Learning to See the Pretty…and Photo Reveal from Agi M Photography!

It may sound a little stupid, but I have gotten pretty used to being “pretty.”

A lot of people think I’m really vain, self-absorbed, or shallow… but the fact of the matter is, I am just catching up. I’m making up for lost time. Making up for all of the years, days, hours and minutes that I told myself I wasn’t good enough.

Freshman Year Homecoming... circa 2002?

Freshman Year Homecoming… circa 2002?

Circa 2009...at karaoke with my Other Mother

Circa 2009…at karaoke with my Other Mother

All the time that I sat there and believed I didn’t deserve to be loved.

That was all, pardon my French BULLSHIT.

Your weight doesn’t determine what how much love you deserve. A bad haircut doesn’t instantaneously disqualify you from being treated with respect. It doesn’t work that way.

When someone says “You are so pretty!”  I smile, and accept the damn compliment with a “Thank you!” and I always try to genuinely return compliments as well.

But there is always that one person trying to rain on my parade and make me think that those compliments are undeserved. And lately, that person has been ME.

I literally cried when I saw that homecoming photo on Instagram. Partly because that point in life is hard to re-visit in general, but also partly because I needed a reminder that no matter how I might think I look or feel at times…I am NOT this girl anymore. I am so much stronger. So much braver. So much more confident in what she deserves.

I was honored and thrilled to be asked to model for The Boudoir Divas recently at their annual Boudoir Photographer Retreat, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d been considered in the first place!

I got there, got my makeup done, Candace came and did my hair…I put on my high wasted black panties, black bra, black bustier, and lace robe…and I felt ready!

I felt gorgeous! I felt secure!

As some of the photos made an appearance on Instagram, I started to feel less sure of myself.

As I mentioned awhile back, I ironically LOST weight on vacation in Hawaii. In the midst of my return, I was dealing with things being harder at work, Sean losing his job the day before I departed for Hawaii, and more… and next thing you know, the New Year is here and I’ve gained 20+ pounds.

I was so disappointed. I was so angry. More than anything…I was so ashamed. I pride myself on what I accomplished with weight loss, and here I was, failing. Gaining.

My immediate reaction was fear. Fear of becoming that girl again. So… when I saw these photos from the amazing and talented Agi from Agi M Photography, I was having a hard time seeing the pretty.

I was seeing the cellulite. The HUGE arms. The droopy thighs. The plain face.

(I should disclose that I opened this email Sunday morning at closing ceremonies for Relay for Life, after walking over 30 miles in a weekend, and operating on the one nap I took from 1-6 am. So, I was not the most aware of anything happening!)

You know what? My arms might be huge. But I can change that! My thighs might be droopy… but at least my surgeon said the first revision wasn’t perfect. My face isn’t plain. I’m just a tad dramatic when I see myself NOT smiling. Agi was so much fun to work with; so full of life, so excited, and so passionate about what she does. She is one of those people who you trust instantly, because you feel like you’ve known her forever (she is perfect for this industry, because you’ll recall I felt the same way about the Divas and their MUA Peggy when I very first ventured in. You can read more about that in this post)!

I decided to open the email and re-visit these images this evening, after showing them to Sean last night and sharing how I felt with him last night. If you know my boyfriend, you know he is a huge supporter, and that he loves me for me. And his perspective was not surprising. He said I looked great, and then helped me plan my next steps for fixing what’s really wrong: how I feel inside!

So… here are a few of my favorite shots. Check me out!

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Check out more amazing photos from some amazing women at the retreat in this Boudoir Divas Blog Post! Also, you can connect with Agi M Photography on Facebook! While you’re at it, you need to check out my super talented friend, Candace from Ah La Mode Designs. My phenomenal hair is ALL her doing! Also, the fabulous Peggy with His Blushing Bride who did makeup for all the girls! This was my second makeup run with her, and she is still as fun as the first time I met her!

I’ve rambled on and on… but the moral of the story is… sometimes you have to learn to see past what you hate seeing. See past what you’re struggling with, and know that you are captivating regardless of what a label in a dress or a number on a scale says. You’re not defined by how small your arms are, or how your thighs look. The best thing about boudoir is that it captures your beauty at any size. It’s not about being a Victoria’s Secret Angel… but the fact that you FEEL like one. And that you are captured in a way that puts you right up there with them in rank.

 It’s a gift to learn to see yourself in the eyes of those who capture you the way that Agi captured me. And once I took the time to see that, I found myself re-energized and ready to get back to actually working on those things, instead of avoiding the way they look in photos. I’ll be sharing more from these talented ladies, as I receive them!

That’s all for now… but I won’t be gone for long!

SeeSondraSignaturePRINT

 

Affordable (and ADORABLE) Work Out Gear!

Let’s face it.

One of the most UN-appealing things about working out, is the dreadful fear of having to get ready to do so.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to look presentable, albeit fashionable. I find that cute workout clothes actually make me more motivated get out of the house, and get moving!

Some of my favorite items I have come from none other than Old Navy!

Old Navy workout gear is affordable, comfortable, durable, and fashionable. They almost always have sales on items, and they have coordinating pieces with moisture wicking fabrics, pockets to hold keys/cards and flattering styles that suit all body types. They even go from a size XS to XXL…and if you know Old Navy, you know their clothes always run bigger!

I recently hit up Old wavy to get some new clothes, since the workout clothes I got there over a year ago were starting to fray a bit. For wearing them 3-4 times a week, I am actually really impressed at how well they hold up.

Some of my favorite items they carry? I am so glad you asked! Check out some of the best pieces I think that the Old Navy Active Line has to offer:

Old Navy Bubble Hem Mesh Tank

 

Photo Credit: Old Navy.com

Photo Credit: Old Navy.com

One of the most appealing things about these tops is the fun colors! They are SO flattering, no matter your body type, and they don’t annoyingly ride up while you run! I can go full-throttle on the treadmill or track without being self-conscious and having to fiddle with my top the whole time. Runners know the struggle. Joggers and walkers do too, actually! 🙂

Old Navy Active Compression Tank

 

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

Much like the bubble hem tank, the compression tank also comes in fun, pretty colors. I love the hem on this one, as well, because it’s elasticity conforms a bit more and allows you to not have to fiddle with it. This one has a LOT more support for the chesty, and is still super flattering because of the empire-waistline style. It’s one of those items that makes you feel “pulled together.” And that is a great way to feel while you’re working up a sweat!

Old Navy Active Cinch-Tie Hoodie

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

 This hoodie is AWESOME for morning outdoor workouts, but is light enough to wear casually if you wanted to. I adore running/fitness clothing with thumbholes… although I don’t have a concrete reason why. I love the style of this, because it’s a bit unique, without taking away from it’s functionality as a lightweight, warm and useful item to add to your workout wardrobe. It ran REALLY large for me… I’d recommend going down one size.

Old Navy Active Compression Capris

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

I have about 7 pairs of these leggings, and I adore them! Running, walking, or being the girl who looks like she came from the track when I’m really only ‘running’ errands… these leggings are comfy, stylish, and functional. The moisture wicking fabric, as well as the handy pocket inside make wearing them great at the gym or when I jog in my neighborhood and need to carry my house key or debit card/ID. It’s awesome to run with less on me, and yet have what I need tucked away in a safe place.

Old Navy Active Compression Mesh Capri

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

Photo Credit: Oldnavy.com

 I absolutely love the mesh panels on these leggings, more for the fun pop of color than functionality. I got them with a teal color to match my Beats headphones Sean got me and a matching bubble hem tank, and it’s very fun to put on at 5:30 in the morning and get a little pep in my step! Much like they’re less jazzy sibling compression legging, they are also very comfortable, functional, and easy to wear!

These are definitely my bare-basics for workout gear, whether you’re looking to add to your workout wardrobe, or start at the beginning. These foundational pieces come in lots of fun colors, prints, lengths and sizes… and they are super affordable!

Want to save even more money? If you’re shopping Old Navy online, sign upon for Ebates.com and you’ll get cash back on your purchase, and if you’re brand new to Ebates, use my link and you get a $10 gift card of your choice when you use the site to make your first purchase! As of right now, Old Navy is 2.0% cash back…and it adds up quickly!

It’s absolutely FREE to sign up, and the money adds up quickly! You get a check quarterly (hello, Christmas money), and they have THOUSANDS of retailers you already shop with.

That’s all for now! Happy shopping, and may your workout gear make pour workouts even MORE enjoyable!

That’s all for now, but I want to know where YOU found your favorite workout gear! Let me know!

‘Til Next Time!

XOXO

Guest Post: Staying Motivated to Work Out with Sara Upton

Staying Motivated to Work Out

With Guest Blogger: Sara Upton

For the past few years now, I’ve been trying to lose weight. And you know what I’ve found? It’s really hard. I wish it was difficult just for me, but I know this isn’t the case. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who also struggle to shed the pounds. Especially since, in the society we live in, there are countless advertisements for junk food bombarding us every day–messages goading us to ignore healthy foods in favor of a treat or for the sake of convenience.

If avoiding the fatty foods wasn’t a big enough problem, there’s the fact that regular exercise has to be part of the plan when it comes to getting slim. And it’s the exercise part that I find the hardest to maintain. I can refuse to eat fast food or keep candy around my house. I can avoid cooking with a deep fryer and drink water instead of soda. But it’s establishing and a maintaining a regular workout routine that has posed the greatest challenge for me. What it comes down to really isn’t so much a problem with getting active–it’s finding the motivation to maintain an exercise plan.

I’ve gotten a lot better at staying motivated in recent months, so it’s not as big of a problem as it used to be (though it is still bothersome). I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned in overcoming motivational hurdles, in hopes that you’ll be able to use this information in your own journey of living a healthier life.

Join a gym.

Ever since I joined my gym, I’ve found it easier to work out regularly. There’s something about exercising around other people–even if I’m not in a class–that makes my workouts better. I also like the various pieces of equipment in gyms, so my visits can have some variation. Some gyms throughout America include Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness.

Get the right tools.

One tool I personally use is a sleep and activity tracker by Jawbone called UP. According to Verizon Wireless, “Users barely remember they have it on while the smart accessory tracks their daily activities, providing data to help them set and achieve fitness goals.” So if you want to see how much you’re sleeping or view how far you’ve walked throughout the day, this could be a good tool for you.

Have a vision statement.

What are the one or two primary reasons why you want to lose weight? Maybe it’s so you can have the energy to play with your grandkids one day. Maybe it’s so you can be fit enough to run a marathon. Or maybe you just want to feel better in your everyday routine. Whatever your reason, write it down and put it in a place where you can see it every day. I’ve found this helps me stay focused and disciplined.

Exercise with a friend.

Having a friend come along with me when I go for a run or head to the gym makes the experience much better. Plus, I have someone to hold me accountable when I start to sway from my focus. I’ve found exercising with a friend also helps them to stay motivated in their workout routine, too.

These are a few ways I stay motivated, and I wish I could say it’s always a breeze to get up and go work out. I have found, however, that following these tips makes it easier to get in shape.