Well, this may be a long answer. I lived in China, Macau and Hong Kong for several years. While living abroad I started finding it harder and harder to consume meat because I would see dead de-feathered ducks hanging in restaurant windows, I saw a dog hanging by its neck getting skinned...you get the picture. I ate less and less meat as the years passed and the only dairy I ever even liked was cheese. When I moved back to the US the easiest meat for me to eat was hamburger because it didn't look like anything. As time went on, I watched a documentary and decided that I needed to go vegan but I didn't want to be 'difficult' on any of my friends or family so for some time I was an "at home vegan". I laugh a bit at myself now for that. The more I read, the more I researched, the more documentaries I watched and the more I connected myself with what is actually going on in the meat and dairy industry, it's effect on the environment and one’s health, I needed to be vegan 100% of the time. January 9, 2015 I came to this realization.
How did your friends and family respond to your diet change?
There are always people that make fun of you or give you a hard time because they are afraid of change or don't want to look at their own choices, their own life. There are also a good amount of people that take change well though (which is always nice). I think many people in my life took it well partially because I eased them into it with how I went about going 100% vegan.
I know that healing your spirit has been part of your vegan journey. Do you think this is a side effect of a vegan diet? What do you think the connection is?
Yes, improving one’s spirit has been part of my journey and I do think a vegan lifestyle can have a great effect on one’s spirit. However, in order for one’s spirit to work towards healing, one has to be ready and willing. I'm sure there are people who aren't necessarily aware or ready and so a vegan diet may not have the same effect. What do I think the connection is? Well, we could study and research that for years (which I plan to) but for a start I definitely think showing compassion towards all creatures and not being part of an abusive killing cycle can only do good for our spirit. I know that for me personally this made a huge impact because I can't stomach the thought of causing any creature pain or suffering that is even remotely close to what I have been through in life.
In your YouTube videos you’ve shared your interest in the connection between plant based food and mental health. You’re really on the cutting edge of bridging the gap between those, and I really respect you for that. Can you share with us about your dream of supporting people in their emotional and mental healing through plant based diets?
I believe that our diet can have a huge impact on our emotional well-being. There is so much in this world that we don't know about, one of them being what spiritual or mental effect being part of a cycle that encourages abuse and killing has on our spirit or emotional well-being, we usually don't think about things like that. Even if we are only very distantly apart of the cycle. Aside from that there has been some research done regarding how eating plants literally makes you happier based on their effect on our bodies compared to consuming meat or dairy. I think it is all fascinating which is why I am going to school for my Masters of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. My plan first is to create an online course for how the average day person can 'lean' into a plant-based vegan diet (hopefully to be released within the next year). Once I am finished with my degree I plan on creating online nutrition courses specifically aimed at assisting those who have experienced trauma. One of the things I love about my school is that they have classes like Psychology of Eating and Wellness and Fundamentals of Mind-Body Medicine and the Psychology of Well-being.
Wow, that sounds like a super cool school! And congratulations on being accepted into a Masters of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine! Can you explain what functional medicine is?
Thanks so much! Functional medicine addresses the person as a whole as apposed to isolated symptoms. It focuses on the underlying cause of disease and illness as opposed to just focusing on the disease or illness itself. I really love the the Institute for Functional Medicine's analogy:
"Conventional medicine tends to look at the constellation of symptoms first (the branches and leaves on a tree), which usually results in a disease diagnosis. Often, this diagnosis is associated with a drug or drugs that can be prescribed to treat this constellation of symptoms, and that is the end of the story. But this approach neglects the more fundamental aspects of health that reside in the roots and the trunk of the tree. It treats all patients that present with similar symptoms the same and completely neglects both the inherent differences among patients as well as the myriad of possible causes that a "disease" can have." - Institute for Functional Medicine
Yes, I agree with that statement! So, 5 years from now what will we find you working on?
In five years from now, I will be working on creating accessible online plant-based nutrition programs designed for different segments of society. I plan on starting with creating online nutrition programs whose aim is to assist people who have experienced trauma to live a more holistic, well-balanced life.
Awesome. I wish you all the best with that. Your work is the work of the future and you’re so passionate and connected to it that you’ll no doubt be successful.
Now, something light:
What’s your favourite vegan-focused book?
My future cookbook! Just kidding...maybe. :-) Honestly, I love Pinterest and websites. For some things I definitely love a physical book but for recipes I love the internet. I usually make my own recipes, utilize Pinterest or the Minimalist Baker's site.
What’s your favourite vegan website?
I'm also really excited about www.drool.com which will be launching next month I believe! It is a food aggregate site like TasteSpotting but it will contain only vegan recipes.
What would you cook for a potluck?
I would definitely cook my Creamy Red Dhal and rice. I think it might be my best recipe. :-)
I used to LOVE french fries from Wendy's etc. but they are so oily and I'm never confident on what kind of oil they are actually frying them in so my fast food choice is usually just making homemade fries. I also try to always have some leftovers on hand or some delicious hummus and veggies to snack on in a pinch. If I'm out and about most if not all places can make really good veggie sandwiches!
Is your dog vegan?!
My dog, Amber is not yet 100% vegan, she is halfway there though. She can have very strong reactions to switching her food such as upset stomach and severe itchiness that she bites herself to the point of bleeding. A couple of years ago we cut her 'dog food' in half and just started feeding her fruits and veggies. She LOVES fruits and veggies so much that thats all she eats some days. In the spring and summer when our veggie garden is producing she'll just walk by and eat fruits and vegetables off the plants, and my husband Jon wonders where all the blueberries go...haha. I have recently been looking into vegan dog food option though which I think is exciting!
Thanks so much for sharing, Rae. I know you’ll continue to do amazing things that will serve so many people in the future. Good luck!