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Taking a quick break from cake recipes today to get a little more personal. If you’re only here for the cakes, don’t run away just yet! They’ll be plenty more of those, but for today, I thought I’d answer in more detail a question I get asked nearly as much as I get asked any question about cake making.
“How do you have so much cake around and stay healthy? Do you even eat it?”.
I sure do! Don’t forget who’s President of Quality Control around here. It’s me! I try every single one of my cakes. It’s one of the many reasons I love baking. Digging into something I worked so hard to create, and something that tastes as amazing as I think my cakes do, is incredibly satisfying and makes me incredibly happy. Every bite of cake is worth every minute I spent creating that cake.
So how do I balance all the cake in my life and maintain a healthy lifestyle? I don’t count calories. I don’t look at macros. I don’t restrict foods from my diet. I eat what I love and I eat what I know my body needs. I call it mindful eating. If I’m making cake one day, I’m going to eat it and enjoy. I’m not going to feel guilty or shame myself because I had too much. I own the choice I make to eat the cake or whatever indulgent treat it may be, and then the next meal or the next day, I take the opportunity to make healthy choices.
I’ve spent a lot of years body shaming myself and feeling guilty for the choices I’ve made when it comes to food. For years food had two categories in my mind – good and bad. And that meant, I was either good or bad for eating “good” or “bad” foods. It was a skewed relationship and one that held me back from being my personal best for many years.
Let me backtrack a bit to give you a better understanding of how I changed my relationship with food and why my new perspective on food has made me happier than I ever have been.
I bought my first diet pill when I was 16. I wanted a quick fix to gaining weight after my sophomore basketball season. I had stopped working out, but continued making poor food choices, and gained a little weight. I quickly learned that a pill wouldn’t magically change how I looked, but at the time, I was so frustrated and mad at myself as I compared my body to the girls around me who seemed to eat anything they wanted to and never gained any weight.
I then decided to increase working out and decrease what I was eating, by a lot. That certainly helped me drop weight but I wasn’t healthy. I still had a skewed relationship with food. It was still “good” food or “bad” food, and I was constantly beating myself up for anything I had deemed “bad” that I put in my body. The problem, now that I can look back with a new perspective and clear vision, was that I wasn’t working on loving myself for who I was and for the body God gave me. I was so focused on looking a certain way, I failed to recognize and understand that God created me to be me, and not anyone else. I lost sight of my individual worth. I tried being a mediocre version of other people, rather than focusing on being the best version of myself.
A couple years later, still with a poor relationship with food, my parents divorced and my world was rocked like I never knew it could be. I started experiencing depression and anxiety and turned to food for comfort. I gained quite a bit of weight over the next year. I was so lost and felt so alone that I didn’t even realize what was going on. I spent the next two years battling these personal demons and wondering what was wrong with me.
It wasn’t until I married Ryan that I started to realize that if he could love me for me, that maybe I could too. I didn’t lose any weight at that time, but started feeling comfortable in my own skin. My depression and anxiety didn’t go away, and I continued to battle negative thoughts and feelings that often seemed completely out of my control, but as I put more focus on the positives in my life, I felt more confident and started to develop greater self love.
Toward the end of my first pregnancy, almost four years after I married Ryan, I decided I needed to make another change – not because I was unhappy with my size, but because I knew I wasn’t being my best self. I knew I could be better. I knew I could make smarter choices when it came to working out and what I was eating. After Westin was born I started going to group classes at the gym. I loved the energy of the other people around me, trying to be their best and push themselves. I wanted to do that too.
At that time we were living in Santa Monica, a foodie’s heaven. We were going to incredible restaurants and it started to don on me that food was more than just an escape or a way to find comfort. It was an experience, not to be looked at mindlessly. It was also at this time that I made my first homemade cake, and again, the light bulb in my head went off and I really began to understand that food was meant to be enjoyed and not something that should be looked at as “good” and/or “bad.”
So while I was trying to stay active, it wasn’t really until I changed my relationship with food that I saw the greatest results, both mentally and physically.
This change of view certainly didn’t happen overnight. I’ve had to work hard and be mindful as I balance the healthy and the indulgent. I’ve had to work hard to not overthink it. I’ve had to work hard to push the negative comparisons out of my mind. I’ve had to work hard at not letting a number on a scale run my life. In fact, after I had Avery and was trying to lose my baby weight, I stepped on the scale one day only to see that I had gained a few pounds. I was devastated and it sent me spiraling to a dark place. After a few days, my head was a little more clear and I realized I couldn’t continue relying on a number to give me satisfaction for all the hard work I was doing. I never stepped on a scale again. (Well, yes at the doctor, but I never look at the number and I specifically ask nurses not to tell me what it is). I don’t need to know that number. I just need to feel healthy. I need to feel strong. And I need to feel like I’m doing my best, whatever that “best” may be during different phases of my life. I also like when my pants aren’t too tight. That’s it. That’s what I go off of.
I’m not my skinniest. I’m not my heaviest. But I’m healthier, mentally and physically, than I ever have been – which also means I’m at my happiest. Of course, there are days that negative thoughts creep in my head. I’m only human. We all are. I still have to work hard to fight off those thoughts. Depression and anxiety are still a part of my life (something we can talk more about later), but I’ve learned how to work through those darker days. I’ve learned that my body, whatever size it is, is a creation of God and that alone is something to be proud of. I can run, I can dance, I can bake, I can be a good mom, I can be a good friend, I can be a good wife – and none of that requires me to be a certain size.
This is what works for me. It’s not going to be the solution for everyone. At the end of the day no one can make your choices for you. No one can tell you how to feel. Finding balance in our lives is such a personal journey. You may have to try a few different things before you figure out what works best for you, and that’s ok. Just don’t give up.