Stop Obsessing & Eat the Christmas Cookie: Why Not To Diet This Holiday

Image from Bon Appetit

Image from Bon Appetit

 

Every year around this time I get a little unnerved that the holidays are somehow going to wreak havoc on my health. And each New Year’s, regardless of what real harm the holidays have done, I arrive with a resolution of nixing this or that in pursuit of perfecting my diet; lofty pursuits that manage to cut you off from the rest of the world if you endeavor to maintain them 7 days a week, which inevitably will drive one to a mental frenzy over how to eat and look perfect this season . They may not have always been outspoken plans or obvious labels such as being a “vegan” or “gluten-intolerant,” but they were my own tactics to acheiving this ideal.  It’s sounds lame and shallow (because it is) but it is a concern I’ve allowed to suck the life out of one too many Holidays Seasons.

Last January, after such a season, I came upon a Huffington Post one month too late. Contributor Margaret Wheeler Johnson had written an honest list that hits home with just about any and every woman, Holiday Eating: 17 Things to Consider When Your Obsessing About Food and Weight. (Margaret - I wish you could have told me to consider these things when I was 17!) Each and every point Johnson brings up stings like a dagger, because they’re everything I’ve thought, every thing I’ve struggled with, and likely everything any female struggles with at some point. 

My ideas of healthy living have been more of an ideal than anything else. While I’ve never had a clinical eating disorder, I’ve gone through my seasons when my ways among food were and have often been disorderly. Not disorderly as in I binge and purge, but disorderly as in I mentally calculate how many carbs are on my plate. I strategically order my “special” Starbucks drink to be under so many grams of sugar. Most ashamedly, I’ve been that girl who has, at times, tried to find ways of nixing butter and sugar and sneaking in more whole grains into the Christmas cookies. Looking back at all these crazy Holidays I’ve tried insanely hard to achieve and  “maintain” some perfect diet, to get some perfect body, to one day somehow feel perfectly secure and happy, while attempting to bake “good-for-you” gluten-free cookies (I know, I should’ve gotten coal for Christmas that year) they were always the more miserable holidays. My mind was wrapped around an ideal that I had been fixated on forming my body to and therefore completely wrapped up around me, during a time it should be the least focused on me.

“Maintaining one’s health” can be quite the self-consuming task. Our concept of health has evolved greatly through the years, for better and for worse. Health: the state of being free from illness or injury. Today we tend to rate a clean bill of health on whether a trace of gluten is in our system or a teaspoon of sugar has passed our lips in the past week. When “maintaining one’s health” become miserable why do we think it’s good for us? I know we all know this (heck, I've known it for years) but do we really know it? As in, eat with some sense and sensibility?

The search for the perfect diet, the ideal body or some self-sufficient plan that will make us skinny (and therefore forever-happy) just does not exist. The perfect body does not exists. Cindy Crawford even says, "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford." Again, these are thinks we know (hear, read, say) but don’t really live like we know it.  A healthy diet is so much more sensible and reasonable than we can wrap our heads around in our culture of bizarre extremities and immediate gratification. So learn earlier than I did and don’t let this crazy search for perfection by means of some indoctrinated diet ruin your holiday, or any day for that matter.

2 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence by Noon

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Truth be told, it’s common for most any female to be found in one of two frames of mind: “I’m ugly.” or... “I’m fat.” Some days we wake up in it, other days we’re just dandy until the slightest thing sets us off into a self-loathing, mirror-avoiding, Victoria Secret Model-envying oblivion. Habitual self-doubt and insecurity is the gray, stormy cloud that we live under, walking around with our heads down, like Linus from Charlie Brown. We often accept “it’s just a part of life”, this idea that we will always feel and look average and that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. It’s a norm we reside in and assume the only girls who don’t are those we envy (though likely they deal with it just as much as the next).

While we girls ride on such degrading thoughts and emotions most guys are mentally and vocally buffering their egos. Really, it wouldn’t hurt us to learn a thing or two from the boys on this one. 

As females we can spend years trying to look like someone else, wishing away every trait we posses. The more we accept we are “less than,” (less than the girls in the magazine, less than our hot friends Instagram selfies, less than our ex-boyfriend’s next girlfriend) the less we make of what our lives could fully be. We whittle down our happiness to consist of a night with a jar of Nutella, a spoon and an old fashioned rom-com (that’s a romantic comedy, a.k.a 90% of the films made in the 90’s for you youngn’s) and begin presenting and referring to ourselves as less than, less than all we could be. 

If there were two things I could tell my college/high-school-self (who then, quite a few jean sizes larger I might add, did look forward to such nights with Nutella more weeks than not) it would be these two ways of thinking that have come to change my self-worth and outlook on life as a whole, no matter how crazy my life may look these day. 

For all the ways we hate and analyze ourselves, here are two simple ways you girls could boost your confidence today! “Because you’re worth it.” (I know - completely cheesy, but completely necessary for you to hear.)

  1. Stop complicating food & eat like a sensible human being.

As women, we like to complicate things. (I know, ground-breaking news for you all.) One way we screw ourselves over most often is in our relationship with food.

At some age it seems we become programmed, in our American society as women, to think that food is either a dietary sentence or a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. We don’t know how to function outside of all or nothing. Maybe I was just the most odd young girl, but even my determined search for a balance way of eating was many times unbalanced. But it shouldn’t be.  

A few things to consider before stuffing your face or are reaching for a toilet to purge in (and I am not making light of this, because I know it’s a common resolve we seek): Real food is a necessity to life, is made in a variety and abundance for us to enjoy without guilt and will no doubt benefit you with a lean body and sharp mind. So eat woman!

Our psyche and stomach are connected in more ways than one, and the moment you start feeding your body sensibly is not only the moment your brain will function better, but your state of mind will be renewed, and you will begin to detach yourself from this frivolous notion that you have to eat perfectly to feel confident and beautiful.

Eating daily should be equally enjoyable and enriching. It shouldn’t feel like a prescription or a restriction. While I could talk on this subject for days, simply put, learning to eat like a sensible human being will change you from inside and out. 

2. Every now and then, indulge in your girly-self...

It was for long the joke among my mom and sisters that I would spent more money on Vogue magazines than I did on the clothes I wanted. I gawked over styles I would never wear because I didn’t feel I could pull it off, or I kept waiting to look perfect to feel worthy of wearing these great outfits. Many of us do this, with clothes, hairstyles and makeup. We have just how many boards on Pinterest, how many magazines of things we love but think we could “just never pull off”? Well it’s time you feel like a little girl playing dress up. Try something new. Wear that outfit that you keep gawking over but don’t feel you could pull off, go to a beauty counter you can’t afford like Bobbi Brown and learn how to do groom your eyebrows. After all it’s free and that’s what they’re there for, not just the Jane Does sporting their Jimmy Choo’s.

Being the confident you doesn’t mean you have disregard being feminine, pretty or primped every now and then. It means it’s ok to play dress up and try new things

While we should be confident as the girls and women we are today, putting the slightest intention towards the areas of fueling and presenting one’s self has a massive impact on our value and self-worth. Stop punishing yourself for not being as perfect as you wish you were and start treating yourself as if you were as great a woman as you desire to be. My Dad repeats it to this day, and though it’s a slightly corny note to end, some Disney quotes are just as fitting for us as adults as they were when we were kids. So girls, women... “You are more than what you have become.” 

The Mindy Project Sheds Light on a Christian Trend : When God is Telling You To Move On

 

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It was a real let down the other night, to discover the latest episode of New Girl wasn’t available yet On Demand. (When you’re missing things like Netflix in your life, such moments are pathetically disappointing.) So, since I wasn’t quite ready to invest in something deep and heavy (Breaking Bad has just about sucked every ounce of faithful TV drama-following I could possibly invest ... until January, that is of course, when Downtown Abbey returns), alas, I decided to give my next 20 minutes to The Mindy Project. (Side note: I realize, when it comes to TV shows, I can be like that person who “doesn’t like desserts” but somehow still manages to consume more than is necessary.) 

The Mindy Project is, just what it claims to be, a project by Mindy Kaling. Mindy Kaling (the annoying Kelly everyone loved to hate from The Office) created a show light and funny enough to not feel like a complete waste of time. It’s like Pinkberry for Primetime, sweet and not necessarily over-induldgent, but still completely unnecessary. Either way, having not watched more than a few episodes of the first season, in it’s second season (whatever was the latest available On Demand at the time) this well-established doctor has a boyfriend named Casey, who she went to Haiti with, who then proposed to her, and comes back to the States to marry her, just to decide they should hold off until they could have a “real” wedding (whatever that means these days). Oh. Did I mention her boyfriend just happens to be a fun-loving, cute, hip pastor? Go figure. 

(**Spoiler alert** - for those Mindy late bloomers.) In this epidsode, Mindy’s Pastor/boyfriend decides he’s not called to be a pastor anymore. So from the pastorate he leaves to pursue his new calling - the hard life of a DJ. To cut to the chase, he lands a few gigs, feels less than supported by Mindy in this new calling and quickly decides it just isn’t “him.” Pastor Casey’s next true calling is... Events Planning. By the end of the episode Mindy can’t take much more and calls it quits with Casey, the Pastor/ DJ/ aspiring-Events Planner. 

When Casey tries to defend his deeply rooted reasoning for his ever-changing career mode, he claims “God’s telling me to change; I have to listen.” Mindy replies, “Sometimes I feel like when God’s telling you to change, there’s a little of you talking too.” And... the sappy heartbreaking love music swells, Casey packs up his bags and Mindy finds herself on the couch with a box of kleenex, eating Ben & Jerry’s, watching Jerry MacGuire. (Ok, not really, but that’s where most girls would wind up by the end of the night.)

Its rare that Christians receive any limelight on a sitcom, unless you’re referring to the GCB-take on Christians or that coach on Friday Night Lights (sorry, never gave it the time of day.) While most stereotypes are harsh (such as GCB), representing a percentage of Christianity (a real percentage), it’s often a one-sided and generic view of people who identify themselve as Christ-followers. Christians are still human, no doubt; full of fault and folly. Specifically, Christians are rarely viewed as handsome, tall men with dating potential, on any show.

So, why a Casey would be chosen for Mandy’s rather somber episode says a lot about the perception of Christians in our current culture. What Mindy says to Casey, I wish more Christians would say to each other. I wish more people would have said this to me. 

While it’s not something we like to acknowledge, it’s interesting how a Christian’s perception of “hearing God” is often linked to the things that hold more of our attention than God does. So maybe it’s not even us we’re listening to as much as these obsessions or fixations, such as the perfect job.

The majority of young adults are already struggling to find lucrative careers that fit like a glove, that don’t feel like work.  But, a majority (of young adults - not necessarily Christians) also realize work, and an income are essential and not every season in life affords us the luxury of doing what we feel we are made to do. What we feel “called” to do, that dream job that excites and thrills us, often requires getting our hands more dirty and stretching ourselves much further than many self-proclaimed believers of Christ have the tenacity to endure. Yet it’s interesting how many of those who wouldn’t consider themselves Christians or remotely religoius can somehow sort through their emotions and frustrations, and truly commit to work that wouldn’t fit in their fresh-out-of-college-ideal dreams. 

Could this perception of Christians be because many (of us) can’t make up our minds and are too easily swayed by emotions and discontent?  Or do we simply hold too much of our identity in a career? For the Christian Culture, could our misinterpretation of vocation make some of us more unstable and unreliable, because in actuality it’s not God that we’re listening to but ourselves? While, clearly as The Mindy Project protrays, Christians have the tendency to move and change careers often. Could it be because we “listen to God” or, as the closing scene of The Mindy Project played out, could it be a common flaw among us? When “hearing God” shows a lack of maturity in those of us who claim to hold to this Christian faith, I wonder what faith it is we really hold to.

 

What Happens When Hunger Strikes?

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 Starving yourself as a revolutionary movement, as a zealous motion for political change, seems like a foreign concept to most of us. Maybe it’s foreign, particularly to one over-fed, immoderate Nation. Starvation is probably the least likely form of a strike Americans would gravitate to as a means to opposing the system. For some reason, it’s not a course to make one’s voice heard we are accustomed to.

But across the world, in years past, it’s probably been considered the most civil form of rebellion. Hunger strikes are a silent, self-inflicted protest; a modest man’s revolt. While there are those occurences, such as the recent Guantánamo hunger strike, who forgo daily feeding by the masses, hunger strikes are more commonly suffered in solace. 

Pussy Riot band member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is currently serving a two-year prison sentence for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” (basically a sacreligious concert in Moscow’s main Orthodox Cathedral in order to publicly, and creatively, I might add, denounce Vladimir Putin) feels her living conditions in the woman’s penal colony are life threatening and inhumane. This week, in writing, Nadezhda announced:

"Therefore, on Sept. 23, I am declaring a hunger strike and refusing to take part in the slave labor in the colony until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle thrown out of the justice system to serve the needs of the sewing industry but like people."  (The Huffington Post)

Considering the uproar this Pussy Riot-er took part in, there is no telling what kind of conditions and treatment any of these pussies may be facing, and the leader of this pack has decided to take this rather public, but reclusive stance against what she feels is brutal treatment. But just how beneficial are these hunger strikes? Since the early 20th century, such strikes have been endured to see through vision and cultivate change in society. So can an individual's will power to deny themselves sustenance and withstand hunger really cause change?

Looking back at past non-violent revolutions, what exactly happens when hunger strikes?

1. The Government Pays Attention

One of the first recorded in history, and certainly the first woman, Marion Wallace was arrested for stenciling a part of the British Bill of Rights on the House of Commons. In response, to what she felt was an inhuman sentence imprisonment, Marion embarked on one of the first ever hunger strikes.

Quickly (4 days to be exact) Marion was released from prison for fear of her declining health.

2. Countries Find Peace

Certainly famous for more than just hunger strikes and possibly one of the most fierce non-violent figures in history, Gandhi turned to these starvation strikes a number of times. Some were more successful than others. A 21 day fast that he set out on against British rule, proved unsuccessful while another fast concluded within five day with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus agreeing to work towards the national unity Gandhi envisioned.                                                                                             (US News)

3. People Die

Following a 5 year protest with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) that began in 1976, Sands initiated a hunger strike with cell mates in 1981 after being imprisoned for his riotous acts. Actually, Bobby’s strike followed the IRA’s “group” strike, a “no wash” motion where IRA prisoners didn’t wash for days, but rather covered their cells in their excrements and wastes. (Who wouldn’t lose their appetite after that?)

While the strike ultimately led to Bobby’s death (he died 60 days after beginning the fast, and 9 other deaths followed him), while imprisoned and on strike Bobby was elected to the British Parliament.                                                                       (BBC)

4. Celebrities Find Purpose for Starvation 

Mia Farrow embarked on a 12 day fast, for the “people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease.” Though due to doctor’s orders Mia had to end, what she had hoped would be a 21 day strike, by day 12. While Mia may have rated her movement as unsuccessful, it did give her something to blog about...                                                                                     (The Huffington Post)

Fall Films to Look Forward to

After a summer of sequels, familiar futuristic fantasies and every genre’s depiction of the world’s demise, finally there is a season of films coming that may be worth your $12.50. Fall tends to be the time when most Oscar-contending films debut.

While there is nothing to look forward to see this weekend, technically the first day of Fall is upon us tomorrow. So along with pumpkin lattes and falling leaves (for some of us at least),  some fresh and enticing films await us just around the corner... (five days to be exact.)

 

Rush

September 27

 

Ron Howard (director of Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind and a familiar voice you may recognize from Arrested Development) presents the story of the famous British race car  driver rivals, James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Whether a story is familiar, or sounds remotely  interesting, Howard finds a way to portray every man’s individual story of overcoming life's obstacles in a way that is both compelling and fully baked. Returning with the screenwriter of Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan, ( also screenwriter of The Last King of Scotland) Rush is sure to be an Oscar contender.

 

Gravity

October 4

 

No one knows quite where this story will go, outside of following Sandra Bullock adrift in space.  Yet most everyone who has seen this trailer is equally duped and terrified at the concept of such a plot; a freakish déja vu of your worst reoccurring nightmare. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, spanish filmmaker of Children of Men and Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (talk about a breadth of work), who knows what audiences will be in for. If all else fails, anything with George Clooney’s name on it is likely worth a watch.

 

Captain Phillips

October 11

Tom Hanks.

(Could we just leave it at that?) This is reason enough to see a film.

Leading in, yet another, seaside thriller, this story may be a bit more terrifying with the company of pirates rather than a faithful companion named Wilson. Captain Phillips is the true story of a merchant mariner who’s ship was raided by Somali pirates, who take Phillips hostage on a lifeboat for days. It’s been some time since Hanks has lead in a thrilling, character-driven story (sorry, Cloud Atlas just didn’t do it for me.) Along with  director Paul Greengrass, of the Bourne  films, it will can only add an edge for a guarenteed nail-bitting watch.

 

12 Years a Slave

October 17

Based on the memoir of a free man, husband, father and musician in New York City, 12 Years a Slave  is the story of a man who accepts what he thinks is a business venture that misleads into slavery for the next 12 years of his life. 

This riveting cast includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt (also a producer for the film), Paul Giamatti and is directed by Steve McQueen (best known for The Last King of Scotland.)

 

The Monuments Men 

December 18

 

George Clooney brings yet another star-studded entourage to tell the true story a group of art historians and museum curators during WWII, who risk their lives to save famous works of art before the Nazi’s destroy them. Directed and written by George Clooney, it may not be as quirky as Leatherheads or Men Who Stare at Goats, but this dramedy may still carry a comic-Clooney flair.


 

How Much Money are You Leaving on the Table?: All things (I wish I had) Considered

                                                                                  Image from Refinery29

                                                                                  Image from Refinery29

There are many things I would change if I went back in college. Not that I have any desire to go back, whatsoever, but I certainly would have considered doing some things differently. I would have been a bit more of a realist, particularly where my degree was concerned.

Maybe it’s a female trait (hate to stereotype) or comes with the creative type (can’t help but stereotype), but you could say I was a tad idealistic in pursuing a music performance degree. I was very much the “I just want to sing!”-type in school, without any consideration or desire to explore a practical approach to such a career, or better yet, pursue a degree that would compliment my passion for a more lucrative position, and by lucrative I mean a steady salary.

Often once we leave college, interests change, degrees change, and (thank God) we change. For those of us who have yet to pursue an MA, and are working to make a decent living as adults (though there is a growing trend to avoid that as long as possible) are we using our degrees to their greatest potential? Or are we leaving money on the table?

This week NPR covered a segment on Why Women Choose Lower Paying Jobs. A recent study shows “The Percentage of Women in the Least Lucrative Jobs” well outweighs the percentage of men. In the segment, economist Anthony Carnevale, of Georgetown University, took a moment to rate just how much money this NPR reporter left on the table:

I described my situation to Carnevale: I majored in applied math. I have an MBA. And 

I’m working as a reporter at NPR. 

‘Oh, you left a lot of money on the table,’ he told me. ‘You left probably as much as $3 [million] to $4 million on the table.’

Whether male or female, those in their 20’s likely pursued a degree in an area they considered themselves talented in. And Boomers (aka our parents and other wiser, older generations) would likely tell us, “You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated.(Just read the slightly demeaning, but practical advice in Forbes, 20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get, which may benefit more than just 20-somethings.) Everyone is talented, but not everyone is smart enough to consider how to incorporate their talents into a career that would be both profitable and lasting.

Some of us may be more concerned with doing what we’re passionate about than whether or not there is any money left on the table. Though money is not always the objective, with whatever is left on the table, could we also be leaving opportunity and skills that could inadvertently be the necessary growth for our talents? 

There is no harm in pursuing a degree in the arts or doing what you love, but seeking out potential possibilities by merging your passions with productive skills, especially for those currently in college or furthering education, is certainly something to consider.

 

Blue Jasmine: A Rare Blossom from a Director Always in Rare Form

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If you mention Woody Allen, you are likely to get either one of the two responses: a clearly disgusted “Ugh,” with a roll of the eyes, or, the more rare, overwhelming “Ahhh!” of delight, eyes glistened with glee. I tend to fall in the latter, which may explain why it took over a month after it’s theatrical release to find a showing of his latest film.

I understand this director is a unique character with flaws not everyone can overlook to  expereince the wonder of his films, still Woody Allen is an acquired taste. Because when watching a Woody Allen film, the one thing you do know is you never know what you’re in for.  

Woody Allen’s films are like a variety of distinct espresso drinks. One may be strong but topped with delightful frothiness, another flighty and too sweet for some to consume, while others are so dark and grimy you’re chewing bitter coffee grinds in the last sip. Whichever concotion it is, Allen packs a punch in each film. Regardless of preference, Woody Allen’s creations are, without a doubt, as broad as espresso is versatile.

His most recent film, Blue Jasmine, would probably fall into the category of bitter and acidic, the one full of earthy grinds at the bottom of the cup, or more like that last cup from a french press that is half full of grinds. (Is it weird that I like that?) Somehow Blue Jasmine is still an invigorating production, that leaves you thinking, “Whoah. I don’t know if I could take all that in again.”, just to later recall it as surprisingly palatable, just different. I had no idea what to expect, except for some amusement ( thanks to Alec Baldwin) and a for sure stellar performance from Cate Blanchett, regardless of where the film would go. And, amusement and sublime entertainment I did discover. 

Blue Jasmine, the story of a modern day Park Ave, pretentious woman who’s dependency on wealthy men leaves her a year short of a degree and a head short of any horse sense. The film opens after Jasmine’s husband has left her for another, younger woman, her son has disowned her and financial wrecked, she’s drags herself, all packed up in her Louis Vuitton bags, to her penniless sister’s cramped apartment (who’s she’s neglected in times of financial hardships in the past.) Set in San Fransico, Jasmine has made the plunge, ready to start a new life on a clean slate, ready to find herself.

It is a gritty, idle and delusioned journey for what some modern woman’s expecations and depiction of life should be. Following Jasmine, now in her 40’s, without a degree, a man and much common sense (she spends her last measly dollars to upgrade to first class on her flight) is at times painful to watch. She struggles looking for a bearable desk job, going to computer classes just to work that job, facing an unwanted dating life, and again searching down another man to be the provider that will sweep her away from a life of reality, responsibility or financial independance, fulfilling all her dreams and desires. ( I guess she didn’t learn the first time.)

Jasmine (though apparently inspired by the Tennessee Williams “Streetcar Named Desire”) is such a brass, pale and tight-laced woman, with such an impractical expectation of what life owes her, it would be surprising if this is an interpretation of some version of the New York prudish women the director may have previously encountered. Through a turn of, somewhat gradual, events Blue Jasmine displays the danger of idleness, entitlement and wayward thinking that can send a woman to her grave. (No spoilers here, don’t worry.) It’s presented in the most cynical, gritty Allen-esque way some may find this one hard to swallow. But if you appreciate variety, a little spice (ok, a lot of spice) and reflecting on the real dangers that a detached, dreamy and delusional mind create for itself , “Blue Jasmine” is well worth your consumption.

 

5 (of the Many) Reasons Why Congress Can’t Agree on Syria

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For those of us who rarely turn on the news, we may be casually nodding or shaking our heads these past days in conversations on Syria, when really we haven’t a clue about what’s going on, with the exceptions of some “chemical warfare in Syria.” Well, I’ll be the first to admit that when the news came out on the chemical explosions in Damascus, I hadn’t the slightest idea (ashamedly and bashfully) of the implications this one attack could have. Sadly, it normally takes events to reach the point of such potential global impact to get our attention.

Today, as Senate continues to argue on cases for whether or not we should attack Syria, it’s probably time those of us (ehem, myself included)  take a closer look at what exactly is going on, and why we should care whether or not Congress agrees to move forward with a strike on Syria. No doubt, it will have longstanding effects on our nation and the rest of the world, even though the majority of us might not notice until our primetime shows are interrupted with a National address from our President.

Here are five reasons why apparently more than 280 representatives remain undecided:

1. Syria’s chemical attack violated international law.

While some question the fine print of this internation law, Syria indeed agreed to this in the 1925 Geneva protocal, which first prohibited the use of chemical weapons in war.

Though in the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, that furthered the Geneva protocal to outlaw the production and use of these weapons, Syria was not among the countries that agreed to destroy the possesions of chemical arms.              (The Washington Post)

2. America is Allies with Israel.

(“So...?” you might be thinking. How does Israel factor into this attack?)

It is likely, since the US are allies with Israel (meaning we have committed to protect Israel at all costs) that the Bashar Assad regime (aka Syria) may attack Israel if we pose a threat to them, because they will no doubt get a response from such an attack.

Still the argument for some representatives is that it is not our battle to fight. 

Though others argue that Syria may attack if we don’t do anything. Though Secretary of State, John Kerry stated on Wednesday, a politician who has remained quite opposed to military action in the past,to why the US should take action: “the world is watching.” 

3. We need to uphold International norms.

Over 400 children have died due to this attack. The fact alone that the Syrian government violated, not only an international law, but more a moral code of humanity is reason enough for alarm. Many in Congress argue that to do nothing would be saying something.

4. War costs money and America is already a financial mess.

Any strike will cost us, and any strike will likely be the gateway to more than one attack.

New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, said in a statement to CNN:

"After 6,668 American troop deaths and tens of thousands of American wounded, after spending $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan representing $40,000 in debt for every American family, now is the time to nation-build in America and invest in the growth of the American economy,"  

Yet, I’m not sure who could argue with what price to put on the lives lost that day in Damascus.

5.  America could be Syria’s next target.

Certainly a possiblity. Though it would be disconcerting if this was reason for anyone to vote for a strike or no strike on Syria.

One member of the Senate Committee today posed the question, in his southern drawl, “What do we do if they literally shoot back at Americans?” Hm, profound question. I’m sure most of congress haven’t taken that thought into consideration yet. Glad he could bring that one to the table (or for national news, no less.)

Regardless of what next steps the Senate Committee agrees to take, hopefully this is not the question that drives our nations ultimate decision on what to do next. 

 

How We Women Add to Our Weight Woes

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“Do I look fat in this?”

We women tend to ask questions we already know the answers to. And often it’s not necessarily for the answers we don’t know but for the ones we want to hear.

The feminine species can be a tricky sort.

Sometimes we play games. Sometimes we ask the right questions (and probably in just the right way, in just the worst scenarios) to get the right answers. And sometimes we like to nurture a little thing called insecurity.

A women’s level of self-confidence and esteem has an impact in just about every aspect of her life; her choice of clothing, her facial expressions, her job performance, her interaction with other women, her interactions with men, her sense of drive behind the wheel, her eating habits and possibly even her tweets. Yes, we women can gear a lot in life simply by how we view ourselves. The power of insecurity can be paralyzing, affecting the way we communicate, conduct ourselves and even have a domino affect on our progress in attaining a healthy weight. 

If we haven’t been that girl asking those question, (which whohasn’t at some point) we’ve all known someone who’s questions and conversations are directed in such a way to edify themselves on a regular basis. Truly it’s a common mind game we like to throw on one another (and it’s exactly the kind of behavior women in my family have no problem calling each other out on) but it is often the root of insecurities we culture in our minds that wind up complicating so much more in life than is necessary, even possibly our weight.

It’s no shock to most of us that we are our worst critics, but in turn, we also are our worst enemies. Functioning in such thought patterns of self-doubt disables our ability to move forward, accomplish and achieve much of anything. Really spending the time we do analyzing, sorting and making a science out the simple task of “eating well” derails us into more emotional frustrations than our minds can contain. So tasks as simple as changing eating habits or being more active become like science formulas to us that we can’t unlock (and instead we buy into the health industry, who’s books, diets and programs feed everyone pretty much the same crap in just different forms. ) We can also allow such a self-image to discourage us, feeling that we aren’t good enough or of a certain status to be worthy of a healthy and happy life. This creates a sort of cynicism to the idea of being happy and healthy or ever getting to a weight you’re comfortable with, as if it’s unattainable and far-fetched, as if it’s a joke. If we were to view ourselves as deserving and capable of a healthy weight, the steps to getting there would probably look entirely different, as would our view of physical fitness and emotional well-being.

More than likely, nothing and no one effects our weight loss efforts more than our thoughts and level of self-confidence. Insecurity keeps us from doing what we love, dreaming of what is next and essentially living life. So with all these trickling effects of insecurity, could a healthy image of self play a key role in obtaining healthier habits, weight loss goals and overall holistic health? Now, why would I ask a question I already know the answer to?

Could Cooking More Lead to a Healthier & Happier Life?

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image from Soustyle.com

I love reading anything Michael Pollan writes. And I think I love reading Michael Pollan because he makes me feel less high maintenance; high maintenance, because I could be content cooking nearly every meal at home. I prefer a majority of my meals to consist of real, fresh, whole foods cooked in the comfort of home. But this simple practice is now considered a a luxury of sorts. It’s time we don’t want to spend and something we’d rather pay three times the price for someone else to do for us when it could likely be made better at home.

Focusing on the health, economic and emotional benefits of the home-cooked meal, Pollan’s latest book, “Cooked” is an effort to bring us back to this neglected ritual.

Michael Pollan thinks we should all cook more.

“Cooked” presents the idea that a diet consisting mainly of homemade foods could be the missing link to reclaiming our health and ending our National struggle with obesity. He explores, as only Pollan could, the transformation of food with four basic elements: fire, water, air and earth. Experimenting with all four approaches to cooking, making everything from cheese, kimchi, bread and beer (yes, making beer), Pollan reveals truths that may be too obvious and accessible for many to accept as a key to better health; cooking could be the means to a healthier and happier life.

These days home cooked meals are considered rare commodity or simply not worth exerting the extra effort. Granted we have more options than ever, ranging from fast foods (which will seem to never die) to restaurants specializing in local, organic meals. So it’s not that there aren’t health options, it’s just that spending $12 on a breakfast for cage-free, local scrambled eggs isn’t always feasible. Though eating more whole foods is. It just require a bit more time and for some, a few skills to develop. (But we’re talking skills in cooking here, not in Chemistry.)

Eating out has become a national norm that has replaced the family dinner and aided in our health decline. The Atlantic Journal’s latest cover suggests “Engineering Healthier Junk Food” could be “The Cure for Obesity”, such as wholesome Egg McMuffins and slipping healthier ingredients into “foods that light up precisely the same pleasure centers as a 3 Musketeers bar.” While I will never complain about chocolate, it's hardly the answer to our health. Jamy Ard, a preventative medicine researcher and co-director of the Weight Management Center would differ. He believes, “Processed foods is a key part of our environment, and needs to be a key part of our answer.” While I’m sure more processed weight loss foods wouldn’t hurt Mr. Ard’s business, an increase of more enriched and genetically modified foods (GMO’s) is hardly the answer. (And why The Atlantic Journal found such a feature, suggesting just that, worthy of some 13 pages is beyond me.) No matter which way you word it (and no matter which way you modify it) food itself will never be the cure.

Every GMO and Hot Pocket that replaces more meals is like dumbing down a natural process of sorts, similar to our excessive use of texting and Facebook. Just like these social platforms inevitably change the depth and dynamics of relationships, relying on the engineered, convenient foods alters, not only our state of health, but our mental connection and social dynamics of what a real meal is.

Most people looking for a magic weight-loss pill aren’t necessarily going to pick up Michael Pollans books, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, “In the Defense of Food” or the recent “Cooked”. Though since first reading “In the Defense of Food” I’ve found Pollan knows more about weight loss and well-being than most diet books. While they may not have overnight slimming powers to your waistline, I will say reading and developing such an approach to food as Pollans would enrich most lives beyond a nutritional stand point. Cooking is more than just making a meal. It’s an experience. It’s no accident that we were born with a need for food, and real food comes with the need for preparation, that causes us to slow down, allowing us to savor and enjoy the process as well as a more nutritious, and delicious meal. If all that doesn’t sounds like an effortless, economical and enriching means to health, I’m not sure what does.

Cooking is a process not everyone loves naturally but, like many other things in life, it is a process one can learn to love. Rediscovering the rituals of home cooked meals is somewhat magical. And the magic will likely have many more benefits than just losing a few pounds. As Pollan would say, “Cooking is alchemy.”

How the Latest "Feminist Wedding " Trend Could Save You Money

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Last year barn weddings were all the hype. As my sister was planning her’s just last spring, I can remember (because how could I forget that process) Kara’s “ooo”-ing and whining every time we’d drive through Polk Parkway in Central Florida, of all the places, because of how perfect it would be just to have her dream barn-hipster wedding off the side of the highway. Right there, just off the side of the road. Every barn she visited to potentially rent was a bit out of her price range and she eventually let go of the dreamy cow fields, outdoor venue and settled for a quaint ( and affordable) chapel.

Barn weddings were a very big deal last year. 

Well, what’s all the hype this year? It’s a new thing called “Feminist Weddings”. According to The Daily Mail, which is currently tracking this growing trend through a Wedding Days.co.uk survey of 200 brides to be, there is recent increase in shunning the common ceremonial traditions for a so-called more “Feminist Wedding”. The study shows that nearly a quarter plan to keep their last name, 1 out of 10 plan on wearing a color other than white and 19% agree that traditional weddings are generally ‘anti-feminist’.

Of course a traditional wedding has nothing to do with what a woman wants. It has absolutely nothing to do with what location, invitations, center pieces, wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, place-settings, h’or duerves, cake flavor, or white horse-carriage send off a female may want for her so traditional-anti-feminist wedding day. Really, when do you hear of bride getting her way on her wedding day? Hm, they must not air Bridezilla in the UK, because this feminist-fashioned wedding trend seems to be the cake topper for a bride to remind everyone “Hey everyone, this day is all about me.”

Though when it’s said and done, as these feminist brides claim, a “Feminist Wedding” just might be an economical one at that. Come to find out, this whole trend might save you (or the father and mother, and even groom, of the bride) a pretty penny to beat. That and a slew of mouths you won’t have to feed, when certain family members see “Feminist” and “wedding ceremony” on the same invitation.

So, just how much exactly could one save if she were to choose to go with a Feminist Wedding

      1. Keeping your last name = $100 - 500 saved

Believe it or not, some studies show that  maiden-name woman are seen as more intelligent and competent”

      2. Forgoing the traditional veil = $10 - 200 saved

“Some believe it plays into the idea that a woman is ‘revealed’ to her husband as the virgin bride (though actually the use of a veil is steeped in history and has very different significance across multiple cultures).”According to The Daily Mail

      3. Wearing a color other than white = hmm…

Well, with recently debuted non-white wedding dress collections from Oscar De La Renta and Vera Wang, who’s to say.  A dress is a dress, so really it all depends on just how high-maintenance your feminist bride is.

      4. Refusing an engagement ring (because apparently we aren’t property to be purchased.) = $5,000 -20,000 saved 

Crazy, but true, some guys can go by themselves a Nissan Maxima now with not having to buy that Tiffany ring anymore.

      5. Choosing not to be walked down the aisle by a Father or Father figure = Priceless 

Because what feminist wouldn’t regret that.

Turns out 76% of these feminist brides to be would like to hold to that tradition. Not that a feminist would think she’s anyone’s to be “given away” or “given to” these days, but it appears that sentiment isn’t one brides will be doing away with anytime soon.

So, this summer while you gripe over renting that $200 tux or paying $75 for a pair of heels you’ll never where again for your best friends big day, you may want to keep in mind what you are taking part in may soon be remembered as a nostalgic (anti-feminist) event.

Does a Man's Perspective of Women Effect How They Lead?

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( image from Business Insider)

I remember summers ago watching a live broadcast when President Clinton admitted to his sexual scandal, sitting around a family dinner of chips and tacos during a summer trip in Maine. Odd combination, Maine, Mexican food and political scandals, but it’s what I remember. 

“Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.” It was an unforgettable viewing for most of us.  Though Clinton’s reputation upon his impeachment still held up (if not more so after than before, and likely due to his public statement of confession) he did not continue to lead us for the obvious reasons. Clearly the man had to step down, work on his marriage and leave the spotlight, not asking anything of the public for some time to pull his life back together. He was deemed as not fit to lead our Nation. He had to get back to the basics, like leading his own household. 

We all know this definitely wasn’t the first of sexual scandals among our Nation’s “fearless leaders” but it certainly was the most publicized and televised in history. It would be nice if it could stay that way, but with the recent revealings (no pun intended) of Anthony Weiner’s appalling behavior flooding the media, who’s to say it’s the last of it. 

Anthony Weiner returned in the race to run for Mayor of New York City this year, after his supposed “therapy” and break from his sexual addictions. However stepping back into the race for Mayor has revealed his sexual scandals and explicit behavior, showing more of Anthony Weiner (or Carlos Danger, or what have you) than we ever bargained for.

After disturbing images and texts were found of Weiner (the name alone … sorry, I digress) his campaign has come crumbling down again.  His polls have dropped, he’s lost his campaign manager (at least, the one we know of) and even the media’s support, who was eager to highlight the politician in a unbiased and redemptive light, they too have lost their faith in what seemed a hopeful leader. Though I’m sure the media doesn’t mind a good political scandal all too much, and neither does late night television.

Could a city really see a man with a history of such sexual struggles and disturbing addictions as fit to lead? 

After receiving so much support to jump back into the race and so quickly after his last falling out, one has to wonder what weight (if any) we hold to a man’s sexual activity, and view of women, as whether he is fit to lead a city, a nation or any vicinity of our government for that matter. 

Anthony’s foolish activities are just a grade below the kind of behavior you’d expect of a faithless husband and more like something of an airhead frat boy. Then again, who’s to say one differs all that much from the other in these situations. What was already known of Anthony was just that: foolish, frat boy frivolity with a clear contempt for women, and lack of any ability to serve them as citizens, let alone hold them up (them meaning his wife, his daughters and the many women who encountered him ) with any basic human respect. Could a man who would so easily and so often use women just for the momentary rush, while their wives at home have seemed to have lost their attention (because in these situation they always seem to be married), possibly lead anyone with clarity and dignity? How can a full grown man who so easily falls into these self-destructive patterns conduct himself as a leader?  What aspect of this character would anyone want leading them? 

The stage for a politician these days is shared with the stage of celebrity. In the sense that they are spotlighted, praised and put on a pedestal when we don’t always have reason except for the beautiful performances that first inspire us from our screens. Even still, when a man’s view of a woman become so routinely objective there are deeper issues rooted than one year of “therapy” can clear out. The conduct and sexual habits of a man no doubt carry a ripple effect into the lives they lead. Hopefully in the future we’ll take such conduct and behavior into more consideration before they’re even in the run to begin with.

New Girl for the New Woman

So, I am shamelessly making my way through the first season of New Girl, for the second time. Yes, I said New Girl… for the second time. And yes, shamelessly.  Let’s just say for us single, later 20-something, forever temp-housing girls, Zooey Deschanel’s interpretation of life is hysterically relatable. Except for the fact that I don’t live with three guys. (Though living with males often seems it would be less complex than finding female roommates, but I don’t see that happening in my near future.)

Jess, (aka Zooey) is at this ripe, unique stage, as if to be reentering womanhood in a sense. Journeying life single after a certain age as a female  can at time make you feel somewhat out of place. Still facing major questions like, “What vocation do I want to commit the next years of my life to?”, “What grad degree should I pursue?” “Should I pursue a degree?” “ “What kind of guys should I date?”, let alone asking “What kind of guy should I marry?” (call me crazy but some prospects need to be in line first), all the small questions you thought you’d never have to entertain at this age are still staring you in the face. 

Questions you just don’t think about having to deal with as an “adult”, like “How can I quickly pay off student loans and still eat out?”, “How can I find single girls past the age of 25 who I could stand (and afford) to live with?” Heck, how can you find single girls past the age of 25 you can stand to enjoy coffee with? (Why do you think Jess only has one girlfriend in this show?) But thank God such rare friendships have never been more abundant in my life than now. 

These are questions you just don’t anticipate dealing with as an adult.

New Girl is just that kind of show that makes me feel, hmmm, how do I say… normal? Or, makes me feel normal. Like, it’s ok to not own a home yet, work a job to bring you joy, rather than to make bank, laugh at awkward situations, make situations awkward by laughing… it’s just what some of us young people do. While I may not love every dynamic of single living that the show celebrates (because we’re talking about a TV show, not real life) I appreciate the face value it brings to the oddities of this season of life. Odd, because… well, what else can you call it really. 

While I’ve never been a major TV show buff, somehow, someone was right in thinking I just might find this show freak’n hilarious (because it is.) This “stage” of life of such single females, who aren’t necessarily spending each weekday morning brunching in SoHo to rehash last night’s fling, in between writing an opinion column, is a bit overdue. Those females who’ve realized they don’t need to have everything figured out, lined up, have climbed up the ladder and have a “ring on it” by now, have more options that we would have had say, 10 or 20 years ago. So it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. Thank God I am not living in my mother’s decade (no offense Mom.) She gets what I’m saying.

She's Still a Young'n

I feel I’m at that middle ground age, not “middle age” or old, but at this in between post-graduating college (which I realize, I always make sound as if it was yesterday) and official “I feel like an adult” stage. Guess we always feel like we’re in between something. I guess America isn’t too different herself. Through giant achievements and mammouth steps our Nation has made in innovations, technology, education, and fame’s to claim like Justin Beiber, the cheeseburger, fast food as a whole and a slew of health issues now affecting other nations - (Excuse my cynicism, I’ll try save my sarcastic tone concerning health for Better Vita, where it’s more fitting.) American is only 237 years old. Yes, only 237. Among countries like France (age 1107) and  Russia (1151) you could say America is young professional in comparison. Like me looking at my late 20‘s, still reminding myself I’m still young have a lot of life ahead of me, America - the beautiful - is still a young’n herself. 

America has had quite the life within 237 years : 70-some wars, 44 Presidents, she took the first steps on the moon, discovered electricity, accidentally invented the x-ray, was the birth of Jazz & as well the first full length featured film in CGI. Those last two are enough to keep me proud of my National heritage. Yes, I know. I’m such an American, eh?

As I write this I’ve been sitting here watching a favorite film (cause what else would I be doing). If you haven’t seen it you’re not American. Kidding. Kidding (now, if you haven’t seen The Princess Bride I might say that, but otherwise). If you haven’t seen Far & Away, let me sum it up for you so you can determine whether it would be worth your time. Far & Away (starring Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise and directed by the one and only ginger, Ron Howard) is the story a wealthy Irish daughter (Kidman) & her recent boy (Cruise), an errand runaway boy you could say, who’s she’s roped into following her to Boston (yes, the greatest city) with plans of traveling west to claim land. They arrive to the Boston Bay just to discover this so-called “free land” to be more difficult than anticipated. Pretending to be brother and sister to make ends meet and eventually get to Oklahoma, their differing ways help them find love and land. It’s a Ron Howard film, so it should go without saying, it’s an epic. Meaning, yes, a bit of a long-winded, romantic with green open land and a full fledged Irish-leaping score with a bit of boxing and blood to keep the guys attentive. Like I said, a favorite.

Set in1893 and it’s hard to imagine just over a lifetime’s length we were racing and fighting over “free” land. Today we’re still kind of on this race. What for exactly, I’m not sure. While it’s not exactly claiming land, something keeps people coming and fighting for this free land. While we’ve evolved and are influential as a Nations, it’s good to be reminded just how young we are, how much life we have left to live, how much growing we have left to do. America is still a young’n. 

10 Moments That Make A Single Girl Think “I'm Not a Real Person Yet!” & Frances Ha

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The new film Frances Ha, a seemingly whimsical but honest story of a woman (still) becoming a woman, opens with a scene where Frances’ card is declined ( buying dinner for a guy no less) and she hits that all too familiar moment of realizing, “oh, I’m not a real person yet.”

Oh… I’m not the only young female who still feels that way from time to time? 

I guess you could call this more of a film preview, rather than review (since I’m eager to see any film that brings to light the single, twenty-something, life-doesn’t-quite-feel-in-place-yet female perception). While often us single, not yet stable, career women can feel like we’re all on our own, it’s reassuring to discover you’re not the only girl who feels Forever 21 (especially when it’s literally the only place where you can afford to by a an entire outfit.)

While I will have to wait for my next paycheck to come in to stroll over to my local Indie secret garden of a theater, for France Ha to reassure me that I’m not the only one who doesn’t quite feel like an adult, here a little list of reoccurring moments some of you women (and maybe myself) face from time to time, that make you feel like you’re not quite the woman you thought you’d feel like by now.

The 10 Moments Making You Feel Like You’re Not a Real Person, Yet…

  1. Your card declines at Starbucks (even though you’ve finally mastered how to order your drink to save $1.23.)
  2. You’ve attempted more career options in the past 6 year than most 50 year old woman have in their entire lives.
  3. You look at your closet and it finally occurs to you, a tailor would probably be a good investment.
  4. You admit to yourself bedhead hair just might not be appropriate for an every day look.
  5. You realize earning good credit (or credit, period) is something you should consider.
  6. You find you only have 3 of the 13 Essential Closet items InStyle magazine says every woman should own.
  7. Your kitchen dosn’t consist of much more than a cutting board and one decent  sharp knife.
  8. You’re caught by your boss, cluelessly signing a check incorrectly (because you don’t even own any).
  9. You place your sushi takeout “splurge” order and the host’s first response is, “Are you sure one roll is all you want?”.
  10. Your first stop at the mall is still the clearance racks at Urban Outfitters and Pac Sun.

In Sex in the City Carrie Bradshaw asks herself, single, creditless and without a man, “How do you retain a sense of value when you have nothing concrete to show for it?” I have a feeling France Ha may deal with similar misconceptions of value, if she bases it on anything remotely close to what is expected of a “real person” nowadays. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take all of “womanhood” for us to discover nothing concrete will ever equal the value of the women we already are. While in the meantime, I will inevitably face a few more “I’m not a real person” breakdown moments, it’s reassuring to know there are Frances’ in the world who feel just as unreal a person as I do.