Living a Cruelty-Free Life

February is almost over and I’m continuing to embrace change and transformation. Some of the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of January and February were not met, but they were replaced with greater and more permanent forming habits. January was more about shifting my mindset and gaining focus and starting the routines I want to keep with me. February has been about setting goals and making a plan on how to achieve them. These new practices are really all derived from one main idea: I want to take care of my body, mind, and soul.

One way I’ve decided to do this is to shift into a cruelty-free lifestyle. It’s been something I’ve contemplated for a while, but I was motivated by my friend Lindsey over at Listy Lemon and her post about making the cruelty-free switch in cosmetics and skin care. It makes the journey for me easier when I know there are other people in my life with the same ideas.

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What this means for me personally is that I no longer wish to purchase products that are tested on animals. In my opinion, my dollar is a vote. When at all possible, I want to use the money I earn to support businesses that share my beliefs. There may be times where I am not able to follow this, but I’d like to do what I can. When it comes to cosmetics and cleaning products, I’ve discovered how many options there are that don’t involve harming animals. With a quick Google search I found so many blogs that are rich in information on cruelty-free brands. Cruelty-Free Kitty is one of my favorites to visit for an easy answer. PETA’s website also has a super easy resource for discovering if a brand is cruelty-free or not.

Shopping cruelty-free can be different for everyone. There are some companies that do not test on animals but are owned by a parent company that does. An example of this would be Urban Decay, which is owned by L’Oreal. There are some people who choose to buy from fully cruelty-free brands, and some who use their voice and money to support the cruelty-free company and not the parent company. I’m more aligned with the latter group; it’s a less-limiting way to shop, and I’m still showing the parent company which products I would rather purchase.

I have a lot of makeup products that still have plenty of use left. The money is already spent, therefore I see wasting it as worse than the purchase I made when I wasn’t shopping mindfully. However, any new cosmetics, skin care, and even cleaning supplies I buy from now on will be smarter purchases. With resources like the two I listed above, it’s incredibly easy to find products that don’t harm innocent animals.

Another way I’ve chosen to live more mindfully is changing my diet to a vegetarian one. For years I’ve watched all the documentaries on Netflix, Food Inc., Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and more. I’ve known how bad our food industry is and especially when it comes to meat. I’ve seen the videos of chickens being mistreated, and I know about the added hormones and preservatives. For so long I’ve turned a blind eye to not only the treatment of animals before they become my dinner, but also the way eating meat makes me feel physically.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love Chick-Fil-A, Big Macs, and bacon. Never say never, so maybe I’ll eat meat again someday, but I do know that from a health standpoint I feel much better when I don’t eat a lot of it, even when it’s something I’ve prepared at home. As of recently, every time I eat meat (especially red meat) I feel sick and sluggish. As far as my diet goes, at this time I don’t have any plans on going completely vegan. Honestly, it’s about my own comfort socially and financially. I think I would like to eventually make the transition to veganism someday, but that isn’t in my plan currently.

As a strong animal lover, I’ve always struggled with knowing where my meal came from. So far the decision has been an easy one. I still think fondly of meat-lead meals I’ve enjoyed in the past, but I don’t crave them. It makes me much happier to know I’m making a small impact on the world. Not only am I not supporting the treatment of these animals, I’m not supporting the incredible destruction of our planet by animal agriculture. 

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There are enough things I do every day that aren’t good for the environment; I drive a car, I don’t recycle (that’s not entirely my fault when my apartment complex doesn’t have recycling bins), I use aerosol hairspray, etc. Despite this,  I have switched from using pads and tampons to a reusable menstrual cup, I recycle whenever I can at work, and cutting out meat is another way of being kind to the planet.

With my new spiritual views, I no longer feel right morally harming another creature for my own gain. Having opposable thumbs doesn’t make me superior to my dog or the cows that are sent off to make steaks. As I live a more positive life, I can’t do that when I’m knowingly supporting the food products or cosmetics that are so negatively created.

Part of me wants to assure you that I won’t be the stereotypical vocal vegetarian: you know, the one all the jokes are about. The other part of me remembers that I’ve never been subtle about anything, so why should my diet be any different? I remain, as I have become, a straight-edge, democratic, hippie, vegetarian feminist.

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What Does it Mean to Be Healthy?

I’ve written a lot of posts about rebooting my health goals. Like, a lot. Like here, here, also here, and you get the picture. It’s not that I just stop caring about my health; it just gets hard. Even when I stop eating what’s good for me or lower my activity level, I’m constantly thinking about how good I felt. But let’s be honest with ourselves: “health” isn’t just diet and exercise.

I’ve done a lot of diets and workouts and weigh-ins and measuring and counting. That’s great if that’s what you want or need. To me, my health is not defined by numbers anymore. It also isn’t just about food. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

What does “healthy” mean to me?

  • not biting my nails
  • keeping a consistent schedule
  • hydration
  • not eating only junk food
  • raising my activity level
  • giving myself love and grace
  • not hitting the snooze button

These don’t sound like the epitome of health, do they? But listen, they’re all steps. Having scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast is better than ice cream (I may or may not have done that yesterday) and even opting out of my daily soda at lunch is a step to making my body happier. Making a turkey sandwich for work instead of stopping by McDonalds saves calories and money–a two-for-one deal!

I’ve never been a “snoozer.” I don’t know what happened recently (actually I do), but I don’t want to get out of bed when I have to. I reset my alarm for a later time and get ready for work at the last minute. I always feel so much better when I just get up and start my day, plus I get to have time to write before work.

Like I said, my health is not defined by numbers. I don’t need to lose a certain number of pounds or eat a certain amount of calories or run this many miles a week. That puts too much pressure and anxiety on me if I don’t meet those numbers. I see nothing wrong with people who need those numeric goals, it definitely works. But that isn’t the best way to motivate me personally. My Fitbit step goal is really the only number I care about.

I’m so incredibly proud of the race medals I’ve earned. Even though I didn’t do as well as I wanted, running a half marathon or a 5k is a huge achievement for anyone. It’s like the quote that says, “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.” And that’s what I want for myself. Running is so rewarding to me, and after running (mostly walking) a half marathon last November, I got a little taste of the person I could be. I didn’t train like I had wanted to, and that is my biggest regret as far as my health goes. If I could comfortably run three or four miles, that would mean everything to me to be able to work harder for longer races.

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Last night, Enthusiasm asked me how badly I want to meet my goals. It made me think a lot about my past attempts. I won’t call them “failed,” but they were forgotten. Disney costumes are so unflattering, and I’m tired of looking down and seeing my stomach in the pants I wear at work. I know how to dress my body on my own time, but I want to feel better at work. I don’t want to hate myself or feel down about myself for one emotional reason or another. I want pretty fingernails again. I want to be happy and energetic again. Diet, activity, mindset, and consistency are all equal factors to finding peace with myself and my health.

Being healthy, both emotionally and physically, is hard. Creating and keeping healthy habits takes time, but I know just as well as anyone else that it’s so incredibly worth it. So here I am, starting again. I’m picking up where I left off with my health and doing my best to make a better physical and emotional situation for myself.