Minimalism: Organizing for Your Lifestyle


I received a copy of Organizing for Your Lifestyle in exchange for my honest review. 

Over the past few months, my travel has taught me that minimalism has benefits that extend beyond your own home. I’ve been traveling with three bags since May of this year, and I packed them all with minimalism in mind.

I have one bag for clothes, one for my health essentials (shampoo, conditioner, skincare, vitamins, etc.), and one for my electronics and school essentials. Three bags has been a manageable amount to carry as one person, and they fit all of my essentials for my everyday life.

My three journey bags

Before I left on my summer trips, I read Organizing for Your Lifestyle by Jane Stoller for packing inspiration. This was an amazing read that gave me ideas for both my home/dorm organization and for minimalist packing!

One of the challenges this summer was packing for both cold and warm weather in one bag. It was winter in Chile, and very much summer in Costa Rica. At first I was at a loss for how to pack for these two conditions, but Organizing for Your Lifestyle had wardrobe tips to help minimize what you carry and maximize your options.

Layered outfits!

I was packing for both professional and casual settings, which can definitely be challenging with limited space. However, I learned that packing layers provided many opportunities for mixing and matching. You can see what I ended up packing for my summer journey here!

I have been embracing a minimalist lifestyle since the summer of 2016, and have refined it to suit my lifestyle. As I have mentioned in previous posts, minimalism is about owning only what you use often—not about owning as few items as possible. I’ve found that eliminating excess from my life has allowed me to eliminate emotional weight and to feel more carefree.

Jane Stoller wrote about her own experience with minimalism, in a piece that emphasizes it’s unique embodiment in everyone:


My Minimalist Lifestyle by Jane Stoller

The Japanese have long been the experts on knowing how to have a minimalist dwelling, and Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) is a gem for people who want to move toward a less cluttered lifestyle. Kondo places a lot of emphasis on keeping only items that give you joy, and getting rid of everything else. In her book, Kondo argues that it’s important to create a space in your heart for the things that really matter to you, and that it’s important to give thanks for these things—even literally, by talking to the items in your home. This might sound a bit “airy fairy” to some, but I found that Kondo’s insights helped me to really appreciate what I have, while reminding me not to accumulate stuff I don’t need. Kondo also warns against organizing too much, as this can actually create additional things, and additional clutter.

One particularly valuable trick I learned from Kondo was to never keep all the extra buttons you get with the clothes you buy. I used to be very proud of my button collection, which was, of course, meticulously organized. However, I never used even one of the buttons; when I did lose a button, I would usually go to a tailor, and he would put on a new button that matched. But my button collection just kept growing. When I do feel it’s important to keep a button—from an expensive or unique coat or blazer, for example—I sew it on the inside.

De-clutter your space and your life by embracing minimalism. Personally, I don’t take this one to the extreme, but I do try. I recently read a book written by Francine Jay, who describes herself as Miss Minimalist. After reading Jay’s book, I think she’s earned the title. Jay gives simple strategies on how to begin to live a minimalist lifestyle. My favourite idea from Jay’s book involves downsizing by one thing each day, either by donating it, selling it, tossing it, re-gifting, etc. If you do this, by the end of the year, you’ll have de-cluttered an awe-inspiring 365 items. Jay’s minimalist style might be a bit extreme for some; case in point, she states that black is her staple wardrobe colour, and claims she only has 6 pairs of shoes. But her passionate discussion of her process, and her claims about how much lighter she feels after having made the switch to minimalism, may just be enough to convince you to follow her example. The opening of the book is a letter to her “stuff” which, although comical, really compels you to evaluate why our stuff is so important to us. You might even find it a useful exercise to try and write a similar letter to your own stuff. After all, if you can’t explain the benefits of an item to the item itself, it probably needs to go.

To get you started, here are a few things you can get rid of to live a more minimalist lifestyle: books (they take up so much space!), expired toiletries and products you never use, clothes that don’t fit or that you haven’t worn in years, and of course, those extra buttons.


I highly recommend Organizing for Your Lifestyle if you are interested in learning how to embrace a minimalism that helps you get rid of clutter and embrace a more organized lifestyle! You can purchase it from a number of stores, including Amazon!

I am preparing to go abroad again, this time for an entire semester. I am going to implement the same techniques to pack for this journey, and I will post about the final result! J How have you embraced minimalism in your life? Do you have any minimalist travel tips? Share them in the comments below!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Traveling on a Tight Budget: Tips and Tricks

Now that I am back from two months abroad, I realized that there are a lot of tips and tricks that I learned along the way about traveling on a budget. I made a few notes along the way of tips that helped me make the most of my budget abroad, and I thought I would put them into a post to share with you!

BookBub is an amazing resource for reading on-the-go!

If you have a Kindle, Nook, or a smartphone/tablet with the Kindle or Nook app then BookBub is perfect for you! Once you sign up, they will send you a daily email with book deals from common websites all in one place. Often they will have one or two free books in each email which has been amazing for my travels abroad! I download them to my kindle app and have been able to read on the go during travel days and on the bus. I have discovered so many amazing books this way, and have saved a lot of money on something I love to do!

Using exact change in local currency saves a lot of money

This was something that I learned after trial and error, and thought that I would share with you! I often used my debit or credit card for small purchases, thinking it was a good idea to save the change and cash that I had. However, I found out that most currency exchange companies and banks do not accept coin currency to convert back into your home country currency. So I had kept many coins thinking I could exchange them back, but I ended up having to keep them all. So for small purchases using up these coins could save you money if you happen to have cash leftover that you want to convert!

Look into alternative housing–not just a hotel/hostel

Depending on your travel goals–whether you are traveling solo or with a program–a homestay can add so many positive elements to your experience! You will be able to experience your location on a different level, and to live life as a local. This is a great way to find hidden gems of spots that might not always be obvious if you’re traveling on your own or staying in a hotel/hostel district.

If you’re a full-time student, take advantage of ISIC benefits

ISIC is an organization that has internationally recognized student ID cards. Your college issued ID card may not be sufficient for redeeming student prices and discounts abroad, as they are all different and hard to verify. The ISIC card is accepted at most retailers and businesses around the world, and is a great way to have another form of identification with you during your travels.

Hand Washing Clothes at Hotels 

Bringing laundry detergent with you (biodegradable is a great option!) is a great way to save money. Most hotels charge quite expensive rates for their laundry services, ranging to pay-per-piece or pay-per-pound. Many hotels have in-room sinks or tubs that are perfect for hand washing. The most difficult part is when you have to dry your clothes in humid climates–but if you pick clothes you won’t need for at least a day or two, they should be dry by the time you need them. You can also use the hotel hairdryer to speed up the drying process.

Bring a reusable water bottle on your journeys

A reusable water bottle can save you a lot of money and keep you well hydrated (not to mention, it keeps the environment cleaner too)! One thing to keep in mind if you decide to refill your water bottle, is to always ask if there is potable water at that location. Many hotels have their own wells, but it’s always better to ask. Hotels also often have places where you can ask to have your water bottle filled in the event that the water in the rooms is not drinkable.

I hope you enjoyed these travel tips for traveling on a tight budget! What have you learned about traveling on a budget? Let me know in the comments!




What I Love about Blogging: My Two Year Blogiversary

I started this blogging journey on August 8th, 2015 with no idea of what it would eventually become. I knew that I wanted to reconnect with my love for writing, and decided to see what the future would hold! I am grateful each time I engage with my blog, social media, and my renewed creative spirit that I decided to give it a go.

I have learned more about my own creative self and my goals in life than I ever thought would be possible from a hobby, and have started to consider blogging as a profession! Since I have answered questions about my blogging journey in previous posts, I thought I would share some of my favorite things about blogging with you all to celebrate! 🙂

Blogging Favorites


1. The blogging community

This is something that I noticed right when I started blogging, and has been one of my favorite (if not my favorite) part about blogging. Despite the differences in topic, blog age, etc. I have been a part of a group of creators that truly value one another’s work and contributions. I have made online friends from my blogging journey, and have felt supported during times when I lack creativity and motivation. 🙂

2. Twitter (and Twitter chats)

Twitter is definitely my favorite social media platform for my blog, and I have met so many amazing content creators through it! I found out about Twitter chats a few months after I started blogging, and they have connected me to so many bloggers from different content areas. They have always been one of my favorite ways to spend an evening!

3. Web design and marketing skills

Something I didn’t expect to love when I started blogging was website design. I always thought that I would view coding and other design elements as one of the costs for all of the benefits I would get from blogging. After awhile I started to realize that I enjoyed designing my website on my own, and I was able to teach myself many of the essential skills and considerations for developing a successful website in a time of changing trends. I also learned how to write different types of copy for various situations, and to create media kits. Developing these skills turned out to be another benefit among many others of starting a blog! If you are interested in having me design a website, write or edit copy, or translate any of your work you can find my shop and rates here! 🙂

4. Gaining experience in different creative venues

Before blogging the thought of uploading a YouTube video was absolutely terrifying. There was no way that I was about to upload a video of me talking to a camera like many of the content creators that I admired! After creating written content and venturing into other social media forms, I finally got the courage to create and start uploading content to a YouTube channel. I have enjoyed documenting my life experiences in video, and branching out with my editing skills! 🙂

5. Having a project that has grown with me

I started this blog before I was a college student, and now I am going into my third year. It’s crazy to think about how much time has passed and how different my life was when I first started my blog! I love being able to read back over posts and reflect on the experiences that I’ve had. The past two years have been full of ups and downs, and being able to read back over my written thoughts is like having a personal diary that (I hope!) helps others who might be going through something similar.

What have you learned from blogging? Have you been thinking about starting a blog but haven’t yet? Feel free to reach out to me on any platform and I’ll help you get started! (Trust me, it’s worth it!) 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Travel Vlogs: Save the Frogs Costa Rica EcoTour 2017

In July I went on the Save the Frogs Costa Rica EcoTour after my time in Chile, and it was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had! This entire summer has been filled with wonderful experiences, and I wanted to be able to share moments from them with you.

I took footage on a number of our excursions, and will be editing them and uploading vlogs every Saturday about my travels and other aspects of my life. I have had so much fun exploring the creative opportunities of video through my YouTube channel, and it has added so much to my blogging journey!

Below is the first vlog that I edited, with footage from our first full day in Tortuguero. It was one of those days that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. Not included in the vlog footage is watching a mother sea turtle lay her eggs and return to the tides under red light (the only light that does not significantly harm the turtles). This was one of the moments in which I wanted to be completely present with the wonders of the world, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be fully emerged in something that few people get to experience. If you are interested in learning more about the dangers that sea turtles are facing in our world today, you can visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy website. It is a wonderful organization protecting animals that have graced the earth with their beautiful presence.

The second vlog is from our boat tour through the jungle, looking at the wide variety of species that live in close proximity to one another and that inhabit the small section of jungle that we went through (there were many more species than I thought possible!). This was another experience in which I felt as though it couldn’t be real–exploring the jungle via boat and being surrounded by natural beauty in all forms.

I hope you enjoy these vlogs as much as I enjoyed filming them! I am so excited to share these moments with you, and hope that you can experience some of the same magic. If you are interested in going on an EcoTour with Save the Frogs (which I highly recommend!), you can learn more about the trip options here!

If you want to learn more about what I took with me and how I stayed healthy while traveling this summer, you can read all of my posts here! 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



The Power of the Past: Poems from my Childhood

On August 8th my blog will be two years old. Just writing that out makes it feel more real! I started this journey in a time that feels so different from the present, and my blog has grown with me. Today I was going through storage boxes as I prepare to leave for a semester abroad, and I stumbled upon books of poetry that I wrote in elementary school.

As I have mentioned before, my love for writing started around the second grade, when I would fill notebooks upon notebooks with stories and poems and let my imagination run free. Reading back through these poems, I am reminded of why I started my blog in the first place. It’s so easy to get caught up in the marketing side of blogging, and this has helped me remember that my blog is a place to share my journey with the world. I’ve learned more than I thought possible by learning about marketing and business, but it’s always important to remind yourself why you started.

I wanted to share a few of the poems that I found today with you, so that you can see where my love for writing came from, and where my blog inspiration took root.





As I read back over these poems, I was reminded of my love for the written word. I haven’t written poetry since 2011, but I now feel inspired to start anew. All of my gratitude goes to you, my readers, because you have allowed me to live my dreams.

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.




Planning for a New Semester: Start off Strong!

I don’t know about you, but ordering textbooks for a new semester makes me feel ready to start preparing for the months ahead! This morning I logged on to one of my favorite textbook resources, I was able to find all of the books that were on my required reading list at a very affordable price! Once I sent in the order, I knew it was time to start thinking about how to best prepare.

I am going to be a third-year in college (I have no idea where the time went!), and this semester I will be studying abroad! Since I won’t be returning to my home campus this fall, planning is even more important to make sure I start off strong. And as I’m sure you have noticed in many of my posts so far, I love planning on pen and paper. I have tried planning electronically, but something about writing everything down makes it easier to remember and organize!

Sara of College Compass has launched a printable planner that comes different formats for all students! I used to be someone who would open up all the planners in the school supply aisle and look at their formats, searching for one that I knew would work with my organization style. When Amazon became popular, I did the same thing online. It could take hours to find one that fit my needs, and sometimes the price tag would make me search longer.

When I write down assignments, I like to have vertical space for each class (otherwise I will get quite confused!). The College Compass planner includes a vertical format, both decorated (with amazing seasonal designs!) and undecorated depending on your preference. It also includes hourly and horizontal layouts, and both of those options also come in decorated and undecorated formats!

One of the other benefits of a printable planner is the options that you have to bind the pages together! I’m someone who loves DIY projects, and one of my favorite ways to personalize organization methods is to take a hole punch and some twine and bind the pages together with a twine bow. 🙂 You can also opt to bind yours with plastic or any other material that best fits your needs!

Having a printable planner also means that you can customize it as much as you want–this planner includes reflection pages (which I love, because it makes me think about all that I want to accomplish during the week!). There’s also an academic planning bundle that you can add to the planner, with assignment sheets (weekly and semester), grade trackers, fitness logs, and more! You can place these within the planner layout itself to truly make it your own too! 🙂

I’ve already started planning out the weeks leading up to my semester, and have filled the vertical layout with lists of what I need to prepare and remember to do! If you’re looking for a planner that can help you through your entire academic year, I highly recommend this one! There are just so many options, and you can design it any way you want (or change depending on what works best for your class schedule!).

To buy the planner and the academic bundle, you can click here! When you buy the planner or the academic bundle, you will get access to your own shop portal where you can download the files and use them to your heart’s content! The downloads never expire, so you will always have access to them.

What’s your favorite way to plan for the semester? What is your go-to planner layout and what do you use it for? Not sure what the best layout is for your study style? No problem! Take this quiz to find out what layout will work best for your needs! Let me know your result in the comments! 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



Home. A place of refuge and warmth. Familiar and welcoming. Withstanding the test of time.


Home. A place of community, laughter, and memories that last a lifetime.




Home. A place of peace and calm among unfamiliar surroundings.


Home. A place that resonates with your soul, and brings back memories of a past long gone.

Home. A place with furry tails and frosted faces that remind you of the unconditional love you have been given for eight years.


Home. A place of true connection, despite its physical location.


Home. A place of adventure with others who share life visions.

Home. A place you will always have in your heart, no matter where you are.


©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


New Adventures and Travel Skincare Routine

Time has a way of flying by lately, and it is already time for me to say goodbye to this beautiful country. In many ways I feel as though I just got here, and in others I feel as though I have been here for much longer. Lately the years have felt like that, both flying by and standing still. Each day is full of moments and memories, and before I know it a new day, week, month, and year has begun.

I started this adventure on the first day of June, and now it is almost the middle of July. I have spent time in different communities, being welcomed and feeling as though I was truly part of every place that I went. I learned new words, and facts about places, and I learned about myself.

As I set off on new adventures, I know that the memories that I have made here will last a lifetime. As my first solo trip, there was a lot that I had to learn. But I am excited to continue the adventure of life, and I know that I will be returning here in the future.

So where am I off to? Costa Rica! I am super excited to have the opportunity to join the EcoTour being held by Save the Frogs! I hope to share with you what I learn about the importance of amphibian and environmental conservation, and to show you the beautiful landscapes that make up Costa Rica!

But with going on new adventures comes travel, and with travel comes long days, potential stress, and changes in climate. My skin is quite sensitive to these changes, so the night before a long travel day (in my case, 26 hours) I like to give it a little more attention than usual. As I was going through this routine, I thought it would be something you might be interested in if you will be traveling soon! (This is not sponsored in any way).

Those of you who know me quite well will know that a few of the things that I like to invest in are good food and skincare products. I like to take care of my body, both inside and out. Eating a nourishing plant-based diet helps my skin to shine, but sometimes it needs a bit more help.

I start by washing my face with the Stone Crop Gel Wash by Éminence Organic Skincare, and gently pat dry. I then take a few taps of the Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant and add a spritz (I love that word!) of water. This turns the powder into a liquid exfoliant, which is perfect for getting rid of any skin woes! I rinse and pat dry once again, with my skin feeling super clean!

I then take two drops of the Clear Skin Willow Bark Booster-Serum (seriously love this stuff, plus it has Willow in it 🙂 ) and smooth it over my face. I wait about one minute to let it absorb into the skin, before continuing on to the next step.

I then take a pea-sized drop of the Stone Crop Whip Moisturizer (a little goes a long way!) and gently dab it into my face and smooth out any excess. For my eyes, I use the Tarte Maracuja-C Eye Treatment and smooth it gently over my eyelid and under my eye to moisturize and protect.

The final step involves smoothing a small amount of the Clear Skin Probiotic Masque over any problem areas, like acne spots or redness. This has a cooling feeling to it, and is perfect for getting rid of skin problems before they worsen!

And that’s it! In the morning I will use just the regular gel wash and moisturizer as well as a mineral tinted sunscreen (another one of my must-haves) and be good to go! What is your travel skincare routine? Let me know in the comments!

If you want to see where I have been for the past few days, check out the video I filmed about Iquique below! And make sure to follow my Instagram and Twitter to stay up-to-date on my journey! 🙂

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


6 Minimalist (and green!) Travel Tech Essentials

This post has not been sponsored. There are affiliate links within this post, which means that I get a percentage of a purchase you make when you click on them. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Wise Willow possible! (Also, as always, everything I promote I personally love! 🙂 )

I have been traveling abroad for one month and two days now, and I have learned a lot about what I use on a daily basis. As a minimalist traveler, I had to choose carefully what I packed with me on this trip. After one full month I have realized that I keep reaching for the same six items over and over–so I wanted to share them with you!

1. RFID Blocking Passport Holder

I knew that I was going to be traveling through airports and streets, and was aware of having my passport physically taken or lost. However, I was not aware of digital data that can be taken from passports as you travel. I decided to get the Travelambo RFID Blocking Passport Holder, and store my passport with all of my important IDs in it. Not only does this make it easier for me to keep track of my passport (I got it in purple, my favorite color and one that is easy to see in my bag), but it gives me peace of mind during my extended travel. It also makes it easier to go through security!

2. PowerAdd Portable Charger

I have definitely been in one of those travel situations where my phone is running low on battery and there are no charging stations available. This adds extra stress, especially if you are traveling somewhere you have never been before. I bought the PowerAdd Slim Portable Charger to use for my phone, and I can tell you that I have reached for it quite a few times after long travel days. Each full charge will give me an extra 8 hours of full phone use, which has saved me from many a stressful situation. On my second weekend we had a massive storm that cut the power where I was staying for a full day. I had charged up my portable battery in preparation, and am so glad that I did! I was able to let everyone know that I was safe, and to keep updated on conditions and use my phone flashlight.

3. Eagle Creek Undercover Money Belt

Many of you know that I own what I call my “keychain of life” aka a lanyard that has the most anyone has probably tried to put on a lanyard… and I knew that this would not be the ideal wallet to use while abroad. It had many items I did not need (cards for local stores, etc.), and was bulky to carry around. I knew that I would be carrying three bags on my own, and have only one free hand. I decided to use this Eagle Creek Money Belt to store my cash and credit/debit cards under my clothes. This made it discreet, but also allowed me to easily access money without being worried about holding on to lots of items. It is also very comfortable for walking long distances or wearing for long periods of time (I have definitely tested this out), and sometimes I forget that I’m wearing it!

4. Reusable Water Bottle

I decided to leave my Nalgene water bottle at home for my travels, because one liter is simply too big to carry around consistently and with ease. However, sustainability and health are two of my primary concerns when it comes to minimalist travel so a reusable water bottle was a must. I opted for one that was easy to distinguish, and that holds half a liter of water. It is easy to clean, and has saved me lots of money at airports when I can pass on buying $6 disposable plastic water bottles. As someone who recognizes the importance of hydration as well, it has ensured that I stay healthy and minimize dehydration risks from long travel days and changing climates.

5. Mable Bamboo Toothbrush

Sustainability is something that I am very passionate about, and bamboo products are one of the best ways to manage your environmental impact while traveling. MABLE bamboo toothbrushes are self-standing and gentle on the gums, which makes them perfect for my sensitive teeth. They also have removable bristles so that you can reuse the handle for sustainable projects! (I think I am going to use mine as a label for an herb garden). For $10 they are more than worth the investment! You can read more about their initiative and goals here!

6. Dollar Shave Club Razor

Last–but not least–is a Dollar Shave Club razor. I joined back in May when I realized that I was paying way too much for a razor. As someone with dark hair, I shave quite often. I was intrigued by the idea of a razor subscription service, and decided to give it a go! Now I am someone who uses blades for longer than they probably should, but the Dollar Shave Club lets you change how often you receive replacements. As someone who cares about the environment but who knew that a safety razor would be hard to take traveling, this made perfect sense. The handle is durable and well-made, with detachable razor blade cartridges. It cost a grand total of $5 for me to get a razor and five blades, and I still have four of them left. I used to pay $10 for a good disposable razor that would last me a few months, but would have to throw the entire thing away and repurchase). Not only did I spend a lot of money, but I created a lot of trash. Now I have reduced my costs and my environmental impact! If you are interested in joining, click here!

These are the six items that I find myself using almost every day, and ones that I know I will continue to use as I travel through Costa Rica and Serbia for the rest of the year. What are your minimalist travel tech essentials?

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



What the Health?! Documentary Review

As you have probably gathered by now, I am a vegan. And no, I haven’t always been this way. In fact, if you knew me in high school and had the experience of watching me eat breakfast, you would know that I went through bowl after bowl of cereal with milk. That’s right, full-on dairy multiple times per day. At that point in my life, I would also eat meat on occasion–telling myself that I might as well because the animal had already been killed and it would be a waste if I didn’t.

Besides the ethical issues at hand (of which I’m sure you have seen me elaborate on through my social media accounts), there were many personal health considerations that I was simply ignoring. Things that I attributed to school stress, puberty, and other events. Even when I entered college I wasn’t vegan (or again, strictly vegetarian) and there was a series of events that led me to commit to veganism in April of 2016.

Like many people, I ate dairy and meat products without much thought. I remember that Costco had cupcakes that were literally the size of my head and that contained more dairy than I can even think about. I would eat those, cakes at birthday parties, milkshakes after long summer days. All without much thought. Milk was normal. So were eggs. Cheese. All of the things that now seem so abnormal to me as I browse the grocery store shelves.

So, what changed? Well I didn’t notice the consistent problems that I had been having until I stopped consuming dairy. That being said, however, when I was a senior in high school I started to notice a change. Instead of being happy after eating a big ice cream cone or slice of cake, I was extremely nauseous. My stomach would feel like I had eaten both a large brick as well as a bunch of air. You know the bird, Kevin, in the movie Up? When it swallowed all of the balloons on top of the house? That’s basically what I felt like.

Despite feeling this way, I was hesitant to give up dairy. I mean, it is in so many things! How was I just supposed to give it up? This was the attitude that I maintained for the majority of my senior year, not changing my dietary habits. If anything, I started eating more dairy in an effort to improve my overall fitness. I would eat greek yogurts, protein powders, and even eggs in an effort to get in shape and maintain my fitness. These are all of the things that I had heard were the best way to get fit, through commercials, the internet, and from fitness centers.

I saw little improvement over the year in terms of the symptoms that I had been experiencing, and finally decided to look up the symptoms for a sensitivity to dairy. I had all of them. All of a sudden, it started to make perfect sense. Not only what I had experienced that year, but also what I had been experiencing for years.

Fast forward to now, the documentary What the Health was just released on Netflix. I decided to give it a watch this past weekend, excited because it was produced by the same people who made the film Cowspiracy. As soon as the film started, I knew that it was going to be groundbreaking.

Veganism has many aspects to it. Animal rights, human rights, environmental rights/protections, and health. This final aspect is the one that many people don’t consider when they think about going vegan. People are under the impression that unless you cannot eat meat and/or dairy products, it is healthier for you to eat meat and dairy. In other words, Veganism is often perceived as something that is only for those who care about animal rights and protections.

Even though I had heard about many of the health issues involved in the consumption of meat and dairy products, I was unaware of the extreme connections between health associations in the United States and meat/dairy producers. The level of interconnectedness was shocking to me, as was their resistance to answering honest questions about their health suggestions for those diagnosed with heart conditions and diabetes.

As I grew older, I started to question what I had heard about the health benefits of meat and dairy. It seemed, to me, there was no way that something produced in such mass quantities and in such terrible conditions could be good for your health.

When I was in 8th grade I did my first research project on factory farming. This was the first time in which I started to take an interest in the effects of animal agriculture on the world, and what I learned was shocking. As I watched this documentary, I felt the same shock that I had when I first delved into research on factory farm policies, ethics, and their impact.

Factory farming is an issue that expands beyond veganism and animal rights. Here are some of the facts explored in What the Health (all facts are bolded and in all caps, and can be found here with their respective sources).


Which leads into the next fact:


I found this next fact interesting, especially given that most people consider ‘white’ meat to be a healthier alternative:


I also found the following quite interesting, given that eggs are considered a staple in many vegetarian diets:


How can this be? Haven’t we always been told that these foods are good for us? Well I remember learning about “pseudoscience,” a.k.a scientific reports that make themselves look as though they have legitimate findings through sound scientific practices. In reality, however, these reports often tell the truth in their fine print and are frequently funded by the industries in question themselves. 


In other words,


Another fact that I found really interesting, especially given my seemingly ‘rare’ intolerance to dairy, is the following:


Along the same line of thinking with pseudoscientific reports, the dairy industry thrives on the idea that dairy products have calcium that supports strong bone growth. This is, in fact, often an inverse relationship:


In another demonstration of the relationship between brands and health industries, the Susan G. Komen ribbons can be found on yogurt containers and other dairy products. However, it has been shown that


And another relationship that I had not previously considered: that between the pharmaceutical industry and the animal agriculture industry. It is well-known that these animals have to be fed antibiotics due to their confinement to ensure that they live long enough to reach prime profit-bearing stages of growth. However, the degree of interdependence between these two industries is astounding:


As many of you know, I go to college in Iowa. As a result, I am no stranger to the eye-watering manure spray that passes by when the wind blows (which is often). My college is at least a few miles away from these industrial farms, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be right next to them. This is a reality that many live each day, and not only that but


As if that wasn’t enough of an issue, on a global scale


What’s difficult about these realities is that there are laws in place to ensure that what happens behind closed doors stays there. This went as far as bringing a woman to trial after she gave severely dehydrated pigs water as they arrived in trucks for slaughter. She was not pressed with charges, but this one case lasted for months. But what happens when workers abuse the animals already being sent to an inhumane and abusive slaughter? Absolutely nothing, in most cases. 


As someone who is vegan, and has been for a year now, you can imagine how often I get the following question: “but where do you get your protein?” or even the statement “you’re definitely not getting enough protein”. The following facts in the documentary made me rejoice with relief:


Since going vegan, I think I am actually getting more protein. How? I am making much healthier eating and lifestyle choices overall and eating many more whole plant foods on a daily basis. I have grown more muscle mass, eliminated excess fat, and generally feel a million times better on a daily basis than I did when I wasn’t vegan.

Vegan food isn’t hard to come by, and often isn’t more expensive. I recently tried the Hampton Creek Just Mayo Vegan Eggless Soy-Free Kosher Mayonnaise  and I am a bit obsessed with it! It was affordable and oh so good! (It also got raving reviews from non vegans). In fact, I’m not alone in how much I love this brand!


This documentary resonated with so many things that I already knew, but it also managed to shock me about the interdependence of industries. Are you interested in learning more? I highly suggest that you give What the Health a watch! (You can find it on Netflix!)

Have you watched it? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Alyssa DeBella

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! I'm a third-year college student passionate about writing, minimalism, vegan living, and coffee. I would love for you to join my online family!
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Hi everyone! I'm Alyssa, a junior at Grinnell College and PoliSci/Religious Studies major! Happy to be here! 😃 #BloggingCollege

Life's all about balance. Some days you lay in bed all day & relax. Some days you conquer your to-do list. & that's okay

Something about wildflowers makes me so happy ☀️✨🌸🌻🌼 #outdoors #beautiful #beautifulday…

🏥 heal (to become healthy again)
😈 heel (a contemptible person)
🙋‍♂️ he'll (he will)

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