Why I'm Not Having A Vegan Thanksgiving
Where I come from, Sydney, Australia, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving but since I've spent most of the last seven years in the US, I've come to appreciate how important this day is to my American friends. The way I see it as an outsider looking in, this holiday is all about people getting together with those they care about and love. This year on Thanksgiving, I will be in Manchester, in Northern England for a screening of my new film, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2, so I won't be celebrating the holiday. However, in past years I've been honored to be invited into friends' homes to celebrate – and on those special occasions I've jumped in wholeheartedly – turkey, stuffing and marshmallow topped sweet potatoes included!
Yes, that's right, I said turkey! It can be quite a surprise to people that Joe the Juicer is not vegan. I'm also not vegetarian, paleo or pescetarian. I'm plant-based. To me this means that the majority of my diet is from plant foods. I know that some people refer to themselves as plant-based and they ONLY eat plants, but to me plant-based means that the majority of what's on my plate – the base – comes from plants. I've had the chance to speak to world renown experts, I've looked at the research, and from my own experience – since I've been eating this way I look better, I feel better, I live better and I'm happier – I know that the more plants we consume the healthier we will be.
The way I eat today didn't happen overnight. I used to be what I'd call processed food-based. As was well documented in my first film, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, I went to 100% plants for five months starting with 60 days of consuming only fresh juice, followed by another three months of also eating plants. It took a few years to reintroduce animal proteins and I did it slowly first with fish, then chicken and very rarely red meat. I listened to my body and did what felt right.
The same went for introducing dairy and processed food. In today's world, living the lives we live, I think it is extremely difficult to abstain from all processed food so I do my best to limit the amount of packaged foods I consume, especially the ones high in chemicals and other additives. I'm a firm believer in the 90%/10% rule – try your best to follow a healthy lifestyle 90% of the time and allow yourself leeway the other 10% of the time to have some cake, enjoy a glass of wine or, like what I do, have a bowl of chocolate ice cream while watching a movie on the couch. And remember, this is just a guideline, don't beat yourself up if you're running at a 70%/30% ratio, just do your best.
The saying goes Happy Holidays, but sometimes they can be just the opposite. Holidays tend to bring on stress whether that's because you're feeling lonely, dreading a drama-filled family gathering, or prepping a meal for a large group. When stress comes into play, I have found that making healthy choices when it comes to food can be the last thing on your mind. So give yourself a break. Don't be so hard on yourself for enjoying the pumpkin pie or a bit of chocolate. Now, don't interpret this as you should throw all the rules out the window and go berserk eating six tubs of ice cream. We are talking about being sensible and fair on the person we are usually hardest on, our self.
For some of us, myself included, there are certain strict rules that we should carry into any celebration. In the old days Coca-Cola was my thing. I could drink anywhere between five and ten cans a day. I believe that if I was to have one glass of it today, I'd fall right back into that old habit. Since embarking on my first Reboot in 2007, I've abstained from Coca-Cola. I haven't had one drop. The same goes for alcohol. It's not that I think alcohol doesn't have its place but, for me, I've found that my judgment when making food choices is impaired, not only the night I'm drinking but even more so the next day. So although Coca-Cola and alcohol are part of celebrations for many, I simply don't partake.
And one more thing: just because I've made these changes over the last seven years doesn't mean that everyone else I am celebrating with has or has to do the same. So for those of us who have made changes that we feel good about, I think it is especially important on holidays that we recognize our way might not be the way for others. We don't need to preach, or be difficult, or make others feel uncomfortable. As a rule, I don't talk about my lifestyle habits unless I'm asked and even then I'm very careful of the words I choose to make sure I'm talking about my journey.
If you are one of the many who have food restrictions – you're vegan or gluten intolerant – and you're invited somewhere, letting the host know and offering to bring something can do the trick in ensuring proper food options for you. Bring the veggies for an appetizer, the gluten-free stuffing or a raw dairy free pumpkin pie. If people don't feel judged, most of the time they'll go out of the way to accommodate you – maybe making a fresh juice to sit on the bar – and they might even be inspired to join you.
I can summarize my tips for navigating the Thanksgiving table in three tips: Enjoy the celebration. Be kind to yourself. And give thanks for the power of plants with an extra large green juice the next day. Happy Thanksgiving!
Photo courtesy of the author