Today’s post covers a topic in nutrition that I get asked about pretty often, and I think I know why. It pretty much flies in the face of everything we’ve heard about healthy eating. You know, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or that we should eat 5-6 times a day to keep our metabolism running. So today I wanted to cover the basics of intermittent fasting, the benefits of the practice, and how you can get started.
what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that changes when you eat, not what you eat. IF comes in many different styles, the most popular of which is to fast for 12-16 hours of the day, and eat all of your meals within the remaining 8-12 hours. For many, this looks like eating an early dinner and then skipping breakfast. For example, if you wrap up dinner by 7PM, you’ll have fasted for 12 hours if you eat again at 7AM, or 16 hours if you break your fast at 11AM.
Some other ways to IF:
5:2 method – eat normally 5 days a week, and decrease calories to 500-600 for the remaining 2 days.
eat-stop-eat – fast for 24 hours at a time, usually 1-2 times a week
what are the benefits?
There are a lot of benefits associated with intermittent fasting, and most of them boil down to a few key things: lower insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity, and increased autophagy. Let’s break it down.
When you’re in the fed (i.e. not fasted) state, your pancreas secretes insulin in reaction to the food you eat, namely the carbs. Insulin is a hormone that tells your body’s cells to absorb the glucose floating around in your blood. It’s a storage hormone that stimulates the production of body fat when produced in excess in response to excess food consumption.
Walking around with a high level of insulin on the sporadic occasion is one thing (hello, my recent trip to LA). But if it’s happening on the reg, it can get ugly. Enter insulin insensitivity. Basically, the more insulin your body produces, the less adept your cells are at dealing with it. You become insulin resistant, which can lead to other health conditions like prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
By fasting, or decreasing the amount of time you spend in the fed or insulin-secreting state, you lower overall blood levels of glucose and insulin. Instead of utilizing glucose for fuel, you teach your body to use other stores of energy, like body fat. And by managing lower overall insulin levels, you’re also helping your cells stay sensitive to its effects when you are in the fed state.
Autophagy is a very cool thing that your body does that you’ve probably never heard of. Think of it as your biology’s very own recycling system. Its rate is boosted by the low insulin levels associated with IF. During autophagy, our cells cannibalize themselves, eating up damaged/old/otherwise less than awesome cells, and using their parts to regenerate new ones. I know it sounds weird and gross, but it’s actually good for you. Autophagy helps control inflammation, boosts immunity, and slows down aging.
so how do you get started?
You can’t “out-fast” a bad diet, so the following suggestions come under the overarching assumption that when you’re not fasting, you’re eating mostly whole foods and lots of veggies. If you’ve got that on lock and want to see if some tweaks here and there help you feel/look/perform better, here’s how I’d tackle it.
Start slow! Your new IF routine can take some getting used to and it can be tough on some women hormonally, so don’t try to go all in during your first week. Try fasting for 12 hours a day just a couple times a week. Gradually increase your fasting days and/or your hours fasting and keep tabs on how you’re feeling.
If you’re having trouble with the fast due to hunger or a lack of mental clarity, sipping on a coffee with MCT oil may help get you to the 12+ hour mark. The MCT oil is all fat, so it won’t spike your insulin. Its also been shown to help your body’s production of ketone bodies, which will help you feel energized and focused along with the caffeine from the coffee.
And if the hunger is really getting to you, check in with your intake by logging in My Fitness Pal for a day or two. You may not be getting enough calories in during the day to keep you satisfied through your fast. Remember, IF isn’t about crazy caloric restriction.
If after all that, you can’t get down with IF, move on with your life! There are so many ways to be healthy, and this is just one of them. There’s something for everyone, but there’s not one approach that works for all.
Are you interested in trying IF? Any success stories or expert tips? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
I get asked all. the. time. about what supplements I take. And while I’m not a doctor (sorry, Mom) who can write you a prescription or offer formal recommendations, I’m happy to share what’s worked for me. And since I’m not about popping pills all day (or spending my whole paycheck on ’em), here’s what it boils down to: My Top 4 Daily Supplements.
The following post contains affiliate links to products I use on the daily and truly love. If you want to buy some for yourself, I’ll get a little cash to put toward my expensive coffee habit (working on it), and you’ll get an awesome product. Win/win.
When I first heard about the collagen craze, I was pretty skeptical. I try to be cautious about any product that offers benefits that sound too good to be true. But, like every good dietitian/blogger/human guinea pig, I had to try it. No joke, within 2 weeks of regular use, I was seeing a difference in my nail growth & strength, as well as more supple skin and, eventually, some serious upgrades to my hair volume.
Beyond all the beauty-related benefits, collagen is a smart supplement for anyone who’s exercising on the reg. See, collagen is the major protein component of bones, joints, and connective tissue. Regular wear and tear on these parts can do damage on your system, and supplementing your body’s natural collagen production can help your body recover from all that time in the gym.
If you’re an indoorsy desk jockey like me, chances are you’re vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that we get almost exclusively from the sun. It’s most commonly known for its role in supporting bone health, as it promotes calcium absorption. But I became interested in vitamin D when I was going through my (ongoing) autoimmune health journey, which is another blog post entirely.
Aside from bone strength, the vitamins also functions to modulate cell growth, support neuromuscular and immune function, and reduce inflammation, which is basically the root of all autoimmune evil. After finding out I was deficient, I started taking 10,000 IUs daily for a few months and have since decreased to 5,000 IUs daily. Since it is fat soluble, like I mentioned, I take it in the morning with my smoothie since it has avocado in it. I get my blood work done every few months to check in on my levels of D.
Probiotics these days are pretty ubiquitous, so you probably don’t need to listen to me wax poetic on their benefits. Real quick though– probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our gut, supporting healthy digestive and immune systems. Many aspects of everyday life can cause the bad bacteria to win out over the good, like overuse antibiotics or excessively high sugar intake. You can get your probiotics in naturally through fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, or kimchi, but if you’re not eating those things regularly, I’d recommend you find a probiotic supplement to take daily.
Just like vitamin D, aspects of modern life have made many of us deficient in magnesium– ur diets aren’t as rich in veggies, and our soil is depleted of nutrients. And because magnesium is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body, we definitely feel the effects of what we lack.
One of magnesium’s major role is in the body’s stress response, so getting getting your mag levels in check can help with anxiety relief and improved sleep. And that’s why I’m so obsessed with this stuff. Y’all know I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. I love it, it hates me. So when I found Natural Calm, the game was changed. This stuff totally mellows me out when my crazies come out at night and helps me drift off into a deep, restful sleep. I prefer the original, unflavored version because I’m not into stevia. But you do you, girl.
I spend a lot of my professional and personal time thinking about health. Healthy food, healthy exercise, healthy recipes, and the ever-evasive healthy lifestyle. “Living a healthy lifestyle” is something I’ve heard/learned/spoken about for years, ever since I started studying nutrition in college.
But only recently did I start to really understand what that elusive term means. And it was when my approach to health started to feel less like trying and more like breathing.
There were a few “aha” moments that led to this feeling. One major one was doing my first (and second, third, and fourth) Whole30, another one was giving myself permission to stop using exercise as punishment, and then there’s the idea that I want to talk about today— moderation vs. abstention.
I can’t take credit for shining the light on this poignant distinction. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, originally coined the terms. But my approach to diet issues (both my own and those of others’) totally changed once I understood this differentiation and how to identify oneself as one or the other.
Here’s how Gretchen distinguishes moderators from abstainers:
You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits
By nature, I’m an abstainer. It’s why Whole30 is so easy on me cognitively. Or why I can happily decline the donuts that greet me in the office break room on a Monday morning. And why trying my mother’s well-meaning suggestion to “have anything I want, but just not too much of it,” never quite worked for me. My father shares this same black-and-white mentality when it comes to healthy eating. When we’re on, we’re on. But the occasional indulgence definitely has the potential to lead to an all out, chronic food frenzy.
My mom, sister and sister-in-law, on the other hand, are total moderators. They do a great job of eating everything and anything they want until they’re comfortably full. Half a cookie is just the right portion to satisfy a craving and prevent any feelings of deprivation. To them, a few crackers with cheese is a satisfying snack. For me (at least for the first 25 years of my life), a cheese plate was an invitation to a no holds barred, munch-until-you’re-stuffed fest. Oy.
(I’m not totally sure how to classify my older brother, to be honest. He’s this weird human specimen who can eat a fistful of chocolate chips before breakfast in the morning and yet still maintain a six pack??? My parents insist we share the same genetics but I’m not convinced.)
So for years and years, I was trying to live my life as a moderator, failing at every food opportunity. The only thing that sorta felt like I was successfully moderating was tracking my calories and macros, but we all know how well that ended. I really didn’t realize there was any other way! It’s what I grew up hearing and what I was taught in school. Seriously, I could sum up my nutrition education in one sentence: Everything in moderation, including artificial sweeteners and processed, low calorie snacks.
But for me and all my abstainers out there, this just isn’t the case! While we don’t need to eliminate entire foods or food groups all the time, we do need to approach everyday eating through a different lens. We need to make intentional decisions about what we eat, how much, and why. Melissa Hartwig says it perfectly (which should come as a surprise to precisely no one):
…if you’re an Abstainer, you still get to think about every interaction with potentially less healthy food as an “on or off” moment—no “moderation” in sight. Even more important is realizing that each instance is totally independent… There are no rules, but it’s NOT “moderation.” It’s conscious, deliberate decision-making in the moment, one hundred percent of the time.
And none of this is to say that moderators are less healthy, or lack willpower, or anything even resembling that. It’s to say that it’s important that we should all take a moment for self-inquiry and find our own identity before continuing through our health journeys, and certainly before we espouse our own methodology upon others.
Ok, Petite Professionals, now I have to know. What are you? Abstainer? Moderator? Sometimes a little of this, other times a little of that? Let’s chat in the comments below!
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching these days, trying to figure out my purpose on this blog and, you know, on earth. Just some light, casual thinking.
But really, I want to use this platform to empower women to create their own health and confidence. It’s so easy to feel victim to circumstance in these two areas of life. (And my personal experience has shown that they’re intrinsically linked to one another.) But with some intentionality and a little fascination with the self-experiment, I believe it’s totally possible to make your own best version of health and, in turn, feel really awesome about yourself.
So, strong feeling of purpose? Check. How to best act upon that purpose? Still in progress. But I figure I can start by sharing what’s worked for me, and more of my story. There’s so much to be gained from vulnerability, and hearing something you recognize personally in someone else’s experience.
That all being said, let’s get into today’s post. These are 5 practices I’ve put into play as part of my confidence regimen. I say regimen because it really is an active practice. Like I said in my body positivity post, self-acceptance ebbs and flows. But putting in the work pays off in spades. If this sounds at all good to you, here are some ways to start.
Unfollow people who make you feel like sh*t.
If you’re a human being who’s alive & breathing in the year 2018, there’s a good chance you spend a lot of your time on social media. It can be a great source of inspiration, education, and connection with your peeps, but it can also do a lot of damage. Scrolling through the highlight reel of other people’s lives can make us feel like our own existence is less than.
The 5 star vacation FOMO sets in, or you compare your relationship to the girl from high school who “can’t wait to marry her best friend,” or you look down in disgust at your thighs that look nothing like the Instagram fitness model’s. (For the record, with some help from Facetune, it’s possible that her thighs don’t even look like her thighs. And she’s probably comparing herself to some other social media model, and so on.)
If reading any of this sounds familiar, try approaching your social media habit with some extra intentionality. And by that I mean unfollow people who make you feel like sh*t. It’s just not worth it.
Hang out with people who lift you up.
So if you’re going to unfollow people who have a toxic effect on your self esteem, it’s probably wise that you don’t hang with them IRL either. Do an audit of the people you spend your time with. Do they support your goals? Do they inspire you to be better through their own actions? Do they let you vent when you’ve had a bad day, offering constructive feedback or maybe just an open ear? Do they celebrate your accomplishments without envy? Do they listen to you without commandeering the conversation to talk about themselves? Fill your life and spend your time with awesome people who check the “yes” box to all of those questions.
Find a form of physical activity you enjoy.
This is a big one for me. I’m not naturally inclined toward physical activity, but when I allow myself too much “off” time, I’ve found that I become more self conscious. Even if I don’t actually look any different, I start to feel like my body is this soft, flawed “other,” instead of the perfectly imperfect machine that carries me through life.
I feel much more connected to & appreciative of my own body when I’m regularly engaging in exercise that I actually enjoy. (Yeah, none of that exercise as punishment stuff here.) These days, this looks like a lot of yoga with an occasional strength training session because it’s what my mind & body crave, and what makes me feel at home in my physical self.
…And do it in a sports bra.
I talked about this in my body positivity post, but it bears repeating. There’s something magic that happens when you can actually see your body working. I care less about the way my arms looked in that photo on Facebook when I can see my triceps working to lower me from high to low plank. My stomach rolls don’t offend me when my abs & obliques are working toward a perfect prayer twist.
Move your scale out of your bathroom.
This small act can be a major move for self-care. There have been times in my life where I weighed myself multiple times a day, and the number that stared up at me would determine whether or not I had a good day. Nevermind if I killed it at a work presentation or had a great night out with my best friends. If my scale told me I was two pounds heavier than I was yesterday, there would still be a lingering feeling of failure in the back of my mind.
One way to diminish the power of the scale is to simply move it out of your everyday sight. When I was in my 1BR apartment, I slid mine into the linen closet. When I moved to my house, the scale found its new home in my guest bathroom. Now I check in a couple times a month, but for the most part, I let my clothes and the way I feel in my body tell me how I’m doing.
What’s in YOUR confidence regimen? Let me know in a comment below! Always need to add to the repertoire.
Podcasts are essentially the soundtrack of my morning routine. I queue one up as I make my morning coffee, and then stick my phone in my robe pocket so I can listen to the episode as I whip up my daily smoothie bowl, brush my teeth, put on make up, and do something with my hair.
They’re easily my most favorite and most used method of continued education. I subscribe to about a zillion through the Podcast app on my iPhone, but today we’re focusing on my top picks for all things health & wellness. Let’s get into it.
I’m fascinated by biohacking, and through this podcast, Dave Asprey (founder of Bulletproof and the guy who put butter coffee on the map) gives us all access to the best in the biz. If you want to elevate your health through sleep, gut health, and emotional wellbeing, you can start exploring here.
This one’s for my nutrition nerds. Dr. Rhonda Patrick has her Ph.D. in biomedical science and it shows. Her podcast serves as a trusted resource on all the hot topics in nutrition & fitness like keto & low carb diets, intermittent fasting, sugar, saturated fat, and more.Glowing Up
If you’re interested in the Ayurvedic approach to modern health, you’ll love Sahara Rose’s podcast. She’s the author of the Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda and interviews experts in all things “alternative,” like medicinal mushroom, doshas, and healing adrenal fatigue with supplements & functional foods. I’m also super into the episodes that deal with the business blogging & health coaching ’cause I’m all about that #sidehustle life.
Chris Kresser’s not a dietitian or a doctor, taking an appropriately skeptical approach to traditional medicine. On his podcast, he demystifies popular nutrition myths and hype, while maintaining a realistic approach to health through his interviews with experts like Dr. Mark Hyman, Sarah Ballantyne, and Sara Gottfried.
Abel James road to becoming an influencer in health started with his own physical transformation. By adopting a paleo-based diet that’s high in fat, Abel lost weight, reversed his hypertension, and healed his thyroid. On his podcast, Abel talks to all the experts in modern health. (Are you sensing a pattern yet??)
mindbodygreen is definitely one of my favorite resources overall for approachable articles on all things nutrition & health. On the podcast, mbg founder Jason Wachob interviews health experts and influencers, and also explores food trends and how to make it as a health/food entrepreneur. So basically everything I’m interested in.
If you want more podcast goodness, check out this post I wrote nearly two years ago featuring my top 10 overall shows. And let me know in the comments below if I’m missing out on any gems!
Alright, y’all. The beginning of a new month means it’s time to revive your fitness routine with fresh music. Say hello to your April 2018 Workout Playlist. As always, this one’s heavy on the hip hop and completely NSFW. (Unless you, like me, regularly bump Migos while answering emails. #nojudgies)
Click here to follow this playlist on Spotify, or simply stream below.
What are your health and fitness goals for the month? Between social obligations, work events and general laziness, I’ve had a tough time getting in my usual 6PM workouts lately. This month, I’m going to attempt to make it all happen in the morning.
In fact, I wrote this blog post a while back all about how to successfully exercise before work, so I’m definitely going to take some of my own advice. I’d love to know your pro tips for getting in your sweat before the sun rises. Leave a comment and help your girl out!
Today I’m teaching you how to meal prep. But before your brain goes all “steamed broccoli & grilled chicken” on repeat, let’s be very clear: this is not your average meal prep. Instead, it’s a way to rethink the way you plan, pick, and prepare your week’s meals to create some serious variety and awesome nutrition with very little work.
The problem with meal prep in the traditional sense is that it requires way too much work to pick recipes, compile an organized grocery list, cook, portion, and clean. And then after all of that, you’re left eating the same meal over and over again… Or at least until your cravings for freshness & variety are such that you ditch your tupperware container, opting for a greasy meal with your coworkers. Yeah, we’ve all had a Thursday like that.
So my meal prep methodology is less meal prep and more component prep. Basically, you’ll pick several ingredients from several different categories (this will all make sense soon), season & cook each one super simply, and then combine them throughout the week in various bowls, salads, wraps, stews, stuffed potatoes, etc. It’ll look a little something like this:
Let me break it down for you.
First, start with the veggies. Choose the following:
1 raw, leafy green (I usually get a big box of baby greens)
1 leafy green to cook (kale, collard greens, etc.)
2-3 other colorful veggies (eggplant, bell peppers, carrots)
You’re going to cook all these super, super simply. Toss in olive oil, season with salt, pepper and your spice of choice, usually 1-2 per veg, and then roast or sauté. Each one of these will go into an individual container in your fridge.
You’ll also want to pick your protein. One rotisserie chicken will last me Monday-Friday, but choose your own adventure here. Maybe it’s salmon fillets, steak, ground beef, or a bean & grain mix if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
For fats, I go for avocado all. day. long. But you could also do eggs, nuts, seeds, or your favorite salad dressing. Speaking of salad dressing, you can pick a few other “accessories” here to complement your week of mix-and-match meals. I’ll get a pack of Siete tortillas and a fresh pico de gallo ’cause you can never go wrong with tacos. You might want grab some extra condiments, fresh herbs, or Everything Bagel seasoning to jazz things up.
And that’s it. Seriously y’all. It’s so easy and so delicious. Each day, you’ll pull out your containers from the fridge and throw together whatever you’re in the mood for. You’ll get umpteen different meals from one cooking sesh, and they’ll all be veggie forward, nutrient dense, and never boring. Taco Tuesday? Say no more. Freezing cold outside? Simmer your components in a pot of bone broth and call it soup. Get it, girl
And just to make it one eensy bit easier, here’s my go-to meal prep template + grocery list ** organized by section** so you can do it like a real pro.
So I’m pretty obsessed with coffee. There’s kind of no other way to say it. I love the caffeine, I love the taste, I love the ritual, I love slow mornings on my couch with a mug & a magazine, and I love exploring coffeeshops in my own town and while traveling. I just love it. So when I say that my coffee station setup in my house is both highly intentional and intensely important to me, I’m not at all exaggerating.
The cool part about you guys is that we’re into the same stuff so I think/hope that you’ll find this little tour/shopping list of my coffee essentials interesting and helpful. If this isn’t your thing, I’m sorry and here are some cute pics of puppies.
Let’s get into all of the coffee-related things.
Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine: I bought this about two years ago when I moved into a small one bedroom apartment with limited kitchen counter space and I haven’t looked back since. I love its narrow profile and find that the espresso tastes so much better than the Keurig coffee I was drinking before. I make an Americano of sorts every morning and feel quite #fancy when I can have people over and offer them a shot of espresso.
Organic espresso pods: Not only are these cheaper than Nespresso pods, they’re also organic and available from Amazon, like everything else I spend my money on.
Electric tea kettle: Using this electric kettle is so much quicker/easier/better than heating water on the stove and burning your hand as you pour it over matcha… Been there. I love the long neck, which allows for precise pouring and is just inexplicably enjoyable overall. I also love that its minimal appearance doesn’t create an eyesore on my kitchen counter.
Dandy Blend: As you might’ve noticed by the fact that this blog post exists, I have a serious thing for coffee. Left to my own devices, I’d have over 5 cups a day, if only for the ritual. Dandy Blend is a blend of roasted extracts of barley, rye, dandelion, chicory and beet roots that give you a coffee-like drink that’s totally caffeine free. (They use the water extracts of barley & rye, not the proteins, so the product is gluten free.) You simply blend with hot water, similar to instant coffee.
Vanilla Bean Grass-Fed Ghee: Every once in a while, I use coffee as part of my intermittent fasting routine or just get a hankering for a butter coffee/mocha. This vanilla bean blend makes it even better. My go-to recipe is 6-8oz coffee + 1 teaspoon ghee + 1 teaspoon MCT oil + 2 teaspoons cacao + 1 scoop collagen, all blended with a hand frother.
Ceremonial grade matcha: Not much to say here. I use my matcha to make matcha. I froth together 2 teaspoons matcha with 3oz hot water & 3oz almond milk for a drink that’s creamy but not too heavy.
Golde: I make golden milk at home by blending this mix of coconut, turmeric, and other organic botanicals with hot almond milk. It’s also a staple in all my morning smoothies.
Sun Potion Ashwagandha: This adaptogen is an Ayurvedic staple is often used for stress relief. I add 1/2 teaspoon to my coffee and/or smoothies (are you sensing a theme?) and think of it as my armor for the day.
Bulletproof MCT Oil: Like I said, when I’m dabbling with IF, I like starting my morning with a butter/Bulletproof coffee to help me get through the last few hours of my fast.
Wander Life Coconut Creamer: I love this creamer because it’s dairy free, paleo-friendly, delicious, and portable. I double triple extra love it because it was created by Kat, an Austin-area girlboss. Yes, girl!
Marble pastry board: This was a housewarming gift from a dear co-worker and I just couldn’t stand the idea of using it as a serving tray, therefore storing it in a drawer most of the time. Pro tip: use trays to define spaces on your countertop and other areas of your home to keep things from feeling cluttered.
Glass jars: Mine are from The Container Store but I can’t find them online so here are some similar ones!
Vital Proteins grass-fed collagen peptides: I keep a tub of this in my pantry and have a serving every. single. day. It’s my go-to protein source for my balanced smoothies and I love how frothy & rich it makes my coffee. Within a couple of weeks of using it daily, I started noticing how much stronger my nails were becoming, increased “bounce” in my skin, and my hair grew faster, and thicker. I can’t say enough good things about this stuff, for real.
Hand-held milk frother: My right hand, my go to. This thing never goes back in the drawer ’cause I use it daily to blend almond milk & collagen into my daily cup(s) of coffee.
Coffee grinder: I keep whole beans in my freezer and then grind ’em to use in my French press.
Stainless steel French press : This French press rocks. First of all it’s huge, second of all it keeps the coffee hot. Great for slow mornings, or big groups. Also great for making French press cold brew overnight.
Pitcher: For when you need to put that overnight French press cold brew in something.
I was jotting down notes for my upcoming Working On It: Body Positivity post when I realized that I should probably offer some more background. Yes, I can post salads and turmeric tonics on Instagram and follow it up with a helpful blog article about being #bodyposi, but that’s not even close to the full picture. This is my body story.
It took me a long time to get where I am today. In fact, I often wonder if my chubby, low self esteem middle school self would ever believe I’d be in this place… Working as a registered dietitian, studying to become a yoga teacher, and writing a blog post about finally loving my body. (Probably not since I’m not sure blogs were even a thing back then, but you get what I mean.)
So here’s my story. I hope where I’ve been helps offer more context to where I am now, and I hope you find something for yourself in that transformation.
Growing up, I was overweight. Or chubby. Or fat. I’m not sure what the right word would be, but basically, I was bigger than the other kids. And while I wasn’t the coolest kid, I was generally well liked. Being smart and funny worked in my favor. But that didn’t make me immune to ridicule based on the extra flesh I carried.
I remember taking the bus home from school in 6th grade and there was an 8th grader sitting up front with the rest of us younger kids. Normally 8th graders sat in the back, but the driver would save the two front seats for the poorly behaved. So, needless to say, this kid was a troublemaker. Anyway, I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember him calling me a piggy and pointing out my double chin. It’s been fifteen years and I still remember my shame and how much it stung. There were other incidents just like this, almost always perpetrated by petulant boys.
In early high school, I grew into my body a bit so I started looking more average, but I wasn’t necessarily healthy. I ate as much fast food as my parents would allow, drank Diet Coke daily, and hated physical activity. Hate honestly isn’t even a strong enough word for my disdain. Those state-mandated physical activity tests were my personal hell. We had our body fat and weight taken publicly, and then we had to do a measured number of exercises like push ups, crunches, etc. We also had to run a mile in under 12 minutes, a task that I barely survived, wheezing all the while. Writing this now, I have this faint, phantom feeling of anxiety leftover from those dreaded days.
I dieted on and off throughout my middle & high school years. I’d started and quit Weight Watchers a handful of times before I graduated. Nothing ever worked, and I always felt like a failure for having tried. I felt stuck in a body I wasn’t happy with and and it was one that I didn’t think anyone else would ever like either.
In college, things started to change a bit. I added nutrition as my second major in my sophomore year. Because of my history of dieting, I always understood the link between what you eat and how you look and feel, plus I have always genuinely loved food. Some things never change. I started studying nutrition and my lifestyle became healthier, at least as I perceived it at the time. Looking back, it was still kind of a mess. I calorie counted my way to a personal low weight at the beginning of my junior year, and then gained 10-12 pounds back in the spring semester studying abroad in Barcelona. I came back, started The Slender Student (heeeey to everyone that’s been reading my stuff since then), calorie counted my way back down to a happier weight, and then never. stopped. counting.
I counted every calorie and macro gram I ate during my senior and fifth year of college. My food scale lived on my kitchen counter so I could measure and meal prep nearly every meal I ate. I felt like I couldn’t even trust myself around food. It all had to be measured. I started doing cardio and strength training about 5 times a week. And I was so frustrated why I wasn’t continuing to lose weight doing all that while on a 1200 calorie diet. I decided to get my metabolic rate tested on campus and found that instead of burning the 1400 calories a day that my frame should burn, my RMR was only about 1100. I’d stifled my own metabolism and annoyed most of my friends with my obsessive behavior.
Now that I’m an independent woman (thank you very much), I’m able to see how toxic some parts of my college experience really were. Living with all of my closest friends was incredibly fun, but the diet/drink/binge cycles that are commonplace for so many undergraduate women absolutely took a toll on me physically. And, beyond that, it is really hard to grow or maintain body confidence when you’re surrounded by other (amazingly intelligent, incredibly beautiful) young women who insist that they’re fat, ugly, and/or dumb. I am still friends with so many of these ladies, and it brings me so much joy to see how much we’ve all grown since then.
My world really changed in my first two years out of school. Something about becoming independent really fueled a new fire in me. I moved back to Houston and started working for Snap Kitchen. My confidence grew as I received positive feedback at work (“words of affirmation” is my love language, hello), which encouraged me to live boldly in other areas of my life.
I started dating, I intentionally befriended women who were confident and inspiring, and I started the Houston Food Blogger Collective. All of these little things amounted to a big boost in my overall perception of myself, which made me think a lot less about the way I looked. This was a far cry from my old “look in the mirror, hate yourself, weigh yourself, hate yourself more” routine. And then, after some time, it all came full circle and in the moments that I did think about my appearance, I actually started liking it! Hurrah!
My nutrition philosophy also began to change around this time, which I believe also played a role in my new found self-acceptance. Through working at Snap, I really started to appreciate what we call the transformative power of real food. And then when I did my first Whole30, the deal was sealed. Instead of needing a certain number of calories to tell me whether I’d had enough for the day, I retaught myself to eat intuitively by focusing on nourishing myself with real food, not all the processed, artificial diet food I’d defaulted to in the past.
So that’s the long and short of it. I’m not saying that I have it all figured out, or that I never bemoan the existence of cellulite on my thighs, or that I love seeing every photo of me from the back or profile. There are still some moments that I put undue pressure on myself and my body, but those are fewer and farther between with every year that passes.
Today, I don’t diet. I eat mostly real food but make room for fun food experiences with friends, because life is too short to not eat cacio e pepe from Emmer & Rye. Today, I don’t punish myself with exercise. I don’t workout to change the way my body looks. I do yoga or lift weights because it makes me feel healthy and strong. And I don’t run because I hate it, and I’m just not doing stuff I hate to my body anymore!
Today, I am grateful for my body. It allows me to do incredible things like digest food, practice yoga, and present in meetings. Plus, I think my butt looks awesome in Good American jeans. And I’m saying that out loud on the internet because I want us all to feel amazing about the way our butts look.