Why I Love Every Single one of the 212 Pounds that I Gained

I’ve posted many a caption on privileging inner beauty.

And, yet, I too, am afraid of being judged by the way I look, rather than the person I am. During my pregnancy, this was especially true. Because, for the first time in my life, I was (and still am) overweight.

At my heaviest, in my third trimester, I pushed past 200 lbs. Often, strangers commented on my HUGE belly. I was told over and over that I MUST be carrying twins and that my baby HAD to be over 10lbs. My self-worth hit an all-time low. I was so insecure about my size that I would avoid sharing my due date. If did disclose it, the responses became all-too-familiar: “Oh wow! You look MUCH further along.” “Only 5 months!” “You look ready to POP!!” “Man, are you sure you aren’t having twins?” Each casual comment led me under the covers with any food that came with dip.

The woman that used to saunter on any dance floor in booty shorts was fading. I was still wearing the red lipstick but I’d lost the sassy hair flip and the bop in my step.

In the last three weeks of my pregnancy, my OB cautioned against further weight gain. THE LAST WEEKS OF MY PREGNANCY. The time that most healthy women gain a pound a week. My OB was lovely, but between the chronic ache in my hips and my swollen sumo-sized feet, I had little else to look forward to besides cake. How was I going to stop gaining weight?

 

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Me, on the day I went into labor.

 

My insecurities paralyzed me. The worse I felt about myself, the harder it was to lose weight. Plus, pretty much anything that wasn’t fried or smothered in mozzarella made me run to the nearest bathroom.

And, I was PREGNANT. But, this didn’t stop strangers from giving me unsolicited dietary advice or encouraging exercise or flat-out telling me that I looked HUGE.

Here’s where, if I had the time, I’d cue quotes from feminist scholars much much more knowledgeable than I, for their insights into the social control of the female body and the impact on mothers.  But alas, my baby won’t sleep long enough for research, so I’m just going to tell you how it feels to be treated like your body is more important than your mind, your heart, or your spirit.

It fucking sucks.

After the birth of my son, I threw myself into weight loss. I committed to working out 4 days a week and I actually followed through. I went to yoga classes; drank more water; ate a hella lot of vegetables; went to more yoga classes; jogged; did squats and so on and so on.

 

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4 Weeks Postpartum

 

Today, it’s 7 and a half months later (which shocks the hell out of me) and due to my consistent efforts, I’ve lost 54 lbs.

I weigh 158 lbs. These pictures are shot with unflattering light, sans filter, and without stylish clothes, and clever angles. But, I’m proud to share them, nonetheless.

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Today.

 

Because these pictures are not just Before pictures. They are also After pictures.

They are After I grew a living being inside my very vulnerable, very beloved, and very scared body.

They are After I labored for fifteen hours and pushed a perfect 6lbs and 15oz baby boy outside of my uterus. (No, he wasn’t 10 lbs. Yes, he was the greatest gift I’ve ever received.)

 

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My Zekaya. God, he’s beautiful.

I refuse to be ashamed of my weight. I refuse to be uncomfortable with the pouch that used to hold my son or the extra rolls that stretch out my tattoo. I refuse to do anything but love my body for its strength, for its health, for its gorgeous cocoa butter scent, for its ability to nourish my son, and for its boundless capacity to love and give to others.

Still, I want to be physically stronger. I want to leap on beds with my son. I want to sprint across the soccer field with him lagging behind.

I know I’m not the best version of myself today and I believe that that assessment is an incredibly personal one.

So, I’m going to work even harder. I’m going to hit the gym 6 times a week. I may or may not forego a cupcake or two. I’m going to squat deeper while holding my now 16 lb son, and I’m going to run longer and faster than any other time in my life.

And, I’m going to invite you along for the journey.

I’m going to do these things out of a deep love for my spirit, heart, mind, and yes, my bodyexactly as it is now, for it carried life’s most precious gift – which is, undeniably, at least a thousand cupcakes, and (of course, also, my Zekaya) because what is life without tiny cakes?

AND for my future body that I will love equally as much, for having carried me through the next three months of sleepless nights, frenzied Zumba mornings, lunges with a squirming baby, and oh-so-many lazy snuggles.

I welcome your encouragement and support for the next 12 weeks, as I chase the kind of body with energy for five rounds of tag, dozens of games of hide-and-go-seek, and an unfiltered love for all things covered in frosting.

Here we go.

 

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          Try to stop me. I dare you. (Also shot in the last month but WITH the clever angles & flattering light)              

 

Fearlessly Yours,

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Insta: @mangolimes

 

Jean’s Web Picks

 

“This was my first time with my dominant. My Sir. The white man who controlled my Black body and its pleasure.”

 

If you’re pre-divorce, mid-divorce, post-divorce, or just want to read something beautiful.

 

Need a reminder not to give up on love?

 

Got the feels? Invite your crush over for homemade soup and snuggles.

 

This skirt is my soulmate.

 

I want to bear hug Dan Graves.

 

A thirty-second workout that’ll immediately lift your mood.

 

The best baby gift I received for my newborn.

 

Can I hire this dog to be my nanny?

 

Add one of these destinations to your New Year’s Resolutions.

10 Super Easy Post-Election Food Fixes

 Visions of the apocalypse slowing you down? Need a pick-me-up? These snacks are delicious reminders that joy is only a spoonful away. Since time is best spent plotting your immigration, each food fix takes 2 minutes or less to prepare.

  1. Slice avocado in cubes. Spritz generously with lime juice. Sprinkle sea salt. Add a handful of dried cranberries. In a small bowl, mix with a fork until smooth. Eat with crackers. Muffle sighs of ecstasy.

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  1. Buy Brie. (Was there ever any doubt?) Buy a bag of Lays plain potato chips. Need I say more?

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  1. Tiny marshmallows. They’re like edible clouds. Bonus if they’re multicolored.

 

  1. What’s your two favorite teas? Be decadent and steep them together. Chai & peppermint is especially recommended.

 

  1. Melt aged cheddar in the microwave. Eat with apple slices and chunks of fresh whole wheat bread. Get the grilled cheese feels without cleaning a pan.

Cheese on Toast

  1. Warm sweet green peas (stay with me) dipped in Siracha hot sauce. #madeforeachother #sweetandspicy

 

  1. Add a fresh cinnamon stick to your hot chocolate. Swoon.

 

  1. Mix up your cereal routine. Use greek yogurt instead of milk. Top with honey & kiwi.

 

  1. Dip dried banana slices into a bowl of peanut butter & Nutella.

Chocolate spread and peanut butter

  1. When all else fails, crumble your favorite warm cookies into a pint of vanilla ice cream. If the world doesn’t glitter with every bite, seek medical attention.

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16 Affordable Ways to Feel Like a Boss

1. Rosé – on a Sunday with sliced strawberries

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2. Develop a signature walk

3. White Sneakers (Sane Moyo’s guest post schooled us first on white sneakers. Read more of her fashion tips here: 5 Outfits to be Fierce, Comfortable, and Professional in the Office ) Next level your boss style by rocking an all-one-colour outfit. Black or white preferred, but for the boldest among you, step out in head-to-toe royal blue.

 

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4. Use Armani in a sentence. Any sentence. Chanel works too.

5. Have tea in the lobby of a five-star hotel. Tip included ($12). Wear the white sneakers.

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Photo Cred: Jeff Musolino

6. Run up a flight of stairs like Rocky. Throw some serious air punches.

7. Rooftops

8. Pay just to use the steam room and/or whirlpool at an expensive spa ($20 – $40).

9. Peel and quarter fruit (mango recommended). Sprinkle sugar and squeeze lemon juice on top. Eat with a little spoon.

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10. Don workout gear and go outside in time for the sunrise. Exercise optional.

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Own the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Come up with an alter ego. Hint: Sasha Fierce.

12. Pinstripes

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13. Vintage handkerchiefs

14. Eat only the icing in a minimum of 3 Oreos. Discard rest of cookie like a boss. 

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15.  Beyoncé – Flawless. Add Beyoncé and/or Rick Ross tracks as needed. Gyrating required.

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16. Create something. Anything.

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P.S… For immediate results use Jay Z – Dirt off Your Shoulder on repeat

Why I Cut My Hair

 

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“Your hair is your beauty.”

 

“Why?”

She asked, fingers in my curls.

“Why would you cut it?”

It had been a decade. Ten years.

“Your hair is your beauty,” my gramma said, seeing my long curls for the first time.

For ten years, I wore my hair well past my shoulders. I dragged many a comb through it, grunting at the knotted sections, and mouthing “fuck,” at the familiar sound of plastic snapping.

For ten years, I stacked the compliments (long hair oooh, long hair aaah) atop one another, proof that any beauty I possessed was root-deep.

For ten years, I gawked at women with short hair—friends, lovers, family, strangers. The perfectly shaped mini ringlets, glazed with oil, burnt gold, or holding true to their rooted colour, spinning forth from the scalp like a preened locus.

Yes, it was more than just hair.

Being biracial with the palest of skin, my big hair was an ode to my mother’s blackness. Being bisexual, my long hair was a wall thick and dense, built to keep out crazed homophobes.

Then, I had an excuse.

A short film.

A spoken word short film.

The short film goes something like this… there are 3 women carrying a legacy of suffering: a housewife, a jazz singer, and a narrator. This woman—in her various forms—loses it. She can’t stand the generational pain latched to her skin like a leech.

The Artist is crippled by the marriage between $$ and Art. The Housewife in her genes, the one that really wanted to run the world (and could have) is bitter as hell. The Narrator has jeweled eyes and she wears her purpose around her neck, in a fearless gold loop.

The purpose is a demand for change, for the kind of Art that lives to inspire not enrich, for the kind of world that beckons the ghouls of slavery to obliterate the hatred that remains.

As these interweaving stories are told in rhyming lines, under an entrancing piano loop, I cut my hair off as a symbol, a gesture, a ridding of displaced ancestral meaning—in favor of the narrator’s meaning, her owned truths.

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…her owned truths

That’s what happens in the short film. That’s why I cut my hair, or so I said.

But what happened to me? Why did I do it really?

I was bare. Cold neck. A chrysalis of insides. My whole face felt different, looked different. And, I wanted shorter still. I wanted the pixie cut, shaved neat and clean, and close to my head.

And, I knew something new.

Something I couldn’t have known, when pulling my head back from brush smacks for  fidgeting, while my mum wrangled my hair into tidy braids and smooth buns.

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Nothing I could see in the mirror would ever be my beauty. 

I knew then, staring at my steady lips and dark eyes that nothing had changed. That my hair was never my beauty. Nothing I could see in the mirror would ever be my beauty.

I was never my hair.

With a bob of swirls coated in coconut oil and a freckled frown, I looked closer still, at the weariness in my eyes, at the wobble in my smile.

I was never my hair.

So why did I feel like I’d lost a finger, a limb, some whole and attached piece of me?

I had lost something, you see. I’d lost a decade of hiding. A decade of questioning. A decade of linking cultural heritage to something transient, impermanent, fallible.

A flash of scissors and the tufts of hair left behind had brought back a lifetime.

I relived the pixie cut my mother gave me as punishment. I relived the dragging of an iron over my hair to flatten my coarse, unresponsive mane. I relived the ooohs and aaahs and the ‘Is that your real hair?’ and ‘Can I touch it?’ I relived the bonding – oh, the bonding, with too many women to count (especially the If She Dreams team), over products that worked and didn’t, over the dreaded humidity, how to bottle the ocean air and how to quench my ever-thirsty curls.

The memories livened my face. My fingers felt the new short ends, just below my ear, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d go shorter yet.

“Why? Why would you cut it?”

“Why not?” I thought to myself.

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5 Slay Tips from a Neurochemist, Writer, Friendship Expert, Executive, and Student

What does it mean to slay?

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I’ll admit—I’m still figuring it out.

But, I know this single mom with three kids, who survived a tsunami of bankruptcy, divorce, and welfare. Eighteen months later, she was an executive of a software company: Sarah Centrella.

I also know this Professor Emerita of neurochemistry at California State University. She rewires the brain for happiness. Dr. Loretta Breuning.

There’s this other boss-woman, she’s a friendship expert and the founder and CEO of GirfriendCircles.com who’ll chime in. Shasta Nelson.

Last, but never least, there’s Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love” and “Big Magic.” She knows a thing or two about pretty much everything.

These women live on my bookshelves and I know them inasmuch as I know their labored revelations, that which has been peeled from their minds and souls, and deposited into the pages of their books.

From each of them, I’ve sourced 1 tip that will help you learn how to slay. To these 4 tips, I’ve added 1 of my own, as a woman and student still figuring things out.

Tip 1.The Writer Tip: Make Room for Fear

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“Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?” -Jack Gilbert

A woman who slays is doubtlessly a courageous woman. And, talk of courage always comes back to fear – banishing it, mastering it, overcoming it.

Elizabeth Gilbert takes a different approach to fear in her book, “Big Magic”. She welcomes fear as the “conjoined twin” of creativity. Gilbert believes “Fear and creativity shared a womb,” and their familial lifeline means there’s fear you need, and that you should make space for it, “heaps of space”.

She calls for us to talk back to our fear not with anger, but cordially, because if you “can relax, fear relaxes, too.” Gilbert shows us by talking to her fear directly, and to me, emulating this is step 1 of learning how to Slay.

She says to Fear:

“Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused… You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to vote. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio.”

So we have our first slay lesson from one of the Greats: Invite fear along. Be kind to it. But as Gilbert warns, never ever let fear “drive the car.”

Tip 2.The Executive Tip: Say it & Slay it

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“I believe you can speak things into existence.” -Jay Z

Sarah Centrella charts an 8-step plan to success in her book “Hustle Believe Receive.”

These are the steps: Dream it. Think it. Say it. Write it. See it. Do it. Believe it. Live it.

Of the zillion gems in her book, for lesson 2, I’ve chosen this one for you: Say it. Sarah reminds us that owning your dream begins with verbalizing it.

She says, “Instead of saying If I become X, you say WHEN I become X. It’s really that simple… You talk about it in detail as if it’s a GIVEN. You know it’s coming. Not if, but WHEN.”

For Sarah, hers was a big dream to speak into being. She first vocalized her dreams on a bad date. She told him she was going to be on TV, meet Oprah, write a book, and change the world—all of which she did and is still doing.

To me, that’s a woman that slays.

Follow her footsteps by replacing “IF” with “WHEN” in your own life. Then find someone to share your biggest dream with. Don’t be realistic when you tell them about your dream. Be brave. Say it & Slay it.

Tip 3. The Friendship Expert Tip: It Takes a Village

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“The love in me calls out to the love in others and can never be extinguished.”-Shasta Nelson

It’s easy to let the word slay become a synonym for success. They evoke the same images: pantsuits, award ceremonies, ethereal gowns, finger-snapping.

But, my definition of slay is girded with community and friendship. It is through others, with others, and for others—it takes a village to find happiness and to stand in it, or in other words, to truly slay.

And, that’s why the friendship expert, Shasta Nelson, makes an appearance here. Shasta has written a book entitled, “Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.” Shasta’s book teaches readers how to be a better friend, and by extension, a better person.

Stay tuned to Part II of this blog, launching Sunday June 26th, for one of Shasta’s core lessons and our third slay tip.

In Blog II: We’ll also learn from Dr. Breuning’s book, “Habits of a Happy Brain”. 

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And, you’ll finally hear my very own slay tip. 🙂

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Turning 30: The QuarterLife Crisis

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Is this it?

At 29,  I looked around at the life I built, at the never-clean condo, the 15-minute lunches, the pencil skirts and dry-clean only shirts, and wondered aloud

“Is this it?”

It was spreading. Dating had a palpable urgency. Newlyweds were taking time apart. Friends were quitting their dream jobs. A chorus of discontent had become the anthem of my late twenties, early thirties peer group. The word dream had become vacation; clubbing was now brunch; and kids these days were no longer us.

It seemed as though for most of our lives, we had our heads down, counting our steps, certain that if we hit every milestone, the worst we’d face is baldness and an age-inappropriate car purchase.

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One by one, we were starting to look up.

One by one, we were starting to look up.

Had we made our high school teachers proud? Was it time to hang up the ballet shoes, the football helmet, the guitar? Had all the emblems of possibility been doused by the number 30?

I wasn’t ready.

I watched as friends and family bound and gagged their teenage dreams. College athletes became personal trainers. The best musicians I knew abandoned their bands, their solo projects, their promise to the rest of us that we’d be able to say, I knew that guy, when they struck it rich.

Shouldn’t I be a millionaire by now? Where the hell is my knight?

Every A+ and glossy degree had helped me earn a life I didn’t want. I was re-reading Eat Pray Love like a map back to the effervescent pre-teen me.

I never saw this coming. That’s the thing about the Quarterlife Crisis. No one ever sees it coming. Lavish buys are chalked up to naiveté; break-ups were inevitable; job changes are just growing pains.

The sitcom Friends iconized the ups & downs of the thirties as the romp life phase, wherein self-actualization can be won over coffee and uneducated waitresses end up working at Ralph Lauren. If we could only make it to 28ish, we’d bask in the Friends years – where soul mates live across the hall and a baby daddy’s major flaw is dinosaur talk.

But, what if there’s something more to turning 30? Something that babies, divorce, or even a Balinese medicine man can’t fix.

“Why God? Why?!,” Joey, from Friends, wails on his thirtieth birthday.

“We had a deal. Why are you doing this to us?”

By 30, most of us have known true loss.

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Ran off with Happily Ever After

The Prince/ss stole the fairy dust, kicked you out of the castle, and ran off with happily ever after.

Maybe there was a funeral. And you had to speak. And you thought back to the days when you were afraid of public speaking, when that was the worst thing imaginable, and how worst, the word worst, well you just didn’t know what that meant. So, you spoke at the funeral, and all along, you didn’t believe that your love was really gone, that this was really happening to you, not knowing that there’d come a time when you’d miss the disbelief, when you’d wish you could doubt that your mother, spouse, or best friend was really and truly gone. Because now there was no mistaking it – their absence, a saw, that cuts at the days, making bloody stumps out of old joys.

Or, maybe you fell out of love. You kept looking at the person that used to be your soulmate. Looking for the things you used to see and seeing ordinary and boring in their place. Of course, that didn’t make it any easier. When she took everything away – the first big purchase you made together, the L-shaped couch neither of you could afford, but could fit 6+ people and so became deeply necessary (even though 6+ people never did sit on the couch).

Or maybe you stopped loving yourself. Not because someone hurt you when you were young. You excavated that hurt in your early twenties. Not because someone didn’t love you right. You watched Oprah and starting dating better, kinder men.

It started with a Shush.

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The Right to Dream

The teenager in you, the one that wanted to become president, own multiple business, dance at Julliard, or travel the world was a bit too loud in your early twenties, when all you wanted to do was go out dancing. So, you shushed the teenager. At 25, you started talking back to the teenager with words like silly, stupid, and childish. So, the teenager bowed their head, and shushed.

You took a job you never wanted. And, 26, 27, and 28 became all about working, saving and earning the right to dream. On the odd day when the Easter Bunny, Cupid, or the American Dream scampered into your 9-5, you’d try to listen, but what grownup listens to Cupid?

What you didn’t count on is that you needed the teenager. You missed the teenager. You loved the teenager. So, shutting her up, calling her names, and leaving her alone for a decade would end up hurting. Because not loving all of yourself, hurts. Hurts a lot.

Here’s what we know:

Life is much harder than you expected it to be. Aging is the surest way to learn this. Age does matter. Statistically, as you age, you’re more likely to suffer from the kinds of challenges that make you wiser. The upside is that life is also much more beautiful, eons more fantastical, and replete with orgasms you never could have imagined.

The sooner the Friends fantasy loses hold – the better. Don’t wait until 50 to shake things up, face your mortality, buy a cool car, or shave your head.

Listen to your older sister. Listen to your older brother. Listen to your parents and your grandparents and your Uber driver and the man who makes the best cup of coffee on your street.

Listen to that shrill, heads-in-the-clouds, scrunchie-wearing, teenager, too.

Whether you like it or not, she’s in it for the long haul.

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