How to Shift to a More Plant-Based Diet, Without the Guilt
From Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM Leslie Crawford,
May 2019

A compassionate and shame-free approach could help encourage omnivores who are maybe not on board the vegan train to reduce their meat consumption, says bestselling author Kathy Freston.

This article was produced as part of a partnership between Stone Pier Press and Earth-Food-Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

vegan dinner

Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over. Her books on healthy eating and conscious living include The Lean, Veganist and Quantum Wellness. She considers herself a wellness activist and has appeared frequently on national television.

All this, and yet, sheís not strident or bossy. She wouldnít dream of making me feel bad if I sprinkled parmesan on my pasta. She somehow understands that I canít seem to give up my cowís milk lattes.

ďIím a big believer in progress, not perfection,Ē says Freston. She offers easy, manageable ways to ease into a more plant-based diet. Freston takes a compassionate, no-guilt and shame-free approach to omnivores who try to reduce their meat consumption but who are maybe not on board the vegan train.

Frestonís gentler approach is exactly what I aim to do with my childrenís books, Sprig the Rescue Pig and Gwen the Rescue Hen. Itís also why I found her ďSuperSoul ConversationsĒ interview with Oprah so important and reached out to her afterward to ask her some questions of my own.

Leslie Crawford: You take an unusually gentle approach with people who arenít vegetarians or vegans. Is this really an effective approach?

Kathy Freston: I realized that if someone lectured or shamed me, Iíd probably reject the message and not have developed any of my own insights, whereas when I talk to people who are nonjudgmental, Iím an open receiver. So, I decided to share the message the way I like it to have done with me.

Your dog was instrumental in your conversion to becoming a vegetarian and then a vegan. Tell us about your ďah-ha!Ē moment.

I had received a pamphlet in the mail from some animal organization depicting a cow being dragged to slaughter. It hit me hard, and I didnít know what to do with that. Later, I was playing with my dog Lhotse, and she was lying on her back and looking up at me. When I looked back at her, [I] suddenly imagined her being lined up for slaughter and considered how sheíd feel. I thought, If I donít want my dog to go to slaughter, why would I want any animal to go to slaughter? As you know, a dog is no better or worse than any animal.

You talk about how becoming vegan is a process. I think some people think itís just too hard because they have to entirely change the way they eat in order to become one.

Itís a process for several reasons. One is that our culture has effectively numbed us to whatís happening to animals. We are told itís normal, natural and necessary. From early childhood, weíve been indoctrinated with the idea that it doesnít matter how we treat farm animals. It takes a while to get over that indoctrination.

The second thing is that we like to eat what we like to eat. Certain habits and traditions are ingrained in us. For anyone who has a habit, itís very hard to break it.

Finally, itís about being resourceful. It takes a while to find your footing: what to make for dinner, how to shop, how to please your kids. All those things work in tandem. If you give yourself time and space to figure this out, anyone can do it.

Iím getting there, and this may sound silly, but Iím having trouble giving up cowís milk lattes.

Try the 21-day rule. Itís easy to change a habit in that amount of time. So for 21 days, try soy milk or oat milk ó whatever it is you want to use as a replacement. It might not be great the second or third day, but once you get in the habit of something, you can change.

We talked about how shaming people for eating meat doesnít work. Iíve found that meat-eaters also try to shame vegetarians and vegans. Have you experienced this?

That happens all the time. I remember a dinner party with some VIP people. The host was serving meat and cheese, and I just quietly said, ďNo thank you. Iím good with what I have.Ē Iíd already told the host Iím a vegan, so not to worry about getting an extra steak or fish. When I said ďno thank youĒ to the third thing she offered, she told me, ďYouíre so boring!Ē I was so humiliated. The last thing I want to do is make a spectacle of myself.

That was a while ago. Now I just think, ďOh my goodness,Ē but I donít get upset. I donít like to get into arguments.

Any other tips for moving over to a more plant-based diet?

This is a movement about kindness. If you come from that place, the changes stick. But if you force yourself and hate it, it wonít stick. We are looking for long-term change.

Once you take the pressure off, you can lean into changing. My intention was to become someone who no longer eats animals. I knew it wouldnít be easy. I grew up eating meat three times a day. But I allowed myself to become curious and went to see what I could find at the grocery store. All of this creates momentum, and I just leaned into it.

Plus, nowadays, there are so many plant-based meats ó so many great products to choose from.

Many parents, including me, struggle with trying to raise kids vegetarian or vegan. Advice?

Find what a child actually likes rather than forcing something. Sometimes itís Gardein chicken fingers or a vegan burger or [vegan] cheese. Iím a big lover of smoothies, and you do want to get good nutrition. You can put in frozen broccoli, blueberries, protein powder. But donít worry about being uber-healthy right away. Start by finding some things they like and build from there.

Consider taking them to a farm animal sanctuary. There are great books to have on hand: Dr. Joel Fuhrman wrote one called Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right. Your books Sprig the Rescue Pig and Gwen the Rescue Hen are wonderful. Brava! I canít wait to see them in every kidís hands.


Hereís further advice from Freston taken from her own writings:

Practice tolerance: Thatís how you can change hearts and minds, and how you can change your own eating habits, too.

Lean into plant-based eating: Take it a step at a time. For example, you could start by abstaining from eating small animals such as chickens and fish, then cutting all large animals (cows and pigs) from your diet.

Itís also okay to be vegan-ish: So you eat cheese now and then, but you have cut out all other animal products. Allow yourself these small things, and applaud what youíve already done.

Eat consciously: Conscious eating is being aware of where your food came from. Consider the 9.47 billion land animals who suffered and were killed for food in 2017. Think: 10 steps before it got to me, what did this single animal experience? It helps to think small as well because the vast number of animals slaughtered for our food can be so unfathomable. Think of that one chicken, that one animal. What did that creature experience on her way to my dinner plate? Am I all right with that just so I can have my chicken sandwich?

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