Monday, 8 October 2007

Healthy living Seminar

I will soon be holding a yoga weekend here in my local town. I was asked by some of the girls I teach yoga to if I could do something over a weekend as they really love practicing yoga. I am the only teacher for some distance and it is a real compliment that I have a core group who are so involved. I decided that I should involve some yoga philosophy into the weekend and so during lunch on the final day I have taken it upon myself to give a talk and seminar on healthy living. Of course the philosophy of yoga involves living in peace with things around you...including animals...

Now, here is where I need to tread carefully. How to find a balance between keeping the enthusiasm of the students whilst not stepping over the mark where they start to resent me for my ‘out there’ ideas. I have already stated I am considered strange in my veganism. Infact i will say strange in my vegetarianism, most people I know here are as yet unaware that I no longer don’t eat meat but now don’t eat anything produced by them either. I have not yet been into my local cafe as a vegan as I know there is nothing I can eat. Every item on the menu contains the dead flesh of what used to be a beautiful animal. As a vegetarian I used to ask specially for them to make me a cheese baguette. Sometimes I was only charged half price as it seemed I was leaving out the main ingredient. Sometimes the kind owner would ask if I wanted egg in it as well to give it more taste. I am not being derogatory here, the people working there are truly nice but the whole concept of vegetarianism is not understood, that is the point I am making.

How then do I discuss healthy living without talking about my choices. That’s simple, I must talk about my choices but I must do so in a very careful way. If people I know well think I am insulting them by talking about veganism then people I don’t know so well may take much offense if I question the lifestyle they know. So I think the best way to go is to highlight facts about the health benefits of compassionate eating and not get over emotional about the issue. Work it into a shift in lifestyle based on improving the self rather than saving lives of innocent creatures. Of course, it is true that the health benefits are immense as soon as meat and dairy are minimised or eliminated if a healthy diet is followed but as a vegan it is really hard not to talk about why I am vegan, how unjust it is that humans are so arrogant as to believe animals are property and how upsetting it is to me every time I see someone eat a body part. Actually that is what I find the hardest of all. Watching people eating meat and now watching people drinking milk makes me so very sad. I want to run over and tell them ‘there’s another way, it’s a good way, it eradicates suffering and pain’ but I know I will be considered a freak, a mad woman, someone to avoid. So, one step, then another, careful, intelligent and honest.

It can be a challenge being vegan but the saddest part is that the food part is so very easy, it’s going out into the world and spreading the word that’s difficult sometimes, especially when it seems no-one wants to listen.

So thank you for your support and if you are looking for more info on support groups then please check back next week as I will be posting some links to some sites of interest.

On a side note, I am still without internet at home so am posting when I am at my studio, my kids forgave me for the interruption as I made my last post on the way home from a shopping trip, Heidi was hungry after her less than nutritious lunch and wolfed down a full bowl of pasta and veg followed by a soy yogurt and then ate half of my evening meal too (we try and eat as a family when we can but sometimes it’s just not possible). She used to dislike so many things but now she eats so well, she eats her own meals and some of mine, all the time, even if I’m just having cereal and soy milk or beans on toast. Now she thinks everything I make is gorgeous – didn’t she used to be able to taste anything with all the dairy I gave her in her diet...?


Marina said...

I feel your frustration. I find that it is easier to talk to strangers about this topic than with friends. I was surprised to learn that, although I never, ever, commented on my friends' eating habits, the mere mention of ethics have given a couple of them the impression that I was judging them. These are good friends who should know better. I put their minds at ease and the uncomfortable feeling has been gone for several years since, but my memory of finding out still remains.

I've learned to stay away from discussing the ethics of vegetarianism with people. It seems to be the topic that creates resentment, with very few exceptions. It paves the way for people to feel judged and to get defensive, no matter how you approach it. So, I never bring it up.

Instead, I talk about health benefits and I make sure I have the information to back up my claims. This rarely includes anecdotal evidence since most people don't respond well to that. Instead, I rely on the mountains of nutrition information I've accumulated over the years when people ask me questions, and on specific topics when I aim to convince (neu5Gc, osteoporosis, heme iron problems, etc.)

Since I changed the style of my approach, I've had the good fortune of influencing people and, as of this date, I have seven new vegetarians "under my belt". These have included three co-workers, two family members, a close friend, and a client. I don't believe I would have had much success if the topics of ethics or the well being of animals would have been discussed, even though I feel strongly about both.

I wish you lots of luck in approaching the subject with your class, and kudos on having become a master chef (at least in the eyes of your little girl). :o)

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