The Brain-Gut Connection

By now, most people know about the gut microbiome. Maybe not the term, but we have a vague understanding of things such as probiotics and antibiotics. It’s very trendy to drink kombucha and eat fermented foods like kimchi in an effort to nurture our gut bacteria. I mentioned in another post how wild it is to find out we are nearly equal parts human tissue cells and germ/bacteria cells. On my way to work this morning as I listened to a podcast episode all about the brain-gut connection, I found out some even more startling and fascinating information.

Every day science is learning more about the helpful bacteria in our digestive systems. It’s quite the complex subject, far more complicated than simply pro and anti biotics. I learned today that there are also things called prebiotics and postbiotics. Prebiotics are the fibrous material that the gut bacteria eats, and postbiotics are the waste materials that the bacteria excrete, which actually ends up being beneficial to our physical as well as our mental health.

I was shocked to discover what a huge role our gut microbiome plays in our mental health. Further research may even uncover that this is the root of all our mental illnesses. Of course, as a vegan, I was intrigued to learn what kind of a difference a plant based diet would have on all of this. I know that farmed animals are routinely given antibiotics to keep them “healthy” even in atrocious conditions. My initial instinct was to feel even more sorry for the animals themselves. Not only are they physically suffering, but god only know what those conditions, PLUS an obliterated gut biome is doing to them mentally. I hadn’t even considered the implications of this on human health. Not only does consuming meat fill us with carcinogens, growth and stress hormones, and cholesterol, it is also destroying our gut biome with the antibiotics absorbed in the flesh of the animals we consume.

Initially, I felt pretty smug about this. Just another reason veganism is the only healthy diet. However, I knew that my mental health, while much improved by a vegan diet, wasn’t completely cured by it. As the podcast continued on, it explained that while meat contains antibiotics, so do the fruit, vegetables, and grains that we eat. Apparently Raid was originally patented as an antibiotic! Raid is also something that, despite all the awful things we know about this poison, is still used on virtually all the crops commercially grown. I suppose organic crops may avoid this, but honestly I don’t know. Call me a skeptic, but I never believe things labeled as “organic” are actually grown organically.

Many of you may take away from this information that we need to balance out our antibiotic ridden diet with lots of healthy probiotics. However, it’s not so simple. Apparently probiotics, though still good for us, are not actually helpful in the ways we intend them to be. Instead, it’s more important for us to focus on consuming foods that are rich in prebiotics. This provides our gut bacteria with the fibers they need to flourish. These foods include things like chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, and bananas.

Perhaps even more interesting than all of that information is the link between the gut microbiome and hunger/cravings. Hunger seems pretty simple. When our stomachs are empty, this space sends a signal to the brain that we need to eat, right? Wrong. It’s actually the small friends (and foes) in our guts that are giving us these signals. In a study, subjects were told to fast for 14 days, only consuming water and a prebiotic solution. Despite consuming no actual food, the subjects reported having no hunger pains or cravings throughout the 14 day period. The gut bacteria was well-fed by the prebiotic solution, therefore no hunger signals were being sent to the brain.

In addition to this, what kinds of foods we crave can also be linked to our gut bacteria. Some bacteria like to eat very sugary, fatty foods. Rather than having anything to do with “willpower,” our ability to choose healthy foods has a lot to do with what types of bacteria we have in our gut. The good news is, that if we can manage to resist these impulses to eat sugary, processed foods for a few days, those pesky bacteria will die out, taking the cravings along with them.

I was so blown away by all of this information, that I’ve been sharing it with anyone who will listen. Of course that means I had to make a post about it. Considering I only heard about this stuff a few hours ago, I wouldn’t recommend you simply take my word for it. But I do encourage all of you to look into it for yourselves. I certainly plan to do lots more research on this topic myself. I may even order the book The Energy Paradox by Dr. Steven Grundy, who was the guest on the podcast I listened to today. I absolutely adore learning new, helpful information like this. The implications of this knowledge are potentially life-changing.

A scientist explores the mysteries of the gut-brain connection |

My New July Routines

MY Daily Self-Care Routine | Life Is Now In Session

Happy July everyone! It’s a brand new month full of possibilities and promise. I always love the firsts. First day of the year, first day of the month, first day of the week even. It always feels like a fresh start, a clean slate. July is probably one of my favorite months of the year too, which makes today extra special for me. In just a few more days it’ll be my favorite holiday, Independence Day. There couldn’t possibly be a better time or headspace for me to start cultivating some new self-love routines. Today I wanted to share these new routines with you. Feel free to incorporate them into your day and/or tweak them to better suit your needs.

Morning Goals/Intention Setting:

The first new habit I’ve decided to add into my day starts first thing in the morning. Usually it’s really hard for me to wake up, but this morning I was actually so excited to start my new daily ritual that I woke up feeling great and ready to start a the day. After feeding my fur children, starting a pot of coffee, and brushing my teeth, I went out on my back porch in the warm, morning air. I sat down and listened to the sound of light rain surrounding me. I placed one hand on my heart, one hand on my belly and took five deep, mindful breaths. I wanted to take a moment to check in with my physical body and ground myself, as well as send myself some loving, gentle energy. Then I asked myself these three questions:

  • What do I want to focus on today?
  • What do I want to accomplish today?
  • How can I show myself love today?

I can’t even remember a morning where I took a moment to offer myself this sort of kindness. It took less than five minutes, and it was an absolutely wonderful way to begin the day.

Healthy, Mindful Eating:

Somehow during the pandemic, I acquired some pretty unhealthy eating habits. The main one I’ve still been unable to shake is not eating all day, then eating a day’s worth of food right before I go to bed. Obviously not ideal. Starting today, I am going back to eating regular meals throughout the day. I’ve read a lot of great things about mindful eating so I wanted to sprinkle that into my new eating routine as well. Just like with my new morning ritual, I am going to begin each meal by taking five deep, mindful breaths and really checking in with my body. How am I feeling? What does it feel like to be hungry, for my stomach to be empty? Then unlike what I’ve done practically my entire life, I am not going to watch anything or do anything else at all while I eat. I do put some lofi hip hop on, just to calm my nerves a bit. Then I have my meal while really focusing on the food as I eat it, chewing it slowly and intentionally. Finally, I finish my meals with a cup of my favorite tea (dandelion root). After my tea, once again I close my eyes and take five more mindful breaths.

Even though my lunch ended up getting pushed back quite a bit due to a very hectic and busy workday, I still managed to maintain my new routine. After a full day of eating this way, I already feel a huge difference. It was much easier than I expected to simply focus on my meal and be present instead of zoning out by watching some TV show. It definitely helped me stay connected to my body and feel more satisfied by my food.

Bedtime Routine:

Not only am I going to start my day with mindfulness and intention, but I want to make sure that after a day full of activity, I make time to wind down before bed. This routine will start at 9PM ideally (I usually go to bed by 10) and will consist of:

  • Brushing/flossing my teeth (I have yummy watermelon flavored kids toothpaste for my nighttime brushing.)
  • Washing my face and putting on a moisturizing night cream
  • More tea
  • Gentle self-massage (checking in with body to decide where it’s most needed of course)
  • Evening check-in

Tonight I added some gentle yoga in bed as well since I didn’t have time for my practice earlier in the day. It was such a wonderful end to a peaceful, nearly stress-free day.

Evening Check-In:

I plan to end my bedtime routine and my day with something similar to the way I started it. I want to start and end my days with intentional self love. Lately it’s felt like I’m just this floating mind, full of stress and nervous energy. It’s important to me to make an effort to reconnect with my physical body and make sure I am taking care of myself properly. Just as my morning ritual does, my evening check-in will also begin by taking five deep breaths. Then I’ll ask myself a few more questions:

  • How was your day?
  • What was the overall impression/vibe?
  • What went well?
  • What is something I am proud of/grateful for?
  • How might I use what I learned today to build myself a better day tomorrow?

It was really delightful to sit with myself regularly throughout the day at mealtimes and to start and end my day mindfully. Often times even though I begin a new routine filled with excitement and high hopes, I’ll eventually feel overwhelmed by it. That’s why my goal for these new routines is to treat it more like a little self-experiment. Can I do this for 30 days? How will I feel at the end of the month? How might I be different? What can I learn through this experience? I am so excited to keep the momentum going as long as I can and discover new things about myself along the way. Let me know if you decide to try any of these routines for yourself and what you thought of them.

Writing: A Brief History of Our Love Affair | by Gabrielle Finnen | Ascent  Publication

Veganniversary

Nine years ago today, on my eighteenth Easter, I began the transition to a vegan diet. It’s always tough for me to know what to say when people ask me about when I became vegan. I probably wasn’t actually fully vegan until a couple of years later. More like a vegetarian, trying to make it to vegan. But I still want to give myself credit for those years I spent figuring things out. I’m not sure if other vegans count that transitional period as part of their vegan life or their pre-vegan life. I suppose some people might not have stumbled so much in the beginning like I did either.

My point is that I think intentions matter. I’m not trying to justify the support I gave to a monstrous industry out of personal weakness. I’m just saying that as an online community, vegans can be pretty ruthless to one another. I use to be one of these more ruthless vegans. I couldn’t help but lash out at vegetarians or vegans with “cheat days.” When it comes to such a serious and heart-rending issue as the lives and wellbeing of billions of animals, it’s only natural to get a little heated. However, it is also easy to turn a blind eye to our own past failings.

This post isn’t about calling out other vegans or myself. It’s about reminding myself and other long-time vegans out there not to forget where we came from. After nearly a decade adapting to this lifestyle, it can be easy to forget how impossible the change once seemed. Even though now it can be frustrating to hear people asking you the same ridiculous questions that they always have, keep answering them kindly. Keep being patient, even when you’d rather scream. A kind, thoughtful answer may not make the questioner go vegan, but a harsh response is guaranteed to turn them away from the idea entirely.

If you’ve read my other posts you may wonder why I even bother to care anymore. After all, I’ve said many times that I believe it’s too late to save the planet and life on earth as we know it. So why continue being vegan? Why do I care if other people go vegan or not? The simple answer to that question is suffering. I have always been sensitive to the idea of suffering. The mere existence of it is what caused me to lose my faith in a loving, all powerful god. And if there is no god to protect the innocent, I will. Or at the very least, I’ll do my best not to contribute to their suffering.

The crazy thing is that it doesn’t even feel like a conscious effort any more. I think one of the hard parts about going vegan is making that mental connection each time you decide what you’re going to eat or buy at the store. In the beginning making the right choice causes you pain because it makes you reflect on your impact in the world and the immense suffering and injustice that exists all around us. It is tempting to turn away, fall back into old habits, avoid thinking about it entirely. However, once veganism has become that comfortable, familiar habit, these painful feelings are reversed. The other day someone asked me if I would ever eat meat again. The idea alone left a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t even bring myself to look at the meat section in the grocery store. Those “foods” are a painful reminder of the atrocities humanity perpetrates on our innocent brethren. To eat a piece of meat is to eat a piece of flesh. It would be a willful decision to cast aside everything that I believe in in a way that it never was before going vegan. It would be simply impossible for me, painful even.

This drastic shift of consciousness that a vegan lifestyle elicits can make it hard for us to relate to the meat-eating masses. It’s tempting to try to forget that I was once one of them. When people ask me, I want to tell them that veganism was never a difficult choice to make, that it was always easy. But I am always honest instead. I tell them that it was hard for a long time. I tell them that I initially transitioned for selfish reasons, not out of a moral obligation to the animals I was eating. I tell them about the foods I miss eating and haven’t been able to replace. I let them know all of this. But I also let them know that despite all of that, becoming vegan was worth it. Becoming vegan was the best decision I ever made in my life. I would say I’m proud of that decision, but it just seems ridiculous to take pride in not harming others when that should be the default.

So if you are reading this post and you are not vegan, know that I don’t harbor any hatred or resentment towards you. I certainly don’t consider myself better than you, like a lot of people assume vegans do. What I hope you take with you from reading this is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Choosing a salad instead of a steak at a single meal is a reason to rejoice. Deciding not to add cheese or a creamy dip or adding a non-dairy creamer to your coffee or switching to a plant based milk at home, these are all wonderful, meaningful steps to take that make a difference. And I don’t mean make a difference for the world necessarily, I mean they make a difference for the animals. It may seem like an abstract statistic when we think about meat and dairy sales, simple facts and figures. An output two digits smaller than the year before may seem utterly insignificant, but just remember that those numbers are lives, sweet, precious babies, like the pets your have at home. And these small choices make a difference to them. So just do your best. Do whatever you can, no matter how small. If a mentally ill, eighteen-year-old can go vegan on Easter and still being going strong nine years later, anyone can do it.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

Vegan Dating

Yesterday I had my first date with the vegan guy I met on Veggly. It’s one of the few vegan dating apps I’ve found. It has a lot of glitches and isn’t perfect by any means, but it gets the job done. It allows vegans to find other vegans, and that’s good enough for me. I can’t imagine they were able to put a lot of money towards development, so I’m grateful for whatever I can get.

Anyway, I’ve met a few guys on this app in the past. The first date is always a gamble. And not in the sense that you might imagine. The gamble is whether or not you will ever hear from them again afterwards. I’ve been completely ghosted more than a few times. It’s hard not to take it personally, but I’ve learned not to waste time wondering why or getting angry about it. After all, I’ve done my fair share of ghosting. I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s true.

Yesterday I tried to keep my mind on the present and just enjoy our walk on the trails together. It was a beautiful day, and I was pleased to find I had good company. I knew once we parted ways that may be the end of it. Either way, it was so refreshing to have another vegan to talk to, someone who truly understands my point of view, politically, dietarily, and environmentally. A very rare find in my neck of the woods. Which is why I generally have to search for vegans about an hour away in the city, like I did to find this one.

It’s hard to gather a full impression of someone from speaking with them for only a couple hours, but as far as I could tell, I like him. Then the question became if I would ever hear from him again. I try not to get my hopes up. To my surprise, he messaged me again a few minutes after I had returned home. He even wants to set up another date this coming week, which pleases and terrifies me at the same time. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last several days, but even so it’s been hard for me to divert from my normal routine. Although it is a much needed challenge for me.

My friends and family always seem perplexed at my insistence that my partner be vegan. It’s really hard to explain to them without coming off as aggressive or offensive. The only way I can think to properly explain it always sounds like I’m being a jerk to my non-vegan friends. No one seems to understand the vast moral divide between vegans and meat-eaters. Trying to explain it always leave me sounding harsh. But the truth is often harsh, and I don’t know how else to put it.

What I want to say when they ask me why I don’t want to date non-vegans is this: Would you want to date someone that eats children? Puts dead baby legs in the freezer? Or someone who ate cats and dogs? Buying bulldog flesh at the market and barbecuing it on your grill? Sharing your kitchen with gruesome death? Being reminded of ignorance, selfishness, and suffering at each and every meal? You can see why this type of response wouldn’t go over well with the questioner. Instead of understanding, it just illicits resentment.

That is why it is so refreshing that my new vegan friend, Nick, understands. It’s hard to explain how nice it is to speak with someone who you don’t have to edit yourself around. I don’t need to water my opinions down so I don’t upset or offend him. I can speak my mind. Not only that, but I can be heard and understood while doing so. Dating a meat-eater is accepting that your partner will never truly understand you. Because if they did they would no longer continue their died of death.

All of these things contribute to my excitement about Nick. He even ended a two year relationship because his partner refused to transition. To me that shows that he truly has the courage of his convictions. I greatly respect that difficult decision. Hopefully things will continue to go well between us. For the first time in a long time, I am excited to see what the future holds.

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

Veganism & the Holidays

The holidays are a perfect microcosm of some of the underlying reasons most people find veganism unappealing. As someone who thinks from a very analytical and logical perspective most of the time, it is hard for me to accept some of the more social and emotional considerations people have surrounding veganism. I can understand these factors, but in my mind they hold absolutely no weight in the matter.

I adore food and the days centered around eating as much of it as possible are some of my favorites. So I was not immune from the initial hardships of a vegan lifestyle. That first vegan holiday will be hard. You’ll have to give it a bit more effort. Finding new recipes to try or cooking your own dishes when you’d normally have everything prepared for you. Maybe there is a particular dish that represents a lot of tender memories that you can no longer enjoy with your family.

Every year I still go out of my way to put on a good show for the holidays. I pull up pictures of past Thanksgiving meals on my phone to satisfy the many questions I’m sure to receive from friends and coworkers. What do you eat for Thanksgiving? You don’t have turkey?? Yet no one ever seems happy with my reply. I can’t tell if they are disappointed I was able to show them an immaculate meal, calling into question their own commitment to a meat filled holiday, or if they still find my meal sad and feel pity for me.

To be honest, this part of my holidays is harder than my dietary restrictions themselves. I detest playing the vegan emissary. Answering the same questions, hearing the same responses and comments year after year with a stiff smile. I feel it’s my duty to at least give a good face to veganism. Even though I know it never changes anyone’s mind in the end. I know it would be worse if I gave them a reason to believe a vegan holiday was desolate and pathetic or that vegans are hostile, angry, or unfriendly. Most people are dying to believe those things already.

However, it makes me sick to play the part of the happy, welcoming, friendly vegan. I don’t want to have to cater to people’s childish, selfish concerns about a vegan diet. In my mind what I eat or don’t get to eat for holiday meals is totally irrelevant. Sometimes I just want to shout: Animals are suffering. Animals are dying. For a fucking meal. Its absurd. It’s horrific. It’s an outrage. Why are we talking about if I miss my mom’s homemade stuffing?! Even if I ate the paper plates on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t give anyone the right to murder another being.

I know most people’s minds are not so black and white. But to me it’s the most black and white issue there is. Nothing justifies unnecessary death. We can live perfectly happy and healthy lives without meat and dairy products. That should be the end of the discussion. There is nothing else to consider. Why must I dance around this fact with everyone I meet? Even trying to nail someone down on that simply fact doesn’t work. The mind is a slippery mistress. Even though I’m sure everyone can agree that killing animals is wrong, they somehow build a defensive, exclusionary wall around the killing they participate in. And that wall is impenetrable.

So today I prepare to play the “good vegan.” I will bring delectable dishes that hardly anyone will try. I will ignore the jeers and unoriginal jokes. I will avert my gaze from the body parts my family happily fills their plates with. And I will try to remember that I was once one of them. I will try to remember that the mind is fascinating and complex. It’s defense mechanisms are strong and enduring. And 2 + 2 does not equal 4 when it comes to human beings. Killing and eating animals is horrific and cruel, my family and friends kill and eat dead animals, but my family and friends are not heartless or cruel. Some days it’s hard for me to accept that.

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.

My Vegan Dog: Food & Treats Review

When I adopted my sweet daughter Sybil in December of 2016, she was basically a sphere. Her plump little body was unstably supported on her short little legs. She could hardly fit in my lap when I first picked her up in the shelter. The shelter workers even seemed concerned about her weight and informed me that her previous owner told them “she loves table scraps.”

Upon her arrival at my home, I assumed it would be no problem getting her to eat. However, Sybil seemed to be totally uninterested in any type of dog food that I offered her. I began to wonder if her previous owner only gave her human food. I knew that dogs were omnivorous and could live and thrive on a plant-based diet. It had been my intention since deciding to adopt a dog to feed it vegan dog food. So I ordered the most affordable brand I could find online.

I could not have been more excited when the Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula canned and dry food I ordered her from Amazon arrived. At first I was skeptical of whether or not she would be accepting of this new food. But since she already wasn’t eating normal dog food I figured it was worth a try. To my surprise and delight, Sybil seemed to love her new food!

After only a few months on her new diet I began to notice miraculous changes in Sybil’s health. She rapidly began to shed her excess weight and is now a lean, energetic, and extremely mobile pup. Sybil also had terrible dandruff when I got her from the shelter. Now her coat is sleek, shiny, and free of that pesky dry skin. It’s hard for me to say, but I can’t help but think she even smells better now.

It is a bit pricier than average dog food, but I would definitely recommend switching your pets onto a vegan formula. There aren’t many studies out there yet surrounding this approach, but from my experience I truly believe it can drastically improve your dog’s health and longevity. Knowing that even the best, prime cuts of meat are detrimental to human health, it makes me shudder to think what the meat byproducts and random garbage ingredients in normal dog food is doing to our pets.

Sadly Sybil’s sister is an obligate carnivore, which means she must eat meat to survive. I try to give her the highest quality cat food I can. However, it can be difficult due to her picky pallet. I hope to one day feed her a natural raw diet, but it will always weigh heavy on my heart that cats require their owners to purchase meat products. Maybe eventually there will be a compassionate alternative. Until then I will do my best to keep both of my babies healthy and happy.

It’s Flu Season (For Non-Vegans)

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Around this time of year I always notice those around me beginning to sniffle, cough, and miss work or school. This used to make me quite anxious because I knew that I would soon be next. I can still remember as a child getting sick in a seemingly continuous cycle throughout the year. At the time I viewed this as a normal part of being young. I couldn’t wait for my immune system to finally build defenses against these different illnesses so that I could stop wondering when I would find myself once again writhing in discomfort from another stomach bug or sore throat.

As I got older, I did begin to notice a decrease in the frequency of these illnesses. But still I could have never imagined making it through an entire year or more completely healthy. The worst part was that I didn’t think much of this at all. I thought getting small sicknesses regularly was normal. I didn’t think there was anything to be done about it except to deal with the symptoms when they arose.

Now that I have been vegan for a significant number of years, I’ve begun to notice that I don’t ever really get sick at all. I can’t even recall the last time I had a stomach ache. I used to dread the days I would inevitably spend immobilized in bed, trailing back and forth to the bathroom in an aching delirium. Now it is very rare that I even have to deal with a slight cough. I began a new job over a year ago now and I have yet to take a single sick day. While when I was in school I was guaranteed to miss at least a few weeks each year.

I will never cease to be amazed at the incredible transformation I have experienced in quality of life since transitioning to a vegan diet. It honestly saddens me that so many people will never know just how good it feels to be alive in a fully healthy body. I feel as if I could almost compare it with taking a psychedelic drug. Not in sensation of course, just the sheer wonder of discovering a completely different physical and mental experience that previously you had no idea your body was capable of.

It is becoming more commonly known that a vegan diet can improve longevity and long-term health. The World Health Organization has stated consuming processed meats is just as cancer causing as smoking cigarettes. Yet we continue to permit parents to feed these products to their children, while any parent offering a 5-year-old a cigarette would be considered appalling. Child services would certainly intercede on the child’s behalf in the latter case when really both are the same in effect. Human beings tend to be quite incompetent when it comes to following scientific information to it’s logical conclusion in practical application. We also seem to have a difficult time delaying gratification in order to obtain an ultimately much more gratifying reward in the future.

I wanted to write this post to perhaps help give more people the motivation to try a vegan diet if not for the sake of the animals and our earth, then for their own benefit. If you are young, avoiding heart-disease, diabetes, and cancer most likely isn’t something you are too concerned about at the moment. But the health benefits of eating plant-based, whole foods may be appealing to more people if they knew that there was more to it than that. It is hard to express how different and pleasurable it is to just be in my body now. It almost feels as if the universe has given me a magnificent gift for doing what is right. I hope more than anything that some day we will all live in a vegan world where so much suffering will finally end.

I have often wondered what effect consuming so much pain, fear, and stress hormones has on the body. As far as I am aware there have never been any studies done on something of this nature. It’s important to remember though that the animals most of humanity eats are not healthy. They are sick, tortured, miserable beings, many of whom have never had good food themselves or even felt the sunlight. I truly believe that this must have some consequence and I think that consequence is the way I used to feel and the way so many still do. My friends, I desperately hope that you will feed your body with love and not violence, and receive the rewards the universe has in store for you.

Live fully. Live vegan. 

Bullet Journaling: October

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I am happy to say that 2017 has been a very productive and transformative year for me. I finally feel like I am steering my life towards the things I’ve always wanted. I attribute this change in character and consistency to a new phenomenon I stumbled upon called bullet journaling.

This is a type of journaling that allows you to have freedom of form, flexibility, and creativity while still maintaining a semblance of structure. Bullet journals (bujos) most importantly allow you to keep a sense of cohesion in your life. No more rewriting the same goals and ideas over and over again intermittently in different notebooks only to close the cover and blindly step back into the same routines that have been failing you thus far.

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I began my bujo last April, and at this point, I can honestly say that I plan to keep it up for as long as I am able. Keeping a journal in this form has allowed me to keep track of and keep up with my long-term goals. As I mentioned, I used to write down the same few abstract goals dozens of times only to come back to them months later not knowing if I had made any progress at all or even what that progress would look like. It has been incredibly fulfilling and self-affirming for me to be able to quantify my small successes each day. If you suffer from low self-esteem like I do, a bujo can definitely help you notice how much you actually are accomplishing. This, in turn, can give you the confidence to break out of a cycle of self-doubt and achieve more of your goals.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably already fretting about the possibility that you may see that you are not making progress on a particular goal and how that will affect your frame of mind. However, I have found that even in this instance a bujo can be helpful. Instead of seeing this lack of progression as a failure, it can stimulate you to make some changes. Is this goal really important to you? Should you drop this goal in order to focus more energy on more meaningful projects? And if this goal really is something you want to work towards, can you break it into smaller, more easily attainable goals? Don’t let this type of realization discourage you. Let it inspire you to try something new.

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In addition to tracking goals, bujos can include a myriad of other aspects such as: scheduling, habit tracking, studying, grocery lists, doodling, and anything else you want to keep track of all in one convenient location. As you can see from the photos I took of my October spread, I generally use mine to track daily habits and mood, set monthly goals, record my finances, plan my weekly meals, and record what I eat and do each day. But one of the best parts about bullet journaling is that you can change the layout and setup any time you want. Each weekly spread can look different depending on how busy you are or how your feeling that week. After evaluating how your spread worked for one month you can easily revamp it to better suit your needs for the next.

Bullet journaling can also have the added bonus of allowing you to begin to notice patterns in your moods and behaviors. If you see that you were feeling particularly down a few days or one particular week in the month you can look at what else was happening and be better prepared in the future to avoid situations or habits that produce negative emotions. You may, however, start to notice yourself becoming more happier in general. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, planning and making goals for the future actually increases feelings of happiness and contributes to a positive sense of well-being.

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There are endless amounts of videos online demonstrating how to set up your very own bujo along with inspiration and ideas to add your own special flare that keeps you coming back each day. I hope that this format of journaling benefits your life as much as it has benefited mine.

Happy Journaling ♥