June 27, 2012

Inspirational Friends: Sayward Rebhal

Greetings from Paris, mes amis!

While my computer has decided to take a long (and unindented) holiday, I'm forced to put all my picture posts on hold and instead focus on getting the message across through mere words. Fortunately, I have another inspirational friend to introduce you today!

Sayward Rebhal, who's blog The Bonzai Aphrodite, was one the key motivators for me to go 100% vegan some 6 months ago. Sayward's down-to-earth, yet well-written posts were not only entertaining, but also informative. She has since put blogging on hold, but continues to inspire and spread the vegan message through freelance articles and of course her book, Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide.

I talked to Sayward about her vegan journey, her book and raising her most adorable son. Hope you enjoy!

  What inspired you to become a vegan?

Well actually (unfortunately?), I wouldn’t say that I was inspired to become vegan. It was a total accident. I had just spent over a year disentangling myself from cigarettes, and I’d used crappy food as a crutch in order to do so. When I finally emerged victorious from the nicotine battle royale, I decided to get back on track by doing a “cleanse”. I thought going vegan for a week would do just the trick.

Well of course, within that single week I realized just how easy and fun it was to be vegan, and how amazing the food was, and how good I felt. And at the end of that week I just couldn’t, knowing what I know, keeping my integrity in tact, imagine going back. I remember thinking, “Damn, I wish I could ‘un-know’ this!” But I couldn’t. So I went forward.

Removing animal products essentially lifted the scaffolding that my cognitive dissonance was structured around. For the first time I could see clearly, and that’s when all the Animal Rights stuff came flooding in (and quickly!). I’m proof that someone can stumble into veganism “for health”, and end up a committed ethical vegan.

  What do you love about being a vegan?

Everything! Is that a cop-out answer? Okay, how about this . . .

What I love most about being vegan is the sense of inner calm – I’d call it peace – that came over me once I had shed that cognitive dissonance that I mentioned above. In order for me to be completely centered, and completely confident, then I have to be living my Truth. Authenticity is everything and for me, I wasn’t being authentic when my meals weren’t reflecting my ideals. But now, I get to practice nonviolence and feel like I’m making a difference, three times a day, every day (plus snack times too!) That’s a lot of opportunity to feel empowered. And that’s a lot to love.

Your book “Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide” was published last year. Tell us a little bit about the book.

Well basically, I wrote the book I wish I’d had when I was pregnant. It’s got everything you need to carry out a healthy and happy vegan pregnancy, from nutritional information, to practical tips, to social strategies, and on. But it’s also so much more than just an instructional manual. I really tried to focus on providing support. I think a lot of vegans feel very isolated, and those feelings are magnified during pregnancy. So I wanted to talk to women like their best friend would, with upbeat encouragement. I wanted them to have someone completely on their side, right there saying “Yes, you’re kicking ass! You got this!”

What advice would you give to women planning a vegan pregnancy?

Almost exactly the same advice I’d give my non-vegan friends, actually: Hug your partner. A lot. Go on tons of dates. Eat dinner together and look each other in the eyes while you talk about grown-up things. This will all change soon, so enjoy it. Have sex all the time!

Sleep as much as you possibly can. Especially when it comes to sleeping in. That’s the gold.

Spend entire days laying on your couch, relaxing. Do nothing. No really, I promise, just do it.

Spend less time stressing about your pregnancy, and more time planning what kind of parent you want to be. Read 1 or 2 pregnancy books but then move on. Start reading parenting books now, because you won’t have time to read them once you’re a parent. Most importantly, do everything you can to incorporate “flexibility” into your very core. Be prepared  to bend. And to compromise. Plan on it. Embrace it, even. Parenting tears apart everything you thought you “knew for sure”. If you fight it, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. If you ride it, it’s so much damn fun. Oh and also, B12 and DHA!

  What are your future plans? Any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?

I have huge plans, all of which seem to start with B’s – books, businesses, blogging. Not necessarily in that order. I like to dream big, and I’m always dreaming. At the moment though, I’m totally focused on being a mom. Okay, maybe not totally focused . . . but that’s top secret, sorry!

  What are your experiences of raising a vegan child?

My son is 2 and just started pre-preschool, and he’s beginning to notice that there are things that other kids eat which he has never seen before. The other day, just out of curiosity, I asked him, “Honey, are we vegetarians, or omnivores, or vegans?” and he delighted me by squealing, “We’re vegans!” So I continued, “And what does ‘vegan’ mean?” and he said “We don’t eat animals!” (yes, my eyes got teary and my heart just about burst). Finally I asked him, “And why don’t we eat animals?” This one stumped him. He thought long and hard and then he replied, “Because we eat food.” Ha!

Right now I’m working on teaching him to ask “Is it vegan?” if somebody offers him something. We visited a farm sanctuary recently, and he was just in awe. He’s been talking about the animals ever since. I know he doesn’t make the connection yet, that those animals are the same things that other people are eating. But we’re lucky, because almost every single person we hang out with is vegan (or vegetarian). He just hasn’t been exposed to much meat-eating yet. But I know he will, and I’m trying to prepare him for that. It’s a blessing and a curse I guess. I’m afraid he’s in for a very rude awakening, some day.

Besides following a vegan diet, what are some simple things one can do to promote a compassionate and cruelty-free lifestyle?

Buying secondhand as much as possible. May sound surprising, but here me out. Clothes, furniture, home goods, vehicles – everything! – is manufactured using animal products and in ways which destroying the earth. And it’s all unnecessary. There’s already so much amazing stuff! So buying secondhand just takes your dollar (and thus your support) completely out of that equation.

  What tips do you have for people wanting to make the switch to a vegan diet?

Go as fast or as slowly as you feel comfortable. It’s not “all or nothing”, so if you just can’t imagine giving up your beloved cream cheese or your weekend latte or whatever, well then don’t! Give up everything except that thing. Focus on making the changes that are fun and that excite you – trying new restaurants, cooking new foods, and learning about the awesomeness of farm animals.

A few practical things:

Make sure you’re eating enough. Plant foods are bulky and they’re nutrient-dense but calorie-light. You’ll have to eat bigger portions than you’re used to.

Make sure you get enough protein and enough fat. Carb-itarians burn out quickly. Finally, find a community of like-minded-people. Visit the veggie restaurant in your city, or find a vegan potluck to attend, or search for a local group on MeetUp.com. If there isn’t anything in your city, then go online. There are tons of blogs and websites full of friendly folks who can give you support. Also, listening to podcasts can be really helpful for keeping you feeling inspired. I like Vegetarian Food For Thought and Our Hen House.

  Who is your vegan inspiration?

I draw immense inspiration from the cumulative rad-ness of the vegan community at large. There are SO MANY amazing folks out there, each contributing in their own way, and it all adds up to light this beautiful fire of hope – right under my ass. Ha! But really, if you want something to keep you motivated, just tap into the vegan movement around the world. Every single person – from the elderly pacifist petting their rescued kitty on their couch, to the rowdy activist leading the protest with a bullhorn – is adding to the incredible tapestry of Veganism. And it’s so powerful!

What is your favourite vegan meal to prepare?

This is a hard question. We go through phases around here, and it’s always changing. Let’s see . . . recently the little family has been digging on tacos. Hard shells, not soft. Filled with homemade refried beans, smoky grilled onions and peppers, black olives, green salsa, and lots of avocado. Heaven!

Thank you, Sayward!


  1. fabulous! I love hearing about women raising their children vegan. Although I am not a mother yet, I always wonder how parents do it without being controlling or too isolating. Finding a great balance between educating and allowing them to make their own choices. I love her perspective and believe that if we focus on education not fear it will all work out well :)

  2. I used to be skeptical about vegan diet, but here I am, now a full vegan, preaching other people about its benefits! :)
    Thank You for these inspirational posts, and also for your blog full of delicious, and nutritious recipes!

  3. I was a vegan for four years after six years of being vegetarian, and now I'm back to an omnivorous diet.

    however, while it made sense for me at the time and no longer does, my vegan years greatly inform how I eat now which is still mostly meatless.

  4. That is some of the best pregnancy advice I've heard! Love her positive spin and clear enthusiasm for life.

  5. Sayward you are amazing! I miss your blog and adorable little Waits. So nice to hear how he is getting on :)


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