Tuesday, March 4, 2014

People are judgy

People are judgy.

They're judgy about other people's clothes, their opinions, their jobs, and their diets.

I don't know if you've noticed, but people are the most judgy about what other people eat.

As a former diet-a-holic, I get it. It's human nature to get yourself psyched up about your new eating plan. I mean, the process lends itself to it -- you decide you want to lose weight/get fit/look like a supermodel, you do your research (or watch commercials), and you pick your diet of choice.

Then, once you've picked, it's time to throw yourself in 110%. You read the books, you buy the food, you toss out everything with sugar or calories or carbs from your fridge. And then, you feel want to share the new plan that you've found with everyone you know.

I love when people get excited about making healthy changes to their lives. Letting other people in can be inspirational to them and serve as accountability for you -- if everyone knows you're working to improve your health or fitness, they'll be able to share in your excitement, which will help you stick to your plan. Plus, it's always awesome to share articles, research, and results. Teaching others and sharing articles of substance isn't something we do often enough.

But what about when all-or-nothing approach leads us to cast judgement on the eating choices of others? Whether it's on social media, in a friend group, behind the backs of strangers, or just in our own heads, why do we so often cross that line between teaching and judgement?

You know, the "she's not actually eating Paleo because she eats Greek yogurt," or "how can you call yourself a vegetarian when you eat fish."

I'm going to drop some truth here: There is not one "correct" diet. 

There are expert opinions both for and against nearly every existing diet plan or diet choice. You could literally justify nearly every nutrition plan you could create with research from "the experts." And, just because you've been highly successful eating Paleo or following Weight Watchers or cutting out all meat does not mean everyone else will be too.

Each of us has unique nutritional needs and unique experiences that shape our ability to respond positively to any sort of diet change.

Since it's National Nutrition Month, I'm going to challenge you to focus on your own nutrition and discover your perfect diet (as in, what you eat on a daily basis). Be open-minded, and try out an eating style you've never tried before. Learn from others. Test different eating plans, listen to your body, and figure out what makes you function at the highest possible level for your needs.

And take off your judgy pants when it comes to what other people eat -- unless they are living on Oreos and Reeses. I'd challenge them to find expert research on that one.

It's National Nutrition Month, so it seems as good a time as any to kick off a series about food: what we eat, how we eat it, why we diet, and what's really the best food for you. This post is the first in this series.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Real Talk: The top five things to keep in mind during the VS Fashion Show tonight

From a quick glimpse at my social media, it seems that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is going to be a pretty popular event, mostly with my girl friends. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of girls making jokes about the burgers they're eating now or the cleanses they're going to start tomorrow, which I find to be an interesting commentary on what we view as acceptable and valuable within our culture. I digress.

My newsfeed is also chock-full of inspiration in the form of lists, so I figured I'd publish my top five things for women to keep in mind while watching tonight's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show:

  1. You will never look like any of the models on TV tonight. And you know what? They're never going to look like you either. Those thigh gaps, long legs, or the 5'11'' height that you're envying came to them 70% in the form of genetics. But so did your awesome smile, crazy cool eye color, and great arms. Nobody is perfect, but each of us is unique and special and one-in-a-million just the way we are. 
  2. Weight is nothing but your relationship with gravity. The scale says nothing about your experiences as a person, the incredible things you do for the people in your life, and, in all actuality, very little about your health as a whole. 
  3. Going crazy with cardio and/or starving yourself is not a solution. I can't tell you the number of tweets/statuses (statii)/Instagram pictures I remember seeing last year from women vowing to cut carbs or workout for hours on end after watching the fashion show. In case you missed point #1, no amount of cardio or fasting is going to turn you into into Gisele, but it's probably also going to make you miserable and frustrated. Beauty and health are byproducts of loving yourself and treating yourself well. Find an activity you enjoy and go do it because it makes you feel alive. Eat well because eating well impacts every other area of your health and well-being -- and because it allows you to do that activity that makes you feel alive. When we're pursuing physical activity or healthy eating solely for aesthetic results, we're missing out, because true health and well-being impact every aspect of your life, and make you a better person in the process.
  4. Remember your inner eight year old (and every other eight year old you know). One of my favorite internet lists I've ever read talks about how "little eyes are always watching." Think about your standard of beauty now, and really question whether or not the Angel Standard is the one you would want an eight-year-old held to - or if you would even want her to place a significant value on her physical appearance at all. Besides, your inner eight-year-old thinks ogling women in underwear is super gross.
  5. If you're genuinely inspired to change your lifestyle, don't talk about it, be about it. If you are truly inspired to go work out or eat healthier, start adding positive changes to your life that are going to stick. Make a commitment to eat more vegetables, drink more water, or go for a run several times a week. But don't just put empty commitments or pity-parties into the social media sphere - go do them. Because watching a bunch of women model lingerie isn't going to do much for your confidence, but starting to make positive changes definitely will. Otherwise, your negative comments about your weight or "never looking like these women" are doing nothing but negatively impacting every other female follower on your newsfeed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lessons from kids: Gratitude

Recently, I've been traveling a lot for work. In fact, over the course of two weeks, I visited 15 college campuses in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, driving nearly 2000 miles along the way. They were an incredible two weeks, filled with inspiring moments, incredible student leaders, and impacting chapters of our organization (the number of "i" words in that last sentence? Totally unintentional.).

But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about gratitude, and how you can learn it from kids. These kids, in particular:

Because as amazing as my two weeks were, they took me away from a group of 20 elementary schoolers who I love very much for four whole practices.

When I arrived for practice on Tuesday of this week, I was met with screams of "Coach Jen!," hugs, and even a "You better not ever do that to me again."

I like working with kids for a lot of reasons. Obviously, first and foremost, because they like to do things that I like to do. Things like: make silly faces, dance like fools, eat bagels and candy, and laugh a whole lot. I like that they are funny without meaning to be, can't really hold grudges, and are accepting of each other - quirks and all. But one of the things I love the most about working with kids is that they are experts at showing appreciation. Not because they shower you with praise or tell you "thank you" every time they see you, but because their actions are genuine, and they speak so loudly that they don't have to tell you anything at all.

We can learn a lot about gratitude from kids.

Thank yous are great, of course, but gratitude can come in all forms: hugs, buttercups, friendship bracelets, smiles. From my girls, gratitude is being included in a game, having my hair painted neon yellow, and even "You better not ever do that to me again."

Because when gratitude is genuine, the intention is obvious, no matter what the action.

How have you shown gratitude today? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Amy Odell, Editor, Cosmopolitan Magazine

In response to "Confession: Why Getting Hazed by my Sorority Was Weirdly Worth It" -- I sent this email after reading this article. I figured it was worth sharing on this blog.
Dear Ms. Odell,

I am writing in regards to your publishing of Tess Koman's story about her experience being hazed by her collegiate sorority chapter, as well as your open call for anonymous stories from readers about hazing experiences.

Shame on you.

Shame on you, for using your power as the Editor of the foremost women's magazine in the country (and one that's pretty popular with men, too) to condone something that is not only morally wrong, but also illegal.

Shame on you for allowing Ms. Koman to justify her hazing as bonding and for reducing the sorority membership experience to degrading, immoral, and illegal experiences.

And shame on you for downplaying the abuse and trauma experienced by other victims of hazing, especially those who are too afraid to come forward.

I am also a sorority woman, and I did not have the same membership experience that Ms. Koman had.

During my New Member period (we don't call it pledging, anymore), I learned about the values my sorority was founded on, about the benefits that were offered to me as a member, and about my new sisters. I was considered a sister on my bid day; membership was something that I earned on day one as I signed my bid card and made a mutual and lifelong commitment to my organization.

During my four years in college, my sorority membership gave me countless leadership experiences that taught me real, marketable skills -- my collegiate officer positions are on my resume and I am frequently asked about them in interviews. Like Ms. Koman, I also made some of my best friends in my sorority -- not because we were forced to sexually dance for fraternity men but because we shared the same common values.

I suppose that my biggest issue with Ms. Koman's piece is that it ignores all of the wonderful things that Panhellenic organizations offer to their members -- scholarship, service, leadership, and networking opportunities, of course, but above all else, deep bonds based on shared values -- while praising the transgressions of Ms. Koman's initiating chapter.

Does hazing occur? Of course it occurs. It occurs within groups of all kinds - professional sports teams, marching bands, and, yes, sororities and fraternities. And it is heartbreaking when hazing occurs, even when it is the exception, and not the rule. Hazing causes physical, mental, and emotional damage, some irreversible, and is contradictory to the founding values of any fraternal group.

Publishing this article was insensitive and demeaning to victims of hazing who may not want to come forward. Ms. Koman has reduced their abuse and pain to just part of the experience, which it absolutely is not.

I hope that as the Editor of a progressive women's magazine, you realize that forced subordination of women by other women is anything but progressive. It seems just slightly counter intuitive to suggest that we have to earn our place among our own gender through humiliation and abuse while demanding gender equality in the workplace, don't you think?


Jen Gilbert

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I am in my mid-twenties (and other recent realizations)

You may have inferred from my recent lack of posts that a lot of things have been going on in my life outside of this blog. Things like realizing that I am in my mid-twenties, don't have a career path set in stone, and being a little bit worried that I am totally not worried about it.

When I was ten, I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a lawyer, in fact, until the night before my Constitutional Law final exam during my sophomore year of college. I had this 3 AM-Diet Coke jitter-fueled realization that if I had seriously wanted to be a lawyer, I wouldn't have been cramming because I would have been studying the material all year long.

What's more, I realized that at 25, I wanted to have a life of balance. I didn't want to be fresh out of law school, working 16-18 hour days, and staring down a mountain of debt. What I wanted when I grew up was to be happy, healthy, and balanced.

Try putting that down as a career ambition: happy, healthy, balanced.

Most people have told me that it makes me sound like I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I disagree. I think understanding that life is about more than just a career is a good start to knowing what you want to do with your life. I also think that most twenty-somethings are a lot like me: semi-blindly pursuing a passion, a dream, or an interest and hoping with everything they've got that they're moving in the right direction. Not many people at age 24 know exactly what the rest of their lives will look like.

To put it in football speak (go dawgs), my twenties feel like mostly Hail Mary's, and not a whole lot of rushing for small yardage.

But, honestly, what's the point in playing small ball? If there ever was a time to go big, it's now. Your twenties are a time to fervently and unapologetically pursue whatever makes you come alive at the moment because your twenties are (seriously) all about you.

So here I am, in my mid-twenties, and (to answer your question about what is going on in my life) I just quit my day job. I quit because it was a great opportunity with a fantastic company but it was not the best fit for me. Because even though I don't know exactly what I want to do, I do know exactly who I want to be and how I want to live, and I know that I deserve to be happy, healthy, and balanced.

And because my mid-twenties is just as good a time as any to start all over again. Only this time, with more yoga, running, and laughter. And probably just a few more stumbles along the way.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fitness as a journey

Yesterday I went back to Bikram yoga for the first time in a month.

Let that sink in for a hot sec. A whole month. I knew it was going to be rough, but was pleasantly surprised when I was moving through pranayama deep breathing and half moon pose. I eve felt uncharacteristically strong during the balancing series. Usually, I fall out at least once on each pose, but this time I was able to hold both sets of each posture until the instructor told us to change.

And then I hit the floor. The floor was not friendly yesterday -- I had those feelings of being overheated that I used to get so frustrated by early into my Bikram experience. I made all the rookie mistakes -- wiping away sweat, fanning myself, angry at the heat. Basically, the second half of my very first class back in a month was rough -- and that's an understatement.

So I'm sitting there, feeling like death and about to go through all the should've/could've/would'ves about my last month of being away from my normal routine. But then I realized (probably one of those life-realization-right-before-death moments) that fitness, much like life, isn't a destination. There's not one moment where you achieve your peak fitness - it's about the getting there, failing, getting there again, and maintaining. The question is -- why did I fall off of my fitness journey? Why did my yoga and running take a backseat to other things? How can I learn from the past month so that, in the future, it doesn't happen again? And in the meantime, how do I find peace in where I currently am while also striving to reach my full fitness/health potential?

In my heat dillusion, I came up with focusing on that one class. I made it my goal to not leave the room - just like it had been for the very first few Bikram classes I attended.

And I am happy to report -  I did not die, and I managed to stay in the room the entire 90 minutes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Confessions of a Targa-holic: My favorite (inexpensive) sports bra

Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone's week is going well. I had a really fantastic weekend with two of my best friends at Amelia Island last weekend, and I'm still wishing I was by the beach!

Luckily, Trader Joe's has these delicious plantain chips that I am enjoying while I pretend I am still somewhere tropical. And they're not the only thing keeping me in good spirits.
buy here

I'm also rocking my new neon green and bright blue sports bra by C9 for Target. I actually bought this one in purple/blue too, since these babies were on sale for $12(!!).

I'm kind of obsessed with Target (and have considered renaming this blog "Confessions of a Targa-holic" on multiple occasions), and I have this problem where I go in for bananas and come out with sports bras. They knew what they were doing when they converted all the Targets into Super Targets, let me tell you.

buy here

My favorite sports bra ever is the Free to Be bra from Lululemon because it's perfect for both Bikram and running, but sometimes I'm a sucker for fun patterns and low price tags. I love that the Target brand sports bras fit that bill AND are super comfy and functional for distance running.

What are your favorite sports bras? Are you a sucker for fun patterns too?