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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My Clean Beauty Regimen

How insanely frustrating is it when you spend a fortune on new products… just to find that they don’t work? Aren’t your skin color? Leave your hair greasy? I’ve focused my efforts on finding “clean”, vegan beauty products for a few years now, and I’d love to share some of my favorite, effective products! Let me do the work for you… keep reading!

my clean beauty regimen

I have skin that isn’t excessively oily, dry, or sensitive, so I’ve never been too sure about which products I should buy. My skin is, however, acne-prone.

I struggled with bad acne from sixth grade through eighth grade. It wasn’t small breakouts, it was almost a rash across my forehead, with the breakouts happening on my nose and around my mouth. I tried doctor-prescribed pills, creams, and spot treatments. I changed up my diet. I worked out. Nothing seemed to work for me.

When I got my period at age 13, my doctor prescribed birth control to try to curb the acne. My mom and I were hesitant to have me start taking it so early in life, but once I began taking it, my acne cleared up in a matter of weeks. I’ve been on it ever since, and my acne has never been as bad as it was then. I still get breakouts and I have some acne scars, but it’s nothing like it used to be, and for that I am grateful.

So, when I search for products, I try to find products geared for use on acne-prone faces. A few other guidelines I use are as follows:

-cruelty-free (look for the bunny symbol!!!)

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-vegan (the difference between cruelty-free and vegan is that cruelty-free means the product was not tested on animals, and vegan means it contains no animal products.)

-no sulfates, other unnecessary chemicals, etc.

-a low score on the app “Think Dirty”. I first discovered this app when a girl I follow on Instagram posted about it, and I was intrigued. This app rates beauty products on a scale of 0-10 on their toxicity, carcinogenicity, and allergens. It doesn’t have every product in the world, but I now screen all my products on this app before buying.

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I’ve used Pacifica, Burt’s Bees, Say Yes to ___ (Tomatoes, Cucumbers, etc.), and plenty of other drugstore “clean” beauty brands, and they’ve all worked relatively well. I’ve never seen *incredible* results, but I’ve recently begun using some new products and I am really impressed! Most of these products can be found at drugstores or ordered online for very cheap.

Face wash:

I use Shea Moisture African Black Soap. I bought mine on Amazon, but it can also be purchased at retailers such as Target and Walmart. I use this bad boy twice a day, morning and night, and I use it before I use any other products. I also use it as body wash! I first learned about this product via a friend on Twitter. It smells amazing and is very inexpensive!

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The app rates each individual product based on the criteria the entire product is screened with.

Acne Spot Treatment:

I used to use a regular spot treatment from Target brand, but it’s full of nasty chemicals that harm our skin, so I did some research. I wanted something inexpensive and natural, and I discovered the miracle that is apple cider vinegar! I use organic apple cider vinegar from Aldi. This website recommends mixing 1 part apple cider vinegar with 3 parts water, but because my skin isn’t very sensitive, I just eyeball about 1:1. I just use my finger to dab it on my problem spots, wait about 30 seconds, and wash it off. I also do this regimen twice a day, and I’ve seen a difference in as little as four days.

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Toner:

After washing my face and using a spot treatment, I tone my face with Thayer’s witch hazel with rose petal. I also discovered this treatment via a Twitter friend. I ordered this on Amazon but I believe it is also in Target stores! I squeeze a few drops on a cotton ball or a sheet of toilet paper and dab it on my face. It smells so lovely.

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Moisturizer:

At night, I use Shea Moisture’s coconut oil moisturizer. I use just one pump for my entire face, focusing on my cheeks, mouth area, and nose area. It smells of coconuts and is so light!

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This product has not been rated yet on Think Dirty.

BB cream:

I did a lot of research before purchasing a BB cream. I wanted it to be travel size, provide good coverage, moisturize, and be cruelty-free and vegan. The ONLY product I could find with high reviews was The Body Shop Tea Tree BB Cream–and I LOVE it. It was a little bit expensive but it’s totally worth the price. It finishes with a powdery, solid look, and most days, this is the only face makeup I use. It smells like lemons, too!

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Shampoo & Conditioner:

I have used John Frieda’s shampoo and conditioner for redheads forever. However, while I find that it holds the red in my hair excellently, it doesn’t provide any volume and my hair is greasy after only a day or two, even with dry shampoo! They also both rate an ugly 9 on the Dirty Meter. I asked a couple coworkers for advice, and they recommended trying Lush bar shampoos and conditioners. That idea seemed genius to me, because it also minimizes the liquids I bring while traveling! In addition, I already know Lush to be a fantastic company and a friend to animals.

I went to the Lush store at the Mall of America and the saleslady recommended the Seanik bar for my thin, color-treated hair. I shit you not, I had people complimenting my hair left and right and I hadn’t even told anyone that I switched shampoos. I will never purchase another shampoo. It functions like a bar of soap, but you lather it into your hair. They are also kept in these handy little tins! (Also, they last for 60 washes!)

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For conditioner, I use the Big conditioner. I don’t have many opinions about this product, except that it smells great! I love that all of Lush’s products are cruelty-free and most are vegan. I lather this in my hands (takes a bit longer for this product to lather, however) and wring it into my ends, avoiding my roots like crazy because I know how heavy and greasy my hair gets with conditioner on the roots.

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These products have not been rated on Think Dirty.

Body Lotion:

I have been using Shea Moisture’s Coconut and Hibiscus Lotion for a couple years now, and I will never use another lotion. It keeps my skin SO soft and luscious. It can be purchased online or at typical drugstores.

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Deodorant:

For years, I used Secret’s prescription-strength deodorant. I don’t sweat a lot, but I noticed that when I did, prior to using the prescription-strength, I smelled like the drugstore deodorant I was using. I didn’t want to smell like deodorant! Using the prescription strength, I never sweat and I never smelled, but my armpits frequently stung, and I experienced a lot more razor burn. Basically, my body was rejecting the foreign, heavy chemicals I was lathering on my skin every day.

I wanted to find a more natural solution, but I was stuck. Did I want to be that vegan, with the rock deodorant that everyone knows doesn’t work except her?

I did some research. And what I eventually decided to do was stop wearing deodorant altogether for a few weeks, to detox my body from those harsh chemicals. I sweat. I smelled. I wore really thick clothes and heavy perfume to mask the scent. But after a while, I noticed something peculiar: I wasn’t sweating as much. I didn’t really smell. I’m not sure if this is a *thing* or not, but it happened to me.

I still wanted to have a deodorant as a fall-back, so I purchased Schmidt’s Rose and Vanilla Deodorant. I don’t wear it every day, and sometimes I’ll go a few days without deodorant at all. Sometimes on a day with heavy physical activity, I’ll put it on once or twice–with no stinging! I bought it at the Mississippi Market Co-op on West 7th in St. Paul, but it can also be found online here.

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And last but not least, toothpaste:

I was using Tom’s natural toothpaste, which I was happy with, but as it ran low and I looked for travel-friendly options, I came across Lush’s toothy tabs. These babies are weird, I’m not gonna lie. Basically, you pop a tab into your mouth, chew it, wet your toothbrush, and brush like usual. While you don’t get that minty-fresh feeling, I swear my teeth have never felt so extraordinarily clean. Fr. The saleslady explained that the Boom! Toothy Tabs were the most popular, because they contain whitening charcoal.

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This product has not yet been rated on Think Dirty.

What are your favorite natural, vegan, cruelty-free products? I’d love to continue to add to my routines! It takes a while to find a product I love, but it’s so exciting to find and adore new products. THANK YOU to all the companies out there who are transparent with their practices and ingredients. It makes a world of difference, and we are noticing!!

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Growth, Constants, and Uncomfortability: An Exercise in Listening to Ourselves

PrefaceAs I wrote this post, I was unsure where to begin. I began and rewrote and scratched out and deleted over and over again. The final post is much longer than typical posts, so stick with me to see my thoughts on these last two years of my life, some things I’ve learned, and where I’m going next.

First: hello! It’s been a few (intentional) months. I took some time away from this space to both reevaluate its place in my life and create a new vision for where I want it to go.

When I began this blog, I was about to make the biggest change in my life to date: I was moving from Minneapolis to Denver, a 900+ mile move, for college. I was going alone, with no real idea of what my life would look like in the coming months. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I would be forced to grow. To evolve. To question, to dream, to fight.

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I am writing this piece at one of my favorite coffee shops in Denver, Backstage Coffee. I used to study here solo and with friends a few times a week–it’s on 14th Street, just two blocks off of the famous 16th Street, and it’s located at the heart of the Theatre District. I thought it poetic, almost, that I write about how much I have grown since moving here two and a half years ago in this treasured, old space of mine.

Growth has always been an important part of my life. I try to stare doubts in the face and laugh–without growth, we rot. We stay stagnant.

I refuse to rot.

I refuse to rot.

And of course, growth is hard.

We like to believe that our lives have constants: whether that be relationships, places, routines, jobs, beliefs…. Essentially, we assume that our lives are constant, unless we make the conscious choice to change those constants.

But our constants can always fall away. One of the foundational beliefs of Buddhism is that suffering exists because we assume our lives to be constant–we get our happiness from these constants, but in reality, these things can all change in a matter of seconds.

Accidents happen. We get laid off. Relationships end. These things happen unexpectedly, and our world is absolutely rocked to the core.

And that’s when the growth happens.

I experienced that kind of soul-shaking a number of times when I lived in Denver, and it caught me completely off-guard every time. It was an intensely difficult time of growth for me, and it brought me to a very uncomfortable conclusion, and consequently, a question:

Everything I assume is constant, truly, is not. This brought me to Are there any true constants we can rely on?

I still don’t know the answer to that question.

It is a dreadfully uncomfortable realization, isn’t it? Routines, beliefs, relationships, hobbies, jobs, habits, and similar comforts are so easy to rely on. The things we hold true might not always be that way for us. Even things such as the choices we make for our wardrobes are comforting, let alone practices such as a religion.

So then, what defines us, if not for these things? How do we find value in ourselves, in others? 

I don’t have these answers. But I have learned to find comfort in being a wandering soul, if you will. I have grown to find comfort in the knowledge that I am not a constant being. I am a fluid, sacred, nomadic soul, as are you.

I am a fluid, sacred, nomadic soul, as are you.

Take me, for example. Two and a half years ago, I moved to Denver with the intent to graduate in the spring of 2019 with a degree in International Studies. Live in Denver. Get married, have kids, and work a job that makes me (hopefully) happy.

Last year, I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, with the intent to graduate in the spring of 2019 from a different university with a degree in Social Work. Get married. Travel. Maybe have kids. Work a job that will make me happy.

Six months ago, I finally realized that maybe I am not meant to live a typical life with a four-year Bachelor’s degree, a 9-5 job, two kids, and a yard for our dog. In fact, I shudder when I think of these things. I have wondered for many years if there might be another path for me, but it’s so fucking scary to take those steps and actually do something different.

We are so quick to assign life paths for ourselves, aren’t we? We are not taught to challenge the progression of K-12, college, work, marriage, and kids. Have you ever wondered if there are parts of this that shouldn’t apply to you? I remember the first time I realized I could choose to not have kids during my freshman year of college–which is an obvious notion, but it was not until college that it actually occurred to me I could just… not be a mother someday.

And it’s all nice to talk about and say, yes! I agree with that! Not everyone must attain a college degree and have children! but how do we react when people actually choose other routes? Oftentimes, there’s the idea that they won’t reach their full potential. That they maybe weren’t academically successful. They probably won’t make a lot of money, and will probably be unhappy and regret their young decisions.

When I completed my second year of college at my second university, I didn’t recognize myself. I was kind of a shell of a person, just kind of going through the motions that were expected of me. I was, at the most basic level, unhappy with my life.

So, I decided to do what I knew in my heart of hearts I should do:

I took a gap year (or more?) to reevaluate. To travel. To search for myself again.

And I have done these things. I am still doing these things! I traveled to India and taught in a slum school. I swam in the ocean on the southern California coast with a friend from Denver. I attended the homecoming football game at Stanford with a friend from India. I drove to Iowa and Wisconsin. I visited Denver for the first time since moving away. Next month, I am spending two days with my mom in New York City before embarking on my three-month solo backpacking trip through Europe. This fall, I found a love of yoga (yes, really). I embraced a fully vegan lifestyle. I purchased a new D-SLR camera that I’m learning how to use. I did not settle for a job I felt stuck in, and instead switched to a fulfilling job with coworkers I love. I spent a lot of time alone.

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watching the sunset on carlsbad beach in california
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at the staford homecoming football game with hamzeh
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from the rooftop of a cafe in jaipur, india
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grace, mary grace, & i with vegan pastries in denver, colorado
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the banks of the st. croix river, wisconsin

As for this blog, I will be writing twice a week, on topics that I’ve found a passion for. I am focusing specifically on ethical/conscious living, including topics such as minimalism, intentional eating, conscious fashion choices, emotional and mental health, spiritual fulfillment, and the like.

I don’t know what I will be doing in the fall. Perhaps I will return to school. Maybe I’ll just stay in Europe. Maybe I’ll audition for Disneyland in Paris or Anaheim, or maybe I’ll become a certified doula. There are a million possibilities, and my encouragement to you is to take a moment and listen to your body. I did that, and I have not regretted it for one second.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are you surrounded by people who make a positive influence in your life?

Are you where you want to be? Are you where you’d thought you’d be?

Are you where you want to be physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually?

Are you happy?

If not, why?

As cliche as it is, we really do only have this one life (that we know of). We have a sacred obligation to serve ourselves and others in the truest, best way we know how.

 

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