There’s WHAT in my pantry?! A look at hidden ingredients in your food

Like most people, I like to have a general idea of what’s in my food and what I’m putting into my body. I know that choosing a bottle of water over a bottle of soda is a better choice for a variety of reasons. But it wasn’t until recently that I started giving more thought to, well, everything I eat. The ingredients in any processed food I buy. I don’t know, I never thought I really needed to worry.

Last night I found out that my pantry and my fridge had some of the most dangerous substances in them when I started to really read the labels. I always used to think that people who bought organic everything and read all the labels were just —— assholes. No joke. Like it was some pretentious club “oh we’re better because we can buy more expensive margarine that saves whales and cures aids cancer at the same time” and while there are pompous jerks like that out there I realized that no, most of these people are just well-informed and have done their research. Something that I’ve avoided doing for so long because I already knew it wouldn’t be something I’d want to hear, realize, or accept.

What really had me start reading labels over a year ago was fake sugars. Sucralose, aspartame, stevia, you name it, they are in just about EVERYTHING and you can read more about my sugar rants here. The more conscious and I was about what I was putting into my body and what was in foods, the more aware I was that there are chemicals in so many food products and I don’t even know what 90% of them are or do.

So last night I decided to start reading the ingredients on some staple things I always keep in my kitchen. Re-fried beans for Taco Tuesdays, canned chili for when I need something in a rush, mayonnaise in my fridge; food items that I use often, food items that tons of people use often. I expected to see chemicals and things I didn’t know about, but what I didn’t expect to see was just HOW harmful these chemicals were when I started researching them.

The first thing I reached for was my beloved mayonnaise. I know it’s not healthy, at all really, but I LOVE mayo. I use it in my tuna salad, when I make egg salad, on sandwiches. It’s your typical bottle of generic store brand mayo.

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Then I turned it over to read the label.

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What the crap is Calcium Disodium EDTA and what exactly does “protecting flavor” mean? Immediately reaching for my laptop, I nearly dropped the bottle on the floor. Calcium Disodium EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a food additive commonly used in things like pickled canned goods and canned beans. It’s made up of three ingredients:

  • Sodium cyanide – this ingredient is an inorganic compound, which means it is not considered organic, has been synthesized and is typically not found in biological systems. “Cyanide salts are among the most rapidly acting of all known poisons.
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ethylenediamine – this compound reacts in humid environments with air creating a toxic mist. It is commonly used in coolants and paints as a corrosion inhibitor, which helps prevent the corrosion of a metal. It is also used as a chemical in fabric softeners, adhesives, dyes, and clearly as something to keep mayonnaise from spoiling.

No wonder mayonnaise stays good for so long! It has so many preservatives in it! And if you’re like me, you may also be thinking “oh it’s just TRACE amounts, this isn’t THAT big of a deal, of COURSE they have to put something in it to keep it fresh…I mean…it’s not a big deal.” But isn’t it though!

Next up was the so called “no fat” refried beans. Anytime I’ve seen fat free, sugar free, light, or anything of the sort, it’s usually full of added sugars or fake sugar substances. But did you know most processed food products are also full of trans fat, MSG, and other chemicals? Gross!

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Notice that these are labeled “no fat” not “fat free” and there’s a reason. When I usually grab this in the grocery store, like most people, I expect to be able to believe the labels. No fat should mean no fat, right? The problem is that labels aren’t regulated, even organic items are labeled differently and have different requirements to meet depending on the type of organic label used.

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GAH! We were doing so well, Rosarita, until you got to autolyzed yeast extract (a cheaper chemical extract similar to MSG but with less glutamates) and partially hydrogenated soybean oil – which “adds a trivial amount of fat.” OH SO BY “NO FAT” YOU MEAN JUST TRIVIAL AMOUNTS OF TRANS FAT -__- Define “trivial.” This makes me mad for so many reasons. Products are allowed to make claims on their labels that simply aren’t true or that in exchange have fake or extracted ingredients and isolates. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the most commonly used trans fat in processed foods. Why? Because it’s inexpensive compared to butter and coconut oil. These oils go through a process called hydrogenation which sends hydrogen bubbles through the fat cells, making them more dense. Giving you that creamy, savory texture in foods. The problem is that these trans fats aren’t normal for the body, they don’t work like normal cells and they can cause major issues for your heart health.

When I reached for my Quaker oatmeal, the kind I had so lovingly eaten my entire childhood, I was outraged.

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Maltodextrin – a substance that forms into MSG in your system. More partially hydrogenated soybean oil – at least this one SAYS its trans fat. But what’s the point in saying “adds a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat” – it’s still awful for you! Comparisons that I’m now going to make to that statement:

  • Going to get a massage and having them poke you with a sharp toothpick briefly once every 10 minutes
  • Adding a drop of gasoline to every gallon of water you drink
  • Having your boyfriend or girlfriend kiss another guy or girl once a year – what! It’s an insignificant amount!

My main point here is that these things shouldn’t be in our foods but they are. Companies have solid reasons to add them: to retain their shelf life, so you can use them longer, so the expiration date doesn’t expire so soon, so they can spend less and make more money.

And while we do have a choice to make better and more informed decisions about the foods we eat, we’re also limited. Limited by how much money we even have to spend on food, limited to the amount of whole and organic foods available in our neighborhood, city, or region. Believe it or not there are places where people don’t have access to fresh produce.

Things are slowly changing but there’s still plenty of changes that need to be made!

 

 

 

Springtime Smoothie & Antioxidant Benefits

Spring is here and the colors are bright. Today after my workout I decided to whip up something with LOTS of berries. This smoothie is sweet, tangy, creamy, and ever so healthy! What a treat for lunch to enjoy outside in the sun 🙂

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I’m not sure what I love most about my recent smoothie kick. All the ingredients are plant-based and make me FEEL clear-headed and energized. The more whole foods I eat, the clearer my mentality and focus, the better my mood, I find myself just randomly smiling more often and feeling excited about the little day-to-day things in life. Eating healthy and clean really does make me feel better and then in turn I want to workout more and keep the process going.

This smoothie also contains 2 cups of berries which are full of antioxidants. I feel like we all hear that we should eat more foods rich in antioxidants but we often don’t know why and how they work. Well, I’ll tell you.

Antioxidants play a vital role in combating free radicals in your body by counteracting the oxidation process in your cells.  Did you know that antioxidants aren’t actually a substance but a behavior? Free radicals are unstable molecules that latch onto or give electrons to other atoms. When free radicals have their way, they can damage various cell structures which can lead to cancer, Alzheimer’s, and various other diseases we’re constantly trying to avoid and cure.

When we eat foods rich in antioxidants we’re helping keep our bodies healthy but this doesn’t mean that eating pounds of strawberries everyday will keep you save from cancer either. While all of these choice we make are important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, feeling good and keeping energized, they are all just one piece in the giant puzzle of our health.

You can find a list of foods with high levels of antioxidant properties here. The importance of eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits, veggies, berries, etc also provides you fiber and tons of other nutrients! Ok so enough with the science talk. Let’s get to the recipe!

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  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or any milk of your choice)

Blend ingredients together and pour into you favorite glass or mug. I just happened to have a huge wine glass in front of me. I want to invest in some cute glass jars soon so I can take smoothies with me. I also topped it with a few of the frozen berries that are fun to chew. The consistency is super creamy thanks to the avocado. Just make sure to check your teeth for berry seeds before you head out the door!

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The entire smoothie has around 350 calories and almost 20 grams of fiber!

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Blueberry and Greens Smoothie

Something about making yourself a smoothie feels indulgent and satisfying all on its own. Knowing you hold something in your hand that’s blended together with whole ingredients that’s going to give you energy, make you feel refreshed, and will nourish your body is ultra satisfying. I keep experimenting with new smoothie recipes, trying to see just how many things will go well together and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

I will admit that using fresh spinach gives you a heavier consistency and that if you’re not careful you’ll end up with blueberries in your teeth like I did. But a smoothie in the morning gives me energy like nothing else!

For this one I blended:

  • 1 green apple
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

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Bean and Tomato Salad with Crumbled Gorgonzola

Every time I incorporate more whole foods into my meals, I instantly feel healthier, cleaner, more alert, and in such a better mood! I’ve been working on finding more ways to bring in healthier lunches to work. This is now one of my new favorites and at around 250 calories you’ll be surprised how filling and satisfying it is.

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Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained
  • 10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • small handful fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions:

Add ingredients into a bowl or ready-to-go container for lunch. Pour olive oil over and stir well to coat all ingredients. You could also use crumbled goat or feta cheese instead. All of them taste amazing!

 

Baked Pickle Chips

There’s nothing like going to a bar and ordering a basket of deep-fried pickle chips, crispy, dilly bites of delicious. But they are deep-fried and then my body hurts. Last night I decided to try baking them homemade and not only did I like them more, but they were just as crispy and wonderful.

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There’s also something indescribable about taking the time to hand bake your own food. Gathering all of the ingredients, hand dipping each slice into the mixture and watching them crisp in the oven. Food always tastes more enjoyable when it’s not just something going mindlessly into your mouth, but something you’re proud of, something you hand crafted.

This recipe was inspired by some recent posts I’ve seen about baking vegetables into chips. You could do this with a variety of things like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, kale, etc.

For this recipe (feel free to double it or quadruple it for more people) you’ll need:

  • A jar of dill pickles
  • Grated Parmesan (I used a store-bought bottle because it was what I had in my fridge, but fresh parm would probably be better)
  • Bread crumbs (I used organic ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • Cooking spray or olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Fresh dill

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Measurements:

  • 3 dill pickles
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Loose and sprinkled fresh dill

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by rinsing off your pickles so they aren’t overwhelmingly salty. Then slice 3 of them into tiny chip size slices. Next time I might also try letting them air dry on the cutting board for an hour or so they get a bit more crispy in the oven. For this round, I used them right away.

Crack your egg into a bowl and scramble with a fork.

Mix together Parmesan, bread crumbs, and fresh dill.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly coat with olive oil.

Then one by one, dip pickle slices into egg and then coat with bread crumb mixture. Press each piece firmly to make sure they stick. I had to wash my hands a lot since the mixture would clump on my fingers.

Bake chips for 8-10 minutes, then flip and bake an additional 5 minutes. The tops should be lightly browned and crispy. You should be able to dive right in. This recipe made about 35 pickle chips and clocked out at around 170 calories.

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The Importance of Zoning Out

How many days a week do you end up getting into bed feeling like you haven’t had a minute to relax? I know – the shit never ends! And when you do have free time it can often feel like you’re “wasting” it if you aren’t doing anything productive. Just like we make time to get to important meetings, go grocery shopping, and hit the gym, we also have to make time to zone out and for good reason.

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I’m super guilty of never sitting down. I’m the one who will get up during the middle of a movie with my husband to start washing dishes or tidy up the living room. I can’t sit still some days because there is always more to do and it should get done. I always think “I’ll be happy when this place is cleaner” but the truth is that no matter how much cleaning and organizing gets done, I’m NOT going to be able to relax or be happy unless I make time to be. Thought provoking, isn’t it?

We’ve all had those thoughts of

I’ll be happy when…

GET RID OF THOSE. And start being happy now, focusing in on the moment, being mindful and living your life AS it happens. Just like we all need to love our bodies throughout all of our progress and ups and downs, it’s also important to focus on being happy in the moment.

So why is zoning out in important and what is zoning out exactly?

I’m talking about those moments whether its 10, 20, 45 minutes or even 3 hours if you can make the time where you just aren’t doing much of anything. Time to sit down, lay down, throw on some house pants, and not give a fuck. This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging drinking beer and lying in front of the TV, but then again, maybe I am. What is wrong with that?! Mental sanity and happiness is just as important as physical well-being and if you feel well rested and taken care of all around, you’ll be more likely to hit the gym and make the healthy food choices on those harder days.

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Zoning out allows your mind to take a break. I will often ask my husband “what are you thinking about?” and he’ll say “nothing.” This boggles my mind. The thing is, I actually believe him. I think men might actually have the ability to zone out enough to not be thinking about 10,000 things at one time. I, on the other hand, CANNOT turn off my brain like that. If there is something to think about, I’ll think about it, analyze it, destroy it, make it worse, etc. This is something I’ve been trying to work on for years.

Practicing the ability to just observe thoughts, recognize them, and not automatically accept them as a fact has been a major savior in my life. Often times when I’m overwhelmed or anxious I’ll take a minute to just listen to my mind go off in crazy directions, almost like a frantic friend venting about their day. I’ll listen without judgement, then I’ll just observe them and let them fly over my head. From there you can pick out the ones that truly are solid realizations and toss the others that were merely freak outs or stepping-stones of thoughts to get you to a more logical and understandable place. I’m not saying feelings don’t matter but being able to observe them before reacting is truly liberating.

Start off by making time, even just 10 minutes a day to sit down and zone out. Go into a quiet space, lay down on the bed, stare at the ceiling, watch an episode of your favorite reality show and don’t feel guilty about it. Play Plants vs. Zombies on your phone for 20 minutes, read a magazine, do SOMETHING where you’re zoned out enough that your mind gets a break from the chaos of the day.

These moments of self-indulgence will pay off in the form of better sleep, being more in-tune with your own needs and wants, having the ability to start relaxing on cue, and not feeling resentful of other people or errands throughout the day. When you make time for you, the world has to make time for you. Set yourself as a top priority, you’re the only one that will.

Green Smoothie

In an effort to eat more whole foods lately and eat less processed products, I made my first couple green smoothies this week. No one told me how FILLING these would be! It’s hard to get through half of one and it makes sense with all of the fiber, fruit, and greens in each one. First of all, this automatically looked like something I wouldn’t like. Why does it look like Oscar the Grouch just pooped in my nice Ikea glass…but it was surprisingly delicious! And it’s full of amazing nutrients and ingredients.

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So what’s in this thing?! I started with chopping up 1 green apple.

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Add the complete list of ingredients into your blender. I used my Ninja.

  • 1 chopped green apple
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 sliced strawberry to top (optional)

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This recipe makes 2 servings each at about 250 calories. Great for breakfast or for an after work pick me up! Enjoy!

What women are taught to ignore and men rarely notice

building-self-esteemWe all know that every day individuals (not just women, not just men) are subjected to numerous images, suggestions, and ideas that show women in sexualized poses, suggestive situations, and compromising ideals of where self-worth and value should lie. And while it should be noted that men are also subject to these situations, this post will focus on women and what we go through on a daily basis.

Before you run off because you’re scared of the word “feminist” hear me out. Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” So if you believe that women should have equal rights and opportunities as men, then guess what, you’re already a feminist! Glad we cleared that up.

Lately people have noticed that more attention is being given to botched Photoshop jobs and how absolutely ridiculous some of the photo-editing is when it comes to women in the media. I’m not going to beat a dead horse over all of that again. It’s important but I want to focus more on the day-to-day little things that most people don’t even notice that play a HUGE (if not even bigger) role in how society views women and how we all treat them and each other.

For those of you that didn’t minor in sociology, the male gaze refers to the bias of presenting films to a male only audience, more or less the assumption that the typical viewer of a film would be a male, and therefore to cater that film and it’s visual stimuli to the male demographic. The male gaze has since crossed over into most media faucets. It’s apparent not only at your local movie theater but also in advertising, on TV, and on the internet. Everywhere you go and look, you will see women displayed in ways that are attractive and enticing to men. But if you look at the definition of “gaze” you’ll note that it has to do with “how an audience views the people presented.” You can read more about this in a great blog post over at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog.

The issue with the male gaze is that women watch movies and view stuff, too (obviously). The ideals and assumptions of people decades ago still spills over into today’s world. When you think about how the majority of women view themselves, it’s not always through their own eyes, it’s through the eyes of men. It’s thoughts and Google entries like:

I wonder if HE would think this is sexy.

Do men like it when women…

How to tell if a guy loves you.

Outfits your boyfriend loves.

The lipstick shades men find most attractive.

I wonder if HE thinks I look fat in this.

Does my boyfriend think I’m attractive?

Will guys think I’m a slut/nerd or smart/funny/attractive/dumb if I wear this?

I don’t want this to turn into all the reasons why men have it easier and are evil, because you guys aren’t! In fact, I see more and more men, especially in younger generations, fighting back against all of this nonsense. This isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s an everyone issue.

So what is it like to in every day life for women when it comes to all of this?

  • Turn on YouTube and tons of videos you’ll come across will have screen shots of women on them to get viewers to watch. It’s a woman in a bikni, in a sexual pose, it’s just cleavage, just a butt, just a thigh gap, just lips, I could go on…. But rarely do you ever see men displayed the same way, and WHY would we want that, either? It would be just as offensive and objective to do that to men.
  • Constant comments. For every woman that takes care of herself and walks by somewhere, there’s a man starring inappropriately, making comments to another man, or unfortunately, yelling something inappropriate at that woman herself. This effects more than just her. It effects every woman that sees it AND every man. It tells everyone “hey! if you didn’t notice, I think this woman is attractive and feel that it’s appropriate to voice this publicly even at the risk of making her or anyone else feel uncomfortable.” It takes power away from women and subjects them to a vulnerable situation whether they choose to engage or not. And for every person that also participates (or doesn’t say anything about it being inappropriate), they are stating the same thing. That it’s OK for women to be gawked at and judged purely based on their appearance. Now, there’s a difference between noticing a woman’s beauty and admiring it. But every day in the workplace and surrounded by friends, even family, women listen to men making comments about other women. Women listen to men idolizing celebrities they find most attractive, about other women in the office that are attractive or who aren’t attractive and why. Every moment that a woman is surrounded by people who participate in this behavior she is consciously aware that she is possibly being judged, rated, or scrutinized because of her body or because of something her body may or may not have.
  • Friends. Some of the worst feelings in the world are when guy friends or friends of friends say things like the following. As a woman to hear this, it further shows that the value of women is mostly based on our appearance, how attractive we are in comparison to others, and can only aid in cycle of constantly comparing ourselves to others and trying to measure our own self-worth.

Do you have any cute/hot/attractive friends?

Will there be cute/hot/attractive girls there?

Ugh as long as I don’t have to talk to her. She is NOT attractive.

I really wish _____ was single. I’d love to get with that.

_____ is so overweight.

You’re WAY better looking than ______

  • What men choose to buy/watch/participate in. I want to make it clear that it’s not just the man’s responsibility to cater to a woman’s feelings. Women also have to be accountable for the way they feel and what they choose to let bother them. However, when men participate in certain behaviors, their actions send louder messages than anything they might say or speak to. When men go to strip clubs they are saying more with that action than words ever could. While I’m not saying strip clubs shouldn’t exist and that most are probably innocent fun, for the women knowing that the men in their lives are choosing to go there, it’s a completely different feeling entirely. And again, we are told to “just let it go”, “ignore it”, “get over it”, “not let it bother us”. “it’s you they REALLY want at the end of the day.” But that still doesn’t take away the message it sends. The message that I’m okay viewing women this way even at the cost of the feelings of my partner. Whether men are in a relationship or not, these kinds of actions say a lot. When men buy posters of half-naked or sexually provocative women, it’s not that we’re completely jealous, it’s that it’s disrespectful. To bring something into a house, hang it on a wall, and showcase something says “THIS is what I find attractive. THIS is what is hot/sexy/fun/flirty to me.” If women did similar things and bought pictures of Chippendale dancers and hung them up or displayed tons of sex toys in shapes and sizes they deemed favorable, men might start to get the picture.
  • The message we get growing up. As a young girl, I watched my father make comments about women. Take note of who is attractive, and even see images of women that my father had that I knew were idolized in some way/shape/form. When men bring things into a home, it does a lot more than provide visually pleasing stimuli for their own amusement. It sends the message that THIS is what is attractive and as a young girl, it SHOUTS “THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE.” In the movie, What Dreams May Come, (warning: spoiler alert) when Robin Williams is in heaven, he meets a young Asian woman and later finds out it is his daughter in a new form. When he asks her why she decided to look different than the young Caucasian girl she grew up as she simply stated “you always said Asian women were beautiful.” Women grow up wanting to be what their fathers, what the men in their life find attractive. Can women fight against that? Sure. But men can also make sure to not showcase things that are unattainable or unrealistic to the women in their life.
  • True beauty vs. fantasy. I’ll be the first to admit that yes, lots of the Photoshopped and manipulated images of women and cartoon characters and drawings ARE attractive (some really are just gross) but yeah, I get why men fantasize about them. The problem? The more you look at that stuff, idolize that stuff, and find yourself desiring those images, the more you’re pouring in to the entire societal issue. It’s the same issue with watching too much porn. When we focus on something that isn’t realistic, our expectations become flawed. Suddenly there’s a standard deep within our minds that we subconsciously aren’t even aware of. It’s why you might find that anytime you’ve gotten a Big Mac you’re a little let down. It’s because we grew up with perfect (and fake) modified images of what that burger would look like when we took it out of the box and guess what, it’s NEVER like that. The same thing goes for women. Be realistic with your desire for the opposite sex. Doing any differently only puts pressure on who ever you are with and does nothing positive for yourself.
  • Women are expected to ignore all of these things. If you want to be that “cool” and “supportive” and “uber confident” girlfriend or wife, what do you do? You ignore all of these things. You’re expected to act like it doesn’t matter that your boyfriend has bikini posters in the garage where they play beer pong, or that the commercials where women are sexualized doesn’t offend you. It’s not real, you say, it’s just the media. You may even participate and try to be “one of the guys” and not care. The problem with this is that it DOES matter and women shouldn’t have to sacrifice their own feelings, their own self-worth, and their own confidence to let all of this slide. The problem is that the minute women do stand up or do say “hey, I don’t like this and here’s why…” we’re shot down. We’re suddenly “over-reacting”, “insecure”, “not confident enough”, or even “needy”, “clingy”, or “annoying.” There’s not a single woman out there that wants to be labeled that way but her significant other or any of his/her friends.

So what does this giant rant mean? It means that there are a LOT of choices that we all make every day, mostly unaware, that only perpetuate the very issues we are fighting to end. We KNOW men love all shapes, sizes, and colors of women. Let’s just all work together more to prove that.