I Hate This Part Right Here.

Bonus points if that made you sing a Pussycat Dolls song when you read it.

If you have been following (or even just reading occasionally since I started this blog, you may remember it all started with 30 Day Updates.

Every 30 days (or so), I posted a photo of myself in my under-stuff so that I could track my weight loss journey.

The main reason I did this? Purely for accountability, and to give myself a reason to KEEP. ON. GOING.

Alas, shit happens.

Here I am, 5 1/2 years later and the amount of life changes I’ve faced in that time is kind of mind-boggling to me. On top of changing jobs approximately 5 times, moving 3 (or was it 4?) times, beginning a serious relationship, a really weird and blurry 18 month old period where I worked upwards of 90 hours per week without sleep….I don’t really have any concrete excuses for what happened.

All I know is life got crazy, life got hard, and here I am trying to get back to the lowest weight I ever hit: 198 pounds. Or at least somewhere close to it, kinda sorta. Really, I just want to feel as amazing as I did then. I want to be able to do everything my body could do then, again.

You may have seen my most recent post about Whole30 and how since I discovered and tried it last August, I’ve made a lot of changes for the better.

Although I feel those differences, I was really struggling to physically see any changes. So I thought to myself, “Why don’t you start back at the beginning?”

When I began my first round of Whole30 on August 13th, 2016 I had Sean take a photo of me to compare to throughout my process. I actually felt so great and was so happy that my scale moved 13 pounds….I forgot the photo.

So, I took a new photo today before leaving home for work, and begrudgingly pulled up the old one for comparison.

I wasn’t looking forward to making this collage…but I am glad I did. Not only was it important to me to see the difference, but I thought it might be helpful to those who are trying Whole30 or struggling through these types of situations to see that my story and experience are real.

And so, Sondra in her underwear photos have returned.

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August 13, 2016 and January 12, 2017

And so, thats where I’m at. It’s not perfection, and it probably never will be. But I’m ok with that.

How do you track your progress? Does the visual make you feel more accomplished, or do you prefer to track by weight and measurements? I wanna know!

Until next time!

See Sondra Sign-off-stacked

 

Join My San Diego #GirlGang!

Hey Beauties!

I am especially excited as I write this post! I was able to attend the Healthy is the New Skinny Re-Model Me Event over the weekend, and I left completely re-motivated and re-inspired!

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Katie H. Willcox is not only a beautiful model, but a genuinely beautiful person. My weekend started out with a photo shoot in adorable HNS gear, and Katie herself was walking me through my poses. She is so easy to be around (we had a thrilling conversation about the merits of fans and how pretty you feel with one in your hair), and really, really good at what she does! After we were done in front of the camera, she gave me a hug and thanked me for being there!

Sunday, I was able to attend the workshop portion of the event, and see her newest presentation about media, and how it manipulates us (especially women), into thinking that we NEED these products to be of value. I like to think of myself as a pretty self-aware individual. I see a lot of the tactics in the media and resist them for the most part. But she shared things that really opened up my eyes. More importantly, she helped confirm that my purpose in life is to be more like her.

I want to not only inspire girls and women around me, but I want to embrace them and help them see their beauty goes so far beyond any product that can be marketed to them!

I was able to talk to Katie after the event, and learned about the opportunity to start my own #GirlGang group here in San Diego. I’d love to be able to attend her events with her group in Los Angeles….but I’m already spread so thin with both jobs and social responsibilities I’m already lacking in.

So instead, I created a Facebook group with some of the most beautiful, intelligent, and driven women I know in my city and invited them to use it as a forum to support and uplift one another. Moreso, it’s a chance for us to all come together and participate in healthy actvities…hiking, walking, yoga, aerobics, dance, healthy cooking classes…the list goes on! And even more than that, it gives us all the opportunity to maybe find someone who wants to be our partner in health (because we all know how hard that can be)! I want to meet up once a month and do a self-love exercise, and a healthy activity. Spend some time with each other, for ourselves, and operate on self love together!

If you’re in the San Diego area, I humbly (and really enthusiastically) invite you to join the Facebook group!

HNS San Diego #GirlGang on Facebook

The group kick-off mixer is in the works. All updates will be through the Facebook group exclusively, and potentially via meetup.com once I see what the actual participation looks like!

You’ll see me on social media using the hashtag #GirlGang. Join the movement, no matter where you live! #GirlGang is about female solidarity in every corner of the world!

If you’re local, go a step further and use the code #GirlGangSD so I can share your healthy posts!

I am really hoping to get together an amazing group of people to share in this experience and enlightening with me. I am also looking for professionals/students willing to contribute their time to share with the group. Donations can be arranged!

I am so excited to start this new venture/journey!

Stay tuned for updates!

See Sondra Sign-off-horiz

#LoveYoSelf

*For the month of April, I’ll be participating in the WordPress Writing 101 “challenge” and doing posts based on prompts. This is #1, a 20 minute free write.*

self love

I’ll admit, I had a hard time figuring out what to title this post.

I am dedicated to making people love themselves entirely. Good, bad, “ugly,” and all! I think I am most passionate about this because as I get older, and experience more of all the bizarre, amazing, and ridiculous parts of life, I have learned that I owe it to me to be positively, absolutely, and madly in love with myself.

It’s been a journey, to say the least.

I started out pretending not to care what people thought. Pretending that their mean words, loud whispers, and cruel jokes didn’t bother me. Telling myself that even though I knew that they were right, I wouldn’t let them ever know I believed anything they said.

But then, a funny thing happened…it all became so….real.

A series of events, from my first legit to heartbreak, to breaking my first heart….being and my highest weight, and being the smallest I’d ever been….I found that there is so much more to life than focusing on what anyone else has to say about my life, how I live it, and how I decide to look while I do.

When I really think about it, I’ve always had a handful of amazing friends. I’ve always been complimented for my smile, my intelligence, and my funny facial expressions while I tell stories(although, I tend to think the stories are funnier, if I do say so myself!), and sometimes I’m even acknowledged as a half decent person!

I’d rather love myself for my good parts, versus the bad others choose to see when they merely look at me for the first time. In fact, I think it says more about them, than me.

And so, I set out to show myself that I didn’t have to fake it anymore. No more pretending. It was time to acknowledge that I AM awesome. And I am only human, but I’m not a crappy human, and that’s enough for me.

So, I figured maybe I’d share some of the ways I do this-honor myself, love myself, and remind myself that at the end of the day….if I’m going to be my toughest critic, I am going to be my biggest cheerleader, too!

Here’s what came to mind:

1. Write a list of 10 things you love/appreciate about yourself, or your life, that don’t involve your weight or flaws.Focus on the positive. Because after all, you’re awesome!

2. Focus on goals that take you out of your comfort zone and create experiences that you can treasure forever (like with my “27 Things for My 27th Year” project).

3. Remind yourself of all that your body can do. I went ziplining once. Also, I recently did a 15K with a friend, and have plans to go skydiving before my next birthday. Ask the old pretending Sondra if she ever would have registered for a run. On purpose. HA!

4. Spend some quality time with yourself. You carve out time for everyone that’s important to you. Block your schedule and go to a matinee alone, take a spa day, splurge on the more expensive pedicure and read gossip magazines…whatever makes you happy….try it solo and connect with yourself.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. Life is way too short for people who never have anything nice/helpful/supportive to say. It took me WAY too long to realize I don’t need to feel obligated to deal with it.

6. Distance yourself from exhausting people, too. Negativity isn’t the only thing that can drain you and affect your stress level or mood. People who ask for the same advice and never take it; people who lean on you to solve their problems; people who depend on you for your unwavering loyalty but never return the favor? You don’t need them around all the time, either. They’ll be fine without you. Trust me on this!

7. Remember that true beauty is a state of mind. No cream, serum, lip gloss, eyelash extensions, yoga pants, or diet regimen can make you worthy of adjectives like “compassionate,” “kind,” “thoughtful,” or “amazing.” Don’t limit your beauty to materialistic and aesthetic features. Kate Spade can’t sell you a beautiful soul (ahem, but if your awesome mom was in town for a week and bought you a pretty one with watercolor lemons all over it? SCORE. Thanks, mom!).

8. Use the time and energy you’d normally spend criticizing facets of your life to help others. Your weight, your grades, your features, your progress towards your future…it may never measure up to your high expectations. But the time you spent helping others will remind you of all you have, all you have done, and all the good there can be in the world.

9. Be mindful of the messages all around you. The “perfect” Victoria’s Secret bikini body, the idea that flat abs and blonde hair are the only tools you need to succeed. These messages are subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) permeating our lives with ideals that aren’t generally achievable if you’ve got a job, an education to pursue, and/or family obligations. Realize that you’re more than what the magazines say you can buy, and know your worth lies in the impact you make-not whether or not you have a 4 pack and strappy bathing suit.

10. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel like I have to be somebody else?” There are so many people who love you without all the frills. My aunt sat me down when I was 15 or 16 and asked me why I didn’t feel like I could be myself. I think I cried every night for a week, knowing that my secret Little Debbie snacks and wrappers under my bed had been discovered. I grew up with my dad restricting my food intake and criticizing my weight when we had to shop in the women’s section at stores. I felt like wanting snacks made me uglier, and bad. That question has never left me. It helped me get to where I am today. And whether I am making kale chips, or eating donuts, I know that those I surround myself with aren’t paying attention to my plate. They love ME. The girl behind the plate.

These are just some of the ways I remind myself everyday that I am more than a size on a tag, or a self-proclaimed Body-Positive Activist.

Spend a little extra time loving yourself here and there, and I promise it becomes second nature. But learn from my experience, and make it genuine from the beginning. Because you and I are worth every praise, every calorie, and every champagne toast.

We are amazing, beautiful, inspiring, and brilliant.

And there is no measure of body weight or material items that could possibly calculate the extent of it.

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#1 Sunrise Hike Up Cowles Mountain #27ThingsforMy27thYear

Hello, everyone!

So, as we discussed in my last post, I will be completing 27 things that I have a) always wanted to do or b) wasn’t sure I wanted to do, but figured I ought to be able to. Number one is officially complete!

We are 9 days into my 27th year on this earth, and I was really excited to complete my sunrise hike with Ashley on Saturday, March 7th!

It started off a little rough. I worked 5 pm to 5 am, got off work and headed straight for the mountain.  My allergies were kicking my butt….so we are climbing a mountain at 5:30 in the cold morning, and my lungs were expanding as if they were outside my body, and I had to stop THREE times on the way up. We’ve done this hike twice before, and I never had this issue!

Nonetheless, when we did stop, we admired the moon behind us, and the little bit of sun peeking out in front of us.

The goal? Get to the top of this mountain before the sun does. And we did! As a matter of fact, I’d venture to say the sun only rose about halfway by the time we got up there.

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We admired it, took photos with our boards (Ashley is doing 29 Things for her 29th Year), and then we enjoyed croissants and mimosas (with pink champagne!) at the top! Also, I could breathe up there, too!

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This experience made me feel strong, it made me feel accomplished….and it made me appreciate the beautiful things around me everyday! I sometimes forget I live in one of the most beautiful states, and cities, in America! You can you see the beach from the mountains! It’s insane!

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Also, fun fact: I wore my new Healthy is the New Skinny tank on the hike, and @HealthyistheNewSkinny shared it on their Instagram! It made my day, and made the experience even more meaningful!

Take the time to appreciate your surroundings!

Take that walk around a beautiful neighborhood, run on the beach, climb a mountain and nearly have an asthma attack (hahaha)! You won’t regret it! I’m up early everyday (I went straight from a 12 hour shift to do this, after all), and never did this before. And now? I cannot WAIT to do it again!

Wishing you love and light, and the creativity to make a list of your own!

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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!

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