Summer of Health and Fitness Week 3

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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.

Why I Refuse to Call Myself "Trash"

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I have a love-hate relationship with modern day slang. I had to deal with “swagger” being a thing during my college days, but nowadays, the latest millenial slang is pretty good. I love how “goals” is a thing along with “#squadgoals” and #relationshipgoals.” We all should have goals and aspire to have an awesome life. I also love “slay,” cuz, you know, vampire slayer lover here!

There is one word I refuse to use in reference to myself, though: Trash.

Whenever someone refers to themselves as “trash,” it means that they devote themselves so much to a fandom such as the DC shows, or to a celebrity.

It’s kind of ironic that the generation that gets called “narcissistic” refers to itself as “trash.” As if millenials don’t have enough self-esteem issues!  I get that the people of Tumblr and Twitter don’t actually mean to compare themselves to garbage, but the problem is that they forgotten that the words that we choose to call ourselves have a powerful impact on ourselves.

You know what else gets called trash? Homeless people, prostitutes, and aborted babies. No, you’re not special snowflakes, fellow millenials. You’re not entitled to whatever you want just because you want it. But at the same time, stop calling yourselves trash when you talk about how much you love something. Every single human life, no matter who they are or where they live, has a God-given intrinsic value. It’s like what Peggy Carter said in the Agent Carter season 1 finale: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Millenials of all ages, know what you are worth by being humble.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “How does being humble help us understand what we are worth?”

Once again, we come to a seemingly impossible paradox. Humility is not thinking the worst of yourself. It’s knowing that you can always do better. It means not seeking out attention for the sake of stroking your own vanity, but at the same time learning to give credit when credit is due. Be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t rub them into everyone’s face. And most of all, don’t go for a minimalist spirituality by thinking “Oh as long as I don’t do bad things, I won’t go to Hell.” That’s not how it works, honey.

There’s a wonderful prayer called the “Litany of Humility” that spells out what it means to be humble. It’s a prayer I highly recommend you contemplate this Lent. I often pray this during retreats. My favorite part of the prayer is “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” It reminds me that we are all called to holiness and that God wants us to love ourselves as much as He loves us. That does not mean referring to ourselves as trash or by becoming narcissists. It simply means knowing our own value. We are worth dying for and as such, we need to live for Him.

Don't Settle For Scrubs!

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I’m not talking about medical scrubs here. So what is a scrub you ask?

Time for a 90s flashback!

In other words, scrubs are the guys at the bottom of the barrel. The guys that the Tumblr Hive Mind think about when they talk about catcalling, harassment, and “nice guy syndrome.” The guys who won’t take a hint and back off. It’s one thing to be nice. It’s one thing to let your armor down for a guy who really wants to make an effort. But it’s another thing when a guy texts you the day after you meet and asks why you didn’t respond right away. It’s another thing when a guy acts passive-aggressive or outright aggressive when you try to take things slow. The armor you have is there for a reason.

I dealt with my fair share of scrubs ever since middle school. Usually, they were the guys who would flirt with me in class. Their antics irritated me to no end. The worst part was that it didn’t seem like there were any good guys around to take my defense or tell me that not all guys were like that. For the longest time, I believed that I wasn’t pretty because the only guys I attracted were immature jerks.

Ladies, don’t ever believe that you’re not beautiful just because a construction worker wolf-whistles at you or some guy at a bar wants to put his hand up your skirt. Don’t settle for attention from guys like that. As hard as it is to believe, there are genuinely good, single guys out there. And yes, they are straight.

But your value doesn’t lie in any guy. It doesn’t even lie in the man you end up marrying. You are valuable and precious and wonderful in God’s eyes as you are. The best way to handle scrubs is knowing what you are worth. You are worth dying on the Cross for. You are worthy of having the best guy that God created for you. There will be guys out there who will send mixed messages and try to take their insecurities out on you. Don’t let them. Know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. The scrubs you meet aren’t worthy of your kindness, your time, and any effort you take on being “nice” for the sake of being the better person. There is such a thing as excess of virtue.

Know your limits. Be polite, but get out of a bad situation as quickly as possible. Learn some self-defense classes. Trust your gut when you feel like something bad is going on. Don’t accept every guy who sends you a friend request on Facebook. Don’t follow back every guy on Twitter and Instagram. And if you’re online-dating, make sure you meet the guy in person and bring a friend with you in case things get ugly. And most of all, don’t let their ugliness get to you.

Pray for your future husband, whether it be an earthly one or a heavenly one. It’s hard to believe that there is a genuinely wonderful man out there waiting for us. But then again, many people have an issue with believing in a Divine Creator and His only begotten Son. If you can believe in God and that God loves you, you can believe that He will lead you to your future husband.

And to all the boys out there who think they can just want, take, and have any girl:

 

Battle Ready Women!

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My dad and I love listening to Catholic Radio. Oftentimes, we hear advertisements about a program called “Battle Ready” as well as events centering on men. Sometimes, I would hear the radio hosts lamenting about how men aren’t as spiritually active as women.

The Battle Ready website is marketed mostly towards men. There is a page for women, but even though they say that woman are involved in the fight for souls, the emphasis is on women encouraging men, playing more of a supportive role. And I do agree that women need to encourage men who are spiritually struggling. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the Battle Ready site that addresses women who have the same problems that men do. Because in spite of what you may see at Daily Mass or at Adoration or a youth conference, there are women out there who struggle with having a spiritual life.

I wasn’t always as spiritually active as I am today. When I started college and went to Adoration, I had to ask somebody what the Glorious Mysteries were when I started praying the Rosary. Before college, I only prayed the Rosary as a kid.

I don’t consider myself a feminist in the conventional sense. I see women as equal to men and not as “the weaker sex.” I do agree that men and women have physical and emotional differences. I acknowledge that I am most likely biased about why women should be battle ready. My favorite shows center on strong female characters, after all. But women have their own battles to fight.  And the battle for souls is just as important for women as it is for men.

And just before you think there aren’t any good examples of strong female women in the Catholic Church, I’m gonna turn your attention to one of the most badass female saints ever:

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Joan of Arc led an army in God’s name and defended France. Sure she ended up burning at the stake, but she died a warrior’s death nevertheless. Not to mention she totally owns Miley Cyrus in this Epic Rap Battle.

Other awesome women who embraced a Battle Ready lifestyle include Saint Katherine Drexel, who used her inheritance to create schools and hospitals and organizations that help people in need. Or Dorothy Day, who embraced the Catholic teachings on social justice.  Mother Teresa was also seriously badass in how she survived the harsh Calcutta lifestyle and endured persecution from people who didn’t understand her.

So what are some battles that women have to deal with when it comes to spiritual warfare?

1) Going to extremes when it comes to perspectives on gender

I think the biggest problem with gender politics is that it always feels like a war. A majority of feminists don’t like to consider men as part of the equation and the most extreme ones see men as hostile. Men’s Rights Activists see feminists as extreme as well and many countries in the Middle East have some really horrible perspectives on women to say the least. I still remember when there was a meme going around that went something like this:

“You say not all men are monsters? Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned. Go ahead. Eat a handful. Not all M&Ms are poison.”

The problem with that kind of mentality is that for one thing, people aren’t candy. They are judging an entire gender for the actions of a handful of people. And for a group of people who claim to be tolerant, they are sure ready to condemn and punish people instead of trying to help the perpetrator understand the wrongness of his actions. But that’s none of my business. I think I’ll take the breadsticks and get outta here now.

We cannot see men as the enemy. Nor should we be competitive with other women over things like jobs and men. Instead, we need to cooperate with them and treat them as, you know, people. Men are human beings which means like every other human being out there, they won’t be perfect and will have flaws and are capable of hurting women. We gotta love them anyway, sisters in Christ, because God created men which means that men are essentially good. And if any men out there are reading this, don’t write off all women for the actions of the girl who broke your heart or the girl who left you in the friendzone. You are not entitled to whatever you want just because you act nice to them. Girls, same thing.

(I’ll probably make a separate post about entitlement applying to both genders later this week.)

2) Modesty/Body Postitivity

I will probably write a separate post on what modesty means to me. But this still falls under spiritual warfare as well. On the one hand, I don’t like seeing women trying to dress like Miley Cyrus nor do I like all the songs that talk about butts. I’ve written about self-esteem issues on this blog before, but the point is that when it comes to what we wear and how we carry ourselves, I want us women to be confident!

Modesty isn’t about how much you cover up. To me, modesty is about knowing what looks best on you and owning what you feel are your best features without being a diva about it. As Coco Chanel said: “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show that you’re a lady.” I think that can easily apply to the way women dress overall.

But all the fashion in the world won’t help if the woman in question still sees herself as invisible. Confidence is more than just loving how one looks on the outside, but also knowing what one is good at. If you’re skilled in engineering, pursue that field. If you know how to play the piano, take the opportunity to show that talent. And men, encourage women in your life (especially if you have daughters) to learn and grow in whatever skill or talent they have, whether it be in science or arts.

3) Emotional chastity

Chasity is usually seen as applying to just physical situations. Emotional chastity however is just as important. Women objectify men just as often as men objectify women, sad to say. (Just spend some time with me and some fellow Buffy fans and watch us drool over Spike and the actor who plays him for example.) But aside from drooling over Ryan Gosling or Chris Pratt or any of the Avengers, women also have a tendency to build up unrealistic expectations when it comes to relationships and about men. Think of the really bad Katherine Heigel movies where she acts like a total control freak. Women have a tendency of building up this idea of a perfect relationship and the perfect romance. When people spend more time daydreaming of perfection, it’s still a way of using a person because they end up just being a set piece in a scenario. I think part of emotional chastity involves accepting that the imperfections of romance as well as making sure you don’t objectify people.

So how can women be Battle Ready?

1) By imitating Mary

One thing I did like about the Battle Ready site is its devotion to Mary, calling her the most valiant of women. The devil hates Mary as this article from The Catholic Gentleman goes into. But while Mary is humble and a great mother, she’s anything but weak. She’s actually sassy. (I also have this headcanon that she’s short. Partially because she was called “Little Mother” and partially because short and sassy go hand in hand. Just read Rebecca Frech’s post if you don’t believe me.)

It’s also why I love writing Bible studies for the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. They encourage having a heart like Mary’s, which includes Marian consecration. And to paraphrase a Catholic pick-up line, doing the Marian consecration may lead to someone marrying you in the future. You never know. (You may also end up going into religious life. Results may vary.)

2) By knowing their own value

One thing that’s majorly important when it comes to spiritual warfare is knowing what you are fighting for. That means knowing what your soul is worth and how much God loves you. It also means finding a balance between knowing your worth and not being full of yourself. The best example of this can be seen in the last episode of Agent Carter, in which Peggy does not pursue taking the credit for saving Howard Stark and New York from Hydra agents. When Sousa gets mad over Thompson taking the credit, Peggy says, “I don’t need a congressional honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the president’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” It took her a long time for her to get there, but that moment of confidence was just perfect!

3) By choosing the right battles and the right ways to fight

Sometimes, the greatest victory is the battle not fought. Never seek out fights or act aggressively. I’m an advocate in fighting for self-defense. Fight to protect yourself, the ones you love, and what you stand for. The combox trolls and people who will never change their minds aren’t worth attacking. Instead, pray for them. And don’t ever think you have to battle alone. Find people who will support you, from both men and women. And always remember that the God of angel armies is always by your side.

So make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

What Does It Mean to be Beautiful?

In my honest opinion, butts are overrated.

It baffles me to this day that people write songs and lyrics about a person’s hindquarters. Seriously? How is a butt more beautiful than a person’s eyes or hair or voice? Or for that matter, what about personality?

But then again, Top 40 songs aren’t what you call “deep.”

On the other hand, celebrities are making such a big deal about the importance of body positivity. While I support the idea of appreciating the body one was born with, I don’t want it to come at the expense of shaming others for their bodies.

Julie Borowski pointed out the hypocrisy of some curvy women shaming skinny women in her latest video (to this date). And there are girls out there who are underweight for a lot of reasons that don’t involve eating disorders.

Disclaimer: What I’m about to say is just my opinion. I am not saying that I’m not above being superficial every now and then. I rarely look at a person and notice his or her physical beauty first. That’s not the same for everyone and that’s okay. I’m just stating that if we want to be truly body positive, we have to look beyond the superficial and figure out what beauty actually is.

So what does it mean to be beautiful?

To me, true beauty is a mix of a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual makeup. A beautiful person is someone who lives a healthy lifestyle. Someone who does the best they can to have a balanced, moderated diet and exercises, but not to the extent that they practically live at the gym. Someone who may or may not put on makeup or style their hair, but knows their best traits and gives those traits a featured role. (Examples of physical features I find beautiful include hair, eyes, smile, and voice. Something that every human being has and can show off easily.)

On top of being physically healthy, a beautiful person has to have a beautiful personality. To me, a beautiful person is someone who is kind, generous, and loving. And it can’t just extend to just those one likes, but the less fortunate and even a person’s perceived enemies and “haters.” Nobody can really be that perfect, but we can all do our best to go out of our way for somebody.

I find all different types of people beautiful, like children with Down Syndrome, a handful of Hollywood actors, and the many friends I have. I think that if the body positivity movement should move towards something, it should move towards showing the beauty in everyone and making the world a more beautiful place.