Well, it’s almost over, but this month marks 8 years eating vegan for me! In honor of this anniversary, I decided to ask all of you via Facebook and Twitter if you had any questions for me. I received some great questions and am looking forward to answering them, Q&A style, right now!
A. I had been researching natural health and trying to eat healthier as a result of extreme chronic fatigue, depression, a long term virus, serious nutrition deficiency, hormone and menstrual problems, vertigo, and a few other things as well as generally feeling like I was constantly mentally foggy and couldn’t concentrate on anything. (You can read more about that here.) I came across The Food Revolution by John Robbins, not knowing it was a book about going vegan, and that is the book that changed it all for me. If you haven’t read it, do so! Shortly after, the books Eating for Beauty by David Wolfe and Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens, M.D. solidified my decision.
Q. What were your early struggles?
A. Because of the kind of books I read and the conviction I felt for eating a vegan diet, I actually didn’t struggle with things like craving animal products (sometimes I did, but I didn’t care), and I didn’t struggle with feeling like maybe I shouldn’t go vegan because of what others said, or like I couldn’t be a part of social events. Certainly, there were some people who were resistant, condescending or mean in the beginning, but it didn’t make me feel like I wanted to eat to appease them. I am not really sure whether that’s a character thing or a conviction thing on my part; I really think I just read good books with info on all the aspects of eating a plant-based diet and they hit home for me.
What was hard for me was the fact that when I went vegan I was still struggling with compulsive eating. I think going vegan helped a bit with that though, as in order to go vegan I had to let go of some of the most addictive foods that exist – for example, dairy products, which contain lots of opiates and artificial chemicals and sugars – and the absence of those opiates meant I ate just slightly less crazily. But I still struggled with weight at that point because I was still a big emotional eater and would binge too. And the truth is, compulsive eating is not primarily caused by what we eat or don’t eat, but rather underlying emotional wounds and beliefs that need to be worked through. (Read posts about that topic here.) So, I’d say the hardest part for me was really the long-term struggle with emotional eating. I was an overweight vegan at that point, and felt like people judged me for it and thought in their heads “See? Veganism isn’t healthy. She doesn’t look healthy!” I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I knew eating vegan wasn’t the reason for my extra weight (and in fact I lost some simply by going vegan), but I felt very upset by the projections others sent my way.
Q. Who were your first mentors in going vegan?
A. My first mentors were the authors of the books I read. These included John Robbins, David Wolfe and Gabriel Cousens, M.D. I also got close to Omar Abou-Ismail, the owner of Omar’s Rawtopia, a raw vegan restaurant in Salt Lake City where I started working a little bit just a couple months after going vegan. He taught me a lot about raw food and the vegan diet, how to do it, how to make food, and was very passionate about the spiritual benefits of not eating animals or their byproducts. His support was vital in my early days. After being vegan for about a year and a half, I moved to Arizona, where I started working at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, a vegan retreat center run by Gabriel Cousens, M.D. He was a major nutritional/health/natural foods/natural health mentor to me for the 5 years I was working with him there.
Q. Would you share a few of your favorite products that have been helpful to you?
A. I would have to say the product that has been the most helpful for me is spirulina. Spirulina and it’s sister-algae Chlorella are the highest known plant proteins, and are actually significantly higher in protein than any animal products. This vegan has never had any problem with protein nor athletic performance thanks to spirulina. In fact, I love it so much I complied a Spirulina Recipes Ebook with my favorite recipes from top natural health chefs and bloggers! Other favorite products I use weekly or even daily are chia seeds, coconut oil, stevia, and green powder like Vitamineral Green by Healthforce Nutritionals; they also make my fave spirulina, which is Spirulina Manna. I also supplement with B12 and golden-algae based Omegas (my favorite is Omega-Zen), and sometimes random things I have on hand like MSM and probiotics.
A. I think this person might be curious whether the idea that vegans get bad and weak teeth is actually true. Welp, I only go to the dentist about once per year and during my last visit just a few months ago in April, the new dentist I went to said my teeth were in excellent condition and even asked whether I use whitener (I don’t). I brush twice a day and floss once a day, but I do think this has a lot to do with the way I eat vegan though, which includes tons of leafy greens and low-glycemic meals, and that I use low-glycemic sweeteners like stevia and xylitol. I think sugar in vegan junk food and a lack of raw greens and raw veggies in general are the biggest culprits of poor dental health as a vegan.
Q. What would you dub the most substantial, or the most important reason why you are vegan?
A. I know this isn’t really answering the question, but I can’t pick one reason that is more important than another. I can’t say that I’m more drawn to it by any factor more than another: my own health, the lives and treatment of animals, the impact on the environment, the fact that eating animal products perpetuates people starving in the world. What I will say though, is that now I see all these things through one lens: Love. It is all about what I feel is in alignment with Love. I feel that eating a plant-based diet is more loving to myself than any other way of eating. It is more loving to animals to let them live happily than torture them and kill them. It is more loving to eat in a way that does not pollute our world’s water and air and soil and require mass deforestation. It is more loving to my world family to not monopolize the world’s grain to feed animals rather than give it to those people directly, and to taint their water and bulldoze their lands. For me, they all come from the same question: What is loving, in the deepest sense of the word?