Be the Happiest, Healthiest You!

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I don’t hate the word Vegan

I want to share something personal with you. I am a Vegan. Earlier this week, I was with someone who said “I am not a vegan. I am plant based. I hate the word Vegan. I wish they would just get rid of it.” His reasoning is that the word vegan turns people off to trying this new lifestyle which is so healthy.

For a minute I almost agreed with him. He said saying vegan sounds so extreme. I disagree. People also hate words like feminism and liberal. But I think when we start to water down things by making the names more “palatable” we are doing just that . . . watering it down. I don’t like my oatmeal watery and I don’t like my movements watery either.

Being a vegan makes me proud. I am trying to do something healthy for me and my family. I am trying to draw attention to the horrible livestock industry and animal cruelty. I am trying to save the environment.  I feel like the work I am doing and the lifestyle I live is important and good. I am not ashamed of it.

Being a vegan is about more than just the food I put on my plate. It is about the cleaning products I use, the clothes I wear, the shampoo I use. It is about commitment. The NRA doesn’t try to water down their message. And I won’t either. I’m happy if people come to the movement because of food. I’m happy if people want to call it plant based eating. Every little drop counts. But I refuse to be ashamed of the label Vegan.

It is more than that. Labels can help us develop a cohesiveness. Something to get behind. A group identifier. I have a lot of conservative friends. I often try to gloss over my points of view in order to keep friends and the peace. But I am a feminist. I am not ashamed of that. I am a liberal. I am not ashamed of that. I am a vegan. And that makes me so proud.

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).

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?

Being the ripe tomato

>When I first started on my journey to happiness, I read a book in which the author said you have to be the ripe tomato. She meant if you want people to follow your advice or purchase your services, you have to show how wonderful the product of that advice or services is going to be.
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ripe tomato concept. Often before I give someone advice or start standing on my soapbox, I think, “am I already a ripe tomato for this concept.”
The truth of the matter is I am not always a ripe tomato, but don’t click away just yet. We are all works in progress. There are days when I am cranky, sad, lazy, or just plain stubborn. I have to admit my craft projects aren’t organized and I missed a doctor’s appointment in January (without canceling–YIKES!) The difference with me, is I am aware of my short comings, and I have the tools to fix them.
When I am cranky, I can say, “I recognize that I am cranky.” Then I know what to do to turn that crankiness around. My life’s journey has taken me down many down many bumpy and unpleasant roads. While I was traveling down these roads, I often thought of giving up or giving in, but in the end, I have learned something valuable about myself and about navigating life. Now, I am still working on my journey, but I am a lot better off.
I don’t just want to help you with your journey through meditation techniques to relive stress and increase focus and happiness or through goal setting techniques and follow through encouragement, I want to be your ripe tomato, so I want to share with you my experiences. I want to use this blog to share with you the ways that I use my techniques to help you improve your life.
I hope that you will take this journey with me, and that you will invite me to be part of yours. Check back often for updates!