Gaining Strength: One Year Later

January 4, 2015

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Exactly one year ago I signed up for my first ever Olympic weightlifting meet, having NEVER done anything beyond traditional lifts. I learned the basics in three weeks and at the meet, successfully completed both the snatch and the clean & jerk. I lifted the lightest weights at the meet, but I was hooked. I documented that whole process last year in a four part series, starting here: The Strength to be Strong.

Since then, I’ve continued training both Olympic lifts and in general strength and conditioning. I’ve now competed in two unsanctioned Oly meets, and one sanctioned one, where I proudly sported our team singlet. Let me tell you, I would have NEVER expected that to happen in my life– owning a singlet OR posting pictures of me wearing one online OR lifting weights in front of a crowd while wearing one.

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A new C&J PR set in competition: 48kg!

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If it isn’t obvious by now, I love weightlifting. I seriously appreciated it before this year, but it has now become such a mainstay in my life (4 days a week on average), which meant a lot during a fairly crazy year. A busy new work schedule (including one 33-days-of-work-in-a-row stint, and domestic and international work trips) would have normally deterred me from maintaining a regimen, but it honestly kept me sane. Focusing on physical work allowed me to take a mental break from everything else more times than I can count this year, and I am so, so thankful for that. Also? I swear that lifting weights in the hotel gym after flying to China erased my jet lag. That and I super impressed the Chinese businessmen by being the only female in there, and the only one throwing around any significant amount of weight.

Not only did I gain sanity and mental peace through weightlifting, but the community that I’ve joined at Industrial Strength Gym has made working out a social appointment I am more than happy to keep. The support, the camaraderie, the friendly competition, and just a giant room full of smiling faces make it one of my favorite places in the world right now. I see these people more than any of my other friends or any of our families, so liking them makes an hour in the gym a breeze.

Vickie (my "bartner") and I are currently racing to be the first to deadlift 300lbs.

Vickie (my “bartner”) and I are currently racing to be the first to deadlift 300lbs. Bitch, you’re going down!

As a result of this love and commitment, I am the strongest and most confident and comfortable with my body and myself than I have ever been. The large thighs I used to loathe are something I am proud to sport now. Nothing but slimming black yoga pants? Fuck that, give me a crazy ass pattern and let’s get wild. My ass is actually gaining a good curve, rather than just being a wide and flat white girl’s ass. And I have guns! With shadows of triceps! Some shirts don’t fit them anymore! What?! And I’m so okay with this!

No longer am I concerned with getting smaller. I just want to get stronger. As women we’ve had the messages of “take up less space,” “be smaller,” “shrink yourself,” and “don’t be an inconvenience” drilled into our brains from an early age. To shirk that and gladly acknowledge my strength and appear muscular is one of the most refreshing and liberating things I’ve experienced as an adult. Plus that feeling of denying someone’s help when they’re concerned your bag of groceries or that box you’re moving is too heavy, and showing them you’re more than capable of doing it yourself is, admittedly, amazing. I blew my grandparents’ minds when I moved a massive old TV for them on my own.

So, on the year anniversary of signing up for my first Olympic weightlifting meet, I signed up for my first powerlifting competition. Squat, deadlift, and overhead push press are the three lifts I’m competing in. Again, I know I’m not the strongest person out there. Not by a long shot. But having that goal to work toward is incredibly inspiring and I am more than stoked. Plus I’ve learned that it’s not about who lifts the most out of everyone, but just out of the people that had the guts to sign up that day. I could place last in my division, I could place first, I could place somewhere in the middle. I’m totally cool with any of those outcomes. To me, it’s all about the journey and seeing how far I come by the end of that day.

My husband and I are beginning our annual Whole30 on Monday the 5th (after some seriously fun food and drink indulgences over the holidays), and I plan on extending that until the powerlifting meet near the end of February. Not only that, I recently took a GEMS test to determine what foods work best with me on a lifelong genetic level (learn more about that here). Beyond the normal Whole30 guidelines I’ll be cutting out bacon, sausage, fermented foods, shellfish, dried fruit, and a few others. I’ve heard from people who’ve taken the test and eliminated their respectively appropriate foods that their health, well being, and even gym performance have improved significantly, so now it the perfect time to test that out. I signed up for a weight class that is right around where I usually hover, so this will be the first time I’ll have to monitor my weight, which should be interesting. The big takeaway from that though is not associating that number with an emotion, which I’ve gotten much better about during 2014. After all, it’s just a damn number.

I received a lot of great feedback from people regarding last year’s Strength series posts, as I’ve previously mentioned. I don’t plan on fully continuing that again this time around, but keep an eye out for updates on my training process and how the competition turns out. I’m so excited for it. :)

And the World Continues Turning

August 12, 2014

BLOOOOGGGGGGGGG!

Hey there. I’d ask you how you’re doing, but you’re a website that just hangs out, and this conversation is entirely one-sided. But that haircut is fabulous, dear. Just superb. Sooooo, a number of big things have changed since we last spoke!

That new house I had mentioned moving into? Well, we did, with the help of a diverse group of friendly people armed with high fives and arms around boxes and toasts of cold beers. That little house we moved into has proven to be better than we anticipated. The backyard we initially viewed under a blanket of snow? Best thing about the place. We’ve planted all types of veggies and fruits there (with some help of our next door landlord/master gardener) and I’m currently buried in produce that I’m trying to preserve/can/dry/soak in alcohol as fast as my free time allows. Plus the adjacent patio is the ideal entertaining/happy hour location, and we’ve been soaking up sun, fun, conversation, and contemplation in that little spot as much as possible.

Surprisingly, this is BEFORE the garden went nuts. Now you can't even see that trellis with all the tomatoes, cucumbers, spaghetti squash and zucchini that are snaking their way through it..

Surprisingly, this is BEFORE the garden went nuts. Now you can’t even see that trellis with all the tomatoes, cucumbers, spaghetti squash and zucchini that are snaking their way through it..

The previously mentioned next door landlords? Oh, are they the definition of Good People. They built us raised beds filled with the best soil. They tore down an old shed and built a new one, stocked with all the yard and garden care equipment we could need. They’ve had us over for cocktails in their beautiful and immense backyard, and they shared their family’s Easter feast with us. They’ve introduced us to a bunch of other really super nice neighbors. Heck, they even waved me over one Sunday morning and gave us a couple of freshly made crepes stuffed with fresh crab and topped with creme fraiche. Truly, truly great, generous people. Our hesitations about living next to landlords are gone.

A big change is that I am no longer driving 120 miles a day to a job marketing tasty craft beer. It had been a long and emotionally tolling job search.

(A quick aside with a few examples of that endeavor… I was a final candidate four or five times over the course of 18 months. I was offered a very mediocre [but well paying] job marketing a product in which I had no interest… that I turned down. I did a shit-ton of research on every place that I applied and produced detailed, personalized cover letters over and over and over again, oftentimes to no response and no avail. One snowboarding clothing company VP had me write an after-interview essay on digital marketing strategies, and after I sent it to him I never heard from him or the company again. Trust me, the list goes on.)

I loved the brewery, loved the product, loved the people, loved the place. Still do! But it wasn’t working for where I wanted to go and where I want to be. When I was offered the new gig of being a full time designer for a wholesale home decor company, I bid a friendly adieu, toasted a few pints with coworkers, exchanged a couple tears with my boss, and very amicably parted ways.

This is my first time being a 100% designer (no hyphenated job titles or duties for this gal!) and it’s already been so exciting. Skills are improving, influences are growing, confidence is… biggening. Biggening? Getting bigger. Broadening. See? I’ve stopped including “copywriter” in my job description and look how my vernacular has languished.

In the three months I’ve been there I’ve already traveled to Memphis and Atlanta, and will likely head to China sometime within the next six months. One of the neatest aspects is seeing conceptual products that I’ve roughly illustrated or patched together in Photoshop turn into real, three-dimensional products that don’t look like utter crap! I’m not diminishing my skills with that statement, it’s just amazing to see something I once considered a hobby, an afterthought, not even my major, turn into a full-fledged career that produces items that people will purchase and give meaningfully to friends or bring out each holiday.

Go to Memphis for the first time? End up in a "Who's Who of Memphis" magazine.

Go to Memphis for the first time? End up in a “Who’s Who of Memphis” magazine.

We’re midst a summer that’s already been a busy whirlwind, and as per usual I’m already bemoaning the oncoming fall. I haven’t gotten enough of a tan yet, haven’t jumped into enough swimming holes, haven’t napped outdoors, haven’t played enough. The weekends are quickly filling up and still it feels like not enough time before the rains return and I can’t comfortably drive around with the windows down.

That all being said, life is darn peachy right now and I couldn’t complain a bit.

Things I Accomplished This Weekend

March 16, 2014

… in no particular order.

  1. Herb roasted a giant turkey breast
  2. Packed up the majority of immediately unnecessary items in our kitchen
  3. Slept 8+ hours each night
  4. Cooked a giant pot of Filipino beef stew
  5. Deadlifted 220 pounds for the first time
  6. Walked to the store in a tank top and was not cold
  7. Drank several beers, two glasses of wine, and a mint julep
  8. Squatted 140 pounds for the first time
  9. Watched my first episode of Scandal
  10. Watched six episodes of Scandal
  11. Got the keys to our new house
  12. Dropped off the first load of boxes in our new house
  13. Had to write an unexpected and un-budgeted check to our new landlords for a deposit we had never discussed
  14. Jacked up my upper back/t-spine area doing military presses
  15. Walked the 5k Shamrock Run with my mom, husband, and father-in-law
  16. Listened to a quarter of the audiobook for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods while packing and doing chores
  17. Ate some candy
  18. Fielded a phone call from my nephew who thought every sharply dressed female mannequin in Banana Republic was his auntie, was sad when it wasn’t, and needed to talk to me because he missed me

It was busy enough to be notable.

 

Moving Along

March 13, 2014

We’re moving from NE Portland to SE next week. Midst the expected chaos of packing, sorting, cleaning, and getting rid of stuff, we’ve had time to reflect upon the things we will miss and the things we will certainly not miss in our current abode. Comparatively, the lists are a little unbalanced.

THINGS WE WILL MISS

A very private backyard. Enclosed almost completely with a freestanding garage and giant laurel hedge, the backyard made a nice little retreat. Also: there was a few square feet of grass where absolutely no one could see you, unless they were in the house. Scantily clad sunbathing days are gone.

A bathroom with lots of natural light. I actually made a greenhouse out of the sunny, south-facing expanse we had out of our bathroom window and it always seemed cheerful.

My raised beds. Sean, my dad, and I built four 2’x4′ raised beds last year and filled them with excellent organic compost and soil, and in them I had my best garden to date. 
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Our firepit. Another thing we built last year and thoroughly enjoyed, especially when having friends over for a few beers around the fire on warm summer nights.

Our neighborhood. It’s a nice place near parks and schools with lovely neighbors, within walking distance of a grocery store, theater, liquor store, and a few decent restaurants, and has easy access to the highway and airport.

It was our first house together. So, you know, sentimentality and all that malarkey.

 

THINGS WE WILL NOT MISS

Not having a dishwasher. HOLY CRAP ARE WE SICK OF HAND-WASHING DISHES. Especially because I cook a lot of awesome food and we both have busy schedules. Dishes pile up easily in this place, so washing them is an hour-long chore of dread. This will be a HUGE timesaver.

Mowing lots of lawn. Our new place has modest patches of grass in the back and front yards, with everything else being established beds of neat plants. I hate mowing and our current place, with large front and back yards AND long sidewalk strips of grass, was the worst. Add in a crappy electric mower and it was my most hated warm weather chore.

Having only one bathroom. Where everything you do is easily heard by anyone else in the house. (That part of hosting guests was always awkward.) And your husband camps out in there for what seems like hours. And two people getting ready at the same time was near impossible due to its tiny size.

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Fabby hogs the sink. AGAIN.

Not having a fan with our stove. There’s a nice layer of greasy dust on everything near the stove because the ventilation in the kitchen is A.) a window, or B.) a door.

Stinky cupboards. For whatever reason, the cupboards and drawers at our current place have a weird old wood, old cardboard funk to them. If anything has been in there for a long time, you need to wash it first before using it because you’ll then taste it in your wine or dinner. While packing I found a stash of paper plates I had kept in the back of one and I immediately threw them out.

Oil furnace heat. Spending somewhere between $700-1000 once a year to fill a tank of fossil fuels to heat your house is the worst. Granted it does heat the house quickly, and if the place is smelly for whatever reason (say, the garbage wasn’t taken outside early enough), a spritz of perfume in the intake vent did instantaneous wonders. However, fuck that inefficient, unsustainable, and expensive noise. Literal noise, because that shiz is loud.

Bad bathroom lighting. Despite me loving the natural light in the bathroom, it’s a pain in the ass for eyebrow plucking. And the small spotlights directly over the mirror create harsh shadows that point out every conceivable bump on your face.

Weird laundry system. The washer empties into a large sink basin. If you don’t watch it vigilently, the small drain could plug up, the sink could fill, and the whole thing overflows. It only happened to us twice, but you could never just put a wash on and go. Also, the dryer doesn’t vent outside the house. Instead it vents into a little plastic basket on the floor, in which you’re supposed to pour a little water to trap the inevitable lint. That… kinda works? As a result, the basement turns into a sweating sauna. Nice in the winter, awful in the summer. And lint covers everything, including the popcorn ceiling.

 

You could easily just summarize this entire post with FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. Because they are. But! What you can easily deduce from these lists: we’re really looking forward to our new house. Onward and upward!

Truthiness

March 10, 2014

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Night creams, day creams, creams for your wrinkling decollete, creams for rough elbows, creams for rough days (TAKE A GODDAMN CALGON MOMENT YOU UNFEMININE AUTOMATON), cellulite erasers, spanx, lip plumpers, hair straighteners, high heels, push-up bras, self tanning lotions, shellac manicures, brazilian waxes, microdermabrasion, eyelash extensions, hair extensions, chemical peels, teeth whitening, diet pills, diet drops, diet drinks, vajazzling, rhinoplasty, labiaplasty, liposuction, butt implants, cheek implants, hair transplants…

Play us the theme song, Beyoncé!

A Work in Progress

January 26, 2014

In an amazing feat of table turning, within an hour of me posting about being proud of my weightlifting accomplishments, this photo was posted of me performing the exact thing I was proud of.

1509730_1453613204857540_55759594_nAnd despite words of praise, my initial reaction to this photo was ANYTHING BUT PROUD. Let me illustrate my thought process a la doge memes. (Click to embiggen.)

olymeet_dogeMy first reaction is to criticize my appearance, look for faults, hide from public view, and overlook the radness of what I’m doing (with decent form, might I add!). And that fucking sucks. It’s also proof that despite my bluster, despite my efforts to be strong and proud and to look past what society expects from me, my superficial ego still holds tremendous sway over how I view myself.

In other words, I have a long way to go.

I think this is also the appropriate time to share this beautiful video on, of all things, selfies. I didn’t realize until the end that it was a Dove promo, which kinda pissed me off since I’ve railed against their heavy-handed “Redefine Beauty” campaign in the past. But this video made me want to cry multiple times. Our own criticisms are often ridiculous in the eyes of other people. One girl hates her big hair, which I would personally ADORE. But as another girl stated, we often hate the things that make us different, when those are the very things that make us unique. Strength is accepting your differences and finding beauty within them.

Watch, share, discuss. And maybe try to lose (or lessen!) your fear of a bad photo.

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This is Part 4 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud

The Strength to Be Proud

January 26, 2014

Yesterday I completed the aforementioned Olympic weightlifting competition and… whoa.

But.

Before I get into those fun details, I just want to say how incredibly awe-inspiring and humbling the feedback I’ve received from my Strength to Be Strong post has been. From calls to texts to social media comments to emails, I’ve heard back from so many wonderful people. It’s made me smile and reflect and feel so freaking grateful. What amazes me the most is how admitting your own insecurities opens a much more honest conversation with people, especially those with whom you’d normally only exchange banal pleasantries. It cuts to the quick of our experience as functioning humans in a social world much more so than discussing politics or the weather ever could.

In the wake of that post I’ve had so many more open, free-speaking, and in depth talks with people than I normally would ever have. From people I admire to people I don’t know very well, the all-encompassing lesson as been that EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN HANG-UPS. We’re all insecure about something. And I think the fact that I come off as a fairly confident person, especially in this world of social media where 90% of what you discuss publicly is fashioned to be positive, made the admissions I’ve held within for a lifetime that much more resonant.

What was particularly eye-opening were the emails and conversations exchanged with the people I look up to, the ones that I naturally assume “have it all.” Just as much as you, they have their own shit that they’re worried or embarrassed or ashamed about. In fact some of the things they’re insecure about will seem ridiculous in your eyes. But that’s the thing– we all compare ourselves to each other and what society expects from us, and we all find ourselves lacking. If we’re all lacking, then that means no one has everything, right? So striving to achieve perfection is a futile endeavor and we should all be celebrating our own little triumphs and moments of awesomeness, rather than overlooking them in search of the flaws. The notion of “having it all” is a stupidly perpetual myth.

So, on that note… the weightlifting meet.

I’ll say off the bat– it went great. I could easily do the stereotypical “chick” thing and diminish my accomplishments (which, as a journalism major, I always feel like I need to do for the sake of objectivity) by saying that I lifted the least amount of anyone competing, or that the only reason I placed was that there were no other women in my (“heavy” 75kg+) weight class.

No.

FUCK THAT.

I went in there with only a month of experience, lifted weights I have never lifted before, set personal records, and placed first in my weight division. AND I AM NOT MARGINALIZING THOSE ACCOMPLISHMENTS ONE GODDAMN BIT. I am wholeheartedly going to pat myself on the back for being ballsy and competing in something in which I have no expertise. I did it with a smile and maybe a weird dance or two on the platform while I was at it, no less. I had one goal that day: to successfully complete both a snatch and a clean & jerk, and I totally did that. Hands in the air, that’s all I’m here for, PEACE. Mic drop.

But I achieved more than that, and I choose to be proud.

And that’s the thing. YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE PROUD.

You don’t need permission or a mythical future point in your life where everything will fall into place (because, hey there, real talk: it never will). In this world, in this one precious life, you have this incredible ability to choose your own adventure, to choose your own perspective, to choose your own happiness, and to choose to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. So go out there and do something for yourself, for no one else, and make yourself PROUD.

That’s what I did yesterday. And I plan to keep it up.
Plus I’m kinda hooked on this Olympic weightlifting thing.
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This is Part 3 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 4: A Work in Progress

Training, with GIFs

January 17, 2014

My head-first introduction into Olympic weightlifting only weeks before a meet has surprisingly been much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I’m getting stronger with every session (I’m working out and training 3-5 times a week right now), but Oly requires a different set of skills than the ones you utilize when you’re simply lifting weights. There are so many intricate movements and positions to remember at every moment, whether you’re at rest or you’re hurling a bar over your head.

My first few training sessions were a breeze, and I left them feeling confident that I was progressing nicely. Then two nights ago I just could. not. do. it. And the only thing holding me back was my brain! In fact it felt exactly like my many summer days as a kid, standing on the high diving board, staring down at the water, and not being able to jump. I knew I could do it, I knew I’d be fine, everyone else can do it so easily, but something in my brain would block my legs from leaping. It was the same thing the other evening, and I was so frustrated with myself I felt near tears.

In contrast, I squeezed in a few practice lifts (of just the bar, mind you) last night and had no problem whatsoever. I just did it.

To use video game GIFs to express my point:

… Here’s me two nights ago:
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(It’s so sad how literal this nearly is.)

… And here’s me last night:

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In addition to that weird mental block, the reality that I committed myself to a COMPETITION in a very difficult and detail-oriented category of physical strength that I’m just now LEARNING definitely hangs over my head. It’s just a little bit insane, and I question it regularly. When I’m not staring at a bar in frustration, though, I know it’s just another challenge and you could qualify this level of ridiculousness as something akin to being brave, if you look at it in only the most flattering light. Does it matter how I fare on that day? Not really. Does it matter that I show up and try? Absolutely.

The meet is a week from tomorrow, and I’m about to fly out of state for work for four days. The timing is wonderfully shitty, especially since I’m eating super clean this month AND not drinking, and I’m heading to a three-day gourmet food show. Plus I won’t have any type of workout facility during those four days. Bodyweight hotel room workouts FTW!

I’m going to end this here, but please note that a post regarding the comments, hugs, kind words, and high fives that I’ve received in reaction to my Strength post is forthcoming. It’s been phenomenal, and fills me with warm fuzzies still. You are all glorious diamonds.

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This is Part 2 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud
Part 4: A Work in Progress

Knowledge

January 14, 2014

Knowledge

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink digital download is free on Amazon until tomorrow.

The Shriver Report is a multi-platform project of A Woman’s Nation, the nonprofit organization led by Maria Shriver that raises awareness, ignites conversation, and inspires impact around the defining issues and fundamental changes facing modern women. By convening influential voices and bold ideas from across the cultural spectrum, The Shriver Report project seeks to chronicle how American families live and work today, giving clear insight into one of the most important social trends of our time: the emergence of women into all areas of society.”

If that doesn’t interest you, maybe the Report’s essay by Beyoncé on gender equality will?

If an essay by Beyoncé doesn’t interest you, maybe this AMAZING amazing video from her Visual Album will? Because it’s my favorite.

The Strength to be Strong

January 4, 2014

DuffysCounterpunch

Yesterday I signed up for my first ever competitive weightlifting meet. Not that I’m super great at lifting weights– I still have such, SUCH a long way to go! And I honestly don’t expect to “win” a single thing. But it’s through the gym that I’ve grown to love over the last two months, and it’s a fun challenge and a tangible goal to work toward. I like the feeling of lifting something I wasn’t able to lift weeks earlier. I love the feeling of progress, of strength, and the confidence that comes with pushing your body (safely!) to its limits and coming out the other side as your own personal champion.

What was interesting though was the meet’s online sign up process. Amongst fields reasonably asking for your name, age, and weightlifting experience, was a field asking you to define what weight bracket under which you’d be competing. For people like my husband who compete within weight brackets all the time, that’s no big deal. It’s how you logically parse the competitors.

For me, though, the “admission” of my weight range was, for a moment, almost a game killer. Especially since it would be in the last tier of brackets, “Women’s 75kg+”.  My first reaction was to lie, which is the default reaction for most women. But then I read that there would be a weigh in before the meet (yes, ladies: WEIGHING. YOURSELF. IN. PUBLIC.) and that was almost the second deal breaker.

I’ve regretted, loathed, lamented, hated, avoided, ignored, or been disgusted by my own body at various stages and intensities for over half my life. Societal factors, upbringing, and a lack of true, knowledgeable ownership over my health and well-being compounded into a big, ugly opinion that is sadly the norm with many women and girls nowadays. When was the last time you heard a woman say she loved her body?

Only in recent years have I slowly come out of that self-hating funk, but I’m STILL working on it. What’s particularly interesting about that though are the diverse factors leading to what I would almost describe as a “self-love epiphany.”

My husband. The biggest is my relationship with my husband. Sean believes in me endlessly, long after I’ve given up on myself. The fact that someone I hold in such high esteem has that much confidence in me was nothing short of revolutionary. Plus he is actually a DELIGHTFUL workout partner (which is also why he makes a great coach), and will always push me to try a little harder and not get caught up in the “I can’t do that” mentality that’s been driven into my head for decades. In his eyes I see the person I’ve always thought I was, but felt encumbered by my body, or others’ perceptions, or other self-imposed limitations that hold me back from truly expressing and experiencing myself.

Paleo eating. The next factor is definitely my decision to go paleo/primal two and a half years ago. Losing 30 pounds within a smattering of months was, naturally, a HUGE boost. I’ve kept everything level since then, but knowing how to properly fuel my body, and what makes it the happiest, is incredible. With that has come acceptance that I won’t always be perfect in my diet and exercise, and that’s okay. As long as I don’t “eat like an asshole” I know I’ll be healthy and happy. Even when I do eat like a jerk, like I did this holiday season, I had little-to-no guilt. In fact it was an interesting experiment noting all the negatives as a result of eating grains, sugar, legumes, processed foods, and lots of booze. I slept horribly, my joints ached, my stomach ached regularly, digestion was sketchy, and my skin broke out.

Working out/lifting weights/yoga. Being active is well known for its abilities to boost your confidence. I feel the best when I’m getting at least three weight training sessions in a week, and one of those is usually with my husband at his gym. I used to ride the chronic cardio train, wasting time on elliptical machines while staring at a TV, or twiddling away on machines. I never had that great of results with these, and I never left the gym feeling as good as I do now, having really tested my limits. I feel STRONG.

Feminism. This is a pretty damn broad bullet point, and likely something that warrants its own blog post, but reawakening to the concepts of feminism and how important it still is has shaken my values tremendously over the past year. It began with the internet, in blog posts about the perpetuation of rape culture, in admissions from friends about the misogyny they’ve experienced in their lives, in the reports and GIFs further exposing the unrealistic standards to which beauty is held, and talking about both men and women being regularly held to unrealistic and limiting gender norms.
Websites like The Hairpin and Jezebel were incredibly important here too, in that it wasn’t about strict feminism, but highly intelligent, and often funny, stories and conversations by women reacting to the world around them with a sharp eye, quick wit, immense creativity, and sometimes a sad shake of the head. I still maintain that the Hairpin has the best comments section in the internet.
Reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman (as mentioned in the previous post) was the major game changer. After that I finally subscribed to Bitch Magazine, which smartly disseminates feminism across pop culture and politics. I was able to promote Bitch Media through my work when I got to brew my own beer this year, and in the process get to know the amazing women there, and inadvertently become directly involved with striving for equality of the sexes on a public level.
Overall, rediscovering feminism has given me the strength to speak up for myself, to strive to be more empathetic, and to identify and sometimes even call out the injustices around me that I might have ignored or shrugged off in the past.

Self-love leaders. Recently I’ve come to love a number of women online who promote self-love, acceptance, and encourage you to define healthy and happy on your own terms. Jen Sinkler is a weight lifting badass who writes a plethora of thought-provoking content that’s so relatable to me. Seeing multiple posts scroll across my Facebook news feed daily from Chichi Kix constantly remind me to feel good about myself, strive to be better, not compare myself to anyone else, and have a damn sense of humor about it. Melissa Joulwan is not only the author of my favorite cookbooks, but she also talks about clean eating, lifting weights, accepting her “flaws,” and finding out what works best for her body and her life in her blog. When I found out that she and Jen Sinkler were IRL friends, I tweeted them this pic (where I’m wearing an “Unapologetically Strong” shirt from Jen while cooking a recipe from Mel’s first cookbook), which they both appreciated.
BTXkfTdCYAAKqGaPlus the hilarious and all-too-relatable Amy Schumer debuted her fantastic show this past year, and her skits like the amazing “Compliments” below exaggerate and highlight women’s tendency to hate on themselves recreationally.

There are so many more factors and people that have helped me become happier with who I am and frequently encourage me to challenge both myself and the world around me. Too many to list. But I love all y’all. Thank you, thank you, thank you,

After initially balking at inputting my weight on the sign up form, I thought, “You know what? This is my body. That is my current weight. I’m not defined by that number. Technically, that number is defined by gravity. Also defined by gravity? Whether or not I can lift some weights. So let’s do this.”

I have three weeks to train.

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This is Part 1 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud
Part 4: A Work in Progress


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