What The Health

I started my blog about a year ago and my life got incredibly busy and I took a long-ish break from blogging. Living a vegan lifestyle is incredibly important to me and there have been exciting things happening in the vegan world that I want to blog about. So, I’m happy to be back here and hope to find a few followers along the way.

Today, I learned that a close colleague adopted a vegan lifestyle about a month ago. As did her husband. I knew she was considering it and encouraged her to watch the documentary What the Health (available on Netflix). She indicated the documentary was the reason they opted to given a vegan diet a try. I am ecstatic! I’m no longer the sole vegan in my office. There are now four of us that eat a plant-based diet. Exciting!

At a recent family reunion, my Auntie Janet had a copy of the book What The Health, and she let me to start reading it while at the reunion and allowed me to hang onto it so I can finish it. I’ve watched the documentary twice and I’m getting even more information from the book in the opening chapters.

What the Health documentary

Find at http://www.WhatTheHealth.com or Netflix

Here’s what I knew, but am more sure of after watching the documentary:

  • One of the driving factors for Kip Anderson’s (from the documentary Cowspiracy) research was learning was when the World Health Organization announced a link between consuming processed meats and cancer.
  • An unhealthy diet can cause heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. People that changed to a plant-based diet saw significant improvements on their health in weeks!
  • We are being misled by organizations that claim to have nutritional recommendations for us. Kip Andersen, researched why the American Diabetes
    Association promotes meat and dairy, after hearing from physicians that a plant-based diet is a better option for optimal health, he found the ADA is sponsored by Dannon, Kraft, and Oscar Meyer. The American Cancer Society is sponsored by Tyson, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell. The American Heart Association is sponsored by Texas Beef, Subway, Dominos Pizza,, Cargill, and Tyson Foods.
  • One egg is as bad as smoking five cigarettes. Gross.
  • Chicken is sometimes injected with salt. I’ve also seen videos of workers injecting shrimp with a chemical gel so they weigh more, thus, the store can charge us more. What a rip off.
  • All protein is made my plants. Animals eat the plants and people think they need to eat meat to get enough protein. We can get the protein we need from plants!

And those are just a few of the points made during the documentary. If you haven’t watched it yet I highly recommend watching it.

As a public health professional, and cancer survivor, I know the importance of disease prevention, and it’s my hope that the documentary opens the minds and hearts of the associations listed above. They are supposed to promote healthy lifestyles for Americans. I plan to monitor their sites to see if they begin to incorporate information on how a plant-based diet is now being promoted by leading physicians in the medical community.

I’ll sign off for now. I may post more about What The Health as I read the book!

Vegan Visibility

I just posted on Instagram and Twitter that I’m a vegan blogger. I started the blog a week and I realized that I probably need to promote it a little more if I want to make a difference and impact a few people along the way.

Promoting my blog makes me nervous. Why? I’ve been thinking about this all week. It makes me nervous because veganism is still considered extreme. When the reverse should be true. I see on other blogs and social media sites that the practice of eating animals is extreme. I agree with that 100%. It’s messed up that I’m nervous about posting my position on animals rights, a plant-based diet, and that I want to correct the damage to our planet. How did I h

As children we were taught to be kind to animals and to be gentle with them. After being weaned from our mother’s milk we are started on formula or introduced to cow’s milk…which should be for their babies. We are not meant to drink milk from a cow. And the dairy industry claims “milk does a body good,” when in fact, it really doesn’t. The countries with the highest dairy milk consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.

Then, meat is introduced into our diet, when we would have been much healthier if we would have stayed on the diet we received as infants – rice, fruits, and vegetables. Remember those little Gerber jars of pureed peas, carrots, and bananas? We should have been transitioned into eating or drinking those foods without the insertion of meat and dairy into our lives.

Charlotte had the right frame of mind when she wanted to save Wilbur from slaughter on the farm, and it’s one of the most endearing, compassionate, and beloved books from my childhood. Charlotte’s Web had it right. james-cromwell

On a similar note, the movie Babe convinced actor James Cromwell to become an ethical vegan. Read more about his animal rights advocacy here: James Cromwell’s Animal Rights Activism  I’m adding the Farm to Fridge documentary to the list of shows I want to watch soon.

I got to this point by paying attention to what’s happening to our planet. Wanting to change my diet so cancer does not invade my body again.

I spent a long time this afternoon Skyping with my sister. We talked about how we are paying attention to everything going on in our world today. That there are some big changes coming. She knows how passionate I am about this lifestyle and she told me she’s thinking about cutting meat out of her diet slowly. I am overjoyed about it. “Baby steps, I’ll take baby steps,” she said, and that’s fantastic and a great way to start cutting meat and dairy out of your diet. I don’t want to be too pushy with anyone – including my very own “sissy”- but I KNOW it’s the right thing to do for optimal health. Both of us talked about our love for all animals, and she’s against animal cruelty, and talked about humane killing methods, and I told her straight out – that there is no humane way to kill an animal. There just isn’t. And we don’t have to kill another being for food. We get all the protein we need in a plant-based diet! We talked of meat alternatives and I raced to my refrigerator to show her one of my “roasts” made completely out of vegetables.

The plant-based food industry has moved from baby steps to giant leaps to create healthy food products because the industry recognizes that people are questioning the validity of using meat and dairy products to feed their family. Veganism is gaining popularity. I have to believe humans are evolving into a compassionate frame of mind and that soon everyone will see that a plant-based diet, free of GMO’s, are the healthiest way to eat, and the single best way to correct and reverse the harmful impacts animal agriculture has made on our planet.

Back to the main reason for my post today, it created quite a bit of anxiety for me to post on Instagram and Twitter that I started this blog. I did it because I follow many incredible animal rights and cruelty-free advocates on Instagram and I realized it was time to stop watching and start DOING something about it. Yet, it still makes me a little nervous to out myself in such a big/small way. Vegans are thought to be a little out there and extreme. But, I’m okay with that now!

Peace out!

Read more about the dairy myth here: The Dairy Myth



Genetically Modified Foods

I am a lifelong learner. I love school. My undergraduate degree is in community health education and I have a master’s degree in public health. In 1998 I was in a class about health and wellness and the realization that our health is the foundation for our life. Our health impacts every facet of our life. It was a powerful moment for me and it was the year I turned 30 years old. I began to cry in the class – it was THAT powerful.

So, there are times in my life when I begin to feel stagnant because I have gone for too long without reading a book to learn something new. I’m in that phase right now. And, as I’m still reading Farm Sanctuary, and I’ve watched documentaries all week to get into that learning mode again. Several of the documentaries I had already watched, but wanted to watch them again. When I was going through chemotherapy I watched many documentaries about the linkage between food and our health. Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. One of the intresting things about chemotherapy is that it causes “chemo brain,” and because I had dose-dense chemotherapy I had it badly. Chemo brain causes memory problems and confusion. My personal belief is that it’s the brain’s way of protecting us from the stress of being treated for cancer. It shields us from the stress of a cancer diagnosis – and the fear it creates. Luckily, about six months after I finished treatment the chemo brain fog lifted and my memory returned, it’s not as good as it once was, but it’s better. That being said, I’d forgotten much of what I learned in the aforementioned movies. Rewatching them was enlightening.

I also watched a documentary called GMO OMG. I buy non-GMO products from
Whole Foods and knew it was the right thing to do, but I was pretty oblivious to the entire issue about genetically modified organongmonisms (GMO). The documentary is about Jeremy Seifert’s research into GMO’s because he’s the father of three children and he wants to understand the impacts they may have on our health and our planet.

The website www.nongmoproject.org defines GMO’s as:  A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

If you go to the non-GMO project website it shows rankings for products and it says, “The Non-GMO Project Standard considers animal-derived products such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey to be high risk due to the prevalence of GMOs in animal feed.”  The food listed in the high risk category are: Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Papaya,Soy, Sugar beet, Yellow summer squash / zucchini, Animal products,Microbes and enzymes If memory serves me correct, nearly all of the corn put into our food today is a GMO, and as evidenced above, it’s used to feed animals in the meat and dairy industry. Another reason I’m happy to be a vegan!

The problem with these GMO’s? First and foremost, there’s no long-term research about how they might impact our health. I watched a movie today about a mother’s research into the world of GMO’s after her son started getting sick. The show, Consumed, was alarming and is categorized as a thriller. Danny Glover plays an organic farmer that is bullied by a fictious company named Clonestra, that is genetically modifying seeds and selling them to the farmers surrounding his farm. So, when the seeds spread to his farm he loses the organic status he’s fought so hard to protect. In the end (spoiler alert), the main character makes her point to the CEO of the company by showing him photos of tumor-laden rats that were kept hidden from him by his staff. I think the movie was well done and kept me on the edge of my couch!

I’m just beginning to delve into learning about GMO’s and I will continue to read more about it. I’m more than concerned about this problem. I believe companies must be required to label their products so consumers know when GMO’s have been used as ingredients in our food! I am angry that I haven’t been paying attention.

I was distracted. I was raising two children, working full-time, providing care to my husband after realizing that he suffered an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury on his first tour of duty in Iraq, and then went rigorous treatment and numerous surgeries to deal with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

I’ll close by saying I’m no longer distracted…and I’m paying attention.

More Info on Why I Chose A Vegan Lifestyle


As I said in my first blog post, I decided to become vegan around April 17th, 2015. The previous week I attended a National Preparedness Summit in Atlanta and one of the keynote speakers talked about emerging infectious diseases, bioterrorism, and other threats we face in public health. I’m just now reviewing the notes I took during the conference and the speaker, Mike Walker, talked about other threats as well, earthquakes, influenza, MERS, Eblola, superbugs, and then he moved into talking about climate change. He said that we were going to see mega droughts in the future. We are going to see another dust bowl. He said in the year 2030 we would be suffering from a 40% water shortfall and that we would see worldwide food scarcity. This had a big impact on me.

Three days later I watched the show Earthlings and I made the life changing decision to become a vegan. As humans, we exploit animals by using them for food, clothing, scientific research, and entertainment. The documentary enlightened me in so many ways. I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post how upsetting it was to me to learn that baby male chicks are macerated (pulverized) or gassed alive because they are considered useless. I did not know that female cows are forcibly raped because they produce milk when they are pregnant. Their calves are taken from them immediately after birth. The females are raised so they can become milk producers and the males are useless, so they are sold to a veal producer. The females are kept pregnant for 4 to 6 years and then are taken to slaughter for their meat. I cannot support this cruelty! I don’t any longer.

I no longer buy clothing made of leather, wool, or silk. I LOVE purses, but recently, I have been able to purchase two purses that indicated they are “vegan leather.” SOLD!  I buy cruelty-free makeup, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and lotions. In short, I have eliminated animal products from my life in every way possible. My reasons for being a vegan begin because I’m against animal cruelty. Marketing strategies are trying to convey messages about “humane slaughter”. The words HUMANE and SLAUGHTER combined together may convince some people their meat was killed in a manner that was humane – but they are fooling themselves.

I sense that people are starting to wake up as I did. Perhaps it’s because I follow so many people on Instagram that are like-minded, but I have to believe that the times are changing. In July, the mayor of Turin, Italy, said she wants her city to become vegetarian, and is promoting a meat-free and dairy-free lifestyle. How awesome is that?

While I understand the plight of farmers, and that their livelihood is at stake, it may be time for them to reconsider their focus and move from dairy milk to plant-based milk products. Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and hemp milk are available and taste great (ok, I haven’t tried hemp milk yet, but I will the next time I go to the store and I’ll provide a review after I try it). I am ensure I am getting enough protein in my diet by supplementing with plant-based protein powders, and the most recent one I purchased is make with pea-protein. And I recently saw a report about a company that is attempting to make a pea-based milk product.

Meat alternatives are growing in popularity and I think billionaire Bill Gates is investing in it – so it must be the next big thing. I love Tofurky deli slices and Field Roast “meats”. Gardenburgers, Boca Burger, and Gardein is great. We are not lacking for meat alternatives in any way. Dairy cheese alternatives are also getting better all the time and I add slices to my sandwiches. I have to admit – I LOVE Vegenaise. Too much! I could eat it out of the jar. And, I have, and then opted for a raw vegan diet to “reset” myself. I’m not trying to really stick to a whole-food plant based diet, as touted by Dr. Colin Campbell in his works. New food options for vegans are being developed and put onto the shelves every day. I hope that it will make it a little easier for other people to make the change.

Well, that’s all for this evening!






Reading Farm Sanctuary & Exercising

Reading Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur & Exercising Along the Boise Greenbelt

I spent the morning reading book by animal activist Gene Baur, titled Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Good, and went for a walk to search for birds along the Boise River.

First, Baur goes into great detail about the animal agriculture industry, and I find it highly distressing to learn about the crude practices being used at factory farms throughout the nation. In order to produce the numbers of meat big agriculture companies contract with farmers that struggle to make ends meet and these companies demand certain requirements of the farmers, the buildings they must build, and the number of animals they must produce in a certain timeframe.

I knew of the terrible practices because I’ve watched several animal advocacy documentaries including Food, Inc., Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and Earthlings. But I must say that the cruelty described in the book was difficult to read. It validated my decision to eat a plant-based diet. I’ll provide additional details about what I’m learning as I read the book. It’s eye opening to me. It makes me sad. And it makes me very angry.

In my personal opinion (and stepping up on my soapbox), we are allowing these businesses to have too much power in our country and have been blind to the business strategies being used by big businesses. And by eating a diet of meat, dairy, and highly processed foods we in the top 20 of unhealthy nations in the world. I have a master’s degree in public health and have worked in the field of public health since 2001. Our country is in the midst of a obesity epidemic.

I will freely admit that I am overweight and have struggled with my weight in the last five years after battling breast cancer. I do know that a plant-based diet accompanied with exercise is the best approach to achieve a healthier weight – and I’m working on it!

Because it’s Labor Day and I have the day off I multi-tasked this afternoon and walked along the beautiful Boise green belt in order to get in some exercise. I took along my Nikon camera just in case I saw some wildlife along the river.

It was gorgeous and even though I didn’t see as many birds as I usually do I hit the jackpot! I saw a blue heron, a hooded merganser, two swans, and a deer! I must brush up on my photography skills. The photos of the blue heron are too blurry for my liking. I’ll get another tutorial from my father, who is an amazing photographer. The deer was a surprise to me because there were so many people milling around the greenbelt today.

All in all, it has been a fantastic day and I’m grateful to be alive!

Heron and merganzer

Blue Heron and Hooded Merganzer on the Boise River

Labor day deer in Balboa Park

A timid and sweet little doe surprised me along the trail. 

Swan Labor day

I set the same set of swans nearly every time I go to the greenbelt. Today they were eating plants in a pond next to the greenbelt. 

The Horror of Pig Crating

The Double Standards Related to Animal Cruelty is Aggravating to Me

Imagine this scenario – a dog is kept in a crate, in darkness for months on end, and ends up with sores from living in its own excrement, Upon learning about this situation animal control advocates are contacted and informed of this abusive situation. Upon learning of what is perceived to be an abusive situation people call for the owner to be arrested and fined.

Now, if you do not know about how pigs are raised for food in our country – it’s quite similar to what I’ve described in this scenario above. Pigs are kept in crates so small they cannot stand up, cannot turn around, and cannot give affection to their young. The are housed on dirty concrete floors and surrounded by metals bars that are inches from their body. Bill Maher wrote an article that was published in the New York Times about the crates pigs are raised in, and thankfully there are states that are changing laws to make crating pigs illegal. Here is the article:

Bill Maher article about Freeing Pigs from Crates

And instead of ending the cruelty seen in factory farms, people in the animal agriculture industry took action to make it illegal for anyone to film the abuse of animals by creating “ag-gag” laws! How does this even make sense?

I’ve seen dozens of clips of farmers and slaughterhouse workers kicking and punching animals – for reasons I cannot fathom. Surely it’s because the animal was not behaving. I would think that the threat of an animal activist group coming onto the farm may have kept some farmers from acting so cruelly, but now, because of the ag-gag laws they have free rein to abuse the animals without fear of retribution from the law. Now, factory farms can literally get away with abuse and murder without any repercussions.

This is what pig crating looks like:

One form of pig crating. The mother cannot provide any affection to her piglets.

My first blog post

I have said to friends and family recently that I want to do something to make an impact in this world. I realized today I can blog about the reasons why I have chosen to live a vegan lifestyle and use this platform to clarify for others why I believe a vegan lifestyle is one of the most important things we can do for our health, for the health of this planet – and of course, to stop the senseless use of animals in a variety of ways that is simply no longer acceptable to me. I also plan to incorporate research to validate the science behind why it’s important as well as provide information on steps everyone can take to help make a difference on the environment to better the planet.

As I thought about a catchy title for this blog the word “veganista” popped into my head. It’s a mix between the word vegan and barista, obviously. I was a coffee barista in another lifetime so I’m going with that. I kind of like it!

My Choice to Become Vegan

I was a vegetarian for about a year in 2000-2001 and started a vegetarian diet in the end of 2014 for reasons I’ll explain at another time in this blog. I began my vegan lifestyle after hearing a speaker discuss the dire plight of our planet and days later watching the movie Earthlings – that was April 17th, 2015.

Since that day I have made major changes in all facets of my life. I embraced a vegan lifestyle and eat a plant-based diet, use cosmetics and body products that are cruelty-free, and am ending my use of leather, wool, silk, pearls, and any products that come from animals.

Being a vegan now is different from what it was like to be a vegetarian in the year 2001. There are hundreds of food options now that make it easy to be a vegan. Vegan food products have exploded and it’s easy when living in a city with a Whole Foods and a food co-op with many vegan choices. That being said, it is easy to be a vegan junk food junkie as well. In the past month I’ve hit the “reset” button and am eating mainly a raw vegan diet of fruits and vegetables.
Since my transition to this lifestyle I find peace and comfort in my daily life now more than ever before. As the title of this post alludes to – I’m a vegan not only for the animals, but also for the planet, and for my health. The food I eat does not clog my arteries, does not contain antibiotics or hormones, or carcinogens, which is incredibly important to me because I’m a breast cancer survivor. I believe the agriculture and dairy industry is deceiving people into believing we cannot live without meat protein and calcium from dairy. That is simply not true. A plant-based diet provides us with the nutrients and protein to be healthy! There is protein in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli as well as nuts and seeds. Some of the largest animals in the planet eat plants and they are thriving (i.e., elephants and gorillas) as well as beautiful creatures.
Future posts will go into more detail about how veganism is good for our planet and for our health. I am making a commitment now to myself, and to anyone who might read this blog, to provide information about how to make positive changes to improve personal health and the health of our planet.
With kindness, peace, & love,

Denise (the Veganista)