Photo Credits: Warner Bros

Wonder Woman is the Inspirational Hero We’ve Been Waiting For

Today my friend Lindsey and I saw Wonder Woman in IMAX 3D, and I have felt inspired ever since. From animated movies to action movies, I absolutely love being inspired by a character’s capabilities, especially when characters can do anything and everything, like Diana in Wonder Woman.

Our minds are powerful tools: we can set our minds on some seemingly insane, extraordinary goals and actually attain them with hard work and persistence. When we feel down and dreary, though, our goals do not typically get achieved. Instead, life can seem pretty boring, uneventful, or even depressing. It was extremely refreshing and motivating to see a strong, powerful woman speak up for herself and for what she believes in, take action, and achieve her aspirations. Something I lack is self confidence, but Diana’s character (also known as Wonder Woman) showed confidence in herself and her abilities. She showed strong perseverance when times got tough. Her character was exactly what I needed to see to get me out of my slump.

I don’t want to give any spoilers because I want all of my readers to watch Wonder Woman, but let me just say Diana never let anyone or anything get in her way of chasing her clear goal. Nothing could bring her down or take away her motivation, not even hardships or grief. Diana doesn’t give up, even when a main conflict she’s worked towards does not resolve in the expected way.

The female leads are incredible, and the male co-stars show the perfect amount of strength and support. Every viewer can take away something different from the film, depending on what you enjoy and love. Me? I loved the strength, dedication, power, and confidence shown throughout the film. I also loved the romance…I can’t help it! I’m a hopeless romantic! I truly loved Wonder Woman, and I hope that you watch the film and love it as much as I do. Every woman is capable of being a Wonder Woman in her own way, and I’m hopeful that this movie will help me build my confidence to accomplish every extraordinary goal I set. I’m also hopeful that the same can happen for you!

What are your thoughts on the film? Were you inspired by it like I was? Please let me know in the comments below!!

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I Saw Niall Horan+Band at the Today Show, and Here’s Why It’s Important

I’m a firm believer that in order to be positive, you must surround yourself with positive people and influences. Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Every person knows of specific people and activities that make them happy. The kind of people and activities that brighten your mood and make you feel positive in general. Better yet, the people and activities that take away you’re feelings of doubt, criticism, and insecurities for as little or as much time as possible. Music and concerts make me very, very happy.

My all time favorite band has to be One Direction (Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne have been a main source of excitement, positivity, and happiness in my life since late 2011-early 2012). Now, as a 20 year old student and writer, the love still hasn’t faded. And somehow I’ve been blessed with amazing friends and opportunities, because today I was able to go to New York City with one of my great friends, Jessica, and see Niall Horan perform some of his new music with his amazing band: Gerry Morgan, Jake Curran, John Bird, and Louis Querelle.

After pulling an all nighter and waiting in the rainy New York City streets from 3:40 in the morning until about 6:30 in the morning, Niall and his band hit the stage. And at that moment, all of my insecurities, my negative thoughts, and my feelings of hatred towards my “flaws” disappeared. Music is magical, especially when it’s performed so well. And boy did they perform well!!!

Jessica won VIP passes for her and a guest (so thankful that she chose me), and we managed to score an amazing view. Seeing Niall, Gerry, Jake, John, and Louis perform was breathtaking. I’m not very hard to miss; I’m a six-foot-one, curly-haired, curvy young woman. And I was pretty darn close to the stage. I swear, connections were made between me and some of the band (I really think there was some eye contact between Niall and me, as well as between a few band members who should remain nameless for this blog post). (Niall, Gerry, Jake, John, and/or Louis– if you read this and you have no clue who I am, I’ll be sad, so don’t tell me. If you did make eye contact with me, though, thank you!)

Usually, I break eye contact with others right away. Even with family members and close friends. When making eye contact, my insecurities emerge. I feel as if others are judging me. They’re categorizing me as weird, odd-looking, or just plain ugly. Because I’m tall and curvy, I feel like I stand out…and not in a good way. I feel like out of everyone, attractive men are probably especially judgmental when looking at me. They’re used to looking over pretty girls, and for some reason I don’t always categorize myself as pretty. Today, I did, though. (Okay, not when I was soaking wet from the rain…but after I dried off a bit, I do think I looked great!)

I’m not saying that any of the (VERY ATTRACTIVE) band members thought I was attractive, they probably didn’t and instead thought I was a bit weird or overly-excited throughout their performance…but I managed to hold eye contact and think positively. Which is huge! I managed to convince myself that we did, in fact, share a few moments. And that I’m worth those moments, despite my insecurities. And who knows, maybe they didn’t think I was weird. Maybe they were admiring me as I admired all of them? Who knows! 

We are often our worst critics, whether we have bad body image or low-self esteem in any area of our lives (personality wise, appearance wise, talent wise, etc). Niall and his band may not have known about my insecurities, but making eye contact with me was a major confidence boost for me. It served as a reminder that other people don’t see in us what we see in ourselves.

Today’s concert was an amazing experience, and I cannot believe how lucky I am. More importantly, I don’t know how to fully express my gratitude for Jess (who took me to the concert) or for Niall, Gerry, Jake, John, and Louis. Today I was extremely happy. I felt special. I felt acknowledged by one of my all time favorite singers, and one of my new favorite bands.

To Niall, Gerry, Jake, John, and Louis— Thank you for today. Thank you for sharing your talent, and for making me feel special. Thank you for making me so happy. I can’t wait to see you guys on tour and listen to more of your music! 

To all of my readers— Find someone or something that makes you feel validated. That makes you feel special. That makes you feel happier than you ever thought imaginable. Today’s concert did that for me. I hope you can find people and events that bring out these same feelings for you.

Check out some of my pictures from the concert below! And let me know in the comments who/what makes you feel completely happy. How are you going to bring more happiness into your life? I can tell you what I’m going to do—buy more concert tickets!

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UPDATE: Read my Odyssey article about my experience here!

Ashley Graham’s ‘A New Model’ Makes Me Want to Embrace Confidence & #BeautyBeyondSize Even More

Ashley Graham’s book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty & Power Really Look Like, was released on May 9, 2017 and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I actually pre-ordered the book twice: once on Amazon, and then deleted that preorder to order an autographed addition from a Brooklyn book shop. As a plus-size woman on the journey to self-love and body-acceptance, I cannot put into words how important this book is to me or how much this book, and Ashley herself, mean to me. I read the book in two sittings (it would have been an all nighter if I didn’t have work). It took me a little while to get to it because life got in the way, but I honestly am obsessed with this book. I know that I will be rereading it again in the near future.

Ashley Graham, if you don’t already know, is a model and body-positivity activist. She’s curvy, she’s sexy, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, and she’s a (US) size 14-16. I first learned about Ashley when news broke about Sports Illustrated featuring a plus size model in a SwimsuitsForAll advertisement.

Image Credit: Huffington Post, Originally Swimsuit Illustrated

Since seeing Ashley at that moment, I knew she would always be my woman crush. She’s gorgeous and confident and if she can be referred to as sexy, than maybe my curvy self could be referred to as sexy one day, too.

A New Model made me cry numerous times. I cried in awe of Ashley’s journey, mostly because a lot of her internal and weight struggles are very similar to mine.

In her Introduction (titled “My (Cellulite) Revolution”), Ashley writes that, “This is the generation of body diversity. We are sick of being told by society, by the fashion industry, by Hollywood, that we are too thin, too fat, too flabby, too tall, too small. Being a woman in the United States now almost definitely means hating at least a part of your body, if not all of it. As a woman unafraid of celebrating my thick thighs in public, I’ve  made it my goal to help others embrace, even love themselves, stretch marks and all,” (Graham x).

That has to be the perfect summary of Ashley as a body activist. She truly embraces her body and her “imperfections”, inspiring her fans and followers to do the same.

Ashley’s uses her book as a vehicle to get the message across that, “Numbers are abstract. It’s the human reactions to them that cause the hurt,” (Graham 61). For Ashley and for many women around the globe, weight loss is an “uphill battle” involving a lot of self-inflicted pressure. I completely relate to Ashley when she reveals reflection about how her “best friend loses weight when she gets depressed. Me? I gain it, and then it takes me ages to get the weight off,” (Graham 63). Me too, Ashley. Me too.

Ashley Graham is a much stronger woman than I am. I know that by learning from her journey to confidence and self-love, that I, too, can become confident and brave and strong and powerful. I can learn to love myself. I can become a healthier individual. I can wear bikinis and feel amazing (in fact, as I write this blog, I am wearing one of my new Torrid bikinis). I can become a model for other girls and women. I can and I will do anything I set my mind to, and Ashley’s book validated that for me. If someone asked me to rate Ashley’s book on a scale of 1-10, she’d get a perfect 10. It’s personal, yet relatable. It’s powerful. It’s inspiring. I love it, and I love her. Get your hands on a copy of A New Model, because you’ll learn a lot about body positivity and hopefully be inspired to love yourself and your “flaws.” I know I did.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I’m IN LOVE with Halo Top, and You Should Be, Too!

While on the ongoing journey to better health, I was introduced to Halo Top. Last year when talking about foods that are yummy and healthy, my dad’s friends suggested that he and I tried Halo Top, a high-protein, low-calorie ice cream. As a huge ice cream lover, I was intrigued to try Halo Top and see if I liked the brand. Long story short, it was love at first spoonful.

When I say I love Halo Top, I mean I am in love with Halo Top. The ice cream is creamy, sweet, and mouth watering. It doesn’t taste ice-y, like many low-calorie ice cream brands do. It tastes….basically like the real, fattier version of ice cream. I am obsessed.

Last week, I decided to write a love letter to Halo Top, published on Odyssey. In the letter, which you can read HERE, I mention most of the reasons I love the brand. The truth of the matter is, while on the journey to weight loss and better health, you cannot deprive yourself. If you do, you’ll go crazy and end up binge eating (trust me, I know from experience). Halo Top allows me to enjoy my ice cream as often as I’d like. Every single one of their 17 flavors is less than 400 calories for the entire pint…that is insane. And the ice cream is so, so tasty!

Ever since being introduced to Halo Top, I feel so much better about my food choices because I know that my ice cream isn’t primarily filled with sugar, but instead with organic, high-protein ingredients such milk and cream, milk protein concentrate, organic cane sugar, natural flavors, sea salt, etc.

Halo Top is my go-to treat. I think about it all the time, and I’m literally obsessed with it. Their social media team is always on top of their game, and always so kind and interactive. They even wished me a happy birthday this past January. Needless to say, I shared my love letter to the brand and they replied…and look at what I received a few days later:

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If you’re an ice cream lover like me, and you’re looking for a healthy option that tastes good and makes you feel good about yourself, give any of Halo Top’s 17 flavors a try–scratch that…give them all a try! I actually haven’t tried a few of these flavors yet (I couldn’t find them in my local stores), so I’m so excited to dig in and fall even further in love with this brand.

Thank you, Halo Top, for being my absolute favorite ice cream. Ever since our introduction last summer, you have consistently been so kind to me. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have healthy, delicious ice cream to enjoy, and I’m not going to lie…every time I take a spoonful (or get a response on Twitter), I tear up with joy. You’re the BEST, Halo Top!!!! No doubt about it.

Which flavors are your favorite?? Let me know in the comments below! Thus far, my top favorites are Lemon Cake, Chocolate Almond Crunch, Vanilla Bean, Strawberry, Oatmeal Cookie, and Black Cherry…but I truly love them all. I hope that you can fall head over heels for Halo Top, too!

Make Everyday a Bright, Sunshiny Day

Somehow, it’s already May. The year is nearly at its halfway mark, and time is flying by. While it is important to balance responsibilities like school, work, and household chores, it is also important to make every day count. Do things that make you happy. Life does not slow down or stop for anybody or anything, and if you go through days, weeks, or months feeling nothing but boredom and exhaustion, your mindset and outlook on life will turn completely negative.

What makes you happy? Think about it…the little things and the big things. Is it being with your best friend? Going out to dinner with your parents/grandparents? Maybe it’s going to the movies with a special someone, or going on a walk with your dog. Maybe it’s singing along to your favorite songs in your car or in your house, when no one is there to hear you. Or maybe you’re at your happiest when you are watching your favorite show, reflecting back on happy memories, planning once-in-a-lifetime events like seeing your favorite artist/band on tour, etc. If it helps, write a list of people, places, and things that bring you joy. Keep this list somewhere where you won’t lose it, whether it’s on your phone, your refrigerator, your closet door, or your computer. Everyday, try to do something that brings you happiness.

Sometimes the simplest things bring me joy. Just sitting on the couch with either (or even better, both) of my dogs makes me feel loved, special, and happy. Singing along to my favorite artists’ music makes me feel good inside. Taking a break from schoolwork to watch a 21-minute episode of a show, usually The Office, brings me laughter and happiness. And when I’m lucky, spending time planning fun events–like attending a Blondie, Coldplay, or Harry Styles concert–can brighten my entire mood.

Start living your life to the fullest, and make sure that everyday you do something to bring you joy. If you don’t know where to start, here’s an idea: select a happy song for your life. A happy song is a song that makes you release all of your negativity, at least for the length of the song. Your happy song should have a positive message and should lift your spirits. My Nonna designated I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff as our family’s happy song. Whenever someone was sad or had a bad attitude, she played I Can See Clearly Now and we had to become happy.

As a child, I thought it was so corny to have a happy song. Now, every time I hear the song I sing along and force myself to become happy. I hope the song brings you happiness, too. What other songs make you feel happy or inspire you? Let me know in the comments below!

What I Wish Kim K Knew About Her Power (And Cellulite)

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the recent paparazzi photographs of Kim Kardashian with cellulite all over the lower half of her body. If you’ve seen these photographs, I’m sure you have also seen retouched images of her body, which were presumably released by her publicists and team. There was no comment on the un-retouched photographs, which means there was no intention to normalize cellulite; instead, there was a push for posting retouched photographs that hid normal bodily features.

I am extremely disappointed with Kim Kardashian for brushing over her cellulite. Yes, if you watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, you have seen the Kardashian women seek cosmetic surgeries to remove or hide their so-called-flaws. However, after all of these years, you would think that the Kardashians would realize the power they have over the media. Celebs like the Kardashians/Jenners have enough money and power to make a change in the world. They can preach about body acceptance, beauty, and self-love so that their followers and fans can accept and love themselves. Instead, these powerful women choose to hide “ugly” marks on their skin, sending the message that their followers should, too, hide (or get rid of) those marks.

If celebs were to accept and normalize these “flaws” rather than cover them up, a clear message would be sent that features such as stretch marks, cellulite, and fat rolls are things to embrace and celebrate, rather than hide. Thankfully, there are models and celebrities who embrace features that many girls and women are insecure about. I believe it is time for more celebrities to do the same. Do you agree? What do you think about cellulite/ celebs retouching cellulite? Let me know in the comments below!

Danielle Brooks Shares Inspiring Words About Beauty with People Magazine

People Magazine recently released its Most Beautiful Women spread for 2017, featuring women from a range of races and sizes. I was SO excited to see which beautiful women were featured, including Chrissy Metz, Viola DavisNina Dobrev, Danielle Brooks and others. Out of everyone, Danielle really stood out to me because of the message she shared with the magazine about beauty. To hear that message, watch her segment of People’s World’s Most Beautiful: Not a Drop of Makeup episode.

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Let’s appreciate what Danielle shared during this video:

“I know for a fact that I am beautiful, and what I do know for a fact is that we are spirits, at the end of the day, regardless of how much melanin we have, or how many pimples we have, or how curly or straight our hair is. It’s really about what we have inside of us, that makes us who we are.”

Beauty isn’t restricted to one shape, one size, or one shade. Beauty does not have a list of requirements. Beauty isn’t something that’s merely physical; beauty comes from within. And Danielle preaches this when describing beauty. Her inspiring wisdom continues as she says:

“People just need to realize that there’s so much beauty in who they are in their skin and to find that beauty within themselves.”

I just think it’s so refreshing to hear someone in the media’s eye send out positivity to the world. Instead of looking at images of photoshopped celebrities and wanting to be as beautiful as them, Danielle is sending the message that we should all appreciate our own beauty. These are words that I definitely need to adopt in my own life. I need to put my ideas of beauty aside and appreciate my own looks, and more importantly, my own thoughts and feelings. What about you? Do you think Danielle’s beliefs about beauty could help you learn to appreciate your beauty? Who or what inspires you to feel beautiful? Let me know in the comments below!

Body Positivity Is Saving & Empowering Women

Recently an article by Aero Magazine has come to my attention which argues Body Positivity is Killing Women, specifically plus-size body positivity hashtags and movements. In the article, the author points out that obesity is a huge medical issue. This is true, there is no denying that. Being overweight and obese can be very unhealthy for many people, sparking illnesses and limitations. However, hating yourself and hating your body will always not spark weight loss.  In fact, most of the time, it will spark further weight gain.

I’m not saying it’s impossible for body hatred to spark weight loss. It’s very possible, but often it leads to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia–which, to spark your memory, are not healthy paths to weight-loss. On the other hand, if weight loss isn’t sparked through body hatred, depression and emotional eating surface. These actions cause even more body hatred because of the vicious cycle of weight gain.

So what is a healthier alternative to these health issues? Loving your body, loving your skin, and feeling confident. I know, crazy right?! Being overweight and loving yourself could spark something positive! Body positivity does not necessarily mean that a woman is not trying to improve her health; it just means that she’s learning to love herself, accept her insecurities, and live her life in a way that makes her happy. If that means staying at an obese BMI, so be it. However body-positive women can choose to lose weight to feel healthier in their bodies as well. Ultimately, these choices are left for an individual to make.

For the record, I’d like to remind everyone–especially the author of Body Positivity is Killing Women–that body hatred is not just an overweight or obese person’s problem. Many, many thin people hate themselves as well (underweight and normal-weighted people included). Hating your body won’t make you thin, and being thin won’t make you stop hating your body.

No matter what size clothing you are, or how much you weigh, self-love is important. Everyone should love themselves, or at least begin the process towards loving themselves. In the end, love is a lot healthier than its alternative, whether judgmental people like it or not.

“I am more than a number and a jean size.”

When celebrities speak out about their internal struggles, especially with issues many of us “regular” people face such as body image issues, it’s always refreshing. Granted we’re not wishing for others to suffer from poor self-esteem, body image, etc.; it’s just nice to know we’re not alone. Demi Lovato continues to be amazing when sharing her struggles with body image and being open about her depression, anxieties, self-harm and eating disorder. If you relate to any of the battles Demi fights/has fought, it’s great to know that someone as successful as Demi has made so much progress on her never-ending journey towards self-acceptance and self-love. Actually, even if you can’t relate to most–or any–of the battles she fights, you can’t help but feel a sense of happiness for her. Look at her overcoming her fears and making milestones; look at her feeling confident in the skin she’s in. She’s amazing! And guess what? You, or anyone you know, that is facing similar battles with self-image, self-esteem, etcetera are capable of being successful. We could all learn a thing or two from Demi Lovato.

Recently she tweeted about what she does when she has days hating her body and feeling negative towards her body image, writing:

Whether you have lived with an eating disorder or not, it’s important to take away one key message that we often hear, but don’t necessarily comprehend or understand: “I am more than a number and a jean size.” Your weight, your clothing size, the space you occupy, and the ‘flaws’ on your body do not measure or limit your beauty. Beauty is immeasurable. Everyone has good days and bad days, even people like Demi Lovato. Don’t give up on those bad days, though. Keep making progress! Are there any other body-positive celebrities that inspire you? I’m always on the look-out for more celebrities to look up to!

A Brave, Important Video about Public Fat Shaming

Recently a video posted by a woman named Shauna went viral on Facebook, in which she provides details about her fat-shame experience on Free Cone Day at Dairy Queen. In her video, which you can see HERE, Shauna reveals that she has lost 60 lbs since starting a paleo lifestyle–but 120 lbs overall. Her weight loss is obviously a huge accomplishment, and she decided to treat herself with a food she very rarely has any more: an ice cream cone. While eating the ice cream outside with her husband, a car full of men yelled out the window, “Eat that ice cream you fat b*tch!” Unfortunately, Shauna’s experience is not a rare experience. Fat shaming happens all the time no matter where you are. My heart broke when I watched Shauna’s video. It hit so close to home because like Shauna, I have been fat shamed (numerous times in fact).

There is absolutely no reason to call someone a mean name. One of the biggest motives behind putting others down is feeling better about yourself. But are you so insecure that you have to embarrass and harass a complete stranger, or worse a family member or friend, just to feel good? Just to feel in power?

Shauna asks in her video what bullies get out of putting others down and points out that bullies have no idea what circumstances others are facing. A person you bully for their size may be on an ongoing weight loss journey, making major progress to live a healthier life. S/he may be suffering from health issues you cannot see. Because at the end of the day, the person you are bullying is a person. That person has a life, and you have no clue how your comment(s) will affect them today or in the long run. Think before you speak. Be a nicer person.

I was happy to learn after seeing Shauna’s post that Torrid, a plus-size fashion brand, invited her on a special, once-in-a-lifetime shopping spree with their newest model and brand ambassador, Maria Gimena. Shauna left her shopping spree with a new friend, a bunch of clothes and a large amount of confidence. I’m SO JEALOUS of her shopping spree — because Torrid is my favorite store– and SO HAPPY that something amazing came out of this terrible shaming experience.

If you’ve ever been shamed or bullied because of your size, what did you learn from that experience? Do you have any advice for others who are going through similar bullying? If I could give any advice, I’d just remind you that things will get better. You will get stronger as long as you fight for yourself. At the end of the day, doesn’t your love for yourself matter a whole lot more than some stranger’s feelings towards you?