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Category: Intuitive Eating

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.

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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!

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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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 🙂 

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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Let’s Talk About Detoxes

We’ve all heard about detoxes. Whether we are scrolling on Pinterest or tuning into morning TV shows, it seems like someone is always trying to sell us a shake, pill, eating plan, or juice cleanse that will rid our body of toxins and deliver the life we always dreamed of. I have some good news for you. You don’t need to do a detox for that. You are alive enough to read this post. That means you have a liver and a kidney or two. Congratulations, you are detoxing right now! If your body wasn’t constantly detoxing itself, you would die.

found the photo on Kait’s instagram but believe it was originally on AskforEvidence.org

When people say your body is full of toxins and you need help to get rid of them, obviously that sounds scary. I can see the appeal of a detox. But in reality, our body is constantly taking care of these toxins, which can be anything from an air pollutant to a food additive. (Barring a medical condition that interferes with these processes, of course. I’m writing this for the general healthy population.) Kidneys pull waste products from the blood, then we pee them out. The liver neutralizes toxins, then we excrete them. If you went to the bathroom today, you detoxed. High five!

There is a newer area of nutrition research looking into whether certain nutrients can aid these detoxification processes. I’ve looked into this since my dog is liver impaired, and I was curious if there is anything I could give her to help. So I am happy that this research exists for people (and dogs) who need it. I don’t think that the general population needs to stress about that, but you can probably guess that signs are pointing to fruits and veggies. I know, that’s not as sexy as a juice cleanse. Also, that doesn’t mean we should ONLY eat fruits and vegetables. Like anything in nutrition, it can be taken too far.

A lot of my beef with detoxes is just how fearful they can make people of food. I did a few Google searches and ended up on the website for my favorite doctor, Dr. Oz. I’m being completely sarcastic, he drives me nuts. He promotes a detox plan that, among other things, says you cannot eat anything that comes from a package or has a nutrition label. Ok, that leaves plants. I’m not certain you can survive and thrive on that. You couldn’t even cook them in oil or anything to add flavor and nutrients. What’s healthy about that?

This is typical for detoxes; they’re very eat this, not that. This will cause disease, this will cure your body of disease. In reality, food doesn’t work like that. Our bodies can handle it all, and there’s no reason to be so fearful. Even once the detox is over, this black-and-white thinking about food may remain. Detoxes are promoted as healthy, but the anxiety and fear they cause certainly are not. Detoxes are promoted as “energy boosting,” yet eating nothing but juice or a very small list of food sounds like a great way to drain your energy.

If you truly do feel tired and in need of a restart, think about a few areas of your life. Are you sleeping well? Are you nourishing your body adequately? How’s your stress management? Is there too much on your plate? If you do feel like you’re exhausted for no reason and really need help, advocate for yourself and seek out a medical provider. You know your body the best, and what you may need is medical attention of some kind.

Finally, often times detoxes are just a marketing ploy for weight loss. Sure, you may lose weight by drinking nothing but mineral water for a few days or cutting out large food groups. (You will likely also lose joy and confidence in your eating.) I would argue that most of this is water weight, partly due to your body breaking down muscle to use for energy. Your body doesn’t know you’re doing a detox because a vacation is coming up, or you just got home from vacation and feel like you overdid it, or because you feel tired and hope it will restart your system. It just knows you’re starving.

I know if I had to drink all my food or abstain from large groups of food, I would become obsessed with what I couldn’t have. Food doesn’t deserve that much power. It would be socially isolating. I would definitely overeat all of the forbidden foods once I was given permission. That’s because I’m human and my body is smart. Yours is, too. The next time you start to think “I was bad/I’m tired/I’m unhealthy, now I have to detox” I hope you’ll remember that eating a certain food does not make you good or bad, and that you already have all the tools you need to take care of yourself.

First Week of School: Meals, Snacks, Movement

Hello and Happy Friday!

Classes resumed on Tuesday and I’m happy to see the week come to an end. Even though my class schedule is lighter in terms of hours at school, it’s hard to get back into the routine! Since I’m finally back into the swing of things I wanted to share some recent meals, snacks, and what I’ve been up to in the movement department. Please keep in mind that I never share what I eat or how I move as an example of what to do; I share to hopefully inspire joy and peace around both!

Dinners

When I first moved back, I was feeling pretty uninspired by food. My mom cooked most nights this summer and I often had leftovers for lunch, so I got out of the routine of planning/cooking dinner. By this week, I knew I had to get it together, or else I would blow all my money on takeout and/or have to make 5 trips to the grocery store during the week. So I made a loose meal plan.I still didn’t feel motivated to cook by a recipe, so I just went with things I could throw together easily. Of course I didn’t stick to it, but here it is.

I did make Sunday’s dinner as planned. I used a little butter and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning to cook the chicken. I roasted the potatoes and green beans in the oven at 400 for 40 minutes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. There were plenty of potatoes left over (not pictured-I ate all of those and then some!), so I had them for breakfast the next day with eggs and bacon. Yum!

On Monday, Chip made tacos and they were delicious. I didn’t get a good picture, but you can trust me.

On Tuesday, I decided Wednesday’s dinner sounded better, so I made that. Plus, I was dying to use some more basil from my plant! I made zucchini instead of the broccoli that I planned to make with this meal. I’ve had a lot of broccoli lately so I wanted something different.

To make the tomato sauce (which served 2), I sautéed about 1/2 TB butter and 1/2 tsp minced garlic. Then I added almost a whole can of tomato sauce, along with the chopped basil,  dried oregano, and some Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I had my pasta with the rest of the chicken from Sunday’s dinner, and Chip had his with some meatballs from the Target freezer section. We both approved and also shared a plate of zucchini and a few straggler green beans leftover from Sunday. To make the zucchini, I diced 2 of them and sautéed it with olive oil and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute.

I was planning on making the tilapia meal on Wednesday, but then fish didn’t sound appealing at all, so I had pasta again. I went to Trader Joe’s last weekend and got their pesto. It’s the best. So I mixed that with some pasta, sautéed some broccoli and that was that. Oh, and I had a few meatballs I heated up in the microwave. I knew I wouldn’t be full with just the small amount of protein in the pasta. I’ll spare you the pictures- it was one of the ugliest meals I’ve had in a while.

Last night, I went to Gonza in Raleigh with a friend! I got the pastor tacos, which have pork, pineapple, and cilantro. That’s what I always get there-I feel pretty confident that nothing could top it.

Tacos twice in one week=a pretty good week on the food front.

For lunch, I’ve pretty much been eating sandwiches every day. I’m not tired of them yet and cold sandwiches sound perfect since it’s still pretty warm out.

Snacks

Usually when I have class, I pack a KIND bar and an apple. Kinda boring, but it gets the job done. When I’m at home, I like to make snack plates with pretzels, cheese, veggies-whatever sounds good.

I go through phases with chips & salsa, and currently we are ON. This salsa below… it’s the best. This picture is from lunch one day recently, but it’s great at any time of day.

Ice cream is another favorite. I walk Livi most nights and it’s still pretty hot out, so I love coming inside, showering off, and getting a mug of ice cream. I think mugs make everything cozier and more delicous.

Movement

I’ve been having fun with all the equipment in my apartment gym lately! It’s not big or fancy, but it has fun things like TRX and different weight machines. Some days I do that, or a yoga video, or just take my dog for a walk. Or nothing at all!

Yesterday I actually ran! I hadn’t run a step since my last post on running. I was finally feeling the itch, and I was #blessed with a 72 degree morning yesterday. It wasn’t too hot, and I didn’t have to get up and go early! Win-win. It definitely wasn’t easy, but it felt good to run again. I’m looking forward to more runs as the weather cools off. Fall running is the best kind of running.

That’s it for me today! If you’ve had an awesome meal or snack lately, please share! I could use some recipe ideas for next week 🙂 

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).

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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