I Stopped Eating Meat…Kind of

Exactly 31 days ago I stopped eating meat…kind of. I must be honest. I had one meat dish a week and for the first three weeks those were some sort of fish dish. This week I had chicken for the first time. But other than that it has been 28 days without any meat at all and here are a few things I have learned/noticed and things no one tells you when I stop eating meat, just in case you were wondering.

1. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected in some ways. I figured I would have killed someone for a chicken nugget by now but I’ve been alright. There has not been any murder due to meat deprivation…yet. There have been times though that I have been really upset at vegetables.

2. A meatless diet makes you gassy. Like seriously flatulent. Not even silent but deadly just full on loud and disastrous! I had to google this to make sure I wasn’t dying. I wasn’t, I just smelt like it.

3. Probably common sense, but I did not realize how limited the non meat options are at fast food restaurants. Essentially you have French fries and salads and that’s not easy to eat driving down the highway.

4. Your family won’t immediately jump on board. I started this partially because my daughter said she wanted to but then she bailed on me until about 2 days ago. My parents are still very much judgmental carnivores.

5. Bread and cheese become the most logical substitute for meat. Which as we all know isn’t the most healthy of options. I have not seen any weight loss, which I’m not sure was actually a goal. If it was, this would definitely be the reason.

6. Family reunions are tough but under absolutely no circumstances should you bring black bean burgers or veggie dogs to a black family reunion as an alternative. Just lay low and only eat sides. Also, pretend you don’t see the ham hock in the greens.

7. Tofu is meh. It’s just a thing. It does the job. Black bean burgers are pretty good though but you can’t eat burgers every day, black bean or not.

8. I have been craving a roast beef sandwich for a few weeks. I couldn’t tell you the last time that I actually had a roast beef sandwich.

9. Meat makes your skin break out. Not eating meat clears it up. Or at least this might be true. My mom told me it was all in my head but I don’t normally get acne except for my monthly period pimple. Throughout this process I noticed an increase in acne. I then realized I was getting one or two, painful bumps once a week. I didn’t pay that much mind until this week. On Tuesday I had wings (not even going to lie, they were good) and then on Wednesday I had two new bumps. Coincidence…I think not. I also have weird blotchy skin on my back and was mildly hopeful it might clear up. I went to the dermatologist a while back and the antibiotic cream they prescribed didn’t work. The next step was two months of daily antibiotic pills which seemed like a yeast infection and pregnancy waiting to happen so I declined. Throughout the month I started to feel like things were clearing up but didn’t want to say anything. The other day my daughter randomly said “your back is clearing up” so I’m not crazy!

10. I am actually capable of doing something that is totally internally motivated without much pomp and circumstance to encourage me. I tried to only tell people when absolutely necessary and to not make a big deal out of it. Other then my daughter, I didn’t ask anyone to join in. I only didn’t really set a goal. I figured I’d give it a go, see what happens and reassess at the 30 day mark.

So here we are, 30 days in. I thought at this point I would probably decide to go back to some meat consumption while being mindful, but honestly number 9 is a huge motivator for me to at the very least keep up what I’ve been doing if not cut it out all together. Next stop, return to meal prep. Which should be a lot easier since…well…vegetables. Who knows…that roast beef sandwich still sounds really good.

Happy Thursday beautiful people!

A Break Up Letter to NYC

Dear New York City,

The time has come for us to say our good byes. I think we both knew we were never destined to be long term lovers, but we gave it our best shot, and year is nothing to frown upon. You have taught me so much and I wanted to make sure you understood the value you had in my life. So many times we do not get to properly have closure to the most important relationships in our life. Moving gives us that gift. I want to share it with you .

1) You taught me how to be tough. You taught me how to not give into men and their advances, put on a hard shell when necessary, and be strong. You taught me that nothing is too scary for me. That subways at night are absolutely conquerable, streets are meant for crossing at all times, and gave me a bit of NYC sass and arrogance to go along with it. I like that part of me you’ve helped me develop. I feel tough.

2) You taught me the value of a dollar and resilience. You took me back to my roots and reminded how easily you can lose it all, struggle, and be back at the bottom. This was not a fun lesson, but necessary for humility.

3) You taught me Black and Brown comes in 500 different shades and languages and reinforced my sense of pride of belonging to a diverse group of people across the African diaspora. I desperately needed to see that after many years without that validation. When people ask me about my favorite thing about NYC, Harlem, and the Black and Brown people are always my top answer. I can feel the spirits of my ancestors here and see the seeds of their labor.

4) You reminded me that I can ride a bike. I got on my first bike in years when I moved here and it reminded me to always play and that some things are as easy and simple as remembering. Those were some of my favorite moments.

5) You taught me all that glimmers isn’t gold and isn’t for me. NYC glitters and glimmers; NYC is far from gold. It is a hard place to live and be yourself. You showed me that although I may aspire or think something is wonderful, I must really look carefully and consider all parts. I’m so appreciative of this lesson.

6) You allowed me to live a childhood dream of living in the Big Apple. It felt nice to say I’ve done it. My inner child appreciates the adventure.

7) You tested my patience, which I suppose begets patience. From lines, to delayed trains, to spending hours searching for a parking space, to jobs not for me, and a terrible dating scene, you really tried me. I hope I learned patience and not irritation. 🙂

8) Bodegas make the best sandwiches. There is nothing else to say.

9) You rescued me. I have so many mixed feelings as I leave here. This wasn’t a place of warmth, love, or friendship for me, which was foreign. But I cannot forget that you rescued me from despair and a low place. You were a wonderful oasis at a time that I needed it. I’m sorry that I dont always thank you for it, but I’m grateful.

10) You made me remember what is important to me. That I don’t need a fancy city, expensive apartment, or hectic lifestyle. That family, friendship, passion, and a career that lights me on fire are what I value most. We weren’t good matches because of these things, but thank you for showing me what I really need.

11) That in spite of everything, I can do anything. BUT that doesn’t mean I should. Thank you for that valuable lesson.

I think today, as I walked my last walk home from the one place I could feel comfort, I felt you offering peace as our relationship closes tomorrow. You gave me a gift of a breezy evening, a lovely sunset, children laughing, no slow people in front of me, and the ability to help one last lost tourist find their way to Central Park. This was certainly not a lot of our evenings spent together, but I’m sure you wanted to end this on high note. I wanted that as well, and gave a gift of kindness to a stranger in the subway. I hope you take that as an offering of my gratitude.

I want to thank you. Thank you for making me a tough, bodega loving, fast walking, and incredibly humble woman one year later. I’ll be back as a familiar and indebted visitor, but the depth of our relationship ends here. I’m not sorry to say good bye. It’s the right thing to do. Instead, I’m glad we got the time to influence one another. Thank you for letting me call you home for this short time.

With all the love in my heart,

LeAnna

I have become that person…but how?

I spent a lot of time with friends yesterday. A group of friends for brunch and then another friend stopped by to chat for a bit. That’s what adults do right? Eat brunch and chat? How did I get here?

Those two conversations were filled with lots of catching up and discussion of future plans as most conversations are. I’ve had similar conversations with all of these people multiple times because while I love them all dearly and am super close to them all I don’t see them frequently because of life and adulting. And that’s fine. We all are doing it and no one gets mad about it. I appreciate that about my friends.

At some point during both conversations though I realized, I have become that person. What person you ask? Well if your just a little patient I’ll tell!

In discussing some of my personal goals, the usual, weight loss, saving money, moving out (yep…I’m 30 years old and still live with my parents. That’s a blog for another day) came up. I’ve recently started to pick up on peoples responses to my saying I’m going to do these things. Let’s just say they aren’t good. Sometimes it’s met with laughter (thanks Dad), sometimes it’s met with harsh reminders (I thought you were on a diet) that only really serve to annoy me and trigger my stubbornness (thanks Mom), most times it’s met with slight side eye, sighs of “that’s great” with the undertone of “we’ve had this conversation plenty of times but yet here you still are” and encouragement with a hint of “there’s really no reason why you haven’t already done this you’re just lazy/content and used to this lifestyle” (thanks friends, family, coworkers, strangers). And I admit, since these are areas I am not happy with in my life, I probably read more into people’s slight shifts in tone, side eyes, eye rolls, and comments than they actually mean. And I put some of the stuff I’ve been already thinking into their comments too.

But, the realization that I have become that person, officially hit me after brunch, when my friend Michael stopped by and I told him my plan to move out and then my thoughts about potential life style changes for health purposes and both comments got a sarcastic slow clap with a “we’ll see.” A lot of people would be pissed at Michael for this response. I, however, have known Michael for going on 20 years (how did we get so old) and while he may be a self proclaimed ass hole, his intentions (towards me at least) are never to hurt or harm. We could all use a level headed, blunt, call it what it is friend…even if it bruises our ego a bit because on the flip side, Michael has always celebrated any of my successes with the fierceness of a loving brother.

So, what have my friends responses for several weeks/months/years and at brunch and Michael’s slow clap helped me to realize…I have become that person. Dear God lady what person?!?! I’ve become the person that no one actually takes serious when they set goals. The person that sets these goals and is super excited about them but somewhere down the line, and usually very quickly, falls off. It would not surprise me if my family secretly takes bets on how long I will keep up any dieting or healthy living practices. And I know for certain they do not believe me or even entertain my talks about moving out anymore. It’s as if everyone is just waiting to see if it happens but no one is holding their breath because they know the possibility of them dying in the process is high.

But how did I get here?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been a highly goal oriented person. I’ve always felt like most people have known since they were 6 what they wanted to do with their life. I literally decided I wanted to be a counselor one day while on campus my senior year of undergrad talking to a friend. I had about 3 months to get my application turned in take the necessary tests to apply. Then in grad school I felt everyone knew what population they wanted to work with. I have stumbled through the last five years finally finding a population that I absolutely love but even then had to step away from in order to be effective and not lose my own mind. Once a month, usually right before I start my period when I feel bloated and disgusting I go to bed and say “ok this is it. I’m going to get my life together.” Then I start my period, refuse to do anything that week because life is hard enough when your vagina is dying so I have all intentions of doing something when it’s over. My period ends, the bloating goes away, and while my body is far from perfect I usually catch a glimpse in the mirror before I shower one day and say “you know what, you good Ashley! If someone can’t love all of this then they don’t deserve you” and the cycle begins again. I can justify a lot of things and I ultimately refuse to shame myself for being human and doing things that humans need to do like eat, and rest, and enjoy life so as not to go crazy…but then I can justify doing these to excess which is where the problem begins.

It’s almost as if that slow clap Michael did made me connect all the dots and realize that while he’s the only person who did it outright, everyone else is probably doing it in their mind. My response to him was something along the lines of “don’t doubt me” to which he responded with something far less enlightening but similar too “I don’t doubt you can do it. I’m just waiting for it to happen.”

I know a few things about myself. One of which is that I can be really stubborn and strong willed and there is a certain level and type of negativity that I use as a driving force. It’s what caused me to give birth without an epidural, because everyone said I wouldn’t. It’s what caused me to go to college and grad school and find a career that I love, because I was afraid of becoming a teen mom statistic or being what I knew people were betting I would be…a failure.

But sometimes that backfires. And there is a moment where those negative comments become my way of fighting the system and my stubbornness becomes “oh I’ll show you that I absolutely do not have to do these things.” That’s usually surrounds any negative responses to my weight gain/loss or my still living at home.

So yes, I have become that person. I’m aware. I apologize to the people who are sick of hearing me talk about these things without seeing any action. I thank you for loving me all the same and not giving up. I’ve decided to make no promises and to also stop talking about it. Thank you Michael for that slow clap and gentle chuckle of supportive pessimism.

We shall see what happens!!

The Number

***

The number those asterisks represent that had me almost in tears. The number of failure for me this morning. The number I avoid purposely (I’ve thrown out all scales in my home). The number that brought to this page, to my pen. The number that made me feel defeated. The number that isn’t that much different than it was 3 months ago, but enough different that it feels like a knife shearing through my heart. The number that represents my relationship with gravity. The largest relationship I’ve ever had with gravity. The number that I’m not even sure I can share with you all.

Today is a bad body love day. Today may even be a bad self-love day.

I consider myself a body positive advocate. I no longer post pictures about my workouts, runs, weight loss, before and after pics, or dieting plans. I think this is damaging. It makes women, young, old, accomplished, and everything in between, doubt who they are, think themselves less, and wonder why not me. It is also is quite boring to me. I’m tired of talking about diets, exercises, thighs, fat blasters and all in between. If that is your thing, go ahead! I don’t care what you do. Just don’t do it with me please. I also suffer from a history of disordered eating patterns, distorted body image, and likely undiagnosed body dysmorphia and an exercise addiction in the past (and I can diagnose myself because I’m a licensed counselor J). So, participating in those conversations are triggers for me and bring about serious self-doubt and pain. Like you have no ideas how many hours I can spend dedicated to speaking about that. According to my past therapists and researchers on ACES (adverse childhood experiences survey), it is also all likely a symptom of PTSD. Isn’t that bitch? Haunted by things that are not my fault and yet I still try to find it ways to make it my fault – enter all of the distorted images of self. Well, fuck. Either way, because of my experiences and experiences of my clients, I’ve realized that for some people, these images and talk are highly damaging, or at the very least demoralizing. It’s made me feel like a personal failure many times (me: why can he/she/they lose so much weight, and I can’t? brain: Must be a person defect.) So, I usually don’t any more.

Today is different. I took this picture below of me because I was disgusted and disgusted I was disgusted and needed evidence for this blog. I needed everyone to see an unflattering picture of me. I needed you to see some of the blooper reels. And then I needed to post it because I needed proof that I’m still human and loveable and all those things. And that fat people work out too, to be perfectly honest.

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And after that picture here is a running reel of things going on in my head as I worked out:

  • Your belly, do you see and feel how full it is? That’s probably why he disappeared after making out with you; he was probably disgusted.
  • Your doctor is going to poke at you on Monday and you’re going to feel awful.
  • Speaking of which, no need to bring in the concerns of your digestive system or any other ailments – it’s all your fault anyway.
  • You look awful in that t-shirt. Remember when it was loose?
  • When you go home, everyone will notice your weight and realize what a failure you are.
  • Two months ago, things were fitting looser. You’ve failed.
  • You are not pretty
  • You will never find love.
  • Some people are larger when they are younger, they are allowed to occupy bodies and look amazing in whatever size; You are not allowed that, because this isn’t your body type.
  • Why can everyone else lose weight so much easily? Did you see all those summer bodies online last night? HA, not you.
  • Why are you reading this book on radical self-love? Do you really think you are allowed that?
  • Your walks around the park aren’t enough twice a week. You know better. You know you need multiple days of intense exercise for 2 hours to lose weight. We have been here before.
  • The wine. It’s the wine. Also, the birthday fun. Nope.
  • You’re not worthy.
  • You’re not sexy.
  • You will be alone forever.
  • You should be embarrassed.
  • You are not enough.

As, I listen to India Arie as the soundtrack to this blog post, and reflect on the words and thoughts I had today, I feel even more ashamed but then it moves to sadness. Timely, she is is currently singing “Just let it go. Set yourself free. Healing is in your hands.” If I reflect on the past few months, this has been the first time in maybe 3-4 months that these voices have been this strong. I suppose that’s progress, although they have transformed into other lies about my incompetence (my work, friendship abilities, partnership abilities, and my intelligence). Even so it demonstrates that I have the capability to heal, I just need to create the capacity.

Speaking of capacity, I haven’t had much of that lately. I have been traveling a lot for work for a few months now, spending the majority of most weeks out of town. In fact, I am writing this from a hotel room in Lansing, MI. I can’t say that it has been fun. It’s been difficult to find food that makes me feel nourished and is nutritious. Workouts are hard to come by. I’m exhausted and not sleeping well. And I’m so very bloated all the time or gastritis is flaring up all over the place. I have had little time for reflection, painting my nails, a social life, or just play. I don’t feel like myself. I’m moody, my patience is low, and I miss my “me time.” On top of this, I’m making some major life changes right now and managing feelings of inadequacy and incompetence isn’t easy. But it’s familiar. It’s my limbic system’s way of dealing with threatening or stressful situations. I’ve started drinking more ginger tea (stomach issues) and my favorite is the Yogi teas. The Yogi teas come with inspirational messages on them, and every single one has been about compassion. Reflecting now, I think that this is the universe’s way of telling me that the person who needs my compassion most right now, is myself.

“I am not the voices in my head. I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside. I am light.” –India Arie, I Am Light

A Healthy Change for Myself…

We talk a lot about body positivity here and loving the skin you are you in. However, this post shares a few moments of weakness when loving the skin you are in isn’t enough, because it can’t cure health problems. I wholly believe in that there are unrealistic expectations put out in the universe (facebook, twitter, or any kind of media for that matter) that causes people to obsess over having the perfect body and that doesn’t work for everyone. It causes a lot of pain and suffering mentally for some, but this isn’t one of those posts. Well, I don’t want it to be. This post may not be for you, and I understand, but this is my truth.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been telling myself that I need to get back in the gym. That I need to start eating better. That I should probably be more mindful of my health overall. Not because I’ve been hearing it from others. Not because I’ve seen other people go to the gym on a regular basis. But because my doctor told me I’m close to having pre-diabetes. Because I have family that is now going to a class to help keep pre-diabetes from becoming full fledged diabetes. Because I’ve started to run out of breath walking up my stairs. Because I keep finding clothes that I love that no longer fit… among a lot of other things.

Yes, I’m all about being comfortable in the skin you’re in. That’s part of living a happy life. But when things start to affect your health, it becomes more than just loving your body as it is. I’ve hit the heaviest I’ve been ever in life, but I’ve been happy with life for the most part (Maybe not in the relationship department, but that’s another story for another time…). Not really caring about what I’ve been eating, because food is bae. I’ve just been really reckless with how I’ve treated my body. The whole while I knew what I was doing. Fast food and restaurant foods for most of my meals during the week. Beers and Liquor almost every day. I’ve been “living it up”.

I’ve never been the “biggest” person. Other than being tall, people used to think I was skinny for the longest, and I still get comments about not really looking “big” to this day. I don’t know if people were just being nice, or actually felt that way, but it did help me feel more comfortable with myself and my weight, because at one point I really wasn’t comfortable with it. I still have problems with it but I’m aware of my situation and that I need to control it before its too late. Back in the day, I used to follow all of these crazy unrealistic Instagram pages who seem to lose weight in like 5 seconds. Looking for the miracle workouts to make me lose weight faster. But over time I got over that after I realized that this was damaging to myself. I realized my worth and my sanity wasn’t worth it and I started focusing on loving the skin I was in. But as time went along, I gained more weight, and it made it harder to love the skin I was in. Not because I didn’t look like a model, but because I knew I was not taking care of myself properly.

So, as of today, I’ve made a promise to myself to work towards a healthier lifestyle again. To get back in the gym, and eat better overall. This is a process to be a better me and ensure that I live to be 150 years old; or try towards it anyway :-). I don’t only want to lose weight and look better. I want to get my health back in order. That is my top priority. I don’t care about the six pack abs or the hard rock pecs. I just want to not feel tired all the time and not die sooner rather than later in life. Thankfully though, losing weight is a wonderful by-product of living a healthier lifestyle and additionally, I get to do something I thoroughly enjoy, which is working out (^_^).

This blog will never be a fitness blog and I don’t want it to be. Sure, while I go through the process of being healthier, I will share my successes and most likely rant about my setbacks, because that’s a part of the process. As you all know, I usually blog about my life and my journey as a whole and this is a part of it. So while I restart this journey of becoming more healthy, I will also work more to love myself flaws and all, because only I can guarantee myself that. But I will also strive to become a better, healthier, and non “getting tired while walking up on flight of stairs” person as well. Because I want to love the skin I’m in for a very long time.

I’m Tired of Myself Not Showing Up and Out for Myself

A few days ago I posted a pic of me in a pink jumpsuit and everyone was kind enough to give me compliments about it out the wazoo. I almost didn’t post it, because I thought I looked ugly and fat. Last week, I posted a post about how my spiritual journey is not what most people expect and my beliefs don’t align with majority of the people I know. I almost didn’t post it because I was fearful of rejection. I am making some major life changes and am doubtful at every turn and tell little people about it because I’m afraid I look stupid or flakey. I set boundaries that are healthy for me and then feel immensely guilty because people don’t agree. I don’t want children because it isn’t for me, but feel constant pressure to explain why, and so I never talk about it, missing out on opportunities to inspire others because I’m worried about others opinions or being seen as less desirable as a romantic partner.

I could go on and on with examples like these. But what I really want, is to never have another example like this in my life. I am beyond done with not showing up and showing out for my own damn life and living it on my terms. My whole job as a therapist is centered around telling others to show up for themselves, why the hell do I not do this for me? I am tired of being bound by shit that has no positive or fulfilling purpose in my life.

My body image has held me back for years. I don’t pursue the men I want, I sometimes don’t wear the clothes I want, I avoid pictures, and I have spent too many days crying over fat rolls, doing only certain exercises to decrease fat, apologizing when I eat a donut, ans comparing myself to beautiful women. Today, I declare myself beautiful, with fat rolls, and worthy. Fuck your beauty standards I’ve internalized. I can be active and overweight and healthy and eat donuts.

I’m tired of playing small in every aspect. I will assert my truth, I will not stop talking about Black things, I will not stop talking about equity, I will not stop when you are uncomfortable, call me an angry Black woman, tell me to be sweeter. I will not stop sharing my ideas. It’s not me to be quiet or small. It’s not my soul. It kills me when I do it. I will not commit soul genocide anymore.

I’m tired of settling. I will go for jobs in my career that invigorate me, challenge me, and call me to step into the leadership position that I am called to be. I won’t be anyone’s entry level anything anymore. I will walk in my strengths humbly, but not self deprecatingly.

I will not settle with men. I deserve what I want. My body will not be used for pleasure unless I say so, and I will not settle for a man that does nothing less than challenges me to be better, loves and cares for me, can hold his own, and also is what I want. No more nice guys with potential, and certainly no more fuck boys here to waste my time. No more half committed, empty words, me chasing you, you being too cool. Stand beside me, be ready to commit, or get to walking. Also, this isn’t only your descision; I actively get to choose. I’d certainly rather be alone than to deal with any BS.

Listen. I’m ready to show up and show out for myself. I am tired of playing it safely and diminishing my light. I am soft and fierce and courageous and change maker and I no longer have a choice but to live up to this. And I’m excited AF.

So please know, I am showing up for myself in a big way and I hope you join me. But if it makes you uncomfortable, IDGAF.

To all the women…

To all the women, like myself, who saw this meme and realized we were a “Ford F-150 extended cab 4×4 with pro Tow Package…

To all the women who are still trying to lose pregnancy weight 12 years later…

To all the women whose stomach sticks out further than their boobs or butt…

To all the women whose waist is not shaped like an hour glass…

To all the women who get super excited when they see unaltered images in your Lane Bryant emails

But even then feel self conscious because your body doesn’t even look “that good”…

To all the women who know there actually is an answer to this question…

And you fall on the wrong side of the scale…

To all the women who have made them self sick from dieting and exercising with little to no results…

To all the women who judge them selves harsher than anyone in the world ever will…

To all the women who know that very few people in the world respond this way

But you hold out hope that one day you’ll find someone who does…

For all the women who have been offered random fitness advice by people you don’t know or barely know…

To all the women who hate the gym…

To all the women who bought gym memberships in January but haven’t gone back…

To all the women who struggle to fit in airplane seats…

To all the women who crave chocolate cake during their period and afterwards…

To all the women who consistently give into cravings…

To all the women who know the pain that is “chub rub”…

To all the women who have decided they aren’t good enough based on something someone else has said or done…

Know this

And this

And we are gorgeous just the way we are.