Vegging Out

The holidays are the perfect opportunity for a cheat day (week).  Luckily, I think there’s more to health than calorie intake, so by all means, forget about portion control and eat up!  If you are unaware of my model of health, it accounts for facets of well-being outside of our physical body, and you can read more about it hereUse the holidays as a time to recharge mentally while you veg out physically.

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Christmas Motto: hot cocoa, blanket, fire side, kisses… the great indoors

Being thankful is a state of mind, and the holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your blessings.  It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thinking.  Social media has really perpetuated this problem.  We see peoples’ social media lives and immediately make comparisons to our reality.  Comparisons are human, and it’s okay to make them.  However, you need to recognize the distorted realities that are being portrayed online, and you need to learn to be okay with your own reality.

Focusing on what’s good in your life is a great coping skill.  This doesn’t mean ignore the bad – trust me we all have mountains to climb.  But why think about the bad if you aren’t doing so constructively?  Rolling it around in your head until you feel ill helps no one.  So when you aren’t actively solving your life’s problems, turn your attention to your many blessings!

Recognize that being thankful starts with the small things.  It’s easy to be thankful for a promotion or the car you saved up to buy, but realize that waking up today was a gift in itself.  Seeing the festive decor, hearing your loved ones voices, and tasting the pie… just to be is magical, and to be well in life’s turbulence is nothing short of miraculous.

In our fast-paced world, what an incredible blessing it is to be able to gather around the table and share a meal.  Enjoy your time with family, friends, or even just yourself – I’m not telling you how to live your holiday; I’m just reminding you to live your best life!

From my family to yours, happy holidays!

#APerfectFit

Fa la la la Finals

I took my first college finals in the December of 2012, and next week will mark my second to last round of that misery.  Over the course of 5 years, I’ve made a lot of changes to my study habits.  They’re still imperfect thanks to a mind that wanders and Netflix list that constantly grows, but they’re much improved.  So here are the top 5 changes I’ve made that took me from academic probation (I blame Calculus) to the President’s list.


(1) Do sleep the night before an exam; do not pull an all night-er.

As a freshmen, my exam tactic was to spend 12+ hours in the library cramming every piece of information into mind possible, take an espresso shot, trudge across campus to my exam, pass out in my twin-sized bed for 4 hours, and repeat.  This is a terrible strategy.  Your brain is not going to be functional, and none of the data you’ve crammed in is going to stick.

I still don’t get luxurious long rests during finals week, but I do get enough hours to function properly.  Not only is sleep an important mechanism for your brain to recall information, it is also important for your immune system.  There’s nothing worse than trying to take a final in a medicated haze with used tissues encroaching on your paper.  Sleep is essential to both mental and physical health, so prioritize it.

(2) Do spend time with friends; do not pick parties over grades.

Humans are social creatures, and finals week is no excuse to sequester away.  I realize that some people absolutely cannot study unless they are alone in a quiet place, and for those people, a study group might not be an effective use of time.  That’s totally fine.  Text a friend and make your next coffee run together, though!  While social schedules belong on the back burner during finals week, friendships do not.  Stay connected to your support system and send encouragement to your classmates.  If there’s one thing being a part of the Clemson family has taught me, it’s that we’re all in this thing called life together!

(3) Do drink lots of water; do not treat coffee as a food group.

This goes hand in hand with getting sleep.  When you get sleep, you don’t need as much caffeine to keep your eyelids open.  Coffee is still an essential comfort in my study process, but it is no longer a requirement for me to function.  Plus staying hydrated by drinking water will help your immune system just like sleep, making you a much less likely target for germs.

(4) Do wear something you feel comfortable in; do not forget to shower.

This is something the MBA program forced me to learn.  In undergrad, I was leggings and a t-shirt on a good day, and finals week was a chance to rock sweat pants in public.  My MBA building requires business casual dress, which was a big adjustment.  I still think comfort is key to acing finals, but there’s a difference between dressing for comfort and dressing with a total loss of self-respect.  Even if sweat pants are your jam, take a hot shower and run a brush through your hair.  I find that looking less like a stress case externally helps me feel less like a stress case internally.

(5) Do use the resources available to you; do not trust exclusively in tribal knowledge.

For many classes, there are study guides that have been passed from one generation to the next.  Take advantage of those, but do not trust in them exclusively.  Professors can make changes, and the easier the study guide was for you to access, the more likely is is they will become aware of it.  Often if that happens, the final will change drastically.

While studying smart and focusing on the concepts most likely to appear will save time, make sure your review of the material is comprehensive.  Just because your hall mate had this exam last semester and swears it was only on that one graph does not mean your final will be only on that one graph.  Focus primarily on topics the professor indicated were important, take advantage of resources from peers, but don’t neglect entire sections of material based on word of mouth.


Finals can create stress levels that impact our mental health, and the studying time crunch limits our social schedules.  However, I hope you can realize what a blessing it is to have this stress in your life.  Some degree of stress is good for you as long as you’re coping with it appropriately.  A life without stress is a life without caring, and having something to care about is so essential to feeling your life has meaning.

If you’re in school like me, you’re preparing for a new phase in your life, and I’m so excited for you!  Keep the great things that will happen as a result of your education in the back of your mind as you tackle finals and don’t let the stress destroy your dreams.  Cling to why you’re doing what you’re doing.  At the end of the day, it’s just a number, and even if it isn’t what you hoped for, a bad grade won’t be your downfall.

Happy studying!

 

Winter Is Coming

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Photo by Christine Scott Photography

There’s nothing better than an oversized sweater, crackling fire, and marshmallows drowning in hot cocoa when it starts to get cold.  This time of year is when my motivation for physical wellness starts to slip, but my mental wellness is at its peak.  Food, family, and festivities abound in the winter months.

But how do you make time for your physical body without compromising on all of the waistline destroying treats of the holiday season?


Get the people you love involved!  I signed my family up for 8am Christmas Eve yoga this past year, and though my brother wore his Christmas pajamas, we got in a pretty good workout before hunkering back down.  It’s hard to make time to workout when you picture the rest of your loved ones snuggling by the fireplace, so by all means, be the team motivator.  Motivating your loved ones will also motivate you!

Remind yourself that you won’t be nearly as jolly and bright if you come down with a winter bug, and exercise is a great way to boost your immune system!  If you feel a little stuffy, it’ll drain your head and clear your sinuses.  Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid catching any gym bugs.

Mix up your routineThe exercises you do when it’s warm out don’t have to be the same as those you do when it gets cold.  I’m always an advocate for a little variety because being stuck in a rut makes it hard for me to keep going.  Right now, I’m crazy about hot yoga!  I love that it’s warm, as well as how detoxed and stretched my muscles feel when I get done.

As part of your new routines, find workouts you can do at home.  I have a list of these for rainy days, or even lazy ones, when leaving my apartment after class feels out of the question.  A quick 30 minutes before you shower and start/end your day will make a huge difference.  You can add it to your list of accomplishments, and just like making your bed,  accomplishing this small goal will make a big difference in how you perceive yourself.


The earth will warm back up soon, and sweaters will be traded for swimsuits in the blink of an eye.  Make sure you’re treating all facets of your wellness so you can feel great with every seasonal change!  Stay warm, and as always, love the skin you’re in.

#APerfectFit

Love Your Reflection

Since I’m trying to re-establish blogging as part of my busy work week, I wanted to get back to the basics this week and remind myself why my work matters.  So let’s talk about the girl in the mirror and why we love her!

Worldwide, women are under pressure to meet beauty standards.  Those standards are different wherever you go, and even within a culture, everyone has an opinion.  That means you are never going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  No body meets every beauty standard.

So where should you be focusing your energy?

IMG_6800Instead of conforming to your society’s standards, take a look in the mirror and see what’s there.  Then, find a way to love what you see.

Easier said than done.  We all have our hangups – a freckle we can’t see past, a curve we wish would shrink.  You are your own worst critic, and that’s okay.  We all have the potential to make changes in our lives, and as long as those changes are healthy, it’s okay to make them.  Just make sure you make changes out of love for yourself, not out of pressure to conform.

So how do you love your imperfectly perfect self?  Here are a few exercises for those days when the girl in the mirror isn’t living up to the standards living within you:

(1) Take “time off”

Nobody has the energy to be “on” at all times, and time off is at the heart of my self-love practice.  Light a candle, power down your networking apps, and pour a glass of wine.  Sink into the tub or under the covers.  Open the book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand or turn on a mindless flick.  Just be.

(2) Accomplish small goals

Every morning, I make my bed, and no matter what happens during the day, I have accomplished that one, very small, goal.  It sounds silly.  For me, it works.  No matter what else happens, I have done this one small thing for myself, and at the end of the day, I get to pull the covers back and escape.

(3) Quicken your heartbeat

Get a workout in!  The amazing thing about exercise is that it works if you’re tired or if you’re too hyped up to wind down.  A meaningless day that drains you of all energy or a strenuous day that wires you with stress can both be reversed with a little cardiovascular training.

(4) Phone a friend

Call someone who sees what you are having trouble seeing: you are amazing.  Let them remind you of all the good you bring to the world, the enrichment you give to their life.  We all need a hype man sometimes.  Embrace their compliments and love!IMG_6774

(5) Just dance

Okay, maybe don’t dance, but do something you love!  If you don’t have a hobby that you can’t talk about without smiling, it’s time to find one.  Find something that makes you feel good about yourself, that lets your talents shine.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are keeping the outside world quiet so you can clearly hear your own needs! 

How do you remind the girl in the mirror that she woke up flawless?

#APerfectFit

“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.

#APerfectFit

What does “wellness” even mean?

My definition of wellness involves physical, mental, social and spiritual health.  I  place the most importance on spiritual health, but I try to tend to all 4 facets on a daily basis.  Some days, one area needs a little more attention than the others, and that area gets prioritized.  This encompassing definition of wellness means it’s perfectly healthy to skip a morning at the gym for a brunch with your girlfriends if you’re lacking in social health that week.  However, you have to be careful to prioritize in a way that maintains the quadrants equally, instead of focusing on your favorite each day.

What do I mean by that?  When I was competing in the pageant system, physical health fought to become my single definition of wellness.  I was surrounded by girls with phenomenal bodies, and I was going to stand on a stage next to them.  I didn’t skip workouts.  It didn’t matter if I hadn’t had a real conversation with my roommate in a week or given myself some time to rewind all month.  I focused all of my energy on that one aspect of health, and it resulted in neglect of the other areas.

When I graduated in December of 2016, I had a lot to think about.  One evaluation I made involved looking at my beliefs and how they were driving me.  This 4-dimensional model of wellness is something I’ve always stated was part of my belief system, but my actions hadn’t been adding up.  I realized I still believed it was the best model of wellness for my life, but I was letting the picture-perfect models of Instagram alter my reality.  I was prioritizing based on the mindset I ended up with after scrolling past perfect picture after perfect picture on social media.  I knew I had to make a change.

I took a serious look at my mental health and recognized how harshly I was evaluating my body.  My physical health was no longer about true health.  It had become more about being as toned as the (often edited) photos than about BMI and clean eating.  This twisted perception of physical health was certainly impacting my mental health.  It was also hurting my social health, as I couldn’t skip a day at the gym.

In my last post, I admitted my physique isn’t what it once was.  Despite a few new curves, my body is still strong and healthy, and now, I have a mindset of strength to match.  My social calendar is always open to new bookings, and I can truly say I am happier than ever.  All that despite facing a new challenge in my life.

Working part time while staying on top of my MBA coursework has simply been exhausting.  If I didn’t have amazing people in my life building me up, it probably wouldn’t be going as well as it is.  As disciplined as I try to be, I don’t have time to do everything I want to do.  I am slowly becoming proficient at prioritizing, but it’s a skill I’ll be working to improve for the rest of my life.

There are moments when I see a fat girl in the dressing room trying on clothes that are no longer the size 0 I once wore.  There are moments I want back the abs that generated buzz.  They are fleeting and becoming more infrequent with each passing week.  My investments in social activities have resulted in waves of love and support, and my mental health is doing much better focusing on my daily successes instead of my physical appearance.

It’s difficult to talk about appearances when everyone’s perception has been effected by numerous positive and negative events.  Your body is the vessel through which you can impact the world, and physically taking care of it is important.  But I encourage you to recognize how much more there is to health than weight.

Tonight is going to be a candlelit bathtub and wine kind of night for me.  What do you need to do tonight to be well?

#APerfectFit

Bikini Body

There’s this thing that girls do when they put on a swimsuit – they evaluate. I don’t care who you are or how much you love yourself, it is incredibly rare not to check the mirror before you hit the beach/pool. There’s nothing wrong with a little pride in your appearance. Ensuring the girls are looking good and a little “dang, girl, lookin’ fine” to yourself is great attitude prep for walking around in what is essentially underwear. The problem is when that one second glance turns into several slow minutes of serious evaluation.

I didn’t do that a year ago.  Between you and me, I am the “fattest” I’ve ever been in my life today.  I am also the happiest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: healthy is physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  Physically I’m not my best me, but I’m doing better on the other three than I have in past memory.  But more about that some other time…

I didn’t evaluate myself in the mirror a year ago because there was no part of my physical body I was unaware of.  I knew I was toned; I knew what I’d worked out the day before and that day and would work on the next.  Now, it’s highly likely I skipped a couple workouts to get drinks with friends or even just because.  So when I put on a bikini, it’s unknown what’s going to be jiggly or the exact state of bloat I might be in.

My roommates and I will rush back in forth to each others’ rooms before a trip to the pool trying to determine what swim suit doesn’t make us look “fat”… and this is a problem.  Because none of us are by any means “fat”.  We are all at a healthy BMI, perhaps higher than it once was, but by no means overweight.  And this would be a problem even if we actually were overweight.

Evaluating your body is essential to knowing its current state.  It helps you know what you need – for some of us that’s a large meal and for others it’s a trip to the gym.  There are times when it’s essential to look at your body and see what’s there and figure it out, but when you just put on a swimsuit for a day of fun, it’s not the right time.  It’s time to get tanned and boozy by a body of water!

So the next time you put on a swimsuit, regardless of your BMI and what may or may not need work, get your priorities straight.  You’re putting it on to have a good time, not to work on any changes, so don’t evaluate.  Instead, remind yourself that you love yourself and if that doesn’t work, live by the “if you can’t tone it, tan it!” mantra.  Now go show off that bikini body!