Hungry Haley

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Seven Mindful Mental Health Tips

Health, LifeHaley Hansen4 Comments

This is my “toolbox”, if you will. I turn to at least one of these strategies on a daily basis because I’m the best version of me when my mind is clear, content, focused, and peaceful. Over the years, I’ve developed these six strategies by simply observing without judgment my reactions to certain situations and my cravings, needs, and wants throughout the day. Without them, I’d be a much less pleasant, less passionate, less productive version of me.

Silence. For at least ten minutes everyday, I need silence. I need no music, no podcasts, no conversations, no lectures. Just silence. This is my time to check in with myself: how am I feeling - both emotionally and physically? What thoughts are running through my head? Am I hungry? Full? Neutral? Do I want to move my body or just sit still and be? Sometimes I don’t even need to answer any of those questions, but rather just listen to myself. Just be present. Doing so, honestly, makes me a better person by keeping me calm, focused, and intentional.

Morning workout. Most days throughout the week, I love a tough morning workout. This feels like somewhat of a controversial topic these days, as many of us discover the joys of intuitive movement. In the five years that I struggled with my body and food and exercise, I tried almost everything - morning workouts, afternoon workouts, evening workouts, 2x/day workouts (I wouldn’t ever recommend those), and none at all. Let me give you my definition of a workout: movement that elevates my heart rate, creates a manageable “burn” in my muscles, stimulates endorphins (remember - joy), and releases energy (which I have a lot of). I love working out. I love high-intensity. I love intervals and push-ups and squat-jumps and burpees and spin classes. They bring me joy. They challenge and strengthen me, and they begin my day with a feeling of accomplishment and empowerment. It has nothing to do with my size or calorie-burn, purely a desire to move and feel good from the inside out.

Movement. Now, this is different from exercise. Here’s my distinction between exercise/workouts and movement: movement is a less-intense version of exercise in which I’m not trying to elevate my heart rate and build muscle, but rather to just get my blood flowing, bring oxygen to my brain, and stretch. I spend quite a few hours each day sitting in front of computer, so movement - walking, stretching, very light yoga (also, Wii Just Dance is a fantastic example) - is sometimes exactly what I need to clear my thoughts, stretch my legs, and stimulate some more effective brain function. This might be all I do for the day, or it might be latched onto a workout. It just kind of depends how I’m feeling on any given day.

Six Mindful Mental Health Tips

Eating well. Have you ever seen a more loaded two words? For me, to eat well is a few things. First, it is to nourish with mostly whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole-grains, and beans, and use animal food sources sparingly - this is both for my own taste preference and for environmental concern. I’ve found that I feel much better with less meat in my diet and more plant-based foods, but I don’t follow any specific vegetarian/vegan diet (because I’ve learned that doing so doesn’t keep me as mentally healthy as I am when I’m just eating without restriction). Second, it is to nourish with foods I LOVE. Things I CRAVE and want and drool over and get (weirdly, some might say) excited about. I’m talking about sweets here - you know, those stupidly good blondies I keep raving about on IG and maybe even some lemon cake if I’m up for making it. But I’m also talking about fruits and carbohydrates because these foods really do make me happy. They make me feel energized, nourished, and satisfied. Again, I don’t follow any one diet and I definitely do not believe in the whole low-carb craze (unless for serious medical treatment).

Lately, I’ve been sipping these Bolthouse Farms smoothies for snacks throughout the day. They’re made with 100% fruit without any additives, so they provide tons of vitamins and minerals just like a fruit fresh from the farm would. Snacks are a careful choice I make because, most days, I’m not stopping for very long between 8 AM and 5 PM, so I need fuel that doesn’t slow me down. These fresh-fruit smoothies fill me up AND satisfy me.

Mindful social media time. I like the internet. I love Pinterest. Love. Instagram is pretty fun, too. Admit it! Behind the pretty filtered pictures and well-thought-out captions, social media satisfies - to some degree - our desire for interaction and connection with others. And for another growing handful of us, these outlets are also considered a part of our job, which means if you think you spend a lot of time scrolling… lemme’ tell ya’. I have found that if, when I open my social media apps, I go into that time with the mindset that I am here to work and/or connect with others (not just mindlessly scroll), my time is not only more productive and efficient, but also just more meaningful. The photoshopped images of fitness models don’t phase me as much. I compare my work to that of others much less harshly (if at all). And social media carries with it a much more positive vibe. This also means that it’s okay and healthy to unfollow or unsubscribe from any posts that do not serve you. You are your own priority. Your mind and heart are precious - guard them.

Six Mindful Mental Health Tips

Food. And lastly, my favorite topic. After four and a half years of blogging, I’ve learned a lot about myself. My work method is kind of all-in, go-hard, don’t-stop-til-you-reach-your-goal (and even then, keep going), which is great in terms of productivity for a while, buuuuut it wears me out. I reach a point of exhaustion and sometimes even frustration and then I’m not productive. So, I know now that I need time away from food - I need a day without recipe-planning/testing, cookbook-browsing, and all that. Doing so helps me on the days when I am working to be more genuinely creative and excited about what I’m doing.

This post is sponsored by Bolthouse Farms - all opinions and statement are my own. Thanks for supporting my blog! Click here to find Bolthouse Farms near you.

(This isn’t an exhaustive list of steps to take towards maintaining mental health, and I am certainly not a professional in this field. Please do not let this advice stand in place of professional medical help if and when needed.)

Steps to Create a Morning Routine

Health, LifeHaley Hansen2 Comments

Given how much of a morning-person and routine-lover I am, to think I didn’t have a morning-routine surprised me. And then to realize how much more I could possibly enjoy my mornings if I actually used my time wisely rather than mindlessly…

I think “morning routine” is a phrase thrown around almost as frequently as is “wellness”, and that’s fine, but it’s important to remember that your morning habits don’t need to mirror another person’s. So, when reading through mine, please keep that in mind. I scrolled through Pinterest (are you surprised?) for some guidance when creating my own (is that hypocritical of me?) and found a few blogs that inspired me. Using a notebook I’ve already dedicated to calculations from clinical lab and scribbles of recipes - I’m so organized, I know - I asked myself these questions, which helped me organize my thoughts into the categories you’ll see later in this post.

Steps to Create a Morning Routine

How do my weekday mornings look different than my weekend mornings?

It’s important to note that every morning is an early one around here. To sleep until 6 AM is to accomplish “sleeping in”. During the week, I work Tuesday and Thursday mornings, so I’m up at 4 AM and out the door 20 minutes later. By 9 AM, I’m already in class and ready to roll through the rest of the day. However, these mornings leave absolutely no time for the morning routine I would absolutely love to apply to every day. That’s okay, though - it’s just where life is at this point. On Monday and Wednesday, class starts at 7:40 AM, but by that time, I’ve already been up for at least 2 hours, so there is definitely time for the morning routine on these days and knowing that I’ll have that time makes me extra excited to go to bed and wake up the next day. Friday mornings are whatever I want them to be. Lately, they’ve been the same - set no alarm, wake up when my body wakes me up, and get out of bed when I’m bored of laying there. Make coffee, drink water, and then check in with how I’m feeling to guide what I want to do next. With how hectic these weeks have been, Friday mornings are my mornings for relaxing. I’ve been reading Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God and curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee in one hand and that book in the other has been just wonderful. Saturday morning is another morning at work, so it’s a 4 AM wake-up call. Sunday is just like Friday, thankfully, so I have the freedom to spend my time however I want, but again, it’s usually with my coffee, my book, and me on the couch.

What are some things I don’t want to do in the morning?

I do not want to scroll through social media within the first 30 minutes of waking up (and I still question why I sometimes do that). I also do not really want to talk to anyone, so I keep my phone Airplane Mode from about 30 minutes before bed to whenever I feel ready to communicate with the outside world in the morning. In this season of life, I do not want to workout in the morning because I want to give my body a stress-free environment to wake itself up whenever possible. I do not want to wash dishes, and that might sound weird, but reminding myself of the joy in waking up to a clean kitchen encourages me to wash dishes at night. I do not want to start working on homework immediately.

What are some things I do want to do in the morning?

I want to enjoy my coffee, sipping on it with a peaceful mind in a clean and quiet kitchen. I want to read, be it the latest news or my current book. I want to journal, to sort through my thoughts and set some simple intentions for the day ahead. I want to stretch and breathe - just a little bit of light movement to get some oxygen flowing through my body and into my brain.

Now that I know which days I can apply this morning routine to…

What are my “to-do’s” in the morning?

In other words, what are a few tasks that are absolutely necessary in the beginning of the day (on the days when I’m not working)? What must I get done before I move on to class?

  • Make coffee. Yes, it’s a must.

  • Eat breakfast. Duh.

  • Get dressed and ready for the day.

What are some "extra to-do’s”?

Like, what are some things I can do if time permits? In no particular order…

  • Emails. I always wake up to at least five.

  • Last-minute studying for my 7:40 AM Clinical Nutrition class. You would probably need to squeeze in some review, too.

  • Last-minute blog things, like sending out an email to subscribers (are you one? you should be), editing some pictures, browsing some inspiration for recipes, and the like.

  • Clean and organize my room. I am the person who tends to get home at the end of the day and toss everything on my bed or the floor, leaving it looking like a mini tornado ran through.

And if time permits…

What are some “happy things” I can do in the morning? Things that I enjoy doing, but don’t necessarily prioritize over homework, studying, meal-prepping, etc.

  • Browsing various websites, blogs, magazines, and cookbooks for interesting recipes to try.

  • Working out, if my body is feeling it.

  • Working on the blog - planning recipes and other posts, cleaning things up, etc.

  • *These usually happen on Friday and Sunday mornings because I don’t usually have any commitments until around 9 AM, and have the rest of the day to tackle my to-do list.

Steps to Create a Morning Routine

And now it’s time to create! Use these priorities you’ve just set to organize how you want to go about your morning. Start with the highest priority - what is the first you want to see, hear, do in the morning? For me, I want water and coffee. I do not want to answer texts or phone calls. I want to read and be in my own thoughts. And once I’ve given myself time to do so, armed with a hot cup of Joe, I’m ready to move on - emails, homework, studying, blog things, etc.

So, there you have it! I hope you found this interesting and helpful in creating your own routine to start your day off on the right foot. I’ll compile a few more posts with some encouraging affirmations, journal ideas, etc.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Leave them below or send them along in an email! Thanks for reading!

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! 

RESOURCES:

The Real Life RD
Hummusapien
ImmaEatThat
Rachael Hartley