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

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Under 4 weeks out... CRUNCH TIME!

Wow, I cannot believe it's November already. So many thoughts and feelings are happening. It's a mix of nervous, excited, worried, happy... and everything in between.

So here's what's going on.

How I'm feeling: I just had some progress pics yesterday, and I feel kinda bummed about my abs. They are for sure the hardest thing to show off. Water, rest, food, cardio, and of course workouts all must be on point. I felt bloated yesterday because I've been chewing gum like crazy to combat night time cravings (struggle = SO real), and to be honest I don't think my sleep has been the best or my water intake. Now I just mentally slapped myself in the face and said "Tijana, you have more time. If you drink your water, push your ass off at the gym, be very strict with diet and listen to your coach, you can DO THIS!!!" I know it's true! I am definitely trying not to compare myself to others either, because that can be the worst thing for confidence... and I need to be able to show I'm confident on stage.

How I'm looking: Here are the pics. I used a different bikini than I normally do this time because I didn't have the red one with me. The bottoms are a bit small for this one. Fat loss is undoubtedly coming along but I keep thinking GO FASTER. Legs especially. Even if my abs are bloated, I can see em there a bit.

Speaking of bikini, I ORDERED MINE!! I had the measurements submitted and requested an appropriate bottom for my organization (OPA kinda wants a lot of bum coverage, and my suit is from an American site). I looked at an awesome page on Etsy and the prices and reviews are all very good, in my opinion. She assured my it would come on time so I hope to God it does... hah.

What I'm eating: So much protein. So little carbs. AAAALLLL the cravings! I have to mentally convince myself seitan tastes like cake. I dip it in coconut oil and put cinnamon on it though, so it kinda acts as my dessert. In all seriousness, it's tough and I wouldn't be eating such low fat and carbs for long term, especially getting all that protein from gluten and soy. I plan on doing an alkaline detox after my show and get a wack ton of antioxidants. Working out so much and eating the bare minimum to be as lean as possible is definitely not realistic, and more importantly it does cause a lot of free radicals.

I find that documenting my process kinda feels like the journal I need to write in to deal with all my thought processes along the way... as funny as that sounds. :) I do also hope to encourage people to try a show themselves. Anyone can do it and you really get to test your discipline and see hard work pay off.

Until next time.. I'm off to bed to dream of chocolate dipped strawberries.

xoxo Tij

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Pumpkin Pie Squares and Lentil Walnut Loaf

Hey, friends! I am super excited to be sharing some recipes on here after a long hiatus due to my competition diet. Yes, still on that. But I was itching to experiment in the kitchen and work my creativity in my favourite way: through food!

It was Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday, and while everyone feasted on turkey, this vegan gal wanted to put something out there that would make omnivores remember how damn good veg-based food can be. I wanted to show my friends that whole plant ingredients can make up staple meals and that vegans can enjoy a delicious holiday just as much as anyone else, and maybe even feel a bit less bloat. (Although if I wasn't dieting I would be eating everyone under the table probably, lol.)

I wanted to make one staple protein dish and a dessert. A good old lentil loaf is a vegan staple for a lot of holidays. Usually it contains oats as a binder, and your regular holday spices like sage and rosemary... mmmm.

This lentil walnut loaf is made with a whole bunch of WHOLE FOOD ingredients - and it's gluten free as long as your oats are certified as so! It was so delicious, and I think it would have went very well with a cauliflower mash and vegan gravy, which I had no time to make. Here is the recipe:

Lentil Walnut Loaf (vegan + gluten free, with soy free option)

- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 to 2 tsp coconut oil
- 1/2 cup each finely chopped onion, carrots, and celery
- 1 cup walnuts, pulsed in a food processor into small pieces
- 1 cup rolled oats (used certified GF if necessary)
- 2 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 to 2 tsp rosemary
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp chia seeds + 6 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Organic ketchup, as needed

Preheat oven to 375.

1. Cook the lentils (using a slightly larger pot so you can add stuff in later) in the broth over a low simmer for 2-22 minutes, adding more water or broth as needed. Set aside and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the onion, carrot, and celery and sautee until onion is translucent. Let cool, and then stir into the pot with the cooled lentils.

3. Mix the chia and water and let it sit a couple minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except for the ketchup, including the set chia seeds which should look like a gel, to the pot with the lentils and veggies and stir well.

4. Lightly grease a loaf pan and put the mixture inside, pressing down to even it out. Squirt the ketchup on top in a zig zag pattern.

5. Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes, or until it's quite nicely browned.

Serve with vegan gravy and cauliflower mash... delish!

And the dessert... ohhhh boy! I can't lie, I did lick my spoon a lot and I know it was a very naughty thing of me to do. My friends and family ate these right up. Such simple, whole ingredients. Low GI sweetener used was coconut nectar, and the only other sweetness is in that AMAZING crust, which I used as a crust for so many desserts. It's way better than some processed vegan crust, in my opinion.

Pumpkin Pie Squares (vegan gluten free, and mostly raw)

Crust ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
- 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp sea salt

For the squares:
- 750 ml can pumpkin puree (preferably organic)
- Coconut cream from one coconut milk can* 
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, measured softened
- 1/3 + 2 tbsp to 1/2 cup coconut nectar, to taste
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp sea salt 
For the toppings:
- Walnut pieces, coconut flakes, crushed nuts, cinnamon, etc

* For the coconut cream, just chill a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours, and then scoop out the cream at the top of the can when you open it! Save the water for smoothies.

1. In a food processor with an S blade, combine the crust ingredients and process until a sticky dough has formed.

2. In a square pan lined with parchment paper, press the crust evenly using your fingers, a spoon, or a pastry roller. 

3. Using a high powdered blender, combine all ingredients for squares and puree well. Taste to see if you want more sweetness and add coconut nectar as needed.

4. Pour the mixture into the pan with the crust. Use a flat spatula or spoon to even out the top. You can sprinkle any toppings on that you like.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and let set in the freezer overnight. Let it sit on the counter for a few minutes until it's slightly softened, then alice and enjoy!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Progress and some FAQ

This past Saturday marked 9 weeks until I hit the stage. That's just over 2 months until I bare all in a small bikini in front of a whole bunch of people... and it's pretty damn intimidating to say the least!

My progress has been awesome so far. I have been on track, but obviously I still have a while to go. I lost a total of 10 lbs now, but the weight loss is not the main goal. I want to lose fat (especially in my abs and legs) and hang on to the muscles I've been working hard to keep.

I've been getting lots of questions from people, so I thought I would answer some of them here for anyone reading this who may be considering doing a show themselves.

These are all just questions based on my own experience so far in doing my prep, which is not much since it's my first one ever. So hit up blogs like Sam's if you want someone a bit more experienced in vegan bodybuilding. :P

1. Are you barely eating/hungry all the time?

For the most part, no. I realized when I space out my small meals and measure them, I really am not ever ravenous and feel deprived. If I get caught up with work or something else comes up, yes I can go a bit longer between meals and feel hungry. If I do I will have an extra protein shake (just water and Vega) or some water-rich veggies and sauerkraut. 

2. How much weight do you plan on losing?

It's not about the weight loss or even the percentage of body fat. My coach is going by how my abs look (that's really how you can notice BF go down anyway). I have been losing about 2 pounds a week so far, but that will probably stop going down quite so rapidly. We'll see!

3. Do you get cheat meals?

I FINALLY am getting cheat meals!! Once a week I will be allowed to go nuts on as many calories as I can. I know many people are going to disagree with the whole cheat meal thing, but I am not one of them, so I say to each their own. Honestly, if you read my blog you know I crave healthy vegan food for like 90% of what I eat.

If you're curious, I'll probably be having lots of green poutine from Fresh (no crazy ingredients, and it's deep fried but it has GREENS on it, okay?!), and some some of dessert. I'll definitely post pics on my Instagram!

4. You can't have a drink occasionally? At all?

Yeah this part SUCKS. I would give up all cheat meals for one night on the town... lol. I'm just being honest. You really have to suck this one up because alcohol will make you store fat, and obviously it has a lot of calories.

5. How brutal are the workouts?

I honestly train my butt off all the time in general, but now I am seeing how proper and consistent nutrition and counting portions makes a huge difference to reveal my hard work. Also, my workouts have been much more consistent and focused on building the areas in need.

Normally I would work out 4-5 days a week, but I wouldn't do as much cardio as I am now, even though I am a fitness instructor for a HIIT style cardio class. I will always hate cardio on machines, but the leanness calls!

So finally, here are my progress pics... this is what 5 weeks of hard work looks like!

Happy with my midsection and shoulders the most! The legs are coming down but that cellulite persists. And for the record, I am happy with my body no matter what. I'm not saying I was fat before. But this show has a specific goal, so I am pushing for that in the next 8.5 weeks!

Have a good hump day, guys. Get your workout in!

xo Tij

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Bikini Diet VS Regular Diet + Progress Pics

I wanted to post a little bit about my progress so far for those interested. It's been about 3 weeks now, and I've lost about 4 lbs and I can fit into pants which used to make me look like a stuffed sausage! My body is changing slowly and surely, and these progress pics after 2 weeks says it all:

Sorry for the awkward posing in the first pic lol. I was especially shy to post these because I have cellulite going on, but honestly what lady doesn't? I've been working hard to reduce the fat in my legs especially, and I can see the progress in these pics in that area the most!

By the way, I intend to be honest and open and post a lot about my journey along the way in this competition. I will (already do) miss making elaborate vegan meals every day, so the food blogging may reduce... It's gonna be pretty competition-focused here until November. Hope you guys will enjoy following me along the way!

Speaking of food, I wanted to talk about the difference between what I normally eat versus how my diet is now structured.

First of all, I definitely eat more calories normally than I do at this phase of my competition. My diet just got modified a bit more for the next 4 weeks to have less carbs and calories and a bit less fat. I am still eating almond butter so I am uber happy! Although if I was eating without restriction, I would just grab the whole jar and go to town as a snack.

I definitely eat more carbs on a regular basis when I'm not on prep. I think right now my diet is less than 40% carbs, and that's mostly complex carbs. I have one fruit a day. I am NOT saying eating carbs is bad and that low carb is good. To lose fat, I am trying to slowly give my body less fuel through carbs so it will mobilize some of my stored fat. My diet is not super low carb either, trust me. I still have my oats, banana/apple a day, and plus a shit ton of veggies. Keep in mind this is my first competition and my prep will only be a total of 13-14 weeks, so the diet gets strict pretty quick!

The lower carbs, no alcohol, tons and tons of water every day, and good sleep (for the most part, I'm human!) have all contributed to the weight loss and feeling leaner. I can't stress enough how the body really needs to be balanced in all aspects of health - so rest and hydration are KEY. You can't just put fuel in your tank and expect it to keep running with no other maintenance.

Here is a typical day for me:

- Oats, protein powder, a bit of cinnamon and unsweetened almond milk

- 1 fruit (apple/banana) and almond butter

- Big salad with tempeh, greens, and hemp oil

- 2 rice cakes and a scoop of protein (post-workout meal)

- seitan, veggies, a bit of freekeh (cracked green wheat)

I also have an optional meal after that if I get hungry with some protein and veggies, but so far I've just had some snack cravings here and there which I satisfy with some organic vegan kimchi. Also, if I'm STARVING and my meal is not with me (I live an hour away from where I work. I've said no to going out many times because meal 5 is at home!), I'll have another scoop of protein to tide me over.

I also drink a coffee a day and maybe some tea later on. I just put unsweetened almond milk in it.

Supplements I use are vegan BCAAs from Genuine Health, Vega protein powder, and a green tea fat burner in the morning and post workout.

So far I'm not sure when or if I'll get a cheat meal. I am being a good girl so I can get lean fast and eat ALL the vegan pizza and desserts!!

Do you guys have any specific questions about my prep? I'd love to answer what I can. :-)

Tij xo

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My First Bikini Competition - as a VEGAN!

It's been a while since I've been experimenting in the kitchen these days. There are a couple reasons for this; first one being that I am all about quick, easy, and filling staple meals when I have busy work days (which is a lot lately). Second, I have JUST entered into my first ever bikini competition!

For those of you who are not familiar with different types of bodybuilding, there are different types of competitions out there which have a very wide variety of criteria. Bikini is frequently what women do as their first show, because you won't need as much muscle as other categories and it can also be considered more "feminine" than other types of bodybuilding. It's all about being lean and having symmetry between the muscle groups on the upper and lower body, primarily shoulders and glutes. Figure competitors do need to pack more muscle, and there is different criteria there for sure, but I am really no expert to ask. :) There are more types than that as well, but as I said, best to Google those.

Anyway, I've wanted to do this show for a very long time. I follow a lot of vegan bodybuilders online and I am always so impressed and motivated whenever I read about their winnings on a totally cruelty-free diet. However, I was in a relationship in which my partner was totally against me showing those glutes on a stage to a bunch of people... even though, in my humble opinion, that would be a totally appropriate setting to show off those hard-earned glutes!

I wanted to do this to really see where my body can go. I am already very active and eat tons of healthy food, but aesthetics have not been my goal. I've spoken about my body image struggle on here many times, and I can honestly say I am in a great place whether I'm 15% body fat or downing the occasional vodka shot. (I use "occasional" very loosely).

So what does this mean I gotta do differently? Well, for starters, diet is everything. I have a very specific meal plan, made by a coach who is prepping me for my stage day. She is not vegan but she has made my macronutrient profile fit my needs for losing fat and keeping my hard-earned muscle as I train. Instead of just chillin with my spoon and jar of PB, I now measure each and every morsel I consume. I can honestly say that so far I feel no deprivation, but I definitely feel a little bored of eating the same thing all the time. You guys know me.... my blog is all about being adventurous in the kitchen! But my eyes are on the prize. I love all plant food anyway, so I still look forward to eating!

My prep is pretty tight - 12 weeks total. Which means I am buckling down and am prepared to accept I may not be allowed to have any cheat meals at all. Vegan pizza and vodka sodas will have to wait. Also, training sessions are mandatory. I do train frequently on a regular basis but now I am specifically doing different muscle groups in the appropriate quantity needed for bikini. So focus is on that bubble butt! 

Besides training and strict diet, sleep and hydration are key. I am drinking water like never before, and my sleep has never been more important. Truth be told this is a great way for me to decrease my partying (it's all about balance, people. And I've been unbalanced!).

I'll try to post more on her about my show... I do wanna know what you guys wanna see, though. Let me know in the comments.

Have an AWESOME long weekend! 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Mango Upside Down Cake (Vegan & Gluten Free)

I found myself with an abundance of mangoes last week. My friend brought me a whole case of em when I had a potluck, along with a bunch of bananas and a coconut - how's that for an awesome tropical treat? Hah!

Well needless to say even I can't eat that many ultra-ripe mangoes within a few days. They were good to go. 12 delicious, succulent Ataulfo mangoes. I felt like freezing them is so cliche. I wanted to do something different.

I've felt like I've really been in a food rut, which is something I truly hate. Food needs to be exciting and awesome, not just a play on the same old favourite dishes ALL THE TIME! I was getting too comfortable with my flavours and ingredients.

I decided to do one savory and one sweet recipe. I actually was dying for a chutney, and I found this great recipe online which turned out AMAZING! I would just recommend pureeing it a bit in a processor to make it less chunky.Also, I didn't add the nuts and I didn't put it in an ice bath because I was too lazy, and I found it cooled just fine.

As for the sweet recipe, I'm really not sure how or why I decided to do an upside down cake, but as soon as the inspiration hit, I was surfing the internet everywhere so I could compare recipes. I do this with all types of dishes I don't normally do, just to see the general method of preparation, baking time, ingredient ratios, etc.

So I put together my own recipe based on all the others I saw. I always bake vegan (duh), and I even made this gluten free, which is how I've been eating the last month or so. I also always use coconut sugar (or another natural sweetener), and I didn't use vegan margarine - just coconut oil! I can honestly say I loved the cake, and my family and friends did as well. I hope you enjoy my healthy spin on this classic.

Mango Upside Down Cake
-3 tbsp + 1/2 cup coconut oil (divided)
-1/3 cup + 3/4 cup coconut sugar (divided)
-3-4 mangoes, peeled and sliced -1/2 cup brown rice flour 
-1 cup chickpea flour
-1/4 cup potato starch 
-2 tbsp chia seeds or milled flax 
seeds + 6 tbsp water 
-1 tsp vanilla extract 
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 cup almond/non dairy milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice (let it curdle. This is vegan buttermilk!)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a skillet, heat 3 tbsp coconut oil over low heat, then add 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 tbsp water. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth like caramel.
3. Transfer the sugar mixture to a circular (or square 9 x 9") baking pan and spread evenly. Now take your mango slices and layer them in the prettiest pattern you can.  Set aside for now.
4. In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to fluff the remaining coconut oil and sugar. Now add the eggs and keep mixing. Add in the vanilla and the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Now add your vegan buttermilk and mix one last time 
5. Pour mixture over the mangoes and bake for 40 minutes. The cake will be golden and should spring back up when touched. 
6. Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then take a clean surface, such as a cutting board or a large, flat serving pan and put it over your cake pan. Then flip the cake pan over (carefully!) and let it sit for another minute. Now jiggle the cake pan off. This is your gorgeous cake!
Note: You never wanna let GF desserts sit in the pan too long. It'll dry them out like crazy! 

Also, I had leftover balsamic reduction which I drizzled on top... not necessary because it's such a sweet cake as is. But doesn't hurt. ;)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Joining the GF club + vacationing as a vegan

In my last post, I discussed my soy and gluten elimination diet. I wanna give you guys a little life update.

2 weeks before I went away on a recent vacation to Cuba, I gave up gluten and soy. You can read about it in my last post. I felt good, but I don't think I gave myself enough time to feel a difference or to even rebuild any gut damage that could have been there. Not by a long shot.

I reintroduced soy after only a week. I gotta admit, I was missing a lot of my protein sources. I mean I love beans but I missed my tempeh, tofu, and also my delicious flavour enhancing staples tamari and miso. I've decided, though, that I am definitely reducing my soy. I don't eat it daily anymore, but I also don't label it "off limits". As always, it must be organic and non GMO.

The gluten is something I've always suspected needs to go. But I also knew it was that much harder to look out for hidden gluten when dining out. I've gotten very used to knowing how to avoid dairy and obviously meat when eating out, but gluten is a whole new set of questions. Will all waitresses hate me forever?

I actually work at an awesome restaurant with so many vegan and gluten free items, so I'm very spoiled in knowing what I'm eating while I'm there at least, hah.

So that being said, I reintroduced the gluten in my first few days in Cuba. I normally would never eat white bread, but once your only option is a buffet in which the only (pretty much surefire) vegan food is salad, rice, beans (sometimes) and squash (sometimes) and lots of white potatoes (always), the soft and fresh daily bread starts to look quite appetizing to go along with my other carbs. ALL THE CARBS! Hah, seriously though... definitely no tempeh or tofu there! My diet was probably 75% carbs.

On a side note, I have become so sick of restrictions, with calories and macros, that I really didn't let myself say no to eating "bad" stuff while I was away from home. Did I go hog wild? No. I ate a ton of fruits and veggies, and even brought my own homemade cereal to have in the mornings with almond milk. I also brought maca and spirulina and some organic trail mix. I did it because I like feelin good, and that's how good food makes ya feel!

ANYWAY, I felt so bloated and gross after eating the pasta and bread. I decided then and there I don't need or want gluten. I know all about it's bad rap (still wanna read more but I get the jist of it), and I know I feel very bloated after eating it. I also know I have gut issues, so it's time to say goodbye.

It's been almost a week since I've been back, and I don't feel super different yet, but I am keeping in mind my gut needs time to get a grip on not digesting gluten. I plan on taking lots of enzymes and gut-healing foods.

I've also started eating intuitively, and that's made my digestion loads better already. I don't count calories, so now I'm slowly starting to recognize true hunger signals. It's a process, and it's not easy, but I am healing my gut!

Any GF vegans out there? How long and why?


Monday, 7 April 2014

Elimination diet - goodbye, soy and gluten!

 Hey, everyone.  This post is a little personal, which I don't typically do too much of here. I will be eliminating soy and gluten from my diet to reset my system, and here is why...

It's well into April, which means there are only a couple weeks until I'm jetting off to Cuba. Besides the sunshine and fun activities I'll enjoy with my boyfriend, I've also kept in mind we shall be taking many pictures... so I want to be in swim suit shape.

Swim suit shape? What does that even mean? As I've mentioned on my blog before, I used to think that meant weighing sub 120 lbs, fitting in a size 2, and eating strict 1200 calories a day, followed by excessive cardio exercise. Now I know this is known as disordered eating and negative body image. This is not a healthy way to live in the long term, emotionally or physically.

Now, thank goodness, I've learned a lot more about fitness and nutrition. I have started doing a lot more resistance training. I've also been more mindful of getting the right macronutrients and calories for my needs. I stopped relying on the scale and started eating and exercising to be healthy and just have an awesome quality of life.

After a long hiatus off of weighing myself, I was shocked that I had gained almost 20 pounds. I was so ashamed and just felt sickened with myself. The thoughts I have are sometimes so disturbing. I tried to lose weight, but I always broke down because it was so difficult. I eat only whole foods, I'm very active, I even began to manage my caloric intake... why am I such a failure?

None of my clothes fit right now. I am secretly freaking out about having so many pictures taken of me, because I know I will just judge myself like crazy, and maybe even enjoy my trip less because of it. These thoughts suck. I am trying my best to shut them up when they come around. I know that I am living a much healthier lifestyle than those extremely restrictive days when I thought I was so healthy. I am always learning, of course. It's a journey about finding your happy place balancing life, working out, eating well, and indulging at the right times and in the right ways.

Well, the purpose of this post is not exactly to just cry out my body image issues on my blog. I kinda did that a little bit, but there is a point...promise. Besides the fact that I know many of you reading this have probably (unfortunately) felt crappy about yourselves to some degree, I posted all this to explain part of a reason I want to do an elimination diet.

I did NOT decide to do it as a "get skinny quick" plan before my vacation. I have had symptoms such as bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and poor digestion for a long time. Sometimes it's worse than at other times. I know that food sensitivities can very well be a likely culprit of these symptoms. I thought an elimination diet for 2-3 weeks would be an excellent way to tell if it was either gluten or soy, two common allergens, which are causing the problem.

However, I also do know that my weight gain, or inability to lose weight, can very well be tied with my hormones being out of wack. Hopefully this elimination diet free of soy and gluten will keep some of my wonky hormones in check.

And of course I am looking beyond the weight gain. I have even felt much more well rested and had less brain fog since cutting out all gluten in the last week and about 90% soy (I finished off some tofu I had already opened recently). I am realizing that wellness is sooo not all about being slim. At. All. Having abundant energy, athletic performance, mood, and digestion are all much better indicators of health than fitting in a tiny size while starving your tired self, aren't they?


The gluten is very easy for me, because my diet is mostly all gluten free with the exception of occasional spelt, seitan or some sprouted grain bread once in a while. The soy is definitely tricky, because I rely on tofu and tempeh as protein sources frequently!

I will be eating a crap ton of beans lately. Vega is also my best friend to make sure I am getting my protein like a good little active vegan. But as we all know by now, plants are chock full of protein our bodies can use, and if you eat a whole foods diet, you can be rest assured you get enough.

You can follow my food posts on my Instagram - I've been excitedly coming up with lots of new stuff! @missveggievibes

I do want to mention that it is important to have knowledge and resources before going on any sort of elimination diet or new eating plan... please don't go out and stop eating everything in sight without consulting the help of a professional! I certainly don't have all the answers, and I don't even pretend I can prescribe an elimination diet for everyone. But if you do feel like you're having food sensitivities, it's always a good idea to see a naturopath!

I can say that if you can relate to some of these crappy body image issues, which I'm sure you can, please take this to heart: you are a beaut. Your body is capable of doing amazing things. Treat your body with respect, and it will reward you with energy, vitality, and amazing changes you never thought possible. You are so much more than someone ruled by dieting just to fit in some tiny pair of pants. If you are treating your body so nice by eating well and staying active, why the heck are you hating it so much?

Seriously, we all need to remember this. Myself included!

I am now focused on having a positive body image as I continue my healing journey. The mind and body are related - I can't keep being obsessed with changing my body, hating it, and then eating healthy and exercising and expecting it to listen to me. Self love must be there, no question.

Have a great night, guys. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off recap + GF Nutty Mocha Brownie recipe!

Hey, friends! Happy spring...or as we call it in Canada, still-freezing-my-ass-off season.

But you know what? I actually can't complain, because there is so much awesomeness going on lately. Such as my favourite event of the year, which was last weekend: The 6th Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off.

This is my third year in the Bake-Off. I know I've chatted a bit about it in past posts here. Basically anyone can enter - you just create your own special vegan recipes and bake your little butt off! Everyone can attend. It's expanding each and every year, and this year was the biggest yet - a totally packed venue!! It's 10 bucks for a ticket, which gets you two plates of your categories of choice. Each category has six entries, I believe. You then vote for which was your favourite in that category, and whoever gets the most votes WINS!

Check out that crowd!

I could not decide on one dessert, so I did two. I always try to push the envelope and try something different.

I was so torn between doing a gluten free cupcake or entering some sort of brownie. I really wanted to try something gluten free because I'd never done that category, and I know a lot of vegans are embracing the GF life. Also, it does pose a fun challenge. I soon realized, though, that some GF desserts are much more challenging than others.

Gluten free desserts can be delicious, don't get me wrong. But make one false move and you end up with a dry, cardboard-like brick on your plate. Not a good way to rep GF. I did my research and did some trails. This is what I found:

-Pick flours wisely, and always use a starch (corn starch, potato starch, etc). Some flours taste stronger than others, and some suck up moisture more than others, among many other factors. You need all the precious moisture you can get in GF baking!

-Use plentiful moistening ingredients - apple sauce, mashed banana, almond pulp, shredded zucchini, you name it. Just don't be shy. Again, avoid the dryness.

-Most other desserts and baked goods are okay to let cool in the pan for a while before removing. This will increase the likelihood of cardboard in GF stuff. As soon as you can, take that baby to a cooling rack.

-Often freezing baked goods then thawing will improve their texture.

I still have a lot of experimenting to do, and I'm far from an expert, but these tips are something I can take home with me for next time I go on GF ventures. When in doubt, buy a good GF AP flour and follow a recipe to a tee!

Anyway, I decided GF cupcakes are just too damn hard, and although I did have some success, it's just so dense... and it wasn't Bake-Off worthy. I decided I'd do spelt and kamut carrot cupcakes, and also a GF brownie (much easier to make gluten-free and keep that delicious moistness!).

The brownie was my fave of the two, although I was proud of both. The cupcakes were definitely more tedious. Spelt does not rise as much as wheat flour, because it is significantly lower in gluten content. Kamut helped the rise, so I eventually added it to the recipe. After many trails, I put out an amazing dessert I was proud of. The cream cheese icing was especially delish - my boyfriend ate it up by itself!

Creamy Carrot Cupcakes

The Bake-Off was by far the most packed one yet. I love how it gets bigger and better each year. With over 60 bakers, and hundreds of desserts, it was an awesome day to be a vegan with a sweet tooth. How it works is you buy a ticket in advance (they sell out quick!), which is $10 and gets you two plates of choice of dessert samples.

I'm just sharing the brownie recipe because they are much less tedious, make less dishes, and can be made without too many ingredients. You will not be dissapointed! Also, no refined sugars or oils added. Just Mama Nature.

PS, the mocha drizzle is optional......but highly encouraged for an over-the-top experience!

Nutty Mocha Brownies (GF and Vegan)

Wet ingredients:

-1 package Enjoy Life chocolate chunks, divided in half
-1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed
-1/2 cup date paste*, or other liquid sweetener should work
-1/2 cup almond or peanut butter
-3/4 cup strong brewed coffee** (use double the amount of coffee you'd regularly use per amount of water)
-1 cup (preferably homemade) nut milk + 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
-2 tbsp flax seed + 6 tbsp water
-1 tsp vanilla extract

*To make date paste, blend 10-12 pitted Medjool dates with 1 cup of water until completely smooth. Pre-soak dates if you're not using a high powered blender. Make about one cup of date paste.

**Brew extra coffee if you're doing the mocha drizzle. See below.

Dry ingredients:

-1 1/3 cups almond flour/meal
-1 cup brown rice flour
-1/2 cup cacao powder
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp sea salt
-2/3 cup crushed walnuts

For the mocha drizzle (optional):

-1 cup soaked cashews (soak overnight or at least two hours)
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 cup leftover brewed coffee
-15 Medjool dates, pitted
-1/4 cup carob powder

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Over very low heat, melt half the bag of chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Set the other half aside for later. Meanwhile, mix your flax and water in your blender/food processor and let it set. In your measuring cup, combine the milk and vinegar and let it curdle.

3. Once the chocolate is melted, put it in your blender or processor with the flax, milk mixture, and remaining wet ingredients, and blend away until smooth.

4. Transfer everything to a large bowl and add the dry stuff slowly, except the walnuts. Mix well. GF desserts need not be feared to over-mix. Fold in your walnuts.

5. Lightly grease a brownie pan and pour your batter in evenly. Bake for 35 minutes.

6. Let your brownies cool for about five minutes, then immediately remove them delicately. I used a large baking sheet to put over the brownie pan, and used my oven mitts to quickly flip it over. I lifted the pan, and voila! Once they're totally cool, cut them into your desired size. Note: The middle will be considerably softer, but once they're cooled they won't be all fudgey and loose. I love when they're all soft, though... mmm. It's hard to make GF stuff cool totally evenly, I find.

Once they're totally cooled, you can make the mocha drizzle...

1. Blend your soaked cashews along with the water and coffee in a blender at high speed until smooth.

2. Add the dates and carob and blend until completely smooth.  If your dates are on the harder side, let them sit in the liquid for a bit before blending, unless you have a high powered blender which can just rough it out.

3. Using an icing piper, or a Ziploc bag with a little corner cut off, pour your drizzle in and put it over your brownies in a zig-zag motion. Or you can just use a flat rubber spatula and do it freestyle. Have some licks off the spoon along the way.

I topped mine with more crushed walnuts!

Hope you guys enjoy these as much as I did!! I got lots of great feedback on these babies. They made me proud, even though I didn't win.

Here are some more pics of the event:

My daddy and I

 I finally met a fellow vegan blogger! Lisa at Je Suis Alimenteuse

Myself and beautiful Aleks over at Dessert Art

Mr Fabulous

 Myself and my best friend

And some breathtaking presentations and plates... food porn, hello!!