Never felt better…

Looking back over the past year, I realize that I’ve made quite a few drastic changes in my life. They’ve snuck up on my slowly, but cumulatively, they really amount to something nearing the realm of significant.

Let me go back a bit… my last new years resolution was to live "greener". This amounted to bringing my own bags when I shopped, buying more items in bulk, using less disposable and single serving items, recycling more, etc. Most of these were things I was already doing, but making a conscientious effort to make a difference gave me a new sense of empowerment and commitment.

I’ve tried to stick to my goals and have done an okay job of it. Probably better than I’d ever done before. I still frequently forget to take my bags with me to the store and will do the cost-benefit analysis before purchasing in bulk (eg, our body wash is MUCH more expensive to refill from the bulk container than to buy a new container… strange, right?), but all in all, I feel pretty good about my efforts. I know that every small change can make a big difference if we’re all heading towards a common goal.

Last summer, I started researching links between diet and impact on stress levels, and found some interesting information that recommended reducing refined carbs and going to more of a whole foods diet. I started reducing refined sugar and wheat products – mostly removing bread and crackers from my diet. It seemed to make a difference – stressful situations became more manageable and I felt really good.

Later in the summer, I stumbled upon The Cosmetics Database web page, which analyzes the chemicals and toxins used in beauty products and rates them based on how "bad" they are. I started thinking about the impact of these chemicals as they relate to the environment and my body, and decided it was time for a change. We started to switch over our shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and soaps – using up the remaining supply of what we had in the house and replenishing with all natural (or mostly natural) versions.

Just before Thanksgiving, I started to notice a small twinge in my left eye. Slight at first, it got increasingly worse as the weeks progressed, and progressed to the point where it was visible and just incredibly annoying. Six weeks in to the twitch, Ben made the correlation between my eye twitch and coffee consumption. It seemed to get much worse immediately after drinking coffee and tapered off as the coffee did. So, the next major change was cutting out coffee – which is HUGE for me. I’ve always been a coffee drinker. I LOVED coffee. It was a ritual for me. But I was willing to do anything for the eye twitch to stop, so I gave it up. It had an immediate impact on the twitch, but it also had another odd impact on me… it increased my energy and decreased my drowsiness during the day. I was waking up earlier without feeling sluggish and able to function off less sleep.

This is all leading up to my most recent decision… reducing my meat consumption. For anyone who’s known me more than 5 years, this is nothing new for me. I was a vegetarian off and on for about 10 years until about 5 or 6 years ago. My reasons were mostly health related – my brother and I both made the switch in 1994 after our grandfather passed away from heart problems. We both wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and keep our hearts as healthy as possible. He’s stuck with it this entire time and I stayed away from meet for quite a few years, until I started showing signs of anemia. Since I was doing it for health reasons, it seemed silly to me to solve one problem while creating another, and I started eating meat again. After a while, I figured out the balance that was needed to eat a vegetarian diet while still maintaining healthy protein & iron levels, and I went back… that is, until I developed an allergy to mushrooms. At that point (early 2000’s), it was really difficult to find vegetarian substitutes that weren’t mushroom derived. So, once again, I went back to meat. Since then, it’s been off and on for me… and so the story goes…

A few years ago, Ben & I made a rule that we wouldn’t eat meat at home. It was an easy way to reduce our intake without making a significant change in our lifestyle. One of the biggest things that I hated when I wasn’t eating meat was inconveniencing others and being the "difficult" one in a group. It may have been all self perceived, but I felt that way nonetheless. I hated being the odd one out – making any group food orders or dinners complicated. So this was a good compromise. We strayed from our rule in the past year, but decided at the start of the new year that we would go back to it.

This time, I’m taking it one step further for myself – exercising the dollar vote and making a conscious effort to not purchase any meat. This means restaurants, groceries, take out, lunches, etc. I recently pulled out my 1991 edition of Diet for a Small Planet and reaffirmed my belief in a vegetarian diet. Regardless of the reason, it just makes a whole lot more sense to me than a meat-centric diet. It’s a personal decision that helps me feel like I’m living a more socially responsible life… so if I show up with veggie burgers in tow, don’t be surprised :)

Heading back to work in the new year, a coworker introduced me to a book she’d read over the holiday break – "Skinny B*tch". A main theme of the book is removing toxins from your life to improve health. The authors advocate an organic vegan diet – discussing the toxins, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives and other unnatural chemicals that can be found in non-organic, non-vegan foods. They made quite a few good points that resonated with me. I’d made changes to reduce the chemicals I was putting on my skin and in the drain, but wasn’t addressing the chemicals I was putting in my body. Although a lot of the products I purchased were already organic, I hadn’t made any effort to change over to a fully organic diet (nor do I think I’ll ever be able to fully accomplish this). So I started switching that over as well – substituting organic items when possible.

So here we are… two months in to the new year and I can honestly say I’ve never felt better. It’s hard to say what the cause and effect of all of this is… there have been so many changes that it’s difficult to isolate which one has made the biggest impact on me, but at this point, I’m not willing to give up any of them. I’m feeling really good about what I’m putting in and on my body, and feel like I’m making a small difference in the world by embracing my social responsibility as a world citizen. That’s it for my soapbox – I just wanted to share. :)

Hope you all had a lovely valentine’s day and are enjoying the weekend!


3 Responses to “Never felt better…”

  1. 1 Laura February 17, 2009 at 9:37 AM

    As long as you are into the toxin thing and vegetarian foods… you may want to look into soy. Apparently, it is no longer that good for you. Something about the process it goes through or something. I suppose that organic soy probably is good still. I already have to stress over food due to our little allergic guy, so I have just put all the other stuff on the back burner. That is why I have not researched that yet. Some day we will eat better.

    • 2 suzyness February 17, 2009 at 11:47 AM

      That’s a great suggestion. I’ve actually really been trying to incorporate more whole foods (like beans and rice) rather than relying on the convienence foods in general. Plus I know a few people who have developed soy allergies after ingesting it too much, and given my history with developed food allergies, I should prob be careful!

  2. 3 ingrid March 1, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    That is so great Suzy! Our family has changed how we eat over the last few years, and our key change has been not buying meat from the store. We do eat meat, although have never been large consumers of it. We have a lot of beans and rice/barley around here. What we do is buy 1/2 a pig or 1/4 of a steer from farmer friends. We know that it is healthy, raised in small groups by a loving family, and that our money goes to support their farming and stewardship of the land. On the rare occasions that we do wish to eat meat, we pull our nice white packages out of the freezer and contemplate how to prepare a butt roast…
    But giving up coffee…. I don’ t think I could do it! I admire you though.

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Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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