Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

It’s on you.

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It’s on you.

That is where it starts. That is where it ends.

It’s on you and what you want, and how hard you are willing to hustle, and how relentless you are going to be when they tell you to give up. 

Because people will tell you to give up.

They’ll look at you with crooked faces. They won’t understand your drive. And they are going to look to bring you down because they don’t know any better. They haven’t had the guts to go for it themselves and so they will try to tell you no. Impossible. Not worth the time.

Forget them. In the nicest, sweetest way possible, forget them and all the little barriers and boundaries they try to place on this life of yours.

 

Wake up. It’s your life.

You owned it yesterday. You gleaned the freedom today. Stop acting like the world runs you. Like the magazines run you. Like all of the folks who never perked their ears to really listen to you have a say in what you are going to do with these footsteps of yours.

It’s yours. You’re free.  Are you gonna start running towards it?

 

Don’t wait. Don’t stand in the corner waiting for the direction to reveal itself. Just. Start. Sprinting.  Peace will flood in when it’s right. But you have to move to find the peace. Peace comes through footsteps, I promise.

Think about what stopped you yesterday. Who was that person? What were they afraid of? And why did they govern you for so long? You’ve got one chance. You’ve got one shot. The world won’t cry if you never use it. It’s on you. Don’t make the universe regret you.

 

Look around. Forget “the box.”

Forget what you “think” the world is all about. Forget this, forget that. Forget the status update. Forget the selfie.

Here is what the world is really all about: Humility. People. People helping other people. People trying to make this hard thing, this impossible thing, more graceful for others. That is where the joy is. That is where the peace is. That is the beauty of every thread of life: we were never designed to go this thing alone. We were born with spaces in our fingers and you were born to go out and find the ones who fits in your spaces Oh So Well. 

Strive to do good. Strive to be the best version of yourself. Reflect. Learn from the Yesterday that made you feel weak. Stop letting people bend and break your heart. Play the music louder. Scream if you need to. Walk away from that toxic person who never had your goodness at the forefront of their mind. Walk away. Your goodness will be at the forefront of any mind that loves you fiercely, boldly, with no sense of tomorrow. You deserve that. The best of it.  You’ve got to learn to want that for yourself.

Learn to stand in front of the mirror without cringing. Throw off the chains of your secrets; don’t let them prison up your mind any longer. Let it out. Say the damn things that you have needed to say. Make them good. Make them worth someone turning their head to listen to you.

 

You’ve got a voice.

Most people would kill to have one. So learn how to use it. Start. Start small, start slow, start however you want. But start. Don’t go to the ground never having used that voice of yours for something good, something worthy, something that thickened your skin & buckled your knees & ramshackled your heart.

Screw December 31st and the resolutions you’ve stacked away in the closet for the start of a New Year and 12 bells clanking at midnight. It Starts Now. It should have started five minutes ago. It starts with a single question that turns out to be the answer to everything:

 Are you worth it enough to start?

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Filed under Dating Amazement, Healthy Lifestyle, Live with intention

Relearning Loveliness: Not ten pounds lighter. Not two weeks later.

You would think a girl who spent childhood making collages with pass out literature from UNICEF and annual global poverty reports, wouldn’t find her most disturbing discovery at the United Nations in the bathroom of the main headquarters.

I am trying not to stare over as I pump a thick layer of neon soap in the palms of my hands and dip them under the soapy water.

One by one, the women stop and pause in front of the full-length mirror.

Tug at their shirts.

Suck in their stomachs.

Turn at a few different angles.

Leaving a disdained look upon the mirror as they turn away,  disapproval plastered on the mirror like a lipstick kiss.

 

I click clack my heels daily around a monumental place where genocide, malaria, peace, war, girls’ rights and primary education are all the basic words you need  in order to have a substantial conversation over coffee. And yet, I wonder the most about the women who walk around here and all over New York City, and All Over Every City, not satisfied when they greet a full-length mirror.

The women who cringe over fitting rooms and racks of skinny jeans.

Some days I want to study it. Pull up a chair into the center of any fitting room and take field notes. Or hear the story from start to finish as if it were bound and scripted for bedtime purposes. I could curl up on blue carpeting and find some librarian to read the picture book out loud to me.

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl. And as she grew older the world grew harder. Her thighs were always too big. Her nose to long. Her ankles too fat. Her skin too blemished….

I don’t know what the pictures might look like.

Maybe watercolor paintings of sad girls in princess dresses. With pocket-sized mirrors. Maybe Eric Carle would do the illustrations.

If I had two extra hours to my every day, I would surely dedicate the 120 minutes to tracking down a scholar who could point out to me just where women started missing parts and cutting themselves off at the knees. Where it began… Where he believes it might end…

Where we learned verbs like “comparing,” “despising,” and “sizing.”  And started using our adjectives to belittle our bodies and devalue our worth.

Then perhaps that same scholar could take me on a walking tour, as if we were catching a new exhibit at the MOMA on a Friday night. Here is the woman who turns to peanut butter and wine, he would show me. And down the line you will find the young girl who rummages through clothes racks to look for self worth, only in even numbers, less than 6. Size 0. Size 2. Size 4.

I really wouldn’t need a pamphlet or a tour guide.

I wouldn’t need to plug a set of headphones into a wall to hear a young woman’s story to know “why.”

The thing about most of us is that we understand why she isn’t eating and she is eating so much. Because we all grew up together in a space that taught us every aspect of being Thin, Pretty, & Desirable for any and every occasion.

We never grew up reading beauty magazines with glossy spreads teaching us the goodness of our birthmarks and the sweetness to our gap teeth. From time to time we would find the declaration of love, but really we were just reading up on how to fix this part of ourselves, or lessen that part.

How to be smaller in the world. Take up less space. Be quiet and play pretty.

And though we grew up with a rare right to preserve and protect our bodies, we struggle to find much value in them. Little time to value the Birthmarks, the Curves. The Freckled Elbows. The Grey Hairs on Heads.

I always wondered, while flipping through the pages of different monthly issues with all the same issues on the front cover, how will I ever learn to love something that constantly needs changing? How I could ever learn to adore a body when it needed altering always. Hemming always. Trimming always.

Where there was always an end goal that a scale would define.

Where I would always be a traveller, a nomad, looking for that point of peace in the mirror.

Geneen Roth, one of my favorite authors, first planted the words of poet Galway Kinnell into her book and I read them, suddenly wishing this single verse could have been my lullaby growing up.

Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.

Loveliness… It could be a new favorite word. A great new leather jacket of Loveliness to wear around. And zip our hearts inward tightly.

Roth goes on to write about wings. And how we have all been given wings. And how we learn to fly, from wings.

And it’s a pretty thought.

A better ending to the picture book story with a very grim beginning, with watercolor girls fading as if they and their pages were left out in the rain. The thought of us all flying. Soaring. Above it all.

The thought of us all running into a conference room breathless, clutching lined paper and digital cameras. Throwing a pile of colored crumpled sketches and black and white photographs into the center of a table that I decided would be round.

And the thought of sifting and sorting for the very best stories of love. The very best images of self worth.  The most wonderful ballads of acceptance and pacts with our bodies.

And we would send that collection off to the printing press. Binding some new magazine. Some new spread. Some better way to relearn our loveliness right where we are. Not ten pounds lighter. Not two weeks later.

Relearning loveliness. Just as we are.

 

 

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Filed under Beauty, For a Better World, Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle

Sit Down, Slow Down, Sip Slowly: A Recipe for Slow Love.

If one is careful, conscientious and imaginative, it is quite possible to fall in love three times during one coffee shop sitting. Five times, if the logo of the coffee shop happens to have a green mermaid in the center of it. Starbucks provides a quick turnover rate of fine men in business suits. Commendable. Applause worthy. But you have to be attentive. Very attentive. With a willingness to conjure up story lines.  If you look at him at just the right angle, minus the satchel bag, he would totally be the type to crawl through the pits of the Amazon to rescue you. But the ones who are the Most Attentive will find that the Most Unconditional Love and the Most Infinite Kind of Love comes from the one who never walked through the door.

To be a connoisseur of the cappuccino. A master of all things Espresso and Double Shot. One who is willing to scour the cobblestones of Italy on a conquest for the perfect float of steamed milk. Now that is something that I think would give the same glint as Wonka’s golden ticket on a resume. An individual who can spot a top-notch brew is one who can spot almost anything: the good in someone, a conversation on a lonely subway, a restful spot in a restless world.
It’s not me. I can assure you, it aint me.  Me? I bustle just about anywhere for a thin paper cup. I opt for the 60 cent coffee at the Bodega across the street. Quick Coffee. Cheap Coffee. Something to serve as a substitute for my glittens during the trek away from Grand Central toward my office building.

On the Quest for a Cheap Large Coffee. Skim Milk. One Equal.

I steer away from the UNICEF Cafe today. Keep walking. Right up to a quaint little coffee shop that holds a foreign sip and bar stool that has never known my coming. By the looks of the front window the place seems to hold promise. Men reading their Morning Times. A Healthy Dose of International Peacemaking Conversation Going on in the Corners. Just the right amount for 8a.m. (Mind you: It is only two blocks from the United Nations. Peacemaking conversation is expected almost everywhere in the four block radius outside the Headquarters.)

The quiet of the shop sucks me in. It slurps me up even before my first sip and a man at the door wastes no time in ushering me to a small table in the back, asking for my order.

Oh Jeepers, wrong coffee shop. Definitely wrong coffees shop. My 25 dollar a week stipend definitely will not hold to what I have just gotten myself into. How do I say it nicely? Um… Sir? I really just want a cheap cup of coffee. It can even be old. Nothing special.

I look around at the white teacups clinking on their saucers. Symmetrical Swirls of Brown & Gold Floating Atop a Frothy Brew. Adorable Baby Spoons. Infantile Silver.

And then it strikes me… Prendo un Cappuccino.

A dear friend of mine has spent the last few months making her mark on the cobblestone of Italy. Finding a new cappuccino to drink every single day. When she returns back to the States in just a few short weeks I would not be surprised to read Italian headlines that follow her home: ” Extra! Extra! Cobblestones Cry For First Time in History: Roads that learned to miss a single person’s footprints.

“I will take a cappuccino,” I tell the man. For her. For Life. For deserving this moment.

I know a few things about this cappuccino before it even arrives before me:

One) It would not be fitting into my simple living budget

Two) I didn’t really care today for some reason. Call it a treat.

Three) This would be my first cappuccino that wasn’t sloshing its way out of a summer camp vending machine.

I officially understand now why a young woman would dedicate an hour of each morning to a cappuccino. Something happens in that first….. slow….. sip.

Decadent. Eloquent. Exquisite. If a coffee could wear white gloves, this would be the one. It demands your full attention. Like the mystified foreign lovers of great romance movies, it wraps you up and draws you in and it makes you feel Terribly Valued. Terribly Worthwhile. Terribly Special.

This is the kind of stuff that paper cups cannot handle…

And I sit, stirring the bubbles with my Infantile Spoon, wondering why it takes a coffee drink to make me feel worthwhile. Why a Giant White Cup Hugged Between My Hands Ushers In the Slow Love First.

We are slow to love. Quick to judge. Hesitant to move much of anywhere in fear that someone will criticize us. So we move fast. How fast? So Fast. On Purpose. Never needing to slow down to examine our lives. Never needing to stop and think about Happiness, Fulfillment, Spirituality or Desire. Do. Do. Do. No time to Be. Unless it’s Be on time or Be on top of things.

Always trying to please someone. Never quite mastering it all in one day. And there are days where we debate for a solid five minutes or so if we should scroll through the pages of the NYU website, searching the hyperlinks for the graduate program that offers a Master’s in Enough. Perhaps if we could be a Master of Enough, it would make up for the fact that we never feel like enough?

Or perhaps we need to learn to let the Adoration seep in. In the day-to-day, Adoration is seriously overlooked. Adoration for the elderly women befuddled by the light up Walking Men at a busy New York intersection. Adoration for the security guard at the United Nations who greeted you at 9 and then again at 2 and then again at 5. Courteous. So Courteous.

Adoration for our own selves. Our Own Skin. Our Own Body. Our Own Capability.

Adoration gets lost easily in a chaotic collection of tweets, texts, statuses, emails and to-do lists. But it is here. And there. And everywhere. Just waiting for that task to not need our full attention or for that touch screen to quit begging us to fondle its face with our tap-tap-tapping.

“You will fall in love in a coffee shop one day,” the voice of a friend comes scampering into the pool of reflection I find myself wading in. It was a few months ago. We were sipping Chardonnay and eating Guacamole, admiring the skyline and how we were both so drawn to it. Finding our Names Crocheted On The Street Signs. Between Lexington and Madison.

She was referencing a blog post of the past, the one that spilled my deep desire to find my Future Big Spoon over a Cup o’ Jo.

“But I don’t think it will be what you anticipated,” she continued. “I think you will fall in love with an idea in a coffee shop and your life will change right there.”

How very right she was. How very right she was. Slow Sips. Slow Love. Self. Love.

Slow Down & Love, Child. Slow Down. Look Around. Love. Love. Love.

Not tall nor dark nor handsome. Rather Short & Stout. Hot. Steaming.

Potential. Great Potential.

World. Oysters. Pearls.

Practice. Presence. Perfect.

Enough. Enough. Enough.

We never seem to see it all when we are moving so quickly. Only when we are forced to Sit Down, Slow Down and Sip Slowly. Then the Slow Love Slips In Slyly.

I leave behind my Infantile Spoon and my Oversized Cup after a slow morning, a gradual easing of my way into the world on a Friday.  I take with me the Slow Love though, summoned up and served to me by a God who must have a part-time job as a barista in the clouds.



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Filed under Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Is..., Simply Living

When the weather outside gets frightful: Seven tips to keep fitness and nutrition as top priorities this season.

Today you can find me guest blogging over at “You’ve Been Running Through My Mind All Day.” I always adore switching things up from time to time and bringing my fitness and nutrition knowledge to the page. Erin is new to the blogging world and I have had both the pleasure of working with her and knowing her in real life. Check out her site and check out the article below. I think you will fall in love with this newly wed’s fierce passion for running and fun personality in no time.

I am a firm believer that fall derives its name not only from the leaves that “fall” from the trees but also from how quickly this season can cause us to “fall” into a fitness slump.

The degrees find lower digits, we find chunkier sweaters and our stomachs often find an overhaul in holiday foods and seasonal Starbucks’ brews.

But donning a few extra layers of clothing these days does not give us an excuse to add a layer of laziness as well. Here are seven helpful tips to keep us motivated in walking away from the Halloween candy and walking towards the gym this autumn.

1) Goals=Good (with or without a bikini in mind): It is a dozen times easier to set goals and stick to them when we know the summer months are sashaying towards us with bikinis trailing close behind, but what about the winter months? Goals are still important to set even if the season requires significantly more clothing. Set a realistic goal for yourself and make your deadline the New Year, that way, when the time to make resolutions rolls around you will already be on the right track.

2) Schedule sweets into your planner: Ok, let’s be real. It is absolutely impossible to resist each and every treat that the holiday season ahead has to offer. Pumpkin pies. Apple crisp. Christmas cookies. Our stomachs (and our relatives) won’t let us say no. It is important to allow room for indulging within our health and fitness goals. Adopt the mindset that you should have a slice of pie or a cup of hot chocolate. Our bodies thank us when we allow for indulgences without the guilt attached; we just need to be careful of overdoing it.

Treat yourself to a pumpkin spice latte after a successful week of working out or allow yourself a serving of pudding when you stick to your diet regimen for the week. Your results and hard work won’t disappear after one piece of cake, trust me.

3) Keep motivation at every corner: It may sound ridiculous but I often cut out pictures from fitness magazines and hang them in places where I will see them throughout my day. Having a healthy and realistic goal that you can physically see will make you work harder towards achieving that goal. Read success stories and inspirational blogs that will keep you motivated to reach your own goals. Ask friends to cheer you on with your workout goals but also lend yourself to be a motivation to someone else. You will quickly find that wrapping yourself in motivation will feel even warmer than a blanket by the fire. When you wrap yourself with positive motivation- you feel great on the inside and look even better on the outside.

4) Made with love: A good friend of mine actually turned me onto this technique and it has really helped me make healthier and more conscious eating decisions during the holiday season. Ask yourself, was this food made with love? If the answer is yes, then have a bit. Don’t skip out on your aunt’s famous apple pie or your mother’s ravioli (don’t overdo it either though). But think about the love when you are placed in front of a sleeve of Oreo cookies or a line of processed desserts. My rule of thumb: If the love is not there, neither are my taste buds.

5) Make yourself a morning person: I am sure some people felt a tinge of pain from just glancing at this header but I speak the truth on this one. I used to be a person who gave her mornings to coffee and the New York Times only. However, getting into the gym in the A.M. has changed my life completely. Sure, it is insanely hard to lure yourself out of bed when the sun hasn’t even woken up yet but once you finish then you are done for the day. Enter feelings of accomplishment and pats on the back. As it begins to get darker earlier, the motivation to hit the treadmill after work will start to slide. Avoid the issue altogether by setting your alarm an hour earlier and signing on to greet the sun when she wakes.

6) Allow fitness to save you from being a Scrooge: You really need to ask yourself the question, why do I work out? Not only is it good for you and your body, but it also a definite mood booster. I cannot stress how important this is from October onward. With less sunshine, it is no surprise that people often feel lonelier and more depressed during the winter months. Beat the blues by breaking a sweat. Instead of pressing the snooze button on the alarm a few more times, imagine how much more energy you will get from the day when you lift some weights or hit the bike before work.

7) The season is changing, why not your work out?: Let’s face it, the elliptical gets old after a few months. Why not switch up your workout routine? Try out that dance class you have been eyeing, sign up for a session of hot yoga class. Introducing new forms of fitness into your routine will keep you motivated and passionate about your fitness goals. Google is a definite God send for finding fitness classes in the area that will burn up those calories and keep you from burning out this season.

I also would like to make a shout out for a dear blogger friend of mine, and an extremely talented writer. Giulietta Nardone is offering a phenomenal online writing course for all you wannabe writers and experienced gurus of the pen out there. Secrets of Personal Essay Writing is a five-week writing journey that you won’t want to miss. I urge you to check out Giulietta’s site, especially if you are looking to bring your own inner workings to the page.

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Filed under Guest Blogging, Healthy Lifestyle

Killing Marsha Brady: A few final remarks from my inner perfectionist.

It was not until 3:39a.m. that I realized that I could not and would not write this blog post.

I went to sleep early last night, feeling the weight on my shoulders to produce something worthy enough to be read. In translation: I went to sleep beating myself up over the fact that I have not been inspired to write in nearly a week. Instead of “Good night, Hannah” and “Sweet dreams, dreamer,” it was more like falling asleep to visions of never being good enough dancing in my head.

I woke up startled and unable to sleep after having a dream about hammers and nails. Renovating a house. Making it look so perfect but then watching it crumble to the ground because of an unsteady foundation. I took the dream as a sign of something, especially since it refused to let me slumber softly for a long while after. And so I sat in my bed at 3:39a.m., eating a soy ice cream sandwich, realizing that I had to let the perfectionist inside of me write part of this post.

Readers, I now introduce to her. But I want to warn you, she is quite perfect (and she knows it).

Make no mistake of it, I am perfect.

I am the life of the party. I get perfect grades. I study hard. I wake up looking perfect. I go to sleep looking even better. I am there for each and every one of my friends, whenever and wherever they need me to be. I drop everything for them. I never think about myself.

I wear perfect clothes. I always match. I never miss a beat when it comes to new fashion trends and the hottest fads. My hair always looks good. My teeth are perfectly aligned. My body is perfectly toned. At the gym I sweat perfect sweat. I smell perfect. Sound perfect. Sing Perfect. Talk Perfectly. And did I mention how smart I am? Because I am SO smart. Perfectly smart, in fact.

People often see me and they comment on my perfection, which, in this case, I simply smile and stay poised. I don’t slouch. I don’t belch. All guys want to date me. All girls want to be me.

I am always smiling. I am never down. I never cry. Never Ever. I have everything figured out. A 5-year plan. A 10-year plan. I don’t hurt feelings. I don’t play games with people’s hearts. I am the best listener in the world and I give phenomenal advice.

I am perfect.

I used to have a basin of sympathy stored inside of me for Jan Brady. She always shrank ten sizes too small because of Marsha.  She let negativity and green envy overtake her instead of ever taking the time to accept herself. I have a Marsha Brady living inside of me, one who managed to grasp onto the word “perfection” at a fairly young age and then resolved to never let it go. She often wonders what people think of when they look at her and talk to her.

She worries more about THEM than she does about HERSELF.

Yes, she is smart and she is ambitious but she tends to get carried away, to the point where someone should really shut her up and remind her that no one is perfect. No One Is Perfect. Perfect is an illusion, a fantasy, a fairy tale that only graces pages but never people.

The problem with perfectionism, when we give into it, is that it causes us to believe that we were never good enough to begin with. It is like starting far behind the starting point and needing to take drastic measures to catch up. More work. Less sleep. More coffee. Less enjoyment. More exercise. Less Calories. It all is contained in this mask we put on. The Mask We Wear In The Outside World. And that mask does not tolerate mess-ups or mistakes, burdens or hardships.

What would it take for us to spend a single day being completely happy with the way we are right now? What would it take to forget about renovations to our Bodies & Minds & Souls and pay ourselves a few compliments today?

It is pretty morbid on my part to type into Google: How many people die each day? But when I see the search results, the numbers that estimate nearly 150,000, I realize I need to rip the hammer away from the clutched hands of the perfectionist inside of me. If there is anything wrong with my life today, with the way I look or the state that I am in, perhaps a good chunk of those 150,000 people who lost their lives today would love to trade spots with me. And they might do a better job of not criticizing themselves for silly little flaws or things that are beyond our control.

Today I propose we buy one-way train tickets for the Marsha Brady’s in our souls.

I would be so quick to just abandon her in a lost & found box but then I fear that some other little girl might find her, ask her to be her best friend and realize (shortly after) the dangers of letting perfectionism take hold. I see a lot of young girls and women who have made a pact with perfectionism and it worries me. I don’t want another young girl to find my inner perfectionist sitting in a lost & found box.

And so I will head over to Target to see if I can pick up some attributes to better equip me in dealing with this perfectionist who refuses to take shelter elsewhere: Tolerance. Acceptance. Understanding. Wonder. Awe. Inspiration. Kindness to myself.

Yes, yes, if she won’t take the train ticket and go then I will kill my inner Marsha Brady with every inch of kindness that I have.

Any final remarks from your Inner Perfectionist before they get the boot?

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Filed under Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Yourself, Perfectionism, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

Beauty that comes in six shades of red and seven different sizes.

The secret to a life well-lived is beautiful skin. A whittled waistline and “stop him dead in his tracks” pick up lines. The right pair of shoes. A clean diet (one that will try to convince you is not based upon deprivation). Great sex. A slim body and a fat wallet. A swimsuit that fits your shape. Flat abs that take less than 15 minutes a day to maintain. Makeup that feels like it is barely there. And looking better naked.

At least this is what the world tells me as I walk out the door each morning.

My hands detected the worth and weight of beauty magazines at the age of 12 and I was never the same again. I flipped through the glossy pages where pretty girls smiled back at me and home remedies made promises that I don’t think they were ever fully equipped to keep. As I traced the Perfect Lips. Lashes. Long Flowing Hair. I remember thinking to myself, “I never realized I had this much to fix.I never knew I was missing so much.” I never realized I was this broken.

We digest the pages of these magazines and websites as though they are the 300-calorie sandwich with only 217 milligrams of sodium that sits and waits for us on page 112.

We are fed this idea that the key to true satisfaction and real happiness is somewhere amidst a butt-toning workout and a cream that makes cellulite vanish. We stay hungry over the fact that we can chalk life up to being obsessed with outward appearance, to Always Needing to Fix Something. And as a result? We never need to put away the tool belt, fully loaded with 8-minute abs and voluminous mascara.

If we always have some outer glitch to fix- To Make Our Thighs Smaller, Our Love Handles A Little More Lovely- then we never have to stare inward. We can abandon a quest for inner piece in order to make a journey towards a clear complexion. We never need to shred emotional baggage when Jillian Michaels and P90X promise us a different- more visible- kind of shred.

A great friend of mine spent time building a medical clinic near an all girls orphanage in Latin America and I saw the revelation in his eyes as he told me about the beautiful little girls. Little Girls who missed arms & legs & limbs and yet found nothing to miss at all. “But they were the happiest children I had ever seen, ” he told me. “Because they had not been taught that they were missing something.

We are floundering in a culture that wants to convince us that we are missing something. Constantly Missing. Seven Steps Away From Perfection. Perfect Thighs. Perfect Curves. Perfect Lovers. Perfect Days. What would happen to all those magazines and reality TV shows and billboards if we looked in the mirror and realized we were missing nothing. That it was all there. Sitting abundantly on both our insides and outsides.

That we could stop in our own reflection stand there without an ounce of pressing time itching at our ankles.  To realize the most radiant element on our faces was not half off at WalMart yesterday. To say confidently to our inner selves, “You are not missing things. You are wonderful just the way you are. You are whole.

Whole in a world that tells us we are empty. Full in a world that tells us we are hungry. Content in a world that tells us we are unsatisfied. Here. Right Here. All Parts Intact. In a world that convinces us that we are missing vital parts. Parts that will fulfill us, happiness that sits on a shelf for $4.99, beauty that comes in six shades of red and seven different sizes.

At some point we decide that we are going to pull away, that we are going to shun our ears from the messages that seek to pierce us and make us feel less than worthy. It is not an easy task. A task that never meets perfection. But little by little we allow ourselves to put down the tool belt, put down the coupons and the washed up images of the “way we used to look” to stop and see that all we ever needed never cost us $19.99 and our own self esteem as a sacrifice.

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Filed under Beauty, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Yourself, Women

Physique 57 stole my heart before any guy could. Yikes. (And they are offering a free trial!)

I pity the person who asks me about my workout because I absolutely adore gushing over strength training techniques and protein shakes. Way more than the “lunks” at Planet Fitness

But many of you did so brace yourself.

In a nutshell my workout consists of a playground ball between my legs, some hip swings and a ballet barre. No, but seriously, it really does. And it works better than anything I have ever tried before.

No, I am not given anything to endorse this program, I am just a firm believer in giving credit where it is due. And today I am stronger, leaner and much happier- thanks to Physique 57.

Physique 57 is a cardiovascular program that uses body weight resistance and interval training to sculpt the entire body, targeting the abdominal muscles, thighs, butt and arms specifically. There is some kind of magical mystery in this program (I am convinced) but the secret is on that has been around for ages: First, the muscles are worked to the point of overload, too fatigued to do any more reps but then stretched out for muscle relief. And as the teachers would say, “that is how we build the muscle.”

If you are hesitant to trust me then simply look at Kelly Ripa. We were all wondering where her amazing biceps and she finally proclaimed to the world that it was this very program.

When I first began doing Physique I was wondering how exactly I was getting better results from this program than anything I had ever tried before. I was floored by the impact that Physique 57 was having on my body—giving me tons of energy, making me leaner and slimmer by the day and giving me a full body tone that was all lean definition and no bulk.

But this is exactly why the program works…. Physique 57 is a revamped version of the Lotte Berk technique. The late Lotte Berk was a dancer all her life and came up with a form of

Photo taken from NYPost.com

exercise for women that was actually quite controversial back in the 60s. An intense mixture of pilates, yoga and body weight training, the Lotte Berk method improves flexibility and strength and targets the growth of muscle tissue—more effective at burning calories than fatty tissue.

And therein lies the secret. We are fed this idea all the time that losing fat is all about cardiovascular workouts. But think about this for a moment: Muscle tissue burns more than fat tissue. The more muscle tissue we have, the more calories burned. Well, Physique builds muscle tissue and as a result more calories are burned. Hence the fat loss and muscle tone that this program offers (Yes, I am excited that I just got to give you a little bit of my soon to be personal trainer knowledge).

And you might head over to the site and question it because at first glance it looks like a “dainty dancer’s cop out excuse for a workout.” But when I say workout, I mean WORK OUT. I kid you not, this program will leave you panting, sweating and practically gripping the chair in agony. But you will feel phenomenal and accomplished after you are done, you will feel the burn all day long. This is the first program that I have tried that I can actually feel working while I am doing it. It is as if I could feel someone chiseling away at my abs or sculpting my arms with an ice pick. That is how intense this program is.

Right now Physique 57 is offering a FREE 30 day trial (I happened to notice it as I went onto the site to get pictures). And you will get these three DVDs with the trial:

1 57-minute Full Body Workout- Works the entire body (especially the arms). Gets you out of the mode of doing girly push-ups and really targets your butt and thighs.

1 30-minute Full Body Express- Not so much focus on the biceps this time but it is a great workout for your butt and thighs especially. By the end of the 30-minutes you will know the true meaning to the word “thigh dancing.”

1 30-minute Abs and Arms Booster- My favorite. Every time I go for this one I am left nearly crying because I can feel it in my abs so much. Be ready to feel your body shake like never before.

You also need a sturdy chair, a set of 3-5 pound arm weights (trust me, it might not seem like a lot of weight but it will feel like it during this workout), and a playground ball (Walmart- $3).

I do this program about four times a week and the amazing thing about it is that you never plateau. I have been doing Physique for six months now and my body continues to get into better shape, my muscles have stayed defined and my energy levels are unlike ever before.

I knew I could not resist telling you about this (I am practically over here jumping up and down like a little child seeing the ice cream truck)… plus several of you asked where I got my arms from and it is thanks to these ladies! And what is the harm in doing the trial?! I don’t think you will be disappointed by it.

Any lovers of this program out there? Now that I have shared one of my workout secrets, share with me one of yours… And definitely let me know if you try out Physique.

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3x + 5b – 6(10z)= True Beauty?

You’d be surprised to learn that a girl who failed algebra filled her diary with mathematical equations and formulas.

Scribbles of addition and subtraction dominated the loose leaf pages. Add more makeup. Minus hair frizz. Add whiter teeth. Take away love handles. For many of us its an equation similar to this one, always coming to equal the same outcome: Beauty. Desirability. Attractiveness.

Well I knew algebra well enough to see that I had a variable that canceled everything else out on my journey towards finding the true summation of beauty in this world. Psoriasis. My skin grows seven times faster than the normal rate. I experience what is called a build up, my skin builds up on top of itself, effecting the areas of my scalp and eyebrows. When I first found out that I had this skin condition, eight years ago, there was no real treatment on the market, just home remedies. Nearly every Sunday night I would sit at the kitchen table. My mother would apply tar to my scalp and then she would rip away the built up skin from the week before. I know… not a very pretty image. After the process ended an hour later she covered my head in baby oil to ease the bleeding of my scalp. One week later the skin had grown back and the tar rituals would commence again, each week for several years.

My peers did not look at me sympathetically, they looked at me and saw this plague of difference. I dealt with the labels I was given: the girl with lice, Head and Shoulders, greaser.  I learned not to expect the words I secretly wanted to hear: beautiful, radiant, gorgeous or even a simple, “you’re pretty.”

I just wish for the life of me that I could pin point exactly when I learned what constitutes beauty and how I came to dispel it from my reach.I look back on that young girl who was constantly etching equations in her diary and I cannot help but grow somber. I think about the tears that came from the harsh words of my peers and how with each joke and ridicule caused me to sink deeper into myself, more ashamed and more worthless.

I am still quite taken aback by the word “beautiful” and the power it seemingly holds. I think it is a dangerous word. I think it falls into hands in this society that delegate who really should have it. I think we all deserve it, not just when we get dressed up or when our parents pay us a compliment, I think we deserve it no matter what. With or without makeup. With or without losing 10 pounds.

Check out OperationBeautiful.com

We all know how easy it is to brush off that statement, “You are beautiful on the inside and that is all that counts.” It may be true but there is a magazine sitting next to me with a size 2 model on the cover who begs to differ. There are products on the market that I should be using, new applications of makeup that I should be trying. Beautiful is an industry that I tend to see as ugly.

It gets ugly when we forget to value ourselves, when we let our flaws become our most accentuated attributes. When we stare in the mirror and only see our blackheads or wish we could have better hair. Then we forget our inner workings, what really matters at the end of the day. Last weekend I saw a young girl in a circle with her peers grabbing at the baby fat on her hips, saying, “I am SO fat.” I wanted so badly to walk up to her, to tell her she was beautiful, to tell her not to waste her time with negative thoughts and to not put down her own best friend: herself. This coming from a girl who, as her mother ripped out the chunks of built up skin from her scalp, ripped out her own hopes of ever coming to life. Allowing ourselves to just be beautiful is easier said than done.

But I do think inner beauty is what we need to find at the end of the day; it is the only way to cling to something true inside of ourselves. What constitutes as “beautiful” or “desirable” is ever shifting and changing. We can beat ourselves up over trying but we won’t ever emerge as winners. And if we rely on other people to tell us that we are pretty or gorgeous then how do we cope when they are taken from the equation and we are left with only ourselves.

A friend of mine always laughs at me when I make a joke of standing in front of the mirror and giving yourself a giant hug. It sounds absolutely ridiculous and you don’t legitimately have to grip yourself in a bear hug fashion, but the takeaway is the idea of accepting yourself on a daily basis. It’s saying, “you know, I am going to have have Psoriasis for the rest of my life so I best learn to deal with it,” or “This is my size and these are my hips and this is what a curvy woman looks like.” There are a million different statements in each one of us, a billion proclamations of truth. But beauty to me, true beauty, no longer resides on a billboard or on page 76 of a magazine.

Beauty is no longer something I treat as a complicated math equation but rather a love letter; a love for my legs, for they help me to walk, a love for my eyes, for they help me to see, a love for my mouth, for it allows me to speak my thoughts, a love for these fingers, because through them I reach all of you, a love for my smile, because it holds immense power to brighten a room, and a love for myself, because I am unique and independent and oh yes, I am beautiful.

How do you define beauty?

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Filed under Beauty, Healthy Lifestyle, Simply Living, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

Walk with me down the only aisle I am ready for, that would be the grocery aisle.

So I received an overwhelming number of emails about my previous post on making a lifestyle change and forging a civil relationship with my body for the better… so much that I decided to get a little creative today and meander off the path of my usual posts. A lot of people asked what foods I incorporate into my daily diet and what I love to throw in my cart at the grocery store. So today, in honor of my FAVORITE activity, grocery shopping (Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s!) I am showcasing the must-have items in my pantry.

And just to debunk any assumptions before I get started, people often ask if the organic life style is a more expensive one. My answer: Absolutely not! I find myself saving 20 to 30 dollars with every grocery trip by going to Trader Joe’s or a Farmer’s Market. Trader Joe’s deals directly with their vendors in order to supply the consumer products with a reasonable price attached. My rhyme and reason for a product making the cut in my book is quite simple: I pay close attention to the food and nutrition labels and I go by the rule of if I cannot pronounce the ingredients then I don’t make the purchase.

So grab your reusable shopping bags because we are moving down the aisles!

Whey Protein: People are often stunned when I say protein is such a huge part of my diet. I think a stigma comes attached that protein is only for hardcore body builders. But I absolutely recommend the extra grams if you are working hard to see results at the gym. I am a-d-d-i-c-t-e-d to protein smoothies (one every day). A scoop of protein, a cup of skim milk, some berries or a two table spoons of almond butter and a pinch of cinnamon… This makes for a delicious post-workout or morning treat. P.S. I buy my protein off of Amazon for much cheaper than GNC or other health stores. When in doubt of what kind to get go for the natural stuff.

Quinoa: So I recently stumbled upon this rice and I cannot get enough of it. It is actually one of the healthiest grains that you can eat, and if you are wondering what to pair it with… well anything! It is no different than adding brown rice to a meal. Quinoa is high in fiber and complex carbs (the good carbs) and is excellent to top off a salad.

Snapea Crisps: Two words: guilty pleasure. Crunchy like potato chips, this snack leaves me satisfied every single time. These little buggers are high in protein and fiber. And o.k., so they are not real vegetables, but they sure are a good sub in for my french fry and Cheetos cravings.

Almond Butter: I wish I could spread it on everything..and trust me, I try. Almond butter is a great way to boost the metabolism and enjoy the sweet and salty taste. I highly recommend almond butter in place of peanut butter, and if you are looking for a sweet breakfast treat just spread some AB on a pita with a banana. Beautiful.

POM Juice:It is always tough to distinguish what juice to get at the grocery store. Although OJ is always a good choice I tend to get nervous over the extra sugar often sneaked into the bottle. I don’t worry about that when I pick up POM Wonderful. These little bottles are tougher than they look. They are all natural and carry health benefits that exceed that glass of wine recommended daily.

Kashi Honey Sunshine: I have to be careful with this one: leave me unsupervised and the whole box will be gone in 10 seconds. I am addicted, maybe that is not even strong enough of a word, to this cereal! But this cereal is natural and absolutely delicious.

LARA Bars: These LARA bars are a new favorite in my pantry. Great for my 6:30am work outs, these bars are packed with unsweetened nuts and spices. Might I recommend the Apple Pie and the Cinnamon Roll? Typically I grab these bars for a quick “on the go” snack to curb my hunger before dinner.

Morningstar Tomato Basil Burgers: These products are meatless but  I seriously question how I ever lived without these things. I love popping one of these burgs in the microwave for a quick dinner on the run.

Tazo Tea: I cant say enough good stuff about this tea. Packed with antioxidants and tons of flavors to pick and choose from, Tazo steals my heart on a regular basis. The great thing about this company is that they work to have one-on-one relationships with the tea gardeners that they get their resources from. Not only is it good tea, but that’s great karma.

So that is just a basic look at some of the products that I cannot live without. Overall my diet consists of a lot of fruits, veggies, whole grains and nuts. I am a lover of spinach, egg whites, salmon and tuna as well. How about you? What makes your pantry complete?

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My heart is a messy bedroom but I can see the wallpaper just fine.

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.

Agnes Repplier

I wake up every day ready to embark on a scavenger hunt.

Find one black jacket Easy, right on the hook in my closet.

Find a pair of gym clothes Trickier. Potentially stored in a bin under my bed, at the bottom of my closet or in one of my many drawers. Folded? Forget it.

Find notebooks and textbooks for classes Ah, the challenge begins. Scavenge the desk, the bins and the floor. Find them in none of the just named places. Find them on the counter.

Find debit card The worst! Seriously, half of my morning is spent searching for a tiny piece of plastic that somehow dominates my life.

SparkNotes to the above: Hannah is messy; she wishes her life was not a constant search. She is actually better at scavenging than Sherlock Holmes and Dog the Bounty Hunter combined.

The idea of searching captivates me lately. We spend a lot of our times searching within our own selves. We search for courage, for resolutions, for clarity… And we eventually find it, within.

But what about happiness? What about the little things in life that make us smile? Should we have to search so hard for these? Should we have to dig so deep?

I will reveal a little secret about myself: I may do a lot of soul-searching (and searching for all my possessions) but I keep my trinkets of little happiness in a spot where I can always find them. No Matter What.

If I am losing you right now, just like I lost my ID this morning, let me ask you this: What simple things in your life make you happy? You, yes you! I am not talking the big grandiose abstract ideas that could not be lost in a messy room even if we tried. I am talking about the little things in life that make us smile. The cup of tea. The fresh smell of a new notebook. The aroma of brownies cooking in the oven. The sound of another’s voice on the other line. These are the little facts that we should know way before we need to know where our keys are or what meetings need our attendance this afternoon. We should know the tiny treasures that can prompt a smile on our faces upon their arrival. We should have them ready to go; no matter what. This is how we take care of ourselves.

Back track to yesterday: Pulled an all-nighter. Rain was merciless. Felt absolutely terrible. Hungry and agitated. BAD DAY. One hour before my next class… Game time decision.

Be in a bad mood for the rest of the day  VS. Take the hour and turn the day around.

Enter little happinesses. I trudged back to my room and put on my favorite pair of sweatpants, gym sneakers (which always make me smile) and favorite zip up. I sat on my kitchen counter, listened to Dave Matthew’s Band and treated myself by dunking Oreos into my jar of peanut butter while playing a few rounds of Bejeweled. Instantly I felt better. Relieved. Ready to take on the day. All thanks to the fact that I know how to make my own self smile.

No matter what we may be searching for right now, inside or outside of ourselves, we should make it a mission to find our own little happinesses. They are our “go-to”s on days when the world seems to spite us. They are treasures that allow us to feel home inside of ourselves. They are the simple secrets that relight our being when the flame goes out. They are the wallpaper to our hearts.

What are your little happinesses?

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Filed under Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle, Humanity, Life Lessons, Love Yourself, Simply Living