Cultivating Food Peace This Holiday Season

Hey there!

I was planning on going home this weekend, but thanks to some wintry weather I’m still here in Durham. We didn’t get too much snow here, but my parents got a few inches. If you know the south, you know we aren’t prepared to drive in this stuff. I was bummed I won’t get to see my family and Chip, but I’ll probably be more motivated to get some studying done here. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Last night I shared a little bit on Instagram about food freedom around the holidays and it inspired me to blog! I didn’t think I would get a post up this week, but I’m feeling amped up so here we go.

Even though I’ve created a nice intuitive eating/health at every size/body acceptance bubble for myself online and in real life, some of the diet talk around Thanksgiving still squeaked its way onto my timeline and TV. I’m sure it’s going to ramp up again as we approach Christmas, New Year’s and National Dieting Month AKA January. Instead of getting excited about favorite holiday dishes and cherishing time with loved ones, a lot of conversation is spent on how many calories are in this or that dish, ways to make it “healthier,” or how to diet so that you can “make it all fit.” And I’ve been there! So I certainly understand if you are. I know it can be a hard time.

One might even say it’s a ruff time (check the shirt)… I’ll see myself out.

As I wrote on my Instagram last night, a few years ago I felt anxious about having certain foods in the house or at celebrations. Of course, this was heightened at holidays. Food is one way to connect and celebrate, but it wasn’t always easy for me to see the joy in that. When a party was on the horizon, part of me worried about what food would be there and what I would eat there and preemptively feel “bad” for it. I’m so thankful that over the past couple of years I’ve come a long way in improving my relationship to food. I’m not here to tell you I have all the answers, because I don’t. But I do have a few thoughts/tips/ideas about how to cultivate a more peaceful relationship with food around the holidays. I hope you find them helpful!

You don’t need to earn your food

If you see an article or TV segment about how much you need to exercise to “burn off” your food, ignore it! Turn off the channel if you need to. Eating is a biological need. You would not restrict yourself from peeing, or try to make up for it later in the day by holding it in, right!? So don’t pathologize your need to eat or a craving you may have. In addition, calorie counts are not always accurate, people absorb different amounts of nutrients from food, and calorie estimates from exercise are wildly inaccurate. We can’t boil down our health and weight to a mathematical formula. So many other factors are at play and weight does not = health. I would not recommend calorie counting even if all of these things were “perfect” – I am just sharing this to hopefully boost your confidence that calorie counting is not something you need to do. 🙂

You are not bad for eating the cake, or good for grabbing the veggie tray

You are good and worthy just as you are. Eating one type of food doesn’t make you a good or bad person. Food just doesn’t have that power! At the end of the day, all foods break down into the same things: fat, carbohydrate, protein, plus vitamins and minerals. All foods nourish your body in some way. I find it helpful to keep this in mind if the Food Police starts to pop up in my head.

Setting up a dichotomy of good and bad foods often sets you up for swinging from one extreme to another. That doesn’t feel good and probably makes you feel even less confident in your ability to nourish yourself. In addition, focusing on “good” and “bad” foods usually diminishes the eating experience. If you eat your grandma’s famous apple pie but the whole time you’re thinking “this is bad, I am bad” and afterwards you beat yourself up about it, that won’t feel too good. Those feelings of guilt and shame not only make you feel bad emotionally, they can actually cause gastrointestinal distress and make you feel sick.

Put all foods on the same playing field, and get curious instead of judgmental. This leads me to my next point…

More curiosity, less judgement

If you feel hungry after a holiday meal or party, think about what you could do differently next time. What might make you feel more satisfied? Or if you end up with a stomach ache, get curious about why. Did you go into the event too hungry? Every time I get way too hungry, my stomach hurts- no matter what I eat. Were you nervous? I think sometimes we are quick to blame what we ate for feeling poorly, and maybe sometimes that’s the case, but our emotional state, how hungry we were before, and even anxiety about those foods we ate can cause the same symptoms. Sometimes you might not have a clear answer about why you feel a certain way, and that’s fine, too.

You don’t have to eat something just because it’s the holidays

If there’s a certain thing everyone else is eating but you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. If someone is pushing seconds or thirds on you and you just can’t even, you can just not even. Even if there’s a food you like, but you’re just really full or don’t want it… remember you can always have it later.

Check in with yourself

Mindfully eating (checking in with how you’re feeling) at a holiday party can be hard. There’s so much going on! I certainly don’t expect to close my eyes and think about how amazing every single bite tastes. I do try to do a couple of quick checks while I’m eating that help me find satisfaction. I’ll give some examples, and I know it sounds tedious.. it did feel tedious at first when i was working on being more mindful, but it became more automatic over time!

Maybe just once during the meal, you can ask yourself “Am I satisfied yet?” “How does this food feel in my body?” or “Is this still tasting good?” There is no correct answer to these questions or a correct action to take if the answer is “yes” or “no.” If you are full, but the food is tasting delicious and you still want more, go for it! If the food isn’t tasting that great but you’re still hungry and there’s not a better option in the near future, maybe you want to keep eating. Maybe you don’t. The fun part is that YOU GET TO CHOOSE.

Hopefully you found these ideas helpful, or at least comforting during what I know can be a stressful time when it comes to food. I know it can be really hard to move away from a regimented or anxious way of thinking about food. I also know that is is really worth it. 🙂

A Week of Dinners: Plan versus Reality

Hello everyone and happy Saturday!

I hope you had a wonderful week. Mine absolutely flew by! Next Wednesday is our last day of class, so I’ve been plenty busy with assignments and group projects as things wrap up. I’ll be done exactly two weeks from yesterday. I am so ready to see this semester in my rear view mirror. It has been a doozy!

I’m here today to show you my plan for dinners this week and what I actually ended up eating. I don’t meal plan in order to control calories or to limit the types of food I eat. I meal plan because it helps me ensure I’ll have something tasty to eat each night and because it’s practical. I don’t want to come up with meals on the spot and make multiple trips to the store each week! Intuitive Eating involves honoring what you want to eat when you want to eat, but I can’t wait until I’m hungry for dinner to pick out what to cook or buy. It would be great to have access to any food I want at any time and be able to pick from all my options, but that’s not reality. That actually sounds kind of overwhelming!

So on Sunday, Chip and I talk about what days we want to cook based on our schedules. I plan for my dinners and buy all the ingredients that day. Chip usually decides on a recipe and grocery shops day-of. (Side note: This is another reason food freedom is so wonderful. I don’t have to worry about what Chip is cooking or micromanage his plans, and I can fully enjoy whatever chooses to make.) I do usually “assign” a meal to a certain night to make it easy, but if I’m not feeling what’s on the plan, I will swap around a couple of meals. I do try to keep easy things on hand, like pasta and sauce or fish and rice in case nothing sounds great or I don’t want to plan a meal for one night.

This week was a little different than usual. Chip left to go home for Christmas break on Tuesday, so I was on my own in the food department the rest of the week. I also knew I had a lot more free time this week and could run back to the grocery store later on, which I usually try to avoid. So all that to say, every week is different and obviously things would be totally different if I had a family to feed or if I had a really busy schedule. But I want to show that you CAN plan meals you enjoy and find satisfying while leaving room for what you want and feel like making. It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan. Brace yourselves for ugly food pictures, because it’s pitch black at dinner time now-I’m missing those long summer days!

So here’s what the plan was:

Sunday-Chip cooks

Monday-Bacon and bean soup with bread

Tuesday-Leftovers or Chip cooks

Wednesday-Tilapia, rice, broccoli

Thursday-Rotisserie chicken, potatoes, green beans

Friday-Rotisserie chicken, grain mix or pasta, vegetable

And here’s what I ended up doing:

Sunday-Chip cooked as we planned! It was one of those nights where neither of us had an opinion on what we wanted to eat. Eventually he went out to get a frozen pizza and bag of broccoli. I think the pizza was the DiGiorno rising crust pepperoni, and it was really good. It was gooey as you can probably see, and it could have cooked a few more minutes, but we were hungry and impatient.

Monday-I made the bacon and bean soup as planned. I had a bag of celery and carrots in the freezer leftover from another soup that I really wanted to use. I wanted to make white bean soup, but I couldn’t find any recipes that fit the bill, so I made my own. It turned out to be pretty good! I’m going to make it again in a few weeks and tweak a few things, then share it here. It was super ugly, though, so here’s a picture of bread.

I found a bag of baguette slices at Target this week and used those to make mini cheese toast/butter toast. They were the perfect addition to the meal.

Tuesday-I had a ton of leftover soup, so we had that again. I also had it for lunch several days this week.

Wednesday-I got home from babysitting a little later than usual and was just not feeling the meal I planned, which was tilapia, rice, and broccoli. Some days fish just really doesn’t sound appetizing to me. So I whipped up a really fancy dinner from these three things…

Chip was kind enough to bring me this box of mac and cheese he had leftover when he left for Christmas break. The turkey meatballs were pretty boring without sauce, so I put some in the mac and cheese and tossed the rest.

Thursday-The plan was rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and green beans, and that’s what I had! I went back to the grocery store to pick those things up. I also left with a candle and a face mask. Whoops, that’s what happens when you grocery shop at Super Target. I tossed the potatoes and green beans with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and roasted them at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Friday-I planned on having more rotisserie chicken with grain mix or pasta and a vegetable. I had plenty of left over roasted potatoes, so I had those with rotisserie chicken and more roasted broccoli. This meal got the job done, but I’m looking forward to trying some different recipes next week. I love simple meals like this, but by day 2 I was feeling bored. Especially with broccoli. Note to self: mix it up in the vegetable department next week!

As for today, I didn’t plan anything for dinner. Usually on the weekend I make something from the freezer/pantry, we get take out, or we go out to eat. I’ll probably end up making pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs, since I already have it all. After that, I’m headed to Michelle’s for a Christmas cookie party! I’m pretty excited to break out my ugly Christmas sweater. I hope you all have a great weekend!

One Year of Soon to Be RD!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m enjoying my time at my grandma’s house. We come here every year for Thanksgiving and I always look forward to our time with her. She is an amazing woman and one of my most loyal readers. Love you, Sasa! (Her name is Sarah but we call her Sasa. I know, so cute.)

Yesterday was exciting for another reason-it marked 1 year since my first blog post!

Oh my goodness, I remember being so scared when I pressed “publish” on that first post! I was even more nervous when I published the next one about my journey with food. I was really nervous to post about my evolving relationship with food and moving toward gentle nutrition. That felt really bold for me at the time!

Thankfully, having this blog and my Instagram has allowed me to connect with so many awesome people who practice the way I hope to one day and who help me strengthen my resolve. As I wrote this post and looked back on my first ones, I could see how much stronger my beliefs have come over the past year and how much more confident I’ve become in expressing them.

I’ve learned more of the language of the non-diet world, and reading Intuitive Eating really helped me say goodbye to the final pieces of diet culture I was holding onto. I’ve edited some of my earliest posts to be more in line with what I’ve learned over the past year. My core beliefs haven’t changed, but I’ve learned even more to strengthen my values and some of my language has changed. I want posts to be up-to-date and in line with my values so readers don’t see an old post and wonder why it seems at odds with what I write now. Like all people, I’m constantly changing and learning. I’m going to make mistakes along the way, but I can have self-compassion when I look back and see something I wouldn’t write now, knowing that I did it with the best intentions and information I had at the time.

Since that first post, a lot has happened in my life! I finished my first year of grad school, got engaged, completed my first dietetic internship rotation, and now I’m almost finished with the toughest semester of the program. (Or so I hope, please nobody tell me that next semester is even worse!) I read Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size and got even more fired up about the non-diet approach. I spent countless hours listening to podcasts and reading blogs from many dietitians I look up to.

I’m excited to see how this space evolves over time. I plan to keep posting weekly, but we will see how that changes when I’m doing internships again and once I graduate! This time next year, I’ll be married (!) and so close to being a forreal forreal Registered Dietitian. Obviously I am going to need a new blog name! So that will be a change. Oh, and I’ll be moving to Charlotte in May! I’m sure I’ll talk about that more another time, but I’m so excited to be closer to my family (and Chip’s!). I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in Charlotte.

I get wrapped up in my dreams a lot. It is still my dream to have a private practice and to work with clients to heal their relationships with food and body and discover what health means to them. I have a long way to go before that is a reality. I have so much to learn, but that’s exciting to me and one thing I love about the field of nutrition-there is always more to learn! No matter where I end up or what the journey is to get there, I hope you stay along for the ride. I think it’s going to be fun.

Thank you for following along over the past year! Even if I’ve never talked to you or you’ve never commented, just knowing you’re here makes me so happy. If you have any suggestions related to the blog or topic ideas, please let me know! I’m always open to feedback and inspiration. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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Eating Satisfying Food

Whenever I embarked on an attempt to change my body in the past, I tried to figure out how to make my meals and snacks lower in calories. That’s what I was taught-eat less and you’ll lose weight and life will be grand! In many instances, I was trying to “save up” for later so I could enjoy a dessert or a night out with friends or my favorite family foods at an upcoming holiday meal. (Pssst- you can do that any time, no matter what you ate earlier!) When I went out to eat, I looked for what had a certain number or calories or seemed “healthy,” rather than choosing what I wanted.

Eating less for the purposes of manipulating my body was not something I could maintain long term, for many reasons. For one, I don’t have the power to control my weight-we all have a set point weight range that our body will fight to stay in. Another point, and what I want to talk about today, is that it wasn’t satisfying. I was eating what I thought I should eat and leaving off foods to make my meals be lower on the calorie scoreboard rather than eating foods and meals that were satisfying to me.

Satisfaction is a different from fullness, and here’s the best way I can explain it. If I ate a large bowl of plain raw veggies, I would probably feel full. But would I be satisfied? Unless I was really just craving a bowl of plain raw veggies, probably not. (Put some ranch dressing on there and then we can talk!) Some foods are extremely satisfying but not filling. As I’m typing this, I just finished a Reese’s Christmas tree that was satisfying, but small and not filling. That’s fine-sometimes I just want a little snack! In general, though, I think about eating foods that are filling and satisfying when I’m hungry. The epitome of a satisfying food experience is finishing the meal and going, “that hit the spot!”

Eating unsatisfying foods day after day left me feeling empty and unhappy. I spent the time until my next meal or snack thinking about food rather than getting on with my day with a full tummy. It also made me want my off-limits foods even more, so when finally I ate them I felt like I had no control. Eating less earlier in the day to “save up” for dinner or a treat just made me hyper-aware of the fact that I wasn’t getting to eat what I wanted. Plus, it obviously made me hungrier so I often ended eating more than some app on my phone told me I could eat and then I felt guilty. I wasn’t giving my body adequate nourishment-no wonder it found a way to get it later on!

Instead of approaching meals or snacks wondering, “How can I make this less in ___” nowadays I ask myself, “What could I eat that would be satisfying?” I want my food to taste good, and I don’t want to be hungry in an hour. Of course, that happens sometimes, but in general I want to be able to eat, enjoy it, and then have enough fuel to get through the next few hours doing what I need to do. To me, this is a much healthier way to approach food.

Satisfying meals for me involve carbs, fat, and protein. Oh yeah, they all come to the party! I’m not saying that every single meal has to have all 3 or else I’ve failed. Of course not! But in general, I know if I’m missing one at a meal I probably won’t be satisfied.

Yeah yeah, that’s all great in theory, but what does it look like? I’m glad you asked! One of our favorite easy meals is tilapia, rice, and broccoli. After eating that a few times and realizing I was STARVING an hour later, I started adding feta cheese on top of my fish. The meal was lacking in fat and I just didn’t feel like “that meal hit the spot.” Adding feta made it more filling, and having another food on the plate that I enjoy made it more satisfying. Similarly, when I make my favorite chunky lentil and vegetable soup, I always pair it with bread. Sure, I could eat enough soup to feel full, but without bread to dunk in my soup it’s just not as satisfying.

When I go out to eat, now I order what I actually want. If I want grilled nuggets at Chick-fil-A, I get those. If a spicy chicken sandwich sounds more satisfying, I get that. The beauty of it is that I have options- I don’t have to pick what has the lowest calories. I do my best to not even look at that information so it can’t influence my decision. Even if I do notice it, I try to brush it off and remember that picking the unsatisfying choice is, well, unsatisfying. I know I’ll spend the rest of the day thinking about food and going snack to snack to fill the void. Sometimes I’ll be like, “This only has X calories!? That will not be satisfying to me! Better get something more filling or order something to go with it.”

You might be thinking- “If I find pleasure and satisfaction in my food, I don’t think I’ll ever stop eating.” I understand. So often we are told that foods that are tasty are the enemy, or will make us gain weight which would obviously be the worst thing ever (major sarcasm!). Diets don’t leave too much room for autonomy, and they often make you settle for less-than-stellar food experiences. However, deprivation is a key contributor to backlash eating. This is what I was talking about earlier. I would restrict during the day, or over time, and eventually I would say “Screw it, I’m hungry, I’m eating all the food.” Usually I ended up with a stomach ache and feeling even less confident about eating.

Figuring out what foods are satisfying to me has been a really fun part of my Intuitive Eating journey. (Side note: of course I didn’t make the switch in mindset overnight! It took time to ditch the diet mentality and give myself permission to eat all foods. But it is worth it!) I discovered I need all 3 macronutrients at a meal to be satisfied, and keeping this in mind helps me plan meals I’ll really enjoy. If I plan a meal that’s lacking in one area for whatever reason, I’ll have a snack on hand for later. Fulfilling cravings and eating the real thing rather than trying to shop around for a replacement or “healthy” version is also very satisfying.

Of course, what is satisfying to me may not be to you, and what is satisfying to me tomorrow may be different than today! That’s the fun and empowering thing about Intuitive Eating. You already have all of the answers to how to best nourish yourself and be satisfied in your choices-you just have to get curious and tap into your inner wisdom and find out. You deserve to enjoy all of life’s pleasures, and that includes eating foods you find satisfying and pleasurable.

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Friday Favorites #4

Hi everyone!

I was planning on writing a post tomorrow, but I’m at home with a cold today so I figured I would get on here and chat. I haven’t done a Friday Favorites in a while, so let’s dive in!

Intuitive Eating Workbook

It has been almost a year since I first read Intuitive Eating, and I truly believe it changed my life. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. I was already pretty sure I didn’t want to diet or help people diet as a RD, and this book strengthened my beliefs and showed me another way. I had already learned a lot about intuitive eating from podcasts and blogs, but reading the actual book was so valuable. It laid out an alternate to participating in diet culture and pursuing weight loss, and gave me the courage to learn how to treat myself well and work toward food and body peace.

Earlier this year the authors came out with a workbook to provide a way for readers to practice the 10 principles on their own. I finally ordered a copy last week and I love it so far! I’m only on principle 2 but I feel confident that the rest of it will be just as awesome. It has been a great way to brush up on the concepts and reignite my passion for this approach without reading the whole book again. I plan on doing that over the holidays, though, because I love it so much and feel like I’ll take something new away from it each time.

The Carbonaro Effect

Have y’all seen this show!? I hadn’t until last night, and then I watched about 3 hours of it. It comes on Tru TV and features Michael Carbonaro, an amazing magician and prankster. He pretends to be different regular people, like someone selling supplments or tea or a wildlife tour guide, and does crazy magic tricks to unsuspecting strangers. There are hidden cameras to capture their reaction and it is hilarious. It also makes me want to know HOW DOES HE DO IT!? I spent way too much time Googling “is the Carbonaro Effect show fake” last night, and have concluded it is pretty real.

Letting Sarah Beth Plan Our Wedding

I told y’all that my mom and sister visited last weekend because I got to try on my wedding dress! It was so much fun and I loved it even more than the first time I tried it on. Anyway, I was telling them how I am so slow at wedding planning and hate making decisions. Sarah Beth was like, “seriously, send me a list and I’ll get on it.” I am so excited to get married and for our wedding day but I don’t love communicating with vendors back and forth (I lose track of what’s going on) and most of all MAKING DECISIONS. I didn’t mind making choices about the venue, dress, and catering, because I care a lot about those things. Choosing our photographer was also easy, because we loved Sarah Beth and Cody’s so much we snagged her for our wedding, too! But when it comes to things like flowers and ceremony music, I have no idea where to start.

sneak peak from our engagement session with Olivia Suriano -she took this on her phone once we were done and I can’t wait to see them all!

For example, the florist asked me what I wanted the flowers to look like, and my answer was “I don’t know….pretty?” I have no clue. In contrast, Sarah Beth LOVES wedding planning and browsing vendors and has a total vision for how the day can look. Also, she just got married in case you forgot (which I doubt, I talked about it every day for forever), and her wedding was perfect. We have very similar taste—I told her that she could literally do everything and I would show up on wedding day and be thrilled! She does event planning at work and I know she would make a FAB wedding planner on her own one day.

I gave her a list to start with and said I would tackle what’s left over Christmas break, and I think she has made her way through most of it. It would have taken me 2 weeks to draft an email to a vendor and she did it in like 10 minutes this week. She’s awesome and I couldn’t be more thankful for her help. One thing I am excited about is our catering tasting next Wednesday! My mom and Chip’s mom are coming with us and it’s going to be fun and delicious.

New Spices

Ok this might be a weird one, but I’m really excited about these new spices I got last weekend. When mom and Sarah Beth were here, we met up with Cody and his mom to shop. I was not interested in the clothes stores, then Cody’s mom mentioned there was a Savory Spice nearby and I was like YES LET’S GO NOW.  I think mom and I smelled every spice in the store-don’t worry they had samples to smell lol.

I haven’t used the taco seasoning yet, but it smells amazing. We used the butcher’s rub on some chicken earlier this week and it elevated an otherwise boring chicken breast. I like chicken in other dishes, like pasta or curry or soup, but on it’s own it’s just ‘meh’ to me. This made it super yummy and I’m going to try to make a pot roast with it soon. Stay tuned!

My stomach is growling so I’m hitting publish then going to make a bowl of Ramen, which sounds perfect on this cold and sniffly day. Have a great weekend!

Favorite Fall Meals

Hello there!

I hope you’re doing well on this Saturday morning. I’m super excited because I get to go try on my wedding dress today!!! I found “the one” back in May and placed my order. They won’t start alterations yet; today I’ll just put it on and make sure everything looks good. Sarah Beth (my sister) and Cody, her husband, are here for the weekend, so Chip and I had dinner with them last night. Mom gets here in a few hours, so she and Sarah Beth will come with me to the dress appointment! I’m always excited for any excuse to spend time with them.

Anyway…this is a post about yummy food I’ve made lately. We have been having some lovely fall weather (although yesterday the high was 82..come on North Carolina), so I’ve been making all the soup. Soups are the best-they make me feel cozy, they’re usually easy to make, and I have plenty to eat for leftovers so I save $$$ on groceries. I think I’ve posted all of these on Instagram but they’re worth sharing here to have all in one place. Even if you saw them on the Insta, I’ve linked all the recipes below and shared some details about how we served it, so if you’re in need for some recipe inspiration for next week maybe you’ll get some ideas!

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Several weeks ago I put out a call for yummy fall soups and chilis, and my Aunt Janet delivered! This was one of the ones she sent, and it was AMAZING. I think it came from the Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook by Bob Warden. I made this almost a month ago, and I definitely plan on making again soon. It was one of those recipes where you just dump a bunch of stuff into the crock pot, then magic happens and you have an amazing meal. If you’re interested in the recipe, I think I still have a picture of it somewhere that I’m happy to pass along! I’m pretty sure we just ate this on its own and wished we had bread or something to go with it. I totally just forgot to get anything to pair with it, so I just had a bigger snack after dinner. No biggie, but something I’ll remember for next time.

Turkey Chili

Next up is my all time favorite chili. I make it every year and get so excited when it’s on the menu. I’m sure I shared it on the blog last year, but it’s this recipe on Allrecipes.com. I follow the suggestions listed on the “most helpful comment,” and it turns out perfectly! This time, I forgot the black beans but it was still great. I have nothing against beef and sometimes use that, too- it just depends on what is on sale! Both taste great in this recipe. If you’re not a meat eater, another can of beans would do the trick to get the same consistency. I top mine with cheese, while Chip goes for cheese and sour cream, and we always use tortilla chips for dipping!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese

This was a new-to-me recipe (from BudgetBytes, of course) that I served with grilled cheese. The instructions call for a transferring the soup to a blender, but I just used my immersion blender and it turned out fine. Sometimes I shy away from basic soups like this because I know there’s no way it will fill me up on its own, and I’m usually too lazy to come up with something else to go with it. I had the idea to make grilled cheese to make it more satisfying. Why did I never do this before!? Pro tip: buy fresh baked bread from the grocery store and a good block of cheddar cheese. This soup also freezes well, which comes in handy on those days I just don’t want to cook or go out to buy food.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

This is another BudgetBytes recipe! I made it last year and knew it was a winner when Chip told me it tastes like the loaded potato soup at Fatz. This one takes some prep work because you have to chop ALL THE POTATOES but I promise it’s worth it. It’s delicious and makes a lot of soup. I was procrastinating studying when I made this so I went ahead and chopped the extra carrots and celery. The recipe only calls for 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery, so I had a lot left over that I didn’t want to waste. Now they’re in freezer and ready to go for the next soup! I used my immersion blender for this recipe, too, and wished I had checked as I just kept blending away because I ended up wishing it was chunkier. But that was total user error, not a recipe error, and it was still fantastic. Bacon, cheese, and green onions take this soup to the next level.

Do you have any great recipes to add to the list? Please share if you do! And have a fabulous Saturday 🙂 

Hygge + Current Self Care Practices

Hi everyone!

I didn’t mean to go MIA on ya last week, but I’ve been a bit overwhelmed. More on that in a second! Fall break was last Thursday and Friday, and it was nice to have time away from classes. We took our engagement pictures on Thursday and we had a great time with our photographer! I’ll be sure to share some pictures once we have them back. Livi was in them, of course, and she did great. Here’s a sneak peak of her outfit–I die.

Anyway, onto today’s topic of self care! I have a handful of things I do for self care, but before I get to that, let’s take a short detour to talk about mental health and therapy. Lately I’m seeing how what I need for self care changes through different seasons of life.

Recently my anxiety has been giving me trouble after a lovely few years mostly apart. I’m so thankful to have a wonderful family and people in my life I can talk to when I’m struggling, but I realized I wasn’t feeling better as time passed like I hoped. Thanks to some encouragement from Chip (a future therapist himself) and my mom, I reached out and scheduled a counseling appointment and massage for last Friday.

Once I made the appointment, I felt like a weight lifted. Just knowing I had a session lined up made me feel better. I’m putting this out there because, 1-I like to be open, and 2-I want to do my part as a future healthcare practitioner/general human to reduce stigma around mental health. Mental health is such a huge part of overall health and wellbeing and it’s talked about way less than other components of health. I am very open about my anxiety with Chip, my family, and my friends, and I’ve been in counseling before, and it was still really hard for me to reach out for help! I remind myself it’s no different than seeking out medical attention when something hurts, but taking the step from “I’m not feeling so great” to “I need some extra support from a professional” is always scary for me. I know it would be a little easier if we, as a society, had open and vulnerable conversations about mental health and counseling.

I’m so, so thankful to have health insurance that covers most of the counseling and wish we lived in a country/world where everyone could access the care they need. During our session the therapist asked about my coping mechanisms and I told her all the things I do for self care. See, I told you this story would relate to the blog topic! She said I’m already doing a lot of things she would encourage clients to do, but I left asking myself what else I could add to my bucket of tools. (Obviously we talked about strategies for anxiety and some things to work on–I’m definitely not saying these ideas will treat symptoms!)

To me, self care isn’t just like, “today’s a self care day, I’m going to do all these things for myself!” I totally do that from time to time, but equally important is doing nice things for myself daily. I also don’t think self care has to be expensive-it’s usually not for me! It pained me to spend $ on the massage, but I think it had been years since my last one and I really needed it. Anyway, here are my current self care practices, including one new one I’m excited about.

(because this post would not be complete without a Parks and Rec treat yo self reference)

Therapy. Well I just told you about that, but I think it’s important for me to realize this will be an important part of self-care for me throughout different times in my life.

Light all. the. candles. I LOVE candles and I don’t care who knows it. I love putting on cozy pajamas, lighting a candle, and reading or watching TV in bed. Sometimes I light a candle in the morning while I study just to make myself happier.

Take Livi for a walk. Fresh air always does wonders for my mood! Even taking my Livi for a short 5 minute walk helps me clear my head and a little movement usually feels nice. If I’ve been studying for a while or I’m stuck on an assignment, this is my go-to move.

Adult coloring books. This is something new I added after my counseling session last week! I was trying to think of something that might be relaxing or allow me to be creative, and then I remembered adult coloring books are a thing. I went to Barnes & Noble and got one all about “hygge,” which I actually heard about on Kylie’s blog a while back. It’s a Danish and Norwegian word which translates to a quality of coziness and contentment.

If you ask Chip what my favorite thing to be is, he will tell you “cozy,” so obviously I am all about hygge. I feel like that’s is what self care is all about: making life joyful, cozy, and peaceful in big and small acts of kindness to yourself and being in tune with what you need. Anyway, here is a link to the coloring book if you are interested! It’s full of nice sayings and pictures of things like tea cups and sweaters. The other night I listened to a podcast while coloring with a candle burning and I was like “yasss queen of self care.”

Read a book. I don’t do this that often but sometimes putting away my electronics and turning the pages of a book is a nice way to relax. Right now I’m working on Body Kindness, but I am reading pretty slowly. Like, a few pages per week slowly. It’s a good book, but lately I’m turning to things that don’t require much brain power.

Cook a new recipeMost of the time, I love to cook. Trying a new recipe is always exciting, and if I’m feeling kind of wonky it’s a great way to help me feel more like myself.

Yoga videos. I’m still loving Yoga with Adriene videos from time to time, especially when I’m feeling the need to slow down. Even if the video has a faster pace, yoga is always a great opportunity for me to connect to my breath and my body and practice gratitude. (All aboard the cheesy train, I know, but it’s true!)

Watch a good TV show. Obviously everyone watches TV so it seems kind of stupid to list it as a “self care practice,” but whatever it’s my list I’ll do what I want! No but seriously, some nights my motivation to finish studying is so I can get in bed and watch TV. Lately I’ve been working my way through Veep so I need another funny TV show for when I’m done! I’ve watched The Office and Parks and Rec all the way through a million times and feel like nothing compares, so send me your recommendations 🙂

That’s all for me today-feel free to share your favorite self care activities!

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A Letter to 18 Year Old Me

Lately I’ve been thinking about the things we tell women about their bodies and how that can manifest itself in negative ways. I remember going to my college orientation and being scared to death about the “Freshman 15” thanks to a session dedicated to the topic. I really, really hope they are not doing that anymore. Of course, there are so many factors that contribute to disordered eating, negative body image, and the development of eating disorders, but the focus that many universities put on weight gain is just not necessary and supremely unhelpful.

I can’t say that at age 18 I would have had the maturity to listen to an alternative message, but I don’t think it would hurt. I was so entrenched in the belief that smaller was better that I bet I would have brushed it off. If I ruled the world, I would encourage colleges to not say anything unless they have something nice to say. Either don’t discuss bodies, or bring in a weight inclusive wellness message that everyone can benefit from. Either way, here’s a letter I wrote to the version of me that just left college orientation. (Side note: the session about the freshman 15 at orientation was directed to young men and women, and I absolutely know men feel pressure to look a certain way, too, but I am speaking from my own experience here.)


Lindsay,

I know you just went to orientation at UNC and you’ll be going to college soon. How exciting! These will be 4 of the best years of your life, and I promise it’s not all downhill after. 🙂 You met a lot of fun people at orientation, and I can’t wait for you to meet many of your best friends over the years to come. You’re going to love them.

You’re a planner by nature, and I know you’ve been researching everything there is to know about college. You spent hours and hours perfecting your class schedule, and I know you’re excited to get started. I also know that you’ve heard a lot of chatter about the “freshman 15” at orientation. You heard about the unlimited buffets of food, sleepless nights, and late night behaviors that people said are going to make you gain weight, which would surely be the worst thing ever. In fact, it’s so scary that UNC dedicated a whole session at orientation to let you know-as if you’ve never heard about the freshman 15 or felt pressure to be thin.

I’m from the future, so I can let you in on a few secrets. Yes, you will gain weight during college. No, it will not be the end of the world. You will also gain priceless memories, some of the best friends in the world, and um…a DEGREE! That’s why you’re going, don’t forget. Every body is different, so keep in mind that your friends might experience body changes in a different way, or not at all.

But here’s the thing—no body change is better than the other. Don’t compare and despair. All bodies are good bodies, and besides, you are so much more than your weight. You have so much to offer the world, and it has nothing to do with what your body looks like. Also, bodies change! You’ll see your body change from that of a young high school girl to a more grown woman. I know- it’s going to be scary to see the number on the scale go up, but it’s going to be okay. (Side note: throw that scale away!) It doesn’t mean you are less healthy-that’s a load of bologna. Take time to work on your body image and reframe your idea of beauty. Doing this work is more important and fulfilling than fighting your body’s natural inclination. Plus, you can engage in health at whatever size you are today, next month, or next year.

I know you were told to avoid overeating, eating late at night, missing sleep, and becoming a couch potato all in the name of not gaining the dreaded freshman 15. I would encourage you to have good sleep hygiene, because it’s important for brain function and overall wellbeing, not because it will help you lose weight. I hope you eat regularly and nourish yourself well, mind and body, but don’t skip out on fun nights with your friends. Sometimes those nights will end at Time Out at 2 am for biscuits-enjoy it!

And please don’t beat yourself up for it. I know you will. I know you’ll think you need to run harder or eat less, but you don’t. Don’t lose your love of food-it’s meant to be enjoyed, not controlled. If you want to exercise because you enjoy it or it’s fun to go to the gym with friends, go for it, but don’t feel like you have to do it to control your body. Your mental health is so important, so be sure to do things that feel good to you. I’m willing to bet micromanaging your body size doesn’t fall into that category.

During these next four years you will figure out what you’re doing with your life. You’ll have the best time in Chapel Hill with your friends who become family. You will do 2 years of long distance with your boyfriend. Many of those weekends will be full of long car drives and whatever you can eat on the road. You will begin to figure out who you are made to be. And I promise you, letting go of the fear of weight gain will make all of that better. This is such a precious phase of life, and I don’t want you to waste your time counting calories or stressing about the scale. Enjoy it, because you won’t get this time back. And don’t forget, you are worthy and valuable just as you are.

Love,

24 Year Old Lindsay

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Whirlwind Week + Sometimes Food Isn’t Exciting

Hello hello!

Oh my goodness, it has been quite the week. Since we last had a chat, Sarah Beth and Cody got married and it was the best weekend ever! The weather was absolutely perfect and it was so fun to spend time with family and friends.  It’s hard to be sad that the weekend is over because they are so happy. I’m thrilled for them!

I returned to class on Monday even though all I could do was stare at pictures from the weekend. I mean, look!!

photo cred: Olivia Suriano via Nancy Ray Photography

They seriously belong in a magazine. Anyway, this week was slammed on the school front. I joked to Grace that getting through this week felt like trying to cross an ocean of peanut butter. I have no plans this weekend, so I’m glad I’ll have time to catch up all the things.

Last weekend I got an email that my HelloFresh box was on its way. I got a free box from mom a while back but decided not to get another one for a while. Well, I forgot to skip this week but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

I was happy to have three dinners planned and ready to go, and I was able to make it until Tuesday without needing to go get other groceries. Even though I didn’t want to spend that $ on a box, it was worth it. Since I forgot it was coming, I got the default meals for the week and they have been great. Below is the beef ragu spaghetti we had on Monday. Yumm. I’ve still got one more-quesadillas-that I’ll probably make tonight.

Other than those meals, food was not exciting to me most of this week. It was almost a nuisance to have to break from school work to eat. I didn’t spend time planning dinners or buying plenty of groceries. Several meals and snacks were just “meh.” This included a can of chili that I didn’t really want and an overpriced boring chicken wrap I bought at school on Wednesday. I was shadowing at the hospital that afternoon, so I just ate until I wasn’t hungry anymore, even though it wasn’t satisfying at all. I wanted to be able to focus on the experience, not my grumbling stomach!

The reason I’m sharing this is because I think it can be easy to think you’re doing intuitive eating “wrong” if you eat something you don’t really want or have a mediocre eating experience. (Reminder: intuitive eating is about learning to take care of yourself..you can’t fail!) I usually plan satisfying and tasty meals and have snacks on hand that I like, but sometimes I don’t have time or the mental energy to care. Sometimes I just gotta eat something so I can do the things I need to do. That’s really what food freedom is about, right!? To me, it’s about enjoying food and having it be a fun and delicious part of my life. But it’s just one part. I don’t want it to take up so much space that it steals my joy or adds more stress during a hectic week-or any week for that matter.

Now that things have calmed down, I’m looking forward to planning some meals I’ll look forward to for next week. I really want to break out the slow cooker to make soup and pretend like it’s not still in the 80s in NC. You know you’re getting old when a weekend of studying and making soup sounds really nice, huh!? Anyway, if you have any good fall soup recipes, please send them my way!

That concludes the most random blog post I’ve written in a while. Have a great weekend 🙂

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Ranting and Raving, 2nd Edition

Hi everyone!

Today I’m going to my two classes and then I’ll be in celebration mode! My sister’s wedding venue has an inn on site, so my family is staying there starting today. I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to focus with dreams of wedding bells in my head. Tomorrow is the bridal luncheon, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner, then Saturday it’s go time! I’m so excited for SB and Cody to be married. I can’t wait to celebrate my favorite people all weekend.

Before I go, I wanted to post another edition of ranting and raving, because some things have been driving me crazy lately! And of course, I’ll leave you with something I’ve been loving lately so we can end on a happier note.

Rants

A fatphobic discussion on the Today Show

Y’all know I love the Today Show. I watch it every morning with my cup (or three) of coffee, but a couple of weeks ago one conversation really disappointed me. It was during a round table segment, and I don’t remember the topic, but Hoda Kotb said that she has never felt prettier than when she dated an “overweight” person. My jaw hit the floor! I was like, surely she did not say that and they’re going to change the convo/someone will correct her.

Nope. Jenna Bush Hager jumped in to say you should never date someone who can fit your jeans. In return, someone else joked that Matt Lauer could probably fit his wife’s pants. He said something like, “Oh are you saying my wife has a 32 inch waist? I’m going to be in trouble!” The whole thing made me so sick. What makes me just as disappointed is that nobody is mad about this!! I know many people don’t watch the show, but I can’t find even one article calling them out on this really awful segment. I went to Twitter to see if anyone else was mad, and I can still only find 2 tweets about it in the entire Twitterverse by fellow angry people. I think I should befriend them.

Equating a larger with body size with unattractiveness is so awful and is an idea that people with a microphone need to help change, not contribute to. I wish the Today Show gang thought about how someone in a larger body might feel watching this segment. How would they feel knowing that their favorite morning host, or anyone for that matter, would get a messed up self esteem boost dating them because of their body size? How about someone who has a 32 inch or larger waist, hearing that having this pant size is an insult to some people? What would they say to someone who is the same size as their partner and can fit their jeans? Should they break up? (Obviously not. Every single person is deserving of love and respect, and body size does not determine worth or value.)

Weight stigma is everywhere, and we need to call it out when we see it. It’s not okay to put people down for how their body looks, in any circumstance. All bodies are good bodies. The end.

KIND Bar Label

I love KIND bars and buy them often. While I love regular chewy granola bars and buy those, too, I find KIND bars to be more satisfying. It’s also a good way for me to eat nuts since I tend to forget about them. I feel annoyed when I buy them and see the tagline, “Ingredients you can see and pronounce.” I’m the first person to admit I fell for this idea a few years ago. I thought I should be able to recognize and pronounce what I eat and that things added to food were bad. In reality, we need things added to some of our foods to extend their shelf life and keep us safe from mold and other things we don’t want to eat.

I visited their website to find this: “We believe if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it shouldn’t go into your body. Actually, it shouldn’t go into your pantry.” Yikes. It would be pretty difficult and socially isolating to eat only ingredients you can pronounce. Even quinoa is hard to pronounce! I guess dihydrogen monoxide, also known as WATER, should send a shock of fear into my heart. I’m exaggerating of course, but I did feel guilty for eating things that didn’t meet that standard in the past. I get where people are coming from with this-eat more fresh food and all of that-but I still think it can be a harmful message to push. Plus, KIND isn’t even selling fresh food so I guess I don’t really see their argument for using it other than keeping you from buying all the other scary granola bars!

Raves

This blog post by Rachael Hartley about the privilege of wellness.

This is such a great post about how pursuing health is a privilege, not a moral obligation. Many people don’t have the luxury of worrying about if organic is heathier-they may not have clean water or a safe place to walk. That’s not to say that it’s bad to care about your health and pursue it as you wish-I dream of a world where everyone has the resources to take care of themselves however they choose! But it’s important to recognize that many people don’t even have access to the basic things we need to be healthy, and to fight on their behalf. I hope to find a way to contribute to making health accessible for all people somehow in my career/life.

This Instagram post from @bodypositivememes

So true! All it tells you about is your relationship with gravity.

Alright everyone I’m out of here! Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on the other side of all of the wedding fun. 🙂

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