Spring Break Eats + Vacation Without Guilt

Hello hello!!

I’m currently on spring break and it has been wonderful. Last Thursday through Sunday, I was in Savannah, GA, for a bachelorette trip. It was absolutely perfect! Then I came home for a couple of days, and now I’m at the beach with Chip and the dog.

I’ve been eating a lot of delicious food today, so indulge me while I share with you. Also, I want to talk about vacationing without panicking about food and exercise before/during/after.

Food in Savannah

One of the most fun things we did on the trip was a pub trolley during the afternoon on Friday. We spent the morning and early afternoon at the beach, then changed and went straight to the pub trolley. By some small miracle we put together this meal after all that fun and it was so good.

Don’t be fooled, we picked up those amazing looking garlic knots from Mellow Mushroom.

Saturday morning we had a brunch at the house, complete with a mimosa bar. Later in the day, we went to some rooftop spots and I ate several pieces of the buffalo flatbread on the right. Can’t beat the view-Savannah is so pretty!

Food at Home

I probably had 5 salads this winter, and I didn’t make any of them. Salads aren’t as appealing to me in the colder months, and I can never find dressing I like. The salad we made on the bachelorette trip was so good and I wanted to recreate it at home, so I decided to give packet ranch a try. I heard it’s the closest you can get to thin restaurant ranch, which is the best kind. I used one packet Hidden Valley ranch mix, 1 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup mayo (I actually hate mayo), and it turned out perfect. Sure, I could probably make it all from scratch with no additives but I ain’t got time for that. And I doubt it would taste as good. Yep, I just dedicated an entire paragraph to ranch dressing and I’m not mad about it.

I made a quick grocery run on Sunday then threw together the plate on the left. The mac n cheese was already in my pantry, but I bought salad stuff, the ranch packet, and a rotisserie chicken. The chicken was delicious, only $6, and I used it in at least 4 meals this week. Win!

Lunches Monday-Wednesday looked like the salad on the right. It’s full of mixed greens, cucumber, celery, red pepper, carrots, broccoli, chicken, feta, and ranch. One day it didn’t quite fill me up, so I had the rest of the mac and cheese. Another day I was stuffed. Our bodies know what we need.

Beach Eats

Every time we come to Chip’s parents’ place at Myrtle Beach, we eat at this place called Mr. Fish. We went Wednesday night once we got in and it did not disappoint.

I had wine (duh), unpictured she-crab soup, a salad that was just ok, and boom boom shrimp that were so yummy. I also had a side of mac and cheese with my shrimp but it was awful! Like, how do you screw up pasta and cheese? So I had some of Chip’s fries instead.

A Word on Vacation and Guilt

In the past, vacation often stressed me out. Leading up to it, I would try to eat less and exercise more. During vacation I felt guilty when I “splurged.” I felt out of control over certain foods and often ate past fullness, because I didn’t know when I would eat them again. (Also, I often restricted before vacation which tends to make you hungry and feel out of control around food.) After vacation I would vow to “clean up my diet” and hit the gym more.

Now I have given myself unconditional permission to eat, and there are no “good” or “bad” foods. I order what I want, whether that’s a salad, a fried shrimp dish, or both. I know I can eat these foods anytime I want, so I don’t feel like I have to eat it all. I can stop when I’m full, or I can keep eating if I want. The bottom line is that I listen to my body and I’m flexible, and I don’t associate guilt with food. (This applies to my regular life too, but I’m focusing on vacation here.)

In Wilmington last year

The same goes for exercise. Now that I exercise as a means of self-care rather than self-control, I don’t freak out if I miss several days of running or the gym. Sometimes I will run, walk, or lift weights on vacation, but I don’t HAVE to. Not worrying about calories, exercise, or being “bad” on vacation makes it so much easier to fully relax and enjoy myself when I’m on a fun trip. Also-of course you’ll probably eat out more and have more drinks and treats when you’re on vacation. That’s what vacation is for! It’s a time to explore new areas and foods and switch it up from the regular routine. Enjoy it fully!

Spoiler alert: I’m not perfect, whatever that even means. Sometimes the food police catch up to me. After eating at Mr. Fish, I was eating Ben and Jerry’s from the container (as one does) and took a peek at the nutrition facts label. Bad idea! Suddenly I was worried about fat and sugar and things I usually don’t worry over. I was mad at myself for caring! I turned the label away and focused on my internal cues of fullness and satisfaction. I used those to help me decide when to stop eating rather than an external cue (the label), but it was harder than usual. Intuitive eating / making peace with food is a lifelong process, and we are always learning! Don’t let experiences like the one I described get you down-you’re not doing it wrong! There’s no such thing.

And with that, I’m heading back to the rest of my spring break. Today is the warmest day of the weekend-high of 59!- so we are planning on actually going on the beach today. My dog is dying to get out on the beach (yep, she told me), so I’m excited to take her out there. Have a great weekend!!

Shutting up My Inner Critic This Swimsuit Season (And Every Season)

It’s March, and in North Carolina that means sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. It also means the beginning of body shaming disguised as advertisements to convince us that we need to change our bodies for the summer. These messages are backed by a lot of money, and they can be convincing.

A few years ago, around this time of year, I would think about the approaching bikini season. I would feel unhappy with my body and beat myself up for not “working harder” in the months prior. Maybe I should have made my workouts ten minutes longer. I would look so much better. No matter how much I tried to change my body, I was never 100% satisfied. It’s a losing game, really. Diets don’t work and what we strive for is often not in line with our genetics/body type. I spent time and energy chasing an image of perfection that doesn’t exist.

In the past, I wished for the body I had when I was 16, when I wasn’t even a fully developed woman. (I was never 100% happy in that body, either.) I’m almost 24, and I’ve gone through many life changes since then. Our bodies change with us. In addition, size diversity has always existed, and it always will. We should celebrate that rather than idealize one type of body. I’ve come a long way with my body image, but that doesn’t mean I never struggle.

Via Pinterest

Today I’m headed to a bachelorette weekend for one of my best friends. We are planning on going to the beach one day. As it got closer, I had a moment of panic about wearing a bathing suit. I wondered why I felt this way. I know I don’t want pursue changing my body. I’m happy and healthy as I am. The truth is that giving up the “perfect body” ideal can be hard, even when you know that it doesn’t exist. I mean, hello-we aren’t born hating our bodies. Society teaches us to, so it takes work to unlearn what we’ve heard our whole life.

I decided to try on my swimsuits and purchase a new one if I wasn’t comfortable. Of course, I found myself picking out parts of my body I wasn’t happy with. Honestly, I do not spend much time looking at my body on a day-to-day basis. I love what Kylie has to say about a good body image day- it’s a day when you do productive things and don’t even think about your how your body looks. I’m happy to be in a place where most days look like that. I feel good in my body, but I’m not obsessed over how I look. So sometimes, when I’m “forced” to take a good look, my inner critic gets louder. Unlike years before, though, I got past it and didn’t leave the experience vowing to “do better.” I picked out the swimsuit that made me feel my best and set it aside to pack. Then I moved on with my day.

Our inner critic is always there, but we can learn to fight back and give it less power. Here are a few ways I combat my inner critic when it tells me my body isn’t good enough:

I tell myself I’m great the way I am, right now. I get mad at the diet industry instead of myself. I remind myself how unproductive and harmful pursuing changing my body would be. I tell my inner critic that my worth as a person is unrelated to my appearance. I surround myself with body positive messages on podcasts, Instagram, and blogs. I follow people on Instagram who are in bodies that look different than mine. This reminds me that all bodies are good- there is not a “perfect body” to strive for. I get mad at the discrimination that many in larger bodies face EVERY season of the year, which reminds me that body positivity is a much bigger movement than my own body concerns. All of this puts my inner critic in her place, and allows me to move on to more important things when I have a bad body image moment/day.

Via bodypositivememes

I know I’m rambling, and these are all things I’ve said before in some form or another. I’m writing this because I know that feeling of dread every year, and I suspect you might, too. I don’t want you to feel like that. Your body is good just how it is, right now. You deserve to rock whatever swimsuit you want. If accepting and loving your body seems too far off right now, maybe you can start by trying to not hate your body. It’s not easy, but I promise it is so worth it.

So this year (and every year) I’m vowing to let myself be, and I hope you’ll join me. I’ll take care of myself, mentally and physically, and let my body do what it wants. And I’ll continue my work to be confident with whatever that looks like.

How Diet Culture Harms Our Health

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life (source). Eating disorders incredibly harmful to mental and physical health. You can find much more information about them here. Millions more suffer from disordered eating, which is a disordered relationship with food that may not meet diagnostic criteria but is still harmful.

I have never suffered an eating disorder myself, so I will not try and speak on behalf of those who have. However, I’m surrounded by diet culture, and I can speak to that. The times I felt the worst about my body and had the worst relationship with food were when I was trying to lose weight. There are so many factors that lead to someone developing an eating disorder, like genetic disposition, personality type, life experiences, and trauma, but diet culture certainly plays a role.

A 2010 study of elementary school girls found that 69% said pictures in magazines influenced their idea of an ideal body type, and 47% said the pictures made them want to lose weight (source). ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GIRLS. Another study found that 46% of 9-11 year olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (source). What does this say about our society and what we value? What we are doing and saying about health and bodies as a society is harmful. It’s certainly not improving the health of all people. I’d like to lay out how I believe diet culture negatively impacts our health.

Step 1- Being Surrounded by Diet Culture

In diet culture, certain bodies are deemed good and worthy of praise, while others are viewed as bad and deserving of shame. We hear that to be happy and healthy we need to make our bodies smaller. That is false.

Via @jennifer_rollin

Step 2-Dieting

The diet industry makes $60 billion a year by preying on our insecurities about our bodies, and a well-meaning desire to improve our health. I do not think pursuing weight loss=health, but this is an important statistic to point out if that is your goal: 95% of diets fail and most people regain the lost weight, if not more, in 1-5 years (source). There is a wealth of evidence showing diets don’t work, and are actually quite harmful. Weight cycling is associated with many negative health outcomes.

Why does weight cycling occur? Diets are restrictive and leave us hungry and unsatisfied. We inevitably binge or “cheat” on our diet. This is normal. It is your body’s way of ensuring you have adequate energy. Your body also slows down metabolism to maintain equilibrium. It doesn’t know whether we are trying to lose weight or are starving in a famine. Then we start another diet, hoping this will be THE ONE that leads to weight loss and happiness. Rinse and repeat.

Step 3- Low Self Esteem, Disordered Relationship with Food

Of course, not everyone who diets ends up with an eating disorder. However, I stand by my view that diets are harmful. We may fear eating certain foods, or just say “Screw it, I’ll never lose the weight, so I don’t need to take care of myself.” Both of these outcomes are harmful to our health, and the second one is a good example of why it’s harmful to tie weight to health. Bottom line: instead of blaming the diet, we blame ourselves. The diet industry depends on this to stay afloat.

Bonus Step: Disordered Behaviors are Praised

Many disordered behaviors like overexercising and only eating “safe” foods are often praised in our culture. I don’t have experience with this personally, but I’ve read and listened to a lot of stories where someone with an ED says that praise for their behaviors kept them trapped in their disorder. There is a difference between supporting people in their health journey and praising them for disordered behaviors. I get that it’s a tricky subject and a fine line to walk, but sometimes these comments can be harmful-you never know who may be struggling.

So yeah, I don’t think diet culture is helping us become healthier. It’s making us sicker, more body-obsessed, and less trusting of our own inner wisdom. To me, health is taking care of myself for the sake of taking care of myself. It involves moving my body in a way that feels good, sleeping enough, managing my stress, and eating all foods. You can have a “perfect” BMI/weight/whatever, but if you’re terrified to eat something less nutritious, that’s not healthy-even if our society would praise you for your amazing willpower.

Via @immaEATthat

If you’re interested in a non-diet approach to wellness, I suggest reading Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating (my posts on that are linked here). Immerse yourself with body positive messages and surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, not what you look like. If you struggle with your body and food and are unsure if you should seek professional help, here’s a link to an anonymous, short screening. If you know someone who may be struggling, share it with them. This year’s theme is “It’s Time to Talk About It,” so let’s. You never know whose life you may be saving.

Friday Favorites #2

Happy Friday!

I’m heading into the weekend after a week with no tests (insert praise hands emoji). I have a biochem test a week from Monday, so you can probably guess what I’ll be up to this weekend. For that class, it’s never too early to start. I can hardly believe that in 2 weeks it will be spring break! Time is flying by.

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot of serious posts lately, which I love doing and feel is necessary, but I thought it would be fun to switch it up and share some of the things I’ve been loving this week.

Slow Mornings

This semester, my classes start at 11 or 11:15. I don’t have to be at the bus stop until 9:45, so I am loving my long mornings. (The next bus doesn’t come until 10:45, which would make me late.) I usually get up around 7, make breakfast and coffee, and sit on the couch with my dog while I watch the Today Show and read blogs. I know, I’m cool.

This mug was made for me.
Around 8 I usually run, go to the gym, or do school work. Some days I do none of these things and just enjoy being still. Having this time to myself before class starts is wonderful and starts my day on the right foot.

These Podcast Episodes

I’ve mentioned Food Psych before, but I discovered Body Kindness after I wrote that post. I missed last week’s episode of Food Psych and listened to it the other day. It was great to hear Christy and Jennifer’s thoughts about working as a dietitian with a body positive, Health at Every Size perspective! This is the type of work I hope to do in the future, so it is encouraging to see others who are doing it and thriving.

Rebecca (of Body Kindness) had a guest on who has been treating eating disorders for 25 years. They talk a lot about being who you want to be right now, in the body you have now. Amen!

Fun Lunches

Ever since I’ve really embraced intuitive eating, my meals have more variety and are more satisfying. In the past, I would have thought mac and cheese is “bad” and not something I should eat at lunch. I would usually only let myself have it when I was sick. Then I would be so excited that I would eat the whole box, then feel bad. My attitude towards this food was making me feel out of control around it.

Now I think about food neutrally and eat what sounds good. A couple days this week, that was mac and cheese. Carrots, cucumbers, and clementines also sounded good. I do try to add fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks, but I do it in a way that feels and tastes good. I choose what ones I like and prepare them in a way that tastes good, just like I would with any other food. Gentle nutrition for the win!

This Instagram Account

I found this Instagram account this week, and I love it! They take memes and make them body positive. It makes me so sad to see an image like this, posted for real, and then see people (many women) tagging their friends. I’m sure I’ve done it before. I want a reply all option so I can be like “THERE IS ANOTHER WAY!!!” Anyway, I’m really glad this Instagram user has created a space to call out what’s wrong with many of these messages.

My Treadmill Setup

For about a year, I have been doing my weekly speed work on the treadmill at the gym. I let that gym membership expire recently and now just use the one at my apartment complex. I quickly found out that there is zero air flow by the treadmills. It gets super hot and I already sweat more than any person should, so I bought this nifty fan from Amazon. Best $10 I ever spent. I also bring my workout on a post it note and my iPad so I can watch This is Us or Gilmore Girls. I look kind of ridiculous carrying all my stuff over there, but I don’t care-it makes me happy.

I hope you have a great weekend! But first–anyone else watch This is Us? I know it’s cheesy, but I love it.

Grocery Haul + Dinners This Week

Happy Friday!

I hope you’ve had a good week. My one class for the day was canceled, so it’s the weekend for me! Don’t hate me. Tomorrow I’m headed out of town for a friend’s birthday celebration, but for today I thought it would be fun to share this week’s grocery haul and menu. Like always, I’m not sharing to say that what I eat is the best and you should eat like I do. I share to show what intuitive eating looks like for me, and to share ideas for easy and delicious meals and snacks.

Although I try to listen to my body and eat what I’m craving, I have to balance that with the reality of a busy schedule and a budget (don’t we all!). This means I plan dinners ahead of time, but I am flexible and can cook a recipe a different day if it doesn’t sound good that night. I make sure to have a variety of foods on hand for snacks and lunches, and then pick out what I want that day.

Ok, anyway, here’s what I was up to this week in the food department..

What I Bought

Produce: clementines, bananas, strawberries, spinach, cauliflower, frozen broccoli, green onions, cilantro, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery

Proteins/meats: Italian sausage, bacon, chickpeas, eggs, peanut butter

Other dairy: milk, shredded cheese

Canned goods: diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, jelly

Grains: bread, brown rice, penne pasta, Annie’s mac and cheese, pretzel crisps

Other: coffee, basil, curry powder

What you see here cost $75, which is more than usual but for the sake of transparency I didn’t change anything I did for this post. I would say my weekly grocery bill averages to about $60, which covers all of my meals M-F. Well, except for the dinners Chip cooks-we live & shop separately. From this grocery haul, I made dinner for 4 nights, and breakfast and lunch for every day. I seriously didn’t spend another dollar on food this week. Best of all, I didn’t have to make a second trip to the store. I’ll share more on how I stretch my grocery dollar throughout the post.

This week’s lunches consisted of leftovers, curried chickpeas and rice, and pb&j. Breakfast was oatmeal (I already had that in the pantry) or peanut butter & banana toast.

What We Had for Dinner

Sunday- baked pasta and roasted cauliflower

Woof, sorry about the bad lighting. I made this pasta a long time ago, and Chip kept dropping hints that he wanted me to make it again. I finally got the hint and made it on Sunday-I had to work late Monday and knew I would be happy to have leftovers. It was just as good as we remembered. In the past I made it with turkey Italian sausage, but Target was out, so I used regular Italian sausage. They really taste the same, so I would choose turkey if it was available.

The cauliflower picture was even worse, so I’ll spare you that, but I just chopped it up and roasted it at 400°F for about 25 minutes with olive oil, spices, and lemon juice. After dinner, I packed up some leftovers for Monday night and froze the rest for another time. I love freezing leftovers because 1-it reduces food waste, and 2-I get all excited when there’s a night I don’t know what to eat and remember I have food in the freezer.

Monday- leftover baked pasta and cauliflower

Tuesday- slow cooker potato soup

I learned my lesson and took this picture when I had leftovers Wednesday for lunch-yay natural light!

I really wanted to use the immersion blender I got for Christmas, so I went to trusty Budget Bytes and searched “immersion blender.” This came up and it was SO good. This was my first time making potato soup, and this recipe was easy to follow. We topped it with plenty of bacon, cheese, and green onions.

Budget/life tip: Chop and freeze any leftover vegetables you may have from a recipe. This recipe only called for 2 medium carrots and 2 celery stalks, so there was a lot left over. The next day when I had some time, I chopped it all up and froze it to use another time. Pretty much any soup recipe calls for chopped celery and carrots, so it’s good to have on hand.

Wednesday- out at Zinburger

We decided to wait and celebrate Valentine’s Day on Wednesday. This was great because we didn’t have to wait for a table at one of our favs, Zinburger. I started with a chopped wedge salad and we split the zucchini fries. I was too excited to get a picture. They are fried/coated in parmesan and served with the best ranch dressing. If you know me, you know good ranch is important for my restaurant experience. For our meal, we both got the buffalo chicken sandwich, with more ranch of course. There was a mixup which resulted in a free order of fries (!) so we ate some of those, too.

Thursday- leftover potato soup + roasted carrots

Chip was planning on making tacos, but we both thought potato soup sounded nice on a chilly day. I had a bunch of baby carrots that were going bad, so I roasted those with olive oil and garlic powder. Mmm you can’t beat roasted carrots. Ok actually you can-roasted broccoli. Or cookies. You get the point, the carrots were yummy.

That brings us to today. Tonight we’ll have the tacos meant for last night, and then we will be gone tomorrow night.

What was the best thing you ate this week? 

On Body Shaming Lady Gaga

I know, this is probably old news by now so I’m not exactly coming in with a hot take. However, I’m still pretty angry about this and need an outlet.

On Sunday, I watched the Super Bowl halftime show, and I thought Lady Gaga was awesome. Her vocals, dancing, and costumes were all wonderful. I thought she looked confident, powerful, and like she was having the time of her life. Soon enough, I found out some other people were preoccupied with her “fat rolls” and decided to share those feelings on the interwebs. I have a few thoughts of my own that I would like to offer here.

1. We witnessed 13 minutes of Lady Gaga, a woman at the top of her game in the performance of her life, singing and dancing her face off. She delivered an incredible performance. Yet the only thing some people could focus on is her stomach. This makes me sick. I think it is important to ask WHY. Why are we so afraid of fat? Does having fat on your body mean you are unhealthy or a bad person? No, it does not.

2. I know men are subject many of the same pressures to have a certain body type that women are, and I don’t want to minimize that, but do you remember the talk about Bruno Mars’ body last year? What about Lenny Kravitz the year before? No? Neither can I. I can’t say for sure that if they had come out in a belly shirt, they wouldn’t have been subject to fat shaming. I hope not-we shouldn’t do that to anyone. But I do believe there is a hyperawareness in the media of women’s bodies and a minimization of contributions women like Gaga make by focusing on their appearance. We are supposed to be thin, but not too thin, and curvy, but not too curvy. The objectification of women only makes body shaming worse and we must reject the notion that women need to look a certain way.

3. I have seen some comments along the lines of “omg she’s actually really thin I can’t believe they’re hating on HER stomach, clearly she is in great shape.” I can see where people are trying to go with this. She is thin, and an attack on her body reminds us of the unrealistic standards we are taught to strive for. However, I want to challenge this type of comment. At what point would you deem a person’s body unacceptable and deserving of being called out? If she had one more roll of fat, then would it be okay to pick apart her body? It’s important to accept ALL bodies- small, muscular, large, not muscular, abs, no abs.

4. What does this say to people who look like Lady Gaga, and those who are in larger bodies than she is? I’ll admit I started thinking “Dang. What would they say about ME if I got up there?” I quickly neglected that line of thinking. We are not the problem. Society is the problem. We are held to unrealistic standards of what we “should” look like. Some people do look like that, but it is not feasible for all. If you do look like a VS model, good for you. If you don’t, good for you as well. All bodies are good, none any better than another.

5. What did these people want Gaga to do? Eat less and work out more so her body would be acceptable to them? That’s wrong on so many levels. If her body made you uncomfortable, I want you to ask yourself why.

6. Body shaming anyone, regardless of your reasons, is harmful. You may say, “Well, I just want them to be healthy.” I would direct you to the Health at Every Size movement. If our goal is to improve the health of all people, why would we shame anyone for how their body looks? Research has shown that weight discrimination leads to poor health outcomes and is not a motivator for people to change. (Duh. Source but there is a large body of research on this.) Body shaming of ANY kind, whether it is criticizing someone for being “too thin” or “too large,” is wrong.

I’ll leave you on a positive note, with the response from Lady Gaga herself:

You go, Gaga. And here is a link to some of the important work she is doing (in addition to her music), if you would like to focus on something other than her body.

My Body Is Not My Life’s Work

Oh my goodness.

There’s always that one week at the beginning of the semester where it gets real. That is this week. My first biochem test is Monday and other assignments are piling up, so I’ve been in a fog all week. However, I know that it’s a privilege to have such small problems. I am so thankful to be working toward my education and wouldn’t trade the that for anything. Anyway, I wasn’t sure I would post this week, then something happened that got me thinking.

I had an annual check up yesterday, which means I had to step on the scale. For the first time in years I didn’t have anxiety about it. I didn’t think about eating a small breakfast so I would weigh less. I even kept my boots and jacket on because I didn’t care to make myself lighter. As the digital numbers finally stopped, I didn’t even look.

I am happy and healthy, and that’s enough of a measurement for me. I’ve come a long way with body positivity, but I’m not immune to the feelings that number can stir up. If it was lower than I expected, I didn’t want to know. It’s not necessary. If it was higher, I would like to think I wouldn’t care, but years of messages to the contrary aren’t that easy to forget. If I was unhappy with the number, what was I going to do? Start over-exercising or cutting out food? No thank you.

My body is smart. I do my part to take care of myself by eating intuitively, exercising in a way that feels good, getting enough sleep, and managing my stress. My body will settle in size and shape where it needs to. At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is this:

My body is not my life’s work.

It allows me to do my life’s work, but how it looks isn’t important. To me, being body positive isn’t looking in the mirror and thinking I’m the hottest thing since sliced bread. I like my body and I accept myself as I am. I love my body for what it allows me to do and I respect it, but I’m not walking around obsessed with my appearance. Most days I don’t give much thought to what my body looks like. My value lies in so much more than that.

The problem is that we give appearance so much importance. We are told all the time that we need to be working harder on our bodies. Just run farther, lift heavier, eat “cleaner,” and you’ll be.. what? More successful? Happier? More lovable? I remember those summers that I tried to slim down before the beach. Every time beach week rolled around, I would think “If I just had one more week to work on this, I would be happy with how I look.” Y’all, that week never comes. When you’re in that mindset, you will ALWAYS find something to fix on your body. It’s a self-absorbed, self-defeating mission.

Almost as self-absorbed as this selfie
I finally learned that my body/weight is the least important thing about me, and over time I’ve learned to treat it as such. I place much higher importance on my relationships and things that I care about that actually matter. What if we all accepted ourselves and others as we are? My hope is that we would embrace all bodies so nobody feels like they need to change the one they’re in.

What if we diverted the time we spend stressing about our bodies and trying to change them into our relationships? Our education or careers? Wouldn’t life be so much better if we had that mental capacity and energy to use for more important things? Life is too short to spend another day hating your body and trying to change it. I’m not saying it’s easy- you can’t will yourself to be at peace with your body, it takes work- but it’s more than worth it. 

Yes, this all came from a doctor’s visit. Sometimes I wish I could turn my mind off, too, but thank you for letting me share it with you.

What Intuitive Eating Looks Like for Me (Yesterday’s Eats)

Happy Friday!

I hope you’ve had a good week. Today I have one more class then I’m going home to celebrate my dad’s birthday and my sister’s first wedding shower. Wahoo! But first, I wanted to share what I ate yesterday. I do not share this to suggest that the way I eat is perfect or that you should eat like I do. Quite the opposite. Tuning into your own wisdom about how to nourish your body and relationship with food may yield an eating pattern that looks totally different from what I eat.  I share this to show what intuitive eating looks like for me, in real life.

I’ve written about intuitive eating here several times, so I won’t rehash all that. However, I suspect some people may have read those posts and then thought–“Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but what does that actually look like?” It looks different for everyone, and it looks different for me every day!

Yesterday I was in class 11-5, with a long break in the middle, so I had to plan ahead. I couldn’t just wait and see what I crave, and I definitely didn’t eat without distractions. Friendly reminder that intuitive eating is NOT a diet. There are no rules and there’s no way to mess up. Simply put, it’s tuning into your internal cues of hunger and fullness, your food preference, and how food makes you feel rather than following an external set of rules.

Breakfast

I woke up around 7:15 and had breakfast shortly before 8am. I went to my apartment gym at 8:30, so I wanted to give myself some time to let it settle.

Don’t be fooled, I ate this on the couch watching the Today show.

I had what I have most days-oatmeal cooked with milk, with cinnamon, raisins, and crunchy peanut butter mixed in. So good and satisfying! Oh, and coffee with half & half, obviously.

In the past, I used almond milk in my oatmeal. I didn’t really like it. I just thought it was healthier because it was lower in calories and sugar. If you like almond milk or can’t/don’t eat dairy, that may be a good option for you! But I’ve found that I enjoy oatmeal with regular milk much more, so that’s what is healthiest for me.

Snacks

I packed all of the snacks you see here for school. And more coffee. Sometimes I eat everything I pack, but I didn’t yesterday. We have a little cafe/quick stop store at school, and sometimes I’ll get a snack there, but I try to pack my own to save money! Seriously, a KIND bar costs an arm and a leg.

Right when I got to school at 10:30, I was hungry so I had the banana and cheese. My first class ends at 12:15 and the next starts at 12:30, so on these days I just snack if I’m hungry and wait to eat lunch later. Yesterday I ate the bag of crackers during that class. It sounds boring but the Trader Joe’s Multigrain ones are pretty good. And not as loud or smelly to eat as my turkey sandwich and carrots.

Lunch

Picture taken at home, but eaten at school. Anyone spot a little puppy?

Finally!! 1:45 came and it was time for lunch. Yesterday it was a turkey sandwich with cheddar cheese and spinach on whole wheat bread. I also packed baby carrots and peeled clementines in my favorite sandwich box. My last class was at 3:30, then I headed home.

I ended up not being hungry for the almonds or apple, so those went back into the pantry/fridge.

Dinner

Chip came over and we had leftovers for dinner, but I also roasted some broccoli to go with it. We were both hungry, so we had the chips and salsa (x2) you see below while we waited.

If you love salsa, go buy Pace Picante Medium. It will not disappoint!

 

I always take the placemats away for dinner. We are both too messy.

We had dinner around 7, and it was leftover chili from Tuesday and roasted frozen broccoli. It’s the easiest thing ever. I set the oven to 400°, and after a few minutes when it was thawed, I added olive oil, salt, pepper, and some Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute and put it back in for a bit longer. It’s very scientific 🙂 I shared the chili recipe over on my Instagram the other day if you’re interested!

One Final Snack

Some nights I don’t have a snack, some nights I do. Last night was a night that I did. I got hungry around 10:30, so I had a bowl of cereal then went to bed.

Peanut Butter Puffins-hadn’t had this in a while and it hit the spot.

The End

Overall, I really don’t eat that much differently than before I discovered intuitive eating. I had already rejected the diet mentality and did not restrict many foods. However, my relationship with food has really improved for the better. I don’t want to give off the impression that I have it all figured out-fostering a healthy relationship with food is a lifelong process.  I consider nutrition as I make most food choices (not all-sometimes I just want a dang cookie and I’m not concerned about what nutrients it gives me), but I don’t let it rule my life. It’s very freeing and has left me with a lot of brain space to focus on more important things, like memorizing biochemistry reactions for school. And a lot of other more fun things, too.

Discovering Joyful Movement

Hey y’all!

With a new year comes so much talk and advertisement about the next great diet or workout challenge. I’ve tackled my thoughts about food on the blog several times, so I thought today I would switch it up and give exercise/movement/whatever you wanna call it some love. When I see “fitspo” things on the internet telling us things like “sweat is fat crying” or “summer bodies are made in the winter,” I can’t help but feel sad.

We are constantly hearing messages that we aren’t doing enough and that we should be doing more to change our bodies. What if we just stopped all that nonsense and instead focused on the life-enhancing aspects of movement? For some reason, there is this overarching idea in our society that you have to dislike your body to be motivated to exercise. That’s just so not true. There are so many health-enhancing (and mood boosting!) aspects of exercise that I think would be better to focus on than trying to manipulate our bodies.

Why I Exercise

I exercise to get out of my head and into my body. If you’ve struggled with anxiety like I have, you’ll understand this is very important. I exercise to relieve stress and clear my mind, to connect with myself and others, and to achieve new goals. I move my body because it feels good. I want to live a long, healthy life, and I know exercise is one way to increase my chances of that.

After I finally broke 2 hours in the half marathon, a goal that took me years to achieve!

I exercise not because I hate my body, but because I love what it does for me. Exercise is not a way to punish myself for something I ate, or to “free up calories” so I can eat later. (Guess what? You always have the right to eat, you don’t need to earn it!) Moving my body on a regular basis is something I want to do, because it makes me feel good. It’s energizing! It’s not something that I feel like I HAVE to do. After all, being able to engage in exercise is a privilege.

Find What You Enjoy

It sounds so simple, but I think the enjoyment factor is often overlooked for intensity. We think if we don’t burn X number of calories or sweat or work until we want to puke, we didn’t work hard enough. That’s just not true! Many activities like walking or gardening may not work up a huge sweat, but can have significant health impacts. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy intense exercise, but that isn’t appealing to everyone. It’s important to find what works for you. Be kind to yourself and do movement that makes you feel good. After all, if you enjoy exercise and feel better when you do it, why would you ever stop?

Walks with my dog are another favorite way to get outside and get moving

I truly enjoy running and lifting weights. I love the feeling of breaking a time or distance goal while running. It’s exciting to be able to lift heavier weights over time. However, there was a time when I took it too seriously and caused myself a lot of anxiety. I became so thrilled over seeing my pace improve and lift more weight that I didn’t want to stop. I thought if I missed a workout or two, I would lose the progress I had made. Once I realized that this wasn’t true and that exercise should be fun, I was able to enjoy it again.  Exercise should relieve stress, not add to it.

Know When to Rest

Being in tune with your body and listening when it’s time for rest is just as important as moving regularly! Some days I’m just not excited about exercise, but I know once I start I’ll be happy I did. Other days, like this Tuesday, I needed 30 more minutes of sleep more than I needed a 30 minute run. Above all else, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Sometimes that means sticking to your usual routine, and other times that means resting because your body or mind needs that more. Or it might mean taking a walk on a day you planned on something else, because that’s what sounded good to you. Just like with eating, it’s important to ask what you want and need, then go from there.

What form of exercise do YOU enjoy? Have you tried anything new lately?

So You Want to Be a Dietitian

Hello hello!

School is finally back in session after a long winter break! Yesterday I only had one class, and today I have three. Even though I enjoyed every minute at home, it’s nice to be back on a schedule. (I’ll regret saying that soon enough.) I’ve been wanting to share a little more about my journey to grad school, what my program entails, and other routes to becoming a dietitian. If you’re interested in the program or becoming a dietitian, don’t hesitate to comment or send me an email. I’m going to do this post FAQ style and answer questions family and friends commonly ask me, otherwise I’ll ramble incoherently. 🙂

What was your undergraduate major?

Exercise and Sport Science. Originally I was thinking of applying to medical school and doing the nutrition undergrad degree at UNC. I took intro to nutrition the fall of my sophomore year and fell in love! I decided nutrition was what I wanted to do long-term. At the same time, I took in organic chemistry and despite my hardest work, I made a C. This meant I was ineligible to apply to the undergraduate nutrition program (needed a B-). Although I was bummed, I would have had to pursue further education to become a RD anyway. I decided on Exercise and Sport Science, because I was interested in it and it was a nice complement to my interest in nutrition.

What program are you in now?

I’m currently in my first year of the combined MPH-RD program at UNC. That means I’ll get a Master’s of Public Health in Nutrition and also be eligible to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam when I graduate. Currently, you’re not required to have a Master’s degree to be a Registered Dietitian, but many RDs do have one. I’m in the School of Public Health at UNC, so we have to take certain classes to meet the public health component of our degree, like health behavior and epidemiology. To meet the Registered Dietitian component, we take all of the courses required by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (also abbreviated AND). Some examples are biochemistry and two levels of medical nutrition therapy (starting this semester!).

What is a combined program in dietetics?

There are several routes to becoming a Registered Dietitian, but in general the steps are:

  1. Take all of the courses outlined by AND
  2. Complete the (unpaid) internship hours
  3. Pass the RD exam

There are two types of dietetic programs-combined or didactic, leading to a bachelor’s or graduate degree. In a didactic program, you must complete all of the required RD coursework and then apply to internship programs. The application process for the internship is pretty intense and involves a matching system. You may not be matched the first go around, which means you have to sit out another year and try again.

In contrast, I’m in a combined program, which means my internships are guaranteed. That is a huge reason why I applied to UNC and only UNC (more on that below). There is still a matching component, but I’m guaranteed to have an internship somewhere.

How long is your program?

The UNC MPH-RD program is 28 months long. We alternate between classes during the fall and spring semesters, then internships during both summers and the final fall. I started in August 2016 and will graduate in December 2018. Most people take several weeks to study for the RD exam, so I’ll probably take that in January or February of 2019.

Although it may take longer if Livi doesn’t let me get anything done.

What are the internships like?

I’ll do my first internship-the public health experience- this summer. Most of those are at local health departments, all in North Carolina. Next summer (2018), I’ll do a clinical rotation, and then fall of 2018 I’ll do an individualized advanced placement. This is all specific to the program I am in, and the special areas of focus vary school to school.

Where did you apply?

Just UNC. Seriously. UNC is the only combined dietetics program in North Carolina and I knew I wanted to stay in state. Also, I LOVE UNC and will bleed Tar Heel Blue until I die, so I’m pretty happy to still be there! To be fully transparent, I’ll share that I applied during my senior year of college and was not accepted. I knew how competitive it was, so I wasn’t expecting to get in, but it was still hard! In that year off I said YES to any opportunity that came my way. It made for a busy, but awesome year and I did get in on my next try.

UNC Bell Tower

If I didn’t get in, I was hoping to begin the didactic program at North Carolina Central University. I would have needed about a year of coursework, then hopefully be matched to their year-long internship, then finish up the Master’s of Science in Nutrition shortly after becoming a RD. I would have been fine doing that, but I’m so happy with the path I’m on now as it’s packaged nicely and my internships are guaranteed. Additionally, I really wanted a degree in public health and the education that comes along with it.

I’m interested in becoming a dietitian. Where do I start?

AND has a list of all accredited programs here. You can sort them by program type: coordinated, didactic, or undergraduate. If you decide graduate school is the path for you, you’ll need to take the GRE and prerequisite courses, then apply to programs. Some people know this is what they want to do from a young age, so they do an undergrad degree in dietetics and then go straight into an internship. There are many routes to the same outcome, which makes it confusing but also flexible for a variety of needs.

If you’re considering this career path, go for it! I know it can be scary, especially if you’re doing something completely different right now. I’m only a semester in but I can say with confidence that it’s worth it. I’m thrilled to be on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian and if you have any questions, I’m more than happy to share my experience!