Girl vs Food: The Thanksgiving Edition

If Christmas has been deemed “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” surely Thanksgiving must be second. Who can argue with the value of a day set aside to count all of our blessings? From the laughter of family to the encouraged consumption of delicious foods, the day itself is a reminder of all the many things we have to be thankful for. However, it’s not uncommon for us to give way to gluttony; “It’s Thanksgiving; calories don’t count on Thanksgiving!”

Mountains of mashed potatoes with plains of savory turkey and rivers of tasty gravy engulf our senses. Decadent sweets seem to create delicious choruses that sing our names; an ensemble of pies demands our attention: pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato…and don’t even think about excluding their best friend, whipped cream.

Does this sound familiar? Even though we may excuse our excessive mounds of food at the moment of the feast, we wake up bloated and ashamed (“Was that fourth piece of pie really necessary?”), vowing to do better until Christmas. Since I have made a habit of this every Thanksgiving, I am here to give my best advice for a gluttony-free Thanksgiving, so you can enjoy the holiday without backsliding with your health, fitness, or self-esteem.

Without further ado, I give you my top tips for enjoying your Thanksgiving with moderation. Believe it or not, it is possible to taste all of the things you love without resorting to listing elastic waistbands at the top of your gratitude list.

  1. Look, then touch: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the glorious assortment of foods set in front of you. Since there are so many options, scan the table and process your choices before you start scooping foods onto your plate. If you only see a few things that you want to eat, you can take bigger portions of your choices. If you want to try everything on the table, you will know to take smaller portions.
  2. Hydrate first: Before you dig into your food, drink a glass of water; the water will help you feel full a little bit sooner, so you will start to slow down earlier. You can drink your water while you scan the table for the foods you would like to try.
  3. Use smaller plates: Typically, we tend to cover every square inch of our plates during our Thanksgiving meal. If you bust out the biggest set of plates you can find, you will be much more likely to consume a massive amount of food before it even hits dessert time. By selecting a smaller plate, even if you cover the entire plate with food, you will significantly cut your calories compared to eating the contents of a larger plate.
  4. Put your fork down between bites: Setting your fork down in between bites is a great strategy for multiple reasons; not only will it help you eat more slowly (and protect you from choking!), but it will allow you to enjoy each bite of your meal. Instead of shoveling the food into your mouth without thinking, you will savor every bite. You will also be more likely to chat with the people around your table, because you will be focusing on the experience of Thanksgiving rather than developing tunnel vision for your meal.
  5. Say a silent “thank you” for each bite: Every time you take a bite of food, think about how grateful you are to have the food on your plate. Consider your blessings by reflecting on how blessed you are to be enjoying a delicious and filling meal. Ponder the gift of eating a delicious assortment of foods. Instead of just stuffing the turkey into your mouth, think, “Wow, I am so grateful to have such a savory lunch! This turkey is delicious, and I am glad that I can nourish my body with something so tasty!” This will keep you from mindlessly eating, and it will also reinforce the value of gratitude we should practice every day (especially on Thanksgiving).
  6. Stay away from seconds: Try your best to refrain from going back for round two. It can take up to 20 minutes for our bodies to start feeling full, so this will help you listen to what your body is instructing you. After you finish your meal, have some hot tea, or another glass of water. Wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea (zero calories!) will give your hands something to do, and distract you from digging into another pile of potatoes.
  7. Don’t forget about dessert: Before you fill your plate, keep in mind that you may want dessert after you finish. My family often keeps dessert in the kitchen, and every year I am completely blindsided by the train of delicious sweets my Grandma and aunts carry into the dining room. Even though I am already absolutely stuffed, I always take the dessert, because, hey, what’s Thanksgiving without some pumpkin pie? And apple pie…and pecan pie…and, well, you get the idea. If you have a sweet tooth, plan accordingly. Before you start your meal, make it your goal not to feel like an overstuffed teddy bear as you begin your dessert; if you accomplish this, it will feel like a tiny personal victory when you leave the table.

So there you have it, seven tips to keep you accountable during your Thanksgiving meal. As you take part in your Thanksgiving spread, don’t forget the real meaning behind Thanksgiving. Use your Thanksgiving Thursday to say thank you to all of the people who bless your life. Remember to treat your body kindly on Thanksgiving as your way of showing it some gratitude for all of the amazing things it does for you on a daily basis.

*I originally wrote this post for MVP’s blog. Feel free to go check out their site!


Choconut Protein Shake


There is nothing more glorious than the winning combination of chocolate and coconut; NOTHING, people, NOTHING. The taste is both rich and refreshing, so wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could recharge on this combination (guilt free!) after a workout? 

Well, guess what…


Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the Choconut Protein Shake! My mom designed this delectable shake a couple years ago, and I have been hooked on it ever since she offered me my first sip! 


Here is what you will need: 

1 banana

1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder (or one spoonful of peanut butter) 

1 handful of ice

6 oz of vanilla coconut milk (or almond milk)

2 tablespoons vanilla Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon coconut butter 

1 tablespoon Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon flaxseed 

1 splash of vanilla extract

IMG_1656 IMG_1657 IMG_1663 IMG_1665 IMG_1666 IMG_1673 IMG_1677 IMG_1679 IMG_1680 IMG_1681 IMG_1685

This shake is a perfect breakfast or post-workout option, because it’s delicious and packed with protein! This will help you rebuild muscle post workout, and keep you full longer so you won’t be stuck snacking a few hours later! I wouldn’t recommend it as a side dish to a meal, but it’s a great meal replacement. The greatest part about the shake is that you can tailor it to your own tastes at the moment. If you would like to have a stronger peanut flavor, you can swap the whey protein powder for peanut butter. 

When I make the shake for myself, I pass on the Greek yogurt, because I like to make my shakes dairy free, but it tastes delicious either way! 

Depending on what you decide to add or subtract, the shake is between 200-320 calories. 

Drink up and enjoy the refreshingly tasty boost! 🙂 




The Sweet Demise of Holiday Habits


Do you suffer from sugar-induced handshaking, headaches, bloating, stomachaches, or self-criticism? If so, you might have Candicitis (Can-dis-eye-tis), a very serious, yet all too real condition caused by the excessive consumption of sweets. Candicitis is a very common condition, and can be treated over time with consistent exercise and will power.

Okay, now that I have your attention, let’s get to the heart of the matter. If you are like me, you likely suffered (or are currently suffering from) Candicitis at some point during the Holiday season. The worst part of Candicitis is that it is not just a condition, but a cycle. You want to be festive, so you bake some Christmas cookies. You have to, otherwise you’re basically the grinch! So, as you amp up your holiday spirit by tossing some extra sugar into the dough, you just HAVE to taste test it; I mean, what if it tastes terrible? It is your job, no….your duty, to make sure the good citizens of your household are eating TASTY Christmas cookies, not just the average! So, after the dough sampling, you roll it out, and begin to flatten it, but some of it sticks to the roller! Horror of all horrors! You can’t have a sticky dough! So you eat some more, and analyze how much more flour you should add to the mix, and then you test it again, you know, just to make sure that it’s not too dry. Don’t even get me started on eating the scraps from each cookie you punch, or devouring each misshapen gingerbread guy. Then there’s the frosting….okay, okay, you get the point. Around the holidays, our relationship with junk food becomes a vicious cycle, like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (ps, how fitting is it that the title contains the word “cookie”? Author Laura Numeroff had it together…she’s like the hipster of Candicitis…she wrote about it before it was popular).

So how do we cease this dreadful condition that is sweeping the nation (or…at least my household)? Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, your Candicitis survival guide:

1. Clear the Area

Today, my mother took her first brave steps toward defeating Candicitis, tossing every remaining sweet into the trash. Let me tell you, that is a bold move for a woman of Dutch descent (I apologize to anyone who does not live in my West Michigan bubble, and therefore does not understand my attempt at a Dutch joke). I’m pretty positive that people were pawning off their leftover sweets to us, disguised as Christmas gifts. Isn’t it mysterious how plates and plates of treats start appearing at your door the days lingering after Christmas? I’m calling it. If you know you are not going to eat the rest of your sweets, you can bring them to someone who will truly appreciate them, or you can throw them out. No, I’m not encouraging you to participate in the sneaky Candicitis ring by pawning off your sweets on others, but if you know of someone who will truly enjoy them without suffering from the effects of Candicitis, then go ahead and share! If you aren’t going to share, then throw them away. Would you rather see those sweets in your trashcan, or on your waistline?

2. Lace up

I’m sure at least a small fraction of the population tore the colorful wrapping paper off a glorious box of Nike sneakers (in anticipation of kickstarting a new year’s resolution). That time that you otherwise spend Facebook stalking family-no-so-friends posing with their surplus of gifts by the tree could be swapped for a trip to the gym. Get active! Get out there! Grab one of your friends and take a walk instead of talking over a dangerously high-calorie Starbucks cappuccino (Yes, I know the red holiday cups are beautiful and enticing, but it doesn’t outweigh the consequences). Personally, I like morning workouts, because you get it out of the way, and the endorphins are a good way to start your morning (sort of like a healthier alternative to your basic morning cup of coffee). Morning workouts are also a great way to spark your motivation to be healthy. If you have already gotten in a healthy mindset in the morning, it will be easier to maintain throughout the rest of the day. It’s like this: If you’re wearing a little black dress, you don’t cuddle with your fluffy white cat who is prone to shed; in the same way, if you’ve worked out, you don’t feel as inclined to binge on what you know will add a mess to your efforts to look and feel fabulous. Okay…that analogy made so much more sense in my head, but you probably get the point.

3. Befriend the machinery 

If you have access to a gym, or a treadmill, or any piece of machinery that calculates the amount of calories you have you were exercising on it, take advantage of it! If you experience the sweat, exhaustion, and time it takes to burn off those calories on the elliptical, you will be much more likely to pass on the donut. If you read the nutrition facts on some of the junk food you might be tempted to put in your body, you will be more more inclined to turn your back on it if you can remember how many minutes of sweating and panting it would cost you on the treadmill to burn it off.

4. Have an accountability partner

Candicitis is hard to halt on your own terms, so try finding someone else who is in a similar boat. My mom and I both agreed that we had to stop or sugar problem, so we printed out some healthy recipes, and started to share our candy-boycotting strategy. I am much less likely to sprint to my stocking stash of candies if I know my mom will be raising a skeptical eyebrow at me. It really helps when you have someone who is there to keep you on track.

5. Blogilates

If you haven’t yet discovered Blogilates, DO IT. NOW. Go download the app to find tons of fun workouts and healthy alternatives to sweets. Workouts and meal plans are carefully tailored by Cassey Ho, a spunky and upbeat fitness guru who does all of the workouts with you, and encourages you to keep going while you hatefully stare at your computer screen wishing for her abs without having to work for them. Blogilates is fabulous, and even has an online community of many people working to achieve a happier and healthier lifestyle. Oh yeah, and the best part? It’s free (I know the Dutch members of my audience are now cheering wildly). Here’s the link, so you can’t make any excuses about it being too much work to find the website. CLICK IT! Now. Please.

6. Tea

Tea one of my secret weapons. My sidekick. My bestie. Green tea is a great hot drink that can be substituted for hot chocolate or frothy lattes. Not only does it have a grand calorie total of zero, but it also boost the metabolism! Drink up!

7. Brush after meals

One of the best ways to stop picking at the puppy chow on the counter is to brush your teeth! The overpowering minty-fresh tingle rarely blends well with any food, so you will be much less likely to find yourself with one hand mysteriously submerged in a bowl of M&Ms 20 minutes after dinner.

8. Swap your sweets

Blogilates is my go-to for this. Instead of eating a large bowl of fat-heavy ice-cream, I can go to Cassey’s app and find a recipe for an all-natural and healthy large bowl of “ice-cream”. Even if it doesn’t taste quite the same, your conscience will thank you. I guarantee it.

9. Don’t be too hard on yourself

It’s really easy to get down on yourself when you slip off the health wagon, but criticizing yourself will NEVER take you anywhere besides back to your stocking searching for candy to comfort you, because candy is kind…candy doesn’t care if you live in yoga pants for the elastic waist bands…candy understands. Stop searching for flaws and treat your body the way it deserves. If you have a high self-concept, you’ll be much more motivated to take care of your body (with exercise, clean eating, etc.), because you know that’s what it deserves. Think about all the amazing things your body is able to do, and you will find yourself wanting to care for it to the best of your ability. If you have a beautiful and faithful car, you don’t want to drive it in a way that could pop a tire or chip the paint! You want to keep that car in the best condition possible, so you treat it right. Disclaimer, no feminists can jump at me for using the analogy of a car/object to the human body, because this analogy pertains to both males and females. Think highly of your body, and care for it highly!

10. Stick with it

Results don’t start right away, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t look toned and fabulous shortly after bringing in the new year. Have you ever noticed that the week after New Year’s Day, the gym is totally PACKED? When I walk into Calvin College’s gym during my “usual” gym times, the gym has double the people! It’s practically overflowing! I can barely find an open elliptical! There are so many more people who are there to witness my pathetic struggle to lift weights that are not heavy enough to be considered challenging. The audience observing me in a socially unacceptable state dramatically increases; it’s a recipe for fitness stage fright! But slowly, the crowd dwindles back down to the regulars as the shiny novelty of New Year’s resolutions begin to fizzle. Stick with it! Keep going, and remember that you’re doing it for your health, and not for the brief “in the moment” effort to create a New Year’s resolution. You’ll be so happy you stayed consistent, even if it’s not ideal at the time! I love trending Pinterest saying that states, “You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce”. If Queen Bey can be a singer, dancer, wife, mother, model, the epitome of perfection, etc….I can surely carve 30 minutes out of my day to squeeze in a date with the gym.

So there you have it; your prescription to tackle Candicitis.

Holiday Blessings!


Girl VS Food: College Edition

Girl VS Food: College Edition

Who will be victorious?

If you’re a college student like me, you’ve probably heard the Urban Legends (except they’re not really Urban Legends because they’re true) of college weight gain. Everyone likes to warn us about how to avoid the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen”, but no one really tells us how to avoid it. Well…they try, but fitness magazines and newspapers throw around words that bore us and cause us to tune out. I’ll get super excited about a post that’s supposed to help me stay fit in college, until one of two things happens:

A) They use some nutritional lingo that goes way over my head, leaving me lost and uninterested

Or worse…

B) They say something way too drastic, like “No carbs.”

Let me tell you, you do NOT have to sacrifice the simple joys of carbs in order to stay fit in college. Here are my hints and tips from one college student to another about some of the ways I have been trying to stay healthy amidst the temptation of a dining hall filled with an unending supply of sweets, treats, and angelic sugary temptations.

1) Limit yourself. It sounds simple, but doing it is way harder than saying that you’re going to do it. Let’s be honest, saying that you will never leave the dining hall with an ice-cream cone is just not being realistic, unless you can’t have dairy, or maybe you just enjoy denying one of life’s beautiful pleasures. You do NOT have to break up with dessert, just don’t make your relationship a daily thing. I tell myself that I can have 1 dessert from the dining hall each week, and then I allow myself dessert 1 time outside of the dining hall. That way, if I go home to celebrate a family member’s birthday party, I don’t have stare longingly at the cake like a little kid pressing her face up against the glass of a frosty toy store window on Christmas Eve.

2) No more “My diet starts tomorrow”. Trust me, it never works. This might seem like a simple solution, but it really just because a vicious cycle. You might decide on a YOLO moment with the girls to go do an I-HOP run for some savory chocolate chip pancakes accessorized beautifully with fluffy white whipped cream and sweet, sticky syrup….but ask yourself how you will feel about it in the morning. Chances are, the second after you finish those beautiful pancakes, you will beat yourself up a little for eating them, and then you don’t really end up enjoy the food anyway. But in order to avoid guilt and feed (literally) our indulgences, we laugh as we swipe our finger through the remaining syrup on our plate, stick our finger in our mouth, and pull it out saying, “Our diet starts tomorrow!” Well, it probably won’t. Your diet might momentarily start tomorrow….until you get to the dining hall the next morning and see that they’re serving Belgium Waffles, sweet and sticky cream cheese cinnamon roles, or something equally tempting. Just ask yourself in the moment, “How will I feel about this decision an hour after I eat this?”, and base your decision off of that.

3) Say no to stress eating. This one can be pretty tricky, but if you cushion your embarrassing social mistake or failed midterm with Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy, you’re going to get into the habit of craving junk food and reaching for it every time things go awry…and that will leave you feeling even worse about yourself. I have tried to condition myself to go for a walk when I get stressed out, hit the gym, change my outfit, or paint my nails while I sip some tea out of one of my favorite mugs. Choose comfort that doesn’t have the guilty strings of calories that goes along with it.

4) Get active. Yeah, you knew this one was coming. Most colleges offer a gym for free, so why not take advantage of it? After all, you’re already being charged so much money; you should indulge in all of the perks you can get! Exercise is a way to boost your self esteem, make you feel more productive, and it also helps relieve stress! It might not be fun during it, but you’ll be so happy you did afterwards! Don’t have enough time to change and work out? Try going for a walk! Did you know that walking a mile and running a mile will burn the same amount of calories? The only difference is that one of them takes up less time and involves more cardio. You don’t even have to take off that super cute outfit you’re wearing or mess up your hair! Grab a friend and catch up on life while you take a walk! It gets your mind going, and you get to take in all of God’s gorgeous creation while you chat!

5) Get an accountability partner. This has been so helpful for me. I have two close friends on my floor who help keep me accountable. I work out with one of them (when our schedules line up), and we also gently help each other through an internal struggle about whether or not we should get that ice cream cone on the way out of the dining hall. Doesn’t it seem like when one person at your table goes and grabs dessert, it justifies it for everyone else to do the same? I totally struggle with that. I know that if I have my accountability partners, there will be at least two other people besides me who do not go running to the dessert table after dinner, and that is enough to keep me grounded from consuming my weight in chocolate cookies. Another thing that comes along with an accountability partner is the ability to be open about your self concept and body image. Everyone gets down on themselves at some point, and it really helps if you are able to verbalize those feelings…instead of eating them. Your friend will likely struggle with the same things, and it feels good to get those thoughts out in the open, because then you aren’t weighed down with the guilt of eating that fifth cookie at the floor mixer. My friends Sara and Kelly have been amazing with helping me want to stay healthy and stay honest.

6) Be smart with dorm room stacking. If you have a weakness for Oreos (like I do), then do NOT keep them in your room! It’s like handing a credit card to a Shopaholic like me. It sets you up for failure. Make Oreos a treat, not an “all the time”. Plus, then when you actually have an Oreo, it’s a lot more special! My roommate Macy introduced me to the joy that is pretzels and peanut butter. We keep pretzel rods in our room, and when I am in a hurry and need to get a quick snack to suppress the hunger, I snap a pretzel rod in half, dip it in the peanut butter, and go. It’s quick, it’s super tasty, doesn’t break the Cal-o-meter, and the peanut butter serves as some protein to keep the hunger away for a longer time period. Keep hummus in the fridge, and dip veggies in it or a handful of pita chips. Another way to deal with dorm snacking is to abide by the “handful rule”. If I am desperately craving some teddy grams, I slip my hand into the box, pull out one handful, drop it into a cute bowl, and then seal the teddy gram box and put it up on the highest shelf. This way, you get to indulge, but you don’t accidentally end up eating half the box while you study.

7) Set a deadline. If you want to pack on the pounds, one easy way to do that is by late night snacking. If you eat right before bed, you are allowing all of those calories to sit inside of your stomach all night long. When you sleep, you aren’t moving around like you are during the day either, so you’re aren’t burning off as many calories. I try not to eat after 8 pm, unless I haven’t had dinner yet and just got out of work/just found the time to eat. If you are hungry before bed, try having a cup of tea instead! Try Chamomile, it’s soothing and it has antioxidants with zero calories!

8) Breakfast. Breakfast is so important! It will wake you up before that 8 AM class, and it will also jump start your metabolism! Try eating eggs or a whole grain english muffin with peanut butter and jam. They have protein, which will keep you full longer!

9) Easy on the liquids! One way to quickly cut back on calories is to monitor what you’re drinking. Try cutting out pop. Instead of that glass of diet coke, try a refreshing glass of water. Instead of hitting the latte machines for a french vanilla cappuccino, get some green tea (Side note, green tea has zero calories AND it will boost your metabolism)! The only drink that I allow myself to get from the dining hall is water and some tea…and NO, sweet tea does not qualify as tea, I’m talking about zero calorie, health boosting hot tea. If you occasionally want to reward yourself with a glass of chocolate milk while you do that last minute cram before your 8 AM history midterm, go for it! You do you, girl!

I hope that these tips were catered (puns, sorry) to college students, and I wish you the best! Girl VS Food….you can win!