Q & A with Britt Hawthorne of Listening and Learning

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Hi friends! It's been a while since I've shared an interview, but I am so glad to be back and even more glad that I'm sharing this particular interview with Britt Hawthorne of @teachingandlearning1. Britt is an Elementary Montessori Guide who is passionate about cultivating anti-bias and anti-racist classrooms and shares tons of resources on her instagram and Patreon account. She is incredibly thoughtful and inspiring and I feel lucky to follow and learn from her on instagram. Check out our interview and send Britt some love on her pages! 


Q: Who is Britt? What are some things people might not know about you from following your instagram?

A: I’m a Black cisgender Christian and a mother, wife, sister, daughter and teacher. I love coffee (but you probably already know that) I am deeply introverted (which is why I love Instagram), and I grew up upper-middle class but am now settled in working-class. Something you might not know: I have always dreamed of traveling outside the country. I live in Houston, but my heart is in the Midwest where the rest of my family lives. One of my core values is empowerment. I would like to amplify these incredible Instagram accounts Tiffany Jewell @antibiasmontessori; Razan Abdin-Abnani @oustadarazan; Liz Kleinrock @teachandtransform; Maribel Valdez Gonzalez @xijadelatierra

Q: What inspired you to start your instagram account?

A: My Instagram account was first created as a classroom newsletter for parents wanting to stay connected to our school day. After leaving the classroom last year, I transitioned it into a business account with the intention of self-promotion… only for that to fail miserably. I have now found my flow sharing what I have learned about white supremacy, the patriarchy and my missteps of upholding both of these.

Q: What are the things you're most passionate about as an educator?

A: I am so passionate about creating a classroom environment where Black Lives Matter and working in partnership with teachers to find their identities.

Q: What does it mean to be an anti-bias educator? What does this look like in practice?

A: An anti-bias educator actively works to remove oppressive”-ims” in the classroom environment by following the anti-bias framework. We work to develop our own positive self identity around race, gender, culture, and socioeconomic class. We work to craft accurate language, always putting the child first and in a positive light while always describing the systems and/or institution as the deficit ones. We promote advocacy in our own community and support learners to work toward a just world.  

Q: What do you love about Montessori? What would you change?

A: Oh gosh, I love everything about the Montessori Method. The things that stand out are children are equally valued in our environments, their voices often looked to before ours, the empowerment to become fully independent beings, the decentering of the adult, the emphasis of beauty, order and structure, the one hundred year old didactic materials used to teach extremely abstract concepts concretely, the multiage classrooms forcing learners to practice leading and following and the promise and promotion of peace education.

I would change the practical application of Montessori. Montessori in the United States has catered to white, upper-class families for far too long. When public and charter Montessori programs are created in specifically Brown and Black communities, white families seem to quickly take over. I would increase the access to Montessori and update teacher-created materials to include culturally relevant materials.

Q: What's one thing you would change about our education system?

A: That’s tough. I honestly can’t pick one thing because I would rather focus on a new system being created than trying to reform the current system.

Q: What's one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?

A: I suggest new teachers give themselves lots of grace. Don’t be embarrassed or insecure about your lack of teaching years; you bring energy, spark, creativity and current research. Make a to-do list focusing on years. For instance, I didn’t teach spelling my first year (I know big fail), but I promised I would get a system in place and adopt a spelling program year 2; year 3, I would revamp my classroom library intentionally looking at each book from an anti-bias lens and so on.

Q: What was (one of) your most challenging experience(s) in the classroom? What did you learn?

A: Grading was a big challenge for me. As a Montessorian we believe grading does not contribute to the learning process or aid in fulfilling the child’s need to reach his or her fullest potential. So finding a grading system that accurately communicates a child’s academic ability without limiting  his or her potential caused me to reform the process every year. But on a deeper level, the weekly reports and final grades was a constant reminder of white supremacy taking root. It was just another reminder of my participation in white supremacy. It looked the same every year, every grade, white boys did the best with white girls trailing behind and a huge dip with everyone else. Layer that with under-resourced families and a second language and the grades were gloomier and the parent-teacher conferences were redundant.

Q: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of others?

A: I use to (and sometimes still do) define self-care as bubble baths, doing Baptiste yoga and sipping coffee outside under the shade but now I’ve borrowed my definition of self-care from Twitter. “Self-care is addressing your own problematic thoughts and behaviors, removing toxic (not just challenging) people and situations from your life; holding yourself accountable for what you do and say (and apologizing authentically); doing your own self-work to be emotionally literate,” and learning to say genuinely say yes or no.

Q: What's one thing you would change about our education system?

A: Gosh, one thing? I would End the privatization of schools. Read more why here.

Q & A with Czarina Jimenez of Little Up Beat Class

Meet Czarina Jimenez: Elementary Music Teacher in Southern California and grad student studying Neuroscience and Education! Czarina is passionate about music, self-care, and social justice. Talking with her was really inspiring and exciting because we share a lot of the same passions AND because I don’t have a music program at my school, so learning about hers was really awesome. Check out our interview below and show her NEW instagram some love: @littleupbeatclass.

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Q: Who is Czarina Jimenez? What is one thing people might not know about you from your Instagram?

A: I am a 5th year Elementary Music teacher in Southern California and a grad student studying Neuroscience and Education. I got to give a TEDx talk at my alma mater during my first year of teaching. I grew up in a Filipino-American household in Los Angeles, so food (cooking and eating) is 100% my love language. I’m pretty extroverted and I’m always embarrassing my friends with really bad puns. I’m most at peace in a coffee shop with a good book.

Q: What inspired you to start your Instagram account?

A: @charliekilo is my personal Instagram. On it I share my experiences as a music educator, and the people and places I love. I see IG as a way of holding myself accountable for teaching, wellness, and adventure. The educators and creatives that I follow always inspire me.  

@teacherlovecollective is a passion project I’ve recently started. It is a quarterly gathering of intentional self-love for teachers and a downloadable ‘gathering guide’ of self-care activities and discussion questions so that anyone could host their own Teacher Love Collective with their friends. The goal is to for teachers to be nourished in community with others who understand the same joys and challenges of education.

Q: What are some things that you’re passionate about as an educator?

A: I am passionate about power of music to cultivate social-emotional learning skills. When my kids sing together, they collaborate, share space, and experience the importance of their individual voice. I’m also passionate about culturally responsive music education.

Q: What does Culturally Responsive Teaching mean to you? What does it look like as a music teacher?

A: I’m still learning and growing in my journey to being a more culturally responsive music teacher, but for starters, it looks like valuing the unique culture of each student, valuing (with high expectations) the voice and skill of each student, and choosing songs and activities that are authentic.

This year, two first grade girls each shared sang a song in Hindi and then Thai. Their classmates were so excited and the two girls were so proud. It was cool because we were studying songs from around the world.

Who am I to just put on a video of a song from Thailand or India when I have two little girls who can sing for our class? Much of music education has been centered on Eurocentric, “sage-on-the-stage” pedagogy but this is not culturally responsive.

Culturally responsive teaching is also letting students teach YOU.

Music touches all levels of culture. Music has been revolutionary. Music has been oppressive. It’s so deeply ingrained with who we are. To not teach music in a way that addresses this is a waste of an opportunity.

Q: What’s the difference between choir and classroom music?

A: Choir is what you see in movies - rehearsals, performances, and singing. In addition to singing, I love getting my students into the text of the song.

Classroom music is a mix of music appreciation, theory, and performance. I teach using techniques from the Kodaly concept. It emphasizes tons of singing, authentic folk songs, music literacy, creativity, dance, and games.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?

A: Surround yourself with people who remind you how much you love teaching.

It is easy to fall prey to burnout your first year, especially when you are surrounded by negative voices. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, encourage you, and who remind you to take care of yourself.

Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn?

A: Students who blatantly act like they don’t care are the biggest challenges to me. One year I had a student who would always come to choir with the worst attitude. I wanted to give up on him. Instead, I decided to not take his attitude personally, and I worked harder to make sure that I was building a positive relationship with him.

Now he’s in the advanced choir and he’s excited whenever he sees me- it’s crazy. I learned that those tough kids could surprise you when given the chance.

Q: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of others? 

A: Self-care to me is creating space. With a busy schedule, it is so easy for me to loose ownership of is my time. Creating space is stepping back and nourishing myself. Sometimes it’s reading at a coffee shop for a couple hours, sometimes it’s getting out of town with girlfriends, sometimes it’s as simple as yoga and puppy snuggles.


It is all about creating that space to stop, breath, and reset.

 

 

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Q & A with Meg of Meg's Crayons

Meet Meg of Meg's Crayons! Meg's instagram and blog are so refreshing because they're super honest and real accounts of her experience being a teacher. Just from following her on instagram for the past year or so, I've come to see how funny and kind and loving of a person she is who truly wants the world for her students. I'm so grateful I got to learn from her and I know you'll love learning about her too! 

Q: Who is Meg? What is one thing people might not know about you from your Instagram or blog?

A: Honestly, this is a hard one to answer! I am pretty open about who I truly am and I don't often hide it. If I had to describe myself I am an extroverted introvert.  Once you get to know me I let my weirdness shine through, but in new situations or large groups I am actually very quiet. 

I enjoy listening and watching people, which sounds creepy, but totally not done in a creepy way. Many people may think I am the "life of the party", but that side of me doesn't come out until I feel very comfortable with people because I know that it can overwhelm people sometimes :D. I honestly, don't know what people don't know about me because I know I have some loving followers that truly know me for me and if they wonder about something they usually just ask. 

I am always down to answer questions :D

Q: What inspired you to start your instagram account?

 A: I actually just did a Megabyte Monday about this topic on my YouTube channel! I honestly felt really lonely my first year of teaching and my younger sister told me about Instagram. She explained it as this app where you posted pictures to share and she wanted me to check it out. I found amazing educators connecting with other educators around the world and I knew I wanted to make connections and learn from others. I created my account to connect and collaborate with other teachers and I never imagined it would grow the way it did. I am very blessed to have connected with so many amazing people and have found lasting friendships from making connections online. 

 Q: What are some things that you’re passionate about as an educator?

Teaching is my overall passion which makes it hard to narrow down what exactly I am passionate about in teaching. I absolutely love working in Title I , not because my students "need me", but because I see every challenge or new experience as an opportunity for me to grow as a person. I believe I learn more from my students than they may ever learn from me. As an educator people expect me to list off a long list of standards that I want my students to retain or take away from their year with me, but that simply isn't the case. I truly hope my students leave my classroom knowing that they can make a difference and that they are loved. Those many seem like small and easy things to accomplish, but they truly are not as easy as it may seem. I work hard to build lasting relationships with each one of my students, because that is what is most important to me. 

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?

A: BREATHE! Ignorance is bliss your first year of teaching. Enjoy your students, write down your memories and above all else ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN. No one expects you to know it all your first year so learn and listen as much as you can. There will be moments where you feel like you are failing and you need to know we all have those moments. Find people you can count on to talk you down when you are worked up and remember to take care of you! 

Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn?

A: I think each new school year brings on a whole new set of challenges each year. I don't know that I can pick out just one, because each challenging experiences forces me to grow, learn, understand and build myself into a better educator and all around person. Being a classroom teacher is a challenge, period, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

Q: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of others?

A: Honestly, this is an area that I am continuing to grow in. I think I lost sight of putting myself first for a long time and I have recently started working back to putting myself first. To me, self-care means listening to your body and giving it what it needs...rest, netflix, naps, walks etc. I don't believe in forcing myself to do something I just am not in the mood for...ever. I think I take care of others by listening and offering my advice, that is what most of my real life friends count on me for. When they need someone to listen and give them the honest truth..they call me. I have worked hard to surround myself with people who count on me and that I can count on when I need them most. I truly believe who you surround yourself with plays a large roll in your self-care. I am hoping this summer I can continue to find more "me" time and get back to truly putting myself first. 

Q & A with Hannah of Wholesomely Hannah

Friends, I am so excited to share my interview from a few weeks ago with Hannah of Wholesomely Hannah. Hannah is a college student at Northeastern studying to be a nurse and has an amazing instagram and blog that both inspire us to take care of ourselves but not obsess about food and strongly encourage us to critically think about diet culture and all of the harmful effects it has on us. Talking with Hannah was inspiring and informational and I am so excited to see all the wonderful things she does in her life. I hope you'll enjoy our interview as much as I did! 

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Q: Who is Hannah? What are some things people might not know about you looking at your Instagram or from listening to your podcast?

A: For people who look at my Instagram and listen to the podcast, what people might not know at first is just that it used to be a place of pretty deep disorder. I don’t have any regret or remorse or hate for how I used to engage with food and exercise, but it definitely was not always – and it’s still not always – wholesome. It wasn’t rooted in body acceptance and intuitive eating and living like it is now. I used to struggle with a lot of orthorexic tendencies. Orthorexia is not in the DSM 5 – the disorder database for therapists and nutritionists to use – it’s the way that people eat when they think they need to have a perfect diet and always engage in foods that are pure and whole. It made me think that I needed to eat like I was on the whole 30 everyday for my freshman year of college and most of my sophomore year. During that time is when I created the Instagram and it used to be called In Hannah’s Kitchen – the website too- because I preliminarily focused on food and more specifically paleo food. They were all paleo foods – grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free. Not a lot of different foods. My mom kept telling me “Hannah you’re eating the same foods! Why are you doing this?” And I didn’t even realize that this was of concern. It wasn’t that I loved eating eggs and sweet potatoes, but I really though those were my only food options. I was very into the world of the paleo podcast and the world where grains were bad for us and would wreck my immune system. I was like on some higher moral ground – I put myself on a pedestal of I eat so much healthier than other people in college and it’s inspiring and to many people, the Instagram grew because it was rooted in that diet culture that we see nowadays with the real food movement. Not for reasons of health – which is a tricky word – but I was in that for dieting. I didn’t realize it was a diet at the time but that’s what I was doing and that’s where I took the Instagram. People identified with that and I found a lot of paleo bloggers through that. People at college would come up to me and say, “how do you do it? You’re so healthy!” It was easy for me to do it because I would spend ALL of Sunday meal prepping and all of the day before grocery shopping and planning each meal for the week. I think, now, that meal planning can be really helpful in a moderate and relaxed way – especially if you’re busy – but the way I was doing it was so stringent and obsessive that I wouldn’t leave room for error or for life to happen. When my Instagram was more paleo/whole 30 focused, my life revolved around eating that way and cooking that way and my life did not revolve around feeling fulfilled by friends or work or movement – just around the food that I was eating. Something that I never posted was the effects of that. One of them was the obsessive thoughts about when to meal plan. For a while I got into calorie counting which is another thing I never showed because I thought I had to have it all figured out, but that definitely made it’s way into my diet brain.

So I am a 21-year-old college student in my 4th year at Northeastern in Boston. I am hoping to go to Nurse Practitioner grad school in a couple years after I finish my undergrad degree. I come with this diet culture background from the orthorexia background and paleo/whole 30 to a place where now I’m just like I completely and totally surrender to whatever my body wants to look like and feel like on any day. My body is so much smarter than I am and I never know how it’s going to look or feel so I just have to support it in whatever capacity I can on any given day. That’s how I’ve come to celebrate and really accept intuitive eating and health at every size movement, which I really try to embrace in my everyday life and talk about on the blog and Instagram. The podcast has been such a beautiful way for Holly and I to connect with listeners. We’re not above it – we’re in this with listeners and readers. It’s become this wonderful way to engage with others and hopefully help others realize that their struggles are valid and not in isolation. Everyone is in this together and through talking about it, hopefully we can help others realize that they are supported and not alone in this mess of diet culture. If they want to get out of it, we hope to provide resources other than ourselves.

I love doing the podcast. It’s been about 7 months and it’s going well and I don’t see an end in sight.

Q: What about people who say food is medicine? Is it true or is that just BS?

 I am still trying to work this out and think about it. I don’t know if I know enough medically about what role food can play in medicine. There really are a lot of people who will really say that food can be totally healing. I think where I’m at right now is – we’re all changing all the time – food can have a place in helping, but it might not be exclusive. I think that – take maybe acne for example. A lot of people don’t want to try medicines; they just want to try eating real, whole foods, more nutrients, something like that. For some people, maybe that works. For some, it might just be placebo. I definitely believe in the placebo effect. I don’t bash it – if using the placebo effect is going to help you, that’s amazing because I want everyone to feel as good as they can. So with the acne example, sometimes there are medicines that can help with that and I think that sometimes people don’t want to take medicines for certain reasons which is another personal choice and I’ll never tell someone what to do or restrict them because we’re all free to do what we want. But part of it might not be you have to cut out ALL of certain food groups in order to heal this one thing. What if those foods in other areas of your life make you joyful? What if limiting the dairy gives you less acne but you also supplement with medication that works for you? I think we can combine things and that food shouldn’t be the ultimate power as medicine. Just speaking from personal experience that can get into a place where it almost restricts social life too. If your doctor says “no alcohol or bread or cheese” what if your friends want to have a wine night with charcuterie and bread and brie and you can’t even go because you’ll be tempted by the foods and you “should not be eating” those foods. I think that’s tough because – especially when doctor has just given you some sort of prescription – what if you’ll be ok and you’re missing out on this interaction with your best friends because of some possible thing that might get better if you don’t engage with those foods? From my personal background, that’s where it got messy and restrictive. I would just binge on almond butter and stress about that binging which isn’t better for me. Stress is one of the biggest things that can give us less sleep, potentially acne – stressing about sticking to a medically prescribed diet can produce even more negative consequences than even just eating the foods. That’s what I think about that! 

I think everyone deserves to feel as best as they possibly can. If there’s a way that you know works for you, do it! For me, I’m allergy tested at the doctor and I know that dairy and I are NOT friends. It makes me breakout, but that’s not the biggest thing – straight ice cream/milk/butter really just gives me terrible stomachaches. That’s something for me that I don’t feel like is a restriction but more of a freedom because I am free from those stomach pains and hate those.

 

It’s not because I think that non-dairy products are better. For me, I could eat dairy products if I wanted to – there’s no restriction there – but what makes me refrain from that is just the fact and knowledge I have in my head of I might get a really bad stomach ache and you don’t want to be uncomfortable. Comfort levels are important. 

Q: How did @wholesomelyhannah start? How about Nut Butter Radio?

A: More people are becoming conscious of healthism and weight stigma. We do not ever want to compare healthism and weight stigma in terms of levels of severity to something like racism because they exist very differently in many places and intersect in others. We always want to be conscious of that as two thin, white women.

Q: Tell us more about Nut Butter Radio!

A: So Holly and I both had similar backgrounds. We come from different backgrounds in diet culture – she came from caloric restriction and I came from the paleo world. We were at Northeastern together. She graduated and I went to Cali for an internship for 6 months. Holly and I were on opposite sides of the country still keeping in touch but simultaneously having these different/similar roads to full recovery and learning about intuitive eating and health at every size. Those two giant concepts truly changed our lives. We both started listening to Food Psyche. I consumed so much of that info and read the book Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size. I got rid of tons of people on social media that weren’t contributing to my well being but weren’t. She was doing the same and she texted me one day saying “food psyche is making me want to start a podcast” and I was thinking about it too and I was like me too I think it would be so much fun to do it with you because we have very similar ideas and values in relation to health and eating and food and diet culture. Holly is more impulsive than me whereas I’m like let’s make a plan and take our time – we did a combo of the two of us and we thought about logistics and how to get it in apple podcast and what to call it. We were texting one day and she was like what if we just forgo the health names and call it nut butter radio? And I was like that’s it! We got on skype, talked about the show, we were super nervous, we ordered microphones. I googled ‘how to record a skype call’ and we got right into episode one. We are now in the 30s – it’s been that many weeks. I love it. We’ve come a long way with our perceptions of health as well. This has shown that we are still growing and learning and changing. I don’t think anyone is static in their beliefs. When people listen to the show and know that what other bloggers are saying is something to be considered but it’s not the end all be all. As of now, we’re just still getting a firm grasp on what we believe and what health at every size and body politics means. I’m excited to continue growing it and working on it. Holly and I are super busy with our projects and life but we always find time to record. It’s a nice way to kind of talk and bounce new ideas off of each other and really interact with this giant group of predominantly women who are struggling with things like we did or are just very interested in these concepts. I am so grateful for everyone who has ever given us a listen. IT means the world to us.

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since starting your Instagram and podcast? 

A: Definitely health at every size and intuitive eating. Another thing that transcends the bounds of eating and food on Instagram is that everything is absolutely, 100% never ever what it seems. Some people do a really great job – one of my favorite accounts is @bodyposypandy – she’s adorable. She gets real close to the reality – yesterday she was posting about how Feb is a tough time and has produced a lot of anxiety. Also Claire from @becommingbodypositive. Their instagrams are really close to their reality but even still I’ve learned that nothing on social media is really truly how they’re living or thinking. We can get close but we can also be so far away. The people that do say “these are grain free bars and this is what works for me” – I question that all the time now! I don’t follow people if they post too much kale. I try and – for my own sanity – I know that what I’m going to take in is what I’ll stress about. I want to take in messages that are helpful to me because if we’re going to take in the information that you can make Japanese sweet potatoes and carrots into French fries and think that those people don’t feel deprived is in many ways a lie. That’s definitely what I’ve learned.

Since starting the podcast, we’re constantly learning from each other. We agree on many things, but we are also constantly learning bigger things from each other. I’ve learned that I can learn from my co-host just in the conversations that we record for this show – that makes me realize that just because I have this podcast with Holly doesn’t mean that we are in any way better or more recovered or anything. We are learning too as are the listeners. An example of this is just that the other day we were talking about airport food and she made a really good point that I hadn’t quite learned about. You think you’ve learned about intuitive eating and then there are just so many other facets and nuances that you might never see. It’s a whole world once you open up the Pandora’s box. We were talking about airport food and how even if the airport food isn’t the best food you’ve ever eaten, it’s OK because with intuitive eating, your meals don’t have to be perfect or delicious because you can always eat again! I’m so glad that I can learn from her and we can exchange knowledge in that way. The thing behind not every meal needing to be perfect and delicious is that yes it would be incredible if every meal was perfect and so delicious but that’s not life.

As a teacher, people are incredibly busy and can’t even take time to eat all day. While that’s not ideal, a sandwich that’s not the most tasty thing in the world might just suffice if you just need energy.

I don’t need to be crafting these amazing ancient grain bowls and oatmeal concoctions. I can just eat some simple toast that fills me up or some pasta or whatever. It doesn’t need to be all complex and perfect but it can be basic and satisfying and needs to get you through your day. There’s definitely a time where food can be celebrated and can be delicious and the focus, but there’s also life which is busy and messy and stressful and I can’t even imagine what it’s like being a real adult outside of college. Those times just call for FOOD that’s going to fill you up and let you experience life in the way that you want to. It can give you the nourishment to carry through your day – it doesn’t have to be a fancy five-course thing to post on instagram. 

Q: What does intuitive eating mean to you? How can someone learn to really LISTEN to their body? 

A: Yes really good question. So the first part for me – I know it’s different for everyone in intricate ways – it just means that all restrictions are off and every green light of freedom is turned on. It means that I’m not going to feel any sort of judgment for any sort of food that I want to eat or cook or buy at the store. In my cycle during the month, there are some weeks where I’m way more hungry and craving way more foods that I might not want at other times of the month. Those increased hunger signals used to scare me and I would try to ignore them. I realized that this wasn’t helping me because I would go to bed hungry, feel stressed, mad, and not fall asleep. Now if I’m feeling extra hungry or not as hungry, neither of the actions or experiences are judged. No longer is that a part of who I am. It used to really define who I was. Now it’s more like ok so I had breakfast an hour ago and now I feel hungry again. It used to be like what the hell why are you hungry again? You must be intolerant to the foods that you ate. Or some crazy excuse – judging my body for being hungry again. Now it’s like OH I’m hungry again so I’m going to make something else and I respect myself and want to satisfy myself before my busy day. That’s another thing that for me intuitive eating has become – a way to care for and respect myself. It comes with the non-judgmental attitude. I’m just going to care for myself – many think that comes from eating real food. For me, eating real food only is a level of restriction that I never want to go back to. I would believe that I was bad if I ate non-paleo foods and now caring for myself with intuitive eating is how I define it. To care for myself is to listen to myself and treat myself with love as opposed to rigidity and guilt or this is bad/good toxic behavior. 

A couple of suggestions on how to listen to your body. One of the first things that I would recommend an individual do – I’m not a dietician but it helped me – is just start looking at the ways in which you engage with food. Everyone does it a little bit differently. If you’re someone who is at the store and thinks I love this chocolate but I cannot buy it today because I will eat it in a minute. Start to pay attention to those thoughts and how the thoughts make you feel. If you’re thinking you can’t buy the chocolate because you’ll be crazy, well why are you going to be crazy? Is it that you don’t usually buy this? You think that if you don’t buy it you’ll work on your diet and be able to become thinner or something? Just try and be honest with yourself and get to the root of this as much as you’re comfortable with. This is a great initial way to start listening to yourself. For so long, people in diet culture don’t listen to themselves – they just turn off all of those intuitive thoughts.

After that I would start to think about – when you eat a meal – how you’re feeling during the meal. Something that was helpful for me was not to watch TV or be on my phone during a meal but to actually enjoy the food. With this it’s tricky because I never want people to feel like they need to STOP at a very specific place when they’re done eating. Robin – who I interned for at the Real Life—RD.com – touched on this well. Some days you might undereat and some days you might overeat. None of them are bad. That’s another thing – the non-judgment. I never want anyone to think that they need to stop eating at a certain point because intuitive eating is the hunger and fullness diet because it’s not. Just pay attention to whether you like the foods or you don’t like the food. If you really want pasta but you’re eating zoodles, why are you doing that?

Those are some internal things that I’ve done in the past to help. Two external things are to read the book “Intuitive Eating” or start listening to free resources like food psyche. Free podcasts are an amazing resource – obviously you need a mobile device or computer but if you can get your hands on any of these resources, they’re super helpful and eye opening for everyone who I’ve recommended it to.

If you’re feeling like you want more moral support, if you have the capacity to go to someone who is an intuitive eating counselor or therapist or someone who can work with you on intuitive eating and embraces a health at every size approach. I know that not everyone who wants to do this may have the financial means but this is a great option if you have the means.

Q: Why isn’t there more information on intuitive eating and health at every size out there?

A: I think that it is because it’s not perceived – this is coming from me who loves this stuff and supports it – as immediately attractive and appealing to people. Unless of course someone is prescribing that intuitive eating will guarantee shedding weight which is never the guarantee with intuitive eating. You might NOT shed pounds. It’s just not this attractive guaranteed fixed thing. I think that intuitive eating is – for some people who have never really been exposed to diet culture – they naturally do intuitive eating. It’s back to the basics and I think that there aren’t that many resources because it’s not this pretty little box that’s going to promise you results of any sort. In a way, I think that’s somewhat false because intuitive eating helps you free yourself from diet culture and food restrictions, which is wonderful and appealing. But it doesn’t promise the body and weight change aspect. Even the whole 30 will emphasize that you’ll probably go down a pant size and things like that – this makes it so much more attractive than saying “you might not change weight – you might go up or down! That’s just not the focus of this at all.” I wish there were more resources which is why Holly and I started the podcast. Even blogs – like Robin’s or Christie Harrison’s who leads Food Psyche are so helpful. 

Intuitive eating is not glamorous. The answer to our lives is not going to be in the whole 30 or a plant based diet for non-environmental and ethical reasons. I think that people who do plant based diet for those reasons can be a way to eat intuitively. For people who just think it has the answers for their weight or body image might be doing it for concerning reasons – about weight or body image. Life is not going to be easy and figured out in this 30 day plan. It’s a life long work of intuitive eating OR you were involved in disordered eating/diet culture and you just feel off with food and want to get back to a place of being an intuitive eating that we all start out as babies.

Q: You’re a busy college student! What are your favorite filling on the go snacks?

A: This is something that I’m always looking for inspiration for too! First, before I give mine because I definitely have some, I LOVE the way that Robin from the Real Life RD posts blog posts about good and satisfying snacks and meals that she’s eaten that week – that’s how I learn about fun new ideas. She said she’ll sometimes make oatmeal bites or a loaf of banana bread and take some throughout the week. I definitely recommend her website – she posts amazing and honest, rich, vulnerable content. She also posts things like “the weekly eats.” It’s a non-restrictive approach so it’s really helpful. Learning from others about what options there are in a non-restrictive way is really helpful for busy people!

Some of my favorite snacks are from Trader Joe’s. I like the TJ’s trail mix packages – they’re so convenient. I typically have noticed that sometimes I’ll eat that and feel like I need something else so I’ll bring some pieces of chocolate or an apple or a couple pieces of bread or granola just to supplement that trail mix packet because I like how convenient it is but it isn’t always filling. I might start making my own when I have time!

For a quick on the go meal, I’ll make a big Tupperware of pasta and keep it in the fridge. I have no issues with fridge and I’ve noticed that wheat pasta keeps me really full for long periods of time especially if I have it with olive oil or pesto with sea salt and then add in a chicken sausage or some kind of protein of any kind – that meal keeps me full for a while and is easy to take on the go.

I like Lara bars – I honestly do like the taste of them.

I like apple and peanut butter or banana and peanut butter. I don’t just do two tablespoons, but I do a big and liberal scoop of whatever I want because that’s just more satisfying than measuring out the two tablespoons. That’s definitely not a meal for me, it’s a snack. I’ll pack random stuff to go along with it like if I want something salty I’ll pack popcorn.

I just like to have options if I can. Something that I’m trying to get better at is in the morning thinking about my schedule for the day and knowing I’ll be in class for lunch sometimes and should I eat a snack before or eat lunch before – in a non-restrictive way I think about the day to come and about when I’m going to be fed. I definitely have those times where I find myself not eating enough during the day because of school and stress and then getting home and realizing I have a headache or feel lethargic because I didn’t eat. I don’t like how that makes me feel. I’m really working this semester – still a work in progress – of just figuring out how to be better about just feeding myself because I don’t live at home anymore and have my parents to guarantee my meals. Even though I’ve been at college for four years, I’m still learning how to adequately and happily feed myself throughout each day in a way that is intuitive.

Options are just good. Having things in my bag is just insurance that if hunger strikes, I’m good to go.

Q & A WITH ROSIE TRAN OF KALE IN THE CLOUDS

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When I started my instagram, my goal was to inspire and connect with other teachers who felt busy but wanted to prioritize their health and take care of themselves through what they eat. Following Rosie has been so much fun because she does something similar, but with flight attendants! Rosie is sweet and kind and inspiring and always sharing her travels - through following her, I often learn new ideas and tips for staying well on the go (like, REALLY on the go). Read below to learn more!

Q: Who is Rosie? What are some things people might not know about you from your Instagram and blog?

A: Is it cliche to call myself the “committed to kindness” flight attendant? I wear that  title on my name bar at work proudly! Some surprising facts about me are I still make wishes under tunnels, I am a Disney fanatic and had an annual Disneyland pass last year, I am currently on the market to BUY a new home (big baby steps!), and I’m an outgoing introvert. I love talking to people and meeting new people but I NEED my alone time. Took me awhile to really figure myself out but now I feel like I know myself better than ever!

Q: What inspired you to start Kale In the Clouds?

A: My friend Allie (@foodie__beauty) inspired me to start my Instagram account. I flew with her just one short 30 minute leg from Spokane to Seattle and we bonded over our love for healthy foods. She watched me take a photo of my veggie wrap and asked me if I had an Instagram account for food pictures. I went home that day and stayed up late that night trying to come up with a name that fit me perfectly. After a little while, something clicked and Kale in the Clouds was born!

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?

 A: The most important thing I’ve learned is that the love you have for yourself is so powerful. All my life, I’ve lived as a people pleaser, a giver, a listener, a lover, a shoulder to lean on. I gave so much of myself to others but didn’t do anything for myself. When I finally learned to love myself the way I love my best friend, my whole life changed. I was able to fully live my most authentic life and show others even more love than ever before.

Q: Where should someone who wants to eat healthier start?

A: Eat REAL food. Challenge yourself to avoid packaged foods for a week and see what you can come up with in the kitchen! You’ll be surprised how amazing you’ll feel and how fun it can be! I honestly HATED cooking up until 4 years ago. When I decided to make a change, I decided to start with real simple recipes. Quinoa burrito bowls, zoodles with turkey meatballs. Soon, cooking became a creative outlet and essentially a hobby. 

Q: As a flight attendant, you’re ALWAYS on the go – how do you find balance with a job that is so time consuming?

A: Balance is something I am constantly working on. Some days I feel super overwhelmed and like time is the enemy. Some days are real productive and I feel like I’ve really figured it out - this never lasts too long unfortunately! Flying is my full time job so everything else whether it be self care, exercise, blogging, and now microblogging on Instagram gets woven into my schedule. I am a lover of list making and that’s how I’m able to organize and prioritize. 

Q: What tips do you have for people who are busy but want to eat healthy?

A: Make your health your priority. Meal prepping may seem intimidating to someone who’s never done it, but it’s a huge time saver! Have healthy grab and go snacks readily available so that you don’t splurge on something that will make you feel like crap later on. Remind yourself that you have the same hours a day as Beyoncé.

Q: What are your favorite on the go filling snacks?

A: I am a HUGE nut butter fan. Apples with nut butter, WholeMe granola dipped in nut butter, nut butter on its own, you name it, I’m into it. I also love raw nuts, Siete chips dipped in hummus, and coconut yogurt. Healthy fats make for amazing snacks because they will keep you satiated before your next meal!

Q & A with Rebecca Wertheim of The Teacher's Passport

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Mindfulness in the classroom? Self-care for teachers? Classroom and global activism? These are all things that Becca of The Teacher's Passport cares deeply about. She's such an inspiring woman and teacher and friend and I'm so grateful to have connected with her on instagram and to share some of her outlooks and insights with you all! 

Q: Who is Becca? What are some things that people might not know about you looking at your Instagram and blog? 

A: This is my fifth year teaching and I’ve always taught 2nd grade. I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember but I also had a few other dream jobs when I was younger. I wanted to have a talk show like Oprah, be a magazine editor, and host a show on the Travel Channel. None of those happened but I’m grateful that I chose the teaching path. In my opinion it’s the most honorable job in the world and the biggest accomplishment. I love being in the classroom with such awesome kids who teach ME every single day. I love hiking, being outside, practicing and teaching yoga, and spending time with my awesome dog Willow. Something you wouldn’t know is that I’m a horrible cook which is why I’ve been so inspired by Cole’s IG and blog. I need all the help I can get ;) 

Q: What inspired you to start The Teacher's Passport instagram and blog? 

A: Relationships are so important to me and social media has helped foster some of the most incredible friendships in my life. As we all know, teaching is more than just a job. Our love for learning and growing extends far beyond our classroom walls. Instagram and my blog have allowed me to learn from educators all over the world. I can’t imagine teaching without inspiration and motivation from this awesome global community. 

Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn from it? 

A: This is such a great question. It’s honestly hard to choose just one. Each day presents its own new challenges. I’d say that overall the biggest challenge is wanting to fix everything for my students. I lose sleep at night worrying about them sometimes. We all want what’s best for our students and setting boundaries can be really difficult. Worrying about my students’ well-being has caused a lot of anxiety for me but with practice I’m getting better at setting those boundaries by focusing on what’s within my circle of control. Each morning I say this mantra to myself: I accept the things I can’t control, and do all that I can control with love. 

Q: Tell us more about your TpT store! How do you decide what products to create? How has it been managing this online business while also being a teacher? What is your favorite product you've created?

A: I originally started my TpT store so that I could easily share things I was making for my own classroom. If activities work well in my classroom I want others to be able to use them too! I primarily create mindfulness products (like gratitude journals and calm cards) and global education products (like my travel bundle for virtual field trips). Those are my two favorite types of products to create! Of all the things in my store I think my fave is the Dream Board Design Kit which allows kids to make their own collage of their dreams, goals, and intentions. It’s definitely a challenge to balance a business and a full-time career, but it’s a fun challenge! I never sell anything in my TpT store that I don’t actually use, so TpT is a fun way to share and sell what I’ve already made for my own kids. 

Q: How do you practice self-care? Why do you think it's so important for teachers to prioritize self-care? 

A: My number one piece of advice for all educators (whether you’re just starting out or are a veteran teacher) is to make self-care a top priority. We cannot pour from an empty cup so the more we do for ourselves, the more we actually have to offer our students and co-workers. For me, self-care is a spectrum. Sometimes my self-care includes curling up on the couch with my puppy to watch netflix, sometimes it’s meditation and yoga, sometimes it’s a hike, and sometimes it’s just a nap. I try to ask myself “what would make me feel better? How can I relax? What do I need right now?” I try to do what I actually want to do rather than what I think I should do. Self-care definitely looks different for everyone, but it’s essential for all educators.  

Q: How do you find balance between your personal life and teaching?

A: I have to plan efficiently. I make sure to schedule self-care (including appointments, yoga classes, meal-prep, etc.) I’ve noticed that when I actually write it in my planner I’m more likely to follow through. Sticking to a schedule and routine has really helped me balance school and home. I choose one day per week to stay late and work on my plans and prep for the following week so that I can keep weekends to myself.

Q: What advice do you have for teachers who want to take great care of themselves but feel overwhelmed or too busy? 

A: I used to arrive at school as soon as the building opened and would stay as late as I could. I’d even go into work on weekends! When I stopped doing that, I felt guilty at first. I felt like I wasn’t being the best teacher I could be unless I was constantly doing school work. However, that mindset caused me to burn out quickly. I finally realized that taking care of myself first actually helps me focus better and be more productive in the long run. By planning my tasks and using my time for efficiently at school, I’ve been able to accomplish more without working non-stop. I try to ask myself how I can work smarter rather than harder. For example, it’s okay if something is handwritten rather than typed up in a cute font. The kids don’t care about little details like that. I also had to promise myself that I can’t feel guilty for making time for myself, and I can’t feel guilty for saying “no.” I used to say “yes” to everything but I ended up spreading myself too this. My advice is to make commitments to yourself—just as you would for your students—and show up for yourself. Plan out your week and be sure to schedule in your sacred self-care time.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about “She’s the First” and your experience with this organization? Why is their work important to you and how has it impacted your work as a teacher? 

A: She's the First is an organization that sponsors girls' education in developing nations to help girls become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school. 50 million girls around the world are unable to attend secondary school. When I learned that statistic I knew I wanted to help. I found out about She's the First while I was a college student at UNC Asheville where I founded a campus chapter. We did most of our fundraising through bakes sales and sponsored girls in Nepal, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan. In addition to fundraising, we also hosted awareness events to educate others about gender inequality within education. When I started teaching, I wanted to find a way to bring gender equality education and She's the First into my classroom. I designed a classroom curriculum to teach kids about our partner schools around the world and why gender equality is so important. Each year, my 2nd graders creatively fundraise to sponsor school for a scholar at Kopila Valley School in Nepal. I'm also hosting a fundraiser on TeeSpring (in collaboration with Sarah of @thedesignerteacher). 100% of proceeds benefit scholarships for girls at She's the First partner schools. 

Q & A with Courtnie Hamel of Wellness with Courtnie

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I feel so lucky to have been following the wellness shining star that is Courtnie Hamel of @wellnesswithcourtnie since she started her Instagram almost one year ago. It has been so awesome and inspiring to watch her journey with food and overall wellness evolve and grow. Not only are her photos beautiful, but her captions are sweet and inspirational and thoughtful and offer so much wisdom into her world and the way she takes amazing care of herself mentally and physically through yoga, meditation, and food. Read on to learn more about Courtnie!

Q: Who is Courtnie? What are some things people might not know about you from your Instagram and blog?

A: Pretty much what you see is what you get as far as Courtnie! I’m pretty laid back. I’m a yoga teacher, but I also do valet parking, which a lot of people don’t know. They might just think I’m at my house making smoothies and doing yoga. I’ve been actually doing valet for 6 or 7 years. I do that at night a lot and I actually really like it. I get to be outside, I get to run around. It’s a pretty cool job. It’s not sustainable forever, but it’s something that I do.

 Q: What inspired you to start Wellness with Courtnie?

 A: I’ve been really into the healthy living thing for a LONG time. I started probably when I was a freshman in high school. I’m 29 now, so it was quite a long time ago. I was a competitive Cheerleader growing up. I don’t think a lot of people know, but it’s really physically intense and demanding! I got into eating healthy just to try to improve my performance. I also dealt with a lot of skin issues. I got this book called “Glow” and the general idea was that the way you eat affects the way you look. Back then, that was not a thing at all – nobody was putting that correlation together really and I thought that was really interesting. I thought, I want to eat healthy and I want to improve my skin. Ever since then, it’s been a journey to better health I guess. I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way. I started with tiny switches like hot pockets to lean pockets. Regular yogurt to low fat yogurt (which now we know isn’t really good for you, but it’s a journey!).

I did my yoga teacher training this time last year and I pretty much started my account so that I could share when I was teaching yoga. It didn’t really start as something to share food or recipes or anything like that but as it progressed, I started sharing more. I’ve always shared these things with friends and family, so it felt natural to start sharing these things on my yoga account. That was what people seemed to gravitate towards so I started sharing that.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?

A: I think I’ve come to a turning point in my healthy living journey where for a lot of years I wanted to LOOK a certain way. I knew that eating healthy made me feel better and was good for me, which was a driving factor, but looking a certain way was big for me. I think a lot of people are in that position – they want to eat healthy because they want to look a certain way. I wouldn’t eat enough, then I would eat too much. Now I’m at a point where I just want to FEEL good and feel healthy and I know so much now about how what we eat really affects our longevity. The driving factor now is just to be healthy and have longevity. Once I shifted my mindset, everything became so much easier – it doesn’t feel like I’m punishing myself anymore.

 Q: How do you figure out what foods make you feel good?

A: So my dad has celiac, so he can’t eat gluten. I was tested for it but I tested negative, but it doesn’t always come up in a blood test. I just made the decision to stop eating it and I feel so much better. I also don’t eat dairy. After so many years of experimenting and not eating certain foods – I’ve tried everything from vegan to raw foods to gluten/dairy free – I’ve really learned to listen to my body and piece together the puzzle like “oh I ate that and now I felt this way.” It’s a lot – you have to really pay attention and it takes a lot of practice. There are things that I know just don’t make me feel good like bell peppers! I know they’re healthy for you, but they don’t work for me. I will always only share things that I will actually use and would recommend.

Q: Where should someone who wants to eat healthier start?

 A: I feel like you could go one of two ways. You could either start small by just incorporating more vegetables into every meal. At breakfast, I always have a bed of greens under whatever I’m eating. Just incorporate more vegetables. Then just go from there – maybe cut out soda or fast food. Just making small changes along the way. Or, you could do something like the Whole 30, which I think can be really powerful. I’m actually working on a blog post about it. Nate and I did the Whole 30 together last year and he was a really unhealthy eater before we did that and he just learned so much your taste buds really change when you cut out some of the processed food that you’re used to. That’s a quick way to get over the hump – it shows that you can eat healthy and it’s possible.

 Q: What tips do you have for people who are busy but want to eat healthy?

 A: I think it takes planning – you have to plan. I don’t really do meal prep, but I do plan. I look in my fridge to see what I have and what I need. I always have my staples – greens, organic eggs, and some vegetables. Just making sure you have options available in your fridge. This is a hard question for me because I get to come home a lot! I would just say to be prepared and make sure you have those good staples at home always so you can reach for that. Just be prepared and mindful – if you can make a quick sandwich, that’s better than not having anything at all.

 Q: What are your favorite on the go filling snacks?

 A: I really like to bring smoked salmon, baby carrots and hummus, crackers and hummus. I always bring my collagen with me because if I add some to what I’m drinking, it makes me feel more full. We just started eating these little beef jerky sticks that are grass fed and organic – those are a really good option.

Q: How do you prioritize self-care even while teaching yoga?

A: I’m not afraid to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that because I need my time.” You know? Because people always want something out of you – to do this, or go to this place, but I’m not afraid to say I can’t. I think just not being afraid to take that time for yourself and to say no to certain things or obligations. It only takes one day for me to just recharge and do what I want to do. Then I can get back to teaching. The days that I teach, I’m just constantly thinking about what I’ll say and what my sequence will be. There’s so much that goes into teaching a yoga class that I never really thought of so sometimes I just need to give my brain a break from thinking about it all.

When I take a yoga class, it’s very refreshing (versus teaching). I also learn a little bit through doing that. That’s a form of self-care that I really like. I also love to go to the sauna and just sweat. That’s something I do to take care of myself.

Q & A WITH CHRISTINA COSTA OF TEACH LIKE A GIRL

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"Empowered women empower women." This is the quote on Christina Costa of @teachlikeagirl's instagram bio and this quote speaks so much to who she is as a person. All of her posts, most of which are connected to female empowerment, critical thinking, or teacher wellbeing, are uplifting and inspiring and just kick-ass. Christina is a former middle school teacher who is now getting her PhD in Psychology and studying teacher well-being at the University of Michigan. I feel soso lucky to have had the chance to sit down and (phone) chat with her about some of her teaching philosophies and personal stories. 

Q: Who is Christina Costa? What is one thing people might not know about you from your Instagram and YouTube accounts?

A: Oh girl! That’s a good one! So I am in grad school as a PHD student and a former teacher. Something that people might not know about me because I don’t talk about it often is that I grew up moving around. I was born in Germany, moved to Michigan, moved to Australia, then Michigan again, and then I went to Brazil for my last year of high school where I met my husband. Then I moved back to Michigan for college. So travel is a really big priority for something and me I don’t talk about that much on social media. One of my main goals in life is to travel the world. I grew up traveling like that so it really sparked my interest. 

Q: What inspired you to start Teach Like a Girl?

A: So this is unique because I know the exact moment that I started it. I always had a personal Instagram and have always loved sharing pictures. The night of the election, I posted a picture on my personal Instagram of one of my female students with the caption “I cannot wait until I go to school tomorrow and we can talk about how we have a female president.” At 2 AM, my husband woke me up and he was like, “Trump’s our president” and I was like no you’ve gotta be joking and it was that moment that I was like -- it makes me sick that the girls in my advocacy had never seen a female president – regardless of politics or candidates – this is just crazy that they’ve never seen this. So I wanted to create a curriculum that really just empowered girls and let them see themselves in leadership positions. I was already creating these resources so I was like let me create an Instagram to go along with my resources and to share my teaching experience. So I started that and then “teach like a girl” is just from a campaign by “Always” with the hash tag #likeagirl. That was the moment I started it.

Q: It’s easy to assume that all women care about female empowerment but that’s not actually true. What got you thinking about female empowerment? 

A: I think a lot of people assume that people in this space always thought like that (cared about female empowerment). I didn’t understand what feminism even was until I was in college and my roommate took a women’s studies class. She would say “isn’t it weird that boys have to hold the door open for us?” and I would be like, “what’s that all about?” I don’t care. She would bring all these examples and I understood that feminism meant gender equity for everyone but it wasn’t until I had my own students that I was like wow this matters a lot. When I started reflecting on what it meant to be a woman for me and little things that would happen as I got older and was like OH did this happen when I was little too? My principal said I wouldn’t get a bonus because I was a woman and they wanted to recruit more male teachers. That made me really reflect on situations of power and in college settings like who gets called on more? Who is in the science classes and math classes and politics and in positions of power? Having my students and understanding and learning about history and dynamics of power that I really never understood before – probably because I’m a white woman which comes with privilege – there were things I didn’t have to think about – and I didn’t understand them until I understood history.

It’s really the little subtle things like wow if I was really encouraged to go into math when I was little, would I be doing something in science or tech or engineering? If there had been female presidents, would I be like “yeah I want to be president”?

Q: I feel like we (staff and school teams) increasingly understand that it’s important to talk about race in schools but don’t recognize as readily that we need to talk about gender in schools. What do you think?

A: I agree and I would love to be the person leading those PDS. I don’t see it happening and it’s a problem because there are really easy quick strategies that you can put in place to make sure that your female students are being empowered and it’s not that hard. There are always higher priority items to the school that they feel need to happen before those conversations can.

Q: What inspired you to start your girls group?

A: It’s the same thing as I said before. I just wanted a place where I could have extra time working with my girls and just to dive into what it means to be a leader as a female, talking about history of oppression, and how we can overcome those oppressions and learn from the women who have been doing the work all along. A lot of the curriculum is based on studying women in history, poetry, vision boards, self love activities --- all things that I wanted my girls to have that I didn’t have time for in advisory alone.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?

A: My go to advice for any educator is to just BE YOURSELF. We get so caught up in wanting to be a teacher that we’re not – the nerdy teacher, the teacher who stands on desks, the funny teacher. But kids really appreciate when we are ourselves and we’re authentic. Kids love the teacher who is quiet and reads all the time and they love the teacher who does jokes, stands on desks – as long as that’s just who they are. Be yourself – kids can notice when you aren’t.

I have another one! If something doesn’t feel right, question yourself as to why you’re doing it. Let me give you an example. My school made the kids walk in silent lines and our do now had to be silent and it caused me so much anxiety because it was never silent! Everyday I dreaded when they’d come in and it wasn’t going to be silent. Then I really started to question why I was having them stay silent -- it just didn’t feel right. When I asked, “why am I doing this?” and there was no real answer, I changed it, and it was ok! Just always ask yourself, “WHY am I doing this?”

Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn?

A: Honestly, morally, my biggest challenge was seeing things happen that I wasn’t ok with and not feeling comfortable to speak out because of power dynamics. Feeling really uncomfortable with roles being put in place, speaking to my principal and saying we shouldn’t be doing this – I regret not having more of those conversations. At the time, I felt like “I’m new, I shouldn’t be speaking out.”

Q: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of others?

A: That’s what I’m studying in grad school. So I am looking at that so I will share later when I figure out scientifically what that means. Personally what that meant to me was doing my best to leave work at work, which is almost impossible, and taking the time I needed to unplug and do what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. People would judge me for this so hard but as soon as the bell rang I was out of that school and that’s what I needed. I went home and would do some work from the comfort of my couch and just STOP at some point and if I didn’t finish something, I didn’t finish it. That’s just what I needed for me. If you’re not 100%, you just can’t be 100% for your students and my first year teaching I was NOT 100% and I know that affected my students and it was only when I could take time for myself and recharge that I realized I could keep doing this – teaching.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I don’t know – I’m really loving teaching undergrads and I can see myself lecturing at a college or university and then traveling and doing PD for schools. I might do something like that. I can also see myself going back and doing high school or doing AP psych. 

Blueberry Coconut Smoothie

If you're engaged with the food community on instagram, you've probably seen an uprise of cauliflower smoothies and posts on how to make your smoothies as low sugar as possible. I am all for people eating the things that they want and love, but I realized that I actually don't love putting cauliflower in my smoothies as much as I love putting banana in my smoothies. So, while I try to be mindful of my sugar intake, I also know that I want to eat things I actually love and that bananas have plenty of good stuff in them and this is all to say that it's so important to figure out what actually works and feels/tastes good for YOUR body and not just jump on a health trend (*raises hand*) because someone you admire is doing it. I love sneaking greens into smoothies when I can, but this smoothie is purely fruit because that's what I was in the mood for and that is O.K.! 

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BLUEBERRY COCONUT SMOOTHIE

  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used cashew milk) 
  • 1 handful frozen blueberries
  • a few chunks of frozen coconut (TJ's sells this in bags already chunked!)
  • protein powder of choice (I use Further Food collagen peptides - you can get some with my discount cookbookish10 or just use whatever works/tastes good for you)
  • 1 tsp Bulletproof Brain Octane (basically very concentrated coconut oil - not necessary but I love this stuff)
  • topped with Pearl Butter (more coconut!) and freeze dried raspberries 

 

 

Q & A with Holly Van Hare of Eating Peanut Better

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Holly Van Hare is one of my favorite people to follow on instagram and has hugely inspired my overall perception of what it actually means to practice "health and wellness." Holly is a journalist who advocates for Health at Every Size, is anti-dieting, and co-hosts the incredible "Nut Butter Radio," (with the equally amazing Hannah Liistro) a body politics podcast that promotes intuitive eating and shares a super healthy dose of criticism towards the media and its obsession with diet culture and shame. Check out Holly's podcast, instagram, and soon to be website and read more about her below. 

Q: Who is Holly? What are some things people might not know about you looking at your Instagram or from listening to your podcast?

A: I am a writer; I’m a huge writing nerd. I love classical literature and analyzing people and psychology. People also don’t know that I used to want to teach high school English and Math. I really think that both of these are subjects that people think are really hard, but can understand if it's explained to them with enough attention. They actually just come down to understanding people and concepts. I love helping people understand concepts and empowering people to learn what they didn't think they could.

I also love to dance. I’m not great at it to be honest, but I used to be part of my college’s dance crew, which was so fun. We didn't have to be great dancers to join, but we would just learn a song or two throughout the semester and at the end, we'd put on our costumes and perform. Dancing in that was one of the best things I chose to do my senior year.

I talk a lot on the podcast about my job, but I write for the media here in NY. I write health content from a body positive lens, which is a little bit of a struggle right now because the health media is so drenched in diet culture. I get a lot of requests to write about fads and diets and everything that I’m against. It’s often frustrating, but in the end helpful because I get to be the one writing the things that are being put out there instead of someone who thinks it’s a good idea to write about how going low carb could help you lose weight or something like that.

I love NYC. I’m never leaving. I love exploring neighborhoods and trying new restaurants. 

Q: How did @eating_peanut_better start? How about Nut Butter Radio?

 A: @eating_peanut_better actually started when I was in college. I had just started ED recovery after falling pretty far into anorexia-- though it’s kind of iffy to attribute it all to “anorexia.” Long before I was diagnosed, I was on and off dieting. I was in a place where a lot of women are – wanting to lose weight so I would kind of eat less to lose weight, fail, eat a bunch of cookies, and do it all over again. One day I just decided I was going to commit to changing my body (which is a miserable place to be) and I ended up full blown in an eating disorder. I think it happens more easily than people think. I was determined to go back to school during recovery, and I came back and started cooking for myself in a way that was more trying to care for myself and learning how to eat foods that made me feel better. I started taking pictures of my meals because I was proud of what I was learning. People were telling me to start a food Instagram and it just kind of grew from there. Now, it’s this cool documentation of my recovery. If you go all the way back to the beginning, it’s all these carefully portioned bowls, which I spent hours cooking. Over time, it kind of loosened up and I see it as a way that’s fun for me to try new recipes. I also like to show people that there are ways to eat that don’t require much planning. Sometimes I’ll take a picture of my bagel and post it – just to document that you can feel nourished and cared for without obsessing over it.

Q: Tell us more about Nut Butter Radio!

A: I met Hannah, my co-host, in college – we were both part of an organization called “Fit University” which we are no longer a part of, I think in part because we have some ideological differences with them. I was their Editor in Chief, in charge of their website. College students would write blog posts for it, which I would edit and publish. I met her there and she used to write for me. We both quit and I stayed in contact with her at Northeastern. Then we both discovered Christy Harrison’s podcast ‘Food Psych’ and we both loved it and were like “this woman is amazing and she’s introducing me to all these new things.” We both discovered health at every size and intuitive eating. We didn’t know that those things were even available – it was so cool to us. We knew we loved influencing people and we jokingly said we should start a podcast. We both realized we weren't joking-- and so we bought our microphones, skyped to record it, and it’s been a lot of fun. We pretty much just knew that we had an influence and we wanted to affect other people in the same way that Christy’s podcast had affected us. We really wanted to reach the Instagram and blogging world and felt like we could do that with our podcast.

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since starting your Instagram and podcast? 

Definitely learning about health at every size! Health at every size changed my whole life. It’s basically a whole body of research started by Linda Bacon. She conducted research with the help of professors and she learned that health can exist at ANY size. An overweight person can be completely healthy whereas a smaller or average bodied size person can be less healthy and that lifestyle factors and things like your position in society/social status/access to health care have a way bigger impact on your health than your size. And actually, people who are of a larger size might be totally healthy. She also did research on repetitive dieting. You go to the doctor, they tell you you need to lose weight, you go on a diet, and diets don’t work. Then, 97% of people gain the weight back and 60% of people gain more weight in the long run than they lost initially. Our bodies aren’t designed for weight loss – it’s not healthy, unless you’re way over your set point, which is pretty rare. The answer to improving health is actually intuitive eating- listening to your body and giving it what it needs.

Linda Bacon has a book called “Health at every size” which really helped me to understand this. It’s all written in very understandable language – she breaks it down so that anyone can understand the science she put behind her research.

Q: What does intuitive eating mean to you? How can someone learn to really LISTEN to their body?

A: Intuitive eating is really hard. People who are against it will just say you’re looking for an easy way out. But it’s actually really hard to do and know if you’re getting right. Essentially, it’s really listening to your cravings and tuning into what your body wants and giving it those things without restrictions. If you really want a piece of cake, it’s letting yourself eat a piece of cake without worrying or thinking that you’re being bad or putting a judgment on the food. Once you introduce those judgments, those are natural forms of restrictions, and your body’s natural response is to binge and to think, “oh my god cake is bad I want it all the time because I might not be able to get it again.” It’s really taking all limits and judgments off of food – eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full sometimes but also eating because it’s fun sometimes. People have fear that if they start eating intuitively and letting themselves eat what they want, they’ll just eat a whole sleeve of oreos everyday. In reality, the reason that they want to eat the sleeve of oreos every day is because they think it’s a bad thing-- they’re shooting themselves in the foot. They get caught up in the restrict binge cycle – they eat oreos because they think they’ll never eat oreos ever again and they’ll stop for a few days and then when given the choice to eat a cookie again, they eat ten. They feel an urge to eat it all the time because they put a restriction on it and have labeled it a bad food. Intuitive eating gets rid of that torturous cycle of fighting against your body, feeling guilt, and basing your self worth off of what you’re eating instead of other things that matter so much more. It’s so hard to get rid of judgments on food, but in the end you get so much more out of life because food becomes this natural part of your life that doesn’t include any struggle.

Diets don’t get rid of your cravings. Even whole 30 – it promises that it gets rid of your cravings for good. But even they say you can only do it for 30 days. So what do you do when the 30 days are over? Those cravings come back, often even stronger than before.

Diets can displace cravings, too. For instance, Hannah went on the whole 30 and shared that during it, she ended up binging on almond butter instead of sweets. The cravings are still there, just for something else.

People are really scared to start thinking this way. We have all these judgments on food because we live in diet culture. We’re told to limit our sweets/that soda is bad/etc. We have all of these mental restrictions in place. We can’t just wake up one day and intuitively eat – it takes time to breakdown the judgments that we have on food.

Christy Harrison talks about something called the "honeymoon phase." Once you start your journey towards intuitive eating, you might have a period of time where all you want is candy and cake and sweets all the time because your brain really thinks, “these foods are going to go away again.” It’s only once you allow the honeymoon phase to happen really honestly without any limits that it ends – it will pass and even out with the rest of the foods in your diet that you want and crave. When people start intuitively eating, they see they’re eating tons of cake all the time, they feel like they’re doing something wrong. But that's just the honeymoon phase-- it'll pass, but not if you start judging yourself for eating the cake. Then, you're not even intuitively eating anymore because you're putting those judgments on food. Just let it happen and trust that it will all even out.

We are born intuitively eating. But as we grow up, we get all these messages that we should be watching what we eat and restricting ourselves. I know that for me, a place where I learned I must have been doing something wrong was at school. I went through an overweight phase as a child – most girls do or are made to feel like they do – and they weighed kids at school and would tell them what BMI category they’re in. I was told at school that I was overweight and needed to diet when I was not even 10 years old. It happens to a lot of kids, and that’s why I really want to go into schools and show kids that there’s another way. They need to learn health at every size and that your body is fine at whatever weight it wants to be.

Intersectionality in all of this is so important. Coming at health from an intuitive eating standpoint is actually much more feasible and helpful in the long run for people of all financial backgrounds. There are so many programs that go into schools and teach kids about portioning your plate, veggies, and nutrition. That’s all important but it's far from the MOST important, and it's not necessarily applicable to a lot of kids’ lives. Parents might not have time or resources to buy the vegetables or portion the plate, or allow kids to do all of the things they’re being taught. This leads kids too often feeling like health is not for them because it doesn’t match their lives and experiences. So when you talk about things like intuitive eating with kids, you can tell them that “if one day you go home and you’re really hungry at 5 PM and your mom isn’t making dinner until 8 PM, maybe get a snack that will hold you over.” Just teaching kids to react to their bodies’ cues instead of focusing on different foods that are better than others is a really good start. While it’s obviously not ideal for kids to grow up without access to all kinds of foods, teaching kids about veggies is not going to make them have access to them. We need to really work on kids having access to different kinds of foods while not shaming them for wanting the foods they do have access to. This shame makes kids think that health is not for them and is inaccessible.

Q: Why isn’t there more information on intuitive eating out there?

A: I think it’s just a really entrenched weight bias in our culture. There’s a really strong belief in the government and scientific communities that we have this obesity crisis and that the problem is weight instead of the problem being a lack of access to a variety of foods and shame around food in general. I think that the real crisis that we have is a crisis where we emphasize weight way too much. People who are in larger bodies can’t lose weight in the long run so they fail, increase their chance of getting diabetes/metabolic disorders/cancer (all obesity related diseases).

Another huge part is weight stigma. Women especially who are in larger bodies have a harder time getting jobs. They aren’t represented in clothing stores. Even I – in a smaller body – feel concerned that I might be too large. Those are things that we’re trained to think from the time we’re young because of this discrimination. Thinking about weight stigma as a form of bias and discrimination in society is helpful in shifting your focus. What makes someone in a larger body deserving of you looking down on them or thinking they’re gross? It’s really problematic.

Even the words ‘obesity’ and ‘overweight’ are super stigmatizing – obesity is a clinical diagnosis. The idea that your weight is a disease. Overweight is kind of ridiculous term – over WHAT weight? What if your body is just meant to be in that larger size? This is why health at every size research is so important. One study shows that people of slightly higher weights are expected to have a longer lifespan than people who are ‘average’ weights. Average isn’t even really average – 67% of women are considered overweight or obese!

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to feel healthier but feels overwhelmed or doesn’t know where to start?

A: I would really focus on self-care habits as things that enrich your life. The food is part of it, but focusing on holistic health – you as a whole person. Whether that is resting frequently, sleeping more, or eating a variety of foods, take time to find those things that are enriching for you.

Also, focus on health as not WHAT you’re eating, but HOW you’re doing it. Holistic health isn't "I'm going to cut out gluten because it's good for my brain-gut connection." First of all, that isn't even true, and second of all, there's nothing holistic about it. The reality of cutting out gluten is stressful, emotionally damaging, and risky to your overall health-- not holistic or helpful. (Unless you have an allergy, obviously.) 

Q: What are your favorite filling on the go snacks?

 A: When I give people examples of the food I eat, I make sure I diversify the foods I recommend. A part of self-care is eating things you’re craving – even if it’s a doughnut! I’m definitely not anti-health food as I eat it all the time, but I also know that it’s important to listen to cravings.

Now I work in an office, so I kind of have more time to assemble things, but when I was in school I really relied a lot on snack bars or I would bring fruit and on the go peanut butter packs. My snack advice is to choose two food groups – a lot of times people expect just an apple to keep them satisfied. Instead, pair it with peanut butter or potato chips. I always tell people to focus on two different food groups in order to get the most satisfaction from your food. If food is nourishment, you want different types of nourishment to keep you satisfied.

Q & A WITH SARAH FORST OF THE DESIGNER TEACHER

Choosing to interview Sarah Forst, The Designer Teacher, was a no-brainer for me. Sarah was one of the first teachers I really connected with on Instagram and I am so grateful for her continuous inspiration, work ethic and creativity. I was so lucky to be able to collaborate with her to create a breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal prep guide for teachers and am so excited about the launch of her new product, Teacher Care Crate.

Sarah is passionate about special education and tries to empower teachers to feel more “peaceful & purposeful” through the products and resources she creates. She’s also passionate about social justice, design, and running her small business. Sarah lives in the Chicago area with her husband, two pups, and houseplants! Learn more about Sarah below!  

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 Q: Who is Sarah? What are some things that people might not know about you looking at your Instagram and blog?

A: I’m a design major turned teacher turned designer! I live in the Chicago area with my husband and two dogs. I think a lot of people don’t know I’m not in the classroom this year, even though I’ve tried to be open about it. I suppose the name The Designer Teacher is kind of misleading!

Q: What inspired you to start The Designer Teacher instagram and blog?

A: Well, I started my Teachers Pay Teachers store first, and then I noticed a lot of TPT sellers had blogs and instagram accounts. I actually don’t remember which one I started first! I love to write and had a blog during college (called Teacup Adventure, ha!), so it made sense for me to start a teacher blog. I wanted to post teacher stuff on instagram, but I didn’t think my friends would appreciate all teacher stuff all the time on my personal account! I also noticed that there were very few Title I teachers in the online teaching world at the time, around 2014. What I was seeing on instagram and on blogs didn’t represent my experience teaching on the South Side in Chicago Public Schools at ALL. I wanted to share that experience and connect with other teachers in similar settings. Thankfully now I see teachers from all sorts of different schools and settings!

Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn from it?

A: Wow, so many things go through my mind when you ask that question! I started teaching with very little experience (which is something I would do differently now, if I could), and I was beyond overwhelmed when I first started as a special education teacher. I had one particular student, we’ll call him A, who seemed to hate me. He didn’t want to come with me for services, he would yell at me, he would refuse to work-- all that. As an idealistic 22-year-old, I was devastated. This was not what I had envisioned! I tried all the “management” techniques my teaching program had taught me, and none of it worked. Out of desperation, I started reading aloud Harry Potter to A and the other student I had during that time, thinking it might engage them more than the phonics readers that were at their decoding level. A would rest his head on his desk and not say a word while I read, and I thought he was just bored and mad. One day, a couple chapters in, his head popped up and he goes, “Malfoy did WHAT?! That’s BOGUS!” I’m not going to say it was a complete turnaround and we never had any problems again. But a shared love of Harry Potter turned into a mutual respect and a sense of trust between us. I learned that all the management strategies and idealism in the world can’t replace a genuine relationship with a student.

Q: Tell us more about the Teacher Care Crate! What is it? How were you inspired to start this new project?

A: Teacher Care Crate is a monthly self care subscription box for teachers. It includes 5 items a month, all designed or curated with self care in mind. I’m super picky about products (did I mention I was a design major in college?), so you can trust that every item is going to be carefully made or chosen. The first box had a handmade bath bomb, a beaded mantra bracelet, stress relief tea, organic chocolate, an art print, and a mini air plant. I LOVE subscription boxes (seriously, I currently subscribe to and have tried SO many) so the idea of a teacher box had definitely occurred to me. But I was worried about whether I could make it profitable and if there would be any demand for it. Then my friend Tamara, of Mrs. Russell’s Room, suggested that I do a self care box for teachers. I couldn’t stop thinking about, so I started testing the waters and got a really positive response!

Q: What does self-care mean to you? Why do you think it's so important for teachers to focus on self-care?

A: I know self care is a bit of a buzzword right now, but it honestly changed my life. I have an anxiety disorder, and I started going to weekly therapy last school year when things were getting really bad. You won’t believe this if you follow me on Instagram now, but when my therapist asked me what I did for self care in October 2016, I said “sleep and run.” After enlightening me that those things did not count and telling me that I was literally working myself to death at 26, my therapist assigned me homework of doing “nothing” twice a week for 10 minutes. I’m not kidding when I tell you this was HARD for me. I just felt like I always, always had something to do for school and that that something was urgent. Gradually I got better at it, and now I have lots of self care activities built into my schedule, like baths and puzzling. While not every teacher has an anxiety disorder, I know I’m not alone in sacrificing myself for my students. The burnout rate for teachers is SO high, and especially for special ed teachers, and especially for urban teachers. If teachers don’t take care of themselves, they’re not going to make it. And even if they do, they’re going to be miserable, and I truly believe teachers deserve to be happy!

Q: What advice do you have for teachers who want to take great care of themselves but feel overwhelmed or too busy?

A: My first advice is to start small. Like I said, I started with 10 minutes twice a week. I would come home after school and color in an adult coloring book for 10 minutes. Because it was “homework” from my therapist, I felt compelled to do it. Well teachers, I’m giving you the same homework! My other advice is to schedule it in. I always wanted to go to yoga, but it just never happened. Once I put it in my calendar and enlisted my husband to go with me, I started going to yoga every Friday. I also scheduled in a bath on Sunday night, since that was such a stressful time for me. Around 8:30, I would cut off working and take a bath before going to sleep. Because it was on the schedule, I could make sure I had at least the minimum done by that time.

Q & A with Lex Daddio of Restoring Radiance

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Lex Daddio is a food blogger whose vulnerability and realness are such an inspiration to her many followers. On her blog, Restore Your Radiance, she shares her story of healing from eating disorders through intuitive eating and really listening to her body's cravings. I've been following her for a long time and was so excited to get the chance to interview her. Lex lives in Richmond, VA and in addition to writing about and photographing her food journey, she has her own line of tank tops and candles that encourage others to "restore [their] radiance." 

Q: What inspired you to begin your wellness journey?

A: It all started 5 years ago, when I was going through a severe binge eating disorder in college. I just wanted to be free, to feel good, and to be happy. Recovery took time and looks different for everyone. At first, it led me into a battle of trying to be perfectly “healthy”, and it turned into an obsession. As well as an additional eating disorder and I was even more miserable! However, this is where I studied nutrition like crazy, and learned SO MUCH and I’m grateful for that time! Now, I have found freedom, I don’t struggle with an eating disorder. I practice intuitive eating in my everyday life and truly don’t have restrictions anymore. I eat everything, even though for years I thought I was allergic to every food out there. Turns out, I’m not, and my digestion was just so out of whack from the disordered eating so it needed time to heal! Food is amazing and I love it, but it’s not the main focus of my life anymore. It’s the icing on the cake, and full of enjoyment, and I’m thankful for it! But, life is so much fuller now, full of people, hobbies, joys, and so many other little things. I don’t believe wellness is about food, I think it plays a role, but it’s just a tiny part. Wellness to me is SO MUCH MORE. It’s about my mind, it’s about self-care, it’s about finding joy in the everyday, it’s about people and memories and so many things! That’s where I am today, and I feel better than I ever have!
 

Q:  "Getting into" health and wellness can be overwhelming. Where should someone who wants to eat healthier start?

A: There is so much information out there, it can be SO overwhelming. I’m all about simplicity as well as a big advocate for intuitive eating over “eating healthier”. I think there are ways to learn to incorporate beneficial things into your life, like adding veggies or fruits into meals or changing up your grains and proteins for variety. My number one is quality over quantity. I’d rather enjoy something so delicious and high quality then 5 of something that are okay and low quality. It’s your body, treat it well! That may mean having a salad sometimes and it may be having pizza other times! I think it’s all about how you feel, so eat the way that makes YOUR body feel good. We are all different so we have to find our own ways!

Q:  What tips do you have for people who are busy but want to take good care of themselves? 

A: I think something I would never skip is taking care of your body, not only from the inside, but the outside! Treat yourself well! Take a bath, do a face mask, move your body because you WANT to not because your trying to burn calories to eat more, read a book, pick up a new hobby, journal, go on a picnic, walk in nature, get a pedicure, watch a show, and basically just SLOW DOWN. We are all busy and life moves fast. It blows my mind, but remembering to be slow and present makes all the difference. You only have one life, so enjoy it! 

Q:  How do you find balance between your work and personal life? 

A: This one can actually be pretty difficult, but I’ve definitely found a better balance just recently. Most of my work is on my phone, so I can basically work anytime. I’ve found things that help me are things like, leaving my phone in the car or in my purse if I’m having coffee or a meal with someone. This way I’m not tempted to check my phone and I’m able to enjoy present time with that person. I also turn my phone on airplane mode everyday from 8pm - about 7-8am.This is so I can have a mental break, and well as spend time with my husband. I tend to turn work off after he gets home from work around 5pm, unless I’m doing an instagram story of dinner! I usually just film but don’t respond to anyone at this point in the day because it’s time for my husband! Also, no phones at mealtime, EVER. Helps me to focus on the food, and the person if someone is easting with me. I also tend to take off most weekends. I post something here or there if I wanted to, but other than that I barely check what’s going on, and I definitely don’t answer emails! I find having a routine during the week, like getting dressed everyday, and starting some work around 9am really helps as well!

Q:  What are your top three favorite filling snacks?

A: This is a hard one for me; they’re always so different! When it comes to snacks, I prefer sweet so either a peanut butter perfect bar, fruit & nut butter (like dates, a banana, or an apple), or a sweet of some sort (chocolate chip cookie, brownie or something I’ve made homemade or get freshly baked from a bakery!)

 

 

5 Small Actions to Take in the New Year to Improve Your Health

Around this time of year, our social media feeds are often flooded with articles about “how to be your best self in the new year” or “ways to be healthier this year” etc etc etc. When you’re just starting your health journey or know you want to be more health conscious but aren’t sure where to start, these articles can be paralyzing. Rather than overwhelm you, I want to share five really small things you can start doing immediately to take better care of yourself in the New Year.

1)   Drink 16 oz (2 cups) of water when you wake up every single day. Last year, I noticed that I would get to school an hour after waking up completely dehydrated already. This would sometimes set me up to get a headache within the next hour or so. This past year, I have made it a priority to drink water FIRST THING. I save my old Kombucha bottles (I keep about five at a time) and rinse them, then fill them with water to keep in the fridge. That way, I ALWAYS have a 16 oz cold container of water in the fridge. Sometimes super cold water feels harsh when I first wake up, especially in the winter, so sometimes I’ll keep one of these bottles next to my bed so I can wake and drink! Water hydrates you, it flushes out toxins, gets your metabolism going, and helps you make good choices about what to eat (sometimes we think we’re starving but we’re actually just THIRSTY, so making sure you drink water when you wake up will help your brain and stomach stay clear on what they’re actually craving).

2)   Eat breakfast. Yes, there are lots of ways to get the biggest “bang for your buck” at breakfast time (eat something high in good fats and proteins/low in sugar/etc), but for the purposes of new years resolutions, just start by committing to eating SOMETHING. If you make lunch your first meal of the day, there is a very high chance that you are going to be starving by the time lunch comes and also that you’re not going to be in a position to make healthy choices (because you are so hungry you’ll eat anything).  Also you’ll probably get mad at kids because you’re hungry, and that’s just not nice!

3)   Don’t put so much pressure on every meal AKA eat snacks. Snacking in-between meals is so important. When you only eat at meal times, you’re so much more likely to be super hungry which often leads to overeating and for some people shameful feelings and/or stomach aches. It might sound like a contradiction to the resolution to “eat breakfast,” but if you’re not having breakfast, you’re actually putting so much pressure on your other meals and setting up your body to feel somewhat starved all day. Have you ever grocery shopped while hungry? I have! What thing did you buy that you didn’t actually want? When we’re hungry, our ability to make smart food decisions often goes out the window. Take control of your snacks and stop letting yourself feel hangry when lunch comes. Stock your classroom with things you love and that fill you up in-between meals. Here are some things I always keep in my classroom:

·      Nuts and dark chocolate (I buy the Trader Joe’s snack mixes, but you can also make your own)

·      Popcorn (I opt for brands made with popcorn, a healthy oil like avocado/coconut/olive, and salt and that’s IT)

·      Granola bars (the lower the sugar/higher the protein the better)

·      Healthy crackers and nut butter or sunflower butter if you can’t eat nuts

4)   Invest in a blender. If you like smoothies and spend money on them, you’ll save money in the long run by buying a blender. When you make your own smoothies, you have total control of what goes in them, which is huge for your health (because many store bought smoothies are packed with added sugars). I was really into buying “cold pressed juices” for a while and, while I still like them, I’m actually a bigger fan of blending because it preserves all the nutrients in your fruits and veggies because you’re eating the WHOLE fruit/veggie. I’m not a huge fan of leafy greens like kale or spinach, but I love to sneak these into my fruit smoothies because you basically don’t taste them if you choose fruits you love, but you get the nutrients (my go-to smoothie is 1 banana, a handful of frozen blueberries, 1 cup milk, 1 big handful of spinach, and some kind of collagen* or protein powder + chia seeds). No bitter spinach tastes here!

*I use Further Food Collagen Peptides and have a discount code for you all – enter cookbookish10 at checkout for 10% off. Incorporating this into my diet has really strengthened my hair/skin/nails.

5)   Take a probiotic. Probiotics are huge in taking control of your health. Basically, probiotics are GOOD bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. About 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, and so having a healthy immune system depends on having more good than bad bacteria in the gut. Good immune system = healthy teachers = happy teachers. Take care of your gut, friends! You can also eat foods that have natural probiotics in them like yogurt/sourdough bread/kimchi/Kombucha, but if that feels like a lot, just take a probiotic in capsule form to start.

What are small changes you’ve made that have really impacted your health? I would love to hear in the comments! Happy new year friends!

15 of My Favorite Trader Joe's Products

Grocery shopping on a (teacher) budget can be hard. There are some products I go to Whole Foods for once and a while (that's a blog post for another day), but over time, I've found that shopping at Trader Joe's is really the best grocery store for my budget and my desire to eat REAL, well produced food with minimal processing and preservatives. 

Every time I go to TJ's, I make a point of asking the cashier "how do you like working here?" and "how are the prices so affordable?" Almost 100% of the time, I hear rave reviews about the employee experience of working at Trader Joe's (I love knowing that I'm supporting a work place that makes its employees feel good). And over time I've learned that TJ's basically has a team whose sole purpose is to travel and meet with farmers whose products they source directly, cutting out a middleman which often raises the prices. I'm no economist, but this seems like an awesome strategy for keeping prices affordable and I love that TJ's connects personally with the people who make their products (not to mention TJ's makes a ton of amazing products on their own). 

I'm so happy to share with you all fifteen of my favorite TJ's products and to hopefully inspire your next grocery list. It was hard to choose just fifteen, but here are some staples that I find myself buying again and again because of their good quality and good price. 

What are some of your favorite TJ's products? Comment below, I would love to hear from you! 

Cauliflower Rice: it's cauliflower. In the shape of rice. It doesn't taste exactly like rice (...it's cauliflower), but is a good substitute, especially when paired with other goodies and some seasoning. I like to cook it with coconut aminos (coconut based soy-sauce type thing, also a yummy TJ's product). 

Green Smoothie: This has more sugar than I would like, but none of it is added - all from whole fruits & veggies. I don't usually drink a whole bottle in one sitting, but it's yummy and sweet and a really good intro to drinking your veggies if you're skeptical. 

Eucalyptus: this is not a TJ's special, but I love love their plant selection and this plant is a regular on my shopping list. Inspired by leefromamerica, I like to hang a little bushel (?) of this from my shower head to make my showers feel like a spa. I replace it every 2-3 weeks. Aaah.

Almond Butter: this is my favorite nut butter to get at TJ's because it's just straight up nuts. No extra ingredients and definitely no added sugars (are you noticing a pattern here?!). Lots of nut butters try to sneak sugar and oils in - not necessary! Nuts and nuts alone 4 life. 

Chicken Apple Sausage: I don't eat a ton of meat and I really don't cook a lot of meat, so these are my favorite for when I am craving meat and want something easy and tasty. These are already cooked so you just have to heat them - I love stir frying them in a little avocado oil on the stove until they're crispy. So good. These are my favorite to add to spaghetti and tomato sauce. 

Frozen Berries: I love blueberries in my smoothies and TJ's has good quality berries for a good price. 

Frozen Coconut Chunks: I love adding these to my smoothies to make em thicker and yummier! Coconut is the new kale. I'm telling you! So many good FATS. 

Organic Romaine Hearts: I know that leafy greens are all the rage and for a good reason - they're so good for you. And I try to eat them but I don't always truly ENJOY them and I feel strongly that you should love the food you eat, healthy or not! 

Multigrain Sourdough Bread: I love sourdough. I love good grains in my bread. It's a win win. Honestly there are a few ingredients in this bread that I could do without, but it's well priced and pretty healthy and tastes amazing. 

Kombucha: Trader Joe's is magic and can sell Kombucha for a better price than I've found anywhere else. Healthade is $3.49 and GT's is $2.99. Really doesn't get better than that. They don't have a ton of flavors (at least from my experience), but for $3 Kombucha I'll take what flavor I can get!

Avocados: Obviously avocados are a must have on your grocery list (unless you hate them or are allergic) but getting them at TJ's is a good choice because - surprise!- they're well priced. I buy the bag of smaller avos and it's perfect for me because I like eating one a day but if it's too big I can't finish it. I have an avocado rotation going on where I keep a bag in the fridge, buy a new bag each week and then rotate the fridge bag out (I keep it in my fruit bowl so they get ripe quicker #science). This is to compensate for the fact that 100% of the time I've bought avocados from TJ's, they are way too hard and not ready to eat. Probably the only complaint I have about this store. 

Romaine Lettuce: Leafy greens are all the rage. I know. And it's for a good reason - they're so freakin' good for you. But I like to be realistic and buy stuff I LOVE and will WANT to eat and not feel like I have to, and leafy greens don't really do it for me so I'm a romaine girl. It might not be as healthy as it's leafy sister, but romaine is still nutrient dense and you can get a big bag of organic romaine for ~$4. This usually lasts me two weeks. 

Butternut SquashI think these are seasonal (fall/winter). I like to buy these chunks or the zig-zags, which look like french fries. Taste amazing baked with avo or olive oil and salt and pepper. A french fry/potato alternative. 

Nut Packs: The bulk nut section of TJ's is just so fun. I love buying the big bags of individual trail mix baggies. These are probably one of the pricier items I buy semi weekly, but nuts are expensive and these packs are so convenient. I love buying the ones that come with cashews, craisins, dark chocolate, and almonds. There are lots of good options and these are so easy to take on the go. 

Raw Shelled Hemp Seed: these are an awesome addition to any meal (good fats!) - I love sprinkling these on my cereal, oatmeal, toast, salad - literally whatever. They hardly have a taste but are so good for you. 

 

 

 me looking good with some eucalyptus! #actionshot 

me looking good with some eucalyptus! #actionshot 

Tumeric Healing Potion

Teachers are so susceptible to getting sick being around soso many germs basically all the time. As the seasons change and we leave the "honeymoon period" of the school year, our stress levels rise and when this happens, we're double as likely to get sick because our immunity goes down. When I'm feeling any kind of sickness come on, my favorite thing to do is make myself a big cup of Tumeric Healing Potion! Literally whenever my teacher friends are sick, I tell them to ingest tumeric in some form -- put it in your tea, bake it into your chicken, coat your sauteed green beans with it -- whatever! It's truly nature's medicine because it's super anti-inflammatory, improves brain function, and prevents disease. Need I say more?! 

TUMERIC HEALING POTION

Ingredients: 

1 cup milk (I love coconut milk, but any milk works)

1 tbsp tumeric 

1 tbsp raw honey

A few drops of vanilla extract 

A few drops of cardamom extract

A pinch of black pepper (helps your body absorb the tumeric) 

Optional: scoop of collagen peptides 

Directions:

1. Heat milk up on the stove

2. Add tumeric and stir

3. Add honey, vanilla, cardamom, black pepper, and stir. 

 

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Dessert Recipes for Chocolate Lovers

One of the most important parts of balanced eating, for me, is dessert! Eating 'healthy' does not mean restricting myself, but finding ways to enjoy all the foods I love. Part of what's actually unhealthy about so many desserts available to us is that there are all these added sweeteners and preservatives. Dessert in itself does not have to be an unhealthy thing, especially if we make it ourselves and control what goes into it. I wanted to share five of my favorite go-to dessert recipes - all very chocolate based (sorry in advance if you're not a chocolate person!), and all made with whole and nourishing ingredients, sweetened only (if at all) with raw honey. Ready in 20-30 minutes or less. Enjoy! 

  NO BAKE CHOCOLATE PROTEIN BARS     Ingredients   ·       Banana (1 whole)  ·       Raw honey (1-2 tbsp)  ·       Nut butter of your choice (1/2 cup)  ·       Rolled Oats (3/4 cup)  ·       Cinnamon (1/4 tbsp)  ·       Dark Chocolate Chips (add to taste)  ·      Chia seeds (1 tbsp)  ·       Optional: 2 scoops further collagen (code cookbookish10 for a discount!)   Directions   ·       Blend banana, honey, nut butter, rolled oats, and cinnamon  ·       Spoon mixture into ice cube tray (silicone works well) or mini muffin tin  ·       Top with chia seeds and melted dark chocolate  ·       Put in freezer for 1 hour

NO BAKE CHOCOLATE PROTEIN BARS

Ingredients

·       Banana (1 whole)

·       Raw honey (1-2 tbsp)

·       Nut butter of your choice (1/2 cup)

·       Rolled Oats (3/4 cup)

·       Cinnamon (1/4 tbsp)

·       Dark Chocolate Chips (add to taste)

·      Chia seeds (1 tbsp)

·       Optional: 2 scoops further collagen (code cookbookish10 for a discount!)

Directions

·       Blend banana, honey, nut butter, rolled oats, and cinnamon

·       Spoon mixture into ice cube tray (silicone works well) or mini muffin tin

·       Top with chia seeds and melted dark chocolate

·       Put in freezer for 1 hour

  DARK CHOCOLATE AVOCADO TRUFFLES    Ingredients   ·       Avocados (2 whole)  ·       Dark chocolate bar (1)  ·       Dark cacao powder (1/2 cup)   Directions   ·       Mash avocados until very mushy  ·       Melt whole dark chocolate bar in microwave or on stove (if you do it in the microwave,   melt in small increments of 30 seconds at a time so it doesn’t burn)  ·       Pour melted chocolate over mashed avocados and mix  ·       Roll into balls  ·       Dust with cacao powder  ·       Put in fridge for 20 minutes to cool

DARK CHOCOLATE AVOCADO TRUFFLES

Ingredients

·       Avocados (2 whole)

·       Dark chocolate bar (1)

·       Dark cacao powder (1/2 cup)

Directions

·       Mash avocados until very mushy

·       Melt whole dark chocolate bar in microwave or on stove (if you do it in the microwave,   melt in small increments of 30 seconds at a time so it doesn’t burn)

·       Pour melted chocolate over mashed avocados and mix

·       Roll into balls

·       Dust with cacao powder

·       Put in fridge for 20 minutes to cool

  DARK CHOCOLATE GRANOLA    Ingredients   ·       Kamut puffs (1/2 cup)  ·       Cashews (1/2 cup) – may sub any nut of your choice)  ·       Rolled oats (1/2 cup)  ·       Dark chocolate chips (1/4 cup)  ·       Coconut flakes (1/4 cup)  ·       Coconut oil (enough to coat pan – 1-2 tbsp should be enough)  ·       Raw honey (2-3 tbsp, depending on how sweet you want your granola)   Directions   ·       Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat baking sheet with coconut oil  ·       Mix kamut puffs, cashews, dark chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and rolled oats in a bowl  ·       Add raw honey - mix  ·       Pour mix onto baking sheet, distributing evenly  ·       Bake for 15 minutes  

DARK CHOCOLATE GRANOLA

Ingredients

·       Kamut puffs (1/2 cup)

·       Cashews (1/2 cup) – may sub any nut of your choice)

·       Rolled oats (1/2 cup)

·       Dark chocolate chips (1/4 cup)

·       Coconut flakes (1/4 cup)

·       Coconut oil (enough to coat pan – 1-2 tbsp should be enough)

·       Raw honey (2-3 tbsp, depending on how sweet you want your granola)

Directions

·       Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat baking sheet with coconut oil

·       Mix kamut puffs, cashews, dark chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and rolled oats in a bowl

·       Add raw honey - mix

·       Pour mix onto baking sheet, distributing evenly

·       Bake for 15 minutes  

  BANANA OAT CHOCOLATE BALLS    Ingredients   ·       Bananas (3 whole)  ·       Rolled oats (1 cup)  ·       Walnuts (or other nut of choice – 1 cup)  ·       Dark chocolate chips (1 handful)  ·       Chia seeds (1 tbsp)  ·       Coconut oil (1 tbsp)   Directions   ·       Preheat oven to 350 degrees  ·       Coat baking sheet with coconut oil  ·       Mash bananas in bowl  ·       Add in oats, walnuts, dark chocolate chips, and chia seeds  ·       Bake for 15-20 minutes

BANANA OAT CHOCOLATE BALLS

Ingredients

·       Bananas (3 whole)

·       Rolled oats (1 cup)

·       Walnuts (or other nut of choice – 1 cup)

·       Dark chocolate chips (1 handful)

·       Chia seeds (1 tbsp)

·       Coconut oil (1 tbsp)

Directions

·       Preheat oven to 350 degrees

·       Coat baking sheet with coconut oil

·       Mash bananas in bowl

·       Add in oats, walnuts, dark chocolate chips, and chia seeds

·       Bake for 15-20 minutes

  DARK CHOCOLATE NUT BARK     Ingredients   ·       Plain dark chocolate bar  ·       Nut of your choice (1/2 cup)  ·       Sea salt (1 tsp)  ·       Chia seeds (1 tsp)  ·       Flax seeds (1 tsp)   Directions   ·       Melt dark chocolate  ·       Mix in nuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds  ·       Top with sea salt

DARK CHOCOLATE NUT BARK

Ingredients

·       Plain dark chocolate bar

·       Nut of your choice (1/2 cup)

·       Sea salt (1 tsp)

·       Chia seeds (1 tsp)

·       Flax seeds (1 tsp)

Directions

·       Melt dark chocolate

·       Mix in nuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds

·       Top with sea salt

HOW TO EAT EGGS AT SCHOOL

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Unless you have restrictions or practice a vegan diet, eggs are the single best food you could choose for breakfast. Pair them with avocados and you are setting your body/brain up for an excellent day.

Eggs are considered a 'complete protein' because they have all 9 of the essential amino acids our bodies but can't produce on their own. Eggs have historically gotten a bad rep for being high in cholesterol, but it's actually GOOD for you cholesterol (do your research! don't blindly listen to what you hear!). Eggs also have protein, vitamins, minerals, and GOOD fats (key word: good - just like avocados!). Bottom line: eggs are awesome for your health and keep you full. Win win for teachers who are in the market to stay full. 

I've found that the best way to enjoy eggs at school is to either soft or hard boil 4-5 eggs at the beginning of the week (see below for boiling instructions), pop them in a glass container, and leave them in my fridge at school (or bring one a day if you don't have a fridge). 

Then, I peel them and spill/slice them onto fresh toast at school, top with salt/pepper, and pair with another slice of avocado toast if I'm feeling super hungry. Alternately, you could combine all the ingredients on just one slice.

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Soft boil: bring pot of water to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low, add eggs, cook for 4-5 minutes. 

Medium boil: bring pot of water to boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low, add eggs, cook for 7-8 minutes. 

Hard boil: put eggs in pot, cover with cold water, bring pot to boil over medium meat, cover, remove from heat, leaves eggs in hot water for 8-10 minutes. 

Beetroot Hummus // Avocado Smash

This is Udi's Gluten Free toast (so teeeny, I usually need at least two pieces) with half avocado mash and pistachios, half beetroot hummusand sunflower seeds. Adding seeds to your toasts is a tasty way to add protein and texture. I opt for raw seeds to get all the nutrients from them (not salted, not roasted). You can always roast/salt on your own later. 

Flagel

This falls into the "& friends" category. This is a whole wheat everything flagel (which I recently discovered is really not necessarily less dense than a bagel, but often just a bagel squashed up, so...) with kite hill cream cheese (awesome, simple ingredients, dairy-free, does not hurt belly, tastes amazing), heirloom tomatoes, and microgreens (I use these as a garnish - they're not full of flavor, but they are full of nutrients and make your creations more beautiful). 

Whole Wheat Avocado Toast

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I'm super lucky to work at a school whose teacher kitchen area is stocked with communal staple foods (bread, cheese, cold cuts, fruit, yogurt). When possible, I like to bring in my own types of bread and keep it in the freezer (re: gluten free/sprouted grain/sourdough/etc.), but when I run out, I'm happy to stick with good ole' classic whole wheat bread.