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Finding Food Freedom…And The Journey of Getting There

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…?”

Bakin' and Eggs Blog

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.

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.

Full-fat greek yogurt with bananas, strawberries, granola and almond butter. (Black coffee never left the mix…and never will. Haha.)

whole foods pizza

Pizza. Because life is too short not to have a pizza date with your dad.

Grilled chicken thighs, roasted veggies and homemade mac and cheese. 

Grilled chicken thighs (because dark meat = winning), roasted veggies and homemade mac and cheese.

Kale salad with chicken, avocado, nuts and seeds. 

Kale salad with chicken, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Flank steak fajitas with grilled onions, guacamole and lime crema. Cliantro-lime rice on the side. 

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.

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.

xoxo,
Jen

{ 126 comments… add one }
  • Emily Criswell September 20, 2017, 2:53 pm

    Thank you. This post was well written.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:30 pm

      You’re welcome Emily. I appreciate the kind comment.

  • Kelly R September 20, 2017, 2:59 pm

    Love love love. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:30 pm

      You’re welcome, thanks Kelly!

  • Katherine September 20, 2017, 3:04 pm

    Amen to this!!! So love this post Jen. I too have fallen into the trap of eating the things I see others eat online without truly listening to my own body/mind. Thank you for posting!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:30 pm

      You’re welcome and cheers to being true to ourselves!

  • Meredith @ cookie chrunicles September 20, 2017, 3:05 pm

    You know you were the first blog I ever read and still my favorite all these years later! Thank you for saying everything I feel every day these days. It’s so much easier and more enjoyable to not stress food and enjoy what we eat. And, as a side note, I swear I knew nothing in my 20’s but thought I knew everything. It’s funny when we look back at ourselves to see what we see now that we didn’t see then

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:29 pm

      Girl, I was clueless in my 20s. Literally, lost. I thought I knew what I was doing and I had no idea.

      Thank you for being such a long-time reader and supporter. I hope we can meet one day!

  • Lauren September 20, 2017, 3:20 pm

    Ahh soooo good, Jen! I have been following your blog for a long time, and this may go down as my most favorite post yet! You nailed it with this one. I wish EVERY woman, especially every woman with an instagram account (which is pretty much every woman) could read this. Thank you for staying true to yourself and inspiring so many others in the process! Hugs to you ☺️

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:28 pm

      Oh thank you so much Lauren. What a kind and touching comment. xoxo

  • Kayla September 20, 2017, 3:24 pm

    I’ve been following your blog for so long and have never felt compelled to comment until now. Thank you SO much for sharing this post. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing and forget that we are each singular and unique. You truly are such an inspiration and role model for me. I wish you all the love & light in the world!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:28 pm

      Hi Kayla – thank you so much for following along and for taking a moment to comment on this post. It means a lot to me that you did. Sending so much love to you! xoxo

  • Dana September 20, 2017, 3:26 pm

    Thank you for writing about this! Recently I’ve discovered more freedom in food (thank you vacation)..I realized that if I let go of the “rules” and tune-in, I feel worlds better/ happier/ grounded– 💕

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:27 pm

      It sure does. xoxo

  • Katy September 20, 2017, 3:32 pm

    Awesome post!! I NEVER comment on blogs, but I couldn’t relate more to this. I’m a new health and fitness coach and I feel like I need to be a positive role model, but I also want to be real and genuine. I needed to hear this. Thank you for your honesty!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:27 pm

      Thanks Katy and I so appreciate that you DID take a moment to comment!!! It means so much to me to connect. Good luck in your new role and I hope that you are able to really empower people around their authenticity and strength as a coach. <3

  • Katherine September 20, 2017, 3:33 pm

    So appreciate this post– your blog regularly grounds me in contrast to so much other stuff I’m seeing on social media. Thanks for your perspective and keep doing you!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:26 pm

      Thank you Katherine. I’m so happy to read this and appreciate your comment.

  • Ashley September 20, 2017, 3:38 pm

    Wonderful post. I love your approach and you are always so real and genuine. I have followed you since the beginning, and, I too, am guilty of following the trends back then. I became a vegetarian in 2011 just because a few bloggers said it was healthy and my body composition took a huge hit. I drove myself crazy trying to fit into a mold that was not right for me. I am always gluten free for personal health reasons, but I have definitely lived life so much more in the past few years. I’ve even experimented with sourdough, love your recipe by the way! 🙂

    I’m glad to keep following you as your share your journey. It’s definitely possible to be a balance, health-minded foodie, and you are proof of that!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:26 pm

      Hi Ashley – thanks for sticking with me since the beginning. It’s been quite a long and winding road on many fronts! I think it’s really hard to avoid following the trends when you are young, susceptible and don’t know yourself very well.I’m glad that we’ve both made strides to become more true and authentic to ourselves and what works for us. And yay for the sourdough! I just took a blog break and ate a piece with cashew butter and honey.

  • Paula September 20, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Thank you for this post, and for being a person who enjoys food instead of viewing it as some means of elevating yourself to nutritional righteousness. Over the past couple years, I have ditched A LOT of blogs that were sending unrealistic, unhealthy, or triggering (to me) messages about diet. I’ve considered myself “recovered” from anorexia for years now, but I still cringe when I read anything about “giving up sugar” or unnecessary dietary deprivation. A friend recently made a passing comment calling dairy junk food, and I had to take a couple deep breaths before I responded. Lately, though, it seems like more people are embracing the concept of intuitive eating; and for that, I am so thankful. All this to say that I really appreciate this post and your approach to food and fitness!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:24 pm

      Hi Paula – you’re very welcome. I’m so glad to hear that you have found long lasting recovery from your ED and it sounds like you’re in a great place with very clear and helpful boundaries when it comes to your food philosophy. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  • Anne Marie September 20, 2017, 4:27 pm

    I really loved this post! The Whole 30 was not for me, despite the fact that I lost a good amount of weight and felt pretty good physically while on it – because there were too many rules and they stressed me out so much my mental health suffered. I am all about the intuitive eating these days, while still trying to fuel my body with nutritious, whole foods when possible – but without worrying that there is sugar in my ketchup (or my chocolate chip cookies, for that matter)!

    Thank you for continuously sharing your journey with us – you’ve helped me grow stronger in so many ways!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:22 pm

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post Anne Marie. It’s VERY important to pay attention to and learn what works for you – both mentally and physically. Both are equally as important when it comes to sustainable happiness and food freedom. I appreciate your comment and kindness.

  • Cindy September 20, 2017, 4:29 pm

    Yes, yes and yes. This is the attitude towards food im cultivating as well. One of the many reasons I enjoy reading your blog. Keep getting that message out!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:22 pm

      Thank you Cindy. <3

  • Ali September 20, 2017, 4:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Jen! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking/soul searching around this lately and also struggle to compare myself to all of the ketogenic, paleo, vegan ideologies I see out there. Sometimes I’ll cut out carbs or dairy for a week when I feel like I’ve been going overboard, but I like to focus on everything in moderation. This was a great post and I’ve loved following your journey!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:21 pm

      You’re welcome Ali. I hope you can continue to work on finding what that maintainable balance is for you that keeps you feeling your happiest and healthiest.

  • Becca September 20, 2017, 4:46 pm

    Jen:

    I’m a longtime follower (and fellow UGA grad – Go Dawgs!) and this is my favorite post you’ve ever written. I’ve never had a “Keeping up with the Jones” issue in terms of material things, but I’ve always struggled to try and make sure I was eating as healthy as my coworkers and friends. As organic as them. As clean, gluten free, raw, blah blah blah as them.

    I’m active and I eat healthy. I love good food – and to me that’s anything from kale to French fries. So much of our disposable income is spent on trying new restaurants. I try to eat better (way) more often than not, but I’ve also been working on not focusing so much on every.single.thing I put in my mouth. Because, if, at the end of the day, your overall stress level is higher and your happiness is lower – are you really healthier?

    Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Be happy. And eat the f’ing fries.

    🙂
    Becca

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:21 pm

      Hi Becca – go Dawgs and thank you for your comment and kind words.

      I couldn’t agree more with everything you’re saying. We are very, very similar. Reducing stress in all areas of my life and taking better care of myself has resulted in a newfound freedom and happiness in my body and in my life. It’s all a balance – the food, the sleep, the working, the time for playing, the alcohol, the exercise, etc. You can’t just focus on one and expect big shifts. The results have been so much better when I have really taken control of the holistic picture of it all. Life is too short not to LIVE IT and ENJOY!

  • Megan September 20, 2017, 5:13 pm

    This was so important for me to read today. I just learned about “intuitive eating” about a month ago and it was an light bulb moment for me. I did the whole30 at the same time as you in January/February. I lost weight and felt so proud of myself (even though I didn’t have much to lose). I tried to keep the diet up while marathon training and it wrecked havoc on my mind and body. I was under-fueling physically and mentally consumed with limiting my food groups. I am just now starting the process of recovery and your words are inspirational! I love this blog!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:17 pm

      Hi Megan – I’m so glad that you took a moment to share. It’s so important to remember that we are all so different in what works for our unique and individual bodies. It’s easy to start to feel crazy all over when you’re underfueling and pushing your body to its physical limits. I hope that you are able to get back to a good balance. Take it slow and be GENTLE with yourself.

  • Somer September 20, 2017, 5:36 pm

    I’m seeing a THERAPIST for food issues. This post hits home. She had my husband hide my scale (I was weighing myself at least 3 times a day.) And am not counting calories but looking at having 3 “well rounded” meals and 2 healthy snacks. She’s taught me that there is no good or bad food. It’s just food. When you take away the emotions (what I like to say), food becomes less stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I still have internal struggles when I allow myself to have cake or more then one glass of wine but what I’ve learned is that one piece of cake that I’m having and building memories with my kids won’t make or break 5 pounds. I haven’t felt this free since my pre-teens.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:16 pm

      Hi Somer – I’m glad to hear that you are seeking assistance in your relationship with food. I think that it’s so hard to constantly be counting (pounds on the scale, calories, etc) and there’s a lot of grace to be had around letting that go. She’s so right that there’s no good or bad food, it’s all just food. A meal is a meal and then we move on and have another one. You’re so right that one piece of cake or an additional glass of wine isn’t the end of the world. You enjoy it and then let it go. I wish you continued strength in finding freedom.

  • Cheryl Wallick September 20, 2017, 5:45 pm

    Where are your grayish blue shoes from? 🙂

  • Amanda September 20, 2017, 6:09 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve had a similar evolution in my eating, but without the public nature of a blog. I LOVE food and I love that this blog features a really balanced approach to eating. I really appreciate your openness about your process in coming to this point

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:12 pm

      Thanks Amanda and congratulations on your own personal shift. <3

  • Alicia September 20, 2017, 6:52 pm

    Such a timely post. I have just ditched my fitness pal, tracking calories, and getting on the scale. Trying to be more mindful and balanced and less obsessive. I have 2 daughters and I want to be a good role model for them too!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:12 pm

      Hi Alicia – wow, thank you so much for sharing. I can’t even imagine the layer of complexity it adds to have daughters that you want to be a good example for you. So wonderful that you are making these changes in consideration of promoting their own positive body images and freedoms. xoxo

  • Shannon McKinney September 20, 2017, 7:09 pm

    This one is my FAVORITE! Your blog is my most favorite for all of these reasons. Having coming from spending time hospitalized with eating disorders throughout the years, it feels good to read a blog so true to what life and ‘food freedom’ is really about. I personally found food freedom when I married a man that loves to cook and eat real food, and it has been so liberating. Thank you for sharing, Jen! XOXO

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:11 pm

      Hi Shannon. Thank you for reading and for the really nice comment! 🙂 I’m so sorry to hear that you have struggled with an ED over the years. I hope you continue in your recovery to find peace and acceptance and how wonderful that you have a partner who supports you in that and helps you with it. <3 Congratulations on finding that and I wish you a lot of happiness!

  • H September 20, 2017, 7:15 pm

    Such a great post, brutal honesty with a large dose of humor — because we could all relate with the sentiment, on multiple levels and subject areas. For what it’s worth you’ve never looked healthier or happier than you do these days. How easily impressionable we all are in our teens/early twenties (actually, some never seem to shake walking the straight path of convention) — and oh how the internet exacerbates the problem. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 3:09 pm

      Thank you. I really appreciate your kindness in this comment and I can certainly say that I feel much happier and at peace now than I was in my mid to late twenties. <3

  • Mindy September 20, 2017, 7:28 pm

    YES! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

    I don’t know what else to say. This post is amazing. Learning how to truly listen to your body takes time but it is so worth it at the end. We are so bombarded with these messages about what we should and shouldn’t eat because of xyz and it takes a while to unlearn all of that. Listen to your body. If you go to the doctor and medically have to remove something from your diet then that is one thing (or if you are ethically against consuming something for whatever reason), but needlessly restricting your diet is a whole different issue.

    I hope everyone can learn how to listen to their body and make the right decisions for themselves and their holistic health. 🙂

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:56 pm

      Hi Mindy – thank you. Yes, this isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time and practice to be able to listen to your body and to tune all of the other stuff out. We choose what we let in and there is a lot that we should keep out for the sake of our sanity!

  • Lauren September 20, 2017, 9:17 pm

    Love love LOVE this. Just read it twice. Amazing writing and amazing message!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:55 pm

      Thank you Lauren!

  • Casey the College Celiac September 20, 2017, 10:11 pm

    LOVE this! Although I have celiac disease and must avoid gluten 100%, I have widened the rest of my diet quite a bit. For me, it seems like stress is THE biggest trigger for stomach problems…and stressing about food choices can be just as problematic as any other kind of stress!

    • Alicia September 22, 2017, 8:21 pm

      Well said.

      The “food stress” is remarkable. My students report it heavily. It’s like this not talked about “thing,” but it sure is present..

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:55 pm

      I couldn’t agree with you more on the effects of stress, lack of sleep and overall running yourself into the ground when it comes to how you feel. Since I’ve gotten these things in better balance, I’ve noticed that I feel incredibly better in my day-to-day life. Stress will tear your body apart!

  • Barbara Orts September 21, 2017, 12:34 am

    Great post! Agree 100% with you

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:54 pm

      Thank you Barbara!

  • alisha September 21, 2017, 6:19 am

    JEN!!! BEST POST EVER!!! I have read your blog for so long, but have not posted. But this post was just brilliant. I have seen your progression from under fueling, more rule based eating years ago to now where you are such an inspiration to us all to eat intuitively. Your recent eat posts are so wonderful to combat the other social media and diet culture that tells us to eat “clean” and restrict in order to be good and healthy. I love that you do not see food as good and bad. I cannot tell you how much of an impact you are making for women who have eating disorders. You are a great example of fueling yourself, taking care of yourself, and doing it unapologetically!! You are fighting the good fight. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:53 pm

      Thank you so much for the extremely kind comment Alisha. I appreciate you taking a time to come out hiding and leave it! 🙂 It’s wonderful to connect with everyone.

      I have really had to learn how to be an observer of social media (on many levels…not just food) and not to get attached to thinking I need to be on any one set path. It’s crazy-making if you do because of the comparison and self-judgement game. I think that authenticity and self-love shines through and when you are good with you, you are able to be more true to your intuition and your true self!

      xoxo

  • Erin September 21, 2017, 8:03 am

    Jen-
    This post is beautiful in its honesty. I have read your blog for years, so it’s fun to read how you look back on your food choices. And it’s very inspiring and encouraging to others to see it all laid out there. And can I just say that this is exactly why I loved my 30s so much–reflecting on your choices and seeing how far you’ve come.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:51 pm

      Hi Erin, thank you for the kind words about my post. It’s been a long and winding road of food and body exploration over the years…well I guess it’s actually been a winding road on all fronts! I am proud where I am now but grateful for the lessons I’ve learned on the way. I definitely feel like I have a much deeper understanding of myself and what makes me happy, feel good, connected, excited, fulfilled, etc than I did when I was in my 20s.

  • Kristen September 21, 2017, 8:11 am

    THANK YOU for your honesty and authenticity in this post. I have actually found your blog to be a huge source of inspiration to eat real. I love to cook and try amazing restaurants but have definitely found myself punishing myself with food influenced by blogs/social media (hello, soy milk) that were not true to me. This post really resonated with me…thank you! PS–Paleo Spaghetti Pie is now on regular rotation in the dinner/leftovers lineup 🙂

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:50 pm

      Hi Kristen – you’re welcome. I’m glad to hear that you have found my blog to be a help when it comes to eating real food. I think it’s important to “observe” social media and only let things stick that really ring true for you. We’re all so different that the comparison and guilt trap will drive you crazy!

  • Nickl September 21, 2017, 8:18 am

    I never comment on blogs but am a longtime reader of yours. This must have been my favorite post of yours. Thanks for sharing.

    I find nothing more interesting than the habits and thought processes of others.

    I would be curious to know what your thoughts on the scale, taking measurements etc are. Especially for people that work out it can be so difficult I think.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:48 pm

      I really appreciate you taking a moment to comment. It means a lot to me. I appreciate you kind words and support.

      RE: the scale. We have one, I occasionally step on it but don’t obsess over it. My weight tends to stay pretty steady and over the last couple of years I’ve definitely gained a consistent few pounds but I know that a) my body needs them and b) it’s mostly tied to the amount of strength training I do. I try to encourage my students and clients to go more off of pictures and how they feel in their bodies and clothes than a number on the scale. The scale can play mind games with women, especially those who start lifting because you can gain weight but you’re actually leaner and burning more calories! I think a holistic picture of health is important and not just the numbers!

  • Julie @ Running in a Skirt September 21, 2017, 9:06 am

    I love this Jen! I feel the same way–I get so sad when I see people thinking food is bad or restrict so much. I eat pretty much the same way and life is good.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:45 pm

      Agreed Julie. The food labeling is so terrible. 🙁 Especially when people tie it to a sense of self-worth.

  • Katie September 21, 2017, 9:23 am

    This post hits home for me! At 38, I’m still learning but I really try to listen to my body and I eat what I love and what makes me feel good. That being said, I’m getting married in 2 1/2 weeks(😲) so I’ve restricted my food the last few months. I’ve been trying to avoid any bread or sweets or anything that could be labeled as “bad”. Last week my whole body was aching, my workouts were suffering, and I wasn’t sleeping well. My fiancé took me out to dinner and kindly insisted that I order my favorite entree off the menu after I said “no, I can’t eat THAT”! But I took his advice and ordered the skirt steak and sweet potato fries and I ate it ALL!! And guess what?! My body feels stronger and better, my workouts rocked this week, and I’m sleeping like a baby. I just needed to loosen up and listen to my body!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:44 pm

      Hi Katie – I am glad to hear that you found this post to be helpful and impactful. CONGRATS on your upcoming marriage! It’s getting really close! 🙂 I know that the time leading up to the wedding is a time what all girls want to focus on looking their best but there’s only so hard we can push before our bodies say enough. I’m glad you were able to see that in action although I’m sorry you had to feel so crummy to get there. Sending you lots of wedding happiness and love. Take care of yourself and enjoy!

  • Katherine September 21, 2017, 10:14 am

    I love this post! Thank you for sharing your journey to find intuitive eating. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder in the past, I am now working to find intuitive eating. I love your blog because you do allow all foods!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:43 pm

      Thank you Katherine. I will pray for your continued ED recovery and sending you lots of of love and strength on your path to finding a more intuitive way to live and eat.

  • Katie September 21, 2017, 10:32 am

    Thank you for this post! Navigating the health/fitness blog world has frequently made me feel like a failure. Yours is the first I have really come to appreciate because you feature a lot of healthy foods but aren’t afraid to treat yourself. Keep setting that example!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:42 pm

      You’re so welcome Katie. I hear you that it can be overwhelming to navigate this world that all to often feels very all or nothing. Stay grounded in what makes you feel GOOD and STRONG! Remember we are all so different!

  • Kristian September 21, 2017, 10:40 am

    Jen I can’t tell you how happy I am that you wrote this post. I have been reading your blog for so long now and love how balanced you are with your eating habits. I am a fitness/running fanatic and definitely a foodie as well. In my past, I’ve struggled with Anorexia Nervosa which I’ve cured myself of, but now still struggle many times with Orthorexia (an obsession of eating clean and healthy foods at all times). Just like you mentioned, I also feel that many times I am underfueling myself for the amount of activity I’m doing. In my mind, I am telling myself that I want to break free and just live the life the way I want to (still enjoying all my fitness, but having food freedom). So many times I want pizza, a chocolate chip cookie, a burger and fries but I tell myself I can’t because it’s not “healthy.” Moderation is key which is what you touched upon and I believe is so true to having balance, being happy, and not restricting yourself. Thank you so much for this post. This post is definitely what I needed to read since you are so much of a fitness/foodie idol.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:41 pm

      Hi Kristian – thanks for taking the time to comment and share your story. I appreciate you reading my blog and I’m glad that you’ve found my eating habits to be balanced. I’m sorry to hear that you struggled with and ED but I am very relieved to hear that you are in recovery. I know that it is something that you will continue working on and fighting every day. For me, when I want to eat the pizza or cookie or fries I remind myself that it’s NOT my everyday diet. It’s an occasional thing, enjoy it and MOVE on! Just keep practicing and STAY aware of your relationship with food. Sending you lots of love.

  • Laura September 21, 2017, 11:51 am

    LOVE this post! I’ve been struggling with getting back on the healthy eating/workout train since I got married 2 months ago. There are so many diet tips out there these days that sometimes I truly feel like the only “safe” thing is water! I like the idea of intuitive eating and listening to my body although I know it’ll be a struggle for me.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:38 pm

      I’m so happy to hear that this post resonated with you Laura. Small steps but you can totally get back to a good balance with food and exercise. Try to make it more of a lifestyle shift instead of an all or nothing intense thing that is hard to maintain! Enlist your new hubby to make these changes with you and support each other so you’ll feel your healthiest and fittest in the marriage.

  • Hillary September 21, 2017, 1:14 pm

    This was such a lovely post. I admire you for your outlook on food and food freedom. It’s refreshing!

    Where is your white tank from in the last photo? Love the crop style 🙂

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:37 pm

      Hi Hillary! Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The tank is from H&M. I got it in three colors this summer and wear it all the time!

  • Simone September 21, 2017, 2:00 pm

    This is awesome! Thank you for sharing. I am very much “type A” and when my life gets stressful, I tend to look for ways to gain back control and food is such an easy one to cling to. Like right now… I’ve had lots of stress since the beginning of the year and I feel irritable and fatigued. My mind immediately goes to, hmmm maybe another whole 30 will make me feel better, maybe I have food intolerances, maybe an autoimmune disease. When really, anyone would feel irritable and fatigued after months and months of stress. I am starting to learn that I need to look at lifestyle as well as nutrition. The whole 30 was very stressful for me due to the restrictiveness and so starting another one right now would add even MORE stress! Def not what I need. Your post helps me with convincing myself to chill out on the food front. Make smart decisions, but they don’t have to be black and white. Thanks again for sharing and I’m so happy for you <3

    • Alicia September 22, 2017, 8:18 pm

      You sound just about there. Your “answers” are actually in your post. Go easy on yourself 🙂

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:34 pm

      You’re welcome Simone. I can totally relate to the looking for ways to control when life gets stressful. It’s wonderful that you’re aware of your tendency to do that. I can’t tell you how much making a lifestyle shift instead of just a diet or exercise shift has done to bring things more into balance for me. Less wine, more sleep, less working hours, more friend and family time, more travel…it’s been magical. I hope you can look at things holistically and make some changes that will help bring the stress levels down.

  • Emm September 21, 2017, 2:06 pm

    Wonderful post. I think the internet (especially instagram) is awesome in so many ways, but one thing I worry about is the fitness/health culture that’s pervasive on instagram. Of course there is some great content but SO MUCH of what’s out there is just food/fitness trends without any basis in science, and a weird spirit of competitiveness (who is fitter/healthier/can photoshop better), as well as totally unrealistic. Glad you’ve found a way to do what’s best for you, it’s a work in progress for me.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:32 pm

      Hi Emm. Thank you. I so agree that all of the fitness and food content available online and through social media is amazing but can also be dangerous. It’s very important to maintain the ability to look at it objectively and be able to take what works for you and leave what doesn’t…without judgement or comparison. I hope you continue to make strides towards finding the balance that feels right for you.

  • Jenny September 21, 2017, 2:06 pm

    YES YES YES! This is exactly what I needed to read today. Why does feeding ourselves have to be so complicated? Thank you for such an honest and refreshing perspective.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:30 pm

      You’re welcome Jenny. I’m glad you found this post to be helpful.

  • Jessica September 21, 2017, 3:12 pm

    Thank you for this very insightful, well-written post. Your words are always very honest and sincere.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:29 pm

      I appreciate the kind comment Jessica. <3

  • Alaina September 21, 2017, 4:27 pm

    I love that we made a connection through our blogs! I was definitely in the same boat where I thought I had to conform to all of the “healthy living” trends in order to be successful. For my first year of blogging (2010) I was training for a marathon, doing P90X and (as I found out later) severely under-fueling. I was eating frankenfoods and volume over substance.

    Thankfully, I am out of that mindset and try to just live a healthy and fun life, especially now that I have a daughter!

    And also…I want that pizza. 😛

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:29 pm

      Me too girl! It’s been a long and winding road, for sure!

      I can’t even imagine how much having a daughter must change or magnify how you think and talk about food and also how you talk about and treat your body. I’m sure you do want to set the very best example for her possible. She’s lucky to have you to role model that for her.

      xoxo

  • Sabrina September 21, 2017, 4:31 pm

    Love your BLOG & IG so much. You hit the nail right on the HEAD!
    I so glad you are in my life – even if it’s through SM. I feel blessed to have you as a great resource.
    MAHALO!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:27 pm

      Thank you Sabrina – we are totally connected even if it’s through the online world. <3

  • Lauren September 21, 2017, 4:58 pm

    I have been reading your blog for years and am usually not one to comment, but I just loved reading this post! The message is so important about food freedom- thank you for sharing!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:27 pm

      Hi Lauren – I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed reading this post and thank you for taking a moment to comment and let me know. It means a lot. <3

  • Emily September 21, 2017, 8:47 pm

    One of my all-time fave posts of yours – how refreshing!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:26 pm

      Thank you Emily!

  • Patty September 22, 2017, 7:52 am

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve loved your blog for its sanity for a long time, and love your welcoming, kindhearted attitude. I am so grateful for you for putting this out there—“health” isn’t about absolutes, it’s about finding a happy balance that’s in tune with the joys of life (family, friends, hobbies, etc). Longtime follower, first-time commenter—love your blog so much.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:26 pm

      You’re very welcome Patty. Thanks for following along with my blog and I’m glad to hear that you find it to be approachable and relatable. You are so correct that health isn’t about absolutes…whatsoever! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you took the time to comment. <3

  • Aimee September 22, 2017, 8:45 am

    LOVE this. oh and the muffin crumbled on top of oatmeal…a priceless foodie phase.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:25 pm

      Haha – that was a bad time in blogging. How I thought that tasted good is beyond me. YUCK!

  • Sara September 22, 2017, 10:45 am

    I love this post, and your approach to food. Honestly, it was you who inspired me to finally try whole 30. I can’t wait to do another round after I have this baby I’m currently growing. I’m constantly researching and trying to figure out the “diet” I want to do after I have the baby so I can shed the baby weight and get back to a healthy place I haven’t been in years. This post gave me a lot to think about in regards to that.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:18 pm

      Hi Sara – I personally loved the Whole30 and I’m glad you had a good experience too! CONGRATS on your pregnancy and just remember to be gentle and kind to yourself after the delivery. That initial bonding time is so special and important and you’ll only have it once. You’ll have plenty of time to get back into a good diet and exercise groove after! Sending you so much love! xx

  • Trish September 22, 2017, 12:03 pm

    You are the best! Loved this post! Thank you for all the work you do. I appreciate the time you take to share your workouts, meals and just life. I too love a good kale salad…..and even better if it is followed with a cupcake! 🙂 I live in MN but I will make it to Namastay – I have to try the beet burgers you post about!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:16 pm

      Oh, thank you for the kind words Trish. I’m glad this post was helpful for so many. <3

  • Sarah September 22, 2017, 2:32 pm

    Any thoughts on what does actually affect your skin? I’ve been off caffeine for awhile, and no improvement. It pains me to go off dairy again…

    • Alicia September 22, 2017, 8:15 pm

      Hormones, genetics.

      Rarely Diet.

      • tara September 24, 2017, 3:36 pm

        i respectfully disagree here. I have seen a dermatologist for years and while hormones have played a part in my skin issues, diet is the biggest contributing factor with regards to my skin, particularly for breakouts. For me increased sugar intake and dairy exacerbates my breakouts considerably. My boyfriend found through restricting/eliminating dairy he had a huge improvement in his breakouts. There is a lot of research to show that what we eat comes out in our skin. Its different for everyone that is for sure, but food and related food intolerances can definitely cause issues with skin.

        • Jen September 28, 2017, 1:52 pm

          I think we have to remember that it’s different for everyone! Some people might have stronger reactions than others to food and skin issues!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:15 pm

      Yes! Alcohol, stress, lack of sleep. Ever since I cut back on wine and also made an effort to work less, unbusy my schedule and sleep at least 7.5-8 hours a night, I’ve had no issues with my skin save the occasional spot here and there and my eyes have cleared up.

  • JennyV September 22, 2017, 4:39 pm

    Love this and am so happy to read of how you’ve found a great balance. Though I wish I could say the same, I am not there yet. It’s hard for me to give myself grace, to let it go when I choose something ‘less’ healthy than I should have, etc… because I’m not at my physique goals. I’ve looked better… and it’s hard to let that go. I also found out about a host of food sensitivities early this year and I believe my leaky gut started due to stress, as well. So sad!! I’d love to know of other women who can find themselves eating intuitively, while still striving for better physique goals. It’s so challenging — and it’s where I am.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:25 pm

      Thanks Jenny. <3 It’s been a long and winding road and I give myself full permission to change what’s working for me again when the time comes. I think the main thing is to be fluid and open-minded and not to become rigid in a set routine or “safe-zone,” especially when it becomes unattainable or isn’t working any more. I know it can be scary to experiment and try new ways of fueling and exercising but I think it pays off with big rewards sometimes.

      I was sorry to hear about your food sensitivity testing. Do they think that is something you can work to overcome or will you have them long-term? I can see where that would be a stressor.

      Do you follow Leslie Ann Quillen and her Fat Loss Foodies group? She has WONDERFUL insights about living a fat loss lifestyle with good choices but minimal restrictions.

  • Bridget September 22, 2017, 4:54 pm

    My kids are ling past baby stage but I stillness like La Leche League’s food philosophy. Eat a variety of foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Or something like that. Don’t get too wrapped up about any one thing.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:21 pm

      Hi Bridget – thanks for sharing this. It rings very true.

  • Alicia September 22, 2017, 8:13 pm

    I’ve posted before but just wanted to say, again, that you nailed it. I’m a professor of human nutrition and I am tired of the what to eat, when, why to eat, how to eat. We’ve just lost our minds and our way. It’s not supposed to be counting every gram, or calorie or, or, or.

    Of course, if you’re celiac sprue, you don’t eat gluten. But, we’ve lost our minds when instagram and Kim Kardashian are influencing what we eat.

    Eat what you want when you’re biologically hungry, stop when you’ve hit satiety (this can take lots of practice if you’re fearful of food!) and, most importantly, enjoy! And remind yourself another meal of snack is just around the corner. And… move on.

    I’m going to refer my students to your post.

    Perfect. Thanks.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 2:14 pm

      Hi Alicia! I really appreciate your kind comment. It means a lot coming from someone who studies and teaches human nutrition. I agree that we have lost our minds when it comes to the hyper-focus on what and how much. I agree that there is much to be said for respecting the practice that is required when a fear of food exists but it is worth the hard work to heal the relationship. I can’t agree with more with the point of just moving on as well. Thank you. <3

  • tara September 24, 2017, 3:40 pm

    i want to thank you for not bashing gluten here. As a celiac, what i have found is all to often when people write a post like this where they are trying to say “don’t blindly follow every fad if its not right for you”, they bash things that for some are totally legit. Often that comes as a joke to gluten free items. i can’t tell you how harmful it is for people to do this. As you comment many people are impressionable when it comes to what they read online. If someone follows a person who has gone GF for diet purposes and it makes them look at themselves and possibly get tested for celiac i would consider that a win. Even if that poster eventually gives it up, that’s no problem for me….as long as they do it respectfully. I’m sure vegetarians/vegans feel the same as i do. You found a nice way to say you are doing what works for you while not bashing those that are still in the midst of trying to find out what works for them. i admire you for doing that. i struggle with listening to my body and figuring out what intuitive eating means for me but i will keep trying. the journey continues…

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 1:51 pm

      You’re welcome Tara. I would never do that because I know that some people do have a serious disease that prevents them from eating it and that is not something to take lightly.

  • Amanda September 25, 2017, 12:59 pm

    I cannot thank you enough for this post Jen–your views about food are a breath of fresh air in the health blog world that is filled with dogmatic vegan and paleo authors. I too started my journey experimenting with vegan/vegetarian food because I thought it was what I should be eating as a yoga teacher and fitness instructor, and this way of eating was the only way to be “healthy”. I ended up building a mental prison for myself, and have a huge surge in energy (and mental health) when I eat a mix of everything in moderation.

    Keep on inspiring others with posts like these because as you step into your power, your inspire others to do the same <3

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 1:43 pm

      You’re welcome Amanda! I hear you about the pressure of feeling like you should eat a certain way in the fitness industry and the pressure that can exist towards a vegetarian diet in the yoga world. I’m so happy to read that you realize how much better you feel when you find your right balance instead of being a prisoner to a diet that isn’t true to you. Sending you continued strength to keep claiming your power unapologetically as well! xx

  • Joy September 25, 2017, 4:40 pm

    What a wonderful post. I also believe that people should eat what is right for them. I eat a very particular way (compared to the standard American diet) but I do it because that’s what makes me feel good. I get questions from others about what I eat and I always preface it with, “I do this because it makes me feel really good…but everyone is different.” I’m glad you’ve found out what works for you, as that can be hard to do!

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 1:41 pm

      Thank you Joy! I think the most important part is to eat and move to FEEL GOOD. That’s different for everyone. We have to respect our differences and truly understand that there is no one size fits all solution for health and wellness.

  • K September 26, 2017, 6:44 am

    I would love to know where you got that crossbody purse. It’s perfect.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 1:39 pm

      Hi – it’s a Kate Spade but about a year and a half old.

  • Amy September 26, 2017, 2:28 pm

    Thank you for this. I have struggled with being both anorexic and obese and I am working really hard to learn how to find food freedom. Posts like this really help, to be reminded that it isn’t all or nothing.

    • Jen September 28, 2017, 1:32 pm

      You are welcome Amy. Sending you strength for continued healing. <3

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