Plant-Based Seeds of Change: Nourishing the Body, Mind, and Soul


Plant-Based Seeds of Change: Nourishing the Body, Mind, and Soul

Plant-Based Seeds of Change: Nourishing the Body, Mind, and Soul


Religion, in its pure sense is to reconnect, in this sense, humankind to the transcendent. So I think it’s actually a positive word, but you have to reclaim it, much like the LGBTQ plus community has taught us to reclaim the word queer, which can be a very positive word if understood correctly. So in that sense, I think veganism can be religious in that positive sense. But when religion becomes about erecting unnecessary walls and drawing lines with those walls regarding who is in and who is out, that’s when it becomes problematic. -Stevan Mirkovich


Stevan: 0:00
Perfection doesn’t exist for anybody and it’s not about perfection in that, but it’s about kind of making sure we’re oriented towards that and then saying, look, here’s the journey, and you might be way over here, but so long as you’re oriented, and slowly, however painstakingly slowly, you’re making your way towards that core, that center, and slowly becoming more and more aware of yourself and of your surroundings and of the earth and kind of beginning to get a greater sense of consciousness and awareness and the interconnec tivity of everything. That’s all a journey towards that and we’re all at various stages of that journey.

Ella: 0:48
Hey there and welcome to Rise and Thrive with me, Ella Majors. I created this high vibe podcast from a place of profound curiosity, fierce compassion and the deep desire to connect you with the wisdom of inspirational wellness, health, fitness and conscious leaders and change makers. Here’s to discovering our blind spots and embracing life as the adventure it is. The time is now. Let’s do this. Hey, hey everyone, ella here and today’s episode is particularly special because my incredible guest, steven Mirkovich, is the co-owner of the Planted Expo, a trade show platform and network designed to support you no matter where you are on your plant-based journey, and I connected with Steven months back and was honored when he invited me to speak at two upcoming Planted Expo events. We really hit it off, in part because he, too, has a history of having a complicated relationship with food and his body, which we explore a bit in this episode. Steven is truly insightful, spiritual, self-aware and a driven individual who says plant-based living literally saved my life. As a recovering food addict, I’ve journeyed through overeating, junk food, veganism and finally found the life-giving ways of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. I really hope that you can join me at one of these Planted Expo events, which I have no doubt is going to be an epic experience. You can learn more about it at plantedlifecom. Just check it out and see all the amazing speakers that are going to be there. One of the ones that I’ll be at is Toronto, that’s March 23 and 24. The other that I’ll be speaking at is Seattle on April 20 and 21. And there’s also a third event in Vancouver in June. So, again, check that out at plantedlifecom, and I hope you’ll stay tuned until the end of this episode, because the last 10 minutes or so we dive deep into a really fascinating and controversial topic. Given that Steven is also a pastor, I asked him his thoughts about veganism sometimes being called a religion, and his response is quite juicy. We could say All right, you guys, let’s do this. Steven, it’s so great to have you on the show. Thanks for being here.

Stevan: 3:40
Thanks, ella. It’s nice to be here, Feels good.

Ella: 3:43
Yeah, it does. I want to first just let you know how excited I am to be speaking this year at the planted expo in Toronto, in Seattle. So thank you for inviting me to come.

Stevan: 3:57
Great thoughts, to be able to work with people like yourself. It really is about the voices and the businesses that are present. We are just kind of like a little bit of a backdrop. We have some organizational skills and event skills and we’re really committed to making sure that plant-based, sustainable, vegan future is more and more accessible for everybody. So, yeah, very excited. We’re less than 60 days now away from Toronto, and then it’s back to back to back. For us, right, it’s Toronto and then 30 days later, seattle and then, just five weeks after that, vancouver. So it’s an exciting season for us. We’re really excited to be in Seattle and to be stateside. That’s a dream come true for our group.

Ella: 4:41
Yeah, yeah. Well, I want to get to talking more about that in a little bit, but what I’m most interested is kind of the human side of all of this, and really you and I know from just the research I’ve done and listening to you on other podcasts and reading that you’re a very multi-layered human being and I’m really curious to know how you’ll answer a question that I asked many of my guests and that is beyond the bio right and all the accomplishments and these big events that you put on who is Steven? Who are you Like, the being that is you? How would you answer that?

Stevan: 5:23
Yeah, great question, thanks. I think I’m innately curious and also kind of innately pseudo confident that I can learn a lot, and also not particularly fearful of maybe kind of some of the things that sometimes are kind of poor fears of people’s lives. So I show up kind of bright eyed and bushy tailed Like oh wow, what’s that? I have this capacity to see lots, and then become hyper-focused on something that intrigues me. So I mean, as a kid that might manifest itself in something like skateboarding or playing the guitar or a sport. It might have been a particular historical event or individual that I found interesting for a season and then I read and devour and learn as much as I can. That’s how it is like people have described me. I don’t know, it always sounds weird to me. I have a hard time fully embracing it. People have described me as a bit of a Renaissance man. So I’m at home dabbling and that’s the problem. It’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades but master of none reality for me. I know just enough about say music to like. If I was in a group of people and we were talking about some like ways to maybe do music together, I would kind of like not feel totally lost, although as soon as I’m in a room of like professional musicians, I’m like, oh dang, I’m way in over my head. But like cool amateurs I could do that. And it’s the same thing. I bake professionally because I became enamored with sourdough baking and making sourdough bread and people are like, oh, where did you learn? I was like, oh, I’m just self-taught. Like one day I thought I want to eat good bread again and want to learn all the ins and outs of wheat and agriculture and how it’s grown and how it’s made, and I just like read everything and listen to everything and then practice that. Now I can bake professionally as a sourdough baker. So just as an example like you asked who am I Just like, hyper curious, willing to try things At song level too. Also, some people have called me distracted, or there’s somebody who moves on from one project to the next rather quickly, like. Those are some of the shadow sides of that, where I don’t play guitar as much as I used to. There’s a lot of things I used to do, a lot that I don’t do anymore because I was interested for a season and now that’s a part of my history, but it’s not who I am today. So I don’t know, that’s a long-winded answer to your question, but it’s a good one. I’m also profoundly connected to people Like I love being a dad, those relationships with my three kids. They’re all such unique people and so I’m always feeling like I’m pushed outside of my everyday comfort zone and I’m having to kind of see myself in them and then also see them for who they’re becoming. And so I’ve got a 16, or like just turned 16,. I’ve got a 13 year old, just headed into like the heart of adolescence. And then I’ve got a four year old, sweet little girl who is, you know, precocious and wonderful and reminding me of all of those wonderful ages again. So there’s quite a gap. Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of things.

Ella: 8:48
I could go on.

Stevan: 8:49
I guess you get people talking about themselves in a way they go Like I don’t know how I could say a lot.

Ella: 8:54
Yeah, well, no, I think in curiosity, the way I see it, it’s such a superpower. I mean it just opens so many doors. And have you always been curious? Is that something like from day one? That’s just been kind of hard of. Who you are is curious, which is great, yeah.

Stevan: 9:11
I think so that’s amazing.

Ella: 9:13
Yeah, no, I love that. I love that and I can relate a little bit to the jack of all trades. You know, being an entrepreneur, being a solopreneur as well, you know, you kind of learn all sorts of things and doors open and you want to go through them and they might be very different from the last door you went through. So, yeah, I get that. I get that. The other thing that I think I can relate to you is an evolving relationship with food and your body and intersections with spirituality throughout our lives and, if you’re up for it, I would love to move in the direction of kind of walking through the evolution of those relationships for you, maybe starting in childhood. I know that’s a very kind of broad topic, but maybe you know if you can kind of think back to childhood and that relationship you have with food and how that started to shift and evolve. I know you had the knee injury in high school and all that, but like, with that question, what kind of comes to mind for you?

Stevan: 10:16
Yeah, I mean. I mean my earliest memories with food are good ones, like in general, I have experienced the power of shared meals and food together and the art of cooking and flavors and kind of all of that ability to come for yourself and love and the Intangible components of what it means to be human Into the creative act of cooking and or baking or whatever the case may be. So you know, like my memories are of my grandmother, like those are my earliest friends. They’re people that loved me. I knew they loved me. And then you know, like the next concentric circle of people Anties and uncles and friends, etc. They are coming from an Eastern European Culture, like and I think it frankly, I just think it’s a universal sort of human thing that food is at the core of many family Experiences. It’s certainly at the core of a lot of like my loving relationships, and so I felt cared for and I felt invited to participate when I would sit there and make, for example, donuts with my mom. We have these donuts in a server creation culture called. I’m so bad at server creation nowadays I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re called, but it’s basically fried dough. They’re like wild shaped. They’re not like what we could. You know North American culture, what we, what we think of as a donut is. You know it’s got a particular shape, it’s got a hole or whatever like this would be like a lot of fritter, where it doesn’t particularly have any shape and it’s not in and of itself flavored, but it’s a fried dough and you cut it open and you fill it with whatever you wanted to fill it with and they can be savory or sweet. So just one. This is kind of one really important memory and I can close my eyes right now and I can picture the stainless steel pot filled with oil and I can picture the yellow Kind of Tupperware container that my mom had filled with this yeasty dough and how she would kind of scoop it up and put it in the. Oil and then watching all the little bubbles from around, like just classic frying of dough. I’m of doughnuts and the smell and how much I was looking forward to, you know, dusting them in sugar and putting my favorite cream cheese and jam in there and like eating six of them. So you know, those are some of my earliest memories. I remember feeling good again. I remember it just being like frequently tied to visitors, people coming over that food as connection, it seems like. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Those are some of my earliest memories. When did I start kind of recognizing like some level of I don’t know what the right language is, is it dysfunction, or is it like a shadowy side to it, where it wasn’t just Love and appreciation and flavors and smells. That was much, much later in life, like into young adulthood, I couldn’t put two and two together as like this idea like I didn’t have the something, that is to know that food was a coping mechanism for me. I certainly didn’t have the language early on in my like, adolescence, teenage years, or even like your college. Maybe I started to figure it out in college like and we’re talking like really early 2000, like a long time ago now. Yeah, like that’s what I would have started to recognize. Like, oh wait, a minute, food is taking on. It’s playing a different role in my life now like there was now food was becoming a little bit more isolated, something I might do by myself. It was something that I might obsess about and might be kind of like Twirling around in my mind’s eye and thinking about, like, all of the like is this good for me? Isn’t this good for me? You know, all of those additional questions like what’s its nutritional value or how is this gonna affect me. And that was because I, as you mentioned, in my last year of high school, gained like 65 or 70 pounds of weight, and that just goes to show you how totally disconnected from my body I was and From its connection to food. Like I had a catastrophic knee injury, skateboarding like you do when you’re in high school and. I just kept eating. I just kept eating the way I’d always eaten, and yeah.

Ella: 14:50
I mean.

Stevan: 14:51
High school is hard at the best of times and if you have a knee injury, you’re working and you know whatever high school Drama there is in one’s life. Yeah, I found myself in the midst of my great 12 year like completely Unrecognizable to myself, like having to buy a whole new wardrobe because nothing I owned In the previous year fit me by the time. Like it was gradual, but like you just sort of one day wake up and you’re like, oh, I am profoundly ashamed Of who I am and that was the beginning of like. I went probably very close to two decades With almost nobody outside of myself Seeing me with my shirt off. I profound shame.

Ella: 15:39
So this shame that you found was this all behind I mean shame lives in silence, right? So you are internalizing this. What was that like to the people around you? Were you able to hide that? How did that manifest in the other things that you were doing in your life?

Stevan: 15:57
Yeah, I mean mostly I dealt with the shame components of it, you know, in isolation, yeah, by myself, beating myself up you know vicious cycles of yo-yo, dieting, and trying to figure it out and working through how to make sense of this. In my life, you know, were there some people kind of brought in at some level? Sure, but frankly I hadn’t even come to grips with it in my own self. So, like, how do you really bring I’m still coming to grips with it but like, how do you really bring somebody into that when it feels so like it’s just scary? It was just like a really fearful thing and you feel out of control and you don’t really know what just happened or how it happened or what it means, like really for me. I think now, as I reflect, like I just didn’t know what all of it meant. It’s like why was this happening? And at some level you can chalk it up to the like the logic of it. Right, like super active kid has catastrophic knee injury, was eating like an active athletic kid, continued to do that and then, you know, low and behold, found themselves in a awkward situation. That was. You know, the hole was too deep to dig out of or to let yourself out, I dug too deep a hole or whatever. But you know, I think there was way more and it started sooner than that. Like you know, sometimes you can mask your growing super fast and adolescence, like I was. You know you go through your growth spurts, your athletic or whatever, and I was probably already using food as a coping mechanism long before that in my life. But because you’re growing so fast and you’re dealing with life in the way that you’re dealing with it as a kid and it’s just not a thing, you know, I don’t know how far back to trace any of that, right, but yeah, like, look, I got married fairly young. So you know my partner in life, like she was aware of my struggles at some level. But again, that’s a different podcast. That’s a really complicated conversation or how that all played out. But to say that it didn’t play a role, like it was all encompassing, like, yeah, even the most intimate of my relationships were deeply impacted by this relationship to food and relationship to my body and my disconnection from all of those things. It played itself out in really dramatic ways later on. Like, yeah, I don’t know how far down the road I want to go in this podcast with some of that. But like it was a lot and my best friends knew like they were kind of along the like dieting journey of like because all of us you know we’re all whatever guys that are, you know you hear that story of like getting a dad’s spot or whatever, like we’re all. We were all dealing with it in our own ways and so we’re all kind of on the surface talking about like, oh, don’t eat that junk food. Or like what does it look like to you know, whatever, be healthier and exercise more, or whatever. Like all the whole dieting, diet of things.

Ella: 18:46
Yeah, Well, what’s interesting too is that at this point, you know you and vegan and I believe 2003 is that correct. So, yeah, so there’s this. We’re talking about layers here because it was my 20s from 2001 ish to the end of my 20s when I had my bulk of disordered eating and distorted body image and all of this stuff, and at the same time, there’s this passion for veganism and this passion for whole foods plant based, which I know you went through the vegan junk food and then, around 2011, went the whole foods plant based route, and so you had that all going on at the same time. And so how did that all fit together for you and your mind and at what point were you also like really promoting the vegan lifestyle to others and how did that all kind of connect, if that makes sense?

Stevan: 19:39
Yeah, I mean it all does eventually convert, yeah, but it certainly didn’t converge at the beginning. So I was raised in a religious environment where some exposure to vegetarianism and veganism was kind of part and parcel. So I was raised the seventh day Adventist and in my early or late teens and early 20s I studied to be an Adventist pastor, a minister, like a church leader. And so because anybody that’s familiar with blue zones and has seen the Netflix documentary Dan Butner or read any of his works previously or, frankly, has delved into any of the academic health literature on the benefits of plant based, vegetarian, vegan type lifestyles, is familiar with the Adventist world and so I had that like up, even though as a kid I was raised in an Adventist home. Most kind of like Eastern European or like international Adventists are actually not vegan or vegetarian and like that’s one of the weird things that people hear, like oh, you’re part of that church, that means you’re vegan or vegetarian. It’s actually just a small subset of particularly white Southern Californian, mostly Adventists in and around Loma Linda that really kind of subscribe to this in any sort of to any great degree, got it Anyways. But because of that connection, when I started to kind of worry about my health and worry about my well being, I was exposed to people that were not Adventist but whom Adventists adored. Guys like Neil Barnard and Joel Furman and some of these other characters that like said, hey, look, the scientific literature. And the best of what we can sense is like, hey, this is a good way to. And it was all like Adventists saying See, even the scientific, non religious community says this is the best way to live. And so I knew of these books and so I read Joel Furman’s Eat to Live in 2003. And that’s what really sort of clinched it for me from, like that nutritarian concept of like just, I’ve always been interested in this idea of like what’s your best bang for buck? You’re like finances, like, and I was like, oh, like I can think about food as a best bang for buck. Yeah, like what’s going to give me the most nutritious caloric bang for buck? And I was like, oh, this makes perfect sense to me, even though it took me years to kind of figure out how that all pieces together. That concept was really compelling to me and so that’s why it was mostly for health reasons. The ethical side of veganism in terms of, like, animal rights, and then the environmental justice side, and the ecological side came also after down the road, so it was primarily sort of health and human welfare. That was the beginning there. And so you said, like when did I start promoting veganism, like from the animal rights. Again, I’ve always loved animals, but like how it all connected, like whether or not, for example, whether or not I would buy a vehicle with a leather interior, just as an example of like veganism, right Like veganism is more than just the health and it’s more than whole food plant based. And I think there’s a lot of whole food plant based people that, frankly, don’t care if their car is leather or not, they’re not vegan. They’re vegan in their diet but they’re not necessarily vegan in their lifestyle entirely. And so that would have described elements of myself for a long time. And I think there are many people like so. When I say I was vegan in 2003, that was really when I mean, like my diet was vegan, got it Like it took several years, you know, for me to like say, well, you know what, I don’t really need to do that Like, if I ever do something like that, like I’m going to make the vegan choice. And that was because you know, once you start going down that road, you just become aware of it more and more, and I truly believe that the more of these things that stack together, you begin to realize like there’s like there’s almost no reason not to be plant based vegan in your choices. Just it’s the lightest way, most compassionate way to engage. So, from the cooking health perspective, like almost from the get go, I was like hey, if somebody wants to listen and I’ve got an opportunity to share part of my story. I’ll share it and then, you know, all the other parts started to fit together. You know, over the course of time, and probably in about the same time 2011, 2012 is when, like the vegan shoe fully dropped for me and I was like, oh, okay, like yeah, that’s now a way of life entirely. So yeah. And then the planted X following that kind of thing you know, just an opportunity to transition professionally from doing one thing professionally in my life and then looking for, like, what are some ways that I might utilize some of the things I learned in my kind of previous professional life and what would I be passionate to do and like organizing large events and you know, kind of curating and experience over the course of a weekend was something I did professionally for over a decade. I thought, oh, a lot of this will transfer, so maybe I can do that for the vegan community in a dovetail to well with kind of my sense of working my way through the world.

Ella: 24:38
Well, at what point did things start to shift for you in terms of your relationship with food? What was there a turning point? Did it slowly like? How did that happen for you?

Stevan: 24:47
Yeah, I mean yes, I frequently tell the story of chasing my kid around. So my oldest, I just said, was 16, and he was a toddler like in and around two years old, and we were outside and he took up a flight of stairs and just like I kind of gave him a bit of a head start but he just kept plopping through and I was like making a beeline up those same quite a stairs trying to catch him and at the top of the stairs like my heart was racing so and I would have been like somewhere in the neighborhood of like 240, 250 pounds and I’m only like five foot 10. So that’s a lot of weight on a five foot 10 frame and I was just like I can’t do this and it was just one of those things like I had yo-yo’d and kind of figured it out and I’ve been kind of pseudo, trying to eat a healthy vegan lifestyle for several years like nearly a decade at that point, but you know, and never really clicked. And then I was like man, if I don’t change something like I’m not going to be able to be the dad I want to be for these kids as they grow up. And so I just decided that was it. And that was the first time I kind of figured out a fair bit of kind of removing the vast majority of like the junk food side of ultra processed, if you know what I mean, and I dropped 50 pounds and kind of kept it off and went from like hovering through the vast majority of my 20s in like that 250 pound range to like hovering in and around 200 pounds and felt a lot better about myself and was able to kind of return to a level of activity and a level of self awareness around my body and some of those things. But yeah, not really fully piecing together the emotional side of it, yes, kind of putting in some really strong guardrails that were like yes, no, and it was just clear and this was a no food and this was a yes, and then over time the yes and no foods changed and you know, you kind of try to figure that out a little bit, but really that’s the story and yeah, it was that profound of a moment, believe it or not?

Ella: 26:46
And did you do the whole oil and sugar free thing? No process Right Like.

Stevan: 26:53
I consumed enormous amounts of fruit. For some people is like that’s sugar. I was like, oh man, I’ll do it.

Ella: 27:00
Yes, no.

Stevan: 27:01
But yes, I definitely did the no oil and, frankly, my body actually responds to this very day, like if I feel like I’m struggling or whatever, and I just want to see like immediate results. I think everybody needs to learn to eat a little bit intuitively and there’s no one size fits all whole food, plant based approach. And is all of oil good or bad? Like I don’t know enough, I’m ignorant. I just know how my body operates and if I want to see myself thin out but still eat enormous amounts of food, like in terms of volume, like salads and fruits and all of the other things, then for me being oil free or as low fat as possible in terms of like added fats, I’ll ask for the avocados and cashews and nuts and that kind of thing. But if I really want to just drop, like just cutting cutting all of the added fats which are, frankly, where the flavor comes from, but yeah, like my body responds immediately like. I drop weights and I thin out super fast.

Ella: 28:00
What’s in your toolkit now for dealing with stress and negative emotions and things that would have, in the past, derailed you completely, instead of turning to food?

Stevan: 28:14
Right, yeah, I mean, look, this is going to sound like your classic self-help, like all the latest podcasts and literature and newsletters and all the rest of it, but you know. I have turned to things like breath work and yoga is an important tool in my toolkit. So anything that slows me down my mind races right and when I’m in a stressful mode I can go into like problem solving and just getting more active and getting busier, like if I just do this, like I will, you know, whittle away at this to-do list and I’ll feel better about myself, and it’s like it’s the complete opposite of what I should be doing, which is like saying no and basically anything that declutters my mind and allows me to be present to myself is the key de-stressor, and that’s easier said than done. But I have some good new habits around that that is very helpful for me. I still have some strong boundaries around what’s available to me. If I should choose, and that’s the thing, right. Like you know, miss Ella, food is one of those things, unlike alcohol, unlike gambling, unlike sex, unlike a lot of things, Like if you have a problematic relationship to something, there are a lot of things you could just say I’m never doing that again and you could be abstinent. You know, should one choose right? But with food you can’t be abstinent, right, like unless you’re open to just like perishing. So it is a constant renegotiation. And then, because I’m such a social creature and actually really believe in the cultural significance of food, I believe that we should cook, I believe that we should allow it to be the culinary arts. I think that’s a good thing. I think food should be beautiful, it should smell beautiful, it should taste beautiful. You know, I’m not the like super pragmatic guy when it comes to food. Like I really do believe in all of that side of it. So because of that, because I’m a social creature, because I believe in the capacity for food to bring people together and I also want to be like super no judgment. That means I want to be able to allow things to be around me and people to be around me, and flavors and food choices. That may not be the best for me, given my history and everything that I wrestle with, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s inherently not a food option for everybody. Like there’s lots of people that can consume these things in the ways that they consume them and have it be a healthy choice or an appropriate choice. So maybe healthy is not the right language to use there and that’s just not the right way to frame it, but an appropriate choice, and I want to be able to be in those spaces with those people, whether they’re my kids or my friends or just anybody. I want to be able to be in that kind of environment and say this makes sense, like this is okay. That does come with the like always being able to negotiate those scenarios, you know, in appropriate ways, and I go back and forth in my capacity to do that, wow. And so you know this is still a journey I’m on. This is not like I’ve got all these tools in my toolkit and now the struggle is over and I’m on the other side and I’ve like got whatever you know, some level of mastery over this.

Ella: 31:28
I don’t know that.

Stevan: 31:28
I have mastery, far from it. It feels like some days I’m struggling as much as ever, but in general the trajectory is this way right. Like to an episode close but like still, you know, like, if I wake up at the start of it every year and say, like what is my relationship to my body, what is my relationship to my own sense of self worth, what is my relationship to food, how do I negotiate social circles and all the rest of it, I would just say, in general, I’m still headed in the right direction, which is really encouraging to me it’s certainly not a linear path Like that’s.

Ella: 32:00

Stevan: 32:02
It hasn’t been for me anyways.

Ella: 32:04
No, and it hasn’t been for me either. There’s still some trigger foods and I have to, yeah, admit what some of the ones for me are vegan butters in general, I don’t buy those. There’s something about, like you know, some of the vegan cheeses and I think it goes back to that very intense. I mean there’s a lot of fat, there’s a lot of coconut oil in it, a lot of those cheeses. So, yeah, there’s still some trigger foods that I’m aware of and setting those boundaries, and in more stressful months things are harder and it’s yeah, it’s a journey that’s gonna last forever, and more we can embrace that, the better. Speaking of vegan cheeses, I am gonna try a bunch of them at Planted Expo. At what point did you? How did Planted Expo come to be?

Stevan: 32:51
Yeah, it was some friends of mine that actually started it in 2014 in Vancouver and back then it was known as the Veg Expo and it was a one day event and it was something that slowly grew, you know, as the plant based kind of vegan niche you know was also coming of age and social media and all the rest of it, you know it grew alongside of it At some point or another. Those friends were it just wasn’t the thing for them anymore and they’d asked me kind of three years in a row, like would you consider taking this over? And kind of buying the business from us? And I wasn’t in a place, both professionally, you know, family wise, like just on a lot of levels. I wasn’t in a place until 2019 when I finally said, hey, is that still an option? Because I’m kind of looking for a new gig and something new to do and I have some ideas about how I would do this differently than you guys have been doing it, but I think like sort of based in the same premise of like bringing people together and brands together to give people an opportunity to intersect with the best of what the plant based and vegan business community has to offer to the wider consumer and so, yeah, that all sort of transpired, you know, almost five years ago, but you know we dealt with the pandemic in the midst of that. Anyways, yeah, so rebranded it from the Veg Expo to the planted Expo, just because, again, veganism, as we talked about earlier in the podcast, is a lot broader than simply vegetables and food, like a lot of other things that are part of the plant based vegan lifestyle, and it seemed like that was the nomenclature, the language that was being used. More and more, a lot of products and services were being branded as plant based as opposed to vegan, and we can go back and forth on all of the pros and cons of all of that stuff, but the bottom line is this approach that reduces and eliminates the harm done to animals and hopes to embrace the most sustainable ecological and agricultural practices and, to the best of our ability, is as health promoting as possible. Those are all things that mattered a lot, and so we’ve got this amazing team. Frankly, look, the planted Expo is the team. Yeah, I get to be on these podcasts and sure, the title is like majority owner, but I feel like I’m just one person in the midst of an amazing group of people that come together and their pros, and they know what they’re doing and they love it, and they’re totally dedicated to making sure that when somebody signs on, either and buys, you know, a $20 ticket to come to the events and chow down and buy and get great deals, or they’re a brand that’s looking to engage with their core the core person that is looking to purchase these things and or, you know, incorporate more and more vegan, plant based products into their life. Our job is to make sure that it’s an awesome event, which is why we bring in amazing voices like yours, ella, so that you know people come and say, wow, somebody like her has been vegan for how long, and she’s what that’s so inspiring. So it’s kind of pulling as much of that positive energy into a room over the course of a weekend and saying this is awesome, this is amazing. We’re amazing, but like it’s only amazing because you have the right people in the room and the right brands in the room.

Ella: 36:03
So yeah, and I love how you have such a good mix of all these different brands and all these people getting to come and try these foods of all different types, and then having these amazing speakers and Chuck Carroll interviewing Dr Michael Greger how fabulous is that. Do you have some things that you’re really excited about for this year?

Stevan: 36:26
Yeah, believe it or not, I’m actually really excited we’re doing a small little vegan fashion show on the Saturday of Toronto and Vancouver. It’s sadly not coming to Seattle, but, yeah, fun. The visual that he started the vegan fashion show is actually one of the speakers at our event and said why don’t we do like a small vegan fashion show activation as part of my time on stage and we’ll bring some brands together and like do a small version of what could be a much larger. So I think that’s really cool. That’s something we’ve never done before and I think it speaks to the maturity of what’s available now. Like I don’t know how into vegan fashion you are, ella, but there are like some really cool products out there that mimic leather, mimic wool, mimic all kinds of things that are cool, and there’s amazing designers putting all of their creative fashionista powers behind these things, and so we’re pretty pumped about that. I think that’s an interesting angle that we’ve never done before and I think it’s going to add another layer to what we’re doing, not that other vegan fashion brands haven’t been there before, but to like really feature it that way. I think it’s cool. Yeah, I mean obviously the big VIP event in Toronto with Chuck and Dr Gregor is going to be awesome. Like you know, they’re both such characters. I think they’re going to be great on stage together. That’s really fun. And just to see, you know, see the maturation of some of the brands that were just like emerging brands a year ago, and then seeing all the new products, seeing some of the new voices that are on our stage Every year has got like kind of that core energy to it, and then the twists and turns of you know how one specific event may come together. Those things have gotten me really excited.

Ella: 38:06
Yeah, I love that this is a little shifting back, but no, one’s giving your spiritual background, your religion and all this. I know one of the things that people sometimes get really worked up about is some people calling veganism a religion. I’m just curious, kind of, what your thoughts are on that.

Stevan: 38:28
So the etymology of the word religion. R-e is actually a prefix. It’s the prefix that we see in a lot of things to renew something and to re-lig something. Lig is actually the root for ligaments, right? So what does a ligament do in our body? It makes two bones work together, right? So you’ve got ligaments in your elbows, in your shoulders, in your knees, and it connects two major bones in your body and makes that possible. So to re-lig something in religion in its pure sense is to reconnect, in this sense, you know, humankind to the transcendent. So I think it’s actually a positive word, but you have to reclaim it, much like the LGBTQ plus community has taught us to reclaim the word queer, you know, which can be a very positive word if understood correctly. So in that sense, I think veganism can be religious in that positive sense. But when religion becomes about erecting unnecessary walls and drawing lines with those walls regarding who is in and who is out, that’s when it becomes problematic, because then it begins to create and it begins to other people and say you are not like me. And so if veganism behaves in that religious setting like sort of bad religion, then I think we are doing ourselves a great disservice as a movement when we are actually doing the opposite of re-ligging or reconnecting things. We are disconnecting things, and so if we erect massive walls and we say you’re only allowed into our special group, we’re vegans. If you do all of these things perfectly and if you don’t, if you renege on any of these things, or if you occasionally slip up, or if you are only this far along in your journey and not as far along as I am, well, you’re not actually vegan and you’re not in. I know what’s in and I’m going to guard the gate and here’s the wall and jump over it, climb over it whatever it takes to do it, but until you climb over and you meet my criteria, you’re out. Former preacher. A little thing there. But just imagine, instead take all of those walls and instead lay them flat and say, hey, look, there’s a path over there, there’s a yellow brick road, there’s a path towards something. What is that thing that we’re all sort of walking towards? Oh, reconnection with ourselves, oh, reconnection with the earth, oh, reconnection with the transcendent, oh, reconnection with the animals. What is the core of that? Well, it’s compassion, it’s empathy, it’s the capacity to see things for what they really are. And so when veganism, or plant-based living or health or whatever, it sort of sees it as a continuum, as something that we are all working towards, and that perfection doesn’t exist for anybody and it’s not about perfection in that, but it’s about kind of making sure we’re oriented towards that and then saying, look, here’s the journey, and you might be way over here, but so long as you’re oriented, and slowly, however painstakingly slowly, you’re making your way towards that core, that center, and slowly becoming more and more aware of yourself and of your surroundings and of the earth, and like kind of beginning to get a greater sense of consciousness and awareness and the interconnectivity of everything. That’s all a journey towards that, and we’re all at various stages of that journey, and so if veganism can be that where we say, hey, look like we want to reduce animal harm lower that wall and say this is a journey towards that and it’s a path and there’s arrows and there’s way markers and landmarks, and say, oh yeah, and here’s the thing. Like you’ve traveled, you’ve hiked, you’ve walked around the lake or you’ve gone from A to B, and when you’re like way far away, you’re like where are we even going? Like what are we looking for? And then as you get closer and closer and closer, you’re like, oh man, that is so gorgeous, that is so beautiful. That lake, that vista, that tree, that relationship, that experience, that food, that sexual encounter, whatever it is like. You get there and you’re like, oh my gosh, this is amazing. But until you get there, you don’t always know what it is you were after. And so I believe and this is what Planet X4 stands for is like as inclusive as possible, as absolutely inclusive and possible. And then when we say here are our boundaries, we express those boundaries as pathways, not as really difficult to scale walls. I don’t know if I’ve explained this well. I hope I have, but that’s the problem. So sometimes veganism functions like bad religion, where we just like in and out, either or you’re good or you’re bad, you’re evil, you know, and it’s like that’s really broken and painful and causes a lot of harm. So let’s not do that. Let’s instead just see people for who they are, see them as human, see them as worthy of our compassion, love and empathy, and be open-handed.

Ella: 43:37
I think you said that better than I’ve heard in a long time. That was really beautiful. Thank you for that message. I think it’s so powerful. I mean, the statistics show like the percentage of the population that’s vegan is not actually increasing very quickly at all, and I think it is part of that. And we hear you’re not really vegan. What’s you know? Oh, you did that. What are you calling yourself a vegan for? And it’s like whoa. Let’s open our arms and our hearts to everyone who’s curious. Let’s get them on board. Let’s welcome them with open arms. Isn’t that what we want, instead of criticizing and, yeah, putting those walls up? So?

Stevan: 44:18
right. So like, for example, I waited a really long time to get this tattoo and thankfully, I waited long enough to realize that there was a difference between a vegan tattoo and a non-vegan tattoo. I didn’t know this. Like I’ve been a vegan for years, I didn’t realize that there were inks and I should have because in food and dyes and all the rest of it. But I just didn’t like you don’t always compute right and I remember the first time somebody eyed me and said, was that tattoo vegan? Like, thankfully. You know, it took me like years to decide to get this tattoo and I’ve only got a couple of tattoos, like I haven’t really gone down the tattoo road very far, but it’s a really meaningful one to me and I just remember thinking to myself oh, that’s what it feels like to mess up and to have somebody call you on it, Even though I hadn’t messed up and I wasn’t actually being called on it. I remember the feeling I had when that question was asked and I was just like you got to be kidding me right, like that’s not the point and it’s like get over yourself. Like, yeah, that sucks. You know, in a perfect world which we don’t live in. Like, yeah, okay, all of these things would be abundantly clear at all times and all places, but are we there or not? And so, yeah, just as an example.

Ella: 45:24
Yeah, no, it’s a great example. I remember just being, you know, eight years old and you know vegetarian. At that point, and my kids in my class would be like, well, if you were on a deserted island and you were going to die of starvation and there was just one deer left, would you not kill and eat that deer? You know, like just trying to get me, get me to say something that was unethical or say you know so they could be like, well, ha, you’re not for real. And yeah, being you know, vegan for as long as I have it’s. Yeah, the people are just ready to figure out what you’re doing wrong. And if we’re then feeding that back to other people as vegans, discouraging people, yeah, I call that the adventure in missing the point.

Stevan: 46:10
It’s like, I mean, there’s so many cliches, right, like you miss the forest for the trees or whatever. Like you know, there’s a lot of ways that this manifests itself and we’re all guilty of it at some level of our life. Sure, sure, right, and like yeah, the reason I guess I can articulate that as well as I can is because I have experienced actual bad religion, like when it’s connected to God, and so I’ve seen, like, the underbelly of awful religion and I’ve seen the underbelly now of awful veganism as well. So, yeah, I mean, look, we’re the Planet Expo. You know there are hundreds of brands over the course of two days and in different cities, and our premise is like look, if you’ve got only one vegan product amongst many, you can bring that one vegan product. Come, bring it to our event and like but that’s the product you’re displaying. Now we take and lead with a lot of benefit of doubt and a lot of trust and a lot of like hey, you’ve said you’re going to come and you’re going to table and exhibit that particular product, but you can’t blame an entrepreneur when they have six other products that might have honey in them. They’re all kind of plant based, but they’re not vegan right, and then they have one product that doesn’t have honey in them. Just this has happened. I’m giving you a real life example. And they happen to say well, I’ve got, like you know, four other products over here you might be interested in those you know and kind of forgetting, because they didn’t necessarily make this product because they’re vegan. They just happen to be a foodie and happen to make something and they mentioned it. And then the vegan police right in like immediately email did you know that one of your table was like promoting products with honey in them? And it’s like, okay, you breathe. All of those things we talked about move our bodies, et cetera, wait half an hour, wait an hour, reply the next day, kind of thing and say, hey, thank you so much, we do our very best to make sure that your experience is safe, or sorry that this was a troubling moment. We weren’t happy about it either. That being said, you know so and so is a friend of ours and you know they’re trying really hard and they’re not where we’re at in their journey and basically go down the whole thing and like really just try to build empathy and like hit, send and guess what? Like almost nobody ever replies back You’re wrong, You’re too nice, You’re too kind and loving, you know you’re too accommodating, Like nobody. Like almost never do we get another additional reply that says no, you got that wrong, like it should just be, and it’s like okay, we did our job, Like we tried. Like you know, and sometimes somebody gets carried away because they’re not where we’re at and they have, you know. Anyways, I don’t need to repeat myself, I could be redundant, but like that’s the thing, Right, it’s a thing.

Ella: 48:51
It’s like if we can all come from this idea that everyone is doing the best they can like with the tools that they have at that moment and with the experiences they’re coming, with their own experiences, their own education, and every day is different and every you know you go to the next step and you learn something new and we’re all doing the best we can. We can just, you know, lean into that and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Like you said. I think that’s really powerful for bringing us together and I think your event does such an incredible job at just being so welcoming and so inviting and fun and bringing it all into one space, so I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’m so grateful for you for putting it on, for being here, for sharing about it. Plantedlifecom is where people can go for information. Is there anything else you’d like to leave our audience with?

Stevan: 49:43
Oh, Ella, thank you. I think I’ve said a lot. I’m grateful to be on your podcast. Congrats on years of doing this and doing it well. Thank you to your audience for tuning in. I hope you found something helpful.

Ella: 49:55
Yes, hope to see you at the Plantit Expo 2024. Thanks, steven. Thanks. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Rise and Thrive with me, ella Majors. I truly hope you found it inspiring and, if you did, please help me spread the word by leaving a rating and review on your favorite podcast player and by sharing the show with your friends. As you probably know by now, my life’s purpose is to use my voice to make this world a more conscious and compassionate place, and your reviews and shares make a huge impact. And last, I’m getting a ton of insanely positive feedback about my short and sweet monthly newsletter called the Way Short, for the Way Out is Through. I give my top five latest badass discoveries, insights and explorations, like vegan products and recipes. I’m obsessed with books and shows I’m loving and workouts that have me fired up. Head on over to my website, ellamajorscom, to sign up and check out all the other awesome resources I have for you and projects I’m involved with, including Hogs and Kisses Farm Sanctuary, where our mission is to create the best life for farm animals while inspiring compassion for all living beings. Thanks a lot and I’ll see you on the next one.


Religion, in its pure sense is to reconnect, in this sense, humankind to the transcendent. So I think it’s actually a positive word, but you have to reclaim it, much like the LGBTQ plus community has taught us to reclaim the word queer, which can be a very positive word if understood correctly. So in that sense, I think veganism can be religious in that positive sense. But when religion becomes about erecting unnecessary walls and drawing lines with those walls regarding who is in and who is out, that’s when it becomes problematic. -Stevan Mirkovich

Embarking on a plant-based journey can be as transformative as it is challenging, something Stevan Mirkovich knows all too well.

Stevan is co-owner of Planted Expo, a trade show, platform, and network designed to support you, no matter where you are on your plant-based journey.

Join me for this intimate conversation with Stevan, where we peel back the layers of his own transformation, revealing the heart and soul behind choosing a life nourished by plants.

We explore the profound impact of our relationship with food, the quiet revolution in our kitchens, and the way our plates can reflect our deepest values. It’s not just about what we eat; it’s the stories, the culture, and the love that simmer in every bite.

Steven generously shares his complex and evolving relationship with food and his body, including his profound weight-loss journey, the endlessly rewarding adventure of fatherhood, and how he came to embrace a more mindful approach to wellness.

Our discussion then turns to the philosophy of veganism, challenging the notion that it should be anything less than a progressive journey. With empathy at its core, veganism, as Steven describes, is akin to laying down walls to pave a path toward unity and understanding, leaving dogmatic approaches and exclusion behind.

We invite you to join us at one of the upcoming three epic Planted Expo events coming up in 2024, two of which I’ll be speaking at (Toronto and Seattle). LEARN MORE AT PLANTEDLIFE.COM

Official Bio:

Stevan is a co-owner of the Planted Expo, a trade show, platform, and network to connect North Americans to their local vegan and plant-based businesses offering new, innovative, and inspiring products, services, and practices. These people, companies, and organizations are the ones contributing to the movement to make our world more connected, compassionate, healthy, and sustainable for all.

Plant-based living literally saved my life. As a recovering food addict, I’ve journeyed through overeating, junk-food veganism, and finally found the life-giving ways of a whole-foods plant-based lifestyle.



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