this amazing Korean tofu broccoli salad that I’m obsessed with! It’s the perfect texture and saltiness for full satisfaction. I also love a good gluten-free pancake.
What about fashion and beauty, what are your favourite brands?
How has your health/wellbeing changed since becoming vegan?
I feel more in alignment with my values on a daily basis, spreading compassion, not cruelty. It just makes life easier to live for me when I know I’m doing less harm. I used to get 4-6 migraines a month before becoming vegan, and that’s all but vanished.
How did friends and family react when you told them you were becoming vegan?
My dad started making jokes about it and, when I suggested going to a vegan restaurant together, if we could go somewhere “everyone could eat,” but now he’s become much more inquisitive about it for his own health and even texts me proudly when he’s gone to a vegan restaurant on his own! My mom has always been supportive, which was easy since I wasn’t living at home dependent on her for food. She’s even asked me to teach her some recipes as I tend to take up all the cooking when I come to visit. My sister is even on her own plant-based journey!
Have you found any situations particularly difficult?
Holiday meals with friends and family who aren’t vegan are the hardest. It’s become too painful for me to see a giant dead body in the middle of the table, but people have done their best to accommodate and compromise in the past, which I deeply appreciate.
Who are your vegan role models?
You reading this article are my vegan heroes. You’re seeking a more compassionate path out of curiosity and a drive to make the world a better place. Thank you for doing all that you do to bring kindness to a world in pain.
Are there any documentaries, books, movies, podcasts, or websites you’d recommend to people looking for inspiration?
I think they did a wonderful job with the doc Gamechangers and Okja is a fantastic narrative experience. There are so many books, films, podcasts, and sites to check out depending on what you’re passionate about in the vegan world. It can feel overwhelming, what a blessing! Pick something you’re passionate about, like health and fitness, and start exploring! Rich Roll talks to incredibly inspiring people from all walks of life on his podcast and the athletes of Switch4Good are on my list of badass lady vegans I love!
What was the last new vegan discovery that you made?
I just found two great new companies at the Mar Vista Farmers Market – Bhoga Tempeh makes their tempeh out of yellow split peas for those looking to limit their soy for any reason (and they do delicious jerky, too!) and Rawsome makes amazing chocolate Morsels and CBD Bliss Balms that I love!
If you had one message for anyone considering making the commitment to be vegan, what would it be?
Try it out. What’s the worst that could happen?
What’s the best thing about being vegan?
Knowing that I’m not eating my friends and building a community around compassionate choices.
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