posted August 30, 2022
I met Phil DeJean in the Winter 2021 online Main Street Vegan Academy. If you’ve ever attended a Main Street Vegan class or Compassion Consortium gathering on Zoom, Phil is the helpful and dapper tech guy not so behind the scenes.
Phil and I bonded immediately as teachers with shared politics from the local area (Phil is in New York City and I live in New Jersey). And we knew it was inevitable that we would meet in person. Being less than 13 miles from Midtown, I hopped on a bus and we had a delicious vegan lunch Plant Bar NYC: Nomad.
Phil became a Vegan to improve his health and lose some of his 313 pounds. Today he admits if he still weighed over 300 pounds during the COVID pandemic, he might not have made it through. He’s grateful to be alive.
His mom died at 50 due to complications of being severely overweight. On her deathbed, she told Phil to change his lifestyle. But she wasn’t the only family member who influenced Phil’s decision: his beloved aunt had both legs amputated as a result of diabetes.
Phil lost 100 pounds in a year, and he has kept it off for over a decade. It has helped him live a healthier lifestyle and get to the gym. Plus, he now walks everywhere.
Like many Vegans, Phil went from being a pescatarian to a vegetarian before becoming Vegan. When Phil was pescatarian, he had fish nearly a dozen times per week. He was itchy all the time. After self-diagnosing, he insisted that his doctor test him for mercury poisoning. While the normal range of mercury is 1-9 nL, Phil’s results came back at 129 nL! Not only was this significant for his health, levels greater than 125 nL raise a red flag with the U.S. government, prompting an investigation to make sure he was not a terrorist!
To resolve this, he could have a painful blood transfusion. The other option was to stop eating fish. Phil chose the latter.
Phil checked out Victoria Moran’s book, Main Street Vegan, to see if being a vegan was right for him. Five pages in and he was down for the cause. “Victoria’s writing was not telling me what to do. She presented the information in a clear and concise fashion,” Phil explained. He added, “A lot of people like to push the torture angle,” which he thinks is not the best way to present the information. “Victoria is one of the people who helped me the most. She showed me by example, and I aspired to be like her.”
Phil had contemplated the idea of going Vegan before meeting Victoria, but he comes from a Puerto Rican family. Every time he wanted to go vegetarian, pernil (a slow-cooked pork roast) appeared in front of him.
When he got married, Phil continued wanting to be vegetarian or Vegan, but his wife would call his mom and ask what she could do to keep Phil in the carnivore fold. (She only wanted to be helpful and they’re still great friends.) When he got divorced, he was beholden to no one, so he could make his own decisions.
As he embarked on the Vegan path, he sought out a nutritionist who was open to this plant-based proclivities. That way he felt that his choices were solid from the start.
Phil has been Vegan since 2012 and has been able to maintain his 100-pound weight loss. He told me that he “only eats foods with the simplest ingredients. Sometimes processed stuff creeps in, but I’m not about shaming myself or anybody else.” Knowing, however, that too much rich food will cause his weight to go up, he emphasizes unprocessed foods.
He also wants to behave in a way that aligns with his beliefs, respectful towards people, nature, and himself. Once Phil learned about the cruelty toward animals for food, he could never go back and harm them.
Phil is a Main Street Academy Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. He loves helping those who seek his advice.
“I can’t be one of those negative vegans who is typecast as pushy and obnoxious. I just want to be an example of a brother trying to live a cruelty-free life.” He hopes others will follow by example.
Cherie Hans holds certifications from Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution and Dr. Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition programs. She holds a Master of Science in Bilingual Education from St. John’s University, NY, and a Bachelor of Arts from the City University of NY: Queens College in English and Spanish and currently teaches adults in English as a Second Language. After graduating from Main Street Vegan Academy, Cherie started Fit and Fifties Vegan. She is from Queens, New York, but now resides in New Jersey with her husband and many rescued cats.