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Balanced Living

Italy Ended My Food Obsession

This past June, I had the distinct pleasure to sing with the Columbus International Children’s Choir for a 10-day tour of Italy. Milan, Venice, Rome, Lucca, Pisa, Florence . . . we’ve traveled everywhere! It was an experience of a lifetime – especially singing a Mass in the gorgeous St. Peter’s Basilica.

Now, here’s the catch. Prior to flying across the Atlantic, I was nervous. No, not about the flight..about the FOOD. Ha! Sure, I was more than excited about the new cuisine my palate would discover. BUT, word on the street is that a person gains a couple pounds on vacation and even more weight when eating in a foreign country – ahhhh!!! I literally have no research to back up these insights, but I was still hesitant and believed this information as dangerously true.

If you know me, I have practiced calorie counting religiously for years to quantify and justify everything I intake. I knew there would be NO way to track the exact calories of everything I consumed while staying in Italy since most of the eateries are at local, authentic Italian restaurants that don’t provide online nutritional information. Because of this, I took one of the biggest risks my stomach has ever experienced . . . I would have to practice intuitive eating and just ENJOY the food I tried -“SCARY”. How could I trust myself to eat until I was satisfied?

Well, I am proud and happy to tell you that I conquered my calorie-counting food obsession – maybe not for life but definitely for the rest of the summer. I surrendered any attempt at quantifying what I ate and didn’t prevent myself from eating anything I thought of as”forbidden” from my diet.

This was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I don’t ever remember feeling this liberated from my prison of disordered eating. I ATE pasta and gelato to my little heart’s content EVERY day! Everything was full of flavor and tasted so REAL. I listened to my body’s hunger cues and stopped when I was full. Sure, sometimes I would overeat, but I didn’t feel guilty because I never had the number of calories screaming in my head! All I knew was that I was filling my stomach with deliciousness and satisfaction.

But, here is the incredible thing. Because I never deprived myself of certain foods and never counted calories in Italy, I experienced LESS cravings since my diet didn’t exclude certain foods. I never felt like I needed to pork out on forbidden foods because “it would be the last time I ever ate the food” and “tomorrow would be a clean day”. Pssh. Who am I kidding? That has never worked in the past for me! If anything, I’ve binged on MORE food from “restricting”. The irony.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t calorie count altogether. It is important to analyze the portions you are putting into your body and whether the balance of food is healthy for you. I’m also not saying to go eat 50 cookies and call it a day. Intuitive eating is about making nutritious choices in healthy portions when your hunger cues kick in. AND, you can eat the ice cream and cookies moderately without feeling miserable. ūüėČ

Not only did I get to ride a gondola, sing in St. Peter’s Basilica, and visit Michelangelo’s David , I made incredible steps towards a healthier, ED-free me!

Eat that spaghetti al ragu and enjoy the flavor of life.




Book Review: “Life Without Ed” by Jenni Schaefer

Earlier this April, I asked my school counselor if there were any books on overcoming eating disorders that she personally recommended. It only took her a couple seconds to share the title that I religiously scribbled out in the back of my planner.

When it comes to all recommendations or inspirational nuggets of wisdom, I write everything down someplace where I can see it and vow to read the text or complete the action as soon as possible. 90% of the time, I follow through with my promise. Book reading tends to be my only exception.

Fast-forward to two months later, I finally remembered that I didn’t pick up the book yet. Since maintaining a healthy well-being is extremely important to me, this was the motivating factor for me to stop by the library and actually start reading the text. Boy, I’m so glad my counselor recommended this title!


Schaefer struggled with disordered eating beginning as young as elementary school. Each chapter is maybe a couple pages long and covers a different story she had with her eating disorder. Personal struggles like ordering food at a restaurant, seeing refreshments at the office, and reacting to the demanding requests from “Ed” don’t even scratch the surface of all the experiences and lessons within this book. ¬†This book totally puts eating disorders in perspective by analyzing “Ed” as an outsider (or in this case, an “ex” boyfriend/spouse) that constanly taunts you–the victim and slave to Ed–into harming your body by restricting, binging, and purging food–a never ending cycle that ruins you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I also couldn’t believe how incredibly similar her experiences, thoughts, and feelings were to my relationship with “Ed”. It made me realize that I’m not going through unknown waters and that there are people just like me dealing with the very same issues. It actually felt fantastic hearing my exact thoughts and feelings about “Ed” being told by another person. Even with Jenni’s serious stories, she maintains witty sense of humor that lightens up the mood several times throughout passages! Not only does Schaefer describe her stories and what she has learned from them, but she actually provides action steps and resources to offically break up with “Ed”. After reading the text cover to cover, I felt empowered and hopeful about my circumstances and determined to overcome my abusive relationship with “Ed”.

If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating, Jenni is your girl to read!



Babysitting Basics

Babysitting is not just for teenagers. As a busy college student seeking an easy way to make quick cash, babysitting can serve as a wonderful part-time job. If you have a love for kids, a dose of responsibility, and exploration for the inner child in you, babysitting is right up your alley.

What is your criteria?

What is your pay rate? Are you going to babysit at other people’s homes or your own? How far are you willing to drive to someone’s house? What days and times are you¬†planning to babysit? Are you offering to tutor, drive,¬†prepare meals, clean the house,¬†or bathe the children?¬† What ages do you specialize in? Figure out your babysitting plan. This way, you’ll know exactly what to say to parents who want to find out more information about you.

How do I get started?

Advertise that you are a sitter looking to be hired. Figure out what days and times you’d be available to work, skills and experiences that make you a qualified candidate, references, and contact information. A resume or outline works to organize your portfolio. Flyers, Facebook, and also work wonderfully.

Search around and find parents in need of a sitter. Ask nearby neighborhoods, churches, daycares, and schools if they know anyone with younger children that need to be cared for .

Become certified in CPR and First-Aid. You never know if an emergency will arise when you’re on the spot. Showing that you have credentials such as CPR and first-aid¬†will give you the upper hand in landing a sitting job. Children’s safety is of upmost importance and parents care that you’ll be qualified to keep them safe. Red Cross offers an informative¬†day-long certification program that is easy to complete.

Interviewing Tips

  • Remain calm and confident. Meeting the family can be intimidating initially if you don’t know what they are like, but demonstrate kindness and professionalism when you meet them. Show them that you are a responsible, caring adult and feel capable to care for their young ones.
  • Come prepared with questions to ask the parents. What does a¬†typical day-in-the-life¬†look like for the kids? What things do they enjoy? Are they allergic to any foods?¬†Asking good¬†questions will show the parents that you want to be prepared for the job.
  • Show up on time and dress appropriately.¬† If you were¬† interviewing for a new sitter to care for your children, would you hire someone who¬†arrived 10 minutes¬†late¬†in¬†unkempt clothing?¬†Or,¬†would you feel more confident in a person who showed up on time and dressed nicely? First impressions¬†can definitely influence whether you get the job or not.

     Typical Interview Questions from Parents

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • What previous babysitting experience do you have?
  • Have you worked with difficult children?
  • How do you handle conflict? Misbehavior?
  • Are you good with pets?
  • Will you be available to drive my kids to (school, sports, church, etc.)?
  • What does your schedule look like?

¬†¬†¬†¬† The Babysitter’s Ultimate Packing List

Kids love new toys, food, movies, games, and activities. It gives them something exciting and different¬†to do for a change.¬† With that being said, make sure you ask¬†for the¬†parents’ approval¬†for anything you anticipate on bringing. Here are some key suggestions that I would recommend as a general guide.

  • Puzzles
  • Paper and crayons
  • Beanie Babies, dolls, or action figures
  • Stickers
  • Children’s books
  • Snacks
  • First-aid kit
  • Pen and paper
  • Cell phone (for emergencies)
  • Copy of child’s¬†daily routine/schedule

      Key Points to Being a Great Babysitter

Keep them safe. This is your number one priority. Make sure everything is baby-proofed, all doors are locked, and any potential hazards are out of site.  Never leave children unattended.

Stay off your cell phone and laptop. You are being paid to give your full attention and energy to these kids Рnot by texting your boyfriend or browsing YouTube. Be there for them and have fun!

Stick to the schedule. Believe it or not, kids are built into a routine if their parents implement it. You don’t want to mess it up. They are programmed to eat and sleep¬†at certain times. Throwing off their daily habits can be detrimental to their eating and sleeping patterns.

You must demonstrate tough love. As a babysitter, you are a temporary parent. You are there to love, play, and care for the children. But, you are also there to abide by the rules and let them know when they are misbehaving. Saying “No” can be hard. Yes, the kids might cry or throw a tantrum if they can’t stay up late or eating ice cream for dinner. But, you must do what is right and necessary.

Babysitting can be hard work, but it is definitely worth it.

Take care!



Delicious Homemade Personal Pizza

While the family went into town, I was home alone for lunch and needed to think up something to fill my grumbling tummy. So, I searched the pantries and refrigerator. A little bit of flour, sugar, yeast, olive oil….how about a personal cheese pizza?! What a great idea!

I LOVE homemade pizza. This was my first time making a smaller version of the full recipe that feeds my family. Boy, it was good and filling. Compared to most pizza chains, I find that homemade pizza has relatively little grease or added sugar.

It only takes about an hour to make from start to finish. It’s simple to make at home or college if you have a kitchen with an oven. I think you’ll really enjoy it! Plus, preparing your own food makes you more aware of what goes into your body AND it’s cheaper that buying a whole pie from a restaurant.

The finished product! Yum!

Dough recipe:

  • 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 3/4 c. unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp. virgin olive oil

Other ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
  • Spices and other toppings (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water (I put the water in the microwave for about half a minute). Stir until milky substance.
  2. Add oil and 1/2 cup of the flour. The mixture will begin to shape. Add remaining flour and knead until the dough is consistent and non-sticky.
  3. Let rise in lightly-warm oven for about 20 minutes.
  4. Turn dough out onto a greased, lightly floured pizza pan and roll into a rounded shape. Preheat oven for 375 degrees F. Poke holes all over the dough with a fork. Add sauce and desired toppings.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

And, voila! You have yourself an indulging, satisfying meal.


Below are the nutrition facts for the entire pizza using MyFitnessPal. Nutritional information might vary depending on tomato sauce brand, toppings, etc. This nutritional information is for an entire plain cheese pizza.

Delicious Personal Cheese Pizza Nutritional Information

Take care!


Eating Disorder Update: Finding Inner Happiness

This past Saturday, I volunteered at my local food pantry. Interacting with the people who shop for food for their families is truly heartwarming.

It’s been a few weeks since my last eating disorder update, but I have nothing but good things to say. Great news: I haven’t binged at all! Yay! This is really a step forward in my health and wellness. I’ve been eating nutritious foods and craving the not-so-healthy ones less.

I’d also like to add that I’ve been incorporating little treats here and there so I don’t deprive myself of the sugary and salty goodness that I like to eat occasionally. When my family and I went shopping at the mall, I allowed myself a cup of frozen yogurt. Before dropping my younger sister off at camp, we ate hand-scooped Velvet ice cream at the local factory in Utica, Ohio. For several of my post-work out meals, I’ll have a serving of wheat crackers (a tempting food for me) with my eggs and fresh fruit.

My first time eating a Larabar! Yum!

Most recently, I picked up a “Cashew Cookie” Larabar from the grocery store on my way home from the food pantry. It was a little piece of Heaven in my mouth and definitely hit the spot! Larabars are my new obsession.

I saw my counselor Katie last Thursday and the session was great. She weighed me at 123.2 pounds. My heaviest this past summer was 129.2 pounds. So, even though my patience is constantly tested with this natural weight loss process, it’s an unbelievable feeling that I’ve hardly done anything to become 6 pounds lighter. I am eating more (1800 calories vs. 1200 calories), exercising less (45 minutes/day vs. 1.5 hours/day), and intuitively listening to my body’s hunger cues.

I am also happier as a person. I tell you, it’s draining to constantly look at yourself in the mirror and think that you aren’t good enough. No, I’m not where I’d like to be physically, but I’m getting there! There’s so much more to my life than weight. As Katie has been telling me, numbers on the scale should not label who I am. I haven’t fully accepted this fact, but I’m beginning to tolerate and respect it.

With that being said, I have stopped weighing myself on the scale – not by my own will, though. I know, however, it’s best that I don’t weigh myself frequently in the event that my self esteem plummets. I get to see Katie one last time before starting my junior year of college, which is slightly terrifying me. I feel like I’m the baby bird leaving the nest but haven’t fully learned how to fly on my own. I may never know how to fly safely all the time. But, that won’t stop me from trying.

I don’t have to burn 1000 calories on the treadmill, eat rabbit food, or weigh myself constantly anymore…I don’t feel that anorexic desire I had a year ago. It’s incredibly freeing. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t feel the need to eat 2 bowls of chips or 8 cookies.

I no longer feel trapped in my own addiction and affliction. I’m proud of how far I’ve come so far!

Keep pushing forward,


10 Simple Ways to Bring Joy into Your Life.

Are you having one of those days where you’re just not content with your life? We all experience bad days now and again. Work can be stressful and knock you down. Sometimes, you’re self esteem plummets for whatever reason. Your neighbors bought the latest car and you’re feeling mighty envious. Relationships can get tense… on and so forth.

Whether you feel ungrateful, depressed, anxious, or sad, I’ve compiled a number of simple methods to help you realize how much you have to be thankful for and boost your happiness!

  1. Count your blessings. It can be easy to envy the possessions and accomplishments of others while undermining what we have in our own lives.¬† Here’s the thing: Happiness isn’t accumulated by more money or prestige. I would die happily knowing that I spent ample time loving my family and participating in my faith – not possessing a large house, the latest clothing trends, or driving the slickest car. I won’t be thinking, “I should have gotten that 100″ flat-screen plasma TV for the living room.” I will be thinking of meeting my Father in Heaven, which is greater than any reward on earth. With that in mind, find a quite place, take a pencil and paper, and write down absolutely everything that you are grateful for today (food, water, shelter, employment, clothing, friends, family, pets, hobbies, love, freedom, talents, etc.).
  2. Surround yourself by people you love. Love is found in people – not things. Step away from the electronics and engage in face-to-face interaction with friends and family that you care about. Go for a walk, discuss life over lunch, play board games, or walk in the park. The internet can be loaded with negativity. Create some positivity in your life by laughing and loving those you love. Experience love and life – not a virtual reality that you can’t wrap your arms around.

3. Exercise. Get rid of all that tension by pumping your heart full of blood. Sweating rids your body of toxins and releases endorphins, which will brighten your mood. Physical activity can lower anxiety levels, improve sleep, tone muscles, and raise self esteem. Get active!

4. Wear clothes you like that fit you. If you are feeling body-conscious like me, you first and foremost need to toss out any clothes that don’t fit you/don’t make you feel confident. Don’t say you’ll lose the weight and eventually fit into those jeans….”eventually” is not “now”. You need to feel great today – not a couple months from now. So, buy clothes that make you feel like a million bucks. I’m not suggesting that you splurge all your money or give up on becoming a healthier person. But, losing weight takes time. You need to feel happy and confident no matter what you’re size.

5. Get involved in your community. If you are focusing your energy on yourself, get out into the community and serve those less fortunate than you. It’s eye opening to witness what we take for granted causing abundant joy to others. Volunteer at a food pantry, soup kitchen, clothing drive, nursing home, etc.

6. Journal. Silence brings clarity. When you aren’t in the mood to talk with anyone, a journal can be your best friend. Write about your burdens, struggles, and inner thoughts. List your questions and concerns. When you’re done, read over what you’ve written and reflect. Getting your emotions out on paper feels so relieving.

7. Take small naps. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do at a given moment is sleep. Those 10 minutes spent resting and rejuvenating your body look a lot more effective than the same 10 minutes trying to keep your eyelids open while completing your work. You’ll be grateful for those extra minutes of snoozing.

8. Find a hobby. Play the guitar, sing, dance, get artsy, blog, or exercise. Schedule out some leisure time in your daily routine for yourself.

9. Eat nutritious meals. A Pop-Tart and cinnamon roll might look appetizing for breakfast, but are those frankenfoods going to deliver the nutrients you need to live healthfully? Think again. Do your body a favor by filling it up with nutrient-dense fruits, whole grains, protein, dairy, and veggies. I could spend numerous articles and give a thousand reasons why eating right is good for you. In fact, there really aren’t any bad effects to eating healthfully. You’ll feel fuller longer and feel great in the long run. Trust me!

10. Participate in your faith. Spirituality brings deep perspective and purpose into your life. Step away from noise in this world yelling at you to look a certain way and act a certain way. Attending church service, reading spiritual books, prayer, and wholesome music will redirect your life in a direction full of passion and purpose.  

Remember, happiness is only a feeling. Like all others feelings, it comes and goes. But, you can live a life with joy because God endows us with that gift. Be grateful for each day you are alive!


What I Ate Today (1800 Calories)

Today had to have been the most “balanced” I’ve eaten in a long time. One of the problems I’m trying to stop is my sorting out “good” vs. “forbidden” foods. Yes, some are more nutritiously-dense than others and are less-risky to eat, in my opinion. However, keeping myself from treats will only set me up to binge in the future. I thought I would share what I ate today to hold myself accountable for future meals.

Breakfast – 1/2 cup rolled oats; 1 1/4 cup purple seedless grapes

Lunch – Cracker Barrel: Sweet whole baby carrots, cheesy grits, green beans, and 1 biscuit

Snack – 1 large banana

Dinner –¬† Subway: 9-Grain Honey Oat 6 in. w/ turkey, provolone, lettuce, spinach, tomato, and sweet onion dressing; 1 individual bag of Lays Baked Original Chips

Snack – 8 oz. frozen yogurt (peanut butter and cake batter flavors)

I only ate when I was hungry and drank water in between meals. This all calculated to just shy of 1800 calories. I also incorporated 15 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes aerobic DVD.¬† I’m proud of how far I have come. I still have a long way to go, but I’ll just keep pushing forward!


Eating Disorder: Road to Recovery

I’ve been to counseling for about a month for my anorexia/binge eating tendencies. It has not been an easy path for me, to say the least. However, I am starting to notice significant changes mentally and emotionally towards my relationship with food.

As general rules, I’ve been “prescribed” by my counselor to eat more (1800 calories/day), exercise less (45 minutes or less), and not weigh myself on the scale until I head back to college in the fall. This is all suppose to help me regulate my metabolism and keep me from depriving my body of nutrients.

During my anorexic stage, I never consumed more than 1200-1400 calories per day…sometimes as low as 1000. So, eating the extra calories has not been exciting. Sometimes, I can’t help but picture myself gaining pounds by the bite. Over the past couple weeks, though, I’ve felt like I can eat a wider assortment of food without deep shame. So far, this summer has brought a number of special occasions where food was present (Who could have guessed?). However, intend of telling myself “NO” to these once-forbidden foods,¬† I’ve learned to treat myself to small portions. By putting this concept into practice, I don’t feel the urge to eat the whole bowl of chips or the entire plate of cookies. This is definitely progress! ūüôā

I was also told to exercise for no more than 45 minutes per day. Before that, I thought I could trick the “1800-calorie ” plan by burning off 800-1000 calories per day via the treadmill and workout DVDs. However, my counselor told me that this is counterproductive since overexercising is like another method of “purging” for a bulimic.

Not being able to weigh myself felt horrific for the first couple days. All I dreamed about doing over this summer was to lose weight and get back into shape. Now, my progress must be judged by how my clothes fit, which is far less satisfying when I could be seeing immediate changes from the scale. My counselor will weigh me weekly, so maybe I can convince her to let me sneak a peek. We’ll see how this goes.

Not having full control of the choices I make for my body is one of the most frustrating feelings. Breaking my binge requires intervention from another person since my original efforts to end it were useless. But, I know that good must come from this eventually…even if I’m in denial now.

The main problem I’m dealing with now is body image. I can’t stop replaying the progression from being fit to too thin to overweight. Now, I’m afraid I’ll never be a healthy, HAPPY, and confident weight again. I am extremely uncomfortable having full-length pictures taken, trying on clothes, or being around people I know. Even looking at myself in the mirror has made me feel miserable. This will be my next topic of conversation with my counselor when I meet with her next.

This is the only picture that has made me feel “pretty” in a long time. I’ve learned that good health isn’t just physical. It’s¬† mental and emotional. Once I’m in a solid state of mind and spirit, I can channel that positivity to a greater appreciation of my body and treat it wholesomely. I will continue to update!

June 21, 2015: Me and my lovely dad on Father’s Day.









Reasons Why I’m Not Dating

The thought of dating makes me feel excited, nervous, and weird all at the same time. If God wills it, I will find Mr. Right one day. However, here are my three main reasons why I’m holding off dating in the meantime.

1.) I have really high expectations. I will not settle for just any guy in a relationship. When I date, I’ll be looking at the man in front of me as a potential husband. My criteria is important to me. I will not date for the sake of dating or to feel like I belong.

2.) My time is limited. With entering my junior year of college, an internship, babysitting, and extracurriculars all to look forward to, I definitely won’t have the energy to balance a relationship in the mix.¬†I have other more important priorities to juggle at this stage of my life.

4.) I’m simply not ready. After I graduate and begin making a living for myself, I feel that I will have established a greater level of independence, sense of self, and maturity to seriously date. But until then, I will continue to study and prepare for the life ahead of me.

I don’t think that dating or marriage should be a hurried matter for anyone. Take your time, treasure the opportunities in front of you, and let God be your navigator. After all, he knows us better than we know ourselves. Take care.


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