Loving Yourself

Love yourself; naked, vulnerably, bare. That is you. Embrace it. 

No filter. No makeup. I decided to stop wearing make up about a year and a half ago; even though I tried and looked for the least amount of chemicals and most natural alternatives. I wanted to love myself – as I woke up in the morning; without the bells and whistles. Without the heels and mascara/lipstick. Just as I naturally am; because let’s face it, we get told by everything (i.e. Movies, Ads, and even people around us) that the only way to look good/nice is by looking very put together… Almost perfect. My mum is also a believer of this mentality, so I grew up with a lot of pressure to look a certain way. After I decided to stop wearing makeup, I fought with my own feelings of worth/self love.

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And I realized that my biggest enemy, was myself. I believed that I couldn’t be loved/liked unless I looked a certain way, and I think overcoming this was the biggest step I took. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. It took time, getting used to it, and adapting to (what sounds ridiculous) my face. I wasn’t used to just being OK with a bare face. The word naked comes to mind; and it felt that way. By the way;

I don’t think women/men that wear makeup are doing anything wrong –  it’s a choice.

I just realized I hadn’t made that choice, it was made for me. I got told I should do it, so I did it. And once I realized this, I was able to change it. I’m so happy now seeing how far I’ve come. It sounds silly, but getting used to something new always takes time. And more when it goes so deep as to affect our self worth or acceptance. I do believe wearing a little bit of makeup for a job interview and special occasions is great (for me), I feel it looks professional (and there’s actually studies that prove this) but otherwise, I’m much happier without it.

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So whether you wear it or not wear it…. As long as you are happy with YOURSELF; that is all that matters! As long as it doesn’t affect your self worth, how much you love yourself, and you don’t feel like you need it to survive the day – you should be fine; because let’s face it; we don’t need makeup. We’re all amazing and beautiful just as we come out of the shower.

Calorie Counting: Friend or Foe?

Many of us have used this old trick of counting calories to help us in some way. I personally disliked using this technique because I’d lose track, I found myself over-thinking about it and it made me feel like I was restricted. I felt like I couldn’t just eat, it was different. So I stopped. It was the best decision for me, personally.

Whether you are trying a food journal (which is a fantastic idea to gain some insight into what you eat!) or you’re simply curious about how many calories you consume; it’s important to remember that some of these techniques can be flawed or may not work for everyone.

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Don’t be harsh with yourself if you forget to write down the snack you had 7 hours ago, it happens to all of us. This is one of the biggest flaws of calorie counting, we’re actually pretty terrible at it.  They’ve done studies to find out how well people do in keeping track of their calories and food intake and the results were shocking; the women from the study were underestimating on average 50%. That is 50% on average.

Another interesting fact? Labels can lie. They can actually have a 20% margin of error.

“The ratio between the amount obtained by laboratory analysis and the amount declared on the product label in the Nutrition Facts panel must be 120% or less, i.e., the label is considered to be out of compliance if the nutrient content of a composite of the product is greater than 20% above the value declared on the label.”  (FDA Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling Manual)

There are other reasons why calorie counting may not be the best option, such as; swapping something ‘low fat’ instead of having the full-fat version (simply because it has fewer calories),  it can make you feel stressed (as this study showed) and it can make you eat more (because it’s on your mind all day!).

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There are also good reasons to like calorie counting! It can give you an insight as to how many calories you’re consuming on a day-to-day basis, which may come as a shock. A lot of us eat way more than we think! It may also help you regulate how much sugar, coffee, etc. you’re consuming (in case you’re trying to consume less of any). It has proven positive results for many and that’s the main reason so many continue trying it.

What do I think is the best solution? I can give you the solution that worked for me!  

I know that I can eat as much as I want of anything I want. There are no restrictions. Butter on toast? Yes, please. Vegan raspberry croissant? Double yes! Coffee? Yes! Sweet potato fries? Triple yes! (There’s even a recipe on the blog!) and I can continue until my hands are tired; my point is – there are no restrictions.

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I learned to eat with awareness. I try (and this takes a bit of time) to enjoy each and every bite I take. I don’t rush it, I really want to enjoy it and savor everything I eat. This made me eat at a slower pace. I used to be told I was the faster eater out there, because I’d always be done eating first. Well, now that’s different.

I take my time, pause between bites, enjoy, savor it and repeat.

What has happened since I began practicing these eating habits? For one, I’m happier! I know that if I want that ice cream I can have it, but what I crave is an acaí bowl. I eat a much bigger variety of food – because remember, there are no restrictions! I have little treats here and there (today I had a few bites of a croissant with honey) and I really enjoy them. I don’t feel guilt or any negative feeling. I just enjoy and move on. It’s simple and it works for me. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to feel free and not restricted when it comes to food.

Food should be enjoyed, so enjoy it!

Much love, Abby

Lemon Shortbread Bars – Guest Post!

Hey guys! My name is Alexandra, and I’m the creator of vegandra.com, a website devoted to delicious vegan recipes and lifestyle tips. Abby was amazing enough to allow me to write this guest post, so I hope you all enjoy 🙂 If you do, please check out my blog, and see what other goodies I’ve shared!

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So, lemons. Kinda hard to use in cooking, because the flavor has the potential to be too overbearing and sour. But, using the zest gives all the flavor of the lemon without the sourness!

The shortbread base here is super simply (just flour, powdered sugar, and coconut oil), but is perfect to let the lemon flavor through to be the star of the show! These bars are simply, light, and refreshing. Give them a try!!

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Serves 8

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tbs. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. water

For the filling

  • 1/2 ripe banana, mashed
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 tbs. flour

To Prepare

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine ingredients in a bowl to form a dough.
  3. Press dough into a greased baking pan and bake for 7 minutes.
  4. While base is baking, use a hand mixer to beat together ingredients for the filling.
  5. Pour filling on top of base, and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and set to cool (can be cooled in the refrigerator if you’re really hungry!).
  7. Cut up and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  8. Enjoy 🙂 

Deliciously Simple Salad

This is an out-of-the-blue creation due to a huge salad craving I had yesterday. I wanted to create a salad I was excited about! I’ve had many salads during my life and most have not been that exciting; some tasty, some bland, some OK, but nothing that truly had everything I enjoy. This salad has all of the elements I enjoy, which are; fruit, cheese, plenty of greens and most importantly it’s easy to make!

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Ingredients: 

  1. 1 cup red oak lettuce 
  2. 1 cup green coral
  3. 2 cups of spinach 
  4. 1/2 butternut squash cut into 1 inch (2 cm) cubes 
  5. 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses 
  6. 3 tablespoons of goats curd or more to taste (can also use goats cheese)
  7. 1/2 a pink lady apple thinly sliced 
  8. 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  9. 1/8 of a tablespoon of salt and pepper each or more to taste 

For the dressing, I wanted something simple and tasty; bear with me because I know it is not your typical dressing – just believe me when I say it’s delicious!

Dressing ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice (try to make it 100% pomegranate with no sugar added – it’s not needed 🙂 )
  2. 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  3. 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  4. 1/2 tablespoon of honey
  5. Pinch of sea salt and pepper or more to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 225C. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and add pepper. Place butternut squash on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes flip butternut squash and bake for another 10 minutes. Once done, add sea salt to taste.
  • In a medium to large bowl add red oak lettuce, green coral, spinach, apple slices and pomegranate molasses; make sure to mix well.
  • Add butternut squash to salad once done baking and then add the goats curd (or cheese).
  • For dressing: Mix ingredients well; pomegranate juice with pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar and sea salt and pepper.
  • Side note on the dressing: some people really like their dressings to have a type of oil; please feel free to add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Tip: I also tried blood orange juice instead of pomegranate juice – and it tasted great too!

Tip 2: You may easily add chicken to this dish if you would like to make it for any carnivores you know.

Enjoy! And don’t be afraid of experimenting; I truly just made this out of a desire to satisfy a craving and it turned out fantastic (in my humble opinion).

Movies for Foodies

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The Lunchbox (2013) 

If you enjoy Indian food – this is the movie for you! I believe this is one of Bollywood’s best films. It combines tasty food with romance, friendship and the never ending surprises life brings. It makes for a great movie to share with your family, friends, loved ones, or to enjoy all by yourself.

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Chef (2014) 

Comedy, drama and social media are what best describe this movie in my mind. If you’re like me; you will laugh, you will enjoy the story and you will be reminded about how truly amazing social media can be. You will be captivated by the story and the possibility of a dream coming true.

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I believe Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (1971) continues to be one of the best children’s classics out there. The story provides a lovely look into a child’s dream which takes him somewhere he never imagined. The beauty about the movie is that it can also be enjoyed by adults who like adventure and have a sweet tooth!

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Julie and Julia (2009)

This charming story takes us back in time through Julia Child’s journey with cooking and back to modern times with a fellow food blogger who aspires to be like Julia. It has romance, drama, life’s ups and downs, and most importantly – food! 

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Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Finding yourself can be difficult; that’s why traveling, learning, exploring, and eating make an appearance in this lovely film. Sometimes in order to learn to let go, you have to first find out why. I believe this movie demonstrates this perfectly.

I hope that you enjoy them!

PS. I know I didn’t go into much detail; that was on purpose, I didn’t want to ruin the movies for anyone who had not watched them before.

Food vs. Guilt

Guilt. The dictionary’s definition says guilt is: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. What I find interesting from the definition is that the guilt can be ‘real or imagined.’

A lot of times we treat ourselves worse than anyone else in the world for doing something as normal as eating pizza, having Chinese take-out, having chips as a snack, drinking soda or having a cheat meal of any kind. We rationalize the bad treatment by telling ourselves that what we’re saying will ‘motivate’ or ‘encourage’ us to do better next time. But it doesn’t. So we do it again…another trip to guilt-town where the main attractions are feeling awful about what we ate, counting the calories we shouldn’t have consumed, calling ourselves bad names (because we deserve it, in our mind), amongst other things.

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This behavior creates almost a never ending trend of ‘every time I eat XYZ I will feel guilty’ which won’t help the situation but will only demotivate me or leave me feeling awful. What we need to understand is that there is no “bad” and “good” food; there is just food. Once you take away the bad and good from food, the villain and hero can disappear because there isn’t a battle anymore. If you take away the “bad” connotation from the slice of chocolate cake and truly enjoy it, savor it and satisfy the craving, you won’t feel guilty.

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You can tell yourself with a smile, I enjoyed that treat! And that’s it.  

I’m not proposing it becomes a lifestyle for you to eat poorly on a daily basis, just for you to remember that it’s perfectly OK to have a treat and enjoy each and every bite. In the long-run, you will be grateful and happier with yourself if you stop the guilt trend and end the food battle. Remembering that we CAN have that slice of cake if we want, will a lot of times take the craving away. You have probably heard the saying “We all want what we can’t have” well I believe it’s true in the food department. We tend to crave what we “cannot” have – this is why taking the labels good and bad away can help immensely. This doesn’t mean you will stop being healthy and eating nutritious food, it just means that you’ve changed the way you look at things.

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If you’re having a trip to guilt-town because of what you ate…ask yourself, would you treat a sibling the way you’re treating yourself? Would you talk to a friend, a loved one, the way you’re speaking to yourself? Sure, it’s OK to admit that having 27 chocolate chip cookies was a bit too much, but does that deserve the guilt that you feel? The remorse? Is that going to change the situation? I know the answer; and the answers are no, you would not speak to a loved one the way you speak to yourself, and no, you do not deserve the guilt and remorse over 27 chocolate chip cookies. You are allowed to have those treats and you are allowed to continue loving yourself. You do not become less amazing because of the food you ate.

Say goodbye to guilt. End the food battle, today.

Veggie Bowl of Sunshine

It has been such a lovely weekend; with warm weather, life planning, tons of cooking and inspiring thoughts. I’ve been researching the link between willpower and food and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on the matter and give you some helpful tips! We’ve all been there, feeling like you “can’t resist” that cupcake (or anything tasty) only to feel bad about it afterwards. I hope to bring some light to your life with my research!

Now back to the veggie bowl! I thought of this dish because I wanted to increase my vegetable intake. I could just live off of avocados, toast and sweet potatoes (to be honest!). Given that this is (sadly) not an option, I looked for healthy recipes for a veggie dish that would inspire me. Being a Mexican food-lover I thought why not give this veggie dish a Mexican twist? I don’t want just veggies… let’s add a salsa! And let’s have guacamole on the side…why not? And this, is how it all started.

Ingredients for veggie bowl: 

  • 1 yellow onion – peeled & chopped to your preference (some people like their onion coarsely chopped & others enjoy it more minced)
  • 3/4 cup of zucchini – chopped
  • 3/4 cup of mushrooms – chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow pepper – chopped
  • 2 cups of black beans (you may use kidney or pinto, it’s all about making it your own!)
  • 2 cups of corn kernels
  • Handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1/2 – 3/4 of shredded Monterey cheese (you may substitute for a different type of cheese or nutritional yeast if vegan)
  • Spices: 1 teaspoon of cilantro powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder.

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Ingredients for the salsa: 

  • 1 large tomato or 2 medium ones – chopped
  • 1/3 of a cup of red onion – chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of coriander (cilantro) – chopped
  • 1/2 lemon – use the juice of the 1/2
  • 1 jalapeño – finely chopped (remove seeds if you want to reduce spicy level or if serving to kids)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (your preference)
  • Instructions for the salsa: add tomato, onion, coriander and jalapeño to a bowl. Mix together until combined, now add lemon juice. I recommend adding the salt and pepper after you’ve tried the salsa. You’ll realize that sometimes, you don’t need it.

Ingredients for guacamole: 

  • 1 avocado – smashed
  • 1/2 lemon – use the juice of the 1/2
  • 2 tablespoons of coriander (cilantro) – chopped
  • 1/2 of a tomato – chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (your preference)
  • The instructions for the guac are this: smash the avocado as much as you like (again some people like their guac’ chunky and others don’t so go wild here!), add the tomato, coriander and lemon juice and mix gently until combined. That’s it. No fuss.

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Time for instructions!

  1. Preheat oven to 190C or 375F.
  2. Sauté onion, mushroom and zucchini with some olive oil.
  3. Once onion is translucent, add black beans, red pepper and corn kernels to skillet.
  4. Mix spices, cumin, cilantro powder and chipotle powder in a separate bowl.
  5. Add spices to skillet, stir and mix gently to coat all ingredients.
  6. Once ingredients have been thoroughly mixed with the spices, transfer them to an oven-proof bowl or casserole.
  7. Add salsa on top of the bowl carefully spreading it (a spoon or fork is helpful here).
  8. Finally, add the shredded cheese.
  9. Place casserole or bowl into the oven (uncovered) for 30 – 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and/or bubbling.
  10. After it’s done, let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tip: Take me up on not adding sea salt & freshly ground pepper until after you had a taste. With dishes like this one that come with spices, salsa and cheese, you truly may not need it. 

Tip 2: If you’re feeling adventurous or like having tacos, use this recipe! All you need is literally the corn tortillas and voila! You have veggie tacos and even guacamole to accompany them. 

This is a great dish to make for your family, friends or colleagues. During a potluck you can take this dish! (no need to make the guacamole if you don’t want do) I added it because I could eat guacamole with every dish! And to be honest, it tastes delicious with it too! 

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Enjoy!