Category Archives: Health

My 30 Days No Meat Challenge – Review

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge-Review

 

In January, I went for a full month without eating meat. It was an experiment I called My 30-Day No Meat Challenge.

I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for quite some time; but the timing wasn’t always right. Well, last month I decided to take the plunge.

I committed to just a few personal ground rules:

  • No red meat or processed versions of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • No poultry or processed versions of chicken or turkey.
  • Explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • Yes to fish, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could continue over a much longer period.

Well, after a month without meat, I’ve made a few discoveries that I wish to share with you.

 

My 30-Day No Meat Challenge in Review

  • In the beginning, the challenge was more difficult than I thought. My appetite for meat appeared to be heightened. Savory meaty meals were everywhere!
  • On one occasion when I attended the Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo with the family, as soon as we entered the coliseum, I was smacked with the smell of all kinds of barbecue. It was pretty tempting. The year before we ordered barbecue turkey legs and chicken kabobs. In spite of all that, we didn’t relapse because we had a plan. Instead, we snacked on foods we’d packed ahead of time that meet with our Challenge guidelines.
  • As the month went on, the Challenge became much easier. I think this was because my family participated. We also limited restaurant dining out to only one time that month. In the last week our children had chicken but that was ok since I felt that the experiment was really mine in the first place.
  • I consumed salmon three times. Two times at home and the other when our family dined at a Japanese restaurant.
  • An area of concern was my protein intake. I worried because there’s a perception that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein. So I consumed lots of cashews, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, eggs, cheese, beans, spinach, almond milk, etc as recommended by my resourceful wife and my good friend Terri. I plan to read more on the subject to lift this cloud of doubt.
  • My social interaction with family and friends was also a concern. Again, not eating out helped alleviate this potential problem. But, overall, most people were not only understanding but also supportive and encouraging. I’m also grateful for the comments, links of meals and resources you supplied. Much appreciated!
  • Breakfast was the most difficult meal by far. In general, I’m not a breakfast person. As such, it seemed like there were less choices after eliminating meat from my diet. I did however, become pretty expert at making all kinds of smoothies. The kids seemed to enjoy this and made special requests for my smoothie concoctions.
  • This said, I was not as prepared for my no-meat challenge as I might have been. The meal preparation process in our home is typically on autopilot. However, when the children were hungry, I found myself throwing things together more often than I wanted. I kind of felt like a fish out of water, not exactly sure what to cook at times during the experiment. I’m grateful for my talented wife when this was the case. She saved the day each time.
  • I did branch out with a few original dishes on my own. But the bottom-line is that I need to learn to cook more vegetarian cuisine. I’ve been a carnivore all my life, cooking meaty meals with no need for a recipe. I cook on a natural instinct so vegetarian cookbooks are a bit intimidating. I’ll have to be aware of this and get courageous with vegetarian cookbooks or online recipes from here on.
  • On some days my energy was a bit lethargic. I believe this was due to me not eating a proper breakfast.
  • I wish my experiment had had a scientific element. A visit to my doctor and a nutritionist might have helped a lot or taking blood samples before and after my challenge to gauge any changes.
  • My no-meat challenge reminded me of how powerful our minds can be. It was hard saying no to some of my favorite dishes. I know 30 days is not a long time, but I was able to say no even when my desire was saying the opposite. I consider my challenge a success in this area.
  • In some cases, my no-meat challenge became deeply spiritual in nature. There are people who have no choice about their meat consumption. When I abstained from meat, I felt a connection with my brothers and sisters who lived in abject poverty.

What’s next?

I do miss and still crave a few of my favorite meaty meals. So much of my Caribbeanness is centered around food.

A few questions that come to mind at this point are these:

What about the cultural implications of my no-meat diet? Will I be drawing attention to myself when eating with my Caribbean family and friends?

What about my international, humanitarian trips? I’m big on socializing with the locals over meals, which in most countries centers around meat. What will I do when a vegetarian diet is not available?

I think that from here on, I’ll stick to the original no meat rules, but allow a little bit of fluidity when I travel. I need more time to continue learning and exploring before committing to this new diet. 30 days was not enough time.

What are your thoughts?

Last, I was featured on YolandaVAcree.com. I had fun doing this interview where I shared about minimalism, relationships, priorities and more. Check it out here.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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My 30-Day No Meat Challenge

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge

I’ve been thinking about my meat consumption. Over the years, a few casual conversations, documentaries and books have caused me to question my food choices.

Here is a little personal background.

I grew up an omnivore. In Grenada I consumed fish, chicken, beef, pork, mutton, and lamb. Meat was the main part of every meal. One of my favorite dishes is curry chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, and a side salad. Yum!

When I migrated to the United States I piled on more meat. As I got exposed to American favorites, I added those to my menu of choices hamburgers, steaks, turkeys, BBQs, and traditional island cuisines such as jerk chicken.

Because I am naturally skinny, I’ve never felt the need to pay much attention to the health risks involved in consuming too much meat. But lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching.

You see, our meat is not what it used to be.

This is the case in America as much as it is in the islands, which have seen a significant increase of imported meats. The animals we eat are injected with an alarming amount of hormones to increase production. Then there are factors of inhumane animals practices that I’ve learned about over the recent years. The treatment of animals raised for food is deeply troubling me.

The health reasons are also significant:

Like most American, I’ve maintained an arms length awareness about the risks of consuming too much meat. Giving up meat altogether is a difficult decision. There’s a certain emotional payoff that comes with meat eating especially when it’s a central part of celebrations and holidays. Also, in my mind, a dish without meat is incomplete. It’s a reminder to me of poor upbringings.

So My 30-Day No Meat Challenge is just as much a health challenge as much as it is a reshaping of how and what I think about meat. It’s a test of my personal boundaries. I want to push the limits of my thinking to see what my life would be without consuming meats for the next 30 days (I started January 1).

Here’s my personal ground rule:

  • I will not consume red meat or any processed version of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • I will not consume any poultry or processed version of chicken or turkey.
  • I will explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • I won’t exclude fish in this experiment, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could give up over a much longer period.

I’d love to hear from other about this subject. Have you given up meat before? If so, what were the challenges you faced?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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6 Benefits of Monomealing

by Kelvin Belfon

mono-mealing-food-health

 

Summer rocks!

It’s the season devoted most to leisure and spending time with loved ones. The weather is just right for outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, kayaking, and vacationing or visiting far away family and friends.

There is also no school! This means no homework and no studying. Kids even stay up a little later than usual. And there is always something on the grill: corn, kabobs, chicken, salmon, steak, hamburgers, and hotdogs.

As a youth in Grenada, monomealing was another favorite. I ate lots of mangoes, watermelons, bananas, sugar apples, guava, oranges, and sour sop. They were all free and abundant during the long sunny months.

Some days, monomealing was the perfect solution. I have devoured many buckets of delicious mangoes for lunch and late night snack over the years. When it was especially hot, a juicy watermelon was the ideal cure.

 

mono-mealing-on-papaya

So what’s monomealing?

Till last year, I’d never used this trendy terminology. Although, when I came to know more about how it’s done, I found myself thinking, “This is nothing new, you’ve practiced monomealing your whole life.”

In essence, monomealing is eating only one (mono) food type in abundance, usually a raw fruit or a vegetable, for ones meal. For example, one might eat a hand of bananas for breakfast or a dozen oranges for lunch.

The idea behind monoeating is healthy, clean eating. You load up on a fruit or vegetable in its natural raw form with nothing added to the food before it is consumed.

So no, you can’t monomeal on pizza or cupcakes. These are complex, processed foods. Some people mono-diet for extended periods of time to lose weight. I don’t promote this approach. What happens after the weight is lost?

In our home, we like monomealing as often as possible. When our local grocery store has specials like a pineapple or cantaloupes for 99¢ each, we load up on these hydrating fruits and mono-meal. Our children participate as well.

 

mangoes-mono-mealing-benefits

 

6 Benefits of Monomealing

1. It promotes a healthier diet. Monomealing improves your food consumption quality. Eating raw fruits or vegetable provides the natural nutrition your body needs and craves opposed to loading down our GI tract with processed meals. An improved diet can reduce the risks of potential illness and diseases.

2. It’s easier to digest. Sure you can combine various food ingredients when having a standard meal. But digestion takes longer. When you eat one fruit or vegetable at a time, the body has only one food to digest opposed to a complex meal comprised of pizza, salad, chips, and soda, much of which ultimately spike/crashes your insulin level, raises cholesterol and inflammation, lowers immunity, makes you sluggish, and eventually gets stored as fat.

3. It helps determine allergies. When we consume multiple ingredients, it can be difficult to identify the source of an illness. But monomealing can help isolate allergens. If you find you do have a food allergy, please seek a professional healthcare provider immediately.

4. It keeps the body hydrate. Fruits are filled with approximately 90% purified water. When consumed in abundance, fruits can help to keep your body hydrated and detoxified.

 

fruit-mono-eating

 

5. It encourages gratitude. The process of touching, smelling, chewing and enjoying the flavors in my mouth helps me appreciate my food. When I monoeat, I’m also grateful to the farmers who help keep us fed.

6. It’s simple. Keeping things uncomplicated in the kitchen can save you time and money. There is less time spent preparing meals and more time for play and enjoyment! Buying fruits over everything else on the shelves is a huge budget saver.

Why not consider monomealing at least one meal a week. Raw and organic is best when consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables! Your body will thank you for the reset. Last, when you monomeal, don’t binge yourself through the whole event. Slow down. Breathe. Be grateful and enjoy your meal.

Have you monomealed before? If so, what’s your favorite food for monomealing?

 

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7 Healthy Habits to Cultivate…Slowly

by Kelvin Belfon

healthy-habits-cultivate-grow

 

The older I get, the faster time seems to just fly away. It was only 10 weeks ago when I began to make plans for the upcoming year. I could not wait! Now it’s the middle of February with only 10 months in the year left. Ouch!

The same is true of my New Years resolutions. These commitments seem to just fly away. Each year I make my typical list…again: Spend more time with the family, pray more, gain weight (yeah, I know, but it’s true), become debt free, and so on.

Then the struggle to stay consistent usually begins around this time of year – February. The enthusiasm starts to slow down and eventually the well-intended promises never make it to the finish line.

The reality is that only 8% of people are successful at achieving their resolutions. Despite this fact, I keep making them, each year. Any accomplishment is better than a life without aspirations, I reasoned.

But over the last 2 years, I’ve made small changes. Instead of resolutions, I’ve decided to focus on cultivating healthy habits to change my lifestyle. The following are 7 habits I’ve been working on slowly.

7 Healthy Habits

Becoming an early riser. I’ve always been a nighthawk, consistently staying up past midnight. And that worked for most of my life. But now, the combination of longer workdays and caring for my little ones have left me exhausted at nights. The switch to rising early was a tough shift. I love sleeping in. But morning is the time when I can be most productive.

Embracing minimalism. In the last 13 years, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of material possessions. The majority has been gifted from my wedding; but later I acquired more on my own every time we relocated. It seems like there has always been a need to customize the new space with new things.

My decision to embrace a minimalist lifestyle has helped create more space, reduced time spent cleaning and caring for things, made our home eco-friendly, and minimized potential debt. But creating room for family and other valuable relationships has been the biggest benefit. In this area, I continue to grow.

Improving my health. I’ve become careless with my diet since moving to America. It’s been more processed foods instead of the normal raw fruits and vegetables. Junk food was cheaper and more convenient. In addition, my exercising routine was non-existent. Returning to a healthy habit of caring for my body was and continues to be a challenge. But I’m taking baby steps like walking more, jogging, and eating raw foods.

Fostering a lifelong learning passion. I had a library with over 5,000 books! But since graduate school, I began to read less, sometimes spending more precious time in front of that rectangular box – the television – than I ought to. Personal development doesn’t just happen by osmosis. So I’ve regained my commitment to reading regularly, exposing myself to new thoughts and ideas.

Establishing relationship boundaries. In the past, I lacked boundaries in my relationships. Because I love to please, I used to have a hard time saying no and letting people know how I really felt. As a result, this was perceived as weakness. I allowed people to control and manipulate my life. It was toxic.

Ending certain relationships, although necessary, was pretty painful. Even so, establishing boundaries by saying no was extremely liberating. I even saw other benefits, such as the improvement of my physical health.

Confronting fears. I’ve never really mastered the English language. So I’ve really feared the idea of starting a blog and going public with my writing. The same was true about other major decisions like relocating, starting a new job slightly outside of the career I’d been used to, and, of course, ending toxic relationships. Fear is paralyzing! But I’m stepping out little by little to confront the unknown.

Practicing Contentment. I must admit, I keep wanting just a little more each week, each month and each year. My wants are typical like a house, car, clothing, electronics, etc. The problem is that no one’s ever truly satisfied once we start going past the basics. We want the best, biggest and the latest.

The habit of contentment is learning that more doesn’t equate happiness. It’s accepting yourself, avoiding meaningless comparisons with others, and living a life of gratitude that brings fulfillment. Sounds good, but I struggle to practice everyday.

Cultivate with the right motivation

The above habits are not exhaustive.

They are strategies you take along your journey, not the final destination. Becoming an early riser is not the goal. On the contrary, the goal is to give the most productive hours of the day to achieving those things in life that are musts.

Moreover, becoming health conscious is more than loosing weight. The greater motivation is to avoid preventable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. This enables us to be around a little longer for our loved ones.

…Slowly 

When making resolutions, I used to give myself timetables. But the reality is, to make a habit become a lifestyle requires lots of time. I may need even a few years to get there.

We need time to cultivate new habits, and even more, to unlearn old ones. So lets give ourselves permission to go slow, fail, and restart again…all without condemnation, until we achieve what we desire to be.

What healthy habits are you cultivating in your life?

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Why the Outdoors is Good for You

by Kelvin Belfon

Why the Outdoors is Good_image2

About 3 months ago, my wife and I were giving our friend Bonnie a ride home. It was a beautiful day in Denver, Colorado. The mountains were dark green and capped in white against the deep blue sky. The scene was picturesque.

In unison we said to Bonnie, “Oh, look at the mountains. How beautiful!”

To our surprise, she responded, “What about them?” We proceeded to explain how fascinating it was that the mountains seem to have a different personality every day; and, as such, looked different every day.

Bonnie looked out the car window and said, “I’ve never noticed them before.” Bonnie is a 12-year resident of Denver.

I’m always amazed how many of us fail to notice and enjoy the natural beauty that exists around us. Just this Fall season alone, I’ve observed…

  • Yellowish / bright orangish sunrises
  • The brisk, fresh morning dew
  • Varicolored butterfly landing among a bouquet of flowers
  • The sound of running water in a creek, birds chirping, and wind passing between trees, and so on.

My love for the outdoors started in Grenada as a child. We played outside quite a bit. Our teachers sometimes held class outside under trees. We spent hours at the beach, did our laundry in the river, and had cookouts…all outdoors.

Since moving to the US, I’ve had the opportunity to live and visit multiple metropolitan cities like the New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, and now Denver. The social life, culture and infrastructures in more populated cities are unparallel.

Yet each time, I find myself craving for the outdoors. I can’t escape the longing to discover life beyond the four walls of my home to see the green foliage, look into the deep blue sky and stare at the stars at night. And the older I become, the more important this becomes to me.

Why the outdoors is good for you?

Fall_Leavesimage by: Quest Demy

It relaxes our body. The outdoors clears the mind, relaxes the body and reduces anxiety after a long day. Scientific studies show a lower level of cortisol (a hormone that indicates stress) when people go outside on a nature therapy.

It improves our health. A short walk can do wonders to our health. The fresh air increases oxygen to our brain and sunlight our vitamin D intake for FREE! The lack of vitamin D is known to cause cancer, inflammation, and weaker immune system.

It increases our energy. Stepping outdoors invigorates the mind and body. That’s because increased activity releases endorphins that are known to boost energy and combat “mental fatigue.” We also sleep better when we are more active during the awake hours.

It reduces depression. Stepping outside triggers a sense of awe, gratitude and a positive outlook of life. As a natural consequence, such moments remind us of the things that are most important.

It stimulates creativity and imagination. The outdoors sharpens our thinking, helps us dream, concentrate (this is especially the case in children after a walk in the park), and restores our memory.

It’s educational, beautiful and free!

Going outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple! Do some gardening over the weekend or enjoy the animals in your backyard like my friend Marshall in Florida does.

Step outside your house or apartment to explore your neighborhood and downtown. Visit a park, people watch, jog or go cycling. Take a walk on the beach, for all my island and east-west coast friends.

Spend your break time outside the office. Eat lunch on the grass or walking around the building.

Take your children on an outdoor adventure. Play, smile, laugh, take pictures or do 1 of the 15 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors This Fall.

Fall is a beautiful season. The leaves change their colors and the temperature is just right for outdoor exploring. So challenge yourself. Disconnect from your social media and electronic devices for a few hours per day.

Go outside. Relax, breathe and enjoy. Your body will thank you for it!

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How to end a toxic relationship

by Kelvin Belfon

How to End A Toxic Relationship_Image1

All failed relationships hurt, but letting go of a toxic relationship is actually a gain, not a loss.  ~ Marc and Angel Chernoff

A few weeks ago one of my readers commented on a post I’d written, “I’m pretty good with de-cluttering the physical stuff from my home. What weighs me down are my relationships. How can I deal with them?” And another reader confessed, “Ending toxic relationships is the hardest thing to do.”

We all can identify with these observations.

Saying no to toxic relationships can be challenging for several reasons. First, when a person is raised in an abusive environment, he/she easily accept such harmful behavior as normal. And if you don’t know a problem exist, you are least likely to desire change.

Second, a needy or low self-esteem can create an unhealthy dependency on others. And this dependency has the potential of eroding our better judgment in dealing with abusive people.

Third, toxic people can come off nice, warm and charming. Or, at least, they appear to be so in the beginning. They are people we’ve come to trust such as parents, siblings, friends, dating partners, mentors, spiritual authorities, co-workers and such. So the thought of separation seems impossible. Moreover, most of us tend to be pretty hopeful that people will change despite their controlling inclinations.

My Journey

One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do is to dissolve longstanding relationships that had become counterproductive. Over the years, I knew things had gone wrong and others saw it too. But I couldn’t let go. The truth is, I didn’t want to because I craved acceptance. I also feared exclusion and conflict.

Then one day a friend said, “What you are experiencing is not normal.” I felt offended at first; but it was truth that I just couldn’t contradict. So I started reading and researching these kinds of negative relationships. It was as though blinders had been taken off my eyes. I felt liberated.

It was hard to put into words what I was experiencing. But several months after I had ended the relationship, another friend helped me verbalize what I had been feeling all along. Sometimes we do need that outside person to help identify these complicated association.

Ending the relationship was a long painful process. But it was one of the most important steps I have taken in regaining control of my own life. Freedom is a beautiful thing!

The following are some of the steps I’ve learned in ending toxic relationships.

How to End a Toxic Relationship

Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge that you are in an unhealthy relationship. Admit that you can’t change the toxic person.

Become aware. Learn the signs of toxic relationships. Read, observe and ask lots of questions.

Avoid damning yourself. It is important to examine yourself, to acknowledge your shortcomings. But it is not helpful to be excessively self-deprecating at this point. Toxic people specialize in making their victims feel horrible about themselves. Don’t cave into their attempts to make you feel as if you are any less than you are.

Establish healthy boundaries. Boundaries exist for our protection. Take baby steps in clearly articulating your feelings. For example, “When you _____, you make me feel _________. I would like you to stop it.”

Keep the conversation short. Plan what you’ll say. Toxic people are manipulative and persistent. A simple, “This relationship is not working out” might be all you need to say to avoid opening up Pandora’s Box.

Learn to say “No” Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away.

Seek help. Invite family members, trusted friends or a professional to give their honest assessment of this relationship. Never be afraid to ask for help. Others can see things overlooked by our emotions.

Consider physical separation. If necessary, a temporary separation can provide a time of reflection and healing. In other cases, permanent physical separation might be the only viable alternative.

Decide how you want the relationship to end. You can confront the person directly and gradually reduce the communication until the relationship dies on it’s own. You may also choose to go cold turkey and terminate the relationship abruptly with no further contact.

In some cases, writing a letter and sending it may be the way to go. If the letter you choose to write gets really deep into reciting histories of abusive events within the relationship, you may want to reconsider whether you need to mail it after all. Recounting the past to an abusive person often does little to help if that person is in denial.

Seek inward wholeness and healing. Why are we attracted to toxic individuals? One professional counsellor has said that it is because unhealthy people attract other unhealthy people. I have found that the best antidote for dealing with the habit of attracting unhealthy soul ties is to become active in building up one’s own self-esteem. The more wholeness we possess, the less dependent we are on controlling people.

Ending a toxic relationship is tough. The process is like going through the death cycle — denial, anger, grief and recovery. This is why repairing a broken relationship early on is always a good alternative when possible. But if reconciliation is not possible, it is in your best interest to end this relationship decisively. Draw a clear line and don’t’ turn back in weakness or fear.

Remember, you deserve to be treated with dignity. You are a person of worth. No other person should be allowed to control your life.

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Signs of Toxic Relationships

by Kelvin Belfon

Signs of Toxic Relationships_Image1

 

Taking inventory of one’s possessions and minimizing excess is no small task. Yet, when it comes to managing relationships, this area of life can be a bit more unwieldy. People can require a pretty significant amount of emotional and time commitment. And while people relationships can be complicated, they are also potentially our most valuable possession. So let’s admit from the start–letting people go is never an easy task.

Still we need to be intentional with the people we allow in our personal circle. Our relationships can either make us or break us. And our quality of life is dependent on it. Positive relationships add value; but toxic relationships can be harmful to our health.

We’ve all come across these sorts of people within our family, among friends or in the workplace. Toxic relationships don’t only involve physical abuse, either. Some of the most life debilitating forms come in very discreet packaging, through both verbal and nonverbal interactions.

These interactions are nevertheless toxic because they bring on feelings of guilt, unhappiness, condemnation, and unworthiness. They can leave us emotionally drained. Toxic people cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, depression and serious medical problems such as high blood pressure and even heart issues.

In my experience with toxic people, they’ve left me feeling trapped and controlled on account of me suppressing my true feelings over time. I’ve even blamed myself in the past for issues that arise as a result of their boundary crossing.  Like most of us, I knew something was wrong in the relationship; but I didn’t know how to read the signs of toxic relationships. I ignored my own intuition and allowed the dysfunction to continue for too long.

Learning the Signs of Toxic Relationships

Learning from the lived trials and pain caused by these types of people, I’ve become much better over the years at identifying the signs that tell when a relationship has reached its expiration. Here are a few:

You are not allowed to grow. Toxic people love to bring up your past and enjoy talking about your mistakes and failures. They are often judgmental and will make feeble attempts at fixing you. You can’t do anything right around them. And even when you take steps to improve yourself, toxic individuals get uncomfortable with the new you. They may even laugh at the thought of your positive intentions.

Your physical appearance is belittled. These unhealthy individuals will make you self-conscious about your looks. Physical features such as your weight, height, skin color, or even certain cultural distinctions are a constant subject of conversation. Toxic people will even banter about your physical disabilities, such as in the way you walk or speak. After being around them, you may leave feeling small, deflated, lonely or unsatisfied with yourself.

You’ll hear more trigger words. I’m sure you’ve heard them, “If you love me, then you’ll…” “Forgive me, I’ll do better next time…” “I didn’t mean those words…” Toxic people are liars and deceptive. They may even use tears for an emotional pity party. But there is no change. The truth is, there will never be. They break promises to continue their manipulative abusive behavior.

You are abused by their position. We are taught as children to honor and respect authority; and we should. But toxic people don’t play fair. They use their roles and titles to control and often get away with it. Because of their status, they are able to cowardly hide their shortcomings and make themselves unaccountable. And they play that game very well. They also tend to demand recognition and dependency on them.

Serving their agenda is priority. Toxic people are narcissistic and tend to use others for their aggrandizement. They use people’s emotions, time, skills and financial resources for their gain. Their agenda must be your goal. There is no mutual positive exchange in this relationship. Only the toxic partner benefits while your feelings and opinions are ignored.

You lack energy instead of feeling motivated. Toxic people are needy, weak individuals. They drain your energy with their constant complaints, frustrations, ongoing drama, and need for attention. So you retreat, become non-communicative and even hesitate to spend time with this person. The relationship grows to be superficial and you only meet out of obligation.

You feel isolated from other relationships. This is the “divide and conquer” strategy where toxic people try to alienate you from others important people in your life. Over time, you become suspicious of them. Later you find yourself fighting or disagreeing with these friends or loved ones for no apparent reason. This is because your manipulator has craftily succeeded in sowing his/her seed of distrust in you already.

You defend your abuser. This follows the previous point. The toxic individual demands loyalty and you willingly play that role. Yet they may betray your trust to others without any feeling of remorse. And because you are so emotionally attached to this person, you justify their unhealthy behaviors. When outsiders point out any abuse or inconsistency in this relationship, the toxic individual expects that you, the victim, will fully defend their cause. This is one of the most sinister strategies, sometimes called Stockholm Syndrome.

Toxic relationships are NOT normal or healthy. They demand too much energy and deplete from your sense of well-being. Life is too short to allow others to control you. Learn to read the signs or take a profile test to determine the health of your relationships. If you are in a toxic relationship, seek help and get out now.

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The Importance of Staying Flexible

by Kelvin Belfon

Staying Flexible

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Two days ago I celebrated my 39th birthday. A lot has changed over the years. When I was 9 years old, my teacher, back in Venezuela, asked the class to draw a picture of what each student wanted to be. It was easy, I wanted to be un maestro (a teacher)!

Since then, I’ve dreamt of becoming a professional cricket player, working in a Spanish embassy as a translator in some foreign country, being a pastor, a banker and even a business owner.

Along with these ambitions, a few unexpected life events also happened. I’ve lived in 3 different countries (Grenada, Venezuela, and now the US) and visited over 10 others. I earned a Master’s degree in my field a few years back. And the mother of all unpredicted accomplishments…I’m husband and father to what is considered in this country, a large family.

Marriage was never on my radar. When it happened, I cried during the ceremony from pure joy. Camilla and I didn’t have plans for children either. And we didn’t try to get pregnant for the first 8 years. Today, we have a 6-year old boy, a 3-year old girl and 4-month-old boy/girl twins. It’s funny how you change over tim.

I think it goes without saying that over the past 39 years, one of the key lessons of life I’ve learned is the importance of staying flexible.

Life Is No Smooth Sail

Life is not constant. Change should be expected as a normal process with lots of ups and downs, losses, disappointments, and victories. I struggled with this concept when I was younger. But now I’ve become more open to handling life’s uncertainties with maturity.

A rigid or inflexible mind causes frustration, unrealistic expectations, constant feelings of regret and unhappiness about your current state of being. Inflexibility may also lead to stubbornness and keep us stuck in the past. Over the last year or so, I’ve stumbled upon a handful of great opportunities that I fear I might have missed had I taken the stubborn route.

The Importance of  Staying Flexible

Staying Flexible is liberating and gives us more choices. If something doesn’t work one way, having the courage to consider another option is what I consider true freedom.

Staying Flexible helps us turn obstacles into opportunities. What may appear as a delay or detour sometimes can really be new possibilities and teachable moments in disguise.

Staying Flexible helps us avoid the tendency to make unnecessary comparisons with others. Like, for example that profile picture of your old high school friend on Facebook, who you perceive to be successful. Yes, that’s the kind of comparison that causes us to wrongly ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I accomplished this status by now?” This kind of mindset is unfair to you.

Staying Flexible helps us embrace the present. So, you are now on your fourth career option. So what? Keep following after your dreams but remain fluid and adaptable if a change really becomes necessary. Living in the past, constantly rehearsing the what could have beens of life will only steal your joy and your right to a life marked by inner peace and personal freedom.

So stay Flexible!

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Becoming A Conscious Consumer

by Kelvin Belfon

Becoming A Conscious Consumer2

As a child I didn’t have strong consumer opinions. This is partly due to my culture’s low view of a child’s ability to contribute to household decisions. Children were seen but not heard.

It was also due to tough economic conditions. I recall standing in long lines, excited about the powdered milk, oil and cheese distributed by our government. It was free and we took it, gratefully.

But the primary reason for my limited opinion in what I purchased or owned was this: I never really had “my own.” My mother was a young single parent desperately trying to make a living. To help I was moved around to live with others. Not living in a house that was truly my home made me naturally a passive consumer. I learned to be grateful for anything and accepted things as they were given to me.

A lot has changed since immigrating to the United States. I’m a well-educated, independent thinker who has been exposed to a great deal of information and resources on a variety of consumer topics. I remember when I first visited a shopping mall and supermarket in the US. I was astounded, and quite frankly, overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless options there were to any one thing you might want to buy.

Today, I chuckle at the fact that without thinking, I have over the years enjoyed purchasing all kinds of milks – Cow’s milk, Soy, Almond, Rice, Hazelnut, Coconut, Hemp, and so on…. Yes, I’ve even learned that there are 11 different types of milk and counting!

More options doesn’t always translate into better consumer habits. In fact, the opposite is true. We are bombarded by advertising messages that legitimize our obsession with accumulating unnecessary stuff. As such, the choices we make can quite often be unhealthy and not beneficial.

What’s worse, many of us are so caught up comparing ourselves with unrealistic images and misinformed notions of what others have or how they live their lives that we are on a constant treadmill toward an unreachable consumer destination.

Sadly, this unconscious lifestyle leaves us unfulfilled, wastes our time, squanders valuable resources, and leaves us in debt. We all need to break from this obsession with excessive consumerism.

Becoming A Conscious Consumer

Consciousness is defined as being “awake, perceiving, aware or understanding what is happening.”

Minimalism has forced my wife and me to become more mindful about what we consume, to be more conscious within each decision we make for our home. This includes where we choose to live, what and where we eat or clothes we buy, what household possessions we keep, and services we hire. Most importantly, this included how we educate our children and what we will and will not expose them to.

Conscious consumerism can be practiced in every area of life.

It’s about regaining control and taking responsibility for our actions.

It’s becoming active and wholly engaged in life.

It’s observing.

It’s being thoughtful.

It’s taking action instead of allowing things to just happen to you.

It’s asking the right questions.

“Why should I make this purchase?” “How would this food choice affect my health?” “Why do I need to follow this cultural trend?”

Like myself, sometimes we don’t always have the necessary information to make wise decisions. You may not even be independent or capable at the moment to make your own choices, as I once was. You may not be able to be a conscious consumer in every area at this moment. But you can start where you are, with what you have. As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”

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6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

by Kelvin Belfon

6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

I recently took a trip to our local Goodwill store. It was after my wife de-cluttered our kid’s bedroom, again. This has become the most challenging room thus far. I tackled a much easier project, the basement. The back car seats and trunk were filled with boxes, all containing clothes, toys, books, backpacks, and electronics. The pay off is that we’ve now reclaimed a good amount of space in both locations.

Since the whole family has been on board from the beginning, downsizing our living space and being more particular about the things we accumulate has been a collective effort. Our trips to the store have been reduced significantly. We are constantly learning how to live without excess.

But I’ve been asking myself what is the essence of a simplicity lifestyle. We tend to associate this simple living movement with ideas like, less is more, reducing, emotional detachment from things and recycling? Yet, I believe the simple lifestyle requires a more comprehensive description.

It’s also about embracing habits that promote wholeness, health, and fulfillment. It’s about adding the things that enrich our lives and make us better individuals. So, instead of focusing exclusively on eliminating or removing things, consider adding a few things.

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6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

1. Me Time – This sounds narcissistic but we need more time to ourselves. We need time to think, meditate, decompress, and dream. Extra time is needed for the body to rest, heal and rejuvenate from the busyness of life. In some cases, our bodies need to catch up on much needed sleep. I’m often refreshed, empowered, and creative after my times of solitude.

2. Relationships – People are our most prized possession. Spending more time with our loved ones: spouses, children, family members, and friends is important. This is never automatic; it’s something we prioritize. My wife recently told me about the death of an old high school friend’s husband. The whole thing was so sad. The husband lost the battle to cancer. Events like these remind me of the brevity of life on this earth.  Let’s value the time spent with loved ones.

3. Memorable Experiences – Let’s be honest. We remember the memorable experiences shared with people far more than we do most purchasing events. The “good feeling” we get from buying things is really a temporary high. And it doesn’t take that long for consumables to become annoying clutter in our homes. Experiences, on the other hand, build stronger and longer lasting relationships. Instead of things, give people the gift of experiences. Spend some quality time spent with your children this weekend. Go hiking with a good friend. These are very simple ways of showing the people in your life that you value them with little to no money involved.

4. Financial Freedom – We need money but obsessing over it can lead to enslavement, frustration and regrets. Financial freedom is living unencumbered by debt. It’s having options, the power to choose. Financial freedom is knowing what’s enough and avoiding our culture’s need to accumulate. It’s no wonder that some the benefits of financial freedom are restful sleep patterns, low stress, and all around healthy mindset.

5. Healthier Diet and Exercise – Eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise regimen can add longevity to our lives. Increasing our consumption of fresh, green vegetables and fruits in our diet is a better choice than opting for the processed, refined foods. The American Heart Associate says an extra 30 minutes of exercise per day can boost mental wellness, build immunity, reduce risk factors and prolong optimal health.

6. Spontaneity – This was much easier earlier in my married life. My wife and I took numerous unplanned, last minute, and exploratory trips. We are now a family of 6 with routines and schedules to keep us sane. Yet adding spontaneity to our lives is freeing. It gives us a sense of adventure and provides an opportunity to relax, smile, laugh, and create the memorable experiences mentioned above. So we have to be creative in this area. For example, take an unplanned trip to the mountains or go on a date with that special someone.

How about you, what would you add to your life?

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Letting People Go

by Kelvin Belfon

Letting People Go

Relationships are one of the deepest human needs. This is because we are gregarious beings, sociable, fond of companionship and having a deep need to share our lives with others. Some of us are less or more cordial than others. But at the core, we all crave relationships.

Relationships are key to our happiness, quality of life and success. The right people can help propel us in the fulfillment of our goals, while the wrong associations can bring pain. No relationship is neutral; the company we keep affects us all either positively or negatively.

Recently, we’ve become purposeful in taking inventory of the kinds of relationships we have and the quality of our human interactions. We realize that it is possible to maintain a clutter-free home and work area while never truly experiencing wholeness. De-cluttering material possessions alone is not enough.

Letting people go has been one of the most challenging tasks of our simplicity journey by far. Things can be sold, donated, or thrown away if deemed useless. This is not to overlook the fact that we can be sentimental when it comes to certain memorabilia that have intrinsic value.

Things can be symbolic of the people we care so deeply for, but they are not the people themselves. Emotional bonds we have with things are nowhere as profound as the depth of relationships we have with people.

How do we let people go when a relationship has run its course?

Despite the handful of times we’ve had to deal with letting people go, dealing with problematic relationships still gives us heartache. It’s not an area we’ve mastered. Bad relationships will never cease to exist as long as we are in this life. However, we can minimize the pain of letting people go if we know a few keys about relationships.

  • To begin, when possible, it’s important to make every effort to repair broken relationships. We should be courageous enough to admit wrong, give others the benefit of the doubt, and most of all, forgive. No one is perfect. Sometimes people deserve a “do over.” But if you are dealing with a chronic or dysfunctional relationship, the signs that you’re in a bad relationship might already be obvious to you. It’s time to let the person go and move on.
  • Some relationships are toxic. Although certain people can seem nice or well intentioned, they may have relational habits that are pernicious, that they may or may not be aware of. They bring unnecessary stress, regret, drama, and abuse. They use, manipulate and control others. They may even do really nice things for you; yet with the wrong motive, their actions bring pain.

If you’ve determined that the relationship is truly going in the wrong direction, take action quickly. Don’t allow toxic relationships to drag on. Remove yourself from it and give yourself permission to love people from a distance. You deserve better!

  • One of the hardest lessons we’ve had to learn is that not every relationship is meant to be permanent. Naturally, most healthy people evolve in their outlook and sense of self. Despite the fact that you’ve grown, their perception of you may never change. Some people are just not going to be comfortable with the new you. Their static view of you will make your life miserable and zap your energy and spirit. Be grateful for the good memories. But there comes a time when you must cut the strings and let go.

We all need people in our lives. But we must use wisdom with each relationship commitment. Consider quality over quantity. A few good friends are far more meaningful than having hundreds of casual friends who merely “like” you.

And most importantly, cultivate positive friendships for health and wholeness. Start off by not giving too much, too soon of yourself. Take baby steps in a relationship. Trust is earned over time.

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Be More With Less: An Interview with Courtney Carver

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Courtney Carver of Be More With Less.

Be More With Less3

Courtney Carver is founder of Be More with Less and Project 333. She left a 15-year career in sales and marketing, September 2011, so that she could focus on fulfilling the goals and values of her simplicity journey. But these goals were not only beneficial to Courtney. Along the way, her personal discoveries have influenced thousands of others seeking new ways to change their life habits for the better. Courtney’s books, blog articles and educational courses have also inspired my journey in many ways. For these reasons, I’m excited to have her as my very first guest interview. I trust you find her perspectives helpful as you read.

Kelvin: What factors weighed into your decision to embark on the simplicity journey to Be More With Less?
Courtney: In 2006, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was my wake up call and it was loud and clear that I needed to make some changes in my life. I didn’t plan to completely overhaul my life, but one change led to the next and now my life is really different than it used to be.

Kelvin: What were some of the immediate changes you made in your life?
Courtney: The first thing I did was change my eating habits. With the research I did, I discovered that a vegetarian diet was best for me. From there I started to eliminate the things that created the greatest stress in my life. That included clutter, debt, shopping, and eventually my job.

Kelvin: What do you recommend for those wanting to simplify their lifestyle, particularly those struggling with letting go of sentimental things?
Courtney: Some things will be easier to eliminate than others, but by establishing why you want to simplify things, you can remind yourself along the way when tempted to keep items of sentimental value. I also think it’s important to note that less is not nothing. You don’t have to get rid of every single thing to experience the benefits of a simpler life. It really looks different for everyone.

Kelvin: When most people hear the term minimalism, they think of an ascetic life. What’s your definition?
Courtney: Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter so you can define and focus on what does matter most to you. And when I say things, that isn’t just physical clutter. It might include things on your to-do list that aren’t essential, toxic relationships, debt, trips to the mall and other things that can seem like a normal part of every day life.

Kelvin: Tell us a little about your other interests such as clothing (Project 333)?
Courtney: In 2010, I really got serious about letting go. I started in my closet because that was the place I visited on a daily basis. I had so much, but never had anything to wear. I also overspent in clothing and fashion. I knew I needed something besides another seasonal closet cleanout, so I challenged myself to dress with only 33 items for 3 months including clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. My first 3 months were October – December in Salt Lake City and we had temperatures ranging from 0-90 degrees.

I thought the experiment would be temporary, but by the end of the 3 months, I knew it would become part of my lifestyle. The best part is that hundreds of people joined in and started their own Project 333 and now thousands from different countries, climates and lifestyles are practicing Project 333.

Kelvin: You’re a vegetarian and have recently committed to take on Joel Fuhrman’s nutrition challenge. How does nutrition weigh into your values on simplicity?
Courtney: The healthier you are, the simpler your life will be. I believe that food is quite possibly the most important factor when it comes to feeling well and being healthy. As a vegetarian, I thought I was eating a healthy diet, but after three weeks of following the Eat to Live plan, it’s clear that there is room for improvement.

Kelvin: Recently you released your latest book, Mini-Missions for Simplicity. What can readers expect?
Courtney: I published my new book, Mini-Missions for Simplicity towards the end of last year and it’s a collection of great experiments you can try to simplify your life. Mini-missions are often one step actions that you can do to improve your health, relationships, bank account or wardrobe.

Courtney, thank you for your time and for sharing with the readers of Going Uncomplicated.

 Courtney Carver writes and speaks about simplicity in life and business. Read more at Be More with Less and courtneycarver.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Improving My Health

by Kelvin Belfon

improving-diet-exercise-health

Keeping an exercise routine wasn’t something I scheduled into my life back home on my island. Because transportation was limited, we walked to go everywhere: grocery store, school, post office, church and special events. If I was late, I ran. And I was late quite frequently. Then there was the seasonal farming, which was a serious “workout” under the hot tropical sun.

In school things were more formal. Physical education class required demanding exercise drills followed by cricket and soccer games or track. Games after school with the neighbors were a ritual we looked forward to as kids. We were very active and always took advantage of being outdoors.

Our diet wasn’t perfect. The starches we ate fueled our active lifestyle. But they only became a problem as people got older and sedentary. No one talked about being a vegetarian or vegan except the Rasta man, known to abstain from meats, especially pork.

I don’t recall using the word dessert in my vocabulary. If you were hungry after dinner, you went outside and found fruits such as golden apples, skin up or sugar apples. Julie mangoes remain my all-time favorite.

When I moved to Miami, Florida in the 90s, I tried to continue my “healthy lifestyle.” I jogged a little and ate well but it was tough. The fast food I saw advertised was cheaper and seemed to fit my busier schedule. It was also much easier to vegetate.

Though my wife embraced natural habits, I became lazy about fitness. And because we moved around a bit, living in different states, I always had the perfect excuses:

  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I’m too cold”
  • “It’s too expensive to eat healthy”
  • “I’m a married man with kids to focus on raising”

Then during a certain period, some time ago, I came across the hot topic suggesting that the leading causes of death in America are preventable by a healthier diet and regular exercise. Moreover, weight did not always factor in what was considered “healthy.” The fact that one can be unhealthy and appear “good” on the outward scared me. When I began focusing on simplicity last year, improving my health was an obvious decision.

So I make some changes. Juicing, reducing the consumption of animal fat and eliminating most processed foods from my diet were key. Regular exercise helped reduce stress, kept my mind alert and motivated. It provided a time for meditation and kept me from becoming lethargic during a time of unemployment.

On several occasions, I even went jogging in below freezing temperatures. These were some of the most refreshing times. They gave me an excitement about my ability to face the tough times and anticipate success.

But getting outdoors wasn’t only for me. I enjoyed all kinds of activities at the park with my wife and kids. Everyone benefits from an active lifestyle and a healthier eating habit.

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What Matters Most

by Kelvin Belfon

What Matters Most

Many people dream about vacationing or honeymooning in some beautiful tropical paradise. Yet because Camilla and I are islanders, 14 years ago we picked Colorado as our honeymoon destination. It was an opportunity to experience a new culture and to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time. The whole idea was romantic and exciting!

Last year, life for us shifted and we had the opportunity to relocate anywhere we wanted. We picked Denver. It was like a dream come true. But even in the most idyllic place, life can still become complicated. I was unemployed and my savings were dwindling. I had an abundance of free time but free time in this case was stressful.

Even after I found a “buffer” job, I worried about the bills and the things we might needed in the future. I was hard on myself and began to wallow in thoughts of failure. But my family gave me much needed perspective. Each evening when I came home, they would greet me with the biggest smiles. My children would run to meet me at the door chanting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”

It felt good to be admired despite what I thought of myself during that difficult period of transition. The constant affirmation led me to start asking, “What matters most in life?” I thought I knew, having drafted quick lists in my past. But regardless of what I thought I wanted, I often failed to give them the highest value in my life.

I’m getting closer to answering the what matters most in life question.

To start, an outlook of gratitude and healthy relationships are most important to me. These are easy to express, but probably not so easy to master. They require living with minimal clutter and distraction. They require consistency. And because I love myself and the people closest to me, the effort is worth it.

So, what are the things that matter most to you?

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