What to Do Once You’ve Watched “What The Health?”

what the health vegan advice

If you’re like the 15-eleven million folks who have watched the “What the Health?” documentary on Netflix, you’re considering becoming a vegetarian or at least making changes to your diet to reduce your meat and dairy consumption.

Congratulations, you’re on the right path!

what the health advice
What your actual diet will resemble, I promise 🙂

As you saw in the movie (or read in The China Study or heard from that one friend that always smells like patchouli), reducing your intake of meat and dairy can have substantial effects on your health. Though I’ve documented that I’m not a perfect vegan, and I struggle regularly because cheese is good and I refuse to lie about that, I’m dedicated to eating fewer animal and animal byproduct.

Here are some simple steps to take to start your vegan journey, because we know the elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time:

Plan your diet (meal prep, research)

I cannot tell you enough about how meal prep can change your life. When you’re hungry and you have to make a meal from scratch, you’re far more likely to go with tried and true, i.e. meat. Having your staples created ahead of time, from chopped and sliced raw veggies that you can snack on or sauté with rice to marinating your cubed tofu to infuse flavor rather than baking that same chicken breast, will help you stay on the right track and sidestep the backslide to relying on meat as your main meal.

Make small changes (swap out meat for vegetarian options, add green veggies in place of carbs)

Many new vegetarians and vegans swear by veggie non-meats like chick’n nuggets, soy crumbles that resemble ground beef or turkey and other replacements. Mixing these easy to prepare substitutes into your diet could help make your transition from Meatloaf Monday to Meatless Monday even easier. (Recommendations: Boca,Gardein crispy tenders, Beyond Meat Beyond Beef crumbles, Beyond Meat Beyond Chicken grilled strips. PETA has a good list here.)

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Additionally, putting a green salad on your plate (minus ranch dressing, sorry to tell you!) where you usually load a cheesy, bacon bit covered baked potato is another small change that adds healthy greens to your diet. (Tip: Buying a head of lettuce to wash, chop and store is far more economical than packaged salads. Get creative and add in all the sliced and chopped vegetables you like.)

Get creative with recipes, cookbooks

Stop wracking your brain with the “where will get enough protein?” question and discover new flavors and cooking techniques for your meals!

(Answer: Protein is in everything you eat and, unless you’re an Olympic-level athlete, you will likely get enough on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Be easy, bro.)

Dive deep into the world of vegetarian and vegan cooking, from Pinterest posts to physical cookbooks. My recommendations include Minimalist Baker for easy recipes that are 10 ingredients or less and take about 30 minutes, Bryant Terry’s creative mix of African and Caribbean flavors, Sweet Potato Vegan  for soulful creations like vegan red beans and rice that was a favorite in my house.

Soon-to-be breakfast 🌶🥕🍠🥔 // P.S. check out my skincare routine over on @minimalistdana stories 💆🏻👏🏼😘

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Other resources: Brown Vegan, By Any Greens Necessary, Tish Wonders

Make friends along the way (Dallas Vegan meet ups, try a new restaurant and talk with diners)

If you need accountability, do what you did as a kid to get people involved: triple-dog-dare someone to try veganism with you. If that’s not your style, or if you want a slightly less high-stakes entrée to plantbased eating, ask a friend to try something new with you. I’ve introduced many friends to delicious restaurants and new blogs by simply inviting them to join me for lunch or sending over a picture of my meal and a link to the recipe. Curiosity killed the cat but the satisfaction of a good meal is sure to bring it back.

If you’re friends are solidly in the meat and potatoes crew with little to no chance of trying something new, there are plenty of ways to make new friends who appreciate vegan diets. In Dallas, Vegan 101 meets on the second Tuesday of every month at DFW vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.  Visit restaurants like Spiral Diner or V-Eats Modern Vegan, sit at the bar and make friends with the bartender or other solo diners.

There’s really nothing quite like a chili cheese dog with a side or broccoli slaw to celebrate #humpday. 🌭🥗💪🏼🌱

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Any change you make, big or small, requires dedication. Don’t let one indulgence derail your long-term goal of reducing meat and dairy in your diet. Focus instead on the improvements you want to make, and keep that the forefront of your mind.

What other tips would you give someone trying to introduce more veggies, legumes and beans, and other sources of protein into their diet?

Where Do I Start With Yoga?

Inspired by Amanda Miller Littlejohn’s recent appearance on the Wharton School of Business “Women@Work” podcast, I started to rethink how I present my expertise on yoga. Littlejohn stated that we shouldn’t be thinking so much about what we’re good at and what we know as much as what our customers are asking. (Seriously, check her out, she’s dope.)

The most frequent reaction I get when I state that I teach yoga is “I could never do yoga. I can’t even touch my toes.” This statement is often combined with an assertion that they don’t know where to start. In that vein, today’s post is going to provide a starting point to those who consider yoga and think “Where do I even start?”

Start Inside Your Head

I’ve written about how I think social media skews our idea of what yoga looks like. Your practice, especially as a beginner, will not consist of floating into handstands in hidden alcoves on sandy shores. You will be sweaty, kind of clumsy and possibly forget your right and your left. Make peace with the idea of looking silly to yourself and others. Nine times out of 10, no one is paying attention to you and the bead of sweat that landed in your eye that you’re furiously blinking away. Most people, including me, go to class to work on themselves, not to judge what’s happening on other people’s mats.

Flickr user Fizzr
Flickr user Fizzr

Find Stillness

Let’s back it up for a second, away from the idea of sweating and getting physical. Yoga is more than the postures you do in class, combining movements and breath. There is much to learn in suspending motion and focusing on one action. Find a comfortable position (Mountain, Child’s Pose, Savasana, Easy Pose), allow your eyes to close gently and start the work of blocking all outside distractions. Put your phone on mute, turn off Netflix and bring your attention inward, to your breath entering and exiting your body. I am a fan of resting a hand on my chest and another on my belly, as the sensation of my rising and falling chest gives me something to focus in on. The great thing: you don’t have to do this for long. Start with 120 seconds, two minutes, of removing the external distractions. Increase gradually, and forgive yourself easily if you lose focus. None of us are perfect at meditation – except maybe the monks who have bad reception in the mountains.

Close Up Tree at DMA

Have Fun

I understand that yoga can be intimidating. I teach it, I take classes, and I still can feel inadequate from time to time. I feel like I should be better, stronger, bendier. We’re human and we are all learning how to be kinder to ourselves. One thing I will never stop doing with yoga is having fun. Simply put, my body is amazing, capable of more than I ever thought I could do, and much of the respect I have for it came from being in a yoga studio. I firmly believe that yoga (all physical activity, really) helps you form a bond with your person, your essence and the energy you put out into the world. So every once in a while, whether in Happy Baby or balancing in Warrior 3, pull up the corners of your mouth.

As I like to say to my students: Smile, it’s just yoga!

Smiling Upward Dog

What advice would you give to a new student? Sound off in the comments, teachers and students alike.

Yoga Training, Halfway Point: Set Your Intention

Let me begin with this: To say that the training program is tiring is an understatement. The days are 12 hours long. There are two-three times per day that we are in a heated room, performing postures. Your classmates are virtual strangers, and you’re together in the building for hours on end. You sweat. You feel grimy. You bend and stretch to your limits. Then you do it again.

I can recall the first yoga class I did. I was in college and my best friend and I jumped into a random class at the fitness center. We giggled our way through, attempting to balance and failing. Sweat ran down our face and we vowed to be serious about our work outs (that clearly didn’t happen, we rested on genetics for years). We knew nothing of asanas, chakras or becoming a better person. Yoga was a foreign concept as a lifestyle for two young black women from Oklahoma City (Chane) and Houston (me).

Fast forward 10 years.

The day starts at 6:40, earlier than I get up for work. I sleepily make my way, grabbing my duffel bag with two changes of workout clothes, a day’s worth of meals and snacks and a five-inch binder of training materials. By the time the day is over at 7:30, I’ve led a practice, practiced postures while others have led, done an hour class and read pages worth of training information. By 10 p.m., I’m sprawled on the couch, on the other side of sleep. In a word: exhausted.

Lest you think I’m miserable, I will balance the above with other insights. My practice and thinking has sharpened in ways I never thought possible. Sharing this experience with the other trainees and Academy leadership has been amazing. Training is about more than just yoga. We study principles of anatomy and physiology, communication and pedagogy. We will be well-rounded teachers when we finish. And I feel infinitely blessed that I have this experience.

One of the most important practices I’ve established from teacher training is setting an intention. Not only does it make you accountable to yourself and others to accomplish a goal, you begin to recognize how the importance you place on reaching that goal will modify your behavior and attitude. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when your intention for the day is compassion for those who annoy you (speaking from experience, this was my goal last week).

Do you do something similar in your day? Perhaps it’s a mini-meditation or scripture reading before beginning your day. How does this influence your choices throughout the day?



Facing a Fear: Bike Riding in the Big City

Ever since I got my shiny bike (see below for photographic proof), I’ve been afraid to take it out on the street. I stuck to paths and trails while the streamlined silhouette of bikers zipped by me on the elevated road, hugging curves and traveling in packs like hungry wolves. Meanwhile, my non-conditioned legs kept my travel to a slightly-above-average pace while darting couples taking casual strolls.



With a long weekend staring me down, I figured it was as good a time as any to test my resolve and take my out on the street. My apprehension would be understandable to most, since Dallas is consistently ranked as one of the worst cities for bikers, and the city has been wrestling with how to incorporate bike lanes and protect bikers. Despite these reasons, I couldn’t rationalize driving less than two miles to yoga. So I strapped on my helmet, inflated my low tires (it’s been a while, what can I say) and took to the street.

As I text my boyfriend upon my arrival at the yoga studio: I managed to not get maimed, have a soda thrown on me or get yelled at. Mission accomplished! It definitely helped that the main road I traveled isn’t a bustling one; I think I can count the number of cars that passed me on one hand. Keeping to the right side of the right hand lane, not wearing earbuds and being cautious in my speed and maneuvers also mattered. Since the weather actually resembles “spring” and not summer-lite, a miracle in terms of the temperature fluctuation you get in Texas this time of the year, I’ll be sure to make this a regular part of my weekend plans.

As I celebrate my (small) accomplishment, it’s clear that riding bikes on Dallas roads is still a risky proposition. Use the below resources to travel safely on two wheels, and let me know what best practices you use if you’re a biker.

Bicycle Safe – How Not to Get Hit By Cars


Bike Friendly Dallas

Cycling Savvy DFW

Why I’m Learning to Love Non-Fiction Writing

I haven’t done a “What I’m Reading” lately, mostly because I’m adding volunteer work to my schedule and I’ve found I can’t get through stacks of books like I used to. I did manage to get through “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which, seriously, if you haven’t had a chance to pick it up, DO IT. And not just because everyone discovered who she was due to the sample of her TED Talk on Beyonce’s latest album. The book is beautifully written; I sympathized and related to many of the themes of discovery of self and one’s own and other’s culture in the lead characters. The book is actually the first selection for the “Patton Family Book Club” otherwise known as a way to keep my sister sane after she has her first baby next month (:-)).

Back on topic now. I’ve always been a huge fan of fictional works. I lose myself in the characters, the timing, the unraveling of the story, until there is no more. Then I reflect, inward and quiet. If it’s a truly good story, I may look at myself and those around me differently. And on to the next story and another one after that. I used to always tell myself that I wasn’t a “non-fiction” reader because those stories were so black-and-white, factual and dry. I don’t dislike history or biographies or business books, they just weren’t my thing.

Well, since life is all about change, and change we must, I’m now of a different opinion. When doing my 2013 review of the “best books,” I realized that I was missing out on a lot of new knowledge by avoiding what I thought I didn’t like. List after list of quality reading and insight, and I was in the dark.

So, without further ado, here is what I have on my non-fiction reading list:

For business reading, check out this list of “10 books every digital marketer should read” from PR Daily and “15 books to add to your reading list in 2014” from Mashable. I’d love more recommendations on non-fiction reading, leave your suggestions in the comments. For direction, I want to learn more about Eastern European culture, creativity, Nigerian writers and comedy.

What is your fingerprint?

flickr user yoghaert
flickr user yoghaert – license

Oprah Winfrey and emotional connectivity. Steve Jobs and technological design, both the aesthetic and the functional. Salman Khan and education accessibility. All of these people have an identity for which they are known and celebrated and personalities that carried over into their business dealings.

The title of this post – “What is your fingerprint?” – was a question asked of a business group to which I belong. Immediately, the above people sprung to mind. What I couldn’t think of was my own fingerprint. My background has been in a range of communication: media relations, content development, writing for online, social media management. Now, as I consider expanding my career into actively seeking opportunities to provide freelance services, I have to consider if I am a jack-of-all-trades or if I should narrow down my offerings to a top-three. One piece of advice that most business people would give entrepreneurs is to know what you do and do it well over trying to be everything for everyone.

For months I’ve been working on my nervousness about putting myself out for public consideration, and if a potential client will find me lacking. It’s as though seven years of work experience and two degrees fly out the window. My heart is in my throat and I retreat. And then I got the question: “What is your fingerprint?” How do I want to be known, considered, evaluated and judged as a professional? Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to shape that image, and I must stop fearing it.

How do you shape your “fingerprint”? What did you do to take the reins on your image?

Getting To The Why of Reading

If you ever want to know why a person whose face is always in a book does that, think of this quote:

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”

Taken from “Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Another favorite excerpt, from a very personal perspective:

“I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.”


My Thoughts: “The State of Women of Color in the U.S.” Education and Entrepreneurship

When I saw on my timeline earlier that American Progress released a report entitled “The State of Women of Color in the United States,” I knew automatically that I would have to read, analyze and process the data and provide my thoughts on here. Not only because my education makes me interested in all forms of research (What was the methodology? What questions did they ask? Was it survey, interview?), but also because the lived situation of people of color is an area of interest for me. In my classes, I’ve done papers on the online natural hair community and ideas of beauty and I’ve wanted to explore the conceptualization of the “marriage issue” and Black women for some time. So when I see research like this, I jump on it.

I specifically looked at the sections for education and entrepreneurship because these areas have the most impact on my life right now. Having just finished the first of three comprehensive exams for grad school and talking with my significant other about his aspirations for graduate-level education, it’s all the more clear to me that education has shaped my life and those around me in significant ways. The cohort group to which I belong is increasingly seeking post-graduate degrees at high rates. However, this is not reflected in the data of the report, which found that Asians and Latinas are increasing graduation rates for first-time postsecondary education in cohort groups between 1996 and 2004 at 117 and 121.6 percent, respectively. For African Americans, the numbers have stagnated. This is disheartening news, though not surprising. Many news reports have shown the statistics on the lack of preparedness for students of color entering postsecondary education. According to the research report, it is estimated that up to two-thirds of jobs between 2010 and 2020 will require some kind of postsecondary education; the question becomes what are we (we the people of government and we the people of the community) truly doing to prepare the future generation?

There was encouraging news in the Entrepreneurship section, as the report indicated that the fastest-growing majority women-owned businesses are owned by African American, starting up at six times the national average. In working with the local Black chamber, there are some very driven women who are at the helm of multi-million dollar companies and corporations. This extends down also to my generation of young women who are starting a side hustle and making extra while maintaining a secure position with the goal of eventually converting to full-time entrepreneur.

I’m a fan of delving deeper than statistics, so I would love to see American Progress follow up this report with more in-depth interviews and focus groups to parse out the everyday experiences of women on color in the areas of the report.  Fingers crossed for that future report. For now, I suggest you download the report for yourself. What are your thoughts on the results?

The End Is Near

It’s been a long time, shouldn’t have left you without a…well, you know the rest if you’re a hip-hop fan. I’ve had fifty-eleven post ideas run through my head. Really, how couldn’t I be inspired by the cultural appropriation of Miley Cyrus at the MTV VMA Awards, the news about Netflix for Emmy Awards, usually the accolade reserved for television-based entertainment, my recent cable upgrade that gives me access to new movie channels (winning!) and various other topics of interest. So I do apologize to my (few) readers and to myself for the slackery.

Today, the topic is the end. The end of a life-defining journey. The end…of graduate school. This is my last semester, and it has me feeling some kind of way. I’ve formed such good relationships with my classmates, and in the course of our two years of knowing each other we have seen folks get married, have kids and supported each other through tragic events. Already we’ve had some graduations, and though we keep in touch in our Facebook group, it’s not the same as giving knowing looks at each other across FA 414 as we wait for the clock to tick down to 8:49:59 and we can calmly start gathering our books, notes and run toward the door. Okay, it’s not that bad but after nearly three hours, you’re ready to stop listening to words.

I will admit, a part of me is not ready for the idea of not having the kinds of discussions that are the staple of graduate school. It’s the entire reason I have devoted at least one night a week to talking theory, subjectivity and objectivity, 20-page research reports and current trends. When I began college, I thought I was going to be a math major…but then I really looked at the work expected of me and took a left turn. I knew I didn’t want to do English, mostly because I had no desire to read the “classics” and parse them for years to come. Though I came out of school right before the economic crash, I was wise enough to know that an English degree wasn’t going to put a lot of food on the table, whether it was feast or famine season in the economy. My initial reaction to the Intro to Communication class was “Oh, wow, so this is how the sausage is made?” My studies and career in communication has made me more selective of my media and more analytical of what I read and believe in the newspaper.

My final class is a bit of a hodgepodge but it combines all of the topics I love: language, culture and communication. In one class, we talked about accent tag videos (seriously, I can’t stop watching them), neologisms and the power it takes to create a new word, language versus speech, individual versus social functions of language and all the topics that make me go back and read and reread sentences. Although we’re focusing on the language of the States, I’d love to study the patois of the Caribbean Islands, especially considering there is such a diversity of language based on the various countries that colonized the region and the influence of indigenous mother tongue.

This week we get into language and gender, and my reading is from Judith Butler, whose name I remember from undergraduate studies. I’ll let that reading, and the other 80-odd pages be my inspiration for writing. Then, before I know it, it’ll be over.

On Dealing with Grief

Walking down the hallway, looking sidelong into passing doorways, I saw a head bent and titled at an angle that was achingly familiar. For a second, I expected her head to pop up, the mile-wide grin and lit-up eyes accompanying a squeal that could be recognized across campus. But I wasn’t at SMU anymore, I’ve long since graduated and I’m walking down the hallways of my graduate university. And the capped head didn’t belong to my best friend, because she’s been gone for more than four years.

My grief is a topic that I keep to myself. It doesn’t crop up regularly, on the first and the fifteenth to accompany my paycheck. It is subtle, hidden in cues like inflections of the voice and the long-legged gait of strangers who bring to mind all the ways I remember her. It doesn’t feel like a tidal wave of sadness but more like a trickle of pain. I consider where she would have been in life, her career, her love life and the next generation she would have showered in her affections. As more of our cohorts pledge lifelong bonds through engagements, marriages and the production of tiny versions of themselves, I struggle to reconcile how excited I am with the fact that someone who always celebrated with me isn’t part of this journey.

One memory that carries me through is the grace of her family, their heads held high through the injustice of it all. Perhaps they kept it bottled in to release it in their prayers, or during a run  or with a counselor. All I know is what I see, which is almost otherworldly in presence and love. It inspires me, and I’m convinced it’s her spirit being channeled back to the Earth, to give us comfort. And it brings me peace.