Thoughts on Being Brave

We can find thousands of articles online telling us how to deal with the pain of life. Archives documenting the right steps to take to heal after suffering, grief, betrayal, heartache and devastation are just a click away. We can find how-to guides on rebuilding by focusing on loving ourselves, empowering ourselves again, regaining our courage, our ability to accept love again. We keep clicking and reading because whatever has happened to us has hardened and hollowed our hearts and we want to find the reverse button.

We are so focused on surviving the next days of pain and grief that we don’t stop to think about when the healing is over. We never talk about the phase after healing, when someone walks into our lives and finds us not in pieces anymore and wants to love us. We never hear about how terrifying vulnerability is after the labor it takes to reconstruct a shattered soul.

We have to learn to love again, with an open and brave heart.

Learning this is a process. Melting the ice that covers our heart after heartache takes unparalleled courage.

We are at the point in healing where we have taken the damaged parts off of ourselves, like Christmas ornaments unhooking from a pine tree, we’ve let them go. We emerge new and somehow, love has walked into our lives again.

But what do we do now?

After healing it’s vital that we live life with an open heart again despite the fact that living that way and getting burned is how we end up in these inevitable phases of life in the first place. There’s not one person out there who hasn’t been trusting and loving to the wrong person. Who hasn’t paid the very high price of that. The betrayal, the hurt, and the heartbreak that sets us back with nothing besides our bare bones.

For especially traumatic experiences people close up. We build a concrete wall around our hearts and refuse to let anyone in. We sometimes even hurt others, because that way we can’t be hurt first. We don’t trust, we question everything and believe nothing.

But we can’t start a new chapter of our lives like this. It’s not fair to all the work we put into our souls after painful experiences like divorce or loss. It’s not fair to the new versions of ourselves that emerge after healing our hearts and finding all that happiness that everyone said was just around the bend. It’s not fair to the person out there waiting on the other side of all this, waiting to wrap you in love.

We have to allow our hearts to be open after heartbreak because what’s the alternative? You’ve suffered, you’ve persevered, you’ve sat in the emotional shit of starting a new chapter of your life all so you can be hard and guarded? To be too terrified to care about anyone again?

That’s no way to live. Out of all the difficult things we go through in life, no one really talks about the bravery required to open our hearts to people, after we’ve been hurt by those we loved.

Leading with an open heart is the truest act of bravery your soul can embark on.

Brave is not knowing if someone is feeling the way we are but telling them we’re all in anyways.

Brave is letting the door to our heart remain open even when someone’s run inside and fucked everything up.

Brave is knowing this might really hurt one day but realizing it might also be a beautiful gift.

Brave is believing the best in someone again.

Brave is giving someone our best again.

Brave is saying the words “I love you,” even though the thought of love nails knots down in the pit of our stomachs.

Brave is trusting someone with our story, not knowing if it’s too soon or too weighted down with pain for them to carry with us.

Brave is letting someone see our flaws, our beautiful scars.

Brave is saying “Hey, I’m here and I’m scared but you’re worth it.”

There’s nothing more amazing to see than someone who was knocked down, hard, and who got up, pulled it back together and shines even brighter, someone brave in the way they love.

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In Response To

Occasionally writers will create an article in response to another piece by another writer. For example, in my community, a journalist recently wrote about a tragic pitbull attack on an elderly woman where the woman was killed by the dog. The writer who reported the opinion piece believed the community needed to stand up and do something about vicious pitbulls. As you can imagine, pitbull lovers from all neighboring cities came out against this opinion and another writer wrote an article in response to the piece, taking the stance that it’s not the dog, it’s the owner. You get the idea.

I have come to the conclusion that I owe the world an article in response to something.

Let me set the stage for this.

My writing career started with an article about dating an older man and dispelling the judgments that surround age difference relationships. Through writing about a subject that, frankly, was never really talked about openly on the internet before, I received hundreds of emails in support and appreciation from young women that felt as though I was a pioneer for age gap love. In their eyes and in my own, I was making something traditionally taboo normal, through sharing the details of my relationship on the internet. I often felt like a fairy, sprinkling a little normalcy on a relationship outsiders typically turned their nose up to.

Five years after that first, deeply personal and honest article went live, I have allowed dozens of other deeply personal and intimate truths to slip from my fingertips and into the abyss of the world wide web. These articles have always been in favor of dating whomever makes you happy in this world, regardless of age.

My age difference relationship ended about seven months ago, after seven years together, and I have been having that out of body experience some do when they finally get out of the fog they have been living in and see things clearly.

I have to write an article in response to my own now, in response to age gap love being 100% normal and good.

The first basic thing you should know is I lied. Not completely but I rounded sharp edges, I polished the rust off the damaged spots of my life. I claimed to bare my heart for those reading along and see now, in hindsight, that I only told half the story.

In my defense, I have been wearing rose-colored glasses for the past seven years. I felt that I was being loyal to my boyfriend by not sharing everything, only the parts that made us look good, the parts that made our relationship look shiny. I never had an issue sharing my own personal troubles, my own personal flaws, but I felt this deep need to protect our relationship. To never expose anything that put a light on our bad qualities or the tension that lived behind our closed doors.

I want to be honest this time when I tell you that my relationship ended because of a lot of things. Jealousy, insecurity, abuse in a number of shapes and forms- vices, words, emotions, a lack of emotions, stress, coping skills, grief, hate, love and so on from us both, not just him and not just me but us as a unit. Part of me wants so badly to hold true to all those articles I wrote that said age didn’t matter. Part of me still wants to just let it lie, say it was all these things and not the age difference. Yet, I sit here knowing fully that I will never get myself into another relationship with an age gap.

As much as it pains me, I have to admit that the age difference was an issue and I have to be mature enough to say I was wrong.

Age does matter. At least in the demise of my relationship it did. And it will matter in all future relationships I embark on.

It matters in so many ways and can be tied into each and every other reason that I listed above. I won’t go through specific examples but I will say that being with someone who isn’t in your general age range is beyond hard.

I was just starting my life while my partner’s life was entering a season of calming down. I was headed to 8am business meetings while he was headed to a Monday free of obligations and schedules. I was walking toward marriage and babies while he was walking through the door to happy hour. I actually can’t believe I am saying this but it’s impossible to navigate life with someone who isn’t even on your metaphorical street. Not even the same neighborhood. Not even the same city.

And how sad for one of you to sacrifice for the other. For him to start over, or for me to never start. For one life to be forever altered by the other. Maybe that’s true love, I don’t know. I used to think so, I used to be willing to give up anything for the man I loved. My 28 year-old-self is really, truly glad that I didn’t give up, that there is still a lot of life ahead of me.

Don’t get me wrong, there where issues well beyond being in different life stages but today, I can easily see how age played a roll in all other issues. Either in the front seat, commanding complete attention, or quietly in the back, out of sight but never out of mind.

And there you have it. My truth today, different than it was 3 years ago, both authentic to my experiences at the time. How painful, beautiful and exciting it is to grow in your life, to see things from a different angle and to adjust accordingly instead of staying rooted in ways and lifestyles not meant for you.

 

Resolutions- 2017

2016 broke my heart and 2017 is going to heal it, folks. Not magically, by God sprinkling good happenings all over me but by my own decisions, actions and mindfulness moving into a new year. While last year was rough, I did learn a ton about myself. Emotional rock bottom does that to you right?!

So before going into a few resolutions for 2017, I want to reflect on some positives from 2016.

  1. I learned a simple, deeply moving, truth about myself that I will carry with me for the rest of my life: I can do hard things. I can do anything, even hard things. How much of our lives do we spend avoiding hard things? Think about this for a moment. We probably stay in awful jobs, toxic friendships, poor relationships, bad behaviors, negative thinking, addictions, etc because changing would be hard, really and truly hard. We, as humans, do so much to avoid pain, sadness, loneliness and the unknown. We go to great lengths to justify the bad in our lives so that we can avoid dealing with hard things that ultimately will lead us to a better life, all because we don’t realize how strong we really are. If no one has ever told you these words, let me be the first. You can do hard things. You are strong, you are never alone and you matter. You will be in pain but you will get through that pain by your own will and strength because you can do anything, even hard things. Don’t betray yourself another day by avoiding the hard things.
  2. Being a “people pleaser” is the worst way to live life. I learned this year that being consumed with the need to make everyone happy is just plain bullshit. I kid you not when I admit it took all 27 years of life for me to see this truth clearly. I have always had the mindset that doing what other people want is how you show them love. If you don’t know this about me personally then I am sure you know someone in your life that has this obnoxious way of thinking. They are the person that never speaks up for fear of making others unhappy, the person that doesn’t say “I want Mexican!” because you might want Italian and they want you to eat what you want or the person that wants to rent a movie after working all week but goes out every Friday night because they can’t say no to their friends or partner. If you are this person, STOP IT. Right now, today, this minute, STOP. Trying to please others is useless because half the time the person you’re pleasing has no idea you’re making an inner sacrifice and really doesn’t want you to anyways. You are the only loser in this lifestyle. Your relationships are sucking because you never address real issues, you’re getting fat off pasta (true living, in my opinion), you’re waking up with a lot of hangovers for no reason and you’re a walking ball of psycho anxiety wondering if everyone is living in harmony! You lose. You have to have a balance in life of being true to what you want, speaking up for yourself and going with the flow at times.
  3. God is love, love is God. Faith is needed to keep your heart afloat during tough times.

Now, for 2017, here are a few of my realistic resolutions.

  1. Be mindful. According to Mindful.Org, “We all have the innate ability to be present, composed, and to pause before we overreact to the challenges of our busy lives—and that’s the ground of mindfulness. With some guidance and training, mindfulness can develop into a way of living that brings greater focus and effectiveness as well as kindness and caring into everything we do. Both science and experience demonstrate how being mindful brings positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.” Someone told me this year that when you’re crying it is because of something in the past or something in the future upsetting you and to calm down be mindful of simply breathing in and out. I have done this a few times when I am upset, worried, anxious or overwhelmed and it’s helped me. I hope to explore mindfulness more this year and other simple exercises to be more present in the moment.
  2. Take the GRE. Hey, this is a real and achievable goal! I want to take the GRE in the spring and apply for the MFA Creative Writing Program at ODU in the fall. I have a degree in science and I have a great career so why not go back to school and study the craft I love? I am young and nervous to apply, nervous to put in all that time and effort but more afraid that if I don’t try, I will forever regret it. First step: take and pass the GRE.
  3. Quit buying useless stuff. Along with mindfulness, I have been reading a lot about minimalism. While I don’t plan to sell all my worldly possessions, live from two pairs of jeans and three shirts and never watch Netflix again, I do see a lot of value in buying less shit. I spend a lot of money on clothes and while I love fashion, having so many things makes them less meaningful. I often find stuff in my closet with tags on it, never worn and now of no interest to me. About a month ago I stopped buying clothes and it feels good to enjoy what I already have. I cut my cable package too, I was paying $19.99 for HBO when I might watch Game of Thrones once every three months. I cancelled my monthly Sephora beauty box subscription (that was hard) and started taking my dogs to daycare once a week instead of twice. I want to continue this in 2017, I want to be mindful of how I spend my money and aware of the clutter that surrounds me. I don’t need anymore things.
  4. More sunrises and sunsets out in the world and not from my bed. This will always be on my resolution list.

I could go on but those are my thoughts as we end 2016 and move into 2017. I pray everyone has a beautiful new years and the best 2017!

Resilience

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As summer comes to an end I have found my way back to my computer. 2016 has not been my year. 2016 has been filled with turmoil, sadness, grief and anxiety. There have been beautiful and joyful moments, don’t get me wrong, but overall this year has been the hardest I have faced.

This happens in life, right? Life is made of ups and downs and sometimes the downs last a long while. Oftentimes the storm lasts one day and other times you’re trying to see the sun 9 months later. The point is that you stay hopeful regardless.

This is me staying hopeful. This is me learning to be resilient. I keep thinking about wasted time. I am haunted by wasted days. Days eaten up by shedding an unnecessary tear, by arguing a meaningless fight, by worrying a over an irrelevant situation. This year I have spent hours on end with my stomach in knots of uncertainty. Where I once felt confidence, assurance and optimism, I now feel endless ambiguity. This change has left me tired and pessimistic.

I keep spending time mad at myself for letting this year take my joy and I have to let that go. If anything, my experiences this year can be seen as an opportunity to grow, a chance to become closer to God, whom I often lean on, and a time to truly focus on the good in life.

Have you ever heard the saying that the way to quiet your fears are to name your blessings? Trying times are exhausting but that is one way to keep things in perspective. It could be worse, it could be unbearable and for some people it is.

Through this year I have learned to deal with heartache, with situations that just don’t make sense, with feelings of indifference and with the inevitable trials that, frankly, weren’t part of the damn plan.

I have learned (read: barely) resilience. I think this year I have been shocked that times are not always great. Bad times come and they go and sometimes, they stay.

I know I am not alone in this rut, so many people all over the world deal with hardship. From the death of a loved one to a year in that uncomfortable grey fog of life, we have all been there and the good news is we all will survive.

So that is where I have been, in the grey. Tangled up in the uncertainty that comes with life’s ebbing tide.

Week Three Recap- Tone It Up Bikini Series

Week three is done!

Next week is the half way point and I think I will weigh myself then. I am not terribly concerned with how much weight I lose because I know the number doesn’t matter and it is about how you fit in your clothes but I figured I would check in with my progress at the halfway point. Shana cracked and couldn’t wait until the half way point and she’s lost weight! So that is encouraging and a nice boost to work harder and push even more.

Results are motivators and not only results on the scale. Although I haven’t weighed myself, I know things are changing for the better. My clothes fit better after only three weeks. I don’t feel bloated as often and the mirror is starting to reflect my hard work. My endurance is up, I am able to run further and take less breaks.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of work to do but I genuinely feel good after just 21 days.

So to dive into week 4, I am going to share some of my favorite fitness thingamajigs with you!

My Garmin Forerunner 225 Sport Watch

My (super wonderful) boyfriend bought me this watch about 4 years ago for my birthday and I have gone through phases of wearing it constantly to not seeing it for months however for the Tone It Up program, I couldn’t live without it. It comes with a heart rate monitor so you can truly see which type of workouts work for you as far as getting your heart rate up and burning calories. I burn the most calories doing spin and get excited after each workout to see how much I put out in the gym. It is also great for runners as its GPS feature tracks your run and tells you how far you’ve gone, how fast your miles are, etc. Plus it is comfortable and super easy to use. Mine is so old they don’t sell it anymore but this one looks similar, if I ever upgrade mine I am going right for the purple one!

Frank Body Coffee Scrub

I love Frank Body and have officially justified my purchasing of excessive coffee scrubs because K & K told me too. Coffee scrubs smooth out your skin, help with cellulite and are a great way to relax after a week of busting your ass. I like to take a bubble bath, relax, read and do one of these amazing scrubs before getting out. My personal favorite is the Peppermint Coffee Scrub.

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This Nasty Ass Sweat Wrap

This thing is gross in the best way possible. Wear it around your waist during you cardio routine and you’ll sweat actual bullets. I love to sweat during a workout and so this wrap, weirdly named sweet sweat, is my new bestie.

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This Pep-Start Morning Eye Cream

This list is getting strange, you probably thought I was going to recommend some cool running shoes and here I am talking about beauty products. I can’t help it. These 4:30am workouts occasionally (read- always) have me looking a little haggard and exhausted. This eye cream is my saving grace before work. It hydrates, replenishes, tightens and gets rid of dark circles. Try it, come back and thank me.

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These DELISH Sweet Tater Chips

Sometimes ya girl just needs a damn chip and I am pretty sure (I might be making this up) I read on one of the 5,000 TIU document pages that if you must eat a chip, make it a sweet potato chip. Did anyone else read that? Well, I only eat half the little bag, before 3 pm and the ingredients are: Sweet Potatoes, Sea Salt, and Sunflower Seed Oil. That is it! I buy these at Starbucks every once in a while and they are strange when eaten while drinking iced coffee, just FYI.

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Ok those are my current obsessions, what are yours!?

Week Two Recap: Tone It Up Bikini Series

Two weeks down in the 8-week Tone It Up Bikini Series!

This week was pretty uneventful. I am happy to report my pants all made it through my workouts, crotches intact!

Here are my week two thoughts-

Food

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I have really been off the exact meal plan because I am a creature of habit. I only eat TIU approved ingredients and portion sizes, I just make the same things a lot.

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Here is my typical day food-wise: for breakfast I have the egg white muffins loaded with veggies and a side of fruit or a protein pancake which I have officially mastered making. For my first snack I have celery with almond butter or a PB protein ball (crack balls) with a small piece of fruit. For lunch I have leftovers from whatever I made for dinner which might be a little bit of quinoa topped with chicken or shrimp, veggies and hot sauce. Or I will make a salad although I really tried to love kale but simply hate it (has anyone tried baby kale? Looks like spinach but tastes like shit- wtf). For my after lunch snack (or M4 as the TIU community calls it) I always have olive hummus and cucumber, my favorite. For dinner, I stick to lean protein and veggies. After dinner I have a cup of coffee and sometimes dark chocolate or another approved desert.

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Side thought-

I have read time and time again in the program that this is all to serve as a guide so I am tweaking it to fit me. Sometimes I feel like that means I am not totally in but most times I feel like I am creating a lifestyle I enjoy and know will last beyond the 8-weeks.

Workouts

I flew solo most of the week because my TIU bud was sick! Shana spent the beginning of the week on the couch, covered in snot, while describing her phlegm situation to me in way too much detail. By the end of the week she was back in the gym with me kicking ass.

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On Thursday, after getting to work I was sitting at my desk doing not a damn thing and felt a sharp pain in my back. Apparently (according to my chiropractor) I pulled a muscle in my upper back so that caused me to take my work out on Friday easy. By Saturday I was back to normal although it was a rough 24 hours for my body. PLUS Shana attempted to share her sickness with me but my immune system told it to kick rocks so I only battled a sore throat for a few days at the end of the week.

I have a love hate relationship with the videos. I have to watch them the night before or else it just becomes too frustrating to follow along at the gym. I did achieve my goal of getting to the gym earlier this week.

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Misc-

The TIU community is all over insta and I have become slightly addicted to posting pictures of our food/workouts and general shenanigans on IG (Come visit! IG Name- TIU_VB_BikiniBabes). K & K pick a few accounts each week to win prizes and I am determined to WIN.

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The War Within Words

Words are everything in my world.

They comprise the books I love reading after a draining day at work. They fill pages after pages of stories that take me from where I am and launch me into another world, someone else’s world. They stand as an open door luring me into an unknown escape. They don’t rush me or hurry me along, they wait patiently on me to crack the spine of the weathered book they lie dormant in and come alive until my eyes are heavy and I am lulled into sleep.

They are my own personal solace for when I am feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed, indifferent, angry, and all emotions in-between. They willingly fly from my fingertips onto a page. Relief crashing over me like the feeling of finding someone I thought was lost. They bring me peace and comfort. When my emotions overcome me I run to my computer or my journal. I blindly write until that need, that nagging itch, is satisfied.

They shine light into the closed off room of my heart, they explain what I sometimes can’t when talking. They make me bare, translucent almost. They pull venerability from my heart and they make me brave and confident. They help others to understand me and they oftentimes help me to understand myself.

They help people from different ends of the world come together in similar thoughts, feelings and situations. The unite us all. They sometimes hit us just right and the feeling of being alone fades away as we find there is someone else that understands us.

And some sad times, hopefully seldom times, they crush me. They hurt me. They are cruel and mean and they fire out from the mouth of someone who doesn’t cherish words the way I do. They rip me to shreds, these words. Horrible words that come from the beautiful language I cherish so dearly. The fact they can go from everything I enjoy about my small little world to the weapon that breaks my heart, ultimately does just that, it breaks me.

Then I do the unthinkable. I use them to hurt others as well. I lash out, I think of the meanest words possible and sometimes I say them. Other times I beg the person I am screaming with not to say them, always aware of the power they hold.

What’s worse is that they stay with you. Loving words flee quickly, easily taken for granted, but the ugly ones always stay. They permanently do, even when I think I’ve let them float away. These words are ones I can’t stand. They stick all over my body like leeches. I try to rip them off, I try to move on but I can’t. They suffocate me and they suck the love right from me. They vibrate through my mind for weeks after. I feel their weight on me. I feel other people’s eyes on them covering me. I hate these words.

And yet, I love them, they are magical in all their power. I have always loved them and will always love them and part of that means willingly taking the bad words with the good. The kind words with the cruel and the loving words with the hateful ones. I am reminded to pick my own words more carefully, for I can create love with words, or hate.

 

Week One Recap: Tone It Up Bikini Series

Well, one week down in the Tone It Up Bikini Series program.

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Overall, the food prep is down right tiring. Initially, I was trying to follow the meal plan exactly as laid out. If the plan said protein pancakes, I made pancakes, if it said egg frittatas, I was making them. I won’t be doing that from now on. I am a creature of habit and sometimes I like variety but mostly, I like what I like. For instance, I am not a fan of eating slices of avocado. One morning the breakfast was two egg muffins (this is not their TIU name but what I have come to call them. I don’t plan to type out Springtime Egg Frittatas every time I mention them), sliced avocado, and a slice of dry Ezekiel bread. Instead, I smashed up the avocado, spread it on bread, topped it with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, chia seeds and one small over medium egg. Another example, I don’t like smoothies unless someone else is making them. I hate washing a blender and I love coffee so it becomes strange to me when I am drinking a breakfast smoothie and drinking a coffee (am I alone in this?). No breakfast smoothies for me.

Now that I understand all the food the program pushes, I am kind of doing my own thing with the ingredients while also trying out all the new recipes that I know I will enjoy. I eat 5 times a day, I eat the right portions, I am getting used to wrapping everything in a raw collard green and I am having vino withdraws so I think I am doing everything right. Despite that, the foods K&K push in this program do one very important thing. They give you energy, make you feel good and since committing to them, I feel better in just one week.

I have been healthy my whole life. My dad was a body builder and still is crazy when it comes to health and wellness. Ice cream, cookies, sugary cereal and all that good stuff was not food you would find in my home growing up. I know how to eat healthy and I often do because I have low energy and need nutrient rich food to get me through my day. If I went out to lunch and ate mashed potatoes and chicken fingers I would literally slump over asleep at my desk an hour later.

Lately though, I have been slacking. I eat good 80% of the time but give in 20% of the time to my boyfriend who eats stuffed french toast, an entire container of Oreos and popeyes fried chicken every time his heart desires, which is often. And of course, he has like 10% body fat, a rock hard bod and zero problem areas (why God, why?).

Sticking with this meal plan and way of eating is keeping me honest. I am motivated by the fact that Shana is doing it alongside me and helping me cook and try new recipes. My boyfriend is also on board, waiting until I fall asleep to eat all the chocolate mini doughnuts and cheering me on constantly.

As far as working out, my only complaint is that the workouts are often in the form of a video and it is just weird to watch a video through my cellphone while at the gym. I can’t hear anything or see really when I am standing up and I find it frustrating. This week, I plan to solve that problem by watching the videos the night before and writing the routine down. Another thing I personally have an issue with is feeling guilty that I only have 45 minutes in the morning instead of one hour. My goal for next week is to be at the gym at 5am instead of 5:15 so I can get the full hour before 6am. This means moving my wakeup time from 4:45am to 4:30am and my little yorkie Max, who hates waking up in the morning, is not going to be happy.

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Just to wrap this post up I have to tell you all this surreal and embarrassing moment I had this week at the gym, so we can end on a laugh together, at my expense. Shana and I were doing the HIIT cardio video which includes jumping squats, burpees and all things hellish. At the end of the workout I was stretching and mid butterfly stretch I looked down and realized the entire crotch of my pants had ripped, and not recently, most likely at the beginning of my workout. I am assuming the material just blew out from the friction of my thighs rubbing while I was kicking some serious ass haha. What is really horrifying is that I don’t usually wear underwear when working out (TMI?) because it is just too many layers and there’s no point. So I am basically doing the butterfly stretch naked at this point, in a public gym. DEAD. Luckily, I don’t think anyone saw but that was a very interesting way to begin my Thursday.

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On Saturday I went out and bought new, heavy duty, workout pants.

Check back in with me next week for my week two update!

 

Getting Started- Tone It Up Bikini Series with K&K

Confession #1- I am very far from my goal of total health and wellness, please add me to the list of hundreds of thousands of other women who are in the same boat (sigh).

Confession #2- Body image is my least favorite thing to write about. I despise it so much that I have only ever written about it once and in that essay, I was able to steer mostly clear of my own opinion of my body.

I am prepared to just be honest about it. I am in this weird grey area of feeling unhappy with certain features of my body but, overall, the drive to love myself in my own skin and appreciate all my body does for me keeps me from speaking negatively about myself. Unless you are my boyfriend or my best friend, then you’d hear it all.

I feel this way because I hear and read so much body negativity from women about themselves. Conversations with the women in my life and within the honest articles I read are consumed with comments about poor body image. Maybe I hate how much I can relate to these comments and articles.

First off, I am extremely healthy. If you know me personally, you are probably annoyed by the ultra-healthy way I order a cheeseburger at a restaurant. “No bun please, no cheese also, can you wrap it in lettuce?” “Does that sauce have any dairy in it? Can I get broccoli instead of fries? Can you make sure there isn’t butter on the broccoli?” I am that customer.

I also workout often, between 3-4 times a week at 5am. I walk my dogs most evenings, I love learning about nutrition, I love buying fresh, local fruits and veggies, I love to cook healthy and I genuinely prefer a salad over fried chicken, much to my boyfriend’s horror.

Yet, I have always been slightly overweight. Not enough for the doctor to say something or for my pant size to increase over the years but enough for me to honestly feel uncomfortable most days.

This uncomfortable feeling has driven me to spend thousands over the years on personal trainers, nutritionists and gym memberships. I have cried countless tears of frustration and sincerely attempted to push myself to see past 10 extra pounds to the land of unconditional love for my body.

Long story short, nothing helps. I am one of those women who work out like crazy and eat well only to maintain weight, rarely shedding even one or two pounds. Some days I am sad over this, others I embrace a little extra curve and then some days I say what the hell and have tacos and wine.

Lately though, I have been having more bad days than good when it comes to my body image.  I am at the point where something has to change. I need to stop focusing on the negative and I need to be stronger, mentally and physically.

My goals aren’t to be a size zero or not have a roll when I bend over to put my shoes on. My goal is simple, I just want to feel good in my skin.

So, I am focusing on having fun and feeling great. I am not one for workout videos or beach bod programs but I decided to join my best friend and try one this spring, which is what I wrote this article to tell you.

I am following along with the Tone It Up girls, Karena and Katrina on their 8-week bikini program and it started Monday. I have always been skeptical of programs like this, feeling as though they are ineffective and expensive. I want to bring you along through this experience, because you might be like me, always curious to if these programs work and how realistic they are.

Here is the quick and dirty of the program so far-

I spent $192 for the program. This got me a little gift bag of random things (Shana is particularly excited about this part of the deal haha), hundreds and hundreds of pages of recipes, workouts, workout videos, tips, tricks and an 8-week specific meal plan and workout plan.

Meal prep was supposed to be done Sunday but I was very sick and unable to go shopping or cook so I started a day behind. I cooked a lot on Monday (I had a mental health holiday) and it was exhausting as hell. Egg white muffins, protein pancakes, quinoa up the ass, $150 bucks on veggies and fruits (did you know pine nuts are like 5 bucks a handful!?) and three grocery stores later, I was falling out.

But I did it, Tuesday night Shana helped chop everything in our fridge and we have been up at 5am working out. It has only been a few days of all this so I am going to check back in with you next week but so far, I am actually having fun. Mainly because Shana and I are in it together, I am not going to hate myself if it doesn’t drastically change me and I am comforted by my simple goal of feeling good in my skin.

So follow along with me! 8 full weeks of working out in some way every single day and eating food that is good for your mind and body.  Are you doing the program too? Tell me everything, keep me honest and help me stay sane with only 1-2 glasses of wine twice a week!

A Meaningless Moment

Bright, blinding white walls with florescent light bouncing off them surround me like a cold chill. I feel the only way a 17 year old girl possibly can during an impromptu visit to a sterile and agonizingly slow doctor’s office. Bored out of my mind.

I ponder the irritating truth of doctor office visits in my mind as the clock tic tocs pass my imaginary appointment time.

“Why does the staff trick you into thinking that because you’re being called back into this room, out of the waiting room, that you’re going to be seen on time?” I mutter to my dad, the center of my teen angst and mastermind behind this inconvenient appointment.

“I planned to go to the beach today Dad, you totally destroyed my plans,” I state.

“Are you even listening to me?!” I add, my voice rising as my very short tolerance is peaked.

My dad ignores me. He isn’t listening. He is a precautious man and he currently can’t be pulled from the hamster wheel of worry going on in his mind about his one and only child.

My dad sits quietly in the corner of the patient room with his brow furrowed and his head in his hands. His dark hair is disheveled and his pants are dirty from a morning of working outside. He remains silent but lets out an exhausted sigh as if to push the concern out physically from within him.

He looks small to me in this moment. A typically domineering man at six foot two, he seems to have shrunk under the weight of his thoughts. I don’t ask him what is wrong. He is annoying me today, like most other days before this particular one. From my spot on the tissue paper lined examination bed, I dramatically roll my eyes at him and go back to picking at the blue nail polish coming off my thumb nail.

We are at the doctors on this particular day because last week we were on a glamourous cruise ship, floating in the sun across the Atlantic Ocean when my dad noticed a small black mole on my left forearm during breakfast. His worrisome mind kicked into high gear as he aggressively asked me when this mole popped up. I didn’t have an exact answer for him, although I did remember noticing its very inky black color a few months earlier.

My dad’s mind instantly jumped to skin cancer, a faraway island that my own young, careless and carefree mind couldn’t wash ashore on. A few years earlier my mother, then 40, found out she had skin cancer and my dad had since paid very close attention to the size and shape of moles he saw on us. He didn’t like what he was seeing. The day after we returned home, he strong armed us into the doctors, refusing to let a booked schedule stop him.

Twenty minutes after our appointment time, the Doctor lightly knocked and slowly opened the door. He timidly smiled in the way that people do when they know they’ve kept you waiting. “Finally,” I thought, picturing myself actually leaving this dreaded appointment and running off to the beach, like I had planned, with my friends on this sunny and unusually warm, late April day.

“I don’t think we need to remove this,” the doctor’s voice boomed, cracking through my salty daydream.

I was instantly brought back into reality as I watched the exchange between my father and the now, suddenly confident, doctor.

My dad looked at him firmly, ready to do battle on my behalf, “you will remove this,” he said, as if it was a real and true fact.

A few stern exchanges later, my dad informed the Doctor he was not willingly leaving the office until this mole was removed from my arm and the Doctor exhaustedly conceded. 5 minutes later he mole was removed. 15 minutes later I was driving away, windows down, already calling my best friend to hurriedly get my afternoon started.

Ten years later, the feeling that overcomes me when I think about that appointment is ultimately that I felt nothing. The innocence of my own mind wasn’t able to probe into the chance that this one, hour long, inconvenient and chilly doctor’s appointment would change my life forever. Yet, ultimately, it did just that.

Two days later I got the call that I needed to go back immediately to the doctor. The results of my biopsy came back. “Melanoma,” the doctor whispered through the phone.