This Chronically Ill Influencer Reduced Her Pain With a Plant-Based Diet
Gigi Robinson is a photographer and influencer with a focus on body confidence, chronic illness, and clean beauty. As a child, she was diagnosed with a trio of conditions: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). These are all part of a group of medical disorders known as dysautonomia, which affects more than 70 million people worldwide. Living with chronic illnesses, Robinson often experiences pain and flare-ups on a day-to-day basis. After being inspired to make the switch to a plant-based diet, she has experienced fewer symptoms and transformed the quality of her life, improving her pain, energy, and sleep. Now, you can find her sharing plant-based recipes and talking about her lifestyle on her TikTok channel @itsgigirobinson, inspiring hundreds of viewers every single day.
In an exclusive interview with The Beet, Gigi Robinson talks about her journey into becoming a plant-based eater, the power of food as medicine in alleviating her pain, and even tips for making the switch to clean beauty. Let her words inspire you to take charge of your health and use plants as medicine to nourish your body.
The Beet: What made you decide to go plant-based?
Gigi Robinson: I have a few friends that are vegan activists who always rave about the benefits of being vegan––not just for health, but also for the environment. I sometimes thought about trying a plant-based diet after hearing their stories but never took a step forward until much later. I think the tipping point was when one of my friends told me how she felt better after going vegan, which really drove me as I live with invisible illnesses. After that, I did my own research to explore the benefits of how a plant-based diet positively affects gut health and the mind-body connection. My ultimate thought was––I hate taking medicine, so it’s as simple as switching to a plant-based diet to alleviate my pain and ease my gastrointestinal (GI) tract issues, then why not try it? Ever since I have been eating plant-based and adding plants to every meal.
TB: How did you eventually go fully plant-based?
GR: I personally have tried a variety of diets recommended by experts for the conditions I live with. For instance, I have tried the low-FODMAP diet for the management of IBS, which really didn’t help my symptoms. When it came to adopting a plant-based diet, I took small steps before making big leaps. One day, I stopped red meat, then stopped chicken, then eventually substituted those with plant-based meat options like seitan and tofu. While transitioning to this diet, I realized that eating fruits and vegetables don’t make me feel bad, so I started eating more of them. There were and still are days when I have cravings for dairy products and I do indulge once in a while. Ultimately, what drives me to live a plant-based lifestyle is for my health and wellbeing.
TB: What were some of the health impacts of adopting a plant-based diet?
GR: Becoming plant-based literally changed my life. Living with a chronic illness, I get a lot of painful symptoms at random times and I eventually found out my diet was contributing to those symptoms. For instance, eating meat would lead to indigestion, where I experienced abdominal pain, acid reflux, and bloating. Dairy products would also make me sick and trigger a lot of my flare-ups, which negatively impacted my sleep and energy levels. Now, on a plant-based diet, I feel much better and rarely experience indigestion symptoms. I still experience migraines, fatigue, and brain fog because of my POTS but overall I have definitely seen transformational changes with my health.
TB: What has been your personal biggest triumph? What are you proudest of?
GR: I’m definitely proud of how much progress I have made in leading a plant-based and healthy lifestyle. For example, I find myself embracing new foods and cooking them in innovative ways. I used to really dislike mushrooms before going plant-based, now I use them all the time as plant-based meat substitutes. One of my all-time favorite recipes is the Minimalist Baker’s Portobello Steaks with Avocado Chimichurri recipe, which you can find me cooking on a regular basis.
TB: How did your family react to your switch to a plant-based diet?
GR: My family has been very supportive throughout my whole transition to a plant-based diet. I initially thought it would be quite difficult to become plant-based, living in a home full of meat-eaters, but it’s actually pretty simple as my family is pretty accommodating. For instance, if my mom is making marinated lamb chops or something, she’ll set aside some fresh marinade for me to use with plant-based meat. I typically use the marinade for seitan or tofu so I don’t miss out on the same flavors my family is enjoying for that meal. While my family is very supportive of my plant-based diet, they are personally not interested in trying it or changing their diet.
TB: What is a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snack for you?
TB: What do you not leave home without?
GR: I would probably not leave home without any kind of almond or oat milk for my coffee. If I am going on a trip or something, I’ll make sure I have some NoBull burger patties on hand and some portobello mushrooms for an easy plant-based meal.
TB: What advice would you give someone who is considering going plant-based?
GR: I would really recommend them to educate themselves about a plant-based diet. Until I took the initiative to research the diet myself, I really didn’t feel much attached to it. One of the ways to do this could be watching documentaries about the dairy industry and the meat industry. Once I saw how horribly meat is processed in our country, I definitely did not want any of that going in my body. One of the best documentaries I have watched and recommend watching is What The Health.
TB: Have you inspired anyone else in your life to try a plant-based diet?
GR: I share my plant-based journey on social media in the hope that individuals will be inspired to go plant-based. I do get a lot of messages from people who thank me for plant-based recipes and tips, which I’m definitely glad to hear. I try to share as many plant-based recipes, staples, and techniques as I can but I’m actively learning from my community and always seek to diversify my palate.
TB: What drove you to make a switch with vegan and cruelty-free beauty?
GR: I feel like I have always kind of been aware of what products I use for my haircare, skincare, and makeup. It’s really important to me to put clean beauty products on my skin, without toxic irritants and chemicals. It’s been a few years now and I have been educating myself on vegan beauty and making the switch for more eco-friendly choices. As an influencer, I also only use my platform to work with brands that have cruelty-free products filled with high-quality, clean ingredients. Some of the brands I have had the honor of working with are Starface, Thrive Causemetics, and Hourglass Cosmetics.
TB: Why do you recommend individuals make the switch to clean beauty?
GR: I recommend people to make the switch to clean beauty for three main reasons: (A) most clean beauty brands give back to charitable organizations, so a portion of your money is going for a good cause, (B) they care about what’s in every product and use high-quality ingredients, most of which may be from a plant-based source and (C) the brand may be a small business, and giving them a boost is really important right now because of the pandemic.
TB: What words do you live by?
GR: I believe everything you need is within you now.