Guest post by Emily Heikes:
Even if you don't plan to switch to a raw vegan diet anytime soon, Raw Food Power is a great resource on incorporating more healing foods into your diet. Former stuntwoman turned naturopath, Annelie Whitfield has created flavorful recipes and remedies based on her experience healing herself.
The word "diet" has a bad connotation these days: it conjures up themes of deprivation, malnutrition and low success rates. Many diets are started because of social pressure from friends, family and the media, and when that's the driving force there's a higher chance of failing since there's less emphasis on a healthy structure. I experienced this first hand as a teenager - I thought I was chubby so I tried all sorts of fad diets and none of them worked long term. It wasn't until I educated myself on nutrition and payed attention to the signs my body was telling me about food sensitivities that I got to a healthy weight and stayed there.
Lauren has been doing a stand-up job in the EvG Apprentice Program and thus I was eager to learn more about who she is and how she became part of the community. She has a touching story that many can relate to, no matter where they are on their journey to healthy, compassionate living.
My name is Lauren. I am 23 years old and currently live in Austin, TX, with my adorable bulldog/corgi mix, Lilly. I became vegan about 2 1/2 years ago for a few different reasons. Let me tell you a little about my journey:
I have always been interested in health and nutrition and doing the best thing for my body, and therefore have always enjoyed reading up on the most recent nutrition information. However, I also struggled with body image and bouts of binge eating for many years, so I was never completely satisfied with my health. I had played around with vegetarianism/veganism in the past, but I used to think animal products were a necessary part of our diet and vegans were just "too extreme".
Then, one day, I started reading Skinny Bitch out of pure curiosity. All of the information was so eye-opening! I specifically remember one part of the book with quotes from factory farm workers in which they mentioned how some of the pigs would come up and nuzzle the workers like puppies right before they had to slaughter them. As someone who loves her own puppy like a child, that really upset me, and I didn't want to have any part in promoting any practice that was so cruel.
After that, I went through a myriad of books on veganism and nutrition, from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life to Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman and Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn (all of which I highly recommend to anyone), further realizing how important compassion and veganism is to our world. Plus, an added perk: I lost 20 pounds while fully enjoying my food and NOT dieting, and I was finally happy with my body, my health, and -- most importantly -- myself. And I have never looked back! I also spent last summer as a Communications Intern with Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
During my free time, you'll find me reading, writing/posting recipes on my blog Don't Forget the Sugar, walking my dog, going to the gym or doing yoga, and cooking and baking up a delicious storm of healthy vegan goodies. I love finding and coming up with healthy versions of normally un-healthy dishes and desserts, and my dream is to some day have my own food business.
Lauren's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: I've been a fan of Eco-Vegan Gal since I first went vegan, and I think Whitney is fantastic! I know I have used several of her recipes and health tips along my health journey, and I love how positive and fun she makes being eco-vegan look. The information on having a vegan dog was also very helpful for me. My favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video is the one where she makes her Easy, Eco Organic Peppermint Holiday Hot Chocolate. What a healthy spin to such a decadent holiday treat!:
Do you ever feel like your body is a little off? Maybe your stomach is upset, you're getting sick more often than usual, or something is off with your reproductive organs… Sounds like your internal bacteria friends have gotten out of hand! There are lots of factors that can lead to unruly bacteria - common culprits are stress, medication, process foods, illness and travel. Basically, when you don't treat your body right it revolts and sends you signals that somethings gotta change. In addition to cutting back on the things that harm you, it's also helpful to introduce probiotic culture into your diet. For this very reason I recently tried out Ultimate Flora's line of high potency probiotics and am impressed with the quality and results.
I met Kylie when she applied to the EvG Apprenticeship Program - I was instantly impressed with her online presence and can-do attitude, but her sweet personality really touched my heart. She is incredibly passionate about veganism and I love her story about making the transition, as well as her husband's journey to plant-based living. Bonus: the photo of her with Buttercup from Gentle Barn is just so darn cute!
My name is Kylie. I am 34 years old living in Los Angeles with my husband and two rescue dogs, Henry & Willow. I started my vegan transformation just over two years ago. I had a couple of extremely inspiring friends who were vegan and I admired them immensely for a couple years before I realized it was silly to just look up to them when I could join them! I gave myself a challenge: go completely vegan for one week and see how it went. By day 3 I felt noticeably better, lighter in body and mind. At this point the term vegan to me was strictly dietary. I didn't think about all the animal by-products that were in the beauty products I was using and the clothing I was wearing. In that first week I also started reading and researching. I read The Kind Diet and that was a great starting point to open my eyes into what it truly means to be vegan. As I sat there with tears pouring down my face, soaking the pages of the book I knew that I could never go back to the way I was living. I could no longer ignore what was really going on in the world.
Being vegan is a constantly evolving journey. Everyday I learn something new and try my best to make ethical and eco conscious decisions. Luckily, there is a huge vegan community in Los Angeles and online. I have met so many amazing people who share my way of thinking and I get excited when my omnivorous friends tell me they are going vegan. It took my husband a full year of me being vegan before he made the switch (and I didn't even have to beg him, he did it all on his own!). Now the two of us love discovering new vegan places to eat around L.A. and it's great to have a partner in crime ;-)
In my spare time I like to blog about my experiences as a vegan and make things for my online shop Fabulously Fierce. I love unique home decor,
so my main focus is on that, but I do make some embroidered clothing as well. Having a creative outlet keeps me sane (most days)!
Kelly's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: Eco-Vegan Gal has been such a great source of information for me as well. Her positivity and knowledge are so inspiring. Whenever I have a question about certain products or what I can do to make smart choices for the environment or just need a little mental boost, I know I can find it in one of her videos! Since I'm not the best at taking care of myself and tend to lose motivation to exercise, I especially love her video "How to Reach Exercise Goals and Make Them a Priority Every Day":
One of the best parts of running Eco-Vegan Gal is meeting people virtually. I receive some really sweet digital correspondence from amazing people around the world, and it's always touching to hear their stories. On my birthday this year Amanda sent me a sweet note on Facebook to let me know that I inspired her to go vegan 2 years ago - her words brought me so much joy and I was really interested to hear more about her story. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Hi! My name is Amanda. I am a 30 year old vegan, and I live in Connecticut. I have always loved animals and have been lucky to have them around me my entire life. A few years ago, I started to become more interested in cooking and nutrition. And was learning more and more about what is in our food and where it comes from. I had been curious about vegetarianism for a while and in September 2010 I decided to try giving up meat (except for fish) for a month, or maybe until that Thanksgiving, and then see how I felt. I only knew a handful of vegetarians then (and I definitely didn't know any vegans). That night, I turned to Google. I think I googled "vegetarian" and I came across the Peta video "If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls, Everyone Would Be Vegetarian"... Well that shocked me to my core.. I hadn't cried that hard in a long time. I already knew that it wasn't right to be eating animals, but I didn't know how horribly they are treated. I also didn't know all the other issues that come from the meat/dairy/egg industries (environment, world hunger, etc) It and a few more videos I watched, left me disturbed and appalled. And I knew after that I could never eat meat again. A friend of mine recommened that I read Skinny Bitch. I went to the bookstore across the street the next day and read that book in about a day and a half. I continued to eat fish once in a while and was probably 99% vegan at home. Going out, I was still consuming some dairy and eggs.. Pretty much out of laziness or "convenience". I guess I was leaning into it.
I didn't officially go 100% vegan until December 2011. Another friend of mine was curious about my veggie lifestyle, so I lent her Skinny Bitch, and told her about some videos to watch. The next day, she told me that she threw out all of the animal products in her house and wanted to go vegan right away! Well, I jumped right on board with her (it's a lot easier with a buddy) and never looked back! And brought a few more friends with me since then :)
Since I've been eating more healthy plant-based whole foods, I've felt great! I used to get sick all the time. Now I hardly ever do! My nails started growing so much stronger, so I stopped biting them. <--Yay! I have more overall energy. It has been better for my skin (dairy is horrible for skin). This year I started working out and building muscle. Which is awesome. And it has actually really helped with my depression, which I have had since a teen. No drugs for me! While I do believe it has to do with what we put into our bodies, I also think living a more compassionate life helps your overall well-being. I could go on and on and on...
I love food! I consider myself to be a "foodie", and I love to cook. Despite what many people may think, there is soooo much variety in a plant-based diet. I have so many vegan cookbooks, that I need to get a bigger bookcase before I get anymore. As much as I enjoy trying other people's recipes, I love to experiment in the kitchen and just throw things together. Some of the best things I have eaten came from doing just that. I love to share what I make/eat on Instagram and Facebook. A lot of my friends (mostly non-veg) tell me I should start a blog.. so I have been thinking of doing that. I would also like to get more involved in animal activism. I know that by not purchasing products that come from animals, or are tested on animals, and by boycotting anything that exploits/hurts them (circus, zoos, puppy mills, etc) are all great ways to help animals.. But I would like to be more physically involved.
Going vegan was the best decision I have ever made and I wish I did it sooner! :)
A couple quotes I'd like to share:
"If we can live happy and healthy lives, without causing harm to others, why wouldn't we?"
-Jenny Brown, co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
"Don't do nothing, because you can't do everything. Do something. Anything."
The internet (especially Google and YouTube) is so great for the veg-curious! Or anyone who wants to know where our food comes from and what goes into it. There is a quote I've seen a few times (don't know who said it) "In the age of information, ignorance is a choice." And I believe that is true. The information is out there, people! I was shocked and elated to see how many YouTube videos there were on veganism! All you have to do is type "vegan" into the search bar and at least one of EcoVeganGal's videos show up. (she has almost 500.. and that's just on her main channel.. she has at least 3 others-- WhatAVeganEats is also a great one!) I don't remember the very first EcoVeganGal video I saw, but I do know that I came across one, and just kept watching more of them, and subscribed to her channel. Whitney has a video for pretty much anything eco or vegan you can think of, as well as ones about just living a happier life. I truely believe that she genuinely cares about your well-being and wants to share with you all of the wonderful products, companies, books, and people that she discovers. Thanks to Whitney, I found out about Kris Carr, Happy Herbivore, vgirls|vguys, and other YouTube favorites: The Vegan Zombie and the lovely Shelley Williams, just to name a few. And those people brought me to others and so on.. I had no idea how many of us there are. It is so nice to know that there are all of these other inspirational, compassionate people out there and that we are not alone in this.
Amanda's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: I had a hard time choosing a favorite EcoVeganGal video. I enjoy her product reviews, because she is so honest and does them with integrity, but one video that is speaking to me right now is a bit different from that. The Importance of Living from the Heart:
I found out by chance that today is National Peanut Butter Lover's Day! I'm sure every day is a national celebration for some random ingredient, but none the less I felt inspired to write about this one because I happen to be a peanut butter lover. Funny enough, this is something that I struggled with up until September 2012. Why? Because I knew peanut butter wasn't the healthiest food. I realized one day that very few healthy vegan recipes call for peanut butter and wondered why, since it's just blended organic nuts (I haven't had the sugary or salty variety in years). Then I figured it out.
In April 2012 I received a Facebook message from a guy named Alex. He said he was a fan on my videos (even bought a birthday present because of my recommendation) and offered some advice on getting more views, so he immediately caught my attention (ha!). I was extremely impressed with his YouTube knowledge and thus it was no surprise to discover that he had a very popular channel...actually, channels. We've kept in touch ever since and to this day Alex sends me tips when he feels inspired - I owe a lot of my most successful video features to him! The least I could do to thank him was to feature him here and as you'll see he's a very cool "doctor" (you'll get my reference upon reading further).
I am so honored to be chosen as Eco-Vegan Gal's Viewer of the Month! My name is Alex Charak. I'm an actor/writer/YouTuber in New York City. I produce web content for youtube.com/drcoolsex and youtube.com/chronicgamergirl. I first stumbled across Whitney when I curiously searched Atlas Cafe NYC on YouTube. Even though I lived across the street and ate there everyday, I wondered if there was any video of it online. The first thing I saw was EvG's review. I watched some other videos, subscribed, and now follow closely on Facebook. Eco-Vegan Gal helps me to make smart, environmentally conscious purchases and to discover new, delicious food options.
When I was growing up, I didn't get much exposure to veganism. My parents ate meat and I did as well. Then, when I was sixteen, I saw "Super Size Me" and it changed my life. I cut out the fast food completely. But as I explored healthy eating online, I saw those awful PETA videos of chickens being hammered, cows being sliced open and all those other videos make you want to throw up. Once I saw what was happening, I had to stop eating meat. At eighteen, I went vegetarian, and, at nineteen, vegan. I felt morally at ease and healthier physically.
My parents have slightly high cholesterol genetically and I still do as well. It's something I have to watch and being vegan helps me combat that. Of course being vegan doesn't mean being healthy. I can't eat vegan peanut butter chocolate cake from Atlas everyday and stay fit (even with my five floor walk up apartment). Now that I moved into a building with an elevator, I have to watch my diet even more so. I'm about to bulk up in muscle and drop fat like crazy for a role in a new web series called "Alligator Man" about a superhero who is half alligator and…yes, half man. Thanks to some EvG blog posts, I've seen that it is possible to do in a healthy, vegan way.
For anyone who needs a quick defense of veganism, I like going to this Albert Einstein quote: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." People some times don't understand veganism, but they sure do admire Einstein. Or toss a topical one at them with Abraham Lincoln: "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." If it that doesn't get them off your case, try this Mahatma Gandhi: "To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being." They'll get real quiet because no one likes to badmouth Gandhi.
Alex's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: I like a lot of the videos. Especially the vlogs and reviews. My favorite video is the first one I've ever seen. Atlas review:
I met Carlye through the Eco-Vegan Gal community years ago, and I've always felt an extremely positive energy from her, a light you could say. So it was no surprise to me when I heard that she wrote a book entitled Glow to share her beautiful story of weight loss via the plant-based diet. I didn't have to read a page to know that I wanted this publication to be read for the January EvG Book Club, which proved to be a great decision as soon as I began the first chapter. Carlye has a talent for making everyone she talks with feel like they've known her for years and this openess makes her an incredible advocate for the vegan lifestyle and all the joy it can bring.
What a perfect person to have as my first Viewer of the Month in 2013! I'll let Carlye tell you more about herself in her own words:
I was born, just like everyone else, with a clean slate and potential. But, by the age of five I was already addicted to McDonald’s and stuffing down cinnamon rolls that were bigger than my head. My true self became lost and was stifled by all of the sugar, cheese, meat, and dairy products. My mind was swimming, literally, in filth and poison, but how was I to know? I ate like most kids in the U.S.
At nine years old I was put on my first diet and my seemingly never ending foray in the diet world had begun. Being decades younger than everyone in my Weight Watchers meetings was not nearly as horrifying as being teased and ridiculed on a daily basis by the obnoxious boys at my school. Fast forward fifteen years and meet “big me.” Correction, I don’t mean big, I mean huge. Morbidly obese. I had gained 150 pounds as well as a hefty dose of Type II diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, plantar fasciitis, plantar neuroma, severe allergies, and daily headaches.
One day, while waddling down the book aisle at Target, I stumbled upon Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. It seemed innocuous enough so I tossed it in my cart amongst the ice cream, frozen chicken, and steaks. Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever buy dairy and meat again.
As I sat my wide load on the couch and started reading Skinny Bitch I found myself laughing out loud. My husband was going about his business but as he passed through the living room and heard me giggling he stopped and asked me to share the source of my newly-acquired happiness. After several recitations he finally sat down beside me and said, “Okay, you’re going to have to start over.” Together we took turns and proceeded to read the entire book aloud until we forced ourselves to go to sleep that night. We woke up the next morning, quickly finished reading the book, and immediately cleared our kitchen of all animal products. Overnight vegans, we have never looked back.
Immediately I dove in, head first, into studying every piece of research I could find. I knew what was ruining our health, but I wanted to know even more about the process and tools for healing. I discovered superfoods that aid weight loss but, most importantly, aid the body’s detoxification process. Many people who lose significant amounts of weight require surgery to remove excess skin that hangs from the body. I experimented and found a host of other nutritional tools that make the skin more youthful and able to snap back after being distended for so many years.
How can anyone ever fully express the magnificent amount of gratitude they have for a person, entity, or piece of information that literally saved their life? Learning about the truth behind our food and what really happens before the steak hits the plate turned my world upside down and yet I finally feel like I am right-side up. I lost 150 pounds and reversed all of the diseases and disorders from which I suffered without medication. I haven’t even had a cold in over four years. My husband lost almost as much weight as I did and reversed Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I celebrate these victories every day, but what I celebrate even more is the peace and happiness I feel knowing that I am finally making a difference, every day, one bite at a time. I had to change my diet to save my life, but knowing that as I save myself I’m also saving the lives of innocent, sentient animals along with the planet itself compelled me to share my story.
I wrote the book, Glow: a story of love, cake and what life’s like 150 pounds later, in an effort to make a difference in the lives of all living things. Glow is a guide for losing weight and reversing disease, but it is also a love story filled with inspiration and humor that covers many topics, such as how to use superfoods to boost the body’s healing power, the importance of choosing organic food, avoiding GMOs, and visualization.
I am so grateful for the enthusiastic reception that Glow has received in just a few weeks since its release. People with chronic pain and conditions have been writing reviews and sending me heartwarming, astounding messages telling me that they have not only lost weight, but also found themselves free of the pain that had plagued them on a daily basis for years past. Food is infinitely powerful. The food that we choose to eat is either energizing us and building us to become the people that we were meant to be, or it is killing us. To discount the impact of nutrition on our lives is a grave error and one that many people make. The time has come for healing. As we heal ourselves we will save the animals and the planet that we all share. To me, this is the ultimate trifecta.
My favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video is "Journal/Inspiration: The Importance Of Following Your Bliss". Learning to trust myself and my instincts while following my bliss has been challenging at times. Taking the unknown road can be scary at first. How wonderful that we can find someone like Whitney who takes the time to cheer us on in our endeavors. Through Eco-Vegan Gal, Whitney puts out so much incredible content. She goes above and beyond by telling viewers about everything from eco-friendly battery usage to contact lenses. What makes Whitney stand out even more is her honesty and relevance. I love knowing that if I need great advice or info, all I have to do is check with Eco-Vegan Gal!
Carlye and Glow online:
Well, it's beyond December 21, 2012 and we're still here: phew! Admit it - you knew we'd be safe all along (I know I did). As silly as the fear of the end of the world seems in hindsight, I'm grateful for the awareness it brought me. I felt inspired to really look deep inside and examine my life, and find all the opportunities I had to grow. These feelings are often reserved for New Years, so it's as if like we got a head start on our resolutions and intentions for 2013!