Hungry Haley

it's more than food

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

Life, Thoughts, Health, FaithHaley Hansen6 Comments

*as if I weren't one before?* 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

No no, that's not what I mean here. I exist and I have for the last 21.5 years, but I think I finally understand the distinction between existing and living. So much in my life and in my body and in my mind has changed in the last year, sculpting me into who I am right now (don't we just love cliche lines?), and I can't help but share both the trials and the triumphs. 

It wasn't a switch that flipped overnight, but rather a l o n g road of twists and turns and ins and outs and lots of falls, followed by a faithful pick-up every time (thanks, God). You can call it "growth", I guess, but that seems to simplify this whole thing and eliminate the need for and excitement of writing this post. 

One of my favorite one-liners lately - and my friends will agree - is "The last time I had (insert certain "unhealthy" or non-vegan food here) was...", and while it mainly applies to food, it just as much applies to simply living. Each step along this road (remember, it's not a flip-the-switch thing) led me a bit farther from my incomplete understanding of "living" and that much closer to finally, well, living

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

This post isn't meant to be a guide to living because I'm certainly no expert, nor a piece of my autobiography because you get enough of that here already. I just want to talk about what I've changed, why I've changed it (if a reason exists), and how life feels now after the change. I want to expose this and hopefully encourage you, if any of this feels familiar, to seek help. And we're taking this allllllllll the way back, people, so buckle up. 

When it comes to food...

My last couple years of high school through my first year or two of college - what feels like ages ago now - were tied up by food. Tied up. Food was a nagging reminder that I needed to exercise to "burn it off"; food was a steering wheel that determined the majority of each day's schedule; food was the mental and physical enemy I needed to always conquer. That was during the heat of my eating disorder, which didn't last longer than my first two years of college. But, for the years it did last, it stole a lot from me - late-night donut runs, brunch dates, pizza-and-a-movie nights, and pursuit of my passion. Notice the pattern there? Everything revolved around food. Whether I was simply restricting or because I chose veganism, I couldn't win the battle against food no matter how hard I tried or how much of a victory I thought I may have accomplished. Even when those donuts and pizzas did happen, nagging reminders of the next day's workout and meal plan took up too much space in my mind, preventing me from storing any sort of cherished recollection about the donuts and pizzas and - most importantly - moments with loved ones. I sharpened my "fake it 'til you make it" skill pretty dang well. 

Every food that entered my body was either savored because I knew it was the last I'd be getting for a while, despite any possible hunger cues to tell me otherwise or hated afterwards because of the nutrition facts. 

Now, I'm just eating. An awareness of nutrition advises my daily choices, but it doesn't determine them, nor does it inhibit my Friday night plans to eat nachos. A passion for cooking and (mostly) baking brings me SO MUCH joy - like, S O M U C H - but cake for dinner doesn't force me into negative thoughts and a two-hour gym-session the next day. An understanding of the importance eating plants and saving animals motivates me to find sustainable sources, but it doesn't deter me from that once-a-week pulled pork sandwich. 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

When it comes to exercise...

I woke myself up six out of seven mornings a week, bright and early, for whatever workout I had planned - a long run, intense HIIT or strength-training workout. For fear of feeling like I should maybe take a rest day, I ignored any and all body signals (i.e. sore muscles, achey joints, etc.). On vacations, I skipped breakfast invitations with my dad (discovering new diners and sitting at the counter is his favorite) because I needed to somehow utilize whatever I could to get the most efficient workout. With friends, I couldn't just sit and enjoy movies and snacks because I didn't think I was burning enough calories to "earn" the snacks. In high school, I stayed after track practice for an extra hour or so to run. More running after running. My coaches and teammates just laughed and said, "you're crazy!" or commended my fitness. That was not fitness. 

Even after the heat of my eating disorder, exercise was all about calorie-burn. Long walks in the morning to just get outside and breathe fresh oxygen? Ha, yeah right. Yoga to just stretch? Never. And any workout that didn't last 30 minutes at the very least "didn't count" in my book. 

Now, a desire to just move my body helps me squeeze in a workout everyday, but it doesn't scold me when my workout "isn't long/intense enough". An exercise "high", if you will, keeps me going back to the gym every couple days, but it doesn't screw up my sleep or take precedent over school, relationships, and me-time. Plus, I don't ever want to be so consumed by exercise that a size 2 and toned muscles become the most interesting, intriguing thing about me. 

When it comes to emotions...

I cherished only the happy thoughts. Everything else I tried to suppress and eliminate via exercise and control of my eating and body shape. Somehow, that worked for a few years... until God opened my eyes and answered my prayers for humility in ways I unconsciously didn't want Him to. First, it was a heart-breaking look in the mirror, realizing how far I'd let my eating disorder take me. Then, it was a terrifying loss of control as my body, a year later, began holding onto weight (probably in a miraculous survival mechanism). Yet, despite the overwhelming fear and discomfort, I somehow found peace in it - peace in the fact that I knew God's hands were at work saving me. 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

Aside from physical matters, I've learned to... well, just feel. Instead of trying to burn off uncomfortable emotions like calories on the treadmill, I started to ask God about them and just release them to Him.

I started to understand that I won't always be able to control the way I feel - to shut my mind up, to "turn my frown upside down", if you will. I understand, now, that I won't always understand. Sometimes, I will have to continue breathing and functioning and going about life, resting in God, even when life feels like a horribly tight pairs of jeans you don't know if you'll ever squeeze out of. I'm feeling it all - from sadness, disappointment, and insecurity to joy, excitement, and strength - and I'm growing with each breath taken.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
— Romans 12:12

Life doesn't always have to be "but's" - find places to squeeze in some "and's". Baking a big wonderful chocolate cake AND taking a rest day. Feeling uncomfortable AND joyful, trusting God's hands.  

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person
COPY CODE SNIPPET

THOUGHTS: Career Change

Thoughts, Life, FaithHaley Hansen6 Comments

The career conflict has come to an end. For the past few months, I didn't even really know the battle between Registered Dietitian, RD, and, well, let's just generalize the other career option as blogger (it will be mixed with other things) existed. Since hindsight usually offers the best vision, I can see now that I was trying to suppress this internal battle for reasons I will now explain. 

Going into the Nutrition major (I switched from Journalism halfway through my second year at Cal Poly SLO), I had zero intention of pursuing the RD credential. What I really wanted to do, I wasn't quite sure, but I knew that nutrition counseling was not it. However, as I dove deeper into the major, I learned that an RD does more than just tell people what they can and can't eat and while working in a hospital. Suddenly, the career sounded appealing to me. Not only that, but it also sounded more financially stable than my complex blogger career. And if that weren't enough, God seemed to bring me friends who are pursuing the same career - Emilie, JJ, Connie, Winnie, Alayna, and probably more who I can't think of at the moment.

Sunrise in Avila Beach (I had been awake for three hours already).

Sunrise in Avila Beach (I had been awake for three hours already).

So, for the past nine-ish months, I've had my eyes somewhat - emphasis on somewhat - set on becoming an RD. With that would come two years of graduate school and one year of interning, post-undergrad. And with that came some heavy guilt + concern, the two emotions I'd been suppressing until only now - I should add that I will be graduating two quarters late from Cal Poly, a result of switching my major late in the game + not being on top of class scheduling (if I can offer any advice on this subject, it's to UTILIZE ADVISORS/COUNSELORS, people *cough cough college students*). Graduating two quarters late means two more terms of tuition (thank you, Mom and Dad for still supporting me) and seven more months spent in school - in other words, less money for grad school and less time to find an internship. 

The pressure of finding the right grad school and internship (and, of course, being accepted into both) kind of choked me. I felt that an RD was the best option - read: most stable income, most opportune career to make an impact/help people - so I had little to no choice but to pursue it. My mom, a vessel of God's voice here, has been questioning my choice. "Are you suuuuuure you want to become an RD, Haley?", she'd ask. I'd respond, "Yes, mom. The industry needs non-diet dietitians, it's a stable career, and I want to do it." 

Saturday morning farmers market in SLO.

Saturday morning farmers market in SLO.

But I felt like a robot. Those words were about 90% "I-need-to-do-this" and 10% "I-actually-want-to-do-this". 

I lived at home this summer with my parents, and when summer classes fell through, I decided to blog full-time as my "job". When I made that decision, I had never made more than $9 from Hungry Haley, which I was okay with because I didn't see it becoming my career (that was to be filled by an RD credential... in, like, six years). Blogging full-time, I spent hours brainstorming recipes, cooking them, photographing them, and writing about them.

I. Loved. Every. Minute. It posed more challenges than I expected (in terms of income, creativity, and planning), but I. Still. Loved. Every. Minute. 

Passion can't be ignored, but can it be second to a career? Yes. Do I want it to be? No. I don't have a passion for nutrition therapy like I do for cooking + writing. I don't want to think about food in terms of what the nutrient density is like I do in terms of how it can be incorporated into a breakfast dish or a dessert dish or something totally different that maybe no one has done before. 

Luna Red happy hour: 2 berry lemonades, 1 red sangria (for me, duh). Plus bread!

Luna Red happy hour: 2 berry lemonades, 1 red sangria (for me, duh). Plus bread!

This is not to give a bad name AT ALL to the Nutrition program at Cal Poly - I love this major and am so happy that I chose it. BUT the strong emphasis on the RD path being the seemingly best choice, an emphasis that of late began to feel like pressure, deserves mention. To choose a path other than the RD path - probably the most populated one - feels "against the grain", but I guess that's kind of how I do things. It also feels most certainly like a challenge, which has been a theme these past few months and you can bet your heiney's best jeans that I'm up for it. 

For example, transitioning out of a vegan diet and into a (I don't want to say "normal" because, let's be honest, no one knows what that is) diet of, well, whatever I want was the challenge of the summer, and following God's calling in that definitely felt "against the grain" - the grain being the brand I'd built, which included heavy amounts of vegan food. Through it, I had to trust that God wouldn't let me fall, whatever falling would've looked like. Of course, He did not let me fall - I've never felt better, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Just as I did not want to say anything bad about Cal Poly's Nutrition program, nor do I want to say anything bad about the vegan lifestyle. BUT the pressure to stay vegan upon going vegan deserves mention, as do the negativity and sometimes extremely rude, non-supportive comments about eating animal products (sustainably raised, whenever possible). 

Cowboy Cookie ice cream bowl: chocolate chip cookie + HUGE scoop of fudge ice cream.

Cowboy Cookie ice cream bowl: chocolate chip cookie + HUGE scoop of fudge ice cream.

Just as I trusted God then, I trust Him now. Do I know exactly what I want to pursue in this "blogger" career? No. I do know, however, that I want to dive deep into my community, wherever that be (please be SLO, please be SLO, please be SLO) and explore it's bountiful pantry, if you will. I do know that I want to make an impact, which I didn't think I could on this career path. How wrong I was in that thinking. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I know God has used this blog to touch more than one person. Why not continue that? By following Him first and foremost, the number of lives touched can only multiply. 

I want to show my readers that healing through food is possible even when food is the enemy (i.e. an eating disorder). "It's more than food" - a.k.a. my motto - rings true in every situation, yet food is powerful and significant and worthy of adoration and enjoyment. I LOVE food and honesty with myself in that has provided much of the healing I've needed to experience. 

To all the future RD's out there, DO YO' THANG. This diet-consumed world needs to know the beauty and power of Intuitive Eating - please let God use your knowledge and your gifts to bless those under the influence of toxic cyclic dieting. Teach them how to love their bodies for what they are made to be. 

I will be over here cooking my favorite foods and foods new to me, writing about them and how much I love them. Each of us is woven together as an individual with unique passions and desires and skills. I have God to thank, most of all, for everything, but specifically here for introducing me to Intuitive Eating and, as a result, the idea of intuitive living. It's a lifelong journey (not to be cliche), but at least it's one I get to travel with Him and pursue the passion He has designed for me. 

:)

Sunset in Shell Beach, CA. Probably my favorite night-time thing... ever. 

Sunset in Shell Beach, CA. Probably my favorite night-time thing... ever. 

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

Thoughts, Health, LifeHaley Hansen1 Comment

Happy three-year-blog-iversary to meeeeee!  

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

Three friggin' years, though. Dang. With my first few steps into this whole journey, I didn't have much of a vision and definitely no plan for the future of Hungry Haley. At most, I thought it'd become a fun side job, if I even held onto it. During my first few months of blogging, which were also my first few months of college, I spoke nothing of my blog. I think I had a few hundred followers, most of which were family and friends from high school. The only path new friends could take to discover my blog was via stalking my personal IG and Facebook profile to find a rare post in which I may have tagged myself. 

was I a baby or whaaaaat.

was I a baby or whaaaaat.

And even three years later, I certainly don't advertise my blog or make it the topic of conversation when I'm out with friends. In fact, it's my friends who do that - "she's famous! Follow Hungry Haley. It's her blog. She's my roommate and she's famous." They mean well. Point is, that's the most common form of Hungry Haley exposure and it always has been, but now God is making me much more comfortable in opening up about my blog. After all, it's not about me, but about Him (or at least I try to make it that way...). 

externally smiling, but internally planning tomorrow's workout (+ ignoring my hunger/desire for halloween candy) instead of making memories with my best friends. 

externally smiling, but internally planning tomorrow's workout (+ ignoring my hunger/desire for halloween candy) instead of making memories with my best friends. 

The other day, as I drove down to SoCal from my place in SLO, I thought of all the God has surprised me with via my blog:

  • first and foremost: recovery from an eating disorder. 
  • a two-year relationship with veganism. 
  • features in my school's newspaper, IG page, and several students' class projects. 
  • a passionate love for cooking foods of all types - from plant-based to there-aren't-any-vegetables-anywhere-near-this-dish. 
  • real-life friendships: Jeannette, Connie, Emilie, Danielle, JJ, Emily, and more who I can't think of at the moment but I know they exist and I love them! 
  • a better idea of what I want to pursue, career-wise. 
  • more protein bars and peanut butter than I ever could've imagined. 
  • an authentic understanding of and love for the God who made me. 
THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

When I began this, I had just broken up with a guy who I thought I was going to someday marry. The two most frequent thoughts crowding my mind were 1) workouts and 2) food (in terms of calories, not enjoyment). I counted calories everyday. I had a spoonful of a social life, at best. I was terrified to leave for school. I didn't know that God could love me like I know He does today. 

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

I looked like I had my shizz together and people constantly complimented that superficial quality about me. However, inside, I was a mess. But no one had any idea. 

Now, I've been happily (most of the time) single for coming up on four years, but have fallen head-over-heels in love with God. And ice cream, but in a different way, you know? I rarely give food a second thought and frequently enjoy meals out with my friends, eating whatever sounds good and probably ordering a mojito, too. I don't know how many calories I eat or burn. I laugh every. damn. day. I love school and I love blogging and I love connecting with others. 

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!
THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

I sometimes feel like I don't have my shizz together, and for the most part, I don't. But I also don't freak out if people know that I don't have it together because I share a LOT on here and I know now that I actually have readers besides Mom and Dad (!!!). I know that I could pass by another student at school and he/she could've read my post about weight gain and maybe that person remembers the thinner me, but I like this version of me a helluva lot more. 

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

I don't have my shizz together. Certainly not. But hey, that's part of the reason I'm here (the other part being the food). I want you to know that, even after God helps you tackle a big life event or conquer a disorder or get over that loss, it's okay to feel like a single college student who still doesn't understand some chemistry and has to budget and remember to pay bills and maintain a social life and this and that and this, too. And it can all get really crazy and overwhelming and maybe even scary but...

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

... but at the end of the day, I'm here and I'm me and you're wherever you and you're you, and maybe just maaaaaaybe we can connect. We can be friends and we can talk about protein bars and peanut butter or God and eating disorders or Zac Efron (*cough cough*) and working out. I just want to share my favorite foods, my life experiences for the benefit of both of us, and God's work in it all. 

best night (with my girls + gooooooood food, of course) I've had in a while :)

best night (with my girls + gooooooood food, of course) I've had in a while :)

THOUGHTS: Three Years of Blogging!

THOUGHTS: Food + Social Situations (Both Sides)

Thoughts, Life, FaithHaley Hansen4 Comments

Because I just dug my spoon into one of the most mesmerizing ice cream sandwiches e v e r. And I did it alllllll by myself. 

oatmeal cookies + carrot cake ice cream from Batch, aka my new favorite ice cream shop in SLO (or maybe favorite ice cream shop ever).

oatmeal cookies + carrot cake ice cream from Batch, aka my new favorite ice cream shop in SLO (or maybe favorite ice cream shop ever).

So, let's talk about the interaction between food and social situations, because if you have even the slightest bit of a social life (hint: we all do), the interaction is most certainly there. For me, food determined a) whether or not I'd attend the social situation, b) what I'd be doing/eating at the social situation, c) how I would "make up for" whatever I "unhealthy" food I ate, etc. Food had control. If all the menu offered was pizza laden with cheese or french fries and wings or the like, or if the vacation didn't provide me some sort of gym/workout space and the time to workout, you can bet your best ice cream sandwich I would be reluctant at best to attend the event. 

I sigh as I write this and admit it to myself yet again. 

One of the reasons I stepped out the vegan diet was because I felt I was lightly damaging my social life. Nothing against the vegan diet, but - long story short - right now, I want to pour more energy into friendships and time with family than I do into my vegan diet. God is pushing me towards a passion for relationships more than for the environment and "health". And that. is. okay. 

pizza from Blast 825 - fresh mozzarella + veggies + basil.

pizza from Blast 825 - fresh mozzarella + veggies + basil.

For five years, I've held some sort of restriction(s) around food that have inhibited my ability to soak up every last bit of enjoyment of social situations, specifically (but not limited to) those involving food. An example: I skipped sleepovers with my best friends in high school because I wanted to avoid the late-night snacks and run 10 miles in the morning. That's just one of many. I used to back out of social situations at (almost) all costs if I sensed, in any way, an interference with my "rules" regarding what I do/don't eat and my exercise routine. 

Again, a sigh. 

yoga-urt with Connie (@constancelyeating) + Winnie (@winniesbalance_).

yoga-urt with Connie (@constancelyeating) + Winnie (@winniesbalance_).

Now, I'm working towards opening myself up to social situations also at (almost) all costs. You could say I'm doing so in an attempt to make up for what I've missed out on for five years: that slice of cheesy pizza, those french fries, that late-night donut, all in the cherished presence of loved ones (of course, in a balanced, not binging fashion). From what I've thus far experienced, I'm not sure if there is anything better than what most social situations involving food + loved ones offer. 

Exuberant joy. Unconditional self-love. Stomach-aching laughter and cheek-cramping smiles. Oh, and heart + soul + mind-satisfying food. 

Here's to social eating! 

bourbon (left) + cocoa (right) cookies from Brown Butter Cookie Co. 

bourbon (left) + cocoa (right) cookies from Brown Butter Cookie Co. 

And now, here's to still eating that pizza or those fries or that donut (or, more applicably today, that ice cream cookie sandwich), when it's just you, sans the social situation. An example: my bff and I had loose plans today to split an ice cream cookie sandwich from our favorite local shop in the middle of the hot Friday afternoon, but when the time rolled out, she just simply wasn't craving it anymore. No biggie, not at all. However, do I still want it? A big chunk of the joy that comes from the interaction of food + social situations is the person(s) with whom it is all shared, especially when that person is your best friend. 

But, as an introvert, sometimes I'm okay with spending time alone versus with others, even my best friend. And with that, I bit into my oatmeal cookie + carrot cake ice cream sandwich and I think I saw and felt a glimpse of heaven. Okay, maybe it wasn't heaven, but it surely was close. 

I guess it was a glimpse of food freedom + true self-love + peaceful balance. I loved it, for lack of better words. Loved every minute walking around downtown as the single woman God made me. Loved every bite of that rich, creamy, sweet ice cream and the buttery, chewy cookie. 

Every. Damn. Minute. 

Since the minute I read these verses, I've wanted to share them...

‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart - that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’
— Matthew 15:16-20, NLT

That excerpt, specifically, relates more to my transition out of a vegan diet, which you can read about here. Bottom line, I found it SO encouraging. 

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!
— Ecclesiastes 9:7, NLT
tradition with my bff - pack dinner, head to secret spot in Pismo, watch the sunset + laugh + chat. it's fantastic. 

tradition with my bff - pack dinner, head to secret spot in Pismo, watch the sunset + laugh + chat. it's fantastic. 

This specific verse touches my heart today. Yes, God certainly is gearing my heart towards embracing the interaction of food + social situations, but He is also still helping me enjoy food itself, and with myself (that food being my ice cream sandwich today). God loves to see us join together in the happiness of community, but He also loves purely to see your individual smile and mine.

So, here's to food enjoyed around a table or on a picnic blanket or on the living room couch. And here's also to food enjoyed at a table for one or walking solo down the street or wherever it may be.

:) 

Hello , World!

THOUGHTS: Update on Eating

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen8 Comments

If you're not caught up, catch up here. Super long story super short, I'm no longer vegan, so here's an update on how my body and mind are making the change (and loving it)! 

two egg sammies + one egg & veggie bowl from Honey Hi.

two egg sammies + one egg & veggie bowl from Honey Hi.

My original "plan", which I tried to keep loose and flexible and barely a "plan" at all, was to begin with just eggs - maybe one or two every couple days. Then, I'd try a bowl of yogurt and maybe some cheese, carefully adding in lactose because I knew my body had certainly lost most of its ability to digest lactose (via the lactase enzyme) after two years without the need to. Then, maybe I'd consider some fish, and maaaaaaybe some chicken after that. 

Thank God for instilling within me the confidence and strength I didn't know I'd need - I definitely moved this process along much quicker than what my original "plan" laid out, which probably just goes to show that this diet change was, well, meant to be. My first step was a fried egg with dinner one night (with one of my newest yet closest friends), and then about one or two a day for the next week. Immediately, I felt much more satiated and much less bloated after each meal. I didn't feel as though I was still craving a little something more. I didn't think about when my next meal or snack would be. 

one of my new FAV bars. RX, I luhh u. 

one of my new FAV bars. RX, I luhh u. 

I purchased my first tub of Greek yogurt - Siggi's, to be exact, because everyone raves about it - less than a week later and dove right in the way I used to: mom's strawberry jam, fruit, and a heaping scoop of nut butter. Man, I missed that. I'd forgotten all about my favorite breakfast bowl! But I made up for lost time and made sure to squeeze some version of it into my day as either a snack or a meal. Just too. dang. good. 

Ahhh, and here comes the unexpected step. So, in my original "plan", meat did not have a place, at least not so soon. But, I did not tell my body "no" to anything and I didn't rush into anything, either. I was visiting my best friends up in San Luis Obispo and we planned a night out for happy hour + dinner at the farmers market. Before I even went vegetarian (halfway through my freshman year of college), my absolute favorite thing to get at the market was a grilled chicken teriyaki bowl from a local, family-owned restaurant. I remember it being some of the tastiest chicken I'd ever eaten and one of the most feel-good meals I'd ever found at BBQ/street-fair-type thing (the awesomeness of our weekly farmers market in a nutshell). Keeping my mind as open as possible, I didn't set my thoughts on that as dinner, but I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I'll admit that a small part of me tried to convince myself out of it because meat wasn't in my "plan" this soon. 

I shoved the thoughts out of my mind, let myself have a jolly ol' time with my friends - sipping mojitos and munching on the best d@mn jalapeno cornbread that has ever entered my mouth - and before I knew it, I was drooling over my favorite chicken bowl once again. Of course, my friends had to document the event of my first bite of chicken in over two years. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every. single. bite. and I felt genuinely good when I finished. I loved it. And that was that. 

grilled chicken teriyaki bowl from the Downtown SLO Farmers' Market

grilled chicken teriyaki bowl from the Downtown SLO Farmers' Market

Throughout the rest of my visit, I discovered gems I hadn't tried yet, but that everyone seems to love in SLO - Batch ice cream sandwiches, Sally Loo's breakfast burritos and grilled chicken sandwiches, locally grown eggs and dairy products (which are also sold at several of the local restaurants), and more. Again, no tummy issues presented themselves, just feelings of satisfaction, satiation, and pure happiness. 

I came back to SoCal to my parents' house and we all decided on grilled salmon for dinner, which also used to be one of my favorites. To say I was excited would be an understatement. Salad, bread, and veggies accompanied the grilled favorite, as they usually do, and I took my first bite and fell back in love. A big smile forced itself upon my face and contagiously spread to my parent's faces, too :) 

grilled salmon (long-time love of my life) + fresh salad + grilled veggies + bread & wine on the side. 

grilled salmon (long-time love of my life) + fresh salad + grilled veggies + bread & wine on the side. 

So, that's about as far as the story goes, in terms of my progression in re-introducing animal products. Onto the questions!

WHAT WERE THE EASIEST FOODS TO RE-INTRODUCE? THE HARDEST?

The first thing I ate was a fried egg, whipped up oh-so-perfectly by my girl Jeannette. My first bite was a liiiiiiittle strange, as I did come to find egg yolks kind of disgusting, but I kept an open mind and actually ended up loving it! From there, I went on to eggs more often (one or two everyday) and then a little bit of fancy cheese. From what I can remember, the cheese didn't give me any stomach aches. 

Surprisingly, I didn't really struggle to re-introduce animal products. Red meat has never really sounded appealing, so I don't see that coming into my diet any time soon, but other than that, with only a little hesitation the first time, I've bitten into plenty of old favorites like grilled salmon, fried eggs, fancy cheese, and ice cream without a second thought!

Hearty Grains bread from Breaking Bread SLO topped w/ NuttZo Peanut Pro crunchy + honey. 

Hearty Grains bread from Breaking Bread SLO topped w/ NuttZo Peanut Pro crunchy + honey. 

HOW DO I PREVENT DISORDERED EATING THOUGHTS/BEHAVIORS TOWARDS FOODS I HAVEN'T INCLUDED FOR SO LONG?

Take every step slowly. Breathe. Be mindful and present in the moment. Listen to my body and rid my mind of "good" foods and "bad" foods. 

Those are my main reminders when I'm feeling iffy about anything food-related. Though I've never really struggled with binge-eating, I know the feeling of long-time restriction followed by freedom, and what the diet-mentality can do in that situation. This is probably the first time EVER I've been the most "free" and "flexible" with my diet. Before I went vegan, I was deep in my eating disorder, so everything I ate was just a certain number of calories, protein, fat, carbs, sugars, etc. When I went vegan, I found other ways to restrict and prolong my eating disorder. Now, I'm breathing all of that out, letting it go without a kiss goodbye, and just allowing myself to be. To eat. To live. 

Again, I'm not saying that a vegan diet is horribly restrictive and creates eating disorders. It was actually helpful for me in recovering from mine in some ways. But, I'm just following what God puts on my heart and, right now, He's leading me out of veganism. 

ice cream cookie sandwich from Batch in SLO. 

ice cream cookie sandwich from Batch in SLO. 

HOW DO I FEEL IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS?

Ten times better. Ten times happier. Ten times more included. Now, I'm not saying that going vegan will automatically exclude you in social situations and change your relationships for the worse. For me, however, food is HUGE when it comes to community. I see it as a way to bring loved ones and friends and even strangers together. When the menu wasn't vegan or, worse, didn't have any vegan options, the community aspect for myself changed.

When I ate vegan, specifically with others (i.e. at restaurants, family dinners, get-togethers, etc.) I often felt like the "odd one out". Sometimes, I'd be eating a simple meal of tofu and veggies and the like, and other times I'd find a yummy vegan burger or something. The former often left me feeling more excluded than the latter, yet both options seemed to do the same, to some extent. During my first year-and-a-half-ish of being vegan, this didn't bug me as much as it did recently. I knew that my vegan food choices benefitted the environment and the animals I care about, benefits that outweighed a little bit of perceived social exclusion. And that's all I thought it was - perceived. But, the more I saw others enjoying their meal and sharing it with each other - exchanging bites off of plates and "mmmm"-ing at each dish, the less perceived and more real the exclusion felt.

Being a vegan, social situations and gatherings didn't always offer plenty of vegan options, aside from salad and veggies, for me to do the same. However, as of late, I began to resent that exclusion more and more and feel that God was telling me it isn't just perceived. It's real and it's affecting my enjoyment of time with loved ones, especially around food, which is probably my favorite type of social situation. 

Now that I'm not vegan, I feel more relaxed in all food-involving social situations. I feel more included. I no longer feel like I'm standing outside the circle, looking in, at everyone else. I don't feel like "the weird one" over there eating tofu (which isn't weird to me, but its not uncommon for others to see common vegan options as weird) and whatever else is meat-, dairy-, egg-free. 

I forgot, until recently, how much I absolutely LOVE appetizers like fancy cheese and sardines, though the sardines are mostly a thing between my dad and I. I forgot how powerful of a rope food is when it comes to tying people together. So, all in all, I'm loving the cheese before dinner. I'm loving the salmon at dinner. I'm loving the ice cream dates with friends. I'm loving that I can say "yes" when offered a bite of someone's cheesy grilled chicken panini from my favorite local cafe. I'm loving the "mmmmm" I can share with everyone at the table :)

ice cream assortment from Bert & Rocky's in Claremont. 

ice cream assortment from Bert & Rocky's in Claremont. 

HOW HAS MY BODY HANDLED THE CHANGE?

Like. A. Champ. And as I said before, I'm taking this as God's way of assuring me and encouraging me in this change. 

I feel stronger, like my muscles are loving the added protein and iron. I feel more energized and focused, like my mind isn't constantly thinking about food/when my snack or meal is/how bloated the last meal left me. My skin did breakout a little bit during the first week, probably because of the dairy, but it wasn't unbearable and it has disappeared. Other than that, I'm easing myself into meat because the protein is definitely filling me up quicker than tofu/tempeh/beans did and eating too much protein is just not fun. 

Oh, and I'm not saying correlation = causation here, but there's gotta' be something to the fact that I can run again?! I'm not logging 10-15 miles a week like I used to, but even the 2 miles I am running feel amazing and I'm excited to see where this could go!

Siggi's (omgiloveyousiggi) plain yogurt + NuttZo Chocolate Power Fuel + white nectarine for a post-workout breakfast.

Siggi's (omgiloveyousiggi) plain yogurt + NuttZo Chocolate Power Fuel + white nectarine for a post-workout breakfast.

HOW AM I STILL KEEPING SUSTAINABILITY AND ETHICAL TREATMENT IN MIND? 

I'm buying local as much as possible. Lassen's is just down the street from me at my place in SLO, and finding locally produced eggs and cheeses is easier than I thought! Meat hasn't yet made it in my shopping cart, but I know of a few local farmers who produce chicken and the like, so I will have a friendly face to turn to when I'm ready. 

Some have asked me how I can stomach animal products when I now know the "truth" behind animal agriculture. Honestly, I didn't think I ever could, but God has showed me that, right now, my own physical and emotional health and my relationships with loved ones are more important than worrying about animal agriculture. Besides, how much of a difference would I be making or not making by switching from vegan to a diet that is most just eggs and yogurt, some meat here and there? I don't know. I can't explain much of this answer, but all I can say is that this is what God is calling me to in the moment. I can't control animal agriculture, but I can control the products I purchase. 

So, that's all I've got for this update! I hope anyone going through a similar transition found it helpful - you're not alone. I hope I haven't offended anyone, but that I've encouraged you all to follow the directions God lays on your heart because, though they may seem scary sometimes, He will not mislead you. 

Still have questions? Comments? Leave them below or send me an email. I love to hear from you! 

my #1 girl. 

my #1 girl. 

another gem, Jeannette :) 

another gem, Jeannette :) 

happy hour at Luna Red SLO ft. burgers + lotttssa dranks + my favorite girls!

happy hour at Luna Red SLO ft. burgers + lotttssa dranks + my favorite girls!

THOUGHTS: Feeding My Soul (Hint: I ate an egg for the first time in 2 years)

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen15 Comments

KAY. So, I've wanted to write this for a while because it's been not only on my mind but also on my heart and, let's be honest, once God lays something on your heart, there's no going back. I've talked about this with myself, my family, and my closest friends - the people who know me best. 

Most of all, I've just listened to my heart because I know that's where God speaks to me, encourages me. 

*deep breath*

I am no longer following a vegan diet.

vegan & GF donuts from SLO Do Co. 

vegan & GF donuts from SLO Do Co. 

To give you the shortest possible version of my food history - for the past two years, I've been eating nothing but plants. Before that, I ate mostly plants with some fish, some dairy, and eggs. Aaaaand before that, my plate was mostly lean meat and green veggies (not a fantastic time in my life). I chose to adopt a vegetarian diet during my freshman year of college to experiment with food and challenge myself to step out of my basically Paleo comfort zone - try beans, include more grains, and loosen up my rigid food and fitness "rules". Then, with some encouragement from fellow bloggers and my own research on animal products, the cruelty of animal agriculture, and the environmental impact of producing meat and dairy, I just couldn't give myself another spoonful of Greek yogurt or another egg. Veganism called my name and I couldn't have felt more confident in hearing it out. 

God introduced me to veganism as part of my healing process, and it sure did do its job. I've never been healthier, happier, or more comfortable around food. 

Oh, except animal products. Now, this is where we start. 

Dad's newly famous homemade mojitos 

Dad's newly famous homemade mojitos 

I haven't been craving any chicken or steak or even yogurt or eggs, really. Grocery store shelves nowadays are stocked full of dairy-free and vegan alternatives, so I never feel "deprived" of the foods I crave, if I ever do want a fruit and granola parfait over some almond yogurt or some cream "cheese" on my bagel or tempeh "bacon", and so on. 

In terms of nutrition, a vegan diet never left me feeling deprived. In fact, I almost always felt strong, healthy, satisfied, and well-nourished on the foods available to me, whether at home in my own kitchen or out at a restaurant. However, when it comes to community and bonding, I often felt emotionally deprived and left out, as I could not participate in sharing the experience of many foods with friends and family. 

God has, with all the love and mercy and grace imaginable (and probably even more), shown me that food is so much more than I could ever understand. Food is not just calories. It's celebration, emotional medicine, nostalgia and comfort, and more in various situations. I value food and the time I spend with it, whether that be baking cinnamon rolls on a Sunday morning in the kitchen before everyone else is awake, or sharing a loaded pizza with my best friends as we sip our wine and watch movies on a Friday night. 

I no longer look at food only through my nutrition lens. God gave me lenses to see food as a blessing to be cherished and shared and enjoyed on a daily basis. THANK YOU. Now, I can look at packaged foods without disgust. I can purchase food without always checking the ingredient label. I can go out for a meal with friends without inputting the calories of the menu item I planned to order and make sure all the macros "fit" (ugh). And yes, I did all that on a vegan diet for the past two years. No more restrictions. 

zoodles + cashew alfredo sauce + homemade black bean meatballs + homemade panzanella salad (coming soon) + fried egg (!!!!)

zoodles + cashew alfredo sauce + homemade black bean meatballs + homemade panzanella salad (coming soon) + fried egg (!!!!)

No. More. Restrictions. 

Now, I find that even my vegan lenses are hard to look through. I don't look at egg-and-avocado-toast with disgust and I don't question how in the world people can eat Greek yogurt or stir a touch of cream into their coffee. 

For me, veganism wasn't about health. Sure, eggs have more cholesterol than what our bodies might need in a day and meat might have too much protein and blah blah blah. There are, most certainly, health benefits within the vegan diet, but I didn't choose the diet for those reasons. I simply could not bring myself to purchase a carton of eggs from the supermarket after seeing the coops. I could not purchase chicken or fish or even dairy after seeing how these animals are treated on farms and how the agricultural practices required contributed to the environmental decline of the planet we know and (need to show more) love. 

Research and documentaries equipped me with arguments and support and evidence I needed to prove and stand up for myself when my belief in the power of a vegan diet was put to the test (can't even tell you how many times that happened). However, evidence or no evidence, it was always for me. This is MY body and I will take care of it how I know and feel best. At the time, that was a plate full of plants (and sometimes cake, but still derived from only plants). 

My diet is still for me. It always will be. So, to admit that I'm having trouble writing this mainly because I feel the need to explain myself to readers/followers/etc., feels weird. It's my diet, so why should I have to justify it? Well, I actually do want to explain myself because I want to be able to set the best example I can and, of course, always be honest. That being said, I will explain this to the best of my abilities.

roasted sweet potato wedges + cashew cream sauce from Cafe Gratitude

roasted sweet potato wedges + cashew cream sauce from Cafe Gratitude

If I had thought of the vegan diet as "restrictive", I would've dropped it months ago. And I'm not dropping it now because I'm suddenly seeing restriction, but rather because my interests and passions have evolved, just like I am constantly changing and learning and growing, too. Right now, I want to squeeze every last bit of life and happiness and enjoyment from any moment I can. And right now, that means sharing pizza with fresh mozzarella with a friend, or a dinner date of sushi with my dad (it's always been our thing), or that luscious buttery scone from the local bakery that calls my name every. weekend. morning. 

I've said this a million times by now, but food is SO MUCH MORE than just fuel. For years, I chose not to participate in that pizza and sushi and scones - and, even more so, the connection and community that provide the true richness in those situations. In the moment I made those decisions with like 99% total confidence. However, maybe that remaining 1% of feeling like I want to enjoy this time with friends/family/whoever has finally added up and I don't have any more room to say "no thank you, I'm vegan". 

Right now, my contribution to saving the planet by subbing tofu for the eggs on that menu item are not as important to me as bonding with my friends and family over our egg-and-avocado-toast (or whatever the substitution may be). 

Cafe Gratitude: I Am Local Salad + I Am Giving Chef's Seasonal Pizza

Cafe Gratitude: I Am Local Salad + I Am Giving Chef's Seasonal Pizza

As I immerse myself deeper and deeper into the practice of Intuitive Eating, I find through listening to my body that sometimes a *gasp* non-vegan scone DOES sound good. Listening to the body involves more than just hunger cues - how about what my emotions are craving, too? As much joy as I find in discovering a delicious vegan scone, I know I can find incomparable joy in developing relationships and creating memories with my loved ones sans the inconvenience of having to search for a vegan scone or just go home without one while everyone else enjoys theirs. 

Throughout the past two years, the most popular question I've been asked is: what do you miss most/what is the hardest part of following a vegan diet? 

My answer: I miss the ease of food. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely adore experimenting in the kitchen with vegan food. Vegan baking, vegan cheeses, and vegan takes on classic meat-lover favorites - what could be more fun for a college girl? (some might say quite a bit... but anyway) I miss being able to go out for sushi with my dad. I miss sharing fancy cheese with my mom before dinner. I miss licking ice cream off the cone on the beach with my friends. I miss spontaneity. I miss not having to settle for a wimpy salad when I'm out with my friends. I miss the days when "Haley, can you eat something there?" didn't precede every dinner plan. 

Right now, I am not feeling as passionate about a vegan diet as I am about enjoying all foods my body wants and nurturing my relationships with loved ones and new ones. 

avocado toast + fresh watermelon + purple cabbage + homegrown yellow tomato, all shared with @sweatysweetpotato

avocado toast + fresh watermelon + purple cabbage + homegrown yellow tomato, all shared with @sweatysweetpotato

I do have somewhat of a plan for this transition. Oh, and I've been slowly incorporating small amounts of eggs and dairy everyday - my tummy and body and mind and soul are SO happy. I feel absolutely fine eating just a few non-vegan items (i.e. one or two eggs, a bite of cheese, etc.) once a day or so. Because I AM still passionate for taking steps necessary to increase awareness for environmental sustainability and ethical animal treatment, I will be as cautious and informed as possible when I make non-vegan food choices. My family buys our eggs from a farmer just down the street, and we've seen his practice and could not be happier with it. Any dairy I consume, I will check and ensure that the cows are as happy as possible at the dairy. As for fish and meat, I will let you know when I get there. 

Just because I'm not passionate about living a full-on vegan lifestyle at this point in my life does not make me a different person or a bad person or anything different than the girl I am. My dietary choices do not define me, whether it's a kale salad and a veggie burger or an egg sandwich and a bite of salmon (which, by the way, was my absolute favorite food ever). 

I share this with you because honesty is a priority as much as setting a healthy, encouraging, attainable example is. I ask for your support and understanding in this process and appreciate those of you who have already shown me more than I could ask for :) 

red sangria from Luna Red - thank you for introducing me to this magical juice. 

red sangria from Luna Red - thank you for introducing me to this magical juice. 

FAITH: Imperfect and Perfectly Loved

Faith, Health, LifeHaley Hansen1 Comment

If there's one thing I might always get wrong about my faith...

... it's the fact that I'm imperfect. While such a statement may sound quite big-headed of me, it's completely true and it deserves a post here because it's also complicated. 

didn't even bring my Bible. just wrote. cried. wrote some more. then cried and smiled. 

didn't even bring my Bible. just wrote. cried. wrote some more. then cried and smiled. 

What I am NOT saying here is that I think I am perfect. I wouldn't have committed this thing called "life" to Jesus if I thought myself perfect and equipped and strong enough to handle it on my own, you know? What I AM saying is that I expect myself to be perfect. And since my baptism last year, I've battled thoughts that tell me I should be "all clean" and "free of sin" now that I've given it to God. 

Like, these types of things...

  • those eating-disorder-thoughts - you know the ones. How much fat is in that? Did you look at the menu before you made dinner plans? No workout today? You better not eat that ice cream. 
  • those self-comparison joy-suckers - maybe you know these, too. Cool - her legs in those shorts make mine look like poorly stuffed Italian sausages. She got an A in that class, and I barely squeezed by with a C? There go my chances of landing an internship. 
  • (my personal "favorite", which really just means the one I most frequently find myself dancing with) those idolatrous traps - okay, these are undeniable. I can't stop thinking about him. Ugh, I need like three glasses of wine tonight. 

You feel me? And by the way, by no means am I proclaiming myself sin-free and perfect here. I'm doing the opposite, but you have to keep reading to find out more. 

So, this tidal wave of feelings hit me tonight. The wave had been building and building for I-don't-even-know-how-long and tonight it crashed on me. Was it coincidental that I found myself next to the beach? Ehh, debatable. 

a random little bench in a breath-taking neighborhood nestled along the Pismo Beach coast.

a random little bench in a breath-taking neighborhood nestled along the Pismo Beach coast.

It was one of those weeks during which this event kicked it off on the wrong foot, then I tripped over that, and then this other thing bit me in the butt, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, by mid-afternoon today - heck, even midnight last night - I was pretty much a tearful mess (who had gotten dressed up and made it out with her girls for a night of fun) running out off the dance floor because I just couldn't. Thankfully, my best friend was on my comfy bed at home, waiting for me to come stain her shirt with my tears. What a keeper. 

My point: I broke. Throughout the entire week and weeks prior, I'd been wondering with frustration and flecks of guilt as to why I can't get my mind off this, that, and the other thing, and back onto Jesus. Haley, where is the faith you used to hold so close to your heart? To where have your eyes diverted? What's inhibiting you from refocusing? Get your sh!t together. 

Haha, my sh!t's all over the place, dude. And I realized that tonight, hopped in my car, drove myself to the beach to escape any and all responsibilities for at least a half-hour, and immerse my every last bit of energy and emotion into God. Best decision I've made in... a l o n g time. 

I sat and stared at the waves as I let my own waves crash upon themselves in my eyes. Lord, I desire you. I've committed my life to you. But WHY can't I focus on you, worship no one but you, and always find my peace/joy/trust in you? Why do I mess up so much? 

Well, it's because I'm imperfect. And I'm here, on this public park bench (as passersby politely assume I'm all good), wiping my own tears yet smiling at the same time as I realize that, as utterly imperfect as I am, I am even more so perfectly loved. And that's why I'm here. 

I may never - no, I will never - reach a point of smooth sailing, during which fears don't creep in and lies don't sound truthful and people don't become my idols. I am human and I am imperfect. I may also never - no, I will never - fall out of the arms of the perfectly loving Savior, for whom not even Shakespeare's words would come close to doing justice.

I am human and I am imperfect and yet I am perfectly loved. 

You might be wondering if any of this applies to you, eh? IT DOES :) I never want to end a blog post, especially a more personal one like this, without providing you some proof and resources where you can see for yourself that this is true. I explored some blogs and whatnot, and found this from Bible Study Tools. One of my biggest takeaways from reading it: "Unconditional love does not mean that God loves everything we do, but rather His love is so intense that He loves every sinner, no matter how vile and despicable he or she may be in they eyes of humanity, so much that He provides a way for them to find love, life, and holiness (John 3:16)". 

The post introduced me to this verse, which I hadn't read until now...

... he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sings, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
— Titus 3:5, NLT

Oh, and if you didn't know this, the book of Isaiah is probably one of my favorites of the entire Bible. So, I will always provide you with verses from there. Just sayin'. I read through it last year and still find myself breathless at many of God's words...

... Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands...
— Isaiah 49:15-16, NLT

One more, and beware - this one will get you. 

But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed...
— Isaiah 53:5-6, NLT

And I leave you with this - a quote from one of my favorite books, Idols of the Heart: 

The struggle against the sin in our heart is precious because by it we learn what a great price the Lord Jesus has paid. It is in this struggle that we learn to trust Him and to distrust ourselves, to hate sin and love holiness, to cultivate humility and to long for heaven. And in the midst of it all, we’ll learn the joy of obedience and the happiness that is found only in loving God.
— Elyse Fitzpatrick

FAITH: Accepting and Embracing

Faith, Life, HealthHaley Hansen10 Comments

Emphasis on the "and". Keep that in mind. 

When I think about the things - the events, the mistakes, the issues, maybe even the people - I accept and the things - the experiences, the successes, the surprises, and the loved ones - I embrace, I sometimes think I should replace the word "and" with "versus" because there's a difference between the two. Right? There are some things in my life I just accept and move along with, and some things I embrace and kiss and squeeze and cherish. 

Two different things. Right? 

Not always. 

As life has done its thing throughout the past six or seven months, two dense clouds have fogged up a chunk of my brain. Not to the point of interfering with my daily functioning, but just enough to... well, cause "weather changes" (if you will) that hinder my thoughts. Both of these clouds have everything to do with this topic of "accepting and embracing".

1) Weight gain. 

Truthfully, I didn't think I'd be writing this. Ever. I didn't think I'd ever struggle with weight or body image ever again. That was two years ago, when two years prior to that, "accepting and embracing" was just not something I did. Heck, if I had done that, life as I know it now would probably be very different (but we won't get into that because how do I even know/who even cares/that involves a lot of thinking and it could be its own blog post). My eating disorder began because I refused to accept and embrace. I swore to myself I would change my eating habits and my outward appearance. And I did. And I maintained that weight - and the consequential nagging need to always portray "perfection" - for somewhere around a year or two...

... Which brings us here. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything - I've gained weight. I've tried to forget about it, ignore mirrors, etc. to pretend it hasn't happened, but it has. My first little taste of acceptance of weight gain did not taste good. I practically (and theoretically) gagged. No! I have NOT gained weight and I will not. I've worked too hard to get where I am, I feel good both physically and emotionally and this weight gain isn't necessary. 

Those thoughts intruded, unwelcomed I knew, yet I let them hang out and direct my actions. Unlike the last time they barged into my life - four years ago - this time, no change in my physical appearance happened. I didn't lose weight like I wanted to and I felt even worse because of it. 

Thankfully, I have a life that distracts me from such potentially destructive thoughts, and as life has gone on over the past few months, those thoughts have lost some of their energy. In other words, this is the "acceptance" part. I didn't necessarily welcome the extra weight, but I did turn my attention away, to more pressing priorities like school, blogging, family, friends, etc. However, this was not without the personal promise to return to these thoughts and eliminate the weight. 

A C C E P T.

If I could identify the "turning point", I would explain it in all of its glorious detail, but I can't think of one. So, something just clicked in my brain, I guess. That click probably hit the '"embrace" button. 

Finally, I began seeing the image - not just the body, but the person, the beauty - in the mirror looking back at me. FINALLY. The "click" reminded me that, my lower weight left me with more stress about food and what I was eating or not eating and the fact that I was damaging my body than my higher weight did about just weighing more and having a bit (emphasis - A BIT) of extra tummy cushion ever will. Like, wow. Duh. 

 E M B R A C E. 

Finally, I've reached a weight that doesn't leave my stomach growling, my knees aching, and my stress levels through the roof around one of life's pleasures I absolutely adore - F O O D. I'm at a weight that's about 8-10 pounds heavier than what I wanted a year ago and a jean size 2 sizes wider than before, but who. really. cares. 

I can go out to eat with friends without needing to analyze the menu beforehand and plan out what I'd order according to what's left in my calorie intake for the day (though I still look at the menu to get pumped for F O O D). I can dig a spoon into my favorite peanut butter at any hour of the night and enjoy it, even if it's 11 PM and I'm going to bed soon. I can drool over vegan double chocolate brownies that may not be low-carb or low-sugar or whole-grain and made with simple ingredients. 

I can embrace my body. 

me, making love to one of Minimalist Baker's lentil sloppy joe's in my favorite class EVER. 

me, making love to one of Minimalist Baker's lentil sloppy joe's in my favorite class EVER. 

I. 

CAN. 

My advice to you, you ask? 

The amazing woman behind the Food Psych podcast - Christy Harrison - reminded me that everything good and valuable and worthwhile, like my period, healthy joints, hydrated skin, strong hair and nails, etc., have only come with the addition of extra weight. So, I can have a thin figure that I may see as and that I hope others may see as "desirable", OR I can have actual health, a physique that isn't pain when forced to workout, a body that fits. 

What does that look like for you? 

Some of my favorite inspirations: Kylie, Christy, Robyn, and Alexis

2) Faith. 

This one is harder to put into words, and quite honestly, I haven't wanted to try for a long time. But, last Sunday as I went through the usual motions of church, Psalm 8 was presented and I will be forever thankful for it (and every other Bible verse, of course, but this one particularly): 

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
— Psalm 8:3-4, NLT

And here I am, concerned about keeping up with Instagram posts, ace-ing my psych midterm, prepping pecans for pecan milk (not to discredit its deliciousness), and comparatively useless, fleeting obsessions more than I am motivated to open my Bible, even to ask the Lord why these idolatrous thoughts are again taking over. 

As you can see, much of this has had to do with idols - the things and people and practices I prioritize before my God. Been there, done that. And I must say, I'm really not cool with hanging out here for much longer. What a perfect depiction of God's mercy and grace that He would present me with this verse amidst perhaps one of the deepest dives I've taken into this cyclic world of idolatry. 

A C C E P T. I recognize that I have fallen off track. I see the things/people/etc that have contributed to my distraction. I am here, and it is okay. I am human, and I am imperfect.

The book of Isaiah will probably be my forever-favorite of anything, and as I read through my summary/what I learned from it, I'm reminded yet again the simple blessing it is to have a relationship with God. Heck, I can even consider this uncomfortable confusing place a blessing. 

E M B R A C E. I thank God for this place. I thank God for the fact that my faith isn't stagnant or boring, but rather always challenging me and pulling me closer to Him. I am still imperfect and will always be, but I embrace the God who has always embraced me. 

Am I completely comfortable yet? No. I'm still trying to figure out my faith, and as I said before, that's one of the benefits of a challenging faith - it pushes you into growth and pulls you toward the Creator of it. Part of me didn't even know if I wanted or needed to share this, but I did share it because doing so is an important part of my faith. I wouldn't have recovered from my eating disorder had I not leaned on the Lord (and part of my current struggle with food is because I haven't been leaning on Him - duh, Haley), and the majority of this blog is about me, my recovery, and my life walking as close as I can behind God. So, sharing this would only make sense. 

Ahhhh. So, I hope that has made some sort of sense. I wouldn't have written it if I didn't think anyone else could relate or gain something from it. If you've made it this far, thank you. Your support and dedication to my blog means almost as much as the blog itself! 

Can you relate? Is there anything I can help with or you can help me with? Leave a comment down below! 

THOUGHTS: Life Lately #3

Thoughts, LifeHaley Hansen10 Comments

It, my friends, is time for a life update. These life-update posts give me weird, mixed feelings - like, do people actually care? Does anyone want to know what goes on in my life aside from school, school, and school? 

Those of you who do are reading this and are much appreciated :) I won't waste your time, so let's get right to it! 

POST-SUGAR-CLEANSE DEBRIEF

A couple weeks ago, Jeannette from @sweatysweetpotato and I teamed up for a week-long sugar cleanse. We excluded any and all refined sugars from our diets - the typical ones being maple syrup, coconut sugar, turbinado sugar, and the like. One of the main questions you guys asked me was if we planned to continue eating fruit (or a more aggressive and concerned "wait, why are you cutting out fruit?!?!" - which we never planned to do) - let me tell you something: unless type 2 diabetes creeps up on me or some nasty, potentially life-threatening allergy to fruits suddenly squeezes itself into my biochemistry, I will NEVER cut out fruits. Bananas, berries, melon, and mangoes are some of my favorite things ever! So are apples, but I would've ruined that alliteration if I including them in that previous sentence, ya' know? 

Anyway, our intention was not weight loss or simple restriction and control, but rather pure experimentation driven by the desire to a) understand more of sugars' effect within our individual bodies and b) learn to detach ourselves from the habitual (and sneakily sugar-laden) protein/energy bar in our daily diets. We did NOT plan to change our lifestyles completely to forever exclude sweet treats. Over the past couple of weeks, I'd been feeling like I needed to come face-to-face with our prevalent sugar is/was in my diet. No - nothing like refined cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, but additives like the ones I mentioned above that the body still metabolizes similar to how it would traditional sucrose (table sugar). 

So, what did I find? Clearer skin, less need for "a little something sweet" after each meal, prolonged focus level for a longer period of time after a meal (not thinking about my next snack five minutes after I just finished lunch), and less bloat (because gut bacteria likes sugar) . Sorry for all the hyperlinks, but each of those simply explains a bit more in depth about how dietary fat and sugar both affect specific physiological feelings and the resulting bodily reactions. Like I said before, by no means am I never eating a cookie again. BUT I'm now much more aware and cautious of the amount of sugars - everything from fruits to protein bars to my favorite vegan ice cream - I consume everyday and how my body feels afterwards. I definitely will cut back, but I will not cut out. 

homemade pecan milk - sugar-free, additive-free. DO IT. 

homemade pecan milk - sugar-free, additive-free. DO IT. 

NEW VOLUNTEER POSITION

I mentioned this in my Instagram story the other day, but by now, it's disappeared. About two months ago, I quit my donut job in hopes of lightening up my life-load (work + school + blog + me-time + social life = omgthisiswaytoomuch), but God presented me with another opportunity with which I could fill some extra time and, of course, be of benefit to my peers in need. After the application and interview process, I was chosen to become a Peer Health Educator on my campus, and I'll specifically be consulting with students who have any sort of nutrition- or fitness-related question. This can be anything from navigating the campus dining system to squeezing in more veggies throughout the day to creating a workout plan to - this one is the one I'm most excited for - assisting with potential or existing eating disorders. My position is not a paid one, but it's already worth just as much (if not more than) any paid job I've had before. 

I'm SO excited - and yes, I use capital letters to help portray that sense and hope that maybe it's contagious for you readers - to get started and involve myself more in the campus that has helped foster immeasurable growth for me in the past three years. 

MORE BLOGGING

More blogging - YAAAAAAY! - more capital letters - more YAAAAAAAAAAY! One of my goals as I emptied my plate over these past few months has been to invest more time into this place. Since then, I've been wrestling with reminding myself that this can be considering my "job". However, I don't want anyone to think that my motivation here is to make the most money I can. My motivation is and always will be sharing and loving and encouraging, not advertising. Investing more time into this place means investing more time into you as my beloved readers, into me, and into the future. 

That being said, I want to hear from you! What kinds of posts do you want to see more of: recipes, workouts, nutrition tips, life posts? Be specific and leave comments below. I truly cherish your input!

FUTURE PLANS

Don't get ahead of yourself - I don't have my life figured out or anything. What I do know is at a least a layout of the next year and a half-ish. A significant chunk of classes still stand between myself and my graduation, so that represents the year and a half ahead of me. Once this quarter is all finished up (in about 8 weeks), I'm heading on home down to SoCal for the summer to spend some mucho needed time with my parents. Homesickness hit me hard this quarter, so I'm taking that as God's way of welcoming me back home. Allllllso a large part of my summer plan includes more involvement with NuttZo! More details to come on that, so stay tuned. And for the remainder of my time, I'm hoping to take a few classes to lighten the load when I go back to school for my senior year. 

And now for the more unknown. When I do finally graduate from Cal Poly, my plans are to apply for a grad school a coordinated dietetic program - which is basically a combo of grad school + dietetic internship, after which I'll be eligible to sit for my RD exam. As of right now, I'm loving this idea because, by 2024, all RD's will be required to have a Master's degree, so why not do it now, anyway? 

EXERCISE STUFF

My workout routine has shifted immensely throughout the past 12 months. After letting go of running (officially), I've had to turn to other forms of cardio not only for my physical health, but also for my mental health. I've tried swimming and cycling, but those never seemed to satisfy my desire for something more steady-paced that I could do while I let my mind clear itself out. When I ran, I didn't have to think about my next stroke or my next interval - I just ran. Thankfully, I found that the stairmaster has a similar quality to it! Though it doesn't allow me to breathe in the fresh air of outdoors like running did, I can pop my headphones in and indulge in some podcasts (my favorites right now are Dr. Stephen Cabral, Food Psych, The Chasing Joy Podcast, and Bulletproof Radio). For about 45 minutes, I climb at a low-medium speed just to get my heart rate up and sweat a bit. On the weekends, when Cal Poly's gym sleeps in with the rest of the college students, I lace up my sneakers and head out for a long walk (yes, this includes more podcast-binging). Fresh air - fiiiinally! 

the final hill of my saturday-morning route. it's a tough one. 

the final hill of my saturday-morning route. it's a tough one. 

Finding an exercise routine that works for me, that makes me feel good, and that I don't have to force myself to follow took months (maybe even years), so be patient if you're struggling with the same thing. Keep an open mind, too, because you never know what you and your body will love! 

OTHER EATS

my favorite bowl from Bliss Cafe - the Green Energy bowl + side of cashew cheeze. blis

my favorite bowl from Bliss Cafe - the Green Energy bowl + side of cashew cheeze. blis

dad. love him. 

dad. love him. 

tempura sweet potatoes. YES.

tempura sweet potatoes. YES.

tofu eggplant stir-fry for me, something else with tofu for dad (he orders tofu because he loves me).

tofu eggplant stir-fry for me, something else with tofu for dad (he orders tofu because he loves me).

lunch with dad @ Shine Cafe - best vegan place near me! a sprouted grain bagel with tofu cream cheeze + veg for dad & a taco with tempeh, quinoa, greens & avo for me (its buried, but I was cool with it). 

lunch with dad @ Shine Cafe - best vegan place near me! a sprouted grain bagel with tofu cream cheeze + veg for dad & a taco with tempeh, quinoa, greens & avo for me (its buried, but I was cool with it). 

last but not least, a stupidly good Mediterranean take-out meal to end a lovely weekend with Paps. 

last but not least, a stupidly good Mediterranean take-out meal to end a lovely weekend with Paps. 

oh, but I couldn't forget lunch @ Cafe Gratitude with Connie! 

oh, but I couldn't forget lunch @ Cafe Gratitude with Connie

Aaaaaand that's about it! Want to know something funny? My teachers and professors have always taught me to never end an essay or presentation like that - "so... yeah. that's it!" - yet, I end almost every non-recipe blog post with a similar line. Oops? Good thing I'm not graded on these. 

Thank you times a million for reading. I'm so grateful to be included as part of your day and I hope you've benefitted from this post somehow, someway. Leave some feedback below! 

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THOUGHTS: Cleaning Things Up

Thoughts, LifeHaley Hansen2 Comments

Just kidding - that's not even possible. I just couldn't quite think of a better title. So, I'm glad you're reading this (and I hope you continue) because I can then explain more of what I mean. 

If you've known me for a while, you know my past. You know my previous struggles from years ago, you know my recent struggles within the past month, and you probably know what I ate for breakfast this morning. If you're new to me, hello! Thank you for stopping by. A short synopsis of my story - I struggled through an eating disorder that lasted from my junior year of high school through my sophomore year of college. Finally, I'm recovered. *deep, deep breath* WOW that feels so good to proclaim with all the confidence in the world. Where am I now? I'm following step by step behind God, as He leads me along His plan for my life. As we walk together, I'm sweeping up the remains of my past - and by that I mean the results of my eating disorder. Just because I've recovered doesn't mean I don't deal with those negative thoughts at all. I still compare myself, question calories, and (I hate to say it) idolize food and my figure over more important, demanding things like school, relationships, etc. However, the majority of the time, I'm good. 

Recently, I've been reflecting on each "stage" of my journey, if you will. From the highly restrictive initial stage, into the discovery of vegetarianism and little peaks on which I found true balance, through the extremely high-carb/low-fat vegan part and lowest weight of all time, and, finally, recovery. Here. Maybe this sounds silly, but I see all of that portrayed through my blog (recipes, nutrition tips, life posts, and even Instagram). Duh - this website began in order for me to share my story and I want to keep it true to ME, wherever I am in life. Buuuuut, my past has been weighing on me lately. While I'm not ashamed of it in any way (I'm actually really thankful for it), I can't ever - EVER - recommend any of "diets" or "health tips" I offered throughout those times to anyone. They were fueled by an eating disorder that desired nothing more than to burn fat and eat as strictly healthy as possible.

That's just not who I am anymore. I don't follow a HCLF vegan diet. I don't eat just salad with steamed veggies and chicken for dinner. I don't workout every single day. 

I also don't - 98% of the time - struggle with an eating disorder. 

Now here's where things might sound weird. Instagram is most likely the first thing people see when they find HungryHaley. Via Instagram (the link in my bio), they'll find this blog, should they choose to continue exploring. I've dealt with my fair share of body image/outward appearance issues, and this, at first, seemed like just another one of those. So, I tried to brush it off my shoulder, but I think God's been laying it so heavily on my heart to tell me that this is o k a y. This is MY blog, after all, right? 

What you may or may not know is that, two and a half years ago, when I began this blog, I was still within the tight grip of my eating disorder. Squeezing myself out (or attempting to do so without the help of my all-powerful God) took years, and that's why I say that my posts during that time are skewed, inaccurate, and untrue to me. 

Maybe I'm just making too big of a deal, but I've already written quite a bit and it's dead week and I should be studying but I've invested myself into this post so I'm going for it. 

I've decided to delete most of my previous Instagram pictures because, as I said before, I just can't let my readers (old and familiar, or new and oh-so-welcomed) see those and possibly think of them as "healthy". Truth is - they are not. They are restrictive, minimal, and unbalanced. If someone truly wants to know my past, it's all here. But, as far as my "image" (or whatever you want to call it) goes, I'm cleaning things up. The more time I spent reflecting, the more I compared where I am now to where I was then, and this is mostly on a superficial, body-image scale (and accounts for that 2% of non-recovered mindset I mentioned earlier).

so. un. healthy. I am where I am now by the grace of God and I am SO grateful. From then to now represents my salvation. Then = imbalance, idolization, obsession, self-comparison, etc. Now = balance, faith, freedom, gratitude, happiness, true health. No need to look back and compare. 

This is for me. But this is also - kinda/sorta - for you, my beloved readers. This blog is absolutely precious to me, and I will not let it represent anything that isn't true to who I am and what I believe. These pictures evoke negative thoughts and memories that pull me back into my struggles and, I'll say it one more time, I'm cleaning things up. 

None of this - the pictures, the posts, the eating disorder, the whatever - defines me. Yet, I want to represent me. I want to represent a positive example of healthy, balanced living. 

The more I write, the more I wonder, "Will anyone even care/notice that I've 'cleaned things up'?" Probably not, but writing and lifting it off my chest is just this thing I have that makes me feel better. Hence, this blog. I tend to write and think and write those thoughts (oh, and eat). 

Anyway, I need to get back to studying. If you've made it this far, thaaaaaaaanks :) Seriously, your support means mui mucho (Spanish skill level = -3) to me. 

THOUGHTS: Life Lately #2

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen3 Comments

Life lately. Hmm… life lately. I’m looking back on the last couple of months (since my last life update post), trying to gather everything God’s been up to, but considering the amount of pure business I’ve piled on my plate, locating God’s hand hasn’t quite been as easy as usual. I’ll explain. I guess it allllllll ties together at the end, so just follow along. As always, excuse my all-over-the-place-ness.

UPS

1. I conquered organic chemistry! Can I get a HOLLAAA. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely loved that class (deep, deeeeeeeeep down), but the stress of each weekly quiz, each midterm, etc. piled up a heavy weight on top of that love. Finally, all grades aside, I’m able to uncover and embrace that nerdy love :)

2. My brother got MARRIED! And thanks to not only his love for that beautiful woman, but also God’s gracious providence, my family and I found ourselves spending a week in London to celebrate. Sure, I missed a week of school and struggled to catch up, but everything London held for us made it allllllll worth it. We spent a day or two exploring Central London (Harrod’s Food Hall = earthly heaven) and the rest of the time preparing everything needed for the wedding. God showed up oh-so-beautifully on the day of the wedding, bringing us sunshine (a rare occasion in London winters), happy tears, warm hearts, and gratitude unable to be measured by even the world’s biggest tablespoon.

3. I’m actually loving my classes this quarter. Yup – you heard me. I LOVE my classes! Wait, I might be getting ahead of myself. Two of my three classes have captivated my interest more than any other class EVER: biochemistry and nutrition in aging. The third, the history of the trans-atlantic slave trade, is a bit less captivating (maybe all the inhumane torture and shameful, ignorant cruelty stands in the way of grabbing my interest). At the end of the day, studying isn’t really my main hobby, but when my classes pertain to my passions and said hobbies, studying becomes much more feasibly and even enjoyable. Let that be a word of advice to all you soon-to-be and current students – study subject(s) you’re passionate about!

4. In the near future, I see a BIG wide opening in my schedule, which I’ll explain because it’s like half-up, half-down in terms of its placement in this post. It’s an “up” because it’s been a necessity for months, but I haven’t been allowing God enough say in how I schedule my life. Wow – that whole sentence sounds terrible. God needs the ultimate say in my life’s schedule, not just a little piece of it. eye roll. Anyway, I’ll come back to this later.

DOWNS

1. I quit my job. I am no longer an employed, working woman. To connect what I was just talking about, I decided to stop working at the best donut company ever (*cough cough* SLO DO CO.) simply because I need to breathe. I need to allow God full control and trust Him in every aspect, especially my schooling and income. My constant working throughout the past three months provided me with an income bigger than my head (okay, my head isn’t big enough to justly fit into that comparison, but it is pretty big so I thought like idk why not), and while that was extremely beneficial in helping my parents support me, it was also a bit harmful. I’d finish working on a Saturday, absolutely e x h a u s t e d and convince myself that I could go out and “reward” myself for such hard work with a new pair of leggings, dinner at the Whole Foods salad bar (all my health-nut foodies know what I’m talking about), or something along those lines. So, yeah, my paycheck was pretty fat, but I slimmed it down rather quickly and needlessly. Now that I’ve decided to stop working (and in its place, focus on school + myself + my blog), I’ll be earning less money and asking God for the wisdom and control to spend what I do earn more wisely.

2. Along with this theme of emptying my way-too-full plate of unnecessary life items, I’ve had to let some potential relationships – well, actually it’s just one – turn down a road I previously hoped it wouldn’t. Why? I asked myself that question A LOT in the decision-making process, but with God constantly placing on my heart the possible outcomes of NOT taking the initiative (and, of course, my best friends just looking out for me), I couldn’t ignore the fact that my letting this nagging thing go is only for my good. Ultimately, it boiled down to self-respect. I love myself too much and I know how much I AM loved already to not let an unhealthy situation go. You know? So, I guess it’s got quite a bit of “UP-ness” wrapped up inside, too :)

3. While the trip to London for my brother’s wedding took obvious priority over my classes, I’m now playing the challenging catch-up game. You know, the one where you tell yourself you’ll definitely stay on top of studies during your vacation, and then that doesn’t happen, so you arrive back home and you’re like AHHHOMGEVERTYHINGSLOWDOWNPLEASE. Trying to cram for two midterms (something I’m proud to say I’ve never done, until this point) is like trying to catch Allyson Felix and Usain Bolt in the Olympic 100M dash. Lol not possible.

GOALS

Eeeeeep! This is the part I’m most excited to share :) can you tell? Now that I’ve cleared off my life-plate of commitments that contributed to it’s over-piling, I’ve set some goals for the next few months that I cannot wait to walk with God towards!

Note: this is in no particular order of importance.

1. More blogging – yaaaaaaaaaaay! This one was an automatic priority for me in terms goals, but I had to warm my parents up to the idea at first. Of course, I do need some sort of income, and that’s where this baby comes into play. At the moment, it won’t provide a stable income for me, but the more I work on it (and believe me, I want nothing more), the more credibility I’ll build and the more I’ll be able to earn in the future. What can you expect? More workouts (sustained energy thanks to DrinkRE energy shots), more recipes (featuring products like NuttZo nut + seed butter), more faith posts, and more nutrition advice. Get excited – I sure am :)

Oh, and Eat Healthy Designs, of course! 

Oh, and Eat Healthy Designs, of course! 

2. More “Jesus-time”. If this list were in a particular order, this number would undoubtedly come first. By the end of last quarter (my busiest 11 weeks ever), I’d never felt more drained – physically and spiritually. Adding up 20-hour-workweeks + endless hours studying for organic chemistry + hours needed to let my body even slightly catch up to the workload I expected from it resulted in practically no time to just sit and breathe and think and p r a y. I felt so guilty for allowing such an accumulation, but God does not want my guilt, so I’ve snapped out of it and used His gracious forgiveness to tie a promise to my heart to put Him first from here on out. After all, how else am I going to fuel this quarter and all others (academic or not) yet to come?

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3. More relationships. My prioritization of working and studying last quarter left only a sliver of time for a social life. No, I’m not extrovert, but even us introverts still desire a bit of human interaction on a daily basis. For me, I wanted so desperately to hang out with my best girlfriends, but I couldn’t find the time. I can’t thank God enough for the courage to open up my schedule this quarter – I’ve already been able to soak up some quality time with my girls AND plan a few more girl-dates with lovely women I’m not super close with… yet :) I’m stoked to be able to devote more time to not only my bestest of friends, but also to whomever God is ready to plant in my life. I’ve applied for a position on Cal Poly’s Health Education team, in hopes of becoming a nutrition and/or mental health counselor. Prayers would be much appreciated :)

So, yeah. That’s the life of this busy-blogger lately. As always, thank you times a million for reading – your support allows my blog a place in this world! I would love to hear what’s new in your life! Leave a comment below or send me an email! 

THOUGHTS: 2016 All Wrapped Up

Thoughts, LifeHaley Hansen1 Comment

Another 365 days down, huh? Gosh, I feel like a grandma sometimes when I say that these years go by faster and faster as I grow older. Even more amazing, though, is how God can pack so much into such little time.I think it's important to look back, remember, reflect, learn, and grow from as many life experiences as possible, aaaaand these posts seem to be pretty dang popular as the New Year celebration approaches, so I'm hopping on the train :) come along with me and let's look back at 2016... well, mine at least. 

WOOPS:

  1. MY PERIOD, BABY. Oh yeah, you heard me. This girl finally regained her period after almost two whole years! Of all the struggles my eating disorder threw upon me, amenorrhea was one of the most terrifying. I feared permanent infertility and how that would affect possible relationships/marriage. My period's long-awaited return was a product of weight gain, decreased exercise, and full surrender to God (and those three all tie hand-in-hand, I guess). Want to know how I did it? Read the entire post here
  2. WEIGHT GAIN. You'll see this guy again later on, but in this case, I'm highlighting it because without it, I couldn't say that I'm recovered from my eating disorder. I probably couldn't have modified and expanded my workout routine. And I definitely couldn't have built a solid trusting relationship with God. At my absolute lowest weight throughout my eating disorder, I'd step on the scale and see somewhere between 114-116 pounds. Just about a week ago, and for the first time in a long time might I add, I stepped on the scale at my parents' house and saw 124 pounds. No greater feeling of accomplishment could've flooded through my veins at that moment :) 
  3. NUTRITION MAJOR. I'm officially a nutrition major at Cal Poly SLO! From my freshman year until about halfway through my sophomore year, I studied journalism. However, I remember calling my parents one night as I walked home from a racism, sexism, and the media journalism class, practically sobbing as I realized I hated it all. Of course, I'm passionate about social media, as well as topics like racism and sexism, but journalism just wasn't for me. From that day until the end of June, I was stuck in transition from journalism --> nutrition, stressing out like never before over chemistry, but also peeing my pants in excitement to finally take classes on topics I study in my free time (nerd, much?). When I saw that I passed my hardest chemistry class which determined whether or not I'd officially be a nutrition major, I'm like 97% positive I actually did pee my pants a little bit. 
  4. BAPTISM. Ultimate highlight, right here. May 22, 2016 - by the far the best day of my life :) I'd been baptized as a sophomore in high school, but at the time, didn't truly understand the depth behind it nor who God really is and His significance in my life. I can't say that my recovery prompted me to be re-baptized, but I can't really say vice versa, either. Rather, God perfectly intertwined both, enabling them as one to pull me out of that struggle. Read more here :)  
  5. EBOOK. I wrote, designed (alongside my Daddy-O), and published my first ever ebook! Okay, I know it sounds suuuuuuper exciting, and it was, but it proposed a pretty big challenge. Balancing school, a social life, and blogging all while dealing with one of the hardest chunks of my eating disorder? Somehow, this ebook made it out alive, and in mid-August, with the help of my tech-savvy roommate, finally went live on the blog! Totally completely 100% free and easy to download. Just click on over here :) 

POOPS

  1. WEIGHT GAIN: Told ya' you'd see this again. Gaining weight was, by far, the absolute hardest part of recovery. For those of you who have been or are going through this, you know (and you should smile because you're definitely not alone). I still struggle sometimes, when I look in the mirror or squeeze into jeans I once used to slide into or feel a little jiggle when I'm working out. I still struggle sometimes with not just accepting my new body, but embracing it. At this weight, I know I'm the healthiest I've ever been, but I'm not a size two and I don't have a six pack like I always wanted. BUT I can run and jump and laugh and produce a period and eat pretty much whatever I want with very little to no mental interference. I DO love my new body, and I'm praying that God continues to fill my heart with gratitude for how He's healed me :)
  2. SINGLENESS STRUGGLES: Ugh. Sometimes I'm annoyed this is even a thing, you know? Like, why do I have to care so much about (dumb) boys?! Why can't I just be happy as can be living my, what I like to call, "single as a pringle" lifestyle? Well, to answer my own question, because God created me as a woman to desire such deep relationships with others and stand intentionally in them, producing life, encouraging growth and flourishing for both the other person and myself. Two of the books I read this summer implanted within my mind this understanding - "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge and "Girl Defined" by Bethany Baird and Kristen Clark. Yepp, I still crave a hand to hold, forehead kisses, and above all, someone to grow in Christ with, and no, I haven't really found that person yet. Buuuuut I know that, whether or not God actually has him in the cards for me, I have God, and He is more than enough :) 
  3. BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. I may or may not have totally overwhelmed myself this Fall quarter of school. Working 20-25 hours each week, trying to balance a social life, introversion and blog, all while enrolled in 15 units (organic chemistry, mostly) beat me up, but I did survive. This mind-boggling 11 weeks opened my eyes to what I hope life doesn't look like all the time, and reminded me how much I really do need to slow down, breathe, prioritize, and simply let God handle my life instead of trying to do so on my own. 

So, yeah... that's about it. Of course, God stocked 2016 FULL of lifelong memories, huge achievements, and straight up blessings beyond what I could fit in one read-able post :) again, thanks so much for reading and I can't wait to explore 2017! 

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THOUGHTS: Life Lately

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

I will post this today I will post this today I will post this today. 

Breathe. Welcome to my life, everyone! Lately, life looks like my bedroom on my I-don't-know-what-to-wear days, or maybe a beat-up vacuum, running around on auto-pilot, trying to suck up as many crumbs (aka items on my to-do list) as possible as quickly as possible. 

Last night was the first night - no, the first time - in months I've sat down to really spend time with Jesus and only Jesus. Heck, I practically buckled myself to the couch just to keep from uncontrollably getting up to either finish homework or wash dishes or let myself fall asleep. Honestly, focusing on Him but also r e l a x i n g was HARD. My mind constantly swerved off track, but God graciously placed it back where it needed to be. 

Finals, work, and everything else filling up my schedule have kept me busy enough to keep me from finding time to post anything I've had in mind here, but like I did last night, I shoving all else aside for the moment because I want to and I need to and I should :) so, here's my life lately...

UPS

  1. I'm almost done with Fall quarter! And organic chemistry! Part of me hates it - the tricky questions, the demanding time-requirement, the hard-a$$ exams - and the other part finds such inexplicable satisfaction in drawing out mechanisms that turn acetals to imines and back. Call me weird, I get that all the time. 
  2. I just hit 19K followers! Well, I shouldn't even squeeze myself into that sentence. 19K followers here would not even exist without God - it's allllll Him :) but seriously, how in the world did all of this happen? My eating disorder? I guess that's kind of the root of this all, in the most beautiful way possible. Had I not suffered and survived, and held God's hand through it, I wouldn't have much to say here. At the end of each day, I'm more thankful than I ever thought I would be/could be for such a hellish few years fighting my own body. 
  3. I'm in one of the happiest, most peaceful states to date. With my body, that is. Two years ago, I deprived and overworked myself. One year ago, I idolized food and pitied myself. Now, God's restored my relationship with eating and blessed me with not only such confidence, but with real, sustainable HEALTH. My knees don't hurt (though I still don't run), my head isn't dizzy, my skin stays relatively clear, and my weight isn't dropping. I see myself in the mirror in a state I've never been in, and (for the moment, at least) I never want to leave. 
  4. I'm seeing the different paths and opportunities God lays before me. A BS in Nutrition can take me pretty much anywhere, but I've never really been able to pin down what I want to do after I graduate. Thankfully, God's been opening my eyes to a) passions unknown to even me, b) people who need help (help I can provide via my own life experiences and education), and c) various career paths down which I can travel. Though I still don't know what His plan is, I know He's definitely got one and I can't wait to follow His lead

DOWNS

  1. I'm feeling controlled by school. Yupp - like I'm a robot and my professors each hold their own controller. Frustrating? Like you wouldn't believe. Throughout the past year, I've repeatedly wondered what life would look if school didn't consume most of it, but I have to remind myself that I'm here for a degree, because I enjoy learning (underneath all the stress), and to expand knowledge. Ugh, but allllllll those hours to spend studying... snap out of it, Haley!
  2. I'm thirstier than ever for God. And while this may sound like more of an "UP", as it can only pull me closer to Him, it's here because I haven't been doing my part to lay everything at His feet in return for His refreshing spirit. With all I've piled on my plate - 15 units, 20 hours a week of work, and seemingly endless time studying with a drop or two of a social life scattered throughout - I frequently feel like I "can't find the time". A few days ago, I put my phone away during the times of day I'd usually be scrolling through IG or checking emails or responding to texts, and realized that, yes, I'm busy and time is not something I've got much of, but God doesn't ask for that. He just asks for my heart. I've promised Him that and just because 90% of the time I'm running to here and from there, finishing this assignment and studying for that exam, whatever it may be, I can ALWAYS spend time with God. It's not about finding/making the time, it's about acknowledging Him in every moment. 
  3. I'm ready, but God might not be. *sigh*. This one is not easy to admit, for some reason. It's probably my stubborn, I've-got-it-all-together-ness keeping me from opening up about it. BUT here it goes :) I'm ready for a relationship! And yes, like a romantic one involving a cute, Jesus-and-veggie-loving boy with whom I can snuggle on Friday nights when I'm too lazy to do anything else, with whom I can drool over and cook duhhh-licious vegan food with, and with whom I can just share things with (i.e. even deeper versions of this life update). One thing, though - I don't know if it's in God's plan. I've dated in the past couple of months, but nothing's worked out and I fear that this one or the next one (whenever those may occur) might not work, either. At the end of the day, I have two choices: 1) worry that I'll end up alone and sob as I spoon pints (yes, pints) of vegan ice cream into my mouth, OR 2) continue to pray over every relationship in my life and worship Him no matter my relationship status. Guess which I choose :) 

GOALS

  1. Barre, barre, and more barre. I'm obsessed, and if you watch any of my snapchat or instagram stories, you know that by now. Last week, I subscribed to Barre3 - a studio that allows me full access to any workout on the website for just under $25 a month. You'd better believe I'm already scrolling through workouts, planning when I'll challenge myself to this one or that one or, well, alllll of them. I can't wait to accumulate all the official gear and just absorb as much knowledge about the practice as possible! Get ready for some barre workouts making an appearance here :) 
  2. EMBRACE school. This one's gonna' be a tough one, but I'm challenging myself to it because, deep down beneath all the assignments and exams, I truly do enjoy what I'm learning in school. My chemistry professor explained to us alllllll about pesticides and nerve agents and such toxic chemicals used in WWII and I felt so nerdy in my fascination for it all. I sat on the edge of my seat the entire length of the class! My goal for next quarter is to find pieces of each of my classes that sparks such interest in me. Whether it be that I create scenarios in my mind to apply something to my life, or that I take fewer classes to allow myself more time/energy for each, I just want to feel excited about learning again. Oh, and I want my grades to reflect that...
  3. Post one recipe/nutrition tip/workout/update a week. One a week - I can do that. That's manageable. Believe me, if I could post here every single day, I'd be all over that. Buuuuuut school and homework and studying and work and those couple drops of a social life I mentioned earlier. As much as I wish I could just blog day and night, I do want to soak up as much as I can of all that this time in my life has while I have it. That being said, I think one post a week is a solid balance point.

Ahhhh, so that's life lately! Again, THANK YOU for your constant support and love. Thank you for reading and for spending time here :) As always, if you've got any questions, suggestions, or anything else, post them below or send them over to me in an email! 

THOUGHTS: (eating) Disordered Holidays

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

This is the first Thanksgiving in four years I'm celebrating without an eating disorder. Since my junior year of high school, each year around this time brought me such stress and anxiety. My two favorite holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas - fell prey to the hands of my ED and soon became my two least favorite days of the entire year. How in the world can that happen? If you've ever gone through an ED, you know how. 

I'm writing this for readers who stand in both positions - the loving family member/friend, and the struggling person him/herself. I don't have all the answers to eliminate the ED today or tomorrow or even by Christmas, though I wish I did. I do, however, know the everyday challenges from the perspective of one who's suffered from an ED, and I've witnessed others going through one. In other words, I've stood in both positions, and I'm here to offer advice to both parties to help ease the stress and difficulties this disorder brings during the holiday season. 

AN ED: WHAT'S IT LIKE?

Well, it's like you're under the control of something you can't identify or see. You can hear it, though, and all it does is tell you that you're not good enough, that you're overweight, that you're ugly, and that you absolutely need to change (emphasis on YOU). An ED whispers those thoughts in your ear every single day - when you see yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning, when you sit down for breakfast (if you even have the appetite), when you zip up your once favorite pair of jeans, all the way until you're crawling back into bed at night. It holds a microphone - no, a megaphone - and gives not a care as to how loud its shouting these destructive insults and demands. 

I guess there's one tiny benefit - it does some math for you! But, of course, it uses that skill against you by constantly counting your calories and displaying that number on a huge illuminated billboard (whose lights never burn out)  in the back of your mind. Nevermind - it's no benefit at all. 

It's sad. It's scary. It's painful. It's confusing and unknown. It's fueled by self-hate and comparison. It's void of love, freedom, joy, and peace. It blames YOU and tells you that YOU caused all of this because, at some point in your life, you ate too much and didn't workout enough. 

We've never hosted Thanksgiving at our house, but our family friend invited us over every year for the feast, dessert, and good company. Nerves churned my stomach in the morning, as I spent an hour or two in the gym, trying to burn as many calories as I could even though I know I wouldn't be eating anything worthy of such exercise (i.e. pie, stuffing, casserole, etc.), and then paralyzed me later in the day as I walked into the kitchen of the hostess's house. I swallowed the lump in my throat as best I could, despite the discomfort, and pretended this monster inside me didn't exist. I helped prep dishes, set the table, and made conversation with other guests as an attempt to pull myself as far from the table as possible. If I could've skipped the entire meal, I probably would have. 

Did you hear that? Skipped. Thanksgiving. No one makes that choice to allow this monster such control. I still don't know how it finds its way in, but it does and, for lack of better words, it. sucks. 

An array of fine cheeses, meats, pickled veggies, bread and other appetizers left no room on the table for anything I'd even consider touching. My dinner plate held nothing but a few sweet potatoes (mashed with butter was the only option), lean turkey breast, and greens (I cringed at the sight of dressing). Pie or any other dessert? Ha. Funny. 

Swallowing the lump in my throat meant also trying to convince myself that no one knew, that no one suspected anything or worried at all, but I'm blessed with way too many loved ones for that ever to be true. I couldn't ignore my parent's tired, emotionless eyes as they glanced at my plate. I couldn't drown out their questions as to why I skipped dessert. And worst of all, I couldn't blame them because I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't do anything about it. I couldn't rip my body open and yank out the monster, no matter how badly I wished I could. 

HERE'S THE THING PEOPLE MIGHT NOT REALIZE: 

You look at me, several sizes smaller than I once was, probably looking worn out, a tad stressed, and all the while pretending none of this is happening. You see that something is wrong. You don't see ME - the Haley you've known for however many years - and you're concerned. I know, and I understand. What you and many others might not understand is that I don't see myself either. I look different to you, and I look, sound, think, act, and feel like a stranger to myself.

I don't even know who I am. I don't know what monster has crept inside me and woven itself into my every thought. I don't feel like me, I don't look like me, and I h a t e it. 

On the worst of days - yes, the holidays were some of them - when the ED created a record-breaking number of destructive thoughts and performed stage-worthy acts of family tension, stress, and arguments, I felt like I had to crawl into bed with it. Imagine battling your most hated enemy all day. My ED's favorite weapons severed ties between my parents and me, lied to those I hold close to my heart, and - for a short time - went so far as to convince me that everything I believed about the love of the Lord was false. 

He isolated me so that the only thing I could see, hear, feel, trust was him inside my head. He couldn't have cared less about backing away for the holidays to allow me time with my family. No, that could lead to healing, and he just wouldn't have that. 

YOU'RE IN ONE OF TWO POSITIONS if you're reading this: 1) you know these experiences and you deal with these feelings yourself, or 2) you recognize these characteristics when you see someone you know/love. Here's what you can do, whether you fit with the first or the second. 

1) First, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I wish I had a snap-your-fingers-and-poof-its-gone answer, but I don't. I do, however, know the solution - yes, there IS a solution :) there is peace, there is self-love and forgiveness, there is restored relationships with food. There is a Man who sees you as the most beautiful, majestic, perfect, worthy YOU that you could ever imagine. He is your Father, and He loves you beyond belief. He's created you and a prosperous plan for your life. He hates the monster and will rip him out, should you surrender to Him. I surrendered when I finally understood that no one and nothing else could ever truly heal or satisfy me. One of the characteristics of an ED - one that's felt more than seen, I think - is this longing for something. For me, I longed for control and for this certain perfection, though if you asked me to draw a picture of what it looked like, I wouldn't have been able to. God holds no picture of perfection we must achieve in order to receive His love. Rather, He holds a picture of perfection that He graciously changes us into when we receive, accept, embrace His love. He doesn't have standards. He has peace. He doesn't have size charts. He has forgiveness. 

2) Most important, know that this person is not making a conscious decision to allow this monstrous ED such a prominent place in his/her life. Know that this person is not striving for attention or pity, but rather for some sense of control (in the moment) and confidence (in the long run). Know that the environment around which food is served, holidays especially, will change. ED's transform beloved, savored, cherished food into an enemy feared, despised, and avoided at all costs. Know that it's not only this environment around the holiday table - it's everywhere. An ED creeps into family relationships, friendships, sports, academics, and everywhere between and beyond. To state it rather simply, this person is suffering. This person is drowning, pulled beneath the crashing waves by a monster who sees such destruction as success. Know that most smiles you see on this person, when in a food-centered environment - might not be real. If they are, however, you've clicked. You've achieved something extremely special and worthy of a mental photograph. This person's heart is smiling, shining bright for once :) because of you. 

YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED

"Will I ever recover?" - a question I've dealt with for the past several months. I've answered both "no" and "yes", and I guess, now I think it depends on your definition of "recovery". I believe I am recovered, as of May 22, 2016 - the day I whole-heartedly dedicated my life to the Lord. It was my admission of my weakness. It was my official surrender. It was God's acceptance and embrace. Since then, I've had a few struggles with food, and during those I've wondered if I had truly recovered. The Lord comforted me in reminding me that recovery does not mean perfection. Recovery means I no longer rely on food for satisfaction beyond my stomach's satiation. I might still eat a bit too much here and there. That's okay. I probably will - no, I definitely will - still focus as much as possible on healthy, whole, plant-based foods. That's also okay. I will NOT, however, allow fear of foods outside those categories to bring me to a state of nervous paralysis, or worse, starvation. 

"How can I stay balanced without obsessing?" Remember where your purpose is. My purpose is in God. My beauty is in the fact that I am His daughter, that He's seen me worthy enough of saving. My heart, my passion, my life is dedicated to sharing that story. Okay, less serious ones? Well, I remind myself that this moment - right here, wherever you are - is temporary. That donut, that cheese quesadilla, that piece of bread will not last forever. And you can view that two ways: 1) go ahead! eat it. you stick to your routine 95% of the time, you don't keep a bag of them in your pantry, and this moment out with friends or family or whoever might not be here tomorrow or next week. taste the treat :) OR 2) it's not life or death if you do or don't eat it. if you truly don't want it - if you're full, if you're tired, if you're thirsty, etc. - no one is forcing it down your throat. your loved ones will still love you. your friends (your TRUE friends) will still laugh with you and include you. This one treat will not up your jean size, or cancel out those squats, or totally demolish your routine. It's. One. Treat. Eat it if you want, or be confident in your choice not to. 

"Why am I not reaching my fitness goals? How can I reach my fitness goals while still eating enough/healthy/vegan/etc.?" I planned out a certain fitness goal a few years ago (I was a bit overweight at that time, so it was okay), but I chased after it - no, sprinted without any breaks - and I eventually did reach it. For two years, I kept myself at that size, but it was hard work. I rarely ever went out with friends, I stuck to my strict workout schedule, I NEVER ate anything outside my comfort zone (my first donut felt like the biggest decision in years), and I didn't listen to my body. When I fell in love with veganism, God showed me just how much I'd been depriving my body. My ED did everything in its power to prevent me from gaining weight, from "loosening up", and from trying anything different (workouts or food or lifestyle/routine). But after that night I surrendered everything up to God, I apologized to my body over and over and over. I hugged myself, I rubbed my legs, I relaxed my stomach, I stilled my arms. I finally loved myself because I knew I was fully, completely made whole in my Father who couldn't see me as more perfect than I already am. My weight went up, and I struggled to swallow that, but I concluded that my fitness goal wasn't what God had planned for me. I spent years fighting my body - fighting God - and I lost. I lay on the battleground tired, hungry, nutrient-deficient, no longer able to run, broken-hearted. But God was never my opponent. After all, what kind of opponent would pick me up off the ground in such a state, cradle me in His arms, heal my wounds, feed me, men my broken heart and promise to STILL. LOVE. ME. 

My fitness goals were a size 2, a 6-pack set of abs, and a few marathons down the road, among others. I'm not sure exactly what God's plans are, but I know they've thus far involved achievement of a healthy weight, increased muscle mass, elimination of exercise addiction, with more to come. Ask God to reveal His plans to you. 

"How do I not eat too much, but not too little?" Okay, anyone else have this answer? *crickets*. Yeah, nobody knows guys! I still struggle with this. Sometimes I lie in bed at 10:30 PM, feel a little growl in my tummy, and have to remind myself that I won't gain five pounds if I eat a piece of whole-grain toast right now to satisfy this hunger. Other times, I walk (or waddle) away from the table absolutely stuffed! I have to remind myself here that I still won't gain that five pounds because I never stuff myself like this. Thanksgiving just passed (and hopefully fear of the holiday along with it) and I couldn't have eaten one more bite. We cleaned our dinner plates and, an hour later, pulled out dessert. Did I have a scoop (or two or three) of that vegan gelato? You better believe I did! I allowed myself to indulge, to pull out the stretchy pants, to overeat. It's a holiday! I didn't do it because everyone else did, but rather because I truly wanted some of each dish/dessert. Holidays aside, I sometimes still accidentally overeat, but I look at it as a learning experience. I know that amount was too much for me, so next time I'll eat less. Beating myself up will only make me feel worse, and starving myself the next day will trash my metabolism. Just remember - tomorrow is a brand new start. 

"Is it okay to workout everyday?" Depends on your definition of "workout". I'm typically in the gym 5/7 days a week. Now, my definition of "workout" changes day to day. Those five days vary - HIIT (high-intensity interval training), weight training, LISS (low-intensity, stead-state cardio), swimming, and yoga. Those remaining two days usually consist of long, exhausting shifts at work (at a donut shop? oh yeah.) or, if God's feeling extra miraculous, a relaxing walk or bike ride. I've been working out long enough to discover my limits, and I do NOT push myself past those. I do NOT sign up for a HIIT or spin class if my knees ache or if my hamstrings are feeling too tight, etc. Exercise is one of my absolute favorite things to do, but I've struggled with addiction, as I know many of you have/do. That's why God took running away, and replaced it with more dependence on HIM for my fulfillment. A few years ago, I feared skipping a workout on any day, but I've learned that skipping one (sometimes two or three) is what my body needs! Our bodies crave rest, which is actually when muscle-building happens, but that's a topic for another time. It is okay to workout everyday, if your body feels truly energized and like it wants to do so. Don't force anything. 

I'll finish the post off here, though I could go on for days. If you still have unanswered questions, please do not hesitate to leave them in a comment below or send them over in an email. 

My prayer for this post is that God's light shines brightest. While ED's are evil, destructive, unfortunately possibly fatal, recovery IS attainable. Someone asked me, "Are you fully recovered?" I wanted to respond with a confident "yes", but I had to stop and think...

"I've restored my relationship with food," I eventually concluded. Full recovery just doesn't sound realistic, but rather one of those terms for which one solid definition does not exist. And even if it is/does, I don't know if I want to reach that state. I fear I'd be too confident in such an achievement and step out onto a lily pad, relying less on God for strength, direction, peace, hope, etc. I've restored my relationship with food, but I still face struggles, and those I lay at God's feet, promising to love myself and Him as much as I can. 

Don't let that freak you out - I'm happier now in my life than I ever have been. Just because I don't say "I'm fully recovered" by no means implies that I wrestle with that ED monster like I used to. God so faithfully crushed that demon for me :)

THOUGHTS: Chop Chop, Snip Snip

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley HansenComment
...for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:20, NLT

Lately, I've been looking in the mirror and, about 75% of the time, feeling less-than-satisfied with what I'm seeing and then critiquing. I'm facing the fact that weight gain is actually finally really happening. And that's a GOOD THING after my past with an eating disorder, but that doesn't make accepting and embracing the extra pounds, the rounder curves, and the tighter clothes any easier. Everyday holds some challenge in whole-heartedly loving the body the Lord gave to me. 

Some days, I truly do embrace this new figure. I look in the mirror and see my cut shoulders (thanks to Lindsey Bomgren's killer arm workouts), my fuller tooshie, and my stronger thighs as reward for my dedication and passion for fitness. Others, I hate that I can't slip on my favorite pair of high-school jeans, that my thighs rub together more often than not, and that I can't run anymore. 

Accepting and e m b r a c i n g myself is one of my weakest forms of worship. Yes - loving oneself is an act of worshipping the Lord, the Creator. 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
— Psalm 139:13-15, NLT

After finishing a workout the other day, I jumped in the shower, still feeling a little grumpy about my weight gain. Like I said, some days >> other days. This was one of the latter. I scrubbed shampoo throughout my hair and, in an attempt to lift my mood, thanked God for my long, thick, naturally curly hair. My thoughts trailed somewhere along the lines of: I might be heavier, not as thin as I used to be. People might judge me and see me differently, maybe even less attractive than before my weight gain, but I've got hair that I love, that brings me at least a little more confidence. 

I let myself rest in that for a moment, until I heard the Holy Spirit ask me what I would do if I didn't have this hair. Though I didn't answer immediately, my heart knew the answer and the Holy Spirit knows my heart. In that moment, I prayed about donating my hair. Chopping it all off and shaving my head? No. Cutting off an amount sufficient enough for someone else who needs it, someone else without such a blessing (taken for granted by me), to embrace and thank the Lord for? Okay, God, I hear you. 

This happened three days ago, and the more I've prayed, the more comfort and assurance the Lord brings me. 

For years - almost four, to be exact - I've fought God with my body. Fearing fat and craving control, I ran down a dangerous path that lead me to nowhere, nowhere except the most terrified, emptiest, hungriest state of myself I've ever experienced. I couldn't deny my inabilities and I couldn't fight any longer, so I surrendered. In a nutshell, I guess that's my testimony. And this is another piece I'm adding on. 

Father, give my hair to someone else who needs it and will cherish it more than I have. Let this be a reflection of all that You are - grace, mercy, love, beauty far beyond what the eye can see. Above all, let people see You in me. 

Thank you thank you thank you for reading :) if you ever have any questions/comments/suggestions/whatever else, please leave them below or send me an email! 

FAITH: When God Says "No"

Faith, Life, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

Because God does say "no". 

During the years of my eating disorder, I didn't allow the Lord much control in my life. Despite His constant reminders via loved ones and my own body, I refused to gain weight and learn to depend on Him, rather than my appearance. To say that the Lord said "yes" or agreed to my stubbornness would be wrong. He could see the damage I was causing to the body He gave me and He could hear my all my thoughts towards food, my body, and others (a fact that still sends chills down my spine). 

Recently, I opened up about still struggling with lingering effects of my eating disorder. To name just a few - perhaps the most prominent - self-comparison, unnecessary stress over food, and idolization of people, followers, exercise, and myself. Simply opening up about those things brought me closer to Him, allowing Him to help me push those things farther and farther away and pull Him closer. However, one more weakness barged in, uninvited, a week or two ago and I've been wrestling it out the door of my mind ever since...

Running. And tied to it, my selfish desire for the slim figure for which I ran unbelievable amounts of miles each week in high school. I've laced up my shoes maybe three times in the past ten months. Three times. In ten months. For a devoted distance runner, the aching knees and piercing shin splints must be practically fatal to force one to throw away running shoes for good. For me, I cringe to admit that they were, but a weakness in my heart teamed up with the aches and pains to throwing them out my only option.

I remember jogging home, breathless and hot and sweaty, deaf to everything but the sound of my patterned heartbeat and heavy recovery breaths. I remember collapsing onto the floor, wiping sweat from my face, chugging a ginormous glass of ice cold water, stretching out my legs and calming my breath. I remember feeling, as cliche as it sounds, absolutely invincible after every run.

That was a year ago. 

Now, I remember barely reaching my warm-up distance and already coaching myself through the aches and pains. I remember unexpected tears pushed out by the sore muscles, the throbbing knees, and the confused, broken heart. I remember the prayer, Lord, WHY can't I run anymore? Have I gained too much weight? Am I... fat? Will I never be able to run again? Seriously??

That was two months ago. And my (brand new) running shoes are left buried beneath my converse, flip flops, cross-trainers, and a thin layer of dust on my shoe rack. I like them there, though, because I can't see them as easily. When I do see them, my mind becomes a malfunctioning reel of the 12-month-old happy running times, interrupted by the fairly new bitter ones.

Of course, just because I can't lace up one of my favorite pairs of shoes doesn't mean I've given up exercise. HIIT, swimming, cycling, and weight training have kept me in shape, but my shape isn't as slim as it used to be. In all honesty, this might be one of the hardest leaps I've had to take throughout recovery. Gaining the initial chunk of weight during high school challenged me to let go of control and to listen to my loving family friends. And I did it. 

So, why am I gaining more weight? Better yet, why am I still struggling to accept that this weight gain is healthy? 

Because I haven't been listening to God's insisting "no". 

  • "NO" to my desire for control - I'm a control-freak. I always have been, but I know that with the Lord's help, I won't always be. 
  • "NO" to my idolization of running - I found such peace in the rhythmic pattern of my shoes against the pavement, but I gave it more time than I did to God. 
  • "NO" to my self-comparison with others - I fueled up for each run by pushing myself to chase after something. Sometimes it was a better PR, and sometimes it was a smaller jean size and motivation to burn off that bite of chocolate I'd eaten the night before. 

Can you think back to a time when your parents didn't allow you to have/buy/do something? You were so upset in the moment, unable to understand how they could be this unfair. Maybe you wondered, in the heat of the moment, if they even loved you. And here you are now, looking back, (hopefully) so grateful for their "no" at that time. For whatever it was, it probably saved you. 

God finally stamped His foot down and said "no" - "enough" - to my running and the sin laced within my shoes. His "no" was firm and powerful and loud. It came in the form of throbbing knees and aching shins. Ouch. But I see His sweet grace in saving me from further bodily damage and, eventually, drifting farther away from Him in my idolization of running + obsession with my appearance. 

His "no" was hard to accept. I felt like it had broken my heart. I often found myself looking in the mirror, wishing for those flat runner's abs, the toned hamstrings, the thinner waist. That's when the Holy Spirit intervened to remind me that, through all of this...

  • I'm working out and sweating and losing my breath and seeing muscle in places it hadn't been.
  • I'm lifting more and swimming longer and cycling faster. 
  • I'm varying my workouts and regaining my period. Did you hear that? I'm regaining my period. 

When I typed "when God says 'no'" into my search bar (because what else would a millenial do?), Google led me to 2 Samuel 22, "David's Song of Praise". Just like several times throughout the book of Isaiah, this chapter brought me to tears. King David sang this song to God upon His saving him from the wrath of his enemies. 

He's snatched me from the arms of my enemy and promised me a new life of assured beauty in His eyes, of unwavering love in His arms. 

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior...
— 2 Samuel 22:1, NLT
The waves of death overwhelmed me, bu tin my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears.
— 2 Samuel 22:5-7, NLT
He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters... He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me.
— 2 Samuel 22:17-20, NLT

Maybe His "no" to running was His latching His arms around me before I eventually lost myself so deeply in my sin and ran out of His arms. I do miss running, but I don't miss stressing over not having my period, or icing my knees and shins late into the night, or constantly pushing myself to run farther to look like this or that. 

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?
— 2 Samuel 22:31-32, NLT

Thank you for reading. My prayer is that the Lord continues to work vulnerability into my everyday life so that you know you're not alone in your struggles. Eating disorders capture too many, and I can't imagine holding my struggles within, not allowing anyone to see how the Lord pull me out of such a tight grip. There IS hope. Recovery IS possible. God IS powerful and mighty and faithful. 

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email :) 

FAITH: What I've Learned From the Book of Isaiah

Faith, LifeHaley Hansen1 Comment

I began reading through Isaiah a few weeks before school ended (my second year, that is) and only recently finished. In the time between the first chapter and the last, I studied for and finished final exams/my sophomore year, traveled to and explored England with my family, (almost officially) moved out of home and into my new apartment in SLO, searched for and finally found not only one, but two, jobs, and am now soaking up the last month of summer and preparing for the start of my third year at Cal Poly. 

Why Isaiah? Well, quite honestly, no specific reasoning motivated me to start this book of God's word, other than simply wanting to understand more of Him. Now that I look back - after finishing the book, studying chapters over and over again, and listening to/reading through commentaries on it - I can clearly see it's relevance (not that any book of the Bible is irrelevant), specifically in the past six months or so of my life. Maybe you're new to my blog, or maybe you've followed me since I began, in which case you probably know my story. If the former is your case, click here to catch up. To summarize, I suffered through an eating disorder for about three years - beginning with minor anorexia, then spiraling into severe orthorexia. Recovery for me came in waves, which is the best way to describe when and how I fully recovered. I wish I could explain this down to it's core, but all I can say is the Holy Spirit moved in me so greatly during the last months of my sophomore year, encouraging me to be re-baptized and showing me more clearly than ever before the fullness of completely surrendering to, faithfully walking hand-in-hand with, and whole-heartedly living for my God. On May 22nd, I was washed by the most cleansing wave of all. While I still come across some lingering struggles with regards to food, physical appearance, and all that an eating disorder convinces us is of utmost importance, I no longer feel consumed and controlled by them. I no longer give in to that sin. 

Isaiah. Isaiah showed me the eating disorder that Israel went through. Now, it wasn't the same as mine, but the sin of idolization lies at the root of both.

Summary

Israel rebelled against God by worshipping things of this world - silver and gold, kings and rulers, and prideful self-glorification. Through visions of Isaiah (a prophet, son of Amoz), God lays out His plans for rebellious Jerusalem and Judah. Constantly, repeatedly, He warns the people about consequences of their sin and promises them of His salvation, if only they will surrender their idols and worship Him as King. Isaiah shares His encounter with the Lord, when he whole-heartedly, fearfully, obediently and passionately surrendered his life to the One who saved him. He stands as a faithful messenger for the Lord, bringing to the rebellious people Good News of Jesus' coming and God's rule. Just when I began to find comfort in these promises, however, the Lord shook me awake with words of anger and promises to destroy all idolaters and hypocrites. His anger is not forever, nor is it ultimately characteristic of Him, thankfully. The book of Isaiah holds a promise of Jesus, son of David's coming and with it life-giving words of hope. The Lord wants to open His people's eyes to all they've been missing, and to provide for them stability strong enough and worthy enough of all hope, faith, and praise - Jesus. Despite Israel's sin, God promises not to abandon the city. He is faithful in protecting it, if only the people will recognize Him and repent from their sin of idolization, and even addresses Israel as His servant. So faithful and so loving is He that He sends his son, Jesus the Messiah, and commissions him to declare His promise of everlasting love and salvation. The Lord tells of Jesus' purpose, and through him, how He will display God's mercy and grace. One last time, He warns against sin and offers encouragement and hope in that His arm is never too weak to save. Only are we weak enough to allow our sin to separate us from Him, and yet He still offers His son as Savior, Jesus the Messiah. The last few chapters of Isaiah burst with the Good News as he prays for Jerusalem's final salvation and continued faith in the Lord. His word paint heart-warming pictures of His gracious arms reaching down to a once-rebellious people to lift them up in salvation and honor, all for His glory. 

Application

Throughout my eating disorder (and even sometimes today), I sinned by worshipping my outward appearance, by believing the lies magazines and TV and society told me about size and beauty, and by living in fear of food instead of my God. The heart of my eating disorder longed for the Lord, but even though I'd called myself a Christian for years, I denied God because I feared that His plan wouldn't match mine. I wanted full control of my life - the life God blessed me with - but I was damaging my body, probably even shortening this precious life without knowing it. In my heart, I heard Him warning me of judgment, yet I refused to listen. In my heart, I felt His promise of restoration and salvation, yet I still refused to listen. I searched for comfort and affirmation in family and friends, but found nothing everlasting. Towards the end of this past school year (my second one at Cal Poly) I remember a few nights spent crying on my bedroom floor, overwhelmed by loneliness, purposelessness, and emptiness. Confused. Discouraged. Crying out to the Lord, I finally felt His arms wrap around me when I re-dedicated my life to Him through baptism. I no longer felt my worth tied to my blog, or my beauty dependent on my size. I no longer saw God as controlling, selfish, and frightening. He showed Himself to me as the forgiving, gracious Father He is and pulled me out of the consuming eating disorder. I sought Him wholeheartedly, and He appeared. I repented, and He forgave.

Outstanding Points

  • Chapters 1-6 reminded me most of the worst times throughout those years. Blatantly, they laid out before me conviction of my sin and practically slapped me in the face with guilt. Reading God's own word about His anger and disappointment in a people who had committed the same sin I had been for so long left me feeling crushed and hopeless, though I'd been in successful recovery for months. Not knowing how the story would end but sure of the fact that Israel and I have much in common, I didn't know if I'd end up saved by God's gracious hands or defeated by His powerful wrath. It wasn't until He spoke some of the richest words yet at the conclusion of chapter 6 that I saw signs of a "happily ever after" ending, more clearly than ever before, His gracious hands working in my life just as He promised for Israel...
...But as a terebinth or oak tree leavers a stump when it is cut down, so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.
— Isaiah 6:13, NLT

Whatever it was inside my eating disorder that cut me down, the Lord's hand took it over and made me a holy seed. Whatever it was inside your deepest struggle that crushed you, His hand wants to make you a holy seed, as well. His purpose in your suffering isn't to defeat you or kill you, but rather to use you as servants to glorify His holy name. You will become a holy seed of God's Good News! You will be made new by the Spirit, as He promises in Ephesians 2. 

  • Chapter 37 tells of King Hezekiah's reaction to the king of Assyria's threats. King Hezekiah first instinct was not to respond directly to the king of Assyria. It was not to turn to his allies and his people for advice. It was to look to the Lord in prayer and ask for peace. I wondered how three-year-suffering would have been different, had I made prayer my first instinct. I wondered if my suffering would have even continued for as long as it did, had I humbled myself enough to bring my fears to the Lord, first and foremost. 
After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up tot he Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: ‘O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone cerated the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!... Now, O lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.’
— Isaiah 37:14-20, NLT
  • Chapter 59 answered one of the biggest questions I've held regarding God's love for us - if He loves us so much, then why does He allow bad things to happen? Why do I sometimes feel so far away from him? At the time I read this chapter, I was searching endlessly and for a job and feeling overcome with the stress of it all. It seemed as though God had backed away from me a little bit, as though He pulled His comforting hand out of my life. However, it is not the Lord who backs away or ignores us in these times, but rather it is our sin that causes us to feel distant from Him. Overwhelmingly moved by this realization, I couldn't keep it inside my own heart and I just had to share it - read it all here

My biggest take-away:

  • Well, I'm never really able to pick just one thing (if you're a close friend/family member, you know that all too well) of anything, but I guess what blew me away throughout Isaiah was how familiar it all sounded in comparison to my life. Each verse, each command and promise and word from the Lord walked me through my eating disorder. From the very beginning, three years ago - feeling ugly and unworthy - through to the very end, only a few months ago - feeling beautiful and cherished by the One who chose me - Isaiah painted it all, and finished it off with accents and sparkles and shimmers of God's grace. 
  • Idolization truly does lie at the heart of sin. Israel worshipped itself, along with treasures of this world and self-proclaimed kings and rulers, and I worshipped my own appearance, along with lies told by social media and self-proclaimed kings and rulers of today. The Lord clearly pointed this out to me through one of my favorite books, Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and again through the book of Isaiah. 

My favorite verses:

‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!’
— Isaiah 1:18, NLT
Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ And He said, ‘Yes, go and say to this people:
’Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’
Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.’
— Isaiah 6:8-10, NLT
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
— Isaiah 26:3, NLT
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.
— Isaiah 40:8, NLT
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:31, NLT
‘But as for you, Israel my servant... I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged,for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.’
— Isaiah 41:8-10, NLT
I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.
— Isaiah 48:10, NLT
‘Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.’
— Isaiah 49:15-16, NLT
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
— Isaiah 53:5-6, NLT

Thank you for reading, and I encourage you to delve into the book of Isaiah. If you've gone through something similar to an eating disorder, this book brings comfort beyond belief. Comfort I wish I'd known existed in the heat of my worst few years. But, all in all, God's word stands and is the same yesterday, today, and forever :) thanks, God, for speaking to me. 

THOUGHTS: DO-NUT Deprive

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

I love donuts. I really do. And I want to share with you a little taste - a pretty "sweet" one - of how the Lord has blessed me with them, beyond the cute sprinkles, the rich chocolate, the irresistibly tempting, soft, cake-y dough. I recently shared this with a follower, and I figured that if He has now strengthened me enough to a) realize it, b) embrace it, and c) share it with one person, why not share it with the rest of you? Maybe the idea of the Lord using donuts to pull me a few steps further along in the lengthy process that is recovery sounds silly, but maybe such an aesthetically whimsical, light-hearted treat holds much more "umph" to it than what meets the eye (and/or the stomach). 

My third year of college stands only a month's length away, but this story begins at the halfway-mark of my first year. San Luis Obispo boasts one of the most unique, lively, esteemed donut places I've ever known - SLO Donut Company (SLO Do Co.). During my first few weeks at Cal Poly, I'd heard talk of this beloved shop, with everyone raving about it's Nutella-filled "pillow" donuts, it's study-friendly atmosphere, and even it's open-mic nights. All of that sounded, well, great to me, but donuts were nowhere near my eating-disorder-dominated grocery list. Reserved and rather anti-social, I rested in my thankfulness that none of the few people I'd befriended had invited me there... yet.

Yet. 

Around mid-April, when I'd finally grasped hold of the bible study and, within that, group of Christ-following girls God had waiting for me just outside my comfort zone, we all went to our church's women's retreat for a weekend. After a long drive home, much-needed showers and dinner, one of us insisted on a late-night donut-run to SLO Do Co. 

Her: "Haley, you've never been to SLO Do Co.?!"

Me, internally battling a sickening combination of anxiety + fear + innocent desire to fit-in: "No, I don't know, I guess I've just never gone?" UGH nonononononono please no. How do I do this?! Rejecting this invitation could seriously change their opinion of me. It could reveal some of my eating disorder. It could be the last invitation from them... I feared. 

Too scared to risk losing or damaging or even just simply changing in the slightest bit this blessing of a friendship, I suppressed my anxious thoughts as best I could and went with them. So many of my rules shot around in my mind - no food after 9 PM, especially not sweets + absolutely nothing deep-fried as little refined-sugar possible - and the 15 minutes it took to drive there and stand line before we reached the counter seemed to take hours. My heart was actually beating at a much faster pace than what it should've been (and I'm known by my doctors for my slow, characteristically athletic heart-beat). I hated it. No - not the entire night, not the friendship, not SLO Do Co. or even the sweet, luring aroma of fresh donuts filling the air - but rather the painful, confusing war waging between my mind and heart.

Have you ever tried to display a comfortable, cheerful smile while making sure your friends don't know what stomach-twisting disease is taking over your body while trying to mathematically/aesthetically calculate which of the several donuts was the healthiest? It's practically impossible. Well, maybe it's not, because I did something along those lines. My friends might've noticed my discomfort, but I haven't opened up about this to them or anyone else really, only to that one follower (I hope, if you're reading this, that you know who you are). Finally, I ordered a maple old-fashioned donut. My reasoning? 1) It seemed to be the smallest, 2) it had no sugary toppings, and 3) it's maple frosting made me hope that it was made with less refined sugar than the others. 

We walked away, donut bags in hand, and I guess I thought that maybe resorting to the familiar comfort of @hungryhaley would calm my nerves. 

Me: "Wait - guys! Let's take a picture!" *everyone sets up their donut on the counter*

I snapped the picture in two seconds, and then it was time to eat. First bite... second bite... Okay, this is actually AMAZING... I thought to myself, and when I actually verbalized it, I felt this destructive internal war cease. For the first time in years, I felt actual, genuine h a p p i n e s s, actual, genuine p e a c e as I took bite after bite of a treat that broke all those restricting rules - a late-night, deep-fried, sugary donut. That's not where the story ends, though. There's more. However, I do encourage you pause here - take a 5-10 minute intermission to enjoy a treat. A donut.. maybe? :) 

Let's pick back up in my second year at Cal Poly. I became vegan in October, which meant no more late-night runs (not actually a "run", just to clarify) to SLO Do Co. Several other cafes in SLO bake vegan treats, but I still released a big sigh of relief at first, knowing I wouldn't encounter a night like my first visit to SLO Do Co. Buuuuuut I couldn't sigh for too long, because rumors of vegan donuts coming soon to SLO's favorite donut shop filled the air and again sped up my heart beat to a rate beyond what could be considered normal and healthy. 

Friends: "Aaahhhhhh Haley! You can finally come with us again to SLO Do Co. - they have vegan donuts! Have you tried them?" 

Ugh. Whyyyyyyy. was my initial response (internally, of course). 

At this point, I'd posted twice (initially in June 2015 and then, in more detail, in February 2016) already about my eating disorder, but neither post gave donuts as much well-deserved credit as this one does. My point being that, yes, I'd reached a pretty solid platform in my recovery, but God continues faithfully to hold my hand as He pulls me through more and more high's and low's of recovery. Of freedom. 

About two or three months passed between SLO Do Co.'s release of its first vegan donut and my first time biting into one. It was Mother's Day weekend and my mom, along with her college roommate who just so happens to be my former roommate's (and now very close friend's) mom. Funny, huh? Anyway, our moms came up to visit and treated us all to a lovely dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant. The dessert-location hung in the air, to be decided, while we savored our pasta and bread. Caught up the joy of quality mother-daughter time, I didn't hesitate to agree with my friend's suggestion for vegan donuts from SLO Do Co. for dessert. And about thirty minutes later, I was diving face-first into a cookies n' cream vegan donut - absolutely no second-thoughts, no regrets. Maybe I was just having a really good night, or maybe I was actually really craving and enjoying a donut, my first one in a long time. Whatever it was, I'm grateful it allowed me that magical moment with my first ever vegan donut :) 

Alright, and now we're here - August 2016. I'm SLO Do Co.'s newest employee and it is my favorite-est job ever. Ever. Because I know you're probably wondering: yes, I do have access to as many donuts, no cost included, as my heart desires while I'm working, as well as half-off when I'm not on the clock. Such a perk brings different reactions from different people who ask - some practically drool immediately, and some admit how "dangerous" that would be for them. For me, the former is more applicable, buuuuuut the latter has more significance. During one of my first few shifts (I work at night, usually, when those conquered by late-night munchies and innocent sweet-tooth cravings wander into the shop), I was taking my break, just scarfing down my salad, while simultaneously having a mini photoshoot with the special Georgia Peach vegan donut the baker had just set out earlier that day...

I've had enough treats today. I'm saving this for tomorrow. I shouldn't eat it right now, this late at night, after the two apple-pie croissants I ate earlier, I disciplined myself. 

Oh, and for additional context, this is all around the time I posted here about my lingering ED struggles. Keep that in mind... 

So, I'm eating my salad, taking pictures of this sweet, beautiful, tiny little donut, and before I knew it, I was staring at the last bite. How had I devoured this so quickly, seconds after I promised myself I'd save it? Guilt took over and, for a solid thirty minutes, it consumed my thoughts. It violently pushed out of my mind any potential enjoyment of this tiny little donut. After about six months free of such harsh self-criticism, I didn't know how to handle these thoughts. I felt tears forming behind my eyes, but I suppressed them as best I could, knowing I'd have to return from my break in a few minutes. What happened next, I can't explain, but this verse in Romans 8 can perfectly...

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
— Romans 8:26, NLT

The Holy Spirit took control, transforming my thoughts from destructive and discouraging to uplifting and confident - thoughts I could not have formed on my own, had the Holy Spirit not intervened and... saved me :) saved me again, oh-so-graciously. 

Donuts - treats that stirred up unbelievable fear and anxiety in me a year ago - are now something between a dessert and a snack. The sugary aroma of donuts in the fryer that once intimidated me now brings me such childlike excitement. That big pink box - the one I see students carrying around campus for their friends/classmates, or parents holding just above the reach of their eager children - of which I'd never dare to reach inside sat in my back seat, stocked full of SLO Do Co.'s finest creations, as I drove home yesterday. After dinner last night, you'd better believe I was the first to open that box, slice each donut into bite-size pieces for everyone to taste, and happily, fearlessly, confidently save the equivalent of, I don't know, probably 1-2 full donuts for no one but myself :) not a crumb left behind, and not a pinch of guilt in sight. 

A month ago, I was desperately searching for a job. Of course, SLO Do Co. was a top choice of mine, a job I'd dreamed of for months, but I had no idea that part of God's plan in placing me on staff here was intended to pull me further along in recovery. 

also, this is one of 4 donut-related articles of clothing I own. just sayin'.

also, this is one of 4 donut-related articles of clothing I own. just sayin'.

Grateful. Grateful for everything encompassed in this story - everything from the vicious eating disorder to the scrumptious vegan donuts I've eaten more of in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life. And YES, God used donuts to help pull me from the darkened place that is an ED into the light of freedom, self-love, and the innocent, light-hearted deliciousness that is a donut :)

THOUGHTS: I Still Struggle

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen4 Comments

From about September 2012 until around, well, sometime during the spring months of this past year (2015) I wrestled with negative thoughts, lack of self-confidence, and distrust in the loving, promising hands of God. In other words, I had an eating disorder. Thankfully, He has saved me from it's dangerously tight grip and gracefully shown me what it's like to cuddle up in His soothing, healing arms. However, just because I've entered the Lord's home doesn't mean I don't still encounter the taunting temptations and the lingering symptoms of the Devil's work that consumed such a huge portion of my life. 

I.

Still

Struggle

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

I sometimes place superficial desires before precious time with the Lord. Why? Because: 

  • I choose morning workouts over mornings in His word. But is a workout something that needs to happen everyday? Probably not. 
  • I crave the physical activity, the endorphins, the natural wake-up-call, the alone-time it provides for me. But do those things satisfy the way time with God does? Not one bit. 
  • I still struggle with wanting that perfect body type that I've drawn on a canvas in my own mind. But is that what your Creator has planned for you, the one He planned before you were even born? Only He knows. Only He loves me and has created me perfectly in His eyes, in His image. 
I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.
— Isaiah 56:6, NLT
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
— Colossians 2:6-7, NLT

I sometimes speak harshly, disrespectfully to myself and to others. 

  • I search for a place to which I can throw blame if something doesn't go the way I've planned, the way I've attempted to carry out through selfish control. But do I consider God's plans in these situations and the fact that they may be different from what I want in the moment? Not usually. 
  • I allow the blame a comfortable stay in my heart if I can't find for it another home. But how about reminding myself that, though I'm not perfect, I'm deeply loved by the One higher, greater, stronger, wiser than I? Good idea. 
  • I still struggle with self-love and selflessness. But do I remember the graceful, merciful Love that died on the cross to explain the real definition of the word to me? It is a perfect love, a flawlessly forever-valid definition. 
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
— John 13:34-35, NLT
Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.
— Isaiah 49:15-16, NLT
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh...
— Galations 5:13, NLT

I sometimes fall into the enticing indulgence, the all-too-common belief in the satisfaction of something as temporary, as weak as food. 

  • I turn to a sweet dessert when nights feel lonely and boring. But I am never alone. And Christ endured excruciating pain and suffering alone before dying a death no one else ever could for me... by Himself. 
  • I waste time and energy digging for confidence and affirmation from social media posts about certain brand-names. But have they offered me a promise as solid and as everlasting as the one He did? Do they tell me I'm perfect? No, they tell me the opposite. 
  • I still struggle with turning to the Lord in all situations - those encouraging and joyful, and those disappointing and heartbreaking. But God's word is always calling my name, always ready to remind me of His promise to love, nurture, provide for me. 
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
— 1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT
See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.
— Isaiah 12:2, NLT
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
— Psalm 73:26, NLT

I sometimes see other girls as competition in various areas - in my faith, in my relationship with the Lord, in my physical appearance, and more. 

  • I compare myself to girls working out next to me in the gym, to girls across the classroom, even to girls I don't know in the slightest bit - the ones pasted on the cover of magazines. But is that how I should express my gratitude for the woman God has made me? 
  • I strive for the "perfect" body, not quite knowing who's definition I'm following. But God doesn't see my size, nor does he see any difference between mine and the girl's next to me. He has chosen each of us and holds for us both a special place in His heart. 
  • I still struggle with self-comparison. But the Lord has purposefully knit me together in my mother's womb (Ps. 139:13, NIV) - I have been graciously created by the most loving, beautiful, powerful hands. 
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
— Romans 12:2, NLT
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
— 1 Peter 5:6-7, NLT
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
— Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT

By the grace of God, I no longer feel controlled by the overpowering desires characteristic of an eating disorder. However, I am human. I am, by no means, perfect in any way, so I do still battle these frustrating, tempting sins. I know that I am not alone because I have the Lord by my side, but I also know that I'm not the only one who continues to struggle. My encouragement to you if you are still suffering is to reach out - tell a family member, tell a friend, you can even tell me (confidential, of course). Confessing this doesn't mean you're still under the control of an eating disorder. It means the Holy Spirit is working to strengthen you! And that is reason to celebrate, am I right? 

I share these things - and believe me, doing so is not easy - because they are my weaknesses and I have seen how powerfully the Lord can work through these weaknesses if we allow Him to. This is me confessing, admitting, and opening up my broken heart to His healing hands in hopes that doing so will inspire other broken hearts to do the same, allowing Christ to bring healing to even more :)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10, NLT

FAITH: Isaiah 59 - Sin & Separation

Faith, LifeHaley Hansen2 Comments

I've been slowly reading through the book of Isaiah for the past two months and each chapter makes me want to write a whole blog post, buuuuut 66 blog posts? Maybe someday. For now, I want to focus on the chapter I dove into this morning - Isaiah 59, "Warning against Sin". 

Before I began this particular book, my discipleship leader introduced me to a Bible commentary app - "BLB" (it's the blue one in the app store & totally free, too) - and I've been using it to help analyze each chapter of Isaiah so far. It provides tons of answers to pretty much any question regarding the Bible (in every version) and other helpful tools I don't even know about yet, but I mainly use it for the in-depth commentary by other pastors on each verse. 

Anyway, I had barely finished the second verse of chapter 59 this morning when I just had to open up the app (click here), in search of some clarification. 

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.
— Isaiah 59:1-2, NLT

Whoa... I thought, rather speechless. Oh, and this isn't the first time Isaiah has left me with nothing to say but "whoa", but I'm elaborating here because it's what I read this morning and answers a question I've always wrestled with in regards to God's role in our lives as Christians. 

Summarizing the verse in my head, I came up with this: Okay, so if God does not lose power or concern for us, despite our sins, then why do bad things happen? And if it's my sins that separate me from God, then where does that famous chunk in the book of Romans, assuring us that "nothing can ever separate us from God's love" (chapter 8, verses 31-39), come into play? This is where the BLB app had my back. I tapped any verse in Isaiah 59 and then "Commentaries", and chose David Guzik's study guide, The Reality Check. Let's get started, shall we? 

So, put yourself in the shoes of one of God's people in this verse. Better yet, just think back to a time when you've suffered, or seen/heard terrible news, or wondered where in the world God's hand is in this trial - that's where God's people are in this verse. Side note: isn't it cool that we can relate to people from this long ago? Blows my mind every time. Anyway, back on track. Isaiah the prophet assures the people that God has not lost any power or concern for them. Verse 2 explains that sin is the culprit, as it almost always is. Sin is what separates us from God. Now, don't let your mind wrestle too hard with this verse and the ones in Romans 8:31-39, yet, because I'll tie them all together for you. 

David Guzik organizes his explanation into 4 parts, which I'll re-explain in my own words. Sin separates me from God in terms of: 

  1. My fellowship with Him - "fellowship" is another word for "companionship". It's basically a relationship. For example, (PS I've never cheated on anyone or had thoughts about another guy while in a relationship, but I feel this is a closely related example) if I have a boyfriend, but I see another guy who I maybe grow interested in, the attention I devote towards my boyfriend now flows over to this new guy. In other words, my fellowship with my boyfriend loses its richness because of my sinful desires. Guzik says, "...at the point of our sin, we no longer think alike with God." Does He divide His heart amongst His children? Somehow, He doesn't. The book of Isaiah boasts several verses that tell of God's love for each of His children, but this one stands out to me: "See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands..." (Isaiah 49:16). When I sin, I separate myself from Him because I allow desires of my own flesh to consume attention I could otherwise be devoting to the Lord.  
  2. Receiving His blessings - When I am distracted by other things - usually stress - I inhibit myself from seeing the blessings of God. Under stress, I instinctually turn inward for strength and place heavy pressure on myself to accomplish whatever it is that needs to be done, despite the fact that I may not be able to every single time. My mind is clouded and overwhelmed and forgets that it doesn't need to, and can't, figure things out on its own. Matthew 13:13 describes it perfectly: "...For they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand." I know in my heart that I should and can totally depend on God, but I'm buried beneath stress (or sin or whatever it may be) and struggle to surface myself. 
  3. The benefits of His love - Don't get ahead of yourself and think that God ever stops loving you because that's just frighteningly false. Remember, Romans 8:31-39 promise that nothing is powerful enough to wedge between me/you and God. However, sin can still tease me with the alluring temptations of its own proposed benefits. For example, I've fallen into the trap social media sneakily sets up - I've searched for confidence and attention in likes, comments, and followers. I've chased after companies in hopes of partnerships and collaborations. Aside from social media, I've longed for relationships selfishly to feel more loved and beautiful. I've turned to food and exercise to shrink myself into the size society told me was "perfect". These desires told me they could satisfy my every need and answer all my questions, and I believed them, until one day I realized I'd been emptied more than ever before. 
  4. His protection - here's the big one. When God sees how misled I am, He does reach down to help lift me out of the state I'm in, but it's not always a smooth ride. God speaks to the stubborn Israelites in Isaiah 48 and says, "I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering." The furnace of suffering, huh? Ouch. I thought, when I read that verse. But the more I let it run through my mind, I couldn't deny it's truth and God's right in doing so. Guzik agrees in his commentary: "We should remember that we are not at the center of the universe, but God is. Everything He does and allows furthers His eternal purpose." The Lord allows trials to mold us into the individual He originally designed us to be and to serve for Him here on this earth, making those trials the prime opportunity for us to draw closer to Him, to understand Him more and more. Isaiah 49 says, "Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on them in their suffering." 

My summer thus far has been all over the place - moving out, traveling to England, moving in (temporarily) and moving out again, moving in aaaagain and all the while searching for a job. After a few exhausting weeks of applying to everywhere and anywhere, I couldn't push out feelings of discouragement any longer. I stayed faithful that God would provide something somehow, but I wasn't rejoicing in the sole blessing of the Holy Spirit. Instead, point number three took over and I lost sight of how bountiful God's love is. Workouts, treats, nights out with friends, movies, and beach days are exciting and fun and definitely helpful in distracting me from the stress of having to "adult", but they never satisfy my heart's deepest need, the one for which only God's love has the fulfillment. 

If any of this seems heavy and unconvincing of God's love, verses 16-21 come to the rescue...

He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So He himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm... ‘The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins... And this is my covenant with them... My spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!’
— Isaiah 59:16-21, NLT

I hope this has helped in some way - reading through Isaiah and elaborating on it like I have here has definitely provided explanation for me in terms of God's provision in my life. If you liked this post and were able to take something away from it, and maybe if you have suggestions for another post, leave a comment down below or send me an email. 

Thank you for reading, and my prayer is that God will continue to use me as a lamp, Him serving as the lightbulb, to help you :)