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Thanks for such wonderful responses to my recap of day one and dinner at Portobello! I’m happy that you liked my on-screen presence, and most of all, I’m grateful for your celebratory thoughts on coming to terms with celebratory meals post-ED. Gracias!

It’s now day three of Vida Vegan Con, and day two actually feels like a week ago—not like yesterday! But I’m still having a fantastic time, and can’t wait to start recapping Saturday’s events for you. Most of you already got a sneak peek of my interviews from the conference yesterday, but if you haven’t—and if you’re curious to hear about the mistakes I made while going raw, my definition of health, and whether I get yearly bloodwork, check ‘em out here.

Day two at Vida Vegan began with a generous and crowd-pleasing spread of breakfast food, which included chia seed pudding, roast potatoes, tofu scramble, gluten free pancakes and apple cobbler, fat free biscuits, fruit salad, stumptown coffee, and tons of So Delicious creamer. Awesome! I must say, I’m so impressed with how hard the organizers of Vida Vegan have worked to accommodate the wide array of eating styles here at the conference: they’ve had tons of gluten free options, lots of low fat ones, and Janessaeven emailed me privately, weeks before the conference, for some feedback on raw options. I think that are sometimes left out at conferences—even vegan ones—so I was really touched. For breakfast, I ate some of the fruit, a banana I had brought (can’t start my day without one!) and the chia pudding.

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I wolfed this down as I watched my resident girl crush, Laura Beck, open the conference with some moving words about the meaning of vegan community. Laura spoke about her experience with Kris Carr’s CSD program, and even referenced mynutrient dense salad post! Most importantly, she talked about how, time and time again, the vegan blog community has inspired her, picked her up, calmed her down, and generally enriched her life. I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more.

My first panel of the day was a photography panel with Susan, Isa, and Hannah. Holy starstruck, Batman! These are three of the vegan bloggers who inspired me to go fully vegan when I was still in “I’m practically vegan but can’t stop eating Greek yogurt” mode. They also inspired me to blog myself. It was a fabulous and informative panel, even if I still can’t figure out the black/white balance on my camera.

Next was my very first panel as a panelist: a nutrition panel with Bryanna Clark Grogan, Ginny Messina, and Wendy Gabbe Day. Another starstruck moment here: I’ve admired Ginny’s work for ages now. If you haven’t read her blog, The Vegan RD, please do: I consider it required reading for vegans who want responsible, well-informed, and scientific responses to the many health questions we all invariably get. I don’t always agree with Ginny on everything, and certainly we have some dietary differences, but in spite of that we actually see eye to eye on nearly all major vegan nutrition questions.

Ginny’s main interest right now is to combat the tendency that many vegans have to become overly restrictive in what they eat: they go vegan, they give up gluten and soy, they go raw, they give up beans and grains, then they give up fats, nuts, and end up with a diet of kale, lemon, and fruit. Of course, if you do have food allergies or health conditions that demand such modifications, you should honor them, and I’m not suggesting that there’s anything inherently wrong with being selective; neither is Ginny. I think her point, which I agree with, is that there is no reason for a healthy vegan to feel pressured into winnowing down his or her diet to nothing but watery vegetables and juice. In fact, such patterns may create health problems, and turn that person against the lifestyle (and hurt the public perception of veganism).

Grant Butler, who moderated our panel, knew from the start that Ginny has sometimes expressed skepticism about raw foodism, but that she also does advocate a lot of raw fruits and vegetables. He also knew that, in spite of being a high raw foodists with tremendous belief in the power and fun of raw foods, I’m also strongly in favor of a well rounded vegan diet that includes some grains, legumes, and high quality soy foods. So I think he sensed that there would be discussion points on the panel, but a fundamentally unified point of view.

And so there was. It was a great talk: I spoke about my objection to raw foodists turning the diet into religion. Bryanna spoke about how important it is to make healthful food delicious, so that no one is forced to sacrifice pleasure for well being. Wendy spoke about keeping one’s diet simple, avoiding packaged food, and shopping from bulk bins. And Ginny cautioned against excessive restriction. She also spoke openly about the no fat/no oil craze in the vegan world, with which she and I both take serious issue with (we both agree that heart disease has been reversed on extremely low fat diets, but we also agree that there’s compelling evidence to show that it’s saturated fat, not all fat, that’s the main factor in chronic disease prevention, and also that there’s evidence in favor of the health benefits of olive, flax, and hemp oils in moderation). I was relieved and impressed to have her response.

This was such a fun panel for me! And the audience questions were really intelligent, too.

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Yours truly, gesticulating wildly.

At the very end, Grant asked us all to list our favorite go to super foods. I think that our responses were fun, and they spoke to our personalities as eaters in a nice way:

Gena: Hemp

Wendy: Cooked, mixed whole grains (including her favorite, amaranth)

Bryanna: Quinoa cous cous mix

Ginny: Tofu scramble

Thanks to my fellow presenters for such a great panel!

After the panel, a special friend who’d come to watch me speak also treated me to lunch. The gorgeous Sarah, of Peas and Thank You fame!

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There she is, in an adorable sundress.

Our lunch spot of choice was Prasad, a vegan and raw joint nestled into a nearby yoga studio.

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I’d checked out the menu online and was super excited to eat there; I even knew what I wanted! I started with a green lemonade:

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I also ordered a large house salad with garlic tahini dressing, hoping the garlic wouldn’t be too strong. It was, but actually, it was so tasty I didn’t mind:

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I also ordered a raw collard wrap with pesto, raw hummus, sundried tomatoes, and veggies. The flavors were great, but I must say that, having just spent the morning exonerating oil, it was far too oily for me—dripping with oil, even. The outside was even covered, as you can probably see:

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Because the taste was good, I really wanted to enjoy the wrap, so I did something I never do, and I patted and wiped the oil off with a napkin. It’s a little impolite, I know, and I associate it with high school girls mopping the oil off slices of pizza, but it actually made the wrap edible. Good enough for me.

After lunch, it was time for my second panel: warm and fuzzy blogging. This was a panel featuring Janessa, me, Christa, and Leigh-Chantelle (such great ladies!!), and our goal was to talk about positivism in blogging. WhenI was asked to join this panel, I was a little surprised: I try to inspire and empower, but I often find my voice to be a little tough minded, even snarky. As we planned the panel, I realized that our true goal was to show our audience that positive doesn’t have to mean “saccharine sweet” or upbeat: there’s a way to tackle dark and serious content while also having a positive message:

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We got a ton of wonderful questions from audience members, ranging from “how do you talk about a bad day without complaining?” to “do you feel bad writing negative reviews of vegan products?” to “how can I write about animal rights and factory farming without turning my blog into a litany of despair?” (my paraphrasing). These were all so provocative; to that last question, Leigh-Chantelle made the excellent suggestion that one show positive footage of animal sanctuaries or rescues as well as footage of abuse and/or farming.

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Christa said that it’s a question of tone: write about things honestly, even when the topic is bleak, but do it with a gentle and hopeful tone:

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And then there were broader questions about blogging, such as “how do you handle negative comments?” My advice to any audience on this one is simple: unless a comment is downright cruel or outrageous (in which case I suggest you delete it), try to answer calmly, graciously, and in a way that allows you to keep from getting overly engaged.

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Janessa, who is ever a model of grace and optimism, said that she always tries to assume that others are coming from a positive place, and if they’re not, that they’re doing the best they can. I’m not always able to exude this kind of generosity, but I do love it in my friend, and think it’s great advice (particularly in the blog world):

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A really fun and interesting discussion!

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I was getting a little tired by the time we finished, but I did manage to make it to the mating and dating panel, which was moderated by Grant Butler, too, and featured Janessa, some of the minds behind SuperVegan, and others. I found it entertaining, though I did find it discouraging that the upshot seemed to be that it’s really tough for a vegan to date a non-vegan. That’s true, of course, because even when habits are constructed to be accommodating, a certain world view isn’t shared. That said, I do think it’s possible for such relationships to work, so long as there’s a lot of mutual respect in place.

And if not, there’s “dating as activisim,” to quote the witty panelists. I believe I used to call that (all in good jest) “date and convert.”

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After a long and informative and educative day, I was ready to unwind a bit. I didn’t have much time between the conference and dinner, but I did manage a quick change and the start of a blog post. Then, it was off to meet my lovely and vivacious local friend Ami for some dinner. Our spot of choice? The amazing Blossoming Lotus.

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I’d been warned that I would fall in love with this place, and oh boy, did I ever. An amazing whole-foods vegan menu with abundant raw options and a juice menu? Oh yes.

I started with an all green juice (second of the day, but it was a long day):

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And I moved on to the amazing goddess bowl, which is a mix of steamed kale, raw greens, quinoa, roast garlic balsamic and smoked avocado dressings, and I topped mine with avocado slices. Simple and absolutely divine:

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Look how beautiful it is, all mushed up:

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Ami got the beet and curried cashew salad, along with a side of quinoa:

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I thought the food was really superb. Obviously, there’s something extraordinary about a fine dining experience like my dinner at Portobello the night before. But in some ways, it’s food like this that really makes my heart sing: simple, abundant, wholesome. Yum.

After some animated chatter, it was off to the Vida Vegan galorama for dancing and celebration. There was a vast array of food there:

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…and a spectacular build-your-own-sundae bar. But in truth, new to PDX as I am, I was glad to have explored a local restaurant.

Over the course of the evening, I got to hang out with my perennial girl crush, Ms. Laura:

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And I got to meet Jill and John, the lovely co-founders of Vegan Cuts. I had no idea that this invaluable website is run by only two savvy young businesspeople. Check it out, if you haven’t: what a team!

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I also spent some time with Lisa, who makes grace and kindness look easy. I’ve never met anyone who’s quite so generous, caring, and sincere—all without seeming the least bit sugary. Lisa, I’m in awe. Sorry our photo is blurry.

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There was a photo booth that takes 7 seconds of continual photo frames so that you can turn them into a flipbook. At some point, I’ll have to show you JL’s and mine, which is borderline scandalous. Instead, I’ll show you photos of JL tearing up the dance floor:

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It didn’t take me long to peter out: I’m still on NYC time, and I was pretty beat. But before I left, I checked out some of the awesome silent auction prizes. My favorite were t-shirts from Herbivore:

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Tomorrow or on Monday, I’ll say a bit more about what the vegan community has meant to me in terms of activism. Last night, as I was falling asleep, what I really couldn’t stop thinking about was what the vegan community has meant to be personally. I’ve been reading vegan blogs forever, and some of the women who write them are no longer blog personalities to me. When I need to vent about anything, I often turn to JL for some sass and some wisdom. When I need to be inspired, I look to people like Jasmin, who fights tirelessly for animals. When I want to dish about anything scientific, I email with Sayward. When I got dumped via text message last year, Laura was one of the first ladies I dished to. And when I need to look on the bright side, I always can count on Janessa.

I hope that many of my fellow bloggers feel that they can count on me for similar kinds of support. Blogging is an individual endeavor, of course, and it’s a business. But it’s also a chance to find community and shared vision. And that’s what Vida Vegan is all about.

From PDX, I wish you all a great night. Stay tuned for my wrap up posts in the coming days!

xo