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I was recently out to dinner with some loved ones (all omnivores) in a hip, busy new restaurant in a midwestern state. There was a cauliflower steak with mediterranean orzo on the menu. I asked the server if it was vegan and was assured that it was. When all the food arrived, my plate definitely had cheese alll over in it. I had to send it back — much to my dismay because part of why I am vegan is to not waste food (I’m sure someone in the kitchen ate it). The gathering got quiet and super awkward. When my food finally arrived 10 minutes later, there was the cauliflower steak with a blob of white rice on the plate. Nothing else. All white. $17. To fill the void I said, “I know you all think I’m crazy, but I’ve been vegan for 6 years and just don’t want to kill things.” More silence (more on this later!) A few minutes later, someone dear to me starts talking about how they are a member of a CARNIVORE CLUB at a butcher shop, how they “save big if they buy big.” I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and bawled my head off.

I’ve been vegan coming up on 6 years. Veganism means choosing to abstain from consuming or supporting animal products including meat, dairy, poultry, and fish, purchasing leather goods or other clothing & accessory items that have animal products in them, and taking good care to make sure that my products are vegan and not tested on animals.

During this time, I’ve run a marathon, opened and closed a yoga studio and continued to teach yoga throughout, completed 300 additional hours of yoga teacher certification, traveled to Bali and India, recorded and released a few albums and did a bit of solo / duo touring around the country, and have stayed / stabilized at my current weight in a healthy BMI pretty range much the entire time – definitely not wasting away. My energy stays consistent to fuel all of my work and activities and my relationship with food went from disordered (struggled with some binge / purge behaviors in my young adulthood …) to pretty loving of my body and my diet.

My reasons for transitioning to veganism are a trifecta: for the animals, for the environment, and for my health. During the winter of 2013, I geeked out on numerous documentaries that both terrified and saddened me regarding the state of the planet and the horrors of factory farming. Also for health reasons – how living a plant based lifestyle can be very anti-inflammatory which is great for recovering from exercise (i recovered quickly from my marathon training!), great for heart health, good for the skin and bones.

Back to the dinner party

So there I am, a 38 year old woman, bawling in the bathroom about my seventeen dollar cauliflower steak … but really I was bawling with the conflict of 1) how can I not stand up for myself 2) why don’t restaurants get it? train their staff about these things? 3) why did i speak in such a shaming way to my loved ones, as they are all eating dead animals? 4) why did someone start talking about a carnivore club just moments after i announced that i’ve been vegan for 6 years? … There is some deep psychological stuff going on here, or maybe it’s just the elephant in the room and someone was looking for something to talk about and that was the first thing that came to mind? Regardless, it is SO clear to me that this lifestyle is super important to me and I have to find ways to be stronger about it, and present it in the loving and beautiful way that I feel about it.

Veganism is not doom and gloom

There are many protesters and activists (thank you!) who fight for animal rights front and center. I protest animal cruelty with what I buy or don’t buy, with the music that I write, and also weave ahimsa into yoga classes that I teach. When I owned Imbue Yoga Studio we hosted Plant Based Yoga classes – a yoga asana class followed by a compassion meditation (tonglen) and then a vegan potluck. Ahimsa means non-harming. When paired with Satya – truthfulness – it is sharing a compassionate truth. The truth is, there is SO much suffering and harm done in the current state of our food system. How can we be compassionate when faced with so many horrors, both in the animal and the human world? And yet how can we tell the truth about it, while still honoring each other?

When I say to a table of people eating meat that I don’t want to kill things, there is some shaming going on. Yes it is bold, and it gets people to think, however those people also might want to kill me. How could I have handled that better? I’m going to talk to my therapist about it … I want to be a light and an example of fun and love and health when regarding my veganism. I want to show how easy it is to do this. But I also hope for people to consider where their food is coming from, and all that it takes to arrive on a plate, in a leather belt, in a down comforter, in a bottle of lotion.

And yet I also have compassion, as I was not fully vegan until I was 31 years old. It was a long journey of learning for me, and it is still unfolding … and I’m proud to be me and I don’t need to go cry about it in some restaurant bathroom. WOW!

And so, I would like to share some resources!!

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has some great vegan kick-start resources. Download recipe and meal plan ideas here!

A typical day of eating in my world looks like this – a few sample meals:

  • banana or apple + peanut butter or oatmeal w/ maple syrup + soy milk + hemp or chia seeds
  • salads with kale, peppers, tomatoes, avocado, nuts, beans like chickpeas or black beans
  • burritos with tons of beans, maybe a nut based cheese, onions, guacamole, salsa, rice … or a curry with potatoes, tofu, broccoli … or vegetable stir fries with seitan (wheat gluten / mock duck) and rice or quinoa …

Some cookbooks that I love are Eat Feel Fresh by Sahara Rose, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone (yes, the actress!), Mistress Ginger Cooks by Mistress Ginger / Justin Leaf, and so many more are coming out allll the time. Minneapolis is SUCH a hotspot for plant based eats, too. If you live here or are visiting anytime soon, check out Fig + Farro, Trio Plant Based, J. Selby’s, Vegan East and some other spots that aren’t totally vegan have wonderful options: Pizza Luce (their rinotta for pizza is SO YUM), The Howe, and many asian restaurants have vegan options – get tofu or mock duck and you are golden.

Happy Cow is a great app / website for finding vegan spots wherever you live. And Barnivore is great for finding vegan alcohol. Yes, sometimes egg whites or fish bladder are used as filtering agents. WUT NOW???

What to wear to the show

I used to love leather boots and jackets. Over time, I felt terrible about it. Wearing a dead animal around felt like such a heavy weight to me. I now even seek out vegan running shoes. How weird, that even running shoes wouldn’t be vegan!

I just did a purge of some lingering items and they await for proper burial and release in the garage, waiting there like sad ghosts. Some of you may agree and some may disagree, but rather than give away the items to goodwill or pass along to friends as I used to do, I’d like to have a ritual to honor the creature in a big ceremonial fire. So, if you’re having a fire soon, let me know. It may seem wasteful, however to wear these items means to perpetuate the use of animals for clothing — people might like what you’re wearing and want to go buy it for themselves and demand creates supply and then more beings are harmed in the making. There are so many cruelty free designers of shoes, clothes, bags, and gorgeous things. Here is a blog about 10 of them, including Stella McCartney.

What to put in the rider

Here is a fun blog about How to survive tour as a vegan musician by Chris Rookie. I’m just about to talk to my manager about updating my rider to include things like no bottled water or single use plastic items like plastic plates or forks, as well as providing vegan snacks like nuts, fruit, clif bars, hummus. When I tour I always bring food. Pack a cooler and have lots of those previously mentioned items on hand. Checking those apps like Happy Cow and Barnivore help with dining out and vegan booze.

How to carry on with love

I’m in recovery from trying to make everyone like and love me. Hence the shame and running for cover when faced with conflict. Hence pouring my heart into art because I need a platform to express it since I sometimes haven’t been able to speak for shyness. It is a privilege to have the options in the United States of America to speak our truth, and to have choices – SO MANY CHOICES of what to eat, what to buy, what to wear, and who to love. I am grateful every day for this freedom. Because I have so many options, I choose to do the least harm. I want to do this without shaming people, I want to shine light on dark truths to ultimately lift us up into a more compassionate, cruelty free world. Thank you for reading. Thank you for moving in any direction that leads you towards less harm, more compassion, and more love for yourself, your neighbor, and all of the beings winged, four legged, finned, and feathered. Namaste!

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