It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like … Weight Loss Lunacy Season

It’s starting. Weight Watchers commercials, social media ads for discounts off downloadable guides and programs, Nordic Tread testimonies and Peloton tidings of comfort and joy (in the form of lower scale numbers). After a pandemic Christmas where there was little else to do but hunker down and eat, following 10 months of the acquisition of quarantine cushioning for many, the annual race to finally claim one’s dream body is off. Because maybe, just maybe, summer beach vacations in 2021 can actually be a thing and everyone will want to celebrate that with a body to parade around (yuck, that shouldn’t even be a goal).

So, here’s my issue with this (and kind of with the fitness industry as a whole). Let me preface this by saying I’ve been an NASM certified personal trainer for five years. This has been a side hustle to my day job as a writer, editor, and creative producer. Needless to say, the day job has kept me plenty busy, which didn’t leave much time for pursuing job #2 in my off hours. That, combined with my own realizations about fitness and diet culture, and my conviction that many people wanting to lose weight also need some psychological conditioning (which is not my field), led me to “retire.” But I’m certainly not without a level of expertise in this field and I have some things to say, As people hurry to buy out Gymshark apparel and order their Booty Bands and protein powder off Amazon, please permit me to pop off.

  1. There are valid reasons for why weight loss/body goals kick off with a bang in January and die a quiet death around March. And that’s actually nothing to be ashamed of.
  2. There is a difference between getting fit and losing weight. The two are not synonymous.
  3. People with great looking bodies and desired scale numbers are not necessarily happier humans.
  4. The fitness industry, like pretty much everything in a capitalistic society, is designed to make money. Instilling guilt, shame, and panic in people is part of how you get that done.
  5. There are many medical professionals who are as clueless about weight loss, exercise, and how the body actually processes those things, as Regina George was in her Mean Girls quest to lose three pounds by only drinking cranberry-flavored sugar water (aka, juice). Example: Stop using office scales that don’t tell a fraction of the total story as as your most important metric for trying to motivate patients. More on that another time.

Can you tell I’m just a tad frustrated at this topic?

Here’s what I want people to know (my perspective, of course, but one that has taken me a long, long time to develop).

  1. Developing an exercise habit is not rocket science. Find something that moves your body in a way you enjoy and be consistent about it. Did you read that right? Do what you like. Keep doing it. That is all.
  2. Stop looking at Instagram pics of people with bodies you want to emulate. In the majority of cases, those looks are hiding what really goes into getting them: Expensive training programs, supplementation, and ridiculous diet techniques that are not sustainable.
  3. On that note, sustainability is key. Unless you are completely cool with eating eat cheese wraps and investing in copious amounts of grain substitutions and Costco Keto ice cream bars for the duration of your natural life, Keto is not your long-term salvation. You have to eat in a way that is sane and sensible for life.
  4. Living a fitter, trimmer, and healthier life is about nourishment and movement, as it best works for you.
  5. This is coming from my Christian perspective, but basically if it was food available in the Garden of Eden, it’s really good for you to eat. Like your mama has been telling you: eat your fruits and veggies. Stop demonizing natural foods and then think you’re better off shoving a synthetic protein bar into your mouth.
  6. If you are clueless about proper nutrition or have legit health conditions that call for a certain way of eating, the BEST way to navigate this is to see a registered dietitian. Not the sweet hippie at your favorite spa (unless there is an RD after her name), but a person who studied human nutrition and had to get board certified in that field. To be clear: your primary care provider does not have that in depth training the way an actual RD does. More power to you if your provider actually refers you to one. If you are going to invest in anything to help you become fit and healthy, invest in this.
  7. Don’t hop on any bandwagons. If your brother or sister does something, or your neighbor, or even your best friend who is also a nurse; that doesn’t mean that particular approach is right for you. We are all wired differently, so you must do what is right for you.
  8. Resist the January weight loss lunacy and focus on a long-term strategy of doing better for yourself by trying new ways to move, and find a registered dietician to help you. You’d honestly be surprised how much they despise all the fads that have become gospel for people trying to lose extra weight (low carb, keto, paleo, etc.).
  9. If you have to spend a lot of money on something (outside of home workout equipment which I pray you will actually use) in order to lose weight, don’t. Invest that money in an RD if your health plan doesn’t cover it. I can’t stress that enough.
  10. Here’s my final and easy tip, but by no means the last word on the topic of health and wellness: Tik Tok. I know, I know. Hear me out. There are many licensed, board certified dietitians and physicians using the platform to educate the public properly on nutrition and wellness. Do a search, check some accounts out. You might get some questions answered there, or at least find a starting point.

Stay sane, find a course, stay that course and just focus on being kind to yourself in 2021. Lord knows after 2020, we could all use more kindness—especially to ourselves.

Hey Random Aunty, Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter

The western world has long pioneered the fields of psychology and psychiatry, championing exploration of the human mind and its effect on behavior and illness. Indeed, the trend toward seeking medical or psychological intervention for depression, anxiety, and other behavioral issues is not new to the cultures from which those disciplines emerged.

For those of us children of immigrants, or first-generation immigrants ourselves, we’ve grown up in a dual-cultured world. Often, we live lives that psychologically could even be looked at a bit split personality in nature. At school and work, we speak with American (or British, Australian, German, etc.) accents. We eat whatever food we wish—often opting for things far from the cuisine of our home culture. We live in the world of the country we live in. And then we go home and play a whole different game with rules that compete with our ingrained western sensibilities.

There is sure to be conflict, but we find ways around and through them. And our parents often adapt, embracing nuances of western culture that make sense to them. But there is one area that still represents an uncharted —and highly resisted—territory: mental health.

Speaking to my experience as an Indian American who has heard plenty from people with my background, parents would rather offer you a handful of almonds as a cure for your brain issues than take you to a psychologist. Yoga, meditation, and other faith-related practices are often suggested without a full understanding of the problems a young person is actually dealing with.

For the Indian American family that closely identifies with a particular faith group, be it Hinduism, Islam, and even Christianity, mental health struggles and the inability to surmount them without intervention, is often cast as a failure of one’s adherence to their faith and practice. Christian parents might tell you to just pray and believe. And if you still struggle, the suggestion is made that your faith isn’t strong.

The end result is often that a young person suffers in silence, which may lead them down a horrific path. I knew a Pakistani-American guy in college who shot himself in a dorm parking lot because his MCAT score wasn’t what he wanted it to be. I remember him being stressed and super intense about schoolwork. But to the point that he felt his only option was death? He needed help. I don’t know if he reached out to his parents or what their relationship was like, but there were clearly issues that needed to be addressed.

I know of many kids who live secret lives of self-destruction under their parents’ noses for reasons that reach far beyond rebellion. And if said parents discover their stupidity, say in the case of actually getting into serious trouble, more effort will be given to covering up the misdeed than actually getting the kid set straight. Solutions can often be found in honest communication with parents and help from a medical/psychological professional. But that path is ignored. Why?

Again, speaking from my experience as an Indian American, here’s a big part of the problem. Many parents live and die by what OTHER people think about them. And really, that’s stupid.

“It won’t look nice,” if we don’t go to the 16th birthday party of that kid we don’t even know, just because their parents invited us (and we don’t even know them that well). Or “What will people say if they find out you have to talk to a counselor? They’ll think you are crazy, and we are cursed as parents!” when you tell your folks you need some help dealing with sadness. “How can you call off the wedding (to a complete idiot you should really be running from)? What will the community say? What’s one of the biggest reasons a lot of ethnic parents want their kids to get into Harvard? Bragging rights.

All that superficial junk accomplishes is further alienation of a child that needs help, in favor of appearances to people who don’t honestly matter—because lest we forget, the real people whose love for us is genuine only want us to be happy.

Now if a child breaks a leg or needs treatment for a bladder infection, that’s cause for a doctor visit. But the brain—which is a pretty important organ—gets ignored when it runs into issues. Does that make good sense?

In my opinion, two things need to happen:

1. Ethnic parents need to take a page from the book of Western parenting and be more open about communication. If you struggle with talking about hard topics, (sex, drugs, alcohol, sexuality, religion, politics) learn to do it regardless. If you are going to raise your kids in Western culture, stop trying to force them to remain within the cultural bubble of the country you immigrated from, especially if that culture frowns upon honest parent/child communication.

2. If everything you do is designed to win praise and accolades from people not of your immediate family, knock it off. Stop caring about what other people think and invest that energy into caring about what your children think about you. How can you do a better job at getting them the help they need for any problem that arises—regardless of whether they are physical or mental.

For all the ethnic parents out there saying, “that would never happen to my child,” yes, yes it can. But by the time you actually wise up to it, it may be too late.

And that random aunty will still have plenty to say even then.

Pandemic Holidays: An Introvert’s Dream Come True

When our office went to remote working in March, it was supposed to be for two weeks. You know, just enough time to let this corona bug pass through and then we’d get back to normal. So yeah, it’s two weeks away from 2021 and here we sit.

And here we sit in a holiday season that sucks for many people and yet doesn’t for the rest of us. Who are we grinches not crying at the cancelation of a bajillion holiday events? Us introverts… and we’re (not loud and) proud.

Decorating the house for Christmas was nice enough—whether you love being surrounded by gaggles of people or find your peace in alone time, everyone can agree a cozy home with some lights and nice smelling balsam candles is enjoyable. My family belongs to the “This is not a hoax, don’t mess around with this, suck up your whining and moaning about your ruined social life and filling your bellies at restaurants and working out at a gym; put your mask on and shut up,” camp. No exceptions. And thank you God, we have young adult children who get that and aren’t buzzing around town to see their friends and catch COVID like clueless fools. So, at least the space we have to occupy is festive.

In this spirit of everyone working from home and doing school from home, we could have also been shopping from home, kept going like business as usual in that regard. Lord knows Amazon has certainly seen us through the last nine months. But for the last four weeks, when I could have been shopping for Christmas gifts in earnest, I haven’t. And I don’t feel pressed in the least.

Perhaps my lack of motivation stems from the fact that the postal system (God bless ‘em) is absolutely struggling right now. Forget forking over the extra cash for priority shipping—it’s not going to get where you need it to go when you want it to. As this meme so wisely put it, “Stop tracking that package. It’s in God’s hands now.” Also, who are we seeing to exchange gifts with? No one. Our family bubble is certainly not going to cry if there is anything to open on Christmas morning or if they have to wait for presents on New Year’s Eve (a far more likely scenario).

Honestly, I also feel like holiday revelry is out of place this year. You may or may not believe this, but we are in a much worse situation in terms of infections and deaths than when we first shut down in March. Lockdowns are back all over the world and travel is greatly discouraged (not that that gets in the way of many ‘Muricans.)

Since we still have maskless bandits running around refusing to do the right thing, it is indeed truly safest to hunker down at home. And yes, that is making us introverts feel just fine. I’m not missing the exhaustion of wrapping up 2020 at work while holiday shopping on my phone during long meetings and running to pick up ordered items at lunch time. I’m not feeling bad about missing the frenzied rush of getting enough wrapping paper, gift bags, boxes, and scotch tape (which always runs out when you need it most), and then packaging up all the goods.

I am however, missing my nearest and dearest and just being able to get together at a cozy restaurant for a double date or even to have coffee and sit by the fire somewhere. Large holiday parties for work, school, church or otherwise? I’m fine on sitting those out this year.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to try and help out someone this year. And yes, I know with less than a week before Christmas I am going to have to brave Target just once. That to me is worth it if it means I can get a gift or two to a family that is really struggling this year. Because so many are.

I hope the dire situation of the pandemic and the economy are real enough to you to warrant some action in terms of staying and home and safe and trying to donate/give of your resources to people in need. Perhaps the blessing to be found in this introvert’s paradise of the holidays is the chance to extend something good to someone who could use it.

By this time next year, with most of us vaccinated (I hope), it’ll be back to the normal mayhem and we’ll look back at this time fondly for different types of memories. We can only dream.

Shoot Me Up Doc, I Ain’t Afraid!*

Early on in the pandemic when it became apparent that there was no way the world could return to normal unless there was a vaccine for COVID-19, it seemed such a thing was a long way off. But here we are, and granted there is a pecking order for who gets this first, with those of us unessential workers who are healthy low on the list, the news that the vaccine is rolling out is a great thing.

As with anything in these United States, there are lots of opinions. While my social media feeds don’t include anti-vaxxers (that I know of, and if so, I clearly need to diversify my acquaintances), there are many thoughtful individuals who are also wary. Vaccines normally take time to develop, test, and roll out; often years in some cases. So, it’s not entirely far-fetched for some to feel a bit worried about something that has come out in a matter of months.

But here’s where good sense, trust in science and the medical community, and facts have to be depended upon. No, there aren’t microchips embedded in the vaccine the government will use to track us all. We have smartphones and Alexa to listen in on us anyway.  And no, the vaccine is not made up of deadly chemicals that will render the fertile, infertile, and tousle your DNA into who knows what.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, and yes, we are all going to have to watch and see what happens to a certain extent, getting this vaccine is crucial to the country’s dire need to move forward and get strong again.

Does this post sound like a lot of Wilo’s opinions? I’m sure it could. So, let’s check in with the CDC, shall we?

  1. It takes a few weeks for the human body to build immunity, and as we have heard, the vaccine needs to be administered in two dosages with varying times between them depending on the manufacturer). What this means is, you can’t run around barhopping and mask-less with one stick. It is still in excellent form to wear a mask and social distance for a little bit until you complete doses and have let enough time pass.
  2. The vaccine will not cause you to have a positive COVID test result.
  3. If you have gotten COVID and recovered, the vaccine can still benefit you.
  4. This vaccine can indeed keep you from getting sick with COVID even if you experience no symptoms.
  5. If you’ve heard this mRNA thing thrown around and are convinced your DNA will be tampered with, it won’t. According to the CDC, “The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.” See that folks? Science.

By all means, research this more from REPUTABLE SOURCES AND MEDICAL JOURNALS THROUGH ARTICLES WRITTEN BY BOARD CERTIFIED PHYSICIANS AND ACCREDITED SCIENTISTS.” And no, the YouTube video made by that lady in church who only eats raw greens does not count (unless she falls in the above criteria).

Doing your homework is always the right thing to do, but I beg you—think also of the greater good of not just yourself, but your greater community. We are all in this together and the sooner the majority of the population cooperates, the faster we can all get back to living our lives socializing, traveling, working, and giving back to those who need our help.

My two cents? Suck it buttercups and get your shots. Maybe there’ll even be a lollipop in it for you.

*Thank you for this priceless gem, Cameran Eubanks Wimberly.

Make America Read Again

Believe it or not, I averaged reading one book a week while on maternity leave with my youngest child 17 years ago. Always an avid reader from childhood, the pace of feedings and cuddling actually lent itself to my being able to get through as many books as I did. I also had a good baby who slept as long as he was fed and dry.

With the advent of smart phones and Netflix and other streaming apps, my reading habit went by the wayside. And that’s no bueno. As a writer, reading is crucial to my craft. It’s the way one stretches their brain with new perspectives and use of language. But man, it’s just so easy to curl up with your phone to catch the latest episode of whatever I missed from days before.

Alas, I have recommitted to my love of books (memoir, biography, and historical fiction are among my faves). I’ve been really working on shutting off my phone an hour before I sleep and reading, and every time I do that, I notice a significant difference in the depth and overall quality of my sleep. So, I highly recommend that.

During quarantine, books have been a lifeline for many and let’s be bluntly honest: people who read are smarter than people who don’t. We just know more. You want to know more? Read.

With two weeks left before Christmas, I highly recommend gifting books for those on your Christmas list. And here is a list to get you started.

  1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Not only is this a behind-scenes-look at his rise to the presidency, but it’s peppered with stories of his journey as a father and husband. You’ll also learn a ton about the inner workings of American government, which has actually been very interesting to me.

2. Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis

Are you detecting a theme here? This is a fascinating, courageous look at a once-in-a-lifetime type of person. It’s humorous at times, inspiring all the time and honest. Though written in the 90s, many of the issues he grappled with in congress are still issues pressing us today. And that will make you think.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

There is a reason her book tour was a mega block buster event with a Netflix documentary to boot. Michelle Obama’s life thus far is extraordinary, and she still has so much more living to do and her story will inspire you.

4. Becoming by Cindy Crawford

That’s right two books with the same name, but very different. Both Michelle Obama and Cindy Crawford are born and bred Illinois girls, super smart, and legendary in their own rights. Crawford’s book features some of her best-known photos from her modeling days with the back stories behind them. Additionally, she tells the story of her ascent from small town girl to one of the most iconic models of our time. If you have fans of fashion and photography on your list, this is a good one.

5. Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain

If you are a fan of the Great British Baking Show, you will remember Nadiya Hussein’s season and her amazing win. That event catapulted a simple mom and wife from her traditional and somewhat inhibiting life to cooking/baking/presenting superstardom. And, she’s got some of her favorite recipes in it. The book is honest and raw at times, but always hopeful and positive in tone. It’s a great read (and mini cookbook).

While all of these titles can be found on Amazon, this is a great time to support local indie bookstores or even indie bookstores online. They are really hurting right now, and Jeff Bezos has made enough money off this pandemic, don’t you think?