Hungry Haley

it's more than food


What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

Health, Food, Life, NutritionHaley Hansen8 Comments

A year has gone by since I began studying Intuitive Eating, and I now see that I've had the wrong idea about it for quite some time. To say that I am not an expert is an extreme understatement. I haven't even finished the book yet, so my misunderstanding is, well, understandable I think. 

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

As I sought more freedom with food and found IE, I couldn't help but share the encouragement. The number of eyes reading my blog was growing and growing, too, and the Instagram world needs some IE influence, so I wanted to do what I could to help. Dropping my vegan diet helped me take a few steps closer to food freedom, and so did eating out more frequently with friends without checking the menu beforehand, convincing my friends of a restaurant that served more salads and wraps than burgers and fries, etc. A shift in my blog's focus from recipes for all sorts of meals to specifically recipes for baked goods like cookies and cakes and whatnot pushed me a little closer still. 

Most mix-ups in my life - major or minor - are a direct result of busy-ness and this one is no different. School picked up it's pace and the blog demanded more of me, and I lost track of the Intuitive Eater I'd begun to develop. Don't get me wrong here - I've always loved burgers and burritos and donuts (to name a few things) and I bet I probably always will, but that doesn't mean that I always crave them. 

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Though my inner Intuitive Eater is highly motivated, she isn't perfectly educated on the art. Before I knew it, the highly motivated Intuitive Eater bumped into the also highly motivated Mover, and they didn't agree. My Intuitive Eater at the time wanted to prove to others that I can bake with sugar and flour and butter and it's fine, that I can eat nachos and love every bite and move on with my life. And that's wonderful. I think most of us who have struggled with food and body image need to reach that point when searching for peace with food. 

But the problem arose when I didn't understand that IE (and living) looks different for everyone. Some of the bloggers I follow don't find as much joy in intense movement and daily exercise as I do, and because they are the ones from whom I learn most of the information regarding IE, I found myself under the impression that the kind of movement I love is harmful, an obstacle to tackle in my IE journey and leave behind. 

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

Hopefully you can guess by now that I was wrong somewhere along the lines of this story. Well, I was wrong right there. IE is about restoring the body's instinctual physiological signals, cravings, etc. - rejecting the diet mentality and making peace with food and body image along the way. It's basically the definition of listening to one's own body. In no way am I claiming that these bloggers I look up to portrayed a false definition of IE - it was my misunderstanding and coming to terms with it required quieting down all the noise going on around me so that I could... well, just listen to my body. 

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

Nowhere in IE are there rules that one must eat chocolate chip cookies and nachos and donuts and blah blah blah. The ability to look beyond the nutrition facts of those foods and just enjoy them for what they are can be part of IE, most definitely. Nowhere in IE are there rules that one must only go on long walks and practice gentle yoga. On the other hand, nowhere in IE are there rules that don't allow green smoothies and kale salads and cookies made with almond flour and dates. Those, quite honestly, are some of my absolute favorite foods because my taste buds savor them and my body appreciates their metabolic function when I want to challenge myself in my preferred forms of exercise. Nowhere in IE are there rules that condemn HIIT and cycling and running. My body absolutely thrives off of these, and it knows when enough is enough and how to properly refuel. 

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

It's taken me some time (read: a whole year) to finally rest in this peaceful place of understanding because, at first, I thought all of it was a sign I hadn't grasped IE yet. I thought maybe my behaviors (enjoying the intense exercise) and desires (craving the greens and other whole foods) was a sign I was stepping back into some sort of an eating disorder. Very wrong. What's different about now vs. an eating disorder? Well, I can take rest days sometimes to sit on the couch like a potato and I feel perfectly fine. I can eat burgers and donuts when they make my mouth water and not feel the need to construct a burger that is free of carbs or extra low in fat to the point where it doesn't even taste good or look like a burger. Food doesn't stress me out. It doesn't control me. 

IE might look different for you than it does for me. Take these words for what I intend them to be - encouragement to learn more about IE, and in the process, your body + preferences + tastes + favorites + not-so-favorites, etc. Don't compare yourself, your workouts, your eating habits to someone else's. On that same note, please always remember that I am not a doctor or a registered dietitian, so take my advice with that in mind and refer to the sources I've linked below for further information. 

I hope you found this relevant, interesting, useful, or at least something positive and uplifting to your day. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and I'll see you back here next time I have something nutrition- or food-related to say! 

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

To Jeannette (@sweatysweetpotato), who has become one of my absolute best friends in the last year and a half during which we've known each other, thank you for helping me process all my thoughts, for listening, and for offering your own wisdom and advice, and for encouraging me to keep pursuing my intuition! 


The Real Life RD
Rachael Hartley

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Nutrition, Health, FoodHaley Hansen4 Comments

Allow me to set aside Nutrition-Student Haley for a second. 

Beyond the Nutrition Facts
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
— Phillippians 4:6-7, NLT

I didn't know if I wanted to write this, and if I did, I didn't know how to. But those verses practically jumped off the page at me this morning as if to say " YO I got the words you need." So, read them one or two more times, let them sink into your mind, and we'll come back to them later on. 

Many of the questions coming into my email inbox have been asking how I came to Intuitive Eating/how I found a way to... well, set aside Nutrition-Student Haley when muffins and cupcakes and nachos and pizza are on the menu. Also let me point out that I'm not a Registered Dietitian, nor do I intend to become one, but I share this because I can relate to many of the questions regarding creating a healthy relationship with food. And I don't think I need to be an RD to be able to help others create their own healthy relationship with food, too. 

I used to see food as nothing more than just a lump of calories - protein, fat, and carbohydrates - blind to the idea that food can bring actual enjoyment. Now, I sometimes see the nutrition facts, but most of my view and thoughts surrounding food are based on what my body craves in that moment. This change didn't take place overnight, but rather over the course of about a year. Timing is different for everyone, as God has a different layout for your life and my life and the next person's life. So, be patient. Be faithful. Trust. Persevere. Challenge yourself. 

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Here are the steps I took in implementing this change: 

1. DELETE THE APP: I'm talking about the calorie-counting app. Not everyone uses it, I know, but if you're reading this because you struggle with viewing food as more than calories, then chances are you've used or are still using a calorie-counting app. You are not alone, though! I used mine on and off for almost four years. Ugh. Somehow, knowing my calorie- and macronutrient-intake at the end of each day brought me a sense of comfort (but only if I didn't exceed my limits, of course). That small sense of comfort was nothing compared to the amount of stress that overwhelmed me as I frantically searched for menu items at restaurants that fit into my requirements, or when I saw that I ate "too much" fat or sugar one day, or if I didn't meet my protein requirements, etc. I couldn't take it anymore. I deleted it and had to consciously make an effort for a while to push numbers out of my mind before each meal, because using the app habitually for so many years made me a fantastic calorie-counting machine. So, step one: get rid of the damn app. 

2. EAT "RESTRICTED" FOODS: Mhm - that's right. This could also be called "facing your fears". You've heard that one before, huh? And I'll bet you've faced and conquered some of your biggest fears already - this one is no different. "Restricted" foods in my diet were fried foods, foods with refined grains and/or refined sugar, fatty meats (before I went vegan), and the list goes on. Last summer, I landed a job at this super cool donut shop - d o n u t shop - and was, for six months, constantly breathing in the luring aroma of fresh fried and glazed and hot and... tempting donuts. Sure, I was vegan at the time, but there were shelves with vegan donuts, too (still fried and made with refined flour and sugar). Our boss rewarded us hard-working employees with unlimited donuts each shift. The first few were certainly a challenge, but I wanted to prove to myself more than anything/anyone that I could eat a donut, enjoy it, and happily move on with my day. After just one donut, I didn't feel the need for anything more because I finally felt satisfied in not just the taste of the donut (which is amazing, by the way), but in allowing myself to freely enjoy something I once restricted. 

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Now that I'm no longer vegan, I'm going through a similar process all over again. I'm craving cheesy pizza, juicy burgers, rich ice cream, and cakes and donuts and so many other foods I always wanted but never trusted myself enough to just eat. I forced myself to honestly admit that I feared these foods because I thought that eating them would make me gain weight. Overcoming this was a combination of accepting that my body needed to gain weight in order to truly be healthy (i.e. regain my period, strengthen my bones, etc.) + believing that these foods have no power over me. Food is not worth fearing - doing so pulls our minds away from trusting and fearing God.

3. HAVE F U N: This process can be scary - changing the mindset, accepting a potential physical change, eating foods that (used to) evoke fear and maybe even anxiety. It sure did freak me out when I asked God for courage to begin. So, I promised myself I'd have fun with it. I'd bake cookies (butter, sugar, flour, eggs - all the good ol' real ingredients Grandma uses) and reminisce on childhood memories of Mom pulling a hot baking sheet out of the oven with warm, gooey cookies ready to be dipped in milk and devoured. I'd go out with friends and drool over nachos and pizzas and sometimes split/sometimes eat a whole ice cream cookie sandwich. I'd laugh. I'd dance. I'd talk about how GOOD whatever I'm eating tastes. After some time doing this, I noticed my friends notice my smiles and they pointed that out to me. Some of you guys even did that, too! "You seem so much happier, so much more free and... fun!" - something along the lines of what I've commonly heard. My tummy and my mind are ecstatic eating these foods I forgot I loved so much, and my heart is relishing in the freedom and joy with which these moments explode. Food doesn't have to be scary or controlling. Food SHOULD be fun and connecting and joyful. 

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Man oh man, does it feel good to write this - almost as good as nachos and buttery chocolate chip cookies feel... almost. Maybe I'm letting go of Nutrition-Student Haley more than I thought, and stepping into the most genuine, exciting version of Hungry Haley. 

I hope these tips have been helpful and I hope that, if you're feeling called, you find strength in God to take the steps necessary in accepting and embracing the body He's given you, looking beyond food's nutrition facts 24/7, and actually enjoying what you eat. 


If you're looking for more information on Intuitive Eating and body acceptance, these are my favorite bloggers: 

The Real Life RD
Emilie Eats
Constancely Eating
Winnie's Balance

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

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!

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 :)