Hey there, friends! I hope everyone has had a wonderful start to September so far. As I’m writing this Summer Wrap-Up post, I’m sitting in my favorite neighborhood cafe, World Cup Coffee, sipping on a hot latte and watching bits of sun twinkle in the golden leaves outside… Despite September being my favorite month, I always have a rough time transitioning from the warm summer months to the crisp, cool fall. But I so appreciate the beauty of early fall in Oregon when the sun is still shining and the trees are showing off their beautiful yellow and orange hues, so I can’t be too upset yet (until the rain comes). There’s something about the transitionary period between late summer and early fall that always gets me feeling introspective and reflective, so I thought I would share a post about some life updates and fill you in on some of the changes that took place over the last few months. The summer has certainly been a whirlwind for me – moving to Portland by myself and getting acquainted with the big city life, completing the first term of my Master’s in Nutrition program, making new friends, and taking some weekend trips away, as time has allowed.
Although it flew by in a flash, it has been such a fun, exciting, challenging summer full of growth and change. I learned more than I thought was possible about antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, I learned about new cooking techniques, ingredients, and spices, how to pick almost any variety of produce at the farmer’s market, and the importance of the farm to table movement in today’s food culture. I also learned how to be a defensive bike “driver” in downtown Portland traffic, where all the best coffee shops with fast WiFi are, how to make the most efficient use of a 440 square foot living space and a microscopic kitchen, and how to sniff out all the vegan food options at any restaurant (spoiler alert, there are TONS).
This next bit is a little more personal and difficult to admit, but worthy of sharing because I can only hope that it serves as a source of information and encouragement for anyone else who might be suffering in a similar situation.
One crashing discovery that I made once I started this path toward actualizing my passions and pursuing my goals in nutrition was that I was able to let go of an unhealthy level of rigidity that I had been holding onto for so long in terms of my own health and wellness. I found that before I moved, I was unknowingly so unfulfilled in areas of my professional and personal life that I was focusing all of my time and energy on the few things that made me happy and fulfilled – preparing and eating healthy meals, exercising, teaching myself about nutrition, and the like – until it became more than just a passion for me, it bordered on an unhealthy habit. I can vividly remember lying awake at night (because insomnia surely ensued, too!) thinking through every meal I had eaten each day, comparing it to how much I had exercised, and feeling the anxiety creep up if I felt like my intake wasn’t balanced out enough with exercise output. Yeah, seriously. It got that bad. And yet, I didn’t feel like I could share my struggles with anyone because I was the “healthy” one. I was the one who seemingly could balance a busy work life with an immaculately healthy personal life effortlessly, and it made me cringe with embarrassment and shame to admit that I was actually crumbling from the inside out. It’s with great intention and courage that I share this with all of you now, because I think it’s important to address how every part of physical and mental health is interconnected. A lack of fulfillment in your job, lack of having a “sense of purpose”, or even an emotionally draining relationship (whether a romantic relationship, friendship, family member, or otherwise) can all lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety, and toxic habits that don’t serve you in the long term. Sometimes, even the healthiest of habits with the best of intentions can turn toxic given the right conditions. So, where does that leave things now?
Once I moved to Portland and started my nutrition program, I was finally able to spread my time and energy out over all of the things I am passionate about in a meaningful, healthy way. Finally, I could dedicate my time and energy to learning about nutrition in school, to blogging new recipes, creating a recipe e-book, volunteering within the nutrition and wellness community, and developing relationships and partnerships with like-minded people and organizations. It wasn’t even intentional, but rather an unintended side effect that I was able to let go of that rigid structure I had been holding onto for the last few of years, which released a lot of the stress and anxiety that had continued to build over time. It was extremely freeing, yet surprising to realize, because it wasn’t until after I had broken free from it that I realized the negative impact it had on my overall well-being. It’s so easy to assume that doing the “right” things – eating right, exercising daily, etc. – will have nothing but positive outcomes on our heath, but it’s when these practices become the sole source of fulfillment and nourishment that they can pose a problem and lead to serious bouts of stress and anxiety.
As a result of this discovery, I’ve adapted my exercise and eating habits to better suit my lifestyle changes. I’ve decided to cut back on running long distances and don’t have any races planned in the near future, I’ve incorporated slower, more meditative practices like yoga into my routine, and have enjoyed eating without labeling foods as being too “bad” or “unhealthy” for me to eat (as long as they’re vegan, of course 😉 ). I’ve been focusing on exercising and moving my body in ways that it truly enjoys and that make me happy, not in ways that I know will produce an outcome of looking a certain way or striving to always be at my peak fitness level. Not surprisingly, I’ve not only been enjoying my workouts more as a byproduct, but I find that I’m happier with myself and (usually) no longer scrutinize my body in an obsessive, unhealthy way anymore. This overwhelming and relentless scrutiny of the physical body is something that I know unfortunately plagues many of us on a daily basis, and it’s something that I’m glad to finally be ridding myself of.
I’ve also learned to allow the entire experience of eating a meal nourish my mind and body, rather than focusing on the scientific breakdown of the nutrients going into my body and impact that they’ll have on my health. Rather than choosing a salad or the most sensible, healthy choice possible as if on autopilot, I’ll allow my senses to dictate what I should eat. Sometimes that means going for a veggie burger and fries, multiple slices of pizza loaded with veggies and vegan sausage, a big brunch with friends, or even breaking all the rules and eating a cone of vegan ice cream or a slice of cheesecake for dinner! And sometimes it means enjoying the nourishment of a big, healthy salad or bowl of steamed veggies and rice. In other words, I’ve finally discovered how to relax my anxieties, slow down, and go easy on myself. Of course it does take daily practice and self-reminders, and the feelings still ebb and flow as things like final exams begin ramping up and the stressors start to pile up. But overall, I feel like I’m finally in a place where I can balance them all in a healthy, efficient way that doesn’t wreck havoc on my mental and physical well-being like it would have in the past.
Overall, the impact that this move has had on my health and well-being has been astonishing, I can’t even express all of the ways in which my life has improved as a result. I’m so, so grateful for the opportunity that I was given in being accepted to NUNM, and I’m grateful for my own bravery and courage to have taken the leap to go for it. As I reflect on my summer and think ahead to the rest of the year to come, I’m reminded of the book that I bought myself as a symbol of moving forward with the changes that this year has brought – How to be a Wildflower: A Field Guide by Katie Daisy. Inside it lies exploration ideas, inspirational messages, meditations, recipes, and art to encourage us all to find the wildflower within. The message behind this book has become my mantra.
This path of self-discovery has just begun, and the summer was the best setting for dipping my toes in the water. Now that it’s coming to a close, I’m thinking ahead to the ways in which I can continue the path of growth, discovery, and reflection with the changing seasons while also focusing on my ever-increasing list of passions and hobbies. Going to school, cooking and developing recipes, blogging, staying active, traveling, and continuing to build a network for my future career are all on the agenda, with some very exciting and promising leads! Stay tuned for a couple of official announcements in the next few days. So many exciting developments! 🙂
Be well, friends.
Marne | Everyday Vegan Kitchen