Strong is Beautiful

I recently did something I am really proud of, but am not sure how to share. I took part in a photo shoot at my gym. My coaches put together these “Strong is Beautiful” photo shoots a few times a year, and give members the chance to get some fitness shots taken. In retrospect, I think part of the reason they started doing this is to allow us to see ourselves through someone else’s lens, since our own lens is often distorted and so harsh. I work out 4 times a week, eat pretty healthy most of the time, and sometimes still can’t see my own muscles. Yet I’ve never once looked in the mirror and failed to notice my love handles or “fleshy knees.” I was nervous, but I thought it would be a good challenge for me, and also probably empowering and fun even if I never saw the pictures.

That being said, of course I was dying to see the pictures! When I first got them back, I almost couldn’t look at them. I peaked, with only one eye open. There I was, just sort of out there, in the open, showing (flaunting!) what I got. The lighting was great, the photographer was amazing, I got a spray tan, had my makeup done and was slicked up with baby oil, but I still picked myself to pieces in every shot.

After sleeping on it, I looked at the pictures again and shared them with a few friends. They, of course, sent back kind, amazing comments oozing with love, support and validation. So I looked at them again, and kept looking until I could see my muscles. I looked at them until I was smiling ear to ear with pride and joy. I might have actually even said, “daaayym girl!” in my head. I thought, if I can pick out my imperfections in these pictures, then the pictures are real. They are showing me who I am, which means the strength and beauty I see is also real.

I scored a few points with me this week by allowing myself to be vulnerable to someone else’s lens, and trusting and accepting what they saw instead of rationalizing it away into nothing. That was a little bit huge.

This month, I’m a little over two years, 4 races, and 1 photo shoot into my health and fitness journey. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a clean diet and some heavy weights to help you face the world.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

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**Thanks to Eric Brushett PhotographyTuff Girl Fitness and Bodyology Fitness Studio

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Spring Cleaning Veggie Soup

I want to make everything from scratch, all the time. After all, I’m trying to learn how to really cook. Sauces, broths and doughs are fun to try, but they take time and love, and a lot of exploration. Sometimes they fail at 8pm at night when you’ve worked all day, gone to the gym, still have a term paper to write, and are on the verge of transforming into the hunger-induced raging lunatic doppelgänger of your normally normal self. (Who you then have to apologize for in the morning even though you have no memory of her visit…)

Anyway, it’s finals week for me and I have a big project going on at work, so when I went grocery shopping on Sunday I made a point to put together some quick and easy meals. I already had a bunch of veggies in my kitchen from all the big elaborate meals I thought up and “didn’t get to” this week, so with an additional carton of veggie broth and 1 can of beans I was able to make up this soup. Besides clearing out my fridge, it came out pretty tasty. Sometimes it pays to throw in everything but the kitchen sink and see what happens.

Ingredients:
4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onice, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 parsips, peels and sliced
2 garlic cloves, whole
4 cups vegetable broth or stock
2 cups fresh peas (or frozen, or canned if you have them)
1 can great northern beans
1 small tomato, diced
1-2 fresh basis leaves
a pinch of fresh parmesan
a pinch of herbs de provence
a pinch of crushed red pepper
sea salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

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Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the sweet potato and parsnips into 1/2 inch cubes, and lay on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the pieces over half way. Since the veggies will cook a bit more in the soup, they don’t have to be completely cooked through. Watch them and make sure to remove them from the oven before they start crisping.

In a large sauce pan, heat a bit of olive oil and saute the onions and celery on med-low flame until translucent, about 5 minutes. Try to keep them from browning. Add in the rest of your ingredients, except the beans, and bring to a slow boil. Once boiling, add beans and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for another 20 minutes.

Top with fresh parmesan to serve. I happened to have some amazing kielbasa in the fridge homemade by a friend of mine in the fridge (thanks Kathrin and Sam!), so we sliced that up and threw it in the leftovers for something different. It was refreshing and satisfying both ways.

Enjoy!