Day 9: Pain and Tears #GIG2017

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If this quote isn’t perfect for this Monday, I don’t know what is. Take this little tidbit of motivation in stride.

Despite calling myself an empath, I’m rarely to the point of full-on crying. But sometimes the best thing you can do in a situation is just let it all out. Just be safe if you’re doing so and driving: I don’t recommend that.

Last week, simply put, was rough. I could say that for any week this semester, but especially as classes start to wind down and everything seems to be due on the same day and require all of your attention, I have often felt like each professor has a hold on one of my limbs and is pulling me in opposite directions.

Not to mention last week when I pinched the sciatic nerve, something that with a Google search apparently doesn’t happen too often in young people, but I spent much of my week cringing to walk up any stairs and basically limping everywhere I went. Certainly the best time to remember that your body acts older than it rightfully should.

I could go on if I wanted to, pile on every burden and hardship and little inkling to complain about something going awry, but instead, I want to be grateful. Even if it’s not the automatic response to a tired body and mind, there has to be some silver lining here, some reason I’m putting myself through dire circumstances and still getting myself up and going each day.

I feel a lot of emotions, probably too many, but expressing those emotions in a healthy way doesn’t come easily to me. I want to package my feelings like a Christmas gift, sealed with a bow, all straightforward and manageable for myself and anybody else who comes across them. If I can write things out, that works better for me, but if I’m left to my own devices, I’ll just bottle everything up and keep chugging forward. That’s the easier way to go, right?

Sure, I have a high pain tolerance and take a lot of hardship before I crack. Sure, it seems better in the moment to not deal with the uncomfortable if you don’t have to. But what is there to learn from that? How do we grow as people if we refuse to acknowledge our own nature? Our own innate signals telling us to slow down and seek some refuge?

Too often I see people glamorizing apathy, to not feel anything and think you’re somehow thriving. Maybe you’re thriving as a robot, but certainly not as a human being. We need those challenges, those times when we are teetering on the edge and just need to scream or sob. We don’t want to burden others with our difficult emotions, especially when we don’t know how to properly address them ourselves, but that’s what our loved ones are for. True people who care about you want to feel wanted.

Since pain is a universal part of life, it seems odd that we, in our everyday lives, don’t talk about it more. Probably because it’s a “downer,” since who goes online or talks to other people just to hear how crappy things are and vent all our frustrations? Except the more we pretend the world is sunshine and daisies, the more we deprioritize our true feelings, degrade them, even condemn them from public view. It’s like how I feel about people who feel extremely uncomfortable talking about going to the bathroom: everybody does it? Why make it so taboo?

We shouldn’t feel less worthy or capable if are currently in pain. It doesn’t make us weak. It reminds us how wonderful it is to be alive, to be able to react to our surroundings and experience everything this world has to offer, the good and the not-so good. Pain forces us to slow down our minds, constantly abuzz with what to do next and continue an uber-productive schedule, and actually recognize how we’re feeling.

And by all means, cry. Don’t fall into the trap of swallowing back the waterworks because letting it free seems inconvenient, seems trivial. Your feelings are valid. And you have the right to express those however you see fit. Vulnerability can be the greatest strength we as humans possess, in becoming our truest selves and connecting with those who need it most.

I’m grateful for the hurt, the pain, the times when I couldn’t help but cry, because they were defining moments in my personal journey. They marked stepping stones along my path I needed to experience to get where I am. I’m grateful for the people who stood by me, proving how deserving they are of my continual love and appreciation for them in my life. I’m grateful for the times I chose to let my guard down, or others let their guard down in my presence, just because it felt like the right thing to do. And it was.

Pain feels like anything but a gift, unless gifts now come wrapped in thorns, but it can be so much more than the immediate discomfort. They are opportunities like any other emotion and experience we come across, and we should value them just the same.

Are you or someone you love in a time of pain right now? If so, show them your gratitude for their presence and role they play for you. Take care of them. Offer what you can.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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What’s up with Soy?

Soy is an excellent nutritional source for meat and plant eaters alike…so what’s all the fuss about?

There have been many fads and health opinions that circulate and drive people to change their diets. No gluten. No refined sugar. No fat.

There can generally be some shade of truth and science to back up some decisions, but it’s not worth too much grief.

Except one. Soy still has a bad reputation among many people. Again, it’s similar to phases of mass avoidance of certain ingredients, but the myths and assumptions surrounding soy still resonate.

I’m here to tell you, through my own research from valid sources, that like anything, soy is not harmful in moderation and is, in fact, healthy in its whole-food form. Unless you’re eating multiple packages of tofu a day, you have no reason to worry.

So if that’s the case, why do so many still hesitate? Funny enough, it all began with a marketing campaign commissioned by the dairy industry. This was back when soy milk hit the supermarket shelves as the first true dairy substitute creating major competition. Like any other politician, the go-to method of gaining back the numbers is through some trash talk.

If you look carefully, most anti-soy stories can be traced back to one single group in the US called the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF). WAPF claims to be dedicated to promoting good nutrition by restoring nutrient-dense animal products to the diet – particularly unpasteurised “raw” whole milk. It claims that saturated animal fat is essential for good health and that animal fat intake and high cholesterol levels have no link with heart disease or cancer. They say that vegetarians have lower life expectancy than meat-eaters, and that historically humans have always eaten large amounts of animal fat. All this, of course, contradicts all the leading health advisory bodies in the world, including the World Health Organisation, American Dietetic Association and the British Medical Association.

Besides this particular fringe group, soy has become one of the most heavily researched foods because we have lots of myths and questions about its composition. The main problem: estrogen.

Among observational studies of humans who get high amounts of dietary soy, findings have shown either no link to breast cancer or lower rates of the disease. That’s because the “estrogen” found in soy is different from our own hormones. Soy contains isoflavones, naturally occurring plant estrogens, and these have not shown to have any effect on increased cancer risks nor any feminization in men.

In fact, soy is healthy! The FDA states that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, since the protein in soy contains all of the essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. According to the National Soybean Research Laboratory, soybeans are the only common plant food that contains complete protein and its amino acid profile is nearly equivalent in quality to meat, milk and egg protein. 

However, I would limit your intake of heavily processed soy, like the soy protein isolate found in many vegan protein bars. Not only are you looking at a much longer ingredient list in general, but isolating one part of soy’s composition means more immediate exposure to soy’s plant hormones, which aren’t inheritantly bad, but they can affect your thyroid functioning if you eat it at every meal.

We have all this uproar over soy and its hormones, but what about animal products, ones that actually have the same estrogen we have in our bodies? Animals in the food industry are already often exposed to excess hormones, and men and women consuming meat, eggs, and especially dairy can see the same effects as animals do in terms of their fertility and overall health. 

Do your research and share it with others, especially those who still believe soy misconceptions. The anti-soy argument is based on faulty science, and accurate research shows soy’s many benefits and animal products’ potential harms. Let all people eat soy, as a complete protein that supports our bodies and our environment.

What else have you heard about soy? What are your thoughts on the debate?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Putting the REAL in Relationships

Remember the days of middle school and high school where all you wanted was to fit in? To make a friend group that portrays your desired image of being “cool”? Good times…(with implied sarcasm).

The second we grab our high school diplomas and seemingly move forward in our lives, we expect building relationships to be different. We envision stumbling upon people and never caring what others think, whether they like who we are or not.

Let me burst the bubble here and say, life can feel like a constant continuation of high school in this aspect. In college and beyond, we still have the innate desire to be liked by others, especially those who seem to have a certain social status, and to be surrounded by people that fit into what we want. We establish an idea for ourselves on what friendships should look like, who they should be with, what activities you do together, and when we realize that we don’t have that immediate control, it can be discouraging.

Even as a college senior, I still can feel that way. Even after years of learning about myself and growing more into the person I want to become, I still struggle with the role relationships should play in my life. I’m often prone to spurts of energy, talking to many people at once and wanting to always go out and socialize, but then long spans of time, I’m not really talking to many people at all and the last thing on my mind is taking time away from my own work and projects to spend it with friends. That sounds awful, but it’s the truth.

And in those times of increased isolation, I beat myself up and feel guilty for my own nature. I draw comparisons to others (thanks, social media) who seem to have their lives altogether, balancing school, work, and friends successfully. It’s like people who might be in a similar boat as me update others about binge-watching YouTube videos or spending hours scrolling through Pinterest. That goes against the grain of the image we want to portray our lives as.

With so many factors that judge our lives and set expectations for what is right and wrong, we lose our sense of what relationships should actually be like and what role they should play. We focus more on the image of having relationships rather than the quality of those relationships.

The second you think you have every balanced out and have established some perfect formula for relationships, think again. Like anything else, it’s a constantly evolving process. We should expect to have challenges, periods of fog where we feel oblivious to what is best for us, times when we get caught up in superficial details that overlook the true value people have.

In lies where we need to keep it real. Or, as a play on words, putting the “real” in REALationships. We aren’t all going to have the same definitions of what that entails, so the second we begin the comparison trap, we need to lock up our smart phones and be honest with ourselves. Relationships aren’t all about whose faces are filling up your Instagram feed. You shouldn’t feel like you need to prove your relationships to anybody, or think that showing them off is the key to fulfillment.

Quality is forever more important than quantity. I know that even when I’m in these moods of craving solitude, I still have several great people in my life who I consider my friends. These are people who I genuinely enjoy talking to, who I’d want to spend time with, who uplift me in good times and bad. That group of people might be larger or smaller than other people’s circles, and that’s fine. A number of friends doesn’t dictate your character or self-worth.

Prioritizing real connections with others applies to all relationships: romantic ones, family, and anybody else you value. The people that matter to you most shouldn’t have to fit some mold you see as the best way to live, and chances are, those relationships will change, grow, subside, and adjust themselves over time. We’ll all have periods of feeling completely alone, and other times when we’re overwhelmed with how many people care about us and we want to see.

Whatever relationships you want to make as real and genuine as possible, you need to be willing to put in the work. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. True relationships don’t blossom overnight, but they take time and energy to build up. We may have differing degrees of how intimate we are with certain people, but in everyone we value, we cannot expect making a best friend in five minutes, nor can we bash ourselves for facing challenges in relationships, with others and ourselves.

Because to be a good friend, family member, partner, whoever, the realest of relationships we need to establish is the one with ourselves. From that foundation, we can ensure more genuine, honest connections with those we hold dear and draw in the people that really care about us and make life that much sweeter.

What does a “REALationship” look like to you? Have you also felt stuck in high school peer pressure to fit in and “be cool”? I’d love to learn about your own experiences.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie