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How ‘The Daniel Plan’ Did Not Meet My Expectations by Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, VLCE

There is something very powerful about expectations. I remember, as a child, when I expected a certain gift to be under the tree – and it was not – I experienced a great deal of disappointment. I know there are times when I disappoint my spouse. She expects me to do something (or not to do some thing), I do something different than what she expects, and voilà, we are sitting down having one of those conversations (my partner is a wonderful communicator!).

One of the psychologists I have studied the most, Albert Ellis, is supposed to have said something like, “The best way to go through life is to lower your expectations.” Though I have not actually found those words in the books of his that I’ve read, there are many mental health professionals who toy with this idea of how low expectations may increase happiness.

I believe there is little doubt that expectations best serve us when managed. My unrealistic expectations create upsets, and upsets lead to disappointments, and too many disappointments can lead to places we don’t want to go.

The reason I tell you this is because I did not manage my expectations when I read The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life.

The Daniel Plan

Let me be honest and tell you why I was disappointed.

The book is written by very well-known men. Rick Warren, the mega-church minister and author of books which have sold in the millions, and Drs. Daniel Amen and Mark Hyman, both well known in their respective fields and both featured on PBS television specials. These men hold great influence in our world around the areas of faith and health. And when I discovered they had teamed up to write a book called The Daniel Plan, I really felt like that child hoping to find something especially for me under the Christmas tree.

You see, I thought the book was going to extoll the virtues of a vegan diet. I am a vegan. I eat, for the most part, a whole foods plant based diet for a lot of reasons, but I came to this way of eating initially as a way to improve my health. And it did. My health improved dramatically when I ate a healthy vegan diet. And it is natural, I think, that you want to read the works of others who agree with your position. We all do this. Fox News viewers and MSNBC viewers want to have their ideas reinforced by “experts” from their respective camps. And I was thinking, “Wow! If Rich Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hymen are going to tout a vegan message, this could be huge!”

Now, why would I think they were going to do this? Why did I believe these men were going to proclaim veganism to the world?

I based this assumption (this expectation) on the title of the book, The Daniel Plan. Daniel was a visionary and prophet in the Hebrew Bible (you may remember Daniel and the Lion’s Den). Rick Warren is a renowned pastor of a huge church. Though I, too, am an educated minister, I am admittedly no biblical scholar. But surely, I thought, veganism and faith were about to intersect in a powerful way.

They did not.

All Warren really says about Daniel is, “…I was preaching that day about a man in the Bible named Daniel who refused to eat junk food and challenged a king to a health contest, I named the program The Daniel Plan.” (Kindle Locations 103-104)

And he is correct. The story in the Bible tells us Daniel was in the custody of King Nebuchadnezzar who had seized Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to educate him (and others) in the ways of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to wine and dine them so ordered that Daniel and the other captives be given royal rations of rich food and wine. Because only the wealthy were able to eat much animal food back then, we can safely assume an abundance of meat was on the table.

Daniel, however, refused the rich food (he would not be “defiled” by it) and said, “Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.”

The Daniel Plan 2

Now that is a vegan diet — an austere one, to be sure, but vegan (perhaps raw) nonetheless. This disturbed the guard because Nebuchadnezzar’s orders were not to be defied. But Daniel basically said, “Let’s just try this for ten days. Give me vegetables and water, give the others the royal treatment, and we’ll see who performs better.” [Read more...]

Vegan Tween: A Mother-Daughter Interview by Lynette Cowie, VLCE

Isabelle is almost a teenager, a time when friends become new major influencers. Yet this vegan tween is already facing and dealing with peer pressure on her terms. This beautiful young girl is also my daughter and today she gently tells us about what it’s like to stand up for one’s ethics at the age of 12.

vegan tween

How did you feel when you first heard about veganism? “I was totally keen to go onboard; even vegetarian wasn’t enough of a leap for me. I wanted to get all cruelty off my plate. I’ve always felt a deep compassion and connection with nature and its animals. It just didn’t feel right or fair to eat or use them.”

What is the most interesting thing you have felt or learnt in these past 18 months? “I’ve felt more physically lively and I’m so learning how to stand up for what I believe in!”

Aside from your sister, what’s it like to be the only other vegan in your school? “It’s challenging. Sometimes I wish there was another vegan in my grade to stand beside me. There’s plenty of teasing about me eating only plants. This happens in class, whenever the subject of meat or food in general comes up.”

vegan tween 1

What type of teasing? “Things like they say they are top of the food chain and I am then below that. I also get teased, mainly by the guys, for being slim, which they call thin. I laugh this off, and give it right back, by jokingly telling them that it’s just because they’re fat! I know that what I eat is solid good food, filled with protein, calcium, antioxidants, fiber and all that good stuff which makes my body strong and healthy.”

How do you deal with these types of social attitudes?  “I don’t take it very personally because they don’t mean to hurt me. They’re just either curious or crazy defensive.”

And lunch box time, how does that go?  “Well often, out of pure curiosity, someone might ask me what I’m eating during school break and another will quickly comment ‘gross stuff.’ But at least I have plenty of girl friends who will stand up for me, not because they believe in veganism, but because they see these comments as rude and tactless.”

What does your lunch box vs. their lunchbox tell you? (Laughs) “That I eat a lot healthier. There’s biltong (cured meat), chicken strips and chips, ham and melted cheese sandwiches in theirs. I like my ‘mac & cheese’, coconut chunks, snow peas, sometimes freshly baked bread with hummus or peanut butter, always strawberries in summer.”

What would make your school experience with regards to veganism better? “I wish for vegan awareness, firstly among the teachers who would then filter it through to the students. That would be great but teachers are just parents, too, feeding their kids what they were fed, or what they assume is good and so it goes on.” [Read more...]

How to Create a Monthly Vegan Potluck in Your Community by Bonnie Goodman, VLCE

Whether you make the change for the love of animals, the environment, social justice, or your health, becoming vegan is such a thrill. But it can also be lonely. The desire to share the magic of this amazing lifestyle may not always be met with enthusiasm by friends and family, and here you just want to explore new recipes and throw a dinner party every night! Well, that might be a bit much….How about once a month?

No matter where you live, there are other vegans (or pre-gans) in your community – and they may be feeling a bit isolated, too. Starting a plant-based potluck in your town is a great way to find like-minded people and make new friends. A potluck can be a cozy get-together with other vegans, where you don’t have to worry about what’s in the food, and can just relax. Or do you want to create a potluck for activism?

The intention of our potluck in Montana

ThanksLivingDinner1 copy ThanksLivingDinner2

(Photo Credit 2013 Thanks Living Dinner: Robert Howell)

is to demystify veganism and share delicious food and easy recipes with people who are open-minded and veg-curious. Everyone is welcome at Live and Let Livingston events; our slogan is “You don’t have to be Vegan, but the Food Does!”

Four people attended the first potluck six years ago. Now we average a couple dozen every month, and double that during the holidays. Thanks-Living Dinners are the most popular, and our “Ugly Christmas Sweater Party” even made front page news!

Christmas Sweater Party

If you want to start a monthly potluck that’s open to the public and educational, here are ten tips: [Read more...]

The Writing Life, ca. 2014 by Victoria Moran

In the past few weeks, three different people have written to me innocently asking how I write, not realizing that they were asking for a treatise on my life’s work and my life’s purpose. I told them that I’d do a blog post about writing. Although the topic isn’t strictly vegan, it is interesting to note that at this time in history when print media are, if not on their last legs, at least not experiencing a heyday, vegan books are being published at a steady clip and selling well enough to keep the momentum going. New cookbooks seem to come out weekly, along with nonfiction titles and the occasional fiction book with a vegan message or protagonist. (The memoir, The Dogs Were Rescued and So Was I, by NY Times bestselling author, Teresa Rhyne, describes how her dogs turned her vegan.)

main street vegan | Victoria Moran

If you want to write for your own purposes, write. If you want to write for a living, write, but keep some other income coming in. The Internet era has cheapened the value of words and diminished the profession of writer. You may be able to make a go of it, but every writer I know these days writes and does something – or several somethings – else as well. Either way, schedule your time to write five or, maximum, six days a week. Enjoy. Edit. Hone. Suffer. That part is because waiting for the Muse isn’t all fun; sometimes I think she’s at a different Starbucks.

And there’s a tip in itself: in the tradition of writing teacher and author on authoring, Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones), try your hand at writing in a café. I rarely write at home. Home is the place where other things take precedence: when the beds are made, you can write. When the errands are done, you can write. When the email box is as empty as Mother Hubbard’s pantry, you can write. This is, of course, the sad yarn of never writing.

Therefore, I write in coffee shops and have done it for years. Back in Kansas City (I moved to NYC in 2000), I always wrote in independently owned cafes. I didn’t want my inspiration to arise in a corporate setting. I’ve become more pragmatic since my New York conversion. Starbucks are everywhere and they let you sit for hours with their WiFi and, if you can claim a lucky table, an electrical outlet, too. While some people prefer to write in monastic seclusion, I like to write with life and energy teeming around me. I translate those sights and sounds into what I’m writing. It’s not a direct correlation, e.g., I won’t write: “A woman wearing a purple hat just walked by,” but because she was self-confident and gutsy and celebratory enough to wear a purple hat, the piece or the page or the chapter I’m working on becomes more confident, courageous, and festive.

I write, most the time, in the mornings. My writing mentor, Jerrold Mundis (www.unblock.org), tells his protégés, “You get your best stuff in the morning. If you need breakfast, eat. If you do a spiritual practice, tend to that. But don’t do one other thing before you write.” I disobey somewhat in that I go to the gym first because I know myself: I could conceivably find excuses for not writing, but I could devise an encyclopedia of excuses for not going to the gym. In the sensible spirit of, “Do first what you’re most likely to blow off,” I work out, then get to my café (i.e., “satellite office”).

Once there, I write for three hours. That’s the sweet spot. Jerrold Mundis says that the human nervous system can only take four hours of writing. You can do other things during a writing day: research, proofreading, work on appendices and the bibliography, but actual writing is best kept to three or four hours.

And this needs to be non-distracted time. Email has been the enemy of my writing for the past ten years. I found programs that would keep me offline for a proscribed period, but that was no good because I needed the Internet for looking up facts. I just wanted to be blocked from email, which can take up a whole day and leave virtually nothing to show for it. I found my salvation in a program called Anti-Social (www.anti-social.cc) which automatically blocks Facebook and Twitter plus, optionally, other social networking sites and email accounts for a time you specify, up to eight hours. It’s a godsend for me and for lots of other writers, too.

The Writing Life, ca. 2014 | Victoria Moran

As precious as this discrete writing time is, I think the more important time for my writing is when I’m living my life away from the keyboard. Observation, contemplation, conversation, and reading (both for information and simply to be exposed, over and over, to wonderful storytelling and the beautiful usage of words) are essential. Going to movies, looking at art, and being out in the world where everything happens are necessary requisites for me to write. For other people, it’s time in nature or running or journaling first thing in the morning. [Read more...]

Self Improvement by Setting Goals by Matt Korsky, VLCE

Goal setting is an important task for all of us and can be the difference between a life well lived or accepting the status quo. Somewhere along life’s journey our own passion and fearlessness starts to recede and we become hesitant about going after our big desires.  We second-guess what we are doing and tell ourselves stories about who we are and what we are able to achieve. When the personal limits we’ve placed on ourselves aren’t enough, society likes to jump in and tell us what we can and cannot do.

To live a life that is not determined by mental limiters – our own or others’ — we need to set goals. These goals need to be viable but also far enough out of our reach to excite us and evoke a sense of fear within us. I know that can be a shocking word because we think of fear as such a negative thing, but if you see it as the incredible excitement that sends adrenaline to fuel a racer for a run or a singer for a performance, you see the positive role that it can play. This kind of fear is important because it keeps us motivated to continue on our journey especially when times are tough. People may try to talk you out of doing something so extreme (extreme in their opinion, anyway), but this is simply the limiters that they have already placed on themselves that they are now putting on you. They are scared themselves to step into the unknown and if you do it, then they will have no excuse to not do something out of the ordinary themselves, because they now see firsthand that the impossible is really possible.

The targets that you set need to be personal and important to you. If you choose a goal that is based on other people’s interests, you’ll have no inner motivation to stay focused. Having a concrete time frame in which the goal must be met is an obligatory action in order to reach the finish line. This time frame is crucial because it forces us to get the ball rolling; otherwise we may never start. It’s easy to say you’re going to run a marathon someday, but if that date is never set, it most likely won’t happen. After your goal is set and the date is in stone, the next vital step is sharing your goal with others. It’s one thing to let yourself down but quite another when you include others in on your goal.  [Read more...]

Be a real man by Michael Suchman, VLCE

Coming Out as Gay, Coming Out as Vegan

For many people, coming out can be difficult, often scary. If it were easy, everyone would do it. When we come out, we are calling attention to ourselves, intentionally highlighting what makes us different from the perceived norm. For men, coming out as gay or vegan raises the question of what it means to be a man. Sadly, a gay man or a vegan man is often still not perceived as being a “real man” by the standards of our culture.

Some of the negative stereotypes of gay men and vegan men are remarkably similar. We are perceived as weak, effeminate, and not “real men.” Traditionally, a “real man” is seen as a provider and protector. These are admirable qualities and ones that all men should strive to possess. How we manifest these traits is where the disconnect happens. Often times, it seems that our culture values superficial expressions of being manly. It is more about an outward display of bravado rather than strength of true internal character. The time has come for us to change the image of what it means to be a “real man.”

To live up to the expectation of “real men” as providers and protectors, we need strength, not necessarily physical strength, but the strength that comes from within. We must have the courage to speak up and share our truth even when doing so is scary or dangerous. The modern gay rights movement was started by a group of unarmed gay men and drag queens standing up to armed policemen. These men, despite having no weapons, had the strength to fight back and demand equality. Similarly, vegan men contradict the stereotypes of being weak when they come out as vegan. We are willing to risk the labels and negative stereotypes to say that we believe that all beings, regardless of species, deserve to live free of human interference. Rallying around the stereotype of “Real men eat meat” is easy, but that is actually the safer route. It is a real man who declares, “I will not be a part of this,” when he encounters injustice and bullying. Gay men and vegan men, by coming out, display a true strength of character that is emblematic of what is means to be a “real man.”

VeganMos

A real man is secure enough in his own skin to show emotions, a trait often seen as a sign of weakness. Caring for others is what enables a person to be a true protector and provider. If we don’t care about someone else, we won’t be willing to stand up for them. Caring should not be the birthright of women alone. Men must be encouraged to express their innate compassion and caring. As more men come out as gay or vegan, the more society as a whole will rethink its notions of what it means to be a “real man.” [Read more...]

Vegan Living Means a 5-Star Life by Carol Schneider, VLCE

Pale, barefoot, granola hippies. Some people still hold that stale image of vegans. But current science and cultural trends attest that 21st century vegans actually demand smart and stylish living. Through a vegan lens, the food chain is a plant chain – and cheap products of questionable origin just won’t fly.

Rich means beans and greens
Whatever the budget, vegans want the simple first class of superior living – which must avoid cruelty of any kind. Top health requires fine dining on dense nutrition and the best fuel Earth can provide. Eating beans and greens isn’t settling – it’s superior living. Gourmet means pure food from our own kitchens, and discovering restaurants evolved enough to serve customer preferences that rise to offering vegan menu options.

Sartorial sensibility
We want the finest fabric touching our bodies – a compassionate trail from plants – cotton and linen – organic, where possible – and selected synthetics. The animal provenance of formerly cherished cashmere leaves us squeamish. We seek a fresher awareness of style and luxury. Clothing consuming practices require updated thinking. Even the Wall Street Journal carries articles saying to buy less and enjoy enviable half-empty closets. But we already know our sartorial and personal care selections are trending and are more relevant than the “fast fashion” of the past 20 years. We want to fuel careful, cruelty-free, energy-saving production – avoiding dicey chemicals or bad labor practices.

Our homes are castles
We create exquisite living in our homes too. We recycle. We avoid excess. We discriminate among market offerings and don’t succumb to what marketers tell us to buy. We care about environmental pollutants and no animal testing in household products. We can’t buy all new products overnight; but as we finish with and donate old things and acquire new, we’re more environmentally conscious in the way we’ve learned from our vegan consumer practices. [Read more...]

The 6 Top Myths About Plant-Based Diets by Nava Atlas

Would you like to consider a plant-based (aka vegan) diet, but find yourself confused by all the conflicting information? Let’s look at some of the most persistent myths, one at a time.

You’ll never get enough protein on a plant-based diet. While longtime vegans regard the “Where do you get your protein” question as an annoyance, I look at it as an opportunity to enlighten the curious. It truly isn’t difficult to get sufficient good-quality protein on a whole-foods plant-based diet.

Nava Atlas Legumes

It’s easy to get weak and sickly on a plant-based diet. Weak and sickly? Tell that to the growing number of elite athletes who are fueling their feats on entirely plant-based regimens. In Becoming Vegan,authors Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, write, “The vast majority of studies assessing the dietary intake and nutritional status of vegans reassure us that well-planned vegan diets can supply adequate nutrition.” It might be convenient to argue that unless some planning is done, a plant-based diet can leave its practitioner feeling less than optimal. But the same can be true of any regimen, including the standard American diet. Just look at the statistics, and the damage done to our collective health is obvious and alarming.

Plant-based diets are by definition more healthful than other diets. Some “junk- food vegans” and “carboholics” believe that simply by eliminating animal products they’re automatically healthier. Not true. A diet based on baked goods and snacks, even if they’re vegan, won’t promote good health in the long run.

Nava Atlas Quinoa Burger

You’ll always be hungry, as the food isn’t filling enough. I hear this one a lot, but, oddly, I hear it only from people who don’t actually eat a plant-based diet. They’re anticipating hypothetical hunger rather than reporting actual results. Many plant-based staples are made up of complex carbohydrates that the body digests slowly and steadily, fueling you for hours at a time. This being said, many people who adopt plant-based diets report feeling lighter and cleaner. [Read more...]

Conventional Wisdom by Victoria Moran

I wasn’t weird, just uncommon. Unchained by convention. A free thinker.

I home-schooled my only child, a daughter, so there would be time to see the world. We saw it. We even met the Dalai Lama. When not traveling, Rachael – that’s my daughter, Adair, before she started using her middle name — and I lived with four cats and a dog, all foundlings. We refrained from eating anything that had once had eyes, except for potatoes and those had to be organic–preferably sold out of the back of the farmer’s pick-up. I grew sprouts and juiced juice and spoke ill of famous soft drinks. The only thing in our house that was openly artificial was the Christmas tree: it just seemed mean to cut down a real one.

Our friends held similar views. They weren’t all vegetarians but they knew the meaning of tempeh and seitan. They talked about gas mileage and they reduced/reused/recycled back when we still thought granola was diet food. The people we knew were mostly artists of some sort–if not from 9 to 5, then the rest of the time. Politically they were liberal and socially they were activists. Rachael learned to carry a picket sign in her stroller.

Compared to people we knew who wouldn’t drive, or buy clothes that weren’t used, or watch TV–ever–we were the all-American single-parent family, or so I thought until William came along. His singles ad – we were a couple of years ahead of Internet dating — showed stunning eloquence in twenty-five words or less: “Divorced man, lived abroad most of life, looking for woman who enjoys travel, music, art. Age and race unimportant.” Wow! Maybe he’d been in the Peace Corps.

V & W @ Peter Max

William and I chose to rendezvous in a bagel shop. He said he’d met five of the thirty women who’d responded to his ad, but I was the first to bring non-dairy cream cheese. I learned that he hadn’t been in the Peace Corps, but maybe his being a software attorney had helped developing nations get email. He was so attractive and articulate that I barely noticed that he was drinking Diet Coke.

In the stupor of infatuation followed by the blindness of love, I also missed that we inhabited different universes, until fourteen months later when we were newly married and freshly ensconced in the same house. I had five children, four with fur; he had three, all human. His lived with their mother but would spend weekends with us. It was going to be delightful. [Read more...]

What’s a vegan mother to do? by Rene’ Steelman, VLCE

The major benefit of trying new things and exploring other “worlds”is meeting people and expanding your circle of friends. I sat down with one of these new friends to discuss our upcoming presentation. She went over what she was going to say, I went over what I was going to say and BAMMM…with in just a few minutes, before my smoothie even arrived, she was disagreeing with my view of how to eat a plant-based diet. This has happened to me twice now in just the last three weeks! To quote Mr. Rodney King, who was horrendously beaten in front of our eyes, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? . . . “(quote from The Quote Verifier). STOP BEATING ME UP, FELLOW VEGANS!!!!!

My quest to gain health has been a journey beginning about thirty years ago. I have been blessed by becoming an adult in the late sixties where eating clean and wholesome was beginning to be a trend. I had my fifth child in the mid-eighties and was hypnotically encouraged to follow “Sandy,” otherwise known as Olivia Newton John, right into a sweat band, shiny leotards and aerobics. I started running and unknowingly became a vegetarian. My quest to feed my flock and a very picky husband was daunting! “Where’s the ketchup?”my hot-dog-eating husband would ask. “ I threw it all away!”I would answer with pride and an upturned chin. “Why?”he would forlornly inquire, “Because, would you believe, it contains SUGAR!”Needless to say, I was replacing that bottle of sugar in just a few days. I was feeding five children and one big one, remember. The man loves hot dogs!

ketchup

Fortunately, I don’t give up easily and I have raised healthy and happy children who try to eat well and are now feeding their children hummus for a snack. I can honestly say, as a young mom, I ground my own wheat and made them whole-wheat pancakes for breakfast. Sometimes I put ice cream on their oatmeal because I read that that would combine the sugar and the milk, enticing children to eat their porridge! I didn’t know then what I know now. It’s a journey. [Read more...]