How to Be Alone

Since leaving college last year, I’ve taken a huge trip by myself, am living alone, and working from home. So it’s safe to say I have a lot of practice being alone. I live by myself, across the country from my parents, in a different country than my boyfriend and work so much it only makes sense to make plans on weekends with friends. Which means sometimes I go a whole day or a few days without interacting with anybody other than my skype meetings for work. Sometimes I go out to eat alone, sometimes I go to movies alone, and I most definitely go to the beach alone.

People are surprised when I tell them how much I do by myself. I feel like, for some reason, many people are embarrassed or uncomfortable to do things in public by themselves. But just because you do things alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely or a failure, there are actually tons of perks to doing things all by yourself.

First of all, you’re not limited — by anything! You’re not limited by which one of your friends is free, or what they want to do, or when they are available. If you want to see that indie flick, you don’t have to try and find a friend who is into it. If you want to try that new sushi restaurant you don’t have to deal with your boyfriend who is only ever feeling a burger. If you are interested in something, you can just go do it! You have that power!

I get that a huge part of the fun of experiencing things is sharing it with others and the laughter and discussion that goes along with that. But for me, I need both. I need those times with friends, family, and boyfriend. AND I need that alone time. And there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, going places and doing things alone allows me a level of efficiency and depth that I wouldn’t otherwise get.

For example, if I go shopping with friends, it can be fun, but it takes about twice as long to find all the things I’m looking for. If I’m alone, I’m in and out, and have so much more time. If I see a movie with friends, I know that they probably like to talk, but I prefer silence. This isn’t to say that I prefer being alone to doing things with the people that mean a lot to me. This is just to show that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Maybe you’re not in the mood to be around people but still want to do exciting activities, and you should feel comfortable having it both ways.

We think that if people see us spending time out alone they will judge us from afar, but how many times have you ever done that? You don’t stare at that guy at Starbucks who is at a table by himself, and you don’t feel sorry for someone if they are sitting by themselves at the movies. You barely even notice anyone but yourself anyways. Humans are self-absorbed, and in this case it is liberating!

Maybe we are all scarred from that one time we felt so embarrassed to sit alone at lunch in middle school (we all know those days were not fun for ANY of us). But now, life moves so fast, you can’t always wait for someone to catch up and live it with you, and nobody else has time to judge you for eating lunch alone anymore. Why limit yourself to what the everyone else wants to do when the power to do whatever you want, whenever you want, is sitting right in front of you?

 

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You can even take pics of yourself BY YOURSELF. Pro tip: prop your iPhone up on your purse and set the timer. 

 

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Bitch Sessions: Making Fun of Accents

The other day I’m at the outlet mall with my mom, and we pass by the Coach store. I don’t know why, but this particular Coach store makes people line up outside because they only let approximately five people in at once. Well, there was a Chinese family in line, speaking accented English. There were also many other Asian people in line. My mom and I are passing by the line (mostly because we hate Coach, not because it’s long), and we pass these two guys who are disgusted that there are so many Asians in line. One guy says “Why are there so many of them?” And the other guy AFFECTS A TERRIBLE MOCKERY of a Chinese accent and says something along the lines of “We bought everything in our own country so now we come here to buy yours.”

This kind of behavior really gets under my skin. It’s a whole other issue to make blatantly racist jokes, but mocking accents is something that really gets to me. Let me say it loud and clear, PEOPLE WITH ACCENTS SPEAK MORE LANGUAGES THAN YOU. People with accents for sure speak two languages, maybe more, and the people that mock them probably only speak one. It’s so, SO disrespectful in my mind because people with accents are trying their hardest to speak another language, and are trying to function as best they can in a place that is not their home. And it chaps my hide so bad because the people who make fun of them probably have NO idea what it takes to do that. They have no idea what it takes to put yourself out there like that and adapt to a completely different country and culture. These are probably the same damn people who go to a different country and expect that the people there should speak their language. The AUDACITY.

People sometimes think it’s ok to make jokes about accents because their brown friend or their Chinese friend doesn’t mind, but making those jokes around everyone in public just shows underlying racist sentiments. It’s not my place to tell people what jokes they can or cannot make around their friends/family of different ethnicities, but I can tell you that just because your friends aren’t offended when you mock their accents, doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way. And this doesn’t just go for people of color, this goes for anybody who has come to a new country and is trying to learn a new language. It seems like in America for some reason, British and Australian accents are the epitome of sex appeal but everyone else gets ridiculed and told to go back to their country.

All in all, if you ever feel tempted to make these jokes or think they’re funny, just think for ONE second before you do. Think about what it took for them to change countries and to try and learn a new language to fit in. THINK about how much ambition and courage that takes, and maybe, just maybe, keep your mouth shut.

 

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My face as I prepare to cuss you out for making fun of other people’s accents… I smile because you deserve it.

 

“I would never let my daughter do that!”

Fatherhood is an interesting concept for me to think about because although I have a father, I can never become one. In the wake of Father’s day weekend, I’ve been thinking about why I appreciate my own father so much. While he’s done so many things for me that I can never be grateful enough, one trait, in particular, stands out.

My dad always made my sister and me feel capable. He always encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone, learn new things, and have new experiences. He rarely made us back off on a new opportunity because he was scared for us. This was prevalent when we were kids when he would push us to be better at our respective sports, or when he would try and get us to read books outside of class that pertained to classroom topics to increase our knowledge so we could get ahead.

Even as adults he never tries to pull us back for safety’s sake. A chief example is the nearly two-month long trip I went on by myself last summer. No family, no friends, just me! Most people, especially men who are my dad’s age, balk at this and say something along the lines of “Oh I could never let my daughter do that!” When I ask these people why, they always say something like “oh she’d get lost”, or “What if she’s attacked or taken”, or sometimes they don’t even have a reason! And I think to myself ‘Do you not think of your daughter as a capable person? Do you not think you’ve raised her to be smart and competent enough to be ok on her own?’ I don’t get it at all. When I said I was going alone, my dad barely batted an eye because he knew I was totally capable of handling any chaos a trip like that could throw at me. He has always thought very highly of my and my sister’s abilities and I’m only just now realizing how much it meant that he never underestimated us.

Nowadays, I work with a lot of men that are my dad’s age, and they sometimes develop this strange protective affliction. I say ‘affliction’ because they’re NOT my parents and shouldn’t be concerned with protecting me from work and should respect my ability to get the work done. But they sometimes end up treating me like their own daughters, but unlike my dad, they treat me as though I’m naive and fragile, and unable to do certain things on my own.

My dad NEVER does this. He would, of course, teach us new things or skills, but he never just assumed we needed protecting and for things to be done for us because we were incompetent. He EXPECTED us to know how to do everything for ourselves.

Surprisingly, and unfortunately, I’ve found that my dad’s behavior is a huge departure from how many fathers treat their daughters. Most tend to protect and worry about them more so than their sons and think them more at risk in the world, and less capable of handling that risk. Even if they don’t mean to do it, they feel their daughters are more fragile, and thus need more protection – from boys, knowledge, the world, EVERYTHING – but not my dad.

I could go on and on about everything else that makes my dad special, but he already knows he’s the best so I’ll leave you all with the thought that daughters should be expected to be capable, confident, and competent and any father who stands in the way of those traits, stands in the way of his daughter’s success.

 

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Me, My dad, and My sister all having a grand ol’ time in Mykonos last year.

 

Getting Started on Getting Fit

I’m not talking about that one time you decided to start your new workouts on a Monday and then by Wednesday you had given up and the whole cycle starts over next month. I’m talking about actually getting started on a new lifestyle so that you stick with it.

I feel like the hardest part of developing a new workout or diet routine is getting started. And not enough people talk about this part! Because once you’ve developed a lifestyle and have stuck to it for awhile, it becomes addictive, habit forming, and arguably easier to stick to.

For example, if you haven’t worked out in awhile and then decide to run five miles, you’re going to HATE it. You’re going to feel like passing out, and you’ll hate the process every step of the way. BUT if you’ve been running every day for the past three months, not only will you replace that feeling of nausea with endorphins, your day will also feel like something is missing without it. In the same vein, if you decide to cut out all junk food suddenly, you’ll feel horrible because that is the fuel your body is used to and you’ll crave it SO BAD. But if you phase out that food over time and find yourself eating salad every week, you’ll start to crave those (sounds fake, I know, but it IS possible to develop the longing for leafy greens).

In any case, because it takes a few weeks to break a habit and develop a new one, it is hard for people to get started on a new lifestyle. IT’S NO JOKE. And when you first start, your body will completely reject the idea because it’s not what it”s used to.

Something I feel like fitness personalities don’t address enough (not that I am one, I just follow a lot of them), is the mental game. Oh sure, they’ll spout all sorts of stuff about discipline, and wanting it bad enough, but they don’t focus on the fact that some people have to work at developing those mental skills just like you’d work on your biceps. Furthermore, while discipline is important, when it comes to getting started I think mental stamina needs to be addressed even more.

Here’s the thing, when you first start out, not only are you flexing your mental and PHYSICAL muscles in a new way, you’re also going to have to go through a brutal process of trial and error if you want to see success.

I imagine everyone has a goal in mind when they embark on some sort of lifestyle change. You want to lose weight, gain muscle, just feel better, whatever! BUT, in order to reach that goal, you must be able to stay consistent with something other than what your body currently does. To truly change your lifestyle you have to go through an arduous process of finding out what works FOR YOU. There are thousands of fitness programs, classes, and sites that are loaded with ideas about workouts and nutrition, but the key is that YOU have to do the ground work on this, and the only way to do it is by research and trial and error on your own body.

Additionally, you have to recognize that some of these things you’ll experiment with won’t work out. Everyone is different, which means not everything will work for everyone, and definitely not in the same ways. A lot of people hate running, hell, it’s taken me 20 years to tolerate it. So if you hate it but you start running thinking it’s going to achieve your goals, you’re going to end up miserable WHILE you’re doing it, thus more inclined to NOT do it, and then you’ll inevitably be disappointed when results don’t appear. If something doesn’t work for you, you have to have the mental resilience to bounce back and keep trying new things.

Keep a list. Let’s say running is the first thing you try. You try it for two weeks and you’re just miserable. Move to the next activity. There’s boxing, swimming, weights, HIIT, fitness guides, cycling, CROSSFIT!! The possibilities are endless, but it’s important that you don’t give up until you find something that you enjoy and that makes you FEEL GOOD. The same goes for food. Maybe salads make you gag, but you find that you like roasted sweet potato with chicken! Just keep trying recipes and dishes until you find some that FEEL GOOD.

And when I say FEEL GOOD. I mean literally — happier, more energy, no guilt, and excitement about working towards your goals and meeting them. Keep in mind, as I’ve said, this part of the process is NOT easy and the key here really is PERSEVERANCE and being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way immediately. Ultimately, it is easier to revert to old ways, but if you really want to change your lifestyle, you need to be prepared for the physical AND mental obstacles. If you can recognize these ahead of time, you can develop a plan to overcome them and press on!

Eat Your Heart Out

My last post was all about my current workout routine. But anybody who has spent even five seconds looking up fitness tips knows that workouts are barely half the battle. The even harder part (at least for me), is diet.

I have been seeing tons of stuff in recent years about paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, high carb vegan, Atkins, and literally every strict combination of food you can think of. And you know what? I say nay to all of those.

Some of you may think I can afford to say nay because I’m thin and am not trying to lose weight, or you might not believe me and think I must adhere to some kind of stringent body builder diet, but neither are true. The reason being, I have gone through a long food journey of my own and have been able to figure out what works best for my body (and for my sanity).

Back in the day, I was a competitive swimmer for almost a decade. During that time, I trained for almost five hours a day and honestly ate whatever I wanted. A whole pizza? Gimme twenty minutes. A whole bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups? One episode of Gossip Girl. I was going through a ridiculous amount of food to replenish all the calories I burned, but the majority of the food was shit. I ate my fruits and veggies, but looking back, most of my calories came from carbs like pasta and straight up sugar.

My senior year of high school, I really wanted to do the best I could for my last year of swimming so I cut out a previously elemental part of my diet: Coca Cola. Up until that point I had about roughly one Coke per day. I know some people drink far more than I do, but I was determined to focus on my hydration levels and cut out soda and fruit juices completely. It took a few days to get past the caffeine withdrawal but then I felt SO GOOD. My skin improved and I honestly did not feel as tired during a normal day and spurred my interest in looking at food as fuel, not just as tasty morsels.

I’ll spare you the details of the years in between then and now, but that occurence spurred me on to develop my nutritional knowledge and my eating habits. I strongly believe knowledge is power when it comes to what you eat, and the more you know about what you’re ingesting, the better off you’ll be.

Nowadays, I pretty much follow the 80/20 rule. I will eat well 80% of the time and about 20% of the time is a free for all. Because I typically follow a schedule, it is not difficult to follow this rule. Here is what some typical meals look like for me:

Breakfast: Two pieces avocado toast (w/ Ezekiel bread) OR a veggie omelet with fruit

Snack: Protein Bar OR a banana/apple with almond butter

Lunch: Shrimp Salad (Garlic Basil Shrimp, Romaine/Spinach, Tomato, Peppers), or leftovers from dinner the night before.

Dinner: Lean Turkey Breast with roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus OR chicken stirfry with rice OR another combo of solid protein, greens, and carbs.

Desert: Three squares of Dark Chocolate and Strawberries OR Cookies!

For beverages, I only drink water and tea, and sometimes coffee (usually in the form of a cappuccino). I don’t add any cream or sugar to my tea or coffee. I stopped drinking soda in high school, and then after I spent a year in Shanghai drinking a lot of tea and hot water, I stopped drinking milk and juice as well. This is just personal preference, I don’t have anything against milk or certain juices for nutrition’s sake.

Usually, my 20% free for all eating occurs on weekends or when I’m out with friends. Weekends are typically when I eat out and try new places, which means I don’t want to limit myself to the ‘healthy’ options on the menu. I honestly eat whatever I want during these times. I will order the full french toast breakfast, or I’ll get a burger and fries, or a pizza and ice cream! The key for me is eating well during my main work week and allowing myself to feel free to eat however I want on weekends and with friends.

You can also see that I don’t necessarily cut out carbs or sugar during the week either. I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth and there would be no way I could cut out desserts completely so I still make sure I incorporate them. The trick for me is paying attention to how certain foods make me feel. Salads make me feel full but not tired. A McDonalds Quarter Pounder makes me feel sick. And so on and so forth. By ACTIVELY paying attention to what you’re eating and what it consists of and how it affects you, you gain a lot of knowledge about what meals make you FEEL good and that is what is important for me.

This post got a little long, but I have even more tips on how I eat right for my body so let me know if you’re interested in hearing more on this topic!

 

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Acai Bowls and Cappuccinos are some of my favorite weekend breakfast elements