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zoe & the beatles

just a twenty-something vegan navigating healthy, positive living with a little help from her friends john, paul, ringo & george!

i have a mission. it started roughly a year ago, when i spent five weeks in south africa. it was quite a spontaneous decision. i had never been out of the country, not even to mexico. i did not go with my parents, any real friends, or my boyfriend at the time. but it sounded exhilarating so i decided to go. i went with a group of students (some i knew, some i did not) from my college and a professor. we stayed at the university of capetown and volunteered (and did our own bit of damage, too…the official drinking age is 18!). talk about culture shock! suddenly i found myself half a world away and completely out of my comfort zone. so, i had two options: a) FREAK OUT or b) EMBRACE IT. luckily for me, i chose option b.

(the group! can you spot me :)?)

(i hiked to the top of this baby! talk about AMAZING!)

i opened my eyes to my new surroundings. i drunk it in. i lived it, breathed it. eventually i fell in love. the south african culture fascinated me. everywhere i looked i saw something beautiful. i saw something shocking. i learned to appreciate my life, myself, and others more than i ever had before. i felt free and beautiful and empowered. i was more happy than i had been in a LONG time.

(at the top of table mountain! what a day! these pants no longer fit, either!)

AND i found myself in the company of some of the most intelligent people i have ever met. we shared opinions and intense discussions and i really started to reconsider the path my life was heading down.

let me back track a little.

before i left for south africa i was unbalanced. how did i live my life? i went to class. i watched a lot of t.v. i played a lot of video games. i looked at gossip websites religiously (helloooo perez hilton!), treating them like news channels. i read beauty magazines (which only made me feel badbadBAD). i talked about nothing important (i.e: other people, celebrity gossip). and i thought little about what i put into my body and where, exactly, it came from. my (ex)boyfriend and i sat around a lot. i was, to put it simply, quite inactive. a couch potato in the worst way.

in addition, freshman year of college i gained ten pounds. i credit this to stress eating, emotional eating, late night binges, cafeteria food, poor choices in terms of food, and a severe lack of movement! this ten pounds showed up in my face, my thighs, my arms, my stomach, my back, my butt — just about everywhere. and i’m SHORT (5′ 1″!) so ten pounds looks like 50. i watched my self-confidence (low already) NOSEDIVE. i hit rock bottom emotionally. i was a wreck emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually.

me, following freshman year of college:

(that’s my dad! he looks like the kings of vice in this, huh? he’s NOT, promise 🙂 we were playing family beer pong with three of my best friends and their families (we’ve been a fantastic foursome since we were kids!)

i remember seeing this picture and feeling AWFUL about it. i decided to make a change over the summer. i started working out for half an hour in the mornings before work a few times a week. i did exercise t.v things. i ran for twenty minutes. i bought work out dvds. i MOVED. i watched what i ate and when i ate and how much i ate. slowly i slimmed down some and lost the extra weight i gained. i settled back to my high school 135-140 range.

i started my second year old college more confident and happier. i felt more balanced. however, my activity level was still inconsistent. i was still eating the wrong foods for my body. i over ate. even though i had a boyfriend, a good circle of friends, and happiness most of the time, deep down i knew something was wrong. i felt disconnected from the hobbies i used to relish, like writing and soccer. i felt disconnected from myself. i was still slightly overweight and ALWAYS unhappy about it. i felt depressed a lot. i tried to find balance in my life but somehow never achieved it.

fast forward to south africa. i left at the beginning of june, right after my sophomore year of college ended. in south africa we had no access to television, limited access to computers, and had no access to our cell phones. i used the ample, electronic-free time (at home usually dedicated to sitting in front of a screen) to start asking myself questions. i reflected. A LOT. i realized in south africa how little i knew about the world shifting and changing around me. i realized how unhealthily i lived my life. i realized i was changing. instead of fearing the change, i accepted it with open arms.

a new found happiness infiltrated my ENTIRE being. soon i realized my pants stopped fitting. i lost weight. and a significant amount (between 8-10 pounds!). upon reflection i realized my weight loss came from a few simple factors: we walked EVERYWHERE. my body LOVED the movement i put it through. it reacted SO strongly to it. we ate three meals a day and i rarely snacked. if i did, it was on a piece of fresh fruit or some cheese and crackers. i rarely ate late at night. because we had no transportation, i couldn’t go get food and because there was not accessible fridge, i didn’t mindlessly eat. i ate breakfast EVERY day. but most importantly? i stopped OBSESSING about my appearance. it just all clicked.

the minute i returned home things changed. hardcore. over the course of the trip i loved not just how i looked but how i felt. i wanted to keep this feeling alive. i came home to an environment i felt i no longer really fit in. i broke up with my boyfriend. i lost touch with former “friends.” i stopped watching t.v. (i no longer own a cablebox. not even basic cable!) i stopped looking at gossip websites and reading beauty mags. i starting running regularly. i started practicing yoga regularly. i decided to stop eating meat. i started looking into the ethics behind my food. i started to look more closely at what i was putting into my body. eventually, i lost more weight and gained a new confidence. the transition did not come without its ups and downs but i am the most happy i have ever been. i love being active and love being outdoors. i strive to strike a healthy balance and maintain a happy, healthy life!

me now:

(oddly enough i apparently don’t take too many full body pictures! this was taken right before a “jersey shore” party. i have NEVER watched this show. none of us had, actually! to the left is candace, to the right is sierra. these two girls keep my grounded when all i want to do is crumble. i love them!)

(taken in south africa on a train back from johannisburg to capetown. i try to be as happy as i was when this picture was taken!)

while my journey towards health, happiness, and self-love is far from over, i can say i most absolutely cherish and respect this body i have, “flaws” and all.


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