Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Stretch This!

My idea of a good workout and my idea of a good meal sort of changed at the same time. Taking up yoga led me to move towards vegetarianism and then veganism, last year. Now I am less apt to sing Hallelujah for a kickboxing-aerobics class, or spend thirty minutes on a Stairmaster. I do sometimes still enjoy them as basic sweating, calorie-burning activities, but I prefer my ashtanga yoga practice, which challenges my mind and spirit as well as my body in a way that these workouts have never done.

Moreover, I take into consideration now the source of the equipment I use for my workouts. No more leather sneakers, ball gloves, hockey skates, cross-country ski boots, wool ski socks... I also boycott Nike, which I know uses deplorable labor practices (other large shoe companies may be equally bad, but I haven't found that out yet), and try to buy workout wear from smaller, local companies. None of my current sporting interests is without non-vegan alternatives, and I think that I will not take up any sport in which I can't be vegan. My enjoyment of the sport would always be clouded with discomfort.

I look at sports in a very different light now. I tried downhill skiing for the first time this winter, in the French Alps. The scenery was gorgeous; the opportunity to see snow, lacking in the town where I am spending a year on exchange, was delightful, but it just seems so silly to me to take a perfectly good mountain with its own seasons and litter it with snowmachines and lodges and chairlifts so people can spend lots of money to control their slides down it while wearing overpriced commercialized equipment. I probably would not have seen it this way before becoming vegan and really thinking about how my choices affect my environment.

Since becoming a vegan my body has become more flexible and feels lighter during practice, though I am pretty much at the same weight (i.e. normal for my height and age) that I was at before I stopped eating meat. And the ethical tenets of my yoga practice-- honesty, non-violence, non-accumulation, non-stealing, and continence -- make so much sense with a vegan lifestyle. I seek now to live simply in a way that honors all life, including my own. Moving towards this goal will be the work of (at least one!) lifetime.

The esotericism of my yoga practice aside, I have other mental muscles that have also needed to undergo some "fitness training."

I have had to build up my tolerance muscle. My world has been turned upside down in this past year, and I see outrageous grief and cruelty where most of the world sees (and I used to see) commonplace, useful items. If I don't watch it I could end up resenting the world for not caring about the issues that have come to matter to me, instead of treating it with the respect that vegetarians and vegans always accorded me before I made the change myself. I won't convert anyone by resenting them.

I have had to do lots of work on humility too. Without realizing it, sometimes I start thinking the world should revolve around me and be as convenient to my new lifestyle as it was for my old one. I begin to resent restaurants for not having vegan food-- not only because it means that other people aren't finding out that vegan food is great, but because selfish little me wants to be catered to, even now that her dietary choices are outside of the mainstream. In my current social circle, I'm the only one who knows how to cook for me. Whose fault is that? Not theirs!

It behooves me to think about how other people must feel when faced with my veganism. I am not Saint LM, the Pure and Spotless Vegan Example. When I gripe about a non-vegan world to non-vegan friends, I have to remember how it must be coming across to them. If I make them feel that I am preaching to them, I am being marvelously efficient in alienating my friends, making us all unhappy, and NOT furthering the cause for animals, all in one breath!

In the end, it all relates to compassion. This is a muscle I hadn't really exercised, or maybe even realized I had, until I decided to stop eating and using animals. I have had to stretch my understanding of the world, to better see my own place in it and the effects of my actions. This to me is the beginning of compassion and ahimsa, in which I hope I can spend the rest of my life building strength!

Aix-en-Provence, France

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