Thursday, January 10, 2013


1.  Tell us about your bangin' bird food lifestyle.

I adopted vegetarianism about 9 years ago and moved into veganism almost 6 years ago. My nutritional approach has changed considerably over the course of this period and I also find that my philosophy and orientation toward the lifestyle is constantly shifting and evolving.

2.  Did you have a light bulb moment when you decided, "Okay, I am making this change now"? If so, what was it?

My journey into a plant-based lifestyle was more gradual. Though I was raised in an omnivorous household, I decided to become vegetarian while away for a few weeks at a summer program in 2004. I had never particularly enjoyed most meats and took that short period of independence to test the veggie waters. With the support from my mom as I sought to forge my own path, meat-free meals quickly became second nature and I haven't looked back since. In an effort to learn more about my nutritional needs as a vegetarian, I began reading nutritional guides which led to reading on subjects ranging from human health and ecology to, eventually, health politics and animal rights. Once I began to connect the dots, it became clear that a vegan diet was my next step.

3.  Was it difficult to make the switch?

I allowed myself to transition gradually rather than putting pressure on myself to be "100% vegan" but it wasn't long before my cravings and desires for animal foods simply fell away. By the time my diet was entirely vegan, I'd already been gently and intuitively weaning myself off of things for six months or so. I found during that time that if I went a certain period of time without consuming something (e.g. cow's milk) and then decided to consume it out of the blue, my tastebuds had changed and I actually became unexpectedly repulsed by it. Having this repeated realization provided me with the confirmation that I needed to eschew those items and it wasn't long before they fell out of my diet completely.

4.  What was the hardest food item to give up along the way?

I don't recall there being a food item that was particularly difficult to give up because my transition was very gradual and intuitive. I recommend people beginning this transition to be gentle with themselves and try to avoid becoming immobilized by all-or-nothing thinking. In my experience, and that of most others I've spoken to, cravings for these items diminish the longer you abstain from them. As you begin to reduce the pressure on your digestive system by removing some of the denser food items and infusing your meals with more fibrous, water-containing vegetables, your body can begin to reach unprecedented levels of functionality and increasingly reject anything that inhibits this upward movement.

5.  What sources of information (articles, books, videos, documentaries, blogs, etc) were helpful to you during the transition?

The book that I found most inspiring initially was The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Though I didn't find these resources until I had already moved into veganism a bit, I also benefitted from the support of Marion Nestle's book Food Politics, Will Tuttle's book The World Peace Diet, legal scholar Gary Francione's work, and black feminist critical race theorist Breeze Harper's work.

6.  Was there anyone who particularly inspired you to make this lifestyle change?

A very close childhood friend of mine, as well as a friend that I had met at a summer program, went vegan before I did. Though I had my doubts and concerns, I thought "If they can do it, so can I!". I was also inspired by my congressional representative at the time, Dennis Kucinich.

7.  How did the switch affect you emotionally, mentally and physically?

In the process of eliminating various life-depleting substances starting with animal foods, I have completely healed my once chronic sinusitis (e.g. nonstop sinus woes and full-blown sinus infections every few months), constant lethargy, and anemia.

8.  What was the single the greatest thing about becoming a "bangin' bird food" eater?

Though my vegan diet initially featured a whole lot of Oreos and Swedish fish candies, going vegan started me on a path of listening to my body more attentively and being willing to allow things to fall out of my diet (and life in general) when it becomes clear that they no longer nourish me and simply create obstruction. Intimately connected to this is that adopting a vegan lifestyle can function as a valuable exercise in critical thinking about the many entrenched cultural purchasing patterns in which most people engage without much thought. 

As I began to investigate veganism and alter my purchasing patterns accordingly, going to a store to purchase certain items suddenly required more thought. Though my questions began with food, they quickly migrated to other aspects of my consumptive practices. I found myself asking: "Do I actually need this?" "Whose voice is not present here?" "If consuming this doesn't really serve the consumer, whom does it serve?" "Who decided that these excessive consumptive practices are necessary?" "What are the social, political, and psychological mechanisms that prevent most of the population from asking these questions and doing something about it?" 

Though my shift in diet helped me to begin posing these necessary questions, I should also mention that I have developed many critiques of the vegan movement. For example, I take issue with the way in which veganism has become a source of personal identity that is almost solely predicated on consumer activity within the vegan niche market. I find this framing of veganism troubling because it disables any earnest critique of our economic system and plant agriculture industries while making it difficult to pose broader questions about the violence and destruction that inhere in societies where citizens believe that they can just consume endlessly without producing.

 As such, I was ultimately forced to ask: "Can we actually purchase our way into post-domination utopia?" "What if the contemporary focus on 'conscious', 'green', 'ethical' consumption is, in fact, the problem?" "Are we prepared to live without our identities as consumers and can any liberation worth seeking be achieved otherwise?" Though I can't fully detail this line of inquiry here, suffice it to say that movement into a plant-based diet marked the beginning of an important conversation for me that has since shaped my thinking in virtually every area of my life.

9.  Has your "bangin' bird food" lifestyle had an effect on anyone around you?

It's not too unusual these days for people I know to tell me that they have embarked on a plant-based lifestyle, or have significantly increased their plant intake, due in part to their interactions with me. I'm flattered and encouraged by this because I typically avoid discussing diet and prefer to simply do my thing and welcome questions instead. Trite though it is, action (and attitude) speaks louder than words.

10.  Did you ever struggle with what you thought people would think about your new lifestyle? If so, how did you overcome that?

I think it's fair to say that I have always felt somewhat different than most of my peers for one reason or another and grew accustomed to marching to the beat of my own drum fairly early. Consequently, my movement into plant-based diet didn't feel like the wild departure from social normality that it might be for a person with a different background and personality. This isn't to say that I never feel self-conscious about the questions that I might pose in a friend's home, for example, because I know how others can sometimes interpret my questions and abstentions. Posing taboo questions and engaging in stigmatized behaviors has given me the opportunity to work through my own psychological discomfort. While this aspect of lifestyle change seems to intimidate many people considering beginning a transition into a similar lifestyle, I think it's critically important to acknowledge that these challenges arise because our culture is not yet asking these pertinent questions en masse but that isn't to say that it must remain this way. 

It's often mind-boggling to me that we live in this society where social norms dictate that we must consume any random concoction thrown onto the shelves by marketing executives without question and whether or not we are even hungry. What is more, pausing to investigate it is somehow inherently snooty or "picky"! Though I typically avoid initiating discussion of diet, I have found that many people can become very defensive simply from observing me doing my thing unobtrusively or once they have learned from someone else that I lead a more alternative lifestyle. I've found that the defensiveness and endless questioning in which others sometimes engage is likely indicative of where they are in their process of contemplating the issues at hand. By this I do not mean to position myself at the zenith of knowledge and experience in these matters, only that many people just encountering this information often show their discomfort and uneasiness through the questions that they ask and the statements that they make. 

Releasing the compulsive need to represent, explain, and somehow prove that I am "right" has allowed me serve as a more empathic listener and communicator than I feel I was when I first encountered these kinds of reactions. I find that at this point, I typically only feel shaken by someone's reaction to my actions if I am operating with some underlying insecurity or uncertainty. Learning to identify the true source of these anxieties has been a valuable personal development tool and has allowed me to serve as a better witness to other people's process of exploration.

11.  How have you been able to maintain this lifestyle? Has it been easy or difficult?

What has allowed me to maintain this lifestyle and go ever deeper with it is allowing my approach to be transformed by new information and experiences. At this stage of the game, my approach is most shaped by the paradigm of "deep tissue cleansing" developed by Gil Jacobs. What this means in a nutshell is a plant-centric diet and lifestyle that maximizes the metabolization process and emphasizes maintaining clear and open internal pathways rather than focusing on ingesting specific nutrients. The best resources to consult to learn about this paradigm are Arnold Ehret's landmark book The Mucusless Diet Healing System (there is a condensed version online:, Natalia Rose's book The Raw Food Detox Diet, and Tom DeVito's awesome blog "Independently Healthy" (

12.  Any restaurants you want to recommend?

My favorite restaurant of all time, and which I think truly epitomized the phrase "bangin' bird food", was Bonobo's Vegetarian Restaurant in NYC (they closed their doors last year to my great dismay). My favorite restaurant now is Quintessence in the East Village of NYC though I don't currently live there. 

I've found it possible to have an enjoyable meal at the vast majority of mainstream restaurants I visit despite what might be a seeming lack of plant-centered options on the menu. Though it can be hard at first, it's okay to make your needs known, ask as many questions as necessary, and feel good about how you spend your hard-earned resources to feed yourself if you're not growing and preparing your own food. While dining in another's home is a more delicate matter that I feel requires a slightly different approach, dining out is not an act of charity to the restaurant owners and your body is not a toxic waste disposal. A restaurant that deserves your business will want to provide the service that you desire to the best of their ability. Depending on your needs and preferences, they may not be able to accommodate you at this time but you also don't have to patronize them unless you choose to do so. Calling ahead when unsure or even bringing along something a bit dense like a whole avocado to fill-out a too-light salad (I'll sometimes order two smaller salads and have them combined into) can really make a difference if you find yourself in an establishment with limited flexibility.

13.  What is your favorite bangin' bird food?

Definitely my raw green vegetable juices, usually with a touch of burdock root. Though I don't yet have the skill, you can forage burdock root (and many other highly-medicinal, juice-able roots and herbs) all over the country. Markus Rothkranz's documentary "Free Food and Medicine" contains lots of inspiring information related to foraging and self-healing with very limited monetary resources.

Thank you Kaitlin for sharing your amazing knowledge and experiences.  Kaitlin also has a blog titled "Creative Response" that houses more of her intelligent insights.  Check it out! 

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.
Thank you for reading!  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!

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