Throwback Thursday: My First Posts

Throwback Thursdays are still a thing, right? I love finding old pics and sharing them on Instagram. Sometimes embarrassing, sometimes cute, but always fun to look back on the past.

As of May 24, this little blog will be 3 years old! I’ve blogged at various other blogs since 2009 but none have been maintained as regularly as AlmostVegGirlie! I almost can’t believe it’s been that long since I decided to start my first food/lifestyle blog and it’s all thanks to you lovely readers and commenters for continuing to support me and my blogging. So thanks so much! And in honor of my 3 year blogiversary coming up in the next couple of months, I thought I’d do a little Throwback Thursday to some of my earliest posts. It’s seriously SO crazy to me how much my life has changed since I started this blog, but then again, how boring would life be if it were always the same? I know a lot of people fear change, but I’ve made the choice to embrace it as much as possible. It’s just such an inevitable part of life, and it makes things interesting.

My first photo on AlmostVegGirlie. Possibly an iPod touch photo...oh how times have changed!

My first photo on AlmostVegGirlie. Possibly an iPod touch photo…oh how times have changed!

I think the WIAW party was just starting to catch on when I started blogging–it’s come so far since then! I participated in my first WIAW 2 days after I started blogging and it looks a lot different than my more recent WIAWs. For a little background, I named my blog AlmostVegGirlie because at the time, I was mostly vegetarian, but still eating some poultry/seafood. My first WIAW featured not only some very non-vegan food (Greek yogurt, ground turkey tacos) but some not so great photos either. You live and you learn! But in true HLB fashion, I did enjoy green smoothies and Ezekiel wraps.

I used to eat overnight oats daily!

I used to eat overnight oats daily!

Once I got into the blogging groove, I also discovered some HLB trends. Overnight oats was a big one. I was never an oatmeal fan, but overnight oats I could get behind! I started soaking oats in almond milk every night and dressing them up every morning with all kinds of crazy toppings. At one point, I dedicated an entire blog page to my overnight oat creations! I don’t think I’ve touched overnight oats since 2012–I got seriously burned out, and I moved on to more nutrient-packed breakfasts. Sometimes, you gotta get away from the trends.

My first selfie on AVG...certainly not the last!

My first selfie on AVG…certainly not the last!

I actually created my Instagram account way back in 2011 with my iPod touch (which I still use on a daily basis 3+ years later) but back then, I knew practically no one in the blogging world or on Insta so my account was private and I used it just to be artistic with my photos. I feel cool (in a nerdy way) that I was an early adopter of the app. According to this site, I was in the first 1.45% of Instagram users! I’m still a little obsessed with Instagram–I browse it at least once per day and I upload my own photos a few times per week. It’s such a great social media tool! And if you follow me, you’ll know that the selfie reigns supreme 😉

My first experience with the Whole Foods salad bar...and I've been addicted ever since!

My first experience with the Whole Foods salad bar…and I’ve been addicted ever since!

Blogging introduced me to the wonderful world of Whole Foods, which is both a blessing and a curse. My family shopped at Whole Foods every so often for specialty products, but it wasn’t until I discovered HLBs love for the store that I started going there regularly. Now it’s my main go-to store and their salad bar is one of my favorite ‘restaurants’. Where else can you get a random selection of vegan-friendly food for under $10? I know the salad bar isn’t exactly cheap, but for me, it often beats a meal out because they have so many more plant based options than a regular restaurant. And trust me, I have many more photos documenting my love for the WF salad bar!

An unconventional 19th birthday present--my first homegrown strawberry.

An unconventional 19th birthday present–my first homegrown strawberry.

Let’s pretend I don’t look like I’m about 12 in that picture! That was actually taken on my 19th birthday…what a youngin’! I remember being excited then because I was about a month away from living in a single dorm room for my sophomore year–no more roommates for this girl. And here I am now, a college graduate, about to really live on my own, 600 miles from my family (more on that later!).

Looking all professional for my second round of Skype interviews.

Looking all professional for my second round of Skype interviews.

It still blows my mind how much things can change in 3 years…or even in just 3 months! I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared at all about the future, but at the same time, I am so ready to start my new life. I really feel like an adult, and even though I know I’ll make mistakes and probably miss my old life, I’m excited for what’s to come!

What’s changed the most for you in the past few months or years?

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? 

 

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? 

On Fullness, Rest Days and Intuitive Eating

You might be thinking right now, “Wow, 3 super-taboo blog world topics in one post? This girl is cray.” I can’t necessarily dispute that last statement 😉 but as much as I think these issues have been discussed to death lately, I needed to provide my own views on the topics. Amanda had a great post on this last week and it really got me thinking about how bloggers put too much emphasis on what they’re putting into their mouths and how much they’re moving their bodies. Health is important of course, but not when it becomes obsessive.

So first, my thoughts on feeling full. I have to admit, I don’t have the best relationship with this feeling. I have always had a small stomach capacity, so I’ve never been able to eat much without feeling fuller sooner than others. I’ve mostly resolved this issue by eating 5-6 small meals every day and this works for me. But, I still experience very negative emotions when I do get full. Generally, I only feel truly full after meals out, since restaurant portions tend to be larger, and even if I don’t eat the full amount, it can still be overwhelming, no matter what it was I ‘filled up’ on. Let’s look at two examples from this weekend. On Thursday night, my family came up to my apartment because my sister had a college visit at a college nearby and they wanted to save money on a hotel. We went out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants up here, and I had a delicious, individual-sized pizza with kale, garlic, figs and grilled onions on thin crust. I ate 4 out of 6 slices, along with a small orange cream vegan and gluten free cupcake following. After eating, I felt satiated but not too full. Usually, I would feel quite full for maybe half an hour, and feel some guilt over eating ‘that much’ but we ate fairly late and I hadn’t had much to eat in a few hours. However, the following day my mom and I got Qdoba for lunch. I had my usual, the naked veggie salad with black beans, habanero salsa and lots of guacamole. I ate most of the salad, and when we ran errands afterwards, I could sense that I was full, and it messed with my mind for most of the afternoon. Why was I feeling so full after basically just eating lettuce, beans and avocado? I felt guilty for eating most of my lunch, even though it was healthy and balanced.

The meal that made me feel more self-conscious about fullness.

The meal that made me feel more self-conscious about fullness.

Basically, I just have guilty feelings associated with being full, no matter what I got full from. I don’t think this is a healthy relationship to have–I’m not saying feeling full after every meal is necessarily good either, but it’s okay to feel full from a meal every once in awhile,  especially if you enjoyed it while eating. And some days, we just aren’t as hungry, and can get filled up from even little meals, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it.

I didn't get in any tennis this weekend, but I was ok with taking a rest day on Friday.

I didn’t get in any tennis this weekend, but I was ok with taking a rest day on Friday.

About rest days. I’m bad about taking them myself, but I absolutely believe they’re essential for everyone, from pro athletes to casual exercisers. Since I’ve been exercising regularly (for about the past 2 years), I’ve rarely gone a day without some form of a workout. There were a few days when I was out all day and didn’t get in a traditional workout, but I was on my feet all day running errands or shopping and I counted that as my workout, since it was pretty strenuous after a full day. But even on the days when I exercised a little less than the day before (usually because I was too busy), I freaked out. I would love to say I work out just for the good feeling it gives me, but that’s not entirely true. I also do it for the calorie burn, and because it makes me feel okay with eating. Sad, but true. But on Friday, I worked on my exercise guilt. Since my family was up here, and then we headed back to the Springs after my sister’s college visit, I couldn’t fit in a lifting session or even a quick ab workout. I wasn’t completely sedentary (my mom and I ran errands around town for an hour or so) but I didn’t do much other than that, and surprisingly, I was kinda ok with taking a rest day. Sure, I got right back into my routine on Saturday, but it helped me realize that a rest day here and there isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might help with exercise burnout, and in preventing overuse injuries. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take a full rest day every week, but I’m hoping to get there soon.

Finally, onto intuitive eating. This one has been discussed so much lately, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here. But I do think it’s been misconstrued a lot. I think moving away from calorie/macro counting and measuring is a great thing (and something I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year) but not when it turns into something that isn’t intuitive at all…orthorexia. I know, because I’ve fallen into it myself. I’ve become more hyper-focused on the ingredients in the foods I’m eating, and it’s been obsessive at points. It might seem healthier than calorie counting, but it can be just as destructive. When people start saying they’re eating intuitively, yet still stick with ‘safe’ foods, that could be a red flag for orthorexia. When someone’s obsessed with clean ingredients to the point that they get anxious about eating foods they don’t know the ingredients for (I’m guilty as charged), it could be a sign of orthorexia. Intuitive eating isn’t about stuffing your face with cake or ignoring all healthy eating guidelines, but it isn’t about eating ‘clean’ 24/7. It’s about being flexible, sensing fullness, enjoying your food and not letting it rule your life. I feel like I was pretty good about eating intuitively this weekend. I had everything from fancy vegan pizza, to nori wraps, to Larabars, to a vegan gluten-free cupcake, lots of guac and roasted veggies to protein smoothies. I ate pretty balanced everyday, enjoyed all of my food, didn’t freak out too much when I felt a little fuller than usual and didn’t overthink my choices as usual. I know this is something I’ll still struggle with, but feeling more free is a great thing!

A healthy weekend option, balanced by vegan desserts and pizza!

A healthy weekend option, balanced by vegan desserts and pizza!

What are your thoughts on fullness, rest days and intuitive eating? 

Why I’m Not the Typical HLB

As a self-proclaimed healthy living blogger, I like reading other HLBs and seeing what food and fitness trends everyone’s getting into. I have to admit, I sometimes act like a sheep and follow these trends but that’s really only because I end up loving the food/workout so much. But there are many, many ways that I’m not at all like the stereotypical HLB…

I hate eggs. 

Yep, always have, (probably) always will. It’s a combination of the texture, taste and smell for me. Ick. I could never do any form of eggs for breakfast–I blame my dad, because he’s never been a big fan of eggs. So that aspect of going vegan was super easy for me! While I think things like veggie-filled omelettes and 2 ingredient pancakes are cool ideas, I’d never be able to stomach them. Just no.

This is as close as I get to an omelette--a chickpea socca-style 'omelette'.

This is as close as I get to an omelette–a chickpea socca-style ‘omelette’.

I’m not a Chobani/Love Grown/ Luna Bar/ PB&Co. whore.

There’s quite a few brands that seem to be really popular in the HLB world…and I’ve never understood them. To each their own, of course, but I’ve tended to go my own way with brands and I love what I love. I do like a few of the popular brands, like Larabar and Almond Breeze, but some of them just don’t do it for me. For instance, I prefer unflavored almond butters to flavored PBs (other than Justin’s vanilla AB) and I really love Purely Elizabeth granolas because they’re made from ancient grains and is the only granola brand I know of that’s made with coconut sugar.

I don't feel bad for being a Zevia whore because it's so good!

I don’t feel bad for being a Zevia whore because it’s so good!

I’ve never stepped foot in a Lululemon or a Trader Joes. 

It’s not that I don’t want to shop in these places, it’s just that I’m semi-deprived out here in CO and neither of those stores are near me (okay, that’s a lie, there’s a few Lulus in Denver, but I’ve never been). I’m actually waiting on a couple of TJs locations that are set to open soonish, but since I’ve never been, I feel a little left out. Maybe it’s for the best–I can’t afford anything from Lulu and I’d probably blow my budget if I had a TJs in my city!

A drawing of the TJs that will be closest to me...still about an hour's drive away.

A drawing of the TJs that will be closest to me…still about an hour’s drive away.

I’m not a runner, or a Crossfitter, or a heavy lifter.

I have started lifting recently, and I really love it, but I’m nowhere near lifting heavy yet. As for running and Crossfit, I just don’t feel like they fit my lifestyle. I like doing cardio like tennis or circuits (or window shopping 😉 ) and I also love yoga. There’s definitely a workout style out there for everyone, you’ve just gotta find what works for you.

Lifting green weights makes it even more fun.

Lifting green weights makes it even more fun.

I don’t eat the typical HLB breakfast.

I’m a huge breakfast lover, but (obviously) I don’t do eggs, I don’t really like oats anymore and yogurt messes are out because vegan yogurts are beyond nasty. I tend to mix things up a little bit, but right now I’m loving homemade buckwheat waffles with protein frosting, and chia seed protein puddings. I really try to get a great balance of carbs, fat and protein in at breakfast while still satisfying my sweet tooth.

Another one of my fave breakfasts: almond flour pancakes.

Another one of my fave breakfasts: almond flour pancakes.

I’m vegan.

Vegans seem to be a rare breed these days in the HLB world. And honestly, I kinda like it this way but also not. I like it because then I feel more unique, like that’s the niche my blog fits into. But I also don’t like it because there’s not as much food inspiration…so I just end up borrowing from the boys omnis!

A (non-vegan) dessert I still need to veganize.

A (non-vegan) dessert I still need to veganize.

How are you not like the ‘typical’ HLB?