Sunday, January 29, 2012

Things I Hate About Being Vegan

Vegan Fairy Kindness
Sometimes I wish the vegan fairy would just sprinkle kindness everywhere and banish misinformation and extremists.

I love being vegan, eating a healthy plant-based diet, and living a kind and cruelty-free life.  Nevertheless, there are some aspects of being vegan that I dislike.  I don't like complainers, vegan or otherwise, but I'm hoping that people who are more experienced vegans will be kind enough to give me some advice and push me in the right direction through their comments below.  I recently wrote about my concerns about lack of family/friend support and lack of support from the vegan community in my article Is Vegan a Dirty Word?, so I won't revisit my dislike of the vegan police, but I have noticed that there are some aspects of being vegan that are frustrating and difficult, so I'd like to air these frustrations with the hope that others will offer advice.  Stay tuned for my upcoming article about all of the things I love about being vegan.

1.  Unnecessary videos or graphic images of animal cruelty.

I understand that the point is shock value.  Some people may need these videos and photos to truly understand how disturbing animal cruelty is, but I find it repulsive when seemingly harmless links lead to unexpected images of horror.  I am doubtful that the shock value really does much to convert most people to veganism long-term.  If anything, I think the constant images of horror makes veganism seem less approachable and makes vegans seem like extremists.

2.  Determining what's vegan and what's not is difficult.

I mostly eat unprocessed foods now, which is great.  I also am noticing that an increasing number of packaged foods clearly say whether they're vegan or not.  However, the process for determining whether a product is vegan or not seems to be Google, check forums, and contact the manufacturer.  The problem is that Google and online forums don't always seem to have firm proof and often rely on anecdotal evidence.  Contacting companies takes a long time and doesn't always yield clear answers.  Plus, even if you know most of the hidden animal ingredients, it can still be hard to know if an ingredient might not be vegan.  For example, I learned in this vegan forum that vegans need to source D3, and apparently companies don't necessarily know what's in their food.  Prior to reading that forum, I had no idea that the product in question might not be vegan.

3.  Companies are less than eager to answer questions.

I contacted my first company a week ago to try to find out if the sugar used in a particular product is vegan or not.  I never got any acknowledgement from the company at all.  My awesome vegan mentor @xlibrarygeekx suggested that there really isn't a great rule of thumb to determine whether sugar in a product uses bone char, and he suggested that it's better to just avoid a product if you can't figure it out.  This makes me sad because I'm always looking to expand my vegan options and would be able to make an informed decision if these companies would just write back.  I'm thinking either big companies don't know what's in their products, or they don't care because the vegan segment of the population isn't large enough or doesn't have enough power to matter.  The lack of cooperation by manufacturers is also a problem for people with food allergies, but in these cases companies appear to do the bare minimum to comply with the law.

4.  Many vegan resources or health/diet/lifestyle websites make claims without scientific proof.

A vegan blogger suggested that she only uses coconut oil because it's the healthiest.  I started researching that claim because her website didn't explain why this oil was superior compared to other oils.  Ultimately, after I wasted a lot of time, I discovered that it's probably not the best, although there are a lot of people out there spreading propaganda.  Many aspects of veganism or healthy diets are not exact sciences, but it's counterproductive when vegans and others in these industries make unsubstantiated claims that we are just supposed to take at face value.  I feel especially frustrated that some of these unsubstantiated claims could actually be harmful to one's health.

5.  PETA is one of the best vegan resources!? Really?

I understand that we must take every step possible toward cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly, but I find some of PETA's tactics morally and ethically objectionable.  In addition to some of it's politics or strategies involving animals, I find PETA's treatment of people horrendous.  I believe in in non-violence, compassion, and I am against the killing of all beings, animals or people.  As objectionable as many of PETA's practices are, nothing was more offensive to me than the "death by chocolate/bite Osama Bin Laden's head off" campaign.  The people of Afghanistan and the world had suffered so much under Bin Laden's terrorist reign, military members risked their lives to end that reign, military families in the US and elsewhere worried about whether their loved ones would come back alive, all of the suffering of September 11, and Bin Laden's family no doubt suffered after he was killed.  After all of this, PETA treated the whole thing as if it were some type of big joke, reopening the wounds and offending me and many others.  It's pretty hard for me to believe that PETA engaged in the Bid Laden campaign in order to accomplish something for animals.    The whole campaign reflected a total lack of the compassion that PETA supposedly promotes.  PETA's many snafus are more incidents that make vegans look like extremist weirdos.  I didn't support PETA when I was a vegetarian, and I don't support PETA as a vegan.

So I'll step down from my soapbox, but I am hopeful that maybe somebody out there has ideas about how to deal with these frustrations.  I love being a vegan, and given that I was a lactose intolerant vegetarian, I don't have any intention to be anything other than vegan.  Any ideas about effective ways to contact companies?  I hate being on hold forever and I'm tired of getting no response at all.  And what about compassionate charities that aren't walking contradictions or corrupt?  Does such a thing exist?  And is veganism a word?  My spellchecker doesn't recognize it.

Posted as part of: Best Posts of the WeekPink Saturday, Weekend Wander.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stylish Vegan Shoes for Women

One of my challenges since going vegan has been to find good vegan shoes.  Many of the vegan shoe options that I found when I first started looking were not so stylish.  I'm not a big shopper or one of those girls who has to have a million pairs of shoes.  I do demand that my shoes look good, feel great, and any future shoes I buy must be cruelty-free shoes.  Prior to becoming vegan I wore leather shoes, but now that those are wearing out, I want to switch to vegan shoes.  I'm loving the options that are available.  It does take a little extra work to find cruelty-free or vegan shoes, but these shoes make up for it with extra sexy style.  Here are some of my favorite cruelty-free shoes that I've found so far (click the pictures to see where to buy), but feel free to share vegan shoe links, opinions about these shoes, or ideas about other vegan shoes in the comments below.

Orange is my favorite color.  I also love really high heels and vegan high heels.  Vegan high heels aren't so easy to find, so I'll take this nice platform espadrille wedge with vegan "leather".  I can totally imagine myself wearing these with a short denim skirt or a rolled up pair of straight leg, medium denim jeans.

One concern about some vegan shoes is that they are bad for the environment because they use limited resources or are not biodegradable.  I love that these vegan shoes are also made of recycled materials.  Click the picture to read the manufacturer's views about animal rights and environmental protection.  These are shoes you can feel good about buying for several reasons.

The color of these shoes is just gorgeous.  These vegan athletic shoes are proof that you can look good and be cruelty-free while you work out.

These paisley vegan rain boots are wild and crazy, but I love them.  One of my favorite lawyers wears cowboy boots every day, which I always interpreted to mean that he doesn't care what other people think.  If I got these vegan boots, I'd feel sexy, powerful and impervious to rain and other people's fashion rules.  How can you say no to vegan boots that are cute and 60% off?  I might have to say yes, even though my mother, Crackula and Ricky would all tell me no.

These vegan boots are for a completely different occasion than the other pair.  I will be the sexiest vegan ever when I wear these for a night on the town.  Pointy toes, pointy heels and cruelty-free.  You can never go wrong with a black pair of vegan heels or knee-high boots.

I love wearing red shoes with a black suit.  These ruby slippers are sexy vegan shoes that I might dare to wear to work.  What do you think?

Have a heart and wear cute heart shoes.  I love red shoes and shoes with hearts on them, so add that to cruelty-free shoes, and there's really not much to dislike, especially since the pattern looks kinda giraffey and cool.  The only problem is that I've never spent $95 on shoes in my whole life.  Maybe I'll wait for a sale.

Posted as part of: Blue Monday, Much Love Monday, Rednesday.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Is Vegan a Dirty Word?

Sometimes I feel lonely in a world of meat-eaters, but I'm meeting some great online vegan friends and have a little support from some of my existing friends.

I recently went to my new favorite vegetarian restaurant in Miami.  Want to know what it is?  Stay tuned.  This restaurant is actually vegan, but it's not advertised as such.  It's a curious question why a restaurant would not say that it's vegan when it is.  I think part of the problem is the lack of support from outside of the vegan world.  The other problem is the bad apples within the vegan world.  Sometimes "vegetarian" just seems so much more palatable because it doesn't come with as much drama.

When I first became vegetarian, I felt so alone.  No one supported my choice except my friend Akash.  He was already much more familiar with the idea of vegetarianism, since it's embedded in India's religion and culture.  I felt so relieved to have one supportive friend because I was a teenager at the time, and teenagers are not as tough as they pretend to be.  Now I'm turning 31 soon, and I've been vegan for almost two months.  Although I feel amazing and love being vegan, I am right back where I was when I became vegetarian.  People are not supportive of my choice to go vegan, but this time I'm angry about the lack of support.

Vegan Problems: Lack of Support from Friends and Family:

I haven't told most of my family that I've gone vegan because most of the ones I've told have been not-so-supportive.  Crackula thinks I went vegan just to sabotage dinners with HairShare.  Another friend said that she doesn't think she can support me being vegan and encouraged me to eat animal products.  My mother is supportive, but she keeps "forgetting" that I don't eat animal products.  I haven't told my father, but he won't be supportive because he has never been supportive of me being vegetarian.  Ricky has probably been the most supportive.  He told me that he would like to become vegetarian, so I think he understands.  I have not told other friends, family, or acquaintances, but I plan to tell many of them when I invite them to go to a vegan waffle party at Sweat Records later this month.  Many vegans have similar experiences of a general lack of support for their veganism.  One person wrote on Twitter that it was easier for him to tell his parents that he is gay than it was to tell them he's vegan.  It's so sad, especially given that most people go vegan for health and/or ethical reasons.  Aren't those reasons that everyone should support?

Vegan Problems: Lack of Support from the Vegan Community:

I can deal with a lack of support from my friends and family, but I am shocked by other people's experiences that I'm reading about on the Internet.  I read poor Happy Herbivore's nightmare about the vegan police coming to get her.  I'm horribly ashamed that people acted that way.  And then there's Tasha's story of becoming an ex-vegan.  Many people supported her, but many people lost their minds and their manners.  When a few bad apples take a holier-than-thou approach, it hurts the vegan cause as a whole.  Vegans suddenly get labeled as crazy people that no one wants to be around, just like religious zealots.

My approach to veganism is to do the best I can.  I'm not psychotic about it.  I try to avoid all animal products, but I believe you have to be reasonable.  No matter how hard anyone tries, all vegans at some point will accidentally eat an animal product because none of us are perfect, even though some people think that they are better than everyone else.  Foods will be mislabeled.  Restaurants will be mistaken.  People will forget to check an ingredient.

I think that people can benefit by eating more plant-based foods and less animal products, but I think that everyone needs to approach others with compassion.  Vegans who who are nasty to others are not vegans.  These people seem to have forgotten the reason for adopting a vegan diet.  Veganism is all about compassion: compassion for animals, compassion for the planet, compassion for other people, and self-compassion.  If you become so blinded by your dogma that you have lost sight of compassion, then I will personally revoke your vegan card.  Vegan is only a dirty word if you make it such.

Posted as part of: Best Posts of the WeekMuch Love Monday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Does Diary Cause Mucus?

Twice since going vegan I've had dreams about eating dairy and then getting very sick.  It was a fatal attraction: delicious cheese that left me with stomach problems and unable to breathe.

As those of you who read my Buddhist blog know, I'm a lawyer, not a doctor.  If you have a medical problem, you should see a doctor, rather than relying on what non-doctors say, but even if you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, there are still ways that you can complement the work of traditional medicine by making lifestyle improvements.  I've experienced some great improvements in my health since going vegan about a month ago.  I wasn't really expecting many changes in my health other than maybe some weight loss, but I was shocked by what I discovered only days after I became a vegan.

Three days after becoming a vegan I woke up and felt strange.  I stayed in bed for a few minutes trying to figure out what was different compared to every other day that I woke up over the last six or seven years.  The difference was that this was the first day that I could remember waking up and not feeling tired.  I actually felt refreshed and healthy, which I hadn't felt in a very long time.  For the last few years I've been waking up in the middle of the night, choking, coughing, and having trouble breathing.  I couldn't live a life of CPAP machines, constant doctors visits, and constant worry.  I had bronchitis for about three years and was diagnosed as possibly having asthma.  I was 28 years old and extremely sick.

Does Dairy Cause Mucus?

I began to research why going vegan helps breathing problems.  One thing I discovered is that drinking dairy and soy products can lead to an increased sensation of congestion or mucus, even if these beverages do not actually produce mucus.  Cow's milk can lead to mucus if the drinker has an allergy.  Dairy may also make mucus thicker, according to the Mayo Clinic.  According to my doctor, Dr. Soling Li, who is the best doctor in South Florida, drinking very cold beverages can exacerbate asthma or other breathing problems.  Of course, you always drink milk when it is cold.  You do the math.

I can't say that dairy is bad for your health or that avoiding dairy improves your health.  What I can say is that you will definitely feel better if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance and you stop eating dairy.  I can also say that if you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods, you will be healthier.  I have felt amazing since quitting dairy, so I don't think I'll ever go back to my old way of eating.  At the same time that I gave up dairy I went completely vegan, gave up most processed foods, and started eating vegetables and whole grains.  I also started taking vitamin supplements.  I really can't tell you how many years I was vegetarian and never really ate a green vegetable.  The bottom line is, do what feels right for you and what fits within your ethics.  I am just filled with joy about being vegan, even if other people in my life don't feel the same way about my decision.  (More on that later.)

What health benefits have you received from your vegan diet?  If you're not already vegan, do you think going vegan would improve your health?  Since I don't know so many vegans, I'd appreciate your comments below.

Posted as part of: Best Posts of the Week, Share the JoyWeekend Wander.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Do Vegans Eat?

This is a question that I often get.  When I first decided to start eating vegan, Crackula yelled, "Just great!  Now there's nothing you can eat right before we go to a restaurant with my parents!"  My experience at that restaurant wasn't so good, thanks to the bacon soup, but I don't think my diet is really so restricted.  The simple answer to the question is that vegans don't eat anything that comes from animals or animal products.  They also don't eat anything that is produced through animal cruelty.

This chart, which I found via I Love Charts, gives the whole story:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vegan Restaurant Review: Lirio's Italian Restaurant in Weston, FL

On Christmas, Crackula, Crackula's parents HairShare, my mother, and I went to Lirio's Italian Restaurant in Weston, FL.  This was the first time I went to a restaurant since going vegan, so I wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly.  I muted my computer volume and braved the website.  I decided upon pasta primavera.  After eating there, I realized that because the pasta is "homemade", it's probably not vegan, although it's possible that they might buy whole wheat pasta that happens to be vegan.  Being a new vegan, I'm not used to having to constantly over-analyze ingredients yet.

Everyone was eating cheese-laden salads.  I was pretty sure that it would be nearly impossible to avoid cheese, since all of their salads contain cheese or other animal products.  I wasn't going to count on Lirio's to know what was in their salad dressings.  They have two soups listed on their menu plus a soup of the day.  I asked the waiter what was in each of the three soups, but he told me that one of the two soups listed was the soup of the day.  Ummmm?  Sigh.  I explained my concerns and he said that they had minestrone soup, which contained no animal products whatsoever.  I ordered that before ordering my pasta.

What ultimately arrived at our table can only be described as bacon soup.  The waiter had warned me that the pasta e fagioli soup was made with bacon, but he assured me that there was no bacon in the minestrone.  When he came back, I complained about the large chunks of bacon in my supposedly vegan soup, and he said he would check with the kitchen.  Turns out the people in the kitchen mixed the two soups.  On the bright side, our waiter was extremely apologetic.  The second half of HairShare was cawing in the background about people that are allergic to bacon, but the waiter astutely said that he was more concerned about vegetarians.  It's funny that a Jewish woman whose son dated a vegetarian couldn't come up with any better reason not to eat bacon other than an "allergy".  Can you really be allergic to bacon?  The first half of HairShare then began arguing about whether they had a friend who actually is allergic to bacon.  That's when I inserted my mental earplugs.

After waiting a very long time, the main course came.  What I received was wheat angel hair, drowning in olive oil, seasoned with garlic, and a few stalks of what looked like frozen zucchini, squash, and carrots.  The flavor was OK, but there was way to much oil and the lack of vegetables made me think that this wasn't really a primavera.  The dish looked as if the kitchen ran out of vegetables, so the workers over-compensated with oil.

Vegetarian Restaurant Review of Lirio's: Other than the bacon soup, the food is great if you avoid the primavera.  The salads are delicious, although they are not the type of salad you could have for a meal.  The Tortellini Pepe is a must have.  This restaurant has a much larger number of vegetarian dishes than the average Italian restaurant, plus the waiters don't look at you like you are from another planet if you tell them you're vegetarian.  On the down side, Lirio's serves a lot of meat, including veal.

Vegan Restaurant Review of Lirio's:  Don't expect to find anything you can eat that is really in the realm of healthy.  There are two vegetarian dishes that do not contain milk, cream, cheese, or butter, but looking back, they probably contain eggs.  These dishes do not have enough protein.  I would have been so happy with an eggless whole wheat pasta with beans, spinach, garlic, and tomatoes lightly sauteed in olive oil.  Such a thing does not exist on the menu, and although the waiters seem to care about dietary concerns/restrictions, the owner never said anything to us about the bacon soup, and the kitchen seems oblivious to the fact that not everyone eats pork.  Although you could maybe have something specially made for you that is vegan, the vegan pickings on the menu are slim to nonexistent.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recipe: Vegan Knishes Stuffed with Sweet Potato, Broccoli, and Arugula

Savory and sweet. Nutritious yet naughty. A delicious afternoon of family bonding. Knish is the dish!

I always thought that knish was spelled kanish (the way it's pronounced) and that the plural was kanishes, but as I researched today, I learned that I have been wrong this whole time. Please don't call the spelling police on me! I'm not Jewish, I don't speak Yiddish, and I probably wouldn't have even known about the existence of knishes if it weren't for my friend Crackula.

What is a knish? A knish is the most delicious and flaky dumpling that is filled with yummy deliciousness, usually in the form of potatoes. Crackula constantly eats prepackaged knishes from the supermarket, but those are often made with mystery ingredients that I don't recognize as real food. I had a day off today, so I decided to try my hand at a homemade knish recipe. I wimped out and used canned potatoes that I had in the house, but you could always boil potatoes and add a small amount of sugar to the sweet potatoes.

Vegan Knishes Stuffed with Sweet Potato, Broccoli, and Arugula

© Lola Felix of Please don't reprint without permission.

  • 1 medium onion
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing knish tops
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 40 ounce can of cut sweet potatoes in syrup, drained
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of white potatoes, drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Morton's Nature's Seasons seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Puree garlic and onion in a food processor, then cook the mixture in olive oil until slightly sweet. Add chopped broccoli and cook for about two more minutes.
  2. Puree sweet potatoes. Set aside.
  3. Puree white potatoes. Set aside.
  4. Add about a fourth of the pureed sweet potatoes to the pureed white potatoes. Mix well and then set aside.
  5. Chop arugula using the food processor and add to the remaining plain pureed sweet potatoes. Add garlic/onion/broccoli mixture, 1 teaspoon salt, and soy sauce.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Make a dough with the mixed portion of white and sweet potatoes by adding the turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme, Morton's Nature's Seasons, baking soda, cornstarch, and flour. Add 1/4 cup of water and knead, adding more water, as necessary, to form a soft dough that is moist but not to sticky.
  8. Flour your work surface and knead the dough slightly.
  9. Roll out the dough until it is a rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick. Dust with flour if dough becomes too sticky.
  10. Cut dough into 8-12 squares.
  11. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the seasoned sweet potato mixture onto each square and fold in half.
  12. Seal the edges of each square by pressing with your fingers or a fork dipped in flour.
  13. Lightly grease glass bakeware with olive oil. Place the knishes in the bakeware and lightly brush the top of each knish with olive oil.
  14. Poke the tops of the knishes a few times with a fork so that the knishes don't burst in the oven.
  15. Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when the crust is golden brown.
  16. Allow knishes to cool and then serve with your favorite mustard for dipping. These knishes are also delicious cold, if they stick around that long.
These knishes are sweet and savory and delicious. Between the pan frying and baking, the broccoli is sweet and almost caramelized and the crust is firm but just melts in your mouth. Crackula did quality control and he approved. Meanwhile, I barely had time to let these cool before my mother was digging in. I ate one with just plain yellow mustard, which is a wonderful trick Crackula taught me.

If you are not a big fan of arugula, consider using spinach or other veggies, although you might want to add a dash of fresh ground pepper to the filling to replace the delicious peppery flavor of the arugula. As you can see, my knishes were "rustic" looking (aka rough around the edges), but you can always trim the edges of your knishes before baking if you don't like to live dangerously.

I had some leftover filling, which my mother says she'll turn into latkes tomorrow, but I'm not waiting for those. Right away I dug into a knish with yellow mustard for dipping and a side salad of mixed organic greens and sauteed chickpeas. Yum! Being vegan is pretty darn good today.

Posted as part of: A River of Stones, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Best Posts of the Week, Organge Tuesday.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Vegan Blog and Why I Became Vegan

I only know one vegan in real life.  Sure, I read vegan blogs and have heard about vegan celebrities, but Morris is my only vegan friend.  He is the most badass, kind, and funny person that I know.  One day at work Morris asked me why I was not a vegan.  All of the reasons that I was a vegetarian are the same reasons that anyone should be vegan.  After all, the dairy and egg industries also kill and harm animals.  Morris told me to just go vegan.  I told him that I liked cheese too much.  He said that he loved cheese too, but that he gave it up because it was the right thing to do.  That conversation stayed in my mind for the next few years.

Not too long after that I got so sick from drinking a milkshake.  I went to my doctor and she diagnosed me as being lactose intolerant in the middle of my life.  Even that didn't stop me.  I avoided milk, but I still went crazy with cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products, and I felt the worst I've ever felt.  I was 28 years old, vegetarian, and I felt old, tired, and sick.  My doctor told me I might have asthma, I had constant bronchitis for about three years, and I never had any energy.  I still didn't get the message.

I didn't even need to go vegan.  What I needed to do was stop eating the processed junk that I was eating, give up the dairy that was causing stomach problems and excess mucus, and start eating vegetables and whole grains.  I have been vegetarian during years that being a vegetarian was definitely not cool or popular.  I even ate turkey and fish for one year so that non-vegetarians would view my diet as "healthier", but meanwhile I felt worse and worse.

I always viewed vegans as these weirdos who engaged in exercises of futility.  I also didn't understand then and still don't understand why people who don't eat animal products try so hard to model their foods after animal products.  I was a vegetarian who told people that I would never marry a vegetarian and would never want my hypothetical children to be vegetarians because it's too hard.  I was ashamed to talk about being vegetarian because I was so unhealthy.

It finally hit me when I was attending a cheese-laden, vegetarian potluck at the Buddhist center.  A girl there was trying to figure out which dishes might be vegan.  After the event, I heard her inviting others to a restaurant because there really wasn't much she could eat at the potluck.  I decided that I would bring something vegan to the next potluck.  I spent weeks thinking about what to make, but after a while I realized that almost everything I already cooked could easily be made vegan.  The dish that I ended up taking was a huge hit because it was simple, nutritious and not covered in cheese.

I then went on a diet and started exercising in an attempt to get healthier.  I started adding more leafy greens and legumes to my diet.  During my diet I realized that toppings like cheese, butter, and sour cream were adding a lot of extra calories that I didn't need, so I cut them out.  I was amazed by how much better I felt and how I no longer had to count calories or starve myself to lose weight.  The turning point was when I read The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone.  I highly recommend this book for anyone thinking of going vegetarian or vegan or just thinking about getting healthier.  This book is the single most life-changing book I've read, and if you read my Buddhist blog, you know that The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron occupied the number one spot on my list for a lot of years.

Silverstone suggests that you don't have to go crazy.  You can just flirt with reducing your consumption of animal products.  I like that idea because it makes going vegan less scary.  She doesn't impose impossible rules on people or make becoming vegan too overwhelming.  Her website, The Kind Life, is a great resource for anyone flirting with veganism or thinking of making some dietary changes to include more plant-based foods.

In December 2011 I became a vegan.  I now feel great.  My sleep apnea, asthma, and bronchitis are gone.  I have lost more than 10 pounds with little effort.  I wake up every morning feeling refreshed and energetic.  Best of all, I'm eating the most delicious food of my whole life and starting to switch over to cruelty-free products in the rest of my life.

I hope that you more experienced vegans will help me along the way, share your knowledge, and offer me tips and tricks.  Speaking of, what are your favorite vegan things?