How My Vacation Helped Me Go Vegan

By Megan Vick

 

Not that long ago, I was a voracious meat-eater. I would eat burgers, steaks, duck, chicken, turkey, and good ol’ fashioned NC pulled pork BBQ. In 2010, I started playing with the idea of not eating meat, but at least once a week, I fell off the wagon.

It took me nearly a year to cut meat out of my diet. Without detailing the ups and downs of my transition, the documentary Forks Over Knives solidified my desire to remove meat and dairy from my life. I had already cut out animal ingredients in my skin care products, but for some reason, my brain never truly made the connection between animals and food until I saw Forks Over Knives.

 

Forbidden City

In November of 2012, I was lucky enough to take a wonderful eight day vacation to Beijing, China. My parents, husband, and I took a guided tour and saw the Great Wall, the Lama Buddhist Temple, the Forbidden City, and many other historical and cultural sites in Beijing. Luckily, the tour company provided vegetarian meals for those who requested them. Not only was it incredibly easy, but because the Chinese done usually cook with dairy products, I got to be dairy and meat free for a whole week. While eggs are a common staple in Chinese cooking, it was very easy to opt out of the egg dishes and still be beyond satisfied.

 

While I was in China, I realized I had never felt better. I thought it was the allure of being in an exotic, foreign destination, but looking back, it was because I didn’t have meat and dairy polluting my body’s systems. Upon returning to the States, especially in the South, I noticed how dairy is nearly inescapable. After a week of not having dairy, particularly cheese, my body rejected it completely when I tried to eat it. I then realized that my wonderful vacation was my catalyst into veganism. For several years, I had struggled with the inability to cut out dairy because of my own weakness (and my love queso dip…). After my vacation, I realized I was the only thing getting in the way of removing dairy from my diet.

 

I am still a work in progress. My transition to veganism is nowhere near complete, but as so many vegans have said, “Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t have.” This statement is beautiful, true, and I repeat it as an affirmation everyday. It doesn’t matter what label you put on yourself; the journey you’ll take to healthy eating is your own and I am here to support you!

 

Tell me about your path to a healthier you in the comments!

Megan

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How Fair Trade Coffee Helps Save the Elephants

By Megan Vick

 

You may have recently seen excerpts from Yao Ming’s tour in Africa for WildAid.  He went to several areas of Africa to see first-hand what illegal poaching is doing to our rare wildlife. Not only did he see what the rhino-horn trade does, he saw the toll it takes on the elephant population for the illegal ivory trade. As cruel and horrible as these actions against animals are, there is something you can do to help!

Yao Ming baby elephant

Why are Elephants Being Killed?

The short and simple answer is- for ivory. Although the trade of ivory was essentially banned in 1989, ivory is still a hot commodity in China and other parts of Asia as a way of designating status and wealth. Now, as China’s middle class has more discretionary income, ivory is highly sought after. In Beijing, ivory is said to be around $1,000 per pound. Elephant poaching is so severe, many wildlife experts fear for the survival of the species.

 

How is Coffee Going to Help?

What a great question! Short of throwing boiling hot coffee on to elephant poachers, it doesn’t seem that coffee is a likely accomplice in the protection of elephants. But it is! By purchasing fair trade coffee, you can help ensure the protection of the environment. One of the values of the Fair Trade Federation is to ensure their business practices are “cultivating environmental stewardship.” All decisions are made with the environment in mind and members of the FTF actively engage in sustainable practices.

Since coffee is an important crop in Africa, the farms can often encroach on elephant habitats, leaving them less room to roam, and avoid poachers. Buying certified fair trade coffee helps small farmers and co-ops make money fairly, supports their local economy, and encourages environment and animal protection and conservation.

 

What Can I Do?

Of course, you shouldn’t buy ivory. Ever. There are also many conservation organizations if you want to get involved. You can also boycott organizations using elephants, like circuses or fairs, or boycott zoos that don’t give elephants sufficient space.

One of the easiest things to do is to buy coffee with the Fair Trade Federation or Fair Trade USA logos on it. Of course, I encourage you to buy as many fair trade products as possible, but coffee seems reasonable enough. If you don’t drink coffee, share this with your friends who do! If no one you know drinks coffee, make sure you try our Vanilla Coffee Face Scrub, made with organic and fair trade coffee.

 

Elephant

5 Steps to Go Vegan

By Megan Vick

 

At the New Year, many people resolved to eat healthier, give up meat, dairy, caffeine, chocolate, or any number of vices. As many of us know, right around Valentine’s Day, all of that effort ends up being for naught. If you’re ready to make the commitment to your health and the environment, here are 5 easy tips to help you transition into veganism. This won’t happen overnight, so go at a comfortable pace with your transition.

 

Vegan

1) Don’t let “Vegan” stuff scare you!

Veganism is not a punishment, nor is it a fad diet. Veganism is a lifestyle choice where you choose to not consume any food product with animal ingredients. Some vegans go beyond their food choices and choose not to wear leather, silk, wool, or other fibers from an animal. Regardless of how strict you want to be with yourself, don’t let veganism scare you. It’s not about what you can’t have; it’s about all the new non-traditional options that await you! If you’ve resolved to cook more this year, try incorporating a vegan meal into your Meatless Monday routine. Or, you can seek out new restaurants in your area to try which may serve vegan options. The possibilities are limitless!

 

2) Start eating vegetarian meals

Eating vegetarian is easier than vegan, I’ll give you that. Slowly start to incorporate vegetarian meals into your dining habits. Don’t feel like you have to eat salads all the time either!  Enjoy your creamy alfredo pasta (with no meat) and you can always ask for substitutions! Frequently, restaurants will sub out meat for mushrooms as a main ingredient in dishes. Also, look for naturally vegan food like Mexican, Indian, Thai, and other Asian cuisines.

 

3) Use the fake stuff!

Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to use meat substitute products in your cooking. Try different brands, different vegan cheeses (we recommend Daiya), and use seitan, tofu, and tempeh to your heart’s content! It will help your body think it’s getting similar “comfort” foods when in fact, you’re eating better! We also recommend Gardein and Tofurky products. They are delicious, easy to cook, and most are completely vegan!

 

4) Cut out dairy from grocery shopping

When you feel comfortable eating more vegetarian foods, slowly remove the dairy products in your life and don’t purchase them again. Brands like So Delicious and Silk can give you a variety of plant-based milks (soy, almond, coconut), while Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Tofutti can provide you with all the cheese products you can think of! Earth Balance and Spectrum are great brands for butter and oil replacements. Love mayo? Not to worry: Follow Your Heart makes Veganaise and a vegan tartar sauce (for your vegan crabcakes, of course). And believe it or not, there are several excellent vegan yogurts and ice creams from So Delicious.

 

5) Check the blogs!

If you’re still struggling for ideas and recipes, check out 4 of our favorite vegan blogs/vegan cookbooks.

 

Oh She Glows has some amazing recipes for comfort foods that have been veganized. You’ll be inspired to cook the delicious things she makes! Kathy at Happy.Healthy.Life has great recipes for the working vegan including lots of ideas for take-to-work lunches. You definitely won’t be bored! Lindsay at Happy Herbivore makes delicious and nutritious food and is a favorite among vegans and aspiring vegans. Lastly, Chef Chloe, who famously became the first chef to win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars with vegan cupcakes. Her name is now synonymous with vegan desserts and yummyness.

 

How has your vegan experience gone? Tell us in the comments!

A Skin Care System for You

Clay Face Mask

Looking for an easy way to determine what your skin needs? First, have you figured out what kind of skin you have? Here is an easy breakdown for different types of skin:

Normal

  • Face Scrub: This will help with exfoliation. Depending on your preference, you can use the face scrub daily or less frequently.
  • Moisturizer: An everyday face cream will help lock in moisture all day.
  • Face Mask: Use a face mask weekly or twice per month to help draw toxins from the skin, reduce the appearance of blackheads, and give your skin a fresh, healthy glow.

Dry

  • Face Cleanser/Moisturizing Bar Soap: These will be less harsh on your skin while still cleaning it.
  • Day Cream: You’ll need a daytime moisturizer formulated for dry skin to help manage your dry areas.
  • Night Cream: A nice heavy night cream will help replenish your skin cells while you sleep. This will also make the day cream’s job easier when the two are used together.
  • Face Mask: Certain face masks formulated for dry skin will help remove toxins from the skin without leaving your skin dry and flaky.

Oily

  • Face Scrub: Oily skin needs constant exfoliation. Use a face scrub at least three times per week to remove excess oils.
  • Moisturizer: An everyday face cream for oily skin will help keep excess oil under control throughout the day.
  • Face Mask: Clay masks are great for oily skin, especially if French Green Clay is used. Clay masks will draw out oils and toxins from the skin leaving a smooth matte finish.

If your body has the same type of skin as your face, make sure you get a lotion, body scrub, and body butter (for dry skin) to thoroughly nourish your skin from head to toe!

 

 

By Megan Vick

How to Find the Right Skin Care Products

By Megan Vick

 

Finding the right skin care products can be overwhelming and exhausting. There are gazillions of products out there all claiming to do “this” or “that.” Most of these products, even ones touting how “natural” they are, are full of chemicals, alcohols, and creepy hidden chemicals used to de-ice planes (propylene glycol, anyone?).

So, what do you do to find out which product you need?

 

1) Don’t wear make up for 1 week

For some women, this is a sacrifice they cannot make. That’s okay. You should go a week without makeup because you will be able to see how your skin reacts to your surrounding environment throughout your normal routine. No, don’t even put on powder or bronzer or whatever you kids are calling it these days.

 

2) Eat Normally

Vegan Chocolate Chip cookiesDuring your week of not wearing make-up, eat like you usually do. If that means Starbucks for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch, and cocktails and chicken wings for dinner, then so be it. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that way of living, but hey, I don’t judge. By not wearing makeup, you can see how your body reacts to your diet. Whether your skin becomes oily, dry, or your break out in pimples, you’ll begin to learn about your skin.

 

 

 

 

3) Wash Your Face

But there is a catch! Spend at least one day (it’s best to do 2 days, like a weekend) and just wash your face with water. No soap, no detergents, no washes, no scrubs, no cleansers- NOTHING! When you hop out of the shower, you’ll be able to feel how your skin is naturally. Don’t put anything on your face or body after your shower. Don’t use moisturizer, or lotion, or serum, or toner, or cream. Just relax. Grab a book or put on your favorite movie and enjoy the day.

 

4) Take notes

This might seem weird and kind of corny, but if you’re way out of your comfort zone by not wearing make-up and not using products to wash your face, you may experience a whole new side of you. If you notice your skin drying out immediately after your shower, write it down. If you start to break out, or feel oily during your week, make a note of it. It’s important to do this so you can remember exactly how your face reacts throughout the week.

 

You might be asking, “Great, how will this help me?”

 

You will get to know your skin without anything on it and going about your daily life. You’ll need a moisturizer (at minimum) for your face, and a lotion for your body. Depending on the different reactions your skin shows, you may want to opt for a skin care system. A system can be as complex or as simple as you desire. Check out our post on which skin care system we recommend for the 3 main types of skin.