Category Archives: Daily Life

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 – Chapter 7

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feChapter 7 – Find a Buddy

“I hear from so many people whose otherwise loving and supportive family members become irate at the idea that their spouse, sibling or child has become vegan. Because they have not experienced the same desire to eschew animal products, they don’t understand why their loved one has, and they may feel threatened by any change in their normal routine. Even if you’ve said nothing to make them feel this way, they might feel judged or guilty for wanting to continue to eat meat dairy and eggs.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

In Chapter 7, the last before the challenge starts, Colleen recommends finding a ‘buddy’. Basically, it is more fun and easier to stay motived and make the changes when you have a friend to do it with.  More importantly, she also highlights the fact that not everyone is going to be supportive and some may even turn downright hostile.

The beginning was when I felt the most uncertain and ‘wobbly’ and could have used the most support. Unfortunately, it was also when I experienced the strongest pushback; and it felt stronger than it probably was because I still didn’t know enough about what I was doing. I couldn’t articulate the reasons clearly, even to myself. This was when I was most likely to second guess myself due to the ill-informed commentary of others.

Continue reading 30 Day Vegan Challenge – Chapter 7

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Get Set – Chapter 4

Know Your Numbers

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feBody Weight 

  • Body weight – less than 32% [Women] and less than 25% [Men]
  • Waist Circumference – less than 35 inches (88,9 cm) [Women] and less than 40 inches (101.6 cm) [Men]
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) – 18.5 – 24.9

Blood Pressure 

  • Systolic (top number) – under 120
  • Diastolic (bottom number) – under 80

Blood Glucose

  • First check (any time) – 200 mg/dl (indicator for diabetes)
  • Second check (fasting test) – range 70 – 100 mg/dl (healthy);  over 126 mg/dl (indicator for diabetes)
  • Oral glucose tolerance test –  70 to 110 mg/dl within a couple of hours

Cholesterol

  • Total cholesterol – below 150
  • LDL cholesterol – less than 100
  • HDL cholesterol – between 40 and 60

Triglycerides 

  • Fasting blood triglycerides – 50 to 150 milligrams mg/dL

Homoctsteine 

  • between 6 and 8 µmol/L

Vitamins 

  • Vitamin D – 50 – 60 ng/mL
  • B 12 – > 400 pg/mL

As recommended by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

For this chapter, I am supposed to get myself to a doctor. They are supposed to check my numbers  for the objectives listed (above). Then, at the end of the 30 Day Challenge I get them checked again and compare the two sets of numbers. It’s a great idea, but it’s not going to happen this month.  I had a full blood work done a few months ago. Knowing that I was about to embark, despite dubious looks from the doctor’s chair, into veganism my B 12 was also checked – apparently normal.

I don’t know what my numbers are, but I’m sure they are in my medical records. In about six months I will probably go back for a check up and take the list with me. This time I will actually ask for my results to be sent. I always appreciate that my doctor takes the time to call and gives me the highlights, but it means that I never have the hard numbers to hand.

Tofu and broccoli both great sources of iron. A cup of firm tofu has about 4.2 mg (23%) and a cup of cooked broccoli 1 mg (5%).  Broccoli also has a good dollop of vitamin C (101 mg) necessary for iron absorption.
Tofu and broccoli both great sources of iron. A cup of firm tofu has about 4.2 mg (23%) and a cup of cooked broccoli 1 mg (5%). Broccoli also has a good dollop of vitamin C (101 mg) necessary for iron absorption.

At the time of the blood work, I still had anaemia. So, my highly dubious doctor mailed me an iron tablet prescription that I didn’t fill because I still had plenty left over from my lackadaisical last course. I have been (sort of) tracking my iron intake on Cronometer and most days are getting between 60-80% of the RDA.  I also understand iron absorption a bit better now and feel okay.

My body weight is terrible. I don’t need hard numbers to know that. Although, I have definitely lost weight since going vegan; no idea how much.

Diabetes is in my family, so that is something I worry about. I do get that checked and so far appear to have dogged that particular bullet. Next time I will at least do the fasting test,if not the tolerance test. If for no other reason than to get a full set of numbers.

30 Day Vegan Challenge – New Year, 2015

I’ve been vegan now since about the end of June, 2014.  It’s been a very disruptive “journey” to say the least.  I really had no idea just how hard it would push me to face up to things that I had been pushing away for a while.  Mostly, it has been unexpected.

Continue reading 30 Day Vegan Challenge – New Year, 2015

Getting Started – Keeping Going, Part One: Should I be Vegan?

I went back and reread the first post I put up on this blog, called Getting Started (30 July).  When I started on this journey, I wasn’t sure going vegan was the right thing to do, but I wanted to find out if I should. Yet, I found myself strongly resistant to doing the necessary research. It is difficult to be objective about something like consuming animal products while activity engaged in the activity you are trying to critique. I decided to ‘go vegan’ for a year and then make a decision.

Continue reading Getting Started – Keeping Going, Part One: Should I be Vegan?

Food Nazi?

Yesterday was sunny and warm. My friend and I took the dogs for a walk through the gardens and by the river.

Sitting on a seat in the rose garden cooling down under the shade we watch as kids climb trees, couples canoodle among the roses, families finish off picnics and even a group of oddly dressed adults play fight with prop swords.

And one of my best friends calls me a “food nazi” for not wanting to eat an ice cream with her.

Continue reading Food Nazi?

“I forgot you had gone so extreme!”

We are sitting outside at Jack’s Cafe.  I have finally worked out that the vege breakfast without the egg and the mayonnaise based sauce on the lentil patty is vegan. I am trying not to think about the egg my friend cuts into.  I appreciate the gesture – she is eating the vege breakfast too.

Continue reading “I forgot you had gone so extreme!”

Narcissistic Autobiography

I wrote this earlier at the beginning of the month. I wanted to get back to this blog, but was feeling overwhelmed by the feeling of … everything. I didn’t know how to talk about it. But over the time I have been doing so much investigation and now feel like I am starting to make sense of things even feel something close to normal again. I am going to start writing and posting. I thought I would still post this: 

Why the Hesitation?  [written 3 October 2014]

I have avoided writing this blog. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. I think I have too much to say, and I don’t really know how to say much of it. I thought this blog would be about me and my exploration of a topic. I don’t know how to write this blog. I don’t know what this blog should be.

I have been doing a lot of reading – blogs, books, listening to podcasts, watching videos. This is tough going sometimes. Parts of it I have to do in small chunks.

I am currently reading Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows as an audio book. I can only cope with it in small pieces. I dread putting on the headphones – I force myself to listen.

It crushes down on top of me, this huge, horrific, overwhelming horror that I am (or have been) contributing to. How did I ignore all this? How did I not even notice? How did I not connect the dots? What the hell did I think was going on?

Sometimes it is a struggle to get through the day with my “normal” mask firmly in place. It takes a concerted effort to not be different in my interactions with people. I feel a deep need to sort out all this chaos and turmoil behind the mask before I do or say more in my daily life. I don’t want to say things or do things I might later regret.

While searching online I found this blog post that hits me where I am at:

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/mornings-agree-email/#.VCjT8GeSx8E

Someone sent Gary Francione (the blogger) an email:

“I really like your abolitionist position but I think you are too judgmental. I am a vegetarian and I know that going vegan is the right thing to do. I am on the journey towards being vegan. I think it’s wrong that you don’t give positive reinforcement to people like me and I think it ultimately hurts the cause.”

Here is part of the reply:

“Going vegan is not about anyone’s “journey.” It is remarkable how, in 2014, the observation of the most fundamental moral principles gets presented as a matter of narcissistic autobiography.”

I thought this blog would be my “narcissistic autobiography” – my own personal intellectual and behavioural experiment. I feel ashamed of myself for ever thinking like this.

The Joy of Food

Today we said Bon Voyage to a colleague off to Europe on his big OE. The lunch table staggering under the weight of brightly decorated cakes and spreads, of cheese, dips, chips and crackers. I looked at the table and realised there was nothing I wanted to eat.

How did we get this way?  We put animals in everything we eat. Why did I once think this was food

The thing I didn’t expect when I started this was to rediscover food and the pleasure of making it. Knowing that I would be changing my eating behaviours I decided if I was going to go to all the effort of changing my diet, why not change it to be healthy?

On the Process of Going Vegan

The past month has been – interesting and difficult, but not difficult like I imagined it would be.

While I have a rough plan to go completely vegan over the next 18 months, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll need that long.

Before starting this process, I thought the hard part would be emotionally letting go of eggs and dairy. That it would be hard to phase these foods out; I would need to give myself time.

Instead, I have found that I just don’t want to eat it. It is no longer enjoyable. It no longer brings me pleasure. I look at the plate of eggs benedict at our local café. Six weeks ago I would have loved this. Now, I can’t bring myself to eat it. I regret ordering it. I look at all the shiny yellow sauce and the bright green of the cress. If I cut in, the brilliant orange yolk will bleed against the stark white of the egg. I look at all this egg. I look at all this misery. I used to think the food on my plate was about me. I was wrong.

Eggs are cruel, regardless of how they are produced. It is all so unnecessarily cruel. I no longer want to participate.

The same goes for dairy. I may live in the heart of the Waikato, but nothing justifies separating day old calves from their mothers, just so we can consume their milk. Calves, the male by-products of the dairy industry, fed to make them anaemic for white meat and slaughtered a few months later. Even if the steers are given a couple of good years in the high country, they still end up at the slaughter house. What happens to the milking cows when they are no longer producing?

Cream, yoghurt, butter – none of it looks the same any more. I no longer want to participate.

The thing I thought would be difficult isn’t. I can no longer separate my food from how it is produced. When I think about what I eat, I am ready to be vegan. I have already let go. Now, I have to work on fully changing my food habits and educating myself on what I need to do to make this work. I am relearning how to eat, cook, shop and eat out. Learning new ways of doing things is challenging, but also interesting and kind of fun.

What is difficult is trying to navigate social situations and dealing emotionally with what it feels like to know what I have been participating in for over 40 years. I will write more about these two things later.

When I say it is “difficult”, I have to ask myself – Who is this difficult for? I have to inconvenience myself a little to change habits and lifestyle. What about those whose lives my food habits have directly inflicted harm upon?

Getting Started

I am writing this blog to document my exploration into veganism.  I’m not yet sure if I am a vegan, but I want to learn.

I want to explore the answers to two questions:

  • Should I be vegan?

 

  • How would I live as vegan in a society so clearly set up not to be vegan?

 

How did this start?

Originally, I had planned only to answer the first question. I would do some reading, join a couple of online forums and hopefully engage a willing vegan or two in conversation.  I would think about it as logically as I could and arrive at a thoughtful, well-reasoned conclusion … and then proceed from there.

The best laid plans … as I started looking for research material I began to feel like I was sliding into an ethical quagmire that I didn’t even begin to understand. Worse, although I hadn’t realised it, I was already neck deep in the mud. I wouldn’t be able to do this one from the side-lines.

To arrive at a credible position on veganism, I would have to become vegan.  Using animals as ‘products’, while trying to figure out if using animals as products is morally wrong wouldn’t work for me. I’d have a vested interest in not being honest with myself; a built-in agenda not to engage with the nuances of the situation with a clear head. The only way to do this fairly was to go to the other side and look back.

Okay … Plan B

I would become vegan for 12 months.  I would think and act as though I were vegan. I would reflect on my actions and thought patterns.  I would try to unpack my cultural baggage and see it from the other side.   At the end of this time I would hopefully have an answer to my question. Probably, a complicated answer, but still a well-clarified ethical position on the relationship between animals and humans, and I will know how I need to respond to that knowledge.

Which brought me to the second question; deciding to go vegan and actually doing it, well … FUCK!  As I started to investigate the behaviours that would have to change, the assumptions, the ingrained thought patterns, the day-to-day logistics, just the practical stuff alone that I needed to research, I realised that jumping straight into a vegan lifestyle was not a viable option.

Okay … then so … Plan C

I’ve made a rough 18 month plan of what I think I’ll need to do to go fully vegan.  Chances are it won’t go to plan, as I learn more, but for now it’s what I am doing. At the end of that time, my goal is to be fully vegan – if I can successfully work out what that means, and then spend 12 months as vegan.

I don’t know where I will be two and a half years from now … but this is where I am now.