31 October 2015

One month. Two challenges. Eating Vegan.

I didn't plan to do these two challenges at the same time. There is no relation. I didn't say "I'll have so much free time without Facebook! I should find a highly time consuming habit to replace it."

Challenge 2: Eating Vegan

I've thought about becoming a vegetarian for a few months now - mostly because of the drought, partially because of ethics and partially because of health. I waited because I wanted to do it properly. My brother was a vegetarian for a while. He ended up eating poorly because he accepted any quick option that didn't have meat. "Hello pizza." "Oh hey there fries." It didn't end well for him because he wasn't planning. He had enough options that he didn't have to plan ahead. 

Removing eggs limits those options. Removing dairy limits them even further. 

I chose a vegan challenge because aside from saving water and easing the strain on resources and eating healthier, I wanted to know whether I could consistently cook meals. I wanted to know I could plan and get groceries and cook them while still living my life. I wanted to achieve maximum adult status and leave myself very few outs. So I committed to a vegan diet.

I dreaded it from the start. It's a daunting task that had me focusing on the "no" of it all. No cheese. No eggs (which I mostly only like with cheese anyway). No meat. No chicken broth. No honey (I ignored that). No butter. There were so many things I couldn't have that I started this challenge feeling trapped. Smoothies liberated me.

I found a 21 day green smoothie challenge. It was aimed at demystifying green juices. I love green juices already, so that part was moot. But it provided seven recipes for a week and a weekly shopping list. Breakfast was handled. I figured I only needed two other meals a day, so really only cooking twice a week and living off leftovers. That's was my goal. It seems simple enough. But it's not. I've reached a point in my life where I can't navigate a grocery store. I don't know where they keep the food! It's harrowing. Doing this challenge meant spending a lot of time just figuring out how to get what I needed. (Do you know where the nutritional yeast can be found? Hmmm?)

I went into this expecting to try new things. The first new venture was chia seeds. You buy them, add them to something wet and consume them. They're good for you - according to the internet - and they're pretty cheap. Just ignore how they look.

Chia seeds attach to liquids. The smoothie recipes involving them called for them to be soaked, which isn't weird if you make almond milk (which is a thing I do). But where almonds plump up adorably, chia seeds build a gelatinous border.

By the time they're done, one tablespoon of seeds becomes a glass of crunchy jelly. It's sticky to touch and jiggly to shake. You can't strain them, because the water becomes part of them. Each individual seed exists in a bubble. It was a fascinating process to watch, but it didn't to much to make me feel better about trying something new. Wet chia seeds are gross looking. Fortunately, I couldn't taste them in anything. They're high in protein. The water skin helps the body absorb their nutrients. I couldn't taste them. Welcome to my life, chia seeds.

Again I meant to blog about this as it was happening. I took notes AND pictures. So - late or not - I'm about to tell you my vegan tale. At minimum, it will be interesting and at best, insightful. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think. And cheese. I'm looking forward to cheese.

One month. Two challenges. Closing Facebook.

I turned two decisions into "challenges" during the month of October. I intended to tell you about them as they were happening, but I instead let life get in the way. Still, I challenged myself from 1 October to 30 October and succeeded. It's a bigger deal than I anticipated, with the most significant takeaway being that I now know I can (and should) challenge myself to do more. It feels so good to succeed.

Challenge 1: No Facebook. 

Facebook began to annoy me more and more. Generally, I'm there for the humor. I'm there for the pictures. I'm there for the marking of personal milestones. I'm not there for the politics. I'm not there for virtual Mary Kay. And I'm definitely not there for the memes - because (and I think we can all agree) the memes on Twitter and Instagram are better.

I reached a point in September when I would scroll, scoff, scroll and scoff. I would close the app and feel annoyed. I was annoyed that I was looking to Facebook to entertain me. I was annoyed that Facebook failed to entertain me. I was annoyed that I kept repeating that cycle.

So I stopped.

I signed out of Facebook September 30th on all my devices. I challenged myself to not log in for 30 days. (I didn't want to miss your kids and pets in Halloween costumes).

It was difficult in the beginning. I had to find a new way to dawdle before getting out of bed in the morning. (Thanks Twitter!) I had to find a new way to dawdle before falling asleep. (Thanks books!) I had to find ways to keep up with my friends. (Thanks phone!) All of that happened easily enough. The most difficult part was actually breaking the habit of reaching my for phone and opening the app. I often didn't catch myself until I was prompted for my password. If I hadn't actually signed out - if I had just intended to stop checking Facebook - I wouldn't have made it a single afternoon. I'm not proud of that. I dare say I'm ashamed of it.

Let's be clear, I enjoy Facebook. I enjoy checking in and commenting and seeing what everyone is doing. I enjoy seeing that people are doing well or at least working on doing well. I like my friends and I take pride in maintaining even the simplest of relationships. At the same time, I've created some habits over the last few years that I don't consider beneficial or positive.

I didn't like checking Facebook multiple times an hour. I didn't like being so on top of my feed that I felt I didn't miss anything. I didn't like how important Facebook was to me for making plans or catching up with friends. Checking Facebook was more common in my everyday life than almost any other behavior or activity. That's not what I want for myself.

Not to say it's all or nothing for me. That's not realistic. I need rules that I can follow - limits to my voyeuristic behavior. My first step was signing out. Over the next week or so I'll tell you what it was like. Bear with me. It's been a while since I shared. I might be a little rusty.