5 unexpected benefits of a vegan diet.

About one year ago I decided to try a vegan diet for a month, to see whether it would work for me.  I expected it to be quite difficult to maintain, but I’d been curious about veganism for years and following a period of research into benefits of such a diet and the reality of the farming industry, I wanted to at least attempt to go vegan.

 

It’s nearly a year later and I’m still going strong on my vegan journey.  Once I’d done my research and some planning, I didn’t find it very difficult at all to make the transition to a vegan diet.  A lot of the obstacles I’d expected were non-issues, and I reaped a huge number of benefits.  My skin improved, I lost a little weight and I had more energy.  But going vegan had a number of benefits that I hadn’t predicted would cross my path before I started on this journey.  Today I wanted to share five unexpected benefits of being a vegan:

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  1. Vegan food takes less time to prepare.

Eating vegan is a huge time-saver.  Initially, I had a couple of shopping trips that took twice as long as usual because I had to check a lot of packages to figure out what was vegan friendly.  But once I knew what to buy, shopping was a total breeze.  Cooking vegan food takes a fraction of the time it used to take me to prepare meaty meals.  Vegetables cook a lot more quickly than meat, and a lot of the meat substitutes require less cooking time as well.  My meals are done so much more quickly now.

2. Your palate changes

Over the past year, I’ve tried to keep an open mind about food.  I’m not generally a picky eater, but I am normally hesitant to try new things.  A lot of vegan foods have a reputation for being boring and tasteless, and I tried to keep an open mind when sampling new ingredients or foods.  In fact, I’ve found loads of specialised vegan foods that are super tasty, which I now get cravings for.  I pushed myself to try some vegetables that I’ve never been fond of and found that I actually really enjoy them.  I think that since I changed my diet, my palate and tastebuds have changed somewhat too.  Just the other day I found myself snacking on a handful of cherry tomatoes, a food that I previously hated and found bitter.  I feel proud of myself for trying so many new foods and adopting loads of them into my cooking.

3. It’s easier to wash the dishes

Have you ever tried to chisel dried-up cheese off a plate that once held pasta or nachos?  It’s damn near impossible.  But when you don’t eat cheese, you never run into that problem!  Even the vegan cheese substitutes don’t stick as voraciously to the crockery as dairy cheeses, and are easy to wipe off.  As a person who hates doing the dishes, I welcome this.

 

4. You weed out the jerks

I don’t think that I’m a preachy vegan.  My personal philosophy is that the food you eat doesn’t make you a dick….but the way you act about it can.  When I started ordering vegan meals in restaurants and sharing pictures of my vegan cooking on social media, there were the inevitable number of eye-rolls and comments challenging my decision.  And while it wasn’t fun to be made to feel shitty about my food choices (especially as I made an effort not to bite back judging people who do eat meat) those jibes served a very important purpose.  I was able to look at those people who were so negative towards my diet and evaluate whether I actually wanted to continue spending time with them.  It allowed me to see those people who shout down others who don’t share the same opinion as them and step out of their path.

 

5. You can lick the bowl

Vegan baking is made extra fun by the fact that you can eat raw cookie dough without fear of food poisoning.  There are no raw eggs that might harbour salmonella, so it’s perfectly safe to lick the bowl after your cake goes into the oven.  Heavenly.

 

Do you eat a vegan diet?  What are some of the unexpected benefits you found?

 

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Tattoos, piercings and bright hair in the workplace.

As many of you know, blogging isn’t my only job.  I also work in retail.  The store I work for has relatively strict policies on how employees must present themselves at work. I have to wear a uniform at all times, I’m not allowed to dye my hair any ‘extreme’ colours, facial piercings are not allowed, and employees are not supposed to have visible tattoos.

It should come as no surprise to you that strict dress codes get up my nose.  I don’t like being told what to wear.  However, I do need to earn a bit of cash to pay for important things like bills and food, so I can suck it up and wear my darn uniform.  In my mind, uniforms make sense: they send a message to the customer about which people in the shop actually work there, and often the garments that are required serve safety as well as aesthetic purposes.

While I can understand the utility of a uniform, I despise dress codes that exclude things like unnatural hair colours, piercings and tattoos.

It makes perfect sense to me why an employee should be required to wear closed-toed shoes, or have their hair tied back when working with food.  These rules are in place to keep the employee safe, and to make sure that they do their job properly.  I am yet to see an instance where a person’s tattoos have impaired their ability to carry out their duties.  The fact that a person has hot-pink hair doesn’t make them less capable of performing well at their job than a person with mousy-brown hair.  Body modification in all it’s forms has become extremely common, and there are all kinds of people who decorate themselves with body art.  An armload of tattoos doesn’t mean that you’re outgoing; I know plenty of extremely shy women who are festooned with tatts.  Similarly, having coloured hair doesn’t make you raucous or lewd.  Some of the most polite, ambitious and well-educated people I know have some kind of body modification.  They are the type of people that you’d employ in a heartbeat.

So why is it that employees continue to discriminate against people with tattoos, coloured hair or body piercings?  I had one employer tell me that it ‘makes the customers uncomfortable’.  Apparently, a lot of customers have a problem being served by a person with a tattoo, even if that person does an awesome job.  So, isn’t refusing to hire a person with tattoos simply pandering to that prejudice?  To me, that’s like saying, “Oh, we have a lot of customers who are racist, so we won’t hire anyone with a foreign accent”.  By allowing that prejudice to inform the decisions you make, you’re sending the message that it’s O.K to behave like a bigot.

And why is it that some body modifications are alright, but not others?  For example, why isn’t there a company policy banning employees who are positively orange from over-tanning?  Why can a woman with bleached-blonde hair come to work without being hassled, but the woman with blue hair can’t?   Is it because they’re more mainstream?  Why are these things O.K, but tattoos and piercings are still frowned upon in the workplace?

In a lot of cases, the way we present ourselves is a form of self-expression.  A person might get a tattoo because it represents something that is significant to them, or they might dye their hair their favourite colour because it makes them smile.  The way we decorate our bodies says something about who we are, and by saying “you can’t come to work dressed like that’, what employers are really saying is “we don’t want someone like you working here”.  That’s never a nice thing to hear.

I think that employers need to re-evaluate the message that they’re sending with their employee presentation codes.  By refusing to allow people with certain body modifications to enter employment, they’re discriminating against these people.  They’re making an assumption, based on the way a person looks, that they’re not right for that job.  And in many cases, that assumption will be totally wrong.  Refusing to employ people that look a certain way is perpetuating the cycle of prejudice against people who are different from the norm.  I think we need to start paying more attention to the person behind the tattoos, and focusing less on knee-jerk judgements based on the way a person looks.

Do you think that workplaces should have strict dress codes?  Have you even been refused a job because of the way you looked?

 

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On Kardashians and gay marriage

Marriage is a topic that I’m very passionate about. Last week, when I heard that Kim Kardashian had filed for divorce after just 72 days of marriage, it sparked my ire.

 

 

I am a firm advocate for marriage. I don’t believe that everyone has to get married in order to be happy. I know several couples who have been together for decades, who have children and have no desire to tie the knot. These couples are no less elated than the happily married couples I know. Marriage isn’t for everyone, and I don’t believe that it’s a necessary ingredient for a happy relationship. However, I do believe that if you decide to take the plunge and get married, it should be taken seriously.

 

 

Marriage is a commitment for life. It isn’t something that you rush into without seriously thinking about whether you’ve chosen the right person and whether you’re suited for married life. It’s one of the most significant life decisions a person can make, and it should be treated as such. When you get married, you vow to love and cherish your partner, to the exclusion of all others, for life. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t believe in divorce (because, let’s face it, there are loads of legitimate reasons for getting divorced) but I am saying that divorce shouldn’t be seen as an escape route to be used when you get bored, or if things aren’t going your way.

 

 

I believe that a person should enter a marriage with the honest conviction that it will last for life. I don’t think that it’s okay to treat marriage as a temporary state- as something to do until the novelty wears off. A person who gives their marriage less time than it takes to brew beer is not taking the institution of marriage seriously.

 

 

Which brings me to the topic of gay marriage. I strongly believe that gay marriage should be legal. I believe that two people should have the option of committing to one another for life, regardless of their gender. I think it’s pretty poor that in Australia marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples.

 

 

There are many arguments that people who oppose gay marriage throw out that are utter BS. Among these arguments is the idea that allowing homosexual couples to marry would undermine the institution of marriage. I’ve always been confused about exactly how allowing gay couples the option of solidifying their commitment to one another by getting married would sully the idea of marriage. I don’t see how the gender of the people in a marriage relationship affects the validity or quality of their commitment.

 

 

However, I do see how douchebags like Kim Kardiashain getting married and divorced within a three-month period undermines the institution of marriage. The fact that straight people are able to get married in a big, white, internationally-televised wedding, declare their eternal commitment to one another and then call it quits a couple of months later is a joke. This is the kind of behaviour that damages the idea of marriage. It turns marriage into another social event, a temporary state of being, rather than a lifelong commitment. More than this, it’s a slap in the face to homosexual couples who would like to get married, and who would take that marriage seriously.

 

 

It’s ridiculous that Kim Kardashian can marry and divorce before the ink is dry on her marriage certificate, and that this behaviour is allowed because of the simple fact that she has a vagina and her partner has a penis. Meanwhile, homosexual couples are fighting for their right to have a marriage certificate at all. This paradox makes me angrier than I can put into words.

 

 

Do you think gay couples should have the option to marry? Do you think that Kim Kardashian’s behaviour is more undermining to the institution of marriage than allowing gay couples to wed? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Is success the kiss of death for bloggers?

Today, it seems like every man and his dog has their own blog. Every second person you meet is chronicling their lives online. With so many people in the blogosphere, it’s becoming more and more difficult to differentiate yourself in the online world. Creating a blog that will allow you to earn a living from writing alone is becoming harder with time. However, a very select group of lucky bloggers are able to do just that. Some live entirely off the advertising and products that they sell from their websites, while others have used their fame in the blogosphere to catapult their careers in other fields. When bloggers stop being nobodies and start getting recognised for their online presence, sometimes it’s difficult for them to maintain the quality of their blogs. I’ve noticed over the past few years several bloggers whose blogs seem to go downhill at a rate proportionate to their success. I’ve been thinking lately whether success can be the kiss of death for bloggers?

 

 

When most people start blogging, they are relatively unknown. You might have a handful of readers, a swag of ideas and loads of free time to pour into designing your site, creating excellent content, posting regularly and answering comments. Your enthusiasm for blogging is likely to be sky-high, so you’ll want to put more time into it. However, as you become successful, and are perhaps spending time on a number of other projects that have sprung from your success, you might have fewer hours to put into blogging. Your posting schedule might start dwindling to just two posts a week (when you used to post every day). You might have less time for editing, so your posts are long-winded, incoherent and full of typos. You might find that the task of replying to all those comments is just far too daunting, so you stop answering them altogether. Your inspiration might start lagging. While all these things are understandable when you are time-poor, it’s this kind of blogging behaviour that irritate readers and will make them turn away.

 

 

Regular posting is vital to holding an audience, as your readers need to know that when they visit your site, there will be something fresh and engaging for them to read. It’s equally important that the quality of your posts remains high, or readers will get bored with the trite, tired content and will click away. Supplying a thoughtful reply to reader comments creates a forum for discussion, or simply shows readers how much you appreciate the time that they have taken to comment on your work. By neglecting reader comments, you’re neglecting your readers. When some bloggers become successful, the basic maintenance of their site becomes one of the first things to suffer due to the scarcity of time. Inspired, creative posts are usually the second.

 

 

Another reason that success can cause a previously booming blog to sag is that success changes people. Blogging is a very personal experience, and in my opinion the best blogs are the ones that give readers a glimpse into the life of the writer. People are naturally voyeuristic, and allowing readers to see a slice of your own life satisfies this urge. Some bloggers do this by taking daily outfit photos, showing snapshots of their day or writing about personal experiences. Some of my favourite blogs are the ones that are written by average, everyday people. I adore seeing an outfit on a girl who is just like me. It’s so much more relatable than just flicking through a fashion magazine. Reading about bloggers who live in the same city as you is also inspiring, as you can actually go and visit the very events and places that they are writing about.

 

 

Occasionally, people who were once ‘bloggers’ jump on the success train and morph into ‘celebrities’. When this happens, their lifestyles can change so dramatically that their readers can no longer relate to them. Outfit posts that used to document funky, thrift-store ensembles are replaced with snaps of the writer in designer couture. Write-ups about quaint restaurants and on-the-cheap activities are replaced with reports of society parties and movie premiers. That fun, kitsch writer that you used to identify with has entered a chrysalis of success, and has emerged as a pretentious, pampered celebrity who is hard to know. When the personality behind the blog changes, the content of the blog is bound to alter as well, and it’s not always for the better.

 

 

While success can be detrimental to a brilliant blog, it doesn’t have to be the case. I can think of loads of bloggers who have turned their writing into a career, run their own businesses and work on a bevy of side projects and still manage to produce regular, engaging content. These bloggers still reply to their comments and work hard to maintain the quality of their sites. These people tend to be the ones who are dedicated to their work, and who realise that keeping their blog going takes a lot of hard slog. Bloggers who recognise that their readers have been the key to their popularity and success, and appreciate them, tend to be better at producing excellent content and replying to comments. In my opinion, the best bloggers are the ones who gain success, but don’t let the fame go to their heads. They keep their wits about them and manage to stay true to themselves even in the bright glow of fame. They don’t let success change their personality, and so they remain relatable and likeable no matter how high they climb.

 

 

Success can be the kiss of death for a blog, but only if the person behind it isn’t prepared to put in the work to maintain their site. If you appreciate your audience, endeavour to keep producing high-quality work and retain your personality even when fame comes a-knocking, I believe that it’s perfectly possible to be a successful blogger and a wonderful blogger at the same time.

 

 

Do you think that success is the kiss of death for a blog? Can you think of any bloggers who do a great job of juggling success and blogging? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

More money=more style? I think not.

There seems to be this huge myth that having a whopping clothing budget will turn you into a fashionista. So many people seem to use tiny budgets as an excuse for not experimenting with clothing or fashion. I am here to bust this myth.

 

 

I believe that having a smaller clothing budget actually improves your sense of style. There are a few reasons for this. Having less money to spend on clothes forces you to be creative. If you need something special to wear to an event, but you don’t have the money to splash out on some brand new gear, then you have to look inside your wardrobe at what you already own. If you aren’t rushing out to buy something new every other week, you become really good at working out new ways to wear things, mending and altering clothes to give them a new lease on life and working with the pieces you already have.

 

 

Having less money to spend on clothing also means that you might become more savvy with what you buy, limiting your shopping time and only spending money on things that you really love and  which work well with the rest of your wardrobe. You are more likely to save money for investment items and refrain from blowing all your hard-earned cash on trendy items that won’t last. You might also be drawn to second hand shops and thrift stores, which opens up a whole new world of fashion experimentation.

 

 

Most importantly of all, I believe that a reduction in your clothing budget improves your personal style, because you no longer feel bound by the latest trends. Fashion is an industry, which is built on the premise that people have money to spend on whatever garment designers, magazines or television tell them they must be wearing at this instant. When you don’t have a huge clothing budget, you can’t afford to keep up with the latest trends, and this could be the best thing that ever happened to you. When you are no longer a slave to trends, you are free to begin experimenting and discovering your own style. You will choose your purchases with an eagle eye, so that everything in your wardrobe is a unique piece that speaks to you and means something to you. You will be able to open your mind to new subcultures of fashion, or create a look that is entirely your own. Some of the most stylish and creative women I know are extremely frugal. Although they don’t have a lot to spend on clothes, they spend their cash wisely and use innovative means to set their look apart from everybody else’s.

 

 

Money can’t buy you style. If you had a huge pile of cash to spend on clothing, it’s likely that you would wind up with a wardrobe full of items that you don’t wear, because you bought them just for the hell of it, not because you love each and every piece. Money doesn’t improve your ability to put together an amazing outfit, or apply makeup, or style your hair. You can have a closet filled with beautiful designer pieces and still come out looking like a bag lady. Just because you spent $200 on a new foundation doesn’t mean that you will magically be able to apply it if you have no makeup skills. Just look at Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. These girls have bucketloads of cash, and yet they look as though they just crawled out of a swamp. If you could just buy a new outfit whenever the mood took you, you might enjoy it, but you would be missing out on the sheer joy of playing dress ups in your own closet to find out what new combinations you can dream up. When you have all the money in the world to spend on clothes, each piece is just like the next, and you don’t have the sense of having worked hard to buy a special item that you really, really want.

 

 

Reducing your clothing budget really opens you up to a world of fashion experimentation. It allows you to freely define your own style in your own time and on your own terms. It gets the creative juices flowing and forces you to think outside the box, to mend and make do and to create pieces that are all your own. Not having a huge clothing budget isn’t as bad as some might think, and it is very true that money can only buy clothes, it can’t buy style.

 

Is it O.k to give your lover a makeover?

I have a lovely guy friend, who I believe to be quite a catch. He’s smart, funny and sweet, has great taste in music and is excellent at uno.

 

 

A few months ago, he started dating this girl. She was very nice, except for one thing. She would constantly reprimand him for his choice of clothes, lack of hairstyling prowess and myopathy. She begged him to swap his glasses for contact lenses, and start venturing outside of his ‘lather, rinse and repeat’ grooming routine. Although my friend is a pretty easy-going guy, this started to get on his nerves. He felt upset, unworthy and unloved. It was awful to see somebody with so many lovely qualities take such a punch to his self-esteem.

 

 

It surprises me the number of women that think it is perfectly acceptable or even expected to start making over a guy a few weeks after they begin dating. They see the beginning of a relationship as being akin to purchasing a run-down flat, and then renovating it into the stylish home they have always dreamed of. I just can’t reconcile myself to this attitude, for a number of reasons.

 

 

Firstly, I believe very strongly in dating people that you are attracted to from the get-go. If you are in a relationship with somebody that you are truly compatible with, you probably shouldn’t feel the need to change them. Sure, everybody has flaws, or a few niggling habits that irritate you occasionally, but there is a big difference between dating somebody who forgets to turn off the microwave every now and then and hooking up with some random guy and then attempting to systematically mould him into the man of your dreams. If you are with somebody who you find so desperately unattractive that you need to alter very aspect of their appearance to feel good about the relationship, why are you with them in the first place?

 

 

Secondly, these guys that are being treated as ‘cute little fixer-uppers’ aren’t used cars or vintage furniture, they’re people. Nobody wants to be told that they are unattractive, and I can’t imagine wanting to subject the person that you are in a relationship with to that kind of embarrassment and pain. Nobody ever wants to hear the sentence “you’d be so much better looking if…”, and let’s face it, so many of us spend enough hours beating ourselves up about our appearance, we don’t need our significant other to do it for us.

 

 

If the tables were turned, and a guy told his girlfriend, “Gee, those clothes you’re wearing make you look like a hobo”, or, “you’d be so much more attractive if you had a little more cleavage, so I bought you this push-up bra!” he would be crucified and branded as a bastard (and rightly so). So why do so many women think it’s OK to do the same to their boyfriend?

 

 

There are several reasons that I think this might be the case. The main one is that women are often given the impression that they are the ones in the know when it comes to grooming and appearance, while men are good at fixing appliances and setting up a new Tivo account. Sometimes, women assume that they know what’s best, and that they need to educate this poor, clueless guy about how to dress and style his hair. Many women see their meddling as an act of love, or a service that they are providing to a man they are smitten with. Others have more selfish motives. Others are insecure with their ability to attract a quality mate that they will settle for somebody that they aren’t happy with, and then try to change him into the guy they are really hoping for.

 

 

The fact of the matter is this: most guys are perfectly happy in jeans and a t-shirt, with the occasional shirt thrown in on a special occasion. Most guys like washing their hair, leaving it to dry, and not thinking about it again until the following morning. Most guys don’t want to faff around with a three-step skincare routine, or styling wax, or colour-coordinated wardrobes. Generally, if a guy has made it to his twenties without worrying too much about these things, it is likely that he is happy without them. By forcing these things upon him, you are insulting him, dragging down his self-esteem, annoying him and probably setting him up for a fair amount of teasing from his mates when he shows up at the pub in a salmon-coloured shirt his girlfriend bought for him.

 

 

If a guy wants help with his appearance, he will ask for it. Generally, I have found that friends, boyfriends or male relatives will ask a woman’s opinion when he wants to make a change in his appearance, because he values the suggestions that she will make. It’s good enough for him to know that she will offer the advice if he needs it, but won’t cram suggestions down his throat without him asking for it.

 

 

So, a few pieces of practical advice for all the girlfriends reading this:

– Don’t buy your boyfriend new clothes, skincare products or hairstyling products in the hope that he will use them. If you are going to buy clothes as a gift, buy things that you know he will wear.

– If you can’t stand the thought of being with your partner exactly as they are, perhaps you need to re-evaluate why you are in this relationship in the first place.

– The only times I believe it’s OK to try and change a guy’s grooming habits is if his current routine has serious hygiene consequences. I once dated a guy who never (and I mean never) brushed his teeth. I tried to change this, but to no avail. The relationship ended fairly swiftly after our first kiss.

– Only offer skincare, hairstyling, fashion or health advice when asked. Don’t barrage you partner with a nagging list of complaints.

 

 

What do you guys think? Have any of you given a guy a makeover? Do you think it’s taboo or A-OK? I’d love to hear your comments.

Violence against women…what about men?

I attended a lecture a couple of days ago about family violence.  During the lecture, I noticed a rather disturbing trend. The presenter didn’t use a single example of family violence that didn’t include a female victim and a male perpetrator.  She was rather sexist and disparaging towards men, and flippantly dismissed the idea that men could be victims of family violence also.

 

This worried me deeply.  There is a trend in Australia to view family violence as a phenomenon that only affects women as victims. It is completely true that family violence is a gendered phenonmenon, with the overwhelming number of reported cases involving female victims.   However, there are a small number of reported cases of family violence where men experience violence at the hands of a female domestic partner.  The fact that a group is in the minority of cases, does not mean that their experiences are less significant or less worthy of attention.  I want to delve into this a little further.

 

The definition of “family violence” in both the federal and state acts of parliament is gender neutral.  This means that the perpetrator and the victim can be of either sex.  At law, family violence is treated the same as between sexes.

 

Furthermore, it is important to note that the definition of ‘family violence’ extends wider than mere physical abuse.  In Victoria, the definition includes emotional abuse, social abuse and financial abuse.

 

All of the statistics that we have about the incidence of family violence are based on reported cases.  It is common knowledge that only a small percentage of cases are actually reported, and so family violence may actually be more prevalent than the statistics suggest.  It does make me wonder whether family violence is actually as gendered as the statistics would have us believe, or if there might be a plethora of cases where men are the victims, but do not report abuse.

 

There are a number of reasons why such cases may not be reported.  The first is that the definition of family violence is so broad, and yet when most people think of family violence, they immediately think of physical violence.  It is possible that abuse is occurring to men that does not fall within the stereotypical idea of violence, and so they do not feel that they are being abused or that there is any reason to report it.

 

More alarmingly, it is possible that men are not reporting instances of domestic violence, because of the societal expectations and stigmas attatched to family violence.  Overwhelmingly, family violence is treated as a ‘man beating woman’ crime.  People do not talk about the abuse that some men suffer at the hands of their domestic partners.  Every time you open a womens’ magazine, there are articles professing the need for women to report abuse from their partners, or how to recognise if your friend is being abused.  I doubt that men’s magazines ever run such articles.  The government campaigns relating to family violence all focus on women as victims.  There are even specialized women’s hotlines and refuges to help women in need.  It is socially accepted that, in cases of domestic violence, the woman must be the victim, and the man must be the perpetrator.

 

Assumptions such as these impede the ability of men who are experiencing abuse to get help, or to even recognise that what they are experiencing is abuse.  Small-minded feminists who insist on behaving as though family violence is specific to women only perpetuate the problem.

 

Yes, family violence does happen more often to women than to men.  No, it is not fair to discount the experiences of abused men, just because they are in the minority, or because they are part of a gender that are percieved as ‘perpetrators’ by some of the more influential people in the field of domestic violence.  I believe that it is important to look at family violence holistically without letting gender biases blind us.  It is a huge problem in our society, and putting on our ‘sexism blinkers’ only perpetuates the stigmas attatched to men in this area, and makes it more difficult for men who are the victims  of violence to seek the help and support that they deserve.