Why They Call it a “Lifestyle”

So you’re making the transition to a plant based diet. Here’s the part perhaps no one has told you yet – Being aware of where food comes from raises the level of consciousness and suddenly you begin to wonder where other things come from too. Day by day tiny new revelations seem to pop up out of nowhere. Your thoughts go from regular ol’ you to hyperconscious-obsessive-worry-syndrome. Maybe they sound something like …

In the grocery store: Wait, where did this produce come from? Should I buy organic? I just read an article about how pesticides pollute our waterways… Is it fair trade? Were the farm-workers paid a living wage or are they suffering in poverty so that I can save at the store? Is it local, or is it out of season in my area and therefore picked while unripe and flown in from another country? Talk about a waste of fuel and energy! Hold on, I wonder how many of these plastic bags for fruits and vegetables I’ve used in my lifetime… Hundreds? A thousand? I should buy reusable ones… I recycle them, but reusable bags will help to reduce the demand to create more. Hmmm and what else… Oh My Goodness look at all the packaging! I’ve never thought about it before! Plastic bottles of juice and salad dressing, plastic bags of cookies nestled in little plastic trays, all of the jarred and canned convenience foods… I recycle but not all of it is recyclable, maybe I should reduce my consumption of processed foods…

In restaurants: Why did the server give us so many napkins? They’re just going to be thrown out. I should take them with me. And the straws! I have never considered straws before! I need to start asking them to hold the straw. Styrofoam containers?! This place is a mine field! Will they allow me to bring my own containers? And these plastic wrapped forks, what a waste, I have silverware in my house.

In the home: Excuse me, my Tide laundry detergent is carcinogenic?! Holy crap ALL off my cosmetics and soap and moisturizer and shaving cream are made by companies that test on animals! And they contain poisonous ingredients too?? And these cleaning products, and my palmetto bug spray… I guess that stuff can’t be good either. I haven’t been minding my water or electricity usage, I’m going to have to start paying attention to that. While I’m at it, I think I should start an organic garden in the yard. That will save some of that waste from getting things at the supermarket.

It sounds stressful, right? Don’t worry there are solutions to all of these issues. What is really depressing is NOT knowing that the problems exist. These questions are just a few examples of the countless realizations that will come to mind as you continue on a path of becoming conscious of the world around you and the impact of your choices. The best part of all of this is being able to change your choices, one at a time. It takes years to shed the old habits that we have known our entire lives. Stay strong and keep at it. You are making the world a better place, just do the best you can.

It’s easy to start by just going to the closest health food store and looking to see what kind of household products are sold. Maybe after buying Seventh Generation or Meyers detergent you can work up to making your own household cleaners. Here are a few links to eco-friendly websites and products for living out your newfound awareness:

http://www.treehugger.com/

http://www.to-goware.com/

http://www.healthybitchdaily.com/cat/what-the-hell-do-i-buy

http://www.divacup.com/

http://www.happyheinys.com/

These are just a few ideas, I highly encourage that you harness your Google powers and click around to discover more. Do your own research, and the internet is the best place to start because it’s the freest information exchange that exists. You can find a website or a blog that sheds light on information because it’s real and vital and true and honest, not because their advertisers are paying them. CNN, FOX, and NPR simply cannot give you unbiased information because of corporate advertisers. Be your own reporter, heck start your own blog and document your discoveries. Please comment and add a website here that you think can help others just beginning their journey. Now get out there and change the world!

To wear or not to wear?

So you’re experiencing a vast expansion of consciousness about all things due to your moves toward a plant based diet, and one day you decide to stop buying leather. You feel great about this decision! You’re doing good in this world! Then you pause to glance around your home.

Belts, shoes, bags, couches, car seats – these once beloved possessions suddenly become confusing. Your favorite shoes that you wear every day, that belt that makes you feel so stylish… what are you going to do now? Should you be expected to trade in that car or get new furniture? It feels unfair and frustrating to be duped for your entire life and now, awakened to the truth, you’re stuck with a collection of stuff and not sure if you can continue to use and feel good about it.

As far as my Google skills can tell, the resolution is a matter of personal preference:

  • Keep and use the items for now. Taking the step to stop buying any new leather products is an amazing choice, and you still feel comfortable using the stuff you have. Eventually everything will wear out and you will be leather-free.
  • Ditch all leather products immediately. You are feeling creeped out by the idea of having to even touch that stuff again. Ideally donate everything to thrift stores that raise money for an animal shelter, women’s shelter, homeless shelter etc. You could also give them to friends and family. Big ticket items like furniture or cars will be sold or traded as soon as possible.
  • Combination of the first two options – keep one or two items and get rid of everything else. Maybe a couple of things have sentimental value and you choose to neither part with them nor wear them.

I fall in the third category because I have a pair of sandals I have worn almost daily for 4 years, and a pair of boots I don’t want to wear or give away. Eventually I feel like the right thing to do will be to part with these possessions, but for now this is where I’m at. I think everyone has a right to make choices about what to do with their old stuff, the most important fact being the decision to not buy it anymore.

A big issue for society to me is that the word “leather” is not descriptive of what it actually is. It sounds like a high quality, expensive and fashionable material to make durable items because we have been conditioned our entire English-speaking lives to believe this. (Similar to how the words “bacon” and “meat” belie the true origins of what they describe.) Leather is actually the skin of a dead animal, no different than the skin on your arms, neck or stomach. Of course it’s a high quality material for holding our cellphones and keychains in a purse, because it’s an incredibly strong and supple material for holding in our organs and protecting our bloodstream from bacteria and disease.

We also casually think that the skin being used for shoes and purses is cow skin, but that is not always the case. Cat and dog farms in China provide cheap skin and fur so we can buy $10 “leather” shoes and purses in America. If you’re reading and you haven’t actually made the decision to stop buying animal products yet, this fact alone should be enough to start thinking about this issue.

This post was prompted by a Facebook friend of mine posting this video with fashion designer Stella McCartney explaining why she uses no leather in her designs. A warning – I couldn’t watch all of it.

Susan Nichole is a popular vegan handbag and wallet designer, and I enjoy wearing vegan TOMS.

Do right by these beautiful cows – together we can decrease the demand for these products until there is a tipping point.

 

It’s your journey

I started No Meat March with an inspiration to blog every day, to support the hundreds of people who took the pledge to give meat for 31 days for the first time. If you all were challenging yourselves, I wanted to join in with a challenge of my own.

This is Day 31, but it’s only blog post #9 😦

Why, oh why did I not meet my goal? How could I let down these dedicated individuals that were able to keep their promise to go meat free?

I’ve pondered, and I realize it reflects my own journey to becoming vegan. Pea Pods may naturally be vegan, consuming only sunshine, water and nutrients from the soil, but the woman behind the costume took a long and unexpected path.

I remember wanting to be vegetarian as a teenager, but thinking it an impossible goal for my age. In college I encountered PETA activists on campus several times a year and I looked at the pictures of animals being killed for food, but it wasn’t particularly striking to me. I knew they were killed, duh. I wasn’t yet able to fully comprehend that the suffering was morally wrong. The only fact I learned that unsettled me was how all the baby male chicks are simply thrown away in garbage bags and left to suffocate. At that time I was unconscious enough to set the knowledge aside and make no changes in my life.

In 2008 I started reading books again. I hadn’t read any books for pleasure (besides Harry Potter of course) ever since I worked in the public library as a teenager and became sick of looking at them. For some reason something awakened in me in 2008 and I became a reader. One of the first was Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”, he referred to John Robbin’s “Diet for a New America”, and then I watched the documentary “Food, Inc”, and then I became…. a semi-vegetarian.

As a semi-vegetarian for the first time in my life I was able to get out of eating a lot of disgusting food. Nasty burnt burgers and cheap hot dogs at someone’s lame cook-out? “Oh, no thank you, I’m semi-vegetarian.” Dry flavorless chicken breast at catered events? “I’ll have the vegetarian option, please.” It felt like I was being less wasteful and more respectful of the animals that had to die. My definition of being semi-vegetarian was that I would only eat meat that tasted good, and I was surprised that it cut my meat consumption in half. You don’t realize how much tasteless garbage you’re eating until you give it up and feel unexpected freedom.

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m finally at the point where I want to try being a “real” vegetarian. I was looking for a cookbook or something to give me the right boost, and after seeing Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet” in the store several times, I finally brought it home. I had bought it mainly for the recipes, but as I carefully read the first half of her book it felt like a certain truth was being slowly unveiled to me. On page one I scoffed at going vegan, I thought I was only ready to be vegetarian, but by the last page I knew a decision had been made deep within. For whatever reason, that book spoke to me on a spiritual level about my food choices. I wanted to explore my spirituality and I now knew that consuming animal products deadens that part in all of us.

I joined the Vegetarian Society of El Paso, where I was living at the time, and after telling the founder my experience of reading that book she nodded, smiled and took my hand and said, “When the student is ready, the Master will come.” She was quoting the Buddha, and I understood her meaning. “The Kind Diet” was a catalyst for me, and for whatever reason, Alicia Silverstone, star of Clueless, was my master.

Although initially I was 100% vegan for two months, because I didn’t have the support of any friends or family who were vegan, I did slide backward more than once. I had trouble explaining to people why suddenly all of my food choices had changed, and without the physical presence of others by my side I became afraid that I was developing an eating disorder. I felt very restricted and I didn’t have much knowledge about preparing food and all of the wonderful bountiful options that are out there. I relaxed to a 90% vegan diet and it eased my stress enough to allow me to continue my personal learning process. Alicia Silverstone admits in her book to nibbling on a little block of cheese occasionally at cocktail parties, and describes the physical effects of getting a headache or upset stomach. Maybe some of us just need reminders sometimes, and I think that’s okay.

When I moved to Jacksonville and found The Girls Gone Green, I finally had enough support through the friendships I’ve made here to feel great about eating a vegan diet. I hope during No Meat March you have come out to some events and been able to make new connections to the veg-friendly community in Jax. I hope our emails, blog posts, mentorship, and events have been there for you and helped you along your journey. Many people go vegan overnight, and many take the slow winding path like I did. Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be. Just keep at it, and transition at the pace that feels right for you.

I thought I could become dedicated to trying something new overnight by writing 31 blog posts in 31 days. It was a great goal, but I should have known myself better, but I shouldn’t have spent the past two weeks beating myself up over it either. I’m going to keep at it for ya’ll though, posting inspirational info for new vegetarians all year long. By next year I may be prolific and efficient enough to produce 31 posts, but hey even if I only write 10 at least it will be an improvement 🙂

Chicks at CJ Acres

Kale, Beautiful Kale

It’s funny, I cannot recall eating kale before I became vegan, yet now I am unable to imagine a future without this delicious cruciferous leafy green veggie. Meat eaters may think that the building block of a plant based diet is tofu, but they are wrong. It’s kale. (Just ask this guy!)

Kale happens to be a superfood and is believed by many to be the healthiest vegetable on Earth. If you aren’t eating kale, you are truly missing out! Just one 36-calorie cup of kale has 5 grams of fiber, 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Some people are fearful of kale at first; it seems to bring out the inner 3-year old in many otherwise sensible adults (“Ewww gross I hate vegetables! I only want vegan cupcakes foreverrrrr!”) If you’re a kale virgin, Native Sun and Whole Foods in Jax have yummy prepared massaged kale salads that go a long way in making your first time a pleasurable experience. Another solid bet is to add a few leaves to your fruit smoothie. I like my kale sauteed with garlic and mushrooms.

This blog has tons of kale recipes and tips for growing your own kale in your garden! Or your rooftop or lanai or hidden in the middle of a national forest or wherever you grow things, I don’t judge.

I leave you with a photo of garlicky-kale with red peppers and dill-tahini sauce that I prepared using recipes from Vegan With a Vengeance:

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On Family

A change to a plant based diet often comes with judgement from those who love you most – they are the closest to you and therefore the people who feel most comfortable to tease about or even criticize your new habits. Sometimes something deep inside of them is threatened by what seems like a drastic change in a person they love – you and your new food choices go against what they just ate for lunch!

Change is scary, and even positive changes like moving or pursuing a new career can cause anxiety. The GGG Pea Pod has advice for approaching beloved family and friends about the exciting new discoveries you have uncovered concerning the standard American diet – DON’T!!!

Be like Ghandi and “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Influencing others does not come quickly by requesting or demanding change. It comes when you embody your beliefs. If you want others to be kind and courteous, be kind and courteous to others always. If you want others to be conscious about their food choices, you have opportunities every single day to embody that change simply by eating a healthy vegan diet and politely declining when offered foods with animal products. Naturally others will question you, and this is your opportunity to tell them about your compassionate decisions in a kind and gentle manner.

If you have the knowledge that eating animals bodies contributes to/causes cancer, diabetes and heart disease, likely you are concerned about your family and friends. If you have the knowledge that consuming these animals and their milk and eggs causes enormous pain and suffering for the entire lives of the animals, then you are concerned because you desperately want to ease this suffering. If you know how the mass over-production of these animal products is destroying the planet, you must have an urgent desire to share this information with everyone so that our grandchildren can experience natural diversity as beautifully as it exists today.

Have patience with the ones you love and maintain kindness always; this is the way to communicate. Once they see the change in you is not so threatening, they will feel safer in approaching you. Simply by being yourself you plant the seeds of change in others. This is how miracles happen. Just ask Momma Pea Pod, former avid-meat-eater, now costume-wearing-parttime-vegan-extrordinaire:

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Family gatherings and holidays? Bring prepared side dishes to share and ingredients to get busy in the kitchen. If everyone is meeting at a restaurant, call ahead and challenge the chef to prepare you a vegan meal (even Olive Garden and Applebee’s have “chefs.”) Is it your birthday? Hooray! It’s your special day to pick out a veg-friendly restaurant or host a dinner party and ask your closest friends to help you cook.

Love your meat-eating friends and family, love them without condition. Love them even if it seems they’ll never ever change a bit. Give them space to grow and the chance to surprise you over time.

Making it Easy

As a Pea Pod I am vegan always and forever, it’s in my nature to be so, but this week I attended a meal planning class for my human fellas and WOW! I learned a lot about how fun and easy it really is to eat a healthy cruelty-free diet! Here are a notes I adapted from the awesome Jacksonville Health and Wellness nutrition class this past Sunday given as part of No Meat March 🙂

First of all, Dr. Repole says when trying to remember what the heck you’re supposed to eat, just remember the “Seven S’s” – Smoothies, Sandwiches/Wraps, Salads, Salad Dressings, Soups, Sorbets and (S)ereal – along with Grains and Legumes of course. See look at all of your options already! Here’s the breakdown, as I understood it:

STEWS/SOUPS

Mmmmm soup! Use a base of water, carrot juice, tomato sauce or veggie broth. Add onions, leeks, garlic, shallots or scallions – your choice! Then add green leafy veggies, spices, beans and grains… Be creative or google for ideas, it’s hard to mess up! Slurp up the reward, ah heavenly soup 🙂

SORBETS AND ICE-CREAM

Sooooooo apparently you can freeze a bunch of fruits, blend those babies up with plant based milk or soaked cashews for fattiness and it becomes a blended health food?! whaaat?! Ice Cream for dinner hollaaaa

SMOOTHIES & JUICING:

Dude/Dudette, you can’t mess this up. Your blender is your new best friend. Even if you go back to your old eating habits after this month, please keep this new habit of a fresh smoothie for breakfast. Its SO easy and SO healthy. Use your frozen banana pieces for the coldness and some spinach or kale for the healthness, and add whatever floats your boat just go with it!!! It will be delicious you can’t mess it up. First time? 1 cup water/juice/soymilk, 1 big handful spinach, 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 tablespoon flaxseeds/chia seeds, plus some extra fruit you have layin around, bam you got a smoothie. Every. Day.

SANDWICHES:

Mkay so apparently if you’re into being super duper healthy bread from the store is just plain not fresh, especially in those plastic bags! Work with whatcha got, but the new cool sandwich when you are ready involves using a big ol lettuce leaf or collard leaf or swiss chard leaf or freakin kale leaf or any big old leaf. Take your big leaf and spread it with your schmear of the day – guacamole or hummus or vegenaise. If your leaf is all ornery you can steam it or trim the stem. Layer with shredded or chopped or sauteed or grilled or steamed vegginess. Don’t forget about beans and rice. Wrap it all up like a little baby and nom nom nom!!!!

 “S”EREAL:

Your new breakfast! Not processed food from a box. Have a bowl of fresh fruit with added nuts or seeds. Puree fruit with nuts or seeds. Make yummy steel cut oatmeal with nuts or seeds. Cook any ding dang grains and add some fruits, nuts or seeds! Delicious and simple.

SALADS:
You can have the traditional leaves and sliced veggies with homemade dressing, or make it deliciously fancy by chopping it all up in a stainless steel bowl with a pizza cutter! Add fun grains like quinoa or some beans for texture. Grate or shred carrots and cucumbers. Never eat a boring salad, you deserve better! Oil is not recommended unless you’re in a restaurant, it’s tastier to follow these guidelines for making healthy dressing (food on top of food!):

WATER plus FLAVOR plus FATTINESS plus ACIDITY/SALTY/SWEET:

-Flavor: Garlic, Onion, Fruit, Mustard, Herbs, Spices, Nutritional Yeast

-Fattiness: Almond butter, nuts/seeds, avocado, tahini

-Acidity: Lemon, Orange, Vinegar

-Salt or Sweetness to taste

Example Recipe: Dijon Pistachio Dressing/Dip

Ingredients: 2/3 cup of water, ½ cup of pistachio nuts (raw), 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of flax seeds, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 1 garlic clove, 1-2 dates.

Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth and creamy!

LEGUME DISHES

Don’t forget yo beans!!! Also get used to sensitive people that be calling beans “legumes.” It’s the new cool thing just let them do what they do.

•         Beans and Rice

•         Beans Drenched over a Baked Potato

•         Hummus Sandwich: Whole grain bread or lettuce leaf with hummus, tomatoes and avocado

•         Bean Burrito: Use Kale Leaf or Whole Grain Burrito with black beans, tomatoes, onions, avocado, shredded lettuce and salsa

•         Vegetarian Chili

•         Bean burger

•         Tofu/Tempeh/Edamame – It’s all soy beans in a natural healthful form

GRAIN DISHES

•         “Pasta” with fresh tomato sauce, garlic and steamed vegetables

•         Barley and Mushroom Soup

•         Quinoa:  Add kale and beans when 2/3 done. Sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic. Top quinoa with sauté and fresh basil.

•         Whole Grain Rice and Beans

•         Vegetable Sushi: Rice, Carrot, Asparagus, Avocado Roll 😀

SNACKS

•         Fruit – Nature’s “To-Go” food!

•         Hummus and Carrots

•         Nut Schmears & Fresh Veggies

•         Mini Meals of everything mentioned

•         Homemade Trail Mix

•         Ice cream and Sorbet

•         Gourmet Breads

•         Coconut Butter and Dates

I hope this has made things easier for you in planning your meals, it sure did for me! There really is a bountiful abundance of plant based food for us to eat on this planet, especially with all the choices that us Americans are so lucky to have in our grocery stores and farmer’s markets! Did you know bananas can only grow in 1 U.S. State? We are truly blessed to have so many fruits and veggies to choose from and it’s easier than we think to combine these foods to create fantastic meals. Thank you again to Jacksonville Health and Wellness for the nutrition class and thanks to my No Meat Marchers for reading. Peace 🙂

Surprise! You’re in Very Good Company.

Eating a plant based diet is an ancient concept. To your family and friends in the United States it may seem hippie-like or crazy or just plain weird, but to those of you who are trying it out for the first time I have good news for you – Humans have been eating a vegetarian diet for thousands of years! To make it even more inspiring, the greatest  thinkers and spiritual leaders throughout history became vegetarian at some point in their lives.

There are many, including myself, who believe that in time Martin Luther King Jr. would have reached a place in his journey where he too became vegan, and would have lead millions to do the same. His son Dexter King, and his wife Coretta Scott King became vegan in the 1990’s. In  fact I am not alone in believing the greatest thing a person can do to promote the Peace that Dr. King spoke of is to stop eating animals.

Being vegetarian or vegan is a sign that you are a highly evolved, conscious and thoughtful human being! You don’t have to take my word for it – Read these amazing quotes from some of the greatest humans of all time, then get thee to the kitchen and whip up some lettuce-leaf-tacos!!!

“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”Pythagoras, mathematician, 570-495 B.C.

“For I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and whosoever eats the flesh of slain beasts eats the body of death.”Jesus Christ, The Essene Gospel of Peace (taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls)

“I have from an early age abjured the use of meat and the time will come when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”Leonardo Da Vinci

“I fancy it must be the quantity of animal food eaten by the English which renders their character insusceptible to civilization. I suspect it is in their kitchens and not in their churches that the reformation must be worked.”Thomas Jefferson

“Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”- Albert Einstein

“I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his highest poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food…no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.”Henry David Thoreau

“To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.”                                                                  “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”Mahatma Ghandi

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not make your stomachs graves for animals.”Mohammed

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”Abraham Lincoln

“He who causes suffering shall suffer. There is no escape.”Buddha

“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
“What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit to their cruelty.” Leo Tolstoy

“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” – Thomas Edison

“Our task must be to free ourselves . . . by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”Albert Einstein

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can make a difference. If you’re doing the No Meat March challenge, you are making a difference already! It is not a coincidence that the most enlightened and intelligent people for thousands of years have made the connection between eating animals and human suffering. No matter why you signed up for the challenge, know in your heart that it is the right thing to do ethically, morally and spiritually.

We are nearing a tipping point towards enlightenment in this world. The internet is the most powerful tool for locating truths and information you won’t find on television or talk radio. Research! Explore! Find your own path to inner and outer peace. Believe that you are loved and supported on your journey, and “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” – Mahatma Ghandi