Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Commitment Day/Preparing for Miss Virginia with Integrity

I follow FitFluential on Twitter, and they host regular health and fitness chats. Tonight's was about Commitment Day 2012, which is a nationwide movement to make January 1, 2013 a day to make a commitment to yourself. The final question of the chat was:

Fill in the blank: I commit to ________ in 2013.

I thought about it before I added my two cents to the conversation. And then it hit me -- I commit to prepare to compete in swimsuit for Miss Virginia in a way that I would want the girls I coach to emulate.

I'll make my first and only trip to Miss Virginia next June, where I will be at the top of the age group and at the bottom of the experience ladder. I want to give it the best I've got.

Like every girl competing, I really want to be Miss Virginia. I want to travel the state, impacting young women, being a role model.

But I only want to be Miss Virginia -- heck, I only deserve to be Miss Virginia -- if I can get there in a healthy way that I would want my 3rd through 5th graders to look up to. And that means no crazy dieting.

Today, as we are six months away from Miss Virginia, I want to commit to preparing myself for every area of competition with integrity -- I want to be true to myself, my platform, the girls I work with.

I'm also committing to blogging more - sharing the how of my preparation: workouts, recipes, motivation tips, so that you can get in swimsuit competition shape too. Okay, maybe not, but you'll probably be sporting a swimsuit in June too, even if it's not on a stage. And besides, exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy... at least that's what Legally Blonde taught me :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

For Hope.

"Ours is an associate sisterhood based upon sincere desire for mutual improvement; its cementing element is love, its stimulating principle, truth; its watchword, duty..."
-Anna Boyd Ellington, first initiation address

When I read Anna Boyd's first initiation address, the quote above sticks out to me, because it's everything the Fraternity is about: choosing each other, supporting each other, succeeding together, remembering that we are accountable to one another.

I am reminded as we celebrate our founding - 139 years ago, during Christmastime, 1873 - of all of the wonderful things Delta Gamma has done for me throughout my six years of membership. My best friends, confidence, and the ability to understand people rank among the top of my list, but I am certain that I could go on for days.

This blog started as a way for me to document my journey as a Collegiate Development Consultant for Delta Gamma. It was, by far, the most challenging and fulfilling year of my life. I was moved to tears on a weekly basis, and I felt like my work was impactful.

As I traveled the country, I met thousands of college aged women, and as I learned from them, I learned about myself and about the organization I worked for.

I think what I am most thankful for the continuous improvement and learning that Delta Gamma has afforded me over the last six years. During a time in life when everything seems to change, DG has remained a constant source of friendship, hope, and inspiration, and I think that's pretty special.

Happy 139 years, Delta Gamma. Can't wait to see what the rest of my membership holds.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Are nutrition facts making us fatter?

Did you know that obesity rate among adults in the US has increased from 15% to 36% since 1990?

In twenty years, the percentage of obese adults has increased by over 20%. Do you know how ridiculous that is!?

I blame this guy:


My issue with the nutrition label is simple: by breaking a food into micronutrients, you are reducing something that is cultural, enjoyable, and part of life to a series of numbers. What’s more, you’re trying to summarize the pros and cons of a food in black and white. This isn’t normal.

It causes the human mind to equate a large banana to a a bowl of fruit loops. A piece of chicken to a York peppermint patty. Rice to French fries.

These things are not equal, and yet the nutrition label – particularly the calorie count – makes us think they are.

But there’s more: Since the nutrition label was mandated by the FDA in 1990, we have seen obesity increase exponentially. Which begs the question: is this correlation, causation, or chance?

Could it be that our growing obsession with “being healthy” has caused us to forget how to eat? That we have lost our instincts for choosing foods that are good for us because we rely so much on the package? Perhaps it means that we are choosing more processed foods instead of real foods solely because we are able to easily count the calories or points when it’s printed on a package.

I am not a nutritionist. I am a 23 year old who spent nearly seven years of my life trying different diets, depriving myself of the foods I love, and spending countless hours on the elliptical trying to get to be the size I wanted to be. I finally got on track to being healthy and loving my body this past year, when I lost nearly 35 pounds without counting calories, cutting carbs, or doing activities I hated all in the name of losing weight.

I am happier, healthier, and fitter than ever. And maybe I’m just one person, but I think it’s a discussion worth having: causation, correlation, or chance? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We're all in this together: Reflections on Newtown

How do you adequately reflect on what happened in Connecticut on Friday?  There's been a lot of conversation on social media, in the news, and among Americans. 

I think it comes down to this:

Our country needs more: more human connection, more love, more helping people who are hurting. More smiling at strangers, more random acts of kindness, more listening when you ask if someone is okay.

And we need less: less judging, less gossiping, less hating.

We need to listen to and learn from each other. To create communities, grow together, and reconnect based on shared values.  

Most of all, we must genuinely care about each other. Each of us struggles and succeeds, and the overall well-being of our country is dependent on the well-being of our people. 

So smile at a stranger, let someone merge in front of you on the highway, and just remember:  
we're all in this together.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five tips for Bikram beginners

My Bikram studio recently did several Groupons. This is great, because Bikram yoga is wonderful for your mental, physical, and emotional health, and everyone should give it a try! That being said, I've realized there are a few things that I wish someone had told me as a beginner, and so I'm sharing them here.

If you're going to try your very first Bikram yoga class, here are five things you should know:

  1. It's super important that everyone can see part of themselves in the mirror. If you're anywhere but the back row, be aware of other yogis in the class, and stagger your mat so that they can see themselves as well.
  2. The yoga room is a silent place. The Bikram community is wonderful, and talking in the lobby is totally encouraged, but a lot of people come early to class to zone out, get their meditation on, or just enjoy some silence. Even if you're coming to yoga with your friends, try not to talk inside of the room.
  3. It's totally okay to sit out a posture. Or seven. Yoga isn't a competition, and it's about the journey. If you need to sit down and take a breather, do it. Noone is judging you, I promise.
  4. People don't wear a lot of clothes, and it's more than acceptable to join them. You know why? Because it's cool. Literally. You are sweating in a 104 degree room for 90 minutes, and you're going to feel a heck of a lot better in a sports bra and short shorts than leggings and a t-shirt. Like I said, noone is judging you.
  5. Come back the next day. So maybe your first class was rough. Maybe you felt hot and sweaty and not flexible. Leave the room, sign up for the next day, and come back. Flexibility, inner peace, happiness... all of these things take time. You're never going to heal yourself physically, mentally, or emotionally unless you keep coming back.
Anyone else a Bikram yogi? What would you tell a newbie to the practice?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happiness is a choice.

Here’s a shocking fact: bad things happen to everybody. Okay, so maybe it’s not that shocking. But for a few months earlier this year, it was shocking for me.
It’s not like I’ve never had anything bad happen to me; of course I have. But the way I felt was new – and for two months, I wallowed, I pity-partied, and I told everyone who would listen about my plight.
At some point, I got sick of being the only person at my pity party, and decided that I could create the life I wanted. I signed up for a marathon, I registered for my first pageant in three years, I started blogging more. And in the last several months, amazing things have happened: I landed a fantastic job, I ran a marathon, and I earned my way to the Miss Virginia stage – somewhere I never thought I would be competing. All of those things have happened not because I am special or lucky, but because I refuse, on a daily basis, to allow things I cannot change impact my attitude.
Bad things happen to everybody. And most of the time, they’re bad things that you have zero control over: getting rejected from your dream college, someone breaking your heart, someone saying something mean. But you know what I’ve learned in the last nine months? While you have zero control over what happens, you have 100% control over how you react to it.
Positivity is a choice. Being happy is a choice. Proactively going after everything you’ve ever wanted in life is a choice. Change what you can, accept what you can’t, move on from your past. Forgive people who have hurt you, and stop letting them take up your time, your thoughts, and your energy. All of those things are too valuable to be taken up by people and things that do not serve you.
Today, be kind to yourself. Go for a run, read a good book, eat your favorite ice cream. Call your best friend or your parents, make that recipe you’ve been dying to try from Pinterest, volunteer. Write down all of those things you’ve always wanted to do, and go do them.
Why not?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bikram reflections: Days four and five of my 30 day challenge

Well,  so far I am five-for-five in my 30 day challenge, and as I'm writing this post, I'm preparing for class number six.

The last two classes have been pretty awesome. In a way I've never really experienced before, both classes felt like they went pretty quickly, and I actually kind of enjoyed every series of both of them. Bow (the pinnacle posture of the spine strengthening series) felt really strong both days, and I was kind of proud of how much better it looked and felt. Bow, just so you know what I'm talking about, eventually looks like this:

I am also finding that my practice is starting to feel like the "moving meditation" that it claims to be. I definitely am starting to fall into the rhythm of the practice, and I think that's probably what has been most helpful in making the 90 minutes enjoyable each day.

Scheduling myself time for my practice each day has been great. I love how Bikram makes me feel, how it makes me look, and that it gives me time daily to focus on myself. I'm sure I've blogged about this before, but I think that we sometimes forget how important it is to set aside time for ourselves each day. I don't just mean time to workout, I mean time to let all of our other responsibilities take a breather for a hot second (literally hot, in this case) and just let our mind have a break. We're all so busy all the time, and we sometimes forget that taking a breather is necessary too.

Here's to class number six.. after today, I'll be a fifth of the way there!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bikram reflections: Starting my 30 day challenge

I started my 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge three days ago -- and I am three for three so far! I'm doing my own little 30 day challenge for several reasons. Obviously, first and foremost, for my health -- to see what 30 straight days of getting my 90 minutes in the hot room can do for me. Then, it goes without saying that the competitive part of my personality thrives off of challenges. I've also been neglecting my practice a little bit lately, so it's definitely long overdue for me to kick it back into gear.

I'll be trying to reflect on my practice daily on this blog, but figured I would go ahead and combine the first three days. My three classes were all at different times (7:15pm, 8:15pm, and 6:00am), with different class sizes (five people in the 7:15 class, a full room during the 8:15 class, and then probably about 10 people in the 6:15 class), and with three different teachers. Here are my thoughts so far:

  • I was really distracted during the 7:15 small class, when a gentleman was breathing really heavily throughout the practice. I did realize that this probably means I need to work on focusing on my own breathing, and not letting little things distract me.
  • Holy cow is standing separate leg stretching pose hard. I always thought it was difficult (even though it looks like it would be one of the easiest poses), but after being away for so long, it's gotten even harder.
  • The 8:15 class is for beginners. There's a lot of people, a lot of fidgiting, and a lot of groaning. Again, reminded that I need to work on focusing internally instead of externally.
  • Conversely, the 6:00am class is for more experienced yogis. There's a lot less water drinking, and a whole lot more "class energy" propelling you through the series.
  • The 6:00 class is also nice because I think it's too early for your brain to be awake. It makes it a lot easier to make the practice your "moving meditation" and control how much your mind wanders.
  • I can do the whole spine strengthening series!! Yeah, it hurts, but I can do it, and I'm confident that I'll be doing locust correctly in no time :)
  • Sometimes, increased humidity is worse than increased heat. More on this later, I'm sure.
Anyways, just wanted to get this up before I head to work. Always nice to start my day with a Bikram class :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

My first marathon: moments of inspiration

Well, it's been broadcast all over Twitter and Facebook, but I figured I'd do a different kind of race recap here. In case you haven't heard, I finished my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, yesterday. Victory tasted pretty sweet:

My dad and I finished in 5:30:41. Considering he ran the whole thing with a broken toe, I would consider this time a success! Plus, we crossed the finish line hand in hand, smiling. They've started to load the official race photos, and I have to say, I look like I am genuinely enjoying the race in each photo.

For me, this marathon was about finishing. It was about pushing myself to achieve something I had never achieved, and proving to myself that I was capable of accomplishing something this big. And I have to tell you, this may be my greatest personal accomplishment.

Today, as I try to foam roll out the stiffness in my legs that is a constant reminder of yesterday, I wanted to take the time to blog about my experience, and about moments of inspiration from the race.

My race started at 7:55am. We placed ourselves in the 5:00 finish corral, which was silly because our strategy was to run the first 15 miles and then alternate walking and running (walk one mile, run two) to the finish. In retrospect, we should have placed ourselves in the 4:30 finish corral, which would align more with our running time. Instead, we ended up trying to make our way through the pack of people running at a pace 2-3 minutes per mile slower than us for the first three miles.

Being in this grouping brought our first pop of inspiration, when around mile four, we ran past a blind woman running the Marine Corps Marathon, guided by three guide runners. If that doesn't inspire you to be limitless, I don't know what will.

Somewhere around mile four or five, we also found a group whose shirts read "The journey is the reward, the marathon is the victory lap." Reflecting on my own journey, from where/who I was when I signed up for the marathon in March to where/who I am now is a pretty powerful thing. And they're right, the marathon was my celebration - a celebration of living a life that I love and getting a little bit closer to exactly what I want my life to look like.

Mile 11 brought us to our first views of the national mall, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The roundabout we went around was lined with spectators, cheering for friends and family members and random strangers. It was one of two times that I started tearing up, and really only out of sheer inspiration. Here I was, in a sea of 20,000+ runners, all achieving a goal - whether just to finish or to beat a time.

We then made our way to Haynes' Point, which was the most challenging part of the race for me. For miles 13-16, we were spectatorless, and I was hurting. I was pretty excited to cross the 13.1 mile marker at 2:15, which is a whole 15 minutes faster than the half marathon I ran in April, but other than that, I was just ready to start walking. Then, right when I was getting frustrated, I started seeing pictures of fallen soldiers. About 25-30 pictures of young men in their uniforms, smiling, with their names and dates of birth and death along the bottom. Following their pictures was a line of people, each bearing an American flag with a black ribbon, embroidered with a name. It was moving and humbling, and I found myself pretty emotional again. The Marine Corps Marathon is special in this way -- you are inspired by the hundreds (thousands?) of Marines cheering you on from the sidelines, as well as by the countless young men and women who never made it home.

The last ten miles were a blur. I know that my little Miss Greater Springfield princess, Hannah (who loves to run), was my inspiration during mile 21, and that my Girls on the Run girls were my inspiration when my knee started hurting during mile 22. I know there were donut holes at mile 24, and that I ran the last 6.2 miles (after "beating the bridge") with a huge smile on my face after seeing a sign that said "Smile and wave if this is your first marathon -- you are now a marathoner."

And at 26.2, they announced my name, and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with my dad, a huge smile on my face. Because my journey has been my reward, and the marathon truly was the victory lap.

I hope that if you're reading, you take away this: you are capable of anything you set your mind to. You are in charge -- of what you accomplish, of how you feel, of your life. It is never too late to decide what you want out of your life and to determine how you are going to go after it. Let the blind woman running the Marine Corps Marathon be your inspiration too -- the only limits you have are the ones that you create for yourself.

Can't wait for the next one.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My only political post: Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know tonight was the last presidential debate. And to be honest, I have never been so excited for a television series to end. Seriously.

Ya'll, I used to enjoy politics. I studied political science in college, and at one point in my life, I dreamed of running for President. I loved politics because, like philosophy, it was an area that had no right or wrong answers. Politics, unlike hard science, is about balancing opinions. I was drawn to study political science because it centered around compromise and listening to the viewpoints of others. For me, politics were about listening to others talk about their beliefs and learning about how they formed their opinions. If you listen closely enough, a person's views tell their life story, because their views are built from their life experiences, circumstances, and situations.

But this election? This election has nothing to do with anything that made me fall in love with the study of politics. This election has everything to do with "big manning" your opponent, and nothing to do with coming up with solutions to our problems. I can't watch TV, listen to the radio, or go on Facebook without hearing a negative political ad or seeing a friend belittle another friend because they have a different opinion.

In case you forgot, our freedom to think, feel, and say what we want is what makes this country so great. We all have different life experiences and situations that have shaped our views into what they are. Further, we all have different issue priorities. The presence of many different opinions does not mean that some are wrong or even that some are more right than others, it simply means that we are unique individuals who have come to different conclusions about how we want our country run.

Are there uneducated voters? Absolutely. There are uneducated voters who will show up to vote for each candidate. But to make generalizations about people simply because they will vote for a different candidate than you will is both heartbreaking and ridiculous.

Here is what I know: the men who are running for President both care deeply about the United States of America. They both want what they believe is best for this country and for you, the American citizen. Whether or not you agree with their plans and ideas is up to you, and I encourage you to get out and vote for the candidate that best aligns with you on whatever you deem to be the most important issues. Instead of bashing the other side, the other candidate, the other voters, learn to agree to disagree. Embrace the fact that this country is beautiful and special because we have the ability to make our own choices and form our own opinions from all of the information available.

Because as we tear down each other and tear down each candidate, we further divide our country. We take this election from one in which we are choosing between two men who care about the future of this country to one where we are choosing between the lesser of the two evils.

And while you're at it, research your local congressional candidates as well. Vote for the person who best represents you, and the one who will work across the aisle to get things moving again. Because without a Congress that will compromise to move forward, neither Presidential candidate will be able to forward any of their long-winded promises.

That's all I've got. You've got two weeks to get yourself educated, and a whole lifetime to work towards making politics more of a conversation and less of a fight. November 6th is a very important day, and I hope all of you take the time to make your voice heard.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What exactly does "Start the Conversation" mean?

This weekend, I'll be speaking about nutrition with a group of kids, and I've been thinking about my approach for the last few days. This will be my first planned time speaking on this topic to a group. While nutrition is something that I've been passionate about for a while, and a passion that I've shared on many, many occasions, this will be the first time that I'll have prepared a presentation and shared it.

I think it's fair to say I'm a little nervous.

But I'm also extremely excited. Public speaking is a passion of mine, and I am SO excited to talk to these kids about REAL food. About building a healthy relationship with food. About enjoying homemade cookies and made-from-scratch pizza every once in a while.

Start the Conversation is about rebuilding a healthy relationship with food. I think that we've gotten to the point where we're so obsessed with counting calories or carbs or labeling foods as bad that we don't appreciate food for what it is -- a cultural staple, our sustenance, and, most importantly, something to be enjoyed.

We feel like we can no longer enjoy the "secret family recipe" because it's made with butter or whole milk, and society tells us the calories are bad. But while we're scared to cook our food in olive oil, we're made to believe that eating cereal or microwave dinners made of countless ingredients we can't pronounce is somehow better for us.

I want to use this year to help people feel better about eating the real foods they love and less of the chemically flavored things that have been developed in a lab in order to reduce calories, fat, carbs, whatever. I want to share a message of moderation, one of enjoyment, and one of food appreciation. I want to help people stop obsessing over what they should and shouldn't eat, and instead use all of that energy towards enjoying life.

I'll share my weekend experience with you all on Sunday. If you have any advice for me for sharing this message with kids, please leave me a comment below!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's inspiring me this week

Long time no pinspirational post! Here’s a few of the things I’ve been pinning recently:

The last one is my favorite: You own your values, your integrity, your thoughts, your words, your actions and therefore, your destiny. Question: are you proud of what you own?

Happy Wednesday :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pancakes and Elvis

There are few things I love more than breakfast:


Saturday I got to make two appearances as Miss Greater Springfield, and I had a really great time! My morning started with going to the Greater Springfield Fire Department pancake breakfast, which was held in conjunction with an open house for Fire Prevention Week. I got to meet members of the community and speak with some local heroes – volunteer firefighters.

I learned some really interesting things about fire prevention (duh, Fire Prevention week), and figured I would share. I met the two high school volunteers pictured below at the smoke detector booth. Did you know that you should really have a smoke detector in every room and hallway in your house? Or that there are two different kinds of smoke detectors? I had no idea that you were supposed to have that many smoke detectors!


Later that night, I had a really special opportunity to spend the evening with a group of World War II veterans who were visiting D.C. from Tennessee. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post hosted the group for dinner, which was delicious and catered by JW and Friend’s in Springfield. It was really special getting to thank these heroes in person, and to work with the VFW veterans as well. And, they even had a special duo of performers:


Not sure anyone else can say they spent their Saturday with Marilyn and Elvis!  

Anyways, it was a pretty fantastic Saturday. I’m looking forward to this Saturday as well – I’ll be speaking about nutrition with a group of kids and also attending the Miss Hampton-Newport News pageant to see the lovely Phyllicia give up her title!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

“I am a runner because I run.”

This weekend was pretty crazy, but also pretty crazy awesome. I had two appearances as Miss Greater Springfield on Saturday, enjoyed working at Octoberfest, and then traveled to Charlottesville for the afternoon on Sunday to spend time with the chapter that I advise. Be on the lookout for a couple posts about my appearances from Saturday once I get the pictures :)

Today, I also got to go on a nice run to cap off the weekend. It was a beautiful day, and I really enjoyed jamming out to my music while pounding out my daily mileage. It’s pretty hard to believe that in two weeks, I will be able to call myself a marathoner.

Anyways, while on my run today, I had this moment of realization (like I often do. As it turns out, running time is great thinking time). Somewhere between May and now, I became a runner. As in, I feel the need to run several times a week. As in, I’m already looking forward to picking out my next race. As in, I completed twenty miles in under four hours last weekend with my dad. In the rain. Without complaining.


One of my favorite workout tops has “I am a runner because I run” written inside of the edge of the bottom of the shirt. It’s a good little mantra that has a lot of truth to it. The idea that you can become something just by putting the work in and DOING it is pretty awesome and pretty powerful.

I am a runner because I run. And because I’m at a point where I smile and jam out while doing it. And because I no longer feel the need to walk on a six mile run.

I’m a runner because running is now fun. How crazy is that?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

We all fall off the healthy living wagon sometimes


I have a confession to make: I partially fell off the wagon. The healthy living wagon? Yeah, I was on it, and I really have been barely hanging on the last few weeks.

Sure, I’ve been running (I did 20 miles for the first time last Sunday!), and making my way to boxing and yoga occasionally. But eating good-for-me-food? Certainly not like I should be. Like last night? Guess who ate cotton candy like a five-year-old while celebrating the Orioles win over the Yankees (two thumbs up!):

So the last two weeks have been filled with more than my fair share of sugar. And while the ice cream, cotton candy, cake, etc has been quite delicious, I think it finally all caught up with me. I woke up this morning feeling a little bit like a bus hit me, with a wicked stomach ache.

I’m feeling much better after a day of healthy eating, my workouts are on my calendar for the next week, and I am looking forward to getting myself completely back on the wagon.

Moral of the story? Healthy living isn’t a part-time thing. It’s a full time commitment to feeling 100% all of the time, and you can bet if you pull a Jen and channel your inner child for a week, your body is going to rebel.

The good thing is, it’s a pretty easy wagon to hop back on, and feeling good happens pretty quickly.

And now, it’s time for boxing. Look out for a new Tunesday later tonight!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let's talk about (school) lunch

When I think about school lunch, I think about milk in a pouch, rectangle pizza, that pumpkin ice cream they served at Thanksgiving, Cup Noodles, and iceberg lettuce and baby carrots presented as a salad. It's safe to say that the school lunch that I experienced certainly wasn't the healthiest. Not to mention that french fries counted as a vegetable, and you could buy Snickers ice cream bars every day if you wanted.

And judging by the nutrition facts posted by FCPS, they've still got a long way to go (I've got a bone to pick with the fact that elementary schools don't serve green vegetables.. corn isn't a veggie - it's a grain!). Luckily, there's an organization in Fairfax County that is "working to increase the quantities of healthy foods in Fairfax County Public Schools and supporting programs that educate students and their families on making healthier lifestyle choices."

Photo from

Real Food for Kids is an organization that I'm excited to work with because its focus is to combat childhood obesity by enabling kids to choose and love real foods. Would you believe that FCPS used to serve kids a hamburger with TWENTY-SIX ingredients? A hamburger! Real Food for Kids is already making a difference, and the school system is starting to adjust it's offerings. This year, students are required to have a fruit or veggie with lunch and FCPS is no longer serving food with trans fat.

Whether you're a parent, student, former student, or just interested, you should join me at Marshall High School on October 23rd for Real Food for Kids' Food Day. Starting at 6:00, the night will feature a competition between culinary teams from five high schools and a panel of experts, including chefs, a doctor, and a nutrition policy associate. The students will be tasked with creating a tasty salad bar that meets all of the recommended nutrition guidelines (the salad bar that my high school featured was definitely the highlight of the lunch line, let's be honest), and I think it's going to be fun to see what they come up with.

 If you're interested, you can RSVP to

What school lunch sticks out in your mind? I still think the milk pouches qualify as the most bizarre.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


This photo graced the front of the Fairfax Connection today:

First of all, this was a total surprise, because I thought there was just going to be an article. Instead, I somehow found my way onto the cover of both the Springfield and Fairfax Connection, with an article and some pictures inside of both.

And I'm going to be honest, I felt a little bit like I felt in the picture above when I found my face folded up in the driveway. Pretty cool stuff, I think.

I love this picture (by MacCabe Jamrosz of the Connection Newspapers) because it captures the excitement and the joy of the moment.

I've been feeling excited a lot lately. It just feels like there's a lot of new opportunities happening in my life, and it's exciting to think of all of the new experiences I'm going to get to have this year.

Like working with Girls on the Run.

Today I had my first meeting with the head coach for the Girls on the Run team I'll be working with as an assistant coach over the next few months. Starting next Tuesday, we'll have a group of 18 elementary school girls who we'll coach to run a 5k as well as talk about all sorts of things, from fueling for a run to making friends. I'm excited to help young girls find a passion for running and being active, and I'm sure I'll be posting about all I learn on here.

I also found myself back in the gym, lifting weights for the first time in a while. I always forget how much I love lifting weights until I'm back in the gym. I'm pretty sure I'm going to feel my shoulders in a whole new way tomorrow, but I'm kind of looking forward to it.

PS - Did anyone else see Simon Cowell throw the double thumbs up on X-Factor last night? If only he knew it was my signature move...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Motivational Tunesday

Happy Tunesday! This week's playlist is a compilation of songs that motivate/inspire/pick-you-up when your work out feels tough (or when you just need something to listen to to feel inspired). You can listen to my playlist here.

Also, if you haven't already, be sure to like my page on Facebook.

Motivational Tunesday:
The Fighter - Gym Class Heroes ft. Ryan Tedder
The World's Greatest - R. Kelly
Stronger - Kanye West
Ready to Run - Dixie Chicks
Love is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar
Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
Settlin' - Sugarland
Fighter - Christina Aguilera
Faith - George Michael
What songs motivate you during a tough work out? Comment with your favorites!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bikram reflections: sometimes all you need is some good stretching

If I'm being honest, I got a little overzealous yesterday evening when I decided to run 7.25 miles and follow with a 1.75 mile walk with my dad.

It was part of our training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so we needed to do it, but following the excitement and late night from Saturday, my body could have used an easier run. Still, it was a weird feeling waking up this morning to some soreness in my legs (and feeling a little bit like I had pulled a muscle).

Luckily, I got myself to Reggie's 8:15 Bikram class tonight. Some of the poses were a little bit more painful than usual -- standing head to knee and toe stand stick out in my head right now -- but I'm definitely glad I got a solid ninety minutes of stretching in.

Stretching is one aspect of exercise that I always underestimate. I think in the past I had always been too impatient to "waste my time" improving my flexibility when I could be lifting weights or doing cardio. Ever since taking up Bikram, though, I've found myself really valuing the time I spend stretching. I definitely notice improvements in my ability to recover from soreness when I practice yoga as compared to when I do not.

Do you incorporate stretching into your fitness routine? If so, what do you do?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I’m going to Miss Virginia!!

Yesterday, after meeting and competing with 12 other amazing women from all over the state of Virginia, I was given an incredible opportunity by being crowned Miss Greater Springfield 2013.


Over the next year, I will work to promote both the Children’s Miracle Network and my own personal platform, Start the Conversation, which encourages young women to begin talking about disordered eating. I am hoping to spend my year speaking to high school and college students and encouraging them to work with each other to rebuild a healthy relationship with food.

And, I’ll have the chance to compete to become Miss Virginia.

It still hasn’t hit me yet, and I’ve had several moments today where I turn to my parents and just reiterate “I’m going to Miss Virginia.”

If you are interested in donating to the Children’s Miracle Network, please go here. Your donation will directly benefit children, and will help me reach my goal of raising at least $350 for Miss Virginia.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Throwback Tunesday

Who’s to say that Tunesday has to happen on a Tuesday? Not this girl, that’s for sure.

My friend Kelly suggested that I start linking the playlists that I make on here to real life playlists that readers could listen to. Great idea! She suggested using 8tracks, but either I am technologically challenged or 8tracks hates me (or both), and I couldn’t figure out how to upload my playlists :(

Luckily, I think I figured out a decent alternative. I love Spotify for listening to music on my computer, and I know some people use Spotify premium to listen to music on other devices, so I’ve begun creating my playlists in Spotify.

Today’s playlist is a medley of some of my favorite songs to sing along to from the ‘90’s and ‘00’s. As such, I’m calling it Throwback Tunesday, and you can listen here.

Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It Will Smith
Everybody – Backstreet’s Back The Backstreet Boys
Crazy Britney Spears
Tearin’ Up My Heart N Sync
Fantasy Mariah Carey
Mambo No. 5 Lou Bega
Wannabe Spice Girls
Waiting for Tonight Jennifer Lopez
…Baby One More Time Britney Spears
Jumpin’ Jumpin’ Destiny’s Child
I’ll Be There For You The Rembrandts
B.O.B. OutKast
Yeah! Usher
Lose Control Missy Elliot
Roses OutKast

I’m going to work to get all of my playlists uploaded into my Spotify account for your listening pleasure.
Mostly guilty listening pleasure, let’s be honest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11, 2001

Every year, I take time to reflect on 9/11/2001, because it was a day that had a profound impact on my life. It is a day that forever changed my generation, this country, and the world.

This year is the first year in five years that I get to be with my family on 9/11. Going to school in Georgia made 9/11 difficult in that I found that my experience was different than that of my classmates, which made it hard to find someone who could relate to having the same emotional connection to this day. Luckily, one of my best friends from college grew up in the DC area as well, and so I was fortunate to have someone that I could reflect with during my time at UGA.

During my senior year, I was fortunate to have an editorial published in the Red and Black, our University newspaper. I wrote it because in 2010, the conversation about the building (or not building) of a mosque near Ground Zero had clouded the newspaper’s coverage of 9/11. My editorial received several Letters to the Editor and even prompted a follow-up editorial.

In honor of the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and in hopes that it will prompt whoever reads it to drop the politics just for today and instead remember and reflect, I am reposting my editorial below.


Flags on the UGA campus in memory of those who lost their lives.

Alan Jackson once asked “where were you when the world stopped turning”?

I remember Sept. 11, 2001 vividly -— it was one of those early fall days in Washington, D.C. that you look forward to all year.

It was a Tuesday, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

I was in my second week of seventh grade.

I remember being in Mrs. Folsom’s science class when she got an e-mail and decided to turn on the TV.

But most of all, I remember my classmate crumpling next to me as we watched a plane slam into the Pentagon over and over again.

I grew up 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.

On that fateful morning, my mom was working as a contractor based out of the Pentagon. While she had a meeting elsewhere that Tuesday, many of my friends — including my classmate in Mrs. Folsom’s class — had parents working in the Pentagon and within the city.

As we watched that plane crash into the side of a familiar building, we were scared for our families and for ourselves.

That fear only intensified as cell phone calls failed to go through.

Recently, the politics of building a mosque near Ground Zero has clouded our national memory of Sept. 11.

Everyone has a story of where they were that Tuesday because it was a national tragedy. Whether you were near the violence like me or hours away, the uncertainty and fear felt was shared.

So was the unification and patriotism we all experienced after the attacks.

But when the discussion of Sept. 11 and the memory of what we all experienced turns into a political debate, our shared experiences begin to implode.

Focusing on whether or not to allow building of a mosque or debate the rights and wrongs of burning a holy text destroys our mutual feelings of patriotism.

Sept. 11 is a day which has forever changed my life — and yours.

It is a day which has sparked prejudice, launched a war and has completely changed the landscape of a major city.

Because of that Tuesday, you now have to arrive at the airport two hours before your domestic flight.

You can’t take liquids into many major stadiums.

And, an entire Cabinet department has been created.

Above all, we lost thousands of innocent Americans in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Victims were of every age, race and religion.

Terror does not discriminate.

Focusing on politics rather than on remembrance undermines the impact that this one day — really just two hours — has had on all of us as Americans.

This week, I encourage you to reflect on your own memories of Sept. 11.

Remember where you were, what you felt and how your life has been changed.

Most importantly,  remember the thousands that we lost and their grieving families.

Let the politics wait until October.

Monday motivation

Note: this was supposed to post yesterday, but didn't for whatever reason :( Tuesday motivation doesn't have as nice of a ring to it, so I'm keeping the title.

In the next week, I'm going to be implementing a few new things around the blog based on suggestions from friends and readers -- starting with today's post, which I'm hoping will become a regular feature.

One of my managers read my blog and suggested that I post about what I do to stay motivated on my health and fitness journey. I think it's a great idea, especially since it's something that I constantly struggled with every other time I attempted to "get fit" or lose weight.

My biggest motivator this time, and what I think has made this time different than every other time that didn't stick, has been looking at my journey as just that - a journey. Lasting fitness or weight loss doesn't happen overnight, and understanding that your journey isn't always going to be perfect is crucial to success (in my under-qualified-only-based-on-personal-experience opinion).

For example, this week in particular has been a rough one eating-wise. For whatever reason, I've found it difficult to stick to eating healthy foods, and have had quite a few more sugary treats than I probably should have. I blame some of that on Jif's Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut spread, which is like Nutella but better and somehow found its way into my pantry. I didn't purchase it, but man is it delicious. And terrible for you. But delicious.

Anyways, it's frustrating because I feel terrible - when you're fueling your body with unhealthy things, it affects your energy... something about a glycemic index or something? I'm not a doctor, I just pretend to know what I'm talking about.

Old me probably would have just thrown in the towel, in a "well, it's been fun being fit, but I really like this chocolatey-oil spread, so there's that..." sort of way. The motivated me is looking it as a journey, as in, "hey, I may have had a rough week, but I'm in this for the long haul, and in the grand scheme of things, a rough week is just life."

It was a pretty tasty week of eating terrible things, but I am certainly ready to remotivate myself with the high energy I get from eating well  -- especially since it helps me reach new fitness goals too!

How do you motivate yourself? Interested in writing a Monday Motivation post for Life Gets Two Thumbs Up? Contact me!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The best things I’ve read this week

One of the reasons that I love to blog is because I’ve been a passive member of the blogging community for the last few years. My Google Reader is constantly full of new content – from healthy living blogs to fraternity blogs to positive thinking blogs, it’s like I get to read a new magazine every day with content tailored to me.

Here’s some of the blog posts I’ve recently starred – just click on the excerpt to read the full post!:

“No matter how big or small, all that’s important is you take some sort of action to get you closer to what matters” –The Night Everything Changed & The Power of Human Connection, Live Your Legend

“Become aware of and sensitive to feelings rather than ignoring them. This means your own feelings as well as others.” –Ten Practical Steps to Inner Peace, Bloom

Double Chocolate Protein Bites recipe over at Peanut Butter Fingers

Jillian’s Back On The Biggest Loser! over at Angry Trainer Fitness

In the real world, I also picked up three books at the library:

oprj running thencameyou

What are some of your favorite blogs to read? And do you have any other great book suggestions for me?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bikram reflections: class without water

One of the instructors at my yoga studio talks about how it's been years since he's had water with him in a Bikram class. Today was actually my third class water-less. And by water-less, I mean that I brought water in (just in case), but didn't actually drink any.

Bikram legend has it that if you've come into class dehydrated, it's already too late to rehydrate yourself with just water. It's why proper hydration throughout the day prior to a class or the night before if you're taking it in the morning is so important.

The temperature and humidity conditions of a Bikram yoga room are such that you're supposed to sweat, and you're supposed to sweat a lot. If you're improperly hydrated, your body doesn't have enough water to generate an adequate amount of sweat -- your body's built in cooling system can't work the way it's supposed to.

What that all boils down to is: that water you're drinking during Bikram class is more for reassuring you mentally, not so much physiologically.

I've found that my practice without water is actually a bit easier -- instead of drinking, I take the full 20 seconds allotted to me for savasana and calm my mind. I don't think about whether or not I'm going to drink, which means I'm more able to focus on my practice.

Obviously, I'm not a professional and I'm not advocating that everyone should stop drinking water while in physically demanding conditions. What I am saying is that with proper hydration, and listening to your body, it is definitely possible to complete the full 90 minutes without water -- as long as you make sure to rehydrate after class :)

Anyone else practice Bikram without water? What did you think?

What’s inspiring me this week

Here’s your weekly dose of inspiration, courtesy of Pinterest (if you’re not already, you should be following me!):
small joys 
This week, as it turns out, is all about small joys and running. It’s going to be a great one!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sunday runday

On Sunday, I ran 4.5 miles. My first mile was a swift 8:08, which was pretty exciting, because I don't think I've ever ran a mile that fast? I did warn all of you that I was slow. Anyways, the cool thing about 8:08 is that it means I know that I can run a sub-eight minute mile... and that is pretty exciting.

About a mile and a half in, it started raining lightly. I found it to be pretty refreshing, until the sky opened up and just poured. I was running and laughing and thoroughly enjoying this summer storm when I thought about making a playlist about rain!

Well, weather in general really. But the thought came from having Hunter Hayes' Storm Warning come on my iPod in the middle of a downpour.

So here's an upbeat playlist for your rainy runs. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bikram reflections: setting an intention for your practice

I really did not want to go to yoga today. Last night was rough in that my dog, Rusty, decided that he needed to wake up every two hours to bark at the door, which means my quality eight hours last night wasn't so quality. The lack of sleep combined with a pretty long shift last night meant I woke up feeling dehydrated and kind of icky (for lack of a better description).

Begrudgingly, I ate some egg whites and a couple of whole wheat waffles and dragged my butt out the door, towel and liter of water in hand.

I am so glad I went to yoga today.

Siri Om was teaching, which is always a good start, because I feel like she's talking directly to me. Knowing I was feeling kind of meh going into my practice, I really liked that she started the class advising us to set an intention for our practice.

Setting an intention is something that I definitely don't do as often as I should, but am so glad that I did today. My intention was to focus on my breathing, making sure that I was consistently breathing in and out through my nose in a calm manner.

It was kind of amazing how much of a difference this made in my practice. By focusing on my breathing, I found that I was able to complete the entire sequence, going deeper into many of the postures that usually give me issue. I didn't have a moment where I felt overheated or panicked or like I needed to quit. Honestly, this was probably the most meditative and refreshing class I've taken yet, simply because I set an intention and focused on my breath.

Siri Om continuously repeated "breath before form, form before depth" throughout the class today -- and now I can see why.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The "church of sweat"

In my free time, I prefer to read other healthy living blogs instead of being normal and watching TV, mostly because sometimes I come across some really interesting articles.

Like this one from Lululemon's blog.

It's about this new sect of people who are finding something spiritual through their sweat sessions, whether they practice yoga or run or whatever. Now, I'm not sure if it's really "new," persay, since I'm pretty sure people have been finding something higher through yoga, dance, surfing, etc, for a long time, but I love that it's something that we're starting to talk about.

I find that I almost always have some sort of self-realization, inner-peace-finding moment during my 90 minutes in the Bikram room, and more often than not during longer runs. I think that in our over-stimulated world, these times that you set aside for yourself to be away from technology and others and to just be inside your own head are really hard to come by. Of course you're going to find some sort of deeper meaning, because that time is time that you are allowing yourself to focus on your thoughts, your breath, your life.

There's something inherently spiritual about yoga; I think it's the fact that it forces you to be in the moment, to focus on the now. Being forced to listen to your breath and your heartbeat is some sort of reminder that this is your life, and you're living it. Right now, no do-overs.

More than that, I've found that exercise has made me more grateful for the little things -- the cool towel at the end of a hot yoga session, the breeze during a long run, water after a tough workout.

Obviously the "church of sweat" isn't a replacement for a real church experience, but they serve different, yet similiar, purposes. It's like one of my geography professors used to talk about -- if you want to find God, you can go to a church or you can go to the top of a mountain and watch the sun rise. Both make you appreciate life more fully, find a deeper connection, and believe in something bigger than yourself, and honestly, isn't that the whole point?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tunesday: Tunes that got me through a rough run

This morning started with a six mile run with my dad. If I'm being honest, it was miserable, and mostly because I got inside my own head and psyched myself out.

Because we slept in until 9:15 and didn't start running until 9:45, we missed the cooler weather that would have been afforded to us had we run at the planned time of 8:00 AM. So, it was hot. And my knee hurt. And my ankle hurt. And we were slow.

Like I said, I got inside my head.

Luckily, my iPod was playing all the right tunes to get me through a rough run, and we finished six hot-and-sweaty miles.


Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Jason Mraz - You and I Both
Carrie Underwood - This Time
Darius Rucker - This
Hunter Hayes - Storm Warning
Josh Turner - All Over Me
Kenny Chesney - Keg in the Closet
Nicki Minaj - Starships
Jason Derulo - It Girl
Jessie James - Wanted
Katy Perry - Last Friday Night
Train - Save Me, San Francisco
Tristan Prettyman - Madly
Carbon Leaf - Life Less Ordinary
Gavin DeGraw - Follow Through
John Mayer - No Such Thing
Mat Kearney - Ships in the Night
SMASH Cast version of Cheers (Drink To That)
Jessica Andrews - More to Me Than You

What's inspiring me this week

As always, all of these are from pinterest.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dilemma: trying to eat clean and working doubles

Not sure if I've made it public knowledge, really, but I started a new job about three weeks ago as a server at a restaurant. It may not be what I'm ultimately going to do for the rest of my life, but I really love my job. I like it because it's fast-paced, I'm always moving, and I get to interact with a wide variety of people. It's fun, interesting, and everything about the food and the business is fascinating.

Working strange hours makes a few things difficult; I've already accepted that on days that I work doubles, I probably won't get to work out as much as I'd like (which is fine, since my job is a lot of moving and carrying plates), but figuring out how to eat has definitely been the most difficult part.

My nutritionist has told me that I need to be eating every 2-3 hours, every time being a combination of carbs and protein. With doubles, I'm often working 4-6 hours at a time, with a 1-2 hour break in between. I'm struggling to figure out ways to carry a lot of lean protein -- egg whites certainly aren't as portable as I need them to be, and there's nowhere for me to keep Greek yogurt cold.

It's a dilemma.

Luckily, I get to meet with Erika again on Tuesday, and I'm hoping she'll have some good portable meal ideas. I'm definitely planning on bringing skim milk with me to work to be able to drink while I'm working, since it's a pretty decent combination of carbs/protein to serve as a small meal while I'm working longer shifts.

Anyone have good ideas for portable clean eating meals that I could take with me?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'm still here!

Yet again, it appears I've been neglecting my blog lately. The truth is, I'm trying to figure out what direction I want to take 'Passionately Curious' in. I've been thinking about it, and I feel like it's beginning to morph into a healthy living blog, rather than a life-discovery blog, which was the original intent behind the redesign.

I mean, it makes total sense -- during this whole "life-discovery" thing, I've realized that I'm really passionate about fitness. I'm at a point where my day doesn't feel complete unless I've gone to Bikram or boxing or for a run or what not... most times more than once a day. I really love being active, and I really love how a great work out makes me feel.

Anyways, I love blogging, and it's a lot easier to blog about the things that I'm passionate about. Right now, that's my fitness journey. Obviously, with some other stuff mixed in, but the honest truth is that I like to spend the bulk of my free time being active.

Cutting to the chase, Passionately Curious is about to undergo another makeover. I'm sorry for changing the name on you (again), but I think you'll find that the new concept is more reflective of what I actually blog about (and what I actually want to blog about), and ultimately more reflective of me.

I appreciate everyone reading along and following my journey -- hopefully you will enjoy the transformation of my blog as well.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday tasty treat

Today I discovered a new delicious (semi) not bad for you dessert. And it's totally easy to make! Ready?

Step one: go to grocery store of your choice. Pick up the following three things:

Kashi oatmeal dark chocolate soft baked cookies. Delicious on their own, even better when topped with....

White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter!! Also delicious on it's own (I like to eat it with a spoon), but tasty in combination with the prior and...

Whipped cream/topping of your choice. I used Cool Whip (a fake food that I find tasty, so I just ignore the fact that it is very, very bad for me), because you can freeze it, so it sort of tastes like ice cream in this pseudo recipe.

Step two: place a cookie on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 15 seconds.

Step three: Remove cookie from microwave and top with a smear of White Chocolate Wonderful.

Step four: Microwave for an additional 10 seconds or until peanut butter achieves the consistency you want.

Step five: Top with a dollop of whipped cream/topping. Enjoy!

I enjoyed this after a boxing class + 8 mile run/walk. It was a really delicious way to end my day, and a quick fix for my sweet tooth!

What's your favorite semi-healthy dessert?

Monday, August 6, 2012

What's inspiring me this week

As usual, from Pinterest:

If today is a bad day, just listen to Maura, go take a nap, and get over it :)