Hungry Haley

it's more than food


Some Intuitive Eating Bloggers and Resources

Nutrition, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us and it most certainly is wonderful! But diet culture quickly sneaks in and tries to squash our enjoyment of it all by convincing us that the most important thing right now is managing weight, losing it, restricting our food intake, and/or “burning” off everything we’ve eaten. I’ve been hearing this chatter since Halloween and now that Christmas is around the corner, I figured it’s definitely time to provide some helpful resources for encouraging, self-love-promoting Intuitive Eating chatter, eh?

Some Intuitive Eating Bloggers and Resources


Hummusapien -

I think I came across Alexis’s blog after seeing someone else post about her café, Alchemy, on Instagram and I was like, “THAT’S cool.” That was long before I built up the courage to search for any wisdom about healthy food relationships, but just something about her blog I found intriguing. And now, two years later, I’ve been reading her posts weekly and sometimes even going back to older posts and rereading (again and again and again). Her clever, witty writing combined with relatable stories captivate me and many others who read her blog regularly.

Some must-read posts:

Living In the In-Between

You Don’t Fail The Diet, The Diet Fails You

The Real Life RD -

Robyn. What a woman. My words will always underestimate how much your vulnerability, courage, and knowledge have impacted me. If there is anything that would make me want to become an RD, it’s how inspiring you are to me and probably a million other readers. Robyn takes time to dissect a lot of the food, diet, and wellness trends thrown around today and always reminds us to honor our bodies and believe that we are worth more than numbers (calories, pounds, etc.). She has been one of the single most influential factors in my understanding of Intuitive Eating.

Some must-read posts:

Intuitive Eating: Using Brain Knowledge Over Body Knowledge

The Steps To Intuitive Eating

Rachael Hartley Nutrition -

Rachael’s is a relatively new-to-me blog with pretty much everything related to food I explore on the internet all in one place: recipes and encouraging non-diet posts. I love how she incorporates both because doing so is such a great example of balance between the food we eat and how we feel about it. Like both Alexis and Robyn, Rachael is full of knowledge about nutrition, the human body, and how the two intersect.

Some must-read posts:

Satisfy Food Cravings, Don’t Kick Them

Are You Giving Yourself Full Permission Around Food?

Some Intuitive Eating Bloggers and Resources

RESOURCES (books & podcasts):

  1. Intuitive Eating - both the book to read and the workbook to fill out as you go along. Just do it. I highly recommend.

  2. Body Kindness - I haven’t read this book myself, but I’ve heard from so many others how helpful it is!

  3. Food Psych Podcast - Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN interviews several individuals within the nutrition field who tell personal stories and share advice for anyone curious about Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, and squashing diet culture.

  4. Nutrition Matters Podcast - Paige Smathers, RDN, CD talks with experts on all things mental health, nutrition, and body positivity to provide personal stories and helpful pieces of advice. Also, Paige’s and Christy’s voices are just really soothing to listen to and I mean that in the least weird way possible.

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

Health, Food, Life, NutritionHaley Hansen8 Comments

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

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

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

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

2018-03-16 11.42.52.jpg

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

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

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

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

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

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

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

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

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

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

What I Misunderstood About Intuitive Eating

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


The Real Life RD
Rachael Hartley

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Nutrition, Health, FoodHaley Hansen4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Here are the steps I took in implementing this change: 

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

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

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

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

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

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

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

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


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

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

Beyond the Nutrition Facts

Leptin & Cortisol in Eating Disorders (aka My Research Paper)

Health, NutritionHaley Hansen1 Comment

Eating disorders can leave harmful effects on survivors, prior to the destruction that takes place while the disorder is in full effect. In the midst of an eating disorder, one can suffer from digestive issues, fatigue, and dry skin, among other symptoms (“Anorexia nervosa – medical complications”, 2015). An in-depth look at the most common eating disorder - anorexia nervosa - reveals a physiological effect beyond a thin stature and restricted food intake: potentially serious hormonal imbalances in levels of leptin and cortisol.

Anorexia Nervosa Explained

The most prevalent of all eating disorders, anorexia nervosa is one characterized by weight loss or inadequate weight gain, difficulty maintaining a proper weight, body image distortion, and sometimes exercise addiction (“Anorexia: Overview and Statistics”). A collection of studies in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found a prevalence rate of up to about 1% among young females for strictly defined anorexia nervosa (Wijbrand, 2003, p. 385). The vast majority of these studies found significantly higher prevalence rates for partial syndromes of anorexia, meaning that the full set of diagnostic criteria for AN was not met, but rather a smaller handful of signs of the disorder. While a mere 1% of the world’s population can seem a small number, and while most medical professionals do classify anorexia nervosa as a rare mental illness when compared with others, the incidence rates are rising rapidly in the 15-19 year-old female age group (Smink, 2012, p. 408).

Survivors of anorexia nervosa can likely vividly remember the signs and symptoms associated, though during the disorder, one probably would have denied anything unusual at all. What typically begins with an innocent decrease in calories/overall food intake in pursuit of weight loss often progresses into a restriction or elimination of at least one entire food group (i.e. carbohydrates or fats). From there, specific food rituals, like excessive chewing and/or organization of foods and eating patterns develop. Concerns about eating in public and/or social gatherings promote withdrawal and isolation. Other mechanisms of avoiding meals include random excuses to exclude oneself and denial of hunger, as well as consistent over-exercising (“Warning Signs and Symptoms”).

Psychologically, a preoccupation with food often clouds one’s mind with thoughts of how to consume the least amount possible, how to “burn off” calories consumed, fear of eating or gaining fat, etc. Additionally, denial of one’s low body weight, extreme influence of one’s weight or physical shape on emotional and mental state, and body dysmorphia – fixation on a perceived flaw or imperfection in one’s physical appearance, body shape, or specific feature – become mentally and socially consuming (Phillips). Flexibility with daily life occurrences like eating and making social plans diminishes as one seeks control and relies on specific, strict dietary patterns, and isolation and withdrawal often result (“Warning Signs and Symptoms”).

DSM-5 diagnostic criteria include restriction of energy intake to amounts far lower than recommended, intense fear of weight gain despite one’s current weight, and a disturbance in one’s own perception of body shape and consequent extreme self-evaluation and denial of the disorder (“Anorexia: Overview and Statistics”). Atypical anorexia occurs when one shows some or all symptoms of AN but is not underweight, despite weight loss.

A main consequence of prolonged AN is a disruption of the body’s ability to regulate hormones. Two hormones most significantly affected include leptin and cortisol, which involve maintenance of appetite and satiation and management of stress levels, respectively. At first, this disruption might not manifest itself obviously, but if not treated, can over time lead to inability to regain a healthy amount of weight and/or damage and even loss of cognition.


Leptin is a hormone directly tied to and secreted by body fat. Sometimes called the “satiety hormone”, leptin’s main function is signaling to the brain that energy is present in the body, so appetite can decrease (What Is Leptin?). Specifically, leptin “travels from fat to the bloodstream and binds with the hypothalamus region of the brain, which is involved in regulating appetite” (Tara, 2016, p. 42). Therefore, a higher level of circulating leptin in the blood typically equals a lower appetite (assuming no metabolic issues like obesity or diabetes are present) (Margetic, 2002, p. 1409-1410).

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders compared the plasma leptin levels of patients with anorexia nervosa to that of normal control women without the disorder. Each individual’s level of various hormones including leptin was measured, as well as menstrual score, percent body fat, and eating behavior score. Researchers found a significant relationship between leptin levels and body fat mass, eating behavior score, and menstrual status. Eating behavior score was defined on a scale of one to five based on the patient’s 48-hour diet history prior to blood testing – a lower score was given to patients with lower calorie intake and a higher score to those with extreme caloric intake. Menstrual score on a scale of one to three was based on regularity of the menstrual cycle for the three months prior to blood testing – amenorrhea for at least three months was given a score of one while a regular cycle was given a score of three. Overall, lower leptin levels (observed mostly in the patients with AN) were seen paired with lower body fat mass, eating behavior score, and menstrual score. This signified that symptoms of AN, mainly decreased caloric intake and excessive exercise leading to extreme weight loss, lower the body’s leptin levels, and consequently, menstrual regulation (Nakai, 1999, p. 32).

The same study also pointed out that leptin has been linked to reproductive function. Though it does not play a direct role in the initiation of puberty and the reproductive cycle, leptin does act in a permissive fashion, as “a metabolic gate to allow pubertal maturation to proceed” (Nakai, 1999, p. 34). In another study, both male and female mice with mutations resulting in leptin deficiency were observed to be infertile, and only achieved proper sexual development when provided with leptin. Mice with low leptin levels displayed “morphological and biochemical abnormalities”, like low sperm counts and underweight, underdeveloped reproductive organs (Elias, 2012, p. 842). Similarly, the pituitary contents of luteinizing hormone and follicular stimulating hormone, two main hormones that regulate ovulation, were low in leptin-deficient mice (Elias, 2012, p. 843) (Martin, 2013).

Researchers for the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that during the weight restoration phase of AN treatment, leptin levels reached what was considered “normal” (that of healthy individuals without AN), but patients were still significantly underweight. This helps explain why some suffering from AN struggle in gaining weight even after recovering from the disorder – leptin levels have increased, so appetite has decreased. Leptin levels likely increase at a faster rate than weight gain does, which represents potential difficulty some might face in the treatment and full weight-restoration process (Mantzoros, 1997, p. 1850).

A study published in the research journal PLOS ONE found results that agreed with that of the previous study. These researchers found that in previously high-severity AN patients, now weight-restored patients, an increase in leptin levels was correlated with an increased incidence of psychological disturbances like depression, anxiety, and stress. Researchers are unsure of the causes and mechanisms behind this occurrence, but it is possible that the reality of weight gain could have shocked and upset patients who weren’t mentally recovered and prepared for the changes in physical appearance that weight gain brings (Stroe-Kunold, 2016, p. 10).

Current research surrounding hormone restoration, especially that for leptin levels, rests on the side of the more overweight and obese who likely suffer from leptin resistance, rather than deficiency – explaining how to regulate leptin in speeding up metabolism and increasing the body’s rate of burning fat as a source of energy and decreasing appetite. This is not the desired mechanism in restoring hormone levels for those with AN, as a fat-burning metabolism and decreased appetite will likely worsen the existing weight issue.

It is clear that leptin levels are low in those with anorexia nervosa. Low leptin levels should display an increased appetite and amount of food consumed, but the opposite is seen in those with AN, probably due to a preoccupation with the nutrition facts of foods, body weight and appearance, and overall fear and anxiety surrounding food (“Warning Signs and Symptoms”). During the weight restoration and treatment phase, leptin levels have been seen to increase in patients with AN in a linear fashion with weight and BMI – a good sign. However, to maintain this weight, reshaping the mindset of one with AN is just as important, if not more so. Without a positive relationship with food and an understanding of its essential role in everyday life, a patient with AN who gains weight and restores leptin could lose the weight after a period of time due to leptin’s function in decreasing appetite. 


A steroid hormone that helps regulate metabolism, prevent inflammation, enhance memory, and control electrolyte balance and blood pressure, cortisol is the body’s main hormone when it comes to handling to stress. When the body experiences stressful situations, cortisol secretion increases to respond to the stress-inducing situation (Cortisol, 2017). Stress arises not only when the body is under harmful physical attack, but also when it is unable to mentally and/or emotionally cope with certain situations, and this is usually when disorders like depression and anxiety develop.

AN induces stress on the body not only by forcing the individual into a nutrient-deficit, but also by altering the neurological systems within the brain, specifically those that regulate enjoyment of food and emotional sensitivity. Psychologically, the brains of patients with AN show enhanced feelings of pleasure and reward when starvation is chosen over eating, which helps explain the difficulty these patients find in gaining weight. “Disturbed interoceptive awareness of satiety and hunger” play a significant role in preventing patients with AN from recognizing bodily cues to eat. Additionally, these patients tend to feel high levels of anxiety in situations involving food, and therefore turn to starvation as a coping mechanism to decrease the anxiety (Kaye, 2014, p. 1-2).

Patients with AN show abnormalities in CT scans similar to patients with Cushing’s syndrome – ventricular enlargement in the brain and cerebral atrophy (Kellner, 1983, p. 191). This particular study found that the degree of cortisol secretion and ventricular size shared a strong linear relationship. A significant increase in cortisol can increase brain ventricular size, eventually leading to a condition called “normal pressure hydrocephalus”, in which the cerebrospinal fluid does not drain, but rather builds up and causes further expansion of the ventricles. The resulting pressure on the brain from the ventricles typically results in symptoms like compromised memory and cognition, also known as dementia (Lava, 2016). Methods to prevent NPH, specifically that caused by AN, includes reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and exercise routine (Lava, 2016).

Of the several harmful consequences an eating disorder can cause, the hormonal disruptions – specifically leptin and cortisol – can be the most physically detrimental. In the recovery phase, survivors can find the weight-gain process challenging because leptin levels tend to increase at a faster rate than actual weight gain. Increasing cortisol levels during AN, if not treated in time, can cause brain alterations similar to that which occurs during Cushing’s syndrome. Though these changes are often difficult to deal with, they can be prevented and treated by increasing awareness of the damaging effects of AN, and decreasing negative stigmas surrounding AN. As society becomes more aware of eating disorders and proper prevention and treatment methods, these hormonal disturbances can become less and less prevalent.


"Anorexia nervosa - medical complications." Journal of Eating Disorders 3.11 (2015): 1-8. PubMed. Web. 7 May 2017.

"Anorexia: Overview and Statistics." NEDA. National Eating Disorders Association, n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.

Elias, C. F., & Purohit, D. (2012). Leptin signaling and circuits in puberty and fertility. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences,70(5), 841-862. doi:10.1007/s00018-012-1095-1

Phillips, Katharine, MD. "About BDD." International OCD Foundation. International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Smink, Frederique R. E., Daphne Van Hoeken, and Hans W. Hoek. "Epidemiology of   Eating Disorders: Incidence, Prevalence, and Mortality Rates." Current Psychiatry Reports 14.4 (2012): 406-14. Springer Link. Web. 7 May 2017.

Wijbrand Hoek, Hans, and Daphne Van Hoeken. "Review of the Prevalence and Incidence of Eating Disorders." International Journal of Eating Disorders 34.3 (2003): 383-94. Wiley Online Library. Web. 3 May 2017.

"Warning Signs and Symptoms." NEDA. National Eating Disorders Association, n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Phillips, Katharine, MD. "About BDD." International OCD Foundation. International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Tara, Sylvia, PhD. The Secret Life of Fat. N.p.: W. W. Norton & Co., n.d. Print.

Margetic, S., C. Gazzola, GG. Pegg, and RA Hill. "Leptin: A review of its peripheral actions and interactions." International Journal of Obesity 26 (2002): 1407-433. Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 2002. Web. 7 May 2017.

Martin, K., MD, & Pinkerton, J., MD. (2013, May). Women's Reproductive Health Information. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from

Mantzoros, C. (1997). Cerebrospinal Fluid Leptin in Anorexia Nervosa: Correlation with Nutritional Status and Potential Role in Resistance to Weight Gain. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,82(6), 1845-1851. doi:10.1210/jc.82.6.1845

Nakai, Y., Hamagaki, S., Kato, S., Seino, Y., Takagi, R., & Kurimoto, F. (1999). Role of leptin in women with eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders,26(1), 29-35. doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199907)26:1<29::aid-eat4>;2-h

What is Leptin? (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from

Stroe-Kunold, E., Buckert, M., Friederich, H., Wesche, D., Kopf, S., Herzog, W., & Wild, B. (2016). Time Course of Leptin in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa during Inpatient Treatment: Longitudinal Relationships to BMI and Psychological Factors. Plos One,11(12), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166843

Cortisol. (2017, January). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from

Eating Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from

Kellner, C. H., Rubinow, D. R., Gold, P. W., & Post, R. M. (1983). Relationship of Cortisol Hypersecretion to Brain CT Alterations in Depressed Patients. Psychiatry Research,8(3), 191-197. doi:

Kaye, W. H., & Weltzin, T. E. (1997). Relationship of depression, anxiety, and obsessionality to state of illness in anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders,21(4), 367-376. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from

Lava, N., MD (Ed.). (2016, September 11). What is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus? Retrieved May 27, 2017, from

Kaye, W. H., MD. (2014, May 6). Eating Disorders: Understanding Anorexia Nervosa. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from file:///Users/haleyhansen/Downloads/Psychiatric_Times_-_Eating_Disorders_Understanding_Anorexia_Nervosa_-_2014-05-28.pdf

When Food is More Than Fuel

Food, Nutrition, HealthHaley Hansen11 Comments

"Food is fuel." You've heard that saying, right? Are you tired of it like I am? 

I'm a human. But I'm more than just a human. I'm also a student, in some situations. I'm also a blogger and a Jesus-lover and a plant-based-diet enthusiast and a 20-something girl who is still figuring life out (baby steps, ya' know?). My point is that I'm more than a pair of legs and arms attached to this chunk of torso. 

In the same way, food is more than fuel. 

True Food Kitchen - seasonal salad + some kind of pizza. Both duh-licious.&nbsp;

True Food Kitchen - seasonal salad + some kind of pizza. Both duh-licious. 

Think back to that one professor in college who captivated your attention in every lecture. For me, it's Dr. Nicholson (where're my Mustang Nutrition Majors at?!). She's my professor for Cal Poly's Contemporary Issues in Foodservice lecture, and she's one of the - if not THE - very best professors from whom I've ever learned. The class isn't really anything challenging or bursting with new information, but that's just it. There's something simple yet intriguing about digging into the various reasons we, as a culture and as individuals, eat. 

Last week, in class, she shared with us a story of when she was a working RD volunteering at an ethnic food festival. Several visitors approached her questioning how they can make one of their culture's staple dishes - latkes - lower in oil or oil-free, without stripping it of its classic flavor. She paused to think, as did I in that moment. Well, you can bake them in the oven or possibly "fry" them in vegetable stock... but...

Bliss Cafe - eggplant parmesan + protein buddha bowl + turmeric jasmine rice.

Bliss Cafe - eggplant parmesan + protein buddha bowl + turmeric jasmine rice.

But the oil serves a deeper purpose than an ingredient to crisp up the potato latkes - it represents the presence of God's Spirit. By frying the latkes in what an RD might see as a swimming pool of oil, the Jews who celebrate this holiday see it as recognition and honoring of their God. 

The oil is more than the crisp-factor. The oil is more than fat. The latkes are more than shredded potatoes. The latkes are more than carbs. 

Clearly, my professor's story triggered the turning of some wheels in my brain. I let those wheels turn as they led my thoughts into how I view food in different situations, which I realized I want to change. 

Whole Foods - two messes of a salad.&nbsp;

Whole Foods - two messes of a salad. 

When food IS mostly fuel...

There's no denying that one of food's main purposes is to provide energy for the human body. The brain needs carbohydrates for cognition and the limbs need them for movement. The muscles need protein for structure and function. The bones need vitamins and minerals for stability, and fats to absorb those nutrients. 

Viewing food from the "food is fuel" perspective can be beneficial if weight loss is the goal. For an overweight individual or for one who doesn't have a grasp on proper nutrition, developing the understanding that food provides nutrients and energy the body needs in order to function optimally (or minimally, at the very least), can be a key in attaining/maintaining health.

GT's kombucha - my favorite non-water beverage, besides coffee.

GT's kombucha - my favorite non-water beverage, besides coffee.

  • After a workout, the body usually needs proteins and carbohydrates most of all. Why? To rebuild the muscles that broke down and refuel the glycogen stores that provided the energy. 
  • Before an exam (for all my fellow students), the brain can best remember important material when it feeds on berries, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables. Oh, and don't forget the carbohydrates.
  • While recovering from emotional eating, I viewed food as just macro- and micro-nutrients - protein, carbs, and fat, and vitamins and minerals. I didn't allow myself to see it as anything that could lift my mood because doing so would encourage me to continue eating and continue eating and continue eating until I felt better (after which I only felt worse). 

When food is MORE THAN just fuel...

A virgin margarita from some restaurant in Claremont, CA.

A virgin margarita from some restaurant in Claremont, CA.

Now, whaddya' say we have some FUN?! Food is fun! Food is a vehicle for creativity and self-expression. Food encourages exploration of various cultures, values, tastes, and cravings. 

And most of all, food provides the ropes for and ties the knots within in a community or group of people. Take Food52 for an example. This was one of the first food-blogging communities I discovered way back when I first began, and I fell in love immediately. At the time, most of my mind revolved around food's nutrition label, but a small part spoke up and craved the culinary experience that Food52 highlights behind each recipe. 

Donut Friend - apple fritter + donut holes w/ chocolate drizzle &amp; caramel sauce + blueberry classic donut.

Donut Friend - apple fritter + donut holes w/ chocolate drizzle & caramel sauce + blueberry classic donut.

  • When a group of close family and/or friends are gathered around a table, whether in the comfort of a home or the excitement of a restaurant, food is about sharing and tasting, and the food is only a small part of the get-together. 
  • Even though one meal may have been big (possibly too big) and filling beyond comfort, sometimes there's just magically room for a vegan apple fritter. And some of that room might be influenced by friends who crave said vegan donuts, but hey, that's okay, too. Either way, there's still room. 
  • Backyard barbecues in the summer, movie nights with friends, and late-night cravings for donuts (can you tell I like donuts?) just scream "I'M MORE THAN FOOD". Don't they?

I'm not saying that food is never fuel or that it is only fuel. Isn't that part of what makes food to indescribably worth it, though? It is all of the above. 

Oh, hey look. More Donut Friend. And more friends! ( @beazysbites ,  @constancelyeating ,  @emilieeats )

Oh, hey look. More Donut Friend. And more friends! (@beazysbites, @constancelyeating, @emilieeats)

Want to read more about why food isn't just fuel? Check out this article from the founder of Precision Nutrition. I love his perspective, his scientific evidence, and of course, his support of food as a cultural celebration. 

Me in my element - aka a kitchen, cooking vegan food, eating  Minimalist Baker's vegan lentil sloppy joe's . Happy. Hungry.&nbsp;

Me in my element - aka a kitchen, cooking vegan food, eating Minimalist Baker's vegan lentil sloppy joe's. Happy. Hungry. 

Food is sometimes pre- or post-workout fuel. In that moment, its usually a banana and peanut butter or a protein smoothie for me. But, other times it may be a communal celebration with my roomies at the end of a rough week, in which its a ginormous pizza topped - no, piled - with veggies and vegan cheese. 

Just like you are not a static being with just legs and arms and a body, food is not just protein and carbs and fat. Just like you wouldn't want to be narrowed into in any one category (i.e. student, athlete, girl/boy, etc.), don't try to squeeze all foods into "good"/"healthy" or "bad"/"unhealthy". 

I'm no dietitian, though I am studying to become one, so please don't think of me as your one-stop-shop for all things nutrition- and ED-recovery related. If you'd like, I can point you towards some of the RD's who have helped me immensely in my journey, and I can share my story with you. 

I hope you've found this helpful! Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite foods - when is food fuel for YOU? When is it a form of community and celebration? 

Bliss Cafe (again) - cacao walnut brownie cookie. The chocolate chip to cookie ratio is what keeps me coming back. On. Point.&nbsp;

Bliss Cafe (again) - cacao walnut brownie cookie. The chocolate chip to cookie ratio is what keeps me coming back. On. Point. 

Thanks for reading!

Coconut Oil - The Healthy Fat

Nutrition, Health, FoodHaley Hansen6 Comments

Coconut oil coconut oil coconut oil! It's made its way up the food chain (of my life/diet?) in the past few months or so, and I'm here to explain why. You can thank both my absolute obsession with this oh-so-good for you oil - yes, this is a HEALTHY oil #mindblown - and my newfound passion for chemistry, biochemistry if you want more specificity. 

What is coconut oil? (MCT oil)

Coconut oil is classified as a medium-chain triglyceride (which refers to the length of the fatty acid chain as it moves through and stores itself in our bodies). Many of the fats included in the American diet today are long-chain triglycerides, and the two of these function differently in our bodies: 

  • MCT's: on a chemical level, these fats are typically 6-12 carbon molecules long. Unlike long-chain triglycerides, MCTs are sent straight to the liver for oxidation, which decreases the amount of time and space they have to be stored in the body (aka adipose tissue). 
  • LCT's: on a chemical level, these fats are typically longer than 12 carbon molecules. These fats are sent through the lymphatic system before they reach the liver, allowing them more time and space to be taken up into adipose tissue. 

So, what's the big deal?

Welllllllll, let me tell ya'. I've been researching like crazy for some actual primary sources on this topic, and finally found a study posted in the Journal of Nutrition - can you guess how excited I got? No, you can't. I got R E A L L Y excited :) anyway, enough about my inner nerdiness (also, how "inner" is a quality if everyone you know knows about it and considers it a main quality of yours?) 

Please excuse my diversion. Let's dive in. 

  1. Increased metabolism - the study found a 45+% increase in energy expenditure (aka calorie-burn, metabolism, whatever you want to call it) before and 6 hours after eating when participants consumed a meal containing about 30% MCT's. immediately after a meal, researchers observed a 16% increase in baseline calorie-burn for the MCT participants compared with only a 5% increase for the LCT participants. MCT's also showed a greater impact on the thermic effect of food (TEF, the amount of energy the body uses in digesting food) - an increase of 8% with MCT's compared to about 6% for LCT's. 
  2. Decreased fat depots - these results aren't as concrete as the previous, but they are still noteworthy! animals trials show decreases in number and size of adipose (fat) cells, but researchers haven't found concrete evidence reflecting this in humans. however, they have concluded that the increased metabolism and potential decrease in number and size of adipose cells is typically greater in men than women. 
  3. Increased satiety - from this study, researchers saw that men who replaced LCT's with MCT's in their diet over a period of 14 days consumed significantly less calories than the men whose diet was higher in LCT's than MCT's. similarly, body weights of men in the higher LCT group showed an increase in body weight, while the men in the higher MCT group showed a lower body weight after the 14-day experiment. 
  4. Body weight management - the past three observations lead researchers to believe that MCT's can increase weight loss, but the evidence isn't set in stone. at most, they conclude an optimal weight loss of near 3 pounds per month with highest potential MCT effects and at the least, a weight loss of about 1 pound per month with minimal MCT effects. these suggestions can only be made for short-term circumstances, however. 

Where/how do I use it?

Pretty much anywhere/in anything! I've always lovvvvved roasting veggies (sweet potatoes, especially) in coconut oil - nothing beats the smell of coconutty cinnamon + sea salt roasted sweet taters. I'm probably the newest (and maybe last) member on the coconut oil-coffee train, but hey, at least I'm here, right? For a while, I opted for unsaturated fats in cooking - sauteing, roasting, stir-frying, etc. - because the liquid quality made coating food much less of a hassle. But, seriously Haley, how hard is it to scoop a teaspoon of coconut oil onto the pan instead of spraying or drizzling olive oil? Not that hard.

I take the extra steps in cooking with coconut oil because it actually has a higher melting point than other oils like olive, avocado, safflower, etc. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, while olive, avocado, and safflower are unsaturated - the molecular structure of saturated fats keeps them stable at temperatures higher than that of unsaturated fats. When heated, saturated fats don't oxidize or become rancid as easily. Cooking with oxidized oils (oils that have been exposed to oxygen causing them to create dangerous molecular compounds) has been linked to higher rates of cancer and heart disease. Since coconut oil's saturated structure is stronger against the effects of oxidation, it's a much safer option to cook with. 

Unrefined vs. refined? 

Does anything refined ever win over it's unrefined counterpart? Not really, especially for coconut oil, according to Dr. Bruce Fife. Unrefined coconut oil doesn't undergo as much processing as the refined version, so the fatty acids and other important compounds remain intact and can carry out their function in the body much more efficiently. However, refined coconut oil does have a higher melting point than the unrefined version, so keep that in mind when cooking with whichever version you choose.

Of course, other oils like olive, avocado, grapeseed, and almond carry several health benefits and have certain properties that make them more suitable for certain cooking methods than coconut oil. Finding the right balance of dietary oil is essential is benefitting from the nutrients of each. 

But, what about cholesterol levels? 

Saturated fats DO increase cholesterol levels, but not all saturated fats are created equal, right? Similarly, two different types of cholesterol work in the body - HDL (high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol). Though saturated fats - coconut oil included - can increase the LDL levels, they also improve the quality of LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL levels, too (information from Dr. Mark Hyman). All in all, coconut oil can't be blamed as the main contributor to dangerously high cholesterol levels because it simultaneously weakens the potential damage by LDL cholesterol, lowering triglyceride levels and improving overall lipid profiles.

Bottom line? Not all fat makes you fat. Not all calories are created equal. Whole-food, plant-based fats carry with them various heart-healthy, figure-friendly benefits and should not be limited in the diet. Fat promotes satiation, nutrient absorption (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), increased metabolic activity, and healthy body weight and composition. 

Fear not the fat, my friends :) 

How I Regained My Period (Secondary Amenorrhea)

Nutrition, HealthHaley Hansen12 Comments

Secondary amenorrhea - the loss of 3-6 consecutive menstrual periods, according to HealthLine.

From August of 2014 through January 2016 - about 18 months - I lost my period as a result of all that my body suffered during my eating disorder. Of all the negative side effects - the aching knees, the abnormal blood tests, the fatigue, the extreme weight loss - amenorrhea scared me the most. This fear wasn't like most others, though. It didn't want to be talked about (I kept it to myself and tried to shrug it off whenever someone asked), but rather wanted to just pinch away at my insides until what remained was just an immiscible lump in my throat. 

Immiscible for two years. Will I have children someday? Will my body change because of the lack of hormones? So many questions tore up my mind and I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would humble me enough to let Him take control (and therefore help me embrace weight gain and recovery) so that I could find real sustainable health for the first time. 

Since August 2016, I've been seeing my period once every month! Though I still can't pinpoint exactly when it will come or for how long, I know I can expect it at some point. Besides just prayer, I took a few intentional steps in order to regain it and I want to share those with you. First, though, I should note that in my research, I came across TONS of information, tons of possible causes and effects and this and that with which eating disorders and amenorrhea play a role. To narrow down what therefore could become a days-long post, I'll just discuss the relationship between anorexia and amenorrhea, and concluding with some of the steps I took in conquering both those obstacles and some I've found via my research. 

Now, bear with me as I take you through a brief science lesson explaining a little bit more about what happens to the body during a period. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the "fight or flight" response and controls hormone release (specifically adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol). By producing gonadotropin releasing hormone, the sympathetic nervous system manages the female menstrual cycle. Like most mechanisms in the body, certain things (substances, situations, foods, etc.) can alter the body's ability to produce GnRH. New research shows that high levels of cortisol - also known as the stress hormone - can inhibit GnRH production. Similarly, "stress also increases brain levels of a reproductive hormone named gonadotropin inhibitory hormone, or GnIH...", according to researchers at UC Berkeley. All this to say, stress plays a huge role in human reproductive ability.

To touch on what exactly "stress" is - well, it could be mental stress from those upcoming exams, that job presentation, the financial weight on your shoulders, or the daily strenuous workouts, the constant worrying about and fearing of certain foods, the dangerous calorie-deficit characteristic of eating disorders. All of those situations fall under the category of "stress",one of the main causes of amenorrhea, especially in younger women. I'm not here to freak you out about the effects of stress, but these possible outcomes of extremely high, prolonged levels are nothing to shrug off. 

Maybe you are working to regain yours or maybe you know someone else who is. Either way, take these into consideration: 

  1. EAT MORE: Think about the main cause (as it pertains to this post) - calorie deficit/low energy intake. Our bodies run on calories for energy to regulate everything from simple arm movements to hormone production. Guess what happens without enough calories? Our bodies have to prioritize the most important bodily functions and send as much energy as needed to those areas, and in the process, some functions are sacrificed. In the case of hypothyroidism, our bodies leave the thyroid gland without enough energy to produce hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. How to solve that? Eat more! Ahhhh, but it's not that simple, Haley. Oh, believe me - I know! I've been there.
    Now, when I look back at my previous portion sizes I'm like, "Um, yeah I'm still hungry just looking at that...". I learned to increase my portion sizes when I went vegan. A plant-based diet is naturally low in calories, so I had to adjust to filling bigger plates with more rice, potatoes, beans, or whatever it was I ate. Of course, eating more doesn't mean an extra cupcake or scoop of ice cream or even a slab of fatty fish. No, eating more means more of those high-quality, nutrient-dense calories from plant-based foods like avocado, brown rice, tofu/tempeh/soybeans, etc. 
  2. STRESS LESS - I'm in college and sometimes - no, like 94.7% of the time - "stress" might as well be my middle name. Now, that isn't totally just college's fault because I play a role in regulating my own stress levels, too. If you're currently a student or if you've been one before, you know what I'm talking about when it comes to exams, studying, working outside of school, and managing all of that plus a social life. Now, throw in a high cognitive dietary restraint into that mix. High cognitive dietary restraint is the act of constantly trying to limit "food intake to achieve or maintain a healthy weight" (check out This Girl Audra's YouTube video for a better understanding of the term). Research shows that this mentality in college women can likely cause menstrual irregularity. In fact, women with high cognitive restraint levels are more than 2x as likely as those with low-medium scores to report irregular menstrual cycles. 
    Stress isn't limited to only the mental aspect, though. Workouts are "stress", too, just more along the lines of the physical aspect. Too much physical activity can and will contribute to that calorie deficit/low energy intake discussed previously because the body burns calories in order to push through that workout. During a workout, the body uses calories to fuel jump squats, bicep curls, and uphill climbs. After a workout, the body uses calories to REfuel, replenish, and restore broken down muscle tissue. Again, the thyroid's hormone production function is not prioritized, resulting in a missed period. 
    I used to workout 6-7 days every week. HIIT, weight lifting, and running were my go-to's, but I set aside 1-2 days each week for lighter exercise, like walking and practicing yoga. My strict workout regimen - though motivating to many - combined with my low energy intake to inhibit my body's thyroid gland function. Only about a year ago (which seems both long and short at the same time, somehow) did I finally just how much I induced on my body on a daily basis. After a series of eye-opening, heart-softening conversations with God, I wrote a love letter to my own body (also in the spirit of Valentine's Day), apologizing for all I'd put it through and thanking it for pulling strength from places in which I didn't even know I had any in order to fight for life. Last January, I took an entire week - which may not seem like much, but for me it felt like years - off from workouts. I walked, but that was it, and guess what I saw for the first time in almost 18 months? That little red dot most women dread, I finally embraced and thanked God for. 
  3. PRAY - Of course, these aren't in particular order of importance, because if they were, this guy would bump up to the top immediately. Anyway, a fellow blogger asked me the other day if all I did was pray and magically my period came back. At first, I second-guessed myself - why does that sound so simple, even though it was such a challenge? Is that really all I did? Well, yeah, I guess. Of course, I still had to fight - I had to punch that voice in my head constantly telling me to eat less and workout more, despite my absent period. And I used prayer as my weapon during those battles. I prayed not only for a regular period, but most often for actual, sustainable healthy habits. My eating disorder (my not-so-healthy, definitely not-sustainable habits) caused my amenorrhea, so I knew I needed to rid my life of such destructive behaviors and adopt ones that will last a lifetime because I want my period to last a lifetime. Makes sense, huh? 
    Prayer made all the difference in this whole battle. Through it, God brought me peace in gaining weight, trust in the waiting period (6-7 months of waiting before it became regular), and inexplicable gratitude when it finally did set in every month. So, no, I didn't only pray for my period to come back. However, prayer was at the root of every step I took in order to regain it. Looking for some scripture about prayer? Here are some of my favorites: Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 11:24, Romans 8:26, Acts 2:42, 1 Peter 5:7. 


"How were you feeling mentally and physically?" Over a span of about 12 months (from the time I began focusing on healing my amenorrhea until now), my emotions flew everywhere. At first, I was stoked to begin the journey because the only thing in sight was the end result - a regular menstrual cycle. However, I was considering every bump I'd face along the way. Since last December, I've gained weight. How much? I don't know, probably around 5-7 pounds. While that may not sound significant, it was enough to pull me way down low emotionally, convincing me that I'd lost everything I once worked so hard for (i.e. my slim thighs, my flat stomach, etc.), and then lift me so high on the pure joy of seeing red for the first time in almost two years. Gaining weight was, by far, the hardest part of it all. BUT I'm now even more stoked than I was to begin with because I see that red every single month and I know that I'm healthy. I know that my body is doing what it's designed to, as a woman. Now, physically, hmm... Well, I'm currently on my period, so I'm dealing with the cramps, moodiness, lower back pain, and breakouts I definitely didn't miss. On the other hand, I'm so grateful for the muscle AND FAT - yes, I'm grateful for the "fl(abs)" lol - I've allowed myself to gain. My body amazes me everyday, as it survived all that it endured during those disordered two years. Again, I couldn't be more grateful :) 

"Were you hungry and tired all the time?" During my eating disorder? Yes. During my regain-my-period mission? Not really. Though I wasn't working out as much, I didn't feel as lazy as I'd expected, which is probably because I was finally consuming sufficient calories to meet my body's high energy needs. 

"I've gained the weight, but where's my period?" Oooooh, I actually don't know. I tied my returned period to my weight gain, so if you've also gained enough weight (key word = enough) but aren't seeing yours again, I'd ask what your stress levels are like - are you feeling overwhelmed in work or school or any other areas in life? If you've come this far in this post, you know how stress can affect the menstrual cycle. I would also consider the quality of your diet - vegan? vegetarian? paleo? low-carb? You may have gained weight, but you may still be low in some essential nutrients and/or vitamins/minerals. I suggest tracking your food intake using an app, analyzing your nutrient amounts, and fixing what's too low or too high. If you've still got some questions, head to your doctor or dietitian for serious deficiencies. When I went vegan, I made sure to increase my vitamin B12 intake via supplements and nutritional yeast. And YES a vegan diet provides enough protein, sooooo don't get me started. 

"I'm vegan... help!" Heeeyyyyy I'm vegan, too! It's been over a year since I made the switch, and my period disappeared before I became vegan. I truly believe filling my diet completely with plants made a huge difference in battling not only my ED, but also amenorrhea. Because a vegan diet is packed with low-calorie plants, it's important to be sure to eat more. Sound familiar? During the first few months of my transition, I played with the high-carb, low-fat lifestyle, which required MUCH larger portion sizes as the main foods (fruits and vegetables) are so low in calories. Though I didn't stick with HCLF, those portion sizes - bigger than any I've eaten before - stretched my stomach and proved that I really CAN and NEED to eat more, despite the branch of veganism I follow. 

"Did you consider birth control?" No. A few people suggested trying it, but my gut told me to stay away for a few reasons. 1) I don't really believe in relying on pills. If I have a headache, I take a nap, drink water, and eat a snack if I'm hungry. If I've got period cramps, I use a heating pad or take a relaxing bath. Joint pain? Rest, ice, stretch. A cold? Rest (again), eat well (as always), supplement lysine and zinc in tablet form, and then maaaaaaybe turn to medicine if nothing else succeeds/my doctor suggests. That being said, birth control is last on the list of pills I'd take if I needed to. 2) So, let's say I take birth control to regain/regulate my period. What happens when I stop taking it? Doctors have found that my period could again disappear for several months, so then what? I have to find another solution to the same problem - I've just made a circle back to where I was. Bottom line: it doesn't seem sustainable, and that's why I haven't tried it. My prayer in this journey was that, not only would I regain my period, but that God would heal my broken relationship with food and form a healthy mindset, one that will sustain me for the rest of my life.

"Can I still workout while I'm trying to regain my period?" My answer: yes. Last year at this time, I'd been following my friend Amanda (@applesandamandas) for months and we were both struggling with amenorrhea. Her advice and her method of healing was cutting out exercise, but I didn't feel that I needed to completely stop working out. Instead, I took a week off - I walked and stretched, and I ate and relaxed. By the end of the week, my period showed up! Of course, I'm not attributing its return solely to my decreased exercise for that week, but I took it as God's way of comforting me in my choice to continue exercise, but simply change my routine up a bit. Since then, I've decreased the amount of cardio session per week and replaced them with either time for rest or more anaerobic workouts, like weight training, barre, and yoga. However, simply changing your workout routine might not solve the problem. Athletes everywhere suffer from secondary amenorrhea - runners, gymnasts, even bodybuilders - because of their extremely low body fat content. Without enough fat, the body cannot produce estrogen, and without enough estrogen, the body cannot regulate or produce a menstrual cycle. So, is it okay to exercise while trying to regain your period? Talk to your doctor to discuss your body fat content and seek help in designing a fitness plan geared towards achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition. 

Wow - I feel like I could go on for days with this post. It was, by far, the most demanded and the most rewarding post I've written yet, simply because of how many of you guys reached out to me asking for help and thanking me for taking the time to post. Honestly, your support means SO MUCH to me, guys. 

Please please please remember that I'm NOT a doctor, and I always recommend you see your health professional first, and then take my advice. That being said, all of this information stems from research backed my health care professionals themselves, so this is all still worthy advice. 

And lastly, if you're struggling with anything - amenorrhea, eating disorders, or school, boys, faith, whatever - I'm here. I cherish the time I spend on my blog. This is my passion and I can't thank God enough for lighting this fire in my heart :) I hope you've found what you were searching for here, and I hope you keep coming back! Thank you to everyone who contributed questions and read all the way down here. I know it's a long one, but I needed to cover tons of information in order to make this post as effective as possible. 

Alright, I'm done I promise! Love you guys! 


Robyn, The Real Life RD, created a whole series of posts dedicated to this topic. Also, she is ahhhhhmazing and I always open up her blog when I'm in need of some intuitive-eating inspiration and body-positive encouragement. 

Here's one from Rachael, aka Avocado A Day Nutrition, which discusses the sheer importance of a woman's period. You need it for more than just making babies, people! 

I'm new to the name Dana Magee, but she is an RD who specializes in non-diet approaches to health - woooo! - and she, too, has an extensive informational post about periods and bone health.