2017 Vegan-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide

“Help I’m a vegan and I don’t want to give non-vegan gifts!” Or maybe you just need some inspiration to finish up this year’s Christmas shopping. Or maybe you just want to treat yoself...Look no further. 

I have put together gift ideas for various people in your life. Most of these things are items that I have used or currently own, so you can take my word for it! 

Foodie Christmas Gift Guide

Foodie Christmas Gift Guide

FOR THE FOODIE:

  • I have been eyeballing these sustainable utensils for daily lunches and also for travel. These could double for the traveler in your life as well!
  • I use a tofu press nearly every time I cook. Before I had one, I was using books and dish towels and it was just a mess. Do the veggie foodie in your life a favor and hook them up. 
  • If your foodie friend has a sweet tooth, I would definitely recommend placing an order with Hunnybon sweets - the caramels are to die for. 
  • Who doesn't love a subscription box? Get Raw box is my favorite foodie box and each box really does last a long time. These are also good for travelers or just friends and family that are looking for more natural brands and items to use around their home. 
  • I don't really think you can ever have enough grocery totes. I use them every week and I even take them with me on trips (because you just never know when you will need to do some shopping) 
Fitness Enthusiast Christmas Gift Guide

Fitness Enthusiast Christmas Gift Guide

FOR THE FITNESS ENTHUSIAST:

  • If you haven't heard me talk about the Ellie box subscription then you probably don't follow me on Instagram (which you should). I would highly, highly recommend this box for any of the fitness enthusiasts in your life - yourself included. I can attest for the fact that we just work out harder when we feel cute. 
  • Like grocery totes, I don't think we can ever really have enough reusable water bottles. I actually tend to lose mine over time, so I'm glad I have extras. 
  • Protein bars are not cheap. This is why it makes a great gift! Treat them to some delicious protein bars or switch it up and be original by ordering them some of the protein popcorn (and feel free to use K8CANRELATE at checkout for 15% off, I get a small commission if you use it, so just don't if that's weird for you!) 
  • I don't use it as often as I should but I love my acupuncture massage mat. It's basically like a massage that you don't have to pay for every time you want one. I know I would be stoked to receive this as a gift, whether I was a fitness enthusiast or not. 
  • Resistance bands are a great additional to gym or at-home workouts. They are perfect for traveling because they are small and easy to pack. Basically, they are essential. I use them every single time I train legs. I ordered mine from Amazon and they work great. 
Christmas Gift Guide For the Traveler

Christmas Gift Guide For the Traveler

FOR THE WANDERER: 

  • A friend introduced me to the Lush Sleepy lotion and my life has been forever changed. This would be a great gift for anyone but I am particularly suggesting it for the travelers in your life because I struggle to sleep in unfamiliar and new places. This lotion is a travel must! 
  • I know not everyone is as bookish as I am and I know that a lot of people carry e-readers now. I mean, it definitely is better for the environment etc. etc. but I just CANNOT fully give up my paper books. The smell, the feel of pages between my fingers. . it truly is a love affair. I digress. Buy your nerdy travel friend a book to read for their layover, flights, or just to relax with.  
  • Sunglasses are one of those things that are perfect year-round. There are expensive brands that are oh-so-trendy that I always think I want, until I remember that I am not rich nor can I keep the same pair for very long (forever losing or breaking them). I found this brand of affordable AND trendy sunglasses and am a big fan. They have lots of designs but these are especially great for the person in your life that has been bitten by the travel bug. 
  • I mean, who doesn't love a travel pillow
  • I mean... I guess they would have to love to travel AND like to drink for this gift to work. But, I mean, you can never have enough of these cool Carry on cocktail kits to pass around (or keep for yourself) 
  • I am trying to get better about bringing my reusable coffee cup with me everywhere. I really am trying to be mindful about the amount of waste I am contributing and an easy one to fix are coffee cups. There are lots out there, but I find this one to be my favorite and particularly reliable. 
  • If they love to travel, chances are they want to document those travels. If you want to buy them a camera, I'm sure they will love you forever. But, odds are, they already have a phone they use or a camera. A tripod is definitely on my list this year.   
Beauty Babe Christmas Gift Guide

Beauty Babe Christmas Gift Guide

FOR THE BEAUTY BABE:

  • I absolutely love the mission behind this skincare brand. Frank & Whit have amazing skincare, I particularly am a fan of their facescrub but you really cannot go wrong with any choice you make. These are great gifts and perfect as stocking stuffers. 
  • I have been consistently using the Tula cleanser for over a year now. I was originally sent a sample for free but it hooked me and I have bought it numerous times since then. I don't have bad skin, per say, but I do get breakouts. This definitely helped clear up my skin. 
  • I have the Clarisonic Mia 2 that I bought for myself last year. I was hoping it was not just something that beauty vloggers raved about because they got paid to. Thankfully, it really works miracles on my skin. I cannot recommend it enough! I use the Radiance brush heads as they seem to work best for me. These are pricy but definitely an investment well worth the price tag. 
  • I read about this mask on Facebook or somewhere random and decided to try it out. It's like the number one selling item on Amazon or something crazy like that! I know the benefits of bentonite clay so I imagined that it had to be good. It's a dry powder that you mix with equal parts apple cider vinegar. This is so cheap and will last FOREVER so I would definitely recommend getting yourself one as well as one for the beauty babe in your life. 
  • I had eyelash extensions for a few months and LOVED them. My local salon in Charleston, West Virginia has the best eyelash artist who is always running promotions and specials. I had to let my extensions fall out just because it is a lot of upkeep but they are so wonderful for events or vacations! The lashes that Sara uses are cruelty-free as well. I am sure you could easily find a salon in your location that uses cruelty-free lashes, just make sure you do your research. Or, if you are in the Charleston area, get a gift card from Spa Bliss and be sure to ask for Sara! 
  • As you know, I am trying to incorporate more sustainable practices into my life. I never thought about how much waste toothbrushes amounts to but, it's a lot. Opt to give the beauty babe or the environmentally friend babe in your life one of these awesome Boie toothbrushes and help out the Earth while you are at it. 
Christmas Gift Guide for Dogs

Christmas Gift Guide for Dogs

FOR THE FUR BABIES:

  • Of course I couldn't leave out the dogs in your life. If you haven't tried to make your own dog treats, you should! It's really simple (and they are actually very delicious human snacks as well) I have a recipe you here that you could use the mold to have snacks ready for the dogs on Christmas! 
  • I mean, if you don't match your kids on Christmas, what are you even doing? I don't know if my dogs feel embarrassment but I like to pretend they will inwardly groan as I strap on their Christmas jammies
  • Maybe you are vegan and want to get your friends' dogs started on vegan dog treats or maybe you want to stock up your own pup. I love this site for all of their vegan options but I especially love their starter kit as a Christmas gift!
  • Every dog needs a bed (preferably not yours). The same company that sells the vegan starter kits also sells these awesome eco-friendly dog beds that come in super fun colors. Let's be honest, the colors are more for us than for the dogs, but we can pretend. 

I hope you enjoyed this year's vegan friendly Christmas guide! Let me know if you end up buying any of it (for yourself or for someone else). You can also share this post to your Pinterest to save for later! 

Climate Science Needs Anthropology

1978 snowfall in Culloden, West Virginia (where I grew up)

1978 snowfall in Culloden, West Virginia (where I grew up)

Climate Science Needs Anthropology

Below is a paper that I wrote for one of my graduate courses at Marshall University Graduate College. I had the privilege of being invited to attend this seminar with Dr. Susan Crate who is a a Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. An environmental and cognitive anthropologist, she has worked with indigenous communities in Siberia since 1988. 

I did a poll on Instagram and it seemed that a great deal of people would enjoy reading the paper, so here you go, I hope you learn something and enjoy: 


Anthropology, the study of human beings through time, has the means to provide a varied, necessary, and perhaps vital understanding of climate dynamics at the local level. Humans, particularly indigenous humans, are drastically affected by the direct and indirect effects of climate change all over the world. We all share this Earth. All voices, including the politically powerless, need to be heard about climate change and how it is affecting them. Anthropologists have the tools necessary to bridge the gap between science and daily reality for these individuals and for all of us. Conversely, without an interdisciplinary approach, climate scientists, and the public, will not be able to see the larger picture of what is at stake.

Both editions of Susan Crate and Mark Nuttall’s Anthropology and Climate Change help me frame the discussion as to why anthropology is essential to a broader understanding of climate science. In addition by sharing my own climate story, I hope to exemplify how we can enact the tools of anthropology to advocate for our own people. We can only truly understand how our climate is changing when we stop to listen to those being affected firsthand.

Climate change deserves definition, as there are a number of misconceptions. We are all familiar with weather. Weather is what we see changing in the sky, which informs meteorologists as to predictions about what we can expect via our local news station. Weather can be fickle and change from moment to moment and day to day. Climate, however, is the statistical average of weather in an area over a long period of time. There can be the climate of West Virginia, the climate of Appalachia or the climate of the Earth itself. Crate and Nuttall offer this:

We can define climate change as a variation in climatic parameters attributed directly or indirectly to human activities, the growing use of technology, industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, resource depletion, environmental degradation, and consumer lifestyles, all of which is entangled with natural variations in climate. (Crate et al, 16, 2nd ed.)

Anthropology is a fairly broad discipline which focuses on the study of people through time and space. “Anthropology solidly contributes to understanding past and present human adaptive strategies and the effects of climate change, how humans observe and perceive these changes, and how they think about and relate to the weather” (Crate et al, 16, 2nd ed.). Anthropologists consider different aspects to come to a full understanding of the human condition, both past and present. “Historically, anthropologists in the United States have been trained in one of four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology” (American Anthropology Association).

Climate scientists have traditionally understood climate change as a nature problem. Anthropologists are unique because they see climate change as a human problem. “Anthropologists work on the human rights aspects of climate change; they assess and evaluate the vulnerability and resilience of communities” (Crate et al, 12, 2nd ed.). While both climate scientists and anthropologists conduct important research surrounding the issue of climate change, the two have not always been compatible. Many reasons inform us as to why anthropologists have struggled to be a part of the climate change dialogue. The necessary training and funding are often lacking that enables the two disciplines to work together on research projects. “Fundamentally, anthropologists are methodological individualists. We are not trained in collaborative research, and we are not socialized to work together; instead, we compete for publications, jobs and visibility” (Crate et al, 270, 1st ed.). Anthropologists have since realized, through expanding their awareness of how weather affects populations and culture, the importance of their work in the climate change dialogue. “Anthropologists are engaging research that has a concern with resilience, vulnerability, adaption, mitigations, and displacement. Anthropologists have developed significant work on the politics of climate change, inequality, health, carbon sequestration, and water and energy” (Crate et al, 11, 2nd ed.).

To further exacerbate the difficulties in cross discipline discussions, climate researchers, and natural scientists in general, tend to speak in technical terms. Climate change can be a very scary and overwhelming subject for someone to understand. Not everyone has the education or exposure to climate change information to understand what is happening around them in terms of weather or climate when it is filtered through the vocabulary and vernacular of climate scientists. Anthropology is in a unique position. Increasingly, climate change is being understood as a phenomenon with multiple causes and stressors. Because of this, anthropologists are being asked to collaborate with climate scientists on climate science research and projects to develop “more human-inclusive approaches to understanding change” (Crate et al, 152, 1st ed.).

Anthropology is science of the totality of humans and our existence. The discipline deals with the integration of different aspects of the humanities and human biology. Humans have long used the humanities to understand the world around them. “Contemplating a sculpture might make you think about how an artist's life affected her creative decisions. Reading a book from another region of the world might help you think about the meaning of democracy. Listening to a history course might help you better understand the past, while at the same time offer you a clearer picture of the future.” (Stanford University) Watching a documentary about a mother and daughter documenting how societies are being forced to change their ways of life because of their changing surroundings or a documentary about beautiful photography showcasing the changes in ice over time might help you better understand what climate change is and how it is affecting people around the world. Listening to stories being told from someone in your community about weather from their childhood might help you to make connections to the changes in weather patterns you have noticed in your own life.  

Anthropologists use methods and tools to figure out how local livelihood is affected by any number of factors (Crate et al, 155, 1st ed.). In considering local observations of weather and climate, they gain insight to incorporate into a larger conversation on climate change. If communities are going to truly understand climate change and what it means for them and their families, there has to be “locally relevant information” (Crate et al, 155, 1st ed.) available to them. “Climate change is not something that may happen in the near or far future but it is an immediate, lived reality” (Crate et al, 9, 1st ed.) for a vast number of people. For example, local communities, especially community elders, are able to tell stories of their own experiences with weather and climate. Anthropologists are in a unique position to be able to listen to the communities they work with and also to witness firsthand the changes affecting that group. Anthropologists can use the knowledge and insights they gain from the communities to advocate on their behalf. “Advocacy is key not only in our collaborative relationship with communities but also in representing their best interests in policy and other advocacy contexts” (Crate et al, 148, 1st ed,). Not only can anthropologists affect policy, they can also “link [their] research partners with other communities who have gone through similar experiences” (Crate et al, 148, 1st ed.). In this way, anthropologists are a crucial actor in the understanding of climate dynamics in our increasingly globalized world.

One example of how anthropologists have petitioned for the human rights issues affected by climate change is seen in the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). The ICC was founded in 1977 in order to bring together and strengthen the voice of the Inuit people. The past chair of the Council spoke about climate change as a human rights issue (Crate et al, 15, 1st ed.). Prior to speaking out about how climate change is a human rights issue, the ICC used their meetings to talk mostly about science and policy. As we can see, anthropologists provide crucial information in absentia of voices who are not typically heard. This means they are in a unique position to bridge the gap between the general public and climate scientists.

What can anthropologists bring to the table that has not already been served? In an article “Storying Climate Change” Dr. Susie Crate discusses how local testimony can evoke our deep connection to our neighbor, more so than any amount of scientific fact. “People are more moved by stories about those who are directly affected.” Anthropology and ethnography allow us to use time tested tools to carve out the stories of those affected by climate change. “It turns out that no matter where people live, they are moved by stories that resonate with their sense of place and mode of being on the planet.” We can see this firsthand in the documentary “The Anthropologist” featuring Dr. Susie Crate and her daughter, Katie. As the story unfolds, it forces introspection as to how we are dealing with climate change in our own personal lives. There are many takeaways from the documentary: why climate science needs anthropology, the importance of participant observation in the areas that are being most affected by climate change, and an undercurrent that we should not and cannot force others to change; we can only change our own thoughts, habits and actions and hope that it inspires others to do the same.

Jökulsárlón is a magnificent glacial lagoon in South-Iceland right by ring-road 1.

Jökulsárlón is a magnificent glacial lagoon in South-Iceland right by ring-road 1.

Serendipitously, I found myself traveling to Iceland for vacation in the midst of my climate science research. The scenic country of Iceland is known for its waterfalls, views of the Northern Lights and their black sand beaches. While in Iceland I visited Vatnajökull National Park which houses the largest and most voluminous glacier in the country. I was moved by the size and beauty of the glaciers. I was even more struck by the rapidity in which they seemed to be breaking off and floating into the lagoon. I recalled what I had been reading in Anthropology and Climate Change; many anthropologists are conducting fieldwork in areas that have glaciers and are working alongside glaciologists and climate scientists alike.

The range is extreme, depending on the initial size, location, and orientation of the glacier in question. What will happen if these glaciers disappear? In Leukerbad, local people have varying opinion, from ‘Nothing at all,’ to ‘We will have to leave the valley where our families settled over five hundred years ago.’ Within a couple of generations (by 2050), this community will have to make difficult decisions about water resource distribution and energy supplies that may have implications extending well beyond the reaches of their narrow valley. (Crate et al, 169, 1st ed.)

I wondered if this will be the same reality for Iceland and realized that it already is. The Earth is undergoing rapid changes and the best visual representation of that is in our ice. 

I recently watched a climate science documentary titled “Chasing Ice” (found on Netflix) which is following National Geographic photographer, James Balog, and his team as they photograph and document the changing in glaciers around the globe. “Powerful symbols of unspoiled, unconquered nature, glaciers attract tourists and mountaineers from different parts of the world. At the same time, they are emblematic of cultural identities.” (Crate et al, 92, 1st ed.) Iceland and many other countries as well, have a sense of fierce attachment to their mountains and glaciers. These images are displayed as symbols of their economy and of their culture. “Chasing Ice” opened my eyes further to the important role that the humanities can play in bringing awareness and understanding to climate change. James Balog’s photographs are beautiful and world-renowned. When you compare a photo of the glacier in 2005 with a photo in the exact same spot a few years later it is impossible not to notice the differences. James, like Dr. Crate, is not trying to force anyone to believe in climate change. James and Dr. Crate are presenting the realities and stories of human beings and how they are presently dealing with changes in their landscape.

Through this research I myself keep finding, time and again, that our sense of home and purpose are intrinsically bound together and woven throughout everything that we, as humans, do. When we hear a story about someone from “home” who has been adversely affected by climate change, we are much more likely to listen and to take action. In 2016, West Virginia experienced a catastrophic flooding event. The National Weather Service called in a ‘one in a thousand year event’. If you read the national news on the event, you will not find much in the way of local interviews and instead you will be reading bits from politicians, meteorologists or even climate scientists. Rarely, however, are you able to find the stories being told by elders and locals on just how rare this extreme rainfall and flooding was for southern West Virginia. Autumn Hopkins, an Elkins native, shares her story through the Huffington Post:

My name is Autumn Hopkins; many of you know me just as Aum.  My family and I are from Elkview, West Virginia, for many generations back. You may [have] never heard of Elkview until recently when you saw it on the news. I am the crazy . . . animal lady in Elkview, or people know me from yoga class, or Itty Bitty Kitty Committee, or roller derby, or church, or as Fred’s wife, or Sarah’s mom. I have many titles but now I have one I never wanted: homeless flood victim . . . I lay my head down at night in a bed that doesn’t belong to me, and when the panic attacks stop, I wake the next morning to find the nightmare is real and we start again.

With such stories of individuals affected by extreme weather events, an audience may react with empathy. Understanding another human’s plight in such cases, awareness is better raised about how weather is changing and not returning to more familiar expectations. By using anthropology as a platform to tell our stories, we find a sense of purpose and connection to one another and perhaps listeners can then be motivated to increase their awareness and education, which may lead to action.

Autumn lives in West Virginia, as I do, and West Virginia is part of the larger region of Appalachia. This region is a case in point regarding populations deeply affected by climate change but has had little in the way of voice on the subject. As a youth in West Virginia, I always felt we were up against the rest of the world: I felt that we were looked down upon, made fun of and that we were taken advantage of. Appalachia has long been misrepresented by the media as a degenerate region and these media portrayals have inflamed negative stereotypes of West Virginians. Part of this is due to our terrain, which is mountainous, and lends itself to isolation in some aspects, and therefore, typically voices not heard. The dehumanizing rhetoric has, in part, allowed for the exploitation of our people and our vast natural resources. Take, for example, surface coal mining otherwise known as mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal is the process of clearing, blasting and digging away the top of a mountain in order to excavate coal. “If coal mining continues at its current pace, the authors predict the next 12 to 20 years will see Southern Appalachian forests switch from a net carbon sink to a net carbon source — meaning the area will emit more carbon than it takes in” (Foley, Appalachian Voices)

As I read through Anthropology and Climate Change, it struck me how this same sense of feeling inferior can be intrinsically tied into the impacts I now feel on the weather and our climate here in Appalachia. “On a temporal scale, the effects of climate change are the indirect costs of imperialism and colonization . . . These are the same peoples whose territories have long been a dumping ground for uranium, industrial societies’ trash heaps, and transboundary pollutants. Climate change is environmental colonialism at its fullest development” (Crate et al, 11, 1st ed.). Constantly surrounded by chemical-drenched and polluted air, having little choice but to drink contaminated water as well as permanently altering the state of the land to extract natural resources, we have now truly begun to see how the actions of others have impacted our livelihoods and quality of life here in West Virginia. Our region’s cultural identity has been closely tied to the coal industry. This is a deeply personal example of why we, West Virginians, need anthropologists to help us understand climate science and advocate on our behalf.

Despite the obvious collaboration that should be forged between anthropologists and climate scientists, doubt remains. Some may be hesitant or wary about anthropologists and their role in climate science. My grandparents would have been leery because “real scientists” were the only ones that were trusted. However, I also know that they loved to tell stories and speak about their past. Thankfully, the tide is changing, literally and figuratively, and climate scientists seem to be encouraging more and more experts to the table. I imagine that both of my grandparents would have been more than happy to be a part of Participatory Action Research (PAR) in the area. PAR is a research approach that seeks to emphasize community participation and local knowledge and skills on a given topic. “The understanding that reality is socially-constructed and viewed in different ways by different actors in a system points to the need for external researchers to be engaged in processes of joint learning with those directly affected by climate change” (German et al, 10). In Anthropology and Climate Change Button and Peterson talk about the importance of community members coming together to tell their stories in order to create a “shared memory bank” (Crate et al, 33, 1st ed.). Members of the community could come together to tell their own oral histories and understandings of culture and climate.

I believe West Virginians are quite a resilient people, but could certainly benefit from a strengthening and preserving of cultural knowledge especially regarding extreme weather. I conducted a handful of interviews with lifelong West Virginian natives, careful not to use the term “climate change” and instead focused on changes in local weather patterns and local environment. “In general, when asked about ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’, consultants gave summaries about what they had heard from a scientist . . . or media outlets” (Crate et al, 212, 1st ed.). I spoke with a Saint Albans, West Virginia native, Mindy Ilar, who elicited a powerful narrative about the importance of memory, local knowledge and the climate:

I remember playing in the snow when I was a kid. It felt like it was for like a month that we stayed home to play. There were six of us . . . siblings, I mean. It was fantastic, all that snow. We made igloos and tunnels and they stayed intact for days. I can remember having enough snow that we could go sledding up at an old school on the hill and there were lots of us kids that went to play. There was just always plenty of snow in the winter. In ‘85 or ‘86, we had a snow storm that generated enough [snow] that we were able to go sledding. We went at night and there was a group of us, the snow was wet and packed down so it made for great sledding.

Through this narrative we can see how a collaborative effort between anthropologists in the field and natural scientists is ideal. Anthropologists compile local stories and knowledge and look for patterns such as abundant snow in winters past and compare that with real time weather and climate data. Communities are then able to see these climate changes and how they can enact positive change in their own neighborhoods if they realize that conditions require action.

For 26 years, the West Virginia valleys have been my home. My parents cultivated a deep appreciation of the outdoors in me. Living in West Virginia, I think it’s easy to take the outdoors for granted because nature is so vast and so abundant where we live, but my parents made sure I knew how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place. I spent countless hours in my grandparent’s garden growing up, plucking cherry tomatoes from the vine and blackberries from the bush and being scolded to stop eating them all. Summers were dedicated to family camping trips, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors. We experienced all four seasons in West Virginia so distinct that you didn’t even need a calendar to label the month. I was never a fan of winter, because I always preferred a hot summer day to a blistery, cold winter day. Yet, I remember playing in blizzards as a child and having white Christmases. As I have gotten older, I have noticed a distinct difference in our weather here in West Virginia. It gets warm enough in the spring to feel like a summer day, and additionally the summers have gotten warmer and warmer as the years pass by. And despite my dislike of winter, I found myself wondering how many more winters we would have snowfall at all.

An interesting juxtaposition is present in West Virginia. Residents always seemed to have a deep bond with the land. Lakes, rivers and streams are worshiped for teeming with life and the mountains stand as a symbol both politically and poetically. However, I remember the smell of dirty air with a faint but constant smell of some kind of chemical from a nearby plant and the way that the Kanawha River ran yellow and stained your light-colored clothes. I remember watching entire mountaintops being blown away and never replaced, wondering where the wildlife would have to run to. My grandmother was the more religious member of the family and I recall her understanding of "climate change" to be tied into religion. There was one specific interaction when I was a young girl, probably seven or eight years old, and we must have been talking about the weather. We were both in the kitchen, facing toward the window and my grandmother was telling me that it was getting harder and harder to distinguish between the seasons. She told me that in the book of Revelations it states that when the end is near you will no longer be able to tell one season from the next.

I grew up in an environmentally-conscious family, even if they wouldn’t label themselves as such. When I was little, my grandparents scolded me for leaving refrigerator doors open or leaving the water running or the lights remaining on. I guess you could say that many of our family traditions were built around sustainable practices. I helped my grandfather take the waste out to the compost to use in the garden. My grandparents always recycled and reused. My grandmother saved every paperclip and rubber band to use again in the future. My grandfather always asked for paper bags rather than plastic. I was too young to ask if it was directly because of their concern for the environment or if it was more because they lived through the Great Depression and knew that it was wasteful to throw things away. Regardless, they planted a deep appreciation in me for doing my part in reducing, reusing and recycling.

When my friends hear about climate change on television or read about it on Facebook, most of them know that climate change is happening and they don’t try to negate the fact of it.  Yet, I also think they feel unaffected in their personal lives. Maybe they are just nonplussed about the changes taking shape across our Earth. They roll their eyes in a playful manner and chuckle to themselves when I refuse a straw in a restaurant for my drink and instead opt for the reusable glass straw that I keep tucked away inside my bag. They brace themselves when I start explaining the effects of animal agriculture on the warming of the planet and the detriment the waste has on our ocean systems. They pretend to listen as I rattle on about glacier retreat in Iceland. My former work colleagues, however, feel that climate change is a political issue. It seems they are mostly blinded by the politics and refuse to unpack the science. They are hesitant to believe what they read because there are so many political opinions dressed as facts; it can be hard to wade through false and true information.

Friends, family and coworkers alike are also enmeshed in the coal culture that we were raised in here in West Virginia, and it can be hard to trust your own logic and knowledge to go against decades of tradition. It is touted that coal is the savior of West Virginia; the propaganda is far-reaching and dates back for years. We are not raised to understand sustainability today. If we are taught to understand sustainability, it is sparingly at best. You rarely hear stories here in West Virginia of the environmental or human impacts that coal power plants have and continue to have. This mindset can be a tough one to shake.

As time has gone on, however, it has become harder and harder to disregard the natural phenomena taking place right here in our own backyards. Winter snow has become elusive and white Christmases seem to be long gone. Uncharacteristic rainfall has led to unprecedented flooding that has devastated the lives and well-being of many West Virginians. Record temperatures are met and exceeded and cannot be ignored.  Most months would be difficult to label by the weather patterns alone, as the temperature and weather patterns are too unpredictable. The Earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century but most of the warming has occurred in just the past 35 years. The warmest year on record is 2016; eight of the twelve months were the warmest on record for those respective months according to NASA. The well-being of one ecosystem is linked to the stability of dozens of others, making it an indicator of the chain reaction that can occur.

My experiences in nature as a youth pushed me to be more involved in its sustainability in my adult life; I have taken time to educate myself on the climate and various ways that I can make a change. Because of the deep appreciation for the environment that my family instilled in me, I carry my grandfather’s legacy by taking action.  I went vegan almost two years ago for the sake of animals, but I quickly learned how animal agriculture affects the planet.  I have decided to travel back to Iceland this winter to explore the glaciers firsthand. “While a great deal has been written on glacier retreat, very little empirical research has been conducted on human responses to its varied impacts.” (Crate et al, 92, 1st ed.). I hope to gain further insight from locals and guides that have witnessed firsthand the changes in their surroundings. This is how I make meaningful connections between my life and the changing climate around me. Using anthropological tools, we can encourage more individuals to speak up and tell their own stories. Anthropologists are trained to be able to notice patterns in these stories which, in turn, will add to the credibility of climate science.

There are obstacles to overcome, political and also cultural, but I have no doubt that through education and the continuing collaboration between climate change scientists and anthropologists/ethnologists we will be able to have a healthy planet for future generations. I know that my actions, along with the actions of others, can lead to a chain of smarter and more informed decision-making and innovation. Here in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia, storytelling and oral traditions are a cultural characteristic endemic to our culture. Story is a part of being human and has survived all technological advances. Whether orally or electronically, we should be encouraging storytelling about our weather and its changes to help citizens see in a non-threatening way how crucial understanding climate change and taking appropriate action can be.

All in all, climate science would be incomplete without anthropology. Anthropologists conduct in-depth and long term research and community engagement that are necessary to understanding local communities and their connection to the environment. Anthropology allows local observations and knowledge to be brought into the conversation on what is happening to the globe on a smaller scale. Without the connections being made between normal, everyday citizens of the world and the effects of climate change, no real progress will be made. The statistics are out there: the Earth is warming at an alarming rate, ice is melting, sea levels are rising and extreme weather events are becoming the norm. I am not arguing that these statistics pushed out by climate scientists are not vital and highly valuable but these statistics become useless unless citizens receiving the information place value on them. The consequences of leaving anthropologists and their work out of the climate conversation are lethal. Anthropologists are in a unique position to use the tools of their trade to advocate for indigenous people and the larger cultures at risk of climate effects, including story climate change on a local level, contribute to a broader global understanding of climate change and are able to see the human aspect of the climate problem.


 

Work Cited

American Anthropological Association. “What is Anthropology?” American Anthropological Association, www.americananthro.org/AdvanceYourCareer/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=2150&navItemNumber=740.

Beasley, Jerry. “Weather Patterns and Changes.” 10 Sept. 2017.

Crate, Susan Alexandra, and Mark Nuttall. Anthropology and climate change: from encounters to actions. Left Coast Press, 2009.

Crate, Susan Alexandra., and Mark Nuttall. Anthropology and climate change: from actions to transformations. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Foley, Melanie. “A Clearcut Connection Between Mountaintop Removal and Climate Change.” Appalachian Voices, 20 Feb. 2013, appvoices.org/2013/02/20/a-clear-connection-between-mountaintop-removal-and-climate-change/.

German, Laura. The Application of Participatory Action Research to Climate Change Adaptation in Africa. International Development Research Centre, 2012, erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/40670/FULL%20TEXT.pdf?sequence=.

Hopkins, Autumn D. F. “The Flood.” The Huffington Post, The Huffington Post, 30 June 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-flood_us_57747346e4b0ee1c313daecc.

Ilar, Mindy. “Weather Patterns and Changes.” 12 Sept. 2017.

Vickers, Kim. “Weather Changes.” 11 Oct. 2017.

“What is climate change?” BBC News, BBC, 4 Oct. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24021772.

9 Ways to Prepare for Stress-Free Holidays

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If you struggle with anxiety like me, you know that the holidays can be an especially stressful time. From too-large crowds to jam packed schedules, the holidays can wreak havoc on our nerves. Below are some tips that I plan to implement for the upcoming season. I wanted to share them with all of you in the hopes that we can all have a stress-free time with our loved ones.

1.       Be present. No, I don’t mean BUY presents. I mean, stay in the present moment. Practice active listening, I know how easy it is to tune out during holiday get-togethers but you might be surprised at how rewarding it feels to be there in the moment with your loved ones.

2.       Thrift for gifts. Is money your main stressor? Make a budget and stick to it. Thrifting is great for your wallet and the environment! Shop for clothing items on sites like Poshmark. Take to Pinterest for ideas on how to repurpose items you have hardly used or simply re-gift some of those things you have never taken out of the box.

3.       Respect your limits. Don’t overbook yourself. We can’t use anxiety as an excuse to avoid all of our triggers, even at the holidays. But we can still say “no” when we feel overwhelmed or like we need some time to unwind from the holidays. There are routines that I have set in place that I feel ok bending to a certain degree, but I can’t forego my usual routines every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Know what you can and cannot handle and what you do and do not want to allow. If crowds overwhelm you, plan accordingly. Don’t go to the mall in the afternoon on a Saturday, plan to shop online or at slow times. If you know that exercising is critical to your mental health, don’t give that up.

4.       Be open to a range of emotions. Understand that the holidays bring up all kinds of emotions for different people. For some, they bring overwhelming joy and happiness but for other they signal loneliness and grief. Be kind to yourself and open to anything that might bubble up inside you. Stay self-aware so that you can cope with them as they arise. Remember to be patient and kind to others as well, we don’t know what the holidays brings up for them in their lives.

5.       Have a support system in place. We all have those people that just calm our nerves and we feel comfortable being around. Let those people know that you may need them more than usual over the holiday season. If you know you will forget to remind yourself, have them remind you to get adequate sleep and exercise. And still do fun things for you!

6.       Determine whether or not to keep family traditions. This may mean a serious conversation with your significant other or family members. Determine whether or not it is necessary to go to every event this holiday season.

7.       Prepare talking points. For some, political family discussions are our worst nightmare or biggest stress inducer. Prepare talking points ahead of time if you want to calmly spearhead the topics you know your family is going to bring up. Alternately, you can make a list of talking points that are neutral ground and things you can easily steer the conversation back on track with. You can also prepare something about how you don’t want to spoil family time with conversations that you know could make you or others upset, and ask them kindly to respect your wishes.

8.       Prepare your own food (if you have a specialty diet.)If you get antsy thinking about all of the cruelty at your family’s dining table, or you just have a sensitivity to dairy or gluten, think potluck! Tell the host or hostess that you will be bringing food options for you. They may surprise you with items they planned to make especially for you, or they may be overjoyed to have extra help in the kitchen.

9.       Prepare yourself emotionally. If someone is provoking you about your lifestyle choices, don’t stoop to their level. This is something that happens a lot to vegans at the holidays. People often question what they don’t know, questions are okay if you are comfortable with answering them. If you don’t, and they insist on answers, let them know that you would be glad to share what you know about animal agriculture, but privately and at another time. If someone is trying to guilt you, or make passive-aggressive jokes towards you, let them know that they are making you uncomfortable.

Tips to Live More Sustainably

Photo by @_takingmylifeback featuring reusable glass jars for prepped food storage and featuring Hummingbird Straws on the left.

Photo by @_takingmylifeback featuring reusable glass jars for prepped food storage and featuring Hummingbird Straws on the left.

This semester in graduate school I am taking an Anthropology course on Climate Change. I get the privilege of reading and watching Dr. Susan Crate’s work as an Environmental Anthropologist who has spent years documenting how people are responding to the effects of climate change. While reading through Anthropology & Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions, my inner activist has been enlivened anew. As most (if not all) of you know, Mother Earth is pretty important to me. I went vegan for the animals but stay vegan for the environment and my health as well. I refuse plastic straws, bottled water and plastic grocery bags. My partner and I are consciously scaling back on our possessions as we want to transition to tiny home life. This book reminded me that every small thing is indeed important, but sustainability cannot wait and there is more that I can be doing.


I want to kick start the “doing more” by sharing easy and simple life changes* that you can make in your own lives to live “greener” and more sustainably! Those are just buzz words for adopting practices that are less harmful to the Earth. At the end of the article I will include trusted brands and products that I use or that my Green Guru Kelly (@_takingmylifeback) uses.

  1. Reduce Energy Use – What does that even mean, right? It is as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room, set your thermostat lower in the winter and cuddle up, open the windows to allow a breeze when it is warmer out, use energy efficient lightbulbs and appliances.

  2. Shop Your Local Farmers' Market or CSA – Not only does this mean that you get to support your neighbors, you are also reducing your carbon footprint! Supermarkets are convenient and awesome and are stocked with produce regardless of the season. Unfortunately, this means that those fruits and veggies had to be shipped for a long time to reach your grocery cart. Start small by vowing to just get what you can from the farmers market and follow up with a trip to the grocery after.

  3. Say No to Disposables – Speaking of the grocery store, say no to plastic grocery bags! Stock up a few cute reusable bags to take with you to the market. You’ll be cuter and trendier AND be helping the environment. Say no to disposable cups and cutlery as well. Swing by your local Goodwill and stock up the office lunchroom with reusable utensils and mugs. If you find yourself throwing a large party, find recycled cutlery to use as a nice compromise. There are also recyclable garbage bags that are a great alternative to traditional plastic bags. You can start by just making a list of the things you throw away most often and investing in reusable products for those things first.

  4. Resell and Donate – Stop giving in to consumer culture. I know that marketing is everywhere telling you to do anything but resell and donate. Thankfully the environmental movement has breathed new life into thrifting so this is easier than it used to be. There are many vintage and thrift store options. When you do buy new, buy quality items that will last longer and support ethical clothing brands. Even H&M has jumped on the ethical train and have started selling a line of clothing that are environmentally conscious. By extending the life of any product, you help reduce dependence on disposable or cheaply made single-use products that end up in landfills.

  5. Drink From the Tap! – I grew up drinking from the tap. For us, bottled water was an unnecessary expense. Stop buying bottled water like, right now! Get a filter if you are wary of drinking straight from the tap. There are low-end and high-end filtration systems, find one to suit your fancy. Reusable bottles are again more trendy and cute and just simpler. I super love Klean Kanteen (linked below) because you can use them for water, coffee, smoothies and more. You can even get through TSA with an empty reusable bottle and fill it up with the drinking fountain when you reach your gate. Encourage your employer to install filters and offer glasses or reusable bottles at work, too.

  6. Save Water – Okay, I know I go against the mainstream in many, many ways but you do not need to shower every day. You just don’t. I know you think you are filthy but until you experience filth firsthand, know that you are very clean. We are taught to be terrified of germs, I get it. If you can’t fathom the idea of showering every other day, buy a water-saving shower head and start timing your showers.

  7. Rethink Kitchen Practices – This is still something we are working on in my household. Simple changes are things like swapping paper towels for cloth towels and using cold water when hand washing. If you aren’t into the idea of composting, no worries, just use your veggie and fruit scraps for juicing! Repurpose glass jars whenever possible and ditch the plastic straws for reusable glass ones. I was raised on Ziploc baggies but have since adopted reusable bags to haul snacks in. Opt for home cooked meals and if you do order take away, be sure to reuse the containers.

  8. Go Paperless – This is as simple as opting for electronic bills and bill pay and electronic receipts. As nice as paper wedding invitations and RSVPs can be, so can electronic versions (which is what we are opting for on our wedding). Something a bit tougher for me is switching to an electronic reader rather than paper books. The way I reached a compromise was by purchasing used books only. You can incorporate paperless and sustainable practices at work as well, encourage coworkers to use scrap paper and management to correspond electronically.

  9. Reduce Dependence On Your Car – For some, this isn’t possible. Living in West Virginia, it would be really hard for me to ditch my car as we aren’t bike friendly (yet) and public transportation leaves you wanting. However, for those in larger cities, take advantage of bike lanes and public transportation. Car pool when you can and if you are in the market for a new vehicle, check out an electric model.

In the end, you are just one person but revolution starts with small changes. Understand that if we want to leave a beautiful and functioning Earth for future generations, we must act. Educate yourself further by watching documentaries or reading books or reading more blog posts. Educate youth and involve your children in making sustainable projects fun for the family. Remember that no one is perfect and don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you aren’t making a big difference.

Rethink kitchen cabinets and kitchen storage! Follow @_takingmylifeback on Instagram for more green tips and inspiration.

Rethink kitchen cabinets and kitchen storage! Follow @_takingmylifeback on Instagram for more green tips and inspiration.


Brands I would recommend (I am in no way affiliated with any of these brands, with the exception of the tote):

*I am not including going vegan here because let’s be honest, it is not exactly simple or easy. But if you would like a blog post dedicated to the statistics and facts around why going vegan is good for the environment, drop a comment below and I will work on pooling resources to put that together for you!

 

Interview with @Carly_Bergman

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I did a little e-interview with Carly Bergman who you can follow on Instagram @carly_bergman. She is 20 years old from Illinois living in South West Florida while she finishes up school. I like following Carly because she shares a lot of vegan products, not just food but beauty products and clothing items as well. She is passionate about animal welfare and the planet and also an advocate for #freethenipple. She confesses that when she first wanted to become vegan, there was just so much information that she felt overloaded and overwhelmed and unable to commit to the lifestyle because of how overwhelming it felt. I personally know a lot of people that feel that way, and you might relate through Carly’s story. Keep reading to learn more…


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How long have you been on Instagram? What is your handle?

I have been on Instagram for about six years (@carly_bergman). However, I just recently started voicing my vegan lifestyle in full force! I try to combine all aspects of veganism since I am a health-nut and environmentalist.

When did you go vegan?

At the age of 15 I started working at a vegan juice and smoothie bar. I absolutely fell in love with the idea of living the cleanest lifestyle possible. As I aged, I realized the importance of living low-waste and ethically. I believe I will always be vegan because I am equally attached to the ethical side as well as the environmental side.

What would you say sparked your interest in the community?

The health aspect was my initial interest. I love learning about medicinal herbs (especially mushrooms) that cure people of all types of diseases. I have always had an interest in the Native American healing practices, so I believe this is where my health-nut qualities stem from. I started working at a juice bar at the age of 15 and I started learning/implementing Ayurveda and TCM as my knowledge grew.

How long have you been vegan? What was your journey like?

I would consider myself vegan for 4 years. However, there is more to the story. I have eaten fish about roughly five times, but that stopped two and a half years ago. The reason why I was still eating fish was because of doctors- they had me questioning my choices and blamed my state of health because of veganism. Here is the story…

I started working at Pure Juice Café at the age of 15 and I became vegan in full force within two months of starting. I supported the movement 100% and wanted to be the best individual I could be for myself and for the planet. However, I had message overload with all of these controversies I initially had no idea about. Every shift that I worked, I learned something new about veganism. Arsenic in brown rice? Antibiotics in chicken? Oxidizing cells due to radiation? Genetically modified organisms? I panicked from the message overload. I became the vegan that refused to go out with friends that were non-vegans. I was scared of something as simple as ordering food at a restaurant and my food being cooked with too much olive oil at too high of heat (which would deplete the nutrients and therefore I would be eating useless calories). Learning all of this information too quickly (and at a young age at that) sparked an eating disorder. I HAD to eat the cleanest foods and could not fill my body with toxic conventional fruits and veggies that were at restaurants! I isolated myself and got into a dangerous routine of eating mostly raw, low calorie foods.

This mindset lasted for a couple of months and resulted in me losing a ton of weight, hair, and friends. It took a toll on my mental state and physical state. Doctors automatically told me that my hair-loss was directly due to my vegan diet. I NEEDED to eat fish in order for my hair to grow back. I NEEDED chicken for protein. I NEEDED sour cream for fats. At this point I was 16 and didn’t know what to think or who to believe. I gained all of my weight back with a vegan diet, but my hair was still falling out. They said that I at least needed to eat fish in order to see any regrowth. I ate fish about five times between the ages of 16-18, and I hated every minute of it. I automatically wanted to throw up since I knew all of the information about environmental toxins in fish, but a part of me wanted to believe that the doctors were looking out for my best interest and wanted my hair to grow back. I knew I couldn’t continue like this. Every single time I tried to eat fish, I wanted to vomit… I have an EXTREMELY guilty conscience that didn’t help this. The truth of the matter is, my hair never grew back to its full thickness which upset me for a long time. At the time, I questioned if my vegan diet was prolonging the process, but I came to the realization that it didn’t matter. I will take having thinner hair without killing animals than eating fish and destroying the oceans any day.

After blood work and exams at the age of 19, I found out that I have PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome) that causes hormone imbalances aka hair loss. This syndrome’s symptoms are actually LESSEND with a vegan diet… SCREW YOU DOCTORS! After starting to eat more raw, nutrients-dense/high calorie foods combined with Ayurvedic herbs and acupuncture, my hair started to regrow! I would not wish this experience on anyone, but it shaped who I am and made my vegan beliefs even stronger.

What are your favorite vegan YouTube or Instagram accounts to follow? Do you have a YouTube or blog?

I love @Tealixirkombucha, @planet_protein, @brenden_fitz, @elizabethmourar, @badassvegan, @claudiaprzystal @kombucharoyalty

Would you consider yourself to be an activist?

Yes. Although I have always been an advocate for animals and the environment, I recently just started stating my opinions openly on social media. I attend vigils and protests and I plan on going hardcore this year. However, I find that by leading by example on social media more people tend to listen and follow than me going to a protest and screaming at everyone wearing fur (even though sometimes this is tempting). It gets difficult remembering that I used to be that girl eating sushi wearing leather, calling myself an “environmentalist”. I was there, and so have most other vegans. I try to educate from a place of understanding…

Where are you getting your information? (Facts, statistics, etc.)

I learned most of my facts a couple years back while working with an acupuncturist who studied holistic medicine in China. She taught me a lot about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the science behind it. Because I have worked at Pure Juice Café for 4+ years, I know an abundance of information because of my boss and the holistic wizards she brings in!

(I want to meet these wizards!)

What are your favorite vegan foods or products?

I LOVE RAW FOOD. At the moment, I can’t see myself being completely raw. There are some days I eat completely raw and I do not even mean to. All I know is that when I eat raw, I feel unstoppable. My favorite vegan foods are acai bowls and raw desserts. To be honest, I have a serious carrot cake problem. It’s bad. On the cooked food scale, I love Sweet Earth Foods. They have so many burgers and seitan products to choose from #TeamSeitan.

My favorite vegan drink is KOMBUCHA. I am the kombucha queen, I will tell you that without a doubt. There is a time in my life where I was drink 4 Gt’s kombuchas a day, and that time still continues. I’m obsessed with kombucha (and all fermented foods for that matter). The new brand I am obsessed with is Tealixir Kombucha. They use holistic herbs to flavor their kombuchas which is a double whammy!

Beauty product wise, I love the makeup brand Pacifica makeup, Booda Butters lotions, Sunkissed Earth Jewelry, Nature’s Gate, Mad Hippies cleansers, and Hippy Pits deodorant.

Would you say that your page is an authentic representation of you as a person or more of an ‘internet persona’?

My page is more informative at the moment, but I try to add my touch on every single post. I wish people got to experience me in person. I love laughing and goofing around. One thing about me is that I am ALWAYS joking and laughing. I have been getting into collaborations with companies and more of the cross-promotional side of Instagram simply because I want to help expose amazing vegan brands that I personally use. I want my followers to see that veganism is possible ANYWHERE. However, I understand that some may view this as me advertising for too many companies and they might be receiving message overload, so I am trying to find a happy-medium. Overall, I think that through my Instagram people get the gist of my free-spirited self and know that I am just simply happy to be alive and having the opportunity to influence people to make healthier choices for the planet and themselves.

What hashtags do you frequently use or scroll through?

I frequently use #kombuchaqueen (obviously) as well as #vegancommunity, #kombucharoyalty and #plantbasedmuscle

What would you tell someone who is not a part of the vegan community that you think that they should know? Or what is a misconception you often hear about the community?

Some people mention that they do not want to go vegan because they do not care if animals die or if they are harming the planet. They claim it is the circle of life. However, I want people with this mindset to be selfish and go vegan to preserve their own health. NO ONE wants to feel like s*** their entire lives. They just are unaware that eating vegan for three weeks can completely change their physical/mental state. Whenever I come across someone that says they don’t feel bad about eating deer that they hunt, I ask them how their organs feel about it. That automatically gets them thinking about how frumpy and lazy they feel after consuming meats and other processed foods. It’s all about perspective.

 

10 Misconceptions About Going Vegan

Local farmers market finds

Local farmers market finds

  1. You will never get to have your favorite junk foods again. Wrong! This used to be the case but welcome to 2017. We now have restaurants entirely devoted to cooking up delicious vegan foods like pizza, manicotti, nachos, cheese platters and decadent desserts. You can even find vegan burgers next to the ground beef in participating supermarkets.

  2. You will lose weight. You might, but it isn’t a guarantee. Like I said, there are amply junk foods out there. A common misconception is that because it is vegan, it is healthy. It probably is healthier, but everything in moderation. That being said, you are guaranteed to be healthier in terms of heart health, blood pressure, cancer risk etc. but losing weight is not a given.

  3. You will be ridiculed. Often not the case. With social media and the rise of veganism, you are bound to make plenty of friends with similar dietary and lifestyle choices! There are even apps to meet likeminded individuals, or try going to a Veg Fest!

  4. It’s more expensive to eat vegan. Again, largely not the case. Think about your grocery bill, what is the one food group that costs you less than all of the others? Meat, right? You will totally be cutting this out and therefore saving yourself lots of money. There are specialty vegan food items that can be pricy, but you don’t have to buy those things or you can reserve buying those things when you catch them on sale or feel like splurging. Vegan options abound at farmers markets and Aldi.

  5. You have to go vegan overnight. Nope. You can totally cut things out one at a time and move at your own pace. For some, it’s easier to cut it all out at once but that’s up to the individual.

  6. Vegans are mean. They are human. You will find, though, that most are very compassionate and caring individuals. Often it is their passion that comes off as aggressive, haughty or even mean. Once you have this knowledge that few people want to listen to, it can be hard to maintain your cool. Most are very eager to welcome you into the vegan family and offer their own struggles, tips and personal stories.

  7. You have to become an animal rights activist. You don’t, actually. There are a variety of reasons that someone might choose to go vegan. It could be the latest trend, for the health, for the environment or for personal preference. There are also degrees of activism, a small percent of vegans are fulltime activists and some are activists in small ways, rather than out on the picket line.

  8. I only need to modify my diet. Actually, the term vegan encapsulates a lot more than just what you eat. You don’t use products that are tested on animals or that may contain animal ingredients. This constitutes an overhaul of your house cleaning supplies, the types of alcohol you drink and even the clothes that you wear. Again, you don’t have to change everything overnight. Or you can just opt for a vegan diet and forget about the rest. That’s totally up to you and your comfort level.

  9. You can’t go out to eat or over to friends’ houses. Again, not the case. There are tons of restaurant options. If you are worried about a particular restaurant, call ahead and ask if they can make you anything – usually they will have side options at the very least. As for going to dinner parties with friends, this one gets a little more tricky. You can either accept that you can’t be perfect and just try your best or you can eat beforehand or even pack your own. I have been known to do all of these. But, hopefully, you will have wicked support friends and family who make sure you have at least a couple of options. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas are always rough but be proactive and bring a vegan twist on a favorite dish and you are sure to win over the naysayers.

  10. Veganism will make you unhealthy or weak. Definitely not! There are numerous professional athletes that follow a professional diet. There are even more vegan bodybuilders, professional and amateur alike. As for unhealthy, I encourage you to read through scientific literature about plant-based diets or put on a vegan documentary touting the benefits. If you need ideas or more support, check out my blog posts on going vegan here, and here.

     

     

When Life Gets Crazy

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As many of you probably know, I adopted a puppy. Puppies are SO cute and sweet but mostly? They are hard work. I am an avid believer that if you are not willing to sacrifice your time and your money to raise another life properly, do not do it. I refused to head to the gym after work after leaving him cooped up all day already.

I got to a point where my anxiety was flaring up really badly and I just felt very overwhelmed. It is safe to say that between full time employment, graduate school, planning a wedding for myself and 2 best friends, owning a home and raising a puppy… my gym time was getting shafted. I was making it on the weekends and my nutrition was where I wanted it but… I missed working out. I could tell that unneeded weight was starting to be put back on. I knew the gym was no longer a viable option so I decided to go back to where I started.

Home workouts are an excellent way to stay fit. Zodiac wakes up around 5 am in the morning to potty and is my daily alarm clock. Instead of putting him and myself back to bed, I have gotten back into my morning workout routine. I have decided to work my way through the Fit Girl’s Guide Bootcamp again. This is a program that I had done (twice) previously and really loved how fun, quick and killer it is. My fiancé has been joining these workouts and they are even tough on him. It is easy to knock home workouts, touting that they are not as tough but a workout is only as tough as you make it. for those 28 minutes or so, I am focused on getting in a sweat.

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I am 4 days in and already I feel so much better. I could have continued using (valid) excuses to put off working out. Instead, I chose to remember why I love to work out and how important it is to overall health and wellness. I am excited to see my body change and remind me just how strong and capable I am. I encourage all of you to do the same… life gets crazy and unruly and we don’t always have time for everything and that’s okay. But don’t forget that you are always capable of rearranging and reorganizing so that you can fit the things that you are important to you into your life.

If you want to join in on some extra fun, my girl @brigheenfit started an extra little challenge that we are tagging #2weeksonfleek which is 2 weeks of nutrition and workouts being on point (and that means no alcohol). Join us!

Onward,

K

Life Is Good

Hi!

I just thought I would give a little life update so hopefully you will excuse me slight absence…

Life has just been really, really good. Not really good as in perfect but really good as in pure joy. As you know, I am a graduate student, so that takes up a good bit of time. I was recently engaged, and I constantly have wedding planning on the brain. (Even though we are like 485 days out...)

I have gained a bit of ‘happy weight’ which was making me feel a little bit ashamed, so I think that is partly why I was withdrawing sharing photos. I KNOW, I know. It’s silly and it happens, but I just felt like I let myself down and let all of you down… I still workout at least 5 times per week and am quite active, but I had let me nutrition slip. This was mostly due to going through the ‘bulk’ in winter to gain muscle and then growing accustomed to eating more food, then I was going out to eat a bit more and drinking a bit more. I want to get myself back onto a more disciplined plan, not because I think I look bad now, but because I just feel better when I fit better in my clothes, and they have started to get a little snug. I am going to be doing this ‘cut’ by replacing one snack per day with a kombucha and watching my portions. I am aiming for around 1800 calories per day until I notice that my clothes are fitting better, then I will readjust for high calories for maintenance. This is something I will definitely keep everyone updated about through Instagram as I had a lot of interest in how the kombucha was affecting my body and what changes I was noticing!

Largely, I no longer feel the need to escape my life by working so hard on getting content for my Instagram or blog. Yes, I still enjoy it and love all of you, but I also am really loving staying present in my life. I like going on adventures and not having to spend hours of daylight getting good photos etc.

I am sure that I will be re-inspired soon and will be back to regularly updating the blog but until then, you know where to find me…And please if you have a topic or something in particular that you would like to hear from me about, comment or message me and let me know!

My Protein Powder and Bars Hit and Miss List

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Protein Powders I Dislike:

  • Quest – it was through quest that I realized how sensitive I was to whey because it made me throw up (literally)
  • Shakeology – flavor is just okay, is not anything special for the price point. I hate that they air on the side of advertising as a meal rather than a supplement

Protein Powders I Like:

  • Vega Sport Recovery – doesn’t bake well but is great in smoothies and shakes
  • The Natural Citizen – SUPER clean ingredient list and I love the company, but I prefer a powder that has a little more flavor
  • PE Science Vegan – bakes well and mixes well, good price point! I prefer their chocolate to their vanilla.
  • SunWarrior – Recently tried samples of their new formula in my Raw Box. I loved the chocolate and the vanilla!

Protein Powders I Love:

  • Nuzest – flavors are all so on point! Love the taste, consistency and that it bakes as well as it mixes in smoothies. My stomach handles this protein very well. I love them so much that I partnered with them for a coupon code FITGIRLK8! I usually just get the vanilla but their cappuccino is a favorite of mine as well, especially for oatmeal
  • Sprout Living – love their protein and love the company, isn’t something that I buy regularly though just due to price point.
  • Garden of Life – I order this off of Vitacost and love how it bakes and mixes. Stomach handles this well

Protein Bars I Dislike:

  • Luna – I just don’t really like these honestly.
  • Health Warrior – did not care for the flavor or the consistency of these at all.
  • Vega Protein and Greens – way too ‘green’ for me

Protein Bars I Like:

  • Rx Bars – NOT VEGAN* I don’t eat these any more but before I was vegan I really loved these. If you are not vegan or are trying to move away from whey, these would be a great option as the protein in these comes from egg whites. Love their slogan as well.
  • D’s Natural – lots of protein and good consistency, some of the flavors are a little meh though. I don’t regularly buy these.
  • Zing Bars – remind me a lot of square bars but a little chewier which I like. They have minis and full sizes and all of their flavors are really good. I don’t have them on my LOVE list because they are really sweet and I try to steer clear of a  lot of sugars.
  • Lenny and Larry’s Cookies – they are really super yummy but their nutritional content isn’t awesome. I hate that it is 2 servings per one cookie and I don’t feel like they are super clear about that. They are also currently involved in a lawsuit that they may not be fully vegan and may have fibbed about the amount of protein in their products.

Protein Bars I Love:

  • Squarebars – my favorite flavor is the almond spice followed closely by the coconut. These curb my chocolate cravings as well as offer a protein punch. They are so good on their own or cut up for toppings for nicecrea or oatmeal. FITGIRLK8 is an active coupon, let me know if you use it! Free US shipping, too!
  • GoMacro – love Go Macro bars! Consistency is good, they ARE chewy but I really like that. It isn’t the kind of chewy that destroys your jaw. They even have minis if you just want a small snack. Super filling!
  • Perfect Bars – they have one vegan flavor and I LOVE it. I really hope they consider rolling out more vegan options. Consistency is my faaavorite! They keep these refrigerated so if you get frustrated trying to find them, check in that section of your market!

How To Stay Motivated + Prioritize

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A lot of people often wonder how I stay motivated. I have had women marvel at the fact that I am so able to juggle social media presence, blogging, school work, career, social life and love life and still have time for health and fitness.

Don’t get me wrong, by nature I am a very self-motivated person. When I want something, I will move mountains to have it come to fruition. On that same note, I need you to understand that you cannot do everything at 100%. You cannot give yourself 100% to health and fitness and also be 100% with your kids or with your career, whatever it is. You have to choose to split yourself accordingly, you have to make priorities.

When I was working out twice per day I was not spending any time with my significant other at that time. There was a disconnect in that relationship that I was choosing to avoid and was instead focusing my energy and resources into other areas. Understand that just because someone seems ‘goals af’ does not mean there ENTIRE LIFE is goals. They may just have different priorities than you right now.

Prioritizing is the number one way that I stay motivated. It is not through looking at photos of women that are ‘goals’, it is not Pinterest quotes or some secret that only myself and a few women seem to possess. No, for me, prioritizing is the mechanism that allows me to operate across all of my obligations and hobbies, wants and needs. I have to constantly check in with myself to find what needs to be done versus what I want to be doing.

Sometimes I get in a super quick workout because I know that I will mentally feel healthier if I spend more time getting my home organized, or spending that time with my fiancé. Sometimes (often) I choose to focus on writing a blog post while at work or knocking out some required reading for a class. There is NOT enough time in the day to give all of you to everything. Put self-care consistently as one of your top priorities.

It’s okay to take days off from certain responsibilities. It’s okay to constantly be re-prioritizing. It’s okay to realize your priorities need to be heavily reassessed. Allow yourself some wiggle room, set some boundaries, lean in…This is where we grow.

The Importance of Self-Love - An Interview With @Brigheenfit

Find Bridget on Instagram @brigheenfit

Find Bridget on Instagram @brigheenfit

I met Bridget through Instagram (duh) and have come to consider her a friend. She continually inspires me with her outlook on life. She is fun-loving, kind and down to earth. If you struggle with balance? Follow this girl. She gets it. Our fitness journeys are really similar, so I feel very connected to her, but different enough that I think many of you will benefit from hearing what she has to say... enjoy!

What is your name and How old are you? Bridget, 24 

How long have you been on Instagram? I began my fitness Instagram in January of 2014.  I remember being home for Christmas and talking about my new year's resolution with my mom.  Every year I would have the same goal to"lose weight", and I decided that this would truly be my year.  I decided to make the Instagram to hold myself accountable. (If I could go back in time, I would have changed my goal to being healthy and strong!)

What is your go-to healthy meal? What about your go-to cocktail? I'm a huge breakfast person!  I will seriously eat breakfast foods no matter the time of the day.  Something I usually make would be egg whites topped with feta cheese, Simply Potatoes hash browns, bell peppers and onions, and Lightlife Veggie bacon strips with side of reduced sugar ketchup! Go-to cocktail? 98% champagne with 2% OJ!  

 What would you say sparked your interest in the community? Nothing seemed to work in terms of me reaching any type of fitness goal.  At first I just wanted to lose weight.  This was something I would dream about, wish for, cry over all the time, yet I never had a plan to execute it.  I remember thinking, nothing will change if I change nothing.  My fitness account was a platform I could post "proof" of what I was eating and what I was doing to be active.  Then I began making connections with women all over the world with the same struggles and aspirations, and they kept me motivated and inspired me.  I never knew that making an fitness account would change my life, but it did.

What is your best advice for someone who is struggling with comparison and negative self-talk?Our parents/guardians didn't grow up with social media.  They could avoid beauty magazines easily.  Us?  We have these platforms at our fingertips to not only use to help us, but to unfortunately tear us down.  I sometimes can't help scrolling through my IG feed and comparing myself to these beautiful women, or being worried of my boyfriend doing the same thing.  My best advice?  Someone else's beauty does not take away from yours.  You are seeing highlight reels of people's lives.  We're all human, we all have "flaws", we all have things we don't like about ourselves that other's admire.  I use to feel competitive towards other females, but now I realize we all need each other to feel loved, to feel empowered, to feel HAPPY.  I want every single person on this Earth to find true self love.  That would have a direct positive impact on any relationship they have with others.  As for the negative self-talk, it might be cliche, but if you wouldn't say it to your best friend you shouldn't be saying it to yourself.  Instead of pointing out what you don't like about yourself, decide goals you want to achieve that will help you love yourself more (mentally and physically). 

What does being 'body positive' mean to you? How do you practice that? This is so important!  I've been unhealthily heavy, I've been unhealthily underweight, and I am where I am at now.  I will tell you this, at every stage I had something that was bothering me, something I wanted to "fix".  I still struggle with this, but I am at a much better place now.  Body positive used to mean that I would look in the mirror and be in love with the way I look.  Now, body positive means loving my body for all that it does for me.  I went from not being able to jog for a straight minute to being able to run 5k's for fun, from not being able to do a single push up to being able to do burpees.  I can now hike without being exhausted, paddleboard without losing balance, climb over a fence when I'm running from the police... just kidding.  But seriously, our bodies are amazing and do so much for us.  I finally began to feel guilt.  Not for having cellulite and stretch marks, for having belly rolls, or for having a little chub by my arms when I wear a push up bra (AKA for being a human)-- I felt guilty for being so harsh and mean to a body that has done nothing but carry me through my best and worst days.  I decided loving my body doesn't mean just loving the way it looked, but fueling it with foods that will make it healthy.  I practice this every day by finding balance.  For redefining what the word "flaw" is that society has driven into my brain since I was a little girl.  I think I am beautiful, and I don't think that is wrong.  I would love for every man and woman to feel that way.

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What has been the biggest breakthrough for you personally in your health journey or what would you most want someone to understand about your story? The importance of self respect and self love.  I've always been told, "You must love yourself first before being able to love anyone else" and I just never actually understood it (I thought I had).  Because I didn't respect or love myself the amount that we all should, I found myself dependent on being in a relationship so that I didn't feel "alone" and dependent of feeling accepted by my peers, whether they were kind, genuine people or not.  I ended up in a horrible relationship with a boy that did not respect me.  He looked down on my friends, isolated me, tore down my self esteem, controlled what I did, what I wore, and who I would hang out with.  The worst part of it all was I lost myself.  I didn't recognize who I saw in the mirror.  I faked happiness when I would see people, I would cry every single day, and I put up with someone who belittled me and called it love.  I cannot put into words what fitness has done for me.  When I began to work out and eat healthier for ME, I began to create a healthy relationship with myself.  It sometimes brings me to tears thinking back on who I use to be.  I wish I could hug her and let her know it's going to be okay.  Then one day, I began to see results and I couldn't believe it.  I remember sharing my excitement, but this person I was in a relationship with told me to delete my account, that I just wanted attention, and asked me if I was trying to be more attractive for other people.  That was the moment it clicked.  I realized that I am starting to care for my body, to make it healthier, and yet I am doing nothing for my mind.  I am putting up with a dark shadow that is trying to stop me from being the best version of myself.  That was the day I decided to never talk to him again.  That was the day I found out how tough I truly was.  That was the day I found out what self love and respect really meant.  That was the day that changed my life forever.  I now have an amazing relationship with my parents, have the most supporting, caring friends, and found the love of my life who reminds me how proud he is of my everyday.  

If you find yourself in a relationship, whether it be a friendship or romantic, that brings nothing but negativity, that doesn't support you being a kinder, healthier version of yourself, that talks down on you, or makes you lose a sense of who you are- please get help.  I promise you that you have control over this, that there are people willing to help you, that you can have the life you've always wanted and that you deserve.  And if you do feel alone, you can always reach out to me. Life is too short to be miserable every single day.  You deserve happiness!

 

How To Tell You Met 'The One'

I thought I knew what love felt like. I have loved before, I had considered marriage with another previously.

Coming from a broken marriage, I was always prepared to fly solo here in this world. I never really NEEDED a significant other.

I partied like the world was ending and drank like my life depended on it. Nights consisted of bar crawls and drinking competitions and men whose names I sometimes remembered. I had no real respect for myself or for my body. I let men disrespect me and I looked to feel worthy through the attention of men.

My mom never dated or remarried after my father so the idea of a man was not a constant in my life from my youth. Therefore, I always subconsciously feared abandonment. The men who existed in my love life all seemed as though they had potential, they all seemed like they could be good enough. You know, I could make it work. They weren’t necessarily horrible, I was happy most of the time.

I always figured it was my daddy issues that were part the problem, or that my vast imperfections just wouldn’t allow me to know the love that I listened to others tell about. I have been blessed to date some really great men, but it never quite worked out.

Little did I know I was not the problem at all. The reality of the situation was those people were not meant to be with me and I was not meant to be with them. It’s as simple as that. I know that you have heard it 500 times before, “when you know, you know,” but it really is true. You can never understand what that really means until you FEEL it. If you wonder if you have ever felt that, you haven’t. If you find yourself questioning, then this is not it for you.

I don’t think that your soulmate is the other half to your whole. I adamantly believe you should be whole all on your own. Your soulmate is whole as well, and together? You will complement one another perfectly. But the best relationships are not rooted in magic carpet rides. Rather, they are rooted in chaos and in unexpected crossroads; somewhere between the bliss and the burdens. Somehow my fairy tale has come to include grocery runs, dishes and house projects. Your fairytale must be able to endure heartache, hazards and health risks. Forget the fantasies and embrace reality— because that is truly where happily ever afters flourish most.

It's really hard to articulate something that is such a gut instinct. There is no too fast, or too slow. Like everything in this life, love looks and feels and moves at a different pace for everyone. I can only say that all the weird coincidences supported how I feel, the way we ride the same wavelength, the way he makes me feel alive, supported, loved, peaceful, challenged, admired, lucky, that we both just know.


Here’s how to tell if you are really with the right person:

  1. They love like you do – If you don’t know your love language, I suggest taking the free quiz and reading up about it. This is something I definitely agree with and believe in. Your person will love like you do, because otherwise, you will just be spending your whole life convincing them to change instead of being enveloped in a love that already feels like home.

  2. That grow together type of love – You will feel confident that your love will grow as you do. That no matter how many chapters will be written in your book, they will be there to read each page, to stand by you through life’s many seasons. They don’t feel threatened by the unknown of the future. While you may not see eye to eye on everything, you have similar life goals where it matters. You both want to be moving in the same direction.

  3. It’s comfortable – There is no struggle to be smarter or funnier or more beautiful. You don’t feel like you need to be The Cool Girl or The Girl Next Door. You don’t want to be anyone but yourself around them. And they are just being themselves around you. It’s almost like you have known them before, they are so familiar.  

  4. Unprecedented passion – The chemistry will be 100… in case you were wondering where your sex drive may have been your whole life. This passion doesn't always mean sex, it can make holding hands feel electrified as well. It is not just a sexual chemistry, that you can find all over, this is a spiritual chemistry, your souls are connected.

  5. Intense honesty – Your love is made true and simple by the amazing communication that comes from a place of honesty. You don’t have to be fearful of being vulnerable because they are matching that same honesty and vulnerability. You want them to know all the parts of you, about your day. This honesty will build a strong foundation for trust and connection.

  6. There is more than love – If you have ever loved someone before and it just didn’t work out, was there a lot of love? Probably. Love alone just is not enough. When you find your person you will love them fiercely, but you will also admire them. There will be a deep level of respect. There will be aspects to this relationship that give you confidence that it will carry you through the good and the bad.

  7. Hashtag blessed – You just feel really fucking lucky. You feel like you stepped outside when everything was going right. You wonder what you did to deserve this level of love. You know some people go their whole lives looking for THIS level of love, it feels so magical, and you just feel overwhelming grateful to have found them. This same feeling will also push you to want to be your best self.

  8. Your heart and gut are on the same page – They both just know, This Is It. You and your person commit to each other whole-heartedly and without reservation. You both just KNOW and therefore don’t have to wonder.

Vegan Journey Part 2 (with tips)

via Reddit.com

via Reddit.com

Decide what is easier for you: slow transition or cold turkey. I think this is mostly based on the type of personality that you have. I was vegetarian for a long time before I made the switch to fully vegan but once I decided I was going to do it, I got rid of all foods that were not vegan. Instead of throwing them away, I gave them to friends or coworkers and some things I dropped off at the local shelter.

Favorite recipes:

and Indian food is super fun to make! Curry, chickpea masala etc.

Favorite YouTube channels:

  • FromMyBowl on Instagram – Caitlin Shoemaker on YT
  • The Vegan Solution
  • Banana Blondie 108
  • High Carb Hannah
  • Plantriotic

Favorite books:

  • An Idiot’s Guide to Plant Based Nutrition
  • Victoria Moran – Main Street Vegan
  • The China Study

Documentaries:

  • Forks Over Knives (also have good books too)
  • Crazy Sexy Cancer
  • Vegucated
  • Food Matters
  • Cowspiracy
  • What The Health

Favorite Pantry Items:

  • Beans (black beans, chick peas, adzuki beans, navy beans)
  • Lentils - I find that I prefer red
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Square Organics Protein Bars (K8CANRELATE for 15% off)
  • Raw nuts (walnuts, Brazil, pecans, almond, cashews)
  • Unsweetened apple sauce
  • Cereal (puffed millet, Kashi Sweet Potato Sunshine)
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Grains (millet, rice, bulgur)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, hemp, sesame)

If you want to go out to eat, there is an app called Happy Cow that you can pay for or use online for free. This will tell you what restaurants in an area are vegan friendly. Asian food is always going to have something for you whether that just be rice and steamed veggies, they typically will always have tofu as well.

There are a ton of dairy free alternatives for things like yogurt, ice cream, cheese and milk obviously. I love the Silk yogurt and I LOVE the So Delicious cashew milk ice cream (it is SO GOOD lol) I also use the Earth Balance vegan butter (rarely but sometimes recipes call for it) so it’s just good to have in the kitchen. I have heard great things about Kite Hill cheese and Daiya is good if you have a craving for pizza or for a melty cheese sandwich, but it is not good just eaten plain (without heat)

Also I think the biggest thing you can understand is that it will be a growing and learning process. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up!

Vegan Journey Part I

My earliest memories are of my deep love of things that cannot speak. I seriously remember having so many imaginary friends, having entire conversations with inanimate objects, and fiercely loving all plant and animal life. I was just born with this yearning to make everything feel loved, especially the things that aren’t getting love from other places. I would try to repair severed worms, I would scoop dead birds off the pavement and bury them (needless to say my mom never knew about those instances, don't tell her). 

Vegetarian When I was 13 I made the decision that I wasn’t going to eat meat largely because I discovered PETA and couldn't bring myself to continue. I did most of my cooking for myself so my mom agreed she would buy vegetarian substitutions for me. I immediately cut out beef, pork and turkey. I took a bit longer with fish and chicken. Fish was the last thing to go. I ate a lot of imitation products back then and obviously wasn’t really concerned with ‘clean eating’ because I was a teenager and that wasn’t the kind of household I was brought up in. I still ate eggs and dairy but never drank or used milk.

I was VERY passionate about animal rights. I signed every petition. I saw every question about my diet as the start of a debate. I felt very deeply that I needed to spread the message about what was happening to the Earth and to these animals because of Big Agra and cattle farming. As I got older, I let my passion for animal rights fizzle. I just stopped caring and educating myself on the issues. Knowledge is a heavy burden to bear sometimes, being apathetic is easier.

Vegan Fast forward a bit and I am 25, I have fallen in love with health, nutrition and fitness. I started finding plant based accounts on Instagram and my interest was piqued. I started reading books on vegan nutrition and lifestyle (Main Street VeganThe Kind DietThe Idiot’s Guide to Plant Based NutritionForks Over KnivesThe Starch Solution) and watching a few documentaries on Netflix (Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy) and I felt that old flame blaze again. I felt really disappointed in myself, why didn’t I make the switch sooner? Why did I stop loving? The answer was that when I stopped loving myself, my ability to love and help others stopped, too. I let that disappointment go and decided on May 1st that I was officially vegan. I am still transitioning household items and clothing over to vegan.

I was a vegetarian until I started leaning towards the sunlight.
— Rita Rudner

Things I have noticed so far:

Pros

  • My nails are a lot stronger, and are growing faster, as is my hair (crazy right? Dairy Inc. would like for you to think the opposite!)
  • My bowel movements are again very regular and pain free, bloating and gas are now to a normal minimum! (even though all I eat are fibrous foods)
  • I have developed a MUCH healthier relationship with food
  • Rarely, if ever, sick.
  • Trying lots of new and yummy foods and recipes, there are so many abundant and exotic options you don't realize until you cut out meat and dairy.
  • I don’t actually miss the things I thought I would (ice cream, sour cream, cheese) and if I do, there are awesome vegan substitutions

Cons

  • It is true that it is more difficult to go out to eat if you live in a rural area, but even in West Virginia we have a hand full of awesome restaurants that provide vegan options. AND there is an app for that! (Happy Cow) Which is great for people that travel a lot.
  • I often feel like I am an inconvenience to meat eaters or to friends who have to accommodate me (but seriously, fuck that line of thinking) 

Be sure to check back next week, I am going to post all of my favorite books, documentaries, Instagram pages, YouTube Channels, recipes and more along with my personal tips on how to transition to a whole foods, plant based lifestyle.

Why I Stopped Wearing Makeup + Skincare Routine

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I started 2017 resolving to be free. I knew before the clock struck midnight on December 31 that this would shape up to be the most magic-filled year of my life thus far. I had no idea just how right my intuition was. This freedom has extended into areas of my life that surprised me. Like into my self love practice. . 

I realized that I had come to only truly feel beautiful when my makeup was applied and looking flawless. When exactly I had that realization, I couldn't pinpoint. I don't recall there being a single earth shattering moment, but rather, a culmination of days and emotions and events that reminded me that self love extends above the shoulders. 

One morning, after a particularly blissful 6 am yoga class, I decided I didn't feel like putting makeup on for work. I actually felt like I looked really radiant and beautiful. This marked the first day in over 2 years at this job that I would go sans makeup. I had this day built up in my mind, I would receive sideways glances, comments from co-workers about how tired I looked, or be peppered with questions wondering if I was sick or what was wrong. Our minds do that, don't they? They set the stage for the worst. That didn't happen. I received one comment about looking tired, and I let it go. 

For all intents and purposes, I was tired. Tired of carrying the weight of a woman that I felt like I had to be. Tired of living a life that did not represent who I was or wanted to be. Exhausted from the burden of denying my soul freedom. Maybe you're thinking, "Kaitlyn... it's makeup. Can you stop being so dramatic?" But for me, it wasn't the makeup itself... it was all of the reasons behind it, all of the symbolism that covering myself up carried. I don't know that I ever dated a man who saw my face without makeup within the first month of being together. And then, somehow, this one came along and we decided to go to a spin class for the first date. I had a choice, I could just be myself or I could have my safety blanket. I chose to show up that day, just as myself. I would like to think that one day, years from now, I will remember that all of the magic that came after started with that small but significant decision. 

It's been about a little over a month now, and I rarely wear makeup. My skin hasn't been this clear in months. I have received more compliments about how I am radiant and glowing than I have possibly ever received in my life. I can now proudly say, this is what I look like. That extends to many areas of my life, this is who I am. When you meet me, feel confident in understanding that I will no longer squash myself to make you feel comfortable, or to fit your expectations. 

Don't be fooled, it wasn't a comfortable feeling, stepping into that vulnerability. A naked face felt like a naked soul. When we are able to lean in, when we choose bravery, when we say fuck the fear? That is the space that the most growth takes place. That is where the magic happens. Your mind will build up scenarios where you will receive negative comments or people will talk behind your back or everyone you meet will think you aren't exquisite, and that's a bunch of bullshit. You don't need anyone in your life that holds that kind of opinion about you. You be you and let the rest of the world adjust. I encourage you to let go of your comfort blankets, slowly at first if you need. Maybe you would like to start a No Makeup Challenge? 7, 14 or 30 days without makeup. You ARE beautiful without it. You don't need it. Yes, it's fun. Yes, it's a creative outlet. If you are using it as a means to feel pretty or beautiful, I would recommend stepping away for a time.

Let your skin breathe. Let your soul heal. 


Current skincare routine - once when I wake up and again before bed:

  • TULA cleanser with my Clarisonic Mia 2 on high setting and a sensitive skin brush head
  • Witch Hazel toner (that I found on Amazon)
  • Moisturizer, I like First Aid Beauty or TULA
  • Twice per week I will do a clay mask (I use whatever I have on hand from my ipsy subscription) and exfoliation

I still enjoy doing a full face of makeup for some events, it's a creative outlet for me. I do wear a couple of products to work on the daily, just because I feel it enhances my beauty and I am no longer hiding behind it. But I have to be careful to check in with why I am changing my appearance. It's ok to do so, just make sure you are checking in with yourself first.

Natural makeup routine:

  • Colourpop Cosmetics eyebrow pot in Bangin' Brunette + Anastasia Beverly Hills brow definer in chocolate
  • Mascara sometimes - sometimes not
  • Colourpop Cosmetics highlighter in Lunch Money, Wisp or Candy Man.
  • Moisturizing lip balm, sometimes a lippie from Colourpop or Tarte if I'm feeling sassy

 

I have had enough with not feeling enough

Our job is not to sell people on loving us. It’s to be loved for simply existing as the spectacular human we were born as, and to give that same kind of love back.
— Mark Groves

“I gave my best and I’m just not good enough”

“I’m not hot enough to pull off this dress”

“If he doesn’t love me, then I just must not be good enough”

“I’m not fun enough to make new friends”

Why do we do this? Why do we diminish our value? Who told us we weren’t worthy of electrifying connection that LASTS? Who made us believe that we aren’t stunning, staggering, breathtaking?

The answer is complicated and varied. Most of us were taught that we are only lovable based on whether others love us. For me, it stems to the relationship (or lack thereof) that I had with my father. For you, it could be something else. We have to recognize this flawed way of thinking we have become so accustomed to. Once we identify that we have these patterns of thought, they can be addressed.

The only way that I know to combat unworthiness is through unwrapping who you are at your core and learning to love that. Stop trying to hide your true self. Stop shuffling through all of these masks that we feel that we need to wear so that our souls remain tucked away. Let go of trying to be someone you aren’t. Stop shoving yourself down to fit inside a particular mold. It will feel scary, it will be hard. Vulnerability takes a level of courage that we don’t naturally have as adults, it has to be cultivated and practiced daily. You absolutely have to sit in a quiet place and soul search and read books and watch videos and talk to trusted peers about what self-love looks like, and decide that you are worthy of your own affection and unconditional love. I suggest Brene Brown above all other references as well as Neghar Fanooni.

There is so much RIGHT about you. HI did you hear me? Stop zooming in on your perceived flaws, start appreciating and showing gratitude to your strengths. There is so much more right with you than there is wrong with you. Write something new down every day that you love about yourself. Banish that negative self-talk. You are funny enough to tell that joke, you are smart enough to get into that program, you are wonderful enough to attract equally wonderful life partners. When you feel afraid to share your soul in a new relationship because they might not like what they see? We have to walk away from that line of thinking. “You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” Believe it. Share it.

You are not alone. We ALL have these thoughts in some form. We all go through the ups and downs of life. And even still, if we don’t actively practice our self-love and use our tools to combat shame demons, those self-deprecating thoughts will still brew under the surface. Make connections with like-minded individuals, walk away from unhealthy people in your life.

Stop comparing. When you feel like you should be further ahead in life than you are. When everyone else is getting married and starting families and you’re still living with roommates. When those girls look better in bikinis. When friends are taking vacations and you’re still living paycheck to paycheck. Stop worrying about the script of someone else’s life and start focusing on the life you want to be living. Find patience with yourself and in the Universe. You are exactly where you need to be. Everything is unfolding exactly as it should.

You will always have critics. This is just life. Hurt people hurt other people. Be a light to this world, get to a place where you love yourself so much that you can’t help but to share that even when someone says something to hurt you. Do not tie your worth to the words of others. Do not tie your worth to anything else. Your worthiness doesn’t have a damn thing to do with your age, weight, height, number of blemishes, number of degrees, paycheck or how far along in life someone thinks you should be. Know that.

Disappointment is a part of life. We will fail. We will have heartbreak. You can’t hide from life because of the what if. WHAT IF someone judges you for being weird? WHAT IF someone judges you for the way you look? Well WHAT IF someone thinks you are the most exquisite being they have ever come to lay eyes on or know? Shift your focus. Understand there will be disappoints and that disappointment isn’t exclusive to you. Fuck the fear and start living a loving and fulfilling life that you always dreamed for yourself.

I’m not an expert. I have my own feelings of unworthiness that still bubble up to the surface and take me by surprise. But I am choosing to walk away from these feelings of unworthiness, for good. We have to stay conscious in our efforts to counter the negative self-talk with awareness and kindness. It’s not easy to be authentic and open with our hearts in a society that seems to value the opposite. It takes a level of courage to peel back your layers and show up saying HEY this is who I am. I’m here to encourage you to know yourself, your TRUE self, and learn to love her. Then I invite you to show up authentically at home, in new or existing relationships, with yourself, at work, at school, on social media. It’s going to feel scary, there’s a lot more at stake, sure. But just watch how your life will REALLY start to get amazing. The right people will start to enter your life, the wrong people will slip out stage right. Your heart and soul will expand in ways you have never before taken the time to imagine.

You be you and let the world adjust accordingly. YOU ARE YOU AND THAT IS ENOUGH.

Macros

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What is a macro? “Macros” is a term for macronutrients. There are macro- and micronutrients in everything that we eat. When you hear someone say that they are tracking their macros, that means they are tracking how many carbohydrates, fats and proteins they are getting throughout the day. You or someone else will set your macros based on your age, activity level, goals and current body composition in a mathematic equation that spits out your totals for each group. Typically macros will look something like ‘60/40/20’ and that means 60% coming from carbs, 40% coming from protein and 20% coming from fats – and like I said, that number is different for each person as we are all different. Your macros will fluctuate as your body changes. You don’t bother with calories as the fiber content and other factors can effect caloric density and you just focus on the macro count in everything that you consume. This can be tracked easily on apps like My Fitness Pal and always with a food scale. You will also hear this referred to as 'flexible dieting'.

Why did you start in the first place? Competitive bodybuilders use macro counting to ensure that their body composition is in peak condition on the day that they compete. They “bulk” and gain a lot of muscle and then cut back or "lean out" as competition nears to shed fat and let their muscles pop out. I don’t have a desire to compete but I did have a desire to change my body composition. I was “skinny fat” meaning that I had lost a lot of weight (60 pounds) but still had a higher body fat percentage than I wanted to. Basically, I wasn’t building a lot of muscle. I found that I was undereating for an extended period of time and so my body wasn’t retaining muscle gains (my body was basically eating muscle instead of growing muscle) 

Did it work? Yes. I saw drastic changes in my body composition in a positive way. I learned a lot that allowed me to have a healthier relationship with food – I wasn’t afraid to eat more thinking that I would gain weight back. I stopped being wary of certain foods and just saw food as nourishment. I also got a lot out of using the food scale. I was amazed at what a true serving size looked like with some things (like fruit!) and was pleasantly surprised by others (I was always so skimpy with my nut butters and came to realize I wasn’t even using a whole serving) This also gave me a really good foundation and understanding of nutrition that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. 

Why did you stop? I have a tendency towards obsessive behavior. Counting calories and counting macros are both essentially the same thing. They are both diets. You are restricting what you eat. You are placing restrictions on yourself to change something about your body. Now, for some people that is absolutely fine and they have a healthy relationship with food and their body and it is a great addition to their routine. I just found myself overanalyzing my body, not allowing myself to eat things because it didn’t “fit”, etc. It was really, really time-consuming. I was spending so much time planning out my meals and making sure everything fit my macros. It just got to be overwhelming and was causing me to have a really obsessive and negative feeling around my fitness and my health. (I also hate math, and it is a lot of math.)

It also takes the focus away from important micronutrients. A lot of the “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) community raves about how they can eat cookies, ice cream, cakes and donuts and it totally fits their macros – and it DOES. But what is that doing to their insides? Where are they getting their vitamins and things that make you truly healthy? I was really turned off by that aspect especially as someone who is educated on the health benefits of plant sources and the detriments of pre-packaged foods. 

Would you recommend trying it? Yes IF you think you have a healthy relationship with food or think that some of the tools from macro tracking could help you for a short time, do it! It is educational. It is a very efficient and effective way to shed body fat (or bulk, depending on your goals) The food scale will definitely help you understand portion if you struggle with that. It’s nice because you can take the tools you learn and continue use even after you stop officially tracking. Once you get an understanding of how it works you can even start setting your own macros. It can also help you realize that one food group or type of food is not BAD. A donut has the same macro value as something healthier etc. so it does teach you that you don’t have to deprive yourself of treats to make progress.

What are you doing now? I am intuitively eating, if you want to label it. I have been for a few months now. But really, it just feels like I am trying to be my healthiest self. I now know how much I need to feel satiated and have a good idea of how many meals I need per day and at what times I get hungry. This is something you learn with experimenting and with time. Be patient with your body. I eat a whole foods, plant based diet. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am full. I am now at a place where I just eat healthy because I enjoy it, I don’t have to obsess about what is about to go into my mouth day in and day out. If I find a recipe on Minimalist Baker or Oh She Glows that sounds really good to me, I make it. I eat it. I ENJOY it. Tracking macros was not fun for me and I just want to let you know that if any part of your life is causing you unhappiness in any way, fix that shit. You do not have to track anything to meet your goals, you can. But you absolutely do not have to. My personal suggestion is always to educate yourself, look into changing your diet to include more whole foods from plant sources. 

Are you worried that you won’t be able to meet your goals? Sometimes. Lately, I have been feeling comparison creep in as I watch other girls start to cut and get leaner for summer. I know that I would like to be a little thinner for bikini season and I let doubt creep in just like anyone else. But I just keep focusing on what makes me happy and challenging myself to be better every day. Body obsession is a distraction that keeps us from living in the fullness of our being. I will make a disciplined effort to increase my cardio and be more mindful of snacking, but do not ever feel pressured to follow a plan that you know is not healthy for you personally. One thing that you have to realize and get through your head is that every single body is different. One person may hold their fat in their legs and one person may hold their fat in their stomach and one person may hold their fat in their arms. And each one of those people is probably self-conscious about that and wishing they looked like the person standing next to them.

Hope this helps and answers some questions that you may have had and, as always, feel free to ask me anything!

IUD Experience

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When I posted on my Instagram about my IUD insertion, I got A LOT of questions and a lot of interest on a follow up detailing my experience. I wanted to wait until I felt like enough time had gone by for me to give an honest and accurate description so now that it has been a few weeks and I have had my follow up appointment with my doctor, I am ready to share!

A little background on what I was using before and why I wanted to change: I went onto the pill when I was 16 years old. About 2 years ago my sex drive started to change (I just assumed because I was getting older) and then as I got healthier thought it was strange. Then as I went vegan and started reading more about chemicals, pharmeucitals and things that we put into our body, I knew it was time to quit the pill. I went off the pill in February 2016 and did not have a period again until around November 2016. I loved not having a period but I really hated the implications. It's just not natural nor is it healthy. As time went on, I realized I needed a more sound proof method of birth control and asked fellow vegans who recommended Paragard, or the copper IUD, to me. I did some research and found out it was covered 100% under my health insurance, so I made the appointment!

Insertion: NOT great. I admit I have a weird and freakishly high pain tolerance. So for me, the insertion just made my entire body tense a couple of times and I had to really use my yoga breath. But all in all, not terrible. It is only a few moments of extreme discomfort. I will note that it is supposed to be easier for women who have had children previously and I have not.

The rest of the night I experienced very severe cramping (almost like contractions) but was okay when I woke up the next morning. I definitely suggest ibuprofen to help ease the pain. The next day after insertion it was just like I was on my period, a little spotting and with cramps. The cramps became minimal as the days went on but were still there. This did not affect my daily activities in any way. By day 6 all spotting had stopped along with all cramping. It was basically just like having another period but without the hormonal stuff that comes with it.

Sex:      Totally normal, he didn’t notice anything and neither did I (I mean, to the point of me having to fish around to feel the string like R U THERE GOD ITS ME MARGARET because it is possible for the IUD to come out in the first few weeks) . Definitely has not changed anything as far as that is concerned with drive / performance beyond easing my mind that I won't get pregnant. After getting rid of the fake hormones and my body leveling itself out, my sex drive is back to my normal which is awesome after having thought it was my body for so long there. 

First period: Not really any crampier than any of my previous periods but wow, major difference in blood flow. MUCH heavier. Previously I would probably only use 3-4 tampons per the 3 or 4 days that I had my period. Now I am having to change my tampon every other hour. My period lasted about 5 days, and the heaviest bleeding was really only on the first 2 days, after that it went back to what my previous ‘normal’. I am now on my second period with the IUD and it is much the same. I have read that after a few months with the IUD, women have experienced their periods go back to their 'normal' after the body has become accustomed to the IUD. (I know tampons are bad for the Earth and I should use something else, baby steps ok?)

Would I Recommend?: Absolutely. I have the Paragard (copper IUD) and I don't have to worry about hormones being pumped through me. It is totally hormone free and the most effective form of birth control beyond abstinence. I don't have to worry about it or think about it, I know that I won't get pregnant. I also know that I am making the right choice for my body by forgoing pharmaceuticals. This particular IUD will last me 10-12 years but if I ever want to get it taken out, I can do so and will be able to get pregnant the same day. Look into it, think about it, and as always ask me any particular questions or concerns you may have!

xo

Meal Prep How To

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I make a menu for the week ahead. I write out my breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I usually do this in an email to myself so that I can attach the link for the recipe if there is one. My favorite thing to do is once I know of an ingredient I want to use (like soba noodles or a vegetable that is in season) then I will just google "vegan soba noodle recipes" and kind of go through and get ideas and inspiration and go from there! For me, it's a creative outlet as well as fuel. I always do breakfast, lunch and dinner and then decide on 2 snacks. Sometimes my snacks are just a piece of fruit or veggies and hummus and sometimes I am in the mood to make muffins or bars of some kind. I like to stay away from pre-packaged food as much as possible but popcorn, protein bars and those kinds of things are always an easy snack option.

Down below in the email, I write out my grocery list below according to whatever I need. I add to this list throughout the week as I think of things or run out of things. Then I transfer the grocery list part to the Notes app on my iPhone…As I am in the store and add them into my shopping cart (we call it a buggy in WV just so you know) I erase it from the Note.

I go to the grocery store on Sunday morning. I do Aldi first and then Kroger for specialty items or items I couldn’t find at Aldi. I also use Vitacost.com for protein powder and most pantry items as I have found things are generally a lot cheaper this way and shipping is free over $50 so I wait and order everything I need at once.

After I get home from the store, I put my groceries away and get to cooking! If something is cooking for a long time, I will go ahead and start on the next thing. I do all of my cooking for the week on Sunday and then just reheat or eat as needed. It’s seriously the best way to set yourself up for success. The biggest complaint that I hear about meal prep is that it is time consuming, and it is, but you are worth it. Your health is worth it. There are also a lot of meals that you can make super quickly, you don’t have to do complicated and involved meals to make it work.

Favorite prep tools:

  1. Containers that work for me (some people like dividers, bowls, etc. it’s worth it to spend a little more to have everything you need. I suggest small containers for dressing and sauces)
  2.  Vegetable spiralizer
  3. Instant Pot (found on Amazon, YES it is worth it.)

 

Once everything is put away, I go ahead and set everything together for the next day so that I am not scrambling in the morning and forgetting something that I need. It will all be there together in the refrigerator so I just grab and go the morning of.

Gratitude

It's fair to say that gratitude practice has drastically changed my life. 

Photo courtesy of @_takingmylifeback

Photo courtesy of @_takingmylifeback

The first encounter that I had with anything like this was when I saw a Facebook post from the author of Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert. She was sharing a large jar that she calls her Happiness Jar which she fills up throughout the year with pieces of paper with one good thing from each day, something as simple as catching all the green lights to work that morning or having a good hair day. I started implementing this practice into my own life and around that same time, I also began to practice yoga (rarely and at a super beginner level). 

Through posting about this happiness jar, I met Kelly who some of you may know as @_takingmylifeback on Instagram. I happened to win one of her giveaways that were Gratitude Attitude cards (http://www.ahpositivepublishing.com/products/the-gratitude-attitude-builder) and I started to incorporate those into my every day. 

I truthfully cannot express to you the ways in which my world began to shift. I was a very angry person for the better part of my life, I went to therapy to better deal with how I expressed my anger but it was still there, under the surface. I would also say that I had pretty bad anxiety/ panic disorder. If the smallest thing would go wrong in my life, I absolutely panicked. If something broke or something happened to make my day go differently than what I had planned for, it would totally ruin my mood, my day and sometimes week. I let things affect me so incredibly deeply on such a negative level. 

When I started incorporating this gratitude practice, all of that changed. Suddenly, things could go wrong. I allowed space for change, for the Universe. I started to open up to the idea that maybe I didn't have to be in control. Maybe the Universe had my back and had everything taken care of. When I started looking at all the ways that the world is beautiful? Beautiful things started coming my way more frequently. I guess you could try to explain it through the law of attraction or explain it away through some scientific means, but I think it's more magical than that. 

After it becomes a habit, the positivity that you radiate just comes to be second nature. You forget about the negativity you used to carry heavy on your shoulders, in your mind, in your spirit. For example, I fell asleep around 9 pm last night and then was wide awake and unable to fall back to sleep this morning at 4 am. Instead of getting really upset, tossing and turning, huffing and puffing and starting my day on a negative and sour note... I simply got up, caught up on some school work, had a cup of tea and am writing this for you. It is quiet, all I hear is the whir of the heater and the chirping of the birds outside. 

I know it sounds like some hippie-dippie bullshit, but I am living proof that when you open your mind to the possibility that you can radically change your life for the better? Your life will radically change for the better. There is actually sound medical evidence that practicing gratitude can rewire our brains and make us not only more psychologically positive but studies have shown that people actually LIVE longer (and obviously happier) lives. 

Here are some ways that I practice that are easy and accessible for you to start practicing in your life:

  1. Write it down - Currently, I am using my IG stories as a place to jot down things I am grateful for, both in the morning and in the evening. You could start a gratitude journal where you write things down or you could even snag the Happiness Jar idea. If you are a sentimental person, it's good to have these to look back on. 
  2. Find prompts - You could order the Gratitude Attitude cards that I have and love, or you could Google it and I am sure you would get a lot of hits on cards, journals, anything and everything. This is good if you are especially new to the practice OR if you are super busy and need to be held accountable. You can just reach for a card and think about it rather than take the time to write things down. 
  3. When a negative thought comes up - find the positive - let me be clear, life will still be shitty sometimes. Not-so-great things will come up in your life but it is how you choose to approach them that is important. When something comes up whether it be a small thing or a larger thing, sit with it. Allow your mind to process the event and replace the negative feelings with positive. An appointment gets canceled? Does it free up time and money for you? Maybe you get a flat tire, is the car totaled? Can you be thankful to afford a car at all? It's all about shifting. 
  4. Live in the present, live mindfully - This is still tough for me. There is no time but the present. The past nor the future exist. Keep your mind in the here and now. When we split ourselves apart with pieces of us living in the past or in the future, it causes anxiety or depression. Find ways to keep yourself here. Let go of obsessive thoughts about the future. Let go of hurt feelings of the past. 
Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a large amount of gratitude.
— AA Milne, WInnie-the-Pooh