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Who’da thunk it?

You’ve all seen this meme more times than you can count, right? I know I have. Today though I saw it and wanted to write some things down about it; more specifically on how not only am I surviving but how I am flourishing while being vegan.

Now, I’m not going to boast about how awesome I eat, because to be honest, I’m a junk food vegan a fair share of the time. That said, having cut out animal products from my food my body has done some amazing things. At 43 I’m doing things I didn’t think were possible.

When I first started this I had really high cholesterol issues. In the first year alone I dropped my overall cholesterol by just under 70 points. I did not take any medications, I just ate better. I started exercising and started completing events I never dreamed of.

I was a smoker for nearly 25 years! I quit after my first year vegan and my lungs are healing rapidly. I run all the time and have no breathing issues. Sometimes if I run a bit to hard I do get wheezy but that’s what 25 years of tar and chemicals will do to you.

Don’t smoke kids!

About 6 months ago I started a weight training program. Throughout my entire life I have always had issues putting weight on and keeping it on; my metabolism is like a teens even in my forties! My goal was to get to 150lbs (I started at 142lbs). I’m not that tall ok, 5′ 5″ and 150 was a lofty goal for me. I presently weight just under 160lbs!

I didn’t do it with any animal protein or products.
Let me repeat, I did not consume any animal protein!

How am I still here?

Plant based foods have all the nutrition you need, including the ever elusive protein! Typically in a day I have oatmeal for breakfast. 1/2 cup of dry quick oats has 5g of protein, 27g carbs and 3g fat. That’s pretty decent, it’s not an abundance but you can add stuff to it like hemp seeds which have an additional 10g of protein in three tablespoons. Even adding 1/4 cup of soy milk add 2g more. That’s nearly 20g of protein, whoah!

I prep my lunches for the work week. Some examples of prepped meal are Jerk Tofu & Rice, Lemongrass Chickpeas w/ Quinoa, Miso Tempeh Chili, Andouille Sausage Jambalaya and much more. The protein in most of those are 20g or more. Dinners have a similar profile and at least 20-30g of protein.

Here’s a typical day (on the left, click for a larger version) when I was on the program and eating to gain. You will see a protein shake, and I did that to supplement what I couldn’t eat while at work. I work ten hours a day in my work-van, it’s helpful to supplement for me, not everyone has to do that. I also take a multi-vitamin in the morning and again, while lifting, was taking creatine.

If you look past that stuff I was still getting over 2,000 calories a day from food.

The point is, I’m alive and kicking. I’m smashing my goals and gaining, not losing.

Right now my training has changed and I’m on a running program so I’m not looking to add any more muscle; if anything I’m looking to trim down some of the weight while keeping the muscle. I do have two days I still use weights but 5 days a week are now spent running.

The awesome thing about being vegan is that I can tweak the foods I eat to reflect the training I’m on. For instance, my oatmeal every day now has 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of turmeric for inflammation. While I still use a protein shake for recovery, most of the other foods I eat will be to benefit the training. Can you do that and eat animals? Sure but you are eating animals and there’s a whole host of issues with that health wise and more importantly, with ethics.

No animals need to die for you to thrive.

You can get the nutritional needs your body requires being vegan.

Do your research and “eat like you give a f*ck!”

“How Can You Sit Down And Eat Your Mother?”

I’d been thinking of how to start this article for a while as it’s something I’ve already written about but I felt like adding some commentary. I also stumbled on some great talks by teachers that tackle the idea of veganism and Buddhist practice and I really wanted to share them and some quotes.

In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that all living beings at one point or another were once your mother. This concept has some validity if you believe in rebirth. Since the universe is infinite and sentience is held by all living beings that have a central nervous system, having been born and reborn over and over it only makes sense that at some point anyone could have been your mother. I can explain more if need be, or provide a link to more info, but I think you get the idea.

That begs the question, so why go ahead and eat them?

I came upon a series of 5 videos on YouTube titled “I Don’t Eat My friends” by respected Tibetan Nun, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. She lays out a compelling argument, from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, on why not to eat meat. She also touches on the all beings having been our mother theory, you can view in the video I linked.

There are also videos by another respected Tibetan teacher, Matthieu Ricard. Of course his videos solidify the beliefs and teachings of Tenzin Palmo.

The venerable Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has had quite a bit to say about it. As mentioned in the other piece I wrote, Plum Village (the center he oversees) went vegan in 2007. You can watch a video where he was asked about veganism and why it’s better than vegetarianism. I’ve included a brief quote below.

“We don’t want to eat eggs, and drink cow’s milk, and eat cheese anymore because raising cows and raising chickens creates a lot of suffering.

If you have seen the suffering of the chicken, the suffering of the cows, you would not like to eat chicken, eat eggs, drink milk, or eat cheese anymore. It seems the system has been contaminated.

So to be vegan is not perfect but it helps to reduce the suffering of animals.”

Seung Sahn, founder of the Kwan Um School of Korean Zen, has had a bit to say about eating meat. In the “Compass Of Zen” he goes on to say:

“If we want to understand ourselves and help all beings get out of suffering, we must first understand where this world’s suffering comes from. Everything arises from our minds. Buddhist teaching shows that everything comes from primary cause, condition, and result. This means that some primary cause, when it appears under a certain condition, will always produce a certain result. So what is the reason for so many beings appearing in this world, and what is the result of it? Why is there so much suffering, and why does it seem to increase every day? Perhaps the most important reason for such a dramatic increase in the amount of suffering in this world is the increase in the amount of meat-eating that humans do. Before World War II, human beings did not eat so much meat. In Asia, people have always generally eaten meat only on special occasions, perhaps only twice a year, on one of the major holidays. Nowadays, Asians eat meat sometimes several times a day. The same has been true in the west for generations. This century has seen a very big increase in the amount of meat-eating on the planet.”

I find that interesting. If karma and it’s consequences are to be believed then this makes all the sense in the world. The more suffering that is caused, the more suffering is created.

While the Buddha did not specifically say one way or the other, he did not condone eating meat. His justification was that as long as it was not killed for the consumer, or the monk, than it was ok to eat. I’ve read about the three hand rule which basically means the meat has to pass through three hands to the consumer and it’s believed to not have any karmic consequence. I call bullshit!

To be honest, this sounds like a cop-out. As much as I hate to say it, one of the most well-known Buddhist teachers, the Dalai Lama, eats meat himself all the while telling others to eat vegetarian. Similar to what the Buddha said, the Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying, “it is all right to have meat of dead animals, not those slaughtered or purposefully killed for meat.” So I guess that means roadkill is ok? Or if you stumble upon a dead squirrel out in the yard? Again, this sounds suspicious and not something a “bodhisattva” should get behind.

What’s interesting on the whole is that the very first precept in Buddhism is not to take life or cause harm. I don’t know about you but that certainly sounds like a vegan thought to me.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on 2017; Looking Forward to 2018

If there was ever a mixed bag of a year, 2017 was it.

Of course we saw the coronation of the cheeto in Chief, aka Beelzebub himself; Donald Trump. This 2017 recollection isn’t a diatribe on politics though, in spite of the fact 2017 has set us back as a nation so much so that I could write about 2,500 words on the subject. The only thing I will say is we can do better and we need to hit the polls in 2018 as a unified nation of citizens and reverse the damage this cantankerous administration has done.

Personally, 2017 had its ups and downs. Luckily there we more ups than downs. Here’s a brief list of the moments that stick out most to me.

1. My wife and I got to spend a well needed weekend away. A friend from SHVP was getting married so we extended the weekend and took in the sights. While NYC is not for us, we can appreciate what it has to offer. Evan and Jessica’s wedding though, in Brooklyn, was absolutely stunning and we are blessed to have been part of it.

2. My daughter got off the island (Cape Cod) and moved to Burlington, VT. If there’s one thing you wish for as a parent is that your children are happy. Xena seems to be happy with her move and she’s settling in to Burlington and meeting a bunch of friends. I could not be more proud of the person she has become and I look forward to seeing her grow as an adult and seeing where life takes her.

3. My wife and I became foster parents. One of my son’s friends was having a hard time and our son approached us to help out. We went through the grueling (no exaggeration) process of being approved with DCF to be able to house his friend. It’s been a few months, and while it’s trying at times, we really hope to see this guy succeed going forward.

4. My eldest son finally got what he wanted and we allowed him to try out for football. While it’s not our first pick for a sport that he could play, he did awesome at it. Every position he played he excelled at. His coaches understand the game and understand the players. While they push them hard they only do so knowing that the kids have individual skills to succeed. I can’t wait to see what his next season holds for him.

5. My youngest son prefers soccer and this year I volunteered to coach. Following the theme of ups and downs, our spring and fall were quite different from each other. The spring team that I co-coached went to the finals and won first place. Our fall team did not see as much success and were bumped from the first round. Regardless, my son (and both teams) had a bunch of fun and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

6. Running wise I took it easy this year and only did two Ragnar Relay races with Strong Hearts Vegan Power. The team decided to skip Cape Cod this year and did the Pennsylvania location which was quite interesting to say the least. It started in Amish country and that in and of itself was one of the many highlights of the year. The second race was a trail Ragnar, and was my first experience. We had a great team of runners for it and even won the REI camp site which was a completely furnished camping area. That made things a lot easier and we were able to just settle in and get our miles done.

7. For the umpteenth time in my life I tried to gain some weight and muscle mass. After getting in touch with Jordan From Conscious Muscle he put me on a workout routing that has been solid. For the very first time I added nearly 15lbs of bulk muscle. I weigh the most I ever have in my life and that at 43 years of age and as a vegan. But wait, as a vegan?? Yeah dude, I get plenty of protein! The plan is to shred a bit before running training starts, you will see soon the lofty goals I have for that!!

I’m sure I missed a ton of things. I’m positive I have but those were the big one’s that stand out.

Now 2018…

I don’t have many resolutions as I don’t think those truly come to fruition. There’s got to be more than a wish, there has to be a solid plan and action.

I have goals.

2018 will be a stepping stone as far as my running progress goes. 2019 will be my biggest year, see the ne tab up above in the menu titled “Run Across the Cape” for more info.

 

Besides a couple of local half-marathons I have some Ragnar Relays on the docket as well; hopefully another trail series.

 

In 2016 I did the 25k distance at the Vegan Power 25k/50k Ultra, two years later I will be doing the 50k distance. This will be my 2nd 50K and this time I plan to do a bit better.

2018 holds the promise of a new personal revolution as well. I’ve taken many things for granted these past few years and I’ve got to change that. I’ve got to be a better father, husband and friend. I’ve got to see with perfect clarity that my actions are not always about me, but about those that I love and hold dear.

So I raise my hazelnut coffee to you and cheer to the coming year.

Oh and I’m still alive and kicking even though I’m a protein deficient vegan. That’s unbelievable right?

Compassion: The New(ish) Vegan Activism

Just a few short years ago vegans were considered to be loud and obnoxious a**holes shouting at you while you shopped or dined. Now, vegans are still out there but the approach is more kind and compassionate.

image from anonymous for the voiceless websiteTake for instance the group Anonymous For The Voiceless. Quickly they’ve become a force to be reckoned with yet their approach is simple and effective. Using a method called the “Cube Of Truth”, activists in major cities (as of now over 250 cities worldwide) around the globe stand in a cube shape with signs and laptops/ iPads that are playing slaughterhouse footage. Most of them are dressed in black and they wear Guy Fawkes masks, synonymously known as the mask of hacker group Anonymous.

While it may seem intimidating to some, the “uniform” look is to make people approach the videos a bit more and not feel like they are being judged by someone. The mask gives the illusion of non-judgement since you cannot see the expression of the person wearing the mask. For some, who are still uncomfortable confronting the truth, it’s an easier way to cope. Whatever works; as long as it’s getting them to think rationally.

I think, for the most part, we’ve finally understand that veganism will never move forward if we don’t change the approach. This doesn’t mean that other activism isn’t effective. Protests against fur farms, puppy mills, horse tracks and circuses are surely worthy; they will always have a place in the movement. I think more people are coming on board because of compassionate protesting though.

image from toronto pig save siteTake for instance the vigil. While not new, the “bearing witness” vigil is getting more and more traction and more importantly, media attention. You’ve got groups like Toronto Pig Save that wait at slaughterhouses for trucks of pigs are brought in. While the trucks are transitioning the activists approach the trucks and try to show the animals inside some semblance of kindness before they are taken away. Whether it’s a loving rub on the snout or a mouthful of water, these processes are effective. What’s just as effective is the imagery created during and spread on social media after.

This may seem silly, but giving the animals that last glimpse can bring them a bit of ease. It doesn’t change the outcome, but it is worth that fleeting moment to show that animal the love they’ve never known.

There are many others ways that vegan activism is growing. Because of the kind and compassionate approach, veganism is seeing some of the strongest growth in years. Sure, there are other factors, but you have to take these things into account.

Have you ever participated in a cube of truth? How about a vigil? What was your experience like?

 

Vegan Shaming

Instagram and other forms of social media are becoming havens for bullies.

I don’t mean just the obvious ones; this post is not intended to diminish any of those.

The bullies I’m talking about not only put people down and make them feel like all the good they’ve done is meaningless and then they try to pilfer accomplishments from them like thieves. I’m talking about vegan gate-keepers.

For instance, I was reading a post on Instagram someone had made about them dropping by a Taco Bell and grabbing a bite to eat. They were travelling and were unfamiliar with the area so they got some food where they could. This person has posted a photo of a couple burritos which they had veganized. Taco Bell has been known to be quite open to making foods vegan for customers, just ask the Vegan Bros who swear by the stuff. Taco Bell has gone to great lengths to post info on their site to help vegans eat at their places, check out https://www.tacobell.com/feed/how-to-eat-vegan to learn more.

Anyway, within minutes a follower of theirs commented about how shitty the food was and because Taco Bell sells meat and dairy products that somehow the foods the poster was eating were somehow not vegan. They continued to lambaste them for it and made them feel small. a few other followers of course stood up to the bully but it just kept going and going until finally they were blocked from the page.

The fact of the matter is — this type of shaming does absolutely nothing to move veganism forward. These types of attacks do two things:

  • First, it makes the victim of the attack feel like garbage. Maybe they second guess what they are doing. “Why am I doing this? It’d be so much easier to just go back to the old way.” The attack does nothing to move that person forward, it sets them back.
  • Second, it makes the bully look like a no ifs and buts about it, a complete a$$hole. Comments like that make the person look like an arrogant douche-bag. It’s people like this that keep so many people away from this lifestyle. I said it before, but they act like the consummate gate-keeper of veganism. They choose to define it in their own terms, and if you don’t fit inside that pretty little bullshit box than you are not a vegan. F*ck that!

My point, don’t let those people get under your skin; you do you.

It took me so long to get to this point. I used to worry if I’d ever be vegan enough. One day I decided to wake up and not give a rats ass anymore. I stopped hiding behind the “plant-based” term and I became a vegan. If I can help you get there too, get in touch.

Turning A Blind Eye For The Movement

A couple of days ago I saw a post on the Vegan Bros Facebook page that instantly stirred up feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment. It was simply captioned, “Everyone’s going vegan.”

Normally I am totally on board with the crazy, over the edge stuff that Matt and Phil promote. When a celeb goes vegan they lose their ever-loving minds. I understand why, that person has a huge following and fans so it helps to popularize veganism and expose it to folks who maybe just fluffed it off.

Am I fan of Kylie Jenner? Nope, but what she does is her own thing. Miley? Yeah I’m not a fan of hers either so her announcement that she went vegan didn’t elucidate more than just a “yippee” from me. Over time though, I give her credit, it hasn’t been just a celebrity fad thing for her and she seems to be really passionate about it. Don’t get me wrong about celebrity veganism, it’s great; absolutely great!! Again it raises the presence of the movement into the public realm and you can’t buy that type of advertising. But when does it go to far?

But when a character like Adrian Peterson talks about becoming an 80/20 vegan (because he can’t drive by a Church’s Chicken without falling off the wagon); I cringe. I cringe because this man, just a short time ago, perpetuated violent behavior toward his own son. These are graphic photos, but if you have not seen them CLICK HERE for proof of what a monster he is. I commented on the Vegan Bros thread about this and got this response from another person who follows them:

My comment was cut short, I forgot to expand it before grabbing the screenshot from my phone. I actually went back a few minutes ago to get a better screenshot but it seems my comment has been deleted. When I said up above I was disappointed, this is the reason. Rather than take down the post about this piece of sh*t child abuser, they took my post off.

Part of what I had said in my comment that isn’t shown is, what if Michael Vick all of a sudden went vegan? Would the community just forget what he did because now he has a voice for animals? I don’t think so. Everyone would lose their minds and condemn him. But somehow it’s ok for Adrian Peterson to beat his child and then be held up on a pedestal because he all of a sudden went vegan, but still eats chicken.

**eyeroll**

“He’s trying!”

**eyeroll**

Yeah, I hear you.

But I cannot, and will not get behind this man monster. I apologize for all the profanity, but this really, REALLY burnt my ass and I felt that I needed to get it off my chest.

Am I wrong here?

When do we stop making excuses for people just because they are vegan?

Daiya Sells Out; The Day Vegans Became Unhinged

I have to admit, reading  news about Daiya being purchased by a pharmaceutical company (Otsuka) nearly had me foaming at the mouth. I was outraged. I felt like they had let me down and the whole vegan movement, they sold the f*ck out and I was so f*cking pissed off.

I watched the announcement online, as most folks did. You can watch the video below to see what the founders had to say.

Again, I was angry after watching that. I felt like they were being greedy d*ckheads who only cared about one thing, money. With all the other companies selling to larger corporations, it honestly didn’t come as a huge surprise.

Beyond Meat received investment capital from Tyson Foods.

Gardein was acquired by Pinnacle Foods.

Vega, So Delicious and Silk are owned by Danone.

Maple Leaf Foods recently bought Lightlife.

Unilever owns Ben & Jerrys and Breyers who have finally offered vegan ice creams.

I could go on for a bit, but I wanted to make a couple of points instead that could make all of this more positive than it is negative. The fact of the matter is; sometimes money talks. If a brand like Daiya is looking to expand but doesn’t have the money to do so, having an offer on the table to be able to grow and hit new markets is a must— especially if the right deal is struck and you get to maintain the ability to oversee how the company is run and have a say in its future. That’s pretty much what happened here.

We’ve all loved Daiya for years. They were the talk of the town at some recent expos and their new products are going to blow people away. Besides cheese they also have cheesecake, yogurt, salad dressings, cream cheese and mac & cheese. They’ve tweaked a bunch of the recipes over the past year and will be releasing them soon.

Back to the video and announcement. I was angry that I wouldn’t be able to try these products because Daiya had aligned with a company that is known to test its products on animals. Yes, Otsuka are big, huge, GIANT pieces of sh*t, there is no way of getting around it. It was hard to sit with this and try to rationalize why the acquisition could be a good thing. I came up with this reason and maybe a couple more.

It is quite possible that they (Otsuka) are legitimately trying to get out of the whole animal testing thing and are going more toward a plant-based business model; that seems to be what the Daiya guys think and I believe them to be stand up guys. They didn’t do this for the past (almost) 10 years to just throw up their hands and say f*ck it. These are passionate guys and you can tell in the video. You can also tell in their responses to all the posts on social media. While those same comments are canned, they are consistent in what they believe.

We got to look at this a different way and think that it might just help the movement. Daiya will be distributed all over the place now, imagine all those people who are going to get turned onto it and drop dairy. I know more than a few people who still have yet to make the final jump to full vegan and that’s because of cheese. Ya I know… But still, this move could be huge for them, especially if the new formula is as good as they say it is.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t jump off the proverbial bridge every time something like this happens. We can’t just yell “BOYCOTT” or hop over to change.org and get a petition going; that seems childish. It’s not always as black and white as it seems and may very well be a blessing in disguise. I will admit, for a few days I switched my cheese brand from Daiya to Go Veggie (it’s all my local market had).

I plan to go back to Daiya though because I like the product.

I plan to go back to Daiya because Otsuka needs to see that vegan foods are a growing market and they should get out of the animal abuse game. As I said before, money talks. If they see the growth they will invest more. If we take our toys and run away like children then Daiya fails and Otuska (and other investors) see the movement as a fad and move on.

I plan to go back to Daiya because I believe in what they think they are doing. I don’t own the business and I can’t tell them how to run theirs. If they believe this will help others than I am all for it.

Do what you want to do, I can’t tell you what to believe or think. I can tell you what I think and that’s now been said.

I’m interested in your civil comments, please let me know what your thought are now that there’s been a few days for this all to sink in.