The Importance of Self Care

My body and I have a long history. A whole lifetime, in fact. As a child I thought very little about my body. I was too busy running, jumping, playing, screaming, crying, laughing and being a kid to think about it.

Fast forward through puberty, weight gain, weight loss, dieting, stress, grief, injury, therapy and college, and here I am, figuring out adulthood and what it means to take care of myself. There are the basics–work, shelter, food. But as I’m finding out, the real kind of soul nourishing self care has to come from a place of self love–a somewhat unfamiliar territory for me.

2016 had a lot of ups and downs for me. I accomplished goals I never thought I could  and other goals turned themselves on their heads, leaving me feeling more confused than ever.

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In the past, “taking care” of my body came from a place of hate and insecurity. I ate healthy and exercised to lose weight, not to thank my body for all that it does. I took my body for granted. I pushed it through sleepless nights to finish papers and to party with friends. I bottled and dismissed my emotions when they didn’t fit into the image of who I wanted to be. And in the end, I always ended up unhappy and far from the life I wanted to lead.

Within the past year I’ve come face to face with growing pains and had to get real honest with tough choices. It’s been uncomfortable to say the least but I’ve begun to realize the value of patience. I like to think I know patience with others but I have never known patience with myself.

Patience with yourself and your life and your journey is the foundation of self love and self care. Buddhism teaches that the desire to end suffering causes more suffering. We need to sit with our discomfort to know contentment.

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If you’re like me and think “well what the hell does that mean?” when you read that, I can’t say I have all the answers but I can tell you what it means for me.

For me it means that life is shitty but it’s not shit. I can suffer and feel pain but it does not mean my life is bad. I can experience confusion and guilt and jealousy but it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. To be human is to suffer and to be alive is to be in a constant state of flux. Pain will flow in and out of our lives and it doesn’t mean life is bad.

So, with that understanding, I am coming to know self care. These days, self care for me is sleeping in until I feel fully rested, even if I have a day-long to do list. It’s eating nourishing, enriching food when I’m hungry because I genuinely feel better when I do. It’s journaling regularly to check in with myself and unravel the jumble of thoughts in my brain. It’s running at my own pace, for pleasure, or not running at all and resting when I need it.

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I saw a quote once that said something like “A lifetime is a long time to hate yourself” and I wondered then if I’d ever get to a place of self love. I am still on that journey but it feels like a sigh of relief to at least know what it really looks like.

But, perhaps most importantly, I believe that self care and self love is different for everyone. What makes me feel good and nourishes me  might not be the same for you or even your loved ones. Recognizing that my self care isn’t the same as someone else’s has been half of my battle.

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It’s so easy to idealize someone else’s version of healthy and neglect yourself and your needs in the process. So, that being said, take some time to be honest with yourself about what makes you feel good. Not “I would feel good if I could make myself do this because it would align with the idea of who I should be” Things that you do because you enjoy them and feel a little lighter afterwards.

For example, I avoided yoga for a long time because I didn’t regard it as a “real work out”. I figured if I wasn’t sweating out calories on a treadmill or building muscle with squats and sit ups, it was a waste of my time.

Within the past few months I sought out yoga, not as a work out but as a way to calm my nerves, and I’ve really fell in love with it. It feels like I’m taking care of my body and my mental health.

But maybe you hate yoga. Or self care for you is spending time with your loved ones. The point is, make space in your life for the things that make you feel good, outside of your self improvement goals. Then, go from there.

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My Year in Books

2016 was a year of many ups and downs but one of the things I most enjoyed was getting back to reading. They say that if you want to travel in time to read a book and truly, there are few things I enjoy more than doing just that. I smile thinking back to when my mom, a voracious reader herself, would make me sit with her and read my American Girl books. I hated it! I was just learning to read and my mom wanted to make sure that I developed a love for it like she did. Silly, but it really was a gift in a way.

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As the years went on and I was required to read more and more for school, my reading for pleasure kind of took a back seat. I did enjoy some of the reading of course— Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I highly recommend taking a Women in Pop Fiction class)—but as my required reading list grew longer, it seemed more daunting than relaxing.

So, in the past year while I was decidedly straying from screen time (more on that in another post) I found reading again. I cranked out around 30 in total, give or take. Admittedly some of the books I read this year are embarrassing—I love a good self help section at Barnes and Noble—but here are some that aren’t too bad :o)

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    ⁃    The Happiness Project
    ⁃    The Defining Decade
    ⁃    What French Women Know
    ⁃    The Inferno
    ⁃    The Opposite of Loneliness
    ⁃    Crazy Rich Asians
    ⁃    Fifty Shades Darker
    ⁃    Lucky
    ⁃    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    ⁃    Brain on Fire
    ⁃    America’s Queen
    ⁃    The Circle
    ⁃    Hollow City: Sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    ⁃    The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest
    ⁃    Girl On The Train
    ⁃    The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
    ⁃    Wild 10/4/16
    ⁃    Satan’s Advice to Young Lawyers 10/10/16
    ⁃    Water For Elephants – 10/18/16
    ⁃    The Help 10/25/16
    ⁃    At Home with Madame Chic – 11/8/16
    ⁃    Fifty Shades Freed – 11/16/16
    ⁃    My Year with Eleanor – 12/1/16
    ⁃    The Beautiful and Damned 12/20/16
    ⁃    Harry Potter and The Cursed Child 1/1/17

Around October I thought it would be fun to start including the dates that I finished each book so that’s why you see those there. I also did not include any books that I did not finish, or any books that I’m currently still working on.

Of all of them, my favorite book was probably The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. I love that entire series and am so upset that it was meant to be one of 10 books instead of three. RIP Stieg Larsson. I also enjoyed America’s Queen (Biography of my idol, Jackie Kennedy Onassis,)The Miss Peregrines Books, Crazy Rich Asians, Inferno (anything by Dan Brown, really) and The Defining Decade.

Some books I didn’t quite enjoy but felt the need to finish because I had already started them, like The Happiness Project, The 50 Shades series, and The Opposite of Loneliness. There are probably around 10 books I started this year that I just could not push myself to read through, no matter how loudly my OCD protested. I summoned my inner Marie Kondo and dropped them off at the Goodwill to bring joy to someone else.

I didn’t begin the year with any particular book list and looking back I am actually surprised by how female-centric all of them are (not a bad thing, of course.) However, I do have a book list started for 2017. Side goal: stop buying more books when I already have so many to finish.

Here’s my 2017 book list, as it currently stands, and including a few that I just started, listed at the top:

– Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
– The China Study

– Dante’s Divine Comedy
– Library of Souls – Miss Peregrine series
– Holy Blood, Holy Grail
– The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
– China Rich Girlfriend – Crazy Rich Asians series
– Rich People Problems – Crazy Rich Asians series
– The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
– Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
– The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
– Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food
– Steve Jobs – Biography

If I can keep up my streak, I’ll be able to get through all of these by June so I’m always looking for book suggestions! Do you guys have any book lists or reading goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

chelsea

I ran a marathon! (Long Recap)

GUYS. I DID IT!! I ran the New York City Marathon!!!

If you’ve read my blog through the years, you know I’ve dealt with running related injury for the past 8 years. Knee surgery, chronic ITBS, strained hamstrings, tight hip flexors, sprained arches, Patellofemoral syndrome–you name it. I’ve been in and out of physical therapy and doctor’s offices countless times. There were moments when I worried that I might never be able to run more than a few miles at a time, let alone 26.2.

But I did it. And I didn’t get injured or die even though it felt like it at times. Here’s my recap of the race:

After some heavy carboloading (bagels, pasta, pizza throughout the day), I went to bed around 9 pm on Saturday night to be up for 4:15 the following day. I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious but I still didn’t get a very good sleep that night. Thank God for Daylight Savings giving me an extra hour.

We left Long Island at 4:45 and headed towards Manhattan. I chose the 6:30am Midtown bus as my transportation to the starting line. I was worried we were leaving too early but when I got to the pickup spot I couldn’t believe how many people were there and already in line.

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After being loaded on to the buses we made our way to the starter village on Staten Island.  I ate the chocolate chip muffin I brought with me and took a short nap. We got there around 7:30 and I was in the village by 8am.

I wasn’t scheduled to start until the last wave, around 11am so I had some time to kill. I grabbed some coffee, food and water and got in line for the bathrooms while I was waiting.

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When it was finally time for me to start, I shed my extra sweatshirt and sweatpants (to combat the early morning cold) and ate a pre-race guu. There was music blasting and all the volunteers/police were lining the start, cheering us on.

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Crossing the Verrazano Bridge was amazing. We had a clear, bright day and a spectacular view of the city. It was also cool because the Verrazano is closed to pedestrian access regularly so there really isn’t any other way I’d be able to cross is by foot.

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The bridge let us off in to Brooklyn, where there were crowds, music and camaraderie everywhere. I made sure to start my mid race fueling early. I brought a combinations of beans, gels, and chews with me and tried to take some every 12-15 minutes. Aid stations began at Mile 3 and I alternated between Gatorade and water at each one, skipping about 3 throughout the race.

For the first 9 miles, I felt stronger than I ever had before. I was worried I would make the same mistake as many other runners in heading out too strong/fast and burning out in the second half so I made sure to check my pace regularly and keep it at a conversational level.

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I had read that the crowds in Brooklyn tend to peter out and it can be a difficult stretch afterwards but I found there were pretty much crowds along the entire length of the course, except for bridges.

Miles 11-16 were where I hit my wall. My pace slowed by about 2-3 minutes per mile and I was feeling overwhelmed by the mileage ahead of me. I started taking walk breaks at each aid station but ran for the majority of the time until I reached the Queensboro bridge, around Mile 15.

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Great view, tough bridge.

It was definitely the most difficult bridge in my opinion and I, along with many people around me, walked  almost the entire incline. With 11ish miles left, I didn’t want to waste too much effort on it so I did my best to keep up a steady speed walk and ran the downhill.

Around Mile 17 my body was really starting to ache but I was buoyed by the closeness of Mile 20 and resigned myself to keeping a steady gait. There was also a pace team close behind me, which encouraged me to stay ahead of them. It was around this point that I became repulsed by the gels/chews I brought with me and had to force myself to keep consuming them.

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Mid marathon texts

Seeing the Mile 20 marker was euphoric and exhausting all in one, but I did pick up my pace until Mile 24, which, by the way, is pretty much a giant hill along Central Park. 23-26 was hillier than I expected and I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t start crying a little when I entered Central Park right before 25.

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Pushing through the final stretch

Once in the park, it was like a giant party full of people, music, lights, and nearby attractions. 25 to 26.2 felt like the longest running stretch of my life but I refused to stop running until I reached the finish line.

I was emotional, exhausted, and so excited to cross the finish. When the volunteer placed the medal around my neck, I was full on sobbing, haha.

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I grabbed my recovery bag, took a finish photo, and headed on a 15-20 minute hobble to the early exit/poncho pick up. I exited the course and met Chris nearby at the corner of Columbus and W 81st.

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Overall I can say that the experience was amazing, not what I expected, and not anything like my training. I honestly think I’ve never run a stronger 10 mile stretch than my run through Brooklyn and I’ve never had a more difficult time on miles 11-16 despite having covered that distance a number of times on long runs.

Another notable difference I found interesting was that while my cardiovascular ability felts strong throughout the whole race, my lower body hurt significantly, whereas in training it has always been the opposite. I never felt more than foot pain in my long runs.

Although I swore off running for the two post-race days during which I couldn’t walk properly, I’m already feeling antsy to get another goal/race set in the future. I’m giving myself a solid week before I start running again but I did do an easy half mile on the treadmill yesterday, just to make sure I still know how 🙂

In my next post I’ll talk about how I’m recovering and returning to normal life (so much free time!)

Happy Saturday x

 

 

 

 

Feeling Strong

I have to say, it’s amazing to be in a place where I feel strong and I can recognize the improvements I’ve made both mentally and physically.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was listlessly roaming the kitchen looking for something to bored-eat, how far I’ve come.

Five years ago, I never could have sat around and mindlessly eaten. -Not that mindless eating is good for you or something I encourage, but in the past, everything I ate came with a calculation. If I ate x many calories, that meant x miles on a treadmill. Every food had a price and telling myself that I couldn’t have something made me want it even more. Eating gave me anxiety and anxiety led to paralysis, which led to guilt and more anxiety.

Although weight loss is no longer my be-all end-all  and my journey took a whole lot of healing and hardwork, I will say that it wasn’t until I finally began focusing on health instead of weight loss that I saw “improvements” in my body.

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Before, my only concern was weight loss no matter how unhealthy or dangerous the method was and it got me nothing but self hate and stagnation. When I let go of that toxic mindset and listened to what my body was telling me – that’s when I was able to grow.

Although I’m always chasing fitness and health goals and challenging myself in new ways, it’s not like it was before. I let myself breath. And eat. And I feel more free than I ever thought I could in the past. I appreciate my journey. I know how hard it is to escape the feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin, but you just have to start with a leap of faith.

Let yourself be human.

Wishing everyone wellness today. x

Peanut Curry Chickpea Stew

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It has now been a full work week without spending time on social media. If that sounds pathetic to you, that makes two of us. Still, I think it’s important for me. If detoxing from social media and forcing myself to spend less time obsessing over peoples’ “perfect lives” on the internet is what I need to feel good and discover what matters in my life, then so be it. God, I feel so millennial.

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One of the delightful things I’ve experienced in this is how much time I’ve freed up. I knew before that I had an ugly habit of looking at my phone whenever I wasn’t distracted with something else (yikes) but I guess I never realized how much time that accounted for. As it turns out, a lot.

I got home from work multiple days this week and had time to work out, shower, cook a whole meal, and get to bed on time. By the end of each night I crawled into bed tired and grateful and happy. Happy. I’m not saying logging out of your Twitter account is the answer to end all suffering but it has at the least made my life marginally more enjoyable and lessened that undeniable empty feeling.

Anyhow, with all of this shiny new free time floating around I got to cooking a few things that came out surprisingly well. One of these things was a peanut curry chickpea stew. It started out as my aunt’s interpretation of mulligatawny soup, which I took and tweaked into something else.

I don’t know how else to explain its goodness except that I didn’t bring it to the office and then buy something else for lunch, which has happened more times than I’m willing to admit. I brought it to the office for lunch and was genuinely satisfied with it. That’s important to me. If I’m going to eat, I’m going to enjoy it goddamnit.

I see people struggle through salads for lunch and wonder- what’s the point of eating if you don’t like it? Not that every meal should be cheese fries and cupcakes—that will leave you unsatisfied in a different way—but I stand firmly by the belief that food can be healthy AND taste good. It’s possible. You heard it here first, folks.

So, here is my healthy and totally satisfying and moderately un-difficult and ~vegan~ stew:

Ingredients:
– 1/2 lg yellow onion
– 5 celery stalks, chopped
– 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
– 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
– 2 tbs better than bouillon
– 4 cups water
– 1 cup coconut milk
– 1 whopping tbs peanut butter
– 1 tbs olive oil
– 1.5 tbs curry powder
– A dash of turmeric
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice (honestly you can use any rice, you don’t need fancy fair trade organic shit grown in a remote part of the world to eat well. I bought this stuff at a discount store and it’s delicious so that’s why I have it.)

In a big soup pot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery, olive oil, chickpeas, bouillon, and curry powder on medium heat until the onions start to turn translucent.

Add the peanut butter and mix it into the veggies. Let it integrate a little before adding the water and coconut milk, then the rice. I almost didn’t use the peanut butter but it added a creamy richness that really rounded out the dish.

Cover and cook with a small simmer until the rice and veggies are soft. Add salt and pepper as you see fit. My coconut milk and peanut butter was sweetened so I opted for a little more salt.

As with most soups, be aware that the soup will thicken overnight. This is what turned mine into more of a stew, which personally, I think made it better. Enjoy!

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chelsea

Cultivating Wellness (and other ramblings of a quarter life crisis)

I’m not sure where to start, except that I haven’t really been feeling myself lately. I’m not quite sure what prompted it or if it was always playing in the background but somewhere along the way of this past year, I got really caught up in all my shortcomings.

To tell the truth, it’s pretty typical of me to go through “spurts” of what I often call “lacking motivation” or more generally, just burn out. But this time, for the first time, it’s different than that.

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The more I think about it, I’ve come to realize that I really like rules. I’m good at them. They please me. And following them has always served me well. I have good credit. I’m always early. I spring clean and write thank you notes. Following rules got me through high school, into college, and after graduation, it paid off with a great job.

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However, as I’m coming to find out, rules only get you so far. There is a finite level of satisfaction that can be obtained through rules. Up until this point in my life, there were very clear guidelines for success, and like many people, success brought me happiness.

I guess what I’m trying to say (and please excuse me for any cliches to come) is that now that I’m out of school and there’s no road map or advisor saying “do these exact things and you will be fulfilled,” that I haven’t figured out what it is that fulfills me.

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This lack of internal guidance has often times left me scrolling through social media, looking at other people’s “best versions” of their lives and thinking about all the ways my own life is unsatisfactory.

I know that no one brags about boring or unhappy things online. Even still, scrolling through Instagram can stir up some serious FOMO and other generally not-great emotions. (Not to mention the usual malaise from being bombarded with information 24/7)  I was feeling these things pretty regularly.

So I decided to sign out of my personal social media accounts and take a minute to detox these negative thoughts. I wanted really dwell on the idea of cultivating wellness and actively work to make my life and mind a positive place.

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So far, it feels good. It’s refreshing in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time. I don’t think that I’ve quit the internet for good–it’s very often a source of inspiration– but this break from social media has in some ways, taken away a level of distraction and allowed me the space to figure out what’s important to me. As I’m finding, it’s definitely not keeping tabs on what everyone else is doing.

chelsea

Pinups For Paws Charity

Last week I had the pleasure of doing a photo shoot for an event called Pinups For Paws, which benefits the One Love Fund and Second Chance Shelter for Cats.

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The shoot and event were hosted by Phillipostyle salon in the South End. The salon is a seriously beautiful/amazing space, totally decked out with everything from motorcycles to a basketball court to a DJ booth. It’s seriously unreal. I took a video but wordpress is such a pain when it comes to posting them.

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We arrived around 6pm and got our hair and make up done. The salon was totally empty except us, the owner, and the dogs, so it gave us a good opportunity to admire the space.

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Phillipo was super talented and I was so impressed by his ability to whip up flawless hairstyles so quickly.

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He also airbrushed our make up, which I had never gotten done before. That stuff seriously sticks!

It was a blast getting all dolled up in retro glam. Plus we got to hang out with adorable dogs and support a great cause. I can’t wait to see the pictures from the shoot!

chelsea