Veganism

It’s Beautiful AND It’s Difficult

I have been identifying as a vegan for almost five years now. When I say identifying I qualify that by saying I do not eat vegan on my birthday and if I am at a location where eating vegan is not possible, I will still eat. As someone that studies eating disorders and maladaptive eating and weight control behaviors, the last thing I want to do is condone restrictive eating patterns just to keep dietary rules.

It is particularly important for me that people know that dietary restriction is not the point of veganism and that we need to listen to our bodies when they say we are hungry, regardless of what is available to us.

Putting that pedestal aside, I first became vegan for the environment, for the true belief that we have become a population crippled by our need to eat meat and animal products at every meal. We do not have enough space on the planet to sustain the number of animal products we are currently consuming, not to mention the environmental and animal cruelty effects of trying to do so. Living vegan has also been found to have several important positive health outcomes (Mann, 2014), including:

  • Increased fruit and vegetable intake
  • Decrease in cholesterol
  • A decrease in lipids (fat) intake
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased weight
  • Reduced risk of obesity
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of cancer

However, if veganism is not done right, it can be very dangerous. Despite the ease that you see on social media, beginning vegans should regularly see their doctors to check for the following complications:

  • Calcium deficiency
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Iron deficiency
  • B-12 deficiency
  • Extreme weight loss

The Lie

Those complications can be very serious if left untreated. It can be frustrating knowing these complications exist and seeing very few people that feel comfortable freely talking about how hard it is to be vegan. Every time I look on Instagram, or any other social media, I see people simply happy to be vegan – smiling, cooking, celebrating. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I am not happy as a vegan, but for me, veganism was a choice I made that has not been all sunshine and greatness. It is really hard, especially if you are used to eating meat or an animal product with every meal, to just change overnight and sustain that. It is hard to deal with comments from family and friends and from perceptions you know others hold of you, just by identifying as a plant-based person (Markowski & Roxburgh, 2019).

In my opinion, not talking about the trials doesn’t make people want to be vegan more, but makes people believe veganism is unachievable for them. It makes people believe it’s this exclusive and perfect group, with such high moral standing that only others that are the same deserve to even try to be a part of it. At least that’s how I feel at times, as a vegan, looking at other vegans.

As great as my body feels, as good as my sleep is, and as amazing as the health benefits have been, as well as the low environmental footprint, I still struggle a lot. This is not to deter people from being vegan, but to tell people that struggle IS a part of this journey and THAT’S OKAY! You can still struggle, and even fail, and get back on the vegan wagon!

The Research

Research has found that cheese (see Dr. Neal Barnard’s The Cheese Trap) has highly addictive qualities. Therefore, if you are an avid cheese consumer then you may have particular trouble kicking that part of the diet – AND THAT’S OKAY. Even moderate cheese consumers will likely have trouble.

Also, racial and ethnic minority populations (Pickett & McCoy, 2018) or those familiar with southern cuisines, have more access and familiarity with diets high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. There is evidence that stress increases our desire to consume foods high in fat, sugar, and carbs (Zellner et al., 2006). This means that in times of high stress we are more likely to crave foods that are not within our vegan diets – AND THAT’S OKAY. It is normal!

For example, eating soul food is more than just the food for Black populations. It is about community and relationships (Airhihenbuwa et al., 1996), and in times of high stress eating soul food with those that love you is a cultural way of coping. This means, for Black populations and other groups with similar coping styles, it may be hard to keep a vegan diet when stress arises. That does not mean that it is impossible! That does not mean there is no hope! It does mean that the trouble you may be having is not because you are weak or cannot do it, but due to systematic and scientific phenomena that outline why some times may be harder than others.

Being vegan IS great! Being vegan and Black is also great! Being vegan, Black, and in graduate school halfway across the country from my family is really really difficult. There are times when I fail, but there are more times when I am successful, and I rely on those positive experiences more than the negative ones to keep me going. I remind myself that those perfect people on social media are likely having trouble too. I remind myself of the science, and I remind myself that no matter what I am, vegan or not, my family and friends love me for exactly who I am – and that is what matters!

References

Airhihenbuwa, C. O., Kumanyika, S., Agurs, T. D., Lowe, A., Saunders, D., & Morssink, C. B. (1996). Cultural aspects of African American eating patterns. Ethnicity & Health, 1(3), 245–260. https://doi.org/10.1080/13557858.1996.9961793

Mann, S. (2014). More Than Just A Diet: An Inquiry Into Veganism. Anthropology Senior Theses. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/anthro_seniortheses/156

Markowski, K. L., & Roxburgh, S. (2019). “If I became a vegan, my family and friends would hate me:” Anticipating vegan stigma as a barrier to plant-based diets. Appetite, 135, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.12.040

Pickett, S., & McCoy, T. P. (2018). Effect of Psychosocial Factors on Eating Behaviors and BMI Among African American Women. Clinical Nursing Research, 27(8), 917–935. https://doi.org/10.1177/1054773817713420

Zellner, D. A., Loaiza, S., Gonzalez, Z., Pita, J., Morales, J., Pecora, D., & Wolf, A. (2006). Food selection changes under stress. Physiology & Behavior, 87(4), 789–793. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.01.014

Vegans at The Beach

I’ve always loved the beach more as an idea than in actual reality, and my latest trip to the beach has just solidified my belief. While I enjoyed having family and friends around, relaxing and having a good time, it was almost IMPOSSIBLE for me to eat vegan. We visited Outerbanks, NC, where it seemed like iceberg lettuce was the healthiest item on the menu. Needless to say I was sick most of the trip from the seafood or starve atmosphere, and I can’t be the only vegan out there struggling, so here’s what to know before you go or your loved ones and/or friends take your next vegan trip to a southern beach!

  1. Bring your staple items from home
    1. There is no guarantee that the grocery store near your favorite southern beach will have the plant-based items you are looking for, mostly based on the shoppers demographic. For this reason, be extra cautious and bring with you your favorite must-have foods/condiments.
  2. Grocery shop immediately
    1. This seems like a no-brainer and usual beach protocol, but we always forget something, just human nature, and the last thing you want to do is worry about nothing having something to make your tasty vegan meal or snack, so be sure to hit the grocery store as soon as you’ve put your bags down and groceries in the fridge. This way the rest of your stay will be comfortable and food-stress free!
  3. Bring pre-made meals
    1. Bringing a few pre-made meals will save you a lot of stress and stomach aches. Breakfast was not very difficult to accommodate for due to everyday vegan items like syrup, oatmeal, grits, pancake/waffle mixes, toast, fruit, etc. Lunch and dinner, however, a lot more difficult!
    2. You can choose to eat slightly before everyone leaves for the restaurant and just grab a drink and a side while you’re there, to still be a part of the experience. Or, if you’re feeling bold, you can pack your meal and take it right with you to the restaurant
  4. Research vegan friendly options in the area you plan to vacation
    1. This was my NUMBER ONE MISTAKE! I did not properly research my area before I arrived and ended up having to unhappily “cheat” a lot. I usually am very easy going about restaurant choices because I can typically modify or find a least one item on the menu, but boy was I wrong here. I thought the first time was a fluke, but after the second visit I began to know better and really menu surf before eating out!
  5. Lastly, Take a sigh of relief for desserts!!!
    1. I found lots of non-dairy ice cream options! Other desserts, not so much, but there were lots of sorbets and simple fruit-based dishes, so breathe easy because an ice cream trip with the fam does not have to be anxiety provoking!

Vegan Skincare For Oily/Acne-Prone Skin

So, I mentioned a while back that I had been struggling with an AWFUL bout of acne. I mean when I say awful, picture a little 12-year-old boy that just hit puberty. I mean, it was BAD! I tried all of the products below, but finally I had to go to a dermatologist to get everything under control. It turned out that since I had been having some gastric issues my face had begun to show. If you didn’t know, your face can show signs of gastric problems through acne, blemishes, etc. if you become sick or begin altering your diet in any way that may cause you to become malnourished.

Now, don’t get angry, I am a very healthy vegan and being malnourished was NOT my problem (the blood tests proved it)! When done right, being a vegan is the healthiest diet for a human being, and I highly HIGHLY recommend the transition!

I did, however, have to go on antibiotics for a bacterial infection that had arisen in my skin, due to my stomach problems, and have since been using behind the counter prescription medications to maintain my clear skin. Now, for me, my skin is just way too sensitive at the moment to go without medication. There is not currently anything vegan on the market that can contain my acne and give me continuously good skin, and as you’ll see I have tried A LOT of products. So for those of you that really struggle I would look to a dermatologist first to see if there are any underlying health issues. I would then look to use the below products to maintain clear skin once you have solved your core problems, if there are any. Hopefully, in the future there will be something vegan that can really get at the root of oily/acne-prone skin issues!

That being said, for those of you with moderate to very occasional acne, I say shop away! Consider my recommendations carefully and purchase as you wish! There are some really great alternatives out there for you! Keep in mind I am NOT a dermatologist, but just your everyday girl (adult really *rolls eyes*) with acne issues. Feel free to comment or e-mail with any questions and I hope this is helpful for all our vegan acne sufferers out there, regardless of skin-type!

Hylunia_3-Step Acne Treatment System
1) Hylunia 3-Step Acne Treatment System – $118

  1. This product is good for those with small breakouts every now and then. I had a face full of acne, everywhere from my forehead to my chin, and although this product helped some it was not effective in removing my acne. However, because it did at least help some I would recommend it for those who get a few pesky pimples at one time, and helping to get rid of and prevent those from occurring.

NOW Foods Solutions Dark Spot Serum
2) NOW Foods Solutions Dark Spot Serum – $15.99

2) This product is good for those with small breakouts every now and then. I had a face full of acne, everywhere from my forehead to my chin, and although this product helped some it was not effective in removing my acne. However, because it did at least help some I would recommend it for those who get a few pesky pimples at one time, and helping to get rid of and prevent those from occurring.

Derma E Wipes
3) Derma E Hydrating Facial Wipes with Hyaluronic Acid – 25 Wipes – $7.99

3) These wipes are a staple in my skincare routine. I use them every evening when I come home, to clean my face from all of the oils and dirt that have accumulated throughout the day. Because it does not contain oils it is the perfect purchase for someone who is incredibly oily like I am.

Acure Wipes
4) Acure Organics Argan Oil Cleansing Towelettes Fragrance Free – 30 Towelettes – $6.99

4) These wipes ended up making me break-out even more than I already had. Argan oil has a history of working well on acne and facial issues for many people, however, if you have oily skin like I do added extra oil to the mix does not help.

Derma E Eye Cream
5) Derma E Evenly Radiant Dark Circle Eye Crème – $29.95

5) While this product is quite expensive it works wonders under my eyes. As a graduate student with a full-time job and several internships, sleep is not regularly on my agenda. I used to have circles under my eyes that had begun to become discolored, but this crème was senstivie enough to not cause any irritation while also reversing the damage I’d done.

(Not Pictured) Derma E Hydrating Facial Treatment Oil with Organic Argan and Marula Oils – BAD

Terrible for oily skin! This was by far the worst decision I made to try and treat my acne. I have incredibly oily skin and by adding these oils to my daily routine I went from maybe 5 pesky pimples to a face that was so covered at times I looked swollen.

Tea Tree Breakout Blaster
7) Skin by Ann Webb Tea Tree Breakout Blaster – $8.09

7) I really loved this product. I used it before I had my large breakout and it was amazing at zapping zits overnight, and was great for during the day use. It helped to target acne that was arising through the dirt and oil that was accumulating during work and other daily activities.

Alaffia Facial Cleanser
8) Alaffia Skin Recovery Formulas Facial Cleanser Neem & Shea – $13.99

8) I purchased this product because it is specific to oily and acne-prone skin. It is by far the best product I have ever purchased. It is absolutely amazing for those with oily skin and is harsh enough without being overbearing, even in the winter months. I still use this product every day, and plan to continue with it as my staple face wash.

Charcoal Mask
9) Daiso Japan Natural Pack Charcoal Peel Off Mask (4 Tubes) -$19.99

9) Now everyone is talking about these charcoal peel masks, so I had to try them, and believe the hype! While seeing what’s pulled out of your skin is absolutely disgusting, it’s better than leaving it in there. I use this product twice a week, as not to over expose my face and it has helped tremendously!

Live Fresh Natural Blotting Papers
10) Live Fresh Natural Oil Absorbing Blotting Sheets – $5.99

10) These papers, while they only come one pack at a time are incredibly large. One sheet of LiveFresh is equal to two sheets of the Tarte blotting papers. These papers also leave the face with a nice matte finish, and feeling incredibly clean. These are prefered over the Tarte blotting papers, but the Bamboo Charcoal blotting papers are the most effective with the best value.

Pretie Blotting Papers
11) Pretie Asian Bamboo Charcoal Facial Blotting Paper (x2) – $10.85

11) These blotting papers, while not large do coem with two packs. I only ever need one sheet, which is amazing considering how oily my face is. Charcoal has an great effect on pores and skin, so having charcoal infused blotting papers helps tremendously.

Aztec Secret Face Mask
12) Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Deep Pore Cleansing – $14.42

12) This is by far the best face mask I have ever used in my whole life. It is salon quality and incredibly strong and useful for my above averagely oily skin. I only use this mask once a week, on Sundays to get any left over oils and dirt from the other 6 days of the week. I recommend this mask to anyone with incredibly oily and acne-prone skin, such as my own.

Queen Helene Face Mask
13) Queen Helene Facial Masque, Mint Julep – $6.38

13) This masque is great and really strong, but if you use it too much your skin will habituate to it and it will stop being effective. I suggest using this mask less or not at all, if you have a dire need for something to pull dirt and oils from your face.

tarte Blotting Papers
14) tarte Not So Slick Oil-Absorbing Blotting Papers – $4.99

14) These are great for your average oily skin. The absorption of these sheets is not as great as some of the others I’ve used. It’s not worth the money in my opinion, as I’ve found better cloths for a better price. The sheets are small and I have to use a minimum of two on my face to get all of the oil off at once. This can get quite pricey if you have a really oily face.

Desert Essence Oil Control Lotion
15) Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Oil Control Lotion – $9.47

15) This lotion is very effective, but has no SPF coverage. It works well, but for those who live in locations where the sun shines often this may not be the lotion for you. I prefer to use a lotion that also has a high SPF so that I don’t have to overly clog my pores by putting more products than necessary on my hair.

Papaya Enzyme Mask
16) Papaya Enzyme Mask – $47

16) I use this mask every day. It serves as my daily exfoliator. I will use this product after I wipe my face with my facial cleansing wipes. This product restores the skin and hydrates the skin in a way that leaves it nourished, but not oily and pores not clogged. I do plan to try other vegan exfoliators, so I will add those to this list as I experiment with what works best for me!

 

*All pictures were taken from Amazon and did not come from the brand, nor did I receive any compensation for my reviews*

Can I Get Some Bacon With My Eggs, Please

Everyone LOVES breakfast! Before I became a vegan breakfast was the number one meal I looked forward to actually having time to make on the weekends. From crispy bacon to eggs, pancakes, and hash browns, it all just sounds so mouth watering! I’m sure not to your surprise however, once I became a vegan it was increasingly hard for me to enjoy my favorite meal. Oatmeal became the staple with toast and fresh fruit. Which sounds amazing when you only have to eat it every once and a while, but when you force yourself to eat it almost every day it gets a little tiresome. So what I did was set out for some vegan breakfast alternatives to bring some excitement back to my breakfast menu. Now, I preface this by saying I suggest these with no dietitian license, but based solely on the recommendations of others, my individual tastes, allergies, health needs, and enjoyment!

What I did first was look on the PETA website. They have some great lists for vegan items you can easily find at your local grocery store. There are bagels, pancakes mixes, bread brands, etc. that are easy to make, find, and low cost. I recommend Melt vegan butter and Follow Your Heart vegan cream cheese, as well as Tofutti vegan cream cheese as basic refrigerator essentials. I’m going to do another post on vegan cheeses, because I have put a lot of work into this search, but one thing I will tell you is that in my opinion, for the new vegan and for many other vegans, Daiya is not a good tasting cheese. It melts very well, but it does not taste good, again in my opinion. I was very disappointed when most of the websites I looked on suggested Daiya and upon purchasing it I had to throw it away, because I just could not eat it. Oh well! A story for another day!

vegan-rice-paper-bacon-3
Image From Shannon @ Yup, It’s Vegan

But two sites that have helped me tremendously with my transition are Vitacost.com and Vegan Essentials. They are both online grocery stores that carry vegan items. Vitacost also carries regular groceries and non-vegan products, but gives you the option to shop explicitly vegan, which I love! Vegan essentials is exactly how it sounds and carries everything from food to clothing, all vegan! I wasn’t too excited when I became forced to start getting a lot of my non-refrigerated products from online stores. I thought the prices would be out of this world, and for Vegan Essentials it is very pricey to shop, but I get most of my items from Vitacost which is very cost effective for the vegan on a budget, like myself. Pictured above we have The Vegg French Toast Mix, which for the price gives you 235 servings of delicious french toast. It is also very easy to make by only using 3 ingredients.

Next, you see Follow Your Heart’s vegan eggs. I was skeptical about this product at first, but now I find that I can’t live without it! The eggs take a little longer to cook, but are incredibly delicious and genuinely comparable to actual eggs. Last pictured above are 3 slices of vegan bacon by Lifelight. Now, when I tell you I am a bacon expert that is no exaggeration. I have tried every type of bacon from Turkey to thick maple, and when I gave up meat I never thought I’d find something even remotely close to my one true love. Guess again! Smart bacon, while different from turkey bacon by having to be cooked on the stovetop, takes just like turkey bacon! Now, if you never liked turkey bacon then I would continue looking for another substitute, but for those of you that do enjoy it look no further!

Breakfast doesn’t have to be boring and repetitive just because you’ve decided to do your part in saving the world 😉 . It can be exciting and tasty just as it was before, and I’ll be here for new vegan’s in search of advice on transitioning and product/food replacement to help along the way. I thank you for your sacrifice and pray for your good fortune and that you always remember to just Be You.!