No More Cheating [my May health goal]

No More Cheating [my May health goal]

The concept of a “cheat day” is pretty common in the health and fitness world. As a personal trainer, I would typically recommend that clients follow an 80/20 rule [eating clean 80% of the time and loosening up the other 20%], which basically allowed some wiggle room in the diet for weekends or nights out or their kid’s birthday party. For many people, knowing they can have a “cheat meal” really helps them to maintain a healthier diet the rest of the week.

Not so for me.

Unfortunately, a cheat meal for me turns into a cheat day, then to cheat weekend, then a cheat week…and so on. Just when I get into a good system of not snacking after dinner, only having one drink a week, and no sugary candy, cheat day shows up and throws me off my game. So frustrating!

My food weaknesses are: sour gummy worms, spicy garlic wings, McDonald’s French fries, chips with queso, and ice cream [any kind or flavor will do]. For some reason, when “cheat day” rolls around, I convince myself that I must eat ALL of these things in one day. You would think it was my last meal on earth….

[Of course, I am doing this to myself.]

So, I have decided to get rid of the whole idea of “cheating.”

Last year I read the book, Four Pack Revolution, and in it Chael Sonnen talks about having a “reset meal” once a week [instead of a “cheat meal”]. The difference is really just in the name, but it helps psychologically. I’m not “cheating” on my diet and throwing all of my health goals out the window, but instead I’m “resetting” so I can re-focus on my goals.

We’ll see if this mind trick works.

🤞

Oh, but I WILL be having a small dessert on Mother’s Day [a mini chocolate raspberry tart that I intend to make for myself] and a slice of cake for my birthday [which I will also make because I love baking cakes, so happy birthday to me].

Oh wait, there’s more!

I’m also going to save movie candy for the movies ONLY. I have a real problem with eating family size bags of chewy, sugary, preferably sour candy. This started a decade ago when I was running 45 miles a week and putting in six hours of cardio at the gym on top of that…and gosh darn it, my body needed those carbs! [Well, truthfully, it needed healthy carbs, but back then I was nutritionally illiterate.] So today I am still struggling with that same bad habit I developed all those years ago.

That habit has got to go! 👋 Bub-bye!

So, I’ll save my bag of candy for when I go to the movie theater [which is very rare now that I have to drive 45 MINUTES TO THE NEAREST THEATER!!].

Sheesh…it’s going to be a long month…

Vamos al cine! 🍿 🎥

🍟 🍟 🍟

Karis

Quit Booze and Give My Kidney a Break [my April health goal]

Quit Booze and Give My Kidney a Break [my April health goal]

You may recall that I recently donated one of my kidneys, so for the month of April, I’m going to give my remaining kidney a break by cutting out alcohol and increasing my water intake.

First of all, I’m not a big drinker. I enjoy an occasional glass of wine in the evenings or a cocktail when I go out to eat, but I haven’t done any heavy drinking since before I had kids. That being said, I find it really easy to allow a one-drink-a-week lifestyle to slowly devolve into a one-drink-a-night lifestyle—which, for me, is unhealthy and kinda makes me feel like crap. So, I like to occasionally scale back my alcohol consumption. For April, my healthy goal will be to cut out alcohol AND to start each day with 8oz of water [before my cup of coffee or tea].

Last year, I went ten months without drinking anything other than water and it was a really great experience. I felt really hydrated and, quite frankly, just better in general. I felt less tired, had fewer headaches, basically no stomach issues at all, less bloating, and better skin. So, geez….why did I ever start drinking normal drinks again???

Well, just like food, drinking—whether it be a chai tea latte at a cafe with a friend, or a wine flight at a vineyard on date night, or tea at a friend’s house after dinner—is a social activity. And I’m a social person. Brett and I love putting the kids together and having a drink while playing video games or catching up on a tv show. And while I didn’t miss alcohol per se, I definitely missed the sense of community that sharing a drink provided.

On the flip side, drinking [especially late at night] always makes me want to eat junk food and typically makes me feel exhausted and puffy when I wake up the next morning [mercifully, I do not get hangovers]. And, now that I only have one kidney, I have to be much more careful about my alcohol intake.

Alcohol is hard on the body. Besides the carb intake, it puts an extra strain on the internal organs and my poor little kidney is already doing the job of two. So, I’m going to her a little break. [I should probably give her a name, and write a series of children’s books about my lone kidney, don’t you think?]

So, a month with less alcohol and more water will do me some good. And since Brett and I have an agreement to only drink together, then it will reduce both of our alcohol intake and save us some money to boot.

Anyone want to join me for an alcohol-free April?

🍷🍹🍸

Karis

Be a Yogi [my March health habit]

Be a Yogi [my March health habit]

As a personal trainer, I always love sharing the surprising fact that a person’s overall fitness is dependent on their flexibility. The vast majority of my clients over the years would have described themselves as “not very flexible,” so most did not appreciate this bit of news. But the most important thing about improving your fitness is working on your weaknesses. And, unfortunately, your weakness usually correlates with your least favorite part of the fitness triad.

What is the fitness triad, you ask?

Fitness is measured by three important elements: cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength/endurance, and flexibility [which I have personally entitled “the fitness triad”]. In my experience everyone has a preference for one of these three. Some people love cardio and can spend hours on a bike or a treadmill. Other people prefer lifting weights and building strength. And I’ve known many, many yogis who swear that the only thing they need is a mat. Even my fellow personal trainers over the years have had definite favorites [just like I do] BUT trainers know fitness is very much like a three-legged stool. You really need to have a balance of all three elements if you want to reach peak fitness.

[Common Fitness Myth: It is a common misconception that cardio is for weight loss and strength training is for body building and stretching is just to cool down at the end of a workout. Actually, cardio is for heart health – which is super important since more people die from heart disease (in the US) than any other cause. Weight training is important for strengthen muscles, increasing their size and endurance, but also to increase bone density. If you’re worried about osteoporosis, you could cut back on the milk and start lifting weights. And stretching is about keeping optimal range of motion in all of your joints so that you’ll always be able to bed over and tie your shoes. Exercise is less about looking good, and more about feeling good. It’s about having a body that is fully functional for as long as possible.]

So, to find your weakness, just ask yourself which of the three elements you like the least – and there you have it.

My Fitness Weakness

As for me, I’m a total cardio junkie. I have been since I first started working out eleven years ago. But, on my journey toward my own fitness, I learned that I had to also strengthen my body through weight training AND stretch my body to improve [or at least maintain] my flexibility. Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate all three; however, if I’m running short on time, or have an extra busy day, the one thing I will skip is stretching.

This is NO BUENO.

Check out my planner from a typical week…

On the right page, I put a list of “daily tasks” – things that I want to accomplish every day. As you can see, I’m pretty terrible at getting yoga in. Last year at this time I was doing 20-30 minutes of yoga every night before bed…and it was AMAZING! Besides the benefit to all my tight muscles, doing yoga in the evening prevented me from snacking on junk food or just sitting in front of the television. I miss it. But I am also [obviously] not working up the willpower to get it done in the evenings.

So, for March, I’m going to focus on re-cultivating my yoga habit. And I’m going to use some tips I got from Atomic Habits by James Clear [a great book and a quick read that I recommend if you need some practical help with making your goals happen].

One of my favorite tips that Clear shares in this book is that if I want to change my behavior, I must first change my beliefs – particularly, about myself. So, for instance, instead of thinking of myself as an inflexible, cardio-addict who wants to try to squeeze in yoga several times a week, I am going to think of myself as a yogi and do yoga because that’s what yogis do. [That’s why I titled this post “Be a Yogi” and not “Practice Yoga.” I really do want to BE a person who makes yoga a regular practice, so I that is my goal. It is not just the simple change of an action, it is the change of my identity.]

“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Here are the four tips Clear provides for changing habits and how I am using them to get my yoga habit back on track:

  1. Make it obvious. Clear recommends “habit stacking,” which is to add the new habit to a habit that you already have. So, I have been stacking my yoga habit on top of my exercise habit. I never miss a workout, so if I add yoga to my workout, then I should [theoretically] not miss yoga either.
  2. Make it attractive. I haven’t found a way to reward myself for a consistent yoga practice. Truthfully, I know how great regular yoga makes me feel and how good it is for my body, and that is reward enough. And I guess, in a way, my reward for getting yoga done is that I get go relax – my workouts are done for the day! [I love working out, but it is still hard work, and I am always relieved when I’m done.]
  3. Make it easy. I have moved my yoga mat and yoga blocks into the television room, so that they are very close by and a constant reminder that I need to do yoga. I have also changed my commitment from 20-30 minutes of yoga to “any amount will do” – so sometimes I only do 5 minutes, which is the shortest yoga workout available on the Peloton app.
  4. Make it satisfying. Every day when I practice yoga, I check it off my daily habit list and that is quite satisfying for my obsessive list-making inner organizer.

I recommend Atomic Habits if you haven’t read it – especially if there are habits you wish were part of your life: getting up early, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating more fruit and vegetables, reading more books, learning a new skill or improving a current skill, being more successful in your career, or in general, improving discipline.

There are always ways for me to improve myself. I, personally, want to be a flexible person, but I won’t get there without changing my habits.

So, there you have it. Yogi in a month.

🧘‍♀️ 🧘‍♂️ 🧘

Karis

Zero Waste: Laundry Detergent Sheets

Zero Waste: Laundry Detergent Sheets

Today is laundry day in my home. Years ago, laundry was ruling my life. There was always some laundry bin somewhere full of clothes that needed attention—either washing or sorting or folding or putting away. I got so sick of doing laundry every day that I decided I would only do laundry one day a week. Now, I take one day and focus only on laundry. I do all the washing, drying, sorting, folding and putting away once a week. It is heavenly. [I actually quite look forward to laundry day because it is the one household chore I can multitask while watching tv and I don’t have to do any other cleaning that day. Can I get an amen!?]

Recently, my laundry routine got an extra zero waste boost when I switched over to a more environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic jug of liquid laundry detergent.

Introducing: the laundry detergent sheet!

I absolutely LOVE these things. I just take half a sheet [or a full sheet for really dirty loads] and toss it in the drum and start the wash. They are better than traditional detergent in a lot of ways. First of all, they remove the need for plastic jugs, which I would guess are rarely cleaned and recycled. Secondly, they don’t contain unnecessary, unhealthy, or dangerous chemicals, which harm our health and the health of aquatic life and our shared water sources. And the rest of the reasons are for convenience: they don’t take up a whole shelf of the laundry room, they travel easily, they don’t spill or drip and get blue goo everywhere, they require no “guesstimation” regarding how much to use and prevent over usage.

[Buy them for yourself here, and read about the zero waste packaging, ingredient list, and FAQs.]

Seems like a no-brainer. Friendly for the planet, better for our health, and convenient to boot!

I buy them from Well Earth Goods [which is also where I buy my toothpaste tabs, stain sticks, dishwashing blocks, and a bunch of other zero waste goods]; however, you can find these detergent sheets lost of places now—even Amazon. BUT please don’t. I love Well Earth Goods because it is a small family run business located in Oregon and it’s the kind of business I like to support.

Please, please, PLEASE don’t just buy the cheapest option you can find [this advice goes for every single purchase]. There are many, many things to consider before buying. While it’s great to buy zero waste products, it is also now possible to support unethical and environmentally damaging companies who sell green products. The best choice is to support the companies that actually care about environmental issues – not those that are just jumping on the latest trend to make a buck.

That’s my two cents.

🤷‍♀️

Anyway, back to the detergent sheets.

You can buy scented detergent sheets, but I think that clean clothes should be void of any smell…not smell like they’ve been doused in Aunt Bonnie’s floral perfume. Plus I’ve been using unscented laundry detergent since I had babies because the chemicals that create that overpowering “spring rain” scent can lead to skin irritations and there is some concern about carcinogens.

To make things even more earth-friendly, I use a stain stick [which I once posted about at length here],

…and wool dryer balls, which were the first zero waste gift I ever received after starting this journey [Thanks, Michelle!]

I just keep these balls permanently in my dryer, so that every load comes out nice and fluffy.

[Side note: I’ve heard complaints about static with the dryer balls as opposed to dryer sheets, but static is more about the materials you are drying. Synthetic fibers cause more static in the dryer. My family and I don’t have that problem because we avoid synthetic fibers – which I also recommend everyone do for the sake of Mother Earth and personal health. But that’s a post for another day. 😁]

So, there you have it! A totally zero waste laundry routine.

🧺 🧺 🧺

Karis

No Added Sugar [and my family vacation recap]

No Added Sugar [and my family vacation recap]

This year, I’m considering setting a health-related goal for each month. I haven’t totally committed myself to this yet because…well, it would be tough. But I’ve been trying to tackle my COVID-induced bad habits for the past year with very little success. So I think having one new habit to focus on each month will be helpful.

Starting in January [or right now], I’m doing a month of no added sugar. I’ve actually done this before, many years ago, after reading Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub.

Last time, I was astounded by two things:

1. Sugar is in everything. I found it hiding everywhere – even the most savory of foods like breads, sauces, frozen dinners, peanut butter, chips, snacks, and nearly every other processed food.

“There are many shortcuts in life, but perhaps none that come free of consequences. Sugar is one of those things we have manipulated into giving us lots of shortcuts: to better taste, to more convenience, to ever-higher food industry profits. But at what costs? As the old saying goes, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

Eve O. Schaub, Year Of No Sugar

2. Going without added sugar for a period of time allowed me to really taste and enjoy the natural sugar found in produce like carrots and peppers.

So I’m doing it again. In particular, I’m hoping that this will help me break my late night candy-consumption habit.

🤞

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I didn’t start the first of January because my family took a vacation to Florida where we stayed in a private rented home with my parents and sister’s family. We enjoyed the sunshine, went to the park, walked through the zoo, and took our kids on the obligatory visit to Disney World.

Brett and I also had a really fun evening to ourselves in Orlando where we went to the Museum of Illusions, rode the Ferris wheel at ICON park, had dinner at the Sugar Factory, and then rode the world’s [almost] tallest swings.

Love him. ❤️

Anyway, my classes started for the spring semester the day after we got back home, so it’s right back to reality.

I hope you enjoy the long weekend and the MLK holiday [for those in the US]. I haven’t decided yet how we will celebrate it in my home, but it’s more than just a day off work/school. It’s a day to reflect on the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the continuing struggle for justice and equality for people of color. I’ll probably get some good books from the library and spend time talking to my kids about our responsibilities to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all people.

Several years ago, we got these excellent books from the library to read about Dr. King and the civil rights movement. I highly recommend them for anyone with kids.

Are you doing anything to celebrate?

❤️

Karis

I Donated My Kidney

I Donated My Kidney

In 2018, I read a story in my local paper about a man who needed a living kidney donor, and that’s when I knew I wanted to donate my kidney someday. I decided to wait until after I gave birth to my last baby, which I did in June of 2019, so in January of 2020, I volunteered to donate my kidney, naming the local man as my recipient.

After a lengthy delay thanks to COVID, I finally got all the testing done and was approved to donate in November 2020. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a match for the man from the newspaper, but I agreed to donate to anyone.

Then, just last month, a full year after I was approved to donate, I received a call that they had found me a match and wanted to have the procedure right away. So I got busy organizing childcare, pet care, and my own post-op care.

It turned out that I would be the start of a chain of donations that would allow several people [at least three at the time] to receive new kidneys.

Before the surgery.

The surgery ended up being pushed back once, but then on 11/30/2021, I underwent a nephrectomy and my left kidney was implanted into the recipient.

It is a privilege to be healthy enough to do this for someone and I’m grateful to the excellent transplant center nurses, surgeons, and medical team who took such great care of me.

After the surgery [I took this picture to show my husband that I was ok because he couldn’t see me right away after the procedure]

If you have any questions about living kidney donation, please feel free to ask! I will be posting with more detail about the process of donating and the recovery from donating in the future.

❤️

Karis

Simplifying Parenting [Part 3: Making Space for Childhood]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 3: Making Space for Childhood]

Last year, I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross, which is an excellent resource for parents who want to rid their family of all the excess so they can focus on what is really important for childhood.

“Children need time to become themselves – through play and social interaction. If you overwhelm a child with stuff – with choices and pseudochoices – before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: More!”

Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting

It is a common misconception that kids need a lot of toys, social activities, educational programs, and scheduled time in order to become caring, productive, functioning adults. But in reality, kids need less structure and less “stuff” so that they have the space and freedom to become themselves. Instead of filling their rooms with toys and their lives with activities, we should be creating a space that gives kids freedom to discover, to imagine, to create and to rest.

Freedom to Discover

Instead of handing our kids tablets, videos, and phone apps that are supposed to encourage kids to learn, all we have to do is plop them outside. They will do plenty of discovering on their own.

[It’s ironic to me that there is a children’s television program called Nature Cat by PBS, which teaches kids about nature…while they are sitting inside on the couch.]

One of our favorite ways to pass the time is to be outside. It’s great for grumpy babies, tantrum-throwing toddlers, “bored” kids, and even me. My kids have no trouble at all finding something to do outside. Of course, we do provide them with tools like bikes, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, tire swing, etc. But truthfully, most of their time is spent chasing butterflies, examining bugs, smelling flowers, climbing trees, and playing imaginary games that they created.

My kids in their favorite tree.

My childhood was filled with lots of time outside. I was apparently from one of the last generations whose parents kicked us out of the house when we were annoying rather than sitting us in front of a screen. [Of course, my parents didn’t have the screen option available…or they might have.]

Rain or shine, we go outside. Another great book about time outdoors is There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk.

I highly recommend this book for parents because in America we are often afraid to let kids play outside. Afraid of the weather. “It’s raining,” “Its too cold,” “Don’t get dirty!” – These have become our excuses that keep kids from jumping puddles, building snowmen, and making mud pies [which are some hallmarks of childhood]. Afraid of strangers. Afraid they will get hurt. Afraid of what trouble they might get into. While it’s important to keep kids safe, they don’t need stifling and they don’t need overly fearful parents keeping them from exploring their world. The benefits outweigh the risks [which are minimal].

“As a parent, a great way to support them is simply to spend a lot of time outside, ask open-ended questions, and encourage your child’s innate curiosity and willingness to investigate.”

Linda Åkeson McGurk

Being outside also ignites my children’s imaginations. They spend hours pretending to be superheroes or animals or monsters. The great outdoors gives them space to let their imaginations run wild.

Which brings us to the next important part of childhood…

Freedom to Imagine

In Simplicity Parenting, they recommend giving kids toys that encourage imagination and avoiding toys that already have the stories written. For instance, why give your child a doll that is already a Disney Princess when you can give him or her a doll that they can imagine to be anything? Open-ended toys are great for encouraging kids to use their imaginations.

Imaginative Play

My children love imaginative play. When they were younger, I actively participated with them, but now as they are older, they play together for hours. Though we haven’t exactly taken the advice of Simplicity Parenting [though, I wish we had, but o read the book after our home was already filled with Little People, Paw Patrol pups, and action figures], our children still love creating worlds and characters and stories around the toys they have.

[Simplifying kids’ toys will be my next post in the series, since – though I’m not an expert at much – I am an expert at paring down the toys in our home.]

Even my youngest, who just turned two and is just starting to talk, can sit for hours engaged in imaginative play.

Books

But my favorite way to cultivate my kids’ imagination is through reading books. I’ve been reading out loud to my kids since my oldest was 3-months-old. Even my youngest gets a story or two before bed – though she can barely sit still through Goodnight Moon.

For children, books are all about imagination. They allow them to imagine talking animals, magical fairies, unicorns and dragons. Books provide source material for children’s imaginations. It gives them the tools to see possibilities beyond their own limited experiences.

The Library

As minimalists, we don’t keep a lot of books, just the most cherished ones. For our reading, we go to the library once a week [sometimes more] and swap out books. I swear the library is the most underutilized resource in any community. We LOVE the library. Every week we have a whole new collection of books to read together. It’s like getting one of those subscription book boxes except free and we get at least thirty new books at each visit.

Please, use your library!

Reading Aloud

Brett and three of our kids, circa 2019

Since they were babies, I have been reading aloud to my kids before bed. As time has passed I have read increasingly more complex books to them – even some of my own childhood favorites like Mr. Poppers Penguins, Heidi, and The Chronicles of Narnia. My older kids are only 3, 5, and 6, but they are enthralled by these stories.

Don’t be afraid to read chapter books to your kids, even when they are very young. They will love it, and hopefully, a love of stories will translate into a love of reading – which it has for my 6-year-old daughter who reads 10+ chapter books a week.

My oldest, then 5, reading to her two younger siblings.

We love reading so much, we’ve dedicated an entire room in our house to it – our “reading room.”

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

J.K. Rowling

Freedom to Create

My three-year-old daughter’s drawing of me. She nailed it.

As I read recently in Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, creativity is so important – for us as adults, and for our children.

“There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and those who don’t.

Brené Brown

What we create is how we share ourselves with the world, and how we leave a mark on the world.

In our home, I cultivate creativity by giving the kids space to create without judgment. I provide different mediums [clay, paint, crayons, paper, tape, kids scissors – and also legos, magnet blocks, Knex, and other building tools] and no direction in order to create [We also likes structured crafts and building legos from the instructions – or “map” as my kids call it.] I also encourage them to write, act, sing and dance. It is truly remarkable what they come up with. My son made me a stand for my phone out of legos. My daughter made me a flower crown out of paper to wear.

Using things we found in nature to make art.

I’ve noticed with my kids that the more screen time they have, the less they are interested in engaging in these types of creative and imaginative activities. They are bored more easily and they are much more fussy.

Which brings me to another part of childhood that I try to protect in my home: rest.

Freedom to Rest

As a fitness professional, I know the importance of rest for the human body – but I’m not only talking about sleep at night. We all need regular down time. Time to relax and take it easy. Time to be alone. Time to have nothing to do and no where to be.

For my kids this translates into not over-scheduling them with activities, extracurriculars, and play dates. I start to stress out when we have something going on every day of the week, and that’s when I know that something needs to go. We simply can’t do it all. Even if other families do, we can’t. I cherish our time to sit down together at dinner and go for walks around our neighborhood and relax together with nothing to do. So I protect those times.

This is getting harder and harder to do as my kids grow up and have school sports and music lessons and other extracurriculars all pulling at their time and attention. I don’t know what it will look like in the future, but I do know that I want my kids to have the downtime that they need to recuperate and to discover themselves, without the pressure to always be a part of something else.

What I’ve found to be true for my kids is that the more stuff, the more screens, the more busy time, the less room there is for these important parts of childhood – curiosity, imagination, creativity, and rest. In our family, we intentionally keep our toys to a manageable quantity and our activities to a bare minimum – so that our kids have more time to “become themselves.”

❤️

Karis

Another Reason to Be Vegan [and possibly the most compelling yet]

Another Reason to Be Vegan [and possibly the most compelling yet]

If you’ve been imagining that the cow you are having for dinner lived something like the cows pictured above – you are wrong. While there are an extremely lucky 1% of animals who get to graze freely on beautiful fields, that is not even close to the story for 99% of animals that feed the human population, which are found on factory farms [according to USDA data released in 2019].

I’m sure many people choose veganism because they don’t want to eat animals, but until now, I was not one of them. I became a vegan last year because of the damage the meat industry is doing to the planet, and for health reasons, and because I feel like crap when I eat animal products. [You can read more about why I went vegan here.]

Don’t get me wrong – I struggle with all the usual ethical questions where animals are concerned: Should we keep elephants in zoo enclosures? Should we euthanize dogs with cancer? Should we flush the goldfish down the toilet? I am an animal lover. But since I didn’t believe that it was morally wrong to eat animals, I never bothered to ask what the moral implications are of eating meat, least of all when I was in the grocery store perusing shelf after shelf of it – all pink and processed and neatly wrapped and not at all resembling the actual animal it came from.

All that changed last month when I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, and was enlightened about what animal agriculture in America looks like today. As it turns out, eating animals is an extremely moral issue, not because it is wrong to eat animals, but because of the way in which animals are treated in the process.

Spoiler alert: It. Is. Horrifying.

Anyone with half a heart would be appalled at the circumstances in which 99% of the meat and dairy in this country are conceived, raised [if you can even call it that], and slaughtered.

Seriously, I had no idea [or maybe I had an idea, but chose not to think about it]. And I’m assuming since I was in the dark [or willfully ignorant], that other people are too.

Since finishing the book, I have been doing even more research about the meat industry and, let me tell you, it is all bad. I learned about the lies surrounding the “free-range” and “organic” meat and egg labels, the standard process of killing baby pigs by bashing them against the concrete floor and sending unwanted chicks into a grinding machine [macerator] while fully conscious, how we’ve genetically modified animals to grow so big they can barely walk and some can’t even reproduce naturally anymore, about abuse in the form of violent beatings, death during transport, inhumane living conditions, and even how this type of high yield farming produces pandemics like the one we have been experiencing for the past year.

As a consumer, I share in the responsibility for how animals are treated in order to serve the world’s ever-increasing demand for cheap meat. It’s true that animals are not humans, but it is without a doubt morally wrong to treat animals the way factory farming does. Animals should not be brought into this world only to suffer miserably while they are alive and then experience grotesque, painful and premature deaths.

Is eating meat worth that?

I personally don’t want any part in that system of abuse. Of course, I had already decided to be vegan, but now I feel even more compelled to educate people about meat production in America – or at the very least, to beg people to ask the hard question: Where did my meat come from?

If you bought meat or eggs or dairy from anywhere other than a farmer that you personally know, with animals you can actually see and pet and smell for god’s sake, then you have most likely paid for an animal’s suffering.

But don’t take my word for it. A quick internet search will tell you a lot about how meat is produced in America. Or pick up Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer, or watch the documentary by the same title that is based on his book. Or watch the twelve minute documentary Meet Your Meat on Youtube. If you make it through that video, I also recommend the 2018 documentary, Dominion, a full-length film clearly showing the ways humans abuse their power over the animal kingdom [warning: it is graphic]. If we eat meat and support the meat industry with our dollars [aka votes], we should know the reality of the system we are supporting.

[There are a lot of workers and companies represented in these films, and while they may bear some of the blame for our modern farming system, it is us as consumers who have demanded more and more meat at lower and lower prices while turning a blind eye to how that is accomplished – essentially forcing the hands of the industry that is trying to feed the world. So we all share that blame.]

Good rule of thumb for eating animals: visit the farm you are purchasing from and make sure that the animals look as well cared for as the ones in these photos. If you can’t do that, then you are more than likely eating morally compromising meat.

We used to go to a local farm to pick up eggs and produce and we could pet the goats and see the chickens wandering all around the farm and the hogs dosing happily in the sunshine. This is where I would buy my meat – of course, I’m vegan, so I’m not buying meat anyway. But ethical meat does exist. We just have to look harder for it, drive further for it, and pay more for it.

But it’s worth it.

Every time you eat you are casting a vote for the type of world you want, and we need more votes for the animals.

🐄 🐖 🐓

Karis

Don’t Quit Coffee Cold Turkey [and other tips from my first thirty days of drinking only water]

Don’t Quit Coffee Cold Turkey [and other tips from my first thirty days of drinking only water]

Well, I’m thirty days into my year of drinking only water and so far it’s been easier and harder than I expected [but mostly harder].

I’ll explain.

I started this whole thing in order to raise awareness about the 750+ million people without access to clean water and to improve my hydration and overall health. But, I have to be honest, I was totally unprepared for how this was going to affect my body.

I thought it would be easy because I only used to drink coffee in the mornings [every morning, but still] and an occasional cocktail or hard seltzer when we’re out [I’m a total health freak, don’t forget]. The rest of the time I drink water. No smoothies, no lattes, no soda. Ever. So, I figured this would be a piece of cake.

Not so, my friend.

I spent the first half of January in such bad pain that I couldn’t sleep without painkillers. [And folks, I never take pain meds. I birthed four babies without so much as a Tylenol.] It wasn’t until day seven that I could manage during the day without taking anything, and it was on day ten when I attempted to go to bed without ibuprofen…which turned out to be a big mistake. I was up all night thinking maybe I was dying [or had caught Covid] and I finally wisened up and looked into symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Lo and behold! There are a lot more negative side affects than just the little headaches I had anticipated.

So, my first tip is:

Tip #1: Don’t Quit Coffee Cold Turkey

To clarify, don’t quit caffeine cold turkey. If you drink the decaf stuff…more power to you.

Coffee was my only source of caffeine [other than occasional dark chocolate], so when I quit coffee all of a sudden, I experienced a range of miserable side affects.

The worse affect was painful full-body aches. The kind of aching you get when you have the flu, except I felt perfectly fine in every other way. It was such a low, dull pain deep in my bones [and everywhere else] that I could barely function. [Don’t worry – I’m a mom. I functioned anyway].

I also had headaches every day for a loooooong time. [In reality, it just felt like a long time because when you have a headache time really creeps by.] And they were the worst headaches I’ve ever experienced – but that’s not saying much because I rarely get headaches. [Like one a year, I’m not kidding.]

The other obvious and expected side affect of caffeine withdrawal was exhaustion. And I mean exhaustion. I felt like I was back in the first few weeks of pregnancy when I could barely get off the couch. Oh man, it was bad. Thankfully, that didn’t last as long, but it did last long enough for me to consider buying caffeine pills [I didn’t].

Other side affects that I did not experience are moodiness [okay, maybe a little, but can you blame me?!], nausea, trouble concentrating, and other flu-like symptoms like vomiting [thank goodness I was spared that experience].

So, take it from me, ease off the caffeine. This probably goes without saying, but withdrawal is no fun. I was only drinking maybe twenty ounces a day every day for the past eighteen months [since I gave birth to my last baby]. That was apparently plenty to become totally addicted to the stuff. Which leads me to my next tip…

Tip #2: Definitely Quit Caffeine

Caffeine in coffee may seem harmless, but if a substance has the ability to make me feel that miserable when I stop imbibing it, it’s probably not a good thing to consume on an every day basis. And I know people [from my 3AM UPS job] who practically lived on energy drinks.

This is no bueno.

I’m not saying that drinking coffee is bad for you [there are actually some benefits to drinking coffee], but drinking too much is definitely not a good idea.

How much is too much?

🤷‍♀️

[I think the recommended MAX in America is 400mg a day.]

For me, I will probably just switch to decaf after this year [if I drink it at all], because, honestly, I found something infinitely better than caffeine, which leads me to my third tip…

Tip #3: Generate Your Own Energy

Most people I know drink coffee or caffeinated drinks for the energy. That’s why I always dragged myself from my bed to the coffee maker first thing every morning, my eyes barely open, my kids whining for breakfast. “Mommy doesn’t function without coffee, kiddos.”

But, shocker, I actually do function without coffee! In fact, I have found a much more effective, longer-lasting and healthier alternative to the cup o’ joe and it’s called exercise!

Yeah, that’s right. A good ol’ heart-pumping, legs-moving, sweat-dripping workout session does way more for my energy levels than my coffee ever did. I wake up, workout, and feel great all day.

I don’t need to go into all the other benefits of daily exercise [trust me, they are plentiful], but working out in the morning is simply the best because it gives you a natural energy boost [and it gives you a really great psychological mood-boost when you’re workout is already done for the day, can I get an Amen?!?].

Speaking of starting your day off right, here’s another good tip…

Tip #4: Start Your Day with Water

First thing I do when I wake up is pee. [I think this is a universal thing.] So, the second thing I do is drink water. This has helped me to establish the habit of water in the morning [something that is new to me] and makes me feel a lot better.

Is there science to support drinking water first thing in the morning? I dunno. I’m just telling you that I feel much better now that I start my day with water – less groggy, less tired, more alert and ready for my day.

Also, I have a really big water intake goal, so I have to get started early if I have any hope of drinking enough water throughout my day.

And that brings me to my fifth tip…

Tip #5: Figure Out How Much Water You Need

There doesn’t seem to be an exact science for determining how much water an individual body needs; however, there are lots of opinions and good advice out there.

The old rule is eight 8-ounce glasses a day.

Then I learned that the correct amount is half an ounce per pound of body weight [during personal trainer certification studies], but it’s been expanded to a range of half to one ounce per pound of body weight. For me, that would mean 68-135 ounces of water a day. That seems like a really big range and it also doesn’t account for exercise, which would require more water.

In reality, I never paid much attention to the number of ounces. I always had a goal to drink two full 32oz bottles of water [I use my refillable gofiltr bottle]. But for this month, I went looking for a more specific number of ounces I could aim for each day. I put some info into a calculator that also asked me how much time I spend exercising each day and I got an answer of 102 ounces.

So I need to be drinking almost three and a half 32oz bottles of water.

The good news is, without drinking coffee and drinking water right away in the morning, I generally don’t have any trouble hitting that goal. The bad news is…well, see my final tip below:

Tip #6: Prepare to Pee A LOT

🚽

Yeah, I think that’s all that needs to be said on that subject.

In the beginning, I said that drinking only water was also easier than I expected. After only one month, I don’t crave coffee or cocktails or smoothies or anything else. I haven’t accidentally picked up a beverage other than water and taken a swig [as I was fearful I might in the beginning]. I think I’m actually quite happy with water. Who know? This may become a lifelong commitment.

Happy Hydrating!

💦💦💦

Karis

Only Drink Water for a Year [and other 2021 resolutions]

Only Drink Water for a Year [and other 2021 resolutions]

As we all know, 2020 was a crazy year due to Covid-19, so two of my top goals couldn’t happen [travel out of the country and run a marathon], but I’m choosing to focus on all the things I DID accomplish as a result of my resolutions last year…

I have been studying Spanish every day for 353 days on Duolingo, I switched to buying milk in glass bottles, I swapped my plastic dish brushes for sustainable [and beautiful] bamboo, I got a mealtime routine down for the family, I signed up [and was approved] for kidney donation, I volunteered 24+ hours at my local food bank, and I donated $20k to organizations that are helping vulnerable children all over the world, and I began sponsoring a third child through Plan International.

So resolution-wise, it was a pretty good year.

Since it doesn’t appear that Covid is going away anytime soon, I have decided to really scale back my resolution list this year. In 2021, I want to focus on my family, my health and my efforts to end the water crisis.

That’s it. Just three things.

Of course, I have sub points within each of those things…and maybe some bullet points under each sub point. [What can I say? I’m goal-oriented!]

My Family

First, Brett and I have decided to start spending intentional one-on-one time with each of our kids. Since we have four kids and they are all close in age, it’s easy to always group them altogether, or allow some siblings to receive more attention. All of that is totally normal, but I want each of my kids [especially want my middle kids who are quieter and more emotive] to have my undivided attention at times.

The plan is to take turns enjoying special one-on-one time with one kid a week. That’s as far as I’ve planned at the moment.

Second, I am going to dedicate more time to walking my dog. Our new yard is not fenced in so she doesn’t have the space or freedom she used to enjoy, so she really needs regular exercise – and I need to get out of the house every day, for my sanity’s sake.

Third, I want to improve the health of my family by switching to mostly vegan but 100% vegetarian meals in our home. I don’t eat animal products in part because I am thoroughly convinced that they are not good for us [at least not in the quantities we eat them] and because I believe that the morality of our current meat industry is sketchy at the very best. And I’ve come to realize that if I won’t eat meat because of health and ethical issues, then I certainly can’t feel good about feeding them to my kids.

Now don’t go off on me just yet. I will write about this internal [and external] struggle I’ve been dealing with in a post later on to fully explain myself.

[As a side note, I – with the help of Darin Olien’s book SuperLife – have convinced Brett to eat vegetarian/vegan. This is a HUGE win and required quite a bit of coaxing and maybe some bribing but really allows me to change the eating habits of our entire family now that he is on board.]

My Health

As a health and fitness fanatic, healthy goals are always on the list – usually things like improve flexibility and run a marathon. This year, I want to tackle healthy eating. I am generally a very healthy eater, and now I’m also a relatively new vegan; however, I still tend to be an emotional eater and a late night snacker [even tho I’m snacking on healthy foods, it’s still a bad habit]. These two things have to stop. So my first order of business is to get a handle on these bad eating habits.

Second, I’m going to do more research on healthy eating. I want to read several books on nutrition that have been on my list for a while and research controversial health topics like organic produce and current trending diets [keto anyone?]. I’m also going to be studying the ethics of what we eat. I spent the last few years realizing that what I spend my money on is a moral issue, and what clothing I wear is a moral issue, and what I put in the trash is a moral issue, and now I realize that what I eat also has moral and ethical implications.

Third, I’m not going to drink anything but water for one year. Truthfully, I don’t usually drink a whole lot of other beverages – just a few cups of coffee every morning and mimosas on holiday mornings and a glass of wine on the weekends and sparkling waters when visiting friends and an occasional cocktail on dates with Brett – so this should be a breeze.

😬

But I’m excited to see what it does to my health. After only a few days I can already tell that I am much more hydrated.

My reason for this water only year is not just for my health…which brings me to my last resolution for the year.

Ending the Water Crisis

One of the most impactful quotes I read last year was from Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save, which says:

“If you are paying for something to drink when safe drinking water comes out of the tap, you have money to spend on things you don’t really need.”

I wonder how many times in my life I said I couldn’t afford to give money to a cause, while freely spending money on beverages that I don’t need [and are bad for my health to boot!].

So, this year, I’m only drinking water. Not only that, I’m only drinking free water. This water bottle is basically my new best friend. And all the money I save will go to help fund water projects around the world for the 700+ million people who don’t have access to clean water [through Charity:Water].

I’m also going to be researching water waste and trying to waste less water in my home by changing some of my habits [cutting back the shower time, running the washers less, catching rainwater for watering plants, etc].

Assuming we don’t have a repeat of 2020, this list seems totally doable [I’m going to go knock on wood].

I hope you all set goals for the year or at least are putting last year behind you and looking ahead with positivity! [Just don’t watch the news…]

I’m a week late, but Happy New Year!

🥳🥳🥳

Karis