Easy Vegan What I Eat In a Day (10th Anniversary Edition)

Over the last ten years of vegan living, I’ve come up with a pretty comprehensive menu of healthy, fresh, easy, and quick meal options. Despite my dislike of grocery shopping and cooking in general, I can’t help but be overjoyed when I look down at my grocery cart filled with brightly colored produce. There is also a simple joy and meditative peace from chopping up all these fresh fruits and vegetables each day, knowing I’m giving my body the very best fuel. I see it as the ultimate act of self love, giving my body and mind exactly what they need to heal, grow, and flourish.

I’d like to share the tips, tricks, and recipes I’ve collected over the years with any new or prospective vegans who might be struggling to transition into a healthier diet. In the beginning it can be very hard to balance health, time, and money while also trying to figure out what you can and can’t eat and resisting the temptation of old favorites. Establishing new eating habits can be frustrating and in the worst cases lead to giving up efforts to live a vegan lifestyle all together. I’m hear to help make sure that doesn’t happen by providing all the knowledge I’ve gained on my own vegan journey.

Breakfast

Breakfast is actually something I only began participating in within the last year or two. For most of my life I tried to “save” my calories for later in the day. However, it’s definitely been much better for my mental and physical health to start eating earlier. It also makes it much easier to avoid binge eating at night. Because I’m new to breakfast, I usually keep it pretty simple and similar every day.

Fruit: My go-to breakfast is usually a big pile of fresh fruit. I’ll make a bowl of cut up melon and berries, eat 2-3 bananas, or have an apple with peanut butter. My favorite my far in the summer is to start my day with a ton of super sweet, hydrating watermelon.

Bagel: Usually reserved for a weekend treat, I’ll also sometimes have a whole wheat bagel with natural peanut butter and a drizzle of agave. This warm and filling breakfast easily keeps me happy and full until lunchtime.

Lunch

If you’re someone like me who works 40 hours a week, lunch can be the trickiest meal of all. Some people go out to lunch every day, but if you’re trying to live on a budget or live in an area that has little to no vegan options, this is out of the question. My method for getting around this hurdle is meal prepping my lunches. It’s nothing elaborate, but I’ll spend an hour on the weekend making one big batch of soup for the rest of the week’s midday meal. Yes, it may seem boring to some, but I eat soup for lunch every day. I just LOVE soup. I keep it interesting by having an ever changing menu of soups to enjoy. Soup is one of the easiest things to cook in my option. It’s also a great way to pack in lots of leafy greens and healthy root veggies. Here are some of my favorite recipes:

  1. Lentil Potato Soup
  2. Cheesy Broccoli Soup (I add potatoes to this one.)
  3. Creamy Ginger Sweet Potato Lentil Stew (I use lite coconut milk.)
  4. Potato Corn Chowder
  5. Bean Soup
  6. Gnocchi Soup (A bit more expensive ingredients, but so worth it)
  7. Chickpea Noodle Soup (I use like coconut milk, again.)
  8. African Peanut Stew
  9. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup
  10. Cabbage Potato Soup

Dinner

With breakfast and lunch being taken care of so easily, the only meal I really have to put any thought and effort into each day is dinner. As I’ve mentioned I hate to cook so all of the seemingly elaborate and complex dinners I make are surprisingly easy to prepare. If I’m especially short on time, I’ll just have something extremely simple like a couple baked sweet potatoes (I use this for quick, easy baked potatoes) steamed broccoli with vegan butter, and roasted carrots or veggies of some kind (just wash, cut, oil lightly, season to taste, and bake in the over for around 30min.) Delicious!

When I have more time to prepare like on the weekends, I’ll make one of these mouth watering options. Given that I live alone, there is always enough for at least one day of leftovers too!

  1. Creamy Chickpea Potato Curry
  2. Veggie Peanut Sauce Stir Fry
  3. Roasted Sweet Potato with Peanut Sauce
  4. Aloo Palak (Indian Potato & Spinach Curry)
  5. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
  6. Vegetable Potato Fritters
  7. Potato Pepper and Kale Bowl with Spicy Tahini Dressing
  8. Chickpea Noodle Casserole
  9. Creamy Broccoli Pasta
  10. Chickpea Corn Patties Over Kale Slaw

As my ten year veganversary quickly approaches, it is an honor to be able to share some of what I’ve learned with others. I hope that these cheap, quick, easy meal options can serve you as well as they have served me over the last few years. I hope that you will give your body the gift of fresh, colorful, healthy foods this year. And I hope that this advice will help with the often daunting transition to a more ethical, healthy, and environmentally friendly lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Try these recipes out and discover how yummy veganism truly is! Let me know how it goes or if you have any favorite recipes you’d like to share. Don’t forget to like, comment, and/or share these recipes to support the incredible chefs that have come up with them. Be well, be kind, and enjoy!

Deceptive Mental States

Every day I wake up I choose love, I choose light, and I try.

The Submarines – You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie

What are we supposed to do when we cannot trust our own minds? This is where I believe faith comes into even an atheist’s life. At least for me, this is where I try to practice faith. You might be asking, well why wouldn’t you trust your own mind in the first place? If you are one of the lucky few who have no mental illness, then you may never encounter this dilemma. However, for someone like me, who suffers from an anxiety disorder, there are many times I’m left unsure of whether something is a genuine concern or if I’m spiraling into delusional, distorted perceptions and over reacting. It can be extremely difficult to tell the difference. Not only that, even if I determine logically that I am being a bit dramatic, it doesn’t make it any easier to calm myself down emotionally or silence my racing thoughts.

This happens to a certain degree every single night. As the day dwindles away, my brain is running low on my natural mood stabilizing hormones and dopamine/serotonin stores. I am always at my lowest and most stressed in the evening hours when I am physically and mentally tired. Even though I am consciously aware of this skewed perception at the end of the day, I never fail to fall pray to the thoughts and worries that arise. I know that no matter how serious my problems appear at night, if I just allow myself to sleep on it, I’ll have a completely different and more balanced opinion and perspective come morning when I feel energized and refreshed again.

It’s important for us to pay attention to our moods and thoughts at different intervals of the day, month, and year. Eventually we may notice a pattern. For instance, as I mentioned, I feel more vulnerable to anxiety in the evenings. I also feel much more susceptible of falling into depression during the winter months. I become more irritable and emotional about a week before my period each month. Once we notice these factors and the way they affect our thought patterns and sensitivity, we can begin to acknowledge when we may not be in a great place to make big decisions or judge a problem or situation accurately. Then we can try to adjust our actions accordingly.

Now, I said try to adjust, because even once we notice and acknowledge these patterns, it’s not as easy as you might think to convince ourselves we’re being irrational in the moment. Last night I felt like the world was falling down around me. I couldn’t stop thinking about financial concerns. I was distraught about my elderly dog’s health. I was ruminating on the way the seemingly minuscule issues of today could potentially snowball into unavoidable catastrophes decades in the future. What if my parents die? How will I afford retirement? What if I develop health issues? Should I leave the job I love for a better paying one? What if that’s a mistake? All of these basically unanswerable questions were swirling around in my head demanding to be answered and planned for accordingly right now. All of these concerns felt terribly urgent despite the fact the day before they weren’t even on my radar.

The deceptive part about anxiety is that it does serve a real, evolutionary purpose. Stress feels urgent and important because in our past as a species, it was. We weren’t made to be able to ignore these mental signals. It wasn’t an option to distract ourselves or even simply sit in our anxious discomfort when it was a life or death situation. Back then, we really did need to act immediately in order to survive. So don’t be too hard on yourself if it seems impossible to talk yourself down from these mental states. Your brain and body aren’t broken. They are simply doing what they were designed to do to protect you. It just doesn’t exactly transfer over well to our modern, often long-term, problems.

This is where faith comes in for me. I don’t exactly know what I am putting my faith in exactly. Maybe I am just having faith in myself. After all, how many millions of times have I felt like I was going to burst into flames if I didn’t solve all of my problems immediately, only to realize it wasn’t that bad the next morning? How many times have I feared I wouldn’t be able to cope with a worst case scenario, only to discover I’m much stronger than I ever believed I could be when I actually have to face one? I’ve made it this far. I have to believe in myself and trust that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to handle it somehow, even if I don’t know the exact details in this moment.

It’s may be hard, but in the moments when we find ourselves most likely overreacting or stuck in a distorted perception of ourselves or the situation at hand, we must practice faith. Just try to notice how your body feels instead of trying to “fix” everything so you feel better. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders. Give yourself a massage or activate a few acupressure points. Notice when you get tangled in your thinking mind and gently draw yourself back to the physical sensations in your body. Your brain is most likely telling you: You can’t just breathe. It’s not safe to allow these feelings. We have to do something! Don’t let these worries dissipate. They are too important. Notice whatever inner dialogue that arises to try to convince you of the urgency of the moment. Say to yourself: I know these thoughts feel really big and important right now. But I also know I am not at my best mental state to judge that at the moment. I’ve felt this way many times before. I trust that, just as it was those times, everything is going to be okay. I am okay. I am safe. I have faith in my future self and his/her/their ability to handle each issue as it presents itself. I don’t need to be prepared for every eventuality before it arises.

You’ve got this. I believe in you.

Keep Calm and Take the Anxiety Test! - My Mental Health

Veganuary Tips & Tricks

Since 2014 a UK based non-profit has been spreading the word about veganism and influencing global change by encouraging people to commit to practicing veganism for the first month of the year. Veganuary even has it’s own website with lots of helpful resources for people that aren’t sure where to start. There is a free vegan cookbook available for download. They also have 18 pages of vegan dinner recipes alone right on the site, no email required! You could try a new meal idea for each day of the month if you wanted to.

Today I wanted to do my part by contributing to this incredible movement. A lot of vegans look down on this “challenge” because it can seem like a way for people to feel good about themselves without actually changing their lifestyle, therefore acknowledging the issues, and still deciding not to make a bigger impact. I used to be one of said vegans. It really aggravated me for some reason to see people simply flirting with veganism. Cheat day vegans and meatless Mondays were also pet peeves of mine. I just felt like it was a joke to these people. I felt the ever present pressure of our ever shortening window of time to save the animals, ourselves, and our planet, and demanded more.

Now I see that any amount of change is good. The aggressive, militant attitude of vegans like my younger self are part of the reason people avoid making the change in the first place. It seems very strict and intimidating. People just aren’t sure they’ll be able to do it, and that fear of criticism and failure causes them to look away instead. It creates an atmosphere where people are afraid to make mistakes, afraid to ask questions, and that isn’t serving anyone. Now I highly encourage anyone who’s curious about veganism or even just wants to turn over a new, healthier leaf for the new year to give veganuary a try. With ten years of veganism under my belt now, I figure I’ve learned at least a few kernels of worthwhile advice I can share as well.

One: Make It Easy

Sometimes one of the hardest parts about going vegan is the planning and preparation of food. People that have been vegan for a long time or are used to cooking all the time, may not realize that a large portion of the populations eats out for a lot of their meals. This can be a huge deterrent to veganism if there aren’t vegan restaurant options near you or if you can’t afford these pricier pre-made choices. That’s why planning ahead is essential for new vegans. Take the time to find at least five easy recipes with minimal ingredients. I would recommend looking up some simple vegan versions of your favorite comfort foods. Make a grocery list of ingredients (maybe restock your spice drawer with less common spices such as garam masala) and preplan when you are going to gather these things as well as when you will prepare the meals. This way you won’t find yourself hungry and low on time which could easily lead to a meat relapse.

Two: Give Your Body Time to Adjust

I’ve had people come up to me in the past and say that they tried to be vegan, but it made them sick so they stopped. This was always so perplexing to me, because I know that a vegan diet is the best thing for your body and your health. I just couldn’t understand why it would make them sick. Part of me wondered if it was psychosomatic or if they were lying. I advised that they be sure to take a multivitamin with B-12 since there is no natural source of that in today’s foods. (Animal products are artificially infused with B-12.) However, just the other day I learned there may be another reason a vegan diet could make you feel worse in the beginning: fiber.

Even before I was vegan, I ate healthier than a lot of the population, so I never noticed this issue. But if you’re someone who is used to eating primarily meats, cheeses, and processed foods with little plant matter, a sudden increase in dietary fiber is going to be hard for your body to handle. While ultimately a diet high in fiber will improve your overall health, the gut microbiome will take time to adjust. It just doesn’t have enough microbes that are able to break fiber down when it has gone years without needing them. If you notice symptoms such as bloating, gas, or abdominal discomfort, know that this is likely the cause. Also know that these symptoms will pass with time as your gut microbe population changes to accommodate your changing diet.

Three: Protein & Cravings

Sometimes people begin to feel as though they are denying their body things it needs by cutting out animal products. We’re taught all of our lives that we need these unconscionable parts of our diet in order to be healthy. Even though countless studies have proven that isn’t the case, showing the opposite in fact, it can be hard to overcome this ever-present misinformation. Any vegan will tell you that one of the most frustrating myths we are endlessly confronted with is the idea that a vegan diet does not provide enough protein. A vegan diet has more than enough protein, and it isn’t hard to find. I’ve never made a conscious effort to seek out specific sources of plant-based protein and I’ve been incredibly healthy for the past ten years. Not only that, I’ve built tons of new muscle in that time. I’m more muscular now than I ever was as a non-vegan.

When you find yourself craving meat, or more likely cheese, don’t put too much weight behind those cravings. We are taught to “listen to our bodies” which is normally good advice, but our body’s signals go a bit haywire when we introduce chemical addictions to the mix. If you cut out added sugar from your diet, you will definitely crave it, but that doesn’t mean your body needs it to be healthy. We think we are craving some kind of necessary nutrients from our usual foods, when really we are craving casomorphin (in the case of cheese) and testosterone, estrogen, and other hormones that are pumped into these poor animals before slaughter.

Coming back to casomorphin, it is an opioid peptide that is derived from the digestion of the milk protein casein. This is the culprit when you find yourself desperate to cling to your cheesy foods. All vegans have experienced this challenging withdrawal and overwhelming craving. I promise you, it will pass. One day a block of cheese will look no more appetizing than a pile of gravel.

Four: Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

Veganuary isn’t like other challenges. There is no rule that you are out if you slip up and eat animal products before the month is over. So give yourself the grace to try again even if you make a mistake or can’t resist your cravings. Veganism isn’t about being perfect. It’s about trying your best to do the least harm you can. Don’t be too hard on yourself or feel like you’ve got to give up if you find yourself unable to stick to the challenge every moment of the month. You can try again as many times as you need to.


I truly hope that this advice and information will help you make in through this first month of the year without contributing to the suffering of animals and the destruction of our world. Regardless of whether or not you plan on becoming fully vegan, veganuary is still an incredible act of kindness and good will. Even though it’s only one month, it makes a huge difference, not only in the economy, but in your body. I’ve mentioned before that it only took one month for me to notice a total transformation of my body and mind. Please feel free to reach out to me or leave a comment if you have any questions or concerns. I will do my best to be as helpful as possible. I am happy to provide support. Good luck! I have such high hopes for you in the new year.

Animals Show Love for Humans - Animals Hugging People - Animals Cuddling | Animal  hugs, Animals images, Animals

Being a Vegan Emissary

Vegan and Plant-Based Diets Worsen Brain Health - Neuroscience News

Yesterday our new intern pulled me aside to ask me about going vegan. She seemed interested and eager to learn more since finding out that I was vegan a few months ago. She loves my vegan oat milk coffee creamer and told me she’s even started using it at home because she likes it so much. I was so happy that she felt she could come to me with questions, but at the same time I was immediately tense and anxious about how to respond.

This is not the first time that I’ve been in this uncomfortable situation. Many people have come to me for help when beginning their vegan/vegetarian journey. I thought I would get better at offering that help as I became more comfortable and confident in my own veganism, but it seems like it’s actually the reverse. I am so far removed from the normal meat-eater’s lifestyle that I no longer understand their questions half the time, let alone know what the most beneficial response would be. When people ask me things like: what do you eat? I can’t help but stare back dumbfounded for a few moments. What do you eat, I want to ask. I eat fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts. You know… food. The bulk of what any reasonable diet should already consist of.

There is such chaos and turmoil inside of me when I find myself having to give vegan advice. Part of me is overjoyed, part of me is annoyed, part of me is panicked. Overjoyed because my veganism has influenced someone to try to live a more compassionate life. Annoyed because their questions remind me just how far the majority of society is from doing that. And panicked because of the pressure I feel to offer the perfect answers to their questions. I want to make veganism sound easy and appealing to them. I’m afraid my response could potentially prevent more animals from suffering but that I will fail those same animals if my response instead causes the person to turn away.

My mind starts racing, trying to decide what parts of the encyclopedia of information I have inside my head is the most important, useful, or impactful. I have so much knowledge to offer. To break it down into the most relevant and easily digestible pieces seems like an impossible task. After these random encounters, I always feel disappointed in myself. I kick myself thinking I should have done better somehow, even though I’m never sure exactly what “better” would have looked like. At this point it’s impossible for me to remember what would have been most helpful to me when I first became vegan.

I wanted to write this post today to address people on both sides of the aisle. To the aspiring vegan: Don’t expect the vegans in your life to take you by the hand and make this transition seamless and easy for you or expect them to have all the answers. To the vegan being asked for advice: Don’t be too hard on yourself. There is no perfect response that you can give to make someone else change their behavior. All you can do is try your best, be friendly, and be open.

With that said, here is what I would like to say to anyone interested in going vegan: It’s going to be a hard transition. Being vegan isn’t hard at all, but changing is. Especially when you are changing something so integral to your culture and day to day life. There is no amount of information you can gather or questions you can ask preemptively that will make this transition easy. If you’re waiting for it to be easy, you’re going to be waiting forever. Change is never easy. Learning how to live a new lifestyle is never easy. One way you can make it easier though is being gentle with yourself while you’re still learning. I think a lot of people either avoid or give up veganism because it’s too daunting to imagine never eating meat or dairy again. That’s a scary concept in the beginning. You find yourself thinking, what about all the traditional holiday foods I’ve enjoyed with my family my entire life? I can’t have turkey on Thanksgiving? I can’t have a Christmas ham? I can’t eat cake for birthdays? It seems like a huge sacrifice. And some militant vegans will say it’s something you’ve just got to accept and white-knuckle your way through. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with identifying as a vegan or vegetarian and still making exceptions for yourself in the beginning. I also think it’s okay to essentially go vegan without adopting the label if that lets you feel less restricted. What matters is doing our best to cause as little harm to other beings as possible. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even vegans can’t help but avoid doing harm entirely. It’s just about trying. So if the only thing holding you back from veganism is Thanksgiving dinner, let yourself not be vegan on the holidays. If you’re having a really hard day and you can’t resist one of your favorite comfort foods or don’t have time to cook and don’t have the time, energy, or accessibility to find a vegan alternative, you don’t have to cast the vegan lifestyle aside because you caved and ate meat. Just try again tomorrow.

You can also start slow. Try making a vegan dinner once a week. Make one meal a day a vegan meal. Test out some vegan menu options the next time you go out to eat. These small steps matter. They still have an impact. And if this is the best way for you to make the transition and feel confident and comfortable enough to stick with it, I think it’s an excellent way to do it. There is no one way to live a vegan lifestyle. It is going to take some time and experimentation to discover what works best for you. Your body and mind are going to need time to adjust. There are going to be days when you “screw up” and can’t live up to your own expectations and that’s perfectly okay. I still have those days over 10 years later. The important part is that you’re trying. That alone is a beautiful gift to the animals, your body, and the Earth. That alone is something to take pride in. And for that alone, I for one, thank you.

OPINION: Doctor Hits Back At 'Exaggerated' News Report On Vegan Diet

Letters to Past Selves (Part 1)

Teenage Rachel

Dear Rachel,

I know that life may seem like more trouble than it’s worth right now. But I promise you, in a few years you will be so glad that you stuck around to find out. You’ll probably roll your eyes at everything that I have to say, but I’m here to say it anyway. I know you worry a lot about the future. Primarily you worry about being alone. I know how many nights you cried yourself to sleep, imagining an elderly version of you wandering through a dark, empty house. I know the desperation you feel at times. Even though it doesn’t feel like it now, it will pass. You don’t have to be afraid. You may not believe it, but one day you won’t even care if you spend your life alone or not. Some days you’ll even wonder if maybe you’d prefer it that way.

I know you are experiencing a lot of confusion and strong emotions right now. I’m here to reassure you that that is normal. Unfortunately all of the annoying things the adults are always saying are actually true. “It’s just a phase.” “You’ll grow out of it.” “Teenagers.” I hope to not sound as patronizing. I know that only exacerbates your sense of isolation and being misunderstood. Please believe me. Even if no one else does, I understand you. And I hope that it can bring you some form of comfort to know that things won’t always feel so intense. I can’t promise you that life won’t always be as hard. Life is a cycle made up of many smaller cycles. You are going to find yourself suffering again and again. Life doesn’t get easier. You simply become stronger. And it is a beautiful process.

Remember all of the times that you cried and mentally went back to visit all of the other sad crying selves in the past? You held them in your arms and cried together. You thought that was an embarrassing form of self pity, but actually without realizing it you were developing your own lovely form of self-care. I am here to tell you that through all of this distance, through time and space, I am here to hold you now. It’s going to be okay.

Even though I can’t really be there to help, know that you already have all the support that you need. You have absolutely amazing friends. Be grateful for that. Cherish them, and try to hold on to them for as long as you can, especially Ally. She may get under your skin now, but she is the truest friend you’ve got. She’s your brother. Try to be nicer to her, even when you don’t understand her. I know you don’t want to hear it, but you should also be kinder to your family, particularly your mother. Right now it may seem like she’s to blame for all of the struggles you are facing, but I assure you, you’d be facing much more serious troubles were it not for her. She is an incredible woman. She has always been patient and kind to you. She certainly wasn’t perfect, but no one is. She does the best she can for you every day and that is what counts. She loves you. She loves you like no one else in the world will ever love you, unconditionally. So don’t close your heart to her just yet. Give it time and you will see.

I hope that at least some of these loving words of reassurance and advice will be able to reach you. I may not be able to take away your suffering, but know that someday you will even be grateful for these painful years. You will look back on them fondly, tenderly. You will learn so much in the years to come. You’ll even learn to love yourself more than you ever thought you could. You’ll learn how to be soft, but also strong. You’ll learn how to appreciate the little things so much that they become the big things. You’re going to be alright. You can do this. You already have.

Love,

Your Future Self

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Helping Others Help Themselves

This evening I have been talking with an old friend. He will often send me photos of our group from high school and remark forlornly about how much he misses those days. I understand the sentiment. I miss those days too. It can be hard to accept how different and lonely life can be as an adult. I genuinely feel for this friend and often find myself wishing there was some way that I could help him to be happy again with the life he now lives.

Today has been especially difficult in this regard. My friend expressed to me that he doesn’t believe he will ever be happy, just less sad. My heart breaks for this kind soul that I have known for so many years. His dejected state reminds me painfully of who I used to be as a teenager, believing I would never find happiness. Even though I’m not where I would like to be in life, I have still been able to carve out my own unique sense of wellbeing and contentment.

There have been many times since noticing this change within myself, this awakening to my power over my own happiness, that I have desperately longed to somehow be able to share this new point of view with others that are still suffering. Yet somehow there never seem to be any words that I could deem fitting to do so. There are lots of things that helped me to heal, primarily yoga and meditation. But I hesitate to even offer these solutions. I can’t help but cringe internally as I imagine how I would have once felt receiving the same sort of advice.

I had been on the other side of this encounter many times in the past. When you are depressed and feeling hopeless, it is frustrating to keep hearing: “have you tried meditation?” “You can make your own happiness!” “Just focus on all the things you have to be grateful for.” In that state of mind, I always felt these suggestions were more like a slap in the face than practical options. It just made me feel more alone. It felt like no one was listening, like no one understood. One of the things my mom used to always tell me when I was younger and having one of my many existential crises comes to mind. Essentially she would tell me not to worry about all the big problems I saw in my life, my past and my future, but to focus on the small everyday joys like hearing the birds chirping outside my window, or having a hot cup of coffee on a cold Sunday morning while watching the snow blanket the world in a crisp, bright whiteness. I can still remembering being incensed by this. What did any of those things matter in comparison to my problems? A cup of coffee isn’t enough to make a happy life. Chirping birds don’t make me feel any less alone.

Yet now all of the things I once considered useless platitudes have become so poignant and meaningful to me. It is wild to juxtapose these two parallel perspectives inside me. I was so grateful to have the chance to tell my mom that I finally understand what she was trying to say. The problem is that I don’t know what it was that got it to click. I don’t have an answer for why I am able to see life so differently now. I keep racking my brain for that answer, but always come up empty. I’ve even tried to imagine what I could say to my sixteen-year-old self that would have helped her. Sadly, I feel like there isn’t anything I could have said.

When you decide that you are miserable and you will never be able to be happy, there isn’t much anyone else can do to change that. I wish there was. When feeling sad and lonely becomes part of your identity, part of your own idea of who you are, it is hard to get away from that. It’s similar to an addiction. If an addict doesn’t want to stop using, nothing anyone else does is going to help in the end. The most crucial step in recovery is deciding that you want to recover. And just like some addicts need to hit rock bottom to finally get to that point, that is also what it felt like it took for me to change. I finally had had enough. I couldn’t stand to feel so miserable any more. Then something inside of me finally let go and I realized it was up to me to decide how I was going to feel. I began to truly believe that it was my choice, and that I could choose to be happy if I really wanted to.

The problem I keep being faced with is how to help others make that shift in consciousness. I just cannot accept that there is no way to do so even though that honestly seems like the hard truth. But maybe telling people my story can help in some way. Although I can already imagine teenage Rachel rolling her eyes at anyone having told me this story. “Well they didn’t really know what it’s like to feel this way. They could never understand my situation.” But I am going to keep telling it anyway in the hopes that maybe it can help someone. There is no easy fix for feeling alone and depressed. It takes a lot of work. Everyday. I haven’t stopped that work and I know I never will. But the point is it’s worth it, it’s possible. The bad news is no one else can do it for you. The good news is you can do it all by yourself. You are capable. You are powerful. Even if one person can’t change the world. You can change your own world. I hope you do.

Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on Pexels.com

Anger and Fear

I have a very anxious rescue dog named Sybil. Because I know her so well, I see her behavior differently than most people probably do. To them she probably seems aggressive or even dangerous. She barks at everyone and everything. She’ll even snap at other dogs or people if they get too close. This behavior, as you might imagine, doesn’t garner much sympathy. I am constantly having to apologize for her. I try to explain to people that while she may seem like she’s just being a brat, her behavior is based in fear.

Sybil has actually taught me a lot about myself. Before her, I never really made the connection between my own anxiety and aggression. While not as bad as it once was, I still have a short temper overall. I am especially irritable on days when I feel the most anxious.

From an evolutionary perspective, I guess it makes sense. If you are feeling threatened, a natural response is to try to defend yourself. Throughout most of human history this probably meant through some form of physical action. Fast forward to the present, and our fears and the solutions to them are not so simple or similar. Yet overall our internal wiring remains the same. Just as it does within our animal brethren.

My anger is one of my least favorite qualities. It causes me to act in ways I always regret later. However, because I dislike this side of myself so much, I end up getting angry at myself for getting angry. Which is obviously quite self-defeating. So rather than react to the anger itself, sometimes I am able to remember to look past it. I look for the fear hiding in the shadow of that anger instead.

I find it quite astonishing actually. There is always something I am afraid of when I search for the roots my anger is stemming from. And while looking at the anger makes me more angry, looking at the fear underneath allows me to feel compassion for myself. I see the frightened child behind the school bully. I see the sweet fearful dog behind the violent bite.

Then I have a much better chance of calming myself down rather than try to argue with myself about whether or not my anger is justified. The latter strategy never works. When I am angry I am great at rationalizing why I have the right to be. I rile myself up even more combing through the minutia of other people’s errors. But whether or not a have the right to feel angry isn’t the point. We all have the right to get angry sometimes. Especially when we have been genuinely wronged. However, the real question isn’t whether it’s warranted, it’s whether we want to feel that way. And I don’t know many people that want to feel angry.

For me, it’s easier to address the fear instead. Then I have an opportunity to comfort myself. To give myself what I am truly needing in those moments. I don’t need more violence or turmoil. I need softness and reassurance. Which are usually pretty easily to supply myself with once I know what I’m afraid of. The fear itself is usually exaggerated or unfounded. And once it is addressed, there is no more anger either.

So the next time you feel yourself getting angry, think about Sybil. Remember that you might just be scared. Take a moment to ponder what it is that you are afraid of in that moment. Hopefully doing so will be able to provide you with more peace. It has certainly been helpful for me.

How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Food

For as long as I can remember, I have always struggled with my relationship to food. I’ve always loved food which gives me the tendency to eat in excess. Yet I’ve also constantly want to lose weight which makes me restrict my eating. This restriction often leads to binges, which are countered by more restriction. The endless cycle is exhausting physically as well as mentally. One of the many goals I have for myself in 2019 is to begin crafting a healthier relationship with food. I’ve created a list of seven things I believe will help me accomplish this goal. I hope you’ll join me in trying to focus on the following things this year so we can all grow a healthier relationship to our food and our bodies.

  1. Healthy Whole Foods: I have been following a vegan diet for nearly seven years now. However, I somehow still manage to eat a lot of processed foods and junk foods. This year I’d really like to have the majority of my diet consist of healthier fresh whole foods. I want to do this as a gift to my beautiful body for all that it does for me every day. I want to look at this dietary shift as an act of self-love. For the first time I want to change my diet, not to lose weight, but to nourish and support my body the best that I can. This body does so many wonderful things for me. I want it to have the best fuel to continue doing so.
  2. Meal Planning: This is something that I have been trying to do for a while now. I keep getting distracted or too lazy to keep it up for very long though. I’m going to try harder this year to make this a part of my routine. It is so much easier to eat healthy when you know in advance what you are going to eat each day. Most of my poor eating habits stem from being so hungry and tired that I end up eating whatever is easily available. When I’ve already planned my meal ahead of time, I don’t have to dig through my cabinets trying to decide and most likely settling on something high in calories but low in nutritional value.
  3. Meal Prep: Another thing that will help me avoid quick processed foods in prepping my meals in advance. Most people that do this choose one day out of the week to fully prepare their food. I’ve tried this method, but found it wasn’t quite right for me. It just didn’t seem satisfying to always be having left overs in a sense that I had to heat up. So instead I have adapted the concept of meal prepping to better suit my needs. Rather than completely preparing the meals, I just prep all of the ingredients. It’s actually quite enjoyable to gather up all of my fresh healthy veggies and cut them up and neatly place them in the fridge for cooking later. I cut only buy and cut up the amount that I will use in the recipes I have planned for the week. Then even though my meals aren’t completely ready to eat when I come home, it only takes a few minutes to combine and prepare my pre-chopped ingredients. This cuts down on how intense the day I choose to meal prep is, as well as still allowing me to have more freshly cooked meal each day.
  4. Trying New Recipes: Often once I’ve been planning and prepping my meals for a few weeks I get into a rut. I make the same food again and again until eventually I just lose interest in the whole thing. It helps to look for new and interesting recipes to plan for future weeks. This keeps the process from becoming maddening and monotonous. There are so many delicious and easy vegan recipes to choose from!
  5. Drink Enough Water: Another thing I’ve often struggled with is making sure that I drink enough water throughout the day. Many times I have over eaten because I just can’t seem to find anything that really hits the spot. In reality, this is because I am not hungry. I’m thirty! There are so many benefits of drinking more water from aiding digestion to increasing your energy levels. My goal is to start increasing my daily water consumption until I am drinking a gallon of water every day.
  6. Eating Enough: I’ve read a lot about what causing food binges. One of the main factors that I see in my own behavior is eating too little calories throughout the day. Then once your mind and body are at their limits it becomes nearly impossible to resist losing all control and eating large amounts of unhealthy foods. It’s important to keep in mind how many calories you need when planning out your meals for the week. Make sure you calculate how much you need to eat each day to maintain your current weight and lifestyle.
  7. Mindful Eating: Many of the things I’ve read about how to overcome binge eating disorder, have stressed the importance of mindful eating. I can see how this would help your body and mind to be on the same page when it comes to food. If you eat mindlessly while watching TV, your stomach gets fuller and fuller, but your brain continues to say, “I’m hungry,” because it hasn’t truly experienced consuming all the food that you’ve consumed. When you truly pay attention and eliminate all distractions from your meals, your mind has the chance to truly connect with your stomach and feel satisfied by the food you eat. This sounds simple enough, but for some reason it gives me a lot of anxiety not to watch something while I eat. I’ve been doing it practically my entire life. Part of me is afraid to give up the habit that has always given me so much comfort. I want to make a conscious effort to push past this illogical fear though. I know it will be the best thing for me.

I hope that I am able to invest more energy into this type of self-care in 2019. I know that my life would be much improved by the implementation of these practices. I also know that they will become easier and easier to do as I concentrate my efforts in persevere through my anxious feelings about changing my habits. Now the only thing I need to do is keep coming back to this list to remind myself where I need to start. I hope this list can also help those of you reading that struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food. Let’s keep trying to be better together.

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Since I was in high school or maybe even younger, I developed a somewhat strange way of thinking that was comforting. A duality seemed to exist in me at will, and I would imagine my physical body as a cute helpless animal that my mind had to care for. It allowed me to feel compassion for myself. I had the tendency to be quite critical and cruel to myself, but thinking in this way helped me to be kinder and more loving when I was feeling devastated or overwhelmed.

More recently, however, a third part of me has begun to emerge in this strange mental play as well. The seed of this idea was planted by something I read once. I have no idea where, but I’m certain I did not come up with it. As you may have already guessed by the title of this post, the idea was you are not your thoughts. Even while we are thinking, there is somehow also a separate awareness of those thoughts. We aren’t those thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts. I like to image this is what in yoga is often referred to as the higher self.

This realization has completely transformed the way I see myself. I see my consciousness as something almost apart from and deeper than both my mind and body. This view gives me space from my experiences. It’s as if my consciousness exists outside of my physical body. This physical body also affects the way my conscious is able to manifest mentally. The chemicals that control the way my brain is able to function are affected by so many different factors from my genetics to the things I do and experience each day. But I am not my anxiety. I am not my anger or my doubt or my shame. I am able to observe my body and mind’s experience of these things now from a distance with curiosity and compassion. This space keeps me from getting caught in a torrent of negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. I just observe in stillness and let it settle. And it will always settle if you don’t keep stirring it up.

Maybe this idea is new to some of you. If so, I hope that you play with it in your own lives. I am still learning to utilize this mindfulness every day, but it has helped me more than I could have imagined. My wish is that by sharing what I’ve learned in a new way, it may also help others.

Observe in stillness. 

 

Breathing Through Discomfort

As my yoga practice continues to grow deeper, it is slowly saturating every corner of my life. It is amazing to be able to integrate this knowledge into my day. One of the invaluable things that yoga has brought to my life is an awareness and connection with the breath. There is so much power in the breath.

At first I began to concentrate on my breathing during my daily workout. Just like in yoga postures, I am often able to find a beautiful balance of effort and ease (sthira and sukha) as I am doing vigorous exercises. The connection to my breath assures that my muscles receive all the oxygen they need. Instead of focusing on how difficult my workout is, I am able to focus on full, deep, and steady breaths. I experience less discomfort (often even finding pleasure) as I push my body to its limits. In addition, time seems to fly by as I find a flow-like state. I find excitement and gratitude for what my body is capable of.

After seeing the benefits mindful breathing could have in my physical experiences, I began to utilize it to benefit my mental state throughout my day as well. I started to notice my breath in moments when I was experiencing something emotionally difficult. I realized that when I am feeling extremely stressed my breath is very shallow. Sometimes it even feels as if I am holding my breath! Once my mind has shifted to my breathing and I begin to breathe slowly and fully, I immediately feel much calmer and less overwhelmed. It’s incredible how much this has helped me cope with challenging emotions. Even my experience of mundane daily tasks, like vacuuming and doing the dishes, has become more pleasant.

I am still struggling with and improving my awareness of my breath every day. I am so grateful that my yoga journey continues to give me new perspectives and new things to focus on in each moment. I am so excited to be able to share the things I learn and give my future students the life changing gifts that yoga has given me. I am so lucky that in a few months I will be certified to teach this ancient, beautiful, and profound practice. Until then I am going to continue learning and growing and enjoying this beautiful journey.

Just breathe. ♥