Interview & photos with vegan family Chrissy, Kahseim & Atlas in Nov/2016 issue of Vegan Health & Fitness magazine! Thank you Outlaw Family!!!
Food by Chrissy: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Salad + Cilantro & Avocado Salad
Meet the Vegan Parents series
Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine
Chrissy, Kahseim & Atlas
Annika: When did you become vegan & why?
Chrissy: I became vegan in the early part of 2015. For a long time now, I’ve been more conscious of the ingredients in the food we eat and products we use. It wasn’t until becoming pregnant in 2013, did that awareness jump to the next level. I ate organic and avoided any products that contained harmful chemicals with the assumption that if I was exposed, than that would put our baby at risk. I had a natural water-birth that was so empowering and beautiful, it inspired me to become a Doula so that I can help and support other mothers feel the same as I did, without shame or regret.
Once our son Atlas was born, I continued my “natural-mama” routine using products with safe, simple and organic ingredients. It wasn’t until Atlas started to wean from breastfeeding, that the question of “safe” food became a game changer for me personally. I knew I was NOT going to give him cows milk, or any kind of animal meat. I had such strong feelings about it. It was just wrong, not only because it would be unhealthy, but because I couldn’t give my innocent baby the flesh from another living animal that had to be killed so he could have meat with his vegetables. This made no sense to me as a mother, but I had never thought of what eating animal products meant for me. If I couldn’t bear the thought of feeding meat or dairy to my child, than I had to check in with myself as to why it was ok for me to be afflicted by the unhealthy effects and hidden guilt of contributing to the killing of farm animals. The same animals that my husband and I sing songs about and read their “life on the farm” stories to our son, who makes noises like the cow, the pig, or the rooster because it makes him happy. How does one explain to a child the truth behind our food traditions and answer that life-changing question…why do we eat animals if we don’t have to?
Kahseim: I have always been inclined to challenge myself in many different areas of my life and my diet and nutrition is no exception. I can recall going weeks or months on diets that either abstained from certain foods or included more of them, just to give myself some insight into what works best for me.
When we found out that we were pregnant (April 2013), I started doing some real “housekeeping” as far as my thoughts, beliefs and patterns of behavior were concerned. The pregnancy, coupled with the fact that I was starting to explore my own spirituality, led me to question a lot of things, specifically how we were fueling our bodies. Was it intelligent, ethical, sustainable? For the remainder of 2014, I embarked on a nutritional “self-education” that had me reading about and experimenting with various dietary practices. For the first time in my life, I started taking a strong interest in terms like organic, all-natural, whole foods, macro and micro-nutrients, plant-based… the list could go on forever.
My New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to go the month of January on a raw-food diet. Well, I lasted about two weeks before I wanted to take a bite out of my own arm, so at that point, I started adding in cooked vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. This helped tremendously with the way I felt physically and mentally and fortunately for me, I’ve been able to sustain myself this way ever since.
When I reflect on my journey thus far, I can say that the biggest factor in sustaining this style of eating and living was my ability to apply the ethical component to it. It’s pretty easy to see the nutritional and environemtal benefits to a vegan diet, but once I expanded my consciousness a bit and started looking at life as life, without boundaries or notions of subjective value, the ethics of doing the least harm appealed to me more than anything else. I credit this to reading “Reverence for Life” by Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
Annika: Were you vegan through pregnancy?
Chrissy & Kahseim: No, but we were well on our way down the path, using terms like organic, all-natural, non-gmo, free-range, and grass-fed as stepping stones.
Another area of research and subsequent application was our water quality. Once we educated ourselves about the risks associated with water fluoridation, we started getting all of our drinking water from a local spring and bought a 5-stage water filter so we could ensure the best quality water for our family. This might not be totally relevant to the question but we both feel it is extremely important for families and individuals to look into, especially when prenatal and early childhood development is concerned.
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on your vegan outlook?
Chrissy: Absolutely. I’m sure most mothers feel that primal instinct to protect their child. For me, that feeling hit me the moment I knew I was pregnant. Once Atlas was born, it was easy for me to empathize with other mothers because now I knew the strength of that unyielding and unconditional love a mother has for their child. I found myself relating to mothers and their strong emotions for their children, even crying during certain commercials. It was an overwhelming feeling of connection. One night, Kahseim and I watched the documentary “Cowspiracy” and at the time I wasn’t eating any meat, but was struggling with cutting dairy out of my diet. After watching a certain scene where a mother cow was forcefully separated from her calf just moments after giving birth, I cried uncontrollably because I could actually feel her pain; her panic and desperation. From that experience, I knew that I never wanted to be connected to causing that kind of pain to a mother again.
Annika: How old is your child and is he vegan?
Chrissy & Kahseim: Atlas is 2 ½ and has been vegan since birth. He has always been ranked in the 90-95% for his height and weight and has never had any deficiency problems. He’s a very smart little guy who is very social and already has a reverence for all life. His new favorite bedtime book is “V is for Vegan” by Ruby Roth.
Annika: What are some of his favorite foods?
Chrissy & Kahseim: Atlas loves to eat just about everything. It’s too hard to pick out any foods that he likes over another, because he eats everything on his plate (and on ours too for that matter). If we’re out at one of our favorite vegan restaurant, It’s Only Natural (ION), his favorites are their “crab” cakes, the sweet potato fries and the vegan cheese quesadilla. He also loves my vegan French toast.
Annika: How has your social network responded to you as a vegan family? What has the response of friends and family members been like?
Chrissy & Kahseim: We both have gotten a lot of interest from our friends and family about our lifestyle. There is a lot of misinformation out there and I think that many people close to us feel comfortable using us as a barometer when it comes to experimenting with their own health and nutrition.
Annika: Favorite restaurants in the region you currently live in?
Chrissy & Kahseim: ION in Middletown, CT. G-Zen in Branford, CT. Tikkaway in New Haven, CT. We would love to hear about any and every vegan-friendly restaurant within reasonable distance!
Annika: What are some of your favorite meals to make as a family?
Chrissy: The whole family loves when I make my cilantro/quinoa salad or my black bean and sweet potato salad. Atlas is fan of burritos made with brown rice, black beans, tofu, and veggies.
Annika: Who or what do you cite as inspirations?
Chrissy & Kahseim: There have been countless sources of inspiration for us along our journey. Everything from youtube personalities and facebook celebrities to authors and filmmakers. While the full list of all valuable sources would be exhausting, Here are a few…
• Sadhguru – A yogi, mystic and humanitarian leader who has provided us with tools for inner transformation that have better equipped us to make decisions that are aligned with who we truly want to be (as parents and partners).
•Kevin Cosmo – A vegan parent and founder of High Energy Parenting.
•Mads and Mikkel – Fruitarian health/life coaches from Norway who founded Sweet Natural Living.
•Prof. Spira – Vegan professor, musician, author, and founder of Mucus-Free Life LLC.
Annika: What kind of work do you do and do you have any hobbies related to veganism?
Chrissy: I have been an Ultrasound Technologist at Middlesex Hosptial for the past 5 ½ years. Ultrasound is most commonly known for breast cancer screenings and pregnancy exams, however “abdominal pain” is one of the main symptoms I see more frequently. Now that I’m aware of the vast health problems caused by consuming animal products, its hard not to make the direct correlation between abdominal pain and a person’s lifestyle and/or diet. Currently, I’m working on my personal goals of becoming a certified Doula (professional labor support person), as well as beginning a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training course that Kahseim and I will be taking together. My goal is to be able to offer Prenatal Yoga, as well as Couples Yoga as a husband and wife team.
Since becoming vegan, one of my new hobbies is finding vegan recipes that include ingredients I know my family and I love, and tweaking the recipe to make it my own. I usually bring a few vegan dishes with us to every party, not only for my family and I to have plenty of food to eat, but to encourage our friends to eat consciously by showing them how easy and tasty it can be. Some of my yummy vegan dishes are highly requested now when we’re invited to parties or have a get together with our friends.
Kahseim: I have been a Physical Education & Health Instructor at Lyman Hall High School for the past 10 years. I have been able to learn a lot about health, nutrition and physical fitness along the way and being able to relay the things I’ve learned to my student population has been invaluable to me. While there, I have also coached Boys’ Soccer and Indoor/Outdoor Track & Field.
In the past few months, I’ve started working with The Watewview Wellness Center in Portland, CT, where they offer massage therapy as well as a whole host of other holistic modalities like reiki, tai chi, yoga, and psychotherapy for individuals and families. Being that meditation and mindfulness is a passion of mine, I have been able to offer mediation services at the center. A large focus of the staff there is on providing restorative services to uniformed service providers (veterans, police, fire, paramedics) to help them process and dissolve the PTSD they encounter on a regular basis.
Over the past couple of years I have become an avid book reader, with most of my selections falling in the area of yoga, meditation, spirituality and health & fitness.
I am currently enrolled in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford as well as a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training course at CT Yoga Center in Middletown, CT. Collegiately, I played Division-1 Mens’ Soccer at CCSU in New britain, CT and continue to play at the amateur level in various men’s leagues around the state.
Chrissy & Kahseim are in the process of re-vamping their social media accounts to relay their vision to the world and are also planning a business site launch related to wellness services and health coaching. Visit them on Instagram @chrissyoutlaw and @kahseimoutlaw
This interview is part of an ongoing interview series by Annika Lundkvist with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe. For more interviews and information please visit this page: Interview Series: Vegan Pregnancy, Parenting & Kids.