PSA: Instagram is Not Real

How often do you see photos like this on Instagram? Big booty, tight waist, strong arms – but is it real? As someone that’s been hardcore into fitness for 5+ years, I couldn’t understand these images that  kept appearing on my feed – until I played around in front of the mirror and realized its just posing. Booty popped, an awkward twist in the waist, good lighting and a little bit of dehydration and BAM – insta-model approved.

I didn’t grow up in the age of Instagram, so I worry so much about the women and girls that see these images and believe they’re real life. I would never stand, sit, pose, squat or appear this way in person,  so while the photo is me, it is not TRUE TO LIFE. In simple terms, it’s not real.

Instagram can be a great place to showcase and normalize all kinds of bodies, which is why I personally choose to show photos of mine. But when you’re scrolling through your feed and come across an image that seems unachievable, keep these key points in mind:

1.      No two bodies are the same. Even if you eat, sleep, and train exactly like the girl in the picture, it is physically impossible for you to achieve the exact same results because of your (and her) unique size, shape, genes, body composition and metabolism.

2.      These images are often the result of perfect lighting, careful posing, angles, retouching, and even photoshop – not perfect people.

3.      Most of these people are professional models/bodybuilders/personal trainers, whose job is to be fit and look the part. You wouldn’t compare your ability to cook to that of a professional chef, right? So you can’t compare your body to someone who’s full time job is fitness.

4.      Most of these images are selling something. They are carefully curated to represent an ideal that’s unlikely (or impossible) to achieve in order to promote the protein powder/leggings/detox tea/personal training services being offered.

5.      Instagram is a highlight real. It does not, and cannot, depict real life.

6.      Everyone can physically, mentally, and emotionally benefit from exercise, regardless of their weight, size, shape, age, gender, ability, etc. Do not let the images on Instagram deter you from doing something great for you and your body, if that’s what you chose.

7.      Let me repeat it one more time: fitness is for and benefits EVERY BODY.

Okay, rant over.

 

Eating Vegan in San Fran!

During our one-week trip to California, we only spent two beautiful, glorious days in the big city of San Francisco. San Fran has always been known for its activism, openness, and emphasis on love and equality, coupled with its stunning natural beauty and penchant for the unique. From block-to-block, there’s no city in the world quite like it.

We knew we’d be spending a few short days in the city, so Terry had been amping me up about the gourmet vegan food world captivated within many of San Fran’s distinctive districts. We walked around the gorgeously forested Golden Gate Park, dotted with wild buffalo, museums, ice cream stands and winding storybook creeks and rivers.

Our first food stop was La Méditeranée in the Fillmore District, a family-owned Mediterranean restaurant that served up old-school Turkish coffee, homemade Baklava, and a full vegan menu. Open since the 70’s, the place was small, quaint and warm, with a flurry of friendly waitresses guiding us through the menu and to our table.

The waitress steered me toward the veganized Mediterrean plate, a standard hodgepodge of plant-based mid-east dishes. It featured grape-leaf Dolmas, baba gounesh, hummus, olives, mixed greens, and homemade falafel. The food was just as incredible as the atmosphere and service – straight-up perfect.

The next day we drove around the bright, rainbow-adorned Castro Dstrict and stepped through an alley of wall art, one of my favorite things to discover in a new city. Gigantic faces boldly declaring equality, unity, peace and love decorated every wall as we wound our way down the street and stepped out into the Mission District.

My friend was ecstatic to take us to Gracias Madre, an artsy tavern serving up organic, locally-sourced vegan Mexican dishes (say whaaaaat!). I was stoked to discover that they served a HORCHATA LATTE, two of my favorite things combined in one.

I was so in love with my mole enchiladas stuffed with potato and zucchini, black beans and kale that I could barely contain myself in public. My boyfriend also got cashew cheese nachos, which we’re definitely made and fried in-house. It’s been a few days and I am still super obsessed with this place!

I also grabbed some vegan ginger snap cookies from Hot Cookies, a quaint little cookie shop in the Castro District. We stopped there after a few drinks and a lot of dancing, and sadly, I forgot to take a picture.

I ate a quick, healthy breakfast at the hotel. After adventuring around the city, we drove through the Pacheco Pass, a long and windy northern California road that cuts through the region’s abundant farmlands. We stopped at a fruit stand to grab avocados, oranges, pickled garlic, eggplant and asparagus to grill at T’s mom’s house in Merced, our final destination. The prices were rock-bottom, and the fresh fruit was top-notch.

We spent the night in the quaint town of Merced, and woke up to an impressive spread of fresh fruit and locally baked bread laid out by T’s mom. I filled up on freshness and grabbed some snacks for the road back to Santa Cruz.

The last meal of our adventure was on the plane to Hawaii, after a long day of traveling. We took a bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose, then the BART to San Fran, an air train to SFO Airport, sprinted to our gate to catch a flight to LAX, then sprinted from our arrival in LAX to our plane departing to Honolulu.

It broke all my traveling rules – we didn’t stock up on enough snacks, we didn’t eat before getting on the plane, we didn’t drink enough water. We were starving, grumpy and lethargic on the plane, and decided to cave in and purchase food. I was stoked to find an all-vegan, non-GMO Tapas box from Delta. It was packed with gluten-free seeded crackers, quinoa and red pepper dip, hummus, almonds, organic dark chocolate, a lemon fig bar, and more. It was surprisingly cheap, filling and satisfying, and I was happy to vote with my dollars to keep the option around.

All in all, it was a busy and fulfilling trip that totally re-stoked my love for vegan food and rekindled my dedication to living a life of kindness. Thanks much, San Fran!

Finding My Path & Purpose

 

Life has been a blur these days. If you haven’t noticed, my posts have been few and far between, yet so much life has happened between the cracks. I’ve quit my dream job as a Development Coordinator at a non-profit, and started my own business with my boyfriend. I went to Germany with my family, embarked on my first faith-based mission trip to Nepal, and have gone vegan. I’ve changed up my life, and every step has been for the better.

Going to Nepal absolutely deserves its own post – if not several – but I will say this: it was incredibly humbling and healing. My faith and relationship with God have deepened and strengthened, and I felt my head clear and my heart open to the path and purpose God intends for me. Part of that includes having confidence in my business endeavors and the abilities I’ve been gifted, and cultivated in the professional sphere.


Another part of my deepened faith is a recommitment to veganism. In working to make a positive impact in Nepal, I had a difficult time coming back to normal life in Hawaii and working for myself. I wanted to keep working for good and for God, and reducing the harm I contribute to is one way to do so.


My goal in this life is to do as much good and as little harm as a I can, to people, the planet, and other creatures alike. That includes treating others with kindness and patience, and understating where their hurt comes from. This love for other people – even strangers, far away, and very different from myself – is what’s continued to drive me to recommit to a plant-based diet. For the animals, yes, but also for the people living in communities polluted by animal agriculture, those working under harsh conditions in factory farms, etc. We all spend our time and thoughts searching for our purpose. While mine isn’t completely crystal clear, I know I’m meant to do good in any way I can. Right now, and through the rest of my days.

To more posts and positivity,

Nicole ❤

The Small Kine Vegan


As you all probably know, I’ve been a vegetarian on & off for over five years now. I love it, I dig it, I do it, and have totally found my groove and established the habits to keep it that way. However, being a vegetarian – and not a vegan – has it’s benefits. Mostly that I can eat cheese, which means that friends can make mac n cheese when I come over, I can share pizza with my boyfriend, and have a breadth of options when I eat out.

But here’s the thing – morally, I don’t think my convenience to myself and others is worth the suffering of other beings. I don’t think it’s fair that animals have to suffer and die so I can eat a slice of pizza or order an omelet at brunch. Plus, there’s the health issues I have always had digesting dairy. I’ve gone vegan a couple dozen times in the past five years, for these exact reasons. And given all the major life changes I’ve made lately to boldy craft the life I want – quitting my job, starting a business, and completely changing up my life – this is the last piece of the old me i’d like to kick to the curb.

I decided to do a 30 day vegan challenge, just to ease myself into this new lifestyle and make it fun and exciting. I’m proud to fall asleep each night feeling light, healthy, and cruelty-free. I’m on a culinary adventure to try new things and swaps, and have found everything hauntingly simple and easy. Since I’ve done it before, it’s territory I know well.

So far, I’m incredibly healthy and happy – as if I’ve taken a large moral weight off my shoulders, because, well, I have. I feel that I’m living truly, honestly, and according to my values, embodying more of the person I’m truly meant to be.

Here’s a typical day for me (with a work shift in between, to keep it reals) of well-rounded, plant-based, super-yummy delicious vegan meals. I’m going small kine vegan, one day at a time 🙂

Belated Cinco de Mayo Vegan Enchiladas!


Guys, I totally failed on making and posting this recipe for Cinco de Mayo. In fact, I haven’t exactly done a great job of posting regularly, either. What can I say? Life’s hard. Life’s busy. And for me, life has been a whole onslaught of major life changes, big risks and bold gambles. My poor little blog has simply got lost in the shuffle.

Moving on, I whipped up these gorgeous enchiladas in a belated celebration of the blessed, tequila-and-food-infused holiday that is Cinco de Mayo.  These babies are a healthier, non-fried and dairy-free recipe jam-packed with potatoes, black beans, bell peppers, onions, soyrizo, jalepenos and green chiles. The green sauce is complemented by Daiya jalepeno-havarti cheese and lots of lime, time and love. They’re also quite easy to make, although I can’t promise much on the mess factor.


Here’s what you’ll need:

12 corn tortillas

5 russet potatoes

2 4oz can diced green chilies (don’t drain them – we gon’ use that juice!)

1 large bell pepper

1 large onion

1 can black beans

Soyrizo (found at most grocery & health food stores)

Diaya vegan jalapeno & Havarti cheese block

Coconut oil

1 lime

1 28oz can green Chile enchilada sauce

1 jalapeño, seeds removed

Chili powder, salt, pepper, & garlic to taste

Directions:

First, rough chop the bell pepper, onion, & potatoes. I boiled my potatoes for about 20minutes so they’d cook well with the rest of the filling.


Next, fire up a pan with some coconut oil and start with the onions. Cook until they almost carmelize, throw in a little more oil, and toss in the bell peppers and potatoes. If you like, add some beer! (I always do)


As the veggies cook, add in the can of black beans and the green chiles – they chile juice will help flavor the filling. Also add salt, chile powder, pepper, & garlic to taste and judge by the aroma.


Next, add in the can of black beans, potatoes, and a quarter cup of Soyrizo and mix thoroughly; keep adding more (if need) to taste. Keep cooking until the filling looks fully cooked and limp.

Next, stack your corn tortillas on a plate with a damp paper towel in between each tortilla, and toss them in the microwave for 30 seconds or until they’re limp and malleable. The paper towels help ‘steam’ the toritllas so they are easy to roll.


Next, dump your giant can of enchilada sauce into an even bigger bowl. Set up your ‘station’ with the tortillas first, sauce second, and filling last. Also line a baking sheet with foil & oil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To move through your station, take each tortilla and do as follows:

  1. submerge tortilla completely in the giant bowl of enchilada sauce and let sit for a few seconds.
  2. Retreive tortilla and place on foil-lined baking sheet
  3. Add filling and roll up!

Do this for all tortillas, and then cover the entire baking sheet with the remaining sauce, ensuring you don’t get too crazy and spill.


Take your Daiya cheese block and grate the cheese ALL over the place.

Cook for 20 minutes and enjoy!

Amazing Grass Review!


One of the best things about blogging is getting to try kickass new products. So when Amazing Grass reached out about their organic plant-based superfood hemp protein powder, I was ecstatic. Organic? Green? Hemp? That’s right up my alley, folks! My answer was a resounding hell yes!

I expected to find some protein powder in the mail, but instead came home to the cutest not-so-little box on my doorstep! 


It had a full size tub of chocolate peanut butter protein powder, along with sample packs, a yoga towel (rad, right?!) a rucksack and the chicest protein shaker bottle I’ve ever seen – a mason jar with a protein too and a jar kid with a glass straw! 5 stars, two thumbs up, straight up awesomeness. Way to go, Amazing Grass!


I loved the protein, which tastes like a less-sweet, more natural Reese’s peanut butter cup. Yes, please!
I have to confess that I absolutely love the mason jar bottle. I’ve been using it not just for protein shakes, but making iced coffees and iced teas at work and even dragged it out to the soccer field. In fact, I’m drinking from it right now as I write this post 🙂


The rucksack is super cute and fits my minimalistic hippie style. It’s a great cleat bag, since it’s small and durable.


I also use the yoga towel all the time at the beach! I swim and aqua jog often, so it’s great to have a dual purpose yoga mat/towel/sand-free stretching space post-workout.

I totally dug everything Amazing Grass had to offer. You can find out more about their kickass products by visiting their website 🙂

Bob’s Red Mill Review Giveaway!


Aloha all! Apologies for my absence lately – life has been crazy-full of adventures, injuries, soccer games and marathon training. Between training and work, it’s hard for me to carve out time for my blog, which is a bummer because I absolutely adore writing and seriously miss meeting and engaging with badass women bloggers around the world.

I officially promise to make this blogging stuff more of a regular thing 🙂

Anyways, I just got done doing a super fun Instagram challenge for Bob’s Red Mill with my #sweatpink sisters! I’ve been using BRM products for ages, from their flaxseed meal to almond flour to gluten-free baking products. When they came out with a plant-based, chia-seed-and-probiotic-infused protein powder, I kinda nearly lost my damn mind. So much radness, right?!
Oh, and they also sent it in a gigantic, loud red box that was lovingly waiting at my doorstep after work one day. It was so big, in fact, that my roommate silently came over from the couch for moral support as I cautiously opened this beauty and surveyed its glorious contents.


Let me just say – Bob’s Red Mill, you the real MVP. Y’all hooked it UP. I got four full-size flavors – Chocolate, Protein & Fiber, Vanilla, and, my very favorite, Chai – along with some recipes, sample/travel packs, and a super cute shaker bottle.


THANKS Y’ALL!

While I liked all the flavors, my one true love was the chai. I blended it with coconut milk, bananas and dates for a milk-shake-like smoothie of vegan goodness. Aside from taste, the nutrient content on these totally make the geek in me freak the f out. A vegan powder that has amino acids, probiotics, and chia seeds? Yes, please. Gluten free and sweetened with monk fruit, these babies are some freaking gems in the very rough world of plant-based powders.
I’m so excited, in fact, that I’m gonna host a giveaway for the Protein & Fiber flavor! Check out the link below and follow instructions to enter – the winner will be announced next Monday 🙂

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7402e5bb5/?

Love, happiness, and plant-based protein,

Nikki ❤

Low Carb Cauliflower Spaghetti


There’s nothing like the deep tomato & basil-y smell of spaghetti wafting out of the kitchen on a cold winter day or during a late-night study session. Practically everyone can whip up a bowl cheap & easy, and we each have our own way of lovingly customizing this universal staple to make it exactly our own.

The anatomy of a bowl of spaghetti is similar to that of a pizza; the fabulous inflammation and fat-fighting properties of tomatoes coupled with the nutritionally void, high calorie simple carb. Tomatoes tout excellent levels of carotenoids, bioflavonoids, potassium, folic acid, and vitamins A, C & E. Simple white pasta, however, offers little more than calories and carbohydrates.

I found myself seriously craving a good old bowl of warm, yummy spaghetti. I had eaten a bit carb heavy earlier in the day, though, and figured I could compensate for the noodles with some sweet potato and cauliflower.

I’m a very rambunctious, disorganized, and spontaneous cook, so my spaghetti endeavor spiraled out of control rather quickly. I suddenly had chopped up a skinned sweet potato and some cauliflower and threw it in a pan, sporadically adding diced turmeric, chopped beets, chili paste, cubed tofu, and sweet onions. I let it all simmer and burn – with a little water to help soften the starches – and found that the smell somehow was getting more and more delicious. 

I

I almost didn’t add the sauce, since the dish had adopted a type of thai-sweet-chili smell, but since I was craving spaghetti, I figured I’d go for it. That’s what makes cooking fun and enjoyable, right? Spontaneity, creativity, and a little calculated risk resulted in a dish sooo good I had to stop myself from licking the pan.

Here’s a quick summary of how I (most likely) developed this accidental masterpiece.

½ head of cauliflower

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 tbsp (ish) diced turmeric

1 tbsp (ish) avocado oil

1 chopped sweet onion

½ can chopped, pickled beets

1-2 cups organic tomato & basil pasta sauce

1 tbsp chili paste

 Coat a frying pan in avocado (or other plant-based, organic oil) and toss on sweet onion and turmeric. Simmer for a few minutes and add cauliflower and sweet onion; add a little water and stir occasionally. Let the mixture burn/brown just slightly; scoot to one side of pan and brown tofu & beets on the other side. Drop the chili paste directly on the tofu and cook and flip till both sides are brown.

 I  Next, toss in the pasta sauce and mix. By now, the mixture should smell pretty freakin’ amazing. Enjoy and serve 🙂

Motivation Monday: Injuries


Happy Monday, everyone! I’m starting this day (and month) with a big, fat, swollen ankle L Why is it that injuries pop up whenever we’re on a roll? I’ve been loving my half marathon training, plant-based diet and getting plenty of macros, micros & sleep. Aside from my pulsing ankle, all is well in my training world.


Being injured is frustrating and tough. The hardest part is to STAY. OFF. IT. Without running and soccer to wear me out and sharpen my focus, I’m a wandering, distracted, hyper, and bored mess. Not only am I not very productive, but injured me isn’t very pleasant, either.

I’ve been instructed to take at least a week off of my foot – no running, no soccer, no fun L As a seasoned injured runner, I do have a few easy strategies to soothe my athletic needs and to keep myself conditioned so that I can hop back on my training plan once I’m healthy.


1. Stationary Bike

The stationary bike is a great way to get in your miles without putting stress on your injury. It’s low impact, accessible at any gym, and a super easy way to stay on track while you’re kept off the track. Just triple your mileage and shoot for the same heart rate & level of effort you’d utilize during the run.


2. Water Running with a Bouyancy Belt

A fun, out-of-the-box way to keep yourself in running shape without actually running is with a buoyancy belt. The devices are cheap and keep your head and shoulders just barely afloat, so that you have to maintain good form and stride to stay above water. It torches calories and empowers you to work on your form impact-free. Plus, it’s a good excuse to get in the pool/ocean/water and get your mermaid on 🙂


3. Strength Training

Of course, strength training isn’t always possible with a hurt foot/hip/quad/whatever. If able, though, I like to up my reps and shorten breaks to build a weight lifting session into a more aerobic workout. This way, your heart rate stays elevated and you’re still building up lung capacity and endurance while staying off your foot. When I had a broken toe, I just tailored my workouts to include bench and machine work where I could sit or lay instead of stand. 


4. Eat Well

Abs aren’t the only thing made in the kitchen. Our recovery, endurance, gains and general health are rooted in how we nourish our bodies before, after, and even outside of our workouts. When injured, I cut back on treats & sweets to help my body heal and keep calories lower since I won’t be working as hard on the trails & in the gym.

To all those who are injured – I hope you heal soon 🙂 stay motivated! 

Training – the Vegan Way


My schedule is  a fitness junkie’s dream: I have two half marathons, two full marathons, a Spartan race and a long season on two different soccer teams crammed into my life before the end of December. While I’ve got lots of training and recovery plans in the works, it only makes sense for me to shift to the most wholesome, healthiest, and ethical diet possible. For me, that’s a vegan diet – whole foods, plant based, and focused on the unprocessed foods I already love. From fruits & veggies to legumes, beans, nuts and seeds, I’m stoked to fill my plate with a powerful array of macro and micronutrients that’ll put my exhausted body at optimal health and recovery speed.


Plus – sorry about it but veganism is pretty badass. From endurance athletes to mma fighters to pro soccer & basketball players, a plant-based diet is the way to go 🙂

I’ll be dutifully blogging my progress, training times and go-to meals as I get through this crazy next few months! I’m happy to share this beautiful way of living, especially when I’m blessed to live on a tropical island with gorgeous farmer’s markets all year long. I may not be an elite or professional athlete, but I am an athlete – and just like abs, endurance, speed and recovery are built in the kitchen.


I’ve gone vegan before, but always fell off the wagon for convenience reasons. I also was a poor, starving college student at the time, so my diet was more junk food vegan than exploring the endless, bountiful world of plants and whole-foods substitutes. Now, however, I’m a working professional that can afford the vast array of veggies, nuts, seeds, sprouts, legumes, beans, starches, and grains that comprise a healthful diet.

I’m proud to tackle this new lifestyle and incorporate it into my training & nutrition. It’s a peaceful, mindful, and of compassionate way of living – and I truly can’t wait to make it my own.

Here’s a few infographics on veganism & athleticism, and the potentials for getting strong & sexy the plant based way!