How to get back on the horse

For the last few, ahem, months, I’ve thought almost daily about my blog. I’ve started quite a few blog posts – in my head, of course, but often found the usual blog chattering had been replaced with silence. 

As the months rolled together, I’ve thought about how to get back into it – I started a new site which would feature my new brand and a new concept; I redefined my blogging space several times. I then decided that in order to prevent another writing hiatus, I had to have at least four blog posts ready to be published. But what actually happened? I didn’t ever finish the new website, abandoning it at the first sight of an obstacle; my redefinition fell flat, and well, I don’t have the four posts ready to go.

This week, a friend unexpectedly asked me about my blog; and I had to resist my usual defensiveness and just reveal that well I’ve fallen off the horse and stayed fallen. I promised him that I’ll have a blog published by the end of the week.

Once I fell out of habit, I decided that my "comeback" needed bells and whistles; it had to be “extra special” to excuse my inaction. When we trip and stray, we create multiple roadblocks that keep us further from our goals and justify our inability, insecurity, lack of commitment, shifted priorities etc or whatever it was that tripped us up.  

So what are the steps involved in getting back on the horse?
Step 1: Get back on the horse
Step 2: Gallop and keep going

I've been reminded that the best thing we can do for ourselves is literally to just do it; there's no need to find a new horse, or adorn the old, find a new stepping stool, or as my pastor said today, pray about it.

So here I go, getting back on this horse; writing and sharing me. Thank you for your support!

Still halfstepping!

Half-stepping Diva


Desserts spelled backwards

So in the last few weeks, let's see what's been going on in my world. Weird sleep schedule (sleep late, oversleep, sleepy in the middle of the day) check; mindless activities - watching movies all day, constantly playing with my hair check; mindless eating usually prefaced by a little (ok big!) chocolate binge check, starting things, but never finishing check; feeling overwhelmed check; feeling unmotivated check; Fatigue check; Restlessness check; suddenly needing to do all the mundane tasks I've put off check (well, half check because I start and realize I have no interest). Uh-oh I think I am stressed out!

With deadlines approaching, projects looming, endless checklists, pending exams/tests, addition of new family members, planning weddings, planning anything and wanting to get this and that done, we're bound to feel stressed out from time to time. Some of us are in a perpetual state of stress and don't really know life any other way. We're often caught in the middle of work expectations, deadlines, family expectations and many things that just keep us in a constant state of ON. Our ability to deal with our stress goes a long way to a healthy heart and certainly a healthy life.

OM-Times Magazine

Stress is inevitable, and although we experience it at different levels, we’re all bound to feel the tightness in our chest and the complete loss of control at some point.  So since I have finally stilled the noises in my head (at least for now), I thought it would be appropriate to discuss some of the things I should have done and some of the things I’ve been doing to get me through this itty bitty stressful time.

Recognize stress: My brain/body likes to keep me protected and does not tell me I’m experiencing stress. I often realize it when my sleep pattern changes or I notice that I’m reaching for sugary foods in great amounts. I’ve realized that I generally suppress stress and I’m about a week into it before I realize what’s going on. Dealing with stress well means recognizing the signs of stress. Think about it, what are some of the things you do when you're stressed out? 

Food: I’ve gone through a shameful amount of chocolate in the last two weeks and barely remember eating any of it. Many of us are comforted by food while stressed out. For some sugar provides that comfort, for others, salt. Either group is not particularly good for our bodies and certainly not for the stress. This CNN article describes the best foods to eat when we are experiencing stress and includes: blueberries, seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower etc), cashews, turkey, spinach, milk, pistachios, oatmeal, salmon, avocado, yogurt and dark chocolate (one square). Hmmm no ice cream in sight!

Physical activity: While many of us want to just sit and maybe sleep and hope the stressor will just go away, it is actually very healthy to move when we are experiencing stress. With blood pumping throughout our bodies, shuttling away cortisol and distributing the surge of many feel good hormones, movement is a great way to de-stress. This includes walking, running, dancing, sex, lifting weights, boxing, etc.  
Life's best medicine: Laughter definitely gets me through stressful times. It can be difficult to see humor in anything when we are stressed out, but laughter can sometimes be the thing that gets us over the hump. Watching something funny can be a great stress relief, or better yet calling up that loved one that you know will have you in stitches in no time!
Life's other medicine: There's something about music that is just so soothing to the stressed soul. When stress sets in, I turn off my TV and upsetting news, and plug into some soulful, joyful and uplifting music.

Mindfulness & Deep breathing: When I'm stressed out, I tend to engage in a lot of mindlessness. It's like my brain wants to shut down completely so as not to deal with the stress and apparently anything else. But becoming focused is a great way to deal with stress. It causes us to really look at what our stressor is and figure out what to do to overcome it. It is also good to take in deep breaths, which forces an increased amount of oxygen into our lungs and helps slow down our heartbeat and causes us to relax. Yoga is a fabulous activity to accomplish both of these as the practice requires mindfulness and focus on breathing.

Socialize: No, this doesn’t mean you should stay up chatting with friends instead of studying for that big exam! But it helps when we “vent” or talk about the thing that is causing us stress. Many of us find ourselves in isolation during stressful moments, partly because we are cranky, but often because we just can’t be bothered. However, in stressful situations, it can be useful to have discussions with like-minded people that can help sort through your head and help explore solutions, if that’s what’s required. Of course, it’s prudent to pick people that will not exacerbate your stress by unloading on you!
Writing: I often write out my thoughts to help still the discontented, disjointed, dis-everything thoughts that come up when I’m stressed out. I find the very act of writing things out shows me plainly what I need to do. A clear mind is definitely a great way to better decisions.

There are many other things to do to relieve stress. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting some fresh air and a new perspective. Sometimes it takes cleaning up our space so that we can see things clearly. Other times we just need to reset and take a quick break from the madness of our world. I often find that prayer also helps!

So how do you de-stress? Let me know!

Half-stepping diva



My aunt once called me meatless...she had been a vegetarian for years and declared that my dietary choice simply made me meatless and not a vegetarian. I'm pretty sure I was indignant about her statement and got defensive, but have since conceded that ah, she was probably right!

I've been "vegetarian" most of my life. When my mother became vegetarian, I decided around age 5 that I too, wanted this lifestyle. I remember inquiring about a meal, and stopped eating it once I learned it wasn't vegetarian. She informed the rest of the household (my grandmother); that evening she came home to find me chewing on fried pork courtesy of my grandmother. Yeah that message wasn't received! 

Many studies/reports like this one and this one and for good measure this one  assert that vegetarians live longer, have better health outcomes, and are possibly happier. A recent study from Austria rocked this a bit, suggesting that the opposite was true of the Austrian vegetarians studied: those vegetarians are in fact "less healthy" than their meat enjoying counterparts. The vegetarians had elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental problems (depression, anxiety, etc) and were more likely to avoid preventative check ups and vaccines. From a public health standpoint, this is a very confusing message and there are so many confounding factors that could contribute to these findings. From a real life vegetarian experience, this study probably rings true.

There's a myth that vegetarians are automatically healthier and will probably outlive meat-eaters. This has the potential to be true, however being a vegetarian in a meat-filled world means compromise and lots of carbohydrates.

As a child, I did not like any cooked vegetables...at all. I preferred my veggies raw or nonexistent.
When I signed onto becoming a vegetarian, this didn't change. But it was fine growing up in the kitchen of a vegetarian caterer - my mom incorporated veggies as I would tolerate them. Outside of her kitchen however, things were slightly different. My best friend in 2nd grade shared a meal of corned beef and rice every lunch period, for the whole year. She knew I was vegetarian; I didn't know I was eating corned beef. For her birthday, she brought cake which she assured me was vegetarian...yeah ok. We laugh about it today. I didn't spend much time in other people's homes because what would they feed me? And the few times I did, I had to pack an extra bag of food...really, what child wants to do that.  In a land of meat and more meat, I was firmly the odd one out.

I thought, as most of us assumed, that the U.S would provide me with more vegetarian options. I soon learned what those options were. My lunch at school consisted of french fries, cheese pizza and soda. I don't remember very many other choices, but I was also very drawn to foods that I had only experienced in books! When I started packing lunch, it was granola bars, bread, crackers, chips and maybe a fruit. Oh bread, a vegetarian's staple! Then off to college, the land of unlimited trips to the cereal bar, ice cream bar, pizza bar, taco bar, all the french fries you can eat, potato with anything you want on it, and yeah the salad bar, but who goes there? In the dorms I became champion of cooking pasta in the microwave. When I would go out with friends, it was always a challenge and we often ended up at the one Chinese restaurant that had tofu which I often ate with....very white rice.

The reality of being a vegetarian is that we are often faced with choices that might lack meat, but do not contain vegetables. And though health-conscious, we often have such limited choices that we end up carbohydrated out! We are often told to just "eat around the meat", or "have a salad". I remember going out for breakfast, and the only option I had was an "vegetarian" omelet without the eggs...which left me with....onions and tomatoes!

When done properly, being a vegetarian ushers you into a world of healthy, tasty choices that doesn't weigh you down and keeps your organs functioning at their best, which I will discuss in the next post.  However, in a world filled with meat and more meat, sticking to a strict vegetarian diet requires some creativity and eating at home before heading out with friends! 

So have you tried being a vegetarian? Was it challenging? Did you change much in your diet other than dropping the meat? I would love to hear from you.

Veggie on!
Half-stepping diva


What you eat

I treated myself to some fruit slices last week; they were quite delicious! Then I made the mistake of reading the ingredients: corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch (corn), natural and artificial flavors, artificial colors (red 40, yellow 6, yellow 5, red 3, blue 1). Let’s break down this list…it has corn syrup which is sugar, more sugar, a corn derivative, flavors and colors….so where exactly is the fruit?

I can't talk about putting the right things into our bodies without addressing what those things are.

I bought ice cream a few weeks ago - a specific
brand that promises ingredients I can read, you know, milk, sugar, cream, etc.  Upon closer examination, I realized that I had bought a “frozen dairy dessert”. So wait, I bought a dessert that has milk and is kept in a freezer, but it's not ice cream? So what exactly is in it? As the list reads, I had bought a concoction of milk, sugar, more sugar, more milk, cheese by-product, fatty acids, a thickener, another thickener, yet another thickener, natural flavor (what does that mean?), vitamin A, a thickener, and fudge twirl sauce which contains milk, sugar, sugar, cocoa, cheese by-product, cream, a thickener and salt. Not quite what I had in mind when I wanted ice cream! 

There have been several other foods that I've learned have a bit more than I expected. For example, the cheese slices I had come to love after moving to the U.S were actually a "pasteurized prepared cheese product"....so wait, is it cheese or not?

Ahh bread, a staple in most of our homes has quite some ingredients including hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium stearoyl, lactylate, datem, defatted soy flour, extract of malted barley, dextrose, calcium propionate. Goodness, what happened to flour, water, salt and yeast?!   

And don't get me started on peanuts...why does my dry roasted peanuts have sugar, gelatin, torula yeast, cornstarch, dried corn syrup, and maltodextrin?

Our food is slowly morphing into science experiments and projects. And unfortunately this trend is expanding worldwide. I was quite dismayed to see that the fast food, pre-packaged food lifestyle has seeped into the Ghanaian life and is slowly taking over.

We have created a world in which every moment of our day has been filled with something to do. This often means that good food is the last thing on our minds. But we cannot survive and thrive without making the investment of healthy living.

So this week, I challenge you to read more food labels; see what you're actually putting into your body. Show your body love, and make an effort to eat more whole foods...your investment will certainly pay off!  

Happy eating real food!
Half-stepping diva



Garbage in...

Yesterday, I had a rousing conversation with someone who took my Zumba Fitness class for the first
time. She wanted to know if the hour of movement she'd just completed could have possibly burned any of the cheeseburger, fries, onion rings and Coca-Cola she'd consumed during the day. I, of course could not provide her a true answer since I didn't know: how much she'd moved, the intensity of her movements, her weight, how much food she'd consumed, etc. But I had to let her know that she could not outrun a bad diet!

I get it...I have often convinced myself that I could eat something I really wanted since I was planning on working out later. It was usually something chock full of sugar which means that, I would have a "sugar crash" shortly afterwards, and unless I had a scheduled class would not want to do any kind of activity. Or when I did make it to the gym would put in only half the effort.

March is National Nutrition month (I'm not sure who comes up with these and why we buy into them, but hey, I read it somewhere) so I figured it would be a good time to talk about food, food, food.

We all love food...why not. I personally prefer my food dipped in chocolate and fried. Or doughy, cheesy and gooey...and dipped in chocolate and fried. Even though I'm vegetarian, I don't particularly care for the taste of vegetables (bean sprouts ewww...ok truthfully I've never tasted it, but it just looks
weird!), and it just takes so much effort!

But clearly my dietary choices have not particularly served me well and I've become more conscious of what I put into my body. GIGO works in the computer world as it does in our bodies: Garbage in, garbage out.

Or if you prefer, what you sow is what you reap.

Which  means that we can't eat foods high in simple sugars (chocolate, sodas/soft drinks, pastries, juice, candy, white bread, white rice, white pasta, white flour, etc) and unhealthy fats (deep fried anything)  and expect a beautiful heart forever. Or a pancreas that will continuously pump out insulin in an effective manner, or young looking beautiful skin. At some point, the garbage will come out, and health will be affected.

We are often surprised when athletes and people that are constantly in motion, are diagnosed with serious medical problems, but I've learned that oftentimes athletes are just as guilty as the rest of us in indulging in quick, unhealthy meals that do not support optimal body functions.

So I challenge you today to be mindful of what you eat....add a vegetable or two to each meal (yes even your breakfast). Increase your fiber intake (all fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes etc), and drink more water. Decrease your sugar, fat and sodium intake; avoid processed foods which are generally higher at least in sugar and sodium. And most importantly, savor each meal.

Happy healthy eating!
Half-stepping diva

P.S. Happy 58th Independence day, Ghana! 


After the "love" is gone...

And just like that, February is over! Did you survive St. Valentine's Day?

Was it a happy day for you? Did you get that surprise you were hoping for? Maybe an engagement? Did you spend the day basked in love and feeling all "butterflyey" in your stomach?

Were you stressed out trying to plan the perfect day? Did you snap at the person that you were trying to show love because you got so caught up in all the madness of this and that and wait, how did I forget to get a card?!

Or was it a sad day? Were you bitter that you weren't sharing the day with someone? Annoyed by all the red and pink balloons and teddy bears that let's be honest grown women should not be receiving anyway. Did all the commercials and cards and flower people just get under your skin? Did you resolve to commiserating with the chocolate people who are the clear winners in this fiscal fight? Was this another scarry kind of day for you?

Or did you forget that this day exists? Did you simply wake up and go about your day like any other?

We all fall somewhere along the continuum...me, Valentine's day remains one of my all-time favorite days...I enjoy the sappiness and exuberant expressions of love. Growing up in a society that is completely infatuated with over-the-top gifts (I've heard stories of wealthy folks giving out cars as gifts) means that Valentine's day was  introduced to me as a happy occasion, regardless of whether I was gnashing (single) or not. It's also the birthday of some of my favorite people and unfortunately the day another favorite person passed.

 As I went through my own highs and lows of the day, I got to spend the day with a whole lot of people, some through texts, phone calls and many in person. Valentine's day this year reminded me that love comes in various packages and through different people.

And that love should not start or stop on Valentine's day. Love it or hate it, the day's a good reminder that the greatest thing we can share with others is our love. If the most loving thing you do for someone throughout the year is on Valentine's day, you might want to reconsider how you show love. There's no occasion needed to let the important people around you know of your love.

And who better to pour love into, than ourselves? Have you shown yourself love lately? What does that even mean for you...loving yourself? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Keep loving! 
Half-stepping diva


Oh...Never Mind!

And just like that, we're done with the first month of 2015. Boy that went by pretty quickly! With over 31 days under our belt, we've had enough time to form some new habits (it takes 21 days of consistency for a habit to stick). Did you make any resolutions, goals or plans for  how you wanted to shape 2015. How have you been doing so far? How much have you accomplished? Is your goal still on your mind?

I recently read an article that February 2 is the day that those who do, give up on their goals/resolutions/NY changes. I get it. I myself thought as I indulged in ice cream and nutella that clearly is not in my goals, that since the next day is the 1st of February, it would be a good time to get back on the horse and restart my resolve. And then on February 1st found new ways to give myself a break from my goals (it's Sunday, I'm tired, the cookies are right there, it will take forever to cook a real meal, I'm starving! I need a nap, I'll work out later enough to burn ALL the calories I've eaten etc). Then I read the article and realized that I was headed straight to the February 2nd stop. I immediately hopped off that train!

So did you make it past February 2nd? Have you given up on making things right with your family? or giving up coke? or cooking healthier meals? or simply loving yourself more? Are you back in the same place you were last year and maybe the previous years?

In case you're on the February 2nd bandwagon, here are a few tips to get you off and towards things that matter to you!

-Write out what you want to change. Even if you're already done this, it's good to be reminded of what your goals are.

-Recommit to your goals by  listing what it will take to get there. For example, in order for me to work out before work, I must wake up by 5:30am which means I must actually get to bed on time.

-Remember that there's nothing magical about tomorrow, or Mondays or your anniversary to start something. Today's as good a day as any.

-Understand that though you often feel super, you will have challenges and simply have to start over. It's completely ok to stumble when you're working towards a goal; I believe stumbles give our success dimension and a better appreciation for our deserved reward. Even you, as determined as you are, will lose track sometimes. Just get back on it.

-You will not fail. For many of us, our starting point is failure. We look at the past, or other people's experiences and decide that we will never get that thing we really want. But we put on our fake confidence mask and half-heartedly pursue our goals anyway, only to balk when challenges arise. You will not fail; it might take a few attempts, longer than other people and revisions to your strategy, but you will not fail. Keep trying.

-Remember your  motivation. Why is this thing important to you?  Remind yourself of why you want to make this accomplishment and use that to spur you on.

-Be your own cheerleader. I am time-challenged...as in I know the time, but you know, I'll get there. This year, I'm working on becoming more time-conscious. I get scoffed at all the time when I share this goal, not because my support system is mean, but we often just don't see how others will change that thing that seems so ingrained. Whenever I am able to adhere to my schedule, I celebrate myself a little and use that to keep trying.

So let's keep working on making 2015 an amazing year! I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Half-stepping diva


Equipped and forgotten

So you have decided to make some changes in your life? Congratulations! and welcome to the club! At some point, we all nitpick at something that we want to fix. Talking to different people has made me realize that it is a natural part of growing up and even the most perfect person continues to seek perfection through change.

Change is daunting...and requires significant and specific steps that often make us run in the opposite direction. While giving me her exercise clothes, my aunt tells me how she decided to exercise. To prepare herself, she found a nearby gym and paid for a full year's membership and proceeded to shop for an entire wardrobe to support her decision. At the time of the story, she barely remembered which gym she had donated her money to, and since the clothes I was getting were brand new, it was safe to assume she didn't go back after joining!

This story has replayed in various forms in all our lives. I have collections of yarn, books, cookbooks, dance shoes, special outfits, equipment...all in the name of something new. I often hear friends talk about doing something and spend a whole lot of energy and money "preparing" for the change.

I think investing in my plans make me feel that I will actually go through with it. We often believe that in order to be serious in our resolve to change, we must first make an investment. I have realized however that when I've been successful in changing something, my first step is actually just doing it.

Let's say you want to eat more vegetables. You invest in an expensive blender which you will use to make juices and smoothies daily. In addition to your new toy, you need lots of vegetables, so you buy and fill up your fridge. 

Or you want to learn how to play the guitar this year. So you buy a guitar, maybe an amplifier, a pick and sign up for lessons immediately.

Or you want to lose weight. So you throw out everything bad and invest in fitness videos, or gym equipment or jump rope or remember you were fit when you played football (soccer) back in the day so you invest in some cleats, footballs, and running clothes.

Or you want a new job. You buy expensive special paper for the resume, and fill your wardrobe with brand new clothes and shoes for all the interviews you're definitely going to get.

In all the examples, it seems perfectly sound to make those investments. But oftentimes what
happens is that we realize we actually don't have time to blend anything; plus the smoothies taste horrible! And well you're terrible at the guitar and the guy teaching you is too far from you plus you're so tired after work all you want to do is eat and sleep. And you got through the first level of the fitness DVD, but why is it sooo hard? And why do they only have perfect bodies on the video and the treadmill is too boring so now you've started hanging clothes on it. And you haven't actually had time to look for any jobs, plus there's really nothing out there that you like!

So this year, when you are ready to do something new, start where you are and see how your change can actually fit your life. Use what you currently have and as the change becomes a habit, reward yourself by making investments to get better at it.

If you want to learn photography, start by becoming the designated photographer using your phone's camera. As your interest grows, you can purchase that beautiful camera you've been eyeing. If you want to learn how to play basketball, go somewhere others are playing and play with them.

Don't immediately invest in equipment that will surely collect dust soon. As for me and my cake decorating materials, maybe this year I will actually bake a cake so that I can practice my decorating skills!

Half-stepping diva



All week, I've been saying, it's the first Monday of 2015, the first Tuesday of 2015 and the first! and the first! All true, but so what?

For many New Year's I have created a list of resolutions that were for sure going to change my life and shape the year. Like most of us, my resolution involved giving up something or doing something; both changes that I knew needed to be done. But it didn't take long for my resolve to unravel, usually, ok I don't even think I often made it through January!

I've realized that I wasn't able to hold onto these resolutions for several reasons. For one, I had too many things to change at one time. And well I didn't really understand what it took to get those things done. So I gave up on New Year's resolutions and started working on year long goals. Alas, it didn't take long to realize that if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, well you know the saying!

As we get older, the beginning of the year becomes synonymous with doing something...usually, something different from the previous year. And as a 30 something year old, it doesn't take much time to realize that life doesn't move unless you make it happen. But every day is a new opportunity to do something different. The 1st of January has become a standard beginning of the year, but the beginning of the year really could have been any other day, had someone else decided to create the calendar.

January 1st is nice and simple, but this year I'm reminded that whatever changes I need to make can be done...NOW. I don't have to wait for a magical day (Mondays) or a magical date (New Year's, my birthday etc) to do what I know needs to be done. This way when I'm not able to be consistent or when life gets in the way, I can just get back on it and not wait for another magical day.

So Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you take steps that will make this year a much better year than last year. I hope you smile more, laugh more, grump less and surround yourself with positive life-changing moments. We know that life will always have ups and down, but I hope you do your part to keep the downs less frequent and the ups way up. Here's to an amazing 2015!

All the best!
Half-stepping diva


Curvy motivations

OH EM GEE! What is happening?!
I grabbed a pair of dress pants today…they look like I’m wearing leggings! When did this happen? Where was I?

So it’s official…I’ve fallen off the bandwagon completely…in fact I think the wagon left me and is currently in Timbuktu. So since my last post about leading a sugar free diet and working towards my goals, I have had a birthday celebration which was pretty low key in terms of my sugar intake. Then I went on vacation for a few weeks for mom’s cooking. This was also overall sugar free vacation. But what has happened in my mean time is that my food portions have grown along with the unhealthiness  of my food. I pretty much ate fried foods for 3 weeks and didn’t keep up with my usually intense exercise regimen. I slept quite a bit…well I was on vacation and it didn’t take long for me to see the heaviness in my face and everywhere else.

The plan to lose it soon as I got back has flown out the window because something is different this time around…I have become more self-conscious.
Weight loss is great for improving self-esteem and making us feel good when we can fit into our clothes, healthy benefits etc, but it can also come at the expense of certain things to which we have become accustomed. Recently we have seen pictures of people’s real post-weight loss pictures, showing excess skin hanging from various parts of their body. For me, I realized that I did not have my curves. In fact, I posted a picture on Facebook and while folks said, oooh good job, a friend noticeably commented “nooooo, what happened to the boobs?!” Yup all gone.
I did not realize just how much I was attached to my curves and how it oriented me as a woman. During this past year I had decided that not carrying around a pot belly trumped curves and was willing to look like a pre-pubescent 15 year old boy if it meant I found six-pack abs! And I was headed there. The abs did start to show; and when I lost fat, I lost it everywhere. I often had to pep talk myself when I would see in the mirror that my booty was looking mighty flat. I mean my clothes were fitting so much better and my overall health had improved, so what did I really have to complain about?
But now that fried foods have led me to remember my curvy body, it has become completely hard to let it go and work towards my goals. In the last few months I’ve tried to get back into the groove, watching my calories and working out, but am soon reminded of new weight and ah well, just let me be.

So I find myself at the end of the year, 10 lbs heavier than I was same time last year. This time around I know exactly what to do to work it off, but completely unmotivated, or rather highly motivated by my curves.

I have spoken to many others who have this same fear, of not feeling sexy enough after weight loss. In fact, I often hear folks being told they have lost too much weight and need to eat...thereby sending them into reverse mode and slowly undoing all their work.

I'm not entirely sure how to proceed; I want to be a healthy, meaning no excess visceral (stomach area) fat, fit, with a BMI in the "normal" range. But I also want to look in the mirror and see a hollow version of myself. How have you dealt with the challenges of weight loss? What have you done to motivate yourself to get back with the plan? 

 Half-stepping diva


Holiday bulk

The holidays are upon us! Regardless of where you live or your religion, the end of the year is a time of celebration which means a lot of care-free eating! Those who are ludicrous enough to start a new diet plan at the beginning of December are soon met with tempting treats everywhere, big dinner celebrations and goading from relatives to just relax and enjoy! I myself have attempted many times not to end the year on the wrong side of the scale by becoming ultra-disciplined in the month of December. But it doesn't take very long to unwrap my resolve when I find myself surrounded by tins and tins and more tins of cookies, caramel popcorn (chocolate-covered too) and more cake than anyone knows what to do with.
Indeed for most of us, celebration starts with food. Get a new promotion, food! a new baby, food! engagement, food, win the lottery....well I'm sure food is right up there with lots of extra spending. And we have been conditioned that a salad just doesn't make for a celebratory lunch, we need fried foods and lots of it, sugar, pastries, bread, etc. Which is why for many of us, weight loss becomes a resolution in January!
So here we are again in December with opportunity to indulge and overeat. Here are a few tips to avoid or at least reduce the holiday bulge:
Focus on what matters
The holidays can be filled with social events and time spent with loved ones. But for many, the holidays can be very depressing. While it's great to see family and other friends, it can be a reminder of what you have not accomplished. Many find themselves isolated, either because they do not have loved ones around, are estranged from loved ones or find it easier just to be by themselves. This time of the year can also be a reminder of loved ones who are no longer living. And for those of us far away from the equator, the lack of sun can make us just downright sad. Whatever the reason for depression, it becomes even easier to sit behind a TV and just eat. Holiday blues are very difficult to overcome. If you notice yourself slipping into it, become intentional about what you can do to make yourself feel better...not just temporarily. For me, I've noticed that during these blue moments it helps for me to step out of my comfort zone and accept an invitation I would usually decline. I am also intentional about staying in touch with friends and family even if it's by phone. It's also important to focus on all the positive things in my life currently: life, good health, loved ones, etc.
Plan ahead
There is no doubt that December is filled with lots of goodies and treats. Plan for these moments by determining what treats you don't need this season. I myself have given up chocolate (yes, again!). Yeah, I tried the whole one piece only thing....it's not working and my tight pants are the proof! I'll also be avoiding caramel popcorn which I so love, not just because of the high sugar content but also because of the root canal I had to endure from cracking blah blah blah.
Eat/ snack before heading to that party
We often run around from house to house, or from store to store looking for the perfect gift. Which means that by the time we get to the first dinner party of the night we are famished! As important as it is to get that gift or get to that party, we must also nourish our bodies properly. Have a snack before heading out. Make sure it's a snack that has a lot of protein and not so much sugar (so no ice cream sandwiches!) This will ensure that "your eyes are not bigger than your stomach" when you see that big platter of extra crispy extra fried anything!
Talk more / Eat slowly
It's quite impolite to talk and eat at the same time. The holidays are a time of socializing and spending time with people we don't often see. It's also a great time to catch up. By talking more, we are more likely to slow down our eating so that we can finish telling that story. By slowing down we tend to eat less because our brains get a chance to tell us that our belly is full.
Reduce stress
Every year without fail, the holidays are a time of full-on stress. For some, the idea of facing family is stressful. During my retail days I often encountered customers in the middle of a complete meltdown because they could not get the perfect gift, or had waited until the last minute to find a gift and the store was closing, or my favorite, could not fit into the dress they wanted to wear to the holiday party. The pressures of the holidays span from our perception of our family's opinion about ourselves to realizing how much we have not accomplished by the end of the year. When we are stressed out, we often comfort ourselves with food/drinking and make allowances for overindulging. Find stress-relieving techniques that work for you. I like to journal because I am able to process my thoughts and not get so obsessive. Other techniques include exercising, spending quality time with loved ones, breathing exercises, chamomile tea, etc. It is also good to recognize when you are stressed so that you make conscious effort not to overeat just because your cousin is making fun of your new recipe right in front of everyone.
Watch what you sip
Fruit juices, soda, cocktails, beer, something something mocha latte...all of them are filled with calories. It's easy to lose track of how many drinks we have especially during this season. Be mindful of what you’re sipping. Request on the rocks when you can; it slows you down a bit. Alternate between water and your drink of choice and when you can water down your beverage. Take your time with each drink, nurse it for as long as possible and don’t forget to stay hydrated…with water. Water has been shown to boost metabolism, promote weight loss and boost overall general health.
So this season, I hope you eat, drink and be merry! while considering your body, your health and your life.
Season's Greetings!
Half-stepping diva



Two years ago, I decided to start blogging. I wanted to work on my skills as a writer while honoring a friend whose death taught me the importance of living a life of no regrets, and loving on everyone in my space as much as possible. I was also inspired by feelings of uncertainty and  unaccomplishment and especially after I realized in talking to others approaching 30, in their 30s and even beyond, all of whom I have dubbed "30 something year olds" that it was a common feeling.

In the last two years it has been a challenge keeping up with my commitments, but I have learned how much  my work input influences what is actually happening in my life. The blog has also given me opportunity to process my world on a deeper level. I certainly hope something I've discussed resonates with someone out there.

As I hit the two year mark, I am taking a moment to examine how it all fits in my world and how to make this better. I'm also celebrating the memory of my friend and inspiration. He would have been 35 today.

So to start, I have made a commitment to continue to use this platform as originally intended; to give me space to fully express myself. I also want to use it to discuss some of the topics that are near to me: the world through the eyes of women, our health, weight loss, body image, Africa, building ourselves to be the best, and stripping away uncertainty and stepping out with confidence. I recognize that I will often half-step; and will falter, but as long as I keep making an effort, I know it's not in vain.

You might notice that I have finally moved the blog to its own domain: www.halfsteppingdiva.com. If you haven't already subscribed, please do so; it'll get updates right to your inbox and allow me to have an idea how many folks have access. I welcome comments and suggestions and hope we can grow together, dismantling the things that hold us back, and continue to step up to reach higher.

Giving you all my best,
Half-stepping diva


What about your friends?

This week I had the chance to talk about a friend. I’ve known him forever…at least since we were in elementary school. We’ve kept in touch pretty much since, not necessarily on a regular basis, but here and there and as major life events happened. So when given the chance to provide information about my friend, I felt pretty confident that I could provide good, solid information.

And then the questions started. I sat with a blank stare, trying to remember the year I met him..was  it 5th grade, 6th, 2nd grade? Hmmm ok next question, where has he lived…em…in his house? Where did he attend school? University? Degree? Em, em, em, em, how many…ok stop! This is my friend! I should know the answers to all these questions! But one after the other, I was left mumbling, trying to figure out if I could draw answers, mixing up his life with the lives of others in our cohort. Wow, I guess I don’t remember as much as I should!

Now I can say I’m a big picture kind of person. I tend to take a global perspective and ignore the little bits that make it happen. Of course since I’m complicated, in many situations like when I’m helping coordinate an event or editing, I become overly concerned with the itty bitty tiny details and often lose sight of the big picture. But I guess when it comes to my friendships at some point some of the details get replaced. As I interact with more people, the specific information about individuals mostly fade into the  background! I'm not sure if this is a good thing, but it was rather startling to realize how much I did not know/remember about many other friends, many of whom I relate to, very closely.

30 something year olds, not unlike 3 year olds, make lots of connections; on the job, at social events, religious gatherings, etc. In fact, it is imperative to keep connected to people of various backgrounds and trades as we ourselves climb up our career or social ladders - It really is about who you know. It's necessary to send a quick hallo every once in a while to that friend from college, as much as it is to stay in touch with your ace boon.

Many of us now rely on Facebook® to help us keep tabs on our friends. We often don't even reach out, just take a look at pictures or posts and say awww. We feel very informed about their lives based on the snippets that they share on social media. Our Facebook® friends list doesn't match our phone numbers list at all...and we have quickly grown accustomed to living life in this world of oversharing only a small part of what we are experiencing...much of it scripted and hollow.

So with this new realization, I am taking a closer look at my inner circle and trying to remember details about their lives - I might have to ask them a few questions! I recognize that I can't keep all details about everyone, but I should be able to answer questions about those that I hold dear to my heart!  

A quick exercise for you:
Who are your close friends (not counting significant others and blood related family)?
What do they currently do at their job/school?
What level of education have they completed?
If university level educated, what degree(s) have they completed?
Where have they lived in the last 10 years (cities/countries)?
What do they like to do for fun?
When was the last time you talked to them?

I would love to know what you learned. Please comment below and share!

Half-stepping diva


A sugar-free challenge

"I will NEVER eat chocolate again! OMG! What? Why? And who made that decision?! Seriously? Are you mad?!" -This is what was floating through my mind when I determined that a sugar-free lifestyle was more suitable for me.

The thought of never eating another piece of chocolate completely overwhelmed me, stressed me out and well, as you can imagine, I ended the day indulging in at least a bag of chocolate. Take that, sugarless lifestyle! 

It has definitely been a challenge working sugar out of my system and a bigger challenge convincing myself to sustain it. The forever aspect of it still overwhelms me...so you mean I will not eat cake at my wedding? (Oooh the brain travels far and fast, eh?) And how does it work with my family? Will others understand this lifestyle that I clearly do not understand myself? Will they support me? Will they sabotage and give me sugar whenever they can? Can I really stick to this? Do I want to do this? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Ok, let's pause and get a hold of ourselves a bit. A sugar-free lifestyle is not much of a stretch for me, I mean I'm already vegetarian and have a highly restricted palate. In fact, my mom’s desire for me as a child was to live life without added sugar. She specifically fed me all the fruits and veggies she could so that I would develop a taste for them. When we moved in with my grandmother, she was instructed not to give me any candy as grandparents usually do, and as grandparents usually do, she went firmly against it and voila! the sweet tooth monster was unleashed! My mother herself at some point gave up sugar. For all my childhood, I never saw her eat candy or any of the delicious cake with lots of icing that she made. She didn't even add sugar to the foods that usually called for sugar. So why can't I imagine doing the same in my life?

Well, sugar has become such an integral part of our palate. Think of what you have eaten so far today or recently? How many of the foods contained sugar? Eating sugar really has become such a no-brainer for all of us. From breakfast to dinner, we have several opportunities to load up on it and we usually don't let the opportunity pass by. Even those who do not have much "taste for sugar" (what does that even mean?!) and prefer savory/salty foods still consume sugar in large quantities.

Since I've been working on this new lifestyle, there have been many opportunites to try again. I
usually set time periods for my goal that allowed me to focus and stay disciplined. After the time period, I would "briefly" pause to savor some of the foods that I had been avoiding. This would usually stretch out into a few days (or weeks!) after which I would recommit myself to my cause. At some point, I decided I had been off sugar enough not to crave it and could just have "a little here and there"...alas, no. Soon as I worked in back in my diet it was like we had never been separated! Come to mama!

So now what? I am currently working on a body sculpting goal that requires the utmost discipline, which means, no added sugar until the goal is met (however long I decide to stretch out getting there!) There will be some birthday celebrations in between, and I plan on celebrating however it comes - I won't go out of my way to pursue sugar. For other times, I will politely decline and if necessary explain.

And for the rest of my life?! Well it's still an overwhelming thought. Some of my favorite foods require, yes, require sugar. I bake quite often and though I can sweeten my pastries with fruit, sometimes a girl needs cookies that taste like cookies! And my chocolate -well, dark chocolate is very good for your heart. In fact, 1.6 oz/daily has been shown to improve heart health (but who can eat only 1.6 oz!) Everything in moderation, right? The bottom line, good health!

I am more aware of my triggers to binge (stress, boredom, emotions, just because, self-sabotage/ reward for doing well) and I will continue to avoid having chocolate at home. I know sugar is not THE enemy and avoiding it is only one part of the solution to good health, so I will not villainize or obsess about it.

I challenge you to work sugar completely out of your diet or at least reduce it. Can you imagine your world without sugar? Can you go a week, 3 weeks, forever without it? Do you already lead a sugarfree lifestyle -how do you do it?

P.S. In case you missed it, I discussed my love of sugar and our break-up in this post, and why we had to break up here.

Sweetly yours
Half-stepping diva


Still sugar loving

I'm sitting here enjoying my pudding...no worries, since I was reminded of my goals in life, I have definitely been really off the added sugar, though the last 2 remaining cones look so lonely in the freezer! Anyways, earlier in this post, I talked about my love for sugar and adopting a sugar-free lifestyle. So let's talk about how it worked out for me.

1. I started by assessing how much added sugar I eat.
In the U.S. sugar is added to the oddest foods. I had to stop using a particular seasoned salt because the second ingredient was sugar. It turned out many other foods I ate were chock full of sugar; many of the low fat options which have been touted as more diet-friendly and healthier have been loaded with sugar to make them more....well palatable.
I started reading about the different names of sugar, which include: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, syrup, white sugar, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, xylitol and zylose.

So how much sugar is in it
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar = 4 grams. So if my food contains 8 grams of sugar, I'm consuming about 2 teaspoons. In some foods such as fruit, naturally high in sugar, this number can look alarming: a serving of my daily banana contains 17g of sugar; about 4 teaspoons of sugar. As these sugars are naturally occurring, I did not eliminate them from my diet; my focus was on added sugar. An easy example of added sugar is a can of soda which contains 39 g of sugar; almost 10 tsp of sugar.

And how much added sugar should you eat?
Well, the new WHO guidelines recommend less than 5% of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugar. For most folks this will be around 25 g or 6 teaspoons of sugar.

I was eating more added than any of the recommended guidelines, even the previous ones of less than 10% of my daily caloric intake.

2. I found alternatives to some of my favorite foods that contain a lot of sugar.
I switched the seasoned salt, spaghetti sauce, and other foods that really didn't need sugar, like my honey covered peanuts. I love pancakes but between the sugar in the batter and the syrup was consuming almost 50g of sugar if I used 1/4 cup of syrup. So now I don't eat  pancakes as often, and when I do blend bananas into the batter and top it with fruit (berries etc).

3. I eliminated slowly.
The most obvious source of sugar for me is chocolate. I simply gave it up, there was no way to gradually taper that off. For other sugar sources, I started by using less. For example, I enjoy a nice cup of chai tea w a good serving of sugar and milk. I started by reducing the amount of sugar until I was down to a half-teaspoon.

4. I discovered new ways to eat my food. 
My breakfast consisted of high fiber cereal, most of which contains added sugar. I switched to oats which I did not sweeten and opted instead to top it with raisins and walnuts. I learned to love green tea, once I learned how to brew it and completely eliminated adding sugar to it. And though I don't drink it as often, drink my chai tea plain. I also diversified my palate and started adding more protein to my breakfast.

4. I avoided processed foods.
Cooking helps determine exactly what goes into the food and generally eliminates a lot of sugar. We trust the food industry a little too much with our health. Back to basics. My cooking has gotten more creative. The pudding I'm eating is sweetened with a few dates. The other ingredients are pure cocoa powder (the bitter antioxidant containing stuff), milk (cow or nonsweetened soy) and tofu (I know I lost you on that one!).

5. I gained an understanding of why excess sugar is bad for me.
My family has a history of diabetes and a slew of other chronic diseases. My dentist, well, she's probably amassed a small fortune from my dental bills. This year's checkup revealed my health indicator numbers are looking good and have definitely improved over the last year. With this in mind, I have become more determined that this is the lifestyle that fits my goals.

6. I set a specific time to adapt my new lifestyle.
The fast was for 3 weeks. I determined that during that time I would be super disciplined. I also realized 3 weeks was enough for it to become a habit. After the 3 weeks, I extended it and have continued since with mini pauses when life moments have happened or when fear has set it.

Of course it has not been all flowers and roses and cake...ooh cake with icing and ice cream and...! There have been many challenges and many opportunities to try again. Overall it's been a great success and I'm excited for my new lifestyle habits. I'll discuss the challenges in my next blog entry. In the meantime...

Stay sweet (without added sugar of course)

Half-stepping diva