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Healthy Living, Conscious Eating

Author Kathy Freston advocates ‘leaning into’  a vegan diet

By Eve Becker

Living and eating consciously is not only good for your body, it’s good for the world around you, says Kathy Freston, author of six books, including the New York Times best-seller Quantum Wellness and her newest, The Lean, which endorses a healthy approach to eating and living.

Kathy Freston The LeanAs an active “veganist,” Freston advocates being aware of where our food comes from, how the animals are treated, and how the environment is affected by the foods we eat.

“I think the most profound way you can get healthy, lose weight, prevent disease, and up your level of energy is to move away from eating animals and toward a plant-based or vegan diet,” she says. Vegans do not eat any animal products including meat, fish, eggs, and milk.

Undercover videos of food animals being mistreated have helped raise awareness of their plight, says Freston, who has been a featured speaker at Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) events.

“The public is so much more aware now of what’s happening to animals. Fifteen or 20 years ago, we had no idea what was going on behind closed doors in slaughterhouses and for egg-laying hens. We had no idea how animals suffered. Because of the HSUS and other organizations like them we now know, and it’s literally distasteful. We’re literally losing our taste for these foods.”

When Freston began writing Quantum Wellness, she was writing about living consciously, positive relationships, meditation, and how to make a better world. She soon realized that the one thing she had no consciousness about was food. So she began to educate herself.

It all came together one day when she was playing with her dog.

“I had a little Chihuahua who I was in love with. Her name was Lhotse. She was lying on her back, and I was rubbing her belly. She had a smile on her face, and I could tell how happy she was. I was thinking to myself how much I love animals. Then a little voice inside my head said, ‘If you love animals so much, why are you eating them?’

“I kind of froze mid-belly-rub, and I started picturing her as a food animal. I thought about what it would be like for her if she were in the food animal system. I pictured her living in really close quarters, being cramped up with other animals, having this awful smell of ammonia around, and never being able to run around.”

“And it just struck me that it’s a horrible experience for animals to go through. So at that moment, when I had that visual in my head, I thought, I want to be a person who doesn’t eat animals anymore.”

To make a gradual change, she started swapping out meat-based meals for non-meat-based ones. Instead of having a beef burrito, she would have a black bean burrito. Instead of a burger, she’d cook a veggie burger.

“My basic overall philosophy is to ‘lean into it’—to move gradually in the direction of conscious living. Focus on progress not perfection,” she says. “Instead of cutting things out, you want to crowd things out. You’re not just giving up milk or cheese or chicken. Instead, you’re finding stuff that tastes good, but that’s a plant-based substitute so you don’t feel deprived.”

She quickly found herself drawn to the health benefits of a vegan diet, which helps to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer by reducing saturated fat.

“The health came second for me, but it turns out it’s an astounding game-changer when you switch from an animal-based diet to a plant-based one. [I found] in the first week of eating a vegan diet, you begin to drop weight, usually between one to three pounds. In the second week, your blood sugar and your blood pressure drop a lot. In the third week of eating vegan, your cholesterol drops significantly.”

“I feel so good because my weight is exactly where I want it to be. I never have to think about calories, or protein grams, or body mass index. I’m not a human calculator,” Freston says.

“But most of all, there’s something inside of me that feels like I’m on target, like I’m living the way that I was meant to live. That feels really good. And it feels really good that no animal suffered for my meal. I feel very energized by that.”

Freston’s Top Four Tips for Conscious Eating:

1. Start with one meatless meal per week (for example Meatless Monday) and build from there.

2. Give up smaller animals first, like chickens and turkey, then move to lamb, pigs and cows. In units of suffering, so many more chickens and turkeys are killed for our meals, Freston says.

3. Take it easy on yourself. If there’s one meat product you can’t live without–bacon, for example–give up everything else, but still eat the bacon. It’s not about deprivation.

4. Look for vegan substitutions. If you love cheese, try Daiya. If you love chicken, go for Gardein Chick’n. If you like sausage, try Artisan Field Roast Vegan Sausages.

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