Hungry Haley

it's more than food

Health

The Hardest Part of Blogging

Life, Health, ThoughtsHaley Hansen8 Comments

I love food, but it’s complicated. And I love to write about it. But it’s hard. Not the writing or the website posting or the photo editing or the Google analytics. It was the food.

The hardest part of food blogging has been simultaneously embracing my love for and overcoming my fear of food.

Since the birth of this five-year-old blog, I’ve stuttered each time someone asks why I started this. I can’t simply say, “I just love food”. I do, believe me, but that love is the most complicated manifestation of the word I’ve ever known. So, I’ve just let my answer be that - I love food. And for those who dig deep enough to know more…

… I tell them I haven’t always loved food the way I do now. I started this blog in the thick, painful, sometimes suffocating heat of an eating disorder as an attempt to cover that up, even though it never worked. I wanted my parents - my two best friends and biggest supporters - and all other loved ones in my circle to believe that I was okay. In many ways, this blog has brought healing through food, community, self-connection and self-love, and pursuit of my passion. There is another side, though, that I haven’t talked about before.

The Hardest Part of Blogging

Yeah, the hardest of food blogging has been the food.

I dove head-first into this while still working through a broken relationship with food and with my body. I wanted so badly to whole-heartedly pursue my passion, to chase after it without hitting any road-blocks, but doing so was like thinking I signed up for a nice afternoon run, only to find myself stumbling over hurdle after hurdle. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been infatuated with food blogs and cooking magazines and websites and TV shows, and fascinated and inspired by the recipes they create. I wanted so badly to be able to cook and bake and taste and eat freely, without any restrictions or guilt inhibiting my creativity or shaming me for trying just a bite.

Around the third year of blogging, I began taking this more seriously and recognized the still broken pieces of my relationship with food (and my body and exercise). It is indescribably complex, yet so significant. I felt an exciting and inspiring thrill when an idea for a new recipe popped into my mind, but it was often almost immediately pushed out if that idea was didn’t fit into this exclusive nutritional jail that imprisoned me.

The Hardest Part of Blogging

The difficulty? It’s not keeping track of Google analytics. It’s not managing payments and completing taxes. It’s not creating recipes or editing photos. It’s not even making a living off of an online platform. The hardest part about food-blogging has been recognizing my broken relationship with food itself, acknowledging it without judgment, and equipping myself well enough to overcome that so that I can pursue this passion fearlessly.

As challenging as this work has been, I could not love it more every single day. And if there’s one thing I hear over and over from employed adults giving advice to us young college kids, it’s that if we don’t wake up excited for work most days, we’re doing it wrong. Blogging, cooking, baking, writing, and sharing keeps me more excited than almost anything. I get pretty excited about studying metabolism, too, but that’s another story for another time.

Discipline vs. Desire

Health, Life, ThoughtsHaley Hansen1 Comment

You’re so well disciplined!

I’ve heard it for years, a number of times at least twice that of which I’ve been asked what I’m training for. (nothing - life? fun? fitness? I don’t know.) At least twelve times the number of years this blog has been around - happy fourth birthday to Hungry Haley! And for a couple years I held that statement as an insecure young woman would a compliment - it sounded like an achievement and a bragging right, and it parallels the restrictive nature of an eating disorder, which I was captured by at the time. As I’ve taken leaps forward (and a few steps back, at times), learning more about the damage I was doing to my body and beginning to understand and adopt the practice of Intuitive Eating, this “you’re so disciplined” compliment sits more like an entire bag of candy would in a hyperactive five-year-old’s stomach. Imagine that. I’ve had enough and I don’t need more. “Disciplined” just doesn’t fit in my vocabulary of self-descriptive terms.

click for the recipe!

click for the recipe!

Because discipline is based on will-power, and because will-power is limited, discipline can certainly only last so long, as it did for me. The discipline of daily hour-long workouts made it through my first year-and-a-half of college, until I discovered (on my journey to regaining my period), the mind-freeing peace of just walking, and of rejuvenating rest days. The discipline of a low-carb diet fueled me until I developed a passion for veganism, and along with that, a love for carbs. The discipline of reading the Bible each and every morning lasted until I found - like loose change in the bottom of a purse I haven’t used in months - some faith-paralyzing questions in my back pocket. Each of these real-life examples are based on some belief I held about exercise and my appearance, food and my body, faith and my future, and those beliefs provided a finite supply of willpower - the main ingredient in the recipe for discipline.

So, desire. Desire is the fuel that doesn’t run out. Desire is different from discipline, vastly different. It is what has kept this blog running for four years. It is what has motivated me to continue exercising and moving joyfully. It is what has maintained my burning love for food and encouraged me to pursue the ever-changing personalized idea of balance. Because desire is based on passion, and because passion is limitless, desire can certainly last… well, much, much longer than discipline. Desire - for writing, for fitness, for food (and balance therein) - has carried me through and through the last four years. The messy yet gorgeous, challenging yet strengthening, best four years of my life.

Discipline vs. Desire

Say “discipline” out loud and listen to its ring - sharp, short, and forced. Now, say “desire” out loud and listen to its ring - smooth, thrilling, and honestly, I think it’s kind of sexy (sexy in the way chocolate cake is sexy, not sexy in the Zac-Efron way). I bring this contrast between two words up now because, reflecting on the last four years, I see that those two words represent my development and most significant lesson learned as I grew from a girl trapped by discipline into a young woman led fearlessly (or almost fearlessly) by desire.

It is not about discipline that “rewards” me with abs and toned muscles - it is about desire to move my body everyday in various ways that light me up (it also has a lot to do with genetics and metabolism and diet, but those are three other stories). It is not about discipline that forces me to choose greens and whole-grains - it is about desire to feel my best as much as possible in order to do my best as much as possible. It is not about discipline that schedules these blog posts - it is about desire to share my life, my struggles and my wins, and everything in between in hopes that it may - at the very least - interest you or - at the very most - captivate you and let you know that you are beautiful, bright, and beaming with purpose.

Discipline vs. Desire

YOU.

Thoughts, Life, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

"Okay, Haley. It's you-time." Those were the first words in my journal this morning, as I curled up on the couch and let my soft blanket and warm cup of coffee be my comforting wake-up hug. 

This thing life threw at me a couple months ago is now forcing me to take actions that feel selfish and confusingly terrifying. No one around me can fully grasp all of it because no one around me has been here before. They can all listen with patient, open ears and offer with honest, loving words and both of those forms of care mean so much to me. But, still, this is something only I know because it's happening to me and only I can make the next move based on what feels "right". A move. Some kind of move. Right? Wrong? I don't know what is what and I might not know for whoknowshowlong and IhatethatIhatethatIhatethat, but I can't keep thinking about that, so... moving on. 

My mind likes to think. A LOT. It plans and considers and studies and analyzes and imagines and, after a while, all of that feels selfish. By the time I get to where I am now, when I'm ready to make some kind of move, selfish doesn't feel justifiable. Choosing the option that puts me first - whatever that may be in a given situation - feels like taking more cookies than what I'm offered. It can also feel like jumping blindfolded off a cliff because how in the world do I know what the right move is or where any step I take will lead me.  What if it really is off a cliff and there's no rope to climb back up (best case scenario)? 

YOU.

I've learned that I can't stop the thinking and planning and considering and studying and analyzing and imagining. I can't shut myself up, but I can change my opinion of and response to my thoughts. I am not selfish for caring for myself. I am not selfish for choosing the option least likely to hurt. I am not selfish for reminiscing on pictures of me smiling and wanting so badly to create those bright smiles on my own ("on demand" if you will). 

I AM capable beyond what I ever imagined possible to love someone. 

I AM driven towards my own definition of success. 

I AM passionate about food and nutrition and mental and physical health, and about traveling and people and relationships and creativity and words. 

I AM funny... or nerdy, which just ends up being funny, I guess. It still counts. 

I AM beautiful beyond the mirror's definition.

I AM intelligent. I AM strong. I AM powerful. 

I know me. I know what hurts, what triggers. I know what heals, what helps. 

I have a purpose - many, actually - and I am ready to pursue those and show them off. 

I have a massive capacity to love and be loved, and that is rare and beautiful and so am I. 

Repeat those phrases to yourself, making changes to fit whatever "thing" you're handling. Remind yourself that it's you-time, that you have a a brain that wants to learn + a soul that wants to smile + a heart that wants to love. 

YOU.

Choosing me isn't always selfish. Choosing me means taking care of myself and taking actions to alleviate pain. Choosing me means finding joy in right now, rather than trying to plan it for the future. Choosing me means loving Haley first.

As challenging as the last month-ish (I should find a new word to use for an estimate rather than "ish") has been, it's taught me:

1. Not all of our wants can be satisfied and a big part of taking care of ourselves is recognizing which can and which can't, being grateful for the ones that can and releasing the ones that can't.  

2. You are the most important in your life. You have control over you. You can take care of you. You can say "yes" and you can say "no". You are the most important in your life. 

I'm often stuck somewhere between the tippy-toe of now and the very thought of what-could-be at any given time in the future. I'm contemplating productivity and living, laughing, letting go of cares and to-do lists and bedtimes. I'm considering how these actions affect tomorrow's outcomes, the next year's and the next five year's. I'm thinking about what I hope for, what might happen and what might not, and either anticipating or fearing those potentials. I'm thinking about what I need and what I want, and sometimes those don't line up. I'm thinking about loved ones - deeply loved ones - and how much I care for them and want the very best for them. How exhausting does that sound? Constantly looking ahead and reaching out for others leaves little time and energy in the 24 hours each day gives us to be right here, right now and to reach in for ourselves.  

YOU.

Its you-time. Whatever that means for you. It's time to give yourself a break in school and take three classes instead of four because four was just one too many. It's time to jump off that diet-train because all it does it tell you that you that you can't have this and you aren't that and the only way to be maybe someday become "that" for half a second is to restrict everything. It's time to give less time to commitments that aren't serving you like they should. It's time to be honest with yourself and prioritize your own happiness. 

I won't tell you that you it's time to "grow up" and "put your big-girl pants on" because I haven't and I don't even think I own a pair of those pants. I want you to just... I don't know how to say it,

To seek you. To choose you. To be you. To love you. 

YOU.

Recent Eats

Life, HealthHaley HansenComment

I hope you came prepared for the amount of food pictures your about to encounter. As the title implies, these are most of my recent eats - meals and snacks I think are fun and exciting and delicious and worthy of a spot here on the blog. I'd bet you'd also be surprised to find out just how popular posts about my day-to-day eats are. Shocking, guys. Shocking. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

For starters, these are kolachkis - a Polish cookie made with cream cheese and jam, pretty much. The dough is delicate and creamy, and the jam is so sweet. We made them in one of my nutrition classes for an event on campus - over 1,200 cookies made! 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

This is what breakfast usually looks like - waffles are rare, but when they do happen, mmmmm. I think I used a Bob's Red Mill whole-grain mix here and added in some chocolate chips, and ate it with some Greek yogurt (this is my favorite) and sliced banana for a post-workout/pre-long-day-of-classes breakfast! 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

This... this was good. A bowl of roasted spaghetti squash mixed with marinara sauce and chicken, topped with steamed kale, goat cheese, and cilantro (pretty much the only herb I regularly have in my fridge). Spaghetti seems to be one of those stereotypical college meals - easy to throw together, inexpensive, etc., yet it's one that rarely hits my plate. That just might have to change after a bowl like this. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

One of my favorite lunches, not only for the taste (and nutrition, duh) but also for the eeeeeease of preparation. Those are beet and black bean burgers made with ground Hippeas instead of flour because I'm so resourceful like that over a bed of mixed greens, and alongside some chopped veggies and avocado. And yes, that is barbecue sauce as "dressing" - don't knock it 'til you try it. If I'm feeling hungry, I'll add a hard-boiled egg or two. Protein!

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

More spaghetti squash because those things are pretty much never-ending sometimes (or so it seems). Here, I made a small dinner of spaghetti squash with a serving of my Sheet-Pan Chicken, Chickpeas, and Veggies and topped it off with just a tiny bit - sense the sarcasm there? - of sharp white cheddar cheese. S O  G O O D. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

I'm on campus for somewhere around 8-10 hours on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I make darn sure to bring pllllllenty of food. Snacks are good, but I don't usually feel satisfied (especially on long days) off of crackers and fruits and nuts and whatever else I consider a snack food, which is why I pack actual substantial meals like these. For lunch, I threw together a couple items from Hungry Root - cooked quinoa, sauteed brussel sprouts, lemongrass tofu, and some Thai peanut sauce with greens. For dinner, I roasted a hefty white sweet potato (so much better than the orange one) with a Bilinski chicken sausage, steamed some kale, and packed it all up with a little hummus. Easily one of my favorite weeknight meals. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Aaaaand for another weeknight favorite - pulled pork sandwiches! For real though, I could not stop thinking about pulled pork for like a week until this. My friends probably went with me just to shut me up. These are from Old San Luis BBQ and are, by a long-shot, the only sandwich that can make my mouth water when I'm in anatomy lab staring at muscles on a cadaver. We all had a pulled pork sandwich and then split some sweet potato and regular fries. The thought of all of this is now making my mouth water, so let's move on. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Ahh, vino. Call me cheap, but I LOVE this Charles Shaw white zinfandel. Apparently, it's known as "two-buck Chuck" in the wonderful land of Trader Joe's. Whatever. It's friggin' good and I'm not in the position to drop $12 on a bottle of wine. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Are you as tired of seeing my roasted sweet potatoes as you are of hearing about classes? I hope you aren't tired yet of either. My parents graciously gifted me with a Lodge Cast Iron skillet for Christmas, so take a guess at the vehicle in which I've been cooked e v e r y t h i n g lately. Don't ask me how it's done, but the skillet just makes sweet potato wedges so perfectly crispy-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside. Sometimes I eat just the potato if it's a big one or I'm not hungry enough for an entire meal, and other times I love it with chicken or eggs or whatever I have. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Round 1 of enchiladas! Success? Ehh. There's a first time for everything and this was most definitely and clearly my first time making my own enchiladas. With the veggies and the chicken all cooked, and all the other fix-ins laid out, I still found myself confuzzled about what to put in first, how to layer and roll, etc. Good thing enchiladas taste so dang good, otherwise I wouldn't be very motivated to try again. I'll have a recipe up here soon - perfection takes time, my friends. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

After four years of taking pictures of my food, one might think that stopping what I'm doing to snap a quick picture wouldn't feel awkward at all. One would be wrong, in that case - it's still awkward. Anyway, this is a snack plate from a friend's bridal shower! Eeeep I know a bride I know a bride I know a bride! We spent the day just hanging out and giggling and eating and sharing memories of little Phoebe back in her single days. Then I went home to study because... well, you know why. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Oh, and we drank mimosas! These aren't the best pre-study beverage, but I'd still recommend - balance, right?

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Remember those long days on campus I told you about? Those are when Perfect Bars feel like my best friend. My class schedule throws off what would normally be dinner time for me, so I end up eating something during what you might call "happy hour" on the weekend but is more like "stress hour" or "cram hour" before anatomy lecture. And because I want something sweet after dinner/something to munch on in class, I bring one of these. Favorite? Ummm... probably the Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter OR either of the new flavors. Worth every penny. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Coffee is so much more satisfying than tea, in my opinion, but when it's 3 PM and my wiser instincts remind me that coffee right now will keep me awake when I'd rather not be later tonight, I reach for tea usually in the form of kombucha. And when kombucha is too expensive or just doesn't sound fantastic, I reach for this! Tazo is my go-to and this bottle of iced tea was above and beyond any other iced tea I've had before - sweet, but not like juice or dessert in a bottle, you know? 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Speaking of dessert, I've been so into little bites of chocolate lately. My mom bought me a couple of these from Taza Chocolate and I think I found love at first bite. The texture is so unlike any other chocolate I've had - it's almost like you can feel like sugar granules, but yet the sweetness isn't overpowering. I can't describe it, so you should just try it.

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

The people around this table mean so much more to me than any food ever could. We all met at last year's Expo West and bonded unbelievably well, so a reunion this year was, like, a given. JJ, Alayna, Connie, Winnie, and a couple new faces - Jeannette and Kelly - and I shared a bunch of food from Sage Vegan Bistro in LA and left absolutely stuffed. Everything was delicious and I couldn't have asked for more! 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

Less than an hour into my day at Expo West, I was already searching for a kombucha - a clear representation of how overwhelming and exhausting of a day was ahead of me. I met the people behind Humm Kombucha and could've easily just hung out with them for the rest of the day - hilarious, welcoming, genuine, and makers of some of the best kombucha I've tasted! I will certainly be stocking up on this stuff every week. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

The next morning, I dropped Jeannette and Kelly off at the airport before the sun was even up, so I packed a snack-ish breakfast  - banaynay and one of the best peanut butters everrrrrr. It wasn't the easiest to eat while driving, but I made it work. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats #2

And when I came home to a ten-feet-tall pile of homework and studying to tackle, I was beyond thankful for leftovers of the pasta dish I made just before I left for Expo - cashew tomato sauce with Banza chickpea shells (pretty much the only pasta I buy for myself) and sautéed red bell pepper, topped with fresh basil and some sharp white cheddar. Comfort food meets nutritious food meets college-friendly food.  

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Okay, last one I promise. Here's another stupidly easy weeknight dinner - roasted broccoli and red onion (season with whatever you like), baked chicken breast (thighs are still my preference), and whole-grain bread with herb cream cheese and some avocado. My weeknight dinners usually involve roasting because it allows me to toss everything in the oven for 40-ish minutes and leave it there while I squeeze in some time to study. 

Recent Eats

Life, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

Multiple reasons for this post: 

1) big plans for a cupcake recipe are being re-designed - recipe to come next week! 

2) big week of midterms and studying for next week's midterms is d r a i n i n g me. 

3) big folder of food pictures on my computer is filling up and I figured it would be fun to share recent eats that made me happy! 

A lot of these I share on my Instagram stories, so you may recognize them, but if you missed them, then YAY for you!

What could possibility be better to start with than the long-awaited, endlessly searched-for Pillsbury Christmas cutout sugar cookies?! I sincerely hope you followed Grace and me along on our tireless hunt for these - at the end of it all, we searched at least eight grocery stores and finally found victory at an Albertson's store in Southern California. Worth. Every. Minute. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

CHILAQUILES, bby. My closest friends and I spent a week-ish in Lake Tahoe in Northern CA and cooked breakfast and dinner almost everyday. 'Twas a beauuuutiful kitchen in my eyes, so I could've cooked every meal in there, but two of my friends cooked this breakfast for us all one morning and I must admit that I forgot how relaxing eating a meal someone else cooked for me feels. AND delicious, obviously. If you're wondering what these are, it's basically eggs scrambled with homemade corn tortilla chips, tomato sauce, and cheese and a side of homemade refried beans and Spanish rice. I am definitely not the only one in friend-group who can cook, and I could certainly learn a thing or two from these girls! 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

This is a huuuge sandwich from a local deli in SLO - High Street Deli. Three and a half years into my time here and I finally tried this place that everyone (college students especially) rave about. It's a bit on the spendy side, but you definitely get what you pay for - based on size, I probably could've saved half for later, but sandwiches tend to get soggy and yucky the longer they sit in the fridge, so I know to come to this place hungry so that I can polish off every last bite!

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Please excuse the poor quality of this photo - night-time doesn't make for the best lighting or clarity. BUT NACHOS. Nachos. These are from a local bar/restaurant where my friends and I usually frequent for late-night two-for-one drinks. It was purely a drink location until we discovered this pile of cheesy, chippy pleasure. We topped them with pulled pork, and probably will from now one because wowowow is it good, but any meat is an option. Pair with a cider (which I thought was a beer until Michaela corrected me - oops) and you have a d e l i c i o u s meal. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

When I'm spending a full day at home, whether working on my computer, doing homework/studying, or just reading (very rare, but very cherished), something about the laziness of it all makes a big plate of roasted sweet potato wedges sound like just about the best thing in the world. I usually roast them in coconut oil or avocado oil because the fats can stand high heat. Depending on how hungry I am, I might have some eggs or turkey or chicken or whatever protein I can find to keep things balanced, ya' know? Oh, and for dipping, guac and/or hummus are my go-to's! 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

Kombucha. It's an everyday thing. Don't ask my wallet about it (the prices on campus are i n s a n e), just trust. I usually sip on one in the afternoon - mostly for taste and bubbles and caffeine, but also for the probiotics because my tummy likes them. I LOVE GT's because the flavor never fails!

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

Winter break ended and school began more abruptly than ever with four tough classes filling my schedule, and on top of that, managing this blog thing and volunteering on campus for our health center (through an organization called PULSE). Thank the sweet Lord above for a collaboration with Hungry Root, who let me try a variety of their products - prepared salads, pre-cut veggies, marinated tofu, brownie and cookie batters, and more! This is a quinoa salad with artichokes and lemon and garlic and a bunch of other beautiful flavors. I'm not usually one to choose quinoa, but I decided to give it another chance - I added some kale and spaghetti squash, which you probably can't see. Overall, I'm a fan of quinoa again and an even bigger fan of Hungry Root

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

And this, my friends, is my current favorite burger spot - Sylvester's Burgers. If you're on the Central Coast, there a few locations throughout the SLO area that you MUST try. The menu itself is mouth-watering and the burgers are above and beyond. And they even offer vegan options, which I've tried and loved, too! Anyway, my friends and I were heading to a concert in our area and I remembered that a Sylvester's was nearby the concert venue, so I dubbed this place our dinner option and no one objected (great friends). I don't remember exactly what we all ordered, but the burgers and that basket of fried zucchini in the middle hit. the. spot. For those of you wondering, red meat doesn't really hurt my stomach. I rarely ever eat it, and when I do, it's not in huge amounts (except this occasion). I've also never dealt with many stomach issues, so there's that, making me not the best resource for maintaining gut health. But that's beside the point - burgers! Delicious! 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

Study snacks! My nose has been buried in my textbooks for the last month - I'm not complaining, though, because I really really (yes - really) enjoy most of the classes I'm taking. Finally, as I move farther along in school towards my degree, the classes focus more and more on areas in which I'm interested. Studying what I'm passionate and curious about makes the hardcore studying, lab hours, and long days on campus a bit easier. Anywho, I pack Perfect Bars for a snack almost every. single. day. Cannot stop, will not stop. Don't ask me what my favorite flavor is because I will not be able to answer. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

One more burger - sorry not sorry. This one is a turkey burger with gorgonzola, red onion, garlic mayo, and arugula on a whole-wheat bun from Natural Cafe (which I think is only in CA). My friend and I treated ourselves because 1) she had a BOGO coupon for this restaurant and 2) we both c r a v e d burgers that night, so we figured we'd give these a try! Satisfied, very much so. 

THOUGHTS: Recent Eats

Last but not least, feast your eyes on my first ever (or at least in as long as I can remember) batch of homemade - as in completely totally from scratch!!! - cupcakes! This is the recipe that led to this post because I'm being stubborn as a button with it. I want it as close to perfect as can be! Cupcakes aren't my usual dessert choice or recipe-for-the-blog choice or even procrasti-baking choice, for that matter. Something about the frosting and fluffiness feels fancier than what a typical weeknight dessert really asks for, so that's why I'm always stocked up on cookies or brownies instead, but d a n g these cupcakes have sparked in me such a love for the cute little treats and I can't wait for them to do the same for you when I finish the recipe! PS I made extra cream cheese frosting and kept it in a jar in the fridge and have shamelessly been scooping spoonfuls from it whenever my heart desires. It's the little things. It's the cream cheese frosting. 

I hope you found my recent eats as entertaining and delicious (well, vicariously so) as I did! Maybe these will become semi-regular posts, or maybe just plan-B posts for when plan-A fails. Let me know your thoughts! 

Choose Your Words...

Health, ThoughtsHaley HansenComment

Walking around campus, to and from classes. Standing in the bars downtown. Looking in the mirror getting dressed each morning with my roommates. Sitting in my nutrition classes. Riding the bike/working out in the gym. And hidden (or not so) almost everywhere in marketing and advertisements. I hear words everywhere, and these locations in particular sometimes feel clouded with the exact language I hope to highlight here and squash. 

THOUGHTS: Choose Your Words...

"Why do you make me do such bad things? I never eat pizza!" she whined to her friend (the one encouraging the pizza slice), in a tone that boasted her idea of health and her discipline when it comes to eating habits. 

"I was so good this weekend - I didn't eat a single piece of candy," - she proclaimed, as if her rigid self-control during the Halloween holiday was something to brag about. I'll take her leftover Kit Kats and Reese' Cups!

"You are only as a good as your last meal," a quote written on the whiteboard outside the kitchen in a local hospital. And my heart plunged into my stomach and my brain wires practically exploded in confusion at how a health facility (both mental and physical) could possibly focus on such a potentially demeaning statement. 

"Clean-eating", "guilt-free", "sinful", "junk". 

big ol' lunch spread from  The Avocado House  in Chino Hills. 

big ol' lunch spread from The Avocado House in Chino Hills. 

Those are only a few of the phrases I've overheard in the past few months that haven't left my mind and seem to echo when they enter. I can distinctly remember these types of thoughts controlling my mind, though I didn't always vocalize them (because I wanted to cover up a serious issue), and their re-entrance into my life via my surrounding peers inspired me to write this because 1) my last wish is for anyone to feel controlled by such thoughts and 2) awareness of this topic is much-needed, especially around the holidays. 

WHY THESE ARE HARMFUL

Gandhi said it best, I think. 

Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.

Whether or not you believe in this diet chatter surrounding you, its likely to still affect you. There certainly are days when not only do I believe in it, but I fall prey to participating in it, as well. We aren't protected by rock-solid walls to prevent negativity from invading our minds throughout the day. Diet chatter is just on example - think of all the ads we see, all the conversations we overhear, all the words that stare back at us from books, news articles, magazines, etc. More or less, this invasion is like osmosis in our brains. Keeping negativity out requires conscious effort. 

cream puff donut from  SLO Do Co . 

cream puff donut from SLO Do Co

Gandhi warns us of the danger of all this diet chatter, if we aren't careful to set up protective boundaries and response mechanisms when we encounter it - thoughts, in essence, become our values and our future, as individuals and as a society. Words that demonize a food itself or oneself or another person for eating said food create a negative image for that food or feeling for that person, which in turn can become a permanent association or a recurring thought cycle in one's mind.

And not many negative images of specific foods or recurring thought cycles are required to spark restriction of specific foods and, in turn, eating disorders and simply poor self-esteem/body-image. With the prevalence of diet chatter today (seriously, just listen closely and pay attention to conversations, advertisements, magazine articles, and food labels), resulting eating disorders and poor self-esteem/body-image are more common than we may think. 

Sociologist Dina Rose, PhD, shared in a blog post about one of the first times her daughter used the word "fat" in a sentence. And keep in mind - her daughter was three years old. Examining her belly, Rose's daughter told her mom she knew she'd be fat when she grew up because of that belly. Rose later learns that her daughter also thought her mom had a negative body image of herself, as she never liked the way clothes looked on her and must not have hidden her self-criticism from her daughter as well as she'd hoped.

almond milk latte from  Kraken Coffee Co.  in Avila Beach.

almond milk latte from Kraken Coffee Co. in Avila Beach.

Rose also shares quotes and studies conducted by other psychologists that show "fat bias" (also known as fat shaming, fear of fat) can begin as early as age three. If children can recognize poor self-esteem/body-image and, as a result, potentially experience their own self-esteem issues later on in life, how well do you think teens and young adults can? Answer: quite well. 

Am I making sense? Diet chatter, fat shaming, and overall negative phrases regarding food and one's or another's own body can become our own individual thoughts, words, actions, values and future, if not kicked in the butt before they establish themselves in our minds. Look back up at the phrases and words at the beginning of this post. How can those potentially cause harm? 

WHAT WE CAN DO

1) Most solutions to problems start by practicing mindfulness, which encompasses recognizing the potentially harmful phrases and words when you hear them. Again, open up your ears and your eyes when you're in public (common places: gyms, work environments, grocery stores, clothing stores, etc.) - you will most likely hear or read at least one piece of diet chatter a day. Carefully take that in, but don't absorb it. Roll it around in your brain and evaluate its possible meaning and effect. If someone says it to you, hoping for a response, be extra mindful. If you have to, don't verbally respond. I can't tell you how many awkward laughs and nods I've given in times like this because I don't want to mindlessly agree with this potentially harmful statement. Is temporary awkwardness not safer than perpetuation of negativity? 

2) Once you're able to recognize this chatter, set up positive affirmations as a defense mechanism. Remind yourself of who you are - your passions, your values, your unique characteristics that shape you - so that the invading chatter doesn't try to tell you what you are - your jean size, your workout schedule, your eating habits. I like to tell myself exactly that - that the time I spent at the gym (or lack thereof), the number on my clothing tags, and what I did or didn't eat in a day has nothing to do with my value as a person. Those are superficial matters, and my intelligence, my desires, my passions go way deeper. 

Another quote that stuck with me the minute I heard it is from Kylie Mitchell's interview on the Food Psych podcast (not verbatim, but pretty close): if being thin is the most interesting thing about me, then something needs to change. 

3) Implement change. Be the first wave of positive encouragement for those around you by respectfully and thoughtfully responding to diet chatter, and by initiating uplifting phrases. Some examples of how I've done this: 

  • when someone deems a food "junk"/"bad"/"unhealthy", I try to remind he/she that in small amounts it won't do much harm (if any at all) to the body and can actually be worthy of enjoyment. everything in moderation! 
  • when someone says he/she neeeeeeds to go to the gym after a meal or certain amount of time off, I try to remind that person that days off are crucial, too, for muscle to rebuild itself. rest is key! 
  • when I see a quote in a well-known hospital that tells patients they are only worth their last meal... well, I'm still figuring how to respond to that. ideas are welcome! :) 
breakfast bowl from  Honey Hi  in LA.

breakfast bowl from Honey Hi in LA.

Also, I recommend taking a second to read this post from Robyn, The Real Life RD, about dealing with "diet talk". 

As I always say, I'm no Registered Dietitian or other trained professional - just a girl who's "been there", so I'm offering up my experience and tips I've formulated based off of that and what I've heard/observed from others. I hope this has created awareness if it wasn't there before, and encouraged action if you haven't yet taken any, but find opportunities to do so! 

Becoming a Real Person

Life, Thoughts, Faith, HealthHaley Hansen6 Comments

*as if I weren't one before?* 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

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

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

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

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

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

When it comes to food...

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

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

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

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

When it comes to exercise...

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

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

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

When it comes to emotions...

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

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

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

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

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

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

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person
COPY CODE SNIPPET

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. 

Imperfect and Perfectly Loved

Life, Faith, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Like, these types of things...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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! 

Life Lately #2

Life, Health, ThoughtsHaley Hansen3 Comments

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

UPS

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

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

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

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

DOWNS

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

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

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

GOALS

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

Note: this is in no particular order of importance.

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

Oh, and  Eat Healthy Designs , of course! 

Oh, and Eat Healthy Designs, of course! 

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

2017-02-09 21.08.53-1.jpg

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

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

Life Lately

Life, Thoughts, HealthHaley Hansen2 Comments

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

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

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

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

UPS

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

DOWNS

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

GOALS

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

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

(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 :) 

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