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Fatspiration – How Gaining 20 Lbs. Made Me a Better Person

In my youth, I considered being pretty and thin as a free-pass in social situations. Once that free-pass was revoked, I had to shed all of the insecurities that were holding me back. Vulnerable, I had to face some of my greatest flaws, which meant coming to grips with the barriers that were keeping me from truly connecting with others and forging strong relationships.

Once Upon a Time, I was a Skinny Bitch

When I was 20 years old, I weighed a little over 100 lbs. My pelvic bones jutted over the top of my jeans. My tummy was flat and fat-free.


Five years ago, not even at my skinniest, but you get the picture…

I was 20 lbs. lighter back then, but I was still 5’4” with a seriously pigeon-toed strut (definitely not model material). Nonetheless, my best friends and I would huddle around the television in my dorm room, watching “America’s Next Top Model.”

Afterwards, we would have impromptu photo shoots where I would practice “looking fierce.” Looking back at those photos, seven years later, I see a skinny girl who looked confused and a little lost. There was nothing fierce about her.

I remained skinny after moving off-campus. I worked long hours and went to school full-time. My diet consisted of canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I didn’t keep alcohol in the house, and I rarely had the time to go out. At the few parties I went to, I stood in corners with my best friend, being catty and unapproachable.

I was skinny and beautiful, and I could get away with sitting on the sidelines and criticizing the weight and looks of other girls. I wasn’t intentionally mean. Okay, sometimes I was. But like so many girls (and bullies) say,

“I was just really insecure.”

As an introvert, hiding in corners was my way of avoiding attention. Being unapproachable was my way of deflecting the frat boys who prowled the bars and seduced drunk girls at parties. I was terrified of talking to men (even the decent ones), and although I was attractive, I didn’t have the social grace to carry myself with confidence.

After graduating college, I realized I would never be a model. The older I got, the more pronounced my flaws became. When did my nose become crooked? Where did the cellulite on my thighs come from? Why can’t I get rid of the bags under my eyes?

I felt that I would never be refined enough, graceful enough, smart enough, or fashionable enough to overcome my insecurities and earn the respect of the beautiful people, the wealthy people, the connected people — the ELITE people who hold so much power in a world I was seeing for the first time.

In my immaturity, my confidence had relied entirely on being “pretty and thin,” and I had spent years judging myself and others based on looks. To this day, I still get nervous around extremely beautiful people because I feel that, somehow, they’re just innately superior to me.

How I Became Fatter, Happier, and Wiser

Being skinny is a powerful thing. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 70% of adults over 20 are overweight. For most of my life, being skinny was my elite niche. It was my trump card.

266 (2)But in college, it wasn’t hard to be skinny. I walked to class. I ate at the cafeteria. I drank a lot of coffee. I didn’t work to be skinny; being skinny just worked for me.

I moved to Texas a little over a year ago. The dress I wore to my job interview was a size 0. When my pants started feeling snug, I blamed it on our apartment laundry machines. “My pants are shrinking in the dryer!” was my explanation. When I finally broke down to buy new jeans, I was shocked to discover that I was between a four and a six.

I know what you’re thinking: “Girl, you’re still a skinny bitch! A size six is nothing.”

And in some ways, you would be totally right. I’m at an acceptable, healthy weight for my age and height. However, for the past year, I have absolutely not been living an active, healthy lifestyle.

At my former job, I commuted two hours a day and sat at a desk for eight hours. At home, I drank craft beer with my fiance and
enjoyed making home-cooked meals. Each day I found myself growing more exhausted, and my mental capacity for stress grew thin. With low energy levels, my fiance and I developed the habit of watching a few hours of television each night before bed, and it got to the point that my only exercise was walking up a few flights of stairs to my office each day.

Beyond the sedentary work environment was a larger problem: I had no idea how to diet and exercise. In my entire life I had never tried to lose weight, and I had never needed to exercise. I had had flings with Jackie Warner workout DVDs, and I even tried Carmen Electra’s Strip to Fit (my best friend and I got a good ab workout while we laughed hysterically at each other during that one), but I had never had a serious regimen, and I had never counted calories.

When I finally began researching nutrition and exercise, I realized something. I wasn’t healthy at 100 lbs. I was just malnourished and overworked. My situation should have been obvious, but I had never thought of it in those terms; and in a very real sense, I was a 27-year-old woman who had no idea how to care for her own body.

What I’ve Gained by Gaining 20 Lbs.

My pre-workout routine body. Not much has changed, but I feel a lot better!!

My pre-workout routine body. Not much has changed, but I feel a lot better!!

The decision to change my life has been a long journey. Three months ago, I ordered new workout clothes on Zappos and Old Navy. After I had my gear, it took another month to commit to a workout routine. My brother has a Master’s degree in exercise science, and he was nice enough to create a weekly exercise plan for me, but I had to twist his arm to do it. His original suggestion sounded so simple: “Just cut back on your calories and do 45 minutes of cardio 5 days a week.”

For me, cutting calories is the tough part. I still love my craft beer, and I can’t resist a good glass of wine. I’m still in transition, but what I’ve learned is that changing your lifestyle takes a lot of time and a lot of mistakes. In the beginning, I made the huge mistake of pressuring myself to lose too much too fast. I felt the need to gain a new skinny elitism, the one of fitspiration and six packs and thigh gaps. I overexercised to the point where my recovery took almost a week, destroying all hope for a consistent routine. When I finally started taking things more slowly, I began to listen to my body and concentrate on form.

After all of my hard work, I’ve only lost 3 lbs., but now I’m focusing on what I gain in the gym rather than what I lose. What started with unhappiness and insecurity has evolved into a love and appreciation for my body and all of its capabilities.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been exercising three to four times a week (as per my brother’s instructions). The things I’ve learned about myself in the gym are making me a better person. I’m becoming more focused, more disciplined, and more in tune with my body and mind. Now, when I get cranky or stressed out, I go to the gym to clear my head. I focus on pushing through a tough cardio routine or completing a heavier weight lifting set.

At first, there were days when the scales made me feel like crap. I wasn’t seeing any progress, and it didn’t feel worth the extra stress

Six weeks ago I would get winded walking up stairs. Last weekend, I climbed a mountain with a 20 lb pack in the sizzling summer heat. FIERCE indeed!

Six weeks ago I would get winded walking up stairs. Last weekend, I climbed a mountain with a 20 lb pack in the sizzling summer heat. FIERCE indeed!

that came with squeezing in an hour of exercise after work. It got easier though. I came to expect the scales to read “126” every single day, and I started having fun. When I’m alone in the gym, I cut loose and dance to my iPod tunes in between sets. I’ve charged through countless 45 minute cardio sessions while watching Pretty Little Liars, Orange is the New Black, and Alias. Exercising has become MY time. I love it, and I need it.

Since gaining 20 lbs., I’ve dropped my pretentious skinny elitism and developed a stronger sense of self. One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that people love talking about fitness. Sharing fitness tips, suggesting workout programs, discussing diet and nutrition — it’s like being part of a huge club. It’s the opposite of elitism, and it feels awesome to have so much support.

I don’t worry so much about the scales anymore. Instead, I spend my time in the gym focused on building myself up from the inside out. There’s something wonderful about pushing my body to the point of failure during a lifting set. There’s something immensely satisfying in overcoming a mental barrier during a run. I go to the gym to push my boundaries, to endure failures, and to measure my progress.

I respect myself more today than I did at 20. I’m more confident and more comfortable with who I am. I can handle higher levels of pressure, and I think I’m more graceful and fluid in social situations. I still don’t seek out the center of attention, but I steal the spotlight every now and again without getting stage fright.

I would definitely say I’m fiercer now than ever before.

Tell me how you WORK IT, girls! What makes you feel fierce and powerful?



Words of Wisdom

 “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat” – F. Scott Fitzgerald


Cucumber and Mint Vodka – Homemade Infusion Recipe

I’ve recently been introduced to the idea of “health-conscious boozing.” It’s a bit of an oxymoron, but nonetheless, finding low-calorie cocktails is a very real challenge. Vodka and water with lime has been my low-cal drink of choice for the summer, but when it comes to flavor, the vodka water leaves MUCH to be desired. I needed a refreshing poolside drink that would be delicious, crisp and low in calories. I’ve seen cucumber-infused water, so I decided to take that to the next step with a homemade infusion of cucumber and mint vodka. It’s a quick, easy recipe, and it was a huge hit at my last pool party.

How to Make Cucumber and Mint Vodka

Cucumber_Vodka1You’ll need

A mason jar

Coffee filters

One fifth of vodka

2 cucumbers

2 sprigs of Mint (or a whole package)


Peel and chop cucumbers with  the seeds remaining. Add the cucumbers to the mason jar in handfuls. In between handfuls of cucumbers, layer the mint leaves.  You can use more or less mint depending on your preferences. When the jar is full, pour in the vodka. Allow the vodka to seep for at least three days at room temperature.

After three days, taste the vodka to test the flavor levels. Three days was more than enough to create a sweet, crisp taste that I loved, but you may want something more potent.

If the cucumber and mint vodka is to your liking, strain the contents of the mason jar into a separate cup. You can use a slotted spoon or a mesh sifter. Don’t worry about getting all of the little pieces out right now.

Once the liquid has been removed from the mason jar, dispose of the cucumber and mint and rinse the jar. Using a rubber band (or a hair tie) secure a coffee filter around the edge of the mason jar. Position the filter so that it creates the deepest pocket possible within the jar. (This will make the straining process a lot faster.)

In increments, pour the vodka through the coffee filter and back into the mason jar. When you’re done, put the mason jar of mint and cucumber vodka in the freezer for storage. You can also mix a drink right away simply by adding water and ice.

TIP: Make mint ice cubes to add flavor to a drink during a hot day. Simply place mint leaves in ice cube molds, cover with water, and freeze. It’s a simple touch that goes a long way at parties.

IMG_2835 (3)

Cucumber & Mint Lemonade Martini

1:1 lemon juice & simple syrup

cucumber and mint vodka

Shake, pour, and garnish with a cucumber. Perfect for those who LOVE sweet drinks. (Not a low-calorie option, unfortunately.)







Dreaming of Blue Jay Eggs in February

blue bird

If I could tell the world a story, what would it be?

The first thing that comes to mind is a small child, a little girl. Tall trees cast long shadows as the setting sun shines through, making the grass look golden green. Everything is calm and cool. It is a day between summer and fall, an in-between day.

el testigo, the witness

El Testigo by Tomas Sanchez

I have always loved the in-between places, the gray areas. When the clouds cloak the sky like a dome of mist and there is no way to know the time of day. I love riding through twilight and dawn, whizzing and roaring away from one place and to another. I find eternal thrill in traveling to new places. I am a natural born adventurer.

I am a gypsy. I am a nomad. I am a runner. I am a Native American, thirsty for the land. It seems like everywhere I turn, there are more walls. I am a raw girl, too raw to be called a woman. I’m in an in-between stage, always experimenting with new styles, not quite comfortable in my own skin.

I have love. I have work. I have my health. But I can’t tell where it’s all headed. I can’t tell if I’m on the edge of dawn or dusk. I imagine myself as a woman, refined and nonchalant, with leather handbags and matching shoes. Pearls and diamonds. Hair that shines and is always in place.

But I mostly feel like that’s someone else’s dream, a desire that’s been transplanted into my brain, a foreign object that has no real meaning to me. Because I’d much rather wake up in the morning and tie my hair back. I’d rather wear a tall pair of riding boots or hiking boots and take a camera into the forest. I’d rather drink dark, sludgy black coffee in the quiet, cool morning hours and leave the house at dawn while the world looks gray.

I’d rather listen and look for the slow things in this world–the hatching of blue jay eggs and the unfolding of flower petals. The thrumming and throbbing of the cicadas and the grasshoppers. I’d rather sit and watch the shadows grow long. I just want to live in the world the way we were all meant to live in it.

blue bird

Cyanocitta-cristata-004” by MdfOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

clint6 on flickr

clint6 on flickr

I don’t know where I’m heading, but now my uncertainty has been acknowledged, I feel like I have a choice.

If I was any good at talking to other people, I would explain to them that crossroads are hard to come by. The real crossroads, the ones where the unknown lies ahead, those are the times when you notice the shadows growing long, when you know the world is tilting one way or the other.

I think a lot of people understand the concept of transition. But I don’t think many people realize they get to choose which way the world turns. We, as a society, get to choose if day or night comes next. As people we make small choices every day that add up to an entire lifestyle. That’s the thing about being a writer. You understand who’s in charge of spinning the story. But it always, always, always takes guts to take transform your world, to stop looking to chance or the rotation of the planet to move things along. Stop waiting for other people to point you in the right direction. Listen to you heart instead.

My story is about a little girl who understood these things. She understood the tough lessons of love. She understood what it meant to fight. but then the rest of the world chimed in, and she didn’t feel good enough anymore. Suddenly, it was about big city livin’ and designer clothes she could never hope to afford. It was about nice cars and nice houses and nice things. It was about having a killer body and a great hair style.

And now that girl drives along the highway every day, knowing that our one true power as human beings is to create the world around us. And there are concrete highways and turnpikes and neon signs and cheap, ugly buildings that sprawl for miles and miles and miles and miles. And the thing that drives this eyesore of a world is the hope to make some money or to gain some power. What ever happened to spreading a positive message and good cheer? 🙂

I am immensely wearied by it all. Because when I drive down the highway, and I don’t listen to the radio. I listen to the whir of tires against asphalt, and the whooshing of passing cars as they break through the air. Folks doing what they can to survive in a world of imaginary rules.

We could have created anything, so why did we build this? Why is there so much asphalt in the world? Why is there so much waste and violence? Where did it all go so terribly wrong? I can’t answer these questions, so I focus on the possibilities. What can I do? How do I work toward daylight instead of nightfall?



I’ve Lost It.

September 12, 2011

I need help finding my sense of humor. I lost it somewhere over the years, across an ocean or a state line.  Maybe I left it in the bottom of a bottle or an ashtray, or on top of someone else’s pillow.

I am retracing my steps, trying to remember where I had it last.  (You know how absentminded I am.) I don’t recall the last time I saw it, precisely.  It was about five years ago.  I could laugh at anything. The funny side was the right side of things.  If you knew me back then, you were lucky.  I had a great sense of humor.


London Aquarium, 2006

I guess it’s time to do some house cleaning.  I imagine my mind to be disorganized and crowded, as the home of a hoarder.  “I can’t throw it away! I might use it someday,” I wail, clutching a scrap of notebook paper, which turns out to be a page of notes I took in high school Physics.

The floor is littered with newspapers, letters, greeting cards, hate mail, old stuffed animals, doodles, artwork, presents, holiday decorations — not to mention all the figments of my imagination living in this mess: fictional characters like Bilbo Baggins and Luke Skywalker; about ten different versions of myself, some semblance of God, intelligent life from different dimensions/planets; and my characterization of my role models –  Didion, Bukowski, Steinbeck, King, Salinger…. so many faces behind so many doors.  My mind is quite the party.

Once I get some of this clutter organized, they might even help me find my sense of humor again.  We will stand together to fight any evil that lurks in the dusty corners of my thoughts.  An evil that has spent decades waiting for me in the closet of my childhood bedroom, chumming it up with my old Alf doll, and holding my sense of humor hostage.

Aha, that must be where my sense of humor is.

Scary as hell.








Oh shit, this is going to be scary as hell.


The Skin of the City | Rome, Italy 2008

After I spent five semesters skipping most of my Italian classes, I had no illusions about my linguistic capabilities.

Fourteen hours after boarding the plane, I was sleep-deprived and anxious. My inner monologue began to loop the necessary phrase, “Ho bisogno di andare a quest’indirizzo.” When the time came to communicate, I choked. I simply pointed to the address, and the cab driver understood.

After a few minutes of exchanging abrupt phrases, I began having a conversation with Carlo the cabdriver. I was amazed at the words that had been stored correctly in my internal vocabulary rolodex. My confidence was renewed. My roommate was impressed, but after a week, I still have not formed a grammatically correct sentence in conversation.

Our apartment is in the Trastevere district, where graffiti decorates the grimy walls and bridges. Bare-chested men smoke and talk in the streets, sweating and gesticulating as their voices rise and fall. The corner grocer feuds with the establishment around the corner. “I sell for eighty,” the man says, pointing to the soft drinks we bought at the other alimentari. “Come here. Not there.” Our roommates and I assure him we will.

Rome carries less magic the second time around. The city’s novelty has worn away, revealing it for what it is. I am not here as a tourist, but as a resident. I am not here to enjoy the city, but to survive it. For a week, my roommates and I could not turn on the stove or the hot water. The water was so excruciatingly cold that I could not fully submerge my body while taking a shower.

I was beginning to wonder if the Italian stereotype for poor hygiene was prompted by a national lack of hot water, but it turned out it was our national ignorance. When we finally managed to reach the landlord, she explained that a switch operates the gas. This discovery allowed me to take a scalding shower and cook our first meal in our new apartment.

Though Rome is loud and dirty, it does have its charms. The architecture is breathtaking. Massive, ancient buildings stand in the midst of bars and gelaterias. Crowds of people –Italian and foreigners alike—gather taking pictures, drinking beer, and licking the sides of their ice cream cones. Children chase pigeons and mopeds whiz through the piazzas. A quiet reverence for life pulsates through the city. There are violinists, street drummers, singers, guitar players, homeless people, pick pockets, gorgeous men and women, drunk Americans, police officers, elderly couples, and even parents with their children – everyone participates in the night life. It’s an all-inclusive party. Everyone belongs to Rome.

It is this reverence for life that allows Italians to spend Saturday night in the piazza and Sunday morning at mass. It is the all-encompassing, unquestioned ambivalence of mankind. Though the Romans spray paint their bridges and buildings, they would never doubt their love for their city. Graffiti is an adornment, an artistic tattoo against the skin of Rome.

“Rome is the best,” as Carlo the cabdriver would say.

Getting to know a new city has forced me to get re-acquainted with myself. My insecurities have been newly revealed, like old wounds reopened, but Rome does not notice my linguistic shortcoming. It is only a stumbling block, a loose cobblestone, to enjoying the culture.

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