Out of the Darkness: Join me in Spreading Awareness for Mental Health

A 26-year-old man paces a hallway, tapping one, two, three times on the door. He turns around. Taps one, two, three times again. He cannot enter his office until he taps away his tension.

A 14-year-old girl, drowning in her anxiety and restlessness, glides a safety pin over the tender skin of her wrist until beads of blood well up, like miniature rubies. Her parents are ashamed so won’t take her in for help until they find her in a bathtub, her pulse weakening. She survived.

A 42-year-old woman has bourbon for breakfast. Her coworkers are concerned because her teeth are decaying and she seems unkempt and rattled. She lost her driver’s license and spends all of her money on alcohol. Drinking is the only thing she does anymore, and she can’t even figure out why.

A 65-year-old woman loses her job, and with it, her access to health insurance. She is forced to stop taking her anti-depressants, and she won’t get out of bed. Her kids call and call and bang on the door, but she won’t even get up to let them in.

A 25-year-old woman has night terrors, seeing her molesters hands reach for her in her dreams. She can’t sleep, so she drags herself through the day, haunted by panic and regret.

A 30-year-old woman feels faint and flush in meetings. She gasps for air. She forces herself to sit through the meeting so she seems “normal”, even though she’s breathing herself through a massive panic attack and feels like she might pass out.

A 19-year-old boy hears voices in his room. He won’t open the refrigerator door or eat any food from his home, because in his mind, he is convinced he is being poisoned. Weight slides off of him and people tell him how good he looks, not aware that he is starving from the treachery of his own mind.

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I know all of these people. All of these situations have happened. All of them are people I know, people with names, people you might pass in a grocery store and never think anything of. They’re my coworkers, my neighbors, my friend’s parents, my friend’s kids, that lady from church. They’re me, and you, and all of us, because today, one in 5 adults suffers from a diagnosed mental illness. I’ve written about my struggles with panic disorder before, and it took me a long time and a lot of courage to share my story with the Internet. My in-laws read my blog. My coworkers. My boss. My neighbors. It was hard to share the story, but I can do hard things and so can you, and if writing about my anxiety helps just one person feel less alone, it’s worth every single word.

My friend AJ and I have decided to use our collective social media influence to help light a candle for all of the people in our lives who have been affected by suicide. On Saturday, September 15, AJ and I will meet in Santa Monica at 7:45 a.m. and walk in memory of the 117 Americans who take their life every day. We walk because every 12 minutes in the United States, someone ends their life. We walk because in 2014, there were 42,773 suicides. We walk because depression affects over 25 million people in America every year, including myself, when my anxiety is untreated.

We walk for the people in our lives who are no longer here because they couldn’t take the pain, or didn’t know who or how to ask for help. I walk for PJ and Josh and Nicole and Dylan and Erin. I walk because in one year, my senior year of high school, I lost three friends to suicide in the span of one month. I remember seeing one of them the night before he turned on his parents car and sat in the garage with the windows closed. We had played Uno. He was smiling. He was himself. I would have never guessed that anything was wrong. And that is why I will walk. Because today, it’s still taboo to say you’re depressed, or anxious, or suffering from anything “in your head”. We ask, “How are you?”, as a form of courtesy, but we don’t want to hear anything other than “good”, because it makes us uncomfortable. We need to stop pushing away the discomfort, and instead, start helping. Be the light in someone’s life. Be the friend who will reply to your friend’s texts, the one who can’t sleep, the one who needs to know it’s ok to not be ok. Be the friend, but also be the encourager. Encourage them to look past stigma, to take medication if they need it, to exercise, to meditate, to eat well, to sleep. Encourage them to seek help. Encourage them to find a therapist, or a counselor, or a doctor. Even the best of a friend cannot solve a true mental illness that requires professional treatment.

I need your help, and your fellow Americans need your help. It’s not just one in five of us who needs help: it’s all five of us, and here’s why. Even if you’re not the “one” afflicted by mental illness, you will be affected because it’s your family, your friend, your child, your neighbor. Suicide makes a lasting and tragic impact on a family. How can you help? You can make a $25 donation today. $25 makes a huge difference in somebody’s life: for example, $25 could be the price of a life-saving prescription medication. Please donate today! If I raise $150 by October 15th, I will earn a t-shirt that I will proudly wear in honor of my struggle with anxiety, and in memory of my beloved friends.

If you are local, will you join me in walking about three miles on Saturday, October 15? We’ll be walking along the beautiful Santa Monica boardwalk and coast, and together, we will breathe in the sea air, share our stories, and remember why life is inherently good, even among the bad times; because we have each other. Please, help me make a difference in saving lives today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking About Weight Loss Surgery

I’ve been thinking about weight loss surgery. In typical Alyssa fashion, it’s probably something I don’t need to share with a small corner of the Internet, but also in true Alyssa fashion, that’s just who I am and as Popeye says, I am what I am and I be what I be. A few years ago, I didn’t think I was a candidate for weight loss surgery. I’d ask my doctor and he’d shrug saying, “Well, you’re borderline. You COULD, but you don’t really need to.” My endocrinologist recently told me he didn’t feel it was necessary for me, as I’m obese but healthy as a horse in terms of stats like cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. However, seeing some of my friends in the midst of their transformations following weight loss surgery has me wondering: is it a good option for me?

I used to think weight loss surgery was a quick fix. Before I knew what it entailed, I remember I once said to a friend that had bypass surgery that I had to lose weight “the hard way”. Thankfully, I knew I had my foot in my mouth immediately once I said it, and I apologized for minimizing her hard work and struggle. Becoming friends with several remarkable people in the WLS community has enlightened me that it’s not a quick fix, but rather, a tool. And lately, I’m wondering if I need to add a tool like the Sleeve to my weight loss toolbox. I’ve been thinking about this for a long while, more specifically, this year as I began to really work on my fitness with a personal trainer. With intense exercise five times a week and following the Weight Watchers diet, I’d see a loss of 1-2 pounds a week, but then the next week, I’d gain it back. This is my whole history of dieting: losing and gaining the same five pounds, over and over, and I can confirm that doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result leads to insanity.

Weight Loss Surgery

I recently did a full blood panel and health work up with a metabolic specialist. She was convinced I’d have metabolic syndrome, or a low thyroid, or Cushings disease, or something that explained why my body refuses to let go of its cozy outer layer. We found no smoking gun, other than low Vitamin D, mild sleep apnea, and my ongoing imbalance of testosterone and estrogen, my hallmark symbol of PCOS. She sent me to the dietitian, apologizing as she wrote the referral, saying she knew that I knew “this stuff,” and that I wouldn’t learn anything new. I’d been numerous times to a dietitian, in addition to trying Weight Watchers, The Zone, Atkins, Diet to Go, on and and on and on. I went, because I firmly believe you can always learn something if you ask a lot of questions. However, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that this whole weight loss thing is hard, duh, but it’s harder than it should be, for me. I recently told my husband that the reason that weight loss surgery is beginning to be appealing to me is that I want to turn the page on my constant hamster wheel of trying to lose weight. For the last 18 years of my life, I have been in a constant state of needing, wanting, and trying to lose weight. But you see, I don’t want to do that for another 18 years. I want to move on. I want to actually LOSE weight. I want to try and actually see results as an effort from trying. Maybe the only way to do so is to trim a little bit of my stomach.

This is a decision I don’t intend to make for several months, possibly years, as I am once again trying the only diet that ever works for me, low carb and low glycemic, in addition to tracking with Weight Watchers, attending meetings, and working with a personal trainer. I know many of my family members and friends have strong opinions about wether or not weight loss surgery is right for me, and I respect the difference of opinions, but also remind myself that at the end of the day, it’s my body, and my choice. There are also other factors to consider about the timing of a surgery like, if I chose to do it, would I do it before my second pregnancy, or is it best to wait until after? (Don’t get excited now – I don’t plan to bake any more buns in the oven for awhile, yet.) There are also things about the surgery I’m just not sure about, like, am I ready to go under the knife for my weight? Am I ready to measure things meticulously and to sip water instead of chugging it? Could I be at peace with any potential side effects from the surgery? (From my research, though rare, it can happen.) These are all changes I need to consider seriously, because as a highly analytical person, I need to be 100% confident in a decision, especially one that will drastically change my life. I’ve loosely discussed some of these things with my new doctor, and she’s agreed I’m an excellent candidate, but that we should give it another “one last go” before making a decision.

I know that in regards to losing weight, my efforts aren’t perfect. I fully eat too much popcorn at the movie theatre, reward myself on weekends with food (a habit I’m working on breaking), overeat, and sometimes skip the gym in favor of being a sloth. However, I also know that realistically, healthy habits should not require perfection to see tangible change… and that’s where I need some help. While I can feel the strength in my body from working out and eating well, I don’t see the reduction of my body weight that I’m really yearning to see. And that’s frustrating, when you put in so much sweat equity and moments when you got a salad with dressing on the side, when everyone else ordered fries. I love myself and I fully recognize that my body is remarkable and beautiful at any size – walking 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer, carrying a beautiful and healthy child to 40 weeks. In honor of my body and myself, I want to make it stronger, and above all, healthier. My vitals are strong now, but what happens as I age and continue to carry around an excess 100 pounds?

If you’ve had weight loss surgery, how did you know it was the right choice for you? If you’re thinking about it, why? Chime in, but please, be respectful of both my opinion and those who have opted to have the surgery. There’s not one single right solution for everybody, and we can respectfully share differing thoughts.

Body Positivity and Weight Loss: Can you have and want both?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending BlogHer for the very first time. It’s always fun to connect in person with other members of the blogosphere and learn from their successes (and flops). I was hanging at a protein powder booth at the expo hall, and introduced myself to the brand rep. “Hi, I’m Alyssa,” I said, beginning my usual elevator pitch, “I blog about losing weight without losing my sense of humor, though lately this weight loss blog is more of a weight gain blog because I recently had a baby.” The rep and I chitchatted for a few minutes, and then I turned to leave, when I saw a girl approach me. I knew she was on the younger side as she had that youthful skin that no lotion or potion can give you back. “Hi, I heard you say you’re a weight loss blogger and I have a question for you.” She went on to explain how she struggles finding the balance between being body positive but also wanting to and trying to lose weight. She wanted to know, how did I find balance between the two and what was my perspective on it all? First of all, I asked this girl her age and she’s 17! Seventeen! Wow! Color me impressed for such an awesome, thoughtful query at such a young age.

BODY POSITIVITY

The answer to this question is both simple and complicated at the same time. The question, if we reduce it to one direct statement is “Can you still be body positive if you are trying to lose weight?” To that, my answer is yes, yes, and more yes. I’ve actually had a few bloggers snark on me for not “being body positive” because I want to lose weight, but if you go through my blog, I think you’ll find my body positivity is pretty on-point. The key to this equation for me is that I can love myself just as I am, and I should, because once that weight comes off, there’s a lot of me that will still be the same. But more importantly, it’s about loving my body ENOUGH to know that it deserves the very best. For me, the very best is a lighter body — not just for how it will look in size 12 jeans, but to walk miles without my heel spur aching, to get my blood pressure taken without anxiously spiking it, to not fret about fitting in airplane seats or going ziplining.

 

Now, these two things can exist and both be true, and that said, I’m a big advocate of body positivity and am grateful it’s become a “thing” now that I am a mother. Images like this make me so very happy, to be living in a world where different shapes and sizes are becoming more accepted, just like skin color, sexual orientation, and gender.

However, I have to scrutinize a little bit about the body positivity community if those who are wanting to lose weight are being challenged. If we’re advocating for acceptance of all bodies, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to be against those who are wanting to make a change to their body? I think that you can love yourself just as you are but still want to make improvements; for example, how my husband adores the heck out of me but really wishes I didn’t need 10,000 reminders to empty the dishwasher. I think perhaps the emphasis of body positivity can shift slightly to be just more positivity in general; with your pants size, your religious beliefs, your diet, your hobbies, whatever makes you YOU. However, I suppose a key difference here is if you’re coming at your body and size with negativity, no confidence, and self-hatred while wanting to lose weight, THAT doesn’t really work as body positivity, ya know?

I guess the point of this is, and what I told that girl, is that you can lose 100 pounds, 5 pounds, or 1 pound — and you might look “perfect”, or whatever the meaning of that word of what we’re desiring really is, and if you haven’t done the hard work on the INSIDE of learning to love the person you are, then you’re not much better off than when you started. We all know happiness comes from within, and it sounds cliche, but it’s true. If you hate yourself at 300 pounds there’s a chance you’ll hate yourself at 100, too. So, I say, rock on with your body positive self, but if you’re wanting to lose weight to feel better or heck, even look better, rock on with your self-loving self. Because there’s nothing more positive than believing in the person you are and were meant to be — regardless of what the number says on the scale.

Pot of Perfection: Petit Pot – Pot de Creme Review and Giveaway

Ever since I embarked on the journey of physical fitness, I knew that part of making an active, gym-rat lifestyle sustainable for myself would be to find balance between going 110% and sweating all day every day and eating nothing but kale, to finding space in life for little treats and little delicacies. It’s hard finding the sweet spot between using food as a reward and just enjoying good food, but I seem to be navigating okay in the last few months. I actually stumbled upon the Munchery, a meal delivery service, thanks to a friend (pssst you get $20 free if you try it out using the link), and couldn’t resist trying a dark chocolate petit pot for dessert — an adorable little jar with an orange lid, filled with organic dark chocolate ‘pudding’. I’m a sucker for dark chocolate, and I liked that they used all organic cream, and the adorable jar was just the “take my money” end factor.

Berries & Vanilla #potdecrème: lovely pairing! ?☁️❤️ #happymothersday

A photo posted by Petit Pot (@petit_pot) on

I ordered my meal with that as dessert, and when I had my first bite, holy shiskabob. It was like the creme de la creme of chocolate lava cakes blended into a smooth, rich pudding, dancing on my tongue with each bite. It was so good I promptly tweeted them and asked if they worked with bloggers… ‘cuz I wanted to share the goodness. It was my lucky day because in exchange for this review, I got one pot of each flavor and a cute orange hat. Here are my thoughts:

  • Dark Chocolate: Still my favorite. Rich and complex without being cloyingly sweet. Made with 70% cacao and the most traditionally French recipe.
  • Vanilla Bean: A close call to be my favorite. Loved the texture of real vanilla bean specks against the creamy, milky pudding.
  • Coffee: A very subtle coffee taste, would be delicious with a light biscuit and dessert coffee.
  • Salted Caramel: Perfect for butterscotch lovers, one of the more “noticeable” flavors
  • Lemon Curd Pot de Crème: is made with organic California lemon juice to create a zesty balance of tart and sweet.

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All of the pot de cremes are gluten-free, certified organic, and made with love by real French chefs Max and Pierre in San Francisco. This is the kind of “buy local, buy real” that I love: a quick visit to their website shows very clearly that this brand isn’t being made by MegaCorp Foods, Inc. in some grim warehouse in the middle of the country.

Now: for dieters, this isn’t a treat you’re going to be able to enjoy every day simply because it is made with all natural, all delicious, high-fat cream and sugar. However, this is the type of treat you save up for and then enjoy slowwwwwly, bite by bite, perhaps in a bubble bath? In fact, I suffered the wrath of my former trainer’s anger when she saw I ate one after a good workout on Twitter, but it was totally worth it. Sorry, trainer: your anger < delicious pudding. 

#fmsphotoaday: V is for Vanilla, found in this super yummy @petit_pot that you can win soon on the #DoubleChinDiary.

A photo posted by Alyssa Curran (@lyssacurran) on

Also, each pot de creme comes in an adorable little glass jar. I’m already imagining using the jars to re-plant some of my baby succulents, so they get high marks for creativity and efficiency in packaging. In fact, a recent email of theirs states they’ve saved over 230 pounds of plastic by using glass instead. Well done!

How would you like the chance to try your own little set of Pot de Creme? The kind folks at Petit Pot are offering one lucky Double Chinner a whole set of Petit Pots, 3 boxes of French mini cookies, and a Petit Pot t-shirt. Sounds pretty good to me! Use the rafflecopter to enter below. Giveaway will end on Friday, August 5th at 12:00 a.m. and is open to those 18+ in the lower 48. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wining and Dining with Grocery Outlet

I grew up going to the Grocery Outlet with my mom. As a kid, it was just another grocery store. Now, as an adult? It’s an awesomely priced grocery store that doesn’t “feel” like a discount store – it’s a nice, clean store with tons of well-known brands like Toms of Maine, Kind Bar, Mamma Chia, Land of Lakes, Horizon Organic, Chobani, Driscoll’s, Kelloggs, and more. When Grocery Outlet offered me a chance to check out their new store in Sun Valley, Calif. in exchange for a giftcard, I was in faster than a kitten with a laser pointer.

What are some of the deals we got? Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurts, for .59c each. A pound of bacon for $2.99. A wheel of French brie for $2.99. Bagged caesar salad kits for $2.49. A pack of 15 Health Warrior Chia Bars for $7.99 (retails for $21!). I spent $100 and came out with a packed cart – and the best part was, we had three bottles of wine, one bottle of prosecco, and two craft beers. (My husband, a homebrewer and beer enthusiast, wanted me to add that he was “very impressed” by the craft beer section.) WineMeDineMeGrocery Outlet is having a wine sale from today through July 26th – and you’ll find deals on wine 50% to 80% off. That’s a huuuuge savings, and if you’re a vino fan like myself, you’ll want to get in on this. Here’s a few notes from sommelier Spreti Valenti on a couple of the wines I picked up:

  • Masquerade Prosecco: Sparkly wine with notes of peaches, yellow apples, and pears. Make a bellini with a spoonful of freshly pureed peaches, and top with prosecco. Cheers! (I’m going to have this on a Friday night while watching Mr. Robot on Netflix.) $7.99.
  • Ol’ Red: Supports local sourcing, with notes of blackberries, raspberries, plum, and leather. Excellent for bold red wine lovers and served with hamburgers or grilled sausages. We picked up some cajun style andouille, and I think serving this with those would make for an excellent Creole night. $3.99. (That’s cheaper than my preferred drink at Starbucks.)

I also picked up a merlot from Toad Hollow, one of my favorite Northern California wineries, and a garnacha called Layer Cake that’s oh so delectable. The hubby picked out some Lagunitas IPA (gotta represent our Petaluma home-base brewery) and a Stone IPA.

As a side note, while you’re stocking up your home bar, you probably want to check out the produce section, as there were some really great prices like 6 lemons for $1.00, and many organic choices, too. They also had Essie nail polishes for $2.99 (usually 8 bucks at Target), and Kiss My Face baby sunscreen for $3.99.

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So whadda ya say? Sounds like a good deal, right? Find out if there’s a Grocery Outlet near you, and go pick up some bubbly or grown-up grape juice today!

Disclosure: I received a gift card in exchange for sharing my thoughts about the upcoming Grocery Outlet Wine Sale and my shopping experience.

Don’t Sweat It: Why Sweating a Lot at the Gym Really Doesn’t Matter

SWEAT. It’s one of those weird bodily functions that you don’t really think about a lot, and then all of a sudden, you’re sweating, and you’re like “Huh. That’s weird. There’s this wet sheen of wetness on my skin and I’m red and AHHH WHY AM I ALL WET AND SWEATY?” I imagine this discussion in your head is a lot less likely if you’re a dude, because, well, dudes are allowed to sweat and it’s manly and masculine and maybe even sexy. But if a woman sweats, WELL! Who does she think she is, defying traditional beauty conventions and letting fluids seep out of her epidermis after a grueling workout?

I’ve always been a heavy sweater. No, not the wool kind you get at Christmas and pretend to like; a person who sweats a lot. It’s not particularly a trait you boast about, like being able to tie a cherry stem with your tongue or never getting cavities. Being a sweater means that you awkwardly avoided certain materials in high school or that you wore a sweatshirt through gym class because god forbid somebody see you exercising and showing exertion. I battled a lot with sweat in my younger years, and now that I’m beginning to be intensely active about four to five times a week, the self-consciousness has reared its head again. However, I had a convenient doctor’s appointment last week, and I mentioned my concern with my sweating. “Well, what’s the problem with sweating?” the doctor asked. “I don’t know, it’s embarrassing,” I said. “Come back to me when you’re not sweating. THEN it’s a problem,” he said. He proceeded to explain in fancy medical terms how sweating is the body’s way of cooling down and how it helps you remember to rehydrate and balance electrolytes and all these other things, and basically told me to chill out.

So in my efforts to embrace the sweat, I’ve learned a few tricks to help me feel more comfortable with my slick self. Sure, sure, even if sweating isn’t gross, it FEELS gross, because suddenly you’re walking around in wet clothes. Here’s a few of my tried and trues to help me cope with my well-moisturized skin. (Some of these links are affiliate links, which means I could buy a yacht off the proceeds of your clicks or maybe pay off my student loans. Who am I kidding? I’ll never pay off my student loans. Dream big, folks.)

    1. A workout towel. I had been using a clean dish towel as a sweat rag at the gym, and let’s be honest, my snowman themed dish towel wasn’t able to mop up the Niagara falls of my workout quite like I’d hoped. I went to TJ Maxx (my go-to for most things in life except groceries), and found a “Yoga Towel” that has a dry-wik fabric, anti-stink properties, and comes in pretty neon colors. Here’s one similar to it on Amazon.

2. A headband. If you’re a forehead sweater, a headband will keep those salty skin tears out of your eyes, and better yet, manage your flyaways. Again, I found mine at TJ Maxx, but you can grab all kinds on Amazon like these (and in so many cute colors!).


 

3. Most importantly, rock a sense of humor. Get the shirt that says “I don’t sweat, I sparkle“. Laugh about your sweaty self and enjoy the fact that your hydration is so on point that its escaping out of your skin just so you can hydrate some more. Also, be courteous. Nobody wants to go touch a sweaty machine. Wipe that shiz down. You’re not in highschool anymore. (Unless you are, in which case, go on and keep being gross, because you have to embrace hygiene once you graduate.)

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Get cool with your sweaty self, because as the Fitness gods say…

So in other words: Don’t sweat it.