Thursday, September 29, 2011

[099] Interview 05: Gregg

Meet Gregg! He's 37 years old, originally from Oklahoma but currently resides in Kansas, and he's the CTO and co-founder of a small software engineering firm. Gregg recently went vegan as of September 8, 2011 and he blogs at where he shares his experience with veganism.

I spoke with Gregg via Skype just two weeks after he made the decision to go vegan. I ask, "When did you adopt the vegan lifestyle? And how long have you been vegan? And I read that you don't like to call it a "diet". So, go into that." Gregg laughs and says, "I was actually talking to some friends about that today. They were like "So how's your diet?" It's not a diet! It's just the way I eat." "I'm a really really new vegan. I went completely hardcore September 8th this year." We both chime in, "Two weeks ago today!" "I went vegan, and I say I went "cold turkey" but I've been dabbling in veganism for the past couple of years. I had gone vegan before. It didn't stick. I had gone vegetarian before. It didn't stick. But this time... it stuck."

"That was another one of my questions; have you been a vegetarian previously to becoming vegan?" I ask. "I was, in a way", Gregg says. "I mean, I had gone vegetarian but between then and becoming vegan on the 8th, I ate meat. So I was still pretty much a carnivore up until the day of."

Honestly, I've known a few people who have gone through the same cycle. For some people, they're just not in the right place in their life to support a vegan or vegetarian diet. As someone who preferred to eat her vegetables over meat, I completely understand.

I asked Gregg, "How did you become interested in veganism? And what was it that made you decide to do it?" Gregg responds, "So this is going to be the longer part of the story, I suppose." as he laughs. "I co-own a software engineering firm and my business partner has been a vegan for almost 20 years."

"Wow!" I say, surprised.

"He's not one of those stand up and preach, hardcore extreme kind of guys. He's real laid back about [veganism]. He went through that period of, you know, as all new vegans normally do, go through a phase of holier than thou. He's way past that. So, he would casually bring it up. I would ask him some questions and he would say "you need to go read this" and he would point me to some books. Like, John Robbins 'The Food Revolution', the China Study..." "So I started reading and started doing my own research on [veganism] and, like I said, over the past couple years dabbled in it here and there. I went back and forth on my final convictions about is meat good or bad, is it okay it's it's pure vs processed. Kind of the same thing with dairy. So this last final push for me, I guess, was I had the education. I had the knowledge. I knew it from the statistic point of view, from case study point of view. I had the information I needed, there was, apparently, just something that wasn't registering with me to make that final push." he says. "So, on [September] 7th I had watched "Forks over Knives" and for whatever reason that kind of pushed me over the edge and that's when I finally made the decision to go with it. What I liked about that documentary is that it's not fanatical and it's not extreme. It's very factual, statistical, and it just lays the information out in front of you and just basically says, do with it what you want to do, it's your decision. It wasn't all up in your face and pounding it in your head, "Be a vegan! Be a Vegan!" (I laugh) "It just really opened my eyes to the last bit of information I needed to stand firm on some convictions I had been dabbling with and trying to come to terms with, I guess."

Scrolling through his Tumblr, I had come across a video he posted of the Forks over Knives trailer. I still haven't watched it but Gregg shares with me what the film is about. I won't go into detail because my knowledge on the film is rather limited and I'll just wait to watch it when I have the time. Gregg actually sent the movie to his parents house and they had received it in the mail the day before I talked with Gregg, but they hadn't watched it yet. So, obviously he couldn't tell me about their reaction. In fact, he hasn't told many people about his recent decision to go vegan. His two friends whom he had spoken to about being vegan were just now finding out... as they sat in an Arby's. "Oh goodness" I say (I was never a big fan of Arby's pre-vegetarian) as he continues "I had to restrain myself a little bit as they were eating their roast beef sandwiches or whatever" we both laugh. "I'm sitting here as they're chomping on their processed foods and whatever else, but it's alright. They're friends... for now" we laugh again. In true Tumblr fashion, not many people know about his blog. (First rule about Tumblr. Don't talk about Tumblr.)

Gregg and his wife have three children. While his wife has yet to go full vegan, she does eat vegetarian meals and is exploring dairy substitutes. As for their children, it's more difficult to make this kind of dietary switch. They're educating them as go through the exploration process of vegetarian recipes. Gregg says "We're weaning them, educating them as we go along, but we're not completely restricting them."

"I was that kid who would eat my vegetables. I'd be sitting there next to my sister and she'd say "I don't want my peas." I'd be like "Dude, eat my steak and I'll gladly eat your peas." we laugh. If Jeanine is reading this, she's probably thinking I haaate peas! "My daughter could go vegan. Easy. She loves her vegetables." Gregg shares. "My youngest son, put fruit in front of him and he will eat any kind of fruit. My oldest son is the most difficult right now because, you know, we didn't know any better when we were raising him. He was so young and we introduced a lot of the processed foods, fatty foods, chicken nuggets, and all that stuff that he's just grown up to love. For him, he just hasn't developed a taste... I mean, he'll barely eat grapes. Won't touch watermelon. Doesn't like peaches. It's just because his palette is so acidic and if we can get his alkaline levels evened out his taste buds will open up and things will start to taste better for him."

I shared with Gregg that I grew up eating a lot of home cooked Filipino foods; pancit, fried rice, lumpia, adobo, sinigang, etc. Growing up in Guam, I had all sorts of fresh fruits around on a regular basis. Mom would share a mango with me and my siblings, giving each of us a strip of fruit. Jeanine and I would constantly fight over who gets to eat the meat of the fruit off the seed. Every time I cut up my own mangoes, I start to reminisce. Anyway. From time to time my parents would take us out for McDonald's, and to me I felt like I was being rewarded with this Happy Meal. It wasn't until we moved to Texas that my health started to become affected by this poor choice in meals. My fast food consumption went up and my outdoor activity went down. I wasn't used to living somewhere that actually had a winter and I had never stayed indoors so much in my life. When I hear about friends raising their children on healthy home cooked meals, it gives me hope for our future.

When asked if he has faced any difficulties since going vegan, Gregg responds "Health-wise? No. My body adapts pretty well to change. I don't go through the days of headaches or fatigue for whatever reason. Maybe because my metabolism is a little bit higher. So health-wise I'm fine, but it's still pretty new. I'll be interested to see what happens over time. At some point I'll probably start to realize I'm not getting enough B12 or I'm not getting enough iron, so I need to mix up the variety a little bit." As he mentioned earlier, he hasn't told many people yet. "I haven't ran into that barrage of brick walls with friends or family. My sister will probably be accepting of it because she's a yogi and a physical therapist... and a bit of a health nut anyway." I agree as he continues, "I don't want to approach this, with my parents specifically... Everything you taught me, growing up, was completely wrong. Thanks for ruining my health." "Right!" I say as I laugh. "I don't want my parents to think that they did anything wrong, because you just do the best you can. You don't know any better. And yeah, there were vegans back then. But it was a smaller market and it was really frowned upon.", Gregg laughs. "You were placed with a stigma on you, and you were categorized as a hippie. And now, it's a lot more accessible and I think it's more accepting as long as you're not super involved with Peta." I laugh again. Gregg continues, "I'm a little bit worried about the family aspect of it with my parents, but I think they'll be okay with it. With my friends, I think it's more or less me not being judgemental, and I think they'll be okay. That's something I struggle with, being a new vegan. I'll see somebody eating something that I know is bad for them and I'll want to say "Don't eat that!" And I'll really have to restrain myself so that I don't alienate people that way and lose friends."

Gregg will gladly discuss veganism with anyone who asks him about it. He won't throw fact after fact after fact in your face unless you're genuinely interested in learning about this way of life, but he'll recommend a few books and the film Forks over Knives. If you're not sure that going vegan is right for you, take the time to sit down and do some research.

When it comes to meals, Gregg describes himself as a grazer. A typical day of meals for hims consists of a smoothie or whole fruits for breakfast, "Something I can grab and go because I'm not much of a breakfast person. When I ate eggs and bacon, I would actually prefer that for dinner." I love breakfast for dinner! For lunch he prefers to stay raw and eat a salad, "but lately we've been cutting up some vegetables and put it in a tomato basil wrap. Those stay mostly raw minus the wrap."

via Gregg's blog

When it comes to dinner they have to keep the entire family in mind. "It kind of depends on what everyone else is eating. For example, for dinner tonight my wife is making chili. Which she has always made vegan but the kids will put cheese on it. I can eat it just fine, it's just bean and tomatoes and peppers and onions. Other times we'll do the faux chicken patties or boca burgers, and I'll just use some veganaise. The other night she made cheese enchiladas for the kids, using this faux cheese, and I didn't care for it that much. I don't want to use a lot of tofu, substitute stuff. So I just had a salad that night with some fruit on the side. Sometimes I'll just have a baked potato with a little bit of oil and salt. Nothing too crazy. I try to keep it as simple as possible. We're not all going hardcore vegan, but I like to have something raw everyday. I don't want to cook every single day. Throughout the day I'll snack on a banana, grapes, or cashews."

One of the adventures of going vegan or vegetarian includes finding friendly restaurants that offer a decent variety of meals. They found a restaurant in Wichita, KS called The Lotus Leaf that offers a vegan, vegetarian, and diabetic friendly foods. About half of their menu is vegetarian or vegan, and their interior decor is cute.
via Gregg's blog
This is a photo of the vegan crepe Gregg ordered.

via Gregg's blog
"It had exotic mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and some sort of wine reduction sauce that was so sweet.  I also had some lentil soup on the side that I forgot to photograph.  It was terrific as well.  My wife had the Veggie Panini."
via Gregg's blog
"Directly from the menu: Thick sliced wheat-berry bread stuffed layered with roasted zucchini, exotic mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and baby spinach with our own garlic vegan crème spread."
When I asked Gregg "Have you found a vegan recipe that you absolutely love?" He laughs and says "Yeah. And you'll laugh when I tell you what it is." "Go ahead", I say.
via Gregg's blog
"My wife made some chocolate chip cookies that are vegan." He was right, I laughed. "They're almost better than regular chocolate chip cookies that are egg based. Man, they are good, but they are dangerous. I can't have her make them very often." I was still laughing. You can find the recipe here.

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