Nutrition

Doing What You Love, Loving What You Do

So often I feel I hear others saying that they hate their job, or they hate the sport that they are involved in, or they are not a morning person yet continue to set their alarm for a 6 am wakeup call. I can totally relate to those feelings, as I am sure most people can! So why do we allow them to come to us so often? Before I continue on I want to put out the fact that, yes, I do realize that there are some things in life, such as school, that no matter how we feel about it, we just have to do. Life does come with some different factors that we just cannot control, but what about all the rest that we can control?

Everyone has the exact same amount of time. We all get 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. How we decide to use this time however is totally up to us. I used to be a busy-body back just a few years ago. I would be involved with four sports at a time, youth group, Girl Scouts, Knowledge Bowl, Math Masters, a few other clubs, I was on the honor roll, you name it. I lived like this for my elementary days and pretty far into my high school days as well. Back during that time, that schedule worked for me and I enjoyed how my life was being spent! However, fast forward to today, and I would be surprised if you were to find more than two scheduled events on any given day. Not to mention I am only in a few organizations, and I only take around one to two exercise classes a week. Aside from these scheduled events, I do regularly exercise, read, bake, spend time with family and friends, etc. However, it is all on my own time, and I do it when I feel that I want to. This is what makes me happy. There are people who thrive off of being busy all the time and others who don’t. I now enjoy slow days doing things such as going to coffees shops to read, which I never had time fore before. My point here is to thrive off of what you love! So often people spend their time trying to do things the don’t enjoy. For example, as I mentioned earlier, many people will say they hate the sport that they participate in. So why do they continue to do it? Why spend your time doing something that you don’t love? When I was transitioning from my busy life into this more laid back style, and was in basketball, it was consuming me. DAY AND NIGHT I had practice, or a camp, or needed to be shooting or lifting. Then one day I realized: for what? Why am I spending all my time on this sport? I was miserable in games and practices and dreading spending any spare time with it. So why was I wasting my short amount of time that I did have trying to master this sport that I hated when I could have been reading (which I love to do), or spending my time elsewhere?

One person that has always inspired me in this area of life is my sister Lizzy. She is not a morning person, and she knows it. There are so many people I know that, despite not functioning well in the mornings, they continue to try and set their alarms early to get things done. Then when their time comes that they normally thrive during, the later hours, they are groggy and cranky, but not ready for bed. However my sister doesn’t do this. She requires quite a lot of sleep, and instead of trying to get up early, she always allows herself to sleep in or at least sleep as late as possible. She embraces who she is. I believe that our society needs to learn to function more like that. To embrace who you are and how you like to spend your time. If you like something, then do it! If you aren’t enjoying something, or even if you don’t like some type of food, then you don’t have to continue doing/eating it! Just because someone else likes to do a particular activity, does not mean that you also need to like it. Or just because your doctor tells you that carrots are good for you and that you should eat them, if you think they are gross, then don’t waste your hunger trying to choke them down! Instead enjoy the banana that you are craving!

The time that we have is so miniscule, despite what it may seem. So I am proposing that you take an afternoon and sit down with yourself, maybe with a pen and some paper as well. Ask yourself this: What do I like to do? Am I doing it? If so, rock on! If not, what am I doing with my time? Am I forcing myself to be someone I am not? Doing things I don’t enjoy? Trying to please others? If you have found yourself in this trap that so many other people find themselves in daily, then I suggest that you make some changes. You should do what you love, and you should love what you do. You should be able to embrace who you really are, and be able to truly say that you enjoy your life and the way that you are spending your time. This life is flying by, don’t wake up when you are an adult wishing that you hadn’t spent your childhood the way you did. Instead, wake up knowing that you pursue your passions and lived the life that was meant for you. Wake up knowing that you did, and that you are still doing, exactly what it is that you love and what it is that God gave you a passion for in this life.

Cinnamon-Roasted Veggies

If you are familiar with my Instagram account @balancingserena, then you would know that my diet is FULL of vegetables because I love them! I have always thought of vegetables as a savory food… but I have found a way to incorporate them in my meals as a sweet factor! I have become obsessed with roasting them in the oven with cinnamon!! It is such a simple process that can be used on soooo many different vegetables. If you try this, I can promise you that it will turn what many see as a ‘boring’ ingredient into the game-changer of your meals! All you have to do is follow this simple list:

  • Preheat your oven. I usually set mine around 400 degrees. However, I know people that set their oven to 350, others at 450… It is up to you and your oven!
  • Then I prepare my veggies. That normally means I will wash them, chop any that need to be, and then lay them on the pan.
  • After I season them. I always use Chosen Foods Avocado Oil spray to start. After I spray my veggies, I will either choose to add cinnamon, pink himalayan sea salt, or both**.
  • Last I stick them in the oven! The amount of time that your veggies need to roast will differ depending on the veggie, your oven, the temp you choose, and your preference as to how soft or crispy you would like them to be! A general rule of thumb that I like to live by is to stick my pan in for about 15 minutes and then I will check whatever is in there. At this point my food is usually ready to be flipped and put back in for about 10 more minutes. Some veggies will require a bit more time if they are bigger, thicker, etc.. It is always a bit of a guessing game!
  • After they are done I take them out and allow them to cool completely before putting them in the fridge, otherwise they will become soggy!

**The veggies that I enjoy roasting with cinnamon for a sweet effect include carrots, sweet potatoes, some types of squash (such as acorn), and even sometimes zucchini! Of course there are some veggies that I love to roast that I do not season with cinnamon because, well, I just don’t think it would turn out well. Those can include broccoli, peppers, some squashes (such as spaghetti), brussel sprouts, and so many more. I also suggest trying sweet potatoes, carrots, and zucchini to be roasted without the cinnamon, they are good prepared with just the avocado oil and salt!

We are all aware that when you roast your veggies in a savory way that they can become an ingredient or apart of your meal… but what about when they are roasted with cinnamon? How do you eat them? My favorite way to enjoy these sweet treats are in yogurt bowls with some fruit, peanut-butter, maybe some granola, etc. You can also enjoy them the way you would normally without the cinnamon and they are just as great! There are endless ways to get creative with your vegetables. Healthy eating can be so much fun and delicious, it doesn’t have to be hard and boring! It is all dependent upon your mindset and wether or not you are willing to take the time to prepare them! I hope this was able to spark some ideas so that you now feel like running to the kitchen and having fun while fueling your body in a healthy way!

 

Getting Out of a Rut

“Nothing in nature blooms all year long, so you cannot expect yourself to do so either”… A quote that I always refer back to anytime that I am going through a rough patch in my life. Lately I have been struggling with lack in motivation when it comes to my workouts, my schedule, my hobbies, basically everything… It just so happened that the rut I was going through came just before I was leaving to go to camp for a week as a counselor. I have been counseling at Storybook Lodge Christian Camp for a few years now. I enjoy being and working with other teenagers to help spread the gospel to young kids more than anything. When I am at camp, my life is totally different from when I am at home. I left on Saturday morning for a graduation party, spent the night at that friend’s house, then proceeded to leave for camp then next day and returned home the following Saturday. So for about a week I was living a life that was unpredictable and not in my control. As absolutely scary as it may sound, especially if you are like me and love to have a schedule and plan everything out, I couldn’t be more thankful for my past week.

I am used to always being able to workout, make my own meals, spend my time the way I like, check social media anytime I feel like it, not socialize if I feel like being my introvert self, going to bed early because #grandmalife, and not really going out of my comfort zone. This last week, however, all that was different:

  • I did not have time to do any workouts, as a counselor I am up at 5:30am and have a schedule that brings me all the way to 10:00pm.
  • I do not get to prepare my own meals. When you are at camp, you eat whatever it is the kitchen crew prepares for everyone. There was a time when I would not eat anything that I hadn’t prepared myself or would not eat ‘unclean or unhealthy’ foods. I am no longer in that mindset, I just eat real foods that make me feel good! Most of the times the kitchen serves amazing meals that have healthy options… although I would be lying if I did not say that there are times when there is a meal such as hotdogs, or pizza, or something that I know doesn’t make me feel good, or that I know is full of ingredients that I do not enjoy, so I would go into the kitchen and take some leftover chicken or whatever was in the fridge and make my own plate.
  • Camp is a very scheduled place! There is almost always something for you to do or a place for you to be… so I never really get to choose what it is I want to do like I normally do when I am at home.
  • When you are at camp, especially as a counselor, you are surrounded by other people. There is at no point when you can decide that you are just not going to not socialize for a day. Every time you open your eyes there is a camper there asking for some candy or a fellow counselor wanting to go get some coffee (an absolute must as a counselor.)
  • One of the biggest shocks of leaving home for a week is that I wasn’t able to use the internet at all. I get no service on my phone in the area that I was staying in. I would not say I spend a lot of time of my phone normally… however I do check my texts a few times a day, I like to listen to podcasts while doing things, I enjoy watching YouTube videos while getting ready for the day, and I normally will scroll through my Instagram feed a few times and post once a day. When I am at camp, there is no access to that for me. I did have a friend who allowed me to use his hotspot a couple of times so that I could catch-up a bit on Instagram before some of our morning counselor meetings when we had both arrived early… but otherwise, my phone was basically a camera for the week.

Like I mentioned earlier, the thought of knowing that this week would bring all these changes was not a fun one for my Type A personality, but the joy that I experienced from the break has been so worth that discomfort. Before this schedule shock, I was really feeling just so ‘blah’ about everything. Have you ever felt that? It is never a fun feeling to have about things that were exciting things just weeks ago. But due to the fact that I was forced to take a break from my normal routine, it allowed me to just rest and enjoy life. I now feel refreshed! My body has gotten so much rest and feels amazing, I got to switch up my meals a bit, I have gotten to talk to so many more people than I normally would not have, I have been put out of my comfort zone is so many different ways that I would not have ever experienced in my normal life, I was forced to stay up a bit later than normal and switch up my routine… There were so many benefits of this past week of changes. However, not only did I enjoy all those aspects, but they have also sparked a new fire in me. I was able to be given a chance to miss my normal routine at home, and now I appreciate it more than ever. Ever since being home, (for about two days haha), I feel a new motivation and drive that wasn’t there when I left. I woke up this Monday morning bright and early and had a great breakfast, walked my dog, had an amazing time spent with the Lord in my Bible, I got some summer plans set, I am writing this blog post, later I will be having lunch with my father, then I have therapy, after I plan to get some cleaning done, and then I am so excited to finally get a good workout in! Not having done so much of this for quite a span of time, it makes it so exciting to get to do it! I have decided to limit the amount of times I am even near my phone, but when i do check it, it makes me so excited to see what all my friends have been up to!

So what exactly is my advice to you? It is that if you are in some kind of rut, no matter what it is, take a break. Take some time off from your norm, or switch it up, try something new.. Just do something different for a while to give yourself time to rest and recharge and to focus on something else in life for a bit.. And eventually you will be ready to come back to that thing and you will be more excited and motivated than ever before!

Self-Care Ideas

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate for taking time for yourself!! Self-care is such an important priority that so many people neglect now-a-days. We live in a go-go-go society where we are always participating in some activity or another, and rarely remember to just slow down and enjoy the quiet moments. I used to always be like that, I wouldn’t ever take time to rest until it was literally time to go to bed. When I was living like this though, I was always tired, I wouldn’t ever check-in with myself and ask myself how I was feeling… I wasn’t ever aware of my own needs. But now-a-days: I literally set apart time in my daily schedule to do take part in some kind of self-loving act!! By doing this I have become a much happier person and have become more in-tune with myself and with my needs! Today I decided to throw together a post with some ideas of different ways I like to show myself some love and hopefully allow you to get some ideas as to how you can take time for yourself as well!

 

  • Walks + Podcasts

The first of a few different forms of self-care that I regularly take part in are walks! Ever since the snow melted, I have started finding some time everyday to get outside for a stroll. I normally take my dog with me as well (he is in the photo at the top!). Most of the time I like to put in headphones and listen to a podcast! Some of my favorites include Food Pysch, The Balanced Blonde, Actually Adultish, Bulletproof Radio, and The Chasing Joy Podcast! I love getting out of the house and connecting with nature. There are some days when I don’t even bring my phone. I love to just take that quiet time to be mindful and spend sometime with myself, reflecting on all the different things going on in my world! This really allows me to connect with what is going on around me and what is going on in my mind as well. It also allows me time to relax while getting some fresh air and some sunlight!

 

  • Journaling

This one is a big one for me! I have allows been a girl who is on the more ‘sensitive’ side, and by that I mean I have lots of emotions! There was a time when I would bottle them up and not express them anywhere…which was a huge mistake. Now-a-days, I like to take out my journal every single morning. I write down anything big that happens, any thoughts I have, anything I am feeling, any ideas that pop into my mind, basically my whole life is recorded in that book! Writing down my feelings has become such an amazing way for me to get them out there whether I am feeling happy, sad, mad, stressed, etc. It allows me to express myself and feel as though that news isn’t just sitting on my shoulders waiting to be heard.

 

  • Reading

I have always loved to read, so this is a great one for me as well. Allowing myself that time to relax, sit down, and just tune into a different world is a game-changer.  I love to read mostly nonfiction books, as I am a big nerd when it comes to learning. Giving myself time everyday to just be able to absorb new information that I did not know beforehand is something that makes me so very happy and calm. If you aren’t a big reader, this one may not be for you.. But if there is something else you like to do such as just listening to some music or watching the daily news, but don’t normally allow yourself the time to just sit and do that, I suggest that today is the day you try it!

 

  • Face Masks

Along with this one could be any type of spa treatment that you enjoy whether that is painting your nails, doing a hair mask, maybe taking a warm bath, or perhaps it means going to an actually spa! I think literally taking care of your body, or pampering yourself every once-in-a-while, is so important! Everybody in this world is there own special person, and everyone deserves to feel that way as well! Our bodies are constantly working so hard to fuel our daily lives that I believe we should work at appreciating that by giving them the TLC that they deserve! Doing face masks on Friday nights while watching New Girl and eating a yogurt bowl has totally been my jam lately! It gives me time to relax and to thank my body for all it has done for me throughout the week, and it is such a great way to spend the night verses going out to a party and drinking! (Although if that is your jam, by all means!)

 

  • Treating Myself to Something

This one is a bit more on the ‘creative side’, meaning it is going to look different for everyone! By treating myself, I mean spend a little extra money that you normally wouldn’t so that you can enjoy something that you normally wouldn’t! For some of you this is going to mean finally buying that pair of shoes that you have been eyeing up forever! For others this will mean going to your favorite bakery and ordering an expensive latte and delicious brunch that you don’t usually like paying for. For myself, this always varies. Sometimes it is when I decide to purchase a more spendy book that I have been dying to read, or it might mean giving myself permission to tap into the money I have been saving to get a massage that I am long overdue for! Whatever it is that you really love, but don’t normally allow yourself, I am giving you permission today to go and spend that little bit of money. In the end, you only get to live once, so why not enjoy this life and allow yourself a gift every now and then!

 

There are so many other ways that I like to take care of myself by doing such as going to bed early some nights, powering off my phone for a day, baking, and many other things! Every single one of you might have a list that looks completely different, and that is perfectly okay! The point of self-care is to take care of YOU. Find whatever it is that makes (insert your name here) feel amazing, relaxed, important, and loved, and do that thing! I hope that I was able to maybe give you some new ideas to add to the ways in which you care for yourself, or maybe I was able to convince you to finally just set-aside some extra time for some self-loving practices! Where ever it is you are at in life, just know that you are important and you deserve all the love and support that you give to others every single day!

 

 

My Life as a Barista

As many of you might know, I am a barista at Caribou Coffee. I just recently, in April, had my one year anniversary as an employee for the company, and I am now going on 13 months! I have only ever had two jobs, this being the second one. I get so many people asking me all the time what it is like to be a barista, so I have decided to talk about my job and why I have stuck with it for so long!

 

Before I get into the topic too much I want to address something. In my opinion, I believe that being a barista at a ‘chain’ coffee company, or a franchise, is much different than the life of a barista at a hole-in-the-wall coffeehouse, or a coffee shop. I have never worked at what I would consider to be a genuine coffeehouse before, however I have been to MANY (of which I eventually plan to do little reviews on), know a few people who have worked at one, and have also read many blogs written by baristas from them! In my opinion, and do not get me wrong, I still love the coffee that I serve and I am very passionate about making each cup a work of art, but I believe that franchises are all about being fast and making money. Whereas a coffeehouse spends time to do the little extra things such as putting your coffee into a beautiful mug and making a unique design on top. They are not so worried as to how long it takes, they are more about really making each cup of coffee to be as beautiful as possible (such as the lattes that are featured in my image at the top of the post. No, they did not come from Caribou…they were the lovely beverages my friend and I enjoyed from Black in Minneapolis a bit ago. They were amazing for anyone who might be curious to know!!). Franchises also tend to have hundreds of options, many do not even have any coffee or aren’t tea related at all! However when you get to a coffee shop, you will only find, for the most part, your very basic and regular caffeinated beverages such as a latte, a cappuccino, along with a few alternatives such as a smoothie or a cocoa steamer along with some teas for the individuals who aren’t about that caffeine life.

 

I have three different occupations that I would consider pursuing when I am an adult. The first, and more practical, is becoming a registered dietician or take up something in the nutrition field. The second would be to really devote myself to my instagram @balancingserena along with this blog and possibly make them my full-time career one day! However, the third option that I do not tell many about, for no particular reason, would be to open up my own coffeeshop. I would love to own my own business and become a full-time barista. I would never want to work at a franchise where I do now, nor would I ever want to have to deal with a drive-thru (aka my worst nightmare) again. I would want to open up a little shop that serves amazing coffee drinks, maybe makes some fresh pastries, and is a place to go that will bring you good vibes. It will be a place where you feel welcome. You will feel as though your beverage was crafted especially for you each and every time by someone who really cares and takes that extra minute to make your chai the best one you’ll say you’ve ever had, every time you come. I would love to do this because I am so passionate about what I do.

 

So what is it like to be a barista? Why do I love it so much that I fantasize about doing it as a full-time career option one day? First I would like to mention the negative sides of the job. With every rainbow that you come across, there was a rainstorm that preceded it. So of course with a wonderful job, you are going to have those negative aspects that are there as well.

  • Being a barista can be exhausting, in many ways. The first way being because it is quite the mental game. Especially working at a franchise where we have hundreds of drink options, that is hundreds of recipes you have to memorize. Of course, it gets easier as time goes on, but I never fail to have a day once-in-a-while when I question if I remembered to hit grind on the beans or if I never even poured them into the grinder in the first place. It can also be physically exhausting as well. When you get hit with a rush, whether that be the early-morning crowd rushing to work, or the Sunday afternoon church crew that are getting their caffeine fix after a long service, it can be tough. As I said earlier, we also have a drive-thru at my store. So this means there can be days where we have a line of customers weaving throughout our narrow entrance and a line of cars outside just as long weaving around the building. You can imagine this gets to be chaotic at times. Throw in a shortage of employees, or the occasional episode of running-out-of a staple ingredient such as vanilla or mint, and it becomes a barista’s worst nightmare.
  • The other downside to working as a barista can be the customer aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, this is also one of my favorite parts as well!! But I will mention that side later. When it comes to customers, you will occasionally get some that tend to be more difficult to work with. Sometimes you might get someone insisting that they want a latte with caramel and want to add some whipped cream on top. That beverage, equivalent to the Caramel High Rise that my store makes. When you try to tell people that though, they will insist that they don’t want your Caramel High Rise, they want a latte with caramel and whipped cream… Okay mam, whatever you’d like. You also get customers that can never be pleased. I have had times where I have had people ask me to re-make their beverage two or three times, have another employee make the same thing, and still walk out unhappy. Or maybe you have a customer that is furious because you cannot make them a certain item or use a certain product such as coconut milk, because we simply do not carry it. There is never a shortage of problems that a barista has to deal with when it comes to working with the public, especially considering many customers may be cranky and they are coming to us in the first place to receive their morning caffeine so that they can function normally!

 

You might be able to ask another barista, and they might be able to tell you many other things about their jobs that they despise. But for me, those two factors are the only ones that I have ever had as a reason to complain about my job. The best part is that I have many more reasons to love my job than just two. That is why I am so passionate about being a barista, I have found so many different aspects of the career to love and appreciate that I simply don’t have reasons to not love what I do!

 

  • First of all, I love the knowledge that I have gained. Honestly, before working at Caribou, I knew almost nothing about coffee. I knew that you put in water and grounds, and out comes black liquid. Now that I have been working at Caribou so long, I have become so much more educated on coffee. I have learned the types of drinks, how it is made, the origins of many coffees, what it takes to perfect roast, I have learned about the different ways in which coffee can be made…there are so many different things that I am now knowledgeable about that two years ago even, I would have been scratching my head at!
  • The love of coffee has got to be hands done one of my favorite perks of being a barista. Now I am not talking about your fluffy drinks with chocolate, caramel, whipped cream, candy pieces, and few shots of espresso with milk….I am talking about real coffee. I do love my lattes, and my mochas, but I never used to be able to sit down and enjoy a cup of black coffee, without at least enough sugar to a point where it wouldn’t pass a coffee DNA test. But when you spend countless afternoons having to make, talk about, work around, smell, and taste a certain beverage, you learn to enjoy it. I do not only enjoy it, but I also appreciate it. I appreciate the benefits that coffee can have such as the antioxidants, I appreciate the aroma that I now associate my peaceful, quiet morning times with, I appreciate it for so much more than just the Cup-of-Joe that some people consider it to be.
  • The benefits of working where I work are also something to be mentioned. As an employee at Caribou, I receive quite a few. I get a free beverage when I work plus a discount when I stop there as just a customer. It has definitely helped save me money! I also receive some free coffee grounds, or tea bags, each week. There are many different perks that being a barista can get you versus just being the girl ordering on the other side of the counter!
  • The community is hands down my all time favorite reason ever of being a barista. If this was the only positive part of doing the job that I do, honestly, it would be enough. I can not tell you how many countless people I have been able to meet through working where I do. Yes, I have befriended all my fellow coworkers, but so does everyone else at all other jobs. I am talking about all the people that I have met that are coming through for a cup of coffee. If you were a tourist, you might not ever make an effort to stop at McDonalds on your way through Hibbing, but coffee? Most people are always down for that! There are so many different characters that I have had the pleasure of meeting that I have never seen again. There are also the regulars that I see all the time. Many are people I always used to see, the difference is that we now know each other’s names and each other’s stories. We have a relationship and a friendship that was not there before. It always brings me so much joy when I see familiar faces walking through the door of the shop. I also get to see many friends, and even some of my family, more often than I might have if I had just been sitting at home. However, when I am there serving them coffee, or taking their order, I have an extra chance to say hi and see how they are doing! Being a barista has caused me to become much more of an extrovert. It has also allowed me on any given day to walk out of my house and almost always know the people that I run into at the store or on the street! I have the opportunity to touch other’s lives and try and make their day with a smile and their favorite beverage. I am also touched many times when a customer smiles back at me and thanks me as if it means the world to them that I was so polite or that they now have something delicious to sip on!
  • The coffee is another amazing perk.. duuuh! This is a bit of a mix between the benefits of working at Caribou along with the appreciation for coffee that I have inquired. I mean, the fact that I work at Caribou Coffee has just opened up so many more opportunities for me to really get a good cup of caffeine. Maybe I need to run in to check my schedule, or stop by to just say hi to someone I know is working that day. Those are both reasons that I never had before to stop into Caribou. There are so many more excuses along with those that I am now able to use to make my way to the store!  And of course, as you can imagine, I do not think there has ever been a day when I walked in without walking out with a cup of coffee in my hand (unless I finished it while I was there.. Even then I will usually get a refill though, or get a different beverage to go).
  • Connecting more to who I am is another benefit that I have reaped since becoming a barista. I do not know how many of you have experienced this before, but the moment that I was given the job title ‘barista’ something clicked. I felt like apart of me was finally becoming who I was meant to be in a way. When I got that dream job, or the best job I could think of as a high-school sophomore living in a small town without many opportunities, I felt as though it allowed me to start embracing other parts of myself. I started slowly realizing that it was okay that I was more of an introvert. I realized it was okay that I tend to usually be the girl who does her own thing and does not always fit into the crowd. I was able to be accepted into that environment, verses my regular high-school environment where I normally felt out of place, I was treated as equal as everyone else. I could be Serena.

So when people ask me why I love my job, why I would consider serving others a cup of coffee for a living, this is what I tell them. I do not think that just any old soul off of the street has what it takes to be a barista, or at least not a good one anyways. Yes, maybe anyone can make a cup of coffee, but it takes passion and dedication for someone to turn that cup of coffee or tea from just a beverage into an experience and a moment to be savored. When you go to a real coffeehouse that possess this rare and amazing quality, you will know. That is what I like about being a barista. I do not just like making coffee, but I love creating beverages that tell their own stories and hold their own meaning.

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Here is my favorite photo of myself enjoying a cappuccino at Kunnari’s. It was pre-grey hair, but I love the smile that I am wearing. I believe that is what every cup of coffee should bring!

Current Favorites: Snack Edition

I don’t know about you, but I am a snack-type of girl! I love to prepare myself healthy and nutritious meals that leave me satisfied, but with my go-go-go lifestyle, I get hungry very easy. That makes snacks a must!! I need all the energy that I can get to perform at my best potential! So I decided to put together a small post giving you some ideas on my favorite healthy snack options for whenever your hunger strikes!

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Snack Idea 1: Hummus!

I recently made the discovery of hummus after hearing about it for soooo long, and I have not been disappointed. Hummus is so good! There are so many flavors out there as, making it something that almost anyone can enjoy. I love to dip carrots or celery into my hummus. Another idea is to dip any other veggie, crackers, bread, or hard boiled eggs into it! It is also great to add to any dish as an extra flavor source. I really like this organic Hope Hummus, however I traveled an hour and a half to get it (small-town girl problems). When I don’t have access to this brand, I usually enjoy Tribe Hummus.

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Snack Idea 2: Kombucha!

Now I am aware that this is a drink and not an actual snack for munching on, but sometimes you don’t want to munch…sometimes you just need a good beverage, which is where this comes in! There are so many brands of kombucha out there and so many flavors as well. Kombucha is a fermented tea and it is jam-packed with probiotics! That means it isn’t only tasteful, but it is amazing for the health of your gut as well. And due to the strong connection between your mind and your gut, a happy gut equals a happy mind! This beverage tastes great and it is just as great for you! I love GT’s organic komucha, but there are many other brands out their that have products just as great.

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Snack Idea 3: Peanut Butter!

For anyone who knows me, you know I am OBSESSED with all things peanut-butter. I will never not suggest this as a snack option. It is so tasteful, full of healthy fats and some protein, comes in many flavors, and can be eaten in so many ways. My favorite ways to eat peanut-butter are with apples, on toast, or in yogurt bowls. There are millions of other options though! There are so many brands I could rave about, but I’ve currently been hooked on these two: Justin’s and Peanut-Butter & Co. My all time favorite is definitely Wild Friends however. These brands not only taste amazing, but they have such great ingredient labels. They do not add all kind of sugar or unhealthy oils, they are very natural!

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Snack Idea 4: Yogurt!

I loooove yogurt, I love it almost as much as peanut-butter. I tend to have at least one yogurt bowl a day! You can eat it plain, add fruit, add granola, add nuts, add peanut-butter or nut-butters, add veggies like sweet potatoes, or there are hundreds of other ideas. You can also use yogurt in baking or use unsweetened, plain yogurt in cooking to substitute for things like mayo. I really like Siggi’s yogurt. There is hardly any sugar, lots of protein, it is very thick , the ingredients are great, and it just tastes yummy. I also enjoy other brands as well, however I always make sure to check the label for the ingredients and the amount of added sugars!

There are so many more snack ideas out there, but these are just the ones that I am currently obsessed with! I tend to be a creature of habit though so you’ll probably be able to catch me eating any of these at any given times for the next long while! Whether you like these kind of snacks, or you taste buds go in a different different, the most important thing in my opinion is to know what the ingredient label says! When choosing your snacks, make sure you are going for the brands with labels that have whole ingredients, and words you can pronounce! You want to make sure to be fueling your body in a healthy way! I hope you were able to get a new idea for your next afternoon snack! Have a great rest of your week, and good luck if you have started taking finals as I have!(:

My Journey to Finding Balance

My love for both health and fitness was one that sprouted from a bad seed, but has flourished into something beautiful. I suffered from an eating disorder for a bit of my life, and I would like to share with you all my story. Before you read this, you have to know that once you suffer from an eating disorder, some of those symptoms and thoughts never go away. It becomes a part of you in a way, but I have learned to drown out those voices in my head in favor of more loving voices. This is something I have felt really compelled to share. For so long I was ashamed, but it is apart of who I am. I also believe that all the family and friends who have been affected because of this deserve to know what has really happened with me within the last year. This is the first time I have ever told (wrote) and allowed anyone to hear my whole, entire story (aside from my therapist who I am currently seeing). This is the most vulnerable thing I have ever shared, but I am not afraid. I hope to inspire and maybe even give hope to anyone out there who might be on the same path, or perhaps maybe just make you aware of the evil that is an eating disorder.

It all started last year in my sophomore year of high school. I do not have a date, however I could never forget that day. The day I cried myself to a migraine at the bottom of my closet. After reading this, I hope you will be enlightened as to why balance is such a huge concept for me. For so long I lived extreme. I lived in an all or nothing mindset, there was no balance. And that almost destroyed me.

It was the middle of my basketball season on a Saturday. I had always been taller and more muscular than most girls my age. Although because of the fact that I was taller, and extremely athletic, I had a large appetite. In NO WAY was I overweight, however I did have a little extra bit of body fat on my body. I was always insecure about my body, even at a very young age. I think it had quite a bit to do with never having any very secure friendships in grade school and the fact that I was teased. This caused me to be always second guessing my personality and my looks. That is the only conclusion that I have ever been able to draw as to why I might have been so insecure with myself for most of my life: I did not have a strong, solid support system that most people get from their best friends.

One Saturday, in the middle of basketball season, during my sophomore year I remember looking in the mirror and hating what I saw. I thought I was fat and I started to cry. I remember thinking my thighs were huge, my stomach flabby, my skin full of stretch marks and acne, my hair was just a mess, I didn’t like anything about my body. So that day I made a promise to myself: I WOULD lose weight. I WOULD be as skinny as the other girls my age. I WOULD show everyone that I could be as beautiful as them. I would finally fit in for once in my life. If I could just be skinny, then maybe I would finally stop feeling like the weird girl out. Looking back, I wish I could be there to give my younger self a huge hug, break that mirror, and let myself know how absolutely amazing my body was at that moment.

So as I mentioned before it was basketball season. That meant that everyday I had about a 2-3 hour practice after school. After that day in my closet, however, I no longer only had a three hour practice. That was only part one of my exercise for the day. After practice I would come home and have dinner and do my homework as normal. I would go about my nights just about the same as before except for one thing: I would end my normal activities a half hour early so I could run on the treadmill we kept in our basement.

It began as a thirty minute run any day that there was not a game. But as I became more into running, it started becoming an everyday thing, it became an obsession. Gameday, weekday, or weekend, I would run. I remember getting home from a game one night, it had to be about 12:30 in the morning. I remember thinking I was so tired, but it didn’t matter, I had to run. So I forced myself onto that treadmill and did my thirty minutes.

As the season progressed, so was my desire to lose weight. I remember playing with my treadmill one time and discovering the option to view the amount of calories burned during my run. It was a whole new world to me, so I started to do some research. According to just about every website ever, as long as my calories I was consuming wass under maintenance, I would start to lose weight. So that is when I downloaded MyFitnessPal. I set my calorie goal to 1500. And from then on, numbers became my worth. I was constantly restricting my eating. I was eating as little as possible. And I began to opt for low calorie, low fat, low carb, low sugar, and all that crap.

Every morning I would weigh myself, and my weight determined my mood for the day. I started to track everything I ate. I would never eat over my goal of 1500, not even when I would run. I would normally burn around 300 calories on my runs, according to the treadmill, but I never took that into account when it came to the amount that I ate. At first, it was hard, and that was because I had a very terrible diet and everything I ate was so high in calories. But somewhere in the mix I developed orthorexia as well. It started with just ‘healthy eating’, but then I began to cut out foods group, such as meat. I began a vegetarian lifestyle because I believed all meat was bad, and it would be easier to not eat much food when I could refuse the largest food group when it came to meals. I also stayed away from any carbs and sugar. I was constantly restricting. Sometimes this even lead me to binge on things like bread, or brownies. I would crave one and then not eat it. I would eat all the fruit and veggies in the world trying to resist it and then I would end up eating the whole pan of brownies plus all the fruits and veggies instead of maybe just the one brownie I might have had if I would have just honored my cravings. Binges did not happen to often for me, I have always been pretty disciplined. But when you are restricting your diet 24/7, binges are almost inevitable.

The whole summer I was miserable. I never once went swimming, an activity that I absolutely ADORED before this all started. I couldn’t anymore because I had no body-fat to keep me warm. In fact I almost never wore anything like shorts or a short sleeved shirt. When it came to clothes, mine were not fitting, so I never had much to wear. I was always so cold and miserable. The idea of an ice-cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day was foreign to me.

I can honestly tell you that that summer (last summer), was a blur. To this day, I cannot quite recall everything that happened. Why is that? It is because although I was present in a physical sense for most of what was happening, I was not there mentally. I can tell you what did happen though:

  • I lost almost all of my friends. I began to isolate myself because all I could ever think about was food and how hungry I was and how long I could get by without eating.
  • I began to fight with my mom, dad, and sister all the time. This was because I was in a constant state of ‘hangry’. When some people get hungry, they get cranky. Well, I was always hungry, therefore, I was almost always mean. I ruined these relationships. I no longer told them much of anything personal. Little did they know it, but they were strangers to me.
  • I was constantly restricting my appetite and foods. This also caused me to constantly crave certain things that I would not allow myself to have. I started to deem foods good or bad. If it was bad, I could not eat it. This usually caused to crave my bad foods all the time, which made me even more miserable when I could not have them. I was starving.
  • I lost myself. I no longer found joy in any of the activities I used to love. I quite all the sports I was in, stopping going out with people, no longer wanted to read or write or do anything like I used to. I literally could not name one activity to you that I found joy in, because there was no joy for me to find. I was living in a deep state of depression. I hated myself, my body, and my personality.
  • Honestly, I spent my days and my headspace just thinking about food. I was always constantly starving, which is why I became obsessed with food. I could tell you the calorie count and every single macro for any food I ate. If I couldn’t, then I wouldn’t eat it. I was always using my extra time to calculate the calories for potential meals and snacks.
  • I started to refuse to eat any food that others prepared at their homes or in restaurants because I didn’t know how it was made or how many calories it was. This caused me to become even less social. I was refusing offers to do anything because I was too scared about my food situation and also lost the joy of being with others, even the people I used to call my best-friends.
  • I no longer really knew my anyone for their true selves, just their names, because anytime I was with them, I was only worried about resisting the food that usually came along with our get-togethers.
  • I lost contact with my hunger-cues. I no longer became hungry or full, but ate by numbers. I had no clue what it felt like to know when I was hungry or how to stop when I was full.
  • I pushed away any and everyone I was close with because I was afraid of them finding out of my disorder. All I thought of was myself and no one else.
  • I missed out on about a year of my life. That is a whole 365 days worth of living that I can never get back. I missed out on so many memories, so many opportunities, ended so many good friendships.
  • I became obsessed with cardio I was pushing myself to run at LEAST 7 miles a day, even if I was sick or sleep deprived. If I was hurting, or had a busy schedule, it did not matter. I had to run.
  • I never had energy. I never wanted to get up to do anything.
  • Honestly: just living in general became no fun. There were days when I did not want to wake up because I did not want to put up with having to live with my thoughts, having to starve and worry about food, all the math that came along with counting calories, all the hoping that I wouldn’t want to eat much that day…It was exhausting.

 

There are so many times that I missed out on life because of this. I spent three-weeks counseling kids at a summer camp that summer. I honestly can say that I was worrying so much about what I was eating and the fact that I couldn’t run that although I was always with my campers, I mentally barely was there with those girls.

There was one specific time in general with my mother and my sister that I remember so vividly. We had gone camping for the first time in years. They left to go check out a bear sanctuary (I stayed back because it seemed too exhausting to walk around that much because I never had much energy anymore). They came back with food from a local cafe. I cried and screamed and told them I hated them for it. Why? 1) They brought me food that I did not know the calories of. 2)It was really good looking food that I wanted to eat so bad. 3)They were considered to be “bad foods”. (A salad full of dressing and a small piece of cake). 4) I was starving. 5)I was energy deprived and just needed to be sleeping. 6)I was not able to exercise that day. 7)They were so happy and I felt miserable, and it made me upset… The list could go on and on….but that is what it is like to live in the mind of someone with an eating disorder. I was actually mad at them. The rest of the trip was spent fighting or in silence. It was awful. And I am so sad that I missed out on such a fun opportunity.

My family has always been big on food. So as you can imagine, holidays were awful for me. There was food everywhere and all I wanted to do was drown myself in it. Instead I would try to eat as little as possible. This last Thanksgiving was a nightmare. I tried to do that, only to eat a whole pie at midnight. Then the next day, when my sisters, mother, and I were all supposed to be bonding and having family time shopping together on Black Friday, I hated myself. I was so mad that I did not eat until dinner that day. I was hungry the whole day, did not get to bond with my sisters, and then when they all wanted to go to Applebee’s, I left to get a salad at Chipotle because I knew that there were less calories and it was something I could track in my calorie counting app.

Eventually at some point I found the online world of Instagram and the community of food and fitness lovers that I am apart of now. Although when I first discovered it, it wasn’t all good. At some point I had read all about weightlifting and bodybuilding. So I started following all kind of body-builders and bikini competitors. I started reading all about IIFYM. If you aren’t familiar, competitors workout for insane amount of time and are always going hard because it is their job. When they are on prep for a show, they are working to temporarily achieve a physique that would not be healthy to maintain constantly. However, I was working around the clock to maintain that physique day and night. If you took a look at my picture roll all you would see were screenshots of protein bars I wanted to buy, a new protein powder I had to order, macro friendly recipes, workouts that would take two hours to complete. I became a gym rat. I was going to the gym for at least two hours a day, and I was obsessed. My life began to revolve around lifting weights. The first thing I would do in the morning was plan out a really tough workout and the time that I would do it. If I couldn’t find time during the day, I had to cut something else out. There was not a week that I went less than 6 days a week. If for some awful reason I was out-of-town, the whole weekend was spent worrying about how my muscles were going to disappear and my goals were going to get so off track. I praised gym junkies. I wouldn’t eat anything if it didn’t fit my macros. All I had left for the days macros was some protein and it had to be fit into few calories? Egg whites for dinner it is. I began to weigh everything to the gram, even things such as lettuce. This went on for quite a long time, much longer than I would like to admit. I even started to get body-scans. I would get one almost every week. Now my happiness was dependant upon if my muscles and fat levels were up or down. It also depended on how much I could lift and for how many reps. One of the biggest factors was my time and intensity in the gym. If my workout wasn’t long and sweaty, it did not count. I was always working towards a hug butt, flat abs, small thighs, and defined arms, shoulders, and back.

Do you want to know what the worst part about all of this was? I was constantly being praised. Everyone thought I was so strong for eating so healthy and spending so much time at the gym. What they didn’t realize were my motives. I was doing all of this because I hated myself. I hated my body and the way I looked. I was always trying to look like someone else or be something that I was not. Every single day, my mornings started with a weigh-in and a body check. I was always looking at myself in the mirror finding something to hate. I would always compare myself to ANY picture I saw or any person I saw. No matter how unrealistic the goal for me to achieve their physique may have been, I hated myself for not looking like basically anyone else I thought looked better. I do not really ever remember once looking at my body throughout that whole year and appreciating it, I was in a constant state of self-hatred.

I honestly cannot pinpoint any dates, but let me tell you: It was by the grace of God that at some point I found two different recovery accounts: @healthyfullysam and @heathful_radiance. After that, my world turned upside down. I read their stories and learned all about their experiences with eating disorders and overexercising and began to start following their recovery journeys. I soon began to fill my feed with less and less competitors and more and more recovery accounts. I was then exposed to yet another whole new world. I started to read about body-positivity, self-love, intuitive eating, eating food for nutrition and not macros or calories, and so many more beautiful tools.

At some point I decided to make a recovery account myself. Once again, I do not remember the exact order that everything happened in but to the best of my knowledge, it went a little something like this:

When I first started the account I was still tracking my macros, but there was something different. I no longer wanted to, and I no longer wanted to be a slave to the gym, I wanted to be free. I wanted to live the life that my new role models (like Angie) were living (she was my biggest influence and I often messaged her with questions): a life where how you ate and exercised were all dependant upon your body and how you felt. For so-so long I wrestled with it in my mind. But one day something clicked. I was watching a video on Intuitive Eating by Kelly U. I started to watch all her videos and then proceeded to watch many by Jen Brett as well. And then one night, I deleted MyFitnessPal. I also started seeing a counselor for depression. Although, I still have some problems and my depression is still on-going in some different forms, much of my constant depression has already been rapidly disappearing as a result of the deleting of this one app.. I had been using that app religiously for the past year and a half or so. It became apart of me, I tracked even the smallest sip of a glass of milk or the tiniest bite of a carrot. From that day on out, my life has changed.

I was using calorie counting as a way to find some control in my life. Now that I no longer can do that, it has allowed me to start feeling my feelings again: something I have not done for quite a long time. As with last summer, the past few months of my life have been a bit blurry. So many amazing and beautiful things have happened so fast that I have been losing track:

  • I have finally begun to give myself grace when it comes to exercise. I no longer follow a strict schedule, but I do what I want, when I want. I do what makes me feel good. There are days when I just want to rest, and I allow myself to do that. I truly love the exercise now and not hate it. It makes me feel good to move my body, I feel energized, not energy-deprived.
  • I have begun to find myself again. The other day my sister and I went clothes shopping, something I do often. I used to love shopping. However, during my disorder I hated it. Not only did I have to focus on my body and look at it, but I hated anything that took me away from my normal food and exercise schedule. For the first time in a year that I can remember, I loved it. I used to have a very distinct style and loved to dress up. This past year though I stopped caring about my appearance. I no longer enjoyed shopping because I did not have a style, I would pick up a shirt and not know if it was cute or not. The other day, I went crazy. I found all kind of things that spoke to me and I felt cute and confident.

I also used to love reading. I have started doing that every single day now. I stopped reading because the thought of sitting for long periods of time made me nervous and feel as though I was going to gain weight. I haven’t enjoyed reading for so long. Now, my nose is either used to breathe, or it is in a book.

  • I have began to build relationships again. I have started spending a lot more time with my family. I am not starting to get close with them again because I am present. I am no longer worrying about the gym or my body or my weight, but instead my conversation and time with them. I can not tell you how amazing it feels to find that you have parents and siblings that are actually the best and most loving in the world.
  • I have found peace with food. I no longer look at foods for their amount of calories. I also do not look at foods as good or as bad, but rather I look at how they make me feel. I have started intuitive eating. This means I am working to honor my hunger. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. I also give myself permission to eat whatever I crave. For the first time the other day at our Easter celebration, I ate a piece of key lime pie without guilt. Normally I would have restricted it, only to become cranky and mad because I wanted it. Then I would only think about it all night, only to binge right before bed. Instead I ate a piece because it looked good, and then I was satisfied. I no longer wanted more, or thought of it, and I enjoyed the rest of the celebration. It was the most freeing feeling in the world. I felt so amazing and happy and proud.

I have also learned that all the foods I considered bad and was restricting, that I no longer crave them. I have learned that I love to eat to fuel myself. I do not feel the best when I eat sweets and foods full of chemicals. I feel great when I eat for my health and nutrition. My body and mind feels so fueled and energized when I am eating whole foods and eating foods with only ingredients that I can pronounce! It is so freeing to know, though, that if I did want to eat something, that it is not off limits.

  • I have started to love my body again. I no longer look at it and criticize it and get mad. I no longer look at others and compare myself. I have started to really love my shape. I mean my body is AMAZING!!! It allows me to breathe, run, read, and live! My shape is mine, if it was not mine, I would not be me. It is my imperfections that make me beautiful. I now look at others and see how gorgeous they are too. All shapes are beautiful. I now truly believe that health can be found at every size. And I honestly believe that I am beautiful.
  • I have stopped criticizing others. I look at all women and truly believe that they are beautiful, just as I am. All our bodies are unique, and it is such an amazing thing.
  • I love waking up. I love life. I love spending time with my family… It is like re-visiting old friends that you haven’t seen in years because it retrospect, I haven’t. I am just constantly being thankful everyday and finding new, amazing things about life that I was missing this past year and a half or so.

Now this is not to say that all my depression, my restricting and binging, my body-hatred, my exercise and healthy eating obsessions, my addition to tracking and such all were cured by just the deletion of that one app. There was quite a lot more that went into it than that. There was a long period of time where I was in both a mental and emotional battle. However that was the final string that needed to be pulled. It was the last straw that gave me the ability to control that part of my life. When that was gone, I now had so much time and energy to actually live again. I know that it was by the grace of God that I was able to finally able to do it. I believe that sometimes the Lord does everything for a reason. I believe that He will use this one day. I have already seen ways in which it is benefitting me. I have found a new love for myself, my family, food, health, fitness, running, reading, basically everything. I have also met so many new friends because of all of this. Due to the recovery account that I started I have met so many people with the same journeys: Angie, Allie, Kara, Claire, Rachel, Colleen, Sam, Leanne, and soooo many others. I am so thankful for life. I have such a new outlook on life. I am not saying that things are perfect, however. Life is a never ending journey. Somedays I fall back into old habits like feeling guilty for eating too much, or for eating past a certain time, or for eating a piece of cake with a lot of sugar. When this happens, I remind myself all that I have been through and that in the end I am human. Who I am is not dependent upon my looks, my weight, how much time I put in at the gym. In the end, who I am in dependant upon my personality. If I gained or lost five pounds, my family would still love me. And so what if you gain some weight or don’t always work out? At the end of the day do you want to remember all the macros you hit, or the memories that you made? I wasted way too much of my life, and now I am ready to live. I am ready to embrace all the happiness that comes from truly living the healthiest life of all. In my opinion, that is a balanced life. A life where things are no longer black and white, but instead things are grey. That is why balance is so important to me. For so long I was living so extreme, so extreme it almost ended me. Now I live a life full of balance, or a ‘grey’ life as I like to say. Grey is now my new favorite color… maybe that is why I decided to dye my hair this color? I am not totally sure..but I love it(: