Body image and self love

It feels like I’ve always had body image issues. Looking back, I can’t seem to remember a moment where I loved the way I looked. I would try my best to be content with my body, but I would always find something I’d like to change.

When I was a baby, I didn’t have a neck. My uncle called me Jabba the Hut since I was all baby fat. I didn’t ever crawl, because I was way too happy being immobile. Once I started walking, I lost the baby fat and thinned out. In high school, I was pretty active and stayed relatively thin but still felt chubby. I didn’t see myself as sexy and focused way too much on my extra-small boobs.

Freshman year in college I’d skip meals because I felt chubby. The other three years of college, I gained about 25 to 30 pounds that I instantly hated and tried to combat best I could. My boyfriend encouraged me by working out with me, but at the end of the day I felt fat and didn’t know what exercises to do other than run and some strength machines. Through the years, I’ve gone up and down in my weight. I started my fitness journey 7 years ago when I weighed in at my heaviest. I still hated my body, but decided to finally do something about it. So I joined a local Kung Fu school and started practicing traditional martial arts.

Even over the last 7 years, I still felt chubby and fat. In the beginning, my diet was crap as I was trying to workout 3-4 times a week. About a year into my fitness journey was when I decided to watch a few food documentaries. These altered my world and my diet. I was vegan for almost two years, and that was when I noticed the real change occurring in my body. I finally liked my body weight, and almost liked how I looked. My endurance was increasing but I felt like I needed more of a challenge. So I started running in addition to the martial arts training.

When I started running, I mostly hated it. But my friend Sarah kept me accountable and we ran many races together over the years. Even as a runner and martial artist, I still struggled with my body image. Especially after I fell off the vegan wagon and started to be more open with my diet. And, you know, got married and comfortable. When I turned 30 only a year and a half ago, I felt embarrassed when looking at photos of myself. That chubby tummy and love handles were too much! I knew I needed more strength training and a better diet, but kinda let myself go. It was when my ex left that I reassessed everything in my life, but chose to focus on self love and body image.

I turned to fitness and working out to help me get through one of the hardest situations in my life. I upped the frequency and intensity of working out. I made a conscious decision to focus on my health and everything else would work itself out. I felt called to run the Chicago marathon last year, and I chose to focus more on strength training both while running and after the race. Even after running the marathon, I still felt chubby. But I sat down and created a fitness goal for myself in order to help me work towards the body I want rather than the one I had.

And guess what? I didn’t reach my goal. My goal was to get to 18% body fat by last week. I’m currently hovering just above 19% body fat, but I started at 25% four months ago. Despite not meeting my goal, I can finally say I love my body. Just the way it is. I know I’m still a work in progress, and I still have fitness goals I’m working on. But I realized it isn’t about the numbers. It’s not about how much I weigh nor how much body fat I have (as long as I’m not obese). It’s about how I look and feel. Hard work pays off, but most of the work I’ve needed has been mental. 90% mental, 10% physical.

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World AIDS Day

AIDS_ribbon-08-1024x1024Today is World AIDS Day which always falls on the first day of December every year. It is a day where people worldwide unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the HIV virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, over 35 million people have died from HIV or AIDS. This is one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Thankfully, there have been scientific advancements in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect the people living with HIV, and we understand much more about the condition these days. Despite this, people continue to be diagnosed with HIV, people don’t know the facts on how to protect themselves and others, and there are still stigmas and discrimination in regards to the people living with the virus.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds us that HIV has not gone away. There’s still a vital need to raise money and increase awareness surrounding the virus.

What can you do?

Show solidarity with people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon. You can also donate towards HIV treatment research and education. Or, if you need a fun coffee pick-me-up you can go to Starbucks and they’ll donate 25 cents if you order one of the following drinks:  Peppermint Mocha, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte or Eggnog Latte. So go get your holiday drink and sparkle on!

Thoughts and Prayers

You know the standard saying, “My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.” It’s one of those nice things you say to someone who’s lost a loved one, maybe a parent or a family pet. It provides a little tiny bit of comfort in the midst of sadness. When I lost my mom, many said this in their own words. So many different combinations of the same saying. Some people offered their help, but I wasn’t sure how or what they could do to bring my mom back, or to alleviate even an ounce of the pain.

But losing my mom to cancer seems to be a drop in a bucket compared to the oceans we’re experiencing with these recent mass shootings. When will the turmoil of killing innocent people end? Thoughts and prayers are just a starting point, but what we need to see is action and change. Without these things, nothing will change other than the location and number of deaths. This past weekend, it was a church and 26 dead. Next week, who knows where and how many will lose their life prematurely.

More than words..

We are quick to talk. We are quick to pray to God, especially during these difficult times. We think if we have a list of prayer requests and pray daily that we’re good. Like God loves us and we did our part. But I think we’re missing the major point of prayer. It’s not a one-sided conversation where we blab our problems (and sometimes praises) to God and hope that He fixes everything. Actually, even more importantly, prayer is meant to open our ears, mind, and heart. This way we can listen and hear God when He tells us what to do. The answer is rarely “sit and wait,” although it may be in certain situations. But when it comes to something so epic and life-altering like 307 mass shootings in the USA this year so far, I feel like more than nothing is needed.

The irony

thoughts and prayersYesterday, as I was sitting in a church not very different than the First Baptist church of Sutherland Springs, Pastor Chuck was speaking on evil, the devil, and the fallen world. The Fallen Worlds consists of the evil within us, the evil around us, and the evil above us. There are four tactics of the evil one that leads to him winning in this fallen world. He uses doubt, temptation, deception, and accusation to get inside our heads and make us feel like we’re the evil ones.

But know that with God we can conquer anything. With the right tools, we can stand our ground and say “Not today Satan.” With the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of the Gospel, the Helmet of Salvation, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit we rise above evil and are protected from the Devil himself. Unfortunately, this past Sunday, for one man he succumbed to evil and chose to take the lives of as many church members as he could, and then his own life.

No panacea?

universal-health-care-1095124_1920.pngIs there a cure to this madness? Can we stop these mass shootings from happening? Is it the guns or the mental illnesses? Or is it terrorism? Whatever you may think the cause is, it all roots back to evil. And without God, there is no hope. But on the same token, we can’t just think and pray away this. We must act. Pray, think, be quiet, listen, then do. God calls us as Christians to go above and beyond for our fellow man. We can’t just sit by the sidelines and hope for a miracle. We have to be the miracle.

If you enjoy my writings and would like to see more, please leave a comment below, subscribe to my newsletter HERE, and consider donating HERE for the holiday season. Thank you to all of my readers, I love all of you.