Fall Spaghetti Squash Recipe and Holiday Eating Tips

Fall is that time of year when you walk into your favorite grocery store and smell the strong cinnamon scent from the pine cone and broom decor and every food has a pumpkin or pumpkin spice version of itself ( I’m picturing Trader Joe’s specifically). This is also the time of the year when food in excess is and that makes it hard to practice intuitive eating and get proper nutrients. 

This year, try making a recipe thats full of vitamins and nutrients that your body can thrive from. Here is a recipe I made, which you can try to give you the same “fall feeling” while eating a nutritious meal. This recipe is made entirely from vegetables! It contains lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. It makes for a perfect side dish to pair with your favorite holiday protein (beef, chicken, fish etc.). 

Click here to learn more about the health benefits of spaghetti squash (by Very Well Fit)

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Recipe

Servings: 10

Serving size 1 cup

Ingredients

  1. 1 large spaghetti squash 
  2. EVOO 
  3. Salt 
  4. Pepper 
  5. 2 cups spinach 
  6. 2 medium Tomatoes 
  7. 1/2 medium onion
  8. 2 cloves garlic
  9. Parmesan cheese 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil 
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lenghwise and place onto baking sheet, inside faced upProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
  3. Drizzle EVOO into squash to cover and sprinkle with salt and pepper 
  4. Place squash into oven at 350 degrees F and bake for about 1 hour or until skin is tender and inside is easy to remove with a fork
  5. Chop onions and garlic and sautée in pan until translucent and golden brown. Add spinach to pan and cook down. 
  6. Chop tomatoes and add to vegetable mixture until lightly cooked but not mushy 
  7. Remove squash from oven, allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Gently scrape the surface and place spaghetti squash into sauce pan. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
  8. Add vegetable mixture to spaghetti squash in sauce pan and mix togetherProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
  9. Serve into bowl and add desired parmesan cheese 
  10. Enjoy! Happy Fall!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

If you know me, you know that I am a firm believer in intuitive eating. Im not saying that holiday food is “bad”, just know that there are other options out there that you can try. It’s good to expand our palettes to find foods we enjoy. Its also important to eat the foods we love around the holidays so we are not depriving ourselves. For example, if you just can’t live without eating pumpkin pie, eat the pumpkin pie and move on. Don’t feel guilty about eating it, just enjoy it! I know the holidays can be a scary time for people that have a poor relationship with food because thinking that you’re going to gain weight around the holidays is the worst feeling. As long as you listen to your body, eat when your HUNGRY, honor your cravings and enjoy some exercise, your weight will remain stable.

Food habits to break during the holidays:

Eating just to eat

Don’t eat food just because food is there, eat it because you WANT it. If someone offers you food and you don’t really want it, then it’s ok to say no.

Standing or sitting around food 

Food is the main focus at holiday gatherings (at least with my family it is). Suggest that you all play a game or go on a walk, even start a conversation with someone you want to get to know more to take the focus off food.

Eating everything 

Pick one or two “bad” foods that you really enjoy and eat them. Don’t waste your calories on the foods you can live without. For example if theres mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes but you can live without the sweet potatoes then don’t eat them. 

Feeling guilty

Lastly, but most important, don’t waste your time complaining or emotionally abusing yourself over the piece of pie you ate or all the alcohol you drank. It’s okay. Spend your time enjoying your friends and family. Take the focus off your “diet” and enjoy time with friends and family. 

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I hope you enjoy this recipe and all the other delicious food around the holidays. Please reach out to me if you have any questions about intuitive eating or developing a good relationship with food- I would love to help you. If you try this recipe or have your own you’d like to share let me know! 

 

Basic Summer Chicken Tacos

Tacos are everyone’s basic go to meal and I love them! The reason tacos are so good is because you can make up so many varieties, making them “healthy” or “not-so-healthy” depending on what your taste buds are craving that moment. They are the perfect meal for social gatherings or quick last minute meal to put together for the family. I personally like to pair mine with a margarita. If I’m going to have a margarita, I like to make a taco more on the healthier side to compensate for the calories. These tacos are so basic and simple, only 3 ingredients that you probably have in your pantry right now! How do you like to eat your tacos? If you try this recipe let me know what you think!

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pics by Aylson Nicole Photography

Cook time: 30 min

Portion size: 8-10 tacos

Calories: 250 kcal/taco as is

Ingredients:

  1. 4 chicken breasts 
  2. 1/2 head of purple cabbage 
  3. 1 bunch of cilantro 
  4. Corn Tortillas 
  5. Hot sauce 
  6. Cheese 

Directions:

  1. Grill chicken for 10-15 minutes until internal temperature is 165 degrees F.IMG_3280
  2. When chicken is fully cooked, allow it to cool to touch
  3. While chicken is cooling, chop 1/2 head of purple cabbage into strips. (fact: purple cabbage is full of antioxidants, works as an anti-inflammatory, supports cardiovascular and digestive health!)

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  4. Chop desired amount of cilantro and place in bowlIMG_3320
  5. Once chicken is cooled bring to cutting board, chop chicken into pieces and then shred to desired thickness.IMG_3316
  6. Separate the ingredients into individual bowls, taco bar style, to allow people to make their own tacoIMG_3317
  7. Add desired amount of chicken, cabbage and cilantro to 1 or 2 or 3 corn tortillas- whatever your hungry for. Add hot sauce if desired and ENJOY!
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Quick and Easy Salad With Asian- Style Dressing

Getting adequate nutrition does not have to be difficult. In fact, it’s simple. I wanted to share this salad recipe with you to give you an idea of how to make an easy, nutritious meal at home. The reason I enjoy salads, is because you can put so many different ingredients in it to give yourself a variety and make it exciting! When making a salad, make sure you are including different colors of fruits or vegetables. Each color indicates a vitamin or mineral that in contained in that vegetable. For example, carrots (orange vegetables) contain beta carotene which aids in eye health, healthy skin and improved immunity.IMG_3031.jpg

Here are my tips on how to put together an easy, nutritious salad:

  1. I like to start my salad with a base green (kale, spinach, romaine, etc.) and then add from there.
  2. Next, I will add at least 2-3 more vegetables to add color such as carrots and mushrooms.
  3. Then, add a protein of choice– nuts are a good choice for both fat and protein, but chicken, fish or beans can be good lean protein options as well. As for the dressing, I like to make my own. – recipe below. 

IMG_3082.jpg1. Dressing- 1 cup of liquid aminos mixed with 2 tbsp of honey and 1/2 a lemon to make a low calorie, sweet-salty dressing that I truly enjoy.

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2. Mix ingredients and dressing in a small bowl and add desired amount of dressing to favorite vegetetables and enjoy!

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YUM!

Inspiring Women: Sarah Atchison

Inspiring Women & Their Relationship With Food

Disclaimer:The information provided by these women is for information purposes only and is not advice given directly from me. Eating lifestyles that work for them may not work the same way for you. If you have, or ever have had issues with food, these answers may be triggering. This is a space for women to bravely share their story. If this is in any way triggering to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.

In this blog series, I ask women from my life questions pertaining to their relationship with food and how it affects their eating lifestyle. They share their individual dietary struggles and how to overcome them. They also give their honest opinion about diet culture, Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, and how to practice intuitive eating. Each of these women are inspiring to me and I hope that you can also be inspired by their stories and ways of practicing mindful eating habits.

Sarah is a therapist that is passionate about helping patients overcome eating disorders. I worked with Sarah at an eating disorder clinic and I got the privilege of knowing her beautiful soul and hilarious sense of humor (yes, she is as weird as I am :)). I have been  inspired by Sarah’s compassionate and hardworking values as a therapist. She has helped multiple patients on the way to recovery from their eating disorder and she is a great person to interview for this blog series. Sarah has a lot of insight on this topic and I hope you enjoy learning about her relationship with food as much as I do. Also, Sarah is a proud mama to Ranger (pictured below) who is one of the cutest dogs I have ever met. 

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“I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I am going out or staying in, I am going to eat what I want and or what my body needs in that moment.” – Sarah Atchison

What has been you biggest dietary struggle and how have you overcome it?

 The biggest dietary struggle has been the what and how much. At a very early age others shamed and labeled me for eating the portions and foods that I liked. It didn’t take long before I took the messages to heart. A piece of cake or ice cream had “fat… gluten.. bad” written all over it. If I ate the chocolate cake I would not stop thinking about how I had no will power to turn it down and how I needed to get rid of it or I would be fat. I would cringe if I caught myself eating more than others around me, I would wait for the comments about my seconds or cleaning my plate. Sometimes remarks were made and sometimes they wouldn’t, either way I would shame myself and hope to God no one saw me overeat.

There are a few behavior changes that have helped me. One thing that really helped me was realizing that I could have a piece of cake and would not turn into fat balloon and pop like Betty Boop did when she ate one piece of chocolate. Yes I am talking about the kids show that wonderfully displayed how easy a girl could get fat from eating even small portions of sweets. As far as over eating I have learned to stop and breathe while I eat, and to not skip meals so that I do not go into the next meal starving. The getting rid of food, my means being exercise, is not a piece I have been able to conquer yet and the volume of my shaming eating disorder voice has gone down, but I can still hear it. One step at a time.

Explain your current eating patterns. How have they influenced your overall quality of life?

Eating foods with high nutritional value has given me the ability feel good on the inside out. It is a part of my self care, that directly effects my mental health. If I am not taking care of what I put in my body than I can feel it effect my mood. This often times means eating food that is fresh and being mindful about eating a variety of food groups. Also, since I have allowed myself to eat all foods I am not freaked out about social events or work ordering pizza for everyone.  I can partake and know that I am allowed to enjoy the time with others. Eating disorders take away your community and gaining that back has given me a better quality of life.

Do you believe that restrictive dieting at an early age leads to disordered eating? How so?

In my case it did. My family labeled certain foods as “bad” and my parents were always on supposed diets that restricted certain foods and amounts. When I went down the road in my eating disorder I first started cutting out certain foods and the quantity that I ate. This spiraled out of control to where I couldn’t eat a donut without having a visceral reaction.

What is your opinion on the diet culture and how do you think it has influenced society?

I believe that the diet industry perpetuates the dominate discourse that women only have value based on their measurement within the male gaze. In other words, women only have relevance based on how sexy and appealing they can be to men. Diets are sold to women to promise them value, and worthiness of love and belonging. When no diet can give out value and worth. In fact, in my honest belief diets are torture, time consuming, and a letdown. Also, lets be real… I am not going to be able to avoid bread the rest of my life.

What does intuitive eating mean to you and how do you practice it daily?

For me it means reconnecting to my body. In the past I would disconnect from my body whenever I would eat or think about eating. This lead to multiple issues, over eating or not eating at all. So now I do my best to breathe while I am eating and eat what I think tastes good, which means I am focusing on taste and smells of the food and how it is satisfying me.

What is your opinion on the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement? How has this changed your view on health, beauty and nutrition?

 I think it is an awesome concept. It never made sense that some people who were very thin, “healthy” BMI, could have more health problems than someone who had an “unhealthy” BMI. What you put in your body and how you treat it seems to be a more substantial way to measure if your body is at its best.

This is a very hard concept for people to swallow. We have been sold that “skinny equals healthy” and that is hard to argue against, especially when our medical professionals do not agree. No one questions a doctor. Clients that I work with become reactive when I introduce this concept. They cannot grasp that they can be healthy without being a size 4. Even when you can wrap your head around it, there are family members, friends, and doctors that preach “skinny” is best.

Explain how your current eating patterns have changed your overall health and well being.

My change in diet has allowed me to lower my anxiety and realize how my body feels when I give it what it really wants. I was anxious about any possible situation that would include food that I deemed

Share some tips on what you do when eating out at a restaurant.

I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I am going out or staying in, I am going to eat what I want and or what my body needs in that moment. For example, when I feel my emotional and mental state is weak, I will be very contentious about getting my vegetables, protein, fiber in. Getting a salad or side of vegetables with my burger or pizza or making a salad with my steak. I believe that part of self-care includes how and what I eat. Self-care can be a burger and fries or my mom’s enchiladas and Spanish rice because I am craving it or getting a soup because my stomach needs to settle.

What advice would you give to someone dealing with similar health/food issues?

I would tell them to look at food as one way to connect with others and one way it can add to a lifestyle of self-care. Eating disorders strip you away from loved ones and by doing so deteriorate your quality of life. Stepping back and looking at this destruction can provide strength to fight against an eating disorder because you are fighting for relationships. We are made to connect with others and going through life isolated increases mental health concerns such as depression.

What is your “food philosophy” that you strongly believe in?

Food can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be “bad.”

What is your favorite food/recipe that you enjoy making?

That’s hard, I enjoy trying new recipes. Cooking food that my loved ones would enjoy eating, hearing them enjoy it. However, I have been making enchiladas my whole life, so I like making that and trying to make Spanish rice like my mom. She makes it better than ANYONE else.

 

Inspiring Women: Courtney G.

Inspiring Women & Their Relationship With Food

Disclaimer:The information provided by these women is for information purposes only and is not advice given directly from me. Eating lifestyles that work for them may not work the same way for you. If you have, or ever have had issues with food, these answers may be triggering. This is a space for women to bravely share their story. If this is in any way triggering to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.

In this blog series, I ask women from my life questions pertaining to their relationship with food and how it affects their eating lifestyle. They share their individual dietary struggles and how to overcome them. They also give their honest opinion about diet culture, Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, and how to practice intuitive eating. Each of these women are inspiring to me and I hope that you can also be inspired by their stories and ways of practicing mindful eating habits.

Courtney is a good friend of mine whom I have known for about 15 years. She has an amazing story to share of how she battled an eating disorder and how she is combatting pain through eating whole, unprocessed foods. (again, if you have struggled with an eating disorder, her story may. be triggering). Courtney is a twenty-three year old student studying Kinesiology and on the path to becoming a certified Yoga teacher. Read more to learn more about Courtney’s story. Connect with Courtney on Instagram to follow her journey of battling chronic pain.

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“I think people need to learn how to accept their current body first. You got to love yourself every step of the way.” – Courtney G.

What has been you biggest dietary struggle and how have you overcome it?

My biggest dietary struggle was overcoming an eating disorder and learning how to properly nourish my body without guilt. Learning to gain back control was so hard. I still battle with moments, even to this day, with the little voice in my head trying to fill me with guilt and regret. I’m a lot more headstrong now though. I practice yoga and meditation and have noticed that increasing my self-awareness really helps.

Explain your current eating patterns. How have they influenced your overall quality of life?

Currently, I eat a high protein diet. I avoid most processed foods and dairy besides Greek yogurt. It always works for me because with all the protein I’m consuming, I feel full all the time. I also eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies because I am a volume eater, so I try to fill up on lower calorie foods. My energy levels have skyrocketed.

Do you believe that restrictive dieting at an early age leads to disordered eating? How so?

YES, YES, AND YES!!! As someone who developed Bulimia in 8th grade, I 100% agree that restrictive dieting leads to disordered eating. I was put on a popular low calorie, keto-genic diet in 5th grade. I lost 20lbs and noticed how nicer people were to me and all the complements I received. Then, I yoyo dieted up until 8th grade. It started as calorie restriction (800 cals a day, MAX) then led to binging and purging at least once a day. I battled with this until I was in 12th grade. (forewarning: a bit graphic here sorry guys) The reason I stopped was I actually created a tear in my esophagus which caused me to have blood in my vomit. This scared me so much I decided to never do it again although I did have a couple relapses here and there.

What is your opinion on the diet culture and how do you think it has influenced society?

Alright so I think diet culture is horrible. Everywhere we look we see “quick fixes” which is just another word for crash diet. People screw with their metabolisms so much by doing these short-term 2 week detoxes or 30-day cleanses. We need to focus more on lifestyle changes than quick fixes.

What does intuitive eating mean to you and how do you practice it daily?

So intuitive eating is hard for me sometimes because I am a bored and emotional eater. I still have to learn healthier habits then going to food when I’m stressed or have nothing else to do. First thing I do when I get home from anywhere is open the fridge and stare. I count my macros now but have also learned to intertwine intuitive eating into that.

What is your opinion on the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement? How has this changed your view on health, beauty and nutrition?

I didn’t know what HAES was before this interview, so I did some research. I like that it is inclusive to ALL body types and focuses on being healthy not just physically but, mentally as well. Self-care is so important in this day and age. As a student, I forget way too often to take time to care for myself. I definitely don’t see anything wrong with it. I think people need to learn how to accept their current body first. You got to love yourself every step of the way.

Explain how your current eating patterns have changed your overall health and well being.

I feel so much more energized. The past a couple of years I’ve battled with a chronic pain disorder called Interstitial Cystitis and I sought comfort in low nutrition, processed foods. I’ve changed my diet to eating more fresh ingredients and limiting breads and dairy for the most part. I haven’t felt this good in so long.

Share some tips on what you do when eating out at a restaurant.

Okay, so right off the bat if there is no nutrition information I will order a protein with a side or two of veggies. If I’m at a Mexican restaurant (California has one on every corner) I either go for a salad with chicken, no dairy, and use guacamole as my dressing or two soft tacos cause sometimes I just want them. If a restaurant does have nutrition info, I plan ahead of time.

What advice would you give to someone dealing with similar health/food issues?

Learning to have a healthy relationship with food after battling an eating disorder is HARD. Start off not counting anything because that can easily land you right back into your ED. Eat foods that nourish you. Eat lots of colors like fruits and veggies. Avoid trigger foods (any kind of processed sweet or fast food for me). Become comfortable with your body. It’s so hard and I wish I had a perfect answer. Also, ask yourself questions after you eat certain foods like, do you feel sleepy or energetic and does it keep you full long enough? Are you satisfied?

What is your “food philosophy” that you strongly believe in?

“Food is energizing”. Listen to what your body has to say after you eat every food.

What is your favorite food/recipe that you enjoy making?

This sounds so cliché, but I love making green smoothies. I used to drink them every morning but it’s hard with being a student. Here’s my favorite one I came up with:

Greek Yogurt Smoothie

  • 1 container coconut light and fit Greek yogurt
  • LOTS of spinach!!!
  • Half a banana (frozen)
  • Ice
  • Coconut water to preferred consistency

Inspiring Women: Madi Wenger

Inspiring Women & Their Relationship With Food

Disclaimer:The information provided by these women is for information purposes only and is not advice given directly from me. Eating lifestyles that work for them may not work the same way for you. If you have, or ever have had issues with food, these answers may be triggering. This is a space for women to bravely share their story. If this is in any way triggering to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.

In this blog series, I ask women from my life questions pertaining to their relationship with food and how it affects their eating lifestyle. They share their individual dietary struggles and how to overcome them. They also give their honest opinion about diet culture, Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, and how to practice intuitive eating. Each of these women are inspiring to me and I hope that you can also be inspired by their stories and ways of practicing mindful eating habits.

Madi is a fellow Penn State alumnus with a B.S. in Film-Video Studies. Madi is a very talented film-maker, loves books, and loves Jesus. Madi is a staff member of Disciplemakers Christian Fellowship college ministry, helping college students pursue a relationship with Jesus by making disciples.  Madi is an awesome friend and anyone that knows her loves her because she is so sweet! Madi states, “Eating in moderation has freed me from viewing food as a master and has helped me to lose weight and honor God with my eating habits.[sic]” Read more to about how Madi has learned to eat in moderation and enjoy food!

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“For so long I thought that being ‘healthy’ meant that I needed to lose weight. And I know now that the goal shouldn’t be just losing weight, but primarily seeking to live a healthy life.” – Madi Wenger

What has been you biggest dietary struggle and how have you overcome it?

For most of my life, I have been enslaved to food, looking to it for comfort, satisfaction, and joy. Honestly, food is amazing, but it is not fully satisfying. Before college, I had no awareness of moderate eating or what that looked like. I ate what I wanted to eat, when I wanted to eat it, no matter how it would affect me. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college when I found myself dreaming about a piece of cheesecake during one of my classes that I realized that I had a problem. I was addicted to food. I am a Christian, and that year I started realizing how enslaved I was to food, and the Bible talks about how Christians are set free from slavery to sin, and I was definitely enslaved to the sin of gluttony. The more I realized how enslaved I was to food, the more it disgusted me. I started taking a course on a Biblical perspective of weight loss, and it radically changed my view of eating, food, and honoring God with my body and what I put in my mouth. My biggest takeaway from that course was that the key to healthy weight loss is that eating in moderation and that we should not vilify foods. While eating moderately, I started losing weight. My relationship with food was a lot healthier, and I no longer felt enslaved to food.
However, after college I started struggling with food again, and it has taken a while for me to figure out how to eat moderately when I no longer had my food prepared for me by campus dining. I have gained weight, but over the past few months, I feel like I’m starting to see progress in eating moderately again and viewing food in a healthy way.

Explain your current eating patterns. How have they influenced your overall quality of life?

Honestly, right now my current eating pattern is just trying to eat in moderation and to eat mindfully. That means that if I want a cookie, I can have a cookie.  I have found  a helpful budget that works for me, and it gives me a helpful boundary for eating moderately while also freeing me from feeling like I can’t eat certain foods. I know what a good calorie range is to fuel my body but to also lose weight in a healthy and steady way.

Do you believe that restrictive dieting at an early age leads to disordered eating? How so?

The only restrictive dieting I have struggled with is trying to cut carbs or sweets during certain seasons of my life. While cutting these things at times have helped me to lose weight, it definitely tricked my brain to want them because I couldn’t have them. I have learned that a more moderate approach towards these things is healthy, meaning bread and sweets are okay in moderation.

What is your opinion on the diet culture and how do you think it has influenced society?

Diet culture has influenced our society more than we care to admit or realize. It has created a culture in which we view certain foods as evil or wrong. First it was fats, and now it’s carbs. The answer isn’t villainizing food. Now, if you have a food allergy or an intolerance or if certain foods affect you in harmful ways, that is a different story.

What does intuitive eating mean to you and how do you practice it daily?

Honestly, when you struggle with food addiction, intuitive eating is hard, because it is hard for me to feel full, but I definitely feel hungry. I’ve learned to be more mindful when I am eating, and to ask myself before eating if I actually am hungry. It is harder for me to know when I am full, but having a calorie budget each day gives me a healthy indicator of when I need to stop eating as I learn more about feeling full.

What is your opinion on the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement? How has this changed your view on health, beauty and nutrition?

I really appreciate the Health At Every Size movement. For so long I thought that being “healthy” meant that I just needed to lose weight. And I know now that the goal shouldn’t be just losing weight, but primarily seeking to live a healthy life. I think that’s why eating in moderation has been so helpful for me, because it does lead to weight loss (which will help me to be more healthy). When we equate health mainly with weight, we do ourselves a lot of harm.

Explain how your current eating patterns have changed your overall health and well-being.

Viewing food as something to be enjoyed moderately has  freed me from the pressure and stress of feeling like I need to cut things out of my diet or that I can’t cook things with butter or eat carbs or enjoy sweets. That is hogwash. Every time I struggle with food or gain weight, it’s because I’m viewing food as my master and not eating in moderation. But food is not my master. Eating in moderation has freed me from viewing food as a master and has helped me to lose weight and honor God with my eating habits.

Share some tips on what you do when eating out at a restaurant.

I’ll keep saying it, but moderation is key. It is okay to have a meal out or to have dessert or appetizers or sweets, but just do so in moderation. If it helps you to cut your portions in half as soon as your food arrives, by all means, ask for a to-go box and cut it in half. Or even consider sharing with someone while you’re out. My husband and I will sometimes share meals, especially if it’s somewhere that I might be tempted to eat more than I should.

What advice would you give to someone dealing with similar health/food issues?

There is always hope. For me, I struggled with feeling enslaved to food for most of my life, but there is always hope for freedom. Eating moderately is hard work, but it brings freedom. Food does not have to enslave you. Trust me, it will never satisfy. So enjoy it as a good gift from God, but in moderation. Also, remember that you reap what you sow. If you sow eating moderately, you will reap in terms of healthy eating and increasing health in your life.

What is your “food philosophy” that you strongly believe in?

I guess my food philosophy would be “It’s all about moderation.” But also that progress is better than perfection. If you mess up and eat too much, there is always hope. You can always try again tomorrow and work towards progress.
“Food is a good gift enjoyed in moderation.”

What is your favorite food/recipe that you enjoy making?

This might sound weird, but one of my new favorite recipes is making french dip sandwiches. I don’t have a specific recipe, but you can find one online.

Inspiring Women: Alexandra Gionta

Inspiring Women & Their Relationship With Food

Disclaimer:The information provided by these women is for information purposes only and is not advice given directly from me. Eating lifestyles that work for them may not work the same way for you. If you have, or ever have had issues with food, these answers may be triggering. This is a space for women to bravely share their story. If this is in any way triggering to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.

In this blog series, I ask women from my life questions pertaining to their relationship with food and how it affects their eating lifestyle. They share their individual dietary struggles and how to overcome them. They also give their honest opinion about diet culture, Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, and how to practice intuitive eating. Each of these women are inspiring to me and I hope that you can also be inspired by their stories and ways of practicing mindful eating habits.

My sister, Alexandra, is a graduate from Cal Poly Pomona with a B.S. in Microbiology and an overall awesome human being. She amazes me of how incredible she is which could just be me being a proud sister, but she truly is amazing. One of her recent accomplishments is getting accepted into Western University’s Physician Assistant program (she’s super smart no big deal). I am proud to call her my sister and best friend. You’ll see her sense of humor and hilarious comments as you read more to learn more about my sister and her relationship with food.  Also, check her out on Instagram! 

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It is almost like we think of the word “diet” as this temporary weight loss remedy when really the definition is..the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”  I think it’s important to construct a personal eating lifestyle based on what works for your body because everyone is different.”  – Alexandra Gionta

What has been your biggest dietary struggle and how have you overcome it?

My biggest dietary struggle is finding the time and energy to make health-fulfilling meals. With my schedule, it’s difficult to make conscious choices in what I am eating rather than just finding the quickest and most satisfying option at the time. To be honest, I can’t say that I have overcome this because I feel like I’ll try for one day and then I can’t incorporate it into a lifestyle. I really want to put forth more of an effort to do so and I think just expressing it in this blog is a good start.

Explain your current eating patterns. How have they influenced your overall quality of life?

I tend to not eat breakfast, which I know is a big problem because I find myself getting really hungry at night. I also feel that this limits my energy throughout the day and I start feeling sluggish at work/school. I have been getting better at eating in the mornings but I have not been on a consistent eating schedule. One breakfast I enjoy is toast with bananas and almond butter, so I am trying to encourage my appetite by eating that for breakfast.

Because of a GI issue I experience, the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Apple/applesauce and Tea/toast) focused diet really helps me feel better throughout the day. I also drink a lot of coconut water which keeps me hydrated and feeling wonderful. I always joke that coconut water is always the answer (But really, Jesus is…)

Do you believe that restrictive dieting at an early age leads to disordered eating? How so?

Based on my experience in high school I feel that restrictive eating has impacted my life negatively. I had a habit of eating and immediately going to the gym. There were days I would be at the gym 2-3 times a day or go to the gym right after volleyball practice because I didn’t think I burned enough calories.  One day my best friend called me out. She noticed I was losing a lot of weight and that I would avoid hanging out with friends/spending time with family in order to workout what I just ate. My friend told me “I challenge you to eat and not go to the gym. Just sit and enjoy having a full stomach.” This freaked me out, but I did it and it really helped. I am very grateful that friend noticed and said something to me because it helped me grow tremendously. I did end up gaining weight after this growth but I was fine with it because I was happy and not so anxious about burning calories. I encourage you all to support your friends if you notice they are experiencing an eating disorder of some sort.

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What is your opinion on the diet culture and how do you think it has influenced society?

I cannot keep up with all the diets out there. Paleo, keto, juice cleanses… I don’t even fully understand how they work haha.  I think a lot of the time people just want to be able to share on social media or tell their friends about this new diet they are on because it gives them purpose (sorry if that was to honest). There is also pressure to participate in these diets to be “healthy” but they really end up just being a fad for people. It is almost like we think of the word “diet” as this temporary weight loss remedy when really the definition is..the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”  I think it’s important to construct a personal eating lifestyle based on what works for your body because everyone is different. For example, one time I ate chipotle and yogurtland within a 4 hour time span and I felt like I had a bean, cheese, yogurt, and sugar hangover for the next two days so I decided that won’t be a part of my regular diet. Then one day I ate brown rice and beans with chicken and vegetables and I felt like Beyonce, so I decided to incorporate that more into my diet. Its a trial-by-error thing and you find what compliments your body and what doesn’t.  (Just and FYI, chipotle and yogurtland are great…just not at the same time.)

What does intuitive eating mean to you and how do you practice it daily?

Well I mean in theory this sounds great but I crave chocolate chip cookies like all the time and I know for sure that a cookie a day does not keep the doctor away. I also know that several times I have been like “Oh I am so full..” as I reach for said food item right in front of me. BUT, I do find that when I log my food/track my exercise it helps me realize why I am more hungry at times or crave certain foods. For example, one day I just really wanted an apple for some reason and I was looking at my food log and saw I didn’t eat any fruit/lacking vitamin C…it made sense. Then when I was at school I would get hungry all the time and felt guilty about it. When I started tracking my  steps I realized I was walking so much around campus that I was burning more than I knew. It helped me understand my body better and have more trust in my intuitive eating.

What is your opinion on the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement? How has this changed your view on health, beauty and nutrition?

I think its awesome. When I go on social media I feel like there is this “one size” that’s beautiful and it’s just straight up fake. Diversity makes life more beautiful and I like how HAES promotes that. 

Explain how your current eating patterns have changed your overall health and well being.

I like to try new foods at restaurants. Depending on who I am with, I usually will ask for a nutrition guide/menu so I can see what I am putting into my body. Not just for calories but for things like sodium and trans fat. I also ask for adjustments if necessary like no bacon or tortilla strips so make it a little bit healthier. But sometimes I want the bacon and tortilla strips so YOLO.

What is your “food philosophy” that you strongly believe in?

“Food is lil nuggets of love for your body.”

What is your favorite food/recipe that you enjoy making?

Friggin’ love Caprese Salad. Big mozzarella balls sliced on thick slices of tomatoes with olive oil and vinegar with lots of basil! DAYUM so good.