About Bree and Urban Garlic

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Welcome to Urban Garlic! My name is Bree. I am a journalist, dancer, climber, all-around pain-in-the-butt, and yes, a vegan. Urban Garlic is my own little corner of the Internet where I share my favourite, self-developed vegan recipes along with my favourite vegan home and personal products, cruelty-free style and makeup tips and just little tidbits of my life here and there.

I work full-time as a business reporter in Toronto, ON, which is where I live with my partner Jar and my Norwegian forest cat, Benny. When I’m not working or, well, eating, I’m almost always doing something active — on top of dance and climbing, I’m really into lifting, skateboarding and cycling.

Why vegan?

I never thought much about my diet or lifestyle when I was younger. As a kid, I was very picky eater, even eschewing kid-favourites like spaghetti and meatballs. For a long time, I ate little more than chicken fingers, cucumbers and cereal. I started to try more foods in high school, and by university I an adventurous eater and cook. I moved into an apartment-style residence and opted out of a meal plan, so I made all my own meals — (mostly) avoiding boxed-and-canned student staples.

I ate fairly healthily, but the ethics of meat, dairy and eggs never really dawned on me. I knew few vegans, and those that I did know tended to keep it to themselves.

My transition to vegetarianism was random. In 2012, when I had just started my first job in journalism, I realized it had been a few days since I’d eaten meat. I thought I’d keep the trend going to see how creative I could really get with food. My meat-and-potatoes parents thought I was crazy, but I started having even more fun with food than I’d already thought possible.

While I also ate very few dairy and egg products at home, I still enjoyed the luxury of grabbing a muffin from Starbucks, eating grilled cheese sandwiches at cafes and, of course, ice cream. At first this felt fine, because I’d never really thought about the ethics of vegetarianism — after months, I still couldn’t tell you why I was a vegetarian.

Then something started to change. I realized that living without meat was actually not that difficult, after swearing that vegetarianism and veganism weren’t “for everyone.” I felt great, my diet wasn’t expensive and the food tasted just fine. I thought, If activists weren’t lying about this, then that means I have a lot of un-learning to do.

Unlike a lot of new vegans, I didn’t watch any docs like Earthlings or Cowspiracy. It hit me really quickly through only a few conversations: I didn’t want to exploit animals anymore. I did not want to put my money into an industry that separated mothers from babies, gave animals cold, dark and short lives in cages, forcibly impregnated cows only to take the milk that belonged to their babies.

When I looked at my lifestyle — continuing to eat mozzarella and tomato sandwiches every day, using eggs as an easy protein substitute — I realized it wasn’t enough. In mid-2013, I cooked my last egg, threw the carton out and decided that was it.

Most people wouldn’t categorize me as a “radical preachy vegan,” but that’s not to say I’m silent about it either. I love being a vegan and I believe that the more vegans there are in the world, the better a place it will be. I have turned many of my friends toward veganism, and, I’ve always made it clear that for me, veganism is about ethics first.

ED recovery, mental illness and anti-diet culture

I was never the slimmest kid, although I was probably never considered “overweight.” I was not an active or athletic child. I started dancing at 11, but even then, I had low stamina, poor strength and lacked coordination. I was definitely doughey.

Toward the latter half of high school, my Mom joined a gym and got a family pass so I could join her. I was starting to learn a little bit more about nutrition at the time and decided it wouldn’t hurt for me to start counting calories and paying more attention to my body.

Unfortunately, that started a years-long obsession with my food intake and exercising. I’ve suffered from an anxiety disorder for (probably) my whole life, and I’ve always desperately longed to be liked. Once I lost a bit of weight and toned up, people started complimenting me, taking me more seriously and being nicer to me. I thought, “This is amazing. I never want to go back to the way it was before.”

Then I suddenly became obsessed with never gaining weight. My only goal was to become smaller, not larger. While the amount of pounds I lost wasn’t a crazy amount, I looked drastically different. My size became a preoccupation, and I found myself unable to enjoy eating without guilt.

Once I hit university, the obsession stopped playing as large a role in my life, but there was always an undercurrent of worry about my weight, food and exercise. I went to the gym out of obligation, and felt uncomfortable after eating a lot of food. I engaged in compulsive exercising and tended to feel self-conscious if I was not the smallest girl in the room. I never wanted to be “bigger” than anyone — and I kept thinking to myself after every negative interaction, “This would have gone better if I were skinnier.”

At 21, a good friend of mine passed away, and suddenly my problems seemed so minimal. I started seeing a counselor at school (for multiple issues including anxiety) and started to reflect on how I treated myself. I had positive associations with being thin because I didn’t think I had anything else to offer the world. I exercised as self-punishment because I felt like I owed the world something.

That year, I quit the gym almost entirely. I would go a few times a month if I was feeling bored, but most of my activity was unorganized activity — biking, dancing, gymnastics or trying out my new longboard. Sometimes I swam, and fell back in love with yoga. But what all those had in common was that I was doing them because I wanted to — not because I wanted to burn calories. My eating also improved. While I already loved healthy meals, I was no longer so obsessed with my calorie counts and started to actually enjoy, not dread, the feeling of being full.

Eventually I did go back to the gym, once I learned to listen to my body better and not over-exert. The year after I graduated university I also started climbing and saw a new radical transformation in my body: I was strong. My muscles became more defined and my arms — which had once been soft and awkward, then skinny and sharp — were now muscular and strong! In 2012 I could barely do a single push-up from my toes, but now I can do push-ups all day long (well… not really).

I’m still thin, probably as small as I was at my smallest, but I’ve come to a point of body peace knowing that if I do get bigger — as many of us do when we approach 30 — it’s not the end of the world. Now I treat my body well, and that means feeding it, fueling it and allowing it recovery time. I have a gym in my apartment basement, but we don’t go every day. My body appreciates down-time.

But because I’m a vegan, I’ve often found myself surrounded by diet culture, pseudo-science and all-out myths about plant-based diets. Most people assume because I’m a vegan that I also don’t eat gluten, I like $9 vegetable juices or I eat raw. While I’m not exactly mainlining Oreos, I doubt most of what I eat would be considered “clean eating.” I like a good vegan junk food joint as much as the next person.

It’s taken me years to realize how powerful the media machine can be. When I first went vegetarian, I also tried to ditch gluten. I would spend way more extra money on stuff that was certified GF and go crazy to make baked goods out of expensive flours… yeah, that’s a little cringe-worthy to read back. Anyway, I’m not celiac, gluten-sensivite or allergic to wheat at all, but I was so convinced that there was an issue that I felt legitimate stomach pains!

Placebos are powerful, y’all.

Too much of health veganism is steeped in diet culture (just look at the endless YouTube pissing match of HFLF/Rt4-versus-high fat and high protein vloggers). It’s something you won’t find here. While I do love to post accessibile recipes that everyone can enjoy (so you will often find GF, soy-free or nut-free alternatives in each recipe), Urban Garlic’s primary focus is veganism. That’s it.

Upcoming projects

I’m currently developing a party-themed e-book, Don’t Invite the Vegan, which focuses on crowd-pleasing recipes you can bring to a party that will have everyone asking, “Wait, this is vegan?”

Aside from that, you can guarantee there’s always a handful of recipes that you haven’t seen yet that are in the vault, ready to pounce! Come back often, subscribe via RSS or find me on Bloglovin!


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