An American Girl in Leeds: The Beginning


Life in your twenties is never easy, as I’m sure most people are aware. We’re sort of divided into two camps; the ones who are trying to figure things out, and the ones who think that they have things figured out. Me, I am the former. I spent a good chunk of my twenties thinking that I needed to conform to certain societal norms: finishing college, getting a job, getting married, pushing out kids. And I certainly spend a good amount of my time being reminded of that by people who are supposed to be my friends, and my family. The latter two were always a popular topic of conversation, as if I had somehow already managed to fail adulthood because I wasn’t married, even though most of my friends were, and I had absolutely no interest in having any kids. Never mind the fact that several of those same said friends were also already divorced, and some had kids that were all monstrous little shits; somehow I was the failure because I had yet to accomplish either one. And of course, I use the term “accomplish” extremely loosely, because you’ll forgive me if I don’t think that getting knocked up and/or managing to land a man is the pinnacle of human achievement.
  You can probably tell from my not so subtle cynicism that I no longer think that this is the sort of thing I have to accomplish anymore. I’m 28 years old, and I give much less of a shit now about marriage and children as I did when I was 21. I’m not saying that it’s outside of the realm of possibility for me, I’m just saying that it’s no longer something that I actively want to pursue. And I’ve long since convinced myself that I’m not a failure for not wanting those things, for now or ever, regardless of what other people seem to think.
You’re probably wondering what on earth this has to do with the title of this post, and rightly so. I do have a tendency to ramble when I’m giving exposition. But this goes back to what I was saying at the very beginning of this whole thing. I spent 8 years trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do – I went to college, I graduated, and I got a job. Things should be simple and I should be happy, but I still feel that there’s something missing. And I think the biggest problem is I talk a much bigger game than I play.
You probably have gleaned from this blog thusfar that I have a serious case of wanderlust. I’ve wanted to globetrot ever since I was old enough to know that there was a world beyond my playground. I couldn’t really reconcile with the fact that there was so much of the world out there, and that I was only seeing a small, almost miniscule percentage of it. And that’s all very well and good, but intention doesn’t take you nearly as far as action does. I had all the intention in the world, just not the initiative. I have always planned at some point in my life to see as much of the world as possible while I still have the time, while I wasn’t anchored to a man or a baby.
And of course, I had to be realistic. I didn’t have the money to just jet off wherever I felt like, much as I wanted to. I was working full time and going to college full time and I was barely making enough money to feed myself and keep a roof over my head, let alone satiate my desperate desire to travel all over the world. When I was still at San Jose State University, I thought that my opportunity had shown up at last in the form of a study abroad program for a semester in Bath, England. I was already taking out student loans to fund my college education, so what was a few thousand more dollars in order for a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit countries that I’ve only ever dreamed of? But, of course, fate conspired against me. By the time I was at a point where I was eligible for the program, it was canceled, due to, ironically, lack of enrollment.
I graduated from college with the reluctant understanding that my chance to go abroad was now limited by the strength of my paychecks. And since I work as a teacher with over 15k in debt, you can imagine that my paychecks aren’t particularly powerful. Oh sure, opportunities were there, dangling precariously out of my reach – an offer to teach English in Japan for a year, a chance to apply for international internships, learning about travel hacking (a worthwhile venture if ever there was one). But all of these fell by the wayside, not just because of lack of organization by the people who had extended the offers to me, but, as I soon came to terms with the fact, that I was afraid.
I don’t know if you all know this, but the prospect of going overseas for an extended period of time is daunting as hell. There’s a real fear of the unknown, of being separated by the comfort and safety of the familiar. But it’s the price you pay for dreams. When you want to see the world, you can’t take your whole life with you. Part of you has to stay behind.
When I first heard about the University of Leeds through a friend who is currently attending, I had no plans to take my education past my bachelor’s degree. English majors rarely benefit from a graduate degree, so I filled out the application on a whim, more concerned about the idea of being abroad than being a student. So I strayed a bit in the application process, because I couldn’t reconcile the idea of putting myself even further into debt with my dream of going abroad. It just seemed like too much money for what I couldn’t consider a worthwhile reward, especially considering the tremendous issue of student debt that the American economy is currently facing.
But the university hadn’t lost its interest in me, and a few months ago, I was contacted by their department about submitting the documentation needed to complete the application process. I still had my doubts, but I was also facing yet another unfortunate effect of the economy, as well as the flaws in the American higher education system – I couldn’t get a full – time job, and I didn’t have the job skills or experience to distinguish me in a competitive job market. It’s true that I am making more money than I had been before graduation, but that job will offer me no growth or stability in the long run. I took the time to research the university’s MA program, and the more I read, the less my doubt became. I still had the concerns about the cost of the whole thing, as well as the prospect of being separated from my family and friends for a year, but that was soon outweighed by my increasing desire for the degree, and the chance to have the kind of adventure I had always dreamed of. I’m nearing the end of my twenties – I no longer have the time for fear.

So I submitted the documentation. As of April 29th, 2014, I have been accepted into the University of Leeds as a graduate student in Publication and Performance.

Looking back, making the decision was the easy part. Telling my mother that her only child would be leaving her for a year was hard. Understanding the amount of money and preparation needed to make this happen was hard. Knowing that I will be separated from my cats for a year was hard. Knowing that I will likely be absent from the birth of my best friend’s first baby, from Daniel’s first words and first steps, from my cousin’s high school graduation, from the most important people in my entire life was almost beyond bearing,

But I can’t think of it in terms of what I will be losing. I have to think of it in terms of what I will be gaining. Even though I’m coming back with 36k more in debt, and with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities missed, I will be coming back with not just an MA, but with the kind of experience I’ve always dreamed of having. And there will be another part of the world that I will have seen. And that’s what makes it worth the fear.

I’ll be leaving for England September 16th. Meanwhile, expect me to do quite a bit of documentation about the millions of things that I have to accomplish first.

A&L Series: Does This Shit Really Work? The Final Verdict


Apologies about the delay on my follow-up. Six-day work weeks, working on my novel, and getting things ready for my year abroad have sucked up most of my time. Also Game of Thrones.

You may (or may not) recall my beginning a grand adventure into the world of natural hair care by using baking soda and ACV in lieu of more chemical-laden commercial shampoos and conditioners. It all started out very well and good – hair was clean, didn’t smell odd, and the dryness was assured to eventually dissipate. And that’s cool, except for the part where it totally didn’t.

I’m aware of the fact that the aforementioned method should be stuck to for at least 28 days for a complete scalp skin replacement cycle. And I did that. Every day. For 28 days and beyond. And every day for 28 days and beyond, my hair felt like a pile of dead, dry straw. Once or twice, it seemed to abate, but for the most part, no matter how much or little I used, my hair simply didn’t adapt to the change. Then one day, I brushed my hair and discovered that less than two months since my last haircut, nearly every single shaft of my hair was split at the end.

Cue tableflip and a hefty dose of fuck this shit.

I’m not going to even bother going into the details, or try to explain away why it didn’t work like so many other apologists out there. The method sucks, like it or not. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I have fine hair or if curly hair is more prone to split, but a friend of mine who  tried the method and has thick straight hair ended up having the same results as me. She tried to warn me, and next time I know better. Tomorrow, I go in to shear off those split ends and I put down about 45 bucks for a higher quality line of hair care to see if I can’t breathe some life back into my poor hair.

So the verdict on the No Poo method? Don’t even bother. There are infinitely less disastrous methods of healthy haircare, but baking soda is not one of them.


Sorry for the brusqueness of this post, but I’m halfway through season 2 and stuff is getting good. Night all!

An Open Letter to Self Magazine


 Dear Self Magazine,

I’m not entirely sure if you’re aware of this, but there’s a really rather unfortunate stereotype surrounding women, one which has been ingrained in our society for far too long. It’s a heavy-duty contributor to why it’s still a struggle for women to be seriously accepted as capable equals in the greater part of the real world, and since your magazine was founded and is currently run by women, you’d think that you of all people would understand how significant that struggle is. That stereotype is that women are petty, shallow, and that we are only capable of gleaning self-respect or self-worth by the mockery and putting-down of other women.

 You know, of course, that what I’m getting at has something to do with your blatant mockery of Monika Allen in the March issue of your magazine, but what really set me off was not just the story, nor your half-assed apology, but rather, your magazine’s determination to make other women feel bad on the merit of what they wear, how they look, and the choices they make. Your BS Meter section, the inclusion of Monika Allen in that section, and your ridiculous “apology” all work together in a perfect storm of sheer ineptitude and degradation to show that you’re devolving into another crass, shallow excuse for a magazine, and that you feel you can only bring yourself readership and credibility by the mockery and putting down of others. Does this sound conducive to a pro-woman atmosphere? Do you think this is doing womankind any favors as far as earning credibility and respect? Because news flash, it’s not.

 Other people have said it, I’m just repeating it, but what if Monika DIDN’T have cancer? What if she was, in fact, just a woman running a marathon in a tutu? What right do you have to make fun of her? What could you possibly hope to accomplish by actively putting down a woman who chooses to run in a tutu for ANY reason? You’re not sorry that you made fun of her, you’re sorry that you got called out on your crap, because you just so happened to mock a woman with brain cancer. But what you’re missing is the most important point. Monika Allen, whom I’m almost entirely sure would agree with me, is not defined by her brain cancer. She’s defined by the choices she makes, just like the rest of us are. If you make the choice to put her down because of your own preconceived notions of what is “lame” and what isn’t, then you are defined as exactly the type of entity that contributes to the detriment of progressive women and equal respect.

I will never read your magazine and I will actively encourage others to likewise abstain, not just because you published that piece, but because you clearly don’t have the common sense to understand how degrading it was, and not just because Monika has cancer. When you’re perpetuating a damaging culture of women, one that paints us as petty, shallow, and abusive to our own gender, it would be counterproductive for me or anyone to take part in that. And when I run my next 5k, I will be wearing a tutu. Call me lame, if you dare.




Michelle, and her middle fingers

A&L Series: Does This Shit Really Work? An Experiment with the “No Poo” Method, Part 2


First of all, before continuing on, yes my birthday was on Monday. I’m 28. Hooray! I work under the belief that every girl should do something nice for herself once in a while, especially on her birthday. My birthday was no exception. Weather was beautiful and I made a little extra money this last paycheck, so I’m thinking I’m gonna spoil myself just rotten.

Second bit is that since I do now have some extra $$, the blog is going to be seeing a major overhaul. My friend David is an excellent web designer, so he’s going to be helping me update the layout, and I’ll be shelling out some bucks to WordPress for an updated account. Big things changing around here! And all his services will cost me is lunch. I’m lucky to have such amazing friends ❤

But anyways, let’s get back to talking about hair.

I ended up not washing my hair on Sunday because my workday ended up running pretty late, and frankly, when I got home, I didn’t feel like it. But we can just say that I wanted to see if the baking soda would mitigate any extra oil production, since hair can get pretty gross when you don’t wash it. Yeah, that sounds better, let’s go with that. You guys see the sacrifices I make for you? Jeez.

Anyway! As you can imagine, the week was pretty hectic, balancing between my birthday madness and work, so I didn’t get around to making a proper blog post until now. Sorry about that! But I’ve dutifully taken pictures and gotten everything good to go, so at least the week was properly documented. Brace yourselves, I’ll be showing you pictures of me at my greasiest, and it will not be pleasant. Consider yourselves warned. But that comes later. Onto the schematics of the week.

Whenever I go to the gym to work out, I start out with a mile run, and cardio is usually when the faucet turns on in my scalp. Monday was upper body, so I only spent an hour at the gym, as opposed to the two I spend whenever I do full-body workouts. I debated whether or not I wanted to wait until Friday, when I do said full-body, but I figured I don’t sweat much more doing those than I do when I just focus on one area, because most of the sweating, as I said, comes from the cardio I do either way. Plus, again, it was my birthday and I was going out to dinner that night, so I want my hair to look as nice as possible under the circumstances.  So I went ahead after I washed my hair to do the coconut oil deep conditioning.

Verdict? When they tell you you need soap to wash that shit out, THEY MEAN IT.

I tried to use as little shampoo as possible to get rid of the coconut oil, but I also made the mistake of using too much. I didn’t realize it until later when I was out with my grandmother wondering why my hair was taking so long to dry…until I realized it was. My hair was so oiled up, it roped up and made me look like an absolute greaseball. I had to borrow my grandmother’s shower and use more shampoo to get the rest of the stuff out of my hair in time to meet with my best friend for my extremely wonderful and memorable birthday dinner. But I learned really quickly that there’s a definite balance to coconut oil and you have to make sure you use enough soap to get it out, because you won’t know whether or not your hair is clean and free of the residue until it dries. Needless to say, I didn’t give it another go until today.

So fast forward to Friday. Have I seen any difference this week, having subjected my hair to the debatable reputation of baking soda? Well yes, actually. I have noticed within the past day or two that my hair is actually less dry than it was the first go around. And yes, baking soda did hold up against the monstrous greaseball that is my head post-gym. This is what that looks like, for people who are dying to see me at my least attractive:

I could fuel my car with the oil from my head. SO ATTRACTIVE RIGHT?!


This and the aftershot that will come later was before today, before I gave the coconut oil another go. It’s really just to point out that even on super dirty hair, the baking soda is just as, if not more, effective than traditional shampoo. And again, the dryness is definitely starting to taper off, so I’m erring on the side of optimism that baking soda and ACV may just be my new hair care regime of choice.

I'm told it's artsier not to look at the camera when taking a selfie.


As you can see from the picture (or not, it’s a terrible shot),  my hair is still a little on the frizzy side, but overall, it’s holding up very well. I didn’t use any product in my hair when I took this pic, which probably accounts for the flyaways, but I’m still cautiously optimistic that my hair will smooth out. Your scalp goes through cycles where skin is replaced, and a typical scalp turnover is 28 days, so I know I probably won’t see optimal results for at least another three weeks – but I’m liking the progress I’ve made so far!


Now, as for the coconut oil bit…I did that again today. And this time, by George, I was smarter. I shampooed my hair after using the oil, and I used much less than last time, but this time,  of course, I fear that I didn’t use enough! But again, we’ll have to see in a few weeks. Using coconut oil is not going to be a weekly thing – more like a bi-weekly deep conditioning, to be adjusted as needed. The important bit, however, remains that the baking soda and ACV treatment do seem to be working well, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. More research, however, I think is necessary before I reach a conclusion, but for me and my hair type and bathing habits, I think it’s working pretty damned well. We’ll check in again in a week and see if there’s any further improvement! Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I smell my birthday cake.

A&L Series: Does This Shit Really Work? An Experiment with the “No Poo” Method


The irony of that title is literally killing me.


Anyway, since this blog is supposed to be a sort of jack-of-all-topics kind of thing, I’m starting up a series to coincide with the Weight Loss Series. I figured since I’m spending a lot more time focusing on my health, I should also be paying attention to the bits of me that don’t necessarily benefit from going to the gym.

It’s funny, but once you start adapting to a more active, healthy lifestyle, you really do start to think about all of the things you put in/on your body. I’ve gotten much pickier about what kind of produce I buy (much to the annoyance of my family/wallet), and I’ve long since stopped eating most processed food and all fast food. Going to the gym and jogging 6 days a week has been doing wonders for my body tone, but now that I’m kind of in the zone, I’ve been thinking about what else I can do to support my overall health.

My extremely beautiful and awesome friend Rochelle, who is one of my biggest fitness inspirations, linked up a post on Facebook about a woman who had given up shampoo in favor of what is apparently floating around the internet as the “No Poo” method (these puns will be the death of me). The method entails forsaking sulfate-loaded shampoo and conditioner in lieu of baking soda in order to remove oils from the hair and apple cider vinegar for conditioning. The idea itself intrigued me, especially since my hair is really prone to flyaways and frizz, no matter what I do with it, so I debated over giving it a shot. I was a little worried about the whole baking soda thing because testimonials from those wiser than I claimed that baking soda was too harsh for hair, because it’s a high pH alkaline. But my resident natural product guru Anna assured me that using apple cider vinegar would help mitigate any damage that the baking soda could do, along with a dosage of coconut oil. And as luck would have it, I happen to have an abundance of both in my pantry and I’m fresh out of shampoo! Hooray?

So let’s figure this shit out, one week at a time. Is baking soda and ACV a better alternative to shampoo, or does it cause damage in the long run? A&L will be figuring it out!

At least if it works on my hair. Your results may vary 😀

So to get started, here’s a look at my hair in its current condition.


My hair in its current state of poof.

As you can see, my hair is curly and fine, and prone to some major poof in the right conditions. I get split ends very easily because curly hair goes hand in hand with brittle cuticles, and this, naturally, leads to some major frizz if I let the dead ends get out of hand, so I have to trim the ends off roughly every 2-2 1/2 months. It’s kind of a pain because I’m trying to grow my hair and I end up cutting off all of the growth I’ve accomplished to keep it from looking brittle and frizzy. My hair is fairly healthy, but the problem is that I shampoo it almost every day because I sweat so much when I exercise, and dry shampoos never really did the job. So I’ve become increasingly worried that my hair is going to start paying the price for my frequent need to shower, especially because it’s prone to drying out.

But anyways, let’s talk about the ingredients.


Value-sized for great justice

All three ingredients are incredibly easy to find at pretty much any reputable grocery store. Baking soda has been around since the dawn of creation, and apple cider vinegar is currently enjoying a renaissance due to the health world’s espousal of its multitude of health benefits. Coconut oil is making a splash lately since its promotion by supermodel Miranda Kerr, who I would, quite frankly, murder a village to look like (Don’t worry, I plan to stick to diet and exercise, and conveniently forgetting that she only eats fruits, vegetables, and fish). Coconut oil is meant to be used only on occasion because you do need some kind of soap to thoroughly clean it, but it reputedly makes for an excellent deep conditioner, since raw, unrefined coconut oil is the only oil with a molecular structure that allows it to penetrate the shaft (giggity). Make sure that you’re using raw, unrefined coconut oil, since the refined stuff has an altered structure.

As far as measurements go, I’ve heard 1/2-1/3 a cup of baking soda per wash, with enough water to make it into a paste; but I don’t buy that. Remember, baking soda is still an alkaline, with a pH balance of 8.3-9 on a 1-14 scale, whereas healthy hair and skin has a pH of around 5. So for the initial bit of this experiment, I added more water so that I had a solution that was roughly the consistency of milk. I figured less is better, as long as it still cleans. As far as ACV, an ideal ratio would be 2 tbl to 8 ounces, or one cup of water. Any less water will make it harder to wash out the smell.


Plz ignore my greasiness thx

For containers, I just recycled my shampoo and conditioner bottles for their less chemically counterparts. Recycling is good, children.

I opted out of doing a coconut oil conditioning, since I showered late last night, and I was substituting in the morning. Plus I had no soap to wash it out with. Don’t judge me.

So I mixed up my solutions, brushed and detangled my hair, and I took a shower. Sorry, no pictures! I focused the baking soda on my scalp first, then the rest of my hair, and it felt WEIRD. I guess it’s because I’m so used to having sudsy, sweet – smelling stuff in my hair when I wash it, not some strange gritty nonsense. But I scrubbed it and rinsed like usual. With the ACV, I soaked the ends of my hair first before applying to the rest of my hair, since my ends are often the driest bit. The solution rinsed out easily, and didn’t leave any lingering vinegar smell. I normally don’t blow dry my hair and I’m not about to start now, so I brushed my hair again, put it up, and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning, I did notice that my hair was very clean, but was definitely drier than usual. I didn’t have any concerns, however, since this is a common issue when starting out. Shampooing normally strips the hair of all oils, including the essential, so the scalp has to pump out even more oil to make up for the loss. As a result, when switching to the “No Poo” method, the hair and scalp have to readjust to the chemical change, which means dry hair for the first few days. I’m not planning to do the coconut oil conditioning until tomorrow, since I’ll be challenging the “No Poo” method with my post – gym hair, which will be way greasier than my hair last night, and the fact that it’s my birthday tomorrow and I think I deserve a little pampering. So expect a report tomorrow sometime about whether coconut oil is as awesome as Miranda Kerr says it is. Until then, happy washing!

THe A&L Weight Loss Series Presents: Gaining Momentum


First off, Happy Pi Day! For those of you who think with the left side of the brain, that means the celebration of the mathematical constant representing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. For the right siders, that means the celebration of the homophonous and infinitely more delicious pie. I majored in English, so you can probably bet pretty safely as to which one I care more about. And also can’t have yet.

The irony in Pi Day (at least for me and today) is that on this one in particular, I managed to hit my lowest weight in around four years, clocking in at 173.8! You can bet that when I stepped off of the scale this morning, I was grinning so wide, you’d have thought someone had given me a Glasgow smile – only without all of the blood.

Anyway, the reason I felt so giddy about it is because I’ve been stuck at a stagnant point in my weight loss regime for well over a month. No matter how well I tried to eat, no matter how hard or often I exercised, the goddamned scale absolutely refused to budge to under 175. I had to remind myself that I was succeeding in other ways – I could do more reps per exercise at the gym, I could run more consistently when I went jogging, I continuously shaved precious seconds off of my mile run (I dropped my mile run time from 11:46 to 10:55 in the span of three weeks! A major victory that I think constitutes my being allowed to have cake and ice cream on my birthday). Yet I have to confess that for all of my self-righteous spouting in my last post, I do check the scale to see how I’m doing, because I do have a numeric weight goal to reach and it’s kind of hard to know if I’ve achieved it without, you know, measuring it on a scale. I was feeling a little discouraged yesterday about the fact that the scale still wasn’t moving, especially because I found out my 10-year high school reunion is being planned for August of this year, and I’ll be absolutely damned if I’m going to show up as the same person – down to my weight – that I was in high school. So all of those factors combined this morning after I stepped on the scale cumulated in a big fat sigh of relief and a jump for joy from me.

Momentum with weight loss follows every other form of physics on the planet, in that it starts out really slowly, and then has to gradually build – and I think that’s part of the reason people are so easily discouraged. You see these people on TV or read about them, or you talk to them at the gym,  and they’ve already gained momentum, so they’re losing 2-3 pounds or more per week, whereas you’re in month 2 or 3 and you have yet to see a single iota of change. Maybe you lost a pound, maybe your pants are just a tiny bit less snug, but you’d expect to be pulling the same kind of weekly weight loss as people who have been doing it for much longer. It’s really frustrating to think that people who are twice your size are losing twice the weight you are in half the time doing half as much, or someone who’s in your age and weight range just cutting out one or two junk food items or hitting the gym once or twice a week and is dropping weight like a rock. It contributes to a very defeatist mindset, and it’s one that I know I’ve had for a number of years, so I guess I just wanted to share my perspective on it to help anyone who’s been in a similar situation to understand that things will, in fact, get  better.

The biggest problem that I think is prevalent in the weight-loss community, and I’ve mentioned it before, is the use of scales as a measure of health or success. People can tell you that on the first day you decide to go running, or to go to the gym, that you’re already healthier than you were yesterday, but you certainly don’t believe it because you go home and step on the scale and absolutely nothing has changed. So, the first step in changing your attitude about healthy habits and exercise is to stop using the scale as a measure of your health. Your scale measures your weight. It does not measure your BMI, your cholesterol level, or how fast or far you can run, how much you can lift, or how long you can go. It measures your weight, something that can be affected by a multitude of different things – not just fat. Your weight can be influenced by water retention, the contents of your digestive system, and, most significantly, by the amount of muscle you have. Muscle does, in fact, weigh more than fat, and I had to have my friend Amanda beat that into my head for weeks before I finally accepted it. Fat is a factor too, but just because you’re noticing you still have some jiggle in your thighs doesn’t mean you’re not making progress if you’re performing healthy habits on a DAILY BASIS. What you’re doing today is building momentum. The longer you do it, the more momentum you gain. If you’re pushing a boulder across a field, you have to start out with the most amount of work, and the longer you go, once that momentum is achieved, the easier it gets to roll that rock. That’s why the first step is not only the most important, but also the most difficult, and it’s where people falter the fastest. It’s why people who make resolutions at New Years to go back to the gym are usually gone by February. The initial phase is the hardest, and shows the least amount of progress. The real progress happens when you get the ball rolling, and then, there’s no stopping you.

But you have to remove yourself from the mindset that your weight is the ONLY indicator of your success. The scale is the tiniest factor in measuring your progress, but people turn it into the most important tool. And I realize that stopping relying on the scale is an easier concept to say than it is to apply. Even when I was stuck at 175 on the scale for well over a month, people were still commenting on how much slimmer I looked, and I realized that my body was, in fact, changing. There was a meme floating around on Facebook that says it takes 4 weeks (this is a rough estimate, I can’t remember the details for the life of me) for you to notice a change in your body and 12 weeks for everyone else to notice, but I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. I actually think that because people who are trying to lose weight have a general predisposition to be more self-critical, that other people notice your weight loss/body changing before you yourself do. Plus it all goes back to the scale, unfortunately. The first time someone told me I looked skinnier, I thought they were just being nice, because it was someone I know and see often, and I knew for a fact that my weight as far as being measured by the scale hadn’t changed from the previous time I’d see them up until they’d made the comment. But then it was others – people I hadn’t seen in a few months, no less, telling me how good I looked, asking how much weight I’d lost, commenting that I must’ve been hitting the gym pretty hard! You can be self-effacing as much as you want only to a certain extent – then afterwards, you kind of have to accept that there’s something GOOD going on here, because the world, in fact, didn’t just randomly go collectively crazy. I was still at 175 and had been for a while, and even then, the most weight I’d lost in recent months was 5 pounds, and surely it didn’t make THAT much of a difference. But it did. Not because the weight was gone, but because I was, in fact, losing fat. My body was changing. I was gaining muscle, which more than likely compensated for the fat loss as far as my weight. I was running farther and faster, I was lifting more weight and more reps, and my clothes were getting looser by the day. The progress was there. It’s still there, and I didn’t need a scale to see it, once I really began to understand that change was,in fact, happening.

I don’t want to tell people to throw their scales away because that would make a hypocrite out of me. I still have mine. I check my weight every day (which is a big no no, by the way. Weight can fluctuate from day to day based on hormones and water retention, especially if you’re a woman), because I do glean quite a bit of comfort out of having a number to show my progress. But it’s not the only number I base my progress on. It’s paired up there with my current mile-run time, how many weeks into Couch to 5K I am, how many pounds I can lift or press, and how many reps I can do. If that scale goes up, I have all of those other numbers to remind me that I’m not failing. All of those numbers together are what measure how exercising has positively affected my body, but at the end of the day, my feelings of happiness and optimism and overall good health are what measure my success. And that’s because I’ve finally gained enough momentum.

A&L Special Series: Weight Loss With a Girl Who Knows Jack Squat About Weight Loss


So this blog post is going to be the first in a series about my own personal battles with my weight, and my journey to change it. I know plenty of you out there would rather not read about it, but I’d like to say I’m chronicling it for my own sake, and for the sake of those out there who know what it feels like to be intimidated by women who already have fabulous bodies. I know I sure am.

So backstory. I’ve been a little bit on the heavier side my entire life, and before anyone brands me with all that “oh it’s just the media pumping unrealistic body images in your face” stuff, it’s something I’ve known since I was a kid. A part of me knew that I wasn’t as healthy as I ought to be, especially when I was always finishing near last in mile runs and I would drop out of sports only halfway through. Of course, it doesn’t help when your best friend is tiny and gorgeous, so I kind of got into the mindset of why even bother to try, because failure was imminent anyway.

It wasn’t until I hit my twenties that I realized that that was exactly my problem – it wasn’t my weight, it was my mentality. It wasn’t that my body couldn’t handle running a mile, or finishing a soccer game. It was my mind convincing me that it couldn’t. I always gave up halfway through instead of pushing myself to finish. It went hand-in-hand with an unfortunately common mentality that I’m not alone in possessing – if you don’t see results instantly, it’s not working. So for the longest time, I didn’t try, because when I did, I didn’t see any immediate change. And when I didn’t see any change, I didn’t want to continue. Why make yourself sweaty and gross if you were just going to step on the scale the next morning and see that the number is still the same as it was yesterday? It’s not particularly encouraging.

But I decided I did want to make myself better. I was battling depression in my early twenties that was intrinsically linked to many of my own personal demons, one of which, of course, was my astonishing lack of self-esteem. But then, of course, came real life, and with it, many of the excuses that people use in order to avoid going to the gym. I was a full-time college student and I was at several points in time working up to three jobs in order to pay rent and living expenses. I didn’t have the time or the money for the gym. And then something happened. My last year of CC, I took a semester each of yoga and pilates as part of my PE requirement, and during that time, I lost roughly 30 pounds. I dropped from 183 to 155, and was below 160 for the first time since I was 15 years old. It was fucking MAGICAL.

Losing that kind of weight was a turning point for me. It changed every perception I had about my body and what it could do. People complimented me on how much better I looked and I marvelled in how much better I FELT. Not only being able to fit into pants with a single digit size number, but I had more energy and a greatly improved disposition. Despite the fact that I was going through a messy breakup at the time, I felt like I was on top of the world. That there wasn’t anything that could stop me.

Then I went to University.

If I had thought community college full-time with two jobs was a chore, I can look back now and laugh at how naive I was. University was pure insanity. I never had time for anything, and since I worked at a coffee shop, it was everything I could do to stop myself falling asleep in class or passing out after I got home. I got caught back up in the norms of college life, from late nights to processed food to living in the library. I also had a social life I had to try to maintain if I was to keep my sanity, and of course, that year of yoga and pilates came almost entirely undone. I went back up to a rousing 182 pounds by the end of my junior year of college, and I was mad as a hatter. Something had to change. ESPECIALLY because I just found out my best friend was getting married, and because God just loves to throw in the cliches, the two other bridesmaids (at the time. Hava raised it to 7 by the time the wedding happened) were, of course, a fucking fitness model and a competitive triathlete. Both of them are, of course, wonderful, lovely, amazing women with great personalities who are both as sweet as pie, but I had to stand next to them in a dress and get to be the token fat bridesmaid. UGH.

Through dieting and whatever exercise I managed to pull off, by the time the wedding came around, I managed to drop down to 175 pounds, which is, of course, about 30 pounds off the mark of what I had wanted to be. But I could fit into my dress, which was one small accomplishment. I knew my body shape wasn’t going to change particularly drastically because of my bone structure – I have a broad rib cage and a wide pelvic bone. It just so happens that I also happen to have a rather poochy gut, fat on my arms, and a huge ass. I went through my best friend’s wedding feeling okay, but knowing that I could’ve felt so much better.

And that brings us to here and now. I’ve since quit working the coffee shop circuit, I’ve discovered both Couch to 5K and MyFitnessPal, and I’ve signed up for my very first 5k in July – despite the fact that I can barely finish running a single mile, let alone 6. I’ve learned that cardio alone isn’t going to keep my weight off, that I have to mix it up with building muscle, which was really where I went wrong after I stopped doing yoga. And I did the most important thing I could do in order to have a successful venture in weight loss. I made time to do it. Instead of trying to fit my exercising around my work life, I fit my work life around my exercising. And I know that that is much easier said than done, since I’m more fortunate than most to have a very flexible job, but I really think that people sell themselves short on making time to take care of themselves, which is why so many people stall in the health game, or, like how I used to be, just drop out entirely. I’ve managed to get into the routine of going to the gym 3 days a week, and doing my Couch to 5K the other three with one rest day. I try to keep track of my carb and calorie intake with MyFitnessPal. After all, after the wedding, I managed to eke back up to 185, and I came dangerously close to hitting 190. But since I’ve taken control of my fitness and physical well-being, I got back down to 175, and I can only lose more from here. My goal is still to hit 145, preferably by summer. I did not make the most successful start, in terms of numbers. And trust me, I get pretty discouraged when I see that the scale is still stubbornly hitting 175.6, when my short term goal by the end of February (now March) was to break the 170 mark for the first time in several years. 

But I can’t be discouraged by the fact that I don’t see instantaneous results, or maybe that the results aren’t happening the way I want them to. I have to take every pound, every ounce lost as a victory. I have to realize that every time I zip up a dress or pair of pants and they fit a little better than before that I’m making progress. I may not be a size 8 yet, but I’m certainly not a 12 anymore. And for me, that’s saying something.

My current weight loss and diet plan is as follows. I use the ketosis diet as a temporary boost, and am planning on continuing it until around mid-April, when I’ll be phasing complex carbs and grains back into my diet slowly. I’m currently on Week 3 of the Couch to 5, although I’ve been doing it for about six weeks, and this is because if I don’t feel satisfied with my progress during one of the weeks, I’ll simply start over. I go to the gym three days a week, where I’ll start off with a mile run, followed by abs, and then do arms one day, legs the next, and a full-body workout on the third. I’m feeling that I might be peaking with this routine though, and will be looking for new exercises in order to break through the wall. I’ve only recently discovered the Tone It Up community, and while I normally balk at overly-peppy women showing me how to use a kettlebell, it really is a pretty wonderful community filled with girls who aren’t supermodels or already stick-thin trying to tell me how to lose weight. There are girls like me who have all of their own struggles with weight and are in the process of taking control of their health too. Because it’s the feeling of loneliness, of being singled out, that is the most discouraging thing. The feeling that there isn’t anyone at the gym who understands because most of them are already so fit. So it definitely made a nice place to start. I also take an almost exorbitant amount of advice from my bestie’s sister-in-law, the aforementioned fitness model, at Via Thea, as she majored in kinesiology, is a certified fitness trainer, and is, of course, a bona fide hottie – major ethos there, amirite?

So the best advice I can give anyone in situations where they feel that their weight loss situation is hopeless is that all of those ridiculous memes on Facebook that remind you that you are your own worst enemy, biggest obstacle, etc., and that it takes time, is that all of those sayings are absolutely, and unfortunately, true. You are your own biggest obstacle, and no fitness goal can be instantaneously achieved. It takes weeks, even months, to really make a difference. And it’s hard to keep in perspective that by taking the first step that you’re already a step ahead of where you were before when the scale is reading the same today as it was yesterday, or even last week. But something that I’ve learned is that success isn’t measured in numbers, but in milestones. When I achieved my goal of being able to run a full mile without stopping, I had broken through the wall that my weight was the only indicator of my health. Find a small goal to achieve, and achieve it. Get addicted to the feeling of success. Stop using the scale as an indicator of your success. Find friends who can support you emphatically, not just with words, but with actions. And stop comparing yourself to the fitness models.

I know. Easier said than done.

Friendzoning versus Girlfriendzoning – An Objective Analysis


So I recently read an article explicating the sexist social plague otherwise known as friendzoning – you’ve all seen the memes, I really shouldn’t have to explain the concept – and how someone on reddit finally flipped the idiocy on its head by pointing out that a guy who was nice to a girl just to get her to go out with him was essentially guilty of having ulterior motives that effectively negated his so-called good intentions. This idea of being nice to a girl solely for a shot to get into her panties has been coined “girlfriendzoning,” a really rather apt label to counteract the increasingly popular notion that a girl is only worth being nice to if she’ll sleep with you.
Now, I am often considered a feminist, and I consider many of my beliefs to be pro – feminism, but that shouldn’t mean that I don’t have a certain amount of understanding of the male side of the equation. In a society in which we eschew rape culture and a woman’s right to dress and behave in any way she chooses without fear of judgment or attack, the idea of checking one’s behavior and the effect that it can have on others is a topic that is still considered a little too sensitive for most people to discuss. However, I am not most people and I’m certainly not sensitive, so here we go.
I need to preface this first by stating that the following arguments are meant to be as gender – neutral as possible, but because the concept of friendzoning is predominantly “done” by women more against men, I’ll be using that setup more often. I’m not trying to single out either side of the equation, because frankly, I think that they’re both full of shit. The whole idea of friendzoning and girlfriendzoning is getting to be a lot of gender generalization and he said/she said nonsense. So instead of trying to place blame for the existence of either notion in the first place, why don’t we stop and think about why either one happens at all.
One of the most unavoidable facts of life is that human choices are driven by two basic necessities: the need for food, and the need for sex. The key ingredients necessary for our survival as a species are nutrition and propagation. It’s just a fact. I didn’t

The Measure of Success


As an unfortunate member of Generation Y, my biggest concern about life, and the choices that I’ve made, are where my choices will take me in the future. It goes without saying that my dreams and my income don’t particularly get along. My dream is to buy a beat up old Victorian house and fix it up, a dream that doesn’t exactly seem feasible with a teacher’s salary. In California, no less.
I have spent more than my fair share of time wondering if I’ve made the right decisions, from my choice of degree, to the paths I have walked with it. And in my musings, I’ve come to the understanding that we live in a world where salary is our only indicator of our success, and by extension, of our individual value.
  I read a comic recently, penned by the incomparable Bill Watterson, that sums up the issue more succinctly than I can. About how we as a society measure our success by the amount of money we earn, by the number of our possessions, and by the value of them. And frankly, it’s difficult to not be discouraged by that blaring misinterpretation of what success is. Generation Y suffers from an affliction I lovingly refer to as “Entitle-itis,” in that we have the expectation that we go to college, graduate, and waltz right into a lucrative career; and then we’re positively flabbergasted when we don’t. To add insult to injury, there are plenty of people in our age group for whom that expectation has been fulfilled – I, for example, have a friend not much older than me who pulls in 180k a year as a software development engineer. Another, who graduated from USC at the age of 17, is the youngest person in history to raise a million dollars in startup funding for her tech company, and is only gaining momentum. And then there’s me. I have a degree in English, the only job I’ve managed to land is teaching part time, and I can barely keep my head above water. It’s easy to determine which ones are considered successful, and which one isn’t.
But here’s an important distinction, often overlooked, which equalizes the three of us. And it took me a while to really understand what that was, once I learned to dissuade my definition of success with the one that is so commonly accepted.
I’m pretty happy with my life. I love my job. My coworkers are great, I have a lot of freedom in which to pursue my other passions, I’m actually using my degree and the skills I had developed while pursuing it. Are there times when I wish for more? Of course there are. But I’m blessed in many ways already. My family, my friends, my prospects are always there – they’ll never go away. I make more per hour than my mother did at my age, and my job offers me experience that can only ever help me. I still get caught up in all of my material wants from time to time, but the trick is learning to disassociate material gain with success. I may not have a house or be able to travel as much as I want to, but no one can really argue that I haven’t accomplished a certain amount of success.
So will I ever fulfill my dream of that fixer upper house? Maybe,  maybe not. I’d rather measure my success by the happiness that I’ve achieved, not the objects I’ve obtained. After all, as the great philosopher Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”