Be the Happiest, Healthiest You!

self esteem

Obsessed with what my kids eat: Maybe more parents should

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Yesterday I went on a field trip with my six year old (holy cow she is six!), and I found myself obsessing over what she was eating. I was counting up grams of protein and amounts of calcium in my head. I found myself looking up values of different nutrients in one type of bread versus another type of bread and so on.


Then it occurred to me: Before I put my kids on a mostly vegan diet, I never really thought about what they ate. I tried to make sure that they ate healthy meals, but really, I never gave it much thought. So, why am I obsessing now?
If you go online and search out information about being a vegan parent, there is so much information about how it can be bad for kids from information about B12 to vitamin D and protein. People tend to fall into one of two camps: vehemently against vegan kids or absolutely for it. I am the kinda gal who has to do the research, so I just had to keep reading. The truth is that B12 is a food additive because it comes from bacteria, but most people get it from dairy and eggs. Vitamin D is added to dairy as well. Most Americans eat too much protein. If you spend 10-15 minutes outside without sunscreen, your body makes plenty of Vitamin D, by the way.
And, many of the products we eat in our house have B12 as an additive. There are plenty of ways you can get B12–from supplements, nutritional yeast, other foods.
So, because of my new found obsession, I decided to do a side by side comparison of what my kids eat now and what they ate before the new diet (I put the values into Livestrong’s my plate calorie counter). What I found out is that they eat about the same amount of protein. They eat more calcium and get more essential nutrients such as vitamin A and K and Manganese. The most important finding is that they eat less calories and less fat (with virtually no trans fats) while getting this valuable punch of nutrition.
I could only think to myself, I wish I had spent more time thinking about what we were all eating before! I don’t think parents like me are the problem. I do think about it. I make sure they have access to a wide variety of foods. And I am positive they have changed their taste buds. They eat everything from turnips to Swiss chard. I rarely hear complaints. We don’t have a cookie in the house, and not a single child has complained.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have cookies. If you have read my other posts, then you know we love a good Oreo. But it isn’t something that we must eat in our house everyday now. On many of the blogs, the Vegan parents say something like, “if I said I was going to feed my kids pink slime nuggets and chemicals pressed with sugar disguised as cookies, no one would say anything.” That really resonated with me. We don’t question if someone feeds their kids junk food diets. We rail if someone says having obese children is akin to child abuse, but then when we want to do something like go Vegan for health, ethical, and environmental reasons, then people say you might be doing something wrong. We have internalized this message so much that I have become obsessed with what my children are eating.

Here is the basic fact of the matter, my kids are healthy, they are energetic, lovely children. I am concerned about them, and I make sure that they get what they need. I may make mistakes in terms of what I feed them, but you know what, it can’t be worse than a steady diet of McDonald’s. So, back to the field trip that sparked this obsession. I was surrounded by five, six, and some seven-year-old children. Many of these children were already displaying the signs of an unhealthy life style (such as obesity and type II diabetes). I was sitting with my field trip group at the park, eating lunch, and I was looking at their lunches.

Let me start by telling you what Medea was eating:
Peanut butter and Vegan marshmallow fluff sandwich on whole wheat, whole grain bread.
Fruit salad with pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries.
Mishmash (applesauce with cinnamon).

Normally I pack a “dessert” item in her lunch like a bar or a cookie or something, but we were out. She recently told me she doesn’t have enough time to eat her entire lunch so she would rather have the mishmash than the cookie. She at the fruit salad first and then the sandwich. She saved her mishmash for after she played a while. (Preview: We are going to make oatmeal energy bars so the recipe will be coming soon!)

The other children were eating one of two meals. They had either brought their meal from home or they had a school provided lunch. Let’s start with the school provided lunch. The school lunch was a ham and cheese single sandwich. A bag of baked chips and an apple. Every child (three in my group) who brought a lunch from home brought a lunchable. The lunchables were ham and cheese with crackers, a Capri Sun, and a chocolate bar. Each child with a brought lunch also had it supplemented–one child had chips, one had more candy, one had a granola bar. The lunches were gross. Not a single child ate all of their sandwich, but they did eat the candy. Most of them ate at least part of the apple as well.

I noticed that some of the parents who had also chaperoned the field trip brought their kids fast food lunches. It was everywhere. I felt so overwhelmed by the fast food, processed nation that my kids live in. My 13-year-old is still giving me a hassle about how we eat, but I know in my heart that at least she gets good, whole foods at home. I hope that some of that wears off on her. Maybe the compassion component will come later.
For now, I am going to try to obsess just a little less and just to make sure that I continue to plan well rounded, yummy meals for us to eat.

On a funny note from the field trip: As one of the stations, you could be an artist. We all drew pigs and wrote “save the pigs!” I included a picture of Mae’s drawing. (I wrote the words).

Yucky day to Yeah Day!

>Today just started out yucky. Awfully yucky. Terrible really. I found out the traffic ticket I recieved is going to cost me an arm and a leg. (I pled not guilty to a portion of it so I have to go to court). My house is a mess. I’m under a veritable mountain of homework and work work. I just feel blah. Not to mention there is this nagging voice “whatcha going to do with your life?” That is intensified by the people around me who keep asking me things like, “what are your long range plans.” I guess I’m tired of feeling responsible for all the plans of other people’s lives! But I understand that the decisions I make really do impact so many people. To put it mildly. Today sucks.

Then I had to stop at Kroger to pick up some “filler groceries.” Filler groceries are what I call the groceries you have to get in between big shopping. Sometimes it might be milk (of the almond variety for us) or bread or whatever. When I got there, I was just pissy. I have to spend money when I found out how broke I am from a stupid ticket, you get the picture. But then, blueberries were on sale. So I got some crazy idea to make a fruit salad, and I just went crazy. I bought all my favorite fruits from canteloupe to pineapple to kiwis.

Then they had Earth Balance Margarine. This stuff is great. It is made from natural ingredients.
Like I can pronounce every ingredinet on the label. That is usually my threshold for products we bring in the house (except oreos). All of a sudden, I just started feeling better. I think I am starting to feel like I can do this. I feel more confident in my choices more sure that even if I make a flub (like the great margarine crisis of 2012) that I can find a corrective action and move in that direction. I didn’t just give up. I didn’t just throw in the towel because today was a rough day.

For those of you who know me, it is unusual for me to feel proud of myself. I always feel like I could have done it better. But I really feel like, “yes, yes.” I don’t know if going vegan is the reason for it or not, but I feel like it might have something to do with it because I am really starting to live my values, and that, my friends, feels good.

I know I promised a post on fake meat . . . I will still do that fake meat post . . . either later today or tomorrow.

Nervous Breakdowns, butter, and oreos

>So I had a “vegan” nervous breakdown. I have been doing a lot of vegan research; and as I transition to veganism, I am experiencing the usual ups and downs of what that means. It is also difficult living in a more rural setting without the expansive resources available in more urban settings. But even in Longview, I have it better than in other more rural settings. However, one thing I am coming to realize is that it may actually be better being a rural or suburban vegan because there are fewer choices and fewer judgements so it is easier to transition.

My husband also has helped me overcome some of these little hiccups. He basically said, “you can’t be perfect. You are doing the research, you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Sometime there are going to be mistakes, but you just keep moving forward. Lesson learned.” I see his point, and the good thing is that maybe I can share those lessons with you all. And maybe someday all these lessons will make it into a book. But that may be wishful thinking 🙂

Anyway, back to the nervous breakdown. I ate margarine with whey in it. Whey is a milk byproduct; and therefore, an animal product–not vegan. I had done the research. But when I went to the grocery store, my daughter was bugging me, it was really late at night, I was hurrying, and I didn’t read the label. I thought I grabbed the brand that was vegan. So, we just ate it. Then I had this weird nagging voice in my head. So, I read the label. The bad news is it had whey in it. I was really upset.

I mean, I have been trying so hard to have it all go up in flames over whey! Grrr. Dang whey. So, of course, we quit eating it. We bought a vegan brand. Move on.

So, then we went to the store for sun screen. My kids have pretty fair skin. The middle child (Persephone) has been getting a really serious freckle outbreak and it is only APRIL! Well freckles are a sign of sun damage. Our family has a pretty serious history of melanoma, so I wanted to get her one of those stick sunscreens that she could swipe on her face before recess everyday. Just something to be preventative. Well, everything had beeswax in it. GRRR! My dear husband said, “you live in Longview. These are your choices, move on.” Well I struggled. Finally I found a stick that didn’t have beeswax, but it was on SPF 30. I know the studies say SPF 30 is enough, but I wanted at least 50, and I wanted it to be zinc based, blah blah.

So, I decided that I was going to go with the SPF 30 because it didn’t have beeswax and the literature supports that SPF 30 is adequate. But then there was a small display of sunscreen off to the side. So, I read the labels of all of those as well. And as luck would have it, I found a vegan stick that is SPF 50! Yeah! Robert was really irritated that I took like 25 minutes to pick out a sunscreen, but I will know for next time, so it won’t take so long, and I felt really happy with my choice.

Then I came home and really thought about what it meant for my family to be Vegans. I think for us, it means that we just do the best that we can. But I realized how difficult this is for me. Especially after my husband called me “One of those crazy Vegans.” Am I being crazy? I am not sure. I guess I am figuring it out as I go. I am trying really hard to evaluate gray areas. I am trying to be a good Vegan and to find out what that means in suburban areas.

So what that the margarine had whey in it? I didn’t do it on purpose. I learned a valuable lesson. But I also learned something that made me a little sad: a may never be comfortable eating an unfamiliar product again. That is hard to swallow.

So, what did I do in my sadness? I ate a freaking oreo! I promised myself I was not going to be a junk food vegan. I am a healthy, whole grain, celery eating vegan . . . who gets upset and comforts herself with food like the rest of us. That food is oreos. Tomorrow I’m going to write about tofurkey and why I don’t eat it. I think all the transition gurus are wrong, so I don’t eat fake meat (that is your preview). But I needed the oreo. I needed to eat something vegan that reminded me of what it is like to eat to be happy. I just felt guilty. But I guess, at least it was Vegan, right?

Happiness and Compromise

>I have been thinking a lot lately about happiness and compromise. When we are young, we just expect to be happy and for good things to come to us, but as we age, we learn that life is a serious of compromises. I have been thinking about how each compromise we make to keep ourselves happy or a loved one happy and each compromise has to be considered in terms of what we are willing to sacrifice.
If you have a personality like mine, you probably are willing to sacrifice too much–sacrifice to the level that we compromise our way out of our own happiness. I have noticed that I am always on the wrong end of the compromise–eventually. Recently, I noticed that in some of my relationships, the other person is always asking me to compromise. When these people ask me to compromise, they often seem to forget that I have been compromising all this time. In fact, I get told often “You get the good with the bad” or “You have to be willing to make compromises.” What I have come to realize is that everyone has a breaking point in terms of compromise. Part of compromise is that both people have to be willing to make sacrifices in order to meet in the middle.
Recently, I was asked to make a compromise that I know will make me unhappy. I know it will degrade my personal integrity and will destroy my plans for my future and the dreams I had about how my life will turn out. Now, I know that life doesn’t always turn out how you imagined and that things aren’t picture perfect. I also understand that compromises sometimes led you down a road that is different that your original path. I also understand that it is important to compromise and sacrifice for those you love.
Where do you draw the line? This is the question I have been wrestling with. Where do you draw the line and a compromise becomes too much compromise. Where does self preservation begin and selfishness end. I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to think only of myself because I find that selfish people are the most unhappy people. But, I do want to preserve myself. I have been thinking that I want to make the other person in this compromise happy (even though this person isn’t compromising very much) and I want to be a good person, but I am faced with a compromise that will probably mean the loss of my happiness for a very long time.
Ok, so it seems pretty easy: Don’t make the compromise. Right? Unfortunately, it goes back to that loving other people thing. It comes back to fear and all of those negative emotions.
What am I going to do? I’m not sure yet, but I hope as you are asked to make compromises, that you will consider your own happiness as well…. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Dealing with the "LAME"

>I hope that you are working on your negative feelings exercise. In a few days, we will incorporate your positive feelings, so keep a look out for that.
Today, I wanted to talk about dealing with difficult people. We all have people that talk badly about us or who say mean things to us. Often we internalize these comments and interactions and let them bring us down. Recently, someone said something mean about me. At first it really hurt my feelings and put me in a bad mood. This person called me lame. Silly word, but it really affected me. Then I got to thinking about it, and I want to share my experience with you.
I sat down and asked, “am I really lame?” Well, yes, there are somethings about me that are kinda silly. For example, I am weird about the way I walk through the grocery store (it has to be in a certain order), and yeah that probably is lame. While, I would personally never use such a derogatory term, I can think of things that others might think are odd about me.
Then, I asked my husband. He told me that I was fantastic and that this other person was just jealous. Probably true. I am always telling my daughter that people often lash out at us because they are insecure about themselves or are jealous of us in some way.
I have a great life. I have a wonderful family. I am almost finished with my master’s degree. My children and my husband are all successful. I have a beautiful home, and I am really fortunate to have my life. I am really happy. That makes me not lame no matter what anyone else may think.
Now, there are times when someone may be giving constructive criticism, and I find that helpful, but you have to evaluate the things people say about you to see if they are true or not.
Perhaps more importantly, we should evaluate what we say about others. The next time you want to say something mean about someone else, evaluate your motives. Because bringing others down is not going to make you feel better. So, to the girl who called me lame, I don’t think you are lame. In fact, I don’t think you are anything bad. I think you just make mistakes. On that note, I think maybe you should evaluate your happiness because you seem unhappy in your life and that is why you are so concerned about mine. If I can help you find your happiness, I will. That goes for all of you. Let me know if I can help you find your happiness.

Self Love–Now the work begins

>Before I begin today’s post, I want to let you know about what is coming up. It is really exciting. I am working on our first meditation excersice. It is going to be fantasitic and will include audio. Look for this exciting blog coming in the next few days.
To begin today, let’s talk about being embarassed. For years, I struggled with low self esteem and a feeling of worthlessness. To be honest, I still have days that I struggle with my sense of self worth. Embarassment prevented me from doing anything about it. I felt silly doing self esteem building excersises. I couldn’t talk to myself or try to enhance my life because other people would think I was dumb or would make fun of me. Guess what? Having low self esteem led others to think less of me anyway. Guess what else? No one can see your thoughts. No one has access to your private thinking, so go ahead and think positive things. Instead of sharing a personal story with you today, I want to go through a basic exercise.
Exercise #1
There are things we all dislike about ourselves. That is ok. As long as we see these things as a work in progress. Many of the books I have read encourage people to start by writing a list of things that they like about themselves. I think this is not very helpful as a first step. Don’t get me wrong, we will be using this technique, but don’t jump ahead because I have a special twist on it.
For this excersise, you will need a pen and a piece of paper. Find a quiet place to sit and have enough time to be introspective.
Step One:
Now begin the list with “things I don’t like about myself.” This may seem like a harsh excersice focused on being critical, but it is not. Begin to list all the things that you don’t like about yourself.
Example
A sample of my list looks like:
Procrastination
Overly Critical
Frizzy hair
Weird Toes
I think you get the idea. List as many things as you can or want to. Try not to dwell on each item. Just write it down and move on.
Step Two:
Look at your list, and divide it into two lists: Things you can change or adapt and things that are unmutable.
Example:
Changeable: Procrastination, Overly Critical, Frizzy Hair
Unmutable: Weird Toes, Small Hands
Step Three:
For today, we are going to focus on unmutable items. Look at each unmutable item and think of something positive about it. Write that next to the attribute. Then each day, look at this list and review the positive things about your unmutable items until you no longer feel bad about them.
Example:
Weird Toes: encourages me to buy really cool shoes, my husband thinks they are cute, lets me pick up a pencil without bending over
Small Hands: makes me valuable because I can reach into tight spaces, I can purchase cheaper children’s gloves, no one could steal my ring because it would be too small, they make my husband’s hands seem so strong.
Real World Application:
For those of you who think this is totally off the wall, trust me, it works over time. Remember, no one can see your personal thoughts. So, what you are thinking doesn’t really matter to anyone else. This can only help you. I once knew a girl who was mortified by her nose. She always focused on how large it was and that it wasn’t dainty, etc. The funny thing is, she would have looked absolutely ridiculous with a smaller nose. No one who knew her ever though twice about her nose. In fact, it was a little irritating to constantly hear her pining away about it. So, I encouraged her to do the above excersice. She made a list, but I have no idea what it said. Often I would see her in the mirror mouthing things, but I don’t know what she was affirming to herself. Years later, I asked her about it. She said that she had grown to love her nose because it made her unique and interesting. She said that by stopping focusing on her nose and how much she hated it made her miserable, but focusing on how it complemented her face and how it showed off her heritage made her feel happy. She said she hardly ever even thinks about her nose now. It can make a difference.
Tips for next time:
Keep this list somewhere private and safe. I have a folder that I keep all of my happiness work in. We will use the changeable part of the list in our next excersise. So keep it handy.
Until next time Live, Eat, and Be Well.

Self Love–Time For Yourself

>Today, we are going to focus on a simple way to improve your self love. Pampering. Now men, don’t stop reading, men pamper themselves too, but often in different ways than women do. Before I get into today’s topic, I wanted to mention that self love takes a lot of work, and in this blog, I am going to tackle many of these methods. However, my motto is start small. You don’t want to jump into the more complicated aspects of self love and feel overwhelmed or like a failure, so start with something simple, pampering, that feels good and that you will succeed in. As you may have figured out, this blog is a lot about meditation, and I will be showing you some great ways to use meditation to improve your self love in the coming days.

But, let’s start with pampering. This has been an incredibly hectic week for me. For the past few days, I have been feeling a little off. I haven’t been comfortable with my outfits for important family events, I have been feeling a little bad about myself, and having some really bad negative thoughts. Then yesterday, it hit me–my nails were all chipped and gross because I hadn’t had time to do them, and it was making me feel like I wasn’t presenting my best self. So, I got to thinking about pampering.

For many of us, we constantly are doing for others or we are sitting around trying to decompress from our stressful lives. Pampering does two things: it allows you to focus on yourself and it feels nice. I know for me, I am always thinking of others and giving them little gifts or pep talks or helping wherever I can, but it is important to also give yourself gifts, and pep talks.

Now, you may be thinking, I don’t have the money to pamper myself. But pampering doesn’t take any money. You can take a bath or paint your nails. Men, you can fish, work on your car, or do your nails (if you are into that!). It is just about setting a few minutes aside to focus on you.

You won’t believe how good you feel after only a few minutes. A fresh coat of paint on the nails really cheers you up, a warm shower ALONE really relaxes you–I think you get the drift. Now, if you do this every couple of days or once a week, you are showing yourself that you love you enough to take the time.

For me, I decided to pamper myself with my nails. Now, I like to go to the nail shop, but I don’t have the time or money to do it very often, so I gave myself a free nail update.

I mean look at those horrible toes–who wouldn’t feel bad about it. But luckily, I had everything I need at home!You may be thinking, but I don’t have all that stuff. That is ok too. You could just throw on a fresh coat of polish or take off the old stuff. You could even just soak your toes in a warm tub of water. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done.

One thing that really works against us is the thought that you can’t do something until you have everything you need or until you can do it just right. I have these types of thoughts all the time, “I can’t possible start decorating my room because I can’t afford new carpet!” Well those kinds of thoughts just hold us back. Instead you can say, “I may not have the perfect nail kit, but today, I am going to do the best job with what I have.

Now as you can see, they aren’t perfect after all my work. There is some polish on my cuticle, and my nail is a little lopsided, but hey, they look good enough. Just taking the time made me feel so much better about myself.

Ok, I know, it sounds so silly. How can painting your nails really lead you to love yourself more and feel more happy? I don’t know if it is subconcious or if it really happens just through the time, but it works. You know how you see those little old married couple that are so in love. They love each because they spend time with one another and grow to love each other more each day. The same works for you! The more time you spend with yourself, loving yourself, doing nice things for yourself, the more you will grow to love–yourself.

Now, GO, live, eat, and be well!

Self Love… its more than Self Esteem

>So, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to work this blog, and I have decided that each month, I am going to have a theme. The month of May is going to be all about self love. Self love? But isn’t that a dirty word for … you know? No, self love is about truly loving yourself the way you love your children or parents. When people talk about self esteem, it simply isn’t enough. Self love is more than just self esteem.

I want to spend the month of May discussing ways that we can grow to love ourselves and thereby increase our happiness. There are many important things in this world for us to focus on loving: loving ourselves, loving our family, loving the earth, loving our friends, loving strangers. But each of these begins with loving ourselves. Even if we think we are loving other people or things to the fullest capacity, the truth is that we could all love so much more if we only loved ourselves. Loving ourselves also shows others who love us how much we respect their love.


Each blog this month (expect one every few days) will focus on how to love ourselves more completely. This is a work in progress. As time goes by, you may have to revamp yourself love or take another look at it, but in each step of your journey, you should love yourself first.

NO! Loving yourself is not the same thing as being selfish. It is not about only doing for yourself or thinking only of yourself, but it is about knowing who you are and about being happy with that person.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty coming up about how to use meditation to increase that love!

So, go look in the mirror, tell yourself, “I love you,” and check back later to learn more about creating and maintaining your self esteem!