Breathe In. Breathe Out. It’s a Gift. And It’s Called Life.

Admission #1: As of precisely 1:32 P.M. this afternoon, I committed the very same trite, mainstream, and unoriginal act that just about every other 20-something female in the English-speaking world (and beyond) has been guilty of during these past several months.

I finished reading The Fault In Our Stars. 

And it was perfect.

Admission #2: I still haven’t seen the movie yet, and maybe I won’t, considering how masterful the book itself turned out to be. It’s rare that cinema can top literature, after all.

Admission #3: I didn’t cry while reading the book either, which is slightly disappointing. Especially since all I’d been hearing from this TFIOS  phenomenon’s onset is how Hazel and Augustus’ love story would reduce any mere mortal with a semi-functional soul into a waterfall of big, sloppy tears.

I, however, was dry-eyed. But I do have a semi-functional soul. So, there must be something else wrong with me. TBD.

Admission #4: My rather unfortunate tearlessness is in no way a negative reflection on the novel’s pure and astonishing genius.

Like I said, it was perfect.

Admission #5: TFIOS was a sobering read. That rare slice of humble pie, which stares you down silently, unblinkingly, disconcertingly nose-to-nose until you just can’t handle the guilt anymore. Until you’re forced to show some gratitude for your own health, wellbeing, and relative normalcy. 

Because that’s the thing about Life. It could always be worse.

Someone’s reality is shittier than mine. Truth. Undeniable truth.

And so, the only option left is to be grateful my body doesn’t suffer in the same way a chronically ill body would. Grateful that I’ve never reached a 10 on the infamous “pain scale” Hazel frequently references. Grateful that my physical capabilities run the gamut from back flips off a diving board to the “cha-cha slide” at wedding receptions. Grateful that I’m not acutely (and constantly) aware of my own fragility…abnormality…

Mortality. 

Admission #6: I’m rarely grateful for any of those blessings. I have every reason to be. But I’m not.

Instead of legs that have never been replaced by titanium steel (like what Augustus endured), I see flabby thighs that must be punished into lean, sinewy submission. Instead of a chest that inhales and exhales without needing oxygen tubes, I see boobs that just barely fit into the string bikini I bought last weekend. Instead of intestines that digest my meals with painless efficiency, I see a bloated belly that didn’t give 100% during today’s ab work-out.

Failure. All I see is FAILURE.

What would Hazel see though? Physical strength and stamina, like she may never experience. But enveloped in an attitude, undeserving of said strength and stamina.

Admission #7: If Hazel was a real person and that’s indeed what she saw…well, she’d be right.

Here’s the fundamental difference between me and someone, who’s chronically ill: s(he) never chose to get sick.

Whereas I did.

Not consciously, of course. I do believe that my particular disease is complicated and psychological and hard as hell to control. But it’s also curable and avoidable. Throughout my entire ordeal, I retained the freedom to make a full recovery. Whenever I was ready, health awaited.

That’s not the case for Hazel. Or Augustus. Or the countless actual cancer sufferers, survivors, and warriors.

REAL names.

REAL faces.

REAL stories.

REAL heartbreak…

And REAL capital-C courage.

They can’t simply flip the “recovered” switch. But, God, I wish they could.

So, this is the lesson I’ll take away from The Fault In Our Stars (an important read…perhaps the most important read I’ve stumbled upon in years): “Live your best life today.” And take no breath for granted.

the fault in our stars     (image courtesy of pinterest.com)

30 Quotes from 30 Women Just Trying to Figure this Whole Life Thing Out

“I think exercise tests us in so many ways, our skills, our hearts, our ability to bounce back after setbacks. This is the inner beauty of sports and competition.” 

~ Peggy Fleming (Olympic Figure Skater)

“Don’t get hung up on the size. If you feel bad about yourself because a 12 is what fits, take a Sharpie and write ‘6’ on the label.”

~ Stacy London (What Not to Wear Co-Host)

“I’ve always believed fitness is an entry point to building that happier, healthier life. When your health is strong, you’re capable of taking risks. You’ll feel more confident and ask for the promotion. You’ll have more energy to be a better mom. You’ll feel more deserving of love.”

~ Jillian Michaels (The Biggest Loser Trainer)

“I try to come at fitness and nutrition from a perspective of gentleness and what will make me feel good afterward. I try to stay out of the mindset of needing to fix myself.”

~ Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black Actress)

“Developing a diet that is healthful, balanced, and appropriate for your particular caloric needs is absolutely critical to establishing a healthful lifestyle that incorporates proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and mental resilience.”

~ Daphne Oz (The Chew Co-Host) 

“I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman. But I am constantly thinking about my own health and making sure that I’m eating right and getting exercise and watching the aches and pains. I want to be this really fly 80-90-year old.”

~ Michelle Obama (First Lady of the USA)

“Follow your dreams, work hard, practice, and persevere. Make sure you eat a variety of foods, get plenty of exercise, and maintain a balanced lifestyle.”

~ Sasha Cohen (Olympic Figure Skater)

“Try to think of working out and healthy eating as a lifestyle. Rather than go on a diet or try a crazy exercise routine, try making them something you do every day.”

~ Allyson Felix (Olympic Track & Field Sprinter)

‘I’m a girl who eats. And I feel beautiful no matter how I look. I have my family to thank for that.”

~ Lea Michele (Glee Actress & Singer)

“I look at being older and gaining wisdom. I’ve learned to stay fit and healthy. I accept my body, my life, and my circumstances.”

~ Kim Alexis (American Supermodel & Actress)

“I live by the 80/20 rule. I’m 80% organic and 20% indulgent.”

~ Miranda Kerr (Victoria’s Secret Angel)

“The way I looked when I started modeling – I was a skinny schoolgirl stuffing tissues into my little 32A bra. I wasn’t trying to be that thin; I was perfectly healthy, but still – that look is a total impossibility for women over the age of 20. Fashion has a lot to answer for, doesn’t it?” 

~  Twiggy (British Supermodel & Actress)

“As soon as I shifted my focus away from the scale, the weight started to come off. I keep track of my body by how my jeans fit – and how I feel.”

~ Alison Sweeney (The Biggest Loser Host)

“I’m into wellbeing, not because of social pressures to look a certain way, but because I’m interested in living a long, full, and healthy life.”

~ Kelly Brook (British Model & TV Presenter)

“It’s important to embrace and love your body for what it is. Every woman has her own body.”

~ Marisa Miller (Victoria’s Secret Angel)

“I like how my body feels when I’m in shape; I love how it feels after I work out each day. Fitting in the clothes I like to wear comfortably and living a balanced lifestyle is important to me.”

~ Colbie Caillat (Pop Singer-Songwriter)

“My own prescription for health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass.”

~ Leslie Grimutter (Holistic Lifestyle Blogger)

“In minds crammed with thoughts, organs clogged with toxins, and bodies stiffened with neglect, there is just no space for anything else.”

~ Alison Rose Levy (Journalist & Radio Personality)

“We don’t realize that somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love Author)

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”

~ Mary Radmacher (Writer & Motivational Speaker)

“You’ll never regret eating blueberries or working up a sweat.”

~ Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean Author)

“Nothing lifts me out of a bad mood faster than a hard work out on my treadmill. It never fails. Exercise is nothing short of a miracle.”

~ Cher (American Singer & Pop Icon)

“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”

~ Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief)

“Running is very rhythmic, and I have written a lot of lyrics while out running. It’s a very musical exercise, and sometimes I like to sing when I run. Your whole body is doing the same thing.”

~ Sarah McLachlan (Canadian Singer-Songwriter)

“I’ll immediately gain, like 5 pounds, even just by thinking about cutting out dessert. It’s a nightmare. So, I decided, for me, the healthiest thing was to eat what I want and just exercise. Some women can watch what they eat, but I just can’t do that.”

~ Gwyneth Paltrow (Academy Award-Winning Actress)  

 “There is something so rewarding about dancing. It’s almost spiritual – you let loose, you feel free, you get endorphins from the exercise.”

~ Julianne Hough (Dancing With the Stars Coach)

“I tend to like the outdoors. In Paris, I rent a bike in the street and cycle around. In LA, I live up in the hills so I go hiking a lot. I like to stay fit by being generally active.”

~ Diane Kruger (German Actress & Model)

“Your body begins to change when it burns and shakes. So when an exercise is challenging, I always think ‘feel your body changing.”

~ Stacy Keibler (Former Professional Wrestler)

“I think it’s important to remember, you don’t have to run a sprint in order to work out.”

~ Emily Deschanel (Bones Actress & Producer)

“I just want to be healthy. And stay alive. And keep my family going. And keep my friends going. And try to do something so that this world will be peaceful. That is the most ambitious and difficult thing, but I’m there trying to do it.”

~ Yoko Ono (Japanese Artist & Activist)

Why We Shouldn’t Need to Mind the Gap

I’ll admit…

I became preoccupied with obtaining a “thigh gap” before I even knew it had a name. Let alone a hashtag.

All I knew was if my feet were together but my thighs were NOT apart, then that equaled failure. If they so much as grazed against each other during an evening jog, I’d inwardly curse the loose folds of cellulite that had taken up residence there. Granted, this egregious cellulite only existed inside my head, but still…

Why. The. Hell. Must. Those. Stupid. Thighs. Touch?!

Arrrrrgh!

What is this madness?!

Madness indeed. Not only was I fixated on a meaningless centimeter of space between my inner thighs, but now millions of other young women are too. You can’t scroll through an Instagram feed or peruse Tumblr posts without being inundated by this troubling trend. #MindTheGap has recently become just as much an institution as social media itself. Proponents of the elusive “gap” use these sites as sounding boards to either tout their progress or bemoan their inadequacy. Nope. There’s no mistaking it: thigh gap fixation has given us tunnel vision toward our own physical appearances.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply be considered fit and trim overall. Now every last INCH of our bodies demands perfection.

But, let’s be honest, are thigh gaps even all that noticeable? If you didn’t spend a solid 10 minutes positioning your legs at just the right angle to snap a boastful – and perhaps teeny tiny bit…filtered – selfie, would your friends have any idea that you claim membership in the Thigh Gap Club? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Which raises even more questions: Why is this our new benchmark for beauty? Why is a sliver of breathing room separating 1 skin layer from another suddenly the latest status symbol? Why do we measure personal success in such superficial, fleeting terms?

No, really. WHY?!

Do yourself a favor next time you cringe at your own reflection. Rather than gauging the dead air between your legs, consider instead how those same legs move you through each miraculous day of your beautiful life.

Not that’s worth minding.

What I’m Reading and How It’s Changed My Thinking

Recently, while meandering through the aisles at Barnes & Noble, I stumbled upon one of my favorite actress’s – Cameron Diaz – latest endeavor: The Body Book. Intrigued (and admittedly, a bit skeptical…she is in the business of flawlessness, after all), I snagged a copy off the shelf.

And I was hooked.

We’re talking instantly. I devoured that book in just a few days…and I do mean “devour!” Both my mind and body were STARVING to absorb the information leaping off each page. Never mind that Cameron graces the world’s most glamorous stages. Reading her words, you’d think she was just some unassuming girl-next-door. She was speaking to me. She was speaking to every woman’s innermost body-image struggles. Hell, she WAS every woman. She’d faced those struggles too. And she vanquished them. How could I not be inspired?!

Throughout my later years of adolescence, I harbored a shameful secret: anorexia nervosa. Then, upon entering young adulthood, I undertook an arduous yet fulfilling journey toward both physical and emotional recovery. And these days, I’ve become outspoken on the subject of eating disorders, freely sharing from personal experience in hopes that someone – anyone – might avoid falling prey to this illness because they heard my story.

However, the temptation to slip back into those destructive patterns is an ongoing occupational hazard. On a good day, I can easily tune out the nagging voices that tick off my failures, like a Justin Bieber song on repeat.

On a bad day, I can’t focus on anything else.

But this book altered my perspective on common misconceptions about the human body, which I’d blindly accepted as fact. For the first time, I finally learned the textbook definition of a “calorie.” This thing, which makes even the most self-assured women tremble, is actually not a villain. It’s a unit of energy that the body stores while at rest, then converts into fuel while in motion. Ahem…so, I DON’T need to fear the dreaded calorie?! Simple. Straightforward. Yet revolutionary. Mind blown.

As if that eyeopener wasn’t enough cause for celebration, Cameron went on to crush another fallacy I’d once sworn by: hunger is not a sign of weakness. Au contraire! Eating sustains life, which makes being hungry a biological trigger for our survival instincts. And furthermore, by responding to this urge, we’re fueling ourselves with energy rather than cellulite.

Why did we lose sight of these 6th-grade science basics? Why do they sound radical and groundbreaking, when they should have been our bread and butter all along?

Sometimes it takes an influential force (say…Cameron Diaz, perhaps?) to aim her star power toward setting the record straight. Once and for all. Because women – regardless of shape, size, or bra cup – have been conditioned to loathe every curve and contour, when they SHOULD be skakin’ what their mamas gave them.

Reclaim the right to love your body. And take my advice: crack open The Body Book.

Do it. Like yesterday.

Image   

Another First Post from Another New Blog.

So, I started a blog. Well…so what, right? Just imagine for a second how many millions of blog posts get published every single day. And I’m just one tiny blip on the radar. So, why should this matter? Hell. Why should you even read it?

You might have skimmed the title page and made an (accurate) assumption that I’ll be blogging about everyone’s 2 favorite topics (read: those pesky little guilt-trippers we all love to hate): Health and Fitness.

*Insert eye rolling.* Great. Just great.

Well, isn’t that convenient?! Yet another reminder you aren’t taking care of yourself in the same obsessive way Cameron Diaz does. That you skipped working out again this week (yup, that gym membership sure was money down the drain!). That while all your Facebook friends are running marathons, posting photos of their “bikini bods,” and yakking about the latest juice cleanse (skinny bitches!), you’re just over here on the couch with a glass of wine in one hand, a sleeve of Oreos in the other, and a “Friends” re-run on TV. Hey now! Even Monica Gellar knows the finer things in life include junk food.

So, you’re gonna pass on the “thin-spiration,” right? Thanks but no thanks. Who needs one more blogger droning on about her experience with Clean Living, Paleo Diets, Yogalates, or whatever the hell this week’s big hype might be.

“After all,” you’re probably thinking, “she’ll just turn out to be a bitch too” (“I bet she even senses where I hide my secret Godiva chocolates stash!”). The horror.

Well…as long as we’re confessing our guilty pleasures here, let me tell you a little something: I love chocolate too.

And cheesecake. And frappuccinos with extra whip. And queso-smothered nachos. And French fries. And take-out Chinese. What I’m saying is I GET IT. I understand the cravings, temptations, and post-“food coma” shame. Yup, I’ve even pulled the old “I’m too tired for exercise” excuse. I UNDERSTAND.

I also understand the social stigmas.

Look. Here are the facts: we’re all woman trying to keep our heads above water in this calorie-counting, fad dieting, food shaming, thigh gap-trending, Soulcycling, image-obsessed culture of the 21st century. We’ve gotten more weight-conscious than Barbie Doll herself. It’s not enough that magazines Photoshop their (already stunning) cover girls…if there was a way to Photoshop ourselves in real life, we would’ve done that yesterday.

Blame the media. Blame red carpets. Blame glossy “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issues. Blame that guy who reads a “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue. Blame that spray-tanned chick who Instagrams a selfie and hashtags #skinnygirlsareprettygirls. Blame effing Jennifer Aniston. Blame yourself for not being like her.

Blame. Blame. Blame. Blah. Blah. Blah.

But enough with the blame game already! Why do we instinctively hate that petite blonde in line at Starbucks, who orders a tall-no-sugar-no-foam-skinny-soy-latte, and unknowingly forces everyone behind her to follow suit? WHY?! I’ll tell you why: because her tight toned ass looked damn good in those yoga pants, so the rest of us just couldn’t resist rattling off the exact same “let’s pretend it’s coffee” order.

It’s simple, really. We thrive off competition. We love to outdo each other in the looks department. And maybe that’s why Health and Fitness have become such taboo subjects.

But I’m not some ripped and intimidating Jillian Michaels wannabe screaming at other women to drop the Cheetos, log off Netflix, and hit the treadmill.  My goal is to empower women to discover (and hopefully, embrace) the beauty they already possess.

Because, ladies: you are strong. You are able. You are sexy. You are wholly unique.

And furthermore, your minds and bodies are powerhouses waiting…wanting…to achieve their full potential through  (you guessed it!) Health and Fitness.

*Insert eye roll-*

No, wait! Stay with me because I’ve got a weapon in my arsenal that I’m willing to bet the average “thin-spiration” blogger lacks. I’ll never preach suppressing your hunger or camping out at the gym. My concern is balance. And moderation. And mindfulness. 3 basic principles that nearly saved my life a few years back.

Real talk. I went from being severely anorexic and consumed by a singular pursuit of physical perfection to content with WHO I am and HOW my body functions. That’s my aim for you too. And for anyone else, who happens to stumble upon my ramblings.

So, it might indeed be a tiny blip on the radar. But let me assure you…it’s not just another blog.