10 Lessons Recovery Is Teaching Me.

First, notice the choice of words. That was intentional. There’s a reason I said is teaching instead of has taught. Because recovering from addiction is a process.

It’s gradual, continuous, deliberate, repetitive. It’s step-by-step, moment-to-moment. It’s a daily decision not a final destination. But for those who endure the climb, there’s learning and growing and thriving to experience on the freefall.

Sometimes people question if I regret those stolen years marked by an eating disorder—if this life came with do-overs, would I make different choices or walk another path? The short answer is nope. Which might confuse whoever reads this.

Admitting that I wouldn’t change or erase the toughest circumstance I’ve encountered almost borders on masochistic, right?  Shouldn’t I jump at the chance to rewrite history, gloss over the past and sidestep the heartache? Also nope.

This eating disorder is not a stigma I can pretend doesn’t exist or a label I can never escape. It’s harrowing and frightening and dehumanizing and isolating. But this eating disorder is the story of where I’ve been, where I am, where I’m going. I wouldn’t revise a story like that for the greatest publishing deal on earth.

Choosing recovery hasn’t been straightforward. It goes against my instincts. It’s uncomfortable—painful even. Sometimes I despise recovery. But still I forge ahead. This crossroad leads to affirmation, acceptance, self-awareness. It’s worth the scrapes and scars.

How do I know? Because of all I’m learning…

10-lessons-from-recovery

Yep. It really truly is.

February 26–March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is “time to talk about it.” Don’t give into silence, shame or secrecy—join the conversation. And if you need support, call the NEDA helpline at      1-800-931-2237.

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In the (Start-Up) Business of Loving Myself

self-love

Self-Love is a buzzword I hear often. Even social media hashtags proliferate the concept. Yep. #SelfLoveSunday. It’s a thing.  So are those barefaced “I woke up like this” selfies. Of course you did. After 10 minutes of choosing a filter.

But regardless, the implication is clear. We should accept, embrace, even flaunt our own uniqueness. And the haters can just shove their criticism. Well…umm…brownie points for that empowering mantra, but one issue still remains.

Social media is not an accurate depiction of reality. Which makes me wonder: How many of these self-love posts crowding my Instagram feed represent women who really do love themselves?  

Do they feel as confident, poised and vivacious as their expressions would suggest? Or is there a secret shame cowering behind that camera lens?  A brokenness hidden beneath a brazen facade?

I’d guess the latter.

Not because I’m a cynic, but because we live amidst a contradictory culture that heaps emphasis on airbrushed physical standards, while encouraging women to appreciate their idiosyncrasies.

These two messages can’t coexist. When society demands perfection, where does that leave the imperfect? Scrutinizing every inch of their bodies, chasing self-love but coming up short.

I’m no stranger to this cycle.

In fact, the first conscious realization of my own “subpar” physique came at 8 years old. This perception (however irrational) spiraled into a decade long struggle with distorted body image, restrictive behaviors and obsessive hyper-criticism. A.K.A. the antithesis of self-love.

No hashtag is gonna convince me to change that perspective though. No social media campaign will reverse these beliefs entrenched in my psyche. No superficial impetus can undo the damage within. Healing comes from a much higher pursuit.

When you recognize that vulnerability isn’t weakness.

That admission of flaws isn’t acceptance of defeat.

That relying just on yourself isn’t a buffer from pain. 

That drawing strength from others isn’t disempowerment.  

So, why is self-love an elusive concept? Because we’re conditioned to skepticize and overanalyze these simple truths instead of affirming them at face-value. But when we move past the barricades, we experience more than self-love.

We discover identity.

body-positive-quotations

 

 

 

A Groom’s Take on “Sweating for the Wedding”

If you follow me on social media, you might’ve noticed my not-so-subtle references to recently getting engaged. BUT, if you follow almost any engaged woman on social media, you’ll be hard pressed to escape #SweatingForTheWedding posts.

In fact, this Instagram search yields 171,277 results—talk about a staggering number of body conscious brides-to-be! Yet, with all the emphasis placed on that “feminine ideal,” who could blame them?!

Since I’ve been tempted to dabble in said fitness fad (hellllooooo…this girl’s gotta fit into an Alfred Angelo dress 8 months from now!), I enlisted my future hubby for his stance on the subject. Thus, our discussion became a blog post.

Check it out, bridal beauties, straight from a guy’s POV:

Sweating for the Wedding

image courtesy of CNDY via Flickr Creative Commons  (changes have been made)

I’m fairly new to this whole “Sweating for the Wedding” thing. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed until my fiancé brought me up to speed once I put a ring on her finger.

Now, after Googling the phrase, I can attest that “Sweating for the Wedding” has indeed gone viral. Brides can get dri-fit shirts with this hashtag printed across the front. There are even water bottles, car decals, sweat bands and more, urging women to jump on the bandwagon.

Listen, I’m all about exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but I also feel this trend could send a harmful message to some women—especially those who struggle with insecurities surrounding weight or body image.

Not to mention, if these insecurities are triggered by stress, they’ll escalate into overdrive once those wedding plans get underway. I’ve only been engaged for about a month, yet I can already vouch for all the time, energy and craziness that goes into this process. So, with the added pressure of sculpting that “perfect bod”…well, you’re eventually gonna crack.

While there’s nothing wrong with prioritizing fitness, “Sweating for the Wedding” is not a prerequisite for marriage. Your future husband already finds you sexy. He wouldn’t have pursued you in the first place if he wasn’t sexually attracted, right? Exactly. You’ve got nothing to prove.

Men are visual creatures. I am a man, so I’ll freely admit this. But I can also assure you that any guy, who kneels down and proposes, thinks the girl standing in front of him is drop-dead gorgeous. She’s the only woman he sees—guaranteed.

Anyone, who’s anxiously anticipating their wedding day, wants to turn their spouse’s head. However, when this goal manifests itself through extreme workout regimens, it could result in serious physical damage.

I hope my fiancé knows that her appearance and physique will never disappoint me. From my—okay, biased—viewpoint, she’s the most beautiful woman alive, and my jaw will drop when I see her walk down the aisle. She doesn’t need to impress me…or anyone else, for that matter.  

Same goes for you other brides out there. Imagine how your husband will perceive you that day. After all, his devotion isn’t only surface-deep.

And, if you opt to workout beforehand, make it a bonding activity for both of you. Be each other’s accountability partner, so—rather than just “Sweating for the Wedding”—you’ll discover positive motivation for long-term health.  No hashtag needed.

******

Can you see why I’m marrying him, ladies? The dude’s a keeper (and my self-esteem levels concur)!

engagement 1

I’m painfully awkward sometimes.

engagement 2

But at least we clean up good.

 

15 Empowering Mantras to Repeat Every. Single. Day.

The moment you wake up each morning…Before you’re tempted to peek in that mirror and proceed with the dreaded once-over…Before those negative voices begin their unwelcome chorus of self-doubt…

Tune out societal pressures and inner angst by embracing your own version of the so-called “Feminine Ideal.”

What’s that, you say? Easier said than done?

Oh, I hear you, sista! And that’s why the following quotes are a fabulous place to start:

These wise words come straight from the mouths of regular girls-next-door. Women just like you and me.

Alright, so they’re *famous* girls-next-door. But even they’re not immune to body-shaming insecurities or unattainable beauty standards. Besides, their remarks ring undeniable truth that’s worth taking to heart.


  “This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. Try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big. Just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you without judgment. That is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

image courtesy of Pinterest


“People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I say the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.”

Selma Hayek

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words  because of the effect they have on our younger generations, then why aren’t we regulating things like calling people ‘Fat’?”

~ Jennifer Lawrence

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“To all the girls who think you’re ugly because you’re not a size 0, you are the beautiful ones. It’s society who’s ugly.”

Marilyn Monroe

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“Girls of all kinds can be beautiful — from thin to plus-sized, short to tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned, quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing and everything in between. It’s not easy because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box. But think outside that box, pledge to look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you.”

~ Tyra Banks

Tyra

image courtesy of Pinterest


“I think about my body as a tool to do the stuff I need to do, but not the be all and end all of my existence.”

~ Lena Dunham

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“My great hope is for us to start being kinder to ourselves so that we can start being kinder to each other, to stop shaming ourselves and other people: ‘too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, too anything.’ There’s a sense that we’re all ‘too’ something, and we’re all not enough. But this is life. Our bodies change. Our minds change. Our hearts change.”

~ Emma Stone

Emma

image courtesy of Pinterest


“Nobody is perfect. I just don’t believe in perfection. But I do believe in saying, ‘This is who I am, look at me not being perfect!'”

~ Kate Winslet

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“A rose can never be a sunflower, and a sunflower can never be a rose. All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s the same with women too. I want to encourage women to embrace their own uniqueness.”

Miranda Kerr

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.”

Geneen Roth

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“Dwelling on the negative merely lowers your vibration and creates sickness in the mind and body. Use your internal strength and willpower to rise above the thoughts pulling you down. And watch your world rise alongside you, continuing to meet you exactly where you are.”

~ Victoria Erickson

image courtesy of Facebook

image courtesy of Facebook


“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth

image courtesy of Pinterest


“There’s no magic bullet. There’s no pill you can take that makes everything great or makes you feel happy all the time. I’m letting go of those expectations, and that’s opening me up to moments of transcendent bliss.

~ Anne Hathaway

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me.”

~ J.K. Rowling

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest


“If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: ‘Who cares?'” 

~ Tina Fey

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Open Letter to an Insecure Girl from the Guy Who Finds Her Incredible {Guest Post}

I devote large portions of this blog to promoting body positivity ’cause — quite simply — I believe women in today’s society need to hear encouraging messages and words of affirmation more than ever before.
       However, lately it’s occurred to me that these “body positive” mantras often come from a sole female perspective. While this isn’t a negative thing, it does exclude one crucial component from the overall equation.
       Let’s face the facts. We ladies care deeply about how we’re perceived by the men in our lives. Often, we have absolutely no idea what they’re thinking when they give us the requisite once-over. But, deep down, we crave their wide-eyed approval, reassuring us that we’re still desirable.
       Seriously, though…what DOES a guy think when his girl enters the room — tiny flaws and all? I’ve recruited a certain dapper dude (otherwise known as mah boyfriend) to answer this question. It’s about time we added a male voice to the “body image” commentary and shed some light on what they see behind our self-deprecation.
       So, without further ado:

                                                                                                                              To an Insecure Girl from the Guy Who Finds Her Incredible

Dear Beautiful,
       Before we go out on a date, I’m usually the first to get ready. I’ll be sitting on the couch, scrolling through some article on my phone, and then I’ll look up and catch a glimpse of you getting ready.
       You’re straightening your hair. Picking out jewelry. Zipping up that dress. Then, you examine yourself in the mirror. You’ll stare silently for a while before beginning the inspection: legs, arms, torso, backside…the list goes on. Finally, you give this look.
       A look I know too well.
       A look that reads: Disappointed. Not impressed. Not good enough. 
       You’ll leave the bathroom, unaware that I’m gaping at this radiant goddess in front of me. I’ll say “You look incredible,” and you’ll respond with a small, quiet “Thanks.” 
       But I still know what you’re thinking: Disappointed. Not impressed. Not good enough.
       So, here’s my response to those toxic words poisoning your mind. 
       They’re simply not true. Nope, not all. 
       Before I reveal what’s really going through my mind when I say “You look incredible,” there’s something else you need to know. And this might just be the most important thing I’ll ever tell you. So, take notes. Remember my words. Make sure they stick. 
       You, my love, are beautiful — both on the inside and out.
       Did you read that? Carefully?
       I repeat: Beautiful on the inside and out
       You’re probably wondering right about now, “Did this joker actually say he cares about my character? Not just my physical appearance?”
       Listen. I won’t lie about the male species. We do respond to visuals. And there are plenty of men out there, who focus only on visuals. Those guys are pigs, though. Assholes.
       I apologize for the pigs and assholes you’ve encountered throughout your life. They’re not real men. Maybe they’ll learn to become one someday.
       But, the real men — who respect their peers, support their loved ones, and stay true to their morals — those men want a real woman. 
       I want a real woman.
       I don’t want an airbrushed model on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit or that busty chick in some Playboy spread. I want the beauty standing right in front of me, who I can see with my own eyes. The feisty spit-fire I can debate with over cocktails. Someone with hopes, dreams, and goals.
       A real woman is kind. Intelligent. Funny. Compassionate. Ambitious. Strong. And it just so happens that this man is attracted to this real woman.
       I’m crazy about her smile, her infectious laughter, and the way her voice pitches when we discuss a topic she’s passionate about. I melt when those huge, engaged eyes stare into mine, embracing this moment just between us. I love how she plays with her hair when she’s nervous or casually sips her drink with those smooth lips. 
       That’s real.
       Those artificial, photo-shopped images you’re obsessing over — the ones you think all men desire — they can’t satisfy a real man. 
       They’re just ideals that many girls wish they could emulate. But I find this sad because a real man doesn’t want an ideal. He wants you
       I. Want. You.
       Because you’re real. And they’re fake.
       So, stop. 
       Stop comparing yourselves to those other girls. Stop scrutinizing your reflection and thinking “my thighs are fat” when, in reality, they’re gorgeously toned. Stop pinching your stomach and sighing “this isn’t flat enough” when there isn’t even extra skin to pinch. Stop jiggling your arms and moaning “Look at all this flab hanging from my biceps” when such nonsense couldn’t be further from the truth. Stop staring at your chest and wondering “If these boobs were fuller, maybe he’d be more into me” because, babe, that’s outrageous!
       Just stop! Don’t stack yourself up against those false representations. You know what will happen? 
       You will decompose. 
       Decompose before my eyes. You’ll gradually become consumed with dangerous thoughts, like “If I eat less, I’ll look like her,” or “Gotta skip lunch and dinner if I want that perfect body.”
       No. That is not healthy. That is you rotting away. And you’ll lose yourself in the process. These ideals — the ones you constantly compete with — they’ll win. Please don’t let them win. Never in my life would I want to witness you deal with such torture.
       My desire is to see you grow. 
       Grow into that strong, capable woman you truly are. Grow into that confident bombshell, who loves herself and takes pride in her uniqueness.
       Your physical shape or size simply doesn’t matter. A real man will love everything you have to offer. He won’t hear the negative voices screaming in your head. He only sees you marching to the beat of your own drum.
       And that’s what a real man finds most attractive.
       So, when you finally walk out of the bathroom, and we leave for our date night, pay close attention when I say “You look incredible.” Because here’s what’s on my mind…
       I’m so blessed by you. Blessed to sit across from you. Blessed to slip my hand into yours. Blessed to learn more about you. Blessed to make memories we’ll both cherish.
       Knowing we’re spending this evening together — me and this lively, passionate goddess — makes my heart race. How did I get so lucky? The most beautiful girl I’ve ever known chose me, and I’m truly honored.
       In a world full of illusions plastered on computer screens and magazine covers, you’re all I see. 
       Because you look incredible.
Love,
A Real Man
me and Brandon prof pic

Why I’m No Longer Pro-Fitspo

Lately, I’ve noticed several articles cropping up around the web — from fellow Bloggers to the Huff Post — all focused on the same controversial issue: FITSPO.

Since this has become such a hot topic in the fitness community, I’m suddenly feeling the urge to “weigh in” and add my voice to the conversation. But, first, let’s clarify why Fitspo is even a thing and what its original intent was.

Here’s how Urban Dictionary defines the trend:

Short for “fitspiration.” Images of active, strong and fit women that promote proper exercise and diet.

So, that’s the purpose Fitspo supposedly aims to fulfill. However, now it’s teetering on the brink of soft porn.

Soft porn that makes you kinda sorta question everything about your physical worth.

(Like…does this REALLY have to be either-or?!?!)

flat stomach or sweets

image courtesy of Pinterest

How did this movement — which should have been a positive and dynamic lifestyle initiative — veer so far off-course?

Hell, that’s what I wanna know.

When I initially heard about the whole “fitspiration” concept, I wasted no time jumping on-board. I mean, here was the confidence-booster we’d been waiting for, right?!

Thinspiration’s healthier twin sister.

Social media’s gift to female psyches everywhere.

Rather than bombarding us with airbrushed propaganda of unrealistically skeletal frames, Fitspo motivated us to strive for “strong” over “skinny.”

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Well, in theory anyway. Because that’s where the motivation ends. Despite these so-called good intentions, Fitspo still panders to an exclusive audience. It doesn’t celebrate the beauty of each unique physique but, instead, discriminates against body types that aren’t tucked and toned in all the right places.

Case-in-point: “strong not skinny” is actually a derogatory message. Some women are naturally thin — not eating disorder thin per se, but thin. They can’t change their builds any more than curvy women can.

Nor should they. Stick-straight, hourglass or voluptuous — the female figure is worth embracing, regardless of shape or size.

So, why have sculpted obliques and sinewy biceps become the arbitrary benchmark to gauge our “hotness” levels?

Well…umm…compliments of Fitspo.

Don’t get me wrong, if you do have sculpted obliques and sinewy biceps, take pride in those accomplishments. After all, fitness requires both effort and commitment. You know what though? Sometimes, even the most vigilant efforts won’t turn us all into Miranda Kerr doubles. And there’s no shame in that either.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t feel inspired by body-shaming mantras disguised as “healthy” workout incentives.

I’m not gonna run a marathon because some Pinterest meme-creator thinks I’ll be spurred into action by Victoria’s Secret angels in barely-there spandex, sports bras and the uplifting text overlay — “Train Insane or Remain the Same.”

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Nope. I’ll exercise for ME, thanks. Not a subliminal you-aren’t-working-hard-enough quote, or some sexually stimulating model with an unattainable bod. Those are illusions. And illusions won’t get results.

Society has begun equating fitness with the feminine ideal, but this label misses the mark. Who cares about looking like a superficial slice of eye-candy when you can strive for personal acceptance instead? Exercise isn’t about some fleeting “Dayyyum, girl!” once-over.

Exercise is about vitalitytoughnessexhilaration — both physically and mentally. Fitspo, however, won’t get you there.

So, what will?

  1. Gradual progress at your own steady pace.
  2. And self-love. Yeah, TONS of self-love.

My final advice, then? Unplug from this Fitspo trend. It’s basically just Thinspo with a sportier-sounding name.

love yourself

image courtesy of Pinterest

10 Excuses We Use to Avoid Exercise & 10 Reasons Why They’re Just Not True

You know the drill, right? List every possible explanation for why you’re chronically — cough…cough — allergic to the “E” word, and maybe…just maybe…you’ll feel justified bumming it on the couch all weekend.

Hey, who am I to judge? I love an occasional lazy Saturday too. But, this “exercise allergy” business?

Yeaaaah. I’m gonna have to call that bluff.

So, allow me to debunk some classic fitness fallacies and how they may be keeping you from realizing your full physical potential.


Excuse #1: I don’t have enough time to work out.

fitness excuse 1

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: If you simply devote 1 hour each day to engaging in some type of physical activity, you’ll still have 23 hours remaining.

Excuse #2: I feel dirty and disgusting when I sweat.

fitness excuse 2

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: Sure, you’ll have to make a date with the shower afterward, but sweating cleanses pores and flushes out bodily toxins.

Excuse #3: I might bulk up instead of toning up.

fitness excuse 3

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: While strength training does build substantial muscle mass, it also sculpts one hell of a lean, mean physique.

Excuse #4: I can’t afford a fancy gym membership.

fitness excuse 4

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: If you can move around, you can whip that booty into shape, whether at home, outdoors, or in a fitness center.

Excuse #5: I am way too insecure about how I look.

fitness excuse 5

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: Don’t let shame keep you out of the game ’cause every body type and size deserves to feel the health benefits of exercise.

Excuse #6: I already eat clean, so that should be enough.

fitness excuse 6

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: Props on choosing wholesome nutrition over fast food, but diet alone can’t compensate for zero physical activity.

Excuse #7: I get bored easily while working out.

fitness excuse 7

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: If your exercise routine is mind-numbingly repetitive, try something high energy, like Zumba, or zen, like Yoga.

Excuse #8: I kinda sorta enjoy Netflix too much.

fitness excuse 8

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: There’s no law that bans you from working out and getting your Orange Is the New Black fix at the same time.

Excuse #9: I always feel so physically drained.

fitness excuse 9

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: The toughest part is willing yourself to begin, but once you do, endorphins are guaranteed to power you through.

Excuse #10: I just haven’t seen any positive results yet.

fitness excuse 10

image courtesy of pinterest.com

Reality: Muscle definition takes approximately 4-8 weeks to develop, so think of this process as a marathon, not a sprint.


So, armed with this knowledge, go unleash your inner #BeastMode.  I know it’s there.

But, more importantly: So. Do. You.