Wednesday, October 13, 2010

VIP Status

I must admit, I have been struggling a bit lately with my veganism. I'm sure that many of you who have made the transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle have felt the same way at some point. There are just SO many hidden animal-derived ingredients to know about. And not just in food. LOTS of everyday products contain these substances.

It can just be so overwhelming...

And some habits really are hard to break. As I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for the past 13 years, some eggs and dairy products have still been sneaking their way into my diet lately as I transition to veganism.

And I have been feeling really guilty about it...

But I realized something.

Sometimes, an all or nothing attitude can really defeat your progress. While I did go vegetarian basically overnight (or "cold turkey" as I have often ironically joked), veganism is a whole other animal...(Yes I am full of puns).

When I became a vegetarian all those years ago, I really had no idea what I was doing. I was just an opinionated teenager who you could not talk out of anything. I so abhorred (and still do) the thought that any animal might suffer in order for me to eat, that I really didn't plan or transition at all. I just cut meat out of my life and never looked back. Now, while I wholeheartedly believe it is one of the best decisions I've ever made, vegetarianism took a toll on me at first. I paid very little heed to nutritional requirements, and, quite frequently, ate tortilla chips and salsa for dinner. And you know that can't have been good....

In fact, it wasn't long before I started noticing that my hair was frequently breaking off in the middle, and that I had a lot more flyaways than I used to. In fact, my "molting" became so noticeable that my mother dragged me to the nutritionist. The nutritionist told me that my "shedding" was due to a lack of protein. So, I started eating yogurt, milk, and cheese like crazy to make up for the lack of meat in my diet. And it worked. My hair became as strong as it used to be, and I didn't have to worry about leaving telltale signs wherever I sat (like a cat). However, in my protein crusade, I did end up gaining a noticeable amount of weight. It probably was not until I went off to college and started exercising regularly that I was able to get myself into balance, and to know what foods to eat to keep me healthy and happy.

Veganism has been a whole other story. Life is busier now. I work long hours, take classes, attempt to find time to work out, have social engagements with family and friends, and I have hobbies that I love...But all of those things don't leave very much time to cater to the delicate transition I now find myself engaged in. So the move to veganism has been going very slowly. Like molasses uphill on a cold day (as my father is fond of saying).

But then again, beating myself up about this is not doing anyone any good. Not everyone can transition into vegetarianism or veganism within the span of an afternoon. It's a learning process. And, not only are these powerful and potentially jarring lifestyle changes, but they directly affect one's health. Becoming a full-fledged vegan or vegetarian without consulting a doctor or a nutritionist, or at LEAST without becoming educated about your nutritional needs, can be harmful to you. (©ABC)

Now the last thing I want to do is talk anyone out of becoming a vegan or vegetarian. As I said, vegetarianism is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, and I don't regret it for a second. Vegetarianism has enriched my life in so many unexpected ways. I'll never go back to eating meat...........unless I'm stranded on a desert island or something like in Lost. Then we'll talk......

But if you are considering making these lifestyle changes, please honor your health and well-being in equal measure to that of the animals you hope to save. It will not help anyone if you make yourself so sick and nutritionally-deprived that you have to give up the entire endeavor to restore your health.

Remember, a plane doesn't just land. It hovers a little, slows down, and bounces a few times before it settles on the runway. I never want any of you to think that you are a lost cause if you "cheat" or "mess up," or eat something by accident that you didn't know was in your food, etc, while you are transitioning into a new lifestyle. There is NO SHAME - none - in making a really good decision s-l-o-w-l-y.

If you currently find yourself "in between gigs," as it were, then you are what I like to call a "VIP." A "Vegetarian (or a Vegan) In Progress." VIPs are special, and they all deserve pats on the back for choosing a more compassionate way of life.

So the next time you find yourself the victim of negative inner dialog, remember that you are a VIP, and that you only deserve the best.

Good luck to you all, and see you on the red carpet!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's a hell of a town, Toronto is...

This past week, my boyfriend and I had the most excellent fortune of spending time in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada. We only had a few days to explore the place, but it seemed to us to be the stuff of dreams. A bustling yet remarkably clean city by day, Toronto transforms into a glittering metropolis at night. In fact, it looked to me like a comic book illustration of Gotham City - but better.

And, hands down, you have to love a city in which EVERY hot dog cart you come across offers veggie dogs. And not even wimpy flavorless ones either. The one above was roasted over an honest-to-goodness open grill, with real flames and everything! Plus, I had my choice of a veritable smorgasbord of condiments - including crushed potato chips! And let me tell you, the potato chips really bring something to the party...

And the Canadian reputation for politeness seems to me to be quite well-founded. Pedestrians actually hurry across the street when they cross in front of your car...and they even wave thank you for letting them pass! And, what's more, many Toronto-an businesses - like the very kind hot dog vendor I snapped a picture of above - accepted U.S. dollars from us. This was extra nice because the USD is actually only worth about $.96 Canadian these days...So if our hot dog vendor is still outside the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel or thereabouts, go tell him hi from his friends from Rhode Island! And try a veggie dog with potato chips!

I was a little sad that we didn't get to try out more of the vegetarian restaurants we passed while driving around. There was one called Kale that looked really interesting. I found a review here that wasn't an unqualified endorsement, but certainly indicated that the place wasn't bad. The pictures on the link certainly look like you'd be able to replenish your nutrient level pretty well there after a long day of roaming the city streets. And the buffet-style service makes the eatery fairly economical to boot.

If anyone has had the pleasure of visiting any great vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Toronto, please tell us about them here! And if anyone is interested in seeing a bit of the highlight reel from our trip, please go ahead and scroll through the post.

Have a great rest of the week guys!

Not even joking when I say that we caught a beautiful sunset every single night in Canada

Canadian money is quite pretty. It kind of reminds me of euros. But stereotypes aside, there were definitely pictures of children playing hockey on the $5's... Also, fun fact from my boyfriend: The Canadian $1 coin is actually called a "loonie" because it has a picture of a loon on it. How could you not get a kick out of having waterfowl on your currency?

It appears that the Canadian government likes to reassure you that you will not be stuck in traffic. How nice is that? I even like the way they phrase it...

Some beautiful green space near the waterfront. There were lots of kids and couples taking pleasant afternoon strolls that day.

The elusive and totally bad-a** black squirrel, native to the area.

The CN Tower is supposedly the world's tallest tower. And it sure feels like it when you are standing/sitting/whimpering on the see-through glass floor on the observation deck at the top...The tower above is shown here at a much more manageable size

I totally took this picture. I will gloat forever about that. The CN Tower observation deck simply cannot be beat at sunset.

I assure you that this terribly-taken picture doesn't nearly do Toronto justice. I hope it at least gives you an idea. If you can ever see this place first-hand at night, it's breathtaking.

And awesome large-scale art and architecture are everywhere in Toronto. Totally a cool youthful-feeling city.

We just stumbled across what appeared to be the Canadian Walk of Fame as we headed back to the car. I just couldn't resist snapping shots of famous PETA-spokeperson Pamela Anderson's star. She's soon to be added to the Hot Vegan Army, don't worry!

And William Shatner...Not a vegetarian, but still... And yup, I just boldly went there... :-)

A strangely ominous sign advertising the Toronto Zoo membership program.

And even as we said a fond farewell to the fair city of Toronto, it gave us one final gorgeous sunset to remember it by. We'll miss you Toronto! Hope to see you again soon!