Introducing…Me: The Liebster Award

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I owe Annie of Strong Brees a HUGE hug for nominating me for the Liebster Award! Here it comes Annie:

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Thank you times a million!

What I love most about these awards is the opportunity to get to know new bloggers who are doing some pretty awesome things on their sites and to spread the love. This also gives us a chance to pull back the curtain and share a bit of our origin story for those of you just tuning in.

It’s a great time all-around. So without further ado, let the share-fest begin!

First, let’s go over some of the rules:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
  • You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award.
  • You must create 10 questions for your nominees.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees.

Got it? Good.

Here’s my Q&A courtesy of Annie:

1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
There’s no one simple answer here, but the tipping point for me was back in 2009. I’d reached a point where I was really frustrated with my weight and overall appearance. I started to change my eating and exercise habits, researching (I’m obsessed with research!) nutrition and different workout routines, experimenting and ultimately found a pattern that worked. By 2012, I’d hit a lot of my goals but I still felt like I had so many questions about health and nutrition that I wanted to figure out. Why do some diets work for some people but don’t for others? How can we change our environment to be more accepting of different body types instead of emulating an unrealistic beauty standard? What can I do to help people overcome issues with ED and unhappiness?  At the suggestion of several of my friends I decided to start writing. I spent a week in London during the Olympics in 2012, and was so inspired that I spent the entire flight home writing out what would become Food4ThoughtNYC. I never looked back after that.
2.  What is your favorite piece of workout apparel?
me and Underarmour gearI’m obsessed with anything by UnderArmour, especially their leggings. They offer the perfect amount of flexibility and compression without feeling bulky or too tight. Plus, they look awesome! I’ve also learned over time that nothing beats a cotton top. I used to love all of those high-tech sweat-wicking materials but quickly realized that they smell pretty awful mid-workout. Invest your money in the shorts or pants and stick to inexpensive and comfortable tops- just a tip!
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
There’s two- Zumba and Crossfit. Talk about polar opposites! I’m a powerlifter and usually prefer workouts that are a bit more slow-paced with heavy weights. This year I’ve created some new goals around increasing my endurance which means I need to start embracing workouts that are fast-paced with a cardio component. One of my best friends is obsessed with Crossfit and I can’t go a day without coming across a blog post talking about whatever WOD they crushed. I want to drink the Koolaid too! And Zumba just looks like crazy fun. I can shimmy with the best of them, so why not make it a workout?
4.  What did you eat for breakfast (be honest, no judgement here!)?
Ah, you caught me! I just had a giant cup of coffee, but I’m working hard to minimize the extras I throw in. So, only a few teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon, a few drops of half-and-half, and a bit of coconut oil. That’s right, I put coconut oil in my coffee! I’ve read that it’s great for your digestive health and while the science behind the benefits of all things coconut is still a bit murky, I personally find this little addition pretty great for me. I like experimenting! And I also had a slice of whole wheat toast. I’ve got a green smoothie on tap once I finish writing this post.
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence?
Great question. I’m gonna go with writing. It’s a funny answer for me because writing also gives me a lot of anxiety. I worry if what I’m sharing will resonate or fall flat or if my grammar is completely screwed up. Sometimes I run away from it altogether, and I’ve taken some long breaks from my blog as a result. But I find the ebb and flow of my writing journey the past two years to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There are times when I’m literally bursting at the seams to sit down and get my thoughts down either on paper or on my site. It’s been cathartic, especially when I wrote about my issues with disordered eating or racial identity. And as much as it terrifies to put that out there for the world to read and potentially criticize, I always feel like I’ve triumphed in some way. It’s a roundabout way towards feeling confident, but nevertheless it’s been the most effective.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Impossible to answer! I’m a travel nut and my bucket list is way too long. I was in Moab last summer and while there I experienced some of the most serene moments in my life. Sitting there and staring out at these massive rock formations and the valleys between just made me feel so small and so huge at the same time. me and moabThose are the emotions I like to go for whenever I visit somewhere new. I suppose the next place I’d like to feel that would probably be the antithesis of Moab, so a forest comes to mind. I’d love to see the Sequoias in California or some of the old-world forests in Europe. My second choice would be somewhere mountainous. Clearly, nature wins for me!
7.  If time and money were no issue what would you do for a day?
Only one day?? Take a long walk in the early morning to a new neighborhood in NYC. Have breakfast (calories don’t count in this dream right?) and coffee at a slow pace. Visit a museum or go to the park for a few hours to read. Go home and experiment with a new recipe. Watch a movie. Call up a friend and go to a beer garden or outdoor restaurant to enjoy a meal, a few drinks, and a conversation, again at an unhurried pace. Eat dessert. Go home and play with my dog. Then go to bed. Nothing fancy or crazy. And completely unplugged from the digital world. I spend nearly every waking hour online for myself or for work and as much as I enjoy it, there are days when you just need to detox. This would be one of those days.
8.  Cardio or weights?  Why?
WEIGHTS. All the way. I’m a powerlifter, so yeah, weights.
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Every time I tried losing weight in the past I’d go the cardio route only to quit pretty soon after. I don’t blame the exercise so much as a lack of understanding on my part of what really worked for me. When I started lifting with my personal trainer a year ago, something clicked. It’s a difficult challenge, but it was something I actually enjoyed doing, which was very different from every time I’ve hit the pavement attempting to run a couple of miles. This is why I make it my mission to tell everyone to ignore whatever workout trend is currently making the rounds and to quit believing that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. Some of my friends are avid runners who get the high and love the feeling they get from hitting the pavement each day. Others swim, hike, dance, do yoga, spin, kickbox- or lift like I do. And even still, I’m not locked into one thing. This afternoon I’m going swimming and I’ve got a yoga session in store for tomorrow. I choose weights, but that’s not my only choice.
9.  Do you drink coffee? If so, how do you like it?
Ah, scroll up to read my answer to #4, lol. Yes. Coffee and I are old old friends. I even wrote about it here.
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In no specific order: hitting my 230lb deadlift before my 30th birthday last December when I originally aimed for 225lbs; being featured in Latina magazine this year as a top blogger; conquering my fear of bikes by learning to ride last year; getting healthy and fit for me and not for anyone else which was a MAJOR life lesson; traveling through 4 continents and living abroad more than once; nailing an internship with a startup whose mission I actually believe in that inspires me everyday; letting go of some of the pain from my past by embracing gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation as part of my daily practice; starting this crazy blog that led me to meet some truly incredible people out there who are proudly sharing their stories and constantly inspiring me with their honesty, passion, strength, and creativity. Thank you for all that you do!
I’m honestly gobsmacked by the amount of support and encouragement I’ve been lucky to receive from people I’ll probably never meet in real life, but who come here and find something that strikes a chord with them. I do this for me, to leave my mark in the universe in my own way. But really, I do this for you too.
I’ve said it from the beginning: my intention here is to start a conversation. I want to connect and learn from you to see how even the smallest exchange can create waves of change in our corners of the world. A million thank yous to each and every single one of you who’ve laid eyes on my page and the sites of all the bloggers out there that are working just as hard to create something truly unique.
The world needs more unique. 🙂
Alright, now the fun doesn’t stop here. It’s time to nominate what I consider to be truly incredible blogs that I’ve recently discovered and to continue paying it forward (my motto!).
And here are my questions (keeping some of Annie’s because they were great!)
1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
2.  How do you feel about social media and being “connected”?
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
4.  What is your favorite healthy recipe?
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
7.  What song, movie or book inspires you?
8.  Do you practice meditation or have an interest in trying it out?
9.  Why do you write?
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Congrats to all of the nominees. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Happy Easter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Featured post

Thankful Thursdays: It’s Never Too Late

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Another late start. Sigh.

This has become a bad habit I’ve developed the last few months.

Late to work. Late to the gym. Late to meet up with friends. Late to finalize my plans for New Year’s Eve (spent at home because I couldn’t make up my mind). Late to pretty much everything.

And here I am, late to write this post.

2013 was a strange year. An understatement of sorts because there’s no good way to boil down 365 days into one word. But that’s what it was: strange. With a side of bewildering. And a dash of weird.

As I rung out 2012, I proclaimed 2013 to be “MY year!” (to be fair, I spent last New Year’s Eve out with friends and made this statement after several celebratory drinks post-ball drop. Wasn’t late to that one).

Lucky thirteen, I thought. And it was lucky. Extraordinary in fact:

  • I spent 40 days exploring my spirituality and actively learning more about the nature of happiness through my then-guru’s miracle makeover program.

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  • I tackled my racial identity issues head on by proclaiming loudly that the judgement of others had no bearing on who I am as an individual.
  • I FINALLY learned how to ride a bike, a major hurdle in more ways than one.

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  • I opened up about my issues with disordered eating after my experiment with the Paleo diet.
  • I went back to school! I’m working towards a masters certificate in Nutrition Science at Tufts University and I just completed a course in wellness coaching certification. MAJOR win for the year.
  • I tested myself in the kitchen and created my own cookbook of sorts, by sharing my experiments here on this blog and promoting a Meatless Monday agenda.
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Part of my Meatless Monday and Summer Produce Recipe Series
  • I received the utterly surprising nod from Latina magazine as a top blogger this past summer which is both rewarding and humbling.
  • I beat my own expectations for what I was capable of physically by picking up powerlifting at the beginning of the year and then surpassing my own goals by December with this incredible lift.

These are just a handful of moments. There were personal experiences of transformations and epiphanies that pushed me to take a glimpse beyond my limits, if at least for a moment. Those brief periods illuminated a path for me by opening my mind up to new possibilities.

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But not all was bright and cherry. There were changes that I struggled with as well. I celebrated the unions of my closest friends at their weddings this past year and watched them take those huge steps towards a new chapter in their lives. And I couldn’t help reflecting on my own.

Where was I headed? Who am I going to be when I reach that stage? Will I ever be ready for marriage when I don’t even feel ready for this life on my own?

The strong foot forward that started out the year, shifted as the road took a turn. My steps became unsure and I lost sight of my direction. I stepped away from this world that I spent the better part of the year building and I stopped writing.

It seemed that with each passing day I was slouching towards Bethlehem more than traversing the path of enlightenment.

It’s no wonder I find myself late to pretty much everything these days.

As the ball dropped on 2013, I took note of these changes and how I ended up in this period of malaise. And I got restless.

The truth is that when I shut myself off to the outside world by running away from social networks, this blog, and other commitments, I was really opening myself up to a brand new journey. It’s unexpected and frightening, but one of the most incredible changes (and challenges) to come my way in a very long time.

I was close to dismissing this year as a failure in my grand experiment to reshape my perspectives on life, health, and happiness simply because the transformations didn’t appear tangible or wholly impressive. Then I realized that I sold myself way too short, another habit that I have yet to shake.

We never know when our worlds will change or how, but when they do it seems that everything is new again. And that’s how I feel right now. Brand new and aware of more than just myself and my choices. My understanding of love and happiness is complex and ever-changing. My opinions of what being healthy means is also evolving with each new experience. I hope to continue challenging myself to stop saying “I can’t” by trying new things and pushing past my boundaries.

I don’t know what’s in store for me in 2014. With horizons broadened each day, I’m inching along in this journey. There’s ups and then there’s downs, but I’m finally beginning to understand that no matter how much I run away from the world, I am never truly alone or truly disconnected.

If there’s only one thing I can take away from my ‘lucky 13’ it’s the power of gratitude and perspective. Taking the time to reflect and reset forces me to recall why I started all of this in the first place. There are still so many goals I want to accomplish for myself and for the community around me. It’s never too late to get back to who you are and your mission. If you find yourself caught between action and inaction, remember that you can always reset and start over. Each moment is an opportunity and it turns out that I’m right on time for mine.

Happy New Year everyone! I’m looking forward to sharing much more with you in 2014 so stay tuned!!

As always, keep paying it forward and stay healthy! 🙂

Featured post

The Time I Ran Away to Europe

We stood there facing the rising sun peeking behind the gorgeous spires and turrets of the castle, watching the reds and oranges bleed through the sky and across our faces. I looked at my companions. New friends I’d made only a week ago and here we were, sharing this impossible moment of beauty and serenity.

How did I get here? I didn’t really care right then. All I knew was in the early hours of a chilly morning in April, I was present and alive like I’d never been before.

I arrived in Prague with no real idea of what I wanted to achieve, other than to live out my dream of being a world traveler with no grand scheme to dictate my future. I’d been under the thumb of a master plan for years that left me unsatisfied, insecure, and unhealthy. This was an opportunity to shake free of the expectations I felt I was drowning in since graduating from college.

What I didn’t expect when I stepped off the plane was the mind-numbing fear. This wasn’t my first go-around in the park. I’ve traveled before and some of that was solo, so I knew this wasn’t the usual nerves that accompany the exhilaration of being somewhere new further amplified by being alone. The fear that gripped me on that day was beyond what I’d expected. It was crippling.

I stayed in my new apartment, completely alone and utterly terrified of leaving. I needed food. Hell, I needed to see people and make sure this wasn’t all a dream; that I’d in fact, quit my job and moved away from home on a whim with no real idea of when, or if, I’d return. But I was too damn scared to take that step forward and fully embrace my decision.

In the end, my hunger won and I took my first tentative steps out of my apartment and into my new reality. This was home now. I’d make it work because I didn’t have a choice. This was what I wanted and I just had to deal.

What’s wrong with you?? You’ve been talking about this move for months and now you’re going to wimp out? Snap out of it! 

I fought with myself in the beginning and I fought hard.

Then there was the bridge. The colors of sunrise thrown across the facade of the castle in the distance. The laughs and giddiness from new friends. The exhaustion after a night getting lost through the streets of a new city. And the tourist fumbling with a digital camera. There was magic.

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I ran away to Europe thinking that it would be a panacea to my troubles. That somehow moving four thousand miles away would erase my conflicting emotions about my weight, my career, and my relationships.

The time I spent abroad was like a fantasy bubble filled with lazy days and long conversations with new friends that were fast becoming good friends. As time went on, however, I felt the gloss begin to fade and the pressure on the bubble build.

I came home when the dream didn’t exactly play out the way I’d hoped. My fall from grace was hard and it was painful. I was heavier than when I left. I came home more confused about my future than ever before. And I felt regret.

Most people seem intrigued when I mention my trip and on some level, it makes perfect sense. Quitting your job and moving to another country with no real plan seems daring and exciting. But inwardly, I cringe. I don’t give myself credit for that decision and find that I criticize the choice more than I celebrate the experience.

I marked it as another failure in a lifetime of failures. A sad attempt to run away from my problems instead of dealing with them head-on.

And I continue to run, even years later. When I feel my insecurities, doubts and fears well up inside, my first instinct is still to take myself away from those thoughts at any cost.

I retreat in my mind and in my spirit. I hold myself back from my friends. I turn my gaze downward and ignore my surroundings as I build up those walls yet again. I run away in my own room as much as I did when I got on planes and trains years ago. I’ve become almost efficient at the process.

I feel myself running away again today. I’m on a collision course between my past, present, and future as I face emotional and mental challenges coming from everywhere and I feel my control slipping.

I’m tempted to push everything and everyone away, as I’ve always done. I’m tempted to relive my hurtful past and get lost in the cycle that I’d fought so hard to break. I’m tempted to get back on a scale and scrutinize the number that pops up, after spending months blissfully ignorant of my weight. I’m tempted to ignore all of the career opportunities that I’ve fostered this year and to just forget about building a future around an issue I’m passionate about because it’s harder to believe that I can do it than to have faith in myself.

I’m so tempted.

While wandering aimlessly on my lunch break, I turned the corner and I remembered this blog. I remembered my glow last week when I finally accomplished my chin ups at the gym. I remembered the profound happiness I felt for my friend as we celebrated her bridal shower this past weekend. I remembered where this all started and who I was before.

I remembered that sunrise and that beautiful day in Prague when I felt that anything was possible.

None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.

I came back here to write after taking a major step away from this blog and the world I created a year ago. In my impulse to run, I realized that what I needed more than anything was to be reminded of all the good I’ve done.

For all of my negative self-talk and the constant over-analysis of my decisions, I never stopped to acknowledge something critically important: I accomplished everything I dreamed before I got on that plane to Europe. The specifics are different, but the heart of what I wanted, I have.

I don’t know what the future holds or if the choices I’ve made to become a wellness coach, earn a master’s certificate, learn more about strength training and eventually shaping a career that is far off the beaten path, will all work out well. That scares me and it triggers my need to hide.

But I created this blog while returning from a trip where my desire to run was especially strong. I found strength when I stepped out from behind my self-imposed barriers and spoke out about my journey. Somewhere along the line, I lost touch with that. I let the fears creep back in and hold me back when I’m at the precipice of some of the biggest decisions of my life.

And that’s alright. It’s okay to experience the fear and to let it do it’s thing. There will always be setbacks and challenges, and big life changes can be scary. What you can’t do is downplay all of the progress you’ve made because you’re holding yourself to a false standard. For that, I’m guilty and in response to that, I run.

So I’m back here, back to the place where I thumbed my nose at that standard a year ago, to say screw all of that. I own each and every single choice I’ve made and I’m grateful.

I ran this time, but I ran back to the place I needed most. And man, it feels good.

We all experience fears, especially on the path to wellness. How do you handle your fears? How do you keep yourself motivate to move forward with your goals? Please share your thoughts below in the comments. Remember to always pay it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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