The Play’s The Thing: How to Let Characters Drive the Story

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

-William Shakespeare

I have heard a lot of conflicting writing advice in my years. But one big conflict that I’m still having trouble getting over is the issue of plot versus character. In the past, I was very character-driven. However, in trying to fix myself, I have now leaned way too hard on plot and keep getting feedback about my characters feeling more like chess pieces.

So how the heck do you resolve this issue? When a character takes over the story, the plot basically becomes like a black hole, revolving all around them and dragging everything else along with it. When the plot is driving the story, the characters feel boring.

As William Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “The play’s the thing.”

I used to do theater in high school and college. Even though I don’t have a lot of theater experience, I still learned a lot from memorizing monologues and acting out scenes in class. When you’re acting you (quoting Lizzie Bennet Diaries here) “open yourself up to inhabiting another person or letting another person inhabit you.” Actors put a lot of thought into embodying the character they play, no matter how small the role may be.

Emotion is really the driving force behind a good story. The reason why a majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have worked is because there are always emotional stakes behind all the action scenes. We care for the characters. The same applies to My Hero Academia. It’s a series with a perfect balance of plot/action and character-driven moments and you slowly start to see the characters develop in between all the fights or even as the action is happening.

Basically, creating a novel is basically like putting on a one-man show where you play all the characters at once. No matter how crazy it may seem, every character you create is a part of you. Some characters will feel more like you than others, but every character comes from something inside you, even if it’s the worst part of you.

What does that all mean when it comes to plotting a story?

Plot is created by decisions the characters make and the consequences that result from those actions. You might have the characters react to things at first, but there needs to be a point where the characters take initiative.

How the heck can we figure out how to make sure our characters drive the story without getting lost?

Aside from taking an acting class, I recommend looking into musicals and studying Shakespeare plays. The most memorable musicals have character-driven moments that still move the plot along. I think of musicals like Hamilton, WickedThe Great Comet of 1812, and even the Heathers musical. Check out this essay as to why:

 

I hope that you take some time to get in touch with your inner actor.

14 Reasons Why You Should Watch Signed, Sealed, Delivered

 

signedsealeddelivered04

I’ve talked about this show on my blog before a bit, but for those who are new, Signed, Sealed, Delivered started out as a series on Hallmark Channel before becoming a series of movies on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. I fell in love with this series back when it came out in 2014, but I’ve lost touch due to the network jump because cable is expensive and it’s unfortunately not free to stream anywhere.

There are a few times in the year when I really crave the cheesy Hallmark channel stuff. Two of these occasions are the Christmas season and Valentine’s Day. So, with Valentine’s Day coming up this week and in anticipation for whatever new installments this series gets this year, I want to talk about 14 reasons why you should start binging Signed, Sealed, Delivered for your romantic comedy fix.

 

Reason #1: This is a genuinely family-friendly series.

I honestly feel like I can recommend this show to anyone who’s willing to give it a chance. The premise is high-concept, but it’s also something anyone can relate to: a group of people who make sure that everyone can communicate what they really want to say to each other. Everyone can relate to the struggle of figuring out what to say or the many, many ways that we can misunderstand each other. And yet, when we finally get the words out, there’s a feeling of relief.

Some of the stories revolve around getting a sense of closure to things while others center on forgiveness, which are all things we have to learn. The plots of every episode and movie are all things we can relate to. As someone who’s inundated with commercials about shows centering on soap opera drama and “first world problems,” Signed, Sealed, Delivered is much easier to follow and really makes you believe in the characters and the things they go through, which leads me to reason number 2.

 

Reason #2: The Characters

The main characters (Oliver, Shane, Rita, and Norman) are all quirky in their own way, but never in a way that comes off as annoying. Instead, they’re all endearing and sweet and you really feel for them. Oliver is a man who likes to cling onto the past and doesn’t like technology, but he’s also someone who’s compassionate. He’s a man of integrity without having any toxicity. In short, he is a genuine gentleman who has problems spitting out how he feels verbally. It’s quite a contrast from Eric Maibus’s more famous role in Ugly Betty.

Shane is the skeptical tech-lover who really helps the group in finding the things they need in order to get the job done. However, she has a lot of emotional baggage and hates the idea of being vulnerable. I can relate to Shane’s fears of falling in love. After being abandoned by her father and having a relationship with a man who constantly kept secrets from her, it’s no wonder she is thrown off guard when she has to work with people who are authentic, honest, and just a bit quirky.

Rita reminds me a lot of myself. She’s a shy, awkward, bookish woman who has photographic memory and is a hopeless romantic at heart. She’s also drop-dead gorgeous, but prefers rocking the librarian look with an owl motif. There was a subplot in the series of her writing an extremely long romance novel and she pours herself into it in a way a lot of amateur writers can relate to. She also gets into the world of beauty pageants and it’s clear that her heart is what really makes her beautiful.

It’s no wonder that Norman Dorman, another quirky postal worker, is head over heels for her. Norman was a foster child who loves collecting stamps, knows the history of almost everything, and has a lot of cousins who often contribute to the plot of the episode or movie. Norman is still trying to figure out his life and his identity along with his relationship with Rita. I love how he makes friends with almost everyone and how easily people open up to him. In spite of his awkwardness, he’s a genuine, honest soul.

 

Reason #3: The Show is Political Without Taking Sides

I have watched way too many shows that talk about their political beliefs with all the subtlety of an Ayn Rand novel. It’s my personal belief that when it comes to politics, fiction needs to be a lot more subtle and make people ask questions instead of just telling the audience what they should believe in. Signed, Sealed, Delivered takes a different approach by talking about issues we can pretty much all agree with. I’m very certain that both sides of the aisle can relate to making sure all our soldiers are taken care of and adjust to getting home from war in the best way possible. The show emphasizes a lot of things on a personal level, which makes the politics a lot more believable because we can empathize with all the characters.

 

Reason #4: The Morals are Clear Without Being Preachy

A long, long time ago, I remember watching Touched by an Angel back when they syndicated the show. It was by no means a perfect show, but I still liked it a lot. One criticism that the show got, though, was, well, how preachy it was. Similar to the politics, Signed, Sealed, Delivered helps us understand the morals of every episode and movie without feeling heavy handed because they show the morals through an emotional story arc or experiences that feel relatable.

Since the main characters’ job is to basically deliver mail that, for one reason or another, didn’t get to its destination in time, one thing we learn throughout the show and the movies is that timing is a funny thing. Whatever mistakes we make in the past can be repaired if given the right thought and consideration.

One of my favorite examples is from the episode “Dark Of Night” which teaches about the importance of forgiveness. The POstables stop a man from going to extreme means for the sake of revenge, saving three lives in the process. The moment is intense, but what happens afterwards is a huge sigh of relief and leads to the team earning the highest honor: The Dark of Night Award. The morals play out in a way that makes us really hope for the best outcome possible.

 

Reason #5: The Uplifting Mood

Even though a lot of drama happens in this series, there’s usually a happy ending and these endings always feel earned. Every ending progresses the character arc for the main characters in some way. They’re always moving forward in their lives, but in a way that feels natural. Sure there are some cliffhanger endings, but they never feel as frustrating because there’s still that hope that everything will work out for the best.

In a world where it seems like some people are just waiting for the apocalypse to happen, Signed Sealed Delivered reminds us what authentic hope looks like in a scene where Norman talks to his grandmother about a dark time in his life:
“When I finally gave up, I laid down on the ground, and that’s when I saw it… a sliver of light. I hadn’t noticed it before. That’s when I knew everything was gonna be okay… I like coming down here. It reminds me that, no matter how dark it gets, light will always find a way in.” 

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)

 

Reason #6: The Wonderful Guest Stars

Not only do we get cameos from former Touched by an Angel cast members Della Reese and Valerie Bertinelli, but we also have guest stars from Broadway and classic television. Valerie Harper, for example, is the enthusiastic supervisor who pursues her dream of being in theater. Carol Burnett is perfectly cast as Norman’s grandmother. Happy Days actress Marion Ross and Melrose Place actor Rob Estes guest star in the Christmas special. Fans of the M.A.S.H. spinoff Trapper John, M.D. will recognize Gregory Harrison in later SSD movies in a very surprising, but wonderful role.

I’m pretty sure the #POstables community can name many more awesome guest stars, but it’s definitely fun to watch just to see who might pop in.

 

Reason #7: The #POstables community

To quote Melinda May from Agents of SHIELD, the #POstables on Twitter and Facebook are a small, but active fanbase, especially when you consider that it doesn’t get much hype compared to When Calls The Heart or The Good Witch. When I got back into the series during Christmastime last year, I tweeted about it and my Twitter notifications blew up like crazy! Everyone is loving and supportive of each other and they helped me catch up on everything I missed.

On top of that, the cast of Signed, Sealed, Delivered interacts with the fandom on Twitter. I mentioned Crystal Lowe (who plays Rita) on one of my Tweets and she liked it! I can literally only name one or two other fandoms where the celebs really notice their fans like this.

 

Reason #8: The Music

Aside from the title song from Stevie Wonder, this series used to have a wonderful theme song:

 

Most fans will instantly recall Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” as the background music for Shane and Oliver’s dance in the series. The YouTube channel Alameda and Downing has collected the score from every episode and movie in this series. The music always fits whatever is going on.

 

Reason #9: It Pays Attention To The Little Things

Before I watched this series, I had no idea that there was a National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. This show makes me want to see that place for myself. And that’s only one example of how this show makes small things feel important. One episode centers on getting a child’s letter to his grandmother and it sounds so silly, but that letter becomes important in the context of an ongoing investigation and a criminal who’s still at large.

In all honesty, the whole premise of the show is about paying attention to the little things. This show makes everything from a book of collectible stamps to a bottle of Yoo-Hoo feel important. And the characters aren’t flashy or cosmopolitan, but they still feel as real to us as our actual postal workers.

 

Reason #10: It Inspires Old-Fashioned Letter Writing

This series is honestly made for the Hallmark brand because it emphasizes the importance and beauty of written communication. Letters or lack thereof can become a legacy. (Just ask anyone who’s frustrated at the fact that Jane Austen’s sister burned a lot of her letters or listen to “Burn” from Hamilton sometime.) The written word is a powerful thing, as any author would know, and these words on paper cause so many things to happen and for some reason, words that are actually written feel more important and personal than text messages and emails.

Have I mentioned that I am just ecstatic that there will be more movies to come this year?

 

Reason #11: The Realism of the Relationships

Communication issues in relationships is a common theme in Signed Sealed Delivered. And as contrived as some of the misunderstandings can be, I think we can all relate to the problems our POstables have when it comes to communicating with each other. Real relationships take a lot of work and even though I don’t agree with the show’s stance on “one true love” and “soul mates,” I do believe in the importance of setting boundaries and being clear on where you stand.

Shane, Oliver, Norman, and Rita all have problems with communicating and their struggle to make sure everyone understands each other is honestly one of the most believable things about this show. (It’s also one I relate to because I have autism and communication is very important to me.)

 

Reason #12: Respecting the Dignity of Every Person

One episode that stands out to me is “The Future Me,” which features two young actors who have Down Syndrome. Even though the characters are teens who are almost adults, it’s a real struggle for their parents to get their heads around the idea that they want to marry. But thankfully, these two young adults get their happy ending because it’s clear that they can take care of themselves and each other. They see each other as people, even with the extra chromosomes.

Norman connects with all sorts of people throughout the series, such as an old woman who bequeathed him her stamp collection and in the movie Truth Be Told, he connects with a young girl named Phoebe, who gets bullied because she’s still waiting on her military mother. He gives Phoebe advice on how to deal with the bullies and helps her get a sense of closure. The best part is that these people don’t see Norman as a “weirdo” like some might label him to be.

It’s true that these characters may come off as weird to some, but every character feels like a genuine real person, at least to me. Even the slightly ditzy postal worker Hazel and the very grandiose, flamboyant Ramon. And I love that everyone is treated with the respect and dignity every human being should be given.

 

Reason #13: How They Define Themselves

Oliver, Shane, Norman, and Rita all struggle with identity issues to some extent. They all have family issues, but have also created a “found family” unit with each other. Without spoiling the series or the movies, they all learn that they can find stability in knowing who they are and value those who love them as they are. What they do is important and the stuff they do is important, but we wouldn’t love them if they were any different. Who they are as people matters.

 

Reason #14: The Bigger Picture

Much like Touched By An AngelSigned Sealed Delivered reminds us that we put our faith in things we don’t see all the time and that for some reason, even when we receive something that was a day or five years “late,” the timing is somehow still perfect. Even if you’re not someone who believes in God, there’s this intangible factor in the show that really makes you believe that everything happens for a reason and that there are stranger things between heaven and earth that are beyond what we can comprehend.

Adventures in Bullet Journaling

A month ago, I created my own bullet journal. The cover is made from scrapbook paper. The pages are graph paper. My style is minimalist, but I did get a calligraphy set for Christmas, so who knows? Future bullet journals will definitely improve with time.

I wanted to write this blog post because I love journaling and I wanted to figure out a way to make bullet journaling my own. So far, I really love it because I can keep track of my exercise routine and writing progress. I also wanted to tell you that no bullet journal, or even a regular journal starts out as perfect as it looks on Pinterest. I keep looking for minimalist spreads because I don’t consider myself to be particularly artistic. Just look at this drawing I did:

 

50342168_501170927074723_5065793662252744704_n

What I like so far about bullet journaling, though, is that I have a lot of freedom to really make it my own. My style is having one page for a weekly task list, followed by a weekly spread where I keep track of my moods, exercise progress, daily Bible verses, and my daily “gratitude” highlight. Finally, I have one page for things such as drawing, lists of books I’m reading, or full-page motivational quotes.

If you’re not someone who usually journals and you don’t like the idea of just writing everything out, I think bullet journaling can allow you a lot more creativity than you think. You don’t need a table of contents. You just need to make it your own.

How I’m Editing My Novel

mistakes-1756958_1280

It’s a new year and I’m back. I went on a hiatus from social media for about two months and I haven’t updated this blog since last summer. So sorry about that.

One of my goals this year is to edit my current WIP so that it’s ready for pitching at conferences and sending out to agents. The problem is that a lot of writing videos are really vague about how editing really works. I decided that as a way of getting myself back to blogging, I will talk about my process in editing my WIP.

One thing I agree with other writers about is that if you want to start editing, you need to take a break first. Don’t take a look at your novel for a month at least. Work on other things in the meantime.

While I understand the importance of reading through your entire work, I don’t have enough ink in my printer and I can’t afford to print out my novel every time I need to edit. Instead, I change the entire WIP to a different font and make separate copies. Example: If you usually work on Scrivener, make a copy onto Google Docs and whatever word processing program you have on your computer (Microsoft Word or Mac Pages).

I’ll be honest when I tell you that I haven’t read through my entire work. It’s a long story and I know that there’s a lot to fix. So for the time being, I’m just tackling one chapter at a time. I started from the beginning and read through the first chapter of my novel, taking notes about what I need to fix. (Use a notes program like Notepad or Evernote or Mac/Apple Notes. Be sure to use bullet points if you can.) It also helps to share your chapter with a critique group or at the very least a fellow writer who can look at your WIP with fresh eyes and point out stuff you might have missed.

Once I’m done reading through the chapter, I turn those notes I made into a to-do list. My current goal is to edit one chapter every one to two weeks. How long I edit will depend on the chapter and how many changes need to be made. Instead of being vague about my tasks, I try to make my to do list as specific as possible.

Example: Instead of saying “Edit this chapter,” be specific about what needs to be edited. “Improve pacing,” “Expand on this character,” “Rewrite the action so that it flows better.” You get the idea.

I hope that this blog post will help anyone who’s also facing the huge task of editing a novel that’s at least 50K words long. I think the secret is just to break the goal down into manageable tasks. It’s all about taking things one chapter at a time, one scene at a time, one line at a time, one word at a time.

We can do this, writers!

 

Summer of Health and Fitness: Week 7

Hobby Lobby

Can you guys believe it’s already August? Time really does fly in the summertime.

As of last Thursday, I have officially lost 10 lbs. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but do the math and I’ve basically been losing 2 lbs a week. I went shopping the other day and actually managed to fit into a pair of Size 4 jeans!

According to my health app, I am now at a healthy weight with only 5 lbs to go until I actually make my weight loss goal. The hard part now is just going to be maintaining my weight and not gaining anything.

There are still days where I go over, but it’s mostly on days where I eat out and no day has been as bad as the time I ate too many tortilla chips at Chili’s. I’m pretty sure that by now, everything has balanced out.

So the question now is “Where does the Summer of Health and Fitness go from here?”

Well, summer’s not over yet, for one thing. I will keep updating about my health and fitness every week until the month of September.

I also want to know about your own weight loss/exercise stories. What kind of progress have y’all been making? Let me know in the comments.

 

Summer of Health and Fitness: Week 5

steps-1081909_640

 Fall seven times and stand up eight-Japanese Proverb

It isn’t easy sticking to a diet and exercise plan. I’ve been doing this for over a month now, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve had a few bad days. Instead of giving up, though, I just kept sticking to my diet, trying to eat better and exercise more than I did the previous day.

Let’s say that, like me, you go out to dinner with your family. You eat handful after handful of tortillas (or breadsticks) and all of a sudden, you’re over your calorie limit for the day. First of all, don’t panic. If you’re anxious because you went over recently, take a deep breath.

You’re not gonna cancel out those calories in one day. As I’ve stated before, don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Just go into your normal workout and see if you can push yourself a little more than usual. Dance for 45 minutes. Do some strength training. The calories will burn out.

As far as eating goes, don’t skip breakfast, even if you ate a lot the previous day. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Get your protein in. Just skip the snacking for the day and eat a lighter lunch and dinner.

Trust me when I say that as long as you stick to your diet and exercise plan, the bad days will balance out with the good ones. Having this lifestyle will take work, but it’s going to be worth it.

This perspective of perseverance has also applied to my life as a writer. I’ve learned that when you’re in the midst of revising your novel, you are essentially turning coal into diamonds or purifying silver. You are taking a load of crap, putting a lot of pressure and heat on it, and working hard to achieve a worthwhile result.

Don’t give up! You can do this!

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 4

20180722_101302

From last Wednesday til yesterday, I was on vacation. My family and I went to Galveston for a day and Corpus Christi for 4 days.

Since I couldn’t cook, dieting came down to controlling how much I ate. I drank more Slurpees than I usually did and because of my allergies, I couldn’t just order a salad everywhere I went. (The problem with restaurant salads is that they put stuff there that I might be allergic to, like peanuts, croutons, or stuff I never ate before. #foodallergyproblems.) In spite of not really being in control of what I ate, I still managed to stick to my diet. 

Here’s a tip: If you’re eating out, don’t eat the whole plate. Eat a portion and share the rest or save some for later. 

If there’s anything I learned from my vacation, it’s that if you want to stick to your diet and exercise plan, have courage. Don’t be afraid to eat out! Just be smart about it. At the same time, don’t be anxious when you treat yourself to Slurpees or Italian Ices. When you get back home, you can return to your regular diet/exercise and everything will balance out.

If you’re planning on traveling this summer, make sure your hotel has a good gym. Even the smallest fitness room usually do fine. I worked out for 30 minutes on the elliptical machine 2x during my vacation. The rest of my exercise consisted of a lot of walking, whether it was on the beach or browsing around antique stores. Do a lot of walking on your vacation, but keep the weather in mind. Nothing wrong with doing a long walk inside a museum on a hot day! 

I’m gonna end this blog post with a recipe for my new favorite food: Tuna and guac tacos! This is perfect for anyone who’s gluten-free.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small haas avocado (or 3 if you’re cooking for 4 people)
  • 1 small (4″ diameter) corn tortilla. (I got a store brand.) 
  • 1/2-1 whole yellow onion, diced (Depends on the size of the onion and how many people you’re serving)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped (use 6 if cooking for 4 people) 
  • Lemon/lime juice
  • Salt and pepper (feel free to add your favorite spices here)
  • Starkist tuna in vegetable oil (Pouch, please. You can also use the EVOO version.)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Set a pan over medium/high heat and cook up the Starkist tuna
  2. Scoop the avocado meat once the tuna has been cooking for a few minutes. Add spices as you spread your avocado meat around the pan. Mix it all together.
  3. Add the onions and lime juice.
  4. In a separate pan or in your toaster oven, cook up your corn tortillas for a minute or two. The tortillas should be light and fluffy.
  5. Turn off the heat after cooking your guac/tuna/onion mixture for 10 minutes.
  6. Plate the tortillas and scoop the mixture by the tablespoon into the tortillas.

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 3

woman-801897_640

There is a lot that can go wrong when dieting and exercising. You can swing back and forth between not eating enough or eating too much. You can exercise until your entire body is in pain. So with me down to 145 lbs as of now, here’s my piece of advice for the week:

DO IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS

What do I mean when I say that?

I mean that when you start dieting and exercising, start from a place of love. Love yourself first. I know it’s hard to do that. I’m definitely certain that if you’re reading this, you can list off everything you hate about your body off the top of your head. I want you to STOP THAT NOW. Take a deep breath.

You are beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are enough.

The reason why I’m dieting and exercising is because I want to be healthy, plain and simple. I want to take care of myself and love myself.

If you want to have a healthier lifestyle, you need to start with having a healthy mind and heart. Instead of thinking of having a “revenge body” or wishing you could look like the cover of a magazine, think about being healthy. Start with loving yourself and wanting to be the best version of yourself.

Being healthy can include eating french fries and hamburgers. You just have to control the portion size and how often you eat these things. In the past, I used to eat two large fries more than once a week. I used to buy the frozen fries at the grocery store. Potato chips were my go-to comfort food.

A lot has changed in the past few weeks. I’m not just talking about my weight, either. Up until this summer, I never really exercised. I longed for the days when I had dance lessons or wished that I could take martial arts courses or join in on the exercise bike craze. I’m grateful that now I can work out at home and that I have a lot of fun in the process.

So my assignment for you today is to start loving yourself. List off five things that you feel are the most beautiful parts of yourself: your eyes, your smile, the way you laugh, etc. Keep telling yourself “I am beautiful.” Because you are.

Do it for all the right reasons. Do this for love of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF.

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 2

karate-2578819_640

The previous week was definitely a challenge for me, as I had to change my exercising strategy. My feet were not up for running at all. Whenever I did a jumping exercise, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot.

I still made an effort to exercise everyday, in spite of the soreness in my legs. Simone de la Rue’s workout videos have some modified low impact moves that still get the job done. Check out this 25 minute cardio dance workout video and see how well you do.

4th of July was another test for my diet/exercise as I ate some pretty carb-heavy meals (hashbrowns for breakfast and sushi for lunch). I also snacked a lot, so I decided to eat corn for dinner so that I could have room for a nice s’more at the end of the day.

The only time I went over my calorie intake was a couple days ago when I had dinner at Whataburger. But here’s a tip: If you’re going to eat fast food, order small portions. Before I started this diet, I used to eat two large fries at Whataburger, which would add up to over 1000 calories. On Sunday, I ate a junior Whataburger with pickles and ketchup and had a small fry with water. It’s a huge difference, trust me on that.

I haven’t lost any weight since two weeks ago, but my waist to hip ratio has gone down. On top of that, some of my clothes are starting to feel big on me. What I’m doing is making a difference on my body. It’s just gonna take some patience.

Aside from patience, however, one virtue that I felt was prominent this past week was prudence. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every good circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.

You won’t always be in control of where you go to eat things. You can’t always eat at home or bring food with you. It’s prudent to figure out your best option and not worry if you go over your calorie limit for one day. Just remember to work it all off the next day.

Prudence also applies to exercising. Listen to your body and don’t push it so hard that you feel pain. The best workouts are the ones that make you sweat without hitting a nerve or end with you hitting the floor.

I also had to apply the virtue of prudence in terms of some negative emotions I’ve been feeling. Like a lot of people starting out on a new health and fitness habit, I made the mistake of comparing myself to someone who was a lot more fit and attractive than I will ever, ever be. I was jealous of this person beyond what’s rational or sensible.

The best thing I had to do was not give into the feelings or blast them out in the internet for all to see. I wrote in my journal. I confided in trustworthy friends. I focused on myself. And then I let it all go. It’s a process, obviously, but one I feel will help my emotional well-being.

If you’re starting out on a new health and fitness routine, don’t compare yourself to the model you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated or a fitness magazine. Focus on your own personal goals and be realistic.

It’s going to take time to lose weight or lower your cholesterol or whatever you want to do. The best thing you can do is just stick to what you have planned, no matter how you feel, and take care of yourself emotionally as well as physically. Keep a journal about everything you feel. Find something to be grateful for on a daily basis. Trust me when I say that having the right mentality will make diet and exercising a lot easier.

 

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 1

 

running-573762_640

A couple weeks ago, I bought a bathing suit. This has been the first time since college that I ever wore one.

Like a lot of women this time of year, I checked my weight and measured my waist-to-hip ratio. I was 150 lbs and I’ve been 150 lbs for a while. I’m 5’3″ so the weight I’ve been carrying isn’t a healthy one because I don’t work out.

For the past week, I decided to get myself down to a healthier weight, using the Samsung Health app. I also decided on making changes to what I eat everyday.

Disclaimer: I have food allergies. I’m allergic to a lot of things, namely dairy, eggs, and nuts. I can’t drink protein shakes or eat granola bars. Please keep these things in mind and consider your own diet.

Like my fellow millenials, I am a fan of avocados. Thanks to Alton Brown, I’ve learned that I can use avocados in place of eggs. So yes, I’ve eaten avocado toast. I also made bagel avocado sandwiches and used avocado when making salads.

As far as adding exercise goes, I use the Johnson and Johnson 7 Minute Workout app, which lets you customize your own workout. I also exercised along to Simone de la Rue’s videos on YouTube. I made a playlist. Check them out!

I also tried running. Emphasis on tried. While my first day of walk/running was successful (running for 30 seconds, walking for 90 seconds), I forgot to stretch and as such developed some pain in the arches of my feet and my ankles. When I tried running for a second time, it was more of a struggle. However, I’m not gonna give up after one bad day of running. I just don’t think I’ll be running any marathons anytime soon.

Question time: What’s the difference between pain and soreness? Answer: Pain is sharp. It feels like needles poking your brain. If you ever feel pain when exercising, STOP or SLOW DOWN. Soreness, on the other hand, is more spread out. Your muscles are being put to use. Imagine pizza dough that’s rising and spreading out. That’s how your muscles feel when you exercise.

There are three things I learned from my first week.

  1. It’s all a matter of balance. Don’t put so much worry into counting calories or exercising to excess. You know what kinds of foods are healthy. Eat more salads and drink more water, cut out soda and junk food, and pay attention to serving and portion size. Use your health app as a guideline and not a strict regimen. Drink plenty of water and vegetable juice. Coffee and tea are allowed, but keep the sugar and cream to a minimum.
  2. Listen to your body. I recommend one hour of light to moderate exercise maximum per day. You don’t even have to exercise for one hour straight. You can start your morning with a good stretch and then go out for a walk after work later on. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion and if you feel hungry even after drinking water, snack on something, but keep the portions small. It will all balance out.
  3. Indulge wisely. I don’t recommend eating out everyday or buying potato chips, as much as I love them. Most restaurants serve large portions and a lot of snacks from the grocery store don’t package according to serving size. However, if you’re like me and you’re still craving a soft pretzel or a burger, Do your research on the nutritional information behind your favorite restaurants and snacks. See if you can make healthier versions at home. If you have to eat out or indulge on snacks, read Eat This, Not That. There’s one version that gives nutritional information on the stuff you buy at the supermarket and one that gives information on restaruant food.

So what has been my progress?  In one week, I have lost three pounds. I did go over my daily calorie limit on Saturday, but I didn’t exercise much, either. Yesterday, I learned that even something as simple as walking around a grocery store can make a difference in balancing your calorie intake.

I will update on my progress every week, checking my weight and waist-to-hip ratio once a week. I recommend that you limit how often you check your weight. Don’t obsess over the numbers on a scale or the number of calories you ate. You may not lose as much weight or lose more, depending on your current lifestyle and metabolism. It’s all a matter of balance.

From a Catholic perspective, I see this as being an example of practicing the virtue of temperance.

According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion. “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” (Sirach 18:30) – CCC 1809

I honestly think that the reason I haven’t been obsessing over every calorie and pound is because I offered up my new diet and exercise plan in prayer. By the grace of God, I am keeping my focus on staying healthy.

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need a gym membership to live a healthy lifestyle. You also don’t need to do heavy lifting or run fast. I hope that this new blog series will inspire you to live a healthier life this summer and I hope that we will all continue a healthier lifestyle even after summer is over.