i gave up coffee for 46 days. here's what I learned.

I felt my heart flutter for the first time in February. Not in an omg i'm in love kind of way. More like a IS THIS HOW IT ENDS?!??! kind of way. 

According to my favorite, cheapest doctor, Google, I was experiencing heart palpitations, probably brought on by anxiety, anemia, or caffeine. Likely nothing to worry about, the internet said. 

But I was worried, and with Lent around the corner, I decided that now was the perfect time to kick my coffee habit. 

Here's what I learned from abstaining from coffee for 6 weeks:

Coffee doesn't really do it for me. It just makes me anxious and sweaty but not necessarily more awake. I was pretty strict about abstaining for about 3 weeks, but I caved while traveling abroad for a week in March. I was disappointed to find that coffee didn't remedy my jet lag or keep me more focused or alert. It just made me feel a bit anxious. 

Tea is delicious. I've always liked tea, but I never fully appreciated how delicious it could be until it was my only hot beverage option. I sampled a lot of teas during my coffee hiatus, and my favorites were Yogi Tea Blueberry Slim Life, Yogi Tea Vanilla Spice Perfect Energy, and Trader Joe's Tumeric and Ginger Tea. 

Coffee is actually kind of gross. Ok, I still basically like coffee and even still crave it. But now I find it's pretty gross to have a cuppa milky coffee in the morning after mouth breathing all night. Tea's way more refreshing in the morning. 

So I'm not here to poo-poo coffee. Lots of people love it, it's safe to drink, and it has lots of antioxidants or whatever. But it's sometimes good to check in with your body to see if you really enjoy and benefit from whatever foods and drinks you consume habitually. 

trying bikram yoga for the first time (on day one of my period 😬 )

I'm lying in a puddle of my own sweat. I feel the blood rushing through my body. A pounding headache is developing. I reach for my Nalgene only to find that my ice cold water has turned into lukewarm tea. 

This is Bikram Yoga. It's been 30 minutes. 

A Bikram Yoga class is 90 minutes of 26 postures performed in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity.

If you just read that and said, "WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THAT?!?!?", I feel ya, sister. 

Despite the hellish temperature, Bikram is supposedly great for you. It can detoxify the body, heal chronic pain and help tone your muscles.

I found that it helped greatly with my day one period cramps. I walked in practically doubled over in pain, but the class relieved my cramping for the next 24 hours.

One thing it definitely didn't help with was the hormonal headache that I felt blooming shortly before class. Working out in a hot room is dehydrating by nature, so that, combined with the studio's fluorescent lights and the instructor's less-than-calming voice, didn't do me any favors. 

All in all, I wouldn't be opposed to trying Bikram again. If you're considering joining me in the sweat factory, here are some things to consider:

Hydrate! I thought I had consumed enough water before the class, but I was clearly wrong. I would recommend doubling your usual water intake before the course

Don't over do it. Heated rooms can make you feel more flexible than you really are, causing you to over extend and putting you at risk for injury. Consider your own ability and do modified poses when you need to. 

Set an intention for the practice. Aim for an achievable goal for your first class, like paying attention to your breathing. I decided that my only goal was to stay in the class for the full 90 minutes and try everything to the best of my ability. I walked out feeling successful and encouraged, even if I didn't get all the poses exactly right.

Wear less clothing. I wore cropped leggings and a loose tee shirt, and I wish I had worn less. You'll see people practicing Bikram in glorified underwear, basically. I'm not quite confident enough for that approach, but maybe a sleeveless shirt would have been a good idea.

why i hate most health & wellness blogs + health tips for people who don't mind being chubby

I fit the target demographic for 90% of health & wellness media, so I feel like I have some authority in saying that most health & wellness blogs/podcasts suck some serious butt.

I love the idea of wellness blogs and nutrition gurus who care about helping others lead healthy lives. But most of the blogs I've seen suck in the following ways:

  1. They're beauty blogs in disguise. Don't tell me your 1,200 calorie-a-day diet of oat milk and kale juice is about health. Most wellness blogs are less about health and more about beauty, less about lowering your blood pressure and more about fitting into a certain size, less about improving your mental health and more about achieving "glow-y skin" (whatever that means)...

  2. They're mostly aimed at women, and they're infantilzing. How many times have you read things along the lines of, "Green juice makes my tummy happy!" You can talk to adult women about food without sounding like you're trying to convince a toddler to eat her vegetables.

  3. Most of their health tips are rooted in belief rather than evidence. You can probably find support for almost any diet, but most experts agree that it's best to eat a little of everything in moderation. Yet pseudo-scientific claims in the wellness community abound. Take, for example, cleanses. Think about how many products/diets/etc. claim to cleanse the body of "toxins" as if we weren't all equipped with a liver and kidneys to do just that.

  4. They often exist just to sell products. I am not against sponsored posts. Everyone has to pay rent. But it feels unethical to praise a product as a key part of a healthy lifestyle when the company is paying you to say nice things about it.

  5. Their suggestions are inaccessible to a lot of people. Most people don't have the resources, financial or otherwise, to devote themselves to an involved health routine. Health bloggers be like, "Every morning, I meditate, work out, stretch, shower, write in my journal, oil pull, then make an elaborate smoothie bowl--which I photograph--and then FINALLY get dressed and leave the house." WHO HAS THAT KIND OF TIME?!?

So those are my main critiques. And since I hate critical posts that offer a problem with no solution, here are my health tips for ladies (or dudes) who don't mind being a chubby lil dumpling and just want to feel like they're not dying 100% of the time. I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure none of these tips will kill you.

  1. Make the healthiest choice that you'll also be happy with. You don't have to sentence yourself to a life of rice milk and sadness to be healthy. There are a lot of shades of healthy between vegan monk and "My 600 Pound Life," so find your middle ground.

  2. If you really want to cut something out of your diet just to prove that you can cut something out of your diet, cut out alcohol/binge drinking.

  3. If you're trying to have the perfect body, take that energy and put it into doing literally anything else.

  4. Make getting to the gym the only goal of your workout. If you really don't want to work out once you're there, you can just leave. But you'll probably stay, because hey, you're already at the gym.

  5. When you see a vegetable, eat it. This is a campaign truism that gets thrown around by political folk because campaigners often eat so poorly, but it's actually a really good way to get more veggies in your diet. If you're looking for vegetables, you see them everywhere.

  6. Go to the doctor! Get checked for STDs, get your blood pressure measured, make sure you're not anemic... Shocking how few people do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Health food trends (i.e. Kombucha, bone broth, etc.) can actually be pretty fun, so try them, but don't expect them to make you thin/happy/immune to all disease.

Being a human is hard as is. Taking care of your shell doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. In the wise words of my mother, if you feel ill, "Eat a Popsicle! Go to the bathroom! Drink some water!" It's easy.

    for those graduating college

    Graduating college was one of the most stressful events of my life. I remember people saying things like, "Congratulations! You must be so happy to be done," and thinking, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?" I loved college, and I was good at it. Now faced at the prospect of being a freshman at life, I looked out onto a vast and unknowable abyss, filled with anxiety and expected to have an answer to the question, "What now?"  Here's a list of all the things I wish someone had told me two years ago when I was freaking the fuck out:

    • People who ask you stressful questions are just trying to make conversation. What are you going to do now? Do you think you might go to grad school? Where are you going to live? Are you going to marry your boyfriend? I think every new grad gets this deluge of questions from just about everyone. Honestly, it's no one's business what your plans are--or whether or not you've even made any plans. But be patient and generous. People are just trying to be nice. They care about you, or they want to know more about you, or they're just trying to fill the silence. It's fine.

    • You don't have to know what you want to do, but you have to do something. When I was a new grad, I took a third (!!!!) unpaid internship, found a little freelance work as a copy editor, and directed a play in the Minnesota Fringe Festival. None of these things were perfect, but they helped me focus on what I actually wanted to be doing and lead to my first full time job post-grad.

    • Regret is just a side effect of learning. Everyone's all #noragrets in college, and, like, sure, maybe that's an OK sentiment. But if you're actually learning from your mistakes OF COURSE YOU'LL REGRET SOME THINGS YOU DID/DIDN'T DO. Maybe you're all torn up about the major you chose or the internship you turned down or the people you slept with/didn't sleep with. Whaaaaaatever, chill the fuck out, do a clay mask, it's fine.

    • You are the expert on your own life. People are judge-y as fuuuuuuuuck omg. Remember that you don't have to explain your choices or your logic to anyone. I mean, don't turn a deaf ear to the well-meaning advice of people who love you, but also take everything with a grain of salt. Only you know what's best for you.

    So that's my advice. Congratulations, and remember: this time--how you feel, what you're doing--is, like all things, temporary. You'll be fine.

     

     

    Remembering Those We've Never Known

    Prince died today, and it rained in Minneapolis. Maybe I'm outing myself as a transplant, but I didn't feel sad--not in the way my fellow Minnesotans seemed to, anyway. I liked his music, sure, and I understood his cultural significance.  He empowered so many to embrace their own sexuality, quirks, and beauty. So I understand why many feel as though they've lost someone dear to them.

    And yet... I can't bring myself to feel anything but vaguely glum. "Oh, that's too bad," I said in the wake of his passing. I went about my day.

    There's such magical thinking surrounding the creation of art--this idea that the artist gives himself to his work, and through his art, he allows the viewer to know him intimately. There's truth to that, sure. But I think that so much of the art we love only allows us to better understand ourselves--not the creator. 

    There's this guy I know from college. Every time a celebrity dies, he posts a tribute on Facebook about how that artist changed his life in some way--buoyed his spirits as an awkward teen, inspired him to pursue a career in the arts, helped him reconcile the parts of himself he didn't like. I once cynically thought that he was exaggerating these artists' impacts on his life, but now I think that maybe his grief is genuine. Maybe with every dying stranger, he practices dying himself. Maybe he's really grieving his understanding of the world and his place in it.

    I cried when my high school classmate succumbed to cancer. I cried when my friend's sorority sister plunged into the Mississippi River. I cried when my favorite blogger's twin sister's husband passed away. I knew these people no more or less intimately than I know Prince or David Bowie or Alan Rickman, but I could so easily slip myself into their shoes and project my hopes and anxieties onto their silhouettes as I imagined their final days and hours.

    Maybe all of these passing strangers reflect something broader about each of us: that we hope for meaning, for long lives, to be loved--by millions or just a few. Maybe death--with a lowercase d, the deaths that happen all around us, constantly, and not the ones that change the course of our lives--highlight how much we hope to live and how tightly we must hold onto the people and the ideas we love before they pass like sand through our open fingers.

    And maybe the chintzy-ness of a Facebook update or a Purple Rain Snapchat filter or an all-night dance party is the only way to express the longing to know ourselves and this world a little more fully before we go.

    I don't feel broken up about Prince. But the rain today did feel right.

    Link-y Links

    Every Friday, I'll post fun links from the internet to read/watch/whatev as you laze about at work.

    GQ tests out a bunch of gross sandwich combos.

    A Hillary supporter spends some time on the trail w/ the other guys.

    Cute comic in support of Planned Parenthood's preventative healthcare services.

    What to do if someone is crying in public

    How to make friends as an adult

    Pressing Q's for a lady doctor.

    Intense NY Times essay about moving on after trauma.

    10 Things I Learned by Going on a Gazillion Tinder Dates in 2015

    via gurl

    via gurl

    I went on a few dozen Tinder dates in 2015 after breaking up with my long term boyfriend. Here's what I learned.

    1. Some guys will wear sweatpants on dates, and that's just a reality we all have to live with.  If you're a woman, remember this every time you're preparing for a date and fretting about what to wear. It literally doesn't matter. There's a 20% chance he woke up from a nap ten minutes before meeting you. Wear whatever you want.

    2. How good or bad the date will go is directly correlated with how sweaty he is. Honestly, the sweatiest guys are usually the most nervous ones--which means he'll inevitably tell you something embarrassing about himself, like that he believes that victims of domestic abuse are TOO protected under the law, or he'll ask you some really awkward question like, "Are you ready to have kids?" Try not to slip on his snail trail of sweat while you run for the hills.

    3. If you're inexplicably dreading the date, just cancel. I know, I know, your roommate's friend's sorority sister's coworker was on the brink of cancelling a first date, but she went anyway and met the love of her life. That's not going to happen you. Sorry. Listen, once I went on a date I was dreading, and I ended up tripping on some uneven pavement and breaking my two front teeth. I could have saved so much money and physical pain if I had just told him that some "urgent business" had come up at work, and I had to cancel.

    4. Some men are the actual worst. I don't think it comes as any surprise that some men on Tinder are gross about sex stuff, but it's like SHOCKING to witness in real life. I went on a pretty normal brunch date with a really quiet guy. Mere moments after we parted ways, he started sending me explicit messages, which was just so incongruous with how he acted when we were face-to-face. I think some people feel like the distance of a screen gives them the freedom to be more explicit, more daring, more aggressive. It's only a small percentage of the men on Tinder--like under 5% if I had to wager a guess--but it's still jarring.

    5. He didn't text you because he didn't want to text you. It's not a mystery; he doesn't want to talk to you because he's not that into you. Don't let your well intentioned friends try to convince you otherwise. Have a glass of water, do a clay mask, take a nap, it's fine.

    6. Dating can be kind of tedious. There's a chapter in Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs in which he describes telling the same canned jokes and stories on date after date because he knows that they work towards helping him create this nerdy, Woody Allen-esque persona that he thinks women adore. There were many moments when I found myself doing that on dates, rolling out the "greatest hits" because I knew that they were easy and entertaining, asking the same stupid first date questions just to fill the silence. When a date feels like more of a performance than a conversation, that's when you know it's not a good fit.

    7. But dating can also be really fun! I mean, at it's best, a date is just spending some time getting to know a good looking stranger. At its worst, you'll have a really good "worst date ever" story to tell. It's a win-win, in a way.

    8. It's OK to be a bad date sometimes. I identify with this Onion article a little too much. There's some behavior that's inexcusable. Like you shouldn't make your date feel unsafe or uncomfortable, and it's not OK to be flat out rude. But every once in awhile, you'll be having a bad day for whatever reason, and you'll find yourself incapable of saying anything charming or interesting, and instead you'll just be like "Do you have any secret suspicions about how you're going to die?" and "When was the last time you cried? I cried at work today." Like whatever, you were a bad date, oh well, move on.

    9. Everyone wants someone who's smart, funny, nice, and good looking--but everyone has very specific and conflicting definitions of those words. I don't really connect with the idea of "chemistry" because it feels too vague and indescribable, but I know that I've felt indifferent about many of basically good guys because they weren't smart and funny and handsome in the specific ways I wanted them to be. I'm sure plenty of men would say the same about me. And maybe that's obvious, but it was kind of a groundbreaking revelation for me. 

    10. Liking someone is almost worse than not liking someone. There's a reason they call it a crush--because it can be crushing. Maybe it's just one of my fatal flaws, but I cannot stand the rush of being in like with someone: wondering if he likes me, feeling my stomach drop every time a text notification pops up on my phone, anxiously over-analyzing everything that he did and said... Ugh, it's the worst.

    Bonus Lesson

    11. People are weirdly judge-y about Tinder! What the fuck! How is it any different from meeting someone at a bar? At its inception, I think Tinder was truly just a hook up app, and for some, it still is (more power to them, honestly.) But now, everyone's on it. There are certainly some valid criticisms of Tinder and other dating apps. For example, I have friends of other races who have been sexually harassed in a racially-charged way when using the app. I'm not trying to minimize that very real problem. All I'm saying is, maybe don't judge people for how the choose to live their lives!!!

    On Not Being a Shark

    This post was originally published on July 25, 2015 on my now-defunct Wordpress.

    About six weeks ago, I went to Yale to complete an intensive, nonpartisan campaign training program. It was equally fun and grueling. I came home the following Saturday and slept for nearly eighteen hours with very little interruption–crawling out of bed only to eat tacos with my roommates.

    So when I say “grueling,” I mean “grueling.” Our schedules spanned from 8 am – 8 pm most nights, with few breaks in between, and we were expected to completed homework in the evenings. Our class of 75 or so women was divided into six groups for a campaign case study–a chance to apply everything we had learned during the day to a real life campaign (Feingold v. Johnson, for those who are interested). Each night after finishing the day’s lectures, receptions, etc., our team met in a conference room in our hotel and worked on that day’s “homework” for a few hours before climbing into bed around midnight.

    Despite the jam-packed schedule, it really did feel like adult summer camp. At one point, one of my teammates and I were sitting in a hallway at 11 pm, working on some fake attack ads for our campaign case study. The ads we made were as cheesy as they were scathing, and we were basically laughing our asses off between takes. It reminded me of staying up late with my bunk mates at summer camp in Indiana and rehearsing skits for the talent show. It was fun, goofy, sweet… I had my own professional and political reasons for coming to the school, but I hadn’t really considered all the potential for fun.

    In talking with other participants who were assigned to different teams, it seems as though my experience was rare. On other teams, competition ruled the day. On the last day of the campaign school, each group was expected to present their campaign plan. There was some talk of “winning” presentation day–like the group with the most in depth, professional campaign plan would get some kind of extra accolade for their achievement. Our group pretty quickly put that notion out of our minds. I’ll speak for myself, but it seemed that most of us knew that any “win” would be of symbolic nature only, and we were all too tired and punchy to be at the top of our games anyway.

    I think in politics, there’s this idea that you have to be a shark to get anywhere–that to succeed, you have to have this “take no prisoners” attitude. I saw it at the campaign school. I’ve seen with the interns I work with, with some of the younger people I rub shoulders with at events. And yes, it’s true that you have to be direct and sharp and confident and thick-skinned at times. But do you really have to be a shark? No. Not at all. In fact, I’m pretty convinced that the people who try to be power players always end up looking like morons.

    How do you get ahead in politics, then? Make it about the people you’re supporting–your candidate, your boss, your constituents, etc. Be as helpful as possible. Be mindful about the ways in which you present new ideas, problems, solutions. Be funny, charming, likable, energetic. And don’t get so caught up in sniffing out the blood in the water that you forget how fun it can be to be part of a team, working to shape the world and make history.

    So at the end of the week, no one even “won” the case study assignment. I think any mention of competition was a ruse to get us to take it seriously. But when I think about the warm, funny, congratulatory emails exchanged between my teammates after our presentation, I can’t help but feel that our team–our sharkless team–was the real winner that week.

     

     

    ladylike

    This was originally published on May 30, 2015 on my old wordpress site, raynewms.wordpress.com, which is now defunct.

    Sometimes I think I’ll never find love again. I imagine the love of my life, and all I can see is myself–how I’d be around him, how he’d make me feel, what I’d wear… Like suddenly, upon meeting this faceless/personality-less stranger, I’d shed the extra weight I put on in college and buy pretty sheer pajamas and stop spilling on myself when I eat. Like suddenly, I’d laugh less like an evil genius in a Dreamworks movie and more like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.” Like I’d stop making jokes about my vagina and start saying sweet little Forrest Gump-esque things that he could quote as captions on his Instagram photos of us picnicking or whatever. I think less about him and more about myself–more about the manic pixie dream girl hiding inside of me, just waiting for the right corporate drone to coax her out of her cage.

    A few weeks before I met my last boyfriend, I sat cross-legged on the balcony of my shitty Urbana apartment, eating avocado on toast and crying about Bogdan. Bogdan was this Romanian guy who I dated for about six weeks before he left for Europe. In a Facebook message, he told me that the reason we didn’t “click” was because I was not “fit” (read: skinny) enough, nor ladylike enough. Now I probably would’ve been like, “Woof. TTY-never,” but back then, I felt so crushed. So I sat there, feeling sorry for myself, feeling like the sun and the avocado on my toast and all other good things in the world existed only to mock me.

    I grabbed my journal and wrote about the future–about the person I’d want to fall in love with next (slash forever). I wrote that he was tall and blonde and bearded, that he could play the guitar and that he loved to write and read, that he was nice to his mom and funny and sweet to me and to all of his friends and to strangers… I wrote about drinking coffee with him on lazy Sunday mornings. I wrote about his hands fitting perfectly in mine, my head cradled perfectly on his chest, my eyes fixated perfectly on his. It was all very Nicholas Sparks.

    Three weeks later, he opened his door and invited me into his apartment. He pushed me against the wall of his kitchen and kissed me. He held my hand as we both shivered, and he told me that I walked too fast for him to keep up. I imagined him, and there he was.

    Three years later, it exploded.

    And now I don’t know what I want.

    Now I’m going on date after date and letting men buy me tacos and kissing complete frogs just to see if maybe, maybe, maybe someone will resonate with me. And they never do–not really anyway. “I don’t think your next great love is on that list,” my wife said as we talked about the men I’ve dated, “The way you talk about them–it’s just not the way someone talks about their next great love.”

    So for now, I’m joking about my vagina and wearing ratty tee shirts to bed and spilling all over myself. Just for now. Until I meet someone who compels me to be a little more fit. A little more ladylike. A little less like me.