How Burning Man helped me get over my body shame

Happy Friday, everybody!

I know it has been a quiet month over here in the Double Chin Diary land but I can assure you, it is all for wonderful reasons! Alyssa is away again in Minneapolis for her job at the second of seven Susan G. Komen walks happening. Last week she was in Detroit and in a few more weeks, she’ll be in Philadelphia. She still has quite a few more walks to get through before she gets to the final adventure of  the San Diego walk that we both will be doing. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster she rides on during these events as I know that I would probably be crying both happy tears and sad tears the ENTIRE time. It’s hard for me to even get through my more emotional blogs I write without crying my way through it! So, if you’ve got a moment – stop by her personal page and send her a comment, it’ll surely brighten her day when she gets the chance to read it. 

Besides all the excitement that Alyssa has been doing, I’ve been busy figuring out the next few weeks of my immediate life. School started a few days ago so I’ve been working a bunch more to earn the funds needed for my adventure next week.

I’ll be heading out to Burning Man next Thursday with my brother. I went for my one and only time in 2008 and definitely had a life-changing experience as I believe anyone would if they gave it a chance. If you haven’t heard of this event or maybe just want another explanation, here is how I describe it. Burning Man is what human civilization could be like if we weren’t held down by the standards that society places upon us. While there are plenty of restrictions financially as not everyone can afford the $390 ticket, spiritually it is the only place that I have found where people can just be FREE. The every day aspects of life like clothing, money, careers just don’t matter at Burning Man. People wear whatever they’ve always wanted to wear knowing that no one is going to make fun of them for dressing up like a Giraffe with neon spots. I drew blue dolphins on each of my eyes and felt super cool walking around like that, not embarrassed like I would be back in the real world. Wallets are put away for the week as nothing at the event costs money (unless you need ice and coffee – the only two vital things for sale). The reason why I personally love Burning Man though is for the art. There is no limit on what the human mind can create and this event showcases some of the most talented people in the world. With the help and the extremely open environment, the best gift that comes out of Burning Man is the ability to see a different way of living life. Any words that I can write won’t give justice to the what the event can do for a person’s soul and if you ever have a chance to go, do it.

One of the many temples at Burning Man Shared from:

Now that I’ve given a long explanation of what Burning Man means to me, I have to tell you my story of a very significant moment in the healing of my self-esteem that came out of the 2008 event.

It was my first afternoon at the event and with the 100+ degree desert temperature, I wasn’t exactly comfortable in my sarong on my waist and scarf tied around my chest. As my friends and I wandered around “the playa”, we came across something called the “Tittie Totter.” I’ve always been a fan of teeter totters and while the idea of getting topless completely petrified me, the desire to go on this thing was STRONG. The tittie totter went up an insane amount of feet, I’m horrible at estimating but I would guess around fifty feet up into the air once the other person had sunk down to the bottom. I’m also a big fan of scenic views and knew that if I was brave enough to do it, the reward of seeing the entire sprawl of Burning Man would be remarkable.

Now, I’m the kind of person that hides in the corner of a locker room to change and have a strategy that allows practically none of my “private parts” and stomach to be shown. I also recall a time in a hot tub with Alyssa and two of our girl friends when they all wanted to sit topless (since we were alone) and I freaked out about doing it and refused.

But this tittie totter was proving to be worthy of conquering my fear of getting topless so I nervously got into line to wait my turn. Another challenge quickly became presented to me as soon as I got in line. I would have to tell them my REAL weight so I could get evenly matched with someone. I took a big breath, thought about it, and came to a very clarifying conclusion that telling my weight and taking off my top would have no effect on the outcome of my life but could bring a positive memory to a very different type of experience.

My weight was announced and a woman who reminded me of my awesome Mom yelled out, “I’ll do it!” and came rushing through the line to stand with me. Immediately she peeled off her top and continued to talk to me with absolutely no body shame at all as I held on to the safety of the fabric covering my chest. After chatting for a while, it was finally our turn.

Still clutching onto my top, I nervously walked over to my side of the tittie totter and sat down. My friend yelled out for me to take off my scarf and with another big and fearful breath, I let the scarf drop to the ground. As soon as I did that my body temperature dropped probably twenty degrees as a rush of cooling air engulfed my entire top half. I felt myself begin to rise up over the hundreds of camps around me. As I looked around, I realized I hadn’t even been paying attention to anyone else but only for the moment that I was in personally. I finally took a glance down to the ground to notice that not a single person was pointing and laughing or looking away in disgust. Once the ride was over and I was excitedly greeted by my friends and co-rider, I made the quick decision NOT to put the scarf back on.

I felt incredible.

I was so proud of myself for getting over such a big fear of mine and the very obvious temperature difference made it a simple choice to not cover up.

Before I dropped the top. <3

Apparently no one minded seeing me topless. Plus, once I did it, I began to notice that many of the people who were topless or naked didn’t have a body that was stereo-typically considered fit either. Before I went on the tittie totter, the body shape of the naked people didn’t even phase me. I didn’t even notice whether or not a person was overweight. I noticed the boobs. I noticed the lower regions because it’s not every day you see that out and about, haha. But I did NOT notice their stomachs, the part of my body that I was just as fearful to show as my chest. After the tittie totter, the body shape of people still didn’t phase me but it did help me realize that complete acceptance is one of the many wonderful things that Burning Man comes with. It didn’t matter that I’ve got eighty pounds to lose or that I have stretch marks. It didn’t matter if someone had a giant birth mark covering their stomach and back. It didn’t matter if the person was 77 years old and covered only in wrinkles, they were just as accepted as  the 19 year old girl wearing fuzzy boots and a tutu.

This year I may go topless but now I’m fighting another personal battle with myself over it. Since my brother is going, I feel somewhat awkward about being topless around my grown brother. In the United States, being naked around your family just isn’t a socially accepted situation. However, as my brother and I both learned as we flipped through channels on our way to the Netherlands on a cruise, American’s fear of nudity does not share the viewpoint of nudity elsewhere in the world. So many of the channels we saw had women topless and were done so without sexuality being involved at all. The boobs were just a part of the woman’s body, a source of nutrients for a baby, not a source of sex appeal for whatever pair of eyes wants to adore them. At Burning Man, the nudity that is rampant all over isn’t necessarily done because the person is wanting to be sexy. In a matter of survival in a very hot climate, going topless was a very wise choice for me as I’m very susceptible to heat strokes as it is.

I’ve prepared myself by purchasing bikini tops so I’ll rock those until the time comes when I might feel comfortable enough to drop the top. Buying those bikini tops was another great moment in my self-esteem, but I’ll save that for another blog as this one is already longer than many of the essays I have due in school.

I hope you guys enjoyed my long story and if you’ve got any experiences of your own to share about “dropping the top” or getting over your fears of body shame, or Burning Man, let’s hear it!

Thank you so much for reading and remember, if you want a way to support boobies, check out my fundraising page by clicking this sentence!  I’m only $5 away from my first $1,000!

Much love,






Burning Man 2008

I can not eat-eat-eat apples or bananas

It’s been a little over two months now since I found out my food allergies. I’ve been plagued with constant headaches and tummy problems my whole life but never considered it to be from the food I was eating nearly every day. I had cut out processed crap years ago so it just didn’t make sense to me how I could eat “clean” for a week yet still have a headache nearly every day.

Finally, after a blood test, the results came back saying I was allergic to wheat, rice, oats, apples, oranges, and bananas. I also am apparently right on the border line with eggs, cow dairy, corn, and CHOCOLATE.

Since finding out about the wonderful things I should no longer enjoy, I have drastically reduced everything and have noticed a dramatic change. I can not choose which food has really been the hardest thing to give up as I loved all of it. Since I’m on the border of the eggs, dairy, chocolate and corn – I have yet to even attempt giving those things up. I just don’t want to. Giving up the rest of the foods has been a challenge enough and with how great I’ve been feeling since making the change – I just don’t see a need to give up my border-line foods just yet.

I’ve lost twelve pounds in the past two months and I credit 80% of that weight loss from getting rid of my allergens. Of course, all the training walks I have been doing and having a routine food schedule from my summer job certainly helped however I am positive the food has made the biggest change. Besides the weight loss, not having to take ibuprofen nearly every day or carry tums in my pocket has been amazing.

What has freaked me out the most is what happens when I cave and eat one of the things I am allergic too. I had an enchilada at work two weeks ago, hoping it was made with corn. Within twenty minutes, I had a raging headache and within three hours, my head was worse than it had been in a long time. Six hours after the initial enchilada, I was completely congested as if I had a horrible cold.

Last Thursday night I have three small cocktail glasses of blood orange soda, a BIG favorite treat of mine. I didn’t experience any symptoms that night but the next morning I awoke with a headache that cradled the whole front part of my skull. The headache wasn’t gone until I woke up the next morning.

It’s things like that which make me realize that my sensitivity to certain foods is a real thing. I’ve mostly accepted it but I’m still somewhat in denial. I think most of my denial comes from the weirdness being that apples, bananas, and oranges are such “normal” fruits so I just don’t understand how I could be allergic to them. I can get the wheat – and even the rice and oats – because those are all grasses. Outside grass has ALWAYS been horrible on me in the sense of hay fever so obviously consuming it would be devastating for me too.

For those of you who have food allergies too – what was it like for you when you found out? What kinds of allergies do you have?

Have a fabulous Wednesday everyone, I’ll be back with another blog Friday as Alyssa is off working on the FIRST 3-day walk in Detroit happening this weekend. Did you guys know she is less than $900 from reaching her $2,300 goal? I know I still need a ton of money towards my goal – but in case you’d like to help Alyssa get to her goal since she’s already so close – click here for her page!

Bye bye!





Blissfully Unplugged: Camping in Lopez Lake

Hello everyone! This weekend, I went camping for my third annual grad school girls camping trip (here are the posts from 2012 and 2013). I met these ladies in grad school, and we quickly bonded over an insatiable need for caffeine, the horrors of mass communication theories, and how many times we cried each week. I jest (kind of. grad school aint for sissies). We drove north from Los Angeles to Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande, which is about an hour south of San Luis Obispo. Our campsite was “Buck 12″ and was on a shady hill looking over the madmade Lopez Lake, surrounded by oak trees. Isn’t this beautiful?


We set up our tent on Friday night and made a fancy gourmet dinner of fire-roasted hot dogs and chili cheese fritos, in addition to s’mores. In typical Alyssa fashion I enjoyed the indulgence at the time, but later paid for it when I woke up at 1 a.m. in a swirly nauseous junk food haze. I was really excited this camping trip to try out my new Klymit Static V Camping Mattress because for the past two years I’ve relied on a yoga mat or towel to shield my soft body from the unforgiving rocks. This year I splurged a little and got this camping mattress, which comes to you the size of a Nalgene water bottle, you blow it up with 15-20 breaths, and BOOM! Instant mattress. I was really happy and surprised with how durable and comfy this thing is… and it totally doubles as a fashionable skirt. See?


We woke up the next morning and headed out on what was supposed to be a 1.1 mile hike, but ended up being about four miles because we got lost several times trying to actually find the trail. It was all good training for the 3-Day, especially because it was in hills, in the middle of the day, in the sun. While we tried to find the trail, we enjoyed seeing the numerous deer at the campground who were totally unafraid of humans.


We finally made our way to Blackberry Trail and were so excited we had to take a picture with the sign. The hike was beautiful, with lots of fluttery butterflies, shady fern groves, and brambles of berries. Because we’re awesome, we actually got on to another trail after some other hikers had told us they had seen a bear on it (Yes, we wanted to see a bear!). Sadly, we did not run into any California Black Bears, though I did hear one huffing and puffing around our tent later that night (bears have a very distinct huff n’ puff style breathing. See?)


Training for the 3-Day has really shown me how important the right shoes are, and I was happy for this hike to be wearing my Ahnu Women’s Sugarpine Air Mesh Hiking Shoe. I actually won these on Facebook (and so did my friend Julie – see? She’s wearing hers, too!), and I have to say I’m loving this shoe for hikes. They have plenty of support around the arch and toe box, and the grip was great as we scaled up loose dirt and tip-toed down shale-covered ravines. Plus they come in cute colors in a size 11, which is actually a big deal because most shoe manufacturers stop making cute things past a size 10 (thanks, Ahnu!).


After our hike, we schlepped back down the mountain to the Marine store, treated ourselves to a well deserved cheese burger, and then hiked all over the campground again to go lay on the lake beach for a few hours. Sprawling in the sun felt SO GOOD. Then, it was back to our campsite for dinner for night 2 – ceasar salad and JIFFY POP! Jiffy Pop is kind of the best thing ever when you’re camping, just because it’s so fun to make over a fire. You basically shake it like crazy and then watch the foil on top turn into this huge martian head filled with delicious buttery corn.  It’s worth the $2. Do it!


I think I so badly needed this camping trip because early Saturday morning, my phone ran out of battery and I was able to super unplug for the whole weekend. As much as I love tweeting and instagramming, there’s nothing like taking a break from being “on” and spending time really being present, like the amazing colors in this sunset, or the tiny tomato plant growing in the camp water fountain — or, even better, laughing with my friends!


When was the last time you went camping? Are you a fan of camping or is it not for you? I definitely love camping but have learned over the years it’s better to go a little closer to “glamping” and splurge on things like a sleeping pad, bringing a table cloth for the camp, and choosing a campground with showers. Those little things can make a big difference in your comfort level! What did you do this weekend?


*I was not compensated in any way to write about the sleeping pad or Ahnu shoes, just wanted to share two things that made my trip less campy and more glampy. There are affiliate links in here which will earn me a few pennies if you end up deciding to check either item out :)

Dropping those pounds!

Happy Friday, everyone!!!

I’m excited as I’ve got the next two weeks off and I’ve got lots of plans for getting active in nature! I hope all of you have been able to have a fun summer so far. I feel like I’ve had a ton of fun working for the humane society’s summer camp but besides that – my weekends were pretty tame. My summer critical thinking English class was ultra demanding. There was hardly a time when I wasn’t having to write a ton of pages on some deep topic like Columbine or the effect of globalization on whaling. I’m going to blame my lack of blogging on my class taking up all my writing abilities. Yup.

Besides the fun getting to hold puppies, kittens, and pigeons all the time, working full time for the summer gave me a chance to get super routine about my eating habits. I was able to figure out the perfect on-the-go breakfast thanks to the advice of you guys, our awesome readers. I’ll be posting up a recipe next week of an incredible egg “muffin” I created after being inspired by a bunch of the advice. With my egg muffin, chili, and a ton of lettuce – I’ve been able to lose twelve pounds these past two months… I’m sure getting rid of the foods I was allergic to has helped SO MUCH as well.

As for exercise this past week, I’ve been struggling with not wanting to walk in 90 degree weather. Alyssa called me the other night and I was so amazed that she didn’t mind walking in the intense heat of Southern California. At least here it gets down in the low 60’s by the time sunset arrives. I truly am spoiled in that I can have two completely different types of climates just from night to day here in the bay area, especially in a city so close to the ocean that we are constantly covered with a gray blanket of fog. I’ve been doing the majority of my walks in San Francisco either on  the Golden Gate Bridge, in Golden Gate Park, or along the coastline by Baker Beach. I love it because it’s always breezy and seeing the tourists just makes me happy to hear different languages.

How have you guys been keeping cool this summer when you work out? Or do you just deal with the heat and get through it anyway?

And in the spirit of  staying chilled, here is a baby polar bear from a zoo in Germany!

Thank you, reddit aww.




















Bye bye!


Fat Girl Fear Debunked: Being Naked at Korean Spa

As I thought about this post, I thought, “How do I write a post title that isn’t like, all about being naked at a Korean Spa, because it’s about so much more than being naked?” But then, let’s face it; the notable thing I want to tell you guys about IS being naked at a Korean Spa, cuz’ this blog explores the adventures of an adventurous plus-sized gal and her quest to live a full-life as a full-figured lady. My journey to health the past few years has gleefully invited pampering into my life. Massages? Love them. Acupuncture? Bring it on. Hot Springs? I’m there. Pedicures? Every month and a half. My paychecks may dwindle, but while I can get away with this pampering and relaxation, I fully intend to reward my hard-working self with non-food items. My awesome acupuncturist has been recommending that I visit a Korean Spa for several months, but I always had the same reaction “Don’t you have to be NAKED?”. My acupuncturist, who has the cool and calm European attitude about nudity that people should (i.e., it’s no big deal, there’s nothing sexual about a spa!), would shrug and casually say that’s not what it’s about. I mulled this around in my head for a while before ultimately deciding, that nope, while learning to navigate a newfound confidence with my body, going au naturale in front of others (willingly) just wasn’t for me.

…Until, I saw an awesome deal on a Groupon for a Women Only Korean Spa, and my friend Jenny mentioned it to me, wooing me by the description of bath tubs filled with tiny, heated, clay balls that you submerge yourself under. Bathtubs with hot clay balls? Steamy rooms filled with aromatic herbs? An oxygen room, rumored to be the cure for insomnia? An ICE room, like a walk in refrigerator, when it’s been 102 degrees? The heated Himalayan Salt room with burlap sacks sent me over the edge, and like that, my groupon was purchased, my anxiety was amping up, and I had a date for a Friday night Korean Spa adventure with Jenny. We discussed this very bold transition in our friendship; after all, few friends have seen my shockingly white birthday suit. Luckily, we laughed about it, decided our eyes would stay up, and chose to adopt the aforementioned European attitude. She soothed some of my fat girl fears like only a friend can; with rationale: Would I be the only overweight person at the spa? Probably not. Would somebody say something to me, like they had in Thailand, and make my self-confidence disappear? Probably not, and if they did, I could smack them with my towel. Would my body be pointed at and ridiculed? See #2.

Once we arrived at the spa, in true Alyssa fashion, I blurted out my insecurities to the woman at the front desk. She laughed, assured me I was not the only person nervous about being naked, and told me I would feel great. With a deep breath, we walked into the locker room, stripped down to our fashionable pink robe, and headed to the shower room, the place where the nakedness would go down. (At Korean Spas, the principal is that you need to be clean and free from chemicals that may be lurking in your swimsuit from pool chemicals or laundry detergents.) It was a large room, with multiple showers along each wall, a narrow bathtub with buckets for rinsing your feet, and a heated Himalayan salt tub. Upon first inspection I saw: butt cheeks. All of the naked women stood with their fronts facing the wall. I can handle some butts, I thought, after all, while varying in size, all butts look the same, pretty much. As I rinsed myself, I made a decision. I could either be coy and ashamed of my body, trying to hide it, or I could embrace this opportunity and own my body like an Amazonian queen. I chose the latter, got myself nice and clean, and moved into the wonderfully relaxing salt tub. The longer I sat naked, the more I saw, but here’s the thing. As is with most matters in the world, nobody is ever as focused on YOU as you are with you. The things we worry about, stress about, freak out about; these personal insecurities and vulnerabilities are personal in the sense that nobody is really giving it the mental real estate you might think it would occupy. I couldn’t care less about the bodies I saw, and did I pass judgement? No. There were bodies of all shapes and sizes, all colors and textures, but I wasn’t there to observe. I was there to relax.

After my hot tub dip, I put the robe back on, because all of the sauna rooms actually require you to be dressed so that you don’t flash your bits and shock someone out of a steam-induced zen. Once I was back into the false sense of security that clothing promises, my vulnerability was hidden again, tucked safely out of sight. Something strange happened then: I realized with the heat swirling around me, the steam gently clinging to my body, that being naked would make more sense. It wasn’t a sexual experience, it wasn’t about vanity. It was about relaxation and healing, free from the hindrance (and very real practicalities, like sweat), that clothes can provoke. I relaxed, took a few deep breaths, and was reminded in a very subtle way of the same lesson my body has been telling me for years: that this body of mine, while big, is perfect because it is strong. It is capable. It is mine.

De-stress with Organic India Tea: Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I received free samples of Organic India Tea in exchange for a review.

Stress. No matter how many downward dogs, deep breaths, or meditation chants I do, stress always finds a way back into my life. It’s kind of just the age we live in; life is chaotic. Cell phones buzzing, emails pinging… the constant connection, though delightful, can also add up. When you think about a de-stressing beverage, you probably think of beer or wine. Oh yes; a nice buzz can sometimes be a great way to de-stress. But! If you’re seeking a de-stressing beverage that is appropriate for the work day, or one you can consume while in a moving vehicle, I think I have a solution.  ORGANIC INDIA has over 18 different flavors of its signature organic Tulsi, Holy Basil herb, that helps reduce stress, aid in digestion, balance metabolism, support anti-aging and overall immune system.

I was sent three types of tea to try; Original Tulsi Teabags, Raspberry Peach Tulsi Loose-Leaf, and Moringa Tulsi Teabags. First of all, I love that these teas are organic, because I recently learned that some big-name tea companies cover their tea with all sorts of pesticides (that sucks – but Organic India doesn’t). Holy Basil itself has a slightly peppery taste to it with a sweetness I really like, and don’t worry — it doesn’t taste like the classic Italian pesto, so you’re not going to feel like you’re sipping a mug of pesto. The Raspberry Peach was my favorite out of this batch, tastewise, for its fruity undertones. However, Moringa takes the cake for the coolest attributes — “Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Moringa (Moringa oleifera) are two of the most unique herbs to come out of India, and together they offer a myriad of health benefits. Tulsi is well known in the west for its adaptogenic benefits and uses in combating stress. The antioxidant activity in Moringa is extremely high, and the easiest way for your body to assimilate them is in tea form. There is one antioxidant in particular that Moringa contains called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which is twice as powerful resveratrol, one of the most popular anti-aging antioxidant supplements on the market. EGCG has been shown to help maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels and protect cardiovascular health.” I try and drink a cup of tea daily anyways; can you imagine if I replaced my daily breakfast tea with this one? Cashing in on the health benefits!


The concept behind Tulsi that I love, besides the organic, non-GMO, sustainible farming side, is that you’re taking the very relaxing act of drinking a cup of tea and turning it into even more of a “chill” moment by using an herb that’s shown to be a mood lifter. Some people think that herbal remedies are hocus pocus, but having had my own garden for years and seeing how cats take to catnip and how aloe soothes burns and how peppermint can cure a gnarly stomach has proven to me that herbs are powerful forms of medicine. One note about Tulsi Looseleaf that’s just good to know: it is a smaller brew of leaf product, so you’ll end up with some sediment at the bottom of your mug (shown above). It won’t harm ya, and you’ll barely notice it, but if you’re a super picky tea drinker, you can brew through a coffee filter or use a french press.

Because I’d rather show you than tell you, let’s get to the good stuff! One lucky reader will win a nice starter pack of Tulsi Teas, in Pomegranate Green tea, Original Tulsi, and India Breakfast. Please use the rafflecopter to enter to win, and note all the extra ways you can score entries! This contest will run until Thursday, July 31 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Winner must be 18 years or older and live in the United States. GOOD LUCK!
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