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d37ff42e4d64659ae9a6726e427c0777yesterday, i cried during a bar method class. that’s a sentence i never really thought i’d write. at soul, maybe. soulcycle’s all about letting your emotion out, and it’s a dark room lit by candles. crying (at least, quietly), is almost encouraged. but at bar method, poised and pretty, ballerina beautiful is what it’s all about.

before i go any further, let me say: i didn’t cry because i was sad. for once, i wasn’t crying because i felt out of place, or because i felt useless, or incapable, or that dreaded f-word, fat.

no, yesterday, i cried because i was happy. because i was proud. because lara, an instructor who’s been with me through most of my journey (and lord knows i still have a ways to go), said something so moving, so beautiful, so kind and goddamn wonderful that i almost lost it.

every bar method class starts with arms – shoulders, biceps, lats, then straight into pushups. mid pushup, i felt lara next to me. she repositioned my tuck (bar method terms for rolling your hips forward and squeezing your glutes til they feel like buns of steel), and told me to move my arms back a couple of inches. as i got into the correct form, she pushed her microphone to the side, and said, quietly, so only i could hear, “you’re making room for a body that’s no longer there.”

and just like that she was gone, and i was pushing up, and down, and up, and down, squeezing my eyes tightly shut so i didn’t burst into tears in front of 25 other women (many of whom, i should note, have become friends, and who likely would have been perfectly fine if i’d shed a tear or two).

it took a good five minutes for me to regain my composure, lara’s words reverberating in my head. my form was off because i was making room for a body that was no longer there. a body that was no longer mine. a body i’d worked so, so hard to shed – and a body i still felt (and feel) weighed down by.

when you’re on a weight loss journey (and lord, is it a journey), it can be hard to see your progress. it can be discouraging to step on the scale and see that the numbers haven’t changed as much as you’d have liked them to (especially when you know, deep down, that your body IS changing and the scale just isn’t showing it). it can feel like you’re plodding up a mountain that’s never going to end. i’ve been feeling that particular form of discouraged lately, following a recent annual physical where my weight stayed the same, but my blood work – my cholesterol, my numbers, all my internal markers – were off the charts good. look at my chart, and if you ignore the weight, i’m just about as healthy as a person can be. as my doctor likes to say, “you’re skinny on the inside!”

which is great, fine, well and good. health comes first, right? but in a world filled with body shaming and comparison and the never-ending pressure to be thin, not strong, i don’t want to be skinny on the inside, i want to be skinny where it counts.

every so often, i’ll have a moment – i’ll catch myself in the mirror at bar, or i’ll complete a sprint at soul – where i feel like, yes, i can. i can complete this class. i can keep up with everyone else. i can do this. i do deserve to be here. i do fit in. but those moments are few and far in between, because when you’re scrutinizing yourself every single day, it’s hard to step back and see the bigger picture.

but yesterday, lara helped me see it. she helped me remember where i was when i started, and just how FAR i have come. even if the scale doesn’t always reflect it.

after class, i lingered and waited until she was free, then tapped her on the shoulder and said, “i just wanted to say thank you.”

and she wrapped me up in the biggest of hugs and said, “love you.” and what she really meant, i knew, was, “i’m proud of you and i’ll keep pushing you until you get where you want to be.”

people often ask me why i deign to pay a staggering $250 a month to attend bar method classes. that story above? that’s why.

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on friday afternoon, as i walked home from on a sunshine high (seriously, how good was the weather on friday?), i had one of those, god, i love new york moments. the sky was a crisp, clear blue. the humidity was low. it was 3pm and i’d already finished work, eaten mexican food outside in the sun, done a bit of shopping, and walked home from soho. the rest of the afternoon and evening stretched in front of me, sweet freedom with not a care in the world.

for a moment, i really loved my life. not because anything wonderful had happened, but just because for those few minutes, i was blissfully happy.

until i wasn’t.

see, new york city has a way of never letting you get too close to bliss. the city will let you teeter precariously on the edge of happiness. it’ll let you stand on precipice of perfection, but it’ll never quite let you get there.

and just as i was feeling like the world was my oyster, like someone had poured glitter into my veins, i encountered your garden variety crazy person, screaming on the sidewalk at lord knows who.

“you’re not a real american!” he shouted. “you think you’re a fucking american? i’ll tell you who’s a fucking american. you’re not a REAL AMERICAN.”

now, i’ve lived here long enough to know that the best method in these situations is to keep your head down, continue walking, and not draw any attention to yourself. and most importantly, not to make eye contact. so, i kept pace about a hundred feet back, as he ranted and raved in front of me.

until he stopped directly in front of the CVS i needed to enter, and i had no choice but to walk right by him. at first, i paused, held back a bit. something told me to brace myself, that maybe i should cross the street.

don’t be stupid, i counseled my inner voices. he’s not even talking to you. he doesn’t even see you. he doesn’t even know you’re here.

so i kept walking.

and guess what? he saw me. because as soon as i came into his line of vision, he started shouting.

“FAT AND BLONDE. YOU’RE JUST FAT AND BLONDE. THAT’S ALL YOU ARE. YOU THINK ANYONE CARES ABOUT YOU? FAT AND BLONDE. YOU’RE JUST FAT AND BLONDE.”

for the record, folks, there were no other fat and blonde people in the area. nope, he was talking to me. screaming at me. immediately, my cheeks caught fire, and i ducked into CVS and headed straight for the back corner, where i could take a few deep breaths and regain my calm.

before i knew it, i was willing myself to hold back tears in the snack food aisle. if my life were a movie, this would have been the moment where little scary cartoon devil people had popped up all around me screaming, fat and blonde! fat and blonde! fat and blonde!

i wanted to simultaneously smack myself for letting a mentally ill person get to me and burst into tears right in front of the fruit snacks.

as soon as i checked out, i did what any sane 28 year old person would do (not): i called my mother. who proceeded to tell me, in the most rational voice possible, that i couldn’t let a random homeless person get to me. in the background, my sister called out, “you don’t even know that he was talking to you!”

but i did. i did know he was talking to me. i’m sure of it. but whether he was or he wasn’t is somewhat irrelevant, isn’t it? because the reality of the situation was that he only had power over me, and over my feelings, if i let him. if i allowed those sorts of statements to seep into my bones and vibrate throughout my body, i was sure as hell going to feel like a big fat pile of UGLY.

if, instead, i chose to try and shake it off – to buy myself a bouquet of sunflowers at the bodega and remind myself that it was beautiful outside and i was happy – then he didn’t win.

so i gave myself about 10 minutes to feel sad about it, and then i straightened myself up again, bought myself not one but two bouquets of flowers, and told myself it was okay. and you know what? after about an hour, it was. just like that! just by telling myself i wasn’t going to let that negativity affect the rest of my day, it didn’t.

and that, my friends, is the power of positive thinking.

or maybe the power of sunflowers.

or maybe (most likely), the power of saying to myself, over and over again, i’m not as fat as i used to be, you motherfucker.

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yesterday, i read this incredible, moving, maddening, saddening piece of work on xojane. it made me feel a giant complex ball o’ feelings, an amalgamation of hurt and shame and pride and anger that reminded me of my favorite quote from jeffrey eugenides. in particular, one section stood out:

Before I got on the plane, my best friend offered me a bag of potato chips to eat on the plane, but I denied myself that. I said, “People like me don’t get to eat food like that in public,” and it was one of the truest things I’ve ever said.

how often have i uttered that same exact sentence in my head? how often have i not eaten something i wanted because i was afraid of what people would think? or, on the contrary, how often have i tried to squelch my feelings of shame and eat exactly what i wanted, only to feel overwhelmed by thoughts of, am i being judged for eating this?

i’ve written on here before about my struggles with my weight. i’ve talked about my new year’s resolutions, which include learning to love my body. i’ve written about the f word. i’ve written about finding acceptance on a hike in nicaragua. i’ll probably continue to write about my struggles for the rest of my life, because lord knows i’m never going to be a size 2, or probably, even a size 6. but i’d like to someday get past the shame of that fact, to feel as though i can consume a bag of potato chips, or a bar of chocolate, or a plate of fries, without imagining that i’m being judged for doing so.

i know the feeling the author speaks of above. i understand what it’s like to not sit down on the subway because you’re worried you’ll take up too many seats. to not opt for certain outfits, or bright colors, or tight clothes, because you feel you haven’t earned the right to do so. i know what it’s like to want more than anything for your body to be invisible, to be whisper thin, to disappear inside itself, to just, for one single moment in your life, live without being conscious of how your body takes up space in the world.

i’ve been going to bar method for over three years now; this summer, i’ll mark a year of thrice-weekly soulcycle classes. i know, somewhere in my heart, that the bar method soho community loves me for who i am and doesn’t think, “fat girl” when i walk through the door. but i do. deep down, i still think it almost every class i take. i look at my legs and my waist and my chest in the mirror, and i look at my arms when we raise them above for balance, and i survey those body parts next to the rest of the pin thin women in class and i judge myself, and the little voice in my head tells me that all those women around me are doing just the same. they’re looking at me, up on my tiptoes, and thinking, what is she doing here? she’s been coming for 3 years and she still looks like this? she must eat like a pig. she clearly has no self-control. you’d think she’d have lost more weight given that she’s here 5 days a week.

you would think that, wouldn’t you? i would. i wish i had. but i haven’t, mostly because i refuse to deny myself the things i truly love. contrary to popular belief, most overweight people DON’T sit on their couches stuffing their faces 24/7. many of us actually eat quite a healthy diet, one filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and peppered with quite a bit of exercise. some of us are genetically pre-disposed to have a larger ribcage. some of us won’t ever have a thigh gap, no matter how much we want it.

when i was younger, i used to wish i had the self control to starve myself. i would scold myself for my lack of discipline, my inability to do what it took to be thin.

i’ve done enough work on myself (the inside, at least) to know that’s not a healthy attitude. but i’d be lying if i told you i don’t feel shame every time i step into a soulcycle studio. i’d be kidding myself if i said i haven’t tried many of the fitness classes i’d like to try for fear that i’m too fat to try them.

most of the women (and men) who ride at soulcycle have bodies that amaze me. they have not an ounce of fat on them, their muscles are carved into their skin like ancient stone statues. their sweat trickles down the cuts in their abs, the rock solid dips in their shoulders practically vibrate with strength. they appear to be the sorts of people who’ve never once had to worry about their weight. they flaunt their thinness in sports bras and tight yoga pants (not that i blame them; i’d do the same if i could). and i look at them, and all i can think is, are they looking at me and wondering what the hell i’m doing here? when i check in at the front desk, i wonder if they think i won’t make it through class. when i clip into my bike, i wonder if the person behind me sighs and thinks, ugh, great, the fat girl is in front of me.

i try hard, so hard, not to think like this. but it’s been ingrained in my mind that because i am greater than, i am lesser than. my weight isn’t just the ball and chain i wear around my ankles, dragging behind me with every step i take, it’s a scarlet letter on my ample chest, telling the world i’m no good. i’m lazy. i eat too much. i don’t exercise. i don’t deserve that bag of potato chips. i don’t deserve to ride in a class of athletes when i’m not one myself.

when i catch myself feeling pretty, feeling good, that feeling is often quickly squashed by my inner hatred, my inner shame. i can’t possibly look pretty, can’t possibly feel good – not if i’m still fat.

the only thing greater than my shame over my weight is my shame that i AM so ashamed of myself. i don’t want to live like this. i don’t want to think like this. i don’t want to be like this. i am far from perfect, but i am also far from a failure, inside and out. sometimes, when my favorite soulcycle instructor isabel says things like, “be proud of where you are right now, how strong you are,” i have a brief moment where i truly feel strong, and truly feel proud of my body and what it can do. but all too quickly, i let myself get bogged down by my insecurities, and my shame, and that feeling of pride dissipates before i can catch it and bottle it up for future use.

i want, so badly, to accept myself for who i am. i know, deep down, that no one will accept me until i can accept myself. i’m making progress, showing up to class each day even though i feel so decidedly out of place, and working through my feelings by writing about them. i’m making progress by buying clothes at lululemon even though their founder says fat women shouldn’t shop there. i’m making progress by trying new things, and meeting new people, and for the most part, wearing the things i want. i’m making progress by having small moments where i allow myself to feel pretty, to feel wanted, to feel worthy of someone’s attention.

because at the end of the day, i won’t be young forever, and even if i’m pretty now, lord knows i won’t be when i’m old and crotchety and bitching at my cats on my front porch at the ripe old age of 85. it’s not just my body that counts. it’s that i can love with all of my heart, and take care of the people who mean the world to me; that i can bake a mean chocolate chip cookie and can sing karaoke with the best of ’em.

and you know what? when i let that side of myself take center stage, and i push that judgmental little voice out of my head, things are okay. and if i want the potato chips, i’m going to eat the damn potato chips. IN PUBLIC.

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over the past few years, i’ve become somewhat of a workout nut. i’ve talked a bunch about my love for bar method, and more recently, my obsession with soulcycle (the only thing that’s helped me lose weight pretty much ever), but i haven’t given an update on my workout sitch in quite some time. during my first few years in new york, i was an evening gym-goer, but once i got into the ad industry, i quickly realized that the nights of leaving at 5pm were O-V-E-R, and that if i wanted to ensure i got a workout in, i had to do so before i went into the office.

three plus years later, i’m totally an early morning convert. on the days i wake up groggy and cancel bar method, i regret it. the mornings i don’t work out turn into days in which i simply don’t feel as good. i’m less awake, less motivated, less happy…there’s something about starting the day with your endorphins pumping (something i experienced today with an 8am soulcycle class) that just makes life easier. i’ve learned that i don’t have as good of an experience at bar method if i go to an evening class. getting zen before work, and letting the day’s worries evaporate before i even walk out of the studio, makes a huge difference in my day to day stress level.

with soul, i love a good morning class to get pumped up for the day, but i also love riding out my stress in the evenings. soulcycle is so high energy that you can’t help but leave invigorated, even if you walk into the studio tired. i’ve fallen into a bit of a rhythm with soul and bar (something i was struggling with when i first started riding): mondays, i do AM bar and PM soul. this means i start out off my week zen and end my mondays (which are always rough, in my opinion) feeling relaxed and ready to take on the week ahead. tuesdays, i’m AM bar (no soul). wednesdays, i’m AM soul (no bar). thursdays, i’m AM bar (no soul), and fridays, i’m AM bar and evening soul. that equals out to four days of bar method and 3 soul classes a week – then i sometimes add an extra bar or soul class in on the weekends.

i’ve been lucky to make friends at bar method, and to bring friends to soulcycle, which means that i’m often able to turn my workouts into a social excursion as well. at this point, i’m past enjoying working out (something that was a BIG hurdle for me when i initially started classes at bar method) – i seriously look forward to my classes, especially because half the time i know i’ll be burning calories alongside friends. last saturday, my friend lisa and i (who i met at bar method) took a 10:30 AM class, grabbed some breakfast, then spent the afternoon shopping in soho. i literally couldn’t have asked for a more perfect saturday. again, there’s something about starting your day with a workout that just feels amazing – as the quote above says, it makes me feel alive. i especially feel this way at soulcycle, when i’m mid sprint and want to give up, and–thanks to instructor motivation–manage to push through, taking my body to places i thought i couldn’t go. there’s really no better way to feel alive than to challenge yourself and come out on the other side.

in short, i feel more alive than i’ve felt in a while, and perhaps more importantly, more balanced and connected with my body than i’ve been in a long time, maybe ever. and that makes the above worth every penny, and every minute of my time.

the one downside of all those morning classes? it means i carry my life around with me pretty much 24/7. my ‘work bag’ is enormous, and also carries either my outfit for the day or my workout clothes, plus my makeup, hairbrush, clarisonic, facewash, bar method socks, spin shoes…the list goes on and on. this generally means there’s no room for my lunch (which i try to make myself the night before), so i carry that in a mini lululemon bag (why hasn’t someone designed a cute yet adult lunchbox yet?). Image

WHAT’S IN MY GYM BAG

for shits and giggles, i thought it might be fun to put together my workout essentials: the things i can’t get through bar method/soulcycle without. my standard outfit includes lululemon wunderunder leggings (my absolute fave, they’re worth every penny because they last forever), a lulu racerback tank, an old navy sports bra (inexpensive at just 16.50 a pop, and they’re often on sale!), and bar method grippy socks. if i’m at soul, i swap the bar socks for regular socks, and add my shimano spin shoes (also an investment, but again worth every penny, they paid for themselves after a few months of spin classes – soul charges you $3/class to rent shoes that someone else’s sweaty feet have been in). i also carry around all natural spray deodorant, blotting papers for the times i can’t shower, and of course, my water bottle, which i legitimately could not live without. it’s pretty much an extension of my arm – which is why i’m contemplating splurging on this adorable heart BKR bottle (glass, BPA free!) that i actually gave my friend kim for christmas (but really want for myself!).

my one other must-have is something i actually haven’t tried yet – no sweat detergent. it was recommended to me by someone at soul this morning; she swears by it to get that sweaty smell out of your workout clothing. i hate to admit it, but even with regular washing, my soul clothes are beginning to smell a bit musty. i don’t think it’s anything anyone else would notice, but i certainly notice them when i put them on. i’ve tried adding a cup of vinegar to my wash (something i read online), but that didn’t quite kill it. my new soul source tells me the no sweat detergent is the real deal, and makes a big difference in how her clothes smell – especially when you can’t wash them right away (which, let’s be honest, is pretty much always the case…my sweaty clothes sit in my hamper for a few days before they make it into the washing machine. gross, i know). i have high hopes that no sweat is going to be a real lifesaver when it arrives on my doorstep!

and that, folks, is my healthy living roundup. what i’m doing, when i’m doing it, and what i’m wearing when i do so. end scene.

Happy Thanksgivingi don’t know about you, but i’ve got a whole lot to be thankful for.

1. my family. they keep me sane, and prop me up when i can’t stand on my own.

2. my friends. they make me laugh, cry, and keep me on my toes.

3. my cat, penny lane. she is the best kitten i know.

4. my health. my body enables me to work hard, to stretch, to push itself to the extreme. i am in better shape than i’ve ever been, and i feel so thankful for it.

5. my job. i love what i do.

6. the work i do outside my job. i write for others on the side. i keep this here blog. these things keep me from experiencing too much writer’s block, and challenge me to up my game and perfect my craft.

7. my home. it took many years, but it finally feels like home.

8. my city. new york may knock you down from time to time, but it always picks you back up.

9. my exercise routine. i have finally found not one, but TWO places to sweat it out. to let all my worries melt away, and to get in shape while doing so. thank you, bar method, and thank you, soul cycle.

10. inspiration. this city is full of it. my job is full of it. the internet is full of it. i rarely lack for inspiration, and for that, i feel quite lucky.

what are you thankful for today?

Soul Cycle Quoterecently, my friend lisa introduced me to soul cycle, a cult-like spinning studio that’s been transforming regular new york women into crazy, sweat-soaked pedal pushers for the past year or so. i met lisa at bar method, so i can’t fault her for thinking that i might be interested in another fitness class. lisa is tall and lithe and likely has never carried extra weight around her stomach in her life (except perhaps when she was born). god bless the girl. that must be the life!

unlike me, who has, since the age of 9, carried a tub around my middle that seems to haunt me like a nasty shadow that simply won’t cut it out. tubby as i may be, i decided that the worst possible thing that could happen during a 45 minute soul cycle class was this: i could pass out, and someone would have to unclip my limp, probably sweaty feet from the bike, and carry me out past the soul cycle scented candles in the center podium and deposit me in the lobby. and to be quite honest, i thought there was a pretty good chance of that exact scenario happening. thanks to bar method, i’m in relatively good shape, but cardio has never exactly been my forte. i can’t run to save my life (literally, i think if i had to run for my life, i’d be a dead woman), and i haven’t ridden a bike in years (unless, of course, you count the indoor bikes i’ve been riding at soul cycle). so you can see why i was ever so slightly scared to take soul cycle on.

also, it didn’t help that i’d heard the cyclists at soul were uber intimidating; new york power women outfitted in neon spandex – the sorts of women who look good even when they’re sweating so hard they’re tasting their own salt water.

i generally prefer not to taste my own sweat, thank you very much – but i’ve been looking for a way to amp up the results i’m getting at bar method and really drop the pounds. (i know, i could eat less cookies, but what’s the fun in that?). so, to soul cycle i went. lisa and i signed up for a 10:45am class at the union square studio on a saturday morning a few weeks ago. our instructor was a ripped gay man named danny who was known for his kickass tunes and his motivational manner.

as we walked in, my first thought was, omg, these are real athletesthese are people who like to work out. and they’re really fucking good at it. i felt, not for the first time, fat, dumpy, and totally out of place. as the door to the studio opened, i felt my heart lift just a little bit: class would be conducted in the dark. by candlelight. lord knows everyone looks better by candlelight. a peppy soul employee checked me in and got me a pair of clip-in shoes (which, for the record, are really weird. i get that it’s important to be clipped into your bike, but walking in those babies is a semi surreal experience), then showed me the locker room downstairs.

once i’d changed into my soul shoes, i hobbled back upstairs and waited alongside the hardcore cyclers as soul employees cleaned the studio. cyclers who had just completed their class stood around, chatting with one another and looking positively drenched in sweat. good god, i thought, what have i gotten myself into? i had the distinct sense i was about to humiliate myself in front of 50 uber-jacked guys and gals who did.not.mess.around.

lisa chose this time to tell me that her first soul cycle class was so rough, she almost pooped her pants.

great, as if i wasn’t petrified already. i was going to die in there, i just knew it. would my tombstone read, “RIP SARAH. SHE HAD SOUL BUT SHE WASN’T A SOUL CYCLER”?

then it was time to go into class. i had smartly chosen a bike all the way in the back corner, where i could hide out. of course, if i passed out and needed to be carried out, this bike was a bad choice. a soul employee helped me clip into the bike and adjust my settings. note: i’m still terrible at clipping in on my own. apparently, it’s just like skiing. except that i don’t ski, so that frame of reference isn’t exactly helpful.

and then all of a sudden, it was time. danny was perched on his very own bike on a pedestal in the center of the room, whipping his head back and forth, his arm muscles practically protruding from his body (the man is RIPPED). techno music was blasting so loud i could have sworn i’d accidentally stumbled upon the electric daisy carnival. there wasn’t anything to do but start pedaling, so pedal i did.

before i knew it, i was sweating. a lot. like, more than i’ve ever sweat in my life (and let me tell you, i sweat HARD on the subway when it’s 101 degrees outside and the platform is like the 9th circle of hell). but i was moving. my legs were pumping, and i was in the rhythm. danny was playing a house remix of an old school red hot chili peppers tune, and yelling that it was time to stand up on our legs, lift our tired asses out of our seats, and SPRINT. i looked over at lisa, and saw that she too was sweating – and grinning, hard. as in, i’m pedaling so motherfucking fast that i think i can touch the sky hard. for a second, i thought i might die. but i didn’t die, and i kept on pedaling.

soon my ponytail was wet. i stopped reaching for my towel and just let the sweat take over. and then danny was telling us to close our eyes, and to let go of all the bullshit we’d carried into the studio with us, and just ride. and while i’d have cackled hard at a statement like that just 20 minutes ago, i was so in the moment that i felt it. i swear to god, i found god. i mean, i don’t even know if i believe in god. but it was like i found jesus. the music was so loud, and i was working so hard, and pedaling so fast, and my eyes were closed, and it was a moment of collective effervescence; the entire room was in this fast-paced meditation moment, frozen in time together.  i could feel everyone else letting go, and so i did too.

and for that moment, i wasn’t fat. i wasn’t out of shape. i wasn’t the most unqualified person in the room. i was just riding my bike, and admittedly, yes, tasting my own salt water (kind of tastes like the ocean!), but i was there. and it was a magical thing.

and so it goes without saying that i’ve been back multiple times since then. and i still can’t clip my shoes in, and i still sort of feel like the fattest girl in the room each time i enter the studio – but i think if i keep going, that just might change. and in the meantime, i can close my eyes and ride to the music, and that’s no small thing. and yes, my butt hurts afterwards (those seats are ROUGH! and i have a lot of extra padding!), and yes, i sweat more than i’d like to admit. but man, does it feel good. it’s even opened my eyes to the idea that maybe sometimes house music ain’t so bad.

ps: i owe the confidence and guts i needed to step onto the bike to my beloved bar method. without the soho studio, and the instructors who have made me feel strong, and pretty, and just as worthy of my lululemons as the next girl, i’d never have set foot inside soul.