Graceful Affirmation

To be honest, thesaurus.com was my friend for the title of this post. I wanted something other than Gratitude, because I’m sure I have a post with that title already.

Right now, across the United States, gratitude is everywhere. If you’ve walked past or into a grocery store, it’s there, maniacally staring you down. Thanksgiving is just another day (that leads into a feverish weekend) for companies to maximize profits. Said companies are grateful for Thanksgiving’s creation of Black Friday.

There’s a point to this post, I promise.

The very notion of Thanksgiving (as a US holiday) has always been lost on me. First, I am not American. Even after living in the States most of my life, the concept of devoting one lone day to giving thanks baffles me. Second, the fact kids are still taught a warped version of the roots of this “holiday” is annoying. Third, Thanksgiving probably wouldn’t exist if Puritanical colonists fled England because they wanted to seperate from the Church of England.

I’m going to ask questions that, I’m sure, hundreds of thousands (if not more) of US residents ask every year:
Why not give thanks every day?
Why market just one day and why have it lead into a day of unnecessary chaos?

Sure, I am grateful that I have worked jobs that result in having a Thursday off. There are far too many people who don’t get that luxury. (Thank you everyone who has to work on all Federal holidays! I see you.) I’m grateful that I’ve worked some jobs who have paid me to not work on Thanksgiving.

The thing is, I feel that a lot of people forget that daily gratitude is a wonderful act. And, I’m sure many of these people could afford to practice daily gratitude.

In every therapy experience I’ve had, gratitude is always something that is brought up. I’ve been told by each therapist that one of my strengths is my ability to be open with my gratitude. My parents instilled manners in my brother and I when we were very young, and I am so grateful they did. My maternal grandparents embodied gratitude and grace, which (I like to think) rubbed off on me. I say “thank you” without thinking all the time.

My journey with depression started when I was about 12. That’s when I started menstrating. The root of my depression is biochemical, and there are multiple ways I manage it. With a special blend of Lexapro, writing, yoga, reading, walking, lots of veggies, a high quality multivitamin, extra magnesium, and making daily mental list of what I am grateful for, I am able to feel not so lousy most days. Some days, the depression is the only thing I can focus on. But, recently, those days are few and far between. On those days, I struggle to find anything that fosters a sense of gratitude. At the end of the day, I make myself write down three things. The list often looks something like this:

  • I am grateful for time spent with Miss Cleo. (She is my roommate’s cat, and she’s loves me.)
  • I am grateful for my legs. They allow me to move freely.
  • I am grateful for parents who care about me.

Three simple things, right? With a list like this, I am genuinely honoring myself, as well as positive people in my life.

During my 37 and a bit years on this planet, I’ve finally accepted the fact that is incredibly important to honor myself everyday, even if I feel like complete sh*t. Dwelling in the depression isn’t healthy. Saying, “hey depression, I see you, however, I love myself,” allows for a healthy(ish) mindset. Being grateful to be alive is a simple way of reminding myself that today is one day. I might lounge around and not do much. I might muster up enough energy to do one load of laundry. I might walk the perimeter of the apartment complex. The most important of those things is recognizing my emotional state and thanking myself for getting through another day.

So, here’s my hope for everyone as the year comes to an end:
May we all continue to learn the value of gratitude. May we all take a moment each day to take a deep breath and be grateful for something, no matter how tiny or enormous. May we give thanks every day.

Vegan Living 101: Personal Transformation

After deciding to do pieces on vegan living, my mother and I embarked on a weight loss journey. It is The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomory. So far, it has proved to be quite reasonable. I’m on day eight (of 28), and have lost about two or three pounds. Where I see it the most is around my chin and midsection. The most important factor is that I’m not required to forgo my quest for personal veganism. This diet is suitable for most people searching for optimal health. It’s broken into three phases per week and done for a total of four weeks. We are to eat five times a day: 3 meals & 2 snacks.

On Phase 1, we are supposed to load up on healthy, wholesome carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa, brown rice and sprouted grains. Included in that is a lot of fruit. And, throughout the entire process, there is a focus on unlimited vegetables. Protein is included in two of the meals, and as a veg*n, I have to rely on lentils & legumes. These are the easiest two days for me, as I love me some grains and lentils.

Phase 2 is somewhat difficult for me, as it is protein heavy. The author (who has a BA in Animal Science & is a trained nutritionist) wants people to avoid soy for 28 days. She makes an exception for vegans on these two days, because she knows that a lot of natural vegan protein is somewhat fibre/carbohydrate dense. We are allowed edamame, tempeh, and tofu. I hate tofu, so that’s a no go. Frankly, tempeh isn’t my favorite. And edamame? That gets boring very quick. I have a couple vegan protein powders that are similar to the ones the author sells on her website. The ones I’ve found are half the price, so that helps. These two consecutive days are difficult because eating vegetables all day long can get a bit tedious. Also, drinking a protein shake that’s made with water instead of the unsweetened almond milk I usually use is not as delightful.

Phase 3 has a focus on healthy fats, such as olive & coconut oils, raw nuts & seeds, and nut butters. Again, this isn’t difficult for me. I love cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut milk, hummus… The list is endless. There is less of a focus on protein & carbohydrates, however, we start the day with a grain, have a couple pieces of fruit throughout the day, and can have an optional grain in the evening. But, frankly, I am usually pretty satisfied by the end of the day. I’d happily have a huge salad with some lentils or kidney beans topped with olive oil & lemon juice.

But, I have three more weeks, and I am doing this for the good of my body. I hope that this can train me to eat in a much more mindful and wholesome way. The logic makes sense, and a lot of what I am reading is stuff I have heard before from nutritionists and fitness buffs. It’s the practice that is the hardest. And, our bodies usually need at least four weeks to truly start to adjust to changes we make.

I do hope that in 20 days, I’ll be able to have half a cup of the So Delicious Simply Strawberry Coconut Milk ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer & be happy with that half cup. I hope that my body adjusts to this change and I don’t have to be so regimented, while not worrying if I’ll put on all the weight I’ve dropped.

After I complete the 28 days, I might do one more. After that, I plan on eating mindfully for 4-6 weeks, then doing a week of this, just to keep my body in check. She likens this process to cross training. This allows us to get our bodies out of a rut and get our organs working a bit better than they were. [Just a side note, I feel that this diet really should be called an internal reset, or spring cleaning for one’s health.]

Ms. Pomeroy does suggest we continue with the diet until we reach our goal weight (clothing shift, for me). After we attain our goal(s), we then maintain our metabolism & results be treating every day as it is Phase 3, but passing all allowed foods in each meal and snack. So, I could easily start the day with oatmeal & cinnamon, then have an apple & a protein shake made with almond milk as a snack. For lunch, I could have a salad filled with all the veggies & legumes I love, and for another snack I could have cucumber & cashews or some fruit. I could end my day with a wholesome meal, and feel full & happy. On days that I exercise, I’ll allow myself a tasty treat, such as my favorite ice cream. And, if I go out to eat with friends, I’ll do a Phase 2 day the next day. No one is perfect and maintaining health takes work.

I have been a fairly poor eater the last few years, not eating regularly and consistently skipping breakfast. And, I had a major relationship with Coke Zero. I still get cravings for it, but I’m happy without it. My main thing is running. I hate running with food in my stomach. This might force me to run early in the day. I’ll have an apple & almond butter half an hour before I run, then eat some oatmeal after I’m finished. This is definitely something that I feel will get my metabolism on the right track.

Anyway, I do hope I find success. I am just glad that this has pushed me head on into changing my lifestyle to be vegan. My diet has been completely vegan for 8 days. I love the way I feel, and after I get through the next three weeks, I will start putting more focus on lifestyle changes.