SMART Goals: Settle for Good, Get Great or Chase Perfection?

smart goals

I think modern consumerism has gone and shot itself in the foot this time. All our resolutions (or regular ol’ goals) are still fresh and fulfilled, we’re not even a week into January yet, but my local grocery store already has hearty (heart-‘y’! I seize the opportunity to make bad puns when I can ūüôā ) displays of chocolates, Valentines, and balloon hearts to smack us all in the face when we enter the store! Not that I am anti-love, but I guess the candy companies and Hallmark didn’t realize that the diet/weight-loss industry and gym chains are trying to capitalize on the idea of the “fresh start”. I don’t think candy and chocolates go together with the typical resolution to “lose weight”. Careful now junk food industry, don’t make the weight-loss industry mad!

Okay…this was not intended to be a rant, just thought I’d poke some fun before we got into the serious stuff! Resolutions, goals, or just Tuesday’s ‘to-do’ list, how SMART are you about accomplishing them? (Don’t get offended, I know you are all plenty smart…but it’s a clever acronym that you may have heard before, and that I really like!) I learned S.M.A.R.T. in high school once, and it has actually stuck with me, unlike some other useless word play designed to get me to critically think, etc.

smarter goalsI challenge you to use SMART to tackle a goal, small or big and be amazed! I actually prefer this (left) acronym even more as it includes “ethical” and “reasonable”! Never settle for just SMART when you could be SMARTER (or good when you can be great, but I am getting to that.)

My goals for 2015 are this:

  1. Bed by 9-10pm (10 at the latest): 8-9 solid hours of sleep each night.
  2. Keep my diet clean, comprised of whole foods. Low fat, all natural. Eat enough to fuel my running. *No hard alcohol, 1-2 drinks max. (Reinforced from New Years Eve)
  3. Run a 2:43 marathon!¬†Subgoals: keep running 90 mile weeks, stay injury free, and make one of my runs my “long run”.

Basically, I want to keep doing what I have been doing,¬†but better.¬†Eat clean, recover well, and run more! Each of these goals are¬†specific¬†because I know exactly what I want, for example “bed by 10pm”. There’s nothing vague about that. “Get fit” or “eat healthier” are good examples of what¬†not¬†to do. My second goal concerning diet could be interpreted as vague, but I know what I mean by all natural, and it’s based on how I have documented my eating previously on my blog.

My goals are¬†measurable,¬†I can measure amounts of drinks, I can measure miles, I can “measure” a whole food vs. a packaged food. Are they¬†achievable? Depends. I can control my sleep, my diet, and how many miles I run a week….but I can’t control all the factors concerning the marathon. I can only do my best to set myself up to succeed. I do think it’s¬†realistic¬†based on my training and previous performance.Measuring_the_Infinite

My goals are also¬†realistic¬†in the context of my lifestyle. I have the resources and time to eat well, run, and get to sleep on time. I know there are many people who find it a lot harder, but those people need to weigh their priorities and their¬†“perceived” resources against what they can actually do. Don’t use lack of time as an excuse, the same goes for having a family (they need you to take care of YOU too!), or not having enough money to be healthy. If it is important to you, you will find a way. By realistic, I mean don’t attempt a marathon if you’ve never ran before. Try a half, or resolve to run 5 days a week no matter what. No climber attempts Everest as their first summit!

perfect-enemy-goodMy goals are¬†timely¬†or time-bound, exempting the diet goal. Diet is tricky, because unless you are on a “get-slim-quick-2-week-cleanse” (don’t do it!) diet should not have an endpoint. Diet is the foundation of the other goals you set for yourself. It comes naturally in the process of achieving the other goals that are time-bound. My marathon is a time-bound goal because I committed myself to running the LA Marathon in mid-March. So I have 2.5 months remaining to keep logging 90mi weeks and get my longest run up to where it needs to be. As the date draws closer, you had better believe my sleep and diet will be as fine-tuned and on-point as I can get it so that I¬†can¬†run a 2:43 marathon.

My goals are¬†ethical¬†my diet is vegan, and running a lot doesn’t hurt anyone ūüôā I urge you, if you are considering a dietary change this year, go vegan! It’s the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success! You also withdraw your vote of approval from inhumane factory farming practices and animal cruelty. Instead, you free up valuable resources like water and land for starving children who go without because the animals are using it instead. (Don’t worry, the animals won’t starve….instead the intense and unnatural breeding processes will diminish as consumer demand does! Farmers won’t lose their jobs either, they’ll just farm plant foods instead!)

I’ll be doing a ¬†post on Veganuary soon, but if you want to get started now I urge you to check out their supportive website and make a pledge to go Vegan this January!

Anyway, back to ethics! *I’m skipping reasonable¬†I think it’s a tad redundant after discussing realistic and achievable.¬†Don’t hurt anyone or anything, including yourself ‚̧ ! This segues into my next point about good vs. great and great vs. perfect.

32fdbd0eac41e2e876006ffb317d355cI think most people by now are pretty aware that “perfect” is an illusion. No one is perfect. For example, it might appear that I always have a healthy diet and I always run well…but of course I don’t! New Year’s Eve is a great example, I drank way too much and consequently ran like crud the next morning. I still ran the miles I was supposed to, but let me tell you…it was not pretty! But the reason we fail or make mistakes is for us to learn what¬†not¬†to do! I needed a firm reminder as to why I don’t really drink or party, and I got it. As long as you learn and don’t make the mistake again, then don’t beat yourself up over it. An important note, “mistakes” should only be made once…after that, they are not mistakes, it’s just you deciding against what you know is right.

There is no perfect. But there is always better. If you are good, there is always great. Don’t settle for good because it is comfortable. Being good is a comfort zone, it’s where you can hold your head up high but not feel challenged at all. You’ll never grow either. Strive to get better always, that’s where the growth happens. That’s where character is built, self-awareness is gained and boundaries are tested.

I urge you to always keep growing and striving to master your craft, hobby, and passion. Even if you think resolutions are ridiculous, you can always make goals. No one is ever done learning, there’s always room for improvement.

How can you be a better friend, family member, community contributer, runner, skier, writer, painter today more than yesterday? Write it down, tell your friends, or register for the event.

Go get it!

Advertisements

What do vanity and veganism have in common?

chicky cartoons

Vanity and veganism, what do they have in common? Well, besides¬†cartoons depicting baby chicks, a lot…

Let’s start with society. Which cartoon above, the body acceptance cartoon or the animal cruelty cartoon, do you think is condoned by our society? This is a great illustration of f**ked up priorities…believe it or not, our Western society would rather have you¬†hate¬†your body, and¬†not care¬†about killing baby chickens! We know this, but how often do we contemplate how wrong these subliminal messages are?

Just a note, I am going to writing and defending my point from a female perspective, but I acknowledge that men are also under pressure to look a certain way and receive messaging from media that can also lead to body dysmorphia and eating disorders. However, women still bear the brunt of these unrealistic societal beauty ideals.

MMOTWMy inspiration for this post came from my latest literary read¬†Mirror, Mirror off the Wall¬†by Kjertin Gruys, a feminist scholar and teacher with a Ph.D. in sociology. She explores¬†the relationship between physical appearance, markets, and social inequality. My reasons for reading this had more to do with my own history of¬†low self-esteem and trouble with physical appearance than with veganism (obviously) until I came upon this quote in Chapter 5 (I’m reading this on a Kindle, so I am unsure of the page number):

“Indeed, our ability to suppress instincts in favor of ethics is perhaps the most defining characteristic that separates human beings from other animals.”¬†

This literally stopped me in my tracks. I could not believe how succinctly she had just argued for veganism, yet she could not connect the dots between her argument and the juicy cheesesteak (barf) burger she writes about eating in a later chapter.

How have we become so blind? It is my argument that as long as you allow corporations and industries to tell you how to look, what to strive for, and what to eat, you are incapable of thinking for yourself and caring about others (people, animals and planet) on a deeper level. If this seems harsh, let me explain…

cruelty not beautyI first want to start with the fact that Gruys is so focused on one ‘acceptable’ societal issue, that she failed to recognize that social inequality and business based on physical appearance in the west is only a symptom of a deeper rooted problem: enslaving and exploiting animals for our own desires.

Think about it, if our society thinks it is acceptable to use another being as a means to an end (unethical according to Kant’s¬†theory of morality which¬†states that it is immoral to use another person merely as a means to an end, and that people must, under all circumstances, be treated as ends in themselves) and if our society condones commodifying life, and supports systems of inequality (speciesism), how can that same society truly care about how women are treated?

“Women are not just pieces of meat for men to ogle at!” or “Women are not put on this earth just for men’s pleasure!” These are all sayings that unfortunately are all too common in society. Is it any coincidence that women are compared to meat (dehumanized in a similar way that meat at the grocery store is stripped of it’s animal identity)? Is it coincidence that men (and women) think it is okay to use the other sex for well, sex? When we have a consumer culture that depends upon using and abusing other creatures without respect or even a second thought, when it becomes normalized, we cannot then lie to ourselves and think we can behave morally to our fellow human beings.

If we cannot extend our compassion to animals, the cuddliest, cutest, easiest to love creatures on the planet, how can we think we can care about other people (who have flaws, can mess up our lives, and suffer from foot-in-mouth disease)?

racism-is-speciesism-is-sexismHuman beings have an unfortunate history of always needing to subordinate a portion of the population. The early history of the U.S. only awarded rights to white males. African Americans and females were not considered equal. Today of course, it is unacceptable in society to treat someone unjustly based upon their gender or skin color. Of course, just because it is frowned upon doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still happen. It is my personal opinion that as long as we can still rationalize and justify cruelty to animals, then we will always have unequal mistreatment of others who we don’t view as equal to ourselves. We cannot fully empathize with the plight of our fellow humans if we need to numb our feelings in order to ignore that the meat on our plate was once a living animal. We have been so conditioned to turn away when we see pictures of factory farms or videos of animal abuse, that it has become a habit. In the same way, we have developed a habit of turning away from injustice by instinct in our society.

Lastly, I want to talk about how our consumer culture has turned us into ego-centric beings.

me me meMarketing media for beauty products has ingrained in us an unhealthy focus on looks. It’s the aim of the industry to have a consumer population who all possess a poor body image because then more opportunities to push products exist. It’s supply and demand, and the smartest companies know that if there is no demand, you create one…and then of course you create the solution! I’m not even a business major and I am aware of how industries operate! Our culture has normalized pursuit of our own happiness above all else. It is in favor of free market society to have us believe that we are entitled to be happy¬†and there is a product or service out there that will give us happiness.

When we go around all day focused on how we look, on our perceived flaws and imperfections, searching for something to make us thinner, wealthier, prettier,¬†happier…We lose sight of the fact that there is more to life than just how we look. Actually, there is more to life than just ourselves, period. We all need to take a step back and realize the bigger picture and problems of the world. My existence actually matters very little in the context of the planet.

Our focus on ourselves as the most important thing in life has also led to the pleasure trap…and I am not just talking about Douglas Lisle’s book (The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness). But the rational that our own desires and taste buds are more important than an animal’s life…or the belief that life is short, so I should eat this burger because I am going to die anyway. Yes, you want to be happy…but when you believe that, you put the focus on yourself and your pleasure. Are you really more important than other creatures?

If human beings suddenly went extinct tomorrow, all other creatures on the planet would benefit. If bees (or any other species really) went extinct, human life as we know it would be radically different or even impossible. For example, if bees continue their disappearance, the produce section of the grocery store would be practically empty. We’d all have to live on Twinkies until we died! (Hyperbole??? Maybe not…)

vegan sidekick I wantI urge you to take the blinders off! There is a reason some stereotypes about vegans are actually true! Going vegan for ethical reasons (and I argue that most long-term vegans are ethical vegans) forces you to focus on something other than yourself. Going vegan opens your eyes to the bigger picture. You uncover the cruelty of the meat and dairy industry and you can feel the pain of the animals. You can understand how environmental destruction, water waste, world hunger, climate change, pollution, corporate greed, violence, disease, are all related to the consumption of animals. When you realize this, you become a passionate champion of veganism. Yes, you want to speak up and let everyone else know what is happening! When you stop eating animals, you also stop being a drone to society. Suddenly, you are not blind anymore. You are no longer happy to continue buying into societal norms. You have the energy and mental clarity to think about more than just yourself. You are awake!

In conclusion, the beauty industry and western consumer culture in general, has normalized egocentric behavior. We see this in people’s pursuit of good looks, success, and happiness at all costs. Everyone has become so focused on themselves, that they don’t ever step back to wonder if our perceived problems, such as the objectification of women, or unrealistic body ideals, are actually the problem or if there is a deeper, more sinister evil that we should be fighting. Equality, and respect for every creature’s right to life on this planet.

I am not the most important thing.

Cowspiracy Pt. 2: People and Planet, or Profits?

cowspiracy pt 2

Here’s the truth: Consumption of animal products is unsustainable.

But, but, but…grass fed, free range, small family-owned farms…

Nope. None of it. The addition of sustainable, by any term, to a package of meat or dairy is simply a marketing ploy. People want to feel good about themselves, they don’t want to feel guilty. Especially if they, like most people, consider themselves to be ‘conscious’ or ‘ethical’ consumers. The industry knows this and so with the use of clever packaging and romantic farm animal pictures, they continue to sell you cruelty and line their pockets with your dollars (the only part of the process that’s green).

Factory farming is the worst of the worst in terms of sustainability and animal cruelty. 98% of the meat, milk, and eggs sold in America comes from animals raised on factory farms (CAFOs).**** CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations) are animal hell. Cows are packed by the thousands into small caged lots, they are not allowed to move around (so as not to burn calories and get fat as fast as possible), they spend their days eating corn and defecating and urinating where they stand. Cows are the worst producers of methane via belches and farts. Methane is a greenhouse gas 21x more powerful than carbon dioxide* and stays in the ozone longer than CO2.

“Trying to regulate climate change without touching the meat industry is like trying to curb the obesity crisis without confronting, well, the meat industry.” -Neal Barnard, M.D.*

Cows are forced to eat corn, which is not their natural diet of grass. This results in e.Coli (see¬†Food, Inc.). Cows are kept alive on a cocktail of antibiotics to keep infections and disease at bay, resulting in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”, they are also injected with hormones to grow bigger, faster. A single bite of beef¬† contains: hormones, antibiotics, bacteria, and feces. There are only 60 major meat packing corporations in the ¬†U.S. who slaughter and produce 26 billion pounds of beef annually so every hamburger you eat contains parts from hundreds of different cows (many of them sick and diseased) all ground together.

For dairy cows, the suffering might be considered worse because they have to endure it longer as well as have baby after baby ripped away from them during their lifetime. First, consuming cow’s milk is highly unnatural. Cow’s milk is a fatty, hormonal secretion designed to grow a 65lb. calf to a 700lb. cow in a year. Cow’s milk contains huge quantities of the hormone estrogen because the mama cow was pregnant resulting in¬†yet another danger of consuming milk (Hello early puberty). People need to realize that dairy cows don’t naturally keep producing milk. Like humans, they lactate after pregnancy to feed their babies! In order to keep the cash cows pumping, the dairy industry artificially inseminates and manipulates cows to be continually pregnant and produce thousands of extra gallons of milk more than she regularly would! Over time, this increased strain results in the cows’ udders becoming painfully enlarged. Their udders drag on the ground and become infected (mastitis) due to fecal matter and bacteria contamination.*** When their udders are hooked to the machines that pump milk, the feces and blood from her sores also gets into the liquid. (Not to mention the hormones and antibiotics!)

When the dairy cow no longer produces milk, she is sent to be slaughtered for meat. All the babies she had in her lifetime were ripped from her within a day or two. If they were males, they were sold and slaughtered for veal, or raised and slaughtered for beef. If they were female, they met the same fate as their mothers.

Naturally cows live into their late teens or about 20 years. On a “sustainable” family farm, cows are slaughtered at 23 months. Dairy cows are killed after 4 years.

Pigs and poultry aren’t treated any better. Chickens are squashed together in tiny cages. Their beaks are often cut (very painfully) which can result in infections. Their feet get cut from standing on the wire caging and they might even smother to death because of overcrowding. They are forced to grow so large so fast that their legs aren’t strong enough to hold them up when they near their peak weight. Meet-breed chickens are slaughtered at 42 days old. Egg-breed chickens are slaughtered at 18-20 months. We’ve all seen the footage of male baby chicks being ground up alive…they are useless to egg producers and get turned into chicken nuggets.

vegansidekick free range chickens

Follow Vegan Side Kick on Instagram! http://www.instagram.com/vegansidekick

The pigs…we can’t even do it the justice of¬†calling¬†the meat “pig” we have to call it pork, ham, bacon…they are fattened and slaughtered at just 7 months. Naturally, a pig can live over a decade. Pigs are intelligent, playful, and many people keep them as companion animals (pets)…I want to rescue one myself as soon as I am able to. When a female pig gives birth, her babies aren’t even allowed to suckle next to her….she’s in a cage and they reach her through the wire.

Globally, about 56 billion animals are slaughtered for food every year not including seafood (UN Food and Agriculture Org.). Every second, 1776 animals are killed.**

  • 15lbs. of grain= 1lb. of beef**
  • 3lbs. of grain= 1lb. of pork*

15 lbs. of grain could feed 10+ people for a day. 1 lb. of beef feeds four for dinner! Which sounds more economical and sustainable to you? There are 1 billion people who go hungry everyday on this planet. If we stopped planting 2/3 of our available agricultural land to crops that feed farm animals and instead redirected our resources to plant food for humans, we could feed 12-13 billion people.

82% of the world’s starving children live in countries where grain is grown to feed animals consumed by wealthier people.

As well, globally the meat and dairy industries use 1/3 of all the fresh water available in the world today! 1 in 6 people (1.1 billion) currently go without access to fresh drinking water.

“Ethical” Meat:

Does such a thing even exist? First, intentional slaughter of animals is an¬†example of¬†speciesism when we value some members of a species¬†above others. There is nothing ethical about slaughtering and eating cows, pigs, and chickens without batting an eye…”humane” death is still death. ‘Grass-fed’, ‘Family-owned’, ‘free-range’, ‘ethical’, are even¬†more¬†unsustainable than the cruel practices of factory farming.

All alternative methods of raising farm animals are more time intensive and resource intensive. All the environmental problems and health ills caused by conventional animal agriculture still occurs with alternative methods of meat production: waste of land, waste of water, production of greenhouse gases, and animal suffering (they are still slaughtered). “Beef per pound still has an extremely unsustainable carbon footprint and uses an inordinate amount of water. No ethical meat will be good for the environment.”*****

Breeding and raising animals only to kill them and end their life prematurely is still morally wrong.

For the final nail in the coffin: ethical meat is¬†expensive.¬†If the govt. stopped subsidizing the grain we feed to the animals then conventional meat and dairy prices would skyrocket. Suddenly, the argument that a vegan diet is expensive doesn’t seem to hold water.

Conclusion:

  • Factory farmed animal products are the result of suffering and only persist due to consumer demand (misinformed or uneducated) and profitability.
  • Meat is artificially cheap. Where has our moral code gone if we have forgotten that all life is priceless?
  • Ethical meat is an unsustainable ideal that is still environmentally destructive and morally wrong.
  • Go vegan. You’ll be happier living in alignment with your values.

Sources:

*¬†Barnard, Neal, M.D.¬†Huffington Post Green Blog, “Cows–Not Coal–Are the Real Climate Change Culprits”, updated August 25, 2014.

**Moby.¬†Huffington Post The World Post, “Save the Humans“, updated Sept. 30, 2014.

***Pierre, John.¬†Mind Body Green,¬†The Sour Facts About Milk: What Every Parent Needs to Know“, Sept. 19, 2013.

****Doane, Beth.¬†Living Green Magazine,¬†How Cows Kill Rainforests: The Flip-Side of An All-Beef Patty“, Feb. 07, 2013.

*****Chituc, Vlad.¬†TIME blog, “The Case Against Eating Ethically-Raised Meat“, Oct. 2, 2014.

I don’t support the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Here’s why:

The ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease) Ice Bucket challenge has been sweeping the nation. Amid all the hubbub and celebrity media it’s easy to forget exactly why people began doing this in the first place! According to the ALSA website, “The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness.¬† People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or do both.” Why the ice bucket challenge? Some theories are that the sudden shock of the ice water hitting your body causes you to freeze and is analogous to the paralysis of muscles and weakness that someone suffering ALS feels as the disease continues to degenerate nerves that control voluntary movements. The challenge has raised more than $50 million for the ALS Association, to be spent on research….well, maybe.

ALSA Ice Bucket Challenge critic

Source: Photo and stats from Health Impact News Daily “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Do You Know What You Are Supporting?” Editor, Aug. 24, 2014

Health Impact News Daily “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Do You Know What You Are Supporting?”

How & What does the ALS Foundation research?

Stem cell research:¬†“The ALS Association primarily funds adult stem cell research. ¬†Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)” (The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, “The FAQS: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”¬†requote of spokeswoman from ALSA).¬†

stem cell research

Source cited: American Medical Association “Basics of Stem Cell Research” 2014

Scientists are optimistic about using stem cells because stem cells can be cultivated to become any type of tissue in the body, theoretically opening doors for endless experimentation and opportunity without needing actual test subjects, be they animal or human. Adult stem cells are already used in the medical field today for life-saving procedures such as stem cell- transplants. While they may be a valuable resource, the ethics of obtaining stem cells is in question. Human embryonic stem cells are derived from pre-implantation embryos, mostly spare embryos from in vitro fertilization.There is also the creation of embryos specifically for obtaining cells for research, through a process called “therapeutic cloning” (Oxford Journals, Human Reproduction “Human embryonic stem cells: research, ethics, and policy” For this reason, many Christians have abstained from taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.¬†

Laboratory testing on animals:¬†From the ALSA website, “Important lab models in ALS include cells, worms, flies, fish, mice, and rats. No model is a perfect representation of the human disease, but each model offers advantages for studying some aspect of it.” Animal testing is completely unnecessary as animal models do not make good human models. From the American Anti- Vivisection Society, “Problems with Animal Research”:¬†“The claim that animals are necessary for biomedical research is unsupported by the scientific literature[1]. Instead, there is growing awareness of the limitations of animal research and its inability to make reliable predictions about human health.”¬†

Pamela Andersen recently rejected the Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday and posted this to Facebook:

pamela andersen rejects ice bucket challenge

HuffPost Entertainment, “Pamela Andersen Rejects Ice Bucket Challenge Because of ALS Animal Testing History” Aug. 22, 2014.

“Pamela Andersen Rejects Ice Bucket Challenge Because of ALS Animal Testing History”

Conflict of Interest: Follow the money

The ALSA research and clinical trials focus on drug therapy to combat the disease, read more on their website: “Learn About ALS Research- Clinical Trials”. The pharmaceutical industry funds research for drug cures, which is the¬†widely accepted route to finding a “cure” in the scientific and medical community. The global pharmaceutical industry is worth US$300 billion dollars, when an organization receives federal grants for research, they are not going to recommend alternative therapies or nutritional treatment. The organization is going to fund drug trials and research to keep their govt. granters happy. The same goes for grants received from college research hospitals, etc.¬†

(T. Colin Campbell does a great job detailing how money has led to corruption in the scientific and medical field in his book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition). 

The Challenge= Irresponsible Water Waste

Lastly, the challenge is a waste of fresh, clean drinking water. There is currently a drought in California, not to mention the millions of people who die world-wide from diseases related to unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation ūüė¶

Summary: My Thoughts

I understand that there needs to be awareness brought to sufferers of ANY disease. However, this particular challenge does not sit well with me, and I am not the only one criticizing it. I hope that by reading this people might rethink the challenge, whose importance has been blown out of proportion by the social media, entertainment media, and celebrity acceptance. There are other ways to show your awareness of the disease and help find a cure. Spread the healthy nutrition message. There are alternative therapies to ALS out there, including diet related treatments. Drugs aren’t the only way, and the ALSA is not the only route through which to find a cure.¬†

I hope everyone today can find a way to be a little healthier and happier! Continue to educate yourself to learn, grow and be the best person you can be on this day ūüôā