Friendship Inventory: Dealing with Disappointments and Releasing Expectations

Friendship Inventory: Dealing with Disappointments and Releasing Expectations

This is a blog topic that I have been researching, writing, and editing for weeks. I spoke to a variety of people on the subject of friendships, and there were a lot of mixed emotions shared. For now, what I can definitively say is that writing about friendships is a delicate subject.

If you are a loyal, sensitive, compassionate, and empathetic person, you will probably really relate to this post. I have found that living in my little part of the modern world where technology has transformed friendship management (and not always in a good way), it is sometimes a challenge to process thoughts regarding friends and acquaintances – and there’s a big difference between the two.

As the years have gone on, I have found it quite interesting how my life became less about how many friends I had accumulated but rather on the quality of the friendships that I had. I think this comes with maturity and also a self-awareness; I realize how I would like to spend the limited free time that I have and who I would like to spend it with.

Sometimes it is just best to get to the point where you accept that people are strange and even sometimes selfish and you don’t even attempt to figure them or their actions out anymore. Sometimes there are no good explanations for things. It’s a freeing realization to say the least. When you detach from expectations and things you cannot control, it helps to eliminate disappointment.

However, if you subscribe to the idea that we are all one, then compassion, acceptance, and peace can be combined with the latter approach.

Friendship Inventory
Recently, I asked myself: “Who in your life elevates you and brings out your happiness and sense of humor?”

When I sat down and actually wrote this list out, it was shockingly short. I mean – shoooooorrrrrrt.

familyguy
Who wears short shorts?

Once I realized how small my list was, (I mean – smaaaaaaallllll),
I realized that this was okay, and I shouldn’t place judgement on it.

Tom-Guiry-as-Scotty-Smalls-in-The-Sandlot-tom-guiry-24441600-1360-768

When I got to thinking about each of those people I had written down on my notebook paper, I realized that they are all special in their own way. The one thing they did have in common, though, was that they all had a great sense of humor and a fun way of keeping things light and dealing with life’s challenges like champions.

The next thing I did was I wrote down all of the attributes that I appreciated about each person. This helped me to conceptualize what qualities I value in others.

I then thought about my actions and behaviors toward these people who supposedly make me so happy. I looked inward and asked myself: “What kind of a friend am I to them? Am I reciprocating their kindness, generosity and happiness? Or, am I wasting time on other relationships that may be cluttering my life and weighing me down?”

It was a little of both.

The Tale of Friendships Past
I know many people who have remained best friends with the people who they grew up with. I unfortunately did not develop close friendships at a young age. I was always nice to everyone, but I never really fit in with any particular group. I also spent a lot of time alone.

My Mom once told me a story of when I was in elementary school, and my class was outside at the playground. My Dad had come to pick me up from school and he was disheartened to see that I was sitting alone in the sand underneath a slide watching all of the other children playing together. I was not crying or upset, I just was sitting there, alone.

Sure I had friends that I spent time with here and there outside of school, but they were usually just people to pass the time with. They did not grow into lifelong friends.

In high school, that is when I started to develop a couple of closer connections but that was the extent of it. I was still nice to everyone, but I never fit into one cluster or clique. I kind of feel my teen years were more enriching because of that; I could see others as individuals rather than as labels or groupings. This is something that I have carried into adulthood.

I played on the high school soccer team, but I did not development any close friendships with any of my teammates; the same goes for student council, and French club, and band. It seemed that everyone else in these groups were getting to know each other outside of school. I typically served in leadership roles and was always willing to lend an ear to hear others. I did spend time with friends outside of school (moreso when I got my driver’s license), but overall, I was only truly myself around two friends who I met during the beginning of my freshman year of high school.

It was surprising to me when I was voted prom queen during my senior year before graduation. It was a fun experience, and I was grateful. I was surrounded by wonderful people and lots of friends, or at least people I was friendly with. However, there weren’t many people I was truly close with. I would talk to anyone and everyone and I respected everyone, but I was never part of a specific grouping, as is the case with most high school students.

Then came college and life-after college, marriage, and now at age 30 I have experienced a whole lot of happiness and even some very real disappointments when it came to friendships – even including the friends I held nearest to my heart. In retrospect, having those experiences (especially the hurtful ones) was character-building and enlightening for me.

I have never really felt like I “fit in” fully in any environment or with any group of people. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that this is okay and lots of others have felt the same in their own right. I have also grown to love time to myself for reading, writing, and reflection.

Through it all, I have basically taken away five truths:

1. Friendship is a two-way street. It is important for us to reflect on how our friends treat us, but also how we treat them. Do you reach out to your friends just to say hello, do you send cards, or happy texts? Or do you only reach out when you are having a personal problem?

2. Quality is better than quantity. It’s better to have two wonderful people in your life than 100 crappy ones.

3. Evolving and growing apart from past friendships is okay. It’s a normal part of life. And if you’re spiritual, like me, you might even believe in soul contracts where people were meant to pop into your life at a specific time for a deeper reason along your unfolding path. It’s okay if they are not meant to be there from start to finish, just as you might not be there for their full story.

4. Sometimes it’s the things that people don’t say or don’t do, that hurt the most.

5. Animals are the greatest friends. They are so innocent and loyal, they never judge, and they teach us unconditional love. They truly are gifts from God.

20141113-141513.jpg

Sifting through the Clutter
So with the large population pool of possible people to get to know, how does one decide how to branch out and who to invite in? One thing I recommend is being mindful of the clutter and understanding the qualities that you value in friendships.

Using technology and social media to maintain relationships is okay, but it’s never a replacement for a phone call, a dinner, a game night, a road trip, or simply a face-to-face conversation filled with laughter.

I would also recommend working on being your most authentic, brightest self in all areas of your life, so you can attract like-minded people. Friendships are like gardens, you have to cultivate them, care for them with love, and see how they grow.

An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Lauren Grogan of
Center Your Health. Lauren is a holistic health coach and yoga teacher who is passionate about life. I wanted to interview Lauren because I find her to be incredibly positive, authentic, and kind. These are qualities that I admire most in others. I also love how Lauren lives a full life and manages to balance everything with grace and organization. After reading this inspiring information, please watch Lauren’s video which is embedded at the end of this interview. Her smile and shining light will brighten your whole day.

1) Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time to allow me to interview you. How would you define yourself to those who have never met you?

You’re so welcome! It’s funny that you ask that question, because I’m at the point in my yoga and spiritual practice where I’m trying to no longer “define” myself! It’s been a very, very difficult process since it’s easy to attach to certain labels or ways to identify ourselves. With that being said, hopefully this brief interview together can help others get a glimpse of who I am at this point of my life and accept me for what I’m all about!

2) You are a holistic health coach (like me ::high five::) and a yoga teacher. What are your coaching/teaching philosophies?

It’s pretty simple, do what’s best for YOU. We’re so conditioned to look outside of ourselves for knowledge or healing but we need to remember that our bodies are designed to heal. We each have an innate wisdom within us that’s always there as a guide, no matter what is going on. We must learn to listen to our bodies, hear what they’re saying to us and give them exactly what they need. I love explaining this to my students/clients in hopes to remind them of the personal strength that resides in each one of them.
 Lauren1

3) From what I can tell, you are an advocate of gluten-free living. Do you recommend this for all people or is this just something that has helped you personally?

The only thing that I advocate or recommend for all people is to eat more veggies! Otherwise, I love explaining to my clients how gluten effects our system (it’s an anti-nutrient that causes inflammation) and then ultimately leave it up to them if they’d like to minimize their gluten intake or avoid it all together. Either way, I support them and always remind them to take it slow. It certainly takes awareness, patience, and practice. If they decide to give gluten-free a try though, I’m thrilled! I’m amazed at the symptoms that clear up in my clients after they’ve gave up gluten such as less body (joint) pain, no more bloating or gastrointestinal issues, weight loss or less headaches. To clarify though, while (in my opinion) gluten stinks, whole grains in general may be pretty disruptive to our health in large quantities. It varies person to person though.

How has going gluten-free been a game-changer for you personally?

Going gluten-free was something I never even considered until I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease, an autoimmune condition effecting my thyroid function. When it comes to (any) autoimmune conditions, consuming gluten is like pouring fuel on the fire, so it must be eliminated. I realized that I had to finally give it up after my diagnosis. It was a slow and gradual process until I finally could feel the benefits enough to ditch it for good. It was a hard breakup, I must admit, one of the hardest I’ve ever gone through.  However, I’ve NEVER been happier! I breathe so freely each day (have absolutely NO congestion in my sinuses), I can focus and think clearly throughout my day (no more brain fog), I’ve lost weight and my muffin-top disappeared, my face/body in general is less puffy, my keratosis pilaris (a rash on my upper arms that I’ve had all of my life) cleared up, and I almost never have that “stuffed” feeling after I eat a meal (even when I’ve eaten a bit too much!). I’ve had a blast getting creative with prepping gluten-free meals. The best part is it’s made me eat more whole, real foods more than ever before. I’ll make cauliflower crust pizza, spiraled zucchini pasta, stuff half an avocado with tuna salad, enjoy hummus with fresh crudite, or create wraps with lettuce or collard greens. I steer clear of foods like breads, crackers, cookies and other goodies marketed as gluten-free. Let’s be real, that’s straight up junk food. Before I transitioned to gluten-free I viewed it as so restrictive. Now I see how wrong I was to think that since I’ve never been so satisfied or felt better!

4) I have written about being body positive and for people to focus on health and healing rather than their looks/weight alone. What are your thoughts on this topic?

I love that you’ve written on this subject. It’s so important, especially today. Obsessing over looks/weight only encourages unhealthy behaviors towards ourselves and effects our relationship with food. I think it’s so important to truly love yourself. This concept may be foreign to us since we are not encouraged to do this, but it’s an extremely important practice. Changing the way you speak to yourself is a great place to start. Most of us would never speak to others using the tone or words that we use towards ourselves. Part of my morning ritual is applying oil to my whole body after I’ve showered and silently thanking each and every part of my body. “Thank you, feet. Thanks, elbows! Thank you, eyes. Thanks, fingers. Thank you, belly.” It may sound silly, but I’ve grown to love, adore and appreciate so many different parts and aspects of my own body. It’s also helped me realize how grateful I am for the body I’ve been given and for its health. I highly recommend giving it a try!

lauren2

Where do you think most people go wrong when it comes to dieting and restrictive eating?

All or nothing thinking. I give so many lectures on different types of diets…just to lure people in, not to encourage them to subscribe to them. They think they’re coming to learn all about a plant-based diet, or even a paleo diet, and while I’ll educate them on it I like to give suggestions of how to take aspects of the diet that they like, “drop the label” and make it their own. Then, there is no longer restrictions and unnecessary pressure – two things that should never be associated with foods in the first place!  Create your own way of eating that’s best for you. 

5) Do you have any recommendations for people reading this blog who might be new to yoga and a little nervous to try a class?

Skip the free yoga class at your gym. While gym yoga teachers may be talented and great, it may not be the right environment for yoga if you’re a newbie. A simple google search for “beginner’s yoga class” in your area will bring up a bunch of local studios. Start checking out different studios and see what classes resonate with you and your schedule. Most studios even offer a discount or free class for your first time. When you attend class, go with an open mind. A true yoga class should be free of judgement and/or competition, so if you’re feeling any of that from the teacher or students (or sometimes even your own mind!) that may not be the class or studio for you. Your yoga practice is your own. It will look and feel different than anyone else’s, and that makes it beautiful and your own. Embrace that and you’ve embraced the essence of yoga…even as a beginner!

6) What is your message to more advanced yogis reading this blog?

I find that there is always something new to learn with yoga each and every time we roll out our mat. This mindset will keep us a beginner at heart when it comes to our advanced practice, remind us not to be so focused on “mastering” the asanas (poses) but rather enjoying them wherever we are that day. I have observed that as most yogi’s practice progresses (including my own!), the ego tends to be overconfident. It’s important to recognize when this happens so that you can realize you’re no longer practicing yoga with ego-driven thoughts. Yoga teaches us to be present and honor the body wherever it is. We must remember the fundamentals of yoga to truly excel in our practice…and that may or may not have anything to do with the asanas!

lauren5

7) Is there a personal struggle you’ve experienced in your life that you would feel comfortable sharing, as well as how you dealt with that challenge?

I’ve had a few personal struggles with my health over the years that I can now confidently say that I healed myself. That’s a lot easier said than done though! However, since I’ve done it more than a few times by now, I approach any struggle or health issue the same way and can execute the healing process much faster. I catch myself when I’m being the victim and instead look at whatever I’m going through as a blessing. I look at it as a challenge for me to go through so that I can learn from it and then help others to overcome similar issues. I make sure that I recite positive affirmations each day during my struggles and most of all allow myself the time to practice self care. I make rest and food prep my top priority so that I’m nourishing myself healthfully on all levels. I also reach out to the therapists, practitioners and mentors who I know will be helpful in my healing process. Healing takes lots of inner hard work and patience. After healing my IBS, anxiety disorder, autoimmune and thyroid disease, I feel pretty empowered to take on whatever is next. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, we just have to realize that and give the body what it needs to thrive! 

8) What inspires you?

Yoga…on and off the mat, because it’s the thing that I resonate most with before anything else. 

Creating…in all different forms keeps me sane and allows me to express myself. 

Food…because I’m a total foodie. 

India…everything about it. The smells, rich colors, the rituals. To me, it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. 

Nature…the colors, the patterns, the textures, the taste! 

Connecting with others…because I make it a point to surround myself with others who leave me feeling empowered rather than drained. 

lauren4

9) Can you name one public figure who you admire and share why?

Lately, I’ve totally been admiring Daniel Vitalis of Rewild Yourself. I heard him speak about the domestication of human beings and it blew my mind. I’ve been a fan ever since. He reminds us of that wild wisdom that resides in our DNA which most of us have lost touch with. He’s got an online magazine and informative podcast. Check him out! His girlfriend Ali Schueler, of Wild Woman Speaks, also offers a similar approach that I’m totally jiving with. These past few years I’ve been so intrigued by primal living and working towards making little shifts here and there to get back to a more ancestral way of living.  

10) What are the most important lessons you have learned so far in life?

(Cue John Lennon’s song, Love.)

LOVE. Just love. Love yourself. Love everyone. Love every being. Love everything. Love cures all. Love nourishes all. Love is what we all desire. Love is what it’s all about. Give it, get it, share it, enjoy it! 

Also, my Italian Pop-Pop, Mike the barber, would always say, “The darker the vegetables, the better they are for you.” I have fond memories as a child of watching him tend his garden harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for us to eat.

12) What are some of your future goals?

Bhakti yoga has been a major part of my life in these recent years and I want to continue diving deeper into the practice as time goes on. My husband and I plan to start a family and I look forward to making that a big part of our children’s lives. Chanting each day has brought me so much joy and satisfaction and I look forward to sharing that with any kiddies we may have. 

Any additional thoughts or comments?

Thanks so much for having me, Mary. I’m so inspired by you, your recipes, your homemade soaps, and your warm, positive message in general. Your smile lights up a room and is unforgettable! 

Thank you, Lauren! Keep shining bright!

Why I Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle + FAQ

Why I Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle + FAQ

I receive many great emails and questions regarding food, health, and my lifestyle choices.  I thought it would be fun to share a little bit more about my journey and answer some frequently asked questions too. I wrote the title of this using “choose” as opposed to “chose” because I make this decision consciously each day.

Before I begin, I want to note that this lifestyle has brought me so much joy and liberation. I wish I could share this gift with everyone, but I am not here to influence or pressure anyone into changing their lifestyle or the way they eat. I am simply sharing my story, what has worked for me, and what has brought me personal health and happiness.

My Past Eating Behaviors, Dieting Patterns, and Food Choices
I have always been passionate about learning about the human body, but up until five years ago, I was more concerned with weight loss and physical appearance, rather than overall health and wellness. That mindset of always wanting to lose weight and reading fitness/women’s health magazines and websites served me no good. I would constantly yo-yo with my plan. I was also a fitness writer, so I exposed myself to a lot of fitness competitors and bodybuilding athletes, who I interviewed for my articles.

For some periods of time, I would try to eat the typical six small meals a day with rationed out protein, carbohydrate, and fat consuming only whole foods and high animal protein. Other times, I would count calories or points, or do some other type of regimented program where there were guidelines to follow or bars and shakes and then a low calorie meal in the evening, or I would eliminate entire groups like carbohydrates. Let’s just say, I tried a lot of things.

However, from a health and sustainability perspective, all the restriction, guilt-shame patterns, and crap I put my body through during those yo-yo periods were terrible for my overall health. And whenever I did lose weight,  shortly after when I could not keep up with that way of eating any longer, I would gain all of the weight back, of course. And round and round we go. This is a typical cycle for many women, especially American women. How many of us have said, “I’m starting my diet/program on Monday!” It is just a shame that many people are still in this cycle, and I understand where they are coming from, because I was once in that mindset too, for many years.

I was never really satisfied. In between those periods of dieting, I would end up eating a mix of “health” foods, whole foods, and standard American diet (SAD) or processed foods; OR, I would binge eat junk foods that I was restricting previously then go back to eating more natural foods and be on a diet again where I would pack all of the meat and vegetables and starch in little tupperware containers in advance. Even now as I write this, thinking back to that time, it was absolutely awful for me. I definitely had a very unbalanced approach to how I treated my mind, body, and spirit.

How I Went From Eating Meat to Becoming a Happy Herbivore
About five years ago, I experienced a whole host of health problems – one of them being chronic digestive issues (I mean, it was bad). Due to my own as well as my family’s medical history, I also wanted to learn about how to prevent cancer and other common diseases. I also had chronic fatigue, skin issues, high cholesterol, and disordered eating tendencies.

Because of my health scares and concerns, I began reading books and peer-reviewed scholarly research articles about health. I began to crave knowledge about how to feel fully alive and fully healthy. I don’t think most people know what that feels like, because I certainly didn’t.

Every book, research study, documentary, and credible resource I had read had a unanimous theme: eat more plants. Could feeling better and curing my health problems really be that simple? I had to learn more, so I did.

eat-more-plants

I then read books like Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Healing the Gerson Way by Charlotte Gerson inspired by her father Dr. Max Gerson, and many other books. I also explored books like Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and one of my favorite books of all time, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. And after that, I just kept reading.

Then one day I decided, I wanted to try to eat plant foods and really be patient and give it a fighting chance.

I adopted a predominantly plant-based diet (95% plant foods), while still consuming some amounts of fish and dairy 1-3 times a month. I was going through many different adjustments with my food choices during the process too, and I learned a lot about my body and myself in the process. After a while, I gave up eating fish and other sea life, because I saw no benefit to it.

During my journey, I tried not to beat myself up over mistakes or slip-ups. In the past, having an all-or-nothing approach did not serve me well at all, and it caused a variety of problems. Learning to be patient and compassionate with myself, has helped me stick with this lifestyle long-term. And as of October 2014, it will be five years since I adopted a plant-based lifestyle, and five years since I ate a land animal (it’s been about four years since I stopped eating fish completely).

maryharris1

And something else interesting happened, even though I started this for selfish reasons ( to get healthy), what has kept me on this path is something I never expected when I initially began. The health benefits are numerous, and I will explain those in a bit; but I also learned about many food injustices, including what happens to animals who are used for meat, dairy, and other products, as well as the mental and physical health issues that plague people who work on factory farms and in slaughterhouses due to the repetitive violence.

It is extremely overwhelming to learn about, and once I was aware of  these issues, there was no unlearning it. I also learned about the alarming environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry. As someone who loves the idea of taking care of the only home we have – our Earth – this was a very impactful component for me. And finally, from a spiritual standpoint, when I really reflected on my values and beliefs, the way I was living my life previously did not match up with where my moral compass was pointing.

The Health Improvements I Experienced
All of the ailments, health concerns, and issues that I described earlier were resolved. It was incredible. I also had an increase in energy, better self-esteem, and I was kinder to myself and to others. In fact, my demeanor changed for the better. I became a much happier, kinder, and more patient person, overall. Other benefits: I learned what it truly meant to be and feel healthy, I dropped some weight, and I started getting more physical activity into my daily routine. This was the first time in my life that I was treating my body with respect and filling it with optimal nutrition.

I was also so passionate about health, that I went back to school to become certified as a holistic health coach, so that I could help others. And of course, I started blogging and sharing my delicious, plant-based recipes.

plants

For the Animals
I have always considered myself an animal lover. Yet, I would sit at the table and pet my dog with one hand, while consuming a cow or a pig or a chicken with the other. The fact of the matter is I was mentally detached from what was on my plate. After learning that we don’t need to eat animals to survive or be healthy, giving up meat was easy for me. I could never slaughter an animal myself, so I do not think it makes sense for me to eat them. I educated myself about how animals are treated as property instead of as individuals, as sentient beings.

Most people who still eat meat joke (or not) about bacon and how they could never give up bacon. Bacon is just fat from an animal’s belly. It’s gross. I used to love the taste of bacon too. But I love pigs more, and I found a replacement for the taste, by using coconut bacon. I will definitely post a recipe for how to make homemade coconut bacon very soon. Beyond bacon, every food I have ever loved, I have found a way to make it taste 100% incredible in a vegan version. My food tastes better now than it ever did, and in my opinion, the dishes look a lot more beautiful too.

piggies

In terms of dairy, like all mammals, cows only produce milk to feed their young. Dairy is not healthy and should not even be considered a human food option. We are the only species that drinks the milk of another species, and even worse, we do this into adulthood and for many of us this is life-long consumption. How is that sustainable, by the way? Just like humans, cows don’t produce milk because fairies sprinkled dust on them. They are placed into a tragic system where they are forcefully impregnated by a machine while shoved into a holding rack. After the cows have their babies, the babies are taken away and either used for veal or dairy.

“The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf…On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn—only ten yards away, in plain view of his mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth—minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days—were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain.” -Michael Klaper, M.D.

For more information on these topics:
Cows for Dairy
NutritionFacts.org
Brenda Davis, R.D.
Calcium in Plant-Based Diets

baby-jersey-cow

For the Environment
Plant-based eating helps fight against many major issues that plague our planet, including: water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and global hunger.

““We collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 65 billion animals each year for food …10 times as many people as we have on the entire earth… We have developed a complex system of producing more and more animals that use more and more of our resources, while leaving a massive amount of waste, pollution, and adverse climate change in their wake. … This system…is… heavily intertwined with our culture, politics, economics, and the suppression of the reality of its effect on our planet.”
-Dr. Richard Oppenlander

For More Information on the Environmental Impact:
Dr. Richard Oppenlander
Vegan Outreach
Cowspiracy Documentary

oceans
We must save our oceans and the magnificent creatures within them. Photo credit: Oceanic Preservation Society

Spirituality
The final component for me that changed my life was that this lifestyle has helped me grow spiritually. I believe that spiritual nourishment (whatever that may be for you) is essential for overall health. It could be spending time outside in nature, yoga, meditation, prayer, etc. For me, living a plant-based lifestyle has encouraged me to learn more about growing my own food and connecting more with the earth. I am also more conscious, as a whole. Changing what I ate and shifting my thoughts has been a catalyst for so many wonderful opportunities in my life.

This lifestyle has helped me realize that our bodies are temples to our souls. We must take care of this precious gift of life that we have.

Eating plant-based and becoming more aware has also introduced me to concepts such as living simply and minimalism. I basically don’t live in excess, and I don’t have a lot of unneeded stuff (like I used to).

For More Information on this:
Ralph Smart, Infinite Waters
Angel Detox by Doreen Virtue and Robert Reeves

yoga

ziplining

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is plant-based?
Great question! Different people have varying responses to this question. For me, a plant-based diet is a diet primarily or completely comprised of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, and whole grains.

2. What do you typically eat in a day?
I am answering this for me personally, but just so you know, there are many, many ways you can eat a plant-based diet. In fact, most people who eat plant-based have more of a variety in their meals.

For me, what I eat depends on the time of year and what I feel like eating at the time. I enjoy seasonal foods, and I love living in a place where there are four distinct seasons. I love gardening with my husband too. I also prepare the majority of my meals at home because it is healthier, I know exactly what is going into my body, and I save a lot of money. Sometimes I eat mostly raw, sometimes I eat more cooked foods. Right now this is what a typical days looks like:

Breakfast: A green smoothie. The one I just enjoyed was a blend of frozen banana, blueberries, spirulina, my homemade almond milk, and a touch of maple syrup. I usually eat fruit for breakfast. One of my favorite smoothies is my orange cilantro smoothie; it’s so simple and so good!

Lunch: I usually have a huge raw, green salad (I mean huge) or a raw zucchini noodle dish. The salads vary depending on what I have at home. One example is: kale, mixed salad greens, carrots, red onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, beets, avocado, topped with flax meal and nutritional yeast, sometimes walnuts, sometimes almonds, or sometimes organic sprouted tofu, etc. I also use lots of fresh and dried herbs, fresh ground pepper, and pink or red sea salt. I make my own salad dressings made from whole foods using my blender.

Dinner: I will make a vegetable stir fry dish, or roasted vegetables with greens, or a crockpot soup like lentil vegetable, or a raw soup like a cucumber dill or carrot ginger with greens or a salad, or vegan pizza, etc. Sometimes I will have a homemade veggie bean burger like sweet potato and black bean with a side of greens and all the fixings. Other nights I will make collard wraps with mashed sweet potato, chickpeas, and avocado, or quinoa veggie bowls. There are so many options, and I enjoy everything!

Snacks and Treats: Fresh fruit like a bowl of grapes, homemade black pepper and sea salt popcorn, homemade smoothies, homemade trail mix, raw cacao treats (real chocolate), or my 3-ingredient cookies.

Drinks: I drink filtered water. I use a Berkey to filter my water. It removes trace elements, chemicals, bacteria, chlorine, and fluoride (if you opt for the fluoride filter attachment). Apart from water, sometimes I will also enjoy organic, caffeine-free tea. I also like to make fresh juices at home, when I feel like cleaning my juicer.

And can I just say, the food is really delicious and so simple to make!

recipes

photo-24

3. Are you vegan?
I am just Mary. I currently self-identitify as someone who enjoys a vegan and whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. I love the vegan lifestyle, but I am not perfect. At the same time, I realize that no one is. Here is a great video on the subject by one of my personal inspirations, Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Sometimes I use raw honey my friend Farmer Leo’s honeybee friends make, because I know the bees are not hurt or robbed of their honey and then fed high fructose corn syrup (it’s a sad fact that most people don’t know about). I won’t just buy honey from the store, and I don’t use honey often at all. My husband and I have honeybees on our property too and I am very passionate about helping honeybees and planting bee and butterfly friendly gardens and not supporting pesticide use. We have even rescued swarms of bees. Vegans will not use any animal products, so honey falls into that category.

For me, I just try to live my life as compassionately and consciously as possible. My first year started by changing the way I ate, and then I started learning about products that are made from animals in general. Ever since, I always make sure that I purchase non-leather belts, cruelty-free shoes, and basically nothing made out of an animal. In a future post, I will talk about eco-friendly fashion, which is not a cut-and-dry topic.

I volunteer to direct a non-for-profit program called The Monmouth Area Vegetarian Society (MAVS). I have been running the nonprofit for three years, and all of our programs are completely free and open to the public and include an educational talk or film screening, and a vegan potluck. I also attended Vegetarian Summerfest for the past two years. Through both of these opportunities, I have met many incredibly inspiring individuals who I have learned so much from. Here is a sampling of pictures of just some of the awesome people who I have met over the years.

Joe Cross, star and director of the documentary film "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead"
Joe Cross, star and director of the documentary film “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”
Jenny Brown, founder of The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and author of “The Lucky Ones”
Rich Roll, plant-powered wellness advocate, bestselling author, and ultra-endurance athlete
Rich Roll, plant-powered wellness advocate, bestselling author, and ultra-endurance athlete
T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, author of "The China Study" and "Whole", also featured in the documentary film "Forks Over Knives"
T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, author of “The China Study” and “Whole”, also featured in the documentary film “Forks Over Knives”
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy, a 4th generation cattle rancher who after 45 years and a series of events, became vegan. He is an animal rights and environmental activist now.
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy, a 4th generation cattle rancher who after 45 years and a series of events, became vegan. He is an animal rights and environmental activist now.


4. Where do you get your protein?
This is probably the most common question that people who eat plant-based are asked. First, I will share this picture and ask you, where does he get his protein from? That’s right, plants.

gorilla

I recommend these two quick reads for further information:
Slaying the Protein Myth by Rich Roll  and The Protein Myth by The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

In a nut shell (no pun intended), plant foods provide us all the protein we need, plus countless other health benefits. For any athletes who are concerned with losing muscle, performance levels, or not being bulk enough, this is simply not an issue. Here are some athletes I recommend looking into. They are all plant powered!

frankandantonieyye
Frank Medrano and Antoniette Pacheco, vegan powerhouse couple and calisthenics athletes

Steph Davis, an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer
Steph Davis, an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer
78-year-old vegan bodybuilder, Jim Morris
78-year-old vegan bodybuilder, Jim Morris

 5. What resources do you recommend for people who are curious about learning more?
In addition to all of the books and films I have already mentioned, check out my wellness resources page for some ideas. Apart from that, there are many books, studies, films, and podcasts to be discovered. There is so much to explore.

226352_1950432047732_8253131_n

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
Mary Signature

Love Your Tree: Why Shaming Your Body Will Never Lead to a Healthy Body

Love Your Tree: Why Shaming Your Body Will Never Lead to a Healthy Body

This blog post is for men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, husbands and wives, lovers and friends (cue R&B throwback). I find a universal issue with writing body image and wellness content for one gender over another. We can all benefit from loving and accepting ourselves, while taking care of the bodies we have in a healthy, balanced manner.

Earlier today, I saw the following advertisement online:

20140728-162055.jpg

The large font that reads, “Surprise Him with a New Body” really struck a chord with me. It is sad that many people will be exposed to this ad, and many will not see a problem with it. I do.

“Surprise him with a new body.” You know, because your current body is not good enough. You are not attractive enough. Not worthy of intimacy, even. This message is disgraceful, and it is not one that promotes health. It is one that promotes shame, guilt, anxiety, and poor self esteem, not to mention patriarchy and objectifies women. It also perpetuates the problem of people wanting instant gratification. You know, because who wants to work out for 8 minutes, when you can get a “new body” in 7 minutes?

Health is obviously important for all of us. Health as in mind, body, and spirit – not just physical health. Moreover, an individual’s outward appearance is not always an indicator of health. There are many people who may physically look healthy on the exterior, but suffer from a host of ailments and health complications internally.

upset-stomach

It does not serve us to compare our bodies to the outward appearance of other bodies. This does not lead us toward better health; in fact, it is counterproductive.

So what, then, does healthy look like? Great question, and one I will allow you to reflect on. Because the fact is, most people aren’t that concerned with health or being on a healthy path. Instead, they are concerned with looking good (whatever that means). They are concerned with weight loss. They are concerned with looking fit, not necessarily being fit. They are concerned with being physically attractive for others. They are concerned with how others view them and how they stack up against their “competition.” They are concerned with vanity and ego.

We should instead be focused on health and happiness. It is that simple. When we focus on true health and happiness, everything else falls into place.

Next, I would like to share some facts:

1. “In one study of college students, 74.4% of the normal-weight women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.” But the women weren’t alone; the study also found that 46% of the normal-weight men surveyed responded the same way.” -Brown University

2. “80% of 10-year-old girls have dieted. 90% of high school junior and senior women diet regularly. Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.”  -The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination

3. “Only 2% of women think they are beautiful.” -The Girl Scout Research Institute

4. “More than four in five men (80.7%) talk in ways that promote anxiety about their body image by referring to perceived flaws and imperfections, compared with 75% of women. Similarly, 38% of men would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for a perfect body – again, a higher proportion than women.” “63% [of men] thought their arms or chests were not muscular enough.” -The Guardian

5. “Figures collated by the Eating Disorders Association of South Australia conclude that: anorexia is the third most common disease in Australian females aged 15 – 24 years and morality rates after 20 years are between 15 – 20 percent; the incidence of bulimia within the same age group is five in every 100; at least two studies have indicated that only about one tenth of bulimia cases are detected; and women who diet frequently (more than five times) are 75 per cent more likely to experience depression.” -Psychology.org

6. “A new study of a national sample of adolescent boys, published in the January issue of JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that nearly 18 percent of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique. They are also at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes: Boys in the study who were extremely concerned about weight were more likely to be depressed, and more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use… Of the boys who were highly concerned with their weight, about half were worried only about gaining more muscle, and approximately a third were concerned with both thinness and muscularity simultaneously.” -The Atlantic

7. “8 out of 10 women are not happy with what they see in the mirror.” -Social Issues Research Centre

8. “85% of the world’s population are affected by low self esteem.” -The Self Esteem Book, by Dr Joe Rubino

What can we do to love and accept ourselves and in turn, love and accept others?

We need to be body positive, compassionate, patient, and kind to ourselves and to others. Think of how much your body has changed in your lifetime through the different phases and circumstances of your life: stress level, career, lifestyle choices, relationships, family, etc. It is important to remember how much our bodies will continue to change as we age. My point is, we cannot be so fixated on vanity. Doing that will set us up for long-standing misery. Instead, we should be inspired to be healthy and happy. Say it out loud: “I am healthy and happy.”

Here are some suggestions to achieve health and happiness:

1. Exercise and bring daily activity to your routine for health and happiness, not for aesthetics. Exercise is NOT the enemy. People who are body positive recognize that exercise is done for health. Individuals should not fixate on the aesthetic results. Exercise helps your brain, heart, muscles, and bones. It helps your mental health and reduces stress. It helps your whole body, mind, and spirit. Find physical activities you enjoy doing and have fun doing them. Exercise is essential for health and vitality. And if you are a goals-oriented person, consider performance-based goals over appearance-based goals.

2. Tell yourself kind things, and be mindful of your thoughts. It also helps to make a list of at least 20 things you love about yourself (not relating to your weight or your body’s appearance). Keep this list where you will see it daily.

3. Look in the mirror and compliment yourself daily. Also state positive affirmations about your character, your intelligence, your talents, and your personality.

4. Support healthy media choices (books, films, magazines, videos, podcasts, etc). Don’t expose yourself to media that makes you feel inadequate or bad about yourself. Go through your current media choices and take notice of how the content makes you feel. Ask yourself, “How is this serving me? Does this make me feel good/happy? Is this benefiting me?” You can make adjustments or opt out of certain subscriptions from there.

5. Be a role model for others. It is up to us to set examples for children, family, peers, and even strangers. Everyday we have the opportunity to change perceptions for the better, so let’s be shining examples. Let’s use language that is respectful and inclusive. Let’s challenge what defines health. And most of all, let’s make great efforts toward loving and accepting ourselves.

6. Eat real food and let go of the craziness. Fad diets, restriction, and extremism are not sustainable and lead to patterns of yo-yoing, guilt, anxiety, binging, and health complications. Fill your body with nourishment in the form of real, whole foods. Don’t be hard on yourself. We are not meant to be ‘perfect’. We are meant to be free. Create beautiful, delicious recipes and enjoy them.

7. Surround yourself with positive people. If you witness your peers body shaming you, themselves, or others, kindly correct them and educate them. Formulate a response that is both wise and compassionate, not defensive. You can pepper in some humor too!

For me, I try to remember that our bodies are the homes of our souls. Your body is the home of your soul. My body is the home of my soul. We are very blessed to have our bodies, which is why self love, health, and happiness are essential. We need to reframe the way we think about appearance and our motivations for our diet and lifestyle choices. We need to be thankful, stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of us, and make a conscious choice to treat ourselves well.

I will conclude with this fantastic minute-long video clip regarding self acceptance. It’s a must see! Love Your Tree

20140728-173734.jpg

20140728-174255.jpg

 

It Is Okay to Be Alone with Yourself

It Is Okay to Be Alone with Yourself

We are all connected, yet for some of us, it has been challenging finding those sustainable, meaningful, deeper connections. Maybe I speak for myself, but I have never felt like I ever fully belonged. I have met thousands of great people, but have chosen to be very selective with who I choose to spend my time with. This may come as a surprise, because I get along with just about everyone, and I enjoy talking with people, and I truly love and appreciate my friends and family; what a blessing to have so much love in my life.

However, I feel as though I prefer to be by myself most of the time or just sitting silently with my animals or in nature, where words are absent. And maybe that is because I just really enjoy the solitude and the clarity. Or maybe that is because it just is. I have chosen to be an observer of everything, of all of the beauty and the source. With each passing year, I let more light into my life. Sometimes I sit outside by myself and I just don’t do much of anything except listen, and sometimes I even lay in the grass. It’s amazing what we can be witness to, if we just allow it.

So what’s my point? My point is, it’s okay to be alone with yourself. I have learned more from that than anything else in this life. I have learned that we are all spiritual beings and we all want the same things: purpose, love, and happiness. I know myself, and I understand this purpose. I know that this life is a treasure. I know that we can be distracted by so many things – so many things that do not matter, and so much negativity. We must filter all of this. I know that labels and doctrines can divide us. We are all human. I promise that no matter what you’re going through or if you’re feeling alone, you are not alone.

We are all one. We are all important. Let this be validation that it is perfectly okay to be alone sometimes with yourself and to learn what it is that makes you happy. ONE LOVE!

Mary Signature

Body Shaming and Brainwashing: A Memoir

Body Shaming and Brainwashing: A Memoir

“Are you really going to wear that two piece swimsuit in front of him? Aren’t you embarrassed? If I were you, I would go put a t-shirt on. You need to work on your abs.”

I remember this dialogue being something I experienced when I was about thirteen years old while I was at a swim party with some friends. My body was changing, and I was starting to become a curvy young woman who felt awkward in her own skin. I feel as though tiny moments like this from adolescence all the way into adulthood planted seeds – very dangerous seeds that grew out of control.

Regardless of your gender, body type, size, shape, race, or heritage, we have all experienced body shaming in our lives. Some of us have been on the receiving side of this issue and many of us have taken part on the delivering end as well, whether it be with our thoughts, words, or actions.

In my teens, like most young American girls, my selection of role models was based almost strictly on appearance. I purchased fitness and teen magazines and watched MTV and immersed myself in pop culture. The theme was always the same: beauty/appearance is everything. Why weren’t my role models intriguingly intelligent and intellectual individuals or activists or authors or inventors or people who helped humanity or the planet or animals?

I remember when I was in high school, I really wanted a boyfriend, because all my peers (or so it seemed) were going on group dates with boys. I had some acquaintances and friends of the opposite gender, but no one in high school ever asked me out on a date out of their own doing. In one instance, I expressed this issue to a friend who told me, “Maybe if you lost some weight, that would help. Guys like thin girls.” Unfortunately, this was another seed that stuck with me.

When I look back at pictures of myself, I now clearly see that this could not have been any further from the truth; I really was a lovely young woman. Why is it that when we look back on pictures of ourselves, we are often so much wiser and self accepting? I now realize how beautiful I was inside and out (and still am).

I started to internally compare myself to all my thinner more beautiful friends and to the athletic girls too. I was active in sports and school clubs, always on the go, and I exercised, but in my mind I did not look like an athlete or a “beautiful” person. In my mind, I started to associate myself with the dreaded “f” word: fat. This paired with random comments from older, well-meaning people such as, “You have such a beautiful face, if you lost a few pounds you would be a knockout,” really lowered my self esteem.

So, I started dieting and worrying about my weight. This eventually spiraled into periods of binge dieting and binge exercising followed by periods of binge eating, closet eating, guilt and shame. My weight was like a yo-yo, and I don’t think I was ever satisfied. When I would lean out and drop a lot of weight in a short period of time, I would thrive on the compliments and comments. “Oh my God, you look great! What have you been doing?” “You lost some weight, haven’t you? You look beautiful!” Funny how so many of us associate weight loss with beauty. And even funnier how we point out that weight loss as the reason a person looks attractive or worthy of praise. Because of this, I try to be careful with my language when I comment on anyone’s appearance.

Toward the end of my senior year in high school, prom was coming up and I remember wanting so badly to be asked by one of my close guy friends or better yet by someone of romantic interest. That never happened. And last minute, I had to ask a friend a year younger than me if he wouldn’t mind attending. Ironically, that evening I won prom queen and had a really wonderful time with friends. But the sad thing is, I still felt that if I had been thinner and prettier that I would have had a boyfriend, like so many of my peers. I guess I felt as though I was missing out on something. If I could go back in time, I would smack myself.

Needless to say, for years I struggled with disordered eating and binge eating and negative body image. Maybe in college it would be different, I thought.

Somehow, and I don’t know what happened, but everything was different in college. I was the heaviest weight wise I had ever been in my life, and yet I had date after date after date and boyfriend after boyfriend (Note: I was always a very respectable young woman and my dating experiences were for the most part very innocent. That was important to me out of self respect.). What was going on? I remember a couple of times that  leaner/thinner types of men or really muscular, athletic men would ask me out, and I would always think to myself, “Is this really happening? Did they really want to date me?” In my mind, so many of them were gorgeous looking, and I guess in a way everything I had learned in my former years of life pointed to self worth being measured by body size. How sad is that?

But at this point, I do want to say to the men out there who have felt that they need to look a certain way to impress the opposite gender. I feel that really depends on who you are trying to impress. When I was younger, I dated men of many different body types, but that was never my focus. My focus was really on them as people. Were they funny? Were they nice? Were they respectful? What did we have in common? What was different about them? How did they treat others? These were all very important to me. Yes, physical attraction is important, but I never had a “type.” So I just want to put that out there, because I feel that men struggle with unrealistic societal expectations just as much as women.

Over my college years, I did develop a great deal of self confidence that I never had before, but then I would regress sometimes too. And I still struggled with disordered eating on and off.

After college, I was freelance writing for a couple of fitness and bodybuilding websites. In many ways, I learned what a messed up industry that can really be. Most of the fitness professionals and competitors who I met were still not happy with their bodies and partaking in unsustainable diets and exercise routines in order to maintain their appearance when competition season ended. I started to ask myself: “Is anyone ever really satisfied with the way they look?”

One day at work, a customer asked me when I was due… as in EXPECTING A CHILD. I was not pregnant, and of course my face felt like mush. The woman then just said, “Oh, the same thing happened to my daughter recently when someone made the same mistake and she just told them, ‘I’m not pregnant. I’m just fat.'” I do not know if that was supposed to make me feel any better, but I ran off crying. This was a day another bad seed was planted. And in hindsight I know I could have handled myself much better.

The best thing that ever happened to me was meeting my now husband Cody, who is the most wonderful person I have ever met – honestly. He accepts me at any size and has shown me what real love is. He has helped me to learn how to love myself more, and I am lucky to have a partner who encourages me to be positive and healthy.

It took me a very long time to feel “healed” and to really embrace a truly healthy lifestyle free of disordered eating. I have had my road bumps, though, and I sometimes wonder if I will ever 100% heal the way I view myself and in turn have more positive internal dialogue. This is my goal, but as with any goal worth achieving, I know it will take time and effort.

So this brings me to present day. I feel the healthiest I have ever felt in my life, and as a person who lives a plant-based lifestyle, I am happy with my choices. However, recently my self love and self esteem was challenged again when at a health conference.

The first scenario: I was at lunch with a couple in their eighties and one of them asked me if I was vegan. I said, “Yes.” And she said, “What do you eat? Vegans are usually very trim.” I was a bit taken aback, but I did not become emotional. I realized the source and instead turned it into a positive, explaining how just because a person eats a certain way does not mean they should be typecast into fitting a certain body type. I also explained how healthy and full of life I am.

The second scenario at a fitness lecture: A fitness “professional” asked me in an auditorium of about 100 people in front of everyone if I struggled with my weight. This was so embarrassing and hurtful. And I know for a fact, if I had looked a certain way that in her mind fit the status quo of “fit, healthy people,” that she NEVER would have asked that question. I handled myself with as much grace as I could muster up. But to say that I wasn’t affected by this would be an outward lie. In fact, I haven’t really stopped thinking about it ever since it happened. Luckily, due to a series of circumstances, that woman did end up apologizing to me the next day. I accept her apology, but the fact of the matter is, the damage is done. I know it is up to me to release that negative experience, and I will.

So, yeah. These are some of my memories regarding negative body image, body shaming, and brain washing by the media and by society. So this all begs the question: Is there any hope?

YES! I believe there is. It is important for us to recognize this body shaming and correct it, change our choice of language, and change our thoughts. Every time we hear someone say, “Real women have curves” or “She is so thin. She probably starves herself,” this is also a form of BODY SHAMING. It is just awful and is not just something that happens to women or to larger women, it happens to people of all sizes. It is time we become aware of this.

The bottom line is, we should all practice positive self body image and also encourage this among our peers. There is not one size that will ever be perfect. We need to stop being so judgmental, so accusatory, so critical, and so assumptive. “Oh, she must not exercise.” “He must sit at home and eat junk all day.” “She must starve herself to look like that.” “He looks like a lazy slob.” These are all awful, awful things to think about others. What types of things do you think about when you see others? Sometimes positive and sometimes negative, right? This is just human nature; it’s normal. I think it would be a very interesting exercise to just be mindful of this and notice these thoughts and maybe challenge the way you think. I will do the same.

If I could go back in time to a week ago or to a year ago or to a decade ago, I would tell myself, “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, DAMMIT! INSIDE AND OUT! 20 pounds heavier or 20 pounds lighter. With pimples or without. With makeup or not. YOU ARE AMAZING, TALENTED, SMART, FUNNY, COMPASSIONATE, HONEST, AND BEAUTIFUL. NOW STOP BEING SO SILLY!”

These are my memories. But I have so many others. So many positive, joyous memories and so many triumphant moments. I share these memories in particular because I want YOU to know that if you have ever experienced anything like this or have felt ashamed of your body or self conscious or worried or upset regarding your size, that you are not alone. Only we can change the way we feel about ourselves. Only we can take control of our emotions and handle ourselves with grace and self care.

Our bodies are the temples to our souls. I honor, trust, love, and appreciate my body for all the amazing things it does for me everyday. If someone does not like my body, that is their problem. Not mine. I choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. We need to perpetuate the planting of SOUL SEEDS – not bad seeds.

As a college professor, I often hear young men and women making body shaming comments about themselves or about their peers. Just like most of us, the majority of them have been brainwashed. When I witness students body shaming a celebrity or public figure, I will often ask them, “Do you believe that person is an individual with feelings?” And sometimes I will take it a step further and ask, “Do you feel that media is a problem for the way young people feel about themselves?” They will always say yes. So then I pose the question, “So then why do we spend our hard-earned money on media that perpetuates the problem?” This often leads to a lot of interesting discussion and self reflection.

If and when I have a daughter or son one day, I want them to know how important it is to love and take care of their bodies, their minds, and their spirits FOR THEIR HEALTH and the health of those around them – how true health and wellness is not about the ego-driven exterior aesthetic of “looking good.” I want them to know that we are all worthy of love and respect. I will encourage them to be confident and caring and to accept themselves no matter what they look like – accept themselves for all the wonderful qualities they have to offer the world. But most importantly, I will teach them that their self worth and the self worth of others is not and will never be based on their size or body type.

Here’s to good health, happiness, confidence, and living a body shaming-free life. Let’s move from a weight-centered approach to health to a health-centered approach to health and wellness.
Image

Zen Your Morning Routine

Zen Your Morning Routine

Morning Routines: An Important Piece of the Wellness Puzzle

Starting your day off with a healthy and balanced frame of mind is an essential part of achieving wellness. If your typical morning consists of:

-waking up in a rush (“Holy hell! I’m late!”)
-a negative mood (“It’s Monday. This sucks!”)
-or a rut (“I just want to go back to bed.” ::snooze button::), then this post will help.

Or perhaps you are already working on creating an inspiring morning routine for yourself – awesome! Hopefully you can take away at least one or two new ideas from this list.

I want to acknowledge that some people may be parents and/or some individuals may feel that their schedules do not allow them to have a healthy morning routine. My response: where there is a will, there is a way. Even if you only implement one or two of these ideas into your morning routine or you try new elements each day, it will still make a difference. It is best to have fun with this and figure out what will work best for your personality, needs, and lifestyle. Everyone is in a unique situation, so you should tailor a morning routine to your life.

So Here it Is… My Morning Routine:

alarmclock
Photo credit: oohprettyshiny on etsy; whimsical fine art photography
This awesome print is available for purchase: http://www.oohprettyshiny.etsy.com

1. WAKE UP BEFORE THE SUN RISES
I usually wake up around 5:00 am to start my day. This is a beautiful time when the environment is usually still quiet and at peace. Naturally, I go to bed the night prior at around 10:00 pm, so this works for me. I have worked at this.

2. NO CELL PHONE
I started to come to terms with the reality that I was addicted to my phone and social media. I was kidding myself when I thought that there was no way an email response could wait, or that if I was not connected that I would miss important information for work or even breaking world news. I realize that many people are severely addicted to technology in general, in a way that might eventually cause disease in the body. I am still working on limiting my technology use, so this is a work in progress (as she types on her WordPress blog).

To combat the cell phone habit, I have made a conscious decision to avoid using my cell phone until after my morning routine is complete. It has made a big difference in my life so far, and I highly recommend it to others. (Tip: If you use your cell phone as an alarm clock, it is a good idea to use a back-up alarm clock as well. There are lots of neat clocks on Etsy.)

3. WAKE UP WITH GRATITUDE & PEACE
I try to wake up each morning feeling blessed and grateful at the opportunity of a new day; after all, I realize that so many others were not given the chance. I take a couple of deep breaths and smile. I give thanks and reflect on everything that I am so thankful for. Basically, I wake up with peace in my heart and gratitude on my mind. I do not leap out of bed as though the world is on fire.

4. BE CONSCIOUS & BE PRESENT
Simple as that. It can be something as magical as listening to the wind, or the crickets, or the birds chirping outside and/or quietly meditating. When we rush through our morning, and our day, and our week, and our month, and our year, and our life, we miss these little miracles that are occurring all around us all the time.

5. SHARE LOVE
Every morning, I tell my husband and my companion animals: “Good Morning!” and “I Love You!” To me, and perhaps to them, this makes all the difference.

6. STRETCH & BREATHE
I do 5-10 minutes of light stretching and yoga postures, focusing on my breathe. I will eventually increase this to a 15-minute routine. I also like to have a book of inspiration nearby to read a quote or page from at this time.

7. OIL PULLING
I follow this Ayurvedic practice each morning. I swish 1 tbsp of organic coconut oil in my mouth (sometimes with 1 tsp oregano essential oil) for twenty minutes. The theory is that this draws out toxins and helps with overall oral health; it has many other documented benefits as well. I love it. When done, I spit, rinse out my mouth thoroughly, use a tongue scraper, rinse again, then proceed with my oral care regimen.

journal

8. MORNING JOURNAL
I have a journal that I use to write down my dreams, my goals, notes, thoughts, inspirations, etc. I journal for twenty minutes in the morning while I am doing the oil pulling. This is a great time to express myself, gain clarity, or just be creative. There are no rules; I just free-write. This is often a time of the day when people will have more fluid experience with self reflection, expression, and creative thought.

9. SPEND TIME WITH THE ANIMALS
I like to take the morning to greet all my companion animals and give them fresh water and food, pet them, and spend time with them. I take care of the dogs, tend to the rabbits, hens, and birds, and even give thanks to the honeybees and the gardens. Now that it is getting warmer, I am looking forward to getting some new bird seed and filling up the bird feeders outside for the wild birds to enjoy.

10. 20-MINUTE JOG/POWER WALK
This is an item on the list that I have not partaken in this winter, but now that it is warming up, I am going to add it into my morning routine. I think a light jog and/or power walk in the morning will be quite liberating and refreshing.

11. GROUNDING // EARTHING
I have recently done research on grounding/earthing and the health benefits of directly connecting with the earth. If at all possible, and you can fit in walking outside barefoot and connecting with nature for even a couple of minutes a day, it will make a difference.

lemonwater12. DRINK LEMON WATER + TAKE VITAMINS
Lemon water is detoxifying and alkalizes the body; it helps the liver, kidneys, skin, digestive tract, you name it! I drink 20 oz of warm water with the juice of 1/2 of an organic lemon to start. I wait 30 minutes before eating breakfast to support optimal digestion. (more on lemon water in a future post). I also choose to take my vitamins at this time. I get most of my vitamins from food, but I do take a couple of supplements for extra support.

MorningRoutine13. DRY BRUSHING
Dry brushing is excellent for the skin before showering; it helps circulation and it removes dead skin cells, among other benefits. I have a plant-based dry brush that I purchased from my local health shop. You basically brush the skin in a gentle, circular motion starting from the feet and working your way up toward the heart. (more on dry brushing in a future post)

14. SHOWER OR DETOX BATH USING NATURAL GOODIES
I do not really have rules as far as when baths are “allowed.” In fact, I love baths so much that if I want to take a bath in the morning, I will, and I do not need anyone to give me permission or reserve baths for a “special occasion.” Life is a special occasion, so if I want to take a bath, I won’t deny myself that luxury. But showers are nice too. Nonetheless, I love using organic sugar and sea salt scrubs and natural soaps (we make them homemade!). I also use apple cider vinegar and salt in my baths, which is wonderful for the skin and body.

My Heaven & Earth handcrafted, natural, vegan soaps. These are rustic end pieces.
My Heaven & Earth handcrafted, natural, vegan soaps. These are rustic end pieces. http://www.etsy.com/shop/HeavenAndEarthShoppe

15. OBSERVE YOUR BEAUTY & HONOR YOUR LIFE FORCE
This can really apply to anyone, but I notice that many women especially partake in negative self talk constantly, especially when looking in the mirror. Some days I still struggle with this myself, but over time I have really healed this area of self acceptance. I try to remember to be thankful for my beautiful, healthy body, which is ultimately the home to my soul. This is why it is a top priority to honor my body and take care of it. Remember: Your body allows you to do amazing things day in and day out. It is incredible! You are incredible!

16. GREEN SMOOTHIE TIME
As you can tell from my blog, I really love healthy food and nourishing, nutritiously dense breakfasts. I choose to start my day off with a delicious green smoothie, packed with vegetables and fruits. I have never been a fan of coffee, but if you are a coffee lover and you want to cut back, the lemon water and green smoothies in the morning can certainly help with that.

THERE YOU HAVE IT
It takes me about two hours to get through my entire morning routine. I leave for work by 7:15 am each morning, so this is what has worked for my schedule thus far. I would also encourage good preparation in general; I make sure I have ingredients for lemon water and smoothies, clothes ready, gas in the Jeep the day before, etc. This eliminates a great deal of unnecessary stress in the morning.

Enjoy your mornings, enjoy your days, and enjoy your life. And remember: hating mornings is an option. I choose to love them.