Thursday, January 23, 2020

Diary of a Former “Fat” Girl
Looking back on years of self-body shaming and having a very unhealthy relationship with food, I realize that having a “fat” life had nothing to do with weight, but rather everything to do with my outlook on the world and myself. I had a “fat” mentality.
I must preface the rest of this post by just getting it out there. The word “fat,” to me, is as derogatory as the word “slut.” I understand as I work more with women on positive body image, that the word “fat” is only used as a descriptive word with no negative meaning, but, the word “fat” has been such a hurtful word in my life, it’s taking me time to get used to hearing and using it.
I remember that dreaded day in gym class, where once a year, I had to get on the scale, the gym teacher would weigh me and write me down on a list with the rest of the girls. I hated that day. I hated feeling like the “fat” girl. I hated knowing that my teacher did nothing to shield those results from any of the other girls and boys in my class. Looking back now I realize how “fat” I wasn’t, but comparatively speaking, I was.
Weeks ahead of time I would start to do things to drop my number as fast as possible. I would try to get by on as little food as possible, chew food and spit it out, overdose on laxatives and avoid that class at all cost. My anxiety would be through the roof. I would cry for days and skip as many social situations as I could.
From then on, I felt like the eyes of the world were always on my body and not in a good way.
Similar situations followed me into my adult life. My confidence was in the gutter. It didn’t matter if I did my hair and my makeup, dressed nice, and forced myself to “feel my best,” because I truly didn’t. I didn’t have it inside me. I couldn’t walk around faking a feeling that wasn’t there. Then the rut happened. I had son number two, gained sixty-five pounds, sat miserable in a marriage that consisted of fast food in the car and slumping on the couch every night.
I avoided outings like weddings and parties. I would spend hours trying on clothes from my closet and end up on the floor in tears. I had no desire to go into a fitting room and try clothes on, nor could I really afford it. I struggled like this for years, continuing to hurt everyone around me with my bad attitude that was trickling down for my low self-esteem. I would show up to my office job with coworkers that I adored feeling subpar because I was still wearing my old, dingy maternity clothes because I hated myself already, so who cares what I wore, right?
Along the way I had a coworker who was always very friendly to me. I slowly vented to him one day about my absolutely diluted self-worth because of my body insecurities. I remember him telling me that he thought I was beautiful (stop right there with your assumptions, just friendly conversation) and that he found “fat” women beautiful, so beautiful that he actually had a fetish for big women getting stuck places and having to squeeze by things while they walked.
Now, to each their own, but this sent me into a full tailspin of absolute hate. Disgusted rage for myself. I started associating the word “fat” with the notion that it meant lazy, sloppy, dirty, disgusting, uneducated, unattractive and useless.
I swore I would never be a “fat” girl ever again.
I lost seventy pounds that year (fifty I would gain back and start the vicious cycle of yo-yoing twenty, thirty for years to come).
I started all my bad behaviors again. Why? Because once again, I felt like all eyes were on me.
I shied away from friends, social events, wore baggy unflattering clothes, had a bad attitude, and put zero effort into finding what made me feel beautiful at my size. I used food restriction, binging and purging, irrational behavior to justify the fact that being “fat” just made me angry. I hated having attention put on me so if I did go anywhere, I sat quietly, and hid behind the shadows of my friends and family.
Intimacy was hard for me. Although I had intimate relationships along the way, I would never let myself be naked. I would never let the lights be on. I would be covered up, under blankets to hide my body. My gross body. My body reminded me of an old road map made up of stretch marks and sag. I couldn’t face the fear of rejection if anyone got turned off by me.
A girl I knew from high school, but never even talked to once, because in my eyes, she was perfect, and I was not, put out an add about wanting volunteers to spend time with her so she could get her feet wet becoming a health and nutrition coach.
At this point, my marriage had already broken down, I was now a business owner, heartbroken, uncomfortable in my own skin and unable to figure out how to pick up my own pieces.
In the past five years, she has been instrumental in helping me build the woman I am today. And yes, FIVE YEARS and STILL LEARNING.
I learned how to be healthy, and although we all think, “oh fruits and vegetables make us healthy,” that truly has nothing to do with it.
First I learned how to have a healthy relationship with food. I learned how to make peace, let go of the fear of food being the enemy. I had to embrace my love of cooking and eating and find the foods that made my body and my heart feel good. I had to get right with the relationships in my life, the friendships, my family, my children. Yes, believe it or not, I was so bitter for so long that I drove a protective wedge between me and everyone else. I worked hard to open my heart and let people back in again.
Then the hardest part came along. Learning to love myself. Learning to look in the mirror and admire the woman staring back at me. Regardless of weight, hair color, clothing, I had to learn to love me. I had to find what made me strong, what made me proud, what made me fearless.
I love my body. I see it in a different light now. I appreciate it. I find it to be strong, beautiful and sexy. I love putting my headphones on after my kids go to bed and getting lost in the moment. I play music that hits my soul, and I dance. Sometimes I watch myself, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s playful and fun, sometimes its sultry and slow. I truly enjoy my curves. I find gratitude for my stretch marks. 
I wear clothes that make me feel comfortable in any environment. When I walk into a room now, I command my own presence. I engage in all types of conversation and laughter with all different types of people.
I learned to loosen my grip on the “fat” mentality. I found pride for the body that I have, the person that I have grown to become. I am confident in the woman that I am and know what I bring to the table in every situation, even those that are new.
I look at women from the outside now and I hope that if they are struggling to find love for themselves, they reach out and grab ahold of an extended hand. I am a work in progress and will always be and that is exciting because the thought of becoming a better version of who I am now is absolutely invigorating.
Although there are still moments when I feel uncomfortable, they are fleeting. They come and they pass, sometimes with barely any recognition. I hope that one day soon that “fat” mentality will be completely gone, however I am thankful for the process as I don’t think I would have grown into the woman I am today, without it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

As women, we spend countless amounts of time in our lives focusing on the things about ourselves that we aren’t happy with. We stand in the mirror and get lost in the trans of our gaze. We see stretch marks and round bellies where we once carried our children, wrinkles and lines on our face that we developed from years of smiling and laughing, and a tint of shimmery gray around our hairline indicative of the wisdom that we have gained when simple moments turned into not so easy learning experiences.
Over the last few weeks I have been reaching out to women in my life who I see as beautiful in every way and asked them a very simple question knowing well enough that the answer would take thought, heart, possibly tears, and definitely soul searching. I thought that I would escape having to deep think myself, but someone turned the question around on me, so my answer is in there as well, at the end.
What quality about who you are makes you feel beautiful? I put no timeline on how long they were given to respond, and some took longer than others. My gut tells me that if I asked for a list of qualities they didn’t like, the response would be nothing short of immediate, but that was not the case. I wanted them to dig deep and the responses were astonishing.
I hope you enjoy reading what these incredible women had to say as much as I did…
What quality about who you are makes you feel beautiful?
Susan V.- My willingness to give to people. I am a giver not a taker and people who are giving are the most beautiful.
Andonia D. – I have always felt that my nature to be loving and caring has carried me through the times when my weight was scary high. I dip into the ways which I have helped people and affected their lives when I feel rejected or judged.
Jodi P.- My ability to connect with anyone. Quality is different from features, so I pick that.
Amanda H.- Empathy for people when I’m working with people. I see how much it can help that people feel listened to.
Marie B.- I’m pretty laid back and I try to create an environment that is nurturing for others. I love Jesus yet I don’t push Him on anyone. It is the Jesus in me, however, that others are drawn to. That is true beauty and love. I am grateful God gave me self confidence and an unconditional love for self and others. I am blessed.
Lisa N.- Having been through a lot myself, I am very sensitive and realize everyone is fighting their own battle. I have compassion and a desire to help and do good for others. I cry when I see people’s dreams come true and like to see people happy and feeling good; it’s infectious and makes me filled with hope and hope makes me feel beautiful.
Sandy S.- My heart, my loyalty, my empathy. I always appreciate my Irish eyes which have been passed down through generations. I love with every ounce I have left in me. I am loyal and 100% real and true but it is never reciprocated. I am empathetic not by choice, but it is who I am and it overcomes me. I love more and it makes me more loyal; huts me a ton because I take on emotions around me.
Alison- My nurturing instincts and my heart, how I always care about people who are close to me and love doing things for them.
Amy R.- I feel like being genuine makes me feel beautiful. No time for nonsense.
Courtney R.- I think we tend to lean towards outward appearance when we think of being beautiful, but if I had to say another attribute of how I feel beauty in my mind it would be how I think I make others feel and what I do to give back or help others… I’d rather have a beautiful and giving soul over physical beauty any day of the week.
Maggie- Being a mother, being a woman, a nurse. Being pansexual; polyamorous. Being Puerto Rican and bilingual. I can sing; I am relatively funny.
Kristen V- My slamming personality. I’m just not afraid to live unapologetically. 100% myself after years of quieting my personality and dimming my light to make others more comfortable. I’m loud… I’m super fun… I’m hilarious… and I’m not sorry.
Olivia- My bubbly personality. Pretty much how I love to be happy and make people laugh.
Grace T.- My sense of humor.
Julia- What makes me feel beautiful is being with people I love, laughing and allowing myself to just be in the present moment. Whenever I’m stressing about the past or future it robs me from the ability to appreciate what is right in front of me. When I can recognize life is beautiful, I feel beautiful.  
Allison N.- My willingness to always come to someone’s aid and help with something (some people think I’m crazy).
Lisa B.- I don’t sugar coat my brutal honesty and sarcasm.
Brittany C. - My silly, goofy, funny personality.
And lastly, thinking really hard about myself, I would have to say, what makes me feel most beautiful is my tenacious spirit; I give of myself unconditionally. If I am invested in something or someone it is with my whole heart. I look only for the good and work hard to make sure that I am putting in all I have, to give and that it is genuine and true. I love to see others smile and hear them laugh. I love to provide a space and time for people to be their authentic selves. Holding doors, paying for a stranger’s coffee, bringing people together, and leaving my footprint on the world truly feels like my purpose. When I stand back in the corner, silently, and watch everything unfold, that is when I truly feel the most beautiful.
I wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings. Don’t forget to be thankful for yourself and to eat that fourth piece of pie!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I still see that fat girl.

Last week I had a conversation with one of my closest girlfriends. She told me that she could not wait to share her accomplishments with me. She has lost inches and pounds and has put her heart and soul into setting goals and crushing them.

I was overjoyed for HER joy, but then she said something that we all have thought when going through a body change. “I just don’t see it. I still see the fat girl.”

I couldn’t reprimand her. I couldn’t get annoyed. I’ve been there. So many of us have.

Looking in the mirror and adjusting what we see is the most difficult part of change. We have a certain image imprinted in our brains of what we think we see rather than what’s right in front of us. We have spent years formulating an opinion of our physical self.

Although we may never be able to completely reverse our mental reflection, we definitely can alter it.

We can adjust our harsh opinions of ourselves.

Instead of getting in front of the mirror and picking at the parts of our bodies that we hate the most, why not make it our mission to fall in love with the things about us that make us the incredible humans that we are.

Make a list of all the things we find happiness in. Smile ourselves, pick out a great outfit, a swanky piece of jewelry, anything that will make our vibe shine.

We are all allowed moments of critique, that will always be a thing, but how about we make it our mission to turn it around faster than before?
Find love, find peace, and spread body positivity not only to each other, but to ourselves as well.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Does it make you feel like a hypocrite when you struggle to practice what you preach?
I’ve learned throughout my journey (I don’t call it recovery because I don’t personally feel like we ever truly recover from self-abusive tendencies, I believe that we learn the tools to channel our triggers in a different direction) that setbacks will happen.
It’s comfortable and easy to go back to our old habits, our old ways. Who wants that new pair of stiff shoes that squeeze your toes and give you heel blisters when you can slip your feet into that nice cozy pair of old shoes when you just need comfort?
It’s sad to say but when we take that drug, throw back that drink or purge into the toilet, it’s almost like saying, “hello old friend, I’ve missed you.” It is the easiest way to take whatever it may be, frustration, lack of control, sadness, anger, and soothe that pain.
When it comes to me, I’ve always turned to food restriction. Its not scary. It doesn’t hurt. I feel no hunger pains, it’s calming. It’s this feeling of yes, I can control this. I can figure this one out.  
I’m writing this blog almost two days in. I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to eat. I don’t have the desire to force my body to have to work to digest anything. It has nothing to do with how my jeans fit or what my body looks like with no clothes on. It has nothing to do with a number on the scale (I don’t do that shit anyway) or the size of my thighs. It’s emotional.
I woke up this morning feeling like that hypocrite. I was supposed to write a blog on a topic that I find so extremely important (I promise, that’s next on the list), I talked my friend through a binge/purge last night and expressed the importance on why she didn’t need to take that road, but here I am. As defiant as ever, spiteful towards only myself.
I did exactly what I tell everyone else to do and I reached out. I sent an SOS to my lifeline and within minutes I was on the phone letting it all flow. I told her how I couldn’t believe that I would even go down this route again especially since I make it my life’s efforts to throw everyone I know the rope to help pull themselves back to safety. She reminded me that it’s okay to have a setback. Its okay to use my struggle to help other people and it’s okay to take the rest of my life to work on it.
It’s easier for me now to recognize that my actions are only hurting and not helping. I have a faster turn around than I used to. What was then weeks before I would let go of the death grip I had on food restriction, is now days. I know what I need to do to bounce back, but I can honestly say it can’t be forced. It will be on my terms, when I am ready. The fork to the mouth is not the hardest part though. The hardest part is the work that absolutely must be done before I can move onwards and upwards. It is a little bit of talking it out, a little bit of working out a plan, and a whole lot of soul searching.  

Friday, October 11, 2019

People ask me all the time why I do what I do. The easiest answer is “because food is love,” but there is so much more to it than that. Food tells us a story rich in history and for me, it is reminiscent of time when life was simple. Food can be a way we travel back to memories of our childhood, special events and sometimes all it takes is one bite to loosen up something within us that enchants our soul.
Growing up a “first gen” kid comes with stories you couldn’t make up if you tried. Funny moments of conversations getting lost in translation, watching the gentle juggle of families trying to balance “old world” traditions with “new world” style. Harnessing the culture that was left behind and building a life in the land of opportunity.
I never grew up dunking Oreos in my milk. I don’t even think I knew what an Oreo was until I saw the infamous “twist, lick, and dunk,” commercial on TV. My grandparents would take an out of the way ride to the Italian imports store to buy things like Nutella, Aranciata, and Stella Doro cookies, which at the time could not be found in a regular grocery store.
 The “S” cookies were always my favorite. I loved going on a scavenger hunt through the cabinets to find these simple, yet delicious confections and dunk them, knuckles deep into a glass of cold milk, and once I got older, into a hot espresso after Sunday dinner.
Opening the oven today and smelling those beautiful cookies reminded me of my grandmother. Her “perfume” consisted of scents of lemon zest, vanilla, almond, and anise. These cookies are my memories. They are my laughter, my tears, my skinned knees, and my elementary school plays. They are my warm hugs, by back seat road trips, and my favorite childhood songs. They are my home.
So why do I do what I do? Because how magical is it that a little sugar, some flour, eggs, and a swirl of a wooden spoon could be such a reminder of so much love.

"S" Cookie Recipe

For two dozen...
4 Eggs plus 1 for wash
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
Zest of 1-2 Lemons (to taste)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Cups Olive Oil
4 Cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix flour and baking powder and leave to the side.

In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil until well combined. Slowly fold in flour and baking powder, I do this in three stages. Your dough will be smooth and have a stiff texture but may still stick to your hands. (My personal tip, add a little oil to your hands for rolling and shaping).

Line your cookie sheet with foil. Start with a small handful of dough and roll into snake shape and form and "S" before placing onto the foil. Leave about an inch between each cookie as they will expand as they bake. 

Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

If you want to ice them, use that lemon that you zested and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of juice and combine with 1/2 Cup of confectioners sugar and whisk until smooth. Dunk cookies or brush on the icing. Don't be afraid to make them pretty with sprinkles or colored sugar. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I’ve been asked recently to write a blog post about the cost of buying healthy, whole foods versus processed or fast foods and I was shocked by the research that I found that it’s actually not that expensive on a day to day basis, but like anything else it will add up.
On a daily basis, a 2,000 calorie diet, broken down to price per calorie actually only averages $1.50 a day but for a family of four, that results in an increase of about $2,000 per year. That seems like a lot, I know, but look at the things we spend $1.50 on every day without hesitation- most drive-thru cups of coffee are at least $2.00 per cup.
I personally find that the biggest bang to my wallet is when I have to “double cook.”
Are my children going to eat my roasted vegetable quinoa salad, or stuffed eggplant? Probably not. Actually, that’s definitely a hard no. In a dream world maybe, and yes there are probably meals that will meet in the middle and we can all enjoy, but those are few and far between.
What seems to help out a lot is figuring out the best places to shop. The big-name grocery stores could carry hefty price tags but they also run more sales than stores like Super Walmart or Target. Smaller stores that require a little elbow grease like Aldi keep shopping prices low with their own store brand named items. They keep their employee costs down by having their shoppers bag their own groceries and ensure the customer return of their carts since you used a quarter to use one in the first place.
Also, my biggest tip would be to buy in season. You’re not going to buy a watermelon, in Connecticut, in October… well you can, I did, and it cost me $9.00 versus in July when they were $5.99. Also, my July watermelon was red and sweet, and my October watermelon was barely pink and resembled the taste of a cucumber. Why? Because it wasn’t in season.  Follow what’s fresh, look for corn, zucchini, plums and berries during the warmer months- apples, root vegetables, and winter squashes going into the colder months. Again, this is subjective to where you live.
Food prepping and meal sharing is always a good idea as well and can be a ton of fun.  Gather a small group of your friends, everyone pick a dish to cook for the week. Pack up enough for each of them to get one serving per family member and swap them! It’s like those chain letters from back in the 90s but with meals. Four friends means you and your family get five meals for the week since you’re included with your own meal.
I personally spend more money on groceries than I do on anything else and sometimes I just get annoyed, but there are ways to make it easier. It is going to take work, time, and a little creativity, but where there’s a will there’s way!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

When your body gets to your mind, self-love is tough to find.

We all have days that are harder than others. We stare in the mirror picking apart our bodies, change our clothes multiple times before leaving the house, think the most dreadful thoughts about ourselves that we wouldn’t dare speak out loud to our worst enemy. Remember how we’ve discussed that we are more than a number on a scale, we are also more than the “physical imperfections” we see in the mirror, although when we take in all of the things that make us amazing, those “physical imperfections” aren’t really imperfect at all.

Have you ever avoided things like social events, family outings, or even intimacy with your partner? I have. It all comes at a time when I can’t seem to find the love and appreciation for myself that I deserve, and that other people see in me. When I really take a big step back and evaluate my “why” the answer is always the same.

I get lost and I just don’t feel important. I’m willing to bet that when most of us push ourselves to the side, it’s for the same reason.

I get lost in the shuffle of a new school year or too many work projects or even just the mundane routine of everyday life. I am a natural born care giver and that comes with its own set of self-care rules. I tend to live by “well, if everyone else is taken care of and everyone else is happy, I am too,” but in all reality, that is just not always enough.

I’ve learned along the way that it is okay to ask for help and that help comes in many different forms.

Maybe the housework is overwhelming. It’s okay to ask your kids to fold some towels or help with dinner. Maybe you’re foregoing a little bit of fresh air or some quiet time because you’re always rushing home to meet your child off the bus or to sit behind a thousand and one cars in the pick-up line. Ask another mom friend to take a day when she gets the kids and another day when you get them. Help each other out, it takes a village, remember? Maybe what you need is a special night out with your partner or friends. A night to dress in any way that makes you feel like a beautiful human and not a yoga pant wearing coffee hound and enjoy a nice meal and some conversation that doesn’t sound like the background noise of the Disney channel.

This is my “why” and it may not be yours but most importantly, figure out what that is and then start to plan to fix it.

First make a list of things about yourself that you love. I know, I know, it sounds crazy but trust me, you’ll shock yourself. Someone asked me to do this about six months ago when I was in a pretty low spot and I’m pretty sure that not only did I have a few choice words for them on the phone, I flat out refused. I remember I went and laid on my bed, grumbled about how there would only be like, two things I could think of, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I decided to give it a shot. A real shot. I was so skeptical that I would think of anything of value that I wouldn’t even give this list its own piece of paper- I used the back of my electric bill envelope.

Well about forty-five minutes later, I was flipping that envelope in every direction trying to find more room. I thought of about sixty things I loved about me from finding joy in things like Christmas lights to holding tight to traditions that have been passed to me from my grandparents. Most importantly it helped me to remember that taking care of myself is important because I am important.

So, if you feel lost, it’s okay to take a day to aimlessly wander around, but after that, dig deep and figure out what it is that you need. Reach out to a friend, make that list, find your importance and make a plan to bring self-love back to your life.