HOW TO STAY PASSIONATE ABOUT VEGANISM

Hi everyone!

As most of you may or may not know, I became vegan exactly one year ago now as I participated in The Great Vegan University Challenge organised by Animal Aid. I was vegetarian before but switched to a 100% vegan diet in February of 2016 as part of this challenge. It is similar to Veganuary but takes place in February and is organised for students all across the UK. After being vegan for one month I decided to keep it up as that was what I had wanted to do since deciding to become vegetarian and to my surprise, the switch was much easier than I had originally expected.

Although becoming vegan is one of the best decisions that I have ever made and I am currently the healthiest that I have ever been, after one year I have come across a few struggles and there were moments when I lost my motivation. This is a lifestyle after all, and you have to be passionate about it to stay happy about it. So here are a few tips to help you stay in love with this amazing lifestyle!

Stay educated.

There are new researches coming out every single day on the benefits of a plant based diet, the terrible consequences of the meat and dairy industry on global warming, and most importantly on the changes that are happening right now thanks to the rise of people choosing veganism. There are so many documentaries out there and new ones being made all the time. To stay passionate, you have to stay educated. You have to remind yourself every so often why you chose this and why you want to keep choosing this every single day.

Don’t say that you can’t, but that you won’t (normalise veganism).

When I first became vegan and people would offer me non-vegan foods I’d say “no thanks, I can’t eat that”. Truth is, I can eat it, I just choose not to. This may seem simple but just choosing your words more carefully and saying “I won’t eat that” instead of “I can’t eat that” helps you and others have a more positive mindset on your choices. Saying can’t is first of all is a lie, but also has a negative connotation and makes it seem like you’re restricting when you really aren’t. Saying won’t makes it obvious that this is your choice and that you are comfortable with that choice, which will make other people normalise it as well.

Never stop trying new recipes or restaurants.

If you are lucky enough to live in a vegan-friendly city, you will realise that new vegan places open every few months and that more and more chain restaurants are offering vegan dishes. Go and check them out! Also, do not forget to look up vegan recipes or buy new vegan cookbooks. To be vegan is to love food and to love cooking, you have to enjoy trying out new foods and places to stay excited about veganism.

Go to vegan events, volunteer at information stalls, meet people with the same interests.

Stay active in this community! Vegan festivals are happening every year all over the world, go to one and try new foods and meet new people. Go to talks, join vegan Facebook groups, volunteer, educate yourself on vegan organisations in your area, etc. Feeling a part of this community will definitely help you stay motivated about it. You could also even try activism!

Don’t beat yourself up on the days that you are not 100% vegan.

Do not restrict yourself, I repeat, do not restrict yourself. Restricting makes you unhappy, and we don’t want that. When veganism starts feeling like a restriction instead of a choice, then you have to change something. I am passionate about this lifestyle but I won’t lie, this past year there have been some days where I went back to being a vegetarian. Family parties are an example, at a marriage last summer and this Christmas I have eaten vegetarian simply because there were no vegan options and I had not prepared anything in advance. One of the first parties I went to I forced myself to only eat vegan and the consequence was that I basically starved myself all night, got a little too drunk as I was drinking the same amount of wine as everyone else, and I had a miserable time. So I told myself, fuck it, I can make this exception once or twice a year. Of course I do my best to eat vegan all the time, but I try not to beat myself up if I don’t.

Stay informed on nutrition. 

This is so important. To thrive on a plant based diet you have to know how much of what you need on a daily basis. Most ‘unsuccessful vegan stories’ are because the person in question was not informed on nutrition, they simply cut out animal products which is the unhealthiest thing you can do. You have to replace them, you have to know how to get your daily amount of protein, calcium, potassium, vitamins, iron, omega 3, and so on. Also don’t forget to take a vitamin B12 supplement as that it the only vitamin that does not exist in the plant kingdom. Meet up with a nutritionist and get your blood tested about twice a year. Be aware of your body, what it needs, and most importantly how to take care of it.

Remember, veganism is not only about food.

Most of these tips are based on food but veganism is so much more than that. It is about being against any type of cruelty towards animals. This is probably the most difficult transition to make; replacing your household products, beauty products, and clothes to vegan alternatives. Also not going to zoos, aquariums, or anything else that is using (and hurting) animals for humans entertainment. Staying educated on animal rights and cruelty-free products is important to feel good with your lifestyle choice. However,  know that it is almost impossible to be 100% vegan in that regard as we live in a world where most things contain animal products. Anyhow, making an effort to find vegan alternatives and staying educated already goes a long way.

Here’s a nice article I just found today on the progress of veganism, check it out!

Marion ★

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HOW TO GET BACK INTO THE UNIVERSITY ROUTINE

Coming back to uni after having been home for a while can be tough. One night you’re sitting on your couch in front of a nice fire and watching a movie with your parents, and the next you’re suddenly all alone in a cold and dark flat. It’s disorienting. You can ask me any time if I ever regret my choice of studying in Edinburgh and moving 1000 km away from home and I’ll respond with a hard and sincere “no”. However, that first night back in my flat after being away for a few weeks, I might respond with “…A little bit?” I do love living in Edinburgh, however that doesn’t change the fact that living so far away from home is not easy, sticking to a healthy routine is not easy, being an adult (or trying to be) and taking care of oneself is not easy.

When I got back to my flat last week the first thing that happened (even before unpacking) was a panic attack. Suddenly I started freaking out about the fact that I was back in Edinburgh and I started questioning everything. For a moment, I was really scared that I had made the wrong decision to study here and leave my comfortable life in Belgium. So of course I called my mother, and she comforted me by telling me that she went through the exact same thing every time she would get back to her flat as a uni student. This made me realise that even if I had stayed in Belgium, I would still feel the same disorientation when leaving home and going back to the university lifestyle. It has nothing to do with the fact that I study in a different country, but has everything to do with the fact that going from holiday mode at home (where you are taken care of and don’t need to worry about money or food) to work/study mode at uni (where you have to take care of yourself and be responsible) is simply a transition, something that every uni student struggles with. So as this transition can be quite tough, especially at this time of year, I decided to make a list of things that you can do to make it go smoother.

  • “Routines save lives” – said a scientist probably. SO GET INTO A ROUTINE. I’m serious, routines are very important to stay sane. Your day doesn’t have to be planned out by the hour, just have something to do every day which will make you want to get out of bed. So plan your week and have certain things you do every week (or day) at approximately the same time. Humans are creatures of habit. Most importantly: start a routine the first day you’re back, don’t wait for uni to start.
  • Buy a 2017 planner/diary and plan ahead! Make plans that will make you look forward to the next few months or so. This is a new semester so make sure it becomes a good one! Plan to see a friend, travel to a near city, or take yourself out to a new restaurant.  Most importantly, same as the routine: STICK TO IT.
  • Concentrate on your uni work. This is why you’re here after all + it will help to take your mind of things when you’re feeling sad or homesick.
  • Hang out with your friends. Don’t be afraid to message them first and just arrange a hang out: go for dinner, go to the cinema, catch up over a glass of wine in your flat. I meet up with one of my vegan friends here every other week and we go out for dinner and just catch up over delicious vegan food.
  • Get out there! I know how easy it is to lock yourself up in your flat but do not do it. Get some fresh air (yes, even when it’s cold), read in a cafe instead of your bed, go to a museum, etc. Enjoy everything that your city has to offer.
  • Don’t forget to stay healthy. Eat well and consistently. Make a weekly meal plan if it helps. Also, STAY ACTIVE. Unfortunately my ankle is injured which means I can’t dance, but that doesn’t stop me from going on walks, doing ab workouts, or yoga. To put it in Elle Woods’s words:635735636410905721-1071011617_tumblr_npjg29l3ex1r9n4hjo2_500

It took me a few days but I am finally comfortable in this routine again, and this list of things is what helped me. I’ve got quite a few things planned for the next couple of months and I’ve also realised that it would be possible for me to go home for a bit during my reading week mid February, which is something to look forward to as well. I’ve also got quite  few books that I need to read this semester,so that will definitely keep me busy!

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Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and are slowly (but surely) readjusting to the student life!

Marion ★

HOW TO GET BACK ON THE “RIGHT” TRACK

Hey guys!

I’ve been working on an article called “HAVING YOUR LIFE TOGETHER” for a little bit, but I had no idea where I was actually going with it and after some stuff happened this weekend I decided to drop it and start a new one, so here I am.

The article about having your life together was about how we’ve all had this moment where we’ve looked at our lives and thought “man, I really need to get my shit together.” We’ve all made bad decisions, we’ve all made choices we regret, and we’ve all felt like we had no idea what we were actually doing. The point of the article was really just to say that it is normal and it is okay, but there is one important thing that I did not cover in that article; sometimes it is not completely okay. Don’t get me wrong a little bit of it can be healthy, we are all humans after all, but if you do it for too long it will become a vicious self destructive cycle and it is really important to get out of that.

Here’s a bit of personal background information on why I decided to write this article: after a break-up that happened in December I kind of went off the rails; I did a lot of things that were ‘out of character’ just to feel alive again, just to feel like I belonged to myself again. It worked for a bit, but just like anything used to numb the pain after a while I just realised that it really wasn’t working at all. So one day I looked at what I was doing and thought “all right, this is enough. Now that all of that is out of the way I can finally learn to be on my own again.” So I promised myself I was going to change my life around; stop drinking so much, put more effort into uni work and be healthier (typical New Years resolutions but one month too late). When I decided this is when I started writing the article on “having your life together”. I had realised what I was doing wrong but I had also realised how much I had needed to do these things wrong in order to move on and find myself again.

I was good for a couple of weeks; I was eating well, I was exercising, and I wasn’t drinking too much. Until a few days ago when I found myself drinking way way too much and messing everything up. I won’t go into too much details, but let me tell you that it was pretty bad. So here I am, trying to tell you how to get out of this vicious cycle. Partly because some people might be in the same position as me right now and not know what to do, and partly because I’m trying to reassure myself that I can get out of this as well.

So here are some tips on how to get back on track/feel okay/move on:

  • take a break: go to the gym, go to the pool, go to the movies. Do something (healthy) to distract yourself of the guilt/sadness/stress/fear/or anything else that’s bothering you, and to concentrate on yourself. If I had the money I’d buy a spa day, but for now I’ll just stick to the gym and homemade facial masks. Do this only for a little bit though, because life moves on and avoiding the problem is not the answer. But it feels good, doesn’t it? To just not think about it for a while, see it as a way to gather up your strength to face it.
  • regain control/take responsibility: The scary thing about messing up is the loss of control. So it’s important to get that back. Start with the little things: apologise to anyone you may have hurt, get back into a routine, control what you eat, clean your room, make plans with friends,…
  • Talk about it: First of all talk about it to a friend. If that doesn’t help then don’t be scared to ask for professional help. I know therapy is a terrifying thing but sometimes it is needed. Most schools have a guidance counsellor or a mental health adviser, don’t be scared to go to them.
  • Understand what went wrong: This is a tough one but extremely important. What happened to get you where you are now? What’s the real problem causing all of this? Try to see it, phrase it, and accept it in order to deal with it.
  • Get a new hobby: this will help you get your mind of things and discover something new. It will keep you busy and broaden your horizons in a way. I just bought a membership to a pool and gym where I’m currently spending most of my time, and I also bought a ukulele because I had missed music so much. This is not only fun but will also make you happy because you might discover something you really like (I apparently really really love swimming).
  • get some perspective: take a step back. You may be a bit lost, but you’ll be all right. Nothing is permanent.
  • Stay healthy: healthy body, healthy mind. You are what you eat so make sure to eat well! Stay hydrated, stay active, and eat your vegetables.
  • Most importantly; forgive yourself. Yes, you might have messed up, but you’re okay. You’re alive.

So I’m not really sure if this will help anyone, but personally it’s helping me so there you go!

BYEEE

Marion★

HOW TO DEAL WITH HOMESICKNESS

Hello everyone,

Today I’m going to do something different, I’m going to try to help people instead of always talking about myself. This one is for all the exchange students out there or future exchange students. If you follow my blog, you may know that last month I briefly mentioned my homesickness. It was short and I quickly resumed to talking about what was going on in my life. At that time I didn’t really see the use of talking a lot about it, but I changed my mind. When you live far away from home or are going to, you have to accept that homesickness is going to be a part of your trip and it’s not always going to be easy. So this is for you guys, current exchange students or future ones, here’s an article about homesickness and how to deal with it (I wish I could tell you how to get over it, but I’m afraid only time can answer that question).

First things first, what is homesickness? being homesick means experiencing a longing for one’s home during an absence from it. It’s missing your home and family after being far away from it for a long time. It’s a completely normal reaction and therefore a feeling that anyone who’s ever been far away from their home for a long time has probably experienced. It’s not uncommon, it’s not unknown, it’s something we all know and can look up easily online. So why am I writing an entire article about it you may ask? Because even though it’s normal and common and all that, like all feelings related to sadness and nostalgia, it’s terribly hard to get rid of it (especially when you’re the type of person that when they’re sad, like to make themselves even sadder by listening to sad music or watching a sad movie; AKA me). but when you’re far away from your home as an exchange student it means that you’re currently going through something amazing and are really lucky to be experiencing something like that. So I think we can all agree that when we’re going through something new and exciting, we don’t want to go through it sad. That’s why it’s really important to find a way to deal with homesickness when it knocks on your door.

When you’ve recognised that the sadness you were feeling was homesickness, then you have to understand what it is you miss. A lot would answer; everything (I know, I’ve been there too) but that’s not good enough. Think about what you miss exactly because that’s the first step to making it better. Is it your family and friends? Is it the weather? The food? Or just little random things? When you’ve put a name on what’s making you sad, then you can start to find a way to make it more bearable.

Here’s a list of things that I like to do and why/how they help:

  • The first time I got really really homesick was about a month ago, what I then decided to do was to start the 100 happy days challenge but instead of posting it on social media, I’m just writing it in a journal. Also, I made it 175 happy days because when I started it I had exactly 175 days left in the US. Every day I write something that made me happy, this way I am reminded of how blessed I am to be experiencing all of this.
  • Keep yourself busy. I know, this is the most talked about and the most logical one, but it’s also the most difficult one when all you want to do is eat your belgian chocolate on your bed while watching ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. It’s hard to get out there and sometimes you just really don’t want to. But do it, you’ll thank yourself for it later. Try out for the school musical, invite friends, go places. Volunteer because you’ll definitely feel better after having helped people. Discover a new place in you area and take pictures of it. Make a video of your city, go to a coffee shop and read a book, paint, write, do something you like or try something new.
  • If you miss the weather, take a warm bath (or a cold shower I guess if you’re somewhere where it’s warm). I went for the warm bath because honestly, I’m tired of the cold. I never thought I’d miss the Belgian weather but when I wake up and have to walk to my bus stop when it’s -25°C outside, I think anyone would understand that I’d rather be in Belgium at that point. So I took a bath because I love baths and because it just feels like a warm, comfortable hug you can stay in for however long you like. Put some calm music on, light a candle, relax and let the warmth overwhelm you. Believe me, this always works.
  • If you miss the affection because you come from a place where every time you see someone you know you give them a kiss or a hug, or just the general affection you get from your close friends and family, tell someone about it. Go to a good friend and just hug them. Hug your host family, and don’t worry about it, we’re all human, nobody is going to think you’re weird. You could also buy a stuffed animal.  I bought a really soft little stuffed moose. When I can’t fall asleep or get too caught up in my thoughts of missing home, I hug it and fall asleep like that. Never underestimate the power of hugging a stuffed animal, no matter how weird that sounded.
  • If you miss your friends or family, Skype with them. But be careful with that because sometimes it can make it worse. Do it in moderation because don’t forget that you also have friends and family where you are now. What can also help is to make plans for when you get back. Organise a trip with your best friend, start thinking about that big party you’re going to throw when you get back, but again, be careful with that.
  • If you miss the food, ask your parents to send you a package with some things. This is hard if you’re missing an entire meal but even little things can already make it better. I always ask my parents to send me chocolate or biscuits, and when I get them I always feel a little bit better.
  • Now don’t hate me for this one, but exercise and stay healthy. Go for a run, drink lots of water and eat lots of fruit, go to the gym or your school’s weight room and just work out. Believe me I used to hate all these things, but gosh do they help. I’m in a fitness class at school and work out every other day. I can tell you that when I get home after that and lay in my bed, it’s the best feeling ever.  This is great for two reasons; it’s a great way to keep your mind of things and being healthy just makes you feel better. Always remember to take care of yourself.
  • If you miss the language, there are multiple things you can do. You could Skype, but like I already said be careful with that. You could watch a movie in your native language, but choose a good one. Don’t watch ‘Les Intouchables’ or ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ when you miss french because that’s just going to make you sadder and that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here. What I found that always helps is stand up comedy. Your country is probably the home of some good stand up comedians, so look them up if you don’t already have a favorite, and just watch their entire show. For me it was Gad Elmaleh for the french and Alex Agnew for the dutch.
  • Talk to someone about it. Wether it’d be your host family, your host siblings, your friends or other exchange students, talking about it always help.

So these are the things I do when I get homesick or just a little bit sad in general. The list could be longer, but this article is already getting way too long. So to finish this, here are a few things you should remember;

  1. everyone is different, what works for me might not work for you. Try things our or find your own remedy.
  2. sometimes it’s okay to just be sad, as long as you don’t let it overwhelm you. You’re far from home, you miss everything, and that’s okay. You’re sad, so be sad. Accept it, welcome it and understand it because that’s the first step to letting it go. You can watch a sad movie, you can listen to sad music as long as you don’t keep it up for days or even weeks. Remember to live too. Be sad for a bit, and then get up and get out there and be happy again.
  3. nothing is temporary. This sadness will not last forever and sadly, your trip won’t either. You’ll get back to your home sooner than you think, which is the good news and the bad news.

Hope you liked this and if you’re an exchange student as well, I’d love to hear about the things that you do to battle homesickness, just comment below.

BYEEEEE

Cherie★