Hungry Haley

it's more than food

recovery

Three Years of Blogging!

Life, Health, ThoughtsHaley 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!

Update on Eating

Life, Health, ThoughtsHaley 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!

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

Life, Health, ThoughtsHaley 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. 

Accepting and Embracing

Life, Faith, 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! 

(eating) Disordered Holidays

Life, Thoughts, 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 :)

Chop Chop, Snip Snip

Life, Thoughts, 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! 

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 :) 

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. 

DO-NUT Deprive

Life, Thoughts, 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 :)

I Still Struggle

Life, Thoughts, 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: Over and Over, Overwhelmed

Faith, Life, HealthHaley HansenComment
Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
— Acts 2:38

I am redeemed. I am made new. I am born again. I am perfect in His eyes, though I am so broken in this world. I am in need, and I am provided for. I am no longer consumed by the sin that I may still commit. 

I have been saved, set free, and I continue to be molded and shaped and sharpened by the hands of Christ living in my fragile heart. 

Those truths bring tears to my eyes even years after I gave my life to Christ for the first time. I was in fifth grade and didn’t understand much of what a life following my Savior looked like, but I gave Him my life because the words my church leaders used to describe that life sounded pretty darn sweet. Despite my incomplete understanding, I still pursued Christ. 

In tenth grade, my church held a baptism ceremony and the time felt right for me to participate, as my way of demonstrating a slightly more complete understanding of Christ's sacrifice for me and my desire for His presence throughout other areas of my life. My best friend at the time and I were dunked together and it was an awesome experience, but looking back, I realize my confidence and happiness stemmed, in part, out of affirmation from my family, church leaders, and peers. 

Not many people know that, so I've been asked why, as a now devout Christian, I'm getting re-baptized. Answering that question is easy when I'm answering to Christ because I know that he sees my heart and its flaws and its sparkles and its desires and its overwhelmed slur of gratitude, but no one else has eyes for that. So, to answer that question for you, I'm getting re-baptized because I've taken a million of my own steps this way and that way and everywhere else in between since tenth grade. I've lead myself to the peaks of superficially, instantly satisfying "high's" and I've tumbled down to empty, lonely, dangerously terrifying "low's". I've damaged my body, and I've failed to show it the precious love Christ has shown me. 

As I stood in front of the supportive crowd of family and friends today, I thought about my walk with Christ and tried my best to squeeze everything into two or three sentences. Though I didn't actually share (the crowd swelled as each minute passed and my nerves went along with it) with everyone, here's something along the lines of what I would've said, had the fear of public speaking not overwhelmed me and the tears of joy not choked me: 

"Hi, I'm Haley! I'm just so excited to be here today. To make a long story short - umm, I've wrestled with an eating disorder for the past three years, and for anyone who has themselves or knows someone else who has, you can understand me when I say I was searching for something that I still can't pin down. The tinier the size I shrunk into, the heavier the weight crushing me felt, the more intense the pressure became to find whatever it was I'd been searching for. I exhausted myself and couldn't run away from God and towards this selfish desire for something unidentifiable any longer. So, here I am. I'm saying YES to God and promising to never jump out of His arms - the arms that lifted the burdensome weight from my shoulders and cradled me, comforted me, and assured me that I'm the most beautiful version of the woman He'd drawn of me long before my parents ever conceived me. Here I am, promising Christ my whole heart for my whole life. I've learned not to trust myself, so I'm placing my life into His mighty hands and embracing the tears and rapid-beating heart as I watch them gently, safely close together." 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
— Galations 5:24-25

But, like I said, the crowd was overwhelming and this baptism isn't about my sharing my story with them. It's about me admitting my weaknesses to Christ, letting Him wash me clean of my sins, and saying "I do" to His invitation to eternally hold His mighty hands. 

I walked towards the water, squeezing the arm of one of my best friends who decided at the last minute to be re-baptized, too. We braced ourselves for the cold water, but my heart beat and palms sweat and throat swelled for another reason. These butterflies were butterflies on steroids - the kind I imagine to invade my stomach on my wedding day. I use that analogy lightly, though, because I hope that nothing ever feels this good. I spotted a pair of men with open arms, ready to dunk someone, so I treaded through the freezing cold water towards them. I think they asked my name and introduced themselves, but it's all a blur now. They grabbed my hands and placed one of theirs on each of my shoulders, giving me some directions and praying over me. A few sobs made themselves heard and pulled the corners of my lips into a smile as I sent whispers of grateful excitement up to God. One of the men contribute the last words I can remember hearing before I plugged my nose and felt the piercing shock of the cold water, full of the Holy Spirit's unmistakable presence, "... in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!" 

I came up, caught my breath and ran to one of my best friends, who embraced me in her arms with a warm towel. She didn't let me go as she told me how proud she was, and I let out a few more tears and "thank you's", unable to really form any complete sentences. 

That was the best moment of my entire life. 

I saw a few hundred people today, some familiar faces and some I couldn't recognize, yet I felt no presence stronger than God's. I submerged myself in who-knows-how-cold-water, yet I'd cleanse myself like that for Christ a million and one more times. 

You will show me the way of life, granting you the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
— Psalms 16:11

My prayer now is that Christ will work in the hearts of those maybe considering baptism or re-baptism, that maybe He'll use some of these words in some way, shape, or form. If you're considering baptism, I'm praying for you and the Holy Spirit is, too. For some, it's a leap of faith, trusting God's will. For others, it's an act of repentance, saying "no" to himself and "yes" to God. For others still, it's both A and B. It's all of the above. 

It's breath-taking and heart-pounding. It's too good for words, so seek the experience for yourself :) 

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels.
— Isaiah 61:10

THOUGHTS: My Recovery (NED Awareness Week)

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

You may have already heard, or maybe you just read the title of this post - it's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This year is my first time really recognizing its significance, especially in my life, because last year at this time I hadn't come to terms with a) accepting my ED story and b) understanding that (at the time) I wasn't fully recovered. Last summer, I opened up here about my entire story, which you can read here, but I didn't spend much time talking about how I recovered and the effect that left me with. So, let's unwrap that package a little bit more. 

I'll pick up in the middle of my story - just after the doctor diagnosed me. She referred me to a therapist and my mom and I drove to one or two sessions a week for about two weeks. I'd sit like someone stuck a fiery stick up my butt (sorry if that's TMI, but it basically means angry and uncomfortable) and answer each question quickly, without giving much thought to admitting that I really wasn't happy with my body, or the possibility that maybe I was craving a sense of control, power, and outward appearance. My number one goal at these sessions was to prove to the therapist and my mom, as quickly as possible, that I did not have a disorder. Pride wanted to make sure that everyone knew that I had it all together, that I had... control. 

Soon enough, we stopped attending the therapy sessions and instead turned to a nutritionist who designed a meal plan for me. Up the calories, increase the variety, and just keep eating - that was our goal. This definitely pushed me towards steps in the right direction, but I still hadn't confronted the underlying cause of my ED, probably because I wasn't sure exactly what that was. Without her meal plan, I'm sure recovery would have taken even longer, but I've been thinking lately about how my recovery was affected by going about it without therapy. 

To say that I was forced to conquer this battle alone would be a lie - God blessed me with His presence and the support of family and friends from the very beginning. In a way, however, I chose to try to handle much of it on my own, just because I'm stubborn, sometimes prideful and too confident, and as much as I wanted to win this mental/emotional/spiritual battle of an ED, I wanted my prize to magically allow me to stay the same weight and jean size, with the same amount of muscle tone, etc. but without negatively affecting my health like it already was. I didn't want my friends and family to worry anymore, but I didn't want to change or compromise the looks that had me bursting with confidence for the first time in years. 

In other words, I went from anorexia to orthorexia. Constant calorie tracking determined what and how much I ate. Sure, I ate more than I did before, but at this point, it felt worse because I thought each meal - each bite - had to fit within a certain calorie/fat/protein/etc. range. 

Each day and its activities centered around what I would eat. I try not to say that I have regrets or that I wish something hadn't happened, but as I look back on that period of... wow... more than one year of my life, I wish I had opened my eyes to see beyond what was on my plate. To enjoy the richness of relationships, the lusciousness of laughter, the silliness of spontaneity. 

Freedom. More specifically, freedom of surrender. I've called myself a Christian for ten years, but only recently have I begun to fill those shoes and pursue a relationship with God. Communicating with Him, listening to Him, and expressing my gratitude for this simple life have become my daily goals. As I've lifted those to the top of my priorities, I've dropped food (and calories and fat and weight and all that jazz) to a far lower level, even as I transitioned into a vegan lifestyle. I've loosened, if not completely let go of, my grip on food as my source for security, confidence, and happiness. Releasing that grip was terrifying and unknown, but God grabbed me with both of His hands the minute I recognized that they were there. 

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; He saved me from all my troubles.
— Psalm 34:6

To be completely honest, that was about two months ago. I'm a little shocked that I've just realized this, but that means that my eating disorder (anorexia, orthorexia, and all) lasted for almost three years, when I thought I'd recovered two years ago. I held my body back from its full potential for so long, trying condition it to want only x amount of calories, to power through exhausting workouts almost everyday, to squeeze it and mold it into a shape God made for someone else. Just like I've developed my relationship with God, I've opened up a rarely-before-used line of communication with my body. Everything from colds and coughs, to muscle aches and joint pains, to stress and body-shaming thoughts are my body's way of getting my attention, and I'm finally listening.

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

A couple weeks ago, God put it on my heart to write a love letter to my body, and in it, I apologized for this mistreatment, thanked it for its endurance, and reflected on its achievements, despite the challenges I set before it. That letter was, by far, one of the most significant steps I've taken in recovery. 

I just wanted to share with you guys a bit more of my story, because I know that all of ours are unique and if this helps even one person, then that's enough. If you or anyone you know is going through an eating disorder, don't go it alone. No one has to and no one should. By letting down my guard to allow the people God placed in my life to help and to allow Him to fill the holes in my spirit, I was finally able to fully recover. I surrendered, and I found freedom. I found deeper love for myself and for God than I could have ever imagined possible. 

And as for the rest of this post, I want to let God speak. Rid your surroundings of as many distractions as possible right now and allow God's words to speak as loudly as possible. 

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’
— Jeremiah 29:11
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
— Psalm 31:25

These are some of the verses I've found most comforting and encouraging throughout the past three years, and I couldn't think of a better way to close off this post than by allowing God to take over, as that's what I've done in kissing my ED goodbye :) 

Please know that you're not alone in your struggle, and there are resources available for you to find help. Turn to family and friends, to teachers and coaches, or click here. God loves you too much to place you here on this earth alone. 

THOUGHTS: A Love Letter to My Body

Thoughts, Health, LifeHaley HansenComment

Why am I writing a letter to my body? Because I've finally been learning what it really means to listen to my body, and in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I figured what better time to really appreciate the home God has built for me. So, here it goes... 

Body, 

Hi. I don't really know where to begin - with the apologies, with the thanks, with appreciation for our memories together - because we've been doing life together for over nineteen years. Well, I guess it's more correct to attribute life to YOU because how else would I have done anything? So, yeah, I'll begin with the memories :) 

Remember when I was about seven years old and we finally synchronized enough so that I could stay balanced on my bike for more than three seconds? We had just gotten home from the grocery store with Mom and Ben and I jumped on my bike (to avoid unloading groceries) to give it one last try after weeks of frustration, and before I knew it, Ben was calling out, "Mom! Mom! Haley's riding and staying up!!!" Thanks for sparking one of my first moments of real accomplishment. 

Remember when I had to keep pulling teeth out for a few years? Ugh, that sucked. I'm sorry for that pain. And for the dentist appointments.. 

Remember when I discovered how much you love to dance? Even though we weren't amazingly flexible or strong or slim as the other girls, I could feel the passion you poured out through me each time a song came on. 

Remember the first time we actually went for a run? Dad was with us and we went for a three-miler around our neighborhood and through the park before dinner. You loved it, and I became addicted, too. And I think this brings me to the apologies...

I'm sorry for stuffing you with preservative-filled, greasy, synthetic "foods" like buffalo chicken wings, fatty ice cream, sugary candy bars, and, perhaps worst of all, all of those processed meats and cheeses that sent my tastebuds to heaven when I was younger. I have no idea how I ignored your rejections of those foods, and I'm so sorry for forcing you to attempt to digest those and use them for the energy I expected from you. 

I'm sorry for all the late-nights and early-mornings, and for the sickness that followed. We were both obviously tired, but I prioritized the demands of my social life or my grades over your need for rest and nutrition. 

I'm sorry for the sore, achey muscles, for not stretching after workouts, for the shin splints, for the pulled muscles. I was taking care of you by exercising, but forgetting a critical piece of the picture.

I'm sorry for allowing the magazines and websites and pictures of other girls to influence my opinion of your beauty. I'm sorry for thinking that they were perfect, and that you were anything less. I'm sorry for pressuring you to drastically change the way God shaped you so that I felt beautiful through the eyes of others.

Most of all, I'm so deeply sorry for putting you through hell and back for three years - for starving you, for exhausting you, for ignoring you, day in and day out. I'm sorry that I threatened your health and your longevity because I wanted you to fit into a certain jean size. I'm sorry that my pride got in the way of restoring my mind more quickly so that I could treat you the way you deserved to be treated. I'm sorry that I dictated what you needed and didn't need, like I knew all the answers to my health problems. I'm sorry that I pushed your limits so hard for so long. 

And I'll begin the "thank-you's" with this - thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for enduring, for withstanding. Thank you for not breaking down, but also thank you for speaking up loud enough to grab my attention before it was too late. 

Thank you for loving me and taking care of me when those were the last items on my To-Do List. 

Thank you for running all those miles, for dancing your a** off to all those songs, for sitting still when I needed you to, and for telling me to sit still when you needed that from me. Thank you for humbly, kindly making your desires and cravings and basic needs clear to me. Thank you for belly-rumbling laughter - that's probably one of my favorite of your talents :) 

Thank you for being here still. Thank you for walking, running, dancing, biking, swimming, weight-lifting, hiking, laughing (and the list goes on) our way through 19+ years of life. You're one of the biggest blessings God placed in my life, and I'm speechless as to where I'd be without you. I'm speechless in awe of your talents, determination, humility, and strength. 

Oh, and I LOVE YOU! I promise to love you even more than I ever have. Let's keep doing life together, what do you say? :) 

With love, 
Hungry Haley, your best friend

THOUGHTS: My New Year's Resolutions

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

I'll begin this with the annual phrase "Wow - I can't believe this year is already over! It went by so fast", because I really do believe it. 2015 encompassed everything from challenging classes, discovering bible studies and best friends, failing a midterm or two, working at my first "real" job, cutting out meat from my diet, finishing my first year of college, igniting friendships I missed out on from high school, enjoying a relaxing summer at home, starting my second year of college, becoming fully vegan, pulling myself closer to God, changing my major, uncovering truths about my eating disorder that I thought no longer existed, and boat loads of crying, laughing, praying, running, hiking, smiling, thanking, and thinking.

A flood of thoughts and emotions have taken over my mind lately, and I know that that's God's way of speaking something of rich importance to me. Instead of going for a run this morning, I convinced myself to just slow down and walk. I plugged in my headphones to only kind of/sort of listened to a few TED talks, meaning I couldn't seem to quiet my thoughts enough to actually absorb what the speakers were saying. Eventually, I unplugged, surrendering to my racing, roaring mind. Battling back and forth between what I am doing, what I feel I should be doing, what I want, what I'm afraid of, and humbling myself to listen to voices inside that I thought had come and gone already. Because I can't really think of another way to effectively express these thoughts, I've organized them into resolutions - New Year's Resolutions. 

These represent my goals for 2016 - goals that will not remain goals, but rather become parts of me, like a team of body parts I can't live without. 

  • Relaxing - I'm one who considers exercise her cup of coffee in the morning. Without it, the rest of my day is slow-moving and not as productive as the days that begin even as simple as a 15-minute HIIT workout. I considered that habitual kick-starter a routine I could and should continue for as long as I can, but I realize now that my body has been crying out for relaxation so much so that it's now exhaustedly, humbly sending quiet reminders via sore muscles, baggy eyes, inability to focus, and an irregular menstrual cycle that it's just tired. This realization was not easy to come to and I've battled accepting its urgency for too long. I've feared excess weight gain, unproductive days, and a loss of familiar sensibility, sanity, and stress-release on which I've relied for years. During my trip to Idaho, I set aside time to intentionally workout only once during a 7-day period of time. The other days brought physical activity through skiing, hiking, and simply walking, and surprisingly, I found myself happiest, most productive yet stress-free on those days rather than the ones that start with a 30-minute, muscle-straining, intense workout. I haven't wanted to admit this, even to myself, because exercise has been a seemingly crucial part of my life for, well, forever. But the more I let this realization take its time making marks in my mind, the more I understood the difference in importance between a worldly desire and passion for heart-pumping movement and a vital need for rest and restoration. The past few years have been like a series of nonstop marathons on strenuous downhill and exhausting uphill terrains - beginning with a highly-restrictive ED and transforming to a less-extreme version of orthorexia. I haven't given my body the opportunity to take a much-needed period of healing from the unintentional damage I caused and recovery from the two-year-long marathon I forced it to endure. 
    • So I'm kicking off 2016 with the goal of regularly relaxing and resting to restore my health - to regain a regular period, to healthfully move my body, and to de-stress in a restorative, mind-clarifying way. I can't imagine continuing to rely solely on frequent stressful (and potentially harmful) physical activity to de-stress. I'm actually laughing as I type that... silly me. Anyway, that brings me to my next resolution! 
  • Developing a hand-in-hand, constant relationship with God - I want to depend on God completely. I trust Him, I know that He has a beautiful plan for my life, and I communicate with Him daily, but I want more. I want immeasurable depth, unending conversation, and heart-changing faith in His power in my life. I will make GOD my refuge and source of stress-relief, not exercise, cooking, friends/boyfriends, etc. Wh wouldn't I? More importantly, why haven't I already? In a way, I have - I devote time for communication with Him daily. But at the same time, I ask myself why I feel the need to devote time when I could simply begin my day with it, like a cup of coffee for an instant perky mood, a bowl of sweet nice cream for sweet-tooth-satisfaction, and store it in the front of my mind for all-day fuel. 
    • I will still make time to remove myself from distractions and chores each day to listen to and talk to God, but I won't allow for guilt if I for some reason don't read my Jesus Calling devotional sometimes. What's most important is the pure communication, not the reading or the writing. 
  • Holistcally loving myself - I've been finding myself thankful for my body's abilities lately, and while that is a good thing to be thankful for, I realize that I've ignored the complementary side of that - the need to nurture my body and cater to its needs, to recognize and care for its inabilities. Admitting to any sort of inability has always been a challenge for me, but I'm reminding myself what it means to love someone. I've been in love before and I remember acknowledging both the sparkles and the blemishes, but seeing them both as beautiful parts that make up that person. I couldn't imagine him any different. As I point those feelings toward myself, they illuminate both my abilities and my inabilities as a way to emphasize each one's constant need for love. I'm relaxing and depending on God because I hear my body's and mind's call for those things. 
    • I know that before I can love another person, I need to fully love myself. For too long I've disregarded some of my body's communication signals. To me, that translates as ignoring my significant other's needs in a relationship. How could that healthfully encourage our relationship? 
    • By loving myself, I am also honoring and expressing gratitude for the woman God is shaping me into. 

Alright, this was a lot of serious writing, and a lot about myself, which becomes exhausting and awkward after hours and hours of doing it haha so that's all I have to say for now! If you're making your own resolutions (which I definitely encourage) share them with me :) tag me on instagram, email me if you have any questions, or comment below. I appreciate your time reading this and your support more than you know. To my family, THANK YOU for everything you teach me everyday, for encouraging me, for showing so much and support for this blog. You guys all rock! 

Happiest of Happy New Years to you! :) 

Kissing Perfection a Permanent Goodbye

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

When people describe me, my heart does a little dance when I hear them say "mature, confident, disciplined, outgoing, humorous" and things like that. Those are all positive qualities, ones I admire in others, too. 

But sometimes, I hear someone chuckle and say, "Perfectionist." The fact that it's a not the best quality to have is noticeable in their eyes and their voice. It's true, though. I've been a perfectionist my whole life, and that's what helped fuel my ED. If you've gone through an ED, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I guess the best way to describe how I felt was that everything needed to be, well, perfect - no giving in to cravings, no eating more than minimal, no body fat allowed, etc. Perfectionism was even powerful enough to convince me that I can rely on my own desires sometimes, and to distract me from the comfort of trusting in God's will. 

Yes, I've recovered from my ED, but a lingering struggle prevented me from understanding that I. can't. Be. Perfect. And it was in my life even before my ED began - it was the constant self-reminder that I must be flawless when it comes to eating, when it comes to body shape, when it comes to grades and homework and tests and blah blah blah. It's frustrating and it took control of my life for about three years. 

And I'm letting it go. 

Perfectionism has a loud knock, but I choose whether or not to answer the door. When I let it inside, it tells me when and what to eat, how I should look, what size I should be, etc. And who is this so-called "Perfection" to determine all of that for me? 

Just like I found freedom in recovering from my ED, I find peace in letting go of perfection. I am me. I am Haley Elizabeth Hansen. I am 19 years old. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a Cal Poly SLO Mustang. I am single as a pringle. I am constantly curious and forever hungry for delicious food.

And I am the daughter of a gracious, merciful Father who loves me just as I am. Why did I look for comfort and strength showing "perfection" when God's perfect, unchanging, everlasting love is, well, all of those things and more? I don't know the answer to that, and I don't need to, because I've already let go of the need to be sparkly clean. 

This doesn't mean I'll be out drinking and swearing and not giving a fudge about life anymore; it just means that I won't let mistakes, upsets, fear, calories/fat/sugar, and unnecessary distractions get in the of my happiness and, most importantly, this Divine Romance between God and me. 

  • I choose an un-planned day full of adventure over a set schedule that makes my happiness as fragile as glass. 
  • I choose starting constant communication with my savior over constant self-checks for perfection. 
  • I choose homemade scones, juicy veggie burgers, indulgent desserts, and a forever-long food-adventure with one or two extra pounds over restricted "healthy" eating plans and a toned six-pack. 

There are no words to explain how absolutely, breathtakingly amazing this feels. And I'm okay with that, because I always struggle to find sufficient words to describe God's love, too. If you've ever felt or currently are feeling something similar, talk to someone. Don't bottle it up and try to handle it on your own, because it's that mindset of "I can do it on my own" that starts the mess, anyway. It's okay - let your guard down, show a little weakness, and accept and embrace the innumerable beauty marks God has gracefully given you. 

You're flawless in His eyes - striving for perfection on earth is exhausting, emotionally and physically damaging, and, let's face it, impossible. Just be exactly what you are, eat what makes you healthy, energetic and happy, and do what builds your excitement and stretches your smile! 

My Story - Better Late Than Never

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen12 Comments

This post is long overdue, and I’ve gone back and forth – trying to decide if/when I should post it, how I should say it, etc. My friends and family know the story, and others have seen it in pictures. Maybe you guys have, too. But I’ll tell you the whole story because Hungry Haley would not be here if this story had never been written.

About two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I never went to the hospital or had any serious health concerns, thankfully. But between July and August of 2012, I started losing weight. Sure, the compliments were great – “Wow, you look thin!” and “What have you been up to, girl? You’re so toned!” – things like that. Fitness Magazines piled up on my desk, and my parents made room in the kitchen for me to experiment with new healthy recipes I’d found. I was even performing well in school – I was studying constantly and rewarded with several A’s. My faith was strong, too. I read my bible, connected with my bible-study leader at the time, Jessica, and spent time in God’s word.

But things headed downhill when I lost some control. My friends would all go out for dinner and a movie and I’d politely decline. I convinced all of us (myself, my friends, and my parents) that it was because I had homework and wanted to save money, but I knew that, honestly, it was because I was afraid to eat unhealthy food. 

That was strike 1.

After school everyday, (yes, every single day) I’d head over to the gym for a good, sweaty 45 minutes on the stair-climber and then some mileage on the treadmill. Everyday. Afterwards, I’d shower, steam some veggies and pair it with lean meat like chicken, turkey, or pork, and hit the books for the rest of the night, forgetting about family dinners and unintentionally lighting the match that would begin to char away the thick ropes that tied our relationship together.

That was strike 2.

Soon enough, my breakfast was one egg and a few whites scrambled with spinach, and a banana with peanut butter. My lunch bag held nothing but half a turkey sandwich, carrots, and an apple. And my eating habits only became more and more strict from there. I wasn’t quite aware of it, but something was grabbing a hold of the reigns in my life.

And there is strike 3. 

February of 2013 was the first turning point of many. My heart pounded with fear when my mom told me she scheduled a doctor’s appointment for me. Our family doctor is one of the sweetest, most genuine, caring women I’ve ever met, yet I dreaded this appointment more than anything. I think she knew what was going on before the appointment, even though I thought it was just a check-up. First, she told me I was underweight by almost 10 pounds. Then, she began asking personal questions like why I stayed at home so often, why my grades were so high all of a sudden, why I wasn’t on the track team, etc. And then she and my mom brain-stormed answers they assumed (and read to be) true to all those questions – answers I knew were true, but didn’t want to admit. Tears filled my eyes and everything my doctor said after “You have an eating disorder” was a blur. I remember hearing something about needing therapy, too. 

And the next 5 or 6 months didn’t get any better. And yes, I actually did go to therapy sessions. I sat through (on a surprisingly comfortable couch) the 45-minute periods once or twice a week after school, answering the therapist’s stereotypical questions in all honesty, only reinforcing the fact that I didn’t need this kind of help. 

When my parents realized these sessions were only taking money out of their wallet, time out of our schedules, and the energy, life, and parent-child-trust out of our relationship, we discontinued them. Instead, I came home one day to a book from my mom on my bed about recovering from an ED. Never read it. Not a single page. I’m sorry, Mom, but I couldn’t.

Next came the nutritionist. She was one of my favorite people out of all this, actually. Why? Well, she made me feel normal. She made all of it – the whole eating disorder thing (which I never admitted to until a few months ago) – seem insignificant, as if I just needed to gain a little weight. Thank you, Lindsey, for that. She designed weekly meal plans for me to follow, with enough flexibility for me to mix and match breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If I had to pick my favorite part of this 6-month period, this is it. Lindsey proved to me that my body could handle – and needed – all of these calories and nutrients. She introduced me to a variety of foods and recipes, some of which inspired the ones you’ll find on my site. And I’ve never given her credit for that. So, Lindsey, thank you, thank you, thank you for helping to pull me out of the nutrient-deficient hole I was digging myself into - Hungry Haley would not be who she is today without your help. You were one of the strongest pieces of advice I needed in that time. You’re one of the answers God was giving me, and you’re a blessing :) 

After a few weeks, I loved the meal plan. Combining different foods and recipe-ideas everyday made this journey feel like an adventure. I’d wake up excited to choose between oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, or smoothies for breakfast, and then create something yummy and nourishing for lunch and dinner, too. 

I wish I could say that this is where everything ends – that I gained enough weight, that I rebuilt my parents’ trust in my eating habits and mended our relationship, but I can’t say I did. Every night, while I did homework, my parents would come upstairs and ask me to step on the scale in my bathroom. I’ve seen my parents stressed, tired, angry, and scared, but I’d never seen them with this look on their faces. They looked somewhat hurt, like someone had taken a little bit of their excitement away. I’d step on the scale and wait for the electronic numbers to show up in the same order as they had the night before. The numbers may as well have said, “You didn’t gain any weight. Just get off.” I’d step off, eyes not leaving the floor for fear of disappointing my parents and letting their hopes down. Following this came more concern from my parents. And rightfully so. Even I wondered how, on an almost-3000-calorie-diet, none of those extra calories were staying. This is where I felt the most like I had no control over anything. I’d lie in bed and ask God where the heck He was, and what He thought He was doing in all of this, but I couldn’t hear an answer. 

When summer came, my stomach wasn’t happy with this hefty eating plan anymore. By noon everyday, I’d lie on the couch, too stuffed to do anything. The ease with which my parents agreed to let me break from the 3000 calories a day surprised me, but I asked no questions. They saw my effort, and they saw the ED symptoms disappearing. Spending time by the pool, cooking dinner together, and enjoying the dishes we prepared mended the ties that had been almost fried between my parents and I. 

About a month later, I talked to the new track and field coach at school about joining the team for the remainder of the summer and my senior year. When she realized I was the one she’d seen running the same hill-repeats as the team throughout the summer, she didn’t hesitate. The smell of the hot, rubber track and even the weight room, the bonds I immediately formed with my teammates, and the excitement, fulfillment, and self-worth I found on that track were blessings that came at exactly the right time. My parents saw my re-ignited passion for something other than working out, and our relationship became stronger and more joyful. 

I don’t think I can put God’s answer into words exactly, but I know He answered my call for help. He always has, always does, and always will. He provided a learning experience, and an opportunity to strengthen my faith throughout this journey. 

So here I am, two (and almost a half) years later, finishing up this post, seriously considering shortening the distance between my mouth and an ice-cream-cookie sandwich from the coffee shop on the corner. Can you tell things have changed?

But before any of that scrumptiousness happens, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this – I sincerely appreciate it. If my story helped you with something you’re going through, then that’s all I need to hear. Tell me or tell someone else, but just share it. Use it to help someone else, too. Our stories make differences, no matter how insignificant we may think we are. 

My parents were the biggest support system I've had, and I wouldn't have recovered if they hadn't been by my side. Love you, Mom and Dad, more than you'll ever understand, 

and thank you, more times than I'll ever be able to speak.

I just wanted to be honest with everyone. Hungry Haley’s 1st birthday is about a month away, and I needed to make sure her whole story has been told. 

That story is nowhere near over. In fact, more and more is added to it everyday. A little part of me hesitates to admit that I had an eating disorder, but I would never wish it hadn’t happened. God showed me that He can be weird, and often misunderstood, but He can never be wrong. He will never allow anything, anyone, or any trial tear you down. I’m trusting Him and learning more and more about Him, this life He’s blessed me with, and the food that comes with it every single day. Best kind of school ever. 

Thank you again for reading. Love, blessings, and appreciation sent your way :)