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Community by Michael Suchman, VLCE

At our wedding, Ethan’s best man, also named Michael, ended his toast to us with the line, “Now go build your village.” I thought the sentiment was very sweet, but at the time I didn’t truly get the message. It wasn’t until many years later that I was able to appreciate what he said and when I did, I realized we’d done that.

While I may not have built a village, I certainly joined a community when I became vegan. The vegan community is global and it cuts across all genders, religions, sexualities, races, political affiliations and ages. When we choose to live vegan we are committing to conducting our lives adhering to the fundamental belief that all sentient beings are entitled to live free from harm or interference from others. We uphold our belief that using another individual solely for our own benefit is wrong and we reject the exploitation and oppression of others by refusing to take part in systems that rely on it.

Even though religious and politically based communities share stated common beliefs or moralities (such as marriage equality), the application of those beliefs is usually inconsistent, both within the community and in its application towards others — namely, the morality applies to humans but not all living beings. Or, as is the example with Judaism, certain laws and issues of morality affect men but not women, humans but not animals, etc. This does not happen within the vegan community. We all agree that animals are not ours to use and that applies across the board to everyone. [Read more…]

Veganism and Personal Evolution by Camille DeAngelis, VLCE

Going vegan can put you on a fast track to transformation in every other area of your life as well. By opting out of a cruel but culturally sanctioned way of eating, we’ve proven to ourselves that we can change, which makes further changes feel way more achievable than they ever did before. We shift into what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck  calls a growth mindset. We learn to catch ourselves should we begin a declarative statement with “I can’t” or “I could never.” After all, you’re the person who gets to decide what you can and can’t do, what you are and are not capable of.

While some changes do happen immediately—when I decided to go vegan I did it 100% (apart from using up the wool in my knitting stash)—most change happens incrementally, and slow and steady often proves the more sustainable route. When I look back over how my attitudes and opinions have evolved over time, I see my veganism wasn’t such a light-switch decision after all:

1980-2000: What is “vegan”? (Cheese pizza! Mac-and-cheese! Cheese cheese CHEEEEEEESE!)

2001-2010: I don’t eat animals, but I could never go vegan. I love cheese too much.

2011: Hold up: I’m addicted to dairy cheese! For the animals’ sake and for my own health, I don’t want to eat it anymore.

2012: Cheese? Nope. Still not missing it.

2013: Tree-nut “cheese”? Tell me more!

2014: I can make my own vegan cheese from scratch? I am intrigued!

2015: Miyoko Schinner is my hero. But I have good friends with nut allergies! Can I make cheese for them too?

2016: Nut-free vegan cheese FTW!

As you can see from this little timeline, I’ve been vegan four years but I am still evolving. The alternative—as Carol Dweck presents it—is a fixed mindset. This is a worldview in which traits and abilities are innate; if you’re not capable now, then you never will be. When feeling uneasy about something new and strange, someone with a fixed mindset takes that discomfort as a sign that they should not continue. Of course, this is also the attitude that results in premature aging and loss of mobility, not to mention joie de vivre.

Someone with a growth mindset, on the other hand, understands that not being capable of X today doesn’t preclude them from achieving X at some point in the future. Someone with a growth mindset knows that all change entails risk—above all the risk of proving yourself wrong, just as you did when you decided to stop eating animals and their secretions. As Einstein famously said, “I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” Someone with a growth mindset approaches any goal with a trifold motto of process, practice, and patience.

For the growth minded, X may represent the unknown, but the unknown is cause for excitement rather than fear! So here’s my parting question for you, whether you are vegan or future-vegan:

What’s your X?

mindfuel handstand

“I can’t kick up into a handstand.” WRONG! (Here I’m with one of my yoga teachers, Brynne, after a yoga and writing workshop we co-taught, which included a snack of lavender-chocolate vegan cupcakes. I used to think I wasn’t a good baker, but I kept at it, and now my friends tell me otherwise.)

 

camille squam with glassesCamille DeAngelis (VLCE ’13) is the author, most recently, of Bones & All, a novel about cannibals aimed at getting readers to rethink the practice of flesh eating. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. Visit her at www.cometparty.com or get in touch via Twitter at @cometparty.

 

Thinking Outside the Gym by Victoria Moran

I never developed a fondness for sweat. “Go out and play” was not a happy childhood instruction. I much preferred “Go to your room and study,” except I’m not sure anyone ever told me that: I did it on my own. As one who started living from the neck up at an early age, anything in the sports/exercise/fitness category was sorely lacking in appeal.

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The “seated activities” – reading, writing, conversation, theater/cinema/TV – are totally what I’d have sung about had I been Julie Andrews going on in The Sound of Music about my “favorite things.” This preference, and the way I’ve seen sadness and disappointment exacerbate the predilection for a sedentary state in myself and others, led me to coin a condition, Activity Resistance Disorder. It will appear in print for the first time in my upcoming book, The Good Karma Diet. I know it’s real because I’ve experienced it repeatedly: ARD, experiential proof that a body at rest really wants to stay that way.

But I know we’re supposed to be moving – even more than was once believed. And there’s no time off for being over 40 or over 50 or over 60, as was once the conventional wisdom. If anything, we need to be more consistent about exercise as we get older. Why, then, does it not get any more appealing? I figured this was a matter of, simply, “Suck it up.” So I tried. For years.

I’ve done yoga, off and on, since I was seventeen (it’s always seemed like the most civilized of exercise philosophies), and I’ve belonged to a gym almost one-hundred percent of the time for the past twenty-five years. I’ve never been crazy about cardio. I can’t dance, despite childhood ballet classes (or perhaps because of them); and swimming calls for getting cold and wet – the only states less pleasant than sweating. But refusing to be a slouch, I have consistently done some kind of yoga, the treadmill or the cross-trainer (thank God for, first, CDs, and now podcasts), and sometimes I’ve gotten into weights enough to actually like it. That’s been sufficient to keep me in decent shape overall and pretty good shape sometimes, causing me to believe that I never suffered from ARD after all. But then I’d get a cold, or an injury, or take a vacation – and getting back to those curls and squats and deadlifts could take weeks, sometimes several.

vm weights

To remedy the situation, I’ve at times had trainers. I love having a trainer, but I’d probably also love having a private chef and a masseuse and chauffeur. The fact is, I have no more business paying someone over $100 an hour to be sure I make it to the gym than I would hiring someone to drive me there. It’s a great short-term thing to learn good form and the like, but unless you’re really rich, it’s not sustainable. I always thought the trainer would get me so jazzed about working out that when my time with him or her was up, I’d keep going with great enthusiasm. Well, I did keep going for the most part – I have a Nike tee-shirt that says, “Every damn day just do it” — but the enthusiasm has often been less than infectious. [Read more…]

Five Books to Nourish the Ethical Vegan’s Soul by Christine Day, VLCE

Living a vegan lifestyle can be tough sometimes.  With 98% of the country eating, wearing and/or exploiting animals, sometimes it can feel very lonely.  Burnout is common and something we all should be aware of.  If you’re like me, most of the books you read have to do with nutrition or animal rights.  It’s time to nourish your soul and choose a book that will recharge you.

Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner, by Ellen Kanner

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This book will draw you in with its storytelling style and tempting recipes at the end of each chapter.  Ellen Kanner makes her readers feel as if you’re spending a long weekend together while she weaves tales about her grandmother, her life and her views on veganism all the time cooking up warm, nourishing food from various cultures.  Your soul and your body get fed at the same time as wholesome recipes are interspersed throughout the book.

Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story, by Dan Harris

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Technically not a vegan book, Dan Harris’ story is one that will teach you balance.  Dan hit the lowest part of his life right before having a full-on panic attack on national television.  This event set him off on a journey searching for the answer on how to reduce stress in his life and still be productive.  He found the solution through meditation and believe me when I say, if Type A Dan Harris can meditate, anyone can.  You’ll love this story and Harris kindly provides lots of links to resources at the end of his book.

Beg, by Rory Freedman

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Have you ever read a book you wish wouldn’t end?  That is how you will feel when you read Beg, beautifully written by the co-author of Skinny Bitch.  Rory Freedman’s love for animals shone all through her writing and you will love seeing how she makes the connection between veganism and her own spirituality.  Rory Freedman writes, “So I’m speaking to you honestly and earnestly and trying to address the highest common denominator – the divine seed in your heart.  The part of you that maybe lies dormant, but is stirred by truth and beauty and the chance for elevated spirit.  The part of you that might not have known existed but is quickening now with an ancient remembrance.  The true you.” 

Where the Blind Horse Sings, by Kathy Stevens [Read more…]

Seven Ways to Eat More Leafy Greens by Vicki Brett-Gach, VLCE

Leafy green vegetables, cooked or raw, are so jam-packed with powerful health-producing benefits, they’ve earned the prize for most nutrient-dense food on our planet. Yet, slipping more of these veggie stars into our diets can seem daunting if you are new to greens, or they to you. How can you get started?

Buying Greens…

  1. Write greens on your grocery list every single week.

The first step to eating more greens is to make sure they are handy. Try a variety. Bring home something familiar, and challenge yourself to choose one you haven’t had before…maybe kale, escarole, chard, bok choy, or mustard greens. And remember that fresh leafy herbs like flat-leaf parsley, basil, and cilantro, are loaded with nutritional benefits too, as well as flavor.

Utilize Convenience…

  1. Look for pre-washed greens (like spinach, baby kale, and collards).

It’s a simple convenience, but ready-to-use greens can make all the difference in the world. Look for the ever-growing variety of pre-washed greens in bags and clamshell boxes, and buy organic when your budget allows. 

  1. Buy frozen greens.

Frozen greens are a good value and nice time saver, too. Already cleaned and prepped, you can always find spinach, and sometimes collards, kale, chard, or mixed leafy greens flash-frozen, so adding them to soups and stews is easy as can be.

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How To Use Them…

  1. Start your morning with a green smoothie.

Add fresh greens to a high-powered blender, along with fresh or frozen fruit for a vibrant boost so energizing, you’ll feel better inside and out.

Fruity Green Smoothie

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  1. Add greens to lunchtime wraps.

[Read more…]

When Healthy Eating Goes Too Far, by Victoria Moran

A couple of years ago, I started hearing about a new eating disorder, “orthorexia,” an obsession with eating only “healthy” or “clean” food. My first thought was identical to what had crossed my mind when I heard the term “exercise bulimia” a decade earlier: “That doesn’t sound like such a bad disorder to me.”

But of course it is. They both are. While orthorexia may be relatively rare – and certainly the “luxury problem” of those with the means to be picky about what they eat – it is nevertheless joy-diminishing and life-depleting. Compared to anorexia or bulimia, it hardly seems to deserve the title “disorder,” but that’s what makes it insidious. The anorexic wants a “perfect” body if it kills her. The orthorexic can want a perfect diet almost as much.

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Everything starts out fine. It could happen to any of us. It could happen to you. Let’s say you’re vegan so the animal products are gone – a very good thing on a great many levels – and you just want to eat a little better, so you cut out refined sugar. Laudable move. Then the white bread and white rice go. Fried foods get the axe. You get more serious about exercise. You’re happy. Your doctor is happy. All is well.

Then you read that oil is problematic. Okay, out go most salad dressings and any oil-sauteeing. When you learn that sweeteners other than sugar are really just sugar, the maple syrup and agave nectar are dispensed with. And since dried fruit has a high sugar content, that needs to go, too.

You watch Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, and juicing looks incredibly cool, but not fruit juice since that’s all sugar. Same with carrot juice. Sure, you’ve seen the old books about people who cured their cancers with carrot juice or grape diets, but that was a long time ago, before we knew about sugar. So you decide that some juice is okay, mostly green, even though some experts argue that juice isn’t a whole food and you should really leave it alone.

It’s getting tough, but you’re committed, and then you learn, OMG, wheat has been so severely hybridized and the gluten in it is harmful to lots more people than just the one percent with celiac disease. So no more bread or pasta or flour products, unless they’re gluten-free. But guess what? Most of the gluten-free stuff is refined, made from potato starch and refined rice flour, so that’s out, too.

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You’re doing okay with gluten-free grains and vegetables and fresh fruit (not too much: the sugar…) when your friend goes on the Wheat Belly diet and shares with you that it’s not just wheat, but grains in general, refined and unrefined, that are dangerous. In fact, all starches should be curtailed – beans, potatoes. (Sweet potatoes aren’t bad, but white potatoes, good grief! They’re high on the Glycemic Index and basically metabolize as sugar, so there they go. Besides, they’re nightshades and your macro friend told you those are bad, so while you’re at it, get rid of the peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes.)

Then there’s soy. Some people say it’s the devil, so you do your research and decide that natural soy – edamame, miso, tempeh, and a little tofu — are okay, as long as you’re sure it’s not GMO. That means no tofu from the Chinese place and no edamame at the Japanese restaurant, so you’re down to eating only vegetables when you go there (no rice; it’s white. And you should only eat rice grown in California anyway, since the other stuff has a high arsenic content).

The GMO thing is scary. Most corn is GMO so no more popcorn at the movies (but wait: isn’t that a different kind of corn that isn’t GMO? Who knows? It probably has bad oil anyway – oops, ‘forgot: all oil is bad). Cottonseed and canola are bad since they’re oils and super-bad since they’re GMO, so that means no crackers with the hummus your friend made special since you’re vegan, and no peanuts in the airplane. (Peanuts get that naturally occurring mold, aflatoxin, and you realize you’re better off without them.) Other nuts are okay – well, not almonds; they’re too high in Omega-6 fatty acids.  [Read more…]

Fueling an Active Lifestyle with Plants by Matt Cunningham, VLCE

One of my favorite aspects of the plant-powered lifestyle is the cycle it creates whereby I eat better, I have more energy, I learn more about nutrition, I have more energy, on and on……

It’s a cycle flush with benefits that no price tag can match. Before starting my yoga practice and plant-powered lifestyle, I was sleepwalking through traditional workouts of some cardio interspersed with weight training routines that presented little challenge or excitement. By consuming a variety of plant-based whole foods, I felt energized and inspired to try new ways to exercise my body and mind.

Flash forward a few years and the garage is overflowing with toys including a mountain bike, skis, a road bike, longboard, yoga mats, floorball sticks and a stand-up paddleboard. Another cycle was therefore created. Looking to develop new skills and fuel my competitive nature, I have a much greater appreciation for the countless benefits to be reaped from proper hydration, meticulously-timed fueling around workouts and regeneration than I ever did as a college hockey player.

Inspiration drawn from vegan athletes like Rich Roll, Hillary Biscay and others has inspired me to take my training to another level, culminating in last November’s Ironman Arizona. After completing the race and taking some time off, my mind inevitably began to wander despite my initial thoughts of being a one-and-done Ironman. How could I improve my time? How much stronger could I become on the bike? How much more efficiently could I swim? How much more could I learn about fueling and recovery? [Read more…]

Spring Clean and Green Your Personal Care Products by Sarah Eastin, VLCE

I’ve learned many things over the course of my career about the environment, hazardous chemicals and their effect on bodies. Now that I’m a coach I have the opportunity to share this important information and be of more assistance to my friends, family and community in general.

Our skin is our largest organ and everything that we put on it is absorbed into our bloodstream. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that women us an average of 168 different chemical ingredients in personal care products each day. They estimate men use about 85.

Do you think that if product has made it to the shelves of your store it has been determined safe or that the government does an effective job of regulating the cosmetics industry?? The simple answer is no.

Many people don’t know that cosmetics are under regulated and commonly made from chemicals not tested properly (and I’m not talking about animal tests, we all know that these are a poor representation). Cosmetic manufacturers can use almost any ingredient they choose. The FDA can’t even require safety tests or recall harmful products!

The list of chemical ingredients in personal care products can be long, just a few can include; lead in our lipstick, mercury in our mascara, and vinyl chloride, at one time, was put into hairspray which is a known carcinogen. EWG estimates that today 34% of ingredients in our personal care products have been found to be associated with cancer, 45% associated with developmental problems and 66% are estrogen mimicking and hormone disrupting.

Unfortunately, there is evidence now that exposure to chemicals is passed down to children. Industrial chemicals have been found in the placenta and umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.

Luckily, there are many emerging agencies and non-profit groups working on this issue and some big companies are even phasing out chemicals of concern. EWG is a great source of information, they have developed the Skin Deep Database that serves as a great reference when you’re shopping (you can install the app on your phone). You can scan the barcode of products and get details about the product’s risk level.

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What else can we do to protect ourselves? Do your research; educate yourself, share information with friends and family.

  • When purchasing products, be sure to read the labels,
  • Avoid anything with the word fragrance,
  • Make sure your hairdresser knows that you prefer non-toxic, vegan and natural products,
  • Spring is a great time to renew ourselves and our personal spaces, do a little “spring cleaning” and replace toxic products in your home,
  • Make some of your own more natural products, Pinterest has some great recipes! Home-made recipes can save you money as well as be a bit easier on your body, some ideas are given below.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle, great ways to detox include;
  • Drink lots of filtered water (with a squirt of lemon or lime juice),

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  • Eat a healthy vegan diet rich in fruits and veggies (juices, soups and salads can be very detoxifying),

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  • Exercise in a way that induces sweat,
  • Or sweat in sauna.

[Read more…]

Introducing the Main Street Vegan Academy coaches page

The first Main Street Vegan Academy was held in June 2012. Three years later there are nearly 150 certified Vegan Lifestyle Coaches & Educators working with individuals and communities interested in eating a plant-based diet and leading a vegan lifestyle.

main street vegan academy

You can now search for a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator, all of whom have the VLCE certification, based on geography and area of interest on the coaches page. These are experienced vegans who can help you go vegan or be more successful with your plant-based diet/lifestyle. In addition to seeing in-person clients, most also work via phone or Skype with people outside their local area. If you’re looking to consult with Main Street Vegan author and Main Street Vegan Academy founder/director Victoria Moran, she maintains a small practice and is listed under “New York, Manhattan.”

Would you like to join this diverse and dedicated group of coaches? Upcoming available course dates include:  [Read more…]

Building a Vegan Community on Facebook by Dean Iodice, VLCE

You have a passion for the vegan lifestyle, you eat a clean diet and live the true lifestyle. You walk the walk and talk the talk. At this point you might be thinking of helping the spread the message of your wonderful vegan life with others, be it a blog, podcast, or even training to become a certified vegan lifestyle coach. Whatever the case, you need to build a community in order to spread the word. Where do you start? First thing, you must have a website. Your website is your home base, the landing page for your business. It’s very important to have a destination that you control. In this article we are going to talk about building a community using Facebook, but you don’t want it to be your final destination. The same is true for Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. The reason is that without your own website as a permanent address, you lose control. If one of social networking sites sites decides to shut you down because they believe you violated their terms of service, your business is closed.

Your website needs to be the place you post your content and then share to social media. Online traffic is everything for building a community. There are many sources of traffic including all the social sites I listed above, and Google+. Today we are going to talk about building a strong following on Facebook, mainly because it’s the most popular social site. The first thing we want to do is create a Facebook business page. I see so many people creating their business site using their personal page and the reason I hear this is because they already have 100 followers. 100 is nothing. And understand that if Facebook finds you using a personal page for business, they will shut your page down. The second problem is that you cannot run ads for a personal page. So you must create a business page, either for a business or an organization. I set up my page — the Oh So Very Vegan Facebook page — to be an organization.

Once you have your Facebook page up and running, you need to customize the header with a graphic as well as the image icon. Next, start filling it with content from your blog, repost some news articles in the vegan space, or create some funny memes. The reason for all this is that you want to have a good amount of content on the page when you start sending over traffic.

Now that you have your Facebook page up and running it’s very important that you post to it once every day at the minimum; it would be better to post several times a day. You can schedule your posts to publish early for each time zone. After about a month you should have enough stats to see what hours of the day get the most interaction. Then change your posting times to coincide with these popular times. Always be testing, trying new times throughout the day. It’s also important to position your page as a resource for the lifestyle. In other words don’t just post your own stuff. Share other sources — you can find this info by searching “vegan” in Google news.

You can’t rely on organic traffic alone because Facebook does not show your posts to everyone unless they get traction. You’re going to need lots of likes to get lots of engagement. Running a “like campaign” is the way to do this. A Like Campaign is nothing more than a targeted ad you run on Facebook. The great thing about Facebook is that it allows you to truly target who you want to attract. You can get pretty granular in the vegan space. My ads personally attract vegans, animal activists, vegetarians, and people looking for vegan recipes. The ad you create has to be engaging and cannot have a lot of text, so a strong photo is very important. In the vegan space I find that an ad with a farm animal — cow, pig, chick — does very well. [Read more…]