Q + A with The Happy Herbivore's Lindsay Nixon

Lindsay Nixon is the founder of Happy Herbivore, Inc., a series of best-selling, plant-based cookbooks. She is also the developer of GetMealPlans.com, featuring plant-based meal plans. Happy Herbivore has appeared on Dr. Oz, The Food Network, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Vegetarian Times.

1.  You adopted a plant-based diet while in law school. What made you decide to become vegan and how did you manage such a lifestyle change while dealing with the intense pressures of law school? Or, did it provide you some sense of release with the stressful rigors of academia?

I had a serious health scare that made me realize I needed to take better care of myself. My research into health and nutrition led me to a plant-based diet. While my main motivation was my health, I was also moved by the environmental benefits and the plight of farm animals.

I started feeling better within a few days and was sleeping more soundly by the end of the week. I also noticed I had more energy and more mental clarity, making it easier to study and pay attention. My migraines also came less frequently, and eventually disappeared totally. Any of these benefits on their own would have been enough to sustain me, but together with the added benefit of clear skin and dramatic weight-loss made the whole thing feel like a big miracle. I don't think it's a coincidence that my highest grades came after I went plant-based.

2. Tell me about your plant-based philosophy, and how it has affected your life philosophy.

My mantra is progress not perfection - doing the best I can in the situation I'm in and not comparing it to utopia. If I do the best I can (with my food choices, or personal decisions, taking a test, or anything) I can't be disappointed because I did my very best. 

3.  You have lived all over the world, including NYC, Los Angeles, the Caribbean, and Europe. What made you decide to move to LA and how has that decision impacted both your food and personal life philosophy? 

All of the places I have lived and traveled to have shaped me. For example, living in the Caribbean forced me to slow down and live a less fast-paced life. My go-go-go lifestyle of NYC wasn't going to work there, and I'm more patient as a result. I also had no access to "convenience foods" which was a hidden blessing - I ate so well there! The limited amount of ingredients available to me also shaped my cooking and helped me really tap into my creativity. 

I also live in Europe for part of the year, and that has profoundly changed how I live and eat. Straightaway I realized people don't eat and drive, or eat and walk down the street. They stop and sit on a bench and really take their time with their food. There's no rushing to get through the activity of eating. I really like that. 

LA is an interesting place in that most folks are very health-minded. Living in LA for part of the year got me hooked on yoga, but what I really love is that my friends in LA will call me up and ask to go for a hike or do something active, rather than go for a cocktail. I also find a lot of restaurants offer decently healthy fare, which is convenient.

4.  What do you struggle most with respect to eating a plant-based diet, and what’s your strategy in combating it?

Early on I was sometimes frustrated by the lack of convenience, meaning I could no-longer just pop into the next place and order something, but I ultimately saw that as a gift. I was more conscious of what I was eating and putting into my body. I was consciously making an effort to make a better choice. I also found having a plan in place made it easy, and taking a little effort to be prepared was well worth it. 

I've been plant-based for many years now so everything feels very second nature to me. The only real struggle I have - and I almost hate to call it that - is when I'm traveling and I can't speak the language to be able to read food labels. Since I speak French and some Spanish I can usually manage in Europe with labels, but when I was traveling through Asia for a month this fall I was SOL. I couldn't read anything so I had to rely on fresh produce...not a bad thing! 

Instead of thinking I can't have something, I tell myself I could have it, but I'm choosing not to. That's very empowering. 

5.  Have you ever suffered from eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder (BED)? 

I was a classic overeater, but I've never had anorexia, bulimia, etc. Being plant-based has helped immensely with weight management (I was a yo-yo'er). Eating plant-based also helped me break my addictions to junk foods. I'm at a point now where cookies, candy bars, sugar candies, chips, and other unhealthy foods don't appeal, and I could never pass these items up previously. I find I'm more attracted to the bowl of fruit.

6.  Since becoming plant-based, what other positive habits have you picked up?

I say without any hesitation that adopting a plant-based diet totally changed my life. It was by far the most important and impactful decision I will ever make. I could never summarize it completely in words, but it saved my father's life, helped me change careers, and I ran a marathon 10 months after changing my diet, when I was too out of shape to even walk a 5k a year before. I now spend my winters snowboarding -- I never thought I'd be able to do something like that. My entire person and the way I see myself has changed for the better. 

7.  What kind of fitness/yoga routine do you follow? 

I have a regular yoga practice -- it really helps my OCD. 

8.  Who/what are some of your inspirations in maintaining a plant-based lifestyle and why? 

I'm motivated by my health, the environment, the plight of farm animals and humanity/human welfare. 

9.  What projects are you working on? 

I'm in the middle of upgrading my meal plan service to make it even better and bring more features to our clients. 

10.  What’s a typical “day in life of” for you? 

I'm up around 5:30 AM and then head to my morning yoga class. Afterwards, I'll come home, eat breakfast, and get to work. I usually take a break around lunch to eat and take my dogs for a walk. I've been trying to work in the afternoon powernap, but so far I just lay there. LOL. I work until 5 or 6 -- until I start getting hungry and then I'll make dinner or reheat something for my husband and I, plus feed and walk our dogs again. I'll usually sit and read (my 2014 resolution was to read 1 book per week) or work on a puzzle (part of OCD therapy) until 8 or 9 PM when I'll usually watch something with my husband for a little bit and then go to bed by 10. 

11.  Do you have any rituals? What are they? 

I have various hygiene rituals - like showering and washing my face, but otherwise not really. I'm always in motion - traveling for work or pleasure, so it's too difficult to have any sort of structured ritual beyond the basics - eat, sleep, repeat.

12.  You were a lawyer in a previous life. How did you make the transition from law to blogging and writing plant-based cookbooks? 

I think it's important to be honest most people cannot make a living just blogging. Even if it's a blog with a lot of traffic you still need to sell something or run ads or get endorsement deals. I write cookbooks and meal plans to make a living -- hard work, but worth it! 

The road from lawyer to "CEO" was bumpy, mostly because I jumped in without having a plan! But I was determined to make it work. I always knew I wanted to help people, and now actually do! It's wonderful. I feel very blessed.

13.  What are your future goals/dreams as a chef, blogger, cookbook author?

It's been Mr. Toad's Wild Ride! I had no vision or idea or plan when I started. If you had told me when I started bloggin' that it would turn into me owning a 4-person company, or a 6-book published deal, I'd have laughed! But that's what happened! 

I just sort of let it all unfold, which was fun (but also stressful). I just finished writing my last book with my former publisher (out in May). This "ending" is bittersweet, but I'm ready to choose my own adventure again, too. 

Right now my focus is on my meal plan service and outreach - helping more people go plant-based.

14.  As a successful cookbook author and chef, what are your tips for others who may want to follow their dreams but are afraid to take the leap?

Jump!

15.  Tell me your favorites. 

16.  Last but not least, what’s your “blissful interlude” – the time of day that gives you the most bliss?

About 7:20 AM, right after yoga.