9 Ways to Prepare for Stress-Free Holidays

xmas.jpg

If you struggle with anxiety like me, you know that the holidays can be an especially stressful time. From too-large crowds to jam packed schedules, the holidays can wreak havoc on our nerves. Below are some tips that I plan to implement for the upcoming season. I wanted to share them with all of you in the hopes that we can all have a stress-free time with our loved ones.

1.       Be present. No, I don’t mean BUY presents. I mean, stay in the present moment. Practice active listening, I know how easy it is to tune out during holiday get-togethers but you might be surprised at how rewarding it feels to be there in the moment with your loved ones.

2.       Thrift for gifts. Is money your main stressor? Make a budget and stick to it. Thrifting is great for your wallet and the environment! Shop for clothing items on sites like Poshmark. Take to Pinterest for ideas on how to repurpose items you have hardly used or simply re-gift some of those things you have never taken out of the box.

3.       Respect your limits. Don’t overbook yourself. We can’t use anxiety as an excuse to avoid all of our triggers, even at the holidays. But we can still say “no” when we feel overwhelmed or like we need some time to unwind from the holidays. There are routines that I have set in place that I feel ok bending to a certain degree, but I can’t forego my usual routines every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Know what you can and cannot handle and what you do and do not want to allow. If crowds overwhelm you, plan accordingly. Don’t go to the mall in the afternoon on a Saturday, plan to shop online or at slow times. If you know that exercising is critical to your mental health, don’t give that up.

4.       Be open to a range of emotions. Understand that the holidays bring up all kinds of emotions for different people. For some, they bring overwhelming joy and happiness but for other they signal loneliness and grief. Be kind to yourself and open to anything that might bubble up inside you. Stay self-aware so that you can cope with them as they arise. Remember to be patient and kind to others as well, we don’t know what the holidays brings up for them in their lives.

5.       Have a support system in place. We all have those people that just calm our nerves and we feel comfortable being around. Let those people know that you may need them more than usual over the holiday season. If you know you will forget to remind yourself, have them remind you to get adequate sleep and exercise. And still do fun things for you!

6.       Determine whether or not to keep family traditions. This may mean a serious conversation with your significant other or family members. Determine whether or not it is necessary to go to every event this holiday season.

7.       Prepare talking points. For some, political family discussions are our worst nightmare or biggest stress inducer. Prepare talking points ahead of time if you want to calmly spearhead the topics you know your family is going to bring up. Alternately, you can make a list of talking points that are neutral ground and things you can easily steer the conversation back on track with. You can also prepare something about how you don’t want to spoil family time with conversations that you know could make you or others upset, and ask them kindly to respect your wishes.

8.       Prepare your own food (if you have a specialty diet.)If you get antsy thinking about all of the cruelty at your family’s dining table, or you just have a sensitivity to dairy or gluten, think potluck! Tell the host or hostess that you will be bringing food options for you. They may surprise you with items they planned to make especially for you, or they may be overjoyed to have extra help in the kitchen.

9.       Prepare yourself emotionally. If someone is provoking you about your lifestyle choices, don’t stoop to their level. This is something that happens a lot to vegans at the holidays. People often question what they don’t know, questions are okay if you are comfortable with answering them. If you don’t, and they insist on answers, let them know that you would be glad to share what you know about animal agriculture, but privately and at another time. If someone is trying to guilt you, or make passive-aggressive jokes towards you, let them know that they are making you uncomfortable.

Traveling as a Vegan in Iceland

Íslenska Flatbakan

Íslenska Flatbakan

Do you feel like everyone you know is making a trip to Iceland? Iceland is definitely experiencing a boom in their tourism sector, and for good reason. When I first met Danny, he had a trip to Iceland planned. He invited me along in passing, and sent over his flight itinerary. WOW Air has SUCH amazing offers to fly directly into Reykjavik – how could I say no? I booked my flight. (And the rest is history)

Fast forward to September, and we were boarding the plane headed for Reykjavik. I had anticipated that eating vegan in Iceland would be tough, as I had read blogs and seen posts about the Icelandic diet which consists of dairy and meat. Icelandic climate was not really made for the ability to grow vegetables and fruit, and the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is steep. I had done my research and knew to shop at Budget, which is a comparable grocery chain to Aldi. I had anticipated the need for snacks so prior to the trip I had purchased 2 boxes of GoMacro bars, Go Green Nuzest bars and a large tub of PB2 that I had packed up in our checked bags.

I was grateful for the forethought to pack snacks because we rented a car and were traveling a lot on the highway in the countryside of Iceland, and there were few food options. Also, food in Iceland is fucking expensive. If you are on any kind of budget, food is where you will need to be the most frugal. Shopping at Budget is definitely my recommendation especially if you are staying at an Airbnb or a hostel that has access to a kitchen. My other suggestion would be to absolutely take advantage of your duty free allowance on alcohol. Other than that, though, there was really no reason at all for me to be concerned with food options as a vegan in Iceland. The Icelandic word for vegan is vegan – so just tell your wait staff that you need your option to be vegan. They will let you know if it is possible, or not.

Below, I am going to share restaurants that we visited and tips for traveling Iceland as a vegan.


Pasta with red sauce and vegan crumbles, all found at a Bonus! 

Pasta with red sauce and vegan crumbles, all found at a Bonus! 

Bonus (grocery store) – Here you will find all of the usual food and pantry items as any other grocery chain. I would recommend pasta, red sauce sauce, the vegan beef crumbles, vegan jelly, oatmeal, frozen veggies and couscous. Be careful with the breads – I had to google Icelandic word for milk (mjólk). You can also find soy yogurt in the refrigerated section. 

icelandfood2.jpg
icelandfood1.jpg

Gló (restaurant) – Pictured above, this is an awesome spot for vegan options, we ate here twice at two different locations. They have a great lunch special where you can get an option with 3 of their salad sides. The lasagna is amazing!

icelandfood4.jpg

Nordic Restaurant in Seyðisfjordur in the Eastern fjords – a few restaurants had closed for the off-season in Seyðisfjordur already but thankfully Nordic had a delicious in-house beet veggie patty and some falafel with fresh greens. They even have vegan avocado mouse on their summer menu – we were sad we missed it!

icelandfood6.jpg

Havarí (restaurant and music venue) - Awesome spot off the beaten path. They started as an organic farm and quickly transformed one of the barns into an eatery and music venue. They host music festivals in the summertime, and have a friendly and adorable dog. They make their own vegan sausages which I would highly recommend trying and even buying to take with you on your journey. Very simple menu with lots of root vegetables, obviously, but very delicious. Great coffee, too!

icelandfood7.jpg

Vínyl Kaffi (restaurant) – the one and only 100% vegan restaurant in Iceland. Amazing atmosphere, very fun on a weekend. They have a DJ spinning vinyl and amazing food, beer and dessert options. We both got sandwiches, very delicious and really big portions. A bit on the expensive side, but so if every restaurant in Iceland.

icelandfood9.jpg

Gott (restaurant) – We took a day trip to the Westman Islands which I would highly recommend to make time for! We went to a restaurant and just asked for one of their menu options as “vegan”. They changed it up for us and it was healthy and delicious. A lot of breads in Iceland are not vegan, so most vegetarian options will have to lose the bun or bread. In this case, we got the veggie burgers and they did away with the bun but added steamed sweet potatoes and rice. 

icelandfood10.jpg

Íslenska Flatbakan (restaurant) – BEHOLD! The first time I have been able to have cheese bread sticks since I have gone vegan. This is a small chain pizza restaurant that serve up craft pizzas and beer. Danny and I both would absolutely recommend you stop in, especially if you are a pizza lover. They have 4 vegan options to choose from, as well as the vegan cheese sticks. They have a pretty decent selection of beer as well. We still dream about this place.

Passion Reykjavík (bakery and coffee shop) - I don't have any photos from the inside of Passion, but take my word for it that it is worth stopping by if you have a sweet tooth. They have a small selection of vegan pastries but I would highly suggest that you stop in to sample one of each. It was quite busy with locals stopping in for their morning pastry and coffee, but the wait time was not bad. It is decorated quite elegantly and the pastries speak for themselves.  


Tips:

  • There are cookies in the gas station that say “Veganesti” these are NOT vegan. I learned this from another traveling vegan who made the mistake of assuming.
  • A more expensive grocery chain, Nettó, is an excellent vegan resource. We found endless amounts of vegan options.
  • Really take advantage of Bonus, there are lots of frozen food options but plenty of staple pantry items that are simple and easy to cook up. They have a health section which even includes nutritional yeast. Don’t be afraid to look around and take time looking through ingredient lists.
  • If you will be cooking, pack a couple of Tupperware with you in your checked bag or carry on. We had to get really creative with our leftover food storage. 

The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.
— Stephen Markley

Travel with confidence knowing that there are plentiful amounts of options for you as a vegan in Iceland. Look for my next blog post about Iceland where I will discuss the sights we saw, the route we took and all of our itinerary suggestions for your next trip! 

 

Tips to Live More Sustainably

Photo by @_takingmylifeback featuring reusable glass jars for prepped food storage and featuring Hummingbird Straws on the left.

Photo by @_takingmylifeback featuring reusable glass jars for prepped food storage and featuring Hummingbird Straws on the left.

This semester in graduate school I am taking an Anthropology course on Climate Change. I get the privilege of reading and watching Dr. Susan Crate’s work as an Environmental Anthropologist who has spent years documenting how people are responding to the effects of climate change. While reading through Anthropology & Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions, my inner activist has been enlivened anew. As most (if not all) of you know, Mother Earth is pretty important to me. I went vegan for the animals but stay vegan for the environment and my health as well. I refuse plastic straws, bottled water and plastic grocery bags. My partner and I are consciously scaling back on our possessions as we want to transition to tiny home life. This book reminded me that every small thing is indeed important, but sustainability cannot wait and there is more that I can be doing.


I want to kick start the “doing more” by sharing easy and simple life changes* that you can make in your own lives to live “greener” and more sustainably! Those are just buzz words for adopting practices that are less harmful to the Earth. At the end of the article I will include trusted brands and products that I use or that my Green Guru Kelly (@_takingmylifeback) uses.

  1. Reduce Energy Use – What does that even mean, right? It is as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room, set your thermostat lower in the winter and cuddle up, open the windows to allow a breeze when it is warmer out, use energy efficient lightbulbs and appliances.

  2. Shop Your Local Farmers' Market or CSA – Not only does this mean that you get to support your neighbors, you are also reducing your carbon footprint! Supermarkets are convenient and awesome and are stocked with produce regardless of the season. Unfortunately, this means that those fruits and veggies had to be shipped for a long time to reach your grocery cart. Start small by vowing to just get what you can from the farmers market and follow up with a trip to the grocery after.

  3. Say No to Disposables – Speaking of the grocery store, say no to plastic grocery bags! Stock up a few cute reusable bags to take with you to the market. You’ll be cuter and trendier AND be helping the environment. Say no to disposable cups and cutlery as well. Swing by your local Goodwill and stock up the office lunchroom with reusable utensils and mugs. If you find yourself throwing a large party, find recycled cutlery to use as a nice compromise. There are also recyclable garbage bags that are a great alternative to traditional plastic bags. You can start by just making a list of the things you throw away most often and investing in reusable products for those things first.

  4. Resell and Donate – Stop giving in to consumer culture. I know that marketing is everywhere telling you to do anything but resell and donate. Thankfully the environmental movement has breathed new life into thrifting so this is easier than it used to be. There are many vintage and thrift store options. When you do buy new, buy quality items that will last longer and support ethical clothing brands. Even H&M has jumped on the ethical train and have started selling a line of clothing that are environmentally conscious. By extending the life of any product, you help reduce dependence on disposable or cheaply made single-use products that end up in landfills.

  5. Drink From the Tap! – I grew up drinking from the tap. For us, bottled water was an unnecessary expense. Stop buying bottled water like, right now! Get a filter if you are wary of drinking straight from the tap. There are low-end and high-end filtration systems, find one to suit your fancy. Reusable bottles are again more trendy and cute and just simpler. I super love Klean Kanteen (linked below) because you can use them for water, coffee, smoothies and more. You can even get through TSA with an empty reusable bottle and fill it up with the drinking fountain when you reach your gate. Encourage your employer to install filters and offer glasses or reusable bottles at work, too.

  6. Save Water – Okay, I know I go against the mainstream in many, many ways but you do not need to shower every day. You just don’t. I know you think you are filthy but until you experience filth firsthand, know that you are very clean. We are taught to be terrified of germs, I get it. If you can’t fathom the idea of showering every other day, buy a water-saving shower head and start timing your showers.

  7. Rethink Kitchen Practices – This is still something we are working on in my household. Simple changes are things like swapping paper towels for cloth towels and using cold water when hand washing. If you aren’t into the idea of composting, no worries, just use your veggie and fruit scraps for juicing! Repurpose glass jars whenever possible and ditch the plastic straws for reusable glass ones. I was raised on Ziploc baggies but have since adopted reusable bags to haul snacks in. Opt for home cooked meals and if you do order take away, be sure to reuse the containers.

  8. Go Paperless – This is as simple as opting for electronic bills and bill pay and electronic receipts. As nice as paper wedding invitations and RSVPs can be, so can electronic versions (which is what we are opting for on our wedding). Something a bit tougher for me is switching to an electronic reader rather than paper books. The way I reached a compromise was by purchasing used books only. You can incorporate paperless and sustainable practices at work as well, encourage coworkers to use scrap paper and management to correspond electronically.

  9. Reduce Dependence On Your Car – For some, this isn’t possible. Living in West Virginia, it would be really hard for me to ditch my car as we aren’t bike friendly (yet) and public transportation leaves you wanting. However, for those in larger cities, take advantage of bike lanes and public transportation. Car pool when you can and if you are in the market for a new vehicle, check out an electric model.

In the end, you are just one person but revolution starts with small changes. Understand that if we want to leave a beautiful and functioning Earth for future generations, we must act. Educate yourself further by watching documentaries or reading books or reading more blog posts. Educate youth and involve your children in making sustainable projects fun for the family. Remember that no one is perfect and don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you aren’t making a big difference.

Rethink kitchen cabinets and kitchen storage! Follow @_takingmylifeback on Instagram for more green tips and inspiration.

Rethink kitchen cabinets and kitchen storage! Follow @_takingmylifeback on Instagram for more green tips and inspiration.


Brands I would recommend (I am in no way affiliated with any of these brands, with the exception of the tote):

*I am not including going vegan here because let’s be honest, it is not exactly simple or easy. But if you would like a blog post dedicated to the statistics and facts around why going vegan is good for the environment, drop a comment below and I will work on pooling resources to put that together for you!

 

Interview with @Carly_Bergman

carly2.png

I did a little e-interview with Carly Bergman who you can follow on Instagram @carly_bergman. She is 20 years old from Illinois living in South West Florida while she finishes up school. I like following Carly because she shares a lot of vegan products, not just food but beauty products and clothing items as well. She is passionate about animal welfare and the planet and also an advocate for #freethenipple. She confesses that when she first wanted to become vegan, there was just so much information that she felt overloaded and overwhelmed and unable to commit to the lifestyle because of how overwhelming it felt. I personally know a lot of people that feel that way, and you might relate through Carly’s story. Keep reading to learn more…


carly.jpg

How long have you been on Instagram? What is your handle?

I have been on Instagram for about six years (@carly_bergman). However, I just recently started voicing my vegan lifestyle in full force! I try to combine all aspects of veganism since I am a health-nut and environmentalist.

When did you go vegan?

At the age of 15 I started working at a vegan juice and smoothie bar. I absolutely fell in love with the idea of living the cleanest lifestyle possible. As I aged, I realized the importance of living low-waste and ethically. I believe I will always be vegan because I am equally attached to the ethical side as well as the environmental side.

What would you say sparked your interest in the community?

The health aspect was my initial interest. I love learning about medicinal herbs (especially mushrooms) that cure people of all types of diseases. I have always had an interest in the Native American healing practices, so I believe this is where my health-nut qualities stem from. I started working at a juice bar at the age of 15 and I started learning/implementing Ayurveda and TCM as my knowledge grew.

How long have you been vegan? What was your journey like?

I would consider myself vegan for 4 years. However, there is more to the story. I have eaten fish about roughly five times, but that stopped two and a half years ago. The reason why I was still eating fish was because of doctors- they had me questioning my choices and blamed my state of health because of veganism. Here is the story…

I started working at Pure Juice Café at the age of 15 and I became vegan in full force within two months of starting. I supported the movement 100% and wanted to be the best individual I could be for myself and for the planet. However, I had message overload with all of these controversies I initially had no idea about. Every shift that I worked, I learned something new about veganism. Arsenic in brown rice? Antibiotics in chicken? Oxidizing cells due to radiation? Genetically modified organisms? I panicked from the message overload. I became the vegan that refused to go out with friends that were non-vegans. I was scared of something as simple as ordering food at a restaurant and my food being cooked with too much olive oil at too high of heat (which would deplete the nutrients and therefore I would be eating useless calories). Learning all of this information too quickly (and at a young age at that) sparked an eating disorder. I HAD to eat the cleanest foods and could not fill my body with toxic conventional fruits and veggies that were at restaurants! I isolated myself and got into a dangerous routine of eating mostly raw, low calorie foods.

This mindset lasted for a couple of months and resulted in me losing a ton of weight, hair, and friends. It took a toll on my mental state and physical state. Doctors automatically told me that my hair-loss was directly due to my vegan diet. I NEEDED to eat fish in order for my hair to grow back. I NEEDED chicken for protein. I NEEDED sour cream for fats. At this point I was 16 and didn’t know what to think or who to believe. I gained all of my weight back with a vegan diet, but my hair was still falling out. They said that I at least needed to eat fish in order to see any regrowth. I ate fish about five times between the ages of 16-18, and I hated every minute of it. I automatically wanted to throw up since I knew all of the information about environmental toxins in fish, but a part of me wanted to believe that the doctors were looking out for my best interest and wanted my hair to grow back. I knew I couldn’t continue like this. Every single time I tried to eat fish, I wanted to vomit… I have an EXTREMELY guilty conscience that didn’t help this. The truth of the matter is, my hair never grew back to its full thickness which upset me for a long time. At the time, I questioned if my vegan diet was prolonging the process, but I came to the realization that it didn’t matter. I will take having thinner hair without killing animals than eating fish and destroying the oceans any day.

After blood work and exams at the age of 19, I found out that I have PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome) that causes hormone imbalances aka hair loss. This syndrome’s symptoms are actually LESSEND with a vegan diet… SCREW YOU DOCTORS! After starting to eat more raw, nutrients-dense/high calorie foods combined with Ayurvedic herbs and acupuncture, my hair started to regrow! I would not wish this experience on anyone, but it shaped who I am and made my vegan beliefs even stronger.

What are your favorite vegan YouTube or Instagram accounts to follow? Do you have a YouTube or blog?

I love @Tealixirkombucha, @planet_protein, @brenden_fitz, @elizabethmourar, @badassvegan, @claudiaprzystal @kombucharoyalty

Would you consider yourself to be an activist?

Yes. Although I have always been an advocate for animals and the environment, I recently just started stating my opinions openly on social media. I attend vigils and protests and I plan on going hardcore this year. However, I find that by leading by example on social media more people tend to listen and follow than me going to a protest and screaming at everyone wearing fur (even though sometimes this is tempting). It gets difficult remembering that I used to be that girl eating sushi wearing leather, calling myself an “environmentalist”. I was there, and so have most other vegans. I try to educate from a place of understanding…

Where are you getting your information? (Facts, statistics, etc.)

I learned most of my facts a couple years back while working with an acupuncturist who studied holistic medicine in China. She taught me a lot about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the science behind it. Because I have worked at Pure Juice Café for 4+ years, I know an abundance of information because of my boss and the holistic wizards she brings in!

(I want to meet these wizards!)

What are your favorite vegan foods or products?

I LOVE RAW FOOD. At the moment, I can’t see myself being completely raw. There are some days I eat completely raw and I do not even mean to. All I know is that when I eat raw, I feel unstoppable. My favorite vegan foods are acai bowls and raw desserts. To be honest, I have a serious carrot cake problem. It’s bad. On the cooked food scale, I love Sweet Earth Foods. They have so many burgers and seitan products to choose from #TeamSeitan.

My favorite vegan drink is KOMBUCHA. I am the kombucha queen, I will tell you that without a doubt. There is a time in my life where I was drink 4 Gt’s kombuchas a day, and that time still continues. I’m obsessed with kombucha (and all fermented foods for that matter). The new brand I am obsessed with is Tealixir Kombucha. They use holistic herbs to flavor their kombuchas which is a double whammy!

Beauty product wise, I love the makeup brand Pacifica makeup, Booda Butters lotions, Sunkissed Earth Jewelry, Nature’s Gate, Mad Hippies cleansers, and Hippy Pits deodorant.

Would you say that your page is an authentic representation of you as a person or more of an ‘internet persona’?

My page is more informative at the moment, but I try to add my touch on every single post. I wish people got to experience me in person. I love laughing and goofing around. One thing about me is that I am ALWAYS joking and laughing. I have been getting into collaborations with companies and more of the cross-promotional side of Instagram simply because I want to help expose amazing vegan brands that I personally use. I want my followers to see that veganism is possible ANYWHERE. However, I understand that some may view this as me advertising for too many companies and they might be receiving message overload, so I am trying to find a happy-medium. Overall, I think that through my Instagram people get the gist of my free-spirited self and know that I am just simply happy to be alive and having the opportunity to influence people to make healthier choices for the planet and themselves.

What hashtags do you frequently use or scroll through?

I frequently use #kombuchaqueen (obviously) as well as #vegancommunity, #kombucharoyalty and #plantbasedmuscle

What would you tell someone who is not a part of the vegan community that you think that they should know? Or what is a misconception you often hear about the community?

Some people mention that they do not want to go vegan because they do not care if animals die or if they are harming the planet. They claim it is the circle of life. However, I want people with this mindset to be selfish and go vegan to preserve their own health. NO ONE wants to feel like s*** their entire lives. They just are unaware that eating vegan for three weeks can completely change their physical/mental state. Whenever I come across someone that says they don’t feel bad about eating deer that they hunt, I ask them how their organs feel about it. That automatically gets them thinking about how frumpy and lazy they feel after consuming meats and other processed foods. It’s all about perspective.

 

10 Misconceptions About Going Vegan

Local farmers market finds

Local farmers market finds

  1. You will never get to have your favorite junk foods again. Wrong! This used to be the case but welcome to 2017. We now have restaurants entirely devoted to cooking up delicious vegan foods like pizza, manicotti, nachos, cheese platters and decadent desserts. You can even find vegan burgers next to the ground beef in participating supermarkets.

  2. You will lose weight. You might, but it isn’t a guarantee. Like I said, there are amply junk foods out there. A common misconception is that because it is vegan, it is healthy. It probably is healthier, but everything in moderation. That being said, you are guaranteed to be healthier in terms of heart health, blood pressure, cancer risk etc. but losing weight is not a given.

  3. You will be ridiculed. Often not the case. With social media and the rise of veganism, you are bound to make plenty of friends with similar dietary and lifestyle choices! There are even apps to meet likeminded individuals, or try going to a Veg Fest!

  4. It’s more expensive to eat vegan. Again, largely not the case. Think about your grocery bill, what is the one food group that costs you less than all of the others? Meat, right? You will totally be cutting this out and therefore saving yourself lots of money. There are specialty vegan food items that can be pricy, but you don’t have to buy those things or you can reserve buying those things when you catch them on sale or feel like splurging. Vegan options abound at farmers markets and Aldi.

  5. You have to go vegan overnight. Nope. You can totally cut things out one at a time and move at your own pace. For some, it’s easier to cut it all out at once but that’s up to the individual.

  6. Vegans are mean. They are human. You will find, though, that most are very compassionate and caring individuals. Often it is their passion that comes off as aggressive, haughty or even mean. Once you have this knowledge that few people want to listen to, it can be hard to maintain your cool. Most are very eager to welcome you into the vegan family and offer their own struggles, tips and personal stories.

  7. You have to become an animal rights activist. You don’t, actually. There are a variety of reasons that someone might choose to go vegan. It could be the latest trend, for the health, for the environment or for personal preference. There are also degrees of activism, a small percent of vegans are fulltime activists and some are activists in small ways, rather than out on the picket line.

  8. I only need to modify my diet. Actually, the term vegan encapsulates a lot more than just what you eat. You don’t use products that are tested on animals or that may contain animal ingredients. This constitutes an overhaul of your house cleaning supplies, the types of alcohol you drink and even the clothes that you wear. Again, you don’t have to change everything overnight. Or you can just opt for a vegan diet and forget about the rest. That’s totally up to you and your comfort level.

  9. You can’t go out to eat or over to friends’ houses. Again, not the case. There are tons of restaurant options. If you are worried about a particular restaurant, call ahead and ask if they can make you anything – usually they will have side options at the very least. As for going to dinner parties with friends, this one gets a little more tricky. You can either accept that you can’t be perfect and just try your best or you can eat beforehand or even pack your own. I have been known to do all of these. But, hopefully, you will have wicked support friends and family who make sure you have at least a couple of options. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas are always rough but be proactive and bring a vegan twist on a favorite dish and you are sure to win over the naysayers.

  10. Veganism will make you unhealthy or weak. Definitely not! There are numerous professional athletes that follow a professional diet. There are even more vegan bodybuilders, professional and amateur alike. As for unhealthy, I encourage you to read through scientific literature about plant-based diets or put on a vegan documentary touting the benefits. If you need ideas or more support, check out my blog posts on going vegan here, and here.

     

     

Why I Don't Stay at Hotels Anymore...And Why You Shouldn't Either

Tiny home on wheels in Marietta, OH

Tiny home on wheels in Marietta, OH

Greetings!

If you have ever had more than one conversation with me, you have most likely heard me talk about Airbnb. I am from West Virginia which is characteristically a very slow moving area; pop culture just takes longer to reach us here. I first used Airbnb in January of this year and have since stayed at least once per month for the last 8 months! I am in no way affiliated with Airbnb (although I wish I was) and just wanted to give an honest account of why I think Airbnb is the clear winner over traditional accommodations. I will include a link at the end that will prompt you to sign up with them if you haven’t already, it also works as a coupon and when you sign up and use your coupon, I also get my own coupon.

  1. You get to connect with real humans (not just the face of a company) I always feel like I am supporting small business when I book with Airbnb and that is super important to me. You are not just a customer or a number to these people, they genuinely want you to enjoy your stay and to enjoy the time you spend in their home. They are friendly and accommodating (or they wouldn’t list their property on the site!) and you definitely don’t have to worry about safety because it is all review based, just make sure you read through the reviews before you book and you cannot go wrong. AND you don’t have to stay in a home with the host, you have the option to rent the entire space for yourself. Some people list properties that they don’t live in full time, and those have a more hotel-like feel rather than a home feel.

  2. Which brings me to my next point: options! You have so many options of really cool places to stay. So far this year I have stayed in a tiny home, a tree house, a basement with a laser show shower, whole homes and a room inside an upscale home. Most recently I stayed (very affordable) in Arlington while visiting DC and we stayed in an apartment over a garage that was very modern. You get to decide what kind of place you want to stay in and the options are truly endless. There are lots of amenities to choose from like pet friendly, centrally located, free parking, and number of bedrooms. You almost always have access to a kitchen, and this is one of my favorite parts. As a vegan, I don’t always get to travel to veg-friendly locations and it is so comforting to know that I can bring along food or go to the grocery and be set for my trip.

  3. You get to live like a local (and have a local’s insider tips) The properties listed on Airbnb are immersed in the location of your choosing. You can stay along canals, downtown, uptown, in the suburbs. There is a certain local pride that comes from staying in someone’s home in a place that you are visiting. It becomes personal. You get to live like a local when you are there and it just becomes a more immersive cultural experience than it would be if I was staying in a sterile hotel room that looks identical to 5,000 other sterile hotel rooms. Host and hostesses are always very forthcoming with tips for their town as well. They will offer their suggestions for restaurants, coffee shops, bars, activities and they also will tell you what parts of town to steer clear of. They aren’t making any money off of their suggestions or opinions, they just want you to enjoy your time!

  4. Flexibility. Have you ever gotten into town earlier than check in and just wanted to drop off your bags and freshen up…but you couldn’t because the hotel has a strict check-in and check-out policy? Yeah, not usually the case with Airbnb. They are very accommodating. I have checked in early multiple times without issue. Each host or hostess sets their own cancellation policy, some of which can be cancelled right up until the day before without penalty.

  5. Cheaper. I save so much money. Now, there are plenty of costly Airbnb’s listed and there are plenty of affordable motels. I would prefer to stay in a very nice Airbnb for the cost of a motel. I know that it is clean and well-kept and in a great area. I don’t have to worry about what the room next to me may or may not be up to. I have never felt unsafe while staying at an Airbnb.

If you have never stayed at an Airbnb before, I hope I have inspired you to try it out. Or if you have an extra bedroom or living space, sign up to be a host! What a fun and simple way to make extra money, right? I would come stay! I am staying at 2 separate Airbnb’s in the month of August. A condo in Pittsburgh for my friend’s bachelorette weekend and a large home in Fayetteville, WV with a group of internet friends! In September, I am traveling to Iceland and booked exclusively through Airbnb. It saved us so much money and we get the opportunity to connect with locals who have already given us great suggestions on what to pack and what type of vehicle to rent. If you have never signed up and want to save some dollars, use this link: www.airbnb.com/c/kaitlynr312

Happy travels my friends!

When Life Gets Crazy

2017-07-13dogmom.jpg

As many of you probably know, I adopted a puppy. Puppies are SO cute and sweet but mostly? They are hard work. I am an avid believer that if you are not willing to sacrifice your time and your money to raise another life properly, do not do it. I refused to head to the gym after work after leaving him cooped up all day already.

I got to a point where my anxiety was flaring up really badly and I just felt very overwhelmed. It is safe to say that between full time employment, graduate school, planning a wedding for myself and 2 best friends, owning a home and raising a puppy… my gym time was getting shafted. I was making it on the weekends and my nutrition was where I wanted it but… I missed working out. I could tell that unneeded weight was starting to be put back on. I knew the gym was no longer a viable option so I decided to go back to where I started.

Home workouts are an excellent way to stay fit. Zodiac wakes up around 5 am in the morning to potty and is my daily alarm clock. Instead of putting him and myself back to bed, I have gotten back into my morning workout routine. I have decided to work my way through the Fit Girl’s Guide Bootcamp again. This is a program that I had done (twice) previously and really loved how fun, quick and killer it is. My fiancé has been joining these workouts and they are even tough on him. It is easy to knock home workouts, touting that they are not as tough but a workout is only as tough as you make it. for those 28 minutes or so, I am focused on getting in a sweat.

2017-07-13workout.jpg

I am 4 days in and already I feel so much better. I could have continued using (valid) excuses to put off working out. Instead, I chose to remember why I love to work out and how important it is to overall health and wellness. I am excited to see my body change and remind me just how strong and capable I am. I encourage all of you to do the same… life gets crazy and unruly and we don’t always have time for everything and that’s okay. But don’t forget that you are always capable of rearranging and reorganizing so that you can fit the things that you are important to you into your life.

If you want to join in on some extra fun, my girl @brigheenfit started an extra little challenge that we are tagging #2weeksonfleek which is 2 weeks of nutrition and workouts being on point (and that means no alcohol). Join us!

Onward,

K

How to Stay On Track During Vacation

You stop worrying about being ‘on track’. You let go of obsessive thoughts about food and your body. Stop letting advertising and marketing dictate how you feel about your 'summer' body. You enjoy this special time.

I spent a long Memorial Day weekend in Florida and the trip started in Orlando. My fiancé wanted to take me to this vegan restaurant that I had looked at the menu for and remembered that it wasn’t exactly super healthy vegan food. I have been trying to lose a little bit of weight and didn’t want to mess that up, so I told him that we should look somewhere else for a dinner spot. Then I realized that I was doing it again, I was missing out on an opportunity because I was too preoccupied with calories. We went to Dixie Dharma at Market on South and it was the cutest little spot. He got a fried green tomato sandwich with a side of collard greens and I had both of their taco offerings, my favorite was the Nopales taco. Valhalla Bakery is also situated inside of Market on South, and I couldn’t pass up vegan dessert! Danny got the key lime pie and I had a lemon bar (literally the most delicious lemon bar I have EVER had, but I didn’t care for the Key Lime Pie only because I don’t like KLP anyway)

Case full of vegan goodies from Valhalla Bakery!

Case full of vegan goodies from Valhalla Bakery!

 

Tips for a mindful vacation

  • Come prepared with snacks – I flew with a large bag of snacks including bananas and apples, That’s It bars, protein bars, almond butter packets, oatmeal and date balls. I was never hungry in between meals, on beach days or when there just weren’t vegan options available.
  • Stay somewhere that has a kitchen – I have said it before and I will say it again, I love Airbnb. This offers you the option of staying somewhere that has a workable kitchen so you can pick up groceries nearby and make as many meals as you wish. I typically do this with breakfast and/or lunch depending on what restaurant options are available where I am traveling. Use this link if you don't have an Airbnb account to save some money off your first stay: www.airbnb.com/c/kaitlynr312
  • Bring a reusable water bottle – I always have a water bottle. When I fly, I fly with it empty and then just fill it up at a water fountain. If I am driving then I will bring multiple filled water bottles and then just fill them back up when I get to the destination. This way I never have to worry about staying hydrated!
  • Enjoy what you choose  - if there isn’t a restaurant or food item that you really want to splurge on, don’t. But the feelings we put on ourselves of restriction, shame and guilt while on or right after a vacation are absurd. ENJOY your time. But don’t feel like you have to splurge on things that aren’t worth it to you. While it’s totally fine to be indulgent on vacation, you can still stop when full (or not). You can order 2 tacos instead of 4 (or not). You can stick to a rule of thumb for alcohol consumption (or not).
  • Eat local - find locally owned spots to support! This will usually be your best bet for healthy options and you will be supporting a person rather than a company! I love finding vegan spots this way on Happy Cow and I particularly love smoothie and juice bars.
  • Get active- take long walks, go hiking, go swimming, take advantage of the free gym, find a local yoga studio. I always feel better when I move my body, it doesn’t have to be every day of the trip but doing something to get active is a great way to honor your body and still make the best of your trip.  (or maybe you want to use your vacation as a rest period, and that is totally cool, too. Our bodies need time to rest and repair, so if you have been working out consistently and feel you want a break, take it!)

Whether you travel for pleasure once a year or multiple times a year, you are allowed to enjoy them all. Don’t restrict and punish yourself for enjoying one of the most fun and delicious parts of any culture – the food! I know I can be pretty hard on myself, feeling like I 'back tracked' but honestly? I wouldn't trade the memories and experiences and tasty food for the ~5-10 pounds extra. Life is so much more important than a dress size or number on a scale, its about feeling your most free, your most happy...your most you.

 

Life Is Good

Hi!

I just thought I would give a little life update so hopefully you will excuse me slight absence…

Life has just been really, really good. Not really good as in perfect but really good as in pure joy. As you know, I am a graduate student, so that takes up a good bit of time. I was recently engaged, and I constantly have wedding planning on the brain. (Even though we are like 485 days out...)

I have gained a bit of ‘happy weight’ which was making me feel a little bit ashamed, so I think that is partly why I was withdrawing sharing photos. I KNOW, I know. It’s silly and it happens, but I just felt like I let myself down and let all of you down… I still workout at least 5 times per week and am quite active, but I had let me nutrition slip. This was mostly due to going through the ‘bulk’ in winter to gain muscle and then growing accustomed to eating more food, then I was going out to eat a bit more and drinking a bit more. I want to get myself back onto a more disciplined plan, not because I think I look bad now, but because I just feel better when I fit better in my clothes, and they have started to get a little snug. I am going to be doing this ‘cut’ by replacing one snack per day with a kombucha and watching my portions. I am aiming for around 1800 calories per day until I notice that my clothes are fitting better, then I will readjust for high calories for maintenance. This is something I will definitely keep everyone updated about through Instagram as I had a lot of interest in how the kombucha was affecting my body and what changes I was noticing!

Largely, I no longer feel the need to escape my life by working so hard on getting content for my Instagram or blog. Yes, I still enjoy it and love all of you, but I also am really loving staying present in my life. I like going on adventures and not having to spend hours of daylight getting good photos etc.

I am sure that I will be re-inspired soon and will be back to regularly updating the blog but until then, you know where to find me…And please if you have a topic or something in particular that you would like to hear from me about, comment or message me and let me know!

How To Stay Motivated + Prioritize

image1.JPG

A lot of people often wonder how I stay motivated. I have had women marvel at the fact that I am so able to juggle social media presence, blogging, school work, career, social life and love life and still have time for health and fitness.

Don’t get me wrong, by nature I am a very self-motivated person. When I want something, I will move mountains to have it come to fruition. On that same note, I need you to understand that you cannot do everything at 100%. You cannot give yourself 100% to health and fitness and also be 100% with your kids or with your career, whatever it is. You have to choose to split yourself accordingly, you have to make priorities.

When I was working out twice per day I was not spending any time with my significant other at that time. There was a disconnect in that relationship that I was choosing to avoid and was instead focusing my energy and resources into other areas. Understand that just because someone seems ‘goals af’ does not mean there ENTIRE LIFE is goals. They may just have different priorities than you right now.

Prioritizing is the number one way that I stay motivated. It is not through looking at photos of women that are ‘goals’, it is not Pinterest quotes or some secret that only myself and a few women seem to possess. No, for me, prioritizing is the mechanism that allows me to operate across all of my obligations and hobbies, wants and needs. I have to constantly check in with myself to find what needs to be done versus what I want to be doing.

Sometimes I get in a super quick workout because I know that I will mentally feel healthier if I spend more time getting my home organized, or spending that time with my fiancé. Sometimes (often) I choose to focus on writing a blog post while at work or knocking out some required reading for a class. There is NOT enough time in the day to give all of you to everything. Put self-care consistently as one of your top priorities.

It’s okay to take days off from certain responsibilities. It’s okay to constantly be re-prioritizing. It’s okay to realize your priorities need to be heavily reassessed. Allow yourself some wiggle room, set some boundaries, lean in…This is where we grow.

The Importance of Self-Love - An Interview With @Brigheenfit

Find Bridget on Instagram @brigheenfit

Find Bridget on Instagram @brigheenfit

I met Bridget through Instagram (duh) and have come to consider her a friend. She continually inspires me with her outlook on life. She is fun-loving, kind and down to earth. If you struggle with balance? Follow this girl. She gets it. Our fitness journeys are really similar, so I feel very connected to her, but different enough that I think many of you will benefit from hearing what she has to say... enjoy!

What is your name and How old are you? Bridget, 24 

How long have you been on Instagram? I began my fitness Instagram in January of 2014.  I remember being home for Christmas and talking about my new year's resolution with my mom.  Every year I would have the same goal to"lose weight", and I decided that this would truly be my year.  I decided to make the Instagram to hold myself accountable. (If I could go back in time, I would have changed my goal to being healthy and strong!)

What is your go-to healthy meal? What about your go-to cocktail? I'm a huge breakfast person!  I will seriously eat breakfast foods no matter the time of the day.  Something I usually make would be egg whites topped with feta cheese, Simply Potatoes hash browns, bell peppers and onions, and Lightlife Veggie bacon strips with side of reduced sugar ketchup! Go-to cocktail? 98% champagne with 2% OJ!  

 What would you say sparked your interest in the community? Nothing seemed to work in terms of me reaching any type of fitness goal.  At first I just wanted to lose weight.  This was something I would dream about, wish for, cry over all the time, yet I never had a plan to execute it.  I remember thinking, nothing will change if I change nothing.  My fitness account was a platform I could post "proof" of what I was eating and what I was doing to be active.  Then I began making connections with women all over the world with the same struggles and aspirations, and they kept me motivated and inspired me.  I never knew that making an fitness account would change my life, but it did.

What is your best advice for someone who is struggling with comparison and negative self-talk?Our parents/guardians didn't grow up with social media.  They could avoid beauty magazines easily.  Us?  We have these platforms at our fingertips to not only use to help us, but to unfortunately tear us down.  I sometimes can't help scrolling through my IG feed and comparing myself to these beautiful women, or being worried of my boyfriend doing the same thing.  My best advice?  Someone else's beauty does not take away from yours.  You are seeing highlight reels of people's lives.  We're all human, we all have "flaws", we all have things we don't like about ourselves that other's admire.  I use to feel competitive towards other females, but now I realize we all need each other to feel loved, to feel empowered, to feel HAPPY.  I want every single person on this Earth to find true self love.  That would have a direct positive impact on any relationship they have with others.  As for the negative self-talk, it might be cliche, but if you wouldn't say it to your best friend you shouldn't be saying it to yourself.  Instead of pointing out what you don't like about yourself, decide goals you want to achieve that will help you love yourself more (mentally and physically). 

What does being 'body positive' mean to you? How do you practice that? This is so important!  I've been unhealthily heavy, I've been unhealthily underweight, and I am where I am at now.  I will tell you this, at every stage I had something that was bothering me, something I wanted to "fix".  I still struggle with this, but I am at a much better place now.  Body positive used to mean that I would look in the mirror and be in love with the way I look.  Now, body positive means loving my body for all that it does for me.  I went from not being able to jog for a straight minute to being able to run 5k's for fun, from not being able to do a single push up to being able to do burpees.  I can now hike without being exhausted, paddleboard without losing balance, climb over a fence when I'm running from the police... just kidding.  But seriously, our bodies are amazing and do so much for us.  I finally began to feel guilt.  Not for having cellulite and stretch marks, for having belly rolls, or for having a little chub by my arms when I wear a push up bra (AKA for being a human)-- I felt guilty for being so harsh and mean to a body that has done nothing but carry me through my best and worst days.  I decided loving my body doesn't mean just loving the way it looked, but fueling it with foods that will make it healthy.  I practice this every day by finding balance.  For redefining what the word "flaw" is that society has driven into my brain since I was a little girl.  I think I am beautiful, and I don't think that is wrong.  I would love for every man and woman to feel that way.

blog2.PNG

 

What has been the biggest breakthrough for you personally in your health journey or what would you most want someone to understand about your story? The importance of self respect and self love.  I've always been told, "You must love yourself first before being able to love anyone else" and I just never actually understood it (I thought I had).  Because I didn't respect or love myself the amount that we all should, I found myself dependent on being in a relationship so that I didn't feel "alone" and dependent of feeling accepted by my peers, whether they were kind, genuine people or not.  I ended up in a horrible relationship with a boy that did not respect me.  He looked down on my friends, isolated me, tore down my self esteem, controlled what I did, what I wore, and who I would hang out with.  The worst part of it all was I lost myself.  I didn't recognize who I saw in the mirror.  I faked happiness when I would see people, I would cry every single day, and I put up with someone who belittled me and called it love.  I cannot put into words what fitness has done for me.  When I began to work out and eat healthier for ME, I began to create a healthy relationship with myself.  It sometimes brings me to tears thinking back on who I use to be.  I wish I could hug her and let her know it's going to be okay.  Then one day, I began to see results and I couldn't believe it.  I remember sharing my excitement, but this person I was in a relationship with told me to delete my account, that I just wanted attention, and asked me if I was trying to be more attractive for other people.  That was the moment it clicked.  I realized that I am starting to care for my body, to make it healthier, and yet I am doing nothing for my mind.  I am putting up with a dark shadow that is trying to stop me from being the best version of myself.  That was the day I decided to never talk to him again.  That was the day I found out how tough I truly was.  That was the day I found out what self love and respect really meant.  That was the day that changed my life forever.  I now have an amazing relationship with my parents, have the most supporting, caring friends, and found the love of my life who reminds me how proud he is of my everyday.  

If you find yourself in a relationship, whether it be a friendship or romantic, that brings nothing but negativity, that doesn't support you being a kinder, healthier version of yourself, that talks down on you, or makes you lose a sense of who you are- please get help.  I promise you that you have control over this, that there are people willing to help you, that you can have the life you've always wanted and that you deserve.  And if you do feel alone, you can always reach out to me. Life is too short to be miserable every single day.  You deserve happiness!

 

How To Tell You Met 'The One'

I thought I knew what love felt like. I have loved before, I had considered marriage with another previously.

Coming from a broken marriage, I was always prepared to fly solo here in this world. I never really NEEDED a significant other.

I partied like the world was ending and drank like my life depended on it. Nights consisted of bar crawls and drinking competitions and men whose names I sometimes remembered. I had no real respect for myself or for my body. I let men disrespect me and I looked to feel worthy through the attention of men.

My mom never dated or remarried after my father so the idea of a man was not a constant in my life from my youth. Therefore, I always subconsciously feared abandonment. The men who existed in my love life all seemed as though they had potential, they all seemed like they could be good enough. You know, I could make it work. They weren’t necessarily horrible, I was happy most of the time.

I always figured it was my daddy issues that were part the problem, or that my vast imperfections just wouldn’t allow me to know the love that I listened to others tell about. I have been blessed to date some really great men, but it never quite worked out.

Little did I know I was not the problem at all. The reality of the situation was those people were not meant to be with me and I was not meant to be with them. It’s as simple as that. I know that you have heard it 500 times before, “when you know, you know,” but it really is true. You can never understand what that really means until you FEEL it. If you wonder if you have ever felt that, you haven’t. If you find yourself questioning, then this is not it for you.

I don’t think that your soulmate is the other half to your whole. I adamantly believe you should be whole all on your own. Your soulmate is whole as well, and together? You will complement one another perfectly. But the best relationships are not rooted in magic carpet rides. Rather, they are rooted in chaos and in unexpected crossroads; somewhere between the bliss and the burdens. Somehow my fairy tale has come to include grocery runs, dishes and house projects. Your fairytale must be able to endure heartache, hazards and health risks. Forget the fantasies and embrace reality— because that is truly where happily ever afters flourish most.

It's really hard to articulate something that is such a gut instinct. There is no too fast, or too slow. Like everything in this life, love looks and feels and moves at a different pace for everyone. I can only say that all the weird coincidences supported how I feel, the way we ride the same wavelength, the way he makes me feel alive, supported, loved, peaceful, challenged, admired, lucky, that we both just know.


Here’s how to tell if you are really with the right person:

  1. They love like you do – If you don’t know your love language, I suggest taking the free quiz and reading up about it. This is something I definitely agree with and believe in. Your person will love like you do, because otherwise, you will just be spending your whole life convincing them to change instead of being enveloped in a love that already feels like home.

  2. That grow together type of love – You will feel confident that your love will grow as you do. That no matter how many chapters will be written in your book, they will be there to read each page, to stand by you through life’s many seasons. They don’t feel threatened by the unknown of the future. While you may not see eye to eye on everything, you have similar life goals where it matters. You both want to be moving in the same direction.

  3. It’s comfortable – There is no struggle to be smarter or funnier or more beautiful. You don’t feel like you need to be The Cool Girl or The Girl Next Door. You don’t want to be anyone but yourself around them. And they are just being themselves around you. It’s almost like you have known them before, they are so familiar.  

  4. Unprecedented passion – The chemistry will be 100… in case you were wondering where your sex drive may have been your whole life. This passion doesn't always mean sex, it can make holding hands feel electrified as well. It is not just a sexual chemistry, that you can find all over, this is a spiritual chemistry, your souls are connected.

  5. Intense honesty – Your love is made true and simple by the amazing communication that comes from a place of honesty. You don’t have to be fearful of being vulnerable because they are matching that same honesty and vulnerability. You want them to know all the parts of you, about your day. This honesty will build a strong foundation for trust and connection.

  6. There is more than love – If you have ever loved someone before and it just didn’t work out, was there a lot of love? Probably. Love alone just is not enough. When you find your person you will love them fiercely, but you will also admire them. There will be a deep level of respect. There will be aspects to this relationship that give you confidence that it will carry you through the good and the bad.

  7. Hashtag blessed – You just feel really fucking lucky. You feel like you stepped outside when everything was going right. You wonder what you did to deserve this level of love. You know some people go their whole lives looking for THIS level of love, it feels so magical, and you just feel overwhelming grateful to have found them. This same feeling will also push you to want to be your best self.

  8. Your heart and gut are on the same page – They both just know, This Is It. You and your person commit to each other whole-heartedly and without reservation. You both just KNOW and therefore don’t have to wonder.

Vegan Journey Part 2 (with tips)

via Reddit.com

via Reddit.com

Decide what is easier for you: slow transition or cold turkey. I think this is mostly based on the type of personality that you have. I was vegetarian for a long time before I made the switch to fully vegan but once I decided I was going to do it, I got rid of all foods that were not vegan. Instead of throwing them away, I gave them to friends or coworkers and some things I dropped off at the local shelter.

Favorite recipes:

and Indian food is super fun to make! Curry, chickpea masala etc.

Favorite YouTube channels:

  • FromMyBowl on Instagram – Caitlin Shoemaker on YT
  • The Vegan Solution
  • Banana Blondie 108
  • High Carb Hannah
  • Plantriotic

Favorite books:

  • An Idiot’s Guide to Plant Based Nutrition
  • Victoria Moran – Main Street Vegan
  • The China Study

Documentaries:

  • Forks Over Knives (also have good books too)
  • Crazy Sexy Cancer
  • Vegucated
  • Food Matters
  • Cowspiracy
  • What The Health

Favorite Pantry Items:

  • Beans (black beans, chick peas, adzuki beans, navy beans)
  • Lentils - I find that I prefer red
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Square Organics Protein Bars (K8CANRELATE for 15% off)
  • Raw nuts (walnuts, Brazil, pecans, almond, cashews)
  • Unsweetened apple sauce
  • Cereal (puffed millet, Kashi Sweet Potato Sunshine)
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Grains (millet, rice, bulgur)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, hemp, sesame)

If you want to go out to eat, there is an app called Happy Cow that you can pay for or use online for free. This will tell you what restaurants in an area are vegan friendly. Asian food is always going to have something for you whether that just be rice and steamed veggies, they typically will always have tofu as well.

There are a ton of dairy free alternatives for things like yogurt, ice cream, cheese and milk obviously. I love the Silk yogurt and I LOVE the So Delicious cashew milk ice cream (it is SO GOOD lol) I also use the Earth Balance vegan butter (rarely but sometimes recipes call for it) so it’s just good to have in the kitchen. I have heard great things about Kite Hill cheese and Daiya is good if you have a craving for pizza or for a melty cheese sandwich, but it is not good just eaten plain (without heat)

Also I think the biggest thing you can understand is that it will be a growing and learning process. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up!

Vegan Journey Part I

My earliest memories are of my deep love of things that cannot speak. I seriously remember having so many imaginary friends, having entire conversations with inanimate objects, and fiercely loving all plant and animal life. I was just born with this yearning to make everything feel loved, especially the things that aren’t getting love from other places. I would try to repair severed worms, I would scoop dead birds off the pavement and bury them (needless to say my mom never knew about those instances, don't tell her). 

Vegetarian When I was 13 I made the decision that I wasn’t going to eat meat largely because I discovered PETA and couldn't bring myself to continue. I did most of my cooking for myself so my mom agreed she would buy vegetarian substitutions for me. I immediately cut out beef, pork and turkey. I took a bit longer with fish and chicken. Fish was the last thing to go. I ate a lot of imitation products back then and obviously wasn’t really concerned with ‘clean eating’ because I was a teenager and that wasn’t the kind of household I was brought up in. I still ate eggs and dairy but never drank or used milk.

I was VERY passionate about animal rights. I signed every petition. I saw every question about my diet as the start of a debate. I felt very deeply that I needed to spread the message about what was happening to the Earth and to these animals because of Big Agra and cattle farming. As I got older, I let my passion for animal rights fizzle. I just stopped caring and educating myself on the issues. Knowledge is a heavy burden to bear sometimes, being apathetic is easier.

Vegan Fast forward a bit and I am 25, I have fallen in love with health, nutrition and fitness. I started finding plant based accounts on Instagram and my interest was piqued. I started reading books on vegan nutrition and lifestyle (Main Street VeganThe Kind DietThe Idiot’s Guide to Plant Based NutritionForks Over KnivesThe Starch Solution) and watching a few documentaries on Netflix (Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy) and I felt that old flame blaze again. I felt really disappointed in myself, why didn’t I make the switch sooner? Why did I stop loving? The answer was that when I stopped loving myself, my ability to love and help others stopped, too. I let that disappointment go and decided on May 1st that I was officially vegan. I am still transitioning household items and clothing over to vegan.

I was a vegetarian until I started leaning towards the sunlight.
— Rita Rudner

Things I have noticed so far:

Pros

  • My nails are a lot stronger, and are growing faster, as is my hair (crazy right? Dairy Inc. would like for you to think the opposite!)
  • My bowel movements are again very regular and pain free, bloating and gas are now to a normal minimum! (even though all I eat are fibrous foods)
  • I have developed a MUCH healthier relationship with food
  • Rarely, if ever, sick.
  • Trying lots of new and yummy foods and recipes, there are so many abundant and exotic options you don't realize until you cut out meat and dairy.
  • I don’t actually miss the things I thought I would (ice cream, sour cream, cheese) and if I do, there are awesome vegan substitutions

Cons

  • It is true that it is more difficult to go out to eat if you live in a rural area, but even in West Virginia we have a hand full of awesome restaurants that provide vegan options. AND there is an app for that! (Happy Cow) Which is great for people that travel a lot.
  • I often feel like I am an inconvenience to meat eaters or to friends who have to accommodate me (but seriously, fuck that line of thinking) 

Be sure to check back next week, I am going to post all of my favorite books, documentaries, Instagram pages, YouTube Channels, recipes and more along with my personal tips on how to transition to a whole foods, plant based lifestyle.

Why I Stopped Wearing Makeup + Skincare Routine

makeup.PNG

I started 2017 resolving to be free. I knew before the clock struck midnight on December 31 that this would shape up to be the most magic-filled year of my life thus far. I had no idea just how right my intuition was. This freedom has extended into areas of my life that surprised me. Like into my self love practice. . 

I realized that I had come to only truly feel beautiful when my makeup was applied and looking flawless. When exactly I had that realization, I couldn't pinpoint. I don't recall there being a single earth shattering moment, but rather, a culmination of days and emotions and events that reminded me that self love extends above the shoulders. 

One morning, after a particularly blissful 6 am yoga class, I decided I didn't feel like putting makeup on for work. I actually felt like I looked really radiant and beautiful. This marked the first day in over 2 years at this job that I would go sans makeup. I had this day built up in my mind, I would receive sideways glances, comments from co-workers about how tired I looked, or be peppered with questions wondering if I was sick or what was wrong. Our minds do that, don't they? They set the stage for the worst. That didn't happen. I received one comment about looking tired, and I let it go. 

For all intents and purposes, I was tired. Tired of carrying the weight of a woman that I felt like I had to be. Tired of living a life that did not represent who I was or wanted to be. Exhausted from the burden of denying my soul freedom. Maybe you're thinking, "Kaitlyn... it's makeup. Can you stop being so dramatic?" But for me, it wasn't the makeup itself... it was all of the reasons behind it, all of the symbolism that covering myself up carried. I don't know that I ever dated a man who saw my face without makeup within the first month of being together. And then, somehow, this one came along and we decided to go to a spin class for the first date. I had a choice, I could just be myself or I could have my safety blanket. I chose to show up that day, just as myself. I would like to think that one day, years from now, I will remember that all of the magic that came after started with that small but significant decision. 

It's been about a little over a month now, and I rarely wear makeup. My skin hasn't been this clear in months. I have received more compliments about how I am radiant and glowing than I have possibly ever received in my life. I can now proudly say, this is what I look like. That extends to many areas of my life, this is who I am. When you meet me, feel confident in understanding that I will no longer squash myself to make you feel comfortable, or to fit your expectations. 

Don't be fooled, it wasn't a comfortable feeling, stepping into that vulnerability. A naked face felt like a naked soul. When we are able to lean in, when we choose bravery, when we say fuck the fear? That is the space that the most growth takes place. That is where the magic happens. Your mind will build up scenarios where you will receive negative comments or people will talk behind your back or everyone you meet will think you aren't exquisite, and that's a bunch of bullshit. You don't need anyone in your life that holds that kind of opinion about you. You be you and let the rest of the world adjust. I encourage you to let go of your comfort blankets, slowly at first if you need. Maybe you would like to start a No Makeup Challenge? 7, 14 or 30 days without makeup. You ARE beautiful without it. You don't need it. Yes, it's fun. Yes, it's a creative outlet. If you are using it as a means to feel pretty or beautiful, I would recommend stepping away for a time.

Let your skin breathe. Let your soul heal. 


Current skincare routine - once when I wake up and again before bed:

  • TULA cleanser with my Clarisonic Mia 2 on high setting and a sensitive skin brush head
  • Witch Hazel toner (that I found on Amazon)
  • Moisturizer, I like First Aid Beauty or TULA
  • Twice per week I will do a clay mask (I use whatever I have on hand from my ipsy subscription) and exfoliation

I still enjoy doing a full face of makeup for some events, it's a creative outlet for me. I do wear a couple of products to work on the daily, just because I feel it enhances my beauty and I am no longer hiding behind it. But I have to be careful to check in with why I am changing my appearance. It's ok to do so, just make sure you are checking in with yourself first.

Natural makeup routine:

  • Colourpop Cosmetics eyebrow pot in Bangin' Brunette + Anastasia Beverly Hills brow definer in chocolate
  • Mascara sometimes - sometimes not
  • Colourpop Cosmetics highlighter in Lunch Money, Wisp or Candy Man.
  • Moisturizing lip balm, sometimes a lippie from Colourpop or Tarte if I'm feeling sassy

 

I have had enough with not feeling enough

Our job is not to sell people on loving us. It’s to be loved for simply existing as the spectacular human we were born as, and to give that same kind of love back.
— Mark Groves

“I gave my best and I’m just not good enough”

“I’m not hot enough to pull off this dress”

“If he doesn’t love me, then I just must not be good enough”

“I’m not fun enough to make new friends”

Why do we do this? Why do we diminish our value? Who told us we weren’t worthy of electrifying connection that LASTS? Who made us believe that we aren’t stunning, staggering, breathtaking?

The answer is complicated and varied. Most of us were taught that we are only lovable based on whether others love us. For me, it stems to the relationship (or lack thereof) that I had with my father. For you, it could be something else. We have to recognize this flawed way of thinking we have become so accustomed to. Once we identify that we have these patterns of thought, they can be addressed.

The only way that I know to combat unworthiness is through unwrapping who you are at your core and learning to love that. Stop trying to hide your true self. Stop shuffling through all of these masks that we feel that we need to wear so that our souls remain tucked away. Let go of trying to be someone you aren’t. Stop shoving yourself down to fit inside a particular mold. It will feel scary, it will be hard. Vulnerability takes a level of courage that we don’t naturally have as adults, it has to be cultivated and practiced daily. You absolutely have to sit in a quiet place and soul search and read books and watch videos and talk to trusted peers about what self-love looks like, and decide that you are worthy of your own affection and unconditional love. I suggest Brene Brown above all other references as well as Neghar Fanooni.

There is so much RIGHT about you. HI did you hear me? Stop zooming in on your perceived flaws, start appreciating and showing gratitude to your strengths. There is so much more right with you than there is wrong with you. Write something new down every day that you love about yourself. Banish that negative self-talk. You are funny enough to tell that joke, you are smart enough to get into that program, you are wonderful enough to attract equally wonderful life partners. When you feel afraid to share your soul in a new relationship because they might not like what they see? We have to walk away from that line of thinking. “You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” Believe it. Share it.

You are not alone. We ALL have these thoughts in some form. We all go through the ups and downs of life. And even still, if we don’t actively practice our self-love and use our tools to combat shame demons, those self-deprecating thoughts will still brew under the surface. Make connections with like-minded individuals, walk away from unhealthy people in your life.

Stop comparing. When you feel like you should be further ahead in life than you are. When everyone else is getting married and starting families and you’re still living with roommates. When those girls look better in bikinis. When friends are taking vacations and you’re still living paycheck to paycheck. Stop worrying about the script of someone else’s life and start focusing on the life you want to be living. Find patience with yourself and in the Universe. You are exactly where you need to be. Everything is unfolding exactly as it should.

You will always have critics. This is just life. Hurt people hurt other people. Be a light to this world, get to a place where you love yourself so much that you can’t help but to share that even when someone says something to hurt you. Do not tie your worth to the words of others. Do not tie your worth to anything else. Your worthiness doesn’t have a damn thing to do with your age, weight, height, number of blemishes, number of degrees, paycheck or how far along in life someone thinks you should be. Know that.

Disappointment is a part of life. We will fail. We will have heartbreak. You can’t hide from life because of the what if. WHAT IF someone judges you for being weird? WHAT IF someone judges you for the way you look? Well WHAT IF someone thinks you are the most exquisite being they have ever come to lay eyes on or know? Shift your focus. Understand there will be disappoints and that disappointment isn’t exclusive to you. Fuck the fear and start living a loving and fulfilling life that you always dreamed for yourself.

I’m not an expert. I have my own feelings of unworthiness that still bubble up to the surface and take me by surprise. But I am choosing to walk away from these feelings of unworthiness, for good. We have to stay conscious in our efforts to counter the negative self-talk with awareness and kindness. It’s not easy to be authentic and open with our hearts in a society that seems to value the opposite. It takes a level of courage to peel back your layers and show up saying HEY this is who I am. I’m here to encourage you to know yourself, your TRUE self, and learn to love her. Then I invite you to show up authentically at home, in new or existing relationships, with yourself, at work, at school, on social media. It’s going to feel scary, there’s a lot more at stake, sure. But just watch how your life will REALLY start to get amazing. The right people will start to enter your life, the wrong people will slip out stage right. Your heart and soul will expand in ways you have never before taken the time to imagine.

You be you and let the world adjust accordingly. YOU ARE YOU AND THAT IS ENOUGH.

Asheville, NC

Reasons I love Asheville: Vegan things. Art. Good vibes. Good times. Hippie life. Food. I have heard it referred to as East Coast Portland.

Exploring downtown is great, everything is pretty easy to walk to. (Uber and Lyft are abundant as well as public transit) If you aren’t used to walking, come prepared and wear comfortable shoes as some parts are a bit hilly. There is an abundance of things to do but it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming big city. It has a great balance of city versus nature as it is nestled in the mountains. I love all of their microbreweries and the convenience with which you can walk between them. Art studios, cool shops and great restaurants. There are lots of live music venues and even some sake, kombucha and wine offerings.


Abeja’s Went here for breakfast and they had a couple of vegan options. I went with the vegan platter and wasn’t really impressed. My friend got the vegan burrito and really enjoyed it.

Bean An all-vegan restaurant. It was my first time trying jackfruit (taco form) and I absolutely loved it! I got a side of collard greens and also kale. The way that they had cooked the collard greens was outstanding, I seriously licked the bowl. I tried a bite of their Reuben which was very yummy (but I have to say I prefer the one at Laughing Seed) I also tried their homemade ranch dressing which was thick and delicious. They have a ton of options and I definitely want to try it again sometime.

Early Girl Eatery This is near Laughing Seed (one of my faves), it looks really cramped when you walk inside but it opens into a larger dining area. Not a vegan restaurant but they do have vegan options, I went with the granola for breakfast and it was very filling and yummy. I remember seeing some vegan lunch options as well. Great staff, free coffee while you are waiting to be seated for breakfast… Perfect for Sunday morning as most other restaurants are closed or open late for brunch.

image8.JPG

Laughing Seed Café* Located in my favorite little corner of downtown. Love the front patio space for a nice day. They have a lot of vegan options and tons of vegetarian options that can easily be made vegan and I also highly recommend their brunch menu. Vegan biscuits and gravy? To die for! Their ginger dressing is amazing too. I also have had their raw bowl and it is BOMB. They make their own kraut and it is super yummy. I have had a bite of their version of the vegan Reuben featuring Daiya cheese and it was very tasty. Next time I want to try one of their smoothies because they always look so good coming to other tables.

Mojo’s Fun little spot downtown! Very laid back and chill. Great for music as well. I wish I would have checked out their Sunday brunch as it seems like it has a big draw. As we went Sunday evening they were out of a lot of menu items but they made it work for us. Vegan friendly. The burgers are highly recommended by meat eaters as they are locally sourced etc.

Nectar* GOOD LORD. I love this place. It is not centrally located to downtown but is accessible and has plenty of parking. There is a yoga studio upstairs. They have awesome breakfast and lunch options. LOVE their vegan sloppy joe. But my favorite is definitely their smoothies, juices and raw granola. I dream about this raw granola ya’ll. I think my favorite smoothie is their maca chai or the berry. All good though depending on your mood! The vibe inside is on point, so much seating. The bar top is great. The guy that runs it is super friendly. Okay, okay I am going to stop gushing but seriously just go here and eat all of the food. And get some juice to go!

image2 (4).JPG

Plant (note that they are only open for dinner service, we kept trying to go at odd times) More of an upscale vegan eatery. I had the ‘cheese’ plate and the fried plantains and my friend had the Portobello steak.  I know there are vegan cheese products on the market, but where I live they aren’t readily available and I generally try to avoid buying these replacement products. So for this reason, I absolutely LOVED this cheese plate. It was indulgent in all of the ways that I needed it to be. The ambiance inside is great, perfect for date night. Not overly impressed with the options but still a great little spot. It isn’t downtown but they have plenty of parking.

Vortex Donuts* Vegan donuts. Delicious. Great staff. Cool space. Go. I think my favorite is the blueberry compote donut or the plain jane vanilla glazed donut. Drooling thinking about these guys. Okay but really, they have a ton of non-vegan donut options all of the time, they don’t do a full stock of vegan donuts like they do the regular so you might want to call ahead and make sure some crazy Instagram lady didn’t buy all they had left. (who does that!? :P)

White duck taco If you do go here I definitely recommend eating in the courtyard out back. They usually have some local beer on tap and you can veganize any of their taco options by substituting tofu and eliminating cheese if need be. Very accommodating. I went for the Thai peanut taco with tofu and it was very delicious and fresh. I also had the Banh Me and wasn’t super impressed but it was still a fun little taco. Great chips and salsa. Check it out for lunch or for a quick snack.

Dobra Tea Cozy and bohemian inside, everything you would want a tea bar to be. You find a spot either at the window bar, tables or cushioned seating and when you are ready to order, ring your bell for service! I loved that everything is served in various pots and cups rather than all matching. I love that eclectic feeling. This was a great alternative if you aren’t into, or are tired of, the bar scene. They also have cookies and those types of little bites, I didn't try any so I can't speak for the taste!


Bars

  • Thirsty Monk is always a fun atmosphere – check out upstairs and downstairs too for a different vibe than the main floor!
  • Go down around Asheville Brewing Company and do the whole walking tour of all the microbreweries. If you love beer, you won’t regret it! So fun. There are plenty of little maps to show all of the locations and they are all super close together so no worries about driving between them.
  • Battery Park Book Exchange is located inside of the Grove Arcade. The building itself is amazing, I absolutely love the architecture. There is a used bookstore inside that also doubles as a wine and champagne bar. (they also have coffee and bagels so please don’t miss out on this cool spot just because you don’t want to go for alcohol etc. go any time they are open!) This is literally the place of my dreams. There are so many nooks and crannies to snuggle up in with a book, a loved one and a glass of your choice or just to spend some time browsing for a good read. My new obsession is the champagne cocktail they have created based on Hemingway’s favorite drink. They give you your receipt inside of a children’s book when you close your tab, how cute is that!? (we got Dumbo! :P) If you are a romantic and/or a bibliophile, this is a MUST.

River Arts District This part of town is being developed and is up and coming and possibly my favorite part of Asheville. Definitely check out all of the art studios (if that is your jam) and the amazing mural work. Free and fun. I can get lost in looking at art so for me this is great. Next time I go down I definitely want to check out Wedge which is a brewery they are working on opening down there and it looks like an awesome spot. Lots of outdoor seating. Love finding excuses to visit again ;)

Asheville Yoga Center Best place to drop in for a class. The staff is helpful and understanding. They have their list online so you can either sign up that way or just go in person and pay. I did the latter and it was easy and hassle free. DO THE YOGA!

Outdoors SO much room for activities! If yoga isn’t your thing or it’s just too pretty to be inside the studio, get out in the woods. Go to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center and have a talk with a ranger. Let them know how long you are wanting to go out for or what you are wanting to see and they will point you in the right direction. Or you can just drive along the parkway and enjoy the views and overlooks along the way! We went up to Craggy Gardens and then veered down to Douglas Falls – a little bit gnarly of a hike so I would recommend better shoes than the ones I wore but totes worth it.

 

 

IUD Experience

image1.PNG

Saved from Refinery 29

When I posted on my Instagram about my IUD insertion, I got A LOT of questions and a lot of interest on a follow up detailing my experience. I wanted to wait until I felt like enough time had gone by for me to give an honest and accurate description so now that it has been a few weeks and I have had my follow up appointment with my doctor, I am ready to share!

A little background on what I was using before and why I wanted to change: I went onto the pill when I was 16 years old. About 2 years ago my sex drive started to change (I just assumed because I was getting older) and then as I got healthier thought it was strange. Then as I went vegan and started reading more about chemicals, pharmeucitals and things that we put into our body, I knew it was time to quit the pill. I went off the pill in February 2016 and did not have a period again until around November 2016. I loved not having a period but I really hated the implications. It's just not natural nor is it healthy. As time went on, I realized I needed a more sound proof method of birth control and asked fellow vegans who recommended Paragard, or the copper IUD, to me. I did some research and found out it was covered 100% under my health insurance, so I made the appointment!

Insertion: NOT great. I admit I have a weird and freakishly high pain tolerance. So for me, the insertion just made my entire body tense a couple of times and I had to really use my yoga breath. But all in all, not terrible. It is only a few moments of extreme discomfort. I will note that it is supposed to be easier for women who have had children previously and I have not.

The rest of the night I experienced very severe cramping (almost like contractions) but was okay when I woke up the next morning. I definitely suggest ibuprofen to help ease the pain. The next day after insertion it was just like I was on my period, a little spotting and with cramps. The cramps became minimal as the days went on but were still there. This did not affect my daily activities in any way. By day 6 all spotting had stopped along with all cramping. It was basically just like having another period but without the hormonal stuff that comes with it.

Sex:      Totally normal, he didn’t notice anything and neither did I (I mean, to the point of me having to fish around to feel the string like R U THERE GOD ITS ME MARGARET because it is possible for the IUD to come out in the first few weeks) . Definitely has not changed anything as far as that is concerned with drive / performance beyond easing my mind that I won't get pregnant. After getting rid of the fake hormones and my body leveling itself out, my sex drive is back to my normal which is awesome after having thought it was my body for so long there. 

First period: Not really any crampier than any of my previous periods but wow, major difference in blood flow. MUCH heavier. Previously I would probably only use 3-4 tampons per the 3 or 4 days that I had my period. Now I am having to change my tampon every other hour. My period lasted about 5 days, and the heaviest bleeding was really only on the first 2 days, after that it went back to what my previous ‘normal’. I am now on my second period with the IUD and it is much the same. I have read that after a few months with the IUD, women have experienced their periods go back to their 'normal' after the body has become accustomed to the IUD. (I know tampons are bad for the Earth and I should use something else, baby steps ok?)

Would I Recommend?: Absolutely. I have the Paragard (copper IUD) and I don't have to worry about hormones being pumped through me. It is totally hormone free and the most effective form of birth control beyond abstinence. I don't have to worry about it or think about it, I know that I won't get pregnant. I also know that I am making the right choice for my body by forgoing pharmaceuticals. This particular IUD will last me 10-12 years but if I ever want to get it taken out, I can do so and will be able to get pregnant the same day. Look into it, think about it, and as always ask me any particular questions or concerns you may have!

xo

Meal Prep How To

blog1.jpg

I make a menu for the week ahead. I write out my breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I usually do this in an email to myself so that I can attach the link for the recipe if there is one. My favorite thing to do is once I know of an ingredient I want to use (like soba noodles or a vegetable that is in season) then I will just google "vegan soba noodle recipes" and kind of go through and get ideas and inspiration and go from there! For me, it's a creative outlet as well as fuel. I always do breakfast, lunch and dinner and then decide on 2 snacks. Sometimes my snacks are just a piece of fruit or veggies and hummus and sometimes I am in the mood to make muffins or bars of some kind. I like to stay away from pre-packaged food as much as possible but popcorn, protein bars and those kinds of things are always an easy snack option.

Down below in the email, I write out my grocery list below according to whatever I need. I add to this list throughout the week as I think of things or run out of things. Then I transfer the grocery list part to the Notes app on my iPhone…As I am in the store and add them into my shopping cart (we call it a buggy in WV just so you know) I erase it from the Note.

I go to the grocery store on Sunday morning. I do Aldi first and then Kroger for specialty items or items I couldn’t find at Aldi. I also use Vitacost.com for protein powder and most pantry items as I have found things are generally a lot cheaper this way and shipping is free over $50 so I wait and order everything I need at once.

After I get home from the store, I put my groceries away and get to cooking! If something is cooking for a long time, I will go ahead and start on the next thing. I do all of my cooking for the week on Sunday and then just reheat or eat as needed. It’s seriously the best way to set yourself up for success. The biggest complaint that I hear about meal prep is that it is time consuming, and it is, but you are worth it. Your health is worth it. There are also a lot of meals that you can make super quickly, you don’t have to do complicated and involved meals to make it work.

Favorite prep tools:

  1. Containers that work for me (some people like dividers, bowls, etc. it’s worth it to spend a little more to have everything you need. I suggest small containers for dressing and sauces)
  2.  Vegetable spiralizer
  3. Instant Pot (found on Amazon, YES it is worth it.)

 

Once everything is put away, I go ahead and set everything together for the next day so that I am not scrambling in the morning and forgetting something that I need. It will all be there together in the refrigerator so I just grab and go the morning of.

Gratitude

It's fair to say that gratitude practice has drastically changed my life. 

Photo courtesy of @_takingmylifeback

Photo courtesy of @_takingmylifeback

The first encounter that I had with anything like this was when I saw a Facebook post from the author of Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert. She was sharing a large jar that she calls her Happiness Jar which she fills up throughout the year with pieces of paper with one good thing from each day, something as simple as catching all the green lights to work that morning or having a good hair day. I started implementing this practice into my own life and around that same time, I also began to practice yoga (rarely and at a super beginner level). 

Through posting about this happiness jar, I met Kelly who some of you may know as @_takingmylifeback on Instagram. I happened to win one of her giveaways that were Gratitude Attitude cards (http://www.ahpositivepublishing.com/products/the-gratitude-attitude-builder) and I started to incorporate those into my every day. 

I truthfully cannot express to you the ways in which my world began to shift. I was a very angry person for the better part of my life, I went to therapy to better deal with how I expressed my anger but it was still there, under the surface. I would also say that I had pretty bad anxiety/ panic disorder. If the smallest thing would go wrong in my life, I absolutely panicked. If something broke or something happened to make my day go differently than what I had planned for, it would totally ruin my mood, my day and sometimes week. I let things affect me so incredibly deeply on such a negative level. 

When I started incorporating this gratitude practice, all of that changed. Suddenly, things could go wrong. I allowed space for change, for the Universe. I started to open up to the idea that maybe I didn't have to be in control. Maybe the Universe had my back and had everything taken care of. When I started looking at all the ways that the world is beautiful? Beautiful things started coming my way more frequently. I guess you could try to explain it through the law of attraction or explain it away through some scientific means, but I think it's more magical than that. 

After it becomes a habit, the positivity that you radiate just comes to be second nature. You forget about the negativity you used to carry heavy on your shoulders, in your mind, in your spirit. For example, I fell asleep around 9 pm last night and then was wide awake and unable to fall back to sleep this morning at 4 am. Instead of getting really upset, tossing and turning, huffing and puffing and starting my day on a negative and sour note... I simply got up, caught up on some school work, had a cup of tea and am writing this for you. It is quiet, all I hear is the whir of the heater and the chirping of the birds outside. 

I know it sounds like some hippie-dippie bullshit, but I am living proof that when you open your mind to the possibility that you can radically change your life for the better? Your life will radically change for the better. There is actually sound medical evidence that practicing gratitude can rewire our brains and make us not only more psychologically positive but studies have shown that people actually LIVE longer (and obviously happier) lives. 

Here are some ways that I practice that are easy and accessible for you to start practicing in your life:

  1. Write it down - Currently, I am using my IG stories as a place to jot down things I am grateful for, both in the morning and in the evening. You could start a gratitude journal where you write things down or you could even snag the Happiness Jar idea. If you are a sentimental person, it's good to have these to look back on. 
  2. Find prompts - You could order the Gratitude Attitude cards that I have and love, or you could Google it and I am sure you would get a lot of hits on cards, journals, anything and everything. This is good if you are especially new to the practice OR if you are super busy and need to be held accountable. You can just reach for a card and think about it rather than take the time to write things down. 
  3. When a negative thought comes up - find the positive - let me be clear, life will still be shitty sometimes. Not-so-great things will come up in your life but it is how you choose to approach them that is important. When something comes up whether it be a small thing or a larger thing, sit with it. Allow your mind to process the event and replace the negative feelings with positive. An appointment gets canceled? Does it free up time and money for you? Maybe you get a flat tire, is the car totaled? Can you be thankful to afford a car at all? It's all about shifting. 
  4. Live in the present, live mindfully - This is still tough for me. There is no time but the present. The past nor the future exist. Keep your mind in the here and now. When we split ourselves apart with pieces of us living in the past or in the future, it causes anxiety or depression. Find ways to keep yourself here. Let go of obsessive thoughts about the future. Let go of hurt feelings of the past. 
Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a large amount of gratitude.
— AA Milne, WInnie-the-Pooh