How to be a confident vegan

confident cat

It’s not easy being a confident vegan.  Often, you’re a wolf pack of one.  At parties and family gatherings you’re often singled out as “the vegan” and forced to sit in the corner staring at the wall.

Okay, that last part doesn’t really happen.  But sometimes it feels just as bad.  It can feel lonely to be the only one that gives a damn about what they eat.  Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming upstream and everyone else is coasting along on the strength of the current.

But it’s upstream you must swim.  Fight against that current.  Embrace the feeling of being your very own wolf pack.  The best way to do that is to become a confident vegan.

Don’t worry about being different…

You may have noticed a little thing called an obesity epidemic happening lately, with 69% of adult Americans considered overweight.  Apparently, following the standard American diet like everyone else is not such a great idea.

So many other habits and lifestyle choices that are widely practiced are worth avoiding.  Excessive TV watching, lack of daily exercise and eating out for nearly every meal are all examples of what most people choose to do that you would do well to avoid.

Giving proper thought not just to what you eat, but how you spend your time and money will lead to less and less “fitting in” and even more feeling different.  But whoever said being different was a bad thing?

Embrace the feeling of not fitting in.  In fact, fitting in might just be a red flag of sorts.  Oh, I’m doing what everyone else is doing?  Uh oh.  Something needs to change.

Not fitting in and being comfortable with that takes some practice.  Don’t expect to be good with it right away.  Eventually, though, you should start feeling comfortable and confident that the choices you’re making are based on your values, not on the fact that everyone else is doing it.

Don’t be so sensitive…

I realize this is asking a lot from us sensitive vegans.  After all, much of the reason we became or stay vegan is based on our sensitivity to animal suffering and perhaps even environmental destruction.  But I’m amazed how many stories I hear of vegans being upset by random, insensitive comments made by those mean and hateful meat eaters.   Bullies, they are!

Of course, I’m not defending those comments, but as a vegan of a dozen years or so, I’ve realized the last thing I want to do is let any of this nonsense upset me.  I’m not in control of what people think of my lifestyle choices, so I don’t let it bother me.  Ultimately, their issues with veganism are more about them and their experiences than anything to do with me.

So you shouldn’t let it bother you when you’re annoying brother-in-law waves a greasy turkey leg in front of you and asks if it offends you.  Nor should you go ballistic when once again this year you get asked to explain why you’re vegan over the turkey carcass at Thanksgiving dinner.  Also, don’t you dare get all annoyed when you have to explain for the millionth time that you get plenty of protein from eating plants.

I know I’m asking a lot.  Not being sensitive takes a tremendous amount of discipline.  I assure you it took time for me to arrive at my zen-like acceptance of dumb comments.  Like about ten years.  So give it some time.  But then let it go.  It does get easier.

Harden the f*** up…

Yep, I said it.  Related to being too sensitive, you just have to harden the f*** up.  Because I don’t see the insensitive comments going away anytime soon.  So now’s the time for you to learn the subtle art of not giving a fuck.  Learning that will come in handy, not just for becoming a vegan badass, but for life in general.

Stop worrying about being liked and accepted by everyone.  Sometimes, people aren’t going to like you.  They might not even accept you.  But this Tim guy seems to have it all figured out.

tim

Let me give you an example.  I attended the Portland Vegfest this last weekend.  I listened to the always wonderful and often hilarious Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (buy her amazing new book, or any of her books) speak.  She fielded questions like a professional short stop from the audience during the last half of her talk.

The questions were not coming from confident vegans.  Most sounded a bit whiny and were focused on one central theme:  no one appreciates or respects their decision to go vegan.  Questions like this are somewhat typical of vegans, and notably more prevalent around the awkward food-centered holiday season.

Of course we all want people to like and accept us.  It’s a natural human instinct.  However, expecting everyone to like and accept you (and your lifestyle choices) is, well, crazy.

I found myself wondering if these people were a little more confident in their manner that they would then get more support from friends and family.

Regardless, being a confident vegan takes some time and practice.  There are still frustrations, even for long time vegans.

However, being a confident vegan sure beats the alternative.

Good luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using common sense to answer the question, what should I eat?

complicated

I believe, deep down, people know what they should and shouldn’t be eating.  Despite the sometimes selective media coverage and questionable interpretation of nutritional studies, most people know intuitively that butter in your coffee isn’t healthy.

But, if you’re really not sure about what to eat, it might help to realize that all you really have to do is use a little common sense.

In fact, I feel common sense is the most powerful tool one can employ when considering not only food choices, but also when evaluating specific diets and even nutrition advice in general.  I know, common sense is boring and obvious.  But here’s the thing: it works.

For example, a friend recently asked me what I thought about the Eat Right 4 Your Type diet or some such nonsense.  I had heard of it before but never really took it seriously.  Apparently, it is based on making food choices according to your blood type.  What?  How in the world does this even exist?

Now, in all fairness, I know very little about this diet and haven’t read this particular book.  However, there’s a reason for this.  I don’t waste time reading books that don’t make sense.

No, I don’t believe that a person should determine what they eat by their blood type.  Sure, some people may do better with certain foods than others, but to say that blood type has anything to do with the foods you should be eating is, well, ridiculous, and certainly not founded on actual, you know,  scientific principles.  I know, that pesky science and data and actual supporting studies (not paid for by interested parties) can be annoying, but important if you want to make health claims.

If we can bring out our common sense for just one moment, we would naturally look to animals in nature and see if that is true for them. Do we feed dogs different food because of their blood types?  Do our closest primate relatives require different food because of their blood type?  No animal in nature has to find out their blood type before they eat something. It’s a stupid and complicated idea that somehow sells a lot of books but doesn’t pass the common sense test.

We could also look to the longest lived people to see if they’re eating for their blood type.  Nope, the Adventists of Loma Linda featured in The Blue Zones were largely vegetarian and ate nuts, but didn’t limit their consumption of nightshade vegetables because they were type O.

Supplements also fail when it comes to the common sense test.  Protein powders are at best a terrific waste of your money, at worst a serious health hazard.  Calcium supplementation is also controversial, as Dr. Michael Greger points out on his fabulous site nutrition facts.org :

In 12 short years, government panels have gone from suggesting widespread calcium supplementation may be necessary to protect our bones to “Do Not Supplement,” based in part on studies suggesting calcium supplements increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Common sense will tell us to get our protein and calcium directly from plants, not from powder or pills that not only haven’t been shown to work, but may even be hurting us.

We don’t see horses hanging out in the pasture, pulling out their plastic tub of protein powder from Costco and blending up a giant whey protein smoothie, do we?   Ever see a cow taking his daily calcium pills?  So where do they get their nutrients?  Could it be from the plants they eat? Couldn’t we just do the same?

Superfoods are another ridiculous question I often get and wonder how in the heck people get conned into believing certain foods have some magical nutrient power.  There is no real “definition” of super foods.  I suspect it may have to do with what particular food is experiencing lagging sales and hired the best PR firm to orchestrate a massive advertising campaign.

I’ve heard everything from blueberries to eggs to turkey breast listed as a super food.  What??  First, yes, blueberries are super and they are a food.  But do we really need to call them a superfood?  No, they are plants and they are healthy and you should definitely eat lots of them when they are in season and organic, if you can.

But eggs?  Turkey breast?  No and no.  Eggs are full of artery clogging cholesterol.  Even better, the American Heart Association advises  restricting egg consumption in adults in order to prevent diabetes and heart disease.  That’s a super food, when even the AHA is recommending you restrict consumption?

Even without all the cholesterol, let’s use our common sense to determine if we should be eating eggs.. Most people don’t realize what eggs truly are. When I ate eggs, I didn’t spend a moment thinking about what I was eating. But eggs are chicken periods. It’s true. I read it on the internet. No really. Does that sound like something you should eat? I’m guessing no.

Turkey breast a super food?  Well I guess so, if you’re feeling lucky.  A recent study showed 9 out of 10 turkey samples were contamined with fecal bacteria. I don’t like those odds at all.  Doesn’t sound super to eat poop with my turkey breast.

Not to mention…should you be eating a breast? Of anything? Probably not. Not only is it gross to eat an animal’s breast, but the cruel practices of the poultry industry are certainly not something you would ever want to support by purchasing their products. Remember that you’re always voting with your purchases. Every time you purchase something, you’re asking for more of that item to be produced. Voting for cruelty of any kind doesn’t make sense.

Oh, and don’t forget the salmonella that could very well be present in your turkey, and even more so likely in your chicken.  Yes, everyone thinks chicken is a GD health food compared to beef.  Not really. I suppose if you survive eating a piece of turkey or chicken, you could consider yourself super.

Diets based on your blood type, superfoods and supplements are not worthy of a moment of your consideration.  Always evaluate dietary advice through the lens of common sense.  The simple fact is this:  The healthiest diet isn’t complicated.  It doesn’t involve blood tests or the latest and greatest superfood.  It’s just a matter of eating your fruits and vegetables.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

Why so few succeed in adopting a vegan diet

drowning

As much as I would like to tell people otherwise, adopting a vegan diet isn’t easy.  So few succeed because making a change in your diet isn’t just about changing the food you eat.  It’s about adopting a different lifestyle.  Or like changing your religion.  Or your political affiliation.  It’s just freakin’ hard.

I have a friend/neighbor that I’ve been talking to about eating a vegan diet.  Yesterday we had a longer talk and she’s decided she’s ready to go vegan!  Of course, this is the best news ever and I am truly excited to help her make the transition.  But then again….

Part of me is a little nervous.  I’ve seen so many friends make the switch to vegan and then, a week later, or two weeks later, they’re opening a menu at a steak house and realizing they just can’t follow such a strict diet.  They cave and order a burger and fries and later admit they simply cannot go without eating meat.  Sorry, they say, I guess I just need my protein.

Another friend  went vegan and began eating every conceivable vegan comfort food under the sun, including regular trips to this vegan hotspot in Phoenix that boasts both mac n cheez and buffalo wings.  I watched as he devoured highly processed vegan versions of his favorite meat products for every meal. While these foods are good for a short transition, I told him, they’re not a long term solution.

Once he realized he was actually gaining weight on a vegan diet he was horrified.  Even given my warnings about not all vegan foods being “healthy” he was still surprised and not so happy.  He promptly switched back to some sort of version of the Paleo diet.  Not fair, I told him, you can’t lose weight or be healthy eating any junk food, whether it’s vegan or not.  And we vegans have no shortage of junk food.

Others cite family or friends as reasons they can’t continue on a vegan diet.  My spouse just won’t get on board with it, they claim.  My friends give me a hard time because I’m not eating what they’re eating.  Everyone thinks it’s weird that I’m not eating meat.  There is no shortage of reasons why so few people succeed in adopting a vegan diet.

The thing about going vegan is this:  it’s going to take work.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  It’s not always convenient.  It takes discipline. It takes a good WHY.   It takes commitment.  Also, it’s just going to suck sometimes.

Like any significant change, you’ll need to examine your habits.  Figure out what those habits are and find other ones to replace them.

For example, most of us enjoy going out to eat with friends.  We often think more about food when eating out, but most of your enjoyment comes from being with your friends…or at least it should. Why does it matter what you eat?  You can still enjoy the food, it will just happen to be vegan.  Your old habit is focusing on the food when eating out, your new habit is focusing on your friends and nurturing those relationships.  Food is secondary.

I’m not sure if my friend will succeed.  I certainly hope she does, and I’ll do everything I can to help her.  The hard part is that while I know she will feel better and live a happier and healthier life being vegan, I also know that what she is undertaking is incredibly difficult.

But then again, since when is “because it will be difficult” a good reason for not doing something?  Since never.

EatPlantsLiveWell!