Category Archives: 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 30 – 30 Day Vegan Challenge – Live Vegan

Being a Joyful Vegan in a Non-vegan World

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feIt’s up to each one of us to reflect our deepest values in our daily choices and in doing so create the healthful, compassionate world we all imagine. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 30 is the end of the book and the end of the challenge. The key message is to keep going. But how do you stay the course in a non-vegan world?

Personally, I am not worried about staying the course. I cannot now imagine myself not living vegan. As it is, I have 46 years of unintentional indifference and conditioned ignorance to make up for.

Sometimes I still find myself suspended in this strange in-between space where older thought patterns compete with new ones; moments when I hold two equally coherent but contradictory thoughts or impressions at once.

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Day 29 – 30 Day Vegan Challenge – Keep it in Perspective

Keeping it in Perspective: Intention, Not Perfection

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feThere is no such thing as a certified vegan.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 29 and Colleen restates a concept I appreciate a lot about her approach. Being vegan is about intention and wherever practical and possible acting on that intention.

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30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 28 – Check Your Closet

Compassionate Fashion: It’s Cool to be Kind

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feDenial is vast and deep, and it tends to manifest itself in the excuses we tell ourselves to justify our behaviour – not only to feel better about what we’re doing but also to feel good about it. When it comes to leather we often declare that it is just a by product of the meat industry, and say we feel good knowing they’re at least doing something with the leftover parts of the animals instead of having them go to waste. As much as we like to believe the leather industry is motivated by waste-conscious altruism, it is not the case. The U.S, leather industry is a $1.5 billion business tanning over 100 million animal skins every year; worldwide its even bigger, representing $46 billion, ranking amongst the most importantly traded commodities.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 28 moves out of the kitchen and into other areas of the house, in particular the wardrobes and furnishings. It is unnerving to think about how much of the fabric we use is skin. This is still an issue for me. The shoes I wear every day and my handbag are leather, as is my wallet. The dog and cats have a sheepskin to sleep on.  Though fortunately one of the cats threw up on that, and now it is outside getting weathered, which means I should be able to throw it away soon when the cats are finished with it.

For the moment, my policy is to keep everything I use, and when I need to replace it, do so with synthetic or plant-based fibres. The problem is that I tend to keep things, including clothes, for years and wear them out.

Continue reading 30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 28 – Check Your Closet

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 27 – Eat Less, Move More

Understanding Weight Loss: Calorie Reduction and Calorie Expenditure 

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feI don’t see veganism as a diet.

If we don’t have time to be sick, we have to make time to be healthy.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 27 is about weight loss and its relationship to veganism. While it is not a topic I am particularly interested in, I get that it is important. Personally, I am overweight and should pay my weight more attention. Yet, I have lost on a mostly wholefood plant-based diet without even really trying; no idea how much, but I did have to buy new pants for work that were a couple of sizes smaller, because the trousers I had were starting to look clownish – not the professional look I am going for!

Colleen emphasises on Day 27 that going vegan does not in and of itself mean anything in relation to weight loss. As she points out, there are “a million ways to be vegan”. It still matters what you eat and how much you exercise.

Choose to get your fat and calories from wholefood nutrient rich sources rather than high calorie nutrient 'empty' ones.
Choose to get your fat and calories from wholefood nutrient rich sources rather than high calorie nutrient ’empty’ ones.

The reason people like myself lose weight on a (mostly) wholefood, plant-based diet is because we are now eating less fat or fewer calories, For the most part we eat a lot more vegetables and whole grains which just happen to have fewer calories than things like cheese, eggs, meat etc. However, if a plant-based diet is high in fat from nuts, avocados, oil, deep-fried or calorie dense processed food don’t expect to be lean. While it is infinity better to get your calories from nuts rather than deep-fried chips from a nutrient point-of-view, if you are playing the numbers game, calories are still calories.

Colleen’s advice, which I agree with, is to get your calories from the best nutrition rich roods you can. Plants have more nutrients and fibre than commercial potato chips, plus they also come with additives and the types of fats that cause damage.  As well, you usually have to eat a lot more of some foods to get the same number of calories. For example, 100 grams of avocado has 160 calories, 10 grams of fat and 6 grams of fibre. Meanwhile, 100 grams of salted potato chips has 542 calories, 36 grams of fat and 4.4 grams of fibre. Your average avocado weights about 170 grams, and your average bags of chips is around 150 grams.

Day 27 also reminds me that I really do need to get more physical activity into my day. I am very sedentary, so in my off hours I should be out there getting some exercise. A sedentary lifestyle like mine is not a good long-term health plan, no matter how great my diet is.

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 26 – Enjoy Holidays

Celebrating the Holidays and Honouring Your Values

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feThose who defend the consumption of animals on the basis of culture and tradition seem to imply that we’re entitled to do whatever we want simply because it brings us pleasure – or comfort. Not only does this presume there is no pleasure to be found in rejecting such products, it also presumes there is no victim – or that if there is one, considerations for him or her are secondary to fulfilling our own desires. … Just because we are capable of doing something doesn’t mean we should do it. Just because we have always done something doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. One of the ways we progress as a society is by deciding that once-acceptable behaviours are no longer acceptable, particularly when they harm someone else. Present laws are windows into a past littered with cruel and offensive practices. Once we know better, we do better.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 26 is about holiday traditions. Unsurprisingly, the emphasis is on American traditions like Thanksgiving and Halloween, but the general principle is valid and can be applied almost anywhere. We like traditional holidays because they appear to keep us linked to our past; they provide a sense of continuity and familiarity, they help us to hold onto values we say we believe in as a culture, a community or even as a family. Yet, traditions change and adapt over the years, even though we like to pretend they don’t.

Holidays accumulate traditions many of which have to do with food. We saturate this ‘traditional’ food with symbolism and cultural necessity. When we become vegan much of the food traditions that shape these holidays have to change. Colleen argues that what we need to do is to revisit what that food represents for us. Then, find new ways to express the meaning rather than remaining fixated on the representation, which is what a lot of people do.


Christmas time means flowering Pohutakawa and summer holidays at the beach
Christmas time means flowering Pohutakawa and summer holidays at the beach

Here in New Zealand the main traditional holiday, of the type Colleen is talking about, is Christmas. My forebears brought it with them from the Northern Hemisphere, and rather than changing the date to sometime in July to still have a winter festival, they kept the date. This means that Christmas falls near the beginning of Summer. Christmas still has a lot of the traditional trappings from the United Kingdom like trees, presents, the Xmas ham, decorations shaped like snowflakes and holly and Santa. But it was adapted.  We should similarly adapt holiday traditions to reflect our situation, our values and who we say we are, not have traditions hold us hostage. Despite how strong the grip of tradition and culture may be, we still deserve to enjoy the holidays.  Keep what we value and adapt the rest.

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 24 – Eat Well With Others

Eating Confidently and Joyfully in Social Situations

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feI often say that the food is the easy part of the lifestyle change – you learn some new recipes, you re-stock your kitchen, you read labels as though it was second nature. Then you’re in a social situation and you’re asked to defend your new way of eating. … When you state ‘I am vegan’ you aren’t simply saying ‘I eat vegetables’. … I call this phenomenon “being the vegan in the room”, which I think is a powerful and privileged position to be in.

Colleen Patrick Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

‘Being the vegan in the room’ can be an interesting position to find yourself in. It isn’t the practical, logistical side of things which challenge me, but the emotional and social aspects.

For the most part, I deal with the social aspects by not talking about it and not being very social. I tend to enjoy my own company or hanging out at home anyway, but when I do socialise it can become an issue for me because cooking for and eating with people used to be one of the single most enjoyable ways to spend time. It made me happy, and now it doesn’t.

Even as vegetarian, it was still fine because I believed the whole ‘free range’ myth and I just didn’t think about it very deeply.  Now, I am more fully aware of what it means when I sit at a table with animal products; it turns my stomach. I look at those plates and I don’t see food. I no longer feel myself relaxing, happy and fully connected to this enjoyable social moment around food and people.

It is not just the food itself, it is also the conversation. When people eat they talk about food, how great it tastes, reminiscing about other meals. I can no longer engage with those conversations with any honest enjoyment. I stay silent and let everyone else have their fun.

Occasionally, it will come up that I am now vegan. For others, vegan is a health fad diet or an exotic, personal lifestyle choice, so they assume its a suitable dinner table topic of conversation. Yet, I know they don’t want me to tell them where the dead body they are slicing into came from, or the real story behind the cheese they are eating.

Of course, there are always the few clowns who pretend the broccoli is screaming, or the time someone moved the dead chicken body around, “Save me Debbie. Save me.”   In my minds eye, I see that chicken in the moment of her death, when the blade or the knife slices her throat, and all that her life was leading up to that moment; now her dead body is sitting on my lunch table, an object for eating, her life and death a joke I can no longer even pretend to find amusing.

But it’s hard to let it go. I have lost something I used to love. Yet, at the same time I wouldn’t swap this new awareness for anything. What I do with it going forward I am still not sure, but I do know this – vegan is the only ethical and moral option possible. Once I understand that other non-human animals value their own lives in the same way I value mine, they are sentient beings not objects for me to use. How that works out practically in the world is a quandary, but for the things I have control over, I am morally obligated to exercise that control. The very least I can do is not eat them.

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 23 – Adapt Your Diet to Your Circumstances

Nutritional Needs for Special Groups

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feWhile there are many anecdotal tales of cats thriving on vegetarian or vegan diets, let’s just say I’m not convinced – based on my own research and experience. Cats are physiologically built as carnivores and have very high protein requirements. They do not require plant products in their diet, though they do tend to consume some when they eat the stomach contents of their prey. Offering them some veggie food is fine, but the foundation of their diet – at least 75% – should be animal based.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Day 23 is about the nutritional requirements of special groups. These include pregnant and lactating women, infants and children, people over 50, competitive athletes, diabetics, people with allergies to things like soy or wheat gluten, dogs and cats. All of whom can, if its done right for their circumstances, thrive on a vegan plant-based diet, except cats.

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30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 22 – Eat Plants, Eat Fibre

Keep Things Moving With Fibre: Only in Plants Never in Animals

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feFibre exists only in plants. There is no fibre in meat, dairy or eggs. Zero. Zilch. Zip.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

If you are eating a wholefood, plant-based diet you are probably eating around the recommended daily intake of fibre (about 30 grams) or more. I think there is nobody who disagrees that a fibre rich diet is essential for long term good health, yet surprisingly few people appear to get even the recommended daily amount.

There isn’t really a lot to say about Day 22. We need a fibre-rich diet to maintain good health. I eat a reasonably varied wholefood (most of the time) plant-based, vegan diet. and this gives me more daily fibre than I need. (I know I checked on Cronometer.)

Oatmeal and blueberries are high in soluble fibre.
Oatmeal and blueberries are high in soluble fibre.

I have definitely noticed a difference since moving to a completely plant-based diet. And that is all I am going to say about it. My grandmother would be relieved to know that at least some of her pointless Victorian-era etiquette lecturing on lady-like behaviour somehow managed to stick.

Continue reading 30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 22 – Eat Plants, Eat Fibre

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau on Hope, Activism, and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

Great interview with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau about her book, the one I am working through and posting about, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge.

Striking at the Roots

Photo by Maria Villano Photo by Maria Villano

I vividly recall my first meeting with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It was 10 years ago, and I interviewed her for Satya magazine. We both live in the Bay Area, so we met for lunch at a vegan restaurant not far from her home in Oakland. What I remember most is how busy Colleen was: screening Meet Your Meat to passersby on a sidewalk in nearby Berkeley, giving talks, writing about animals, teaching vegan cooking classes, promotiong a DVD she had recently created, and working a “day” job. Soon after, she launched a popular podcast called “Food for Thought,” which is still going strong. She also started an animal activist support group, and she invited me to participate. About five or six of us would get together every few weeks at Colleen’s house, and we’d bare our collective anguish over what we were learning about animal exploitation. It…

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30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 21 – Take Vitamin B 12

B12: A Bacteria-Based (Not Meat Based) Vitamin

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2fe“If those on plant-based diets don’t get enough vitamin B12, levels of an artery-damaging compound called homocysteine can start to rise in the bloodstream and may counteract some of the benefits of healthy eating.”

Dr Michael Greger M.D., The Vitamin Everyone on a Plant-Based Diet Needs,

Dr Greger has a lot to say about how essential it is to get enough B12. The good doctor is such an enthusiastic cheerleader for the plant-based lifestyle that when he starts talking about a potential problem with the diet it is worth taking notes. Colleen is equally serious about the need to supplement with B12.

What is B12, why does it matter, how much do we need, and where does it come from?

Continue reading 30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 21 – Take Vitamin B 12