Fitness Update

Fitness and healthy eating has remained a huge part of my daily life, but I haven’t posted about it recently. Over the last six years I’ve worked hard to reach numerous fitness goals, have challenged myself with various changes in my diet, taken supplements, taken classes, worked closely with a personal trainer, and finally I’ve ended up here. Happy. And at a mentally stable place with my eating and exercise habits. So that’s why I haven’t been writing about it. I just feel good and normal, with nothing to report.

Then I saw that picture. The one posted up there at the header. My personal trainer snapped it of me a couple weeks ago and posted it to social media. I literally clicked on the tagged post and for a few seconds didn’t understand why she tagged me. Sure, I have a mask and hat on. But that’s no excuse to not recognize yourself. Once I realized it was me I still had a hard time believing that was my actual body. In my own mind, the only way I could convince myself was by verifying my outfit. Adidas NMDs, check. Engagement ring, check.

Seriously. In my mind, I’m still in the “before” picture body.

Most of us spend a fair amount of time taking pictures of ourselves. Those of us on a “fitness journey” may take more than most. I used to take pictures all the time. Usually ones I would never share. In a bikini, same light, same posture, hopefully thinner here. Thicker there. But living in your own body on a daily basis distorts your view. And some things you see, but I’m convinced that most details are lost. Until you literally do not recognize yourself. For better or for worse.

I’m sharing this with you because my goals have evolved from weight loss, to toning, to endurance, and landed solidly about five years ago at muscle building and strength. I’ve been putting in the daily work for YEARS, yet I was still unwilling to give myself and my body any recognition for it. Whether consciously or unconsciously, I just couldn’t see the changes. Like, really see them. I stopped craving the physical validation, but in doing so I forgot to see my progress. I stopped beating myself up (yay!) but forgot to give myself the gold stars I earned.

What’s funny about that is I’m not unhappy about it. I am actually the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m 32 years old and finally comfortable in my body. I’m strong, capable, my hip dips only go away when I drop to an unhealthy weight I will not sustain, and I’ve accepted that as okay. Do I love them and call them beautiful on a daily basis? Nope. But do I actively curse them every time I get dressed in the morning? Not anymore. I happily wear leggings to work when I’m bloated, and if something is too tight I don’t take it personally. I don’t count calories or macros. I don’t own a scale and haven’t weighed myself in years. I don’t feel guilt associated with food, and most of the time I happily enjoy working out. The only time I get angry with clothes is when the arms are too short. And that, while annoying, is not something I take personal responsibility for. It seems silly to me now, that I used to make things like my feet being a size 9 (“too big”) and the unflattering nature of low rise jeans on my body MY problem. As if societal standards of beauty are my body’s responsibility to uphold and low rise jeans are a reason to beat myself up. Yet we all let ourselves take those things personally. Fuck that.

It’s taken me a long time to get here. I’m not perfect and things will still bother me from time to time, but I practice active resistance. It’s the bra’s problem, not my breasts’ problem. You know what I mean? I think that’s the key to finding your strength. Recognizing that those norms are all made up. Probably by some guy in a board room filled with mostly a bunch of other guys. And then let it go because it’s not our responsibility to fit our boob into the cup they gave us. (I’m being funny, but seriously.) I’m making my own cup. And filling it however I see fit.

I’m lifting more weight every week. I’ve officially gone up an entire jean size in the last six months, and that photo made me realize I’m doing it. I’m getting stronger every day. I just didn’t realize how much.

BEFORE I started strength training / living an entirely plant-based lifestyle.
Almost 5 years of strength training and living an entirely plant-based lifestyle.

So, now for the details.

Out of respect for my amazing trainer and nutrition coach Katie, owner of Rebel Strength & Wellness (who I’ve been working with this entire time), I will not post exact workouts. But here is the routine I’m currently on:

Workout 5 Days / Week

Day 1: Personal Training: Heavy Lower Body Hack Squat / Leg Press, 50 Min

Day 2: At Home: Heavy Upper Body Bench / Misc, 1 Hour

Day 3: At Home: Heavy Lower Body Deadlift / Misc, 1 Hour

Day 4: At Home: HIIT Style Booty / Legs with body weight and resistance bands, 1 Hour

Day 5: At Home: Heavy Lower Body Squat / RDL, 1 Hour

The other two days of the week I give myself the option to rest, or do something easy and relaxing, like going on a walk. Because of the pandemic I have not been going to Pilates or Yoga, but hope to add those back in as soon as possible. They help with flexibility, core strength, and form.

The other important piece of my current fitness routine is my nutrition. As I said earlier, I intuitively eat all vegan / plant-based foods. To supplement that, I take a multivitamin, vegan BCAA, B12, B6, Magnesium, Zinc, Cranberry, and CBD. I no longer use protein powder or other supplements. Also, the fact that I quit drinking alcohol and eating refined sugars about two and a half years ago cannot be left out. Those have been game changers.

Stay tuned for a detailed “What I Eat in a Week” post. Coming soon.

Trainer / Nutrition Coach: https://instagram.com/rebel_strengthandwellness?igshid=eyp25nciwhom

Answering My Own Women in Business Interview Questions: Part 2

Today’s interview consists of my favorite questions from previous interviews. Some of them have been altered slightly.

Photos by: Annika Botha https://www.annikabotha.com/

Why did you decide to build a career in the beauty industry?

The simple answer is because I’m a naturally creative person who loves to do makeup. Even when I wasn’t very good at it, I was still pretty good at it. And because my parents instilled a great deal of unearned confidence in me as a child, I kept practicing and getting better even when the eyeliner was too thick, my brows looked too dark, or someone called me a “clown” with too much blush on. It never seemed to phase me much. I didn’t take it personally because my creations were always somewhat separate from myself. More like art, less like glamour.

I think that careers in the beauty industry can absolutely be trained, taught, and learned. However, I think that many of the most successful beauty professionals I know have a bit of natural talent somewhere. Whether it’s practical, like makeup application, or a little bit more abstract, like the ability to communicate well and deeply empathize with others.

The complicated answer is more along the lines of the Oprah quote: “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you intend.” I always positioned myself in a job near to the beauty industry. My original idea was to join my best friend Ashley Ellix, and attend beauty school right out of high school. Then go to college to get my writing degree once I had a career that could pay for it. I graduated when I was seventeen, and my parents wouldn’t allow it. Beauty school dropout and all that, I guess. So I went to journalism school first. Looking back on it, that allowed me to seriously build my knowledge in the industry. Working at Victoria’s Secret (running their beauty department), Estee Lauder, doing freelance artistry and working the front desk at a spa paid the bills while I was in college, but provided me with some serious beauty experience. And a lot of real business experience.

I moved up the ladder and was offered a couple of different pathways: climbing the corporate chain with Victoria’s Secret, or becoming a full time esthetician at a spa I worked at. I chose the latter, knowing that small business was more my style, and I didn’t know if I wanted to leave the area. Years later I was approached about a business partnership and the idea of owning (or co-owning) my own skincare and makeup studio was suddenly an option. I had never considered that before. A couple of years later after that deal fell through, I opened my own studio. You get what you intend. Even if you’re not exactly sure what that looks like.

I think that for me it was always important that I have a job that allowed me to be creative, and work as far away from “the man” as possible. I work very well with others, however, I do not work well with bosses. I think that just as important, coming out of college with a ton of student debt, from a family that struggled with money, I needed to work in an industry that could give me monetary security. News writing is not that industry. It doesn’t pay very well, and it’s highly politicized so I knew my dreams of writing about what I was passionate about would be crushed, leaving me disillusioned. I also think that in the back of my mind I somehow knew that I wanted to keep writing close, to save it for later when I could choose what I would write about.

Now, my beauty career is more about community and entrepreneurship and less about the art. Reconciling those two aspects of business is the journey I’m currently on. But I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else.

What’s it like working with your sister?

It’s the most stress-free work environment I can imagine because we both just do our jobs. I know that sounds incredibly simplistic, but it’s the truth. We take care of our clients, show up on time, keep the shop clean, offer the same level of service, and are basically on the same page regarding all political and social issues that we may encounter as a business. Essentially, we don’t have to deal with any annoying coworker or boss issues, and we can trust each other with the business as a whole, and with each other’s clients.

Most people assume that we spend a lot of time together, but because we’re estheticians and spend 99% of our time in our treatment rooms, we actually see each other for about ten minutes a day. So we have to schedule time outside of work to see each other!

I love working with Christina and am happy that I was able to create a safe space for us to work together and build our careers. As an older sister it also makes me feel proud to watch her succeed.

Do you think working with predominantly female clientele and colleagues help to create a sense of community? If so, why?

YES. The answer to this question is simple for me. The more women I collaborate with, meet, and have as clients, the more full my life becomes, and the stronger our community and world become.

As girls, we’re taught the lie that women don’t work well together. That we are “catty, not supportive, back-stabbing,” and “dramatic” when we form groups. This is a lie the patriarchy constructed to keep us separated from each other, and out of our collective power. I believe with ever fiber of my being that our liberation lies is collaboration and empowerment of other women.

Women are people. We are individuals. We all have personalities and problems and flaws. We will not all get along with each other. However, there is nothing written in our DNA that states that once too many of us enter into the same room, we magically turn into passive aggressive bitches. We need to unlearn it, and I think the way that I’ve unlearned this lie is by putting myself in room after room after room full of women. In beauty school, in college (I was a Woman’s Studies minor), at work in a female-dominated industry, and by actively going to other businesses owned and run by women.

All the business connections I’ve made, the friends that have lifted me up, the opportunities I’ve been recommended for and the success I’ve had in my industry are all possible due to a strong network of women. Plain and simple.

What is beauty to you and how do you use your work to foster this idea?

To me, beauty is a lot of things. But mostly it’s a choice. Beauty is whatever you need it to be in that moment, for you, because ultimately it’s a feeling, and it’s fluid.

We have all been taught (especially as women) what is considered “beautiful.” I think that real beauty comes in the messy unlearning of that false ideal. In discovering what makes you feel good, happy, healthy and whole.

Beauty can be the full face of makeup you put on to cover up your sadness, or the full face of makeup you put on because you’re happy. It can be the feeling you get from a clean face. It can be art. It can be practical. It can be a feeling of calm, or a feeling of excitement. It can be messy or orderly. Dark or light, subtle or loud. It can take physical form outside the body in many ways but it’s also something inside of us.

At this point in my career, I think that one of the most important things I try to keep in mind is that my goal is to help you to feel beautiful. So my real job is to discover what that means. Not to impart my own ideas of what beautiful should be.

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned from spending so much time with women of different backgrounds and life situations?

I’ve learned that I don’t know everything, and I should be grateful for what I have.

I would elaborate, but I think that is fairly self explanatory.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone wanting to enter into the beauty industry as a professional?

I learned this piece of advice from a dear friend and someone I would consider a mentor: You teach people how to treat you.

This is true in your personal life, but also in business. As a new beauty professional you will want to take every client that calls, work long and unpredictable hours, try to be nice when people don’t show up or cancel last minute, and make every concession to accommodate new clients. I did all of these things for years.

And while I absolutely think that working hard and being flexible in the beginning of your career is integral to building a solid long-term clientele, I also think that you will attract people who value the same principles and boundaries that you establish. Do you want clients that show up on time? Be prompt. Do you want clients that rarely cancel? Rarely cancel. Do you want clients that treat you like a professional? Treat your clients with professionalism.

This will, over time, eliminate potential clients that don’t understand why you’re treating them this way. Clients who are always late will rarely be compatible with a professional that always runs on time. Clients who text you at midnight will rarely be compatible with someone who clearly states their business hours in response to those texts. I also think that this helps your clients to see you as a person with a life outside of your business, not simply a service person obligated to wait on them.

Photos by: Annika Botha https://www.annikabotha.com/

What if Our Cycle is an Advantage Rather than a Liability?

As a thirteen year old girl in the eighth grade I was taught that my period was something unfortunate I had to deal with. It was a miserable curse bestowed upon me once I was old enough to get pregnant – a shameful experience. I was taught to keep quiet about it because it would make others uncomfortable, especially boys who thought it was “gross.” I learned to internalize the emotional and physical pain because I was taught it was unavoidable, and there’s no point in discussing it, since I couldn’t be fixed. I was taught it was messy, uncomfortable, painful, and ultimately a sign of weakness.

My period was a gateway to my unrelenting and unfortunate tendency as a female, toward emotional and irrational thinking and behavior. An inconvenience for potential partners. It would overtake me each month, turn me into a weaker and angrier version of myself, and this narrative would justify every societal and personal subordination I would endure in life. Until I hit menopause, when we’d intensify the emotional roller coaster and subtract the period and the impossible task of being a presentable sex object 24/7, that never shows a sign of actually being a woman in her physical body.

I was 31 years old when I learned that bleeding is only one of four phases of my cycle, and that almost every bit of what we’ve learned and internalized about ourselves and our periods isn’t true. On some level every woman (and some others, I’m sure) know that simplifying the female reproductive system down to period and able to make babies is ridiculous. The fact that a woman’s body is powerful enough to create life seems to be more complicated than that. When you zoom out and start to look at how complex, intuitive, and strong women are, we are forced to confront the uncomfortable reality that the only parts we learned about our physical bodies from public education and some of our parents are the parts that have to do with the immediately external. Things that affect men or the people around you. Things that define you as either a baby maker or a non-baby-maker, someone who needs to be controlled because we hold the power to control the ultimate outcome.

Women’s bodies have been politicized all over the world for centuries, but this is not what this post is about. This post is about the knowledge that can liberate you from the seemingly hopeless period drudgery, and from the negative mental loop many of us grew up teaching ourselves was normal – to hate what our bodies are capable of. Learning about the four phases of my cycle has opened up an entire world of possibility and has inspired me to flip everything I thought I knew on it’s head. I now look at my cycle as an opportunity to wield my power as a woman, connect with nature, and optimize my life in all areas, outside the masculine “efficiency” paradigm. Men teach how to optimize your life within 24 hour cycles. Why are women working so hard to conform to this strategy when we would be better served to “optimize our lives” working on a 28 day cycle? Because the world is set up to serve the patriarchy, and because no one taught us how. Imagine what our life could have been like if we were taught as girls that our cycles made us stronger? That they were an advantage, rather than a liability.

I plan to write about this topic more as I advance on my journey to essentially “biohack” my cycle to improve every area of my life. It’s extremely complex and I imagine I will be working on this daily and improving it forever as I learn and change. Today’s post builds the foundation by very briefly explaining the behavioral aspects of the four phases and giving you resources to do further research – I’m sharing the information I wish I had years and years ago. Once I had this basic foundation, I was fascinated by how much more I could learn.

I gravitate toward this form of “self-improvement” because it’s empowering – it does not ignore or omit my femininity altogether, or label it as an unfortunate side effect of my existence as a woman – it treats every aspect of your cycle as an advantage, as it should be. Woman as center. I feel like in the last eight months of close observation, I’ve already been able to make small changes with big impacts. It may seem silly to alter and plan my workout routine, my foods, my work schedule, my projects, and my social events around my cycle, but I think that is the key to unlocking your feminine power. It only sounds silly because we’ve been taught that our emotions, empathy, and intuition make us weak, when the opposite is true.

The Four Phases:

Follicular

Duration 7-10 Days

Season: Spring

Women Archetype: The Virgin Warrior

Moon: Waxing

This phase begins after your bleed ends when hormones are at low levels and slowly begin to increase in concentration. This is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, openness to new things, and creativity. This is the most productive phase of your cycle. Brainstorming and creative capability is high so this is a great time to start new projects, go to events, or try new hobbies or things at work.

Ovulatory

Duration: 3-4 Days

Season: Summer

Woman Archetype: The Mother/Lover

Moon: Full

During this phase there is a dramatic rise in estrogen. You may feel more social and your communication skills are on point. This is the time in your cycle when your intuition and awareness are at an all time high, and you have extra energy to burn.

Luteal

Duration: 10-14 Days

Season: Fall

Woman Archetype: The Enchantress or Wild Woman

Moon: Waning

This phase is marked by steady and declining physical energy levels as your body prepares for the Menstrual Phase. You may begin this phase with high social and physical energy but may feel the need to turn inward as it progresses. Your connections with other women feels stronger, however your need for introspection may increase so this is a great time for writing, journaling, and working on projects alone. Your brain chemistry is optimized for organization, task completion, and detail orientation at this time At the end of this phase anxiety levels may begin to rise as well, so holding boundaries and protecting self is important.

Mentrual

Duration: 3-7 Days

Season: Winter

Woman Archetype: The Wise Woman

Moon: New

This is a time of new beginnings, and a perfect phase for reflection and looking inward. This is a great time to rest (since physical energy levels are lower) and spend time reflecting on the last month and everything that worked and didn’t work for you. Objective decision making should be done during this phase because your ability to analyze situations and intuit what needs to be done are both strengths. Strategize for the month ahead.

Cited Sources and Further Research for Beginners:

In the Flow, Alisa Vitti

My FLO App

Expanded Podcast With Lacy Phillips, Episode 80, “In the Flo with Alisa Vitti, Female Hormone and Functional Nutrition Expert.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/expanded-podcast-with-lacy-phillips/id1419732648?i=1000464207886

Limitless Life Podcast With Melyssa Griffin, 9/24/20, “How to Use Your Menstrual Cycle to Plan Your Life.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/limitless-life/id1251824599?i=1000492348580

FemmeHead YouTube Channel, 3/22/18, “Make the Most Out of the Phases of Your Cycle.” https://youtu.be/4PJgCLsnF_o