This week we bring you our latest interview in our series with the incredibly inspiring Kristine Keating. Kristine talks us through the reasons she went vegan, how to truly detoxify your body as well as why you should always follow your passions. If you are interested in finding out more from Kristine, carry on reading…
Hi Kristine! Tell us a bit about your childhood and background and how you feel that has influenced you today?
As a child, I was a bit of a tomboy and spent much of my time outside, climbing trees, making mud pies, playing with caterpillars, watching tadpoles in the stream and riding dirt bikes on the local trails. I was attracted to nature and to all the insects and creatures that shared it with me. I wanted to protect them whether big or small and would stand up to anyone that would hurt them. I believe there is a deep connection to animals that is natural to each and every one of us. Unfortunately, there have been unseen forces at work all throughout history that continuously try to sever the bond between humans and animals.
When we are young children, the bond with animals is immediate and long-lasting. I remember when my parents brought home a puppy for my seventh birthday. I had an instant connection with that little pup and we were best buds for many years. When it was time for him to leave us, it felt as though I had lost one of my closest family member. At that time, I thought it was natural for everyone to love animals but by age eight, I found that not to be the case after I stumbled upon a short television clip showing the brutal clubbing of innocent white baby seals for their fur. Watching it shocked and horrified me. I remember calling my mother into the room to show her what was happening because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She turned off the television and sat there with me while I cried. I can’t remember what she said to me but she obviously sensed that it touched me in a deep and profound way because shortly after that she gave me a stuffed animal, in the shape of a white baby seal. After witnessing such cruelty, I remember feeling a stronger desire to protect animals, but being too young to fully grasp the magnitude of that mission. Sadly, I didn’t make the connection with the food on my plate until I was 32 years old. Up until that point, no one ever talked about how the strips of bacon were actually pieces of a pig or that the juicy steak next to the potatoes was once part of a cow. It was just food that you ate every day. We were all conditioned to think it was normal. I understand now that we all come into awareness through different experiences and at different times. I just wish that I had made the connection much earlier in life. I guess that’s why I now dedicate much of my time to helping others come into awareness sooner rather than later.
When did you decide to go vegan and why?
I went vegetarian first, in 2002, when I moved to a new town and opened an art gallery and framing business. I quickly became acquainted with one of the locals and during a dinner party at his house, he mentioned he was vegetarian. He shared a book with me called A Diet for a New America by John Robbins which I read in three days and left me feeling shocked and horrified once again. All the confusion and sad feelings came back to me just as I experienced when I watch the killing of the seals. From that moment, I realized I had been supporting the same actions that I was against, it was just being done to different animals. I knew right then, in August of 2002, that I would never eat meat or seafood again.
It took six more years before both my partner Will and I realized that animals used for their milk and eggs were treated just as cruelly as those raised for meat. It was actually Will who came home one day and said “you don’t have to buy cheese or eggs anymore, I’m done”. So on New Years’ Day 2008, we both decided to take the jump and go 100% vegan. A few years later we took the next step and began purchasing clothing, shoes and products from cruelty free sources. It’s not always effortless to find the things you need in an animal-free version but it’s getting much easier as new companies are popping up every year with cruelty free alternatives. It’s a sure sign that awareness is growing and we are possibly reaching a tipping point.
How did you first find going vegan?
I don’t recall ever having any negative experiences when I first went vegan. It may be because Will and I were doing it together which made it much easier. There were never any reasons for us to argue about food. It was just the way it was. We ate vegan. No one was going to intimidate us or make us change our minds about it.
What do you friends and family think about you now being vegan?
I’ve been known as an independent thinker, by family and friends, for as long as I can remember. I really don’t recall receiving any harsh comments or ridicule about my diet. Maybe subtle comments here and there, about it being strange or different, but I was always the type of person to forge my own path and become involved in things that weren’t considered the norm. No one was very interested in changing their diet or animal rights issues. I’m sure they thought it was probably just be a phase that I would outgrow. If we fast forward to the present, many things have changed. My parents now follow a mostly plant-based diet, mainly for health reasons and my nephew, Ryan, is the only family member who chose to make the decision to go vegetarian after seeing the horrific way animals are treated in the food industry. Would you believe he was only 9 years old when he made that ethical decision and he is now fourteen! I remember sitting down with Ryan to show him a short video on Youtube that listed many reasons to go vegetarian. I can’t recall the titled but once the video ended, that little nine year old just looked at me and said “wow…they’re some pretty good reasons”. And that was it. Decision made. I’m still impressed to this very day, that at nine years old, he could make such a sensible and compassionate decision. And stand by it without ever wavering. It was so easy for him to see it was wrong and then to do what was right. I believe the youth of today are much more in-touch with their feelings and emotions than adults are. Never doubt the power of a youthful mind, they are the true teachers.
When did you decide to become a plant based nutritional educator and raw food chef?
That aspiration stemmed from a situation I experienced while still running my art business. A good friend of mine; Erick found out he was diagnosed with cancer and came to visit me to talk about diet and nutrition as he remembered how I switched to a vegetarian diet and knew I was a big supporter of organic foods. He also asked me to help him research alternative therapies through the internet during my downtime at the gallery. In doing so, I stumbled upon many different health institutes that were using plant-based diets as a treatment for cancer. When I passed the information on to Eric, he decided to start the diet right after his upcoming operation, which was a few days away. As I continued to research, I found information on the use of juicing and raw foods for healing the body.
When I showed Eric, he became extremely hopeful and immediately asked me to find a used Juicer, so he could drinks fresh pressed juices along with the plant-based diet. I found an old Champion Juicer on eBay for $50 and purchased it right away. It was to arrive three days after his operation. Unfortunately, the day before it was delivered, Eric’s partner came into my gallery to tell me that Eric had died during the operation and I was devastated. The next day, when the juicer arrived, I just stared at it and cried. At first, I was going to return it but then I thought of it as Eric’s final gift to me. I knew I just had to keep it. At that time, I had no idea what a juicer was but I remember thinking to myself “This juicer is sitting here on my kitchen counter for a reason…so I’d better learn how to use it”. After that experience, I knew without a doubt, that I wanted to help people regain their health through a plant-based diet with an emphasis on fresh raw foods, juicing and detoxification. It’s the best gift that anyone could have left to me.
We know you studied juicing and detoxing in great detail. Can you tell us more about it, why it is so important and how a regular person can help detox their body?
This is definitely my favourite subject to discuss but it also happens to be the most misunderstood.
Our bodies are designed to detoxify themselves, as most people know, but the body that is able to detox best is the one that is exposed to the least amount of chemicals and the highest amount of nutrients. When you think of detoxification; think water and nutrients. These are two very important elements of detox. When the earth was more pristine, we were exposed to fewer chemicals and we only had access to fresh whole foods, so our nutrient reserves where high and our toxic load was very low. The body had no problem keeping up with its natural detoxification process within that environment.
If we fast forward to today, the story has changed drastically. We are now exposed to a vast amount of chemicals, while at the same time, feeding ourselves nutrient-depleted foods. This is the reason that people are not as well as they should be. So what can we do about this as individuals? Well, although we cannot avoid chemicals completely, we can lessen the load placed on our liver (the detoxification organ) by avoiding animal-based foods, pesticides, fruits and vegetables that are wrapped in plastic, food and drink packaged in plastic bottles, unfiltered water, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and chemical-based products used for the bath, body and home. Eating nutrient-dense food is much more important today than it was in the past when the earth was cleaner. This is because, for every toxic molecule that the body has to detoxify, it also loses a nutrient molecule in the process.
So, if you want to restore your body’s ability to detoxify efficiently, consume a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) with a big focus on fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. If you would like to speed up the process, you can always do an extended juice cleanse for a week or two, before transitioning into the diet. After you’ve completed a juice cleanse or have been on a low-fat WFPB diet for a few weeks, to replenish your nutrient reserves, you can embark on a series of 3-day water fasts to dig a bit deeper into the detoxification process. If you want to try a longer water fast, it’s best to go to a fasting centre where you can be supervised throughout your fast and during your refeed.
What’s your one health tip?
Oh, that’s an easy one…“Start your day with fresh, raw foods”.
Anyone that has completed a water fast or juice cleanse knows that you should always break-a-fast with easy-to-digest, water-rich, foods like raw fruits and veggies. But we forget we also end a fast each morning during our break-fast meal. So it’s important to start your day with hydrating meals like fresh pressed juices, green smoothies, or fresh fruit. Even if you like to enjoy a warm bowl of oats or avocado toast in the morning – make sure your first meal of the day is high in both water-content and raw food nutrition, then have a small cooked breakfast an hour or two later. This new habit will guarantee that you get a few servings of fresh raw foods into your body each day.
What is it like being vegan in the place in which you live?
Well…since most of my work happens at home, I do get to prepare all three meals in the convenience of my own kitchen, so being a vegan in Bucks County, Pennsylvania is very easy for me. As long as I have access to plant-based whole foods, I can whip up a healthy vegan meal in minutes. I guess that’s one of the perks to being a plant-based chef. Whenever I visit someone or go on holiday, I pack and carry my food with me, as long as the trip is fairly local. If I dine out, it is usually to enjoy delicious Thai cuisine. We also have two Natural Food markets nearby and a vegetarian café within a twenty-minute drive. Oh and a wonderful juice bar that’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
We love your Instagram! When did you choose to start it up?
Throughout my life, I’ve had a strong interest in not only nutrition and fitness but also art and creativity. Due to my creative background before starting Instagram, I was itching to awaken the creative juices again but was concerned I’d become side-tracked away from my plant-based nutrition endeavours. I was trying to find a clever way to merge my two passions and knew it would involve the colourful and vibrant plant-based food that I was creating. I’ve never been very interested in photography, probably because I wasn’t inspired to take the time to learn to use a professional camera. But once I found out about Instagram, that was it; I found my new creative outlet. As much as I love sharing recipes and information about vegan diets, I equally enjoy the food styling and photography aspect of it. I guess I shouldn’t even call it ‘photography’ since I only snap photos with my iPhone 6. Maybe I’ll take those photography classes someday, but for now, I’m having a blast.
How do you think social media is impacting veganism?
I believe that social media has propelled veganism into being the fastest growing social justice movement in the world today. There are now so many diverse avenues of exposure available to the public – from the aggressive, in-your-face Youtubers to the graphic animal cruelty posts on Instagram and the gentle and subtle plant-based foodies sharing recipes on Facebook. I see all these approaches as beneficial in their own way because they are simply helping to get people out from under the ‘veil of unknowing’ that has been placed upon them. In doing so, it helps to free people of an unnecessary and conditioned belief that is causing so many animals to endure a cruel and barbaric practice. I urge all vegans to get involved and share their vegan lifestyle with the public. It will help us reach the tipping point much faster if people can actually see others living a healthy, compassionate life with ease and excitement.
Why do you think there has been such a rise in veganism over the last few years?
I feel the open-mindedness of young people has played a major role in the expansion of veganism. The younger generations are becoming more concerned about the negative impact that meat and dairy production have taken on our planet and our health. They seemed to have a stronger sense of empathy when it comes to the realities of animal cruelty, which in turn is helping to open the hearts of many parents out there. The mothers and fathers of today are looking through the eyes of their children and it’s helping them re-connect with their feelings and re-evaluate their beliefs.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired when I see people standing up for what they believe in and when they continue with their passions and dreams even after others say it’s not possible.
What’s your average day like?
I usually wake up, without an alarm clock, between 7:30 and 8:00 am. My two dogs, Jagger and Jackson, jump onto the bed and we wrestle around for a few minutes before heading downstairs so they can spend some time outside as I prepare their homemade vegan breakfast. Yes, I know…they’re spoiled bigtime. Once they are taken care of, I put together a green smoothie for Will to enjoy on his ride to work (he’s a self-employed electrician). Once Will is off to work at 9 am, I prepare a healthy breakfast, snap a photo for Instagram and then savour it while I answer phone messages and emails and check my social media accounts. My breakfast meals are always raw and fruit-based. Every other day, between 11:00 am and noon, I head outside to run sprints along the canal, which is only a 2-3 minute walk down the road.
On a typical day, my lunch meal usually consists of, what I like to call a ‘raw-cooked fusion meal’. It’s basically a very large salad bowl, filled with whatever leafy greens and vegetables I’m craving, with two cooked ingredients added. Those ingredients would be either beans or lentils and a choice of wholegrains or sweet potato.
The time between lunch and dinner is reserved for writing, researching or creating new recipes. The private coaching and nutrition classes that I teach are now on hold while I finish up other projects. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, instead of running sprints in the afternoon, I head to the local boxing gym to train for an hour or so. On the other evenings, I train in our basement, where I set-up a mini-boxing gym and a section for free weights. I love having a workout space in the house, especially for when I can’t get to the gym for some reason. In the evening, I spend some downtime with Will before heading up to bed around 9 pm. Sometimes I read for a bit, but I do try to have the lights out by 10 pm. When it comes to my diet, there are four things I make sure to include each day. A fresh pressed juice, a green smoothie, a large leafy green salad and a platter of fresh fruit. If I can manage to get those healthy foods into my body amidst the daily activities of the day, I’m a happy girl.
Do you think you have a work/life balance?
Hmmm…that’s a hard question for me to answer because, in essence, my work is my life. I’ve never felt like I’ve had a ‘job’ per say. I usually become interested in something first and then figure how to make money doing it later. My interests have always pulled me to the areas of art, athletics and nutrition. I’ve been lucky enough to ‘work’ as an artist, picture framer, art gallery owner, co-owner of a martial arts studio, competitive kickboxer and boxer, certified fitness trainer, women’s kickboxing instructor, yoga teacher, and now detoxification specialist, raw food chef, and plant-based nutrition educator. But, I have to admit, it’s never felt like work, only fun and excitement. I just think it’s best to follow where your interests take you. The only time work/life gets stressful for me is when I take on too many things at once, which is quite often. So I guess I’m still working on finding a balance there. But I’m definitely making progress.
What’s the best part of your job?
When I finish a cooking class, coaching session or nutrition talk and I hear someone say “That’s it, I’m doing it…I’m going vegan tomorrow”.
What words do you live by?
Do what is right…not what is easy.
What’s next for you?
Well, I’ve recently put my nutrition classes, private coaching and cheffing on hold to finish creating my new website and blog which should be up and running this month if all goes well. After that, I will be focusing on putting together a cookbook full of plant-based whole food recipes and an additional plant-based nutrition ebook that will be available on my website in the near future.
Thanks for the interview. It was fun chatting with you!
If you loved hearing from Kristine just as much as we did find her here on Instagram. If you are vegan blogger, business or just about anyone leading an inspiring vegan lifestyle then please get in touch about being part of our interview series 🙂
All images via Kristine Keating.