I first began reading health blogs a handful of years ago. I started out reading diary-type blogs, where bloggers chronicle their daily meals and snacks (most of which repeat on a day-to-day basis). These blogs can be fun to read now and then, but my interest in oatmeal and green smoothie photography only stretches so far. These blogs can also be detrimental to those with eating disorder histories, because a lot of them represent very orderly and portion-controlled ways of eating. It’s easy to look at a stranger’s full day of eats and, without knowing anything else about the person, reprimand yourself for eating more or worse in comparison. While I highly recommend healthy-living blogs for wellness beginners, these diary-type blogs are not for everyone.

Enter: Gena Hamshaw. I recommend her blog, Choosing Raw, to anyone and everyone, vegans and omnivores alike. Her writing style is both casual and professional, her warm heart and genuine compassion are palpable, she’s informative without being preachy, and she truly knows what she’s talking about. I don’t doubt anything she has to say.

Gena is a former book editor and current pre-med, bost-bacc student at Georgetown University. She’s also an experienced yogi. Oh, and her recipes will make you drool on your keyboard. She’s the blogger who taught me how to make a massaged kale salad, and introduced me to the wonder that is chia pudding. Today it’s unimaginable to me that there was ever a time I didn’t know about these two vegan staples! Without further ado, let me introduce you to the amazing wellness expert herself.

q & a with gena hamshaw

Q: I know from your blog that you’re a pretty seasoned yogi. I’m only just beginning my yoga practice. What advice would you give to people like myself, who are just starting out? How did you advance in your practice?

A: Be patient. Developing a steady practice means surrendering the idea that there’s a destination in sight, and becoming comfortable with the idea that everything is always in motion, in flux. My yoga practice today is different than it was yesterday, and different than it will be in a year. It’s humbling, and sometimes I find that it gets harder and harder the more seasoned I become. I’m much stronger and can do more poses than I could six years ago, when I began, but there are still so many transitions and poses I can’t do yet. Maybe I will in a few years, maybe I won’t. What I love about yoga isn’t being able to say I mastered something new: it’s the motion itself, the breath, and the way it makes me feel, which is expansive and whole. From a practical standpoint, I’d say that taking actual classes is key. You can learn stuff via videos and audios, but my personal experience was that it wasn’t until I got hands-on adjustments and experienced the challenges and energy of a class setting that I really started to develop and move forward. Start with basic classes; even if they feel simple, they’ll give you the building blocks you need. Practice what you learn in class for a few minutes every day. My favorite yoga quote is from Patthabi Jois: “practice, and all is coming.” The more time you give yoga, the more it gives you in return.

Q: It can be slim pickings for vegans when it comes to certain events and social gatherings that are centered around food. Do you have any helpful tips for fellow foodies with dietary restrictions?

A: I always have snacks in my purse or bag: fruit and nut bars, almonds, a banana. While I like to hope that there will be options when I go to a party or event, it doesn’t always happen, and I don’t like to feel hungry or deprived. I’ve no shame at all about pulling out a Pure bar at a social gathering if it means I won’t be hungry! If I’m going to a small gathering with friends, I sometimes mention to the host that I’m vegan, then offer to bring crudites and hummus or a larger dish. It means I won’t go hungry, and it also gives me a chance to share vegan food with others.

Q: If you were asked to make a list of your most essential ingredients (let’s exclude kale here, because that one is a given), what would make the top five?

A: Avocado, zucchini, sweet potatoes, bananas, and tomatoes. Runner up: Coconut (oil, butter, meat, milk–all of it!)

Q: I seem to always get stuck in food ruts, and eat the same meals over and over again. Where do you go, or what do you do, for recipe inspiration? When do your best ideas come to you?

A: Part of the reason that I originally got into raw food was that I find it aesthetically beautiful and incredibly creative. To this day, it’s the type of cuisine that I find most culinarily inspiring. When I’m in a big rut, I immediately turn to my raw cookbooks. It never takes long for me to get back into the kitchen! Interestingly, a year or so ago a reader of mine drew the distinction between a rut and a groove. I also eat a lot of the same meals again and again (salads or vegetables smothered in guacamole, for example), but I definitely don’t mind. I return to these meals because I love them so very much, not because I’m short on ideas. But I do know what you mean about sometimes needing fresh wind in your culinary sails. :-)

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of following a vegan diet?

A: The thing I love most about being vegan is knowing that I’m not consciously contributing to the captivity, discomfort, suffering, or death of other living beings through my food choices. Beyond this, veganism has made me think harder about my choices as a consumer on the whole, and their impact on the world around me. I’m not perfect, of course, and not all of the things I purchase are without harm (until very recently, for example, I never bothered to think about where my dark chocolate came from). But I credit veganism with helping me to become more thoughtful about the food on my plate.

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Thank you for the Q & A, Gena! I love what you mentioned about the distinction between a rut and a groove. I’m sure a lot of us can relate to that–I love my grooves! I also greatly appreciate your advice on yoga. I finally bit the bullet and bought an unlimited yoga membership. Here’s to the beginning of my practice! And thank you as well to everyone reading this post, for letting me introduce you to a girl who is not just one of my favorite bloggers, but is also a huge role model in my life. Visit Choosing Raw and get ready to be inspired!