MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day


It’s National Ice Cream Day, and what better way to get reminded of the joys of summer than now, especially at a time where our spirits seem to be in the dumps with the COVID-19 pandemic going on. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen discuss finding joy during summer, savoring the goodness of ice cream, gatherings, and everything summer stands for that all of us are forgetting these days. They talk about finding support within the vegan community during the quarantine period, addressing as well some challenges that many people face, such as struggling to live with family members that don’t respect the Vegan lifestyle. Tune into this conversation to hear Jason and Whitney’s thoughts about being Vegan at a time of social distancing and more.

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National Ice Cream Day: Finding Joy During Summer And Vegan Support During Quarantine

It’s National Ice Cream Day. I’m going to start off this episode by asking you, Jason, what is your favorite ice cream flavor? Then share where have you had the best experience of that flavor in your life. It could be a few different places. It could be local places in Los Angeles or your hometown of Detroit. It could be national brands that you can buy from the store.

There have been some contenders for the throne, but definitely all-time is mint chocolate chip. That’s been ride or die my entire life. The first experience I can remember with a mint chocolate chip is Baskin Robbins. Growing up in Detroit, we had Baskin Robbins all over the place. It seemed like we had a lot of locations around where I lived. I remember my first ever love affair with an ice cream flavor was mint chocolate chip and it persists to this day. Don’t get me wrong, I love rocky road. I love cookies and cream. I love pistachio. I’ve been eating a lot of ice cream. There’s been a lot of ice cream. My favorite mint chocolate chip is probably from Cocobella Creamery here in LA. Their mint chocolate chip got the color, the chocolate chunks. It’s not too much mint flavor. Cocobella is my number one mint chocolate chip.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day

From Chaos to Calm

I had a feeling you were going to say that. I know you love Cocobella and I agree. It’s lovely and it’s amazing because there are many places that you can get non-dairy ice cream from. We’ve talked about this many times on the show, how our experience as vegans is constantly changing. It’s an amazing thing that plant-based eating has become a trend because it’s increased the availability versus the first few years. For you, Jason, the first 5 to 10 years that you were vegan. It’s like, “Where would you get these things?” It would be like soy ice cream. I remember my first few experiences with anything non-dairy like cheese and ice cream. It was all soy-based. You would start to see almonds growing and you could find that more often, but it was soy and almond were your only options. It seems like every place predominantly focused on soy. Remember the cafes always had soy milk. That was your only option. They eventually had almond milk and now they have oat milk, hemp milk, and all these other things. I remember ice cream shops was exciting if they would have soy ice cream, but I never liked soy ice cream. Did you?

It was like, “It’s better than nothing.” That whole segment of the ice cream industry in terms of non-dairy options feels to me like it’s followed a similar trajectory to a lot of products in terms of innovation, flavor, consistency, and quality. I remember in the mid-’90s when I was experimenting with it, which was like ‘95, ‘96 is when I started to look at, “I want to get off dairy. I want to shift away from it.” It was a total experimental phase for me. I’ve told this story many times. I never had a goal or an intention of becoming vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based. I noticed that the more I took away animal products and the more I replaced it with plant-based products, the better I felt emotionally, physically. In the mid-‘90s with ‘95, ‘96, we had one Whole Foods in the State of Michigan. It was in Ann Arbor, which was an hour and ten-minute drive. There were three places I remember going to get non-dairy products and all these things. It was mind-blowing. Whole Foods was like, “What is this place?” It was like a playground. It was like a play-land for food. We had Zervos, which you’ve been to on one of the trips. We also had the Fruit Seller, which was the scary health food store in Detroit. This place has been open since the ‘60s. It looks and smells like it’s been open since the ‘60s.

Speaking of which, didn’t you take me to an ice cream shop in Detroit with your mom? I remember a huge ice cream shop that we went to. I feel confident that it was a cream shop. It was large and there were two different sections. Maybe it wasn’t specifically ice cream, but we had ice cream. This doesn’t ring a bell at all?

No. Maybe it’ll come by the end of the show. My point was with all of these locations that I would go to and get these products, back then it was Eden soy and Rice Dream.

Rice Dream makes nondairy products still. They had the rice ice creams and stuff.

They had the rice ice cream. The Tofutti Cuties around since the dawn of time.

They’ve stood the test of time. I haven’t had them in a long time, but what I remember of them is that they’re still legit. They were a little ahead of their time in terms of a vegan dessert.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day

If I look back on the limited number of options and it’s all relative. I was excited to have an option other than dairy milk. A little bit more background, I’ve been lactose intolerant my whole life. As a kid, I would avoid it because my mom realized I was lactose intolerant. As a teenager, you’re like, “Everyone’s having ice cream and eating whatever.” I would eat dairy. I would put up with the stomach aches and put up with the headaches and do it. Once I found that there are alternative cheese and milk. If I think back on it, they weren’t good. My whole point and you bringing up all these options with vegan ice cream, non-dairy ice cream is since I started experimenting with this lifestyle, it’s unbelievable how far it’s come in terms of innovation, taste, and flavor. I’ve taken a lot of people to Yoga-urt and also Cocobella, which to me my two favorite ice cream places here in LA.

Don’t forget Salt & Straw and Van Leeuwen. If you had to rank ice cream options in LA, how would you rank them?

It’s a bit tough because Yoga-urt is vegan soft serve, and Cocobella is hard scoop. To me in my mind, they’re tied. I can’t pick one or the other because stylistically they’re different and they’re both amazing in their own ways. I spend my ice cream dollars on those places. I’d have to say Van Leeuwen after that, then Salt & Straw fourth. Probably Jeni’s, even though they don’t have a ton of flavors. I do like what I’ve tried there.

Jeni’s chocolate is good. We have a lot of great options. I wonder if Jeni’s is available nationally? That’s my next question before we completely move on. The entire episode is not going to be about ice cream. When you read the title or the description of an episode, and then you read and we spend like ten minutes talking about something completely different, like that Birthday episode, Jason. It started off with that and then we got into something. What was it even about? It was not related to your birthday at all. Some people might like that. I like it when a show feels more conversational. That’s the whole aim of our show. We’re not giving a lecture at an event. We’re not presenting on a topic. We’re talking and for anyone who’s relatively new to our show, that’s our style. Conversations go in general. Sometimes I start off like a soft surface level and then they get in deep. Maybe that’s our natural flow.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayI feel like in terms of that Whitney we’re bookending it. We start off with things that are light, playful, exploratory, and freewheeling. We end, we don’t want to spoil it, but for any new audiences, we have some fun stuff at the end of each episode. In the middle, we fill it with more introspective, serious, or contemplative topics.

Before we get to the serious stuff, I think we should also talk about our favorite store-bought brands more in-depth. If the audiences outside of LA, we don’t want them to feel left out, especially if they’re in the US. If you’re in different countries, you can find a lot of non-dairy ice cream at different shops. I’ve traveled as a vegan and I went to Greece. It was easy to find ice cream and ice cream shops in most of the Greek cities that I was in. Sometimes it’s sorbet, which to me is not that exciting. However, you can get good chocolate sorbet or mango sorbet. It depends on what you go for. I’m more of a chocolate lover than I am a fruit lover. I don’t get that excited about fruit sorbet. I’m trying to think if there was a store-bought ice cream in Greece. I don’t recall. UK and Australia and Canada all have lots of great options. Our aim here is not to make anyone feel like they’re left out. I’m always afraid of that.

In terms of store-bought brands, we should talk about them too. Going back to the mint chocolate ship statement, Jason, one of my favorite brands is So Delicious and they have a ton of ice cream options, maybe more than any other brand that I can recall. They have one of my favorites delicious flavors is there no sugar added line, which I’m shocked as to the test of time. I remember trying that in 2011 or 2012. The packaging has barely changed. It tastes the exact same. It’s still there. What’s cool about that one is it falls into the Keto diet. When I was strict vegan Keto, I would buy that ice cream.

Halo Top has a dairy-free option as well. That’s also vegan Keto. Both of them are a little bit of stretch in terms of carb counts. If you’re looking for something that has no added sugar, they’re a great option. There’s a newer brand on this note of vegan Keto. It’s called Nubocha. It’s like a gelato ice cream option. It’s readily available in Los Angeles. If you go to their website, you can find where else you can buy them. It’s lovely and one of the better ones that I’ve had store-bought. I didn’t finish what I was going to say about So Delicious, which is one of my favorite flavors of theirs is their mint chocolate chip, no sugar added. You’ve had that one. How does that rank in terms of mint chocolate chips?

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day

It’s not my favorite. It’s okay. I love So Delicious. To back up your point, I think that they have a lot of innovative flavors. I tried their oat milk line. They have a Raspberry Peanut Butter flavor of their oat milk line. In terms of mint chocolate chip store-bought, I’m going to go with NadaMoo! It’s coming through in the clutch. NadaMoo! has been knocking me out with some out of the box flavors. I tried their Strawberry Cheesecake and their Peach Cobbler and it was like, drop the spoon, “What am I tasting?” moment.

I love that description.

Their Peach Cobbler, Mint Chip, and their Strawberry Cheesecake. I also love NadaMoo! They’re sweet. Every time we see them at trade shows, conferences, or whatever, they’ve always been wonderful and generous handing out free coupons. I had the chance when I spoke at South by Southwest, The Music and Arts and Entertainment Festival to go to their ice cream shop in Austin, Texas and it was rad.

I don’t remember you saying this. That’s awesome.

My top store-bought national brand is NadaMoo! They’re crushing it in terms of consistency flavor and radical flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake, Peach Cobbler. It was one of those moments at the freezer aisle. One of the things we love most, especially when we travel is to go to natural food grocers that we’ve never been to before and walk the aisles and look for new stuff. I was at Lassens here in LA, which is one of our favorite independent chains here in LA. We love to support independent stores whenever possible. I saw those flavors wit and I was like, “Damn.”

That’s funny you bring up the grocery thing because I’ve been editing the road trip video that we made in 2019. One of the things that we do the most on that trip is go to different grocery stores. I’m excited for that video to come out. There was one other which is Ben & Jerry’s, which we can’t leave them out of the conversation because it’s amazing that they offer plant-based options. They have a lot of options. Plus, they have some that are made from almond milk and some that are made from sunflower seeds, like sun butter. I think that’s cool for somebody that has nut allergies or sensitivities. I am super sensitive to almonds.

I felt left out of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream experience not because it’s a lot of it is not vegan, but even the vegan options were something that I could regularly enjoy. They introduced the Sun Butter and their flavors are incredible. I think the best one I’ve had is a Netflix and Chill flavor, which they have dairy and nondairy. I can’t remember if that one was with the almond milk or not. Sometimes I still try almond-based products. I felt extra supportive of Ben & Jerry’s when they came out with their Black Lives Matter statements. They did one of the best jobs and great allies. I don’t think it was performative. A lot of people were appraising the way that they responded to the Black Lives Matter Movement that is grown since George Floyd passed away. It made me feel like we got to support brands like that as we talked about in a recent episode. Acknowledging the companies that are being allies and that is advocating for racial justice.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day


Before we wrap this, I misspoke at the beginning of this episode. It’s technically not National Ice Cream Day. I wanted to give a heads up because maybe you’re reading this and you have a few days to plan. The cool thing about national days is that you can often get special deals on these days. I bet you that there’s going to be a lot of sales on ice cream. There’s going to be special deals at local shops. Jason heads up for you. Maybe you want to mark your calendar. It’s July 19th. Every year it’s a little different. I think it always falls on like a Saturday or a Sunday. Go check it out because maybe one of your favorite scoop shops will have a special, like buy one get one free, 50% off or something like that. A little nudge for you ice cream lovers. We got to celebrate those things. That’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. How it’s summertime, but it doesn’t feel like summer to me. Do you feel that way, Jason? You’re still in your birthday period.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayIt’s an interesting thing you bring up because I feel like everything clearly has been modified. I don’t want to use terminology like the new normal. I dislike that terminology and I feel like it’s trying to subconsciously condition people to some frame of reality. I do think that we’ve all had to shift how we are socializing and celebrating. My birthday was chill. As opposed to years past, many celebrations, you’ve been an orchestrator and a huge part of with surprise parties and big blowouts with nearly a hundred people. All of the premiere parties. You and I have had a wonderful amount of awesome party experiences over the years. Sweet birthdays, gatherings and things. I’ve been extra reflective on all that because you talk about, does it feel like summer? In certain ways, it doesn’t. I’m certainly accustomed to having a bigger more grandiose celebration for my birthday with more people. You know how much I love to celebrate myself which I don’t often do. I take my birthday to do that, but I haven’t been to the beach since God knows. I don’t even know if I’ve been to the beach in LA which is a huge part of summer.

I haven’t done a lot of hiking because they’ve closed the parks and the hiking trails on and off because of quarantine and COVID. In some ways, it’s requiring us to have more internal celebrations in a way. It’s causing us to be more creative of how we celebrate ourselves, how we experience things. I am going to the beach to celebrate my friend’s daughter birthday. It’ll be the first time I’ve been to the beach. Does it feel like summer? I don’t know that anything feels like anything. That’s a meta existential statement. Things feel weird in general.

The quarantine orders started in March 2020. We’re going on this phase. Even though things have wavered and we’ve had moments of feeling like we’re in the clear. Now, we’re back in a place where things got strict again. It’s everybody’s responded to it a little differently. Some people are sticking to the mask policies. Some people are still anti masks and think that this is some way of controlling us. Whatever your belief is, Jason and I, aren’t here to judge. I’m saying from my experience that I’ve spent a lot of time inside. I’ve done a lot of physical distancing. I don’t feel comfortable doing a lot of socializing and it’s caused me to spend a lot of time in isolation.

I was thinking, “It’s 80 something degrees outside. The most I’m going to do during the summer is take a walk around the neighborhood by myself.” It’s exciting like, “I’m going to run some errands.” I’m excited even though I’m going to my PO box and to the dog store. I have to pick up food for my dog, Evie. I’m not going to buy a dog. I need to go and do normal things. Speaking of going to grocery stores, that’s always exciting to me, but it’s exciting to go out. In a way that I feel like I want to be more intentional about celebrating summer.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayI have been to the beach a few times during the quarantine period. We live in Los Angeles. A lot of people associate Southern California with being at the beach if you don’t live at the beach, it can be a hassle to go there, especially in LA. It can be crowded and you have to deal with parking. it’s a big ordeal. We don’t go as frequently as you might think. In terms of summer, I’m trying to be intentional. Thinking back to what I did as a kid to celebrate summer because that brings me a lot of joy. We have a subject matter we want to get to, but the last thing we’ll talk about before we jump into this, Jason, is I’d love to know what things you like to do during the summer? What makes a good summer? What did you do when you were younger? What would you like to do more of?

I can start by giving you some ideas. Reading is the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve had many amazing memories of lounging around and reading for hours. That’s something that I do every day. I have it on my calendar to read. I have a time block for reading articles on my computer. I have a time block for reading a book, which is usually on my iPad. In one episode, we shouted out the brand, Swanwick. I wear my blue blocker glasses at night because I tend to like digital books over physical books, even though the experience of a physical book is more enjoyable. I’ve been reading every day. I’m thinking like, “How can I switch things up to remind myself of summer?”

When I think about reading during summer breaks as a kid, a teenager college, it’s like I would be cozied up and up against the window or in bed or something like that. It felt like I had the whole day to do whatever I want. I missed those moments. I want to create more of them and one tendency I have, and a lot of adults have is we don’t separate the weekends out from our weekdays. Especially during the quarantine. If you’re working from home as some of us do but if this is new for you, it’s tough because you think, “My home is my office. I can work anytime I want.” I feel like I need to separate out Saturdays and Sundays and integrate more pleasure, personal activities and less of the professional work time. That is reminding me of summer because when you’re younger, summer is associated with not having to work. You don’t have homework. You don’t have to get up early. You get to be with your friends, which we’re not going to do as much, but we could have Zoom sessions or physical distance gatherings. For you, what do you associate with summer and what do you think you could be more intentional or have you been more intentional about to evoke those fond summer memories for yourself?

If I take a reminiscing back into childhood, it was gatherings. The first thing that I think of is how many wonderful cookouts and barbecues and gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors. Growing up in Detroit, the house that I had a double lot. All that means is there was a standardized yard size in Detroit. We had a massive yard. Sometimes I drive by when I’m back home in Detroit to see how the house is doing. We would set up tables and chairs. We would have volleyball, badminton and basketball. One of the foundational things that I associate with late spring and all throughout the summer is gatherings.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayIt’s been a difficult thing for me because I had a birthday picnic gathering camp party that I had arranged and I canceled it. I decided to cancel it because a lot of people were expressing concern with the uptick, the spike, COVID cases and social distancing. A few people insisted on showing up. It was sweet and we had a little socially-distanced gathering. A lot of people are feeling sensitive about any gathering. Say beyond 10 or 15 people. The big thing for me is trying to satisfy my desire for a human connection. Yes, we have FaceTime, Zoom, and phone calls. One of the biggest things that I’ve loved is having a more consistent line of communication with a lot of people I suppose I hadn’t talked to that much in the past few years. It’s been lovely. I miss being physically present with people. I guess one thing that I’m trying to do, and one thing that people offer to do is to meet them for socially-distanced one-on-one time. I have some dates scheduled with dear friends that are like, “Let’s get together and grab a matcha and go for a socially-distanced walk,” or “Let’s go to the market and have a little lunch on my rooftop.”

The cool thing is it’s not everyone gathering in the same yard or the same park as I had hoped. I do get to see a lot of the people that I love. We’re all making lemonade. A lot of the things that we intend on doing, and a lot of the things that we’re envisioning, we have to modify and think creatively and think differently. Gatherings are the number one thing, cookouts, and grilling too. I remember in years past, you and I would have these gatherings with friends. I remember one time a few years back at my loft in Korea town. We had that grill outside and we invited everybody over for Beyond Burgers. We had that amazing cookout. That’s another aspect I missed too. I guess I’ve always bonded with people through food, games, and gatherings. I want to think more creatively about how I can satisfy that desire for connection without being able to get large groups of people together.

It’s important is that we reflect on what’s what feels good to us and how we can make that happen even if there are barriers to it. Being intentional as I’ve said that a few times, but that’s a key. As we’ve done a lot of research around how to support people through all this chaos. Speaking of chaos, Jason and I have a free eBook, you can download. It’s called From Chaos To Calm. That’s on our website. It’s in the free resources section amongst a few eBooks that we’ve created, videos, and lots of things for you to support your wellbeing. As we were working on that book and I was doing a lot of research, I kept seeing that same advice come up over and over again when it came to managing things like anxiety. A huge part of it is that we need to be mindful of doing things that bring us joy and finding a way to tap back into sources of joy that felt like they may have changed a lot or some of us might perceive them as being taken away.

One of the tips that we have in our eBook is this glass half full technique and there’s another tip in there about socializing and how we have to first begin with what is it that feels important to us and why? What is it that we want? How can we get it and how can we reframe the things that are feeling disappointing, frustrating, or negative to us? How can we learn from that or adjust in a way that makes us feel good? I’m glad that you brought that up. That’s something a lot of people are navigating. We should dive into one of the things that we wanted to address which was an email that we received. For the audience, we are appreciative of any emails that we receive or direct messages on social media networks like Instagram.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayIf you ever want to write us an email or send us a direct message, we’re easy to reach. All of our contact information is on our website. Our email is [email protected] and our social media handles @Wellevatr. We’ll keep this person anonymous. We always do, unless they directly say that we don’t need to keep them anonymous. We want to protect your privacy as much as possible. This woman said that she’s been following our work for a while and has not read the blog yet. Maybe this’ll be a good opportunity for her too because is how we want to respond. She said that Jason was one of the first food videos and social media that she started watching and following when she went vegan years ago.

It shows you how long we’ve been in this game. It’s sweet to get that feedback, but also, it’s like, “We’ve been making videos a long time.”

It doesn’t feel that long, especially because we’ve been doing it for several years.

I guess it doesn’t. If I think about what my life was in 2012, it does feel like ages ago. I feel like where I was at and what I was doing in 2012, it feels like ages ago.

It’s funny you bring that up. A few things have been coming up for me related to 2012. I went on a big cross-country road trip in 2012. I’m looking for photos is different imagery. I’m going to pull a bunch of different images of me and Jason summertime things. Going back to this email. This woman said, “I’m still the only vegan in my family and have been living with two family members that don’t respect my vegan lifestyle. It’s an everyday thing that I have learned to tolerate. I’ve gotten to the point where I distance myself and try not to let it affect me, even though it still does sometimes. What are your recommendations for something like this while I’m still in my current situation? I’m feeling like I have no support system and it’s had an effect on me. There are few people I see, and I’m around every single day.”

She also asks, “Is this a common question?” It absolutely is. I know that I have addressed this in my own work with Eco-Vegan Gal, but I haven’t talked about it. I’ve struggled with it. I imagine that you have as well. What are some tips? How have you personally managed this? What would be your advice for someone who struggles to live with family members that don’t respect a vegan lifestyle? I know that you don’t have super direct experience with that because your mom is your main family member, also your aunt and cousins. You’re close to each of them and all of them, if not some of them are vegan, is that correct?

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayWhen I went vegan and adopted a fully plant-based lifestyle in May of ‘98, my mom did it a few months after, she quickly transitioned also. My mom has been an ally in not only helping guide my career and has been a wonderful cheerleader and supporter in many ways. Mentally, emotionally, creatively, and financially. My mom’s been in full support the whole time. It took a longer amount of time for other family members to get turned on to that. Here’s what I mean by that. We obviously had family dinners and family gatherings as a real crux of certainly my mom’s side of the family. I mentioned this in the Father’s Day episode that in the early days, when my dad was around, we also had big food family gatherings with his side of the family.

Food and gatherings have always been an anchor in my family experience. It’s one of the reasons I love food so much. I remember in the beginning trying to explain to my aunt, my cousins, and some extended members of the family of why I’m doing this, why I’m choosing this. I think like a lot of people in the early days of perhaps going plant-based or vegan, you can tend to be a little overzealous and I think I was a little too forceful or overzealous about newfound beliefs. What I did find that was effective when I got pushback and when I say pushback, the extended members of my family were never mean, callous or cruel or making offhanded comments. They were a bit like, “Why are you doing this? What is this? Did you join a cult?” They were more confused and stultified than anything.

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I remember in the early days, my mom was helping me convert a lot of old family recipes and old meat-based, animal-based recipes in general and learning how to make them vegan. Once I did that and started to get better and better at making food, I started to let the food do the talking. I found that with my family and then by extension friends of mine and over the years doing it professionally, that if you make good food, that does most of the talking. It’s not going to convince someone overnight. It’s not going to convince someone to stop making offhanded comments or be immediately supportive of your lifestyle.

In my experience, I found that instead of trying to talk people into seeing my way, making incredibly tasting good, delicious food that also happened to be vegan was how it started to open the eyes of my aunt, my cousins. My uncle is starting to eat more and more healthy food. I think if you make kick-ass food, you make it amazing and you let that do the talking for you and stay firm in your beliefs and what your heart is telling you to do, that’s what I did. Not only my mom but my cousin Jenny, my cousin Steve, my aunt Mary Lou, my uncle Bill a little bit. They’re all doing great and eating plant-based and eating healthier. That was my strategy and that’s what I found was effective.

I’m reflecting on this. It depends on your dynamic with your family members. Jason is blessed to have a great relationship with his mom and other extended family. I have a good relationship with my parents, but I’ve also felt a lot in my life that I was being judged by them or I was never good enough for them. That’s created a lot of tension throughout my life. It’s hard to say like, sometimes that’s in our heads and not to diminish it, but sometimes that’s the story that we play with anybody. It’s like, “I’m never good enough. I’m never going to please this person.” It’s either a combination or the result of feeling a lot of shame from certain people in your life are not supported by them or the culture in which you’re living. That can be tough. I felt fortunate that for the most part, my family has been supportive of me, but I felt like food is been a tension point for us in a lot of ways. Growing up, I struggled with an eating disorder.

It felt challenging to navigate food in general and going vegan helped me in a lot of ways. I felt like I better understood food. Once I learned about the plant-based diet, I understood nutrition in a new way. I was tapping into some of my food sensitivities. Things like almonds, gluten, corn, and soy. All those things I discovered through going vegan, which is funny because those are all big staples of the vegan diet. It was the process of elimination. Once I eliminated dairy, meat, and other animal products, I became more attuned to my body. Before that, I wasn’t in tune with it and I felt out of control. It was tough because I felt a lot of shame around my body.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day


That was a big dynamic in my family system. I still think it is for the most part. Each of us have to examine what’s going on there and how the role that food plays. Being vegan is not about food. It’s about your whole lifestyle, but food is at the center point of Veganism for a lot of people. We think a lot about our diet and then we start to think about other things that we purchase and use and our relationships with animals. With food being such a big thing, when I first went vegan, my family members were confused by it. They didn’t think it was going to last. I had to set strong boundaries and say like, “No, I’m not eating this food anymore.” My dad is still the person in the household that would make most of the meals. I had to instruct him about what I would and wouldn’t eat. Probably in the beginning I would eat around fish or whatever else was on the plate. I got passionate about it and obviously enough where I created a whole career based on this with my work with Eco-Vegan Gal. In the beginning years, when I went vegan in 2003, I didn’t start Eco-Vegan Gal until 2008. That five-year period, I spent a lot of time reading, researching, and trying to meet more vegans.

I didn’t know that many. I don’t think my vegan social circle started to develop until 2010. My first seven years was like, I was the only vegan in my family, but also my friend circle. I slowly started to meet more people. I was in college when I went vegan. It was only a limited amount of time that I was spending with my family. It’s a different situation if you’re in quarantine with family members. I’m sure the stress of COVID, in general is tough, but if you’re spending extra amounts of time with them, similar to how you would if you’re a teenager in high school or something, or living with your family, whoever that is. I imagine that the pressure of that is intense in a way that Jason and I can’t fully relate to. I don’t think either of us have spent a condensed amount of time with our family members at least in the early days of going vegan.

One thing I’ve learned is not to judge them for what they’re eating. The biggest struggle and the biggest learning opportunity for me is to pay them the respect that I want them to pay me. If they don’t pay that respect to me, which has happened not much with my direct family, my parents, and my sister. Maybe it did but it hasn’t been an issue. My extended family members giving me a hard time about it. A lot of people like to tease me. One of the big things is I think the way that some people handle their discomfort is that they deflect it or they show it in like a joking way, like, “That’s the vegan. You’re going to eat your special food. That food looks disgusting. It’s nowhere near as mine. I’m going to sneak some meat into your salad when you’re not looking.” A lot of those types of jokes. I’ve heard much. I’m sure Jason has too and those can be tough to navigate. Even though you can sit there and logically think, “They’re joking. I need to let it roll off my back.” It can be triggering. It triggered me off and on throughout the years, whether it’s coming from family, friends, or strangers.

There’s like two different ways I’ve handled. One way is to take a lot of deep breaths. If you want to work on yourself, deep breaths are one of the best things you can do. This is something we bring up. It’s the second technique that we share in our book, From Calm To Chaos. It’s one of the most powerful things that I’ve ever learned in my life, which is deep breathing in moments of stress and tension. That brings you internally versus focusing on what’s happening externally. It’s calming to the body. If you find your heart racing or your skin flushing, which is often a reaction that we have when we’re feeling angry, shame, or something like that, based on what somebody else is saying or doing to us. Breathing helps us be more centered and balanced. It calms down our bodies. It immediately gets us to focus on ourselves versus somebody else. When you do that, you can remember in that moment that it doesn’t matter what this person is saying or doing, because you’re the one making the choice to be vegan, not them.

Somebody's reaction to your Veganism is a lot more about them than you. Click To Tweet

It’s also important to take a moment to stop and do this breathing. It’s as simple as you find yourself getting angry or triggered or incensed at someone, you take a deep breath. I wanted to say this to respond rather than react to them. If they’re being aggressive or antagonistic and you react to that, there’s no movement and there’s no progress. A reaction and then reacting back to a reaction don’t create any forward progress with that person.

One of our biggest practices in life is learning how we want to react to things. Breathing is a reaction. It’s a simple thing that you can do and you can also do it in a way that’s not as obvious. Sometimes you want to close your eyes and take a deep breath, but that pause not only gives you space, but it gives that other person a space. Sometimes in your act of taking a deep breath and it doesn’t have to be super dramatic. It’s important to tune in to how you’re affecting that other person. Sometimes we can be manipulative. If you can try not to manipulate them, that helps diffuse the energy. Breathing is something that we do naturally.

We have to breathe, but there are all different types of breathwork that you can do. You can go to breathwork classes or take them online. You learn a lot of this in yoga, and there are different ways to breathe in. In your belly and in your chest and you can breathe loudly or quietly. You can breathe with your mouth closed or your mouth open. You can experiment with this. You might even want to do it now. Whenever I talk about breathwork or think about it, I naturally start to practice. It feels good. It is something you can do as you’re reading and experiment with different ways of breathing. My point is if you can do it in a way that’s more subtle, the other person is going to notice that you’re not talking to reacting. You don’t have to do it in a way that they think that you’re doing it to irritate them.

I get triggers sometimes times when I hear people taking deep breaths because that’s their sign that they’re annoyed with me or that’s their sign that they’re stressed out and I start to worry that I did something wrong. If you can breathe in a way that doesn’t communicate anything except for silence, then that silence gives that person, the space to reflect on their actions. Oftentimes when you’re intentionally and kindly silent, not being silent to be passive-aggressive, but silent to take a moment for yourself. The other person will naturally take a moment for themselves. They might realize that what they said or did was hurtful to you. It gives them a chance to reflect on it. The key is to not be attached to how they react in that moment. You leave that space open for whatever is going to happen.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayThere’s a lot of interesting things that can shift in that. That was number one in terms of a response. The second way that you can respond to somebody in my experience is to let them know that it hurt you or bothered you and set a boundary with them. Do it in the most compassionate way you possibly can. Not coming from a place of aggression or passive aggression, but being assertive. There’s a wonderful book about this. It has the word assertive in it. I read it. It taught me a lot about what it means to be assertive and how a lot of us need to practice that and how much it can aid our communication. That’s the big key here is if we can assert our feelings, if we can assert how somebody is affecting us and how we would like them to treat us differently. Then we can be clear with them and communicate and communicate our feelings clearly in a way that they can understand.

That may change things. Also, not being attached to changing the way that they act because you can’t control that. Somebody’s reaction to your veganism is a lot more about them than you. This is true about anything. Some people are triggered because maybe your veganism is showing them that their way of life might not be fully in their integrity. A lot of people are eating animal products simply because that’s the way they were raised or that’s what they think that they like. That’s what they have access to. They don’t realize they have access to other things. There’s a lot of different factors that go into this and we’ve talked a lot about that in our previous episode about how being white is that privilege. That’s often tied to health and wellness.

We don’t want to assume that everybody has access to the same things. We have seen people of all different colors, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual preferences, locations around the world. We see people of a diversity choosing to go vegan and making it work. We feel confident in suggesting that. My point here is that somebody may not have yet figured out their path to going vegan if they even want to because not everybody wants to do it. Not everybody has taken that first step of recognizing the way that they’re eating and that there’s a different way. You have to make that cognitive connection first and foremost. You may have made that years ago. Maybe you slowly made your transition to eating vegan. You have to recognize your path, but not everybody is going to do it in the same way or at the same pace as you. They might be at a completely different spot with their relationship to food because it’s such a complex issue.

The phrase that comes up for me is sometimes when we get frustrated, angry, or irritated with someone’s response, which says a lot about where they’re at in their current state of awareness consciousness or acceptance. It’s akin to looking at a newborn baby and saying to that newborn baby, “Why aren’t you walking yet?” To me, that analogy holds a lot of weight because people are at different levels of awareness, consciousness, sensitivity, and compassion. If we blow out this situation to someone choosing to eat vegan and having pushback or nonacceptance from their family members, fundamentally speaking, it’s not the same. It’s similar to someone being not accepted for their sexuality, their chosen gender that they’re choosing to identify with, or their spiritual beliefs.

You have to recognize your path, but not everybody is going to do it in the same way or at the same pace as you. Click To Tweet

I’ve had a lot of friends and girlfriends and a lot of people in my life that I’ve chosen things that are not mainstream from their eating habits, their lifestyle, to their sexuality. I don’t even think sexuality is something you choose. I want to say that first and foremost. Not to get that confused but announcing to their family that they are this thing and having a lot of pushback and resistance. This is hard work. This is not easy to want badly the acceptance and approval of our parents. I think that’s a natural thing. Our family, the people that we hold in high regard, the people that we have a deep amount of connection to, it’s natural as humans to want approval and acceptance of who we are as beings.

That’s a natural instinct but we can’t guarantee we’re going to get that approval because our family, our friends, the people we surround ourselves are not at the same level of doing the work on themselves to understand, feel compassion and acceptance for lifestyle, sexuality, spiritual beliefs that are different than what they’ve chosen. I have a lot of hope and faith in the world that we’re in a period of massive awakening that people are going like, “I don’t have to feel threatened. I don’t have to feel reactionary because someone’s choosing something different than me because it has no direct effect on how I’m living my life.” I do hope that more people make that connection, that how a person chooses to eat, live, worship, love, express themselves doesn’t take away from how you’re choosing to live your life. It doesn’t dilute that it doesn’t threaten it. I hope more people are waking up to that realization.

To summarize this, it’s a complex situation. Each of us handles it in different ways. There’s a lot of different dynamics at play. It’s not a simple thing as saying, “Don’t let it bother you.” That’s one of the worst pieces of advice that you can receive for a situation like this. The biggest key on a deeper level is to be clear on why you chose to be vegan. Feel confident in that choice and pay attention to what people are saying, doing around you and how it’s affecting you. You might want to end a conversation or leave an interaction and go journal about it. Through that journaling, you can work through your emotions, which should make you feel better. Get clarity on what’s triggering you and why, how is it making you feel? That simple act may be the answer for you. Through that process of self-discovery, you can then communicate to other people, your feelings better. Most of the time, our family members love us deeply and want the best for us. They might not feel like they understand us if you can play a role in helping them understand you a little bit more. Maybe that can change some of the dynamics. How would you summarize your advice for this situation?

Be in alignment with what heart, your mind and your spirit is telling you to do. Don’t let other people convince you out of what in your heart is to be true for yourself. Number two, be patient with people and realize that they’re not at the same level of understanding awareness, compassion, or working on themselves. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of acceptance. You can’t expect someone to accept you for who you are. This requires a lot of strength. This requires a lot of courage. You’re living a life that is authentic to yourself when the people you are with, be they family, friends, colleagues, business people, don’t relate and don’t accept who you are. This is one of the things that require the most strength in life is to live in a way and be in a way that is in alignment with yourself, that people around you don’t understand. I’m not saying this is easier for the faint. It requires a lot of courage, steadfastness, and heart to be able to do this.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream Day


If we can practice removing ourselves from the attachment of needing their acceptance also hard work. Living from a place of our own center, whatever our choices and who it is we choose to be is probably one of the most important things of the human experience. This is what we’re talking about not in the context of veganism. Blowing this out to spirituality, sexuality, gender, political affiliation. Whatever it is that you and your heart feel is true for you. Not your ego. I want to say that too. Ego is sly and tricky. It’s like, “This is what I believe in my heart.” Oftentimes it’s the ego talking, but we get down to what the heart, the soul and your gut is saying, “This is right for me.” That’s not an easy path to walk and I want to commend the person who wrote this email to us and anyone who’s reading. If you feel pushback, resistance, confusion, nonacceptance from your family, friends, loved ones. If you know what your heart to be true, keep walking that path. I salute and acknowledge you for that. It’s not an easy thing to do in this world.

Thank you much to the person that wrote us that email. Hopefully, this provides a nice answer to that. A reminder to other audiences that we are here for you and we love getting your questions and topic requests. If you want to share it with us and you don’t want your name shared, we usually don’t share names unless somebody specifically says they want us to share their name. We love hearing from you. You can reach us via email at [email protected] or direct message @Wellevatr on Instagram, Facebook, and some other platforms on social media. As we promised at end of the episode, we do something fun before we officially wrap up. One thing we’ve been doing is called Frequently Asked Queries and these are things that have come up through Google Analytics. It talks about how Google Analytics works.

Also, our friends over at Fathom Analytics, Paul Jarvis, we had as a guest at an alternative. We like to shout that out too because not everybody enjoys what Google does. Although it’s handy and accessible. I go on Google Analytics and research what people are searching for to find our show and often get some interesting subjects. I also use a website called Exploding Topics to see what things are popular and out of curiosity. There’s a lot of fascinating things that people search for online. The first thing comes from Exploding Topics and ties back into the beginning of this episode, which was much about sweets. I thought this was interesting. This also ties into something we like to do on our show, which is to shout out our favorite brands and give them some love.

We talk about our experience with them. We did that a lot at the beginning with these ice cream companies and another sweet company that I like that for some reason is popular online. It’s a company called SmartSweets and they make reduced sugar candy. Some of their products are plant-based but not all, by the way. Be sure that you check the label to see which are vegan. They have delicious Swedish fish alternatives. They have peach gummy rings that are making my mouth water thinking about them. They have a vegan sour patch kid. They also have some Smart Chews, which are like Starbursts. Sadly, their gummy bears are not vegan.

It's natural as humans to want approval and acceptance of who we are as beings. Click To Tweet

This brand is trending online and we were talking a lot about different candies and also vegan Keto. While I was strict on the Keto diet, I loved the SmartSweets brand because I could have this candy experience. It’s only 3 grams of sugar. It’s not super low, but you can enjoy the whole bag and have that candy-like experience, which is great for holidays like Halloween or the summertime. If you’re wanting to share it with some children, that’s an option too, if you’re trying to cut back on sugar with them. Maybe that’s why they’re trending. What do you think of SmartSweets? I think you liked them too.

I’ve sampled a lot of their stuff. You’re more up on the conscious candy brands. It’s interesting. I’m not obviously vegan Keto. Although, since about 2017 when I launched my Healthy Hustle Course. I’ve made a conscientious difference in reducing my sugar intake. I’m by no means sugar-free. I don’t want to say that, but I have been doing a lot more Monk fruit. One of our favorite brands is Lakanto, doing a lot more Stevia products and alternative sweeteners. Whole Food sweetener like date syrup. Although it’s not necessarily low-glycemic. The concept of sweets sometimes I’ll have gluten-free organic vegan sweets that are way too much sugar and my body immediately is like, “I don’t want this.” My body will literally tell me like, “No, we don’t want this.” It’s interesting. We’re bringing this up because I find that my sensitivity to different sweeteners and sugars is much more acute than it’s ever been.

Thinking about the vegan journey. A lot of people go vegan and they end up eating a lot of vegan junk food and there’s no judgment to that. We’re not on a pedestal here trying to promote a certain way of eating. We personally like more of the unprocessed low-glycemic foods and there’s a lot of health benefits to that too. I wrote a book about the vegan Keto diet to show people that you can do the two together because Keto is such a huge trend. You can do it without any animal products and that introduced me to a lot of great companies. I knew about a lot of these companies before I even did Keto because similar to Jason, I was looking for ways to cut back.

I feel like the more intentional I am about avoiding sweets, the easier it becomes to naturally stray away from them versus when I allow myself to indulge a lot. I found this at the beginning of quarantine. I bet a lot of people can relate to this. I was feeling stressed about COVID. I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted. I think that’s great. I’m a big fan of intuitive eating. Especially working through the disordered eating that I had when I was younger and still plays a role in my life. In some ways, intuitive eating is a healing way of looking at food and I was doing a lot of that.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayI still do it, but similar to what Jason saying with sugar. I can get into that addictive state of mind. If I am not intentional about sugar, I will eat a lot of it and then I don’t feel good. It causes this whole ripple effect, not for my physical health, but my mental and emotional health. Sugar is one of the things that’s tricky for me. For you, the audience, we talk about things but we’re not trying to convince you that eat one way or another. That’s important for me to always state, even though I’ve done Keto. I’m not telling everyone to be Keto. We’re not telling everyone to be vegan. We bring this stuff up for personal experiences, but we never want you to feel shame about food.

When I bring up SmartSweets, look at the pros and cons, give them a try. If they don’t work for you, so be it. There’re many amazing conscious candies out there as Jason was saying which you have to define your what conscious means to you. Should we bring up a few other queries before we wrap up? What we usually do is a brand shout out something funny, something serious, something interesting. This was a new one for us. I don’t know what this means, but Jason, off the top of your head, when you hear the phrase croissant sketch. What does that mean for you?

I don’t know, but I remember bringing up in one of our recent episodes that I much wanted a gluten-free chocolate vegan croissant. You would laugh. You’re like, “That’s specific.” Apparently, someone else was looking for croissants. I have no idea what a croissant sketch is. Is it a still life sketch of a croissant?

I thought they meant a sketch, like they were doing a performance about the croissant.

Intuitive eating is a healing way of looking at food. Click To Tweet

I thought they were looking for places to get sketchy croissants. There was this place in a dark alley in Paris and like, “We’ve got discount croissants.” My mind went to sketchy croissants and why would you want to invest in a sketchy croissant? You would want the highest quality croissant like nice, flaky and warm.

They maybe were looking like sketch comedy about a croissant that they were looking for.

I have to look at that phrase and see what comes up.

We’ve run out of the time. We’re going to save some of the other fun queries for another episode. I was thinking about how I’ve been encouraging Jason to watch Hamilton. I became a big Hamilton fan. Many people I’m sure over the 4th of July weekend have seen it when it became available on Disney+. I was skeptical of it I thought, “What the heck? I’ve nothing else.” I’m excited to watch it. I watched it. I think the day it came out. I became obsessed with it quickly. I’ve already watched it a second time and I’ve been listening to the album every day. When you brought up the French accent that reminds me of at least one French character in the show. It’s one of my favorites. I think his name is Lafayette. A little note to end on. I’m going to continue to encourage Jason to watch Hamilton and for anyone else who hasn’t watched it, it’s worth checking out. You may not love it as much as I did, but I think it’s interesting to see the cultural phenomenon it’s become. It has a diverse cast and a great message. There’s a lot of us history that’s interesting to explore. It’s entertaining and it’s also on inspiring as these actors and everybody involved with making that production.

MGU 95 | National Ice Cream DayIt blew my mind. It’s a feel-good show. Check it out. If you also love Hamilton, as much as I have, we can have a conversation. You can hit us up on social media and tell us about your Hamilton favorite characters or favorite songs I would love to know. It’s My Shot is the third song. The other song that’s tied for first place and favorite song is The Room Where It Happens, which is in the second half of the show. The songs are amazing and I’ve been listening to the album on repeat and singing a lot. I can’t wait to hear what you think about when you finally watch it.

I’m going to indulge. It is part of the to-do list. It’s happening.

Thank you so much for reading this episode. We look forward to hearing from you via email, through social media, the comments section. Please subscribe. We have new episodes three times a week: Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Fridays, we usually have a guest join us to discuss different elements of wellbeing and lifestyle personally and professionally. We look forward to your questions and topic requests as we can integrate what you love into the show. Until next time, we’re wishing you the best with your wellbeing.

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