Friday, June 4, 2010

Being Vegan is EASY for me!

A long, long time ago in a land far far way (i.e. the midwest), I ate meat and cheese. Fast forward to today, roughly 20 years later, and meat and cheese are my foes, veggies and fruits are my friends, and running gives me great pleasure. So how does one go from being carnivorous to being herbalicious?

Here, as the first posts of many on eating, running, ethics, etc, I shall outline how I've come to favor and enjoy a vegan lifestyle. Like any good writer of history, I have a purpose, and my purpose is to highlight changes and thought and lifestyle that have been the catalyst for adopting and standing by a vegan diet for both moral, ethical, and health reasons.

First I must pause to outline my motivations for this blog. If anyone remembers the blog I kept long ago that was full of rambling, personal, and self-indulgent thoughts on running, writing, life, and love, you will soon find that this blog has more of a focus and an intent - dare I say a something near a thesis (or maybe the plural of thesis). In fact, my blog comes as a little bit of a reaction to Rhys Southan. This is where people who label themselves as "ex-vegans" are interviewed on the pressures and perils of being vegan, how they switched back to eating meat, and their "love" of their new meat diet. Certainly these are stories to be told, but quite often they are told in a slightly malicious tone towards veganism with a little disrespect towards freedom of choice when it come to diet. I've heard rumors that the vegan community can act more like the Catholic Church (being very dogmatic and unbending of the rules), but I've never really felt judged or put down by vegans. Perhaps this has to do with my proximity from large vegan hubs - Portland, LA, NYC. I envy the plethora of vegan restaurants in LA am always drooling over places that QuarryGirl goes. So maybe myself and these ex-vegans have a little different perspective when it comes to the vegan community, and I can totally relate with feeling ousted or outcast from a community for not adhering to laws or rules that feel totalitarian (recall some of my experiences with triathlon). Still, why the malice, why feel the need to label yourself an ex-vegan? This is what I am reacting to.

Now, here comes the uncomfortable more specific jab (and perhaps jab is not the right word - this is no fight, afterall). So what really finally drove me over the edge and down the blogging hole again was the interview with rockstar ultra runner Devon Crosby-Helms. Her interview kind of floored me. Here is her answer to the question "Does being athletic make it easier or more difficult to stay vegan?":

Much harder. Just getting in the number of calories alone on a whole food vegan diet is hard. I think it is important to note that my diet (whether or not meat is included) is predominately comprised of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils and alternative (gluten-free) grains and beans. I am gluten-intolerant and don’t eat soy. So when I was vegan, it was harder to get in the calories I needed.

Okay, so, let me diffuse this a little bit, because I need to put in in terms of veganism in general, then its prevalence in ultrarunners. So, only 1% of the US population is said to be (or label themselves) vegan. Now lets compound that with the number of people who run ultramarathons. In the eyes of the general public, vegan-ultramarathoners look doubly crazy. Lets put this in perspective by quoting from a triathlete I know (Ironman finisher), "Vegan = difficult, Ultramarathons = super difficult ,Vegan Ultramarathoner = super duper difficult." Now this is what I don't like about the way a Vegan diet is presented in Devon Crosby-Helms' interview. She perpetuates this idea because a vegan diet didn't work for her. I know people who tried the Vegan thing (live-in-boyfriend-baby's daddy included), and it wasn't right for them. I supported them with information and food tips, and once they gave up the lifestyle I didn't shun them. Sure I made a couple of jokes. Sure I was disappointed that the people closest to me "gave up," but I learned to accept that each person must decide for themselves how/what they want to eat. I've also spent much time, myself, trying to be a positive image of a vegan ultra runner. I'm no Scott Jurek, but I'd like to believe that people can look at myself as an ultrarunner and a vegan and think that a vegan diet isn't impossible.

This is by no means a dig a Devon Crosby-Helms personally. I've never met her, and I really respect her talent and hard work as an ultrarunner. I even find her story about being an ex-vegan rather interesting. Really, though, like I've said, I think she speaks with a little disapproval or negativity towards a vegan diet. It just seems unnecessary to tell a conversion story and frame veganism negatively for EVERYONE. Am I making myself clear? In the small vegan world where athletes like Scott Jurek, Michael Arnstein,and Scott Spitz (to name a few) provide a good example to disprove the naysayers or even offer different ways of living/eating that other can learn from.

So, my plea to vegans, ex-vegans, carnivores, omnivores, fruitarians, etc, is that instead of bashing each other's dietary choices, learn from each other.

And to these ends, thus begins my blog. So here is my manifesto, journal, narrative, of my vegan running adventures with tiny bits thrown in about also being a parent, partner, teacher, and closeted-about-to-come-out-of-retirement poet. I hope only to add to the different ways of BEING vegan and an ultrarunner, to expand on limited definitions and antiquated notions in order to expand the categories of identity, leaving only a multiciplity of what it means to be a vegan ultrarunner.

Now I will leave you with a picture of what I ate for breakfast:

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