June 26, 2013

A Vegan Mom Stands Strong. ~ Dana Gornall

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

~ Coco Chanel

Soon after announcing my pregnancy with my first child, the unsolicited opinions began. Whether it was from a family member to a random stranger in the grocery store, I heard their stances on medicated labors versus natural childbirth, breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, and a family bed versus sleeping in a crib.

The opinions kept coming long after the birth of my son and still continue today.

My choice to switch from an omnivore diet to a plant-based vegan diet took some time. I had grown up as a typical American kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s with mainly home-cooked meals at dinner and occasional treats of fast food. In college, I lived on Rice-a-Roni and macaroni and cheese.

When I became pregnant however, suddenly what I ate mattered and I began paying closer attention to what I put in my mouth because it was no longer just about me.

I was carrying this tiny little soul and everything changed.

This newfound realization carried over even more after my son was born. I was extremely careful as to what I allowed my son to eat when he became old enough to try solid foods. Even then I was pressured by well-meaning people to give him candy and ice cream.

I was told I was being over protective and preventing him from enjoying great food. A common argument was that if the food was so bad, it would have to be banned. Between the expert opinions and thoughts expressed by people close to me, second guessing myself became inevitable.

Junk food has become almost unavoidable with it invading our homes and our cupboards. While addictive and comforting, it is creating an alarmingly out of control pandemic of various illnesses related to the ingestion of such culturally accepted meals.

This takeover of dye infested, fat laden, heart clogging cuisine may be hard to refuse, and those who attempt to reshape their lives by switching over to a plant-based and compassionate lifestyle tend to be teased, picked on and harassed endlessly.

Since childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years in the United States, we can not afford to continue consuming and promoting the Standard American Diet. (SAD)

The prevalence of serving high caloric meals with low nutrient content today is leading to diagnoses of Type II Diabetes and high cholesterol in school aged children. As their bodies adapt to the extra weight carried around, the toll wears on developing bones and joints. Our culture is shifting to view these diseases as common and in some cases an inevitable outcome.

My choice to abstain from meat and dairy can be thought of by many as an extreme lifestyle. Unlike many metropolitan cities where vegan options are more readily available, I live in a small suburb where steak houses and hamburger joints dominate the area. Luckily I have some people around me that are supportive but a common attitude is that being vegan is not only weird but unnatural. Certainly not cooking meat for my children is borderline abusive.

Conformity rules in most group dynamics and those who go against the grain are often labeled as odd and the butt of jokes. Any rebuttal is often considered being overly defensive and lacking a sense of humor.

This type of bullying can be especially trying if you want your children to follow this path.

Insisting on healthy food for your family in a world where fast food drive-thru’s are lined with cars and mini-vans and public schools provide vending machines and snacks as alternatives to lunch can be viewed as being snobbish and annoying.

So how can you deal with the naysayers that are so commonplace in parental circles and birthday parties?

  • If possible, start your children on a healthy diet early. Once they are exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables, continue serving them even if they turn their noses up to it. This helps them develop a taste for healthier food.
  • Stay positive. Most people do not enjoy being criticized and will react negatively if you point out the caloric count of what they are eating or the describe the horrors of animal slaughter while they are sinking their teeth into a cheeseburger. While this may be effective, in the long run leading as a good example and being open to questions have a greater chance of leaving a lasting impression.
  • Connect with others that share your vision. Finding other people that are similar to you can sometimes be difficult but today’s technology can pave a path straight to like minded people. Support is very helpful and can be found in online communities and groups. When I first started transitioning to a plant-based diet I “liked” a ton of vegetarian and vegan pages on Facebook to load my newsfeed with healthy recipes and positive messages. This act kept my goals focused and was a constant reminder of the person I was striving to become.

Stand up for yourself and more importantly stand up for your children. Changing attitudes regarding the food we eat is quite a challenge.

It has to start at home.




Dana Gornall is a mom of three crazy kids and a dog. She works as a licensed massage therapist in Amherst, Ohio and is a certified sign language interpreter. She recently started an apprenticeship with elephantjournal and is looking forward to even more personal growth.





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Ed: Bryonie Wise


{Photo credit: Pinterest}



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