#VeganBloodTest Results+ Dangers of supplementation!

vegan blood test

I recently stumbled into an opportunity to take a blood test…and I got the results! This is as exciting for me as hopefully I can make it sound for you! And…medical test results seems to be the only type of evidence that is valid in “meat-eater” court. So, the jury is in….and the verdict is, ummm, interesting. 

feeling-so-special-veganFirst, how did I accidentally get a blood test?

Without going into too many private details, I made an appointment at a women’s health clinic for a routine-ish OB-GYN check-up. I’ve never had a OB-GYN appointment before (hence ‘routine-ish’), and to answer some personal questions I had about my reproduction as well as screen for STI/STDs I had my blood drawn. Since they were already drawing my blood, I decided to ask them to expand the blood test to include a full metabolic panel and I specifically asked for B12 levels as well, mentioning that I was a vegan and was concerned about this vitamin in particular. If you are familiar with the high carb vegan community on YouTube you know that B12 and supplementation is a hot topic! (I am too familiar, translation: I have no life.)

I definitely hadn’t prepared to have a blood test that day which is both good and bad. I’ve detailed before how much I despise shady scientific and medical practices, one of which is not disclosing all the information. So, in being consistent with my message- full transparency! The “good” is that the blood test results are a true snapshot of my health. I didn’t change anything beforehand to try to manipulate my blood levels because I had no advance warning to prepare. The “bad” is that since I didn’t know about the test, I did not fast beforehand which is recommended by healthcare providers to ensure accurate results, specifically for triglyceride, cholesterol, and glucose levels. So I apologize that my results may not be 100% because by 3pm of my test, I had breakfast at 10am and lunch at around 1pm. But, not fasting beforehand doesn’t transform terrible results into good results…in specific cases it does make a difference, but in general if all your levels are looking good then you are most likely in good shape!

rabbit food

Now getting to the results! I actually got  detailed voicemail message from my doctor and she specifically mentioned certain things to note that aren’t readily apparent from the paper results.

The long story short is that everything is normal! Woohoo 🙂 Except for one thing! Can you guess what that might be??? Hint: Everyone asks you about it when they find out you are vegan…Actually, that might not be too helpful! To narrow it down a little, my calcium, iron and protein levels were all in good shape!

Yup, it’s B12…but it’s not what you think!

My B12 levels were actually way too high. Like astronomically, off-the-charts high. My provider said they were almost twice what they should be, normal is between 211-911. I was 1,618 pg/mL. Oops. I was extremely relieved to not be deficient, and it’s no mystery to me how this occurred. I’ve mentioned in my “What I Eat Wednesday” posts that I supplement (responsibly, or so I thought) with a sub-lingual, vegan B12 every morning.

b12

Specifically this exact one from Nature’s Bounty, which is the cheapest vegan B12 that I can buy from my local Safeway. I had assumed since this was a sub-lingual versus a shot, and since it is cyanocobalamin which is not as easily assimilated in your body as the better form, methylcobalamin (out of my price range), it would not be a risk to take one per day (as recommended). My thoughts were that besides not being as easily absorbed by my body, and being a water soluble vitamin, if I did accidentally and improbably take too much, I would excrete it. Unfortunately, B12 is stored in your body and not excreted as readily as vitamin C (for example). Fortunately, ridiculously high levels like I currently have have not been found to be harmful or toxic. Phew! But before you ask, I have stopped taking my B12!

I have one more surprising result for you all…

Potassium! My levels are actually low, which is ironic considering that I spent the months of April-June experimenting with a “Rawtill4” high carb vegan lifestyle that advocates eating 20-30 bananas a day! And yes, I was actually consuming 10-12 banana smoothies for breakfast and sometimes lunch! Another reason this was unexpected is because I consume copious amounts of sweet potatoes everyday…usually two pounds worth and sweet potatoes are a richer source of potassium than bananas!

love hate banana

It’s not as clear to me why I have low potassium as it is that I have high B12. But I have some theories…

For starters, I used to be extremely bulimic, I spent about three years hardcore throwing up maybe 15 times a day, almost everyday. The cessation of my purging wasn’t terribly long ago, and so it could be that my body is just trying to recoup. When you throw up a lot you cause your electrolytes to become unbalanced due to all the fluid loss, the same happens with excessive sweating or diarrhea. When I was going to the student health center at Oregon State University for help, I had my potassium levels checked and they were low then. I was given a prescription for potassium chloride (which I did not take because I thought they might have calories and I didn’t care enough to get better, I wanted to die not take something to improve my health).

Even though I am healthy now (and have the blood test results to prove it!) I still might have a hard time keeping my body’s potassium in proper balance because of all the running that I do. While I am not a heavy sweater, highly active people still lose more electrolytes that normal and so this might explain why I have a hard time keeping up my body’s needs through diet especially because right now because I am not ingesting any performance drinks or gels during my current phase of training. I don’t like to make that a regular habit anyway! My chloride was also a little low, but potassium and chloride work together in the body, that’s why I was prescribed a potassium-chloride supplement..so if one is low it makes sense the other might be too…just like calcium requires Vitamin D! It’s always a better solution to get your vitamins and minerals from whole food, plant sources, not through supplementation! Supplements isolate specific nutrients that can create toxic buildup or imbalances within the body at worst, and at best are just a waste of money if you aren’t consuming other nutrients to allow for proper absorption of the supplement. For more on how this reductionist scientific thinking creates harmful medical practices and flawed scientific study designs, I suggest reading T. Colin Campbell’s book Whole. But before I get off on too much of a tangent…

Here are the important bits! My results thus far, I’ve been a vegan for 2 years solid:

2015-01-02 10.31.33

2015-01-02 10.32.08

Here’s to entering the new year happy  and healthy! May your resolutions be made responsibly (of course I’ll be doing a post about that)!

I’ll leave you with this fun video about rice and beans 🙂 Happy 2015!

Tattoo tour contd: How tattoos help me heal

2014-12-28 13.07.47I’ve saved the best for last! And conveniently, the tattoos I’ve received since I moved to Portland last summer 2013. There are only two, but each are the most interesting in my opinion! Again, mom…if you are reading this, I’m sorry! I know you don’t like my tattoos…(because she thinks I am perfect the way I am 🙂 ) But maybe now you and my other readers might have more insight as to why I am addicted! And no, I will never regret them!

Excuse my lame flexing, but at least the picture to the left gives more context to the size and placement of some of my tattoos! Otherwise I would have to note “not actual size, enlarged to show texture” under the tattoo pictures (I’m attempting humor, lol).

My first tattoo in Portland was Ganesh (or Ganpati) the Hindu half-elephant-half-boy god on my left forearm. I got this tattoo to commemorate my month-long stay in India in early 2013. (Read this post for more about an amazing half-marathon I ran in Goa where I met a man who said he loved me ❤ ) I traveled to India with the Portland New Generations Rotary Club for two weeks, and then solo for the next two weeks, it was the most amazing experience I have had to date. I can not remember ever being that blissfully happy for such a continuous stretch of time, and it was the catalyst I needed to begin digging myself out of my depression and make some changes in my life when I returned home.

ganesh draw

Above is a drawing of a sleepy-eyed Ganesh that I showed my tattoo artist, Xavier at Black Hole Body Piercing & Tattoo in Portland, OR. There are as many variations of Ganesh as there are Hindu gods, and it was important to me to have a more classic image. I wanted to include a lotus design at the bottom as well as the traditionally depicted alms bowl and mouse, which is the animal vehicle of the god Ganesh. When I was in India I had several people teelephant campll me the story of Ganesh. I also learned that he is known as the “gatekeeper god” because most Hindu families will pray to him first before praying to their main deity.

In addition, elephants are my favorite animal…and I had a lot of fun meeting elephants in India (I also had elephants on that shirt I am wearing!). In retrospect, I hope they were treated correctly at these tourist sites 😦 The part of me that fondly remembers the experience hopes the elephants were happy, but the logical and more cynical part of me knows otherwise…

In the top and bottom right corners (of the drawing above) there are a few chalk designs that I incorporated into the tattoo design. The top one is actually tattooed directly onto my elbow…that was a weird feeling! The chalk designs are special because in India, traditionally it is a practice that every morning an individual from every household draws a chalk design on the ground in front of the door to signify that the people in the house are okay. If you are walking by a house with no design out front, then you have a reason to be concerned and should check on the well-being of the people in the house! These designs were a few of the ones outside my host family’s house.

So far, my Ganesh tattoo has required 3 three hour long sittings, and is still unfinished! The picture (left) shows my arm pre-tattoo…and covered with some henna that I got in Jaipur. The picture (below) is how the tattoo looks so far, the lighting is not the best…I’ll never be a food photographer!

hennaIn person this is a beautiful tattoo! There are so many little details, and the colors are amazing! The jewels, especially in the crown contain lots of little highlights that really make everything pop. The tattoo goes all the way around my arm, Ganesh’s 4 arms are in traditional mudras and he also holds a lotus flower and hatchet, commonly depicted with Ganesh. The unfinished part is at the bottom near my wrist, it probably requires another hour and a half to two hours, and a couple hundred more dollars. I definitely need to have it finished, I’m not the type of person who is okay with uncompleted projects…I need to see things through to the end! But for now it doesn’t look too bad. It celebrates the amazing adventure I had in India, and all the wonderful people I met and the friends who helped me make it happen…

ganesh tattooThere is also one more very significant reason that  chose to cover up my left arm. I mentioned that going to India helped change my life, and here’s why: Pre-India, I had been in Corvallis for a couple of years going to school and I was deeply darkly depressed. I failed a couple of classes because sometimes I just didn’t have the willpower to leave my apartment. For awhile I lived alone, and trust me, that just made things worse. I would binge and purge, and then I would cut because I hated myself for binging and purging, failing school, lying to people and my mom on the phone (I was not doing well…but I lied and made everything seem okay). I hated myself for not running, not having friends, and for binge drinking with people I didn’t even like just to feel accepted and less alone. I did want to die…but I didn’t want to do it myself. I wished that my heart would explode (or esophagus would rupture) from all the purging. I would fall asleep at night and wish to not wake up. On days when I never left my apartment and spoke to no one, I felt worthless and disposable. No one would miss me if I were gone. I just hated the thought of wasting everyone’s time and money with my death. If only my mom and a few others didn’t care about me, then I could kill myself guilt-free. But I didn’t, I felt like a coward, instead I just cut…a leftover habit that began when I was thirteen and then went dormant during my anorexia, only to re-emerge because I never dealt with anything. Because I am right-handed, the majority of my scars were on my left arm. The ladder-rung appearance of self-harm scars are pretty identifiable, and I felt embarrassed and stupid anytime someone asked me what happened. I lied with the stereotypical, “my cat did it” (the last year I lived in Corvallis, I lived with a roommate who did have a cat).

Post-India I began making changes. Galvanized by the experience, I kept volunteering in Corvallis and really tried to stay healthy (I had regained energy and some weight in India). I decided to move to Portland with my (not) family from Corvallis for the summer a few months later and I got a job, met some people and felt so much happier that I transferred to Portland State University and made the move permanent. That same summer I got my Ganesh tattoo.

My experience at Black Hole was awesome, the artist was really cool! The first time I went to get the lines done for Ganesh, he gave me a used bike to help me get around Portland when I told him I was new to the area! How Portland and friendly is that?

gazelle sketch

This is my latest tattoo, I just got it this summer. And, it’s running related! I knew you were wondering why I didn’t have any running tattoos 🙂 I got this tattoo at Hawthorne Ink by Memo. It took two sittings about three hours each, plus a touch up sitting. But, this by far is the best looking quality I have received for the lowest price. I know price shouldn’t be a factor, but I was pleasantly surprised by the cost so I thought I would mention it!

2014-12-28 13.06.30This tattoo also helped me deal with a (slightly) traumatic ordeal. One week after my Newport Marathon finish, I injured my hamstring. This was the first time I had ever been significantly injured, I literally could not run for a couple of weeks. After that, I could still only hobble a few slow, painful, and wary miles for another month. I had to seek physical therapy…and I realized that being a runner comprised about 95% of who I am (I know that is not healthy). If you have any running friends, you know we get a little crazy when we can’t run…and I felt myself sinking back into my depressed place. Without running, it’s hard for me to continue to wake up early, eat healthfully and take care of myself…it’s hard to stay motivated, my mind would ask me, “What’s the point?” At first I was an over-zealous injured runner trying to recover…but that zeal left when I didn’t see results. I kept plugging along….and got this tattoo as well.

When I was in high school, my coach was fond of this African proverb. Even though I wasn’t fond of my coach, the proverb has stuck with me and I can recite it almost verbatim:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

I identify more with the gazelle…I’m not a meat-eating killer, king of the jungle. I’m introverted, shy, and am happy to work in symbiosis with mother nature. I detailed my vision of a portrait of a gazelle, framed by foliage and backed by a huge, rising sun to my artist. We also included lion paw prints to symbolize the lion. And I tattooed it on my chest. As you can see, it came out beautifully.

Running is my heartbeat.

Happy Birthday Tattoo Tour!

2014-10-18 13.17.43

So how many tattoos do I really have? Why did I get them? Do they have a meaning? Here’s where I do a little sharing: I’m 21 years old and I got my first tattoo for my 17th birthday (thanks mom!) I’ve been addicted to tattoos ever since!

It’s almost my 22nd birthday (January 1st!) so it’s an appropriate time to share the milestones that my tattoos commemorate considering my first one was a birthday gift. Actually, when I was 16 I harassed, pleaded, cajoled and begged my mom for a tattoo that year…and she did say yes, until the day before when she (as a responsible parent) changed her mind. I think I got my first laptop that year as a gift instead (a Dell mini which survived 5 years of abuse and multiple college papers). But I was pretty crushed that my mom reneged on her permission, and the following year I wheedled again…this time she relented, reasoning that when I was 18 I would get a tattoo anyway so what difference does a year make? (A lot.) I also paid for my tattoo…the gift itself was my mom’s presence and approval in the tattoo shop.

In order, my first tattoo was the phoenix to the left of the sun, moon, and stars. In hindsight, this tattoo shop (I can’t remember the name) was pretty sketchy. First off, I was a walk in appointment, the artist made my mom and I wait for almost two hours while he drew it, I had brought in my own rudimentary sketch. While we were waiting, my mom grew more and more tense, I remember sensing the anxiety coming off her in waves…it was palpable. But I finally got my tattoo! It wasn’t as painful as I had prepared myself for, in my opinion the back and shoulders are the least painful places to get tattooed. However, as my artist was working his buddies were busy bringing bags of betel nut (aka Areca nut) into the shop and drinking. When the tattoo was finished I wasn’t given any aftercare instructions and was charged a measly $50 (very cheap). My mom was really happy to get out of there.

I chose a phoenix because of it’s symbolization of rebirth, I was a pretty depressed and angst-y (and eating disordered teen) so it made sense at the time. I also included a cross and a banner that read Habakkuk 3:19, citing a passage from the Christian Bible that reads, “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” I chose this because I had read about a rugby player who wrote the chapter and verse ‘Habakkuk 3:19’ on his cleats before games to invoke strength and speed. I hearkened it to running, and so sought solace in this verse.

The quality of this tattoo is not satisfactory, you might notice how light the lines are compared to the sun and moon next to it. It’s not a good tattoo, but I like it because it was my first.

sun and moon tattooLittle did my mom know of the consequences of her decision to let me get a tattoo at 17. Much like my ear piercings (I have 8 on each ear) once she said yes to one she could never say no again! But before I got the sun and moon and stars (my second tattoo) I did way more research. I went to Low Tide and presented my design to the artist, one guy who lived/owned a small studio over a bar in Tumon (Guam) on Hotel Row. I scheduled an appointment for later and gave him time to professionally draw it out. This time I also opted for color, though I was pretty scared of looking like someone had taken a neon sharpie to my skin. It was a 3 hour sitting and ended up being $300. I’m a gypsy at heart, and I’ve always loved sun and moon designs. My mom never stuck around to watch any more of my tattoos after the first one. I think the needles, ink, and blood (yes, blood!) grosses her out a bit!

OM tattooThe OM was my next tattoo, and I was so happy with my experience at Low Tide that I went back there again for this one and my next one. From my first tattoo to my koi fish tattoo, I got them all within the span of a year! For awhile I became enamored with eastern religions and so I got this tattoo, the main symbol is an OM which is a mystical sound found in Hinduism and Buddhism, it is the sound of the universe. It is also one of the most beautiful designed I have inked and is a representation of a lotus, a beautiful flower that comes from mud. The Tibetan Sanskrit script above supposedly reads, “Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ” which doesn’t have a direct English translation though some sources translate it into ‘the jewel in the lotus’. I know it is commonly chanted when monks spin the prayer wheel and send the vibes (?) out into the universe. I was fascinated with the premise that everything was impermanent, and the Buddhist religion of letting go in order to have more capacity to care about others and do better to be reborn as a higher entity on the path to enlightenment. And yes, I recognized the paradox of getting a permanent reminder tattooed in my skin to reinforce the concept of impermanence! 

koi fish tattooMy koi fish was my last tattoo at Low Tide, and was my last tattoo at 17. By this time, my artist and I had a great repertoire and I was sad to be moving away. Finding an artist that does good work definitely helps put to rest the nervousness that accompanies permanent ink. I chose a koi fish because I wanted a tattoo that represented the Japanese/Asian culture because I am half-Japanese! I only chose to have the cherry blossoms colored and left the rest simple with a little shading. This was, by far, the most painful tattoo I have gotten to date. But I sat through it like a champ, I can usually tolerate up to three hour sittings and I never cry!

this too shall pass tattooMy next set of tattoos were inked in Corvallis, the college town of Oregon State University. Located right off campus, High Priestess Piercing & Tattoo is the place for newly autonomous young adults to make irreparable decisions 🙂

I was often in a dark and depressed place in Corvallis, and my tattoo decisions reflect a lot of my mental state at the time. The fact that I managed to scrounge up money for tattoos while I was broke also makes clear my issues with money management. But, I love tattoos. In my opinion, there are only a few permanent things in life that money can buy: education, travel, & tattoos. With each of these comes experiences and knowledge that no one can take away from you! Very few things in life are as enduring. I chose to have “This too shall pass” tattooed on my collarbone to remind myself that the depression I felt would not last forever.

spanish tattoos

The next few tattoos at High Priestess were all of Mexican culture, done in a traditional style design. The Calavera or sugar skull, which is part of the tradition of Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead in Mexico is done on my left shoulder. This tattoo was my reward for completing my first trail run 50k. I felt like a bad-ass, and I wanted a representation of that. The most kick-ass thing I could think of was a skull and crossbones….except that I am very much not a skull and crossbones type person. So I got a sugar skull instead, this was actually a lot of fun to choose because sugar skull designs allow for a lot of creativity!

The other two are a pair, and are especially beautiful. To the left is a moth, the banner reads “muerte”, or death in Spanish. Moths are nocturnal creatures and so symbolize the darkness of night that comes with death. They are also dusty, grey and papery…like ghosts. In the middle is a bee (not a butterfly!), bees symbolize life because they are “busy bees”! The banner reads “vida” or life in Spanish. The delicate face on the bees midsection is so perfect in person, especially because it is only about an inch long in real-life!

wrist rose tattooMy last tattoos in Corvallis were a rose on each wrist. I only have one pictured here, even though they aren’t the exact same on each side but the other one has gotten engulfed in my Ganesh tattoo on the other forearm. I got these because (and I haven’t mentioned this much, but I will in the continuation of this post) I used to self-harm a lot…having red roses on my wrist still gave me the gothic visual of blood red on the inside of my pale wrists, but without the harm to myself. I think that this tattoo symbolizes my desire to harm myself, but my ultimate victory over negative actions. I guess I choose life.

Many more tattoos to come! Because I want to articulate the story behind each one, this tour is going to be divided into two parts…that way I don’t exhaust you all! If any of you have questions about tattoos, feel free to ask in the comments!

New Year, New Me (academically)!

how life is supposed to beMy life update: I graduated from college! I’ve earned the right to update my short bio widget on the sidebar to say “Currently, I hold a 2:53:30 marathon PR and a Bachelor’s of Science in Community Health Education.”

Fall term 2014 ended on December 12th and it’s officially noted on my transcript (unofficial screenshot below) that I was awarded my degree the next day from Portland State University, specifically the college of Urban & Public Affairs. I even went out with a bang, and made the Dean’s list for my final term…I used to be an over-achiever! (I was my high school salutatorian and graduated in 3 years.) But still, my first 2 years in college weren’t stellar, I believe I received two ‘F’s and too many ‘D’s and ‘C’s to count before I transferred to PSU from Oregon State University.

Incredibly, it’s been exactly four years since I began college. I was admitted to OSU for the Winter term starting January in 2011, and now I have finished in December 2014. But guess what I am starting next? There’s no rest for the weary, and I was officially accepted into the Graduate School of Education’s Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling program at PSU last week…school starts like it never ended, the first day of Winter term 2015 is January 5th.

degree

To be clear, it’s not a Master’s program, but I am applying for the Grad School of Ed.’s Master’s in Counseling program with the hopes of beginning in Fall 2015. I will have to choose a specific track, and currently I am leaning towards Marriage, Couple and Family counseling to become a licensed LMFT. I will be able to complete both the grad certificate and the Master’s degree at the same time, and it’s designed to take three years.

Where will I be in three years? What do I want to be doing? I don’t know. Four years ago I had just moved to Oregon and when I reflect upon all the things that happened between then and now, there’s no way I could have predicted where I am now and all that brought me here. It’s true, but worth saying again: Life is unpredictable. I have also heard, and find this to be true: People are very bad at knowing what they want.

things will work out quoteI believe both. In the past 4 years I’ve come close to suicide and been depressed; lived in hovels and homes and moved multiple times; met amateur drug dealers, a homeless teen mom, and the most wonderful family who saved me; attended counseling, group therapy, and saw a psychiatrist without my parent’s knowledge; tried drugs, got blackout drunk too many times, and ended up with alcohol poisoning in the ER with a hefty fine and a court summons from that ill-fated night; almost moved to Hawaii; almost lost my marbles and went insane…at least that’s how it felt. I over drafted my first bank account, I had my first credit card debt turned over to collectors…I made too many bad decisions. I had no idea what I was doing.

Somehow, good things happened too. I went to India for a month, I moved to Portland, I met people who cared about me and my running. I made better choices, I learned a lot. And now I’ve graduated, I’m running 80+ miles a week on a healthy, whole foods vegan diet chasing the qualifying time to the 2016 Olympic marathon trials. I’m going to grad school!

Am I a good person? Or a bad person? I don’t know. Have I been “successful”? That depends…

There will be new experiences, opportunities and obstacles in 2015. I don’t know what will happen, but I can handle anything. So bring it on. Below is my personal statement essay that I needed to include in my application to the addictions counseling program: (I’m verbose…and the 500 word limit was a challenge!)

sinner-pastGraduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling: Personal Statement

I lived through addiction and managed to climb out of the dark hole alive and in one piece. Now I have a moral imperative to help others avoid the same suffering. From adolescence, I would read autobiographical accounts of addiction and mental health journeys of others. I understood that every individual’s circumstances surrounding their addiction was different, and I needed to read them all. In my late teens, I suffered from an eating disorder. I was addicted to food: I isolated and daily activities became impossible. I became a person I hated: a liar, a thief, depressed, angry, guilty, and suicidal. I sought counseling and treatment for my problems, and now that I am recovered I know I need to help others avoid the crippling grip of addiction.

My early exploration of human experiences via literature and my history with food led me to study health. I will receive a BS in Community Health Education by the end of Fall term 2014 from Portland State University. My health education and personal recovery journey have taught me of the important connection between the mind and body in health. Physical and mental/emotional health are inextricably intertwined, but I have education in only one side of the coin. I know that true health cannot be achieved without understanding of both. I want to help others achieve total well-being. To fulfill this goal, I need to learn about the other side of the coin, mental health.

My life’s purpose has evolved as I’ve sought to be of service to others. During my disorder, my dominant feelings were of guilt and worthlessness. I believed that I was a waste of space and so my desire to refute those feelings through service to others bloomed. I wanted to be useful. I volunteered with Portland’s New Generations Rotary Club, at Oregon State University, and at a low-income childcare center in Corvallis. Recently I interned at Friends of the Children, a life changing mentoring organization serving children which was founded by Duncan Campbell, whose childhood was characterized by alcoholic parents. Duncan’s childhood motivated him to help at-risk children with experiences similar to his own. Like Duncan, my experiences have left me with no choice but to help others avoid the same pain and misery that I know addictions can bring.never-be-afraid-to-fall-apart-rae-smith

I would be an effective addictions counselor because of my personal experience and my health education background, to better understand the physiological components of addiction that accompany the mental and emotional aspects. I know I can relate and inspire sufferers to overcome their addictions. Mirroring my philosophy about physical health, I believe in self-empowerment. Self-work is imperative to total well-being of the mind and body. It’s a lifelong process, not an end. I will be there for anyone who has made the decision to get help. It is my calling to help others get better and get healthy.

A New Year, A New Me? 

Every day is a new day and I am an accumulation of all of them! Stay tuned for a post about my blood test results! You will be in for a surprise… 😦 or 🙂 ???

My Family and #1 Vegan Rule, Part II

funny santa

My #1 vegan rule: In-apartment veganism imposed on all guests in my apartment, including family! This means all food and meals bought to be brought back to my apartment must be free from animal products!

So, how have my brother and mom fared? Are they still alive and do they hate me yet?

Yes! They are still alive, but haven’t exactly embraced the vegan lifestyle outside of my 900 sq. feet animal cruelty-free zone (aka my apartment). They’ve been here for almost a week now and while I am grateful they have honored my rule, they’ve made up for it every time we’ve dined out which is often because they are on vacation…and of course they need to sample the delicious Portland cuisine! I definitely can’t and don’t try to sway their food choices when we dine out and I always make vegan work for me, it’s possible no matter where you go! But, without being pushy and annoying, I don’t think they will change 😦

vegan_christmas_wish_greeting_cardI was pretty much defeated after the last conversation I had with my brother when he saw the video narrated by Steve-O (read more about our conversation and see the video in Part 1). Maybe I am just too far gone on the vegan bandwagon, but I was floored by his assertion that animals are just food. In his eyes, when he sees a pig I think he truly just sees bacon.

In my mom’s case, sometimes I feel like I am on the brink of success…but for every two steps forward I feel like we take one step back. She agrees with me about how wrong the factory farming practices are and how unhealthy people are in America because of the broken food system. I believe that the compassionate animal-lover in her empathizes with the animals that are eaten and exploited, she loves her dogs and as vegans often say, “Why love one and eat the other?” But even though she doesn’t eat a lot of meat (she actually just doesn’t eat a lot period, I’ve often envied her natural ability to portion-control) she still doesn’t have faith that the vegan diet alone is enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle, even though her daughter (me) tries to be a living, breathing, successfully athletic example. It’s a combination of too much health misinformation and a traditional upbringing that makes her ask, “But where will I get my protein?” It’s the ubiquitous go-vegan-live-longeradvertisements paid for by the dairy industry that induces her to think it is a fact that dairy creates strong bones and is the prime source for calcium. It’s the “magic bullet” phenomenon of certain superfoods that are touted by popular news media that provides the surplus of confusing information and always the overarching message that veganism is unhealthy, restrictive, unsustainable and extremist. It’s the pervasive slogan from figures of authority that “everything is okay in moderation”….(like smoking, right?) All those things, key components in keeping the current American food industry in place, also serves to keep well-intentioned, health-minded individuals like my mom, from being able to change. *I had my mom read over my perception of her, and she okay-ed it ❤

If you hear something repeated often enough, you start to believe it as fact.

VEGAN (1)As I write this post, they are leaving to go eat something for dinner 😦 I’m gonna stay home, I need a little break from the constant family presence, and I am missing my vegetables! Honestly, I was starting to feel vegetable deficient after eating out most meals yesterday. For lunch we went to a rotary sushi, I ate my weight in veggie, cucumber, avocado, and seaweed salad rolls and for dinner we went to a Thai restaurant where I ate a vegan Papaya salad and 3 sides of sticky rice (the third time I ordered another sticky rice, the server looked at me like I was crazy). Anyway, I am happy to stay home today to eat my veggie-heavy (ab)normal vegan food. At least we’ve all been vegan for breakfast! We’ve been eating oatmeal jazzed up with different fruit, cinnamon and ginger (except my brother, who has a bad habit of skipping breakfast entirely).

But, with all this discussion surrounding veganism…I am starting to doubt myself. Have I become obsessive? Is it really just food, should I stop caring so much?

I’ve addressed this before in this post (Sorry, I’m NOT sorry for being a picky eater).  I don’t like to make people uncomfortable, I don’t set out to insult anyone or make them feel guilty about their lifestyle. But where is the line between me telling it like it is and the point when I start to step on other’s toes? I know it is impossible to please everyone, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. This goes back to when I was posting images like this one (below) on my Facebook page and a friend asked me to stop because he didn’t ‘subscribe’ to that. Or a week ago, when another close friend asked me if I thought non-vegans (like himself) were murderers! I was aghast, and hurt. I NEVER ever paint my non-vegan friends or family in that light! My perception of them is too colored by the wonderful character and spirits that I know they have. They are good, kind, caring people, that’s why they are my friends! So it really makes me feel terrible that they might think or feel that I am judging them harshly. vegan extremistI’ll never be in-your-face, that’s not my style…but on my blog and my social media I should be able to tell it (or show it and share it) like it is. Animal cruelty for the sake of our current eating habits is the truth. So why do I doubt myself? Is it all really just food? Or as someone else in my life just told me, “there are just too many terrible things happening.” Or my brother, “there are more important things to worry about.”

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Does all this mean that I should give up? Throw in the towel? Sometimes I just feel like a pest, annoying everyone else. To reiterate, I am not in the habit of spouting veganism 24/7 to everyone I meet or hang out with. When it comes up, I talk about it because my vegan lifestyle means a lot to me and I want other people to know about it. I desperately want the people I know to wake up and realize how wrong eating animals is! But even when I don’t say anything, I feel like my mere existence in living my life the way I do is a burden to others…my parent’s cross to bear: their crazy vegan daughter…so sad, sigh. It gets to me, it makes me feel like I need to apologize (even though I am not supposed to!), it makes me want to quit trying. I don’t feel like I am helping, mostly I feel like an annoyance at best.

KH_ROSIE-009-magDon’t worry though, I am not going to give up the fight! I’ll never stop being vegan and I’ll keep on blogging the truth. The information has to be available to inspire people to change. I never know who might stumble across my blog and become motivated…so I’ll keep going. In my daily life I’ll keep living my truth. When I find the balance between being in-your-face or acquiescing and unprotesting, believe me I’ll blog about it! Vegans everywhere will rejoice!

Holiday Spirits, Family Visits and My #1 Vegan Rule

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Below is a festive  picture of my family from 2006 at one of my favorite holiday events on Guam, the Jingle Bell run which I just discovered from my mom has been discontinued…sad face. Those were the good ol’ days when my whole family ran together, now it’s just my mom and I who get up and log regular miles each morning. Also, eight years have passed, and none of us (except my mom, she’s got good genes and seems not to have aged at all!) look like that anymore (see us from last year, above).

Speaking of, my mom just finished the Honolulu Marathon a few days ago when my brother and she were en route from Guam to come visit me in Portland for Christmas!

Jingle Bell 5k 2006That’s how I literally just discovered the Jingle Bell run is no longer in existence….she corrected my out-loud musings as I am typing this post. The real reason for this blog post though, is to discuss my imposed in-apartment veganism on my brother and mom. So, how do they feel about that? What’s my reasoning? And, is it working?

So first, what are the parameters? Basically, I keep my apartment a sacred space free from animal products and it is going to stay that way! Personally, the smell of meat cooking in my kitchen, or seeing milk and eggs in my fridge might physically make me sick. I know enough about how those products make it to the supermarket to never want to be a cause of the process. I also know that meat, milk and eggs can never be a part of a healthy diet, and I care about my mom and brother. I could not in good conscious watch them eat those things and not say something about it. My rule is that all food brought into my apartment needs to be vegan and that all meals eaten in my apartment needs to be vegan as well. But when we go out to eat as I am sure we will often in the next ten days they are here, they can consume what they wish. I can’t control that, but a tiny part of me hopes that they feel good enough eating vegan that they won’t want to go back to eating animals!

vegan kitchenSo far, they’ve agreed to this rule and they’ve been animal product free for their first day here 🙂 small victories! Unfortunately, I had a discussion about eating animals and factory farming practices with my brother this morning…which did not go well. His quote, “Animals are there for us to eat,” really blew my mind, especially because this was after he watched a short video narrated by Steve-O (I thought that Steve-O might peak my brother’s interest) which depicted some of the cruelties condoned by the industry. I was kind and showed him a less graphic version of the cruel practices of factory farming, I’ve inserted the same video below if you are curious. It’s only 12 minutes long and I highly recommend it! Even if you are already vegan, it’s always a good idea to check in with yourself to make sure that your values and lifestyle are continuing to align.

But back to my brother’s statement. Animals are NOT put here on earth for us to eat. I sometimes forget how misinformed the general public can be. I was in the same boat until I decided to change my diet. With that decision came a lot of personal research. I had to seek out the knowledge myself, and find support in others online to succeed in going vegan. It’s not easy to change years of deeply ingrained habits and beliefs (even if they aren’t correct). I definitely have some work to do! My hopes are that his interest in building muscles and having a strong physique will at least compel him to eat plant based in the meantime and that the compassion for animals will follow. For men, it is especially important to show examples of ripped, strong and healthy male vegans to those who are considering changing their diet. I know I am generalizing here, but it’s been my experience that guys are usually scared of looking like a stereotypical, weakling vegan. I am not exactly reassuring myself because of my skinniness, but that is probably a product of my runninveganproblems 2g and my diet, not an inevitable consequence of being vegan. There are many resources for vegan athletes, and I hope to (slowly) educate my brother and show him how much stronger and healthier he can be. How can he argue with Rip Esselstyn of the Engine 2 Diet? Or Rich Roll author of Finding Ultra, Scott Jurek author of Eat & Run, or Brendan Brazier of ThriveThose are just the guys I can name off the top of my head! There are also so many plant-based athletes and fit guys on YouTube as well. Some of my favorites include Jay of PlantbasedAthlete, Chris of ChrisGoneRaw, and Ben of WholeFuture. Some are athletes, some are not. But all are well-informed, healthy and inspiring examples of how to succeed as a plant-based male.

To be continued….how have the days been treating them? What’s my mom’s take on all this? And why am I doubting my rule?

Part 2 is on it’s way!

 

My (Hard-A**) Health Philosophy, #NoExcuses

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The quote above blew me away. Too many times I hear people say they don’t have time to take care of their health because they are too busy taking care of others. When I tell people that their health is the most important thing, and that they need to make healthy choices for themselves above all else, it does sound and feel selfish. And no one wants to be selfish…we all want to be the martyr. But if you can’t take care of yourself, how will you be there for anyone else?

For example, after I pay all my bills, I end up spending the rest of what’s left over on food. Compared to some, my food bill is pretty pricey. I don’t waste money on supplements, pills or powders…but I spend a lot of whole, fresh fruits and veggies. Sure, I could save now for my future if I decided to live on oatmeal, instant ramen, and PB&J sandwiches on ninety-nine cent white bread. But what would my future be like if I did so? Diet and lifestyle affects more than just how you look…it effects everything. My mood would suffer and I would be depressed, I would be injured more frequently and recover slower from running, my eating disorder and body image problems would certainly come back…things would probably start to crumble. I’d probably have to start relying on multivitamins (pricey) and anything I saved in the short term would be spent long-term as my physical, mental, and emotional health began to take a hit. So I don’t sacrifice on the foundations of my health, because it is the most important thing you can have. It’s easy to take for granted, but don’t! Don’t wait until your health is gone, when you can only look longingly at others and wish you had a healthy body to walk, run, and play.

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My Health Philosophy Assignment (one of the last of my undergraduate education!): My philosophy regarding health as a future health educator. I already know my professor won’t like this. For some reason, no one likes to hear that it is their own responsibility. The current health theory is that it is genetics (epigenetics is huge right now) and a sick food culture that people are victims of. But public health/ community health is about prevention. In that respect, my health philosophy is the core of PH, advocating for you own health by making your own choices is prevention!

take-responsibility

My philosophy places a lot of responsibility on the individual to take control of their own health. Largely, I believe that a person creates good health or bad health as a result of the decisions an individual makes. I do acknowledge, and realize that there are factors outside of individual control such as environment (built and natural), family (history, habits), biology (genetics, gender, age), and government (policy or lack of regulation) that can inhibit or facilitate health of a person.

After reading the text and taking this course, my philosophy has not changed. In fact, I am more certain than ever that the individual needs to bear the burden of the responsibility for their health. A person’s health status is a direct result of their choices in life. How, as a health educator (receiving my Bachelors in a week!) do I justify my philosophy on health?

No one will live in a perfect environment that promotes health of individuals above all else, that utopian society does not exist. In America, money talks above all else, and it is profitable to sell people corn, soybean, or wheat-filled/fed products which the government subsidizes. The end result is cheap meat, dairy and egg products, and cheap junk food and fast food- like products. The meat and dairy industries profit, the junk food industry profits, fast food chains profit, and people get sick. Then the health care industry profits off the sick population. Health insurers, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry make money by keeping people unhealthy and sick, but tout medical advancements to extend lifespan…and the billions of dollars they can make off of longer lived, life-long patients.

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No one lives in an environment that makes it easy to be healthy. But remarkably, there are people who still maintain their health. They do this because they have realized that no one else cares about their health, they need to care about themselves. Yes, some people have family history and genetics to work against, but I believe that “genetics load the gun, and environment (lifestyle choices) pulls the trigger.” If you are not doing what you can to promote your best health by seeking your own education, eating plant foods, exercising, and sleeping enough, then you need to own up and take responsibility for your poor health state. Blaming genes or the environment is an excuse and a cop-out.

We all live in the same Take-charge-of-your-own-lifecurrently unhealthy environment, yet many people manage to create good health for themselves because they have taken action. They’ve stopped allowing others to dictate their food and lifestyle choices. Going with the flow in America will only make you sick. Being healthy is abnormal. What it all comes down to, is a choice to be abnormal in society. Buck the media advertisements, fast food chains, and grocery store sales. Our health situation in America is dire, because people only care about your money, but they trick you into thinking they care about your well-being.

 

Take care of yourself so you can cultivate your own health and have a good quality of life that allows you to pursue your passions, enjoy your work, and be there for your friends and family. This is my philosophy regarding health as a health educator.

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