He likes peanut butter, salads and playing with his miniature Australian shepherd, Theo.
He’s a 28-year-old nurse at Tacoma General Hospital and he just might be the sexiest vegan in America.
Daniel Dyviniak is one of 10 finalists in PETA’s “Sexiest Vegan Next Door” contest. The winner will be determined by an online vote on the animal rights organization’s website, peta.org. Voting concludes June 21. The winner will be announced June 28 and will score a Hawaiian vacation.
Dyviniak applied for the contest at the urging of his friends and beat out hundreds of other men for a spot in the finals. PETA is simultaneously holding a contest for women.
During a 3-day stretch in February 2014, a year after he was diagnosed as HIV-positive, he made the transition from burger lover to vegetarian to vegan. Dyviniak doesn’t miss meat products and says he feels much better, both in terms of his health and his impact on animals.
He learned he was HIV-positive during a routine screening in 2013 and doctors quickly placed him on a series of medications that’s hard on his body and his wallet.
The drugs that cost $3,000 per month (insurance offsets some of the bill) raise his cholesterol and play havoc on his liver, kidneys and digestive system. He takes solace in knowing that with the medication his life expectancy is the same as somebody without HIV.
Dyviniak grew up in Los Angeles with terrible eating habits that led to his weight climbing to 285 pounds.
“I’d hardly ever eat vegetables,” he said. “Maybe if there was tomato on my pizza.”
He started exercising and dropped to about 220 pounds by the time he was diagnosed.
In 2014, he started out trying to be a vegetarian, but in the first days of the experiment he watched a YouTube video by vegan expert Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
“She was talking about the compassion that is already inside of us,” Dyviniak said. “We already show it to our loved ones, but we need to unleash that value.”
He asked himself if he could kill the animals he ate. The answer: No way.
Three days after becoming a vegetarian, Dyviniak was a vegan and “didn’t know what to eat.”
Now eggs, dairy and products made with animal products were off the table.
“I only ate salads for the first two weeks and dropped about 20 pounds,” he said. “Then junk food found me.”
In particular he developed a taste for Oreo cookies (which he said wouldn’t be considered vegan under the strictest interpretation of the diet) and peanut butter. He and his boyfriend, also a vegan, soon found the right balance.
“Now that I’ve opened up my palette, I’ve found there are so many foods that are so freaking delicious,” Dyviniak said.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and smoothies are staples. “Vegan chicken nuggets are phenomenal.” And one of his favorite foods is pizza. He orders it without cheese and butter then adds avocado.
“I don’t miss meat at all,” he said. “The smell of meat makes me nauseous.”
His improved health and the idea that every salad saves animals and shows them compassion leaves Dyviniak with a perspective on his diagnosis that’s sure to surprise many. “In a way, it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me.”