This post has been bouncing around in my head for a few months but I haven’t had a clear direction for how to present it…so I’m just going to go for it.
I want to talk about food. And relaxing the rules around it. And about becoming less attached to comparing what you’re doing to what others are doing (hello social media and blogging) and truly figuring it out for yourself and finding freedom to do what’s right for you.
This isn’t a new topic for me, but one that I continually find myself re-evaluating to make sure that I’m staying true to me and helping to spread the right message to others. For a good picture of my overall view of fitness and health, check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago.
Let’s talk about history first.
I would give myself the label of “foodie” and “home cook” to describe most of my adult life. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my backstory, I started blogging back in 2008 with a food blog called Bakin’ and Eggs. I became interested in cooking in college when I realized that I didn’t have my dad around to plan meals and cook delicious dinners anymore. My sophomore year of college I had 50 of my pledge sisters over to my apartment for a spaghetti dinner.
After college I moved to the Charleston area with my then boyfriend and we moved in together. (Fun fact: my first job was marketing coordinator at Wild Dunes Resort!) Following my dad’s lead, I began planning our weekly meals and doing a big shopping trip on Sundays. Fast forward a few years later…we were living in Birmingham, Alabama and I was working for an advertising agency there (Luckie & Co…to this day, my favorite job of my corporate career!). I found that almost daily I had co-workers stopping by my desk to ask, “what should I cook for dinner?” or “do you have a recipes for…?”
Food blogs were just starting to become a thing so I decided to very casually start one. I had so much fun with it. Here are some of my favorite/most popular recipes from that site.
- Grilled, Bacon-Wrapped, Cheese-Stuffed Chicken
- Island Pork Tenderloin
- Lady Strawberry Cake
- Tropical Carrot Cake
- Incredulada Enchiladas
- Beef Bolognese
- Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers
- Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies
- Seared Tuna with Wasabi Aioli
If you look through this list, you’ll probably notice that it features a little bit of everything…healthy stuff, sweets, pasta, bread, cheese, bacon, etc. I would consider myself to be very fit and active during this time in my life and I loved cooking and eating real, homemade food. Most of these recipes were posted 7-9 years ago and it was before gluten became a bad word, Paleo was a hot trend, everyone was going dairy-free and “healthy living blogs” and Instagram became mainstream.
Over time, I received more and more questions asking how I could bake and cook the way I did and stay in shape. I first tried incorporating some talk about exercise in my food blog and then decided to start a separate “healthy living” blog since I had started following several and they were starting to rise in popularity.
I tried to maintain both blogs for a couple of years but Peanut Butter Runner quickly overtook Bakin’ and Eggs when it came to traffic and engagement and with a full-time job, a packed teaching schedule and a relationship, I had to pick one. I abandoned Bakin’ and Eggs and went full steam ahead with Peanut Butter Runner.
When I look back at the early days of my healthy living blogging, I see a girl who didn’t truly know herself or how to listen to her own intuition and inner voice. I did what most 20-somethings do and tried on what was seemingly “mainstream” and “working” for other people and “expected” of healthy living bloggers.
I ate oatmeal every morning because that’s what any good healthy living blogger seemed to do. I frequently used a Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain cereal in my oatmeal because that’s what other bloggers did. I started buying soy milk instead of regular and I couldn’t have given you a reason behind it if you’d asked. I topped my oatmeal with peanut butter and Crofter’s jam because that’s how everyone else did it. I’ll admit, learning to put nut butter on my oatmeal was a great discovery.
What was NOT a great discovery was copying the crumbled muffin on oatmeal trend.
I started reducing my meat intake and eating things like tempeh because I saw so many other bloggers doing it. I rarely ate real burgers and you’d almost always find me ordering veggie burgers and veggie wraps when we went out. Anytime my ex would grill dinner, I’d usually pass on the meat and opt for grilled portobellos or salmon instead. I would feel guilty if I did eat red meat and feel like I needed to qualify it by saying, “but it was organic” or some BS like that.
“Green monsters” became a regular thing. (Clearly this has become a long-term sticking thing for me but I can assure you that the smoothies of my early days did not taste great. Haha.)
Add to the list discovering kombucha, Chobani greek yogurt, Larabars, overnight oats, oats in a jar, Justin’s almond butter, Great Harvest bread, frozen yogurt, Morningstar veggie sausages and much, much more.
Y’all, I am the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing at this point in my life. I felt semi-legit as a food blogger but this healthy living blog thing was not authentic for me in the beginning. I can also honestly say that I think that I was underfueling myself for the amount of activity that I was doing, especially when it came to my protein intake.
Seriously, this is the lunch that I ate after a nearly two hour ashtanga practice and a 3 mile run when I was in yoga teacher training in 2011. I want to go back and smack myself.
As the years passed by I completed yoga teacher training, got my personal training certification, started a full-time career in fitness and writing, managed a gym, became a CrossFit coach, published two books about fitness and yoga, taught about a billion yoga and fitness classes, published thousands of blog posts and finally started feeling a little more legit.
Even with all of my experience in the fitness industry, I will 100% admit that figuring out the workout and nutrition formula that works for me and honoring that without comparison has been THE most difficult thing. In the seven years that I’ve been running this blog I have run the gamut from “eating everything” to Paleo challenges to minimal meat intake to dairy-free to Whole30 (I still love Whole30 for a 30 day reset, I’m not knocking it whatsoever!).
And here’s where I’ve ended up. I’ll show you what I ate over the weekend in Florida.
Full-fat greek yogurt with bananas, strawberries, granola and almond butter. (Black coffee never left the mix…and never will. Haha.)
Pizza. Because life is too short not to have a pizza date with your dad.
Grilled chicken thighs (because dark meat = winning), roasted veggies and homemade mac and cheese.
Kale salad with chicken, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Flank steak fajitas (x2) with grilled onions, guacamole and lime crema. Cliantro-lime rice on the side.
Spinach salad with avocado, grapes, strawberries and chicken salad. An oatmeal raisin cookie for dessert. (My dad baked them Friday and I ate many over the course of the long weekend.)
Over the last 4-5 months I’ve really come to the conclusion that I function best when I focus on fueling my body intuitively and with no rules. Honestly, it’s what I’ve kept gravitating back to over the years and I think it’s what’s kept many of you reading for quite a while.
I am extremely fortunate to have zero food allergies. I tend towards some sensitivities but when I’m eating intuitively, they’re not an issue. I would much rather enjoy food freedom than try to stick to a Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, whatever diet. I love food. I enjoy the process of cooking food and sharing it with others. I find it extremely grounding and the ultimate act of self-care to make myself good, homemade food (or to treat myself to good food out!).
I firmly believe that you can eat pizza and enjoy sweets in moderation (whatever moderation is for you) while also drinking green smoothies, roasting tons of veggies and having kale salads most days for lunch.
For me, I don’t think there is anything wrong with bread. Especially not when I make it with my own hands and enjoy the experience of doing so. I believed for a long time that dairy was impacting my skin but I’ve been eating full-fat dairy for months now and I can’t tell you that there’s been a noticeable difference in the appearance of my skin.
The key for me is LISTENING to my body. Of course I’m not like “pizza, bread and sweets all the time!” The balance is more like, I had this delicious salad for lunch and I’m going to have a cookie or two for dessert. Or I’m feeling over salads at the moment so I’m going to enjoy avocado toast and soup for lunch instead. Or I know I tend towards anemia and it’s been a while since I’ve had red meat so I’m going to treat myself to a good burger or a nice steak.
And it just seems to all work out. I don’t overthink food. I don’t stress about food. I just eat it and enjoy it. If I do eat something that doesn’t make me feel my best, I try to look at the holistic picture of what I’ve been putting in my body and see where I might need to make shifts or changes.
I started leaning back in this direction before our Europe trip and that vacation really sealed the deal with me that I am choosing food freedom.
It’s been heavy on my mind to share this with you guys because of how impressionable I was when I was new to this “healthy living” world. I feel like the whole fit lifestyle and healthy living thing has exploded x1,000,000 with the popularity of Instagram.
I follow an account on Instgram, Arielle’s Awakening, and she just shared in her IG story today, “pretty fed up with the fact that I lose like 200 followers and get rude comments if I share something that isn’t 100% “clean eating” or “healthy” in other’s minds. There are so many other parts of health besides what you’re eating. Hello mental health, hello enjoying life, hello no food rules, hello eating disorder recovery and hello food freedom.”
I’m writing this post because I want you to get inspiration from what I share but I don’t ever wish for you to hold it as the gospel or the only way. The same goes for everything you see shared on social media. Please remember that it is YOUR DUTY to take care of yourself and no one else can do that for you. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to eat (and workout) based on staying true to yourself and listening to what feels good for you instead of constantly following ideas or programs that aren’t working for you.
I don’t care if y’all choose to follow a diet or exercise routine that is different than what works for me. I totally get that some people choose not to eat meat or have intolerances to dairy or Celiac’s disease…or whatever! I completely respect the choices that you guys make to fuel and care for your body and it’s my hope for you that you give yourself freedom and grace around that.
I’ve rolled into 34 feeling completely at peace with and comfortable in my body. I know and understand myself on a much deeper level than I did in my 20s. I give myself permission to continue growing and changing, as long as if feels like the RIGHT thing to do for me.
This is a long post but it feels so good to get it out there. As always, I would love to hear your comments and to dialouge about any feedback or questions that you have.