Exploring the Ex-Vegan Phenomenon   »

This Saturday, January 11th, at the Animal Advocacy Museum in Pasadena, CA, Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD, and Sayward Rebhal, vegan lifestyle coach, and author of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, will give a short presentation with an open discussion exploring this issue.

Some questions they will explore:

  • Why do people stop being vegan? 
  • Are there valid health reasons to go back to eating animal products? 
  • Are the health claims about the benefits of veganism unrealistic? 
  • What can our community do better to improve vegan retention?

I will probably be sitting in the back row, quietly observing and weeping (since confrontations make me anxious…which I should probably explore in therapy) and will write a post-event recap. Hopefully there won’t be anyone throwing down the vegan gauntlet (how often can I use that idiom?). 

For more info (and interesting comments to read), visit the Facebook event page.

Also, why does the word, “phenomena,” always make me think of this song (sorry in advance)?  [Megan Rascal note: sorry? I fracking love that song!]


Interview with Sayward Rebhal, author of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide  »

My general strategy for attacking something that’s new or unknown to me — or even just interesting — is to bury myself in information, often in the form of books. This has lead to a personal library that covers a few topics, like cats and vegan cooking and nutrition, in great depth. It also probably makes people think I’m weird, but I am a nerd and I like to arm myself with information!

Naturally, when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to stock up on all the pregnancy and baby books I could get my hands on. There are a lot of those, to be sure, but there aren’t that many that address concerns specific to vegan (or even vegetarian) pregnant women. My experiences in skipping over a lot of stuff like “How much dairy to eat while you’re pregnant” is part of why I wanted to do this series for Vegansaurus in the first place. It’s also why I was so happy to receive a copy of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal, awesome blogger of Bonzai Aphrodite and badass vegan mama.

VPSG is a short read, but it’s packed with information — even with as much as I’d read already, I found stuff to take away from the book that I hadn’t yet come across. It’s also nicely organized — you can read the whole thing or just flip to the section that’s relevant for where you are in your baby-growing experience. And it’s friendly and conversational without having that irritating “Girlfriend OMG let me tell you ALL ABOUT pregnancy!!!1!!” attitude that some women-oriented reference books employ. I think I dog-eared every second page of this one and I know I’ll come back to it often.

Ms. Rebhal was kind enough to answer some questions for me about the book, her own pregnancy experience, and what she hopes to work on next. Read on!

What made you decide to write a book about pregnancy from a vegan perspective?
When I first found out I was pregnant, I did what most newly knocked-up ladies do: I went looking for books! At the Herbivore store here in Portland,  I was wandering around in circles when the owner, Michelle, asked if I needed anything. I said, “Yeah, where are all the books on vegan pregnancy?” And she was like “NOWHERE … you should write one!”

That was basically the start of my friendship with Michelle and Josh. They were awesome during my pregnancy, and after my son was born, I decided to take Michelle up on her offer. I wanted to write a book so that other people wouldn’t have to do what I did (hours and hours of exhaustive research, piecing the puzzle together from every corner of the Internet), and I asked Josh and Michelle if they would help me publish it. Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide was released by Herbivore in late 2011.

Were there any particular challenges you came across in finding information about pregnancy and post-partum care for vegans?
Yes and no. I mean, the underlying pregnancy and post-partum care is the same for vegans as it is for non-vegetarians. We all have the same requirements, you know? So it was more a matter of understanding universal pregnancy/postpartum needs, and then modifying things with a vegan twist. Mostly it was pretty straightforward. Sometimes it took a little creativity, which was fun (if you’re a geek like me). Sometimes, like when I had to spend a whole day calling all the major over-the-counter drug manufacturers to verify which products were and were not vegan, well that was not so easy or fun.

How has the response to the book been?
So great! There was definitely a hole there that needed to be filled. Especially since, I think, becoming pregnant can be sort of unsettling. It was for me. I never doubted my choices until I was pregnant, but when you’re suddenly responsible for a life … and it happens to be the very most precious life in the whole world … that’s a ton of pressure! So I think a lot of women are just grateful to have a little friend in their back pocket going “Yeah! You got this! Here, try X or Y or Z, you’re doing awesome.”

You’ve had one vegan pregnancy now — is there anything you’d do differently the next time around?
I’d take my own advice, and eat less sugar!

Any favorite vegan products for pregnant women and babies?
Oh yes. The brand Earth Mama Angel Baby is all vegan/cruelty-free and really amazing. Their stuff uses only natural ingredients and the whole line receives a “0” on the Cosmetic Safety Database rating system (that’s the best score, it means no risk whatsoever). The Baby Bottom Balm is great for diaper rash prevention, and the Mama Nipple Butter is essential for those first few weeks of breastfeeding. Every other nipple product (and I mean EVERY one) uses lanolin. Earth Mama Angel Baby has all sorts of other products too. They’re the best!

Finally, are you planning a follow-up book — vegan child care, perhaps?!
Honestly, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned as a parent is that you just can’t judge other parents, because kids are just too different and every situation is unique. So I don’t think I’d feel comfortable instructing people on how to raise their kids.

However, for the same reason that I wrote Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, I’d love to write a kid-centric cookbook. There’s not a lot out there for vegan kiddos! I’m super lucky to have a huge community of vegan families in my area, and I dream of compiling a massive compendium filled with their most delicious, nutritious, children-approved recipes. Lots of color, lots of photos, lots of stories and style and tips and strategies. I have such a strong vision for this book, and I really hope to see it through some day. (Hey publishers - email me!) (Just kidding) (No, but not really)

Thanks, Sayward! And everyone, read my other posts about vegan pregnancy and let’s rap about swollen ankles and designing nurseries on Pinterest. Go!

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