Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over. Her books on healthy eating and conscious living include The Lean, Veganist and Quantum Wellness. She considers herself a wellness activist and has appeared frequently on national television.
All this, and yet, she’s not strident or bossy. She wouldn’t dream of making me feel bad if I sprinkled parmesan on my pasta. She somehow understands that I can’t seem to give up my cow’s milk lattes.
“I’m a big believer in progress, not perfection,” says Freston. She offers easy, manageable ways to ease into a more plant-based diet. Freston takes a compassionate, no-guilt and shame-free approach to omnivores who try to reduce their meat consumption but who are maybe not on board the vegan train.
Leslie Crawford: You take an unusually gentle approach with people who aren’t vegetarians or vegans. Is this really an effective approach?
Kathy Freston: I realized that if someone lectured or shamed me, I’d probably reject the message and not have developed any of my own insights, whereas when I talk to people who are nonjudgmental, I’m an open receiver. So, I decided to share the message the way I like it to have done with me.
Your dog was instrumental in your conversion to becoming a vegetarian and then a vegan. Tell us about your “ah-ha!” moment.
I had received a pamphlet in the mail from some animal organization depicting a cow being dragged to slaughter. It hit me hard, and I didn’t know what to do with that. Later, I was playing with my dog Lhotse, and she was lying on her back and looking up at me. When I looked back at her, [I] suddenly imagined her being lined up for slaughter and considered how she’d feel. I thought, If I don’t want my dog to go to slaughter, why would I want any animal to go to slaughter? As you know, a dog is no better or worse than any animal.
You talk about how becoming vegan is a process. I think some people think it’s just too hard because they have to entirely change the way they eat in order to become one.
It’s a process for several reasons. One is that our culture has effectively numbed us to what’s happening to animals. We are told it’s normal, natural and necessary. From early childhood, we’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that it doesn’t matter how we treat farm animals. It takes a while to get over that indoctrination.
The second thing is that we like to eat what we like to eat. Certain habits and traditions are ingrained in us. For anyone who has a habit, it’s very hard to break it.
Finally, it’s about being resourceful. It takes a while to find your footing: what to make for dinner, how to shop, how to please your kids. All those things work in tandem. If you give yourself time and space to figure this out, anyone can do it.