#FOODSHAME – How I Spent Years Doing This to Myself

My highschool boyfriend’s sister was what I would call a cool chick. Denise was six years my senior, with Elizabeth Taylor eyes fringed with lashes a Kardashian would envy, and a mass of soft brown curls that rested just above her lash line. She also had an edge – that’s what made her so cool. I loved her, admired her, and was a little bit afraid of her.

One cold Saturday night in winter, Denise, who was home from college, made an announcement. Boyfriend and I were to drop what we were doing, (which was most likely him trying to teach me Algebra, or me pretending to like The Terminator 2), and participate. Tonight was Brownie Delight – the chance to drown any/all sorrows into a mixture of partially cooked brownies, extra chocolate chips, Redi Whip, and vanilla ice cream, made warm and melty by the heat of the brownies. (If she was really in a mood, the ice cream would be Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and you did not ask questions.) The whole thing would melt into itself, creating a warm, gooey mixture of half batter, half brownie goodness awash in ice cream. This concoction was meant to diminish heartache and assuage any emotional pain a woman endured.

For me, however, looking at it was enough to make me shake. Don’t get me wrong – I totally ate it. There was no way I could defy Denise, and it was heavenly. But inside, I was convinced that every chocolate laden scoop was sending me straight to hell. I chastised – make that berated – myself in between bites, inwardly swearing to run at least three miles the next day – in the snow and uphill. And it didn’t end there. Later, alone in the safety of my bedroom, I must have completed 500 jumping jacks, told myself it was just once, I could work it off in the morning, I would skip breakfast to make up for it.  At a time when clean eating was nothing more than washing your fruit before ingesting, I felt dirty and ashamed.

And I can’t lie; I spent many more years berating myself for eating a second, (or even first) piece of cake, reaching for the afternoon snack, or god forbid, choosing real ice cream on a summer day. The way I spoke to myself could make Trump’s tweets sound like a coloring book. I spent hours, days even, hating myself when I could have been focusing on having a healthy mindset and enjoying life, rather than punishing myself for living it.

I often think about how or why I suddenly gained the infinite wisdom to be nice to myself when it comes to food; it may have something to do with having my own children, which is good news for womankind. No matter how old we are, once we decide to be parents, teachers, big sisters, bosses, or any sort of role model for another person, we want them to avoid our mistakes and become kind and confident humans who are present in every moment. We also don’t want them to feel ashamed, or to listen to us shame ourselves for enjoying dessert. And I know, sugar is now the enemy, but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s still a time and a place for old school sweets.

Some very sweet co-workers recently thought to bring me some very sweet cupcakes for my 45th birthday. They were from a bakery I love and were meant to be enjoyed during our daily meeting. I had to catch myself; in years past, I would have created a narrative in my head: “They don’t know me at all,” “Do they want to sabotage me?” “I’m going to start my 45th year of life as a fat, middle aged woman.” Rather than assuming positive intentions and being grateful, I would have inwardly ruined the moment or made things weird by not having a piece. Instead, I cut one in half and ate it. It was worth it. Any pangs of guilt that crept up in my belly were squashed with a few frosting filled bites and a meeting that was much more pleasant than usual. 

If anyone out there reading this is still in your twenties, or if anyone is reading this at all, please do not wait until you’re in your forties to get over food shame. Food is life, and life is filled with enough angst to let an occasional indulgence make us feel more guilt than my Italian mother. Sugar may be the new enemy, but my mother in law’s brownies are so good, they would make Denise trade in Brownie Delight and make my husband her new little brother. That person I described, alone in her bedroom, futilly doing jumping jacks to stave off one night of sugar, felt more sick in her mind than in her stomach. I wish I could tell her she was beautiful, she was athletic, she was being a good friend, and she was allowed to have fun, especially with food. 



Oh, The Places I Go…When I Run

My friend, Tori, sent this text on a thread:

“I knew a long run today was going to be tough, so each of you mentally joined me for parts of [it]. I did 3 alone, 3 with Megan, 2 with Aileen, and 3 with Dana.”

I cannot tell you how much this made me smile.  It’s no secret that running, or any physically taxing exercise, is more than half of a mental feat. Being chosen as someone’s  figurative companion during an endurance run means I’m a source of inspiration.  It also means I’m not the only one who has imaginary friends, illustrious careers, even rockstar performances while running.  Some make sense, some don’t. I’m making myself vulnerable here and sharing a list of my most famous endeavors, set to music – all of which I’ve achieved on the treadmill:

Flag Football with co-workers. I may as well start with the one that’s the most weird. You already know work is not my activity of choice, but yet, here I am, on the back field of my school, diving for passes thrown by the phys ed teacher. I sprint, football held tight to my chest. I weave in and out of defenders, strong-arming anyone who may have annoyed me. I flip over a different phys ed teacher and land in the endzone, on my feet.  Victory. My team always wins – either to the beat of Gaga’s Edge of Glory, or Scandal’s The Warrior. Once in a while it’s Fame, (the original). Great tune for a flip.

Rockstar on Stage. Beyonce, J Lo, Gaga, Pink, Melissa Etheridge – I’m my own version of all my single, (or not single) ladies.  I’m also some boys – Bon Jovi, Bruce, JT – the list is endless, and the songs are varied. I could be anyone from 80’s Def Leopard, to flying Bon Jovi, to dancing queens J Lo and Beyonce. And, oh, rhythm is a dancer on this stage.  When I perform, my legs move in ways that would make my husband’s head spin.

Rocky Balboa in Russia, and yes, to Hearts on Fire. Don’t judge me. I train in the snow. I will break you. I also run through the streets of Philadelphia to Eye of the Tiger. Sometimes I’m in New York, depends on my mood.  Cheesy sports movies and and their songs are life.

Olympic soccer player.  Fantasizing about running while running doesn’t make sense, but being back on the soccer field makes me feel alive.  My friend, Megan, is often with me for this one. I pass to her after a break away, she chips it back to me to avoid defenders, and I land a header in the goal.  Brace your self for song choice: We Built this City. I’m having the time of my life to a song that’s been voted one of the worst in history. Who knew??


What Goes Around….

TBT to 1997 – my friends and I are huddled at a bar, navel rings glistening between the sandwich of low rise jeans and Britney Spears style crop tops, beer bottles dangling from our fingertips. We’re watching the makeshift dance floor that would erupt around 10 pm, when the dinner crowd fizzled and the locals would let loose.

“Dude, look at them,” we’d sneer. “They are so stuck.” They were a group of women, older, sooo much older than us, in their high rise mom jeans, hair way too sprayed for the decade of grunge, waving their hands in the air and dancing like they just didn’t care. They were stuck, we judged, in the 80s – the decade of their youth, unable to let go of the look they sported in their prime.

“That will SO never be us,” one of us would drawl.



Well, here we are, twenty something years later, in the land of never. The irony is, crop tops are back, and most of us wouldn’t even be caught sneaking one on in the privacy of our own attic. We are now the forty year old moms, longing for a night out, wishing we looked like we did in our twenties, and not quite sure how to create a look that’s youthful, but not insane, for our forties. We’re straddling the line between Bebe and Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.

Fashion has always been one of my favorite f-words, and like many things in my  forties, I have finally learned to find it freeing. (The alliteration here may even be too much for me.) I understand that sparkly Ugg boots would make me look slightly crazy, but I’m also not ready to shop in Chicos. The forties have, however, let me experiment, have fun, and take some risks. (I also did this in my twenties, but I wasn’t nearly as good at it.) Being married also allows this; I love testing an outfit when going on a date with my husband. It’s safe to look a little wild when you’re with someone who vowed to stay with you through sickness, health, and a gold lame jumpsuit.

The even better news is, I also do NOT want to look the way I did in 1997. Plaid shirts and baggy jeans were not flattering on me, and my eyebrows are now paying the price for all that tweezing. (I blame you, Jen Aniston. All you talked in the 90s was how much you loved to tweeze Courtney Cox’s eyebrows.) I’ve accepted that I am five foot two inches, I have calf muscles that rip skinny jeans to shreds, and straight leg or bootcut jeans make me appear taller. It’s a sigh of relief to not try a trend just because and to understand what makes me look better, and what makes me look nuts. And if gold lame makes me nuts, make room for me on that dance floor.



FITNESS FANATIC – The High is Real What I learned after trying it all

I’m an activity addict. Not the arts and crafts kind – the being active kind. This may make you feel like throwing  up in your mouth, but for me, getting that feeling during a workout is oddly fun.

After college ended and my soccer career came to a halt, I needed a way to feed my addiction to movement.  Exercise had been a part of my life since I was seven years old; I couldn’t see myself abruptly becoming someone who sat at a desk all day, taking extra walking breaks to the water cooler. On a whim, I took advantage of a summer membership at a local gym. I still remember Pauline, the trainer who took me under her wing and schooled me on circuit training, step climbers, treadmills, and the gravitron. She taught me how to lift weights to tone and strengthen my muscles, dispelling the myth that “weights will make me big.” The combination of cardio and strength training erased the late nights of beer and bad food from college, and not only made me feel smaller, but stronger. To this day, I wish I could see her and say thank you for being one of the best trainers I’ve had – and for being my gateway drug.

Enter the late 90s craze of step aerobics and spinning. Stepping to music, cheesy clapping, and a kind of dance coordination – I fell for it and reserved my spot every evening. Spinning made me feel strong, fast and competitive, (with myself that is, thanks to the dark room). Each class allowed me to lose myself for an hour, and I left less stressed and more clear headed. However, my body gradually adjusted to the workouts; I didn’t see a whole lot of change in my physique or endurance. That seemed to be true for the lot of us – the same group of people would show up every night, set up in the same spot, and never transform. But damn, it was fun.

With onset of the 21st century, I craved something new. I climbed indoor rock walls and became mildly obsessed, (if there is such a thing) with kickboxing classes. Zumba did not remotely resemble drunk inspired dancing, so that was a one hit wonder. However, before my wedding, I rediscovered running. It was cheap, could be done anywhere, and I could do it on my own schedule. Thanks to the invention of the Ipod, I could try running for longer distances without the heavy weight of my 90’s walkman or a phone. I could also customize my playlist, an extremely important and personal thing to runners, which I will write about in another post.

Running eventually became my new obsession, especially after having kids. I completed my first of four half marathons, dropped baby weight, and used it as a relief for anxiety. As an athletic kid who suffered from asthma, I felt invincible when I finally ran longer and faster than I had as a teenager. It was empowering to know this goal could be attained. But I was logging 35 plus miles a week, beating myself up if I missed even one day, and although I was “skinny,” after a while, I didn’t feel strong. I had lost muscle mass, and that’s not healthy, especially since I was entering my forties.  When I completed my first Spartan race, I literally felt weak – not powerful at all. Time again for a change.

Thankfully, strong is now the new sexy. After all these years and the latest crazes of Tabata, HIIT workouts, ropes, interval training, and my new drug, Orangetheory Fitness, I’ve finally learned what works – and that Pauline was ahead of her time. Consistently combining cardio and strength, eating well at least 80% of the time, and doing what I like, all work to keep me healthy, strong, and fit. I don’t have to feel like I’m going to die to get results, but I do have to be consistent. Exercise has always been a way for me to feel good, regardless of my weight.  And although I often need to remind myself that I’m supposed to love my body, I am so grateful for what it has done for me, and how it continues to perform. Until it tells me to stop, I’ll keep seeing where it takes me.



Forties fun

When The F Did I Become 45??

I’m not 45. I mean, I am, but I am NOT.  If you’re only as young as you feel, then I’m definitely 27. Maybe 32. It was only yesterday that I hit the double digits! Ten was a magical year. It felt so cool to young, but old enough to have two digits to my age.  Now I’m someone who may have more years behind me than I do in front. It’s not getting old that scares me, it’s death. I’ll get to that later.

This suspended belief about my age could become a problem, or it could start to piss people off, because I think everyone is older than me. This has happened more than twice in the past year. The first was when I took my first Orangetheory class. I had heard the workout was super hard, and I was feeling intimidated, when I looked to my right and saw a group of women on a row of treadmills. The inconspicuous sidelong glances I threw their way assuaged my fears. “If they can do this, I can. They are old.” Two minutes later, Coach Victoria started blasting the music.

“IIIIIIIt’s 90’s week, Everybody!! Let’s rock it out to the Spin Doctors!” (You know what’s coming. The “yeeeaaah one, two princess here before me, let’s go ahead now,” your head is bobbing) The next thing I know, the “old” women next to me are whooping, high fiving, waving hands in the air, and screaming, “College baby! WOOT WOOT!”

I almost face planted on the treadmill belt. The Spin Doctors performed at Fordham my sophomore year. Two Princess blared at every bar, every night. My college roommate, Francesca, still sends me texts with the picture of the song blaring on Sirius XM.

I had to shrug it off. Denial is survival for us ignorant middle agers. These women had to be seniors when I was a sophomore, right?

The next time it happened was at a work function, the perfect place for me to put my foot in my mouth. It was holiday season, and I attended our annual “gathering,” (I don’t think we’re allowed to say party), at a local restaurant. Christmas angels must have been watching over me because I had decided not to drink, which is not the norm for me at any gathering. It must have been the daunting commute home that deterred me, and thank god it did, because if I had swilled two glasses of pinot noir, things may have turned out differently. I was politely listening to a co-worker I didn’t know very well drone on and on about how tired she was. Her two kids were going through a phase, they weren’t going to bed, they were fighting, and she had no idea how she was going to get all her grading done when she had to play referee. Between sips of sparkling water, I nodded and made the mature noise that communicates universal agreement. I was thinking she’s probably tired from talking so much, when I heard her exclaim:

“And I’m getting too old for this. I mean, I’m 39 – imagine what it’s going to be like when I turn 40?!?”  

Everyone laughed, patted her arm, and told her she’s not old. I stood there like a prize carnival fish, eyes wide and plastered against my temporary baggie home. This woman, this sweet, well intentioned woman, was FIVE years younger than me. I thought she was going to say she was at least 50! You can understand why I was happy to be sober, for once.

I’m not telling this story to poke fun at other people, but more so myself. Once in a while, my age smacks me in the face and reminds me that I’m not so cool, especially to people who are seriously younger than me, like my students – or millenials.

I try to think that getting old is good because it means I’m not dead, which is really never happening. Starting to lose my breath just typing about it. I’ll be happy as one of those old, eccentric women who wears elaborate clothing, drinks champagne, and calls people “dahling.” For all I know, people may see like that right now. I don’t see that myself, but then again, I could just be old and delusional.