I recently read a book that I'm just dying to share with the rest of the world! I've already recommended it to family members and bought it for some of them as a gift, but I feel I should share it with you too.
The book is called The Plant-Based Journey. It's written by Lani Muelrath and published by BenBella Books – the same publishers that gave us The China Study and the Happy Herbivore series The folks at BenBella have kindly agreed to give away a copy of The Plant-Based Journey to a lucky Nomadic Vegan reader! More details about the giveaway in a minute, but first let me tell you about the book.
From now on, it will be my go-to resource that I'll recommend to anyone interested in a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. Lani speaks to the reader in a very personable, non-judgemental tone, which makes the book very accessible, even to people whose current diet is very far from plant-based.
Lani is a long-time ethical vegan, and she does touch on the ethical reasons for veganism. At the same time, though, she manages not to alienate those who are primarily interested in eating this way for health reasons.
She takes a very holistic approach to health and recognizes that habit change doesn't happen overnight. According to Lani, everyone who adopts a vegan or plant-based lifestyle goes through five stages:
• STEP 1: Awakening: Discover your “why” for eating plant-based
• STEP 2: Scout: Assemble what you need for plant-based eating basics
• STEP 3: Rookie: Increase the presence of plant foods on your plate with specific strategies and systems
• STEP 4: Rock star: Take your newfound plant-based eating success on the road and to social and family situations
• STEP 5: Champion: Sharpen your skills for long-term plant-based living success
In the Plant-Based Journey, Lani clearly outlines these steps and gives the reader the tools they need to pass from each one to the next. These tools include some simple but delicious recipes, like this cranberry sauce sweetened naturally with dates and oranges.
My personal favourite is Lani's Sweet Bean Cream, which is also sweetened with dates and orange juice and delicately spiced with orange zest and cardamom. You'd never guess there were any beans in it! I like to add a dollop on top of my oatmeal in the morning. It's a delicious and effortless way to get more beans into my diet.
While Lani's recipes are very simple and easy to follow, what I really love about the Plant-Based Journey is that she goes beyond this and also offers “recipe templates” and tips and tricks for making quick, easy and healthy meals. Basically, she teaches the reader how to put together a healthy, balanced meal in a snap, without needing to follow someone else's recipe word for word.
I personally found this very empowering and super helpful! Which goes to show that even someone like me who's well entrenched in the vegan lifestyle can benefit from reading The Plant-Based Journey.
Oh, and I should mention that Lani is quite the nomadic vegan herself! She and her husband Greg have travelled extensively to many far-flung places, from India to Belize to Afghanistan. Her recipes reflect these international influences, and in her book she offers some great advice on dining out in restaurants and finding healthy vegan food while on the road. In fact, a large portion of the chapter on step 4 (rock star) is devoted to plant-based travel.
I was lucky enough to interview Lani and ask her more about her travels as a vegan and about her experiences helping people along their plant-based journey. Here's what she had to say:
TNV: The first five sections of the Plant-Based Journey describe the five stages that people pass through as they transition to a plant-based lifestyle. Do you believe these stages apply universally to everyone?
Lani: Yes, in The Plant-Based Journey I underscore that these five steps are universal to everyone who is enjoying sustainable success with a plant-based diet. I am interested in change that lasts, which means tools that provide sustainability must be in place. For my clients, myself personally, and the 1200 people surveyed during my book research, these 5 steps are essential. Whether you make your change overnight or over time, all five need to be respected for success.
TNV: After walking people through the five stages, in section six of The Plant-Based Journey you then go on to talk about other lifestyle changes besides our eating habits – namely exercise and mental mastery. How important are these aspects to making successful and lasting lifestyle changes?
Lani: These three wheels run the cart. Like a wheelbarrow. The leading wheel is whole plant foods, driven forward by physical activity and frame of mind. Without the support of the back two wheels, you just keep running in circles or the cart simply falls on its face. For people who are struggling with this change, I'll always find the weakness in one of these wheels. And the most often to be overlooked is the mind portion of the program. Once we see how our practices keep getting us what we are getting, and keeping us in pain, a whole new world opens up as we put new tools for mindfulness in place.
TNV: As a certified behavior change specialist who has coached thousands of people through the transition to a plant-based lifestyle, what have you found to be the biggest stumbling blocks preventing people from making positive changes in their lives, and how do you help them overcome those obstacles?
Lani: People have high expectations of themselves, which in itself is not a bad thing, but they can be very judgmental and hard on themselves for not being the perfect plant-based cook, or eating or doing any of it 'perfectly' (whatever that is) that often keeps their ship from sailing forward. I approach the problem with the tools of all three of the pillars - first, check out which of the five universal steps may have been bypassed or could use support and attention. Then, make sure we are being physically active every day, because it positions the brain for change. And then there's the mindful part - what are the underlying obstacles? Self-sabotage has a solution in mindfulness practice - but we have to put our heart in the mind and practice for it to take root.
TNV: You've travelled all over the world, including to many exotic and remote destinations where you did volunteer work – first with the Peace Corps and later as a field biologist. Can you describe some of the challenges you've faced in finding plant-based food abroad and how you dealt with those situations?
Lani: It hasn't been as hard as one might think. Learning some basic language - for example, the names of fruits and vegetables and grains in Italian and Spanish - has been helpful. Senza formaggio means “without cheese” in Italian, and we've used that a lot to get pizza without cheese - it's not that difficult! Sin carne is “without meat” in Spanish; that has helped too.
We also like to rent a place with a kitchen so I can do the food prep and we can get fresh foods, beans, and rice and breads in the market. We've also been on boats for two weeks in Indonesia and all we have to do is let them know in advance about our diet - tempeh was born in Indonesia and it's the best we've ever had!
Same with going on safari as a vegan in Africa - all of the lodges are very proud of their vegetarian offerings and it's easy to find plenty of dishes that are completely vegan.
TNV: Have you had any pleasant surprises in places that you thought would be challenging but turned out to be quite vegan-friendly?
Lani: Safari! We had heard that the lodges had good veggie choices, but we were astonished at how robust the offerings really are. We are going back again in 2017 for more wildlife adventure, to see our adopted elephants and take a trip to the Seychelles to be with the sea turtles - which were our first field biology experience in Mexico over 25 years ago. Remote, yet it sounds like the food will be absolutely great!
TNV: Based on your experience, do you think there are any parts of the world where it would be impossible to stay vegan while travelling?
Lani: There are some remote tropical islands that may sound like paradise, but the people can't grow vegetables on the sandy soil, or haven't innovated how to do so, and rely on fish from the surrounding waters. Along with white rice, that's what they eat. The fish populations are being depleted, they have to venture further out to sea to get more fish, and the families just keep growing in size. It's a serious problem and a heartbreaking situation to observe. Hungry people with mouths to feed even illegally take sea turtles and sea turtle eggs for food. A solution is needed for this very complex problem.
I hope you enjoyed Lani's insights into plant-based travel and sustainable habit change. Has she whet your appetite for more? Well, you're in luck, because it's time for our giveaway!
Enter below for your chance to win a copy of Lani's book, The Plant-Based Journey.
The giveaway will run from 12 midnight on Tuesday, April 12th to 12 midnight on Tuesday, April 19th. US and Canadian residents are eligible to win a hard copy of the book. But if you live elsewhere (like me), don't despair! You can still win a digital copy. Good luck!
Update: A couple of people have been confused about how to enter the giveaway, so here's the deal. There are four ways to enter using the widget below: (1) Tweet a message about this blog post (this is worth 4 entries, and you can do it once per day for each of the six days the giveaway is running!); (2) Leave a comment on this blog post answering the question: "Where are you on your plant-based journey?" (worth 3 entries); (3) Follow @nomadic_vegan on Twitter (worth 2 entries); and (4) Visit the Nomadic Vegan Facebook page (worth 2 entries; "Liking" the page is much appreciated but not required).
For your entries to count, be sure to enter using the widget below, and then click on the tab that will appear in the bottom-right corner to confirm that you have entered. That's it! Good Luck!
UPDATE: The giveaway has ended. Congratulations to our winner, Leela! Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I wish we could give a copy of The Plant-Based Journey to each and every one of you!
This post contains affiliate links. As always, opinions are entirely my own.