by Lindsay Miller
Tay Sweat’s mission to get healthy started with a diagnosis. Like similar stories, he came to a crossroads in his life when he realized, “If I continue down this journey, I’m probably not going to live long. It became life or death. So I had to get it together or I was literally going to die.” Diagnosed with diabetes at 312 pounds, Tay was seeing his doctor every three to six months and experiencing a fast track to heart disease and a terrible bout of eczema. Now certified in holistic health, he knows that skin issues are in direct correlation with internal well-being. Back then, he says, “I just felt inside of me that nothing was going right, so I had to make a change.”
In school at the time, he ignored his classroom teachers to read health magazines and nutrition books, however, Tay was an inner city school kid and had to go outside of those walls to find the information he sought. Remember the library? “My diet was trash. I ate a lot of fast food,” he remembers. He grew up with a single mother working two jobs and supporting two boys, so cooking wasn’t always an option at the family dinner table. He had to take it upon himself to study, read up and learn the basic knowledge on topics surrounding his health.
Today Tay is known as the “Vegan Trainer” and has actually tried many diets for the sake of experience and to help his clients. However, he says his journey to a healthy lifestyle and (eventual) vegan diet started out as an elimination process. The elimination of what he calls gateway food. Tay says, “Red meat was a gateway food for me because if I had bacon I had to have eggs and pancakes. If I had a burger, I had to have french fries and that made me want to have sugary sauces to dip the fries.” He didn’t start out with the mission to go vegan, although he did start with the mission of getting gateway foods out of his diet. The more he studied, the more he learned. And the more he experimented with cleaner foods, the better the results he found.
The diet he ended up settling into was pescetarianism, but this later led him to explore the full-on world of life without meat. “I wanted to see how I felt. At this point, I was down one hundred pounds and I had gotten rid of diabetes. The eczema was gone too,” he declares. After these results, Tay challenged himself to take things a step further with veganism.
“When I went to a 100% vegan diet, I felt so much better. And I already felt great!” he says. He found that essentially any diet can be made vegan, but the word vegan didn’t necessarily mean healthy. “French fries are vegan. Oreos are vegan. Doritos are vegan. And they’re are certainly not healthy!” he laughs.
Now, Tay has tried every form of the vegan diet, including the complete raw vegan diet, in which he only ate raw fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables. This meant no cooking. The idea of not spending extra time in the kitchen may seem convenient, but Tay admitted, “Oh no! I hated it!” The process of becoming a vegan was more than restricting than trying to understanding his diet. The different diet options of veganism taught Tay to understand the details of nutrition and its effect on the body through cooking, macronutrients, caloric intake, and gut health which in turn attributed to his continuation to study and learn more. Following new diets meant new rules and Tay was determined to understand why.
“Today you can do a quick Google search to find answers to your questions,” he says. During the time Tay was acquiring this process – on the topic of health especially – extra steps were mandatory without the internet or iPhone. With each lesson he seemed to get a new certification, literally – everything from holistic health and nutrition to personal training. He has even written a book on a vegan keto diet.
“Everyone can benefit from learning how food affects the body; it is just not something everyone is willing to do. People just want the answer and they want to be told what to do.” Sound familiar? It’s true that our society expects fast results. That’s why we have Amazon Prime. However, Tay’s journey to dropping a hundred pounds (years ago) was no quick triumph. Losing a hundred pounds is a process, as one would imagine, but it isn’t the same as the ten pounds we want to squander just to fit in that dress. A hundred pounds is a Saint Bernard. It’s could even be another human! But let’s think about that for a minute – the metaphor of losing those things. It’ll change you. Tay’s weight loss changed him – it had to – remember it was life or death – but it was much more than an aesthetic transformation. “My biggest takeaway overall was the human psychology behind it all,” he conveys.
Unlike many, Tay not only changed his life and his habits, he continues on the path to changing health for himself in multiple ways, most notably by influencing others. He focuses on furthering to educate his clients through fitness and nutrition, working with people at risk and in need of lifestyle changes, and he unapologetically brings realness to his social media platforms. Thank you Tay!
Social media for a business owner is more often than not a “necessary evil”. Instead of keeping up with our long lost high school buddies, witnessing the outpouring baby and wedding albums, remembering birthdays, and seeing old friends get new jobs, business owners are scrolling for ideas, creating content, analyzing data, researching and reaching every aspect of the ins and outs of their product type. It is not only exhausting, it is overwhelming and more often than not, misleading. Geez, remember when social media was fun?
Although Tay has been in the health space for over ten years, promoting himself and his business on these strange networks was a foreign way to exert credibility. The popularity of fitness influencers has completely saturated the market by making it ambiguous and confusing for consumers to differentiate quality. Certifications can be completed in a weekend and people are “verified” based on the number of followers, whereas Tay spent a decade studying and writing and reading and working to build his clientele. He also felt a responsibility to be the one feeding those followers with the right information. So what did Tay do? He went back to studying and learning the world of social media. “There is a freedom in it,” he admits, “but the currency is different.”
Besides his own currency, notably in the form of multiple certifications, is his eager to evolve and adapt, which he says is important because there are always new ways for his message to be heard. He won’t shy away from new avenues or varying outlets simply because he is already established. His humility is in his willingness to grow. His authenticity is in his passion to reform. His influence is in his words and his heart and his kindness. He chooses to teach and pay it forward because at one point in time, the roles were reversed. He understands. He cares. He is willing to put in the work. And during this time of skewed realism and fast “influencers” with tens of thousands of “impressions”, we should really be filtering our advice not our photos. It is refreshing that Tay lives up to the real meaning of influence and that my friends, should leave you truly impressed.