Five things that will happen when you attend ShiftCon

In early December, I was lucky enough to go to Shiftcon in New Orleans as a volunteer. During the conference, I bounced from session to session providing back-up photography, but I also got to help lead two Twitter parties, where I gave away tons of prizes from Shiftcon’s amazing sponsors. April went to Shiftcon in 2014, and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to go. Leah, the founder, is a friend of mine (and my favorite chicken lady), and I’m so proud of the huge community she’s brought together. Want to know five things that will happen if you attend Shiftcon in 2017?

  1. You will meet awesome people from all different walks of life. Here’s me with Tracy, who I clicked with instantly when we joked about the hotel hallway feeling like the hotel from the Shining. Dark sense of humor? Check. Passion for blogging? Check. Mutual friend of Leah? Check! You will also connect with people you may have met before, and enjoy an awesome bloggy-friend reunion. 15327479_1198311406904107_4270921376446775687_n
  2. You will learn something. I learned more about obesogens, Instagram Pods, and how to run around an exo hall taking live photos while also giving away prizes during a massive live Twitter party.

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  1. You will come home LOADED with swag… even more than you get at BlogHer, which used to be the grand-daddy of all free stuff. My favorite Shiftcon swag I’m still using from day to day? My BeautyCounter lipstick and a bunch of delicious goodies from Bob’s Red Mill.dsc_0120

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    Loving my Plant Therapy essential oils!

  2. You will be well-fed. And you’ll be well-fed with food that is locally sourced, non-GMO, organic, and often, gluten-free. We had freshly shucked oysters, a locally raised cow, sandwiches, yogurts with granola, roasted veggies, salads, pudding… We were *very* well-fed between the sponsored breaks, expo hall, and hosted lunches and receptions. dsc_0232dsc_0272
  3. You will enjoy the sights and sounds of Shiftcon’s location for the year. New Orleans is one of my favorite places on earth, and it’s a city that comes to life in its rich music, stunning wrought iron and brick, and vibrant local personalities. This year, Shiftcon will be in Orange County, just a jaunt down the highway from my place, nestled between the majestic ocean and theme park mecca. There will be something for everyone, no doubt!

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So, whadda ya say, friends? See you in February next year? 🙂 Stay tuned here and at ShiftConMedia.com for all the latest about everything ShiftCon. This is one conference you won’t want to miss! (And trust me – I go to alot of ’em. I’d definitely go back!).

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.

Weightless

Oh, Weight Watchers. If we were in a relationship, our Facebook status would be “It’s complicated.” But you lured me in with the offer of two months free if I lost 10 pounds in the first two months, so here I am. We’ve had a tumultuous start, you and I. The first few days I was in denial that we were back together, and ignored the illuminated WW tile on my phone. Even though I was paying good money on the plan, I was putting off tracking… putting off the idea, the concept, the fact that my free for all with food was over. I made fun of you and Oprah, wondering why the richest lady on earth needed to futz with smart points and meetings. If I was a billionaire, could I abandon my worries about my weight and health and just be? The answer of course, is no, because the human brain doesn’t work like that. Nothing is ever enough, nothing is ever done.

Once I got my game face on (encouraged by the weekly weigh in I keep with two of my Fitbloggin’ friends), we got along better. I started swapping my 2% Chobani mango for 0% plain with a sprinkle of powdered peanut butter. I ordered salad on the side, hold the dressing. I took the baby for a walk and diligently counted out 14 rice crackers. I tracked every BLT I ate… not bacon, lettuce, tomato, mind you, but bites, licks, and tastes. We were jiving, you and I, like two old high school friends who ran into each other at Dairy Queen. Then came time for weigh in. I stood on my own scale, hopeful, like I had been so many times before. The number surprised me, and it slapped me in the face with its usual sting of hurt. Up 3.7 pounds. I stepped off the scale, sad, but familiar with the disappointment. My body, doing what it wants. It wants to be fat. It wants to hold on to this layer of fleshy skin, to be held by sloping hills grown from years of rewards, of angst and joy, and more recently, the cozy home of a child.

I brushed off the rejection of the scale and went to my meeting anyways. I didn’t want to. It was 7 p.m. and I could think of every excuse why I shouldn’t. The husband didn’t get home until 6:45. The baby was sweetly cooing. I had been eating all day and it’s best to weigh in in the morning. I was tired. My back hurt. I didn’t shower. I could go tomorrow. But I went. I put the feet in the shoes and the body in the seat and the key in the engine and off I went. As I stood on the scale, the receptionist leaned towards me. A smile played at the corner of her lips. Was this a shared sadness, a “sorry, you didn’t lose this week” or a hint at celebration? She hugged me. “You’re down 3.7 pounds,” she said.

I sat in the chair at the meeting. I thought, and analyzed, and contemplated the strangeness of this journey. I felt motivated and encouraged, ready to defeat the demon in the scale, in me, in my appetite. I courageously tracked every morsel I consumed. Then the weekend came, and I got sick. I drank Dayquil instead of my morning tea. I ate a Cup O’ Noodles instead of a salad. I wanted comfort, and warmth, my bed, a lack of responsibilities. I let it go for just three days, and then those three days caught up with me. I skipped a meeting. I ate pizza for dinner. I mindlessly plucked hard-shelled Cadbury Eggs out of the candy dish when a spreadsheet at work was getting the best of me. How quickly it all changes and how quickly it all begins.

I don’t want to fight with me anymore. Eating healthy is not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s not the saucy gossip you whisper scandalously to the neighbors while the curtains are drawn. It’s boring, predictable, routine, and good. It is not naughty. It is a mindset, and as much as I hate the term, it is a life style. I need to stop looking at food like my vice and sin. It is fuel and nourishment, and sometimes, celebrations. And that’s okay.

I forgive you, self. I forgive you, friend. I will whisper to you quietly, “It’s okay”, until you realize the berating of your choices will get you nowhere. Instead of the disappointment and frustration, I say, be like the Phoenix and rise up. Leave the Cadbury and the skipped meeting, the tight jeans and the pizza in the ashes. You will rise, and you will fly. You may fly the wrong direction, but eventually turn around. You will reach your destination, and you will look down, and the old you will be there, as you always were.  And you will know that the work, the effort, the struggle, the disappointment, the eventual success was worth it all. You will have risen in the light, a lighter you. Weightless.

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Walk the walk: My Komen 3-Day Experience, Day 1

When I signed up to do the 3-Day, I had two big hurdles to clear; the first, fundraising $2,300, and the second, preparing my body and mind to walk 20 miles three days in a row. While the fundraising initially made me nervous, I was so grateful to see there were plenty of people who were willing to support me. I surpassed $2,300, and today, am hovering at an incredible $3,300 — a number that I KNOW is making a difference for those diagnosed with breast cancer. The next big challenge? Walking. Plenty of people will say, “Oh, it’s just walking.” Sure, it’s just walking, but this isn’t a quick walk through the super market or around the local park. The average person walks less than two miles a day after all their steps have added up. If you’re active, you walk maybe five miles a day. But to walk 10 miles? Amazing. Make it 20? Incredible.

I started adding small daily walks to my routine. I’d walk on my lunch break to the grocery store to buy myself a turkey sandwich, or things to make dinner. I’d walk to the post office with a stack of Thank You notes ready to mail to my donors. I’d walk the block at night, dodging spiderwebs as my husband ran circles around me, laughing as we exchanged sweaty high fives. Slowly, walking became easier. I remember very clearly a 5k I walked last November. During the final mile, my feet were hurting, I was out of breath, and I wanted to quit. My first big accomplishment with training this year was a 6.2 mile walk I did with my friend Jason, and then later, a ten mile walk I did with Jason and Matt. I started tackling longer distances, at one point walking from my house to Michael’s Crafts, five miles up and three towns north. The longest walk I ended up doing was 12 miles, which was a few short of what the 3-Day training program recommends, but I felt confident that I could do at least ten miles each day. So I took that confidence and ran with it (errr, walked with it), and before I knew it, me and my team were boarding a bus in the rain to go to the Opening Ceremony in Del Mar.

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The Opening Ceremony of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day San Diego at Del Mar Fairgrounds

The rain stopped just in time for the sun to burst through the clouds, and as my team stood in a sea of pink, we listened to people share their reasons for doing the walk. People walked for their mothers. Their sisters. Their aunts. Their daughters. As I held up a picture of my mother-in-law surrounded by thousands of other people holding pictures of loved ones lost, I was overcome with a sense of grief and anger. This was too many people. Too many lives cut short. However, that anger fueled reminders of why I was here; to make a difference for somebody else facing cancer, and to honor the memory of so many wonderful people that have since moved on. Our first steps out of Del Mar, we were greeted with a magnificent rainbow, glistening in the sky. I felt in that moment that everybody had just received a special reminder that loss is physical, but memories will always live on.

Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

We walked along the coast, marveling at the waves lapping the shore, the sea breeze crisp on our cheeks. Soon, we made it to the first pit stop, where we used the glamorous porta-potties and prepared for the first major hill up Torrey Pines, a nature reserve. I had been hearing about this hill all year long, so I was nervous. However, as I put one foot in front of the other, I realized my body could do a lot more than I thought it could. We climbed up slowly but steadily, turning every now and then to see the San Diego valley in birds eye view. When we made it to the top, we posed for this picture, feeling victorious. Our first major hill: DONE!

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Alyssa, Monique and April victorious after Torrey Pines!

From there, we walked through neighborhoods and business parks, and we began to scatter a little bit as we talked with the women and men around us. I met a 76-year-old woman who had walked eight times, and walked for her husband and son she had lost to cancer in the same year. I met a girl my age from Wisconsin, and twin sisters from Arizona who walked for their mom. Everybody at the 3-Day is there for the same reason; cancer. It’s an unpleasant thing to bond over, but at the same time, something pretty special to realize you’re part of a community of people dedicated to making a change. We arrived at the mile 10 marker for lunch, and we were all pretty darn excited to sit and take off our shoes! One thing really cool about the 3-Day is that each official stop, be it Lunch or a Pit Stop, is themed. Lunch was pirate themed, and all the Crew volunteers were in full costume. It’s things like these that made my first 3-Day experience so special: being handed a turkey sandwich by Jack Sparrow, walking past men in bras with miniature watermelons in them with signs that said “Squeeze my melons”, the people that come out to cheer you on as you walk by. I laid on the grass for what felt like a good, long 10 minutes, and then hobbled over to the medical tent. I felt some hot spots and blisters popping up on the fleshy pad of my foot right beneath my toes, and I wanted those suckers wrapped up before they progressed further.

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Cookie as big as my head? Don’t mind if I do!

Then, we were off again, and before I knew it, it was back to the glorious coast. At one point we walked through a patch of coast that smelled awful — garbage-like and just rank, when one of the walkers ahead of us said we were nearing a sea lion colony. Sure enough, we came down a hill to see a big rock formation covered in velvety sea lions, barking and frolicking in the water. It was so cool! We ended up meeting my parents along the route shortly after, and it was super fun to see them and get hugs and support at mile 15.

The Double Chin Diary in front of Sea Lion rock!

The Double Chin Diary in front of Sea Lion rock!

It was shortly after we met up with my parents that I encountered my first big hurdle: an exploding blister. Now, I’ve had plenty of blisters in my adult life. However, the experience of a blister exploding from the sheer weight of all your body, on the fleshy pad of your foot, at mile 16? Totally new and not so awesome experience. At first I didn’t know what it was, other than the fact that my foot suddenly had this searing pain ripping through it. Then as my sock felt squishy, I realized with horror that my giant foot pad blister had popped. GROSS! I ripped off my sock with the enthusiasm of a kid at Christmas, both grossed out and fascinated, and confirmed that sure enough, my blister had called it quits. I decided I’d flag down a sweep van (the 3-Day has nifty themed vans that drive the route to pick up anyone who’s tired, not feeling well, or just wants a break). I hobbled along tentatively, until I got a second wind. Blister? Who cares! That attitude served me well for two more miles, until the broken skin started to feel raw. This was around mile 17, so I took a van for another mile and waited at the pit stop for my sister and Monique to arrive.

The kind medical volunteers tending to my nasty Texas sized blister.

The kind medical volunteers tending to my nasty Texas sized blister. (Don’t worry, you can’t see it here. I’d like to keep some of my readers!)

Once they showed up, we got more Gatorade and continued our trek. It was dusk and those last few miles were feeling like they would never end, and we were teased along the way by chalk notes on the sidewalk of what the Garmin miles were. Toward the end we saw a Garmin 22 mile mark, so I decided right then and there that despite my quick van ride, I had very much walked 20 miles that day! Finally, we walked into camp — exhausted and stinky, and very much wanting to SIT and never move, ever again. We got dinner, enjoyed the plushy bean bags, massage chairs, trail mix bar, and snacks, and then collected our camp mail. Camp mail is an awesome invention where your loved ones can send you snail mail to pick up during your 60 mile journey. After our relaxation time, we watched an amazing show in the giant dining tent, where we got to hear from moving speakers and hear updates about the day on the route and the next day to come.

20 MILES!

20 MILES!

Even though at this point I was too exhausted to process anything more than “Macaroni and cheese. Hungry. Tired. Stink. Sleep,” I was able to process the fact that this girl had damn near walked 20 miles in one day. 20 frickin’ miles. That’s no small beans. That’s no laughing matter. That’s a HUGE, GINORMOUS, MASSIVE, LONG distance to walk. That’s only 6.2 less than a marathon, and granted, I wasn’t running (if you see me running, you better run too, ‘cuz something’s chasing me), but ain’t no thang. I walked 20 miles. That’s a lot.

I went to bed that night thinking about some of the things people had sent to me in so many wonderful cards, letters, and notes. Things like, “When it gets hard, remember… your body can do amazing things. Your legs are strong, your hips are flexing, and your heart will carry through.” Or, “Thank you for walking, thank you for making a difference, thank you for being my friend.” Or, “You inspire me every day to love myself just as I am.” With sentiments like that, how could I not close my teary eyes and glow with gratitude?

I drifted into a deep sleep, heart full of the amazing things I had seen and felt that day. Vibrant. Alive. Proud. Thankful. These feelings carry you far and wide, as beautiful and inspiring as the rainbow, as vivid and real as the blister, as simple and profound as the smile of a survivor cheering from the sidelines. These things were Day 1 of the 3-Day.

We walk.

We walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alyssa’s first mud run: Muckfest MS Los Angeles!

Do you remember when you were a kid and you got to play in the mud? Maybe your parents didn’t let you, but you did it anyway, finding that stray mud puddle on your way home from school. You delighted in the joyful sensation of sticky, wet, mud squishing around your toes, making mud pies, trying to slog your feet out of the quicksand as you splashed around in. Now, there’s a way for grown ups to play in the mud — and not just any mud — mud that’s for a cause, more specifically, fighting MS, or Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that affects over 2 million people worldwide. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to get MS, and I can think of three female friends of mine who bravely fight MS. Muckfest MS was in Chino this past week, about an hour and 20 minute drive from where I live. I knew I would walk this 5k rather than run it, because running’s not my jam. I walked, I mucked, I conquered. Here are five reasons why the Muckfest MS was mucking rad.

1) You get to get muddy. Absolutely, fantastically mucking muddy. Covered. Soaked. Saturated. It’s fun. (And maybe, exfoliating. Think of it as a fitness spa treatment.)

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2) You can take the obstacles at your own pace, and that might mean skipping ones that just don’t feel like your style. I did, and didn’t feel self conscious at all – a really nice change from some of the other fun runs I’ve been on where the spirit is more competitive. However, you can also take on obstacles that challenge you in a good way – like the Spider Web. I was sure I’d have to be rescued like a kitten from a tree halfway up this giant rope jungle gym, but instead I scurried like a Mountain Goat to the top, and was super proud of my climbing skillz. You also get to do obstacles with names like BIG BALLS. The description? ‘When one big, swinging pair is not enough. How about 9 gigantic balls swinging over 4 mucky trenches?’

Photo from Muckfestms.org.

Me at the top of the Spider Web. Photo by Mike Murphy.

Me at the top of the Spider Web. Photo by Mike Murphy.

3) You get free beer at the end. And snacks. And professional photos. And a super cute t-shirt!

Photo from Muckfest MS Facebook page

Photo from Muckfest MS Facebook page

4) You get to walk on water! I tried really hard to be graceful on this one, and not take a tumble, and I made it across unscathed. If you don’t want to walk on water, you can jump in and swim like a duck. Either way, you’ll be encountering some muck.

I'm walkin on sunshine, heeeeeyyy ooooh... Oh, I mean water. Photos via Muckfest MS, facebook.com/muckfestms

I’m walkin on sunshine, heeeeeyyy ooooh… Oh, I mean water. Photos via Muckfest MS, facebook.com/muckfestms

5) You get to have a mucking blast, while knowing that money raised goes to fight MS, a disease that affects over 2 million people worldwide.

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We mucking rock.

Now – who’s doing it in 2015 with me? You can find out more information and the cities near you at MuckfestMS.org.

Have you done a mud run? Would you?

My 3-Day Walk Training Progress

Hello friends, I hope you had a great weekend. I just finished a delicious dinner of roast chicken, potatoes, and grilled egg plant. Super yum! I’m relaxing with a hard cider before settling into the couch to watch Silicon Valley, one of my new favorite shows. This weekend was pretty laidback; hanging out with my grad school girlfriends, lunch with the hubs, recipe testing for the California Avocado contest at Fitbloggin’, and lastly, a nice 3.5 mile training walk today with my husband.

I’ve been squeezing in walks here and there whereever I can, and this weekend marked 24 weeks until my event. Eeek! I have many miles to go between now and then. I’m happily almost to the halfway mark of my fundraising goal of $2,300, and so far have been blown away by people’s generosity. It’s alarming how many people’s lives cancer has affected, and fundraising and walking is just one small thing I can do to try and prevent cancer from stealing another person’s life. (Want to help? I’d be so grateful. I will happily carry the names of a loved one, in honor or memory of, on my 60 mile journey. A $35 donation ) A few weeks ago I bought myself some Snazzy New Walking Shoes, and I just learned today on my walk app (Map My Walk) that I’ve put 30 miles on my new kicks. Nice!

I think back to a year or so ago when I hated walking a 5k distance (3.2 miles), and I’m happy that now I’m doing 3 miles with no real challenge. I’m definitely not a fast walker, but the nice thing about the 3-Day is that it’s not about the time. It’s about the commitment. I did 5.5 miles last week on one walk, and I’m hoping to get in another 5-miler this week. It’s really going to be crazy to me when I start walking distances of seven miles and above. You’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles, so that doesn’t seem as extreme to me as choosing to hoof it seven miles or more. (I’m lazy when it comes to exercise. True fact.) My friend Monique, who’s walking with the team Double Chin Divas, will probably walk with me next week, and then in July, I’m hoping to attend my sister April’s official 3-Day training walk in San Francisco! I also need to get in more cardio, as my awesome endocrinologist reminded me in a very friendly but matter of fact way that walking nice long distances just ain’t gonna cut it for me for weight loss. (Darnit.) Hold me accountable, peeps!

Taking nice long walks has some perks, besides being relaxing — you get to see things you never knew existed, like these awesome body weight exercise machines at Lake Balboa. I definitely had a good time screwing around on the foot elliptical and torso twister. You’re never too old to play!

Lake Balboa Foot Powered Elliptical

Lake Balboa Foot Powered Elliptical

 

I’m feeling good about the event, and am hoping I hit my half way mark really soon here with fundraising. The next few months are going to be critical for my training success, so now, I just need to make an effort to do the work. I don’t have to walk fast, I just have to walk often. That said, if anybody is in LA and wants to go on a walk… hit me up! Do I have any other walkers for exercise out there? Have an amazing day!

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Interested in walking 60 miles in San Diego in November? Considering joining the Double Chin Divas team. We’re kicking cancer’s ass, one step at a time.