With her NEW book, “The Mindful Vegan,” now available for pre-order, we sat down with award-winning health educator and best-selling author, Lani Muelrath, to get the scoop on all things plant-based, and of course, her much anticipated upcoming release!
Lani, it’s a pleasure to have you here with us at LK, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat! So, lets get to it……”The Mindful Vegan: A 30-Day Plan For Finding Health, Balance, Peace, and Happiness,” is due to hit the shelves soon (October 10th, everyone!)…it sounds pretty exciting, can you talk a bit about what it entails? The inspiration for its writing etc.?
You can know all the best practices for becoming healthier and more resilient – the nutrition to aspire to, and how to exercise – but, unless you get some degree of mastery over your habits of thinking, you are destined to stay stuck in patterns of REACTIVITY and habits of AUTOMATICITY. Mindfulness gets to the root of these problems so that not only can you create fresh responses and improve your habits, but you uncover your innate happiness, compassion, and capacity for kindness and equanimity. This has been my personal experience. When I undertook mindfulness practice 25 years ago, I was finally able to transform the problem I had with a relationship with food, eating, and my body. This restored the pure joy of eating and also resulted in the loss of around 40-50 pounds which I maintain to this day. Mindfulness practice, for me, has been linchpin.
So, being your third book, we’re hoping there’s more in the pipeline! You are one-of-a-kind out there in terms of providing solid hands-on advice for anyone wishing to begin, and successfully continue, a plant-based lifestyle. Do you have plans for a fourth similar instalment? We’ll take all that we can get!
First, thank you so very much for these kind words – “one-of-a-kind out there in terms of providing solid hands-on advice for anyone wishing to begin, and successfully continue, a plant-based lifestyle.” These are true music to a teacher’s ears. Teachers are trained and skilled in taking what can be a complex challenge or problem and breaking it down into DOABLE steps so that the student – which is all of us – can move forward successfully, step-by-step. As for the fourth instalment following the trilogy in place with the release of “The Mindful Vegan”? My focus right now is getting this CRITICAL tool – mindfulness practice – into as many hands and hearts as possible. Mindfulness restores resilience, and resilience is not only essential to personal happiness, it is critical to the movement.
So, going back a little – your second book, the best-selling “The Plant-Based Journey,” was such an excellent read. And, in line with the above sentiment, in that it’s a fountain of practical knowledge, do your guidelines all stem from your own personal trial and error experience?
Everything in my books – including “The Plant-Based Journey” and “The Mindful Vegan” – are outgrowths of my personal experience, combined with about 1500 surveys I conducted of my readers and students. This is why the material is so AUTHENTIC, and why people connect with these books in such a GENUINE fashion – I am transparent throughout, and I dig deep into the research to underscore personal experience, that of my own and that of my readers and students.
You’ve been plant-based now for over 40 years. Can you tell us a little about what led you to this path to begin with, and what has kept you motivated to stay on track down through the years?
I became vegetarian at the same time I started teaching yoga, of which Ahimsa, or NON-HARMING, is a central theme. Not eating meat or eggs is part of that tradition. Eventually, I stopped eating dairy products too as we know how much harm is caused by the dairy industry. My reasons for changing my diet in this fashion were also driven by a desire to eat even healthier than I was, and driven by the impact of animal agriculture on the environment – which, believe it or not, was a concern in the literature of the 1970’s. These issues have all become even more compelling over time.
Do you have any advice for those who are reading this article, say, that are thinking about possibly switching over to a plant-based lifestyle, but are unsure of how to go about it? Or, say, are maybe being discouraged…I’m just thinking about things like…you won’t get enough protein etc.!
If you have serious lingering doubts, such as the protein question, then get answers to those questions or they will continue to hamper your forward action. I do address some of these most basic questions in “The Plant-Based Journey.” At the same time, if you wait for all of your questions to be answered in their entirety before you get started, you may never move forward because it may be that something else is actually holding you up. Start where you are, finding which foods you already enjoy that are plant-based or vegan (bean burritos, spaghetti with marinara, peanut butter sandwiches, veggie stir fry…the list goes on and on!) and build meals around that. Learn how to “PLANTIFY” your plate, and implement easy recipe templates and meal planners – all of which you will find in “The Plant-Based Journey.”
So, what would be your top 5 pro-tips on how to get started, or say, set yourself up for success?
1. FIND OUT your “WHY” and stay connected to it, and build upon it. This is the single most important step of the journey because it is what got you started. Is it health, the environment, or other ethical considerations? Which, by the way, I think is inclusive of health, the environment, and other sentient beings. What we eat, and what we buy to use in our homes, are ethical decisions in all three arenas.
2. DISCOVER the simplest, most direct things you can do to move in the direction that you want to go. For example, get more plants ON your plate (there is “plantify” once again!) and move animal products and highly processed foods in the direction of OFF your plate.
3. LEARN some plant-based, vegan nutrition basics. Satisfy the questions about protein, calcium, and B12, so that you can be more confident and be basically conversant about these questions that others are going to pose to you.
4. TAKE-UP a mindfulness practice, or some PRACTICE that restores your resiliency and allows you to get beneath the surface of reactivity so that you can actually get out of your own way in making lifestyle choices. This is pivotal to success, for it is the only way to see how we have built up automaticity, and the process for navigating fears and anxieties that arise as we try making changes.
5. CULTIVATE kindness, compassion, and patience for yourself. This is an outgrowth of mindfulness practices. How we are toward ourselves is how we are toward others. If we want to SKILLFULLY change the world around us, which includes our own behaviours, it’s essential we change our inner world.
In “The Plant-Based Journey,“ you provide a ton of simple, affordable, and super tasty recipes. Do you think this is key to getting people on board with a plant-based lifestyle? In that, once the myth that veganism is expensive, and difficult to put together meals etc., is dispelled…do you think creating a sense of ease in the kitchen is where it really all takes off?
Affordable and super-tasty are definitely important. It is essential that we enjoy what we eat, or we are not going to stick around for long. It may “take” for a while, but long term it will backfire. This is why I encourage people to plantify and add more plants to dishes they enjoy while replacing animal products in these same dishes. It is not necessary to be a fancy cook, as the expectation can be too high and the work load too demanding – unless of course you enjoy preparing elaborate recipes! Building on things you already know creates more EASE in the kitchen, essential in moving forward given how busy we are, and how our days can be so easily hijacked by one pressing matter or another. Plant foods can be quite inexpensive when you go for the basics: bulk grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds and nut butters, whole grain breads and pasta – think BROAD rather than narrow.
For those of us already on the path, what’s one piece of key advice you would give that would prove invaluable in keeping us on track?
If you discover you are struggling – such as not eating very good quality or variety, or becoming an excusitarian in restaurants or the market, it’s time to review the 5 steps of transition (see The Plant-Based Journey) because they have proven to be universal in terms of sustainable success. There is a 40 page preview of this book that people can download for free that describes the five steps in overview. It gives you a place to look to see where you might have a gap that is hampering your success. Have you lost touch with your “why”? Are you getting lazy about being PREPARED with good food at home, on the road, or in the workplace? Do you need to improve your skills on eating and social events, for example?
You talk about food-pushers in “The Plant-Based Journey“ – these situations can be awkward at best, impossible to see your way out of at worst! How do we survive these kinds of disastrous social situations?! As many of us know, they can make or break an otherwise smooth transition!
The first consideration is to be at greater ease and CONFIDENCE in your own choices. Coupled with that is being mindfully present with others in these situations so that you can be with them where they are. You can be an agent of more conscious eating by being more kind, compassionate, and caring. And that means LISTENING. Vegans and plant-based eaters can be poised for anxiety and a fight in these situations because, historically, we have been seen as the messenger to others of some awareness of their own choices, bringing them into question. Mindfulness practice is of enormous help here because it gives you specific tools for navigating these situations. Each of us can benefit from recalling our own dietary past, and that we used to see “food” as something different from what we do now. Shaming, finger-pointing, and ridicule never make for positive change. Being kind, confident, caring, and consistent in our own choices I have found to be the biggest agents of influence. This plants seeds.
The plant-based movement is having quite a moment right now. It’s truly an exciting time to be vegan! What are your thoughts on this? Is this just a “moment” or do you feel we are truly on the cusp of a global paradigm shift towards plant-based living?
The research in health and the environmental factors only underscore the URGENCY of making these changes. These are working on our behalf. It’s critical that we incorporate these advances into a movement of caring and common sense, so that others feel included and NOT called out.
Finally, there’s a lot of discussion about the idea of being “perfect” when it comes to being vegan. But at what point do we say that our very best effort is good enough? Thoughts?
There is no such thing as “perfection,” only practice, and what I call perfect ENOUGH. You haven’t defined “perfect,” so it’s not clear what you mean. It can mean different things in the plant-based world, and in the vegan realm. My preference bridges the two with healthy vegan, so that you include personal health along with choices that are inclusive of compassion and environmental awareness. Be as vegan as possible, eat predominantly whole plant foods and minimize highly processed foods.
I want to say a huge THANK YOU once again for being with us here today. We can’t wait to get our hands on “The Mindful Vegan“!
Thank you, it is an honor and joy to be part of your wonderful projects and website!
“THE MINDFUL VEGAN” WILL HIT BOOKSTORES ON OCTOBER 10TH, 2017…
…however, super EXCITING, is the fact that pre-orders come with 3 AMAZING thank you gifts, which include:
- 4-Day Mindful Vegan Virtual Retreat
- 4-Minute Guided Meditation
- Quick Mindfulness-Of-Body Practice Video from Restorative Yoga
So click here to get your copy now!
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT LANI…Lani Muelrath, MA, is an award-winning health educator, best-selling author, inspirational speaker, and TV host. Lani has been featured on CBS-TV, ABC-TV, Prevention Magazine, USA Today, the Saturday Evening Post, and NSPR. She created and starred in her own CBS television show, and has served as presenter and consultant for the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, the Complete Health Improvement Project, and Plant Pure Nation.
Certified in Mindfulness Meditation Instruction, and in and Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University, Lani is also an authorized Mind-Body Specialist and Behavior Change Specialist. Her multiple teaching credentials include Yoga, Physical Education, and Advanced Fitness Nutrition. Recipient of the California Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Instruction, Lani has been guest lecturer at San Francisco State University and is associate faculty in Kinesiology at Butte College, where one of her books has been adopted as required text.