Letting Go of Vegan Misconceptions with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

August 1, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. We’re so honored today to have Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. She’s an author, speaker, teacher and compassionate crusader. Welcome to Green is Good, Colleen. COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Thank you, John. Thank you for having me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: If you’d like to follow along as we get the honor of talking with Colleen today, you could go to her great website, www.joyfulvegan.com. Colleen, before we get talking about all the great work you’re doing in terms of thought leadership as vegan royalty, can you share your story? What was your journey leading up to your great leadership in the vegan world? COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Well, you know, I’m like everybody else who grew up eating animals. I grew up on the east coast. I grew up in New Jersey, though you’re not supposed to hear that in my voice anymore because once I moved to California, you lose your accent. I grew up in New Jersey and I grew up in a family. I love animals. I loved my dog. I would go to the zoo. I loved clothes that had animals all over them. I always read books about animals. I watched movies about animals. In every way, I was taught that animals were a huge part of my life and my development and I didn’t know I was being fed animals. I had no idea and when I was starting to get the idea, I was given some pretty lame excuses and reasons and nothing ever changed and I continued to eat them and I don’t think I could say that I just went on eating them happily because it just really something in the back of your mind feeling uncomfortable with it and I think that’s where our excuses come from. If you’re comfortable with something, we don’t have to make justifications for it so when I was about 19, I read Diet for a New America and it was the first time I made the connection between the animals I was eating and the violence that I was contributing to. It started me on my own journey of learning everything I could about these issues and the most immediate thing I could do was not participate and so I stopped eating land animals and eventually I stopped eating anything that came out of the sea and then eventually anything that came off of or from an animal and I would say that moment when that happened, when I actually became vegan, it’s such an interesting phrase we use but it really is this moment of awakening and it was that for me. It was this moment of absolute awakening where I looked at the world through a completely different lens than I had before, completely different in the sense that it was very clear to me, not completely different in that this was a new feeling. I had been a compassionate person. Compassion was a huge part of who I was just as a person, even when I was eating animals. What happened when I became vegan was that all the blocks to enabling me to live compassionately unconditionally were removed and that’s really how I equate becoming vegan was that I literally started manifesting the values that had been inside of me in my behavior. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So cool. So, wow, back at 19, so you started really early. COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: I was 19 when I stopped eating land animals. It took me a good seven years before I became vegan. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Right, gotcha, and you know, you’re the prolific author of six books and I’ll name some of them; The Joy of Vegan, which has become the Bible of vegan baking, The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, Vegan’s Daily Companion and all these books for our listeners out there, I own all of them. I highly encourage all of you to go on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or find them at other fine bookstores wherever you’re at. You’ve become a shining star and a huge beacon of hope in the vegan world. What is it like to be a force of nature and what are you up against in terms of conceptions and challenges that are thrown at the vegan industry or people who want to eat this way. What are you fighting in terms of misconceptions and other lies that have been just propagated out there against people who want to take us into the future and the right way of eating? COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Well, it’s really frustrating because people are so disempowered and my work is really dedicated to letting people kick back and get the information they need to feel empowered, to manifest their values of compassion and wellness. Whatever reason people are motivated to stop eating animals and anything that comes out of an animal, whatever reason they’re motivated to do so, I want to be there to debunk the myths and to give them the tools they need to do it. That’s really the gist of my work. It’s been the foundation of my work from the very beginning and I think I’ve been successful because I’ve been so clear in that mission. I’m not trying to do anything other than give people what they need. I always say I’m not asking you to merge with my values. I’m just asking you to live according to your own and it’s just really an incredible joy and honor to be part of these transformations. What’s frustrating is that from the outside, it looks like this is something that’s difficult, something that’s hard, something that’s niche, something that’s alternative when really this is about something we all care about and that really is compassion and most of us would never do to animals what we’re paying people to do and people think that there’s some sort of agenda and there’s something outside of what they’re used to and really, we’re talking about fruits and vegetable and nuts and seeds and beans and grains and herbs and spices, things that people are already eating but they don’t call vegan so everything I do is to kind of debunk those myths and demystify what people think of “vegan” and recognize that it’s something that’s already part of their lives. They just don’t label it vegan and that approach really worked for people because my work is very much based on accessibility and familiarity and quite literally, joy, so that’s what I try to bring to the table and it attracts people and it really works. The frustration is that I don’t have the millions and billions of dollars that the industries who are persuading people to buy their products have and that’s what we’re up against but I don’t dwell on that to much because I’m just trying to do my work and just kind of cut through all the noise. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha, and speaking of, you mentioned ethical and farming practices and what’s going on with animals right now is we had the founder of the sanctuary on a couple weeks back. Talk a little bit about your stance on ethical farming practices and what’s going on with animals now with regards to feeding America, feeding the world, and how can we be better steward of the planet by treating animals better than we’ve treated them historically? COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Well, you know, for me, the foundation of my work, especially around animal protection, comes from the belief that I don’t believe animals are here for us and I think so much of what has gone wrong in our society for the last several hundred/ thousand years, because we haven’t been farming animals for more than a thousand years, but that’s part of what the problem is. We’re missing that connection with animals and with nature and we see them as here for us and that, to me, is the problem and the solution isn’t that we’ll treat them better. The solution is don’t use them and they’re not here for us. They have their own desires and their own needs and their own lives and their own bodies and their own offspring and they’re not here for me so for me, I would rather see us move in the direction of getting us away from these very old strange practice of impregnating animals so that we can force her to lactate so that we can take her milk for what? We don’t even drunk our own human milk into adulthood. It doesn’t even make any sense. The animals whose milk we’re taking, their offspring don’t even drink their milk into adulthood. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would we go through that? Why would we go through the animals to get to the nutrients that the animals have in their flesh and secretions because they’re eating plants? So, we need to skip the middle animal and go directly to the plants for our nutrition and for everything we need rather than use all the resources that it takes to keep and to use and to kill animals. It’s not good for them. It’s not good for us so I don’t really think there’s a way to do it in a way that really honors (a) what we really do care about and (b) that honors the animals themselves and their own autonomy and ( c) the resources that it takes to farm animals. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners who just joined us, we’re so excited to have Colleen Patrick-Goudreau with us today. To learn more about all of Colleen’s important and great work, you can go to JoyfulVegan.com. You can learn more about what she’s doing. There’s podcasts there. All of her six books are there to buy and lots of other resources. Colleen, one of the top things now that are being discussed in society and in the media is this whole paleo versus vegan thing. What do you make of this whole paleo versus vegan? It sounds like almost like a UFC cage fights and it’s like it’s all or nothing to the death and paleos don’t want to hear anything about vegans and they think that that’s all wrong and vegans are really not too keen on this whole paleo publicity trend. What’s your take on this? COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: You know, it’s just another diet and it’s so frustrating because people think there’s more credibility to it because you use buzz words like traditional and ancient and artisan and ancestors and paleo. You use these words that have these romantic notions associated with them and so then people think there’s something more credible about it. It’s a diet. It’s a diet just like the Atkins Diet is a diet and I don’t have to — that’s all it is and yet it’s taken off like crazy. The difference for me is that I don’t look at vegan as a diet. I don’t. For me, vegan is just a manifestation of compassion. It’s just another word for living compassionately and so for me, that’s the foundation of veganism so it’s talked about in the media a lot as a diet. It doesn’t have to be complicated. People are so confused. It comes back to what I said before. They’re so confused. They’re so disempowered. They hear all of these different things in the media about what they should eat, what they shouldn’t eat, the news study that came out that coffee’s good, that coffee’s not good, that wine is good, that wine’s not good, that this is a power food, oh blueberries, they’re the new power food. Just eat plants. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than make the foundation of your diet whole foods. Make the foundation of your diet whole foods. That’s the principle behind my book, Color Me Vegan. I’m not spouting a particular kind of diet. Here’s what I’m spouting. Eat by color. That’s all you need to do. That’s all you need to do is when you go to the grocery store, choose as much color as you can, as much variety of colors as you can because in the colored plant foods is all the phytochemicals and those phytochemicals affect different parts of our bodies in a really positive way so we’ve heard of beta carotene. Everyone knows beta-carotene in carrots. We know that the beta-carotene is really good for our eyes. We’ve heard of lycopene in tomatoes. We know lycopene is really good for the prostate so when you pick these different colors and eat these different colors, it affects the different parts of our bodies in a really positive way. You don’t have to follow a plan. You don’t have to buy certain recipes and certain books. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than eat by color and eat whole foods. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We love to give solutions on Green is Good and you bring up a great point. Coach some of our listeners out there that are thinking of making the switch and think that it’s too daunting of a process. Can you give some tips for making the switch to a plant based diet from an animal based diet and also some of your favorite tips that you integrate into your life? Are supplements necessary? Are any type of vitamins or any other type of things necessary? What should people do if they’re really on the fence right now and they really do want to make a switch and they’re just a little bit nervous to do so? COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Sure. First of all, I want to mention the 30-day vegan challenge because I have an online program right now called 30DayVeganChallenge.com. That’s where they can go. The book is coming out in January, 2015 and it answers all of these kinds of questions about supplements and cooking and making the time to cook and getting in the kitchen and chopping vegetables and eating out and traveling and all of it but to your question the first thing I would say is start where you’re at. A lot of people say, oh my God, I could totally give up chicken and meat. I could totally give up all of that but I could never give up X, right? It’s usually cheese so they say I could give up meat but I couldn’t give up cheese and I say okay, well give up meat and don’t give up cheese. Start somewhere but don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something and that’s the first thing I would say to people. People think that they have to do everything and so that’s why they feel like they can’t right away. They do nothing at all. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Start where you are. The second thing is I would say start supplementing things that are familiar to you, that’s part of your daily diet that are easy switches so start using plant based milk. The only beverage we have a requirement for is water but we’re so used to having milk in our culture so we’re so used to animal milk and of course, people know that there are a ton of plant milks out there. There’s soymilk, there’s almond milk, there’s hemp milk, there’s rice milk, there’s cashew milk, peanut milk. You can make milk from any grain, any nut, any seed, so start switching out the milks that you’re using, maybe for your cereal, maybe for your coffee, maybe for baking, and same thing with butter. Earth Balance is an amazing, wonderful — it’s a non-dairy butter and people say, oh, it’s fake butter. No, it’s butter. It’s just made from plant fat rather than animal fat, so start switching out those things that you can so it means you’re still having all of the familiar things in your repertoire but you’re just having more healthful, compassionate versions so those are the places I would start and raise the bar a little bit. Get back in the kitchen. People complain that they don’t have time to chop vegetables. We have the time to chop vegetables. We’re not making the time to chop vegetables. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes a day to chop some vegetables, put them in some containers, put them in the refrigerator so that when we come home and it’s time for dinner, we go oh, it’s chopped up. I can make a soup. I can make a stir-fry. I can make something healthy rather than just pulling out a frozen pizza because we think we don’t have time. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, Colleen, we’re down to the last four minutes or so, and there’s so many questions I want to ask you and I want our listeners to learn more about you but more specifically, we’re going into interesting times in terms of leadership roles and folks that are really showing us a better way and I’ve been a huge fan of yours forever and you are a force of nature. Who writes six books? Most people are just happy to get one book out in their life and you’ve done six so I’m just fascinated and I know our listeners would be interested. What gets you up out of bed in the morning? What drives you? How have you become such an important force of nature in this new food evolution, which has really, in so many ways, become a food revolution, but it’s the appropriate evolution , and who has been your heroes? Who has inspired you to go do the great work and the important work that you’re currently doing? COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Well, thank you. You know, what gets me out of bed in the morning is the animals. I do this for them. This is all for the animals and that includes human animals and what drives me is that I know that to be their voice is such an incredible honor. They don’t have a voice and they need us to speak for them so to be able to get up every morning and make that the main thing on my to-do list, that’s pretty motivating and then the second thing is that I know that in doing that, it’s working and I hear from so many people all around the world who tell me that their lives have been transformed because of a podcast of mine that they listened to or a book of mine that they’ve read or a talk that I gave that they heard and how can I not keep going? I know something’s working for people so that really motivates me. My inspiration aside from the animals are the people who are open, the people who say I want to be better. I want to do it differently. I’m open. Tell me how I can do this differently. We’re not gonna be perfect. None of us are perfect. This is not about purity. This is not about a certification in perfection. This is about doing the best we can to make the most compassionate choices and I know there are millions of people out there who want to make the right choices. Those are the people who are my inspiration who come and say I’m open, just tell me. Guide me. And that’s what motivates me. It’s the most beautiful thing. I know people are good people who want to do the right thing and I’m just honored that I can provide some guidance, provide some tools to make that possible for them. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Colleen, we’re down to the last two minutes or so. Talk about your latest campaign around the 30-Day Vegan Challenge, which is your new book coming out January 2015. Share what you did with that and how that’s going so far. COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU: Yeah, that’s really exciting, so the 30-Day Vegan Challenge is coming out in January, hopefully maybe the holidays of 2014 and I decided to go to the public, our community of amazing people who believe in this work and who know how important it is and we funded to publish the book and I’m in the process right now of editing and doing the photography and I’m on the hiring out all of the professionals to do all of the work to make this a beautiful special book and this is a book that literally guides people, gives them the tools they need to make this transition and to do it joyfully and healthfully and confidently so it was pretty amazing. I’ve had books published by, obviously, traditional publishers including Random House and it was just an honor to go directly to my public and say let’s do this together. That way I don’t have to ask anybody else for their permission. I just need your support so it’s been amazing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re gonna have you back on to further discuss the 30-Day Vegan Challenge and to buy all of Colleen’s great books, you can go on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or go into one of your local bookstores and buy and enjoy her great books and start cooking vegan. Go to JoyfulVegan.com to learn more about Colleen. You can buy all of her books there or listen to her podcasts. Thank you, Colleen, for being an inspiring visionary vegan-preneur and compassionate crusader. You are truly living proof that green is good.