Small efforts.

Writing posts seems to be beyond me recently, my head space is not really ideal. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped trying. Here are some little ways in which I’ve been trying to be healthier, happier and better to the planet in the last week or so…

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Not zero waste (weetabix came in cardboard and paper, raspberries in a plastic punnet) but I’ve been feeling pretty down this week and eating well has helped no end. I made this insanely yummy stew the other day that had 7 vegetables, 2 types of lentils and filled me up like you’d never believe! At least my body can be happy and I don’t have the added burden of feeling so sluggish.

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My student loan came and I invested in some good tech that should last longer than the rubbish cables you get with your phone which are designed to last approximately 5 minutes. These House of Marley earphones are made from FSC certified wood, have fabric covered cords for durability I love them.

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In my quest to lead a slower, more conscious life, books are making a comeback. Reading calms me down in a way a million Netflix shows couldn’t come close to doing. And the same goes for knitting (another hobby I’m pouring time into at the moment). There’s something about committing yourself to the process and being completely absorbed which I’m only really learning the true value of now.

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A selfie?! On my blog?! I know, I know- but how else do I talk about my crazy hair! Chopping it all off was the best decision I ever made for its health, but the growing out process has been long. A year and a half in, and I can put it up in a ponytail, but I mainly just leave it to do its thing (above). I like the way it does whatever it likes, and watching how my natural, untamed hair in its full glory.

 

Thanks for reading, friends 🙂

5 things this Monday…

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  1. The picture above shows a turtle who got caught in some plastic packaging from a 6-pack of cans. It caused the his shell to be misshapen as it grew- but that’s not all. This poor guy’s organs were unable to fully form due to the constriction of his body. Even after he was liberated, Peanut has been unable to live unaided which is really sad. But now he’s being looked after and makes appearances across schools in the US to teach them about what happens to plastic waste! It is pictures like this that really bring it home that our consumption is making animals really suffer.
  2. Now for some happy news! A vegan cafe has opened in Mexico City, and is challenging the eat-obsessed culture. It’s called ‘Los loosers’ and it sounds magnificent 🙂 hopefully this will be the beginning of better availability of plant-based food in the area.
  3. Lots of people don’t have the option of visiting bulk shops where you can fill up your own bags and containers. How do you do your best to minimise packaging and landfill waste whilst shopping at your average supermarket? Zero Waste Nerd tells you how.
  4. Next up, the Independent hears about how undercover investigations are exposing the widespread animal abuse in farms. It’s time to face the reality that the vast majority of the animals we eat have lead terrible, painful and scary lives. It is not necessary to cause this suffering, and it’s about time it ended. Please take a read if you have not yet learned about what modern animal agriculture looks like.
  5. Finally, nutritional evidence shows that the healthiest diet AND the most environmentally friendly, consist of the same foods. Diets which are low in meat, dairy and oils as well as processed foods are better for your body and have the least environmental impact. Have a look for yourself!

Have a great week!

 

No poo.

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I was going to wait until my shampoo bar ran out until I tried going without, but I found I started thinking about it more and more to the point where I couldn’t wait to ditch the products! I’m pretty sure I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner since at least the beginning of November, so it’s been at least 4 months. Let’s talk about No Poo 🙂

No Poo is short for no shampoo. Some people interpret this as only using sulphate-free shampoo, bar soap, or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) then rinsing with apple cider vinegar. I heard about water-only no poo washing and it appealed to me for its simplicity. When I travel that’s one less thing I need to bring with me!

The premise is that your hair produces sebum (oil) naturally. This method simply uses what nature produces to replace the need for shampoo and conditioner. What you normally do with conventional hair products is strip the oil from the scalp with shampoo, then replace moisture to the middle and tips of the hair with conditioner. By running water and scrubbing your scalp, then distributing the sebum down the hair shaft, you can remove oil from the scalp and moisturise and soften the rest of your hair without any products.

Method:

  1. Before jumping in the shower, de-tangle your hair with your fingers (preferable) or a comb/brush.
  2. Rub your finger tips against your scalp to warm and mobilise the sebum for 1-5 minutes.
  3. Run your fingers from your root down your hair to distribute the sebum down the hair shaft.
  4. In the shower, stand under warm/hot water and continue to run your fingers down your hair. You should be able to feel the oil spreading down away from the root and towards the middle/ends.
  5. When you are finished, lean over so your head is upside down and saturate your hair with cold water then turn the shower off.
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This kinda sums up the state my hair was in before. Dry, dry, dry, and only really curly at the ends.

A couple of years ago my hair was pretty damaged from bleach and hair-dye and I didn’t treat it too well. Since I shaved it completely in October 2015 and transitioned from a shampoo bar to water-only, I am amazed by the difference in texture. My hair has never felt softer, healthier or more curly- I love it!

Advice:

Water-only hair washing relies on sebum, so I would say if you’re used to using conventional shampoo and/or washing your hair more than twice a week, consider transitioning first. Purchase a sulphate-free shampoo or shampoo bar and use that for a while. If you wash your hair a lot, try cutting down by one wash every week (3 times this week, two times next week etc.) until you are only washing your hair once a week or once a fortnight. It is completely possible to go straight to water-only from washing your hair a lot, but you will more than likely go through a greasy stage which wouldn’t be too fun.. I washed my hair at best once a week before I started water-only and I took to it basically straight away, but everyone’s different so stick at it if you’re struggling at first!

The picture at the top of the post is what my hair typically looks like a day after a wash. For reference my hair type is 3B (see here for more info). I have seen people of all hair types use this method, but it might take some adapting. By all means do your research and find someone with similar hair on Youtube or the web who’s done it successfully for tips that suit you.

Water only face washing

 

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So moody haha.

Hullo. So, for about a year now, I’ve been using water only on my face. If you told me a few years ago that I would now be leaving my face completely alone to do WHATEVER IT WANTS (!) I would’ve been very sceptical to say the least. My skin, from pretty much the day of my 13th birthday was spotty. More than averagely spotty. It did get a bit better as I got older but I still suffered into my late teens. I tried all the face washes and creams and even got prescribed this horrible roll-on thing from my doctor which admittedly did sort out the problem, but made my face so dry that I decided I’d rather go back!

I didn’t notice a significant change until I went vegan. A few months into my new, healthy diet (I decided whilst cutting out animal products, to actually pay attention to what I put in my body and up the wholefoods) I noticed that the problem areas I still had left were clearing up. Nowadays I would say my face is manageable. I still get the occasional one or two, but it’s no longer a concern. My skin feels on the whole quite healthy.

I don’t have a routine as such for washing my face. I’ll normally wet it when I’m in the shower (so around 4 times a week) then any other time if it feels too oily I use cold water. If I notice dryness or dead skin, I give my face a brush in small circular motions either whilst dry followed by a water wash, or I rub the wet brush over a bar of soap and apply to my face then water wash.

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my face brush on the far left

Unlike some branded face washes, this method doesn’t in itself hold the answers. In other words, it won’t sort out your face if it isn’t already healthy. Here are some tips for going water-only…

Eat well– lots of fresh produce, less refined sugars and oily foods. Basically eat healthily. I really notice a difference in the oiliness of my skin and usually break out after I’ve eaten badly. If you are eating well and you still have a significant problem, it’d be worth seeking advice from an expert in nutrition because certain foods affect people differently.

Drink water– same as above; water has a dramatic effect on the clearness of skin. Drinking water helps expel what your body no longer wants and fuels it to function like it’s supposed to.

Exercise– if your diet is half of the picture, exercise is the other. It all comes together and helps all the processes in your body run smoothly. You’d be surprised how getting a sweat on helps you look brighter and healthier!

phase out soaps– This stage will differ from person to person depending on what your skin has become used to. I would advise transitioning gradually though, because that way you won’t have to go through a period where your skin has to adapt to an extreme change, which could make it unpredictable. Find something a more natural version of what you usually buy in the supermarket. When that’s finished, switch to a soap bar. Then start cutting down on the number of days a week you wash your face with soap and use just water instead.

Avoid touching skin– This one is a struggle for me, especially when I’m stressed, but the less you touch your face the better. Every time you touch it you are making it dirty, so try to refrain as much as possible. Then when you do want to touch it, wash your hands first. I’ve noticed a change in my skin since I’ve been making an effort to leave it alone.

Learn what is normal for you– now that I have no products on my skin, I can feel what state it’s in, I know how my food affects it, and I have the instinct to know what it needs and when. Pay attention to what it’s doing and try and find out why. The better you know you’re skin, the better you’ll be able to give it what it wants.

Review: Food Choices (2016)

 

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What did people do before Netflix, eh? (don’t answer that question, they probably were a lot more productive!) At least when it comes to documentaries, it’s really the place to go! In the theme of Veganuary, I thought I’d watch a foody documentary that’s been sitting on my watch-list for a while. Food Choices follows Michal Siewierski on his journey to discovering the most healthy diet for humans. It felt like an extension of other Netflix food documentaries, featuring interviews with Joe Cross of ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ and Dr.T. Colin Campbell of ‘Food Matters’. Here are the stand-out points for me:

Whilst it has been made complicated through all manner of fads and ‘studies’, it seems the perfect diet for humans consists of the following 4 main food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The ideal foods are high in fibre and unprocessed.

Doctors are not trained in nutrition hence why they focus on treating health problems with medicine (what they are trained in). This only tends to control the symptoms and adds others. Especially in America, but across the West, corporations interfere and confuse the situation by trying to make money through false food information as theor primary focus is profit.

Myth= we (humans) are hunter-gatherers designed to eat meat

Reality= those closer to the equator and most of the planet relied on starchy foods (corn, potatoes etc.) to survive. Only in the far North and South in places such as the Arctic did people have to eat large quantities of meat due to the scarcity of other food options in the extreme cold.

Our bodies are designed to eat fruits and vegetables. Some animals ave sharp teeth and claws to kill and eat animals, whilst we see in colour to detect fruit and vegetables, and our hands are perfect for picking and peeling them.

Myth= you can only get protein from animal products

Reality= it is impossible to be protein deficient especially on a plant-based wholefood diet as long as you’re getting enough calories per day. Humans do not need a lot of protein, not nearly as much as we are made to believe. In fact we get health problems as a result of too much! Our kidneys, and liver are put under stress by over consumption of protein and we are at a far larger risk of cancers.

Myth= we need milk for calcium

Reality= the higher the calcium intake from dairy products, the higher the risk of osteoporosis. There is calcium in all sorts of food, such as oranges!

All of the nutrients generally lacking in the population can be found in plant-based foods, whereas all of the over-consumed ingredients come from animal products/processed foods

We are the only creatures on earth that consume the milk of another species AND that consumes milk after infancy- IT’S NOT NATURAL! It’s designed for baby cows to rapidly gain weight! High fat, high cholesterol, no fibre- it’s just like liquid red meat.

No wonder people are addicted to cheese! The casein used to bind cheese together has been proven to be as addictive as heroin! (paraphrased from Karyn Calabrese)

‘Eggs are the most concentrated source of dietary cholesterol in the average person’s diet’ Dr. Michael Greger

Cholesterol only comes from animal products, and additional cholesterol causes heart diseases.

Commercial chickens are fed antibiotics, genetically modified corn and soy.

We are the only species on earth that does not live in harmony with nature.

Anyway, those are my notes. If you haven’t seen any food documentaries, I would recommend Food Matters, Cowspiracy or Forks Over Knives. This one I enjoyed the first half of, but I’d say there are others that deliver the message a bit better. I did like the humble approach of the guy and the way he asked simple, common questions and tried to find the answer.

5 things this Monday…

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Hello friends!

Today I thought I’d change things up just a little bit with a Veganuary themed 5 things this Monday! I’ve been amazed at the hype surrounding Veganism this year and I think it’s really picking up steam! Here are some things that have crossed my path so far…

  1. First up, you can never have too many reminders of why giving up animal products makes a HUGE difference to the planet. According to this article from the Telegraph, even just going vegetarian can cut global food emissions by two thirds and save millions of lives! If more people make positive changes to their diets their could be up to a 10% reduction in global mortality! Say no more.
  2. For anyone just starting out on this vegan adventure, this is a list of simple tips that’ll help you transition more easily (complete with memes!). Take a look even if you haven’t taken the plunge, because even doing one of these is a step in the right direction.
  3. Here’s some really exciting news. There are so many restaurants and food places releasing special vegan options and offering deals on meals out! Now you’re speaking my language 🙂 It’s reached the point where wherever I go in the UK I can either find a vegan option or ask them to change the veggie one so that I can eat it, but having more than one option- let alone a whole menu!- makes me wanna go on a food tour of all of these places! This is the future!
  4. The BBC asks the question ‘is following a vegan diet for a month worth it?‘ and asks 2 experts from both sides of the spectrum to weigh in. It’s quite a balanced argument, covering the many health benefits of veganism as well as things to look out for and possible challenges. I enjoyed that read.
  5. Finally, I found this video of primary school aged children being shown pictures of animals in factory farms. Children are great for opening our eyes to things because they are not so accustomed to the images that adults come to accept and become desensitised to. It’s a perfect reminder of what we should feel when we see animals suffering.

Vegan November feat. My sister

So last month, my sister Naomi decided to eat vegan for the entirety of November. I thought it might be interesting to ask her some questions for anyone wondering what it’s really like to switch diet, or anyone on the fence about the whole thing. Naomi kept me updated on how she was getting on during November, so I had an idea of how it was going, but her answers are pretty great and not what I was expecting! Take a read…

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Did I mention my sister’s an awesome cook, baker AND photographer? Here’s her vegan banana and chocolate cake!

Why did you decide to be vegan for November?

You’ve been a vegan for ages now! And I’ve been watching loads of documentaries over the last six months or so. I’d stopped drinking cows milk a few months ago, and I’ve tried to cut down on meat because of both the ethical and environmental impact meat and dairy production has on the environment, but I realised that I wasn’t really cutting down at all. Going completely meat and dairy free was the only way I could see that I would actually put the time and effort into searching for and trying out new recipes, and hopefully make a change for good.

What were your thoughts/reservations before you started this challenge?

I actually thought it was going to be harder than it was! I ate meat probably three times a week, and dairy every single day, and I couldn’t see how I was going to like food without these things in them. Also, most people I told said that they wouldn’t be able to do it, which I think added to my fears about it.

What’s been the hardest part of being vegan?

Cheese! I love cheese! I thought I’d miss chocolate and meat the most, but there are substitutes for both, I found finding cheese substitutes really difficult, and it was definitely what I missed the most.

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Vegan toad in the hole. Cooking and photo by Naomi 🙂

Are there any recipes or products that you’ll keep using?

All of them! Apart from one disaster lasagne, the rest of my meals turned out really well. I found they filled me up and were actually fun to make. I will definitely still be making my vegan toad in the holes and my macaroni for years, and the bean curries. I don’t think I will ever bake with dairy again either, my vegan baking was probably the most successful part of the month!

How did your friends and family react to your decision?

As I said earlier, most people said they wouldn’t be able to do it (some people said they would “die” if they had to be a vegan), which I sometimes found a bit annoying, but a lot of people were also very supportive. I took quite a few cakes into work and everybody loved them. It was definitely a talking point, people were always interested in what I was eating and how I’d made it. A lot of people thought I’d lose weight as well, but I actually put weight on!

What differences (health/mood/outlook etc.) have you noticed since you changed your diet?

I noticed a massive difference in my energy levels! I didn’t feel bloated or heavy after eating large meals (no laying on the sofa for the whole of Sunday afternoon!). Mood wise, I didn’t notice a huge difference, but I think overall consciously thinking about what’s going into your body, and knowing that you are eating things that are not only healthy for you but also making an impact on the environment would naturally improve anyone’s mood and outlook. I definitely feel healthier overall.

Would you recommend this challenge to others?

Definitely! A month isn’t a huge amount of time out of your life. It gives a goal to aim for which is manageable without committing completely, which is just what I needed. I was really surprised that I hadn’t had any chocolate or meat cravings after the first week or so, and so proved to myself that those things aren’t going to affect my mood negatively if I don’t have them in my diet. I really feel that I was stuck in a rut with my diet prior to starting the challenge, and I am really excited to keep trying new recipes, especially the cake ones!

 

Dinner.

Since I moved to France and especially after I went vegan in January, I’ve been turning into a foodie. The kitchen has become my favourite place, and whereas a year or two ago cooking was a chore and a source of stress in my life, it is now what I look forward to most days!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty abysmal at following recipes. But that’s okay, because it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re happy with the result. Here are a few meals that I’ve made recently:

 

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Broccoli and lentil soup – My hand blender was on the blink which I only realised as I got it out to blitz the broccoli up for this soup, so it ended up having some quite large bits of broccoli in it! But it was actually really nice to be able to taste all the elements and them not to be blended together. The key was putting onion and garlic in and seasoning it well.

Ingredients:

Broccoli

Green lentils

Onion

Garlic

Sea salt, black pepper, coriander

 

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Rice, plantain and lettuce – This one was easy. I am obsessed with plantain. Maybe it’s because it’s sweet and I’m a sucker for anything sweet. Maybe it’s because I fry them in oil, who knows (coconut oil is perrrffecct for this as it brings out the sweetness!). Also, brown rice is great. I made the switch a few months ago and I do not regret my choice one bit.

Ingredients:

Brown rice

Onion

Lettuce

Plantain

Coconut oil

 

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Roasted yellow peppers with quinoa – This one was a fun one. I started off by boiling the quinoa, then mixed it in with some black beans, chickpeas, tomato purée and some spices then filled a hollowed-out pepper and whacked them in the oven! It turned out really yummy.

Ingredients:

Yellow pepper

Quinoa

Tomato purée

Black beans

Chickpeas

Red onion

Sea salt, oregano, black pepper

 

As you can see, most of my dinners aren’t that fancy. They don’t involve too many ingredients and usually include at least one vegetable and some kind of grain. They are filling and pretty healthy, and it’s exciting to keep experimenting every day with new ideas. I haven’t included directions on how to make these, because I am basically just making it up as I go along, or I look it up on Pinterest and follow someone else’s recipe 🙂

Little things.

Today I thought I’d take a leaf out of The Beauty in Simple‘s book and share a list of small things that I am grateful for or excited about at the moment. I really love the fact that you can find beauty and value in the every day, mundane details and I’m trying to get better at it, so here goes…

5 simple things that have made me happy this week:

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  1. On Mondays I get the majority of my food from the market on my uni campus. I bought a beautiful baguette off a very nice lady who complimented me on my baguette-shaped cotton bag. My day was made and it hadn’t even hit 12! snapchat-3653081788801760395
  2. My worm bin finally arrived! Watching all the little wriggly babies settle into their new home and giving them their first load of food scraps was really amazing yesterday. I may have stayed there watching them until the very last one wriggled underneath the surface of the soil before I reluctantly put the lid back on… Expect a post soon about how I’m getting on with this new compost method! snapchat-6525766345540802439
  3. Having a cold really blows, (GET IT!) but since I’ve been using handkerchiefs instead of tissues, I don’t get that sore red nose thing that I thought was inevitable. Plus I keep them in this jar in my room, and all the colours and patterns look so nice together. snapchat-314470562345266043
  4. Today rounded off week 3 of my final year at university, (eek!) and whilst it’s pretty hectic, I’ve managed to minimise the things I take with me. I have one bag (a year ago I would’ve been rotating at least 3) one notebook and one folder for all my lessons. It is really nice not to have to empty and refill my bag and risk forgetting things, because I just carry it all around every day.snapchat-3383675782844297014-1
  5. Breakfast for me consists of jumbo oats soaked overnight in nut milk, 1 chopped banana, 1 chopped date, a handful of nuts and a sprinkle of vanilla/cinnamon. It’s filling, refreshing, yummy, healthy- I can’t think of a better way to start the day!

5 Things this Monday…

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  1. This post called ‘My Zero Waste is not Pretty‘ is brilliant. I am definitely guilty of wanting to make everything glamorous and beautiful which means I’ve turned down perfectly usable items I already own to replace them (not really the point of this whole zero waste malarkey…) I definitely needed the reminder that it’s a slow and not always pretty process.
  2. The infogram above from Food Navigator USA illustrates the difference your diet makes on the environment, from regular meat consumption to vegan. Hopefully it’ll be an encouragement wherever you are on that scale towards eating less animal products, that every little bit counts- keep it up!
  3. Next up is a video that came up on my suggested videos on Youtube. I don’t currently follow this guy, but his story about why he became vegan is both funny and original. He explains why he doesn’t broadcast his views and why it’s really easy to judge other people and it’s just quite refreshing to get another perspective. I think he’s a cool guy basically.
  4. These 5 reasons to avoid plastic containers are a must-read. Plastic is everywhere you look nowadays, but keeping it off your food is so important, especially when you know the stuff it can do to you.
  5. Last but not least, Ariana from Paris To Go addresses a concern I hear quite a lot: that the thought of wearing secondhand clothes is somehow dirty. As I read this, it reminded me of what I was like about certain items a few years ago. The post is so well-written and covers the disturbing reality of new clothes today, as well as practical tips for cleaning and restoring secondhand products before use. My favourite read of the week I’d say.