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So Do You Just Eat Cookies All Day?

Today I want to talk through very common misconception about Intuitive Eating. When people ask me what IE is I struggle with answering in a way that addresses all of it. There are 10 principles, and they’re all so important! It’s hard to compress that into a short elevator pitch, but I’m working on it. If you have a good one, let me know. When I get to the part of giving yourself permission to eat food you enjoy whenever you want, I often get blank stares and confused faces.

“If I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, I would just eat pizza/cookies/cupcakes all day.” I hear this so often. And I totally get it, because I know I would have said the exact same thing a few years ago.  In our diet-obsessed world saying something like “full permission to eat” can be really jarring and confusing. It’s so common to label things like cookies as off-limits and create rules around when and how to eat them. Surely that’s all we would eat if allowed, right?

In short, the answer is no. Let me break it down into a few points to avoid excessive rambling.

Eating a single food, or a single type of food, eventually gets boring.

Have you ever made a dinner that was delicious, but by day 3 of leftovers you’re like, “OMG I cannot even look at this food anymore!”? That’s because of a lovely thing called food habituation. Our taste buds get bored of eating the same food over and over. If I ate pizza all day, or salads all day, I would eventually crave something different.

Giving yourself permission to eat all foods diminishes the special quality of foods you once restricted.

Let’s say you are restricting cookies right now. Cookies, I’m so sorry to pick on you. I do love you, it’s just one that comes up commonly in my conversations with people. It was hard for me to pick a food for this blog post because I don’t want to villainize any foods, so please know that I’m not doing that. Anyway, what if I told you “Hey, eating a cookie is totally fine and doesn’t mean you are unhealthy or being ‘bad.’ You can have a cookie whenever you want. Nobody is ever going to take them away from you again.”

Woah, is it me, or did cookies just get a lot less sexy!? Please don’t misconstrue this and think that it’s some type of diet trick, because y’all, IE is not a diet. Giving yourself permission to eat all foods can make some foods less attractive than they once were. Of course you’ll still eat them because hello you’re human and you can. My point is that you may find you don’t actually want to eat that certain food all day every day once you give yourself permission. Knowing you won’t have another diet in the future means you won’t feel that desire to get em while it’s hot.

My friend and classmate Grace wrote a great post on letting dessert being dessert, and she included some fab research about this phenomenon. Go read her post, but here’s the gist: Two groups of participants were given the exact same milkshake. One group was told it was a “sensible,” low-cal shake, and the other group was told it was “indulgent”. People who ate the “indulgent” shake reported feeling more satisfied, while the ones eating the “sensible” shake reported feeling less satisfied and had a higher level of ghelin (a hunger hormone). Taking away these labels of food puts them on the same playing field, and now you can make a decision about what sounds best to you and what will satisfy you without all that noise clouding your head.

IE encourages you to pay attention to how foods make you feel.

Sure, I could eat cookies/dessert all day, but I probably wouldn’t feel great. Similarly, I could eat broccoli all day but I would likely be starving and have an incredible stomach ache.

IE encourages you to be in tune with your body and what it wants.

Your body craves variety and balance. It really does! This absolutely looks different person to person, but in general our bodies get bored eating the same foods. See my point above. And they want to feel good. Following your body’s cues and the guidance of gentle nutrition (when you are ready) means you will eat a wide range of foods that make you feel your best. And yes, that will include cookies at times! And you might go through times where you eat more foods like that, whether it’s because it’s a holiday or for no reason at all. That is normal, too.

The proof is in the pudding.

There has been a lot of research conducted on IE-I’ll just highlight one study here. In 2006, a study of 343 male and female college students found that those who scored high on the Hawks Intuitive Eating scale ate a more diverse diet. There was no association between IE and the amount of “junk food” eaten in the diet. I hate that phrase, but I include this because I want to show that IE does have positive effects on health and nutrition-not to mention body image and less preoccupation with food, among other markers of health like lower cholesterol. As a reminder, it’s important to go through the process and save gentle nutrition for when you are ready to revisit it and can do so with no judgment. My point is that overall, IE is an evidence-based, ethical approach to nutrition education and counseling.

Early on in your IE journey, you might just eat cookies all day.

Or whatever foods you’ve restricted a long time. That’s totally normal. Think about giving a baby a fake phone to play with and then giving them the REAL DEAL. It’s exciting and new and they aren’t going to give it up easily. That might be a bad example. My point is that it’s normal to eat, and even overeat, foods you’ve kept yourself from eating for a long time. I know that can be discouraging and feel chaotic. I would encourage you to work with a professional if you want or need to. Please keep in mind I am not yet a nutrition professional or credentialed to give individualized advice on this! Everything I’m saying here is from personal experience as well as my own research and education.

I want to end by acknowledging that moving away from food rules and embracing Intuitive Eating takes time. Months, years even. I don’t want to come across as “yeah just ditch the diet and then tomorrow you will be perfectly in tune with your body and eat in a way that feels great and all those guilty thoughts will be gone!” Because it is hard. But it’s so worth it to be free from thinking about food all the time and wondering if you’re doing it “right.” You have all the information you need to feed yourself well and take care of your body. If you’re interested, you can search for an intuitive eating counselor near you here, order the Intuitive Eating book here, and find the Intuitive Eating workbook here.




Why Public Health?

Most of you probably know that I’m currently pursuing a Master’s degree and doing all the coursework and hours to be eligible to sit for the RD exam. What you might not know is that my Master’s degree will be a Master’s of Public Health in Nutrition. Whenever people hear about this, I get lots of questions! My dad asks me about it at least once a month. 🙂 He’s always like, “Okay, so why public health? And does it help you get a certain type of job? And is this class for public health or nutrition?”

As part of the public health part of my degree, my classmates and I went to DC for a Nutrition Policy Seminar. It was a whirlwind, but I learned a lot and garnered a greater appreciation for policy work. As Grace and I drove home, she said that this trip really made her appreciate being in a public health program and I totally agreed. So I thought this was a great time to write this post!

So… why a public health program?

TBH I would have enrolled in UNC’s program if it was a Master’s in Science as well. UNC has the only coordinated dietetics program in the state, and I didn’t want to move. So, I kind of landed in public health by chance, but I was still excited about it! I’m sure even if you enroll in a program that isn’t in a school of public health, you could probably find some courses with a public health focus. Plus, I bet that some of the same concepts are brought up in other programs and weaved into curriculum.

So…what is public health. exactly?

From UNC’s website: “Our mission is to improve public health, promote individual well-being and eliminate health inequities across North Carolina and around the world.”

That can look like…

  • Laws that limit where you can smoke
  • Having sidewalks to walk on or bike lanes so you can ride safely
  • Research into new vaccines or treatment for diseases
  • Having clean water to drink
  • Promoting access to fruits and vegetables
  • Designing all kinds of programs to improve health
  • Promoting access to food in general! Whether that’s SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), WIC (where I spent most of my time last summer), etc.
  • Working hard to fight for equity and to reduce health disparities
  • Breastfeeding programs in hospitals
  • Asking a community what THEY want rather than prescribing a program that may not be a good fit
  • Laws that limit carbon emissions from manufacturers
  • Fighting for affordable access to health care (although we certainly have different ideas about how to get there!)
  • And so much more!

Basically if an issue relates to health in any way… it falls under the umbrella of public health.

So what does this have to do with becoming a dietitian?

Right. Dietitians just tell people what to eat, right!? (I hope you can hear my sarcasm.) In addition to courses like Medical Nutrition Therapy and all the biochemistry classes every student takes to become a dietitian, our program requires courses like epidemiology, biostatistics, health behavior, health policy and management, and environmental sciences. In addition, our first of three dietetic internship rotations was specifically focused on public health. Most of us spent the summer in health departments across the state, although a few of my classmates worked in other parts of public health.

We learn about amazing public health programs and new solutions to overcome some of the barriers that are in the way of pursuing health (and how that differs based on the population). Overall, I feel like taking these courses gives me a lot of context for thinking about nutrition and health. I can zoom out and see the big picture of where someone is coming from. As we know, nutrition is about so much more than just food. Your life experiences, job, salary, amount of leisure time, stress levels, the amount of discrimination you face and the amount of agency you have in your life… all of that impacts how we experience food and health.

Although I do not plan on working directly in a public health program or on policy, I think that this background will serve me well wherever I end up. It also makes me take a hard look at what I think I want to do eventually-private practice-and how I can also serve people who typically have less access to those services, as well as ways I can be involved in public health in my community.

I think sometimes public health gets a bad rap from the HAES/Intuitive Eating crowd (which I’m 100% a part of and can understand). Many public heath programs and research focus so much on weight loss and seem to pathologize certain body sizes. I totally get that and sometimes I grapple with being a public health student who promotes body acceptance and self-compassion. It is frustrating when certain courses or lectures kind of lump all of health into weight, when it is about so much more than just one number.

from the Gillings Instagram

When that happens, I squirm in my seat and think, “Ok if we are ‘worried about America’s weight’ why are we promoting diets, which are a predictor of weight gain and overall are associated with negative health outcomes?! We can absolutely pursue health outside of weight.” I’m not quite brave enough to speak up in that way. 🙂 However, I do have to give a hand clap to my school, because we actually have learned about things like weight stigma and even had exposure to things like Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size.

My instructors are very respectful and are great at putting things into context and treating our patients (made up ones lol) as a whole person. A person with a life, who is so much more than their BMI. Although not every class is like that (but in my opinion, most have been), I am immensely thankful for the exposure and the attention these important issues get at my school. Plus, I feel like we have a pretty well-rounded education on all different aspects of public health, from childbirth to older adult care, so I don’t feel like we are bogged down in weight talk all the time!

from the garden at the Health Department I interned at last summer!

So even though sometimes I grapple with being a huge proponent of intuitive eating and HAES while being a public health student, I’m actually don’t think those things are at odds. Health at Every Size is really about giving everyone the opportunity to pursue health as they wish. Intuitive Eating is a framework for nourishing your body in a way that feels good and is sustainable.

For me, it boils down to this: I believe in and support the right of every single person to pursue health to the degree they choose. I believe everyone should have access to nourishing foods. I think it is wrong to discriminate on any basis, including weight. I do wish we could change some of the focus in public health in general and move away from things like calorie labeling on menus and weight loss programs and shuttle that energy into more positive (and sustainable) ways to talk about food and bodies. As a whole, I think the tide is shifting and I’m excited about that. After all, there’s plenty of evidence to support this more positive approach! So that is encouraging. I’m really excited to see where public health goes during my career and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get started.

Christmas Break Happenings

Hello there!

Today I’m finally heading back to my place in Durham. But only for about 24 hours! Tomorrow I leave for our class trip to DC. I’ll be there until Wednesday, then start classes on Thursday. I’m kind of in denial that class is about to happen again, but it’s my last semester (of classes–I have internships until December) so maybe I’ll have some extra motivation once it starts.

Anyway, I’ve been at home for the past THREE weeks! It has been such a wonderful break and I feel like it flew by. There was a lot of sitting on the couch cuddling the dogs, and a lot of Livi sitting on Bella (see above). Here’s what I was up to and some exciting things that happened.

I did some wedding planning

Wedding planning felt so much more manageable since there was no studying to be done or classes to go to! I feel like I got a lot done, but not much to show for it lol. I finished setting up all the hotel room blocks, booked hair and makeup, and worked on our website and save the date. We picked a rehearsal dinner location and got the ball rolling on that. My sister and I shopped for bridesmaids dresses-we didn’t end up picking one that day, but I figured out what style and color I like. So that’s something!

Another great shot from the fabulous Olivia Suriano

I cannot believe it is finally our wedding year! We still have a lot of things to do, but I feel really good now that most of the big stuff is out of the way.

I got a new cookbook

I’m kind of cheating here because I haven’t made anything from this cookbook yet (I got it for Christmas). But I have heard awesome things about it and her writing is hilarious. My goal is to make something from this cookbook every 2 weeks or so. I totally fall into the rut of making the same meals over and over, so this will be great to help me switch it up and learn to make some new things.

I read two books!

In the past few weeks I almost read as many book as I read in all of 2017. Which isn’t saying much at all. I read Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and now I’m working on What Alice Forgot and Body of Truth. Looks like it will be time for another book review soon!

I ate plenty of delicious food

Chip and I went to Raleigh for NYE and had to stop at our favorite biscuit place the next day. I totally blanked on my order and got cheddar cheese instead of American. It was good, but not as good as American cheese, which I quickly remembered is my usual order.

I enjoyed pestering my parents to eat with me during their lunch break. Pro tip: when your parents are buying, order multiple things because you might end up with leftovers and can stretch it into another meal.

Of course I had to go get my most favorite meal when I am home: jerk chicken pita and salad with all the ranch dressing. I really should see if that restaurant will give me a gallon of their ranch to take back with me.

I became a puppy aunt

Sarah Beth and Cody got an adorable puppy named Ruby a couple days after Christmas. She is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the cutest little nugget! She currently weighs about 2 pounds and alternates between 5 minutes of play time and 3 hour naps.

I met her the first day they got her, and then a few days later we went to visit them in Charlotte and took Livi so they could meet. Livi is much bigger (although still small at 7 pounds) and funny enough, Livi was scared of Ruby! Pretty soon they were playing and running around and it was very cute. They are going to be best buds for sure. On the first day that SB and Cody both went back to work, I eagerly volunteered to puppysit.

She’s currently pottying in this little box because she’s too little to go outside where other dogs go. Clearly she wasn’t having it here, but word on the street is that now she goes into the box by herself and does her thing! Go Ruby!

Ok, a cute puppy seems like a great place to end this post. I hope you have a great weekend!

New Year, New Mantras

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! I had a great one. I’ll share more of what I’ve been up to in a Christmas break faves post next week. Today let’s chat about the new year that is quickly approaching. Talk of resolutions is ramping up, yet I’m coming up empty with any idea for myself. I’m not saying there’s nothing I can improve about myself or try in the new year. I just don’t have any big, sweeping goals. However, I do have some mantras I’ve been thinking of lately that I want to take with me into 2018. Resolutions sound big and scary to me. Mantras…I can get on board with those. Ok, here are my mantras for 2018-feel free to borrow and please share any you’re loving!

Good for them, not for me

This is adapted from one of my favorite quotes in Amy Poehler’s book Yes, Please. I read it a few years ago and enjoyed all of it, but what has stuck with me since then was this quote: “Good for her, not for me.” Amy (I like to think we are on a first name basis) wrote about this in terms of women supporting each other, even when we have different goals, approaches, and so forth. I absolutely love this and especially like to keep it in mind in terms of health and wellness.

When I hear people talking about things I know would not be helpful (or healthful) for me, like a new diet or exercise plan or pursuing weight loss, I think “Good for them, not for me.” Maybe this year you are trying to move away from dieting, or have more self-compassion, or reframe exercise as something enjoyable rather than a way to punish yourself. That can be really difficult, and even more so when everyone around you seems to be doing the opposite. Even if you are feeling good about where you are, hearing about a cool-sounding new workout or popular diet plan may lead to some FOMO. If you know it doesn’t align with your values and goals, or you tried it and had a bad experience, you can think “good for them, not for me,” and keep on doing you.

This is also reminds me that we all have different goals. We are at different points of our intuitive eating journey. Heck, many people will not even be on an intuitive eating/intuitive living journey, whether it’s because they haven’t heard of it or just are not interested. This saying helps me remember that what is important to me may not be important to others, and vice versa. Of course I would love to see the tide shift towards a more relaxed and compassionate attitude towards food and exercise and our bodies. I’m very open about that here and with people in real life as appropriate, but sometimes I just don’t want to go there.

I may say something about intuitive eating or why I’m not dieting if prompted, but nobody is going to listen to me if I’m smacking diet food out of their hands. If I say anything at all, I just try to phrase it as, “This is what works for me and makes me feel good, I hope XYZ will be good for you!” And then the conversation can continue or just end, and everyone leaves happy and feeling respected.

My point is that I am strong in my values and beliefs, but I try to remember good for them, not for me when I see or encounter someone who approaches things differently-whether that’s trying a new diet or prescribing them for others. It can be hard because I tend to get riled up about this stuff, but over time I’ve learned to simmer down a little and be understanding-after all, even just a few years ago I had totally different ideas about health.

I am enough

This mantra is simple and powerful. I have a tendency to dwell on things I did or said, and generally just be self-critical. I know, I’m also all about self-compassion so shouldn’t I be better about this?! I’m a work in progress. When I’m being critical of myself, I try to remember that I am imperfectly me, and that is enough. I hope to remember this and be even nicer to myself in 2018. 🙂

Worrying is wasting my time

This one isn’t beautiful or groundbreaking, but important as someone who has been a worrier since my early years. Sometimes worrying is fine and serves a purpose, but mostly when I’m worrying about silly things or the future it’s just ruining the present moment and stealing my joy. Get outta here, worrying!

I hope you find one of these useful as we move into a new year! Chip and I are heading to Raleigh on Saturday to ring in 2018 with some of his college buddies and their significant others. I’m excited and will see you back here next year!

Another Semester Down!

Happy Wednesday!

I’ve been on Christmas break since 11am on Friday and I’m coming at you live from rainy western NC. I’m having a slow morning and sharing the couch with 3 sleepy dogs. Christmas music is blasting and coffee is flowing, so I figured it would be a great time to blog and share what I’ve been up to and reflect on this semester.

After my biochem exam on Friday, all the fun family times started. Chip drove up that afternoon and we went out to dinner to celebrate! Usually it takes a few days for it to sink in that the semester is over, but I felt immediate relief when I walked out of my last exam. I was beyond ready to be done!

We had a family Christmas gathering in the Raleigh area on Saturday, then we drove to Charlotte after that to stay with Sarah Beth and Cody (my sister + her husband). Sarah Beth’s birthday was on Sunday, so my parents came, too! We went out for pizza Saturday, then Cody cooked an epic brunch for us on her birthday.

After that, Chip and I went to the Panther’s game with one of his besties/groomsmen and his wife and had a great time. Monday morning I drove another hour west to my parents’ house and now I’m here for most of the next 3 weeks! I’m hoping to get some wedding planning, blogging, and reading done while I’m here.

I always like to reflect on the past semester and share about what becoming a Registered Dietitian is like. Time is flying and I enjoy reading back on these, too! I wrote this post after the spring semester, and it simultaneously feels like yesterday and five years ago that I wrote that.

3rd Semester Reflections

I thought last semester was hard, and it was, but this semester was on a whole other level. This semester we had our second biochemistry course and the final MNT (Medical Nutrition Therapy) course. Last semester’s biochem was a whirlwind of all things metabolism-macronutrients and micronutrients. This semester’s focus was on macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) and next semester is on micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc).

So basically this semester was some of the same material, but wayyyyy more in depth. We learned a lot more about how metabolism of macronutrients in general, how this changes with certain disease states or diets, and even how nutrients influence the expression of certain genes. Although I found much of the information interesting, it was a lot and the course was very demanding. It was tough, but I do feel like I know a lot more about metabolism now.

I know I won’t remember every detail of the course forever, but that’s okay and would be impossible anyway. Before this semester I was like, “this is all so cool I want to remember it forever!” Then I took this course and was like lol that’s impossible. I don’t need to know how to draw the urea cycle to a T to be a good dietitian. During this program I’ve learned tons about digestion, absorption, and metabolism-things I’ll need to know wherever I end up and that I’ll keep learning about forever. Overall, I feel way more confident in nutrition myth-busting/explaining what actually goes on in the body, which is always useful. Continuing education will always be a part of my career, so I’m excited to seek out resources that relate to my interests and learn even more.

Other classes were MNT, a public health course, and a nutrition policy course. Last semester we had chronic disease MNT and this semester it was acute disease MNT. I feel more confident with my MNT skills now, but I haven’t actually practiced them. I know I’ll learn sooooo much more in clinical this summer. Our nutrition policy course is actually still ongoing, because we are going on a trip to DC in early January to attend seminars/meetings about current policy issues, health care, etc. Overall it was a challenging but interesting semester, and I’m happy to be onto the next.

What’s Next

After the DC trip, I’ll have one more semester of classes. I cannot believe this will be my last semester of class, ever! In May, classes will be over and I’ll start my clinical rotation. That goes until early August, and then we start our advanced placement! I already know my clinical placement, but we are just starting to plan for advanced, so I’m really excited to see how that pans out. Chip graduates in May, which is just crazy and so exciting! Longer term, we get married in October (woohoo!), I graduate in December, then will sit for the RD exam sometime early 2019. It’s going to be a whirlwind!

Throwback to Chip’s undergrad graduation in 2015

Cross your fingers for us that Chip gets a job in Charlotte, because the plan is to move there after next semester! He has been scouting out some options and will start looking more seriously in the next couple of months. Sarah Beth and Cody live in Charlotte now, and both of our families are just an hour west of there. My sister and I are super close, if ya didn’t notice, so I’m so excited to live near her. And Cody, of course! I can already see lots of double dates/nights in watching our dogs play in the future. One of my college besties and bridesmaids, Steph, lives there too and has since college, so I can’t wait to live in the same city again. 🙂

At their wedding-photo cred: Olivia Suriano @ Nancy Ray Photography

We always love visiting and think we will have a lot of fun starting married life in the city. Right now we both live in Durham, but not like in-the-middle-of-the-city-with-things-to-do, so it will be fun to live closer to restaurants, breweries, and just more things to do! Chip is obsessed with the Panthers and Hornets, so he has been #teamCharlotte for years. My clinical placement is within driving distance from Charlotte, so I’ll definitely be moving there in May. I’m hoping to find a great advanced placement nearby, too.

Although I’m so excited to be closer to family and explore a new city, it’s going to be so weird moving out. My roommate, Anna, and I have lived together for almost 4 years now. I’m going to miss her a lot! Good thing Charlotte isn’t too far. I know this next semester is going to fly by, and it’s so crazy I’ll be moving in just 5 months.

Whew, I think we are all caught up now! The next time I post a semester wrap-up I’ll be done with class foreverrrrr. I can’t wait. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. I’ll see you back here next week!

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!


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.





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!