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    Making These 9 Simple Changes Totally Transformed My Body (and Mind)

    OK, fine, I’ll say it: I’m a huge nerd. I’m the girl in the office who brings a Ziploc bag of adaptogens and collagen for an afternoon superfood latte, I spend all of my free time researching ancient medical practices, and I’ve recently become a certified health coach out of sheer passion for helping other women get healthier too (#shamelessplug). Call it nerdy or call it extra, but health has always been my thing. However, when it comes to my body, health hasn’t always been so simple.Yes, I love to eat well and have tested lots of expert nutrition advice over the years, but I can’t resist a good truffle mac ‘n’ cheese and I never say no to a glass of red wine. Restriction has never been my forte, which has caused a lot of guilt over the years (after all, wasn’t I the “healthy” girl?). Accidental weight fluctuations came (as they naturally do), through transitioning in and out of college years, and, while I’ve always prided myself on being self-confident, I could never escape the occasional distress over a fat roll or a patch of cellulite.
    Over the past couple of years, my life changed drastically (like moving to Los Angeles), and with it, my body did too. Today, I feel in touch with my body and what it needs. The right changes made my skin clear up, my digestion improve, my confidence skyrocket, and my anxiety decrease. Sound like another “miracle” diet? Think again. After a lot of trial and error throughout my life, these nine changes made the greatest impact on my body (and mind): 

    1. Not labeling foods as “good” or “bad”
    Everything we eat has been predefined by our culture. “Sugar is bad for you,” “Whole30 is good for you,” or “I was so bad last week when I was on vacation” are all phrases you’ve probably heard too many times to count. Putting a moral value on food choices may not seem like a big deal. In fact, maybe you feel like it’s a helpful way to narrow down options (I certainly did!). However, when we put black and white labels on food, what’s meant to nourish us becomes associated with guilt. Plus, the “want-what-we-can’t-have” mentality is not just true for bad boys; it’s true for food too, leading to cravings, binges, and serious regret. 
    I have so many thoughts on labeled eating, but for the sake of not going on and on (because I can), I’ll say this: food is meant to be nourishing, satisfying, and pleasurable. I was over food plaguing my will to live and meals that were more like an internal battle than an act as natural as breathing. Getting rid of labels helped me listen to what my body needed to eat, not what I should or shouldn’t eat. And guess what? I started craving fresh vegetables and whole grains, stopped bingeing on late-night snacks, and was able to feel satisfied after a cookie or one slice of pizza because I listened to my body’s cues. 

    2. Working out less
    Yes, you read that right; working out less transformed my body for the better. Let me explain: I grew up as a competitive dancer (I wish it was as cool as Dance Moms, but I was never even half as good as Maddie Ziegler), which meant I was used to daily, intense exercise. When I went away to college, I attended regular workout classes (thinking it might counteract the limitless cafeteria food or slapping the bag at frat parties, I guess?). Fast-forward to 2020: I have a much better relationship with working out and have been exercising for the mental benefits instead of calorie burn (but more on that below!). However, if I could not make it to an hour-long class one day, I wouldn’t exercise at all, since anything else felt pointless.
    When the stay-at-home order hit and my precious gyms and yoga studios closed, I had limited motivation and a lot of anxiety. As a fix, I got more into restorative yoga and would go through flows for 15, 20, or 30 minutes instead of my usual hour-long classes. My new form of movement did not involve weights, fancy machines, or heart-rate monitors. Instead, I went on more walks, took deep breaths during yoga flows (instead of exasperating myself with intense cardio), and started to think every movement made a difference (rather than thinking it has to be an hour long to be worth it). The difference? I’m stronger than I have ever been because I’m prioritizing consistency over length or even quality, and I’m more intuitive to when and what my body needs. 

    Source: Felicia Lasala for The Everygirl

    3. Realizing that there is no “secret”
    Every season brings a new “weight loss pill,” “magic supplement,” or “miracle diet” that promises to be the cure-all to health woes and weight management. If you feel overwhelmed by what you should and shouldn’t try in the wellness space, that’s not on accident. In order to sell you on limitless products and programs, you have to feel like your health is not in your control. I’ve tried popular diets, regularly tested new supplements, and have always been a follower of the latest workout trend, but what I’ve been missing is the big picture. The truth is that one change won’t transform your body, mind, or life. Instead, it’s a bunch of little habits that build up into greater changes. Also, the body is not a one-size-fits-all pair of socks. What works for one person may not work for you, and vice versa. The only “secret” applicable to everybody is to listen to your body. 

    4. Adding instead of subtracting
    In my humble opinion, the problem with any diet is that it’s focused on what not to eat, which reinstates the labels of “good” and “bad.” One of the greatest changes that made the most difference in my eating habits is learning about food. When I knew about the nutrients and benefits that come from whole foods and plants (rather than just knowing they were “good”), I started seeing food as medicine and fuel, rather than just seeing it as a reward (like when I had an intense craving for mac ‘n’ cheese) or an enemy (like when I felt guilt for bingeing on said mac ‘n’ cheese). Focusing on eating more plants and whole foods has not only helped me feel my best and crave fruits and vegetables, but it has also subconsciously crowded out processed and sugary foods (totally guilt-free!). 

    5. Eating fruit for breakfast
    Pre-transformation Josie was obsessed with protein. I had heard protein was the secret for toning muscles, so of course, breakfast always had to mean eggs or two scoops of the protein powder du jour (relevant side-note: as a lifelong vegetarian, getting enough protein was my downfall anyways). When I started thinking about how to add more produce, I tried eating more fruit in the mornings. After a while, I realized eating fruit surprisingly filled me up without making me lethargic or painfully bloated like I usually felt by noon.
    So I let go of the idea that I needed a protein-heavy breakfast and instead listened to what my body craved: fruit. Some days, I dress up berries and pears with nut butter, coconut shreds, and goji berries like the pillar of health that I strive to be, and other days, I’ll cut up whatever fruits are in my fridge. I’ve never felt so energized, had less digestive issues (which have unfortunately always been a problem for me), and even have fewer cravings throughout the day. The lesson here is not that you should eat fruit for breakfast too. Instead, the lesson is to listen to your body instead of outside opinions. 

    6. Enjoying healthy habits for reasons that have nothing to do with weight loss
    You might be thinking around this point that this article is just a body-positive message, and maybe even a commentary on diet culture, but it’s not a concrete list of ways to reach your body and health goals. But honestly and truly, after years of testing out different diets, workout methods, and “healthy” habits, nothing changed until everything clicked at once. The changes started happening when I was enjoying healthy habits (for both the mind and body), rather than thinking I had to do them in order to look a certain way. This is not woo-hoo self-help advice; being healthy for benefits like mental health and energy is what made the most drastic changes in my body (oh, and it was actually sustainable). 

    7. Drinking more water
    Drinking more water is a tale as old as time, but there’s a reason just about every expert on the planet recommends it. Drinking a big glass of water first thing when waking up, sipping on a reusable straw throughout the day (I’m partial to these pretty gold ones), and having three drinks at a time to achieve optimal hydration (like lemon water and green juice with my coffee), has made a drastic difference in how my body feels. If I start getting hungry too soon after eating, rather than going straight to the pantry to mindlessly snack, I drink a big glass of water. Of course, if I’m still hungry afterward, I’ll eat something nourishing (the body knows what it needs), but more often than not, I’ve realized that a lot of hunger cues are actually thirst. 

    Source: Iron + Honey for The Everygirl

    8. Prioritizing sleep
    Yet another mistake pre-transformation Josie made: every Thursday morning during my senior year of college, I would wake up when it was still dark out and go to a 6am spin class. Yes, even after Wine Wednesday (imagine!). I often abided by the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality, which often meant staying out late while still fitting in a workout when I could (AKA the crack of dawn). It’s not that going to an early morning workout class is bad (it’s not!). But I chose working out over getting enough sleep, thinking it was the better option for me. These days, if I have to choose between a workout and getting 7-8 hours of sleep, you know what I choose? Sleep. Every time. 
    Don’t take my word for it. Even celebrity trainer, Anna Kaiser (who counts Karlie Kloss and Shakira as clients—’nuf said), told The Cut, “If you’ve only been sleeping five or six hours and can either sleep an extra hour or work out, sleep an extra hour. If not, you’re running your body down, which will affect your energy. Working out harder or better or eating less isn’t the answer. It’s about getting enough sleep.” 

    9. Changing what “dream bod” or “goal weight” means to me
    Now for the biggest truth bomb of all: if you’re struggling to reach your health goals, perhaps the problem is not what you are or are not doing, but what your health goals are to begin with. On social media, we’re bombarded with hashtags like #fitspo and #dreambod, and often build health goals around a certain pants size or number on a scale. But those extra five, ten, fifteen, twenty pounds is where life happens. That’s the extra glass of wine with your best friend, the ice cream cone at the beach in the middle of summer, your favorite chocolate cake from the bakery down the road that tastes like the one your mom used to make. Why are we so focused on shrinking these moments, demoting them to be worth nothing more than a pants size or a fat roll?
    Instead, I’m letting my body exist in the healthy space it wants to be in. My “ideal weight” or “ideal body” is the one that yes, I feel most strong, energized, and healthy in, but also that allows me the extra indulgences, fun moments, and enjoyment. Above all, being a health coach has taught me that “health” is not a destination or a final accomplishment. Rather, it’s a tool we can use to help us live our happiest lives. Otherwise, what’s the point?  

    Have you tried any of these tips? More

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    My Name is My Identity: Why Having a Ghanaian Name Means So Much to Me

    To commemorate the 400 years since enslaved African people departed from West African shores and landed in the United States, Ghana declared 2019 the “Year of Return.” Hundreds of thousands of people from the African diaspora around the world went to Ghana to rebuild a lost past and connect with their roots and ancestry. I heard countless stories of people adopting new Ghanaian names that connected them to their unknown history. There was an electrifying atmosphere and I felt proud to be a Ghanaian with a Ghanaian name. My name is one of royalty and purpose. I own my name; it’s who I am and I’m proud of it. My name is NaaDei, pronounced ‘Naa’ (like in ‘na’tural) and ‘Dei’ (as in ‘day’). These two ordinary syllables have perplexed many for my entire existence, causing much confusion, dismissal, disapproval, and negativity. When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate my name and, if I’m being honest, I wished I had an English, easy-to-pronounce name. Sadly, campaigns like My Name, My Identity didn’t exist in my childhood, so as a consequence, my sister and I literally changed what we called ourselves. That uncomfortable, constant, lengthy, arduous, and repetitious dialogue about my name was so draining that I ended up using an easier “nickname” until my late teens.

    That uncomfortable, constant, lengthy, arduous, and repetitious dialogue about my name was so draining that I ended up using an easier “nickname” until my late teens.

    Unsurprisingly, many people have a similar experience. Whether it’s too ethnic, too different, or too awkward, I know I’m not the only one who has shortened, changed, or abbreviated their name to make it “easier” for others. We change it because we don’t want to constantly reinforce, explain, and justify our identity. I say “we” because this happens far too often in society. Our society is diverse and multicultural, so differences should be expected and accepted. Yes, a name may sound different, but it still deserves enough respect to be pronounced correctly. 
    My most vivid memory in relation to my name is from my university graduation ceremony. The school asked us to write any “unusual” names phonetically on paper to make it easier for the announcer. My name phonetically is ‘Nah–Day Neek-Way’ and this is exactly what I wrote in bold black marker. As I walked up to the podium, I handed the paper over and smiled, as I was about to walk across the stage after four years of hard work. But to my dismay and embarrassment, I heard, and I quote, “Natalie Negwalski!” What? How? I was horrified! I had a million thoughts running through my mind in that millisecond but the loudest one was, “NO, NaaDei, you need to correct her!” And, so I did! Normally I’d let it slide, but not that day. With thousands of onlookers, I politely shook my head and index finger simultaneously, saying NO, please say it correctly! After three attempts, she got it, and I finally walked across the stage feeling an immense sense of pride. 

    Our society is diverse and multicultural, so differences should be expected and accepted. Yes, a name may sound different, but it still deserves enough respect to be pronounced correctly. 

    That was the first time in my life that I wouldn’t accept being called anything else but my exact name. And what made it more empowering was that several strangers of different races approached me after the ceremony either giving me high fives, hugs, or applauding what I had done, because they too knew how I felt. They shared my experience and were happy to see someone stand up unapologetically about something that was different.
    While my name appears to be different, it’s not. The Ga-Dangbe tribe’s cultural norms are based on the family surname, gender, and birth order. The prefix “Naa” signifies respect and royalty and “Dei” is given to all first-born females in my family’s clan. I’m a first-born girl that can be traced back to the Neequayes in Accra from centuries-long ago, and I’m connected to all of this because of my name. These types of rich customs and traditions exist all around the world. Millions of people have different types of names with deep-rooted meanings signifying a meaningful family, culture, or legacy. My identity is part of who I am and my name connects me to my ancestors, and that is not strange.

    Millions of people have different types of names with deep-rooted meanings signifying a meaningful family, culture, or legacy. My identity is part of who I am and my name connects me to my ancestors, and that is not strange.

    I acknowledge that saying new names can be uncomfortable, even for me. However, if you find yourself in that predicament of saying a new name: ask how to say the name correctly, clarify if needed, apologize if you mispronounce it, make an effort to learn from your mistakes, and lastly, don’t make excuses. The old excuse of “I’m sorry, I’m just horrible with names” doesn’t cut it anymore. People should no longer dismiss their identity in an attempt to appease others. Be respectful of the millions of people with “unusual” or “strange” names. It’s not only courteous to pronounce someone’s name correctly, but it shows an effort in creating an inclusive and diverse environment. 
    Your name is arguably the most important thing about you because it’s the one word people use to identify you. It’s part of who you are, and that will always matter! So, to all the women and girls like me with “ethnic,” “different,” or “unique” names I say to you, be proud of your name and where it comes from. And correct them, sis! Correct them—EVERY TIME! More

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    Beyond Kanye: 6 Things Everyone Should Know About Mental Illness

    Something is happening with Kanye West, we can all agree on that. Like many, I watched and listened this week as outlets shared video clips and commentary about what that “something” might be. Mental illness? Internalized racism? Publicity stunt? Some combination of these?On Wednesday, July 22, West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, took to Instagram Stories to address her husband’s mental health. “As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand,” Kardashian West wrote, according to CNN. “I’ve never spoken publicly about how this has affected us at home because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because off the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.”
    I’m a longtime Kanye fan; I often say playing Never Let Me Down on repeat got me through my last year of college. As a fan, I’ve been shocked and saddened by the course Kanye’s public persona has taken these last few years. Yet, as a mental health advocate, there’s something else I’m seeing that needs to be addressed—a consistent, insidious trend of people who are not mental health professionals publicly speculating on whether or not Kanye is suffering from a mental health crisis. And often (if they don’t believe he is) they’re making statements on their platforms as to why his behavior is not (in their eyes) a result of mental illness.  

    Look, I’m not actually writing this to debate whether or not Kanye is suffering a mental health crisis or, in any way, to condone what I think are dangerous messages he’s sharing. 
    What I am here to say is that we can collectively hold ourselves to a higher standard. Unless someone is a mental health professional or can speak about their own experience, it’s not responsible or humane to make judgements or perpetuate faulty narratives—even if unintentional. To ensure I’m holding myself to this same standard, I even asked my own longtime therapist to review this article before publishing.
    The truth is, like millions of people, I have a close family member that suffers from severe mental illness. For the past 20 years, we’ve experienced far more gut-wrenching lows than fleeting highs in caring for our loved one. Personally, it’s illuminated so many fractures in how—in both government and as a society—we lack important knowledge in two ways: truly understanding the myriad ways psychosis can look on different people, and using that knowledge to honor the humanity in those suffering.
    July is also BIPOC Mental Health month and, as a first-gen Black woman, I can tell you all of this is even more complicated for us as a family of color in America. So much so, that I recently became a member of the mental health board for the county I live in to be an agent of change in my community. 

    So, with that context, here’s what I wish more people knew about mental illness. 

    1. It’s damaging to make public statements about someone’s mental health 
    In 2020, it’s now a more broadly held concept that publicly commenting on someone’s weight is inappropriate, and can be harmful. The same holds true for mental health. Many of us might be unknowingly perpetuating myths on mental health and, by extension, causing additional harm to those affected. Navigating the ongoing journey for mental wellness is already taxing for those directly impacted and for their families, so hearing someone call their ex a “schizo” or “psycho” after an argument, or referring to their own “OCD” as a way to describe being detail-oriented doesn’t help. Neither does making unqualified, public commentary on potential mania or psychosis. It’s a lose/lose. At best, you’re diagnosing without the medical knowledge to do so and fueling ignorance. At worst, you’re causing harm by triggering past or current trauma. 
    This is why it’s best to refrain from making statements about how mental illness can or should look in someone, unless you are speaking from first person experience or are a current mental health professional. 

    2. Being an informed citizen is important 
    It’s surprising how many people move through the world as if this doesn’t affect them just because they may not have an immediate family member living with mental illness. First, I can almost promise you there is someone you love that is impacted in some way, however “mild.” There’s another layer beyond personal responsibility, which is civic duty. 
    Mental wellness—and the lack thereof for so many—impacts every aspect of a society’s overall health. Part of what it means to be an informed citizen and voter is understanding the ripple effect of mental health on everything from our jail system to homelessness to substance abuse to gun violence.

    3. Most often, the family isn’t to blame
    One of the biggest misconceptions around mental health is that the family is accountable for someone’s well-being and safety when, in reality, that is not at all how our system is designed. There have been so many times when friends have asked questions like, “Why can’t the authorities help you?” or “Why don’t you just have them in a long-term facility?” Or worse, that if someone is clearly experiencing homelessness and a mental health crisis, it’s assumed they either have no family or have been abandoned by them. Due to HIPAA guidelines and in an effort to protect the individual rights of those suffering, families’ rights are often non-existent. Let’s give family members a break. Chances are they’re doing their best given the constraints of the law and the ways this is impacting their own mental well-being. Instead of putting the onus on the family to answer what might be complicated and triggering questions, try simply saying, “I can’t imagine how tough this is, and I’m here if you need me.”

    4. Law enforcement shouldn’t be mental health first responders 
    According to an article from the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed while interacting with police. While the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum in recent months, it’s important to have dialogue on why it’s problematic (and sometimes dangerous) to have law enforcement serve as first responders for mental health crises which, by the way, they don’t have the expertise or bandwidth to do. For example, here’s a scenario that might play out one of two ways in California: a 30-something man has suffered from Schizophrenia for 10 years, and is caught loitering at a store and yelling at other customers. A clerk calls the police.
    Scenario A: The police arrive on the scene, confirm with him he’s not planning to harm himself, and ask him to leave the store. Done and done. This person might need acute care and won’t get it because he’s experienced at answering questions like this and truly does not want to harm anyone. He continues in crisis with no support, and his family does not know where he is since he left their home in a rage weeks earlier. 
    Scenario B: They arrive on the scene, and the man yells (likely as a result of delusions) that he wants to kill eight people. This means police must put the man on an involuntary hold, called a 5150. While in the hospital and forced to take medications, the man stabilizes, and calls his family. The family requests greater support, and maybe even a review for a conservatorship. On the very small chance his doctor agrees, by the time the man is seen by a judge maybe three weeks later, he is not in crisis, has been on medication, and can outline a clear plan for future care (which he may or may not really be committing to—like anyone in that situation, he says what he thinks people want to hear). The judge refuses to review family statements citing she has all the information she needs to make a decision. Case closed and the cycle begins all over again.   
    Can you see how challenging this is? Let me add another layer to it. 
    Given what we’re seeing daily on police brutality, how do you think this statistic plays out for Black and Latinx people suffering from mental health crises? Miles Hall is one tragic example. 

    5. Substance abuse, homelessness, and mental illness are all closely connected 
    Substance abuse and mental illness can be closely linked. Severe mental illness can present like substance abuse AND substances can be used as a means for self-medicating to cope with symptoms of mental illness. According to, some statistics from the Journal of the American Medical Association underscore this: 
    Approximately 50 percent of those with severe mental disorders are also impacted by substance abuse. 
    37 percent of those who abuse alcohol and 53 percent of those who abuse drugs also have at least one serious mental health condition. 
    29 percent of those diagnosed with a mental illness abuse either alcohol or drugs. 
    Let’s be conscious of these connected issues, quell judgements surrounding them, and deepen the empathy in our responses. 

    6. Know the ways to get help for yourself or loved ones 
    Finally, if you’re someone who struggles with severe mental illness or loves someone who does, there are ways to get support. One of the most challenging circumstances for some more severe diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is that people can sometimes have little to no insight into their own illness. This makes caring for and protecting these loved ones especially challenging. The single most important tool I’ve learned around this is the LEAP method, created by Dr. Xavier Amador and outlined in his book, I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help. LEAP stands for listen, empathize, agree, partner. 
    You can check out this YouTube video on it, but the primary reason it’s so important is that caretakers often try to talk our loved ones out of whatever they are thinking or feeling, and then we wonder why we aren’t getting anywhere. Imagine if someone were trying to talk you out of your current reality. How would that work for you? LEAP provides a framework for approaching conversations—and honestly, it’s also super helpful in relationships where mental health isn’t even an issue. This can also be a game-changer for mental health professionals or others who regularly come in contact with people who need mental health support services. 
    You can also check out NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for more information and access to services. NAMI has chapters across the country, creates space for families living with this to connect with one another, and have incredibly robust support services. 
    In the meantime, let’s stay open to hearing the experiences of others, and hold silent or supportive space for those who need it most. And if you do one thing this weekend, head over to Amazon Prime Video and watch (or rewatch) The Soloist with the lens outlined here. It’s a beautiful and accurate depiction of how mental illness, homelessness, and family dynamics are interconnected for so many.  More

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    10 Things I Learned From My Immigrant Parents

    Growing up, I really struggled with my identity. I was raised in a predominantly white suburb of Chicago as the child of Chinese immigrants, and was always left with a sense that I was different from my peers. When I started preschool, I couldn’t even fully understand English, and I was terrified. I became aware of how I couldn’t effectively communicate with others, and as I got older and tried to find myself, the struggle morphed into multiple identity crises involving my appearance, my beliefs, my struggle with learning two languages, my social life, and even the food I eat. How do you navigate assimilation without losing connection to your former culture?Throughout all this, my parents have always been there for me. They are my rocks; my solid ground to stand on and lean on for support. As I’ve gotten older and reflected on my experiences, I’ve come to realize how much my family has shaped me. They have taught me—through their words, actions, and personal experiences—some very important life lessons that I will hold onto and hopefully pass along to my own children. 
    I would say the way I’ve been raised is interesting. While it has many things in common with other immigrant children’s upbringing, parenting is extremely personal. As an adult, I now see the choices and sacrifices my parents have made for the benefit of their kids. I am extremely grateful for the foresight and self-awareness my parents have that helped me to become who I am today.
    Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from my parents. 

    1. Hustle hard
    Moving to a completely new country halfway across the world is hard—like, really hard. My dad was determined to make a better life for himself and his family, so he busted his ass to do so, taking test after test and applying to graduate schools in the United States until he finally got accepted. That was his ticket to success. but the hard work didn’t stop there. He continued to work tirelessly, providing for our family of four, doing his best so that we could live comfortably. He’s shown me the value of working hard for what you want in order to accomplish your dreams. It takes guts and it takes perseverance. Some of my biggest fears in life are failure and rejection; it’s what stops me from making more daring decisions. But when I’m reminded of my family, I am able to reach inside of me and emulate their strength, finding myself reaching higher and higher, taking steps to achieve my dreams.

    2. Being strong in the face of adversity
    My parents experienced many atrocities throughout their childhoods and faced many difficult situations. They both grew up during a time of civil unrest and survived a food shortage, essentially living in poverty. They didn’t even have consistent access to electricity until they were out of college. That seems worlds away from the life in which I was raised, but never once have I ever heard my parents speak of their past with even a hint of bitterness. They keep their chins up and soldier on, looking forward to the future, no matter what. I see true strength in them and they never fail to remind me that people are capable of so much, and we can always work toward overcoming our struggles.

    3. Health should always come first
    The topic of health is a constant point of conversation in our household. My parents have drilled into my head that health comes before all else. It’s very difficult to take proper care of our business or others if we don’t take care of ourselves—it makes it so much easier to become overwhelmed. My mom always uses the analogy that our bodies are like batteries that need charging. If you’re depleted of all energy, how can you accomplish anything? If we’re able, then we should take diligent care of ourselves through cleanliness, proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep (though I am definitely terrible at that last one, sorry mom!). Through this constant reminder, I’ve come to better understand the value of this and see the truth behind it. We all wear many hats and I definitely think I am a better person all around when I take care of myself. It’s easier to be present and be a good daughter, friend, sister, student, and person overall.

    4. Never stop learning
    Something I learned very early on from my parents is that “brains are like sponges.” We are constantly learning things and we should never stop trying to. Knowledge is power, and no matter how old we get or what challenges we face, we can always gain something—an insight, a new idea, more understanding. They encouraged my curiosity, encouraging me to seek out the answers I wanted. My dad always gets so excited when I teach him something new, like a recipe or an interesting fun fact about a topic he doesn’t usually think about. I associate curiosity and the desire to learn with simply having enthusiasm for life.

    5. Love can appear in many different forms
    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my parents and through our culture is how everyone may show love differently. In some Eastern cultures, it is more typical that we show love through our actions rather than our words. My mom happily helping me with laundry or cooking food for me was an act of love, not just an act of obligation or devotion. But from living in the United States for so long, my parents have, over time, learned how to become more communicative as well. They’ve gotten much better about verbalizing how they feel and I love seeing how they change and grow as people. That desire to connect with their kids through their words showed their love as well. They wanted to bond with us and express their love in a way that their Westernized children could better understand. It shows that people all show love and affection in different ways—both culturally and individually.

    6. Always choose kindness
    My parents are two of the kindest, most generous people that I have ever known. They’re always quick to offer a helping hand or go out of their way to assist someone in need, and they never do anything with the expectation of having those favors be returned—they do it just because they’re good people. They have shown me that it doesn’t matter your background, your socioeconomic status, whether you’ve had a bad day or not—you can always choose to be kind. It’s taught me to always seek out the silver lining of every single situation, even when there doesn’t appear to be one at first. They have always emphasized that it’s important to put positivity out into the world and treat people well. In this sense, it’s kind of like good karma. When I make the effort to be positive in my thoughts, attitude, and behavior, I tend to receive it back in the form of kindness from others and opportunities and it becomes a positive loop. Plus, you never know what someone else is going through and it’s always worth it to try to make someone’s day.

    7. Frugality
    Of course, living a life of hardship leaves its marks on a person. Like many other immigrants, my family was very frugal. A sort of survival instinct was deeply embedded in their daily lives and habits. There wasn’t enough food to go around for a while, so they had to learn how to ration and share. New clothing was a luxury and a rarity, so learning to mend fabric was a necessity. Stocking up on supplies when they were available and affordable was a means of survival. Though we now live comfortably and don’t need to keep up some of these habits for survival, old habits die hard, and they’ve passed on some of these instincts to me. I find myself doing things like avoiding too much food waste, using supplies like paper towels and soap sparingly, and watching my water usage. Though it’s not entirely necessary, learning the skill of frugality has been helpful to me. I’ve learned to balance my spending between necessities and “wants,” and it even helps me be prepared in case something like an emergency happens.

    8. Choose your friends carefully
    My mother was always extremely adamant that I be careful about who I befriended. The people you are closest to most affect your development, personality, and behavior. She’d had her fair share of critics when it came to her choices over how she’s led her life and her actions. She’s been criticized for how she tried to raise her kids in a more moderate way, allowing us to become more Westernized, and how she gave up her career to move to another country, amongst other things. And honestly, who needs that kind of negative energy? We all deserve to be surrounded by those who love and support us.
    9. How to bridge differences
    Obviously, growing up in a household trying to merge and navigate two different cultures can be difficult. At times it’s both frustrating and messy not being able to see eye-to-eye on things, or not even be able to totally understand each other due to language barriers. Throughout the years, we’ve had to practice lots of patience with each other and try to keep an open mind. As I’ve grown into myself, it’s become more and more apparent that many of our opinions differ drastically. Being able to hold conversations about contentious topics we don’t agree on can be very aggravating and emotional. We’ve gradually learned how to express those opinions without stepping on each others’ toes too much, and I think this lesson has greatly aided me in my life in general. I love being able to talk to people who don’t necessarily agree with me and being able to have a constructive conversation about our opinions without offending each other.

    10. Food goes beyond simple nutrition
    Eastern medicine was a major part of my upbringing. Every time something was physically wrong with me, my parents tried to fix it with some concoction of herbs. Honestly, sometimes it seems like mumbo-jumbo, and to many people it probably is, but I’ve grown to accept and respect it more and am quite fascinated by it. Some have become more interested in traditional Chinese medicine, and there have been more efforts to research it. It goes back thousands of years—and hey, I’m an avid tea drinker anyway. What’s the harm in drinking some tea that’s supposedly good for me? It’s taught me that some of the foods we already consume can be used to purposely fuel and heal ourselves. For example, garlic has antimicrobial properties and chrysanthemum may help to decrease inflammation. I was raised to believe we can use food to heal ourselves from the inside out, and I think that’s kind of magical. Because of this, I’m very conscious of what types of foods I consume and pay very close attention to how it affects me. My mother has given me some herbal teas, and truthfully, whenever I feel a cold coming on, I always reach for them just in case. Maybe it’s a placebo or maybe it actually helps, but I usually end up feeling better, and that’s just fine with me.
    What types of lessons have you learned from your family? More

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    This Book Delivery Service Will Make Your Summer

    For the longest time, I figured people either identified as readers or not, and I definitely fell into the “not” category the last year or so. I would rather watch YouTube videos and listen to music in my spare time, not force my brain to work when I’ve finally shut it off. I enjoy books, of course, but I declared myself as a non-reader who just couldn’t find the time unless I was sitting on a beach vacation or curled up with a cup of tea. Well, obviously, our entire lives have shifted the last six months, and my whole “not reading” thing flew straight out the window, down the street, onto the highway, and into some ditch. I started reading more and more with all the extra time on my hands, but I needed to diversify my authors, both in terms of reading books by and about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people but also in genres and ideas (trust me: I love a good thriller as much as the next gal, but I also love ghost stories and retellings and literary fiction and romance and nonfiction!). Then, I stumbled upon Book of the Month. And let me tell ya, BOTM has become my new favorite way to find books.

    Book of the Month is the fastest-growing book subscription service in America—and you’re about to hear why. They promote new and emerging authors every month, selecting five amazing new releases to choose from (read on for a look at some of July’s!). As a subscriber, you choose one of the five and it’s sent directly to your door. The titles range all genres (sci-fi, romance, thriller, historical fiction—you name it, they’ve got it), and they’re even beginning to incorporate nonfiction titles as well. 

    As I was getting back into the world of reading once again, I was inundated with recommendations for authors and titles, almost to the point of not knowing where I should start. Book of the Month made it so easy. Pick your titles, and as soon as they arrive, you’ll likely get started on them right away. I was so motivated to read my BOTM because they’re all up-and-coming titles and authors you’re bound to start seeing everywhere. Last month, I read The Vanishing Half, and the day after I finished, it made the New York Times’ Best Seller list. I’ve never had that happen before—a book I’d already read and loved become a best-seller just before my eyes. You get early access to books that are about to become major hits, so you can read and get ahead of your book clubs! Oh, and I wanted to finish it right away so my plate would be clear by the time my next BOTM arrival came in a month.  

    On my journey to become a bigger reader (will I start a BookTube channel? The jury’s still out), I struggled a bit with cost. $15 here, $25 there. Before you know it, you’ve spent the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries on a couple of books. And if you read quickly, you’re basically done for. Book of the Month not only cut down how often I had to research books, but it cut my costs too. Using code EVERYGIRL, your first book is $9.99 (yeah, seriously—less than a coffee and a breakfast sandwich!)—then it’s still only $14.99 a month afterward (which is still an incredible deal for hardbacks). Not loving the selections one month or just not in the budget? No worries, you can skip whenever and won’t be charged. Love to read? You can select an add-on book every month from BOTM’s large selection of titles—including tons of books you’ll likely see made into movies and TV shows in the future. This month, I added Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark—a spooky thriller about a haunted house. (BRB, lighting my fall candle and wishing it was Halloween!)

    Wondering what new titles are up this month? Here’s a look at the two of the five books I’m most excited to read for July:

    Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
    Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close

    This book sounds like a necessary read for women everywhere. Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, co-hosts of the popular podcast “Call Your Girlfriend,” explain what it takes to really have a friendship for the long haul. We all know that friendships take work, but to really keep someone close for a long time isn’t an easy feat. These two BFFs share the ups and downs of their friendship and how they’ve gotten to where they are today. I can’t wait to read this and cry, laugh, and call my best friends. This is the book I’ll be choosing for my personal subscription—if you couldn’t already tell.

    Michele Harper
    The Beauty in Breaking

    This is Michele Harper’s memoir, following her career as a Black emergency room physician, a profession that is widely male and white. She attended Harvard after leaving an abusive childhood in Washington, D.C., and just before moving to Philidelphia to work in a new hospital, she and her husband split up. So, she’s in a new city, a new job, and newly single (something many of us might be able to relate to). This book follows her journey to self-healing, realizing that she must heal herself while she’s working as a doctor healing others. The book has tons of praise for being moving, inspirational, and educational—something we all could use right now.

    Whether you’re reading a couple of books or week or get excited when you finish one a month, Book of the Month is truly the easiest way to get a new book in your hand every month without doing much work.

    This post was in partnership with Book of The Month, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. More

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    Women of Color: Let’s Give Ourselves Permission to Do Less

    The most profound thing my therapist ever taught me was not a lesson she taught. It was a question she asked: why do you feel like you have to do it all, right now? She sat across from me in her dimly-lit office, legs crossed at the ankles, calmly sipping tea from her blue patterned mug and asked again, another way: why the urgency? I paused. Took a moment to imagine myself not urgent. She had only known me a few weeks then, but she already knew me as a person who lives in totality, despite the costs of living such a lifestyle. She recognized me as a person who wants to be her whole self. Explore all her passions. Share all her gifts—even at the expense of well-being. It wasn’t until that day that I stopped and asked myself, why the urgency? Why was I pushing myself to achieve more, climb higher, and work harder than anyone ever asked or expected me to?The answer, for me, lies in my identity as a Black woman.
    When I was young, I remember being told that I would always have to work twice as hard for half as much. Being told that education was mandatory, but even that wouldn’t be enough. Being disappointed in myself for getting one B on my report card, one time. Still being told, later, that my success was a gift of my race and not a result of my life’s hard work. Those lines spoken then manifested later in anxiety and imposter syndrome. I developed an intolerance for average. An insistence on exactness. A relentless pursuit for perfection that landed me here, now, watching my therapist sip her tea and marvel at my mayhem. After the session, I did some deep soul-searching and realized my urgency was coming from a sense of perfectionism that wasn’t my own; it was a result of the world as seen and experienced by a Black woman for whom nothing came without a fight. Once I realized that, I also realized I no longer wanted to live that way. I wanted to ditch the urgency and find balance. Shed the burden of fear, inferiority, anxiety; replace it with self-care, self-love, self-worth. But how? If, like me, you are a Black woman or Woman of Color who finds herself overwhelmed, off-balance, and/or consistently doing too much: keep reading as I share my story. For me, finding balance came as a result of some shifts in mindset, attitude, and priorities.

    I began demanding less of myself, and more of other people.
    At some point, I realized that while I was placing exceptionally high expectations on myself, my expectations of others—especially regarding how I allowed them to treat me—were exceedingly low. To flip that around, I began by acknowledging my worth. I was dealing with a wicked case of imposter syndrome, which caused me to credit my every accomplishment to luck, circumstance, or both. When I had writing published, I assumed it was because the publication was desperate. When that published writing was later awarded, I assumed someone only did it as a favor to me. When I was accepted to a Ph.D. program, I figured it was because of who I knew; not my own merit. The list goes on and on. Shifting this mindset caused me to consider each of my accomplishments individually. To celebrate those accomplishments. And then, to let myself off the hook of my own high expectations. 
    After acknowledging my worth, the next step was demanding that others did the same. I began to take notice of the people who were always quick to put me down. Those who tended to ask clarifying questions about how I accomplished what I accomplished, instead of first celebrating my accomplishment. These were the same people who would joke about earning something without even trying, knowing that I actually worked hard and tried (unsuccessfully) to earn that same thing. I started speaking up for myself when these things happened. I started demanding respect. And if/when these people still refused to acknowledge my worth, I walked away.

    I confronted the problematic nature of my role at work.
    If like me, you’ve been the first “diverse” hire at an organization, you’re probably already aware that there’s a lot of pressure. And this pressure is emphasized when people of color are hired into leadership positions, especially by organizations specifically looking to make a diversity hire and/or show their “commitment” to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As described in Nonprofit Quarterly, when white leaders are hired into an organization, they are encouraged to “fail forward,” using failure as a tool to learn and grow. However, this isn’t the case for Black leaders. When we fail, we’re only proving to those who hired us that we were not a good “fit” for the organization. We’re also giving them the excuse to say, “well, we tried to hire a diverse leader, but it didn’t work.” The pressure that Black workers and leaders endure from their staff, boards, etc. to “get it right” comes from the knowledge that a steep learning curve or even a minor mistake could cost not only you your job, but could also mean that other Black people won’t be considered for that job (or similar jobs) in the future. 
    For me, the first step in combating this issue was recognizing that it existed in the first place. And by existed, I mean this wasn’t just me overreacting or making something out of nothing. This was a systemic issue rooted in bias and prejudice. After I educated myself, I helped to educate others. From there, I began to point out microaggressions in the workplace, and advocate for myself when I wasn’t given the same grace as others. I knew this would be scary—and risky—but without speaking up for myself in this way, I feared I would never have the positive workplace experience I deserved. 

    I ditched the perfectionism for self-care.
    In the workplace, Black people and people of color often feel pressure to be perfect. I used to believe that even asking for help would be proof to everyone that I did not belong. Whenever I felt the urge to express vulnerability, I forced myself to maintain a cool demeanor (ironically, the same cool demeanor that often made my coworkers and employers refer to me as “unlikeable”). Little did I know, the ridiculously high standards I was placing on myself were a result of a harmful white supremacy culture that I had fallen victim to. As far as I could tell, advocating for oneself and/or taking care of oneself were behaviors reserved for those with privilege. I watched in awe as my coworkers talked back to the boss in meetings and showed up late for work without apology; meanwhile, I was always on time and submissive, yet still, the first one demoted, laid off, fired.
    Instead of focusing on being “perfect,” I began to congratulate myself for working hard; for accomplishing tasks; for staying positive. Truthfully, it is still hard for me to ask for help in the workplace. My hope is that the more I am accepted, the more vulnerable I will be able to be in these spaces.

    I focused more on life and less on work.
    Something I had to come to terms with was the fact that for me, work-life would always come with added challenges as a result of race, and race alone. No matter how satisfied I might be in a workplace, the fact remains that I have never worked anywhere where I was not stereotyped, dismissed, rejected, humiliated, undermined, etc. in ways that my white counterparts were not. Once I accepted this harsh reality, I made a radical decision: I would value rest over being busy. Our culture brainwashes us into believing that our worth is tied to our productivity. I had to unlearn the harmful belief that I could not rest, relax, or take a day off without compromising everything I’d worked so hard for. Once I shed that negative mindset, I placed energy into being present in all aspects of my life, and not just those deemed worthwhile by American society.
    I also embraced self-care and ditched self-neglect. For me, self-care looks like a lot of things. It looks like yoga and meditation. Taking candle-lit bubble baths on Wednesday nights. Blocking negative energy (and people) on social media. Scheduling mental health days. Bingeing Netflix. Bingeing fresh-baked cookies and ice cream. Whatever it takes to remind myself that I am worthy; valued; appreciated.

    For many Black women and Women of Color, it is not simply a question of finding work-life balance. It is a question of balancing so much more: balancing expectations people have of you with your expectations of yourself; balancing self-hate and self-love; balancing your conception of what you need to accomplish to be successful versus how others are privileged to define success. Finding my balance has been less about sacrifice and more about standards. My new commitment is to myself; not to others. I’ve wasted enough of my energy trying to prove to others that I am good enough. Now, it’s time to convince myself that I’m good enough. That I’m worthy of my job. Worthy of my accomplishments. Worthy of success. Worthy of rest. I am still a work-in-progress, but it feels good these days to move around with a little more balance, and a little less urgency. More