WIAW: do what matters

Life’s been crazy lately. In a really, really good way, but of course some things naturally fall to the wayside to make room for others. That’s just life and lately I’ve been trying really hard to just focus on things that matter. Grocery shopping doesn’t matter right now. But spending time with friends, talking to my momma + brothers consistently, finishing up school, and investing in community does matter.

During other seasons of life, I have more of a plan for what the week will look like in terms of food. I’ll go to the grocery store with a lovely list of what I want to pack for lunches and eat for dinners. I have time for bookmarking a few recipes and thinking about what foods sound good that I can cook up on a Sunday and store away in the fridge for the week ahead.

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WIAW breakfast: Vega One French Vanilla, ½ frozen naner, frozen spinach, almond milk, ice cubes + oatmeal made with chia seeds and apples in an almost empty PB jar

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Now that doesn’t mean that I’m a legitimate meal-planner or prepper (more like, here’s my attempt at organizing my life… really, I’d rather be doing other things when I DO have extra time) but I’ll often do some cooking and baking on the weekend and then freeze extras to have on hand for later on.

As of recently, well…. other than picking up a couple things here and there, I haven’t seen the inside of the grocery store for more than 15 minutes in weeks. My fridge consists of 7 eggs, a ½ bag of carrots, a lemon and a carton of almond milk. And my freezer was emptied of its stock of leftovers quite a while back. But proudly, the dark chocolate and PB stash is holding strong. My eats have been more like grab-what-I-got, super simple, and eaten out most of the time. Actually, I realized last night after dinner that I haven’t eaten dinner at home in over a week. Thank God for the New York food scene. There really hasn’t been time for grocery shopping + planning, but actually, it just hasn’t mattered to me lately.

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Lunch at Whole Foods hot bar in between Nutshell clients 

There was a time when I would have had a harder time just rolling with this season of life. When I first started out as an RD, I felt sort of guilty in the back of my mind when I had these sorts of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants weeks. If my fridge wasn’t bursting with produce and I didn’t have a pretty good idea of what I had on hand, I felt off balance- like I wasn’t holding up my persona of that kale loving, fridge stocked dietitian.

Especially since a lot of times when you’re busy and eating without a plan, you also are eating without a timeline. In other words, sometimes lunch is at three because that’s when I have a break or dinner isn’t until 9 because that’s when I’m meeting friends for dinner.

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Snacks // Iced Americano with soy milk + morning glory muffin at a coffee friend date and dark chocolate + PB

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Eating without anything even resembling a plan lately has been a reminder that the body is pretty darn smart. I’m totally winging it and yet somehow, I’m doing just fine. Other than my wallet being kind of sad, I feel good and I’m finding a balance that works for me right now. Grocery shopping + cooking sounds stressful, eating out isn’t stressful. And we know stress is bad. “Healthy” eating is going to change depending on what our lives look like, and right now- this is what it’s looking like.

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Dinner // Hummus and Pita Co. veg plate with all kinds of goodness [I don’t even remember what all was in this but I remember it was really good]

Some days I’m starving, some days not so much. Our appetites and hunger don’t follow a consistent rhythm or routine. The beauty of the human body is that it waxes and wanes depending on so many factors – it’s not an exact science in the least. So the best thing we can do for ourselves is go with the rhythm of life.

Some days I want all the carbs and other days, I am adding avocado and peanut butter to everything and eating nearly an entire bar of dark chocolate as a snack, really though. And these days, I’m just grabbing what I can, trying to fill my plate half the way with veg and the other half with some protein and carbs and fats depending on what I’m feeling.

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Eating without a plan has definitely meant that some weeks I’m eating out a lot more than I typically would, or I’m eating things that I could care less about since I scraped them together while running out the door. But that’s okay. Because when life slows back down, there will always be time to get back in the kitchen, stock the fridge and cook at home again.

Until then, I’m giving myself lots and lots of grace. And then doing do what matters. Because for me, when time is short and life is busy, that doesn’t mean grocery shopping and cooking.

Real Life Transparency & Transformation: When Disorder Feels like Order and Then It Doesn’t

In the midst of a busy season where I don’t have the capacity to generate original content regulary, I’m opening up this space to share others’ stories of food freedom and true health. If it’s on your heart to share, email me at robyncoale@gmail. As a disclaimer, while these stories do not contain specific numbers, at times they do illustrate disordered eating behaviors as the story is told- if that triggers you, please take care of yourself and skip over these posts. With that said, my hope is that these stories encourage + refresh you, breathe new life into your soul, drown out lies with truth, and flood your heart with unrelenting grace. 
Today, I’m sharing a story that’s raw and real and ongoing. Walking through the thick of an eating disorder is messy, yet beautiful in such  a fierce way. I hope this story of unrelenting courage + perseverance  inspires and blesses you guys like crazy!

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My story about food and exercise probably has a lot of parallels with yours. That saddens me, uplifts me, and humbles me. The synchronicity of our experiences reminds me that bodies are organisms that seek nourishment – when we disturb our metabolisms for our own “comfort,” the consequences are universal. Our bodies are vessels, and they cannot set us apart nor dictate our worth. Reading others’ courageous, beautiful stories has affirmed that reassuring truth for me.

My growing-up years looked great on paper, and in many ways, they were great – I had a loving family and many friends; I loved school, sports, and music. Although I managed to float on the surface of sadness, adolescence had its challenges. Three of my grandparents died in four months, which began the disintegration of my parents’ marriage. The closest substitute I had for a little sister died when we were young teenagers. People I loved struggled with moods darker than I could fathom. I grew up pretty fast, but I miraculously forestalled the stage at which girls begin to feel body-conscious, perhaps because I had a slight build to begin with. I was active but rarely “worked out.” My family’s diet was nutritious but realistic, which probably stems from my mom’s struggle with an eating disorder in young adulthood. We ate whole foods most of the time, but we also had potato chips and cookies on hand. Through high school, I hardly ever worried or even thought about food.

In college, my eating and exercise behavior changed so gradually that many people failed to notice. It was part habit formation, part genetic predisposition, part mockery of societal norms, and part chance, but by the end of my sophomore year, I developed an eating disorder that damaged my body and ravaged my mind. I was driven less by concern over what my body looked like and more by the postmodern haze of virtue that surrounds restraint and self-mastery. Of course, my weight and appearance mattered to me, but mostly as a metric of the “success” of my restriction.

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Though my descent was subtle, concerned friends, a perplexed boyfriend, and my mom noticed my changing behavior and my weight creeping downward. I knew in an abstract, scientific way that I had an eating disorder, and that eating disorders are dangerous. I just couldn’t acknowledge that I needed help. I didn’t want to worsen others’ concern, and I worried if I admitted I was unwell, I might be forced to get better. At my doctor’s encouragement, I half-heartedly saw a dietician and a psychologist, for one session each. Throughout college, I was a slew of paradoxes – functional and “successful” in the presence of others, a mess when no one was looking, holding fast to God (indeed, His necessity was palpable when I was at my worst) and yet desecrating the body He gave me.

In the few years after I graduated, I enjoyed certain aspects of life, but worsening restriction and compulsive exercise had eroded most of what made living meaningful – gratitude, joy, and peace were hard to come by. Like most people who interfere with their metabolisms, I had some odd, hunger-induced behaviors. I avidly read grocery store circulars. At work, I sometimes tried to defog my mind by secretly downing single sugar packets in the bathroom. The false euphoria of hunger mattered more to me than my weight. But, I stepped on a scale last winter “just to check.” My low weight surprised me, and I decided I should at least try to maintain. But I kept losing, and the last illusions of control I had were falling through my fingers. I began seeing a therapist, and at her patiently persistent recommendations, an RD. At the time, I was ready to admit I had a problem, but not ready to change. My meal plan seemed feasible on paper in my RD’s office. But once I got home, I would quietly put the paper in my file cabinet, where I could pretend to forget about it.

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Last June, I thought I pulled my hip flexor while running. A few days after the onset, I woke up to find that I was in such severe pain I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. My doctors attributed the pain to overuse, gave me crutches, and prescribed Painkillers That Mean Business. I eventually learned I had piriformis syndrome, which means a muscle behind my glutes was inflamed enough to pinch the sciatic nerve that runs through it.

This injury rocked me. I could hardly move, let alone exercise. I spent a lot of time after work crying on my couch – out of physical discomfort (pinched nerves really hurt), neurological discomfort (I was in endorphin withdrawal) and psychological discomfort (I couldn’t satisfy my exercise compulsion). I was flummoxed by myself. I had always been resilient, social, pragmatic, and giving. I realized that my disorder had divested me of these qualities.

My desperate body was begging me to rest. Blessedly, the binary, all-or-nothing mindset of an eating disorder convinced me that if I couldn’t exercise, I might as well eat more, too. After I got off crutches, I decided to follow my meal plan perfectly for just a day. The eating was excruciating. Somehow, I followed it again the next day. On the third day I told my therapist about my begrudgingly-accomplished “victory.” She asked if I would follow the meal plan that day, and I said I would try. She suggested that at this stage, “trying” was a moot point. I had been “trying” to recover for years. I could either eat adequately or not. I ate according to the plan that day, and the next, and the next, until I stopped counting the days.

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That was nine months ago. I’m still eating, still prioritizing rest, and warily returning to exercise. My period has returned, and I got takeout Chinese food last night (!). I avoid messages that explicitly or implicitly advocate for restriction, moralize food, or idolize exercise. I am growing back into my clothes, but I still have more weight to gain. In all honesty, sometimes I crave full health and sometimes I miss the safe minimalism of my disorder. But I spent years pretending I didn’t “want” to eat bread. So when I don’t want recovery, I try to remember I have a lot of practice overriding my wants. These days, my will almost always conquers my transitory, disordered emotions.

As Robyn emphasizes a lot, sometimes even the actually-healthy “healthy living” dogma no longer applies. I can’t “eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full,” because my hunger cues are so variable. Mindful eating sounds nice in principle, but usually it’s easier for me to eat while distracted. Ironically, when I began recovery I portioned my food using measuring cups (which was never a behavior I used during my disorder), so that I could eat enough. I’d love to ditch the scale but I can’t – my RD weighs me regularly, and I know if she didn’t I wouldn’t trust myself to keep gaining.

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I am slowly letting my disorder go with my hands facing upward instead of down; I am being given so much more to fill its place. The question I keep asking and answering is “What will you gain when you gain?” (Sorry, Special K marketing team.) I began caring for myself, and bent my knees waiting for the earth to shake. But the earth is still spinning along, and my legs are straightening out. Other people were integral in my recovery – so if you’re contemplating disclosing your struggle, please do it. In this process, I realized that seeking support is not a denial of God’s goodness; indeed, it is often a manifestation of it. My self-exceptionalism tricked me into believing that I need less because I deserve less, or I deserve less because I need less. Recently, though, I’ve been reminded that grace and unconditional love have nothing to do with deserving. Gratefully, we cannot earn our worth.

Those of us who struggle with food and exercise maintain standards for ourselves that we would never wish on others. I don’t know much, but I do know that statistically, we can’t all be exceptions. Can you imagine treating ourselves with the same care we would offer to one another? My hope for us is that we can move toward that self-compassion, remembering that we are all loved beyond measure.

and we’re done!

Good morning!

So the blog has been totally neglected this past week or so. And while I have plenty of reader stories piled up in my inbox, I take full fault for not getting those posted either. Woah baby, these past two weeks. They have been both exciting and super busy all at the same time where I haven’t even taken a legitimate trip to the grocery store in almost three weeks.

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But it’s been busy in such a sweet way. I traveled to Nashville a couple weeks ago to visit one of my very best friends, Whitney. I met Whit in Charlottesville and she moved to Nashville at the same time I moved to NYC last year. She’s become a sister to me, so spending time with her just laying by the pool, going on runs and dining al fresco was wonderful. I flew back to the city on a Tuesday morning last week and then worked 7 out of the next 9 days in the hospital. And a girls gotta see her friends, so on the two days I was off I had things going on Saturday and then hosted a brunch at my apartment the following Sunday. And to top it all off, we’ve been running around with a broker apartment hunting since my lease ends in….two weeks. And in NYC, renting an apartment basically involves handing over your first newborn and selling your soul. Kidding, but not really.

But I’m here! And while it’s been crazy busy, it’s been such an exciting season of life. And by the grace of God I’m not feeling run down but rather just a little all over the place. So today is all about picking up the pieces and getting life less messy…because it’s always going to be a little messy.

We graduate on Tuesday and that sounds absolutely insane as I type that out. Like, how did we get here so fast? Where has the past year gone? I’ve had so many things on my heart that kind of just spilled out yesterday on Instagram. It’s been one heck of a year. I have a longer post on this past year in the works, but I wanted to bop in just to reconnect with ya’ll because I’ve MISSED YOU.

As I think back on these past 12 months, life looks so much different than I expected. Even looking back to four months ago, life looks different than I expected in really good ways. I sometimes forget that I have a God that is bigger than I can fathom and who does what He wants, when He wants. And when I think my life is going in a linear projection, He shakes it up unexpectedly.

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So that’s where I’m at. Feeling just so thankful for this year of growth, relationships that have formed in this new city, a church that feels like home, friends that feel like family, a nursing career that fills my heart to the brim, and my momma + brothers who continue to love me so well even though there are miles between us.

And of course, feeling just super grateful for all of you and your unwavering support + love. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hopefully, in a few short weeks I’ll be able to say I’m an RN. And in the meantime you can expect more reader stories and also, new blog posts from me. Maybe not three days a week right now, but certainly at least once or twice. And once I’ve passed the NCLEX, I’m so very excited to throw myself back into the blog!

XO

Green For Spring

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Walgreens via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Walgreens

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After getting snow the first week of April, I think NYC has finally decided to fully embrace SPRING! Actually, it’s probably closer to summer than we think. I feel like it gets hot and humid way faster than I’d like, but I’ll take warmth in any form!

As the weather changes and we go from cold to warm to even hot, our bodies are adjusting and transitioning into a new rhythm. But even though we are settling into a new time of year, our nutritional needs aren’t really all that different from season to season. Supporting the immune system, keeping our guts healthy and decreasing inflammation are still the most important and lay the foundation for good health. But doing those things is much harder than actually saying you’re going to do it right? Right.

Good sleep, adequate nutrition that includes plenty of nutrient rich plant foods, and managing stress are hard to do in today’s busy, productivity driven world. In the ideal world, we’d all be in bed by 9:30 to read, asleep by 10pm and waking at 6am full of energy. We’d grab our lunchbox from the fridge packed with kale salad and sweet potatoes and all that jazz, sip our hot lemon water on the way to work and take a lunchtime walk in the sunshine.

And while some days that might happen, I know for me- that ain’t happening 8 times out of 10. Ummm, it’s more like run around checking off the to-do list till 10:30pm, rub lavender essential oils on my feet before bed to calm and relax me, fall asleep by 11, alarm goes off by 6:15 and I stumble straight to the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot. Rush out the door with green smoothie splattered on my white shirt, hair still wet from the shower I took 10 minutes prior, and the lunchbox is full of leftovers or the same thing I’ve eaten for the past 32 days in a row. And lunchtime walks…please. More like, how many emails can I answer in 30 minutes while eating a hummus wrap, printing off assignments and talking to my friend all at the same time.

And during seasons of life like that, we need all the help we can get.

Of course, good nutrition from whole foods is the best thing for our bodies. We’re talking as many fruits and vegetables you can get into your grocery cart –kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, berries, apples, lemons, and on and on and on. And let’s not forget about the amazingness of anti-inflammatory fatty acids from foods like coconut, avocado, raw nuts and seeds including hemp, chia and flax seed!

Moving on to the supplement aisle, a few of my favorites for keeping the immune system healthy and your gut bacteria thriving include:

Chlorophyll

This powerhouse is abundantly found in all green vegetables and it’s what allows plants to feed and grow from the sun. And it also packs your fruits and veggies full of nutrients which is what makes them energy builders and detoxifiers.

Spirulina

I talk about this blue-green algae all the time because there really isn’t a more nutrient dense food on this planet. Now, I’m all about a good burger one in a while, but if you think you need meat to get protein and iron—meet spirulina. It’s 60-70% protein, which is gram for gram, more than both red meat and soy. And not only is it a complete protein but it’s very rich in both iron and vitamin B12, which are nutrients primarily found in animal foods. You can buy spirulina in both capsule and powder form [to put in smoothies or baked goods] but I’ll be honest, I don’t like my smoothies to taste like grass clippings so I stick with the capsules and take 3-4 per day.

Probiotics

In a world where our food system is just well, whacked out, taking a good probiotic daily can only help our precious digestive systems. A high quality protein or greens powder will typically have a great probiotic blend in it—this is one of the many reason I love Vega One. Amazing Grass also has a stellar probiotic blend mixed into the powder. So by drinking a green smoothie made with Vega One 5 days a week I know I’m getting a good dose of those good bacteria. If you don’t care for the powders, I highly recommend a good quality probiotic like this Raw for Life Probiotic for Women.

Our lives are busy and while nutrition + sleep + stress management are all super important, sometimes supplements can give us the extra hand we need during crazy seasons of life. Purchasing your supplements from Walgreens is even better because you’re not only taking care of yourself, but spreading the love by helping care for hungry, malnourished children around the world. Now that’s something to get excited about!

Happy Spring!

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When shopping for vitamins, you might find it useful to know that you can help a child in need with every vitamins or supplements purchase at Walgreens. Millions of children around the world are suffering from ‘hidden hunger’, a lack of micronutrients that can lead to disease and even death. In fact, 45% of all childhood deaths are attributable to under-nutrition. Walgreens is giving a portion of all vitamin retail sales to Vitamin Angels to help 100 million children in the U.S. and abroad get the vitamins they need to live well.

Real Life Transparency + Transformation: Amy’s Story

In the midst of a busy season where I don’t have the capacity to generate original content regulary, I’m opening up this space to share others’ stories of food freedom and true health. If it’s on your heart to share, email me at robyncoale@gmail. As a disclaimer, while these stories do not contain specific numbers, at times they do illustrate disordered eating behaviors as the story is told- if that triggers you, please take care of yourself and skip over these posts. With that said, my hope is that these stories encourage + refresh you, breathe new life into your soul, drown out lies with truth, and flood your heart with unrelenting grace. 



Today, Amy is fearlessly sharing her influential story of transformation – a story that’s raw and real and active. Often we want recovery to have a neat, wrapped up ending, but what I love about Amy’s story is that it’s still an active process and I think that’s so encouraging and beautiful. Being a new momma, she’s a refreshing voice with an unique perspective. Amy, thank you for your courage, vulnerability, and heart. I hope her story inspires and blesses you guys like crazy!

photo credit Click Click Love

Over the past seven years, I have experienced more heartache, but ultimately more joy than I could have ever imagined.  

My relationship with food and my body has endured a long and bumpy road.  I was a little chubby as a kid, but I was active in sports and it never really bothered me.  When I was a senior in high school, however, I found that skipping meals here and there helped me to lose some weight.  It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.  College brought new challenges and an unhealthy, yet typical American diet.  During my sophomore year, I started going to the gym every day.  I continued this trend after college and through graduate school.  

My obsession with working out and controlling my food choices didn’t become dangerous until a couple of years later.  As a newly engaged twenty-something, I wanted to drop a few pounds that I had gained while dating my future husband.  I wasn’t looking to make drastic changes, but what started as a healthy desire to exercise and eat healthy food, quickly spun out of control.  The ironic part is that while I was trying so hard to control my food, my exercise, and my routines I actually was losing total control of my life.  I was diagnosed with anorexia less than two years into my marriage.  It almost destroyed my relationships with my husband and my family.  My life revolved around what I ate and when I was going to work out.  I was rigid with my schedule and any change was unbearable.  Missing a workout would make me (and everyone around me) miserable.  I don’t know why I ultimately sought help.  I think I was just so tired of feeling hopeless.  I also realized that I was absolutely no fun to be around.  I was depressed and thought that my family would be happier and better off without me.  I think that feeling of despair scared me into action. 
 
I have spent the last five years clawing my way back to health.  When I started working toward recovery, I had no idea what to expect.  I was in for a long battle!  I wanted to feel better, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my ED.  I slowly started adding calories and fear foods while cutting back on exercise.  I was going through the motions, but my mind was still not my own.  Anorexia owned me.  It’s funny to look back now because a year into my recovery, I thought I was so much better.  I had definitely made improvements, but I was still extremely sick.  I was still terrified of eating too much or missing a workout.  While I had regained some of the necessary weight, my body was still showing signs of sickness.  I was happier, but I was not yet happy.  I didn’t really get it at the time though.  I thought that since I had made so much progress, that I was in a good place.  I felt immensely stronger and happier than at my rock bottom, but I had no idea how good things could really be.

At that point, my husband and I started to think about having a baby.  Despite everything we had been through in our young marriage, the hard times were not yet behind us.  As I continued to work on my recovery, we faced the new challenge of infertility.  I was scared that I would never be able to be a mom.  I was also angry at myself for causing this problem.  Rationally, I know that I did not cause my anorexia and therefore did not cause my infertility.  But the shame and guilt surrounding it all was overwhelming.  Going through infertility is an endless journey of highs and lows.  After two years with no success on the baby front, I started to slip backwards a little in my recovery.  I was exercising more and my weight started to drop.  If I couldn’t have a baby, then why was I bothering to get well?  Thankfully, I was in a good enough place mentally to fight the demons and stay the course with recovery.  I was motivated by my desire to be a mom and to make my husband a dad.  After two and a half years, I was finally able to get pregnant.  The elation and the fear were overwhelming.  I limited my exercise in the very beginning, but then was able to stay active until the day I gave birth.  My pregnancy was truly a gift.  It taught me that I am capable of listening to my body.  I slowed down when I needed to and fed my body what it wanted.  I also learned to live in the moment and let go of worries about what was to come.  I was not free from all ED thoughts, but I focused my energy on the tiny person growing inside of me.  I was determined to give my baby the best possible start.  It was a long and winding road to get where I was and I tried to savor every minute.  I honestly loved being pregnant.  I felt more beautiful than I ever have and was in awe of what my body was capable of.  I had beat my body down for so long and yet it was allowing me to experience this miracle.  Gaining weight was a struggle at times.  I worried about gaining too much and not being able to lose it.  But I just tried to focus on the purpose of the weight and the health of my baby.

Getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby boy did not, however, solve all of my problems.  I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a mom, but the story does not end there.  I was a new mom with typical new mom worries, but I also had to continue battling my ED.  I had to adjust to being a stay at home mom.  I no longer packed my food for the day and then stopped at the gym on the way home.  I was worried about overeating and not being able to exercise.  Fortunately, I have been learning to eat for my hunger rather than eat on a schedule and I have found ways to stay active (a little too active according to my doctor…) despite the worst winter in our history.  
My son has helped my recovery in amazing ways.  He has taught me that rigidity does not work and that unexpected events are to be expected!  He has also taught me about unconditional love.  He wants his mama no matter what I ate, how much I exercised or what thoughts are spinning around my head.  His cuddles and laughter remind me what I fight for.  I’ve learned what true joy is and discovered my capacity to feel it.  

I feel as though I am recovered-ish.  My ED does not control my life anymore, but still has a voice.  It’s a small voice, but I wish it would go away permanently.  My therapist says that my ED has a foot in the door.  It is mostly gone, but I haven’t slammed the door on it yet.  My goal is to slam the door.  I want to be free.  Free from self-doubt, free from anxiety, free from trying to control things.  I know that life will bring more challenges and I welcome them.  I have fought my way back from the edge of darkness and I am ready to fully escape into the light.

Real life Transparency + Transformation: Recovering from HA

In the midst of a busy season where I don’t have the capacity to generate original content regulary, I’m opening up this space to share others’ stories of food freedom and true health. If it’s on your heart to share, email me at robyncoale@gmail. As a disclaimer, while these stories do not contain specific numbers, at times they do illustrate disordered eating behaviors as the story is told- if that triggers you, please take care of yourself and skip over these posts. With that said, my hope is that these stories encourage + refresh you, breathe new life into your soul, drown out lies with truth, and flood your heart with unrelenting grace. 

Today, CM is sharing her brave + influential story of recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea. HA is so close to my heart. I’ve walked through it myself and I know so many Nutshell clients and readers can relate. I had chills reading through this eloquent illustration of courage, vulnerability, and beautiful transformation. I hope it inspires and blesses you like crazy!


I was “almost
anorexic” (or how I developed hypothalamic amenorrhea, gained 11 pounds,
and felt much better)

When you
don’t get your period for 14 months in a row, you end up facing two
possibilities: either something is wrong with your body, or you are on your way
to beat the record for the longest pregnancy ever.
I honestly
considered the latter option for a second. There could not be anything wrong
with my body. I was eating healthy! I was getting plenty of exercise! Yes, maybe I had lost a little bit of weight
(if 22 pounds in four months qualifies as “a little bit of weight”), but I
looked great! And I was not at all exhausted – not even when I woke up at 7:30
on a Sunday morning to attend one or two intense cardio classes. Cardio did not
exhaust me at all, cardio was keeping me sane.
Or so I
thought. This is the story of how I became “almost anorexic”.
Some say
you’re either anorexic or you’re not. Yet, those are the words my gynecologist
used after she read a detailed account of my symptoms, which my mother had to
bring to her office because I had just moved to New York from Paris, France,
and could not be there in person. The verdict was clear: I had lost too much
weight, too fast, and I had lost my menstrual cycle as a result. This is called
hypothalamic amenorrhea, and the only way to heal was to eat more, move less,
and, ultimately, gain weight. Oh, and you can’t just gain lean body mass,
either – you have to gain body fat, pure and simple. I claimed this did not
bother me, but in hindsight, I was petrified.
I still
don’t fully understand how I ended up in that place. Eating disorders (or, you
know, semi-eating disorders), like any bad situation, only happen to other
people – until they happen to you. Like many people who end up somewhere on the
disordered eating spectrum, I seemed like the least likely candidate.
I was born
hungry. I spent the very first few seconds of my life crawling to my mother’s
breast for milk. She hadn’t necessarily planned on breastfeeding me. I just
didn’t give her a choice.
Growing up,
I was an adventurous eater – the kind of kid who gathers attention at the
restaurant because she’s sampling three different kinds of cheese from the
cheese trolley like a grown-up. There was nothing I wouldn’t try. I ate freshly
baked flat bread in Tunisia, fried alligator bites in Miami, and baked beans
for breakfast in London. By the time I was ten, I could demolish a New York
steak on my own.
Maybe
because I was slim (I had a very, very average pant size), people never
refrained from commenting on what, or how much, I ate. I remember each and
every time someone told me I had a good appetite, or that I “ate a lot.” I was
quite aware of my enthusiastic approach to food, but I could not stand having
it acknowledged by other people. They insisted it was meant as a compliment
(who doesn’t like sitting at a table with someone who enjoys food?), but all I
could hear was that I was a glutton. Nothing made me want to put down the fork
more than being told, mid-bite, that I obviously liked to eat.
When I
first started watching what I ate (as in, eating two cookies instead of five)
and going to the gym twice a week (because moving is fun!) people stopped
talking about my food and started commenting on my body instead. They told me I
looked great, and it felt awesome – for about two minutes. Then, pleasure was
replaced with anxiety. What if I regained the weight? That prospect sounded
terrifying.
So I did
everything I could to ensure it didn’t happen. Or, more precisely, I walked a
fine line that led me to be terrified of food without filling the requirements
to be diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Eventually,
people kept commenting about my weight. Only this time, they expressed concern.
My mother told me I had lost too much weight. My friends told me I had lost too
much weight. This seemed so out of character for me. I vowed to put some weight
back on, but I never did.
It is hard
to understand, until you actually experience it, how much eating disorders
revolve around fear. I was terrified of food and I was terrified of gaining
weight. And the thing is, when you’re terrified of something, you become
convinced it’s going to happen, no matter what you do. So I really thought I
would eventually gain weight despite my best efforts to remain slim. Which is
why, ultimately, I didn’t do the two things I knew deep down I needed to do:
eat more and move less.
The last
blow, however, came when my period didn’t come back, nine months after I had
stopped taking hormonal birth control. I embarked on a fun ride of blood
samples, ultrasounds and even MRI scans that showed one thing: everything about
my body was fine, except for my weight.
My period
went M.I.A. about a year and a half ago. My body is showing signs that it may
consider trusting me again, but it is still not back to its old routine. I have
functional ovaries. My uterus is like a four-star hotel for fetuses. But I have
deprived my body of energy for too long and I have tired it too much. It does
not trust me anymore, and it does not think it can handle a pregnancy at the
moment. So it just will not ovulate, no siree.
In recent
months, I have confronted my fear of muffins, ice cream and cheesy pizza (do
you know what if feels like to be scared of a muffin? It’s disturbing. But I’ve
been there). I have cut back on exercise, and I’m having the time of my life
doing Pilates instead of grueling cardio. I got a new gynecologist, because I
realized my previous one and I had irreconcilable views about the human body
(she thought it did not matter that I was not ovulating because I had no
immediate desire to get pregnant).
I have become comfortable with the idea that if
my pants become too small, I need to buy bigger pants, not carve myself a
thinner body.
I have had
my fair share of epiphanies along the way.
There was
the time I bought a zucchini walnut muffin and could not believe my taste buds.
When you haven’t had a proper muffin in more than a year, they end up tasting
like the most amazing thing you’ve ever eaten. Something about the combination
of sugar, flour and fat creates the culinary equivalent of fireworks.
There were
the times my parents and I bit into warm peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on
a sunny bench after a run in Central Park.
There was
the time my boyfriend and I had dinner in an Italian restaurant with all of our
friends and I ate an entire pizza. And then proceeded to order dessert.
There was
the time my mother made me a salad for dinner and I asked her if we could make
sure we had baguette to go with it – and she noticed. It broke my heart in the
most bittersweet way. I was so happy that I was able to
want and enjoy bread again. And I was so sad that my wanting carbs had become
noteworthy.
There was
the time my boyfriend caught me staring longingly at a coffee shop and asked me
if I wanted to go in. At first, I said no. I felt uncomfortable having a snack
when he wasn’t. “If you’re hungry, you should eat,” he said. “We have all the
time in the world.” We went in. I had tea and chocolate-dipped biscotti.
It troubles
me to think there was a time in my life when I needed encouragement and
approval to eat enough. I still need to remind myself sometimes that I am an
adult, and as an adult I am expected to feed myself. I am a grown woman. Grown
women take care of themselves.
Nine months
after I really committed to restoring a normal relationship with food, I have
put on a grand total of 11 much-needed pounds. My body has changed. Some days,
I’m completely fine with it. Some days, I’m kind of iffy about it. Some days, I
don’t think about my body because I have work to do and laundry to fold and
friends to comfort. Those, in a way, are the best days.
This has
been a humbling experience, and it has taught me more than a thing or two about
what it really means to be healthy. I know I still have so much to learn, but I
want to share what little I know because I can’t possibly the only one out
there in that situation. At the beginning of what I guess I can now call my
recovery, I found solace in forums and blog entries written by women who had
lost their period and gained it back naturally. This is a story about
self-love, body politics, fear and health. If sharing it can help at least one
fellow reader, those fourteen months will not have been in vain.

Real Life Transformation + Transparency: Hayley’s story

In the midst of a busy season where I don’t have the capacity to generate original content regulary, I’m opening up this space to share others’ stories of food freedom and true health. If it’s on your heart to share, email me at robyncoale@gmail. As a disclaimer, while these stories do not contain specific numbers, at times they do illustrate disordered eating behaviors as the story is told- if that triggers you, please take care of yourself and skip over these posts. With that said, my hope is that these stories encourage + refresh you, breathe new life into your soul, drown out lies with truth, and flood your heart with unrelenting grace. 

The lovely Haley emailed me with this inspiring brave + influential story and I can’t wait to share it with you all. I hope her fearless vulnerability and beautiful transformation inspire and bless you like crazy!


I was really excited when Robyn announced that she would be
sharing reader stories on her blog. Not only as a chance to share my own, but
to read about the countless other women who are on similar journeys to health.
Robyn is a true example of what it means to live a life of love, compassion,
faith, and grace, while also eating amazing food along the way. Reading her
blog, along with a few others, has been crucial in helping me heal my own
relationship with food and my body. Thank you, Robyn, for sharing your life
with us and for now sharing parts of your readers’.

As probably all of you know, it is impossible to sum up an
entire lifetime in one blog post. We have all had so many experiences and
moments that have shaped who we are today, and my whole journey with health
would take up an entire novel. I will try to sum up the important aspects of it
as best as I can. Another important thing to mention is that I never reached a
point where I looked really sick. Sure, I was very skinny and I had low enough
body fat to lose my period, but I think the reason that I never was forced to
get help was because I still could pull off the excuse that I was “naturally
slim”. While never looking extremely sick, my mind was plagued with illness,
which is more important than any physical factor.
I had a wonderful childhood and rarely thought about food. I was
active, outgoing, social, and loved ice cream and pizza (without sauce, so
basically cheese bread), but other than that I could care less about what I ate.
I was a vibrant young girl without anxiety and with a zest for life. I had a
supportive and loving family who were involved in every aspect of my life and never
made me feel anything less than beautiful.
When I got to the beginning of high school, I unintentionally
lost weight due to a rough recovery from tonsillectomy surgery. I started to
get comments about how “great” I looked from friends and strangers.
Girls would say, “What are you doing because I want to do it too” and
I started to be very pleased with my new shrinking body. I was always thin and
athletic looking growing up, but never super skinny until this point. This unintentional
weight loss triggered something in me and I began to pay attention to my body
more than ever before. I started reading magazines about diet and exercise
telling you to eat 1200 calories a day and to workout for an hour every day.
These magazines told me that having a slim body was not only necessary to be
attractive but necessary to be happy. I began counting calories and running
every day after school, forgoing my usual plans with friends and depleting all
the energy I needed for soccer and tennis practice (when I actually showed up).
The weight continued to fall off of me and I would get a high every time I saw
the number on the scale go a little lower. It wasn’t long before I lost my
period, a lot of my friends, my thick hair, and my enthusiasm for life. 
This was the beginning of an 8-year struggle with food and my
body. I had periods where I had my priorities a little straighter and would
loosen my grip on all the rules and restrictions, but usually during these
times I went far the other way (I would binge a few times a week and feel
intense feelings of guilt after, and also hated my body). I never opened up to
anyone about what I was dealing with internally, though to those close to me it
was probably pretty obvious. All throughout these years, I meticulously counted
every calorie I ate and gripped so tightly to this habit that I missed out on
so many things. In college I would hardly eat all day and then drink all night
to be able so stay thin without gaining weight, and hole up inside by myself
when I didn’t have enough “willpower” throughout the day to under eat
and have room in my calorie bank for alcohol. For 8 years, my life revolved
around food and keeping up the appearance that I was happy and carefree. I had
this whole secret side of myself and I felt like a fraud, but I didn’t know any
other way.
After college graduation, I had a wakeup call. I had this intense
feeling that if things kept going on this way, I would never have a family and
never truly be happy. Aside from the small factor (sarcasm) of not having
enough body fat to get my period and create a baby, I also couldn’t imagine
getting married and having kids while being able to hide this part of myself I
was so ashamed of. I was done with it and wanted so bad to be free. I kept
counting calories, but I knowingly challenged myself to increase them every
day. I started to gain fat and muscle because I kept up with running, and my
clothes got tighter and tighter. I started to form new friendships that were
more authentic, open up to loved ones about my struggles, and have passion for
things other than food and fitness. I eventually gained weight, got my period, thicker hair, and boundless energy.
I stopped partying as much with friends that I had nothing else
in common with – that was never truly “me” – and started spending more time
doing things that brought me true joy. However, I still had a hard time
accepting what I saw in the mirror. I would cry with each pair of jeans that no
longer got past my thighs and each comment about how “healthy” I
looked (in my head, fat). Even though I looked recovered from my eating disorder,
I had such a long way to go. I mentally bullied myself daily and felt shame
around my growing curves.
After over a year of maintaining a healthy weight and not
restricting my diet, my mindset finally started to follow suit. I started
reading books and blogs that talked about loving yourself and your body, and
made it a daily practice to change my thoughts. I practiced gratitude for all
the good things in my life, cut myself off from the people and things that
brought me down and made me feel anything less than amazing, and treated myself
with more love than I ever had. I stopped working out every day and went on
walks and rested more. I ate a lot of chocolate and “unhealthy” foods
that made me happy. I stopped counting calories. Most importantly, I stopped
apologizing and stopped feeling shame for being me. During the 8 years that I
had an eating disorder, I did so many things because I thought I
“should” and was the queen of excuses. I would commit to going to
something and then bail last minute and I let a lot of people down. During my
year of mental recovery, I started saying no to things I truly did not want to
do and started saying yes to things that excited but scared me a little. I
stopped investing time in the friends that didn’t lift me up and had more time
for the ones that I loved being around. Though I had been recovered from
disordered behaviors for a while, it was this year of mental recovery (or
discovery) that changed my life completely. 
To be honest, my body does not look that different than it did a
year ago, but my mind is completely different. My soul is free again and I
am now just Hayley, unburdened by the lies that once plagued every minute of
every day. I now have a boyfriend that knows all about my past and that I don’t
hide any part of myself from, and he loves me wholeheartedly. I have a dog that
has shown me how to care for something and that it’s not all about me. I have a
job I love and that I work hard at every day because I have the mental clarity
and energy to do so. I have true friends who I am open about my struggles with
and they help me through any hard days. And I truly love my body, for the first
time in basically a decade. I wouldn’t change anything I’ve been through
because I am so genuinely happy with where I am today, but my heart still hurts
for my old self and the pain she felt daily. If you are struggling with food
and body image, know that it is possible to beat those demons and get back to
true health again, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of tears. It’s
extremely difficult to love and accept your body in a society that tells you you
are not worth loving if you don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model, but it
is 100% possible and so so worth it. 

Q&A: coconut oil + finding a healthy balance socially

Even though I’m working today and tomorrow I’m still going to say happy Friday! Because aren’t Fridays just happy no matter what?

Oh yes they are. 
I hope that whatever your weekend looks like, you find rest & refreshment over these next two days. And that you eat something fabulous and lay in the sunshine and drink a cocktail at 3pm just because you can.
This week we’re chatting about coconut oil and what kind to buy + finding a healthy balance in social settings + what exercise is looking like on this end nowadays. 
Happiest of weekends!


Movie on 4-23-15 at 3.21 PM #2 from Robyn Coale on Vimeo.

Real Life Transformations + Transparency: Dana’s Story

In the midst of a busy season where I don’t have the capacity to generate original content regulary, I’m opening up this space to share others’ stories of food freedom and true health. If it’s on your heart to share, email me at robyncoale@gmail. My hope is that these stories encourage + refresh you, breathe new life into your soul, drown out lies with truth, and flood your heart with unrelenting grace. 

The beautiful Dana, a Nutshell client, emailed me with this fearlessly, vulnerable story and I can’t wait to share it with you all. She was a joy to work with and from the start, she was all gas, no brake. I hope her rich transparency and fierce transformation inspires and blesses you like crazy!

I can’t pinpoint how it started – the negative body image,
the over exercising and undereating – maybe it’s always been a part of who I
am? I’m admittingly all things Type A – obsessive, perfectionist, detailed….
I remember “dabbling” in disordered thoughts and
some actions in high school. Trying diet pills (bought from the local dollar
general), trying to make myself throw up (but never actually succeeding),
trying to see how many hours I could go without eating or only eating carrot
sticks all day long. It never lasted though….I just thought they were normal
thoughts of any young girl who thought they could stand to lose 5 pounds.
The first actual disordered eating/calorie
counting/exercising actually happened in my later 20’s (26 to be exact – in July
of 2009) – before that I would just randomly diet but never anything I’d
consider an eating disorder (or as I’d rather refer to it: disorderly eating). I
started counting calories and thinking I should only eat 1,200 – I’d give myself
a free day once a week  – I logged
it in a notebook or excel spreadsheet meticulously (this was before smart
phones).  Of course anything under
1,200 was a great accomplishment. I wouldn’t eat anything unless it came from a
package and I knew the exact calorie count. I literally ate processed food 100%
of the time. On the workout end of the spectrum I was spending an hour plus at
the gym every day, allowing myself one day off a week but of course thinking it
was great those weeks I didn’t miss any days. I couldn’t “count” it
as a workout unless I was at the gym one or more hours. They only thing I did
at the gym was cardio – a mix of the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike.
If it was nice outside sometimes I’d substitute running outside.  Looking back I have no clue how I
survived this – how did I have energy to get me through each day? I was still
always trying to lose that last 10 pounds -that wouldn’t budge.
Then I got pregnant in October 2010 and allowed myself to
eat whatever I wanted. I gained a very unhealthy 60+ during my pregnancy.
Thankfully my son was born healthy. My thoughts after having him about my body
and my weight were not healthy though. I was so miserable. I was trying to work
out one hour a day – taking my baby to the gym with me….trying to exist on
1,200 calories and top that off with little sleep – I was miserable.  I knew I couldn’t go back to the
calorie counting/constant exercise again. So, I did what any person looking to
lose weight does – I started googling! After googling “how to lose post
pregnancy weight” I found a program “Fit Yummy Mummy”  ran by Holly Rigsby (probably around
September 2011). I remember putting my credit card information in to buy the
book and the fear that I was getting scammed. Luckily it was not a scam, but a
system that was very much what I needed – she taught eating whole healthy
foods, not restricting calories and three 30 minute workouts a week. I was
leery that I could eat more, workout less and lose weight so I was scared to
start -but I started like I do anything else, all in. I tossed all processed
food and started. Results started happening right away. I was so thrilled. Fit
Yummy Mummy (FYM) has an online forum where you can journal and connect with
other women, and I made a lifelong connection with another mom and we supported
each other through every day of our journey. I’m still so thankful I found FYM
(I’ve even got to meet both the “owner” and the friend I connected
with).
However, because of the perfectionist I am I took it one
step further and turned it into something unhealthy. I got on the “clean
eating” bandwagon and went crazy and rarely ate anything processed – going
as far as bringing my own food places and not going places for fear of the food
there.

I stayed on the clean eating “train” for around a
year and a half to two years thinking I was being SOOO healthy – I even started
combining it with calorie counting……I just started feeling like I wasn’t living
life “right” (I was also eating at very strict times and barely any
carbohydrates) – I wouldn’t do spur of the moment things/trips I couldn’t
control my food at, when we did go to my parents for dinner I’d take my own
food, I’d even take my own food on shopping days and eat in my car. Not to
mention when I would allow myself something against my rules I would completely
binge on it. I just started praying about it and asking for guidance and
literally stumbled across Robyn’s blog after a short time of prayer. I spent a
long time reading her blog before deciding to contact her – but I knew I wanted
her balance and I needed someone to tell me it was ok not to be perfect. I was
so scared of weight gain that I needed reassurance that I wasn’t going to just
gain weight uncontrollably. 
So, I reached out and began working with
Robyn.  I started being more free
with the foods I ate. I didn’t turn my husband down when he wanted to go out to
eat. I didn’t eat before functions centered around food, instead eating the
food available, I stopped eating because it was a certain time and started
eating when I was hungry instead, I started doing more stuff spur of the moment
without worrying when and where I would eat. I gained some weight at the very
beginning, I don’t know how much because of my bad relationship with the scale
I had made the (positive) move to get rid of it a year or so ago, but it wasn’t
a lot, not enough that people even noticed   – but going in I prepared myself for that (with a lot
of anxiety along the way) – I was determined to find my “set weight
point” and it’s been 7 months and I am slowly having faith that I am
there. I’ve made it through the holidays, through a Mexico vacation, through so
many spur of the moment trips that involved having to eat out, through a trip
to Chicago – and I’m maintaining a very healthy weight. 
I still have days where
my head tells me I should restrict, or watch my carbs, or not eat something
processed so I can lose that minimal amount of weight I gained but as soon as I
recognize that negative self-talk I can usually pretty quickly remind myself
how much better life is now without constantly worrying about food. I still eat
pretty healthy day to day – because I feel good when I eat good – but I
sprinkle the fun stuff in without worrying about it or keeping track. Thinking
about the things I would have missed over the last 7 months if I hadn’t
contacted Robyn makes me sad. What makes me even sadder is the stuff I DID miss
before contacting Robyn – but I’m moving forward and thanking God every day for
walking with me through this journey and continuing to guide and heal me. I
still have to fight the negative talk often  – hopefully with time that will decrease –  but overall I’m so thankful to be on
the path to living a healthy lifestyle that includes moderation
(for real this time)!

Q&A: hair health, stress induced allergies and adjusting to full time nursing

Good morning!

I’m excited to have gotten some time to record a video yesterday. After working all weekend I was off Monday, worked Tuesday and then had Wednesday and Thursday off. And on those days off, it has been absolutely gorgeous. Everyone is out and about in the parks and I’ve officially gotten back into running. Ohhh, sweet sunshine and warmth how you refresh my soul.

Today I’m back in the hospital working 7-7 and then heading straight to New Jersey for my church’s women’s retreat. After a ton of travel last fall and into the winter I actually haven’t been out of the city since the end of December so I am excited to breath some fresher air. And relax with my girlfriends, meet + spend time with new friends and soak up a whole lot of Jesus.

I hope you have a relaxing weekend planned too!

For the Q&A this week, we’re talking about hair health and stress related allergies + a little update on adjusting to a full time nursing schedule.

Happy weekending!