Taking a Break from Blogging…

Hello everyone!!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’ve decided to take a break from blogging (for now), mainly because I want to invest my time into some other things and writing projects, and I just don’t have the time to spread around! I have had a wonderful time in this little community, and really enjoyed meeting you all!! I will be continuing my green beauty journey, as I truly am passionate about it…and I know I will miss sharing my finds and reviews with everyone and comparing notes. I am really amazed at how this blog grew so fast, and if I could keep it going and do all the other things I want to do I certainly would…but never say never! I may well be back at some point in the future.

Thank you so much to all those who supported, followed, and commented. I will try to continue reading and commenting on your blogs!!

Liv xx

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The Sane Diet: What is Joyful Eating?

A good few years back, I went through a really difficult time in my life. I had just moved to America from England, leaving behind my family and friends. I had a newly minted PhD but couldn’t find a job, and had no academic connections in the U.S. And I knew pretty much no one in America, besides my new husband’s family. New house, no job, and an entirely different culture to deal with. Not to mention homesickness. Not surprisingly, I also began to have panic attacks.

Ridiculously (but I was only about 26 in my defense) I did not give myself permission to feel anger, grief, or upset about these changes. Instead, I blamed myself and internalized everything, thinking there must be something wrong with me for not being able to adjust to them. Jobless, I had a quite a bit of time on my hands with which to ruminate on fixing this problem…

The ‘answer’ I rationalized, was to ‘improve myself.’ The anxiety I felt was my fault, therefore I had to become a more serene, healthier, happier person. I really didn’t stop to think that I had very good reasons to feel anxious!

At around this time, I picked up a book on eating healthily with a plant-based diet. I also started attending yoga classes. I became vegetarian and practiced yoga every day, with a view to becoming a yoga teacher. I started reading lots of books on spirituality, especially Buddhism. A trip to Whole Foods could take two hours because I carefully read the ingredients of every single item I picked up in an effort to avoid any processed or refined ingredients.

Now, this is actually a pretty healthy lifestyle, right? Arguably, yes. But, here’s the thing. I was practicing this lifestyle for all the wrong reasons.

I was feeling so out of control of my own life, placing all of the blame for my negative feelings on myself, that I had turned to diet and spirituality as a means of gaining a modicum of control. Every time I checked the food labels, I felt empowered and in control. In reality, I was anything but. And, crucially, it didn’t make me much happier…it certainly didn’t make me a ‘better’ person (what did, IMO, was gaining confidence at work, and being less serious and more lighthearted about life).

Don’t get me wrong, yoga and healthy eating are both great. I still try to practice both. But I’ve quit the obsessive label-checking; the flirtations with veganism (which, again, I think I flirted with only because I was down this path of food control = moral purification. In other words, it was a way to feel ‘in control’ again) and the self-help/diet book reading. I would like to be vegetarian again, however. I fell off the wagon two years back, but I care deeply about animal welfare, and still feel guilty when I eat meat! I think that is the right reason to be vegetarian, though.

What I’m getting at here is that deep down, you know when you’ve been hijacked by your own desire to ‘self-improve.’ You know it because you feel anxious about food, weirdly ‘high’ when you eat healthily for a whole week (or some other self-imposed goal) and, perhaps the biggest giveaway, you feel like you are on some kind of ‘journey’ or ‘quest.’ Let me tell you, this is a quest that you can never achieve, because the only place it leads is more self-doubt, recrimination, and anxiety. Once you’ve reached one goal, all you can do is replace it with another more restrictive one. Where’s the joy in that?

If you’re wondering why I felt compelled to suddenly share my thoughts on this topic, it’s because I just finished reading an article about a new eating disorder that’s appearing on the DSM V: orthorexia. This is defined as an obsession with food and diet as a means to self-purify, to the point where it negatively impacts one’s health or ability to function in the world.

I don’t think I was even CLOSE to this point…orthorexia is a radical condition, and fairly rare. Still, all disorders appear on a continuum and I perhaps splashed about a bit in the paddling pool end of the spectrum.

So, how SHOULD one eat? What is joyful eating? Really, it’s simple. Too simple for control-freaks like me, perhaps, but all the more healthy because of it’s simplicity! As author Michael Pollan suggests, “eat food, mostly plants.” If you’re eating a well-balanced whole-food diet, getting exercise, drinking enough water, and cutting down on sugars, you’ll be just fine. Cook at home. Eat some chocolate when you feel like it. Avoid binges (which is pretty easy when you’re not dieting) and don’t think about food too much. And, by all means, practice yoga. Yoga, in fact, is the one exercise that keeps me feeling sane and balanced. I just don’t obsess about getting the ‘perfect pose’ anymore. I do it for me, and to feel good – not to prove something to my teacher or to myself. I also highly recommend mindfulness practices. It really helped me deal with my anxiety and accept rather than to seek to change it.

Right now, on this green beauty journey I’m on, I’m careful not to get obsessive about ‘purity’ because I know this is a flaw in myself that can be a problem, especially when I’m feeling out of control or low-confidence. So if a product isn’t 100% clean, I’m OK with that. I don’t want my old food issues to simply transfer to another locus of control!!

I hope this advice proves useful to you guys, and that as 2015 approaches you can put it to some use as you crack out the resolutions journal…

Have a happy healthy Holiday season…and eat joyfully!

Liv 🙂

Heard about Pinkwashing? What it is & How to Avoid It…

I learned something new yesterday…the term ‘pinkwashing.’ This is the term for when cosmetics/skincare items display the breast cancer pink ribbon logo to show their support for the issue – normally donating a portion of their sales to breast cancer research – but the ingredients in their products ACTUALLY CONTAIN CARCINOGENS. Cue shock-horror.

It’ such blatant hypocrisy and it makes we wonder, with weary cynicism, how companies can get away with it. But, of course, they do. It’s just one of many reasons I got into green beauty.

The way to avoid being ‘pinkwashed’ is simply to check the ingredients of a product brandishing the pink ribbon logo. Does it contain any of the following?

-parabens

-phtlates

-fragance

If the answer is yes, then it’s best avoided.

Here’s a short video from YouTube made by “The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,” that discusses the issue and argues that if a company wants to advocate for women’s health they’d do well not to put known toxic chemicals in their products to begin with…

Five Steps To Compassionate Beauty…

For most of us, beauty isn’t a huge part of our lives…not in comparison to our jobs, families, studies etc. It’s an enjoyable past-time; something that makes us feel good. In the global market, however, it’s taken very seriously indeed. Women spend approx. $33 billion a year on beauty products, and this number is set to rise (statista.com). Skincare alone accounted for 33.8% of the global market in 2010. It’s such a whopping chunk of the global economy (more than is spent on T.V’s or even new foreign cars) that choosing our beauty products is, and should be, considered just as much a political choice as choosing what foods to buy. Companies like Proctor & Gamble (which owns most of the market sector) have the power to change lives, be it through fair wages, stopping animal testing, helping change the way women view themselves, or what they lobby for in Washington.

So here we women are with the potential to create a huge change in the world, and with this in mind, we need to vote with our dollars…and our hearts. I firmly believe that some companies believe – in fact, bank on the fact – that women are naive and easily tricked by glossy and glamorous advertising, which I think is incredibly insulting. I’m sure that most of the readers of this blog are already making compassionate and savvy choices about what beauty products they buy, but here is a little extra inspiration, if you need it!

1. Buy from local, independent retailers.

There’s a pay-off to be made when you’re into green beauty. You want to explore new brands, and so we join subscription services to explore those new brands, or order products from companies that then get shipped half-way across America. And I’m guilty of this too! I have two subscription boxes, and love them both. At the same time, I’m aware that this isn’t the most compassionate choice in terms of the environment, and being into green beauty it seems hypocritical. I justify it through knowing that at least I am now buying from smaller, independent companies that themselves make green choices, but when I can I like to buy local. This isn’t always easy when, like me, you live in the suburbs, but local farmer’s markets are awesome places to check out upcoming independent beauty brands. As a blogger, I really want to start showcasing some of these smaller companies that struggle to compete with the bigger brands.

2. Buy from companies that ethically source and produce their products.

We don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes at some of these big companies, even in the green beauty world. A lot of us prefer to use mineral makeup, but mica is often a major ingredient…unfortunately, mica is also the focus of a major human rights violation occurring in India right now, where 60% of the world’s mica is sourced. Child labor is endemic in the mica mines, and there is very little regulation of the industry. (Guardian.com) It is now at the point where Lush has decided to remove the use of mica from its products. If you’re interested to discover which companies have high ethical standards and fair trade practices, you can start exploring resources online such as this one. A general rule of thumb though, is that companies that work hard to maintain a vegan and all-natural product line do tend to be more ethically inclined. Which is no surprise, really.

3. Buy from companies that are cruelty-free and don’t test on animals.

This should be self-evident I think, but if your product doesn’t have the cruelty-free bunny logo on it, don’t buy it! Some companies claim to be cruelty-free, but their parent company still tests on animals. So you’re still funding animal testing! Peta.org has amazing resources to help. Check out their searchable database and other resources here.

4. Source your own products!

You can always source your own beauty products for complete peace of mind! Mountain Rose Herb Company have essential oils, herbs, butters such as shea and mango, and much more at reasonable prices. What’s more, they are organic, fair-trade, ethically harvested, and kosher. That’s pretty good! And explore some of the DIY recipes on this site (and other blogs!) that use kitchen ingredients like salt, sugar, and coconut oil.

5. Read the ingredients labels!

As I write about at my ‘Why’ page, the FDA has basically no control over the use of chemicals in beauty/skincare products…not even to recall products that are causing harm or allergic reactions. Parabens are just the tip of the iceberg…most unpronounceable synthetics in our products are known carcinogens or cause hormonal disruption, and it’s criminal that companies are allowed to put these in our products. Whilst non-profits like the Environmental Working Group are applying pressure on the Government to grant the FDA more power to regulate and recall products, very little progress has been made. So right now, it’s up to us, the consumers, to educate ourselves on the topic and avoid buying products loaded with chemicals. Read my beginner’s guide for more help in this department!

I hope there are some useful, thought-provoking ideas here, and this doesn’t come across as mega-preachy! But as you can tell, this is an issue close to my heart…if you have any more tips or resources, please write about them in the comments.

Liv 🙂

Tuesday Painting – The Surprising Truth About Who You Are (n’t).

Tuesday painting

Hi Friends,

I normally do a Tuesday poem, but today I was inspired to write about art instead, which kind of makes sense…I have a (unused!) PhD in art history, so my thoughts do tend to drift that way much of the time!

I’m reading a book right now called “Generation Me” by Jean M. Twenge which argues that children born in the 70s-00’s are raised to believe in the power of the individual and that the self (like love) conquers all. It’s an interesting read, but the book never raises the intriguing question of what constitutes self-hood for this generation, and I would assume that this is because we just don’t know. After all, our experience of ‘selfness’ is totally subjective. But you wouldn’t think so from the well-worn platitudes lobbed at us every day: ‘know yourself,’ ‘be true to yourself,’ and ‘love yourself for who you are,’ spring instantly to mind. Such Generation Me aligned philosophies imply that we should know who we are, and that if we don’t we’re just not trying hard enough. The result? Stacks of self-help books all over the place and a burgeoning sense of insecurity.

The truth is it’s nigh-on impossible to ever really ‘know yourself’ because who ‘you’ are is so incredibly defined and shaped by context. I have heard myself described as friendly, kind and generous and cold and aloof! I have been described as both tolerant and self-righteous- by the same person! Bosses have alternately seen me as capable and scattered. How is this possible? We forget sometimes that there are gazillions of variables that influence how we are seen, and how we behave. The one that jumps instantly to mind is status, either real or perceived. If you’ve ever seen Undercover Boss you’ll have enjoyed watching the respected and loved CEO who, in ‘normal person’ guise comes across as a nerd, bully, or just plain average. Women are treated very differently to men; one culture has different expectations to another. One person loves our kooky nature and so labels us ‘quirky;’ another person is irritated by it and so labels us ‘weird.’ And then guess what? If we’re around a lot of those sorts of people we’re going to tone things down – another side of ourselves will emerge from its cocoon because, ultimately, we adapt to survive. We like to think that despite different situations and contexts we have a stable core ‘self,’ but I’m not so sure. Rather, I think our sense of self is shaped largely by what is reflected back at us -more nurture than nature. If this reflection is constantly shifting, which it is, then how on earth are we supposed to ‘be true to ourselves?’ It’s a therapist’s nightmare.

Long before Generation Me existed, Picasso puzzled over this problem in “Girl Before A Mirror” (1932). At once a hauntingly beautiful portrait of his mistress, Marie Therese Walter, as well as a meditation on vanity and mortality, there is perhaps more to this work than meets the eye.

Image

Marie is shown contemplating her fate. Her youthful body and made-up face seem to sag and melt, dripping like candle-wax, in the mirror before her. It is a spin on the seventeenth-century Dutch still-life, in which evanescent objects such as flowers and fruit are studded with tiny maggot holes, rotting around the edges. “Ah, you are young and careless now,” these paintings murmur, “but, like this fruit, look at what will happen to you!” Dutch artists weren’t totally callous, however. A reminder of life’s true meaning – religion or knowledge – is depicted in the form of a bible, astrolabe, or other tool of man’s potential. Grasp these, the painter suggests, and all will be well.

Of course, Picasso’s work differs significantly in many ways. It is a painting about a woman’s fate, not a man’s. Moreover, no alternative vision of existence – through study or prayer- is presented. This in itself could be a comment on women’s limited options in the 1930s. Marie is trapped, Narcissus-like, by the limited role she has come to occupy. If a religious object exists in the painting, it is her own body. Her image folds out, like a church diptych. An object of male worship, she is at once prostitute and divine being: a duality that reflects Picasso’s dark prediction of the hellish slide into old age.

If we look at Marie’s face in the mirror, however, she seems to smile warmly. There is a peacefulness about the eyes, her face looks relaxed. A single red tear resembles rather a blur of tribal paint, recollecting a more primal self. Sagging breasts and belly also evoke relaxation: a visual gauntlet thrown down to the “other” Marie, who is expected to be sexual and eventually child-bearing – two states in which both breasts and belly are distended, even “perky.”

For me, this painting is not really about vanity or the horrors of old age. It is about the ‘other’ versions of ourselves that lurk when we look in the mirror. Is this cause for anxiety though? Marie’s arm is gently outstretched to her reflection, literally embracing a darker, sadder, but somehow more liberated self. It’s a striking emblem of acceptance, not just of how others see her, but of how she sees herself. May we all be so bold…

For The Days You Don’t Feel Beautiful…

I remember clearly the day I stopped feeling beautiful. I was in 9th grade when a boy (why is it always a boy?) thought it would be oh-so hilarious to pull a chair out from underneath me as I sat down in science class. I must have looked like a deflated stilt-walker as I toppled from my confident upright position to a heap on the floor. As a teenager you have no option, of course, but to dust yourself off and laugh along with everyone else. But inside, something shifted…

‘I am not worthy of a seat,’ was the message I received. And because it was a boy who had played this trick, the thought crept into my heart and lodged there like the splinter of ice that chills Gerda’s heart in “The Snow Queen.” And worse, it spread; feeding itself with the desire to understand.

Until one day, I understood: ‘I am not pretty enough to be worthy of a seat.’

After this realization, things changed. Where once I had held my head up high and teased the boys and laughed loudly at mine and my friends’ jokes, now I kept my head down, ignored the boys and when I laughed I covered my smile with my hand or arm, embarrassed because my teeth were crooked and I had an overbite. I turned this into a grotesque party trick that people would ask me to do: laugh with my hand over arm and turn three times around in a circle.

Instead of taking pride in my looks or experimenting with hair and makeup the way many teenagers do (and who, I think, are wrongfully accused of narcissism) I took a different course and ignored my looks altogether. I tamed my brown frizzy hair into a ponytail every day and avoided looking in the mirror when I could. And when I did it wasn’t to check on my appearance, which I had learned not to care about. It was to check and see if anyone else was looking at me.

Things got worse when the one place where I felt beautiful and at home in my body – ballet class – became instead a place of fear. My teacher began to admonish me for my ‘thick’ thighs and too-big boobs. Once, I had been light on my feet and confident in my movements. Now I was so aware of my body and its ‘wrongness’ for the task, I stood at the back of the class and prayed the teacher wouldn’t notice me. Even switching ballet schools did no good. Perhaps out of jealousy, or simply spite, the girls at my new school decided to ignore me completely, and as my misery increased so my passion for dance faded.

It wasn’t until much later that I began to feel beautiful again. I was at University, at a party where I knew no one: every fresher’s nightmare. Everyone was dancing wildly to the music (Pulp, if I remember rightly) and I was trying to be brave, repeating like a mantra that University MUST be fun; that all I had to do was loosen up and get to know people. Of course, I knew that this wasn’t going to happen –at least not here, not now. Suddenly, a guy walks over and asks, “Why is someone as gorgeous as you all on your own?” I knew he was just flirting, but he said it with compassion and a conviction that moved me. The shard in my heart moved a little, and I began to question the rightness of my long-held belief, ‘I am not pretty.’

What if…what if I was?

I won’t say that overnight I turned into a confident, strong woman. I wish that were true. It wasn’t really until I left University that I managed to find my footing in the world and figure out who I was and what I was worth. But I did start to feel that fairy-light feeling that young women feel when they start to realize they are beautiful; that they are worth looking at, and that, yes, it feels good.

We like to preach that beauty doesn’t matter. That only inner beauty counts. Try telling this to a teenage girl. Try truly, deep down believing it.

What I will say though, is that outer beauty follows inner beauty as sure as night follows day. I know it because I lived it. As soon as the shard in my heart melted, as soon as it stopped being truth, I felt easier around men, and they noticed me more, complimented me more, and I met my first serious boyfriend…who is now my husband.

It’s a rocky road to acceptance, and the people around us don’t always make it easy. But hang in there. Because one day, that little piece of ice in your heart that seems so much a part of ‘you,’ will melt, and you’ll realize that you are beautiful. You are worthy. And the girl who tumbled to the floor? She will stand up, brush herself off, and get on with what she was doing without giving it a moment’s more thought.

 

Tuesday Poem – “Bedecked” by Victoria Redel.

tuesday poem banner

Hi Friends,

What is beauty? In this amazing and moving poem, Victoria Redel argues that beauty is (but shouldn’t be) a social construct; one that we have to challenge at all costs.

Bedecked

Tell me it’s wrong the scarlet nails my son sports or the toy
store rings he clusters four jewels to each finger.

He’s bedecked. I see the other mothers looking at the star
choker, the rhinestone strand he fastens over a sock.
Sometimes I help him find sparkle clip-ons when he says
sticker earrings look too fake.

Tell me I should teach him it’s wrong to love the glitter that a
boy’s only a boy who’d love a truck with a remote that revs,
battery slamming into corners or Hot Wheels loop-de-looping
off tracks into the tub.

Then tell me it’s fine – really – maybe even a good thing – a boy
who’s got some girl to him,
and I’m right for the days he wears a pink shirt on the seesaw in
the park.

Tell me what you need to tell me but keep far away from my son
who still loves a beautiful thing not for what it means –
this way or that – but for the way facets set off prisms and
prisms spin up everywhere
and from his own jeweled body he’s cast rainbows – made every
shining true color.

Now try to tell me – man or woman – your heart was ever once
that brave.

Minimal Makeup Monday!

Minimal Makeup MondaysHello!

It’s minimal makeup Monday! I went the extra mile this Monday, and didn’t even redo my old scraggily nailpolish, and, I jest not, the sky did not come crashing down, nor did the world implode!

Sometimes I do this magical thinking thing whereby if I’m all dolled up on Monday; nails done, makeup done, perfume on, etc. I imagine that the day will go better. That maybe I’ll have that extra boost of confidence required to get me through the day.

Ironically, today I had one of the best teaching days ever – maybe I was compensating for the lack of makeup! Two mini break-throughs with two challenging students! It just goes to show how confidence truly is a state of mind, and how we can use makeup and the routines and rituals that accompany it as something of a crutch or safety net.

But I’m here to tell you, you don’t need it!
Anyway, here’s the picture of my minimal makeup-less self. It ain’t pretty…ugh.

me

Here I am at the end of a long (and windswept!) day wearing Yes to Grapefruit CC cream, some mascara, and a teeny-tiny touch of eyeliner. Can I just say that it’s tough for me to put myself out there in a definitely non-flattering photo?!

If you’re feeling brave (dare I say inspired?) please consider yourself tagged and/or tag others, and/or join me on my quest to challenge the assumption that women always need to look pretty and put-together to have a great day. At least on Mondays 😉 You can even email your picture to milkandhoneybeautiful@gmail.com to go on my website, or follow me on Twitter and use the hashtag #minimalmakeupmondays

Have an awesome Tuesday, makeup or no, and be sure to check back soon for my Red Apple lipsticks review and a Zion Health review…

Liv 🙂

This Halloween, I’ve Been Forced to Dress As A Racoon.

Friends,

I have a confession to make. I don’t love Halloween.

I know. Crazy, no? I mean, who doesn’t LOVE Halloween? Well, to be more specific, what I really don’t like is dressing up for Halloween…

halloween funny

The truth is, I’m just sick and tired of Halloween costumes…for women. Why is it that men get to dress like this?

bacon costume

Whilst women have to wear costumes like this:

gretchen costume

I say ‘have’ to – of course, it’s a choice. But I spent this weekend browsing the costume aisles at my local Halloween store and to say there was a dearth of non-sexy costume choices is an understatement. Those that are, let’s say, less revealing, go to the other extreme…wanna go to a Halloween party dressed as a giant bumblebee? No, me neither.

In the end, I found ONE costume for teen girls which is neither ‘slutty’ nor ‘blob-inducing.’ It’s a racoon costume. Akkkkk.

So the reason I am dressing as a racoon for Halloween is because I cannot be anything feminine: a pixie, a fairy, an angel or whatever, due to my pixie cut and being petite and overtly ‘feminine’ looking. Let me tell you, I don’t want to be courting harassment disaster. Only the other day a guy wanders over to be in Corner Bakery and asks, ‘what are you dressing up as for Halloween? Tinkerbell?’

Guffaw, guffaw. Funny, right? Er, no! Let’s go with patronizing. Of course, he meant well, but I’m just sick and tired of hearing comments like this, and I certainly don’t want any costume that might make me look ‘cute,’ ‘sweet,’ or ‘like a pixie.’

I guess what I’m saying is that, for women, Halloween seems to be about reducing yourself to a cartoon version of what a woman should look like, OR rebelling against that and wearing some voluminous costume that hides every feminine curve just to avoid predatory eyes or caving to the ‘slutty’ costume trend.

The third option is to make your own costume, but who has the time? Not me! If I was less tired and feeling more creative I would try to come up with something amusing and fun and something that represented ‘me’ but I’m just not feeling it this year.

The fourth option is to don a witch’s hat and cape and look like you don’t really give a damn.

So this year, I’m gonna be a racoon.

A. Racoon.

Have pity on me.

Minimal Makeup Mondays Tag!

Minimal Makeup MondaysHey friends!

I’m so excited to share with you my personal goal/challenge to wear minimal makeup, every Monday. Hopefully, you know me and my site well enough by now to know that I am a bit of a feminist, and one of my reasons for starting this green beauty journey was that I couldn’t stand the thought of all these big cosmetics companies duping us about what’s in our products, and selling us a lie of glamor, health, and happiness knowing all the while that their cosmetics are chock-full of toxic chemicals.  Check out my Why page for more on this!

Anyway, I was thinking this weekend….how AMAZING would it be if, for one day a week, we women weren’t all so ‘judgey’ of ourselves and of others? If we weren’t worrying so much about how we looked? If we felt confident enough to ditch the eyeliner and the bronzer, and show off our natural beauty to the world? If we felt more united in our efforts to just, well, look like ourselves?

Everyone’s version of minimal is different, of course. If you wear false lashes every day then just wearing mascara is YOUR minimal. For me, minimal would be not wearing face powder or lipstick or eyeshadow. Take it to your comfort level!

Feeling inspired? Join me every Monday for a month of Minimal Makeup Mondays!! Spread the word; if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!

I’ll be posting a piccie of myself with (relatively) bare face each Monday, and will keep you updated as to how it goes, and if I can ever wean myself off of mascara (doubtful).

If you’re feeling brave you can email me a pic of YOU, and I’ll put it on my website! Just email me, along with your name and website if applicable, at:

milkandhoneybeautiful@gmail.com

I really hope you join me, and that together we can drop a pebble in the pool of change…it doesn’t matter how small it is; every ripple counts 🙂

And here is my Minimal Makeup Monday picture, complete with my beautiful cat, Pudding 🙂

me minimal