Archive for the 'Advice' Category

Love is What I Got.

stop-hating-your-bodyToday’s the day! I’m back to my pre-baby weight (again) and done “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” to quote Albert Einstein. 

Why is this time different? For starters, I’ve taken a radical* approach:

I’m self-motivating with love. By being kind to myself. By not beating myself up. For the first time EVER. 

I was motivated by negative feelings during my life on a diet. Being motivated by ill feelings I had for myself and my predicament lead to decades of yo-yo dieting. Hating your body as a motivation is very short-term. What’s more, when you’re fueled by negativity, you are more likely to self sabotage and beat yourself up when you have a “bad” day. You never feel worthy. It’s no wonder the weight always returns. The workouts wane. The cycle continues.

Then I gave love a try.

And I got real. I convinced myself I was worth loving at any weight, any health, any age. I realized getting real and finding love was the ONLY way I was going to endure yet another attempt at getting healthy. Big picture? Love is the only thing that will make my goals worth maintaining into the future. Because if you reach a goal by constantly being vengeful and hateful toward yourself, what are you left with? What is going to motivate you to maintain your goals? More berating? Exactly. So love it is.

And I embraced the fact that I’m a proud owner of a body that:

-Will never look like something out of a newsstand magazine without major surgery (or Photoshop!). And made total peace with that. Studies have repeatedly shown that plastic surgery does not make people happier overall, anyway, so F that noise. And besides, as one of our generation’s greatest wordsmith once said, “silicone parts are made for toys.” 

-Has borne two beautiful, healthy children, with a body to prove it, and I’m grateful. And damn, I have some incredible kids.

-That just is what it is because, genes. And the aging process. And gravity. That’s not some stark reality, that’s a gift – living is. Not to mention, my body’s inherent characteristics are not flaws. Besides, they have nothing to do with my actual character. I choose to love this body and use this love to motivate me to improve it in realistic, healthy ways. I am GOING TO BE HERE FOR A LONG TIME, YO!

So that’s it. Love. When I’m tempted to dig into myself, I just remember that nothing I can personally do will ever, ever, ever change my DNA and that what I’m dealing with is a 36-year-old, living body that’s been through a lot and will get through a lot more to come – and that’s amazing. There is no shame in that. Hell, that’s worth celebrating. I carry around the proof of life – a good life full of love, even at my darkest times – and that motivates me every day now.

That said, this whole loving-your-body thing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All that self-love in the world is in vain if there are haters taking us down – think about that. It’s no accident that I’m powered by love. I surround myself with positive people and things by design. If you are constantly bombarded by things that trigger negative feelings about your body – be it from a partner, family member or friend, even (especially?) the media –  you will be up for an additional challenge to achieving your goals. Plus, that’s kind of crappy – jerks trolling your life, bringing you down, you know? So in addition to loving yourself first, if you have haters in your life, poof, be gone!  I mean, come on. F those haters.

Till the next goal!

*Loving oneself should not be radical, but because we’re socialized to hate our bodies and pick on others’ bodies, particularly women, I’m calling for a radical change in the body-talk, body-relationship narrative. Won’t you join me?


And now, some relevant motivational quotes from the web! 

Love-Your-Body loveyourbody quotes-body-01-bloom-600x411 love-your-body-17 LovingYourBody1 PLPT Love Note 122112 Love-your-body-quote Quotation-Harry-Papas-life-good-love-self-diet-understanding-inspirational-Meetville-Quotes-218569 b6cd86f3aff37e94285420acc3d8e382 stop-hating-your-body



213406_7960Ollie and I went grocery shopping the other day. Just him and me. I told him he could pick out some things. Not “treats” for being good or just because – I wanted him to be part of the process of finding food for the week.

He wanted yogurt. I got him Dannon Oikos, one strawberry pack, one blueberry pack, which have about the fewest sugars of all the options I found (holler at me if you know of a lower one that does not use artificial sweeteners). He’s had a cup with every meal since we got them. He is a fiend. He scrapes the container for the very last bit. You know the milk mustache? I’ve been wiping off a yogurt ‘stach since yesterday. Immediate reaction: This brings my child so much joy and I’m a total jerk for not regularly buying yogurt. It’s JUST YOGURT.

Well, there is a pretty good reason.

I take issue with the marketing of yogurt as a healthy, wholesome  low-fat snack packed with fruit, calcium and probiotics. Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Your average fruit yogurt has as much if not more sugar in it than a candy bar (I’m talking 30+ grams of sugar – yikes!). I wouldn’t give my kids candy as a midday snack or a side to a meal.  That’s basically what we’re talking about.

Not trying to make yogurt out to be a sort of pariah of the food pyramid. Like candy or ice cream, it’s fine as a once-in-awhile treat or snack. Personally, I buy plain Greek yogurt and use it as a sour cream sub. It is great in dips, on tacos, etc. You can also make your own flavors using plain yogurt and adding in  fresh fruit and spices, and have control over the amount of sweeteners you use.

There is something novel (not to mention convenient), I suppose, about a single-serve, ready-to-eat cup of yogurt, and that’s why it’s so popular – and that’s why my son is obsessed with it. I just hope people will heed  the facts. As for me, for  30+ sugars, I will take a Snickers bar, please.

A Cookie Story

Photo: BeeInOurBonnet

Photo: BeeInOurBonnet

Ollie and I made oatmeal cookies last night. They turned out misshapen and crumbly. Kind of an aesthetic disaster, but tasted fine. We kept them. I ditched the recipe.

I dubbed them Ugly Cookies and got in trouble. “That’s not a nice thing to say,” Ollie said.

Stupid is a bad word, too. Sometimes J or I say something is “stupid” in conversation with each other, and you’d be surprised how many times you hear “stupid” on TV, even (especially) kids’ shows. The Bad Word Police corrects us. He’s got some serious radar for forbidden words.

Mean words, bad words – whatever you call them at your house – they hurt, period. And I’m glad we’re making Ollie aware (and he, us). Kids, with their innocence and lack of a filter, say things that hurt sometimes out of sheer ignorance. That’s why having these discussions, often, matter. You know, so you don’t end up with a bigger kid with a  mean-word problem (aka: a bully).

I think Ollie has a good handle on things, but we will continue our diligence. And he will continue his.

The part that kills me is that I can’t control what other kids say to my child. In my personal experience, as a sensitive kid, mean words hurt, fester, then dissipate, but never actually leave. If you’re dubbed “dumb,” “ugly,” or “fat” among peers (or god forbid, adults), even if you aren’t, even if they grow up, even as time passes, even if they forget – you never forget. Even though mean words are completely illogical, completely absurd when you think about it with your adult mind, your child mind still hangs on.

I guess we just have to watch what we, the adults, say at home. Make sure we’re very careful about throwing around mean words, even if it’s a joke. Even if we’re literally poking fun of cookies – that we made. And keep nurturing confident kids and keep building our kids’ self worth so if mean words come their way (and they probably will), they feel good enough about themselves to know better. It’s all we can do. Now excuse me, I’m going to go have one of those, um, cookies.

Babies Are Very Different Animals

Babies are different animals. Delilah is an owl, Ollie is a bunny.

That one time (OK, multiple times)  I used Ollie’s baby book to figure out what to expect from Delilah. HA!

It’s probably cliche, but worth re-mentioning because it has been nine months since Delilah was born and I’m still reminding myself of this: NO TWO BABIES ARE THE SAME. They can have the same DNA, be raised in the same household, have the same family pet, but they are all very different people and there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t know why I ever bothered looking at Ollie’s baby book (pictured) for hints about what to expect from D. They are very different animals. 

Her teeth came in at three months. His erupted at seven. She began crawling and holding herself up on things at eight months. He started at 10. He slept through the night at three months. She didn’t until seven months (blerg). It goes on and on. That is why, for new parents and those expecting No. 2, I urge you to NEVER, NEVER EVER compare your child to others. You can’t even guarantee siblings hit milestones at the same time, how are you going to hold your baby up to a neighbor’s, relative’s or friend’s child? Just don’t do it. Even books and websites can mislead.

Certainly there is an age range when children should be doing this and that, but don’t get hung up if your kid is late. And don’t be all braggy if your child is early. It does not mean you have some fancy Einstein baby.

So step away from the yardsticks (tempting as they are) and enjoy that baby. Because, let’s be honest, do you want an early crawler? No, no you don’t.

Hello. My Name is Erica B. and I am a Happy Suburbanite

This, from Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters, is designed to be funny-offensive. I can take a joke. But allow me to set the record straight about my very much alive hopes, dreams and aspirations as a suburbanite.

The city vs. the suburbs? It’s not that simple. It’s not us against them.

I didn’t leave Chicago for the suburbs because I fell out of love with it. Or because I failed. Or it failed me. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chicago was everything to me.

It’s an unpopular opinion that the suburbs are as adventurous as the big city. You can’t possibly maintain your dignity, passion and integrity out there. You can’t possibly still consider that living.

Newsflash: I’ve lived here for four years (and grew up in one) and I AM FAR FROM DEAD. I love the suburbs.

I still keep up with new music. I still read (we have libraries, too!). I write. I create. I discover new restaurants and eat good food with friends. I attend art shows and farmers markets, and shop at little downtown stores. I visit farms, orchards, museums, parks and enjoy tons of recreation. At home, I even have room for my own real garden! It’s pretty amazeballs. And contrary to what my facebook posts might relate, my new adventures are not all about my kids (though, yeah, some of the best involve them). Oh, and one final revelation: I can visit the city whenever I please.

It’s just common sense. You don’t die when you move. You don’t give up when you have a family. It doesn’t work that way. Adventurous people find adventure. Motivated people don’t care if something doesn’t already exist for them, they can always make it themselves. Creative people don’t need a special place to build, write or dream. They just do it. They rely on their imagination and will, not their coordinates.

So if you’ve transplanted form the city to the burbs or country for family, work, change of pace, cost of living, whatever – don’t EVER feel bad about it. Never feel like a sellout. Never feel ashamed or embarrassed or boring (unless you are boring). Don’t care so much about what’s going on in the city or what you’re missing out on. You have every opportunity to enjoy your life with the people you love wherever you are right now.

A Few of My Favorite (Preggo) Things

Another design-challenged, but well-intentioned collage by yours truly.

My sister-in-law and cousin are both expecting in May and it got me thinking about simple – and sometimes strange, sometimes obvious – life savers from when I was pregnant (and some things I still swear by):

Crack creams – I thought I knew how to soothe dry, cracked, itchy skin till I was 8 months pregnant during a brutal Chicago winter. Palmer’s Soothing Oil is the Cadillac of dry skin solutions. But if you can’t deal with basically spraying Pam on your body (albeit nice-smelling Pam), try Johnson’s Creamy Baby Oil (I like Shea & Cocoa Butter). These are both still part of my daily routine in the winter.

OMG Shoes – I love my Chuck Taylors, but they became too narrow for my bloated feet. Men’s Converse One Star sneakers are a little wider than women’s and cheaper than Chucks, but still say “See, I can hang at the punk show! Um, but there’ll be some seating, right?” They sell them as slip-ons or with Velcro straps, too, for when you’re done with shoelaces! For work, I loved Sketchers mary janes w/the stretchy elastic strap – kind of like these.

OMG Boobs – Nips love lanolin – plus it’s natural and safe for breast-fed babies, even if with its consistency, color and stank, it might as well be earwax. I still use it on my cuticles.

Pro Nails – I think even if you have a partner who gives regular foot rubs and massages (god bless ’em), go out and get all pretty and pampered when you’re preggo. You deserve an occasional mani/pedi and salon or spa day.

Comfort Food – We all have our oddball cravings and stockpiles of must-have foods. Have at it. Mine were Cheez-Its and Jamba Juice. I was a regular of the Ogilvie train station’s JJ – the guy at the counter literally saw me coming from a mile away and had those oranges in the blender. I’m the reason JJ smoothies are now offered in your grocer’s freezer (and why my son will never be Vitamin C deficient).

Blue Jean Baby Queen – We are all guilty of it – let’s squeeze into our regular jeans till we are busting at the seams because we are PROUD, damn it! (At least the first time around.) I say just buy the jeans with the big elastic band already. They get the job done and are cute where they need to be cute and comfy where they need to be comfy.

Big ‘n’ Thrifty – I did not buy a lot of new maternity clothes because they seem overpriced, even at the big boxes. Instead, I shopped the plus-size and maternity sales racks with the exception of some outfits for a few special occasions.

Get Happy – Happy mom = happy baby. I  mean, we should all strive for happiness anyway, but particularly when you’re carrying your unborn baby, you should be more sunshine and less rain, even on cloudy days. For me it was about surrounding myself with things that brought me joy – enjoying foods that made me happy, relaxing with books and TV that made me laugh, getting the house ready for the baby, and going out and trying to do as much as I could when I felt up to it. And I think that’s at least partially why I have a cheerful son.

Taking the Bully by the Horns

If you were not bullied at some point during childhood, I envy you. You are the like 1 percent. Most of us have bullied, too, even if it was just once or we didn’t think of it as bullying.

Social media has turned bullying on its head. Faceless words and taunts online for everyone to see hurts in a whole new way.

Online or in the flesh, bullying sucks. Recess Music recently came out with a comp of anti-bullying tracks called “Big Bully: The Best Foot Forward Series” featuring songs like “Bully Bubba,” “I’m Sorry,” and “No Put Downs.” It’s cutesy and kiddie-centric, but it got me thinking about being bullied and bullying as a kid and coping mechanisms I wish I was armed with back then.

Confidence – I think kids with healthy self-esteem and confidence are better prepared to cope with bullying. They know the difference between exaggerated words or actions of a bully and the reality of their own self worth.

A sense of humor – Bullies love a reaction. Sometimes survival means being able to get the joke (even if it’s not funny) and show you’re a good sport. It’s no fun for bullies to pick on someone who is crazy enough to go along with the insults.

Empathy – Bullies generally don’t bully because they absolutely loathe you. In fact, it could be the opposite – they could be jealous. Or, maybe they’re trying to look cool to someone else. Sometimes the bully has some serious problems at home or is being bullied by someone else – or a combination of these things and more. If you think about it that way, it’s easier to understand their behavior. It doesn’t make it right, but a little empathy goes a long way.

Healthy (offline) interests – Everyone needs a hobby, club, sport or outside interest. They work in your favor in a number of ways. First, they are generally productive and help build self-esteem; second, you get to meet people with similar interests (new friends! FTW!); and finally, they are a huge distraction from the negative forces in your day-to-day (e.g., bullies).

Compassion to not bully – So you’re being bullied or you’ve been bullied. You know it hurts and it sucks. Don’t pay if forward. There is no balance of the universe when you bully because you’ve been bullied.

Knowing when enough is enough – There usually feels like there’s too much at stake to rat out a bully, that being labeled a rat is worse than any physical harm or blows to self-esteem. But there comes a time when you have to threaten with action and take action if all else fails.

Resources: American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, Stop Bullying, International Bullying Prevention Association.

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