Our Princess

It’s been anticipated for months. The number of TV specials and documentaries airing in the past few weeks has been astounding.

In all honesty, without my mom’s fascination with Princess Di, I probably wouldn’t have also become so invested as I now have. I probably wouldn’t have given too much thought to the twentieth anniversary of her untimely death without the motivation to look more deeply into her life.

Because, to this day, I believe she is still the holder of the title “The People’s Princess.” Her impact as an ordinary person stepping into a huge role and utilizing it as she did is remarkable.

From the exposure she received from paparazzi attention (too much of it, according to majority opinion), to leading a normal life to most that was simultaneously unheard of in the British royal family, Diana has left behind a legacy really all leaders should keep in mind.

Not only for leaders, but the followers as well. When we see talking heads on the screen or plastered in trashy magazines, we tend to forget that they are just human beings, individuals like you and me. But the “stars” themselves do make it difficult at times to relate their situations to ours. They feel so distant, so glamorous and over-the-top that we cannot help but hold them at arm’s length and admire from afar like a museum exhibit.

Obviously I was only a few months old when Diana passed, so I have no memory myself of her in action, but from what I’ve seen and learned, she wasn’t like those celebrities and leaders. She felt more real. She was open with her struggles, and not just because they were headlines worldwide for all to see. She didn’t shy away from the difficult situations. She had class and style, and yet she took on roles that others wouldn’t dare speak of or touch.

She used her influence to do good and raise awareness. She visited the homeless. She touched and hugged those with AIDS. She walked through dangerous terrain known to be riddled with land mines.

And still, with that influence, she felt immediate in individuals’ minds. She suffered from depression and eating disorders. She had the same longing we all do for love and acceptance. Heck, I can relate to her as an empath as she took on the emotions of others and connected on a deep level with everyone she met.

There’s a reason why everyone is making a big fuss over this day. Even after twenty years, her work and spirit is still relevant. She still has an impact on us, even those who don’t remember her alive, and to me, that speaks volumes. We still want to learn more about her. We still see the differences she has made for not only the royal family, but also for the world.

Even if you really don’t care too much about Princess Di, that’s a-okay. But at least understand that the world would look much different than it does today. We wouldn’t care as much about the British royal family without Di. We wouldn’t see her sons continuing progress made for Britain’s homeless and mentally ill without Di.

And as a young commoner thrust into a prestigious world, Diana’s life exuded courage in the face of fear. She set precedents in fashion, in celebrity coverage, in humanitarianism even as a princess, even after enduring a very public divorce, even after baring herself to the world. She wasn’t perfect. She made mistakes. She still left mysteries that we today speculate. She is a reminder that yes, regardless of our status or publicity, we are all human.

If you take anything away from this day and this post, I hope it’s that reminder that although we tote how different and unique we all are, inevitably we share many similarities. The people shying away from intrusive TMZ cameras are people, too, not just famous names and figures. There’s more to each of us than our titles.

It’s okay to break the status quo, even if it can be downright frightening. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to ebb and flow as we transition through our lives, even if people critique us for trying to become our best selves.

We should make the most of what gifts and tools we have at our disposal. We should show compassion and love to those who may seem unlovable. We should make time for the people who matter most to us. We should treasure every single moment we have because nothing is promised or guaranteed.

So, Princess Diana, your candle did burn out too soon. But your legend will continue to live on. That is something that is a promise.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie.


Death Bringing Life

The more we understand the universal cycle of life, the more comfortable we can become about every aspect of that process.

It sounds morbid, but my favorite class this semester is all about death.

In many ways, it is indeed as uncomfortable as it sounds. The many ways humanity, across our many traditions and cultures, acknowledge, or fail to acknowledge, death and all that it entails. Since it’s in the religious studies department, we specifically examine the many beliefs we hold regarding death, the process, and the aftermath.

But an important aspect of this class that I think makes it valuable is how death and life are so closely knit. We will all face death at one point or another, but our mind struggles to comprehend death’s magnitude in the world and in our own lives. We are all touched by death. It’s a natural process as an organism on this planet. And yet we shove it aside and fear even mentioning the word.

The fact that death is so hard for us to truly define plays a major factor in this stigmatization. When do we actually die? When our bodies stop working? When our minds are no longer conscious? For something as simple sounding as “the absence of life,” death is more complicated than meets the eye.

And it’s constantly occurring. We cannot begin to comprehend the numbers of people who die every moment we are still alive. In countries we might never visit, to people we’ll never meet. People younger than us, older than us. Through so many means, from old age, to disease, to accidents, to violence.

I must say, having this class in my schedule has really changed my perspective on every other class I’m taking. While I have many media-related requirements to fill so I can graduate, those classes seem so…surface-level. They focus on nitpicky details that a manmade industry has decided is correct. They promote furthering capitalism and consumerism. They focus more on numbers and data than the people behind the statistic. They leave us debating over random scenarios that, at the end of the day, leave me asking myself, “Why does this really matter in the grand scheme of things?”

The immense passion I feel walking into my class about dying and grief seems wrong. Somebody just glancing at the course title might think I romanticize the act of dying, but that is not the case. I instead am rejuvenated in discussions about our own humanity, the big questions that have left us stumped for centuries, the impact we might have on others. It’s classwork not based in assignments, but in changing perspectives about our own short existences.

As someone who does have chronic mental illness and has considered suicide in the past, I have reached a point in my journey where I am drawn to these lively (pun intended) discussions, to diving deep into spirituality and humanity and everything in between. I feel more at home in that single classroom than in any other class I have, and that to me speaks volumes.

I truly believe we should all be open to these type of uncomfortable but important conversations. In learning more about death, we can then better appreciate our lives and make the most out of them.

Because there is one more word in the title of this course beyond death and grief, and that is “growth.” We are all in our own cycles of life for an unknown length of time. And in that time we have, we should accept growth and change. We should continue to evolve and support our own personal developments. Unless you believe otherwise, all we have is this one body, one mind, one spirit. We cannot avoid the inevitable, but why not embrace that as the antithesis of life? Why not take advantage of our present stage in life and connect with others in our shared fate? Why not make others’ lives easier and leave a positive impact on the world if we are fortunate enough to do so?

Yes, my favorite class is about death. And the better I can understand and accept the death, the better I can understand and accept life.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Mapping out FODMAPs

What is the Low FODMAPS Diet? Why I may go Paleo(ish ...
A map to how to eat? Well, if you have IBS symptoms, then it could very well lead you to some relief.

I’d like to think my digestive concerns are temporary and will dissipate once I get back into the swing of things, but in case they are here to stay, I want to take care of myself in the best way I can.

Coming into researching every minute detail of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has definitely opened my mind to the real struggles that almost twenty percent of people face on a regular basis. I admire those who have persevered for years with chronic symptoms and can still see the glass as half full. Hopefully I too, if things remain stagnant, can adapt to a changing situation and do so with optimism.

Many different factors can play into triggering IBS symptoms like constipation, excessive gas, and/or diarrhea. But one lifestyle change I have found is effective for a vast majority of people with IBS symptoms is paying attention to FODMAPs.

Which, if you have never dealt with IBS, you also have never heard of FODMAPs prior to me mentioning it. If you have IBS, certain carbohydrates known as FODMAPs could be triggering your symptoms. When food is chewed and swallowed, it moves into the stomach, travels to the small intestine, and then moves on to the large intestine. During its journey, enzymes in the intestines break down the food so it can be digested.

The word “FODMAP” is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides (fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides, also known as GOS), disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and polyols(polydextrose, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol).
​Unlike many other carbohydrates, FODMAPs are difficult to digest and aren’t as quickly broken down. This means they stay in the digestive tract longer, pulling too much or too little water into the intestines or getting fermented by the gut’s natural bacteria. For many people with IBS, this process can trigger symptoms, such as gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, and/or diarrhea. That’s why following a low-FODMAP eating plan often helps people with IBS feel better.

So what has high and low FODMAPs? Luckily, if you’re following a plant-based diet, one major food group of concern is already out of sight: dairy, specifically lactose.  Other high FODMAP foods include many types of beans, cashews, certain forms of soy, apples, dried fruit, cauliflower, asparagus, anything with gluten, and any fruits with pits, such as mangoes, peaches, and cherries.

This is just a mere sampling of foods to either avoid outright extremely moderate. Admittedly, that’s very intimidating. Especially when you’re someone who considers their diet already quite healthy, and having already undergone my vegan transition, thinking of having to adjust my diet even more is not ideal.

But, luckily, many foods ARE low in FODMAPs that I love. Most nuts, vegetables, gluten-free products, maple syrup, potatoes, berries, grapes, pineapple and more are all good to go. Even tofu, chickpeas, edamame, and lentils are all gut-friendly.

I will link here a really awesome resource I’ve found that is an extensive shopping list for low-FODMAP vegans. Yes, there is more than just me (yay!). Searching for blogs and diving onto Pinterest for ideas are also great tools for making a slow transition toward non-inflammatory foods.

And even then, chances are that you’ll still have trial and error. Looking at FODMAPs isn’t the sole indicator of what’s good or not. We’re all individuals, and certain foods are bound to affect us differently. If you’re willing to make the effort to experiment with how you react to certain foods, you can learn more about your body and how to help it be its best self.

Just like I would recommend for those wanting to become entirely plant-based, changing your lifestyle isn’t meant to be an overnight 180. Take it slowly at whatever pace you feel comfortable with. Maybe you want to go about it in a elimination-style change to really pinpoint the trigger foods. Maybe you just want to see how being gluten-free feels, after finishing that one box of cereal first. Whatever your scenario might be, I get it. I’m there. Even if I find certain foods make me gassy and bloated, but I just love the heck out of that food (can we talk about black beans?!), then I’ll most likely still have it, at least in moderation.

Nobody is measuring perfection, nor should you in the first place. Even with the information I’ve found and shared, I cannot tell you how to live your life. Only you are the best judge of that. I just want people out there to know that you don’t have to sit back idly and take on unbearable symptoms if there are natural options out there. Don’t give up. Finding ties to discussing mental illness, talking about IBS or digestive problems isn’t an easy discussion either. But someone has to. Your health matters. Don’t let fear or embarrassment silence you. Not just for yourself, but for everybody else out there walking the same journey, one FODMAP at a time.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie