Getting Healthy: Part 1

This is one of those awkward, girl-talk type posts so guy readers, feel free to skip this one!

I think making resolutions for myself this year was a good thing. I’ve actually been motivated to tackle most of them, and so far, I’ve been pretty successful. I’ve been applying to at least 3 jobs per week most weeks, I’ve been drinking plenty of water every day and been feeling better for it AND I’ve been eating mostly raw since the beginning of this month.

I’m finally getting around to addressing my fourth resolution on the list…taking control of my health. As I mentioned in this post from a few months ago, I went off hormonal BC in May of 2013. I was getting more headaches than usual and having some skin and digestive issues, so I decided to stop taking the pill after 3 years of being on it. My doctor was fine with me going off BC, and told me to come back in to see her if in 6 months I hadn’t had a period.

Now it’s been 9 months without a period. While it’s nice not to have to worry about all that not-so-fun girl stuff, it’s not healthy to go that long without a period. I was worried, so I made an appointment to check in with my doctor.

My appointment was this past Friday. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I knew I needed to face this issue head-on. The nurse and my doctor both seemed very surprised that I hadn’t had a period in that long, or even any spotting. My doctor ran down some of the potential underlying issues with me, one of them being my weight. She knows a little bit of my ED history, but not all of it so I had to explain some of the background behind it. Basically, she said my weight’s been stable since she’s been my doctor for the past 2 years but she was a little concerned that it might be too low for me.

My BMI is currently just below the healthy range, and I’m basically at my highest weight ever. I explained this to her, and said that even before my ED issues, I was a good 10 pounds lighter than I am now. I understand that for a lot of people, being at a weight that’s too low for them could be a reason why they can’t get their period naturally, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. I’ve been slightly underweight my entire life, always petite and short for my age, and I just don’t think that’s my issue.

I’m going in sometime this week or next to get fasted blood work done and I’m pretty anxious for the results. I didn’t really leave the appointment with any conclusive answers, but I’m hoping something comes out of the blood work. My doctor mentioned that I may be referred to an endocrinologist depending on the results, so I’m really concerned and anxious and ready for some concrete answers.

This whole thing is really scary for me, but I know I needed to be more proactive and take control of my health. I don’t want my ED to dictate the rest of my life, so I need to figure out what’s going wrong in my body and do what it takes to fix it.

I know a lot of women blow off not getting their period because they don’t care about having children or whatever. Honestly, I don’t think I want to ever be pregnant or have biological children (I’m leaning towards adoption) but not getting your period ISN’T healthy. It can lead to cancer, among other health issues. That’s why I’m bringing light to this issue–because it’s so important for women and girls out there to realize that they need to take control of their health so they can lead happy, healthy lives. I know it’s hard to admit you need support and advice, but it’s so worth it to be healthy.

Has there ever been a health issue in your life that you needed to face?

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What I Ate (and wore) Wednesday

I haven’t participated in WIAW in awhile! This week’s post is not all about the food, because let’s be real, I forgot to take a lot of food pics recently, but I also wanted to share some of my outfits as well.

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I usually make protein banana softserve for breakfast, but who doesn’t like to switch things up sometimes? Now that I have more time in the mornings, I made some almond flour-based pancakes the other morning. They were cookie-dough inspired, filled with stevia chocolate chips, and topped with warmed frozen cherries and a side of about a teaspoon of maple syrup. I’ve been subconsciously avoiding most added sugars lately and it’s changed my tastebuds. Now even a little maple syrup is too sweet!
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I like to play the part of a broadcast journalist, even if I’m not one quite yet! I’ve been really into blazers lately and I kinda want one in every color…
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I finally ordered some more peanut flour and I’ve missed it a ton! I’m glad I took a break though because I know you can develop allergic reactions to things you eat too ofen…and I definitely used to OD on peanut flour. It was good to have it back in my life, though, in this shirataki noodle stir fry topped with spinach, pineapple, homemade roasted chickpeas and the most addicting spicy raw sunflower seeds from the bulk section at Whole Foods.
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As much as I love some booty-hugging yoga shorts (especially these from VS Pink), I don’t wear them unless I’m working out. I actually was able to wear this outfit outside on Sunday to play tennis with my dad! It was a glorious 60 degrees, sunny and my definition of a perfect winter day 😉 And getting in almost an hour of tennis with my dad was even better.

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I posted about these on Instagram the other day, but you didn’t get to see the actual boots! I was in need of some black riding boots, and these sale-priced ones from ALDO fit the bill perfectly. Plus they were 50% off, what’s not to love? I’ve been doing some really smart shopping lately and I love that I’ve learned to be budget conscious, at least with clothes…
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Banana softserve is still consumed at least once per day. FYI, frozen bananas taste incredible blended with PlantFusion cookies ‘n cream protein powder, dark cocoa powder, spinach (gotta get those greens in!) and topped with PB+coconut oil and stevia chocolate chips. It’s like a decadent dessert, but healthy enough for breakfast!
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Sometimes, you gotta throw on the leggings and the chambray shirt. I like my girly clothes, so even my casual wear is cutened up a bit. I’m obsessed with this shirt…and the scarf! Love those infinity scarves.
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And then of course, the girly side of me wins out most of the time. I wore this outfit (from Christmas) out to see Frozen with my mom (a really good movie) and then some outlet shopping. I think I could probably live in tights/dresses+skirts!

As an aside, I weighed myself the other day. NEVER a good idea, and it certainly wasn’t this time. I just knew I had gained some weight, but I wasn’t expecting to be so close to 100 pounds. That number scares me so much, because I’ve never been in the triple digit club. I know something is off with my body, though–no period in almost 9 months, not-so-great skin and some digestive issues have been plaguing me for awhile and I’m anxious for my doctor’s appointment next month to (hopefully) clear things up. Honestly, though, if I hadn’t weighed myself, I wouldn’t have guessed I weighed that much. I still look about the same, I fit in all my clothes, so I’m hoping some of the weight is muscle (I think some of it is, because I can feel the hardness of my abs, arms and legs) and hopefully, if my body is out of whack, I can get back to the right weight for me. Right now, I’m just trying hard not to let this derail my progress…

What have you been eating/wearing this week?

Thanks But No Thanks

Before I get into my post, I want to wish Emily a very happy birthday! She’s one of the most inspiring bloggers out there and she always leaves the sweetest comments. She has given me so much support over the past couple of years and I really appreciate that. Go over to her blog and wish her a happy birthday!

It’s probably no secret, but I love researching various health topics. I think it’s good to be informed about these issues so you can be an advocate for yourself in times of health crises or even just to defend your healthy lifestyle if need be.

That being said, it bothers me when others are misinformed about health, food and exercise…especially when they try to pass along their ‘advice’ to me as if it’s at all helpful.

Take for instance a situation I had with my mom the other day. I will admit, I was in a negative headspace at the time–I was having some ED-driven thoughts about eating and my weight and I reached out to her for some advice. I wasn’t really seeking advice, just reassurance that I don’t need to lose weight or drastically change my eating and exercise habits just because I’m currently feeling uncomfortable in my body. Unfortunately, my mom isn’t the most well-versed in eating disorders or nutrition, so what she ended up telling me was way off the mark and a little triggering.

  • “Maybe you need to switch up your workouts more.” A good thought, but I actually do this anyway. One day, I’ll focus on legs, then I’ll focus on arms, then abs, then maybe a yoga/stretching day and repeat. I understand the idea behind switching up workouts, but the problem is, she doesn’t understand my exercise addiction. I feel guilty when I take rest days, unplanned or not. She told me that when it’s cold outside, I should just run up and down the stairs for cardio. Ummmm…no. I’m trying to work on making exercise more than just a tool for my eating disorder–it’s something I want to enjoy for its own sake. I don’t need someone telling me to do something I don’t want to do just to maybe get results.
Lifting is something I love to do, and I'm NOT giving it up.

Lifting is something I love to do, and I’m NOT giving it up.

  • “If you’re worried about your weight, maybe you shouldn’t eat so many bananas.” Uh, I eat 1, maybe 2 bananas per day, tops. Even if I was following the 80-10-10 lifestyle and eating 10+ bananas a day, I wouldn’t be gaining weight from the bananas. Sorry, but fruit is good for you. I refuse to cut bananas out of my life because they’re something I enjoy eating daily, in moderation, and they’re way healthier than the breakfasts my family eats. I’m sick of being stuck in a restrictive mindset…the last thing I need is more restrictions.
How is this banana and other fruit unhealthier than your processed cereal?

How is this banana and other fruit unhealthier than my family’s processed cereal?

  • “I think you look healthy.” Probably everyone who’s struggled with an eating disorder will cringe at this one. This is still the last thing I want to hear, especially from my own mom, who was there for me during the worst days of my ED. Yes, I expect honesty but I also expect her to understand that I’m still struggling with my body image. To make things even more confusing, she will sometimes say that I’m ‘so little’ and petite but other times tell me that I look healthy and if I wanted to, I could lose 5 pounds. Not in the least bit helpful, and extremely triggering.
I may not love my body, but I don't need someone else telling me that I could lose a few pounds.

I may not love my body, but I don’t need someone else telling me that I could lose a few pounds.

It’s frustrating to me that people like my mom, or the rest of my family, or friends want to spew all their own advice at me without realizing that I’ve probably spent a lot more time researching this stuff than they have. I just finished a college-level nutrition class, I’ve done a lot of research on the vegan diet and its various forms as well as other diets such as paleo. Maybe what I’m doing isn’t working for me, but I want a dietitian to tell me that, not just an average person I know who gets their nutrition knowledge from The Today Show. I’m not saying that I know all, because I don’t and I’m certainly no RD, but I don’t want to be lectured at by someone who knows even less than I do. It’s not at all helpful, it’s confusing and at the worst, it’s very triggering to someone who’s struggled with and still deals with an eating disorder.

Do you ever deal with bad nutrition/exercise/health advice from people around you?

WIAW: Monday’s Meals

Now that you’ve seen my meal prep, let’s see what I’ve done with all that food! These are all my meals from Monday, minus an afternoon snack of a pink lady apple and some homemade raw bites that I forgot to take a picture of because I ate them in my night class.

Let me start this post by talking a little more about Instagram. I know I’ve ranted about it in the past, but for me, it’s something I easily get sucked into even if I’m trying not to let it dictate my choices. A lot of the users I follow are raw vegans–even though the lifestyle is a little extreme (I don’t think all fats are bad, and I would like to try being more raw but not necessarily super low fat like most raw vegans), I find their viewpoint on food to be refreshing. They aren’t afraid of the carbs or sugar in fruit, and promote flexibility within the diet, but overall they’re committed to real, whole foods. So those users are positive influences on me. But then there are other users, who I stumble upon from the comments section of another user I follow, and I’m kinda pissed at what these people post. Every other picture is a Quest bar, and some even talk about how they don’t eat fruit after 2 pm because they don’t want the sugar in it to turn to fat. Disordered much? It just makes me so mad, and makes me question my own diet. Seriously, though, fruit is NOT bad and you shouldn’t feel afraid to eat it in the afternoon. And don’t preach ‘clean eating’ and ‘whole foods’ when all you eat is Quest bars and Walden Farms syrup. End rant.

Breakfast: frozen banana blended with romaine lettuce+Garden of Life raw protein powder for banana softserve, side of trail mix made with pumpkin seeds, homemade coconut bacon and raisins.

Breakfast: frozen banana blended with romaine lettuce+Garden of Life raw protein powder for banana softserve, side of trail mix made with pumpkin seeds, homemade coconut bacon and raisins.

Not an unusual breakfast for me. Actually, any breakfast not involving banana softserve is unusual. Yes, I still enjoy my cold breakfasts even into the winter. I just turn up the heat 😉

Lunch: random mix of kelp noodles, black beans, cauliflower, kraut and homemade spicy pumpkin sauce. Side of ataulfo mango and leftover homemade hannah yam fries.

Lunch: random mix of kelp noodles, black beans, cauliflower, kraut and homemade spicy pumpkin sauce. Side of ataulfo mango and leftover homemade hannah yam fries.

I love my lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because I can come home to my apartment and whip up something that I don’t have to scarf down in between classes or make the night before to take on campus. So I can have leisurely lunches like this random one above. Seriously, it sounds like a gross combo but somehow it all tasted good together.

Monday's outfit: black blazer (Charlotte Russe), black/pink patterned dress (Target), black tights (Target), black heeled suede booties (Target).

Monday’s outfit: black blazer (Charlotte Russe), black/pink patterned dress (Target), black tights (Target), black heeled suede booties (Target).

Monday’s outfit, brought to you by Target. But really, like most of this outfit came from Target. I honestly don’t buy clothes from there that much, but I love their cheap (and colorful) tights collection and adorable shoes. My mom happened to buy the dress for me, mostly to wear to work, but I love it as a dressier outfit for school too. I’m obsessed with the boots+tights+dress combo. I need more winter-appropriate dresses. The shoes were new, on clearance, and super cute but not the best for wearing on campus. I only had two classes on Monday, and I walked about 10 minutes from my car to class each way, but these were killing my feet. I just need to get better about walking in heels.

Dinner: salad of romaine lettuce, leftover Thai sweet potato veggie burger crumbles, raisins, pumpkin seeds, kraut and more homemade spicy pumpkin sauce.

Dinner: salad of romaine lettuce, leftover Thai sweet potato veggie burger crumbles, raisins, pumpkin seeds, kraut and more homemade spicy pumpkin sauce.

I’ve been on a roll with the random meals lately. Why do the most random combos always taste the best? I hate it because I can never remember exactly what was in the mix, so I can’t recreate it 100%. Like the pumpkin sauce in lunch and dinner. I remember pumpkin puree, almond milk, nooch, sea salt and some spices going into it. Maybe some sunflower butter too. It was so rich and creamy and just yum though. And it worked perfectly with the veggie burger crumbles and other toppings in this salad.

Dessert: successful take on the mug cake. Almond flour+coconut flour+stevia+a little baking soda+almond milk+stevia chocolate chips.

Dessert: successful take on the mug cake. Almond flour+coconut flour+stevia+a little baking soda+almond milk+stevia chocolate chips.

I’ve been seeing a lot of mug cake creations around lately and I wanted to make one again. I’ve whipped up a few in the past and they’ve always been an easy dessert option. This version was my attempt at a cookie cake. It was lighter and fluffier than a traditional cookie cake, and no where near as sweet (just sweetened with stevia) but still incredible. And definitely a more realistic dessert option for this baking-averse girl.

What’s the most random but delicious combo you’ve come up with? How do you feel about the ‘no fruit after 2 pm’ thing (or Instagram disordered eating in general)?

The Ashley Diet

I’ve never been one of those people who believes there’s one ‘perfect’ diet out there that works for everyone. I know I talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet a lot, but that’s because it works for ME, right now. If paleo works for you, or being a pescatarian, or omnivore or whatever, that’s great!

The one thing that bugs me, though, is when people really try to push their diet on other people. It happens a lot within the vegan community, I’ve noticed. The majority of people I follow on Instagram are vegans, especially LFRVs, and some of the commenters on their posts are super pushy about how not only how veganism is the only way to eat, but that you can only eat high carb raw vegan, or eat no added oils, etc. And then, of course, there’s pressure from the Internet as well, like how sugar is a toxin and how salt is bad for you (oh, wait, maybe it isn’t) and all of this conflicting advice can make your head spin.

Well, guess what? You don’t have to listen to all of that. What foods make YOU feel your best? You don’t have to eat to fit within a certain label or category if that doesn’t work for you. For example, I eat local raw honey. A lot of strict vegans shun other vegans who eat honey. According to my nutrition class, honey IS technically vegan because it’s not a product of animal metabolism (such as cow’s milk) but rather a waste product of bees. I classify myself as a vegan, to make it easier to describe how I eat, but eating honey probably makes me a plant-based eater, rather than vegan. I honestly don’t care, because I like honey, and I believe it’s a lot more nutritious than the common vegan alternative, agave.

This bar has honey in it, but I still like it.

This bar has honey in it, but I still like it.

What else do I eat that other groups say is ‘bad’? I’m a big proponent of extra virgin coconut oil–after years of fearing the saturated fat in coconuts, I’ve finally seen the light and realized that coconut oil is one of the best oils to include in your diet. I also eat plenty of other plant-based fats, like nuts, seeds and avocados, that LFRVs would tell me is toxic and horrible for my digestion. Well, after eating a low fat diet for years in fear of fat of all kinds, I’m not going back to that way of eating again. Including a moderate amount of fats in my diet keeps me satiated, as well as keeping my skin and hair healthy. I use sea salt in moderation–I don’t generally buy many packaged foods, and those that are are fairly low in sodium anyway, so I don’t feel bad about adding salt to my homemade guacamole to amp up the flavor, along with spices. Some raw vegans completely eschew spices, even salt-free spices! I love my spices, and I think they can really add depth to a dish.

Roasted butternut squash and Hannah yam with plenty of spices.

Roasted butternut squash and Hannah yam with plenty of spices.

Don’t even get me started on the topic of sugar. I do believe that processed sugar has no place in our diets, but if you like to enjoy sugary desserts on occasion, go for it! When I want to satisfy my sweet tooth, I stick with more natural sugars, like dates, maple syrup and stevia. I eat at least 3-4 servings of fruit per day and I’m a total fruit lover–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying fruit. I know most of the sugar I consume in a day comes through fruit but sometimes, a girl’s gotta have a Hail Merry raw tart sweetened with maple syrup–and that’s okay! Most of the ‘sweet’ food I consume is either naturally sweet (like fruit) or sweetened with stevia, so I definitely don’t feel bad when I choose to make a dessert with raw honey or maple syrup…or even when I indulge in a delicious vegan cupcake from a restaurant. The point is, consume sugar in moderation and choose more natural sources and you’ll be fine!

A chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcake from my favorite restaurant. This was naturally sweetened, but still amazing.

A chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcake from my favorite restaurant. This was naturally sweetened, but still amazing.

I also don’t feel the pressure to eat certain foods, or brands, unless I genuinely like them. For instance, I tried to get on the kabocha squash bandwagon…it just doesn’t do it for me! I much prefer butternut squash and yams, and that’s okay. I LOVE romaine lettuce and baby spinach and eat them daily, and I eat at least one banana a day (usually in the form of banana softserve) and I like pumpkin but I don’t put it in allthethings. I’ve never tried a Quest bar, and I don’t like oats and that’s okay! I have a slight obsession with Larabars and I go through dates and dried figs and raisins like it’s my job. I actually prefer kelp noodles to regular pasta, and I try to avoid wheat, but sometimes I just need a locally-sourced veggie-filled pizza from one of my favorite restaurants. I’m sketched out by kombucha and I include clean, plant-based protein powders (like Sunwarrior and Amazing Meal) in my regular food rotation even though they aren’t considered real food by lots of people.

I used to feel the need to fit in with bloggers, Instagrammers and the people around me in terms of what I ate. But now, I’ve finally found what works for me and I don’t really care what the newest food trend is. I eat the things that make me my healthiest and happiest, and I’ll let you eat what makes you happy and healthy. Don’t feel pressured to eat something just because so-and-so does, or to stop eating something because some article tells you it’s bad. Do your own research, figure out what works for you, and just eat. 

Do you conform to a certain diet or just eat what works for you? 

 

#hashtagdisordered

You wake up, make breakfast and sit down at the table, smartphone in hand and you start scrolling through your Instagram feed, checking out all the pretty nature snapshots and drool-worthy food pics. You start clicking on the usernames of people liking the photos of those you follow–why not find some new people to follow? But not everything you find is so great. There are a lot of headless ab shots with comments like “I wish I had your body girly!”, and Quest bars galore and hashtags like #carbsafterdark and #iifym. Suddenly, you’re rethinking the bowl of oats you made for breakfast and wondering if you should start pouring Walden Farms chocolate syrup on everything you eat.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn't real.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn’t real.

This is a situation I’ve personally encountered several times on Instagram, and sadly, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be ending any time soon. Instagram has become a new place for disordered habits to flourish, all under the guise of being ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’ and ‘intuitive’. Many of the girls (and guys, too) who post these questionable pics are often recovering from an eating disorder, or are trying to hide disordered eating. Some of them may have lost a substantial amount of weight by eating healthy, but may have taken it too far and are now too small for their body type and are clinging to certain foods in fear of any weight gain. Some are trying hard to recover from anorexia, but are becoming orthorexic instead, or trying out ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ and still trying to maintain control over the food they eat. Many of them are probably way more insecure than they come across in their smiling pictures, and maybe scared too.

Other than some of the pictures themselves, one aspect of Instagram that bothers me is certain hashtags. One I’ve come across lately is #carbsafterdark. I suppose it’s meant to show people that said user isn’t afraid of carbs, but all it really shows is that they actually are and often don’t know what carbs are. For instance, I saw this hashtag on a photo of Arctic Zero, the popular low-calorie ice cream substitute. I read the nutrition facts of Arctic Zero, and it has exactly 7 grams of carbs per serving, 2 grams of which is fiber. Ummmm, not so high in carbs! When I think of carbs, I think of oats, cereal, bananas, dates–all healthy, just more carbs than a fake ice cream. Just to be clear, I think it’s GREAT to eat carbs after dark, just don’t claim to be doing so unless you’re actually eating a decent source of carbs. I eat #carbsafterdark pretty much every night, in the form of banana softserve, but I don’t go around bragging about it because I don’t fear carbs anymore (at least most of them) and I think that’s why a lot of people use this hashtag, because they do still fear carbs.

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I'm such a rebel...

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I’m such a rebel…

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but another thing that bugs me is when people claim to be eating ‘clean’ but post Quest bars, low carb tortillas (again with the carb fear!), Walden Farms and other fake shit. Listen, I’m not trying to be holier than thou, but clean eating to me means eating real foods. I’m not saying you can’t eat these things if you truly like them, but don’t call them clean. Some of these things are the furthest thing from actual food and you’d be way better off eating the real thing (like real maple syrup instead of sugar-free no-calorie pancake syrup). It all comes down to a fear of calories, fat and carbs that a lot of fitness IGers have. I know it’s hard to believe, but real sugar (in moderation, of course) won’t kill you. Especially more natural forms, like honey, dates, fruit, etc. You can eat those things and not gain a ton of weight! It’s all about balance.

The issue I have with all this is that a lot of young women, myself included, are really sensitive to these images. Even if there are good intentions behind the photo, that can get lost and make girls feel bad about themselves. For example, whenever I see super-ripped, 6 pack abs on Instagram (often on very young, thin girls still in high school), I wonder what I’m doing wrong because I don’t have defined abs. I still don’t have the most accurate body image, but I would consider myself pretty petite, and when women with abs are asked how they got their abs, they usually say “Abs are made in the kitchen” or “You have to eat clean!” I would also say that I eat fairly clean, maybe not as much protein as omnivores, but I eat very healthily so it bugs me that I’m not seeing the ab definition I crave. But here’s the catch: not everyone gets abs at the same weight as someone else. Some women can have ripped abs without much effort, while others struggle to get that definition, even at a low weight and body fat percentage. Everyone is different. So it’s dangerous to promote the message that if you get lean enough, or eat clean enough, you’ll magically look like the IG users you idolize. It just might not happen, and it might make you crazy unhealthy. It’s good to encourage healthy eating and fitness habits, but one thing doesn’t work for everyone, and one person’s body ideal may be unattainable to someone else.

My abs aren't perfect and I still wear bikinis.

My abs aren’t perfect and I still wear bikinis.

I want to point out that I’m not calling out anyone in particular. For the most part, the accounts I follow on Instagram are positive, promote a healthy body image and post delicious-looking and non-disordered food. As with everything though, we have to be aware that the content we post may be taken the wrong way by someone else. I know I may be a little too sensitive, and having struggled with an eating disorder, disordered eating and poor body image may have clouded my views on certain subjects, but it’s hard for me not to take these things personally when I still struggle with accepting the person I see in the mirror every day, and when I still deal with disordered eating. I think we all have to take responsibility for our own content, and also what we choose to view. Not everyone is going to be as responsible with what they post, but I think taking everything with a grain of salt and training ourselves to be less sensitive is the best step to take.

Do you ever see disordered content on Instagram? 

My Thoughts on Figure Competitions

Disclaimer: I have never personally been involved in a figure competition. All opinions stated are my own, based on research I’ve done.

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of bloggers talking about figure competitions, especially lately with the focus on “Strong not skinny”. For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with the previous statement…after all, you can be strong and skinny, and for some, it is extremely hard for them to not be skinny, and we should all embrace our natural body shape to a certain extent. The point is, figure competition is becoming extremely popular and though I have never competed in it myself, I’ve become quite fascinated with the sport.

Let’s be clear, though. The main reason I like figure competitions is because you get to show off your leanness in some crazy, blingy, fun bikini. If I’m being totally honest, I love the idea of being uber-lean, fit and tanned. But for me, I know figure competition could become an issue for me, simply because of my past (and somewhat current) history with disordered eating and body image.

So sexy!

So sexy!

I don’t think every figure competitor has an eating disorder, or even disordered eating. There are plenty of bloggers out their with normal relationships with food and their body, and I commend them for that. But I have a couple issues with the other ones, the ones who are clearly disordered, or who are becoming restrictive, or have changed their eating styles drastically in order to get into competition shape.

I’m not here to call out any bloggers in particular, just to voice my concern about some alarming trends in general. First, the restrictive habits. I get that figure competitions require a LOT of dedication and self-control, and I really admire those who have both. But there’s a difference between self-control and restriction. One example of this is shunning most carbs, especially close to competition day. The science behind it makes sense, but it certainly isn’t healthy in the long run. Carbs are our primary source of fuel, and whether you choose to consume them through whole grains or through fruits and starchy veggies is up to you, but the obsession with protein at the expense of healthy carbs is NOT okay. Even if you’re eating more paleo, you can still carb up with fruit and squashes. So many people fear carbs today, and it makes me so sad. I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here because I still fear carbs somewhat (particularly grains) but I know that carbs are important and beneficial and healthy in the right amounts. Basically, if I had to skip all fruit for weeks to be in a figure competition, I would die. There’s a carb source out there for everyone–don’t skip out or skimp on them, especially if you workout!

Apples are NOT "bad" carbs!

Apples are NOT “bad” carbs!

The second thing that bothers me is that a lot of bloggers drastically switch up their eating habits to fit with a competition diet. What I’m referring to is a formerly plant-based (or mostly plant-based) eater suddenly adding in animal foods (usually whey protein, fish and eggs) so they can eat more protein. I think by now we all know that you can easily consume enough protein on a vegan diet, as long as you’re mindful of what you’re eating. Plenty of whole, plant-based foods are absolutely packed with protein, and if you feel like you aren’t getting enough, there are lots of clean protein powders and supplements out there to help you out. I want to be clear, though–I don’t think veganism is necessarily for everyone, but it makes me mad when a formerly-vegan blogger suddenly adds animal products into their diet all in the name of protein. I understand that protein is vital in fueling growing muscles, but you can get plenty of protein to do this on a vegan diet. I firmly believe that vegan figure competitors can perform just as well as those eating animals–just check out these amazing women! However, so many people turn to animal sources of protein, and forget the health benefits they may have seen while eating vegan or vegetarian. I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong to be an omnivore, just that those who are currently eating plant-based and considering going into figure competition should at least try to keep up their current eating habits. If anything, you can prove to others that you can be a fit vegan!

Amanda Rister, a gorgeous and super-fit vegan figure competitor.

Amanda Riester, a gorgeous and super-fit vegan figure competitor.

I think that figure competitions can be a fun way to challenge yourself, test your limits and try something new, but it can be an unhealthy thing that can make your body and mind quite disordered. As with all things, you should really consider if figure competitions are right for you at this time in your life and if so, what steps you’ll take to ensure you can maintain a healthy lifestyle while training for a competition and post-comp. As for me, figure competitions are something I may want to do in the future, once I have a healthier mindset surrounding food and my body, and I’d love nothing more than to enter as a vegan competitor to show that it is possible to be fit and healthy and beautiful on a plant-based diet!

How do you feel about figure competitions?