Tuesday, 25 August 2015

"How do you feel now that you're not vegan?"

Lots of people have asked me how I feel now that I have started to include some animal products. I definitely feel different, and I am glad I did change my diet.

I have been on a protocol to heal my adrenals, cleanse my liver and parasites, and with that I feel much better.

To be honest, I am most happy with the emotional shift I have experienced. I was so obsessed with labeling myself as "vegan", thinking I KNEW this was the best way for every person to live, and just being so shocked that even after all the information I threw into social media, not every one of my friends was jumping on the bandwagon.

When I made the announcement, I had some people express shock, anger, and just plain negativity towards my choice. To be honest, as a vegan every time I saw people say "I'm not vegan anymore" I instantly thought "ugh, another gives up from lack of information" or "wow, how could they?! I would NEVER even think of not being vegan". That kind of thinking is messed up for several reasons.

I now include animal products for many reasons, which I've listed before. I am a young woman who has adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalances through the roof. I also developed a sensitivity to soy. I am very athletic and work out frequently. All of these make being vegan a very unfavourable choice. I needed to get cholesterol in my diet to make hormones, I needed protein to sustain my energy and build muscle (as an athlete we do have more need for protein, and soy and gluten are not favourable choices), and my body was not having soy any more.

When I see how much I have recovered, I don't regret for a second what I did. What I would like to say to all those vegans pointing their noses up at people who go back - you are not them. Human beings are naturally omnivorous, and YES you can be healthy on a plant based diet, but not every person thrives on it. And also, for people who scoff and judge and say such awful and hurtful things to me or anymore who makes a different choice - is the idea of veganism you try and preach not to be peaceful and loving? Judging people is not something good in general, but especially if someone is making a conscious effort to better their own health. Having McDonalds burgers and factory farmed Franken-foods daily doesn't even warrant judgement, but this is the kind of thing people need education on.

In the animal kingdom, we all look out for our own health. You may not agree with this belief, but I truly think living consciously and respecting everything I consume, from clothing to food to whatever else, for the most part, is the way I want to live my life. I am healthier because I have included some foods in my diet, and I do not desire to eat meat and poultry. That's me. A lot of my loved ones eat meat, and do I think they're murderers? No, I love and respect them, and they make choices just like I make choices - for their own best interest.

Please feel free to comment, but please your comments thoughtful and not just plain negative.

Thanks for reading,
xoxo Tij

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Why I reintroduced some animal products

This post will definitely stir up a lot of comments. I am writing this post because my blog is about health and wellness, and I want to share how I am personally keeping myself healthy and well.

I went vegan four years ago because I thought it was the healthiest way to live. I felt great for a long time. In the beginning, however, I wasn't paying attention to protein and calories, and I lost a lot of weight and felt so tired and weak. I learned my lesson, and felt good for a while longer.

Recently, as you know, I did my two shows. Those have damaged my body more than most people would think. My adrenal glands, which react in response to stress and are in charge of making hormones, were completely fatigued and depleted after my shows. My hormones were already out of wack from the Pill and years of antidepressants (more on the BC pill in another post... bad news, folks). Now I was pushing my body to exhaustion physically, on minimal calories and not enough of the right foods (and too many wrong foods).

I was having so much soy, first of all, and as a vegan most of us do that. But I had tofu every single day... and the more you expose yourself to a food, the more likely you are to form an intolerance. I suspect, as discussed in a previous post, that I have leaky gut or other gut issues from constantly exposing myself to soy. After my show, I began avoiding it completely, and obviously gluten. So what was my protein source now?

I began eating beans, but only once a day and moderate serving. They are starchy and shouldn't be eaten in excess. One day, my boyfriend kindly asked me "Are you getting enough protein?". As a vegan, I quickly answered that I was and I'm fine. But then I stopped to think about it, and I really wasn't. I am a very active 24 year old with adrenal issues...eating very little protein and no animal foods.

In school, we started talking about adrenal fatigue. If you don't consume cholesterol, which helps make sex hormones, your body must make its own. But it can only make about 15%. So basically if your adrenal glands are suffering, it is not beneficial to follow a vegan diet. You need saturated fat and cholesterol.

I thought about it and decided to try organic, free fun, fresh eggs. And honestly I feel amazing. My body has responded very well. I felt guilty at first, but now I think of it in the way a friend of mine put it: I love animals, but I'm an animal too. I need to eat these foods to be healthy.

I tried wild salmon for the first time last week. I really liked it and again, I responded well. Even when I was vegan, eggs and fish did not give me that gross feeling like meat or poultry. And I am NOT planning on consuming meat or poultry. I feel nourished with these foods I've added into my diet, and it is my personal choice to leave it at that.

I understand people will have opinions. One thing to keep in mind is that I have the same philosophies and I eat the same way as before, with the exception of a couple meals with eggs or fish. I love veggies, I buy cruelty free products, and I love animals. I also love and respect my health. I am so happy I made this choice, and if you are not happy I made this choice, please try to remember we are all individuals who have different needs. I used to think people never tried hard enough with being fully vegan if they gave up. I am not giving up. In fact, I feel exactly the same. I continue to be me, I'm just adding in what my body needs to feel its best.

I think eating fully plant based is amazing. I also know it is not amazing for long term for everyone. I will leave this post sending love to everyone, and wishing you all healthy and happy lives, whatever you choose to eat or how you choose to live.

Love Tij

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

My second show experience... and why I won't be doing another

Today marks one and a half weeks since my second bikini competition. I want to thank everyone who has given me support and love during my prep. It made me feel amazing during all my tough moments...and I had lots of them.

My wonderful boyfriend and bestie!

I had a great experience, don't get me wrong. I felt great being on stage and showing off my hard work. But in all honestly, I feel much better returning to a state of good health. I am not putting down competitors - in fact, I applaud them for working so hard and dedicating so many aspects of their life to prep. I just realized it is definitely not for me.

Throughout the last two months of prep, I was in very poor health. I felt so weak and tired, had brain fog, no energy, my left wrist had a cyst reappear, I woke up tired every day, my muscles were constantly tight and painful (beyond normal soreness from workouts), my digestion was poor, and my left elbow had a small tear so that made lifting heavy weight very difficult for any exercise involving elbow flexion.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had started taking a supplement for my adrenals and doing other things to improve my overall health. I felt much better for a long time. Once my calories got low, and I was doing two workouts a day (seven hours of total cardio a week), working early am to late pm, and juggling school, no supplementation could help. I was simply burnt out.

I was eating a load of tofu, and loads of protein in general. As a student of holistic nutrition, I believe that the overconsumption of soy lead to me developing a sensitivity. With the constant exposure to soy, my immune system was attacking its own tissues and wreaked havoc on my digestion and therefore overall health. With being in the middle of prep, I felt I couldn't take soy out entirely. Looking back, I realize how much I disagree with the bodybuilding idea of nutrition, for vegans and omnivores. Too much protein is acidic, and will cause free radical damage, whether from soy or meat.

Here are my reasons for not competing in shows in the near future. Again, I speak for myself personally.

There is nothing holistic about it
Eat this many calories, this many grams of protein, do these workouts at these days and times, eat at exactly these times, and you will have exactly these results.

That's how I feel competing is. Yes, there are differences in individual workout plans and diets in doing shows. But still, competitiors eat the same thing day in and day out. This also prevents you from really knowing when you're truly hungry. This is why I won't make meal plans for clients, I just send them lists of foods to include in their diet.

It's expensive
Nuff said! I don't have regrets. But it's a major factor in not doing another show in a while... I'd rather go on a vacation.

Takes the fun out of working out
I can't tell you how good it feels to wake up and think "I want to go sweat and feel good!" and not "UGH here goes workout 2, and another change of clothes to wash..."

I hated carrying a million changes of clothes and knowing I'd have to push my weak body twice that day. It feels so good knowing I can wake up and snooze occasionally without guilt, because I feel that's what my body needs.

Too much oxidative stress
Working out is amazing. I'm a trainer, and I love getting active obviously! But too much stress on the body will not help you lose fat.

Near the end when I had my health issues, my body had a hard time shedding fat. It's because my cortisol was through the roof. School, work, and sooo many hours at the gym. GAH.

Social aspect
Of course this is a sacrifice I knew I had to make... but it doesn't make it easy.

I can't tell you how much better I feel being able to go to a patio or my fave veg place and go get food. I think it's worth a million times more than pushing myself to exhaustion and deprivation.

These are all MY own stuggles I had. Of course many awesome people win shows and maintain a much better state of health. I am not discouraging anyone. I just want to be vocal about my own experience.

As of now, I plan on doing a lot of restoration. The only workouts I've done are mobility, cardio, and some core work. I am trying to rest a lot. I've eliminated soy, gluten and nuts (I don't think they're the culprit, but just in case) for 2 weeks to see if these caused my sensitivities. I will reintroduce them one by one in a couple weeks time and see if I feel crappy again. I just went away for the weekend and drank and ate a ton, so I am starting that now. (You gotta live a little!)

I had my moments where I felt like a failure...like "why me? why can everyone else do it?" I will not let myself feel like that. I know I deserve to love my body, not make it feel worn out. I have lots on my plate, and doing a show was probably just ill timed. Who knows what the future holds!

I hope you have a wonderful experience if you decide to do it. Just remember to put your health first!

xoxo Tij

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Follow your heart, trust your intuition, and live your passion (blog and life update)

Hey friends,

It's been aaaaages since I've posted. I have been overloaded with life stuff, and not in a good way. Last time I posted about staying healthy by keeping balance - and even with my best efforts, I let that balance slip.

I'm a very all-or-nothing kind of person. I will either not do something at all, or go to the other extreme and go crazy with it. When I take things on, I can really bite off more than I can chew. 

Case in point, my life now. I'm 3 weeks out from my show, all the while I've been working very long hours (early morning to well into the evenings), going to school part time, training usually 2x a day for 6 days a week, and travelling hella far to commute. I live too far to go home on my long breaks, so I end up having to kill 2 to 4 hours several times in a day. I either work out or eat, but I can't just slip into my pajamas and BE. I feel like I never have time to go home and just chill... my laundry isn't even put away after 5 days of being washed!

All of this stress has made me so tired. Even though I've been supplementing for my adrenal glands, meditating, and have lots of love in my life, there is only so much physical exertion I can handle before I burn out.

Now that I've ranted and you all feel my pain (lol), there is a happy side. I've been on a really good spiritual journey to heal my chakras (the body's energy centres). I can feel big changes coming for the positive, in the near future. The Universe always puts things in front of you for a reason.

Some things I've realized...

  • There is no point in making a life you are too busy to enjoy. Money is money, time with loved ones or just relaxing times to yourself are worth more than anything.

  • There is no need to feel guilt in saying "no" when you are overwhelmed and do not desire to take on a commitment. I often feel guilty doing this, but I've realized that if I don't take care of myself I cannot take care of others or do my job to the rest of my ability.

  • The past is the past, the future will be there, but the present is what's in front of you. Learning to live in each moment and enjoy it is something beautiful. Because of my energy imbalances, I have anxiety and am often thinking of other things at any given time, and not what I'm actually doing...which brings me to a point.

Your life should be something you're passionate about. Your career should be what you do as a passion, what makes you you. I had to ask myself - is that what I'm doing now? Am I doing what my heart beats for, what I feel I do best and what I truly love?

The answer from the bottom of my heart is no. Even though I do enjoy the things I currently do, I feel like I am missing out on my true passion. I am still discovering what I am put here to do. One thing I do know is that I really miss being in the kitchen and creating recipes. I miss going in the and not thinking, just letting myself come up with something delicious, beautiful and healthy.

I am beyond excited to get back into blogging and letting my creative juices flow, starting in the next month or two! I will be changing this blog into a real dot com website. Stay tuned for lots of updates in the near future. I'll be adding tons of good info I've gathered in my time studying holistic nutrition and my experience as a vegan bodybuilder.

Words of advice to anyone experiencing similar feelings with being overwhelmed and burnt out - listen to your intuition. Do some reading and heal your spiritual health, then find what your true passion is. Don't let anyone or anything stop you from doing what you love. Believe in your dreams and make them manifested in reality.

Sending lots of love and kindness to you all! And a good night.

xoxo Tijana

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Other factors of health and fitness BESIDES diet and exercise

I am now officially into my prep for my second competition. As you can see in my last post, it was quite an experience the first time around.

My November show ended just in time for the holidays, and while I did eat and drink plenty, I also made a lot of strength improvements. I've been working hard to improve my main lifts, squats and deads. My coach has helped me make lots of progress, and I'm excited to see my look improve!

Looking back, I realized that even though I was eating my proper diet and following the exercise program, I still had weaker areas that were stubborn and not making the kind of gains I wanted to see. I got bloated often, felt very tired and didn't feel strong most of the time at the gym. I often thought this is just how I'm supposed to feel. I wasn't going to in my weights too much, and abs had a lot of trouble showing up...

I realized that I had shot my adrenal glands. I was working 7 days a week (yes... sometimes day and night straight), training 6 days, and school twice a week. I got sleep in when I could but it never felt like enough. My massage therapist, who is familiar with ayurveda, was telling me he sees my adrenals are very taxed. All that partying after my show certainly didn't help the situation either. I was feeling like a car out of gas. 

Recently I decided to lighten my load on my workdays, and then step back and try to bring my stress down. My poor adrenals were pretty beat up, so I got a supplement recommended to me by a holistic nutritionist at Noah's. It's called Rhoziva which contains stress-reducing rhodiola, energy giving B vitamins, among many other vitamins and herbs which you can read about right here. It not only supports stress, it helps combat fatigue, increased mental clarity, improve metabolism of macronutrients, and improves mood.

After a couple weeks, I can finally see how it feels to be alive and healthy. I've always had digestive issues, and I used to think I just needed probiotics, but it's so much more than that. I now realized constant physical and emotional stress were at the root of most of my issues. I am having much better digestion most days. Don't get me wrong, I do have stressful times. But I am learning to manage my stress through yoga at home, deep breathing, and reading. I am also trying to minimize using social media mindlessly in my free time or before I go to bed.

So, the point of this post - there are many other factors in fitness success and/or healthy living. Working out and eating well are two factors in the equation, but in fact it cannot even be simplified into an equation. You have to be emotionally and spiritually well for your physical body to respond to keeping itself in top shape. Here is a list of factors other than diet and exercise which contribute to good health:

1. Sleep and rest

Notice I didn't just say sleep. Resting, meaning staying home and being relaxed, is extremely important. I can schedule 8 hours a night to sleep, but if that doesn't leave time to unwind before bed or to enjoy a leisurely breakfast (hah, not all days), how good is that sleep quality? If I am thinking constantly about my obligations the next day, will I doze off right away and into a deep sleep where my cells are able to recover (aka build muscle)? Unlikely.

Speaking of sleep quality, check out the Sleep Cycle app. It tracks movement during sleep and helps wake you up when you are least likely to be in a deep phase of sleep (aka wake up groggy). I swear by it!

2. Evaluate your workload

I know, we can't all quit our job and move to Bora Bora... although that'd be fantastic. However, sometimes you have to ask yourself, "Is my job sucking the life out of me?" If the answer is even "kinda", then think about reducing your workload or hours. As a PT, I work longgg days... 15 hours plus school sometimes. It's very hard not only to be working that long but to pack my food, clean gym clothes, etc and carry it around with me all day. I get up before the sun and usually I just go straight to bed.

I am now taking an obligatory 2 days off. Those days are always spent sleeping and resting, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, I still get chores done but I don't allow myself to feel obliged to fill my whole day organizing magazines or colour coding my closet before I "have free time".

3. Cut out negative people

When you are trying to better yourself, if people you think are friends are not supporting that, are they really your friends? If they are pressuring you to party or don't respect that you want to do healthier things, are they going to help you in your journey?

Friends should make you feel happy about being you. You don't have to share all interests, but having common values is important. You are a precious human being, don't let others dim your light.

4. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga

Yoga is not only amazing for joint mobility and flexibility, but it is very good for the spirit. I originally started it to help with my depression.

Deep breathing practiced in yoga helps circulation, calms the mind, and can greatly contribute to reducing stress. Meditation is a very powerful tool as well.

I am not in the best position to go to yoga or meditation classes because I'm already sweating so many times a day at the gym, and I don't have the schedule to allow it either. However setting up a yoga mat in my room and starting my day with a sun salutation has made a great difference.

5. Daily affirmations

I am trying to start every day with declaring a positive truth, which is my daily affirmation.

For example, today I said "I am in charge of my emotional and spiritual health, and I choose to have a positive and loving perspective". Breath deeply, and believe that truth with every fiber of your being.

It's easy to wake up and think "Ughhh another Monday" or "here goes another long day", but think about how that will set a negative tone for your day. I know I don't want to hop out of bed into a 15 hour day and train once or twice, but I also realize I can't change some things so I look at the positive. "I am training to accomplish a physical goal. I know I can go into each workout and become closer to that goal the more I work at it".

I swear your mindset makes all the difference in the gym! I hate doing cardio, but I just think it's getting me lean and keeping me healthy, so I sweat and sweat and I feel awesome.

There you have it, guys. Please see a holistic nutritionist or natropath if you are concerned about any aspects of your health. With some lifestyle tweaks, supplements, and a little patience, I know you can be the healthiest version of you.

Until next time!
xo Tij

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Recap of my First Bikini Competition

Ahhh, I can still smell the fake tanner and feel my abs flexing up every time a photo is taken. Yep, my big day I've been training for has passed... and it was totally incredible.

I trained for three months to get lean, gain as much muscle as possible and perfect my posing to show off my style to the judges. I invested a lot of money (you have no idea how expensive that damn tiny suit is...), time and also had a lot of freaking serious discipline to stay away from all the vegan treats and alcohol. But yes, it was totally worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Before my show day, it was out of town so I had to take a Go Bus, which I've never done. I was SO NERVOUS. I came up there all alone. But once I was at my hotel settling in before my first tan, I saw so many people in the same boat as me - first competition, and nervous as hell.

All these thoughts I hadn't had during my whole prep started coming. "You are so not lean enough", "You could have been doing more cardio", "The posing will not cut it", "You'll never win this". I had to take a moment and say STOP! I worked my ass off, quite literally. I made myself damn proud. At this point, showing confidence is all that matters.

Anyway, the night before we all had a meeting regarding the posing, the schedule, etc. I was so pumped. I looked around and saw all different ages and types of athletes, and I respected each and every one of them. I'm not even a competitive person, and although I did want to place, I was just happy to be a part of the whole thing.

I ended up making second call outs out of eighteen girls, which means they call the first five girls who placed, then the second group of five which I was in. I got tenth our of the whole group. Honestly, right away I could see exactly where I needed to make improvements. I know my posing wasn't too shabby for a first timer, but I already see where to change some things. Also, as my coach has said, next show I'll have built a lot more muscle and have a fuller physique to show, and come a bit leaner and with more sass.

Here are some pictures my friends took and from Muscle Insider:

Also, just to recap - after my show I did indeed indulge like crazy and drink way too much. I can honestly say I didn't miss hangovers. And the food was good, but I had feeling bloated and fluffy. Gym has been awesome... every workout I've had since taking time off and eating has made me extremely sore, in all the best ways.

In my off season, I want to focus on mobility as well as obviously building muscle, especially in my glutes and hamstrings. I noticed I have so much tightness all over my body, especially calves and mid back, and it's affecting my squats and deads big time. I really want to improve my technique in these lifts.

I've been trying to stick to the macronutrients and calories I was eating in the phase before my show, just so I don't balloon from overeating. For the most part I've stuck with it, except a few shameless cheats. Man, but today I feel extremely bloated... I ate something my mom made with white flour, and I couldn't stop myself because it was so good. I look pregnant. It made me realize how fantastic whole foods are and how much better my body feels. I really don't like the puffy feeling after drinking, so I really don't want to get too cheery with alcohol over the holidays.

Truth be told, I am already getting a big of those infamous post-competition body blues, but every time I do I just tell myself balance is key. I don't want to go back to pre competition, because I do want to stay lean, but sometimes having a few martinis is more important than doing extra cardio. ;)

Til next time... be ready for RECIPES! Finally...

xoxo Tij

Thursday, 13 November 2014

2 More Weeks. BOOM

I'm two weeks away from stage day. I'm cranky, hungry, tired, sore... but most importantly EXCITED AS HELL to be walking that stage. I just got my suit in the mail, and now everything feels so real. It's all coming together...

Not bad for night time abs!

Yep, I got a pic of my butt. I just wanted to show my coach how the bottoms looked, because I'm nervous about the regulations for OPA. However, looking at recent bikini competitors in the OPA, I think I'm all good. Also, I'm proud of my glutes... they've been stubborn, but I think they came a long way during prep!

August, November.

Changes lately: I am really trying to drink a lot of water. Like a shit ton. And sleep is so important. If I don't sleep well and I abuse chewing gum AND I don't drink water, I turn into a balloon. These days abs are looking good for the most part. I am worried about leg jiggle... but for now just focusing on hydrating, keeping digestion optimal, and being very careful with sodium. I do have a bit from tamari and mustard, but I am starting to watch my quantities with hot sauce and salsa.

Workouts are killin me. Fasted cardio has increased, and that means pretty much every day I take 1-2 showers, and I am constantly walking around with a change of clothes and shoes. Factor that in with a one hour or more commute, and plus a lottttt of food... yeah I am pretty much living out of a suitcase day to day.

As cranky and crazy as my mood swings have been, I am feeling more motivated than ever. I always tell myself to just worry about me, and not compare myself to others. Win or lose, I am very proud of myself thus far. But that being said... I am rocking my confidence on stage.

I'm having a photo shoot this weekend to capture my physique that I've been workin on all this time. It's gonna be a crazy weekend, since I just started a new job at a bar and my hours are long, but I've been going to bed super early and plan to continue doing that... so let's hope I make it. 

Post soon... have an awesome night, everyone! ;)

xoxo Tij