Book Giveaway

Peace, Empathy and Plants

Polish-Canadian Science Journalist, Marta Zaraska lives in France (3 of my 4 favorite countries in one sentence) and has a new book out this summer which is a Vedge Your Best “must read.”

Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness can Help You Live to 100

YES, a Plant Based diet IS important (That’s Science!)



Self Compassion,
Kindness to Others,
Community Service,
Empathy, even towards the folks who most challenge us in this contentious time.

(And that’s Science too!)

The entire message of Vedge Your Best coaching is that we can move towards a Plant Based / Vegan Diet so much more effectively when the journey is fueled by

SELF COMPASSION – when we struggle
KINDNESS – to the earth, to animals,
COMMUNITY SERVICE – patronizing local growers and sustainable practices,
EMPATHY – towards people who don’t share our ideas.

What if reducing or eliminating animal products was not only good for you, it was a way of improving your day to day experience as a family member, a friend, a citizen, and empowered you in every other goal you have?

I never thought that I could commit to a Vegan diet until I stopped thinking that.

The first 5 people who send me their email addresses will get a free copy of Marta Zaraska’s Growing Young.

How NOT to Think [about Polar bears] – (Vegans Made Simple Part 7)

Have you ever made a concerted effort to NOT think about a Polar Bear?

Like every day? 

Multiple times?

Sticky note reminder on the bathroom mirror.

Do NOT think about Polar Bears.

Sign on the Fridge.

Do not THINK about Polar Bears.

Reminder message on the home screen of your phone.

Do not think about POLAR BEARS.

Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.

The above quote is from Fyodor Dostoevky’s 1863 “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions.” 

(In the early 1980’s, I was a Russian Major and I get a charge if I can get a Russian cultural reference into the blog.)

So what have Polar Bears got to do with reducing or eliminating animal products?

When we first try to go Plant Based, many of us are trying all day long NOT to think about the animal products we have traditionally built our diets around.

  • No meat.
  • No eggs.
  • No dairy.
  • No fish.
  • No Polar Bears.

It is a recipe (LOL) for feelings of deprivation.  

Psychology researchers have examined this “White Bear Problem,” also called the Ironic Process Theory.  In a nutshell, they found that individuals actively trying NOT to think of something end up thinking of it more often.  


Can we file that under, no s#!%, Sherlock?

If you’re struggling to start or maintain a Plant Based Vegan diet, you may find yourself fixated on all the foods you are trying NOT to eat.

Instead, make sure that you are focused on 

what you DO want to eat 

Sometimes, when faced with an animal product that seems very enticing, you might even allow the possibility that you could have it if you make the conscious decision later on.  

Saying out loud, “I CAN’T have it,” makes you sound like a victim. 

Of course you COULD have it, but you are choosing other options, because the hero of our story makes deliberate and thoughtful choices.

I’m talking about you, Hero. 

With the Vedge Your Best coaching process, we support our clients as they learn the skills and thought-shifts that make eating Plant Based easy.

Instead of what you CAN’T eat, you think about all the things you GET to eat.  You keep yourself rested and nourished to help you make your choices from the most intentional and powerful part of your brain.

And if those Polar Bear thoughts are sometimes intrusive and you make a choice that isn’t in support of your Plant-Based plans, you just make the next best decision – you Vedge Your Best.  

Vegans aren’t perfect people and you don’t become a practicing Vegan by making perfect choices. 

You become a practicing Vegan by…. practicing.

Spoiler alert: the skills you practice and learn going Plant-Based or Vegan will supercharge your skills in any endeavor.  Because no matter what goal you have, there will be Polar Bear thoughts.  

I created the Vedge Your Best coaching process specifically to help my clients painlessly and happily transition to a Plant-Based or Vegan diet.  If you think it’s hard, I understand.  Ironically, I used to think I could never commit to a Vegan Diet until I stopped thinking that thought. 

And now it’s easy.

To discuss your goals, email me today at and we can set up a time to talk about how the Vedge Your Best coaching process can work for you.

Good Bye, Cruel Words! (Vegans Made Simple – Part 6)

“Cruelty-Free” on labels and in descriptions typically refers to products and actions which do not kill, harm or test on animals.

There are Cruelty-Free cosmetics, cleaning products, additives and medications of all kinds.
Cruelty-Free is often used to describe a vegan recipe or one of the thousands of vegan analog food products.

It’s hard to argue against something being Cruelty-Free.
I’m all for it.

In fact, I believe Cruelty-Free begins at home.

In the way we talk TO ourselves.
The way we talk ABOUT ourselves.
The way we talk about others who do not share our current thoughts and beliefs.

Cruel words do not help us grow.

As a coach, I believe that my clients will always make more powerful and compassionate decisions and actions when they emanate out of positive thoughts and emotions.

There are many very negative and painful side-effects of animal agriculture. Though it is not usually something I discuss in this space, that should not be interpreted as minimizing the toll animal agriculture takes on the environment, our society, on our health, or on the animals themselves.

I am not an expert on these topics and I defer to those who are. Neither do I argue for people to make the same choices that I have.

It is my current thought that
and condemnation
are poor champions of a Plant Based or Vegan diet.

Not everyone will agree with the way I do anything, much less with the Plant-Based choices I have made.
If you are struggling to reduce or eliminate animal products in your daily diet, I want you to know that my coaching practice will never criticize you or your choices.

Neither will I stand by and allow my clients to berate themselves, if they are not easily meeting their Vegetarian, Vegan or Plant-Based goals.

Yes there are many very disturbing issues in the current production and consumption of animal products and if I thought that dwelling on the horrors and cruelty would successfully convert you or anyone else to a Vegan lifestyle, I might try it.

But I don’t think horror stories work.
It didn’t work for me and it hasn’t worked for most of the committed Vegans I know.

What worked for me was taking consistent positive steps to opt out of animal agriculture.

Reducing and eliminating animal products is so much easier when you commit to a compassionate process of making increasingly kinder, healthier, more sustainable choices.

If you are struggling to start or maintain a Vegetarian, Vegan or Plant Based diet,
the Vedge Your Best coaching process is here to help you achieve your goals, the way you define them.

Email me at to set up an appointment to discuss how coaching can support you.

Cruelty Free Coaching. You have my word

What are Frenemies For? (Vegans Made Simple – Part 5)


So before we get started, can I just say that I was completely prepared for “frenemies” to be autocorrected by my Mac to “fiendish” or “friendless” or something even less related.

Turns out “frenemy” IS a real real word.

And it’s such a good word too.

Over the years, I have a had a number of frenemies, but my oldest frenemy is without question my own brain.

Though in general I CAN count on my brain to have a lot of my best interests at heart, including breathing, and keeping my organs functioning at night, and coordinating the successful healthy gestation of my three kids,

I can ALSO count on her to say some of the vilest, most unhelpful and soul-destroying words you could even imagine.

Let’s not even get started on what my brain says about my hair.

Frenemy that she is, my brain is generally making a pretty compelling case for why I shouldn’t do… well anything.

So I get an idea for a new blog post and my brain says…..

“Ohhhhh…. No. People will HATE that. That is, if they even read it.”

Thanks, Brain.

Or I decide I’m going to start developing a Podcast for Vedge Your Best, my coaching program for people struggling with reducing or eliminating animal products, and my brain interrupts with,

“You? Podcast? I mean it’s not as bad an idea as going on camera, but still, we’ll probably die. Best case scenario.”

Thanks, Brain.
So that’s my oldest Frenemy, my Brain. And that’s what I have learned to say to her after decades of her trying to talk me out of leaving the house, or trying on a bathing suit, or going to grad school, or doing a pushup.

“Thanks, Brain.”

My brain, part of which is over 30,000 years old, makes very little distinction between me getting on the treadmill for exercise and leaving the cave where I am potential wolf food.

Part of your brain is similarly prehistoric and evolved to keep our species alive just long enough to reproduce and start the whole messy process over again.

But I – AND you – have also got a “higher brain” or pre-frontal cortex – that is the part of the brain we have evolved that handles what is called “executive” processing.

So we also have the ability, which distinguishes us from other mammals, of metacognition. We humans can be aware of our thoughts. We can think about the process of our thinking.

And that’s the part of my brain, that reminds me to say, “Thanks, Brain,” to my Frenemy.

If you are struggling with any challenging new undertaking, I would venture to guess that you have a Frenemy who is weighing in with some unsolicited advice and some choice words about your self-worth.

And the best news I have for you, is that when your Brain says something cruel, disheartening and vicious about your new plan – doesn’t matter what it is – it’s nothing personal. It’s just how they are – brains.

Our brains evolved to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve as much energy in the process as possible – voila the Motivational Triad.

So, if we have decided to reduce or eliminate the consumption of animal products, we shouldn’t be surprised if our brains bring the whole endeavor to a screeching halt.

Because, in our day? Here in the middle America I live in, even in the midst of a pandemic, a food like ice cream, from the point of view of the Motivational Triad is a Trifecta. It wins Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Ice Cream delivers pleasure, it can help us avoid painful feelings (at least for a bit) and it is pretty darn easy to come by.

Most of the animal products we are used to eating are not only easy to find, but we have spent a lifetime finding them pleasurable. Animal products are typically anchored around our warmest celebratory emotions like parties and holidays and family members, friends and loved ones.

And, we are used to turning to them when we are having uncomfortable emotions. When we are sad, or bored, lonely or anxious.

So again, the eating of meat, eggs and dairy for most of us is completely reinforced by the most primal of our brain’s operating systems, the same Motivational Triad.

So, your pre-Frontal cortex has been studying
carbon emissions from animal agriculture,
OR the effect of animal fats on cholesterol and blood pressure
OR the conditions at feedlots where animals are concentrated before slaughter.

And your Pre-Frontal Cortex says, “You know what?
Maybe I don’t want to be eating so many animal products.”

Some of us will just, overnight stop. No big deal. No drama.

But a lot of us – most of us – will get a bunch of pushback from that Frenemy of ours.

“No meat, eggs or dairy? I suppose you know that means we are going to starve to death, friendless under a bridge somewhere.”

So now you know, what to say,
“Thanks, Brain!”

Your reasons for adopting a Vegetarian, Vegan or Whole Food Plant Based diet are yours and yours alone, and if you find yourself struggling with the process the number one reason is the pushback you get from your oldest Frenemy.

Your Frenemy might tell you that
you are a hypocrite because you still have wool sweaters,
and that your family thinks you’re crazy,
and it will be impossible to travel
and that your friends don’t like being with you anymore,
and that you are likely to die, broke and hungry.

Thanks, Brain!
I remember you said almost the same thing when I went to grad school, except the part about the sweaters.

If you are struggling with reducing or eliminating animal products, you probably don’t need more
meal plans, recipes or vegan Instagram “influencers” to follow.
Coaching is the best way I know of to notice how YOUR Frenemy Brain is sabotaging your HIgher Brain’s choices and decisions just because she’s panicking a little.

Email me at to set up a time to talk about how you can ignore what your prehistoric Frenemy brain has been muttering and notice that she’s just a little out of date and uninformed about your life here in the 21st century.

Thanks, Brain!

Meaty Matters (Vegans Made Simple – Part 4)

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean…. (from Old Mother Goose)

Sometimes people imagine that I was always a picky Princessy eater who never ate meat.
Or a neurasthenic hippie existing on sprouts.

I ate meat well into my 50’s, though I was slowing down my consumption by then.

My husband always preferred the lower fat cuts like pork tenderloin, filet mignon and chicken breast. I liked dark meat and marbled steaks and I would eat the rind of fat that he would cut away from his serving, just like Jack Sprat’s wife.

I grew up eating pickled pigs feet from a jar with my Mother’s Swamp-Yankee family.

I ate pork sausages and tripe “flaki” with my Father’s Polish family.
(If you don’t know what tripe is and you’re reading this post, resist the urge to Google.)

Liver? Yes.
Oxtails? Sure.
Kidneys? Not often, but yes.
Foie gras? When offered.
Chicken gizzard and heart? Not while anyone watched, but yes.
Calves brains? Uh no. I’m not a freak.

So Princessy? Guilty.

But I ate meat.
Quite a lot of it.
Especially during those Atkins days.

Even when I radically cut down my meat consumption, inspired by one of my daughters,
I NEVER thought that I could EVER be a practicing vegan.

And let’s not even talk about eggs and butter or tuna and octopus.

Along the way I encountered more and more Vegetarians and Vegans and Plant-Based folks.
Their reasons about limiting or avoiding animal products to impact
the food system,
the environment,
climate change,
animal agriculture,
worker safety
health and ethics were all very compelling.

So I was eating more and more Plant-Based but if there was butter in the vegetables, or stock in the soup, or bacon in the salad, or I was at a special event or it was a holiday….
I considered myself a practicing Excusitarian*, and I thought that was about how it was going to stay. I was in my mid 50’s, I liked to go out often with the husband and family, I loved to travel especially in Europe, I had a lot of other things I was concentrating on.

*You can read my Excusitarianism post from May 23, 2020

In 2015 we lost my dad to a sudden unexpected massive coronary event. That shock along with all the micro-movements I had made in the direction of a Plant-Based diet created a space where I got much clearer and more focused. I was 55.

At approximately the same time, my husband who had always been thin and fit was being advised that his blood pressure and cholesterol indicated that he should be on statins and other medications.

Almost overnight, my husband adopted the Vegan-til-Dinner approach and I committed to a completely Vegan diet. (NB within 2 months his bloodwork no longer indicated a need for medication and 5 + years later, so far so good)

When I decided it was done.
Eating Vegan is simple.
What’s not simple is the wondering, thinking, googling, judging, doubting, and rationalizing.

Coaching can help you reach any goal. The Vedge Your Best process is coaching specifically designed to help individuals struggling with starting or maintaining a Plant Based, Vegetarian or Vegan diet.

I never thought that I could commit to eating Vegan, until I stopped thinking that.

To find a time to discuss how Vedge Your Best coaching can support you or your group reduce or eliminate animal products from your diet, email

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean… until they made a different decision.

Story Time (Vegans Made Simple – Part 3)

Once upon a time…

I told myself that I was

Too old,
Too busy,
Too polite,
Too family-oriented,
Too traditional,
Too “foodie,”
Too introverted,
Too interested in travel and culture

To commit to a vegan diet.

I told myself it was going to be just too hard.

But something inside me was telling a story about food that was

Kinder to the environment,
Kinder to animals
Kinder to my health.

If something inside is telling you that a Vegan, Vegetarian or Plant-Based Diet is a great idea but it’s just too hard right now,
I want you know that it’s just a story you’ve been practicing.

Reducing or eliminating animal products can be simple.

If you’ve been struggling to start or maintain a Vegan diet,
Coaching can quickly help you close the pages on that story
and rewrite your food choices exactly the way you want.

I developed the Vedge Your Best process to help my clients be the heroes of their own stories

without villains,
impossible feats,
witches or monsters,
tears or drama.

Email me at for a free mini-session to learn more.

Reducing or eliminating animal products can be simple.
That’s my story.

The End.

I Think You’re Right (Vegans Made Simple Part 2)

Do you think eating a Vegan diet is easier for millenials?

Do you think it’s harder for people who travel a lot?

What about for people who love sophisticated food?

Or have a family?

Or don’t have kids?

Or live in the city?

Or have a big garden?

What do you think?  

There is a famous Henry Ford quote:

‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”

Eating Vegan? 

That’s the easiest part.

The thinking?

That’s where ALL the struggle is.

And the thoughts are all optional.

Did you know that?  

You can think that it’s too hard for you.

You can think that it’s easier for your single self-employed sister-in-law who lives near Whole Foods and doesn’t travel internationally the way you do.

You can think that it shouldn’t be such a struggle and that you’ve never had much willpower.

You can think that if your spouse were more supportive it would be easier.

None of those things make it hard to eat plant based foods or to reduce or avoid animal products.  You either eat the food or you don’t.

But our brains make those thoughts seemvery very very very very very

VERY true.

They aren’t.

If eating a Plant-Based diet is something you are struggling with, it just means that you have a thought about what you think you SHOULD be eating.

That is the hardest part about transitioning to a Vegetarian, Plant-Based or Vegan diet.

The Vedge Your Best coaching program believes that the simplest way to a Vegan lifestyle is one where we drop all the shoulds, comparisons, moral condemnation, excuses and complaints.  

You don’t need to move to another city, 


become a Vegan chef, 

deprive yourself

get a scary health diagnosis, 

stop traveling internationally, 

decline invitations to family parties 

or grow your own veg to stop struggling.  

I know what you are thinking, “If I think it’s OK that what I’m eating is not perfectly Vegan, then I will never be Vegan.”

There is no “perfectly” Vegan.

You’re already not “perfectly” Vegan.

Reducing and eliminating animal products is a compassionate choice for your health, the environment and for the animals. The more compassionate you are with yourself, the easier and more successful the whole process becomes.

Eating Vegan is the easy part.  

Stop thinking it’s so hard and you can stop struggling.


I never thought I could commit to eating Vegan, until I stopped thinking that.

To try on some new thoughts, email for a free mini-session.

Nudge Nudge (Vegans Made Simple Part 1)

If you are comedy fan, you may remember the Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink sketch made famous in the 1970’s by Monty Python.

More recently “Nudge Theory” has emerged as a term to describe a part of what Behavioral Economists call Choice Architecture and the subject of Thaler and Sunstein’s 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.

In 2010, so inspired by this concept of small easy changes, the British Government unrolled the Behavior Insights Team, commonly referred to as the “Ministry of Nudges,” to consider what public policies, initiatives and recommendations could be made to encourage public compliance with financial, safety and health advice and laws.

Nudge Theory is a real thing.

The premise? That humans frequently make choices that are at odds with their long term goals, because they seem to require less effort.

How best to design our surroundings to help stay focused on the goals we are struggling to reach?

Aspiring Vegetarians and Vegans often report that in a marketplace and culture that makes animal products cheap and ubiquitous, choosing plant-based foods consistently can seem more difficult and require more planning.

Vegan decision-fatigue can be a real source of discouragement especially in the beginning.

In my experience, just knowing that decision-fatigue can be an obstacle in beginning a plant based lifestyle, is a significant help.

You’re not weak.
You’re not thoughtless.
You’re not lacking in motivation.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you – you’re just new at this.

For years or decades, your automatic choices have presumably included meat and dairy
in your recipes,
your menu choices,
your shopping,
In your celebrations.

Through Vedge Your Best coaching you will move towards the plant based goals of your choosing by understanding your personal obstacles.

You don’t need an iron will or a private chef or to live on an ashram. You certainly do not need to worry ever again about being “perfect.”

Vedge Your Best coaching will help you set up small strategies in your environment and your lifestyle to support the food choices you want to increase and minimize the choices you want to decrease.

Designing your day, your activities, and surroundings “nudge by nudge” will bolster your energy and avoid “decision-fatigue.” Most importantly, coaching will teach you how to consistently honor any commitments you make with yourself – arguably the most important skill any of us can learn.

So start today by noticing what animal products you think are easiest to avoid and which are most difficult.

Think about what reasons you have for changing your choices.

-Give yourself permission to make this an opportunity to learn a lot more about yourself and how you want to show up in the world. This is not a competition.

-Look at restaurant menus or call ahead to ask what plant based options are available so you don’t have to have an awkward conversation with a server who may not know how you define vegetarian.

-While shopping start by stocking up on some the fruits, vegetables, grains and beans that you already know you like and have them on hand for those moments you don’t have energy and focus.

-Experiment with just one or two new plant based ingredients per week. There is no rush.

-Make moving toward a vegan lifestyle a chance to learn and grow – not to fail or beat yourself up.

-Trust that the process to reduce or eliminate animal products can be simple.

If you want more nudges or help in designing the architecture for your veg friendly choices, email to set up a time for a free consultation.

Nudge, Nudge, Think Think – you’ve got this.

Watch This Space

Here at Michele Olender Coaching, we are getting ready to launch Vedge Your Best!

Individual and Group Coaching 

to support anyone interested in reducing or eliminating animal product consumption.

Struggling with starting or maintaining a plant based diet? Vegetarian, Vegan, Flexitarian, Veg-Forward, Pescatarian

Whether your reasons are environmental, health focused or ethical, Vedge Your Best is ready to support you to develop a peaceful deliberate practice using your own goals, ideals and concerns.

Best of all, the skills you learn through coaching will work in every area of your life.

For a free consultation, to discuss how coaching can help you or your group to eat in alignment with your beliefs, email

Keep an eye open for Vedge Your Best content every week and send us your questions on practicing a Vedge Your Best lifestyle.


In psychology there is a phenomenon referred to as “splitting.”
It is characterised by all-or-nothing thinking:
black or white,
good or bad,
yes or no
idealized or demonized.

Not to say there is no place for categorical thinking on some subjects, but it can be unhelpful when taking on a new undertaking.

We are seldom able to walk,
speak in any language or
play an instrument without spending a long time unable to do those activities.

Before we CAN we are in a state of NOT YET.
Absolutely nothing wrong.

Unless we decide to think that there is something wrong.

Transitioning to an eating plan which omits or reduces animal products is one of these all-or-nothing categories in our culture.

You aren’t eating ham but your car has leather upholstery.

No cheese? But you still wear Uggs!

You tell me you’re vegetarian but you had turkey at Thanksgiving.

You fraud!

This is the kind of splitting that can happen in the Plant Based eating community:
you are perfect
you are a hypocrite.

This is the number one reason I hear people say that they are not actively reducing or omitting animal products from their diets.

What if they can’t be perfect? What will people say then? What will they think about themselves?

There is a school of thought that veganism needs to be all or nothing.
It’s fine if that is your thought but there are other thoughts you can choose if you are trying on a plant based lifestyle.

Ready to reduce or omit animal products?

Whether your reasons are
or any combination of the above, coaching can help support your choices.

The world is not split between perfect vegans and the rest of us.
There is no Vegetarian Olympics or Vegan Nobel Prize.
This is not a competition.

Email to set up a complimentary mini-session to discuss your goals.

If you’ve been living in that all-or-nothing world of not trying something until you’re perfect, it’s time to split.

I’ve got you.