Do Not Disturb

Do you ever have a day where it seems like every person you’ve ever known needs something from you?  I’m talking about the kind of day where you are one vibration away from chucking your phone into the garbage and moving to a cabin in the woods.  The kind of day where every effort to respond to your Inbox is mocked by another incoming e-mail.  The kind of day where one more person saying your name just might result in you checking yourself into an asylum.

Modern technology is incredible.  With it, we can perform open heart surgery.  We can travel by air and visit anywhere on our planet with ease.  We can be present on a laptop screen from thousands of miles away at family events.  Those are the big things that we take fore-granted.  I didn’t even mention the modern convenience of indoor plumbing, light bulbs, and air conditioning.  We are surrounded by incredible feats of human kind every day, and it barely gives us pause.

As a result of us forgetting modern conveniences are not natural miracles but rather manmade creations, we seem overly zealous to use them.  There was a time when coming home from work meant just that.  Now, your boss and co-workers have access to you 24/7, and for some reason, it is rude to simply ignore them.  It’s unacceptable in our society to ignore a phone call and just be with the people you’re with.  We have created this expectation to be accessible to literally every person we’ve ever encountered, and we feel guilty not responding to a text message.

There are so many great things that have come from this technology.  Being able to send grandma a picture, monitoring our heart rates, and calling 911 in any emergency are a few examples.  At the same time, we need to stop and think.

I advocate for a healthy lifestyle, and it goes so much further than your protein intake and energy output.  It goes into your emotional and social well-being, too, and I firmly believe I am negatively impacted by technology every day.  In our society, it has become acceptable for people to send text messages at literally any time of day – even one in the morning.  I can literally not spend a night in my bed asleep without someone trying to reach me to tell me something.  My generation doesn’t see anything wrong with that, and therein lies the problem.

I cannot tell you the last time I just got to be by myself or just got to spend time with someone else.  Instead of getting to relax with my cat, I face constant incoming messages from every outlet.  Instead of spending an evening with my roommates, I spend an evening with them and their best friends and boyfriends and whoever else they happen to be texting.

I’m not innocent.  I do the same thing, but I’m trying to do better.

Here I am glued to my first smartphone, circa 2009 when Blackberry was the "it" thing.
Here I am glued to my first smartphone, circa 2009 when Blackberry was the “it” thing.

I don’t think our generation has realized this is a problem, but it’s time we start.  One of my professors told me recently that the thing she misses most about her early teaching days is the chatter in classrooms.  She admitted that at the time, it was always a little irritating to get everyone to hush so she could start to lecture, but she says she misses that now.  Instead of looking around at students becoming friends and sharing their weekend stories, she steps up to the lectern and observes a sea of cell phones.  Students speaking to the friends they have outside of the classroom and ignoring the human beings beside them.

At 21 years old, I am starting to teach myself that it’s okay for me to need time to be me.  It’s okay for me to ignore a call or text message and just be present in the moment, not engaged in a virtual conversation.  It’s okay to leave an e-mail unopened until morning.  I do not have to be accessible when I get home in the evening, and people need to start being okay with that.  When I get in bed at night, I have discovered a wonderful function called “do not disturb,” and I now use it without fail the minute I get under the covers.  Whatever your funny drunk story, your emergency, your need of me, it is just going to have to wait until an appropriate time in my life.

I will no longer be a slave to virtual communication, and I challenge you to do the same.  If you don’t set parameters in your own life, nobody else will.  You can control when you are available, and people will adjust accordingly.  Health and wellness go beyond BMI.  Evaluate your lifestyle today; there is always room for improvement.

#APerfectFit

Body “Shaming”

Shame (n): a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong (Merriam-Webster)

I recently read an article about the difference between fat-shaming and skinny-shaming.  Although I respect everyone’s opinion, I found myself completely bewildered by some of the statements it made.  The general idea was that fat-shaming remarks stick, whereas skinny-shaming remarks might hurt but will be forgotten.  I want to share my take on this whole idea of “shaming” someone for their body.

As defined by the dictionary, shame involves a feeling that you have personally done something wrong.  We shame each other for our physical bodies on a regular basis, and for some reason, society perpetuates the cycle.  If you wear plus sizes, you have done something wrong; if you wear a double-zero, you have done something wrong.  There is no way to win when we tell people their body is something they should literally feel shame over because shame implies you acted incorrectly.  That’s right, there was an action that you took that was wrong, and in this case, that “action” is your body.  Your very physical being is wrong.

Anyone with a little self-confidence can see that this is absolutely absurd.  You did nothing wrong by being born into the body you currently reside in.  You might have mistreated that body by feeding it fattening foods or neglecting to feed it entirely, but you did nothing wrong by residing in it.

The idea that fat-shaming sticks more than skinny-shaming is also obscene.  There are women struggling every single day to make themselves eat a meal, and those women are very often underweight.  Do you think they do that because society’s skinny-ideal did not stick with them?  No.  It’s exactly the opposite.

We can argue and debate whether fat-shaming or skinny-shaming is worse all day long, but that’s just silly.  Body-shaming is wrong.  Feeling sad or guilty or embarrassed because you woke up in your own skin this morning is wrong.  Let’s stop shaming each other, fat or skinny or in-between.  Do not look down on someone because they have a few extra pounds, and do not look down on someone because of a protruding collar bone.  Instead, lift those people up in prayer.

Do not be ashamed of your body.  Love it.  You will not take care of something you do not love, and by taking care of your body, you can make a difference in your own life.  Look in the mirror and accept that person.  Yes, you might could lose some weight, and yes, you might could gain some weight.  The truth of the matter is no two bodies are going to be alike, but a healthy body makes for a happy heart.  Do not feel ashamed of your body.  Feel proud.  It got you this far in life, and if you love and take care of it, just imagine where you will go.

#APerfectFit

The Skinny-Girl Effect

The following word is an insult that people regularly mistake as a compliment: Skinny.

I despise being called skinny.  As in, “Wow, Tracy, you are just so skinny!”  I hate it.  I understand that being thin is the new it-girl look, but I want absolutely no part in perpetuating that belief.

If anyone is to blame, it’s my parents.  Genetics made me “skinny” and despite my greatest efforts, I cannot seem to escape that label.  I have tried everything.  From chicken wings to chocolate cake, it seems no food is powerful enough to make people stop calling me skinny.  Or tiny.  Or any of the other “compliment” terms they use.

 

Fun fact: Pageant girls can polish off a pound of wings a piece.

I guess I have more than my stellar genes to blame.  I like to workout and eat healthy most days.  I do not like to do these things for the sake of my metabolism and waist line.  I like to do these things because they make me feel good.

Let me repeat:  I do not workout or eat my veggies to impress you.  I do it for me.  I do it for the endorphins, which relieve the stress of being alive.  I do it for the increased energy, which helps me survive long days.  I do it for myself, which means I get to have me-time with no intruding voices.

Stop doing harm to women by using “skinny” as a compliment.  Try “healthy” or “beautiful” or “intelligent” or “generous” or “loving” or “kind”.  Every woman is beautiful, so do not disservice us with words about our size.  Do not make those words mean beautiful.

Women are powerful.  We have the ability to influence what young girls perceive as attractive.  If we stand together, society cannot tear us down.  So the next time someone calls you “skinny”, do not smile and thank them and tell them about your juice diet.  Do not let them label you with a word that describes your shape.  You deserve more.  We all do.

Pick your compliments with care.  Use them to build each other up, not to create painful constructs of what the female body should be.  I challenge everyone to use a compliment today that goes beneath the skin and looks at the soul, the character, the drive of the person, not the weight, width, or mass.

We don’t have to let the media tell use how to look.  We can have a positive effect on the body image of others.  It starts with you and me, but we can change the world.

#APerfectFit

Miracle Challenge 2015

Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.
Jim Ryan

September 1 – September 27 marks the days of a challenge whose causes are near and dear to my heart.  Miracle Challenge is a fundraising campaign for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals that emphasizes getting up and getting fit.  After selecting one of 5 different athletic “tracks”, you embark on a 27 day fitness challenge.  You receive e-mails every day with motivating quotes, motivating stories about children in the hospital, and a challenge from your fitness trainer.

For me, this challenge really puts things into perspective.  We all have days when we want to be lazy.  I’m guilty of having days I want to skip my workout and eat cookies instead.  The idea of this challenge is to be active for children who cannot run and play themselves.  This challenge asks you to run for kids who are stuck in hospital rooms, whose inability to get active is not laziness but circumstance.

Imagine being a child living in a hospital for weeks on end.  You cannot go on a bike ride in the sunshine with your sibling.  Maybe you can go on a stroll to the hospital’s decorative fish tank if you’re feeling well, but if it’s a bad day, you might not get to leave bed at all.  Instead of the rough and tumble days we imagine for most children, your days are spent with quiet artistic expressions and the comfort of a favorite movie.  Your parents have created this new construct of childhood and are doing the best they can to provide you with fulfilling experiences each day, but you know you are missing out on the fun your classmates get to have.

Being a child in a hospital is hard, but the kids you meet there are inspiring.  They face challenge after challenge with courage, but they need our help.  Please support my participation in Miracle Challenge today by going to
http://events.dancemarathon.com/participant/tracyelizabethmcgee
and donating $1.  Every dollar goes directly to CMN and impacts a child’s life.  My goal is to raise $100 during Miracle Challenge because that is the cost associated with a pair of hanging basketball hoops.  These hoops would provide children in the hospital with their own means of staying active, and I want to help provide kids with a normal athletic activity that makes some of their time in the hospital seem like just a day as a kid.

James MasonA special shout out to my friend, James Mason, who is going in for surgery this morning.  He is on my mind and in my prayers a little extra today.  I know his mom and I would appreciate you lifting him up in your own prayers.

Thank you for reading this message.  If you want to get involved in the Miracle Challenge, it’s not too late!  Go to www.miraclechallenge.org and register today.  FTK All Ways, Always.

Worth It

I have the best job of all time.  Working as a personal trainer means clients lay it all out for me.  They tell me what their fears and weaknesses are, and they entrust me with their goals.  I not only get to know their weight, their body fat index, and every other quantifiable measure of their health, I also get to know mentally where they are at.

My clients come to me with their own goal, and it’s usually to lose X number of pounds in X number of days.  I get that.  I always start by explaining it’s not as much about the scale as it is about your overall fat percentage, and we go from there.  I want to help them achieve their goals.  I know feeling in charge of their body will give them confidence in their life, and I also know losing the fat is going to improve their health in the long run by taking pressure off their joints and strain off their cardiovascular system and so much more.

At the same time, I have my own goals when I meet a new client.  I do not believe the number on a scale is as important as the client’s outlook on fitness following a package of sessions with me.  I have three goals with my clients:

  1. Meet the client’s goals (if they are reasonable).
  2. Educate the client on what is healthy.
  3. Give the client the confidence to continue workouts long after their sessions are over.

I recently received a Facebook message from one of my favorite clients, and it warmed my heart to hear about her progress.  While we worked together, she did start to drop pants sizes and meet her goal.  After her sessions with me ended, I continued to impact her life through what I had taught her.

That’s “great” not “fear” – iPhone problems.  Messages like this are why what I do means so much to me.  The number on the scale may be a quick and easy assessment, but it is not the best indicator of real health.  By teaching people what health should really look like – from the food choices down to the active minutes in their day – I have a lasting effect on my clients that goes far beyond the sessions they pay for.

I want my clients to know what a healthy lifestyle should be, and I want them to leave me feeling comfortable in a gym.  I may not get feedback from all of them, but I am so proud of those who have stayed in touch.

 

If you answered “yes” in the above poll, reach out at your local gym.  I’m sure there are staff members and trainers who would absolutely love to educate you on the equipment.  They will work with you to come up with a workout plan that makes you comfortable.  It’s their job, and I promise you won’t be the first person.  If you answered “I use to” in the above poll, I would love for you to comment and explain how you overcame the discomfort.  Everyone should be able to feel at home in the gym; it should be a safe, judgment free zone.

“Healthy” is a lifestyle.  To be healthy, you have to make decisions about your daily living, and you have to stay committed.  #APerfectFit

No Rest for the Wicked

I found the perfect place for a scenic run here in the ATL today! Even on vacation, it’s important to get up and stay active. If you want to make real progress and stay dedicated to a healthy life, you have to work for it! A huge thanks to my daddy for always being willing and ready to join in on a workout – he certainly inspired me to live life the way I do! #APerfectFit #thisBEAUTYisaBEAST

 

Feelin’ Myself

Last night, I got to show off the body I’ve worked so hard for. It meant so much for me to get to rock a swimsuit on stage. It is so important to take care of the body God gave you. By putting healthy foods in and taking the time to stay active, we can all look and feel better. We can all be more confident! Any girl can wear a swimsuit on stage and feel great; it’s all about putting good in to get good out. #APerfectFit

  

Love Thy Neighbor

Growing up, I often felt out of place in church.  I was raised in the heart of the Bible belt.  I lived in a small southern town in Georgia where there was a church on every street corner, with every denomination represented at least once – but most of them in multiples.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like the worship service itself; I have always found comfort in the Bible and a good sermon.  My issue was with the congregation.

Sitting on my pew, I saw self-righteous man after self-righteous man with head held high.  It was the kind of church where nobody admitted to sin, nobody admitted they led a less than Christian life, but everybody was ready was to point out any lapse in someone else’s lifestyle.  I took fault with that; it didn’t seem the Christian thing to do.  Kids in my youth group would belittle me because my family had missed a service and theirs had perfect attendance, but those same kids were the ones doing drugs behind the school.  Church down south was a place to act like you had your life completely together, even if yours was falling apart and you really needed people to pray for you.

When my parents gave me a choice, I stopped attending, and although I’m sure people talked badly behind my back, I did not care because I was kind to people in real life not just fake kind at the service.  In college, I gave some thought to attending a church, but I never had anyone to go with.  I’m sure that wouldn’t stop a kid who grew up going, but I was still in a place where I didn’t feel at home in front of a pastor.  Finally, Easter of my sophomore year, I attended Newspring church with a group of friends.  I fell in love with church again.

Newspring might get a bad rap for being a megachurch, but I’ve never felt like I’m just another person there.  Everyone is welcomed with open arms despite their appearance, background, race, etc.  It’s a place where sinners sit with sinners and love each other despite any differences.  When someone has a problem, be it marital issues or drug addiction, they are given council and love from their fellow man, not disdain.

He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.
John 8:7

Our church recognizes we are all sinners, and our congregation cares for each other despite that.  To me, that’s how a church should be.

I shared all of this with you to say that I feel at home in my church.  I feel safe, accepted, and loved in my church.  The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has robbed the world of this sense of safety.  My heart is so full for that congregation, and I cannot imagine the pain and disbelief those who were there are experiencing.  They did what good Christians should.  They opened their doors to others for worship, and they did not cast anyone out because of his race or his strangeness.  They shared their safe and loving place with anyone who chose to walk through their doors, and this man took advantage of their kindness.  He robbed them, and the rest of our nation, of the sense of security we feel going to worship.

From cursory glance, this crime seems racially loaded, and it very well might be.  My prayer for this nation is that we will not continue to let the hate of some create hatred for many.  I pray America’s Christian community can come together in light of this event.  Instead of letting it push races further apart like police violence has, imagine if we could let this bring us together.  This crime might have been against a traditionally “black church” like the press keeps pointing out, but I view it as an attack against the Christian community at large.

Do not let this crime do what its agitator intended.  Do not let this crime become a battle of races where black churches hate white churches.  Let this crime unite every church against those who would tear us down.  Let it inspire us to love more deeply our neighbors, to cherish our time on this earth together, and to openly pray for each other.  We are one nation under God, and I think it’s time people start remembering that.

#PrayforCharleston

Behind the Makeup

What you do, the way you think, makes you beautiful.
Scott Westerfeld

I have a confession to make: I don’t wear makeup every day.  In fact, I don’t wear makeup most days.  I wasn’t always like that, though.  When I was in high school up until my sophomore year of college, I didn’t think I could leave my bedroom without putting on a full face.  That included foundation, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara.

I don’t know what made me think it was necessary.  Perhaps it was because I received more positive attention when I looked my “best” or maybe it was just because this behavior was modeled to me by my mother.  Either way, I felt like I had to have on makeup to be the best version of myself, and I certainly needed to have it on if I wanted to feel confident.  Lawrence changed all of that.

My sophomore year in college, I met Lawrence, and he changed my life with a brilliantly simple statement.  He said what every boyfriend should say.  It was a particularly crazy day in college, and I didn’t put on makeup that morning.  After a long day on campus, I went by his apartment to relax and watch a movie with him and his roommates.  I’m sure the first thing I said when I walked in was, “I’m so sorry I look like this.  It’s been a crazy day, and I didn’t have time to put my makeup on this morning.”  That’s paraphrased, but what I said doesn’t really matter.  It’s what he said when he looked up at me that counts.

“You look beautiful.  I don’t know why you bother to wear makeup anyways.  You don’t need it.”  The way he said it was so casual, so matter of fact.  It was like this huge truth that the world had never told me, and here he was unveiling it in passing.  He had no idea he had just completely changed my life.  He still doesn’t know that he changed my life, and he probably never will unless he decides to read this post.  To him, it was just the truth, and that’s what made it so impactful.

After that, I quit wearing makeup every day.  I had to ease myself into it because for awhile my face just looked so naked.  I forced myself to stick with it, and day by day it got easier.  I began to love the face I saw in the mirror and realize it was beautiful in its own right, and that gave me a feeling of confidence and empowerment.

Lawrence continues to unwittingly reinforce my new behavior.  I know he doesn’t do it on purpose, but almost every time he says I am “beautiful” it’s on a day when I didn’t put on my whole face.  He seems to reserve that word for days I rolled out of bed and came over instead of days I dressed all the way up.  Sure, he’s said it a once or twice when I’ve been all done up, but he usually says “you look great” or “hot” or “nice”.  That’s why I haven’t shared all of this with him.  It would break the magic of him not knowing how much it means and just saying it because he thinks it.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to put on makeup and a cute outfit and feel super pretty.  Makeup is just an object, and (like food) it is neither innately evil nor good.  I just want to clarify to the world that I don’t always look like my pageant headshots.  In fact, I pretty much never look that way unless I’m about to go on stage.  I want to encourage every woman to try giving up makeup for a couple of weeks.  It’s not easy when it’s something you’re used to, but it’s worth it if you can learn to love your face and feel beautiful without alteration.

The media is always going to tell women how they should look, and it’s always going to create unrealistic expectations.  Audrey had it right when she said that “happy girls are the prettiest”, so learn to be happy with who you are!  Learn to love the way you look because of your imperfections.  It would be such a boring world if everyone had perfect symmetry, tiny waists, and high cheek bones.

So there you have it.  Now you know more about me than my pageant glory, and I have shared one of my most personal stories with the worldwide web.  If it can help just one person realize makeup isn’t what’s making them beautiful, then it was totally worth it.

PS. Y’all pray for me because starting on Saturday I’m going to have to put on my whole face every day for a week, and I’m just not sure how I feel about that.