It's almost my birthday again, in exactly 1 week today to be precise ;) I love my birthdays, and I especially love my birthday when it falls on a weekend and if it's a big milestone event, like my 30th last year. I had a great night with most of my favourite people helping me celebrate in vintage-style, it was a blast! This is me below wearing a 60s number in my favourite colour with a great hair accessory that I made (and yes, back in the days when I drank cocktails):
A lot of people have always complained about what to get me for my birthday, mostly non-vegan friends. Now, I don't think I'm that hard to buy for, I think it's quite obvious what I like and what I don't like...
It's supposedly so hard to find presents for me, that's why I wrote a list for the invited guests (to go along with my 30th birthday invitation) of some ideas of presents to inspire others who don't really look outside the square when purchasing gifts. Not that I encouraged or expected gifts (plus I don't like many new things bought for the sake of buying new things) I knew this would at least help my family from dealing with "what should I buy Leigh-Chantelle for her birthday?" questions from others.
The only new things I really like are new friends, new ideas and new projects! My friend from college, Jenny, had an amazing new idea for a present for me... Last year my Viva la Vegan! business sponsored the Vegan Easy Challenge which was created by the wonderful people at Animal Liberation Victoria. There aren't that many websites that really impress me, but this one is designed well, easy to navigate and has a huge range of information and vegan recipes to last well beyond the 30 days. Designed as an easy 30 day challenge to inspire others to try the vegan diet, I had convinced my sister, Louise and her boyfriend Ben to go on the challenge for health and weight loss reasons. I had also been talking about it at various interstate festivals and online via social media but was completely surprised when my friend Jenny sent me a lovely hand-made birthday card stating that for my 30th birthday she was going to go vegan for 30 days!! Other than the Buckingham Nicks self-titled LP my good friend Joshy bought me for my 25th (that was the 80's skating party where I hired a skating rink for the night!) this was the best birthday present I have ever (and probably will ever) receive!
The photo below is of (some of) the gals I studied Naturopathy and/or Nutrition with: (top) Nadine, ME, Mel, Sharon, Larae, Trish, Sam, Jenny, (front) Anne and our clinic lecturer, Eve. This was just before our graduation in 2005 at a Thai place in Stones Corner where we'd all go for lunch after clinic practice on Thursdays.
Cut to 5 years later and Jennifer Price is a Nutritionist in Dubbo, New South Wales. Jenny was immensely affected by the Vegan Easy Challenge and became vegan for 30 days as a birthday present for my 30th and is still vegan almost a year later! I LOVE these sort of stories, so please read below for a lil' interview I did with the great-gift-giving Jenny as she speaks about going and staying vegan in a small country town, the biggest nutrition misconceptions about vegans and the plans for her book she's currently working on about her journey into veganism. Enjoy.
Interview with Jennifer Price, Nutritionist
Had you ever thought about going Vegan before?
No. Never. I was very interested talking to you about it back in college, but it didn’t occur to me that I could, or should, become vegan. After meeting you and learning a bit more about being vegan my interest was certainly piqued, but only in so far as if I heard or saw something about it in the media I’d pay more attention. I also started to notice products labelled as vegan (some of which I’d already been using for years!!).
I really enjoyed preparing your recipes too, both from the website and your fabulous calendars, but still ‘the penny hadn’t dropped’. I’d cook or prepare them as a delicious change from the usual. In hindsight I wonder if the seeds were being planted, and the meat/dairy dished were just a mindless habit.
What made you decide to go Vegan for 30 days?
You. In a nutshell. And no kidding, I knew nothing at all about the vegan 30 day challenge, even though it was taking place around the same time. The ultimate inspiration was your 30th birthday last year. I was disappointed that due to work commitments I wasn’t able to come to Brisbane for your party. So aside from sending a gift I wanted to do something really special, just for you. Whilst pondering, the idea popped into my head that as it was your 30th birthday I could go vegan for 30 days. It made sense to me to do something that you’re passionate about. I realised too that it would be a great opportunity to see what it was like, both from a personal point of view and as a Nutritionist. So, I did my homework for several weeks so I knew what I was doing, sat down and made a snazzy home-made card with cut out pictures (I’m not usually so creative in that way-could you tell?), and off I went.
Somewhat of a surprise to me was that at the end of the 30 days I kept going. The possibility of this happening hadn’t really occurred to me. So much had changed due to what I had learnt and how I felt. The “rational and objective, sensible” part of my mind couldn’t quite accept a permanent change straight away. After all, I thought, shouldn’t such a big change take time and much thought, not impulse?
Hence, after a little while I decided to have a little of the things I felt I missed the most. Eggs, chicken, cheese. My once favourite eggs from a healthy free-range organic poly-farm tasted terrible. I checked twice thinking there might have been something wrong with the first lot. No, just as horrible. The chicken a few days later sat like a brick. I felt sick and a bit depressed. Cheese, boring and toxic.
After mucking around for a while I finally faced the fact that I would never feel comfortable or happy until I stopped worrying about insignificant inner arguments and started honouring what I needed to do. Become a real vegan.
What did you find hard about the Vegan diet when you first started out?
It wasn’t hard at all. I did a bit of forward planning for the two weeks before I started, a bit of a practice run I guess. I explored options, went shopping, and kept a food diary to highlight any areas where I may have ‘slipped up’. Two weeks later when the 30 days officially started I was all set. Of course it wasn’t just food I concentrated on either, as much as possible I didn’t use or wear anything of animal origin.
I did imagine I was going to crave and miss certain foods, however I didn’t at all. In fact quite the opposite, I craved in reverse!! Many of the foods I was having I wished I’d been eating regularly before. I’d been ripping myself off!!
Whenever we make a change in our lives we have to become thoroughly involved. As I say to my clients on a regular basis, get passionate, plan and enjoy the process. That way your success is beyond what you could ever have imagined.
What were the benefits to you of going Vegan?
Where does one begin!! There are so many benefits, not only for oneself, but also for fellow beings and our immediate and global environment. Personally, probably the most significant thing I’ve noticed is that I have more energy. And it’s good quality energy, I feel happier, healthier and more productive. I don’t need as much sleep but at the same time wake up feeling much more refreshed each morning.
I’ve become acutely aware that when you delve into the issues surrounding the welfare of animals and the pressure we’re collectively putting on the planet, it can at times be very overwhelming. But when you eat well, and eat consciously, your physical metal, and emotional wellbeing is in better shape, and so it’s easier to stay positive and proactive.
Tell me about where you live and is it Vegan friendly?
I live in a town called Dubbo, in central west New South Wales. If you were to look at a map of NSW it’s more or less smack in the middle. Dubbo is a rural city, with a population just over 30,000. It’s a regional hub as well, so provides services for many small towns in the area. Sure, there’s lots of utes with RM Williams’ bullhorn stickers on the back window, but there is also a wonderful art gallery, an impressive theatre, touristy stuff, a beautiful river and lots and lots of sport.
Dubbo has one of the largest abattoirs in Australia. I prefer to call it a slaughter house as I think “abattoir” sounds a bit French and exotic, dumbing down the reality of what goes on there. This slaughterhouse, along with its companion in Albany, Western Australia (owned by the same family) is the largest sheep meat processor and exporter in Australia. They have helped prevent the live export of sheep by employing Halal methods of slaughter, but this of course is cold comfort for the sheep and lambs.
Dubbo also has a very large zoo, called Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The land it occupies used to be an arboretum, so the native plants and bird life are fabulous, and the beautiful birds are free to come and go. Even though I’ve many objections to zoos in general, I’m not totally opposed to Dubbo’s zoo because they have a significant rehabilitating breeding programme designed to repopulate many endangered animals back into their natural and original habitat.
Is Dubbo a Vegan friendly town?
No and yes. No, because as far as restaurants and cafes go everything on every menu I’ve seen contains animal products, and usually multiple items. The exception is Lime Thai, which has a lovely variety of tofu and vegetable dishes-no fish sauce! There are few eateries in town I haven’t explored - all part of the job! No vegan options exist. However, several of the better restaurants and cafes have been happy to alter recipes or create something vegan for me.
My favourite example is a lovely restaurant called Escence on the main street, which has been my favourite lunch spot since coming to town. When I was enjoying the 30 day adventure I popped in for lunch with a friend one day. I explained to the friendly waitress that I was now vegan and with great delight she said she’d take care of it and get the chef to prepare something special - if that was OK with me!! (She told me later one of her best friends is vegan.) This chef is wonderful. She made an amazing salad that description won’t do justice. It had a mix of different leafy greens, roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, mushrooms, red capsicum, herbs, carrot sticks, olives and a light balsamic dressing. It varies every time depending on the season so might also include asparagus, roasted baby beetroot or some other surprise.
As I catch up with various friends for lunch, they either order this salad on my recommendation, or are so envious when they see it that they order it the next time. As they’ve then had lunch with other friends, their friends have started ordering it too. To my surprise, just yesterday I was discussing with a new client his current diet (a man I had never met before). He was telling me on Friday’s he has lunch at Escence with accounting friends and ordered the Vegan salad. I nearly fell off my chair! I quizzed him a little to discover he orders it from the menu -they’ve put it on the menu!! Obviously due to popular demand. Maybe we can change the world one meal at a time.
What do you think is the biggest health misconception about Vegans?
Possibly that we’re weak and pale, radical and just trying to make other people’s lives difficult. Maybe that’s what I used to think, I’m not sure. But I can tell you now both from first hand experience and knowing people like yourself, health and life as a vegan is literally the opposite.
Eating well provides you with vibrant energy and glowing health, sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Of course one might be weak and pale if you made poor food choices, or you could be overweight and listless too if you still relied on too many packaged and processed foods. The better the vegan the better the body.
I think all vegans face the ‘shock-horror’ questions like ‘what do you actually eat’, ‘where do you get your protein’, ‘what about your iron, calcium, essential fats’. Probably not totally stupid questions, just a bit boring after a while. A thoughtful vegan will have done their homework and/or spoken to a professional to make sure all their nutrient needs are being met.
What are the main reasons people come to see you as a Nutritionist?
Many varied reasons. This is one of the fortunate aspects of my job as its rarely dull or monotonous. People may present with allergies or food sensitivities, digestive problems, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, diabetes, headaches, depression, hormone issues, the list is long. Basically anything related to health and the realisation that we literally are what we eat. Every cell in the body relies on the quality of food we put in our mouths, so all health issue can be addressed nutritionally.
Dubbo, like many places, has a significant problem with many people being overweigh or obese. Again I focus on health, not specifically weight. I teach people that a healthy body doesn’t need or want to carry any excess weight, so encourage them to focus on getting healthy and watch the fat fly off. It’s a much more positive and successful approach.
The Vegan diet has inspired you to write a book about your progress and journey, can you tell me more about this
When I launched into the “30th Birthday, 30 Day Vegan Adventure” I wanted to make it as thoroughly vegan as possible. By this I mean not only eating vegan foods and avoiding animal derived products generally, but watching videos, reading books, magazines, websites etc.
Being a nutritionist I thought I knew a lot about food and where it comes from, processing procedures and the whole industry. Alas, I knew very little. Certain DVDs in particular really shifted my consciousness, wonderful films such as Food Inc and Earthlings. I watched several very good films, even had a few sent to me quite ‘randomly’ by people I didn’t know. Reading magazines such as Vegan Voice (an incredibly professional publication with star quality articles and information) and various websites extended my education further still, and continues to do so.
As a result I feel astonishingly passionate about everybody knowing what’s going on with the food industry generally. Their food, their planet, where their money is going and how they are being coerced and manipulated in spending their money in ways that they may not be happy with when provided with the truth. I recognise not everybody wants to know, or feels the need to change their habit even when they do know, but I’m very grateful that I know more now, and at the very least can make choices more in line with my philosophies on life. Not just my life either. Everybody’s, including our animal friends and that of the planet.
As I’ve been note taking and diarising since this time last year, my book will be in part a description of my journey alongside details what I’ve learnt and what I believe we can do about it if we so desire. Probably my biggest gripe is how ‘controlled’ we are, especially within the realm of retail, so I’ll be sharing the measures I’ve personally taken to slip out of that trap, and demonstrate how each of us can.
Thank you, Jenny
More information on Jennifer Price, Nutritionist
Jennifer Price is great lover of food and so is very fortunate to be a Nutritionist, as this allows her to have a legitimate reason to obsess about food all day. Jennifer is now vegan and loves all animals, birds, trees, flowers, herbs, the ocean and all her inhabitants, and or course this beautiful planet we are so privileged to live on. As a result she is striving to be a passionate protector of all of the above. Jennifer grew up in Dubbo and has lived in Sydney, Queensland, and at the moment again resides in Dubbo. She can generally be found outside somewhere when she’s not working or playing with food.
Jennifer has an Advanced Diploma of Nutrition and has been working in private practice for five years. In addition she gives regular talks to groups and clubs, writes articles for various publications and appears regularly for nutritional discussion on ABC Radio. Jennifer will also be joining Viva la Vegan! as a regular guest blogger and recipe writer in 2010.
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