I spend an awful lot of time thinking about food. From what treats I might whip up for a friend’s birthday to how I can use up an obscene quantity of [insert fruit here] that I bought discounted at closing time, cooking and eating are sacred pursuits in my books. My idea of downtime consists of attempting a recipe that’s been on my radar and thus far remained out of reach. A creative challenge, if you will. Or a stroll around the farmer’s market scouting out the freshest and juiciest. And to me, the best part of family time is the pot-luck style weekends we spend together where we each prepare and share something with the clan. Food is life and life is glorious.

There’s an additional set of rules that I play by though, as well as navigating a never-ending sea of deliciousness. They are as follows: sustainability is key and maintaining excellent health paramount. The non-compromisables are:

  1. Ingredients purchased must be naked or housed in minimal/recyclable packaging
  2. Ingredients purchased must be organic and/or local wherever possible; ideally both
  3. No meat, no dairy

I straddle the fence on:

  1. Honey: I’ll allow it if it’s local and/or organic
  2. Eggs: I’ll eat them occasionally if they’re from chickens who live in my neighbourhood, such as those that belong to a friend
  3. Sugar: I am a baker through and through, so I don’t treat it like the devil. I simply keep a check on how much I consume because I’m also trying to heal my endocrine system post-HBC

But something has been on my mind lately; something that worries me so. As I scrutenise the faddy food vibes of the times, I realise that there’s an undeniable impetus in our collective gravitation towards ‘clean eating’ or ‘superfoods’ as if they alone will be our saviours. As I’ve just mentioned – I have rules too, sure. But I worry when I see and hear food being treated as something that has a defined good and bad side. As if devouring a donut is akin to dancing with the devil.

An obsession with healthy eating (formally known as orthorexia) is an interesting one. Give it a cursory glance and you might wonder how on earth it could be a bad thing, but take a closer look and you see that it’s an addiction no better than any other. How can you expect food to save you if your entire body is riddled with anxiety swimming around every mouthful?

Have you seen that coconut oil is now considered akin to poison by Harvard scientist, Karin Michels? I mean, the statement is a little attention-grabbing in my opinion, but Michels highlights the important point that coconut oil does indeed contain 86% saturated fat, which is approximately 1/3 more than butter. And what do we know about consumption of saturated fats? They increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. The word butter is synonymous with obesity these days and coconut oil, well: the lean, mean millenial. But really, when you break it down chemically, it’s all much of a muchness, yet coconut oil has a remarkable cachet that fools consumers into believing that it can do no wrong.

These findings conflict with earlier studies that suggested that coconut oil may lower the risk of heart disease. We also known that it boasts antimicrobial properties which are excellent for the body. But to be treated as a panacea? That’s where things start to fall apart. Why is it that we’re so credulous?

Just as we want our skincare to miraculously perfect us, so too do we want our meals to cure all ailments and help us achieve the kind of perfection that we are exposed to every day via social media, television and the occasional glossy magazine. Unachievable perfection is the thing to strive for. We’re told that it’s real and well within our reach, if only we juice one more jug of greens.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am a firm believer in the healing powers of food. A big vegetable soup sorts a cold right out and a homemade pesto pizza offers soul food not quite like anything else. But it’s foolish of us to think that eating well can compensate for other areas of our lives that need changing. It will also not help heal of all the inflammation one experiences by panicking that one too many grams of fat or sugar might have been consumed that day. All that stress, all that cortisol in the body, well….no amount of avocado-quinoa-kale salads are going to counteract that.

Optimal health is a multi-faceted state of being that depends upon adequate nutrition, but also mental and physical wellbeing. We know that stress leads to disease. Our lives are busy and they always will be. But if we’re not allowing meal times to be enjoyable and indulgent experiences because we’re too worried that what we’re eating might verge on dirty, we’re missing what’s there; what’s sacred: an opportunity to relax and enjoy ourselves, hopefully in good company.

I also wonder this: why is food getting all the attention? Am I the only one that thinks it’s just a little bit silly that we see no issues with continuing to pollute our seas with ton after ton of plastic and our air with an array of noxious fumes, cut down our rainforests and flood our coastlines and somehow focus all of our attention on what we eat as though it will somehow rectify the deeply unhappy state that we – as part of a collective organism that is life on Planet Earth – find ourselves in? Woah, took a dark turn, right? I don’t beat around no bush. If that’s what you’re after, probably better to go check out one of those clean-eating bloggers who will tell you that green juices are the answers to all of your problems.

Holistic health is the only approach to our wellbeing. True wellbeing. And part of what we need is an environment that is clean and supportive. In its current state, it is blighted; on bowed legs and desperately in need of the respect it deserves. As long as we continue to exploit it as we do, we continue to hurt our health. Yes, no matter the amount of fad foods that we force-feed ourselves. Glyphosate, a decline in bees, air pollution from all the VOCs, microplastics, light pollution, noise pollution…and we think that the quinoa will save us? It’s time to wake up and take a look around. If we spent half as much time on environmental preservation as we do obsessing about our daily juice, we might have a real shot at saving ourselves.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

 

 

I’ve had a collection of jumbled thoughts tossing and turning in my mind for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been struggling to articulate what they are exactly and why they’ve been bothering me so much, but a long walk in the sunshine yesterday helped me make sense of it all…I think…Let’s have a go, at least. Apologies if this is still somewhat jumbled *shrugs*.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been passionate about making the world a better place. Or rather, protecting the planet. I love the great outdoors, having been fortunate enough to grow up traveling frequently and seeing some true wonders in my lifetime. Nature is my greatest inspiration and where I try to spend as much of my free time as possible. When you love something that much, you want to preserve it, right?

Kennedy loves nature –> Kennedy wants nature to be there forever –> Kennedy fights to protect nature

I don’t actually know where it comes from (my love of the great outdoors and subsequent obsession with environmental conservation) because the rest of my family aren’t like me at all. I mean, they care as much as the next person who cares an average amount I suppose, but it’s certainly nowhere near the top of their priorities list. I try not to let these differences cause too much friction, but when you’re passionate about something (and I’m a Scorpio, so make that like x10), it inevitably causes at least a little discomfort. A difference of opinions always does. On the one hand, there’s me wishing they saw things from my perspective and on the other, them feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around me for fear of judgement. Any one else in a similar position? It’s hard, right?

As time passes, I realise that it’s important not to let it come between us. We’re all on our own individual journeys, facing very unique struggles and thus priorities. We each care about different things that we think are going to make us happy and serve the greater good. They just don’t happen to all tick the same boxes and it’s learning to accept that and work around it that’s key.

It’s actually something that I’m trying to work on in 2018: learning to communicate more effectively with those people who don’t see eye to eye with me. (The daughter of a diplomat; you think I’d be better at that, huh? Not really.) Again with the passionate Scorpio-ness, I guess. Plus, I’m still in my twenties….I hear we learn that stuff a little later in life (she says with fingers firmly crossed).

It’s easy to get yourself caught in a bubble – especially in this crazy time of social media where you quite literally pick and choose the kinds of people you let yourself be influenced by. Not interested? Unfollow. Annoyed by the negativity? Unfriend. The result is, however, that you find you’re rallying up people who are already passionate about the same things that you are. You form this mob of egotistical people who each pat themselves on the back, not having anyone challenge your thinking because you’ve strategically selected the people comprising this group in the first place. You form a collective who are already on the same wavelength, but aren’t reaching out and effectively communicating with those who need persuading (and will therefore stimulate real change).

Don’t get me wrong. Social media has a lot of power that certainly works for good. When eco-friendly stuff becomes trendy, everyone wants to jump on board and ultimately that works out better for the planet. But it is still a bubble. A small one.

I’ve been through so many different thought processes when it comes to how I can live most sustainably. No one could ever criticise me for not trying, that’s for sure. I’ve ebbed and flowed through all the usual dietary things (vegan, local, organic etc), the plastic I consume and waste I produce, the power I run my life on, my choice of transport, where I vacation, which charities I donate to, what I write about etc. The list goes on and on. Everyday I question my actions and try as often as possible to challenge myself when faced with a new decision. How can I do better?

I know living in perfect harmony with the planet whilst simultaneously not offending anyone is not an achievable goal. I know that there’s always something that I can do better and I’ll damn well keep trying til I’m dead, but what I want to articulate today is that it’s the trying that counts.

I can’t tell you the number of posts I’ve seen on social media by people sharing a little snapshot of some part of their life and efforts at reducing plastic waste, but also feeling the need to apologise for something in the photo which isn’t fashionably ‘zero waste’. It’s this silent pressure that sits there and holds standards out-of-reach. “Sorry about [insert object here], I bought it before I went zero-waste” or “Ignore [insert object here] I’m just using it up” So, why the pressure? Where does it come from? Probably from the same place that my getting into fights with coworkers who don’t believe in recycling comes from: a place of passion.

Passion makes people do crazy things. It is good, bad and ugly all mixed together in one cataclysmic bundle. But the truth is that no one has the right to judge you. I know it feels as if they do and trust me, I’m guilty of living with that fear too, but the fact is that they don’t. And just because something is right for them, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

This is where I’m at with so-called ‘sustainable living’. There is no ‘one size fits all’, unfortunately. I wish it were that easy, but it isn’t. And as much as we all like to pretend that we’ve got it all figured out, I truly believe that living sustainably means being open to adaptation and being flexible. Being vegan, for example, might be the very best way that you can reduce carbon emissions based on your current circumstances as a city-dweller where everything is available to you. But what about if you moved to a tropical island where fish was plenty and tropical fruits and vegetables bountiful? Would you still choose vegan and import all foods that you were eating previously so as to maintain the status? No, of course not. The air miles would be killer and completely contradict the whole ‘sustainable vibes’ thing that you’re striving for.

None of us are living the exact same lives and none of these lives set in stone. We each have different financial constraints and health conditions and physical impairments and complicated emotions and hopes and dreams and lives that change like the weather. What is right for us today might not be tomorrow. And it’s this that I know truly resonates with me. The only thing that I’m certain of is that times change and that I need to be ready and willing to adapt as they do.

I hope that we see a shift towards encouraging each other to do our very best in the situation that we find ourselves in. Lower the bar a bit. Remember empathy. Don’t judge them or inflict your views upon them until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Photos by Sphynx and Relentless Church on Unsplash and Chester Ho on Unsplash

We’re consistently told that standing up for what we believe in is the most honourable path to choose. Even if we stand alone, we must do what’s right by our internal guidance system. Live by our values. But is there a limit to this? Is there any point at which it’s no longer worth it? Would you stand up for your beliefs even if it meant risking your life?

The Guardian has been keeping pretty solid tabs on those individuals who have been killed for doing exactly this: standing up for a healthy environment. The figure stands at 197 courageous men and women in the year 2017 alone, with the rate expected to continue at 4 individuals per week for the forseeable future. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers whose voices have been silenced by those who put capitalist interests before environmental preservation and it disgusts me.

On almost every continent there have been people standing up against logging, land degradation, water pollution and poaching, with Brazil the most dangerous place to be at present. It’s nothing new – since the dawn of time there has existed conflict over land and its many uses. Only, it’s 2018 and there is clear evidence that the planet’s on its last legs. Bar terraforming a new one (and quick!) unless we want to suffer a slow and painful demise, we’ve got to start getting our shit into gear.

From my safe little house in my safe little town on the (relatively) safe little English isle, I go about my days trying to lead by example. I eat a vegan diet, I only consume cruelty-free cosmetics, I recycle, I try wherever possible to avoid plastic consumption and especially the single-use kind, I promote self-care and mindfulness and I make time to help others with making more environmentally-friendly choices whenever they express an interest in learning more. But above all this (because really, none of those things are superpowers), I educate myself as frequently as I’m able to. I absorb every story and statistic I can get my mitts on.

That yearning to know more can be insatiable – is, insatiable. How can I possibly do better if I’m not learning the facts? Blame it on the scientist in me. Once you learn the truth about how devestating our consumption habits are on the planet and how problematic the animal agriculture industry is (yes, I’m a big Monbiot fan) to name just a couple, you see that you have no choice but to alter your lifestyle. It’s either that or live a miserable life. Rejigging everything is a smaller burden than living in conflict with what you know has to be done.

I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t live my life on the firing line. And you are too, if you’re in a similar situation to me. But we have an absolute responsibility to share the truths that the deceased no longer can because we owe it to them for their strength and undeniable bravery for standing up for what they knew to be right.

Indigenous people in sacred places across the globe are having their ancestral lands being destroyed quicker than they’re having time to process the trauma. From the Sioux at Standing Rock to the Ka’apor in Brazil to the mighty women of the Zambezi, the planet is littered with people trying to protect their homes however they can, even if it means their inevitable demise. If home is all you know, how can life go on without it? Home is, after all, more than a physical place. It is the history that goes along with it, the memory, the culture, the family and the soul.

As a human, you have a responsibility to do no harm to another. That’s just how it is. Many don’t live this way, of course and that’s a terrible sadness, but we know how things ought to be. And if it pains you to know that there is all this suffering going on around the world and you feel helpless and incapable of making a difference, know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like ripples in a mill pond, your actions can inspire others in ways that you’ve likely never considered. All you need to do is plant the seed.

What changes do you want to see? An end to logging? Buy reclaimed timber furniture. Better air quality? Support renewable resources. The end of climate change? Stop supporting animal agriculture and eat plant-based. Clean seas with healthy marine populations? Cut down on your plastic consumption. Lead by example and others will follow. Your voice is louder than you know.

Photos: Sphynx & MeltingPotSoul via Instagram

 

I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

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soy_tofu

Today I’m addressing soy. It’s unbelievably common, massively in demand and certainly a part of my diet. But it’s controversial and there’s wide concern over the implications of consuming this plant on such a large scale.

Soy beans are legumes native to East Asia. Process them in various ways and you’ve got everything from protein-rich tofu to dairy-free milk, emulsifier soy lecithin to flavour-enhancing soy sauce.

The problems

There are more than this, but below I’ve listed the two main concerns that we seem to have regarding the consumption of soy.

  1. Rapid Deforestation to keep up with global demand
  2. Phytoestrogens in the body

Deforestation & Demand

There is a huge global demand for soy products. Firstly, there is the Asian market who have always used soy – particularly in place of dairy for many who are lactose-intolerant. Next up there is the increasing demand for plant-based or vegan alternatives to traditional protein sources. Next there’s soy used in candles, adhesives and other industrial practices. Then, as an emulsifying agent in various processed snacks. But finally, overtaking them all as the number one demand for soy is as an animal feed.

Each year, large areas of South America and Asia are cleared of native rainforest to make way for soy (and palm) plantations. This happens in much the same way as these areas are cleared to make room for livestock. The two go hand in hand, with the soy being grown and harvested to feed the livestock. In lands where the grass doesn’t flourish, but food is needed to plump up the cattle, soy is the alternative feed. And much of the time the soy has been genetically-modified to be herbicide resistant.

A great argument for plant-based or vegan living is that you’re missing out the middle man. I completely agree with that. It’s much better to be eating the soy bean than eating the cow that’s eaten the soy bean. If everyone did that, we wouldn’t cause so much deforestation. We wouldn’t need the land for the livestock, so you can forget that. We’d only need to be cultivating soy for human consumption.

Phytoestrogens

When I worked in skincare, I had a client once who approached me very concerned about finding a product that didn’t contain soy. She explained to me that she had miraculously overcome a battle with breast cancer and her doctor instructed she be sure to avoid soy. She explained how soy is a phytoestrogen (a hormone not produced by the body, but rather ingested). Her doctor had informed her that some studies had shown the consumption of soy (and other phytoestrogens) could increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

This was the first time that I had heard of such a thing. I did my research that night and have read much on the subject since then, but the studies seem inconclusive. There’s about the same level of evidence as studies on parabens. There’s no concrete evidence that eating soy will make you more likely to develop cancer. At least not that I’ve found.

***

Try as I might, the carnivorous males in my life still moan at me when I prepare tofu. They exclaim with flailing arms that they don’t want to grow boobs. Based on the research I’ve done, I can’t see my weekly soy intake as being a problem at all. But I am mindful where I purchase my soy from. I have a responsibility to make ethical purchases, after all.

What can you do to eat soy sustainably?

  1. Avoid GMO. A quick search on the websites of Cauldron and Alpro – two large soy retailers here in the UK list commitments to staying GMO-free. So thumbs up from me on that one.
  2. If you eat meat, buy local and grass-fed to reduce your potential GMO soy demand.
  3. Reduce the number of processed foods you’re eating – especially those that contain soy. Eating whole foods is better for so many reasons, but this is a good one for sure.

 

 

 

 

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