Friday Faves

HAPPY FRIDAY! This calls for a celebration, does it not? And what better way to celebrate the end of the workweek than with a list of some favorite things? (Ok, yes, I know that better ways to celebrate the end of the workweek generally involve happy hour, but it’s 0700 and I’m fighting off a cold. So, we shall focus on other things!) With no further ado, here are some Friday faves:

The fact that this is going to be a long weekend: Real talk,y’all: I basically live for the weekend. So when a long weekend comes along, guess who has two thumbs and is totally doing the Kermit the Frog happy dance? This girl!

 

 

Alba Botanica face cream: I’ve been on a long and arduous journey (ok, it wasn’t all that long or arduous in real life, but let’s pretend like it was) for good facial moisturizer that isn’t laden with freaky shizz like phtalates and parabens. Adding to the fun, a lot of natural products — including Aveda, which I used to love — contain wheat protein. No bueno!

It took a lot of searching around Amazon to find a gluten-, paraben- and phtalate-free facial moisturizer, but, just as I was starting to get frustrated…EUREKA! The good folks at Alba Botanica came through in a pinch! I ordered it up and have been using it vigiliantly since the day it arrived.

And I must say, this stuff is awesome. It moisturizes fabulously, smells amazing, and it doesn’t make my skin break out. This is a big deal, since my skin is a total hater and basically searches high and low for reasons to break out. (Hormones? Zit party! Hard workouts? Zit convention! Change of seasons? Zitapalooza!) So, this find is a serious keeper for yours truly.

 

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Verily Magazine: I’ve written before about how many women’s magazines, which claim to be all about empowering us, just wind up making us feel like total and utter crap.

The Photoshopping is ridiculous, and the content is often a) vapid, and b) largely about how to be both skinnier and better in the sack. This “Get thinner, have the perfect tush, and be a total sex kitten” message pushes the idea that there’s a huge gap between how you are and how you should be, and that how you are now is largely inadequate. It pisses me the hell off, and that’s putting it politely.

Enter Verily Magazine: a women’s magazine that focuses on “celebrating the best of who you are” — and that’s who you are now, not who you’ll be after undergoing one of those heinous Tracy Anderson metamorphosis things. (Have I mentioned that I really don’t like Tracy Anderson? Because sweet fancy Moses, y’all, I really don’t like her. This article, followed by this one, really sealed the deal. But I digress.)

Unlike other women’s mags, Verily never, ever airbrushes or Photoshops its models. Not only that, but it specifically chooses models who look like normal people, as opposed to the emaciated waifs you see on the runway. (Am I the only one who often feels compelled to throw food at bone-thin models as they strut down the catwalk? I’m pretty sure I’d get kicked out of a real fashion show because I’d just start throwing quinoa and asparagus at them while yelling “Eat! For the love of all that is holy, woman, EAT!”)

Adding to the awesomeness, Verily actually offers articles that are directed toward womens’ brains, not their lady-parts or their abs. There are no “How To Blow His Mind in Bed!” or “Get The Perfect Tummy in Two Weeks!” articles here, friends: instead, there are pieces on culture, lifestyle, and fashion — as well as awesome articles that focus on issues affecting women around the world, such as the rise of rape warfare in Egypt and the increasing prevalence of sex trafficking in the United States.

One of my friends here in DC interviewed the founders of Verily, and the awesome Huffington Post article that ensued can be read here. These ladies are the real deal!

 

New yoga books:  I wrote yesterday about my love of DIY, at-home yoga, and I just invested in two new books on the matter — sooooo, I might be bouncing in my chair in sheer anticipation of  getting my grubby little paws on copies of Yoga as Medicine and Insight Yoga. I’m incredibly, absurdly excited for both of these books!

I’m a big believer in using alternative medicine/holistic practices like yoga to help complement Western medicine, and I’m fascinated by the intersection of the two forms of healing. The idea that yoga can be used to complement the effects of modern medicine is awesome, so I’m chomping at the proverbial bit to dive into these books and absorb as much information as humanly possible. A total geek-out will totally ensue. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be hearing about it next week!

 

With that, some questions for you:

What was the highlight of your week?

Do you have plans for the weekend?

What are you most looking forward to over the weekend?

Friday Fun Times: Five Things I’m Diggin’ This Week

Good morning, and TGIF! (*Does Friday-induced happy dance*)

In celebration of the fact that it’s Friday, I figured I’d do another post to highlight all the things I’ve been loving on/excited about this week.

1) Although the tote I bought from Target a few weeks ago managed to break and thus meet its demise shortly after I bought it (booooo), I was able to return it without any problems. I then picked up this bag as a replacement, and I also replaced my old wallet, which was starting to fall apart a bit. To say the least, I looooooove both the new bag and the new wallet — the blue and turquoise are so pretty, and they seem so seasonally appropriate! I may or may not get a bit giddy every time I look at them.

 

Bag and wallet

 

2) The Firestarter Sessions is blowing my mind, people. This book is seriously awesome. I also recommend checking out Danielle LaPorte’s website (she’s the author of this wondrous tome); as Taryn put it (quite perfectly, I might add), it’s like reading a conversation with your best friend.

Apparently Danielle LaPorte is launching a magazine in September and is accepting writing submissions — and as you might have guessed, I’m itchin’ to submit something for their consideration. (*Starts wiggling in desk chair out of sheer excitement*) It’s scary, and the “Oh God, I can’t possibly be good enough – there’s no way I’ll get anything but rejected” voice of fear is acting up like nobody’s business — but I’m just going to channel my inner Kanye and tell that voice that “Imma let you finish, but I can write the best submission of all time!” Ok, it won’t be the best submission of all time — but it will be from the heart, and that’s the best kind of writing I can possibly do.

3) Fitness updates: I ran 2.5 miles on Wednesday afternoon and donated my Charity Miles to Every Mother Counts (an organization I greatly admire). In my quest to do something meaningful with my life and to feel like I’m making a contribution — albeit a small one — to making the world a better place, Charity Miles has become one of my favorite go-to sources of action and inspiration. Being able to get my sweat on while helping to raise money for causes I believe in has, for me at least, been seriously awesome.

 

 

I also did more FitnessBlender and Yoga Downloads workouts this week. I did Yoga Download’s Yoga Sculpt class last night, and then I busted out Fitness Blender’s cardio kickboxing this morning. I loved them both!

I’ve also recently decided to embrace a standard of fitness that has more flexibility than I’ve allowed myself to have before. I was kicking myself for not having enough time to cook meals, work out for 45 minutes a day, and blog in my spare time — but all that scheduling insanity started really wearing on me. In light of that, I came to the conclusion that it’s ok to keep my workouts around 30 minutes each.

The fact is, blogging makes me incredibly happy, and writing brings me more joy than any job ever has — so I want to make time to do it. If it comes at the expense of those last 15 minutes of exercise, then so be it.

 

 

4) ELF cosmetics: While I was at Target, I was doing some reconnaissance in their cosmetics section as part of my hunt for new eyeliner and new eye shadow. (My collection has been rapidly diminishing, but I hate spending moolah on obnoxiously overpriced cosmetics, even at my beloved Target.) Lo and behold, I saw that ELF products are between — get this — $1-$2. I’m not kidding. I just about had to scrape my jaw up off the floor. I got two eyeshadow sets and one eyeliner pencil for $5 total, which felt like the cosmetics coup to end all cosmetics coups. It was astonishing.

 

ELF

 

5) A mailbox full of goodies: This month’s InStyle and Birchbox arrived on the same day. If that isn’t worthy of a whoop of excitement, I don’t know what is. A certain someone — whose name may or may not be Lillian — might have also picked up a bottle of rosé at Costco yesterday (because this person is super classy like that, and she obviously has really high-brow taste in wine). This person might be really excited to read InStyle while drinking a glass of vino after work, possibly while deep-conditioning her hair with one of the Birchbox samples. #SorryI’mNotSorry.

 

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I hope y’all have an awesome day — and of course, I’ve got questions for you lovely people:

What’s your favorite way to unwind on a Friday night?

Do you have any big or exciting weekend plans?

{Obviously, this is the really important question} Do you like cheap wine from Costco or Three Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s? (Please tell me yes and that I’m not the only one around here who’s the total opposite of a wine connoisseur?)

5 Random Things That I’m Loving Lately…And Some Epiphanies

Happy Friday, y’all! TGIF! Friday, Friday, everybody’s glad it’s Friday! (Am I the only person who gets Rebecca Black stuck in her head every single week?)

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get really excited about random little things. New shampoo? Excited. New songs on my workout playlist? Excited. New coffee mug? Practically crawling out of my skin with excitement.

I’ve occasionally been told that I’m too easily amused, but I see it a bit differently. As far as I’m concerned, my low threshold for happy dancing makes it easy to do what so many happiness and self-help gurus keep talking about: appreciating and being grateful for the little things in life.

So, with that in mind, here are 5 random things that have induced more than a few happy dances around here.

1) On a whim earlier this week, I picked up some Goody Spin Pins from CVS. I’d run out of hair ties, and I was re-stocking when the Spin Pins caught my eye.

Image source: makeupandbeautyblog.com

 

Considering that I spend all summer abandoning all hope of doing my hair — heat and humidity turn my tresses into a hot mess, and I don’t like spending four months looking like my head was mauled by a misshapen shrubberyI rely on loose chignons and buns to get me through those oppressively hot months.

And, wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what the Spin Pins were made for.

After using them, I can say this much: my gawd, these things are awesome. They worked like a dream, which is really saying something considering that virtually nothing works like it’s supposed to on my hair. I twisted them into the loose bun I’d pulled up, et voila:

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I must say, I’m seriously excited about these bad boys. Summer hairstyling is going to be a breeze with these things in my arsenal!

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2) Wearing my favorite pink jacket to work, DC fashion rules be damned.

Five years ago, I was shopping with my mom when a fabulous pink jacket from the Gap made me gasp audibly in delight. (I know that as an ardent feminist I’m not supposed to love pink, girly things and blah blah blah, but the fact is –as you may have discerned from the color schemes on this blog — I love pink.)

I bought the jacket as a graduation present for myself, only to never wear it upon arriving in DC. I was worried that no one would take me seriously if I rolled up in such a bright, feminine statement piece. Black pant suits are ubiquitous here, and there seems to be an unspoken rule that if you want to be respected and taken seriously, you can’t wear bright or overtly feminine clothes. And, y’know, this jacket is both bright and feminine. Trepidation ensued.

Recently, though, I’ve reached the point where I’ve just plain had it with all the unspoken rules about how to look and behave in DC. I am, by nature, goofy, funny, creative, innovative, expressive, and girly — all of which are big no-nos here.

Judy Garland I don't care

However, last few weeks I’ve found myself repeatedly thinking “F**k it. I can’t keep pretending to be someone I’m not in order to conform to cultural norms here. I can’t keep suppressing all these key elements of my personality. If I’m never taken seriously, then ok — but I’m tired of not being myself.”

When I opened up our coat closet this week, I saw my beloved pink jacket, and I knew: it’s time. Loud and proud, baby.

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3) The spate of gorgeous, spring-like weather we’ve had — and are supposed to continue having through the weekend — and the fact that the trees are now fully leaved.

Last night I was finally able to talk to my best friend (it’s tough to make our schedules work, since she’s in Seattle and thus three hours behind DC), and I decided to walk home from work in order to spend time outside while talking to her. It’s a four-mile walk along a gorgeous path, and I loved every second of it.

Some scenes from my walk:

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https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=6f94ded14d&view=att&th=13e682f9aaf45f03&attid=0.5&disp=inline&realattid=1acdecc0b0bdca92_0.8&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-TYtb2Y1y1ya4X0X6A7vFj&sadet=1367576627749&sads=_AiManrEPvHNA1C1qEf4HhPwOe4

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4) I luuuurve the new ring tone  on my phone. I was less than thrilled by the factory-setting ring tones on my iPhone, and I decided this week to see what other options are out there. I was sampling the most popular ones on iTunes when I thought “Waaaaaaaait a second. I wonder if they have Monty Python ring tones. Let’s check that out.”

A moment of context here: I love Monty Python. I come from a family of Monty Python (and British humor) devotees, and it’s to the point where we’ll all spontaneously re-enact scenes from our favorite movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Lo and behold, there’s a Monty Python and the Holy Grail ringtone! You’d best believe I downloaded it immediately, and now I do this whenever my phone rings:

 

5) Using egg white protein powder and almond milk in my morning smoothies, which gives me a luxuriously thick and creamy breakfast treat each morning.

This is a big deal for me for two reasons: first, I’ve been on a search for good protein powder that has, at times, felt like a scene from The Odyssey. My Greek epic novel-length quest has been frustrating, either in dealing with protein powders that taste awful or leave my stomach in a state of open rebellion — so I was profoundly happy when I found Jay Robb’s Egg White Protein Powder. This stuff is delicious, not chalky, and it hasn’t provoked any backtalk from el estomago.

Then we have the almond milk: I freaking love that stuff, but I haven’t been using it in my smoothies because, y’know, it has calories. I’d been using water instead, which — shockingly — lead to watery and decidedly meh smoothies. Just like my realization that I’m tired of conforming to DC cultural norms, I realized that I’m also tired of looking for every possible way to cut calories.

I love my almond milk, it’s good for you (all that calcium!), and I’m just plain tired of cutting myself off from foods I love — foods that are nutrient dense and actually really good for you — simply because they might be calorically dense as well. I want my granola, I want my pistachios, I want my GF bread with flax seeds, and dang it, I want  almond milk in my smoothies.

So, for the second time in recent weeks, I said “F**k it! I’m doing what I want in spite of all the nutritional advice to just use water and save calories. Almond milk it is!” Not surprisingly, using almond milk has turned my daily green smoothie into a thing of delicious glory. It’s thick, smooth, creamy, and generally mouthwatering.

All in all, I’m amazed by how good I feel after both the pink jacket and almond milk epiphanies. Deciding to dispose of generally ridiculous DC fashion rules and less-than-helpful nutritional advice made me feel like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. After trying so hard to be the round peg who contorts herself in an effort to fit into the square hole, calling it like it is made me feel really effing awesome.

So, with that in mind, I hope everyone has an awesome Friday! Here’s to the weekend being within reach, y’all. 🙂 Some questions for you:

What do you like to use in your smoothies?

Do you have favorite movies that you quote, like, all the effing time?

Have you ever tried to ignore or suppress parts of your personality in order to fit in?

Short and Sweet: Yea or Nay

Good morning, y’all!

I’m going to keep things on the shorter side this morning, since it’s going to be a busy day and I feel like I have approximately seven bajillion things to do. This picture was spreading like wildfire on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, and it just about sums up the way my brain rolls these days:

Uh huh ;)

So today, I’ll go with some of the topics that occupy those 2,857 tabs — but divide them into ye olde fashioned categories of Yea or Nay (not so ye olde fashioned translation: likes and dislikes).

Nay:

  • This magazine cover. I’m not one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s biggest fans, but my bigger issue is how fitness magazines fawn over her for allegedly having the perfect body. I see this all over the place, and it’s monumentally irritating. She works out for hours and hours each day and follows an incredibly restrictive diet regimen — and somehow that’s supposed to make her a role model? (Although really, fitness mags don’t ever get into the reality of what she has to do in order to look like that; instead, they cover small fractions of her routine and act like you can also have 4% body fat if you just follow her super-doable tips and tricks. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, ladies! Obvi!) However, I call bulls**t on this. Not only is it wildly unrealistic, it’s unhealthy as all get-out. Color me peeved, my friends. Colossally peeved.
SELF magazine Gwyneth Paltrow
Source: mamasarollingstone.com
  • The persistent homesickness. I’m working hard to focus on the positive and make the best out of life in DC, but I find that the homesickness creeps right back in as soon as I let my guard down. I’ve been here for four years, and I keep thinking that the homesickness will get better with time — but it’s not, so I just have to make the best of it. Le sigh.
Homesick
Source: memegenerator.net
  • With apologies to any dudes who might read my blog: I have a raging case of PMS, and it’s driving me batty. I feel like someone injected saline into my skin — and although I don’t weigh myself, I must’ve gained a lot of water weight because my pants quite literally stopped fitting overnight. I’m increasing my intake of magnesium and potassium (and cutting waaaaaaaay back on the sodium) in an effort to shed some of the water retention, but UGH. No likey.

Yea:

  • One of my girlfriends recently went on a business trip to Israel, and I asked her to stock up on one of my favorite Israeli exports for me: Ahava skincare products. I love, love, love this stuff, but it’s obnoxiously expensive on this side of the pond. (Side note: ahava is actually Hebrew for love, so one could say that I have much ahava for Ahava. I’M SO PUNNY.) Since it’s so much cheaper there, I gave her some cash, asked her to go to town, and was able to get far more bang for my buck. This mineral hand cream is like a dream come true for me:

Ahava cream

  • I’m finally getting back into my workout routine after the two-week Breaking Bad-induced hiatus. I really missed exercise, and I really missed how good I feel — both physically and emotionally — after a good sweat session. I will say, though, that I had a substantial epiphany during this two-week hiatus. It was a big one, and I’ll write about it when I have a bit more time — but for now, let’s just say that I’m seeing exercise, health, and weight in a very different light these days.

Exercise = my natural high

  • I kind of love the fact that there’s a truly obscene number of rom-coms on my Amazon watch list. Using my time at the gym to watch movies that Brandon would never watch (I refer to this magical time as rom-coms and cardio) is quite possibly the awesomest multi-tasking I’ve ever done. Brandon would sooner cover himself in raw steak and go hang out with a pack of hungry wolves than sit through a crappy rom-com, but gawd, I love those movies. Much like celeb gossip, I fully realize that they’re horrible — but I don’t care. Cue Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” replace Kevin Costner with celeb gossip and rom-coms, replace the beautiful, impeccably dressed Whitney with a sweaty, yoga pants and t-shirt clad me (but keep Whitney’s voice, because she was amazing), and you have the perfect image of my feelings on this matter.
Rom coms
This is an alarmingly accurate representation of my Amazon watch list. Source: http://www.ommster.com
  • The toasted almond-amaretto coffee I bought at Target this weekend is effing sublime. It smells amazing, and it tastes even better. My long, arduous, and often frustrating search for good almond-flavored coffee was 100% worth it, my friends, because it led me to this wondrous stuff. The sheer deliciousness of this coffee has only reinforced my feeling that Target can do no wrong; while this is great for Target, it’s probably bad for my bank account. (I shouldn’t be let into Target without a chaperone, because left to my own devices I’ll gladly BUY ALL THE THINGS.) Target addiction aside, though, this coffee is a serious winner. My mornings have become considerably easier due to its heavenly qualities.

Coffee

And now, I’m off to prep dinner, write an article, get ready for work, and try to keep my ducks in a row — thank God for the coffee, my friends. 🙂 Hope everyone has an awesome Tuesday!

Fitness Magazines and Body Image, Part II

First of all, thank you all for your lovely comments and likes on yesterday’s post! Y’all made me smile, and I’m so happy to know that this resonates with so many of you. 🙂 Thank you for making my day!

Rachel — who writes over at The House Always Wins and is one of my favorite bloggers — brought up a great point in the comments section:

So, one thing I’ve seen with some mags is that they’ll use “real” looking models for regular stories (like, say, a story about being happy at work) but they ALWAYS use super fit fitness models for exercise routines. I suppose they are just trying to say their routines work but it’s still kind of a bummer. I’d just love to see DIFFERENT fit bodies — not all fit women are tall and very thin. I’d like to see petite dancers or super-muscular athletes too. I honestly like looking at beautiful fit bodies, as well as beautiful bodies that look more like mine, so more diversity would be a huge improvement.

This makes perfect sense. Body diversity in fitness magazines would be fantastic — I’d love to be able to see women who are naturally tall and skinny, short and muscular, average height and curvy.

Athletic Female Body Types
Image source: http://www.the-beheld.com

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that two things could happen if fitness mags deviated from the tall and impeccably toned norm:

First, showing a diverse set of body types would help drive home the point that there’s a wiiiiiide range of sizes and builds that can be considered normal. 

As I said yesterday, I used to seriously berate myself for not fitting the tall and thin, beautifully sculpted norm presented in fitness magazines — but if they were to use models who are athletic, fit women of different shapes and sizes, those of us in the audience would be better able to identify with those women.

I mean, women who are gymnasts are petite and muscular. Women who are ballerinas are petite and lithe. Women who are built for sprinting have an entirely different body type than women who are built for distance running. Meanwhile, women who are swimmers look very different from women who are yogis.

But you know what? They’re all athletes. They all take health and fitness seriously. And they all can serve as fitness role models.

Athletic Female Body Types
Image source: samanthamenzies.com

This would help women realize that they can be in great shape without looking like they fell out of a photoshoot — and that, in turn, can do wonderful things for a woman’s confidence and body image.

That brings me to my second point: by showing a wide range of body types, fitness magazines can truly emphasize fitness instead of weight loss.

Fitness is about being as strong and healthy as you can be. Why not emphasize strength, health, and well-being over perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and a tight butt? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the aforementioned perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and tight butt — but for me at least, working out so I can look like a fitness model makes me feel wretched.

When I work out for aesthetic reasons, I feel like I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never work hard enough. I’ll never do enough squats or crunches to look like a woman who, y’know, gets paid to look like the poster child for squats and crunches.

By emphasizing health and fitness over weight loss and skinniness, fitness magazines might introduce reasons to work out that really make women feel good — reasons that focus on their intrinsic worth (i.e., “I want to take care of myself because I love my family/job/insert-gratifying-thing-here and I want to be able to do the best I can in that role” or, in a truly revolutionary approach, simply loving oneself and wanting to stick around and be healthy for as long as possible) rather than how they look.

Ultimately, I think Rachel hit the nail on the head with her comment about body diversity. Body diversity in fitness magazines could drive those magazines and readers alike to focus on being healthy, strong, and physically fit — no matter what you look like.

In Which I Rant About Weight, Fitness Magazine Models, and Body Image

I love fitness magazines. Ok, ok, I shamelessly love fitness magazines. I love their workout suggestions, recipe ideas, and focus on being fashionable without breaking the bank.

The one thing that I’ve been persistently bothered by, though, has been the models used in the photoshoots. I know it’s weird, but hear me out.

We all know that fashion models generally look totally emaciated — I still think it’d be awesome if a fashion model fessed up to living in impoverished, famine-stricken third-world countries in order to stay so unnaturally skinny (“Yeah, so as soon as Fashion Week is over, I go straight to Darfur…”) — but the models in fitness mags also look, in my opinion at least, unattainably thin.

They’re not horrifically thin like their counterparts on the runway in Paris, but I’d quite literally have to starve myself if I wanted to look like this:

Image source: SELF.com
Image source: SELF.com

In both these cases, the women pictured definitely aren’t emaciated — to the contrary, they look quite healthy — but they’re waaaay skinnier than I’ll ever be (barring a vacay to Somalia, diseases too scary to contemplate, or a close encounter with a tapeworm).

You see, I’m a curvy girl. My mom and all the women on her side of the family are teeny, naturally skinny types who have to try to put on weight; I, by contrast, inherited the hearty Irish constitution that comes from my dad’s side of the family. If my genetic destiny as a descendant of the Emerald Isle is to harvest potatoes and have a veritable football team of babies, well, I look the part.

But when I see these pictures in fitness magazines — which I read because I’m, y’know, really into health and fitness — it makes me think that bodies like this should be totally attainable if I just tried a little harder. The delusion continues: if I just ate more broccoli and did more lunges, I could look as fantastic as these women do!

The reality: I work out 5 days a week. I eat loads of produce and lean protein. I haven’t touched a donut (even a GF one) in years. I rarely eat junk food. I take excellent care of myself. And I will never, ever look like this.

And yet.

These models.

One glance through a fitness magazine, and my inner critic used to be out of the gates like a prize horse at the Kentucky Derby. It would gallop on: You’re not doing enough lunges! You should look like one of these women, because you do all the things they tell you to do! What are you doing wrong? Cereal, that’s what. You eat way too much cereal. You’ll never look like this as long as you keep up that habit. You look like you’ve been busy popping out babies, and you haven’t even had kids yet. Time to ditch the cereal, Thunder Thighs.

In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, my inner critic is quite heinous.

I tried to quiet that inner critic by saying warm and fuzzy things like “I like myself just the way I am,” but that went nowhere fast. The epiphany I needed came when I realized that the only way I’m ever going to look like a fitness model is if I make my entire life revolve around it.

And, um…no. Just NO.

There are a bajillion other things I’d rather do with my time. There are people to hang out with, nerdy documentaries and sappy rom-coms to watch, dinners to cook, blog posts to write, phone calls to make to friends and family…the list goes on, and it’s saturated with things that would have to be neglected if I was going to dedicate my entire existence to achieving my dream body.

It just ain’t worth it.

Is it worth effort to exercise, eat well, and take care of myself in order to be the healthiest and strongest I can be? Absolutely. But is it worth it in order to slip into a size 2? Hell to the no.

Furthermore, I also realized that the vast majority of women don’t look like this. They just don’t. Even if they’re this thin, I’d bet the (proverbial) farm that they don’t have the uber-sculpted look that these women are sporting.

This is why I love the Dove Real Beauty campaign — it helps us see that normal women look, well, real. They certainly don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models, but they don’t look like fitness magazine models either.

Dove Real Women
Image source: http://www.organicmamacafe.com

Now if only the fitness mags could start featuring real women who look like the Dove ladies pictured here, I’d be one exceedingly happy girl.

*Steps off soapbox, thanks you all kindly for listening to my rant*

Product Review: Birchbox Numero Uno

I have a weird relationship with new beauty products: I’m always intrigued by them, but I’m totally unwilling to invest in a full-size bottle of any new product unless I know it’s going to work well. If I’ve tried it out before, I feel safe buying it — but if it’s not a known entity, I stand there in the CVS/Nordstrom beauty section giving products the “I don’t trust you” look.

Image Source: Memegenerator.net

After all, who wants to throw down some of her hard-earned moolah in order to wind up with a product that could leave her riddled with zits or breaking out in allergic reaction-induced hives?

Yes, my dear readers, zits and hives are the things I worry about when buying skincare products.

I once bought a new bottle of moisturizer that I hadn’t tested out before, and I put it on before going to sleep. I then proceeded to have vivid nightmares about my face being covered in walnut-size, reddish-purple, relentlessly itchy hives, which was the very motif I sported when I discovered that I have a severe penicillin allergy.

I woke myself up because I was thrashing around and yelling something to the effect of “OMIGOD, I NEED BENADRYL RIGHT NOW.” Not surprisingly, there were no hives in this case — but that didn’t stop me from checking my face at least five more times before my alarm went off the next morning.

I also have spectacularly sensitive skin. Things like witch hazel and tea tree oil — which, for normal people, are supposed to clear up breakouts — make my skin look like I’m trying to re-live my teenage years. There are some good reasons why no amount of money could ever, ever convince me to re-live my adolescence, and my skin circa 1994 is one of them.

Enter Birchbox: for $10/month, you get a carefully selected handful of sample sizes of various beauty products. Now, $10 is a price I’m comfortable with, especially since it involves samples. Wee little bits that I can try out to make sure I don’t break out like a mofo or get hives! Hooray!

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My first Birchbox installment made me positively giddy. Among the loot were samples of tinted moisturizer, a facial exfoliant, and a hair smoothing spray. My reviews of all three are below (I also highly recommend checking out Must Have Boxes for some fantastic reviews of sample boxes and their loot of products):

Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint: I absolutely love this stuff. I love the way I look with bronzer (I look great with a light tan, but I’m photosensitive as all get-out — so this cowgirl only ventures into the sun with copious amounts of sunblock) but I can never apply it right when using the powder variety.

This bronze-tinted moisturizer, though, is fantastic. I mix a small amount with some of my normal moisturizer to help it blend in, and I love it. It blends in perfectly, and it hasn’t provoked any hostilities from my uber-sensitive skin. Assuming our budget permits, I’ll definitely want to invest in a full-size bottle of this in the future.

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Image source: Birchbox.com

Vasanti BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator: This is another fantastic product that works well with my unremittingly finicky skin. I usually react really poorly to exfoliant scrubs — much like the witch hazel and tea tree oil, exfoliants tend to make me break out like woah — but this has no such side effects. My skin looks visibly brighter and healthier after using it, and I love how soft my skin feels after a brief scrub with this stuff. It’s another product that, assuming the budget allows, I’d definitely like to purchase.

Image source: Birchbox.com

Beauty Protector Protect and Detangle Spray: I have a ton of hair. Adding to which, my hair is a) naturally wavy, and b) really thick (I once donated a foot of it to Locks for Love, and there was enough to make wigs for three people) — which means that it’s also really prone to getting tangled. I rely on spray conditioners to help detangle and condition my tresses; I’ve used Pantene for years and it works beautifully, so I was curious to see if this stuff is even better than my Old Faithful.

While it works well, I’d say that it doesn’t do the job as fabulously as Pantene. I still get some tangles after using it, and it doesn’t leave my hair as soft as the Pantene does. I also have to admit that I don’t love the smell — I’ve never liked the smell of cocoa butter (I’m weird like that), and I love the fresh, clean scent of Pantene. Pantene is also a lot cheaper: the Beauty Protector spray is $22, whereas Pantene sells for somewhere between $5-$6. That said, though, the Beauty Protector got fantastic reviews on the Birchbox site, and it might just be that it works fabulously on hair less recalcitrant than mine.

Image source: Birchbox.com

Anyways, that’s the skinny on my first installment of Birchbox loot — I’ll do product reviews for each one, and I’ll hopefully remain free of all allergy hives. 🙂

Have you tried Birchbox? What have you thought of the samples you’ve gotten?

Post-Oscar Redux

Ok, so: can we please talk about the Oscars?!

I couldn’t stay up to watch the last half of the ceremony — my body enters shut-down mode around 10 p.m. — but when I looked at the news this morning, I was thrilled to see who the big winners are. There have been some years when the winners leave me scratching my head and saying “Bwwweeeeeh?”, but this isn’t one of them.

Anne Hathaway? Awesome. Daniel Day-Lewis? Amazing. Jennifer Lawrence? Incredible. Argo? Best movie I’ve seen in a long time.

To that end, if you haven’t seen Argo, I highly recommend it. When I was in grad school, the story Argo is based on was assigned reading for one of my favorite classes — and it had me riveted. It was rare for grad school reading to have me totally, completely engrossed like that, but I couldn’t put this one down. At more than one point, I found that I had a white-knuckle grip on my highlighter, and I found myself muttering “please let it work, please let it work” over and over. So, my dear readers, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go see it! Go see it now! 🙂

And the fashion? Omigod, the dresses.

There are always a few hot messes during big awards ceremonies — I thank Joan Rivers and company at Fashion Police for pulling a few of these from the tons of photos and showing us that, sometimes, money doesn’t guarantee style — but overall, I thought a ton of people looked fantastic.

My best-dressed list goes a little sumthin’ like this: Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Octavia Spencer, Amanda Seyfried, and Jenna Dewan-Tatum.

Charlize Theron: She’s an incredible actress with impeccable fashion sense. I love everything about this two-piece dress: the cut, the color, and the way she makes glamor look totally effortless.

Image source: Glamour.com

Kerry Washington: Here’s another incredibly talented woman who also happens to look amazing. I feel like she’s so naturally gorgeous that she could wear a muumuu and still look fantastic, but she knocks it out of the ballpark with this dress. Everything about it is gorgeous: the red bodice with the intricately beaded top, the way it’s form-fitting without being totally ridiculous (Angelina Jolie and her “look at me!” right leg, I’m looking at y’all), the train…it all adds up to an incredible look.

Image Source: Elle.com

Octavia Spencer: I love, love, love how she dresses for her body type and refuses to be put into some horrid looking tent-dress. One of the major problems with Hollywood fashion is that anything larger than a size zero is considered a grounds for draping a woman in some unholy combination of a tarp, poncho, or circus tent. (Side note: I LMAO-ed for a solid 10 minutes when I read the portion of Mindy Kaling’s book where she makes them rip open the back of a size 2 dress that she wants to wear for a photoshoot. Atta girl, Mindy!) Octavia, though, has consistently shown that this doesn’t have to be the case. She looked fabulous last year, and she looks amazing again this year. I love the asymmetrical shoulder, the contrast between the bodice and the gown, the soft off-white color — everything about it flatters her, and she looks stunning.

Image Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Amanda Seyfried: The cut of this dress is spectacular. The halter neck, the keyhole  top, the fabric (granted, my first reaction with anything like this is something to the effect of “OOH, SPARKLES!”), and the way it’s form fitting without being over the top (cough cough — Angelina Jolie — cough cough) all join forces to create a fantastic look for her.

Image Source: Hollywire.com

Jenna Dewan-Tatum: Ok, so someday when I’m pregnant, I fully anticipate that I’ll continue wearing my usual get-up of yoga pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. Getting glammed up probably won’t even be on the radar for me, since it’s barely on the radar for me now. But holy heaven, Jenna Dewan-Tatum look amazing. The black lace dress is gorgeous in every way: the fabric, the cut, the fit, and the way she wears it are all fantastic.

Image Source: usmagazine.com

What were your thoughts on the Oscars? Did you like who won the big awards?