The Ghosts In Our Machine

Siobhan’s Ghost-Free Journey: Day 1

photo courtesy of We Animals / The Ghosts In Our Machine

We welcome Siobhan from Guelph, Ontario, Canada as our  participant in the Ghost-Free Journey.  Siobahn has been a vegetarian for about 7 years now. There are numerous issues that she would like to discuss during this week, and as always, we are hoping that we will be joined by many in offering suggestions and encouragement along the way. We would like to point out that Siobahn’s schedule might only allow for her to be online in the evening but others who are following should feel free to post throughout the day.

Siobahn, we have posted an image of the beautiful Fanny who is featured in TGIOM living her life as she was meant to – free from harm at Farm Sanctuary.  You mentioned that it was after seeing the film at Hot Docs in Toronto this year, that you felt ready to make a change.  We would love to know more about the ‘aha’ moment that you had – and also, how we can help you to realize your goal of living a Ghost-Free life. You mentioned that you face challenges as a college student and also as somebody who recently took up weight lifting and needs to learn more about protein sources.

Where would you like to start?

For the Ghosts,

Mentors Donna and Rosemary

The opinions we express as GFJ Mentors are ours personally. We are not professional health practitioners.  Neither are we treating a specific health care issue.  That means we are not offering advice on health-care problems. If you  are experiencing a health-care problem, it is important to seek the advice of a health professional. However we are experienced, practicing vegans and we look forward to coaching you on your journey.


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  1. Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Hey guys!

    When I saw the screening at Hot Docs this year, I chose to bring my dad and his wife (so called animal-loving meat eaters) along in hopes to enlighten them and somehow convert them. I went into the screening with an almost smug attitude – since I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years, I already knew what kind of images I’d be seeing and what kind of stories would be uncovered. However, that attitude was quickly silenced when Jo-Anne explained all the detailed horrors of the dairy/egg industry. I quickly realized how truly unnatural it is to consume another animal’s milk (could you imagine breast milk being packaged and sold for other humans? pretty much just as gag-worthy) and how I could no longer call myself an animal lover AND an egg and dairy consumer at the same time. I felt like a complete hypocrite, and since then I have tried to limit my intake of eggs and dairy products.

    However, I have relied on these items for so long as my soul protein source as a vegetarian, and this has made it very difficult to wean off of. As someone who chose to become a vegetarian partly for environmental reasons, I am also finding it hard to switch to the soy protein alternative, considering its damaging effects on the planet. Also, as someone who works out and does regular weight lifting, I have become almost dependent on greek yogurt, whey protein powder, and egg whites to restore my muscles.

    For all you vegans out there – what are some good cruelty free alternatives to these items? Preferably something soy-free!

    • Mentor Rosemary September 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Siobhan, I know there is alot to absorb, but when you have a chance we’d love to hear about this beautiful photo you took of the cows. I’m curious about the story behind it, and your reflections or connection to them. Thank you!

    • Mentor Donna September 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      Siobahn, I love the photo of the cows that you posted. I too would love to know the story behind it. I am also curious about the reactions of your dad and his wife to the film. Do they know that you are taking this journey?

    • Mentor Donna September 16, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      Siobahn – I have been thinking about what you first wrote “I went into the screening with an almost smug attitude – since I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years, I already knew what kind of images I’d be seeing and what kind of stories would be uncovered.” It is certainly an eye-opening experience when we realize that we are not as aware or knowledgeable as we thought we were. I believe that it is essential to hold onto this feeling – it helps us to understand those who have not yet opened their eyes. It helps us to not be judgemental – but rather to encourage others and approach from a place of love. I have been a vegan for at least 24 years now – I learn something new every day. I learn more with each journey that takes place – and I thank you for sharing your experiences and reflections with us.

  2. Mentor Rosemary September 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Welcome Siobhan! We are so excited to be on this GFJ with you, and share your adventure. It’s great that the film helped deepen your awareness of the egg and dairy industry and propelled you to make some changes. Starting with the food aspect of being vegan is a great place to start~
    There are so many alternatives available now for both eggs and dairy products. Take a look at the Resource link and Tips for Getting Started for product lists and links. Some people even make their own cheese! I don’t tend to use these products on a regular basis, but many people love them and find them helpful during the transition and beyond.
    Last night, I used flax seed for an egg substitute in brownies and a bit of Daiya cheese on top of black bean/sweet potato and kale enchiladas. The meal was shared with non-vegetarians,and they all loved it!
    As for protein sources and working out, there are so many other quality protein sources to discover besides soy-based protein, dairy or eggs! For protein powder, Vega products and SunWarrior products are superior and I use them regularly. Instead of soy products, you can try nut milks,tempeh or beans/legumes. Quinoa and green leafy veggies are also nutritious and has a significant amount of protein. There are many athletes who are well-versed on this topic, such as Brendan Brazier, Robert Cheeke, and Rich Roll. It’s the quality of the amino acid profile and not always the protein grams, that’s important. A whole-food vegan diet will give you all the nutrients you need for rigorous workouts. We also have many vegans in our community who are athletes as well. One of our past GFJ participants, Jeanine is a fitness model and cross fit athlete…maybe she’ll join in and offer some suggestions. I’ll post some links for you below on some of these topics. I look forward to hearing more from you later, and also from the community!

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Wow, thank you so much for these resources! This “nomeatathlete” is going to be my favourite new blog. I am definitely going to pick up some hemp seeds and beans before I head home tonight! And thank you for the suggestion of using flax seeds in brownies, I was definitely worried that I wouldn’t be able to get my chocolate fix this week!

      Where can I find hemp milk? I’ve been looking for a good alternative to soy milk, but almond milk and rice milk have very little protein (if any at all). Any suggestions? Has anyone ever tried to make their own dairy-free milk?

  3. Judy Hurst September 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Hi Siobhan and Welcome to the beginning of an awesome week!

    Rosemary posted some great websites to give you a start on your journey with regards to working out and remaining a healthy vegan. As she said there are a lot of great protein alternatives that are not soy based, so don’t be afraid that you will suffer from a protein deficiency. You’ll do great!


    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks Judy! The only reason I worry so much is because around this time last year my hair fell out in clumps (I had to cut it all off) due to a protein deficiency because I wasn’t eating a proper balanced vegetarian diet. That’s when I started adding in the egg whites and yogurt, so I suppose I’m worried that if I stop that, the same thing will happen.

      But thanks to Rosemary, it seems that there are a lot of alternatives available!

  4. Ann P September 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

    This, from nutrition expert Jeff Novick MS RD, might be a helpful perspective:

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks Ann. So according to this, I will need about 75 g of protein a day for my body weight. This article uses an “average American diet” as its reference for why we don’t need to stress so much about protein, as the average American consumes (let’s get real, a LOT more meat than they need to!). I know that I will be able to maintain my daily protein requirements on a vegan diet, it will just take a little more effort than before I think!

  5. Jennie September 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Siobhan, Welcome to your Ghost Free week – congratulations on taking on something new & different! As a past GFJ participant I will be following along with your journey and sending you support from afar 🙂
    Another great resource to add to the list you’ve been given is
    Vega is a range of plant based nutritional supplements, developed my a professional athlete (ironman competitor) but I’m not recommending this site just to suggest that you try their product line (although I do find their nutritional shakes to be very good!) I have also really enjoyed reading their meal plans and dietary tips & suggestions and their nutritionists specialize in giving advice for athletes on a vegan diet!.You can set up a personalized plan and get online guidance, completely free of charge! Good Luck xx

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Thank you Jennie, what an awesome website! I’ve always seen the “vegasport” supplements and powders in the grocery store, but I’m thrown off by the price every time. Do you know of anywhere I can buy their protein powder for a decent price? I’m a student, so my budget is quite limited unfortunately 🙁

      • Jennie September 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm

        I buy it at Superstore and it is cheaper there than other retailers. I also only use it a few times a week ( on my more active days) to make it last longer!! 🙂

  6. Mélanie September 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Siobhan!!!
    Just wanted to say “HI!” and looking forward to reading your progress! I was the 2nd in this Ghost-Free journey 2 years ago and although, at the time, it was to turn me from meat eater to vegetarian and now, through this amazing group of people (and friends), I’ve been able to slowly make my transition to veganism… it’s actually not as hard as i thought it would be. i’m not going to lie, i’m not yet 100% vegan, but i’m proud to say that i’m very very close!
    you’ll learn so much and be surprised at how easy this transition will be… You have an amazing support system here and Donna & Rosemary are amazing people to have to help you get there!!! Welcome & contrats and looking forward to reading your progression. BIG hugs!!!

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Hi Melanie!!

      Congratulations on your transition to veganism…that is a huge change! I’m also glad to hear that it hasn’t been very hard for you – being at the grocery store today was quite daunting for me. What are your favourite vegan products? What do you find yourself craving the most?

      Hugs back!

  7. Danielle Legg September 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    You mentioned weight lifting and concern about getting enough protein to restore your muscles, and I couldn’t help but share this story>>

    Patrik Baboumian is a vegan strongman, the strongest in Germany, and he consumes no animal products! I think the story will both inspire you, and set your mind at ease.

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      Wow, what a champ! I think I may have a new personal hero…

      • Danielle Legg September 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm

        Isn’t that amazing! Maybe you can print the article and keep it easy to access so that if you doubt what you’re doing, you can look at that and remember that YOU can do this, because he did 🙂

  8. Ann P September 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Here’s some additional info from Jeff Novick, who by the way advocates a low fat, whole foods plant- based diet:

  9. Mentor Rosemary September 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    I just love this~ when the ethical reasons and awareness trumps taste, convenience and tradition.

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      This is awesome! I had no idea that the dairy industry supported the veal industry. I also loved her milk free cheese options – although I’ve never liked cheese so I guess I’m lucky! Yogurt, however, is something I’m already fiending for and it’s only been about 30 hours since I had it last! Ahhhh

  10. lizmars September 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Siobhan and everyone else!

    Nice to see such a vibrant flowing discussion on Day 1.
    Have a great week Siobhan! Glad you liked the film.
    You can post your thoughts about the film on our “Have Your Say” blog post.

    For the Ghosts,


    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Liz!

      I’m surprised that blog post doesn’t have more entries…I will definitely contribute my thoughts tonight!

      • lizmars September 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

        That’s because we just added it this past weekend 🙂

        Thanks for adding your thoughts to it – when you have time.

  11. Debra Roppolo September 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Just came across this from the USDA: plant-based sources of protein with numbers! Popeye was onto something with his spinach.

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Wow, I didn’t know plain old green peas had that much protein! How many of these vegetables and fruits are complete forms of protein? I know soy/edamame comes close to having the same amino profile as meats, but what about things like apples and lettuce?

      • Mentor Rosemary September 16, 2013 at 8:33 pm

        There has been a myth since the 1970’s about complete and incomplete proteins and it’s perpetuated by many. My suggestion is to research this so you’re comfortable, from qualified Registered Dietitians and experienced vegans, such as Dr. Joel Furhman, Jeff Novick, Gina Messina, and Juliana Hever…to name a few. Here is an article by Joel Furhman on the topic.

  12. Mentor Donna September 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Siobahn!
    Wow – so many wonderful resources and websites have been recommended to you already. It;s so great to see everyone joining in with support and info.
    I know that the protein powders can be quite pricey. Do you have a whole foods type of store nearby that allows fr buying in bulk? Perhaps there are other vegans/vegetarians at your school would would like to go in on some orders. Besides protein powders, bulk buying is great for beans,grains,flours, etc.
    Another resource for buying items at reduced costs is Vegan Cuts – you can find everything from personal care products to energy bars to handbags, etc:
    Also, I have an article that might be of interest about how much protein is really needed in a vegan diet:

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Weird! That would suggest that I only need 38 grams of protein a day, compared to the earlier article where I would need 75 grams a day…what a stark difference! That seems a lot more attainable.

      There is a bulk place near me that would have beans and flours and such, not sure about protein powders but that’s definitely something I need to check out!

  13. lizmars September 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Hi again –

    Has this ben shared yet: ALTERNATIVES TO DAIRY from the Ghosts website?

    Here you go!

    – Liz

    • Siobhan September 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Mmmm I wish we had that Silk yogurt in Canada…I have definitely seen that “Amande” cultured almond milk in my grocery store so I think I will pick some up on Thursday when I’m done work!

      • Debra Roppolo September 19, 2013 at 9:29 am

        Hi Siobhan, catching up and jumping in late. There’s an incredibly good soy yogurt made in the States by the Whole Soy Company. They had some production issues earlier this year that resulted in them making the decision to build their own plant! Their insanely good yogurt is expected to be back on the market very soon, so your keep your eyes peeled or check their website:

        • Siobhan September 19, 2013 at 10:39 am

          I hope this makes its way to Canada!!

  14. Jeanine September 16, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Yay! This same site is how I joined my Ghost Free journey and became vegan. I was also worried about protein because I competed in fitness competitions. I actually gained muscle. I now compete Crossfit, and I have a ton of energy.
    I live Vega shakes, hummus and veggies, Quinoa, asparagus, green peas, chick peas, beans, kale chips, cabbage, spinach…all good sorces of protein.
    My friend Kasey has a website called Powercakes, and although she is not completely vegan, she is plant based and has a ton of great recipes. Thug kitchen is also a funny site that is mostly plant based, but it has bad language. I also was suggested to look at vegan Robert Cheekas great advice too..

    • Siobhan September 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Jeanine,

      Wow, that’s very reassuring to hear your transition actually made you GAIN muscle! I’m also thrilled to hear that all of those veggies have good sources of protein, because I eat those regularly anyway. I’ve been thinking about making my own hummus later in the week and posting the results, do you have any good recipes?

      Thug Kitchen is hilarious! So many of these recipes look delicious and fun to make. Your friends website is also AWESOME…I’ve been looking through it for 15 minutes now and I am absolutely lovin it!

      Are you still a vegan today? Congratulations on Crossfit by the way!

  15. Jeanine September 16, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Sorry for the information overload…I was overwhelmed at first, but now, I am so grateful for everyone’s help. They all are such beautiful people, inside and outside.
    Oh yeah…I love setian too.

    • Mentor Rosemary September 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Jeanine, thanks for sharing your first-hand knowledge and expertise about protein and athletics. Powercakes and Thug Kitchen sound like fun and interesting resources. Can’t wait to check them out .

      Thanks and appreciation to everyone who posted today! Keep it going 🙂

  16. Siobhan September 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Okay so I’d just like to make a note that even though it’s only been one day since I’ve cut out dairy and eggs, my body seems to be functioning SO MUCH BETTER!

    Not to get disgustingly personal (ok well I’m going to anyway so just bare with me) but I am usually extremely bloated due to constipation…it’s not uncommon for me to go 3-4 days without a “bowel movement”. It’s not that I didn’t get enough fiber – I got plenty of it before from all the fruits, vegetables and bran I ate! But before I was eating a SH*T load of dairy…like I’m talking a whole 750g tub of yogurt per day. It’s no wonder why I was so blocked up!

    That has changed significantly since adopting this vegan diet, and I find myself much more…I don’t know, comfortable? At ease? I know it’s early to jump to conclusions, but this correlation can’t be a fluke!

    (ok, grossly intimate post is over now carry on with your day)

  17. Tino September 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Hi Siobhan,

    congrats on the GFJ! I noticed from reading the site that you’re in Guelph. I lived there for about a decade up until last year and it’s a great place to find vegan stuff!

    If you don’t already know, the Stone Store and New Age (both downtown) have many great options including dairy-free yogurts (many kinds! I recommend the coconut one or the almond one), tofu, meatless meats, almond/soy/hemp/rice milk, coconut ice cream (a MUST TRY! so good!) and lots more stuff, including some self-care products like deodorant and bath stuff that’s made by companies that don’t test on animals.

    Also if you haven’t been to the cornerstone, Carribbean cuisine, salsateria or Zen Garden, those are awesome restaurants that have vegan stuff too!

    Good luck 🙂