Why Being a Vegan is Good for the Spirit
Victoria Moran is the bestselling author of 13 books, including Creating a Charmed Life, The Love-Powered Diet, The Good Karma Diet, Main Street Vegan, and The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook.
In addition to being my friend and go-to expert on veganism, Victoria is an inspirational speaker, corporate spokesperson, certified holistic health counselor, graduate of the T. Colin Campbell Foundation/eCornell program in plant-based nutrition, host of the Main Street Vegan radio show/podcast, and founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy.
The woman who once held the title of PETA’s Sexiest Vegan Over 50 recently sat down with me to answer a few questions on veganism.
You’ve been a vegan for quite some time now – what inspired you to go that route and why should others follow suit?
I was fascinated by vegetarians from the time I first heard they existed when I was five. That was the 1950s and I was in Kansas City, Missouri, and had certainly never met such a person. When I was 17 and discovered yoga, I knew I wanted to be vegetarian and I started seriously on that path when I move to London after high school. It was there that I stopped eating land animals, and the following year got off fish, as well, although I did have a couple of fishy relapses later. When I learned about eggs, dairy and vegan values, I knew that I wanted to take things further, but going vegan was tough for me. I was a practicing compulsive overeater, a binge eater, and there were times when my eating was completely out of control. I managed to stay vegetarian, but being consistently vegan did not happen for me until I went into recovery for my eating disorder. This was 1983 and one of the best decisions I ever made.
So what do you feel is the connection between veganism, spirituality and health?
I actually think that everything in life is connected. For me, veganism results in health for two reasons. One is simply physiological: We are designed to eat plant foods, the body understands them, and they give us the best shot at a high-level health. But there’s something else going on too. I talk a lot about this in my book The Good Karma Diet because it really is a karmic connection. When we put love, kindness, and compassion out into the world, a surprising amount of good tends to come back to us, showing up in our bodies and in our lives. In addition, I believe that eating animals is a detriment to spiritual growth. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful people with deep spiritual convictions who haven’t yet stopped eating animal products. It’s just that once a person stops ingesting death, making contact with one’s higher power becomes much easier.
Much like you, MealPlanMap.com promotes healthy eating. What are most people doing wrong when it comes to eating better and losing weight?
Let’s tackle those separately. In terms of eating better, I think that we are very swayed by the many differing ideas about what constitutes a healthy diet. The trends cycle round and about, and people are always hearing that this new diet is the best diet. It is absolutely dizzying.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to learn all about being a good mom, so I read everything on that subject that I could get my hands on, and I found myself mired in perplexity. One author would say to bring the baby to bed, while another would say that that would scar the child for life. One book would say to feed on demand, while another would say to feed on a rigid schedule. There was just no meeting of the minds. I finally decided to go with my heart, and my heart was with those experts who prized gentleness and caring, something called ‘attachment parenting.’ I couldn’t be in both camps so I went with what resonated with me, and I’ve never regretted that.
It’s similar with plant-based eating. The foundation is to decide that this is the way you’re going to go for the animals, the planet and yourself. Then do the research and experimentation to find out precisely how this is going to work best for you and your body. I am a student of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing system, and I have learned so much they’re about the different doshas or body types. We can all be vegan, but some people need more or less of certain foods. Some people do well with a lot of raw food and others need the warmth and comfort and easy digestibility of more cooked foods. Some people simply can’t do this without going through a transitional period of trying the various faux versions of favorite animal-based foods. It’s terrific that they’re out there. We need to give ourselves and others some leeway to be sure we/they can make this thing work for the long haul.
When it comes to losing weight, you have to know where you are with that as an individual. Do you have excess weight because you eat a lot of rich foods, processed foods and maybe fast foods and you’ve never really given it a lot of thought? Or are you someone who thinks a lot about food and nutrition and diets, yet you overeat in response to emotional uneasiness? Or do you have an intractable problem with food, eating differently alone from when you’re with people, sneaking and hiding food, feeling remorse after certain eating behaviors?
While people in all these circumstances can do well with whole, plant-based foods, getting to that place is different for those who have more deeply seated eating issues. You have to know yourself and be exceedingly honest. If it is really difficult for you to eat in a reasonable way for an extended period, you probably need more than just a dietary change.
This is a matter close to my heart because it is my own history. I knew a lot about nutrition, but I still engaged in binge eating and found it extremely difficult to go from vegetarian to vegan until I dealt with the underlying disorder and Overeaters Anonymous. It may not be that is the only way to find recovery for such difficulties, but it saved my life and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I would also like for people who have eating issues to know about my book, The Love-Powered Diet. It is a print book from Lantern Books and it is also available on Audible as an audiobook.
What are your latest projects to help people live better?
The core of my work these days is Main Street Vegan Academy. This is an in-person, six-day program, live and in person in New York City, and five are scheduled for 2019. At the end of this intensive course, graduates are certified as Vegan Lifestyle Coach/Educators (VLCE). We have a stellar faculty including such movement luminaries as Robert Ostfeld, MD, Marty Davey, RD, Chef Fran Costigan, cookbook author JL Fields, VLCE, vegan fashion designer Joshua Katcher, Mariann Sullivan, JD, of Our Hen House, and more. We also take incredible field trips to exciting vegan businesses and restaurants here in New York City.
And the Main Street Vegan podcast on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher is in its 7th year. We do a new show every week and feature every aspect of vegan life with incredible guests. In our archives, you can find interviews with our wonderful doctors and researchers – Neal Barnard, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, Joel Kahn, Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., Michelle McMacken, Milton Mills, Garth Davis, Michael Greger, Michael Klaper, Alan Goldhamer, Frank Sabatino, Brooke Goldner – as well as animal rights luminaries, YouTube celebs, yogis, fashion designers, filmmakers and show biz folks such as Moby and Marilu Henner. And people who are intimidated by podcasts or don’t want to download an app can listen directly from the Unity Online Radio website.
In addition, I am the producer of documentarian Thomas Jackson’s new film, A Prayer for Compassion. This is a beautiful and powerful film to introduce vegan ideals to people who identify as religious or spiritual. It will be available for screenings at festivals, religious and spiritual centers, schools, libraries, etc., this spring. Anyone interested in showing the film can write firstname.lastname@example.org.
What foods would I find on a regular basis in your fridge and cupboards?
What a fun question! There are always lots of greens and my favorites are baby kale, arugula and cilantro, which is said to be helpful in illuminating toxic heavy metals from the body. There are always beans in the pantry. My standard winter lunch is some variation on the Death-Defying Garbanzos and Greens recipe in The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook – onions and garlic sautéed with numeric and black pepper and ginger, mushrooms when I have them, garbanzos or other beans, and some kind of greens. It takes almost no time to prepare and is really satisfying. I eat berries all year round and have recently started to favor the frozen wild blueberries with their off-the-charts antioxidant levels. I’ve also become a fan of Engine 2 Granola. I really missed granola but hadn’t eaten it in years because of its high fat content. The Engine 2 version is oil-free and tastes fabulous.
What steps can someone take to ease their transition from carnivore to vegan?
First, get educated. The more you know about this, the more you will want to do it and that will energize your transition. Next, get a support network. Look to see what’s already available locally through MeetUp and the like. Until you can get a nice group of in-person vegans around you, get online support. Some of the Facebook groups that I enjoy include Robert Cheeke’s group, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness; also Vegans Fit Over 50; and my own group Main Street Vegan Podcast Listeners. And third, feel free to put on that old Frank Sinatra song and do this your way. Some people change overnight. Others do better doing this in stages. If you pick the latter, give yourself dates and have a plan for when you will make it all the way to animal-free and low-processed eating. There is no way to do this wrong except not to do it.
Any tips or tricks for the super busy person to find time for healthier cooking and eating?
I am busy myself and spend almost no time on cooking. People who enjoy time in the kitchen can actually find that relaxing and creative, so carving out a little more time there is nice for them, regardless of how busy their lifestyle. But for people who are more like me, it can be super simple.
In the summer I usually have a smoothie for breakfast with all kinds of super foods in it – amla, chaga mushroom powder, Hawaiian spirulina, barley green powder. In the winter I’ll either have oatmeal or that oil-free granola I was talking about, and top it off with berries, other fruit, ground flax, walnuts, cinnamon, and even a little ground clove, the highest antioxidant spice in common usage. Every now and then I am energetic enough to make my own nut milk, but most of the time I just have almond or cashew milk from the bottle.
For lunch, as I said, I do beans and greens, or in the summer a giant salad with some steamed yams or potatoes and maybe broccoli or asparagus, and beans and seeds to give it oomph factor.
Dinner is really simple: another salad, but smaller, with maybe some seared tofu or tempeh in the summer; and in winter, oftentimes a big pot of chili or a hearty soup that I can make ahead on weekends. I like to have a nice loaf of good bread on hand, as well, but sometimes I don’t and I just have some simple, whole-grain, crackers and a really good vegan cheese like Treeline or Kite Hill. I look for vegan cheeses that are made only from nuts, acidophilus, a little Celtic sea salt and seasonings. I especially avoid those that contain coconut oil, which is very high in cholesterol-elevating saturated fat.
I also want to put in a word for raw desserts. Even if you are not interested in doing a lot of raw food, raw desserts are amazing, because they are guaranteed to be all whole foods, and you can make them in almost no time. I recommend Jennifer Cornbleet’s book, Raw Food Made Easy for One or Two People, and her yummy desserts such as chocolate mousse and raw chocolate cake, which you can make in 5 minutes.
John McGran has been writing about health and weight loss for several national companies since 2000. He brings his knowledge of diets — and his passion for dropping pounds — to Meal Plan Map because he believes it is the future of smart, stress-free eating and improved health.