Task Switching Meditation

I started working withStarting from Within to keep my health in check as I transitioned into a work-a-holic at the turn of the decade. I wanted to add-on jobs and projects that fulfilled my life without detracting from my overall health, a task whose plausibility I am beginning to question. If we add, we must always detract elsewhere, no?

But add to my work I did, and Starting from Within has helped me tremendously with maintaining balance across many aspects of my life. The program entails a bi-weekly phone conversation that keeps mindfulness and intentionality at the forefront of our minds. Through the sessions, I gained a number of resources that got me re-thinking what it means to be healthy, a few practices that have me re-evaluating the habits that work in my life, and a few exercises help keep me sane.

One exercise in particular that I am enamored with is the 3 minute meditation that precedes every session with SFW. A 3 minute guided body scan helps me to really focus on the present moment and what is about to come. I find this exercise extremely helpful when task switching. The 3 minute meditation closes the door on the previous task, and paves the way for the next one, while giving my brain time to slow down and reset.

Multi-tasking has been proven to be humanly impossible. What partakes during perceived multi-tasking is a task switching that requires energy from the brain to do. We are task switching all day long, and the lack of focus is preventing us from doing any deep work. But by adding meditation in between tasks, I have found that the work I switch to becomes easier, more focused, and more productive.

I highly suggest finding the space to occasionally meditate in between your tasks.

Perhaps sit in your car for your few minutes after wrangling through traffic in order to get home. Close your eyes and breathe, palms up.

If you just finished making dinner, set the food down, close your eyes and bow. Or better yet, take stock between each bite.

When I close a book, I always stare out a window or into space. It’s a processing technique that I have, but never use with other things. Eventually, I’d slide the book off my lap and get up from the couch. I can’t move on from reading something without it, lest I brush off what I would otherwise gain from the page.

The most common excuse these days is this: “I don’t have the time.” I would know, because I use it more frequently than I would like. But I promise you that by taking three minutes to meditate, you will focus your energy in a way that expands time, and you reap the time spent plus more.

I urge you to try it, and let me know what you think.

More importantly, how you feel.

Gratitude In Things You Don’t

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I was sitting in yoga class after a strenuous hour of being berated by a room full of heat, which I was convinced was too high for the particular class that I took, side-swaddling my right arm underneath my cheek bone, facing my husband as he reaps his benefits off of his mat and practice, when our instructor’s calm voice soothingly asks of us one thing before lifting ourselves off of the mat to end class:

Find gratitude in all the things you have in your life…

And gratitude in the things that you don’t.

As the rest of class pushed themselves gently up from their preferred side to continue on with their day, I stayed lying still a heartbeat longer to process what I just heard. I think I was in momentary shock.

If I am being quite honest, I have been lacking, the past few months, a sense of satisfaction with the way life has turned out to be. With the advent of taking on 6 days of dentistry for the first time in my life at the turn of the decade, while trying to manage a bakery, dog sit a few days a month, and partake in an international project to Sustain the Maldives with Bogobrush, my world has been in a state of overwhelm that has been hard to combat. My only saving graces are my husband, Starting From Within’s guidance, a few books, and yoga class.

At times like these, the standard advice of listing all the things you are grateful for in order to keep chins high appear to be good advice … at first glance.

However, the practice of acknowledging all the things one can be grateful for can feel a bit anti-climactic for minimalists, whose lists tend to end soon after it’s begun. Let’s face it, the list of things for minimalists are generally not very long. Which leaves one feeling like there isn’t much to be grateful for.

But what if we take a step back and look at the big picture. The world remains balanced, whether we recognize it or not. In order to have complete understanding, we need to extend our gratefulness to encompass both sides of the coin. After all, a list in gratitude of only the things we own can rob us of our enoughness. In order to grow our appreciation for the life of our choosing, we must compliment this list with all the things we don’t have, in gratitude. Such as…

  • Disease
  • War
  • Poverty
  • Famine
  • Hate
  • Clutter
  • Toxic relationships
  • Insecurity
  • Jealousy
  • Death
  • Isolation
  • Fear
  • Social constructs and norms
  • Peer pressure
  • Societal expectations
  • Addictions
  • Imprisonment
  • And for all minimalists, a long list of things that would otherwise steal our time and attention.

So when you feel life’s gotten away from you a bit, and that nothing seems to be going to plan, re-center and list all the things to be grateful for – whether you have them or not. Your world of positivity will expand, and perhaps you’ll start to notice a change in perception.

I mean, at least you’re not underwhelmed.

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Photographed: A few propagating leaves and East Fork‘s cake plates in Soapstone. 

Less Waste: A Vision of an Eco-conscious Dental Office

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

The medical industry can hardly be excused for their participation in plastic waste production. Medical facilities are notorious for creating plastic waste on a daily basis, and in exorbitant amounts.

As a dentist, the role I play in creating waste does not escape me. It’s a fact that has never sat well with me, and I’ve found it an unsettling part of my profession that does not align with my personal values. If I am being honest, some of the waste that we produce is unnecessary. 

The need for disposable items for the sake of sanitation is a fallacy. It’s a shame that patients expect disposable and replaceable medical tools in order to feel safe. But where do you think plastic suctions and mirrors are made? Factories? Stored in plastic bags? Shipped in boxes on a truck? Placed into drawers? Pulled out for your visit.

Sanitary? Hardly.

But it is expected.

What if I told you that we can create a safe, sanitary dental office that is more sustainable by using re-usable instruments that are properly sterilized? What if the key to creating a cleaner tomorrow lies in changing patient perception?

Education lies in the hands of dentists and doctors dedicated to creating eco-conscious offices. We can show patients it is more sanitary to use an auto-clavable, heat-sterilized metal suction than pulling a plastic straw suction from a drawer. Likewise, the driving force for change lies in the patients asking for alternatives to plastic from their providers.

I have a vision.

I haven’t implemented it yet because between the zero-plastic bakery, helping with building an all-sustainable Hard Rock hotel on a zero-waste island in the Maldives, working six days of dentistry a week, dog-sitting for pets in need of a home, and writing here, I just don’t have the time.

But today, I’d like to share the vision that I have for a more sustainable practice, in hopes that other dentists would aspire to it, too.

Why?

Healthcare facilities in the United States generate 14,000 tons of waste per day. Up to 25% of this waste is composed of plastic products, including packaging of disposable items. In my office, we have the problem of an overflowing the trash bin and recycle bin with waste. We have been cited by the city multiple times, but with the patient pool that we are seeing, we are creating more waste than the current bins can hold. This cannot continue.

With environmental awareness rising, the issue of medical waste has never been more pertinent. We are a dump-and-cover society but we can’t stop from knowing that plastic never disappears. It can only break down into micro-plastics that end up in landfills and oceans and then enters our food chain which then affects not just the environment and other species, but us as well.

Can medical care exist without waste?

Maybe not completely, but we can definitely get closer.

We HAVE to get closer.

WHO?

We need to do this not for ourselves, but for the younger generations of tomorrow. Young people today are overwhelmed by the daunting task of cleaning up after past generation’s messes. We need to alleviate that pressure from them, and it needs to start now.

Practitioners can educate their patients on what cleanliness really means. Explain to them your efforts in going zero-waste. Millennials will support sustainable efforts. They will come to your office if you advertise yourself as doing more than taking care of their health. If they see that you care about the environment, it will show them your character, and if you care for the environment, how much better care will you be able to provide for your patient?

My friend recently opened a dental practice in Irvine called Blue Brush Dental and his new patient and recall patient goody bags are all organic cotton tote bags that a patient can re-use for their market needs. Imagine what that says to a new patient. The value of your practice is tied to the values that you portray. A practitioner making efforts to create a cleaner tomorrow speaks volumes. Younger generations will appreciate that you care about THEM.

Patients, on the other hand, need to demand zero waste practices. Say “NO” to those free plastic toothbrushes. Ask for alternatives. Opt for recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable toothbrush options such as Bogobrush, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation and ask the office to get them. Deny goodie bags made of plastic.

We need to work together. We are all responsible.

WHAT?

A sustainable dental practice begins with a physical office, and the best office is a LEED certified building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design and it was implemented in 1993 to promote sustainable design in architecture. There are four levels of LEED certification, based on a points system wherein points are awarded for different categories.

LEED certified buildings:

  • reduce usage fees by 40% in energy and water bills
  • are good for the environment and occupants
  • have higher occupant rates and higher lease rates per square foot
  • have increased visibility in the community

LEED buildings implement a number of structural and architectural designs that decrease energy consumption. Skylights and wide windows in operatories allow for more natural light which then reduces the need to use electricity during the day. Some buildings use geothermoregulation via flooring systems. The use of LED lights also reduce energy consumption and is an easy change that offices can start implementing TODAY. Likewise, using tile carpeting makes it fairly cost-effective to switch out high traffic areas with a new tile rather than redoing the entire flooring all together.

Check out this pediatric dentist’s LEED certified practice, for inspiration.

HOW?

Having an eco-conscious practice is not only what building we work in but also how we do our work.

Digital technology has allowed for the removal of much of the materials that we used to use in dentistry.

  • Digital x-rays eliminates the need for film, and the chemicals needed to produce the film which sit in plastic cups and are purchased in plastic containers.
  • Digital scanners eliminate the need for impression material, plastic cartridges, plastic tips, impression trays, and packaging used to send models to and from the lab.
  • A Cerec Milling Machine eliminates the need for a second appointment (which would need another chair set up and more head rest covers, bibs, suctions, and syringes), as well as a model and a temporary crown.
  • Clinical notes on a computer eliminates the need for paper charts and filling forms out online prior to the appointment rids us of paperwork to be scanned.
  • Signature pads record consent directly on the computer.
  • Text appointment and recall reminders eliminate the need to mail postcards.
  • Social media eliminates the need for physical marketing strategies.
  • Digital reading material can replace paper magazines in the lobby.

On top of going digital, we can substitute alternatives that use less plastic overall. Sometimes, instead of looking to new gadgets, the trick lies in using old school stuff. Below is a list of examples, both old and new:

  • Sterilization Casettes and Enviropouches eliminate disposable sterilization pouches.

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  • Cloth head covers and bibs are alternatives to plastic head rest covers and water resistant bibs. Not even having head covers and simply using Cavicide between each patient is also an option.
  • Sterilizable metal suctions and water -syringe tips instead of disposable plastic ones are the dental equivalent of metal straws instead of plastic straws.

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  • White coats instead of disposable clinical gowns are an option, depending on the extent of your treatment.
  • Wood wedges instead of plastic wedges for composite restorations are the way to go. Some argue the contacts are better with the plastic versions, but they now make flared wooden wedges that fit fine, even with isolated matrices.

Image result for wood wedges dentistry versus plastic VS Image result for wood wedges dentistry versus plastic

  • Paper Dri-Angles instead of plastic ones can be used. Even though the plastic version can isolate for twice as long and requires less triangles, the plastic itself will NEVER disappear from this Earth. The paper versions will degrade, even if there are twice as many.

Image result for paper dri angles versus plastic VS Image result for plastic dry angles

  • Reusable prophy angles that can latch onto a slow-speed hand-piece can reduce plastic disposable versions from entering the landfill.

Image result for dental polishing cup reusable prophyVS Image result for prophy cup

  • Prophy paste in ten flavors individually wrapped in plastic tubes increase plastic waste. Why not buy prophy paste by the tub in a limited number of flavors, such as mint or cherry? These tubs will last a VERY long time.

Image result for prophy paste bulk VS Image result for prophy paste bulk

  • Installing a water distiller in the office for the water lines instead of having distilled water tubs delivered to the office every week is an option. It will not only save the Earth from plastic gallons, but also from emissions related to a water delivery service.
  • Disposable scented nitrous oxide gas masks are nice for kids, but why not try sterilizable gas masks with a touch of essential oil for the scent.
  • Reclaimed, Recycled or Up-cycled furniture for the lobby is preferred over brand new furniture. Try to choose sustainable materials such as wood instead of plastic chairs and tables.
  • Wooden toys for the kid’s toy box in the lobby are an aesthetic AND sustainable touch.
  • Avoid plastic goodie bags after hygiene appointments. Try paper bags! Better yet, recyclable market totes made from organic cotton like this one from BlueBrush Dental give goodie bags a lasting purpose.

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Image result for reusable dental eye protectors VS Image result for reusable dental eye protectors

Other ways in which we can commit to reducing waste in our dental offices.

  • Walk or bike to work. Find a job close to home and nix the commute. Carpool, if you must, with your co-workers.
  • Bring your lunch in Tupperware rather than dining out. Bring a reusable water bottle or coffee mug from home.
  • Implement the use of a water fountain instead of a Sparklett’s water station.
  • Don’t allow for disposable utensils, plates and cups in the break room. Choose metal utensils and durable, washable tableware.
  • Instead of a Keurig machine that uses coffee pods, invest in an old school coffee machine with paper filters. Buy coffee beans in bulk and grind them yourself.
  • When you buy a dental practice, don’t gut the place entirely and renovate the whole thing. Use the existing cabinets and give them a paint job. Changing artwork? Use the existing frames and swap out the paper images. You get the drift. Don’t be in a rush to buy everything BRAND NEW.

These are just some basic ways in which we can create change. Most of these we can do immediately. Some of these may take months to get to. But it’d be great if we all start working towards it.

I’m not saying do ALL of these. But I ask you implement one or two new things every few months. Work towards a more eco-conscious practice. We won’t get to zero-waste, but if someone can try to create an All-Sustainable Hotel built on a Zero-Waste island, why can’t we get close with a dental office?

Want more? Here are 80 ways to make your dental practice go green!

Curating Closets: One Work-out Outfit

I have never been one to stick to a work-out routine long-term. I find that we train our minds to have grit with certain things, but with physical activity, I haven’t had much practice. However, with the turn of the decade, for the world but also for myself, my thirtieth birthday brought on an awareness of muscle aches, tenderness, and fatigue. Instead of dwelling on the regretful lack of physical activity in my earlier years, I decided to start setting it all straight.

Since there are only two exercises that I ever liked, swimming and yoga, I decided to sign up for an unlimited membership at CorePower. I did this a year ago and regretted my decision from a financial perspective. But I realized that without the discipline for sticking to a regular workout routine, I would not get anywhere without a financial reason to push me. Spending money is a great motivator for someone who seeks getting the most value. The last year has taught me the value of outsourcing certain things in order to get high returns. I knew it was the right choice for me.

Which brings us to the topic of work-out clothes.

Having Just One

For those curating closets, I am here to tell you that one work-out set (a top and bottom) is enough for all of your work out needs. I attend yoga classes at least FIVE TIMES a week, and I have one set. In black, of course, not that that’s a pre-requisite for all. Just for me. (Why black? I like to streamline my clothes so that it works for every season. Your color could be rainbow, and that wouldn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s a color that works for you despite changes in weather or mood. For me, black looks good whether my skin is tan or not, whether my nails are painted a bright color or nude, and just makes me feel confident and comfortable overall. Curating closets, after all, is about knowing yourself.)

Maintenance

The secret with having a singular outfit is being pro-active with keeping work-out wear clean. The yoga sessions are heated and intense, and I don’t have an anti-sweat recipe up my sleeve. Yes, I do come out of those sessions drenched. But I shower right after those sessions and in the shower, I hand wash my top and bottom and hang them to dry. I am not so good (yet!) as to attend back-to-back sessions, so my workout attire can typically hang to dry until the next day. In the morning, I take the drying towels and yoga wear and toss it in my “yoga bag” which is nothing more than a ten-year-old enlarged shoulder tote that happens to fit a water bottle, my workout attire, and a yoga towel. At the end of every week, I toss the workout set into the wash with the other clothes.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

One of the best things about having a curated closet is the avoidance of decision fatigue. Our brains require energy to make decisions and it is not proportional to the size of the decision. This means that making little decisions is just as taxing for our brain as making larger, life-altering decisions. To save brain power for the important stuff, I avoid having to choose for the smaller things in life, yoga attire included. Imagine how much stress and energy it takes to decide which outfit works well for you today while you are rushing to make class. My timelines are always filled with to-do’s, so it isn’t worth wasting time and energy on the mundane. Plus, I guarantee you’ll enter yoga class with a clearer mind, ready to accept all the benefits that the class has to offer, instead of fretting about whether you made the right outfit choice.

Easier Organization

I have met many girls who struggle with organizing their workout wear. Intricate straps make it difficult to hang and bulky to fold. Silky leggings slip right off the hanger. Drives a neatnik quite mad.  It helps to choose workout wear that skips all of that. For me, I have a T strap top with no inside bra cups to lose in the wash. It has an empress style body to hide the fact that I just engulfed a burger prior to class. The bottom of the top has a cinch that can tighten around my hips, for yoga inversions that tend to be unsuccessful. The leggings are cropped right underneath my knee caps, with enough coverage for the winter and enough air flow for the summer. The pants are fairly light, with a drawstring around the waist and no pockets.

Instead of trying to hang my slippery workout wear, I fold my clothes into tiny squares and toss in the bag. The bag hangs on a hanger in our bathroom, making it easily accessible when I’m ready to dash out the door and keeping it off the floor. The hanger is on a rod next to the shower, where I wash the clothes. When wet, the clothes hang on a shower curtain rod to drip into a tub until dry. The next morning they are dry enough to toss into the bag, which helps control clutter, and eliminating the need to search for them later on.

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Accessories

I have only a few accessories for yoga. The first is a Maduka yoga mat which is inside a yoga mat bag that stays in the back of my car at all times. Inside this yoga mat bag is a yoga mat cleaner and a lock for the locker room. Additionally, in the cold winter months, I wear a white Eileen Fisher sweater. This sweater is dedicated to yoga only. I don’t wear this sweater for other occasions, and it stays inside the same bag as my workout clothes. I do not change the sweater I wear to yoga either. It is always the same (see “decision fatigue” above). Lastly, I have one yoga towel that I lay over my mat. This yoga towel is also folded inside the bag that holds my clothes. I lay this towel over my yoga mat, and also hand wash the towel with my clothes. I use this same towel to dry myself off after my showers, too. Then it gets hung up to dry on the shower rod, just like everything else.

Having a routine helps me focus on the yoga itself. It makes gym-going a calm and easy experience. For anyone looking to curate their closet, I would highly recommend trying this! If you already own a ton of workout wear, I wouldn’t get rid of them right away. Pick one and see if its an outfit that jives with you. See if you can do without the others. When you’re ready to finally pull the trigger and slim your closet down even more, donate!

I’d love to hear some of your curating closet tips! Leave a comment and say hello.

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

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Organizing the Mind for the New Year with Smitten on Paper

This post was sponsored by Smitten on Paper but all opinions, thoughts, and tips are my own. Smitten on Paper is a paper company based in Monrovia, CA. They have daily planners as well as wedding services including invitations and thank you notes. They also host a number of workshops, for those into stationary and calligraphy.

In 2019, I was repeatedly asked the following question: How do you juggle it all?

As a dentist and President of my dental SCORP, a small business owner of a cottage food bakery called Aero, a baker and manager of that bakery, a dog-sitter on Rover, a cat mom, a writer on this blog (and others), a wife, a daughter, and a sister, amidst other relational obligations and labels, I can see why many people wonder. And if I am being completely honest, at times, it is very, very hard. The juggling part I mean … But the secret itself isn’t so tough.

There is one trait that I attribute all of this juggling to, and I would call it my one and only “super-power”. It is an ability to organize my thoughts and mind in a systematic way so that I can take on more activities than an average person.

In essence, I am able to do more by organizing my mind in the form of planning ahead.

At an early age, I was taught the power of organizing the world around me. My mother recognized that I have an artistic way of thinking. My mind wanders and I reside in an imaginative world of my own making. I saw the world in minute details and failed to see the big picture even when it’s staring me in the face. I substituted reasoning with emotion, and  made all decisions based off of how I felt. I think she realized that with this creativity, I would never be “successful” in the way that the world views success. So she set me up for that success by instilling a number of simple habits that would take the place of the logical reasoning that I lacked.

These habits entailed:

  • writing things down
  • prioritizing tasks
  • grouping thoughts and tasks together and
  • planning ahead

She appealed to my interest in play by getting me to think of tasks as things to be categorized and re-categorized. She promoted experimentation with my organizing skills, and taught me to not lose heart when something  fails, but to always try again. She saw my affinity for small details and equated that with the power of small steps. Lastly, she taught me that by planning ahead, I could accomplish all of the wild dreams that I conjured up. This was in the early 90’s when computers and smart phones didn’t reside in every household. We were living in a third world country. All she had to teach me these habits was pencil and paper.

I am a person who still uses a paper planner. I carry notepads with me wherever I go. My husband jokes that I plan more than I do, and occasionally will sneak silly reminders such as “BREATHE” or “SHOWER” into my daily plans. But anyone else on the outside looking in will comment on how much I actually do, which goes to show that planning is the fuel necessary get things done.

I owe what I’ve accomplished in my life to those first few years when my mom honed in my skills.  I wanted to share with the world how it is that I can juggle so many things.

Tips on Planning the New Year

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  • Start with Goals: There is no need to create a vision board, but having a clear vision is necessary for success. I like to start every month with a set of goals. My goals fall into multiple categories: personal, work, home, health, finances, and other. After I have identified my goals, I ask myself the questions “why?” and “how?”. The former is to identify if the goal is actually aligned with my values and worth the effort. The second is to decrease the effort by formulating the game plan. The more detailed, the better. Below, I share with you some examples for January 2020.
    • Personal – Let go of desire for fame and wealth by saying no to opportunities at this time in order to create more space and time for myself. Be present and grateful by docking the phone when at home and keeping a gratitude journal in order to decrease the feeling of overwhelm.
    • Work – Take initiative in order to be more proud of your work – you need to own it by practicing leadership and setting more boundaries with your clients, patients, and co-workers.
    • Home – Keep a tidy space by assigning a location for everything you own and keeping all surfaces clear to prevent the mental clutter that follows physical clutter.
    • Health – Adopt a healthy lifestyle by signing up for SFW’s health and wellness program to maintain a balanced lifestyle, getting into a daily yoga routine to improve posture to increase the longevity of dentistry, wearing sunscreen daily to improve the skin, and eating more veggies and fruit to improve digestion.
    • Finances – Increase the monthly student loan payment to $7k a month in January and then to $7.5k a month in June after the car has been paid off in order to snowball method our way to financial freedom in 3-4 years.

By these examples, you can see that the goal is focused by a habit or task with trackable progress and with a “why” attached to it.

  • Track Habits:

“Motivation won’t always be there, but good habits will.” – Michaela Puterbaugh of SFW

In order to pave a path to success, you need to start with building your habits. Little habits will add up over time. If you want to be physically fit, create the habit of exercising daily. If you want to be less dependent on social media, create a habit of docking the phone once you get home. If you want to be financially stable in the future, make a habit of paying off credit cards in full or saving 10% of your income after every paycheck. How will you know if you are on your way to success? Track your habits. See how many days you were able to stick to a regimen. Find the habits that work and those that don’t. Maybe you’re pursuing habits that don’t align with you. Readjust accordingly.

  • Write everything down. Immediately! In fact, write it down as it comes into your head. Your brain switches from passive creativity to rigid logical reasoning continuously. It is during the passively creative phases that you come up with ideas. But if you don’t write it down, you lose the accessibility of these ideas. Most times, they are forever forgotten and this is when you miss out on opportunities. Don’t rely on memory. We are notoriously bad with recall, and you never know when the idea will resurface. I carry paper and pen with me wherever I go so that an idea never has the chance to escape me.
  • Prioritize: Prioritizing is key! Without proper prioritization, we would all be running around like bunny rabbits switching from one task to another, without getting anywhere. We would feel accomplished, in a very delusioned way. A trick that I’ve found very useful is to write down the top 3 things that are easy to do and the top 3 things that need to get done TODAY. I start with the easy tasks first because it gives me that motivational boost! Then I make sure that before I sleep, I accomplish the MUSTS, to set myself up for the next day. Everything else can wait.
  • Have a checklist: Motivate yourself by checking off each task. Our brains release dopamine whenever we experience novelty and having a checklist is a way for our brains to register that we have completed something and are starting on something new. I keep a checklist of other tasks separate from my TOP 3 EASY and TOP 3 MUSTS. It’s a running checklist that rolls over to the next day (or the next week). It’s a log from which I can choose the following day’s prioritized tasks. In a way, it also acts as a reminder of all the things I can do. This checklist is more flexible than my schedule or my priorities.
  • Set Aside Time for Yourself: Here is where I can improve. Mental fog and brain exhaustion is REAL. Let me tell you. There are days where I’ve switched between so many roles that I feel almost insane. Our brains are not multi-taskers. When we think we are multi-tasking, we are actually attention switching. We are switching from one task to another very quickly. Research has shown that this is energy consuming for the brain. We need to reset the brain in order to keep going, otherwise we may suffer from overwhelm and fatigue. Suggestions include surrounding oneself in nature, with art, with friends, or my favorite, setting aside daily 30-minute blocks of do-nothings so that our thoughts can simply wander.
  • Organize your day into blocks. As mentioned previously, it is quite costly to switch from one task to another. Not only does the brain use up oxygenated glucose with every switch, it also increase the amount of decision-making necessary. It has been shown that small decisions take up as much energy as big decisions do, so trying to multi-task and filling your day with small decisions detracts from your ability to focus and get things done. The best thing to do is to avoid having to switch between tasks, especially tasks that are unrelated. Group together cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom back-to-back rather than using the dog as an excuse to take a walking break in between. Have a designated time to check e-mail once or a few times a day instead of checking every five minutes. Don’t use your phone when you are walking from place to place, or watch TV while you are doing homework. Think of ways to group activities, in much the same way that you would organize the home by grouping like-minded items in the same containers. And most importantly, avoid distractions!

How to Use a Planner

As you may already know, I try to be intentional with each purchase I make. When it comes to planners, I am especially diligent in researching the perfect planner that fits my lifestyle. This year, I chose Smitten On Paper’s Weekly Agenda to accompany me in 2020.

I chose this planner because it is very attuned to my personality and lifestyle. Additionally, I think that it has many of the principles of organization that are crucial in balancing a busy life.

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The first few pages include a monthly overview that shows important dates in list form. Each month is then preceded by a calendar which I use to visualize important dates and events.

Each month also begins with goal-setting. It is set up exactly the same as the goals that I wrote about above. Next to the goals are two habit trackers, but off course, two habits are not enough, so I use the trackers to keep me accountable for four habits. I list two habits that I want to implement and mark each day with either an “X” or an “O” or both. There is a space to write down a reward if you keep up with the habits, which could be very motivational for some!

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The weekly agenda is separated into three columns. The first is a schedule, where I write down how I plan for the day to go, assigning specific time periods for each task. Events or appointments that are non-repeating are highlighted with marker. When the day is especially busy or the schedule feels cluttered, I use Smitten on Paper’s Legal Pad to break my day down. If it is even busier than that, this larger notepad has worked for me.

The second column is a checklist of tasks. This is where I list my to-do and these tasks run into the next day or week. Throughout the day, I carry this notepad with me and every time an idea or thought pops into my head, I write them down so I won’t forget. I have no trust when it comes to my memory. These thoughts include reminders for things I that need to get done. I then transfer the tasks to my weekly agenda at the end of the day and throw out the note. There is no deadline to these tasks, which relieves the pressure to complete them by a certain time.

The last column is the most important and is highlighted in blue. It is a box for priorities. I list my MUST DO’s in numbered form and my EASY TASKS with bullet points. This is where my focus for the day is.

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At the top of each week, I also write down “how I want to feel” for that week and I try to write a word at the very beginning of the week. Then at the end of the week, I write down one thing I am “grateful for”, and three “weekly wins” – things I have accomplished that I am especially proud of. At the end of the year, it is nice to read over these weekly wins to see just how much was done. And since I am especially hard on myself, the moments of gratitude keep me grounded and remind me to acknowledge that although it may not seem like it, I have already come so far.

So there you have it! All the secrets of maintaining my lifestyle and juggling my hobbies and passions. It was one HECK of a year, and definitely a HECK of a decade!

Wishing you all the best, and happy New Year!

XOXO

 

Getting to Know: Michaela Puterbaugh, Founder of Starting from Within

Michaela Puterbaugh is a health and wellness coach based in Cleveland, Ohio, guiding people towards the balanced, healthy lifestyle that fits their needs. She followed her passion and opened Starting From Within, her own coaching program, in May 2019. Her emphasis on an individualized program deviates from the normally structured rigidity of other wellness programs that can sometimes suffocate the motivation needed to succeed. Health and wellness looks different for everybody. Likewise, the path getting there can also be different. Her program focuses on creating simple, everyday habits catered to your lifestyle that will promote life-long health benefits. Not only does she focus on a nourishing diet, but she also emphasizes the importance of lower stress levels, daily movement, and a good night’s sleep. Her belief in everyone’s own ability to heal themselves is what empowers so many of her clients.

I must admit that, in the year 2019, and for the majority of my life (barring 2018), when it came to choosing myself over other things, I was always the first thing to go. Between the bakery and sleep, my clinical patients and my posture, the dogs that needed sitting and my own cat, other people’s needs and my wants, the latter in all of those is what I gave up. I acknowledge that I am very bad at saying no, am very motivated by a desire to be perceived as good and successful, and am very much overwhelmed, stressed and tired at all times. I recognize now that, in much the same way that I needed help in developing my frugal muscles and honing in on the skills needed to set my finances up for future success, I also need guidance in doing the same for my own well-being.

I met Michaela online, randomly, like kindred spirits drawn to each other despite miles of separation. I loved her content at Starting From Within’s Instagram and her positive personality (good vibes welcome). I knew I had to share all the good things she is doing! I interviewed Michaela to share with you guys a little bit about what attracted me to her coaching style.

I also signed up for SFW’s health and wellness coaching program, as a gift to myself for the New Year and the New decade. Now that we’ve graduated from Certified Financial Planning services, it’s time to redirect those resources into continued learning elsewhere. If you’ve been interested in doing the same, now’s the time.

Here’s a bit about what Starting from Within has to offer.


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Tell our audience a little bit about yourself.

My name is Michaela and I am originally from Canton, Ohio but now live in Cleveland with my partner Sam and our dog Arthur! I graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Comparative Literature and Hispanic Studies but decided to follow my passion– health and wellness. I ended up enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and received my health coaching certificate in May of 2019! Upon graduating, I started my own practice called Starting From Within where I coach people individually, lead workshops, and teach wellness programs!

What inspired you to start your health and wellness coaching business, Starting from Within?

I have always been amazed by the power of nourishing foods and healthy lifestyle habits and their impact on overall health. I do not think enough people realize that their small daily habits matter when it comes to living a healthy life and preventing disease. I want to be a support resource for anyone who is trying to eat healthier, manage stress levels, incorporate daily movement, or sleep better. I do believe that each person is entirely capable of healing themselves if given the right opportunity which is why I named my practice Starting From Within 🙂

What are the services your future clients can look forward to?

I love to work with people through an individualized approach. People all have different needs, so I try to honor that individuality and not just apply a one-size-fits-all approach. I offer one on one, bi-monthly sessions (in-person or virtual) to get to know each other, set clear goals, and break those goals down into manageable steps. I always provide resources that align with my client’s overall health vision such as recipes, books, journal prompts, grocery lists, handouts, podcasts– you name it!  My mission is to help people improve their diet and lifestyle in a way that works for them.

What is your philosophy regarding health? Worded another way, what does being healthy mean to you?

To me, “being healthy” encompasses the state of our mental, physical, and social well-being. How we feel, how we think, how we move, how we eat, how we sleep, how we deal with stress, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others is a huge part of it. I think being healthy is about finding that balance between all of those things while living out our life’s purpose.

In what ways do you lead by everyday example? What are your daily health habits?

I love cooking with whole foods and creating delicious, easy plant-based meals for myself and my family. I also love exercising and try to incorporate some form of that into my days such as spinning, lifting, or running. I’ve learned that exercise for me clears my mind, gives me energy, and helps me sleep better at night. On a deeper level, I have been trying to get more in touch with my intuitive self through journaling and meditation each morning. I find that those two things are not only helpful in managing stress, but also great ways to get to know myself and my mind a little better.

On Instagram, you share numerous recipes for healthy eating. I love that your recipes are simply made and am very grateful that they hardly require a long list of ingredients. In terms of ingredients, what is your top advice when it comes to sourcing food?

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Local, seasonal, and organic is ideal! Growing your own food is even better. However, not everyone can do that or is able to afford organic produce all the time. So I would recommend checking out the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists to know which fruits and veggies are heavily sprayed with pesticides and which aren’t.  I love buying produce from farmers markets because a lot of the local farmers grow their crops without pesticides even though they don’t have the organic certification.

My #1 advice for anyone is to try to eat food in its most pure form. So cooking with whole fruits and vegetables and avoiding things that have been heavily processed. With a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder you can make anything taste good!

I think that people get lost in all the fads when, in actuality, the best solution is to eat simply. I am a pretty big believer in eating what we have historically allowed our bodies to adapt to. The food industry is changing so quickly these days, and I believe that we are putting our bodies through a roller coaster ride, making it hard for our bodies to keep up with all the changes. What are your thoughts on that?

I completely agree. I think as a society we are actually really confused on what to eat, how much we should eat, when the best time to eat is, etc. Admittedly, it can get tricky since big companies and brands fund a lot of research and since food advertising is everywhere. I think that if we block out the background noise and really try to get in tune with our own bodies, the answers become a lot more clear. Each one of us has a completely unique biology, so I don’t think it is ever helpful to follow these fads or trends. By adhering to certain diets, we actually lose touch of our innate hunger and fullness cues and ignore what our bodies actually really need. This brings me to the concept of intuitive eating which involves rejecting the diet mentality and healing the relationship with food. This disconnection is an issue I see a lot in my practice and believe it is a bi-product of our diet-obsessed culture.

You probably expected this question, but what are your thoughts on the gluten-free fad? I am working with farmers preserving ancient heritage grains that are nutritionally beneficial to our bodies (freshly-milled prior to mixing). I try to adhere to traditional sourdough making processes in order to make bread more gut-friendly. I am worried that gluten substitutes will be part of the rapid changes that make up the roller coaster ride. What is your honest opinion?

I love the work that you are doing to ensure that your bread is made with quality ingredients! I really wish that our food industry was made up of more people like you who truly care about what they are offering to consumers. I personally am not gluten-free and don’t believe that everyone should be on a permanent gluten-free diet if they do not have celiac disease. The most important thing is making sure that the food we eat is made from quality ingredients. That goes for bread too. The typical bread laying on the grocery store shelves for weeks is usually loaded with preservatives, ultra-processed and yes, very inflammatory. However, so much of the gluten-free substitutes that are out there now are also super processed and made with a whole list of ingredients that aren’t any better for us. Whether you eat bread or not, make sure that whatever you are eating is made from high quality ingredients!

What are your top five staple ingredients to always have around in the kitchen?

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Sprouted oatmeal
  • Some type of cruciferous veggie (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage)
  • Japanese sweet potato

What foods are best for energizing the body? How about the mind?

Any fruit or veggie in its most whole form nourishes the body and mind at such a cellular level. Knowing where your food comes from such as your local farmers market or your own garden also adds such an energizing quality to it because it was most likely grown with love and didn’t have to travel far to get to you. The way we eat also affects how we digest foods and use them for energy. For example, when we sit at a table, un-distracted and relaxed, we are creating the perfect environment for our digestive system to do what it’s exactly supposed to do. When we feel stressed, our body feels it too and can divert the blood flow away from our digestive system. That stress affects the way we digest food and absorb certain nutrients which can lead to gas, bloating, and indigestion. So back to your question– I believe that eating in a relaxed state and eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best source of energy for our mind and body!

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Do you believe in foods that nourish the soul? For example, I know that coffee is sometimes considered unhealthy. But it enriches the soul in so many ways (mine anyway!). We think of health as a part of the physical world, but can health perhaps be a part of the spiritual as well? I don’t need coffee to be productive, but it sure warms me up from the inside.

I am so with you on that! Coffee often makes me feel very jittery but I love it because I am usually drinking it with good company in a cozy spot 🙂 I absolutely believe in certain foods that nourish the soul such as a grandmas old recipe or even a favorite childhood restaurant. My biggest piece of advice on that is to be completely present and fully enjoy whatever it is that nourishes your unique soul even if it’s not the best quality or the best for you. Connecting with food in that way can seriously go a long way for someone’s health!

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I know your work mostly revolves around food, but real briefly, would you care to share some thoughts on exercise? If you had to choose between healthful eating and exercising, which would you prefer?

Oh gosh I don’t think I could pick between the two! They are both necessary components in my overall vision of well-being. I love exercising and believe it is super important! As I mentioned earlier, regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep and mood, increase energy, enhance cognitive function, and so much more! There are so many different ways to exercise but the most beneficial type is the one you LOVE to do. If it is something you love doing or if it makes you feel empowered, you will stick with it.

What is your favorite detox regimen?

I don’t necessarily believe in detox regimens or juice cleanses because our body does it naturally for us. However, I do think there are ways that we can support the natural detoxification process by getting quality sleep each night, drinking lots of water, eating cruciferous veggies, and drinking green tea. I also like to start my mornings with a big glass of warm lemon water which may also support detoxification.

These days, I hear more frequently that the cause of certain symptoms (such as skin problems) is stress-related. We live in a fast-paced world. In what ways do you show self-care?

Yes I really do think stress manifests itself in so many ways in the body. It also shows up differently for different people. I think it is more important than ever to find ways to manage stress and practice them regularly. For me, I love to have a consistent meditation practice. I also like to limit my time on technology to give my mind a break. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or look a certain way– getting outside, breathing fresh air, exercising, laughing, playing with my dog, having meaningful relationships are all forms of self-care in my book! We shouldn’t look at self-care like it’s a luxury, instead we have to view it as something that is completely necessary to our well-being.

I love that last thought on self-care as a necessity rather than a luxury. Lastly, in honor of the New Year, out with the bad and in with the good. How do you suggest we start anew?

I think realizing that at any moment, we have the opportunity to make a change so why wait until New Years? People put a lot of pressure on New Years resolutions and if they don’t end up working (which many don’t), they view themselves as failures. Instead, I would advise picking up a small habit that is aligned with a larger vision and start today! Starting out with small steps makes a bigger goal much more attainable and likely to happen. Always remember to treat yourself with compassion, be flexible, and view it is a learning process.

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Favorite books: 

  • Intuitive Eating (to reject the diet mentality)
  • Deliciously Ella (a delicious, super simple plant-based cookbook)
  • In Defense of Food (to rethink our food industry)
  • A Monk’s Guide to Happiness (if you are new to meditation)
  • City of Girls (just a fun fiction read 🙂

This post is not sponsored by Starting from Within. All recommendations are truly from the heart and from experience. I have signed up with SFW’s health and wellness coaching program myself, in an effort to focus more on a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If you wish to look into what she can offer you for the new decade, set up a free 30-minute consultation here

Praise for Elizabeth Suzann and Size Inclusivity

Elizabeth Suzann has been a great model for me. I was initially attracted to her work via another blogger’s partnership. When I saw her timeless collection and her ethically sourced fabrics, I fell in love completely. Her commitment to sustainable practices while prioritizing their employees is something all companies should aspire to. Of course, the price point reflects the quality, and I have not yet pulled the trigger on making such a purchase. But since I am human, I have drooled over the images that I’ve found online and I occasionally browse the site for new products.

Recently, I visited her site and was shocked to see that half of all of the models were plus-sized women. I recognized it right away as a means to be inclusive and to change the “ideal” imagery that the fashion industry continually shoves down our throats. The impossibility of everyone being extremely tall, slender and leggy is not new news, especially for a five-foot Asian female such as myself.

So my initial thought was, “Hurrah!”

However, as I continued to scan the shop, I got more and more annoyed at the images of tall, plus-sized women. I could not imagine or see just how these pieces would fit me. I could not relate or get a good idea as to how the products fit. I thought to myself, “How absolutely frustrating this is. They hardly put up child-like figures online and I’ve already had to learn how to adjust for my short height when I look at tall elegant swans. Now I have to learn how to imagine the clothes on myself using an even farther frame of reference?”

And then it hit me.

How must these women feel, when the fashion world makes them invisible? How could THEY ever imagine how clothes would fit on them after seeing stick figures? If I cannot imagine how clothes would fall on me, how can the opposite be true? These plus-sized women have had to deal with this issue their whole lives! Talk about annoying.

By the way, do you know that the average American size is 16 or 18?! But we’ve got size DOUBLE ZERO models on the cover of every magazine!

I haven’t lived with this same problem all my life, but let me tell you how it felt to live with it for five minutes.

The shopping experience becomes very depressing. Emotions associated with shopping include frustration, anger, and pain. It feels almost hopeless to get to an understanding about the articles of clothing I am looking at. There is a self-esteem cost associated with the inability to relate.

Living with these affirmations could be detrimental to the human psyche.

Elizabeth Suzann’s embracing of different sized women is refreshing. Other sustainable companies should take stock – Everlane I am looking at you. If you are going to change the fashion industry, why only make sustainable clothing for skinny people?! In order to make ethical fashion and slow fashion a thing, we need to include everyone.

Elizabeth Suzann has made it possible to shop responsibly for more women out there in this one act. She has sizes in short, regular, and tall, ranging from XXS to 3XL.

That’s something to be proud of.

This post was not sponsored by Elizabeth Suzann. All thoughts and opinions are my own.