Friday, June 23, 2017

Experiments in Vegetarianism

Funny story -
I was chatting with a partner about changes and challenges and I issued an experimental edict: he'd go vegetarian for one week, a work week, 5 days. Just 5 days. Easy.
A billion text messages later, a late night munchies shopping spree, and 2 weeks of massive transition and I'm a vegetarian while my partner is pretty much a carnivore.

My experimental edict where I got to dictate the diet of someone else became deciding the diet of myself!

Being a person who doesn't like to ask others to do things she herself won't do - When I asked my partner to adopt a vegetarian diet I also adopted the same diet so I could relate 1:1 in what he was going through. During this time I was also engaged in a giant project/conference with my job, transitioning to another job, had just finished hosting company, and had been doing some major driving time.

The first day or two was fairly confusing - trying to be supportive of another person while also trying to navigate my fridge, evaluate regular go-to food choices, and reflect on my overall health was pretty disorienting.

How much meat had I actually been eating? Where were meat and animal products sneaking in to my diet? I had always considered myself a fairly "light" meat eater...until I took a look at my diet over the whole day. Turns out I had actually been consuming a LOT of meat - chicken breast and banana for breakfast, egg and avocado toast for lunch, BLTs for dinner - I certainly wasn't shy of fruits and veg, but for some reason meat was a feature in almost every meal.

By day three I had spent more time in conversation about diet than I had during college nutrition class. It was obviously not going well for my partner, but, in an odd twist, I was feeling better, less groggy, and generally upbeat about the whole thing. I liked the way I was feeling. The biggest difference between us - It had been prescribed to him, I ascribed it to myself.

Even for me, there were some tough moments - Late night munchies where I called my husband and had a talk about what 'good' bad decisions might be, chicken parm at a company dinner, and a day where I didn't eat breakfast that almost put me in a meat-only greasy spoon - but these challenges were overcome. Late night munchies were fixed by the sushi aisle of the QFC featuring vegetarian avocado rolls and some peppered tofurky. I survived the chicken parm situation by actually looking at the chicken...really looking at it and seeing the flesh on the plate. It reminded me of the Butcher in Diablo III...eww. And the greasy spoon moment was resolved by enough will-power to go home and make myself a lunch and the resolution to make sure I prep breakfast the night before from now on.

Easy moments abound - swapping chicken for tofu in my pad see ew, grabbing an apple from the counter, making delicious faux chicken patties loaded with guac, tomato, and lettuce. I am blessed with the privilege of prior experience and experimentation when it comes to vegetarianism. I'm also gifted with a local fruit and vegetable stall where I can buy "seconds" - perfectly good fruits and vegetables at really cheap prices. These things have supported me during the transition to a plant-based diet and I'd suggest to other folks interesting in attempting this change to learn from my experience to find the things that can support them.

Tips from someone who has been there:

Stop trying to "replace" the meat. 
This sounds really simple - but ohmygosh felt like the most liberating idea. Once I gave myself permission to stop trying to replace the meat in a dish I became free to make a variety of vegetables the focus. I didn't need to buy a faux roast to make the main dish with a side of veggies...I could make the veggies the main feature!

I remember the first time I tried being a vegetarian and buying a bunch of frozen Boca burgers...After a while they got really boring. Instead of spending my time comparing my faux-meat product to a real juicy burger I should have been rocking roasted peppers, tossing brussel sprouts in orange glaze, and finding ways to make veggies, not meat substitutes, the stars of the show.

Reframe limitations as strengths. 
Saying you "can't eat meat" carries a different connotation than saying you "prefer eating veggies." The overall result may be the same but the feeling is very different. One is a restriction - telling yourself you can't do something even if you want to, the other is choosing to elevate the aspects of yourself you like the best. Similar to the difference between saying you'll never run a mile or saying you are working towards running a whole mile. One shuts you down, the other builds you up.

Folks who shut themselves or others down tend to be on the negative side of things and that negativity can turn toxic if we let it. We don't need to do that to others, we don't need to do that to ourselves. When you come at something thinking of it as a limitation it can lead to feelings of anxiety or dread...and you shouldn't dread your diet. So, try giving positivity a larger role -
I can't do this  | I can't do this yet
I don't eat X | I prefer to eat A, B, C...

Support yourself and get support from others.
You should always advocate for yourself. Not to be selfish or to put your needs above others, but to make sure that the decisions you make aren't being made for you by others whose interests may not be in line with yours. There's a reason candy is put in the check-out lanes of stores...and it isn't because candy is a necessary food item they don't want you to forget. Candy companies want their items in the check-out lane - right in your face - as you wait in line and get agitated they stand a greater chance of getting you to purchase yourself a "treat."

Support yourself as much as possible - in whatever way is most rewarding to you. Get community support either online or in person for accountability, education, and affirmation. You might have to seek this type of support out - It may not be easy to find right away - but if you can read this blog on the internet - chances are you have a pretty good support network right at your fingertips. There are documentaries on Netflix about vegetarianism and veganism. There are videos of all sorts on Youtube. Post Punk Kitchen is a favorite resource of mine for recipe mining.

Experiment and cut yourself some slack. 
Maybe veganism is right for you. Maybe ovo-lacto-vegetarianism is more your style. Maybe you really freakin' like bacon and you can go vegan on all other things but whatever you need to do - as long as you are moving in a positive direction. Cut yourself some slack - if replacing a fast food burger with one Morningstar burger is a massive change for you - that's friggin' awesome :-) Maybe being more educated means switching from the supermarket meat aisle to the family farm a few blocks down where the chickens roam free in the backyard. That's really cool.

In the end, a diet is whatever you eat. Taking control of your diet means making decisions for yourself - thoughtful decisions - about what you put in your body. If you have the privilege to make decisions about what you eat, why not make decisions that are well thought out? Experiment and cut yourself some slack if the experiment doesn't work out the way you thought it would. Alter your perimeters, try again, challenge yourself, and make fully informed decisions.


For Recipes:
Post Punk Kitchen
The Veganomicon

Meat Industry
Agriculture and Consumer Protection Dept (UN) Slaughter Guidelines
American Meat Science Association
Factory Farming - New York Times
Industrial Livestock Production - Grace Communications
10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Factory Farming
Temple Grandin - TED Talk
Holistic Livestock Management
Why Eating Meat is Ethical - Editorial
Is Hunting More Ethical Than Factory Farming? - Vegan Blog
Environmental Racism

Balanced Nutrition
Vegetarian Diet: How to get the Best Nutrition - Mayo Clinic
Omnivore - Wiki

Vegan / Vegetarian Support Group
Seattle Vegan Meetup Group
The Vegetarian Society

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Adventures in Maui: Beach Please!

Three of My Favorite Maui Beaches
#3 Mile Marker 14 / Olowalu
There are plenty of shade trees to sling your hammock under at this beach. This is a wonderful boon to pale-folk such as myself. I snorkeled until my sunscreen alarm went off and then sat out under the shade trees to reapply.

It is very easy to get to. Right along the side of the road. Look for the mile marker sign and at mile 14 stop and park. Orient yourself to the sign! Straight across from it is the sand bar that will take you out so you don't get stuck!

One of the drawbacks to such shallow water is that it is possibly, very easily possible, to get stuck out there. Be careful snorkeling between the corals as the current may push you into them. Don't touch the corals!
The big channel is straight out from the mile marker, so when you first get to the beach, look back to check your location and then look out at the water itself and notice the different colors to see where the light path is. Stay on the light path as you go out. It should feel pretty straight.

The coral there is fairly brown and some is bleached out - but there are Convict Tang and Butterfly Fish out there. I also spotted some Moorish Idols and Bird Wrasse.

If you do plan to check out this beach - know that there are only porta-johns for facilities so plan accordingly. I'd also suggest bringing extra bottled water to rinse off with and leaving your sandals on - the trees have LARGE thorns. Most of the ones on the lower branches seem stripped off, but new ones from the top branches fall naturally and you wouldn't want one in your foot!

#2 Ulua Bay - This small beach has lots of people, full facilities with bathrooms, showers, and benches. If you are a person with special needs or if you have little children would be a great beach to check out. Parking if you aren't a resort visitor can be somewhat difficult to find as the public lot is very small and fills up fast. There is also less shade at this beach so go earlier in the morning to get a good spot and remember to wear your sandals as the thorn trees drop needles into the soft sand in the limited shady areas.

There are lots of little fish close to the shore at this beach. It felt like a fish nursery of sorts. Even just walking in and standing still in the water I could see little baby fish schooling about my knees. It was so much fun! I found Moorish Idols, Spotted Boxfish, and Yellow Trumpetfish in the clear water. There were also some Humu's (Reef Triggerfish) and baby Butterfly fish swimming about in the reef.

As for snorkeling - there really is only one large section of reef at this beach so be prepared to share the space with lots of other folks unless you go there in the morning. There were scuba teams starting up when I was visiting so occasionally something large and black would be swimming beneath me and out of the corner of my eye. Fairly frightening the first couple of times but I got used to it with so many of them around. That said, the coral shelf is beautiful and more vibrant than the one at Mile Marker 14.

#1 Honolua Bay - Chickens!! OMG chickens! I'm a big fan of chickens and Honolua Bay has plenty of these feathered friends.

Check the surf report before you go as this is an either / or beach. If the surf is too high the visibility is too low and the surfers claim the beach for the waves. Great for surfers, not so great if you wanted to snorkel.

This is also a harder beach to find but once you do you are rewarded with a lush rainforest path leading from the pull-out along the road down a vine-covered trail to a rocky coast. No sand here. No facilities except a questionable porta-john. Perhaps those reasons are why it was one of the least populated beaches we visited.

We came back to this beach again and again. Sturdy sandals, lots of extra water and snacks, and reed mats made it a more comfortable location. I loved listening to the roosters crow and watching the hens scratch the ground so all the little chicks could run in and peck the freshly uncovered earth. Cheep cheep! So cute!

The current was fairly strong and again, no sand, so getting smashed against the rocks in the shallows or pulled out from the bay if you go too far can be a potential hazard. This is not what I'd call a beginner-friendly beach like Ulua. Strong swimmers and experienced divers or snorkelers would do better out here. I suggest swimming out a bit as fast as you can to avoid the rocks and then putting on fins and a mask while treading water.

Right along the coast can be very murky but, once you get out into the depths, it tends to clear up quite a bit. The reef is beautiful with lovely colors and lots of fish. I spotted a huge baitball of tiny silver sardine-sized fish (not actually sure what type of fish they were) and it was amazing to watch them in person. I'd seen bait balls on tv, but seeing one in person is an entirely different experience. It was disorienting and mesmerizing and completely wonderful and very frightening all at the same time.

I spotted Racoon Butterfly fish, Ornate Butterfly fish, Bluespine Unicorn fish, Reef Trigger fish, Yellow Trumpet fish, bright little Christmas Wrasse, and huge and rainbow-colored male Redlip Parrotfish. There was also a beautiful spotted Moray Eel longer than I am tall free-swimming along the reef while being pestered by some other fish who it had apparently disturbed in some way. It ducked into a crack in the reef and coiled its body into the little cave to avoid the fish. Once they had left, it brought its head back out from the cave and stayed there for quite some time - mouth just slightly open, needle-like teeth smiling, as its head waved side-to-side with the current.

There were also some more aggressive fish in the bay. I'm not sure what type they were - flat, silver, oval-shaped fish about the size of two computer screens or a medium-sized dog. They repeatedly swam up and got uncomfortably close to me, spooking me behind my back or swimming up right behind my head to look me right in the eye. I suspect possible fish feeding...please don't feed the fish!

Also - Never Stand on a Reef! While out snorkeling one day a man from one of the tour boats decided it would be a good photo opportunity to stand on the reef. This was not acceptable and several people shouted at the man to get off the reef which, hopefully, embarrassed him and he'll never do it again - but it was still an injury to the reef. Standing on, touching, or purposely breaking off bits of reef for souvenirs hurts the reef and kills coral colonies. They are already stressed out enough -
please look, but don't touch.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Adventures in Maui: Snorkeling Olowalu

I've been doing some snorkeling at Olowalu beach right at mile post 14 on the west side of Maui. The water is shallow, I mean scratch yourself against coral shallow, but there are lots of little fish nurseries and a large variety of creatures to find if you look around. The first time I went there were waves and I got a little nervous about getting trapped in the shallow coral. After getting scratched on my hand I decided to head for the sand and just watch the fish from the beach for a bit. 

Coral is not something you ever want to touch. First - it is bad for the coral. Second - it is razor sharp. You'll be cut to ribbons before you even notice. Third - coral is made of a bunch of tiny living things, things you don't want in an open wound. By the time bits of broken coral make it to the shore they have been polished near smooth, but living coral? Don't touch!

I went out again to mile 14 on a calmer day and the snorkeling was much better. There were so many fish! Still, I was wary of getting too close to any coral and preferred to stay in the deeper waters on the edges of the coral rather than trying to float above the large tables of reef. 

Pictures below!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Adventures in Maui: Make-up Bag

Heading out to Maui soon and so excited!

Today I got news that whales are passing by near the place I’ll be staying at. Very exciting! I hope that they’ll stay in the neighborhood just for a few more days so I get to see them in person. In the meantime, I’m packing up, wrapping up, and getting ready to go!
Last post I said I’d share my beach-friendly makeup bag with you, so let’s take a look!

I plan to spend most of my time in or on the water so I’ll be wearing reef-safe sunscreen and a snorkel mask most of the day. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely resigned myself to frizzy hair photos and sunburn. These are my go-to items for taming the frizz, detangling tresses, and managing my mane : Organix’s Moroccan Argan hair oil, Bed Head’s After Party smoothing and frizz control serum, and Bumble and Bumble’s Surf Infusion texture spray. If I’m going to be tough to my hair – like hanging out in the surf and sand all day, I like to add extra hair oil to my tips and ends at night and then wrap my hair loosely in a top-knot to let the oil soak in overnight.  

I made my own hair ties with an old pair of tights (instructable HERE) so I have plenty of hair ties that won’t break or snag my hair. I’ll also use some mini claw clips, but I’m skipping the hairpins. It is vacation.

For face, my very pale and freckle-prone face, I use Skinceuticals Physical Matte UV Defense tinted sunscreen. It is SPF 50 but feels fairly light and dries matte not greasy. It costs a bit more, but I wore it in Mexico and managed to avoid a sunburn or the freckles that would otherwise show up all across my nose and cheeks. The tint is a little dark for me – but I just use less and blend in well and it works. If you have medium toned skin it would be perfect.

I also love and have been a long-time user of Benefit’s They’re Real mascara. I use the mini set since mascara shouldn’t be kept for more than 3 months anyways. Price per oz is generally higher for these mini items, but if I bought larger sizes I’d have to make a higher initial investment and still end up throwing out a majority of the product. With the mini I do indeed pay slightly more per oz, but still much less than a full-sized product. I also use more of it – so less wasted. And, lastly but most importantly, I’m not tempted to keep it around longer in a misguided attempt to use all the product (must not waste it!) while putting myself at greater risk of eye infection.

For lips – I’ve been grooving on TonyMoly’s lip tint in Red. It stains the skin and so stays on all day and won’t smudge or weep. It will bleed if fresh and put on too thick, so I usually do just a drop in the center of my lower lip and then blend out with my pinkie. It is super quick, goes on under some SPF chapstick and stays on all day in the water or out. The only issue I have is sometimes I use my pinkie finger to blend and then the tip of my pinkie is red all day :-/ Tradeoffs.

That’s pretty much it! I have a solid perfume from Lush and a night crème to help my skin heal from any stray sun exposure – but I’m keeping my bag light for this trip. Maui isn't someplace where I can't get a bar of soap or facewash so I don't see the point of packing 2 week supplies of lotion soap or toner. The items I'm bringing with me are just the ones I do have a little trouble finding, that are easy to transport, and that I wouldn't be as happy without.

What are your must-have items for travel beauty?