vida vegan con news!

Vida Vegan Con III Date Change landscapeAs you may know, I’m one of the trio behind Vida Vegan, home of Vida Vegan Con, the vegan media and lifestyle conference. We started out as purely a blogger conference but have widened our scope a bit to include video, audio, presenting/speaking, publishing, and some general philosophy/sociology/lifestyle aspects of veganism. We figure if folks are better at writing and talking about a cruelty-free life, that’s going to help those around us see that this vegan thing ain’t so weird or tough. Good for the animals. Good for the earth. Good for our health. Boom.

So with that out of the way, two giant bits o’ news:

VVC III

After a gut-punching monkey wrench of a scheduling error, we have finally been able to announce our new date for Vida Vegan Con III, in (one of my favorite vegan-friendly cities) Austin, Texas: May 29-31, 2015. Mark those calendars, ’cause it’s on. Regular registration doesn’t open until August 1, but as part of announcement #2 (don’t skip ahead!), limited Early Bird registration and inclusive packages will be available tomorrow, Friday, June 13, at 8:00 a.m. PST. These are $60 off regular price, so cha-ching! (It’s below cost for us, but it’s fun and we’ll just work super hard to get loads of great sponsors to make it up.) For more information on this and speaker applications, visit our site.

Vida Vegan Membership Drive

One of the coolest things about Vida Vegan Con is that the attendees and speakers are really on equal footing and are able to turn to one another for advice, skill sharing, and general friendstuffs. We hang out when we travel, we consult one another when we’re buying a new camera—you get the idea. We have a private Facebook group for past VVC’ers and it’s great except if you’re not on Facebook. So the grand plan is to expand our website to include member pages and a forum. That costs cash. Like a ridiculous amount of cash.

So we’re baby-steppin’ it. Our members will be part of our inner-circle-type group, which we’ll turn to for input as we move forward with Vida Vegan developments. Members also have a chance to opt in to be connected with vegan-friendly brands for potential samples, reviews, and such—and of course they’ll receive VVHQ discounts and other opportunities.

To kick things off, from June 13 through July 31, we’re holding a Membership Drive, with crowdfunding-style perks: from shout-outs to a personalized postcard or Instagram photobomb from VVC III (if you can’t join us), all the way up to a trip to Portland and brunch with me and my VVHQ co-founders, Janessa and Jess. You know you want to brunch with us. Janessa will have a bag of nooch in her purse, Jess will ask you lots of questions, and I will make funny faces and show you how to order the best breakfast of sides.

So I’m off to do what I can to ensure a smooth launch. Wish me luck, and I hope to see you in Austin!

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worldwide vegan bake sale 2014: pdx edition

portland bake sale michele truty

Spring: cherry blossoms, kittens being crazy-pants way too early in the morning, and taxes…oh, and planning for The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale!

Since 2009, groups all over the globe have come together during this very special week to raise funds for nonprofits by hawking donated vegan treats. Bonus, we show the world how great vegan treats can be. This year, that week falls April 26-May 4. Find out if there’s a sale in your area, or start scheming with your vegan community to start a new annual tradition. (The WVBS site has lots of advice for groups wanting to get started.)

The Portland crew/gaggle/super squad is back, and we’re aiming high. For the past couple of years, we’ve pulled in around $2,400 each time, for a nice little handful of nonprofits, but we always sell out early! We know we can do better. Come on, Vegan Mecca, get to baking!

Our sale is Sunday, May 4, 10-3, at Mississippi Marketplace, which is kind enough to host us for the third year in a row. (Pick up your treats then grab some lunch at Homegrown Smoker or Native Bowl!) All funds raised at our sale will go to Chimp Sanctuary NW (to help the chimps) and Russia Freedom Fund (to help the LGBTQ folk in Russia).

We set up this schmancy website here for more information. If you already know the deal, you can sign up to donate here. And here’s the Facebook event, should you want to sync up your calendar or invite your friends. (Psssst, invite your friends!)

We need lots of bakers (sweets, savories, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, palm-free, raw—we need it all—and don’t forget to bring an ingredient list!) and lots of buyers. We’ll have some take-home containers, but be a champ and save the earth a little by bringing your own reusable one.

So mark your calendars, hope for sun, spread the word, and let’s bake the world a better place.

diaclaimers & such: being honest about blogger perks

I received a press release for lemons. Lemons. Maybe you’ve heard of them, but they’re fruits and they’re good for…oh, come on, they’re friggin’ lemons.

You may not know this, but bloggers are sent loads of press releases, marketing packets, and free products. Because of you, the reader. Many bloggers support themselves in part via advertising on their blogs. Sometimes it’s super obvious, like when pop-up ads block whatever you’re reading until you interact with them. But quite often, a blogger will feature or review a product that they’ve received free. They’re supposed to tell you when that happens, but they rarely do.

Another way companies get exposure is by hiring bloggers as brand ambassadors or bringing them on as recipe developers. I’ve gotten a couple of these offers, but since I’m not strictly a food blogger, I think it would be weird if I started featuring recipes based on these products. (Some of these “recipes” are pretty funny—don’t know if you’ve noticed them—but the product is sometimes used as a topping or thrown in a cookie or it serves as a layer in a parfait. Snore.)

Perhaps it’s because I spent a few years as an in-house magazine staffer and my interaction with other bloggers (in my experience with Vida Vegan I’ve seen a full spectrum of blogger behavior) that I have such a low tolerance for sneaky paid ink. I don’t care for the dishonesty, and I think it’s pretty transparent. I’ve seen feigned excitement in print that I know for damn sure wasn’t felt by the writer. Hey, ever notice a bunch of bloggers writing about the same thing at the same time? It’s not a coincidence. It was a busy mail day.

When you’ve seen posts here featuring products, I bought them and either liked them or thought they were crap. The times I was treated to free food, I’ve told you well up front and was honest about the highs and the lows. If I ZOMG-love everything and am always so excited about <insert new thing here>, why should you believe me? Oddly, PR groups don’t seem to care about that. They just want the ink. And who can blame them? It’s the cheapest, most natural-looking exposure out there. And for a small, independent company, blog features just might be the best use of a limited marketing budget.

You know, this post has sat unfinished in my draft folder for a while, because one thing has really given me pause about hitting “publish”: Most vegan bloggers are, I believe, truly passionate about what they’re presenting to you, and it does take a bit of time and money to produce a blog. We buy domains and hosting and try to have a decent camera, and we need stuff to photograph and try out so we can tell you all about it. So some of us welcome, even depend on, being compensated in some way for these costs.

This is not to blame those bloggers selling ad space or for saying “yes” when they’re offered free stuff. I just want everyone to be honest about what they’re doing, because there’s a shift in vegan (or “plant based”) business happening right now, as marketing folk realize vegans are starting to make up a nice little consumer category. Suddenly there’s a bunch of money to go around to target you, the reader, and not everyone’s getting an A+ in Ethics. So I want you to keep your eyes open, to know when you’re being sold to.

By the way, I really do like lemons. Always have.

vegans & body image: katie

Welcome back to Vegans & Body Image, the biweekly series in which vegans share their stories and thoughts on body image in general, and what effect, if any, veganism has on it.

Katie Medlock is an Ohio-based vegan blogger I met at Vida Vegan Con. She works and lives for the benefit of humans and animals alike, and our world is lucky to have her.

katie_medlock_body_imageKatie, 27, female, thin side of average (yet curvilicious), 5′-7″

I’ve been vegan for over 5 years, with 2 months of pescetarianism before that. I went vegan for the animals and am quite the bleeding heart.

For the most part, veganism is more closely tied to my personal morals and ethical decision making than my body image. As I moved forward into veganism, I did notice changes in my body (less of a roller-coaster regarding my weight and bloaty-ness, for instance), yet the big changes did not occur until I shifted more toward a “clean eating” vegan diet instead of primarily convenience foods. These changes have most recently manifested in the way I feel my body function. (More energy! Less gas! Steady metabolism! Fewer food comas!)

For the past 3-4 months, I have enjoyed my return to participating in CrossFit as a form of exercise. Currently, I attend 3x/week and receive a good deal of support from my coaches when it comes to being vegan. They’re truly fabulous and check in with all of the athletes about their nutritional needs and “supportive eating” routines, and I’m no exception. It’s really wonderful feeling, as if my being vegan is not only tolerated, but encouraged. (One of my coaches even recently switched to being mostly vegan!) My decision to return to exercising and having a regular routine of fitness is mostly rooted in wanting to change my desperately lazy ways. I feel more energized and stronger day to day, and (to be honest) also am liking my journey toward a leaner, slightly more muscular physique.

When I was 19, I struggled with a restrictive eating disorder for the better part of a year before it began manifesting as binge eating and depression. Throughout my twenties I have been able to build on the strength I achieved during my initial recovery period and am able to find empowerment in many different things—not only how I perceive my body. In a way, veganism helped launch this newfound strength, in that my ethical foundations were fortified, as was my confidence in assertively living by my own moral code.

To boil down the most important elements of overall “health,” as I see it: providing my body the nutrition, rest, and movement it needs to function at its best, as well as attending to emotional and social needs.

At times, I feel the need to embody perfect health to fight the stereotype of a pale, meek vegan. Not only are there pressures to be nutritionally healthy, but to also break down the stereotypes that vegans can’t successfully live active lives without passing out or having their protein levels bottom out. Living as an unintended example of the picture of health is a difficult task, as I am often the only vegan that people around me know! I try not to succumb to such pressures and remind myself to live my life for me. Two years ago I was actually diagnosed with hyperlipidemia (total cholesterol = 279!!) and, after attempting to lower my levels naturally, am now taking a prescription drug to counteract my bad genetics. Ain’t nobody perfect!

I like to advocate for people to make the best food decisions they can—FIRSTLY, for the world and living creatures with whom we share this planet, and secondly, for one’s own personal health concerns and goals.

Thank you, Katie!

 Read others in the series, and please share your story. Find more info here or email me at VegtasticVoyage@gmail.com.

vegans & body image: jenna

Welcome back to Vegans & Body Image, the biweekly series in which vegans share their stories and thoughts on body image in general, and what effect, if any, veganism has on it.

Today’s profile is from Jenna Carton, who runs an Eating Disorder Recovery Tumbler and a vegan meal delivery service up in Edmonton, Canada, called VegPalette.

jenna_carton

Jenna, 24

I’m recovering from anorexia and bulimia. I went vegetarian in grade 6 and then vegan once I hit high school. That means I was vegetarian for 4 years and have been vegan for 8 years. Eating animals and animal products had upset me from a young age, and the core of me had always felt resistant to it.

As someone recovering from an eating disorder I’ve had to fight with many doctors and personal supports in my treatment program. I’ve been told time and time again that I am not “sober in my eating practices” unless I am willing to eat whatever is put in front me. This in itself has baffled me because, as a activist, I also take steps toward educating the general public about not eating highly processed “foodlike products” containing GMOs and preservatives. I guess you could call me a naturalist—but this is my belief system, not my disease. It’s taken over two years of fighting to fully come to terms with this.

When I was at my sickest, I had begun exploring raw veganism, and from there, raw fruititarianism. I wasn’t doing this because it was more ethical or environmental; I was doing it to lose weight. The websites and books I turned to promised me I could maintain an extremely low weight and eat whatever I wanted as long as it was raw and I avoided “toxins.” My eating disorder latched onto this and my life spun out of control. I’ve heard that raw foods have helped some people recover from EDs so I don’t want to discount that. This is simply the story of what happened on my journey. I eventually recovered by working with a holistic nutritionist (who was a vegan and a recovered bulimic) and working a 12-step program.

My outlook on wellness has changed drastically before and after my recovery. Prior to my recovery I was basically addicted to weight-loss products of the “natural” variety. I did the Master Cleanse so many times that I have permanently damaged my digestive system. Jogging (which I have loved since I was a kid) became a destructive tool, and I would wrap myself in plastic wrap and jog on the treadmill to “sweat off pounds.” When I began my 12-step program, exercise was also something I had to surrender all control of. I don’t think I would have done it, either, if I had not been in a car accident. It’s a year later and my physiotherapist still calls the shots on what I do. This has been a blessing in disguise because I have learned how to train in a healthy way. Yesterday I completed my first race since recovery and I solely did it for the sake of having fun with my partner. As I reflect back on my thought patterns I know that this is truly what it’s like to be healthy. Health is not a weight; it’s a state of being. For me, that means striving to keep my anxiety low and my mental health in check. My one and a half years of sobriety is coming up and I still work a hard program daily because it’s the only way I have found that I can live my life.

I still have loads of resentment toward the way we view veganism and beauty. Sometimes I feel like a “failed” vegan because I am not thin enough and I have to remind myself that’s my disease and not really me. Recently, a vegan dietitian was in town presenting a lecture on plant-based diets and her slide show was packed full of thin athletes and women laughing while eating salad. I found this extremely triggering and afterwords I wrote her a letter voicing my concerns. Believe it or not, she wrote back and agreed to change the images! My goal is to continue writing letters and working on my blog for recovering vegans where others can write in for advice.

In the eyes of industry, Beauty is just another word for Money, and as long as people are interested in yoga, veganism, gluten-free foods, and the like, we must fight to keep our lifestyles and our values from being exploited. Even the smallest change in attitude can help the people around us and make the world a better place.

Thank you, Jenna!

 Read others in the series, and please share your story. Find more info here or email me at VegtasticVoyage@gmail.com.