Hungry Haley

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Leptin & Cortisol in Eating Disorders (aka My Research Paper)

Health, NutritionHaley Hansen1 Comment

Eating disorders can leave harmful effects on survivors, prior to the destruction that takes place while the disorder is in full effect. In the midst of an eating disorder, one can suffer from digestive issues, fatigue, and dry skin, among other symptoms (“Anorexia nervosa – medical complications”, 2015). An in-depth look at the most common eating disorder - anorexia nervosa - reveals a physiological effect beyond a thin stature and restricted food intake: potentially serious hormonal imbalances in levels of leptin and cortisol.

Anorexia Nervosa Explained

The most prevalent of all eating disorders, anorexia nervosa is one characterized by weight loss or inadequate weight gain, difficulty maintaining a proper weight, body image distortion, and sometimes exercise addiction (“Anorexia: Overview and Statistics”). A collection of studies in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found a prevalence rate of up to about 1% among young females for strictly defined anorexia nervosa (Wijbrand, 2003, p. 385). The vast majority of these studies found significantly higher prevalence rates for partial syndromes of anorexia, meaning that the full set of diagnostic criteria for AN was not met, but rather a smaller handful of signs of the disorder. While a mere 1% of the world’s population can seem a small number, and while most medical professionals do classify anorexia nervosa as a rare mental illness when compared with others, the incidence rates are rising rapidly in the 15-19 year-old female age group (Smink, 2012, p. 408).

Survivors of anorexia nervosa can likely vividly remember the signs and symptoms associated, though during the disorder, one probably would have denied anything unusual at all. What typically begins with an innocent decrease in calories/overall food intake in pursuit of weight loss often progresses into a restriction or elimination of at least one entire food group (i.e. carbohydrates or fats). From there, specific food rituals, like excessive chewing and/or organization of foods and eating patterns develop. Concerns about eating in public and/or social gatherings promote withdrawal and isolation. Other mechanisms of avoiding meals include random excuses to exclude oneself and denial of hunger, as well as consistent over-exercising (“Warning Signs and Symptoms”).

Psychologically, a preoccupation with food often clouds one’s mind with thoughts of how to consume the least amount possible, how to “burn off” calories consumed, fear of eating or gaining fat, etc. Additionally, denial of one’s low body weight, extreme influence of one’s weight or physical shape on emotional and mental state, and body dysmorphia – fixation on a perceived flaw or imperfection in one’s physical appearance, body shape, or specific feature – become mentally and socially consuming (Phillips). Flexibility with daily life occurrences like eating and making social plans diminishes as one seeks control and relies on specific, strict dietary patterns, and isolation and withdrawal often result (“Warning Signs and Symptoms”).

DSM-5 diagnostic criteria include restriction of energy intake to amounts far lower than recommended, intense fear of weight gain despite one’s current weight, and a disturbance in one’s own perception of body shape and consequent extreme self-evaluation and denial of the disorder (“Anorexia: Overview and Statistics”). Atypical anorexia occurs when one shows some or all symptoms of AN but is not underweight, despite weight loss.

A main consequence of prolonged AN is a disruption of the body’s ability to regulate hormones. Two hormones most significantly affected include leptin and cortisol, which involve maintenance of appetite and satiation and management of stress levels, respectively. At first, this disruption might not manifest itself obviously, but if not treated, can over time lead to inability to regain a healthy amount of weight and/or damage and even loss of cognition.

Leptin

Leptin is a hormone directly tied to and secreted by body fat. Sometimes called the “satiety hormone”, leptin’s main function is signaling to the brain that energy is present in the body, so appetite can decrease (What Is Leptin?). Specifically, leptin “travels from fat to the bloodstream and binds with the hypothalamus region of the brain, which is involved in regulating appetite” (Tara, 2016, p. 42). Therefore, a higher level of circulating leptin in the blood typically equals a lower appetite (assuming no metabolic issues like obesity or diabetes are present) (Margetic, 2002, p. 1409-1410).

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders compared the plasma leptin levels of patients with anorexia nervosa to that of normal control women without the disorder. Each individual’s level of various hormones including leptin was measured, as well as menstrual score, percent body fat, and eating behavior score. Researchers found a significant relationship between leptin levels and body fat mass, eating behavior score, and menstrual status. Eating behavior score was defined on a scale of one to five based on the patient’s 48-hour diet history prior to blood testing – a lower score was given to patients with lower calorie intake and a higher score to those with extreme caloric intake. Menstrual score on a scale of one to three was based on regularity of the menstrual cycle for the three months prior to blood testing – amenorrhea for at least three months was given a score of one while a regular cycle was given a score of three. Overall, lower leptin levels (observed mostly in the patients with AN) were seen paired with lower body fat mass, eating behavior score, and menstrual score. This signified that symptoms of AN, mainly decreased caloric intake and excessive exercise leading to extreme weight loss, lower the body’s leptin levels, and consequently, menstrual regulation (Nakai, 1999, p. 32).

The same study also pointed out that leptin has been linked to reproductive function. Though it does not play a direct role in the initiation of puberty and the reproductive cycle, leptin does act in a permissive fashion, as “a metabolic gate to allow pubertal maturation to proceed” (Nakai, 1999, p. 34). In another study, both male and female mice with mutations resulting in leptin deficiency were observed to be infertile, and only achieved proper sexual development when provided with leptin. Mice with low leptin levels displayed “morphological and biochemical abnormalities”, like low sperm counts and underweight, underdeveloped reproductive organs (Elias, 2012, p. 842). Similarly, the pituitary contents of luteinizing hormone and follicular stimulating hormone, two main hormones that regulate ovulation, were low in leptin-deficient mice (Elias, 2012, p. 843) (Martin, 2013).

Researchers for the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that during the weight restoration phase of AN treatment, leptin levels reached what was considered “normal” (that of healthy individuals without AN), but patients were still significantly underweight. This helps explain why some suffering from AN struggle in gaining weight even after recovering from the disorder – leptin levels have increased, so appetite has decreased. Leptin levels likely increase at a faster rate than weight gain does, which represents potential difficulty some might face in the treatment and full weight-restoration process (Mantzoros, 1997, p. 1850).

A study published in the research journal PLOS ONE found results that agreed with that of the previous study. These researchers found that in previously high-severity AN patients, now weight-restored patients, an increase in leptin levels was correlated with an increased incidence of psychological disturbances like depression, anxiety, and stress. Researchers are unsure of the causes and mechanisms behind this occurrence, but it is possible that the reality of weight gain could have shocked and upset patients who weren’t mentally recovered and prepared for the changes in physical appearance that weight gain brings (Stroe-Kunold, 2016, p. 10).

Current research surrounding hormone restoration, especially that for leptin levels, rests on the side of the more overweight and obese who likely suffer from leptin resistance, rather than deficiency – explaining how to regulate leptin in speeding up metabolism and increasing the body’s rate of burning fat as a source of energy and decreasing appetite. This is not the desired mechanism in restoring hormone levels for those with AN, as a fat-burning metabolism and decreased appetite will likely worsen the existing weight issue.

It is clear that leptin levels are low in those with anorexia nervosa. Low leptin levels should display an increased appetite and amount of food consumed, but the opposite is seen in those with AN, probably due to a preoccupation with the nutrition facts of foods, body weight and appearance, and overall fear and anxiety surrounding food (“Warning Signs and Symptoms”). During the weight restoration and treatment phase, leptin levels have been seen to increase in patients with AN in a linear fashion with weight and BMI – a good sign. However, to maintain this weight, reshaping the mindset of one with AN is just as important, if not more so. Without a positive relationship with food and an understanding of its essential role in everyday life, a patient with AN who gains weight and restores leptin could lose the weight after a period of time due to leptin’s function in decreasing appetite. 

Cortisol

A steroid hormone that helps regulate metabolism, prevent inflammation, enhance memory, and control electrolyte balance and blood pressure, cortisol is the body’s main hormone when it comes to handling to stress. When the body experiences stressful situations, cortisol secretion increases to respond to the stress-inducing situation (Cortisol, 2017). Stress arises not only when the body is under harmful physical attack, but also when it is unable to mentally and/or emotionally cope with certain situations, and this is usually when disorders like depression and anxiety develop.

AN induces stress on the body not only by forcing the individual into a nutrient-deficit, but also by altering the neurological systems within the brain, specifically those that regulate enjoyment of food and emotional sensitivity. Psychologically, the brains of patients with AN show enhanced feelings of pleasure and reward when starvation is chosen over eating, which helps explain the difficulty these patients find in gaining weight. “Disturbed interoceptive awareness of satiety and hunger” play a significant role in preventing patients with AN from recognizing bodily cues to eat. Additionally, these patients tend to feel high levels of anxiety in situations involving food, and therefore turn to starvation as a coping mechanism to decrease the anxiety (Kaye, 2014, p. 1-2).

Patients with AN show abnormalities in CT scans similar to patients with Cushing’s syndrome – ventricular enlargement in the brain and cerebral atrophy (Kellner, 1983, p. 191). This particular study found that the degree of cortisol secretion and ventricular size shared a strong linear relationship. A significant increase in cortisol can increase brain ventricular size, eventually leading to a condition called “normal pressure hydrocephalus”, in which the cerebrospinal fluid does not drain, but rather builds up and causes further expansion of the ventricles. The resulting pressure on the brain from the ventricles typically results in symptoms like compromised memory and cognition, also known as dementia (Lava, 2016). Methods to prevent NPH, specifically that caused by AN, includes reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and exercise routine (Lava, 2016).

Of the several harmful consequences an eating disorder can cause, the hormonal disruptions – specifically leptin and cortisol – can be the most physically detrimental. In the recovery phase, survivors can find the weight-gain process challenging because leptin levels tend to increase at a faster rate than actual weight gain. Increasing cortisol levels during AN, if not treated in time, can cause brain alterations similar to that which occurs during Cushing’s syndrome. Though these changes are often difficult to deal with, they can be prevented and treated by increasing awareness of the damaging effects of AN, and decreasing negative stigmas surrounding AN. As society becomes more aware of eating disorders and proper prevention and treatment methods, these hormonal disturbances can become less and less prevalent.

Bibliography

"Anorexia nervosa - medical complications." Journal of Eating Disorders 3.11 (2015): 1-8. PubMed. Web. 7 May 2017.

"Anorexia: Overview and Statistics." NEDA. National Eating Disorders Association, n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.

Elias, C. F., & Purohit, D. (2012). Leptin signaling and circuits in puberty and fertility. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences,70(5), 841-862. doi:10.1007/s00018-012-1095-1

Phillips, Katharine, MD. "About BDD." International OCD Foundation. International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Smink, Frederique R. E., Daphne Van Hoeken, and Hans W. Hoek. "Epidemiology of   Eating Disorders: Incidence, Prevalence, and Mortality Rates." Current Psychiatry Reports 14.4 (2012): 406-14. Springer Link. Web. 7 May 2017.

Wijbrand Hoek, Hans, and Daphne Van Hoeken. "Review of the Prevalence and Incidence of Eating Disorders." International Journal of Eating Disorders 34.3 (2003): 383-94. Wiley Online Library. Web. 3 May 2017.

"Warning Signs and Symptoms." NEDA. National Eating Disorders Association, n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Phillips, Katharine, MD. "About BDD." International OCD Foundation. International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Tara, Sylvia, PhD. The Secret Life of Fat. N.p.: W. W. Norton & Co., n.d. Print.

Margetic, S., C. Gazzola, GG. Pegg, and RA Hill. "Leptin: A review of its peripheral actions and interactions." International Journal of Obesity 26 (2002): 1407-433. Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 2002. Web. 7 May 2017.

Martin, K., MD, & Pinkerton, J., MD. (2013, May). Women's Reproductive Health Information. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/womens-health/womens-reproductive-health

Mantzoros, C. (1997). Cerebrospinal Fluid Leptin in Anorexia Nervosa: Correlation with Nutritional Status and Potential Role in Resistance to Weight Gain. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,82(6), 1845-1851. doi:10.1210/jc.82.6.1845

Nakai, Y., Hamagaki, S., Kato, S., Seino, Y., Takagi, R., & Kurimoto, F. (1999). Role of leptin in women with eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders,26(1), 29-35. doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199907)26:1<29::aid-eat4>3.0.co;2-h

What is Leptin? (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/cortisol/leptin

Stroe-Kunold, E., Buckert, M., Friederich, H., Wesche, D., Kopf, S., Herzog, W., & Wild, B. (2016). Time Course of Leptin in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa during Inpatient Treatment: Longitudinal Relationships to BMI and Psychological Factors. Plos One,11(12), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166843

Cortisol. (2017, January). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Cortisol.aspx

Eating Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/eating-disorders

Kellner, C. H., Rubinow, D. R., Gold, P. W., & Post, R. M. (1983). Relationship of Cortisol Hypersecretion to Brain CT Alterations in Depressed Patients. Psychiatry Research,8(3), 191-197. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/0165-1781(83)90062-8

Kaye, W. H., & Weltzin, T. E. (1997). Relationship of depression, anxiety, and obsessionality to state of illness in anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders,21(4), 367-376. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c7d63f5b-ddd5-4df4-aecf-01592439a021%40sessionmgr4007&vid=2&hid=4105

Lava, N., MD (Ed.). (2016, September 11). What is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus? Retrieved May 27, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/brain/normal-pressure-hydrocephalus#1

Kaye, W. H., MD. (2014, May 6). Eating Disorders: Understanding Anorexia Nervosa. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from file:///Users/haleyhansen/Downloads/Psychiatric_Times_-_Eating_Disorders_Understanding_Anorexia_Nervosa_-_2014-05-28.pdf

College Tips - Everything You Need to Know

HealthHaley Hansen8 Comments

As per popular request, I've gathered up some of my tips for college - everything from moving in to the freshman dorms to learning to cook for one person to finding the group of girlfriends God calls you to. 

YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED

two of my first college friends! that one on my right - she's my best friend AND roommate! 

two of my first college friends! that one on my right - she's my best friend AND roommate! 

How do you budget your groceries each week? I never want to pressure anyone to adopt a vegan lifestyle, nor do I want to make it seem like the perfect way to eat/live, buuuuuut the grocery bill of a healthy vegan diet says it all. On about $30-$40 a week, you can load up your bags with tons of produce (yes, even organic!) and other staples like beans, bread, nut butters, and snacks. Here are some healthy, inexpensive items to always keep on hand:

  • rolled/quick cooking/steel-cut oats (I love Bob's Red Mill brand) - good for oatmeal (overnight or hot), baking
  • nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) (the ingredients should be nothing more than the nut and sea salt) - good for topping said oats, quick PB & J sammies, and mid-day spoonfuls
  • bread (whole-grain, whole-wheat, sourdough, etc.) - good for toast, sammies, and the like
  • oils (coconut, olive, avocado) - good for cooking
  • beans (canned or dried) - good for adding easy protein to meals, buy canned if you don't have a stove
  • rice (I prefer brown) - good for pairing with beans to make a complete protein
  • bars (I love GoMacro, Larabar, and Square Organics) - good for snacking
  • frozen fruits and veggies - good for... everything! also usually less expensive than fresh produce, but still just as nutritious

Should I shop at my local farmers market? Yes yes yes! By doing so, you can support your community and reduce fossil fuels emitted during the shipment process of other store-bought produce, you can buy organic for less than what it's sold in the store oftentimes. Farmers markets can seem pricey at times, so don't hesitate to ask about any deals the farmer(s) might offer. 

  • I'm relatively new to shopping almost exclusively at farmers markets, so here is an article loaded with tips from The Spruce. 
  • If YOU have any helpful tips, leave them below!
like I said, the local farmers market - DO IT. 

like I said, the local farmers market - DO IT. 

How do I make friends?/ What if I don't like my roommates? Let me tell you - I struggled with both of these for almost six months. I called my parents crying multiple times a week. For someone as introverted and independent as me, I didn't expect to feel so lonely, but moving away from my parents into a completely new city put those qualities to the test. I refused to leave, so I set out to integrate myself any way I could.

plz plz plz plz plz never pass up a late-night donut run. especially if you're in SLO - HELLO SLO DO CO :)

plz plz plz plz plz never pass up a late-night donut run. especially if you're in SLO - HELLO SLO DO CO :)

  • I found a job in the downtown area working as a cashier/hostess-type-thing at Bliss Cafe SLO.
  • I had been involved in a bible study, but another girl and I just didn't feel connected, so we both sought out another group to join and immediately fell in love with the girls we met (thanks, God!).
  • I signed up for clubs pertaining to my interests - mostly related to food/sustainability.
  • I spent time OUT of my own room. Study in the library or in other common, populated areas on campus. Put your phone away while walking or eating or waiting in line for coffee. Go to the gym with a classmate/new friend and sign up for fitness classes. 
  • BIGGEST TIP: I let down my "wall". During a phone call with my mom regarding my struggle in finding friends, she told me I come off as intimidating. Part of me was slightly offended, and the other part felt a tingle of confidence in that. Why? Can't tell ya'. Buuuut I can say that I knew my mom was right, and that in order to make friends, I needed to break my intimidation wall and let others in. That meant smiling at passersby, turning to the person next to me in class to start a conversation, and reaching out to the few friends I did have at the time to make plans. 
this was taken during the last week of my freshman year - p a t i e n c e. 

this was taken during the last week of my freshman year - p a t i e n c e. 

If you're just not feeling a connection with your roommates, I've been there, too. I blindly trusted God in giving me roommates, and He sure did throw quite the mixture of girls together. About 60% of the time, we got along. The other 40% we spent arguing over whose dish belonged to whom, who needed to take the trash out, and how often boys were allowed to spend the night. Each of us had been raised so differently, which hindered our ability to understand another's annoying habits. To learn to get along, or maybe just manage the remainder of the time we had together...

  • Use those tips above from the previous question to get out and make friends with those whom you DO find a strong connection. 
  • Pray for patience and understanding. God didn't put you into a weird roommate situation so that you could light up your anger and frustration at the others. 
  • Have "roommate meetings" - use this time to discuss different chores around the dorm/apartment, rules about having other friends over, noise limits, etc. 

What do I do when homesickness kicks in? (it will) Building off of the previous questions, feelings of homesickness are pretty much inevitable, at least for the first few months. In all honesty, this struggle was probably my hardest, and I didn't seek help for it or open to anyone but my parents about it. Truth is, everyone feels it, and I found that out only after revealing my struggle to my friends. To my surprise, they admitted feeling the exact same way! Many of my tips for overcoming homesickness align with what I've talked about thus far: 

  • Get connected - seek friendships with like-minded people and spend time with them to take your mind off of missing home. 
  • You might have to let go of some things. During my freshman year, I was still hanging onto the last couple frayed strings between my recent-at-the-time ex-boyfriend. When I mustered up enough courage to respectfully tell him I needed space, I felt enough freedom and motivation to integrate myself into my new community. This is NOT to say that you need to break up with your current boyfriend - it's just what I needed to do. For you, it could mean FaceTiming your parents/hometown besties less frequently and encouraging yourself to seek out new friends and opportunities. 
  • If the feelings only become more overwhelming, don't shy away from asking for help. Colleges know that homesickness is a common occurrence (along with other mental/emotional struggles) and strive to provide as much help as possible. Look for on-campus counselors/psychologists (if you're coming to Cal Poly SLO, here's ours), open up to your friends and family. This is part of breaking down your intimidation wall, which I talked about earlier. 
  • "call home, then go hang out with people. Try your best not to travel home too much as you won't solve the root cause of being lonely. Surround yourself with people at your college - friends or just random people. Like I commented before don't stay hauled up in your room. Hang out in common places- lounge, library, dining hall...just being surrounded by people helps! Also join a new club, it may be scary at first but then you meet people. And do be afraid to tell people you are feeling homesick, they probably are too and would love to go get a coffee with you and talk about it!" - Dana, fellow reader
  • "It's normal to feel lonely and homesick during your first year, and it's important to remember that you're not alone. It might look like everyone else is having the best time of their lives and making so many friends (thanks social media), but that's not a reflection of reality. So many freshmen are feeling the same way as you are. Don't keep it bottled up, talk about how you're feeling! And remember it won't last forever, everything gets better over time." - Haleigh, fellow reader
  • "I've been out of college for 5 years, but I still live 1000+ miles from home/any of my family members so I deal with homesickness often! One of the things that helps me feel connected to what I'm feeling homesick for is to do FaceTime (usually it's with my mom). Especially if it's during an event like Thanksgiving, birthday meal, etc! Just have them set the phone up like you're sitting at the table with them and join in the conversations :)
    Seems lame, but I love doing that with my family when I'm missing them!" - Melissa, So Much Yum
  • "Something that stuck with me that I heard early on in college was 'there are no ordinary moments'. Every day is an opportunity to meet a new friend maybe while waiting in line for your lunch, join a club & discover a new passion or your own potential, and an opportunity to make an impact on the world around you! College provides you with so many opportunities through different organizations, your professors, and your peers. Take advantage of them! & if you want to break out of your shell & be who you really want to be that might be different from who you were in high school, college is the time to do it! Just be you & enjoy the ride! :)" - Samantha, fellow reader
  • "Went through it this past year because I was a freshman. The best piece of advice by far is to distract yourself by doing things you love!! For instance, I would often go for walks with friends because I have a beautiful campus! Not only would it distract me, but walking and talking helped me get closer with my friends! Finding things you are grateful for is also a big one because it helps you (or at least it helped me) conceptualize reasons why being at school is the best choice when sometimes all I wanted was the comfort of home. I'm most grateful for the puppies that people have all over campus!!  When feelings of homesickness were really bad, I would take breaks from social media just because it would trigger the feeling more seeing people from home!! Hope that helps :)" - Natalie, fellow reader
  • "... the best thing I did was surround myself with people—whether it was other college students or people in the community. When I was homesick, which was a lot throughout college, I would walk around my local Whole Foods or farmer's market, walk through neighborhoods with families and people of all ages, take a group fitness class, sit by the pool on campus, or take a day trip with friends. All of those things, plus regular (daily) calls with my mom :)" - Emily, My Healthyish Life
invite your parents to come visit you! show them around town - your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and introduce them to your friends!

invite your parents to come visit you! show them around town - your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and introduce them to your friends!

Is it hard being vegan in college? I always say "no, of course not!" to this question, but I do remember running into some obstacles. Halfway through my first year, I went from something-like-paleo to vegetarian, and I kicked off my second year by going completely vegan. During my first year, I ate on campus most of the time, but had to adjust to packing my own meals and snacks when I transitioned into my second year. 

  • FOR THE FRESHMEN: when you go to the cafeteria, find the salad bar! By no means am I saying that all you can eat is salad, but this is likely the place that will offer the most and freshest fruits and vegetables, so load uppppp. Next, find protein - beans, nuts, seeds, tofu. If you can, branch out! Most sandwiches, pasta bowls and breakfast items can be made vegan. Don't hesitate to ask the server!
  • FOR THE UPPERCLASSMEN: Learn to pack your own food and meal prep. Make large batches of rice/pasta/etc., beans, and fresh and/or cooked veggies for the week - this makes packing lunch and prepping dinner less stressful and time-consuming. 
  • Choosing a vegan diet in college can pose a challenge in terms of developing friendships, too. People will ask questions - some will be respectful and others may seem rude and arrogant. First, identify your reason for choosing veganism - ethical reasons, environmental protection, health promotions, etc. - and defend those. Next, understand that not everyone may have been raised with an emphasis on seeing another person's perspective. Some may be farmers who have always raised and milked their own cows, and others may just be insistent for whatever reason on eating meat and dairy. Don't pass judgements on these people for their food choices (just as you wouldn't them to such to you) and don't push veganism on anyone. Doing so can create an awkward environment and give an "I'm-better-than-you" sort of name to the vegan diet. 
  • Oh, and check out this post from my girl, Emilie! 
  • Here is another article I found that offers tips on everything from conquering the cafeteria to holding respectful conversations about veganism with others.
Whole Foods salad/hot food bar is a life-saver. 

Whole Foods salad/hot food bar is a life-saver. 

and Chipotle squeezes itself into just about every single town, so go find one. 

and Chipotle squeezes itself into just about every single town, so go find one. 

What are some tips for dealing with stress? Ahhh, stress. That word has moved up to the top 3 on my vocabulary list. As with many of the topics here, I'm NO expert. I deal with stress almost everyday and I could most definitely utilize some helpful tips myself. However, I have made a few habits that help reduce the powerful hit of the stress wave when I see it coming in the distance: 

  • Sleeeeeeeeeeeep. Several studies prove that the tie between sleep and stress level is significant. A recommended seven to nine hours per night can seem impossible in college when homework piles up or when friends want to go out, right? Prioritize your sleep! Not that you have to say "no" to every late-night activity, but do keep in mind what you have going on the next day, how well you've been sleeping lately, etc. Don't let FOMO (fear of missing out) keep you from prioritizing your sleep. Missing one night out a week won't sabotage your friendships - it will benefit your sleep, stress level, and overall health. 
  • Just a couple basic tips: eat well and exercise. Like sleep, these habits contribute to your physical health most of all, and how you feel physically plays a significant role in your mental health. 
  • Know your limits when it comes to workload. Taking four classes each quarter or semester might feel overwhelming, and that's okay! Next time around, take on less units and fill that extra time with a job and/or hobby you truly enjoy, one that brings you joy and helps distract you from school. If you choose to work, let your boss know that you are a student above all else, so school takes priority over working. Send him/her your class schedule as soon as you get it and make sure you aren't scheduled for an insane amount of hours each week. I found that 15 hours of work per week was just enough to fill my time and my bank account without stressing me out. 
  • Take a step back and a deep breath in. Remind yourself that this situation, this stress is temporary and is NOT more powerful than youare. Seek help from a family member, a friend, and/or a counselor if you need it. 
when pizza calls, ANSWER and just ask for vegan cheese or none at all, with extra veggies. 

when pizza calls, ANSWER and just ask for vegan cheese or none at all, with extra veggies. 

get in the habit of packing your own lunch. news flash - it's not that hard! 

get in the habit of packing your own lunch. news flash - it's not that hard! 

How did you keep your faith, amidst all of the college-life temptation? I kept (and still do keep) my faith because it's the only consistent thin in my life. Sure, I have my family and friends whom I know will always surround me, but the love of Jesus is inexplicably perfect in that way. He never leaves our side, and during my first few years of college, He showed me just how much I needed Him for that (and much more). Here are a few resources that I've referenced time and time again since my freshman year: 

  • Throughout the second half of my freshman year, I read the book of Psalms from cover to cover, making it the first time I've ever done that for a book in the Bible. Though I didn't understand what it truly means to be a follower of Christ, mostly because I was so consumed by my ED, reading one Psalm each day and meditating on it as much as I could was one of the major steps I took toward finding God in the mess I was in. David writes from a place similar to what I was feeling much of the time, so I felt I could relate to him, like God was calling me to this book (which He totally was, duh). 
  • During the summer after my freshman year, my mom gifted me with the book "Jesus Calling", by Sarah Young, so I spent some time each day during the summer and for the next year reading the devotionals. Each one "hit home" (if you will) in some way, shape, or form. Plus, they were short - perfect for focusing my mind and heart before a busy day, without forcing me to sit down and read an entire chapter of a book. Of course, this set of devotionals is not, in any way, a sort of Bible-substitute, but I still found it very powerful and moving. 
  • Towards the end of my sophomore year, my discipleship leader introduced me to the book "Idols of The Heart" by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and I'm convinced to this day that God put that book in my hands to help me take one of the biggest leaps out of my ED. Whenever someone asks me about it, I'm practically speechless, except for "YOU MUST READ IT." So, there you have it. You must read it. 
  • I also spent last summer diving into the book of Isaiah, as well as "Girl Defined" and "Captivating". Highly recommended, but again, these are not replacements for actual Scripture. 
disclaimer - we don't always dress up. actually, we NEVER dress up. but anyway, these are my roomies and I love them.

disclaimer - we don't always dress up. actually, we NEVER dress up. but anyway, these are my roomies and I love them.

If you have made it this far, WOOOOO! This was a long one, but only because I wanted to stuff it full of information for those of you preparing for college or finishing up your first or second year. Wherever you are, I hope it was beneficial in some way! If you did find it helpful, or maybe you want to contribute your own tips or resources you utilize, leave them in the comment section below :) 

Thanks for reading! 

College Tips - Everything You Need to Know

When Food is More Than Fuel

Food, Nutrition, HealthHaley Hansen11 Comments

"Food is fuel." You've heard that saying, right? Are you tired of it like I am? 

I'm a human. But I'm more than just a human. I'm also a student, in some situations. I'm also a blogger and a Jesus-lover and a plant-based-diet enthusiast and a 20-something girl who is still figuring life out (baby steps, ya' know?). My point is that I'm more than a pair of legs and arms attached to this chunk of torso. 

In the same way, food is more than fuel. 

True Food Kitchen - seasonal salad + some kind of pizza. Both duh-licious. 

True Food Kitchen - seasonal salad + some kind of pizza. Both duh-licious. 

Think back to that one professor in college who captivated your attention in every lecture. For me, it's Dr. Nicholson (where're my Mustang Nutrition Majors at?!). She's my professor for Cal Poly's Contemporary Issues in Foodservice lecture, and she's one of the - if not THE - very best professors from whom I've ever learned. The class isn't really anything challenging or bursting with new information, but that's just it. There's something simple yet intriguing about digging into the various reasons we, as a culture and as individuals, eat. 

Last week, in class, she shared with us a story of when she was a working RD volunteering at an ethnic food festival. Several visitors approached her questioning how they can make one of their culture's staple dishes - latkes - lower in oil or oil-free, without stripping it of its classic flavor. She paused to think, as did I in that moment. Well, you can bake them in the oven or possibly "fry" them in vegetable stock... but...

Bliss Cafe - eggplant parmesan + protein buddha bowl + turmeric jasmine rice.

Bliss Cafe - eggplant parmesan + protein buddha bowl + turmeric jasmine rice.

But the oil serves a deeper purpose than an ingredient to crisp up the potato latkes - it represents the presence of God's Spirit. By frying the latkes in what an RD might see as a swimming pool of oil, the Jews who celebrate this holiday see it as recognition and honoring of their God. 

The oil is more than the crisp-factor. The oil is more than fat. The latkes are more than shredded potatoes. The latkes are more than carbs. 

Clearly, my professor's story triggered the turning of some wheels in my brain. I let those wheels turn as they led my thoughts into how I view food in different situations, which I realized I want to change. 

Whole Foods - two messes of a salad. 

Whole Foods - two messes of a salad. 

When food IS mostly fuel...

There's no denying that one of food's main purposes is to provide energy for the human body. The brain needs carbohydrates for cognition and the limbs need them for movement. The muscles need protein for structure and function. The bones need vitamins and minerals for stability, and fats to absorb those nutrients. 

Viewing food from the "food is fuel" perspective can be beneficial if weight loss is the goal. For an overweight individual or for one who doesn't have a grasp on proper nutrition, developing the understanding that food provides nutrients and energy the body needs in order to function optimally (or minimally, at the very least), can be a key in attaining/maintaining health.

GT's kombucha - my favorite non-water beverage, besides coffee.

GT's kombucha - my favorite non-water beverage, besides coffee.

  • After a workout, the body usually needs proteins and carbohydrates most of all. Why? To rebuild the muscles that broke down and refuel the glycogen stores that provided the energy. 
  • Before an exam (for all my fellow students), the brain can best remember important material when it feeds on berries, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables. Oh, and don't forget the carbohydrates.
  • While recovering from emotional eating, I viewed food as just macro- and micro-nutrients - protein, carbs, and fat, and vitamins and minerals. I didn't allow myself to see it as anything that could lift my mood because doing so would encourage me to continue eating and continue eating and continue eating until I felt better (after which I only felt worse). 

When food is MORE THAN just fuel...

A virgin margarita from some restaurant in Claremont, CA.

A virgin margarita from some restaurant in Claremont, CA.

Now, whaddya' say we have some FUN?! Food is fun! Food is a vehicle for creativity and self-expression. Food encourages exploration of various cultures, values, tastes, and cravings. 

And most of all, food provides the ropes for and ties the knots within in a community or group of people. Take Food52 for an example. This was one of the first food-blogging communities I discovered way back when I first began, and I fell in love immediately. At the time, most of my mind revolved around food's nutrition label, but a small part spoke up and craved the culinary experience that Food52 highlights behind each recipe. 

Donut Friend - apple fritter + donut holes w/ chocolate drizzle & caramel sauce + blueberry classic donut.

Donut Friend - apple fritter + donut holes w/ chocolate drizzle & caramel sauce + blueberry classic donut.

  • When a group of close family and/or friends are gathered around a table, whether in the comfort of a home or the excitement of a restaurant, food is about sharing and tasting, and the food is only a small part of the get-together. 
  • Even though one meal may have been big (possibly too big) and filling beyond comfort, sometimes there's just magically room for a vegan apple fritter. And some of that room might be influenced by friends who crave said vegan donuts, but hey, that's okay, too. Either way, there's still room. 
  • Backyard barbecues in the summer, movie nights with friends, and late-night cravings for donuts (can you tell I like donuts?) just scream "I'M MORE THAN FOOD". Don't they?

I'm not saying that food is never fuel or that it is only fuel. Isn't that part of what makes food to indescribably worth it, though? It is all of the above. 

Oh, hey look. More Donut Friend. And more friends! (@beazysbites, @constancelyeating, @emilieeats)

Oh, hey look. More Donut Friend. And more friends! (@beazysbites, @constancelyeating, @emilieeats)

Want to read more about why food isn't just fuel? Check out this article from the founder of Precision Nutrition. I love his perspective, his scientific evidence, and of course, his support of food as a cultural celebration. 

Me in my element - aka a kitchen, cooking vegan food, eating Minimalist Baker's vegan lentil sloppy joe's. Happy. Hungry. 

Me in my element - aka a kitchen, cooking vegan food, eating Minimalist Baker's vegan lentil sloppy joe's. Happy. Hungry. 

Food is sometimes pre- or post-workout fuel. In that moment, its usually a banana and peanut butter or a protein smoothie for me. But, other times it may be a communal celebration with my roomies at the end of a rough week, in which its a ginormous pizza topped - no, piled - with veggies and vegan cheese. 

Just like you are not a static being with just legs and arms and a body, food is not just protein and carbs and fat. Just like you wouldn't want to be narrowed into in any one category (i.e. student, athlete, girl/boy, etc.), don't try to squeeze all foods into "good"/"healthy" or "bad"/"unhealthy". 

I'm no dietitian, though I am studying to become one, so please don't think of me as your one-stop-shop for all things nutrition- and ED-recovery related. If you'd like, I can point you towards some of the RD's who have helped me immensely in my journey, and I can share my story with you. 

I hope you've found this helpful! Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite foods - when is food fuel for YOU? When is it a form of community and celebration? 

Bliss Cafe (again) - cacao walnut brownie cookie. The chocolate chip to cookie ratio is what keeps me coming back. On. Point. 

Bliss Cafe (again) - cacao walnut brownie cookie. The chocolate chip to cookie ratio is what keeps me coming back. On. Point. 

Thanks for reading!

Ditching Sugar (gut health, energy level, + more)

Nutrition, Health, FoodHaley Hansen1 Comment

Gimme' some shuugaaaaa'. Just kidding - please don't. 

The title of this post bluntly gives it away, but just to reiterate, I'm ditching sugar (with my IG girl Jeannette, @sweatysweetpotato) for a couple of weeks. As a vegan, I've never been against carbohydrates - beans, potatoes, fruits, and whole grains make up most of my diet and I feel better than ever since I've incorporated them as the main components of my diet. However, I can't close my ears selectively to all this talk about sugars and carbohydrates and their effects within our bodies from the minute they touch our tongues.

For the past four years, refined sugars (think cane sugar, mainly) have not been welcomed in my diet, except on occasion. Sweeteners like pure maple syrup, dates, and coconut sugar have, thought, and again, still on occasion/only when necessary. And for almost two years, I thought that including those here and there and continuing to feed my body the same amount of unrefined carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, whole grains, beans, and fruits was one of the healthiest things I could do for my body (after two, almost three, years of strictly low carb eating habits). Finding freedom in carbohydrate consumption was my way of breaking one of the heavy chains restricting me during my eating disorder. Hallelujah for freedom (and dates and bread and pasta, right?). 

Buuuuuut, like our parents say, lots of freedom can come at a high price (or something along those lines). Mine came with some unwanted bloating + decreased energy levels + skin blemishes + almost-out-of-control cravings for sweets. Aaaaaaannnnnnd I'm tired of it. Quite literally. 

For the past few days since my wisdom teeth removal, my diet has looked all too similar to that of an tooth-less elderly individual - mushy this, mushy that. I'm not complaining, though, because all the couch time I've enjoyed has opened up my spring break plans (or lack thereof) for binge-watching The Great British Bakeoff, binge-reading The Secret Life of Fatand following up on the latter via research surrounding carbohydrate and fat metabolism. 

I'm quite the college kid, huh?

Anyway, at this point, you're probably thinking, "Ohhhhh my gosh, Haley, stop talking so much about stuff un-related to sugar and just tell me why you're doing the cleanse." OKAY FINE. Here's why: 

GUT HEALTH

Well, you know there's living bacteria in your gut, right? Yup - in your tummy right now, little microbes are working to digest and absorb your food, as well as help protect against any possibly pathogenic invaders. We have two main types of bacteria: prebiotics and probiotics. Both are needed for proper digestion. We also have some not-so-beneficial bacteria roaming around, and those feed on sugar, which can lead to uncomfortable side effects we all know and don't love, like gas, bloating, and even certain diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (1). I can do all I want to feed my gut, but I can't really be sure which bacteria I'm feeding, according to Dave Asprey in an interview with JJ Virgin (the sugar experts, maybe?) (2). Even Dr. Stephen Cabral agrees (quite possible maybe favorite doctor, like, ever) - I recommend this short podcast, during which he shares scientific research stating that rebalancing gut bacteria means identifying and excluding the bad bacteria's fuel, aka sugar.

ENERGY LEVEL (brain and body)

Okay okay - I'm no die-hard Bulletproof diet dude, but I have been indulging in a few of Dave Asprey's podcasts simply because I want to know his scientific support behind the high-fat eating habits he and many others seem to swear by. One of his promises that caught my attention immediately was that regarding an increased energy level when fats replace the majority of sugars in the diet. On a biochemical level, our cells have these little structures inside called "mitochondria", which are the homes of energy production in the form of ATP (3). The body and the brain use ATP for movement and cognition. Glucose has long been suggested as the body's preferred fuel source to produce ATP, but recent research is causing trusted biochemists and doctors to think otherwise: maybe fat is more preferred. When we eat a carb-heavy meal (for me, this might look like oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter, sweet potatoes with beans and greens, or a veggie-based sandwich on whole-grain bread) our bodies digest those carbohydrates and other nutrients and secrete the hormone insulin, which tells our cells to take in those carbohydrates and store them as glycogen in the muscles or, if glycogen storage is full, as fat in adipose tissue (3). When fat is metabolized, our adipose tissue secretes the hormone leptin, which tells our brain we're satiated and no more energy needs to be consumed, leading to decreased appetite and potential weight loss (4)

Bottom line? Insulin, secreted during carbohydrate ingestion, increases glycogen storage and can increase the body's sugar cravings. Leptin, secreted by fat cells, stimulates the brain's feeling of satiation and can promote healthy weight loss. 

All of that nerdy information I just spewed at you correlates directly to brain function. Similar to the widely accepted thought that glucose is the body's preferred energy source, it's also been referred to as the brain's go-to energy source. Unnnnntil now. Free radicals roam around, well, quite freely and in high numbers throughout the body, and can cause harmful oxidation, which is basically just damage to cells. Killing off free radicals requires antioxidants, and these little powerhouses are plant compounds that reduce the inflammation free radicals produce (5). Emphasis on plant compounds - in order to reap the benefits of antioxidants, plants must fill the diet! Okay, sorry, I digress. Inflammation from free radicals can block blood flow to the brain, so decreasing inflammation via high antioxidant consumption is key to a well-functioning brain (6). After all, the brain is 60% fat - that number shocked me until I rewound my academic memory to information I learned in biochemistry. That makes sense, because the cells themselves have a membrane made up of fats, and those cells communicate with each other and organs of the body via myelin sheaths, which are structures coated in fatty membranes that allow for transmission of messages (6)

Here's how I've been thinking about it (maybe this is more simple): if carbohydrate digestion forces insulin production, and insulin can cause peaks and dips in blood sugar levels making me crave more sugar, no wonder I'm hungry or "needing a little something sweet" immediately after a meal. No wonder I'm constantly thinking about my next snack, despite how full my last meal left me. if fat secretes leptin, and leptin increases feelings of satiation, why haven't I been adding more healthy fats to every meal? DUH. 

So, most of you know me. You know I don't eat store-bought cupcakes and Kit Kat bars and drink sodas and lemonade. I eat tons of bananas and berries and sweet potatoes and whole grains. For months, I've been wondering when I'd find the answer to where the heck the fine line is between those foods, as it seemed to be a battle (with the winner quite obvious): refined sugars vs. complex carbohydrates. Guess what... I found the answer. 

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states "After absorption, the pathways of the different dietary sugars converge and the original dietary source has only minimal effect on metabolism" (7)

BAM. There's my answer. 

Okay, so let's wrap this up, yeah? I'm not quitting sugar forever. That commitment (and restriction?) just is not calling my name. Jeannette and I are removing it from our diets temporarily to see and feel the comparative effects of a diet with and one without it. I've noticed several bodily changes over the past few months: 1) I stopped running (my main and favorite form of cardio for years), 2) I stopped burning carbohydrates as efficiently (and began storing them where they didn't feel comfortable), and 3) I began taking challenging classes and piling potentially stressful additions to my schedule and therefore life. I've expected my body and mind to be able to handle all these changes well without understanding the changes it needed, as a result. 

Want to join us? Have any questions? Bring it! We're so excited to learn more about our bodies and we hope you're taking the necessary steps to do the same for yours :) follow along on Instagram! @hungryhaley for me and @sweatysweetpotato for Jeannette. 

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448089/#B56-nutrients-04-01095

2. https://blog.bulletproof.com/how-to-own-your-gut-bacteria-and-fix-leaky-gut-syndrome/

3. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/850S.full#sec-3

4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00270.x/full

5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/

6. https://blog.bulletproof.com/eat-fat-for-high-performance-brain/

7. http://ajcn.nutrition.org.ezproxy.lib.calpoly.edu/content/62/1/203S.full.pdf+html

Coconut Oil - The Healthy Fat

Nutrition, Health, FoodHaley Hansen6 Comments

Coconut oil coconut oil coconut oil! It's made its way up the food chain (of my life/diet?) in the past few months or so, and I'm here to explain why. You can thank both my absolute obsession with this oh-so-good for you oil - yes, this is a HEALTHY oil #mindblown - and my newfound passion for chemistry, biochemistry if you want more specificity. 

What is coconut oil? (MCT oil)

Coconut oil is classified as a medium-chain triglyceride (which refers to the length of the fatty acid chain as it moves through and stores itself in our bodies). Many of the fats included in the American diet today are long-chain triglycerides, and the two of these function differently in our bodies: 

  • MCT's: on a chemical level, these fats are typically 6-12 carbon molecules long. Unlike long-chain triglycerides, MCTs are sent straight to the liver for oxidation, which decreases the amount of time and space they have to be stored in the body (aka adipose tissue). 
  • LCT's: on a chemical level, these fats are typically longer than 12 carbon molecules. These fats are sent through the lymphatic system before they reach the liver, allowing them more time and space to be taken up into adipose tissue. 

So, what's the big deal?

Welllllllll, let me tell ya'. I've been researching like crazy for some actual primary sources on this topic, and finally found a study posted in the Journal of Nutrition - can you guess how excited I got? No, you can't. I got R E A L L Y excited :) anyway, enough about my inner nerdiness (also, how "inner" is a quality if everyone you know knows about it and considers it a main quality of yours?) 

Please excuse my diversion. Let's dive in. 

  1. Increased metabolism - the study found a 45+% increase in energy expenditure (aka calorie-burn, metabolism, whatever you want to call it) before and 6 hours after eating when participants consumed a meal containing about 30% MCT's. immediately after a meal, researchers observed a 16% increase in baseline calorie-burn for the MCT participants compared with only a 5% increase for the LCT participants. MCT's also showed a greater impact on the thermic effect of food (TEF, the amount of energy the body uses in digesting food) - an increase of 8% with MCT's compared to about 6% for LCT's. 
  2. Decreased fat depots - these results aren't as concrete as the previous, but they are still noteworthy! animals trials show decreases in number and size of adipose (fat) cells, but researchers haven't found concrete evidence reflecting this in humans. however, they have concluded that the increased metabolism and potential decrease in number and size of adipose cells is typically greater in men than women. 
  3. Increased satiety - from this study, researchers saw that men who replaced LCT's with MCT's in their diet over a period of 14 days consumed significantly less calories than the men whose diet was higher in LCT's than MCT's. similarly, body weights of men in the higher LCT group showed an increase in body weight, while the men in the higher MCT group showed a lower body weight after the 14-day experiment. 
  4. Body weight management - the past three observations lead researchers to believe that MCT's can increase weight loss, but the evidence isn't set in stone. at most, they conclude an optimal weight loss of near 3 pounds per month with highest potential MCT effects and at the least, a weight loss of about 1 pound per month with minimal MCT effects. these suggestions can only be made for short-term circumstances, however. 

Where/how do I use it?

Pretty much anywhere/in anything! I've always lovvvvved roasting veggies (sweet potatoes, especially) in coconut oil - nothing beats the smell of coconutty cinnamon + sea salt roasted sweet taters. I'm probably the newest (and maybe last) member on the coconut oil-coffee train, but hey, at least I'm here, right? For a while, I opted for unsaturated fats in cooking - sauteing, roasting, stir-frying, etc. - because the liquid quality made coating food much less of a hassle. But, seriously Haley, how hard is it to scoop a teaspoon of coconut oil onto the pan instead of spraying or drizzling olive oil? Not that hard.

I take the extra steps in cooking with coconut oil because it actually has a higher melting point than other oils like olive, avocado, safflower, etc. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, while olive, avocado, and safflower are unsaturated - the molecular structure of saturated fats keeps them stable at temperatures higher than that of unsaturated fats. When heated, saturated fats don't oxidize or become rancid as easily. Cooking with oxidized oils (oils that have been exposed to oxygen causing them to create dangerous molecular compounds) has been linked to higher rates of cancer and heart disease. Since coconut oil's saturated structure is stronger against the effects of oxidation, it's a much safer option to cook with. 

Unrefined vs. refined? 

Does anything refined ever win over it's unrefined counterpart? Not really, especially for coconut oil, according to Dr. Bruce Fife. Unrefined coconut oil doesn't undergo as much processing as the refined version, so the fatty acids and other important compounds remain intact and can carry out their function in the body much more efficiently. However, refined coconut oil does have a higher melting point than the unrefined version, so keep that in mind when cooking with whichever version you choose.

Of course, other oils like olive, avocado, grapeseed, and almond carry several health benefits and have certain properties that make them more suitable for certain cooking methods than coconut oil. Finding the right balance of dietary oil is essential is benefitting from the nutrients of each. 

But, what about cholesterol levels? 

Saturated fats DO increase cholesterol levels, but not all saturated fats are created equal, right? Similarly, two different types of cholesterol work in the body - HDL (high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol). Though saturated fats - coconut oil included - can increase the LDL levels, they also improve the quality of LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL levels, too (information from Dr. Mark Hyman). All in all, coconut oil can't be blamed as the main contributor to dangerously high cholesterol levels because it simultaneously weakens the potential damage by LDL cholesterol, lowering triglyceride levels and improving overall lipid profiles.

Bottom line? Not all fat makes you fat. Not all calories are created equal. Whole-food, plant-based fats carry with them various heart-healthy, figure-friendly benefits and should not be limited in the diet. Fat promotes satiation, nutrient absorption (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), increased metabolic activity, and healthy body weight and composition. 

Fear not the fat, my friends :) 

Eating Disorders + Veganism

HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

Sigh. Get ready for a LOADED post, people. Loaded. 

Does a vegan lifestyle promote/cause eating disorders? Can you recover from an ED as a vegan? I could not be more passionate about this topic, as veganism played a huge role in my ED recovery.

Does a vegan lifestyle promote/cause eating disorders?

Well, Psychology Today calls vegetarianism/veganism the "perfect cover for disordered eating", and while that may be true in some situations, it also gives the lifestyle a bad rap, but that's another topic for another time. So, yes - vegetarian/vegan diets can definitely feed an eating disorder by excluding fatty, unhealthy foods like meat, dairy, eggs, and fish, and replacing them with an abundance of low-calorie plants. Now, do they always cause eating disorders? No. My going vegan actually kick-started my recoveryThe diet forced me to conquer my fear of carbs, which grew a few years ago as I saw pounds practically fall off the fewer I ate. Plants - fruits, veggies, beans, grains, etc. - are mainly carbohydrates, after all. Most of these are healthy, complex carbohydrates our bodies love for fuel, but the few bad ones (i.e. processed sugars, refined grains, etc.) can sometimes hog the spotlight, causing fear and anxiety in those with eating disorders.

You may have heard Jordan Younger's story, probably most widely known as Breaking Vegan, a book in which she explains how she stepped away from her 2 years of veganism in an attempt to leave behind "obsessive 'healthy' dieting". In Jordan's case, her vegan diet was not her eating disorder. Her "obsessive 'healthy' dieting" (also known as orthorexia) WAS. In this article, Jordan says that her vegan diet "was stopping her from leading a normal life full of social activities and other interests." My eating disorder caused me to do the same thing - in fact, that is a significant characteristic of eating disorders! That is NOT, however, a characteristic of all vegan diets. When Jordan's friend, also suffering from orthorexia, suggested she add a little fish to her diet to regain her period, Jordan said she felt she was finally "back on track" and more energetic. Fish didn't solve her problem (amenorrhea, in this case) - what did was eating a higher concentration of calories, protein, and fat. I regained my period 8 months into my vegan diet, after 18 months of amenorrhea. In Breaking Vegan, Jordan discusses what to do when "our solution becomes the problem...". Well, first of all, the "problem" here is not veganism, but rather the eating disorder. The "solution" is not fish or eggs or dairy or meat, but rather whatever foods cause such fear and anxiety. She currently follows a mostly plant-based diet, so much so that she "could practically be considered vegan", but she just prefers to leave off the labels. Exactly - the problem is not the vegan diet, but rather the obsessive disorder inside whomever follows the diet. 

When I became vegan, I did NOT nourish myself properly. At the time, I was still wrestling with my eating disorder and, I will admit, part of me loved the lifestyle so much because I could cut out unhealthy fats, reduce my calories, and use my increased energy level to push even harder in workouts. God didn't allow much time to pass before showing me the consequences of my harmful restriction - within a month or two, my knees always ached, my eyes occasionally blurred, and my weight rapidly dropped. Of course, He didn't allow this danger to consume me, and soon enough I found strength and desire to whole-heartedly love Him and my body

I'm not the only one who found veganism a key factor in my recovery story: 

My story and each of these girls's stories answer my second question...

Can you recover from an ED as a vegan? 

Recovery is possible on any diet/lifestyle, as long as that lifestyle includes foods around which the ED provoked fear and anxiety. In my favorite of Amanda's videos - the one confessing her past ED - she explains how veganism brought to light all the damage she caused to her body and ignited a certain passion in her heart since. Jasmine, on her website, admits to initially using veganism as a mask to hide her eating disorder, until she faced head on the reality of such bodily harm and realized the truth that "[veganism] is about abundance, not restriction." Steph, former competitive dancer and current world-traveler, held onto veganism as a means for control when she felt her family was falling apart at the seams, and now spreads some of the most amazing, encouraging words I've ever heard. And Emilie, not the only girl whose ridden the diet rollercoaster more than once, has held onto a vegan diet throughout her pageant life and all it brought along into her life.

 Let me clarify: veganism is NOT the key to recovery. In some cases, yes - a vegan diet can promote, or feed, an eating disorder, but the two need not be used as interchangeable terms. ANY diet can technically be deemed "disordered eating", especially to one who does not follow the diet. ED recovery can be a long, challenging process, and without God, in no way would I have been blessed with the courage and strength to begin. 

Veganism taught me how to eat in abundance the foods healthiest for the body and the planet. It convinced me of the nourishment and love my body needs, and helped me crush fears preventing me from nourishing and loving the amazing powerful body through which I live every single day. 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope this has answered some questions, and maybe sparked in you a little more curiosity about veganism. Still have questions? Leave them below or send them over in an email! 

How I Regained My Period (Secondary Amenorrhea)

Nutrition, HealthHaley Hansen5 Comments

Secondary amenorrhea - the loss of 3-6 consecutive menstrual periods, according to HealthLine.

From August of 2014 through January 2016 - about 18 months - I lost my period as a result of all that my body suffered during my eating disorder. Of all the negative side effects - the aching knees, the abnormal blood tests, the fatigue, the extreme weight loss - amenorrhea scared me the most. This fear wasn't like most others, though. It didn't want to be talked about (I kept it to myself and tried to shrug it off whenever someone asked), but rather wanted to just pinch away at my insides until what remained was just an immiscible lump in my throat. 

Immiscible for two years. Will I have children someday? Will my body change because of the lack of hormones? So many questions tore up my mind and I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would humble me enough to let Him take control (and therefore help me embrace weight gain and recovery) so that I could find real sustainable health for the first time. 

Since August 2016, I've been seeing my period once every month! Though I still can't pinpoint exactly when it will come or for how long, I know I can expect it at some point. Besides just prayer, I took a few intentional steps in order to regain it and I want to share those with you. First, though, I should note that in my research, I came across TONS of information, tons of possible causes and effects and this and that with which eating disorders and amenorrhea play a role. To narrow down what therefore could become a days-long post, I'll just discuss the relationship between anorexia and amenorrhea, and concluding with some of the steps I took in conquering both those obstacles and some I've found via my research. 

Now, bear with me as I take you through a brief science lesson explaining a little bit more about what happens to the body during a period. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the "fight or flight" response and controls hormone release (specifically adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol). By producing gonadotropin releasing hormone, the sympathetic nervous system manages the female menstrual cycle. Like most mechanisms in the body, certain things (substances, situations, foods, etc.) can alter the body's ability to produce GnRH. New research shows that high levels of cortisol - also known as the stress hormone - can inhibit GnRH production. Similarly, "stress also increases brain levels of a reproductive hormone named gonadotropin inhibitory hormone, or GnIH...", according to researchers at UC Berkeley. All this to say, stress plays a huge role in human reproductive ability.

To touch on what exactly "stress" is - well, it could be mental stress from those upcoming exams, that job presentation, the financial weight on your shoulders, or the daily strenuous workouts, the constant worrying about and fearing of certain foods, the dangerous calorie-deficit characteristic of eating disorders. All of those situations fall under the category of "stress",one of the main causes of amenorrhea, especially in younger women. I'm not here to freak you out about the effects of stress, but these possible outcomes of extremely high, prolonged levels are nothing to shrug off. 

Maybe you are working to regain yours or maybe you know someone else who is. Either way, take these into consideration: 

  1. EAT MORE: Think about the main cause (as it pertains to this post) - calorie deficit/low energy intake. Our bodies run on calories for energy to regulate everything from simple arm movements to hormone production. Guess what happens without enough calories? Our bodies have to prioritize the most important bodily functions and send as much energy as needed to those areas, and in the process, some functions are sacrificed. In the case of hypothyroidism, our bodies leave the thyroid gland without enough energy to produce hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. How to solve that? Eat more! Ahhhh, but it's not that simple, Haley. Oh, believe me - I know! I've been there.
    Now, when I look back at my previous portion sizes I'm like, "Um, yeah I'm still hungry just looking at that...". I learned to increase my portion sizes when I went vegan. A plant-based diet is naturally low in calories, so I had to adjust to filling bigger plates with more rice, potatoes, beans, or whatever it was I ate. Of course, eating more doesn't mean an extra cupcake or scoop of ice cream or even a slab of fatty fish. No, eating more means more of those high-quality, nutrient-dense calories from plant-based foods like avocado, brown rice, tofu/tempeh/soybeans, etc. 
  2. STRESS LESS - I'm in college and sometimes - no, like 94.7% of the time - "stress" might as well be my middle name. Now, that isn't totally just college's fault because I play a role in regulating my own stress levels, too. If you're currently a student or if you've been one before, you know what I'm talking about when it comes to exams, studying, working outside of school, and managing all of that plus a social life. Now, throw in a high cognitive dietary restraint into that mix. High cognitive dietary restraint is the act of constantly trying to limit "food intake to achieve or maintain a healthy weight" (check out This Girl Audra's YouTube video for a better understanding of the term). Research shows that this mentality in college women can likely cause menstrual irregularity. In fact, women with high cognitive restraint levels are more than 2x as likely as those with low-medium scores to report irregular menstrual cycles. 
    Stress isn't limited to only the mental aspect, though. Workouts are "stress", too, just more along the lines of the physical aspect. Too much physical activity can and will contribute to that calorie deficit/low energy intake discussed previously because the body burns calories in order to push through that workout. During a workout, the body uses calories to fuel jump squats, bicep curls, and uphill climbs. After a workout, the body uses calories to REfuel, replenish, and restore broken down muscle tissue. Again, the thyroid's hormone production function is not prioritized, resulting in a missed period. 
    I used to workout 6-7 days every week. HIIT, weight lifting, and running were my go-to's, but I set aside 1-2 days each week for lighter exercise, like walking and practicing yoga. My strict workout regimen - though motivating to many - combined with my low energy intake to inhibit my body's thyroid gland function. Only about a year ago (which seems both long and short at the same time, somehow) did I finally just how much I induced on my body on a daily basis. After a series of eye-opening, heart-softening conversations with God, I wrote a love letter to my own body (also in the spirit of Valentine's Day), apologizing for all I'd put it through and thanking it for pulling strength from places in which I didn't even know I had any in order to fight for life. Last January, I took an entire week - which may not seem like much, but for me it felt like years - off from workouts. I walked, but that was it, and guess what I saw for the first time in almost 18 months? That little red dot most women dread, I finally embraced and thanked God for. 
  3. PRAY - Of course, these aren't in particular order of importance, because if they were, this guy would bump up to the top immediately. Anyway, a fellow blogger asked me the other day if all I did was pray and magically my period came back. At first, I second-guessed myself - why does that sound so simple, even though it was such a challenge? Is that really all I did? Well, yeah, I guess. Of course, I still had to fight - I had to punch that voice in my head constantly telling me to eat less and workout more, despite my absent period. And I used prayer as my weapon during those battles. I prayed not only for a regular period, but most often for actual, sustainable healthy habits. My eating disorder (my not-so-healthy, definitely not-sustainable habits) caused my amenorrhea, so I knew I needed to rid my life of such destructive behaviors and adopt ones that will last a lifetime because I want my period to last a lifetime. Makes sense, huh? 
    Prayer made all the difference in this whole battle. Through it, God brought me peace in gaining weight, trust in the waiting period (6-7 months of waiting before it became regular), and inexplicable gratitude when it finally did set in every month. So, no, I didn't only pray for my period to come back. However, prayer was at the root of every step I took in order to regain it. Looking for some scripture about prayer? Here are some of my favorites: Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 11:24, Romans 8:26, Acts 2:42, 1 Peter 5:7. 

YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED

"How were you feeling mentally and physically?" Over a span of about 12 months (from the time I began focusing on healing my amenorrhea until now), my emotions flew everywhere. At first, I was stoked to begin the journey because the only thing in sight was the end result - a regular menstrual cycle. However, I was considering every bump I'd face along the way. Since last December, I've gained weight. How much? I don't know, probably around 5-7 pounds. While that may not sound significant, it was enough to pull me way down low emotionally, convincing me that I'd lost everything I once worked so hard for (i.e. my slim thighs, my flat stomach, etc.), and then lift me so high on the pure joy of seeing red for the first time in almost two years. Gaining weight was, by far, the hardest part of it all. BUT I'm now even more stoked than I was to begin with because I see that red every single month and I know that I'm healthy. I know that my body is doing what it's designed to, as a woman. Now, physically, hmm... Well, I'm currently on my period, so I'm dealing with the cramps, moodiness, lower back pain, and breakouts I definitely didn't miss. On the other hand, I'm so grateful for the muscle AND FAT - yes, I'm grateful for the "fl(abs)" lol - I've allowed myself to gain. My body amazes me everyday, as it survived all that it endured during those disordered two years. Again, I couldn't be more grateful :) 

"Were you hungry and tired all the time?" During my eating disorder? Yes. During my regain-my-period mission? Not really. Though I wasn't working out as much, I didn't feel as lazy as I'd expected, which is probably because I was finally consuming sufficient calories to meet my body's high energy needs. 

"I've gained the weight, but where's my period?" Oooooh, I actually don't know. I tied my returned period to my weight gain, so if you've also gained enough weight (key word = enough) but aren't seeing yours again, I'd ask what your stress levels are like - are you feeling overwhelmed in work or school or any other areas in life? If you've come this far in this post, you know how stress can affect the menstrual cycle. I would also consider the quality of your diet - vegan? vegetarian? paleo? low-carb? You may have gained weight, but you may still be low in some essential nutrients and/or vitamins/minerals. I suggest tracking your food intake using an app, analyzing your nutrient amounts, and fixing what's too low or too high. If you've still got some questions, head to your doctor or dietitian for serious deficiencies. When I went vegan, I made sure to increase my vitamin B12 intake via supplements and nutritional yeast. And YES a vegan diet provides enough protein, sooooo don't get me started. 

"I'm vegan... help!" Heeeyyyyy I'm vegan, too! It's been over a year since I made the switch, and my period disappeared before I became vegan. I truly believe filling my diet completely with plants made a huge difference in battling not only my ED, but also amenorrhea. Because a vegan diet is packed with low-calorie plants, it's important to be sure to eat more. Sound familiar? During the first few months of my transition, I played with the high-carb, low-fat lifestyle, which required MUCH larger portion sizes as the main foods (fruits and vegetables) are so low in calories. Though I didn't stick with HCLF, those portion sizes - bigger than any I've eaten before - stretched my stomach and proved that I really CAN and NEED to eat more, despite the branch of veganism I follow. 

"Did you consider birth control?" No. A few people suggested trying it, but my gut told me to stay away for a few reasons. 1) I don't really believe in relying on pills. If I have a headache, I take a nap, drink water, and eat a snack if I'm hungry. If I've got period cramps, I use a heating pad or take a relaxing bath. Joint pain? Rest, ice, stretch. A cold? Rest (again), eat well (as always), supplement lysine and zinc in tablet form, and then maaaaaaybe turn to medicine if nothing else succeeds/my doctor suggests. That being said, birth control is last on the list of pills I'd take if I needed to. 2) So, let's say I take birth control to regain/regulate my period. What happens when I stop taking it? Doctors have found that my period could again disappear for several months, so then what? I have to find another solution to the same problem - I've just made a circle back to where I was. Bottom line: it doesn't seem sustainable, and that's why I haven't tried it. My prayer in this journey was that, not only would I regain my period, but that God would heal my broken relationship with food and form a healthy mindset, one that will sustain me for the rest of my life.

"Can I still workout while I'm trying to regain my period?" My answer: yes. Last year at this time, I'd been following my friend Amanda (@applesandamandas) for months and we were both struggling with amenorrhea. Her advice and her method of healing was cutting out exercise, but I didn't feel that I needed to completely stop working out. Instead, I took a week off - I walked and stretched, and I ate and relaxed. By the end of the week, my period showed up! Of course, I'm not attributing its return solely to my decreased exercise for that week, but I took it as God's way of comforting me in my choice to continue exercise, but simply change my routine up a bit. Since then, I've decreased the amount of cardio session per week and replaced them with either time for rest or more anaerobic workouts, like weight training, barre, and yoga. However, simply changing your workout routine might not solve the problem. Athletes everywhere suffer from secondary amenorrhea - runners, gymnasts, even bodybuilders - because of their extremely low body fat content. Without enough fat, the body cannot produce estrogen, and without enough estrogen, the body cannot regulate or produce a menstrual cycle. So, is it okay to exercise while trying to regain your period? Talk to your doctor to discuss your body fat content and seek help in designing a fitness plan geared towards achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition. 

Wow - I feel like I could go on for days with this post. It was, by far, the most demanded and the most rewarding post I've written yet, simply because of how many of you guys reached out to me asking for help and thanking me for taking the time to post. Honestly, your support means SO MUCH to me, guys. 

Please please please remember that I'm NOT a doctor, and I always recommend you see your health professional first, and then take my advice. That being said, all of this information stems from research backed my health care professionals themselves, so this is all still worthy advice. 

And lastly, if you're struggling with anything - amenorrhea, eating disorders, or school, boys, faith, whatever - I'm here. I cherish the time I spend on my blog. This is my passion and I can't thank God enough for lighting this fire in my heart :) I hope you've found what you were searching for here, and I hope you keep coming back! Thank you to everyone who contributed questions and read all the way down here. I know it's a long one, but I needed to cover tons of information in order to make this post as effective as possible. 

Alright, I'm done I promise! Love you guys! 

RESOURCES: 

Robyn, The Real Life RD, created a whole series of posts dedicated to this topic. Also, she is ahhhhhmazing and I always open up her blog when I'm in need of some intuitive-eating inspiration and body-positive encouragement. 

Here's one from Rachael, aka Avocado A Day Nutrition, which discusses the sheer importance of a woman's period. You need it for more than just making babies, people! 

I'm new to the name Dana Magee, but she is an RD who specializes in non-diet approaches to health - woooo! - and she, too, has an extensive informational post about periods and bone health. 

Nutritional Yeast: What's The Deal?

Nutrition, Food, HealthHaley HansenComment

What's that yellow stuff I'm always sprinkling on my bowls and salads? It's called "nutritional yeast" and it's been one of my favorite toppings/additions to just about anything since I went vegan. I know, I know - "nutritional yeast" sounds anything but appetizing. However, its flavor and versatility hooked me at first bite. One year later, here I am, sprinkling (read "pouring", "dumping", etc.) it everything I can. 

Of course, everyone asks, "What is that?" and "Why do you eat it?" Besides its high vitamin B12 content, I haven't been able to give much more of answer as to its health benefits and roots, so I've done my research and I'm ready to explain myself... 

What is it? 

  • Nutritional yeast is an inactive (or deactivated) form of yeast made from sugar cane and beet molasses. It's not the yeast used to make bread - that's the active form. "Nooch" can be sold as powder or flakes. That's about it!

Why do I need it? 

  • Nutritional yeast caught my eye with all its boasting of vitamin B12 - an essential nutrient found mostly in animal products. After elimination those from my diet a year ago, I needed to find another dietary source of it to ensure my body would produce red blood cells, synthesize DNA, and keep my nervous system functioning properly (detailed functional description here). Deficiency can lead to anemia - lack of red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body's tissues, resulting in fatigue, shortness of breath, and eventually potential menstrual problems and muscle weakness. 

So, why nutritional yeast and not animal products? 

  • Health - Animal products include eggs, dairy, and meat, but let's begin with meat. One of the number one reasons meat is such a staple is because of its protein content. When the body digests protein, the kidneys must filter out the excess protein because the body cannot store infinite amounts of this nutrient. Filtering out excess protein, over time, can exhaust the kidneys - a term called "intraglomerular hypertension" - and potentially permanently damage them. Read what Dr. McDougall has to say about kidneys and animal-product protein.  
  • Taste - Say cheeeeeeeeeeeese! No other plant-based food "says 'cheese'" as loud nutritional yeast. This flavor is well known as "umami", a component characteristic of rich, satisfying, salty dishes. Use it to make vegan cheddar, parmesan, nacho, and other cheeses! 
  • Cost/convenience - Find nutritional yeast at almost any health-food grocery store, or do it like me and order it through Amazon! I buy the 2-pack for just over $10, and with a Prime membership, my package is on my doorstep in 2-3 days. Once I open it, nutritional yeast goes on just about everything savory I eat - pasta salads, sandwiches, veggie bowls, and more. Mix it into hummus for a quick and easy "cheese" sauce, or check out this veggie-packed recipe from Simple Vegan Blog. 

I hope this helped explain my love for nutritional yeast, and maybe even sparked some interest in you. Give it a try and don't let the strange name freak you out - it's delicious, packed with essential vitamins for both vegans and non-vegans, inexpensive, and easy to add to any meal. As always, if you have any other questions/comments/suggestions, leave them below or send them over in an email. Thanks for reading! 

My Must-Haves

Haley HansenComment

Hi there! I put together a short(ish) list of the foods I always keep on hand. I'm still a college student, so one of my number one priorities when shopping is sticking to my budget. Following a vegan diet and eating plenty of whole foods keeps me easily at or under that budget! Most of this list is composed of whole foods, like seasonal produce and whole grains, but I made sure to include my favorite treats! Let's get started:

  1. Bananas - this fruit is a special one. I have at least one almost every single day - whether in a smoothie, a smoothie bowl (what some of us like to call "nice cream"), sliced on top of dairy-free yogurt, or simply slathered in peanut butter. Here are the basics when it comes to banana-nutrition: high-carb (the GOOD KIND) and low-calorie (about 150 per banana). You also may have heard that "the browner, the better", which is true for digestion and taste. When a banana browns, its starch naturally turns to sugar (inulin becomes fructose), making them even sweeter and easier to digest. On the non-nutrition-related hand, bananas are inexpensive and versatile. I use them from smoothies to donuts, and almost everywhere in between!  
  2. Fruits & veggies - I know that's a broad range, and not very specific of me, but that's only because I try to buy whatever produce is in season. Doing so keeps my diet full of variety and color, and my wallet full of cha-ching (more or less). In the summer, I love peaches, nectarines, and melons, as well as berries for smoothie bowls, zucchini, bell peppers, and cucumbers. During the fall and winter months, I'm all about apples, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, and pumpin (#pumpkineverything). Contrary to popular belief, filling your diet with fruits and vegetables doesn't have to be expensive! Even buying organic can be affordable for us college students. My go-to for groceries is Trader Joe's, but I also pop into Food 4 Less a few times each month, and Whole Foods if I ever need a special treat. Check out Cookie + Kate for seasonal produce guides!
  3. Plant-based protein powder - I always have protein powder on hand. Like, a l w a y s. Ka'Chava Tribe is my absolute favorite - I first tried a sample last year and have been buying it ever since. Click here to read all about ingredients and nutrition facts. Almost every morning, I add a scoop of this powder to smoothies/smoothie bowls for extra flavor and protein (duh). While a vegan diet can easily supply close to every single essential nutrient on a daily basis, protein is the one nutrient I've found I could use more of, which is why protein powder is a staple in my diet. Aside from smoothies, I add protein powder to protein snack balls, dairy-free yogurt, and sometimes even baked goods. Use my code hungryyhaley10 for $10 off your first Ka'Chava Tribe order!
  4. Nuts/nut butters - What in the world would I do without nut butter? Eat dry toast? Plain bananas? Life would be so... bland. Of all the varieties, peanut butter is my favorite - slathered on toast or a banana, mixed into cookies, paired with homemade jam for a nostalgic lunch - but any/every nut butter is packed with vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like healthy fats and protein. Some of my go-to brands are Crazy Richard's and Wild Friends. If neither of those are on the shelves of your local grocery store, check Amazon or just opt for any jar free of hydrogenated oils, added sugar, and other strange ingredients. 
  5. Tempeh/tofu - Another significant source of protein in my diet - my beloved tempeh and tofu. Only a little over a year ago did I start incorporating these soy-based foods into my diet. Between then and now, I've eaten them raw, baked, fried, grilled, and pan-seared (my favorite). Yes, they are both soy products, and no, I haven't experienced any health problems eating them, which is probably because I don't eat them every single day nor am I allergic. What are they? Tempeh is a patty made of fermented, whole soybeans (and sometimes grains like rice or quinoa), and tofu is the curd that forms from making soy milk, also pressed into a patty. Nutritionally, tempeh is the optimal source between the two for protein, and is thicker, more hearty in texture. Tofu comes in a variety of forms - soft, firm, extra firm, etc. When buying tofu, I usually reach for firm. However, tempeh wins it all in my book!
  6. Greens - Spinach, kale, and spring mix almost always have a guaranteed spot in my grocery cart. Loaded with essential nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, greens deserve to be a main component of a healthy diet. Specifically, greens carry vitamins A, C, and E, which all play roles in eyesight, skincare and immune function. Their thin-walled plant structure prevents them from storing high amounts of carbohydrates, so for those in need of low-sugar foods, eat your greens! When I'm cooking and plating my food, I always start with a handful of greens as my base, no matter what I'm eating. Even classics like veggie burgers (with or without the bun) and pasta can still be delicious atop a mound of fresh, crisp leafy greens! 
  7. Beans - beans, beans, the musical fruit... you know the rest. The more you eat, the more protein, fiber, iron, calcium and other essential nutrients you'll absorb! I used to hate beans... like, I couldn't eat a bowl of soup if I knew it had the tiniest cup of beans in it. Upon going vegan (well, vegetarian first and then vegan, to be specific), however, I knew I couldn't just eat tofu and protein powder all day everyday, so I mustered up as much courage as I could find and forced myself to get used to them. After a month or so, I actually really enjoyed them! Beans are a part of my everyday diet, whether pureed into hummus, tossed into salads, or ground up into veggie burgers. And one can at the grocery store costs less than a dollar! My budgeting peeps, are you listening?!
  8. Whole grains - In my book, whole grains includes bread. Just sayin'. My pantry is home to loads of brown rice, quinoa, oats, cereals like Weetabix, muesli, granola, and even pasta. For so long, I feared grains because I believed that carbs - even the least-processed ones - would make me gain weight. Wrong! Soon enough, I learned that - especially on a plant-based diet - whole grains are essential. Most plant-based foods (besides soy and quinoa) contain "incomplete proteins", meaning they don't hold all nine amino acids our body needs in order to build muscle and carry out other basic life functions. To "complete" the protein, it must be paired with another incomplete plant-based protein. Beans + rice, nut butter + bread, and several other combinations make complete proteins. 
  9. Dairy-free milk - Coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, cashew milk, almond milk - there's a dairy-option for everyone to dip cookies in, to blend into smoothies, to wash down that Saturday-morning stack of pancakes, or whatever it is for which traditional milk is so cherished. I've found cashew milk, coconut milk, and almond milk as my favorites, and neither of them typically cost more than three dollars. Look for brands void of carrageenan, natural flavors (unless stated as vegan, it most likely comes from an animal), and little to no added sugar. 
  10. Hummus/condiments/dressings - Hummus? Every time. Hummus always. Always do hummus. Dipping, spreading, blending, spooning - hummus is perfect. One of my favorites is Trader Joe's Eggplant Hummus. Free of oil and weird additives, this stuff carries nothing to question. Trader Joe's is also home to this insanely delicious Tahini Sauce - make it into a dressing using the recipe from my ebook! As for other condiments and dressings, I love love love spicy mustard, organic ketchup (try Woodstock Foods), dressings like Follow Your Heart, Hilary's Eat Well, and Annie's Homegrown
  11. Treats - this is where I let my sweet tooth shine. Before I went vegan, cheese and yogurt were the hardest for me to give up, and for almost 8 months, I avoided all vegan versions of them. Why? I have no idea. A few months ago, I tried Nancy's Cultured Soy Yogurt and almost cried realizing what I'd been depriving myself of for so long! Now, I can't go a day without a tub of that, plus some vegan cheese (like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Chao) and plain cream cheese (Daiya is my favorite), in my fridge. Oh, and who can forget dairy-free ice cream?! Of course, Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy always holds a special place in my heart, but I recently discovered Coconut Bliss Ginger Cookie Caramel and SoDelicious Salted Caramel Cluster (can you tell I like caramel?). Sure, these products can be a bit pricey, but they're treats! And the rest of my grocery cart is full of inexpensive buys, so I can afford to "splurge". 
  12. Beverages - Besides water, the only other liquids I'll put in my body are coffee, tea, and kombucha (again, with the occasional treat). I keep medium-dark roast coffee beans on hand, as well as a grinder, for mornings when I know I'll have to brew my own cup. Typically all I need is just a splash of dairy-free milk and sprinkle of cinnamon, but if I need a little extra kick, I stir in some cacao powder and maple syrup for a homemade mocha. Caffeine and I have had a love-hate relationship - I either drank too much too often, or I'd go days without it, swearing to never drink another cup - but we're finally in a peaceful state where I don't feel addicted, but at the same time, I do crave it often. Tea is more of a night-time thing for me - a cup of chamomile or peppermint before bed makes me a happy girl. 

That's about it for me! My grocery list changes a bit every week, but I stick to these basics, for the most part. Thanks for reading - feel free to leave questions/comments/suggestions down below, or shoot me an email. Check out my ebook for more budget-friendly grocery lists!

The Sugar Experiment: Conclusion

Haley Hansen1 Comment

I know, I know, I'm a tad bit late, but you guys know I'm a student and, unfortunately, this blog comes in second place to school. 

Anyway, I wanted to end my Sugar Experiment with a big ol' wrap-up post sharing my observations and whatnot. Let's get started! 

First of all, I'd like to reinforce how important my sweet-tooth is to me. I do NOT ignore it, so this experiment was a challenge at first. When I found myself craving some dessert at night, I'd reach for my usual - a Clif Bar (which I stick a few chocolate chips into and pop in the microwave) - but then turn it over and find lots of added sugar. If you're eating one right now, don't be alarmed and don't spit it out. Of all the added sugars out there, Clif Bar knows to pick all organic ones like brown rice syrup and cane syrup, in reasonable amounts. I even forgot about added sugar in the healthiest of cereals on the shelf, and felt a little deprived when I couldn't crack open one of the four boxes I just bought. 

After a few days, I picked up the habit of checking the ingredient list on pretty much everything I ate. Thank goodness Larabars don't add anything unnecessary! I reached for those, date-coconut rolls, and fresh fruit when I felt a cravings for sugar coming on. 

Bottom line - sugar is really good at hiding. Well, maybe food manufacturers are just good at hiding it. 

I did notice a few other noteworthy things: 

  • my skin cleared up after a few days - I don't eat a ton of added sugar, so I was kind of surprised to think that maybe the small I do eat causes these breakouts. That, however, doesn't take into account the amount of stress I'm under, the amount of water I drink, and just my skin type in general. 
  • I felt FULL and SATISFIED after eating the sugar-heavy foods I normally eat, even in larger amounts. Dates, bananas, apples, strawberries, dried fruit, etc. - these are my go-to choices for snacks, especially late at night. Unlike ice cream and candy, these actually filled me up relatively quickly. Why? FIBER! 
  • my energy level wasn't drastically different than usual, as I don't eat much added sugar on a normal basis anyway, but I did notice that I felt more sustained throughout my day. Every once in a while, I feel myself hitting the mid-afternoon wall and I like to reach for Trader Joe's ginger chews or coconut milk caramels, which are basically nothing but sugar. While they do make my sweet tooth happy, they also make me feel tired and eventually crave even more processed sugar than I did before. 

And that's a big component of my main point here - the sugar in whole, plant-based foods is not identical to the heavily-processed ones because it comes woven with magical fiber. Fiber prevents blood sugar from spiking because it slows down digestion of sugar. Processed sugar found in candy, cake, cookies, etc. is stripped of its fiber content, which allows the body to digest it quickly while spiking blood sugar, as well. 

I did not gain any or lose any weight this, even though I probably ate more than usual. I also didn't track my calories, which may have been a good idea... I'll keep that in mind for next time. 

We demonize all forms of sugar and place crowns on high-fat, protein-rich animal products because we've identified certain forms of sugar that makes us fat and sick, yet we continue to generalize. Xia Yang, co-author of a new UCLA study analyzing the effects of fructose, finds that Americans get the majority of their fructose intake from high-fructose corn syrup, which is the secret, sickening ingredient in sodas, desserts, and other highly processed treats. Fructose is also found in fruits, but she reminds us that this fructose still reaps its high fiber content (among other essential nutrients), which helps slow the body's absorption of the sugar, as well as protect the brain and body. Read the entire article here.

I'm not a doctor or scientific researcher, but I can still recognize the different sugars and their effects on my body. This is no qualified medical study, but it still reinforces the need for distinction between processed sugar and natural sugar. The two do not deserve to be lumped together (unless of course it be by tastefully combining them into a dessert like a strawberries and cream cupcake, or banana bread) from a health standpoint because they perform differently in the body. 

Like I said in my original post, this is by no means the end of my sweet tooth - that guy is one of my best friends :) This is simply an experiment to help me better understand my body and its response to various foods. I still crave brownies and cookies and cake, occasionally, and I won't try to silence those cravings because I know that doing so will only lead to bigger, stronger cravings down the road. Now that I've researched the different types of sugar and have a better understanding of their effects in my body, as well as their prevalence in several varieties of even the healthiest processed foods, I'm more equipped to make better choices when those cravings do come. I'm more comfortable with defending whole foods/plant-based, high-carb/low-fat diets.

I encourage you to conduct your own version of a sugar experiment! Maybe you resist the little processed guy for a longer period of time and find results beyond my own - hey, we can collaborate! I've love to hear from you - share your opinion or your findings with sugar down below or send me an email. Follow me on Instagram if you don't already to see what a vegan college student - one who does not worry about the sugar in whole, plant-based foods - eats on a daily basis. 

Thank you for reading! See you soon :) 

The Sugar Experiment: Update

Haley HansenComment

Hello! If you didn't read my last post, here's a little summary: 

I'm testing out my own version of a sugar-detox. Why? Because I want to see how processed sugars - agave, coconut sugar, turbinado sugar, cane sugar, etc. - affect my body. Just about every sugar-detox article I found told me to cut out all fruits, veggies, and starches (including grains and beans) and replace them with meat, dairy, fish, etc. NOPE. Why would I do that? Sure, sugar (I'm speaking generally here) isn't the best for you, but aren't animal products loaded with fat and cholesterol worse? YEPP. 

That being said, it's been two days since I began this and I'm coming to some realizations...

  1. This experiment really sounds more like a transition to whole, plant-based foods - a transition I've half-way completed - than a sugar-detox, though I'm still eating some slightly refined grains like Ezekiel bread/tortillas, whole-grain sourdough bread, and whole-grain pasta. I LOVE sourdough bread and have never felt adverse side effects after eating it. If you're curious about what makes sourdough bread and the Ezekiel stuff so special click on those words.
  2. Manufacturers add sugar to so many foods - sweet chili sauce, almond milk, some rice cakes and bread, and the list goes on. I just bought five boxes some of the healthiest cereals I could find, and even Weetabix has a tiny bit of cane sugar. My favorite weeknight dessert - Clif Bars - are relatively healthy, as they're made with all organic ingredients like brown rice crisps, soy protein, and rolled oats, but the company still adds brown rice syrup in addition to the date paste to keep the bars sweet. Ugh. 
  3. When it came to cravings, I found that I sometimes no longer craved dessert at all when I remembered that my go-to's have added sugar. For example, I'd look forward to a late-night Clif Bar or scoop of Ben & Jerry's almond milk pints, remind myself of the sugar content and think of alternatives, and then feel my appetite disappear when the only thing I had on hand was plain dates. Additionally, I noticed that, on days when I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before, I thought about sugary foods more often and had a bigger appetite in general. Read more here about how sleep and the hunger hormone, leptin, work together to control appetite.

As each day passes, especially today, I consider cutting this experiment down to one week instead of two. Why? Because, as I and a few of my followers have pointed out, this is basically more of a focus on whole foods than a sugar cleanse, which is fine, but I don't eat much processed sugar anyway. I considered more about what could come from this experiment - what I could learn and what I could demonstrate for others - and, if anything, I just want this to prove (as many other vegans already have) that eating natural sugars/starches, like those from whole fruits, veggies, beans, and grains, doesn't adversely affect health. 

Bottom line: not all sugar acts the same in our bodies! Think about it - how could the untouched fructose (not to mention loads of other macro- and micronutrients) in bananas, sweet potatoes, brown rice, beans, and apples (among others) work identical to highly refined white powdered sugar sprinkled on brownies and cakes and lemon bars in our bodies if they look nothing alike outside of it? 

Calories are NOT created equally, and that includes sugar. I'm listening to an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman as he speaks about all things health, and noticing again that few people of influence in the health field make clear distinctions when it comes to sugar. Dr. Hyman condemned sweet breakfast cereals, and rightfully so, but didn't remind us that sugar from whole, plant-based foods - I'll say that again: whole, plant-based foods - is different. It's okay. It's HEALTHY, with a capital H E A L T H Y. 

Again, if you have any questions, opposing or agreeing comments, links to articles, etc. leave them below! This can be a learning experience for so many of us. See you in a few days! Until then, keep up with me on Instagram - @hungryhaley - and tag #hungryhaley to show me any of your re-creations :) 

The Sugar Experiment

Haley Hansen3 Comments

"Sugar-free", I guess you could call it. It being my decision to cut out sugar for a while. How long is "a while"? Well, I haven't figured that out yet, but I'll let you know by the end of this post. 

WHY 

I've always been curious about sugar - the thousands of different names, their effects in the body, their origins, etc - and I've always had a sweet tooth. If you've read my story (both, I guess) then you know my relationship with food hasn't ever been very stable. One thing that has stayed consistent, however, is that sweet tooth. Thankfully, I now have a better idea about which sugars are better for me (bananas, grapes, sweet potatoes, and the like) and which are to be avoided when possible (white sugar, honey, agave, etc.) Butttttt I'm still a little lost in the forest of sugar, trying to find my way around to discover the trees to climb and those to stay away from. Some researchers tell me that whole foods, plant-based sources of sugar like fruits and veggies are beneficial and should not be limited, while others tell me that all sugar, even that from bananas and grapes and sweet potatoes, is bad. 

Whether or not you research nutrition as often as I do, you've probably heard similar claims simply because of the health issues affecting millions of Americans today. Now, I don't have diabetes or heart disease or any of those, thankfully, but you already know about my sweet tooth. Combine that little guy with my curiosity about all things food and that's how I ended up here, typing away this sugary post. 

Anyway, I'm giving this a try because I want to. I want to uncover how sugars including maple syrup, agave, turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, and the like (I'll add them to the list when I find them) act in my own body. I will NOT be eliminating any whole fruits, vegetables, or grains from my diet. Bread? Maybe. Ezekiel tortillas? Maybe. Again, I'll let you know. 

I'm researching articles written by doctors or anyone else who has partaken in a sugar detox and much of what I'm reading insists on cutting out most, if not all, fruits, starches, and grains. Yeah, well, as a vegan, those things are my life, so that's not going to happen. I've never had any problems digesting whole grains like oats, rice, or quinoa, and whole fruits and veggies are, like I said, LIFE. They provide so many vitamins and minerals, not to mention macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fiber, so why would I knock them out of my diet and add in dairy, meat, fish, and eggs (all of which have caused problems in my body before)? 

Think about it - these websites are telling me to cut out every food containing gluten, grains, beans, and anything containing fruit. What in the world would a vegan eat? Kale? Spinach? Literally just vegetables. HAHAHA no. 

I'm going to sum up one of the main points of veganism right now - we eat fruits and vegetables and grains and beans (everything these articles condemn) because they give us energy mainly in the form of carbohydrates, as well as protein, fiber, and healthy fats when consumed in their whole-food form. A non-vegan diet, especially one heavy in animal products, provides those nutrients, too, but in the opposite order, and those nutrients come in the form of another being's carcass, out of which it's life has sucked. I know that may sound harsh, but it's the truth. I'm vegan because I don't want to put that in my body, nor do I want to encourage others to do so. I want LIFE, so why would I feed myself another being's form of death? 

Maybe I'm not taking on a "real" sugar detox, then, so I should probably just call it something else. Any ideas? We'll figure that out later. 

Another reason I'm not cutting out fruits, especially the really sugary ones like dates and bananas and grapes (among others), is because I understand when my body has had enough. My sweet tooth can handle a lot of sugar, but it's limit is reasonable and easy for me to identify. In other words, I do get sick of sugar sometimes. 

I'm cutting out the processed sugars I previously listed because I've heard about benefits like clearer skin, better digestion, increased energy, and sharper mental functioning, not just limited to these, though. What's unfortunate here is that I just remembered the four brand new boxes of cereal in my pantry. Dang it. 

Hmmm, I'm thinking about a suitable name for this "detox" or "cleanse" or whatever, and it seems like a simple reset back to more whole foods. Like I said, I'm not kissing my sourdough bread, dates, bananas, rice, beans, or oats goodbye. Call me "weak" if you want, but I know that they don't cause any harm in my body. If you have any useful information or comments (opposing or not) about those foods, let me know below or via email. My tentative decision for the amount of time for this experiment is two weeks. Tentative... 

Soooo I think that sums everything up! I'm so excited for so many reasons. This is not the end of my sweet tooth, but rather the beginning of a better understanding of how it works in my body :) keep up with me on instagram and here, on my WIAW posts, and 365 Days of Gratitude :) I'll post regularly specifically regarding the sugar experiment - oooooh that's a good name! - here. 

BAM. Can't wait! 

Plant-Based Lunch Ideas

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I've teamed up with Sydney (@syd_healthynfit) and Mary (@upbeetandkaleingit) for a lunch post! With all the questions we hear about how to meal-prep or pack lunches/dinners/snacks (especially for students) on a plant-based lifestyles, we couldn't help it!

Here's my favorite packed lunch: 

2 slices cracked wheat sourdough bread
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. hummus
1/2 avocado, mashed
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 zucchini, chopped and steamed
1 tomato, sliced thinly
spinach or lettuce
Optional: mustard, spices, hot sauce, vegan cheese, etc.

  1. You know how to assemble a sandwich, right? Good, then we can stop here and move on. 

This is my go-to meal because 1) sandwiches pack and stay well in my backpack, 2) it doesn't involve much actual cooking, and 3) I feel perfectly satisfied with this sandwich and an apple for lunch. I always pack a few extras like an apple, some carrots, and a chewy sweet That's It fruit bar, just in case I need something sweet :) 

Here's Sydney's favorite: 

1/2 cup brown rice
1/4 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup black beans
dash of liquid amino
1/2 avocado with turmeric powder 

I love this lunch because it is a great balance of complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein. The mixture of the brown rice and legumes gives you a complete protein source and keeps your hunger at bay throughout your day. The avocado also helps in keeping you full and giving your body those healthy brain fats that they need everyday, especially in school. You can always substitute the grain for a different grain or pick a different protein, but this is by far one of my favorite combinations. Quick, easy, and delicious!

Here's Mary's favorite: 

1/2 cup Black Bean & Quinoa Pasta
1/3 cup Garbanzo Beans
1/4 cup Marinara Sauce
1/2 Large Sweet Potato
Steamed Kale

I love this on the go lunch because it's easy to eat in between classes and it's super delicious. Black bean & quinoa pasta with garbanzo beans and marinara sauce is a delicious and easy combination to put together. Adding some sort of green is always a must in my lunches and I love steaming organic kale in vegetable broth! Sweet potatoes add substance and balance out the savory foods. I have one piece of fruit in addition to this, which usually happens to be a banana. This lunch is versatile too. You could swap out the pasta with brown rice or quinoa, and it would still taste awesome. If you're not a kale fan, swiss chard would be super yummy! Same with the sweet potato, you could definitely opt for a russet potato, perhaps with a little guac on top.

We hope this helps with packing healthy, plant-based lunches! Most importantly, get creative and listen to what your body craves. 

Thanks for reading! 

Just Vegan

Haley HansenComment

I've been vegan for almost 5 months and have experimented with just about every branch of veganism out there. At first, I simply replaced the yogurt and eggs I ate with more fruits, veggies, and grains, but as I immersed myself more in the culture of veganism and discovered various bloggers and their lifestyles, I became curious about High Carb Low Fat (HCLF), Raw Til 4, Starch Solution, etc. 

Raw Til 4 jumped out at me most because the idea of eating raw, hydrating fruits and vegetables first in the day and saving my grains, starchy veggies, and beans for later on intrigued me. Of course, I just had to give it a try, and after doing some research, I was eating buckets of salads and more fruit than I ever have. I loved it! Raw Til 4 encouraged me to eat, eat, eat and not worry about the carbohydrates, but rather focus on getting sufficient calories each day. There were even a few times when about 18-20 dates constituted an entire meal - part of me LOVED that, and the other part felt a little strange consuming that much sugar in one sitting. In one day, for that matter. After about a week, I didn't want to buy that many bananas, nor could I fit that many into my belly for breakfast. I didn't want to bring three tupperware containers of salad with me for lunch everyday. I didn't want to have to consume three to four plates of rice and potatoes and beans for dinner each night just to make sure I hit my calorie goal. This part was hard to admit, but I also noticed that my weight was dropping pretty quickly, my joints were aching, and I was more tired than usual, and that combination terrified me. 

So, I transitioned into a kinda/sorta combination of Starch Solution and HCLF. While it did feel more balanced and "normal" than Raw Til 4, I still found myself feeling somewhat restricted and labeled. The common guideline for a HCLF diet is 80/10/10, meaning 80% of one's calories should come from carbohydrates, 10% from fats, and the remaining 10% from protein. The days of obsessive calorie-counting immediately came to mind, but I tried my hardest to push them out because I wanted to experiment more with everything under the vegan umbrella. I didn't count my calories, but I probably should have, because I definitely wasn't consuming enough protein for my activity level. On the bright side, my skin cleared up in the blink of an eye! 

But HCLF/Starch Solution didn't last long, and soon enough I discovered the beautiful, decadent indulgence of vegan cake, cookies, brownies, etc. In other words, I found heaven on earth, pretty much. Oh man, I could eat this junk everyday... if it didn't make me feel like junk, that is. I still ate relatively healthy, but I definitely let myself loose when I heard anything about pizza or falafel or vegan cheese. Soon enough, I realized my jeans weren't fitting quite like they used to, some unfamiliar pimples were making themselves comfortable on my chin and cheeks, and my workouts didn't feel as energetic as they used to. 

Which brings me here. Where is here? Well, "here" is in my room, munching on one of the cashew butter cookie dough bites I made last week, while simultaneously dipping some mini granola bars from Graze into a jar of peanut butter #doublefisting. I'm ditching the vegan prefixes and trading them in for a more relaxed lifestyle. Now, I'm NOT saying that anyone who follows those lifestyles is crazy and restrictive or weird or whatever - props to them for finding a specific lifestyle they love! All I'm saying is that those aren't for me. I've gone in waist-deep in each of their waters, which is exactly what I wanted to do. Without having experimented with Raw Til 4, HCLF, and Starch Solution, I may not have finally found this place of balance, this happy-medium. 

Again, I'm not bashing those branches of veganism in any way - I know tons of people who seem happy as can be following a fully raw, raw til 4, starch solution, HCLF, or whatever it may be kind of lifestyle. I've just learned that sometimes I like oatmeal in the morning, and sometimes I like heaps of peanut butter along with that. I like the blank palette of veganism just the way it is :) I also wanted to post this for those of who are transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and to encourage you to, above all, do what works for you, what YOU love most. Just because a million vegan girls are posting pretty pictures of their fruit plates of mangoes and bananas and dates and papaya for breakfast doesn't mean you can't post a picture of your oatmeal muffins, your PB & J, or your mouth-watering vegan-cheesy pizza, for that matter! On the other hand, don't be ashamed of your simple vegan salad if you're surrounded by deep-fried donuts, massive burritos, or thick slices of sugary cake. 

Just be vegan, and be your kind of vegan. MY kind of vegan includes coconut-date rolls and peanut butter, tofu quiche and veggie calzones, baked, caramelly, mushy sweet potatoes, and LOTS of nice cream :) I'm eating happily ever after and loving every minute of it!

What I Pack In A Day

Haley HansenComment

Don't you just love those days when you're on campus allllllllll day and late into the night? Don't you love them even more when you forget to bring snacks/meals along with you? 

I never let myself leave the house without at least a snack for later on in the day, and if I know that I'll be gone for a while, I pack something more substantial. Here are some of my go-to packed meals and snacks for long days on campus! 

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  1. Lunch - baked potato wedges/fries and tempeh - I bake the potato wedges either the night before or in the morning before I leave, and cook the tempeh in thin slices in a nonstick pan without oil until each side gets a nice brown color to it. Then just pack them both in a tupperware container and I'm ready to go! I love bringing homemade ketchup, hummus, or sometimes even salsa to dip them in, too. 
  2. Snacks - fruit fruit fruit! Haha, "fruit snacks"? Apples and grapes are my absolute favorite choices - I love how hydrating and sweet they are. Just in case I need a little extra protein, I bring a granola of some sort, usually Larabars. 
  3. Dinner - rice, veggies, and beans. That's my go-to meal, my friends. While it may sound boring, adding something as simple as tahini dressing, hummus, avocado, soy sauce, etc. makes this packable dinner so good and so easy! I steam broccoli, carrots, and zucchini, open a can of beans, and scoop out some rice and BAM I'm all done. Oh, but don't forget to pack some flavorful sauce in a little tupperware container. 

If you have any other questions or need some more ideas, email me or comment below! Thanks for reading :) 

Hungry For My Period - How I'm Regaining It

Haley Hansen1 Comment

I haven't had my period in 18 months (since of August of 2014), and haven't experienced a regular period (a menstrual cycle that comes each month) since probably the summer of 2012. Those two years between 2012 and 2014 are defined by my rapid weight loss, eating disorder, and eventual weight gain. However, since my last period, I've been pushing it's absence to the back of my mind and trusting/convincing myself that it will come on its own, buuuuuuut it hasn't.

After days of thinking and praying about what to do to regain my period, I've decided to dive deep into the science behind it. Man, I've missed research :) #imanerd #nerdlyfe. I came across this website and it's article "The Natural Fertility Diet: How to Eat for Optimal Fertility" and have decided to follow it's guidelines as best I can. 

If you've read the article, you've noticed the emphasis on animal products like eggs, dairy, and grass-fed meat. Even though the authors provide evidence for the benefits of these foods, I still choose to avoid them because I know that the essential nutrients they hold can be found just as easily in plant-based foods. 

My doctor and tons of nutrition articles/websites have always told me that I just need to gain more weight and fat in order to regain my period, but I've realized that won't do the trick. "Fat" girls may still have irregular periods, due to excessive weight gain, eating disorders, heavy stress, and other factors, according to WebMD. While rest and weight gain may be my keys to regulating my period, I want to do so in the healthiest way possible, which is why I will be following The Fertility Diet as close as I can. 

When it comes to exercise, my first thought was that I should just stop working out until my period comes, but I struggled with that idea A LOT because exercise is one of the most important parts of my day. About two days after this thought, my period came! It was very light and didn't last long, but I still took it as a good sign. I told myself I'd take a week off from intense exercise, but by the third day I was practically going insane, so I went for a run. I'm exercising because a) I had at least a little bit of a period, so it's definitely near in sight and b) regaining my period involves more than just weight gain - it's about de-stressing for hormonal balance and eating a well-balanced, sustainable diet, like The Fertility Diet. 

I know that one of my New Year's Resolutions was to transfer my relaxation from running/weight-lifting/HIIT/etc. to God's peace, and I'm still working towards that goal. However, I've realized that life is about balance in so many ways, and it's perfectly fine for me to find peace and relaxation in areas other than just communication with God. That only becomes potentially problematic when I prioritize those areas above my faith. That being said, I went for a long, exhausting, run today AND began my day with a tall glass of water and Jesus Calling with my mama :) couldn't have asked for anything more! 

Anyway, I just wanted to provide a little update on my progress and plans to regain my period! Here's more of a breakdown: 

  • Exercise -
    • Short-term: I planned to take a full week off, but then my period miraculously came, so I took two days off and couldn't stand it anymore - I needed to run.
    • Long-term: (these are tentative plants) two rest-days per week; more weight-training
  • Diet 
    • Short-term: very few processed foods, only sourdough/sprouted-grain/whole-grain bread and flours occasionally; including more fats 
    • Long-term: slightly more processed foods, only to satisfy cravings; fewer added oils, but more whole-food fats; focus on vitamins from whole foods 
  • Stress 
    • Short-term: light exercise, as mentioned before; delayed release of ebook; reprioritization
    • Long-term: constant communication with God; more quiet- and alone-time; heavier focus on Hungry Haley, rather than with YouTube videos, Instagram posts, etc. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, PLEASE feel free to leave them below or email me. Thanks for reading! :)

Vegan in College - Why It's The Best Choice

Haley Hansen1 Comment

"I could never go vegan, "... "Isn't it hard in college?"... "I don't know how you do it!"

The three phrases I hear most from my peers. 

I just came across an article from Forks Over Knives titled "Why College Is The Best Time to Go Vegan" and couldn't resist the urge to elaborate in agreement with everything :) 

1. ENERGY LEVEL - hmm... what's the word? THROUGH THE ROOF! I'm not talking like uncontrollable, but the perfect amount to wake me up early in the morning for a workout, survive at least six hours of class or work everyday, and fall asleep soundly every single night. But if I'm not convincing enough, ask Brendan Brazier about his studies with professional athletes who eat plant-based diets. Or read these "5 Reasons It Rocks to be a Vegan Athlete" on One Green Planet.  Also, looking to build muscle? No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no problem. 

I just found as I started eating better and cleaner I did really well with not eating animal products. My recovery was so much better. My flexibility was so much better. I became a better athlete.
— Brendan Brazier, former Ironman Triathlete and two-time ultramarathon champion

2. IMMUNE STRENGTH - plants are bursting with phytonutrients, which are little powerhouses found only in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They strengthen the immune system to fight off harmful compounds called "free radicals". In fruit, they're known to protect cell damage, internally and externally, and support collagen to keep joints and bones pain-free. In vegetables and grains, they're best known for cancer-fighting properties. Click here for more information from The World's Healthiest Foods. 

3. NO RESTRICTIONS - three cheers for this one! Seriously, "vegans tend to weigh about 18% less than the average American, even while eating as much as they need to", according to the article I'm referring to in this post. Don't believe me? Check out what Amanda from applesandamandas  or Steph Yu from happyandhealthy96, or this girl from Cheap Lazy Vegan eats in a day! When we cut out meat, we also cut out tons of calories and fat and protein, so it's important to accept and embrace the idea of eating more! Calorie-deficiency can be common when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, so here are some resources to be sure you're eating enough: 

4. LESS EXPENSIVE - want to know how much I spend on groceries each week? About $35-$40. THAT'S IT! Here's what I buy: 

  • 2-3 heads of romaine lettuce 
  • 1 bag of spinach 
  • 2-3 heads of broccoli or cauliflower 
  • 1 bag of carrots 
  • 4-5 zucchini 
  • 4 apples 
  • 2 bags of grapes 
  • Cantaloupe or honeydew (sometimes)
  • 1 avocado 
  • 1 bag of frozen fruit or veggies
  • 6-7 potatoes (or a really big bag) 
  • 1 container of mushrooms 
  • 1 can of beans or lentils, or a block of tempeh
  • 1 loaf of bread (sourdough or whole wheat) 

Occasionally, I buy some dates, granola bars, vegan cookies, or appetizing frozen meals from Trader Joe's, but I still manage to keep my grocery trips under $45 dollars. Peanut butter, potatoes, rice, and beans are some of the least expensive foods available, and they're totally welcomed in the a vegan lifestyle. Here are 6 more tips from Care2 Healthy Living and more from This Rawsome Vegan Life. Basically, buy in bulk, shop farmers' markets, and cook at home as much as possible. College students, you can't deny this one! 

5. CABRS ARE FRIENDS AND FOOD - yes, you heard me. Carbohydrates are our bodies' main fuel source, and those found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans will NOT turn into fat as easily as we've been fooled into thinking. The results of this study prove that de novo lipogenesis, the body's process of turning carbohydrates into fat, is very uncommon, as carbohydrates are the main source of fuel and are burned off easier than fats are. Focus on the complex carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

So, how do you feel now? Even you're out of college or not there yet, these same reasons to vegan are still beneficial. Who doesn't want to save money, not get sick as much, have more energy, eat as much (healthy) as desired, and enjoy carbs? 

If you're still questioning veganism, that's okay! Keep researching and ask questions and, most importantly, discovering what works best for YOU. Whether you like Starch Solution, Rawtil4, Junk Food Vegan (not recommended), or Whole Foods, there's something out there that is meant for your body type and preferences - no animal products required :) 

My Grocery List - What I Buy, Why I Buy It, & How I Cook It

Haley HansenComment

Anybody else find grocery shopping to be relaxing? Something about strolling through the fully-stocked aisles, gazing at all they have to offer, while mentally exploring the endless possibilities of recipes I can try is somehow kind of therapeutic. I mean, come on, after a rough day at work/an overwhelming day of classes/whatever the stress-inducer may be, who doesn't want to fill their brain with thoughts of mouth-watering meals? 

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm basically a professional grocery shopper. I do it at least once a week, which I think has skilled me in several different areas and therefore constitutes a spot on my resume. Just sayin'. However, if you find yourself lost when it comes to finding/buying the right foods, and can't think of ways to use them, keep reading. I've been there, and I know how to help!

My Grocery-List "Regulars"

  • Bananas - ALWAYS. You know how you have those super short trips to the store just for one thing? Like, you need heart whole-grain bread for avocado toast, or you just really neeeeeeed that Ben & Jerry's. I make those trips all the time, and I never leave without a few bananas. 
    • Why? 
      • complex carbohydrates for fuel
      • can be used in several different types of recipes (see below)
      • inexpensive 
      • lots of potassium (maintains body's fluid balance) and vitamin B-6
      • delicious, duh
      • ever heard of a prebiotic?
    • How I use them:
      • Frozen for protein shakes/nice cream, OBVI. 
      • Sliced up for PB & B toast. 
      • Extra ripe for baking (my favorite). 
  • Fresh fruit - grapes are my favorite, but I will eat ANY fruit in front of me 
    • Why?
      • um, because why not? 
      • tons of vitamins and minerals 
      • easy to pack for meals/snacks 
      • can be found locally grown at farmers markets - the best!
      • help satisfy a sweet tooth :)
  • Protein powder (plant-based) - protein shakes are some of the easiest (and healthiest) on-the-go breakfasts. Or, replace some of the flour with protein powder when baking for extra-filling boost. 
    • Why? 
      • inexpensive (buy in bulk on amazon) 
      • quick/easy to use 
      • versatile 
      • loaded with protein for energy 
    • How I use it:
      • 95% of the time - protein shakes 
      • remaining 5% - baking breakfast goods
  • Nut-butter - does this one even need explanation? Y'all know I go crazy for a jar of peanut, almond, walnut, whatever other kind of nut-butter you give me. 
    • Why? 
      • inexpensive (buy a big jar - it lasts longer than you think) 
      • versatile (sandwiches, baking, protein shakes)
      • healthy fats, protein, and fiber
      • because why wouldn't you always buy your favorite food? 
    • How I use it: 
      • sandwiches - perfect for packing lunches 
      • toast for breakfast 
      • baking - can be substituted for butter 
  • Spinach - I'm like Popeye when it comes to spinach, I just don't look like him. Check my fridge and you'll always see a huge bag or two of spinach somewhere inside. Kind of like bananas, spinach is one of those items I buy every single time I go to the store. 
    • Why? 
      • multiple uses - salads, stir-fry's, protein shakes, scrambles, etc.
      • inexpensive
      • loaded with vitamins - A, K, folate, vitamin C - and minerals 
    • How I use it:
      • protein shakes/smoothies - throw a handful in and you won't even know it's there! 
      • stir-fry's/scrambles - toss a bunch in with veggies and eggs for added texture and more nutrients that are unlocked when spinach is heated 
      • sandwiches and salads - there's always room for spinach! 
  • Beans - soybeans (edamame), black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans - I use and love them all! Fun fact: I used to hate them. Boy, how time has changed! 
    • Why?
      • inexpensive (notice a pattern here?) 
      • long-lasting 
      • versatile 
      • fiber and plant-based protein - woo hoo! 
    • How I use them: 
      • salads - combine with veggies and quinoa, brown rice, or whole-grain pasta for a week's worth of packable lunches
      • hummus - dip, baby dip (your vegetables), or spread it on whole-grain bread for a nut-butter alternative. Here's my quick version with avocado!
      • baking - say whaaaaat? yeah, dude. BLACK BEAN BROWNIES. 
      • burritos and tacos - taco-tuesday and burrito-everyday! who's in? 
  • Almond Milk - a protein shake's creamy necessity, a plate of freshly baked vegan cookies' best friend, or just in a glass by itself - I LOVE ALMOND MILK. I used to buy the sweetened vanilla version, but now I like the unsweetened much better because I usually end up pairing it with something super sweet anyway. 
    • Why? 
      • easier on the digestive system (no lactose, soy, or gluten)
      • more calcium than milk! 
      • can be made at home (do you have a cow to milk?)
      • same benefits as almonds
      • inexpensive 
    • How I use it: 
      • protein shakes and smoothies 
      • for dipping (burnt) PB sammies and cookies - comforts the homesick college student :) 
      • in any recipe that calls for milk
  • Tofu and/or tempeh - tempeh (the fermented soybean patty) is my favorite of the two, but it isn't always available. Tofu (blended soybeans pressed into a cube) is available almost everywhere. 
    • Why? 
      • vegan protein source - three cheers for beans! 
      • long-lasting 
      • because I don't want to eat eggs every night for dinner 
      • tempeh - fermented, which promotes gut-health 
      • both high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat
    • How I use it: 
      • stir-fry's 
      • baked
      • sauteed or seared
  • Whole-grains - I've learned to LOVE carbs, especially in the form of whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, Ezekiel bread/tortillas/english muffins, oats, and some "fancy" pastas are my favorites. As a vegetarian, I need these grains for some of my protein, but they also provide plenty of other necessary nutrients - vegetarian or not. 
    • Why? 
      • provides protein, fiber, and complex carbs
      • inexpensive (buy in bulk)
      • long-lasting
      • versatile
    • How I use them: 
      • stir-fry's 
      • salads (pasta salad, anyone?)
      • sandwiches, burritos, tacos
      • oatmeal 
      • homemade oat flour 

Again, these are just the items that end up in my cart almost every grocery-store trip - I buy other foods, not just these. I hope you noticed the pattern - most of them are pretty inexpensive and can be found at just about any grocery store, and there's no meat on the list. I'm a vegetarian, if you're new to Hungry Haley (Hi there! :) Nice to meet you), and I've found this lifestyle to be just as easy, if not easier and healthier (as well as less expensive and time-consuming) than a non-vegetarian diet. 

With all the madness of shopping for school supplies like books, pens, paper, etc., don't forget about food! Without a fridge full of nutritious grub, we wouldn't be able to survive college. At least, I know I wouldn't...

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for the next post, leave them below or email me. You can also tag me and #hungryhaley on Instagram and I'll be more than happy to help! I hope you all had a magnificent summer and are excited to start another year of school. I can't wait to be back with my Mustangs! 

 

SO, VEGAN OR NAH?

Haley HansenComment

Drum roll please! 

wait for it.... waaaaaaait for it.....

VEGAN! *cheers and applause and happy tummies and all the benefits that come with veganism*

Yepp, I'm going vegan. After a week of eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and other animal-product-free foods, and after watching a few documentaries (have you seen "101 Reasons to Be Vegan"?), I can't think of anything better for 1) me - my digestion, my skin, my energy level and more, and 2) the planet - you know what I'm talking about. 

I'm stoked to start this journey. Up until now, I'd always thought by sticking to a vegan diet, I'd have to kiss culinary excitement goodbye and variety and be forced to restrict myself to just baked potatoes and brown rice protein powder. After this week, not only did that misconception's popularity become evident, but so did its invalidity. Plain old beans, rice, veggies, and fruits make the best foundations for flavor combinations and experimentation! I've made condiments like tahini dressing and homemade ketchup, and by doing so, eliminated weird additives and chemicals.

Veganism brings with it a newfound sense of freedom. I no longer worry about carbs, because I know how much my body needs them and I'm eating the right ones. I don't track my food anymore, because I promised myself I'll listen to my body's cravings and not let "too much fat" or "too many carbs" dictate my food choices.

Oh, and I also watched one documentary - "101 Reasons to Be Vegan" - this week, which practically tugged me by the heart into everything a plant-based lifestyle has to offer. No animal cruelty, no more indigestion, no more unintentionally/unknowingly supporting factory farming, and the list goes on. I have yet to watch more documentaries, because I have yet to figure out how to add more hours in the day, but "Forks Over Knives", "Food, Inc.", and "Cowspiracy" are at the top of my must-watch list. 

To sum things up, I'm going vegan and I'm proud and pumped and NO I will not annoyingly push a vegan lifestyle on anyone. Your life = your choices. All I can do is set an example that portrays my beliefs and my life and my choices, and if others are curious to follow, then the vegan community and I welcome you with open arms and open hearts! 

Questions, comments, ideas, recipes, etc? Want to give veganism a try? Leave a comment below or email me! I'd love to share my experience and any advice I can with you :) happy eating! 

RawTil4: Just Curious

Haley Hansen1 Comment

Why RawTil4? Because I'm just curious! I read almost everything on FreeLee the Banana Girl's blog and wanted to try this myself :) 

Breakfast - 

  • somewhere around 5 bananas (probably, I didn't count) blended up into nice cream w/ a little water and a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs 
  • I had one more banana after because why not? 

Lunch - 

  • about 2 cups of (the crunchiest, juiciest) grapes and an apple
  • I saved the dates for a snack later and ate another banana, hehehe :) 

Dinner - 

Dessert - 

  • why? because there's alllllways room
  • I made some interesting pumpkin cookies the night before and, while I don't remember where I got the recipe, I kind of remember the ingredients: pumpkin, buckwheat pancake mix, graham crackers (oops), agave, coconut sugar, spices, and a touch of coconut oil :) 
  • oh, and I managed to polish off about four... in one sitting...

HOW IT WENT: Honestly, it went really well! I felt energized and focused all day - none of my meals felt heavy or greasy or protein-rich. I could tell I was hydrated (I peed like 12 times, sorry if that's TMI) and well-nourished. Towards the end of the day, I did feel hungrier than usual, so maybe I didn't eat enough for lunch? Either way, I tracked my calories to make sure I was eating enough calories and, to my surprise, I was! For now, I want to continue eating this way to see where it takes me :)