Victoria Moran is a longtime vegan, and a force within the vegan movement. Author, vegan lifestyle coach, teacher, inspirational speaker (and more!), Victoria’s energy seems endless. Her latest book, Main Street Vegan is now on the shelves – a wonderful gift this holiday season for new vegans, and longtime vegans alike. We had the chance recently to chat with Victoria about the book, her work, and to get some tips on how we can all work to be a positive force within the vegan movement.
Now’s your chance to enter our Main Street Vegan giveaway: Enter NOW by posting a comment below. Tell us how you help to share veganism positively with others. You have until Monday December 17th!
Vegan Mainstream: You’ve been vegan for a long time. Why did it seem like the right time to write a book like Main Street Vegan?
Victoria Moran: I’ve written vegan books before. Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism came out in 1985 and was probably the first book on vegan philosophy and practice from a major publisher. At that time, there were so few vegans that not a lot of people cared, but when it went out of print, the American Vegan Society picked it up and has been publishing it ever since. My weight loss book, The Love-Powered Diet: Eating for Freedom, Health, and Joy, is also a vegan book and has had three incarnations, most recently from Lantern Books in 2009.
Main Street Vegan was its own story, though. I went to a PETA fundraiser in December 2010 and was so moved. I’d heard the issues many times and I’d been exposed to images of abuse for over 30 years, but for some reason, that particular night, my heart was opened wider than usual and I wanted to help more than usual. I was kind of praying about how I could do that on my way home in the subway, and it came to me: “Main Street Vegan, geared to people who are intrigued but wary; 40 short chapters with a fun, easy recipe after each one, and an extensive resource section.”
I’d written ten books at that time, and I’d never had the outline for one virtually dictated to me. It was pretty powerful. I told my agent the next day that that was the direction I needed to take.
Victoria: People love it and that makes me feel pretty wonderful. VegNews called it “the vegan Bible, New Testament,” and Ellen Degeneres blogged that it “offers practical advice and inspiration…no matter what tax bracket you’re in.” What I’m hearing from readers is that they love the experience of reading the book, that it’s as if I’m talking straight with them, face to face, real person to real person, which is certainly what I intended to do with this book.
I hear from new vegans (and people who went vegan as a result of reading the book) that they appreciate the non-judgmental style. I mean, except for a few birthright vegans like my daughter, we were all omnivores, and then most of us were some brand of vegetarian for a short or long period of time before making it to vegan. This isn’t a license to dawdle, but it’s an understanding that change comes at different rates for different people and that being on the way to all vegan/all the time is a pretty terrific path to be taking.
The comment that I hear most from longtime vegans (many who weren’t even going to read the book because they thought it was for novices) is that they learned things they didn’t know before. I think that’s because I attempted to go to the heart of issues. When talking about raising vegan kids, for instance, I say that nutrition and socialization, the two areas we focus on most, are actually pretty easy. The tough part is being ready, as parents, to bring up children in a minority lifestyle. No one can tell the future, but do you seem relatively sure that you’re committed to veganism yourself? Is your primary relationship stable? I did the blended-family thing with a vegan daughter and non-vegetarian stepchildren and let me tell you: that’s a challenge for all concerned. So I think established vegans appreciate the take I have on both the obvious and underlying issues involved in being vegan in an omnivorous world.
VM: What was it like to work with your daughter on this book, and can you talk a bit about the role Adair played?
Victoria: It was fabulous! On the commitment to veganism, we’re totally on the same page, but on how to put that into practice, we run the gamut. I’m pretty much a “health nut,” while she is fully willing to pan-fry her Lentil-Spud Patties (one of the recipes in the book) and indulge in a vegan chocolate martini (two of which close out the “Have a Drink if You Want One” chapter in Main Street Vegan). She contributed a fresh point of view, the sensibilities of a Gen Y to balance my Boomer outlook, and she also has the unique perspective of a lifelong vegan.
It’s like someone who’s been part of a particular religion all their lives: they’re comfortable with that connection, but they don’t spend their lives inviting every warm body to come to their church. A new convert, on the other hand, does. Even after nearly three decades as a vegan, I have a certain fire under me to spread the word. Adair’s attitude is that she lives her life as a testimony. If someone likes what they see – that she works as a stunt performer, grows a beautiful garden, rehabs wild birds – they’ll look more closely at the whole picture, the vegan piece, too.
VM: You’re also a vegan lifestyle coach; can you talk about what you do for people in that role?
Victoria: Sure. I purposely keep my private practice small because my emphasis is on training and certifying others to practice as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator (VLCE) through Main Street Vegan Academy . This is such an exciting part of my life: a fabulous 5-day intensive, live and in person, here in New York City. The students have access to me nearly 24/7, and I teach several of the classes myself, but there’s also a stellar adjunct faculty including Marty Davey, MS, RD (la Diva Dietician!), Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of OurHenHouse.org, Joshua Katcher of TheDiscerningBrute.com, vegan baker Fran Costigan, prolific cookbook author Nava Atlas, vegan historian Rynn Berry, and many more.
But here’s what the coolest: we take amazing field trips to incredible vegan businesses around New York City – restaurants, MooShoes, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, and the Brooklyn enclave of compassionate fashion, Vaute Couture, where founder and designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart gives the attendees a priceless presentation on the principles of vegan entrepreneurship.
You can’t tell I’m excited about this, can you? But seriously, it’s just incredible. Okay, you asked about my practice. I work with individuals in person in New York City and by phone and Skype around the world to go vegan and stay vibrantly and healthfully in the fold. I’ve been on this path a really long time, and I’ve maintained a 60-pound weight loss well into the double-digit decades: a lot of people come to me who have overeating or food addiction issues because, well, it takes one to know one. I’ve lived it, so I can give people empathy and understanding, and call them on their self-sabotage.
I’m also certified as a Holistic Health Counselor (HHC, AADP) and a Life Coach (CLC, CTA), and I bring all those skills into my Vegan Lifestyle Coaching practice. Something else that I offer my clients is the adventure of veganism as a way of life. This isn’t just about food and nutrition: it’s about giving life a whole new layer of meaning. It’s discovering not just new foods and fashions and cosmetics, but discovering new ways to interact with the world. I find among my clients that the yogis get more yogic. The stressed-out people get calmer. The people who are beside themselves out of concern for the plight of animals start having more fun and surprise themselves by becoming even more effective for the cause. It’s a beautiful process. People can learn more at www.mainstreetvegan.net/coaching.
VM: Many people who have been vegan for some time feel very passionately about the lifestyle, and often they are looking for ways to help get the word out to the general public about the benefits of veganism. What are some easy ways you can suggest people might do that?
Victoria: You know the first thing I’ll say is that they can come to Main Street Vegan Academy and train to be a VLCE! But I think the best way for most people to get the word out is to live an aspirational life. Be healthy – seriously healthy. If you get into 50s or 60s and you’re not on any prescription drugs, you’re an anomaly; people want to know what you’re doing.
Be kind: the stereotype is that we’re kind to animals and rude to people. It’s not fair that we’re the ones to have to break through a stereotype, but doing it is a kind of activism.
And finally, like my mother used to tell me that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, the way to a pre-vegan’s conversion is definitely with wonderful food. Bring the most beautiful dish to every potluck (that shouldn’t be hard since fruits and vegetables are gorgeous already). Bring treats to the office and include 3 x 5 cards with the recipe. Even make your own lunch look good. Never get into a hummus and crackers rut: people are watching. Take advantage of the brilliant colors of fruits and vegetables and let people be a little bit jealous of your vegan meal. Maybe the next day they’ll bring one of their own.
VM: Do you think that long time vegans have a responsibility to support other people who are “veg-curious”? What are some simple ways you can suggest that people can do that?
Victoria: It may be a responsibility, but I think most of us see it as a pleasure. It’s human nature to want to share what’s important to you, and I think we vegans love it when somebody asks us about this. A guy I used to know had a very effective philosophy of never telling people too much. He’d learned that giving someone a half-hour lecture just to respond to “Where do you get your protein?” turned people off. Therefore, he’d give very simple, short answers to questions, which would cause the questioner to want to ask more.
As for support to those coming along, it’s nice to let them know you’re there when they have questions. An acquaintance of mine came to my Barnes & Noble book launch for Main Street Vegan here in New York. She emailed me later that night and said: “I walked into that store a contented omnivore. Now I’m a cautious vegan.” I congratulated her and said she could call me anytime she had questions.
Well, she read the book, emailed me a couple of times, and on the 4th of July, at the island home of her non-vegetarian hosts, she called in a bit of a panic: “There’s no food here. Seriously: no food I can eat. And I’m on an island. What do I do?” I talked her down the way people in AA talk their protegés out of taking a drink. “Are there vegetable garnishes? Can you ask your host if you can just look in the fridge and see what’s there? Can you take the cheese out of a sandwich and eat what’s left?” She followed up on all the suggestions, did fine, and hasn’t run into any difficulties since. I’m sure that just knowing there’s someone she can call gives her the confidence to work her own way through situations.
VM: Being vegan it is sometimes difficult to fit into mainstream society, which you touch on in your book. What do you think are the most important tips for new vegans to keep in mind, in terms of supporting the lifestyle and not alienating non-vegans?
Victoria: I think we’ll be “mainstream society” once we decide we are. I realize we’re a small minority numbers-wise, but we have a disproportionate amount of influence, i.e., people who aren’t vegan buy products specially manufactured to be vegan. Once we can tell a host that we’re vegan and don’t eat animal products, but that we’d be happy to come to dinner and pleased to bring a dish to share, we’ve done a little mainstreaming right there in an RSVP. That makes us no more “different” than the man who responds to the same invitation with a note that he’s allergic to shellfish, or the woman who’s unable to attend because the dinner party is the same night as one of the Jewish holidays.
In terms of tips, I think they fall under the “social graces” category. That’s a difficult concept when you think about the horrific suffering of animals and tolerating someone else’s meat-eating seems like refusing to stop a murder. If being “in your face” and pelting everyone at McDonald’s with a barrage of overwhelming statistics and horror stories would make people stop eating animals, I’d say, “Heck with social graces: have at it!” The problem is, that almost never works. The statistic and terrifying images of slaughterhouse and agricultural abuses are powerful in the right context – the TV news, in a lecture or article or blog post about veganism or animal rights. In ordinary conversation – especially during a meal – using these tactics makes us sound crazy and gives the listener the perfect excuse for tuning us out.
We’re like abolitionists in the early 1800s: there’s some history to our movement, and our position is ethically unassailable. So was theirs. It took a bloody war to end human slavery in this country, and it’s going to take a good deal of explaining, “example-ing,” and educating to shut down the factory farms and slaughterhouses. We’re on the way and we need to bring people along in ways that will speak to each individual. Bill Clinton and Rosy O’Donnell needed heart attacks to get them here. Somebody else – like the woman who came to my book signing – needs only a bit of information.
So, be nice. Answer questions without ranting. Don’t get involved in debates. Live well. Be healthy. When you have what people want, many of them will want to do what you do.
VM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Victoria: I host a fun, lively, and informative weekly radio show on Unity Online Radio . It’s at noon Pacific/3 pm Eastern, and archived later on the Unity.FM site and also on iTunes and Stitcher; you can also subscribe via RSS. This is a way to hear from (and if you’re able to listen live, call in and talk to) vegan luminaries in food, fashion, health, beauty, fitness, nutrition, animal rights, environmentalism, spirituality, vegan business, and dozens of other topics. Some guests coming up include Annette Larkins (the “ageless woman” of YouTube fame), ultramarathoner Rich Roll, Prof. James McWilliams (Just Food), and Ginny Messina, MS, RD. I also often bring on a delightful co-host chosen from graduates of Main Street Vegan Academy, guaranteeing even more of an upbeat conversation.
Now’s your chance to enter our Main Street Vegan giveaway: Enter NOW by posting a comment below. Tell us how you help to share veganism positively with others. You have until Monday, December 17th!
Footnote: Victoria and her husband William have been working on a screenplay for a family feature film entitled Miss Liberty, about a cow who escapes from a slaughterhouse. For more information about the screenplay, and to hear a featured song, entitled “A Sanctuary Song”, click here.