Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Secret to Succeeding as a Vegan

As a vegan motivational speaker, the number one question I get is, “How do you stick with the vegan diet?  I inevitably reach for something vegetarian – usually cheese or chocolate - whenever I get weak!”  The answer, surprisingly, does not lie in your weakness for cheese or chocolate!  The answer lies in your ability to be prepared. 

Over the years, I have found with my clients that when I dig into the circumstances surrounding their foray away from their vegan commitment, it always had to do with not being prepared.  Here are examples of what I mean:

You are really hungry on Friday afternoon, looking forward to going home and making something yummy and vegan.  Your friend calls to ask about getting a ride to the Mexican Bar for Lisa’s birthday that night.  AGH!  You forgot about Lisa’s birthday!  You race to store to get a card and a gift, and show up late to the bar.  Everyone’s gathered around the table, they have a margarita waiting for you, and two huge appetizers with cheese nachos and jalepeno poppers.  Knowing that it won’t be easy to get vegan food, and you’re starving hungry, you capitulate and dig in.

Your family members or roommates regularly bring non-vegan food into the house.  You didn’t plan for dinner, and hungrily open the refrigerator door, only to find birthday cake left over from last night.  You tell yourself, “Ooooooo!!  Left over birthday cake!  I love birthday cake!  Just this once!” and dig into their non-vegan food.

You’re going to Cancun for vacation.  The flight is late, you’re getting hungry, and you can’t find anything but a salad with creamy dressing at the airport.  You finally just order it, and throw in some bread that you know probably has egg and/or butter in it, because you figure you can’t really let yourself starve.

Each of these examples has the same common denominator:  You simply weren’t prepared.  You might think that it’s your weakness for birthday cake or cheese nachos, but in fact, there are amazing vegan cakes and (finally) amazing vegan cheese on the market as well.  If it was really just a question of you getting over your craving, you could go to the store or a vegan restaurant and get whatever it is that you’re craving.

So what is the answer?  Be prepared.  Every night you should look at your calendar and know what the following day holds for you, and prepare yourself for it.  Do you need to bring your own snack for the plane?  Call ahead to the restaurant to tell them a vegan is coming in tonight?  Ask your friends to switch restaurants so you’ll have options?  Stock your kitchen regularly with your favorite foods so you don’t run out of them and get tempted by roommates’ or family members’ non-vegan food? 

The answer – being prepared – is actually very simple … it just requires a tiny bit of planning on your part each day.  Commit to being prepared, and you’ll likely find it easy to be vegan!

Monday, November 15, 2010


I love discovering a great new vegan restaurant, but I love it even more when I can share it with someone fun!  This past Friday I was taken to Herbivore in San Francisco’s eclectic Mission District by the publisher of VegNews Magazine, Joe Connelly.  VegNews is the leading vegetarian/vegan magazine in the country, and is packed full of useful information about the vegetarian and vegan diets.  I know it’s odd to say this, but I actually really enjoy the advertisements!  As a vegan, it can be hard to find things like vegan cheese, vegan shoes or vegan clothes.  I find great ads for companies I wouldn’t have otherwise known about amongst the pages of VegNews.  I have even found things I didn’t know I was looking for – like ads for vegan Bed & Breakfasts!

Anyway, I digress.  Joe took me to a great lunch, where we shared the raw beet and spinach salad, and the quinoa salad, in an effort to make Joel Fuhrman proud.  (We are not telling Joel what we ordered for dessert, but it was my birthday week!)  If you live in or find yourself visiting the San Francisco Bay area, I highly recommend checking out Herbivore.  In addition to amazing salads, they had a 100% vegan menu, full of delicious items that you may not find vegan in many other places, like shwarma and phad kee mao.  And of course, german chocolate cake and carrot cake.  Not that I would know anything about those…

Sarah Taylor and Joe Connelly at the trendy new office of VegNews Magazine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

60,000 A Day

I was recently at a fundraiser for Animal Acres, and the producer/director/someone-important from the movie Earthlings was there.  I had not seen the movie, and made the public faux pas of admitting that I had not seen it at one of the biggest vegan gatherings in California of the year!  So, I rented it.  I have not got past the first section (of five) due to not being able to see through my tears, but I will force myself to watch them all, just to remind me of why I do what I do.  But this movie goes far beyond how food gets to our table. 

The first section – what I’ll focus on for this blog posting – focuses on pets.  I know this is graphic and sad, but I think it’s important to know:  60,000 (generally) perfectly healthy pets are put down every single day in this country, for the simple lack of a home.  To see footage of a happy dog, wagging its tail as it’s getting cuddled - only to be dead seconds later by lethal injection - is horrifying.  To see a group of excited dogs, tails a-wagging, go racing into a gas chamber to scope it out, only to come out dead 20 minutes later and thrown in the back of a truck … it’s put me on a mission. 

When we got beautiful Maggie Moon, I was unaware of how big this problem is.  We bought her from a lovely breeder who we adore, so I recognize that breeders are not always horrible puppy-mill types.  Many of them are lovely people who want to bring sweet dogs into the world to add happiness to our homes.  However, it must also be realized (and I get this now) that the bumper sticker “Breeders kill shelter dogs chances” is true:  For every dog or cat you choose to buy from a breeder instead of rescue from a shelter, one of the shelter animals will be seeing its very last day here on earth.  It’s simple math.

So, for my birthday (which is today) my husband finally capitulated into getting another cat.  I picked him out at the local shelter, and he purrs like a freight train when you pick him up.  He’s absolutely adorable!  We named him Shanti Moon (Shanti being Sanskrit for “peace,” and Moon in honor of Maggie Moon) and when we look in his eyes, we see that we have saved a life; if not his, then some other cat’s, who go to stay alive one more day because we opened a spot by taking Shanti.  That extra day could be the difference between having a loving new home and being dead.

So, I ask you:  Have you spayed/neutered all of your animals?  Do you have room for one or two more, to save an extra life or two that may be gone tomorrow without your help?  Can you commit to getting the rest of your animals from a shelter instead of a breeder?  The reward for these small decisions is … life!

Sarah & Shanti Moon