Self Love, Actually

9EAEF4F9-39E1-4060-9614-EC7448A804AD.jpegPhotography by Juniper & the Sea

“Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.”    William Shakespeare

For as long as I can remember, I had this silly idea that I was overweight, unattractive and unloveable.

I grew up during a time when size negative zero white models and pop stars were idolized. I grew up thinking I had to look like that in order to be seen as attractive. I was never a size 0, and as a multiracial woman, have never looked like Kate Moss or Britney Spears. I was teased for being “fat” throughout elementary school, and when I was in high school I weighed (an apparently obese) 125 pounds! I remember upon turning 18, a friend of mine at the time bought me a sexy bare-midriff halter top for my birthday and said to me something like, “Now that you’ve lost weight, I got you this sexy top you can wear.”

You guys, I was a mere 120 pounds! Great friend, huh? 

That shit stuck with me. Like ever since I was 12 years old my mom would tell me not to smile too wide because then my big nose would stretch out even more. Or that as my weight went up and down that I looked “better skinny.” Or when a friend suggested I get breast implants. Or the time a guy in high school joked in class that I was “as big as an elephant”.

WTF is that?! Like, that’s not even proportionately possible, but it still made me feel all the more insignificant and unattractive. 

My insecurity continued to affect my relationships and my inability to be confident in how I looked at myself, anything I did, or the types of people I attracted. 

Into adulthood and at 30 years old, I suffered from a serious eating disorder after I found out that a boyfriend had cheated on me. In a matter of three days I had lost 11 pounds. In a matter of months I went from a size 8 to a size 2. I was swimming in the bridesmaid dress I was supposed to wear for my friend’s wedding, even though I had been fitted for the dress just months before.

I didn’t eat. I didn’t want to. And this is coming from a woman who graduated from culinary school. Who loved cooking as much as she loved eating. 

What really sucked was that I would post photos of my incredibly shrinking self on social media and would get tons of compliments like: “Omg you look so good!” “You look amazing girl!” “Hottie!” 

It sucks because I was really sick, and those “compliments” were just feeding the disorder. Feeding my desire to lose more and more weight to the point to where I was almost unrecognizable. 

Looking back, I know now that the reason why I punished by body so much during that very dark time was because I wanted to disappear. I didn’t feel that I was pretty enough. Thin enough. Desirable enough. I spent over 3 decades thinking and feeling that I was not enough. That if I was thinner, I would not have ever been cheated on. How fucking stupid is that? I was conditioned to believe that my ex, (who I discovered later on was a legit sociopath) would want me more if I was thinner. Again—how fucking stupid is that?

It wasn’t until later, after more heartbreak and years of getting over all of that baggage, I then started dating myself. Loving myself first. When I finally learned to love and appreciate myself, I discovered something incredible, life-changing, really. I learned that I’m pretty fucking awesome. Just the way I am.

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Split Decision

Secret Ingredient: Chickpeas!

Secret Ingredient: Chickpeas!

My sweet tooth is becoming a problem. A major problem. The kind of problem that goes straight to the thighs and derrière, so much so that my pants (two pairs, thus far) are waging a war against me–splitting at the most unpleasant of areas at the most inconvenient of times. Perhaps *they* are trying to tell me something?

Within the first few weeks of working at a former job, I had experienced one of the most embarrassing moments in a cook’s life–I had bent down to pick up a sheet tray from the rolling rack, and eek! my 3-year-old, culinary school-issued, black pants had split at the seam of my, err, caboose. I was exposed. Completely embarrassed, I had to scurry (apron now wrapped around my waist, concealing said ripped pants) to my sous chef and ask him for an emergency pair of black chef pants. My sous chef then contacted our restaurant’s general manager about the “situation” who then ran over to the human resources building to get me a new pair. Before I knew it, nearly everyone working in my cafe had found out about my pant mishap. Not only was I the “New Girl”, I was now the “New Girl with the Incredibly Splitting Pants!” I felt like a really bad circus act.

For this I blame a lack of exercise. Working 8-13 hours a day is hard on the body and doesn’t allow me the time to work out after-hours. By the time I get home from work, I’m extremely exhausted. While my job is very physically demanding–heavy lifting, running around, standing for long periods of time, etc.–I was missing the fat- and calorie-burning cardio exercise I needed to counter my sweet tooth-crazed problem. To combat this issue I’ve now begun walking to work, a mere 3.5 miles, 7 miles roundtrip. I’m now able to eat the sweet things (very sparingly!) without all the guilt.

Even still, cookies are my vice. Always have been. They’re my go-to snack whether they’re fresh from the oven (the best kind) or of the grocery store variety. I began researching for a healthy cookie option to help ease my daily sweet cravings. Does a healthy cookie even exist? I found a recipe via The Texanerin of a grain-free cookie made of (hold your breath now) chickpeas! Yes, I couldn’t believe it, either, when I first read about it. I immediately got to recipe testing. With some slight tweaking (I substituted the peanut butter for almond butter and added Nutella and brown sugar to the mix), this cookie does make me feel less guilty. And just to be sure, while I wait for the cookies to bake, I do squats and leg lifts in between.

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A Different Kinda Chocolate Chip Cookie

Grain-free Vegan Nutella-Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe slightly adapted from Texanerin Baking
Yields about 17 cookies

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry or (350g cooked)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon Nutella or hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (80 grams) honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/8 cup (70 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (90 grams) dark chocolate chips (65% cacao or more)

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Other ingredients: honey, almond butter, and of course, Nutella

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Dark chocolate chips

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Hey batter batter batter!

METHOD 
Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C. Combine all the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips and brown sugar, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get every little chunk of chickpeas and process again until they’re well combined.

Add in the chocolate chips and brown sugar and stir till just combined. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

Transfer dough into a small bowl and place into refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to congeal. Allowing the dough to cool makes it slightly easier to handle.

When you’re ready, use an ice cream scoop or spoon to form 1- to 1/2-inch balls. Place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Post-bake!