I Tried Meditating For 5 Days Straight And Here's What Happened

In an attempt to not allow this beautiful city we call NYC to create an anxious monster (that I may have already started to become), I decided to try something new: meditation.

Celebrities swear by it, health magazines never stop promoting it, but it sounded ridiculous for someone like me to try. My brain is in constant overdrive. Either I’m thinking about everything I need to do for the day, (or week, or next few weeks…), worrying about something insignificant that happened a full year ago, or creating stories in my head of things that could possibly happen (usually the worst case scenarios). Therefore, since my brain never seems to just shut the f*ck up, I was sure that meditation was not for me.

But, ultimately I decided to try to prove myself wrong. My first goal was to use meditation as a way to stop myself from immediately opening all forms of social media upon waking up (don’t judge, you know you do it, too). Because realistically, why should I, or any of us, be filling our brains with everyone else’s thoughts/feelings, drama, news about our country, etc. first thing in the morning?

Unsure of my ability to accomplish this task on my own, I downloaded an app that had been recommended to me called Simple Habit. The app has an abundance of guided meditations for everyday life, like waking up, stress, commuting, going to bed — you name it, they have it. I knew I would need a guided meditation option if I was going to try this, mainly because my brain wouldn’t shut off and also because I really had no idea how to meditate.

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I did this for five days straight, and here’s what went down.

Day One

I had to consciously remind myself not to open Instagram immediately when I woke up and before meditating. That struck a chord with me, like, I actually had to fight back hitting the app on my phone.

On my first day meditating, I had a tough day ahead of me as I was going to attend a funeral. I chose a 5-minute ‘waking up’ meditation, and it really helped calm my nerves about the day ahead, but also strangely made me feel much more awake. After meditating I didn’t really have the urge to scroll through social media, but rather got my day started right away (normally I would have laid in bed for 20 or more minutes just going through all my social media and emails).

Day Two

Again, I had to stop myself from going straight to opening those emails that came in while I was sleeping. I had more time on this Sunday morning, so I chose a 10-minute ‘waking up’ meditation. One thing I noticed after meditating was that I felt way less tired afterward. I anticipated the calmness of the woman’s voice during the meditation would make me fall back asleep, but it actually made me more awake, aware, and prepared for the day ahead.

I also set an intention for my day during my meditation (this was prompted by the guide, and was very helpful). It was an intention I reminded myself of throughout the day if I started getting caught up in any negative thoughts, which is easy to do on a Sunday right before a new week.

Day Three

Rather than doing a meditation right when I woke up, I saved it for later in the day (but actually didn’t even check social media/emails right when I got up, which was a new thing for me). Instead, I let myself just lay in bed and take in the day without checking anything. It was weird to just let myself have a moment with nothing to do but lay there.

Around noon, my landlord came to my apartment unannounced, got my dog all flustered and he started barking, all because he said my shower was leaking into the apartment below me. He has a way of pretending to ‘fix’ things, so this just annoyed the shit out of me because I was trying to get ready for work.

Once he left, I pulled out my yoga mat, plopped myself down, opened up Simple Habit and did a ‘stressed’ meditation for five minutes. Breathing out my frustration instead of carrying it with me for the rest of the day was extremely helpful, and it calmed my pup down — I mean, how can you be mad anymore when you open your eyes to this face?

Day Four

Admittedly, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Being in the fetal position dying of cramps can do that to you. I chose to do an ‘improve mood’ meditation for five minutes. In that moment I wanted to say “Forget this, nothing will help.” But I tried it anyway, and was surprised when it actually switched my thinking around. The act of taking a moment to allow myself to just feel shitty and accept that this is how I woke up, but also make a goal to move forward on a more positive note made a big difference in the rest of my day.

Day Five

I had a really busy Wednesday that started as soon as I rolled out of bed (without looking at Instagram, go me!). I was on the go and really had no time to just sit and think, so I decided to end my day with a ‘going to sleep’ meditation. My mind was still going a mile a minute, and normally I would scroll through and refresh social media to ‘relax’ my mind, which really isn’t now that I think about it. Doing a meditation before bed has become one of my favorite times to do it because it really detaches you from staying awake just to have your phone screen glaring back at you.

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So, the major things that I took away from this:

1. I feel so much better waking up and just focusing on me rather than my Insta feed.

2. When I’m feeling really stressed, it’s okay to recognize those feelings. But then be sure to set intentions (or a mantra) to move on from it.

3. It made me very aware of my body and breathing — how tense I was, how I rarely take time to just ‘be’, and how little I actually take those much needed deep breaths.

Since starting, I’ve been making an effort to use Simple Habit in my day to day. Especially when I’m feeling anxious, it’s the first thing that comes to mind to help me rather than letting my feelings fester all day.
NYC is a great city, but it can also be an extremely negative and energy depriving place if you don’t find a way to balance the hustle and your mental health. So, get your zen on and try meditating, because this sh*t actually works.

We Asked A Dietitian All The Questions We're Secretly Wondering

These days, nutrition advice is at the tip of our fingers; hundreds of “experts” claim their programs will slim you down in no time, promote “healthy” products Instagram posts, shove things like AdvoCare and juice cleanses down our throats and glorify a piece of pizza as a “cheat meal.”

YOU DO YOU, people, but after subjecting my body to many of these things, I decided to stop while I was ahead and consult my best friend who happens to be a dietitian and nutrition expert. She’s my go-to person for any diet questions, because she actually understands the science behind many of these “cleanses” and nutritional information as a whole.

With so many of us 20somethings becoming suckers for these “quick fix” diets, or just believing every health article we read, I wanted to get to the bottom of some of these health fads. So, who better to ask than my personal dietitian?

First, meet my girl Frankie:

20something: Tell us about yourself!

Frankie Maderia: I am a registered dietitian currently working as a clinical dietitian at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I provide nutrition coaching online (meal planning, macro counting, healthy eating, etc.). I also have a blog, along with every other millennial in the world right now. I went to the University of Connecticut (GO HUSKIES!) for five years, two of those years I was in the Coordinated Program for dietetics with 1200 hours of interning, basically free labor, along with full-time classes. At the end of all of this, I passed my certification exam to be qualified to be a nutrition expert. It was difficult to get to where I am today but I love being a dietitian!

What is your favorite part of being a dietitian?

FM: There are so many directions I can go in this field. Working in the clinical setting, most of my patients are really sick and I like that I can provide them with food that will help to heal them. Anyone who is a registered dietitian is a nutrition expert — there are so many other people out there who give out their nutrition advice and coach people on how to eat. Those people are not qualified to give out nutrition advice (as you can see, that is my pet peeve).

Naturally, one of my first questions involves alcohol: is red wine actually healthier for you?

FM: Ted wine contains phenolics and these phenolics help with your cholesterol by helping with oxidation of your bad cholesterol (aka helping to get rid of it). Red wine also contains resveratrol, which is an antioxidant that can protect your heart arteries against the saturated (bad) fat that you consume in your diet. This can help prevent cardiovascular disease.

There are still studies out there looking into the benefits of red wine and I never suggest anyone START drinking alcohol if they do not drink it already, but if you do already drink wine, continue on with that red (obviously in moderation). The health benefits come from red wine when one to two glasses per day are consumed.

As for you white wine lovers, you do get some antioxidants from white wine — tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol. White wine tends to be slightly higher in sugar. Red wine is a tad better overall because it has more nutrients and less sugar than its sweeter, fruitier friend white wine.

Coconut oil is a big trend (beauty and food wise), is it really healthier than other cooking oils we typically use?

FM: I personally use coconut oil on certain things. The most current research shows that it is not the worst oil for you, even though it is mostly saturated fat. In most cases you want to limit saturated fat because it is not a heart healthy fat (too much can lead to cardiovascular disease).

Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (TG) while other fatty acids are long chain TG. What does that mean? Well, the medium chain TG are metabolized differently. They go to the liver quickly from the digestive tract to be used as energy or turned into ketones. The longer chain TG have a little bit of a longer process. Therefore, coconut oil is utilized by the body in a more effective manner.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing you want to look for when reading nutritional labels? What do you want to avoid?

FM: When I look at a food label, I like to look at the saturated fat, fiber, and sodium. Sometimes a nutrition label can be overwhelming — I GET THAT…I usually start by looking at the amount of servings per container. If you were to eat the whole bag or container, how many servings will you be eating?

I NEVER EVER look at the percentages of daily value. That is based on someone having a 2,000-calorie diet (which is not a lot of people) so just bypass those percentages and pretend they don’t exist! I usually glance at total fat but focus more on saturated fat (that bad fat, again). I suggest to limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10 grams per day.

I then like to peek at the sodium content. Everyone should be on a low sodium diet. There is literally salt in everything that is processed. If one serving has less than 140mg of sodium, go ahead and eat it! Your total sodium intake should be less than 2,000mg/day.

The last thing I tend to look at is fiber. I love fiber — it is fabulous. It helps with digestion, it makes you feel full, and it can decrease your risk for colon cancer. FIBER IS YOUR FRIEND. Just be cautious- make sure if you eat fiber rich foods, that you drink plenty of water. Fiber will just sit in your stomach and cause distress if it doesn’t have water there to help move it along.

 

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What are your go-to drinks at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts that may be a bit healthier than a caramel, frappe, whipped cream-filled unicorn drink?

FM: Obviously I had to try the unicorn drink when it came out. It was ok, I liked the sour parts of it. BUT I would definitely not recommend having that daily, or having a frappe every day. It is just milk and sugar. When I go to Starbucks I usually get just a black coffee (since I drink like 5 to 7 cups of coffee on the daily) or I get the Caffe Misto (coffee with steamed milk).

Lattes are good as well, but it depends on what milk you are getting or if you get flavor shots. Those calories can add up if you are having multiple coffee drinks per day. A latte with whole milk and flavor shots can be close to 200-250 calories. Don’t get me wrong, I love a latte but I usually get almond milk (cutting some of the fat and sugar and my belly doesn’t tolerate high amount of milk) and the sugar free shots.

At Dunkin’ I will get a coffee with caramel swirl flavoring, hot or iced with some almond milk. It has some added sugar but it’s a nice treat. Usually I will make my coffee at home and drink it black, but I have been hooked lately on the Silk Almond Milk Caramel Coffee Creamer. I add a shot of that to one of my cups of coffee and it is excellent. (Saves you some money, too.)

What ingredients are a big no-no for you when you’re finding a good protein powder or pre-workout?

FM: Pre-workouts and protein powders are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so they get away with putting ingredients in the formulas that aren’t so healthy. There are some products out there that do not even list all of their ingredients. They get away with calling them “Blends” or “Proprietary Blends” meaning they will list like caffeine, green tea, whey protein, blah blah blah, proprietary blend… and then not even say what that blend is. Why take something when you don’t even know what you are taking?

For protein powder I suggest just a 100 percent whey protein or pea protein. These contain all of the essential amino acids and are easily digested.

What you don’t want in your protein powder:

  1. Gluten: this can cause increase inflammation.
  2. Fillers: fillers include coconut flour, psyllium (fiber) and are just cheap ways to add unnecessary ingredients to ‘bulk’ up your powder.

For pre-workout I would look for these ingredients:

  1. Beta-Alanine: this is used in pre-workouts to help improve your endurance and reduce your muscle fatigue. The recommend amount to have per day can range from 2-6grams/day. When you take a supplement and you feel all tingly, that is from the beta-alanine.
  2. Caffeine: obviously caffeine is fine. It can increase energy, focus, and anaerobic capacity.
  3. Citrulline Malate: this is citrulline and malic acid bound together. Your body can safely tolerate 4-10g/day. It can help enhance your performance, help with muscle soreness, and promote energy production.

But avoid these:

  1. Synephedrine (bitter orange) close to the stimulate ephedrine which is banned. There is no evidence that says that bitter orange is any better than ephedrine and ephedrine can lead to severe cardiovascular side effects.
  2. Yohimbe: it dilates the blood vessels and can lower blood pressure to unsafe levels.

Do you agree that dark chocolate is healthier, or can a girl live a little and eat the whole bag of dove milk chocolate?

FM: Dark chocolate is the healthier choice, but it is healthier in moderation. Dark chocolate does have more health benefits; it contains some healthy antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. Consuming dark chocolate that is 70 to 85 percent dark contains fiber, iron, magnesium and copper — all good things.

But if you like milk chocolate, there is nothing wrong with choosing that. You should be able to enjoy the foods you like, just in the right amounts!

 What sports drinks do you stay away from, or are they actually good when you’re active?

FM: Sports drinks are basically just sugar water with some electrolytes. I never suggest people drink sports drinks unless they are exercising (cardiovascular activity) for longer than two hours and losing a significant amount of fluid via sweat. Sports drinks are meant to rehydrate people who may be dehydrated or at a negative fluid balance. People who go to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour should just drink water. No need to replace the calories you just burned with a sugary beverage.

I do recommend the sports drinks if you have been ill (vomiting or diarrhea) because they can help when you are dehydrated.

Let’s talk vitamins, what do you suggest that your average 20something woman should take every day (Please say ALL OF THE GUMMMMMIES)?

FM: I take a multivitamin. I usually tell people to consult with their doctor before starting any regiment because I don’t know what their lab values say. Your blood work can be very telling and will let you know if you are deficient in anything.

The reason I take a multivitamin is because even on my healthiest day, I am not consuming 100 percent of everything I need. A multivitamin should be taken with food to help optimize digestion of the vitamins. ONLY take the recommended serving size of the vitamins. I know the gummies taste delicious, but they are not snacks or candy and overdosing on vitamins and minerals can lead to very harmful side effects.

What are better alternatives when going to a bar and ordering a drink? 

FM: Haha! Great question…

Vodka is a lower calorie choice. Also, anything made with seltzer (no calories). So a vodka seltzer is good- add a lemon or lime for extra flavor, this is about 95-100 calories. Tonic water and seltzer are NOT the same. Tonic water contains sweetener, adding sugar and calories.

Champagne and red wine have lower calories — about 90-100 calories.

If you want a soda drink (I usually never recommend diet soda on the regular but its ok when mixing with alcohol) then I recommend a whisky and diet coke, again about 100 calories.

A Moscow mule with a twist is excellent if you skip the simple syrup and ask for lots of ice- 120 calories (180 with the simple syrup).

A glass of white wine or an ice cold beer both run you about 100 calories.

Also, taking shots can add up. Each shot can be about 70 to 110 calories just for the shot, depending on the alcohol. Vodka is a lower calorie shot to take.

What do you think about someone going gluten free (replacing their foods with gluten free foods) to get skinny/healthier?

FM: People should only follow a gluten free diet if they have gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease — BOTH diagnosed by a doctor. Celiac disease is a legitimate allergy to gluten and a strict gluten free diet needs to be followed. Many people out there (I won’t name names- let’s just say the people who “claim” be nutrition experts but are NOT registered dietitians) believe that cutting out gluten will help you lose weight. This is NOT true.

Consuming the correct amount of whole grains per day can help protect your body against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Wheat also promotes a healthy gut because it is an excellent source of fiber. An appropriate amount of whole wheat products can also decrease your risk of colon cancer. It is a myth that gluten free products are ‘better for you’ (unless you have an allergy to gluten, of course).

Gluten free products are the same as regular packaged products when it comes to additives- anything in a package that is shelf stable will be processed and will contain additives that you won’t find in fresh products. If you want to get healthy, eat FRESH, non-processed foods. Any diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats is going to be better for you.

You used to be a pescatarian, and now since you’ve crossed over to the dark side with us meat eaters, what is your advice for someone who wants to become vegan (or pescatarian/vegetarian) to lose weight or to be healthier? 

FM: I was a pescatarian for about 10 years because I watched all of those videos on how the meat was made and how the animals were not treated well. I still think about that and I try my best to get humanly raised and organic animal products now that I am eating more meat.

First, what is the difference between a vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan?

  • Vegetarian- avoids all poultry, fish, and meat. Eats dairy and eggs.
  • Pescatarian- avoids poultry and meat. Eats fish, dairy, eggs. (This was me)
  • Vegan- doesn’t eat anything. Just kidding…avoids poultry, meat, fish, eggs, and all dairy. Avoids anything from an animal basically.

Becoming a vegan can be dangerous, because many people do it to get “skinny” and end up becoming protein deficient and are unhealthy. There is a right way and wrong way to do it.

Many people who become vegetarian to be “skinny” end up accidentally changing their diet from a decent and adequate diet to a high carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates are amazing, I love ALL THE CARBS, but if you don’t find sources of plant-based proteins the carbohydrates can lead to extra inflammation and bloating- masking any weight loss that you might be looking for. Many people lean on processed and packaged foods out of convenience and all of these foods have unhealthy additives that are not good for you. I always preach that fresh is best! If you can eat healthy by eating fresh, go for it!

I don’t suggest you stop eating meat just to lose weight. You can alter your diet in other ways to achieve HEALTHY weight loss. You need a healthy balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. You can eat healthy meats — lean meats are best.

If you really do want to become a vegetarian or a vegan, DO YOUR RESEARCH! You need to do a little more meal planning and prepping because you need to make sure there are options for you to eat everywhere you go. Coming from my experience, if there wasn’t a good fish option on the menu for protein, I would end up getting pasta and eating bread and just being overloaded on carbs without any good protein. Also, you need to like beans to be a vegetarian because most of your protein will come from beans and eggs.

Shout out to all my vegetarians/vegans out there killing it!

Juice cleanse, is it worth spending $150+ on a juice cleanse from a nutritional stand point?

FM: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Often times juice cleanses are for ‘detox’ or getting ‘healthy’ and you drink these special and expensive juices for 2-10 days. I am ALL ABOUT a good juicer drink, don’t get me wrong, but I introduce that into my healthy diet. I will have a juice after breakfast for example, not as my breakfast.

Here is how a juice cleanse works: all you do is drink juice for an extended amount of time to help you “burn fat” and “debloat” and “lose weight.” Here is what actually happens: you deplete your body of all vital nutrition.

During a juice cleanse you are not detoxing your liver or shedding extra fat, but actually starving yourself and it appears that you are losing weight because you have no water on board. All the weight is just water weight. If you do the cleanse for too long, you are losing your muscle. Your body is in shock from the low caloric and low protein intake that it HOLDS ONTO the fat in your body. Your body freaks out because you did not eat real food for however long and your metabolism has slowed down too.

You will gain the weight back because if you just go back to eating normally and now with your newly found SLOW METABOLISM your body will cling onto everything. You may even gain some extra fat. YES just what you wanted right?

Try cutting out overly processed foods and eating healthy. Don’t look for the easy way out. It looks easy but it is horrendous for your body- and doesn’t even work. Also you basically are just throwing away your money.

 

As seen on 20Some.com

5 Steps To Remaining Positive In A Negative Work Environment

Whether you’ve just started a new job, or are in the thick of a stressful one, finding and holding on to the positives is key. However, I’ve learned that it can be difficult AF to hold on to any sort of positivity when the work environment and people that surround you are constantly negative.

Dealing with high stress jobs or situations at work is always something I’ve been able to handle. Especially if I was experiencing them with people who were truly supportive and just fun to work with. On the other hand, I’ve also had to deal with intense jobs with negative people left and right. You know those people who at every corner you turn are shit talking on one another, non-stop venting about a hundred different issues (don’t get me wrong I love a good vent sesh, but sometimes enough is enough), and are just too wrapped up in their bad attitude to even throw you a simple smile?

I’ve come to realize in the last year (because 2016 was all about ‘realizing stuff’ according to Kylie Jenner) that you can’t maintain a healthy work-life balance if you are willing to go down the rabbit hole with the rest of your negative coworkers. Simply put, it will eventually catch up with you and hold you back from moving forward in your career and life in general.

So, I started thinking of ways that I and everyone for that matter could avoid that negative bubble that’s waiting to trap us all from the second we walk in the door. The key is to actually doing these things, you can ‘know you should’ all you want, but it won’t work unless you put those words into action.

1. No matter what, kill them with kindness.

Your coworkers may walk past you with no smile, no ‘hey how are you’, no nothing- but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do the same. Say good morning, smile as you walk past each person, ask how their weekend was. Spread your kindness, and it will only become infectious.

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2. Remove yourself from any negative conversations.

Venting about the never ending issues, drama, etc. can seem like it helps. Sometimes it does. But if that’s all you’re doing with your coworkers, it’s really only setting you back (you know that saying, ‘misery loves company’?). Switch up the conversation from, “I don’t want to be here.” on Monday morning to, “How was your weekend?”. However, if the venting is going on and on despite your best efforts, remove yourself from the room. In the long run, it’s not doing you any good to be around it.

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3. Leave work at work.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy all of the time? This is the hardest step for me. But realistically, you’ll only become just as bad as your negative coworkers if you can’t go home and leave work in that building. Of course you need time to vent, so let yourself get it out for a few minutes to your person who will listen (aka my mom on my walk home from work, and my boyfriend when I get home…okay so maybe you need two people to vent to). But then, you need to leave well enough alone, and use what time you do have out of work to really enjoy all of your favorite things (like me taking the time to finally write this).

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4. It’s okay to not make friends with your coworkers outside of work.

Obviously it’s great to have friends at work. People who understand what you do on a daily basis, who you can trust, and who you can count on to run to the bar for happy hour after work. But if you end up hanging out with your coworkers outside of office hours and the only conversation you’re having is about work and how horrible it is (as if you didn’t already do this while you were there), then what kind of friendship is that? It’s okay to be friendly with people at work, but you don’t need to be best friends with everyone.

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5. Make your favorite activities/people/hobbies your center focus.

As much as work can take over our days, weeks and months, we have to put ourselves first (especially when that depresssing environment at work is waiting to take hold). If you have a favorite workout class, cocktails with you friends, date night, plan it all out for your week and stick to it. It’s important not to let these things that bring you so much joy slip for a place and people that tend to drag you down.

 

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Hello, Fitspo: 5 Fitness Instagram Accounts That Will Get You Moving IRL

Originally Published On 20Some.com

Jumping into a new year is typically centered around dieting, getting back into a fitness routine, and obsessing over the “fitspo” filling our social media feeds on a daily basis. We set unrealistic goals for ourselves, end up falling back into that pizza box face first, and start the cycle all over again.

But what if we could take one positive step this new year toward our fitness goals? What if that one step was as easy as unfollowing and following people on your Instagram? Although it won’t help you lose 10 pounds in a week (because who wants to do that anyways?), it may help bring a more positive and healthier outlook to your fitness and nutrition journey.

I used to follow a million different random accounts on my Instagram that posted pictures idolizing girls half naked with shredded abs, a thigh gap, and whatever else was ‘fit goals’ at the time. However, I slowly realized that I was never going to look like those girls, and that was okay. I purged my account of all ‘fitspo’ accounts and decided to follow real people with real stories, real struggles, realistic fitness goals that can actually inspire me to hit the gym and be a better person.

I’ve put together a list (in no specific order) of my favorite fitness Instagram accounts. These are real women, with amazing stories that they are willing to share, and that don’t promote unrealistic fitness goals.

1. @getfitbrooklyn aka Chinae

Chinae is someone that was always tagged in a lot of posts by people I had already followed. When I finally checked out her page, I was immediately drawn to her. She is a Brooklyn-based event planner, Adidas ambassador, and shares nothing but authentic posts on her social media (along with the fact that her makeup is on point). She posts her transformation pictures with advice that let’s you know there is no quick fix to losing weight, but only your determination to do so. Chinae helps others find their “inner badass” through her social media, real life advice and fitness. Follow her and add some fit-spiration (as well as lifestyle inspo) to your daily Instagram feed.

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2. @lauren_bongiorno aka Lauren

Lauren is a 20something health coach and yoga instructor who shares her insights on the mind and body that really get you thinking. Lauren is someone that I have been lucky enough to meet, so I can tell you first hand that the person you see on social media is the same person you see in real life. Her positivity is contagious, and her yoga moves will make you want to get on that mat and keep practicing. As a type1 diabetic herself, Lauren has learned to take her knowledge of this, and help others dealing with diabetes maintain a healthy lifestyle. But most importantly, what she posts will not only give you the inspiration you need for your fitness life, but also give you motivation to work out your mind as well.

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3. @nicolewinhoffer aka Nicole

Nicole is the girl behind NW Method which “blends art, science, music, and sports to calm the mind, transform the body, and free the soul” (and incorporates dope beats and dance moves). You’ll notice how free and confident of a person Nicole is while scrolling through her Instagram. She has photos of her in a leotard posing with an amazing dance pose, to videos of her classes (which look like they would kick my ass) that all include never ending inspirational captions. She emanates confidence with a splash of sexy, and makes me feel like with curves, or no curves, abs or no abs, I’m beautiful. If you’re in the NYC area, she offers classes at The Standard, so go get moving!

4. @reviejane aka Revie Schulz

As a crossfit lover, I’ve followed Revie Schulz for quite some time. She is an Australian-based Crossfit gym owner (Crossfit Babes Miami an all women’s crossfit gym in Australia). She is a 20something business owner, fitness enthusiast and new mom. Although you may think she’s not relatable because you’re not a new parent, think again. The authenticity that Revie shows on her Instagram about going from being able to lift a lot of weight and feeling great about her body, to feeling completely unsure after her pregnancy is so refreshing. She makes you realize that whether you just had a child or not, you can always bounce back with hard work and dedication, and a really positive mindset.

Okay, so, MASSIVE rant/ chat to my snapchat fam today (reviejane) on positive body image and how to embrace our bodies. Im sorry if that went for ages but in conclusion, here is my message. ? It’s okay to be in shock, that is normal. 90% of the time on social media, we don't see the shit part after you’ve had a baby where you still look around 7 months pregnant and your belly replicates the same texture of a whoppee cushion. ? Be proactive with your physical and mental health. It’s a huge challenge, trying to be the best mum possible and learn the ropes of motherhood WHILE also honoring your body. Its one huge juggling act and if you feel totally inadequate at it, don’t stress, most of us do! Start small, e.g. 3-4 walks per week, meal prep your dinners every weekend. Be gentle with yourself and implement fun, active activities that will get your body moving and endorphins pumping! ? Postive affirmations. You know what you don't hear often? A woman saying “I LOVE my body, it's amazing!” which is silly- we should be saying that every damn day, because we are all effing amazing! For atleast a month, look in the mirror and say something you LIKE about your body instead of picking on that pimple or that you hate your nose or that you wish you had smaller hips. It may just change your perspective and therefore your life. ? Lastly, hold that baby of yours. Look at the perfection that YOU created in that very body of yours. You. Created. Life. You are magnificent. And you should love yourself for that, let alone everything else that makes you beautiful. #BodyLove #Postpartum

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5. @mynameisjessamyn aka Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn is a body positive, yogi, f-bomb dropper, real AF girl who teaches yoga with Cody App and is someone you need to follow right now. I started following Jessamyn after I saw her feature with Refinery29 this past summer, and was immediately inspired by her attitude about her body, fitness, and life in general. She describes her body as powerful.

“It has overcome so many odds that I never thought it could, physical and emotional,” Jessamyn said.

If you’re looking for that body positivity you’ve been lacking in 2016, it’s time to follow Jessamyn’s Instagram.

I didn't come to yoga with a lot of natural flexibility or strength. I've always been curvy, and I've been sensitive about my body size since childhood. When I started practicing yoga, I would intimidate myself into thinking certain asana would always be completely out of my reach. I assumed that fat people have limits. I didn't understand the power of progress. I didn't understand that progress takes time. Our society thrives on impatience, and it's easy to convince ourselves of inadequacy when we don't see immediate results. I think my Instagram presence can make that internal battle seem like it's in my rearview window, but that's completely off base. Self-hate and self loathing are addictions like anything else, and stepping away from those vices means entering a permanent state of recovery. I am a self-hate addict- it didn't magically go away when I started practicing advanced asana. But those struggles shouldn't be covered up or swept under the rug. At the end of the day, those struggles are really what make us made for yoga. The practice doesn't exist to inflate egos. Legit, my ego has NEVER served me- if anything, it's consistently inhibited my capacity for happiness. I don't want to live under the shadow of my childish ego forever. That's why I keep showing up on my mat-because unpacking all this bullshit is the only work that actually matters. I love working with my #partner @mandukayoga- in fact, the ballet style leggings I wore in @glamourmag are by Manduka. In a universe where plenty of yoga brands couldn't care less about showcasing a diverse yoga community, Manduka is actually out here trying to make progress. I chatted with the design team this past winter, and I expressed my concern about their limited sizing options. Some of us can't even wink at a size Large, ya dig? The team was very receptive, and I'm looking forward to a size expansion soon. I'm just glad they give a fuck, honestly- and it's time for everyone else to wake up, too.

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Embrace The New: Dealing With Life's Never Ending Changes

 

Change, big or small, has always been difficult for me. Whether it was my parents buying a new couch, or moving to a new town, I probably cried over it (and demanded things stay the same). But, that’s not how life works apparently. I’ve only (in the last year) recently realized how much new changes in my life affected me on an emotional level.

This past year, I moved to NYC with admittedly no real set life plan. It was the most challenging thing I’ve done to date. But, when I set my mind to something, I find a way to make it happen. Between a new apartment, moving in with my boyfriend, getting used to NYC in general, and finding my place, it has been a whirlwind of changes for the last year and a half.

That being said, seeing as I don’t take to change very easily, there has also been an intense flow of emotions happening during this time. Happy, angry, a little depressed, confused, excited-I’ve felt it all. However, what I’ve realized through every season, every emotion, and every new thing that’s happened (good or bad), is that it’s all about how to deal with whatever change is brought your way.

Sure, initially you may feel extremely nervous, scared, angry, or excited. You may shed a few tears (or a lot in my case), but it’s what comes after those initial feelings that matters.

How do you handle the new cards you’ve been dealt?

If you shut down and choose not to accept this new phase in your life as your reality, then you’re asking for more negative shit to pile on. However, if you take it and run with it (no matter how good or bad it is), then you’re only asking for positive solutions to open up or even better opportunities to come your way. Because let’s be real, not all change is bad change.

This past summer I decided to sell my car. It was sitting in my parent’s garage, not being used at all, and having the money from it in my pocket was definitely not going to hurt. That being said, when the day finally came that a sweet college student from my town bought it on the spot, I cried like a baby. That car was more than just a white Ford Focus Wagon. It was the car that put me through the end of high school, stuck with me all through college, drove me to my new apartment and job in Boston, carted my friends to a bunch of fun trips, it was a place where I could be alone to think, where I could let my dog Buddy hop in the front seat for a quick car ride. It was a box with four wheels that held an infinite amount of memories.

So I cried, and had a ping of regret, and maybe wished that girl wouldn’t actually buy it. But then I realized that she was going to make those same memories driving to and from school every day, taking the burden off of her parents, and that I honestly did not need it (and okay so the money definitely did not hurt either).

My point is, these extreme changes are going to occur. Day after day, month after month, year after year. But it’s all about what we learn from them, the things we can take away, and the choice we make to get up every day and make our lives better.

Of course I still think about my car, or that time I felt like a failure, or the money I wished I had saved instead of spent, or how scared I felt driving with our U-Haul into the city. But, I also think about and really focus on all of the growing up I’ve done because of all of the changes that have occurred in my short 24 years. Bad or good, I’ve taken SOMETHING away from it. And as fall turns into winter, I know there will be even more life changes to come. No matter how exciting or how terrifying, everything will be okay. Remember that the next time you’re faced with a ‘holy shit I don’t know if I can handle this life altering situation’ or a ‘I’m really nervous about this amazing thing that just happened’. Because no matter who you are, you’re strong enough to handle whatever life throws at you.

30 Day Self-Love Challenge Towards A Balanced Life

Recently, I’ve taken on a job where the concept of a ‘work-life balance’ is essentially non-existent. I feel like I wake  up, go to work, am lucky if I get to eat a full meal, and go to bed (only to repeat the cycle for the rest of the week).

All of the stress and anxiety I thought I had rid my body of is flooding back, and I admittedly feel at a loss with how to cope. My eating habits are off, the gym doesn’t happen, my mind never shuts off, I feel like a mess. However, I realize that there are so many more of us out there that are dealing with this exact same thing. We unintentionally let ourselves go (mentally and physically) when we have little to no work-life balance.

So, as I sit here on this beautiful Sunday morning in Brooklyn (where I’m still stressing about work tomorrow), I know that I need to make a change. My job is going to stay the same, and will take me down with it if I let it. Instead, I’m deciding to make a conscious decision to not let my work drag me along any more.

Will I still have hard days? Probably. Will I still end with a 60 hour work week? Definitely. But what will hopefully change is my attitude towards it all.

With that being said, I encourage you to join me as I jump into my own 30 day self-love challenge, which I believe will in turn create a better work-life balance for myself.

What will this challenge include? Well, it may look way different for you, but here’s what I want mine to include:

  • First, just putting it out there into the universe that I need a change (but doing the work necessary on my end to get me there).
  • Eliminating the amount of negative self-talk that I’m currently allowing myself to do.
  • Taking 1 hour (or more if I have it) to do one thing that I love each day (this could be just laying in bed watching a show, reading a book, going to a certain place, etc.)
  • Meeting up with friends more often.
  • Making time for exercise (my current goal is three times a week for now, and hopefully I can up it from there!).
  • Getting my favorite coffee or tea before work to set myself up for a good morning.
  • Preparing meals and snacks ahead of time so that I’ll have unlimited healthy snacks to grab from throughout my work day.
  • Sneaking ten minutes in the work day to just sit and breathe.
  • Standing up for myself when I need to leave work on time.
  • Going home to visit my family because I always feel better when I get there.

This list is what I am going to read through every day to make sure that I’ve accomplished at least one thing. I’m sure there are more that I can do that I’m not thinking of, but for now I have my outline. This is what I want to push all of you out there to do, make an outline of things that you can do to promote more self-love in your life.

It’s unfortunate that we have to think about making time for ourselves, but as I’m learning, it is so essential. Primarily for leading a more balanced life (especially when work is taking over).

My goal is to implement this challenge into my routine for the next thirty days, and if all goes well this will be something that comes more naturally. You will see weekly updates on my blog about how I am doing in this challenge (mostly to hold myself accountable).

If you are experiencing a similar imbalance in your life, do this with me. Thirty days is nothing when you are creating a better version of yourself, and allowing yourself to lead a life where you are more in-sync with everything.

So here’s to the next 30 days of manifesting so much self-love!

Follow along on my Instagram where I’ll be posting all about this throughout the challenge!

Let's Talk Negative Body Image With Ledbetter Coach Annika Swanson

Body image is something I never used to care about. When I was in middle school chowing down on my cosmic brownies and mac & cheese, I put zero thought into what my body looked like in the mirror or to others. I played sports, I ate whatever I wanted, and that was that.

It wasn’t until I hit high school that dieting, body image, working out, and obsessing over all of the above really hit me. The group of people I surrounded myself with definitely didn’t help matters, and when I broached the subject of wanting to lose weight, I received negative comments that in so many words told me I should. From there, it spiraled. I never went to extreme measures like not eating or anything serious, but the mentality I had about my body every day mine as well be considered ‘extreme’. I obsessed to no end, thought I always looked ‘fat’, and constantly had friends who were counting calories to make me feel even more self conscious. 

Eventually I just considered my negative body image normal. Now looking back, especially at pictures from high school, I realize that I was nowhere near overweight. And yet, I wasted so much energy focusing on ripping my body apart in front of the mirror. This trend escalated throughout college, until I found weightlifting and crossfit. I felt more in control of my body, and started to spend less time worrying about every roll, every bit of cellulite I found. 

Since then, I have gone through a lot. Mentally, physically, emotionally-I’m a different person. And with stress, change, and moving I felt all of my negative body image issues flooding back.

Luckily, around the same time I found Ledbetter as well as my coach Annika Swanson. Annika and the Ledbetter team pride themselves on losing or gaining weight in a healthy way. A way that will lead you to ‘live every day better’. I was placed with Annika, and knew right off the bat that she was the right coach for me. She was patient when I felt like failing, she encouraged me when I needed it most (and I haven’t even met her in real life), and although I’m not looking in the mirror saying ‘I LOVE MY BODY’, I feel like I am so much closer to that point because of her. I’ve never seen Annika preach anything that she hasn’t tried or been through herself. So, I knew that she was the perfect person to interview about negative body image and overcoming it all.

Stepping away from body shaming ourselves, especially as women, is by no means easy. No matter what stage in the game you’re in, it’s a constant battle to just be happy with who you are in every stage of your fitness journey and life overall. 

It has obviously been something that I have struggled with myself, and I imagine many of your reading this as well.

So if you’re anything like me and are catching yourself saying one too many negative things about your body, keep reading to see what Annika has to say.


What would you say, looking back, triggered your own body image issues? 

My body image issues initially started when I began prepping for my first (and only) bikini competition two years ago. This was the first time that I ever made a conscious effort to look a certain way, according to someone else’s standards. It was also the first time that the idea of being “tight and tiny” became ideal, and from then on I felt I could never be small enough.

What comes to mind when you think of a ‘negative body image’?

When I think of a negative body image, the first thing I think of is picking oneself apart in the mirror. Seeing all the “flaws” in one’s body rather than appreciating it and loving it for what it is and what it can do. I would also consider it a persisting feeling of not being “enough” – lean enough, skinny enough, muscular enough, strong enough, or never feeling happy about your current appearance.

Did you ever go to extremes because your negative body image/perception of yourself took over (i.e not eating, not eating enough, excessive workouts, binge eating, etc.)

When I prepped for a bikini competition a few years ago, I was on an extremely restrictive diet with excessive cardio compared to what my body actually needed. I had no knowledge of proper training or healthy nutrition at the time. As a result of this, I was obsessed with strictly sticking to my diet to a “T.” If I had a small slip up or treat, I completely lost it mentally and emotionally. This resulted in binging on things like chocolate and peanut butter. Any time my anxiety or stress was high, it resulted in binge eating.

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What was competing on stage like for you? Did it have a negative impact on your body image because you had to maintain a certain figure?

Competing on stage was a very nerve racking and negative experience for me. This was partially because my coach at the time had not taught me a posing routine (only set poses), along with “first time” nerves, but it was also the first time I intentionally subjected myself to being judged and critiqued by someone else. I personally did not feel that the stage, particularly in the bikini division was the right place for me. I personally didn’t feel comfortable subjecting myself to intentional judgement like that, and the feeling of being judged carried over into my day to day life as well. This experience is different for everyone, so my experience won’t be the same as others’. 

Was there any specific moment where you said ‘enough is enough, I can’t keep hating on my body’? 

A few months after that show, I felt very insecure in my body, particularly after gaining weight post show. I had no idea how to achieve my fitness goals though. That summer, I took the leap and signed up for a self guided Ledbetter Inc. Reverse Dieting Program. I told myself I would do everything I possibly could to achieve a body I could feel confident in, and to eventually love myself and find confidence again through that process.

How has coaching helped your personal battle with body image or body shaming?

It’s always easier to provide a fresh perspective to others than it is to apply that same perspective to ourselves. Coaching has allowed me to apply the develop the objective, healthy perspective I  have towards others, and learn to apply it to myself. 

What has helped you maintain a positive outlook on your body?

The most important thing that helped me create and sustain a positive outlook on my body was shifting my focus from losing weight, to building muscle and strength. This went in phases and did not happen overnight, but by focusing on things other than ab definition, I have been able to see my body progress in new ways. When I switched my focus to getting physically stronger and healthier, my mindset became stronger too and positive physical changes happened almost as a side effective. 

Would you say your negative perception of your body affected your relationships with others, and has that changed now that you are in a different mental space about your body?

When it was something I actively struggled with, my negative body image definitely affected my relationship with others. I was obsessive about eating and just in general had a negative outlook on life- which stemmed partly from not feeling inherently good about myself. Now that I am in a different mental space about my body, this has definitely changed. I’m no longer obsessive about eating, and I make a point not to let those obsessive food habits creep into time with my loved ones. This results in me being more present in the moment- not fearing that I’ll get “fat” from what I’m eating, and not obsessing over tracking my macros to the exact gram, either. I have some days when I feel great physically, and some days when I feel not so great. On the days when I don’t feel so great, I have had to make a conscious effort not to let that negative body image create an entirely negative day. I swore to myself I would never allow what I saw in the mirror to dictate my happiness again, as long as I was living a healthy lifestyle. Instead, I focus on what changes I can make to my habits and routine to feel better not only physically, but mentally. 

How has social media impacted your body image (negatively or positively!)?

Social media can be a slippery slope. There is a lot of potential to create a negative impact on one’s self image based on what we see on social media. I have fallen into the comparison trap – comparing myself to images on social media and feeling inadequate because I wasn’t as lean or muscular as those people. When that happens though, I’ve learned to shift my focus to myself and what I love about myself, not what I feel I’m lacking. In the positive sense, I have been able to connect with many other young women out there who are empowering themselves through a healthy lifestyle, which has not only been encouraging but refreshing to see.

How do you handle people leaving negative comments on your more vulnerable pictures on Instagram? 

Anytime someone leaves a negative comment it’s extremely important to remember that it almost always stems from their insecurity. There were times when I did feel very upset about comments people left on my page, and I allowed that to bring me down emotionally. Objectively, I know that the most important thing is how I feel and what I’m doing for myself to live a happy and healthy life- any one else’s opinion of that really doesn’t matter. So I try to take any negativity with a grain of salt. If comments are really bad, I simply delete them as I don’t need that kind of negativity and neither does anyone else. 🙂

How has working with Ledbetter changed your idea of what a woman’s body should or shouldn’t look like?

It’s interesting because I don’t really think there is a particular way that a woman’s body should or shouldn’t look. I don’t believe there is a specific way any woman “should” look, as that’s all personal preference to decide how we each feel best! How I would like to look may be different from the woman next to me. However, I do believe women should practice healthy habits and exercise in some way on a regular basis. Working with Ledbetter has helped me develop that mindset by focusing on health as a priority, always.

What has been the most rewarding part of coaching women who come to you with a lack of confidence about their body?

The most rewarding part about coaching women who start with a lack of confidence is to see them grow and transform not only their body, but their mind. It’s fulfilling to see that spark of self love and confidence slowly start, then grow with time to become something that no longer depends solely on the mirror. 

When you look in the mirror now, what do you wish you could say to the girl you were when you weren’t as confident with your body?

I wish I could tell her, “You are more than that mirror. You are more than what you look like or what other people think you look like. You are strong and capable and beautiful in your body as it is. If you have a goal, make the changes you need to get there. But you only have one body, so treat it with love.”

Is there any advice that you would give to women who can’t seem to get out of that body shaming mentality?

See above. 🙂 Also: we are each made different from one another. Your best will be different than mine, and mine will be different than hers. But feeling and looking our best can only happen when we focus on treating our own bodies with love and self respect. Shame has no place when self love and respect are present.

There you have it, and for more inspiration and really cute pictures of her dog Teddy (because as a fellow obsessive dog mom I have to shout him out) follow Annika on Instagram here: @annika_joelle_fitness and Ledbetter here: @ledbetter_inc

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If negative body image issues and body shaming is part of your day to day, make it a priority to change your thinking around. Find a program like Ledbetter that works for you, find a coach that inspires you to be more positive, take a class that makes you feel awesome. It’s a work in progress on my end, but if we don’t actively try to become more loving towards our bodies, we’re just sending this negative message out into the world. 

 

 

 

 

Determining Your Own Version of Success

 

Success: An accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Being successful technically means accomplishing all that we’ve strived for throughout our life, but why does majority of society pin the word ‘success’ to having a stable career, a lot of money, a relationship that may (or already has) lead to marriage, kids, and that stereotypical white picket fence we always hear about?

Maybe, just maybe, that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe taking a different path for yourself where you still accomplish your aim or purpose is perfectly fine. Perfectly fine and actually extremely refreshing to see, especially in my generation of millennials.

We grew up with the ‘American Dream’ mentality that generations before instilled in upon us. The idea that we need to go to really good schools to obtain good jobs, money, homes, better relationships, and the list goes on. The world seemed black and white, like there weren’t these grey and pink and yellow areas where we could do all of that but also maintain a side hustle. Where we could create our own business that shared our passions and drive with the world. Where we were allowed to take risks that involved traveling the world and experiencing new cultures rather than mapping out when we would buy our first house and have that first kid.

We (as in us millennials) are paving a way that involves having a unique meaning to the word ‘success’, or rather applying that basic definition that I mentioned before in our own way. Whether that means buying your first home, establishing your own company, or simply paying your cell phone bill on your own without Mom and Dad’s help.

My ‘American Dream’ looks nothing like yours, and definitely doesn’t even come close to what I had imagined when I was in high school. But that’s what’s great about the freedom we as young millennials have (and that everyone should have), is that we can continuously keep changing what our definition of success looks like. It doesn’t have to abide by any rules or expectations set upon us by society. And yes, maybe that cushy job, money, house, and marriage are safe. But, it should be okay for the rest of us to take risks and forget about that safe zone if we choose to.

Of course we probably will have some failures along the way, but failure is never the end all. We keep going, keep striving, and keep reaching for our own slice of that ‘American Dream’ or really whatever dream you have.

The most difficult part of being a young adult with more creative ‘out of the box’ goals is the judgement or the ‘wtf are you actually doing with your life’ concerns (I’m still not sure if they are even concerns) from other generations. The moms, dads, or even people the same age as my peers and I on the same path, who don’t understand that creative spirit that drives some of us to do more than find a life for ourselves where we settle down and create a ‘stable’ home and income.

But, the upside is that we have each other. We have all of the other millennials out there who are mastering their own success in their own way in their own time. We hustle, we fall, we fail, and then we get up and continue pushing for the things we want.

When I had just graduated college in 2014, a video of Jim Carrey doing a commencement speech popped up on my news feed. One piece of the speech that I immediately wrote in the notes section of my phone went like this,

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on what you do want.”

I don’t think I truly grasped what he was saying until I recently looked back and saw the quote in my phone. And then it hit me that even if I’ve changed course, even if my dreams aren’t quite what they were when I graduated college, I could fail either way.

So, I’m taking Carrey’s advice and attempting to do what I actually want for myself in all areas of my life. Career, relationships, side hustles, what I wear, what I watch, what I listen to- it’s all what I want. And that, is a truly liberating feeling to (no matter what happens) follow my gut which will lead me to that success I’ve been talking about .

The point? Don’t let any one but YOU determine what success looks like for your life. Strive for whatever goals truly bring joy and excitement to you. That will always look different than what your parents have in mind or what your best friend is doing, but that doesn’t matter. Follow your own path to success and you will lead a fulfilling life.

 

Girl Boss 101: Meet Lauren Bongiorno Who's Making Waves In The Health Industry

 

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”

Finding our dream career is no easy task. Searching for that inner drive, strength, and passion to go beyond society’s expectations and take the ‘road less traveled’ can be even more challenging. But, it is possible.For a long time I didn’t believe that. I thought that I had to go the ‘safe’ route (job wise) rather than pushing myself to combine all the things I truly loved into a career. Now I realize that finding your passion, your purpose, your niche, and creating that into a fulfilling life and career is achievable (even if it sounds absolutely terrifying).

When thinking about how I wanted to create this new project, I knew that I wanted to present truly inspiring and talented women that could not only share their experiences, but also show that there is so much beyond the typical nine to five desk job. The ‘safe’ route (aka the boring job that controls your life and makes you unhappy), and picking your career based on what that form you filled out in ninth grade told you isn’t the only thing our there for you.

So, when I took on the task of finding women to interview, I knew that Lauren Bongiorno needed to be one of them. As a follower of Lauren via Instagram, I’ve watched a talented athlete, yogi, and entrepreneur through my social media. But, what you see on Instagram is only half of it.

You know when a person’s energy is just magnetic? That’s exactly what I experienced upon meeting Lauren Bongiorno; health coach, athlete, and snack bar creator. When she walks in a room, you can just feel her positive energy, and genuine happiness (maybe that was because she agreed to meet me on her birthday, but I’m pretty sure it’s just her). That’s not something you get from many people these days, so it was refreshing to say the least when I got the chance to talk with Lauren.

But, why does all of this matter? Why Lauren Bongiorno?

In my head I thought,  “what twenty-three year old do you know that took a risk, despite what we’re all told we ‘should do’, to create her passion into her purpose which then became her career?”

 Success obviously does not happen overnight, but that hasn’t stopped Lauren, and my curious self needed to know how she had done it (and continues to do it).

In a series of questions, I learned what Lauren did to get where she is today, what fuels her drive to continue down this path, and the advice she has for other millennial women out there searching for their purpose. Not only are her answers insightful, but will leave you thinking long after reading them (at least they got me really thinking).


CW: What did you originally plan for yourself throughout college?

LB: “Everyone is always so baffled when I tell them what I studied in college haha. I actually was a history major with a psych minor and on the pre-law track. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a trial attorney. I grew up watching my dad in court and loved the idea of fighting for justice. He used to joke that I would take over his law firm one day and that I was his retirement plan. Sorry dad! 

CW: How did you get involved in the health and wellness industry at such a young age

LB: “When I was a sophomore or junior in college I started a blog called “Lettuce Be Healthy and Happy” after watching the Netflix documentary ‘Hungry For Change’. The documentary is about the food and weight loss industry and all their deceptive tactics they use that has contributed to the rise of binge eating, eating disorders, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the U.S. I spent roughly two years sharing my health journey with Facebook friends/family/anyone who wanted to read, which mostly included healthy recipes, yoga for the mind and body, workouts, and anything new I was learning from books, podcasts, online videos, ect. During these two years this was my hobby, along with becoming a certified group exercise instructor and yoga instructor. It wasn’t until my last semester before my college graduation that I realized I wanted to pursue health as a possible career.”

CW: What made you finally decide to take the ‘unconventional’ route rather than a more solid 9-5 job? Or in your case, choose the wellness industry over your law degree

LB: “During the fall semester of my senior year of college I was studying for my LSATS. I took it once in September and another time in early December. Whenever I made my “to-do” list for the day, writing a blog post, answering emails or comments on my blog, or watching a health video always came before LSAT studying. But even though it was so evident to those around me how passionate I was about the wellness world, I never once considered the option of not going to law school. It was my plan. It was what I was meant to do. So I thought…

That was until one day I went to a hot yoga class at my yoga center that I religiously practiced at and had a complete epiphany. I was laying in savasana at the end of class and as quickly as the idea popped into my head, I made the decision that I was going to put off law school for a year to try and pursue being a health coach. I ran home and told my best friend Emily about this program I had seen ads for on Facebook called the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The first thing she said was, “What do you think your parents are going to say?”. I picked up the phone and told my dad to get my mom because I had something important I needed to tell them. I told them my plan and promised if it didn’t work out I would go to law school the following fall. I explained that  if I started law school immediately after college, I would go for 3 years and be on this hamster wheel of law school, then working in the District Attorneys office, then working in my dad’s firm, and having the responsibility to take it over once he retired. I knew that if I didn’t go after my passion first and at least try, I’d be 40 years old before I ever considered it again. In my head that just didn’t make sense to waste those years to later decide to follow my passion.”

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CW: How long did it take you to really build a following for your programs and social media?

LB: “My blog and Instagram had a few hundred followers that organically and gradually just grew overtime. I remember when I hit 3k followers on Instagram I went to Costco and bought a box of larabars to do a giveaway on my page. I was so excited. I was just so amazed and grateful that people wanted to follow my journey. My social media presence became a little bigger when I transitioned from blogger to the Health Coach, Entrepreneur, Yoga and Bootcamp Instructor who believed in the power of the mind and body and all that encompasses total health. I started to post more that incorporated all aspects of my life- yoga, fitness, healthy food, traveling. I think the more transparent I was with my ups and downs and what I was up to, the more people could relate to me.”

CW: What gave you the courage to follow the path of online health coaching (especially when society has always told us to do the ‘safe’ career route)?

LB: “I believe that having a support system and people that believe in you is huge. When I told my parents my plan of putting off law school they were 100% behind me, and told me if that’s what made me happy than I should do it. I do know though that there are a lot of people who don’t have support from many friends/ family because why would anyone leave a good paying 9-5 job for something that in their eyes should be reserved as a side project/hobby? To that I’d say, believe in yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Listen to your heart and just go for it. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s 100% true. Quiet your mind and listen to what lights your soul on fire.”

CW: Do you or did you ever have any moments of self-doubt, and what pushed you to keep going?

LB: “Being super honest, the only time I doubted my career was when my dad sat me down and laid out all my expenses that I’d have to eventually start paying once I started “adulting”. Car insurance, car inspections, gas, transportation, gym membership, restaurants, movies, groceries, health insurance….the numbers just add up so quickly and I definitely questioned whether I’d be able to support myself as a health coach in my own business…at 22 years old none the less.

I like to consider myself a minimalist in the sense that I don’t need fancy clothes, cars, nice apartments, etc. However, I do know that I never wanted to struggle with money and I need it to do the things I love (basically shop at Whole Foods and travel haha). After the big hit of how much money I would need, my dad assured me  to ‘do what you love and the money will come.’. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities and side projects that I am super grateful and now believe if you set out doing what you love and stick to your morals with good intentions, the money will come.”

CW: Where do you think your positivity comes from (it’s so evident through your work how passionate and positive you are about life), and how do you remain positive in the face of the ups and downs of life and your work?

LB: “Ironically enough, when I was 7 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and I think my positivity now largely stems from that. Growing up with a disease where you constantly have to be checking your blood sugar, monitoring every piece of food you put in your mouth, and dealing with the sickness of having blood sugars too high or too low at least once every day forces you to be pretty tough and mature beyond your years. Living with diabetes for over 15 years now, being a division 1 soccer player in college, and finding a love for yoga, I’ve learned that our reactions to the world are not what happens to us, but rather how our minds see it. Nothing is forever, challenges and life’s ups and downs are only temporary and you just have to ride the wave.”

CW: What’s your favorite part of sharing/connecting with your followers on social media?

LB: “I love that social media allows for you to connect with people all around the world. Just from Instagram I have made friends in Australia, Aruba, India, Utah, Texas… 3 of my clients actually found me through Instagram and they are from Scotland, London, and California. A reach that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. People put down social media sometimes saying we’re too consumed in it or that we only portray the best versions of lives, but let me tell you, it’s a powerful tool if used the right way. I feel that sharing your purpose, connecting and learning from others, it’s what life is truly about.”

CW: Are there any difficult parts about putting your business all out there on social media?

LB: “People are harsh sometimes if they misinterpret something you write in a caption or a post. I had this one instance a few months back where on a diabetic page I left my website and information as a diabetic health coach and I got backlash from a member saying I was spamming them and trying to sell my services. I don’t think of what I do as a “business”. To me what I do is help people. That’s my only intention. So to get those backlashes from time to time, it hurts. Because you just want to call that person up and say I’m so sorry you felt that way when you read my post but it really came from a good place!”

CW: What do you think sets your online coaching business and new endeavor with your snack bars apart from the rest?

LB: “Both of what I am doing are kind of an untapped market which is pretty cool. For my health coaching, I specialize with diabetics and give them a resource other than their endocrinologist, diabetes educator, or nutritionist. We look at their health goals and I stay by their side for 3-6 months as their guidance, support, and accountability to help them make long standing changes in the realm of home cooking, home environment, stress, exercise, optimal nutrition, and learning how their body works best. As for my Low Glycemic protein bars, there is not one single bar on the market that is low glycemic and does not have a long list of ingredients with some kind of chemical,sugar alcohol, preservative, or word you cannot pronounce. I’m not another big company, I’m just a woman that truly cares about the health of others and I just want to help make lives and this world better.”

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CW: Being that you’re an active athlete and yogi, is there any advice you would give other woman out there who feel lost when it comes to trying yoga or any type of fitness program in general?

LB: “Just because a type of workout is popular or it’s your friend’s favorite, doesn’t mean it’s right for you! Find a workout that helps you grow both physically and mentally. Find a workout that you look forward to doing. Find a workout that you do to become a better version of yourself and not just to get a nice butt. Try different classes out, get on a routine of the classes/workouts you enjoy, and stick to that routine the best you can with dedication and commitment to help you reach your goals!”

CW: What advice do you have to young millennial woman who are trying to grow a business, and are taking that ‘road less traveled’?
LB: “Follow your passion to find your purpose. Life is too short to waste it going through the motions of something you don’t enjoy doing. We’re lucky enough to live in a world these days with so many amazing tools and resources that you can use to create any vision you have. If you take a leap of faith, opportunities will present themselves.”

CW: What’s something that no one would know about you from just looking at your Instagram or website?

LB: “I really love listening music, like I don’t like rap or any radio music, I love like jazz or Motown music. Jackson 5 is my jam, I listen to that so hard during my workouts. I love music clubs in the city, I would rather be listening to a guy jamming on the cello rather than going to a club. That’s me in a nutshell, I’m an old soul in a way. I can get teary eyed listening to someone play the acoustic guitar.

Oh another good one, my friends and family still call me ‘Lo’ to this day because in high school I felt like ‘Lauren’ wasn’t exotic enough, like I wanted to be more exotic, so I made everyone in high school call me ‘Lo’ (I wouldn’t answer if they didn’t call me that), and it actually just stuck.”


Finding a person who only knows one or two rap songs (one being Kanye’s ‘Stronger’) was probably the most shocking part of our interview, especially for a rap lover like myself. But, aside from the laugh I got out of that, I was able to walk away from our breakfast with a new found love of chia seeds in my yogurt, a laundry list of insightful thoughts shared, and a whole lot of inspiration that I didn’t realize I needed myself.

Taking a chance on yourself can be fear inducing, but as you can see from Lauren, the risk is so worth the rewards.

So, go follow this girl on Instagram if you haven’t already. You’ll be inspired if nothing else, and maybe even a little jealous of her amazing yoga skills!

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And for more information on her health coaching check out Lauren’s Website!

Treat Yo' Self: Balance Is Major Key

 

When I was growing up, my Mom was always pretty chill about letting me stay home from school occasionally. If I didn’t have anything crazy going on with tests or sports, she let me have my ‘mental health’ days as we liked to call them. If I was feeling overwhelmed, extremely tired, or just had that feeling of ‘I absolutely cannot sit in classes all day today’, she let me bail.

I would take those opportunities to lay in my bed all day reading, binge watching Lifetime movies, or hanging out with her. And although I’m not here saying ‘skip class’, ‘skip work’, ‘ditch your responsibilities’, I am here saying that taking a ‘mental health’ day is important every once in a while.

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Take a lesson from Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec who on the show take one day to ditch all responsibilities, stress, and worrying about how much everything costs to indulge in the things they love (mainly shopping). They have a point, why shouldn’t we take one day a month, or even one day a week to stop worrying over the little things and go get that pedi we’ve been wanting so badly?

It’s all about balance. 

All work and no play, makes us all super overworked, overtired, and no fun to be around. We can’t make work 100% of our lives, and we can’t make taking care of every one else around us 100% of our lives either- balance, balance, balance.

Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers you love, get that shirt you’ve been dying to buy, lay in bed all day and binge watch Orange Is The New Black, read a really great book, sleep in until noon. The list is endless of how you can indulge in this ‘treat yo self’ way of life. The most important part is that you leave work and your worries behind, and do something that will make YOU happy. Because this ‘mental health’ day is all about YOU.

Sometimes we need to take a back seat, stop fixing everyone else, stop pushing ourselves so hard, and just take a day to enjoy life a little. Whatever that means to you-do it. There is nothing wrong with taking a day for yourself. You don’t need all of your friends to ditch their plans to enjoy a day like this. Because remember, it’s about treating yourself not others.

As the summer months keep rolling in, balance is key (insert key emoji here). We have cookouts after cookouts, traveling to do, work to keep up with, and although it can be a really fun time, it’s also a time when we tend to burn ourselves out. So, remember to take a day for you and treat yo’ self.

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