October 1, 2010

The WTF on the Vegan Thing.

“Why wouldn’t you want to eat meat? Aren’t you sick all the time?” ~ good friend X

Vegan. Say it five times fast and it really sounds like either a dirty word or something out of a Will Ferrell comedy. Ayyy-bahbeee!

I decided to devote my piece today on Veganism twofold—one, I am defending the choice on a regular basis, and maybe this will clear the air a wee bit.  Two, I’m hoping to bring a new perspective to the choice, for all my friends and family (and folks who don’t know me) that know for years about my eating habits.

A little history—I’m 33, have two small children and a husband who was raised in “Meat-n-Potatoville” Ohio (love it, love the people, love the festivals.  I’m not judging here).  We have our happy existence in the ‘burbs, and until around 2 years ago, I was pretty unconscious as to the choices of foods I put on all of our plates.  Again, no judgment here on those who are—we are a busy family, and it was easy to fall into the pattern of “eating what was available and convenient.”

When I became a yoga instructor, I did so during a parallel universe period – I was also training for a marathon.  So while my belief system was being challenged (my favorite learning quote during teacher training was, “May all sentient beings be free” – courtesy of legendary teacher & lifelong vegan Lizzy Hoffman), I was also researching healthier training methods.  I stumbled upon the writings of Sage Rountree and Scott Jurek – Sage being a triathlete & yoga instructor, Scott being a vegan ultramarathoner.  Wow—is it possible to give up meat, have a conscience, and still be a “training badass?”

So that was a little longer history than you needed.  Flash forward to today—I have a PR firm, and I work primarily in the stock car/NASCAR world.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now. I love everyone I’m around, we’re all like a traveling family each weekend—but the eating habits leave a little to be desired.  I’ve met so many team chefs who are sweet enough to make me a “special” meal (it’s almost like a challenge to them to get outside the “meat” box), as well as folks who just want to learn more about the process of decreasing meat (vegetarianism) and additionally, even dairy & eggs (veganism).

Now that I’m comfortably through the first step of being a vegetarian for a year, I’m pledging to myself to drop the dairy and eggs by this Christmas.  It seems like most friends & family were supportive of the vegetarianism, but veganism seems extreme to the collective.  I’m not really sure why – I love how Scott Jurek put it in a recent Men’s Journal article on vegan athletes – “Animals have been plant-based vegans for years, and they aren’t keeling over.”  It seems a natural progression for me, so why is that extreme?

So when I get the “WTF would you be a vegan for, good God?!!”, for anyone who doesn’t know enough about vegan culture this is the skinny.  Most of us are middle-of-the-roaders…we love life, health, family and enjoy contributing less to the global environmental troubles.  I have the occasional stomachache as I see the cute Chik-Fil-A cows (“hey, we have a good life!”) or the California Cow billboards that advertise free-roaming, smiling heifers (um, you have YOUR udders squeezed repeatedly and tell me how awesome it is to graze like Ferdinand the Bull for an hour a day).

Again, I’m spreading the vegan love here – not trying to incite a meat riot.  I love meat-eaters, as long as you know where your meat came from, how it was raised, and why you are consuming it responsibly (rather than overindulgence).  That goes for vegans and non-vegans alike – we should ALL know where our food came from.  Rise to consciousness, myself included – it’s a daily challenge.

Hey, some folks exercise like crazy.  Others have a TV addiction or are fanatical about a sport.  It is what it is, and if it makes you happy, go for it – as long as its not at the expense of others.  When it comes to meeting a vegetarian or vegan friend, don’t treat it like they have an addiction or an anomoly.  They are just like you – they’ve made a conscious decision to understand what goes in their mouth each day.

And that, my friends, is the WTF on the V words.  Peace & train on!

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