Get Ready For The #stellarmiles Makeshift 5k!

First, I want to say a big thanks to Javacia Harris Bowser, founder of See Jane Write, for featuring me as the July Member of the Month! Please head over to the See Jane Write blog to see my interview!

And welcome to any new readers who found me through See Jane Write. As you may have read in my Q&A, I am organizing another #stellarmiles Makeshift 5k, and I hope you will join me!

5k magnet

Look soon for a Facebook event through my Facebook page so I can get a headcount of who will be able to attend the next #stellarmiles Makeshift 5k in-person here in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, July 18. I’d like to make sure I have waters and post-race snacks on-hand for everyone.

As with the last race, if you live elsewhere but still want to walk or run that morning, please post a photo of yourself or your run on Instagram using the #stellarmiles hashtag. Everyone who posts a photo with the hashtag will be entered into a drawing to win a prize.

And this time I promise not to get the prize out as slowly as I did for the last Makeshift 5k. The two ladies who ran with me that day — Tanya and Javacia — are finally getting their prize pack!

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Goody bags with sport socks, no-slip headbands and #stellarmiles magnets!

I can’t wait to walk or run with you all on July 18! Right now we’ll start at 7 a.m. CT, but you will have until 12 p.m. CT to post your photos, so if you live on the West Coast, you don’t have to get up hella early!

Let’s get those walking and running training miles in, and I’ll see you in your sneakers in a few weeks!

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The Exercise & Healthy Eating Zone

This week I experienced a few moments when everything just clicked for me when it comes to exercise and eating healthfully.   

As you know, a couple of weeks ago I started swimming laps at my local Gold’s Gym. It’s definitely become one of my favorite ways to workout, and I hope to keep it as part of my rotation from now on. Monday I swam 24 laps on my own, then Wednesday I swam another 24 laps with a friend. 

I also attended spinning class on Tuesday, after missing the class for far too many weeks. Spinning can be a pretty intense workout, but I needed and enjoyed the challenge. 

Whenever I get on a streak like this, when exercise is something I enjoy doing rather than dreading, I try to take full advantage of it. It feels good to have that motivation, so I try to schedule classes or meet with friends so the workout is a mandatory part of my day. 

I’m planning to carry over this momentum when I head to Florida for a weeklong vacation with extended family. Walks on the beach, and morning walks/runs with my cousins are my goals. Maybe we’ll do some lap swimming if the pool is large enough, too!

As for eating, I had a few ups and downs this week. I didn’t set a weekly goal for myself, which was mistake No. 1. But I did pay close attention to the choices I was making at each meal. Sweets were a struggle, but I tried to maintain some balance!

This morning I got in that “healthy eating zone” and stopped at Sprouts on my way to work. I picked up oatmeal for breakfast and a salad with grilled chicken for lunch, along with roasted chickpeas and fresh raspberries for a snack. When you feel that urge to stock up on healthy goodies for the day, go for it!

I find that if I’ve been in a rut and I need to get back to doing healthy things for myself, usually one or two steps in the right direction helps a lot. Preparation is key too — grab those easy-to-eat groceries and pack your gym bag the night before. Make it easy so you won’t be tempted to throw in the towel. 

How do you try to maintain an exercise and healthy eating zone? What are your tricks for getting that motivation going? 

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Learning To Be My Own Best Friend

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I love to eat lunch alone. I choose the restaurant, the dish I want to eat, my beverage, and I settle in with an episode of “Reign” on Netflix or a chapter of Outlander. I take time when needed to make to-do lists, send and read emails, work on freelance assignments. It’s my quiet time to do what I want and take a breather from a usually hectic day.

I wasn’t always so comfortable eating alone, however. In fact, I wasn’t always comfortable being alone, period. Throughout my childhood I moved from one state to another, the daughter of an Air Force captain. My only friend, in many instances, was my sister, Karen. I had a bad habit of first befriending girls at my new school who were intrigued by the new person, but swiftly excluded me once my “newness” wore off. It would take time to discover my real friends and bond with them.

I went to a college where I knew no one, and that cycle repeated itself. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I really felt I belonged at Penn State. And, although I moved home after college and hung out often with high school friends who remain my friends to this day, I worked at a job that required me to grow comfortable with being alone. As a newspaper reporter, I traveled to assignments by myself, killing time before evening zoning board and school board meetings by eating on my own, reading books. I bought so many copies of Chick Lit back then, I’m not sure I ever read anything of much worth! I also liked to shop; the bustle of the stores made it seem less lonely.

It was when I moved away to grad school in Chicago that I really felt I was OK with being on my own. Though Penn State was five hours from my parents in New Jersey, Northwestern was really far away. Again, I was at a school and in a city where I knew no one. I was lucky to form a fast friendship with my roommate, but there were lots of times of riding the El by myself, walking around Evanston or downtown, exploring. It was there that a lot of the insecurities surfaced, keeping me in a shell, a shell I don’t think anyone knew of because on the outside I’m pretty extroverted. But the thought of rejection, the idea of dating, of finally tackling issues like self-esteem and confidence and body image — those were buried down deep. I was OK with being alone — but I was not OK with me.

But I finally started breaking out of that shell while at Northwestern. Assessing where I really wanted to go professionally. What I really wanted out of life. I even started dating.

Then, during an internship in London, I felt I really broke free. I worked at a fashion magazine, despite my hesitation at being the heaviest woman on staff. At being probably not as fashionable as I would like. At being a small fish in a really, really big city. But I did whatever I was asked to do, and with gusto. I explored every inch of this city that I had loved from afar for many, many years. I was grateful to be there with my grad school roommate, though we lived separately and had different days off. It was nice knowing I wasn’t completely alone across the pond. But it afforded me enough freedom to explore as I wanted to. As I needed to.

I came home from that internship nervous to begin again in another new place — Birmingham, Ala. — but ready, too. Ready to fully begin my publishing career. Ready to continue breaking out of that shell and continue discovering who I am.

Since my move to Birmingham, I can truly say that I’ve become my own best friend in a lot of ways. I stopped being so shy about dating and eventually met my husband. I stopped worrying about surrounding myself with friends constantly and grew to like my own solitude at times. To actually choose to stay in on a Friday night and be happy with that choice. And I grew to become comfortable with what I need from other people. I learned that I don’t need them to feel fulfilled, but their presence simply makes me happy.

I’ve had ups and downs since I moved here. I’ve lost my job, and had to steel myself against feeling like a failure. I started new jobs, learning to navigate new workplaces. Over and over again, through tears and anger, I’ve had to motivate myself to try again. Try harder. At love. At my career. At being OK with myself.

And that’s where I still have work to do. While I may be OK with depending on my own friendship, I’m still not always my best cheerleader. I still look to others for validation. And whereas I can give pep talks to my friends, tell them how wonderful they are — especially when they doubt their looks or their body image or their abilities — I still have a hard time doing that for myself. I try to talk myself up on the inside. I list my good qualities. I list the reasons why I’m worthy, why I’m good at what I do or what makes me special. But many times it feels as though it’s pretend. I’m going through what I’m “supposed” to say, but not really believing it.

This is where being your own best friend is hard. Because we can also be our own worst enemy. It’s a battle that must be fought, though, for true acceptance of yourself. To love yourself fully. So, this journey that has taken me many places is still a road I’m traveling down. But at least I can hold my own hand now and notice when I’m not being kind to myself. And I can give myself a stern talking to. And learn to be my own best friend.

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Dos & Don’ts Of Summer Work Wear

I can’t believe it’s only June because here in Alabama — it feels like mid-August! It’s been in the 90s and the humidity is high. And, since yesterday, it is now officially summer, so I’m sure it will just get hotter.

When it gets this hot, I understand the desire to reach for the easiest, lightest items in your wardrobe. But if you work in an office setting like I do, you still need to adhere to some guidelines to keep your look professional.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind for the summer:

1. Flip-flops are not acceptable office footwear.

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Old Navy


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Bandolino

I get you don’t want your feet to be confined — it’s hot outside and your toes need to breathe. But sandals are usually acceptable in most offices — and they’re a HUGE upgrade to your look as compared to flip-flops. Don’t be that coworker who everyone can hear coming down the hall … it’s annoying!

2. Blazers with short sleeves and suits with (longer) shorts should work in most offices.

(left) NY&Co, (right) Bottega Veneta

(left) NY&Co, (right) Bottega Veneta

Unless you work in a super-conservative office, I’m thinking certain law or bank offices, you can get away with a suit/blazer alternative that keeps you cooler. Creative offices in particular will accept this fashion-forward, yet pulled together, look.

3. Crop tops are not OK at work. Ever.

I actually love Zoe Saldana's look, but that peep of tummy is a no-no at the office, in my opinion. I love the way the girl on the left layered her look to be office appropriate.

I actually love Zoe Saldana’s look, but that peep of tummy is a no-no at the office, in my opinion. I love the way the girl on the left layered her look to be office appropriate.

In my opinion, showing your stomach, even just a sliver, is a bad idea. If you work at a fashion magazine, maybe. Check with your boss first. But while I love this look on all shapes and sizes for after work and weekends, I’d steer clear Mon.-Fri. 9-5.

4. Cropped pants, gaucho pants and palazzo pants are a must-have!

(left to right) Macy's, Lane Bryant, Target

(left to right) Macy’s, Lane Bryant, Target

5. Cutouts are doable, depending where they’re located and what’s showing underneath.

(left) ASOS, (right) NY&Co—Both of these dresses are actually really great, but in my opinion, not for the workplace because they show either the stomach or too much of the back.

(left) ASOS, (right) NY&Co—Both of these dresses are actually really great, but in my opinion, not for the workplace because they show either the stomach or too much of the back.


(both) Modcloth—Because these dresses have more subtle cutouts on the neckline and/or arms, I think they are suitable for work. Cutouts along the hemline are also OK, as long as they don't come up too high on the thigh.

(both) Modcloth—Because these dresses have more subtle cutouts on the neckline and/or arms, I think they are suitable for work. Cutouts along the hemline are also OK, as long as they don’t come up too high on the thigh.

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Swimming As Exercise

 
Last week I tried a new form of exercise: swimming! I was immediately hooked. There’s something about moving your body through water and actually getting out of breath. Usually when I’m in a pool, I am lounging with a cocktail in hand! 

This truly was a workout, though! I met a group of friends before work one day, and one, who swam competitively in high school, demonstrated different strokes: freestyle, breast stroke, back stroke and butterfly. The butterfly took more coordination than I possess! But the other three were fairly easy. We ended up doing 12-14 laps total. And I can’t wait to go back!

I read up on the benefits of swimming. According to an article on WebMD.com: 

Exercise physiologist Robert A. Robergs says swimming is a good fitness choice for just about everyone, especially those who have physical limitations or who find other forms of exercise painful.

“It is a good, whole-body exercise that has low impact for people with arthritis, musculoskeletal, or weight limitations,” says Robergs, director of the exercise physiology laboratories at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Swimming uses all the major muscle groups, WebMD says, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes. And because water creates 12 times the resistance as air in every direction, it really helps build strength.

I’m planning to join friends for swimming again this week. Have you ever swam laps for exercise? What did you like or dislike? 

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Good Time Management Will Help Your HealthGoals 

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I’m a procrastinator. I think, to some extent, most writers are. When I was a newspaper reporter back in New Jersey, I would do all my research for an article, all the interviews, even outlines, and then just sit on the story. For days. I still do that at times!

I am learning, sometimes the hard way, that managing my time more wisely helps me make better choices throughout the day.

For example, this morning I wanted to get up earlier to have time to walk/run before work. But I hit the snooze button. Even though, my life and blogging guru Javacia had just reminded us on Facebook yesterday that getting up earlier is paramount to achieving your daily — and larger — goals, I still decided to sleep a little longer.

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However, once I got up, I made the most of my time before work. I cleaned one of the bathrooms in the house, ran to the grocery store for some healthy snacks to keep at work (thanks Publix for opening at 7 a.m.!), and I even started this blog post (which I’m finishing while on my lunch break!).

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Trying to cut out Diet Coke as much as possible this week!

There is time in each day to achieve small goals — and as Javacia has also coached me on, breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks can bring those larger goals into reach even faster.

As you know from reading my blog, one of my major goals is working on my health and fitness. Fitting in time to grocery shop, prepare meals, work out and get enough sleep seems impossible at times. Here’s a few suggestions (that I need to put into action more often, too!) that will help you in this area:

1. Meal plan to make grocery shopping more efficient. When I plan out dinners for the week, and think of simple lunches to prepare, I can get all my shopping done in one trip. This makes it easier to have healthy ingredients on hand, including snacks, and makes grocery trips less frequent and less of a chore. I highly recommend keeping snacks to last a whole week at the office, too, so you don’t reach for the convenience of the vending machine.

2. Workouts can take place anywhere, anytime! As many people have pointed out to me over the years, workouts don’t have to be at the gym or last for hours, or even a full hour. Get some movement in, whether it’s a video tape or Wii game at home, a walk around your office building or neighborhood, or a circuit in the living room while watching a favorite TV show. And one of my favorite ways to socialize is to meet a friend for a class or a walk. Get that time with your besties while getting your workout in, too!

3. Make sleep a priority. I love to sleep. Like, LOVE it! I’m not ashamed to go to bed early. But sometimes turning off the TV, putting down the iPad or closing the book can be hard. I’ve recently become less of a night owl because I realize I am usually more productive in the mornings. At night, most often, I’m just killing time on Pinterest or Facebook. So going to bed — for me, by 10 p.m. is ideal — ensures that if I get enough rest, I’ll wake up ready to tackle the day. And the TV show, iPad and book will always be there the next morning (that’s what the DVR is for!).

I’m a big fan of keeping lists, and this also helps me schedule time for what I need to do. I have weekly tasks (like cleaning and laundry) and daily tasks. Here’s my schedule for today:

to do list

I highly recommend keeping to-do lists for your larger goals, but also daily schedules to help keep you on task. I’m trying something new, too, where I clean one thing every day so I don’t go crazy with a huge cleaning list that needs a bigger chunk of time. I’ll let you know how this goes!

How do you manage your time? Are your health goals built into your daily schedule?

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The Confidence To Be Curvy {Even If You Want To Lose Weight}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be healthy — about society’s definition of health, the medical community’s definition, my own personal definition. And then the other day I came across an older post by CeCe on her blog Plus Size Princess. She had to defend her use of the phrase “weight loss” because while she promotes body positivity, she also promotes working out and eating foods that are good for you through her PSPfit program.

I actually felt bad for CeCe because, as someone who also wants to stand up for having a healthy body image, I am working on losing weight and trying to work out regularly and eat healthfully. I don’t understand why we have to choose between one or the other. It’s like you get backlash from people who think the only way to be healthy is to be thin, yet you also get women who are happy being curvier who don’t want you to promote weight loss.

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Here’s the thing: We all just need to learn to be supportive of each individual’s feelings about his or her own body. Period.

If you are heavier and you want to rock your body in whatever fashions you love and you don’t really worry about going to the gym, that is your prerogative!

And, if you’re like me and you want to be comfortable in your own skin at any size, while feeling good about eating healthfully and getting your sweat on, go for it!

I don’t want anyone to ever think that I am not OK with their life choices based on whatever size they currently are, or the size they want to be. And I would hope that others wouldn’t judge me on that either.

I want to lift others up — I want to lift my own self-esteem up — no matter how much I weigh. But, if we’re really being honest here, I will tell you that I’m not truly happy with myself at my current weight. However, while I may feel happy when I lose 20 or 30 pounds, that’s still not technically a weight that most of society would deem a good goal. But my definition of happiness is my own.

The fact is, my health, and anyone’s health, is a personal choice and, I believe, something to be discussed with your own doctor. I do believe that regular movement — whether it’s simply walking or more strenuous workouts (your choice!) — is healthy. And I do believe that certain foods are obviously more nourishing for our bodies and some foods should be eaten only in moderation. But that is my definition of health. And if that definition awards me good sugar levels, cholesterol numbers, blood pressure and the ability to live life to the fullest (which, thankfully, so far it has!), then that, in my book, is success.

As CeCe said in her post: “I finally understand that the most valuable results I can strive for are health related, not scale related.” That is definitely something I am working on, and I hope I can fully feel that way one day, too.

Whether or not I lose the 20-30 pounds that I’d like to lose, and then reevaluate where I want to be, I still want to be happy with my body and the things it affords me to do in the meantime. I still want to love myself and strut confidently in my favorite outfits.

We all deserve to feel that way — and we shouldn’t judge each other based on size or shape or skin color or hairstyle — we should just applaud one another for feeling good and doing good.

So go out there, be who you are, and do it confidently. And to CeCe — keep doing you!

Posted in Acceptance, Body Image, Body Positive, Confidence, Fitness, Happiness, Health, Healthy Eating, plus-size, Weight-loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment