Happy Herbivore Blog

Minimalist Monday: Living on a Boat (Guest Post by Andria!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: MinimalistGuest

Earlier this year I hosted a Virtual Minimalist Declutter Party Challenge (you can see the incredible before and after photos here.)

A couple days before the party, Andria posted a comment on the Facebook event page about her minimalist experience:

I couldn't believe it! I was so impressed by her story, I immediately reached out to Andria and asked if she would share her minimalist journey on the blog.

I'll let Andria take it away...

There I was living in my lovely home state of Michigan; a newlywed, unemployed, and sitting on a Master’s degree that wasn’t doing me any good. Terrified of leaving my home town, but desperate to get out and begin a career, after a year of interviews I was finally offered a job. In Alexandria, Virginia.

My husband Chris and I didn’t hesitate and jumped at the chance. We would pack up our stuff and be gone three weeks later, leaving all of our family and friends behind. This was our opportunity to live “the American dream.”

If you know anything about the D.C. area, you’re aware that the cost of living is insanely high. Especially for one individual, who is now employed by the state (me), and the other who is still searching for his big opportunity, but working retail in the meantime (Chris). We did what we had to do though. My parents paid our first month’s rent of $1,328 for our 650 sqft one-bedroom apartment (thank you!!), we had zero in savings, and two maxed out credit cards from our wedding just a few months prior. Not to mention the intense amount of student loan debt with a huge monthly payment. Needless to say, we were underwater barely able to tread. But, we both had jobs and were determined to make it work. Only a few short months later Chris found his calling as a firefighter, and hasn’t looked back since.

Fast forward to three years later.

We found ourselves struggling to save money, and what little we could save often was used in the following month for essential necessities. You know like, food. Gas. Utilities. At the height of our rental years, we paid $1,850 for a one-bedroom apartment. Not including utilities.

Things we felt like were luxuries took a back burner. No more cable, less trips to the coffee shop, better phone plan, etc. But it never felt like it made a difference. We were still relying on credit cards far too much, and still were not able to pay them down. We needed a change.

We moved out of the city.

Living out in the country felt less suffocating, and in our eyes much cheaper. Instead of an apartment, we found a nice house to rent for $1,295. Not much less than our very first apartment when we moved to the area, but at least we were getting more for our money. Which seemed important at the time. However, living further out also meant we had to commute in for work. Commuting equals more gas, which equals more money. Not to mention my sanity.

I started to feel like we were worse off than when we first began this journey three years earlier. I was becoming unhappy with my job, which made the commute even worse. But I didn’t have a backup plan, so we needed my job, my income, just to survive. Speaking to my mom one day she suggested, half kidding probably, that we move onto a boat. I laughed at her suggestion and continued the conversation in a different direction. But the more suppressed I felt, the more that suggestion kept entering my mind as an option.

The idea of living smaller really became clearer after several failed attempts to find and purchase a house within our budget. At some point during the process I remember telling Chris that none of it felt right. That it didn’t make sense to add large amounts of debt to more debt. So I presented him with the idea of moving on to a boat, living smaller, and being able to pay down our debt and save money. After many nights of convincing, with a few cocktails I’m sure, Chris was in. So in July 2013 we began looking for our next home. One that we could put money toward owning, not renting.

We set our purchasing limit to $20,000. The chain of events that occurred after we finally found it happened so fast, I can hardly remember. But, all you need to know is that it ended with the keys of a 1979 Trojan Tri Cabin in our hands for $18,000, and payment of just $330 per month.

Now that we had the boat, we needed to decide how to downsize. We started with one room at a time. First the bedroom, then the closets, and onto the bathrooms. The office and living room were next. Deciding which electronics and books to donate and take with us. Then finally, the kitchen. My sacred space. That was by far the most difficult for me because cooking is my de-stressor, and I did not want to part ways with some of my utensils. What will I do without a food processor? My juicer? My Kitchen Aid mixer??!!

We both had to donate, sell or relocate (my mixer is at the firehouse!) many of our possessions, and guess what? We don’t miss them, nor do we need them. Each of us has kept quite a few sentimental or family things, but overall the boat has ample storage space and hidden cubbies. Most of which we still haven’t filled because we don’t have enough stuff! Still no cable, or weekly trips to the coffee shop, but that’s because we’re used to it and don’t find it necessary. We’ve also done some work on the inside to make it homier. New paint, wood flooring, an Ikea bench hack for the nook, new pillows, and some key lighting all did the trick. More to be done I’m sure.

Since moving on the boat in September 2013 we’ve paid off three credit cards, saved a couple thousand dollars as an emergency fund, and the best part; that I am able to quit my job and pursue other passions in life without us having to rely on a second income. That to me is priceless. By the end of our year being on the boat (and five year anniversary of moving to the area), the roughly $14,000 that normally would have gone towards rent or a mortgage, will have gone towards us being completely credit card debt free and finally having savings in our account.

We came out here to live “the American dream,” and discovered that every person’s dream is different. Some people love the idea of having a house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a job they never tire of. But with that dream comes debt up to your eyeballs, a mortgage, and most often a job that is only in your life to pay for that dream. Our dream still exists; it just replaces all of that with a lovely two-bed, two-bath ‘condo’ literally on the water, with a dock instead of a fence. One of the lowest mortgage payments you will ever find in the metro D.C. area, a dog, and the financial freedom to take control of our future. When you live with less, you need less. I can’t imagine doing it any other way right now. This to me is the American dream.

Why We Shouldn't Hate on Celebrities for Going Vegan

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

On Wednesday my mom sent me this article saying, "Did you know Jennifer Lopez went vegan?"

I couldn't believe it and quickly put a little meme together and posted the happy news on Facebook.

The first few comments bashed JLo and how she wasn't really vegan -- and then the thread just got hateful and ugly (You can read it here.)

In response to the heat, I posted this on Facebook shortly thereafter:

If you can't read it, it says:

"re: JLo and "vegan"

I understand vegans want to protect their term and label, but the reality is the media + public have come to know "vegan" as meaning "diet w/o animal foods."

Fundamentally, yes, I understand "vegan" was intended to mean so much more than what you eat, but words evolve, sometimes in ways we wish they didn't.

Personally, I love when a celeb shines a bright spotlight on eating plant-based. It makes it more normal, and helps bring about more change, more options for us in the future as consumers. It's a million times easier to be plant-based TODAY because of the awareness and help of big voices.

Sadly, there is a massive disconnect out there with food, clothes and our health. Give people time... eventually they see the big picture... but again, applaud progress not perfection.

Why do we love dogs, wear cows, and eat pigs? People just don't get it... remember that not everyone has made the journey you have -- help them along with love.

LOVE UNITES US ALL"

Last week, I blogged about applauding progress.

Specifically, I talked about how all change counts... that the "all or nothing" approach doesn't work.

That nitpicking and critiquing where someone might fall short in your view of perfection (A view they're not even aware they're being measured against) does a disservice to everyone...

But back to the celebrities.

It made me so sad to see so many people hating on Jennifer... it reminded me of all the drama around Jay Z and Beyonce at the end of last year...

We shouldn't hate on celebrities for "going vegan" even if they are "doing it wrong" or fall off the vegan wagon...

....because when a celebrity shines a bright spotlight on eating vegan or plant-based, it makes it more normal. It brings about more change. It's a million times easier to be plant-based TODAY because of the awareness and help of big voices.

If you don't think President Bill Clinton's "vegan-ness" (or 98% plant-based-ness) hasn't helped, I assure you it has. Or any of the many athletes and other celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, or Anne Hathaway or Samuel L. Jackson, or whomever, even if they ended up falling off the wagon or not being 100%.

I fully believe in my heart that Bill Clinton going plant-based (along with Oprah having a big event about it on her show) helped push MY parents to do it themselves.

Because those are their peers. Those were people they knew and respected... They were smart, successful people saying "this is okay, it's not weird."

It was more than just me, their free spirited daughter, saying it.

Every day I meet someone who tells me they went vegan or plant-based, or are trying to get there, BECAUSE they heard about it from Lea Michele or a friend who heard it from Jared Leto or something else that traces back to something that involves word-of-mouth.

Let's let them use their big mouths... even if they aren't perfect in their delivery or execution.

Because if JLo's comment about feeling great as a vegan gets 100 people who never heard about it looking into it... and trying it... and if only one out of that 100 stays vegan/plant-based... that's still a win... and a huge win... because that person will become a wellness warrior...

He or she will then lead by example and maybe spread. This is what I mean when I say even 2% matters.

When I first got into the business of being a blogger, a marketing professional I go to yoga with said "There is no such thing as bad press. No matter what!" and that is true.

We must also remember that Rome was not built in a day.

It is a JOURNEY and we have to give people a chance to travel the path we have.

Most of us did not go from 0 to 180. I didn't. I was a vegetarian for years without having a clue that maybe I should stop wearing leather too if I was so passionate about helping animals.

There is a HUGE disconnect out there... why do we love dogs but wear cows and eat pigs?

We have to give peas a chance! ;-)

One other comment I feel I HAVE to make... For years I have heard certain groups say, point blank, that the only way you could truly convert someone to be "vegan" or stop eating animals, is via animal rights and ethical channel... not by their health because if they don't get skinny or whatever, they'll go right back to their old ways...

I know plenty of animal rights vegans who went right back to eating meat... including "famous" vegans...

People do what people do...

I don't care WHY anyone went vegan (and neither do the animals being saved... they're just happy to be ALIVE).

Personally, I believe the more motivations to keep someone motivated, the better.

I have also found that when someone starts caring about one thing, the other things fall into place.

A friend of mine was by no means an animals rights activist when she went plant-based. It was all because she had T2 diabetes... and where was she a few weekends ago? Protesting the circus.

Any motivation someone has to eat more plants and less animals is a good one... whether they are a celebrity or the average Joe... and everyone screws up in the beginning...

It feels odd I'm even writing about this because 5 years ago I never would have, in a million years, believed Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez would be vegan for 24 hours... or even know what "vegan" is...

And yet here we are... the world is changing, and that's awesome.

Herbie of the Week: Bonebreaker (From 570lbs to Plant Proud!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

Meet our Herbie of the Week: Bonebreaker!

I actually met Bonebreaker last year through a mutual friend during a conference in Marshall, Texas. While there, he told me how he turned his life around by going plant-based after surviving a drug overdose a few years ago.

I was SO impressed by his story, I knew he would be perfect for the Herbie of the Week series.

Read on for Bonebreaker's truly inspirational journey to being plant proud!

After surviving a drug overdose in December 2008, I decided to turn my life around and start rebuilding from the ground up. Since then, I've dedicated my life to veganism and I'm extremely passionate about sharing my story with the world. I would like to give you a glimpse into my crazy bounce back to life that has resulted in my involvement with four documentaries over a 5 year span, and ultimately has led me to writing an autobiography (You can find out more about it on my Indiegogo campaign page!).

I am not the typical plant eater, as you can probably tell from my 400lb frame. But let me tell you something - giving up meat and all other animal products was the best decision I have ever made, and that compassion forged strength in my life beyond what I thought was possible physically, emotionally and spiritually. My efforts to encourage others to challenge and conquer their own struggles whether they happen to be addiction, depression, or lack of purpose, all have the emphasis of giving back to others in some way. I found my strength to be compassion for animals, because for many years of my life I was hoodwinked and oblivious to the suffering that they endure just to become our "protein". Most people are conditioned to wear the same blinders, which removes our heart's ability to feel... making it easy to deny the painful experience of a sentient creature needlessly being destroyed for food.

Okay here we go -

In January 2009 (one month after my overdose), I was a miserable person and suffered terrible pain from drug and alcohol withdrawal… my body was broken down, and had some serious issues going on internally (my liver enzymes were severely damaged). Oh yeah - I weighed almost 600lbs!

I knew it was a matter of time before I was going to die, and I knew I had some serious lifestyle issues to address. In 2008, I consumed an estimated 2,200lbs of beef according to all my fast food receipts from Jack in the Box. I also would go hang out at Chinese buffets devouring monstrous plates of eggrolls and Kung Pao chicken for 3+ hours, or until they kicked me out for abusing their profit margin. Living like a human garbage disposal only fueled my self-hatred and contempt for living sober, and food became an even more powerful addiction than the prior four years as a substance addict. I needed a change...

Around the same time, "The Wrestler" came out in the theaters, and I had a small recognizable part in the movie. After going to see it, I was so moved by Mickey Rourke's performance that I decided to go find a wrestling school and train to be a professional wrestler - just days before I was about to check myself into rehab!

Before

The process of putting my toxic body thru 10+ hours of rigorous training per week took it's toll on me, and I was getting desperate for some kind of change, but I was so distraught that I couldn't find the solution. About a month into my training, I met a girl at the gym who told me she was a vegetarian, and suggested that I eat less meat in order to reduce the inflammation in my body. I was a 500lb wrestler raised in BBQ country, so naturally I laughed at the gesture. But after emailing back and forth a few times, she ended up sending me a video of baby chickens being ground up alive. In an instant - these cute little chirping yellow chicks were turned into a blueish-purple pile of flesh and bone - and for the first time in my life, I felt disgusted that these innocent beings met this gruesome fate, just to become McNuggets in a cardboard box with fries and a Coke. There was NO WAY that my eyes could undo what I had seen, so I immediately gave up meat forever.

I had concerns about where to get protein, and was dumbfounded about how to eat as a vegetarian. I figured that rice and beans were filling, so I started eating them as a staple in my diet. The results were amazing - not only did my body start to hurt less and recover quicker between workouts, but my standing barbell press went from 275lbs to 315lbs in less than a month! Hell yeah - I was loving this new change in my life, but as enthusiastic as I was, my lack of resources on how to eat a variety of plants and get strong soon led to me turning to the dangerous concentration of milk proteins known as CHEESE.

Most of my life I avoided dairy products, because I always seemed to get sick and very weak if I ate anything containing cow milk - but I really didn't want to fail as a vegetarian, so I started eating cheese pizzas like they were popcorn! I felt like cheese was a drug and would sometimes salivate at the thought of chugging a 32oz cup of queso from the local Mexican restaurant. I was also desperately trying to lose weight, so in order to offset the 50+ pounds of cheese I was eating per month, I would starve myself for days and then binge afterwards. That wasn't enough to offset the dairy binging, so I had to start swallowing handfuls of diuretic pills in order to lose weight, eventually getting down to 419lbs from 550lbs. But after spending the first year as a vegetarian being sick 80% of the time, I decided to get all animal products out of my diet and go vegan.

When I first made the choice to be vegan in June 2010, I started out eating lots of fruits and vegetables in addition to rice and beans, but soon started giving in to my junk food addiction and was going for all the meat substitutes, and hitting all the amazing vegan comfort food trailers that Austin, TX has to offer - not really the best thing for a compulsive overeater like myself. I also went back to eating cheese again when I couldn't figure out how to eat as a vegan. Believe it or not, I went from 419lbs in June of 2010, to 571lbs in January of 2012 – I gained 152lbs of bodyfat in 1.5 years and as a result I almost died of heart disease.

It wasn't until I studied the egg and dairy industry critically, and realized that the very video that initially made me give up meat was a result of the egg industry! Further investigations led me to find out that the egg and dairy industries are just as violent to animals and harmful to the environment as the meat industry - I needed that vicious kick in the heart to finally give up all animal products forever. And since that day of realization sometime in early January 2012, I have been 100% vegan.

But it was too late...

In mid-March, my friend Kate invited me to attend an Engine 2 potluck hosted by plant strong hero Rip Esselstyn - this was going to be a great opportunity to network with people eating a vegan diet, and the sadness in my soul that was yearning for support in the compassionate lifestyle that I was living, saw hope in going to the potluck gathering. But, I had grown too large to fit in any clothes considered presentable, and so I emailed Kate and told her that I was sorry for not showing up, and that I felt like I only had a few months to live. Well, she got back to me within an hour and said that a plant-based doctor named Linda Carney wanted to meet, and help me learn how to incorporate whole foods into my diet - so I decided to take the challenge and learn how to finally eat healthy.

The next week I stopped by Dr. Linda Carney’s office in Buda, TX for lunch. I was welcomed by the smell of fresh whole foods cooking in the kitchen, which is a unique sensation going into a doctor’s office. After the initial visit, it was discovered that I had a heart murmur, high blood pressure, and was in the early stage of diabetes. I immediately wanted to fix my health, so I adhered to her advice and came to her office everyday for a week to eat lunch. There was an abundance of fresh, healthy food that I was allowed to eat like beans, greens, squash and yams. I was fortunate to see how Dr. Carney and her husband Sean prepared these amazing, whole foods out of plants with little seasoning, no oil or added sugars. This was exactly how I had been wanting to eat since going vegan in 2010, and now I finally had the resources on how to eat a Starch-Smart diet!

Dr. Carney and her husband Sean are responsible for giving me my health back by completely changing my dietary habits and encouraging me to exercise, and providing an educational setting that helped build a foundation of knowledge to the reasons why I should avoid foods with oils, sugars, dairy, meat, and caffeine products. As of today, I no longer have the heart murmur, high blood pressure, or diabetes. I also have lost over 150lbs of body fat and have kept it off for more than two years. And I am much more at peace in my heart thanks to Dr. Carney's tender approach to helping me regain my health.

After

But there was some unexpected benefits to getting healthy that I never imagined would happen...

When I started to make my diet consist of clean starches like yams, beans, oats, lentils, fruits and vegetables, I started to not only feel better but I became very strong. My ability to recover quicker between my training allowed me to get back in the gym more frequently, giving me an edge needed to be in the elite level of strength for my sport. I'm training for the most difficult feat of grip strength on the planet - to be the first human to pick up the Mark Henry Dumbbell - a monstrous 300lb piece of iron with a handle thicker than a beer can. I have gotten so strong in my training that I can shred thick phone books in less than a second, bend pieces of rebar like rubber, and never imagined that I would be the strongest I've ever been in my life eating plants.

My journey has been tumultuous and full of struggle, and I'm very happy that I'm finally going to get my autobiography ready for the world to read later this summer. If there are any people that can benefit from hearing about the difficulties I've faced in life, and they can find a way to relate their own struggle to mine, then I have lived a life fulfilled. I have some amazing media projects in the works, so this won't be last time you hear from me. I wish each and every one of you all the best in your journey to being a Happy Herbivore!

Thank you so much, Bonebreaker, for sharing your amazing story with us! You are such an inspiration!