Category Archives: Personal

Photography goals

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in almost a year: I whipped out my DSLR.

I used it (mostly in auto mode) to take a few clunky self-portraits for my upcoming vegan lipstick post (look for it this week!) and ended up making a fairly crude home “studio.”

What can I say? I caught a bit of a photography bug.


Hey everyone! I’m alive!

Here’s the scoop — for the past two weeks, my editor has been at the NewFronts in New York, meaning I’ve been running the ship here. I’ve also been getting a TON of news because, well, it’s NewFronts! If you don’t know what NewFronts is, just smile and nod. Basically, I’ve been a busy, busy, busy girl, but I have been writing UG content — just waiting to carve out the time to get it online and organize it.

Here are a few updates to share with you:

  • I’ve started writing a lot of lifestyle content! Ever since my “Starbucks experiment” last fall I’ve been really devoted to living my life in a budget-friendly way and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned.
  • I’m also personally getting more into style. I don’t think I’ll start doing style-bloggery anytime soon, but maybe I’ll share some of my outfits of the day!
  • I bought my first purse, which is kind of a big deal.
  • I’m turning 27 in a month! Holy crap!
  • My parents are about to celebrate their 33rd anniversary, and they haven’t even killed each other yet. How about a round of applause for that?
  • Recital season is coming up, and naturally, I’m terrified.
  • I have a new hairstyle I’m working toward! Undercut grow-out? I know it sounds tricky, but trust me guys, I got this!

Anyway, sorry for the lightning-fast update — I’ll have some great new smoothie bowls running out later this week!

New vegan personal/household products I’ve tried lately (including one that almost burned my eyelid off)

Big Shampoo

It’s been a busy start to spring in our apartment (which our friend Molly has affectionately nicknamed the “BJ Supermarket”). We’ve been more productive than ever with clean-ups, new organization systems and personal projects (like finally re-stringing my ancient hand-me-down guitar, or Jar’s continued work on his model train layout. His birthday gift to me can be getting it the f*%^ out of the way of the guest bed).

We’ve also still got big plans, like what we want to do with the balcony, how we want to hang the rest of our art, and how we want our bedroom to evolve, style-wise.

As I’ve eased myself into this new living situation (quite comfortably, I might say), I’ve also settled on products that I’m most comfortable with for doing work around the house, and also, well, work on me. I’ve reviewed a few of my favourite household and personal products before, but I thought I might give an update on some things that have worked out really well for me — and some that haven’t.

I want to state that I’m not strictly a naturalist (is that the right word?) when it comes to my products, even though most of these products you will find are considered “clean” and “chemical-free.” The fact is it’s just easier to find vegan products that also fall under this umbrella — and it’s also easier to track which ingredients were tested on or derived from animals this way.

Note: None of the following products are blog sponsors and no money or personal goods have been accepted in exchange for positive reviews.

Earthpaste natural toothpaste in Wintergreen

  • Price: $6.55
  • Where I bought it: The Big Carrot

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for something just because it seems different. Earthpaste certainly sells itself as different. This is a clay-based toothpaste with no fluoride or foaming agents. It’s the foaming agents thing that makes the biggest difference (again: while I’m not strictly anti-fluoride, since most vegan toothpastes are fluoride-free, I’ve lived without it for years). You won’t get that big foamy texture in your mouth, which definitely feels different. I’m normally one to shrug at this — less foam doesn’t mean you’re less clean. But unfortunately that results in a really thin, runny consistency in the paste. There’s something about the clay that also feels gritty, which I personally don’t like on my teeth. I can’t speak to its long-term success, but I just found no matter what it was difficult to make my mouth feel “clean” after.

Bottom line: Would probably not recommend this product, but it’s more about personal preference.

Green Beaver Cilantro and Mint Toothpaste

  • Price: $4.99
  • Where I bought it: Noah’s (King/Spadina)

Yep, somehow I found a cilantro toothpaste. I actually rushed out to buy a new toothpaste after I decided I couldn’t take another day of the Earthpaste. I was going to go back to my usual Kiss My Face brand, but that was about $3 more expensive, and… I mean, cilantro, y’all. I’ll admit this toothpaste probably isn’t for everyone. Cilantro is already an acquired taste (I used to hate it, now I have it in/on everything!) and it’s not the most common thing to find in a toothpaste, but is a really unique taste. It’s still not as foamy as a conventional toothpaste (it’s more creamy) but it at least isn’t super runny, and a little bit of toothpaste goes a way longer way. After this tube is out I’ll probably spend the extra bucks on one of my older preferred brands, but it’s been a good trip.

Bottom line: Would recommend this product to anyone who likes cilantro, but it’s by no means an amazing toothpaste.

ELF Illuminating Eye Cream

Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I was having “some eye issues” lately? I’d been waking up with a lot of eye secretions (sorry, I know that word is nasty) and even crust on my eye that was so bad I could barely open them some mornings. I also experienced a burn on the outer corner of my left eye. I eliminated all of my face products and makeup for a bit and slowly re-introduced them, and the ELF cream started to look like the suspect. I also took a look at the one-star reviews of the product online (I tend to avoid both five and one-star reviews since they usually exaggerate a lot on either side) and found a lot of people said the same thing! Stinging, burning, redness, eczema… yeah. Anyway, ELF responded to my complaints almost immediately and offered a refund, which I have to say really impressed me on their part. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m really publicly not recommending this product to anyone with even vaguely sensitive skin (my skin tends to fall under combination/normal and isn’t very sensitive).

Bottom line: Would absolutely not recommend this product regardless of skin type or needs.

Attitude Daily Shower cleaner in Citrus Zest

  • Price: $4.99
  • Where I bought it: The Big Carrot

Moving into an apartment can be tough — even if the building management cleans your tub prior, one big clean session can’t quite get everything off the surface. Combine that with us both being, well, basic human beings who shower every day, and me being a girl who likes her bath (and bath bombs) it was really hard to get ahead with the tub. Admittedly, most vegan bathroom products I’ve tried don’t have the same scrubbing power as non-vegan ones (although I hated using traditional cleansers like Vim anyway because of how they irritated my hands). Every time I’d give a good cleaning session (that would wear my shoulders and chest out as much as a good climb would) it felt like I never got the grime fully off, then after one shower it was dirty again. Anyway, we spontaneously decided to grab this stuff at the Carrot one day. Upon first use we gave it a super thorough scrubbing (that’s recommended for very dirty bathtubs. I’d like to think our bathtub wasn’t “very dirty,” but still, we wanted to see results) and we now use it after every shower. Woah! Major difference. No grit, no weird shady shit that I try to convince myself is a shadow, just a nice, clean shower (and the smell is barely-there, so you don’t have to worry about some overbearing artificial fragrance).

Lush BIG shampoo

  • Price: $27.95
  • Where I bought it: LUSH (Queen/Peter)

I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I no longer have to shampoo my hair every single day. In fact, I’m down to about 1-2 shampoos per week. This shampoo has proven to be the best possible formula for my hair — which is of the Flat ‘n’ Floppy variety. Most shampoos intended for volumizing tend to dry my hair out too much (my hair has oily roots but once you get down to ear level you start to see the dryness/damage), whereas this is a mild enough formula that it doesn’t leave my hair feeling totally parched. A little goes a long way with this shampoo in terms of lather, and the sea salt sensation is actually really cool.

Bottom line: would recommend this shampoo to anyone with a flat hair problem!

One last thing: I had a few lipstick reviews to add (I’m a total lipstick junkie), but I’ve decided to do a separate post on my favourite vegan lipsticks. You guys have to hold me to that, okay?

Little wins

No losses this week — only wins. Here are some of the highlights of the past week.

  • Last week I attended the Earl Haig Secondary School 2016 Dance Night. What a show that was! One of my studio’s seniors took part in the show and danced so beautifully, along with the rest of her classmates. It was wonderful to see the amazing choreography and dance education that is being taught in this school. At the end of the night she was also awarded the Gr. 12 dance award, and I swear I started crying in the audience. What a great night it was!
  • I found out what was causing the rash in my eye, and I’ve actually gotten it to calm down a bit. I’ll be discussing that in an upcoming post on new vegan household and personal products I’ve been using lately.
  • This past weekend was a total balcony weekend. We spent so much time outside, either on the balcony or taking walks, playing with Ben, planning our dream balcony (on Sunday I’ll be bringing my winter tires, which I’ve previously stored on my deck, to my mom’s place, so that’ll free up some space).
  • My hair has been friggin’ on point lately!
  • So have my pirouettes! Whoop whoop!
  • I’ve been consistently climbing V3s as I get more into bouldering. I’ve spent the past year doing sport climbing 90% of the time so I’ve decided it’s time to get a bit more varied in my climbing. Mainly because I want to be Alex Puccio. Or marry her. One of those.
  • A new vegan soft serve place has opened in Toronto — I should get on that shit!

Dem ugly days

Some days I really, really like the way I look. I feel good about myself. I feel fresh, I feel pretty, I feel bright.

Some days, I look like Johnny Depp in Secret Window.

Yep, that’s the specific look I struck today. Wasn’t going for it, but that’s how it turned out.

I’ve never felt particularly comfortable about how I look. Lately it’s been getting better, and I’ve started to actually really love the things that make my face, for lack of better words, unique (and I mean, they are unique). I love my weirdo broken nose, I love my big chin.

Thanks to Facebook and its weird-ass “memories,” I got a look at myself in a picture from four years ago, while I was on a quick solo road trip after finishing school. I have to say, I barely recognize myself, and not just because I had hair then. I look all wide-eyed and kiddish. It’s hard to believe that that wide-eyed kid was six months away from her first job, which made her grow up so so much, eight months away from her last quarter pounder with cheese, nine months away from starting to climb, which made her into a completely different person inside and out, and two and a half years away from (so far) the best relationship of her life.

So even though yesterday was a super cute day, today is an ugly day, and I’m kind of okay with that. Because things will always change and shift and mess around, and I’m pretty alright with that. The changes and shifts and messes are, after all, part of what makes life fun.

Plus, to be candid, I’ve been having some issues with my eyes lately. Not the deep scarring on my eyes (that’s mostly healed), but they’ve  been extremely dry the last few days, and the skin around my eyes has become red and irritated. I’ve actually had to continuously rub balm on the outside of my left eye (which I’m sure is actually bad for it) just so it will stop burning so badly. I’ve been waking up in the morning with 5000% crustier eyes (sorry, guys!) and overall they’ve just felt shitty over the past week or so. I’m giving myself a week of no makeup, no excessive product on my face, no contacts to see if that does the trick. Hopefully it’s just weather change.

Anyway, the other uglies, they’ll fade… and come back, and fade and come back. You know how it goes. Boo-urns, but hey, at least it keeps things interesting.

Little failures and wins

Little failures:

  • Somehow properly changing my billing address but NOT properly changing my shipping address on Modcloth, so my new amazing little black dress for my cousin’s wedding is getting sent to my Mom’s house.
  • Skipping ballet class on Saturday and regretting it for the past four days.
  • My favourite “nice” shirt has a permanent blood stain on it (that stained it from the inside out since I did not realize my arm was bleeding). Anyone know what gets old blood out?

Little wins:

  • My senior student Hannah has her last high school dance performance next Wednesday and she’s invited me to come!
  • Sweet new red lipstick that makes me look fierce as fuuuuuck.
  • New friends at work!
  • Partner made the most incredible lentil soup that made our apartment smell like heaven.

Thinking about the future

This weekend was one of those rare weekends when my partner and I got in a bit of a tiff. I think it’s silly to brag about being “one of those couples who never fights” because that’s a really weird badge of pride to wear, but I will say for the record that we do rarely fight because we’re pretty good at talking things out (I doubt I’d be this way with anyone else, as I’m the one who gets easily worked up. He is just very good at calming me down). Anyway, like with most fights, it ended up with me being more emotional, then us slowly coming to some revelations, and having a pretty good talk that ended up happy and focused (even though I was still full of tears and boogers).

I’m not going to get into what it was totally about or how it got started (“stay outa my personal space”) but I will share this: it got me thinking about the future.

My 27th birthday is coming up in a couple of months (who wants to buy me a pair of vegan Doc Martens plz?? The high top kind thannnnkkkkks?) and I’m more focused on my future than ever. I’m really satisfied with where I am in my life, but I have big plans. The more time I put into my job, the more time (and love, and experience) we both put into our relationship, every time I scrub the bathtub and sweep the kitchen floor, every time I make a new recipe, I remind myself that it’s all going toward something. Something bigger. Life is about learning and whatnot, right? So I might as well take every single thing I do as a learning experience, and put it toward something.

I think there’s a lot of happy middle-ground between being a blade of grass blowing in the wind and being a chronic (annoying) over-planner, and I like to think I’m somewhere in that happy middle ground. I have plans that I’m flexible on, I have goals that I accept will be affected by changing circumstances and I have expectations that I can lower or raise at any given moment. But those plans, goals and expectations are there.


For example, I’m theoretically fine with never owning a house if I always live in Toronto (for those unfamiliar with our real estate market, it’s pretty much suck city, and a new law requires a minimum 10% downpayment, which is difficult when the average home price is $1mil). However, if my income goes up a certain amount, I will want to look at home ownership, because I look at a home as something that I can build equity on, and something that allows me more freedom. My family doesn’t have any expectations for me in terms of home ownership — one of my siblings owns, one rents, and both are happy in their respective situations — and my partner is also fine with renting for the rest of his life (he does own land up North though), so this is an expectation I have for myself, not one that others have for me.

Another thing that I have some specific(ish) goals are is my job. I’m really kicking ass where I am right now, and I plan on staying here for a little while longer, at the very least so I can learn more and hone my craft. Eventually I would like to get into radio, specifically into producing investigative/feature/doc work. My goal has always been to create the content that I enjoy — I’m the type of person who likes to pull things apart and figure out how everything works, and as someone who has enjoyed radio docs for a very long time, being a part of the team that puts that together is a serious desire for me. Ultimately getting into hosting would be awesome, if only so I could meet and talk to and help tell the stories of amazing people from around the world. I have a lot of time for that, but the fact is I know what the next opportunity will look like when I see that.

Finally, there’s family. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t want children and that is a goal shared by my partner. However, I’m so excited to finally share on the blog that my sister is expecting a little one of her own this summer, and I could not be happier! Becoming an aunt and uncle is very exciting for us — obviously it’s not nearly the same experience as preparing to become parents, but we’ve also started thinking about how it will change our lives in terms of being there for my sister, what kind of examples we set, and how we keep our place. I’ve thought a lot about what kind of role I want to play in my nephew’s life, and while being the “fun aunt” is a huge goal for me, what’s more important is being a responsible, kind and helpful aunt, one that spreads the values my sister and brother-in-law will teach in their home. We’d like a dog one day, but that will depend on what our careers bring for both of us — if one of us ends up working from home a couple days of the week, it may be possible.

A few people have asked me the M-word is in my future (yeah, we both discussed how “marriage” is a scary word to say). The answer? Not now, maybe someday. If it happens, what you definitely can’t expect is a wedding-wedding. No ceremony, no speeches, no reception, no dress, no rings, no engagement. Hey, I have no issue with those things for other people (in fact, I highly encourage everyone in the world to get married and have weddings so I may attend), but they’re never things I’ve wanted for myself, and they don’t jive well with who we are.

Anyway, was this a big post of nothin’? Too personal? Too vague? I feel pretty good about things, even if it doesn’t come off that way in my writing. For now, I’m off to keep kickin’ ass at work. You can expect a new smoothie recipe on the blog later this week!

Writing an actual blog… how do I do this again?

The second I hit the “publish” button on yesterday’s post (after it sat in the queue for nearly a month… silly me) I had one of those dramatic “no turning back” feelings. I was now tasked with actually committing to what I’d said — that I was going to take a more personal approach to Urban Garlic, stop treating it like such a business and, at the same time, give the blog a little more of my (ugh) soul.

I can’t remember the last time I kept a blog that actually had the “log” side of things down (heh. Log). I have a Tumblr, but that’s more a collection of images I find amusing, intermittently spaced with rants about social justice, veganism and Dance Moms. I’d estimate that the last time I used a blog as an actual journal-type blog was in early high school. No, I can’t remember what platform it was on, and no… I’m not eager to re-visit it.

But I am eager to re-visit the idea of actually just writing about my life online.

I don’t mean “Top 10 things I learned from climbing!” or “Eight products I’m totally digging the shit out of lately” — although those types of posts may creep around occasionally. Like I said yesterday, those posts tend to feel a little pretentious to me, like I’m ranting as though I know it all. I don’t. Let’s face it: I’m 26 and am in just as much of a “figuring my shit out” stage as every other 26-year-old.

I think I look that blogs that are successful and see them presented with a distinct style of messaging that makes them seem more like a professional publication than a personal blog, so I’ve tried to imitate that in order to be successful.

But something I’ve started doing lately is looking back at people’s early posts.

It’s hard to feel bad about where I am now when I look at how everyone else started.

But I realize now that I’ve already poured more than 300 words out about this and not anything about what is actually going on with my life at the moment.

This moment? This very moment? I’m taking a bit of a breather after a marathon writing session at work, then back to writing. I’ve just purchased a dress for my cousin’s wedding (trust me, there will be pictures) and am sipping on some “super ginger” tea from David’s Tea (I’ve come a long way from turning my nose up at ginger three years ago), sneaking in a few pages from The Only Average Guy by John Filion when I can.

The near-future? Okay, that’s more exciting! I’m going for a solo bouldering session and then a much needed treat-yoself night featuring bath, shampooing the hair (I’ve successfully gotten it down to one shampoo per week and my hair looks and feels awesome!) and watching a movie (I’ve settled on Martha Marcy May Marlene, which I’ve never actually finished. Side-note: it’s really hard to watch Hugh Dancey play a dick. He’ll always be Will Graham to me). Tomorrow is a ballet day, and I’m also working on a new smoothie recipe, new salad recipe and new burger recipe. I guarantee I won’t get all of those done, but… I can try, right?

At some point this weekend we wanted to get some suit shopping done. Jar really wants to get a new suit for my cousin’s wedding, and I’m looking forward to showing up on his arm. What can I say? We’re shallow sometimes.

Anyway, I suppose I haven’t really said that much of anything, but sometimes it just feels nice to talk about things that make you happy.

A look at 2015 and how Urban Garlic (and Bree) have changed


Perhaps it’s just because I work as a journalist reporting on the entertainment industry, but I feel like I’ve really been inundated with year-end reviews these days.

I first started Urban Garlic in the fall of 2014,  but for the first couple months it kind of sat around as a blog where I mused about my life and occasionally talked about food. The start of 2015 was when it transitioned into more of a blog dedicated to veganism and recipes.

2015 was filled with big “turning points” for my blog when it came to my supplementary content. The first big one I can recall was when I discussed my journey with ED-NOS — I received a lot of positive feedback from the post. I’ve since followed up with a couple posts on EDs, both with a lengthy discussion on Orthorexia Nervosa and on a recent post on bullying and the way we talk about EDs. These posts helped me feel empowered because I was taking such a big risk. I’ve never talked so openly about my own eating issues, but I found it surprisingly easy.

Another big distinction I made in my blog this year came as part of the fallout of Angela “Oh She Glows” Liddon dropping her “vegan” label. I was one of those who was extremely disappointed and went into a lengthy post that I’m sure not that many people actually read or cared about, but it was important to me. I still feel the way I felt when I wrote that post, probably a little harsher, in fact (since coming back to my blog in September I’ve somewhat abandoned my “play nice in the sandbox” philosophy). I, like many others, saw this blogger’s journey with veganism as one that exploited the popularity of veganism as a health trend for so many years, then abandoned the label when people finally started getting too critical. I call it hash-tag veganism — knowing that that “#vegan” tag can take you a long way in terms of popularity, but dodging accountability within the actual vegan community.

Since then the focus of my blog has shifted a little bit because I want to make sure that I’m creating content that speaks mainly to ethical vegans and have not shied away from taking a blatant vegan-for-the-animals approach. I’ve realized that even if it doesn’t make people like me, I’d rather stand for what I really believe in. You know, that whole be-hated-for-who-you-are-not-loved-for-who-you-aren’t thing.

I’ve grown in terms of my recipe development thanks largely to my amazing partner, Jarrod, who worked in restaurants for most of his youth and has a huge passion for cooking (he isn’t vegan — yet — but almost everything in our apartment is plant-based. I’ll admit I started a huge, overdramatic fight when he first brought feta cheese into the fridge, and we’ve since compromised that I’d rather keep it minimal, and would generally prefer that it be kept in a separate drawer than my food). Anyway, Jarrod and I recently moved in together, which I wrote at length about, and despite him not being vegan, he is highly respectful and has never expected me to respect his decisions to eat animals. I know non-vegan partners can be a bit of a divisive issue among vegans, but I’ve simply looked at Jarrod’s decision as something I have to live with. He’s a grown man and all I can do is lead by example and hope that one day he comes to the right side of things. In the meantime, his support and his enthusiasm for helping me develop cruelty-free recipes has helped me grow as a vegan and as a recipe creator (bonus: I’ve also drummed up his enthusiasm for cruelty-free soaps and personal care products).

Did I mention Jar is also a pretty good photographer? Between him and my sister, who is the founder and owner of Ten2Ten Photography, I’ve learned a lot about photography. While I did purchase a secondhand Nikon in the spring, I’m sad to say I haven’t really had the chance to learn a lot with it. Taking photos on my mobile device and editing them has become such a quick process that I’m not sure how I could balance that process with my full-time job (I mean, my sister manages to do it, but she’s superwoman). Can you believe how bad some of my old pictures were? I now have a far better handle on the process of photographing my food. I generally test a recipe at least once before I take a picture (some, however, turn out great on the first take!) and take a lot of photos on beautiful weekends when I can actually get the best natural light. I’ve learned that deep bowls are the absolute worst for making it look like your quantities are hella tiny, and that editing isn’t magic (okay, I do love my VSCO app for easy edits on the go, but as they say, garbage in, garbage out. A filter or action isn’t going to fix crap). I’m by no means advanced, but I’m advancing — learning how to use my light, set a backdrop, get the colours working together.

In July I started experiencing a lot of burnout after overloading myself with work and dance commitments, and the blog was an easy commitment to drop. I took a near two-month hiatus while I re-thought and re-planned business. Since coming back I’ve dialed it down to one recipe per week and far more personal posts, which I’ll admit I still sometimes struggle to come up with (when it rains ideas, it pours, the problem is even when I write them all down and map them out in bullet points, if I don’t basically write the whole thing at the moment my passion and interest and, well, attention span for the topic is gone). Nevertheless, these have been some of my most engaging posts — my posts on dealing with your friends when you first go vegan was a great success, as was my post on the lessons I learned from being an unpopular blogger and my recent post on the myth that going vegan will make you pretty (even though I was called a “compliment fisher” by the occasional reader who failed to see that “x didn’t make me pretty” is not the same as “I don’t think I’m pretty.” I’m hot as fuck, happy now?). Perhaps my biggest success (I guess the word is “viral?” At least in the context of my still-relatively-unpopular blog) was my post on mistakes I made when I first went vegan.

I think more than anything I’m amazed at the food I’ve come out with lately. I’ve managed to really figure out what my niche is — food that is fun and creative without being overly trendy, and still managing to be practical. I’m through with trying to focus on “healthy” versions of things and have instead turned to food that makes me happy (most of which is healthy, but I no longer feel bound to that requirement). Jarrod and I really struck gold with our seitan recipe, and have gotten quite a bit of mileage out of it.

It only seems appropriate to look at what’s in store for 2016. Well, my e-book is coming (I’m currently in the recipe testing phase and writing the actual body copy). But my blog will undoubtedly face challenges. The whole reason I started my blog was because I hated my boring day job. Now I love my day job and it’s demanding, and that demand isn’t going down. I may look at scaling back to two posts per week, but that won’t be without giving it the ol’ college try. I’ll definitely continue to focus on vegan food that is tasty and bursting with flavour (duh? What am I gonna say? I want to make vegan food that tastes like shit. Fuck you), but I have to come up with recipes that will actually make people look at my blog, since there’s a million blogs like mine out there. I’ll be going more seasonal with my selections for sure, and focusing a bit more on practical, quick recipes for people with schedules like mine and Jar’s (nine-to-fivers who like to keep active at night).

Anyhoo, that’s just about it. Wubbalubbadubdub! Okay, I’ve kind of been watching a lot of Rick and Morty lately. But how has (this current timeline of) 2015 gone for you? Maybe you went vegan, started your transition or celebrated yet another year of living a cruelty-free lifestyle! Maybe you adopted a doge or a kitty, learned something new, got a new job or found a moon rock in your nose. Tell me all about it in the comments — I’d love to hear.

Veganism didn’t make me pretty (and I don’t &$^%! care)


One time while I was working at my old job and desperate to get out of the office (seriously, I hated it) I volunteered to go pick some supplies up at Walmart. I sped a little bit on the way there and spent the time I saved sauntering around the Markville shopping centre, and was (naturally) lured into Lush by the smell of handmade cosmetics and beautiful, complimentary cashiers. When one of the cashiers recommended a product with honey to me, I quickly said sorry, I was vegan.

She smiled and told me, “I should have known — you know why? The whites of your eyes are so bright. That’s what I find about vegans.”

I smiled, thanked her, paid for my impulse purchase and waited until I was 20 feet away from the store to let my bright white eyes roll into the back of my head.

Bright whites of my eyes? Really? They’re eyes, how much could the shade of white honestly differ? I’ve looked at my eyes against my  boyfriend’s eyes in the mirror when we brush our teeth in the morning and I don’t notice a damn difference in the shade. In fact, just this week after months of increasing irritation with my eyes I finally found an optometrist who gave me some pretty frank news: I have deep scarring in both my eyes and shouldn’t wear contact lenses for the next year (which is why, for those of you who follow me on social media, you’ve been seeing me in my specs lately).

So what I’m saying is, I don’t think there’s a damn thing that’s special about the whites of my eyes.

But that’s not the first thing I’ve been told about my physical appearance that’s  been attributed to my veganism. A few weeks ago, a barista at Starbucks told me I had beautiful skin. My co-worker who was in line with me said “It’s probably because she’s a vegan.” They then both started gushing over my apparently flawless complexion. Joke was on them. First of all, that wasn’t my natural complexion, I was wearing Kat Von D’s tattoo effect foundation, which is basically spraypaint (but, like, awesome, fabulous, cruelty-free spraypaint). Secondly, my skin’s condition is such a roller coaster. My last period, I had zits the size of marbles pop up all over my forehead and chin — and I’m 26.

Dark circles under my eyes? I got ’em. Hair? Comes out in my brush. Only reason I don’t have split ends anymore is because I keep it short. Bloated belly? All the time, man. Dry shins and elbows? Over heeeere. They’re all over here.

Oh, my super white teeth? Been that way since I was a kid. Helps that I don’t smoke and rarely drink coffee. Soft-looking lips? I  keep myself well-hydrated and am addicted to lip balm. Everything else I credit to makeup and genetics. It’s not veganism that did it.

But why is there such a strong connection between veganism and our physical appearance? Plant-based diets have already been zealously embraced as a path to a svelte physique (assuming you also ditch those delicious, delicious grains and survive on a 1000 calorie diet of cucumber juice and plain zoodles). But why don’t we talk about this total myth that veganism makes you pretty?

Books like Eat Pretty make us believe that we can actually become physically flawless specimens from eating the right things and avoiding all the wrong things (yes dear, I eat a ton of avocados, my hair still sucks), and a certain I’m-not-calling-myself-a-vegan-anymore-because-vegans-are-so-mean blogger has basically built her entire brand on pushing a diet that supposedly makes you a radiant child of the Earth.

Look, I’m not going to knock anyone for making steps to improve their lives in ways that they see fit. Even if something turns out to be a placebo at best and a coincidence at worst, we’re all reducing harm, right?

But then again, what’s probably more troubling than the myth itself is this continued emphasis on pretty, that something has to make us thin, clear-skilled and all-around lovely in order to be a good choice.

As much as I was thrilled with Kat Von D’s recent decision to go vegan (largely because I cannot wait to not have to check her brand’s vegan list before plopping down my hard-earned coin for something), the emphasis she placed on being “healthy” (read: thin) but still having boobs and a butt made me uncomfortable. Congratulations, you’re hot, that makes you more valid!

I worry sometimes that when I go on these types of tangents I come off like a bitter ugly girl who hates on the pretty girls. Rest assured, I’ve (for the most part) made peace with my totally average appearance.

The worry is that there’s a lot of ideas floating out there that make it really, really hard for a lot of us to make peace with our appearances.

We often talk about the sources of overt negativity in our online interactions. But a lot of times it’s those seemingly positive sources of light and inspiration that can leave us feeling so empty. We see things that we aspire to be, and in some cases we might make drastic changes to do that (like going vegan — which is great, but let’s not pretend that it’s a simple thing for a lot of people to just do).

It should come as a surprise to no one that most big (and by “big” I mean big enough to have released a book, to have six to seven figures of subscribers, to have struck ANY sponsored content deals) bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers and other online influencers aren’t just hanging out making movies in their bedrooms with webcams, even if they’d like you to believe it. Don’t believe me? Should I mention I work in that industry? (Yup, that’s my name on the byline). Again, this isn’t me being pissy over my mid-range income and the fact that influencers are making more money than me (trust me, most of the YouTubers I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to are some of the hardest-working, most business-savvy young people I’ve ever met). But what I am saying is that they are business people. They’re conscious of their brand, they’re paid money to do what they do and they look good because they need to. You can be seen as a Luddite to say anything vaguely critical of social media, but it really needs to be said: stop thinking this shit is real life. It’s no different than other media.

Well, practically 1100 words later and I’m unsure if I’ve really said anything, so if you’re going to look at anything, look at this: I don’t give a shit that veganism didn’t make me pretty. I never went vegan to become pretty. I’m perfectly happy being a normal-lookin’ girl, and if my physical appearance was a factor in changing my diet and lifestyle so drastically, I’d have some other issues to address.

I went vegan because I was sick of being complacent in a system that exploited other living things. Whether you’re the type of vegan who survives off Daiya and Oreos or a kale-and-quinoa type of vegan, compassion and care for our earth (and those we share it with) should always be priority numero uno.

Not the whites of your eyes.