Category Archives: Food and Health

10 Foods with Surprisingly Few Calories

I know I should be more worried about nutrients than calories and more concerned with health than weight and blahblahblah, but you know what? Sometimes I want to eat crappy food AND be skinny. Sue me.

I’m not advocating for a diet full of sugar and “bad” fat (what’s the difference anyway? “Good” fat still goes to my hips, so I’m definitely not going to give it an award for being that great or anything), but if once in a while you want to eat a mound of chili cheese fries and wash it down with a root beer float, I say go for it. If you do that every day, you’ll end up in muumuus and your heart will likely stop working, so please limit such binges to every other month—if not to feel better about yourself, then at least to save us all the headache of hearing you complain about your flabby arms and the cost of gas to get to your funeral.

Sometimes it’s less about craving mounds of food, and more about craving specific junk foods. I call it the Nothing Sounds Appetizing Right Now Except Velveeta Syndrome. Here are 10 foods that will definitely clog your arteries (minus #6), but also won’t make you fat as quickly as you might suspect:

  1. Krispy Kreme Donuts– 190 calories
  • A single, original glazed donut from Krispy Kreme is only 190 calories. You can have 2 and still come in way under a bagel with any sort of spread.donut mindy kaling
  1. Nachos Supreme from Taco Bell– 440 calories
  • Honestly, I would’ve thought this bowl of chips and cheese and beef would be like, 800 calories. Not so. You can eat this bad boy for lunch and it’s actually fewer calories than your average turkey sandwich. Yo quiero.
  1. Bacon Double Cheeseburger from Burger King– 390 calories
  • Just forego the french fries, and you’re looking at dinner that is fewer calories than a plain chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-a, and a one-way ticket to skinny fat, which is at least a notch better than fat fat.
  1. Movie popcorn– 225 calories
  • Even though this is for a small popcorn, a “small” at movie theatres is still pretty freaking big. And considering it tastes like you’re eating 45 sticks of butter, I call 225 calories a win.
  1. Wine– 120 calories
  • This is not a food, but [obviously] I’m making an exception. While a glass of white is 120 calories more than water, it is only 8 calories more than a cup of orange juice. So basically, you’re choosing between OJ with breakfast and wine with dinner. Don’t be an idiot.
  1. Shrimp– 7 calories
  • We all know shrimp is the “light” choice, but 7 calories each? I am never asking for chicken or fish on my salad ever again. Shrimp only. It’s like eating little nuggets of air.tina fey shrimp gif
  1. Meringue Cookie– 10 calories
  • Yes, meringue cookies usually fall somewhere between Styrofoam and chalk on the consistency scale, but it’s still a cookie. For 10 calories. Do with that information what you will.
  1. Bowl of Broccoli Cheddar Soup from Panera– 330 calories
  • I would imagine a soup made up of mostly cheese and cream to be equivalent to eating an entire mini-wheel of brie cheese. (800 calories in case you were wondering…) Fortunately, a full-size bowl is less than most smoothies from Tropical Smoothie. Cheese>fruit.
  1. Apple Pie– 277 calories
  • I mean, it’s not great, but a slice of apple pie is literally half the calories of a slice of pecan pie or key lime pie (500+ calories). And in the grand scheme of things on Thanksgiving, 277 calories doesn’t scare me much. You’ll probably be eating at least half of that just in gravy.
  1. Cottage cheese– 222 calories
  • For something that looks exactly like cellulite, 222 for a full cup is pretty phenomenal. It fills you up, satisfies your inevitable cheese craving, and is lower cal than a standard cup of yogurt.

Bring on the comments that I should care more about nutrition! I do care about health, I promise. That’s why I purposefully wave to people at the gym just so there is proof that I go. But if I can eat horrible foods sometimes while still maintaining the ability to ride roller coasters at Busch Gardens, no one can make me feel that bad about it.

belle with food


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Essena O’Neill Quit Social Media Because DUH, It’s Fake Life.

Most of you have probably heard about Essena O’Neill by now. She was all over social media and the news this week, which was both ironic and awesome. For those of you who don’t have a lot of millennial, female “friends” on Facebook who are all sharing videos about Essena, let me recap:

  • Essena O’Neill is an 18-year-old from Australia
  • She is an Instagram model, which means she self-promoted pictures of herself successfully enough to start making money
  • She has 500,000+ followers on Instagram, 200,000+ followers on YouTube, and a ton of followers on other social media platforms that I’m too old to know about
  • She is—even by society’s ridiculous standards– very beautiful
  • She decided to “quit” social media last week because she wants to stop living in a fake world created by pictures that skew reality
  • She wants to help young women understand that pictures they see of “beautiful” people are not a reflection of those people’s happiness
  • She wants us to remember that living for an online presence is not living
  • She is more mature at the age of 18 than all of the Kardashians at their combined age of 199 years old (Kris+Kourtney+Kim+Khloe+Kendall+Kylie)

If you haven’t already, go ahead and watch this video. It has some bad language, but to be honest, I don’t even care. The message is fantastic.

I love this girl. And based on my newsfeed, so does everybody else.

The “all bodies are beautiful” movement is nothing new. And we all read memes about how people need to get off their phones and be “present.” But what is so strikingly different about Essena’s message is her ability to make us actually believe what she is saying.

Plenty of famous people post pictures of themselves wistfully standing next to a park bench, ready to go on a run, with the caption “It doesn’t matter what your body looks like as long as you’re healthy. #strongisthenewskinny.” But we feel like their words are empty, despite the fact that many of these sort of posts “promote” self-acceptance. Well, there’s a reason why those captions don’t sit well with us.

Most of us don’t tote around a camera crew and a personal stylist, so we assume that [insert model, celebrity, reality star] asked a stranger to snap a quick photo before they took off on a run. I mean, that’s how I get most of my pictures. So how in the world do they look so effortlessly gorgeous? Essena is here to tell you that basically anyone with tons of followers (I’d say 100,000+) is getting paid to market products, clothes, or simply to look carefree and hot so that advertisers will keep hiring them. And that “candid” photo took hours of preparation, dozens of trial runs, hours of filtering, and probably a couple of hissy fits. Even “self-acceptance” photos are taken to gain followers because it’s the new-wave cool thing to post “real,” “stripped down,” and “body positive” pictures.

essena oneill

Essena O’Neill and her very small waist, back when she pretended to be happy all the time and was dressed by sponsors.

Essena is O-V-E-R this façade that social media is a place for “real people” to post about their lives. That “definition” of social media is a big ole load of bologna. We all logically know that photos are just snapshots of random moments that are only part of a much larger picture, yet we still can’t seem to help but use those snapshots to make one million assumptions about the people in them.

A pretty girl posts a picture of herself smiling in a bar with the caption that she had a great night: Oh, well then she must have had a great time and people must love her because she looks so happy and surrounded by friends!

A model posts a picture of herself in a bikini at the beach with a caption written by Marilyn Monroe: Oh, well she must feel super confident and happy! And she’s so old school chic like Marilyn!

A girl from high school posts a picture of herself at the gym with a caption about feeling proud: Oh, well she must really value health and like her body!

Essena somehow took a concept that we all already knew, and broke it down in such a way that made it interesting again. Of course pictures are not reality and followers are not friends, but for some reason, we all still view them that way. Getting a behind-the-scenes look from a “master” of creating a glamorous online façade was just what just what the doctor ordered.

Essena’s message reaches far beyond the well-timed photo by a professional, though. I’ve written about this before, but social media is not a real depiction of anyone’s life. We can use mine as an example since, well, this is my blog. I am not a professional and don’t post high quality pictures (which could explain my very small following), but I’m sure plenty of people still think they have decent insight into my life. So just for kicks and giggles, I will do what Essena did on her Instagram photos, which is to re-caption some of my most recent pictures with a behind-the-scenes look:


True, Aaron and I had a fantastic day doing fall activities, but the reason we chose to have a day of relaxation is because I was literally crying constantly due to financial stress and Aaron wanted to take my mind off of things.

blogfake 4

I got so annoyed with 2 strangers in line at the wine fest (where this was taken) that I had to remove myself from the situation and go stand alone until Aaron was done buying our bottle.


I was definitely happy in this picture, but that morning I was over-sensitive and got mad at my parents at breakfast, and it took the whole day for me to recover.

Okay, so I didn’t find many recent pictures where I was conveying an emotion I didn’t feel at the very moment the picture was taken, however there is a LOT of backstory to every shot–little stories of hurt, frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment that don’t make the cut. That’s basically Essena’s message: Not only does a lot of effort go into desirable photographs and videos, but the people in the posts are way more dimensional than what you see in a final product.

If Essena’s story is not convincing enough, just look to Madison Holleran. madison holleranShe was a 19-year-old college student at the University of Pennsylvania who took her own life in 2014. Her social media accounts painted an incredibly gorgeous, in-shape, fashionable, well to-do girl with an active social life and loving family. She was and had all of those things, but in moments of solitude, she was deeply unhappy. She compared her life to her friends on social media, wishing she was as happy as they were. So she made her online presence look like she was. That is, until she couldn’t take reality anymore and jumped off the top of an five story parking garage. If this is not the most eye-opening red flag that social media is a facade– or at best, not an all-encompassing look into its users’ lives– then I don’t know what is.

This blog may not have some brand new, profound take on social media, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to highlight the well-known fact that social media does not reflect real life. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any positive benefits, but for goodness sake, can we all stop the madness? Don’t compare your real life to someone else’s fake life. Don’t spend more time trying to get followers and likes than you do developing friendships with people who will actually show up when you need them. Don’t live in a virtual world instead of the real world.

Thank you, Essena, for your candid, unfiltered message. We needed it more than the random photos of celebrities without makeup. And more than the hundreds of Huffington Post articles written by people who have never been in the thick of it. We needed to hear it from someone who could give real anecdotes, provide tangible evidence, and reach the masses. We [sadly] needed to hear from someone thin, blonde, and “carefree” that being pretty and wealthy is not all it’s cracked up to be. Most of us “knew” that already, but an 18-year-old from Australia managed to keep the message relevant– and hopefully, influential.


Filed under Food and Health, General Musings

7 Key Ways to NOT Lose Weight

I’m generally pretty A-OK with my weight. Keep that in mind as you read on, just so you don’t think this is an uncomfortable self-hate post or anything.

From my perspective, gaining and losing lbs is a straightforward mathematical game, as you may remember from a certain blogpost I wrote last year (Re: Weight Loss Solutions and Other Answers You Don’t Want to Hear). Although the general idea of “eat less, move more” is simple, let me tell you what is not simple: Putting down the fork halfway through eating Havana’s shrimp and chicken curry dish. Or continuing to run on the elliptical when breathing feels like a distant memory and your shoes keep putting pressure on your ingrown toe nail, but you’re too poor to buy new shoes or get a pedicure.

As I prepare for my upcoming nuptials, I’ve forgotten Rule #1 of Brides 101: Get as skinny as you possibly can so that you don’t have fat arms in pictures– pictures that will likely hang on the walls of your great great great granddaughter, who may or may not be living in a space station, because we all know Zenon Girl of the 21st Century was a prophecy not to be taken lightly. It may not happen by 2049, but the odds of your wedding photos ending up in space are high to definite.


But here’s the thing:

Not eating makes me

  • Impatient
  • Tired
  • Anxious

Planning a wedding in only 4 months—while fun—makes me

  • Impatient
  • Tired
  • Anxious

If I added those two things together, I’d be

  • Really impatient
  • Really tired
  • Really anxious
  • Single, because no one wants to marry a nightmare

Therefore, instead of bestowing upon you weight loss tips from a wafe-like bride with delicate wrists and admirable triceps, I am happy to share with you 7 tips on how to definitely not lose weight from a bride that looks slightly worse than she did 6 months ago:

  1. Order a milkshake whenever you can

I literally can’t even remember the last time I had a milkshake before I got engaged. Now, I have an average of one a week. My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, including Aaron, I guess.

  1. Two words: Taco Bell

I hate Taco Bell and it’s gross. I didn’t eat there for nearly 15 years. Now, I enjoy a 7-Layer Burrito as a common afternoon snack. It’s disgusting and I can’t stop.

  1. Eat the same portions as your significant other

Obviously, if a 180lb athletic man can eat an entire jar of spaghetti meat sauce without consequences, so can I. Who cares if I only weigh 135lbs and my “muscles” come in the form of cheese and vino? Metabolisms aren’t a real thing.

  1. Drink up

Speaking of vino, I haven’t cut back. Also, if you’re “trying to lose weight for your wedding,” why not sample heavy ales for the first time? I rarely drank beer before now, but this seemed like the perfect time to start…

  1. Always have seconds

Because one giant square of lasagna just isn’t enough for the modern bride.

  1. Add condiments to everything

My sandwiches used to consist of turkey, provolone, and some mustard. Now, I find myself inadvertently asking for [light] mayonnaise. “Mayonnaise” is the most unappealing word ever invented, but it keeps slipping out of my mouth without warning when I’m at Jimmy John’s. Also, since when do I go to Jimmy John’s?

  1. Work out twice a week

Working out twice a week is just enough to convince yourself that you haven’t lost all hope, but also won’t make a difference in your body at all. It’s the perfect way to keep fooling yourself.

cheese fries

May we all be fat and happy together.


Filed under Food and Health, Lists

Sleep is a Good Thing

Last night, I went to bed at 9:45 p.m. My fiancé and friends were still on the couch binge-watching How to Get Away with Murder (all hail Viola Davis), but I was D-O-N-E, done. We hadn’t had a particularly exhausting day or anything. On the contrary, we simply ate brunch, watched football at a neighborhood bar, then stopped by the brewery where we hope to hold our rehearsal dinner. Lots of chill. Like usual, however, I found myself to be the first person to hit the wall that makes staying awake feel just as difficult as still showing interest two hours into a Tinder date.

tired gif 3

Over the years, and particularly in the last few weeks, I started wondering if my need for sleep means that I am severely ill. I had not been to a doctor since high school and slowly became convinced that my insides were dying, therefore imploring my body to rest. This was the only obvious explanation.

Particularly in the months since meeting my very energetic fiancé, I tried to soak in every moment, because my time on earth was clearly coming to an end. I fell asleep during Harry Potter. I wanted to eat—it’s hard to say outloud—Taco Bell. *shudder* I didn’t want any wine after dinner. Something was VERY wrong. Why, God, why??

Well, three weeks ago, a giant wooden pallet fell on my ankle because #life. I avoided the doctor for four days because a $50 copay is much better spent on stamps for my Save the Dates, but when the swelling wasn’t going down and walking felt like stepping on a sword of fire, my stepmom convinced me I should visit Doc in the Box. It didn’t help that meanwhile, I’d developed a severe pain in my abdomen that made me double over in pain every few hours. Body shutting down. This explained the fatigue. The time had come for the world to know of my fatal condition.

I told the very nice doctor that I was probably dying, and he told me he didn’t think so but would do blood work anyway, then quickly ran out of the room to go tell the nurse about the world’s biggest hypochondriac in Room 1. After X-rays of my ankle, the nurse drew blood, and we waited to hear the horrible news. (“We” being my stepmom, Jean, and me, because I’m still 12 and need my parents to take me to the doctor.) Doc came back in and said, “Well I can tell you that you’re not pregnant.” Jean immediately texted Aaron the good news (who handled that text as awkwardly as possible, might I add.) The doctor then said there was more good news—my blood work was normal! I probably had a stomach bug. And also my ankle wasn’t broken, but maybe there’s a fracture we can’t see…good luck! Thanks, Doc. A well spent $50.

Tbh, I wasn’t convinced that I’m not dying. Sorry, but I have never heard of a “stomach bug” that doesn’t make you sick, but instead makes you feel like someone is stealing your kidney without first chloroforming you in the bathtub. Also, since when do blood work results take only ten minutes? But I paid $50 and refuse to go back, so that’s what we’re sticking with. Also, I still can’t stand on my ankle sometimes, but you know, life is good.

fake smile gif

Even though the doctor wasn’t convincing, I decided that he probably knows at least a little more than I do about terminal illnesses, so I needed a new theory for my koala-like nature. Right when I started brainstorming new theories, such as “I am a lethargic cow,” a crazy thing happened. My fiancé got sick.

All of a sudden, he wanted to go to bed at 10 p.m., too. With a 6 a.m. wake up call for work, he noted that “all of this rest” was helping him recover quickly. For some reason, I decided then, and only then, to count the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to see how long his poor, sick body needed to rest. Eight hours. EIGHT. It then hit me that I had been going to bed around 11:30 p.m. most nights due to pushing myself to seem “normal,” getting only 6.5 hours of sleep. I’m not dying!! There are one million articles in Cosmopolitan saying we need 8-9 hours of sleep a night. I’m not crazy. Everyone else is!!

Listen, I’m not sure why I didn’t link being tired to a lack of sleep before now, but I just figured that since I couldn’t keep up with the Kardashians rest of society, I must be abnormal. Upon more thought about my history of too-little sleep, I realized that I wasn’t very sleepy during daylight hours this past winter, which is when I was very, very single/sad and had nothing but chips and guac to keep me up past 10 p.m. At the time, I thought the daytime energy was a glimmer of improvement for my failing body, only to sorrowfully watch it regress in the following months when I upped my social involvement. Now I realize the energy came from all of that time spent dreaming of Chipotle and Chris Pine. (I should mention that my roommates hated me last spring because they had to keep Game of Thrones on low volume. Being antisocial is a big pain to those around you.)

Because of my new, albeit unoriginal, revelation, I’ve recently started allowing myself to go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00 p.m, even if that means leaving the group early. Yes, I’ve always kind of done this—hence the name Shanny the Granny—but that usually meant leaving the bar at midnight instead of 4:00 a.m. This new conclusion is more of a school night kind of deal, without needing the depressing excuse of “wanting to be alone” mentioned in the wintertime, annoyed roommate situation above. If young whippersnappers want to give me a hard time, I will point at the bags beneath their eyes and say “Have fun with that, you fools!” Sure, some vampire-types seem to function normally on six hours, but they’re the real weirdos in this situation.

Since I started sleeping for eight hours these last five nights, I have A) gone to the gym, B) ordered a salad, and C) missed out on nothing. So I urge you, young people of America, go to bed. You’ll feel so much better. For those of you in bed by 9 p.m. most nights, I salute you for not succumbing to peer pressure for the amount of time I did. May you stay healthy and continue to go to the doctor less often than those who have no self control and stay up late to rebel against their teenage years full of enforced bed times.

goodnight honey gif


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Pure Barre: A Detailed Account of What to Expect

I’m not really one for fitness crazes. Mostly because they’re expensive, and I figure between the elliptical and lifting cases of wine the occasional weight, I look decent enough to land a few dates and am healthy enough to keep my primary care physician satisfied. Shoot for the stars.

Inspiring body transformations referencing CrossFit, Pilates, Bikram Yoga, and the like have flooded my newsfeeds for years, always tempting me to give them a try, but I can never justify the couple hundred bucks a month. Plus I keep the full length mirror in my bedroom at a slight tilt so that I look roughly 5-10lbs skinnier than I actually am. Mind tricks are the best. Anyway, I never thought the day would come when I’d sign up for a particular fitness regimen, but lo and behold, that day was December 1, 2014! Thanks to a well-advertised holiday discount and disgust with my post-Thanksgiving Pillsbury Doughboy body, you’re looking at reading the blog of the newest member of the Pure Barre family. LTB, girls! [Lift, Tone, Burn. Just clarifying.]

Pure Barre aims to give women (or men, if you’re into it) long, lean dancer muscles. They use a ballet bar, among other things, to help you perform isometric movements aimed at fatiguing your muscles in a low-impact, high-results kind of way. The goal is to end up looking like Misty Copeland:

misty copeland

Shouldn’t be a problem.

So I signed up. Step one. The real test was attending my very first class. Let me tell you about it.

I walked into the small studio in the heart of Clarendon, the neighborhood in Arlington, VA where all good-looking, young professionals gather to eat, drink, and/or reside. Not much to my surprise, the lobby was full of teeny, toned girls in athletic leggings and racer back tops, casually stuffing their UGG boots into cubbies (the class is socks-only) before entering the workout room. Ignoring the voice in my head telling me to run far, far away, I told the girl behind the front desk that this was my first class. She had me sign a waiver and deposit my belongings and UGGs (I got one thing right!) in a cubby, then led me into the studio. She handed me exactly one little red bouncy ball, one resistance band, and two 2lb weights, then offered a few words of instruction and well-wishes before setting me free to find a seat on the floor among the Blake Lively and Audrina Patridge lookalikes. Fun!

The first three hours two minutes of class were a blur, but I think they involved a lot of miniature pelvic thrusts, leg lifts, and an Ellie Golding song. I was already sweating more than the time I made it three whole feet off the ground during rope climb in fourth grade, but the tiny blonde instructor wearing a backless top and perfectly-executed half up messy bun proceeded to announce that it was time for the “first real challenge of class.” Oh, this should be good. And then came the planks. I’m still not ready to talk about it.

Next, we were instructed to take the little red bouncy ball and put it between our upper thighs. That part, I actually really liked, primarily because scanning a room full of beautiful young women who each look like they just laid an oversized egg is top notch entertainment. I also pictured a guy accidentally walking into the room at that very moment and almost giggled out loud. The things women do for a respectable thigh gap.

My entertainment was short-lived, however, because soon we were lining the walls of the room at the ballet bars, on our tip toes with our legs bent and our butts squeezed. This looks as funny as it sounds and hurts even worse. It wasn’t long before I started shaking so uncontrollably that I undoubtedly made the girl behind me immensely uncomfortable. Would she definitely notice, you ask? Yes. We were one foot apart in a single file line, and as we squeezed our little butt cheeks together while making baby circles with our hips, I had nowhere to look besides at the derriere of the young lady directly in front of me. I never thought you could become numb to watching another person’s butt clench repeatedly, but somehow, it stopped feeling like a violation of her privacy after a minute or two. This is how I knew that the girl behind me had a front and center view of all things happening to my twitching, clenching, and shaking body. Sorry ‘bout that.

Then we got to stretch in the center of the room. Oh! It feels so good! Wait, why is it already over? That was literally two seconds. No, I don’t want to go back to the bar. Please? Fine, but only because I want my butt to look amazing.

Round two at the bar included something quite similar to this move:

PureBarre leg

Looks easy, right? Wrong. If you think my right leg was anywhere near straight or lifted even remotely close to the bar, you are wildly overestimating my core strength and flexibility. And the left leg pointed in front of me? You think that sucker was easily hovering an inch off the ground? Not happening. I looked around the room and saw one girl who resembled the above picture. You. You are the reason I don’t have a boyfriend.

I noticed that the instructor- we’ll call her Quinn because I like that name and she looked like a Quinn- dimmed the lights a notch lower every 15 minutes or so. I wasn’t sure about the point of that, but I was strongly in favor of anything that detracted from my shaking limbs. The darker the better. Like my men. HAH! I’m kidding you guys…or am I? [Sorry, I’m pretty hyped up on holiday chocolates right now.]

Back to regularly scheduled programming: Pure Barre. By the end of class, we were doing an ab workout in complete darkness. It was unconventional, freeing, and strangely motivating. I could make as many ridiculous faces as I wanted while crunching with my hands outstretched in front of me and my legs in a contorted V above me. Frankly, I would’ve been just fine if the whole class was done in pitch black, but Quinn didn’t pass around any suggestion cards as we filed back into the lobby to retrieve our UGGs.

As I made my way to Trader Joe’s, where I left my car because they validate my parking stub if I buy something (a $5 bottle of wine is a much better use of my money than $8 for random garage parking…my life doesn’t revolve around wine, I swear), I decided that despite the feeling that I’d never be able to walk normally again, I’m going to go three times a week for this entire month. Truth be told, I’m pretty excited to see the progress, because there’s really nowhere to go but up. And who knows? Maybe I’ll become friends with some of the hottie patotties in class! They all actually seemed super normal and nice. I even saw one other girl from class buying a bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s afterwards, so she has serious potential.

Between Pure Barre starting now and No Drink January right around the corner, I’m thinking this may be the best February bod I’ve ever had! Which is obviously a great month to have a rockin’ body. Since we’ll be completely bundled in jackets and all.

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25 Questions You Ask Yourself During Thanksgiving Dinner

As much as I’m grateful for family, freedom, and oversized sweaters, I know most of you have reached your limit when it comes to reading “I’m thankful for…” lists. Instead, I present to you 25 questions I asked myself during Thanksgiving dinner last night. I know the title of this post is misleading because I said “25 Questions You Ask Yourself…” instead of “25 Questions I Ask Myself…,” but I’m just really hoping that some of these thoughts crossed your mind, too, so that I don’t feel as alone in my weirdness.

  1. Does my body have white meat and dark meat just like turkeys?
  2. Does thinking about that make me a cannibal?
  3. Was the glossy jello consistency of canned cranberries originally a cooking mistake turned accidental invention?
  4. How can I best separate the mounds of sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes on my plate so that people can’t tell that I’m mostly only eating potatoes?
  5. Why don’t green beans make your pee smell, but asparagus does?
  6. Is stuffing essentially squares of French toast that are savory instead of sweet?
  7. Does that make stuffing breakfast food?
  8. How much wine can I drink before non-drinking relatives notice that I’m no longer on my first glass?
  9. Are jeans actually better Thanksgiving pants than leggings since they don’t have a tight band around the waist?
  10. Should I stop eating since I just had to ask myself about Thanksgiving pants?
  11. How much weight can you gain in one 24 hour period?
  12. Children stop eating when they’re full…so at what age do we keep eating just because it tastes good?
  13. Does thinking about weight at the Thanksgiving table make me a bad American?
  14. Were there obese pilgrims?
  15. Do pies have to be round?
  16. Is the shape of pies a secret marketing tool by crust companies because studies show people eat more if something is round?
  17. How much of the pumpkin pie is actually made from pumpkins?
  18. Do I literally have an invisible second stomach for dessert?
  19. Could Hercules make whipped cream from skim milk?hercules
  20. What is the breaking point between eating so much you feel sick and being one of those people whose stomach actually ruptures?
  21. Does the hospital actually have an influx of ruptured stomach cases on Thanksgiving?
  22. Would I be too afraid to ever eat again if my stomach ruptured, and therefore ultimately lose weight?
  23. How can people even think about going shopping for clothes on Black Friday?
  24. Is Black Friday a politically correct term?
  25. Should I blame the wine or the tryptophan for why my mind is like this?

Don’t judge me.

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15 Gross Words

Yesterday, I asked my coworker how she prepares her spaghetti squash, and she made the horrific decision to use the phrase “flake it off” in her description. [Any food bloggers reading this need to create a Taylor Swift parody called “Flake it Off” immediately. This is me officially signing over the rights to that idea.] Although my coworker was trying to be helpful with her mini-culinary lesson, her use of the word “flake” brought my appetite to a screeching halt. This got me thinking…what other words make my stomach try to reenact a Gabby Douglas floor routine? See list below. No, “moist” is not included. Call me crazy, but I actually think moist cake sounds delicious.

1. Flaky– Dry skin shedding from one’s body. Like dandruff. Sick. [I couldn’t very well leave off the inspiration for this post.]

2. Crusty– That crumpled shirt on your floor with dried food on it. Or worse, unwashed underw— excuse me, I just vomited.

3. Pasta– It’s such a slimy word. Passssttaaa. I mean, I love it, but just don’t love the word.


4. Slather– Slytherin. Snakes. Scales. Greasy scales.

5. Sauce– Inevitably makes me think “secret sauce,” which is probably a tangy recipe filled with pig’s blood, camel intestines, and ranch dressing.

6. Kernel– Honestly, does a kernel of anything sound appealing to you?

7. Pregnant– Let’s stick as many ugly consonants into one word as we can. I also just imagine feeling bloated for 9 months, and that makes me want to cry.

8. Swollen– I don’t like S’s or W’s or L’s, and this word has all three. Also, the aforementioned bloated thing.

9. Ointment– I have an issue with the sound of “oin.” Couldn’t we just called it “soothing cream” or something?

10. Blanch– Say it outloud. Blanch.

11. Fluffy– Some of you think of baby animals or croissants, but I think of puffy fat. I don’t know why.

12. Spongey– N’s should never be paired with soft G’s. Also, sponges are the dirtiest things ever.

13. Quail– I just think of nasty old rotten eggs. And birds in general kind of gross me out.

14. Mustache– It’s an unpleasant word paired with unpleasant imagery.

15. Loin– Again with the “oin” issue. This time we have to think of a male’s meaty upper thigh area, too. Great.


Try and be creative with your replacements for these words next time we chat. For instance, instead of saying, “Shanny, would you like to join my pregnant sister and me for some pasta slathered in sauce, followed by fluffy spongecake for dessert? And wait until you see my brother’s mustache for Movember. It’s so crusty. Also, could you help me put some ointment on my swollen ankle?”- why don’t you try, “Shanny, would you like to join my sister (her baby bump is so big, btw!) and me for some spagoots and yummy cake? And wait until you see my brother- he hasn’t shaved in almost a month. He looks ridiculous. Also, could you help me put some soothing cream on my sprained ankle?(<–who would ask that?)” It’s not that hard, people. Help a sister out.


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Weight Loss Solutions and Other Answers You Don’t Want to Hear

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to.”

I’ve been told that a lot. For some reason, I really love knowing the intimate details of scenarios or opinions that stab me right through the heart. So, did you guys have a really fun time at that wedding I wasn’t invited to? Did my ex bring a date? Was there an open bar? How about instead of getting these answers, I just assume that the wedding was unmemorable, my ex looked around the room and realized he’d never find someone as awesome as me, and it was a cash bar only. But, no. I always need to get the real scoop, then subsequently fight off all kinds of unwanted emotion. Really healthy.

When it comes to asking questions with unwanted answers, I tend to stick to the personal/relational/heartbreaking sort. I’ve noticed, however, that a lot of people don’t want the answers to general self-improvement questions. As a big proponent of the Change-It-If-You’re-Not-Happy Lifestyle (hence why I’ve moved 8,347 times since graduating college), I don’t really understand why people ask how to further their careers, attract more dates, or lose 20lbs if they’re not actually willing to do anything differently. Haven’t you heard the definition of insanity? Doing the same the over and over again and expecting different results. Come on, people.

When people ask me for advice, it’s usually on one of three topics:

  1. Dating (the irony is astounding)
  2. Wine (so proud)
  3. Weight (flattering)

I’m going to focus on #3 here because my answers to #1 and #2 are really, really simple. I’ll get them out of the way quickly:

  1. On getting more dates: Shower and be social. Give your number to someone if you think he’s decent looking/not a serial killer. Say yes when he asks you out. If he doesn’t ask you out, be a confident superstar and casually suggest meeting for drinks. Then meet him for drinks/whatever he suggests. Congratulations, you just went on a date.
  2. On wine: Drink whatever you think tastes good.

So, onto #3. Let me start by saying that I am acutely aware that I am not the most qualified person to answer questions about weight loss and health. I’m going to lay the facts out there, just so you know who’s talking here:

Full Name: Shannon Marie Oliver

Height: 5’7 ¾”

Current weight: 128lbs (though when I weighed myself yesterday morning, I was pretty dehydrated from all the wine I drank the night before…so you may want to add a pound or two. Just keepin’ it real.)

Heaviest weight: 149lbs (sophomore year of college)

Lightest weight: 118lbs (Miss Virginia 2011)

Favorite food(s): Velveeta Shells & Cheese, Guacamole, or Brie cheese. Can’t decide.


Workout regimen: 4-6 months of cardio 4-6 days a week. Followed by 2 months of forgetting the gym exists. Followed by 1 month of trying to decide if I should just cancel my membership. Followed by 1 month of building back up my routine. Repeat.

When people tell me that they want to lose weight, then ask me how I stay thin (oh, stop, not really, tell me more), I notice that 99% of them don’t actually want the answer. Which is to eat less and move more. It’s not rocket science. Unfortunately, particularly in our society, my definition of “eat less” seems really extreme to most people, as does my definition of “move more.” Sure, cutting out french fries or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are technically examples “eating less” and “moving more,” but that’s not really going to take a big dent out of the number on the scale. I’m not suggesting you starve yourself or become a marathon runner, but this is going to take a little more effort than not putting cream in your coffee.

Losing weight is a numbers game- you have to burn more calories than you consume. And people would be shocked if they knew how many calories they unknowingly consume per day. 1500 calories/day (the number that works for most women to lose weight) is a medium latte (200 cals), a burrito bowl at Chipotle (900+cals if you get sour cream, cheese, and guac), and a small serving of chicken and veggies at dinner (3-400 cals). Most people eat those three things, along with an egg sammy for breakfast, some pita chips and hummus in the afternoon, an extra serving of meat at dinner, and usually some kettle chips while watching TV before bed. Plus a couple hundred calories worth of beverages. When I try to explain that they have to stop consuming so much, people spout off all the “healthy” reasons for everything they eat. “You’re supposed to eat a big breakfast.” “Guacamole is healthy fat.” “You’re supposed to eat six times a day to keep your metabolism going.” “I have to energize before doing a workout.” I mean, keep telling yourself that you’re making healthy choices, but it’s not my fault your pants don’t fit.

Yes, breakfast is important. Yes, guac has nutrients. Yes, you can manipulate your metabolism with food. Yes, you need to fuel your body for a workout. HOWEVER, there’s no getting around the fact that if you eat a big breakfast, you’re still consuming much of your daily allotment of calories before 9 a.m. If you must eat a giant breakfast, prepare yourself to show some self-control at lunch and dinner. There’s also no getting around the fact that guacamole contains more calories than chocolate ice cream. Fact. And I hate being the bearer of bad news, but eating six meals a day will make you overweight. Six “meals” really means six “snacks,” if you’re looking at food intake through the eyes of an average American. Also, a “workout” does not mean taking a casual stroll through the park with some hills. Walking is an awesome way to start if you’re severely overweight, but if you only need to lose 20lbs, get your butt moving a little faster than that. And keep in mind that even running three miles only burns off some of the toppings on your Chipotle. Diet will affect your results a whole lot more than working out (though they do and should work in tandem).

As you can tell by my favorite foods and workout regimen, I’m obviously not a fitness guru who loves yoga and crossfit and never sees the scale fluctuate. When the scale does jump up 5lbs, I’m very aware that it’s simply because I’m eating too much and cobwebs are beginning to form in my sneakers. The key to weight loss and maintenance is being honest with yourself and catching a backslide early. For me, cutting out entire food groups or following diet plans just leads to binge eating. I’m an excellent and impressive binge eater. Because of not wanting to perpetuate that talent, I’ve never been on a technical “diet” and the only time I cut out a food group was leading up to Miss Virginia. (I stopped eating starchy carbs. Getting on stage in a bikini and heels will make you do crazy things.) Anyway, when I gained weight my sophomore year of college and during my first five months in NYC, I didn’t really change what I ate. I just ate more of it. When I lost weight, I just stopped eating portions designed for NFL linebackers. Truth: it’s not necessarily what you eat, it’s how much you eat.

In my current stage of maintenance, I am aware of what I put in my body, but don’t overthink it. If I want fries, I get fries and eat as many as my little heart desires (which is usually all of them). But if I do that at lunch, I eat less than usual at dinner. Since that tends to be my routine (big lunch, tiny dinner), my coworkers think I have the metabolism of a hummingbird and my roommates think I’m borderline anorexic. I’ve stopped caring what they think and just do what works for me.

When people ask you how to achieve something, most of the time they don’t want the answer because the answer challenges their lifestyle. In this case, it’s “Oh, the way you stay thin isn’t how I want to do it” or “You just snap your fingers and lose weight because you had to do that when you were in pageants” or “You don’t indulge enough.” Alright, that’s totally cool if you want to think that. I know I’m not a poster child for healthy choices, but at least I’m honest, not at war with food, and apparently look decent enough for you to ask for my advice.

Listen, improving your life is not easy. And weight loss/maintenance holds unique challenges for everyone (plus we all look good at different weights, thanks to differing body types). No one escapes the temptation to make excuses about one or more areas of life- some people just entertain their excuses longer than others. For all of us, though, it’s time we start asking questions and actually acting upon the answers.

(I’m talking strictly the self-improvement questions, here. Still haven’t learned my lesson about those pesky personal/relational/heartbreaking questions. I’ll stop asking them someday. Maybe.)

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Never/Always: Food Edition

I know that lists are a lazy man’s blog post, but hey, we all get lazy. Lists won’t hurt anyone as long as no one forgets how to write a complete sentence at the end of the day. With that in mind, I have decided to start a new little installment of Generation grannY: The “Never/Always” series. My first edition will revolve around my favorite subject: food.

11 Foods on which I’ll NEVER Waste the Calories 

11 Foods on which I’ll ALWAYS Waste the Calories

Inevitably, you will not agree with all of these, but try not to get too offended. Also, if you agree with 100% of these and are a male between the ages of 25-35, please send me your phone number on the “Contact Me” page because we might be soul mates.


1. Macaroons. If I wanted something light and airy, I’d eat lettuce.

2. The tortilla at Chipotle. 300 calories just for the tortilla? Pass. Bowl please.

3. Heavy dressing. This makes a salad contain more calories than a burger. I’ll take the burger.

4. Twizzlers. I might as well go to the nearest playground and gnaw on the red slide.

5. Microwavable mac and cheese. Call me a mac and cheese snob if you want. Not offended.

6. Tough bread. Sure, I might burn calories just trying to tear it apart with my teeth, but still.

7. Generic ice cream. Unless it’s Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, or something reputable, it tastes like one big scoop of freezer burn.

8. Pretzels. I’m not even going to get into why. If you don’t understand, I can’t help you.

9. Raisins. Did you know that those tiny boxes have 130 calories? I’d rather have a cookie, thank you.

10. Mayonnaise. As great as a jar full of undisguised, white fat sounds…

11. Big, corporate muffins. 4-600 calories in your average blueberry muffin. Um.



1. Guacamole. Every day. No limit.

2. Peanut butter. In ice cream. On my banana. Straight from the jar. Any way you serve it, I’ll take it.

3. Meat. What can I say? Surf and turf, I like it all (well, not ALL- I’m not a sicko who eats horse).

4. Cheese and crackers. Brie. Gouda. Cheddar. Havarti. Pepper Jack. Muenster. I need to stop before I salivate on my computer.

5. Curry. If there’s Thai or Indian curry in the vicinity, count me in with a giant bowl of white rice.

6. Good chocolate. Sorry, Hershey’s, but you belong in list #1. Dove, you’ve stolen my heart (and my waist line).

7. Sushi. Piles and piles of sushi. You’re looking at about 300-500 calories per roll, but I’ll take a whole boat.

8. Focaccia bread. It’s like pizza, but makes you feel dainty and not quite as gluttonous.

9. Wedding cake. It’s a party and sometimes wedding cake tastes like love.

10. Mashed potatoes. A mountain of comfort.

11. French fries. YOLO.



Happy eating, all!!


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More Than One Healthy Body: Former Pageant Queens Weigh In

People talk a lot about health, weight, and how the two correspond. The general consensus seems to be that “healthy” does not look the same on every body type. Agreed. But what if each body type- each individual- doesn’t have one weight or look that reflects personal health? Can the same person be equally healthy at 125lbs and 150lbs? Can we be just as healthy with normal, flat-ish stomachs rather than six packs…even if our bodies are proven to be capable of the latter?

Men and women alike look to the cover of Fitness Magazine or at their marathon-running friends for proof that their bodies are unhealthy or unattractive. These harmful body-to-body comparisons are constantly critiqued and analyzed by talk shows and blogs and Facebook statuses and “real” celebrities. But what about the comparisons we all make with our past selves? Most of us were at an “ideal” weight at one time in our lives. We have pictures that we look back upon with a sense of anxiety…Why don’t I look like that anymore??? That’s my body’s happy weight. That’s when my arms were toned and healthy. I’m ready for the underexposed discussion about the battle many of us face- the one where we use ourselves as the weapon.

Before becoming Miss New York 2012, I competed in my fair share of pageants within the Miss America Organization. This means I spent years getting into fighting shape for the swimsuit portion of pageants. I cannot speak for every woman in pageants, but for me, I was healthy as a horse for swimsuit. Sure, I was really thin, but I was in great shape thanks to hours in the gym. I ate mostly protein and veggies, but didn’t deprive myself of every little thing. At the end of the day, I rocked that bikini like I was Alessandra Ambrosio (okay, maybe only in my head…).

Surprise, surprise- my body does not look like that anymore. I still eat relatively healthily and go to the gym 3-4 days a week (rather than 6-7), but am a size 4 instead of a size 0-2. Sometimes I catch myself looking at pictures, thinking “I am not as healthy as I used to be. I have got to get my pageant bod back.” HOW RIDICULOUS.  My doctor says I am currently the epitome of health. Funny thing, though…he told me the same thing when I was in pageant shape. You see, muscles are healthy, but so are hips and boobs. Guess what boobs are made of? Not muscle. Just saying.

health blog Shannon

L: Associate at a strategy and management consulting firm/Aspiring Writer; R: Miss Virginia 2011 Competition(I don’t have a full length picture of when I competed for Miss New York…womp)
L Work Out: 3-4 days a week/30-45 mins
R Work Out: 6-7 days a week/1-1.5 hours
My take on health: I’ve gone through stages of not working out for X or Y excuse, but found that I felt constantly tired and spent way too much time stressing about my looks. Eating healthily and hitting the gym even just a few days a week takes about 2-3 hours of my time each week, which is an amazing trade for the countless hours I spent feeling lethargic and insecure. Health is objectively seen in your body, but it’s also about subjectively how you feel…and hopefully, those things align!

I’m not telling anyone that gaining bunches of weight isn’t a health problem. I’m talking to the crowd who still works out regularly and doesn’t eat like they’re Michael Phelps. To those folks, keep in mind that you don’t need a booty that can bounce a penny in order to be fit! Your body can display more than one representation of happy and healthy. With basic maintenance and balance, post-pageant (or baby or career) bodies are just as desirable and healthy as the pre-[fill in the blank] bodies!

My friends are great examples…my friends being Miss America 2013, Miss America 2010, Miss Virginia 2010, and Miss Virginia 2011 (does this count as name-dropping?). These women were incredibly beautiful and healthy on the Miss America stage, but are still incredibly beautiful and healthy today. Most of them are like me, however, owning their health in bodies that don’t look the exact same as they did when they were focused on competing in a swimsuit (though they still look pretty darn fantastic). They did not starve themselves or take unhealthy measures to reach that competition physique (self-control and deprivation are different beasts), plus they continue to treat their bodies with respect in their new daily routines that don’t revolve around bikini-wear. The only difference in their health is that they may look slightly different. And you know what? That’s okay.

The women below are 10-25lbs heavier than their lowest pageant weights. They are brave and proud and strong to bare their health in honesty while facing a culture full of critics! May any reader bear that in mind (though I’m sure most of you will agree that they look fantastic in both bodies).

Mallory Hytes Hagan, Miss America 2013

health blog mallory

L: Newly signed talent to William Morris Endeavors with the hopes of becoming an Entertainment Host

R: Miss America 2013 competition

L Work Out: Weight Training 4 days a week (approx 45 min); Cardio twice a week (20-30 mins)

R Work Out: Alternated Weight Training (45 min) and Cardio (45 min) every other day; Tap Dancing (1 hour) three days a week, Bikram Yoga (1.5 hours) three days a week

Mallory’s take on health: I truly believe that health cannot be measured with the eyes. Health is a combination of consistently choosing nutritious food, maintaining an active lifestyle, being spiritually fulfilled, being connected and engaged with your friends and loved ones but, most of all, enjoying your life. While competing in swim suit, I may have been overjoyed with how amazing my body looked, but I never felt as though I was “living.” As I’ve been quoted before, “sometimes you just want potatoes!” I’ll take a glass of champagne, an occasional piece of bread and even delicious dessert every once in a while over the “perfect” body. Why? Because that’s what makes me HAPPY! To heck with the rest of it.

Caressa Cameron Jackson, Miss America 2010

health blog Caressa

L: Director of Client and Community Engagement at FAHASS an HIV/AIDS non-profit in Virginia

R: Miss America 2010 Competition

L Work Out: 2 days a week, mixing workout tapes with gym time

RWork Out: 6 days a week with strict diet plan

Caressa’s take on health: Being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy is critically important as a young woman. Finding the time to nurture all of those areas amidst our ambition, careers, school, volunteering, friendships and families can often be hard. The most important thing is to find the space where YOU are happy with you and not allowing society to dictate what you SHOULD look like. Side note: My husband loves my curves.

Elizabeth Crot, Miss Virginia 2011/Top 15 at Miss America 2012

health blog elizabeth

L: Nanny and aspiring singer/actress in NYC

R: Miss America 2012 Competition

L Work Out: 1-3 days at gym doing mostly body weight workouts, yoga, and a ton of walking in the city (yes, that’s a workout)

R Work Out: 5-6 days a week and very plain food

Elizabeth’s take on health: I grew up with a southern cook for a mother so nutrition and organics were kind of foreign until recently. I’ve found that what you put into your body has the most impact on how you look, and I’ve been experimenting with healthy cooking. I use garlic in everything!

Katie Uze, Miss Virginia 2010/Top 10 at Miss America 2011

health blog Katie

L: Associate Producer for CSPAN/Student at Harvard University

R: Miss Virginia 2010 Competition

L Work Out: 3-4 days a week (workout DVDs and gym)/30min-1 hour

R Work Out: 6 days a week/1-2 hours

Katie’s take on health: Healthy isn’t about a number- it’s about having a body that that is strong and capable of carrying us through life. We should celebrate our bodies for all they do for us daily rather than punish them for the small superficial ways we feel they don’t live up to society’s unrealistic ideals. We are so much more than a shell, so much deeper than we appear. There are so many more valuable ways to judge a person and so many truer measures of a woman than her waistline or dress size. Respect your body as a vehicle to take you where you want to go in life, and remember that true beauty is demonstrated through the way in which we live our lives.


Filed under Food and Health, Pageantry