As most people in my life are overly aware, I am being vegan for the month of October.
If you've heard enough of it, though- feel free to click out right now haha!
However, I know that there may be a few new readers (via our guest blogger) today, so I want to repeat a little bit of how this came to be.
In September I started thinking about living a vegan lifestyle. I was kind of like: "oh my gosh! How would I SURVIVE with no cheese?!" the idea excited me. I make my "new year resolutions" on my birthday, and since my birthday is 9/5, I jotted down a goal for this year to eat vegan for a month. The thought stayed in my head. My husband and I were already moving toward a more whole foods diet anyway and veganism/vegetarianism intrigued me. After some prayer and a few personal realizations, I decided that I couldn't wait. I had to try this out NOW.
So, on October 1st, 2010- I pledged to be vegan for the month of October, documenting my journey every Friday here, here, and here.
Soon, I found out that my college Culture and Diversity class required us to immerse ourselves in a culture and document our experience. We needed: an immersion (living vegan for the month, check), to read some books (tons of cookbooks, check), and an interview...
Please welcome Janae from Whole Foods Vegan Momma!
Janae's blog has been an excellent resource for me while moving through this vegan experience. A lot of times, I can't figure out the words I want to express how I feel about this change, but she takes them right out of my mouth! She also posts some great recipes and makes life look like you really can be vegan and happy! I emailed her to ask a few questions and she was kind enough to respond!
It's a bit long, but worth the read :)
When did you become vegan, and what made you decide to make the change?
I have been vegan for over four years. Initially, it was a change that needed to happen because I was pregnant with my second child and wanted to have a healthy pregnancy so I would be able to deliver at home with a midwife. I didn't make the decision to have a home birth because I was in love with the idea (I promise I'm really not as granola as I sound), but rather because money was tight, I was young and relatively healthy, and the cost was only $1000 compared to a much larger bill that would come from the hospital. Since I had high blood pressure as well as pre-eclampsia with my first pregnancy (which was NOT a vegan pregnancy), my midwife suggested I switch to a plant-based, whole foods diet to ensure healthy blood pressure and avoid another bout with pre-eclampsia which would disqualify me from being able to deliver at home. I read Campbell's The China Study, decided, what is there to lose? and transitioned over a period of months to a purely plant based diet. After I had the baby (who is now a wonderfully healthy, vibrant, four year old who has never had anything more serious than a cold), I thought, "why would I ever want to go back?" I loved how I felt after I ate, and veganism made sense on so many levels, particularly at a physical level (I'm confident I'm an undiagnosed case of lactose intolerance, which for over 60% of the world, or more, is the case), but the emotional/sprititual aspect also made sense. I thought, "Yes, we CAN eat meat and drink the breast milk of a cow, but should we? Should I? Is it really in my best interest?" Ultimately after a great deal of research and discussion with my husband, I made it a matter of prayer and decided that this was the path for me and my family. I have not looked back since.
What are you're feelings toward those that eat meat?
It saddens me to think of the unnecessary pain and suffering we put animals through as well as ourselves (ie. the health problems associated with our animal rich diets) simply because our culture has taught us that meat with every meal is what we need. However, I understand that most people don't give any thought to the morality let alone the health aspect of consuming the amount of meat Westerners do. Yes, many of us know that large amounts of red meat is not a good idea. But what about chicken, fish, cheese, and dairy foods? These contain just as much harmful animal protein as red meat, no fiber, and aside from a few concentrated nutrients, provide little nutritional value. I understand that previous to modern times (ie. in the days before our great grandparents), meat and milk served to supplement the diet during times when little or no fresh foods were available. This makes sense. If it was the dead of winter, you had no food to feed your family expect for Bessie the cow's milk and a few rabbits that you were able to hunt down, you and your family would be grateful. This is much, much different from our day when we have our pick of fresh produce, legumes, grains, and other plant foods 365 days a year. Also, previous to factory farming, people were much more aware of where their meat came from. Many folks were a part of the butchering process, or at least aware of how the chicken on their plate came to be, whereas today, there is a great disconnect between food on the plate and it's origin, allowing us to be ignorant of the cruel and I would say, unusual practices of factory farming. It's not just factory farming that I'm against. If a cow was grass-fed, allowed to roam a pasture, and treated to a good life, I would still oppose the eating of it's meat simply to eat it, or because I could. Organic meat is still meat. I have to ask myself the question, "Do I need this meat to sustain my life? Did another living, breathing, animal give up it's life just so I could stay alive, or just so I could have what I consider a tasty meal?" It may seem extreme to some, but I don't consider taking into account the giving and taking of lives at my expense a trivial matter.
To answer your original question, I'm sort of a "live and let live" type of person. You want to eat meat? Okay, I understand why, because I was once like you. Let me eat my plants, you eat your meat, but should you ever have any questions or are curious about vegetarianism, let's talk.
Have you ever been harassed/discriminated against because of your eating habits?
Sure, although my life is pretty isolated now. I kind of live in my own little mother bubble (I'm sure other moms can relate). I'm a stay-at-home mom and I home school my kids, so I can pretty much pick and choose who I spend my time with. My friends know or don't care how I eat, and my extended family, especially parents and sister are very supportive (in fact, they eat the same way I do, so these gatherings are usually a lot of fun for all of us). I do work part-time, but diet is rarely ever brought up in my professional circle, and if it is, I don't make it an issue. In the early days, I had my fair share of uncomfortable encounters and confrontations. The most irksome encounters have been when my religion has been used against me, as if I could not possibly be a practicing, active member of my church AND be vegan. These experiences have taught me much about the importance of education, being open minded, and the reality that many people feel threatened by anything or anyone different from themselves. Hopefully I've become a more compassionate and understanding person as a result of some of these experiences, certainly less judgemental of others positions/views, but I admit to have allowed myself to become offended or hurt at times.
Do you ever feel excluded from main-stream society because of your lifestyle?
No. But I'm sure many vegans do. We're frugal homebodies and I like to cook. If I was single I think my story may be a bit different, as the single social scene is much much different from a married with children social scene (which mostly revolve around playgroups and birthday parties). Also, I live in an area that while it does not offer much by way of vegetarian/vegan restaurants, has a variety of whole foods venues and grocery stores, making vegan grocery shopping fairly painless.
As far as parties and gatherings, the hardest gatherings actually tend to be religious ones where most of the food served is NOT in any way, shape or form vegan friendly. This has taught me to focus less on food, more on people and the social interactions at these events. I always offer to bring something to a party/gathering, and come prepared with vegan friendly cupcakes/veggie dogs or other kid fare if it's a birthday party for the kids. I'm really grateful for the awareness of Celiac disease, which in a way, has made the vegan choice a much easier one. The increased awareness of allergies and gluten intolerance has made restaurants, grocery stores, and people in general more tolerant and accepting of different ways of eating.
Do you think more places should cater to a vegan lifestyle?
I believe in the capitalist system. Where there is demand, some entrepreneur will create the supply. There is definitely a trend towards more a more natural, organic, plant-based way of eating. This demand has created a greater variety of vegan friendly foods. Now I can buy non-dairy milk, Earth Balance spread, tofu, and cruelty-free beauty products and almost any major grocery store. This would not have been the case 10 years ago. I am not in favor of forcing veganism on anyone. Let the people have the information, and let them make the choice, let them experience the rewards or consequences. I believe strongly in choice, even when it is in opposition to the choice I would have made myself.
A rant here: My secret wish is that more restaurants would open their eyes to the wonderful possibilities available with plant foods. Let's stop being so narrow minded about food. A dish doesn't have to have a piece of slaughtered chicken or cow in it to be tasty (I'm talking to you Red Robin, Chili's!). There are some restaurants I won't even go to anymore because they disgust me and/or there really are NO vegan options to be had, which is a sad thing, considering how much the variety and taste exist in vegetarian/vegan dishes. And come on, you don't have to be vegan to eat a vegan dish.
What kind of vegan do you consider yourself (ie: "Animal activist vegan" "whole-foods vegan")?
Both. Animals don't need to die just so I can have rich palate. I think we've been given literally hundreds of edible fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts, and seeds to eat for a reason. We can't enjoy all that the plant world has to offer when breakfast, lunch and dinner are based on the flesh or secretions of animals.
Any advice you would give to those that associate with vegans but are not vegan themselves (family, friends, etc.)?
Know that my religion is not veganism. I'm LDS. My choice to be vegan is on the same level as which political party I with which I choose to affliate. It's just one aspect of my life and views. It doesn't make me who I am, but rather, it's one small piece that defines what I am as a person.
If you're curious or have questions, ask! I love to answer any questions people might have and don't consider myself a vegan evangelical (trying to convert anyone with whom I come into contact), so don't be afraid, I won't try to convert you, but I would love to have a discussion.
I also think it's one of the sweetest things in the world when friends/family go out of their way to be accommodating to me or my family. I don't expect it, but when it happens, it's a very kind thing to do and I appreciate it. One time, a friend from church bought me some vegan cookies and dropped them off at my house "just because." That was a thoughtful thing to do.
One of the worst things anyone, on either sides, can do is to be contentious. Arguing, debating, or making insensitive remarks is not only hurtful and petty, but does nothing but drive wedges between people. There's so much more that unites us than what makes us different. Let's focus on that.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make the change to become vegan?
Do it as fast or as slowly as your mind/body allows. For some it's overnight, for others it takes months or longer. Embrace the change and enjoy all the little learning lessons along the way. There are so many resources at your fingertips (thanks to the Internet, magazines, books, podcasts, veg-friendly stores, ect.), making the transition is so much easier than ever before.
Thanks again, Janae, for taking the time to answer my questions! Make sure to check out her blog and give her some love!
Also, if you are vegan and would like to be featured here, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I would love to ask you some questions :)