April’s bikini day at the beach

I did it.

I finally wore a bikini at the beach.

I had done it before as a child, I’m sure.

But as an adult, my stomach had never once felt the cool sea air upon it.

bikinibeachI’ve always wanted to try wearing a bikini. If I just didn’t have that horrible fear of what everyone there would think, I bet I would have done it a lot sooner. However on this day, once my friend and I had successfully walked the farthest away we could from people, I decided to strip down just to the bikini I had worn there with fearful anticipation of actually showing it. My friend easily sensed my embarrassment as I peered around to see just how far away everyone was, standing with my hands in my shirt ready for lift off. Luckily, as the awesome guy my friend is, he knew to say all the right things to make me feel better. Compliments about me being hot and “no one caring” eased my anxieties enough to get me to take off my top and plop down with my hands/arms hiding my stomach. With a few more self-esteem boosting words, I let go of my stomach and realized I badly needed to just get over this deep-rooted fear I have about wearing a bikini.

Why is that I could go to Burning Man and walk around with no  top? Or go to an Oregon hot springs and do the same? Why didn’t I feel horrible shame there the way I do at the beach?

A suggested answer came from one of my close girl friends. She pointed out that at Burning Man and hot springs, so many people are naked and “letting it all hang out” that the societal pressure to look a certain way just isn’t there. Though at the beach and other public swimming places, it is almost expected that the only women you will see wearing bikinis are thin. I am grateful that these times are changing and more and more women are feeling more secure about rocking whatever they want to at the beach. Sadly, I still haven’t been able to JUST GET OVER IT. I think I’m getting better since I’m even willing to give it a try, but I hate knowing that the #1 reason I won’t wear a bikini to the beach is because of my fear of what complete strangers think of my body.

How freaking lame is that?

So, blog readers, does the fear of what other people think of your body ever hinder what you like to wear?  If it doesn’t, how did you get to that awesome place of complete self-security? I’d love to hear it!

Oh, and by the way, I’m totally down 20 pounds officially from the start of this year. YAY. Thank you 3-day training and food allergies! WOOO!

 

Lots of love,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

bikiki

Proof (at a safe distance for my insecurities).

Out and About: Alyssa Explores Sequoia National Park

This year has been a weird one in terms of vacations — rather than one week in one particular place, Matt and I have ended up going on lots of mini trips this year. One of those mini trips was to celebrate Matt’s 30th birthday. His request was for trees – lots of ‘em. We ended up booking a cozy cabin on Air B n’ B and headed up north to Sequoia National Park, about 3.5 hours from where we live in Los Angeles. The first picture below is when you’re about an hour outside of Sequoia. The last hour of the drive is very curvy and into the woods.

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Here’s the inside of our cabin. Note the VHS player, which enabled us to indulge in film classics like the Birdcage and Mrs. Doubtfire (We’re still missing you, Robin Williams.)

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We woke up the next morning after our arrival and headed to the Trail of 100 Giants. It was an easy three mile loop through a gorgeous… well, trail of giants. Giant trees, that is! The first picture shown below is of two trees, each over 240 feet long, that fell after a storm. Insanity!

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After a few hours exploring the Trail of Giants, we headed off to Dome Rock, a secret little vista that overlooked all over the Sequoia Canyon, recommended to us by the park ranger. This place was incredibly stunning, and we showed up at just the right time, when a storm was rolling in and the clouds were dramatic and gray. The only slightly freaky thing about this place is there are no stairs, no guard rails (and a 5,000 foot drop, as warned by the ranger), and no civilization – so if you see a hungry bear or happen to take a tumble down the rock face, well, you’re on your own. Matt and I were the only people at this place, so when he was scurrying over rocks and up into trees I was lecturing him about how if he fell, we’d be up Shit Creek without a paddle (and without cell service!). We hung out for about 30 minutes and then had to hightail it down the mountain when hail starting hurling down on us.

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How amazing is that view, right? There ended up being so many parts of Sequoia we didn’t even see, like the General Sherman Tree, but now I know for next time that we need much longer than two days. This part of California usually gets all the buzz for Yosemite, but now I know that if you stay just an hour or so south, you’re in for some incredible scenic viewpoints and a quieter, more mellow vibe; with no cell phone reception or wi-fi. (Sometimes that’s paradise, as long as you don’t fall off a mountain.)

Have you ever been to this part of California?

Things I’m Reading and Loving

Hello there! One very subtle shift in summer to fall for me is that suddenly, my nose is always back in a book. I’ve always been a voracious reader, so much so that my parents used to buy books for me for vacations and hide them so I didn’t read them before the trip. However, in the throes of boring adult life, it seems like I never have time to stick my nose in a book; that is, until the seasons change, and there’s less weddings on weekends and allergy appointments and beach days (not bad things to be preoccupied with, other than allergy appointments.) I’ve been sick since Monday with a terrible cold, and the only positive of this crud (well, that’s being dramatic, because there’s lots of positives — like it’s not ebola, I work from home, and I have access to doctors and medications should I need them), is that I’ve had lots of time to read. Here’s what I’ve been reading: (And no, none of these are sponsored endorsements. As usual, if you click the link I may make 4c (I’m rich!), but these are my own heartfelt recommendations.)

1) Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book was given to me by an awesome friend and coworker, and it’s a wonderful mental vacation through the minds of a bored but genius architect mother and her 15-year-old daughter. Here’s the official blurb:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

I really liked the way the book was written via different forms of communication: email, letters, post-it notes, etc, and from so many different points of view. I liked the snarky commentary on the tech world that comes about from Bernadette’s husband’s job, and the creative twist on perspective offered by Bernadette and her dreary suburban life. This is a book you’ll rip through quickly, and I promise you’ll feel good at the end.

2) The SkinnyTaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

I’ve been a fan of the Skinnytaste blog for years, loving that these light and delicious recipes aren’t loaded with chemicals or weird ingredients. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single recipe I’ve made from Skinnytaste has been a hit. Pinterest? Not so much. (Pssst: Visit Pintester.com, which cracks me up, especially this post, because I’ve recently had the same fail.) I can’t wait to make the Skinnytaste Baked Potato Soup, or her watermelon lime granita, which I just may do as our dollar store is having a few sad looking late-season watermelons rolling in. The photos in this book are gorgeous, the instructions are easy, and I’m all about beautiful cookbooks that you can ooh and ahh over without feeling the button on your jeans simultaneously stab into your roll of tummy flub.

3) Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

I don’t watch a lot of TV(probably less than two hours a month), but occasionally, I would check out old episodes of Girls. I didn’t fall in love with the show, but it did intrigue me; I appreciated the different perspective of ladies my age in the media. I enjoy following Lena on Twitter, and also enjoy seeing her challenge the media in a bunch of different ways: by wearing froofy pink and red ball gowns, by pointing out the very obvious fact that every time she gets told how “brave” she is for going naked in a film it’s implying that she should feel brave because she’s showing off her imperfect, non-Hollywood body, and by her unwavering stance on feminism and equal rights for all. Lena’s book is hilarious — it’s not going to be for everyone because she’s brutally honest in ways that may make some people squirmy, but her chapter about her food diaries had me guffawing and realizing how very much like her struggles with weight echoed my own life and my own Double Chin Diary. I think Lena and I would be friends in real life, and I already have two people in mind who are getting this book for Christmas.

4) Ebola’s Cultural Casualty: Hugs in Hands-On Liberia

As a sometimes journalist (Go CSUN, Class of 2008!), it warms my heart when I read a piece of journalism that not only informs, but also gives you all the feels in terms of story. This piece was the first piece of news about Ebola that made me really grasp the severity of what Africa, and now Spain and America, are experiencing. The piece specifically talks about the challenge of having to go touchless in a culture that is so built upon touch, and it’s a heartbreaking and eye-opening look into what this horrifying illness is doing. Read it.

What recommendations do you guys have for me? Now that I’m through these latest books, I need ideas for others! :)

All about April’s first blog convention, ShiftCon!

It has been a busy past couple of a weeks here at Double Chin land. Alyssa and I have both been prancing around the United States and last Wednesday ended up trading cities. I left Oakland for Burbank and a few hours after my arrival, she left Burbank for Oakland.

Saturday was the wedding of our special friend and honorary sister, Katelyn. Alyssa had to be back to do all the wedding party excitement and since she already had bought a ticket to her friend’s blog convention called Shiftcon, I got to reap all the rewards and go in her place!

The website does a better job than I can when it comes to all the awesome aspects of this event so here is a blurb of explanation from their page:

 “ShiftCon is the very first international social media conference focusing on wellness, health, and the environment. This conference blends workshops, networking, parties, and intense collaboration of changemakers all over the United States and Canada in one place. Bloggers and other social media professionals participate and collaborate with each other to inspire and empower each other to create effective communication and take their profession to the next level. Attendees participate in workshops, learn from professionals, discuss their niche and value systems, and decide on themes to collaborate on in the following year. This is a powerful event meant to organize the eco-wellness niche as a powerful community online.”

ShiftCon was held in Los Angeles from Thursday October 2nd to Saturday the 5th. I had wanted to be back in time for Katelyn and her (now) husband’s wedding, so I ended up only attending for Friday afternoon. Within a few hours I had pulled in so much information about brands I already loved and brands I have a feeling I will love.4

There was probably well over a hundred different eco-approved products to try with representatives from tons of companies ready to share information and samples. Besides the THREE hefty swag bags I immediately I received upon check-in, sponsors showered me in samples and challenged me to share pictures to receive additional perks. I got a sweet Patagonia bag from Organic Valley for instagramming a picture. I’m extra stoked on it because  it is PERFECT for my ultra long walks I have been doing!

 

Here are some brands I was excited to experience and/or learn more about!

  • Organic Valley – I’m a fan of chocolate milk so it was easy to lure me to the table with buckets of chilled chocolaty drink calling out to me. Organic Valley does a lot more than make delicious tasting drinks, they also do a variety of dairy products like cheese, butter and sour cream. I noticed at the grocery store tonight that they also have a bunch of organic produce available too, like the bag of potatoes offered at the same price per pound as conventional potatoes. I got a few bottles of their protein packed milk shakes called “organic balance.” These yummy drinks carried 16 grams of protein with them and I’m likely to be utilizing my coupons to buy more. With  the awesome bag they gave me and these drinks, I’ll be well set on my ambitious outdoor adventures. 1
  • Nordic Naturals – This is a product I noticed had hooked up our swag bags pretty heavily with goods. They gave me a whole gift pack full of samples, coupons, mints, a pen, chapstick, a lanyard, and a full size bottle of “Ultimate Omega” fish oil supplements. With my food allergies kicking my ass lately, I am excited for the opportunity to try out some new ways to improve my health.  According to their website, “Extensive research has documented the health benefits of EPA and DHA, which include not only a healthy heart, but brain and cognitive function, joint mobility, eye health, pregnancy and lactation, healthy skin and hair, and a normally functioning immune response.” I’ve got enough capsules for a month so I’ll report back and let you all know how I feel!

    I've got lots of love for all things Norwegian.

    I’ve got lots of love for all things Norwegian.

  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap – I’m not sure when I first discovered what I fondly refer to as “hippie soap” but I have been a faithful fan of this product for definitely more than five years. They were certified organic before being organic was the cool thing to do and their big variety of body products is always giving me more things to try. I started my appreciation of this product when I fell in love with their original castile soap. It is incredibly concentrated and a little bit can create a ton of bubbles so it is the perfect product to take while traveling. Plus, they can be used for way more than your skin. “Completely biodegradable and vegetable-based, our Castile Liquid Soaps have been called the “Swiss-army knife” of cleaning – usable for just about any cleaning task. These simple, ecologically formulated soaps are gentle enough for washing body, face or hair, but also powerful enough for tasks like dishwashing, mopping, laundry and even pest control. ”  Dr. Bronner’s seems to be found in all sorts of stores now, I know our local drug store CVS carries a ton of their stuff at a pretty cheap price so give it a shot! I’ve had the same little bottle for years throughout my travels!

    I was excited because this photo was tweeted by the awesome Trish at Dr. Bronners!

    I was excited because this photo was tweeted by the awesome Trish at Dr. Bronners!

  • Naturepedic Beds – This organic mattress company started out making beds for infants and toddlers and grew in size from there! Now offering all sorts of beds for the entire family, these beds feature no harmful chemicals and are made with organic materials that help ensure the healthiest night’s sleep you can get. The ladies at the display offered me a moment of rest in exchange for a selfie and I was excited when I saw they used it on their own instagram feed! I’M FAMOUS! Thanks, naturepedic! Plus, the bed itself was super comfortable and when I’m ready to buy a new bed next year, I’ll be checking them out first!

    Comfortably organic.

    Comfortably organic.

  • Soap Box – I’m obviously a fan of products not made with a bunch of weird chemicals so when I saw I had a full size bar of a BLACK soap, I got really excited. The company is Soapbox Soaps and they make simple soaps that are 100% palm oil free, vegan, and every box gets another box sent to a child needing their own cleanliness product. They’ve got more types besides my charcoal-activated black soap like lavender, orange, cinnamon, and eucalyptus. Plus,  these soaps run just $4.99 which is pretty reasonable considering the high-quality product it is. I used it tonight during my “shower break” away from writing this long post and my skin feels super silky and clean without an ultra strong scent or weird film that some soaps leave.

    They have a $20 gift set with a bunch of products for the holidays! Click here for their website!

    They have a $20 gift set with a bunch of products for the holidays! Click the pic for their website!

 

So, as you can see, I had a blast at Shiftcon getting to know these products better and learning more about the organic and eco-product movement. I was especially grateful to meet many incredible and like-minded individuals and excited for all the networking I was able to do! Thank you SO much to the people who worked their ass off to put it on, you all were running around the whole time so I only got to meet a few of you! Event planning is tough but you guys did a great job! For a list of the MANY sponsors that hooked us bloggers up, click this link for a wonderfully made list! 

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Check out the enormous amount of goodies I came home with!

I hope you all have a great rest of your week!

 

Lots of love,

AprilSignatur

 

 

Alyssa takes on New York in 36 hours!

Hello hello! I’ve just returned from a beautiful wedding in Northern California that I’ll tell you about soon, but first, I have to share photos from my whirlwind trip to New York. I was on business in Philadelphia and decided when my trip ended that I had to go to New York. I’d never been, and NY is just an easy 1.25 hour train ride from Philadelphia. Matt and I packed up our stuff on a Monday morning, and arrived to New York at noon. When I first got out of the train and was greeted by sky-high buildings, honking yellow taxis, and people in business suits swarming around the train station, I instantly knew I would love this city. It felt like a more urban version of Los Angeles, with the frantic pace and bustling energy I see so often around me in my city of Angels. Matt and I checked into our tiny, overpriced hotel and headed off to Shake Shack to have lunch with our dear friend Sarah, a Los Angeles transplant. After an awesome burger, we went off to the Met, where I geeked out over the Egyptology room. Did you know the artwork behind me is from approximately 15 BC? Incredible!

The Met

After the Met, we walked through Central Park. This park was so incredibly calming; and I learned that Central Park is basically just reserved land to keep some of New York’s natural elements intact. It was so green and lush and at points really did feel just like you were walking in a forest. We stopped near this fountain to hear a cello player and violinist fill the air with famous classical pieces, and I just wanted to soak up all of the beauty around me.

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Then, we headed over to Times Square to check it out and also get some dinner. Times Square was one of those things that was cool to see, but a brief walk through was more than enough for me. I’m not a huge fan of tons of light and noise and people, and at night time after a crazy jetlagged weekend, all I wanted to do was eat some pizza and head to bed. We hit up a tiny little corner shop, I don’t even remember the name, and got our first New York pizza. We really lucked out, because it was AMAZING. We started with a slice of white pizza and veggie supreme, and then decided to really go for it and share a piece of pepperoni. This deep-dish, sauce on top, Chicago girl was impressed.

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Then, it was off to bed, and the next morning, we had brunch with another awesome friend, Nick. After brunch, we went to Greenwich Village for a food walking tour! A coworker of mine recommended Foods of NY tours, and I’m so glad I took her recommendation. For just over $50, we got to walk and talk with our awesome tour guide Bari on the beautiful streets of Greenwich Village, learning about history, and tasting nine different foods of New York, including pizza, herbed olive oils and truffle butter, arancini, meatballs, cookies, eggplant rollatini, fresh foccacia, cheese, and cannoli. Arancini are stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They were traditionally known as a peasant food because most people had rice, and it was a new way to eat rice, and we all know that variety is the spice of life.

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My favorite tasting of the tour was this miniature cannoli. Holy smokes was it delicious! The crackly “shell” was the perfect complement to the light and fluffy cream inside, with just a hint of lemon zest and studded with chocolate chips. I could go for one of these right now..

Cannoli

We also stopped by a beautiful little restaurant called Palma that was pretty much a real-life display of everything I love in design. Palma had fresh flowers and rustic wood everywhere, book cases loaded with old books, sparkling glass trinkets, and fragrant herbs tucked into tarnished old pewter. The room shown below was actually the family’s original home and is 200 years old. The restaurant is directly in front of this building, and one day, they had to open Palma up  for a dignitary as they were out of space in the main dining room. (My memory on this is fuzzy, so apologies if I’m making anything up.) Basically, word got out that people could eat in the family’s kitchen, and it became so popular they eventually had to move out, build a house upstairs, and let their original home become an extension of the kitchen. Howard Stern is a big fan. Can you see how wonderful it would be to be with your friends and a great bottle of red in this cozy little carriage house? I definitely need to make reservations to eat here when I go back to New York.

Restaurant

For this foodie, the tour was an awesome way to get to know one of New York’s neighborhoods and get some walk-training in at the same time! I’ll definitely be trying out some of their other tours when I head back to New York, which I hope I can do in the near future. 36 hours in NYC was enough to let me know that I need to take a proper vacation there one day, probably at least a week, to really get a feel for the city. There’s SO MUCH more I wanted to see and do; like a broadway show, checking out the High Line, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Lady Liberty, visiting Ground Zero, going to the Natural History Museum, etc. I can’t wait to experience the Big Apple when I have more time on my side. For now, I’m so glad I got the chance to experience another amazing city. Have you been to NYC? What did you think?

September is PCOS Awareness Month, and I am 1 in 10

September is PCOS awareness month! You all have seen me write about PCOS before: Long story short, a dear bloggy friend of mine told me I needed to be checked for it after she heard about some of my ailments, I finally got checked, and I was a classic case. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, it affects 1 in 10 women worldwide, and is the most common endocrine disorder in women. Although PCOS has ovaries in its namesake, PCOS is largely a hormonal issue, and as all you all know, hormones are microscopic things that make a huge deal in how your body runs and functions.

I had heard about PCOS in passing, but never heard enough about it to consider it would be a large reason for the many health challenges I was encountering. Since high school, I’ve lost handfuls of hair every time I shower, and sure enough, visited a doctor about it twice. It was chalked up to stress and I was on my way. (I still lose a lot of hair, but have now just accepted it as I still have plenty, thankfully.) I also visited the doctor at least twice a year with complaints of impossible weight loss, and several times, I was told to just work harder, no doubt the doctor assuming that my tales of healthy eating and exercise were just lies (and twice, I was prescribed prescription weight loss pills, which I did not choose to take). I also had telltale signs of insulin resistance; feeling panicky and shaky if I didn’t regularly eat, having severe headaches when I didn’t eat enough carby stuff, and sometimes got panic attacks that felt like surges of electricity running through my body. The menstrual side effects were mostly masked for me as I had been on birth control for many years to control difficult cycles (also a large indicator of PCOS). What makes me angry about all of these signs is that they had all been presented to doctors over the years who never thought to piece them together, because as my endocrinologist finally pointed out, I’m a classic case and likely have been for years.  Click here to go read more of the symptoms. I’m lucky that I haven’t experienced all of these, but there are also some weird PCOS symptoms that are not included on this list that I’ve experienced like mental fogginess, “carb coma”, chin acne only (a hormonal spot), and super sensitive skin. (What makes this syndrome even trickier to diagnose? Many people have completely different symptoms — for example, while 50% of women with PCOS are obese, some are not overweight at all. Some women with PCOS also don’t even have cystic ovaries, yet their hormones match the profile of being PCOS-consistent. Confusing, right?!)

How did my PCOS get discovered, then? In 2012, I had had enough with the BS of trying to lose weight. I’d been blogging on the DCD for three years, and had started a 3x weekly morning boot camp. I was busting my ass in hopes of dropping some weight for one of my bucket list trips to Thailand. Instead, I gained weight. About six months prior, I had stopped taking my birth control and allergy medication in hopes that maybe some of my earlier weight gain was from medication. Without the assistance of hormones (birth control is a common treatment for PCOS), my symptoms intensified, and I demanded my general care doctor do an ultrasound of my ovaries. Sure enough, the scan and blood work revealed several small cysts, in addition to high androgen levels, both tell tale signs of PCOS. Since my diagnosis about a year and a half ago, I’ve lost 22 pounds, largely thanks to the great care I’m receiving from my endocrinologist, who placed me on 1,000 mg of Metformin, a Diabetes drug that can help control insulin and imbalanced hormones. He also does regular blood work, and we did some adjusting to my thyroid, which likes to go back and forth between normal and too low. In the past two months, all of my liver and thyroid levels have become balanced, which means my skin has cleared up, I have more energy, and I’m slowly but surely losing weight when I make very dedicated efforts. This was impossible before my diagnosis and treatment, and while I will have to have my blood work monitored every 3-5 months to adjust medications, for the first time in awhile, I have hope when it comes to losing weight. There is no cure for PCOS, but with weight loss and medication, many of the symptoms can be reduced.

So why am I writing about all of these very personal things on a very public blog? Because we all have a right to know what’s going on with our body. If this is the most common endocrine disorder in women, and I had all the symptoms for over TEN YEARS and was never told about it until a fellow ‘cyster’ suggested I get checked, I want more people to know about it. Sure, PCOS is a “tame” problem to have, in comparison to other medical concerns. But PCOS can be the launching pad for many other debilitating illnesses: ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and severe anxiety and depression. If just one woman goes to the doctor because she has any of the following symptoms, this blog has done its job. When you have an invisible illness, which means one that can’t usually be physically seen, like PCOS, Crohn’s disease (which my best friend suffers from, or Lupus (another dear friend of mine suffers from this), uneducated people sometimes minimize its effects. I’ve even had people remark that I should stop using PCOS as an excuse for not losing weight. This is not only inaccurate, it’s insensitive and hurtful when you’re experiencing the very real complications of said “fake illness”. I can lose weight with PCOS, just as I can live a healthy and happy life. However, the key to this is treatment, and that treatment couldn’t have been discovered had it not been for one friend courageously telling me to go get checked. Like any other medical symptom, if you genuinely feel that something isn’t right, you need to look into it, and if nobody listens, keep going until you find someone willing to fully investigate what’s going on. You are worth the hassle. You are worth the time. You are worth the knowledge — because you might be 1 in 10.

I wear teal for me.

I wear teal for me.