Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baby Steps v. Cliff Jumping

There are probably as many ways to go vegetarian/vegan as there are people who choose to do it! In one of my first posts, I covered some of the various labels that are attached to different eating styles. Lacto-Ovo, Pescetarian, Fruitarian, etc. Frankly, I think that making any sort of commitment at each meal is hard enough without having to make sure you're in bounds with your label. We're all just doing the best we can out here :)

When it comes to transitioning to a vegetarian diet, there are two predominant ways to approach:

Baby Steps vs. Cliff Jumping

Statistically, people who take baby steps or phase out have the greater success rate for the long, joyful haul. Most human animals are averse to change - duh. Waving good bye to animal products over a longer period can be less painful. Perhaps the missing hamburger is less of an issue when you can still do a chicken sandwich. It all feels and looks the same on the plate which gives us a measure of comfort and familiarity. With any luck, when chicken turns to fish, you hardly remember the burger.

Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete shares a great concept of making the change in "legs". Begin by not eating animals with four legs (cows, pigs, sheep, goats). When that's comfortable, remove the two-legged animals (birds, ducks, turkeys, etc.) and finally remove the "legless" (seafood, shell fish).

The following excerpt from Matt Frazier's audio interview with Registered Dietitian (and Vegan) Matt Ruscigno has really stuck with me -

"I've been vegan almost 15 years now and the people I knew 10 years ago who were vegan aren't vegan anymore. But the people I knew 10 years ago who were all vegan except for ice cream and pizza are still all vegan except for ice cream and pizza. They don't call themselves vegan. They just say they're vegetarian but they've figured out where they are in the spectrum of plant-based nutrition - found where they're comfortable and that's where they stay."

This resonates so much with me because the positive impact over time is much greater by those who don't put the pressure of a "cherry label" on a huge Change Sundae! If you decide over night to become a vegan and fall apart in 10 days, you'll be back on the animal wagon before you know it. While you're there, enjoy the double whammy of (a) feeling like you failed and (b) not putting in enough time to really feel the health benefits. What are the odds that you'll try it again? It's just like exercise - what idiot just keeps on doing it when they see no results?

I've heard friends say "I would be vegetarian but I love Thanksgiving turkey too much!".  So... eat turkey at Thanksgiving and be vegetarian the rest of the year.  Could that work? Or, "I could never give up chicken. Ever!"  Well, could you give up cow meat for 30 days and see how it goes?

This is a great opportunity to evaluate where you are in the spectrum. At the very least, it's an interesting exercise!

What are you already doing that's vegetarian? Expand those meals! Great salads? Rice and beans? Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches? Hummus & veggies? Tomato soup for lunch? Roasted Veggies, Spaghetti with fresh basil, Cereal or oatmeal?  Veggie Burgers?  Can you increase the frequency of those meals?

Are there any animals you just don't like to eat? Try drawing one line at a time and just see . During my 40th birthday cruise, I ordered veal. I'd never eaten veal mainly because other options just sounded better. Baby calves didn't seem all that appealing even when I was eating meat. It turns out that (to me) it tasted like crap. Veal - out - easy. Most of my friends already eat a limited amount of red meat. If only for the compelling health reasons, try saying that you don't eat cows for 30 days. If they sky doesn't come crashing down, perhaps you can add pigs to list next month!

Now for the other realm - my realm - Cliff Jumping! This isn't a shocker - no one who knows me would place "Lauren" and "moderation" together in a sentence. My life is a house built on change. Draw me a trench in the sand!  I drew my first line at eating no other animals except for locally caught mahi mahi on Sunday afternoons. The Sunday fish happened once and then I was over it. Done deal.

I don't think Cliff Jumping works for very many people but if you know it in your heart or you've been wrestling with the idea for awhile - the fastest route might be the best route!

Which ever route and to whatever degree you choose, I can promise you that there is an awesome place waiting for you. A place that provides calm in your heart, peace in your mind and a whole lot less illness, violence and suffering in this world. You make a difference.

Eat with reckless compassion! Lauren

Friday, April 8, 2011

Another Favorite Thing... Podcasts!

So, I'm beginning to LOVE podcasts. I got started by listening to audio interviews I received with the purchase of a marathon training guide for vegetarians. The interviews featured professional endurance athletes who are vegan and their experiences of running first marathons, training and nutrition tips and inspirational stories from their careers. I listened to all five interviews numerous times and took away new bits and pieces each time. I enjoyed listening at the beach so much that I started investigating the world of podcasts.

I found many podcasts on the subject of vegetarian/veganism but a shining star soon emerged. Food For Thought by Compassionate Cooks founder Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is my new addiction. I downloaded around 30 episodes at iTunes and I can't seem to get enough. Colleen covers a wide range of topics and I've found value in each one. Some of my favorites have been...

On the Road: Traveling Vegan
The Language of Meat
How to Talk to Hunters (or anyone with whom you disagree)
Speaking Your Truth
Responses to the common questions... "Where do you get your protein?" "Aren't you worried about calcium?" "Why don't you eat free-range animals?" etc.

Colleen is the author of several cookbooks and cooking DVDs. You can check out her website at Compassionate Cooks. I've gotten so much from her podcasts that I've decided to become a sponsoring member of her website. That's a first for me! Here's a little video about Colleen and the work she's doing through Compassionate Cooks -

There is something to be said for finding "community" in your veg lifestyle and Food For Thought provides a bit of that feeling. I admit that some days I feel hopeless when researching the meat/dairy industry. Sometimes I need a little community after a dinner with friends where all sorts of animals are consumed. Some days my eyes are so open that I just want to shut them and fall back into the darkness. Popping in a little Food for Thought is an oasis. I highly recommend it!

Every day, each meal, is a choice and every choice matters. Eat Kind - Lauren

Oh! If you'd like to check out the pdf marathon guide from Matt Frazier at No Meat Athlete, click here. Matt's take is down-to-earth and full of humor and wit. This is a fun site veg or not. Enjoy!