Today I have something extra, extra special for you--quite different from anything I've ever posted before. This topic is extremely close to my heart. In fact, it's what motivates me to write every word on this little space. Diving head first into a healthy lifestyle jam-packed with kale smoothies, no-bake nut bars and homemade veggie burgers can be quite intimidating. We can't always just wave our magic whisks and make healthy happen. It's a learning process, and a long one. Healthy living blogs and Facebook and Instagram may paint the picture of bloggers and nutritionists living perfect little healthy lives chock full of raw cacao and hemp seeds, but that's not the reality. We really don't just sit around tying strings around our granola bars while reading Michael Pollan's latest on the treadmill. We mess up. We eat cake. We forget to work out. Eating well and learning to take care of oneself may not be easy, but neither is heart disease.
Spending fifteen minutes to pack a healthy lunch before work or whip up a nutrient-dense breakfast may seem like a huge pain in the butt, but I assure you that the consequences of eating fast food everyday will hurt way more. We all make time for what we believe in. The issue is believing in the power of a healthy lifestyle and making it a priority! Gathering the strength, confidence and determination to embark on the journey toward your maximum healthy potential just might be the best thing that ever happened to your heart, body and mind. April is a reader turned dear friend, and she knows a thing or two about this life-changing journey. I'll let her take it from here!
At first I was afraid, I was petrified. The kitchen and I were not always on the same side.
Okay, so maybe petrified is an exaggeration, but I was definitely intimidated by cooking. I didn’t have much experience with it growing up, and had now reached my late twenties being sort of a dunce in the kitchen. If there was a way to screw something simple up, I would likely find it. Needless to say, my confidence in the kitch was next to nothing. I just didn’t understand how all of these other people made it seem so easy to whip up a great meal. Where on earth do you even start?!
I could bake, at least somewhat, but that seemed more straight-forward to me. A + B = C. Cooking, on the other hand, was more of an art. A dash of this, a pinch of that, dice, chop, blanch, season to taste – your inner chef knows what to do. I’m sorry, what? The only Blanche I knew was from The Golden Girls, and the voice in my head was screaming, “you suck at this, you shouldn’t even try, you’re gonna mess it up!” Was that my inner chef? What a jerk.
Somewhere along the line, in my infrequent attempts to make something edible for dinner, I stumbled upon this very blog right here. I was searching on Pinterest for sweet potato fries, to be exact, and ended up on Hummusapien. Little did I know, this was just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
So fast forward a while, because I sort of forgot about the blog and successfully making sweet potato fries that one time didn’t magically make me believe I could cook. Shocking, I know. I subscribed to get daily emails eventually – probably after the 5th or so time I kept going to the Spicy Sweet Tater Fries recipe and reading the same WIAW. I started as more of an observer, reading the posts most days, clicking around, and taking it all in. But I just looooved Alexis’ writing style (the girl is damn funny) and felt a connection with her immediately. Not to mention, her recipes seemed pretty simple, healthy AND delicious, and I was learning things about food I never knew before. I could post a comment asking a dumb question (what’s all the hype about chia seeds, anyway?), and she would answer right back with a smile. Who was this heaven-send, and why did I already feel like she was my friend? This was way better than falling into the bottomless abyss that is Pinterest and crawling out completely overwhelmed and over-stimulated.
I also felt good knowing that Alexis had legit credentials (a now official Registered Dietitian with six years of nutrition schooling) and her recipes were reliable. I knew she was eating the very recipes she shared and was passionate about helping people live longer, happier, healthier lives. I could get on board with that.
My life went through a bit of a whirlwind last fall when I got out of a serious relationship (okay, an engagement), took a new job, and moved into my own apartment. I had only been in Atlanta a year, and felt like I was starting over. After a few months went by and I felt more like a human again, I decided I was finally going to learn how to cook. I had said it a million times before, but this time was different. My expenses had increased so I couldn’t afford to buy food out every day. Plus, I was lonely – what was I supposed do in this quiet apartment by myself? Plus PLUS, I had Alexis this time. Something about her – her humor, sassiness, wit, passion – had won me over. I felt like she was cheering for me through the screen while cracking me up and sharing her life with me. I actually READ what she had to say, versus just scrolling down to the recipe. There are thousands (millions? billions? trillions?) of food bloggers out there, but I actually felt a real connection to this one, and that made all the difference. I could try to make myself dinner, and if it sucked, no one would have to know.
I certainly didn’t think I’d be any good, but I knew I wanted to eat healthier and save money. So every week, I’d click around the recipe pages on Hummusapien and make one or two things. OMG! I’m not as horrible as I thought! I came out alive and the food was edible. Actually, it was really good – and I was unintentionally eating more plant-based foods and becoming more conscious of what I was putting in my body. I think the food also tasted better to me because I made it… I was so excited to prove to myself and that nasty voice in my head that I am not a total dunce, and that I could take care of myself. I did flock to baking at first, trying my hand at healthy muffins, easy homemade granola, and things that were more in my comfort zone. But as time went by and I started to build confidence, reading the daily posts became a highlight of my day and I couldn’t wait to comment and think about what recipes I should try next.
Let’s be clear here – I’ve definitely messed up a good bit, and still do. I went to make the easy make-ahead apple cinnamon steel cut oatmeal a while back, and had a flax seed & almond milk overflow mess on the stove (it still turned out amazing, thankfully). I burnt my first batch of the easy homemade granola (I realize both of these recipes have “easy” in the title. Don’t judge me). I once made a batch of muffins where something went wrong and they sadly ended up in the trash. I’ve forgotten to turn the burner off and almost set some aluminum foil on fire (oops) while ruining a cookie sheet. I take a really long time to make anything in the kitchen, and I still don’t just “know” things – I follow the recipes and ask a LOT of questions. Alexis has been super patient with me – I blow her up on the reg with some sort of inquiry. And selfies and food pics, because I’m just that girl.
But honestly, this process is teaching me that I don’t have to be perfect. It’s not a black and white world, and it’s not a black and white kitchen, either. You mess up, you laugh it off, you know better for next time, you try again. It’s been really therapeutic, actually. (Note: It used to drive me nuts when people would say that cooking was therapeutic for them. I saw cooking as nothing but stressful, but obviously am coming around.) I don’t sing kumbaya or anything, but I do listen to music and enjoy my time in the kitchen making delicious, healthy food for myself and my friends – I love sharing with them and blabbing their ears off about Alexis and Hummusapien and why this recipe is so great and why hemp seeds are so fascinating. I am no longer afraid of spending time alone in my apartment (in fact, I value it) and have a really fun hobby always waiting for me. I feel the healthiest and most balanced I’ve ever been. My eyes are welling up writing that sentence – this blog, this girl, this Hummusapien community has really helped me in so many ways.
In the past, I’ve tried to “eat healthy” to lose weight and cut many things out of my diet. I was eating processed foods and depriving myself – I wasn’t eating the donut because I wasn’t supposed to, I didn’t deserve to, and I was disgusting. Then I’ve also gone the other way, where I’d eat ten donuts because, well, screw it. Food had been a source of anxiety for me, and we did not have a healthy relationship. A big part of why I love Hummusapien in particular is because I really admire and respect the holistic way Alexis approaches food and health. She eats good food and she enjoys it, with a focus on counting ingredients, not calories. I like that she eats ice cream and isn’t afraid of carbs, but that she also thinks about how much and what kind of sweetener she uses. It’s not a perfect science. Alexis has helped me discover that cooking and healthy eating can be a way to love and care for yourself; to enjoy food in a way that fuels you – sometimes it fuels your body, sometimes it fuels your soul, and a lot of the time, it does both.
I still don’t see myself as a great cook, but fear no longer stops me from trying and making a big ‘ol mess in the kitchen (and then snapping 800 pictures of whatever I’ve made to show everyone what a boss I am – strategically leaving out the details of my bloopers). I’ve come a long way and I could not be more grateful that I found this little corner of the Internet that has allowed me to take a chance on myself. Even when I didn’t believe I could do it, I felt like Alexis believed in me and wanted me to succeed. Hummusapien was my safe space; a positive, judgment-free zone. Plus, the writing made me laugh out loud. Humor > fear. That may just be the secret to life.
Who knows how far this road will take me, but I’m not stopping now. It feels good to know I can make a balanced meal for myself and others, and I’m having fun along the way. I hope my story helps some of you who may have similar doubts and fears spread your little chickpea wings and make the kitchen magic happen. Need some inspiration? Check out a few of my fave Hummusapien recipes below (in no particular order). Thanks for listening and helping create a humbelievable community that gave me the confidence to reach for my goals. And my measuring cups.
PB&J Protein Smoothie
Overnight Steel Cut Oats
Avocado Bean Burgers
Avocado Chickpea Egg Salad
Goat Cheese & Spinach Salmon Burgers
Peanut Veggie Noodle Bowl
Super Easy Mexican Crockpot Casserole
Banana Coconut Muffins
Blueberry Banana Hemp Muffins
Flourless Lemon Poppy Seed Mini Muffins
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bites