I’m excited to announce a new series of interviews that I will be featuring on my blog (about once per week) with REAL vegan moms.
I know one of the things I struggled with for awhile was feeling like I was completely alone in my vegan mothering. Every time I’d go to a play group, all the other moms are handing out gold fish crackers and cheese sticks. Or a group gathering, and I’m the only mom not feeding my kids the cheesy pepperoni pizza or hot dogs. I didn’t (and still don’t) mind be different, but I wondered for a long time, are there other mothers out there like me?
Since I’ve started this blog and with my work with the Wellness Forum, I’ve been surprised and delighted to come into contact with many amazing women who are practicing the same dietary and lifestyle habits as myself and who are also mothers! It’s been a fantastic experience and I thought, why keep all this goodness to myself? I think you will appreciate becoming familiar with some of these amazing mommas, who each have their own inspiring story to tell.
The main purpose behind what I do through this blog and with the Wellness Forum, is to help people create a network of support. I believe we all innately want to belong. We crave a sense of community, a supportive network of friends and family. Often, especially as a mom (which, the role of mother, can often be isolating), and a vegan mom, nonetheless, presents some interesting dilemmas, challenges, and of course rewards (otherwise we wouldn’t do it!). Finding other like-minded individuals who share the same views about health and wellness are so crucial in creating a strong support group to help keep you motivated to continue positive habits as well as staying connected by feeling you are a part of a community.
The first in this series is Tabitha, a Wellness Forum member and client of mine. She is from the Midwest, is a nurse, mother of three darling daughters. She is a very busy mom, and was kind enough to answer some questions.
Q: How long have you been vegan?
I’ve been vegan on again off again for about 6 yrs. Feeling it’s permanent the last 6 months or so. I found the “all or nothing” approach sets me up for failure. I don’t over-analyze everything I eat. If I’m at someone’s house I eat what I think is OK and if there was milk or something used to make it I don’t get myself worked up. I do not buy any animal products but I currently will still eat special treats for a co-workers birthday or something and do my best at family events. We also have our own free range ducks and chickens and I will eat their eggs in things from time to time. So, I’m really not technically a vegan. Or am I? I know you posted on this yourself. I’m more vegan than not and I suppose vegan isn’t perfection. I agree with you–the word has such bad connotations associated with it. People immediately think crazy when you say vegan and I’m not (totally) crazy (!).
Q: Why did you decide to become vegetarian initially?
Initially I became a vegetarian out of compassion for the animals. It’s been in the last year or so that my research about health and environment has really cemented that a diet of animal products is wrong to me on many levels.
Q: How was your transition from vegetarian to vegan?
It was a really tough concept at first. Giving up meat was fairly hard because I grew up in a meat and potatoes household. We never had salads or anything other than basic fruits and vegetables (think apples and potatoes). Meat was the main course always-I cannot recall one meal (other than cereal for breakfast–but we had milk on that) that did not include meat. After swearing off meat, the thought of giving up dairy and eggs was enough to send me over the edge. I LOVED cheese and what would I eat that didn’t have dairy and eggs in it?? I told myself as long as I ate organic then it was OK for both my health and the animals. Finally, I opened my eyes to the truth that eating dairy is cruel, bad for your health (one could say the worst) and bad for the environment. I worked at getting a vegan recipe base to fall back on, things I knew I liked and could make. Initially it was overwhelming to me to even look at most vegan recipes–they were so complicated and I was not a good cook–plus, I didn’t know what half the stuff was they were calling for. I also didn’t like using pretend foods. I didn’t want to go to a junk food vegan diet of packaged stuff and soy masquerading as meat. I experimented and failed many times but finally found some really easy recipes, upped my skills for a few others, and tried new foods. Giving up dairy was really hard at initially…my body craved it like a drug. Now I wonder what the big deal was. The few times I lapsed back I found it tasted really gross to me–so “animally” (I can make words up here, right?).
Q: What are some of your favorite meals/snacks?
Oh, to narrow it down…how difficult!
There are so many new foods I love that I would never had discovered without going vegan. Flavors and textures that are so pleasing to my mouth!
My favorite meals are simple ones. For breakfast I have the Wellness Forum smoothie every day with my kids. We all LOVE it! If we don’t have it for some reason my kids plead for me to make it, my two year old will be walking around saying “moothie” “moothie“. For sure a favorite-simple, healthy and the perfect start to my day.
Of course, I need more than one breakfast–I eat all day long. An apple(or nectarine)/oatmeal bake might be another favorite. I make a quinoa and banana cereal that is great.
My kids have two favorite meals that we all love. One is just brown rice layered with black beans, avocado and black olives. Super simple and filling. My husband and I add sauteed pepper and onion and he adds roma tomatoes. The other is bean soup. A variety of beans, onion, tomato sauce and seasonings left in the crock pot all day. Simple but keeps everyone happy.
I really like all sorts of grains too, new ones I’d never had before have moved to top on my list. It’s a great time of year for easy, yummy and filling soups-always great and no recipe required. I snack on all sorts of things. Fruits(apples and bananas with peanut butter), whole grain crackers, nuts, seeds…There are also a couple of desserts I love that are pretty healthy. A mango crumble recipe I discovered this summer and recently for my chocolate craving a blend of cashews, dates, vanilla and cocoa powder (who knew something so simple could be so yummy). Sugar is my other drug and I need healthy sweet treats to substitute for the garbage that makes me feel sick. If you would have told me a few years back I’d be eating this way I would have thought, “no way!” and “gross.” I have to tell you, I enjoy my food now more than I ever have–no feeling of deprivation, honestly.
Q: Is your spouse supportive? Extended family?
My spouse is supportive though he loves his meat and cheese (Wisconsin boy). I don’t make meat for him, nor do I buy it…but I don’t nag him about what he eats on his own. I share information with him and he’s come a long way. He is mostly vegetarian and does admit he doesn’t feel good when he eats the “old” way. My extended family thinks I’m crazy-meat and potatoes is so much our norm. My parents are actually starting to try new things, I would have never thought it would happen–I’m so proud of them! They drink a Wellness Forum smoothie every day and have started eating some meat free meals. I keep slipping them articles and tidbits about health and diet. They are making big improvements. They say the most permanent change happens slowly.
Q: What’s the best aspect of practicing dietary excellence?
Hands down feeling GREAT!!! I have energy, my body feels like it’s running smoothly and not sluggish. I know I’m doing what is right for my body, my children, the environment and the animals. I have a clear mind and conscience.
Q: You’re a member of the Wellness Forum. Why did you join and why would you recommend that others join?
I joined because knowledge is power, it keeps me motivated and on track. It is a great resource to share with others as well. I feel well educated about my choices and the WF made things simpler. When I started I kind of thought it would be stuff I already knew as I had read a lot about nutrition already, I was surprised at how much I learned. A couple of things that stand out are the low fat issue (I thought that was just extremist before…who knew olive oil wasn’t a super food) and that vitamins weren’t good for you most of the time. Oh, and some great cooking tips! I think it should be a class everyone takes in school. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone willing to make one of the best investments they can into their own health and happiness.
Q: Any advice for others who are wishing to improve their health and/or join the ranks of plant-based nutrition?
Read, watch, learn, research, find like minded people to help you.Take things one moment at a time. Instead of thinking–“But,I’ll never eat cheese again!!” (panic panic), think-“Can I just not eat cheese right now?”. That really helped me. If I slipped up, I slipped up and moved on. In the past I would let one failure become a snowball of failures. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. I read books about health, the environment, animal cruelty and when I started to feel a little weak I would just re-visit the things that had me convicted. I live in the Midwest where everyone it seems eats meat. It’s hard to network locally with vegans–but I have online resources that make me feel supported. Clean out the old and move in new healthy stuff, and lots of it. I eat A LOT! All day long and I don’t count one calorie. I weigh less now after 3 children eating all the healthy food I can get in my mouth than I did before I had children, counting junk food calories. I used to keep myself under 1200 calories a day back in my younger years. I tracked my calories recently for about a week just to see what I was eating. At least 2500 calories a day. Even better than the weight, I feel good! If I get a little off track (usually sugar) I physically feel terrible. I’m not perfect. I’m on the journey–I’m not there yet, but I’m working at it each day.
Some people are all or nothing, some need gradual change but any improvement is better than no improvement. Just get out of the box and try something new. I don’t particularly like tofu (gasp, a vegan who doesn’t like tofu), but I found a lot of other new foods that I really do like. Just keep trying-failures are one of life’s greatest learning tools. I joined a CSA this past season. A big box of fresh, local, organic vegetables to eat every week was very helpful. I also planted a garden, again, failures are one of life’s greatest learning tools, lol.
No matter how busy you are–you have time for good nutrition. When I started this new transition my husband lived out of town for work and I had 3 girls ages 4 and under to care for, a small acreage with lots of animals and a full time job. You can make healthy meals just as quickly as you can make unhealthy ones. Not enough money for healthy food? Now my husband is laid off and eating this way actually saves us money.
I guess the best advice is to stop making excuses, educate yourself and do something. YOU are responsible for your own health and the health of your family.
[If you are a REAL (notice how I didn’t say “perfect”!) vegan momma and would like to share your story, please contact me.]