Friday, July 15, 2016

Vegan Mama || Katharine Toyne

Happy Friday ya'll. I hope everyone's week was awesome. I found Katharine while on Instagram and am so thrilled to have been able to interview her. By sharing these stories I am able to learn so much from every single person. I am so ecstatic at the turnout for my vegan mama interviews. Katharine is a sweet lady with an amazing prospective when it comes to rising vegan children. Hope ya'll enjoy the interview! 

-Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm a full-time mom to my 10-month-old little girl right now; her brother is due in almost 2 months, so I will have my hands full with 2 babies less than a year apart!

Before my daughter was born, I was a private music teacher in Toronto, Canada. I loved teaching, working for myself, and living in the big city. But when my daughter was born,  I really felt the lack of support and found myself wishing for a family dynamic, both for myself, and for her growing up. So we moved to rural Manitoba, close to her dad's big extended family, about 6 months ago. 

Moving from a very liberal, multicultural, vibrant city to a quiet, conservative rural area far from any major urban centre (Winnipeg - the closest city - is pretty small) has been a big adjustment. But I'm glad I moved, because I feel more connected to a community here - in all ways but one: I have yet to hear of, never mind meet, another vegan here. Reaching out via Instagram to a world-wide vegan community has made me feel more connected to fellow vegans. It's also provided me with more motivation to learn to recreate the favourite vegan dishes that I can't just run out and buy anymore. 

- What is your vegan story? Why and how did you transitioned?
I stopped eating meat when I was 13, realizing that eating the animals for whom I felt such love and compassion was hypocritical. I began to cook for myself and explore veggie dishes; by 15, I was ready to take the plunge: I went vegan. That was 20 years ago, and I have been happy with my choice ever since.

As a teenager, I was outspoken and militant about veganism. I counted people I'd "converted" to a meatless diet as battles won for the animals and the planet. As an older teenager and through my 20's, I participated in dog and cat rescue, caring for older animals whose lifetimes of love for their people had been rewarded only with abandonment when they were too sick and old to be convenient. Unfortunately, after caring for well over a dozen older animals (sequentially - not all at once!) and helping them live their remaining years (or months) in comfort and peace, I suffered serious burnout. My heart was heavily invested in each of those animals, and despite knowing I had given them a much better end than being euthanized in a shelter or dying on the street, I was emotionally exhausted from the parade of deaths.

I decided that, for a while at least, I would take a different approach to my commitment to animals. I would take a mental-health break from rescue, and, instead of confronting people to change their ways, I would try to lead by example instead.

I still feel passionate about the cause, though; and some day, I might return to front-line activism.

- Did you have any opposition when you told your family and friends that your child would be vegan?
I never questioned whether my children would be vegan. I have been for so long that I forget it's anything unusual most of the time. Their dad (we're amicably separated) is also vegan; so I think people naturally and rightly assumed our kids would be, too. In Toronto, vegan kids were not uncommon. Here in conservative small-town Manitoba, they are, but people seem mainly polite and interested, rather than judge mental or worried, when they learn we're vegan.

The only person who ever said anything remotely negative was a very distant relative in her 80's who opined that I could never have a succesful vegan pregnancy. I found it funny rather than offensive; both my pregnancies have been easy, my daughter's natural home birth was lovely, and she weighed 8 lbs 10 oz when she was born - so the negative opinion is even more hilarious to me in retrospect.

-What is some advice that you can give to fellow vegan mamas?
I'm going to say something here that, understandably, might not go over well with some in the vegan community (considering how much nonsense some vegans have to put up with from naysayers), but, here goes: for years, I was severely protein deficient, and I didn't know it. It really impacted my health and energy level. Eventually, in my mid-twenties, I made a conscious decision to investigate and solve my health issues; I did a lot of nutritional research, changed and improved how I worked out - and learned about vegan protein. I began counting grams of protein in what I ate, aiming for at least 100 grams per day. I started deliberately including a wide variety of vegan proteins (from whole foods like beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and from vegan protein supplements) with each meal. I saw my health issues disappear and my energy levels skyrocket. 

It's not difficult to get enough protein as a vegan, but it is something I think everyone - vegan mamas perhaps especially - should educate themselves about. We mamas have to be healthy to run around after our wonderful vegan babies, and we need the nutritional knowledge to feed our kids a healthy vegan diet and teach them how to  (eventually) feed themselves. So my advice would be, educate yourself! Don't just be kind to the animals; be kind to yourself, too, by making sure you're eating the most nourishing vegan diet you can.


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