showing all articles for the category "lifestyle"

why I don't feel comfortable calling myself a "vegan"

June 24, 2019

I am not comfortable calling myself a "vegan."

I intentionally stay away from eating meat, eggs, and dairy as a basic rule. So, I eat like a vegan, and when I'm out to eat at restaurants I ask for "vegan options." Which, depending on the place, means I just have a side or two of steamed broccoli. 

When I first went plant based it was so much easier to just tell people I was vegan. I didn't really know what that meant except that I didn't eat animal products anymore. But the more research I have done the more I have found that eating plant based and going vegan are two very different things. (more on that here)

I do so many things that aren't considered "vegan." For example, 

  • I go to the zoo and aquarium with my kids, which a true vegan would never do unless they were picketing
  • I eat honey, and sometimes use it as a facial mask, which a vegan would consider wrong because it's exploiting bees and stealing their food
  • It doesn't bother me if my husband wears a leather belt
  • I pay a company to come and spray my house and yard for bugs and scorpions regularly, which is probably not vegan considering it's intentionally killing a living being
  • I am unsure if my makeup or shower products are vegan friendly, and if I found out they weren't I would still buy them
  • I choose to eat one small slice of turkey or ham at Thanksgiving, and then again on Christmas
  • I reserve the right to compromise when I'm out to eat and order something that may have eggs or chicken broth in it (I haven't done this, but I reserve the right to!) I will not, however, compromise with dairy - click here if you care to read why

I don't like to call myself a vegan because I don't want to group myself into a belief system that I don't fully cooperate in. I will most likely never be an animal rights activists or picket.... anywhere. I probably won't restrict myself to only buy products that are certified vegan and not tested on animals - and I'm not going to try and convince others to do that either. I do read ingredients labels, but I don't research into the practices of every company before I buy their products. I'm not saying that I condone animal testing or abuse, because I don't. I'm just saying I'm most likely not going to make it my life's mission to go out and protect every last one of them.  

I'm known by friends and family with pets for not particularly liking animals up close. I can admire their beauty and value in the home to their owners, but they're cuter when they're twenty feet (or more) away. And I can't stand when a dog comes up to me puts their wet nose on my skin or rubs their fur all over my pants. 

So, I am not a "vegan." There is just too much controversy surrounding that label, and I don't want to be a hypocrite. Plus, I'm not looking for a label anyway. I don't want to be defined by what I eat, what I wear, where I go, etc. I am so much more than that. Being vegan, I believe, is a very good thing. There are a lot of vegans out there doing a whole lot of good for the animals and for the environment, and I support that. But that's not my calling in life, and I'm OK with that. 

I eat a plant based diet because I care about my health and the health of my family. I love what we eat. We are very satisfied with our meals. I don't count calories and I have no idea how many grams of each macro nutrient we consume. And that's the beautiful thing about eating a diet revolving around whole plant foods, you don't have to! Sometimes, I get lazy about nutrition and we eat vegan junk food. I aim for the best I can do, but I'm not too hard on myself when I fall short. I try not to judge others for what they choose to eat, but I do enjoy conversations with self proclaimed carnivores about the health benefits of cutting out animal foods. I'm not afraid of sharing the evidence.

I do believe God created humans with inherent value above the animals, not equal, and it's our God given responsibility to take care of them. And I feel like I'm doing my part by not eating them. Even though eating animals is not a sin, I am fully conviced that animal products are not a healthful addition to any human diet.

If you are interested in learning more, check out my articles about food



Should you really be limiting screen time for your kids?

January 19, 2019

There is so much debate and controversy over screen times for children out there that it's almost enough to just give up caring. 


Is it harmful? Is it helpful? Who really knows for sure? 

How much is too much screen time? Is there a magic number of hours that is definitive for every family? Besides, what all counts as screen time? My kids use laptops every day at school to do their work, and at home for homework. My husband's business and our livelihood is dependent on technology and he's constantly in front of a screen either writing code or doing research. With this blog, I am now often in front of my own computer screen. So it seems like no matter how you look at it, harsh limits on screen time as a general rule just seems unrealistic for us.

I have seen so much online about limiting screen time for kids and parents, and I would agree with a lot of the principles and reasons why that would be a good idea. But the world is different than it used to be, we should embrace the technology we have, rather than demonize it. We live in a tech driven world and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem comes when kids or adults become addicted and can't function without it. 

There are multiple things that our screens offer us and many of them are very beneficial and helpful. So when I read articles talking about hard limits on screen time for kids without much context as to what activity is actually being limited, it can cause a lot of confusion and we may begin to demonize the actual screen itself or technology as a whole. I am definitely guilty of this but have given up the fight and just submitted to the fact that I will be surrounded by tech and screens for the rest of my life. 

Are video games inherently bad? No, of course not. And they don't create violence or turn innocent children into psychopaths. But there are some video games that definitely normalize violence and desensitize young minds to it, which may help influence violent fantasies to become a reality. The issue isn't the "screen time" but the content. In my house, we play a lot of games. Pokemon, Minecraft, Little Big Planet, Bloxels, and other games that make you think, discover, work toward specific goals, and build or create. These are attributes I would like to foster in my kiddos.

Are YouTube videos inherently bad? Definitely not. Take the photo at the top of this page, for example. This is my younger son, Jonah, watching a Nerdy Nummies video on YouTube. He has a passion for baking that just grows with every video he watches. This is good content, which I will not be limiting. On the other hand, I have walked in on my boys watching a video on YouTube Kids that had extremely inappropriate language and images. On YouTube KIDS! So now we make sure we know what our kids are watching, and as long as we know the content creators are good clean family fun, why limit it just for limitings sake?

That's not to say that kids should have free reign on all things tech, we all know that's not true, but I have come to realize that it is just downright unrealistic to put specific time restraints on something so integral to our culture and future. There is a balance, though. Every family just needs to decide what that healthy balance is for them. Focus on the content of the screen time, and not just how much time they are spending on a screen.

One thing I have realized I was doing that I won't be doing anymore is using screen time as a reward. Having our kids "earn screen time" by doing specific chores may be teaching them how to work towards a goal, but in my house it was just putting the screens on a pedestal. They were thinking of screen time as a prized and coveted reward. I want to move them away from this kind of thinking and move them more to a mindset motivated by a desire to help out around the house and take care of their own responsibilities. This isn't the same as using screen time as a reward, it is a simple lesson in taking care of responsibilities before you get to "play." Adults know this, so we need to teach our kids. But we also know that all work and no play makes for a lousy existence. So we just try not to stress about it anymore.

It is our job as parents to teach our children good habits, ideally through modeling them, but also through good ol' conversation. 
Screens should enhance our lives, not take away from them. I always tell my boys, make sure you're loving people more than you're loving the screen.

So, should you really be limiting screen time for your kids? I don't think I can give a definitive yes or no. What I have decided for my family is that it shouldn't be so much about limiting the screen time as it should be about quality control. The amount of time we spend on screens (kids AND parents) is not nearly as important as what we are doing on the screens.


our journey to a whole food plant based lifestyle

July 19, 2018

In the Fall of 2014, I came across a website called 100 Days of Real Food. After browsing some of Lisa Leake's recipes and reading into her 14 day challenge to cut out processed food, I bought her book. This changed my life. As a wife and mom of two boys, I wanted to be fully aware and educated about everything going into my families bodies. I had a unique challenge, my husband is overweight and my oldest son is underweight. I had fed them thus far, junk. I didn't know it was junk at the time and I didn't really think about it. Freezer lasagna, easy Mac, ramen, etc. I was working full time before my youngest son was born in early 2013 and I didn't really have the time or desire to prepare home cooked meals that required thought and prep. Opening a package and tossing it in the microwave was just easier. Unfortunately, easier isn't better.

So I read 100 Days of Real Food and made changes. I completed the 14 day challenge (as did my family, because mommy buys the food and plans the meals) and I was shocked at how easy it was! The feedback I got from my family was good. We learned so much. What is real food? What is whole food? What does processed really mean? Oh, that's an ingredients list? What are all of those hard to understand ingredients we used to just put into our mouths without question? I truly became an ingredients list master. Shopping took a lot longer, as I would practically sit down in the isle with packaged foods and Google each individual ingredient, most of the time out of sheer curiosity of what my family and I used to consume daily. Often times just doing that research on site made me despise that product all together and just put it back on the shelf, unfortunately for the next unsuspecting consumer.

This new knowledge and way of preparing, shopping, cooking, and eating was so exciting! I felt rejuvenated as a wife and mom, I felt so good about the decisions we were making and the way our bodies were feeling, I just had to share. I told my friend and bought her the book for her birthday and she loved it, too. She made the same change with her family and we became each other's support system. We would share recipes, make large meals to enjoy together, get each other's feedback on new things we would try, and even go peach picking or to the local farmers market together.

Fast forward a few years. June 28th 2017. My friend sends me a text about an interesting documentary with a vegan message that she wants me to watch, and that her and her husband are going to try out a vegan diet for 30 days and see what they think. I shared this with my husband and we both laughed. We said we wouldn't watch it because there is no way we would ever go vegan. We love what we eat: ribs, steak, burgers, cheese, whole milk, eggs and bacon. All organic and cruelty free, grass fed beef and free range eggs, no added hormones whole milk and expensive cheese. I made specific purchasing choices to make sure the animal products I was feeding my family were as healthy as possible, and I felt good about it. After all, we need them in our diet, don't we?

So my husband and I completely disregarded it as a phase, they'll realize how much they want and need animal products and then life will go back to the way it was. Well, a few days later, we hosted a brunch party and I had prepared a beautiful spread. Bacon wrapped cream cheese filled jalapenos, egg casserole, mini sausages, homemade Crock-pot apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, avocado toast and mimosas. My friend and her husband were there, talking about what they're learning and avoiding all the delicious food I have prepared, except the avocado toast. After the party, once everyone else had gone home, she pulls up Netflix on my TV and in a very loving, friendly way, forces my husband and I to watch this documentary, haha. Let me just say, I am so glad that she loves my family enough to drill past my hesitant and stubborn ways to make sure that I had an opportunity to gain this knowledge, so I can make an educated decision about food and health. I did this for her years earlier, and now she's upping the ante. We watched What The Health.

We sat through this documentary, to appease her, with no real intention of making any further changes. But once they started talking about the politics and money being paid out to confuse the public and advertise these animal products as health promoting or necessary or even SAFE, that was it. The science, studies, and expert opinions presented were all the evidence we needed that more research had to be done, we cannot disregard these claims. In fact, my husband was convinced enough at that point to get up right then and there and start throwing stuff away! Two packages of $8/lb grass fed ground beef, at least $10 worth of cheese, two gallons of milk, a carton and a half of eggs, all the bacon! I was very surprised. And if you knew my husband, you would be, too. I pleaded with him to let us go through what we had first, and then start this 30 day trial period my friend and her husband were doing, but he was convinced, we were starting now.

After What The Health ended, we went on a rabbit trail of documentaries and online research. We were hooked. It's like a whole new world was opened up to us that we never knew about. We've heard about veganism, but what's this whole food, plant based thing all about? Looking back, I am very grateful that we didn't go from the traditional American diet high in processed food and junk straight to a whole food plant based lifestyle. I believe that making the change to real food using Lisa Leake's resources, challenges, and books over the course of a couple years first was like a stepping stone for us to make the bigger and better change to whole food plant based nutrition. But this all happened so fast, within a day (so now came the fun part) telling the kids.

My boys were easy. They had a routine. Every day there were a few staples they could rely on. Milk, scrambled or hard boiled eggs, yogurt, string cheese, etc. Mom and Dad are about to change everything. My husband and I prepared ourselves for the conversation. We pulled up a few videos on YouTube, particularly Bite Size Vegan's videos for kids (just say no to milk and 5 reasons why we don't eat meat) and called the boys into the room. We told them, flat out, we won't be eating animals anymore. They didn't seem to care, so we moved on. We also won't be eating anything that comes from animals. This confused them. They didn't understand the concept. So we let them watch the videos (Bite Size Vegan does a really good job explaining, so we let her do it).

They were on board! They didn't realize that their favorite snacks and foods were actually causing harm to animals AND their own bodies. Before this, we never really explained (or even understood) the concept that when we consume dairy, we are in fact stealing from a baby calf, and even more sad, that baby calf (if male) would be killed just so we can consume his mommies milk and eat his body! And if it's a female calf, she will be forced into a life of repeated rape and having her babies kidnapped and milk stolen as well. I do not believe any child would choose to consume dead animal flesh or food retrieved in this way if given a choice, but they aren't given a choice, are they? In a way, parents brainwash their children into believing they need meat, dairy, and eggs without educating them on the facts first, mostly because parents don't actually have the facts in the first place!

My husband and I were learning that the food industry is a scary place. They want us to be confused enough about health and nutrition and diet that we just eat what we want, and we usually want what isn't always best for us. Many food producers have people on staff for the specific purpose of making a food product to be crave-able and addicting. This infuriated us. We made the switch overnight, cold turkey. I went shopping that next day, and we pretty much decided to wing it the first few days. The next few months would be jam packed with research, YouTube videos, more documentaries and an understanding that we may never fully understand it all. But that's ok, because what we do know is enough to make the changes we need.


 

whole food plant based for better health

July 18, 2018

If you are considering adopting a whole food plant based lifestyle, you have some questions to ask yourself. 

What are your goals? What's your motivation? What do you care about? What changes do you want to make?

I have learned that it's not really about what you do, it's your motive and purpose behind doing it that makes for long lasting change. For example, if you go on a diet to lose a few pounds, when the pounds have been lost and the diet ends, you will gain that weight back eventually. But let's say you adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle with the intention of preventing disease, managing chronic issues, becoming a healthier you etc., sure weight loss may be a side effect of eating clean, but the motivation and purpose is to live a healthy and wholesome life.

There are many different reasons people decide to switch to and remain on a whole food plant based lifestyle.

  • General overall health
  • It's more sustainable for the planet
  • There's less (if any) effect on the health and welfare of animals
  • Prevention and reversal of many debilitating ailments
  • Meeting healthy weight goals (loss or gain) 
  • If done with care it is perfectly nutritionally adequate
  • Lowering inflammation in the body, leading to less instances of acne and pain
  • Better gut and digestive health due to higher fiber intake
  • More energy and less feelings of being sluggish and fatigued

Personally, I have chosen to adopt this lifestyle because of the health benefits, both for now and the future.

The World Health Organization's website states that over 17 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease (that's 31% of all deaths worldwide). According to the Center for Disease Control, over 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, that's more than 9% of our population. They project that one in three people will be diabetic by year 2050. The CDC's website states that in 2015-2016 almost 40% of U.S. adults were considered obese, that's over 93 million people nationwide.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and a group of researchers led a whole plant nutrition intervention study in participants with heart disease. They found they were able to drastically reduce the amount of major cardiac events and even reverse heart disease. There are also studies that show a balanced whole plant food diet can reverse morbid obesity. Even people with diabetes are able to drastically reduce their need to take insulin or medications after just a few weeks of a whole plant food diet intervention.

A whole plant food diet can be better than modern medicine in the way of actually preventing and reversing the disease. Medications treat the symptoms, but rarely the root cause. Our bodies were made to heal themselves, we just need to give them a chance. Start replacing foods that are detrimental to our health with beneficial whole plant foods that allow our bodies to heal.

Some would say that making this kind of change is extreme, but I personally believe open heart surgery is extreme; being on blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of your life is extreme. The amount of suffering animals go through just to provide us with unhealthful food products is extreme. The damage the agricultural industry is doing on our planets soil and air is extreme. But it's your choice. Make an educated decision.

So whatever your goals or motivation - for the health and wellbeing of your body, of the animals, or the planet - a whole food plant based lifestyle is a personal choice that each individual should make for themselves. You cannot make this choice for someone else,  whether to please them or to change them - the obvious exception is parents, you feed your children based on your best educated choices.

I think the world would be a better and healthier place if everyone switched to a whole food plant based diet (or at least mostly), but I am obviously biased. I have an opinion, so do you, and that's OK.

how to switch to a whole food plant based lifestyle

July 17, 2018

So, are you curious about going "whole food plant based?" If so, how do you do it? 

Well, don't eat animal products or junk food.

Ah if only it were that easy.

If you are coming from an already whole / real food lifestyle, then this should be pretty simple. 

If you are coming from the typical Western diet, high in processed meat, dairy, and packaged foods, then this will be hard. But it is possible! You just have to want it.

First, I want to clarify the difference in the term "lifestyle" and the word "diet" as most of us know it. 

"Diet" as a noun is simply a word used to describe the kinds of food a person habitually eats. It is not always referring to "diet" as a verb, a special course of food a person restricts oneself to for a limited amount of time in order to achieve weight loss.

A "lifestyle" is a way of life, your diet (the foods you eat) is a part of your lifestyle. 

Many people transition to a whole food plant based lifestyle over a certain period of time, which could be days or weeks. Others, like me and my family, do it overnight cold turkey - pun intended ;)

At first, it may be overwhelming. Especially if you eat meat, eggs, dairy, or junk / highly processed food regularly.

The idea of cutting out all of those foods may be daunting, but think about it, what is your motivation? 

In order to make this change stick you need to know why you are doing it. Is it for your health? That's why my family did it. 

While it may be possible to eat junk food and animal products every day and still be considered "generally healthy," these foods are not clean eating foods, even if they are organic and ethically raised. 

Animal products or highly processed foods will not promote health or help you meet significant health goals. 

Besides, "generally healthy" compared to who? The heart disease ridden, obese population with diabetes on multiple different prescription medications?

Extreme exercising and restricting calories will most likely help you lose weight, but how healthy is your heart? What about your endocrine system? Are you at risk for developing cancer or diabetes? Are you deficient in any essential nutrients?

Your body needs food, we all know this, but just like a car that needs gasoline to run, our bodies need the right type of fuel to run properly. A whole food plant based diet is evidence based nutrition, proven to prevent and reverse diseases and other ailments. 

A well planned diet revolving around whole plant foods is the perfect way to properly fuel your body.

In our culture, it is socially acceptable to eat junk food and animal products every meal. 

It is also socially acceptable to be overweight, diabetic, have blood pressure or cholesterol issues, and be on any number of prescription medications. I am not saying that all medications are bad, but some medications are just being used to treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle. 

It is easier to pop a pill for your heart every day than it is to eliminate dietary cholesterol, drastically reduce saturated fat intake, and increase your consumption of whole plant foods. 

It is easier to follow a fad diet for a few weeks to lose weight than it is to dramatically change your diet and engage in a regular workout routine. 

If you want to live a life independent of drugs, free from the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, then you have to get up and do something about it. 

That choice and responsibility is yours.

So once you know that switching to a whole food plant based diet is the right choice for you to make for your health, you're almost there. This is more of a mental change than a physical one. 

You'll need to unlearn all of the untruths you've been taught about food since you were a child. It's shocking to see who really benefits from the ads pushing our "need" for dairy or animal protein. Anyway, that's a whole other topic right there. But go and do your research. As I do more research, I plan to share what I learn on this blog.

But let's get back to how to make that switch.

If you are not confident that going cold turkey is sustainable for you, then go slow. Take it one meal at a time.

Go through the food you already have in your fridge and pantry, but don't continue to buy the foods you are working to cut out. 

Try switching to vegan convenience foods while you transition. Meat and dairy alternatives like vegan hot dogs, burgers, and vegan cheeses, can help to make the transition smoother and more tolerable. The goal is to eventually cut these out too since they are highly processed and contain a number of artificial ingredients that are definitely not health promoting.

Remember, you chose to make this change for you. So go easy on yourself, and don't feel guilty for not succeeding perfectly on day one, or day twelve.


Making the Switch

Decide whether you are switching overnight, or transitioning slowly. To switch overnight was easy for my family because we already had a good understanding of what whole food was. But if you want to make the switch slowly over a few days or weeks, consider the following six steps to make it an easier transition.


  1. Begin adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, beans, etc first, before you start eliminating the animal foods or highly processed packaged foods.
  2. DO NOT BUY more animal foods, it is OK to go through what you already have first if you want. Don't be afraid of vegan milks, cheeses, and meats. This will make cutting out animal foods easier.
  3. Look for recipes that don't require animal foods and implement one meal a week completely void of meat, dairy, or eggs, and then work up from there. 
  4. If you usually have a snack in between meals, only snack on fresh fruits or veggies. Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, carrots, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli, etc.
  5. Become a pro ingredients list reader, learn all of the sneaky names for harmful ingredients and start buying less and less packaged foods.
  6. Slowly decrease the amount of vegan cheeses and meats you purchase. Remember, although they are vegan they are still highly processed and not whole foods. (check out my post for more details on this difference) Over time, pick up recipes to make your own "cheeses" and "meats," for example, there are many amazing cream cheese and queso recipes using whole plant foods that are simple and delicious. There are also a bunch of ways to season and cook certain vegetables, grains, and jackfruit to mimic the flavor and texture of meat.

Do not be hard on yourself. This isn't an impossible transition. 

Make progress and continue taking steps in the right direction. 

No matter your motivation or circumstances, you can do this!