Feeling Everything: Compulsive Overeating and Being Present Through Discomfort

I’m feeling everything lately.  And after over a decade of feeling nothing at all, it is a challenge to say the least.  All the ups and downs of being a human being. I’m trying to remind myself that this is normal.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal work over the last several months.  I decided in late December last year that 2014 would be the year that I look at what’s holding me back… and then change it.  I stopped drinking, cut out any drugs- prescription and illegal (even advil), and I cleaned up my diet. I started taking into account how I was spending my time (and who with) and tuned in to what was truly making me happy, rather than what society was telling me would make me happy.  I started meditating and doing a ton of journaling.  But at the core of me I always knew that what was truly holding me back was my relationship with food.

I’ve come to understand that for me, food is comfort.  It is the way I relax and the way I numb myself to anything I don’t want to feel.  Anything that’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable.  And so even though I hadn’t touched grains, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol, or any additive/hormone/chemical in several months, I still found myself using food as a drug. After 15 years of dieting and restricting- putting all my energy into finding a plan of eating that “worked” and that would allow me to lose the excess weight for good, I had to face the harsh realization that I was more or less the same size I’d always been.  None of it had “worked”. That’s when it hit me.  Controlling my food wasn’t the answer. It was something much deeper. It was in what I was using food FOR.  I’d put so much pressure on myself to the point that I was exhausted. Obsessed with productivity until I finally needed a release, and I found that in food.

Multiple times a week I would find myself alone at night eating up to 8,000 calories of “clean” foods.   3 Apples, 5 servings of almond butter, 3 Lara Bars, a bag of dried unsweetened mangoes, smoothies, eggs and bacon, whatever was in my fridge.  Adhering to my “guidelines” but desperate to escape myself for just a little while. Compulsive eating is seen as a really shameful thing and I promise that if you don’t do it yourself, you know someone who does.  It’s very easy to hide and it’s almost always done alone. From what I’ve seen, most sufferers are not overweight at all.  It occurred to me that I was essentially a functioning drug addict. That may seem dramatic but anybody who has lived it knows it’s true.  In my opinion, food addiction is one of the hardest things to manage because you can’t just stop eating entirely.

It has been two weeks now since I’ve had any sort of binge and I’ve been putting in a lot of work so that I can say that.  I will elaborate on this more at a later date but what this specific blog post is about is this idea of finally FEELING.  When you take away your comfort- be it food, alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise, another person, technology, whatever- and you give yourself nowhere to bolt to, your only option is to deal with all of the feelings.  The good and the bad.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you absolutely MUST feel your emotions to expel them from yourself. Otherwise they just internalize and you carry them around with you.  So if you can, challenge yourself to stay present. Keep a journal and make a list of “I feel…” statements. Tune in! And most importantly, be incredibly compassionate with yourself through this process. It’s not easy.  But it’s certainly worth it.

 

More in my video blog…

8 Tips for Eating Clean and Healthy while Traveling

I’ve been spending a decent amount of time in NYC lately but last week I had a quick glimpse of my old jet-setting lifestyle and I have to admit that I’ve missed it a little bit.  Between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday evening, I hit Chicago for a friend’s gorgeous wedding, and then spent a couple days in Boston shooting for Talbots.

IMG_2114It was great to be back at work after losing almost all of my clients due to my weight loss over the course of this year.  I’m trying to remind myself that when it comes to modeling, this is just a transition period as I shift towards working with new clients that use models more my size.  I just know without a doubt that my time in the modeling world so far is only but a small glimpse, and I hope that I can use the platform it gives me to spread a very important message of nutrition and self-love.  Ok, I’m going off on a tangent. But seriously.

Normally when I travel, I pre-make and pack almost all of my food, but between prepping and arranging all of the food for my NYC meal delivery clients, I didn’t leave the time to prep enough for myself, and I barely had 5 minutes to throw everything in a suitcase and hop on the plane.  Bad girl.

Traveling without my reinforcements reminded me of how challenging it can be if you don’t prepare ahead or do some research.  And so I wanted to make a little video to help you (and myself) be more prepared for your next trip to the Maldives or St. Tropez or wherever you rich assholes seem to go every weekend on my Instagram feed. Feed. Why do they call it that? As if I needed another opportunity to think about my next meal.

What are some tips you like to use while traveling?

 

xoxo

Danika

 

A Reflection on Bikini Beach Photos with Supermodels

I recently got back from a trip to Miami with two friends.  Did I say friends?  I meant supermodels.  I know you perverts like visuals so here you go…

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I spent so many years of my life trying to lose weight.  I wanted to be a model.  I wanted to be those pictures of my friends above.  I wanted to be recognized as the beautiful one- the one that society takes and puts a big skinny stamp on saying “you’re special”.  I wanted to be anything but the chubby, class clown with tons of friends and no boyfriends.  And so I spent 15 years dieting, bingeing, throwing up my meals, taking appetite suppressing drugs, and starving- and then beating myself up over the fact that my willpower wasn’t strong enough to get me to where I needed to be.  The place where I thought happiness lived. Somewhere in the gap between my thighs.

It took me a long time but I finally got burnt out and decided I was ok with the hand I’d been dealt.  I started focusing on my strengths rather than shortcomings.  I was tall and felt beautiful most days, and years of having to work to get people to like me landed me one kick-ass personality and some impressive bantering skills. And then one day while at Bank of America, I was scouted and signed with a modeling agency.  At a size 14.  I would be what the industry calls a “plus size” model.  I’d been called a lot of names in my life from “whale” to “fat girl” to a “liability”- but this certainly had a more positive ring to it.  I got to live my dream without trying to be someone I wasn’t. And three years later I’m living in New York City as a full-time, plus-size model with my face plastered up on Wilhelmina New York’s website. A dream come true- and one that came to fruition when I finally stopped trying to be somebody I wasn’t.

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But with finding extreme love for yourself comes a new desire to really take care of yourself.  I finally realized my value and decided I wanted to be the best possible version of me.  Through nutrition, exercise, meditation, and a lot of self-reflection- I managed to reinvent myself in the last 9 months that I’ve been a Manhattan resident. I’ve lost 30lbs and various jobs but I’ve chosen my health as a priority. My mind is functioning at a level I couldn’t even imagine and I feel more joy, energy, and clarity than ever before.  I am beginning to live my passion and purpose and it has come along with a new found sense of confidence.

Which is important when you take a vacation to Miami with supermodels.  Because honestly, three years ago, you could have paid me $10,000 and given me a free trip to the Greek Islands and I still wouldn’t have dreamed about putting on a bikini and posing for a picture in the Aegean Sea. But when my friend Holly suggested a primarily free weekend trip to Miami, the new Danika said HELL YES!

And it ended up being the perfect weekend getaway.  We relaxed on the beach, cooked healthy dinners at home, spent time meditating and journaling, and managed to soberly out-twerk everybody at club LIV.  But throughout the entire weekend, I still found myself feeling different.  Identifying myself as the “big friend”. Feeling like the third wheel to two bombshells and having to make up for my shortcomings with my exuberant personality and ability to ask strangers questions for an hour straight without being bothered that they haven’t even asked how to pronounce my weird Croatian hybrid of a name.  Dan-uh-kuh. Thanks for asking.

And so on the last day, when our tans were the darkest they’d be getting, Holly and Alexis suggested a group bikini photo by the ocean.  I quickly responded “I’m good, I’m just really comfortable” which really meant “I’m not good and I’m really uncomfortable posing next to you freak shows”.  But because I am quite possibly the biggest pushover in all of the land, I finally obliged and struck my pose for the 75-year old Italian men that were one Instagram filter away from a heart attack- and for the one picture ever that I hoped for a finger over the lens, they managed to snap with pure precision.

We returned to our chairs and I requested full approval before posting rights.  And then it happened. I really looked at the photo.  Rather than seeing some version of negative thoughts and assumptions of my differences, I had no option but to admit that I looked GOD DAMN AMAZING! And I also looked just like my friends. Did I say friends? I meant supermodels.

The supermodels who had spent the weekend equally concerned with their own bodies. All of us too busy tearing ourselves down inside to notice that we were all in this together.  Feeling “bloated” or “saggy” or “too pale” or “not toned”.  The ones who asked if they looked good in their outfits and the ones that borrowed MY makeup and wanted to know how I ate and what I was cooking and what kind of workout I did at the gym.

And something really struck me.  Even the girls that the media prints in the pages of your magazines- in store windows and taped to teenager’s (and murderer’s) walls have the same insecurities that we all do.  They wake up having days when they feel amazing but they also wake up feeling less than their best quite often.  They’re looking for the latest beauty tips, the best workouts, and the healthiest dinners. They’re feeling insecure in their skin because not even THEY feel like the photoshopped version of themselves that’s glued to your fridge in an effort to empower you to stop eating.  Empowerment comes from love by the way, not hate or fear.

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And so here I am, sharing my Supermodel Bikini Beach photo with the world.  Because someone out there is looking up to me and wanting what I have. And to be honest I don’t blame them.  Cause I look good.

And so do the supermodels.  I mean, my friends.

The Trick to Creating Permanent Change: Losing the Weight for the Last Time

There’s a certain high that comes along with a great weight loss and feeling better about ourselves… and a very clear low when our diet eventually fails us and we gain the weight back. By this point, most health-conscious individuals recognize that diets don’t work.  The key is making realistic lifestyle changes that have no end date in sight.  So if diets don’t work, what can we do in order to create lasting change? I’ve got your back!  Check out my latest video on creating permanent changes and the trick to losing the weight for the final time.  And a bonus, this tip helps in all areas of life whether it’s addiction, a job we don’t like, a bad relationship, or just an overall desire to step yourself UP in the game of life.

Find out why I’m so sure that my recent 30lb weight loss is a permanent one and what made this time around so very different.

Things That Have Been in my Mouth: Ginger-Garlic-Cashew-Dijon-Jalapeno Dressing

IMG_8216 Another delicious meal has driven me straight to the blogosphere. I was craving a salad for lunch (that sentence was about as recognizable as Arabic for me a few years ago) and I was somewhat bored of my usual olive oil-balsamic-salt-pepper dressing.  I’m traveling to Costa Rica in a few days for a yoga retreat so I’m holding off on going grocery shopping and trying to make use of what I already have in my fridge.  Enter this new salad dressing concoction! And it is DELISH!

My mom didn’t really cook much growing up- leave it to me to point this out on MOTHERS DAY- but really, she didn’t.  We were always on the go so I ate a lot of fast food- pizza, McDonalds, bagels, Taco Bell.  As a result I never really learned how to cook.  As I got older and started caring much more about what went into my body, I was forced to teach myself… and honestly it is super easy. The number one concern I get from people wanting to eat healthier is that they think they can’t cook.  I promise you, you can.  Pick a recipe, cook it, and then you can forever use it as a starting point to make your own varieties and mix up flavors and ingredients.

I’ve been eating super clean for over four months now and essentially follow the Whole30 program, which is quite similar to Paleo.  My diet consists of organic fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and meat that is hormone/antibiotic free and properly fed/raised, and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and raw nuts. If it doesn’t fall into one of those categories, I don’t eat it.  Period.  I’ve learned so much about our food industry and I think that we desperately need to get away from all the processed foods, chemicals, and added sugars we are filling ourselves with these days. I don’t count calories, fat, or really anything. I eat when I’m hungry and I try not to when I’m not. Four and a half months later, 30lbs lighter, and more vibrant, happy, and energetic than I’ve been in my entire life- I am living proof of how powerful nutrition can be.  Food is most certainly the best medicine. And I am most certainly in this for life.

I often miss those creamy Caesar and Ranch dressings that I used to eat before I realized what was in them, and I’ve found the secret ingredient to get back that comforting consistency without the poison.  Cashews!!

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Ginger-Garlic-Cashew-Dijon-Jalapeno Dressing Recipe (Paleo, Whole30, and Life-Friendly)- Makes about 4 portions for meal-sized salads

1-3 Organic Garlic Cloves (I’d aim for 1, I used 3 and the Garlic was a little overpowering)
1 1/2 tsps Organic crushed Ginger
1 small jalapeño pepper chopped- seeds/center removed
1/2 cup soaked raw cashews- You must soak these or the dressing won’t have the same consistency- Just cover them in water and soak for about 6 hours… or if you’re me three weeks because I forgot about them.  I recommend making a double batch so you can use them for other things
3 tbsp Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
3 tbsp Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
Salt, Pepper, and Red Chili Peppers to Taste
 
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor, magic bullet, or whatever fancy apparatus you have that I can’t afford. Store excess in a glass jar or tupperware in the fridge. I don’t know how long it can stay there. I don’t work for the FDA.  I’m surely thinking about it though. 
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Arugula Salad with Avocado, Pear, and Cherry Tomatoes (Amounts are for one meal-sized portion)

1/2 bag Organic Arugula 
1/2 Organic Pear
1 cup Organic Cherry Tomatoes- halved lengthwise
Freshly Ground Pepper
 
Toss arugula, pear and cherry tomatoes in dressing with your hands to coat evenly.  Arrange on plate and add avocado across the top because it will look prettier that way in your Instagram photo.

 

Enjoy!!

Meditation, Tuning In, and My Weave

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I’ve gone and done it friends.  I’ve started meditating.  And I can’t really stop. It’s a massive game changer and I had no idea what those crazy meditating people were talking about until my girl Oprah offered me a free 21-day meditation challenge. And if there are two things in this world that I can’t say no to, it is Oprah and anything that’s free.

Just by sitting still and quieting my conscious thoughts for 20 minutes a day, I have uncovered so many things that I had previously buried with ideas of how things should be, expectations and anxiety, and stories of how I wasn’t quite good enough. It has been less than two weeks and I’ve already discovered a few key points AND seen them playing out immediately in my daily life. Let’s just say I’ve been using the phrases “Wow!” and “Holy Sh!t” in my journal a lot lately.

Here is what I now know for sure through my mediation practice:

1. Everything we need, every single thing, is within us

2. When we find it in ourselves to stop worrying and to trust that we’ll be taken care of and everything will be ok, the universe will have the space to get to work.  And that damn “universe” (or God or Energy or whatever you prefer to call it) knows what’s best for us. Like always.

3. Letting go of our conscious thoughts allows us access to our core, deeper ones- the ones that know us best and that aren’t affected by the stories and lies we tell ourselves- the subconscious self has all the answers but we have to be in a position to listen.

And so maybe this makes me a hippy but I’m certainly ok with that identification if it means I can keep this up on the reg. Do you meditate?  I’d love to hear about your experience if so… mainly to prove that I’m not crazy.  And because I love you. I realized that while meditating. You’re welcome.

Check out my experience via video blog, a cameo from Kingsley, and find out why I put my weave in for your viewing pleasure…

 

What Diarrhea All Over My Rug Taught Me About Coping With Discomfort

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The other day while I was in Milwaukee traveling for work, Kingsley decided to explosively diarrhea all over my area rug.  Kingsley is a 200lb English Mastiff- but dog, human, or dinosaur, it doesn’t really make a difference.  Either way there is brown liquid mucus on my rug that takes up about half of my NY studio apartment. My friend Bianca was staying at my place and was able to take him out in the mornings and at night, and since I was too cheap to pay my dog walker $25 to take Kingsley out midday, the universe decided to punish me for animal abuse.  Bianca, who I owe massively, scooped up what she could and rolled up the carpet until I got home.  When I got back to NY that night, my place smelled so badly that I secured the rug in two trash bags and promptly put it in the hallway.  Because I’m that kind of neighbor.

Well that was three days ago.  And said diarrhea rug burrito was still in the hall.  I decided that today was the day that I needed to take some damn initiative.  Not because I felt bad for my neighbors but because I was taking photos to post my apartment on AirBNB to make some extra cash, and it just looked so much more appealing with that rug decor. I cut it out of its trash bag coffin and laid it back into place on my floor.  Some of the diarrhea was dried so I scraped it off into crumbs that I later vacuumed. The other half was still damp and I massaged that nicely into a paper towel and deeper into the rug.  A bottle of Resolve later, the spots were gone and I was temporarily happy.  I sprayed it all over with Lysol and Air Freshener. For those that don’t know, I am a real hippy these days, eat all organic, and am not really down with chemicals- so that should give you an idea of how desperate the situation was.

I decided to sit down at my desk to do day six of my daily meditation challenge with my friends Deepak Chopra and Oprah and focus on the fact that “my wisdom is within”. I sat there still, for twenty minutes, breathing in and out- and wisdom was certainly not the focus… “Om, Diarrhea smell, Om, dead carcass, Om, selling my dog on Craigslist, Om, I’m going to hell, Om, not even Gandhi could Om in this environment”.  I was pissed.  The last five days of meditation had proven truly magical and enlightening and today I was nothing short of agitated. I told three people, including my brother, that I couldn’t hang out with them on Easter. Life as I knew it was over. This was a black diarrhea-y hole and I was sinking. In the old days (and sometimes the new ones) I would turn to binge eating but I’ve been making sincere strides in that department so I took to my journal.  I wrote about how disgusted I was and how I couldn’t focus and how I was going to try to take a nap to calm myself down. I got in bed. No sleep.  No Oms. The smell was so putrid. I reached my breaking point.

I made that rug my bitch and it is currently sitting in the bathtub in its 5th round of soap and water soaking. Looking like a million bucks or at least like the $140 that I bought it for on Amazon. And like the true introspective, yogi, personal-growth-obsessed, twenty-something that I am, I learned a very valuable lesson from the experience.  And so I want to share this journal entry with you.  And this photo.

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Having Your Diarrhea and Losing it Too (what? I don’t know)…

I couldn’t get the smelly rug out of my head so I decided to get up and do something about it.  I’m realizing a couple things right now about myself. The first, is how important it has become to me to have neat, clean surroundings.  The more order I find in my life, the more peace I find in order. I decided to roll up the carpet and soak it in the bathtub with laundry detergent and hot water- stomping it clean, however many times it takes until the water is no longer brown.  I also re-swiffered the floors and the place is already smelling good as new. 
 
The second thing I’ve noticed is my ability nowadays, since I’m so much more clear-minded than I used to be, to think outside the box a bit more. It’s not like using the bathtub and laundry detergent was some genius idea, but stepping back and out of the situation allowed me to gain a new perspective and figure out what the most efficient way to manage the situation was.  I hope that this parallel plays out in many other areas of my life. I have a feeling it will. I just feel like I’m able to remove myself lately and see the big picture.  And I like it.
 
Most surprising of all was that this particular situation didn’t lead me to binge eat. It’s as if I’m finally learning that food will not fix the problem, it will in fact amplify it. Add MORE pain and discomfort. I’m learning to recognize the source of the pain, whatever it is that’s causing discomfort within me, and find the logical way to solve it. Rather than take the easy way out and numb myself, I can go deeper and attend to the real issue. For so long I would feel something uncomfortable and I would mask it with food. Numb myself with large quantities so I didn’t have to face the real problem.  Because when the problem is that the rug needs to be cleaned, the only thing that will solve that problem is cleaning the rug- not kicking Kingsley (which I would never actually do FYI), not spraying the rug with pounds of Lysol to cover up the smell rather than solve it, and not numbing myself with food to avoid the real issue.  The ONLY thing that can soothe that pain is getting in the tub and cleaning that mother fucking rug. The ONLY thing that can solve any pain is dealing with that pain directly.  Not covering it up and praying for the best. It always emerges later, maybe in a different form, but eventually you will have to deal with it.  So why not save yourself  the time and energy, the calories, the alcohol, the drugs, the sex, or whatever your comfort is… and grab that bull by the horns. Or that diarrhea by the… hands.
 
And honestly, diarrhea explosion or not, that rug needed to be washed desperately- so it actually ended up being a blessing in disguise. The universe works in epic ways. So does my dog’s stomach.
 
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Practicing Vulnerability: Journals Unedited

In the last couple months, I have been journaling every day.  I absolutely love to write and when I do, time stands still. It has been the first time that I’ve been able to really make sense of my thoughts and to truly access that deeper level that has been buried or numbed for so long. Most of my blog posts take fragments from my journal and are edited to suit an audience but every now and then I want to share with you the dialogue that comes straight from my heart.  My journal entries, completely unedited.  Here is what came up this morning…

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Date: Friday, April 11th, 2014
Time: 12:30-1:30pm
Location: NYC- Meatpacking District: random table and chair outside Gaslight
 
I decided to stop and sit in the action of the city to do this morning’s journaling.  With the exception of the cigarette smoke that’s reaching my health bubble, everything is pretty perfect.  I just had a casting at Milk Studios so I’m looking pretty top notch as well. I like being alone in a big city occasionally.  All sorts of energy passing by as I peacefully sit here and write.
 
I want to feel like New York is as magical as if I was sitting in the middle of Paris or Barcelona.  And it is!  It can just be hard to recognize when you feel like it isn’t going anywhere.  When you live here it is really easy to take for granted the fact that I’m living in the most beautiful part of the most amazing city in the world.  How lucky am I?!
 
I really don’t need much to make me happy.  Getting good sleep, getting up and ready for the day, and getting out into the world is so fulfilling.  What I’m doing right now is what I hope to be doing forever.  And its so great to know just how little I really need to be happy. A journal, a pen, a roof over my head, food to eat, and love and support around me.  I could really make that a reality anywhere.
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It’s truly a great day in NY.  The first since I’ve moved here that was really suited to sitting outside and writing.  I have a feeling that Spring will be when I fall madly in love with this place.  As I’ve been spending more time out and about, meeting people and being present, I’m reminded of how many wonderful people are out in this world.  It’s a true shame that we don’t get to meet all of them but I trust that the universe brings together the right ones. 
 
I’ve been really wanting to be my true, authentic self more lately.  I notice that I still wear a lot of masks and that I want nothing more than to totally strip myself of them in all arenas. The thing is, I know I’m a beautiful, passionate person worth of love and I truly believe that I’d find even more support and much deeper connections if I could just find a way to cut out all the bullshit.  All of the caring what people think, trying to please everyone, and anything I do that suggests I’m trying to be something that I’m not.  I know I’ll get there.  I’ve already come so far and I know it’s just a matter of time.  I’m just going to try to be more aware of when I think I may be faking or trying too much and to make some positive shift.
 
(My friend) Julia is staying with me and she’s just so real. So able to be vulnerable and not concern herself with what I think when she tells a story.  She seems to just be really in tune with herself which I admire.  For so long I numbed myself to all my emotions so I can’t expect to start feeling and being completely in tune with them right away.  It all takes time.  It’s a journey much like mine with food.
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I’m beginning to get a lot more comfortable with being hungry.  I’ve found that now that I’ve told myself that being hungry is ok, I’m a lot less frantic about the concept.  I can relax and live more, knowing that I don’t have to plan every move around my next meal.  Knowing that food will always be there and that I won’t starve.  It feels really freeing.  And I think that’s gonna be the key to being able to tune out the thinking about food all day thing.  Because when I know its ok to be hungry, I can forget to worry about it and in turn focus on living fully during the remainder of my days.  When its not a constant concern, I’ll be able to forget about it- which for me is the ultimate goal. 
 
To only think of food and eating when my physical body tells me it needs fueling.  That would be a true cure for me.  The goal of all of this.  To take all the power away from food and to view it strictly as fuel. Be someone who “forgets to eat” or who finally views eating as another normal daily task like going to the bathroom or sleeping. Something we think about when our body alerts us to its necessity and that we don’t think about when it doesn’t. That’s how I define being cured from food addiction.  That’s the END!
 
I think I’ve always had a hard time determining what the goal was.  What to strive for at the very end of all of this.  What I can tell people to expect when they can finally conquer all of this.  Being the kind of person that can have a box of Cheez-Its go stale in the cupboard or find a bag of peanut M&M’s that have expired in your pantry.  
 
And fortunately through all of this I’ve managed to become super passionate about health and nutrition as well.  Thinking for so long that they were two completely related concepts but really they’re quite different.  I’m glad my comfort eating led me to thinking nutrition was the answer because though I’m realizing that it isn’t, I managed to gain an extreme love and passion for quality, real, whole foods in this process of self-discovery.  And that is truly invaluable!
 
Danika
 

Things That Have Been in My Mouth: Carrot and Broccoli “Spaghetti” with Meat Sauce and Sweet Potato Fries

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Get your mind out of the gutter.

So I just made something for dinner and my mouth/body fell in love to the point that I felt almost sinful not sharing the recipe with you guys immediately.  Like, I want you to eat this for dinner.  And cover your body in it.  Or maybe I was just really hungry and it wasn’t that good but there’s really only one way to tell.

This is technically my first recipe post but as many of you know via my Instagram FoodFlashMob (@danikabrysha) I’ve been cooking up a storm since I began my journey to health a few months ago.  I’ve been wanting to share recipes with you and so let’s cheers our tea and ice waters to the start of something awesome.

IMG_7227Now, just a few notes.  I mainly shop at Trader Joe’s because I like my money, so most of the ingredients I use are from there.  Also, I don’t measure anything… because who has time for that?  Really I just don’t have a dishwasher in my NY studio apartment that I pay way too much for, and this gal is not about to wash an extra tablespoon for nuthin’.  So if you have more specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments and I will not hesitate to answer you.  Unless I’m really busy.  Like on Pinterest or refreshing my Instagram feed or something. I also keep a lint roller close by the stove at all times. I just feel safer that way.

Everything I eat is free of dairy, grains, added sugars, additives and hormones, legumes, and all that junk that holds us back from functioning at our optimum level. And our goal here in my cyber universe is to help you be your best self ever as I continue my journey to be mine.  I try to buy all organic as far as produce goes but it definitely isn’t the end of the world if not.  For meats, I make sure they are free of hormones, humanely raised, and fed proper feed.  For beef, that means organic and grass fed.  Cows are so stuck up.

I didn’t plan on writing a blog on this but when my mouth felt that warm, salty, meaty explosion I sprinted (ok, I didn’t sprint) to my computer to shout on mountaintops.  Enough banter, more beef.

Grass-Fed Meat Sauce (Makes about 3-4 Servings: awesome left-over with just about anything expect probably fruit…)

1 Package (1lb) Organic Grass-Fed Ground Beef from TJ’s
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- If I had to guess I’d say 2 tablespoons)
3/4 red onion chopped
4 mushrooms (I think they’re button, whatever that means) chopped
5 cloves of garlic chopped finely
10 cherry tomatoes- halved lengthwise
1 green bell pepper chopped
1/2 can (3oz) of TJ’s organic Tomato Paste (comes in a 6oz can)
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano, Basil, and lots of Red Chili Flakes if you like to spice things up

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Organic Carrot and Broccoli Spaghetti (Makes about 2 servings)

One bag of TJ’s Organic Broccoli and Carrot Slaw
1 tbsp Coconut oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

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Organic Sweet Potato Fries (Makes 2 servings)

2 small to medium organic sweet potatoes
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste- (cinnamon and unsweetened shredded coconut are great additions too)

 

Sweet Potato Fries: Preheat the oven to 400.  Chop sweet potatoes in half length wise and cut into skinny fries.  Toss with melted coconut oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until some of the fry ends turn black. I like them crunchy. And this is my blog so thats how you’re eating them.

Meat Sauce: In a large pan, sauté (fancy for “mix with plastic spatula I got at Target for $1″) olive oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes on medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes until soft-ish.  Add whole package of ground beef by breaking into pieces and then continuing to break with spatula.  Mix meat in will with veggies and oil. Add spices to your liking- I love salt and red chili flakes so I went heavy on those but about 1-2 teaspoons of most of the spices should do. Cook until browned and add half a can of tomato paste and mix in well.  Let meat sauce simmer on low heat for however long it takes to get everything else ready- anywhere from 8-20 minutes is great.  Clearly this is a very serious recipe.

“Noodles”: In another large pan, heat coconut oil and add full bag of carrot and broccoli slaw.  Mix with coconut oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Saute for about 5 minutes until soft and noodley where you’re like “woah, are those noodles or vegetables?… I guess I’ll never know”.

 

That’s it! I’m not going to tell you how to arrange this on your plate because I like to believe that the people I surround myself with, i.e. you, know how to do such a thing.  If you don’t, maybe send me a private message.  We’ll have more to talk about than food aesthetics.

And Voila!  A delicious Paleo, Whole-30 Approved, fancy looking meal that won’t have you heading to bed or the toilet immediately after.

Let me know if you’d like to see more recipes or if you made this one and what you thought of it!

I love you.

Danika

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Food as Comfort

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I just woke up from a short, very much needed nap and felt an overwhelming lure to eat.  Quite zombiesque, I went to the kitchen and began shoveling some assortment of fruit into my mouth.  A box of raspberries, a carton of blueberries, blackberries, and a handful of grapes- non-organic… ballsy, I know.

It was temporary comfort and I acknowledged quite quickly what was happening.  I had still been physically full from a big lunch I had had an hour before and it was clear to me that this yearning or hunger was coming from a different place.  I acknowledged it and did my best to be present in the binge.  I knew that when I was eating and I wasn’t hungry, I was actually eating to fill some void.  To find some comfort for something within me.

And just a note- my binges didn’t always look like the example listed above.   They used to involve $45 at the Taco Bell drive thru, 5 spoonfuls of raw cookie dough, bags of Funyons, Munchies Mix, and Flavor Blasted Goldfish, a full Hawaiian pizza, Heath bars and Peanut M&M’s- and much more. The memory is so clear.  I’ve shifted the foods I keep around to be much healthier after educating myself on all the chemicals, hormones, and additives in most of our foods today. So, though the food types may have changed, the emotional connection is exactly the same.

I continued… eating a Chocolate Coconut Lara Bar followed by a Fuji Apple with probably 3 servings of Raw Almond butter sprinkled in cinnamon.  Upon the last bite of that apple I was physically stuffed, slightly uncomfortable, and now on top of the discomfort I had felt that originally led me to food- I had added the feeling of guilt.

The biggest challenge that I’ve been facing lately is deciphering between my hunger for sustenance- the physical growls and pangs of an empty stomach and a body that needs (healthy) fueling- and that of my hunger for something more.  I’ve used food as comfort for as long as I can remember and I’m very aware that at the core of finding my way to a super healthy relationship with food, is the ability to recognize the difference between these two hungers- and to act accordingly.  When the hunger is not physical, the answer is not food. Healthy or otherwise.

On this particular day, I am very tired.  I have been quite consciously focusing on getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night lately, but I’d made an exception.  Last night something really magical happened to me.  I sat down and started writing in this journal after years of only writing directly on my computer (technically typing).  I’d always wanted to start journaling again like I often did in the single digit years of my life, but it always just seemed unproductive and like work.

I’m not sure what it was that made me take an actual pen to paper, but from the second I started writing I felt a rush of pure passion come over me and the next thing I knew, it was four hours and almost half a journal later of my thoughts and feelings and ideas before my eyes.  I couldn’t stop writing and I got completely lost in the words.  For the first time since childhood I felt like I was able to directly stream words from my heart to the paper without the process of overthinking that comes with the usual pitstop in my head- the writing for an audience and critical self observations.  Time just completely stood still and I felt like I had rediscovered this passion that I had known all along was within me.  The next thing I knew, it was 5AM and my eyes were burning but my soul was in one of the calmest most serene states I had felt in ages. As if I’d just emptied layers of emotions I’d numbed over time.

Which brings me back to the point that I am VERY tired today and rather than listening to what my body really needed- sleep, I turned to food instead.  But when I use food in this way, I am in reality just covering up the problem instead of solving it.  Much like many prescription drugs do today, I was treating the symptoms rather than the cause. Food is a drug. It’s real yo. Except we can’t quit cold turkey. Mmm, Turkey.

But then something clicked and I paused in my place. It’s ok to not be perfect all the time. To seek comfort in something outside of us.  The best thing we can do is pause for a second, be completely present, and show compassion towards ourselves.  Shift the thinking from being guilty, “cheating”, or lacking willpower to making the conscious choice that though you may know that what you’re doing is not the answer, it is what you need at this time.  And when you pause to accept that you are eating to comfort and you are consciously choosing to do so, then you’ll find that the “craze” and feeling of powerlessness diminishes even faster. You’ll quickly gain back control and you can then stop when you’ve had enough. It is important in that very moment to be kinder than usual to yourself, and then move forward having learned something from the experience, and with a new sense of power and ability to cope when you’re forced with it again.

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