Lessons From 25

Today is the last day of the first quarter century of my life.

 

That’s a fancy way of saying that tomorrow is my 25th birthday.  In the spirit of my burgeoning maturity, I am not freaking the hell out over it – instead, I’m reflecting on the past 25 years. 

What has gone well…

Where I can improve…

How far God has brought me…

How richly I have been blessed…

What I want to make out of the next 25 years…

Who I am, and who I want to be…

And what kind of wrinkle cream I should be using…

Turns out, in 25 years, you can screw up a hell of a lot. I mean, you can really jack things up.  But by the grace of God, you can learn a lot from those mistakes.  The older I get, the better I get at learning from those mistakes.

The older I get, the better I get at sharing those lessons.  Or maybe I’ve always been good at sharing lessons.  As the oldest of four, it comes with the territory.

Either way, here you go.  Any questions, and you can find me knee deep in chocolate cake and bourbon until Wednesday morning.

birthday cake

LESSONS FROM 25
  1. Appreciate top shelf whiskey, but never turn your nose up at good old Jack.
  2. Know how and when to say “F*ck.” Used well, it can be powerful.  Used wrong, it can make you sound powerful stupid.
  3. A guy you meet in a bar will treat you like the kind of girl he picked up in a bar.
  4. Master the basics before you start getting fancy. It goes for everything, be it weightlifting or running or cooking or kissing.
  5. Take control of where you spend your time, and you’ll take control of your life.
  6. Go to bed earlier than you think you need to. (You can thank me in the morning.)
  7. Hair is just hair. Go ahead and cut it/dye it/change it up.  You can always grow it out/dye it back.
  8. Being fat is not the end of the world.
  9. Being skinny will not automatically make you happy.
  10. Being strong is something you will never regret.
  11. Wear gym shorts that actually cover the full surface area of your asscheeks. No one looks sexy pulling their shorts out of their ass mid-workout.
  12. Netflix and productivity are arch enemies – choose sides wisely.
  13. Struggle and suffering are happen to everyone. Some people choose to let themselves be broken, other use them to make themselves better.  It’s a choice, and you get to make it.
  14. Make time to read something of substance for at least 10 minutes a day.
  15. Sing often, and loudly, and not just in the shower.
  16. It is good to slow down once in awhile. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.”   – Psalm 23:2-3, KJV
  17. Stop wearing flip flops and invest in quality shoes.
  18. If you can’t afford a great sports bra, wear two decent ones at once. Snug as a bug.
  19. Think like a victim, and you’ll make yourself a victim.
  20. You can accomplish more than you think you can accomplish.
  21. Knowing how to break down a scientific study will save you from a lot of broscience and bullshit.
  22. Recognize and celebrate your own accomplishments and those of the people around you.
  23. Good manners will take you farther than charm.
  24. Aim to always be a beginner in something in your life – it means you’re constantly challenging yourself to learn something new.
  25. Stand for something, and fight for it with all you’ve got.

And if you have any recommendations for wrinkle cream…I’m all ears.

sparklers

Tell me…

What are a couple of the best one-sentence lessons you’ve learned so far?

Favorite birthday memory?

What It’s REALLY Like To Work In A Gym [VLOG]

I’m not sure how many of yall have worked in a gym before, but it’s definitely a different kind of atmosphere.  

I love it.  

There is nothing like being able to “talk shop” with your coworkers about things that actually interest you, rather than trying to find ways to stretch pitiful office gossip into enough conversation to last a full 8-hour shift.

And on top of that, it’s physically freeing.  Instead of being trapped at a desk or behind a counter all day, I get paid to run around in a huge gym all day long.  It’s like recess in elementary school, except it lasts all day long.

But as with any job, there are parts of it that I don’t love.  For instance, the mainstream fitness industry can very easily promote disordered diet and exercise practices, as well as general obsession with body image.  The “fitspiration” vibe can be strong, you know?

Last week I got started on the topic of the fitness industry with a vlog about how a personal trainer’s body plays into his credibility, and this week, I’m continuing with another vlog.  This is actually a topic I’m planning to cover more over the coming months, so for now I’m taking a bit of a broader view.

As always, I’d love to hear your input on the subject.  Please feel free chime in below!

Tell me…

What sort of messages do the trainers you know promote regarding body image?

Regardless of profession, do you have any gray areas where your personal life and work overlap?  

If you’re a trainer or have ever worked at a gym, how has your experience been with training (clients) and training (yourself) at the same facility?

Dimples, Part II [What Can You Do About Cellulite?]

Last week, I told yall about how I recently realized that I have cellulite.

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No worries, I’m in good company. Roughly 95% of women have cellulite to some degree.  And yes, even men can get cellulite, although it’s much less common.

So why do so many women have cellulite, and why do men seem to get off easy in this department?

Science, bruh.

See, cellulite is the result of fat, in that cellulite merely describes a certain appearance of fatty tissue.   In other words, fat does not cause cellulite.  There are a number of factors that contribute to cellulite [see more here], but the heart of the issue seems to be…

structure.

Women’s skin differs from that of men in a few ways , but one of the primary differences is in the structure of our fat stores.  In this case, we are focusing on subcutaneous fat, which is the fat beneath the skin (as opposed to visceral fat which is packed between/around organs in the abdominal cavity).

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Subcutaneous fat is stored in cells called adipocytes, which are organized beneath the skin in vertical chambers.  These chambers have walls that are made of connective tissues called septa.  Here’s where things get interesting:

cellulite skin structure

In men, the septa form an X-shaped pattern, much like a chain link fence.  This oblique structure is sturdy and does not easily break down even when adipocytes increase in size or number (fat gain) and put excess pressure on the septa (connective tissue “walls”).

In women, the septa form vertical walls.  This vertical structure is prone to collapse when adipocytes increase in size or number, or even when cells swell from fluid retention.

These differences in fat structure are compounded by a few things.

fat stores.

Not only are women made to carry more fat than men, but they store their body fat in different locations [see more here].  Female fat deposits tend to be in the breasts, hips, thighs, bum and around the uterus – in other words, locations that support fertility.  Male fat storage tends to be more evenly distributed all over with excess fat accumulating in the abdominal region (think visceral fat, or a “beer belly”).  Having more total body fat, with more of it localized in the butt/hip/leg area, and weaker structures for the fat storage chambers, makes it so that women have a much greater chance of developing cellulite than men.   Excess body fat can certainly exacerbate cellulite, but it does not cause it.

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lack of collagen.

As we age, our bodies produce less collagen.  For many women, cellulite becomes more present as they get older – this is why!  Some people, regardless of age, struggle to produce sufficient collagen for their bodies, and dietary/supplemental collagen becomes increasingly important for overall skin/joint/tissue health.  That lack of collagen also makes it easier for cellulite to make an appearance.

genetics.

Just as some folks are genetically predisposed to have narrow feet, blue eyes, long legs, straight hair, or big breasts, some are genetically predisposed to have more cellulite.  Weaker septa (the connective tissue that forms the chambers in which fat cells are stored), less collagen, and greater propensity towards fluid retention can all be genetic factors that contribute to cellulite.  While your lifestyle choices and resulting body fat levels can certainly affect the degree to which those genes are expressed, genetic individuality dictates that cellulite will be more apparent for some people than for others, regardless of body fat levels.  [See more here.]

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So now that we’ve gone over why we have cellulite, you might be wondering what can be done about it.

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Well, the good news is that there are a number of things you can do to improve the appearance of cellulite.

For those who have cellulite and also are obese or overweight, losing fat (decreasing your body fat percentage) can greatly help with the appearance.  Less fat means smaller fat cells means less pressure on the septa forming those fat storage chambers beneath the skin.

[In the case of obesity + cellulite, it’s important to remember that the focus should first and foremost be health, i.e. a safe body fat percentage.  Cellulite, or lack thereof, comes much further down the list of priorities.]

Additionally, increasing collagen can be helpful if you are low on collagen.  If you are over the age of 35 or experiencing any kind of chronic joint pain, you may fall into this category.  Aim to consume more dietary sources of collagen – such as gelatin, bone broth, and eggs – as well as increasing consumption of foods with vitamin C, which protects against the breakdown of collagen.  Collagen supplements can also be helpful (these are both good options).

For a temporary fix, some cellulite-reducing creams can reduce the appearance of cellulite by stimulating the outermost layer of skin to plump up, fill out, and appear smoother.  A spray tanner or one of those gradual sunless tanning lotions can also make cellulite less visible.

There’s one final tactic that a lot of folks overlook, although it’s the most effective in the long run.  It might seem a bit radical, but it does work if you’re willing to commit to it:

Decide that you won’t let a few dimples on your ass take away from your self confidence, your appreciation of your body, or your enjoyment of life.  

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In case I haven’t made it clear, that is indeed my own bum up there, cellulite and stretch marks and all.  When I walked out in ill-fitting bikini bottoms and asked her to take photos of my ass, still indented with the pattern of our patio furniture, my friend thought I was a little crazy.  And when I added, “a make sure to get the lighting that really shows off my cellulite,” she thought I was absolutely batshit crazy.

Frankly, a year ago, would have thought I was crazy.  Today, though, I’m laughing about it.  Do I love every dimple? Nope, not by a long shot.  But I appreciate my body for all that it does and all it enables me to do…and most of the time, those imperfections don’t stay on my radar long enough to bother me.

Take it from someone who spent the majority of her life despising her body and trying to beat every imperfection into airbrushed submission: It’s a losing battle.  You will wreck either your body or your mind, or both.  That’s not to say you can’t change things about your body for the sake of health or personal preference, but that should also come with embracing the human body for what it is.

Amazing, yes, and also imperfect.

A gift, yes, and also a responsibility.

Beautiful, yes, and sometimes funny-looking.

And when you do that – when you accept the parts of yourself that may be perfectly healthy but not necessarily perfect-looking – you are so free in so many ways.

Free to slap on a bikini and go rock the hell out of it, dimply thighs and derriere be damned.

Free to laugh as you edit photos not to decrease the appearance of cellulite on your ass, but to really highlight it before you put it on the internet.

Free to put your mental energy towards matters far more pressing than the structure of your fat storage chambers and resulting texture of your thighs.

So here comes the tough love:

Your life and your worth are about so much more than the size of your thighs or the dimples that may decorate them.  If you are blessed enough to have a body that is physically well and whole, don’t you dare tell me that the rippled texture of your ass is somehow keeping you from being happy or living life to the fullest.  If dimples in your skin is your biggest problem, count yourself lucky.  And if cellulite is what’s holding you back, it’s not your ass that needs fixing, it’s your attitude.

***

Tell me…

Do you ever feel like insecurities about your body hold you back somehow?

What’s something you can appreciate your body right now?

More food for thought…Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get The Hell Over It (from GoKaleo)

Body Image In The Fitness Industry [VLOG]

A couple of questions have been rolling around in my head lately, and I would love to hear what yall think:

Does a personal trainer’s credibility hinge upon the shape and appearance of his/her body?

Over the years, I’ve changed my tune.  Sharing more in vlog form today:

More food for thought:

Do You Have To Be Ripped To Be A Personal Trainer? by Jonathan Goodman.
I stumbled across his article literally five minutes after deciding to post about this topic – serendipity, much? – and it’s fantastic.  Worth a read no matter if you’re a personal trainer or have never set foot in a gym.

Chime in with a comment below and let me know your thoughts on the subject!

Surprise #StagSwag Giveaway!

Raise your hand if you love surprises…

fat baby hands in the air

love surprises.

But….I don’t love being on the receiving end.  Being surprised is not my favorite thing.  It may be is definitely due to the fact that I was given a surprise party for my 18th birthday, and it was the worst party I’ve ever been to.  My mother – God bless her – invited a grand total of 3 people: my best friend from kindergarten, my best friend from my old high school, and a guy who was basically an ex-boyfriend that I had not spoken to in nearly a year.

Oh, but here’s the kicker: It was a sleepover.

To say it was was the most awkward 16 hours of my life would be an understatement. 

I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.

So to be more accurate, I love giving surprises.  In keeping with that, and my general spirit of magnanimity, I wanted to give yall a surprise.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Yall have no idea how grateful I am for your readership.  Knowing that you read and hearing your feedback and seeing yall sharing posts (seeing your work shared is a writer’s love language) makes this so much fun.  And when I hear that a post has made someone laugh so hard they literally wet their pants (true story) or touched them so deeply that they wept (true story) makes all of this absolutely worth it.

So to say “Thanks a million!” yall are getting a giveaway! STAG GIVEAWAY PHOTO KAYTE

The past couple months, I’ve been working with Jess and the STAG team, blogging about The Bachelorette each week.  It has been such a fun collaboration, with plenty of moments watching TV and wearing pajamas and thinking “How cool is it that this is my job?”  And it’s been a ton of fun to hear everyone’s feedback, even from some of the contestants on the show (thank you, Twitter, for making those connections possible!).  To celebrate that collaboration as well as give back to yall who have been continually visiting my little corner of the internet, I’ll be giving one reader the STAG tee/tank of her (or his) choice.

Check out all the options over at the STAG shop!

You can do any of the following to enter the giveaway…The more entries you complete, the greater your chances of winning!

*** UPDATE: Diane was the lucky winner…congrats, Diane! Giveaway is now closed – thank you to all who participated, and keep an eye out for the next giveaway. ***

Be sure to leave a comment for each entry that you complete.

  • Tell me which STAG tee or tank you’d love to rock for the Monday night finale!
  • Subscribe to Eat Pray Lift using the “Follow” button in the left sidebar.
  • Follow me (@maggiegetsreal) on Twitter.
  • Follow STAG (@letsgostag) on Twitter.
  • Tweet a link to this giveaway.  Be sure to include direct link to your tweet in your comment.
  • Tweet the link to your favorite Bachelorette recap (see them all HERE) to Chris Harrison (@chrisbharrison).  Be sure to include direct link to your tweet in your comment.  Yes, seriously, tweet it to him.

The giveaway will run from now until midnight PST on Sunday 7.26.2015, and I’ll choose a winner at random on Monday morning!  Giveaway is open to US readers only (sorry to the cluster of yall in Germany that keep reading…If I buy you a beer when I finally make it over there, can we still be friends?).

And with that…may the odds be ever in your favor!

STAG GIVEAWAY COLLAGE

Disclaimer: Wine not included….

Dimples: A Story About My Ass

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my parents and ended up working out at a different gym than my normal location.  It’s always kind of fun to get to visit a new “playground” and see what it has to offer.  Well, this gym happened to offer some really stellar fluorescent lighting, the likes of which are normally reserved for prison showers and the interrogation rooms at Guantanamo.

It just so happened that I was wearing shorts when I visited that gym, and I happened to look in the full-length mirrors that covered 60% of the walls, and it turns out that that exquisite fluorescent lighting really highlighted my curves.

The curves in my skin, to be exact.

Particularly my legs and ass.

Cellulite, yall.

[Brace yourselves for terrible-quality, unflattering photos of my rear end.  In my defense, it’s really hard to photograph your own ass, especially in prison lighting.]

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It was a moment of reckoning – I realized that I have cellulite

At the risk of sounding like a douchecanoe, I’ll be honest – this really upset me.  Not because I think that cellulite is a big deal, but because I had never known that I had it.  Does that sound completely naiive?  I know that something like 90% of women have some degree of cellulite somewhere on their body, and I know plenty of absolutely gorgeous women whose thighs and hips are delicately (or not so delicately!) dimpled.  They are beautiful, and the presence of cellulite does nothing to diminish that.  And yes, in all honesty, there had been fleeting moments between undressing and jumping into a hot shower that I thought maybe I had seen a small flicker of dimples across the widest part of my hips.  But I chalked it up to the bathroom lighting and the taking-off-sweaty-yoga-pants shimmy I was doing at the moment, and hopped in the shower.  Hot water would wash away both sweat and thoughts of yet another body flaw with which to do battle, and any worries about cellulite disappeared in a cloud of steam and shower serenades.

But under that glorious mortuary-inspired lighting, cellulite showed itself in all its rippling glory.  On my body.  And this time, there was no way to convince myself otherwise.  This was not a smattering of dimples…it was the real-deal.

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And I was mortified.

Now, I am not a skinny person by any means, but I also know that I’m very fit compared to the general population.  My body fat lies below the “acceptable” range, sitting squarely in the “fit” category.  (Again, don’t be deceived, I am fit and thick.) And for all the years I have spent berating and battling my own body for every real or imagined shortcoming I could find, cellulite never made the list.  It was something that was not on my radar, and one of the few body-issues that I had never worried about.  I knew I hadn’t done anything to prevent cellulite, but I figured that lump-free legs were one of the few aesthetic qualities with which I had been “naturally blessed.”

And yet, here I was, staring at my reflection and contending with the fact that there was yet another way that my body was not good enough.   

As that reality sank in, I turned around, trying to appraise the landscape of my lower body from every angle.
What is wrong with me?
What did I do wrong, and how can I fix it?
Why did this happen to me?

And those questions rolled through my mind as I began my workout, and I found myself sneaking glances in the mirror, half hoping that some new angle would reveal that the dimply terrain of my ass had been the product of poorly-hung mirrors and prison lighting.

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It was a false hope.

I have cellulite. 

As the minutes passed by, I focused more on my workout and less on the mirror.  Eventually, I accidentally caught my reflection in the middle of a kettlebell swing.  I saw a body that would be photoshopped beyond recognition if it were to be placed in front of a magazine editor.  I saw flesh that bounced and wiggled in the most unladylike ways.  I saw legs that are embarrassingly pale but stubbornly strong.  I saw spider veins and stretch marks and scars, but also defined quads and calves.  I saw sweat and worn out sneakers and tenacity, and I saw cellulite, and I saw a cheeky little smile.

You know why I was smiling?

Because I was moving my body and loving it. 

Those dimples decorating my ass couldn’t stop me from moving and using my body to participate in activities that thrill me.  Those dimples did not detract from the worth of my workout, nor my enjoyment of it.  Those dimples did not detract from my sense of humor, my intellect, my spicy attitude, or my passionate spirit.  Those dimples did not – Hey, Mum and Dad? Yall may not want to read this part – detract from how much guys appreciate my ass.

And then it was time for another moment of reckoning.

Yes, I have cellulite.
And that doesn’t change a damn thing.

I’m healthy.  I’m happy.  I enjoy using my body, and I enjoy how it looks.  My body fat is well within the normal range, I’m strong, and my cardiovascular fitness is…well, it’s slowly improving.

There are far too many issues of far more importance in this world to spend my time worrying over some dimples on my donk.  And the same goes for everyone else.  Even if you are morbidly obese, I still don’t think you should worry about cellulite.

Your health? Yes.
Your heart? Yes.
Your joints? Yes.
Your body fat? Yes. 

The texture of your ass? Not really a priority

Fighting these “flaws” – which have no bearing on our overall health, physical fitness, talents, passions, contributions to society, or value as humans – is exhausting.  It does not enhance our lives or increase what we are able to offer the world.

So you know, cellulite ain’t the end of the world.

In fact, it’s pretty damn normal. 

So, yes, I have cellulite.

But that doesn’t really change a thing. 

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And you, amigo?  Is your body completely free of lumps and bumps, or does it have a few extra dimples here and there?

Doesn’t change a damn thing.

***

When it come to the state of the flesh in which we live, what if we stopped worrying about whether we have cellulite – or wrinkles or scars or stretch marks or anything of that sort – and put more thought into answering questions like these?

How healthy is my body?
What does it enable me to do?
How well does it function?
How is my cardiovascular system working?
Am I strong?
Am I fast?
How’s my stamina?
How am I enjoying my workouts?
How am I challenging my body?
How am I nourishing my body?
How many reasons do I have to be grateful for my body?

And, you know, people always think it’s cute when folks have dimples in their smile.

Maybe the right ones will even find dimples on your ass to be kind of cute, too.

A-Z Survey

[First of all, sending up prayers for the Marines who were killed yesterday in the terrorist shooting in Chattanooga, as well as for their families.  Absolutely heart-wrenching…this has to stop.]

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Happy Friday, hoodrats.
Glad you’re stopping by my neck of the woods.  Don’t know about yall, but this week has been mopping the floor with me.  It’s been a lot of hectic/unpredictable schedules, not enough sleep, and way too many meals consisting of protein powder + oatmeal + peanut butter. (Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is delicious, but it’s not exactly what I want for 2 meals every day for a week.)  Exhausting, yes…but just as exciting, if not more so.  So, when I think about it, life is still really good.

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Since my brainpower feels a little sapped right now, I thought I’d share something a little more lighthearted today.  I saw this “A-Z” survey floating around on a couple of blogs I frequent, and since yall have said that you like a little more of that personal pizazz, why not let the crazy all the way out?

It’s Friday, after all.

So here’s the survey (copied from Gina)…I’d love if you played along and answered a few of the questions for yourself in the comments!

{{ A-Z Survey }}

A – Age: 24 (25 in 3 weeks, Lord help me.)

B – Biggest Fear: I don’t talk about it. Biggest irrational fear? Birds, due to a traumatic childhood incident involving a charging goose.

C – Current Time: 1610

D – Drink You Had Last: a Monster Ultra Red.  I know, I know.

E – Easiest Person To Talk To: my dad

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F – Favorite Song:  Too many.  Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto makes me weak in the knees, “Pretty Little Adrianna” (Vince Gill) takes me back to my childhood, and the National Anthem leaves me a little bit choked up every damn time.  And…well, never mind, I’d be going on for days.

G – Grossest Memory: Not sure it’s the grossest, but this past week I had to clean out a dog cage after an incident I call “Shitsplosion 2015.”

H – Hometown: Nashville, TN.  The south will always feel like home.

I – In Love With: my new queen-size snuggle nest.  (Bought a twin at a great deal; they sent me a queen on accident and told me I could keep it.  Don’t you just hate when that happens?)

snuggle nest 2015

J – Jealous Of:  People who can dance.  All I can do is shake my rear end, and even that just ends up looking like J-Lo having a seizure.

K – Kindest Person You Know:  my sister, Claire.  My brother and I call her a unicorn, because she’s so sweet and giving that it’s hard to believe she’s real.

claire unicorn

L – Longest Relationship:  Hahahaha.

M – Middle Name: Magdalena (“Maggie”)

N – Number of Siblings: Three.  I’m the oldest, and yes, I fit the stereotype.

O – One Wish:  That I didn’t require sleep.  Can you imagine how much more productive life would be?

P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last:  probably a client.

Q – Question You’re Always Asked: “So, what are you?” This is always in reference to my ethnicity…if you’re wondering, the answer is in this post.  And recently, “Did you do something to your hair?”  The answer is, “Yes, and now I’m a step closer to being a mermaid.”

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R – Reason To Smile: I’m above ground, I have a job, I have the best family in the world, and I live in the best nation on the planet.

S – Song You Last Sang: an old hymn – “Nothing But The Blood” – while putzing around the breakroom at work. One of my favorites (told yall I couldn’t pick just one).

T – Time You Woke Up: 5am.  And then realized I wasn’t fooling anyone, decided to forgo that early morning jog, and slept for another hour and a half.  It was freaking luxurious.

U – Underwear Color:  What underwear?

V – Vacation Destination: Ireland, Canada, Norway, Israel, and Greece (yes, in spite of their economic issues).  Not necessarily in that order.

W – Worst Habit: Worrying.  Drinking more coffee than necessary.  Forgetting to wear underwear to work.

X – X-Rays You’ve Had: Teeth, obviously, and spine (the one and only time I visited a chiropractor, and it was the most rachet old x-ray machine I’ve ever seen).

Y – Your Favorite Food: Stir-fried cabbage and this potato-peanut stew I’ve made before.

Z – Zodiac Sign: Leo, I think.

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Tell me…

Your turn! Chime in on a few of the above questions in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your answers!

Any of yall doing something crazy, wild, or otherwise noteworthy this weekend?

5 Habits To Supercharge Your Health

This post was actually a suggestion from my roommate.  I was washing dishes while she worked on her laptop at the kitchen table, and she started reading me an article titled “6 Habits of Healthy People.”  The habits they listed were ones that could promote health, but not necessarily what I would list even among the top 10 suggestions for getting and staying healthy.

So what would I suggest?

Well, that’s exactly what my roommate asked.  And she took it a step further: “You should write your own list.”  Yall know I love to tell people how it is, so…here’s how it is.

5 Habits of Truly Healthy People

1. Sleep

sleep baby dad

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Sleep is just as important to your health as your workouts and nutrition.  When you chronically get less sleep than you need – either in quantity or quality – you gradually build up a “sleep debt,” which is really hard to erase.  This means you get further and further run down, feel more and more like you’re wading through molasses each day, and struggle more and more to find the energy for silly little things like doing your job or being a good friend or kicking ass in your training or buying and cooking good food.  You know.  Just stupid crap like that which has no impact whatsoever on your health, physical fitness, mindset, or overall wellbeing.  Who needs to have the energy to keep up with all that? So definitely don’t make sleep a priority.  [For those of you who may be sleep-deprived as you read this – that was sarcasm.  Now go to bed.]

2. stop getting your health info from facebook

picjumbo desk work sitting photo

At this point I actually get excited to get on facebook because it means I get to see what ridiculous “mind blowing discoveries” people want to share from their latest favorite “guru.”  Guess what? Most “gurus” are fear-mongers with some decent web-design abilities.  I cannot emphasize this enough: Look at facts when you are making decisions about what is or is not healthy/safe to eat/do/wear/use.  Do no let an idea that feels icky/scary/unhealthy keep you from analyzing the facts (i.e. real research done using real studies conducted by real scientists published in real, credible sources.) about what actually is or is not safe/healthy.

And for the love of all that is good, stop saying that something is bad for you because “it has so many chemicals in it.”  All physical matter is made of chemicals.  Yes, even your organic, non-GMO, sustainably-harvested, free-trade carrots.  So if you do nothing else, remember that a food “having chemicals” is a neutral statement, and does not in and of itself make a food (or cosmetic, or cleaning product, etc.) unhealthy or unsafe.

3. get more sunshine

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We all want the D.  (Vitamin D, ya filthy animals.)  Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and the reason is that most of us are indoors most of the day.  We miss out on the sunshine, and without it, our bodies cannot produce vitamin D.  Supplements are a good option (especially if you are already diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency – talk to your doc about getting tested), but so is “supplementing” in the most basic way – by letting yourself get a little more sunshine.  Heading outdoors has the added benefit of boosting serotonin levels [1] in your brain (which means your mood improves), and when you’re outdoors you have the opportunity to do something active and play….

4. play more

handstand at the beach

How often do you enjoy movement?  Not just in the sense that you feel good after a workout, but you actually are thrilled in the moment.  This is movement for the sake of the movement and the experience, not for the sake of a workout.  Maybe for you it’s hiking, maybe it’s paddleboarding, maybe it’s practicing handstands and arm balances, maybe it’s pickup basketball, maybe it’s chasing your dog along the beach, or maybe it’s going out salsa dancing.  Whatever it is, find some kind of movement that awakens that childlike sense of exhilaration in you…that is play.  It’s good for the body and great for the soul.  So play hard, and play often.

5.  Simplify

fresh black grapes

Finally, keep it simple.  Way too many people who are health conscious end up self-sabotaging by overcomplicating every aspect of their lifestyle, from the food they eat to the exercise they do to the apps and gadgets they use to track it all.  People either end up with “paralysis by analysis” (overcomplicating a matter so much that the result is inaction rather than meticulous execution) or missing the forest for the trees (putting too much thought/effort into minute details that yield far less ROI than the same investment of thought/effort into the bigger picture).  Before you start worrying about details like organic vs. conventional, vegetarian vs. vegan, HIIT cardio vs. steady state cardio, master the basics.  Eat good food, and enough of it.  (Chronic hunger is not the laurel of first-world martyrdom that some make it out to be.)  Move your body in ways that challenge your muscles and your lungs.  Give your body enough rest, and when it’s been run particularly ragged, give it even more.  Play often, laugh hard, be generous, respect yourself and others, and count your blessings.

***

My challenge for yall this week would be to pick one of the above habits and start implementing it.  Today.  Right now.
Personally, I’ll be working on sleep.  Having roommates again makes it really easy to stay up far later than I should given how early I have to get up for work…but at the end of the day, it’s just a matter of having the discipline to shuttle myself off to bed at a reasonable hour.

Now tell me…

Which of these habits will you be working on this week?

What habits do you already have that help you stay healthy?

Chasing Sunshine

When I was about 11, I was talking on the phone with my grandfather and he told me I was “his little sunshine.” He said that he loved that I was always so happy when we talked.

That comment shocked me – as a painfully shy kid, I was normally very anxious anytime I talked over the phone, especially with adults.  I remember this was around the time I had been getting a little more comfortable, at least when it was Grandpa on the other end of the line, and apparently it showed…or at least he had enough grace for his odd little granddaughter to see past her social anxiety.

Somehow, his words have stuck with me in the 13-some years since then.  In part, it’s because I want to live up to it.  I want to be someone who is not only has a genuinely positive attitude, but shares that generously.  It’s not something to keep to myself – I want to foster joy in others.  And like so many good things, it sure ain’t easy.  Even as a kid, I was prone to excessive worries, extreme anxiety, skepticism, and depression.  For some reason, I was scared to even smile at strangers, and daycare workers had described me as “such a serious little girl.”  I wasn’t exactly what most folks would consider a bright and cheery harbinger of merriment and delight. 

morose

But my grandfather knew me well, and if he saw something in me that lit up like sunshine, then I believed it was there.  And his praise made me feel brave enough to maybe let that sunshine out a little more, like maybe it would even be a good thing.  Smile more openly, laugh with less self-consciousness, and be less guarded in my enthusiasm. Celebrate the good in life more than worry about the bad.  Chase the sunshine.  And again, it’s not easy.

You know what is easy?  Being a cynic.  The world is full of terrifying and heartbreaking happenings, and it’s full of people who will lie and cheat and hurt you.  Cynicism is a natural response, a protective armor against a world heavy enough to cut you down with one headline, one word, one slamming door.  Cynicism is easy.  [I should know – it was essentially my credo during my last year of undergrad and first year out of college.] Thinking the worst, looking at the negative side of life…it’s easy, it’s safe, and often it comes naturally.

But what is easy is not necessarily good.  Eating gluten-free cupcakes and fried mozzarella sticks all day might be easy, but it’s certainly not good.  Likewise, it’s difficult and scary to look for the positive.  In a world like ours, rejoicing is an act of defiance that often seems impossible.  Sometimes I dread the thought of even looking for the bright side, let alone chasing the sunshine.

What if I can’t find it? 

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That’s what I’ve learned, though – you can always find it.  Maybe not right away.  Maybe not in the places you expect.  But it’s always there.  [And so is He.]  So when you find a crack that lets the littlest bit of sunshine in, you hang on.  You hang on for dear life and you do the work – because it’s not always easy – and you pull until that crack is a little wider and before you know it, a little more light falls through. The more light you let fall through, the more likely it is someone else sees it.  Whether it’s the overpowering intensity of the midday July sun or a glimmer tiptoeing across the horizon at dusk, sunshine is unmistakable.  Even better, it’s contagious.  When we intentionally seek out the positive and choose to be joyful, even in painful or unpleasant circumstances, we empower others to do the same.

These days, I’m still not a bubbly ball of sunshine and rainbows.  My “serious” side is very much alive, and I’m probably more a realist than an optimist.  But I make the conscious choice to focus on the good, to find how I can improve the not-good and bust my ass to do so, and count my blessings every single day.  And wouldn’t you know, my life is better for it.  The more sunshine you chase, the more you learn to love the process.  It’s a habit that often takes a little courage and vulnerability and a lot of generosity and grace. It’s an act of rebellion in a world too often dimmed with tragedy and dysfunction and injustice and destruction.  But before you know it, it’s a habit, and you’re happier for it.

And the thing about habits and acts of rebellion?

They’re always contagious.

sunrise at sea

Like Ebola.

Told you I’m a realist.  

Healthy[ish] Summer Starbucks Drinks

Yall want to know some good news?

I finally picked up my final paycheck from Starbucks, which means I am totally, officially free from Little Howie’s Workshop.

I was with the company for 1 year + 4 days [which is approximately 8 months + 4 days longer than I had planned, but no big. It’s just 8 months of my life.], and it felt pretty dang wonderful to walk out after my last shift.  Not that my experience was entirely awful or anything, but it was not exactly where I wanted to be and definitely not where I needed to be to reach my career goals.

So now that I’m no longer a slave to the green siren, I can share all the shortcuts and insider tricks I learned during my time as a ‘spresso-slinger, which is good news for all yall.  [It also means I have to start paying for my coffee, which is bad news for yours truly.]

Since it’s now “officially” summer and temperatures are either slightly warming up [holla at my Bay Area hooligans] or full-on cooking you alive [stay strong, Arizona], I figured we could all take part in a great American tradition: drinking.  Starbucks doesn’t serve whiskey, but they do make plenty of iced drinks.

starbucks

Now, I’m southern so I know that sweet tea is a thing.  I also spend way too much time on PubMed, so I know sweet tea is the the official sports drink of the Diabeetus Olympics.  It’s good, but if you’re chugging it from sunup to sundown, you’re probably going to want to invest in an insulin pump.

So what the heck are you supposed to drink that’s fun and refreshing and summery and also healthy? [PS, by “healthy,” I mean relatively healthy…as in, “sure beats a handle of Jack or a Big Gulp-size slushie!”  Not like, “Forget broccoli, drink this!”]

This, my friends. This is what you drink.  Healthy[ish], delicious, refreshing, and does no more damage to your wallet than your usual S’mores frappuccino.

[These will probably work at most any other coffeeshop/cafe.  I have only ordered/experimented with these at Starbucks, so I know for sure Little Howie’s elves can make it for you.]

iced coffee

If you like sweet tea, try:

  • Iced Tea – black, green, or passion tea, or a combination thereof -withsplenda instead of classic (Starbucks’ simple syrup).  If you like a stronger tea flavor, ask for no water.
    • How to order: May I please have a (size) iced (black/green/passion), no classic, no water, 2 splenda? Thank you!
  • Iced Tea, unsweetened, with a splash of one of the refresher juices – Berry Hibiscus, Cool Lime, or Valencia Orange.  (They shouldn’t charge extra for this if you specify “a splash.”)
    • How to order: May I please have a tall iced green tea with no classic, no water, and a splash of cool lime? Thanks!

If you like Arnold Palmer’s, try:

  • Iced Tea Lemonade (again, black/green/passion/combo),unsweeteened orwithsplenda.  Add a splash of refresher juice of your choice if you’re really feeling feisty.
    • How to order: I would love a venti iced black tea-lemonade, no classic, 1 splenda, and a splash of berry hibiscus.  Thank you!

If you like Slushie’s or Slurpees, try:

  • Blended Iced Tea – iced tea of choice with no classic +splenda &/or a splash of refresher juice +a scoop of ice + 1-2 pumps of cream base (more for larger size).
    • How to order: This is a little weird, but may I please have a venti iced passion tea with no classic, 2 splenda, a venti scoop of ice, and 2 pumps of cream base, all blended together?  Thanks so much!

If you like iced lattes, try:

  • Iced Coffee with sugar free syrup (no extra charge) and extra milk of choice.  (You can ask for one cup size bigger to accommodate extra milk or extra ice or both, for no charge.)
  • How to order:  Hi, I’d really like a grande iced coffee in a venti cup with extra soymilk, with sugar free vanilla instead of classic. Thanks!

If you like Frappucinos, try:

  • Blendicano – espresso (2 shots for a tall size, 3 for a grande, 4 for a venti) blended with a scoop of ice + sugar free syrup (more pumps for a stronger flavor) of your choice + a splash of milk of your choice (optional) + 1-2 pumps of light base.
  • How to order: This is going to sound strange, but it’s great – I’d love a quad shot espresso blended with a venti scoop of ice, 3 pumps of sugar free caramel, a tiny splash of whole milk, and 2 pumps of light base? Weird, I know, but it’s so good! Thank you.

A few final tips:

  • For the love of all that is human, say “thank you” when you receive your drink.
  • If the store is slammed like the Tiajuana border during spring break, then I beg you from the bottom of my former-barista heart, be extra polite, extra patient, and if you can find it in your almost-caffeinated heart to leave a tip, do it.  
  • If you are thinking of ordering anything blended, please do it when the store is not insanely busy.  Morning rush hour is not the time to lose your blendicano virginity.
  • Know what you plan to order before you get to the counter.  If you need a minute to deliberate over your drink choice, let the next person in line go ahead of you.  Other customers will appreciate it and the baristas will love you for it.
  • If you are a regular at a certain coffeeshop, do your best to remember the names of the baristas you see most.  Remembering their names – and better yet, using basic manners and showing actual interest in them as humans and not just coffee-robots – will go a long way for you.  I can’t promise you surprise discounts, or faster delivery of your drinks, but…well, just trust me on this.

Well, that’s all, folks!

Stay healthy. Stay hydrated. Stay not-broke.

These are our goals for the summer.  You, me, and a little caffeine…we got this.