Forward

9:50am New Year’s Eve. Home alone. Still in bed. Nowhere to be, the day at my complete disposal. Happy.

Normal me would disapprove of staying in bed past 9am on a weekday, but not today. The week between Christmas and New Years is always a period of blurred, ignorant bliss: between traveling to see family, friends coming to town, and endless indulgences it is so easy to lose track of time, and I allow myself to get lost in it. My typically structured days are replaced by spontaneous whims, fully immersed in the abundance of love, gratitude and sugar.

11:00am Its hard for me to stay in one place for long, so I book myself a bike for 12:00pm HIIT in the city and finish my morning lemon water. Anderson Paak sets the tone for the rest of the day. Malibu, though, not Oxnard.

Cliched as it may be, one of my biggest accomplishments this year was making wellness a priority. In the past, I would work out either in advance of or right after a period of unhealthy eating, as a way to “offset the damage” I was about to do to myself, especially around the holidays. I now truly understand the connection between fitness and nutrition, how my body works, what it responds to, what it likes. I love that feeling of achievement after a particularly challenging burn, especially on days when I almost opted to go home and watch Game of Thrones instead. I am now one of those sick fucks who actually prefers to go to cycling over happy hour, and I am okay with that, because it has improved not just my physical health but my mental state. I want to get even better next year, and I want to inspire people to do the same.

1:00pm Sweaty, happy, hungry. As opposed to going and buying a green juice, I head back home and make myself a salad.

A 2018 goal of mine that didn’t end up manifesting until almost 365 days later: cut out the bullshit. This was the year of my financial awakening in that I realized how much of my money was spent on absolute bullshit non-essentials that were contributing only to my present happiness: $5 daily matchas and bi-monthly manicures, pricey nights out followed by Uber rides home, $14 lunches when I have fully-prepared meals in the fridge.

When I was living with less intention, not only I was content with my aimless spending, and I had come to think of it as simply a part of living in New York.  It took almost a year of podcasts, books, and looking at my bank statements to truly understand the gravity of this behavior. It is really fucking hard to break these habits that have been engrained since childhood, but it’s imperative that I do, because unless you have a trust fund or 6-figure salary, things do not just ~magically~ work out. Not to say that I am going full-on minimalist by any means (I have festivals to attend, restaurants to try, and French classes to buy!) but I am thinking ahead, now more than ever. One day, I want to buy a home. I want to travel. I want to work voluntarily, not to make ends meet. I want to have a solid financial cushion. I don’t want to be a slave to a company at 55. So, leftovers it is. Future me will thank me.

Here’s to a new year of living presently, but also thinking forward. To standing up for myself and saying no more often. To not letting my experiences of the past limit my future potential. To new experiences, more love, and even more growth.

Hurdles

7:45am. I try not to look at my phone right when I wake up, but I am feigning optimism that today won’t be another bleak, overcast shithole of a day. We haven’t seen the sun since Saturday, and it has directly impacted my mood. Yoga always helps, so off I go.

I started practicing yoga four years ago, but became more serious about the whole thing within the past three. Truthfully, I used to shrug at the thought of it: in my mind, yoga was a luxury reserved for skinny, rich, Goop-reading white women – ultimately something I could never fit in with or be a part of. Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the whole thing is about in the first place. Thankfully, the movement in Western culture has become much more inclusive and accessible overall, especially in New York, so I try to go twice a week. Yogis often fall into the annoying category usually dominated by vegans and people who do crossfit, so I try not to be one of those people that talks about it incessantly. However, I do like the community that grows from yogic practice: especially with women of color. There’s something about the choice to use this specific practice as an escape, as therapy, as exercise that reflects a similar mindset and creates a certain bond. We tend to get on extremely well.

Walking in, I’m a bit nervous. I take roll out my mat and lay in savasana, trying to get in the right headspace for a successful practice. I’ve fallen off the wagon somewhat, and its now been two weeks since my last class. Suddenly all of the old insecurities sink in:  I oped for a sports bra today, so my love handles will inevitably make an appearance. I’m definitely fatter than I was last time I came, so why the fuck am I wearing a sports bra again?  I think about everything I’ve consumed in the past two weeks: croissants in Montreal, dim sum in Chinatown, drinks with friends, pizza at work. I know I can’t carry this into my practice, and have to “leave it all on the mat”, as my teacher always says. Admittedly, this only half works, and after an hour of a half-assed session I leave in a shitty mood due to my inability to control my negative thoughts. Leading to more negative thoughts, and so on.

The rest of the day is trash, consisting of the usual games: navigating the needs of my boss, managing varying stress levels and personalities, all while somehow avoiding the constant stream of junk food available in the office. Will they ever stop ordering Insomniac by the truckload? For someone with food issues, the office is a fucking minefield. Sometimes I miss working from home and wonder if an over-indulgent office culture is part of the problem. Or perhaps its the industry itself: the entertainment business isn’t exactly known for its interest in health, mental or otherwise. Then again, I worked at a magazine and the girls there were literally anorexic, so is there such a thing as a healthy work environment?

4:00pm. Friend invites me to happy hour. There’s always a happy hour, and I’ve learned to say no. Last year I said yes to everything and it left me with nothing but hangovers and cringe-worthy bank statements.

4:30pm. Now eating a cookie. So much for being good today.

These are the thoughts I deal with more often than I’d like to admit, though far less frequent than in years past. I know this sudden relapse is stemming from my recent vacation, where I had no structure and indulged more than usual – and didn’t immediately bounce back upon my return. I’ve again started to think of foods as “good” or “bad”, which I know is illogical and only leads to destructive habits. Two years ago, this would have sent me into a downward spiral – eating even one slice of pizza would lead me to eat several others, throwing away any progress I had made at the gym in the months prior. Subsequently, I would rid my body of it as quickly as possible, causing irreversible internal damage both mentally and physically. I was caught up in vicious cycle, one that plagued me for far too long and robbed me of my ability to enjoy food without guilt, to feel confident in my own skin. I don’t want to go down that road again, so I’ve recognized my need for structure, for routine. This is why I need yoga: its not trendy, its survival.

I won’t say that I have full on binge eating disorder or body dysmorphia, because that would be inaccurate and insensitive to those that do. The problem is my existence on the fringes of these issues, which makes it even harder to talk about or identify with other people. When I told my ex about these issues, he quickly dismissed it with “all women have this problem.” Issues are often not seen as such unless they exist on extremes: anorexia or bulimia, obesity or dysmorphia – but what about all of the in-betweens?

Yoga has helped me understand that the process starts and in my mind, in knowing that I have control, that food is nourishment, it is fuel. I remind myself of this during meditation each morning while looking in the mirror, repeating the following affirmations: I am beautiful. I am strong. I am worthy.  I am loved. Then I take these into my day.

Hopefully my roommates can’t hear me or think I’m a freak – though even if they do, who cares? This journey to wellness is mine, and mine alone.

 

The Real World

Its 7:15am. Somehow I’ve managed to wake up before my alarm, which pretty much never happens. I am shockingly awake, perky even. Its gross, but I’m actually sort of into it. Given that I don’t need to be at work for 3 hours, I make myself my daily cup of hot lemon water, meditate, and get dressed for the gym.

I’ve been waking up at 7:30am on the dot every day since I’ve moved, likely due to the fact that I now have windows – something I’ll never take for granted ever again. My last apartment move was made a bit out of desperation, and I ended up in a small, windowless room above Bagelsmith. So yes, I now admittedly wake up filled with this absurd contentment over having not one, not two, but three lovely windows, the gorgeous natural light pouring in each morning and welcoming to a new day. Silly, I know, but its the little things.

Late to class, of course. I just can’t seem to time my bike ride perfectly from my new apartment, even though its only 5 minutes away from my old place. The only spot left is in the front row, which I don’t mind, but it means I am going to be that late asshole that pushes her way through the group to get there. Owning it. Luckily everyone is too busy in their downward dogs, so I sneak in relatively undetected.

This is now my fifth apartment since I graduated college. I moved because I very much needed a change but was not ready follow the masses of 20-somethings looking for reasonably priced housing in Bushwick. I hate myself for saying it, but I love Williamsburg. Though only a few blocks south of Bedford Ave, my neighborhood is far less gentrified and much more interesting: the area is an interesting mix of Puerto Rican and Satmar, and on any given evening you’re likely to see people hanging out on the street, music blaring from tricked out cars and going to the butcher. I often want to wish them “good shabbos”, but I imagine they don’t give a shit that I’m Jewish too – to them I’m just another basic, upper-middle class gentrifier.

I think I have always been a bit restless, possessed by an innate need to keep things interesting, which is both a blessing and a curse because I am hardly ever satisfied (see: apartment + job history, dating life). For the first time, though, I feel fully content with my current situation and can actually see myself staying put. My boyfriend jokes that I’m living in a “Real World House”, but I promise its not nearly as wild as that, despite being a 6 bedroom – the roommates are all 9-5ers from around the world and seemingly have the same mindset in terms of relaxing and keeping a nice home, which is what I value right now. Considering I used to value how close I lived to the bars, I’d consider this growth.

 

Y7 Yoga Studio

If you have been following me for even a short amount of time you know that I am admittedly a fitness junkie. A good sweat session is one of the few things I genuinely get excited about when I wake up every morning outside of tacos. After graduating from college I fell in love with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a way to kick off mornings before heading into the office or sweating it out after a stressful day. HIIT, while extremely effective, is also incredibly taxing on the body. I found it difficult to recover after back to back classes, my body sending signals that I needed to care for and stretch my muscles outside of the brief warm ups and cool downs that were offered during these sessions.

Yoga was something that I had never tried but I had preconceived notions about – mainly that everyone sits in silence in a room playing Caucasian elevator music for an hour or more while pretending to be zen. The idea of straying from my routine and the fast-paced nature of HIIT and bootcamp was unsettling, and anything that was not going to help build muscle and/or burn hundreds was not of interest to me. I was also on autopilot everyday beginning my career at a top talent agency with no desire or perceived need to slow down or recharge. While I was physically fit, this was likely one of the unhealthiest times of my life.

Around this time a friend of mine introduced me to Y7, a hot vinyasa yoga class founded in New York. I was terrified at the idea of yoga itself, even more so of doing it in a room heated to 90 degrees. My prayers were answered when I discovered that Y7 is a first of its kind hip-hop yoga studio, featuring a specialized hip-hop ONLY playlist each session and a themed playlist every Wednesday and Sunday. It was almost love at first sight: immediately upon entering the studio I was greeted with calming aromas and Nas playing over the sound system.The room itself was pitch black with candles scattered throughout the space and, as advertised, hot as hell. Instantly I was calmed, having finally found a refuge high above the bustling streets below.

Y7 has put a modern shift on the ancient practice of yoga, and it is not difficult to see why people are hooked. The 60-minute session consists of a savasana (rest) and three separate guided flows which are practiced twice with the instructor followed by once on your own. Now if my mentioning of “savasana” had you confused AF, please note that going into my first formal yoga session my knowledge of yoga terms started at child’s pose and ended at downward dog – aka I knew nothing. I followed as best as I could while being the least flexible person ever and also dripping with sweat, but I left with an understanding of the fundamental positions (not to mention feeling extremely badass!) This is not a intro-level class but it is as basic or advanced as you need it to be. Bonus: the room is black so you can worry less about looking like a clumsy literal hot mess and instead focus on you and your practice, which why you came.

It is a luxury to be able to take the time to focus inward and block out the many thoughts running through our minds each day, but it is incredibly important that we make that time even if it is for five minutes each morning. Since starting my practice at Y7 and studying yoga closely I have noticed a complete positive shift in my mindset – I am conscious of my breath and use it daily to keep myself grounded and present, I have uncovered a mind-body connection that I did not know was possible and my flexibility has improved beyond my wildest expectations. It has taught me me that my body is an amazing force that can be challenged and stretched, but above all must be taken care of. For so long I associated yoga solely with white elitists of the Western world (a community that I did not belong to) but the welcoming nature of this studio feels safe and inclusive. Having a judgement-free zone to come to that fosters self care is invaluable to me and worth every penny. Thousands of dedicated clients around the country agree.

I urge everyone, particularly women of color, to try yoga at least once. I say at least once because it may take a few tries to find the teacher and style that works well for you. There are various styles of yoga that are offered so you can find your fit. You do not have to be thin, “in shape” or adorned in expensive workout gear – and if you feel that way going into a space, find a new community ASAP. While many classes carry a price tag, there are just as many donation-based classes out there for you to explore. Men and women alike can reap the benefits of yoga, so bring your boo. (Does your man think he’s too macho? Let him know Ace Hood and his partner do yoga too!)

My friends never hear me shut up about Classpass, so see if Y7 is available in your city. You can also try one month of Classpass to discover other yoga and fitness studios in your area. You will not regret it.

Girls Night In

I find it funny that I wrote about sex on Easter Sunday, one of the holiest days of the year, but I mean I’m going to hell anyway so its all irrelevant to me.

Last Friday night my roommates and I hosted a Pure Romance party, which for those who are unfamiliar is pretty much a sex toy/accessory party. Your group gets to explore a variety of products, as well as entertain your senses by smelling and feeling them prior to buying  so you know what you are getting yourself into. It was an eye-opening process for me to say the least, as I was a sex toy novice, and there was comfort in being in your own home throughout the whole process, as opposed to walking around creepy peep show/XXX shops while old men stare at you – which definitely does NOT make you want to buy anything.) Its crazy that NYC, for all its stores geared towards sex, has yet to make a store that makes people feel good when exploring their sexual interests – or maybe I have not found the right store.

Throughout our girl’s night I got to know my closest friends even better, watch one of them get tied up (the mental picture is still so vivid for me), and learned about items I never even knew existed such as “bosom buddy” – which I will let you figure out for yourself. I limited myself to two products, though by the end of the night I wanted everything in our consultant’s arsenal.

After a few glasses of sangria all the ladies seemed to loosen up and get to talking about our many likes and dislikes when it comes to our sex lives. Typically I am a very reserved person when it comes to that area of my life, so it was very fun and freeing for me to be so open with the girls. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, including our consultant Tricia…who I do not think was ready for my group of friends (we’re nuts).

For all my ladies who have not yet graduated college…throw a Pure Romance party. Experiencing one first hand was one of the most memorable nights I have had at Miami, and its honestly something I wish I had done earlier. Whether you’re an open book or a bit more quiet (on the surface) like me, you and your friends will get closer than ever and I guarantee you’ll leave with a new perspective, and maybe some new goods 😉

xo

Kale Chips

Gave kale chips a try today since I found some in the fridge. Seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and baked for 10 mins. Turned out pretty well!