that skin(care) thing.

By now, you get that I like when things are low key and simple, right? Low maintenance rocks my quiet world. I watched a YouTube video today about skincare products and was reminded of just that: when it comes to skincare and beauty regimens, you can imagine how utterly unfussy I am. If it takes longer than 5-10 minutes to do any of it, just no. Give me my Mac Studio Fix and my Ruby Woo. Give me my Neutrogena face scrub, a moisturizer, and let’s be done with it. Words like toner and serum might as well rhyme with binomial and integer: they mean nothing to me. (Big ups to all my Math side eye people–uninterested and confused, one fraction at a time.) The word regimen itself makes me tired.

But a girl gets older and the acne from 10th grade wants its home back, right on my forehead. Or a girl gets her face waxed and the pores become hotels who always have a vacancy. Or weird blemishes pop up and have me wondering what happened to all those superhero African juices that, post-puberty, combated whatever pimple tried to disturb the peace. And when This Square Peg realizes that her status quo must change…she reluctantly realizes that she must change it.

My current “regimen” for skincare:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Consider calling out sick. 
  3. Wonder if a murderer or serial killer is also waking up at the same time as you, being that it’s 5 something in the morning and that hour is reserved for killers.
  4. Trudge to the loo.
  5. Pull out your Neutrogena Oil-free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub and apply a dab to your brand new Vanity Planet facial brush. (You’ve used your hands to wash your face for, oh, 23 years, up until a month ago. But you saw a YouTube video and the wallet was close by and there was a discount, so…) Start cleaning. 
  6. Finish, wipe face.
  7. Apply light moisturizer. Store brand or Equate.
  8. Crawl back into bed. Kidding. Maybe.

That’s all, folks. No face masks, serums, toners, brighteners, prayers to the good skin gods. But the blemishes keep coming. Not every day, but they pop up here and there. Might be the stress from all the changes I’ve gone through these past few months. Might be the reactions to said stress, which typically involve carbs and liquids that aren’t water. I’ve long known that skincare has a lot to do with diet and nutrition and not necessarily just superhero African juices. Anyway, I’ve used Neutrogena for years, and decidedly the acne combating brands, since, as stated above, pimples were my main issue since age 15. The clusters have long gone, but one likes to decorate the center of my head every now and then. But perhaps it’s time to find something different, a new product.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it (and you will, because you love me):

  1. Tell me what skincare products work for you. 
  2. Do you sometimes battle a blemish here and there? Acne?
  3. If you understand what toner is and its point, please: share with the class. Convince me. Remember that I’m still doubtful on whether fractions mean anything in real life. (Says the woman who can’t figure out the difference between 1/2 and 1/3.)
  4. Do you have a–gulp–skincare regimen? If so, please share that with the class in the comments.

All for research purposes. My forehead thanks you. 

p.s.: I’ve recently discovered Melanglow, an awesome place to get beauty and skin advice and recommendations for us brown girls. So yay for that. Check it out. 

Before and After.

Happy to let y’all know that I contributed a piece for my good friend AB’s new blog. I also hold the privilege of being the very first contributor for her new baby, which is awesome when you consider how much I love supporting my friends, especially when it comes to writing/blogging.

Check it out here, please. I talk about my once tenuous relationship with “Before and After” photos and their impact on my gaining health/weight loss journey.

And kindly follow her blog, won’t you?

Pictorials.

Or shall we say Fit-torials? Anyway, fantastic workout last night, folks. Let’s walk through it, shall we?

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First: the requisite sweaty, social media shot. (Done for Snapchat, in case you’re wondering. And no, I have no idea how it works.)

Fitness1

A bit of a smug smirk, no? And yet that’s the face you make when you’re murdering a treadmill, folks.

Fitness2

“This hurts. And you’re not smiling or smirking anymore, are you?”

Fitness3

Tiny guns growing in them arms. Also, since you see my trusty earbuds, the following artists are great for a workout:

  • Justin Bieber (I’m serious. He’s annoying, but the little boy is talented. We’ll discuss further in another post. Kindly withhold the hurling of tomatoes in this direction.)
  • Anything from the 90s. Last night, I rocked Ini Kamoze and Born Jamericans, great blasts from my past, and they had me literally running in rhythm on the treadmill.
  • Whatever floats your fitness boat, really. I’ve also rocked Carly Simon and Anita Baker in my ears while exercising, so to me, it’s whatever you prefer.

Fitness4

Closeup of the facial sheen. (I love to see myself sweating.)

 

That’s it for the pictorials. As far as last night’s regimen:

-30 minutes of cardio on the ‘mill

-30 minutes of the following: squats, Russian twists, bicycle crunches, weight lifting (again, trying to birth some guns), and my very favorite, planks. I tried to do multiple reps of each.

-At least several minutes of stretching

You read about my winter struggle to find motivation. Since then, I’ve been really pleased with the turnaround and getting back to my routine, so I wanted to share.

Tell me: if you’re a gym rat or just enjoy exercising/being active, what are some of your favorite things to do?

On Visuals and Inspiration.

The most popular question I get as I continue on this gaining health journey: what inspired you to want to lose weight in the first place? I don’t mind the question; to me, it’s natural that people want to know. And so I tell them: I was making very unhealthy choices in my life and it was beginning to affect my well-being. So I needed to make significant changes. Admittedly, however, there was another reason I was inspired: pure cosmetics.

Let’s be real about it: an enjoyable part of weight loss/health gain is how good you look in clothes. Sure, I’m still working on the whole not wearing baggy clothes thing (it’s all mental; we’ll talk about that in another post), but I can easily say that getting dressed has become far more enjoyable than it has been in the past. Of course, you know that beginning at age 30, my body and I became besties. I accepted this house in all its glory and that will never change, weight loss or not. But to dress it up in outfits I’m not used to wearing is certainly a treat. That said, I recently realized that even before I embarked on this journey, I had a lot of visual inspirations along the way; women that had transformed before my eyes and looked great and caught my attention. Seriously, I was stalking them on Pinterest and finally figured out why. Here are a few:

America Ferrera.

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Can I tell you, first, how much I adore this actress? I saw her in Real Women have Curves and absolutely thought she was amazing (see it if you haven’t); to me, she was the heart of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (no shame; see it and you’ll agree that it’s a terrific movie); and come on, Ugly Betty. So, being a fan, I certainly noticed a few years ago that the chubby girl on Ugly Betty was chubby no more. She was sleek, elegant, more confident. I remember thinking that I wanted the same thing if I ever slimmed down: still looking entirely like myself, stylish, real. An inspiration, for sure.

Marsha Ambrosius.

Marsha

Oh, Marsha. That hair that gives me life on a daily basis. Anyway. If you don’t know, Marsha is the other half of the soulful duo Floetry and an accomplished solo artist in her own right. Other than drooling over her gorgeous natural curls, what appealed to me was Marsha’s style. I loved how her style seemed to evolve along with her slim-down. Google her and see what I mean. Her sense of style is everything.

Jordin Sparks.

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What I love about Jordin? She talked about her journey. She talked about loving Zumba (and I learned that she took classes with my instructors!), she talked about watching her portions, she discussed the joy of wearing a dress without a bone-crushing instrument holding her together underneath. (Tell us how you really feel, huh, Ms. Square Peg?) I loved her transparency. Each time I saw her photo or happened to read an article about Jordin, I remember noting how impressed I was by her openness. Went a long way with me.

Real Women. There no photos of these women. But to me, they’re far more important than the bold names listed above. Some are my friends. Some are strangers. And yet whether I’ve watched their journeys occur right in front of me or talked to them about it, I have been and continue to be inspired by them. There’s a woman here at the office who, for years, I’ve watched transform before my eyes. When I see her now, I marvel. There are friends who are dedicated and so forthcoming about their continuing journeys to better health. Wholly inspired by them, too, even more so.

So, my dears, if you’re currently on a journey, whatever it is, what’s your inspiration?

Honesty.

You’ve read about my goal to improve my lifestyle. (Herehere, and here.) This afternoon, while the snow falls down yet again in Somewheres, VA, I’m sitting on the couch and reflecting about said goals. Quite simply, I can honestly say that this lifestyle change process has been the most honest I’ve been with myself. What do I mean?

First of all, like most women, I’ve struggled with weight since I was a pre-teen. It’s life. You either struggle with it or you don’t. And I have. I’ve tried everything in combating this struggle. Diet pills, diet shakes, medication prescribed by my doctor, Weight Watchers, the list goes on. It came to a point, I think, when I decided to simply stop trying. I would eat well when I could, and I would exercise when I could. Needless to say, no one saying “when I can” when it comes to eating right and exercising means to find any kind of success. Fatty foods taste great. They are easy to obtain. So, sure, I would go to an aerobics class here and there and find some vegetables, but largely, everything I was doing was still pretty toxic.

But a decision had to be made. My health was spiraling. In the end, I was allowing a quick, fatty bite of food to take over my quality of life. It came to a point when I woke up one day and decided to stop giving these objects rein over my life. I didn’t want to conform to my whims. And I’m the oldest child, so you know the lack of control in these things was kind of killing me, right? (We firsts like control.) Serious changes had to be made. I began the journey.

Three months later, I’m continuing to gain health, not merely lose weight or inches. And I’m doing it my way. That’s where the honesty comes in. There is no conduit to this gaining health. No pills, no shakes, no counting points. It’s all just me. Do I believe that my fellow weight strugglers are somehow not being honest with themselves and their processes if they take pills or shakes or count points? Absolutely not. My point is that those things didn’t work for me. I would never condemn things that work for other people. But for me, I used those things as crutches to continue my toxic behavior. I ate Whoppers whenever I wanted because I knew I would take a pill the next day. You get my drift. Now, I’m simply working hard on my own. Dreaming of big mounds of bread and choosing spinach instead. Watching my portions. Waking up and exercising when every fiber of my being wants to stay in bed. Suffering when I make a bad choice (because this is by no means a perfect process, but it’s very real, very hard, and quite realistically, subject to failure here and there). With the ups and downs, the good and bad, I just feel honest and real with myself.

I told my bestie one evening that I didn’t want this to be a flash in the pan, an impulsive and quixotic quest for health that would be abandoned in a few months or so. Because it’s happened before. I know myself. I get into a groove and then I abandon it. Her advice? Baby steps. And that’s it. I won’t do anything perfectly. But I’ll take these tiny steps as best as I can and one day at a time. Falling down will stink when it happens, but it’s OK, because I will do my very best to get up and move forward. In other words I accept wholeheartedly that I’m a baby again. (My mother will tell you that I never stopped being one.)

So to all of you who are enduring and going through this process day by day: good job, baby.