My Struggle with Weight, Health, & Balance: A Fitness Journey

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My fitness journey has been a rollercoaster. My thoughts, attitude, and overall feelings about body image have been warped from an early age. From early on, I had serious issues with the way I looked. While most people talked about dieting and running around the block a few times, I desperately tried to gain weight. It was somewhat of an ironic battle: the same people who dieted and constantly talked about losing inches, told me that being ‘my kind of thin’ wasn’t “popular”, that I needed to have a J-Lo booty, but the waist of a supermodel, mixed in with the arms of a volleyball player, and the calves of a marathon runner. I was even told once that if ‘I gained about ten pounds only then I’d be really pretty, the complete package’. That opinion stayed with me for years to come. It seems outrageously ridiculous now, but back then it was all I ever wanted—to fill that expectation to look like something I wasn’t.

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The problem , especially for young girls, is that these comments stay with us for the rest of our lives. It isn’t about being overweight or underweight. It’s about believing the lie that you aren’t good enough, that you aren’t pretty, that you aren’t valuable. You begin to compare yourself to others, without knowing their journey, their struggles, their health, or even knowing if the way they are is the ‘right’ way for you.  At the age of sixteen I started to drink weight-gaining shakes. I grabbed the first giant jar I found on the shelf, with little knowledge about the ingredients, the quality, or even if it was right for me. I thought they’d be my ticket to achieving the ‘right way to look’, but soon after I discovered that not only I wasn’t gaining weight, but they were making me really sick. The high sugar intake, coupled with an unbalanced nutrition and a lack of understanding of the body and the ingredients I was putting in it, caused my system to reject the shakes. I felt tired all the time, sluggish, my skin broke out, and I had dull gray bags under my eyes. Feeling defeated, I threw the shakes in the garbage, now knowing that it was the best thing I could’ve done, but also feeling like my last ticket to looking ‘better’ had been shredded to pieces.

I wish I knew then what I know now. It took a really long time but I finally realized four important things:

*the importance of listening to my body; 

*that medical guidelines, although helpful, don’t represent every single individual on the planet;

*that being skinny doesn’t mean I’m necessarily healthy; and

*other people’s expectations of what I should look like are none of my concern.

Considering my family history and the small built of most of the women in my family, I fall into the mold I was supposed to fit. Starting with my grandmother, the women on my mother’s side of the family have been small-boned and thin. How would I expect to be a giant when I come from a line of such small women? How can I achieve this ridiculous expectation that all women should have a Kim Kardashian’s butt, Angelina Jolie’s lips, and Brooke Burk’s abs? The answer, at least to me, is pretty clear. I can’t…and I don’t necessarily want to. I want to look the best version of myself. I want my body to look as uniquely fit as my own limitations will allow. I want to inspire my daughters that comparing yourself to other women is a dead ideal, that we are each wonderfully made, that we are perfect the way we are.

That said, I also learned the importance of fitness and to work out with realistic goals in mind. For many years I […TO CONTINUE READING CLICK HERE]

My Daily Beauty Routine: Favorite Skin Face Care Products

7616979454_1707eb5f9b_bSince we’re in the process of selling our home, the house is in constant “hide the junk into cabinets and drawers” mode. This caused me to go through all the cabinets again and de-clutter, bringing something to my attention. I didn’t realize until now just how many hair and skin products I’ve accumulated, some used, many left aside.  I’ve gone through several beauty products over the years. Anything from drug store cheapies to more expensive products referred by friends. I’ve finally found products that work for me and have become an essential item in my daily beauty routine. Often I get asked what products I use, and am told that I look a lot younger than thirty-two (if you are one of those people who’s told me that, I LOVE YOU!)

I decided to share a list of my skin products for anyone who’s trying to figure out which items on the market are worth the money (some can get quite pricey), while others have left me displeased.

Before anything else, and perhaps my favorite beauty routine, I focus on skin care. I have to attribute my youthful look to some pretty awesome genes (thank you, Mom and Dad). But one thing I NEVER skip is a good skin care routine. It’s incredibly important to establish good skin habits when you’re young. What’s the point of caring for your skin, using anti-aging products, shielding yourself from the sun, when you’ve already developed some nasty wrinkle lines? Good habits and consistent skin care must start early. Prevention is key to aging.

This is my routing: I wash my face in the morning, apply my serum and anti aging products and apply make up. At night, I exfoliate, apply the second round of skin products and that’s it. I have four staple items that keep my skin happy and clean.  It’s worth mentioning that I have combination skin.

Face Wash:

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This is one example where I’ve tried so many products and only found one to be the most effective. Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser (oil-free) is the one I use morning and night.  It is light and creamy, making my skin feel super clean. I find that this product works very well with my daily exfoliating routine. And yes, I am a firm believer in exfoliating daily. My esthetician explains that it’s totally fine to do so. Did you know that one of the reasons men’s faces show less signs of aging is because they constantly exfoliate while shaving? And most of them shave A LOT. Because of my daily exfoliating with a simple washcloth (I apply cleanser, leather, and then use a washcloth to exfoliate), I had to switch from the Clean & Clear cleanser that contained exfoliating beads. The beads, used together with the washcloth, were too abrasive on my skin– resulting in over-exfoliation. Best part of this product? It’s cheap (around $4.50), and I can buy it everywhere. In comparison, prior to switching to Clean & Clear I tried Renée Rouleau Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel ($36.50) After using this cleanser for a couple of months, I noticed it over-dried my skin and the scent was WAY too strong, making my face tingly (not in a good way). I hated spending such a high price for a product that ultimately I couldn’t use.

Eye Cream:

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For about six months to a year, I used the Lancome skin care line. I switched around four months ago, when I started getting regular facials again and consulted my dermatologist and esthetician. I wasn’t unhappy with the Lancome skin line, but I also didn’t find any changes in my skin, noticing very little improvement over the course of several months. My dermatologist’s office has a medical spa on site, and after speaking to her about my current skin care, she suggested I use something stronger and better suited for my skin type, age group, and ultimate goal (and let’s be honest.—every woman’s goal is to delay aging and look youthful). This is when I was introduced to SkinCeuticals A.G.E Eye Complex. Initially offered a sample that lasted a good month, I recognized its quality from the second application. It’s a light cream applied under your eyes and around the brow bone. It contains blueberry extract and it prevents the formation of advanced glycation end-products (A.G.E.s) that cause wrinkles and crow’s feet. It is specialized to reduce dark circles and bags, and it provides anti-aging benefits. Now that I’ve been using this product for a while, I can see the skin around my eyes as plumper, brighter, and soft to the touch. The price of SkinCeuticals A.G.E Eye Complex at my dermatologist’s office is around $70. Although it comes in a small jar, it is expected to last a long time. In fact, I only apply such a small amount of products (a little goes a long way!) that I foresee having enough for 4-6 months.

Vitamin C Serum:

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My dermatologist explained it is so important to use a quality Vitamin C product. Vitamin C protects the skin from free radicals, delays aging, and it builds collagen to aid cell turnover. The one product she recommended and that I use every morning is the Obagi Professional-C Serum (around $70; again, it lasts a long time. You only need two to three drops). I use 10%, the lowest dosage, and I plan to increase dosage when this is done. I love this product because I can really feel it soaking into my skin. The first month of usage it caused some tingling and burning sensation. The product label will tell you this is normal and in time it should go away. It did for me. Since I’ve been using Obagi Professional-C Serum my make up application has been so much smoother and my skin is clear and overall nicer.  [CLICK HERE TO READ MORE]

 

Thriving in a Blended Family

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Blended Family: ‘a family consisting of a couple and their children from this and all previous relationships’.

I often get asked how I manage to survive—and thrive—in a blended environment. Many people expect this arrangement to be frustrating, something that either works or completely falls apart. I’ve met parents who automatically assumed there is a ‘resentment’ component among our children—biological, adopted, or step. The latest question has been, “Is it hard to be in a blended family opposed to being a ‘normal’family?” I thought about it for a long moment. I never really thought that my family unit, despite the mechanics of biology or not, wouldn’t be considered normal. To answer this question, I had to pose a few more:

Do ‘normal’ families ever encounter frustrations?

Does sibling dynamic differ from family to family—even child to child?

Does a family, regardless of the members who make it up, always find the right balance?

As a stepparent and biological mother, I can easily answer all of those questions in the same exact manner.  The truth is my family life is not primarily guided by the logistics of who is biologically related to who. It is guided by very specific rules and attitudes that shape our blended family into a ‘normal’ family.

With so many re-marriages and new relationships, the merging of biological and stepchildren is becoming a dominant trend. Still, it is a sensitive development that can either make or break a relationship.

I decided to write this blog and share my own blended family journey to provide answers to friends who seek advice on their newly blended family, as well as those curious to understand the dynamics of a blended environment.

blendedIt’s all about balance.

Balance is the key in achieving a successful and peaceful blended environment. It helps put things in perspective and not lose sight of the ultimate goal (to have a happy and confident family rooted in love, understanding, and compromise.) Balance in a blended family is knowing how to run a functional household without losing sight of the important things. One perfect example is picking your battles. With multiple sets of parents it is important to figure out ahead of time what is worth fighting over and when is best to let go. Not every fight will be worth stealing your peace of mind. Not every misbehavior is a direct result of ‘being blended.  Sometimes, children are just children.  Other times, it is a particular issue deriving from having to share multiple households.  When issues arise, my husband and I ask ourselves this question: is this worth battling about and create a conflict over, or is something we should just learn to let go?

Establish your house rules from the beginning.

This concept is also true for traditional families, but I find that blended environments cause more opportunities for disagreement and imbalance…[Continue Reading Here]