Spring AHEAD into a vegan lifestyle
Spring is an opportunity to begin again … to start anew. Rain washes the snow away, buds become leaves and flowers and the hard ground softens, encouraging new life to emerge. As this happens externally, it evokes internal awakening as well. Transitions, paradigm shifts and new ways of navigating our lives begin to surface.
When people ask me if I am healthier since I’ve transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, I tell them that I am an ethical vegan. I am living my life this way — first and foremost — for the animals. I have made a deep spiritual connection and I have come to understand that the immense cruelty we impart on billions of animals for food, clothing, entertainment and experimentation is detrimental to peace on any level. Oh, and yes, I am healthier eating a plant-based diet.
We’re all searching for peace and meaning. We seek counsel with therapists, we practice yoga and meditation, we read the spiritual guides, we go on retreats and we pray. But until we make the ultimate connection — that we are living on this planet, all of us, together as earthlings...and that we are all caught in this web of mystery, hope and survival — until we understand this, we will not find the peace we so desperately seek.
Regaining my health was a great big bonus. My doctor told me that the results of my latest blood work were perfect. That, I believe, is due to the fact that I am very conscious of healthful vegan eating. I am still challenged with health issues (plant based eating is not the cure all for everything and everyone) but there have been significant positive changes since I've been living this way. When deciding to adopt a vegan lifestyle, it is extremely helpful (but not necessary) to commit to healthful living. Yes it is possible to be a vegan and be unhealthy. You can live on potato chips and Oreos - they're vegan — need I say more?
So where does one begin? That is a question keeping many of us from moving forward on this path of peace and health. As a vegan transition coach, my work is to guide people toward the “how” once they discover the “why” of becoming vegan. And I am always available for helping everyone discover their 'why.' For example: some people want to know about the animals we use for our own desires and they watch the film “Earthlings” for free at www.earthlings.com. This is an incredibly transformative film and is sometimes referred to as “the vegan maker.” The first step for any change is to empower yourself with knowledge … with truth. How long into our lives will we wait to understand what is really taking place on our planet with regard to our food sources, our environment, our health and our humanity? Those who do not want to wait might want to watch this film. Or they might watch "What the Health" or "Eating You Alive." Viewers who have just watched these films may decide to become vegan … but now what? Questions take over like, “What am I going to eat & wear?” “What foods do I need to buy at the store?” “How can I cook for my family?” “I only know how to eat the standard American diet (SAD) and I have no idea how to begin.”
All these concerns are fair and quite normal. Our culture has trained us to eat and live in a certain way, and we now must reject that and move into a new, healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. It can be daunting at first, but it is easily navigated and everything we would label “obstacles” can be overcome.
All of us need a springboard or some starting points to help begin any transition. Here are just a few to consider:
Do some research. There are so many amazing books and films that will give you the information you need to know. There are books about adopting a plant-based, whole-foods diet to heal the body and keep you healthy (“Forks Over Knives,” by Gene Stone and T. Colin Campbell, “The China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell and “Diet For A New America,” by John Robbins, "How Not to Die," by Dr. Michael Greger) A few books about the ethics of veganism are “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Animal Liberation,” by Peter Singer, “The World Peace Diet,” by Will Tuttle, Ph.D., “Main Street Vegan,” by Victoria Moran, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows,” by Melanie Joy and “The Vegan Sourcebook,” by Joanna Stepaniak.) If you are considering going vegan because you care about the environment, you can watch the documentary “Cowspiracy.” It is an ecosystems game-changer.
Get support. Find a coach (like me!), a vegan friend or take some vegan cooking classes. Find a way to make your journey interesting and exciting. There is so much information online and there are meet-up groups, Veg-Fest events and support forums as well. Two things you need to know is that you are not alone, and that veganism is not a sacrifice — it is a joy. I have never enjoyed cooking more than I do now, learning how to make the most delicious Alfredo sauce without cream, butter, eggs or cheese and having it taste so delicious — it is actually exhilarating. We can enjoy these foods without the cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics, fat and added preservatives. We can enjoy our food and heal our bodies at the same time. The clincher for me is that all of the new and exciting ways to prepare food are cruelty-free. No sentient being had to suffer or die for my dinner. My deepest values of compassion and mercy are being reflected in the way I conduct my life, three times a day, every day. I have a feeling that you have these values of kindness as well. Trust me when I say that living according to these values is a consciousness shift you can feel in every cell of your body and deep within your spirit.
Be compassionate with yourself. Very few of us grew up vegan. We have only to take the blinders off and realize there is a more healthful, compassionate and environmentally sustainable way to live, for all of us. Will Tuttle said it best in the final chapters of his amazing book, “The World Peace Diet”: “We owe the animals our profoundest apologies. Defenseless and unable to retaliate, they have suffered immense agonies under our domination that most of us have never witnessed or acknowledged. Now, knowing better, we can act better, and acting better, we can live better, and give the animals, our children and ourselves a true reason for hope and celebration.”
If there was ever a time when we needed reason for hope and celebration, it is now. Don't wait another day to learn the truth, to make some simple changes that can change the world and your beautiful place within it.
I wish you a season of spring that evokes the best in you, your compassion, your innate wisdom and your willingness to start anew.
I would love to know your thoughts on this subject. Please feel free to leave your comments below.
BONUS SPRING RECIPE
Here's a recipe for Rosemary Almond Crackers - all whole foods, natural, healthy, gluten-free,non-preservative, vegan, snack-worthy and really fun to make. Let me know if you give it a try!
ALMOND ROSEMARY CRACKERS
WHAT YOU'LL NEED: parchment paper, mixing bowl, measuring cups, pizza wheel (or sharp knife), baking pan, rolling pin (or just use a thermos or bottle)
1 cup of almond flour
1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseed (flaxmeal)
A generous pinch of sea salt
1 Teaspoon of crushed dried Rosemary (to taste - this is a strong herb)
3 Tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of melted coconut oil, or sesame oil, or olive oil (or your favorite oil) * You can leave the oil out if you'd like. The recipe will work just fine without it. I just find that it gives the cracker more of that "vegan buttery" flavor.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- In the mixing bowl, add the almond flour, water, ground flaxseed, oil and sea salt. Mix together - it will turn into a doughy texture.
- Put a large piece of parchment paper on a countertop and place the dough on it. Cover it with another piece of parchment paper of the same size. Pat down the dough and then roll out the dough with a rolling pin or bottle - to flatten out the dough until it is pretty thin (some people like paper thin crackers, others like more to bite into - you decide!). The shape will NOT be perfect, but perfectionism is way overrated - just have fun.
- Once the dough is rolled out and flat, take off the top sheet of parchment paper (carefully). With a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into squares of whatever size you want - large rectangles, perfect squares (there's that perfection thing again)
- Take the bottom parchment paper with the flattened dough and transfer it onto the baking pan. Bake the crackers for 23-25 minutes. Remove the baking sheet, let it cool a few minutes. Then you can transfer the crackers to a container or a serving dish. I usually eat all of the outer - weird shaped pieces before transferring the crackers to a container, but that's just me. It's my reward for baking my own crackers.
** Just so you know - you can add any spice/herb that you like instead of rosemary....maybe you like basil, or garlic....get creative...AND GO CRACKERS!