Life’s Real Sweetness

If this post seems caffeine-induced, that’s probably because it is.

With the early shift at the coffee shop, keeping up with schoolwork, and trying to train for a relay marathon at the end of the month, coffee has felt like a necessity. A delicious, energizing necessity.

In the midst of craziness, there has been time for sweetness.

Un-contrived, mostly unplanned moments that make life sparkle with meaning and joy. Here’s a little glimpse…

We’ve been soaking up the warm sun this past week by spending evenings at the park…

Workouts that leave me like this make me happy and energized all day

My little sister turned eighteen almost a month ago and I still can’t believe it.

And then, I turned twenty myself. 

There is something about reaching a milestone of maturity and yet feeling so far from it that makes you realize how very precious this life is.

All I wanted to do my birthday weekend was go on long adventurous hikes with my family.

Simple, everyday moments. So natural and yet so special. Life in its real sweetness.

If we don’t grab on to it now, it will slip our grasp.

It’s Day 22 of my fast of processed and packaged foods. To be perfectly honest, there have been a few cheat days. But on those days, the little treats that snuck in have been exactly that — treats and not habits. That is exactly how I want to feel toward sweets — special on the occasion but not necessary every day.

I’ve been experimenting with satisfying my sweet tooth naturally. Do you know what I’ve discovered? It’s just like the simple gifts of life — it’s the real, un-contrived foods that give sweetness at its best. Sweetness you can feel good about.

I made these cookies on the afternoon of my twentieth birthday. I wanted to celebrate without compromising my Real Food challenge. So I opened the fridge and pantry cupboards and began pulling out an army of ingredients.

These were totally unplanned and had great potential for failure. No sugar, no flour, no butter or oil, no egg, no recipe. My chances of producing something edible were mighty slim, but I think it was the excitement of embarking on a new decade that gave me courage.

Surprise of all surprises — they worked. And they were delicious. 

So delicious in fact, Jenny couldn’t keep her hands off of them.

“These are the best things you ever made. Seriously. I think turning twenty has made you a really good cook.”

I really had no idea how to interpret that so I just kept munching and smiled. She has no idea she basically consumed a day’s worth of vegetables and whole grains in the four cookies she ate.

It’s the natural, bite-sized moments in life that are the sweetest.

 Carrot Cake Apple Bites

~ makes 12 cookies

Ingredients

  •  1/3  c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 c. oat flour
  •  ¼ t. salt
  •  ½ t. cinnamon
  •  ½ t. baking powder
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. vanilla
  •  ¾ c. grated apple
  •  ½ c. grated carrots
  •  2 T. almond milk
  • ¼ c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. chopped apple
  • 1/3 c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • To make buckwheat flour and oat flour: process raw buckwheat groats/raw oats in a food processor or blender until a fine, flour-like texture
  • In a large bowl, combine buckwheat flour, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and rolled oats.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together honey and vanilla. Stir in the grated apple and carrots and almond milk.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
  • Mix in coconut, chopped apple, and rolled oats.
  • Drop by teaspoonful on to prepared baking sheet. These cookies will not spread out much at all when baking so shape them as you want them to look after baking.
  • Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Nutrition Facts for 1 cookie~ Calories: 83.5, Total Fat: 4.6g (Sat.fat: 2.8g), Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 53.6mg, Potassium 39.5mg, Total Carbohydrate: 11.6g (Dietary Fiber: 3.0g, Sugars 3.6g) Protein: 1.5g.

Cookies for breakfast, anyone?

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40 Days of Conscious, Natural Eating

“Fasting is an expression of seeking God with life-and-death seriousness”
– John Piper

I’m on Day 5 of a 40-day long journey.

For forty days I am fasting off of all processed foods. The purpose is more than just to gain an appreciation of real food (though that is definitely included). It is more than just denying myself for the season of Lent. My real motivation is to be more actively engaged in prayer and ministry with time and energy normally spent eating.

I have two “focus points” for this challenge:

  • A 40 Days for Life campaign is going on in my city during the Lent season. It is a community prayer vigil for the awareness and protection of human life.
  • A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor. This devotional-style book has daily readings to guide intercession for undeveloped countries where hunger is a life-threatening issue. By eating a diet similar to these cultures for forty days, I hope to be reminded to be in constant prayer.

This is going to be hard at times, but I am so excited. Excited to see where eating intentionally and with purpose leads my thoughts and prayers and actions. I’m also excited to share what I learn with you. I have a number of posts lining up: What I’m not eating v. what I’m eating, a day in unprocessed meals, hunger v. appetite, being satisfied with less, and 100% natural recipes!

For now, here are the lessons I’ve learned these first five days:

1)      I am such a product of this convenience, have-what-I-want-when-I-want-it culture. Food is so available to me, when I go to the grocery store, when I walk into the drugstore, when I’m studying at the kitchen table. It doesn’t take much thought to find food, but I also realize that I often orient my day in terms of food: Before my run, I’ll grab a handful of nuts and afterwards I’ll make a smoothie…As soon as I get to work I’m making myself a latte…Friends are coming over, I need to stock up on chips and dip…I can’t wait to end this day with a big bowl of popcorn and some chocolate. These thoughts stem from food habits, not necessity and are foreign to most of the world where the purpose of eating is nourishment and survival.

2)      To combat sweet cravings, don’t limit FRUIT: I’m really giving myself no limitations here. The idea is that if I satisfy my sweet cravings with fruit, I won’t be tempted by sugar. Fruit has been my #1 snack, and I’m making it my job to keep the fridge well stocked with apples, berries, and oranges. And, of course, BANANAS. I think I’ve been averaging 2.5 a day.

3)      Fill your plate with fresh VEGETABLES in their natural state: Again, no limit here. I am trying to bulk up my meals with produce, eating them in their most natural forms possible – either raw, roasted or stir-fried over the stove. Cutting out processed ingredients means skipping my typical seasonings like stir-fry sauce. Minimal seasoning’s been going on with salt + pepper, herbs, and lemon juice. What I’m finding is this way of cooking brings out the natural flavors vegetables which are amazing on their own!

  • Discovery: Mushrooms are amazing. I bought a huge box of baby Portabellas and have been throwing them into almost every savory dish. They add tremendous flavor and are stellar on the nutrition scale: 5g of protein and 3g fiber for each cup plus high levels of minerals like selenium, B vitamins, and riboflavin.

4)      Eating only unprocessed WHOLE GRAINS expands creativity. Starchy carbs are my number one craving and I knew going into this challenge the hardest thing for me to give up would be processed grains – cereal crackers, pretzels, packaged bread, tortilla chips. If I am going to persevere through this, I need to get creative with real whole grains. Brown rice, buckwheat, oats, cornmeal bulgur – this are the staples of the underdeveloped world (and most of the world, for that matter) and for the next forty days, they are mine too.

5)      All that’s needed to make a meal is Grain+Vegetable+Protein. For breakfast this has been oats + pumpkin(or sub fruit for vegetable) + nuts, lunch is homemade tortilla (recipe coming soon!!) + green veggie + beans, and dinner is brown rice/bulgur + beans or tofu + salad. No condiments, no frills. Simple and satisfying.

6)      Making one-pot meals and not snacking takes my mind off of food and onto more important things. Instead of my typical snack-through-day habit, I am attempting an approach of eating three meals a day, not for social or boredom reasons, but simply to feed my body well. When the munchies hit, instead of hitting the snack cupboard, I am purposing to get my thoughts and hands busy accomplishing this list:

  • Pray for country and people featured in A Place at the Table
  • Pray through missionary list provided from my church
  • Sign up for a time slot at 40 Days for Life
  • Read: Currently Bonhoeffer and Francis Schaeffer
  • Call a friend or family members
  • Take a walk with my mom and sisters

I plan on getting a lot done these forty days!!

Life in this Fight

The other day, a friend asked me what prompted my desire to work with eating disorders as a Dietitian (if I ever make it through college, that is!). I paused a moment before answering. Before telling the truth.

I don’t often tell people about my personal struggle with an eating disorder. It makes them uncomfortable and it is hard to explain all the emotions and pain that can be associated with food.

But it is an important part of my life that has shaped who I am and driven my goals for the future. I know I need to talk about it. To share what I’ve learned. To be honest with myself and acknowledge that this battle may never go away.

I tell myself it’s gone. After all, my weight isn’t dropping, I don’t measure salsa or count my carrots, and I don’t keep a meticulous food journal any more.

But it isn’t gone.

Everyday, I battle thoughts and habits of disordered eating. I think about everything that goes into my mouth. One day, I might feel free to eat what I want, but then I lie in bed condemning myself for “over-indulging”. I still categorize foods as “good” or “bad”, acceptable and taboo.

Eating in public stresses me out. People will see and judge what I eat, there will be no control over how things are made, there will be pressure to eat for social’s sake.

Everyday it is a fight. And I’m tempted to be discouraged, to throw up my arms and give up in the face of negative thoughts and the blunt reality of my weakness. I just want it to be over. Once and for all.

But, lately, I’ve come  to realize that may never happen. This fight may be here to stay.

We all have that struggle that, wish as we might, won’t leave. It may be anger, depression, finance trouble, painful relationships, communication problems, and the list goes on. It overwhelms us, binds our thoughts and exhausts our emotions. We experience victories but for there are also moments of defeat.

The truth is — painful as it may seem at times — there is life in the fight.

In the fight there is life.

When I’m tempted to rely on old restrictive habits, I need to exercise my mind to combat wrong thoughts and ideals that lead me to those habits. I can’t be passive — I’ll either cave in or I will meet the challenge head on to be stretched and grow stronger.

Instead of running, let’s embrace the fight. We can even learn to fight with joy.

Another vital thing I’m learning is to never ever fight on your own. Reaching out for the support of family and friends is one of the major pillars of my healing. Most importantly, it’s my faith in Jesus and His power that enables me to stop trusting in food, or exercise, or a thin body to make me happy. He takes away those desires by filling my heart with a desire for Him. He says, “he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35) and His Word gives me hope.

The powers of darkness and lies have been broken. So even though my daily battles with food may seem so strong, I won’t be overcome.

I don’t plan to sit back and let this battle knock me down. I plan to face each new day relying the strength of my mighty God, breathing deeply the freedom of truth, and prepare to fight.

And in that fight, I will live.

*read My Nourishing Story for more on my journey