Why I Decided to Go Vegetarian

A month ago today, I made a big decision: I decided to become a vegetarian. And yes, this is coming from an Iowa girl who grew up eating meat at almost every meal. 

Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a zookeeper. I actually went to college with some sort of animal-related career in mind (dolphin training was at the top of the list!), but it turns out I’m really bad at math and chemistry. Hence why my right brain won and I ended up moving to New York City for a journalism career. Now I occasionally get to write about cute animals; a total win in my eyes.

But let’s rewind again. Basically every summer growing up was spent with a net in hand catching frogs and turtles at local ponds and quarries, and we had every sort of pet you can imagine, from hamsters and lizards to snakes and fish. Not to mention our cats and dogs. In college, I got a job at PetSmart and basically spent every paycheck on a new pet. Sorry University of Northern Iowa, but my roommate and I had a gerbil, two adorable rats, hermit crabs, AND a guinea pig, all while living in the dorms. I don’t even think they even allowed pet fish. #sorrynotsorry. Now, I have my little baby Trixie, who I got as a puppy in college at a house that also didn’t allow pets. Evidently I really like sneaking around animals.

Even though I grew up in town, I’ve always loved farm animals. Most people don’t stop to think about it, but cows and pigs are just as loving and affectionate as the pets that live in our homes. In some countries they’re treated like family (for instance, the slaughter of cattle is prohibited in India), but we were raised to see many animals as food. To put it into perspective, people in China eat dogs. We obviously see that as absolutely horrendous, but a lot of people think that’s totally normal just because of how they were raised.

When I was in middle school, I think it really hit me where my meat was actually coming from. When you see it on the shelves in stores, it’s made to look appealing — but that appealing look can take more than 600 gallons of water for a single burger patty or chicken breast. We forget that what we’re looking at actually came from a living, breathing animal that wanted nothing but to survive. Not become a burger. I decided to go vegetarian — which is basically unheard of in Iowa — but it didn’t work out. I can’t remember what happened, but I’m guessing it’s not easy to be a 12-year-old vegetarian in the Midwest.

Fast forward to a couple months ago. Becoming a vegetarian was something that had been in the back of my mind, so I started doing some research. I listened to a whole lot of YouTubers talking about their transition and why they decided to convert, listened to some amazing speeches, and watched some Netflix documentaries. Hearing about what really goes on in slaughterhouses — even with “humane” slaughterhouses — was one thing, but after watching actual footage I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. 

I felt sick, disgusted, and completely lied to by society. I also felt pretty stupid that it took me 26 years to really take the time to think about how my burgers and hot dogs and chicken wings got from the farm to the table. But I’ve realized that’s kind of the point — companies don’t want you to take the time to think about that. In commercials and advertisements, all cows are happy and smiling and nothing bad ever happens for us to be able to bite into a juicy piece of meat. Sadly, in the real world, not long before that bite was a mother cow being separated from her baby or a pig that was confined to a tiny pen and raised to be so fat that it couldn’t even walk at the time it was killed. For what — a few pieces of bacon that’s not even good for us anyway?

I don’t want to be one of those people who preaches — I know no one is going to change their mind about things until they actually want to. It’s easier not to think about it or blissfully ignore what’s going on. But anyone who takes the time to do even five minutes of research or watch a short video will never want to take a bite out of meat ever again. (If you want to, I suggest this one I embedded below. You’ll for sure cry at the 16 min. mark, but don’t skip ahead. It’s worth watching the whole thing.)

It’s not easy going meatless at first. The first couple weeks I couldn’t even figure out what to eat since I’ve never been the biggest fan of vegetables. I was mainly sticking to beans and rice in some sort of Chipotle look-alike burrito bowl. Then, I slowly started getting into the groove.

After some bloating while my body got used to such a drastic change in diet and I was mentally able to figure out new ways of eating and thinking about food, it’s safe to say I’m the happiest and most at peace I’ve ever been. It’s like a switch went off. I no longer have to think or worry about food — I can truly enjoy it. I can eat all the carbs in the world and not feel guilty. And I’ve found a few delicious veggie burgers that taste just as good as the real thing.

Without all the extra hormones and who knows what else from meat in my body, I’ve noticed so many changes. I no longer get massive stomach aches and acid reflux, my anxiety has chilled out, and I feel like I’ve gotten more toned without even trying. (I’ve only worked out maybe three times the entire past month.) And yes, that’s while eating waffles, rice, pasta, pizza… all the good stuff. I’m always full and feeling good, and I eat all the fruit and vegetables I want. After a month, I’ve seen nothing but good things. 

I’m doing my small part in ending animal torture and helping our environment, and I can honestly say I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I was a little worried what would happen, but everyone I’ve told — which has been very few people up until this point — have been more than supportive. And my boyfriend has been amazing. (I’ve even gotten him to fall in love with some vegetarian dishes! Something I think he’s still surprised about.)

As a newbie, I’m still looking for tips, meal ideas — basically anything you can toss my way. And if you’re interested in making the switch, let me know — I’m more than happy to help in the process.

I Tried Cycling in Water — Here’s What Happened

Over the past year, I’ve fallen completely in love with indoor cycling. It started as a way to get in some cardio without running, but turned into a full-on obsession. After taking countless classes at a whole bunch of studios around New York City — from Soul Cycle and Cyc Method to Swerve — I was introduced to a completely different type of riding. You know, where you’re chillin’ in water.

First of all, the thought of being in water in general got me pretty excited to try out AQUA. In the TriBeCa studio, there’s a small pool with bikes lined up just like you’d see in your typical spin class. I had no idea what to expect as I was one of the few people swimming around waiting for class to start (it’s clean water! in New York City! how could I resist?), but the second the music turned on and I put my feet in the pedals, I was in for a surprise. I knew pedaling in water was going to be a challenge, but whoa.

Unlike cycling out of water, when you’re working with actual resistance from the blue stuff, it’s crazy-hard. It’s also a little hard to get the hang of. After figuring out how to ride more smoothly like the regulars in class instead of jerking around, I thought I had it down. But then it was time to work other parts of our body. We slid off the back of the bikes and did some moves to challenge our abs and back. Although I was definitely feeling the burn in the moment, I felt it even more the next day. I didn’t even know those back muscles existed.

Aqua cycling is definitely something I would try again. It’s 100% weird not feeling your sweat during class (thanks, h2o!), but anyone who thinks being surrounded by water is going to make things a little easier is totally wrong. Even though it’s tough, it’s a whole lot more spiritual and relaxing than your typical spin class. If you’re looking for a little mental clarity as well as the physical benefits, grab a swimsuit (and shorts if you want to stay comfortable on the seat!) and dive into this fun experience.

Meet Your New Favorite Gym Bags (+ Giveaway!)

Guys, I have a problem: I’m a little obsessed with gym bags. My go-to for quite a while now has been this one that’s absolutely perfect for my cycling classes. It fits my shoes and must-haves perfectly, but it really only works if I’m going straight home afterward; there’s no room for shower supplies, my laptop for work, and everything I need to make myself look (halfway) presentable after sweating my booty off. Cue in Sol and Selene.

I was able to choose a couple of their bags to try out and went with the Around Town (in grey) and On the Go (in black), and I’ve gotta say… not. disappointed. Not only are they both chic enough to rock into the office after a workout, but they’re incredibly functional. I’m a pocket fanatic, and these have places for everything. And although the grey bag is a little smaller than the black, they’re both big enough to hold my MacBook Air and whatever else I need.

Giveaway!

Obviously I’m not just going to tell you about how great something is and not share, so I’m teaming up with the brand to give you a brand-new bag, too! For your chance to win the Around Town bag, head over to my post on Instagram here and do the following: follow both myself and @solandselene, then leave a comment tagging two fitness-loving pals. It’s that easy. The winner will be chosen at random on June 7th. Go get ’em, Tiger!

5 Minutes with Sydney Tollett, AKA @syd_healthynfit

In the ‘5 Minutes’ series, you’ll meet the raddest health and fitness ladies on the internet. Get ready for a serious dose of inspiration from empowering women I admire around the globe.

Name: Sydney Tollett
Age: 18
City: Fayetteville, AR
Day Job: College, Majoring in Dietetics

What’s something people don’t know about you?

I’m organized in most areas of my life except for my room. It’s basically never clean, but somehow I always still manage to find everything I need.

What keeps you motivated on days you’re feeling blah?

I think what keeps me motivated when I can’t do it myself is the support I have around me. I know if I push through the off days, I’ll come out even stronger and more thankful for the lifestyle I’ve chosen.

Your go-to healthy snack obsession… and guilty pleasure.

Healthy Snack: Rice cake with peanut butter and apple slices with cinnamon.

Guilty Pleasure: If I have to just pick one… ice cream!

Most random thing in your gym bag.

Dry shampoo? I really don’t take much to the gym with me!

Your favorite and least favorite workout moves.

Favorite: Squats — for the bootayyyy duh.

Least Favorite: Pull-ups — my arms have always been the weakest part of my body so they’re really hard for me.

Tell me something (anything!) 100% honest.

I’ve had to overcome many eating habits/disorders to get to the healthy place I am today.

Most embarrassingly awesome workout jam on your playlist.

J Beibs, Love Yourself.  Or anything Fetty Wap.

Love Sydney as much as I do? Keep up with her here:

Instagram: @syd_healthynfit
Blog: syd-healthynfit.weebly.com
YouTube: syd_healthynfit 
 

4 Reasons to Drink More Water (+ Giveaway!)

I talked about my water woes last October, and I’ve gotta admit — drinking infused water worked for a hot second, but not much longer. For some reason, I can’t get myself to drink like a normal person — it can be sitting in front of me for hours and I won’t even take a sip. And let me tell you… there’s nothing fun about being in a constant state of dehydration.

Then, a miracle happened. My deskmate (Dr. Oz The Good Life’s genius beauty editor Sarah Weir) introduced me to this little gadget that hooks around your water bottle or glass and lights up when you need to take a drink. Yeah. The only thing that would work better would be if I hired someone to sit beside me and tap my shoulder every time I went longer than 30 minutes without guzzling down some H2O.

Ulla reminds me of the Giga Pet I had back in the day. Except instead of forgetting about it and accidentally killing my virtual cat, my little Ulla keeps me from passing out from lack of the most important thing my body needs to function. Basically I have one job — to drink at least 9 cups of water a day — and I can’t even do that, so having a little help is a dream.

After posting about it on Instagram, so many of you were as obsessed as I am — and guess what? Because of that, I’ve partnered with the brand to give three of you an Ulla of your own. Check out the incredibly simple giveaway details on Instagram tonight at 8pm! And if you’re still wondering why it’s so crucial to drink water in the first place, here are some reasons you might have forgotten about. (I definitely did.)

A photo posted by Tehrene Firman (@tehrene) on

1. Water Helps You Stay Full

I’m definitely guilty of thinking I’m hungry 24/7, and I’m sure most of time my body is just yelling “GIVE ME WATER NOWWW.” When you drink water, you feel full. When you feel full, you don’t take in unneeded calories. And when you don’t take in extra calories, you’re much more likely to lose or maintain your current weight. Reach those #goals.

2. You’ll Keep Your Youthful Glow

Having a puffy face, dark circles under your eyes, and bloating can be prevented by drinking enough water. Your skin will look better — no pimples! — and your tummy will be a lot flatter. Who knew a little H2O could serve as the Fountain of Youth? It’s a free anti-aging solution.

3. Say Goodbye to Feeling Down

If you’re feeling depressed, incredibly low on energy, sluggish, or just down in the dumps, it could be because you’re not drinking enough water. The next time you’re in a slump, reach for a glass before you go anywhere near energy drinks or coffee.

4. Your Workouts Will Get Easier

I specifically remember trying to take a cycling class after a workday where I barely drank any water. I tried chugging some before, and by the end I was so dizzy that I actually thought I was going to pass out. I had to go lie down on a mat outside the studio with sweat dripping down my face feeling like absolute crap. Water is the fuel our bodies need to get through those hard workouts, so drink. up.