Feelin’ Myself

15 Apr
feelin_myself

This night, I was feeling pretty good.

Some days I feel like junk. Take today: my hamstrings ache, my thighs feel like tree trunks, my ankles feel weak and I don’t think I can lift my arms above my head. Then there’s the laughing. I like to laugh. Aside from sleeping and eating, it’s my favorite thing to do. But it hurts when I laugh. Ab work will do that to you.

It’s my own fault. I’ve been working out like a monster, ready to Hulk Smash anything in my sight. It’s all for a purpose. I’m ready to start feelin’ myself.

It’s not that I haven’t been feelin’ myself already. The eight pounds of clothes I’d worn during the never-ending winter were piled on in the most aesthetically pleasing way. I keep my pretty on fleek regardless.

It’s just that I’m trying to remain hopeful. Even though it had been in the low 30s halfway through spring, the weather is finally breaking. I’ll keep my standing bi-weekly appointment for a pedicure. I’ll be able to enjoy the simplicity of wardrobe that comes with deciding between sundresses (because any of them are perfect for the weather). I’ll be able to slip those perfectly pedicured tootsies in one of an array of sandals and walk out of my door.

Until then, I’ve got to prepare. So it’s five to six days at the gym. It’s salads, lean meats and rice and beans. It’s steamed vegetables and fruit cups. Because my favorite time of year is coming and I’m going to stop the world with my skin-baring ways.

I’m going to whip all that work I put in at the gym. And on the running path. And in my living room with workout DVDs. Because in order to stop the world, I’ve got to get what, in my mind, is right. I like seeing the results of my efforts and the summertime shine allows the perfect opportunity for that.

Fellin’ yourself is the culmination of an insane amount of work. Look at your body idols. Even if they’ve had the help of a surgeon to get their curves just right, they still have to work to maintain them. And the result is being a show off. They show off their arms, legs, abs, shoulders, backs, etc. Why? Because they can. Because they’re feelin’ themselves.

Even if you haven’t reached your peak, you’ve done some great things for yourself this winter. Now that the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and your toes have wiggle room outside your Uggs, take advantage of it and start showing off.

Get your pretty on fleek. Whip all that work you did to make it this far. And stop the world with your confidence. You deserve it.

Carry on.

…On Kelly Clarkson

6 Apr

Nick Jonas and Kelly Clarkson Perform Valentine's Gig at G-A-YDuring the summer of 2002, I was an editing intern at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. At the time, the paper was one of the top publications in the country, consistently lauded for its reporting, opinion pieces and photography. I was there to learn everything I could to help me on my journey toward a successful journalism career. I took time out to learn different things about how the industry works, how editors interacted with different reporters and even higher management. Most of all, I learned whether or not this was the career for me, since it was one I had been chasing for such a long time.

Also, at the time, I was knocking on 180-190 pounds. How is this relevant? It isn’t.

clarkson_idolYou see, at the time that I was learning more about the field I hoped to pursue, another young woman was being tested and mentored by people in her field. Her name is Kelly Clarkson and she is the winner of the first season of “American Idol.” Clarkson and I don’t have much in common besides being unapologetic ’80s babies our fluctuating waist lines. She’s a Southern girl who hasn’t minced words about her love of food. I’m a Midwestern girl who has vowed to leave no Goldfish behind.

Still the biggest thing we share is our passion for our professions. Clarkson is an amazing singer. Her voice packs so much power you feel it through your speakers. And it has absolutely nothing to do with her weight.

Clarkson will celebrate her daughter’s first birthday in a couple of months. Since the birth of her child, she’s gained some weight and doesn’t seem to give two shits about it.

“I yo-yo. Sometimes I’m more fit and I get into kickboxing and hardcore, and then sometimes I don’t and go, ‘Nope, I’d rather have wine!’” she said on Ellen.

Others seem to care more than she does. Both British TV personality Katie Hopkins and Fox News host Chris Wallace have jumped in to give their opinions about Clarkson’s weight. Neither has a right to judge. It’s not for us to decide when or how a person chooses to take care of their health. Clarkson is going on tour this summer, which will require a lot of stamina. It’s not her first time, so I’m sure she knows how to prepare herself mentally and physically for the task.

I am not, nor will I ever be, here for body shaming. It is not the job of others to dictate what another person should look like. The weight-loss journey is a personal one. It is a road filled with highs and lows, smiles and tears. And it is never ending. Just as we evolve in our careers, we evolve on our journeys. One day you’ll be happiest at your thinnest, the next you stop beating yourself up over that Five Guys burger. As long as you are still living life the best way you know how with some sense of purpose, your size along the way doesn’t matter.

As fans, all we require of our artists is that they show up (preferably on time) and perform with gusto to earn our hard-earned money. Clarkson is perfectly capable of doing that at any size. If she decides to lose weight, good on her. If she decides this she’s happiest at the size she is now, good on her. All I want is for her to sing “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Everything else is up to her.

scew_em

Hulu Is My Personal Trainer

31 Mar
My favorite show: cardio kickboxing.

My favorite show: cardio kickboxing. Courtesy of Hulu

My weight-loss journey has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to challenge myself to do new things. I’ve learned that raw kale tastes like the boulevard of broken dreams. And I’ve learned I’m an outdoor person.

I had never really seen myself that way. I have pretty tricky allergies that make it feel as though my throat is closing up on me. But since I began running, I’ve found out that I can barely tolerate the treadmill and would much rather be on the trail. Having the breeze in my face to cool me while I’m packing on the miles and watching the city go by is an ideal Saturday morning for me. It’s been almost three months since I was able to do that.

This has been the coldest winter ever, forget what Sister Souljah told ya. I haven’t experienced temps above 60 degrees since September. And I hate the cold. I’m miserable. Calgon needs to take me away to a beach with a mojito and a cabana boy to adjust my umbrella. I’m holding out hope for a little warmth soon, but really I’m just tired of being cold.

Me, three weeks ago

Me, three weeks ago

Still, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And this girl’s gotta stay on her grind. Sure, a workout will warm me up for the time being, but I’ve still got to go outside and deal with the elements.

Or do I?

I’ve made a new winter friend. His name is Hulu and I pay him $7.99 a month to help me with my workouts.

I’m ridiculously cheap. I really don’t like pulling out my check card for any reason. Every time it happens, I feel a little piece of me is being deducted from my account. I’m two steps away from being a cord cutter. Still, I’ve been able to find value in my new workout partner.

Hulu often touts its current programs like “Scandal” and “Gotham.” It’s great if you want to catch up on your shows from the past week or even look at some old stuff (hey, “Mary Tyler Moore Show”). But the hidden gem is the workout programs it has available. You can get an hour’s worth of cardio kickboxing, Pilates, zumba, yoga, etc., right in your living room.

To me, it’s better than buying a workout DVD because if you don’t like the Hulu video, you’re not stuck with it. You can try a different instructor or workout. The downside, however, is that the videos aren’t updated very often, so you can get in kind of a rut if you haven’t found an instructor you like.

There are lots of cheap options out there besides Hulu, like CosmoBody or DailyBurn. But I prefer Hulu because the workout programs are in addition to the other programs I watch. Plus, at just under $8 a month, it works within my especially thrifty budget.

Still, there are those pinching pennies much harder than I am. For you guys, YouTube is a great option. You have to do a bit more digging to find what you’re looking for, but the options are greater. If you find a YouTube channel that works for you, good for you. And let me know which ones you like, because I’m always on the lookout for a new workout.

But Did you Die?

27 Mar

People are different. They respond differently to various forms of stimuli. What tickles one person could just annoy another. Some people love cilantro and others would rather eat a bar of soap that eat something that tastes like a bar of soap. Still there are those who need gentle words of encouragement while others need a good swift kick to the butt.

I’m the latter. I respond better to harsh truths than beating around the bush. Which is why a text from my friend a few weeks ago helped put things into perspective.

The Climb to the Top was not easy. I didn’t train for it (my fault), and I didn’t  research it (my fault again). I was dreading that day. But I’d signed up and paid my registration (plus plopped down quite a bit of cash for the donation requirement), so I had to do it. Once I got to the top and was able to breathe non-recirculated air, I started to feel more like myself. I posted finish photos to FB and the ‘gram and got quite a few likes (thanks peeps).

Later that day, I texted my friend who is a marathoner. She congratulated me, but I tried to shrug off the achievement with how bad I was feeling. This was her response.

did_you_die

“But did you die?”

Well, no. I guess I didn’t. I was able to breathe properly again after the race was over. I was able to do more activities, like Cycle for Survival and a solidarity run for the NYC half. I’ve been working out consistently for the past few weeks as well as making my own meals.

So as hard as the task seemed at the time, and even afterward when I couldn’t believe that I’d climbed 66 flights of stairs, it was over. I lived another day to try something else new.

Fear is a constant on your weight-loss journey. You’ll second-guess yourself a lot, especially when trying something new. Going vegetarian for a while, hitting up the pool or even signing up for a race will all give you a bad case of the dreads.

“What was I thinking?”

“Will I be able to finish?”

“Am I strong enough to commit to this?”

Once the newness wears off and you get to the other side of it, it’s not uncommon to short-change your achievement. You can become complacent with what you’ve done. The shock has worn off. The worst part is over, but all you can do is focus on the worst part.

When I neared goal weight, I got a lot of compliments and pats on the back for what I’d done. But it seemed off to me because I wasn’t doing this for anyone’s approval but my own. I’d stress over and over how hard it was, how there were so many times I wanted to give up and with a pack of donuts and a glass of wine.

That’s all true, but I didn’t die. I did your best, came out the other side having accomplished your goals, and now it’s on to the next challenge. The same goes for you, too.

Don’t let the agony of the activity cloud the joy you should feel for finishing it. You did it. And you didn’t die.

Serena Williams Is ‘Working It’ in Vogue

25 Mar

serenaI remember one Saturday morning in high school, I turned on my television to see a black girl with braids playing tennis. I’d heard of Althea Gibson, but her heyday was way before my arrival on earth. This was a girl who looked about my age volleying a tennis ball back and forth on a court with a white girl—and the black girl was winning! I was stunned because the little I knew about tennis was that it was a sport for the wealthy. In my mind, back then, I couldn’t fathom how wealthy a black person could be in order to afford the sport of tennis.

Then the commentators began talking about the girl, who’s name on the scoreboard was “V. Williams.” The spoke about how she was new to professional tennis. How she plays differently than anything they’d seen before. And how she was coached by her father on the cracked tennis courts near their home in Compton. Compton! What the hell? This was another ghetto girl like myself who was doing the damn thing in her field. She was unstoppable.

Until little sis began to dominate.

“V. Williams” is the older sister to S. Williams, or just plain Serena. Though plain would be a misnomer now because that other little ghetto girl is now on the cover of Vogue magazine for its shape issue. And Serena is killing another game: the fashion game.

I’ve admired the Williams sisters for years, but I’ve had a special affinity for Serena. Like the super athlete, I am a dark-complexioned girl with large breasts and a large butt. My thighs are thick. My calves are shapely. And I have to make the best of what I’ve got.

I know I’m know Serena. She is in amazing physical shape. But she overcame serious blood clot to return to peak form and completely dominate her field. That’s why I took away a few pieces of advice from her cover profile in Vogue.

On the off season. Like all of us, Serena puts on winter weight. It’s cold, Winter Boo has you hemmed up with snuggles and peanut butter, and the snow won’t let you be great. “I should have gone on a diet weeks ago,” she moans. Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Serena is in training for the upcoming Grand Slam tournaments, which will require peak physical ability to withstand the endless matches and rigorous schedule. If you’re like me and not participating in a Grand Slam match, look at this time of year as spring cleaning. After the coldest winter ever*, bring some heat back into your life with a few resp at the gym. Put down the endless bowls of chili and try a salad or three. It’s too late to regret how this winter ruined your routine. Just get back to doing what you feel is right, and you’ll be fine.

Be the change you want to see. Before the Williams sisters took over the professional women’s tennis courts, the game had the same pallette. Lots of women in similar skirts and tops, similar haircuts, and similar intensity on the court. No one had heard grunts like those of the Williams sisters before. Those grunts came from using so much strength and power to defeat an opponent. “When I started out, it was about being consistent and steady,” said Mary Joe Fernandez, captain of the American Fed Cup team. “When they started hitting with so much power, everybody had to change their game too.” You can be a game changer, too. You can decide that maybe running or swimming isn’t doing enough for you. Maybe you want to try Caipoeira or kickboxing. Do it! There’s nothing stopping you from change but you.

Know that there’s always something better. “I feel like I have a desire to be better than ever,” Serena says. “I am never, ever, satisfied. I always want to do more, be more, reach a new level. Not just in tennis but in everything I do.” When I began my weight-loss journey from 200 pounds, I thought the most I’d lose is 20 pounds. And those 20 were great. They got me into my first bathing suit in years. They allowed me to buy shorts that didn’t cut off my circulation. They let my jaw be visible again. But soon I realized I wanted more. How far could this weight-loss journey take me, I thought. So I kept trying, running more, spinning more, cooking my own meals more. It’s all about deciding how much you want for yourself.

What did you think of Serena’s cover? Did you take away any words of wisdom from the article?

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