New Beginnings: Hard But Necessary

new beginnings

It’s April 17 — exactly 15 days since my last blog post. It’s been difficult to come to grips with this because I never thought blogging would be something I feel uninspired to do. Let’s face it: I always have something to say. But lately I haven’t felt like saying much. Or at least, I’ve had a hard time putting words to what I’m saying in my head.

Am I making any sense here?

Let me back it up a bit…

On Nov. 9, 2016, my life changed. While I had already become a published author by self-publishing my book Fat Girl Power, Nov. 9 was the day I celebrated this achievement with my family and friends. I got to hug many of the people who encouraged me during this year-long process, and thank them for their support. It was truly one of the coolest experiences ever, and I will never forget that day.

But after that day, I was left with the question: What now? I knew I had to promote my book, get out there and talk about body positivity and how regular exercise changed the way I see myself, even if the scale doesn’t change. I wanted to reach people to tell them how much fun fashion is, no matter their size. But after the build-up, the writing and editing and marketing and promoting, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. What would my to-do list look like now?

Of course this day also happened to be the day after Trump was elected president and, as those of you who know me or have been reading my blog for some time can surmise, he is most definitely #notmypresident. Maybe this sounds dramatic to some, but I was honestly in a state of mourning for the country I thought I knew. As I wrote about before, writing about fashion or fitness or anything at all, really, felt miniscule. It felt petty. I felt like I just needed to shut up.

What I’ve been reminded about since then, however, is the confidence to move forward, no matter what you’re facing in your life (or what the country is facing), is paramount. Without that “go get ’em” attitude, we can accomplish nothing. Because everything we do, each day at work, each day at home, takes drive and the will to get up, get out of bed and accomplish something.

So that confidence is something I will never stop working on or stop striving for. Sometimes, in comparison to what we face in this world, it seems a trivial thing to focus on. But I am trying to remember that feeling good in your own skin, and helping others feel good in theirs, is no small feat. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the need to talk about or write about it or encourage others. It would just be. Sadly, a lot of us aren’t quite there yet. We need that support and that kick in the pants to look ourselves in the mirror and say: I like you. I like you just as you are.

Of course, after all of this I also found out about another life-changing event — having a baby! It’s definitely been all-consuming, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. So while I may not blog as often as I did, and I may not be as active on social media as I’d like, I am here. I am listening. I will continue to write for you, to write for me, and hopefully we can grow together in how we feel about ourselves and how we help others.

This may not quite be a new beginning — more like a “refresh.” But even if it’s just to refocus my purpose after a time period that feels like a roller coaster, it’s empowering. It allows me to shift my thinking from “What now?” to a more hopeful, more energizing, “What’s next?”

Stellar Baby: 18 weeks

 

18weeks

Well, I’m definitely feeling more and more pregnant! I have to admit that I’ve been shy about sharing photos of my preggo belly because I don’t have that nice round tummy you’re probably used to pregnant women having. But I am learning to embrace my changing shape and remain body positive.

Here’s an update!

Week: 18

Baby: is the size of an artichoke! We had a checkup last week and everything is looking really good. We have an anatomy scan in a couple weeks where they’ll take lots of measurements and we’ll get to see baby girl on a big screen TV! Can’t wait!

Feeling: The nausea is gone, thank goodness! And I’ve definitely been more energized. I do still get sleepy spells and the hormones are — well, let’s just say I get awfully weepy sometimes! But I’m really feeling great.

Eating: I’ve had a few cravings here and there: namely sweets. And while I’m happily eating fresh melon and strawberries, I need to be better about getting more veggies. I’ll be traveling for work this week, so I’ll try to get in more salads. The southwestern salad at Chick Fil A has been my go-to, even though the spicy dressing gives me heartburn!

Working out: I am going to Torque here and there and adjusting the workouts to how I feel. It’s been warm here, so I’ve been walking the hills instead of running. I’m trying to get more walking in. It feels great to walk, listen to a podcast and enjoy the nice weather, even if I am way more out of breath than I’m used to!

Planning: We have most of the registries done, and we had a pickup from a veterans group this last weekend come clear out some stuff from one of our guest rooms, so the nursery is underway! We hope to paint after my upcoming work trip, and then get the furniture in soon. Isn’t the bedding cute?

stellabedding

That’s it for this update! I’ll check in again soon!

The Imposter Syndrome: Health & Fitness

Sometimes I feel like a fake.

It’s easy to pretend that you know just what to do about health and fitness, because, well, I do know. I know how to eat to lose weight, I know what to eat that’s the most healthy. I know how to burn calories. I’ve taken enough exercise classes to know what I like, what I don’t, what helps me see results and what just does nothing for me.

So it would be easy to ask: Well, why am I still fat?

Why do I still have cravings for Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra ice cream?

Why can’t I just eat perfectly healthfully all the time and get my arse off the couch and exercise each and every day?

Those feelings, and those questions, can definitely make me feel like an imposter.

I write about health and fitness on this blog, and I post photos of the yummy watermelon I eat for snacks, and I talk about how good working out makes me feel.

watermelon

Snacks!

But I’m not perfect.

I’m human.

And I still want a chocolate chip cookie from time to time, gosh darn it. And pizza. Lord knows about my love affair with pizza.

Hard to resist a sweet potato cupcake from JoZetti's bakery in Montgomery!

Hard to resist a sweet potato cupcake from JoZetti’s bakery in Montgomery!

There’s a lot of talk about what we see on social media and how it’s the “best” side of us, not the “real” side of us. And it’s so true. I try to be open and honest and the real  me — I try not to hide when I’m struggling or when I feel like a failure.

I also try to show myself grace and not assign feelings like guilt or shame to food or skipping a workout. Just because I don’t eat fruit and veggies and lean protein all the time doesn’t make me bad. But there are a lot of times when, as someone who wants to be healthier more often, I can feel fake when I do indulge or I do get lazy.

The solace I take is that we all do it. Very few people are on their game 24/7. And beating ourselves up, or judging others, doesn’t help anything. In fact, studies show that shaming others for their eating or exercise habits actually does more harm than good.

So it’s OK to feel like an imposter sometimes, and other times feel like an expert on health and fitness. You can be both. You can find success in the trying. You can celebrate the little victories and stop talking negatively to yourself when you do something you feel like you shouldn’t.

I know I can, too. And I’m right here with you trying.

When A Workout Is More Than A Workout

weighted ball

Last week as I headed home from work, I drove past the building where I usually stop and get my sweat on at Torque. And as I drove by, I started to tear up.

After three workouts the week before and feeling some cramping in my stomach and soreness and numbness in my right leg, the nurse at my ob’s office suggested I drink a lot more water and take the week off from more strenuous exercising. “Stick to walking,” she said.

So I shouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to missing my Torque workout. I was resting as I needed to, taking precautions as I needed to, and I knew I’d be back to do the modified workout that I’ve grown to enjoy so much.

That’s when I knew that I had found a workout that’s more than a workout.

workout advice

 

When you find a workout that makes you feel good, not just physically but emotionally and mentally, hang onto it. Keep at it. No matter how tough it is at times, return to it again and again. If you’re pregnant like me, do it as long as you safely can, and then look forward to coming back after the baby comes.

Workouts like this can be hard to come by. In my past, I had a few exercise routines that I kept up with and affected me more than just physically. There was running, regular Zumba classes, going to the free outdoor classes at a park downtown here in Birmingham. For a little while, swimming was my jam, and I’ve had short stints where yoga was a major part of my life.

Sometimes, the love for a workout comes and goes. Other times it sticks around permanently. I will always love the feeling of running, even if I don’t or can’t ever attempt a half marathon again.

And now I’ve found a great workout that is challenging each time I go, where I enjoy the community that has been built there, and where I feel encouraged, even if I am not the most fit person there by a long shot.

Because that’s not what matters when it comes to finding a workout that works. You don’t have to be the best — you just have to try. You have to want to give it your all and improve upon your own goals each time. As they say – you’re not competing against anyone but yourself.

reminders

I’m sincerely thankful to have found this workout and I will do a modified version of it for as long as I can while I’m pregnant. And I’ll try not to tear up as I drive past the building when I get farther along in my pregnancy, because I know I will be back!

*This post is not sponsored and I do not receive any compensation for endorsing this workout — this is my opinion only!

Social Media And Body Positivity

A few weeks ago I was honored that a high school girl emailed me to ask if she could interview me about body positivity for a school project. Her teacher assigned a paper on social media and its affect on activism — how cool is that?

I was humbled to get to be involved in such a cool school project, so after I answered her questions — which I found very insightful — I asked if I could share them, and my answers, with my readers.

I hope you will think about how you would’ve responded to these questions and leave your thoughts with me in the comments or via the Facebook post with this link!

acceptable

Do you think social media model accounts like insta models give a good portrayal of body image? Or do they give growing girls and boys an unachievable body image to strive for? An example accounts is Alexisren.

I do think some social media accounts can perpetuate a negative body image if we constantly compare our own bodies to those we see on Instagram. We need to remember that they are showing us their best — they have hair and makeup, lighting and training to pose in certain angles. So we are always seeing their best side, whereas we all have our normal, everyday appearance without all that professional help. I try to limit the number of accounts I follow that project a certain body image and mix in models who inspire me who have different body shapes and different ethnic backgrounds.
Do you feel that body shaming is still a huge issue in the news media today and how they give their opinion about celebrities bodies?
I definitely do. I think we are becoming more conscious of women and men of all sizes, who can be fashionable and great-looking despite not having what society usually deems as an “acceptable” body type. But we still see all kinds of shows that criticize what people wear, that comment on women’s post-baby weight and hold people to standards that most people without personal chefs and trainers could never attain. And even for celebrities who can afford that kind of help, it’s not good emotionally/mentally to have that pressure that you’re supposed to be “perfect” all the time.
Do you think that the modeling industry gives plus-sized models an equal chance at modeling? And do you feel that these models are a good representation of the plus-sized community?
I think we are seeing more and more curvier models in runway shows than ever before; this past New York Fashion Week, Michael Kors used a plus-size model in one of his shows (Ashley Graham). But Christian Siriano used multiple women with curvier figures, and also paid close attention to having models of different ethnicities. More designers need to follow Christian’s example. And we are finally seeing some stores, like Lane Bryant, use models who are bigger — who aren’t just “curvy” but truly plus-size and not the “hourglass” shape. It’s nice to see more of those women being represented, but we still have a long way to go.
In your own words, can you explain what body positivity means to you and can you explain what the media can do better to incorporate it?
Body positivity to me is finding what makes you happy about your body — you may want to lose a little weight or gain some muscle or you may be just happy the way you are. It’s about defining that for yourself and not allowing societal pressures or peer pressure make you feel like you have to look a certain way to be accepted. I think media needs to address how this affects us emotionally and mentally. I think our confidence helps every aspect of our lives — whether we’re trying to do well at school, get into a good college or find a great job. And especially in how we allow others to treat us, from friends and families to romantic relationships. So forming that strong base of confidence in ourselves, and a healthy relationship with our bodies, can touch every single part of our lives.
How would you explain to someone that body positivity is not a way to authorize diabetes and any bad eating habits?
I know a lot of men and women who would be deemed plus-size who eat very healthfully and exercise more than some thinner people I know. So I think you have to look at someone’s overall picture to decide if someone is healthy — his or her weight can’t be the only factor. I think it’s important that we all take responsibility for our health — if we are at risk for diabetes or some other condition often associated with high weight, we need to exercise more and eat healthier, but that doesn’t mean we have to hate our bodies at the same time. There’s a saying that you should take care of your body because you love it, not because you hate it. And I think when you look at it as being healthy, not necessarily with the goal of losing weight, it becomes something empowering instead of something that can feel defeating. For me, loving my body doesn’t mean I won’t make changes if I need to to protect my health. It just means I am not going to beat myself up.
What is your opinion on the new Barbie doll that was made after Ashley Graham and the new plus-size Barbie doll?
While I am happy that they made an Ashley Graham Barbie doll, I do wish they had released it for the public to buy! But they did release a new line of Barbies that have curvier figures, more skin tones and hair styles. And I think that’s very important. Our feelings about our own bodies are shaped from a very young age. And having a doll to play with that looks more like you, or your mom, or other women in your life, instead of them all having impossibly tiny waists and long blonde hair — that’s hugely influential on a young girl.
Can you give your opinion on the body activism movement and its impact in society today?
I am immensely grateful for the body activism movement. As someone in her late 30s, I didn’t grow up with anyone talking about body acceptance or body positivity. Everyone only talked about dieting and aerobics and low-fat snacks. I grew up in a time of “waif” models being the most popular — models like Kate Moss. There was no way I could ever identify with her, and I never felt I could ever measure up to women with her shape. Even though we have a long way to go, it’s wonderful that younger women now have more role models out there of different sizes and backgrounds, and people talk more about eating healthfully and exercising, but with balance. I am hoping more and more young women are learning to accept their bodies and treat them healthfully, and find those positive role models to turn to.
Can you explain how boys and girls today can learn to love their bodies the way they are?
What helped me learn to love my body was working out regularly and starting to run. It taught me that I didn’t have to look like what society deems is “acceptable” to accomplish great things. I ran two half marathons and weighed more than 200 pounds for both races. So I think finding something you can accomplish — and it doesn’t have to be sports, it could be drawing, writing, acting, singing, whatever you’re into — that can help you feel confident about yourself and help you realize that your body is more than just something to look at in the mirror and compare to people on social media. It helps you accomplish amazing things, and it’s important to treat it healthfully so you can continue accomplishing amazing things!