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Weighted: The Brief Tale of My Yo-Yoing Weight From High School to College

The cat's out of the bag, I'm struggling to get back into shape. Okay, it wasn't really a secret and I wasn't really keeping it.

The term "back into shape" is really weighted for me because I always have felt like for the majority of my life I've always been trying to get somewhere with my weight. There have only been very brief moments of feeling settled when it comes to my weight or how I look. There's only been brief moments where I've sat back and thought, "I'm here. This is how I'm supposed to look. I'm happy." 

I was never a skinny kid, albeit never really overweight. I was never delicate or petite. I remember feeling "skinny" around the age of four or five, modeling a new two piece bathing suit I was head over heels in love with. Then, I remember being ten or eleven and playing softball. I was always so slow at running compared to everyone else and no matter how hard I worked I felt like I never could get on an even playing field. I hated running and I hated conditioning, but I did a lot of it. I ran back and forth to so many foul poles in my life, that it makes me uneasy and envious of my former self for being able to push through that mental/physical challenge. 

I'm not naturally athletic. Every bit of athleticism I possess I had to earn through blood, sweat, tears, and many long hours. I was the worst person at throwing a softball at the end of one spring season. By the start of fall, I had surpassed everyone else and become the best on my team. It seemed like I had transformed overnight, but I hadn't. My Dad and I had thrown a softball for at least an hour every day over the summer. We did drills. We threw and we threw and we threw. My arm got stronger, my aim got better, and I advanced. The same thing went for hitting and for fielding. I spent hours at batting cages, hitting off tees, and taking lessons.  I felt like I had to work ten times harder than everyone else.

The one thing that never improved despite my constant effort? My weight. 

I never stopped being "the big girl" or the "slow girl." I was always embarrassed by how slow I was or about how I never seemed to get the number uniform I wanted because it was meant for a "small." I felt huge (when actuality, I was a healthy weight for my height). Softball, because of all the running, helped me lose weight little by little. I left each season, feeling "in shape" and "slim" and of course during the off season, gaining it all back. It was a vicious yo-yoing until I graduated high school at my skinniest adult weight ever. 

(if you'd like a reference for what I consider my "skinniest adult weight ever" than this picture gives you a pretty good idea. This is me the summer of 2011).

I remember looking at a picture of myself and finally thinking, "This is it. This is the weight I'm supposed to be at. I'm finally 'skinny'." I fit into tighter fitting tops and I entered the summer before college feeling confident and happy. I went to student orientation and took the photo for my student ID. My face was so skinny, so tan, and so vibrant. 

Freshman year was a roller coaster. I could feel myself gaining weight slowly, but not really feeling affected by it. I stayed within a range that I considered "skinny to normal" and remained feeling, overall, pretty good about my body and my self. My roommate and I would occasionally get down in the dumps about our weight, toss around ideas of crash dieting, and then give up and continue on living our freshman lifestyle (aka tons of fast food and too much alcohol on the weekends).

I gained a ton of weight between freshman and sophomore Christmas Break. I took a look at the mirror and couldn't fathom myself. I vied to be that "skinny" freshman again. My entire family conveniently started low carb dieting while I was home for Christmas break and I was able to lose around 10-15 pounds in two or three months by restricting my carb intake. I noticed a slight difference in my body, but none that felt good enough. It wasn't until a friend's mom commented on "how thin and good" I was looking. My weight loss was suddenly apparent. I then began seeing a guy and my confidence boomed. 

Of course, the low carb lifestyle was hard to maintain as a college sophomore and I gently eased off of it. The weight came back slower, but it did come back.

Junior year was emotionally rough. I stayed relatively in shape during the fall semester because I lived in a sorority house. There was always at least one roommate to go to the gym with and there's something exceptionally self conscious about eating every meal with people tinier than you. There wasn't a meal that went by that someone at the dinner table didn't remark, "Ugh! I'm getting so fat!" or make some sort of calorie-counting comment. I limited my intake without really realizing it and started noticing how blah I felt when eating around so much body negativity. It made me feel indirectly self conscious of every morsel I put in my mouth. By spring semester, a lot of emotional things had happened, and I ate more and cared less. Who cared about calorie counting?! Who cared if they had an extra piece of cake at dinner?! Screw the negative energy! I went in the polar opposite direction, vowing that I would eat whatever and love myself no matter what.

I went on like that for a long time.

This past fall, my friend Jenny and I went to the gym several times a week trying to "get back into shape" again like we were when we were playing softball. That seems silly to think about now because we were literally doing two hours of physical activity a day, five days a week, which is a pretty impossible standard nowadays. Though we were consistent and intentional about our workouts, I never felt like I was losing any weight and I only felt like I was marginally getting into better shape. It was frustrating. My body had never been so slow to respond to the hard work I was putting in. It was so frustrating that I quit.

Then life happened. I got busy and this spring semester I have not been able to get my fitness or health in a place I'm satisfied with. I have short bursts of discipline that don't seem to stick. I've remodeled my pantry full of good food and have tried eating in more. I feel and actually am heavier than ever. It's so frustrating.

Some days I wake up feeling appreciative of my body and everything it can do. I feel thankful that I'm able to get up and run if I want to or am able lift something heavy. Some days I feel like I have the curves of a goddess. Some days I wake up and stare at myself and think of how I have a body straight out of the Italian Renaissance. It makes me beam to think about myself that way as I admire my hips and thighs and skin. I take notice of the soft parts of my body and feel undeniably feminine somehow. 

Other days I wake up and am briefly disgusted. I have a love/hate feeling regarding shopping. Part of me says, "It's only a number on a tag. It does not define your worth. There are cute clothes for any style and any size in this day and age. Buy clothes that fit you, Ashlee" and the other part of me feels helpless and disappointed when nothing looks quite right because of this bulge or that one. I loathe my arms, my stomach, the rolls on my back, and the newly acquired and generous amount of cellulite taking up residence of my booty and thighs. 

My lower stomach has acquired new stretch marks and upon their discovery I sobbed like a vanity obsessed lunatic. Fresh pink and purple marks now line the smallest bulge on my lower tummy, physical proof of my weight gain. I couldn't/can't ignore it any longer.

I immediately began searching through vegan, paleo, gluten-free, non-processed, low-carb, clean-eating, and etc. blogs. The amount of information was overwhelming and I felt more stunned than anything. This was going to be a very long process, with no short-cuts to be had.

So for the past month I've been trying to live healthier and be healthier. I've been slowly trying to make a lifestyle change based on eating the right sorts of food, drinking more water than ever, and incorporating exercise. My emphasis on health instead of "weight-loss" or "being skinny" has made this process seem a little less gruesome.

I know it will be a slow, arduous process and I'm very much in the thick of it. I just wanted to share this story because my health and my weight have been on my mind so much in these past few months. It's been consuming too much brain space and I sometimes think getting thoughts out and into the world is healthy.

So, long story short, I'm working on it.

Have any great recipes, tips, or works-out you love? Let me know!

A Few Forgotten Photos From February

First off, sorry if this gets a bit ramble-y. Some days are less well crafted than others, around here.

It's funny what things you decide to post and which ones you don't. 

I took this photo series on Valentine's Day with the intent of showing off the banner "craft" Jack made me. That banner was/is so special because he made it all by himself with very little help on my end. He wrote everything out without help. He helped cut the triangles of the pennant and glue down the hearts. He delicately helped me string it together, directing everything as it went. The best part? He let me keep it.

My heart swells with so much happiness whenever I see that thing. It was so special, I thought I'd try and share it, along with a little outfit post.

I picked out my favorite and only pair of red jeans. I wear them sparingly, but especially on Valentine's Day. They were snug for the first time ever. I threw on my favorite stripped shirt (remembering somewhere in the back of my mind that horrible snippet of advice that says "horizontal stripes make you look wide"), that I got on sale and accompanied it with a vest I begged for for Christmas. The vest barely zipped. I threw on my favorite black boots, worn in in all the right ways, only to realize they made me look stubby and short upon review.

After taking too many pictures and freezing whilst doing so, I opted out of posting them.

Why? Because, I didn't like the way I looked in any of them. I could see the outline of my thighs and the thickness of my upper body. I could see the way my hair kept flying away and the way my cheeks suddenly looked so round. I could spot the slight difference in my eyes, one being slightly larger than the over. I could see every flaw rolled into one and I detested it. 

Part of me said, "forget it, love your body for what it is" and the other part of me cringed and thought "how have I let it get this bad?" 

I'm still somewhere in between those two sentiments, but regardless of that, I thought I'd share some of these pictures anyways.

Today, I choose to love my body for what is and acknowledge the reality of who I am in these pictures. I am more than a pair of jeans that don't fit quite right and more than a bad hair day. I more than boots and material things. My worth is determined by so many more things.

Plus, why should I deprive the world of seeing this amazing banner Jack made me? It'd be a shame to withhold something I'm so proud of him for.

Tea Talk .003

(a corner of my home currently)

Happy Monday! Here's to another round of Tea Talk. I'm sipping on some Vanilla Chai as I dish to you about my latest plant purchase, my new relationship, and my some of favorites this week (including a beauty fave, a flower find, and a Netflix pick!). So cozy on up with a beverage of your choice as we get down to some tea talk.

Simon, The Succulent 

I wish I had a fun/cool project to update you on and though I am working on a ton of projects - work projects, school projects, freelance side projects - I don't have any I'm doing just on a personal level.

My most recent "project" has been taking care of Simon, The Succulent (pictured above in the cool gold planter). Simon has been the perfect addition to the apartment. He usually sits on that little shelf in the corner next to a candle, but he was getting some much needed sunshine on the window seal here. Every time I come home, he makes me smile. He brings life into the apartment and that's just what I need. PLUS, he fulfills my need to see something green and living. Though days are getting longer and a bit warmer, I have the distinct feeling winter is not quite done with us yet. 

For now, Simon is my little lifeline to the spring/summer weather to come.

A Little Life Update

A lot has been on my mind and I've been going, going, going for what feels like forever. There are now only 54 days until I graduate college and my mind is blown. Where has the time gone? Every week feels long, but man, time is flying by.

I feel like my internship is going well and I'm academically surviving. 

Though I don't know how much I intend on sharing about this subject, I think I should mention that in recent months I've entered into a semi-serious relationship. That, in addition, to the rest of what I do has been consuming a lot of time (in a good way). It's been an interesting transition, that's for sure. As someone highly independent, it's been a bit of an adjustment from going from a "me" to a "we." This relationship has brought out behaviors, responses, and tendencies I never quite fully realized about myself; some good, some not as great. 

Girl, Check This Out!
  • I took the plunge and subscribed to Messy Box. After seeing the unboxing video, I was sold. 
  • Just discovered Bouqs and think it's the epitome of cool. Dying for fresh flowers of my own!
  • Watched the entire season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I find it easy to watch, a little ridiculous, and a lot of funny. It's the perfect thing to watch if you need something light hearted.
  • Beauty pick of the week has to be this Sonia Kashuk tinted moisturizer with SPF 15. It's easy and breezy for days where lighter makeup is a must, has staying power, and makes my skin look more poreless. Awesome!

What have you been up to? Let me know!

10 Things I Know To Be True: Internship Edition

1. It's a All About Balance
Internships are great practice for real life jobs and real life / work balance. Learning how to juggle projects and work-related commitments, in addition to your life outside of work is challenging. Add school into the mix and it's especially challenging! I currently attempt to balance my internship, a full course-load of college classes, a bi-weekly ambassadorship, and weekly sorority-related commitments. It's a lot to take on and I've never felt more inundated with things I need to do.

Instead of completely sinking under the weight of it all, I've actually found myself becoming more focused and organized. On the whole, I get my work done in a more timely manner both at school and at work. I've begun to procrastinate less in all aspects of life and I find that I'm more focused while doing work. Free time is precious and I want to ultimately set myself up to enjoy as much of it as possible.

I'm more organized. If I don't write it down or set myself a reminder – then it won't get done. I've learned how to realistically schedule myself and brace for the week ahead.

2. It's Going To Be Fast Paced
Don't worry, it's nothing you can't handle. Internship and business work days function vastly different from school days. There are a bevy of deadlines to meet and everyone has their own list of priorities and to-do's. Getting assimilated into this fast paced environment will be the hardest part. There will be days when you feel like you're drowning, but hopefully those are far and few between. A great example from my own personal internship experience revolves around a project I would've had two or three weeks to get done in school. It was my second week at my internship and I was given roughly 3-4 days to bring something substantial to a meeting. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to meet the deadline and an equally tremendous amount of pressure to prove myself all at once. The first big project may be the hardest just because of those two factors alone. Don't be afraid. Push through. You'll adjust to the pace! Pride yourself on quick turn arounds.

3. Be A Self Starter
All I mean by this, is be self-motivated. Don't sit back and wait to be told what to do. Don't wait to be asked if you're working on anything. Don't wait until people come asking about projects long ago forgotten to start on them. Motivate yourself to go above and beyond in order to see long term success. Once you finish all of your tasks, make it a habit to immediately ask for more. I often find that when I've come to a good stopping point on all of my projects, I take a good 20 minute breather and then ask my fellow designers if there's anything they'd like me to do (whether it be picking up something they need help on or starting something new entirely). Remember that an internship is all about gaining experience and the more projects you're able to get your hands on, is just more experience. Make it worth your while.

4. It's Important to Ask A Lot of Questions
Any time you start somewhere new, there's going to be an adjustment period. That's okay. What's not okay is fumbling around blindly through your adjustment period and failing to ask questions along the way. There's no shame in asking for help–ever. Bottom line. There's definitely no shame in asking questions in order to do your job effectively or how to thrive effectively on a personal level within the confines of work. Ask about company culture, basic rules, and definitely ask for a general run down of a typical day. As a designer, I came in needing to know everything about the way my company branded itself (internally and externally). I came in knowing that my job didn't have an a "typical day" and that I'd have to be largely communicative and self motivated. Ask lots of questions in your interview and ask lots of questions post hire too. There's no shame in knowing ahead of time what you'll be signing up for if you accept an offered position.

Luckily, most jobs/internships have on-boarding for new hires, which is a great resource and a perfect chance to get a more in depth look at your company and your role within it.

5. Technology Isn't On It's Way Out Anytime Soon
Where I intern there are a lot of locations and a ton of the employees work remotely at home. Members and head honchos on my team are based out of an entirely different state! I've found that this work situation has become increasingly regular amongst a lot of businesses. It's amazing what technology has done for the work environment and it's more vital than ever.

My advice? It's important to practice polishing those video conferencing skills. Whether you interview via video conferencing or attend weekly meetings with members in remote locales, it's important to know how to utilize tools like Google Hangout, Skype, and Facetime. My first week, I was given a crash course in Google Hangouts and instructed to plan 15 minute introductory meetings with our team members in another state. I felt awkward and nervous, but ultimately, it was a great exercise.

Also, it's important to figure out the whole email thing. Businesses utilize email in a much more demanding and practical way. Before my internship the only email I received was from my sorority and shops I signed up to send me deals. In that same vein, I rarely did any emailing either (unless you count emailing myself documents for class ten minutes beforehand). Now? That's a totally different story. I email everyday and quite a lot. It's important to master email and professionalism via email (be courteous, be yourself, never hit 'reply all' unless you're sure, know the difference between cc and bcc, and spellcheck!). Be authentic when emailing and err on the formal side of things when in doubt. Once you get settled at your internship you'll get a better idea of the tone most commonly used in office emails and between employees.

6. However, Face-to-Face is Key
On that note, know when email or IM isn't appropriate. If you're able to communicate face to face with someone on a project detail, I always find it more productive. There are countless studies out there about this I'm sure, but being able to see, hear, and read the body language of someone really eliminates the confusion often garnered through email. I find that face-to-face interaction is great whenever someone is not sure about something big/complex within the project (sometimes concepts are hard to convey over email) or if an urgent response/snap decision is needed.

Also, getting feedback face-to-face is invaluable. I find I take feedback better when given to me face-to-face because it feels more like a conversation or discussion. I like being able to hear, "This color isn't working, but maybe we could implement this color here and adjust the overall width to comply with the background change the client requested. What do you think?" versus sending off a project via email and getting a list of critiques (i.e. Color isn't working. Adjust widths. Nix the background). It comes off more accusatory at times and I'm more inclined to feel like I've done something wrong.

7. Find The Right Fit
Even if your first real job or internship experiences aren't everything you ever wanted, never lose sight of finding value in the right job fit. Find companies whose missions you believe in, whose culture is compatible with your nature, and companies who value people with your skill set. Focusing in on these characteristics may help you narrow in on ideal and attainable places to intern (and hopefully someday work at). Finding the right fit is key to loving what you do long term.

8. Organization Tops Everything
Being organized feels like something second nature to put on a resume, but really take a step back and ask yourself if you are. Be honest about how organized you are and then try to set yourself up for success in the workplace. I'm the type of person that has to write everything down. If it doesn't get written down, then it doesn't get done. I utilize productivity tools while at work (mainly Trello for keeping up with projects and Toggl for keeping track of how much time I'm devoting to each task). I also like to keep a physical list and an agenda of things to get done. I try to keep work and school separate as well. Organization is impossibly crucial during your internship process. There will be a lot of metaphorical balls in the air and making sure you're organized enough not to drop them is half the struggle.

9. Internships Are Multidimensional
Sure, you'll be doing everything in your job description, but internships are far less one-noted than that. They comprise themselves of things you'd never thought you'd be doing (in a good way). You'll get to help with projects in different facets. You'll gain a ridiculous amount of experience in professional areas besides just your specific job role. For example, my internship has been less about growing my design skills (though this has definitely happened!), but rather honing them for the work environment. I've learned more about how a company functions and more about how to work professionally on client projects. I've learned how to design more quickly and efficiently, too. I've learned so much about marketing, branding, and development. Your internship is going to be multidimensional you'll gain more knowledge than you bargained for!

10. Treat Yo Self
Find paid internships if you can. There's been a big wave of turnover recently in the general attitudes surrounding internships of the paid variety (which are becoming more and more). In some industries it may be harder than others to find paid internships. Sometimes the connections and value you get from getting hands on experience in a well-known or highly regarded establishment trump getting a pay day. However, most companies are beginning to view internships as a starting point for soon-to-be grads or post-grads. In fact, a lot of places are implementing intern-to-hire type of programs. Compensation shows that the company values your presence, work, and time. It's a win-win. So, find a paid internship if you can. Save most of your $ and then TREAT YO SELF!

Do you have any valuable insights to add to this list? Let me know! I'd love to know any tips/advice you have about thriving at an internship or in the post-grad work environment! Tell me all about your experiences (good & bad).