Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Shana J. Ray – Try New Things Whenever Possible!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Currently, I am a work-at-home mother of two little girls, Leilani (10) and Athena (4).  I am a wife to my husband Andrew that I’ve been married for almost 11 years. I also homeschool my girls and I’m glad to be able to be home with them to help them learn new things. Besides working full-time and homeschooling, I have a myriad of other projects that I am currently working on such as creating various content on my YouTube channel, my blog, my podcast, as well as being an influencer on Instagram and Facebook.

YouTube: www.Youtube.com/shanajray

Website: www.RaisingBosses.com 

Podcast: www.RaisingBosses.com/Podcast

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/Shanajray

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/RaisingBosses

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/Sjray09   

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/RaisingBosses

Where you live, what you do for a living.

At the moment we all live on the east coast of Florida. We have lived in Central Florida for most of our lives and we have moved around the United States a little and have finally settled by the East Coast beaches of Florida.  I work as a pharmacy technician and my husband is an electrician.

Please feel to share and promote anything you want here, business, social or websites.

As I mentioned I have projects that I am working on in my entrepreneurial journey. First I am an influencer content creator on Instagram. I like to talk about veganism, and other natural lifestyle changes, as well as I, share my natural hair tips, the natural beauty products I use, and how I homeschool my girls. I talk about the same thing on YouTube where I make videos in detail as well as other aspects of my lifestyle.

One of my favorite videos that I make is what I call my ”Mommy Hacks” Where I share my self-care habits and DIY beauty tips. Since I have had less time to continue to get my nail appointments and all things in between I started figuring out ways to do it myself.

Within the last year, I started blogging and my blog is called Raising Bosses. The blog chronicles my experiences with the business and self-confidence end of content creating and influencing that I do. I like to share my favorite self-help books, social media growth tips as well as other things that have helped me with my mental health and self-improvement. 

Finally, I made the leap and started a podcast a little bit after my blog. My podcast is an extension of my blog. However, on my podcast, I like to interview parents who are also entrepreneurs. I’m able to pick their brains on how they manage family life and business. I really get to uncover the nitty-gritty side of things that people don’t really talk about in the business world. I also have solo episodes where I go in-depth about the things that have helped me grow and make money.

Soon I will be starting a new series on the podcast where I interview young adult entrepreneurs as well to get a picture of the other side of the bosses that have been raised. I want to talk to young entrepreneurs and young adult entrepreneurs that started at a young age and see where they are now.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

My journey to veganism has been a long process. When I was raised in the South with my mom I ate what was put in front of me which usually included pork, beef, chicken, and fish. I always remember not liking other meats besides chicken, fish, and turkey. As, I got older I realized that I had the option to only eat those meats that I preferred. Naturally, I stopped all others on my own by the time I was sixteen. However, my dad was a vegan for decades I would spend summers with him and eat what he cooked and I loved the food. I really liked the idea of becoming vegan myself, but I didn’t think I could because “I could never stop eating chicken and fish”. That sounds like most people’s excuse but I have learned to Never Say Never.

Early into my first pregnancy, my body started rejecting the little bit of meat I was eating. I decided to listen to my body, especially after reading about meat aversion during pregnancy. The idea is that your body doesn’t feel that the animal product that you are giving it is good for the baby that your body is trying to grow. After nearly a year of not eating any other meat besides fish, I figured it was a good idea to take my body’s hint and become pescatarian and I was only able to consume Seafood.

I never went back to any other meats other than fish. I stopped drinking milk when I was nine but I still ate other dairy products and eggs at that time. My list of food was getting smaller and smaller. I decided to also raise my daughter as a Pescatarian. When my oldest was about five years old I became pregnant with my youngest and my body went through more aversions to food. This time I was not able to consume fish and eggs if I did it made me feel very very sick. There were a few times that it was given to me so I tried to force them down, this went on for almost half of my pregnancy. But like before I was so disgusted and decided I just need to listen to my body and stop. After she was born I briefly went back to eating eggs and fish for a few months.

Crazy enough my youngest does not like eggs at all and she’s actually allergic to milk. Even, funnier that she often argues with me about liking eggs, but when she is given them she won’t eat them. It’s amazing that her preference actually stuck. For about 2 years after she was born, I struggled on and off trying to stay vegan. I gave up eggs when she was about four months old, so I started to feel one step closer. I have been slowly weaning myself from dairy cheese for years and finding alternatives. A few times a year I would go vegan for at least a month at a time and try to stretch the time length.

After a while, I stopped keeping certain things in my house to avoid temptation this actually helped a lot. Then about a year later I moved closer to a good old friend that wanted to start implementing weekly vegan meals for her family and encourage me to cook with her. I started engaging more and looking into all the new alternatives everywhere. I started interacting with more on Facebook groups and incorporating those items and meals into my home. I’ve always been big on eating vegetables but it was nice to be able to indulge in snacks I didn’t hurt my stomach and also being able to enjoy similar foods to what I once loved.

After about three months of consistently implementing new vegan things into our diets when January 2018 came and I realized I hadn’t eaten any dairy, eggs or seafood and almost two months straight. That happened to be the longest streak I ever made. I was really proud of myself and used January as a new beginning and a good excuse to now become vegan. Since that time, it’s been a little over two years as of now. I always try to tell people it’s not about all or nothing or stopping cold turkey but little by little and you’ll eventually get there.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

I’m always trying to explain to inquisitive people how it’s actually quite easy to be vegan now. At least you can start to make small changes daily and there’s a whole lot more variety available now. When I first went pescatarian 10 years ago I wasn’t huge on replacement meats because I never cared for real meat, to begin with. The idea of certain substitutes that were too realistic was a turn off to me immediately. For my replacement “meat “, I would just use extra veggies or some occasional tofu as a meat alternative. I also started to mash down vegetable patties since they became more available everywhere, so that became yet another option. I was extremely lactose intolerant so I have always limited my dairy-based goodies. Over time there have been more alternatives available across-the-board. I love that I am able to indulge without guilt or pain now, and it only continues to get easier.

As for clothes and non-food items I’ve never really gone out of my way to buy leather and suede, For two reasons: it’s not my style and second, it can be very expensive. I only had a few things made from an animal that has been given to me. I get that it lasts longer when it is made out of leather. However, this is not enough for me even if it’s affordable. More recently I was given the best purse backpack that I’ve ever owned and it is made out of pink vegan leather. It is actually from a company called Park and Faith and it is technically a diaper bag but it works great for my day-to-day. It’s very durable and stays looking amazing even after what I’ve put it through in the last few months.

As for makeup, I started realizing how inexpensive makeup I was already buying such as elf was already cruelty-free. So, I started making sure to only by those brands and switch out anything that wasn’t cruelty-free going forward. Now, I look for more cruelty-free brands everywhere. Even better they are a fraction of the cost. They’re also just as long-wearing, long-lasting and vibrant.

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?

Before I got married me and my husband both eat meat, I did not stop eating me until I had my first child. However, my husband being raised Seventh-day Adventist was familiar with a plant-based alternative lifestyle. His parents actually encouraged me to raise my children pescatarian. So, it was nice that we were all on the same page with this. Both of my girls have been raised this way from birth no exceptions at events or out in the back. All of my close friends understand and respect my decision in this. Over the years people have slipped up, we’re unaware or forgotten and given my oldest small pieces of meat, unfortunately.

When I became vegan I first teetered with the idea of enforcing my children to be vegan as well. Initially, I said to myself that  “I didn’t care”.  But as time went on it did start to bother me so I have decided to make the same small changes for them and teach them all the reasons behind becoming vegan. I have cut back on the few non-vegan foods that I used to buy and I keep introducing those alternatives such as ice cream, cheese, pizza, and more. the exception to this is occasionally my oldest will have eggs and they were both occasionally have the regular dairy versions of pizza and macaroni and cheese. But as I keep introducing them to the alternatives there are fewer complaints.  Again, it’s nice that the options are growing.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

I believe everyone needs to understand all the things animals go through for us to be able to eat them. A lot of people feel it’s okay to feed children dead animals and then put a veil over their eyes about it. I realize that many adults don’t truly understand how it all works out either. I thought I did through many years of being vegetarian until I first saw the documentary Earthlings. As painful as it was to watch and learn about what animals go through in the meat industry, I still continued to learn more about these things.

I don’t believe in sugarcoating things like this even for children. A lot of people will teach their kids to hunt and fish but won’t explain to them what truly goes on in the slaughterhouse for their day-to-day meals.  They say it’s because it’s too painful and graphic. Not to mention there’s so much more to the brutality that goes into animals becoming meat for our food. Such as the health problems that it can cause, environmental issues sustaining them causes, on top of it just being unnecessary.

What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees?

I believe the main idea of being vegan is to make a maximum effort to do no harm to living sentient beings. We know that indirect harm is possible no matter what you do.  However, there is a very little negative impact when you are mindful to not cause direct harm.  Most people just don’t care because killing animals or using animal products doesn’t affect them directly, or so they think.  They don’t realize the multitude of ways it not only affects them both directly and indirectly but also how it affects the world as a whole.

I have taken on the mentality of why cause harm if I don’t need to mindset. So, switching alternatives to things like vegan mayo or something is easier I know it will not cause harm to anyone or thing on purpose. I try to apply these to all aspects of life. I’ve never been the type to want to be mean or hurtful to others, but now I pay closer attention to everyone’s overall feelings and well-being. I really just want everyone to do well and be happy whether it positively affects me or not. Even down to the smallest and seemingly most inferior creatures such as most bugs. If they are in their own element I leave them be. If certain ones that belong outside cross my path in my home I will try to remove them before hurting them.

In life, we must learn everything we do affects everyone so it’s important that we try to do our best and affect the world in a positive manner. Death in any form can negatively affect us all. When you factor in actively eating death and decay there will be a transference of negative energy and trauma, so it is really not worth consuming.  When you release yourself from eating death your heart seems to realize certain things you become more compassionate and you have a different outlook on life as well as on people.

Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies?

I don’t understand the negativity behind some companies deciding to start making vegan alternatives. I know there may be insidious things and some unhealthy factors that come with it when you deal with mass production. However, I like to look at the bigger picture and see the blessing in it and all for widespread normalization. I feel like they are showing people there’s nothing weird about “ vegan food” veggies can be done up in so many ways. Also, I love how now every type of vegan has so many options and alternatives with what they can eat.

Does it affect the way you treat other humans?

I have always been a loving caring person that never wanted to see anyone be sad. I feel like this has not changed for me. However, I am wholeheartedly triggered by the hypocrisy that most meat-eaters tend to show. I don’t hate them or anything, but I am more vocal about calling out their hypocritical ways and comments much like Earthling Ed. I do understand they may not be ready to give up eating dead animals yet because I was there once too. But I do feel that they need to have their eyes opened up at times. I see how I was too once hypocritical about what I was eating and so I kept learning more and now I’m becoming more open-minded every day.  For me, it’s not really about swaying them but just showing them not to use certain excuses, and really that’s the first step in doing better in your life and making better choices.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

I firmly believe in embracing a plant-based vegan lifestyle and I believe it’s a form of activism already. Whenever appropriate a knowledgeable vegan should take advantage of the opportunity to teach others a little here and there about the lifestyle. Not in an overbearing way just enough to get them asking more questions in their mind and open it up. Regardless of whether that person decides to change the ideas and habits,  we are all trying to make the world a better place.

Any recommended Vegan books?

 I have not read any vegan books yet, I choose to learn about nutrients and a vegan lifestyle mostly through documentaries.  Although, there are a few books on my list that I would like to read,  that includes The China Study, How Not to Die, and Happy Vegan.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

I’m currently in about two dozen Facebook groups for a vegan lifestyle. I love Facebook groups because you have the opportunity to talk to and learn from various people all around the globe. Another great website to learn about living a vegan lifestyle is Food Matters TV. I was lucky enough that my dad shared his subscription with me and I got to binge watch a myriad of documentaries on health and being vegan. Many of these videos you’re not able to find on other streaming sites that’s one of the reasons why it’s nice to have a subscription. One other way that I like to watch documentaries besides the various streaming sites available is through TopDocumentaryFilms.Com. I have been able to watch other helpful videos there as well.

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

I have dozens of favorite documentaries that can be found on other streaming services I listed before. However, I started making videos of myself putting together my favorite conventional and meatless meals. As well I started sharing my grocery hauls so people can see the vegan foods that I keep as a staple in my house. Here is my personal playlist.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

One of my favorite restaurants is Avocado Vegan Cafe and Juice Bar. It’s located in Alpharetta Georgia and it is actually owned and run by the most influential vegan in my life, my dad Godfrey Lewis.

My stepmom, Asucena Lewis is the baker for the restaurant, she makes amazing vegan cakes and other baked goodies. There they make various Caribbean Fusion dishes.

They also have cooking events that they host where people come and learn more about living a vegan lifestyle and cooking new vegan dishes. Their customers range from long-term vegans to the frequent meat-eater.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

I would call myself a conventional vegan because I love eating fruits and vegetables, but I also enjoy having conventional foods that look and taste similar to their counterparts. On YouTube, I have almost a dozen recipes that I’ve cooked on my channel called Shana J Ray. Currently I have two favorite dishes, one that I made myself which I call Rainbow Pasta. It’s kind of like an alfredo pasta with tri-colored spiral noodles. I’m worried sounds like a weird combo but I use Just Mayo and nutritional yeast to make the creamy cheesy sauce.  It’s so filling and delicious that my kids and my meat-eating husband ask for it all the time. Even though it includes tofu, the way that I put it together most people still love it and don’t even realize they’re eating tofu. One of our second favorites is the vegan Crunch wrap like they sell at Taco Bell. I get all the full vegan alternative fixings, sour cream, cheese, and beefless crumbles. I even wrap it up and fry it on the skillet where it looks the same. Both are always a hit even with meat-eaters. Here are the links:  Rainbow Pasta, Crunch Wrap.

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

I encourage everyone to try new things whenever possible. When I was a pescatarian I rarely tried any pseudo meat, like I said before I was never a fan of regular meat. Most of the fake meat was a visual turn off for me because it was much too realistic. But since becoming vegan I have basically forced myself to try more other substitutions and play around more in the kitchen with them. I still don’t care for many of the substitutes that I have tried, like the ones that are supposed to be very meat-like, but I’m still glad I tried them. Without trying those things, I wouldn’t see what I like and dislike. I love having so many more options.

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Since moving to the east coast of Florida it has become so much easier to eat plant-based. Many of the Omni restaurants in my area have a few plant-based options for me. Even though there isn’t an abundance of vegan restaurants my husband still finds them and as a family we try them occasionally. Grocery shopping is a lot easier as well, because the vegan options in all of the grocery stores are growing. Many of my favorite things like sour cream, ice cream, and cheese are available everywhere. It’s so wonderful to have more options for my occasional indulgences. I continue to find new vegan food choices across all the grocery stores that I shop at.

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Start by putting yourself where there is a high concentration of vegan people. Most cities have a vegan event every few weeks or so. You can easily Google them for your area. You can check out all the local vegan venues surrounding you and ask for more information on events as well. Facebook has an event section where you can search for vegan events there. Facebook groups also list events that may be going on in your area. I also love the groups because they are great for finding new vegan friends as well as their private meetups.

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?

I am not sure we can ever be 100% cruelty-free. But we can make sure we try and do better wherever possible. I believe you can take time to avoid doing and buying into things that cause harm to others and animals.  For me that includes being rude to people, bullying others, the makeup that I use, the foods that I eat, as well as the way I care for my pets.

What are your favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

I’m still out here trying so many different vegan alternative foods to really find new favorites. However, for years now I have been enjoying most products from Gardein and Morningstar. More recently, Aldi’s continues to broaden their vegan brand options which I love especially since I do most of my shopping there.

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

One of the most common things that people find the hardest to give up is cheese. I love how common vegan cheese has become and I don’t really dislike any of the ones I’ve tried. However, it can be hard to find the various forms of cheeses for different items that I am cooking in every store. My compromise is that I keep a large amount of nutritional yeast which is already in most vegan cheese products as a staple in my home. It gives off a cheesy taste as well as it adds a good flavor to most of the food that I eat. I buy it from Amazon and this is the one I get every few months.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

I feel like my hardship and being vegan is funny and yet  simple. Sadly, I’m very lactose intolerant so I’ve always limited my dairy intake or so I thought. In my I pescatarian days my favorite snack for years has been Tom’s Salt and Vinegar chips. A few years ago, I was eating them quite frequently and at the same time and I was having a lot of stomach issues. I started cutting out everything that I knew had milk in it. Yet, nothing seemed to help me. It was a long time before I thought to check the ingredients on the bag of chips I consumed regularly. I believe it was me being in denial, but I chose to play it off as though it wasn’t possible for a cheese-less snack to contain dairy. Of course, I was horrified when I looked and found milk listed on the back of the bag and I had to give up my absolute favorite snack. I chose to make the sacrifice and it took about two weeks for my stomach to normalize.

Tom’s chips are the sourest salt and vinegar chips out there that is why they were my favorite. I hoped that they were the only chips that contained milk but come to find out most salt and vinegar chips have milk in them for some reason. Sadly, most chips, cheese-less or not have milk in them. On a positive note after a while, I found three types of salt and vinegar chips that don’t have any milk in them. That includes Lays, Walmart brand and oddly enough the wavy version of Tom’s salt and vinegar chips which are hard to find, are all milk free. For me, the closest tasting, as well as easiest to find, are the Walmart brand salt and vinegar chips. They are very sour just like Tom’s brand. 

I chose to take this as a lesson and I started paying closer attention to and checking all the ingredients of the things I was used to eating and I soon realized how insidious milk was. Milk is actually included in so many different foods that you wouldn’t I think it would originally be in.  This is the reason so many people have stomach problems and they don’t realize they are constantly dosing themselves with dairy. The less dairy you consume the more sensitive you become to it .

In the same instance, there are certain foods that you would think have milk in them that don’t. So regardless, always check your ingredients. This facilitated an easier transition into a vegan lifestyle and plant-based eating for me. I was more aware of what was off-limits as well as the things that I was able to replace them with already.

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