My Journey To Sobriety & How I Abused Alcohol As A Path To Intimacy

Swapping Kombucha and vulnerability for beer and shallow living. . .

Swapping Kombucha and vulnerability for beer and shallow living. . .

One mixed drink turned into five and one shot became six. One beer progressed to four more and some liquor, too because why not. . . One glass of wine turned into an empty bottle.

Before I get into it, I want to point out this post covers my personal experience with alcohol. I am not a medical professional. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism or drugs, professional help matters. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Association has a 24/7 hotline to speak with a medical professional at any time of day, free of charge. Go to https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. Don't wait until it's too late.

How I Confused Alcohol for Intimacy

There's nothing inherently wrong with partying or enjoying oneself. But when you struggle with addiction and are trying to fill an emotional void with it, partying can turn from a fun social outlet to a downward spiral, and this is my story.

partying in college

I couldn’t find the control to stop. I couldn’t find the ability to enjoy in moderation.

I started using alcohol at 15 years of age. At 17, I had my heart broken and quickly looked to alcohol to fill the void in my chest. I used alcohol to numb the pain of unworthiness. I abused alcohol to have fun, to feel free, to feel less of every bad thing. There was something super addicting about going out to me. I would often black out.  Sometimes, though, it was just pure fun. Dancing in a nightclub with all my friends was an excellent use of my time. And we did have fun and SO many laughs. In hindsight, I realize that this behavior was just a continued numbing mechanism. The sad and uncomfortable feelings inside me were feelings I was just not ready nor willing to face. Going out was much more fun than facing them. I loved the feeling of buying a new outfit, getting ready with some music, pre-gaming with friends and then showing up at a bar or club and dancing until dawn. It went on this way for years. Avoiding. Drinking. Being the party girl. Hooking up with strangers. Blacking out. Acting out in violence against people that loved me.

Relapse is a part of recovery

As I got older, I stopped going out as much. I ended friendships with people that only wanted to party. I entered long term relationships. More than a few times, though, I relapsed. I started to binge drink, blacking out and using alcohol as emotional lubricant. I would tell myself I would only have a few drinks, only to wake up the next morning wondering what happened. 

I know now that excess is who I am. I want more magic. I want more pleasure. I want more connection. I want more love. I want more intimacy. I want more sunsets. And more sunrises. I want more moments that take my breath away. I have come to love this part of myself, I find it to be a part of my magic.

That also means, though, that I don’t always have the ability to make myself stop. This became a very real issue when it came to alcohol. Not only did I find myself looking face to face with a binge-drinking problem, I also began to realize that I was using alcohol as a direct pathway to physical and emotional intimacy. As an excuse. As a way to be more, better, as a way to BE. I quickly realized that almost all of my relationships were shallow and surface level. I realized that I trusted no one to love the real me. The sober me.

It was a requirement that I drink during dates, that I drink before, after and sometimes during casual hook ups. It was necessary for me to drink away the guilt of lying and cheating on men that I was in a committed relationship with. I needed the alcohol so I would forget that I didn’t really want to be sleeping with nameless men that weren’t giving me any pleasure. It was vital that I drink to have deeply vulnerable conversations with both the people that loved me and those that did not.

I used alcohol as a way to feel confident in who I was. To feel confident not only about my body, but in my abilities and capabilities. I used alcohol to seem fun, wild, free. I used alcohol to be funnier and happier and a good time. It took my years to realize I was selling myself short. YEARS of believing that I needed the alcohol to be someone.

All along, I was fiercely witty, loving, fun, wild and free. All along, I was beautiful, desirable, enticing. All along, my purpose was to make people feel less broken. All along, I was capable of deeply meaningful connection. I am wired for vulnerability. Bravery. Empathy. Compassion. Grace. Love.

SOBER and loving life at a music festival

SOBER and loving life at a music festival

So what does sobriety look like for me?

My journey to a more sober life has been a unique one. I still don’t consider myself an “alcoholic” but as someone with a “problem with binge-drinking”. For a while, I was limiting my alcohol consumption to 3 drinks per week. Then I lowered that to 2. I went about 2 months with no alcohol at all. I just find myself having less and less of a desire to drink. I used the Dry January app to track the number of days that I had gone without. I don’t use it anymore, because it seems to be a habit that I am sticking with. It was a great visual tool, though, when I was forming this new habit.

Kombucha has definitely helped me so much. When I want to have something in my hand besides a water, kombucha has been the perfect alternative. A lot of restaurants and bars actually have started to provide a kombucha option on tap, and that growth and trend has been amazing.

Going Vegan

There might come a day when I stop drinking alcohol forever. But I don’t like to put those kinds of restrictions on myself any more. When I became vegan, I started going on a “inner-journey” and it was honestly sub-conscious for a long time. I was much more aware when I was abusing alcohol to feel good, instead I was feeling good just by being! This gave me the confidence to really show myself and know that I didn't need a drink in me to approach someone or feel relaxed. I just gradually became more and more health conscious. It’s no surprise that booze is a toxin. Alcohol severely dehydrates your body. It can cause inflammation and over stress your liver. It can affect blood sugar levels by effecting the functioning of your pancreas. It also effects your central nervous system, immune system, digestive system and your mood.

I will still drink, but it has been pretty rare. I am incredibly mindful of environment and company. If I am in a “party” atmosphere, I know that I cannot even have one drink, because one will become many. If I am surrounded by a group of people in a party mindset, I know that I cannot drink. I do still enjoy a glass of wine or a fun cocktail, I enjoy trying sips of Danny’s beer or ordering one of my own.

I have a lot more grace with myself through this journey than I ever did before. I am getting better at saying "no" when offered a drink. Each time I say no, I feel more connected to who I really am. Each time I have a deeply vulnerable conversation when I am completely sober, I feel more empowered. Each morning that I wake up clear headed, I feel alive.

Always learning. Always growing.

Do you drink? Have you been able to break the cycle from booze and partying to a healthier lifestyle? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.

Grocery Shopping with K8canrelate

”Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
— Hippocrates

I have been meal planning and prepping consistently for a few years now. I thought it was time to share my tips, routine and typical grocery list with you! Keep reading for more. . .

ROUTINE

My typical meal planning routine is to decide on a meal or two that I want for the upcoming week and Google a recipe. I will look through a few, decide on a couple and then write out a list of ingredients that I will need to get. I email the recipes to myself so I don't lose them in the meantime, because I cannot tell you how many times I find a recipe once and then lose it into the ether.

An average week for me is usually overnight oats for breakfast, some kind of grain + veggie bowl for lunch and a hearty salad for dinner. Lately, I have been doing berries for dessert but sometimes I make protein mug cake. I have all of my grocery needs in my Notepad on my iPhone, and erase the items as I place them in my buggy. (Fun cultural fact: a buggy is what West Virginians call a shopping cart)

I diversify my shopping options. I don't buy everything all at once, necessarily. And I don't do all my shopping at one store. Convenient? No. Cost effective? Yes. Aldi doesn't carry the specialty or bulk items that I need, but Kroger and Whole Foods do. 

TIPS

  • Biggest number one tip is to visit the grocery store on Sunday morning if it fits your schedule. There is nothing I detest more than trying to get my shopping done in a sea of humans. Sunday mornings are peaceful and typically very well-stocked.
  • BYOB, baby! Obviously, I recommend bringing your own bags and opting out of plastic. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, it takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill because the bags don't break down completely.
  • Shop at Aldi and/or your local farmers market. Aldi is my bank account life saver and the farmers market often has cheap, organic and in-season items. The farmers market produce might not be "certified" organic, but it oftentimes is organic. Just ask, they will know! 
  • Try to shop for produce that is currently in season. This will keep the cost lower! I don't always follow this rule because sometimes ya girl just wants some fresh berries in the dead of winter. But most frozen fruit is a great alternate when you just don't want to pay for out-of-season prices. 
  • Buy in bulk when you can! This is one of my favorite ways to save money when it comes to grocery items. 
  • Get familiar with your shopping options. Make it a point to visit your local grocers and some that maybe aren't so local if you think they have better specials or items that are cheaper. For example, there is not a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in all of West Virginia (I know, girl, I know) so when I travel out of state, I make sure to bring empty bags and a cooler so I can shop before returning home. 
Feel free to save or print this grocery list for your own use!

Feel free to save or print this grocery list for your own use!

Be mindful of how much food your household needs. This may mean you will experience a learning curve where you buy too much or too little food. You definitely don't want food to go to waste, so I always prefer needing to make a small run before the weekend if we need a couple of items to last us until our regular trip on Sunday mornings. If you do find that you have too much food, I would suggest getting creative and throwing it into the Crockpot for a "cleaning out the fridge" meal. Honestly, these are sometimes the best tasting and most fun to make! 

Does your grocery list usually look similar to mine? What are some of your favorite tips to save money? 

Let's Talk About Sex(ual Health)

Starting the dialogue about sexual health and wellness. . . Read more

Starting the dialogue about sexual health and wellness. . . Read more

I don’t see enough of a conversation on sexual health. So many health, wellness and fitness bloggers and rarely, if ever, do I see a post or a nod to sex and/or sexual health. It is a sensitive and a private topic, and I understand that not everyone is comfortable or willing to start the dialogue. Historically, women were not permitted to have good sex, and we certainly were not supposed to talk about it. I used to feel a lot of shame about my sexual activity, and while I may find myself blushing or wondering if i am oversharing, I know this is one of the most important things we could ever talk about.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX

Do I have it?

I do. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not having enough sex, or if I'm having too much. I recall all of those magazines that I used to read and how they spelled out how to "keep your man happy" through various means of pleasure. UGH. Remember, there is a very broad range of "normal", so explore what your natural preferences are and find your own "normal". 

HORMONES

Hormones dictate a lot about us. They especially dictate your menstrual cycle, your libido and how they both function. If you think you might have hormonal imbalances, or if you are living with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), I have heard good things about Womancode, a book by Alisa Vitti. I have been considering reading this book because I am increasingly interested in healing my body through nutrition, and I do wonder if I suffer from a hormone imbalance. 

All about those menstrual cups. It took me a while to try it, but I am SO GLAD I did. Featuring the Lunette Cup. 

All about those menstrual cups. It took me a while to try it, but I am SO GLAD I did. Featuring the Lunette Cup. 

SPEAKING OF MENSTRUAL CYCLES

I really love the free “P Tracker Life” app – this lets me keep track of when my period started and stops as well as allowing me to see a guesstimate of when I am fertile, and to place a marker on days that I am intimate. This feature is typically most useful for women that are trying to get pregnant, which I am not, but I still like to be able to look and see what the patterns are. I really encourage you to get familiar with your body as much as possible. Which means ditching pads and tampons and trying out a menstrual cup. More on my experience and thoughts about cups here

Via  Milk and Honey

Via Milk and Honey

A quick word on infections:

I struggled with recurring UTI's and yeast infections, to the point where I would rather opt out of sex in order to avoid them. I got to a point where I knew antibiotics were not the answer, and I was tired of doctors offering that as the only fix. Thankfully, I read about D-Mannose. D-Mannose is actually a type of sugar derived naturally from plants. You can find supplements to take orally. These have been an actual life-saver for me. I am very happy to report that I have not had a single UTI since incorporating D-Mannose, and I do not even have to take it every day. In fact, I don't even bother at all when I am on my period. Find what works for you, but if you struggle with UTI's - I recommend this natural supplement over antibiotics, any day. 

WHAT ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL? 

I will be the first person to tell you to avoid synthetic birth control. I encourage you to do the research on your own, as there are multitudes of websites/doctors/medical sources that will say opposing things. I am not a medical professional. You must make this decision for yourself. You and only you should decide what you put into your body. Only you should decide if you wish to supplement with synthetic hormones and pills. I personally choose to take no contraceptive pills or to use synthetic hormone therapy of any kind. I did, however. From age 16-23, I was on the pill and dealt with a plethora of health/emotional uproars because of it. My doctor made it seem like it was the only choice. It was what everyone else seemed to do, so I did the same. My body is still stabilizing after the years of ups and downs that I put it through from birth control. I highly suggest you reconsider your birth control options. There is nothing more rewarding than identifying with a greater self awareness of your body! It makes me feel powerful and beautiful and strong. 

SO WHAT DO I USE FOR BIRTH CONTROL?

I currently use the copper IUD, also known as Paragard. It is a non-hormonal IUD which will remain effective for 10-12 years. I actually blogged about my experience, and you can read more on that here. My period is as regular as a period could ever be, and I am so grateful. However, I did stop having a period for almost a full year after taking the hormonal pill coupled with poor nutrition and over-exercising. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HAIR DOWN THERE?

REMOVING ALL THE HAIR
OFF YOUR BODY IS OKAY
IF THATS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO
JUST AS MUCH AS KEEPING ALL OF THE HAIR
ON YOUR BODY IS OKAY
IF THATS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.
- YOU BELONG TO YOURSELF. 
— Rupi Kaur

THOUGHTS ABOUT MASTURBATION?

Again, you belong to yourself. Do what you want. Everyone's sexuality develops in different ways and each of us has our own preferences. Some of us are very sexually active and others do not feel the need to have sex. Some of us don't feel sexual at all, and prefer to have non-sexual relationships. If you feel like pleasuring yourself, my vote is always "yas!". If you want to purchase one (or more) vibrators or dildos, do it! If you want specific recommendations from me in this department, please feel free to message me on Instagram

LEARNING WHAT TURNS YOU ON

Part of familiarizing yourself with your natural preferences is understanding and exploring your sexuality. We can do this in many ways. A wonderful tool that I came across recently was the Erotic Blueprint quiz. You can take the quiz here. Essentially, there are five blueprints: energetic, sensual, sexual, kinky, and shapeshifter. I scored nearly the same for both shapeshifter (turned on by and can play in all of the blueprints) and kinky (people who are turned on by taboo, this includes anything that feels taboo to the specific person). This quiz was helpful to me because although I somewhat knew that about myself, I wouldn't have understood it on the level that the quiz results spell out. Perhaps you feel conflicted that you are sexually aroused by being dominated in bed, and wonder what that means for you in the age of #MeToo. This piece in The New York Times addresses that in detail.

I really hope this helps someone. I have been interested in sex and sexual health since I used to stay up past by bedtime and watch Talk Sex with Sue Johanson late at night. I would love to keep this conversation going, please comment below to let me know that you read this! And as always, feel free to reach out via Instagram or email. 

My Favorite Vegan Food Swaps

Here you will find all my favorite vegan food swaps!

Here you will find all my favorite vegan food swaps!

Who this is good for: the veggie-curious, the newly vegan, the vegan vegans. Basically, this is a great post for all.

Below I share with you some of my favorite vegan food swaps! These are not all “plant-based” but they are all vegan. There are still some that are processed and therefore not the healthiest option available but are definitely a delicious treat (or staple). Honestly, there is a swap for everything these days, so try the cruelty free option and see what you think. You may be very pleasantly surprised!

Fish tacos, Korean noodle salad and loaded tater tots from Curia Off the Drag in Gainesville, Florida. Look for all-vegan restaurants in your area for the best vegan food swaps!

Fish tacos, Korean noodle salad and loaded tater tots from Curia Off the Drag in Gainesville, Florida. Look for all-vegan restaurants in your area for the best vegan food swaps!

D A I R Y 

Vegan Milk Brands:

I really am not picky about the brand. Typically, I just go for whatever is on sale that week. I always get unsweetened vanilla almond or cashew milk unless I will need it for baking and then I just get unsweetened original.

Vegan Cheese Brands :

Sliced cheese - My favorite sliced cheese in Follow Your Heart but the Chao Slices are really good, too! Violife competes for my favorite, but those are more difficult to find. 

Shredded cheese - Daiya is the more widely available cheese to get on your pizzas at places like Mellow Mushroom but is not my favorite. If I can, I prefer Trader Joe's brand or So Delicious. 

Cream cheese - Kite Hill is my favorite but I usually opt for Tofutti because its easier for me to get locally. 

OTHER DAIRY

Ice cream - Okay, ice cream is my favorite. When I first went vegan, the only real options were So Delicious. They have an amazing cashew icecream line that is personally my favorite. The coconut based icecreams are good, too but in my opinion, the cashew ones are richer and creamier. However, now that Halo Top has a dairy free line, that is my daily go to. 

Butter - Earth Balance is the way to go when it comes to margarine. Whether you want it for toast or for baking, this comes through. I opt for the soy free version. 

Yogurt - I have not been able to find a good substitute for Greek yogurt. I used to eat Skyr every single day and it was one of my favorite foods. I didn't think I could live without it, but here I am thriving. There are vegan yogurt options with both coconut milk and soy milk. There are also a lot of yogurt options that are not available in my area, so I haven't tried all the options. There is quite the following and fanfare behind Coconut Cult and I am dying to try it!

Some of my favorite Follow Your Heart products!

Some of my favorite Follow Your Heart products!

M E A T

VEGAN MEAT BRANDS:

Burgers - Hands down the most "burger-like" veggie burger is the Beyond Burger. It is now available at Target, Whole Foods, specialty stores and even in restaurants like TGI Fridays. 

Sandwich meat - This is a toss up. Try all of the options. If you love a good sandwich, check out this YouTube channel, Chris makes some awesome sandwiches. 

Chicken - Beyond Meat does it again. Their chicken strips are my favorite to put in salad and wraps. Seitan is another chickeny option that, in my opinion, is best in stir fries or soups. 

Vegan bacon, egg and cheese with avocado on sourdough!

Vegan bacon, egg and cheese with avocado on sourdough!

E G G S

Eggs – Follow Your Heart eggs changed my vegan way of life. Really, really similar when it comes to scrambled or omelet style of eggs. However, they are not going to work for things like hard boiled or over easy. Chickpea flour is another eggy substitute that you can use. I have only ever made egg cups with this, but they were spot on, albeit a little dry (I recommend pairing with salsa, hot sauce or ketchup!) I also use flax meal if I am in need of an egg replacement for baking. 1 tablespoon of flax meal and 3 tablespoons of water equals one flax egg!

O T H E R

VEGAN CHOCOLATE BRANDS:

Basically, if you want something that is an animal product, there is now a vegan swap for it. There is no longer the excuse that you would have to go without some type of food that you love. Maybe you aren't ready to go fully vegan, that's okay. Have fun trying some new vegan restaurants, recipes and food items. If you are curious enough and want more information, I have a blog post about my vegan journey and resources that I recommend. 

Compassion starts on our plates. Sustainability can start on our plates. Let's change the world! 

2017 Vegan-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide

“Help I’m a vegan and I don’t want to give non-vegan gifts!” Or maybe you just need some inspiration to finish up this year’s Christmas shopping. Or maybe you just want to treat yoself...Look no further. 

I have put together gift ideas for various people in your life. Most of these things are items that I have used or currently own, so you can take my word for it! 

Foodie Christmas Gift Guide

Foodie Christmas Gift Guide

FOR THE FOODIE:

  • I have been eyeballing these sustainable utensils for daily lunches and also for travel. These could double for the traveler in your life as well!
  • I use a tofu press nearly every time I cook. Before I had one, I was using books and dish towels and it was just a mess. Do the veggie foodie in your life a favor and hook them up. 
  • If your foodie friend has a sweet tooth, I would definitely recommend placing an order with Hunnybon sweets - the caramels are to die for. 
  • Who doesn't love a subscription box? Get Raw box is my favorite foodie box and each box really does last a long time. These are also good for travelers or just friends and family that are looking for more natural brands and items to use around their home. 
  • I don't really think you can ever have enough grocery totes. I use them every week and I even take them with me on trips (because you just never know when you will need to do some shopping) 
Fitness Enthusiast Christmas Gift Guide

Fitness Enthusiast Christmas Gift Guide

FOR THE FITNESS ENTHUSIAST:

  • If you haven't heard me talk about the Ellie box subscription then you probably don't follow me on Instagram (which you should). I would highly, highly recommend this box for any of the fitness enthusiasts in your life - yourself included. I can attest for the fact that we just work out harder when we feel cute. 
  • Like grocery totes, I don't think we can ever really have enough reusable water bottles. I actually tend to lose mine over time, so I'm glad I have extras. 
  • Protein bars are not cheap. This is why it makes a great gift! Treat them to some delicious protein bars or switch it up and be original by ordering them some of the protein popcorn (and feel free to use K8CANRELATE at checkout for 15% off, I get a small commission if you use it, so just don't if that's weird for you!) 
  • I don't use it as often as I should but I love my acupuncture massage mat. It's basically like a massage that you don't have to pay for every time you want one. I know I would be stoked to receive this as a gift, whether I was a fitness enthusiast or not. 
  • Resistance bands are a great additional to gym or at-home workouts. They are perfect for traveling because they are small and easy to pack. Basically, they are essential. I use them every single time I train legs. I ordered mine from Amazon and they work great. 
Christmas Gift Guide For the Traveler

Christmas Gift Guide For the Traveler

FOR THE WANDERER: 

  • A friend introduced me to the Lush Sleepy lotion and my life has been forever changed. This would be a great gift for anyone but I am particularly suggesting it for the travelers in your life because I struggle to sleep in unfamiliar and new places. This lotion is a travel must! 
  • I know not everyone is as bookish as I am and I know that a lot of people carry e-readers now. I mean, it definitely is better for the environment etc. etc. but I just CANNOT fully give up my paper books. The smell, the feel of pages between my fingers. . it truly is a love affair. I digress. Buy your nerdy travel friend a book to read for their layover, flights, or just to relax with.  
  • Sunglasses are one of those things that are perfect year-round. There are expensive brands that are oh-so-trendy that I always think I want, until I remember that I am not rich nor can I keep the same pair for very long (forever losing or breaking them). I found this brand of affordable AND trendy sunglasses and am a big fan. They have lots of designs but these are especially great for the person in your life that has been bitten by the travel bug. 
  • I mean, who doesn't love a travel pillow
  • I mean... I guess they would have to love to travel AND like to drink for this gift to work. But, I mean, you can never have enough of these cool Carry on cocktail kits to pass around (or keep for yourself) 
  • I am trying to get better about bringing my reusable coffee cup with me everywhere. I really am trying to be mindful about the amount of waste I am contributing and an easy one to fix are coffee cups. There are lots out there, but I find this one to be my favorite and particularly reliable. 
  • If they love to travel, chances are they want to document those travels. If you want to buy them a camera, I'm sure they will love you forever. But, odds are, they already have a phone they use or a camera. A tripod is definitely on my list this year.   
Beauty Babe Christmas Gift Guide

Beauty Babe Christmas Gift Guide

FOR THE BEAUTY BABE:

  • I absolutely love the mission behind this skincare brand. Frank & Whit have amazing skincare, I particularly am a fan of their facescrub but you really cannot go wrong with any choice you make. These are great gifts and perfect as stocking stuffers. 
  • I have been consistently using the Tula cleanser for over a year now. I was originally sent a sample for free but it hooked me and I have bought it numerous times since then. I don't have bad skin, per say, but I do get breakouts. This definitely helped clear up my skin. 
  • I have the Clarisonic Mia 2 that I bought for myself last year. I was hoping it was not just something that beauty vloggers raved about because they got paid to. Thankfully, it really works miracles on my skin. I cannot recommend it enough! I use the Radiance brush heads as they seem to work best for me. These are pricy but definitely an investment well worth the price tag. 
  • I read about this mask on Facebook or somewhere random and decided to try it out. It's like the number one selling item on Amazon or something crazy like that! I know the benefits of bentonite clay so I imagined that it had to be good. It's a dry powder that you mix with equal parts apple cider vinegar. This is so cheap and will last FOREVER so I would definitely recommend getting yourself one as well as one for the beauty babe in your life. 
  • I had eyelash extensions for a few months and LOVED them. My local salon in Charleston, West Virginia has the best eyelash artist who is always running promotions and specials. I had to let my extensions fall out just because it is a lot of upkeep but they are so wonderful for events or vacations! The lashes that Sara uses are cruelty-free as well. I am sure you could easily find a salon in your location that uses cruelty-free lashes, just make sure you do your research. Or, if you are in the Charleston area, get a gift card from Spa Bliss and be sure to ask for Sara! 
  • As you know, I am trying to incorporate more sustainable practices into my life. I never thought about how much waste toothbrushes amounts to but, it's a lot. Opt to give the beauty babe or the environmentally friend babe in your life one of these awesome Boie toothbrushes and help out the Earth while you are at it. 
Christmas Gift Guide for Dogs

Christmas Gift Guide for Dogs

FOR THE FUR BABIES:

  • Of course I couldn't leave out the dogs in your life. If you haven't tried to make your own dog treats, you should! It's really simple (and they are actually very delicious human snacks as well) I have a recipe you here that you could use the mold to have snacks ready for the dogs on Christmas! 
  • I mean, if you don't match your kids on Christmas, what are you even doing? I don't know if my dogs feel embarrassment but I like to pretend they will inwardly groan as I strap on their Christmas jammies
  • Maybe you are vegan and want to get your friends' dogs started on vegan dog treats or maybe you want to stock up your own pup. I love this site for all of their vegan options but I especially love their starter kit as a Christmas gift!
  • Every dog needs a bed (preferably not yours). The same company that sells the vegan starter kits also sells these awesome eco-friendly dog beds that come in super fun colors. Let's be honest, the colors are more for us than for the dogs, but we can pretend. 

I hope you enjoyed this year's vegan friendly Christmas guide! Let me know if you end up buying any of it (for yourself or for someone else). You can also share this post to your Pinterest to save for later! 

Interview with @Carly_Bergman

carly2.png

I did a little e-interview with Carly Bergman who you can follow on Instagram @carly_bergman. She is 20 years old from Illinois living in South West Florida while she finishes up school. I like following Carly because she shares a lot of vegan products, not just food but beauty products and clothing items as well. She is passionate about animal welfare and the planet and also an advocate for #freethenipple. She confesses that when she first wanted to become vegan, there was just so much information that she felt overloaded and overwhelmed and unable to commit to the lifestyle because of how overwhelming it felt. I personally know a lot of people that feel that way, and you might relate through Carly’s story. Keep reading to learn more…


carly.jpg

How long have you been on Instagram? What is your handle?

I have been on Instagram for about six years (@carly_bergman). However, I just recently started voicing my vegan lifestyle in full force! I try to combine all aspects of veganism since I am a health-nut and environmentalist.

When did you go vegan?

At the age of 15 I started working at a vegan juice and smoothie bar. I absolutely fell in love with the idea of living the cleanest lifestyle possible. As I aged, I realized the importance of living low-waste and ethically. I believe I will always be vegan because I am equally attached to the ethical side as well as the environmental side.

What would you say sparked your interest in the community?

The health aspect was my initial interest. I love learning about medicinal herbs (especially mushrooms) that cure people of all types of diseases. I have always had an interest in the Native American healing practices, so I believe this is where my health-nut qualities stem from. I started working at a juice bar at the age of 15 and I started learning/implementing Ayurveda and TCM as my knowledge grew.

How long have you been vegan? What was your journey like?

I would consider myself vegan for 4 years. However, there is more to the story. I have eaten fish about roughly five times, but that stopped two and a half years ago. The reason why I was still eating fish was because of doctors- they had me questioning my choices and blamed my state of health because of veganism. Here is the story…

I started working at Pure Juice Café at the age of 15 and I became vegan in full force within two months of starting. I supported the movement 100% and wanted to be the best individual I could be for myself and for the planet. However, I had message overload with all of these controversies I initially had no idea about. Every shift that I worked, I learned something new about veganism. Arsenic in brown rice? Antibiotics in chicken? Oxidizing cells due to radiation? Genetically modified organisms? I panicked from the message overload. I became the vegan that refused to go out with friends that were non-vegans. I was scared of something as simple as ordering food at a restaurant and my food being cooked with too much olive oil at too high of heat (which would deplete the nutrients and therefore I would be eating useless calories). Learning all of this information too quickly (and at a young age at that) sparked an eating disorder. I HAD to eat the cleanest foods and could not fill my body with toxic conventional fruits and veggies that were at restaurants! I isolated myself and got into a dangerous routine of eating mostly raw, low calorie foods.

This mindset lasted for a couple of months and resulted in me losing a ton of weight, hair, and friends. It took a toll on my mental state and physical state. Doctors automatically told me that my hair-loss was directly due to my vegan diet. I NEEDED to eat fish in order for my hair to grow back. I NEEDED chicken for protein. I NEEDED sour cream for fats. At this point I was 16 and didn’t know what to think or who to believe. I gained all of my weight back with a vegan diet, but my hair was still falling out. They said that I at least needed to eat fish in order to see any regrowth. I ate fish about five times between the ages of 16-18, and I hated every minute of it. I automatically wanted to throw up since I knew all of the information about environmental toxins in fish, but a part of me wanted to believe that the doctors were looking out for my best interest and wanted my hair to grow back. I knew I couldn’t continue like this. Every single time I tried to eat fish, I wanted to vomit… I have an EXTREMELY guilty conscience that didn’t help this. The truth of the matter is, my hair never grew back to its full thickness which upset me for a long time. At the time, I questioned if my vegan diet was prolonging the process, but I came to the realization that it didn’t matter. I will take having thinner hair without killing animals than eating fish and destroying the oceans any day.

After blood work and exams at the age of 19, I found out that I have PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome) that causes hormone imbalances aka hair loss. This syndrome’s symptoms are actually LESSEND with a vegan diet… SCREW YOU DOCTORS! After starting to eat more raw, nutrients-dense/high calorie foods combined with Ayurvedic herbs and acupuncture, my hair started to regrow! I would not wish this experience on anyone, but it shaped who I am and made my vegan beliefs even stronger.

What are your favorite vegan YouTube or Instagram accounts to follow? Do you have a YouTube or blog?

I love @Tealixirkombucha, @planet_protein, @brenden_fitz, @elizabethmourar, @badassvegan, @claudiaprzystal @kombucharoyalty

Would you consider yourself to be an activist?

Yes. Although I have always been an advocate for animals and the environment, I recently just started stating my opinions openly on social media. I attend vigils and protests and I plan on going hardcore this year. However, I find that by leading by example on social media more people tend to listen and follow than me going to a protest and screaming at everyone wearing fur (even though sometimes this is tempting). It gets difficult remembering that I used to be that girl eating sushi wearing leather, calling myself an “environmentalist”. I was there, and so have most other vegans. I try to educate from a place of understanding…

Where are you getting your information? (Facts, statistics, etc.)

I learned most of my facts a couple years back while working with an acupuncturist who studied holistic medicine in China. She taught me a lot about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the science behind it. Because I have worked at Pure Juice Café for 4+ years, I know an abundance of information because of my boss and the holistic wizards she brings in!

(I want to meet these wizards!)

What are your favorite vegan foods or products?

I LOVE RAW FOOD. At the moment, I can’t see myself being completely raw. There are some days I eat completely raw and I do not even mean to. All I know is that when I eat raw, I feel unstoppable. My favorite vegan foods are acai bowls and raw desserts. To be honest, I have a serious carrot cake problem. It’s bad. On the cooked food scale, I love Sweet Earth Foods. They have so many burgers and seitan products to choose from #TeamSeitan.

My favorite vegan drink is KOMBUCHA. I am the kombucha queen, I will tell you that without a doubt. There is a time in my life where I was drink 4 Gt’s kombuchas a day, and that time still continues. I’m obsessed with kombucha (and all fermented foods for that matter). The new brand I am obsessed with is Tealixir Kombucha. They use holistic herbs to flavor their kombuchas which is a double whammy!

Beauty product wise, I love the makeup brand Pacifica makeup, Booda Butters lotions, Sunkissed Earth Jewelry, Nature’s Gate, Mad Hippies cleansers, and Hippy Pits deodorant.

Would you say that your page is an authentic representation of you as a person or more of an ‘internet persona’?

My page is more informative at the moment, but I try to add my touch on every single post. I wish people got to experience me in person. I love laughing and goofing around. One thing about me is that I am ALWAYS joking and laughing. I have been getting into collaborations with companies and more of the cross-promotional side of Instagram simply because I want to help expose amazing vegan brands that I personally use. I want my followers to see that veganism is possible ANYWHERE. However, I understand that some may view this as me advertising for too many companies and they might be receiving message overload, so I am trying to find a happy-medium. Overall, I think that through my Instagram people get the gist of my free-spirited self and know that I am just simply happy to be alive and having the opportunity to influence people to make healthier choices for the planet and themselves.

What hashtags do you frequently use or scroll through?

I frequently use #kombuchaqueen (obviously) as well as #vegancommunity, #kombucharoyalty and #plantbasedmuscle

What would you tell someone who is not a part of the vegan community that you think that they should know? Or what is a misconception you often hear about the community?

Some people mention that they do not want to go vegan because they do not care if animals die or if they are harming the planet. They claim it is the circle of life. However, I want people with this mindset to be selfish and go vegan to preserve their own health. NO ONE wants to feel like s*** their entire lives. They just are unaware that eating vegan for three weeks can completely change their physical/mental state. Whenever I come across someone that says they don’t feel bad about eating deer that they hunt, I ask them how their organs feel about it. That automatically gets them thinking about how frumpy and lazy they feel after consuming meats and other processed foods. It’s all about perspective.

 

10 Misconceptions About Going Vegan

Local farmers market finds

Local farmers market finds

  1. You will never get to have your favorite junk foods again. Wrong! This used to be the case but welcome to 2017. We now have restaurants entirely devoted to cooking up delicious vegan foods like pizza, manicotti, nachos, cheese platters and decadent desserts. You can even find vegan burgers next to the ground beef in participating supermarkets.

  2. You will lose weight. You might, but it isn’t a guarantee. Like I said, there are amply junk foods out there. A common misconception is that because it is vegan, it is healthy. It probably is healthier, but everything in moderation. That being said, you are guaranteed to be healthier in terms of heart health, blood pressure, cancer risk etc. but losing weight is not a given.

  3. You will be ridiculed. Often not the case. With social media and the rise of veganism, you are bound to make plenty of friends with similar dietary and lifestyle choices! There are even apps to meet likeminded individuals, or try going to a Veg Fest!

  4. It’s more expensive to eat vegan. Again, largely not the case. Think about your grocery bill, what is the one food group that costs you less than all of the others? Meat, right? You will totally be cutting this out and therefore saving yourself lots of money. There are specialty vegan food items that can be pricy, but you don’t have to buy those things or you can reserve buying those things when you catch them on sale or feel like splurging. Vegan options abound at farmers markets and Aldi.

  5. You have to go vegan overnight. Nope. You can totally cut things out one at a time and move at your own pace. For some, it’s easier to cut it all out at once but that’s up to the individual.

  6. Vegans are mean. They are human. You will find, though, that most are very compassionate and caring individuals. Often it is their passion that comes off as aggressive, haughty or even mean. Once you have this knowledge that few people want to listen to, it can be hard to maintain your cool. Most are very eager to welcome you into the vegan family and offer their own struggles, tips and personal stories.

  7. You have to become an animal rights activist. You don’t, actually. There are a variety of reasons that someone might choose to go vegan. It could be the latest trend, for the health, for the environment or for personal preference. There are also degrees of activism, a small percent of vegans are fulltime activists and some are activists in small ways, rather than out on the picket line.

  8. I only need to modify my diet. Actually, the term vegan encapsulates a lot more than just what you eat. You don’t use products that are tested on animals or that may contain animal ingredients. This constitutes an overhaul of your house cleaning supplies, the types of alcohol you drink and even the clothes that you wear. Again, you don’t have to change everything overnight. Or you can just opt for a vegan diet and forget about the rest. That’s totally up to you and your comfort level.

  9. You can’t go out to eat or over to friends’ houses. Again, not the case. There are tons of restaurant options. If you are worried about a particular restaurant, call ahead and ask if they can make you anything – usually they will have side options at the very least. As for going to dinner parties with friends, this one gets a little more tricky. You can either accept that you can’t be perfect and just try your best or you can eat beforehand or even pack your own. I have been known to do all of these. But, hopefully, you will have wicked support friends and family who make sure you have at least a couple of options. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas are always rough but be proactive and bring a vegan twist on a favorite dish and you are sure to win over the naysayers.

  10. Veganism will make you unhealthy or weak. Definitely not! There are numerous professional athletes that follow a professional diet. There are even more vegan bodybuilders, professional and amateur alike. As for unhealthy, I encourage you to read through scientific literature about plant-based diets or put on a vegan documentary touting the benefits. If you need ideas or more support, check out my blog posts on going vegan here, and here.

     

     

My Protein Powder and Bars Hit and Miss List

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Protein Powders I Dislike:

  • Quest – it was through quest that I realized how sensitive I was to whey because it made me throw up (literally)
  • Shakeology – flavor is just okay, is not anything special for the price point. I hate that they air on the side of advertising as a meal rather than a supplement

Protein Powders I Like:

  • Vega Sport Recovery – doesn’t bake well but is great in smoothies and shakes
  • The Natural Citizen – SUPER clean ingredient list and I love the company, but I prefer a powder that has a little more flavor
  • PE Science Vegan – bakes well and mixes well, good price point! I prefer their chocolate to their vanilla.
  • SunWarrior – Recently tried samples of their new formula in my Raw Box. I loved the chocolate and the vanilla!

Protein Powders I Love:

  • Nuzest – flavors are all so on point! Love the taste, consistency and that it bakes as well as it mixes in smoothies. My stomach handles this protein very well. I love them so much that I partnered with them for a coupon code FITGIRLK8! I usually just get the vanilla but their cappuccino is a favorite of mine as well, especially for oatmeal
  • Sprout Living – love their protein and love the company, isn’t something that I buy regularly though just due to price point.
  • Garden of Life – I order this off of Vitacost and love how it bakes and mixes. Stomach handles this well

Protein Bars I Dislike:

  • Luna – I just don’t really like these honestly.
  • Health Warrior – did not care for the flavor or the consistency of these at all.
  • Vega Protein and Greens – way too ‘green’ for me

Protein Bars I Like:

  • Rx Bars – NOT VEGAN* I don’t eat these any more but before I was vegan I really loved these. If you are not vegan or are trying to move away from whey, these would be a great option as the protein in these comes from egg whites. Love their slogan as well.
  • D’s Natural – lots of protein and good consistency, some of the flavors are a little meh though. I don’t regularly buy these.
  • Zing Bars – remind me a lot of square bars but a little chewier which I like. They have minis and full sizes and all of their flavors are really good. I don’t have them on my LOVE list because they are really sweet and I try to steer clear of a  lot of sugars.
  • Lenny and Larry’s Cookies – they are really super yummy but their nutritional content isn’t awesome. I hate that it is 2 servings per one cookie and I don’t feel like they are super clear about that. They are also currently involved in a lawsuit that they may not be fully vegan and may have fibbed about the amount of protein in their products.

Protein Bars I Love:

  • Squarebars – my favorite flavor is the almond spice followed closely by the coconut. These curb my chocolate cravings as well as offer a protein punch. They are so good on their own or cut up for toppings for nicecrea or oatmeal. FITGIRLK8 is an active coupon, let me know if you use it! Free US shipping, too!
  • GoMacro – love Go Macro bars! Consistency is good, they ARE chewy but I really like that. It isn’t the kind of chewy that destroys your jaw. They even have minis if you just want a small snack. Super filling!
  • Perfect Bars – they have one vegan flavor and I LOVE it. I really hope they consider rolling out more vegan options. Consistency is my faaavorite! They keep these refrigerated so if you get frustrated trying to find them, check in that section of your market!

My Fitness Journey

I realized that most of you probably haven’t been following along on my journey through Instagram from the start so you may be confused as to what my path has been. I want to share with you my fitness journey and kind of how I ended up ‘here’.

I come from a very loving upbringing. But, my dad was not present in my life. When I turned 18 he totally abandoned any semblance of a relationship that we had had. This left me feeling unlovable, unwanted and broken. If the one man that was supposed to love you first, best and unconditionally couldn’t love me…well, what did that say about me? I was too young and too hurt to understand then that it had nothing to do with me. I went to university and I partied hard (but still graduated with honors, don’t get it twisted). I was in and out of a few serious relationships but mostly cheated on all of them. I got really heavy and then I lost the weight and was with someone that I loved SO much. But it was SO toxic. I was so toxic. I still drank a lot, I loved to party. I let that control who I was. I created fights, I perpetuated them. I was skinny, but I was unhealthy. I was skinny, but I was self-conscious. I was skinny, but it was not nearly enough. When that relationship ended, I found it difficult to breathe, to get out of bed, to think. It took weeks for me to be myself again. As time went on, I went about healing and finding myself and loving myself. Through this process, I gained a lot of weight. Through this process, I met a new byfriend and I was content to just stay at home with him. I was content to go to work, leave work, go home and lay on the couch.

My "starting point" April 2015

My "starting point" April 2015

 

Then something just clicked on. I was tired of crying in the closet. I was tired of not wanting to do things for fear of being seen. I found the 28 Day Jumpstart from Fit Girl’s Guide and I made a fitness Instagram to document my journey. I started with the food only and with incorporating walking into my every day. I believe it was 2 rounds before I really started doing the workouts but still I saw a lot of progress. For me, it’s easier to tackle one thing at a time. I then moved to their other cookbooks and even went through their Bootcamp program and saw awesome progress. This all led to huge physical changes. But most importantly? The internal changes. Those I could write a book about (and maybe I have something up my sleeve) but please understand that you have to shift your focus from the external to the internal. That is the only way to have true and lasting change.

I realized after doing so much calorie restrictions that I was getting very small and still wasn’t feeling satisfied. I would be hungry and binge-eat because my body was calling out for sustenance. This is when I moved away from FGG and started looking into macro tracking. I learned a lot through this process about how food is food. I learned a lot about portion sizes that was very beneficial and I also healed from viewing calories as this singularly important thing. I then moved away from that because it was still triggering obsessive behaviors and finally decided to just eat intuitively. What that means is that I am now really familiar with my body and what it needs, so I know when I am hungry and how much food I need to be satisfied. I eat when hungry, stop when full. I no longer place this huge stress on my body like I did for years about food. I could not tell you the last time I binged. I could not tell you the last time that I felt deprived. It is SO freeing and so wonderful to be at this place in my life.

As I found that my body felt better and responded better to a whole foods, plant based diet I continued with the intuitive eating. I went fully vegan on May 1st of 2016. I will speak lots more about this as I continue to blog, but just know that if you have ever considered going plant-based, you can absolutely reach out to me for guidance! It was one of the very best decisions I have EVER made for my health.

 

Today, I use a variety of workout routines. A lot of which come from Keep Going Kat because I love her loose approach. Nothing is one size fits all and she understands and nurtures that notion. I have found a great balance between lifting, HIIT and still going to spin class (which I love) one or two times per week. I just think it is important to try new things, experiment, listen to your body and then DO THE THINGS THAT YOU LIKE TO DO. I have found so much joy in lifting and what it does for my body, but I still also love to spin it out and get my heart worked out as well. Find your balance, whatever that looks like. It won’t look the same as it does for me or for anyone else.

It has been quite a journey for me and I want to continue to share my struggles and triumphs with you.

You are worth putting in the time and the effort to live your happiest and healthiest life.