I'm going to try to write about my marriage to veganism, which is hard, because there is so much depth to our relationship. I actually freeze a bit when asked to write about this, because there is just SO MUCH involved, so much of my own heart and sense of connectedness, but far more importantly, so much a desperate need for the information to be out there, so much need for change, need for action, need for a stand taken against violence and abuse and heartbreaking, unacceptable cruelty. It's very hard for me to even start this without getting so passionate and needing to take a walk (or flee and join the ALF) but I'll refrain.
Even though my heart and head swirls with so much heaviness on the subject, I figured the best place to start this series would be to address the most needed, most valuable information:
How To Do IT. Because for many people that's the biggest mental hurdle. But how? What do I buy? It seems scary to some, like you are cutting off a leg or something (here is where I insert a not-so funny pun about the fact that we actually do cut off legs and eat them...). So how do you make the leap?
First of all, for the curious-but-not-yet-committed, I think it is really helpful to do a trial – 30 days is a good start. Try being vegan for 30 days, make that commitment to yourself, and feel the difference in your body and in the lightness of your heart. During this time, make an effort to connect to yourself, maybe through starting a mediation practice, or spending more time in nature. Try a new hobby you have always wanted to do, start journaling if you don't already. When you are on a plant-based diet, you are stripping down un-needed energy from your being. Energy that is lifeless and fogs up the pathways between your mind and your heart. This is a beautiful, kind cause you are sending into the universe and a likewise effect will return in its place.
It's important to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing, and when making any life change, it's helpful to be supported by the right tools. Again, knowledge is everything, and many people “try” going vegan, or even vegetarian, but they do so by simply eliminating animal products with little to no thought about their actual diet. So here are some of my favorite tools:
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Holy cow (you like what I did there? Cow? Hehe), this book is AMAZING. I have shared it with many friends and given it for Christmas presents. The first part of the book is about Alicia's journey and how she arrived at veganism, and allllll about the actual food itself. As in, what you are actually eating. And more than just the reasons not to eat animal products, she goes into depth about the properties of all veggies, fruits, grains...our bodies' natural reactions to certain foods, what to eat when you are feeling x,y, and z. Seriously, it's a godsend. If I was rich, I would buy everyone in the world this book (at least the people reading this blog) because it covers so much. The second part of the book is ALL recipes. And they are so freaking good. She splits the recipes into categories – for example, there is a section for the “flirters” meaning those that are flirting with the idea of veganism, and then goes all the way to the “superhero” category which if I remember correctly is raw and vegan. You really cannot go wrong with this book. It covers everything, is easy and pleasant to read, and there is something for everyone. May I recommend the chocolate peanut butter cup recipe?? (and holy shit, I just went to her website www.thekindlife.com , and she's about to come out with “The Kind Mama” - can't wait to buy that when I'm pregnant! Check out the site- I haven't been on there in forever and it looks awesome!)
Introduction to Animal Rights by Gary Francione. This one is a classic. Really covers it all in a smart, no-bullshit, factual way. It's wonderful.
Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer. I haven't actually read this one, but have to mention it because it's kind of known as The Book. Have always heard amazing things over this one, and I should read it, I have just stopped reading as much on the subject since I'm already vegan..but everyone, vegan and non-vegan, raves about this one!
The documentary Earthlings by Shaun Monson. Okay. Seriously. If you watch one thing, watch this. Warning – it's brutal, but warning, it's reality. I don't believe in sugarcoating the truth so we can continue to distance ourselves for what goes on behind factory farm doors. Behind the cheesy commercials of cows running happily in field. This documentary changed my life, and has pretty much changed anyone's who's ever seen it. When it first came out, my friends and I hosted screenings of it. This documentary is kind of known as the “vegan-maker” because, well, you'll see. I have lots of friends who have been vegan for years since seeing this. He has a documentary called Unity that I believe is not out yet, but it's about connectedness in humanity and I can't wait to see that one either. He is brilliant and does such amazing work. I think this is on Netflix, and if not, it's for sure streaming online for free!
Okay. There are so many other books and documentaries and videos to watch, but if I were planning a 30 day vegan trial for someone, that'd be where I would start. The Kind Diet and Earthlings for sure, and if you have time, I'm sure you'd love the others.
Now, what do you eat? The Kind Diet is such a perfect book because it covers the Why and the How and the Yum all in one but I'll share a few tips here as well:
1. Veggies. Seriously. Real, organic, veggies. Many people go vegan and forget that you are actually supposed to eat vegetables. They simply cut out animal products but pay no attention to nutrition. Being vegan has shed light on my own eating habits, and it keeps me (mostly) conscious about what I eat, what nutrients I'm getting and so on. So the number one thing is...actually eat vegetables. It's kinda that easy.
2. Eat cereal in the mornings? Easy – replace cow's milk with almond or soy milk. Or rice or hemp.
3. If you are anywhere close to a Whole Foods, I mean, what more is there to say? If you regularly shop there, luck you, because it's so easy nowadays. I became vegan (more on that later) in New Bern, NC, a small town in the South and did so with a Food Lion, so if you've got a Whole Foods, you're good to go. Speaking of Food Lion, and pretty much every grocery store nowadays has so many vegan options. I remember when there used to be like two frozen vegan chicken nugget options at Food Lion in high school, and now even in New Bern, there's a giant section of all-natural vegan frozen foods.
4. There is a substitute for everything now. And I don't mean “fake” scary artificial stuff. Most vegan brands are also very health conscious and the ingredients are already pretty natural, if not all natural. Just check the label like you would anything else. I really can't think of anything I “can't have” - and about that, I never feel deprived because I have no desire to eat anything from an animal, it's not food to me. I love cooking and becoming vegan has made cooking exciting and an adventure. It's opened my eyes to a whole spectrum of food I didn't know existed. Which really makes me wish I had a photo-book of all my meals when that “But what do you eat??” question comes my way. I have learned so much about food and nutrition and cooking since being vegan.
5. Relax. Have fun with it. You are doing this for your body, the creatures we share this beautiful Earth with, and this beautiful Earth herself. Taking care of your body and mind creates a domino effect , so remember to thank yourself and to honor the innate beauty and divineness that is you. Take it one day at a time, one conscious choice at a time.
I'll be following this up with some recipes of my favorite meals that we make at home, but of course these meals are based off of my taste buds and not yours, so make what excites yours. Oh, and Idea! If you have a certain meal/flavor that you love or are curious how to veganize, leave it in the comments and I'll try to help or direct you to other recipes. :)
(Also, more to follow – my journey to Vegan Town, and why even be vegan in the first place? And probably some cute pictures of cows)