Veganism

5 Tips for Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

I know there are already heaps of hints and tips out there for transitioning to a vegan diet. Mine will hopefully help with a slower transition, as some of us can’t do change overnight. We like to wade around a little first to see what the temperature is like and how big the waves are before we dive in. We will eventually dive in, it just takes a little more time for us to get used to the temperature.

And, it can be daunting. Veganism is more than a diet, it is a way of life – hence the ‘ism’. If you’re doing it to lose weight, you’ll more than likely go back to your old habits once you hit that magic number and, like most of us do, put it all back on again. If you’re doing it for health, you’ll be good most of the time, but again you will find an excuse to eat the cheese or ice cream or T-bone, because you’ve been well for a while now so maybe a little wont hurt? And the more ‘the little’ doesn’t hurt, the more you’ll eat it and eventually you too will be back at square one. I am speaking from personal experience here, because this second one was me with cigarettes and nearly was for veganism.

The only way I’ve found for this to truly work is to incorporate an ethical philosophy into your choice to change. If it’s not about something bigger than you, it wont work as effectively.

So, it’s a lifestyle choice. Are you ready for a change? If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you are. So, here are my 5 tips for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle:

  1. Go easy on yourself. Most people will put this last, and the article I read it in did too if memory serves me (and it doesn’t on the source unfortunately!). I’ll put it first because most people only remember the first and last thing they read (as science has shown time and time again) and I think it is the most important part. You wont get it 100% right 100% of the time, especially at first. I know I didn’t. And when you’re out and about and starving, do your best to avoid animal products. If your best is smashed avocado with feta on sourdough, because that’s all there is and they already put the feta in, don’t beat yourself up over it. Do what ever ritual or say whatever prayer you need to to thank the animal and move on. Guilt doesn’t help anyone, it weakens your resolve and eventually you will give up because it gets too much. And if you make a mistake, as you almost certainly will, and eat something you found out later to have animal products (like white sugar, red lollies or some hashbrowns) same deal applies – GO EASY ON YOURSELF! 
  2. Adapt your existing diet. Big changes are more easily made in small chunks and familiar surroundings. One friend of mine did it overnight, but most of us just aren’t built that way and that is perfectly acceptable. So, do it one meal at a time. Stick to your already established routine, but make adjustments. Substitute mince in spaghetti bolognaise with grated zucchini. You only need one, so it’s cheaper as well as healthier! Swap cows milk for soy or almond milk in your tea or coffee. Be careful here and experiment, because I’ve found some milks can curdle in instant coffee. It doesn’t taste bad and won’t hurt you, it just doesn’t look appealing. I have also found I need less sugar in my tea because the milk is already sweet! Exchange thickened cream in soups and carbonara dishes for coconut milk. The texture will be a little different, but the taste is as good, if not better due to the lack of oil that tends to pool at the top of some pasta dishes. These are a few things I did, but it is easy to find more. Just google for a substitute to your meat and dairy and you’ll find heaps of examples. I live by the simple rule of more veggies over meat and plant-based over animal dairy. This also makes most new recipes easy to adapt too.
  3. Research, research, research. Most vegans will learn all they can about how harmful animal agriculture is for the planet and our own bodies. This is great! People definitely need to be aware of this. What I found most interesting, and eye-brow raising for my carnist loved ones, was to find out how certain foods heal the body and what impact others have on our health. In fact, it was this search that lead me to giving up dairy almost a year ago, before ever even considering becoming vegan. One book I found particularly helpful was Dr Greger’s How Not to Die. So much so I ended up buying a copy, despite my minimalist tendencies. The library copy would only let me renew it so many times! There are others, but any general research from reputable sources on nutrition will help. And this knowledge will bring an interesting addition to the inevitable ‘discussions’ with carnists. 
  4. Watch, watch, watch. Perhaps this should have gone in spot 3, more for continuity’s sake than anything. Still, here it is and here we are! There are a multitude of documentaries out there now, especially on Netflix, about sustainable living and the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and our health. Go, be a sponge! A Netflix and pyjama day is a must! For me, this was the turning point from ‘maybe’ to ‘never again’. I remember the scene quite clearly, and if you’ve also read The Day I Chose Me you will already know what’s coming. I can’t remember which one it was now, probably Cowspiracy. There was a scene in a dairy farm with a dairy cow being lead back outside after being milked. I don’t remember what was said, but my eyes were drawn to her udders, dripping blood and pus. I was horrified. Maybe I empathized with her, woman to woman, despite not having yet had my own children, but knowing the pain she would be feeling in such a vulnerable part. Maybe it was my logical side kicking in, knowing the blood and pus would surely be in the milk we would then drink. If not, I wasn’t keen on drinking the chemicals they would need to use to make it drinkable either. So, this was my ‘never again’ moment. Since visuals are often the quickest, most effective way of imparting information – watch, watch, watch! And if you’ve already had your ‘never again’ moment, the worst that can happen is gaining more knowledge, which is certainly never a bad thing.
  5. Find out what works for you. This I can’t stress enough. As someone who has spent her life up to now living as others expected me to, I have finally learnt that you have to honour yourself first. Find a philosophy that works for you. Mine comes from a line in the Wiccan Rede – ‘Do what you will and harm none’. So, I live my life however I wish, as long as I am not hurting anyone or any being. So, if I chose to still consume some animal products, I will make sure no animal was harmed in the process. I, and a few vegan friends, still consume honey for its healing properties. Me, usually only when sick, and one friend more regularly as a preventative. Our philosophy leads us to sourcing organically grown honey that does the least harm to the bees when sourced, none if possible. As long as no bees are killed, maimed or otherwise hurt through this process, I am happy. Many vegans wont agree with me, but they don’t have to. I have made an informed choice and this is what works best for me. So, discover your own philosophy and do what works best for you.

So, I hope these tips help you in your transition. Feel free to comment any thoughts, experiences or questions below. I would love to hear what worked for you!

 

 

Spiritual Awakening · Spirituality

Social Media and Spiritual Awakening

Anyone who is even the slightest bit conscious or awake is aware there is a battle going on. Not the classic ‘good v evil’, there is no clearly identifiable villain for the equally identifiable hero to face off against. There is no epic battle at the end of a long chase, sometimes involving cars, where you just know, somehow, someway, good will triumph. No, reality isn’t that accommodating.

The battle is within each and everyone of us. And the villain? Our own negativity, our lower self, our ego, our shadow. It goes by many names, similar to Stephen King’s villain Randall Flagg, but its purpose seems to be the same. Keep things as they are, don’t change, don’t grow, stay where it is ‘safe’.

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I am fully aware of the many reasons for this, and I wont get into them here. What I will say is that we try so hard to stay out of the muck, the quicksand of negativity. We stop spending time with negative people and energy vampires. We change our diets to avoid highly processed food and even animal and dairy products – all low vibrational foods. We cleanse, shield, white light bubble, double bubble, coloured bubble, ground to Mother Earth, hug a tree, wear a crystal or essential oil, burn sage, spend time in the sun, walk on the ground bare foot, wear lots of yellow…

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And it all works and we feel great for a while and then BAM! You’re in a situation you didn’t see coming and all your efforts are over-ridden by one event, one situation, or sometimes even one comment.

For me, the biggest culprit is social media. Specifically those apps, that will remain nameless, where you’ve read comments on an article or clip and felt your energy drop. Someone says something ignorant or rude or unintelligent or bigoted and you feel either sad or downright angry. Either way your energy has plummeted and you’re back at square one.

It might not even be a comment, simply the people you call friends, putting their negativity out there for people to see, complaining about things you know they could heal if they weren’t so caught up in the drama of them, or rambling on about inconsequential things like what they are eating, which gym they are heading to or just came back from, or that they just had a poo! Ok, this last has never happened to me, but it may as well have. It would be another addition to the endless, meaningless, shallow and unnecessarily dramatic stream of information that seems to suck the life out of me and swallow my time.

So, I decided to do something. I removed everyone from my list. When I say everyone, I mean everyone, even my own mother, not that she shares much anyway.

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And something wonderful happened. I had so much more time in my life. What is even more amazing was that the quality of posts on my stream went right up. Animal rights and nutrition stuff. Wicca pages I’d forgotten I’d liked or followed. More inspirational stuff from so many long buried pages and people. I got out of the quicksand and back into the beauty of the jungle. And it was beautiful!

I have since added a few people back, like my mother. I now have a grand total of 8 friends and I have never been happier.

Well, almost. I still seem to get caught up in the negativity of some posts, but I either unfollow the page or just not engage in the comments section anymore. Sure, things still affect my energy, I am only human, but not nearly as intensely or for as long. One thing is for sure and certain, social media is no longer the culprit. I took action in my life and did something that was best for me, regardless of what others thought or how they would react. I disengaged from the negativity, taking responsibility for what I was putting into my energy field and what I was feeding my soul. It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself and I highly recommend it to anyone in a similar situation. After all, it’s your life and you have every right to choose how to spend it!

 

Spirituality

Changing of the Guard

My first spiritual experience with an actual Goddess was with none other than Kali. Strong, yet loving, you could not hide from her. She found your blocks and illusions and destroyed them. She is a tough love kind of woman.

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From about October last year I felt a little disconnected from her. I’d call, but not feel her presence as strongly, if at all. At the time I berated myself for not giving time to the relationship or not being open enough or relaxed enough or spiritually aware enough. It was a tough time, as 2016 was a bitch of a year I never want to go through again, despite being oddly grateful for it. I never once felt abandoned by her, instead feeling it was something I was doing wrong in trying to communicate with her as I once did. Sure, I had changed a lot, but I didn’t think this would be why I could no longer feel our connection.

Then, one fine day I went to a lodge, a sweat lodge with a spiritual twist. This day I decided to sit in the west, the hottest section of the lodge, for the first time. It wasn’t that hot outside and I felt it was an acceptable challenge. I had no other expectation other than to see it through. I did this and much more.

During a certain part of the lodge, connected to the element of earth, I was given an image of the Empress card from the Mythic Tarot. I knew instantly who it was and invited her into my experience. I felt her with me, folding her arms around me, giving me the nurturing and love that I needed to get through the experience. Demeter had arrived to guide me and nurture me through what I would later realize to not only include that day’s experience, but the next phase of my life.

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So, it seems I have jumped Pantheons, not that it matters really. Kali arrived when I needed a strong female presence to destroy the persona and illusions I had built for myself, the walls I used as a defense mechanism and banish the demons from my soul. Now, Demeter has arrived to show me a softer version of the divine feminine, that there is strength in stillness and vulnerability and to nurture my true self out of her cocoon and into the world. I am not quite birthed, nor are some of the projects that have arisen in the last 6 months, but the end is in sight and with Kali’s foundation and Demeter’s nurturing, I know I’ll be alright.

Veganism

The Day I Chose Me

On the first of February this year I officially became vegan. On the 1st of May I decided it was time to stop making excuses and fully, commit, so perhaps I should call February my ‘I’ve got heaps of info now, so I can give this a real shot’ day and May my ‘no more mucking around, no more excuses, I’m all in’ day.

I had met a vegan sometime in August last year. She didn’t preach, just explained how things were for her. I had been off red meat for almost 3 years at that stage (pork included) and was currently struggling with the ‘no chicken or fish’ decision. It was something I struggled with, because I didn’t want to continue to eat chicken, but something always stopped me or I changed my mind for some reason. Dairy never entered my mind as an issue. Besides, how could one live without cheese?

Then I got sick. I’d had a head cold for around 8 weeks. Straight. I checked my Inna Segal book, but nothing seemed to fit. Then I had a thought – I wonder if there is some information on the effect of dairy on the body? A friend is allergic to dairy (and still eats it!), getting hay fever symptoms every time she eats it. My symptoms were worse than hay fever, and more prolonged, but I still wondered at the connection. I had been consuming way more dairy that I used to, because an ex had showed me how to cook amazing Italian dishes using thickened cream and I was also having a lovely time with burritos and tacos using sour cream.

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It didn’t take me long to discover that dairy can not be broken down in the body like other foods. Apparently the molecules are larger than normal molecules and get stored as mucus. (I don’t have any sources for this, as it was so long ago and I was not thinking ahead, but feel free to google it!) JACKPOT!! So, I stopped eating the Italian stuff on a daily basis, switched to soy milk and cut back on cheese and sour cream. I got better almost instantly! Well, within the week I was pretty much mucus free.

Still, I wasn’t ready to fully commit. Sure, it appeared to be better for my health, but I could just cut down right? Or be aware of symptoms returning and do something then. 🙂 Besides, there was no good reason I could come up with to stop eating chicken and fish, and my intense need to please people and not be a nuisance stopped me from fully committing to a 100% vegetarian diet, I am not at all ashamed to admit.

Then I saw a documentary that would change everything. Cowspiracy. Most vegans have seen it, or at least heard about it. By the end of the documentary I decided to at least give this whole vegan thing a try, just to see if I could do it. I did not consider myself an especially good cook, so making adjustments or cooking new things was going to be a struggle.

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I messaged my friend for some tips, but it was Veganuary that really got me started. As I said earlier, I didn’t take it seriously until February, or really commit until May, and I had inferiority issues relating to my cooking. However, I don’t think I could have even got through February without the help of these recipes and meal plans. Such an amazing site that I still use to branch out in the kitchen.

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I guess my point is that, for me, health was not enough, not then. I knew I would improve a little just by cutting down. After Cowspiracy, I watched all the other documentaries – Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., the Earthlings trailer (I cried for 15 minutes after seeing this short 2 minute clip and decided I was not up for seeing the whole film and I would leave it to convert the more die hard carnists!) – and it has become about ethics and choosing to live a cruelty free lifestyle. That and the fact I have never felt or eaten better in my life. I think the final nail in the proverbial coffin was seeing the dairy cow being pushed out of the milking pen, blood dripping form her udders, that I decided I was never going to intentionally be a part of such cruelty and barbarity ever again. Besides, I did not like the idea of consuming cow’s blood OR the chemicals they surely put through the milk to make it safe to drink. (I do not know if they do this, but my extremely logical mind lead me to this conclusion, but if anyone has any proof, feel free to add in the comments.)

This is the day I took my life back. The day I started living consciously. The day I chose what was best for me. The day I stopped ‘eating all the bullshit food that they sold me’, thank you John Butler. The day I chose my own value to live by, instead of accepting what others told me was right and wrong. The day I chose me.

(This is also another re-publish, so don’t be too concerned if you’ve read it elsewhere!)

Veganism

My Struggle with Change

This is a post from an old blog I had. I needed to re-blog it here because, well, we all have cycles and we all change and new beginnings need to be adhered to. Plus, it is way more relevant on this blog than my last one. 🙂

I’ll start this by saying outright – I did become the opinionated, lecturing vegan no one likes. Even other vegans. Luckily for me I have a loving, honest mother and a natural tendency towards introspection.

Still, this period of change appeared to be a challenge for me and my nearest and dearest. I found myself constantly defending my choice to no longer consume animals in any form from questions like ‘where do you get your protein?’ and ‘but you need calcium for strong bones, where do you get that from?’ Then there was the ‘what would you have eaten 100 years ago, because you had to eat what you were given.’ I informed them that 100 years ago the world was in a pretty bad state and the only thing there was to eat were the vegetable in the family backyard – no one would have wasted a cow by killing it for meat, they were too expensive and the milk much more precious.

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Worse still where the statements like ‘cows get killed everyday anyway, so why bother?’ and ‘plants have feelings too! science proved it!’ (as an aside, science doesn’t prove anything, it merely shows correlation so there’s the first flaw in that, and any similar, argument. Always be wary when articles say ‘proven’, especially if there are no references. But, I digress…)

I don’t know what was worse, the people trying to tell me I was wrong or the fact that my loved ones used lawed logic to justify their own carnism (I love this word!)

But we got through this and we are… well, as intact as we are ever going to be. The questions have stopped and we just go about our business. I think there are probably three reasons for this.

Firstly, and I think most importantly, I stopped lecturing. I still share the odd statistic, but I have a natural inclination towards teaching and I think my family and friends know and understand this. I have stopped talking about it constantly, which I’m sad to say was what I was doing. I tend to get obsessive and over-excited when I discover new truths or subjects and just want to share with other. It quickly becomes all I can thin about for a time. It does subside, eventually. Also, I have had this life long urge to show people, not just the ‘error of their ways’, but that there is another way. this has gotten me in trouble before – my need to fix what I have no business fixing – and you’d think I’d learn! well, I did. Eventually…

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The second think was probably my honesty. I think years of being honest with students when they ask questions about History and I don’t have the answers has kept me somewhat humble to the fact I don’t know everything. I have realized there is no shame in saying ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.’ And I do. When my loved ones posed a question or statement I hadn’t thought of, I would simply say ‘that’s a good point. let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.’ This allowed me the space I needed to organize my thought and emotions, sit in stillness, maybe do some research, and find (or be shown) the answer. It hasn’t failed me yet.

Thirdly, I think learning acceptance helped to let go. I accepted that my family doesn’t see things the way I do. they don’t think the way I do. if I’ve given them all of this knowledge and (in my view) proof, and they still choose to consume animals, then at least they are now making an educated choice and not living blindly and unconsciously. Sure, they’ve probably filed everything I have said as ‘nonsense’, but it’s there now and can’t be unlearned. I have learned to accept that I have done all I can and that I can’t force change upon others.

I am grateful for the challenge this change has given me as I am stronger for it. Also, all the questions and statements posed to me have helped me formulate my own value system and made my choice clearer in my mind, not jut my heart. I feel now I am ready for any challenge people can present to me, no matter how absurd.