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Don’t Let Stress Get the Best

19 Oct

serenityI’ve had a lot on my plate in the past couple of months. I’ll share the details in a coming post, but know that the stress has been wearing me out.

One of the big negative effects of stress is overeating. My version of this is eating too much of the wrong thing, namely Talenti Southern Butter Pecan. Have you had this? It’s quite possibly the best butter pecan I’ve ever had. It’s so creamy, not too sweet and with the right amount of caramel to not seem overindulgent. Plus, Talenti only comes in 1-pint containers. That’s just two cups. You get more than that in a sundae at Baskin Robbins.

I’m aware that this is just an excuse, but sometimes life is like that. I was irritable, and instead of working out my irritation with a workout, I took it out on a pint (or five) of that delicious Talenti. The irritability, along with overeating with a dash of fatigue, added up to more weight than I’d ever like to see again. I wasn’t far from what I weighed when I moved to New York. That was not where I wanted to be.

Stress does more than affect you physically. It’s a mindfuck. Your brain starts going a million miles an hour picking apart all the things that are wrong. You’re so focused on everything that’s not going right that you’re not looking for solutions. So you retreat to the things that aren’t stressful. For me, it’s gelato…or goldfish crackers…or Netflix marathons.

At the time I was focusing on the the stress and not the cause of it.

I’m a huge fan of the serenity prayer. “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I think in my period of doubt, I forgot that. I forgot that I can’t change everything, nor should I try. I needed to focus on the things I can control instead of letting those things control me.

Once that clicked, I ate my last pint of Talenti (you can’t let good stuff like that go to waste). I went to the grocery store and started planning my meals again. I went to the pool for the first time in a couple of months. I even ran, though my knee wasn’t too happy about that.

I took over what was in my control and the result allowed me to see better what was really stressing me out. I could pinpoint what needed to be done and take action there.

Sitting on the sidelines of your life while the world is stressing you out will only bring you more damage. Take control of the the things you can and work toward a solution on the things you can’t. Being proactive in battling your stressors will lessen their effects on you in the long run.

What do you do to battle stress?

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Happy Juneteenth

19 Jun

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Editor’s note: I’m going off topic once again because a) it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want and b) this issue deserves to be addressed.

Today is Juneteenth, the celebration of the emancipation of slaves in America. Nearly 4 million people were freed from the bondage and indignity of slavery in America, a process that took nearly two years from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to the end of the Civil War.

That war ended almost 150 years ago. It is a stain on this country that can’t come out. It is blood on a cashmere sweater. It is the family secret everyone knows about but no one wants to acknowledge. It is a constant reminder that this nation was built on the backs of human beings who weren’t considered human. We celebrate our independence from British rule with fireworks and barbecue. But the emancipation of slaves often passes by without much acknowledgement. Not any more.

Not when a Confederate flag flies high above a state capital that watched one of its own citizens massacre a bible study group at a black church. Not when a 5-year-old has to play dead to avoid being killed by a hate-filled racist. And not when I have to read stories about a monster who had been a sweet, smart boy as a child and not his hateful actions that led to this point.

I am angry. I’ve had a queasy feeling in my stomach for the past couple of days because I can’t make sense of this. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Sadly, I don’t think it will be the last. Less than a year ago, I wrote about watching my hometown burn because of the anger boiling up inside its residents at the injustice of the justice system there. Within that time, I’ve watched protest after protest, march after march, and black person after black person killed, attacked and humiliated because the aggressor felt my people weren’t worthy.

I come from a long line of people who just want to live. We work hard, we play hard, we love hard. It’s that love that is keeping me whole and giving me hope in this time of anger and sorrow. Today, I’ll go about my day trying to temper that anger and celebrate the day my ancestors were freed. Because something good needs to happen amid all this tragedy.

Once again, I’ll leave this here because, just like last year, it’s in heavy rotation. I hope it eases you as it does me.

Why I’m not a winter warrior

25 Feb
Well, it bothers me! Courtesy of Tumblr

Well, it bothers me!
Courtesy of Tumblr

I live five blocks from the subway. In Manhattan, that’s an OK deal. Compared to other boroughs, that’s a luxury. Five blocks may not seem like much. You’d think it’s about five minutes from the train to my door. And you’d be right.

What you’re not considering is the elements. The elements are wind (I live right by the river) and water (mother-effin’ snow). In case you live in California or Hawaii, you’re likely aware that it is cold as a penguin’s nose out right now. For some reason Mother Nature raised her hater-ation game to a new level. Boston has had so much snow MIT students are actually climbing a mountain to class. There are icicles hanging in the underground subways stations. Schools in Texas—Texas of all places!—are getting snow days because the world is just too damn hot.

And with all of this, my favorite activity has fallen by the wayside. That’s right, skinny people, I haven’t run outside in more than a month. I did a quick run while visiting family and friends last month, but it was 50 degrees out. I had to leave my jacket in the car.

I’ve said before that I’m getting better about lowering my degree threshold for a run. I’ve got it down to 37 degrees. But that’s above freezing. You know why? Because I am not a winter warrior.

Winter Warriors are the people who say eff it when the thermostat drops below 20 degrees. Their endorphines and sweat will keep them warm. That’s beautiful. Do you, boo. I am not one of those people.

I don’t like going outside when the wind is whipping my hair back and forth like Willow Smith. I hate when it feels like I’m being smacked in the face with icicles. Running with my hands in balls makes them hurt even worse. So now instead of focusing on my breathing and my pace, I’m focusing on the pain in my hands and if my nose will fall off from being so cold.

That’s too much stress. I run to clear my head. Running is simple: you just need good shoes. The winter requires much more thought and effort: thermal-lined pants (possibly two pair), knee-high socks to keep your calves warm, shoe spikes in case you run into a patch of ice, a beanie to keep your head warm, gloves, and a jacket. It’s just all too much.

I applaud anyone who can look outside, see Elsa’s playground and think it’s the best time to get in a run. It takes true dedication not just to your health but to your sport to continue on in these conditions. Get in a couple of miles for me. Runners are my people. But on this, we take separate paths.

I’ll be hanging out at the gym, putting in my time on the elliptical.

Would you consider yourself a winter warrior? How do you keep warm on winter runs?

Plus-Sized Bikini

6 Feb

For the first time in its 50 years of existence, Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue will feature a “plus-sized” model. I use quotes because, well…

This is Robyn Lawley. And while she’s curvier than your Chanel Imans and Joan Smalls of the world, it’s a bit of a stretch to call her “plus sized.” And I’m not alone. Lawley herself says she’s just a model, adding plus-size to the title isn’t necessary. At a size 12, she meets the industry’s definition of a plus-sized model. But by the looks of it, she could go either way.

Small confession: I used to watch the making of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition when I was a kid. I thought those women were gorgeous and modeling always intrigued me. It could be because I couldn’t take a decent picture to save my life. But it could also be because I was envious of their locations and their bodies. I grew up watching Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum. They were all slim and fit and looked nothing like me.

So imagine my surprise to find out SI finally added a woman with a little more meat on her bones to the issue. And then imagine my surprise to see it was Lawley. This is knot a knock against her because her photos are stunning. It’s more a knock at Sports Illustrated for not taking the opportunity to showcase a woman who can rock a bikini and still reflect another portion of society. Instead of featuring a model of a larger size, SI sold an ad featuring  larger model.

Meet  Asheley Graham, the plus-sized model that stole Lawleys’s thunder earlier in the day. There was some confusion over who the plus-sized model was and Graham got a lot of the early laurels.

I say good for the both of them. They look fantastic, the shoots are gorgeous and they are doing the damn thing.

This little confusion spawned one of my favorite hashtags Thursday: #Pluskini

For us mere mortals, wearing a bikini can be a heady thing. We don’t all have the bodies of Victoria’s Secret models, nor should we. Variety is the spice of life. So when I saw images like this…

and this…

I was reminded that we all look good, no matter what. I even contributed my bikini photo from the strip above because Sports Illustrated doesn’t have to define what I see as beautiful. The magazine only adds to it.

Wearing a two piece is a mental battle you’ll fight with yourself. I know I did. Eventually, you’ll have to tell the negative voice to shut the hell up so you can strut your stuff on the beach.

I applaud SI for expanding its definition of beauty, but I’ll be glad when the plus-sized model isn’t an anomaly.

What did you think of the plus-sized models, both featured and advertised?

The Long Game

5 Jan
photo credit: Bringsverd via photopin cc

It’s a long road to maintain the weight-loss lifestyle
photo credit: Bringsverd via photopin cc

I got my first grown-up job almost nine months after I graduated college. When I was hired, I was told there would be a six-month waiting period before I was eligible for health benefits and 401(k) enrollment. Health benefits I was familiar with. A 401(k) was a foreign concept. Like any young person confused about the world, I called my father. Daddy explained that I needed a 401(k) to help me save for retirement so that, in his words, I “wouldn’t have to work well into old age.”

At 23, old age was far, far away and having the company deduct even more money from my already meager check seemed like a rip off. But after a few more conversations, he convinced me that it was better for the long run. Over 10 years later, I’m still amassing a nice little nest egg for myself.

Your weight-loss journey is a lot like putting money away in savings or a 401(k). You hit little milestones along the way—10 pounds here, a new dress size there, a great photo every once in a while—but those can be minor victories in the long run. The weight-loss journey isn’t just about vanity, it’s about health. In the long run, you want to pocket away lessons that will ensure you’ve done everything possible to live a long, healthy life.

It’s easy to look at that new bikini as the goal, but what about fitting into that two-piece in another 15 years? Your waist is smaller now, but how is your cholesterol and blood pressure? You’re the envy of all your old friends, but how was your last physical?

I started my weight-loss journey with the short-term goal of losing at least 20 pounds. Then I got on a roll and continued losing until I’d dropped 60. Maintaining the loss was the hard part, but it also taught me valuable lessons about maintaining a healthier lifestyle, especially diet-wise.

While New York is famous for its abundance of restaurants, I know in the long run that my home-cooked meals will serve me best. Re-learning how to cook for myself, using fresher ingredients and less processed food, has helped grow my appreciation for different types of food. I wasn’t making curry before I started this journey. Now it’s one of my go-to recipes. I know that sauteed fish can be just as good if not better than it’s deep-fried. And 30 or 40 years from now, I’ll still have that lesson under my belt.

There’s a saying: It’s about the journey, not the destination. That’ is what your weight-loss journey is—a long-game plan. You’ll reach your destination, but the journey is what teaches you the most about yourself.