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whats making me happy # 162

Thursday, November 05, 2015

// 1 // You can buy Mulder's poster from the X-Files guys! I can't believe I didn't know this before, but now that I do, I'm so buying it.

// 2 // Shelly März has so many great Big Lebowski enamel pins to choose from, but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite.

// 3 // Lenny Letter does it again, this story about Jenna Lyons learning to sew and develop self confidence is so inspiring.

// 4 // Over the knee socks are my jam, and I have heart eyes for these.

// 5 // If you hate spoilers, DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK. But if you're like me and you're obsessed with Game of Thrones spoilers and theories, then this is your lucky day.

// 6 // David Attenborough narrates the beginning of Adele's Hello video and its the best thing ever.

// 7 // This might be the prettiest Star Wars tee I've ever seen.

// 8 // Sophie Gamin's photography is always amazing, but I am especially touched by the photos she did for a shelter with pit bulls. I want to adopt them all.

// 9 //  I'm loving nail art but I have zero skills with hand decorating. These would make it so easy and be so awesome.

my fitness story

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

I’ve wanted to share my health and wellness story for a really long time on this blog, but honestly, I have always been pretty scared to do so. Throughout my teens and twenties, I really struggled with my weight and overall body image, and have dealt with being incredibly self conscious about my body for years.  I’ve been a little overweight since college, due to bad diets, too much partying, a very underactive thyroid, but really most of all, a total lack of motivation. I was really having way too much fun throughout my twenties and I was still getting attention from men, (which if we’re all honest, is a pretty large factor when you're 22,) and so I didn’t really worry about my health.

It didn’t really start to register with me until I moved back home to Missouri from Boston and fell into some really terrible habits. I spent my entire first year at home looking for a job, eating whatever delicious food the Midwest put in front of me, and being far less active than I was in Boston where I was forced to walk pretty much everywhere to get to the train. Even after finding my first job, and then my second, current job, I was in some pretty significant self denial about my health.  At first, I didn’t notice the scale going up, until one day I stepped on the scale and incredulously looked at the scale as it read 200 pounds. I was in shock. I remember standing there holding back the tears and feeling completely helpless. I was almost 30 and probably the least healthy I’d ever been.

I’ve tried fad diets, crash diets, and even a diet consisting predominantly of a  disgusting amount of grapefruit, spinach, and 9 eggs a day…let’s just say that it was a really gross and gassy time. (To this day I refuse to eat eggs. Ick.)  I’ve never been much one for total starvation or giving up all sorts of food groups, but I knew that I needed to make some significant changes to my eating and activity in order to get control of my size, so after speaking with my sister in law, scheduled an appointment with a weight-management doctor she’d had some luck with. He made me laugh with funny little sayings like “chips give you hips” and put me on a low-calorie diet and medication to help control my hunger. I should take a second to state that weight loss medication isn’t for everyone and should only be used under the supervision of a doctor. Phentermine has very different effects on different people, and while it isn’t a magic pill, something about making that big step, having to pay for the medication and monthly doctors visits really helped to solidify that I was gonna do this. With my little brother’s wedding as my major milestone and a super cute teal jumpsuit to wear, I set a goal of losing 20 lbs in about 2.5 months. No easy feat.

I’d already begun working out more often a couple of months earlier incorporating weekly aerial yoga classes and a couple of workouts a day, but knew that I’d really need to ramp up my activity levels. I didn’t want to just lose weight, I wanted to get stronger. Michelle Obama arms stronger. I did the one thing I said I’d never do and started going to the gym over lunch with a few coworkers (I’m fortunate enough to have a job that offers a few different locations that have workout facilities,) and I can’t tell you what wonders it did for my motivation. You’ve got a built –in group of people to keep you accountable, and you’re getting up and active during the middle of your workday, which really helps me when I have days stuck at the computer for hours at a time. And it’s generally a bunch of guys, which forces me out of my comfort zone a little to try new things. I lift weights y’all! Like real ones that aren’t pink! Each week I alternate weight days, usually focusing on chest one day, legs another, and finishing out the week with arms and/or back and shoulders; and cardio days, generally in the form of P90X or Insanity videos and one night of aerial yoga each week. Added to that I participated in the City’s walking challenge trying to get in at least 10,000 steps a day.

Remember when I said I don’t enjoy starvation? Well you should have seen my face when my doctor told me that to maximize my weight loss I needed to be sticking to a 1200 calorie a day diet. Who lives on 1200 calories a day, Rabbits and Supermodels? I was pretty sure I was going to fail miserably, however, my biggest salvation was the My Fitness Pal app. Every nutritionist will tell you that writing down everything you eat is one of the biggest steps towards weight loss, and boy are they right. Being able to see the amount of calories I was taking in before eating things that I thought were healthy was a huge help, and added bonus, you can track calories burned through exercise (and maybe add it a few extra munchies to your day.) I quickly found that eating out was way less fun when you’re trying to control the amount of calories going into your body, so I became very well versed in a few key meals that I knew would provide me with the nutrition and energy to get through my day while staying within my caloric goals. I tend to be a very habitual eater anyways, and that really helped for me to be able to cook a meal that would last for a few days and not get too bored. Some lessons learned in those few months:

1)      Breakfast really is super important. I never have been a big breakfast person what with my hating eggs, gravy, and bacon, and being totally eeked out by yogurt half of the time thanks to an overzealous microbiology professor who made me look at it under a microscope. So for me it was really really hard to find things that I liked to eat in the morning. Generally I went with a whole grain pancake and fruit or English muffin, and even, on occasion bacteria filled yogurt. (But I generally still have to close my eyes and have a mind over matter battle to get it down.)

2)      The TYPES of calories you’re putting into your body are really important. You can totally get away eating fast food and staying within the caloric recommendations but you are definitely not feeding your body well. Tons of veggies, lean meats, and grains will be so much more fulfilling in the long run.

3)      It was pretty much impossible to socially drink on my diet. I’m not saying that it’s that way for everyone, but I never really wanted to waste even a morsel of delicious food calories on a beer or cocktail. I generally was a really great person to be the designated driver.

4)      With all that said, sometimes you’ve gotta give yourself a little something. I had a couple of events that it was simply too difficult to avoid crappy food or having a few drinks. I just tried to work really hard the following week to make up for it.

5)      The first couple of days on phentermine kinda suck. The medicine gives you tons on energy which is awesome for your workout and general activity throughout the day, but it was really difficult for me to sleep the first couple of nights until my body got used to it.

6)      It also makes you sweat. A lot. Phentermine raises your body temperature slightly which isn’t really noticeable until you’re in the middle of your workout and see that small puddle forming underneath you. I kinda like that, it weirdly makes me feel like it’s like a little puddle of calories I’m sweating out, but I’m kinda a weirdo. Definitely drink TONS of water to counteract this.

I’m super happy to report that I totally met my 20 pound goal for Jonah and Kristall’s wedding and looked super hot in my teal jumpsuit. 
Since the wedding I’ve lost an additional 12.4 pounds to total out my overall weight loss at 32.4 pounds as of this morning. WOO HOO!!! I ended up having a little medical situation when I had to have my appendix removed and was completely out for a few weeks from working out, and with summer and all the activities that come along with it, I’ve given myself a little more leeway on little cheats, and am trying to stick to a 1500 calorie diet most days. I’m still working out regularly, and would love to lose another 10-15 pounds by the end of the year. I’m always going to be a curvy girl, and I have to be honest with myself about the body I’ve been given, but I’m so proud of where I am.  I’ve never felt healthier, I’m having no issues with acid reflux and heartburn (which I was constantly plagued with before,) and I am getting legit muscles y’all. Turns out 30 is a pretty badass year for Ashley Fears.

I’m planning on making little fitness updates a more regular part of my blog, sharing some of the workout routines that work for me, some recipes for healthy meals, and trying to set some fitness goals to continue to work towards throughout the year.

Exploring Little Rock

Monday, November 02, 2015

I spent two weekends last month exploring Little Rock, Arkansas and helping one of my oldest and bestest friends prepare for her wedding, (and celebrate the wedding itself.) I wanted to share a few little bits and pieces of my trip because I really found myself digging LR in a way that I never had before. I'm originally from Arkansas, but moved in my early teens, and didn't spend much time in some of the larger cities. I'm so glad I did, because now I can’t wait to visit Lucy and her new husband all the time!

First off, Lucy lives literally next to the house where Designing Women was set. If you didn’t watch the Golden Girls/Designing Women block during the 90’s I pity you.

I also bought a selfie stick, which provided endless laughs throughout the week, mostly due to the fact that while using a selfie stick is AWESOME, it does sort of make you look like you’re forever setting up to hit a volleyball…

Little Rock had some seriously awesome murals all over Lucy’s neighborhood, and this one was totally my favorite. It kinda reminded me of that show Real Monsters on Nickelodeon, but with food.

Lucy’s now-husband runs a non-profit that helps give kids bicycles, and then teaches them how to repair and rebuild their own bikes as they age up into larger frames and he took us for a quick tour of their building. The amount of bicycle parts was pretty astounding, and made for a pretty groovy sculptural vibe everywhere.

 I went back for the wedding a couple of weeks later, and when the forecast turned to 100% chance of rain (the wedding and reception were totally outdoors,) we had to go into overdrive decorating new venues and creating all of the florals necessary for the wedding. It was a crazy exhausting two days, but the smile it put on our gals face was totally worth it.

 Afterwards Andrew and I were able to wander around the city before heading back home and we withstood the constant rain to check out some of the historical buildings like the State Capitol (check out those gold doors!) and Central High School, the first integrated high school in the nation.

Afterwards, we found the most delicious taco place that I’d ever eaten, (I consider myself a taco connoisseur so this is a bold claim.) Turns out that pickle fried chicken tacos will make me the happiest person on the planet.

By no means would I call myself an expert on the city itself, definitely not enough to do a “guide” but I if you were going to ask me to recommend some places to eat delicious food, drink good coffee, and enjoy some light shopping, I’d recommend the following:

Food & Drink