Archives for posts with tag: vegan

Hello.  I’m back.  I recently graduated university, became a Monday-Friday working girl, was a bridesmaid at my big sister’s wedding in London, spent all my new cash on food and concerts and clothing,  had all four wisdom teeth removed, and now here I am with time to burn while my cheeks de-poof.

It’s time to go vegan again.

Since my April challenge of eating vegan for thirty days straight I have been continuously on and off the wagon but always knowing that living a vegan (or in the least vegetarian/pescatarian) lifestyle is where I would like to be.  But breaking up with brie cheese and California rolls is like breaking up with a boy you really like but know is all wrong for you.  It sucks.  Every time you smell a BLT it brings you back to all the good times you had together and no matter how much you know it’s wrong, all wrong, it’s so hard to not give into old habits and do what you know is best for you.

FACT: I love cheese and whipped cream but it makes me feel bloaty and clogs up my insides.

FACT: Hot dogs are tasty especially at a baseball game or music festival but supporting factory farming practices isn’t worth the greasy yumminess on my tastebuds.

So here is the challenge.  Today, Thursday August 19th – Thursday September 16th I will cut out all meat, dairy, sugar, etc. and eat vegan.  Normally I would start a challenge on a Monday, ideally the first day of a month, playing the mind game that this scheduling will make me stick to the task at hand.  It never works.  So this time I am starting mid-month on a Thursday. Ha!  Fool-proof.

Do you have any suggestions/tips for transitioning into a veg*n lifestyle and getting over this initial hump?

The vegan diet is a more effective way of curbing climate change than driving a hybrid car (according to a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Chicago). This is worth repeating: eating less meat is a more effective way to help the environment than driving a hybrid car or reducing the amount you drive your vehicle.

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that started in 2003.  The non-profit initiative encourages people to cut meat out of their diets once a week to promote environmental sustainability and preventative health.  This campaign has become an international movement, with cities in U.S.A., Belgium, France, The United Kingdom, Brazil, Holland, Canada, Finland, Taiwan and Australia promoting Meatless Mondays.  Ghent, Belgium was the first city to officially promote Meatless (Thursdays, or VeggieDag, in their case) with government-funded support.  In April of this year San Francisco council adopted a meat-free resolutionMeatless Mondays is now endorsed by celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Chris Martin, Al Gore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Pollan and Mario Batali.

There are three main reasons outlined in the media to reduce meat consumption:

1. Reduce your carbon footprint and help fight global warming

Cutting meat out of our diets is by far the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint.  Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions -more than those emitted by all forms of transportation combined (which account for 13 per cent) and is a leading cause of deforestation and water pollution.  In Canada, it takes seven times more land to feed a non-vegetarian than to feed a vegetarian. With one-third of the world’s cereal harvest and 90 per cent of the world’s soy harvest being raised for animal feed, the energy required to grow these crops is a major factor in toxic gas emissions.

2. Help your current and future personal health

Avoiding meat and high-fat animal products lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, decreases obesity and prevents heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.  Cutting out meat once a week will increase veggie and greens consumption and make you aware of alternatives to the standard North American diet.  It’s time we start taking responsibility for the impact the food we eat and the lifestyle we live has on our health and well being.  Read more about this.

3. Boycott animal cruelty

The factory farming system of modern agriculture strives to maximize output while minimizing costs.  From PETA: Animals on today’s factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats: neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, and drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, transport through all weather extremes, and gruesome and violent slaughter. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions.

For a clear portrayal of the brutality of standard factory farming, watch Meet Your Meat.

As outlined in the documentary Food Inc., increasingly strict laws are being passed in the States that make it illegal for consumers to view the conditions of factory farms owned by large corporations, like Monsanto.  The fact that government-backed laws can be implemented that block us from viewing the food we are putting into our bodies epitomizes the misconstrued realities of the modern food industry.

This movement is hot hot hot and we’re bring it to Victoria, baby!

For my PR and Marketing class my team is currently putting together a PR campaign to promote Meatless Mondays here in Victoria.  Although this started as a hypothetical campaign, we are now in touch with Trevor Murdock of Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association, who is planning to actually get the campaign going here in the city!  I had the opportunity to talk about Meatless Mondays on CFUV’s Break’in Ice: The Climate Change Reality Radio Show, with Richard Habgood and Brian Gordon.  There should be a podcast of the show out soon.  If any city in Canada is going to be a Meatless Monday city it should be Victoria.  We can be leaders in health promotion here on the West Coast and increase our notoriety as a forward-thinking and green city.

Cutting meat out of your diet one of the seven days a week isn’t the biggest deal

Check out MeatlessMonday.com for ways to get involved, meat-free recipes and other news about the international movement.  What it comes down to is that not eating pork, beef, or fish one out of seven days of the week is not the biggest deal in the world. If choosing a veggie burger instead of a beef burger once a week will have a significant impact on the health of your own body and everybody’s planet – can you really say no to that?

What’s important to know is that if you join in Meatless Mondays, you’re not saying that you’re going to become a vegetarian.  It’s not an all-or-nothing deal – the point of the campaign is to raise awareness around the global impacts of meat consumption and start a discussion and provide knowledge for people in their everyday lives.

Cut out meat once a week and help your planet, your body, and the animals.

''The Grasshopper" smoothie from Rebar (apple, mint, wheatgrass & pinneaple)

Well, today is the last day of my thirty days eating vegan.  This month has definitely changed my outlook on food and diet and has made me put more thought into what I’m going to put into my body.  I’m going to continue avoiding meat (chicken, beef & pork) in my diet but I’m going back on fish.  A lot of people transitioning into vegetarianism continue eating fish for the first while and I can see why – my body is still craving this.  Chicken, beef, pork, and dairy though I can do without.

Oh right and I’m back on eggs – love eggs.  I’m not going to be super strict about it – it’s just not my style – but I know that I feel better when my diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables and real, unprocessed foods.  I am trying to clarify for myself why specifically it is that I want to be a vegetarian, and I broke it into the three main categories I can see as to why people choose to ditch meat:

1.  Environmental Concerns.  Livestock accounts for 18 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gases – more than those emitted by all forms of transportation combined – and is a leading cause of deforestation and water pollution.

2. Health Benefits.  Factory farmed meat is full of traces of antibiotics, hormones and toxins produced by stress & pesticide residues that become concentrated from all the crops the animals have eaten.

3. Protection of Animal Rights and Ethics.  Animals on factory farms are treated like meat, milk, and egg machines.  All farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing.

For me it is a combo of all three as to why I’m going to continue striving towards a more veggified (should be a word) diet.  Not only has it made me feel healthier (my body shape has changed and is leaner after thirty days without meat or dairy) but I can also feel more guilt-free about choosing foods that aren’t as harmful to the environment or to animals along the way before they end up on my dinner table and in my tummy.

Paul McCartney endorsed the Meatless Monday movement (as did Alec Baldwin, Twiggy, Al Gore & Simon Cowell)

In my Public Relations and Advertising class, my team is going to put together a PR campaign to try and persuade the people of Victoria to adopt Meatless Mondays (one day a week cut out meat).  This movement is gaining momentum all over the world (San Francisco implemented a meatless Monday resolution at the beginning of April) and we want to try and bring it to the island!  I think Meatless Mondays could actually gain a pretty big following here, with all the students and tree-hugging hippies and activists and outdoorsy people and whatnot.

The MacLean’s article Save the planet: Stop eating Meat suggests that the vegan diet is a more effective way of curbing climate change than driving a hybrid car.  A little food for thought.

P.S. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this cookbook yet!  ExtraVeganZa is an all-vegan cookbook with everything from Spelt Cinnamon Buns to Shepherd’s Pie.  It’s fantastic!  I made the soy French Toast the other morning and my three-year-old nephew Tyler said it was the best French Toast he’s ever had – and he’s no easy critic.

Now that thirty days veganism is accomplished I’m starting a new thirty day challenge tomorrow: thirty days of yoga in a row.  I am so pumped to get into shape yoga-styles. Woo!

I just read this Slate.com article by Christopher Cox, an oyster-eating vegan who argues that even a strict vegan should feel comfortable eating oysters (since farming produces minimal negative impact on their ecosystems and there’s no less doubt that oysters feel pain than that plants do).  Cox talks about losing the vegan title, because technically he can’t call himself a vegan if he’s eating oysters:

Because I eat oysters, I shouldn’t call myself a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there’s an even more awkward word to describe my diet. At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. Oysters may be animals, but even the strictest ethicist should feel comfortable eating them by the boatload.

I read this and first of all had to look up what a flexitarian is:

flex·i·tar·i·an

(flěk’sĭ-târ’ē-ən) n.  One who normally maintains a vegetarian diet but occasionally makes exceptions and eats meat or fish.

Then I started thinking, why is it that we have to label ourselves by what we eat in the first place?  Cox goes on to say:

When I talked about this article with my editor at Slate, she said, “I won’t lie—you’ll be attacked viciously for being a vegan, and attacked equally viciously for not being a strict enough vegan.”

Changing your diet not only requires a change in food consumption, but an on-hand knowledge of reasons and facts to draw on when defending your diet to other skeptics.  A good friend of mine went through this when going vegetarian a few years ago and always felt anxious around family gatherings because she knew she would be attacked with questions like why don’t you eat meat? how are you getting your protein? are you sure you’re getting enough? aren’t you afraid you’re going to waste away? etc. etc., you get the picture – I can imagine it got old fast.

That is one of the reasons I don’t really want to call myself a Vegetarian (even though I am considering staying mainly vegetarian or even vegan after this month-long challenge).  Because what if some day I want to eat a chicken burger or have sour cream on my potatoes?  If anyone witnessed this behaviour coming from a “vegan” I can imagine this would be a huge no-no, as if I’m betraying my religion.

But what is a vegan anyway?  Yes, for the past 16 days I haven’t eaten meat or dairy, but I did kill a spider last night (on purpose) and I’m pretty sure the paper in my textbooks killed a few hundred trees, which destroyed a whackload of forest creatures (not very vegan), and the gas my car’s using definitely is not helping members of the planet ( not too environmentally-friendly or vegan either).

What I’m trying to say is where do you draw the line??  Everything we do has an effect on something or someone else.  There can be self-titled vegans who drive gas-guzzling hummers, or meat-eaters who plant trees and subscribe to the 100-mile diet.  In the end I just don’t think the labels make all that much difference.

I don’t know.  I guess if I have to label myself after all this I’ll be a flexitarian (…?)  I just think it’s strange how we label ourselves based on the food we consume.  I understand that we’re categorizing beings and need labels to make sense of ourselves and of others, but where do you really draw the line between a pescetarian and a flexitarian, or a vegan and a vegetarian – and in the end what’s the point?  People can get all heated and defensive if put to the test regarding  personal food behaviour and morals.  I guess if “you are what you eat” is true – and I think to a certain extent it is – then it makes sense that people would get so emotional about the whole topic, I’m just confused by it all.

Oh and p.s. I cheated and ate honey (not vegan) and drank a Grower’s Cider that has processed sugar (not vegan). My bad.  Other than that I’ve been good, I promise.

Alright, I came up with my first 30-day challenge:  I’m going to eat a vegan diet for the next 30 days.  I started on Saturday April 3rd so I’m going to continue on for the next 27 days.

For a brief backgrounder, I’ve never been vegetarian or vegan but I’ve toyed with the idea for about a year now and am interested in the health and environmental benefits that a high veg / low meat consumption diet provides.  On that note though I really don’t know much about veganism, so I’m kind of jumping head first into this (why not, right!)

Wikipedia’s definition for veganism is as follows:

Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.[1][2] Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind.[3] The most common reasons for becoming a vegan are human health, ethical commitment or moral conviction concerning animal rights or welfare, the environment, and spiritual or religious concerns.[2][4][5] Of particular concern to many vegans are the practices involved in factory farmingand animal testing, and the intensive use of land and other resources for animal farming.

Sounds good to me!

What does this mean?

-In a nutshell no fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or honey.

-Hardcore vegans also don’t use any animal products or by-products, including leather, fur, silk, wool, soaps, and cosmetics derived from animal products (I’m going to draw the line at what I’m eating for this month though, i.e. I have a leather couch and I’m still going to sit on it).

-No eating at Brickyard Pizza at 2:ooa.m. after the bars (no one said this was going to be easy).

On Friday night (during my last hours of carnivorous living) I had a double cheeseburger with extra pickles meal from McDonald’s (just because I could).  We’ll see how bad I feel about that in one month’s time!  Here we go!