Reflections on 2013 and wishes for 2014

2013 was a big, important year. The past few months have had more challenges than I’d like, and overall, I’m happy to be wrapping up 2013. Let’s review what happened, shall we?

1) I crossed a major bucket list item off the list — traveling to thailand! One year ago today, I started my first new year’s resolution with a bang! I had wanted to be more active, and 2013 was kicked off with a huge, intense jungle hike across Phi Phi island to a ferry. It was an experience I’ll never forget — in both good ways (the view) and bad ways (the mosquitoes and getting lost on a foreign island with no Malaria protection).


2) I crossed another major item off my list – earning my master’s degree! While I’m so glad I did it, I’m not going to lie that working on a master’s degree while working full-time was a challenge. There were many tear-filled nights as I had to work through exhaustion and keep plugging away on my thesis, but in the end, I’m proud of what I accomplished. Plus, it’s fun to humblebrag about how I’m a master of mass communication. Oh yeah!

Very excited at my commencement ceremony! Photo by my wonderful thesis chair, Dr. Bluestein.

Very excited at my commencement ceremony! Photo by my wonderful thesis chair, Dr. Bluestein.

3) The Double Chin Diary took me lots of amazing places, like Portland for FitBloggin‘ and Paso Robles for Fitcation. April also joined the Double Chin Diary  this year, and I’m so thankful because she picks up the slack when I don’t have much to say, and it has brought us closer together as sisters and friends. There’s nothing like realizing you’re not alone in any sort of battle you’re going through. April gets it — and I know together we’ll be able to accomplish our goals. I’m always so gracious that people take the time to read this blog. Life is chaotic, and busy, and the fact that you stop by means a lot to us. THANK YOU! I’m also grateful to the great brands that believe in what April and I are doing — from Diet to Go to Amana to Hollywood Wax to Blogher. This year, I’m thrilled and honored to be speaking on a panel about blogging at the Lifestyle Blogger’s Conference in downtown Los Angeles, and to be attending FitBloggin’ in Savannah!

4) I finally got some insight into why losing weight seems to be my unreachable feat. After some stressful months of loss then regain then loss then regain, I worked with a few doctors on in-depth blood testing and PCOS screening. After several frustrating courses of misleading results, I finally had a solid diagnosis of PCOS, a fatty buildup in my liver, and subclinical hypothyroidism. I’ve been on medications for a few months and am happy to be at about 13 pounds lost. 2014 will be the last year I ever say my new year’s resolution is to lose weight. Now that I know what’s going on and have the tools to do it, I’m doing it. No stopping me. I will be victorious!

Life's a river. I'm gonna keep paddling!

Life’s a river. I’m gonna keep paddling!

Those were highlights from 2013, so now what about 2014? I don’t have any “resolutions” other than to keep on fighting to get to a healthier me. The Double Chin Diary has been kind of a “weight gain and weight maintenance” blog rather than a “weight loss” blog, and I’d like to change that. (Maybe I’ll just start a new blog? LOL.) I think I finally have the tools to do it. The So Cal Lady Bloggers, a blogging collective I’m a part of, asked a thought provoking question of what word I would choose to focus on for 2014. In 2013, I felt like I was always struggling to find balance. To find balance between how many projects are too many. To find balance in learning to say no. To find balance in continuing to exercise even though I was seeing weight gain instead of weight loss. To find balance in how I approached spending and saving. After some careful thought, I think my word for 2014 will be PERSPECTIVE. I spent a lot of time in 2013 learning to readjust the way I chose to see the world, and how I reacted to challenges. I’m beginning 2014 as a different person; a matured person in that recognizing sometimes all of the difficult things we encounter do actually serve a purpose. In 2014, I want to remember that a positive, thoughtful perspective on life will always serve me best.




I’m wishing you the most amazing new year, and now, I want to know:

What will your word be for 2014?






Big Girls Gone Kayaking

On our last day of Fitcation, we were going kayaking in Morro Bay. Having recently kayaked, I felt powerful and strong when wielding a fiberglass boat, especially after debunking my fears of being too fat to fit, making it sink, etc. I pretty much went into kayaking with the “Heck yes! I can do this!” attitude, which usually serves me pretty well.

As we pulled up to Kayak Horizons, I noticed nerves fluttering around many of the other bloggers. By the time life jackets were handed out, I realized half of our group was heading towards a bar! I was disappointed but realized that water isn’t for everyone, with the addition of water in a chilly bay. I have only kayaked in lakes before, so I knew that it would be a more difficult ride out in the ocean.


I was honored to be asked to partner with Meagan, a lovely mom from North Carolina. She picked me because of my previous kayaking prowess and I could tell she was hopeful that my skills would make me a natural kayak partner. We got into our kayak and began attempting to paddle off. I noticed immediately that I had WAY underestimated how much more difficult ocean water is to paddle in. We had a rough current pushing us the opposite direction and despite our attempts to get in sync, we were floundering. I was kind of embarrassed that I had been so confident in my kayaking skills because at this point, I was no better than a newbie kayaker. Luckily though, Meagan is kind and has a sense of humor. After about an hour of frustrated paddling and at one point even bumping into the buoy of a stationary boat (whoopsies!), we finally got on track and made it across the bay to a little island.


As we were pulling on to the island, it dawned us. Why had it been SO DAMN HARD for us to row that kayak? We couldn’t maneuever it well, and it took us triple the time to get across the bay as some of the other ladies in the boat. At that moment we had the shared realization of WHY it was a little more different… because the two big girls got in the same boat! Oh. DUH! Hahaha! Now, when I say Meagan is big, I don’t mean she’s fat. I would never say that about her, or anyone except myself, for that matter – she’s the one who prompted it, but as we howled with laughter, we realized that yep, sure enough, the two tall, broad shouldered, mighty women got into the same kayak. And while Meagan’s recently lost over 120 pounds (WOW!), I know that I was responsible for some extra junk in the trunk that made us row a little bit harder. (It all works out. More weight = more cardio = more rowing = stronger arms?)

After we cheekily explained our situation to others, several volunteered to switch with us to lighten our load. Though the idea of an easier ride back was tempting, Meagan and I had a flash of inspiration. We would finish what we started. We wouldn’t give up. NO WAY would we give up! Big, strong women are exactly that – big and strong. We didn’t need to lighten our load. This weight and heft, though cumbersome, was ours, and we would rock it. We got back into our kayaks with a renewed sense of vigor, and sure enough, the paddle back wasn’t nearly as hard as anticipated. Though the opposing current helped with that, I like to think that somewhere, as attitudes lighten and positivity prevails, things get a little easier all around. This story makes me smile when I think about it, because it was the one weight related hurdle I faced at Fitcation. Going to Fitcation, I was nervous that I’d be the only big girl, that I’d be out of shape on our hikes, etc – but I felt great and kept up with the pack just fine, and my body shape and size wasn’t an issue. While my kayak experience was a little more “heavy” than the rest of the trip, I think this story serves as a fine reminder of why this journey isn’t going to be so much about the destination for me, but enjoying the ride.


It always goes back to attitude. I may not be happy with the body I have now, but it’s capable and strong. With the right attitude, I know that I’ll eventually get where I want to be, and even if I feel like I’m sinking, I need to just keep paddling.



Family Fun and Kitsch: My Favorite Things

Hey everybody, happy Friday! This is a non-weight-loss related post but I got to thinking about KITSCH the past few days. This weekend I’m super excited because on Saturday I have an action-packed day filled with fun, at the Hollywood Wax Museum and at the Los Angeles Dia De Los Muertos festival. One of the things I always try to do when I’m in my home city and when I’m traveling, is to see places packed with Kitsch. What is Kitsch, exactly? Some people define Kitsch as “pleasantly distasteful” but I actually prefer to think of it as the things that don’t *quite* fit in but are fun, unusual and things you don’t see everyday. Maybe this is why I love browsing flea markets 🙂 I was thinking about how I always go out of my way to find kitsch when I travel, and these few examples popped up…

Fish Pedicure in Thailand with hubby and the Running Jewess. Eeeeek!

Fish Pedicure in Thailand with hubby and the Running Jewess. Eeeeek!


One of my favorite “kitschy” things we did in Thailand was the garrah fish pedicure. I had read about it in magazines and was at first horrified, but after a friend posted that she did it, I had one of those “Well, when in Rome…” type reactions. It cost a few dollars and the sensation was WEIRD. It wasn’t so much that I was worried about it hurting or being gross, what creeped me out more was like, what if I somehow step on a fishy and kill it?! (Yes, I’m the weirdo that always goes to the worst case scenario, in this case, worrying about fish safety!) My feet were actually noticeably softer afterwards, and man, is it a great story. I’m so glad I did it!


Dia de Los Muertos bride and Alyssa!

Dia de Los Muertos bride and Alyssa!

In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I always love the cultural art. They have some fantastic iconographic images of plus-sized ladies that are adorable, as well as all of Frida and Diego’s amazing work. I especially love the wooden skulls like the one above. I’m excited to see more of these at the Dia De Los Muertos festival tomorrow. I think it’s really important to step outside our bounds of what’s “normal” in regards to art; for example, this skeleton lady would creep a lot of people out, but I thought it was COOL. Again, kitsch!

Kitschy Pea Soup Andersen's in Santa Nella, Calif. Photo from Simply Junebug's Instagram.

Kitschy Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella, Calif. Photo from Simply Junebug’s Instagram.

Another kitsch classic? Pea Soup Andersen’s. When I stopped here on the way to Fitcation, I was amazed that I had never been. They have a delightful little store loaded with kitsch Tchotchkes, mugs, magnets, candles, food items, imported spices. I LOVED it and could have easily spent $300 on all the various bric-a-brac. Thinking about all of this, it’s no wonder I love the decorating style of country clutter and those restaurants that have stuff ALL OVER the walls – guitars, trophies, pictures, t-shirts, money. I guess being a visual person it just delights me to look around and read a little bit of everything 🙂

So there’s just a few examples of KITSCH that rock my world. I can’t wait to share pictures with you from the Hollywood Wax Museum – a place I can’t believe I’ve never been to considering I’ve lived 20 minutes from Hollywood for the past eight years! It’s actually the longest running wax museum in the United States. I’m curious which waxy celebs I’ll pose with 😉 Another place I really adore is the Cheese Castle in Wisconsin, the Bean in Chicago, and the giant dinosaurs along the freeway on the way to Palm Springs. If there’s a giant ball of twine, I’m there! When you travel, do you find yourself going out of your way to see the weird and unusual or do you stick to standard tourist attractions? Or do you skip both of those things and explore the uncovered parts of cities you’re visiting, maybe local digs? Would you do a fish pedicure?!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Fitcation Recap 3: Earth Footwear, Halter Ranch, Hearst Castle and Morro Bay

Disclosure: The costs of the events and activities for Fitcation were defrayed by sponsors, and the attendees were contractually obligated to write a summary of the experience and also received free swag items. However, the thoughts and opinions I’m sharing in this post are honest and my own.

I’ve written about Fitcation 13′ here and here, and even though I wish I could have stayed on this vacation forevvvvver, I have to wrap it up! Last I left off, we were on our way to the beautiful Halter Ranch, another gorgeous location in the lovely Travel Paso region. When you arrive at Halter Ranch, you first see this beautiful Victorian home and lovely wooden bridge. However, once you walk past the wooden bridge is where the true splendor awaits; hundreds of rolling acres of winding grape vines, dusty dirt paths and expanse of beautiful blue sky.


Beautiful vineyards at Halter Ranch in Paso Robles, Calif.

We took a hike up to a very special oak tree, called the Ancestor Tree, one of the oldest oak trees in California. The branches of this tree were large enough to shade over 35 people! Here I am looking tickled to be in such an amazing place.

The Ancestor Tree, Halter Ranch

The Ancestor Tree, Halter Ranch

After hiking up to the tree, we headed back to the winery, where we treated with a tour of the wine-making rooms. I loooooove the smell of wine being made. It’s not only deliciously boozy, it’s a rich, sweet smell… grown up grape juice, y’all. We learned more about the SIP Certification and how important ethical, green business practices are in today’s green-washed consumer culture (green washing = everyone and their mom saying things are green because they’re “natural” – marketing buzz words that have no truth or verification behind them!).

Where the magic happens - Inside Halter Ranch

Where the magic happens – Inside Halter Ranch

After our education, it was off to a beautifully decorated barn for dinner and EARTH SHOES! Now, if you know me in person, you know I have a bit of a problem with shoes. As in, there’s a whole storage trunk full of shoes in my house. Only one problem… they’re all MY shoes. Yup. Maybe it’s the big-girl syndrome, but often, shoes are the only things I can buy without worrying about size, and even saying that is a stretch — as a size 11, I’m lovably larger in all ways! I was excited to learn more about Earth footwear because one of my favorite stories about my mom and dad’s relationship is that when they first started dating in the 1980s, my mom thought my dad was a hippie because he wore Earth shoes. Back then they were way less fashionable, but made of premium materials, as they still are today. We got to try on shoes and I was generously gifted with these adorable Bellflower shoes in Pewter. These shoes have not left my feet for the past week! They’ve really molded to my feet and are sooo comfortable. They’re padded with three layers of material and the leather has definitely conformed to the shape of my foot. If you “like” Earth on Facebook, you’ll be the first to know about sales and deals. Believe me — these shoes are worth the price, and for those of you who want shoes in non-animal material, they have plenty of adorable vegan options as well.

Loving my new Earth Brand Bellflower Flat!

Loving my new Earth Brand Bellflower Flat!

After our shoe presentation (did I mention we each got a five minute reflexology foot massage? Mmmhmmm. It was awesome), we enjoyed an amazingly yummy dinner of spaghetti squash with turkey bolognese, roasted zucchini and squash, kale salad and some delicious artisan bread. And wine! LOTS OF WINE! I have some very funny pictures from this evening that I’ll not post on this blog, as I’d like to keep some of my new friends 😉 Let’s just say 35 women who are all pretty chatty (aka BLOGGERS) plus booze plus vacation = some pretty wild conversation.

Locally sourced dinner at Halter Ranch

Locally sourced dinner at Halter Ranch

After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a night of sleep before DAY THREE: MY FAVORITE! We woke up early in the morning and headed to the amazing Hearst Castle! I had been to Hearst Castle before with Matt, but it’d been a few years. I enjoyed a private car pool with three of my new buddies, Deb, June and Ana-Lydz. One thing that sounds corny but I think is important for women to remember is that we really need to value friendship with women of ALL ages. In that car, we had many different ages, but each of us had something special to contribute to the conversation. Our chatter never stopped, and I felt so lucky to get to gab to them! We arrived at the amazing Hearst Castle, boarded the shuttle up the hill, and were off to William Hearst’s castle in the hills. I have to say, I’m a big sap, because seeing those amazing mountains and the ocean in the distance was just breath-taking and brought a tear to my eye. I’m so glad my Dad moved us here 15 years ago 🙂

Hearst Castle in the San Simeon Hills

Hearst Castle in the San Simeon Hills

Check out some of the gorgeous sculptures and flora around his home. I wouldn’t mind living here for awhile. I’ll say this much, none of the houses we’ve been hunting for look like this…

The grounds at Hearst Castle

The grounds at Hearst Castle

One of my favorite spots is the Neptune Pool. I wanted to rip off my jacket, throw on a swimsuit, grab a trashy magazine and set up shop RIGHT HERE. Sounds good, right?! Here I am with Leah, the founder of Fitcation and Mamavation!

Alyssa and Leah at the Neptune Pool

Alyssa and Leah at the Neptune Pool

And because one pool wouldn’t be enough, Hearst also had a second pool, the Roman Pool. I think I might almost like this one better. Breathtaking.

The Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

The Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

After Hearst castle we got back into our cars and headed to Cambria! We enjoyed a yummy lunch from Robin’s Restaurant, and then we did some yoga on the beach, led by Kia. It felt soooo good to stretch out my body with the sun on my face, the sea breeze gently lapping my hair, and the sound of the waves crashing against the sand. I need to get into yoga again, because it’s a great workout and has a magical calming effect on my monkey mind.  How amazingly gorgeous is this picture of Kia from Bodhi Bear doing Yoga on the cliffs?

Kia and the waves.

Kia and the waves.

Here I am with Meagan doing the Warrior Pose. Meagan and I have a great story to tell you sometime this week about our amazing kayaking trip, but it’s such an awesome story that it needs its own post 🙂

Warrior Girls aren't afraid of a little sand in their clothes!

Warrior Girls aren’t afraid of a little sand in their clothes!

We wrapped up the activities of the day at Morro Bay, a lovely seaside town with a huge rock jutting out of the bay. I definitely need to return here for a fun weekend trip with the husband. Half of the gals went kayaking, while the other half enjoyed some libations at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. I have lots more to say about the awesomeness that ensued while kayaking, but like I said, I’m saving that for another post 🙂

The amazingly beautiful Morro Bay

The amazingly beautiful Morro Bay

The final Fitcation gathering was enjoying a feast of yummy pizzas at Eatz  in San Louis Obispo, and then I said my goodbyes. I feel so very, very lucky to have met all of the women I did, and hopefully, we’ll all stay in touch. Also, a huge thank you to the wonderful sponsors of Fitcation for the meals, activities, swag and education. It’s amazing to think this little blog has brought about so many wonderful experiences. Last week, I noticed that in October of 2012, I was celebrating 150 Facebook likes. Today, I’m just over 1,400. WOW! While I know my journey has barely even started in terms of getting the weight OFF, I’ve learned so much about myself, fitness, food and health in general that it’s safe to say this blog has become a very special part of my heart. Thank you for that! *cheese fest over*

Now — because I can’t be the only one who gets to enjoy the awesomeness of this trip, if you leave a comment on this post, you’ll be entered to win a MYSTERY GRAB BAG of some of my swag items! Just leave me a comment and let me know if you’d like to travel to Paso Robles, Cambria, Morro Bay and San Louis Obispo, too. I’m pretty sure you would 😉 Have an amazing day!



The Double Chin Diary Siggy



Bon Voyage… I’m off to Fitcation!

Hello everybody! Here we are, one day before Friday! You’re almost there! I, on the otherhand, have been in blissfully happy “It’s my friday mode” all day, and as I’m writing this, it’s only Wednesday. Tomorrow I’m picking up my pal Simply Junebug and we’re off to beautiful Paso Robles, a lovely little wine town nestled in the coastal hills of San Luis Obispo, 230 miles north of Los Angeles. That area happens to be one of my very favorite places in California, as the husband and I have spent many weekends at the kitschy and totally amazing themed Madonna Inn, guzzling wine at the drive-in-theatre double feature, and exploring the salt water taffy shops along Avalon Beach.

Paso Robles, from

I’m excited for this blogging event because it’s less “conferency” with panels and such, and more “activity”, with winetasting, kayaking, hiking and even, my very favorite, olive oil tasting at places like Pasolivo. I’ve been pulling some crazy hours lately with last minute writing projects, so I’m looking forward to decompressing, tasting wines, meeting friendly new blogger faces, and enjoying awesome swag like FIT Protein Brownies from my homies at Lenny & Larry’s  and Nux Vomica in-case I over-wine it, from Boiron USA.

Events like these help rank high on the reasons of why I love to blog. I had a meeting with a client last week, and I was surprised that they spent a large part of our meeting asking why I wasn’t doing this and that on my blog to make lots of money. I do make a little bit of money from this blog, and certainly enjoy bountiful swag and freebies from this site, but if someone asked the number one reason why I blog, it wouldn’t be to make money. First and foremost, I’m a writer, and writers write. It’s what we do, and I’d write even if no one read it. The fact that you’re here, reading, is just a major perk for which I’m infinitely grateful. THANKS 🙂

Speaking of swag and freebies, We have a winner for the Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free Giveaway! Congratulations to KRISTINE! Thanks to everyone who entered, and watch for more giveaways soon.

There’s one last thing on my bloggy-to-d0-list — letting you know that I now have a snazzy badge! If you want to link up, just copy and paste the code to the right of this post (looks like the picture below) into your html widgets or body text on your website. Let me know if you do!

Also, here’s my confession. I have been super totally lazy about working out this week. As in, like almost no exercise at all. Eeeek. Not ok. However, I plan to make up for it with bootcamp, yoga, kayaking, hiking and crossfit this weekend. Thank goodness.

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I’m out! I’ll try to check in from the road this weekend and April might be around on Friday, but have an awesome end of the week, and thank you, as always, for stopping by the DCD! 🙂



Wine Tasting at the Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita, CA

Hello everybody! I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. While I enjoyed three long days off, I was bummed that my first weekend without any freelance projects ended up being spent in bed… sick. I felt the token scratchy throat on Wednesday but refused to believe I was getting sick… until Thursday night when the feverish flush and general “Oh Nooooooo” type exhaustion started setting in. I did get to do a couple fun things despite being all germy this weekend, and one of them was touring the beautiful Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita, CA.

Sipping zinfandel in front of $3,000 barrels!

Sipping zinfandel in front of $3,000 barrels!

My husband and I had a LivingSocial deal and even though I felt crummy, I was determined to use it before it expired. We drove the 35 minutes north of Los Angeles into a quaint little desert town called Agua Dulce, or “Sweetwater”. We began our tour by learning about the types of barrels used for winemaking. Did you know that oak wine barrels can cost between $3,000 – $5,000 EACH?! The flavor, grain and texture all drastically affect the taste. Our awesome tour guide Steve explained how Agua Dulce’s barrels came from Hungary, France and some other place I can’t remember. Wild, right? Most wines chill out in the barrels for three to five years.

Inside this immaculate and chilly warehouse were racks and racks of fermenting wine and gigantic, steel machinery. These machines are used for blending the wines and mixing all of the spirits together. All of the gigantic tubs had ladders running up to them and I couldn’t help but think that this place was like the grown-up version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Wine made here!

Wine made here!

We headed outside to see the grape presses, but I was more enchanted with the gigantic bins of waste leftover from pressed grapes. They had a yummy winey smell to them, and it was pretty interesting to see how small wine grapes are in comparison to table grapes.

These grapes have seen better days

These grapes have seen better days

One of my favorite wines we sampled was actually a port, which is a red wine mixed with brandy. We got to try the port with some dark chocolate chips, so despite only being able to taste about 50% of it thanks to my cold, it was enough to know it was sweet and GOOD! If I had a glass of that, maybe I would have been feeling better… but lo, and behold, I was the DD and had to stick with my Dayquil buzz instead of wine, so I got sips to taste only.

Enjoying some port and chocolate. Note the tissue in my hand. Blech!

One of the coolest parts of the tour was getting to taste wine straight from the barrel. Our guide used a glass tool called a “thief” to suck out some of the wine. I didn’t catch all of the nuances in the taste, but it had a really fiery, intense “oaky” flavor. It was really neat to imagine how as time progressed the flavors would mellow and blend together to become more of the smooth tastes we’re accustomed to today.

Matt gets to taste wine right from the barrel with the "thief"

Matt gets to taste wine right from the barrel with the “thief”

After the tour, we had yummy sandwiches, homemade chocolate chip cookies and cucumber salad provided from the winery out under their gazebo. It was a hot Santa Clarita day, but it felt really good to get out of my bed and get some sunshine on my face. I’m pretty sure I needed it as I’ve been quite a zombie this weekend, logging an astonishing 13 hours of sleep last night. WHEW!

Enjoying the sunshine!

Enjoying the sunshine!

This trip made me even more excited for the upcoming Fitcation, a three day women’s blogging retreated hosted by the fabulous online community, Mamavation. I’ll get to hang with people like Kenlie from All The Weigh and try numerous wines from Sip the Good Life in Paso Robles, along with sporting some fancy new shoes thanks to Earth. I can’t wait! There’s nothing like having fun and blogging about it 🙂

If you’re ever in the Santa Clarita area, definitely stop by Agua Dulce! The people were really friendly and in addition to delicious wines, they had a cute little store filled with country clutter and wine gear. My friend Feeling Vine would love it!  Despite my husband’s reluctance, I bought some really cute mason jar lid coasters with pigs on them and a Christmas gift for April. Ah, retail therapy!

So now you know some of what I did this weekend, tell me what you did, too!