Hey there! This is my second installment in a series called My Vegan Week. My goal with this series is to let you in on a little of the day-to-day of my regular ol’ vegan life. I’ll share with you the things I’m learning, struggles I’m going through, and even some of the celebrations. If any of you are curious about the goings and comings of a vegan life, you might like this. I also thought I could share just some of the Vegan Hacks I come up with throughout the week and just my relaxed, compassionate philosophy about veganism in general.
So let’s start, shall we?
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It’s winter here in the Midwest and although we haven’t had as much snow as the photo above, and we don’t have herds of deer in our yards, we have had our share of wintry storms and bone-chilling temperatures. There’s something about the barren, cold landscape that is both alluring and formidable. I love it because it makes Spring all that much sweeter. I also happen to like wearing sweaters. And, I’ve been trying to work myself through these feelings of being cold all the time. Sometimes being exposed to colder temperatures can even be good for you.
My Vegan Week: Vegan Pie Week Rules!
I had a moment of inspiration in October. I had just finished up Chopped Academy Conference and had returned from a trip to Atlanta at the PMA Fresh Summit. It’s always inspiring to travel. I should probably do that more often. What about you? Do you like to travel? Or said better, do you like the results of traveling (aka, inspiration)?
I received a lot of great feedback so I’m so glad I did that. It was a lot of fun and kinda tasty too.
In addition to meringue pies, I also shared a Vegan Pecan Pie. Pretty, pretty good.
My Favorite Tea…Rhymes with Shy
I have a thing for Chai Tea. I love it. But I’m learning that I’m picky about what kind of chai tea suits me. First of all, I never order Chai Tea at a coffee shop. Here’s why. Most coffee shops use a prepackaged chai tea syrup. That means sugar. And it’s always way too much for me.
So, what I do is this: I ask if they have any chai tea flavored hot tea. Most do. And I get a cup of hot tea (which is usually cheaper than a chai tea anyway…chai CHING), and ask for steamed plant-based milk (whatever they have whether it be soy, almond, etc) to be added to it. There’s usually a small upcharge for adding steamed plant-based milk, but it’s still usually cheaper than ordering a Chai Tea. Win!
Then, I take a look at their sweeteners. If they have some stevia packets (a lot of coffee shops do carry that these days), then I add a little Stevia. But I also always carry along some Truvia in my purse.
Now, here’s the thing. Not all hot chai tea bags are equal. Some are WAY too cinnamony. I’m not a big fan of the hot sensation of cinnamon overriding the more warming flavors I’m looking for from my Chai Tea. I love you Oprah, but your chai tea bag at Starbucks is a perfect case in point. It’s very strong with the cinnamon way. However, I’ve found something to kind of balance that.
I add cardamom. I find I love this stuff.
Anyway, the coffee shop we went to had a chai tea bags (Harney and Sons Chai Tea) that I am now obsessed with. And I looked at the mixture of seasonings in their chai tea and noticed cardamom. Another chai tea that I’m in love with for awhile now is Celestial Seasoning’s Mountain Chai Tea. And guess what? It has cardamom in it as well. Jackpot!
So that’s when I rummaged through my spices to find an old container of the cardamom. I dusted off he cobwebs and gave it a puzzling stare. I’ll be completely honest with you. I had never even tried cardamom before. A friend of mine once suggested that the best way to really know your spices is to put a little on your tongue. Plain. Naked. And just taste it. So I did this with the cardamom, not knowing exactly what to expect and I feel like I found nirvana.
Cardamom. You are the spice I’ve been looking for my whole life!
Cue in romantic strings playing in the background.
It has a flavor that seems like a cross between Nutmeg and a mellow Ground Cloves.
I’m sure it must have nutritional value too. According to Dr. Greger, a lot of these kinds of spices pack some serious antioxidant value to them. So my sprinkling Cardamom on everything these days has to be healthy! 🙂
So, my goal is to carry some with me when I’m out and about, so if I order a tea that’s a little to “hot” on the cinnamon, I just sprinkle some cardamom and it fixes it. I’ve tried it at home and it works. I even add cardamom to my Green Tea Hot Cocoa. Yes, there’s some sediment at the bottom of my cup, but I don’t care. I could strain it, but I prefer to let the spice gain strength in my daily hot drinks.
OK. Enough about Tea.
Let’s Get Physical: Standing Desk
I had a pretty big realization this week. Sometimes I’m not always happy with my work. It’s not that I don’t like what I do, but I don’t like the way I do it.
So, I let myself fantasize a little about what my perfect day would look like. And do you know what I saw? Me being more physical. I’ve always considered myself a more physical kind of person. I love being up and about. I used to teach aerobics in college. I’ve always played sports. Sometimes I’ll even drag Shawn into the backyard to play catch with me. Usually softball, but sometimes football too. I can totally throw a spiral. I grew up in a small town, we didn’t have much else to do. 🙂
Anyway, when I looked at the description of my perfect day compared to what my actual day looked like? The big difference was a physical thing. I’ve been spending a lot of my time sitting in front of a computer.
So I moved myself up to my standing desk. I’ve had this for awhile so I really don’t know why I wasn’t using it, except that before I was thinking my standing desk was something I should be using.
I was shoulding all over myself.
Now I’m realizing that working at my standing desk makes me feel SO good! So now it’s not about the willpower to stand at that desk, it’s about me giving myself permission to have a better day.
I’m hoping someday to build a standing desk that looks like the one above. For now, I love working at my makeshift standing desk, but I also mix it up so I’m not standing all the time. I go back and forth between my sitting desk and standing desk to find the right balance for me.
Maybe I can share more about my standing desk and the ways I’m using it in the future. But for now, just know it’s part of the formula to make me happy!
I Can Eat Whatever I Want!
Speaking of fantasies, I’ve had a lifelong fantasy that I could be one of those people who could eat whatever she wants and not gain weight. To be honest, I’ve actually felt like the complete opposite of that. I sometimes have joked that I could look at a brownie and gain weight.
That attitude has led me through issues with overeating, under-eating, and battles with weight for most of my life.
Sometimes I even wondered if I was adopted or something because both my two sisters and my brother had that natural skinniness during childhood. Do you know what I mean? They were the kinds of kids who just didn’t have much fat on them. Me on the other hand? I was referred to as pleasantly plump and chunky for as long as I can remember.
Recently I was talking to Julie Piat, otherwise known as SriMati, interviewing her for my Chopped Podcast (yes, I have two podcasts), and she said something that caught my attention. She said she could always eat whatever she wanted and not gain weight.
There it was. That thing that I always wanted for me.
And then I had a thought. What if I just decided to say that about myself? And be-leeeeve it. Because, here’s the thing, Julie has a new podcast, Divine Throughline, where she talks about all things spiritual and musical too. In one of her episodes she talked about how we can ask our body to help us in healing itself and she shared some steps on how to do that.
And so I decided to give it a try. I started asking my body to help heal me of this issue with weight.
I don’t know if you can hear that, but it’s the sound of my hubby rolling his eyes in the other room. This is probably a little too woo woo for him. It’s alright. I’ll talk science stuff next time. 🙂
And between talking with Julie and the Namely Marly Podcast interview with Dr. Michelle May on Mindful Eating, I’m beginning to wonder if we all have the ability to eat whatever we want, but we just have to remove the emotional attachment with food and realize that we really don’t want to eat it all.
Mixed in with all of that is also the desire to accept myself as I am. Because I think the tension of wanting to lose weight can be a sticking point for the scale.
Every day I’m learning how to eat in a way that makes me feel my best. For example, I’ve learned that when I overeat I don’t feel good, so I’m focusing on smaller portions in order to feel good…not because of calories. I’m also learning that overly sweet things before bed makes me feel jittery and I have a hard time getting to sleep. So I prefer to have a cup of hot herbal tea after dinner. Oh, and I will have a piece (or two) of dark chocolate, just not too much and not too sweet. I’m also learning to be more mindful as I eat and to realize I can stop when I’m satisfied.
So, in other words, I feel like if I work with my body (instead of against it), I can soon join the group of people who can eat whatever they want. It’s just that I’m very select about how and what I eat.
I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.
Living with Grief
Not all my news is good this week. A close friend of my daughter’s committed suicide last week. Rebekah stayed with us for awhile last year and so the loss has been hard for both of us. Rebekah was such a well-loved person amongst her friends and family, and her passing has caused a lot of grief and sorrow for so many. My heart breaks for her family. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through.
Rebekah was such a passionately fun person. Her laughter made the whole room join in with her. She and I would take walks or go out and play a little tennis from time-to-time and she became one of my favorite vegan taste testers because she didn’t really like vegetables all that much. It made cooking for her a challenge, but I liked it. When I got a thumbs up from her, it was a sign of a real recipe win!
There’s something about suicide that makes losing a loved one especially hard. My mind ruminates on what I could have done to help her. Knowing that someone that loving, caring, and fun could have such tumultuous pain below the surface is hard to grasp. And forgiving myself for not being there for her is a process. I’ve lost others in my life to suicide. My brother died when I was only a teenager. And as I’ve talked with others, I’m surprised to hear how many people have stories of close loved ones who have committed suicide. It leaves a trail of pain and grief behind it because unlike a death from an illness, a suicide leaves everyone around that person feeling like…what could I have done to prevent this?
I read recently that nearly 50% of suicides are attributable to a mental health issue. I know we’re learning more and more about mental illnesses and how to treat them. I talked with Dr. Greger recently (he’s coming up soon on the Namely Marly podcast), and he talked about the role of diet in helping with depression. I’ve also read that Rose Root can have an impact on some people suffering from depression.
I believe strongly in medical interventions. But understanding how diet and exercise combined with medical treatment and therapy (and sometimes even hospitalization) can help a person recover from a mental illness is so important.
In the meantime, if someone you love suffers from depression and/or hints at suicide, there are resources that can help. Learn about the signs of suicide and hotlines for suicide prevention. Here are a few that I’ve learned about:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800.273.8255
- NIMH Resources on Suicide
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- The Trevor Project — Crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth
- Save Suicide Bereavement Support Group
In closing we say goodbye to our dear friend. And take comfort in the memory of the wonderful times we had when she was here.
I change that quote to say: How lucky I am to have someone who makes saying goodbye so hard.
To end on a more light-hearted note, I wanted to share with you about my hair. So, in October I did something kind of brave. I got a short hair cut. I’ve been wearing my hair at a medium-long length for quite awhile, but I started to realize I was always wearing it back. Always in a ponytail or a bun. My hair has a sort of natural frizziness to it and wearing it back made it feel more…precise.
But I was getting tired of the pulled back look. Besides, I read that always wearing your hair back can be hard on your follicles. To be honest, I have noticed more thinning hair over the years and it was a concern. So, I went to my stylist and said, have your way. Talk about a hair stylist’s fantasy! 🙂
She gave me a really cute, “mid-length” short cut. I loved it.
And just last week I went in and got it cut even shorter. My hair was always short when I was a little girl. So I like connecting with that little, spunky girl inside. And it’s also just so easy. I get up in the morning and run a little water through and I’m ready for the day. I have styling options too, but I’m glad to have discovered this shorter style.
That’s me with my new short hair!
Interestingly enough, finding a hair style that I loved also helped me get rid of clutter. I read the book The Art of Tidying Up and had been trying to get rid of some stuff, but I was struggling. What if I wanted to wear that sweater again?
But when I got my hair cut short? It was like, Sweater…Be Gone!
I’ve taken bags of stuff up to donation as a result. Who knew!
Well, that’s it for today’s edition of my Vegan Week. We’ve talked about standing desks, weight, grief, hair, and even a little bit about tea. I’m learning every day the importance of meditation to help me stay mindful of emotions and to better understand myself. I hope you’ll give it a try too.
Health + Happiness,