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Prepping For Baby: Freezing Vegan Mac 'n Cheese

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Today I am 35 weeks pregnant. This means I can reasonably expect to no longer be pregnant and have a baby in my arms within 3-7 weeks. Three to seven weeks! It's crunch time. 

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Luckily, I'm feeling more prepared than ever. This is thanks in huge part to the shower my mom and sister threw for me this weekend. We had such a lovely weekend — my parents-in-law flew in from California, my sister and her family came in from Phoenix, and a sweet group of friends gathered at my parents' house. I like the term "shower" because I truly felt like I was being showered with love and generosity. Our baby is starting life with so many nice things thanks to the incredible people we know. 

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This week I decided to prep and freeze a big batch of vegan macaroni and cheese from the cookbook Hearty Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites. A monster appetite is exactly what I'm expecting to have when I start breastfeeding. 

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Symptoms I've been experiencing a lot lately: back pain, overheating, breathlessness. I still wake up every morning with Mike because I like the ritual of sitting down to eat breakfast with him before he leaves for work, but I often go back to bed for a few hours once he's gone in an attempt to quell some of the fatigue that's clung to me throughout pregnancy. 

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As my body grows, I feel increasingly vulnerable each time I step outside my front door. Vulnerable is a word I've frequently used to describe my pregnancy. My belly has become a magnet. People openly comment on it and stare at it. I'm carrying the thing I'm most protective of on the front of my body and I don't trust people not to crash into me or invade my space. I want to walk around with a bubble surrounding me at all times. I imagine this instinct will only grow once there's a baby in the flesh. I rarely thought twice about walking down a street alone before I was pregnant. Now this precious thing I'm carrying is prominent and visible. My physical abilities have slowed. My defenses are up. Walking through the aisles of a store feels like a battle.

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The bigger and rounder my belly gets, the more I like my pregnant body. I don't know how I'll feel after birth, but in my pregnancy I've noticed that the desire or pressure to look a certain way has decreased dramatically. I do not feel weird about the weight I've gained. I do not care that I don't wear makeup or style my hair most days. I do not care that there are only a limited number of outfits in my closet that work for me at this point in my pregnancy. There are people who find the physical changes of pregnancy incredibly stressful and I thought I might be one of them, but I'm just not. I'm tired. I'm excited. I'm hopeful. I love thinking about the future life of my little one. I love taking naps and eating good food and taking care of myself during pregnancy, which I know translates to taking care of the baby, too. I see my big belly and I don't know how to be anything but amazed. A little person is living inside that belly. If my thighs and butt have grown bigger in the process of pregnancy, so be it. I can't find the energy to begin to care. 

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I know I say this often, but I'll repeat it once more: having a pregnancy that coincides with a presidential election is stressful. I'm making a big effort to take care of myself and stay calm and keep my energy level positive because I think my baby is absorbing all of it. With so much negativity and toxicity surrounding the election in general and a certain candidate in particular, it can be difficult to not get pulled down with frustration and unease. I'm hopeful about the outcome of all of this and hopeful that I'll bring my baby into a more positive world, but in the meantime there's a lot of negativity and grossness that I'm trying to be informed about while absorbing as little as possible. I know a lot of the frustration and fear has crept in despite my best efforts, and I just hope my baby isn't picking up on too much of it. 

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We missed this week's birth class because we attended a wedding on Sunday and I'll be honest: there's a little less stress in our lives this week. It's not that they don't do their best to comfort and reassure us in the class. It's just that despite the comfort and reassurance, the fact remains that this body and mind of mine will be giving birth to a child soon and I can't really think of anything more vulnerable. There's that word again: Vulnerable. 

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The tofu in this recipe contributes to the creamy texture. This recipe may seem complicated, but from start to finish I don't think it took any more than 30 minutes to prepare.

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For several months now, I've more or less been waking up every hour to pee. It's an annoyance I'm grateful for, since I know it is training me for all those times I'll be waking up with my baby. Having our first child is such a strange experience because I can imagine all the things that are about to happen, but until the baby's actually here it's just a faraway vision.

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Is there anything more comforting than a creamy pasta dish? 

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Last night I went to a reading at Powell's with a small group of my friends. The reading was great but oh man: I was so hot and breathless. I don't know how much longer I can keep up normal activities as I delve further into the depths of a third trimester pregnancy. It may seem simple to sit in a chair for an hour, but when the pool of sweat and feeling of "Am I about to pass out?" hits, the idea of being propped up on pillows on my couch at home grows more enticing. 

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Creamy goodness!

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It feels like there is still a lot to accomplish before our baby arrives, but nothing at this point seems insurmountable. Thanks to an incredible support network of family and friends, we went from having NOTHING to an entire house filled with baby things. What does one even do with that much love? 

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I don't know exactly when this baby will arrive, but regardless of the exact date this is for sure our Thanksgiving baby. I've never been more thankful for anything in my life. For all my fears and worries, I'm mostly excited to meet the person I've been carrying inside me all these months. I know this person will become an individual entity completely separate from me, but right now the connection between us in undeniable. We are inhabiting the same skin. The baby is me is the baby, for now. 

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We're getting ready for you, Little Cupcake. We hope you like our home and our family. We hope you like the smell of a pasta casserole baking and the feeling of our arms wrapped around you. We absolutely cannot wait to meet you. 

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This world is kind of a crazy place, but there's so much love waiting for you when you get here. 

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New Cookbook Day: RUN FAST. EAT SLOW.

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I love cookbooks. New recipes, crisp pictures, fun ingredient ideas: a new cookbook opens up a new world. I get excited for cookbooks the way others get excited for clothes or shoes — I see a new one on the market and I simply HAVE TO HAVE IT. For many months I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of a cookbook written by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef/food writer/nutrition educator/runner/mother Elyse Kopecky called RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. After all my anticipation, the book was released in August and I finally got my hands on a copy last night during a talk the authors gave at Powell's at Cedar Hill Crossing. 

I'm excited to get cracking on some of the recipes, but before I do I already know I love this book. How do I know this? Shalane and Elyse have a food philosophy that aligns perfectly with my own. They may eat a lot more meat (they are particularly big fans of bison) and their athletic training may be way more elite than mine, but we still share some very similar ideas about food.

Particularly in this country and especially as women, so much of what we're taught about nutrition is bonkers. By focusing so much on avoiding fat, counting calories, and restricting ourselves, food is stripped of both flavor and fun. Restrictive eating leads to hunger which leads to binging which leads to restrictive eating which leads to hunger which leads to binging. Nowhere in that cycle is there room for enjoyment or adequate nutrition. For many years now I've believed — and KNOWN! — that there's a better way. In reading their book, I can see that Shalane and Elyse believe this too.

Their food philosophy is all about "indulgent noursishment." They believe that eating real food and not obsessing over calorie counts or micronutrients leads to optimal body function and satisfaction. We all have the ability to tune into the needs of our own bodies, but some of us have been conditioned for years to participate in diets and other restrictive styles of eating. We've lost sight of the power of our own bodies and minds.

I try hard never to turn food into a moral argument but the fact always remains that I DON'T FEEL GOOD when I eat processed foods or when I skip meals or when I let myself get so hungry that I'm willing to eat whatever is set in front of me. I feel good when I eat whole, real food. I feel nourished. I feel happy. Eating a real meal does not make me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating a bag of potato chips makes me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating real food — the kind that is prepared with fresh ingredients, contains substantial calories, and actually tastes good — is the bridge for everything for me. It's the bridge to a good mood. It's the bridge to a good run. It's the bridge to less stress and higher contentment. There is simply nothing in this world that can or will make me feel better than a healthy, home-cooked meal shared with someone I love. 

In this cookbook, Shalane and Elyse are not messing around. They do not shy away from healthy fats, which are both flavor and nutrient carriers. We've been so conditioned to be so scared of certain types of foods (like foods with real fat) while encouraged to flock to the very foods that will leave us less satisfied and more unhealthy (like low-fat foods pumped with extra sugar). These elite athletes are here to put a stop to this madness and I could not be any more on board.

I'll be trying recipes in the coming weeks and letting you know what I think, but for now I'm just pleased that a book like this even exists. At their talk they said this is the first book geared toward runners that doesn't contain calorie counts, which I find astounding. As someone who refuses to count calories and/or weigh myself* I think this is such a positive step toward establishing healthier food habits for so many people. In my opinion food is meant to be lovingly prepared and happily devoured. When a food relationship is all about trying to look a certain way or be a certain weight, life can get pretty miserable. I have no interest in a miserable life and every interest in loving the food I eat and the body I'm in.

*You don't weigh yourself?! How do you know how much you've gained in your pregnancy? I don't! And I also don't think it's important that I do know. I get weighed at every single doctor's appointment and I know they'll let me know if there's ever an issue. Otherwise, what difference does it make? Keeping active and eating healthfully have been my main goals throughout this pregnancy and as long as I'm sticking to that, I think that's all that matters.

But what about losing the weight after the baby is born?! Before I was pregnant, I thought this would be a concern. The more pregnant I get, the less I care. I want my baby to be healthy and I want to keep myself healthy and the rest just doesn't seem that significant to me. My body will look the way it looks. I will continue to focus on being active and eating healthy and my body can either follow suit or not. I'm much more interested in providing a healthy life for my child. I think the best place for me to start is to introduce healthy food habits early. I don't anticipate my kid caring about how soft my stomach is. I do anticipate my kid caring about whether or not the food I'm serving is delicious and satisfying. 

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

Life is crazy enough without making ourselves crazy about food, too. I say: eat real, good food and enjoy every bite. Then get outside for a run (or walk or whatever your preferred mode of activity is) and enjoy that, too. We're humans. We're alive. We're allowed to enjoy ourselves and it's totally possible to do just that while living a healthy life at the same time. 

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Staying Active During Pregnancy (When All You Really Want To Do Is Sleep)

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

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Sometimes I think people get the wrong impression of me when they find out I've kept up my running (somewhat and so far) throughout my pregnancy. I've been called everything from badass to hardcore to unstoppable, but none of these descriptors ring true for me. The truth as I see it is that there is one reason and one reason only why I've been able to complete so many half marathons during pregnancy. That reason? I was already regularly completing half marathons before pregnancy. I was already in the physical condition necessary to drag my body over 13.1 miles.

There's nothing I've done during pregnancy to increase my strength or stamina in that regard. Every single week, I've run a little less and a little slower than the week before. During some runs I stop and walk entirely. Other days I skip the run to take a nap instead.

Do I think my routine was pretty badass and hardcore before pregnancy? Absolutely. That's how I was able to break a 1:45 half marathon PR. But since I've been pregnant? I've been in maintenance mode. I have dramatically scaled back the amount of time and effort I devote to running. It may seem impressive to some that I'm still getting out there, but I firmly believe the ONLY reason I'm able to do so is because I worked so hard for an entire year prior to getting pregnant. 

Here are a few things I used to do regularly that I no longer do now: Run fast. Lift weights. Do ab exercises. Do HIIT training. Run on an incline. Go outside and run 10 miles just because I know I can and I like to move my body. I don't do these things anymore. I certainly planned to continue lifting light weights throughout my pregnancy, but I just haven't had the energy. I planned on running more throughout the week, but I don't have it in me. I can complete half marathons still because the muscle memory is there and because I run JUST ENOUGH to not lose my base level of fitness. For the most part, though, I'm not running a lot anymore. 

I'm not saying any of this to disparage myself and try to convince you that running a half marathon while pregnant is nothing. I'm just saying that the reason why I'm still able to carry my pregnant body across finish lines is because I worked my ass off and then some for the year prior to getting pregnant. It's just as simple as that. I worked harder than I've ever worked and thanks to that, I'm still reaping some benefits despite the fact that I've slowed down a lot. 

One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was go out and run 16 miles. My body was in the perfect shape to do it and I knew that wouldn't be the case for long. I wanted a super long run so I could navigate and process all the complex emotions I was going through: I was so excited, so happy, so nervous. Until then my longest run was 15 miles, but I knew I had it in me. I had to take advantage of my body's capabilities while they were still available to me.

Could I go out and run 16 miles today? No way. I can still push myself through 13.1 miles in a race setting but as far as runs I do on my own, the energy level is just not there. To me this is the most interesting thing about people finding out I run half marathons while pregnant: they act like I'm out being superhuman but meanwhile most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. To repeat: most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. There's very little that feels superhuman about that. 

At this point in my pregnancy, I'm no longer a hardcore runner. My runs include walking breaks, pee breaks, food breaks, water breaks, and Let's Cut This One Short Today, I'm Not Feeling It breaks. It's important to me to try and maintain as much of an active lifestyle as possible despite wanting to spend my days napping and snacking, so what do I do? This is what I do.

I walk a lot. 

I take a weekly prenatal yoga class. 

When inspired, I do push-ups against the wall, tricep dips on the coffee table, and squats and lunges in the living room.

I run, but much less frequently. 

I walk up hills. 

I park far away.

I take the stairs.

I walk around the neighborhood. I walk the aisles of grocery stores. I walk up to Mt. Tabor. I walk. 

I have a few gentle prenatal workout videos.

Here's what else I do:

I rest. I sleep. I drink a lot of water. I make sure I'm eating plenty of calories. I listen to my baby and my body and cut workouts short when I don't have the right energy level. I avoid working out outside when the temperatures are too hot. I give myself a break because I'm growing a human and that counts for something. 

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This is why I feel a little strange when people act like the half marathons are some sort of HUGE accomplishment. It's not that I'm not proud of them — I am. I just don't want to give the wrong impression. Guys, I am telling you: when it comes to working out, I truly don't do that much these days. I don't have the energy to carry myself through long workouts. I adore my prenatal yoga class, which challenges my muscles but also feels a bit like a glorified nap. I love strolling around my neighborhood. On the days when I do feel like I have the energy, I love going for short runs. About once a month, I love completing a half marathon. For the most part, though, when it comes to my life day in and day out: I'm resting. I'm sleeping. I'm working. I'm in my robe on the couch. There is nothing badass to see here.

And right now, I think that's totally okay.

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I Fell Today.

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I fell today. This is the third time I've fallen running in a period of nine years. The first was about two weeks before my best friend's wedding, when I was all set to walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid. My twisted ankle was swollen and painful for a long time, but somehow magically felt fine on the big day. The second time I fell was about a week before my own wedding. I scratched myself up but didn't experience any major injuries. You can see a scab on my elbow if you look closely in my wedding photos, but other than that everything was fine. 

Today was my scariest fall because it was the first time I fell with a baby on board. The injuries to my own body are obvious from the picture above: I really scraped up my elbows and hand. The skin is raw and painful and because the knee injuries hit right where my knees bend, walking today has been a bit of a challenge. But obviously I wasn't thinking about any of that when I picked myself up and dusted off. Obviously I was worried about the baby.

In talking to a nurse at my doctor's office, I've learned there are a lot of good signs to my fall. First, the heavy scrapes on my knees and hand mean that I braced myself somewhat and therefore my belly didn't absorb all the impact. Secondly, I haven't experienced any scary symptoms like cramping or bleeding. Finally, I'm still feeling movement from my little one inside my belly. Tracking this movement has been difficult because I've only felt sporadic movements up until this point, but I am very happy to report that since the fall I have felt a few more sporadic movements today. Thanks to a lot of amniotic fluid and the still-small size of my baby at 24 weeks, my nurse (in consultation with my doctor) feels confident that the baby is okay. 

That news is wonderful, but it was still a terrifying experience. The irony is not lost on me that in trying to stay active and do something healthy for my baby, I ultimately put my baby in danger by losing my footing. As much as I try to eat healthy foods and use healthy products, I know I'm still ingesting things in the environment that have the potential to be toxic. There's no such thing as control here. (Side note: I've never considered myself someone who felt like she *had* to be in control, but when it comes to the health and safety of my baby it's true I want to control as much as possible.) But in the end, it doesn't matter how obsessed I am about avoiding certain ingredients or getting regular exercise or trying to put my best foot forward for the little cupcake in my oven. Sometimes my best foot forward trips on gravel and knocks me down in the dust.

I know this is only a preview of what's to come — there will be so many scenarios beyond my control when we're raising a child. But with the child still in my body, I'd like to think I can keep things as healthy and safe as possible. When I can't do that, I feel a little defeated.

But what matters is this: The baby is moving. I am not experiencing any scary symptoms. I think I shook both of us up a little today, but from the outside it seems we're both okay. As for me, I won't be attempting to run again until I'm fully healed. And even then, I think I'll get myself to a park or somewhere with softer trails and take it super easy. I love running and I think the running I've done until this point has benefited my baby, but as always I'll listen to my body and do what seems best for my little running buddy. 

Until then, Baby and I are resting with feet propped, ice pack on, and everything erased from the to-do list for the rest of the day. 

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How to Start a Self-Love Revolution

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As I've mentioned many times in the past, I'm a big fan and follower of Fit Girls Guide, an online fitness community that promotes clean eating and self-love. For each monthly challenge with Fit Girls Guide, there is a new mantra. This month's is I Am The Revolution. I love this phrase because it encourages us to look inward for our own inspiration instead of seeking it elsewhere. 

At the same time, I know a lot of people are confused about where exactly to start when it comes to starting a revolution. Telling someone to "just love yourself" is not enough to get them going on a journey of acceptance and self-compassion. What does that actually mean and how does one practice it daily? 

I thought I would share a few concrete ways I started a self-love revolution for myself. This is a process that began four or five years ago and continues daily. I know this kind of revolution can seem daunting at first, but I think you'll see from the examples I'm providing that it can be a lot simpler than you might first realize.

1. STOP READING WOMEN'S MAGAZINES

This one pains me as a writer. When I was younger, I aspired to write for these types of publications. Also I don't want to miss out on the incredible writing I know lives in the pages of these magazines. (For the latter I have a solution: read the articles online.)

A lot of quality content can be found in women's magazines and I don't want to underscore this fact, but I also want to point out that the barrage of images — both from the magazine's photoshoots and the included advertising — are not healthy for even the healthiest woman out there. Flip through the pages of a women's magazine and the message you will find over and over again is that you are not enough. You're not thin enough or your hair isn't shiny enough or your fashion budget isn't big enough or your skin isn't clear enough or your body isn't toned enough or your nails aren't bright enough and so on and so on.

These magazines exist to sell  products. Magazines want you to believe that the pop singer with the flawless skin didn't get that way through airbrushing; she got that way because she uses X brand of makeup. That model's hair isn't the result of three hours with a hair professional; it's because she uses Y hair product. We would all be a little prettier and happier if we just bought this outfit or that eye cream or this self-tanner. 

Remove yourself from the cycle of comparison by just saying no to women's magazines. I used to read them religiously (probably at least five different magazines a month) and it's amazing what happened when I stopped several years ago. I no longer felt like I HAD to go get my hands on a certain beauty product because I was no longer aware of that beauty product's existence. I no longer looked at pictures of celebrities or models and compared them to the way I looked in my own life. Eventually, when I did pick up a magazine again, I was struck by the skewed ratio of quality content versus selling. I decided to become a person who didn't want to be sold anything. I decided to accept myself the way I already was, without X miracle beauty product or must-have outfit. Once I ditched the constant exposure to beautiful airbrushed models, I felt a lot less pressure to look a certain way and a lot more comfortable just being myself. 

2. EAT FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD

I know I'm getting into tricky territory with this one. On the one hand, I hate the way that food is moralized and we're made to believe there's such a thing as good versus bad when it comes to the way we eat. This society puts way too much pressure on everyone, specifically women, to look a certain way and be a certain size and we're often sold the message that the only way to be happy is to not be overweight. I don't buy any of that. I think people should eat what they want to eat, wear what makes them comfortable, and live their lives the way they want to live their lives.

That being said, there is no denying the fact that for me, eating healthy foods makes me feel one way and eating unhealthy foods makes me feel another. Processed foods exacerbate my fatigue. Fresh foods and veggies combined with lean proteins and whole grains give me energy. Does this mean I never consume chips or cupcakes or other so-called "bad" foods? No! It means that balance is always my goal and I strive for a diet that relies mostly on healthy foods and minimally on less healthy ones. To me this has nothing to do with wanting to look a certain way. It has nothing to do with self-punishment. It has everything to do with checking in and realizing that I simply cannot finish off a plate of greasy nachos and feel great afterward. I feel weighed down, lethargic and listless — which is fine if those greasy nachos are an occasional indulgence and those post-nacho symptoms are an occasional side effect. When junk food starts taking over my life, though, it has a huge impact on the way I feel both physically and emotionally. I am far more prone to get an upset stomach or head after polishing off a cookie than I am after eating an apple. 

On the other hand, when I feed myself food that fuels me with the nutrients and vitamins and minerals my body needs, I operate better. My thoughts feel clearer. My energy is bigger. I feel more equipped to take on life challenges that arise daily. So while I don't turn down a piece of birthday cake and don't recommend that you do either, I also make a conscious attempt to fill my life with leafy greens and quinoa and tofu and almonds and garden-fresh veggies and berries. I do this because my physical and mental health depends on it. I simply can't love myself as much when I don't even have the energy to move. 

3. CULTIVATE YOUR OWN STYLE

There are a lot of style rules out there dictating that this type of body needs to wear this type of swimsuit and that type of body should avoid that cut of dress and if you weigh X, cover yourself up and if you weigh Y, go about your days half-naked. To me it's all nonsense. When it comes to putting clothes on your body, I think it all boils down to wearing what you like, what makes you comfortable, and what makes you happy. Period.

If you're 250 pounds and want to wear short shorts, don't let anyone stop you. If you wouldn't be caught dead in a dress even at a friend's wedding, own it. If you want to wear a bikini but are worried what others will think, screw what everyone thinks and wear it with pride. If you want to wear nothing but sweats and T-shirts, go for it. If you get dressed to the nines every day and wake up extra early to do your hair and makeup because that's what makes you happy, do that. Wear what you like. Wear what makes you comfortable. Wear what makes you happy. Follow trends if you think that's fun. Avoid them if you don't. Wear jeans. Wear skirts. Wear the skimpiest swimsuit imaginable. Wear a conservative pantsuit. Show your cleavage. Cover your cleavage. Wear something tight. Wear something loose. Wear something that elicits compliments. Wear something that nobody else likes. It doesn't matter as long as you like it, you are comfortable, and you are happy.  

4. TREAT YOURSELF THE WAY YOU'D TREAT A CHILD

This one is huge because women have a tendency to say horrible things to themselves. Every time you look into the mirror and tell yourself how fat and hideous you are, turn around and picture yourself saying those exact same words to a small child. Nobody — child or adult — deserves to be treated with hatred. Nobody includes YOU. You do not deserve to be treated with hatred. If you would forgive a child for accidentally breaking a plate, forgive yourself for eating an unhealthy meal that left you feeling depleted. If you can forgive a child for saying something inappropriate, forgive yourself for whatever missteps you made today. You can skip your workout and still be a wonderful person. You can weigh more than what society tells you you're supposed to weigh and still be a wonderful person. You can try on an outfit you don't like and refuse to tell yourself you have a gross body, opting instead to realize that all outfits fit all people in all different ways and this one just didn't quite work out. Hug the child in your life, hug yourself, and move on. 

Several years ago I read this piece by Sarah Koppelkam and it became the Bible for how I treat myself and others. Now that I am pregnant, I've been thinking about this concept anew. This is a short piece of writing and I encourage everyone to read it from start to finish. If you want a revolution of self-love and body acceptance, this is the way to get there. Use this as a guide for talking to your daughters and sons. Use this as a guide for talking to yourself. Memorize the words. Tattoo them on your body. Live them. There's your revolution. 

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Running Half Marathons With a Cupcake in the Oven

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

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In the years before I became pregnant, running became a huge part of my life. It was my go-to source of stress relief as well as my favorite physical activity. I've never been very sporty or athletically inclined, but in running I didn't have to be either. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other. In the year 2015, I ran a race every month, ranging from 5Ks to a half marathon. For 2016, I had two goals: to continue running a race a month for as long as I could, and to get pregnant. I knew that if I achieved both goals, they would cross over at some point and play into each other. So far this year I've run seven half marathons — one for each month — and five of them have been with a baby on board. I'm planning on running a few more, and then I'm planning on taking the last few months of the year off. I may do some light running during that time, but I definitely won't be racing. 

Before getting pregnant, I sought out a doctor who would support me with both my baby and my running goals. I was lucky to find someone I relate to and feel very comfortable around; I feel confident having her as my doctor and I think she understands me and what's important to me in a way that not everyone does. She ran throughout her pregnancies, so I knew she would support me during mine. 

Pregnant running is vastly different from non-pregnant running. The goal is no longer speed. My pace has slowed dramatically and it continues to slow each month. I'm also not able to attack certain obstacles (specifically hills) in the same way, or often at all. I never shied from a hill before I was pregnant, but now I slow to a walk every time I encounter one. I don't want to get my heart rate too elevated, I don't want to get overheated, and I don't want to get breathless. This means that I'm going slower (sometimes completely slowing to a walk), I'm skipping the hills, and I'm taking everything at a much easier pace. 

An unexpected side effect of all of this is that during pregnancy, running has actually become more fun. I'm no longer chasing any time goals, so I'm free to go out and just enjoy my runs. Whereas before I would become frustrated if I got tired during a run, now I just slow down, guzzle my water, take in my surroundings, and enjoy the fact that I'm out in the open air. I don't even pay attention to my pace anymore. I stop a lot during my runs to pee. Sometimes I'll stop in the middle of a run and have a snack. I've changed my routes to stick to flatter terrain. During my pregnancy runs, I've noticed more in my neighborhood than I ever did before. Now that I've slowed down, I see more.

Another benefit during my first trimester was that running helped to quell my nausea. There were a few days when I felt too sick to go out, but once I finally got out there I felt so much better. Running has helped me to keep in touch with my pregnant body. I haven't been able to easily maintain strength training or some other forms of physical activity throughout pregnancy, but walking and running are movements I've been able to keep up.

So why run half marathons while pregnant? First reason: I signed up for the races before I was pregnant. Secondly, why not? I was in strong enough condition to run frequent half marathons before I was pregnant and I wanted to maintain that level of fitness for as long as I could. So far, it's been doable. Each of my five pregnant half marathons has been a little slower than the last and I know they'll just get slower, eventually getting too difficult to keep up. 

If I could do it again, I'd probably focus more on slower distances like 5Ks and 10Ks. But I have no regrets about the half marathons I've run. I'm proud of all this baby and I have accomplished together. I'm excited to see what we can continue to do. And I'm thankful that my stress level throughout pregnancy has been manageable thanks to our regular runs. 

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Cupcakes & Cocktails

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

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Mike and I hosted a Cupcakes & Cocktails party for Memorial Day and not surprisingly, he was in charge of the cocktails and I was in charge of the cupcakes. For his part, he infused vodkas (and gins, I think? I dunno — this wasn't my area) with ingredients like mint, black pepper, dill, cucumbers, basil and jalapeños. I personally haven't had a drink in 2016 but the crowd drank up his concoctions and seemed to love every sip.  

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

There was nothing "healthy" about this party, and I for one think there's some value in that. We're in another cycle where a lot of news sources are picking up stories about "the dangers of clean eating"  that suggest a rigid adherence to healthy eating leads to orthoexia, an unhealthy obsession with eating right. I've written in the past about the problems I have with these types of articles, which I think unfairly link clean eating with eating disorders when in fact the disorders are a result of overzealous rigidity and not the clean, healthy lifestyle I know and love. The lifestyle I know promotes balance and moderation, not severity. 

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

I think the best way to counter this popular view of clean eating as something dark, dirty and dangerous is to live a balanced life in which food is never the enemy. There are so many fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet, we empty our kitchen compost daily. I am the queen of whole grains and there's nothing I love more than a good tempeh or tofu. Nine times out of ten, I'll choose salad over fries. I'll choose water over soda. These daily choices make it so much sweeter on those days when I do go for the fries or the brownie or the root beer float or the nachos. I have those days too. They're infrequent and therefore they're special. I enjoy them without guilt or shame, which is how I think life should always be enjoyed. 

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

So maybe I fight back by making cupcakes. This is my way of showing the world: here's something I love. It's not particularly healthy, but I made it with my own hands and it tastes good and it brings me joy to share it. And I know my husband gets joy from sharing his fun cocktails, which also have no nutritional value but have the effect of bringing people together and offering refreshment on a hot, sunny day. And I know we'll eat salad for lunch today and everything balances out. 

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

I am obsessed with food in the sense that I spend a lot of time thinking about it, shopping for it, preparing it, and eating. I love finding delicious recipes. I love playing around with seasonal produce. I love discovering the flavors and textures my tastebuds respond to most. And though I spent my younger years being obsessed with food in a less healthy way, I now refuse to play the game that requires me to feel bad or guilty for eating a certain type of food or equate my self-worth with the items on my plate. There are times in life when you just want to eat a cookie and I refuse to believe there's anything wrong with that.  

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

So I make cupcakes. Sometimes I make really healthy cupcakes, the kind where I swap sugar for mashed banana and oil for avocado or unsweetened applesauce. Other times I make the full-sugar, full-fat, fully loaded versions. I think there's value in both. More than anything, I think there's value in gathering with friends on the patio on a warm day to enjoy food, drinks, and company. In fact, I think experiences like that are the most valuable thing in life. 

Eat cupcakes. Eat kale. Ride your bike all morning and sleep all afternoon. Order the salad instead of the fries. But every once in awhile, order the fries instead of the salad. Ditto for dessert: satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit at the end of your meals. Then one day, go for the ice cream sundae. Enjoy every bite. This summer, enjoy the heck out of corn on the cob and fresh watermelon and big fruit salads and spinach and artichokes. Equally enjoy an ice cream cone or salt water taffy or s'mores here and there. 

Look around. Notice the people with you. Notice the environment you're in. Notice your mood. Notice your comfort level. Are you with people you love? Are you enjoying the scenery? Are you happy? Are you content? This is what matters. Whether you had a "perfect eating day" or you scarfed down cupcakes at a party, this is always what matters.  

P.S. Even those these weren't particularly "healthy" cupcakes, they were all vegan and six out of seven of them were gluten-free. I hate excluding friends with food restrictions from enjoying the foods I make and I love experimenting with ingredients to try and make dishes that work for everybody. 

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It's "Bikini Body" Season

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

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'Tis the time of year when magazines are splashed with headlines about achieving the perfect "bikini body." Like most things geared toward women, "bikini body" is a made-up term designed to make women feel like they are not worthy of wearing a certain type of clothing unless they have a certain type of body. As the cartoon above so aptly illustrates, this is nonsense.

If you have a body and you want to wear a bikini, wear a bikini. If you have a body and you don't want to wear a bikini, don't wear a bikini. If you want to become physically active and eat healthier foods as a means of feeling better about yourself, do that. If you want to work on toning your body as means of achieving a physical goal, do that. If you want to accept yourself exactly as you are even though you ate three cupcakes today, do that.

But whatever you do, don't buy into this story that's sold every year to women — the one that tries to convince us we need to change who we are in order to fit a certain ideal about how we're "supposed" to look. Wear what you want to wear. Do the physical activities you enjoy. Eat the foods you want to eat, aiming for a balance of healthy foods and treats in moderation. Put on a bikini no matter your size or situation. Or if you don't want to put on a bikini, don't. You're in control of your own body. You get to decide.

I'm a big fan of saving the energy most people put toward worshipping celebrities and instead investing that energy on the people in my own life — and myself. It means a heck of a lot more to me to listen to my mom and friends than it does to listen to a movie star I've never met/ will never meet.

That said, if you MUST look to a celebrity for guidance, here's a list of celebrities making body-positive statements that don't promote unhealthy ideals. If you're feeling low on confidence, steal some of theirs.

And for eff's sake, NEVER bash another woman for how she looks in a bathing suit or any other type of clothing. If you do, guess who will hear you? Your 12-year-old granddaughter will hear you. Your 8-year-old niece will hear you. Your friend who's struggling with her own body image will hear you. And then guess what you are? Part of the problem. A big part of the problem.

“I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family — I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”
--Kelly Clarkson

“I’m healthy and happy, and if you’re hating on my weight, you obviously aren’t.” 
--Demi Lovato

“Far too many women are much more hurt by being called fat or ugly than they are by being called not smart or not a leader. If someone told me that I was stupid or that I wasn’t a leader or that I wasn’t witty or quick or perceptive, I’d be devastated. If someone told me that I had a gross body, I’d say, ‘Well, it’s bringing me a lot of happiness.’”
--Mindy Kaling

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone."
--Minnie Driver

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”
--Jennifer Lawrence

 “I think that whatever size or shape body you have, it’s important to embrace it and get down. The female body is something that’s so beautiful. I wish women would be proud of their bodies and not dis other women for being proud of theirs.”
--Christina Aguilera

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”
--Adele

 “My main beauty tip is don’t say that negative thing when you look in the mirror. It just isn’t healthy. That lack of beating up on ourselves — that’s my new mantra. Happiness is the best makeup; a smile is better than any lipstick you’ll put on.”
--Drew Barrymore

 “You know, it gets easier and easier. My fears came true: people called me fat and hideous, and I lived. And now I keep living.”
--Lena Dunham

 “I refuse to worry about something that I could not change … I am not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.”
--Kristen Bell

 “While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful.”
--Pink

 “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter] because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
--Kate Winslet

"Girls of all kinds can be beautiful — from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing, and all in between. It's not easy though because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box ... Think outside of the box ... pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you."
--Tyra Banks

"I keep telling myself that I'm a human being, an imperfect human who's not made to look like a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment I have a nice figure."
--Emma Watson

"My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body. I want women to know that it's okay, that you can be whatever size you are and be beautiful inside and out."
--Serena Williams

"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini — put it on and stay strong."
--Jennifer Love Hewitt
https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

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