How do you use your voice?

Have you ever walked by a homeless person without even looking?

I do, multiple times a day. I live in a city filled with them and I go downtown on a regular basis. Unless you live in a rural area and have never been outside your village, you know what I’m talking about.

There is this moment when you make the conscious decision to ignore. After all, there is too many of them and barely any change in my wallet.

It’s easy to forget about them after a while, you just get used to seeing people sleeping on the waiting benches in the metro (what we call the subway in Montreal).

Homeless people are usually sitting down somewhere, they may hold a sign but that’s it. No voice to be heard.

Their protest is a silent one, if it even exists.

That’s how it usually is. I say usually because something amazing happened today.

I heard a voice. Loud and clear.

During rush hour, the metro full of people, minding their own business.

A voice emerged, there was no way people could ignore it.

Yet they all did. Everyone pretended not to hear.

“I have something very important to say”.

That’s how he started his speech.

I thought great, another day, another crazy on the metro.

“I want to wish you all a great afternoon and a beautiful day”.

Ok, he’s crazy. Who wishes strangers a beautiful day? Obviously he’s on drugs or something.

The rest of his monologue went like this:

“Look at my eyes. Look at my eyes. I’m clean. I’m sober. I’m not drunk. I’ve slept outside the past two nights. My hands are burned from the cold. It hurts. I haven’t had a shower in days. I need 15$ to eat two meals and have a bed to sleep in tonight and a good shower. That’s all I’m asking you. Have a good day”

During his speech nobody moved at first. The words seemed to hang over our heads, forcing their way into our consciousness. Everyone was half-frozen, daring to look at his face in a side way glance than quickly looking away. Subtly trying to gauge what others were doing.

Was it ok to actually pay attention?

Someone made the first move, walked proudly towards him and handed him money.

Most of the people did give him cash.

The metro stopped, the homeless man left with a warm thank you, on to the next train.

I looked around, seeing some laugh quietly to themselves, others remaining as passive as ever.

I realized, that homeless man had more dignity than all of us combined, even more than those who silently handed him money.

How many of you, in his situation, would stand up and state the facts, make your voice heard loud and clear?

I never thought about it before today. If I was homeless, I’d be those kinds of people who hope silently for better days, of being seen by generous souls.

How sad is it that?

I don’t want to be like that. Too ashamed of using my own voice in a situation of life and death? Literally (it’s cold enough to die of hypothermia in Montreal).

The truth is as humans we have a unique tool that no other specie on the planet has, our voice. Our ability to speak up. To get heard.

Both literally and figuratively. Eyes reading words or ears picking up sound. A brain to put it together.

I take this gift for granted.

There will sadly always be more reasons to speak up than to be silent. Yet, we have the indecency of forgetting all too often that we not only have a voice, but can use our voice.

Of all the -isms waiting to be talked about, there is one that is particularly important to me. One that should be important to all of us.

Speciesism.

Why should we care about non-human animals when our own specie is plagued with all forms of oppression?

Because while our voices may be oppressed, we still have them.

They don’t have any. 

Speaking up about them, speaking up for them is looked down upon, even by vegans.

Being a *gasp* militant vegan is supposedly bad for the cause. No one will want to join us if we tell them what they’re doing is wrong.

“Good vegans” should be content with just being vegan. Stay on the sidelines, your sole existence is a silent protest. That is enough.

Good vegans are like the homeless sitting on the sidewalk. People walk past them fast, avoiding them as much as possible. Once in a while, they glance at their sign out of the corner of their eye.

Militant vegans are like the homeless man in this story. They look for an audience, state the facts. They make people uncomfortable, make them giggle nervously.

In the end, which gets the results they need?

Do you use your voice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Credit: David Blackwell Creative Commons 2.0

Are you ignorant?

Chances are you would be offended if someone would ask you that to your face.

I would be too.

It’s somehow shameful to not know. It’s frowned upon. Not socially acceptable.

I will however say this:

I was ignorant, I am ignorant and I will be ignorant.

Unless you’re an omniscient entity, you are ignorant.

No matter how much I learn, how much I’m willing to learn, the sum of what I don’t know will outweigh my accumulated knowledge until the day I die.

Albert Einstein once said “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know”.

This fact of life, instead of being celebrated, causes anguish and fear in most people.

Are you one of them?

How hard is it for you to simply say “I don’t know”?

Why is it so difficult?

I think it comes down to being afraid of being devalued. In many ways it is similar to admitting that you’re poor.

Rightly so, besides what you own, what do you think people judge you on?

To make matters worse, we are led to believe that the two are linked.

The richer you are, the more likely you are to have a higher education. On the flip side, the more you know, better are your chances of getting rich.

That’s the general schema people adhere to.

When you see the world and yourself through this lens, it can be hard or even impossible to not only admit to others but to yourself : “I don’t know”.

Ironically, the first step in learning anything is accepting that you don’t know and having the willingness to either take in the new information presented to you, or seek it out.

What if I told you that there is a way to save lives and the environment?

Would you wish to know more?

The short and reasonable answer would be yes.

However, nearly everyone will say no once they get where I am going with this.

The truth is, we all don’t want to take in new information that either

a) confronts our already established beliefs

b) confronts our comfort

c) confronts our embarrassing lack of knowledge

d) all of the above

I’m guilty of this. I have absolutely no interest in learning how to play guitar.

a) I think that I will suck at it

b) I’d rather read a good book instead of practicing

c) I’m embarrassed by my poor coordination and tone deafness

I can’t help it but hope things would be different by adding dramatic facts. A knowledge that “saves lives”, “the environment” and so on, is still not impervious to willful ignorance.

We choose to not know more about many topics. I have no problem with that. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to try to learn everything under the sun.

That is unless someone’s and everyone’s livelihood depends on it.

In that scenario, what would you chose?

I can tell you what I chose for years.

I was the one who would never watch slaughterhouses footage.

I believed that cows were different from other animals and they just produced milk without having babies.

I thought leather was a special material only found in some places and that was what made it expensive. (I had no idea it came from animals)

I purposefully didn’t seek out knowledge about all these things. To be honest, I didn’t even think for one second that it was a possibility. You know, looking up stuff, learning about the milk I drank everyday, the meat I had on my plate or the shoes I wore everyday.

Nobody told me it was something that I should learn. Instead I only heard the opposite consensus, everyone thinks it’s something that they shouldn’t know.

It is our human lot to be ignorant.

It is our human responsibility to not be willfully so.

*Credit: rstrawser Creative Commons 2.0

 

The importance of food porn

I like food.

No, let me correct that.

I love food.

Have you ever wondered who are these weird people who spend time looking at pictures of acai bowls, avocado on toast and stacks of pancakes?

That would be me.

Yep. I’m coming clean.

If you’ve ever said “oh I forgot to eat lunch, I was too busy”, there’s a good chance you’ll never understand me. But that’s fine, the feeling is mutual.

I’m writing this for all the other freaks out there who might feel ashamed for spending so much time liking #foodporn pics on Instagram and whose idea of a good time is watching “What I eat in a day” vlogs.

You can keep your chin up and continue double tapping on those gluten free multicolored frosted baked doughnuts. Go ahead I know you’ve been waiting for it.

In this day and age, 34.9% of US adults are obese and 53% are reportedly watching their diet.

That word “diet” is on everyone’s lips the second you step outside or turn on the TV.

An online food obsession craze was bound to happen.

Every negative has to have a positive.

You can’t go without food. If you don’t have it in your stomach it will find it’s way into your mind.

You may ask: “How is that a good thing?”

Food is definitely problematic for North Americans. Too much of it, most people would say.

Food may be the problem but it is also THE solution.

Food porn will save lives in the years to come. I firmly believe it.

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I like saviors with sprinkles Don’t you?

Shh. Shh. Don’t speak.

I know, I know.

There is no way in hell that oreo chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles will solve the obesity crisis in America.

I haven’t gone insane yet.

It all comes down to the one thing that people who like to see cronuts and elaborate nicecream towers have in common (besides their arguable weirdness). They are likely to be the kind who “live to eat” rather than “eat to live”.

It may seem counter intuitive but a study that came out last summer in Obesity Research Journal, found that people who are adventurous eaters had a lower BMI compared to more conservative eaters.

The first step into being a more adventurous eater?

Looking at a variety of food and watching other people prepare/eat food that you would “never” try.

I was liking overexposed pictures of carefully tossed kale salads shot at just the perfect angle, way before I ever ate one, let alone made one.

Once you start getting into it, looking at food porn that is, something odd will start happening.

You will find that bright colorful pictures are more aesthetically pleasing. No, really.

What’s bright and colorful on a plate?

Fruits. Veggies. Plants.

You know, those “things” that you’ve been avoiding for way too long.

Don’t want to eat them but gosh do they make pretty pictures. They look good in video too.

One day it’ll happen, you’ll be at the grocery store, strolling along mindlessly when you’ll find yourself facing that scary place. The produce isle.

When you start going down the rabbit hole (pun intended), it’s hard to get back.

Believe me, I’ve been vegan for 3 years.

Everything we see day in and day out has an impact on our unconscious which in turn slowly starts to seep in our daily reality.

Everyone could benefit from a healthy dose of food porn.

 

Photo credits:

*Will write for Food: Ritesh Nayak Creative Commons 2.0

*Vegan cupcakes: Shawna McGregor-King Creative Commons 2.0

Breaking Up with Veganism

Has veganism treated you badly? Are you considering parting ways with your hard headed guilt tripping socially inept partner?

If so, know that you’re not the only one. As for myself I’ll continue to put up with the occasional frustrations of our ever evolving relationship but a whooping 30 million adults in the US have given up. Are you one of them?

Before you consider totally severing all ties, I urge you to give veganism another chance. I don’t care if it’s been years since you’ve last crossed paths.

*But you don’t understand*

“Veganism betrayed me”

“Veganism made empty promises”

“Veganism didn’t get along with anyone in my life”

Now, I hear you. I know. You’ve had a tumultuous experience together. You have your reticence.

Were you lured by promises that it would treat your body right? Help you lose weight? Or was it the luscious green of all the salads that attracted you at first glance?

Was it the cute little faces of cuddly farm animals that seduced you?

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Courtesy of Jesse Gillies Creative Commons 2.0 License

Yes, this evil manipulator will use every trick in the book to get your interest. 

Your family warned you of how dangerous this relationship could be.

“You won’t get enough protein.”

“What about B12?”

But you didn’t listen. Did you?

I know I didn’t.

Now you’ve came to your senses, and you ask:

“Why should I even listen to you?”

The answer is simple. Because deep down you want to.

You never forgot how good veganism made you feel in the honeymoon phase. You’ve been dreaming of feeling this way again. Nothing compares to that rush of being in a relationship that your mom disapproves of. Add to that its trendy and sexy glow that you’ve been missing ever since.

What now?

What should you do?

As a self processed expert in the arena of all kinds of relationship troubles, I’ll give you some tips.

#1 Get to know each other before you start talking about commitment

If you jumped head first into the relationship the first time, you wouldn’t be the only one. 65% of former vegetarians/vegans report getting involved only after a few days or a few weeks. Needless to say, a third of them didn’t make it past 3 months and 50% have quit in less than a year.

Don’t be a part of those sad statistics, get informed and take your time before you consider letting veganism enter into your life.

Sure, health (58% mentioned it as their motivation) is an important part in your attraction but it shouldn’t be only about that. Ethics and environmental issues are the less exciting parts of the relationship but they deserve respect. Look. Into. It.

#2 Don’t be too quick to introduce yourselves at social events

Now, I know it may be tempting to just come out and hope for the best but if you’re inclined to care about others’ opinion, wait it out. Explain that you’re simply experimenting.  At least during the “getting to know each other phase” (see above). Your relationship will be stronger for it.

#3 Variety is the spice of life

I’m not suggesting that you should cheat, but you really need to look over at all the options that you do have. Nothing is worse than reliving yesterday over and over on your plate. If you have internet and are reading this, you have no excuse. Google *vegan food porn* (you’re welcome)

#4 Join a support group

Do you ever feel so alone that you’re starting to contemplate paying someone just so you can eat those baby lambs’ legs and eat with someone else than your sad reflection on the back of your spoon?

Don’t fret (and resort to such drastic murderous tendencies), support groups for those of us who are in this crazy relationship with veganism abounds. It’s 2016 after all.

There’s a community for anyone out there. Even those who eat baby lambs *gasp*

Join your local vegan/vegetarian Facebook groups. Find other desperate souls just like you.

#5 Stay faithful during hard times

Every relationship has its ups and downs, this one is no different. You come home and don’t feel like cooking yet again. The dishes from your last culinary fails are piling up in the sink. You’ve gained another pound from last’s week sudden realization that oreos are vegan.

Breathe.

It’ll be alright.

Frustrations are a healthy part of this relationship you are building.

Talk to your new friends on Facebook. Ask questions. You’ll get through the rough patches.

I have and you can too.

Links

Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans

Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans -qualitative findings-

*Top Image courtesy Take Back Your Health Conference Creative Commons 2.0 License

Are vegans all crazy?

Are you crazy?

Stop kidding.

You’re not vegan.

Stop being silly. 

Those were my mom’s exact words when I told her I was now vegan. Questioning my sanity was her first instinct. It turns out she may have been right all along.

We’ve had the “butter is healthy” and the “lettuce is worse than bacon (for the environment)” but while articles undermining the plant based lifestyle indirectly are nothing new, our mental health is now directly questioned.

Not too long ago, Women’s health magazine made headlines claiming that “vegetarianism can come with some unexpected side effects” those of which being mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and even OCD. Even though the article is a prime example of bad journalism, it raises an interesting topic.

The hypothesis posited by my mom was

  1. You are crazy thus you’ve decided to become vegan
  2. You’re not crazy so you can’t be vegan and you’re making a bad joke

Now, we all know that if being crazy lead to veganism, the world’s population would be near 100% plant based by now. All jokes aside, is the contrary true?

Are all vegans crazy?

If so which comes first?

Are you vegan because you’re crazy? Or do you get crazy from being vegan?

Women’s health magazine poorly tries to make it seem as though the latter is correct. Upon reading the German study that is the basis for their claims (the rest being purely opinions by authors trying to sell their -you guessed it- anti-veg books), it is clear that their findings actually supports the former.

It says right there in the conclusion:

our results are more consistent with the view that the experience of a mental disorder increases the probability of choosing a vegetarian diet, or that psychological factors influence both the probability of choosing a vegetarian diet and the probability of developing a mental disorder

Be it a cautionary note to all journalists (or anyone) to skip to the actual results section and not rely on the abstract if you want to boast that you’ve “read a study”.

My mom was right, I may have had a mental illness (that she wasn’t aware of) making it more likely for me to become vegan.

Thankfully I don’t but if you do have one, don’t worry, foregoing meat might actually help you.

A study made in California looked at the impact of diet on mood in a community of Seventh Day Adventists (chosen to control for lifestyle) and they found that vegetarians reported less depression, anxiety and stress as well as a lower level of mood disturbance than their meat-eaters counterparts.

 Bottom line is, some of us vegans were crazy way before we started eating “just plants” and for the rest of us, we can rest assured that we’re not on a fast ride to crazytown.

*Disclaimer: the use of the word crazy is not meant to be derogatory 

*Links

1- Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey

2-Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults