New Body, Who Dis?

Confidence: Hard to explain, easy to lose and connected to most everything we do. Confidence is elusive, one minute we’ve got it and then with the swipe on a social media site, it’s gone. Or maybe, you’re like me and didn’t know real confidence until adulthood.

I’ve been on this get healthy journey since October. Until you forge this path for yourself, you won’t have any idea how much of an impact it makes on your mental and emotional health, in addition to your physical health. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I’m not just shredding pounds but an old identity.Identity

I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember. I was never picked first for a team during recess. I couldn’t do a sit up or push up during the physical fitness challenges in gym class. I’ve wore a size 16 since I was 12 years old. I could never share clothes with my friends. I’ve always thought of myself as big: bigger in size and in personality. Loud, talkative and dramatic, I often saw my personality as a liability, likely because others told me that, both about my physical appearance and about how I acted. I’ve defined myself this way since childhood and suddenly (ok it feels like suddenly) all of that has changed.

 

With each pound dropped, I’ve found this confidence that’s been hidden inside. I present my point of view during meetings with authority. I find myself flirting (!!!) without a care in the world. I check myself out in the mirror and practically dance down the street to work. At my core, I’m the same person, with the same values and sarcastic wisecracks. But I feel different, like a new world has opened up to me.

I’m slowly starting to shed this old, big identity. It’s really hard to rewrite this script, to look in the mirror and finally like the woman I see. And it’s even harder to stop thinking that my personality is too much. It might be for some and that is on them, she says as her voice shakes. One foot in front of the other, one day at time, I’m building this new, more positive identity.

Presenting at TWN panel

Presenting at the Temple Women’s Network panel in my new Banana Republic outfit!

A big step in this process was to go shopping. I always hated shopping because stores wouldn’t have my size or the dress I loved looked terrible. Avoidance was a key strategy here. It took an alumni event for me to go buy clothes that actually fit. What a feeling to buy a size 12, to love how I look in spring dresses, to buy clothes in Banana Republic…I can’t even describe it!

It took 27.5 years to truly understand what it means to feel confident. Goes to show you that it’s never too late to transform an old identity into one that is more self-serving. Getting healthy has not only changed by physical health, it also improved my mental and emotional well-being. It really has been a mind, body, soul experience that I’m happy to share with others.

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Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Karen and I have no reason to work together. While on the same, broader team but our respective worlds don’t often intersect. Thanks to my loud mouth and Karen’s intuition, we’re each other’s advocates and cheerleaders.

Last spring after my performance review, I marched into Karen’s office ranting about my feedback. It was fair but I didn’t feel like I was given the opportunities to manage. How then would I be promoted if I hadn’t had opportunities to manage?! How was I suppose to create them? Hindsight being 20/20, only I could create them but moving on. Karen listened as I rambled and then offered me the opportunity to share interns with her for the summer. I was 100% in.

We ended up sharing three college interns and it was

Interns

Selfie before our presentation!

an incredible experience. Karen threw me into the deep end at first, making me stretch outside my comfort zone. These impressionable college students showed up on a Monday morning and I had zero of an idea what to do. Luckily, Karen provided guidance via text as I was internally freaking out. I never had interns before nor had I created assignments for anyone or given formalized feedback. I adjusted as needed, shifting my communications style and priorities almost daily. It was hard to balance them and my other work while trying to stay composed as I knew these impressionable souls were watching my every move.

In the end, it all paid off. The interns worked on a meaningful data analysis project that they presented to my directors. We collectively nailed it! The data they pulled together influenced some major decisions. It is one of the highlights of my career. We all left work that day feeling extremely proud!

If I didn’t share my feedback (and frustration) with Karen, I wouldn’t of had the opportunity to manage these interns. It turned out to be so much more than a management opportunity. Now we’re planning for this year’s interns and I can’t wait for this experience all over again, knowing I’ll be even more comfortable and confident this time.

Ask for help. Go after what you what. Find people who will help you reach your goals, who have your back. Have difficult conversations with your managers about new opportunities and promotions. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. I’m so glad I asked and couldn’t have dreamed of a better experience.

Get-Comfortable-Being-Uncomfortable-comfort-zone

40 Days of Kindness

I’m typing this as I sit in Newark airport waiting for a friend. An elderly woman with several shopping bags sat next to me and plugged her phone in. She then laid out a blanket and I had a choice: to assume positive intent or expect the worst. And then she took out her Bible and began to pray. I see you, universe.

The world we live in is one where you have to be on guard. I took the train into the airport and walked right into the baggage area. No security. I’ve literally been thinking about this since it happened last week.

choose kindSo how do you do both? How do you stay vigilant, but kind? How do you not rush to judgements but also know when to trust your gut. I don’t know. And it’s the people who are the most threatening that need the most kindness. Look at the mass shootings over the last few years. These shooters are the ones we as a society missed. They fell through the cracks. The majority had some type of documented mental illness or behavioral issue. I’m not saying just be nice to someone and their illness magically goes away. But listening, caring and even a simple smile can change the trajectory of someone’s day.

What if they don’t want your kindness?! I smile at people on the subway and they look at me like I’m crazy likely because no one has ever done that to them before. Behavior is learned. If you never experienced kindness, or love, or encouragement or empathy before, how are you supposed to react? We as the human population have to get better at talking to people who are different from us. Different does not only mean look different, but have different experiences, beliefs and values.

Given it’s Lent and like the good Catholic girl I am, I’ve really been thinking about what should I do more of for the next 40 days. I’m not a fan of giving something up, but rather would want to take action.  So, I am committing to being more kind, to show more understanding, especially to those closest to me. It’s interesting that I can smile at strangers and strike up conversations, but I don’t do that with those in my inner circle. Something to ponder for the next 40 days.

I’m really interested on people’s perspective here. There’s such a fine line given the world we live in today. Please share your thoughts respectfully in the comments section.

everyone is fighting a battle

 

I Am Miranda Bailey

Let me first start by saying I am a dedicated Grey’s Anatomy fan, which means Thursday nights are a form of religion for me. Whether it’s realistic or not, I’m committed.

Before I tell my story, I want to acknowledge that I am not 100% Miranda Bailey. I will never know what it feels like to be an African American woman. It is another complex layer to Bailey’s story that I cannot understand because I don’t have that experience. However, I can say with full confidence that I know the debilitating effects of OCD.

Let me fill you in. In last week’s episode, Dr. Miranda Bailey went to the hospital (not her hospital) because she knew she was having a heart attack. Multiple doctors rejected her claims. At one point when reviewing her medications with the doctor, she mentions an antidepressant to help manage her OCD. She describes precisely how she fights the compulsions daily and knows the doctors are looking at her differently because of it.

Miranda BaileyI nearly stood on my couch and applauded Bailey (and Shonda Rhimes) for going there and saying all the things those of us with OCD and anxiety feel daily. On average, I fight at least a dozen daily thoughts that could hault my entire life. Some are trivial like what to wear, what time to food shop and what episode to catch up on first. Others are far more draining. And every day, I talk myself down, reminding myself that whatever choice will make me happy is the right one. That anxiety is useless and there’s no reason for it. Some days it’s a few deep breaths. Other times, it can take a full hour to rewrite the story and shake the frustrated mood I’ve put myself in.

It has taken me years to get to this place, where the anxiety and OCD are manageable. A combination of experience and meditation have helped immensely. For some, the only way to find some relief from this constant spin is medication, as in Bailey’s case. And THAT. IS. OK. If that’s what it takes to live without the constant second guessing, overthinking and over exaggerating, so be it. Certainly, a person shouldn’t be judged for it. That’s the trick with mental illness: You can’t see so it mustn’t be real. That’s also the problem. I am SO glad Grey’s Anatomy went there because it needs to be addressed. Just think: This is an accomplished, educated Chief of Surgery who knows what a heart attack is. Yet, she wasn’t’ taken seriously because of her OCD, her gender and her race. What chances does the everyday women without a medical degree have when she walks into the ER?!

You can have OCD and anxiety, but still make rational decisions. Honestly, the older I get, the more I can sense when my obsessiveness is shining through versus knowing something is right in my gut. There’s definitely a difference and it’s through much self-reflection that I’ve been able to listen to myself more and trust myself again.

To the millions out there working through these suffocating conditions, hang in there. Get and ask for help if you need it. Every adult should have a good therapist and a favorite ice cream flavor stocked in their fridge at all times. You can and will overcome. You’ll learn that life is too damn short to obsessed over nail polish color or missing a family occasion. No matter what you do, it’s never enough time anyways.

be gentle

 

Speak Your Truth…Even If Your Voice Shakes

What’s your truth? That’s a big question that could be answered in so many ways. No matter what, it’s personal, whether it includes your values, experiences or mission. And when someone speaks their real, authentic truth, it’s undeniable.

Golden Globes tweetWhile watching the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, I tweeted part of Oprah’s acceptance speech (see photo to the left). Somehow, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer found my tweet and wanted to interview me. She asked me a few questions that got me thinking: How do you verify someone’s truth?

You listen, like put the phone down, look someone in the eye listening.

We live in a world where anyone can jump on any bandwagon. Agree with a tweet from a celebrity? Just retweet it. Anyone can hide behind a hashtag. We also move a million miles an hour, multitasking whenever possible as to cram an extra six things into our day. We sacrifice relationships, eating, sleeping – the basic human necessities, but what happens when you stop and listen?

You learn fact from fiction. When you stop and have a conversation with someone, you build trust. Over time, that trust allows the other person to share the most imitate details of their life. Their truth. Of course, this type of relationship building takes time. But, I promise, it will happen.

Look at the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic team, as an example. If you watched their testimonies, you could see the vulnerability and the rawness of their emotions. Over 140 women banded together and as one shared, more shared. That’s the power in telling your story, in sharing your truth, even when your voice shakes.

Stop. Listen. Take every conversation and interaction in. And share your truth – your unapologetic, emotional truth. Have an opinion, think for yourself and if you would defend it in court, by all means, retweet it.

When we slow down and really hear people’s stories, we help to create a culture where people feel comfortable sharing. A culture of inclusiveness, where all stories are valued, where little girls see how powerful they can become when they step into their truth. Create THAT culture and I’m confident we’ll have less women waiting 20 years to report their harassment or abuse.

As women, sometimes, our voices aren’t always heard. I challenge you to make your presence known: Share an opposing perspective (respectfully), challenge the normal way of doing things, ask for what you need and want. Also, remember, there are men out there who support us. Just because some men harass and abuse does not mean all men harass and abuse.

Speak your truth, even if you voice shakes. Over time, you’ll become steady.

Speak your truth

 

2018 Intentions

Happy 2018 readers! I promised I’d be back in January to talk intentions. So here we go!

For as long as I can remember, I set New Year’s resolutions. Every January, like clockwork, I’d start eating healthy, working out, trying to stop cursing (YEAH RIGHT!), etc. By March, nothing was sticking and I was frustrated, so I gave up. This perpetual cycle was clearly unproductive.

About three years ago, I was searching for an alternative to New Year’s resolutions. At that time, my friend KJ shared a post on Facebook about choosing intentions for the year by picking three words you want to live by. I don’t know if the original idea was KJ’s but his post grabbed my attention. What if I chose words to live by for the next year, words that would dictate my actions and decisions? Ever since, I’ve chosen three words to embody for the coming year. Drumroll…my 2018 words:

  • EASE: I force things – I try to cram 7,000 things into a day. I fight hard for deep, meaningful relationships. While this pays off once in a while, the cost is energy depletion and exhaustion. This year, I am not fighting or forcing, but rather flowing my energy to things that matter to me, like getting healthy.
  • KINDNESS: I am judgy; there I said it. I make decisions about people based on one or maybe two interactions. I don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Given the world we’re currently living in, I want to listen more and give an extra measure of grace. As the quote goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” This is SO true – I have no idea what someone is struggling with when I make a rash judgement.
  • OWNERSHIP: Hmm, this *might* be the hardest one. I am notorious for having big emotions, both good and bad. I don’t always own up as to why I’m reacting in a certain way. I am cracking down on my triggers in 2018 and keeping a journal where I can document them. No more outbursts or excuses!

I’m excited for my intentions and the year ahead! These are bold word choices for me, so please hold me accountable. More importantly, share your word(s) with me! I’m always interested in everyone’s intentions.

hello 2018.png

Food is Love

And that’s ok!

Growing up Italian, all family gatherings revolved around good food. Think pasta, cheeses, meats, bread and dessert…typically enough to feed a small army. My favorite childhood memories involve cooking with my mom. I still love watching her cook. And there’s a certain level of joy in eating a home cooked meal. We even had the clean plate club as kids.

It’s no surprise that today, I love to cook and feed people. It makes me happy and I love bringing people together over a meal. It’s probably also not surprising that I’ve struggled with weight issues my entire life and could eat an entire pizza without struggle. Let me be clear: I am in no way blaming my loving family for my weight issues. That’s 100% on me. However, growing up that way I did cultivated a love affair with food, one that requires attention.

I’ve been dieting in one way or another since I was 12. Something finally clicked this October when joined Beachbody and decided once and for all, to get healthy, not diet. For the last two months, I’ve meal prepped, measured, worked out and been a part of this amazing Beachbody community. I feel strong, healthy and have more energy than I did 10 years ago. I was going to weigh in this morning so I could share my progress. But honestly, it’s not about the scale. I could obsess over a number or I could go with how I feel. I choose the latter.
progress not perfectionSure, I’ve digressed in the last two months. My mom’s stuffing at Thanksgiving is an all time favorite and I had this amazing ravioli at one of my favorite spots in Philly. I’ve learned that it’s ok to indulge but then move on. Don’t go down the slippery slope and don’t guilt trip yourself; it does nothing. It’s about balance, planning and loving yourself. Every. Single. Inch. I look in the mirror today and loveeeeee the woman I see. All of this also does wonders for a girl’s mental state.

Leave a comment or drop me a note if you want to learn more. This is not an ad for Beachbody, that’s not my style. BUT as a big believer in the power of community, it worked for me, after trying zillions of programs. At the end of the day, it’s about focusing on you and feeling good. That’s all that matters! I’m not ready to share before and after pictures yet, but I promise it’s on the 2018 blog post list.

I’ll see you all in 2018! Check back in early January for my words of the year post!

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