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Pumpkin pancakes + Intuitive Eating

Hello, darlings! The post you are reading right now marks a very special moment in CLK history: my first post ever. I know, I know - kind of scary, yet kind of exhilarating. I hope you're as excited as I am!

Today I'm going to be sharing with you my personal trials and triumphs in overcoming the evils of dieting, through a process called Intuitive Eating. My story isn't always a happy one, but I hope I can make up for it with a yummy recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip I had them for breakfast this morning, and let me tell you: you will savor every bite, especially after the hour of arduous flipping that ensues!

Now, you're probably wondering: what the heck is intuitive eating?!?

If you've read my about page at all, you'll know that I used to be a season ticket holder to the Diet Rollercoaster. I was constantly counting calories, frantically tracking everything I ate (hoping no one would notice), and worrying more about whether or not I squeezed in a run today than about the things that really matter to me: school, writing, and my relationships. The constant up and downs of dieting were not only detrimental to my self-esteem, but they zapped a lot of energy that I should have been channeling into my passions instead. Perhaps my biggest regret was the time I skipped out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a real-life book publisher, just so I could run three miles - as if the novel I'd been writing for over a year now was somehow less important than feeling a little winded at the 5K I was scheduled to run that weekend.

I can't quite put my finger on when it all started - there wasn't a definite moment when, all of a sudden, some "fat switch" turned on inside my brain - but my best guess would be about halfway through my freshman year of high school. I had just gotten out of a relationship, and was never happier to be single...until I auditioned for the school play and developed a raging crush on an older boy (for the sake of privacy/comic relief, we will call him Muffin) who I fervently believed would never rank me as highly as my friend. (We'll call her Pizza.) 

Pizza was - and is - the kind of girl who attracts all the guys' attention without even trying. She possesses that enviable combination of good genes, remarkable bone structure, and flawless flirting technique that, for lack of better phrasing, brings the boys to the yard. At the time, Pizza was in an unhealthy relationship with a guy whom - thank God for all of us - she has long since broken up with. She wasn't happy with the man she had, so naturally, she began to look. And flirt. And flaunt all the assets she had that I happened to have been born without (ahem, boobs). 

Believe it or not, I was fine with that - it wasn't the flirting that bothered me. It was when she set her sights on the same boy I happened to have an excruciatingly intense crush on that my anxious brain went into a frenzy. That boy was, of course, Muffin.

Whether she realized it or not, Pizza egged me on by turning every day into a competition: she would recount the texts they'd exchanged, the looks he'd given her, the coy-yet-casual conversations they'd had (the kind of conversations that I, the awkward shy girl who tends to run away from her feelings instead of confronting them, was incapable of). What's more, she expected me to do the same so she could compare - and I did, because it made me happy to giggle with glee and pretend that maybe, just maybe, Muffin liked me, too. But those conversations only ever left me with a sinking pit in my stomach, a sickening feeling of dread. No matter what happened between me and Muffin, as soon as I heard Pizza's counterargument, I never quite felt like Muffin's treatment of me measured up to the attention he paid her. So I began to craft a solution.

Pizza may have been pretty, funny, and sweet, but the one thing she had never been was fit. It seemed like all of my prayers had been answered: all I had to do was become the Fit Girl, and bingo! My side of the Venn diagram finally had something men wanted. (I was sorely misguided in my beliefs that men preferred their women fit, tan, and skinny over strong, smart, and bootylicious. If I were to summarize everything a guy could want in three words, strong, smart, and bootylicious just about do it! And if any guy wants to disagree with me, then he's the one losing out on a strong, smart, bootylicious woman, not me.) 

By the time I'd come to realize this, Muffin and I were already dating - but that didn't stop me from being scared to lose him to Pizza. I swore to take whatever preventative measures I could, before I needed them. Combined with the looming presence of a quickly-approaching school trip to Florida (i.e. an obligation to wear a skimpy bathing suit in front of some thirty-plus male peers), I was completely disarmed by my ailing self-esteem. So I Googled "how to get flat abs in two weeks." I started a "Workouts" board on Pinterest. I began to fear cupcakes, white pasta, and basically any and all of the other foods I'd once known and loved. 

Ironic, isn't it, that Google was also the first one to tell me, a year and half later, that I might just have an eating disorder? After eating a giant bowl of baked mac and cheese at a cookout this summer - both "mac" and "cheese" were forbidden in my vocabulary, even though they've always been my two favorite foods - I got home, weighed myself, and burst into tears. 

As I lay in bed crippled by guilt, the tiniest thought occurred to me: why did I care so much in the first place? I'd always told myself that it was normal to want to look like the fitness models I saw online; after all, those bodies were supposed to epitomize health - and by the number of bloggers and pinners sending their so-called "clean eating" tips straight to my inbox each week, the whole of the internet seemed to share my desire to be healthy and fit. So, I wondered, if my obsession with fitness was so "normal," then why did I feel so positively...not? As I often do when I want answers, I picked up my phone and turned to Google. Twenty minutes later, I took a mental health quiz that declared I had "severe anorexic tendencies" and texted Muffin to ask if he thought I needed help. Despite my complete and utter faith in him, he was no professional - he didn't have the quick fix I was looking for; although his "I'm here for you" was well-appreciated, it didn't tell me if I had a serious problem or not. 

Deep in my heart, I think I already knew the answer - and I knew that the "fix" was anything but quick. I wasn't yet willing to put in the time or effort that recovery demanded (after all, I'd been dieting for so long now that it was second-nature). So, I took the easy way out, ignored my problems per usual - and found myself unhappier with my body, my diet, and myself than I'd ever been before. More than once, I found myself in tears over a number on the scale I didn't like, or a dress that no longer fit the way it was "supposed to". Unfortunately, it wasn't until the holidays, when I fell into a nasty cycle of binging, that I discovered Michelle May's Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and finally got the help I'd craved and deserved. 

So that's how I developed disordered eating - now I bet you're wondering, what happened with Muffin?!? Well, in March of 2013, Muffin asked me out and assured me that he was, and had always been, enamored with me, not Pizza. Our first date was at Johnny Rocket's, and apart from the fact that his college is located two hours from our hometown, we have been inseparable ever since.

So, the jig's up: Muffin is actually Mike. And, in case you were wondering,, Mike and I have had many a candid conversation about my insecurities surrounding Pizza. (I've long since been assured that they were misplaced.)

You're looking at me strangely, I can tell. You're giving me the crazy eye as you wonder: What does any of this have to do with Intuitive Eating?

Well, if there's anything I've learned since freshman year, it's that neither Mike nor Pizza deserves the blame for my problems. That responsibility falls on my shoulders, and mine alone. The fact of the matter was, if I had never had an emotional reason to eat, or not to eat, I never would have spiraled out of control. I never would have fallen into that cycle of eat-repent-repeat that kept me dieting, out of pure self-hatred, even after I'd realized that the countless rules - no sugar, no carbs, nothing out of a package - were never going to work. In fact, it wasn't even my fault I couldn't stay on track: it was the diet's. 

The fact of the matter is that humans are omnivores. If God (or whoever/whatever you believe in) hadn't intended for us to eat certain food groups, those foods would make us sick, the way that poisonous mushrooms and rotten fish do. There's a reason why, as soon as we cut out carbs or dairy or sugar, our body suddenly craves those foods so much: our bodies were simply made to eat everything. That's why fighting the body's natural wants and needs is so counter-intuitive to a healthy lifestyle. 

There are two cornerstones to any diet plan: what and how much. Diets teach us what not to eat and how not to be hungry. But, as we are all born knowing, our bodies tell us we are hungry because we need food, any food - and as I said before, our bodies often craves particular foods because it wants something out of them, like a particular vitamin or nutrient. Clearly, the foundations of dieting contradict human nature - but that is where intuitive eating swoops in to save the day!

Intuitive eating is the polar opposite of dieting. It is natural, healthy, and nourishing, rather than uncomfortable, unhappy, and depriving. And, the best part is that there are no arbitrary rules! You know the ones I'm talking about: ones like "Eat six small meals a day," "Drink a glass of hot lemon water before every meal," or "Only eat raw foods." The only rules are the ones you create for yourself. When you eat intuitively, everything that goes into your body is your choice: a deliberate, mindful choice that lets you set your own intentions, so that you eat only what you need/want and only as much as you need/want. 

Basically, intuitive eating can be whatever you need and/or want it to be; unlike a diet, whose rules you live to serve, intuitive eating's only function is to serve YOU. You can eat whatever you want, when you want, as long as you can close your eyes, tune into your body, and reaffirm that this food, this much, this time, is what is best for it. But, as long as I'm being honest here, the one thing that intuitive eating is not, is easy. 

I've already established that humans are born eating intuitively, and that diets are contradictory to human nature. But what about when you are like I was - when you have been restricting and binging for so long now that you've simply forgotten how to eat "normally" again? 

I'll be the first to admit it: even now, the concept of intuitive eating is uncomfortable, even scary at times. When you've successfully re-hardwired your brain to believe that it should only be eating certain foods, in certain quantities, at certain times of day, breaking those rules can send your mind into overdrive. Even today, I struggled not to feel guilty when, after listening to my body's cravings, I ended up eating chocolate chip pancakes, half a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and a brownie from Starbucks, all in a matter of hours (no excuse necessary, although I was PMSing). But, in the end, that's the most beautiful part of intuitive eating: it isn't just another rule to follow; it's a lifestyle, which allows you to eat and move on to bigger and better things, without feeling like you're "forgiving yourself" or "starting over." So if you want to eat chocolate chip pancakes, brownies, and ice cream all in one day, to heck with it - go right ahead! The only person who's stopping you, is you. 

After all, pancakes and brownies and ice cream aren't inherently bad (in fact, they're inherently awesome). If that's how you feel about them, that's because YOU made them that way - and, just as you taught yourself that those foods were "bad," you can teach yourself that they are, like any other foods, "okay." Eventually, they may even become more than "okay" - they'll be rich, or delectable, or maybe even downright disgusting. But you'll be able to focus on the tastes and the feelings, rather than the calories and the carbs.

And, speaking of tastes and feelings, all of mine this week were perfectly encapsulated in the delicious recipe I am about to share with you. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the moment you've all been waiting for - my scrumptious pumpkin spice chocolate chip pancakes await you! 

These pancakes have the unique quality of being both light and fluffy, yet somehow rich and moist at the same time - like the airiest, most breakfast-y pumpkin pie you've ever tasted! The chocolate chips are just the extra spoonful of lovin' every recipe needs. (If you're not a chocolate-eater, you could just as easily replace them with cacao nibs, pepitas, crushed walnuts, raisins - or simply leave them out. However, if you're not a chocolate eater, you may as well reevaluate your entire existence.)

Be prepared to spend a lot of time on this recipe, if only because pancake flipping can be a laborious process. I highly recommend making a morning of it with your siblings, your parents, your kids, or your significant other - extra points if you can get a pancake stuck to ceiling! (If you get in trouble, you can always blame it on me, the crazy internet girl - and besides, these pancakes are so good, your parents won't even care after they taste them.) 

And now, without further ado....

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup chocolate chips 
(Note: Hershey's Special Dark are highly recommended!)
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
(Note: the original recipe stresses the importance of using whole or buttermilk, but all I had was 1% and they came out just fine!)
Butter or nonstick spray, for cooking

  1. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Then, in a second, smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients. (Note: You may want to run the wet ingredients through the blender first, but hand-mixing will produce just as great results!) Create a well in the dry ingredients and empty the wet ingredients into the well. Mix the batter until just combined, being careful not to over-mix, but still to beat out any lumps that get in the way! Last but not least, stir in the chocolate chips (or whatever mix-ins your heart desires). 
  2. Heat your frying pan over medium heat, coating the pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray to ensure that the batter doesn't stick. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low or low. Be patient with your pancakes, as they will be very thick and won't want to cook too fast (however, be wary of waiting too long, or your pancakes will burn). I find that the first pancake is always a bit of a trial-and-error! Your pancake will probably be cooked after 1-3 minutes, or when the edges are solid and little bubbles begin to form on its surface. Flip the pancake and cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side. 
  3. Repeat the process until you run out of batter; you should get about 6-8 pancakes out of the mix. Be sure to cover the pan in another coat of butter or cooking spray between each pancake, and watch to make sure that any stray crumbs don't start to burn, as this can leave nasty black spots in the bottom of the pan that are a pain to wash out (this I know because my mother is always complaining about it). 
  4. If you feel so inclined, top the finished pancakes with butter and/or maple syrup (preferably the real thing) before enjoying!


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