LFM #20 - Caitlin on Food Freedom, Fiction, and Making Your Bed

So, I think there are maybe 1.5 billion ways to spell the name “Caitlin.” When I meet a Caitlin with the same spelling as me, I feel like we just have to meet—we’re quite rare. Even though we live in the same central Illinois area, I met Caitlin Haines through her Instagram, @eatwellwithcait (do you see why I love the platform so much?). I look forward to seeing her beautiful, bright photos of food each day. Watching Cait meal prep makes me feel at once completely unorganized and also hopeful that I could one day achieve at least a similar level of food planning. She makes it look easeful, delicious, and gorgeous—all with a positive attitude and advocating for a healthy relationship with food. 

Cait is a certified health coach helping clients ditch dieting in favor of food freedom. 

“I love looking at Instagram in the morning!” she shares, as we talk about how that’s usually on the “don’t do” list for morning routines. “I love finding inspiration on Instagram, between food and recipes and seeing what I’ll make today, as well as anything to help cultivate a positive outlook.” However, she always starts the day by feeding her cats. “They have to come first,” she says. “Then I’ll make breakfast—lately, I’ve been on a smoothie kick. I don’t know how long it will last, but something about the weather turning warmer has me wanting something fruity, cool, and refreshing. I always try to throw greens in there, too.” One thing Cait can’t go without in her morning? Making her bed. “My mom taught me that—she would always make the bed, even if I was trying to sleep in on a weekend in it,” she laughs. “But when I come home at the end of the day, it makes me feel so peaceful to have this nicely made bed. It makes such a difference in my day—just by quickly making it of a morning.” 

Then she’ll almost always go on a walk. “Even if it’s snowy outside, I’ll try and go on the walking path by my home. There’s a lake with a loop around it, and I’ll just listen to podcasts… it really helps me get into a positive mindset for my day.” Caitlin really loves the Happier & Healthier podcast, with Maria Marlowe, and while she doesn’t always necessarily agree with the advice given, likes to hear different viewpoints on the Diet Starts Tomorrow podcast. “My guilty pleasure podcast is My Favorite Murder,” Cait shares. “I can’t listen to it at night, though.” 

Cait likes to surround herself with health and wellness information: “I really enjoy absorbing it,” she says. “It’s the world I live in.” Cait went to college for Family and Consumer Science Education, which she describes as “essentially 21st century home ec.” She then went on to teach nutrition and culinary skills to high school students for a few years. “It’s so funny, because during college, I was so not interested in the nutrition aspect of my degree… but then something changed and teaching basic nutrition to those kids became my passion.” She realized everything she had known up until the moment she left her teaching job she had taught herself. “So I decided to enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN)—I graduate next month, and I have learned so much more about nutrition. One very important thing I’ve learned is that what works for one person may not work for the other,” she says. “Nutrition and health, generally, is just so individualized, and it take time to really figure out what works well. You are your first client, and it’s been a really interesting journey, even just for myself.”  

Caitlin’s friend had started a personal concierge business and wanted to offer meal prep for her clients; joining together, Cait started going into clients’ homes and cooking for them to make the week easier. “I didn’t know if actual meal prepping was something I’d like to offer clients, so it was the perfect opportunity to try it out,” she says. She loved that aspect and was excited to receive so much positive feedback. “It’s really gratifying, knowing I can use my skills to help ease someone else’s week. And my friends were always interested in what I was making for myself and others—so I thought I’d start sharing on Instagram. My most popular recipe, to date, is the egg roll in a bowl. I’m always thinking, what are the simplest things I can throw together? But they’re so good!” 

Cait loves sharing recipes and the meal prep she’s doing on Instagram because of all the connections she’s been able to make through the platform. “My first picture, years ago, was of a pair of sandals. It’s amazing how much things have changed. It’s really all about connections… I love that. Sometimes, the app sends you exactly who you should know.” 

Food freedom is a huge part of what Caitlin is focused on helping her clients find. “My own definition of food freedom comes from my personal background… I don’t ever remember learning nutrition until I started seeking that education out as an adult. In college, I was convinced I had to count each and every calorie, and if I was over that 1,500 mark, I wasn’t doing a good job. I could NEVER have cookies or pizza—those were bad foods. I labeled all foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’… but food is just food. It’s fuel that helps me through my day; it can make me feel better, one way or another, but the labels of good and bad aren’t helpful.” She avoided teaching high schoolers how to count calories, mostly because of the stigma that can be attached to it. “I was very focused on the goal of getting in those six main nutrients your body needs. The kids had a really hard time getting past fats—they thought of body fat and how they would need to avoid all fats. We need to have a good relationship with food and how it makes you feel… I’m all about nourishing food that nourishes that.” Making conscious choices about food and asking yourself how it will nourish you are key, according to Caitlin. “Pizza can be very nourishing on a soul level. If you need that pizza right now, that’s fine! Food is a very social thing, too. That’s why I love IIN… it goes beyond the science of what our bodies need to the intuitive motives and relationships we have with food. The primary food isn’t the food that’s on our plate… it’s what we’re consuming in our relationships, our feelings of fulfillment in career, education, and more. The food on our plate is really secondary. I went into nutrition school with a different vision than I’m coming out with… but it really helped renew my relationship with food.” She’s excited to help a larger audience soon. “My blog has really been on hold while I’m focused on school… it’s so exciting to think of what will come next.” 

Caitlin loves to read—usually before bed, to help her unwind—and she especially loves fiction. “I just read Melmoth by Sarah Perry… I adore thrillers and it’s all about the urban legend of the wanderer. Such a good read! I also loved the Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.” She’s also currently reading Feeding You Lies by Vani Hari. “The book goes into how differently processed foods are regulated in different countries… they’ll show a food label in the U.K. versus the U.S., and it’s the same general product, but they’ll have way more additives in the U.S., because the regulations are more lax.” 

Cait is an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale and says she adores lists. “I love Post-it’s,” she says. “I have Post-it’s everywhere… I make so many lists, like what I need to get done for the day, and, cooking up to six meals for clients in just one day, I have to keep it all straight. I get so much satisfaction from crossing things off the list… even if I’ve completed something, I’ll write it down, just so I can have that great feeling of crossing it off.” 

You can connect with Cait on Instagram; you won’t want to miss the egg roll in a bowl.

We need to have a good relationship with food and how it makes you feel… I’m all about nourishing food that nourishes that.
— Caitlin Haines