What Does Plant-Based Mean?

One of the questions I get asked the most is “what exactly is a plant-based diet and how is that different from a vegetarian/vegan/paleo diet.”  I know the titles can get pretty confusing so I thought I would break it down in a game I like to call “what it is/what it’s not."

What a plant-based diet is..
A plant-based diet is one that focuses on whole/plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), grains, nuts and seeds.

What a plant-based diet is not…
What it doesn’t include is meat, fish, butter, milk, eggs, cheese, animal by-products and processed foods.

What a vegan diet is…
A vegan diet abstains from all animal products including meat, fish, butter, milk, eggs and cheese. However this diet/lifestyle is rooted in the ethical treatment of animals, emphasizing banning any products made from an animal (leather, fur, etc.) or tested on an animal (cosmetics, household cleaners, etc.)

What a vegan diet is not…
Because some people who are vegans do it for animal cruelty reasons, the focus on a healthy, plant-based diet isn’t as important.  There are many processed, ‘meat-like’ products out there that can be used to replace animal products.  So in essence, you can be what some refer to as a ‘junk-food vegan.’ For example, an Oreo cookie is considered vegan but not Plant-Based because it’s highly processed and loaded with sugar. 

What a vegetarian diet is…
A vegetarian diet also abstains from all animal products.

What a vegetarian diet is not…
However, there are variations of this diet in which people consume eggs, dairy and fish.  

What a paleo diet is…
A paleo diet is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat (grass-fed/organic), fish, vegetables, and fruit.

What a paleo diet is not..
No dairy or grain products and processed food.

As many of you know, I subscribe to a plant-based diet.  After a health set-back,  I reevaluated my vegetarian diet and cut out most processed foods and dairy. It made a world of a difference in my digestion, skin, energy level and overall well-being (read about my healing journey). I'm a plant-based advocate because research shows that eating a whole foods diet with food minimally processed, is the healthiest and most nutritious fuel you can put in your body. It's been proven to reverse and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, auto-immune disorders, heart disease and depression, just to name a few.

Even though I came to this diet and lifestyle because of health reasons, my passion for it had me delve deeper into where my food was coming from with documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Cowspiracy and more.  I also became aware of the environmental damage caused by the Standard American Diet (SAD) as well as the mistreatment of animals which keeps me committed.

It's about progress not perfection. If you are interested in transitioning to a plant based diet, check out my empower section for book suggestions to inspire and motivate you. Or follow me on Instagram @omthemoment where I  post Meatless Motivation videos or plant-based tips to get you going.  You could also visit some of my favorite blogs, www.yumuniverse.com, www.onepartplant.com and www.ohsheglows.com.

Wherever you are in your journey, I'm here to help.  The body isn't designed to be sick and lethargic everyday.  You deserve to have a happy and healthy mind, body and soul.

Sun Saluting Our Veterans

In July 2001, my brother, fresh out of high school, decided to join the U.S. Army.  Naturally this decision brought up mixed emotions in my family: pride, fear, uncertainty, etc. After the events of September 11, his journey took a furious path of boot camp and then Iraq. No easing into it, no getting his feet wet, but straight to a war zone at the age of 19.  On Veteran's Day, I always say a silent prayer of gratitude for having my brother come home safe and sound.  Many do not have the same fortune but deserve the acknowledgement nonetheless. 

As civilians, we take for granted the day to day luxuries we have and can't imagine the complexities that are involved in being in a war zone.  After returning, many of these soldiers suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and a host of other health issues. But the yoga community is doing their part to help. Programs such as Warriors at Ease, have been training yoga instructors to teach military members, families, and veterans since 2009. These customized yoga classes have helped countless military personnel deal with adjustment and trauma related issues through meditation and yoga.

"A recent study found that just seven days of meditation training helped veterans with PTSD experience reduced symptoms up to a year later. Another found that women with PTSD who participated in yoga classes were more likely to maintain progress achieved in treatment programs."- Source: Distractify. 

Another fun way the yoga community is reaching out is through Yoga Joes, a toy campaign geared towards showing that everyone can benefit from yoga including military men/women.  The project began as a Kickstarter by the developer of Brogamats, Dan Abramson (if you haven't seen the yoga bags this company makes, it's worth a visit to their website).  Dan took the old school green G.I. Joe figurines and melted them down to mold them into yoga poses.  How creative is that?  His fundraising campaign was to raise enough money to create a metal mold so they could be made through plastic injection. In October, he surpassed his goal and is now offering Yoga Joes for purchase.  Stocking stuffer, perhaps?

Take the time to thank a veteran today (and every day) for their selfless sacrifice.  When you see a soldier in the street, acknowledge them, make eye contact, connect.  We must show these fearless warriors that the highest light in us salutes the highest light in them.  I want to publicly acknowledge my little brother, Johnny, for being the bravest, kindest, most passionate person I know.  Thank you for your service.

Find your inner warrior

My favorite yoga pose is Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II, named after the fierce warrior Virabhadra.  No matter how new or advanced your practice is, chances are you can easily get into this pose.  This was also one of the poses that helped me overcome challenges that I faced while doing my yoga teacher training. Back then, I was extremely self-conscious about my body and my yoga skills.  Everyone in the class had what some would think as the ‘typical yoga body’ and most could get into the more challenging poses.  After two weeks of the training, I was ready to quit.  I was forcing myself to do more than my body could handle and I was in a lot of pain because of it. 

With my teacher’s encouragement, I stuck it out and it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.  You see, I realized that my body and my practice were exactly where they needed to be at that moment.  My challenge was to be able to push through and come out the other end stronger both mentally as well as physically. What kind of teacher would I have been if everything came easy to me?  How could I relate to my students without experiencing some resistance myself?

Which brings me back to Warrior II. This was the one pose that during my training made me feel alive and connected. It reminded me of my strength and my love for yoga.  In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali he states that “in the real mental silence, the wisdom dawns.” This is what yoga means to me.  The mental silence that ensues from the poses allows complete presence as well as acceptance of the here and now. 

When I’m in Warrior II and my arms are getting heavy and my legs start to ache, this is when I connect deeply with my breath and invite the energy and strength into my body. As they say ‘the pose begins when you want to leave it.’ I’m not advising you to push through or go hard with your practice, I’m saying that if you’re still and focus on your breathing, you can listen to your body’s intuition and it will show you the way.

Benefits of Warrior II

  • Stretches your hips, groins and shoulders
  • Opens your chest and lungs
  • Energizes tired limbs
  • Stimulates your abdominal organs
  • Develops balance and stability
  • Improves circulation and respiration

How to Warrior II

  • Open your legs wide and turn your right toes to the right, bend the right knee and stack it directly over the ankle, back leg straight
  • Align your front heel with the arch of the back foot
  • Stack your shoulders over your hips so you are not reaching too far forward or too far back.  Imagine you're on a surfboard. Keep your weight even.
  • Tuck your belly button in and tuck your tailbone under slightly
  • Try to keep your hips even.
  • Press into the feet, keeping the legs strong. Sink the hips down towards the floor, and reach the crown of the head up to lengthen the spine. Relax the shoulders down and back, pressing the chest forward.
  • Breathe and hold for 3-6 breaths.
  • To release the pose, slowly start to straighten your right knee, turn your toes in and repeat on the left side.

You can't help but feel powerful and strong in this pose.  Imagine yourself as a fierce spiritual warrior standing your ground for peace and love.  Maybe give yourself a warrior name and each time you come into this pose, instead of thinking of the discomfort focus on your intention. 

Fun fact: Sometimes when I’m cooking dinner and I’m feeling a bit stressed and rushed,  I move into this pose and hold it on both legs for five breaths.  It does wonders for keeping me grounded.  Give it a try.

Related Posts:
Dissecting: Tree Pose
Get Upside Down
Office Yoga

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30 day braless challenge

It’s estimated that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  For the entire month of October, these kinds of facts are released to stress the importance of routine self-examinations and yearly mammograms.  But what should women be doing the other 11 months out of the year?  It appears to me that we should focus more on prevention than just awareness.  How about factors that could potentially have you avoid getting cancer in the first place such as a healthy plant-based diet, exercise, adequate rest and going braless?  You read right, going braless.

The American Cancer Society states that 5% of cancers are due to genetics, while the other 95% are due to environmental factors.  Our environment includes our culture and customs such as language, food and clothing.  Women are taught from a very young age to wear a bra.  It's a rite of passage and something to look forward to.  It's no wonder that we don't think twice when we take them off and notice red indentations or swelling.  We just assume it's normal and all apart of growing up. However these marks represent constriction and are causing nerve damage and lymph stagnation. 

According to the groundbreaking and controversial book, Dressed to Kill, by medical anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer, a study conducted of over 2,000 women (those who’ve had breast cancer and those who haven’t) discovered that bras were the leading cause of breast cancer. The theory behind the study is that “lymph fluid cannot easily drain from a bra-constricted breast, resulting in cysts and pain."  As I've mentioned before, our lymphatic system is coupled with our immune system and is responsible for eliminating  toxins and waste from our bodies.  However, "because the stagnant fluid cannot be adequately flushed away, waste products and toxins build in the breast tissue eventually leading to malignant tumors.” His study also found that “bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as a man and the tighter and longer a bra is worn, the higher the incidence of breast cancer. 24/7 bra wearers have over 100 times the incidence as a bra-free woman.” He also found that women who went braless noticed their breasts got perkier and firmer. That's a nice bonus!

30 Day Braless Experiment
Needless to say, this study blew my mind. When I got my first mammogram earlier this year, they discovered a cyst in my right breast.  Before the exam, I had no discomfort from the cyst but afterwards, the pressure applied caused it to hurt like crazy. Cysts are like internal pimples and are warning signs of imbalances in the body.  I wasn’t satisfied with my doctor’s nonchalant reaction to the cyst. I don’t want anything growing in my breasts. Which is why when I read Dr. Singer’s book, it peaked my interest.  The idea that our breasts are constantly constricted and not allowed to freely dispose of toxins rang true with me so I decided to do a 30 day no bra experiment to see if the cyst would get better or heal itself all together. 

I started my experiment when we went on vacation to Oregon. My husband was super supportive and told me that I should definitely give it a try. For seven days, I felt awkward/self-conscious and thought everyone was staring at my breasts (which they weren’t).  I did a lot of layering: tank top or camisole, shirt, light jacket.  At some points I would forget that I wasn’t wearing one.  It felt so liberating.  I wasn’t tugging at my bra strap or massaging my shoulders because there wasn’t anything applying pressure to them.

Once I returned from vacation, the challenge become a bit more complicated.  Having to wear  business type clothing during the day, I had to find ways to detract from my chest.  Again, I focused on layering, light jackets, dark colors and necklaces.  Out of the 30 days, I had to wear a bra only 3 times during the day and when I would run.

What I Learned
What I wasn’t expecting from this challenge was the change in the way I felt in my body. Since I developed early in life, my breasts have always been something I’ve tried to hide and not accentuate.  The less I wore a bra, the more comfortable I felt in my own skin. When I would get home, instead of yanking off my bra, I now wanted to get out of my constricting pants or shoes. My body was craving space. When I would practice yoga, I could breathe easier and move with ease.  Our bodies are amazing machines that can heal within the proper environment.  Going braless creates the opportunity for the breasts to function properly.

I also added self-massage (another recommendation from the book) with coconut oil each night.  The idea being that it helps get the lymph fluid moving while checking for any abnormalities. It’s just another way to connect with your body to help with awareness and self-love. Plus coconut oil has such amazing healing properties and none of the crazy toxins found in lotions.

Although the 30 day challenge has come and gone, I continue to go as braless as possible. The pain from the cyst has gotten better but is still there. I’m curious to see if it disappears all together. Ladies, I implore you to take control of your health. Applied knowledge is power so when you learn something and it feels right to you, go with that feeling.  Our body is our temple; protect it, learn how it works and care for it. 

Take the 30 Day Challenge

I'm not saying this a cure all for breast cancer.  I understand that there are a multitude of factors that go into getting the disease, but what if it does contribute in some way?  Our breasts fluctuate in size each month and the constriction is definitely causing discomfort, nerve damage, swelling and pain.  Wouldn't you happily take off a piece of clothing if it meant it could help with your breast health?

Are you feeling discomfort or pain in your breasts? Do you notice nerve damage such as tingling in your hands and fingers? Maybe you would benefit from taking the 30 day challenge. If that is a bit extreme for you, think about how you can limit your bra usage.  Maybe go braless on the weekends? Or take off your bra as soon as you get in your car after work? It's about progress, not perfection.

If you're ready to feel empowered and take on the challenge, mark your calendar for Saturday, November 1st.  Try to go a full 30 days without wearing a bra as much as possible.  I'll be posting tips and encouragement on Instagram so follow me @omthemoment and tag #30DAYBLCHALLENGE. 

Let's create a dialogue to help think outside of the box and not let fear dictate our decisions. We have the opportunity to break the cycle of breast cancer by becoming informed participants in our health. 

Share this post with a friend, family member and on social media.  As always, I'm here to help.  Send me an email or leave me a comment below.