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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Working Through Black and White Thinking Around Exercise

Friday evening I went for a run. According to my watch, It was my first outdoor run since June 2. But I’m getting ahead of myself-let’s rewind.

I always liked running, but sophomore year of college I decided I was going to do a half marathon. So I did, and then I did 8 more over the next few years. I really, really enjoyed it. Soon my sister started doing them, then my mom and dad, then my roommates. I loved having that connection with others, feeling strong, and challenging myself. I found that running 3x a week was my sweet spot. Any more than that, and I burned out and/or got injured.

I really did enjoy running, but I was terrified of taking time off- even when I was injured. I was afraid I would lose any fitness I had gained in training, and I would slow down or not be able to run as far. I’m sure some of it was a fear that if I stopped, I would gain weight, but it was really more about the actual running.

Even when I wasn’t training, I kept running 3x a week most of the time until very recently. I still enjoyed it, but I think that part of me felt like I “had” to, just because that’s what I always did. What if I ran less? Would I still be a “runner”? I felt like I should be be able to do the same speed workouts week to week. Part of it was habit, and part of it was being competitive with myself and wanting to be able to keep up any progress I had made. I felt stressed about skipping workouts or not exercising “enough,” and I’ve made a lot of progress over the past year.

I realized my mindset had shifted for the better when I just skipped the Tar Heel 10 Miler after getting engaged. In the past, I would have been distraught over missing a race I had trained for. Over last year in particular, I’ve felt more peaceful about exercise. I did more of what I wanted to do instead of what I felt I “should” do, and I discussed some of that in this post. But this summer I realized that I was still hanging onto some black and white thinking about it. Here are some examples of the lingering “diet mentality” I still had around exercising.

-I felt like if I didn’t run X miles or lift weights for X minutes, it didn’t “count.”

-I thought if I walked at all during my run, it wasn’t a “real run.”

-If I went a week or so without running, I worried I wouldn’t be able to do it when I tried again.

-My exercise log was making me feel bad. During training, it’s very helpful for tracking mileage and seeing progress. However, I realized it was making me feel inadequate when I didn’t have a race on the calendar. If I hadn’t done “structured” exercise that day. If I just took my dog for a walk, or if I did nothing at all, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I felt like simple activities I enjoyed didn’t “count” as exercise that I could write down. So when I ran out of pages this summer I didn’t order another one.

Coming home this summer has been really good for me. I think if I was still in my apartment, I would have felt pressure to keep running 3x a week, even if it didn’t sound good. I have a trail right outside my door and a treadmill at my apartment gym I really like. See below-it has the perfect spot for my personal fan. Best $10 I ever spent.

But home is different. I have to drive about 20 minutes to get to a running route. Each day I wake up around 6:15 and enjoy a cup of coffee with my parents. I didn’t want to give that up, or wake up earlier to drive and run by myself. I was adjusting to my real people work schedule, versus my usual flexible school schedule, and didn’t want to go after work. So I didn’t. Plus, it’s way too hot for me and my parents’ treadmill drives me nuts. Running on that thing made me mad, and I don’t like feeling that way during exercise!

So I started asking myself, “What movement, if any, do I want to do today?” And running has not been the answer. A couple of days, I did a mile or so of walk/run because it sounded good. I didn’t feel pressure to write it down, or even think about if it “counted” or not. That’s what I wanted to do, and it was enough. I didn’t replace the running with another type of cardio, which I know I would have done in the past. This summer I’ve enjoyed doing yoga, circuit workouts, walking, or nothing at all.

There were a couple of times that I looked in the mirror and wondered “Have I gained weight? Should I work out more?” It can be hard to do less in this culture that is always telling us to do MORE. It can be hard for me to fight my urge to be competitive with myself and work through feelings that I’m not doing enough. But I’ve learned to sit with discomfort and try to not let those negative thoughts impact my actions. And let me tell you, asking myself what I want to do and actually meaning it has been so freeing.

I’ve come to realize that running doesn’t have to be my identity. I can be whatever I want to be on any given day! I don’t have to always do the same things, or stick to silly rules I’ve internalized for myself. Some days running will sound good, and other times sitting on the couch watching Netflix will. Some mornings I might want to go to the gym, and others I might not want to give up quiet time with a cup of coffee. I’m no better or worse if I run 4 days a week or zero. I feel like I knew that somewhere inside, but I’ve finally started believing and living it.

I enjoyed my run on Friday, and I definitely felt it the next day! But that’s okay. I don’t always have to be in the same running or fitness shape. Maybe a more structured exercise routine or specific workout be appealing to me another time. Next month, maybe I’ll want to run more. Maybe not. Running and exercising often is not a problem in and of itself, and neither is having a schedule or structure. The problem wasn’t that I was running 3 days a week, it was that I felt like I had to do that much or else I was failing. Maybe a structured workout schedule and training for a specific goal feels good to you right now. Go you! I always think that intentions behind actions and the way you feel about them is more important than the action itself, if that makes sense.

The number one thing I’ve learned over the past year or so is self compassion. I’m learning to be more kind to myself. It’s funny to look back and remember these same thoughts at the beginning of my intuitive eating journey. For example, I learned to do (eat) what feels good to me and ditch the guilt. It has taken me a while longer to get there with exercise, and that’s okay. I’ll never have it all figured out, and it’s not always easy, but for right now it feels great to have broken through some of that black and white thinking.

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What is Gentle Nutrition?

Many people have the misconception that intuitive eating means not paying attention to nutrition at all. However, the dietitians who came up with the approach did so because they were torn between feeling unethical prescribing diets and feeling unethical not teaching nutrition at all. The final principle in the book is “Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition,” and I find it to be such a nice way to think about nourishing your body.

Gentle nutrition refers to paying attention to nutrition, and using it as one factor to guide what you eat. However, I said one factor on purpose. We don’t live in a vacuum. We aren’t robots that just eat the same robot crackers every single day, in the same exact amounts. Is it obvious I know nothing about robots? Anyway, the point is we are complex creatures. We have our own metabolic needs, as well as different food preferences, cultures, budgets, and schedules that impact what we want to eat and are able to prepare.

If you don’t like kale (raises hand), you don’t have to! There are plenty of other vegetables out there to enjoy. Gentle nutrition acknowledges that good nutrition is important-it can make you feel better, more energized, and prevent certain diseases. But sometimes we just want a cookie, and it’s fine that it isn’t a nutrition powerhouse. There’s room for that. You are not suddenly going to get a nutrient deficiency if you go a few days without eating something green.

What the Intuitive Eating authors say about gentle nutrition

There’s a whole chapter on that, but I think this first line is a great summary: “Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well.” They also review some basic nutrition principles, but emphasize that this is meant to be used gently, not rigidly. Of course, this looks different to everyone, but here are some examples from my life.

To me, gentle nutrition is…

-Incorporating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into my meals and snacks when possible. But if I’m just not feeling my baby carrots at lunch, I don’t have to eat them. Similarly, if I’m at a cookout and there is no produce in sight, there’s no need to panic.

-Being connected to my body so I can figure out what it needs. I know if I have just a muffin/carbohydrate for breakfast, I’ll likely be hungry pretty soon. So in that case I might pair it with an egg or another protein/fat, or just know that I need to have a snack on hand soon.

-Having whole grain pasta when it sounds good or I feel I haven’t had much fiber that day, but eating white pasta when I just want it and nothing else will satisfy me.

-Adding a vegetable to dinner if the meal we’ve planned doesn’t have one. And I’m not talking steamed vegetables with no seasoning-I prepare them in a way that tastes good to me!

-Understanding that nutrition is not one size fits all, and that what feels best in my body is different than what feels best in someone else’s. I eat dairy and meat, but maybe eating primarily plant based feels good and gentle to you. You do you.

Overall, I eat what makes me feel good and satisfied. Eating fruits and veggies makes me feel good, and so does having dessert when I want it. I lie somewhere between nutrition apathy and nutrition anxiety; it’s great to care about your nutrition and health, but when it interferes with your wellbeing as a person, that’s no good! Food is about nourishment, connection, and celebration. I don’t think there’s any need for it to consume your thoughts or interfere with your happiness.

If nutrition is so important, why is it the last principle of Intuitive Eating?

I think the reason this is a misconception about intuitive eating is because people think, “if I listened to what I wanted to eat, I would just eat insert forbidden food here all day.” I get it-it seems counterintuitive that allowing yourself to eat whatever you want actually can lead to improved nutrition status. It can be hard to figure out how to eat healthfully if you are not following a diet or plan. (Not saying diets are healthy, just that people associate them with eating “healthy.”) That’s one reason why the authors made this the last principle at the end of the book.

If you haven’t worked toward food peace and body acceptance, it’s really difficult to practice gentle nutrition. It’s hard to think about what foods will nourish your body and taste buds if you can’t get away from thinking “this food is ‘healthy’ and will help me lose weight so that’s what I’m going to eat, even if I hate it.” In addition, at the beginning of a journey to a peaceful relationship with food, you may need to explore many of the foods you’ve restricted for so long. Or, you may have the urge to turn basic nutrition guidelines into rigid rules. That’s why the authors suggest focusing on gentle nutrition later.

I would argue that if you make it to the end of the book and work to make peace with your body and food, you won’t really “need” nutrition tips. Sure, it’s good to know basic principles in the back of your mind, but your body is really smart and will tell you what you need. If I don’t have a vegetable for a few days, I start craving them. Isn’t that so cool?! But then again, sometimes I do need to (gently) remind myself to eat some plants since I do have a picky palate and veggies aren’t always what I run to. Ok, I’m getting off topic here.

Final Thoughts

Yes, nutrition is important. But so is your health, which encompasses mental health. In my book, health includes going out for an ice cream cone and not trying to figure out how many calories it contains. It includes going out to dinner to celebrate a loved one and focusing more on conversation and the people rather than the number of vegetables on my plate. It involves including fruits and vegetables into my life because they taste good, they are health promoting, and they keep my digestive system running smoothly.

I never want to shame someone for what they’re eating, or not eating. My goal is not to convince you to eat how I do, or say there’s one right way to eat-because there isn’t. Again, what feels gentle and good differs person to person. My goal is to talk about nutrition and food in a positive and supportive way, and eventually walk alongside clients as they figure out what that looks like for them. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the intuitive eating website, find a dietitian in your area (you can search by expertise at that link), or search for a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor near you (may or may not be a dietitian).

This Week: Countdown Style

Hi everyone! It’s Friday! I hope you have a fun weekend ahead. But first, here’s a countdown from my week. Yes, it’s basically Friday Favorites. I was planning on publishing a nutrition-related post, but it’s not quiiiite ready yet. Be on the lookout for that on Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, here are some things from my week in the form of a countdown I made up.

5 Things I Did for Self Care

  • Yoga after a long day
  • Dinner with a friend
  • Had coffee with my parents at home every day before work-I always wake up in time for a slow cup of coffee at home, and it’s a nice way to ease into the day. We drink coffee, the dogs cuddle and go back to sleep.

  • Brought myself lunch on days I didn’t feel like cooking
  • Looked up honeymoon destinations with Chip-I say this counts as self care, I love planning vacations! Except I’m in grad school, so I can really only go on vacations when my parents foot the bill for it 🙂 It was exciting to plan our first big adult vacation.

4 Favorite Podcast Episodes

  • The BodyLove Project Podcast Episode 31 with Kylie AKA ImmaEatThat

from Jessi’s website

  • Episodes 68 and 76 of the Love, Food Podcast
  • Episode 38 “Why Do Men Hide Their Body Image Issues” on the Body Kindness podcast

3 Blog Posts

  • This post titled “What it’s like to be that fat person sitting next to you on the plane.” My sister sent this link to me and I found the author’s words to be so heartbreaking and powerful. Shame and hate do not promote health and happiness. Even if you think someone “should” lose weight and could do it safely (well, for one, that’s not your place to decide that about someone) every single person deserves respect and equality in the body they have right now.
  • The Problems with Elimination Diets: Paige dives into her perspective on elimination diets and the potential consequences of starting one
  • What To Say Instead Of “You’re Not Fat”

2 Awesome Things I Ate

  • Last night, I made this seared sirloin with caprese pasta salad all on my own. Just kidding, it was a HelloFresh meal! I left off the balsamic vinegar because I hate it, and also roasted a bag of frozen broccoli to go along with the meal. It was delicious and I felt super fancy cooking a steak on a weeknight.

  • Ice cream! I finished off the last of some moose tracks ice cream that we had at the house this week. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was up there with my beloved Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie. It was the regular old PET brand and it was insanely good. Plus, everything tastes better out of a coffee mug am I right?

1 Thing I’m Looking Forward To

  • My sister’s bridal shower tomorrow!

After work, my mom and I are headed up to Raleigh/Durham for the weekend for a bridal shower for my sister. I’m so excited to celebrate her-the wedding is just 70 days away now! I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here soon for a post on gentle nutrition and what it means to me.

Friday Favorites #3

Happy Friday!

I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. I know I am! I feel like I’ve been gone most weekends this summer or had a lot going on, so I’m excited for a more low key weekend at home. Homebody alert! Here are some of my favorite things from the past week or so.

Mom’s Surprise 50th Birthday Party

Last Friday, my wonderful mom turned 50! We celebrated in Charlotte on Friday night with a yummy Italian dinner, and she thought that was the end of it…

..but then we surprised her with a party on Saturday! She was completely shocked, which I was thankful for because my dad was acting super weird all day. I thought he blew it! He is awful at lying, which is a great quality but challenging for planning surprises. Anyway, we had a great time celebrating mom all weekend. She is truly the best.

New Blog Page

On Sunday, I added a new page to the blog on my health philosophy. It was actually really hard to put my thoughts on health into a few paragraphs! I kept finding myself adding more and more and getting wordy, so it was a good exercise in trying to communicate my beliefs succinctly. I also figured out how to create a drop down menu for it. It took approximately an hour and a half but I felt pretty accomplished. Check it out here, or if you’re on a desktop, roll over my “about” tab to see my handiwork. Pretty fancy, huh?

Yoga

Lately, I’ve been doing more yoga than usual, which means I’ve been doing yoga. I literally had not done yoga in at least a year. I’ve expressed my disdain for summer running before. Combine that with needing to drive 15+ minutes into town to have a sidewalk to run on, and yep I’m not running much at all this summer. My friend and classmate Michelle is always raving about Yoga with Adrienne, so I gave it a try and I’ve been loving it! Yoga (and some other movement like walking or weights) has been sounding and feeling way better than running lately. Some days I like to do a faster flow, but others I just want to breathe and stretch. On days I feel especially anxious, it helps me connect to myself and just breathe.

Dog Update-Ok for Now!

I told y’all how my dog had a seizure back in May, and thankfully she has not had one since. In the meantime, she’s had a bile acid test conducted three times to assess her liver function. The second test showed a slight improvement, and then last week the results were worse. My vet was thinking she might have a liver shunt, so we did an ultrasound on Tuesday. This test isn’t conclusive, so we will likely do more tests, but I was thrilled to hear that her liver seems to be a normal size and didn’t show any damage on the ultrasound.

Livi is my little baby and I cannot imagine life without her! I’ve been a nervous mess trying to figure out what’s going on. Thankfully, she has no symptoms, and it makes me happy to see her doing so well. If anyone has a dog with liver issues, let me know! We can bond over their low protein diets and the difficulty of getting a diagnosis.

HelloFresh

I can’t speak to the cooking side of HF, because my mom has been spoiling me and cooking all my dinners this summer. I can speak to the eating side, and I’m a fan. It’s funny-I really thought I would miss cooking this summer and would end up cooking for my parents a lot, but it has been the total opposite. Most of the meals we’ve had have been delicious, including this one.

I usually don’t like burgers, but this one had crispy cheese so how could it not be good!? The chips were courtesy of me, not Hello Fresh. 🙂 Sometimes I find these meals very filling, other times I need, or just want, something extra! We get the 4 person plan, but between the 3 of us sometimes we eat it all, or most of it at least. If we ever have leftovers, I take it to work. Not a bad setup over here this summer!

That’s it for me today-hope you have a great one!

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Honor Your Hunger

Hey hey hey!

Somehow I’m over halfway through my public health internship. My schedule has been a lot different this summer and my appetite has been different, too. I’m eating breakfast earlier than normal and I’m not very hungry that early. I eat something small, then pack lots of snacks and a hearty lunch and eat when I need to. Just a note: “eating when I need to” absolutely varies day to day!

Since I’m eating breakfast earlier, I’m finding I need a bigger morning snack than usual, and I need it earlier than usual. Instead of judging my hunger, I’m listening to it and working with it. Before I learned about Intuitive Eating, there were times that this would have scared me. I didn’t think I could trust my body-I had to control it. I would have tried to delay my morning snack because what if I ate my snack now and then I got hungry again before lunch and didn’t have enough calories for that!?

Another example: sometimes I would wait until a certain time to eat lunch, even if I was really hungry. I don’t know why I had this arbitrary rule. Maybe it was because I thought if I ate lunch earlier I would need all the rest of my food earlier in the day and eat more at night? You probably aren’t surprised to hear that making myself wait for food resulted in being consumed by thoughts about food. In the end, I was thinking about food nonstop until I finally ate. Then, I was so hungry that I ate quickly, often ate past comfort, and didn’t even enjoy the meal.

It would be completely outrageous if someone said, “I really need to pee but I’m going to wait another hour,” or “I already peed five times today so I can’t go again.” It’s a funny example, but just like using the bathroom, our bodies let us know when it’s time to eat. We’ve made it so complicated, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. This is something I still have to remind myself. Sometimes I’m still hungry after eating a solid meal, and I’ll wonder why that is. Maybe I ate a little less the day before, the meal before, or maybe my body just wants more food! So in those cases I’ll remind myself that my body is smart and knows what it is doing. My job is simply to respond, so I try to eat when I’m hungry even if the timing seems weird.

I think that honoring your hunger can be a huge step in the direction of intuitive eating and healing your relationship with food. It allows you to see that you can trust your body and that it’s pretty dang smart. You’ll get more in tune and discover what hunger feels like in your body. You can also figure out what feels good to you. Maybe you’re like me, and you’ll find that you need several snacks to keep you going throughout the day. Maybe you’re like my dad, who eats 3 square meals a day and rarely gets hungry for a snack.

Please keep in mind that Intuitive Eating is not a diet. It’s not like “I eat when I am hungry and never any other time.” Sometimes we eat because we’re celebrating something, or the food looks delicious, or because grandma’s homemade bread just popped out of the oven and you just can’t pass on that.

In addition, you’re not a failure if you are hungry and fail to meet that need. I talked about this in last week’s post! It’s just a part of life. Or sometimes you’ll choose not to eat right then. Maybe dinner is an hour away and you feel early signs of hunger, but you want to let it build up to a mealtime hunger. Other times we get busy, or we run out of snacks, or whatever! Intuitive eating is nuanced and flexible and gentle. It is so worth the work to move away from external rules and tune into your own wisdom about when, what, and how much to eat.

Our bodies are smart, and we know how to care for them. In my opinion, honoring your hunger consistently can be a great place to start.

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40 Hours at the Beach

Happy Monday! I’m headed to work for the day, then I’m off for the 4th tomorrow. My sister’s fiancé just moved back to NC from Boston, so we are all hanging out in Charlotte tomorrow! I’m pretty excited, but let’s back it up to the weekend.

On Friday after work, Chip and I loaded up the car (and the dog) and headed to the beach! Although we didn’t have as much time as when we came over spring break, we still had a lot of fun. We also ate some good food, so I’m here to share a bit from our weekend and some thoughts about eating and movement along the way.

We left Friday around 6PM, and I knew I would be hungry soon. However, there were literally 0 snacks in the house that 1-sounded appealing or 2-I hadn’t already had that day. So I left empty-handed with the promise that we would get Chick-fil-A soon. “Soon” turned into 2 hours due to rain/traffic/etc and let me tell you, I was hangry. We finally found a Chick-fil-A that wasn’t too far off the highway, and I was a much nicer person after eating.

I actually have a post sitting in my drafts folder about honoring your hunger. I hope to share it later this week! I thought this was a good example of how sometimes it’s just not possible to honor your hunger, and that’s part of life.

We got to the beach pretty late, so obviously we weren’t going to the grocery store. I knew we would want to eat out most of our meals during our short stay, so we didn’t go on Saturday, either. Chip picked up some Hardee’s biscuits for breakfast. It wasn’t the best biscuit I’ve ever had, but it got the job done. After a few cups of coffee, we headed out to the mall. I was on the hunt for a new bathing suit, and I scored a super cute one piece at Aerie for just $25.

There was a Chipotle nearby, so I had to go. I typically eat there once every week or two, and I have been DYING without it this summer. (I’m living with my parents for my internship and the closest one is an hour away.)

I switched it up a little by adding lettuce, and it was a great decision. It added some crunch and cooled down all the hot salsa I put on there.

After a few hours on the beach, we headed out for dinner. We switched it up from our usual dinner place and went to the Flying Fish Public Market & Grill. If you find yourself in Myrtle Beach soon and you love crab legs, you have to go! We had to wait for a table, so we had a round of drinks and some hushpuppies at the bar. I was already really hungry and knew if I waited until we got a table and our food, I would be miserable and likely get a stomach ache. Sometimes if I get too hungry, or eat too fast, I get some very uncomfortable bloating up near my ribs. Other times it happens for no good reason, but I like to try to avoid that situation by eating before I get too hungry.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had crab legs in my life but these might have been the best I’ve ever had. Oh, I also had a salad which was nothing exciting but it did have Goldfish on it which I thought was really weird and funny.

After dinner, we took Livi out on the beach. It felt perfect out and she had a blast running around.

On Sunday, I took Livi back out for another walk while Chip ran out to get some eggs and bacon. Livi fully enjoyed our walk and she also made some new friends. Belly rubs are her favorite.

Usually I like to run when I’m at the beach, but I didn’t end up running at all this weekend. Running is not enjoyable to me when it’s hot, so I haven’t run outside in about a month. I chose sleep and coffee time over getting up early to beat the heat and I was very happy with that decision. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting up early to exercise if it feels good to you! I do it from time to time, I just didn’t feel like it this weekend.

Years ago, it would have freaked me out to not run X number of days a week. There’s no way I would go a few days without “planned” exercise, even on vacation. Thankfully, I’m in a healthier place with movement now. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to thoughts of “maybe I should be doing more” from time to time, but overall I’m way more relaxed and it feels good.

Anyway, getting back on track..after our walk I had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and it was great. I decided I wanted to exchange my new bathing suit for a different color, so we went back to the mall. Lunch was mediocre mall Japanese food. Again, it’s not realistic to eat exactly what you want in the moment and what is the most satisfying food all the time! Now I’m back home and resisting Monday like….

Just kidding! It will be a good and short work week. Plus, I’m really enjoying my internship. Y’all have a safe and fun 4th of July!

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