New Year’s Revolution 2015! Veganuary (Yes, it’s what it sounds like)!

try vegan this jan

I think there are some mixed reviews about the Veganuary campaign, whose goal is to get people to go vegan for the month of January. There are some, like Bite Size Vegan on YouTube who makes a good point against going vegan for the new year, and others, like Kerry McCarpet who argues that it’s a good idea. Click their names to be linked to their videos! Both are extremely intelligent vegans and I highly recommend their channels, which only works if you think I am at least moderately intelligent…I overflowed my oatmeal this morning (for the trillionth time), so I might not be as smart as I (try) to sound….

I will proceed to address three points: what the heck Veganuary¬†is, arguments for and against it, and my own POV (with a little freebie for one lucky-ish person ūüôā ). Prepare yourself fellow vegans and vegans-to-be!

What is Veganuary? 

“Try Vegan this January” is a month long pledge to avoid consuming animal products and go vegan. Of course, avoiding eating animals is not the entirety of what veganism is, but it is the biggest leap into veganism that one can take. You can sign up and pledge to go vegan on their website: www.veganuary.com. You can still pledge even if you are already vegan, and I urge you to do so! Movements are much more successful when they are supported by the masses, so if you are already vegan and think this doesn’t apply, think again! We need your voice! You don’t have to change a thing (if you don’t want to), just pledge.

veganuary pig

Their website provides a plethora of helpful resources for vegans-to-be and I’ve found it pretty interesting myself! I tried to put my self back into the head-space that I was in when I first went vegan, and I appreciate all the work that went into the site even more. Even 4 years ago (when I first attempted veganism, I failed the first time) compendiums of helpful resources like this did not exist on one website.

The¬†why¬†of veganism is addressed from multiple perspectives: health, environment, animals, and nutrition. You can search for recipes easily, either by cuisine, ingredients, or type of food like ‘pizza’ or ‘cookies’ to easily find lots of recipes in one place. I really love the¬†eating out¬†tab. It links you to handy ‘cuisine guides’ for Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, etc. For each cuisine there is information about what you can order as a vegan and certain things to look out for that you may not have ¬†known about. For example, new vegans might not think to ask about fish or oyster sauce in Chinese dishes because it is not as apparent as say, a hunk of meat or an egg in their dish. A word of caution, reading the cuisine guides will leave you salivating and craving the yummy vegan dishes they describe!

They also have a¬†products¬†tab under which they have everything from books, DVDs, clothes, food (tons of food), household products, pet products, cosmetics, medicine, etc. All neatly categorized for the new vegan to find anything they wish! For each product there is information about what it can be used for or how it’s beneficial, nutrition facts or ingredients (if applicable), and links to websites where you can purchase the item (like Amazon). It’s not all superfoods and junk either, it’s pretty good stuff!

There is a¬†vegan myths¬†tab, under which there are tons of helpful Q&A’s. One of which was what my brother desperately clung to as he was grasping for straws, and reasons to eat meat: #30 “What about all the problems facing humans in the world? Shouldn’t we worry about those first before we worry about animals?” The answer was more than thoughtful, a new vegan might not realize how eating vegan will indirectly help feed starving children.

Lastly, there is a¬†vegan people¬†and¬†news & blog¬†tab. Under the people tab, you can find examples of actors, athletes, activists, and regular ol’ people…YOU ARE NOT ALONE! The news tab keeps you entertained with interesting updates, articles, tips/guides and infographics. The website is interesting, helpful, and trust me you will learn something new, even if you think you are a ‘seasoned’ vegan. (Pun intended, can you tell I’m getting hungry?)

So, why might it be a bad idea? (But ultimately, it is a GOOD idea!)

vegan new year

The argument against it is that January is a time of New Year’s Resolutions, most of which fail…so why would this resolution be any different? Unfortunately, this is a time of fad diets and quick-fix weight-loss tricks, and some are worried that going vegan for January might get mixed up in that trend. I agree, it definitely could.

I am ambivalent about resolutions, like many I believe that waiting until the new year to make a change is silly, but that doesn’t mean that January is a bad time to make a change either! There is no good or bad time, everyday is a good day to set a goal, resolve yourself to make a change, or take a pledge! Don’t let the connotation of “New Year’s Resolution” scare you away from trying something new¬†at the beginning of a new year.

Ultimately, Veganuary is a good idea. Unlike other “awareness-raising” months which do only that, raise awareness, Veganuary provides individuals a call to action. It doesn’t make people feel powerless in the face of statistics, it emboldens them to¬†do¬†something! In the process of becoming vegan, the individual will learn information concerning animal cruelty and nutrition and will be better able to navigate ethical eating. (As it pertains to animals…farm worker justice is a whole different can of worms!) The website ensures that the individual has every opportunity for success by providing as many resources as possible.

Lastly, Veganuary is a good idea because even if some people decide to do it for weight-loss or as a cleanse, many more individuals will discover the health benefits of veganism and stick with it past the conclusion of January. I think that a lot of people in society have forgotten what it feels like to actually feel¬†good.¬†Even if the individual doesn’t embark upon the healthiest vegan diet and relies on processed vegan foods, eschewing animal products is often enough to reap dramatic health benefits if the individual was on the standard American diet beforehand.

My personal opinion….and a surprise for you!

veganuary 2015 resolutionI believe there are two hooks to veganism: some go vegan because they love animals a.k.a the ethical hook; others go “plant-based” for their health, athletic performance, or aesthetics a.k.a. the individual/health hook. In my opinion those who go plant-based for health fall into two camps. Some will stay plant-based and their abstention of animal products will not extend past their diet, these are also the people who partake in “cheat-meals” that contain animal products…they haven’t educated themselves beyond deciphering the nutrition label and haven’t peeled back the curtain of cruelty. They are merely concerned with how they look. I think there are very few who stay this way, these people usually fall off the vegan wagon because they always feel deprived.

The rest of the people who begin as plant-based will continue to educate themselves, watch documentaries and realize the ethics behind the vegan lifestyle. They may start off only concerned with how they look or feel, but they will stay vegan because they have seen the suffering of the animals raised for food or clothes, and they empathize. These people can feel the pain of the animals and can see how the effects of eating meat ripple outward in violence, poverty, environmental destruction and starvation. These people stay vegan not only because they feel good, but because they don’t feel deprived…they feel satiated both by the food and the knowledge that they are doing good for the planet.

All it takes is for the individual to simply give veganism a try. So in that sense, the more people who “try vegan this January”, the better!

2015-01-05 16.31.45And now…..Before you think my brother is all bad, he did get me a gigantic vegan cookbook for Christmas. So at least he tried to find a vegan thing for me, and I appreciate the thought! But I don’t cook, like ever. So I am pretty confident I will¬†never¬†use it, I haven’t even cracked it open yet. So I am giving it away, I will mail it to whomever I feel leaves the most detailed reason in the comments below, or emails me at sushitomismith@gmail.com with the reason why they would like this book! Whoever I feel wants/needs it the most based on their comment or email will receive it ūüôā

I just want to find it a good home ‚̧

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!

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… ūüė¶ or ūüôā ???