GUEST BLOG POST: V is for Veganish

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Welcome Jennifer Lawson to Take Your Pic. Jen and I were coworkers at The Reporter together where she is still currently their education reporter. Cubical neighbors, Jen and I had a blast everyday - making jokes and laughing our faces off, while busting our butts to produce amazing content for our readers. Jen has been in the journalism business for many years (From Las Vergas, Atlantic City and now back in her hometown) and she does such an amazing job each and every day. Her talent is clearly visible and her drive to bring out the better in everyone is contagious. Miss you Jen, keep kicking butt over there and congrats on being a new homeowner!! 


If I had to put a label on my way of eating, it would be veganish.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 16 years, and about a month ago I cut back my dairy consumption by about 80 percent.

The result is that I feel cleaner, lighter, less gunked up, healthier and more positive about the role I play in the world. I’ve also lost a few pounds, which is always nice, especially as summer approaches.
Here's my fruit for the week. 

You might be wondering why I’m not more absolute. Why didn’t I eliminate all dairy from my diet?

The reason is that I’m human. I’ve gone 100% vegan twice before, and the last time was a year ago when I decided to eat vegan for 30 days. I put so much pressure on myself and it really stressed me out. I was miserable. And, of course, when I caved, I felt like a failure.

About a month ago I decided to do it again, but this time, I didn’t want to have strict rules. I would not eat any dairy, but in situations where avoiding dairy would be difficult, I would eat it. I see it more as a decision-by-decision way of living rather than a sweeping choice to absolutely cut out all dairy.

My boyfriend and I go food shopping at Trader Joe’s every Sunday morning. He is vegetarian (or almost vegetarian, since he eats seafood) which is one of the reasons why I’m more relaxed about my diet. He helps me pick out vegan stuff and reads labels with me, but when he orders chickpea fries that come with aioli (a type of mayonnaise, containing egg) on them at our favorite bar, I’m going to have some. I think it’s important to be sensitive to those around you, and I don’t want to cause a commotion because a menu might not have many vegan options.But given the choice at the grocery store to buy real cheese or vegan cheese, I’ll buy the vegan cheese.

The main question people have when they find out about my veganish diet is, “What do you eat?” The answer is I eat whatever I want. I don’t want to eat meat, and I don’t want to eat dairy, so I don’t (or try not to).

This vegan, yogurt-like treat is so good.
During a typical work day, I’ll have an apple on my way to work. I’ll have 20 ounces of black coffee. I’ll have a snack pack of Trader Joe’s hummus and pita chips, a few oranges or bananas, soy yogurt and raw almonds.

Dinner could be marinated tofu with kale and butternut squash, or vegan pizza (I make it with pita bread, vegan cheese, grape tomatoes and basil), or a vegan burger made by Dr. Praeder or Morningstar Farms, or brown rice pasta with marinara sauce.

Sometimes we have salad with dinner, which could consist of arugula or baby spinach, tomatoes, carrots, beets and avocado with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

My biggest indulgence is hummus and pita chips. I have three containers of different types of hummus in my refrigerator right now. It’s delicious and addictive and it’s pretty healthy as far as snacks go.

Another common question is, “Where do you get your protein?”

Protein deficiency is not an issue in first world countries. Think about it. Protein is in much of what we eat. If a vegan eats a varied diet and consumes enough calories, he or she will get a sufficient amount of protein.

Most Americans get too much protein, which is more of a problem. Eating an excessive amount of animal protein has been linked to pancreatic, prostate and endometrial cancers, not to mention obesity and heart disease.

You might be wondering about cravings. Do vegans have cravings for pizza? Greek yogurt? Ice cream?

To be honest, I will always crave pizza. I might even give in and have a slice on occasion. But cravings aren’t the best indicator that your body is in need of something. People who are addicted to cigarettes crave cigarettes, and that doesn’t make smoking okay.

This pasta is made from ground brown rice instead of wheat.
Quinoa is also a healthy alternative to regular pasta products.
Also, since I’ve learned about the dairy industry and how it’s actually worse than the meat industry, it makes me not really want to be part of a creature’s suffering, so the desire evaporates and turns to disgust.

This leads me to another question that people ask, “Why are you a vegetarian/vegan?”

It started in 1993 or 1994 when I saw the movie “Alive” on TV. It was about a rugby or soccer team that got stranded in the mountains in the middle of winter after their plane crashed and they resorted to cannibalism.

I know this was just a movie, but the meat that the characters ate looked like steak, but it was human flesh. A light bulb clicked on: The meat we eat are actually carcasses, corpses, dead things. I wouldn’t eat a dead person, so why is it okay to eat a dead cow? Jeez, I wouldn’t even want to touch a dead body, but we happily put dead bodies in our mouths.

Over the course of the next three or four years, I eliminated all meat from my diet as I got more and more grossed out by each thing. Red meat was first, then pork, then poultry, then fish.

I adopted my first cat the same year that I went completely vegetarian and that added a more personal element to my decision. I see all animals as equal. I often wonder why we put animals into categories – dogs and cats are part of the family, but pigs and chickens and cows are food. Why?

Is it because pets are cute? Is it because they’re smarter? Pigs are thought to be among the most intelligent animals with the IQ of a two-year-old human child.

I would not eat my friends or family. I would not eat my cats or my dog. I would not eat a farm animal. Under our skin, it’s all steak. We all bleed red.

Peanut butter is another staple of my diet.
 For me, it’s an ethical consideration. I don’t want to support the suffering of animals. There’s no reason for it, when there are lots of other delicious things to eat.

This leads to another question people ask, “Does it bother you if I eat meat in front of you?”

The answer is of course not. Everyone has the freedom to make their own decisions, and diet is something that is highly personal. It makes my heart sink when I hear about vegetarians or vegans getting preachy, because it’s nobody’s business.

So, veganish. This isn’t a fad diet that’s unsustainable in the long term, and it’s not a 30-day challenge.

This is how I want to be, by making the best decisions that I can on a moment-to-moment basis.

When I eat crap, I feel and look like crap. I want to have the healthiest and happiest life possible, and being nice to myself and being mindful of what I eat is a good step toward achieving that.

We only get one body – might as well take good care of it.
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