We Did It! Our Whole30 Experience

When my prized pair of skinny jeans absolutely wouldn’t zip… and I seriously couldn’t find one outfit apart from yoga pants that I felt comfortable in, I knew I had to make a change. Here’s the real truth though: I’m great at working out – I love taking new classes and going for runs. But when it came to eating, last year, I made some pretty awful choices… over and over again.

Now, I’m not beating myself up too much – but instead of just going on some diet, I wanted to do something that would really, truly make a difference in my life. I didn’t want to stay on a diet for the rest of my life, but I needed a lifestyle kick to put my habits back into check, changes my cravings and get my portion control back on track.

My lovely roommate, Christina, had a brilliant idea: let’s do Whole30 together!

Pre-Whole 30!

Pre-Whole 30!

For those of you who are unfamiliar – Whole30 cuts out refined/processed sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, legumes and booze. After the 30 days are complete, you gradually add back in those things to see how your body responds – that way you know what’s good for you and what’s not really compatible with your digestive system.

We’ve both learned so much and seen so many changes in how we feel and look. See some recipes, our inches and weight loss, before/after photos and advice:

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6 Reasons You’re More Badass Than You Think

Quick: When you woke up this morning and looked in the mirror, did you say something nice or start criticizing flaws? In that work meeting you led a few weeks ago, did you pat yourself on the back, or nitpick every little detail?

When you’re always trying to improve, it’s easy to get caught up in a self-confidence spiral. But here’s the thing: According to several studies, the stories we tell ourselves directly contribute to our happiness level and day-to-day satisfaction.

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Date a Man Who Asks Your Opinion

Date a man who asks your opinion.

One who wants it, who feverishly hangs onto it, prompting you for more, testing your level of commitment. Date a man who loves to hear you talk — about the news, or the traffic on the 1 train or about that girl from your high school who did this crazy thing that OMG, you need to analyze on Gchat. Now. Pick a guy who reads into things or at least, reads. One who challenges the world around him and at times, pushes you to think differently, to release notions and motions you’ve done for so long, you no longer remember why you do them or why they matter or if you like them. Date a man who likes the way you think, instead of wondering if your step, your clothes, your hands and your feet are in sync with one another. Get to know one who can declutter your brain, not one that can unhook your bra with one hand.

Date a man who is a little weird.

And one who thrives on your differences. Those tiny, minuscule things that make you, you. Like how you stick out your tongue when you’re writing or how you ask questions to your dog and answer them in a funny voice or how you fold every magazine you touch in half to absorb the words, not the graphs or the photos. Date a man who might makes a room more interesting instead of more fun, one that holds a conversation instead of igniting one, a man who uses his brain instead of his lines. Don’t be afraid to get to know a guy who yes, is a little nerdy. Yes, a tad strange. He’s the guy that’ll show you more things and give you better dreams than the ones you had before because he’ll demand more. More respect, more intellect. Less game, more play. Be with the guy who you’re surprised you like, but happily so. Easily so.

Date a man that kisses the hell out of you.

On the first date or the second, when it’s slobbery and awkward, intense and emotional. Or none of those things, but still, he kisses you anyway. Because he really, really wants to, and you really, really like the way he tastes. Date a guy who tries his hardest, not just for you, but for him, and especially for the both of you. One that doesn’t needs your permission but wants your advice, one that doesn’t need to say good night, but like the way you say “sweet dreams” in return. Date a man who savors your sweetness but stimulates your boldness. One that treasures the silence and laughs when the quiet continues too long. Date a man who you can do nothing and everything with and feel content because his company is yours.

Date a man who brings you peace.

One that calls when he says because he wants to. And one you don’t have to pretend to like to get through a few drinks or a few months because you’re afraid of being by yourself. Because you’re afraid you’re too picky or not forgiving enough, or you’re more scared your friends think you are, though they disguise it with clever affirmations. Be with a man who has you mostly figured out, and loves the mysteries that come in the long term, because things always change. Bodies, addresses, jobs, likes, hates, hours, governments, neighborhoods, rents and minutes and love. And life. Be with a guy who can make you laugh, even if he’s not all that funny or insanely clever, as long as he brings some simplicity to your spiraling thoughts, your unproven, distracting fears. Wait for the guy that makes it all a little easier, not because the relationship is without fault but because you forgive one another when it comes.

Date a man who likes himself.

Even if he’s comes across arrogant at first, give it a date for his shield to come down. As many walls as you’ve built, brick-by-brick, bad-date-by-worse-one, he’s built them too, and they need time to shatter. Date a guy who knows he’s good, that is proud of his life and all of the things and people in it. One that doesn’t mind being by himself, who actually enjoys his independence, who knows he’s secure and yes, happy. Be with a guy who has a lot of friends, who doesn’t resent his parents or at least has forgiven them if he needs to, who has grown enough to see people as people, not as heroes. Be with a guy who greets the deli manager and thanks the waitress, who tolerates screaming children enough to want one, one day.

Date a man that you’d be friends with.

If you didn’t want to sleep with him so damn badly, that is. Pick a mate that you’d pick for your most vulnerable friend, and also your most dynamic one, because usually, they’re one in the same. Date a guy whose words you like, with a heart that gives you all it’s might. Pick a man not because he’s Mr. Right or because he came in the pre-packaged set that you always wanted, that you always imagined. Date him because he’s different, because he made the difference, because you’re different – in stupid, ridiculously beautiful ways – because you met him. Because he made you melt, made you softer, made you relax. Be with a guy you’d be happy your future son turned into or your daughter-to-be would date. Pick him because he’s better, not because he’s perfect, not because it’s fated by the stars and the illusions of the universe, but because you want to. Because every last bone in your body says you need to.

Or don’t date him.

Date the other guys instead. The ones who are just-enough (but not really). The ones who leave you lingering because they can, because they will, no matter if it’s you or the next girl or the next that follows. The ones who see promises as options, who aren’t driven by anything inside themselves, except perhaps, their own ego, but mostly, their fear. The ones who make you come, but never arrive when you actually, emotionally, need some support. Or, the ones who maybe are good guys, but just not good enough for you, not enough to get you going, not enough to keep you hungry. The ones who for whatever reason, you can’t pinpoint or decipher, aren’t your match, but you’d rather be matched than be alone. Or one that just doesn’t care much about what you have to say, what you like to do or where you hope you’re going, he’s just along for the ride.

Or are you just along for it?

You can date whoever you like, lady. But me? I’m waiting for the guy who asks for my opinion over soup on the Upper West Side on a chilly fall afternoon, grinning away as he listens. And loving whatever I have to say.

With a Month Left to Go

Eleven months ago today, I started this blog in the cafe of a local grocery store with my legs laid across the chairs, glancing down at my tattered heels as I typed. It was one of those evenings where I was particularly filled with ambition and yearning for a big change in my life. More than any drive though, I was ashamed of myself.

The night before (which happened to be the day after my birthday party), I curled up in the fetal  position of an old Victorian tub, crying my eyes out in hysteria, making demands instead of prayers toward God, and attempting to avoid the scary mold on the shower curtain. I was so distraught because I was so incredibly, pathetically, longingly, ridiculously single.

The months before, I had signed up for OkCupid and PlentyofFish – resulting in plenty of “ok” dates that never turned into anything. I had yet to have sex in New York (I know, sad) after living here for quite some time, and though my friend base existed, I didn’t feel like I had developed any strong connections. I had a job that I liked fine, I was meeting rent, I was living in Manhattan and not in a borough, as I had wanted – and yet something felt like it was missing. I was convinced that I needed a boyfriend to fill that space. Someone to come home, someone to call when I wobbled back to the train on a Saturday night, someone to snuggle up to and kiss, someone to make love to, someone to love me, someone to complete that silly little void I couldn’t shake.

But I didn’t have that, I thought, feeling the hot water pound my stomach. I winced at the thought of being alone, of becoming one of those bitter cat ladies who lived with bookshelf-lined walls in rent-controlled apartments in the West Village, reading about romances they will never have. I was terrified that my looks would go before I could snag a husband, that I wouldn’t be attractive in my wedding dress, but wrinkly instead. That the New York love story I had always wanted was a far-fetched fantasy that wouldn’t come true, unlike every other dream I had for this damn city.

I had already moved to chase what I wanted and so many had hoped I would fail, so many condemned me for just being who I am – but I had made it. I had a foundation and I could walk on it, though as much as I thought I wanted to walk  alone, I was now determined not to. Crying it seemed, felt better than trying. I didn’t want to go out there and date anymore. I didn’t want to shoot arrows on OkCupid or go fishing on PlentyofFish. I didn’t want my nights out with the girls to translate into flirting until some poor chump was suckered into buying us drinks for the rest of the evening. I didn’t want to play the texting game or to act like I was going home with someone when I knew from the beginning I had no intention to. I was looking and searching the faces of strangers, wondering if they would become a lover that would ultimately turn right back into a stranger when the love affair failed.

Because they always do, don’t they?

Wallowing in this self-pity mess, though, I looked down at my naked body and felt the naked emotion running down my cheeks. What was I doing? What was wrong with me? What do I have to complain about? I’m not going to walk the runways, I thought, but I’m attractive. I’m not going to cure cancer, but I have gifts and I’m smart, but most of all I’m brave enough to go after what I want. I’m not perfect, but I accept my flaws. I don’t live in the part of town I want to, but I have faith that I will. Working at a business magazine isn’t my dream job, but I’ll get there, won’t I? I may not have a very best friend, but I have support. I may not be in love, but won’t I be, one day?

And just like that, it clicked. It was time for a change. It was time for me to stop worrying about love and to start living my life. Time to start building it into what I wanted it to be instead of waiting for a pseudo-Prince Charming to rescue me from an existence that was frankly already pretty magical.

So I picked myself up out of the tub, threw on makeup and clothes, and headed to click “Publish” for the first time on this blog. I wanted to really love myself, really define myself, really just be myself without worrying about a man or a lack of one. I never dreamed my decision to create and follow at 12-step program by writing daily for a year would give me what it has. I was shocked to find my blog on the homepage of WordPress, for it to produce dozens of Internet/blog friends from all over the world, to meet a close friend because she figured out the identity of one of the Mr’s. I didn’t expect for its pages to be attacked by an ex-lover and her friends of Mr. Possibility or for friends I haven’t talked to in years to come out of the woodwork to say they relate to what I write, regardless of how old they are, where they are, or what they do.

But all of those things happened and so much more, and now that there is only a month left to go, I’m in awe of what’s changed in the past year. I start my dream job on Monday, I have a beautiful, wonderful best friend who gets me so well, I live in an apartment that I adore and I may even move downtown within the next 12 months, I did have sex and I did fall in love in New York….and I never gave up on writing these posts. No matter the circumstance or what stress was going on in my life, I found a way to come up with something. I was honest and open with myself, my friends, my readers. I believed in the 12 steps and in myself, but did they work?

Time will only tell, but I’ve learned to accept my flaws and my shortcomings, to admit my strong points even if they aren’t deemed significant in the eyes of others. I’m learning how to continuously stand up for myself in relationships and how to walk away before too much damage is done or bridges are burned. I’ve decided that I’d rather be a 37-year-old bride who marries the right man instead of a 27-year-old bride who rushes down the aisle because she’s afraid she won’t find better. I know that if given the choice today to meet the man I’d marry or have my career be booming and fulfilling for the next five years, I’d pick the career over and over. And now, I know that’s not such a bad thing – there is plenty of time for everything we want to have, there’s no deadline for love, there’s no trick to this most-confusing thing called life.

You just have to live it.

And if something or someone asks you to sacrifice parts of yourself for their happiness or for something to work, then you have to have the courage to choose yourself. To love yourself and have faith in the life you know is destined for you instead of hanging onto the notion that something or someone could change. The 12-steps don’t fix obsessive thoughts or an addiction to love – I still have crazy ramblings, and of course, I still want to find that once-in-a-lifetime love.

But it’s not the most important part of me anymore. It’s just a piece of what makes me me, not the end-all-be-all or the start of my happily ever after. For the first time, I’m truly happy with where I am and that’s not dependent on any man or any fairytale I wish to have. It’s merely dependent on me.

With a month left to go, on the 11th step, I’ll be sad to see this blog end, but I sure am thankful for that depressing night in that disgusting tub that made me see the light and take a chance on loving myself.

This Little Light of Mine

When you move from a peaceful, quiet small town to the big city, everyone has an opinion to give and advice to share. They’ll tell you that New Yorkers are rude and brittle, the type of people who are self-centered and egotistical, raised with the mentality of cold, brutal urbanites. These city folk wouldn’t be kind and accepting like the South teaches, New York and its people would swallow me whole if I didn’t fight them every step of the way, proving that I belonged here, too.

I never really believed them though – I was always under the impression that New York gives you what you give it. If you expect disrespect, you’ll find it, if you’re fearful of crime and deception, you’ll face it, and if you think people are up to no good, then you’ll meet those people. But if you approach New York believing that there will always be goodness crossing your path and blessing your way, then you’ll find yourself happy and confident, living the way you could have never imagined.

Because really, being a bitter being is dependent of geography. There are cruel intentions inside of each of us, it’s just that most people allow the sun to shoo away the shadows. There will always be those who are oblivious to the luxuries they enjoy that most do not, and those who are profoundly thankful for all that they’ve earned. New York hasn’t been perfect, and of course there are dangers that loom and precautions you have to take to be safe. It’s not about where you’re located, it’s about being realistic and smart.

I’ve recently received a second wind of admiration for this place – it suddenly feels different. Or maybe I feel different. I’m starting a new amazing job soon, I’m enjoying the company of my friends, and soaking up all those life experiences I’ve always craved. I have an extra kick in my step, a better attitude and a stronger appreciation for all the luck that’s found me. The city seems fresh and new, but I don’t anymore. Instead, I feel like I finally belong. It’s not just a dream anymore, I’m living my reality. And best of all, I worked hard to create it without losing hope or faith in my abilities.

So I’m smiling more these days. I’m taking more time to inhale the buildings and the scene, as well as the characters who flood the streets. I take a stroll instead of rushing on the subway, I treat myself to afternoons sitting under an umbrella with a glass of wine and a new book, watching passerbys and being overly gracious to waiters. The summer will soon pass and then the fall will arrive with its bold colors and cool airs, making all the struggles I’ve faced lately dim memories, simple reflections of the path I picked for myself. But for now, before the next chapter unfolds in this brilliant waiting period, I’m learning to just be.

To take my mother’s advice and remember that I only have to take one step and then another, the rest will work itself out. She’s right – it always does, it always has, no matter how much I’ve thought it wouldn’t or simply couldn’t. It is in the darkness after all, when you’re worried that everything everyone said about New York may in fact be true, that you learn how to let your light shine. You figure out how to keep it flickering and more important, how to breathe new life into it when the old wick isn’t applicable anymore.

And there are always people there to remind you – like today, when I took the uptown train after a glorious breakfast at Ciprani on Fifth and boarded with a group of fellas harmonizing their rustic voices to “This Little Light of Mine.” After the song was over and they were starting to exit, an old man when a crinkled face and sunglasses on, bent over and said, “You have a beautiful day, gorgeous,” and unlike I ever do, I actually thanked him.

Because he recognized, just like I have recently, that after much delay and much hesitation, I’m letting my little light shine. And ya know what? It’s shinin’ mighty fine.

You Look Perfect

Last week, I had an important meeting that had my nerves on fire. Not to mention, I was literally on fire because of the relentless heat in New York lately – I’ve never been more thankful for unexpected rain before. Even if my hair goes flat and frizzy, God bless the downpour and let it flood.

Escaping the burning pavement into one of my favorite buildings in New York that also happens to be one of the greenest, I took in a deep breath to calm my nerves. This meeting could change my life and here it was, getting ready to begin regardless if I had sweat beads trickling down my back or not. I checked in with security, giving my best shot at a grin that hid my nerves, headed up the escalator to reach the elevators that moved so quickly up 40 floors that it made my stomach leap.

Nodding at the elevator attendant who pushed the numbers for me and led me to the cart that would take me up to my could-be future, I entered the doors without acknowledging the man who was sharing the ride with me. As I always do when I’m face-to-face with a mirror, I straightened my hair and attempted to graciously wipe the sweat from my brow without messing up my interview-ready makeup. Playing the part of a girl at a bar mirror, I did a 360, only to notice my tag was untucked. Mouthing the word “s**t” to silently to myself, I tried to carefully conceal it without appearing to ridiculous to this man standing near me. I had avoided eye contact out of embarrassment and because I wasn’t sure if he thought I was some crazy girl fidgeting on an elevator that houses some of the most influential players in publishing.

I didn’t realize, of course, that he happened to be one of them.

As I awkwardly reached across my back, contorting my body to perfect my outfit, I was caught off guard in mid-tuck when this man said, “You look perfect.” Surprised and instantly curling my lips to form a smile, I realized who it was at the same moment he realized who I was. Out of shock, I said his name and thanked him for the compliment while he wished me luck. I would later email him to describe how great it was to run into him before this meeting and he would respond by saying he hoped to see more of me and that my meeting went smoothly.

It did and you know what, I didn’t look perfect.

I didn’t say the perfect things. I didn’t read off a script. I didn’t have the best experience, the best clips, the best anything. I didn’t go to the best journalism school, I didn’t have the most solid background that a journalist of my age and tiny tenure could have. My dress wasn’t expensive and in fact, I didn’t even own it – it belonged to my friend M who thought it looked great on me and encouraged me to take it out for a spin and for some luck. My shoes were a little too big and my face wasn’t as perfectly clear as the models who grace the magazine I hoped to write for.

But I did a great job and more importantly, I was myself. And that’s the best anyone can ever be. If I spent less time worrying about how I looked or if I was saying the right thing or if I was putting on the best show or writing the most diverse articles or being the most creative, and just relaxed – then maybe I’d feel more at ease. Maybe if I could look at myself and say, “You look perfect” instead of criticizing all the ways I didn’t measure up, I’d find that sense of simple confidence that is so attractive, so employable.

Maybe if I looked at myself through the eyes of a stranger instead of the my own eyes, I’d see how perfect I really am…in my own imperfect way.

Daily Gratitude: Today I’m thankful for my friends who encouraged patience the last few months, it finally paid off!

My Chats with God

After a particular stressful evening at the student newspaper in college, I needed some air. So, I decided to do something that always clears my head: go for a run. Not in the mood to go to our 24-hour gym or trot around the track, I decided to just run through town until I couldn’t go anymore.

I was 20 years old and silly – I knew better then to run alone when it was dark outside, and it was nearly midnight. But I went anyway, filled with frustration and stress, wanting nothing more than to feel the wind blowing through my hair and have the cool evening cool my mind. I started at my apartment on the main strip in town, hustled past the Wednesday-night bar-goers, boozy and insisting I join them in my sweats and tee for a $2 PBR. I smiled, refrained and turned up Rihanna to tune them out. Two miles later when I reached our stadium for the second time, I decided to push myself a little further and run up a massive hill (North Carolina is good for those), past the Chancellor’s House, into an abandoned parking lot.

Again, not the smartest move in the world.

Making my final lap around the lot, I noticed a sneaky path that led to a hidden trail behind the trees. I glanced at my phone – almost 1 a.m. and I had class at 10 – did I really want to venture some more? My legs hurt, so did my body, and though I was less upset than a few hours ago, the running wasn’t totally curing me. Was I a complete idiot to go into a dark forest with only a few streetlamps strung along here-and-there? I sure was, but I did it despite the fact. I moved slowly and cautiously, without a soundtrack to serenade my adventure except for the Autumn leaves crunching under my feet. I looked around at my surroundings, braced myself for the billowing wind that whispers its way around the mountaintop my school was nestled on.

And there it was. My spot.

We all have them – a place somewhere in the middle of nothing or the middle of everything, wherever you find that’s right for you, where you can stop and feel at ease. Where you in your own words, in your own way, can think and breathe, relax and let go. Where, if you’re anything like me, can chat with God.

I do pray, mostly when I’m scared or nervous, and also when I’m really thankful. Always when I find a penny. But while in college – I used to talk to God a lot more. I’d have full-blown conversations with him, complete with yelling and crying, asking and pleading. Always in that same spot after a run or when it was really cold, I’d drive and go out for just a bit. This ledge overlooked the campus and I loved how the lights twinkled in the night, reminding me of New York, reminding me of where I wanted to be.

I sometimes sat on a large rock, but mostly I paced and chatted, watched the minimal cars go by and hoped no one would come and interrupt me. If they did, I had mase, just in case. I don’t know if God talks back. The only true way I feel like I get answers is when I find a penny when I’m feeling lost or when something so perfectly designed for me, happens, and I can’t accredit it to anything other than divinity.

I don’t have a spot in New York. I can’t seem to find a place where it’s quiet and comforting, where I feel safe enough to say all of those things out loud to the sky that I could never say to someone’s face or in a crowded space. I hadn’t even realized I didn’t have a spot until Mr. Possibility and I went away for the weekend a few weeks ago, and there, at a house by the water, with the sun cascading down, I felt the urge to talk to God.

Mr. Possibility was inside napping and I was alone with only the sounds of nature around me and the feeling of my toes tickling the top of the surprisingly-cool July lake. I hadn’t talked to God out loud in years, even when I went home to North Carolina for visits, so I wasn’t sure how to start. I glanced around me to make sure no one else was around to hear me, the crazy, 20-something who was jabbering away into the distance to something that didn’t meet the eye.

But once I started, it felt good. It poured out. Years and years of things I’ve needed to say, things I needed to admit to myself and to the universe, though both of us already knew. I talked so much my throat got dry. I cried so hard, I had to breathe out of my mouth. I was there for so long that the porch light came on and I decided it was time to head inside. And when I reached the steps, my eyes puffy with a big, wide smile on my face, Mr. Possibility asked what happened and I simply said, “Just had a nice chat with God. Everything is going to be okay.”

The rest of the weekend, I continued to chat down by the lake at night when no one was around, and when I left, he would say, “Have fun, tell God I say ‘hello!'” and off I’d go. By the time I returned to New York, I felt fresher and energized, ready to unfold yet another chapter in the many chronicles of my twenties.

I still need that spot though. I still need a place to unwind and feel free to spew. So for now, my chats with God are limited to, “Please guide me to a place where we can talk more. Where I can feel closer to the universe, where I can feel closer to myself, where I can feel closer to you.”

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for Borders Free Wi-Fi today, where if I stand in the right corner, legs crossed, holding my laptop, I can finally get a signal.