I am a size 18 and here’s what I think about it

The internet is buzzing with the talk of the first plus-size model appearing in the upcoming February 9th issue of none other than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Her name is Ashley Graham and if you ask me, she is absolutely stunning.

Ashley Graham, Facebook Timeline Photos- swimsuitsforall

Ashley Graham, Facebook Timeline Photos- swimsuitsforall

Ashley appears in an ad in the magazine that is part of online retailer swimsuitsforall campaign with the tagline “You’ve Got It. Flaunt It.” The bikinis from the Swim Sexy line range from sizes 10-34, featuring #CurvesInBikinis. Ashley is a size 16 and is not to be confused with Robyn Lawley – a size 12 plus-size model – who has been named the actual first plus-size model (and not because she’s expecting a baby any day now per her Instagram) to be included in a Sports Illustrated editorial feature. Robyn will be seen wearing a swimsuit from her own swimwear line. Is your head [pardon the pun, I couldn’t help it] swimming yet?

Robin Lawley poses for the 'Sports Illustrated' 2015 swimsuit issue, on sale Feb. 9, 2015. (Photo: James Macari, Sports Illustrated)

Robin Lawley poses for the ‘Sports Illustrated’ 2015 swimsuit issue, on sale Feb. 9, 2015.
(Photo: James Macari, Sports Illustrated)

For the record, I think both women are beautiful, and I applaud them for their hard work and dedication in staking a claim in an industry that I can only assume in exceedingly competitive with extremely high standards, including an extreme expectation of how beauty should look that often appears to be entirely unattainable for the everyday woman.

That being said, the images of size 16 Ashley are the ones that have captured the most attention, including my own.

Ashley Graham, Facebook Timeline Photos- swimsuitsforall

Ashley Graham, Facebook Timeline Photos- swimsuitsforall

In these images, Ashley appears more like me than any model I have seen in recent history anywhere noteworthy. She has curvy hips and thighs, big boobs and a tummy that protrudes ever so slightly. While I am sure these images are photoshopped in some way, I even think I see a small imperfection on her thigh that might (oh my God) be cellulite.

The rapid internet fire surrounding the ad has been pretty evenly divided between “What are they thinking promoting obesity?” and “Finally! That’s what a real woman should look like!” The comments themselves range from enlightened to hysterical to absurd to downright hurtful. I am saddened to say the most criticism, no scrutiny, has come from the fitness community that I consider myself to be a part of. A community that welcomed me as a plus-sized runner, who now undoubtedly was also entrusted with the expectation that I would one day be something other than a plus-sized runner and therefore my looks were, well, overlooked for the time being.

We’ve heard it said and proclaimed it ourselves that health is not a number, it’s not a size and it is not a result of one factor alone. Health is not exclusively your weight or your jeans size, any more than it is your shoe size. Yet, people have deducted that Ashley must be unhealthy according to her curves. We, in fact, don’t really know if she is healthy or not – and it doesn’t really matter what we think we know. Ashley herself reports that she works out with a trainer multiple times a week, eats well and doesn’t deny herself every last treat, every last time. She is a self-proclaimed “body diversity ambassador” and states confidence, not size, is sexy. She radiates positivity about her body and speaks about she has overcome a long self-esteem battle born of the number on the scale and expectations in her early modeling career. She even has her own Curvy Fit Club.

Both Ashley and Robyn have spoken about how the plus-size label should not be defining of who they are as individuals. The modern idea of what women should look like, garnished from TV, movies and print, has conditioned us to see women like Ashley and Robyn as plus-size, indicating they do not look like they should and therefore, there is something wrong with them. Even when I look at Ashley I think she looks bigger, curvier, fuller, etc. but not ugly or unhealthy.

In reality, Ashley might be completely healthy – even more so than the slender woman you see – and at the end of the day, it’s health that should be the one thing that matters to us all. I can’t really think of anything more valuable than my health, especially since I myself came dangerous close to the ultimate penalty of poor health (self inflicted or not, as in my case), which would be death. It was not until I suffered a life-threatening blood clot in my lung two years ago that I understood exactly how important my health really was.

So, from here and for the first time ever, I am talking about my size. And I don’t mean I have decided to announce it on the World Wide Web either – for the first time in, well, ever, I told my husband last night…

I am a size 18.

(And you know what he said? “Oh, okay. I don’t get women’s sizes anyway.”)

Life went on. The Earth kept spinning. Nothing came from the sky and swallowed me whole.

I am a size 18. And, thanks to Ashley, I am ready to talk about it. All of it.

I’m no longer striving to be a size. Nope, no more. It ends right here, right now. While I am not quite the picture of health right now, a size is not the picture I am going to continue aiming for anymore. My picture looks like healthy – no numbers, no sizes, no measurements.

Truth be told, I am healthier than I was three or four years ago when I first started running. My blood sugar is normal; I’m not currently insulin resistant (and therefore at an increased risk for diabetes); and my triglycerides and cholesterol are normal. Still, I have improvements I want to make. I want to feel better. Even though I feel better than I did, I don’t always feel well. I want to regularly exercise, eat to heal my body and yes, I want to lose some weight to help achieve these things. I want to build back my endurance, my cardiovascular health and I want to have strength in my arms and abs again. But, I am no longer striving to be a number on the scale.

I’ve been hard on myself, downright hateful. When, the truth is, most of the time I strive to look pretty – even beautiful – and enjoy dressing and accessorizing to do so. I wear things I am comfortable in, but also things that flatter my curves. My husband thinks I am downright sexy and you know what? Maybe he is right. I do not see what he sees most of the time when I look in the mirror, but now thanks to Ashley, I am starting to see things a little differently. Curves are beautiful. I dare say that extra weight is beautiful. Boobs and butts are beautiful. And maybe even a little tummy is beautiful. We are women, after all. And even more beautiful than all of that? A woman who is healthy, happy, confident and comfortable in her own body, regardless of the number on the scale.

I am a Size 18.

I am a Size 18.


Until the next mile marker,

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Make Your Health A Priority

Over the course of my adult life, healthy eating habits, weight loss, exercise and wellness in general have not come naturally – or even easy at times – to me. I’ve had to work hard to run, to lift, to eat fruits and vegetables, hydrate my body and even take care of my health. Running is not easy for me, nor will it ever be, however, the challenge of running and physical activity is also what makes it appealing to me. In 2009, my health reached an all-time record of poorer than it had ever been, and my weight reached an all-time record of higher than it had ever been. I was miserable, I was unhealthy and I didn’t like myself very much. For me, whether or not I like myself, has always been tied to my physical appearance so when I gained weight, my opinion of myself plummeted. Nothing really significant changed in my eyes other than I stopped walking around campus after I graduated and landed a high-stress job soon after that was more conducive to hitting the drive-through than packing a healthier option.  I committed to running a half marathon after hearing I was at high-risk for diabetes. Go big or go home, right? I trained for five months, crossed the finish line and entered a world of racing that took me on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I raced, made friends that have lasted a lifetime, overcame obstacles I never thought I could (like loving myself again), reduced my health risks and even lost nearly 70 pounds in the process.

Everything abruptly stopped for me after I unexpectedly lost my mother just two years later. Mom was my biggest cheerleader – in running and in life. She inspired me and many others to get healthy and fit and to stay that way. At 61 years old, she was for the first time in her life training to run a quarter marathon, right up to the day she died, in fact. When I lost her, my grief consumed me.  I stopped running as much and started eating a few more things that I didn’t eat before. I didn’t lose all control, though, and tried to keep up with my training through coaching other runners. When I had an equally unexpected blood clot in my calf travel to my lung a year after Mom’s death, it was game over for me in terms of fitness and health. I lost all control – although unwillingly this time. I physically, emotionally and mentally could not do anything to take care of myself. Just surviving the injuries my body sustained was all I could do – and I was barely doing that.

Now, over two years into my recovery period, I am ready to begin again. While I still carry the emotional wounds of what happened to me, physically I am ready to start taking care of myself again. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun – and I face a whole new set of challenges this time because of my health – but, I know it is time to put this body back in motion.

I don’t yet know if running will be my activity of choice. I have a lot of painful memories associated with it that I’m not able to process, yet, but I know it has to be something. Maybe walking or cycling or more hiking. I won’t be going big this time – but I will be going.

Getting into a regular health and fitness routine is difficult – whether you are just starting out or starting over. Whether you’re making your health a priority for the first time or 18th time, fitness, health and wellness require hard work, determination, change and even discomfort. More often than not, it’s hard to get healthy!

Going into 2015, it is my goal to put my health first – again. I believe anyone can do it too. Because I did it and if I did it, so can you. And, guess what? You can take small steps to get there. Small steps add up to something when it comes to your health. If there is one thing I have learned over the past several years it is if you lose your health, you have lost everything. If you have your health, then you have everything.

Here are some simple steps to make your health a priority this year:


Be heard and get screened. Make regular doctor’s appointments and go to them. A lot of health problems can not only be found, but solved early on. As questions, be the one in control of your own health. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, take the initiative to take care of you.

Listen to your body. I didn’t listen to mine and I almost wasn’t there to talk about it. One day I went for a two mile run, and the next day I was in Intensive Care without any knowledge of if I would ever come out. I had a pain in my calf that I thought was a pulled muscle, which was actually a blood clot that traveled from my leg, through my heart and lodged in my left lung, becoming life-threatening. I was having trouble breathing and I could barely walk, but I ignored what was swiftly becoming a problem.

Love your heart. This is where even small changes yield big results. Eat right (you know how – fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, less sugar and less processed foods, drink plenty of water and move more everyday.

Educate yourself and be safe. Facing a chronic and lifelong illness, I have become very conscious about my health. If you’re facing any challenged whether it be recovering from foot surgery or fighting cancer, know your risks and know what medications you are putting in your body. Again, ask questions. You are your best advocate!

Tell me about you. How are you going to make your health a priority in 2015?

Until the next mile marker,

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Thank you to the American Recall Center for providing this Infographic and the opportunity to include my own insight. Connect with ARC on Facebook today.

Top Ten Natural Blood Thinners – The Spice Edition

Top Ten Natural Blood Thinners Cover

Ever since I have been diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), I have been reading about natural “cures” and remedies for blood clotting, including what natural blood thinners exist. I don’t know about you, but it really bothers me to be on so much medication and for such a serious condition. I would like to get to a point someday where I can not be dependent on medication. I believe that the earth – in it’s natural state – originally provided everything our bodies needed to survive and heal. How else would be have survived all of these tens of thousands of years?

I believe the state of our environment, water and food supplies have a lot to do with what is causing us to be sick in the first place. Especially in America (and those counties that eat our food), we have paid a price for convenience, preservation and price all while sacrificing what is natural, whole and healing.

There is some interesting information online about natural remedies for serious disorders, and all new courses of treatment should be discussed with your healthcare provider before you make a switch. For instance, people taking prescription anti-coagulant drugs also need to be careful not to consume too many foods with natural blood thinning components in addition to their regular medication.

The chemicals in blood thinners, which are known as salicylates are also found naturally in some plants, stored in the bark, leaves, roots, skin and seeds. Blood thinners help block vitamin K and in nature, salicylates help to protect plants against insect damage and disease. Aspirin is another everyday example containing salicylate and many foods also contain them.

I love to cook with spices – and not just salt and pepper – so I was excited to see there are many spices and herbs that are naturally comprised of salicylates, or natural blood thinners. Below is my list of the top ten natutal blood thinning spices and what you can use them for, along with some other health benefits they may provide.

  1. Ginger- Ginger can be added to almost anything and brings flavor to most meals. I use it in Asian and Indian dishes. Ginger also helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and has been used in the treatment of a variety of ailments from cancer to migraines.
  2. Cayenne Pepper- Cayenne Pepper is one of nature’s most healing and therapeutic foods. It gets it’s color and spicy flavor from an ingredient known as capsaicin. I love spicy food so I use this ingredient a lot. Remember, a little goes a long way!
  3. Curry Powder– One of my all-time favorite spices to cook with. Curry has many anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat inflammatory diseases for centuries. I use curry on a weekly basis in shrimp, chicken and vegetable dishes.
  4. Paprika – Paprika is rich in antioxidants and vitamin c and also helps the cardiovascular system by reducing swelling and increasing circulation. I don’t use it very often, but it is good on eggs and potatoes. I will definitely have to get more paprika next time I head to the grocery store.
  5. Thyme – Thyme is rich antioxidants and helps aid in digestion, as well as soothing coughs. My favorite way to eat thyme is in a tea right before bed time.
  6. Cinnamon- Consume pure cinnamon to help with regulation of blood sugar and lowering of cholesterol as well as blood thinning. Cinnamon has long been used in baking recipes, but I prefer it sprinkled on top of oatmeal or over a cup of hot apple cider in the fall. I also use cinnamon in several Indian dishes.
  7. Dill- Dill has been used for centuries in cooking and as a herbal remedy. It is known to be a digestive and sleep aid. I like dill on baked or sauteed potatoes or in an egg omelet.
  8. Oregano– This herb is excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium and when eaten fresh, it packs a punch of vitamin c as well. I love oregano in pasta sauces most of all. I just toss some of the fresh herb in the pot after chopping it up a bit.
  9. Turmeric- Turmeric is the ingredient in curry that gives it a vibrant yellow color. It has anti-inflammatory properties and just a pinch is tasty in egg salads and deviled eggs.
  10. Peppermint– Peppermint helps an irritable bowel and may also help in the fight against cancer. I like peppermint freshly steeped in hot or iced tea.

Next time you are cooking, try a couple of these herbs and even if they don’t help clotting, they are sure to not only delight your senses and tantalize your taste buds, but maybe add in some extra health benefits too.

Until the next mile marker,