Sarah Dawson from 'Survivor' talks her green lifestyle and vegetarian diet
by Allyson Koerner
Categories: Entertainment, Film/TV, Vegetarian
Tags: .
Photo: Russell Baer

If you’re a fan of “Survivor,” then you’re going to love our next story. We had the great opportunity of speaking with contestant Sarah Dawson aka Dawson from last season’s “Survivor: Philippines.”

In addition to being well-known for kissing “Survivor” host and TV personality Jeff Probst on live television, she is also known and loved for her commitment to the planet by living a green life and maintaining a vegetarian diet.

Check out our interview below, where you get to know Dawson and all of her eco-passions.

Ecorazzi: When did you start living a green life, and how did you become a vegetarian?
Sarah Dawson: In my religion, we put a lot of emphasis on lifestyle, and taking care of your body, and taking care of the environment, and being aware and not so self-consumed with material objects. As a fifth-generation, Seventh-day Adventist, we want to take care of our bodies, and we put so much emphasis on the health message, my mother actually raised my sisters and I as vegetarians. I’ve been a vegetarian for my entire life, which feels amazing.

Ecorazzi: While playing “Survivor,” how did your green lifestyle help you play the game?
Dawson: Being a nature girl, eating well, all of these things really, really helped set the stage for me wanting to play Survivor. Being out there without the protein – the meat – that people are accustomed to, that’s not foreign to me. Living outside for days at a time; sleeping in the rain; having to build your own shelter; and dig up roots and eating them; none of that was foreign to me. I actually have a completely different experience, from Survivor, than a lot of people that I’ve spoken to have had, because I think they were more accustomed and more dependent on society, the fast food, the meat and everything that takes us away from nature and what it is to be natural, and to be sustainable.

Ecorazzi: You say you were “never hungry” while playing “Survivor,” which is not something we usually hear from contestants. Do you credit your vegetarian diet to never being hungry?
Dawson: I do. Growing up as a vegetarian, I firmly believe my body is much more efficient than any of my friends . . . being put on an island my system didn’t go through a huge shock. Here at home, I’m eating raw foods. I’m not eating meats. I’m not eating fast food, anything like that. So, you take me from home, and you put me on an island, and you give me coconuts, and there are roots, and there’s grass. I had a buffet. I’m completely comfortable. That aspect of the game wasn’t difficult for me at all.

Ecorazzi: Did the other contestants ever question why you weren’t hungry and why you weren’t eating meat?
Dawson: Yes . . . People can notice that there’s a difference in the things that I’m putting in my body, and different in Survivor is bad. If you’re not eating meat, people perceive that you’re weak physically, because you don’t have the “necessary” proteins that society has programmed us to believe that we need. That was a huge concern for me. No one figured it out before the game. Once we were in the game, I actually caught two chickens. There were three chickens available in the game for the 18 of us, and I caught two of them myself, because I love egg whites in the morning . . . something I just recently started doing for protein.

The chickens didn’t make it, unfortunately, but while they’re preparing the chicken I’m thinking to myself “OK, if I tell them I’m not going to eat with them, that separates myself from the tribe, I’m isolating myself . . . if I refuse to eat with them, then of course, that’s going to separate me and put me in a bad position . . . We’ve got coconut bowls and we’re pouring this chicken soup, and everyone takes a bowl, and they go and give me a bowl and I held it there and I thought to myself, “OK, well I’ve got a decision to make. Am I going to compromise everything I’ve held dear to me growing up? Am I going to compromise my love for animals, my appreciation for nature and my firm belief that we don’t need to consume animals to thrive, or am I going to throw all that away just to be part of this team, in this game?”

Survivor’s all about compromise, and I refused to. I actually decided to use my portions of food instead to build an alliance with someone who needed more food than I did.

Ecorazzi: Did playing the game of “Survivor” change how you looked at the environment and its creatures?
Dawson: Absolutely. Being in the Philippines, I wish I could describe to you the beauty of waking up with no alarm, no music, no cars, no one yelling, no coffeemaker. You wake up, and the sun is rising on the beach, and you can see the blue of the water goes as far as you can see, the cliffs, the greenery is just so inspiring and passionate. It’s just communing and being one with nature, and waking up with nature, and sitting in the rain all night, and there’s nothing more natural. That absolutely changed me . . .

When I returned from Survivor, I was so overwhelmed, and just completely blown away … I got back to my apartment, walked in my apartment, and there’s just stuff everywhere. I’ve got a sectional; and I’ve got a dining room table; and I’ve got a bookshelf. I’m thinking to myself, “Why do we have so much stuff? I’m just one little person, why do I have all this stuff?”

I couldn’t identify with anything in my apartment. I felt like I’d left part of me that was obsessed with consumption, or concerned with furniture, and status, and location, location, location, back in the Philippines. I came back renewed, and aware of what’s really important in life.

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After “Survivor,” and 10 hours of being in the United States, Dawson bought a one-way ticket to Chile, where she spent three months rededicating herself to the planet by immersing herself in the culture and World Heritage sites.

It’s great to see a “Survivor” player not talk about losing the game, but actually express how the game changed her for the better.

The reality competition truly impacted Dawson, and her story is quite inspiring for others.

About Allyson Koerner

Allyson Koerner first found her love of writing while attending Westminster College in Pennsylvania, and that passion evolved while she was earning her Master's in Print & Multimedia Journalism at Boston's Emerson College. She's an experienced writer dabbling in all things vegan, green, entertainment and TV-related. Feel free to keep tabs on her over at Twitter: @AllysonKoerner.

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