A Confession

Hey all!

Today, I have a confession.

It’s a little embarrassing and hard for me to put this out there, but I’m a believer that writing is healing, so here we are.

I do not feel like I am good enough to own a bakery.

Well, Samantha, you’re pretty far into it now, so why do you feel this way? I often find myself looking at the Facebook pages of my “competition” and see how beautiful and perfect and creative their cakes are, but mine are sub-par in my eyes. I feel instantly defeated.

It’s so easy for me to get sucked down this vicious hole even though I know it’s Satan trying to drag me down. I have to make myself stop what I’m doing and take some time to pray. It’s incredibly hard for me because I want to give my customers the absolute best and I beat myself down when I feel like I have failed.

Jesus tells me that I am enough.

He tells me that I don’t need to feel inferior because I have just started on this cake adventure and others have had more time to practice. I don’t feel talented enough to open a bakery, but he tells me that if He has called me to it, he will equip me to do it.

Maybe this is too much information to share with my customers. Maybe I should just hold it all in and suck it up and pretend to be confident in my skills. But the truth is that I just want to keep it real with y’all. I don’t want to put on a faćade for y’all. I want to learn and do better and be the best baker/cake decorator I can be. So I will keep pushing on. Meanwhile, I am SO thankful for my customers who have given me the freedom and opportunity to learn and grow in this field. You may never understand how much I appreciate it.

I know that I am not the only one who compares myself to others and beats themselves up. So if you’re there with me, let this be a reminder to pray and let Jesus tell you that you are enough and the He is with you.

-Samantha

Nana

On August 27, 2018, my Nana (Bobbi Brown) passed away. She fought the Cancer battle almost a year, had surgery to remove her stomach, and lost her ability to eat anything since the cancer we thought had been taken out turned out to still be blocking her intestines. It was rough to watch her go through it, but I can't imagine how rough it was to experience it. 

...eating is taken for granted.

Towards the end, she would often mention how awful it was to not be able to eat. It was one of her favorite things to do, along with cooking. She talked about how eating is taken for granted. One day, she was passing by some goats in a field, saw them drinking some water and felt a pang of jealousy just to be able to drink again. 

Despite all of the obstacles she faced, she never let it steal all of her joy. Understandably, it would get the best of her at times and she would be sad, but overall, she was always happy, laughing, and making jokes. This is the memory of the end of her life I want to keep forever. It would have been so easy for her to become overwhelmingly depressed, but she never lost who she was. I have to say, it made it a lot easier on me to see her bright and cheerful attitude hang on until the very end. 

It would have been so easy for her to become overwhelmingly depressed, but she never lost who she was.

As I reflect on her life as I knew it, I have so many great memories of her. My family has always been in the same town as Nana and Pappaw, so for as long as I can remember, we would visit their house frequently.

My brother, Will, and I had the BEST times going over to spend the night. Nana and Pappaw never hesitated at any request and were always down to play with us, no matter how silly the game would be. Just the other day we were sitting at their house looking through some pictures. We found some of Will and Pappaw on the floor, and several more with Will riding on Pappaw's back. Both were wearing bandanas around their faces. You can only imagine! Nana was taking the picture, and I can just picture the joy she must have been feeling to watch her husband and grandson play together. I remember constantly requesting to watch Sleeping Beauty, and never being turned down.

When it was time for bed, Will and I would pile into Nana's bed (sorry, Pappaw), along with Will's companion Mr. Rabbit, that never left Nana and Pappaw's house. Every single time, Nana would tell us a story about Mr. Rabbit until we drifted off to sleep. The next morning, we would wake up to the smell of homemade biscuits, eggs, and bacon. Or some other combination of breakfast food. It's not until later in life that you truly learn to appreciate these little things.

It's not until later in life that you truly learn to appreciate these little things. 

There are countless other memories with Nana. Building snowmen in the front yard with even the smallest amount of snow on the ground. Waking up Christmas morning with excitement to go to Nana's, eat her amazing food (there was always wayyyy too much!), and open what seemed like a million presents. When her and Pappaw bought "the farm" outside of Prescott and drove Will and I around on their new mule. How they kept that place in top shape and loved it with all their heart. Taking trips to Branson. Driving around to look at Christmas lights. Hearing all the stories she told about her life. Making a quilt together out of my other grandmother's dresses who had passed away. Teaching me how to make biscuits and gravy from scratch. Her bright red hair and shining, happy eyes. Her belly laugh. Watching her in the kitchen, doing what she loved. 

After she was released from the hospital for the last time and sent home to be on hospice, she talked a lot about her life and how it was a good one. As my family and I sat with her, she talked about how she went from working tirelessly at the garment factory and still poor to taking a leap of faith answering an ad in the paper for a manager/share holder position. She called the phone number and told the man that she wanted the job. She had no idea what the business was or what the position would entail, yet took the chance anyway. She mortgaged the house and the car just to have enough money to buy in. She said, "I never really thought about 'what if I fail.' I just knew it was going to work out." Little did she know, that one decision would impact the rest of our family in ways she would never imagine. That business was the Sonic Drive-In in Prescott, and now my parents are operators of the franchise too. But her decision had far more impact than that. 

"I never really thought about 'what if I fail.' I just knew it was going to work out."

If she only knew how much that sentence meant to me. It spoke right to me that day because of my business start-up. It also made me realize how much alike we are. Like her, I don't really think about "What if I fail?" because I have such high hopes. Even when she had no money and no idea how things would turn out, she had high hopes. I realize how determined and hard-working she was. She's my inspiration. 

Back around November, we had an impactful moment together. We had been at her house having one of our last meals together as a family (although we didn't know it at the time). At this point, I had been talking with them about how I was thinking about leaving my job teaching to chase the bakery dream. If you know my Nana, you know she doesn't have much of a filter. he told me that "Quitting is easy, you need to stick it out." This really upset me, and I left her house that day crying and upset without saying goodbye or anything. 

I felt like she didn't understand where I was at. It's not that I wanted to quit because I didn't think I was capable of doing it. I wanted to quit because of the toll I knew it was going to take on my life and my health. It also felt like she didn't believe in my dream. I promised myself then that I would make this bakery happen to prove her wrong.

Later that day she called me and told me how sorry she was and that she didn't intend to hurt me. She assured me that if starting a bakery is what I wanted to do, then that's what I should do. She told me she believed in me and knew that I would do well in anything I set out to do. We cried together, and I think that changed our relationship for the better. 

Up until she died, she continued to ask me how business was doing and if there was anything she could buy for me to help out. She offered advice for me and insisted that I talk to people she knew who had been in the food service industry one way or another. It meant so much to know I had her support. I had promised myself to succeed to prove her wrong, now I promise to succeed to prove her right, to make her proud and carry on her legacy. 

I had promised myself to succeed to prove her wrong, now I promise to succeed to prove her right, to make her proud and carry on her legacy. 

Knowing who she was has been a huge motivator for me lately. She was a fearless lady and never really met a stranger. She was always positive with high hopes for the future. Even on her death bed, she talked about all the things she was going to do once she got better. What a testament to how optimistic she was! She was determined and driven. She was happy and made a great life for herself. She lived a simple life even though she did well for herself. 

While she was at home on hospice, she had a friend help her write a book about her life. I don't know when this book will be printed, but I am so ready to read all about her and learn even more about how wonderful she was. 

I love you, Nana and I will miss you so much. Thank you for all the amazing memories I can cherish forever and for leaving a legacy that will inspire my future.

-Samantha

My Latest Health Adventure

Hey, friends! Thanks for stopping by. Today I want to talk about my latest health obsession: intermittent fasting.

The first time I'd ever heard of intermittent fasting was from Conor. He told me you don't eat for a certain amount of time and eat during a specific time window. If you have read my first blog post and know my story, you can probably imagine that I was horrified at this idea. I couldn't stand the thought of restricting myself from eating ANYTHING for a certain amount of time. So I wrote it off and vowed I would never, ever put my body through anything like that again.

Fast forward to now. It's the best thing since sliced bread. So why the sudden change? Glad you asked!

I'm getting married in November and have been working on checking off all the to-dos, one of those being dress alterations. Long story short, the back of my dress wasn't coming together as it had several months before.... Wonder how that happened! I have to say, though, I took the news well considering my past with body image issues, so I'm proud of that!

My seamstress told me that we would have to change the back of the dress to be an open-back rather than the beautiful buttons that I'd fallen in love with at the store, unless I could slim down some to make it button without being too tight. I was honestly fine with making it open-backed because I trusted that she would make it beautiful, BUT I am always up for a challenge! And those buttons are so pretty!

I was still skeptical, though, of diets and restrictive eating. Even though I knew I wanted to try and lose some fat, I wasn't sure how to do it because I didn't want to go back to feeling tired and irritable all the time. I talked with my trainer (s/o to Jason!) about what we could do in the gym to make my back smaller. I suggested maybe I should do more cardio (yuck) and really clean up my diet (yawn). And at that moment, which has probably changed my life forever, he told me I should try intermittent fasting because "It works."

Here I am four weeks later, feeling amazing inside and out. I honestly am not sure where to start with all the good things to say about it. 

All the diets I ever tried in the past (3-1-2-1, calorie restriction, ketogenic, vegetarian, the list goes on) always left me feeling absolutely terrible. I never had any energy and I was always hungry and irritable. I had cravings and binged all the time. I lost my period on several occasions (sorry if that's TMI to you, but I believe it's an important indication of your health!). I lost muscle mass and couldn't make any gains. And I still never felt like I saw the results I really wanted (which probably had more to do with my body image issues than the diet, but still). 

But intermittent fasting (IF). Oh my goodness. I have never felt better.

Basically, I ascribe to the 16/8 fasting schedule. So I don't eat for 16 hours, then I have an eating window for 8. I start eating at 12 PM and stop eating at 8 PM. My eating window usually consists of the same amount of food that I normally eat, but some days I'm just not that hungry, so I may only have two meals. There are SO many ways that you can choose to do IF, but I really like the 16/8 because of my activity level and my history of being under-nourished. The 8 hour window gives me enough time to feed my body the amount that it needs. I love it! 

So what about the fasting window? Don't you feel tired and hungry? Not at all! This is another miracle of IF. I was sure that I wouldn't be able to do it because I remembered well the feeling of being hungry and I didn't wan't to relive that. But after the first day, I felt so good during my fasting window. It gives you this really clear and focused feeling. I work really well in the mornings during my fast and I also feel great during my workouts. I'm telling you, it's like magic. I can't explain it! Also, I am definitely losing body fat and my clothes are fitting way better!

I don't want to keep rambling about IF, but there really is so much to it. So many health benefits. There is an IF podcast that I listen to now and one of the things they said is that IF is a health regimen with a side effect of weight loss. I love that. It is so flexible and it truly can be a lifestyle because it's sustainable. I'll stop here. But if you're interested, you should look into IF and listen to the Intermittent Fasting Podcast with Melanie Avalon and Gin Stephens on iTunes. It will change your life!

I want to end with this: even though I am trying to lose some body fat, that doesn't mean I am unhappy with the way I look. Before I decided to lose fat in order for my wedding dress to fit, I knew I had gained some, but I wasn't really upset about it. And I'm still not. I think that this mindset shift has also made a huge impact on this new health journey. I am coming from a place of self-love instead of hate. It's truly made all the difference!

Thanks for reading! 

Ramblings About My Life: Summer 2018

Hey there!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. We have been doing so many things since the start of June, it's crazy! Training for summer camp, directing summer camp, baking special orders, reading up on business stuff, and working to create my online presence for the business are only a few! I wish I could write blogs about every single thing! But I'll just stick with one for now.

Back at the first of June, I had the joy of staying for a week in Little Rock for the Ozark Mission Project 2018 College Staff Training. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I was on College Staff back in 2014 (it's been for years already?!) and it was a pivotal summer for my life. It teaches you so many things about God and yourself. It's exhausting, but it's the best summer job ever. 

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It was truly inspiring to watch them bond over a few short days. This group of college students were some of the most hardworking and intelligent there are. They played silly games, wrote a parody to "The Friends Song", created an amazing video, learned how to build wheel chair ramps, and grew themselves spiritually in order to lead the campers spiritually. I cannot express how proud I am of them! 

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Before we ran off on our next adventure, I thankfully had some time for rest! I loved spending my mornings slowly with some coffee before starting my day. I baked some stuff, went to the lake, spent time at church, went building searching (YAY!), sketched my future kitchen, played with my dogs, and took some naps. And then, naturally, it was off to another week and a half at the best summer camp ever! (That's OMP, in case you didn't catch it...)

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You really don't want me to get started on everything that happened while on staff at Bear Creek OMP. I really want to say that it was the best summer ever, but I've said that a lot already and it doesn't truly do the experience justice. 

Being on staff, you get to arrive before the campers. All of the people on Volunteer and College Staff were so amazing. It was obvious that the Lord hand picked us all to be there together. I can't imagine a better or more hard-working team. It was a blessing and an honor to be there with old friends, new friends, and family. I loved every second of it!!

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When the campers arrive on Sunday, its a whole new, totally amazing, story. It's crazy, chaotic, and so much fun. My role has change a lot in the past five years, so now I get to enjoy watching the Lord work in these students' lives from the background. I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. 

My absolute favorite part of each day is an activity we do in the evening called "sharing." Campers get the opportunity to share with everyone how they saw God that day/week. And man, let me tell you, it is so incredible. Almost every night I get chills or am moved to tears because it is so blatantly obvious that God is moving in all of us there to build his kingdom. I love it!!

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The week always comes to a bittersweet end. Everyone is exhausted and ready to sleep in their own beds, but it is so hard to leave the new friends you've made and gotten so close with. 

But when I finally made it home (3 hour drive while sleep deprived... not fun), I took my annual 4 hour post-OMP nap and got busy baking a super fun strawberry 4th of July cake! Woot! Told you it's been a whirlwind.

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Now that things are finally slowing down, I'm really soaking it all in! I've probably got a month or two before things really start kicking into gear for the bakery. Acquiring a building is coming along nicely (I can't wait to share more details soon when it's official!!) and I haven't had any panic attacks yet, so that's good! I'm really really excited to see where this all leads, and I have faith that the Lord will make it be whatever he has planned it to be.

It is my prayer that I will always remember to keep my life balanced and not to overwork myself. I pray that I will have the ability to do this. I pray that I will not let any successes or failures I have get the better of me. I pray for the Lord's will in my life and for Samantha's Sweets. I hope that it honors and serves Him! I'd super appreciate your prayers for this as well!

I have felt nothing but love and support from friends, family, and customers. This business has already allowed me to build relationships with people in my community, and I'm so thankful for that. My heart is overflowing with gladness and excitement from everything that's happening (oh yea, and I'm getting married in November to top it all off!!). 

This life I have is crazy, but I'm loving every single second!

Peace and Blessings,

Samantha :) 

Be There

My devotional this morning talked about taking more time with Jesus and not rushing through it. 

I have been so guilty of this. You see, for the past nine months my schedule for the most part every morning has been: wake up at 5:30, cook breakfast as fast as possible, scarf it down, quickly read through my devotional without thought or meditation, jump in the shower, put on some mascara, and finally rush off to school. Not really the most preparative or Christ-centered practice.

And I can honestly say that throughout that time I felt lost and disconnected from myself and my Lord. It was a sad feeling because it seemed like there was nothing I could do the reconnect since I was always busy and always tired. 

I knew what I needed to do, it was just a matter of having the time and energy to do it. And when I did finally make myself sit down and "spend time" with Jesus, it was always rushed and meaningless. I might as well not have even done it.

Several years ago, I had a solid routine that brought me closer to Jesus than I had ever been. I was serving in a leadership role for a Christian sorority I was a member of, and every morning I would get up, make my breakfast and coffee, and then sit down to spend a long time with the Lord. I mean, we are talking an hour or two. I had time to read my devotional, read my Bible, and then write in my journal and pray. I'm telling you, it was wonderful. I felt full of life and ready to take on the day every single morning. 

But man, what a luxury that was. I didn't realize until this year that spending time with God like that is pretty rare. When I think about it, I wonder just how many people are doing that. How many people are making that time where you can just BE with Jesus? Not just reading through a devotional or daily scripture to check it off your to-do list. But taking the time to talk and listen and just be. Maybe it's just me, but I like to think I'm not alone.

Luckily, I knew that there would be an end to that period of my life where I had no time or energy for my God. For the past two days, I have had the chance to actually sit and take my time with God. I've talked about lots of things and listened as well (that's why you're reading this blog post; He told me to do it!). And let me tell you, I'm feeling really good! I feel connected. I also feel like I am a lot more pleasant to be around and more connected to things happening around me. I have set a goal for myself to be more like when I was in college, spending hours in conversation and meditation with Jesus and finding ways to serve others.

So I want to challenge you to think about the time you are putting in with Jesus, your friend. Is it a couple of minutes reading through something? Or are you taking your time with him, without rushing? Do you need to reevaluate your schedule and your commitments?

Friends, this society we live in makes it so hard to be in the moment. Especially with Jesus, who we can't see with our eyes. We are surrounded by phones and constantly connected to people. We are addicted to scrolling through news feeds, things that we can see, which makes us completely neglect the time we should be spending with our Lord. And it's not just to make Him feel better. It will truly, honestly make you feel better too. 

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

Samantha

My Story: Pt. 2

It's definitely been a long time since I've updated anything on my website or blog. To be honest, I'm still not totally sure what my overall vision is for my blog, but I have felt deep within that I needed to at least post something. I've had a lot of words bottling up inside for a while now, and I wanted to get them out. So thank you in advance for being my outlet!

Let's pick up kind of where I left off last time. I shared with you about my passion and vision behind Samantha's Sweets because of an eating disorder. Now I want to share about how I made the decision to actually pursue this dream. 

The original plan for my life was to be a teacher. I decided this when I was a senior in high school, trying to figure out what to do with my life. My first plan was to get a degree in Business Management and then eventually take over my parents' business, but that just seemed extremely overwhelming and not like something I wanted to do. So one thing led to another, and I felt like God was calling me to teach. 

I'm not sure what happened, but long story short, I have just made it through my first year of teaching and realized that this is absolutely NOT what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I could go on with a list of reasons why I felt like it wasn't for me, but I will hold off on that. I am still trying to figure out why I thought God wanted me to teach just to end up not liking it. Perhaps I just wanted to make a difference in the world and teaching seemed like a good way to do it. 

I made it through the first two months of teaching and realized quite clearly that I wanted out. I had always joked about opening a bakery when I retire. This thought came to mind in those first two months and I thought, "Well, why not right now?"

I am not completely proud of this, but I did attempt to leave my teaching job in October. It seemed to me a lot like an Abraham and Isaac situation because I would have been sacrificing everything to leave and put my trust in God. I would have ruined my reputation with lots of people and diminished my chances of ever landing a teaching job again. Not to mention, I'd lose the steady income that I had never had before. I really didn't want to go in either direction, and I hated the situation I was in. Either stay and be miserable for 7 more months or go and sacrifice everything. I prayed and prayed about a decision until I couldn't pray anymore. I eventually just said to God, I'm just going to go in there and say that I need to leave. I am putting my trust in you. If I leave, I know that you will provide for me financially and take care of things here at school. And I trust that if I am not supposed to leave, you will keep it from happening. Sure enough, when I went to turn in my letter, the superintendent and principal told me I needed to stay. I was pretty mad about it, but I had to remind myself of what I had prayed.

Anyway, back to the bakery thing. Honestly, the idea of it sounds completely crazy to me. I haven't really even been doing it for that long it seems. I was listening to a podcast by Tessa Arias recently where her guest Jess Larson talked about having "imposter syndrome" while starting her photography business. I can totally relate. It seems questionable to me that I should start a bakery when I have no idea about businesses and really don't even think I know enough about baking. I mean, I've never been to culinary school and I didn't get a degree in business!

But I keep getting these constant reminders that I just need to go for it. Truly, there is no better time than now. I trust that the Lord will see me through this, and anyway, what's the worst that can happen? I'm not going to die from it.  I don't have kids yet, so my cost of living is still pretty low. I am lucky enough to have two business savvy parents and a fiancé majoring in Business Entrepreneurship to help me and teach me along the way. It's just like this feeling way down inside that I know I need to do this. 

There's no doubt that life is about to get really crazy for me. Conor and I are getting married in November and I'm starting a business! I am so excited though. I have absolutely loved the process so far of planning our wedding and the thought of having my very own bakery gives me the good kind of butterflies. I am done with working at the school, and the freedom that I feel is unexplainable!

The future holds a lot of variables. I don't know where this business or my life will go, but I am looking forward to the journey!

My Story: It's All About Moderation

 

Everyone has a story to tell about how they got where they are. So here's mine:

I started baking when I was little. I remember going over to my friend's house to decorate cookies and even then knowing how special it was to come together over food and make it look pretty. I also remember when I had an EasyBake oven. What I loved most about that was watching the ingredients that I put together rise inside, become something edible, and smell amazing. 

My family has a sprinkling of bakers, too. My aunt and grandmother are both talented at making cakes, pies, biscuits, you name it. I remember Aunt Judy always bringing beautifully decorated cakes and Nana always made many delicious desserts at family gatherings. Their influence instilled in me a love of sweet things and, particularly, sweet things that are beautiful.

As years went by, a sort of internal tragedy struck. I was unaware of its happening because it crept up on me and took control of my life without me realizing it. I started developing severe body image issues.

It began with a desire to get "healthy". I use quotations because my picture of healthy was heavily influenced by our society's media where healthy women are depicted with zero fat on their bodies and very, very small. Now, I definitely had some room for improvement as far as the food I put into my body. But that was not my focus; my focus was on what my body was going to look like. I desperately longed to have a "perfect" body.

I'd already had a deep-rooted feeling of being "fat" even before I was exposed to media surrounding the idea of a perfect body. Out of all my friends, my body was always larger. I remember my first feeling of being bigger than my friends in the fourth grade when I had to start wearing training bras. Some girls made comments about it, which made me self-conscious. As we got older, their bodies stayed tiny, but mine, compared to theirs, was not. I felt like something was wrong with me and the way that I looked. 

I started my health journey in middle school by exercising with my mom and enlisting her help to eat better foods. This was easier said than done because I often butted heads with her since I really loved and wanted to eat the foods I was used to eating. Bless her heart. (Side note: I'm incredibly thankful for her help and education on healthy eating and moderation because I really didn't eat well back then.) 

Mom and me in 2009. Not overweight, but I thought I was too big.

Mom and me in 2009. Not overweight, but I thought I was too big.

Mom and me in 2011 after running my first 10k!

Mom and me in 2011 after running my first 10k!

So, fast forward to when I started college. I was finally able to completely control what I ate (I lived off-campus and didn't have to rely on mom to provide my meals). Since I still saw myself as "fat" because I had fat around my stomach, I thought that how I ate and the exercise I was doing wasn't enough, and I needed to clean up my diet even more, eat less, and exercise more. I came across a diet plan that promised to get rid of all the fat. I was excited and willing to do whatever it took.

Just before starting the diet. Perfectly fine, but I believed I needed to do better.

Just before starting the diet. Perfectly fine, but I believed I needed to do better.

My body reacted to the diet the way that was promised. I lost weight and I was the smallest I'd ever been. Down to 130 pounds from 160 pounds. I couldn't believe I actually did it. I was proud of the way I looked. People poured out compliments about how great I looked, and I reveled in them.

Towards the end of the diet, just before leaving to work at summer camp.

Towards the end of the diet, just before leaving to work at summer camp.

While the diet made my body look "better", it wreaked havoc on my mind and my relationship with food. What made it worse was that I had no idea how unhealthy it was for my mind and body. The diet required strict clean eating for three days, then a cheat day, two more clean days, and another cheat day. I learned the unhealthy habit of following the "rules" on clean days and then completely bingeing on everything that was off limits on cheats days. Inevitably, after every cheat day, I would beat myself up for eating so much and so terribly and plan to restrict my diet the next day and make up for it in the gym. 

Luckily, I was forced off the diet Summer of 2014 as I had to leave to work for Ozark Mission Project all summer with essentially no control over the food I would eat. I was terribly anxious about it because I feared that I would gain back all the weight I had lost. I didn't want to be "fat" again. And even though I pledged to eat smart and not over do it, I always ended up eating everything that was available and a lot of it. When I would eat "clean" and then endure comments from others and feel embarrassed for not eating like everyone else. It was a lose, lose situation. Eat like everyone else (like I really wanted to): call myself fat and out of control. Eat clean: feel unhappy because I wanted to eat that food and commune with my friends. 

It was an extremely emotional summer. On top of all the anxiety and negative self-image that had piled up over the time I was working, My boyfriend and I of almost 4 years broke up. 

Post break-up and eating about 1300 calories a day. (Right)

Post break-up and eating about 1300 calories a day. (Right)

I put all my time and energy into trying to create a "perfect" body so that somebody else would want me. I worked out, cooked healthy and ate ridiculously small meals. However, one good thing that came from this is finding my awesome trainer whom I still work with after three years.

Throughout this "healthy" phase of my life, I almost never let myself have anything sweet, much less bake anything. The only things that I did bake were healthy alternatives. I would make Black Bean Brownies. No sugar added. Never as good as the real thing. (I want to add that there's nothing wrong with these alternatives if you truly enjoy/need them. My problem was that I was restricting myself because I wanted to have that "perfect" body. Also, if you need healthy baked goods, I can hook you up!)

The strict dietary rules I set for myself went on for a long time. Only occasionally would I get so tired of it and let myself have some slack to eat what I wanted. However, as soon as I started to feel like I'd gained weight, I was right back on a new diet. 

The cycle continued, until I went on a trip to Europe in the Spring of 2016. This was a trip that triggered the baker and foodie I'd tucked away deep inside. What I was most excited for was the food. On the trip, I experienced the love and respect for food that Europeans have. Everything is presented perfectly and quality ingredients are used. Food is an art there and it is something special that brings people together. They weren't afraid of food like I was. They absolutely love it.

Real Italian Gelato... TO DIE FOR!

Real Italian Gelato... TO DIE FOR!

I was born with a love of food, but I formed an unhealthy relationship with it. American food is mostly poor quality and fitness media is quick to tell you what is "right" and "wrong" to eat. American culture is also quick to tell you what you "should" and "shouldn't" look like. All of these things in one way or another are what made me have such a horrible body-image and afraid of food. 

Huge and delicious pizza!

Huge and delicious pizza!

But in Europe, food is fun and appreciated, and so are human bodies. They love food, but they aren't overweight. That's because they take their time to appreciate it and eat smaller portions. It's a beautiful thing. 

Europe is where I had my first macaron experience. They were beautiful, colorful and heavenly. I bought a dozen and ate them all. Macarons were my favorite part of the whole trip. Once I got back, I missed them so much that I decided to make some myself. Long story short, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be, so I took on the challenge to keep trying until I did it.

Absolutely beautiful!

Absolutely beautiful!

I researched techniques and bought new equipment. I was surprised at how much fun I had in the process of it all. I then felt a pull to bake more things. I realized how much I enjoyed baking and how much I had missed it. 

The first attempt.

The first attempt.

Trying it again!

Trying it again!

Success!

Success!

You're probably wondering how everything I've said about my past, Europe, and baking all ties together. So, after that phase of baking a lot, I set it aside because 1) I got frustrated with macarons and 2) I decided I needed to get back on a diet and stop eating sweets because I still had body-image issues deeply rooted inside. 

Results from a another diet. I was constantly self-conscious and feeling guilty about things that I ate. 

Results from a another diet. I was constantly self-conscious and feeling guilty about things that I ate. 

Thankfully, I finally began to realize that my obsession with the way I looked and what I ate was not normal. I started seeking help. I opened up to Conor, my family, and my friends. I was fortunate to be able to hire a nutritionist and join a mental-health class designed to help overcome body-image issues.

Today I am able to fully appreciate my body for how it looks, how it feels, and what it can do. I'm also able to eat whatever I want in moderation with full enjoyment and without feeling an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame (a lot like the Europeans). Finally, this has allowed me to embrace my love for sweets and baking. 

Me today. Curvy, strong, and beautiful!

Me today. Curvy, strong, and beautiful!

This is the reason behind Samantha'a Sweets. I want to share good quality and delicious food with others. I want to see their faces when they see something that's beautiful and mouth-watering. I also want my story to be known to bring awareness to body-image issues and eating disorders that don't fit under bulimia and anorexia. I want anyone who's suffering with anything like what I went through to know that they can overcome it. They can enjoy life and food and not live with guilt and/or fear of food. I want them (and everyone) to know that they are beautiful and a cupcake every once in a while is not going to hurt them or make them any less of a person. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I thank God for this journey and the lessons I've learned. And I thank him for this ability to share with others. 

If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read about my story and purpose behind Samantha's Sweets.