Mastering a Goal

Good morning and Happy Monday! I’ve been a little more quiet on the blog lately, because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a very long-term goal… my THESIS!

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I started graduate school in 2010, twoweeks after I got married, and two months after I had scored a big promotion. I remember nervously sitting around a table of unfamiliar faces, still glowing from my honeymoon, starting to freak out a little bit as my eyes scanned the lengthy syllabus of research methods. At work, I went from a copywriter to a content manager, managing a team of three people, writing Facebook updates and blogs for nine different brands. I worked at least 45 hours a week and went to class at night, exhausted, bleary-eyed and hungry, but I made it through with my laptop, diet coke and the support of my husband and family.

I had intended for grad school to take two years, but as the reality of school set in, I knew it would take longer. I ended up staying for three years, and in those three years, I met wonderful friends, some of whom read this blog. (Hi Julie, Emily, Lauren, Virginia and Luis!) I also worked my way through stress-eating (Something I’m still fighting), cried when my 36 page literature review came back for the 10th time needing more revisions (I’m not exaggerating. That %&$#! lit review came back ten times!), traveled to Thailand, lost my sweet kitty Leo, and did a million other things. Life always went on, but it went on with a giant weight on my shoulders – my thesis. I turned down fun party invitations, missed family vacations and spent hours glued to my computer. I wrote and re-wrote huge chunks of the same text, over and over again. I made a lot of sacrifices for the past three years to work on this thesis, but I was always grateful I had the opportunity to be learning and to be in grad school. It was hard. But I did it.

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The first photo of me as Alyssa Curran, MA. Taken minutes after my thesis was approved – with happy tears still shiny in my eyes!

Last Thursday, at 2 pm, I paced the hallways of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication while my thesis committee deliberated my final project. I had come prepared with 106 pages of my own work, two PDFs of the social media handbook you can read at SocialSyllabi.com, and a cheat sheet of notes. I defended my project in front of two women I greatly respect, both who are doctorates, one in education, one in journalism, women who have worked at the Los Angeles Times and have been embedded in war zones. At the end of an hour and a half of changes, they signed a paper and shook my hand – I had just earned my master’s degree!

When they signed the paper, I wanted to leap across the table and hug them. Tears flooded my eyes and I had to do that embarrassing fan-your-face thing to prevent myself from bursting into happy, joyous tears. I have worked SO HARD for this degree, and I am so proud of myself. I’m not usually a braggart (ok, fine, sometimes I can be), but I’ve been basking in my accomplishment the past week. I have a MASTER’S DEGREE before I’m even 28 years old. THAT is awesome. THAT is accomplishment. THAT is hard work, and opportunity, and commitment – and THAT reminds me that this whole weight loss thing? It might be the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on in my life, but I can do this, too. My Master’s Degree taught me a lot. Not just about dedication and time, but about perseverance. About not throwing in the towel when all you want to do is quit. About keeping going, when your eyes are heavy and your heart is tired. About not comparing yourself to others, about realizing this journey is your own – no one elses, and if your heart is in it, you will get there, regardless of your pace. I need to remember these thoughts, these feelings, when the number on the scale is up, when my jeans feel snug, when I compare myself to a thin girl and think that I am not enough. I can do this. I will do this.

My sweet friend Ruby and I in 2008. We are still friends to this day!

My sweet friend Ruby and I in 2008. We are still friends to this day!

My master’s degree is so much more to me than just a paper saying I’m well educated in the field of mass communication and media. It’s a reminder for me that when I work hard, I can do anything. I just need to remember to take it one step at a time, believe in myself, and try my best. On May 21 I’ll once again walk across the Oviatt Library steps, exactly five years after I earned my BA in Journalism in the same spot. In a lot of ways, I’m a different person than who I was in 2008, but one thing remains the same – my ambition to make my life worth living to the fullest, every minute of every day. I am proud of the person I am, and you should be proud of who you are, too.

So tell me – what is one thing in your life, big or small, that makes you proud of the person you are today?

 

Media using its power for good: Anchor stands up to her bully on live tv

Hi Double Chinners –

Have you all heard about Jennifer Livingston, the Wisconsin based news anchor who stood up to her bully on live TV? A man sent her an e-mail chiding her for being a bad role model, especially for young girls, for not “paying attention” to her health over the years and choosing to be an obese role model. I encourage you to watch her reply to this man below.

I can’t remember the last time I was so proud of the media for going against the norm and adding some PERSONALITY to the news. The media should use its power for good more often – in this woman’s case, reminding the public that nobody needs to back down in the face of a bully, and that we need to teach our children kindness and compassion. One more note – do you think that male anchors receive notes, e-mails and comments like this about their body size? Sure they do – but not nearly as much as females. Fat shaming needs to end, and in its place we can add in helpful and relevant information about healthy living like activity and diet. Kudos to Jennifer for standing up to her bully and for showing the world that while being female unfortunately means being critiqued on every single fiber of your being, you don’t have to fall victim to the harmful words others so casually throw about.

What do you think of Jennifer’s story? Do you think she’s “advocating for obesity” simply by being an overweight news anchor?

Party Off the Pounds

As most of you know, I have trouble motivating myself to work out. Like tonight. I worked a full, busy day, came home, worked on some homework, went with the husband to drop off a library book, grabbed dinner, stopped at the grocery store, watered the yard, cleaned up the kitchen and then… I knew I had to work out. But I felt lazy. And feeling lazy is such a precursor to blowing off a workout. But then! I remembered one of the awesome birthday gifts I received this weekend.

Personalized Pineapple Cutting Board

It wasn’t my personalized cutting board that Matt got me….

Turtle Fruit Corer

And it wasn’t this awesome turtle shaped fruit cutter that my best buddy Katelyn got me…

Excited much?

It was… Richard Simmons’ Party Off the Pounds DVD! I’ve been wanting a Richard Simmons DVD for awhile, ever since the first time I worked out with him in person. Matt got it for me for my birthday, and it’s perfect for nights like tonight where getting dressed, filling up a water bottle, driving to campus, parking, and going into the rec center to do some cardio just feels like too much work. I was able to prance and dance and sweat in my very own living room, with no cares about if I looked stupid or if I remembered the padlock for the locker. My cats were kind of confused, though.

Anyways, this DVD is no joke. This DVD is a good workout! It’s no P90X or Ass Ripper 10,000 or whatever those fitness DVDs are called, but it’s a good, solid workout. I was sweating thoroughly, but most of all, I was having fun dancing along to hits like “Mickey” and “Hit me with your best shot.” Also? There are fat people in the video, like real, actual fat people – not Hollywood fat people like Christina Aguilera. (Sorry Christina, but everyone says you’re a chubster and we know you’re not. You aint the real thang, girl.)

I’m excited because I may have finally found a good solution for nights like tonight when the gym just isn’t going to happen. Now I kind of want to check out some more fitness DVDs – anybody got some recommendations for me? And also – could you work out with a fitness DVD, or is just too strange for you? I know some people aren’t into busting a move in their living room, so I’m curious – are workout DVDs a do or a don’t for you? Why or why not?

 

A Fat Cat’s Fate: RIP Meow

Meow was a 39-pound cat forfeited at a shelter when his 87-year-old owner was no longer able to care for him. Meow was originally ridiculed when the media stumbled upon him, as one of his favorite foods was hot dogs and he often got stuck inside of things due to his size. Some of us look at this picture and think, “Aw! How cute!”. That’s fine. But the reality is, Meow died a sad and early death because his lungs failed due to the increased pressure on his vital organs from an overflow of fat.

Image from LAtimes.com - click to read the full story.

These are the types of things that remind me why I need to get healthy. It’s not just because of Meow, the fat cat, that I’m reminded what obesity can do to my body and organs. It’s because I had an allergy appointment this week and my blood pressure was high – a reminder that constant, chronic stress and obesity almost double my chances for heart disease. It’s because every now and then I get a dull ache in my right ankle – remnants of Plantar Fascia, a type of heel pain I had when I was 15 pounds heavier. It’s because I’m already severely allergic to environmental pollens, and if I gain more weight, the strain on my sinuses would get even worse. It’s also because I want to be a mother one day, and at my current weight, I’d be high-risk for gestational diabetes. I don’t want this post to be a downer, but Meow was a good wake up call for me this week.

We may laugh about a grossly obese cat or the morbidly obese women in bikinis on birthday cards, but it’s no laughing matter. Even though the tagline of this blog started out as “Because fat is funny and food is fun”, death because of obesity is clearly not funny. I’m not laughing about Meow’s death, and I hope you’re not either, because even though his situation was awkwardly uncomfortable and could prompt a few giggles, he’s gone now because somebody didn’t hold up their end of the pet-caretaker bargain. Had he been fed a suitable diet, he’d be alive and snuggling in somebody’s lap today. And when I think about why I want to lose weight, it’s not about wearing cute turquoise jeans or buying a size large. It’s about feeling the sunshine on my face well into my 70s, baking cookies for my grandchildren, and earning the privilege to become a cranky old lady. So tonight, I thank Meow for a painful but necessary prompt to remind me why I need to lose weight. Weight loss isn’t something I can do when I have “time” or when things calm down. I need to do it now, because I will ALWAYS have excuses, but I may not always have my health.

Rest in peace, Meow.

My letter to Paula Deen

 

Oh, Paula. I remember the first time I watched your show. How delightful it was to see an apple-cheeked granny, someone who looked like my own Nana, flit around the kitchen with hands full of flour and butter and dough. I loved that you wore your wedding rings while you cooked, and I loved it even more when you’d say, “I’m not your doctor, I’m your cook.” And oh, how I loved watching rings of dough fry in glittering canola oil, or how pats of butter melted into sweet yellow pools on top of vegetables gone bad, like green beans braised in bacon grease. Your food reminded me of home – of all that’s good about Southern food – the richness, the heritage, the rib-stickingness, the warmth that comes from a freshly-baked biscuit or a slice of gooey pecan pie.

I don’t know how to feel about your recent announcement. Nobody is surprised, frankly, but guess what – many of us, including the author of this post, are obese. So it’s not fair to blame this just on your weight, because there’s so many things that are factors to diabetes – smoking, genetics, heredity, stress…. It’s likely that your weight was a big contributor to your diagnosis, but it might not be the only thing. However, I’m irritated that your Diabetes is a bigger deal than SOPA, a bill that threatens the free speech of the internet that allows me to write things like this post. I’m also irritated that because you’re a woman, the story is gigantic, more gigantic than it would be if Mario Batali or Emeril was diagnosed with diabetes. Your gender makes everything more controversial, like the Lindsays and Britneys and Madonnas who get so much press coverage, yet the Charlies, Mels and Ashtons get a day or two in the press and are then freed from the scrutinizing public eye. (Don’t get me going on media discourse. It’s scary.)

How do I feel about the fact that you’re signed up as a spokesperson for a diabetes medication? Are you “selling out” like everybody thinks? Guess what, Paula… you’ve been selling table cloths and body lotions and pots and pans for way longer than you’ve been hawking pharmaceuticals, so I say go girl. Make some more money out of that diagnosis, and give some of it away, maybe to healthy school lunch programs, or to sponsor urban gardens.

Many people have suggested that now that your diagnosis is out in the open, you should re-work your recipes and opt for a leaner, lighter presence on TV. This is the one area where I’m going to say I hope you stick to your guns, and keep doling out the butter. I’m a strong believer in everything in moderation, and I believe you once famously said, “I don’t want to spend my life not having good food going into my pie hole. That hole was made for pies.” Your sons are already re-working your genius recipes into lighter, leaner versions of the fat bombs we all know and love, so your TV presence should stay the same – because that’s you. I’m no famous TV personality, but even when I lose all my extra weight, I’m still going to eat popcorn with butter on it, because that’s what I love. It’s part of who I am!

Keep walking on your treadmill, and cut down on the splurges. But for the love of God, Paula, keep your cooking show the same. Your TV presence is just what I want to see when I’ve got 5 points left to eat for dinner and all I want to do is bathe in mayonnaise. You’re not Jamie Oliver, You’re not Giada DeLaurentis (she’s impossibly perfect looking), You’re not Anthony Bourdain.

You’re Paula Deen.

You’re the house that butter built, and nobody can take that away from you.

Not even Diabetes.