Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Real Talk: The top five things to keep in mind during the VS Fashion Show tonight

From a quick glimpse at my social media, it seems that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is going to be a pretty popular event, mostly with my girl friends. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of girls making jokes about the burgers they're eating now or the cleanses they're going to start tomorrow, which I find to be an interesting commentary on what we view as acceptable and valuable within our culture. I digress.

My newsfeed is also chock-full of inspiration in the form of lists, so I figured I'd publish my top five things for women to keep in mind while watching tonight's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show:

  1. You will never look like any of the models on TV tonight. And you know what? They're never going to look like you either. Those thigh gaps, long legs, or the 5'11'' height that you're envying came to them 70% in the form of genetics. But so did your awesome smile, crazy cool eye color, and great arms. Nobody is perfect, but each of us is unique and special and one-in-a-million just the way we are. 
  2. Weight is nothing but your relationship with gravity. The scale says nothing about your experiences as a person, the incredible things you do for the people in your life, and, in all actuality, very little about your health as a whole. 
  3. Going crazy with cardio and/or starving yourself is not a solution. I can't tell you the number of tweets/statuses (statii)/Instagram pictures I remember seeing last year from women vowing to cut carbs or workout for hours on end after watching the fashion show. In case you missed point #1, no amount of cardio or fasting is going to turn you into into Gisele, but it's probably also going to make you miserable and frustrated. Beauty and health are byproducts of loving yourself and treating yourself well. Find an activity you enjoy and go do it because it makes you feel alive. Eat well because eating well impacts every other area of your health and well-being -- and because it allows you to do that activity that makes you feel alive. When we're pursuing physical activity or healthy eating solely for aesthetic results, we're missing out, because true health and well-being impact every aspect of your life, and make you a better person in the process.
  4. Remember your inner eight year old (and every other eight year old you know). One of my favorite internet lists I've ever read talks about how "little eyes are always watching." Think about your standard of beauty now, and really question whether or not the Angel Standard is the one you would want an eight-year-old held to - or if you would even want her to place a significant value on her physical appearance at all. Besides, your inner eight-year-old thinks ogling women in underwear is super gross.
  5. If you're genuinely inspired to change your lifestyle, don't talk about it, be about it. If you are truly inspired to go work out or eat healthier, start adding positive changes to your life that are going to stick. Make a commitment to eat more vegetables, drink more water, or go for a run several times a week. But don't just put empty commitments or pity-parties into the social media sphere - go do them. Because watching a bunch of women model lingerie isn't going to do much for your confidence, but starting to make positive changes definitely will. Otherwise, your negative comments about your weight or "never looking like these women" are doing nothing but negatively impacting every other female follower on your newsfeed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lessons from kids: Gratitude

Recently, I've been traveling a lot for work. In fact, over the course of two weeks, I visited 15 college campuses in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, driving nearly 2000 miles along the way. They were an incredible two weeks, filled with inspiring moments, incredible student leaders, and impacting chapters of our organization (the number of "i" words in that last sentence? Totally unintentional.).

But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about gratitude, and how you can learn it from kids. These kids, in particular:

Because as amazing as my two weeks were, they took me away from a group of 20 elementary schoolers who I love very much for four whole practices.

When I arrived for practice on Tuesday of this week, I was met with screams of "Coach Jen!," hugs, and even a "You better not ever do that to me again."

I like working with kids for a lot of reasons. Obviously, first and foremost, because they like to do things that I like to do. Things like: make silly faces, dance like fools, eat bagels and candy, and laugh a whole lot. I like that they are funny without meaning to be, can't really hold grudges, and are accepting of each other - quirks and all. But one of the things I love the most about working with kids is that they are experts at showing appreciation. Not because they shower you with praise or tell you "thank you" every time they see you, but because their actions are genuine, and they speak so loudly that they don't have to tell you anything at all.

We can learn a lot about gratitude from kids.

Thank yous are great, of course, but gratitude can come in all forms: hugs, buttercups, friendship bracelets, smiles. From my girls, gratitude is being included in a game, having my hair painted neon yellow, and even "You better not ever do that to me again."

Because when gratitude is genuine, the intention is obvious, no matter what the action.

How have you shown gratitude today? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Amy Odell, Editor, Cosmopolitan Magazine

In response to "Confession: Why Getting Hazed by my Sorority Was Weirdly Worth It" -- I sent this email after reading this article. I figured it was worth sharing on this blog.
Dear Ms. Odell,

I am writing in regards to your publishing of Tess Koman's story about her experience being hazed by her collegiate sorority chapter, as well as your open call for anonymous stories from readers about hazing experiences.

Shame on you.

Shame on you, for using your power as the Editor of the foremost women's magazine in the country (and one that's pretty popular with men, too) to condone something that is not only morally wrong, but also illegal.

Shame on you for allowing Ms. Koman to justify her hazing as bonding and for reducing the sorority membership experience to degrading, immoral, and illegal experiences.

And shame on you for downplaying the abuse and trauma experienced by other victims of hazing, especially those who are too afraid to come forward.

I am also a sorority woman, and I did not have the same membership experience that Ms. Koman had.

During my New Member period (we don't call it pledging, anymore), I learned about the values my sorority was founded on, about the benefits that were offered to me as a member, and about my new sisters. I was considered a sister on my bid day; membership was something that I earned on day one as I signed my bid card and made a mutual and lifelong commitment to my organization.

During my four years in college, my sorority membership gave me countless leadership experiences that taught me real, marketable skills -- my collegiate officer positions are on my resume and I am frequently asked about them in interviews. Like Ms. Koman, I also made some of my best friends in my sorority -- not because we were forced to sexually dance for fraternity men but because we shared the same common values.

I suppose that my biggest issue with Ms. Koman's piece is that it ignores all of the wonderful things that Panhellenic organizations offer to their members -- scholarship, service, leadership, and networking opportunities, of course, but above all else, deep bonds based on shared values -- while praising the transgressions of Ms. Koman's initiating chapter.

Does hazing occur? Of course it occurs. It occurs within groups of all kinds - professional sports teams, marching bands, and, yes, sororities and fraternities. And it is heartbreaking when hazing occurs, even when it is the exception, and not the rule. Hazing causes physical, mental, and emotional damage, some irreversible, and is contradictory to the founding values of any fraternal group.

Publishing this article was insensitive and demeaning to victims of hazing who may not want to come forward. Ms. Koman has reduced their abuse and pain to just part of the experience, which it absolutely is not.

I hope that as the Editor of a progressive women's magazine, you realize that forced subordination of women by other women is anything but progressive. It seems just slightly counter intuitive to suggest that we have to earn our place among our own gender through humiliation and abuse while demanding gender equality in the workplace, don't you think?


Jen Gilbert

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I am in my mid-twenties (and other recent realizations)

You may have inferred from my recent lack of posts that a lot of things have been going on in my life outside of this blog. Things like realizing that I am in my mid-twenties, don't have a career path set in stone, and being a little bit worried that I am totally not worried about it.

When I was ten, I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a lawyer, in fact, until the night before my Constitutional Law final exam during my sophomore year of college. I had this 3 AM-Diet Coke jitter-fueled realization that if I had seriously wanted to be a lawyer, I wouldn't have been cramming because I would have been studying the material all year long.

What's more, I realized that at 25, I wanted to have a life of balance. I didn't want to be fresh out of law school, working 16-18 hour days, and staring down a mountain of debt. What I wanted when I grew up was to be happy, healthy, and balanced.

Try putting that down as a career ambition: happy, healthy, balanced.

Most people have told me that it makes me sound like I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I disagree. I think understanding that life is about more than just a career is a good start to knowing what you want to do with your life. I also think that most twenty-somethings are a lot like me: semi-blindly pursuing a passion, a dream, or an interest and hoping with everything they've got that they're moving in the right direction. Not many people at age 24 know exactly what the rest of their lives will look like.

To put it in football speak (go dawgs), my twenties feel like mostly Hail Mary's, and not a whole lot of rushing for small yardage.

But, honestly, what's the point in playing small ball? If there ever was a time to go big, it's now. Your twenties are a time to fervently and unapologetically pursue whatever makes you come alive at the moment because your twenties are (seriously) all about you.

So here I am, in my mid-twenties, and (to answer your question about what is going on in my life) I just quit my day job. I quit because it was a great opportunity with a fantastic company but it was not the best fit for me. Because even though I don't know exactly what I want to do, I do know exactly who I want to be and how I want to live, and I know that I deserve to be happy, healthy, and balanced.

And because my mid-twenties is just as good a time as any to start all over again. Only this time, with more yoga, running, and laughter. And probably just a few more stumbles along the way.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fitness as a journey

Yesterday I went back to Bikram yoga for the first time in a month.

Let that sink in for a hot sec. A whole month. I knew it was going to be rough, but was pleasantly surprised when I was moving through pranayama deep breathing and half moon pose. I eve felt uncharacteristically strong during the balancing series. Usually, I fall out at least once on each pose, but this time I was able to hold both sets of each posture until the instructor told us to change.

And then I hit the floor. The floor was not friendly yesterday -- I had those feelings of being overheated that I used to get so frustrated by early into my Bikram experience. I made all the rookie mistakes -- wiping away sweat, fanning myself, angry at the heat. Basically, the second half of my very first class back in a month was rough -- and that's an understatement.

So I'm sitting there, feeling like death and about to go through all the should've/could've/would'ves about my last month of being away from my normal routine. But then I realized (probably one of those life-realization-right-before-death moments) that fitness, much like life, isn't a destination. There's not one moment where you achieve your peak fitness - it's about the getting there, failing, getting there again, and maintaining. The question is -- why did I fall off of my fitness journey? Why did my yoga and running take a backseat to other things? How can I learn from the past month so that, in the future, it doesn't happen again? And in the meantime, how do I find peace in where I currently am while also striving to reach my full fitness/health potential?

In my heat dillusion, I came up with focusing on that one class. I made it my goal to not leave the room - just like it had been for the very first few Bikram classes I attended.

And I am happy to report -  I did not die, and I managed to stay in the room the entire 90 minutes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Confessions of a Targa-holic: My favorite (inexpensive) sports bra

Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone's week is going well. I had a really fantastic weekend with two of my best friends at Amelia Island last weekend, and I'm still wishing I was by the beach!

Luckily, Trader Joe's has these delicious plantain chips that I am enjoying while I pretend I am still somewhere tropical. And they're not the only thing keeping me in good spirits.
buy here

I'm also rocking my new neon green and bright blue sports bra by C9 for Target. I actually bought this one in purple/blue too, since these babies were on sale for $12(!!).

I'm kind of obsessed with Target (and have considered renaming this blog "Confessions of a Targa-holic" on multiple occasions), and I have this problem where I go in for bananas and come out with sports bras. They knew what they were doing when they converted all the Targets into Super Targets, let me tell you.

buy here

My favorite sports bra ever is the Free to Be bra from Lululemon because it's perfect for both Bikram and running, but sometimes I'm a sucker for fun patterns and low price tags. I love that the Target brand sports bras fit that bill AND are super comfy and functional for distance running.

What are your favorite sports bras? Are you a sucker for fun patterns too?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Some things never change

I used to hate flying. I was terrified of planes, didn't like the stress that came with airport security checkpoints, and really didn't like spending $4 for a bottle of water.

In fact, on my first flight to Alabama as a CDC, I nearly had a breakdown because we only arrived 50 minutes before our flight took off (the horror!). We made that plane, and throughout the rest of the year, I navigated canceled flights, long security lines, and getting to the airport with under an hour until my flight.

Somewhere along the tens of thousands of miles I traveled, airports became my "me" place. They were where I treated myself to Starbucks, caught up on blogs, watched Hulu, worked on reports. And planes, the things I used to be the most afraid of, became my place to enjoy a good book or write thank you notes.

The airports and planes were my routine. In a year where I felt like nothing was constant, the traveling was something that never changed.

So here I am now, sitting in the Jacksonville Airport, with my first flight delayed and a pretty good chance that I'll miss both my booked connection and the back-up connection that my new Delta agent friend Kareem just helped me get on, and I'm at peace. I don't know if I'm going to be sleeping in my bed or on an airport bench tonight, but I feel pretty okay.

Nearly two years later, I am sitting here, catching up on blogs, drinking an Iced Passion Tea, and smiling because even though so much is different about my life and who I am, some things never change.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Goal (re)setting

I've said it a lot, but competing in Miss Virginia was a goal that I never thought I'd be able to have. Up until I competed at (and won) Miss Greater Springfield, I didn't think that it would be possible for me to succeed within the Miss America Organization because I thought that I didn't have the talent. I wasn't a singer or a dancer, and people always said that girls did monologues when they didn't have any other talent.

And so, as someone whose greatest gifts include public speaking, throwing a football, and running long distances not very fast, I didn't really look at Miss Virginia as something that was even within the realm of possibility for me to achieve.

Until I won Miss Greater Springfield. And watched Miss America 1968, where Miss America that year won with a monologue.

Anyways, I prefaced with all that to say: Competing at Miss Virginia was a Big, Fat, Obnoxiously Crazy Goal (all caps because it deserves that much respect). As in, I never dreamed in a million years I would have a shot at it, and then I did. And it was awesome.

But how do you bounce back from the goal achievement hangover? As in, what happens after you achieve  what was your biggest goal to date?

Obviously, by setting more goals.

YOLO (or something like that).

Yesterday, I signed up for the Ragnar Relay in October of this year. I'll be running for Girls on the Run and raising money for scholarships for deserving girls to take part in this awesome, inspiring, and life changing program. I am beyond excited, and (to be honest), a little scared (in an awesome way!).

Me and 11 other amazing women are going to be running nearly 200 miles of trails from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C. Each of us will have three legs, totaling anywhere from 13 to 25 miles over the course of two days. October is going to be my month of running -- Ragnar in the beginning, Marine Corps at the end.

My goal for the rest of 2013 is to concentrate on, as Thoreau put it, "living the life I have imagined." Adding more of what makes me come alive, and minimizing that which does the opposite. So I've signed up for Ragnar, I'm training for the MCM, and I even bought a domain and am going to focus on building my blog. I'm planning a baseball trip to Ohio to run a half marathon and knock two more baseball stadiums off my list.

Life is supposed to be about action: you're never going to find happiness, joy, excellence, or whatever it is you're searching for if you are passively living your life.

So here's to setting more goals. How are you being awesome today?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lessons from Miss Virginia Part I: What I Told Them in Interview

Well, it's been a little over a week since I got back from Roanoke, where I competed to become Miss Virginia. I was honored to make the top 11 in a group of 26 inspiring, smart, and beautiful women who I came to love a whole lot over the course of the week.

I could probably write a novel about what I experienced and learned, how I was inspired, and how I grew, but I don't think you want to read all that :) What I do want to do is write a little about my interview, because it really speaks to why I was even competing in a swimsuit competition in the first place (hint! The swimsuit competition is just a means to an end). I'll write a more general post tomorrow about my entire experience.
top 11 gown - Julius Tolentino
monologue - Julius Tolentino

prelim swimsuit
My interview kicked off with questions about SEC football changing to a rotating conference schedule (no, seriously), my job with Delta Gamma, and ways to provide healthy food to low income families. And then, I was asked about my various interests and where Miss Virginia fit into them. Here's the gist of what I told the judges:

I was competing to become Miss Virginia because I absolutely, positively wanted the job. Because if I could put down on paper the job that I wanted to have at 24, traveling the state as Miss Virginia was (and is) it. Because I had already had a job where I lived out of a suitcase, traveled all over the country, and inspired women. It was a job that challenged and fulfilled me on a daily basis, and it was a job that I very much wanted the opportunity to do again.

I wanted to be Miss Virginia not only to impact the lives of little girls but because I believe that Miss Virginia is also the perfect platform to empower and inspire women.

As it stands, the Miss America Organization is the world's largest provider of college scholarships for women, and last year alone, it provided nearly $50 million in scholastic assistance to women at the local, state, and national level. Clearly MAO empowers contestants to achieve their scholastic and career ambitions already, but what if we took it to the next level?

What if, by speaking on college campuses and having real conversations with women, Miss Virginia (and ultimately Miss America) could inspire and empower her own generation -- even those women who will never enter a Miss America preliminary? I was competing because I know that Miss Virginia can be that role model for women that our generation really needs.

Miss America isn't just a pageant. It is a values-based organization, building and rewarding well rounded women who are driven to succeed in whatever field they choose. By building relationships with and inspiring her peers, Miss Virginia (or Miss America) becomes a role model for college-aged women, and ultimately inspires participation in local preliminaries by women who may have never considered competing in a pageant.

It's just like sorority recruitment. People don't join organizations, people join people. In this case, women join women. If you are able to communicate the values of the organization in your words and actions through building relationships, women want to be a part of your organization because they understand the value the organization can give them.

My story of my year would have been one of empowerment, inspiration, and recruiting new women to be a part of an incredible organization. I envisioned closed local preliminaries at colleges and universities throughout the state, much like in Georgia, as a way for MAO to widen its circle of influence.

I was competing because not only did I want the job of Miss Virginia, but I knew that I could do the job of Miss Virginia.

And while I may not have won, the judges did select a fantastic representative of our group of 26 winners. Desiree Williams is a role model for women; I know I certainly look up to her. She's smart, fit, driven, personable, and successful in pursuing her passions.

Look how much we love her - Julius Tolentino
And I cannot wait to cheer her on at Miss America.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I have already won.

When I competed in pageants when I was younger, I remember standing on stage as the emcees prepared to call the tenth finalist to the top ten. Without exception, they'd always ask for the audience to applaud for every contestant, stating that "Every girl up here is a winner."

I'm going to be honest, I probably rolled my eyes. I certainly didn't believe that EVERY one of us were winners. After all, it was a competition, and there would only be one winner.

Well here I am, three days away from leaving for Miss Virginia, and I just have to pause to reflect for a second: I have already won.

I have already won because two years ago, I was 35 pounds heavier than I am today, unhealthy, and battling disordered eating.

I have already won because in my quest to become Miss Virginia, I have never compromised what I stand for or who I am.

I have already won because since being crowned Miss Great Springfield, I have run two full marathons, a sub two-hour half marathon, and a 24:20 5k; feats I could only dream of this time last year.

I have already won because to the 18 little girls I coach, the hundreds of elementary school children I have spoken to, and the college students I have met, I am already Miss Virginia.

That's the beauty of the Miss America Organization; in our pursuit of the job of Miss Virginia, each of the 26 local titleholders have touched countless lives, and are already Miss Virginia in the eyes of the people we have impacted.

Instead of choosing a winner from 26 contestants, our judges are choosing the representative of a group of 26 winners.

We have all already won.

And with that, I am ready to begin my one week job interview for a job that I both want very much and am ready to take on. I am ready to be 100% authentic, and I am ready to share my story.

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, well wishes, tweets/Facebook posts/Instagrams. I appreciate all of them very much, and I promise to do my best in Roanoke. You can watch preliminaries and finals on webcast at missva.tv, or, if you're in the DC area, finals will be televised on CW50 on Saturday, June 29th, at 9pm.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Because I was never a runner, until I was.

I run because every mile, even when it is actually kind of miserable, is filled with pure joy.
Because there is nothing like doing what you never thought you could do.
Post Springfield 15k: Race #7 in seven weeks.
Because it gives me much needed time with my own thoughts.

Because I was never a runner, until I was.

Because I am not defined by the speed I run or how good I look doing it, but instead by accomplishing what I set out to do.

Not looking good doing it, but still accomplishing marathon #2 in less than five months.
Because it is a passion that has blessed me with the opportunity to be a role model.
My Girls on the Run post Spring 5k.
Because it makes me feel alive.

And, because I really, really, REALLY like carbs.

Happy National Running Day! Why do you run?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A half marathon PR

Well, hello new friends! I was honored to be featured on Runs for Cookies on Monday as part of Katie's Motivational Monday series, and it looks like a lot of you visited! Make sure you check out these posts to get a better sense of who I am and how I lost the weight (to be honest, it was more of a byproduct of using exercise and healthy eating to become the happiest version of myself I could be):

About me
How I lost the weight
My experience with disordered eating
What I eat now

If you follow me on social media at all (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), you know that Sunday was a big day for me! As part of my Running for Miss Virginia self-challenge, I completed the Alexandria Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon since I ran the Charlottesville Half last April, and my training since has consisted of two marathons and generally averaging about 10-15 miles a week.

Not optimal half training, if we're being fair.

I woke up on Sunday feeling pretty good and setting a goal of finishing in under 2:10. My previous fastest recorded half marathon time was 2:20:10, and that was during the Marine Corps Marathon last year, not even a legitimate half marathon. Anyways, I thought 2:10 was a pretty lofty goal, but fit pretty well with my "not fast, not last" running motto.
Ready to go
 My plan was to bank time early on, and then not feel bad if I needed to slow down a little later on. I wanted to run the whole thing, but given my "training" program, didn't know if that was a realistic expectation. I finished the first mile in 9:17 and patted myself on the back for not going out too fast. But then the most bizarre thing happened: I got faster.

And faster.

And then, my pace evened out at 8:57 minutes per mile, which my Nike+ app cheerfully informed me of each mile from 6-12.

I saw my dad during mile 12 with our dog, Rusty, and he yelled out that I was going to finish sub 2:00. I yelled back not to jinx it, but knew he was right: it was in the middle of mile 12, and I felt great.
Mile 6: Shouting out that I'm averaging 8:57

My official time was 1:58:17, but the course was long (13.27 miles), and Nike+ clocked me in at 1:57:05 -- a 23 minute PR. I placed 144 out of 546 females.

Celebrating with the pup!

I love running because it's full of unexpected accomplishments. Every run is an opportunity to surprise yourself, and it's safe to say that this half was pretty darn surprising. I've got a 15k this weekend, and the Baltimore 10-miler in three weeks, and am honestly looking forward to setting time goals, something I never thought I'd be doing.

I ran my first half marathon in January 2011, and finished in over 2:48. It's pretty incredible how I've changed as a runner and as a person since then, and just goes to show you: you can accomplish anything you want to, given enough time, energy, and effort.

What's your biggest running accomplishment thus far? What's something you'd like to accomplish?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On food guilt

We've all seen ads like this one:

As someone who has dealt with binge eating before, I know what it feels like to feel guilty after eating certain foods. Granted, it's probably a little bit different when you've just eaten half a pizza or a large bag of M&M's in one sitting (throwback to senior year of college), but I think at one point or another, all of us have experienced guilt after eating something we "shouldn't have."

Diets can do that to you because they create a mindset of deprivation. Your list isn't of what you can eat, it's of what you can't eat. Carbs. Bread. Candy. Fried food. Pizza. When you're operating under the dieting mindset, it's totally normal that you're going to experience guilt when you "lose your willpower" or "cheat."

But, you guys, can we stop it? Please? Because the reality is, you make a lot of food choices every day: what time will you eat breakfast, what will you eat for breakfast, how much will you eat? Do you want to add condiments to your sandwich or sugar to your coffee? Making those choices, which you're pretty much going to have to make every day, shouldn't be stressing you out more than the real decisions you have to make in regards to your family, your job, or your friends.

You know what feeling guilty does to you? It makes you stressed out. It makes you emotional. And, if you're like 22-year-old-Jen-who-secretly-binge-ate, it probably makes you continue to make "bad" food choices.

The fact of the matter is, if you're making healthy choices 80% of the time, the other 20% isn't going to impact you. And, you're going to be motivated by how making healthier choices makes you feel. By adding more nourishing foods to your life, you're going to find yourself not craving the not so nourishing foods a whole lot less.

Diets don't work. They don't work because you cannot constantly live in a deprivation mindset. It's negative, it's counterproductive, and, gosh darnit, it's going to drive you crazy. Instead, take some advice from one of my favorite food documentaries, Hungry for Change, and focus on what you can add. More greens? More bananas? A smoothie full of fruits and veggies in the morning? Each of those things is going to make you feel great, and may even curb some of your cravings.

But if you want cookies or ice cream or pizza, eat it, and don't feel guilty about it. You're not "cheating" on a diet, you're making one of a hundred food choices you're going to make in a week as part of your healthy lifestyle. That's it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why you should run community races

On Saturday morning, I ran my third race of my #runningformissvirginia tour -- the Falcon 5k sponsored by the Flint Hill Elementary School PTA. While I was enjoying my race on Saturday, I was thinking about a fun way to blog about it (obviously). I thought a top four list might be fun -- both as a recap and as a way to inspire you to find a 5k out in your community to run.

When I say community race, I mean one that's sponsored by a small community organization - a church, a school, even a local animal shelter. It's probably the only one of its kind, and you're probably running with maybe 500 people max. You might not even get a t-shirt (I registered late and didn't get one until after the race today), but you will definitely have a good time.

The Top Four Reasons to Run a Community Race
  1. You'll be running with people who are truly passionate about the cause you're running for. With smaller races, the advertising is typically local outreach or grassroots advertising by the people who work with the organization. This means that you are surrounded by people who care a lot about whatever you're running for. That passion is contagious, and it makes the run a lot more fun. Today, for example, I ran with about 300 elementary school students and their parents, and the money benefited those kids. I was able to focus more on high fiving the kids as they passed me (and stopping at the stand manned by a couple students labeled "Free Water") and less on trying to PR.
  2. You can feel good knowing that most of your race fee is going to the title cause. Because there are fewer bells and whistles, more of your money is going to the cause, and less to putting on a show of a race. Don't get me wrong, I love the "show of a race"s too, but it is nice knowing that a large chunk of my money going to something important.
  3. What you don't get in pre-race swag, you might get in post-race swag. Smaller races mean you have a better shot at placing, at least in your age division. Today, I won my age group. I have only placed in my division twice before, and I have run a lot of 5ks. If you want to feel totally awesome and you're in your 20s, go run a 5k benefiting an elementary school... turns out these are not hot spots for people our age :)
    That 1/1 is the real deal!!
  4. There's a lot of cute and inspiring personalized things. Things like: chalk messages cheering you on on the road, spectators out clapping, even your name being read out at the finish line. These are small things, but they're really only possible at smaller races.
    Loved the chalk messages! Lots of personalized messages for all of the classes too!
Thanks for a great run, Flint Hill Elementary! I will certainly be back and running again next year :) 
Thanks to my mom for being my awesome supported and capturing cool finish line shots that make me look way faster than I am.

Friday, May 3, 2013

GMU Positive Body Image Seminar

This is what I felt like on Thursday night, around 11pm:

On Tuesday, I had the awesome opportunity to be the featured speaker at a Positive Body Image Seminar, hosted by George Mason University's Panhellenic. I had reached out to the Executive Board, and specifically Emily, their Vice President of Programming earlier this year, and Emily put together this awesome event. I spoke and others set up booths for women to visit. Nearly 500 women attended, and we had an hour and a half long conversation about positive (and negative) body image, disordered eating, and dieting.

I was inspired by the courage of women who shared their own stories, and I found strength in the reception I got from sharing my story. The questions at the end were thoughtful, and I loved how engaged everyone was using Twitter -- I opened up my Twitter to questions and comments throughout the event because, let's face it, if people are on their smart phones for any other reason but to tweet at me, I'm not doing my job.

A few people approached me at the end of the night with some feedback, and I thought it was really outstanding, so I don't want to wait until the next time I speak to share a few more pieces of information:
  •  First, I was approached by Corey, who asked me to focus more on eating healthier in order to be happier. She's so right, and I can't believe I failed to make this statement during my presentation. Exercising and choosing to eat healthy foods -- to eat more fruits and vegetables, add in more lean protein and whole grains, even to enjoy the occasional cookie -- makes you a happier person. You're happier because you feel better when you treat your body right. I talk a lot about how dieting makes you unhappy because it's a constant mindset of deprivation, but I failed to mention that "anti-dieting" -- that is, adopting a healthy food philosophy rather than a list of things you can't eat -- will make you both happier and healthier.
  • Next, one of the campus nutritionists spoke to me, and asked that I add in more information about the mental implications of eating disorders. If you are or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please seek professional help. Eating disorders are the most fatal mental illnesses, with some studies reporting that nearly 30% result in death. If nothing else, please point them in the direction of nationaleatingdisorders.org, which has a live anonymous helpline.
  • Lastly, I spoke with Kathleen, who works with the "Perfect Body Project." They are working to organize "No Makeup Monday," which I'll post more about this weekend. You should participate, though, by wearing -- you guessed it -- no makeup on Monday. Take a picture of yourself and post it to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #nomakeupmonday.
Again, a huge thank you to GMU Panhellenic for a very inspiring night, as well as your extremely generous donation to Children's Miracle Network. It was an honor to speak with all of you, and I know CMN will be so appreciative :)

If you are interested in having me speak at an event, please email me at jengilbert11@gmail.com.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We juicin' everything up in here

Last week, I bought a juicer. And not just any juicer, but the Breville Compact Juicer. THE juicer.

I figured it's probably the only way to keep up with my growing addiction to green juice, spurred in large part by the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

Clearly, I couldn't wait to break in my new toy, and if you follow me on Instagram, you've likely already seen these gems:

My first Mean Green juice... a delicious treat post-5k.

Veggies ready to go for three servings of Mean Green and three Apple-Beet-Carrot-Ginger juices for my dad.

This was my first time ever working with beets. I couldn't get over how pretty they were! I mean, seriously, check out the color and patterns!

The prep and finished products of yesterday's juice-stravaganza. I am totally loving the mason jars, and they're fun to drink out of.

So I got onto a juice kick after watching some food documentaries, but I certainly am not planning on juice cleansing. I just like solid food, and I think that it's really up to each of us to develop our own food philosophy. Right now, mine is looking like: limited processed foods, dairy, and gluten, lots of fruits and veggies. Juice fits in, and it certainly can't be doing any harm to up my intake of nutrients. Who knows if detoxing is a real thing or not, but it certainly can't hurt to get more greens!

I figured I'd leave you with the Mean Green juice recipe I've been loving the last couple of days. Taken right from Joe the Juicer, who lost 80 pounds juice fasting!

This is my mean green face.

Mean Green Juice
  • 6 kale leaves
  • 1 cucumber
  • 4 celery stalks, leaves removed
  • 2 green apples, (optional, apple of choice)
  • 1/2 lemon, peeled
  • 1-inch knob ginger root
Add all the above ingredients and juice. I juice the green stuff first, then the apple, then finish with lemon and ginger. I also find that by juicing the kale with the cucumber and celery, you get more juice. Just my two cents!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The spirit of running

This morning, I ran the MAD 5K, which was sponsored by the Madison High School Track and Field Team. I registered on Thursday because I got this crazy idea in my head that I would run a race each weekend up until Miss Virginia (if you have one in mind, let me know!).

I am so glad I picked this 5K to kick off my racing "season." It really had it all: beautiful weather, a small but spirited group of runners, a fun course with some hills, and an awesome group of supporters (thank you, Madison Track and Field team!!).

It's been a rough week for runners. The Boston Marathon bombing hit close to home for runners everywhere for a couple reasons. First, the Boston Marathon is pretty much the pinnacle of distance running. If you're a marathon runner, somewhere, deep inside, you would do pretty much anything to earn that BQ (Boston Qualifier time).

The second reason is more important.

If you are a runner, whether you have run a 5k or ten marathons, you have experienced the emotional windfall that happens at a finish line. It's a mix of the joy of accomplishing what you set out to do with the pain in your feet and the eagerness to see those who have come out to support you. It is accomplishment and relief all rolled into one. To be quite honest, it's pretty much unexplainable (although I'm trying very hard to do it right now) if you have never experienced it.

And Boston could have been any race. It could have been any of us. The bombings broke the heart of every runner.

Today, I was reminded of how powerful and special the running community is. Running is amazing in that there are no rules, and, really, it's not about the clock. Runners are young and old, fat and thin, fast and slow. We are runners not because we BQ or don't BQ or because we've run a certain distance, and we're not really competing against each other. Each run - whether one mile or fifty - is about fighting to become the best version of you that you can be. It's about spending some QT (quality time) with yourself, letting go of the self-judgements and negative thoughts, and not allowing the voice in your head to tell you that you can't.

For 20 minutes or four hours, it's just you and the run.

Today was a great run. Runs like the one I had this morning are the reason I fell in love with running. I had a gigantic smile on my face from the first gun to the finish line, and I found myself being paced by an eight year old boy and his father.

They bombed the finish line of the pinnacle of distance running, and we are still running, with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. I think that means that it never was - and never is - about the finish line.

It's about being paced by an eight-year-old, appreciating fresh air and feeling your heart beat, watching as people achieve goals, and celebrating the best that life has to offer. Running is the essence of what it means to be alive -- something violence and hate can never take away. In this way, our hearts may be broken, but the spirit of running is indestructible.

For what it's worth, I was beat by the eight year old boy.

The first thing I had to do when I crossed the finish line was catch up and thank him for helping me to achieve a 26:03 finish -- the fastest 5K time I've ever run in my short running life.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

You are always wearing your letters (part II)

My blog originally started as a way for me to keep track of my travels around the country for Delta Gamma Fraternity. The year took me all over the United States, from Montana to Texas to California and, you guessed it, Maryland.

I've sat here and tried to pen my thoughts about the negative press DG has been getting today, but I think I'm going to do this instead:

In any and all cases, bad or sensational news spreads more quickly than good. So instead of giving more press-time to the negative, I think maybe it's more appropriate to let you see some of the good our 146 chapters are doing.

Our University of Oregon chapter raises over $30,000 each year for Service for Sight during Anchor Splash: http://dailyemerald.com/2013/04/18/greek-uo-delta-gamma-sororitys-anchor-splash-philanthropy-one-of-most-successful-in-the-nation-anchor/

Then there's our chapter at UNR: http://nevadasagebrush.com/blog/2013/04/08/dg-hosts-yearly-charity-event/

Beta Psi at the University of Alabama will also be fundraising this weekend: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/04/alabamas_delta_gamma_sorority.html

 And each of our chapters also volunteers within their community: http://www.patriottalon.com/pulse/article_b1a0b6d6-9b0a-11e2-84c0-001a4bcf6878.html

And finally at the University of Richmond: http://thecollegianur.com/2013/03/28/dg-volleyball-tournament-raises-money-for-visually-impaired/33705/

I've said it in this blog over and over again: Fraternity and sorority life is about way more than partying. Started as a way for women to work together to become educated, sorority life has been, is, and will continue to be an integral and rewarding part of college for young women across the country.

For me, Delta Gamma absolutely played a major part in my development as a leader, friend, scholar, volunteer, and human being in general. My experience was about growing in my studies, service, and relationships and about becoming the woman I am today.

I think as fraternity and sorority members, we have an obligation to protect and spread all of the good things Greek life can be. And really, it just comes down to this:

In everything you say and in everything you do, you are always wearing your letters.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What I buy when I go grocery shopping

My biggest trick to keep eating healthy? Only stock your kitchen with food you want to be eating. This way, even when a craving hits, you'll have a variety of healthy snacks to pull from.

Meal planning is really popular in the blogging community, but I'm not really a meal planner. I like having a variety of healthy food on hand so that I can make whatever I'm craving at the time.

I shop mostly at Trader Joe's. I love it because it has most of the foods I need in sizes I need and at prices I like. I don't like to over-buy food, and Trader Joe's does a great job at having smaller sizes of stuff available at really reasonable prices. I still go to Safeway or Whole Foods for some things, but Trader Joe's is my go-to grocery store.

Here's what I bought this week:
 Fruits: I always buy bananas, and then pick different fruits that sound good that week. I already had some grapes and clementines, so I went with strawberries and a pineapple, plus some dates for homemade Larabars.

 Veggies: Spinach and kale (for salads and smoothies), cauliflower, green peppers, broccoli, green beans, and a cucumber.
Other stuff: Egg whites, chicken, peanut butter, vanilla, coconut oil, Larabars, chocolate chips. I still have beans, chia seeds, and almond milk on hand from last week, or I would have bought those too.

Some other words of advice:
  1. I usually buy frozen fruit for smoothies. It lasts FOR. EVER.
  2. Buy bananas in varying stages of ripeness. Freeze them in slices for smoothies or two ingredient "ice cream" once they start getting ripe.
  3. Try to stick to the perimeter of whichever grocery store you choose. This is a sure-fire way to stick to clean, less-processed food.
  4. If you don't want to eat it, don't buy it. If it's in your house, you're going to eat it.
  5. Trying new foods is awesome! But don't get overzealous and buy massive amounts of something you've never tried. Inevitably, you'll hate it, and it will end up in the trash.
  6. When you can, buy in bulk. Things like beans, rice, and oatmeal take FOREVER to go bad, so stock up because you'll save money.
  7. For things that are perishable (like milk or veggies), track how much you consume and then purchase the smallest size possible to meet your needs. For me, I was ALWAYS throwing away milk or yogurt. Paying less per ounce means nothing if you're constantly throwing food away.
  8. Freeze your meat in individual portions. It's easier to thaw what you need at the time.
  9. If you're cooking for one, don't be afraid to cook multiple portions at once, especially if things are going bad. Cook and then store in individual portions so they'll be ready for you to eat.
Happy grocery shopping, and share your tricks in the comments!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kids and new foods (plus a breakfast quinoa recipe)

This morning, I got elementary school girls to try quinoa. And it wasn't even that difficult.

Most of you probably know that I coach a Girls on the Run Team. A couple weeks ago, we were talking about nutrition and discussing what they eat for breakfast.

Kids eat a lot of Pop Tarts these days as it turns out. So, in an effort to expand their palates (and teach them that there are more options than Pop Tarts) I volunteered to cook and bring them quinoa... as long as they ate it.

They promised they would, so last night, I cooked up some breakfast quinoa in my kitchen. First, this happened:

Yep... Victim of putting too much liquid in the pot at once. Whoops.

But then... this happened, and I was able to bring a big bowl of breakfast quinoa for my girls to try. We talked about what quinoa was, and I explained to them how I prepared it (one of my girls even asked me for the ingredients!), and then, I invited them to dig in....

 On top of bringing the quinoa, I also brought a variety of healthy toppings -- chopped apple, pecans, crunchy natural peanut butter, Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon -- and invited them to top the base however they wanted. I think that's the key with kids. When you're teaching them about new foods, it's so important to let them play a part in deciding what they try. That way, they take ownership of what they're eating.. and they learn that healthy can be delicious!

Every single one of my girls tried the quinoa. One thought it was disgusting, but the rest were pretty excited about it, with a couple even going back for seconds.

I'm not saying we should never give kids Gushers or Pop Tarts. What I am saying is that I think we should teach kids about healthy foods and give them the opportunity to experiment and try them. Are they going to love everything they try? Absolutely not. I personally hate olives. By encouraging them to try, they're going to find healthy foods that they DO like, and I think that's the approach we need to take. Praise them when they try something new, and let them throw it away if they don't like it. Let them know that they have a choice. The worst thing that's going to happen is that they don't like something -- so what? Who cares? The best thing that can happen is that they find a new favorite food, and either way, you're encouraging them to experiment and rewarding them for having opinions and preferences. It's always going to be a win-win.

Here's my kid-approved breakfast quinoa. Just make sure you have a big enough pot!

Kid-approved Breakfast Quinoa (gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free) (makes 10 servings):
2 cups quinoa
2 cups unsweetened vanilla soy milk
2 cups water
4 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
  1. Combine quinoa, soy milk, water, and vanilla in a large pot. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until quinoa is light and fluffy.
  2. Once cooked, take off of heat and add cinnamon and honey.
  3. Top with chopped apples, pecans, peanut butter, more cinnamon, honey, or whatever healthy toppings you want! Encourage kids to go crazy!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dairy-free, gluten-free, fun free?

Over the last few weeks, I've really been playing with my personal food philosophy. Have you ever done that? After watching several pretty interesting food documentaries (Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead and Food Matters), I've been focusing on reading how different foods impact my body.

Oh, and I've (mostly) cut out dairy, gluten, and both refined and artificial sugar. I say mostly because, well, I'm human, and if I really want a bowl of ice cream, I'm going to have it. Eating is about enjoyment and you only live once.

I've struggled with pretty bad breakouts for a while, and after learning that adult breakouts can sometimes be due to minor allergies to gluten and dairy or too much processed sugar, I decided it was worth it to me to try cutting these things out to see if my skin cleared up.

Sidenote: I think it's up to each individual to determine their own personal food philosophy. I like knowing what I'm eating (i.e. reading ingredient lists and choosing real food over processed foods) and I would really, really LOVE to have glowing, clear skin. If that means I have to mostly avoid dairy and gluten, I'm okay with that. You might not be, and that's fine too.

Anyways, it's been about a week and a half, and I've seen MAJOR progress on the skin front. Not only that, but limiting those two groups of foods has also increased my fruit and vegetable intake. I've gotten creative and learned to make black bean brownies (recipe coming!), found that I love Larabars, and even tried a few new foods.

I don't find myself craving dairy or gluten, and I feel lighter overall. Like I said, I've had a couple days where I've had a serving of ice cream or a few bites of cake. I think the whole "I can still have these foods whenever I want, but I'm choosing to limit them because I want clear skin" approach has really helped curb cravings.

What's your food philosophy?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Swimsuit winners don't cleanse

If you compete in pageants, you have most likely heard of thepageantplanet.com. This website, which publishes articles about (you guessed it) pageantry, has essentially established itself as the go-to resource for girls and women competing in pageants across the country.

Which is why it is so disappointing that over the last two weeks, the site has re-publicized two articles that promote unhealthy ways to lose weight. One gives girls "3 Ways to Lose 5 Pounds in a Week" and another encourages them to "Cleanse Your Body Before Pageant Week."

Here's the reality, supported by research: Cleanses are bad for you.

Adult women are educated and mature enough to make decisions about their bodies. And if adult women were the only people meant to read The Pageant Planet, I would understand and acknowledge the site's right to publish whatever opinions they want. Heck, that's what I do on my blog!

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, Pageant Planet also caters to teen, and even pre-teen, contestants. In fact, they feature several interviews with pre-teen pageant queens. Young girls aren't old enough to be able to discern opinion from fact.

Call me crazy, but I feel like as a blog that is presenting itself as a resource has an obligation to present accurate and factual information, or at least to distinguish when "expert" opinions are opinions. Instead, by encouraging women to "cleanse" or do multiple body wraps, The Pageant Planet is not only ignoring its social responsibility, but it's not even doing its purported job: helping women win pageants.

Here are the facts: Lifestyle and Fitness (that's swimsuit) winners in the Miss America system win because they live a healthy lifestyle. They lift weights and go running and eat unprocessed foods and enjoy the occasional cookie. They don't lose their weight in the last week by dehydrating themselves through a cleanse or depriving themselves of carbs.

That's the whole point of the swimsuit competition. If they were crowning the skinniest girl or the girl who weighed the least, they'd just need to take each contestant's measurements or have them step on a scale. I would be willing to bet that more often than not, the Lifestyle and Fitness winner does not weigh in as the lightest girl in the competition because she has muscle that she's worked hard to build.

Titleholders and "experts" within the pageant community have an obligation to promote healthy decisions. Especially when you know that little girls are watching (or, in this case, reading).

Agree or disagree? Let me know.

Friday, March 1, 2013

NEDA Awareness Week: I am a statistic

This week is NEDA's (the National Eating Disorder Association) Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The theme this year is "Everybody Knows Somebody." The goal is to spread awareness about eating disorders and body image issues -- to provide accurate information, and to educate about the realities of eating disorders.

You all probably know that my platform for Miss Virginia centers around disordered eating. Disordered eating, which is not a diagnosed eating disorder, boils down to an unhealthy relationship with food. It is categorized by behaviors and thoughts about food and eating that are abnormal.

Behaviors like: taking diet pills, eschewing entire food groups from your diet, exercising solely to burn calories, occasional binge eating.

I have a history with each of those behaviors. During my sophomore year of college, when my friends tried to intervene, I was taking diet pills, cutting out all carbs from my diet, and exercising obsessively. I mean, I literally would not eat potatoes (note: potatoes are now one of my favorite foods). Senior year, I would restrict myself from eating "bad foods" during the day only to binge eat an entire pizza alone at night.

I was - and probably still am - a disordered eater.

I am passionate about talking about disordered eating not only because for almost ten years of my life, my thoughts and actions were consumed by food, but also because I know that I am not alone. I competed for Miss Greater Springfield because the Miss America Organization gives me a platform to be able to share my story. Ultimately, I want to help other women understand that they're not alone, and that food can be an enjoyable (and awesome.) part of their life.

Some studies estimate that as many as 75% of women in America have suffered from disordered eating. I guess that makes me a statistic. It also makes me frustrated and sad, because when it's that widespread, the abnormal becomes the normal. Instead of enjoying food for what it should be -- culture, heritage, celebration -- food becomes all-consuming, unenjoyable, and something that really controls your everyday life.

For some reason, I was afraid to share my story or talk to other people about my issues with food because I didn't want to be judged or perceived as weak or crazy. The reality is, if three quarters of the population has dealt with or is dealing with disordered eating, none of us are weak or crazy, we just need to work together to get ourselves back to a point where food is fun again.

Over the last two years, I have learned what causes me to obsessive over food, and I avoid it. I avoid exercising on cardio machines as much as possible because I revert to focusing on the numbers instead of how exercising makes me feel. I don't count calories or diet because, for me, it leads to what I'm eating consuming my every thought.

Instead, I pick activities I love - Bikram yoga, boxing, running outside - and try to eat clean. I remind myself that no food is "bad" or "off limits," and talk to friends and family members.

So here I am, and I am a statistic. But I am also somebody who has developed confidence and character through figuring out how to beat that voice in my head that tells me to diet. Instead of making me weak, beating my disordered eating has made me strong -- the fact of the matter is, we all get dealt things in our lives to deal with, and mine just happens to be my relationship with food.

If you suspect your friend is a disordered eater, please talk to her or him about it. Disordered eating can evolve into something more serious, and if nothing else, it is most certainly preventing your loved one from living the happiest life they can.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Missing my 26+2

Well, after a two week hiatus, I finally found my way back to the Bikram room last night. It was pretty rough, and I felt nauseous for most of the class.

Somehow, it is now 8 am and I am already back from my daily 26+2. As in, I got up at 5:30 this morning to get my daily sweat on.

Over the last two weeks, I've really put my practice on the back burner because I was doing other fitness activities. What a poor choice.

Yoga is something special. It combines mind and body, and helps you achieve complete health. Even after just two classes, I've realized how much I've missed my "me" time. I think it's important to have time alone with your thoughts and yourself, and yoga gives you that opportunity.

Anyways, I am definitely looking forward to being more diligent about my practice, and I kind of like waking up early and getting my sweat on in the morning. It got my day going this morning, and I am now enjoying some delicious four ingredient pancakes (2 egg whites + mashed banana + cinnamon + vanilla) and blogging for you fine people -- all before work!

Good morning!

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to navigate a menu without nutrition facts

You thought I forgot about my real food challenge, didn't you?

In the last couple of weeks, I've eaten from a restaurant more than several times. I've ordered everything from salads to burgers to french toast.

And I haven't looked at the nutrition facts.

Guess what? I still fit into my clothes. My arms are getting leaner. And I feel great.

As this experiment continues, I'll post photos, measurements, progress. My point is: you CAN eat out and still reach your goals, WITHOUT meticulously counting every calorie you put in your body.

It's all about thinking before you eat: about how the food is going to make you feel, about what you're craving, about what you can do without.

Here's a couple of easy modifications I've used on more than one occasion:
  • Substitute steamed vegetables for French fries
  • Ask for your protein to be cooked without added butter or oil (a lot of restaurants add oil or butter before grilling)
  • When ordering a burger, order without the bun. If you're like me and don't love cheese, leave it off.
  • Ask for your salad dressing on the side. Dip your fork in it before getting a bite of salad - I find I actually taste the dressing more this way, and I use a lot less.
  • Just say no to the bread basket. Most places will gladly not bring it out, if requested.
  • If they have sauteed vegetables on the menu, they can likely do them steamed instead or with light oil.
Healthy eating isn't about cutting entire food groups out of your diet or sacrificing the things you love - it's about learning to choose these things in moderation. For example, if I'm eating dinner out, I will ALWAYS skip French fries and cheese on my burger and eat some dessert. For you, it might be the complete opposite.

Good luck navigating the menu. As always, I try to track some of my eats on Instagram, so you can see what I'm nomming on :)

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taking on p90x

Over the last two weeks, I've really started kicking my butt back into gear. It's kind of amazing how that happens when you look at a calendar and realize that (surprise, surprise), Miss Virginia keeps getting closer! In fact, we're under the five month mark.

Luckily, I have a very supportive boyfriend (who will remain blog-anonymous for now :) ) who has decided to tackle p90x with me.

I actually got p90x for Christmas during my junior year of college. The first time I tried it, I lasted a grand total of four weeks before falling off the wagon. However, in those four weeks, I saw some pretty amazing results.

Kind of amazing what happens when you work out hard six times a week, combining cardio and weight training, huh? And then add in good nutrition?

Anyways, we're nine days in, and are on our second week of the first cycle of workouts. Highs of the week have included: Doing assisted pull-ups instead of using bands for the second time through shoulders and chest, Kenpo, and post-workout meals (gonna start featuring some of these on here). Lows were today's Plyo session (turns out Plyo on tired legs is not as fun) and Yoga X (turns out I'm not as flexible as I want to be).

I will say that p90x is way better when you do it with someone else. Plus, doing it with someone else certainly helps with accountability as well.

I'm also logging my workouts on Fitocracy now. You should join and follow me!

Anyone done the whole 90 days of p90x? Did you follow the nutrition plan as well? What were your results?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Food is supposed to be fun: the real food experiment

If you've been following me on facebook, instagram, twitter, real life, or this blog, you know that I'll be competing in Miss Virginia in June. You also probably know that my platform, You are HOW you Eat, centers around healthy eating habits, talking about disordered eating, and eschewing dieting.

In an effort to proverbially put my money where my mouth is, I will be following a "real food" eating plan in preparation for Miss Virginia. While striving to eat clean the majority of the time, I'll also be incorporating meals eaten from the restaurant group I work for 3-4 times a week. These meals are prepared from scratch, and include real ingredients like butter, whole milk, cream, and oil in their preparation.

Yes, I'm going to eat all of that and still walk on the stage fitter than I did when I competed for Miss Greater Springfield:

Jennifer Gilbert  DSC_2652.jpg
photo credit: julius tolentino
Sounds like disaster for a girl who's gotta be on stage in a swimsuit in six months, huh?

I don't think it has to be. I'm on a mission to prove that ANYONE can navigate a restaurant menu (even one without nutrition facts), make healthy choices, and even eat real dessert (not just frozen yogurt) sometimes, all while moving towards your health and fitness goals.

My platform hinges on the idea that food is supposed to be fun: fun to eat, fun to share with your family, fun to prepare.

I post everything I eat in a daily collage through my instagram account. Hold me accountable, get inspired, and check out some seriously delicious looking food.

PS: I just got a fitocracy account too... You can follow my workouts on there!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Demand more.

It has been a rough week for athletes between Lance Armstrong admitting doping to the whole Manti Te'o drama. Heck, it's been a rough week for us sports fans who follow them!

I don't really know what to believe, or how to get the truth. What I do know is that the Notre Dame football program found out on December 26th (22 days ago) that their star player had been tricked into believing he was dating a woman, that the woman had died, and then (on December 6th) found out she was not dead.

And, under pressure from an article exposing everything, the school finally talked.

Like I said, I am not an expert, nor do I have any ties to the story. But what I do know is that the only reason Notre Dame commented at all is because a third-party source released the story. I also know that the information the school shared - painting Te'o as a victim - is not enough, given they have apparently been investigating the situation for over three weeks.

So I've been trying to wrap my mind around the whole situation, and I just. I don't know. I think we need to demand more.

I think that a program, and a school, that thrives on money spent by football fans, needs to do everything they can to get answers. I think that they need to not draw conclusions as to what happened unless they have solid evidence as to what occurred, who knew what, etc.

I think that it's time for fans to demand that athletes act like the role models they become when they step on a field. I think that the expectations should be honesty, integrity, and transparency, with the understanding that when you're a public figure, your every move is scrutinized. I think that young men should be taught that, pardon my Harry Potter, with great power comes great responsibility.

And I think that when you know something shady is going on, it is your responsibility as an athlete or as a person in a position of authority to come clean about it BEFORE the expose article does.

But maybe that's just wishful thinking. And maybe in the coming weeks and months, the story with shake out and Te'o really is the victim. It just doesn't all add up.