My Thoughts on Plant-Based Eating that Both Meat-Eaters and Vegans Disagree With

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, a doctor, a food scientist. I have no professional training in food, farming, or any similar fields. All of the thoughts below are crafted from my nine years as a vegetarian and six months with veganism. I have studied peer-reviewed articles regarding plant-based eating, I’ve seen multiple documentaries, I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are vegetarians and vegans, and I have a passion for this industry. Although I have included statistics below, my opinions are mine alone and are based on my experiences and personal beliefs about ethical living, the universe, and spirituality.

I have never been a big meat-eater.

I’ve never eaten fish—my parents weren’t raised eating it, having been from Colorado and Wisconsin. I’ve maybe had two hotdogs, half of a small steak, and a couple slices of bacon in my entire life. Growing up, I did enjoy hamburgers, lunch meat, and chicken, but it wasn’t frequent and it definitely wasn’t a main part of my diet.

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I decided to go full vegetarian at the age of twelve, after learning about factory farming. I was volunteering with my Girl Scout troop at Von Hanson’s, a butcher shop from my hometown. That day, the concept of “meat” became a reality to me: meat is made from an animal that lost its life to feed me. I couldn’t come to peace with that idea. I have a memory of crying to my mom that cheese hurts cows, and her quick reassurance that, in fact, a cow did not die for that cheese.

The concept of “meat” became a reality to me: meat is made from an animal that lost its life to feed me.
Most of my close friends adhere to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but I do have some friends who do not, so I hear a lot of differing opinions. I am confronted with opposing opinions to be diet often. I have had nine years to cultivate an opinion about meat, to learn facts and truths, to study this lifestyle.

I believe that meat is an acceptable source of food for humans.

I don’t think the entire world should become vegan or even vegetarian.

However, I think that meat should be treated as a luxury food item. I think it should be consumed sparingly, such as desserts are also intended to be eaten sparingly. The ONLY necessary vitamin that is solely provided by meat is B12; the rest of the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain human life can be found in plant sources.

Most importantly, I think there should be an attitude of gratefulness, or intention: a sentient being died to feed your body. Recognize that as a beautiful fact. An important truth.

Meat is an important, integral part of many cultures and religions, and I think that the ancient practice of meat consumption in these groups of people should not be dismissed as barbaric or uneducated.

I think that factory farming is a disgusting, horrible affront to nature and it will come back to us tenfold.

I believe that statistics that show vegetarians have a higher life expectancy show that because most vegetarian lifestyles include an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, foods proven again and again to provide long-term health benefits.

In addition, I understand that a vegan lifestyle is not accessible for everyone. Food deserts exist. The time a vegan lifestyle requires for cooking and meal prep is not realistic for every body, for every family unit. While it is true that vegan food by itself is less expensive (i.e. $5 for rice and beans versus $10 for a chicken), it is also true that it takes more rice and beans to fill a stomach than chicken does, therefore requiring more food to be consumed.

So why do I practice veganism?

First, as I wrote at the opening of this post, I have never been an avid meat-eater, and I was not raised in a family of avid meat-eaters.

I have educated myself on the practice of factory farming with regard to meat, dairy, and eggs, and I refuse to participate in that. I refuse to give my money, time, and body to that disgusting practice. I learned about meat’s impact on the environment. I read about its adverse effects on our bodies. I trained myself how to live without it.

Third, for me, it’s an exercise in healthy eating. Without foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, I am forced to replace and supplement with other foods. It is a practice in adding more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into my diet. For many years, I struggled with problematic eating: obsessive calorie counting and exercising, horrible body image, and viewing food as the enemy. Veganism is a practice in learning how to fill my body with whole, true, necessary foods.

Finally, I like it! I like to cook. I like to go shopping for vegan products. I get so much satisfaction from cooking a healthy dish made from plants and plant by-products. It’s a true passion of mine, and I love to invest time, money, and space in my mind to this lifestyle. It’s a soul project: I feel more connected to the earth, and I feel my soul, heart, mind, and body becoming closer together. I simply love it!

The bottom line? Eat consciously. Appreciate your food. Be so thankful.
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Why I Stopped Wearing a Bra

Okay, y’all. It’s time to get #real. I’ve started and reworked this post approximately five million times over the past three months, but it’s time to get down to business: in October, I stopped wearing a bra every day. Here’s why.

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Maybe you’ve seen the headlines–every news source seems to have covered this popular new trend, from the Huffington Post to Bustle to USA Today. Or maybe you’ve heard of the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Women are going braless in droves, and maybe you’ve wondered why. Why would women forgo arguably one of the most important pieces of clothing? Granted, there are a number of downsides, from needing to hold my boobs when I go up or down stairs to aching nips from direct exposure to whatever fabric my shirt is made from. But in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. In this post, I’m getting into the nitty gritty: what’s it really like? Is it right for you? Why is it important?

1. The Why

Last year, I grew two bra sizes. I went to Victoria’s Secret on a whim and got measured, just for the heck of it, and I grew two sizes! I’d been wearing the same size bra since, like, eighth grade, so this news was SO. EXCITING. The sales lady celebrated with me (I’m sure she was just salivating over the commission she was going to make) as I brought like ten bras into the fitting room in celebration. I ended up purchasing only one, but it was $78. Seventy-eight dollars! Almost eight hours of work at any one of my various jobs. And this was no ordinary bra–it was one of those ultra-sexy bombshell beautiful babe bras. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.

I definitely got my $78 worth, because I wore it all the time. I went like three months without taking it off. I felt gorgeous, and I wore low-cut tops to show off my brand-new set of boobs. When I went out with friends, I made sure to wear clothes that showcased my new favorite accessory. I let my boobs go to my head, if that’s even a thing. Sometimes I even contoured my cleavage just for the fun of it. I bought a second bra a few months later, spending the same amount of money on just another item of clothing I already owned. What???

They were kind of comfortable, I guess (keywords: I guess). Not $78 comfortable, but they were, nonetheless.

When it was laundry day, I didn’t want to take them off, because what would people think?! I could not, would not be caught braless. I mean, obviously my chest wasn’t as big as these bras made them seem. What was I to do?! The only solution was to do laundry at off times, to only wash one at a time (and do twice the load, therefore wasting twice the amount of water, etc.), or hand wash them. So. Much. Work.

I was totally participating in the horrible women-shaming culture ideals that preach that women aren’t worthwhile unless they have triple-D cups and a tiny waist–the exact culture I was trying to combat. I was completely investing into everything I said I was against: the ideal body type, the sexualization of the female body, putting your worth in your body.

And here’s the thing: I never measured up–to my own standard’s or anyone else’s.

2. The When

Living in Denver, a notoriously liberal city, I had casually noticed that many girls were choosing to go braless. I thought to myself Oh, that is so awesome! Props to them, but that’s not for me. I guess I approached it the way I approach girls who don’t shave (which I still do, but am totally intrigued by the concept of). The deciding moment, though, was at an anti-Trump rally. Classic liberal move, am I right? Lol.

My friends and I were on Capitol Hill in downtown Denver right off of Colfax, high on the buzz of cohesive protest. The woman behind me was holding up some sign of protest on her piece of cardboard, wearing just a flimsy red tank top with nothing underneath. I remember being so in awe of her openness. She was chanting along with the crowd, totally unnerved by my eyes. I know I was being totally rude, but I just couldn’t believe it! Sometimes, I even slept with sports bras on. I literally couldn’t even imagine going out in public on a chilly-ish night with just a thin tank top on.

I had already been quietly toying with the idea of going braless once and a while when I wore a sweatshirt or something. But seriously, seeing this woman’s bravery and complete lack of caring about other’s opinions was SO inspiring!

3. The What

The next few weeks served as a test-run.

I wore bras without underwire to a job interview and to rehearsals and stuff, to appear a little more “professional” (because boobs are so unprofessional *eye roll*). I tried wearing different kinds of shirts with and without bras, to see how it felt. And quite honestly, the first month was very uncomfortable.

It’s gonna get a lil TMI here for a second. You’ve been warned.

Y’all, my nips were SORE. Like, sore sore. As in, red and painful and all of the other cringe-y words that you don’t want to see associated with the word “nipple”.

I did a little research on this. My idea was that maybe, because my boobs have been so lovingly sheltered and protected my whole life, they were just not used to the harsh reality of fabric. My suspicions were confirmed with a quick Google search. Nips don’t like the roughness of fabric right away.

Thankfully, this went away after about a month. I am thankful I stuck it out though. However, there were (and still are) other challenges.

It is very obvious when someone is staring (which I totally know I did to that woman in Denver, lol). Like, hey men!, newsflash!, women can tell when you aren’t looking at our eyes when you’re talking to us! When you don’t wear a bra though, everyone notices. Then they awkwardly look away, like they weren’t supposed to see your nips or something. As if they’ve NEVER seen nipples before, lol.

I went to the gym a few times without a bra on, which was still great but pretty painful. I have now allowed myself to wear sports bras to the gym.

Of course, we all know what happens when we get cold. I’ve learned to deal with the social response of having visible nips when it’s cold out. I live in Minnesota, for Pete’s sake. It’s going to happen people, deal with it.

There are jackets I own where the zipper annoyingly rubs right on my nips and it’s actually really painful. When I know I’m going to wear those jackets, I either wear a thicker shirt underneath, fold the jacket out in such a way so it doesn’t touch my chest, zip the jacket part way, or I’ll just wear the Calvin Klein bra I own as another physical barrier to the pain.

4. Why it’s worth it, regardless

As I previously mentioned, I spent $78 on two different bras. And to be completely honest, I’ve considered spending more. $78 is pretty typical for a quality, sexy bra pricetag. Of course, I have the staple lace bralette to wear under my nicer, meet-the-parents-type dresses and a sports bra for working out, but those are just cherries on an already overwhelming sundae. Now, I don’t spend money on bras. I still have the bras from Victoria’s Secret, but I don’t really wear them. I don’t even have them at college with me.

I don’t need to consider what a shirt or dress or something would look like with a different type of bra. In addition, I don’t need to buy a special kind of bra for a certain style of clothing (backless, strapless, etc.).

The CONFIDENCE I have gained is the most significant benefit. I have become unapologetic about my body, and my chest in particular. I can totally see when people notice, but I literally just don’t care anymore. My self-worth isn’t placed somewhere on my body, it’s in my mind. It’s in my heart. It’s in the most important part of who I am: me. Not the outward presentation I put forth, but the me that I want people to see. (Also, there’s this, like, ~sisterhood~ when I see another woman going bra-less. I feel very connected to my feminine, sisterly side, lol.)

Granted, it took a while for me to get to this point (I’ve been bra-less for about six months now), but it is SO. WORTH. IT.

Not wearing a bra is the most empowering thing I’ve ever done (not to mention the cheapest, least stressful, most carefree thing).

What do you think? Have you tried going bra-less? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

New Years Resolutions Check-in

Helloooooo! I hope everyone’s February is going well! I’ve now completed FIVE WEEKS (???) at my new school, and I’m it’s a great fit for me.

Since we’re two months into 2017 (!!!), I think it’s a good time to evaluate how we’re all doing on our New Years Resolutions! Take an honest inventory, reevaluate which goals are *actually* attainable, and make some new, realistic short-term goals that will help eventually achieve that long-term goal.

Here’s a link to my post about my 2017 New Years Resolutions and Mission Statement (it’ll open in a new tab!). Let’s do a quick check-in on my resolutions:

  1. Learn Spanish. I think I’m doing pretty well on this one! I have a 31-day streak on Duolingo (I was at 28 days but I missed a day while I was on the Middle School Girls’ retreat *crying face*), and I’m joining the Spanish club at St. Kate’s! I’ve also signed up for daily Spanish emails through Study Spanish, and I listen to the Coffee Break Spanish podcast on Spotify while I workout.
  2. Continue to study music theory. Weeeeelllllllll…… I kinda dropped the ball on this one. I’m in choir and voice lessons, does that count?! I need to intentionally set aside time to continue learning theory on my own.
  3. Start a UST/SCU a Capella group. I ran into some logistical roadblocks with this one when I met with a student group organizer at St. Kate’s, but I have some more in the works with this one!
  4. Stop the negative talk. I feel good about this one as well! I have some goal-setting worksheets posted around my room that focus on the good things about myself, and I heard some quotes recently about building others up, differentiating between gossiping and venting, etc. I’m also taking a neat theology class all about the divine in human beings and our interactions with each other, so I am continually learning (and reading scientific articles) about the awesomeness of people. I’m still working on this goal, and I anticipate that I will be for a long time, if not my whole life, but I’m giving myself room to mess up. And that’s what it’s all about.
  5. Keep track of my spending. I feel awesome about this goal!! I’ve started paying off some of my credit card debt that’s accumulated from paying for textbooks and clothes and such, and I got a new, well-paying job that will help me put some cash in the bank. I used Dollarbird for a while, but my phone broke so the app doesn’t work very well, so I’ve transitioned to Track Every Coin, which is on desktop so I can use it! I’m still working on actually *saving* some money for future use, but I know I’ll get there soon.
  6. Run a 5k. Lol. Madison and I signed up for the Color Blast 5k in May, but we’ve ran into some weird business stuff, and we’re working with the Attorney General to figure it all out. Soooo, this goal has been ~mysteriously halted~ for the time being.
  7. Clean, clean, clean. Eating clean has been a HUUUGE focus for me recently! Since I moved into my apartment, I’ve only been keeping 100% whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods in my cupboards and refrigerator. And I cannot even say how much healthier I feel. I am still struggling with some weird health things (we’re thinking maybe trying a gluten-free diet for a couple months), but my acne is gone, and I don’t get stomachaches anymore. I used to live in a perpetual state of slight nausea, and I have not had ONE. STOMACH. ACHE. It’s AWESOME. Clean eating has my vote!!!

I think I’m doing pretty well! I’ve also been journaling a LOT more frequently than usual, and I’m reading for pleasure again. Life is pretty dang awesome right now!

I’d love to hear how you guys are doing–shoot me a message if you want to talk. I would *love* to talk with anyone about anything. Literally. xoxo

Gym Confidence 101: 4 Tips for Feeling (and Looking!) Confident at the Gym This Year

When I first started seriously working out this past summer, one of the biggest challenges I faced wasn’t on the weight floor—it was in my head. I could not get past the paranoid thoughts that people were watching me and critiquing my every move. I brought my weights to a private class studio to work out in there, but I was self-conscious even picking up the weights to bring them to that room. Is there a proper way to pick up weights? Is that guy who’s benching a hundred pounds silently laughing at my 7.5-lb dumbbell? Are the personal trainers mentally correcting my technique and form? I just could not get past my thoughts.

After a while, I began to venture out of my hiding hole in the back studio. After all, some of the exercises I was doing required machines, which were the ones I dreaded the most, of course. I did not want to do a rope hammer curl with a ten-pound weight while the guy next to me did the same exercise, but with seventy-five pounds.

Eventually, I got over myself. Below I’ve listed some things that helped me overcome my stress and self-consciousness at the gym. Feel free to take notes and add your own in the comments section!

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  1. Dress the part.

Once, I planned on heading to the gym after work. I brought my gym clothes with me in a bag and changed after my shift was done….only to realize that I left my Nikes at home! I only had my work shoes with me, and that day I had been wearing black beaded Minnetonka moccasins. I wanted to run home to grab my shoes, but I knew that if I went home, I wouldn’t leave.

So, I headed to the gym with my moccasins and did my workout in those.

Granted, this might not be the safest option, depending on the workout you’ve planned for the day. If you’re planning on riding the stationary bike, I wouldn’t recommend this, as the laces can become untied, and this poses a safety hazard. I was working out biceps and back that day, so I wasn’t concerned.

My point is that if you feel good, chances are, you’ll look good. The most popular setback I hear about this is that workout clothes are expensive! This is when I become the World’s Biggest Thrift Store Advocate. Honestly, almost all of my workout clothes I got at thrift stores or on supersale. For example, I have a pair of maroon prana brand yoga pants I love that I bought at a used boutique for $10, and I also have a pair of black Calvin Klein yoga pants I got on sale for $20 at Macy’s.

If you feel good, you’ll look good.

When I want to support a non-profit I love but know I might not wear a typical t-shirt, I look to see if they have any of their designs on a flowy tank top or t-shirt. These are great for the gym, because they’re breathable and comfortable. I also wear a pair of Nike shoes that I really love. This is something I would consider a splurge on, because the support in your shoe will make or break your workout.

Essentially, if you want to appear confident, feel confident in your outfit. If nothing else, at least you look the part!

  1. Know your workout in advance.

What are you working out today? If you plan as much as you can before you arrive at the gym, you’ll be less likely to quit early and more likely to feel prepared. I know that every time I’ve gone to the gym without knowing in advance what I’d like to work out, I feel lost—and I know that I look lost, too.

If you don’t come to the gym prepared, you’ll feel and LOOK lost.

I love to do a five minute warm-up walking at 3 mph on the treadmill, and then some stretching/foam rolling for a cool down at the end.

The workouts I do are based on opposing muscle groups. I might work glutes in one exercise, and then calves the next. Perhaps I’ll do some bicep curls, and then I’ll do an exercise that focuses on back muscles.

If you’re a preworkout kind of person (I’m not, but if you are, all the power to you!), know when  you’re going to take the preworkout; how long before you hit the gym?

Finally, bring a water bottle; earbuds; and a journal if you want to write down your weights, mile time, or any other information. I keep my journal in my car so I never forget it!

  1. Do your research.

When I was first starting out, I did a lot of research regarding form and technique on bodybuilding.com. They have fantastic videos of both men and women performing a specific exercise, and they include things to avoid, insider tips and tricks, and other super important information! The workout plans I like to do (from laurengleisberg.com) are almost always accompanied by a photo of Lauren doing the workout herself.

Try it out at home without weights first! If you can master the technique of a tricep kickback or sumo squat without any weights, it’ll be a piece of cake when you begin adding weights!

And, as always, start small. If it’s your first time ever doing a bicep curl, don’t grab the 40-puound dumbbell; start with something more reasonable (y’all, I started at three pounds, #NoShame). It’s always better to lift smaller and protect your body than go all out and risk pulling a muscle, or anything worse. I always try to lift enough that I’ll be sore the next day, but not sorry the next day, if you know what I mean!

  1. Act like you know what you’re doing.

This is the biggest thing for me! The first few times I ventured onto the weight floor, I was surrounded by superstrong men who were beet red, veins popping and sweat flying. There weren’t very many women, if at all! I felt completely out of place. But I followed the first three rules listed above, and I knew that I was prepared. Smile through the pain (of feeling superawkward!) So I walked out onto the weight floor and started lifting. And eventually, I did know what I was doing. Fake it ‘til ya make it, am I right?!

Finally, if you’re really self-conscious, I have a few extra tips for you.

  • Don’t feel bad about bringing weights into a studio to have some privacy while you figure everything out! Exercising is a very vulnerable thing to do, and it’s definitely scary the first few times.
  • If you’re scared, bring a friend! A lot of gyms have free or inexpensive guest passes. Consider connecting with someone online, or working out at home with a friend first.
  • Never feel bad about the amount of weight (or lack thereof) you’re lifting. This is a biggie! I’m a super weak individual, and I’m the first to admit it! I am a lover of the 5-15 lb weights section, lol. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • Get some pump-up music flowing! I have a Spotify playlist called “move it” full of songs I love lifting to. I also love listening to Podcasts–my favorite is called “Beautiful Anonymous”. Random people call in and tell their life story to the host for an hour, and it’s so funny and exciting! I often find myself laughing out loud while doing a leg curl or whatever.
  • Remember that everyone in the gym started out somewhere. Even if every single person looks like a pro, know that a) they’re most likely not, and b) you will look like that one day, too!

What are some of your tips for gym confidence? What gets you supermotivated? I’d love to hear—shoot me a message or write in the comments below!

Encouragement via Instagram is always the best (shameless plug: my handle is @freedom_thru_fitness!). Check out some of my favorite #Fitstagram hashtags: #FitFam, #RiseAndGrind, #StrongNotSkinny, #CollegeFitness, and #GirlsWhoLift.