Former carnivore, ethical vegan advocate, and self-professed french fry addict shares how moving from chicken wings to tofu wings changed his entire life. His new book The Skeptical Vegan is coming out in August and pre-orders are available here: The Skeptical Vegan
Hint: it includes a chapter on how to eat vegan in fast food restaurants.
"Refreshingly aware of how vegans are often difficult to be around, Lindstrom has found the perfect balance between fanatical and reasonable, serious and fun. When you decide it's time to stop participating in mass cruelty and cultivating avoidable diseases—read this book. Lindstrom inspires us without feeling preachy, and educates us without being boring. The Skeptical Vegan is a fantastic starting out point for those looking to improve their physical, spiritual, and emotional health." —Steve-O, Jackass
Ariana: Most people find making significant changes in diet hella hard to stick to, but you went vegan overnight. Tell me what led to that change.
Eric: It started as a bet with my wife Jen that whoever was the first to crack and eat dairy or meat in 30 days would have to do the household chores for three months. I woke up the next day with all the questions and challenges about what I was going to eat. I went through each day like an omnivore-aholic. I used to be the guy who would order steak “Pittsburg,” which means it’s so rare it’s still blue inside. But the change stuck, became a blog, that became a book, and ended up becoming a career in promoting veganism – all because I didn’t want to lose a bet. The overnight change and the fact that it stuck was surprising to me. Now it’s my identity.
Ariana: What other changes have surprised you since going vegan?
Eric: The initial weight loss was surprising. I lost 30 pounds within 8 months. I also didn’t expect to lose some of the social situations I used to be part of. I found myself making new friends because I couldn’t meet over a bowl of chicken wings anymore. The upside is the sense of community. I was surprised how supportive and excited everyone in the vegan movement is about being part of something.
Ariana: Changing what you eat is tough because it requires developing new habits and those habits come from a new mindset. What in your mindset had to shift?
Eric: There was a point in my life when I only ate sausage, biscuits and gravy for breakfast, which is the greatest flavor combination. I would say to myself after eating three or four portions, that I was getting a ton of protein and would lose weight. I went through those pre-vegan years giving myself excuses to make bad choices. I had a bunch of health scares that I talk about in the book. I also had three friends, all men in their 50s, die in one year of heart attacks who were even healthier than me because they were active. But they weren’t eating in the way their bodies needed.
Ariana: Speak to the guy who is in his 40s, taking heart medication, and feels conflicted between wanting to eat healthier and wanting to experience that satisfaction that he experiences with meat.
Eric: It’s a challenge. Be supportive. Clean your house of eggs, dairy and meat. Learn to recognize the vegan options. You have to re-train your taste buds. When you go out to eat, ask about vegan options and if there isn’t anything, make a suggestion. Over time you realize there are vegan options everywhere. You stop craving things you used to crave. You don’t have to feel like you’re sacrificing. I’ve given up nothing. I can eat everything I used to eat but no animals get hurt.
For example, if I were hosting a sports night, I’d order two pizzas from Papa John’s without cheese because the crust is vegan and it’s delicious. And get the garlic dipping sauce. You’ll need to order five extras. No one believes it’s vegan! There are so many amazing vegan meats, nuggets, wings, you prepare them and put out a big bowl of vegan blue cheese. Unless someone is purposely putting up a wall, it isn’t an issue.
Your relationship to food has to be healthy for you to be healthy. The biggest trap is finding yourself overindulging because you think, “I’ve given everything else up, why can’t I have it?”
Ariana: Your wife Jen issued a bet that you both go vegan for 30 days. Five years later, you’re both still vegan and are now raising vegan babies. How has it changed your relationship with Jen?
Eric: It brought us closer because we’re in it together. If I could advise anyone considering it, it’s easier if both people are doing it. We’ve learned about new foods together, gotten healthier, have zero concerns about our future health and unbelievable cholesterol levels. Knowing that your partner is healthy adds to your relationship. It’s made our family more compassionate toward others. It’s a great relationship booster.
Ariana: Besides the health benefits, what motivates you?
Eric: I’m in it for the animals. It goes so far beyond diet. It took me at least a year of avoiding all meat, discarding any animal-based clothing to become an animal-first vegan. I’m now a voice for the voiceless. Animals have every right to live on this planet as we do. Every animal has a will to live. Your single commitment to compassion and veganism can impact lots of people. I encourage people to go in their kitchens and make vegan meals.
Ariana: There’s a lot of talk about the need for protein and a belief, especially in the U.S., that you can only get it from animals. And some fear that raising kids without meat and dairy means they won’t get the nutrition they need. What do you have to say to that?
Eric: That belief was engrained by US government. The “Got milk” advertising was because of a surplus in milk. It sounds like conspiracy, but it’s about economics. Much of our economy is based on us staying sick.
When I was first starting this journey, I met a woman who was a raw vegan. That’s like vegan level 11, it’s way above where I was. I asked her about how she got her protein and she said, “I never think about it.” The fact is that you end up getting too much protein that your body never uses. Beliefs are based on your experiences and by going through these changes you understand yourself, nutrition, and learn that what you’ve been told isn’t true.
Check out his book. It’s got recipes, insight and snark.
Amazon description of The Skeptical Vegan:
Part confession and part survival guide, The Skeptical Vegan explains how simple it really is to be vegan, covering topics from food and nutrition to social challenges and lifestyle. Snarky, witty, and opinionated to a fault, Lindstrom speaks as a male vegan, contesting the notion that “real men” should only eat meat. With twenty original “veganized” recipes including portobello steaks, carrot hot dogs, tofu wings, “meaty” chili, and cauliflower bites (which helped him shed thirty pounds), Lindstrom demonstrates how to take control of your diet while still eating “meatily” and taking into account the ethical considerations of living a better life for the animals, the environment, and yourself.