Three cheeries.

Hi there, fancy folks! (Wall down, wall down!)

Look like all that DDPing led to some good karma, because I just landed a full-time gig writing and editing in the service of a certain domestically inclined former inmate (hint, hint). BITE is alive and well, but my presence around here may be sparse while I ease back into the 9 to 5 routine. We all know work-life balance is not my strong suit (pregaming the gym, anyone?).

In the meantime, I wanted to get Britney’s bald head off the top of this page, because I’m feeling anything but desperate at the moment. So in the spirit of health and happiness, enjoy some organic cheeries on me:

The cheeriest.

Because organic weepies are out of season, ya hurd?

What’s got you feeling fresh and excited?

Dance-perate times.

On a scale from one to Britney, this week is 2007.

Me.

I know I’m not supposed to flaunt my disasters on The Internet, so while I think we passed propriety when I decided to talk about excrement, I’mma stick with second-person narrative today. Just know it’s been one for the books. Or blogs, I suppose, once the wounds aren’t so fresh. I’m okay, but I think the universe is trynna give me some perspective. Oh, universe. Always trynna.

I’ve been chanting clichés like it’s my job. All’s well that ends well! Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel! Funnily enough, tweeting these vague, “inspirational” statements actually was my job when I worked in women’s empowerment. I’m not big on quotes, myself – I’d prefer that my words derive their significance from me alone – and I’d sooner turn to YouTube than Chicken Soup for the Soul. Because when you’re minutes from losing faith in humanity and yourself, you don’t want to hear that tough times don’t last, but tough people do! You want to do the adult thing and pour whiskey into a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. At 11:42am.

And dance.

Somewhere amidst my high highs and low lows, I perfected the art of the Desperate Dance Party (henceforth referred to as DDP). My DDP habit saw me through heartbreak, all-nighters, heartbroken all-nighters, and more Jason Derulo choruses than I’ll willingly disclose. This is The Internet, after all. I have a reputation to uphold. (Ridin’ solo, ridin’ solo!)

Any halfhearted hand jive will release a few endorphins, but not all DDPs are created equal, and nor are the divas who inspire them. Before engaging in any DDP, you must answer a few questions: How desperate am I right now? Do I feel shaving-my-head insane, or just a little bit plastic baggy? Have I taken any mind-altering substances? Is my roommate home? Are my neighbors home? Do I want to punch a wall? Would a person do the trick? Is this a feasible alternative? Just how many bottles of Mike’s do I have on hand?

Once you evaluate, choose your soundtrack, and don’t hold back. Also, lay off the combo high-knees-one-two-punch. That’s my move.

The Emma Aubry Roberts Scale of Dance Party Desperation

Or, Top 40 for those who feel hopelessly, spastically lost in the world.

Level One: Beyoncé. What? you cry, outraged. Beyoncé, at the bottom of this list? Here’s the tragic thing about Beyoncé: Nothing. She’s a perfect specimen with no place in your pathetic life right now. A BDP is a beautiful thing, but save it for Keg night with your gurlz.

Level Two: K. Perry. Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? I do, and it’s a specific, schizophrenic strain of desperation. Katy kills it for capital-M Moods where you don’t know what you’re all worked up about, but your teenage dreams have been crushed and you need to do ponies/grapevines/angry bicycle crunches until you feel like a firework again. Go ahead, get hot ‘n’ cold. Unleash your inner extraterrestrial. And next Friday night, do it all again.

Level Three: Robyn. Now we’re talking. If your desperation stems from romantic troubles, “Dancing on My Own” is an obvious choice (see one of the most iconic scenes from Girls’ first season), but don’t underestimate the healing power of “Time Machine” and “Don’t F*cking Tell Me What To Do.” This is some next-level, feeling-all-the-feelings shit. Move your body in ways you never thought possible. Then call your girlfriend. It’s time you had the talk.

Level Four: Gaga. Say what you will about Lady G, but know this: She gets it. She gets caught in bad romances with men named Alejandro (I mean, really?), then puts on her poker face and marries the night cuz she was born this way. Whatever awful, destructive thing you did, Gaga did it first and probably better, so quit whining and just dance. It’s gonna be okay. You’re on the edge of glory. And everyone knows you like it rough.

Level Five: Britney, bitch. Forever stronger than yesterday, no one can dance her way to a comeback quite like Brit. She’s the ultimate symbol of resilience; the queen of white-walled, windowless dancehall glory. Motherhood has only taken her music from slutty to sluttier, and jazz squares to “(You Drive Me) Crazy [The Stop Remix]” are as timeless as mountain climbers to “Womanizer,” which prove no less satisfying than moonwalking in circles to “Piece of Me.” Scream, and shout, and let it all out. Keep dancing till the world ends. It gets better. Your hair might even grow back, too.

* “Starships” gets an honorable mention (I recommend it for those at the Katy level), as does any intersection of Sia and D. Guetta (“Titanium” and “She Wolf ” are the move here). Remember, though, a DDP candidate must satisfy different needs than your Sweaty Gym Jamz and Songz 4 Puttin’ Mah Sequin Topz On (yes, these are real playlists, as are Feeling Sry 4 Myself and ~*~SeXiiTiMe~*~). The juvenile punctuation is optional, but the anguish is not. Work yourself up. Dance your way back. Beyoncé will still be there when you return.

** Yeah, I listen to pretentious indie shit, too. These is desperate times.

And on that note, I’m off to Chicago for a soul-soothing weekend with some of my favorite people. If experience is any indication, Katy, Robyn, Gaga and Britney will still be there when I return. Oh, divas. Always trynna.

Do you DDP? What’s your jam? Your signature move?

The C-word.

Three weeks ago (give or take), between the hours of 12am and 2am (the final window for action), I was hanging out (in bed) with a (not so platonic) friend when a certain C-word escaped his lips.

The kickback was instant. “Don’t call me that,” I snapped.

“But you are,” he protested, sadly watching my lady boner deflate.

You can probably guess which cockblockingly offensive C-word I’m talking about. It was..oh gosh, I don’t want to type it. All right, fine: curvy. As in, Look at that gorgeous, curvy body. Well, I never! How dare you, sir!

Summer 2008. The prime of my curves and the winter of my discontent.

Curvy. The more glamorous cousin of “big boned” and “sturdy” (see also: “appears to consume solid food”). Controversially applied to figures ranging from Lively to Sidibe, the jurisdiction of curvy is as tenuous as it is subtly offensive. Curvy, my ass.

Well. Exactly.

My (not so platonic) friend is right. I’m a small person, but a curvy one. You’ll never catch my jeans hanging off my hipbones; no matter how many miles I run, I’ll always lay claim to a thick-thighed hourgl@$$ shape. And please, know that I say that with appreciative self-awareness. My body works hard for me, and it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for anyone else. I also fall down a lot, so all that padding serves a practical purpose in the end.

And yet. And yet. The C-word awakens a shallow, defensive impulse. While misguided, it makes sense when we consider the many faces of curvy women:

A 70-pound gradient of curves and hair.

From my perch at the far right end of this spectrum, I can look to its Botticellian left and see an attractive girl—albeit one who might be called “curvy” in lieu of less generous terms. Having been on the wink-nudge side of curvy, I find it hard to shake the connotation. To shrink from double-D’s to barely-B’s is jarring; for the two to share a common label seems unequivocally wrong. Put me back in your thin bin, dammit. I was born this way!

But why should I care? Beyoncé is curvy, and I don’t see anyone complaining (simmer down, Superdome). Blake Lively is curvy. They’re curvy because their bodies have curves. “Curvy” wasn’t meant to be a euphemism for “fat”; politically correct society has made it one in recent years. While good intentions may drive our use of the C-word over the F-word, what about the consequences for those on curvy’s slighter side? If so-called curviness can lead me to question a healthy figure, is this linguistic revolution really for the best?

I don’t always love my body, but I respect it, curves and all. In my rational mind, I feel no shame about looking like a grown woman who eats. I don’t weigh myself. I care about my jeans size, but mostly because I can’t afford to buy new pants. If I can ignore a number, why can’t I ignore a word? Perhaps semantics carry more clout than we realize. The pen may well be mightier than the scale.

I don’t know what the solution is, and I won’t deny my heightened sensitivity to the language surrounding women and weight. I think “real women have curves” is bullshit – what are skinny women, imaginary? – but “skinny” is a vague and, for me, unrealistic ideal. I’m not a skinny girl. I’m a curvy girl, and I’m fine with it. I swear. Just don’t, you know, say it to my face.

Does the C-word bug you? Why or why not?

Raise a toast.

The etymology of “brunch” is the greatest lie ever told.

toast

My anti-drug. Or drug of choice.

Growing up, I understood the meal as a conflation of breakfast and lunch, eaten later than the former but retaining the distinction of First Meal of the Day. Imagine my alarm the first time a friend proposed that we meet for “brunch” at 2pm. I’m an early riser by nature, and the idea of subsisting for 6+ hours on coffee and air sent me into a passive-aggressive tailspin. “Okay, well, I guess I’ll just eat breakfast before we go,” I replied in a huff, half-expecting her to rescind the offending offer for something before noon.

Instead, she laughed. “That’s fine!” she said. “You can totally eat before brunch.” Don’t mind if I do. Breakfast and theory toasted.

So brunch is just a weekend meal that isn’t dinner, I reasoned, feeling like a super sleuth to rival my childhood hero, Velma Dinkley. Until I caught wind that several restaurants I frequent serve “brunch” seven days a week. My reaction was three parts fine, twist my arm and one part I’m sorry, what? I seized the excuse to embark on a weekday brunch bender in the name of research. Tuesday is typically my weekend, anyway. #serverproblems

So what is brunch, if it can take place both midweek and mid-afternoon? Can you eat it at night? Can you eat it at home? Can you eat it in a box? Can you eat it with a fox? Sam I Am, you tease; you left so many questions unanswered!

But seriously, I’m serious about toast.

Official definition aside, brunch is a shape-shifting creature. There’s the swanky kind, where you sip champagne and nibble croissants with your girlfriends; the sultry kind, where you pick at your eggs while locked in a postcoital stare-down; and the grungy kind, where you languidly croak, “Bloody Mary, please,” and shovel in enough chorizo to soak up whatever damage you did the night before. None is superior in its own right. All provoke a thrill in the heart of a young urbanite hoping to set aside the workweek’s stress for a few hours. Or as long as the harassed waitstaff lets her stay. #serverproblems

Maybe brunch is like dating. Instead of trying to define it, we should see it for what it is: an excuse to put on a cute outfit. Whether you take your brunch early, late, on Sunday, on Tuesday, swanky, sultry, grungy or all of the above, indulge your most tastefully gaudy sensibilities (guys, should I get bangs again? Guys, I think I want bangs). You know I’ll be there, ordering toast and wearing this. Or this. Or these. That is, unless I have to work. #serverproblems

How do you define brunch? What are you eating and wearing?

[Images here and here.]

Gotta go.

“Don’t shit where you eat,” warns a common adage. Propriety would agree. I prefer “don’t bang where you hang,” but no matter the wording, the advice is the same: Don’t get it on where you live, learn, spend or earn. Having had more ill-advised affairs than I care to remember, I understand the warning’s intention. But even from the far side of experience, the idea that human life can remain untainted by animal instinct seems absurd.

Trynna so hard.

For better or worse, a strong connection usually begins with, well, a connection. A mutual friend. A shared interest. A common employer, professor or landlord (oh, cruel world). A dynamic forms, tension builds and then…something happens. The dynamic changes, but the connection unbearably stands. Look what you did, you filthy animal! That’s what you get for shitting where you eat.

But why is that so wrong, and what is the alternative in which there is no common ground? Online dating? I’m not hating on OkCupid, but I’m not on there because I meet plenty of interesting people in real life. Of course, I live in New York City, where “interesting” could mean that I caught you relieving yourself on a table at Starbucks. What? That guy was kind of cute.

Kidding, it was the most horrifying moment of my life. Talk about shitting where you eat, AMIRIGHTLADIEZZZ?

Civilized norms don’t prevent things from going awry. Locks jams. Toilets clog. Paper runs out (oh, cruel world). Meanwhile, the monkeys rolling around in their own waste are no worse for the indiscretion. They simply get better at ignoring their shit. Or slinging it at their enemies.

Evolve this, bitch.

I say we thoughtfully shit where we please. Actions have consequences, but we assign the value of both. By forecasting inevitable shitstorms – and, you know, communicating our intentions like grown-ups – we can decide for ourselves whether we’re willing to risk a few stinky days. Let’s face it: Shitting can be uncomfortable, no matter where it happens. Sometimes, ya just gotta go.

Do you follow any dating rules?

Food brat.

Being a foodie is like being a Supreme Court justice: The precise credentials are ambiguous, but you should have some decent life experience to assume the title. Love of the edible notwithstanding, I would never appoint myself a “foodie.” Oh, you like food? Groundbreaking. Insert Miranda Priestly GIF and/or Condescending Wonka meme here.

Instead, I call myself a “food brat,” the foodie’s finicky younger sister. Every morsel that passes my lips must taste fantastic. Healthy food is not exempt from these standards; it’s the crux of the whole operation. Living well means seeking pleasure within the health food realm, not gazing longingly outside of it.

There are plenty of nutritious foods that, when thoughtfully prepared, don’t evoke feelings of death and sadness. Can’t get on board with raw kale? Roast veggies to coax out their caramelized depth of flavor. Grossed out by the texture of oatmeal? Bake it into bars, and smother them in almond butter and maple syrup. I love a warm chocolate-chip cookie, but I would happily choose a peak season apple over stale Chips Ahoy. Learn to separate what society fetishizes from what is objectively delicious. Not all junk food is.

In the same vein, don’t be afraid to rough up your food in the name of taste. Your waistline could care less about the yolks in your eggs or the sprinkle of full-fat cheese on your salad; not so for the late-night pizza that follows a sad pile of iceberg lettuce for dinner. Food combining is the key to satiety, and flavor is the key to satisfaction. Between the two, what more could anyone want? (For the love of God, please eat the yolk. It’s got half of the protein and all of the nutrients. If you want to cut calories, cut empty ones.)

So. Quinoa.

As a student and fledgling cook, I leaned heavily on what would most accurately be described as “bowls of healthful slop.” Not all of my creations were winners, but in time, I hit on a nearly foolproof template: a fruit, a veggie, a handful of nuts or seeds, a blanket of cheese and a dash of seasoning, all backed by grains and served over greens. If I was feeling frisky, I’d top the whole thing off with a runny egg. Whoa. Whoa. Calm down, everyone, calm down.

Now that I live in the ultimate foodie town, my tastes and options have broadened considerably, and making smart choices is harder than ever. When all I want is crusty bread spread thick with bone marrow and oxtail marmalade (hi, my dinner last night), I have to remind myself that there is so much healthy food that tastes good. Cumin-spiced sweet potato enchiladas brimming with slow-simmered black beans and garlicky chard. Roasted beets perched on a peppery fan of arugula, kissed by goat cheese for brightness and hazelnuts for crunch. Dijon-glazed brussels sprouts studded with tart cranberries and sharp gorgonzola. These are the things that make my taste buds swoon.

Because that’s what being a food brat is all about: Finding the foods that make you swoon. Not all will be healthy, but many probably are. So choose those. Not forever, but today. Choose them more often than not. Start with this salad. You may love the way a cookie melts in your mouth, but how can you hate on the way a pomegranate aril bursts on your tongue?

Red and Green-oa

redandgreenoa

Sweet and salty, fresh and flavorful—this festive salad has got it going on. Add it to your holiday table, or leave a bowl by the fireside for Santa. It can’t be easy flying all night on just cookies. I’d list a source, but this one’s all me.

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
4 Persian cucumbers, diced (or one large seedless cucumber)
2 tbsp fresh mint, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 lemon
4 oz. feta cheese (if you use the fat-free kind, don’t tell me about it. You might as well use packing peanuts)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring quinoa and about 1 1/2 cups of water to boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until no liquid remains. Fluff with a fork and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, do your mincing and dicing. Efficiency: We’re all about it. Wrap some presents. Eat some cookies. Time is of the essence.

3. Once quinoa is cool, toss with salt and pepper (start with 1/2 teaspoon of each) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add herbs. Toss. Add cucumber and pomegranate seeds. Toss. Crumble cheese over top. Toss. Taste. Tweak. Tuck in, y’all. Serves 4.

This one doesn’t even need the runny egg. And that’s some high praise from this food brat.

What are your favorite healthy foods? Are you cooking anything special for the holidays?

Born-again runner.

There are born runners – those of long stride and low bone density, gliding easily along for miles like smug hovercrafts – and there are born-again runners. Those who, against all biological odds, have convinced themselves that ritualistically hauling their body weight over unnatural distances at elevated speeds is a desirable way of keeping fit. Crazy people.

In my defense, this was more of a frolic than a run.

Growing up, I hated physical fitness testing like…a fat kid hates physical fitness testing. No event was more ominous than the dreaded One Mile Run. I think I clocked in at 13:41 one year, which can’t have demanded more than a brisk walk of even of my stubby little legs. The promised return of my Baby-Sitters Club book was the only thing that got me to the finish.

Even when exercise became less of an affront, running remained a last-ditch option. Since I’d never made it a cardio mainstay, I lacked the endurance to get what I deemed a sufficient workout, and my disordered mind balked at the idea of sacrificing temporary calorie burn to train for longer distances. Why suffer the indignity of a 15-minute run when I could pedal away at an elliptical machine for 45? Surely the latter was the better option.

Then I got caught the bug.

If running is not and will never be your thing, by all means, opt out. There are a million ways to be active, many of which don’t also carry risks of charley horse and perpetual starvation. Save yourself! But if you want to be one of those crazy people who loves running, maybe you’ve just been doing it wrong. A change in approach helped me put a lifelong aversion – and about 15 miles a week – behind me. No Baby-Sitters Club book necessary.

The Born-Again Runner’s Gospel
Or, how to work out without hating your life.

Enlist technology. Traditionalists love to talk shit about the “dreadmill.” I find indoor runs to be far more enjoyable than their open-air counterparts, mainly because they incite me to push myself. From a mental perspective, it’s easier to do a challenging workout than a lame one.

You can find any number of treadmill workouts online, but here’s my basic formula: Set an easy warm-up pace (I like 6mph), and run at that speed for the duration of one song. At each subsequent verse/chorus transition, increase your speed by .5mph until you feel like you might die (for me, this kicks in around 9.5mph). Revert to half-speed (in this case, 7.5mph, which is now going to feel so easy) and “reset” for the length of one song. Repeat until desired mileage is reached. If you get bored, mess with the incline.

Running this way keeps my mind and muscles engaged in a way that bopping along down a riverside trail does not. I find that the miles fly by, and I enjoy feeling like a beastly sprinting badass at the end of every cycle. I’m also a huge baby who hates being at the mercy of the elements. Raw lungs? Stinging eyes? The unpleasant, paradoxical sensation of sweating under four layers of fleece? Why? Eliminate unnecessary discomforts, and you’ll find that you relish unavoidable aches and pains as a sign that you’re working hard.

Curate your plate. When it comes to food, many people use running as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Unless you’re clocking crazy mileage that requires you to gorge like an Olympic athlete, this usually doesn’t work out. Even if you manage to outrun your appetite, the pattern can breed an unhealthy “crime and punishment” mentality in which food must be justified by exercise (actually, food is necessary for human life, which is why people in comas require feeding tubes. But you knew that, right?).

I love jambalaya fritters and lamb burgers with duck bacon and toasted marshmallow milkshakes (sorry, it’s been great food week), and it’s true that running keeps my metabolism going at a rate that allows me to indulge and still put on my pants. But you know what I don’t love? Running with heartburn. Or, more abstractly, feeling like I must run to atone for the fact that I am a human being who sometimes wants things that aren’t salads. Running provides a concrete demonstration of how healthy food works as an energy source rather than a weight control method. Eat well, move easier. It makes me want to take care of myself, not get away with as much as I can.

You’re gonna get really hungry, though. Which is why you need to…

Fuel yo’self. I talk about my “move more, eat more” philosophy in my exercise history. Running is one of the most demanding forms of physical activity, so you can totally add an extra snack or be more lax about your portions. Just add good stuff that will help you rather than hold you back.

What and when you eat before a run is especially crucial. The only thing worse than running while bloated is running while starving. I cannot get a good run on an empty stomach, and honestly, a piece of fruit is usually not enough.

I like to think in terms of pre-run fuel and post-run repair. Since I don’t run long distances, I don’t need to be taking in tons of extra food, but I do compose my meals around my workouts—carbs before and protein after, with a bit of healthy fat on both sides. I currently have the luxury of exercising between breakfast and lunch, but when I was working standard hours, I was a big fan of the double breakfast (peanut butter toast or two of my favorite anytime cookies before; fruit with Greek yogurt or hard-boiled eggs after) or, if I was gym-bound after work, a hefty snack at my desk around 4pm.

This may seem excessive, but remember, it’s not entirely literal. You mind needs to believe that you have the energy to complete your workout just as much as your body needs those calories to function. Once you get used to eating around your activity, you won’t have to think so much. You’ll realize that you’re creating an ongoing flow of energy intake and expenditure, and that no one meal or workout can make or break you. Rather than crime and punishment, the result is a zenlike give and take (a “lifestyle,” I believe they call it).

Run with a purpose. This one comes from my lil’ sis, a varsity athlete and prospective Ivy League lacrosse recruit (NBD). She’s exactly like me except cooler, faster and funnier. Thank goodness I was born first, because I’d never have developed a healthy self-esteem with her around.

For those seeking a reason to get off the couch, Maddie suggests lacing up with a destination in mind. “Run to drop something at the post office. Run to grab something at CVS. Meet a friend for coffee. It’s a workout, but it’s also a way to get from place to place. Later, when you’re not feeling motivated, you’ve already developed the habit, and your body is used to doing the work.”

Isn’t she wise? She is so wise. Sister, you are so wise. Now get out of here so I can get back to being the smart one. Anyway, this isn’t entirely compatible with my sick treadmill fetish, but I think it’s a solid way to build up endurance and get your body used to high-impact movement. A+.

Eschew popular wisdom. Switch up your music! Invest in nice workout clothes! Get it over with first thing in the morning! I’ll admit that I cringe at the thought of running without a freshly loaded iPod – okay, and Lululemon Wunder Unders – but WTF to that morning crap. I’m a morning person, and I still prefer to get my sweat on after I’ve had a few hours to eat and caffeinate. Maddie’s with me on this one: “Don’t be confined to stereotypes. If you typically have more energy in the afternoon, do it then. Night owl, work out late. Watch the sunrise when you can sit and enjoy the freaking sunrise.” Sing it, girl. Run when you have the most to put into your workout, and you’ll get the most out of it.

As for the other stuff, it’s helpful, but it’s not enough. You can listen to music at home and wear yoga pants to the grocery store, so your motivation has to come from somewhere else. Same goes for the buddy system. Personally, I abhor group fitness – I like to get in the zone and pretend no one else exists – but I think even more social gym-goers can benefit from doing solo runs. It goes back to the challenge aspect of my first point—you’re more likely to crave a run when you can see the gains you’re making, and you’re more likely to make gains when you can focus on working hard. If you choose to be an active participant instead of running out the clock, your workout will become more interesting.

Take all of this with a bead of sweat. I’m no fitness expert – just your average active Jane – but I’m also not a born runner or even a lifelong exerciser, so I feel confident that just about anyone can get to where I am. In the three years since my 75-pound shed, I’ve found no better way of maintaining my size while keeping my mind calm and my belly fed. These days, I crave a hard run more than any other workout. Just don’t ask me to climb that stupid rope.

Do you like to run? Any tips to make it more enjoyable?