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Ann Van Den Broeck, 32 years old, has been a vegan for the last 13 years, long before veganism became popular. During that time, she has been an outspoken activist on animal rights and welfare, and a big proponent of the vegan diet as a way to improve one’s health.
Her platform, primarily on YouTube, has enabled her to reach millions of people over these years, and she has gained quite a following after hard work and dedication.
Ann has also achieved a masters in sociology, which may have helped her understand, communicate, and engage better with her followers about her thoughts on a variety of topics. In many ways, she has managed to refine her creative skills and natural talents, to be able to create a sustainable lifestyle for herself and her family through her work.
One of her first business ventures began on Etsy, where she designs and crafts cute pieces of jewelry. She has a growing list of items available in her stores, all made by herself. These include bracelets, earrings, rings, charms, necklaces, and more! You can check out some of her amazing designs by going here.
Ann has also recently seen huge success with her rapidly growing YouTube channel called Rapunzel ASMR, which is now closing in fast on 500,000 subscribers!
No doubt she has been ahead of the curve in many areas and has maintained a high level of determination to succeed. She has always wanted to create a life for herself that she is happy with and one that is outside of the normal 9-to-5 workweek.
It’ll be exciting to see what the future holds for her! Now let’s get to the questions…
1. Tell us why you decided to go vegan and how it happened.
At first, I went vegetarian because around 15 years ago, a girl in my class told me that we don’t need to eat meat to be healthy. I actually always believed we did, so that is all I needed to turn vegetarian.
I found it unfair that we would kill animals when we don’t even need to. Eating meat was something I was brought up to do. It’s so normal, so you don’t second guess it.
Later on, another girl in another class told me about the abuse in the dairy industry, so I stopped eating dairy as well and stopped using any animal products for that matter.
I knew that you can’t avoid causing suffering in one way or another when you are alive, but I didn’t want to contribute unnecessarily to the harming of animals. It’s only later on that I became interested in the health aspect of it all.
2. What did your family and friends think about you going vegetarian and then vegan? Back then it wasn’t as popular as it is today…
My mom supported it and understood my decision. She was the one cooking the food, so all she did was replace meat with faux meat. But especially since going vegan (2 years later), I started preparing my own food.
So it was pretty easy for my mom as she didn’t even need to cook for me. The rest of my family was less understanding. I remember my dad saying that it was just a teenage phase I was going through. But here we are, still vegan at 32, for a total of 13 years.
My other family members repeat the same old slogans that have been fed to them, such as: “a little bit of everything is the best.” Meaning you should just eat a little bit of everything.
I don’t think they quite understand that I’m vegan because of ethical reasons, especially my grandparents.
No matter how many times I tell them something, they repeat the same stuff over and over again. For example, they will often tell me that I must be missing out on so many good foods and can’t eat anything.
I tell them my diet is now more varied than it used to be and that I can make vegan versions of any foods. Plus I didn’t really like eating meat to begin with, so I never craved it. And taste pleasure is never a justification to kill another sentient being.
But I don’t miss out on any taste pleasure anyway, I genuinely enjoy eating healthy vegan food. And now especially with all the vegan foods coming out, there is so much for people to choose from if they want to eat like they used to!
Although I think that will make vegans as a group a bit less healthy, as more junk foods become available, more people will fall to their temptation.
3. Did you experience any health improvements after starting the diet or have any health issues?
I used to be iron deficient as an omnivore when I was around 15 years old. And I also couldn’t take iron supplements because they would make my stomach hurt so bad that I couldn’t attend school. But after I went vegetarian and then vegan, I have never been iron deficient again.
I also used to have a lot of fatigue, daily. I even had tests done in the hospital and at the endocrinologist to find out what was going on. They found nothing. Then after I became vegan that problem also went away slowly but surely. Or maybe it was just school dragging me down, hehe.
4. You’ve been eating this way for years, so you’ve probably learned a lot during that time. If someone were thinking about going on a vegan diet, what are your top 3 tips?
1. If you find it hard to be vegan all of the time, just be vegan most of the time.
A lot of people find it hard to always be vegan, such as on holiday, and when you’re in a foreign restaurant. If that is the case, just do the best you can.
And I think once people really make the ethical connection, there is no going back. But it can be hard at first, for some more than others.
For me, it was easy and it happened overnight. But some people who have always relied on takeaways, for example, might find it harder.
People who are very sensitive to social pressure can find it difficult too. For them, they will probably need some character-building to stand stronger in their conviction and be a voice for the voiceless.
Once you make that ethical connection, you can’t justify eating a steak for the pleasure that its taste brings you for 10 minutes.
2. Don’t be foolish and go on weird fringe diets.
A lot of these failed vegans go on very weird diets.
They either go on juice fasts, drink their own urine, they cut out a ton of foods, or starve themselves on a low nutrient diet. Then they start falling apart… and it’s not surprising.
Stick to science and eat enough nutrient-dense foods. Your body needs protein, carbs, and fats. I think NutritionFacts.org is a good website with lots of info on nutrition. Unnatural Vegan is also a channel I appreciate.
If you struggle, you can always reach out to vegan nutritionists online or in real life. Most people are used to an omnivore diet, not a vegan one. So they need to educate themselves a little bit. Check out Jon Venus and his diet plans, too.
3. Be rational and honest.
This kind of ties into the former point. Be honest about your symptoms. Some people lie to themselves and act as if veganism made them feel weak, yet they know they have been undereating.
Other people don’t necessarily lie but are just really oblivious about health and diet.
And be rational about your choices. Don’t just be swayed by pseudo-science like drinking your own urine…
Lots of people don’t know how to read or interpret studies, so it’s kind of an issue. That is why you need to find credible, smart and reliable sources.
5. Now I’d love to focus a bit on your recent pregnancy! Congratulations on having a healthy baby girl! Can you tell us if eating a strict vegan diet made the pregnancy difficult for you?
Thank you! 😄 No, veganism for me is so normal after 13 years, that it’s not a struggle at all. I also never craved any animal products. Actually, just eating was a struggle the first months, as I had, like many women, constant morning sickness.
I survived on bland toast and muesli for a while. Once that was over, I ate pretty much as usual. I did add a prenatal vitamin, as recommended to all pregnant women.
During my entire pregnancy, I had several blood tests taken and they were always great. And when I did crave things, it was vegan things. Like for a while, I craved green sour apples!
6. Did you have to stop eating some of your favorite foods? What did you replace them with to make up the calories?
Yes, the first months I had morning sickness all day, although I never actually vomited. It was not severe nausea, just queasiness all the time. I stopped eating most foods I used to like.
Like I said earlier, I survived on very bland stuff. So I ended up not eating enough calories at all, and lost weight in the first months. But this is not unique at all.
I joined a Flemish pregnancy forum and a lot of the women on there had morning sickness all day as well the first months. Some even needed hospitalization because they were vomiting so much.
I also felt less pleasure eating during pregnancy. I often had this yucky feeling in my stomach. But it was better near the end. And in total, I gained a healthy 13 kg. And no stretch marks!
I have made some videos about this on my Ann channel, like this one:
7. Did you take any supplements during your pregnancy to help ensure you and the baby remained healthy?
Definitely. This was a concern of mine, so I kept taking vitamin D, omega 3 from algae, and a prenatal vitamin from Naturelo, which is vegan and one of the best supplements out there.
And I tried to eat as best as I could at the time. Although, I did eat a bit more junk food sometimes because I couldn’t eat very much.
8. How long did it take you to lose the baby weight and are you back now to where you were before?
Yes, my weight is completely back to my normal. I am 1 m 76 cm and normally weigh around 62 kg.
During pregnancy, I got up to 75 kg. I went to 67 kg right after birth and then gradually lost the rest.
So to lose everything took around 2 to 3 months. I didn’t focus on it though. But with the baby, it was a bit harder to eat enough as she took up so much time.
My breasts are also bigger from breastfeeding so I weigh a bit over 62 kg now, and don’t focus on getting lower at all.
I just eat enough food and started weight training again as well, because I stopped during pregnancy and lost a lot of strength!
So I bet I have more fat now and less muscle, definitely. But my body pretty much looks like it did before, which I am super happy about.
9. I’m sure our readers would love to learn a bit about your diet. Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you?
In the morning
I either have oatmeal with flaxseed, oat milk, date chunks, and banana pieces.
Or sometimes I have a protein smoothie with protein powder from Vivolife, frozen banana, nectarine, oat milk, flaxseeds, and some oats. I might add almond nuts as well.
As a snack, I sometimes have rice crackers with some peanut butter or fruit.
A typical lunch for me
It can be whole grain bread with avocado, tomato and romaine lettuce with a soup. I love tomato soup or vegetable soup.
This might be a potato dish usually with vegetables and lentils, beans or faux meat.
I’ve been paying attention to eating more legumes lately, as I used to not eat them very much, but they are really good for you.
Other times I’ll have vegan spaghetti or moussaka, a wok dish…
I eat good healthy whole grain carbs, legumes or faux meat (but not too much of the faux stuff), nuts, flaxseeds, plenty of vegetables, and some fruits.
Oh and water! I need to drink loads for breastfeeding. But lately, I’ve been drinking some fuze tea as well, or breastfeeding teas. I also love ginseng coffee, but only have half a cup a day as I am sensitive to caffeine.
10. Do you consume any vegan junk foods or try to minimize them?
I used to not consume any junk food at all, but my partner brought me to the dark side lol.
So I loosened up a bit on that front and eat some junk foods sometimes, like crisps, faux meats, ice cream, candies, but I never go overboard!
I always limit my intake as I know this stuff is not the best to eat. But it is enjoyable sometimes to be a bit less strict.
So far, it didn’t negatively impact my blood results.
11. Do you currently use any skincare products to help keep your skin young?
The number one tip I give everyone is SPF! I wear sunscreen from Paula’s Choice every day. It’s also my go-to brand as they don’t test on animals and have science behind their products.
For the rest, I don’t use anything. Once in a while, I might try something, like a vitamin C serum, or BHA or AHA exfoliation, but I end up not sticking with it.
I have the weird idea sometimes that products are going to damage my skin. So I am careful with using stuff, even though I have read the science behind it. Maybe I’ll be more diligent when I actually start getting wrinkles. 😄
I would then probably start retinoids or first a more consistent vitamin C routine. But the last serum I had turned orange very fast, which is not good.
And it also makes the skin more sensitive to the sun when you wear it, and I am not always that great with re-applying sunscreen. So then I feel like I would damage my skin more by putting it on.
12. You never used to wear much makeup before, but now you do. Do you choose cruelty-free and vegan make up brands and which are your favorites?
I was make-up free for years, although I often did wear some concealer under my eyes when I looked tired. I always had blue under my eyes, ever since being a kid.
I remember my best friend asking me when I was 13 about why I had blue under my eyes. I guess it’s a genetic thing. But when I’m tired I get circles very easily like that.
And I started wearing it because of my ASMR channel. I thought it looked good, so I kept doing it.
Although I never wear foundation, usually just concealer under the eye and mascara, and that’s it.
But lately, I have been doing a winged eyeliner as well. And yes, I always choose cruelty-free. I don’t have any favorites. I kind of look at good rated stuff online and get that.
A mascara I love is this one by Poppy Austin.
13. You look really young by the way! I’m sure other people are also very surprised about how old you are. Do you think this has anything to do with your vegan diet, skincare, or genetics?
Yes, a lot of people are surprised when they find out I am actually 32 years old.
I think a big part is because of genetics to be totally honest. My mom has always looked younger than her age as well, and so does my brother who eats like absolute rubbish.
My mom has worn SPF her entire life, and so do I. I do look most like my dad’s part of the family, but genetically, I have longevity on my side. My DNA test revealed that I have a very high likelihood of reaching an extreme old age.
Even people eating terribly in my family and being sedentary have reached age 97.
But of course, skincare and genetics help with looking more youthful on the outside. Aging by the sun is still a thing, even if you have good genetics. So I keep sun damage away by using SPF daily.
And I also know things like simple sugars can damage collagen, so I try to minimize that and eat a diet that is good for the skin and body in general. Who knows what I would have looked like if I didn’t do any of this.
14. What are the ways you deal with stress with all the things you have going on?
With a baby, it has definitely been a challenge!
And if anything is going to age me it’s stress and lack of sleep. Although this is temporary, so I hope not much damage will be done.
But I get very interrupted unrestful sleep now, plus I’m self-employed and have a business to run, and I must record videos for my ASMR channel.
The good part is that even though I wake up really tired, when I get up, it starts to go away and I feel fine all day. But I do look more tired and that’s something I can’t do anything about right now.
After a while, it sometimes gets to me more and I feel a bit groggy or dizzy from sleep deprivation, so Simon takes the baby a for a bit so I can get some rest.
I keep reminding myself that it’s only for a short period in my life, and always keep a positive mindset about it. That’s one of the most important parts of dealing with stressors. Keep a positive outlook, and try and find help when you really need it.
I have my family and partner to fall back upon. Although, this is not possible for everything, as they can’t make the jewelry for me because it takes time and practice. But at least sometimes they can mind the baby if it’s a non-breastfeeding issue.
15. Does veganism encompass your whole lifestyle? Do you generally buy only clothing, shoes, and other everyday products that are vegan or cruelty-free?
Veganism is about ethics for me, about not harming other sentient beings when it isn’t necessary. I just find it a selfish move to eat an animal when we don’t need to.
Sometimes I’ve later found out some animal product could have been used in something I bought, a product which I did not expect to have animal products in it, like for example, a glue.
So you can’t always avoid it, but I do my best. I don’t feel bad when I’ve made a mistake or something. I don’t dwell on these things. I just learn from it for the next time, and what I can’t avoid I accept.
16. Tell us a bit about “The Jewel Saga.” You have a lot of great designs and are talented in what you do!
The Jewel Saga started very unexpectedly. I was staying at my boyfriend’s house some years ago, and I saw polymer clay art online. I thought it looked really fun, so I decided that I wanted to try it myself.
I ordered a bunch of polymer clay and started experimenting with it. It is funny because I started making fruit and thought it looked really good from the first try, but when I look at those beginner pieces now, they look terrible.
So I started practicing and practicing, and ordered supplies I would need to make jewelry out of. Then I put some pieces on Etsy as I thought they might have good potential to sell, so I kept making more and more.
And at Christmas, I suddenly got a huge boost in sales up to a point where I thought I could make a living out of it.
I didn’t hesitate. I registered as self-employed.
And ever since, my income has gone up with new things I add, and new stores I have started like Gifties and Autumn’s tears.
My partner is also starting a jewelry store soon!
But I never considered failing…
Once I decided to be self-employed, I also decided that I would succeed one way or another. And things have fallen into place like that.
17. Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on that you’d like our readers to check out?
So I am expanding other stores as well, like giftiesbyann.etsy.com and autumnstears.etsy.com.
These are focused on more conventional jewelry and gifts for special occasions. I started doing artwork as well: LuaNovaByAnn.etsy.com.
However, that store is very unfinished because the baby arrived and things got put on hold. And as I said, my boyfriend is soon starting a store as well, which I’m helping with.
And of course, growing my YouTube channel Rapunzel ASMR. Honestly, there are tons of things I would like to do, but not enough hours in a day.
Thx for the interview and shoutout on your amazing blog Matthew ❤ loved your questions and also enjoyed your previous interview
Another great interview Matthew! Ann you are the perfect interviewee! Beautiful collaboration. I enjoyed reading this article so much.