Vegan.

What do you think of when you hear the word vegan?

What are your conceived notions about vegans? Are they crazy? Are they functional in society? Heck, could you even go as far as becoming possibly the f word (friends) with a vegan?

And what is veganism anyway? Doesn’t that just mean someone who only eats celery and carrots?

Ok guys, I know that’s a little extreme. But really. Many of us associate the word vegan with some negative connotation or stigma. But why?

Well, to point it simply: The Standard American Diet, also known as SAD (ironic right), mainly consists of highly processed, sugary, salty, fatty, greasy, and “animal-y” foods. When you ask someone what their favorite food is in America, you’re likely to hear responses such as macaroni and cheese, bacon, pizza, ice cream, or perhaps a big and juicy hamburger. And with responses like these (in other words, the foods we love and eat often), no one wants to consider veganism because they automatically think they would have to give up these staple, addicting foods.

And that’s partially true. No, you cannot eat the typical Big Mac as a vegan. And the pepperoni supreme pizza has gotta go. Same with the cookie dough ice cream.

But here’s what’s amazing about plant based foods. We can mimic every single food out there traditionally made with animal products and make it incredibly healthier and in my opinion, way more delicious. For instance, you like lasagna? Try one with spinach, mushroom, and zucchini noodles. Craving some Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese? Try one with fresh, delicious, and creamy cashew milk sauce instead of with a yellow packet of artificial powder. And don’t get me going on black bean burgers, falafel, and lentil curries. My stomach is already growling over here as I type. And no, being vegan is not going to break your bank. A can of healthy and protein filled black beans is 88 cents. A head of lettuce is $1. A huge bag of rice with perhaps 20 servings can be found for under $10.

My point is many people assume a vegan diet is unrealistic and incredibly difficult in today’s modern society. But it’s not. Today marks my 10th day as a vegan and my only regret so far is why did I not do this sooner? I have been a vegetarian for over 7 years and I’m just now making the transition away from dairy. I should have adopted this lifestyle years ago.

So why didn’t I? Because of SAD. Because I too was under the impression that vegan diets were expensive. That you couldn’t eat anything at restaurants. That you could potentially create tasty home cooked meals but I wasn’t a good enough cook to do so.

I’m not sure if I can pin point one specific thing that made me go vegan. I have considered it so many times and…I don’t know. Last week something clicked.

I can say though that I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS LIFESTYLE! It has not been hard for me at all. And I feel amazing. I feel purer, lighter, and greater self awareness and love. It truly feels natural. (I must include here though that I made 2 subconscious mistakes: 1) Consuming popcorn with white cheddar and 2) eating pesto made with parmesan). These were completely unintentional and I have learned to be more careful about checking ingredients on labels. In fact, I downloaded an app called “Vegan Pocket” that allows you to scan food barcodes and it will automatically tell you if the product is vegan or not! Pretty sweet.

Overall, the main reason I choose not to consume animal products is because I think the meat industry is extremely inhumane. However, since doing my research on veganism, I am now also doing this for the environment. Did you know the meat industry produces more toxic gases (18% of the total) than our entire transportation system (13%)? That’s right. Driving that mighty pickup truck is better for the environment than eating a burger. This statistic includes transportation by car, plane, ship, and train. I won’t get too specific on facts, however, I do want to mention a couple that I found extremely intriguing:

  1. Livestock production uses 1/3 of our planet’s fresh water.
  2. Each hamburger we consume is the equivalent of tearing down 55 square feet of forest. 
  3. Americans eat an average of 270 pounds of meat each year.
  4. It takes about 2400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.
  5. (To go along with #3) You need 48 times as much water to produce the same amount of beef as vegetables. 
  6. The average vegan saves 219,000 gallons of water each year. 
  7. Factory farms produce 500 million tons of manure each year. And that’s just in the US.
  8. Since 1970, we have cleared over 90% of Amazon rainforests.  
  9. The University of Oxford estimates we could save $730 billion dollars a year by reducing meat consumption. 

Now let’s shift to some facts in regard to slaughtering:

  1. On average, a factory chicken gets about as much room to move as the screen size of an iPad. (Keep in mind they are fed to grow up to 65x the rate as average, cannot even spread their wings, have 1/3 of their beaks chopped off, and often times cannot support their forcefully enlarged bodies with their small legs that also only have hard wire to rely on for support.)
  2. Cows in the wild live about 20 years. A dairy cows lives 3. (They often die from exhaustion and then are dragged to the slaughterhouse.)
  3. Baby chicks who are males are often shredded alive or thrown away in large plastic bags and left to suffocate. If they cannot lay eggs, they’re not making the big dogs money.
  4. Male piglets often have their balls chopped off…while fully conscious. 
  5. Chickens can be killed at a rate of 140 per minute in large slaughterhouses. For cattle, it is 400 per hour. They often are hung upside down and die by bleeding out. Shun guns work only sometimes. And that’s if the facility even uses them at all.

Finally, I want to list a few films I watched recently that I think are important to see. Don’t you want to see where that 270 pounds of food you eat a year comes from?

  1. Earthings
  2. Food Inc. 
  3. What the Health
  4. Cowspiracy
  5. Vegucated 
  6. Okja 

But don’t worry. These videos show more than just slaughterhouse raw footage. They show how a plant based diet IS attainable. I truly believe if everyone watched movies like these we would have way more vegetarians and vegans in the world today. As life is currently, most of us know deep down that our food was not prepared humanely. However, we want to avoid thinking about things like that. We just want to eat tasty meat and ignore the facts. And I was guilty of this for years too. So don’t feel bad after reading this. Instead, please feel inspired! Look online and find a vegan recipe. Search your pantry for fresh fruit, whole grains, and beans or legumes. Create a recipe! See for yourself meat is not needed to have a satisfying, yummy entree.

I really don’t want this post to be perceived as shamming meat eaters. The majority of us were raised in a culture that featured a SAD diet. It’s what comes naturally for us. But I do think considering the environmental and animal humaneness factors, a plant based diet is at least worth considering, Even simply reducing your meat intake can do wonders.

Part two will be posted shortly. I want to compare the health risks associated with SAD to the health benefits of a plant based diet. If you cannot do it for the planet or for the animals, then do it for yourself!

Love you all.

Con Amor,

Natasha

Be my guest. FACT CHECK me below. 

The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production

https://freefromharm.org/animalagriculture/chicken-facts-industry-doesnt-want-know/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/facts-about-the-lives-of-factory-farmed-animals/

https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-environment/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/30/how-meat-is-destroying-the-planet-in-seven-charts/?utm_term=.4bf674006c6f

http://dailyutahchronicle.com/2017/04/18/environmental-impact-veganism/

Advertisements

Part Two: How Could I Possibly [Not] Do This?

In part two here, I would like to discuss the second question I posed: How could I possibly not do this?

Almost 15 months ago I started my weight loss journey. And that was after 18 years of unhealthy living. Eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, chips and/or sodium and fat filled generic school lunches, more sugary cereal or perhaps ice cream after school, and finally a restaurant meal or unrefined carbs like pasta or rice for dinner. Then maybe more ice cream for dessert. When I look back at that lifestyle, I feel so ashamed. I cannot believe I ate like that every day. I am making a promise to myself TODAY (November 4, 2017) that I will NEVER go back to that.

15 months seems like a long time, but it’s going to take much longer than that to reverse 18 years of unhealthy eating. And I’m so incredibly proud of myself for the devotion, dedication, and hard work I have put into coming the healthiest version of me I can.

But enough about me. There are still millions of people (possibly billions) who wake up and are unhappy with who they see in the mirror. These people have a desire to change, yet it is so hard to in this world.

A world where a pack of lettuce is $3.99, but a McDonalds McDouble is $1. And you have to get out of the car to buy lettuce. In fact, you must find a grocery store, park the car, walk in, go to the aisle you need, wait in a potentially long check out line, and then go home and make your salad. Meanwhile, that drive through line on every street corner haunts you. The convenience. The ease. The taste. The cheap price. The McDonalds process takes a small fraction of the cost and time it takes to make a salad.

Now of course there are those who compromise and buy the McDonalds salad. However, often times, fast food salads are just as bad as getting the cheeseburger. They are loaded with cheese, croutons, fried meats, and high calorie dressings. Try looking up your favorite fast food restaurant’s nutrition guide online. You will be shocked at how many precious calories go into those “healthy” salads.

So there. It’s hard to change when the world we live in is so resistant to us wanting to be healthy. BUT hard does not mean impossible.

What I want to do is help transform our world into one that is much healthier. I want people to wake up and be happy with themselves. I want every restaurant to offer actual healthy choices. I want to promote longevity, energy, fitness, nutrition, and happiness. I want to motivate others. I want to be a resource.

 

XOXO,

Natasha Con Amor

 

How Could I Possibly Do This?

Is it how could I possibly do this?

Or how could I possibly not?

Tonight, after listening to several amazing TED Talks, I feel inspired. I feel motivated. I feel purposeful. And I’m asking myself…Am I climbing the right ladder in life?

I am a junior in college. I work in the lab at my local hospital (starting last week.) I am Vice President of NABA–National Association of Black Accountants–at my school. I workout almost every night. I count calories with a probably unreasonable amount of passion. I study. I write in my journal. I am planning a study abroad trip to Chile.

But I have to admit, almost every day I imagine these dreams and desires that are simply not a real part of my life. Why? Well, I’m not sure. I’m not sure where to start. I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m not sure how to start. I’m not sure if I will succeed. I’m not sure what I will have to sacrifice. I’m not sure I’m capable. I’m not even sure what exactly I want.

But then I think, every single invention out there was at some point known as “the impossible.” Why I am not worthy of completing something or creating something magnificent when so many others have? Why am I afraid?

I tell others to be fearless, follow their dreams, and live with vigor and purpose. But I do not do this myself. There’s something lacking in my life and I am determined to find out what it is. I need to fill this void.

XOXO,

Natasha Con Amor

Weight Loss Stalls #What Happened?!

Hello fellow bloggers, writers, sisters, brothers, creators, influencers, or whatever title you go by. Welcome to today’s blog. This topic is on something that I have researched a lot lately because I’ve been going through it. And that is weight loss stalls. Blah.

*DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. What I’m saying here is based on my own personal experiences and what I have learned from others along the way. *

With that being said, there are many reasons you could be in a weight loss stall and for the purpose of this blog and my scope of knowledge I am solely going to talk about the reasons I know and feel confident writing about.

Now on to the content.

One question to ask yourself is how long you have been dieting? For me personally, I have been dieting since August of 2016. That’s just short of a year now. *Insert loud, obnoxious groan.* In other words, I have been in a caloric deficit for that many months. And looking back, this is a ton of stress on my body. What I’m now looking to do is start a reverse diet. Essentially this means raising my calories to just about maintenance level to give my body a break and get my metabolism up higher. Your body needs variety. If you eat the same amount of calories for too long with no variation, weight loss is likely to slow down and/or stop.

Imagine you’re a college student. You come back January 14th-ish and are ready to start the spring semester. You get through it. Month after month. Then finally in
May you take finals and yessssss you’re done! That after finals feeling is so stinkin’ spectacular.

But what if you weren’t done? What if the day after your last final started 4 new classes? And the whole class/study/no sleep process immediately continued. It would suck. Just writing this sounds miserable.

Well your body is the same way. It needs that summer vacation if you’ve been dieting for too long! So maybe raising your calories for a few weeks and simply appreciating your body and what all is amazing things it does for you is the key. Then after this reverse diet, you can choose to go back to a cut phase (aka caloric deficit).

If this is you I would definitely go online and check out some articles on reverse dieting. It is a very real and magnificent concept. I will post more blogs along my journey to let you know how it goes for me!

Peace.

Con Amor,

Natasha

 

Where Was I?! Life Update and Study Tips

Hey beautiful people.

Just wanted to make a short post and say 1. Yes. I’m alive. *sighs* And 2. I am sorry for the lack of posts over the last 2 weeks. If you don’t already know this I am a college student, server, and I workout 6 days a week. Last week was finals week for 1 of my summer classes and I was so beyond stressed, sleep deprived, and really did not think I was capable of or had time to create a quality post on here…so I was MIA. My apologies! My consistency is back now.

So, to go with the theme here, I’ve decided to post some study tips that definitely have saved me many times.

  1. PRIORITIZE. I know it’s tempting to open your laptop and go straight to YouTube or Netflix…but resist. Making your school’s website your homepage is a good way to help with this. For instance, my school uses Blackboard so every time I open Chrome it’s the first thing I see.
  2. Consistency. Who’s ever crammed for a test before? *95% of world raise hand* It’s daunting and miserable to spend all night frying your brain with equations and graphs. Instead, commit to 30 minutes to 2 hours a day for homework (varies of course with level of course and how many classes/credit hours you are enrolled in). No more last minute “learn it all right before the test” sessions. They hardly ever work anyway.
  3. Listen to relaxing music. Personally, I like the “Nature Sounds Radio” station on Pandora, but any soothing music should work. Some examples are beach sounds, piano music, chimes, thunder sounds, etc.
  4. Take short, frequent breaks. It’s amazing what getting up and stretching can do for you. Magic.
  5. Stay organized. Write everything in a planner. This is how I survived AP courses in high school and how I am currently surviving business school at my university. I also recommend getting a marker board and sticking it in your room, in the kitchen, or even on the fridge. Not only can you keep track of homework due dates and exams, but also grocery lists, appointments, and all the other crazy stuff on your schedule!

Hope this helps guys. Stay positive. Stay true. And do you. I’ll talk to you all soon. Much love.

XO. Con Amor,

Natasha

Do We Overlook the Simple Things in Life?

How many of you have heard the phrase Treat others the way you want to be treated or perhaps Follow your dreams or simply Be honest.

All the time right? I mean our kindergarten teachers taught us this stuff. We hear it now and we’re like whatever in our heads. We know this stuff. No biggie.

Now on the other hand, how many times in a day do we complain? How many times do we think we’re undeserving of some bad thing that happens to us? How many times do we deem something unfair? How many times do we crave more? More money, more fame, more friends, more clothes, more devices, more followers…you name it. You see many of us are so caught up in excuses. Excuses for wanting something but not taking the time and energy required to get it. We’re obsessed with the concept of simplicity. We don’t want the stress and inconvenience of problems. But life is always going to have problems. So therefore the goal is not necessarily to make your life easier, but rather to change and adapt the way in which you handle life’s complications.

Instead of getting frantic when something bad happens, instead of going to Doctor Google to look for solutions, instead of complaining to others……I encourage you to take a step back. Breathe. Go back to those sayings we learned when we were five. Ask yourself these questions: How are you treating the people in your life? Are you surrounding yourself with positive people? Are you being honest? Are you occupying your time with activities that are going to push you further? Or are you waisting time watching episodes of Shameless? (And I mean MORE than 5 episodes a day 🙂 )

My point is this. Don’t overthink things and stress yourself out. Stop looking for a magic formula! Because it doesn’t exist. And it never will. Often times the answer is right in front of us. We just need to go back and remember those simple things that we hear all the time but yet do not apply in our lives.

I’m going to leave you guys with a quote my one of my favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown. He says, “You don’t get in life what you want; you get in life what you are.”

Love you all. Have a spectacular day.

Con Amor,

Natasha

 

Dieting and Stress 101

Hey guys! Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Today’s entry is on something I’ve been researching and analyzing in my own life a lot the past few days. And that is STRESS. More specifically, what is stress? What effect does it have on your body? How can it effect your weight? And what can we do to reduce it? So let’s dive in today and take a further look at this.

First off, what is stress?

A sucky truth of life. Just kidding. It’s your body’s response to some type of tension, action, or change. That can be psychological, physiological, or most likely a combination of both. We all have it and there’s no eliminating it, but there are certainly healthy ways to manage it.

What effect does it have on your body?

The stress hormone in our body is known as cortisol. It is one of our main adrenal hormones. The key is to regulate these cortisol levels so our bodies can be in good hormonal balance. When our cortisol levels are high (in other words, when we’re under a lot of stress) our bodies get sad, confused, and cannot operate the way they’d like to. This can cause symptoms such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, weight gain, cravings, mood swings, headaches, hot flashes, lack of energy, and so much more. Surprisingly, cortisol also plays a role in our digestive system so when we’re under stress bloating, stomach pain, constipation, etc. are also common.

How can cortisol effect your weight?

So we know there is a correlation between high cortisol and weight gain, but how? Well, a couple different ways. First off: cravings. Think about it. What do we do after a long day at work or school? Drink a beer. Go out to Olive Garden. Have a martini. Eat a billion servings of delicious, buttery, heart attack popcorn at the movie theater. Oh yeah. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there and done that. High cortisol=high insulin=low blood sugar=”Give me sugar now!” Next up: metabolism. Digestion can be slowed down with high cortisol levels as well as your body not getting 100% of the vital nutrients out of what you’re consuming. Cortisol also releases glucose into your bloodstream for a quick energy source. This glucose will circulate around and around your body until eventually it is restored as fat, commonly around your stomach. Check out this article from LiveStrong here for more information. More Info

What can we do to reduce cortisol levels?

In other words, how can we reduce stress in our lives? I have come up with a top 5 list that has been very beneficial for me. So here goes:

  1. Wake up and spend 10-30 minutes only on yourself. Don’t check your phone. Don’t start a long conversation with anyone. Don’t look at your to do list or turn on the TV. Focus on you. Perhaps this looks like going on walk or run, journaling, taking a hot shower or a relaxing bubble bath, reading, drawing, etc. Whatever it is, enjoy it and be in the moment. Don’t think about anything else.
  2. Compliment yourself every day. I think it’s easy to get caught up in what society or what other people expect out of you. We get hard on ourselves and sometimes expect perfection. But no one is perfect. We all have our unique features, personalities, hobbies, and desires. So look at yourself in the mirror and say something nice to the person staring at you every day. 🙂
  3. Eat healthy foods. I just don’t think a pizza and McDonalds lifestyle is something that’s going to promote low stress. Agree? I have noticed even when I have a “cheat” meal, I feel unenergized afterwards. I just know what I ate is not something my body truly wanted. Instead, try a salad and make it super fun. And by fun I mean pile it up with all the fruits, nuts, veggies, and seeds you’d like! Throw on some cheese at the end too, of course. You’ll feel amazing afterwards. It’s your body’s way of saying thank you.
  4. Prioritize. Try this. Take a piece of paper and write your name in the middle. Draw a circle around your name. Then on the sides of the paper write what you spend your time doing and the amount of hours it requires in a day. (NOTE: #1 is to write “Sleep, 8 hours.”) Other examples: “School, 5 hours,” “Cook dinner, 30 minutes,” or “Exercise, 1 hour.” Once you’re done going through what you do in a typical day, add up the total # of hours. Is it 15? Or closer to 24? Over 24? If it’s over 24, you definitely have some prioritizing to do (And I do too since I calculated 27.5 hours).
  5. Sleep. Then sleep some more. Lack of sleep is something a lot of people struggle with, including me. I know it’s hard to get in a full 8 hours, but it’s so important for your health. And caffeine is not a substitute! So try turning off your electronics at least 30 minutes before bed (except your phone for the alarm). A sleeping mask, aromatherapy oils/soaps, calming music, or hot tea can also help you get a good night’s rest.

Alright guys. There you have it. Dieting and stress 101. Let me know what you all think about the topic and if there are things you do in your life to help reduce stress that I didn’t mention! Thanks for reading.

XO.

Con Amor,

Natasha