Geoff P: Vegan Snag Royalty

This profile is of a man who, along with his partner Ramona, greatly supported me in making the transition.  An engineer by trade, Geoff worked in Japan and is now happily settled in Perth.  You can find Geoff at most vegan events, just look for the long line of hungry customers at his Vegan Hot Dog stand!

geoff and ramona

geoff and ramona

The Basics:

Geoff Pape, 37, plenty of fur kids, Offshore Rig Mechanic, volunteer engineer for Sea Shepherd, volunteer for PAWS (built a vegan catering van for them).

Your journey to vegetarianism / veganism:

I gradually went vegetarian with the help of my partner Ramona Janssen.  I was vegetarian for 10 years, during which time I met other vegans like Craig Dearth, through his Vegans Unite Perth group.  Even then I had not gone vegan, although it was starting to make sense.  I was involved with PAWS in Perth and bought a copy of Earthlings, because I heard it was a good film to see.  I watched that and declared to go vegan.  I no longer wanted to be a part of any animal’s cruelty.  I have now been vegan about 7 years.

I had absolutely no difficulty transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan.  Once the mental decision had been made it was easy.  And the food just got better. I discovered new things like nutritional yeast, how to culture vegan yogurt and I’m presently learning to make cultured vegan cheese.  I found a recipe for the best vegan sausage ever.  I use these sausages to get the  message across to those people who should be vegan, the animal charities of Perth who do meat sausage sizzles to raise money for animals.

Other good films are the Youtube video of Gary Yourofsky’s Speech “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear”, documentaries “Got The Facts About Milk”, “Peaceable Kingdom”, “The Cove”,  “Earthlings”, the movie “Bold Native” book called “Animal Experimentation A Harvest Of Shame” by Moneim A. Fadali.

Some friends I have left behind as I have made compassionate changes to my lifestyle and they choose not to.  Family has always been a struggle.  They watch the documentaries (Earthlings etc) but still can’t connect, or refuse to connect may be more to the fact.  It is a big disappointment for sure.  Especially when I see other vegan’s families changing after being exposed to a vegan lifestyle.

 What’s the most remarkable benefit or change (could be physical, mental or emotional) you’ve noticed since becoming vegan?

Physically better because without dairy my mucus production is less.  It really affects my sinuses.  I no longer get the bad stomach cramps that I used to get as a child.  But mentally I’m way better off.  All the guilt is gone.  I am lighter, both mentally and physically.

A typical day’s meals:

Fresh Juice/Smoothie, marinated tofu burgers with heaps of fresh veges, and organic soy mayonnaise.  Black bean vege stir fries, fresh salads, pastas, pizzas.  The list is really endless!

Favourite no-fail recipe:

Spicy vegan sausages – check it out here.

Biggest challenges / obstacles of being vegan:

Trying to get my family to go vegan, or at least vegetarian.  Sometimes it can take a lot longer to find somewhere to eat when out and about.  The Happycow app certainly make things easier when travelling.

Advice to newbie vegans:

Join a local Vegan meet up group, you’ll make great friends and get tried and tested recipes.   Get the Happycow app for travelling.  Ask lots of questions from long time vegans, they are always willing to help.  Join vegan fb pages, you’ll get lots of info and advice.

Biggest misconception about vegans:

We’re weakling freaks with low iron levels and no protein.  So not true:)  And people think we are limited in our choice of food.

Cruelty Free Festival 2012

Cruelty Free Festival 2012

Karen B: Raw healing – A Nutritionist, Naturopath, Chef and Author heals herself

Karen Bartz, 56, is a fully Qualified Nutritionist and Naturopath who resides in Perth.  She seems to live in Heaven.  No, not the one with the big pearly gates, instead this Heaven is the raw vegan cafe at FERN, short for the Fremantle Environmental Resource Network.  I’m an avid frequenter of the cafe, gorging on the delicious raw vegan fare whether it’s mexican burritos, chocolate macaroons or cold pressed chai lattes.

Four years raw

Four years raw

FERN runs on donations businesses and volunteers.  Monday night is soupi night, a vegan feast by donation. For those yet to drop by, make it a must do on your list!  There are chickens roaming around the grounds, bicycles to ‘adopt’, a free library to browse through and lessons to learn in sustainability, gardening and overall health and well-being.  The cafe is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am-4pm.  Often there are special events such as Drum Circles, Reiki Sessions and Fire Walking.  The FERN website is currently under reconstruction so for those seeking upcoming event information, the Soupi and Fremantle Environmental Resource Network Facebook pages are the place to go.

Karen is the author of best-selling book ‘Raw Food Awakening’ and has been on a raw vegan diet for the past 4 years.  She also runs regular raw food classes.

Below is her story…

Your journey to vegetarianism / veganism:

I became unwell while studying naturopathy and nothing seemed to work.  I was fed up with medical tests and supplements.  One day I doused my food to see what was best for me to eat – so much was making me feel worse!  I switched to 80% raw at that point but still ate minimal amounts of fish.  I totally eliminated dairy and eggs.  Miraculously, I felt better and six months later had an all-raw lecturer at college.

“I then went the other 20% and after two weeks felt better than I had in 30 years.”

I believe by experiencing the 6-month gentle introduction on 80% raw was just what I needed, considering I was coming from the dark depths of unwellness to begin with. Incidentally, prior to raw food I tried the blood type diet.  I am blood type O, according to the diet I was supposed to do better on the Paleo diet.  It was not successful for me.

raw goodies by Karen

raw goodies by Karen

What’s the most remarkable benefit or change (could be physical, mental or emotional) you’ve noticed since becoming vegan?

I feel extremely well and energised!  I could not run the cafe for 6 days a week at the age of 56 that’s for sure.  I cannot eat dairy in any case, as I get a hormonal reaction from it.  With meat I am affected by the adrenalin present in the animals’ system so I get stressed and fearful.

At college they thought I was a little strange but now three of my lecturers from that time work in the raw food industry.

Also, I was not expecting the enlightening experience of spiritual awakening on raw!

A typical day’s meals for you?

Breakfast: Large bowl of chia porridge with homemade nut milk with just vanilla powder and cinnamon to sweeten, topped with chopped fruit.  Today I had pear, strawberry and mango.

Lunch: Large salad with dehydrated onion bread and a nutcheese for lunch.

Snacks: Usually a dehydrated cookie and a large green juice in there somewhere.  Occasionally beetroot juice.

Dinner: Usually more onion bread or dehydrated pizza crackers with avocado and more fresh fruit.

I do drink herbal tea.  Current favourites are lemon and ginger and chai with heated nut milk.

Biggest challenges / obstacles of being vegan:

None.  The pay off is huge plus I get adverse reactions if I stray from my raw vegan lifestyle.  I also surround myself with what is required to stay on track as it’s that important to me, hence I choose to run a raw vegan cafe.  Problem solved!

Advice to newbie vegans:

Follow your heart, consider raw food over processed vegan junk food

Biggest misconception about vegans:

That they are less physically strong.  Studies prove otherwise.
That they are intolerant/aggressive.  Perhaps some are.
But the most successful at influencing others, I have noticed, are the ones who aren’t.

tiramisu

tiramisu

Life motto / personal philosophy:

Follow your heart

Favourite vegan products:

Barefooters, Italian rubber shoes with cork liners, Chia seeds.

Inspirations:

Valerie Boutenko, Fred Bisci PhD

Karen’s Chia Porridge

1 young coconut
3-4 tbs chia seeds

Blend water and meat of 1 young coconut and then stir in 3-4 tbs chia seeds and stir till thick (about 5 minutes).

Alternatively blend a handful of raw almonds with 1 1/2 cups filtered water and then add chia seeds to that.

You can stir in the blender on slowest setting or food processor. Serve with chopped fresh fruit.

384202_333503380000073_2123772656_n

Donnie H: From fried and fat to fit and fabulous

I met Donnie Hemphill a year or so ago, and since then we’ve met up a handful of times every few months.  At each encounter, it amazes me how he seems to be turning back the hands of time.  At nearly the milestone of 40 years young, he has the energy and youthful glow of someone at least a decade younger.

Born and raised in farm country Davenport, Iowa, Donnie earned a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering degree from the University of Iowa.  He is working as a Civil Engineer and has worked in  the States, Libya and is now settled in Australia.

His renewed zest for life has sparked his current hobbies of Latin dance, photography, and becoming fit again after years of being a “lazy fatty” – his words!

He is truly enjoying livin la vegan vida loca lifestyle… which includes gently spreading the word.

A bit of background:

I was born and raised in Iowa.  Yes.  You are correct.  That’s where Captain Kirk of Star Trek was born, or will be in the future.  My last girlfriend said “It is like a movie place.”  That it is.  Thinking Field of Dreams?  You’re right on.  Corn and soy bean crops all around you; and a State Fair where you can get everything fried on a stick.  Even fried butter.  A beautiful place, but also a land where mega hog farms are polluting the air and ground water, and a place where if you speak out against eating meat you will likely be ostracized by the majority.

Being an Iowa boy, I grew up eating the local fare and by my adult life I required meat at nearly every meal.  Like most I was completely disconnected from where the meat I was eating came from.  It wasn’t until I moved to Libya in 2008 that I was reconnected.  There I saw the animals before and after.  But none the less I ate all sorts of lamb, baby camel, pigeons and even sheep heads boiled north African style.  I went with my Mexican friend to buy them from the butcher and several Moroccan friends prepared them.  I ate mostly the tongue as the cheeks and skin were extremely greasy.  Goodness, the memory of the tongue going down my throat gives me the creeps.

Iowa boy pre-vegan

In the early Libya days we were in a hotel and had rather nice brekkies and dinners but the lunch at the office was extreme – you would be asked, ‘chicken or beef?’  and would receive a warmed up shwarma TV dinner, piece of fruit (the best part), and a rainbow of sodas to pick from.  Later it was five of us to each mansion villa and my Moroccan friend would make me 2 boiled eggs in the morning.  Lunch had evolved into a nice buffet; a mixture of Arabic foods and some Western dishes including with many veggies and salads, and hummus with way too much tahini.  So you could eat healthy there, but I didn’t.  Dinner at the villas was horrible attempts at making Western foods due to politics and policies, so shopping for food and preparing our own dinners became a routine and cherished social event, often  accompanied with bootleg booze, sheesha smoking and Moroccans.  Good times..

My colleagues were evacuated from Libya due to war in 2011, I had left just days before major conflict broke out and travelled to Malta to stay with a girlfriend.  After welcoming half of my colleagues who arrived by ferry boat, I returned to the US.  During my time at my parents’ house in Iowa, I would eat bacon or sausage every morning; mostly because I couldn’t have it in Arabic Libya.  I fattened up a bit during that time I think.  After a couple of months at home, I headed off to Australia stopping in Poland first.  A girlfriend and I travelled Krakow & Warsaw and I recall being angry when she made me eat at some healthy raw veggie place in lieu of the marvellous pizza joint I had spotted earlier.  I remember not wanting this healthy raw vegan crap.

BEFORE: bloated and lethargic

BEFORE: bloated and lethargic

I eventually arrived in Australia and transferred directly to Hobart, Tasmania (as you do).  I spent a few weeks there, seeing a bit of Brisbane too, and finally arrived in Perth to settle into and start my new life.

I arrived in Australia a meat eater.

Opening up to vegetarianism and veganism: 

The point of my trip to Poland will make sense now.  We decided to date long distance – Miss Poland and I.  Something we did to pass the time was read books to each other on Skype.  I did all the reading aloud, yes, I was whipped.  Ha ha.  Continually finding new and interesting books to read became a chore.  One day I saw a book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I laughed, and thought to myself, “This will be funny if I get a book called Eating Animals.”  The cover read, “this book will change you.”  I thought to myself, “No way.  I’m from Iowa.”  But wouldn’t ya know it, the cover had been right.  The book did change me.  The laugh was on me.  This book was my first real introduction in to veganism.  I had vegan hippie friends in the past, but no one ever explained why to me.  They just looked at me like I was from a different country as I ate my sausages, biscuits and gravy whilst they nibbled away on rabbit food.  But I never asked why either…  Perhaps this is why I now gently inform people about why I am vegan, only after luring them in with a raw vegan cheese cake.

Back to the book.  This one, like many others, touches on all the basic arguments for becoming vegan, but its unique delivery comes with lots of psychology.  Several points sank in quick to my then 37 year old skull; sustainability, factory farming, by-catch, health risks, why eat some animals and not others, and so on. 

After reading the book, I was changed.  I couldn’t get the philosophical arguments out of my head, yet I still loved my learned taste for meats and animal products.  With my brain was now switched on, I began to slowly reduce the amount of meat I ate.  My primary health motivation for some reason was to prevent cancer, so I decided to eat natural vegan foods, as many different colours and types as I can get my hands on.  Throw in a few super foods like hemp seeds and chia seeds, and how could you be wrong?

I began to realize there were many wonderful foods I had never really eaten.  I was fortunate there were lunch time eateries  near my office job in the Perth CBD.  I started going to one salad place that offered healthy dishes including super foods; something not so easily available in my rural American homeland.  I used to live off on 99 cent double cheese burgers or spicy chicken patties from the evil M.  Now I was eating salads with all sorts of toppings like quinoa, pumpkin, beetroot, chick peas, and brown rice.  At that time, if the accidental piece of chicken ended up in my serving, it wasn’t such a big deal.  I was still eating the occasional salmon sushi too.

Over time, my taste for beef, chicken, and pork dwindled to dislike.  If I “accidentally” got some in my mouth, it tasted greasy and left vivid visuals in my mind.  I eventually lost my taste for fish also.

I started hanging out with like-minded people in Animal Rights Advocates and Social Vegans in Perth, and made some friends with folks in Sea Shepherd as well.  It was fun discovering places to eat vegetarian and vegan foods, and to share the joy and excitement of new delicious healthy foods.  This was about the time I made the transition from vegetarian to vegan, never again purchasing eggs, milk or cheese.  I was introduced to RAW foods soon after and took some raw ‘cooking’ classes.  I enjoyed it, but it seemed a bit too extreme in the beginning.  Who can afford a $500-1000 super blender?  So I buy the raw stuff whenever I see it out and about.

Recapping – in August 2011 I read the influential book. By my birthday in October, I was eating vegetarian fair.  By March 2012, I was vegan.  And in July 2012, I was beginning to explore RAW foods; how to prepare RAW and where to buy them already prepared.

The most remarkable change since going vegan: 

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen to me physically that I could notice, and for nearly a year it didn’t.  I remained the overweight middle aged man I had been for most of my life.  I only consider myself to have been fit just a few times prior when I was training and eating better.  I am sure drinking too much alcohol and smoking cigarettes were factors in my excess weight at different times also.

AFTER: The lean, mean vegan machine

AFTER: The lean, mean vegan machine

By June 2012, I had dropped one trouser size – down from 38” to 36”.  I was over joyed!  By January 2013, I had dropped another size down to 34”.  I was stunned with disbelief.  Then by March of this year, yet another reduction occurred in my trouser size – 32”.  Obviously the combination of diet, exercise and eating habits have all contributed to my shrinking waist.  Today, I continue to tweak my program hoping to build more muscle and shed off even more fat.

Since going vegan my allergies have gone away.  To be fair, this could also be due to no longer smoking and living in a warm dry climate like Perth.

I am dumbfounded when people guess my age to be much younger, as I am secretly dreading entering my 40’s.  But with a renewed vigour for life, I’m looking forward to living the rest of my days to the fullest.  I feel like I’ve been given a second chance in life.  I’m settled in to a great city, living a simple good life, and enjoying the now.

I’m at a good place in my life.

IMG_2533

Livin’ la vegan lifestyle

My parents, to my surprise, love to humour me by eating all the vegan foods I prepare for them when visiting.  During my last trip home at Christmas, my girlfriend and I enjoyed playing tourist at the local Walmart.  I was pleasantly surprised at all the vegan products we found there.  It was interesting to compare as we had previously explored the Walmart where she was living in Puebla Mexico.

Typical meals:

So what does my vegan diet look like?  When I can, I love to look at all the exotic pretty foods you see the cute vegan girls put up on Facebook.   But at the moment I’m busy with work and dancing, and only manage to get to the local chain grocery store, where if you are careful, you can still put together healthy menus.

  1. A couple of Medjool dates or similar – first thing in the morning
  2. Veggie spinach wrap or – 8:00 AM
  3. Nibbling on almonds, sultanas, and wasabi peas all day long…
  4. Green smoothie – 10:00 AM
  5. Brown rice or quinoa with assorted grilled veggies
  6. An apple or pear
  7. Fruit and home made hummus & veggie wraps
  8. Continued snacking of almonds, rice milk, and juices

I eat a lot and am never hungry.

Advice to newbies:

Go slow and gradual.

Your life motto / personal philosophy:

Things happen for a reason in life.  I can’t say I know why, so I’m gonna just ride the snake as Jim Morrison used to say.

My Inspiration: 

Committed by Dan Matthews – I don’t know why but Dan’s stories and overall confidence about his cause really inspire me.  Some of the highlights were during PETA protests; one on an Italian fashion runway dressed as a priest, and another near my parents in Des Moines, Iowa dressed as a bunny with a sign reading “Eat Veggies Not Your Friends.”  The farmers were outraged and drove them out by arming children with bologna to throw at them.

Favourite recipe or dish:

Raw cheese cake and raw pizza

What is the point?  Who cares?:

Good question.

I don’t have the answer.

But I do know that I look better than I have in 10 years and have a renewed passion for life, all of which is intertwined with veganism in some way.  So see what it can do for you.

“Lose weight, feel better, become healthier, live longer and save the planet by becoming vegan.”

Sam C: Change for Compassion

Animal lover Samantha Crosby, 35, is a mother of 2 energetic young boys and married to Zaaron Lee.  Her entirely vegan household is situated in the picturesque Perth Hills.  Sam is also the founder of Ayana Organics, a 100% vegan product range.  Sam’s life motto is Be the change you wish to see in the world”.  This is a Ghandi quote which inspires her to ‘walk the talk’ each day– whether it is through food choices, personal habits or business decisions.  Her organic and certified cruelty-free products focus on eco -friendly materials, sustainability, and fair trade.  They are lovingly crafted by the Ayana team in Sam’s studio.

Below is her story.

Sam in her element

Sam in her element

Your journey to veganism:

I remember always feeling uncomfortable eating animals, and when I was around 11, I told my parents I wanted to be a vegetarian. It lasted for around a year, however my parents were worried about my diet and I resumed eating meat. As soon as I moved out of home when I was 19, my meat intake dropped dramatically and then in my early twenties, I made the decision to cut out red meat, which later led to transitioning to full vegetarian in my late twenties. Around this time, I read Peter Singer’s book ‘The Ethics of What We Eat’. I found the information about the dairy industry very upsetting and I knew that I was headed towards veganism, however, it still took me several years! I arrived at the place I am now incrementally, gradually replacing items with the vegan version as I found them and as I continued to educate myself and get inspired along the way. For most of this time, my husband was a meat eater. I had not anticipated Zaaron making the change to veganism however, we watched Gary Yourofsky’s lecture ‘the best speech you’ll ever hear’ together and what had taken me years, took Zaaron approximately 2 minutes.

What’s the most remarkable change you’ve noticed since becoming vegan?

The biggest change that I noticed was a mental one. It took me many years to get to my final destination of veganism. Along the way, I was partial to feeling guilty for still consuming foods that I knew in my heart had cruelty associated with them. I kept putting it out of my mind, but as soon as I made the decision to become vegan, I felt liberated. It sounds clichéd in a way, but I felt like I reached where I was supposed to be. Physically, I can attest to having more energy and to feeling far less bloated when I stopped consuming dairy products.

A typical day’s meals for you and your family?

I’m a muesli eater for breakfast. I make my own muesli using organic oats, organic sultanas, flax seeds and sunflower seeds. I have it with organic almond milk. I’d like to say I always make my own almond milk, but it’s mostly store bought! During my toast phases, I like to eat rye bread, with avocado, hummus and chia seeds. I always have a large cup of peppermint tea, and at the moment, I’m juicing a lot, so breakfast also includes juice (my favourite right now is apple, carrot, beetroot, kale, lemon and ginger).

For lunches I love lentil burgers with salad and for dinner in the colder months we usually have something hot and hearty, like a chickpea, pumpkin and spinach curry with quinoa, or a barley and lentil shepherd’s pie.

Favourite no-fail recipe?

Vegan date loaf. It has very few ingredients and is super easy. The date loaf recipe I use is from one of my favourite vegan recipes books ‘Wild Vegan’ by Angela Stafford. My best friend bought Wild Vegan for me when I first became vegan. I always have the ingredients for this recipe in my pantry.

Biggest challenges of being vegan:

I would have to say…other people! Many people do not know what vegans do and don’t eat. I know that people worry about what to make me for lunch if they invite me over. In terms of eating out, being vegan is getting easier and easier here in Perth, with many more cafes adapting their menu to reflect peoples changing attitudes towards eating animals; having said that, you have to know where to look! For me, the biggest challenge has proven to be in relation to having vegan children. They are young and not always confident enough/knowledgeable enough to make food selections outside of the home. Going to children’s birthday parties always proves a challenge!

Advice to newbie vegans:

Surround yourself with people who are already vegan. Not only can they provide you with tried and tested recipes and tell you where to get local vegan items, but it will make you feel less isolated.

Choosing to have a vegan lifestyle puts you in a very small minority and it’s easy to get weighed down and frustrated feeling that you are alone and can’t make enough of a difference. There is a reason they say ‘strength in numbers’.

Biggest misconception about vegans:

That we are ‘missing out’ when nothing could be further from the truth. Also, that we lack protein!

Click here to find out more about Ayana.

Delish Ayana avocado + rosehip eye crème

Delish Ayana avocado + rosehip eye crème

Nikki M: Raw and vegan in NYC

Nikki comes from halfway across the world.  I was living in Los Angeles when I first met her nearly 5 years ago.  She is a woman after my own heart (ie. desserts addict!).
Below is her journey to veganism and how it helped overcome various physical ailments.
The Basics:
Nikki Mitchell, lives in New York but originally from Long Beach, California.  Now works at one of the best NYC wine and cheese restaurants located in Hell’s Kitchen.  Being a vegan, she does not consume cheese anymore (or tries hard not to! She may taste here and there so she has a general idea of the taste and can describe items to customers).
Nikki M

Nikki M

Why veganism?
What got me on this road to drastically change my eating habits?  Its hard to pin point a specific day but when I was 18 I met my first vegan.  Her mother was diabetic at the time and had really bad legs due to bad circulation and she was severely obese.  Her name was Brie and she was really skinny and super serious about what went into her body. I remember chowing down on rice and vienna sausage out of a can and thinking…..you don’t eat sausage!!  Also, my grandmother suffered from weight issues and various cancers through her life, and I took care of her at the age of 9 til she passed away in 97, I was 18 and broken-hearted.
A few years later I wanted to be a make up artist.  At the time I worked at Borders Book store and bought books on how to take care of your skin as I felt this was the real beauty secret and make up was just the fun stuff for special occasions.  I was hype to study skin and tackle my own problems as I knew I was gonna get asked about my own skin regiment and I wanted beautiful skin.  At the time it was oily and the pores were big.  Not horrible skin but not great either.  I had no idea at that time that the real cure was food. 
During my time at the book store my allergies became increasing horrible.  I was sneezing and coughing and everything set it off.  First thing in the morning my throat and nose was itchy and scratchy.  I was constantly doped up on anti-histamines and just miserable.  I had no health insurance, which would only shove experimental allergy drugs my way, and again a feeling like I can take care of this problem came to me.  I studied on my lunch breaks at the bookstore on how to cure allergies.  I believed in prevention and not pharmaceutical addiction.  Taking care of my grandmother for years and all the meds she took left a bad impression on me.
With some solid research and a willingness to take a risk I bought a juicer.  A juice man juicer.  I bought the Bragg’s apple cider vinegar book and all its amazing cures, that I still use til this day.  So here I was 23 yrs old ( I am now 34).  I have my juicer and decide to fast for 3 days.  What I learned was that I was toxic and I needed to clean my system.  My boyfriend at the time thought I was crazy and laughed.  But I was high just thinking of how this might change me from the inside out.  I was so depressed and miserable and I wanted to be a make up artist with good skin and not show up to work with puffy eyes and a red irritated nose.  Juicing was great for skin as well!!
“6 months later I was cured (of all my allergies).  They have never come back like they were when I was 23.  Here and there when Spring comes I will sneeze once or twice.  Everyone around me is miserable with their seasonal allergies and taking drugs for them.  Nope not me.  But I was young and still felt invincible.  I was a vegetarian for about a year not too long after I cured myself of allergies. “
I ate cheese and french fries.  Now I was suffering from constipation.  haha..
Falling off the wagon…
So finally I got my dream job working for M.A.C. cosmetics and it was stressful and I was living on my own and I was single.  I started to drink more alcohol and I was not a vegetarian anymore.  My morning breakfast was a sugary coffee of some sort and a croissant, sometimes a cinnamon roll.  Ugh…..thinking about it now I cannot believe I was not bigger.  I was a mess and my mouth paid for it.  Before I moved to New York I took advantage of my insurance and went to the dentist.  I had 11 cavities.  Yes….11.  Disgusting.
I moved to New York, mouth filled with porcelain and a new attitude.  Long story short…bad intimate relationships followed more heavy drinking and bad eating…wham….bam…..150 lbs at my heaviest, a constant bloated belly, constipated, irritable and unmotivated.  I was a mess.  To top it off my apt was burglarized and not too long after that I was homeless.
A few friends took me in and I had the couch.  No computer, a crappy job at Sephora I had a lot of time to think by myself.  My health and spirit in a prison of self pity, but again I was determined to change my situation.  I found solid work in 2010, where I am now.  I bought all my stuff back that was stolen from me and started buying kitchen machines.  I knew I had to get my health back.
Getting back on the vegan track!
I reopened books I had carried with me from working at Borders.  My juicing books and holistic books on everything from detoxing mind body and spirit.  I saved like crazy to buy a Vitamix blender, I got a food processor as a gift as I was always talikng about getting one.  I bought expensive German knives.  I started Youtubing on how to use knives correctly and also found herbalist and a vegan/raw community on Youtube.  These people have helped me in so many ways, its incredible.  But I definitely owe it to Kristina, from Fully Raw Kristina who continues to teach the amazing benefits of raw food and its amazing ability to cure mind body and spirit.
Going gluten-free
In the course of all this change for me I was experiencing some serious energy drops after I would eat.  I couldn’t stay awake and I was so dehydrated.  I couldn’t understand, I was juicing again, cutting back on meat to just fish.  Than one day it hit me.  Gluten…..my body was not responding to it in a good way anymore, if it ever really did.  Years of eating bread and pasta and sugary gluten goodies.  My body did not know how to process it.  So to use energy to break down the gluten and other food I would knock out in a hard sleep while my body spent the energy in my tummy breaking it down.  I have been gluten free since January of 2013 and lost 20 lbs, and have been incorporating a more raw food lifestyle as well.
A typical day for me:
My day starts off with watermelon juice, and either chopped apple or pineapple to follow.  I am energetic with the natural sugars and feel like I had a cup of strong coffee but no refined sugar and no dehydration.  I have a sugar tooth so staying away from refined sugar can be challenging.  I try to make raw deserts and my own nut butters.  I make my own vegan nutella using coconut sugar and vanilla extract for sweetness and flavoring.  This is my go to for when I get a sweet attack.  I’ll dip apples in it or bananas. Every Monday I grab my rolling cart and head to the store and literally pile bags of oranges, mangos, pineapple and watermelon into my cart. I get home and clean my fruit and chop it up for the next few days.
Food as medicine:
One personal thing I want to share is I have fibroids.  About 8 of them, and one connected to my uterus that causes me to bleed heavily every month and makes me mildly anemic.  Juicing has helped to incorporate greens for iron in my body that I would not normally eat daily. I believe the fibroids are there because the body manifested them.  Stress, bad eating and a negative mind created them.  Now I have to reverse their hold on my body and set them free.
“Good eating, a positive mind and a true understanding that mother earths foods are, our best medicine.  I cured my allergies, I am no longer constipated, I have energy and a healthy weight that does not hold me back from being active.  Dairy, refined sugar, and flours are killing us slowing.  We have to educate ourselves to change our minds about what health is.  And what it should feel like and look like.  You will smile more, love stronger and feel amazing.  This is what has happened to me.  Try not to judge others but be an example.  This is a real challenge as you want to share with others your small miracles.  And you can, but actions are better.  This has been my lesson.  I am so grateful for the humility as it has been a great teacher.  This life style can bring amazing vitality and a sensitivity to all living things.  That is GODLY!”
Accountability.  Responsibility.  This is where you will find the greatest strength to make changes in your life.  I had to take responsibility for my health issues and reverse the damage.  No blame.
Advice to newbie vegans
Take it slow.  If you don’t you will cheat.  Start to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your daily life.  It’s pretty simple.  It’s great because you are adding instead of feeling like you are sacrificing something out of your life.  Try not to talk too much about what you are changing, just be about it.  This will allow less stress on you while you are building confidence and learning about healthier habits for yourself.  Your actions will speak for you.  If you are looking for a community and want to share, this is great.  Seek like minded individuals who share your philosophy.  Watch videos, make a new dish once a week..a smoothie, dessert or main dish, etc etc.
“When you get in your kitchen and start looking out for #1, your labour will turn into love, I promise.”
Biggest misconception about vegans:
One of the annoying things about food transitioning is the bad “media” about ppl who go veg!  A lot of times vegetarians and vegans get a bad rep about being self-righteous and preachy.  Or controlling in some way about what they eat and begin to make others feel judged.  This does exist, but this is not about feeling labeled and excluding yourself or others.  This is about “living”.  And living honestly, with food that is going to give you continued energy and vitality.  Where disease does not exist and Dr. visits are just for a regular check up, nothing more.  You can take pride in your efforts and changes, but be grateful that you have the luxury to choose.  People naturally resist change so you have to be patient with others and yourself.
Life philosophy:
“There is no try….it’s do or do not”.  I try not to talk up my ideas before I’ve had a chance to experience them.  That goes for anything in my life.  ‘Im not perfect but everyday I get closer and closer to my goals.
Nikki’s Vegan Nutella
vegan nutella

vegan nutella