10 Things You Don’t Need to Do to Go Vegan…and One Thing You Do — Part 1

Vegan ButtonFor many people, going vegan can feel daunting. It’s a major lifestyle and ideological shift. On top of this, veganism also tends to be brought up in discussion with a whole bunch of other unrelated dietary and philosophical considerations that, when piled together, make it seem utterly impossible or like something you’ll never be good enough at so why even bother? Well, the good news is there are a whole bunch of things that you don’t need to do to go vegan, and only one thing that you do.

From the many, I’ve chosen ten things that you don’t need to bother with or can cut yourself a break on. Below are numbers 1 through 5. Stayed tuned for You can find numbers 6 through 10 here, as well as the one simple thing that you should focus on when making the switch. Life is complicated, but living compassionately doesn’t have to be.

To go vegan, you DON’T need to…

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Fractured but Not Broken

Race Day SunriseA couple months ago, I dove in and indulged an ambitious notion that had been simmering just beneath the surface, nagging at my brain. I decided I was going to run three half marathons within three months—a manageable endeavor if approached correctly, but something that felt big for me personally. I knew I could do it, but it was hard to admit that to myself, to let that be true. Signing up for all three was like giving my self-confidence permission to surface. You’ve got this, it said. Let’s do this.

Unfortunately, I won’t be running all three. And, truth be told, I may have to bow out of another race or two this spring as well. I wish I could say that that reality didn’t knock back my self-confidence, but it did. I’ve been struggling for the last month. I don’t doubt for a second that I could have finished those halfs, but the absence of running, of getting out there and logging those miles, feeling my legs and breath carry me across the pavement—it’s been crushing. So what happened?

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Intentions for 2016

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Last year I felt like I had “goals” for the year. This year “intention” feels more like the right word: a thing intended, an aim or plan. And since these aren’t officially New Year’s resolutions, and since January really felt like an extension of the holiday season for us this year, I have no qualms about posting this in February! Here are some of my intentions for 2016:… 

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30

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I turned 30 yesterday.

I’ve always been one of the younger ones, often the youngest, among the friends that I keep. It’s never been a conscious thing—just energetically what has happened, where I’ve apparently found myself most comfortable. But this has meant that I’ve seen many of my friends hit this age milestone well before me and have been witness to a whole spectrum of reactions to this particular number.

Most haven’t been especially positive. Even if they weren’t explicitly negative, the admission that one was turning 30 was often accompanied by a grimace, a scrunched nose, or a not-so-subtle tick betraying discomfort. Occasionally I’d mirror the gesture back, asking why? Repeatedly I was told, “Oh you’re so young. When you turn 30, you’ll understand.”

Well I’m 30 now. So here are my thoughts on completing my third decade and getting older in general…. 

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Goals for 2015 — A Review

2015 Collage

Last January I set myself a number of goals, things to work toward, throughout 2015. They weren’t things that I jumped into as soon as the calendar flipped, nor were they things that I set any definite plans for, but it was interesting to see how many of them came to fruition in one way or another throughout the course of the year. I’d like to do that again this year, to put my goals and intentions down so that I can make note of their progress in the back of my mind throughout the year and check back again in 2017. But before we get to the 2016 list, let’s look back at 2015’s goals and see how it all shook out…. 

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Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies1I wasn’t looking for a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. All I wanted was a decent-looking ingredient list that I could tweak and muck up into a fun Halloween treat for a party we were attending back in October. I started with this recipe and, at first, I did just that—turning out a spirulina-tinted, ghoulishly green treat speckled with vegan white chocolate chips. The result was downright delicious. I could tell from the fab taste and texture, however, that if I backed out my spooktacular additions, I might just have a really awesome, straight-up chocolate chip cookie on my hands.

So I took two steps forward and one step back in adapting and arriving at this recipe, but it was totally worth it.

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Main Street Vegan Academy

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 10.01.00 PM(Photo borrowed from my classmate, Kevin, who is front and center!)

Last month I found myself coming out on the other side of one of the most educational, empowering, and connective experiences of my life. I knew going in that others who’d done this had found it to be transformative, so, just in case I didn’t feel the same, I tempered my expectations while still keeping an open heart and mind. And then it happened—all of it—to me as well.

The experience to which I’m referring is the Main Street Vegan Academy (MSVA) program, which informs and equips its students to become certified vegan lifestyle coaches & educators. At face value, it’s a class, a 6-day intensive, but it truly winds up being so much more than an education. When we all first arrived at MSVA, we sat, anticipatory, in that reserved silence that happens when a dozen people who don’t know each other are suddenly put in a room together. Some of us happened to be local to NYC, where the academy is held, but many had traveled across the country or internationally to be there. Victoria Moran—author, activist, speaker, director of the academy, and, among several other admirable descriptors, our generous hostess, since the program is run from her home—took note of this initial awkwardness and assured us that we’d all be like roommates by the time the week was over…. 

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Summer 2015 Recap

On the Beach

As those of you who follow me on social media may already know, last month I completed the Main Street Vegan Academy program to become certified as a Vegan Lifestylfe Coach and Educator. I have a whole post queued up about the wonderful things that we did and learned, but I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge my more than 3-month absence here—not in that “Ugh, sorry guys, I know I haven’t blogged in forever!” kind of way, but just to catch up on what’s been going on during this time and some of the fun things coming up.

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Doing Vegan Right

Rabbit Food

With the growing awareness of veganism and plant-based eating, more and more people are trying out a diet free of animal products. Unfortunately for some, the switch is temporary, and they come away from the experience convinced that being vegan just isn’t for them. “I tried to be vegan, but….

…it was too expensive…it took too much time…I gained a lot of weight…I lost too much weight…my digestive system couldn’t handle it…I was bored/tired/hungry all the time…I don’t like beans….”

And that’s the short list.

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Homemade Soy Yogurt

Soy Yogurt

For many, maybe even most people, cheese is the one thing that is most difficult to imagine giving up when considering going vegan. Fortunately, there are so many awesome and uncannily-similar-to-dairy vegan cheeses on the market these days that there’s little to miss out on in this department anymore. About as often, though, I hear another reason for which I’ve been able to offer little recourse: yogurt.

I so get this. For many people, yogurt is a breakfast staple. It’s lighter than oatmeal and cool on those days when you’re not in the mood for something hot, yet is still a solid base for all the same sorts of toppings. There actually are several dairy-free yogurt options on the market, but few of them are very good and not all of them are reliably vegan. I’ve personally only ever found two store-bought vegan yogurts that I wholeheartedly enjoyed*. The first was a brand called Whole Soy & Co, a soy-based yogurt with a nice texture that wasn’t intolerably sweet. I appreciated that it came in a plain variety and, though I was never able to find it, plain unsweetened as well. Unfortunately, this yogurt disappeared from the shelves shortly after I found it, made a brief and glorious comeback, and now seems to be gone for good (you can read the details here). The second brand is Anita’s Creamline, a coconut yogurt made with coconut milk, coconut water, and cultures—and that’s it. It’s unsweetened, free of additives and thickeners, and has a creamy, indulgent texture and a lip-smacking tang. The problem with this brand is that it’s on the pricey side, only locally available (so I can’t widely recommend it), and difficult to find consistently even at the locations that stock it.

So, last summer, in the midst of an Anita’s shortage and before Whole Soy made their fleeting reappearance, I decided to begin working on a homemade dairy-free yogurt…. 

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