This Above All: Pull Happiness From Everywhere

This week my manager and I were talking about my weightloss journey. He’s bulking and I’m cutting again. There’s also another employee who’s cutting for figure. We work at a supplement store so I assumed it would be common practice for the employees to be this way.

I showed him a transformation photo. Actually, I showed him this one.

He looked at it and then looked away. Then he asked to look at it again. He said it didn’t look like me, and I agree. I think there’s features that you can see of my current face in my old face. But it’s not me anymore. I’ve talked a lot about the mental growth that you can’t see in the photos that we all share. I’ve talked about the struggles that you can’t see either.

For me, this whole journey was about re-gaining confidence and pushing myself to new limits. Not only telling myself I can accomplish great things, but then actually following through. It was about proving myself wrong because more importantly this is for me and no one else. Taking risks and  learning a lot of new things along the way. I’ve told you this before. This isn’t anything new. This is what the journey is about.

But I guess something that we’ve never really talked about is happiness. We’ve talked about how goals evolve and how methods need to be flexible to support new and evolving goals, but what about happiness. What does happiness look like at different stages?

My manager kind of asked about this. He said you’re smiling in the photo, didn’t you know you were that big. Had this been someone online, I would’ve been pissed because that’s such an odd thing to say. But since there was some context to our conversation, I just explained – it was the Senior Ball during Senior Week in college and it was a lot of fun, I was still happy as a heavier person. As a fat person I was still happy. Size doesn’t dictate true happiness.

This I believe wholeheartedly.

Today I pull happiness from a latte or a homemade cookie from the farmer’s market. I pull happiness from a cup of tea waiting for me at the end of a long day. I find enjoyment from hearing that a client believes their week was successful even if there were a few bumps in the road – they are learning to not be so hard on themselves.

Before, I remember being excited for a nice day to be outside with friends on campus drinking a beer. Not wanting to miss a moment and being pissed when I was stuck in biology lab on a Tuesday night because night class sounded like a good idea at the time. I didn’t want to be left out. I found happiness in all experience – good and those to never be re-visited.

When people tell us that we’re fat or were fat or are getting fat, they’re not telling us something we don’t already know. I knew I was getting heavy, but I chose to not care. As my waist grew so did my defensive humor, and now as a more fit person my comebacks are fast and I’m considered witty. Go figure that was used to deflect before. When I started losing weight, I started for find happiness in places I never thought I would like the gym or trying a new recipe modification.

Clearly, I have always loved food and I am a self proclaimed foodie, but I had never been this creative in the kitchen before. Now, I’ve set boundaries. Not everything should be healthy, some things are best when the stick of butter stays or you sneak in extra peanut butter. Happiness is when JP will try some random creation and actually enjoys it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be sad sometimes. Go ahead and cry if that’s going to help. Scream if you need to, but try to not break your cell phone – nothing is worth a cracked screen.

We all experience sadness differently. Don’t think just because someone shows you highlights online that they are never sad. Some are just better at hiding it. I think frustration can fall into that as well. I still get sad or angry or frustrated when I don’t do something well that I know I’m capable of doing. Again, I don’t think size dictates how you feel about anything – you don’t lose your emotions when you lose weight. You may gain some perspective, but I don’t think you completely change your emotional thought process.

I look back on photos and try remembering what was happening when it was captured. Some smiles are genuine and others are cheesy, some have terrible angles because that’s how I thought I could make myself look thinner. No, Cristina, that’s not how that works at all. You just look like you have a broken neck – oh well, lesson learned. Also, duck face, not cute. Try again. I never thought about if I was unhappy. Of course I had times of sadness and times I didn’t like my size, but I don’t think I would’ve ever allowed that to consume everything I had. I had a lot of sadness and anger and frustration this fall and that was exhausting. Kitchen floor and all, but comparing my old life to this one including the fall – nothing can compare. I am the fittest I’ve ever been and something still triggered me.

I believe I’m the happiness I have been in a while and that’s exciting and scary because I love this feeling and I don’t want it to go away. I also know that means I’m going to have to work at keeping it. Finding happiness in the perfect cup of coffee and reminding myself that a 5-hour class on a Monday night is going to be worth it when I hold that degree. Look forward to each day at work because I truly love what I’m doing. It’s not just a job, it’s the hallway to greater opportunity.

I’m lucky that while some shitty things have happened, I have also had some opportunities line right up.

Today, look for happiness in places you don’t always seek it from. Maybe it’s five minutes of quiet until you realize the kids trashed the living room. Or maybe it’s not cooking the yolk all the way through – I hate when that happens. I hope you can wear a smile on your face because happiness looks great on everyone, at every size.

❤ Cristina



This Above All: #6 “Celebrate Everyday”

Yesterday I started writing this and it did start out like this:

It’s Sunday and I’m taking a break from planning my week. JP isn’t home and it’s easy to sit down and write without distraction.

Then JP came home and I was easily distracted by grocery shopping, making dinner and preparing my meals for the week.

On Saturday, I went to the Supergym for a Women’s Day event that was organized by IFBB Pro Jamie Pinder. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I was glad that I had the chance to do it with friends. Not well-known friends, but two women who are like-minded and we were going to be immersed in a room with others like us.

I met Kolbie and Jess online through Instagram. I had been following both of them for a really long time before I had ever talked with either of them, but in the past few months I’ve met them both in person and wished I had done it sooner.

While I was on leave, one thing I did to find my zero again was to connect with people around me that I felt had an energy I wanted in my life. I know that sounds very hippy dippy and that’s totally fine, but I wanted to connect with people that had goals and dreams, either like mine or totally different, but people who had a direction. I wanted to hear stories and maybe find myself by finding these other people.

Jess and Kolbie are two people that made me feel clarity. They don’t know they did that, but they did.

Gala Darling was one of the presenters on Saturday. Her ability to apply eyelashes will make you question why you can’t do that perfectly, but more importantly her list of 10 commandments of radical self love will make you clap, nod and reflect on yourself.

So number #6 of her commandments that she presented us is to celebrate everyday.

I don’t truly know if Gala has in mind what I’m going to write down, but this is how I interpret it.

I cried a lot this fall. But today and yesterday and last week, all I can think is I needed to fall apart so everything else could come together.

Yesterday, I celebrated JP as a distraction because I can’t imagine not living with him. 915 miles between us for two years was too much. So while he frustrates me during meal prep and wants me to snuggle him after breakfast, when I’m ready to get my day started, I don’t want to not live with him.

Saturday was celebrated with all of my days meals and snacks packed in a bag and eaten cold as I learned and heard the stories of strangers. It continued as I learned quirks about new friends and enjoyed a car ride snuggled in a Volkswagen Beatle.

I learned that Kolbie’s perfectly applied make up was learned from watching YouTube videos, which gives me hope that the next time I contour my face it won’t look like a child played with finger paint.

I’m in awe at the patience Jess has as she’s bulking so she can compete in figure – or at least the patience she gives off. I’m not only impatient, but I don’t know if I would be able to handle pushing myself to that limit or the mindset it takes to truly be bulking.

I finally know someone who uses the cinnamon at Starbucks in their coffee… Kolbie.

I’ve been seeking a reason to smile every day, not necessarily the whole day, but at least for a few minutes. Most days I find something small – JP making Starbucks reserve perfectly without me needing to add much water to dilute the dark roast or learning something new. Sometimes something big makes me smile or makes me cry at the same time, like a client texting or call me to tell me something about their day.

Opening the store the other morning on my own, correctly, made me smile. It’s small and I know some people are just going to say, well it’s just retail, but it made me feel good about taking on a new job. It’s a position I’ve never been in before and doing something new is always scary, until you’ve had enough practice.

I’m not thrilled about my course book costs, but I am excited to get started and be able to add something meaningful that will help me  in so many ways, but more importantly help me as I assist others.

Not every day is going to be amazing, I think we know that, but we expect it to be. Maybe collecting a lot of silver linings can get us through the tough times, and finding joy in daily things that aren’t necessarily extraordinary will make us see the world differently.

Kolbie said it best “we all need to be better at reflecting on ourselves” and I think that’s what celebrating everyday is about. Reflecting on the choices we’re making and how those impact us or those around us. Find excitement in the progress you are able to make and  continue to move forward.

Celebrating the good is important, but recognizing and celebrating how we grow from the bad is equally important.

Through frustrations we can discover our true strength.

I’m going to celebrate today by getting the most out of it, by trying to have slight tunnel vision with my goals, but also reaching out when appropriate.

 “Are you hungry yet?” A collective yes and we sat on the stage to eat our cold packed meals.

❤ Cristina

This Above All: Don’t Quit Your Daydream

I registered for classes last Friday. It was probably one of the biggest hassles I’ve had with academia from the student standpoint. This will be my third degree and all I wanted to do was register for classes and get the ball rolling. What I first got was a quick lecture about how ridiculous it is for working professionals that already have a high level of education to go back to school for the lowest degree because industry tells them to – he didn’t really listen to me when I said I was switching industries and why this degree was a great fit.

Anyway, moving on.

I started my new job on Monday and I think it’s going to be a good fit. It’s at a supplement store and it’s part time. It’s more than a sales associate position and for me, this job means flexibility with school and coaching. It also means I have a chance to learn more about supplements – more than just protein and creatine, but various vitamins too. That’s not something I’m going to learn in school, but can be helpful when talking to future clients. Currently, the only supplements I take are protein powder and a fiber supplement as necessary. I do use protein bars too, but I consider those more food than the powders. So, my own personal knowledge of other nutritional supplements is pretty limited at the moment, but I can’t wait to change that.

Coaching. Well, I never thought I would want to help people in this way. I knew that I wanted to make an impact on the world around me and that’s how I saw my role as a fundraiser. As a fundraiser, I was assisting the next generation in obtaining their education. I was helping connect alumni to the institution and figure out how they could partner together to make a better tomorrow for those who wanted to dream big and get their degree. Somewhere along the road, the fire went out and I didn’t think that I was making an impact that was meaningful or making an impact the way I truly wanted to.

My social media presence has always been to keep me accountable. I’ve always had one instagram account and I always will. It’s a lifestyle account and I share so much of my life with you. I know a lot of people have said that my journey is inspiring, my drive and goal setting process – the follow through is inspiring, but remember that’s not the purpose, that just  a byproduct. One that still has me question how I convinced so many people I’m doing something interesting or cool. But I’m starting to see my presence as a way to connect with others and have a better understanding as to why we think the way we do and take action the way we do – or for that matter, lack of action in some cases.

Coaching has allowed me to engage with  individuals with varying goals and help them discover their fire. Help them feel empowered to take true control of their goals, their life and figure out the path that is right for them, even if it means trying something brand new or finding someone with more expertise than me. Partnering with them rather than telling them what to do because that’s not real life, you can’t go through your whole world on a meal plan or following strict directions. You at 20 is different than you at 35, married with two children. What works at one point in your journey or life doesn’t always continue working, and this is something that we talk about and work on as they accomplish and develop new or different than planned goals.

Coaching is the dream I didn’t know I had. It’s what my day dream of changing or impacting the world around me became. I kept saying “I want to help people” and I thought that meant helping students figure out their potential with a college degree. By opening the door for high school students to go to college maybe fundraisers like me were helping shape tomorrow’s thinkers. My desire to leave a mark somehow has become helping people figure out their potential by examining their every day lives now and reaching for the possibilities six months from now.

At the beginning of 2016, I never thought I would quit my job, go back to school and start my own business -ever, let alone at the same time. Right now though, this is the only clear path. For the first time in months, I feel like there are endless possibilities if I work hard. I feel excited about the challenges that will be coming up the next few months. I feel excited to be busy again and to be taking on so many new things.

Things are falling into place and even when it gets hard, I know it’s going to be worth it.

Tomorrow is my second day at work and this is just the beginning.

❤ Cristina



This Above All: A New Direction Toward Something Bigger

The last 79 days of 2016 were nothing like I had imagined or could’ve planned for.

I was forced to face triggers that I thought I had been handling just fine. And I was up until September, but they surfaced in different ways. It’s one thing to question your ability – I’m Type A, I want perfection or better. My standards of myself are always higher than the standards others set for me. It’s another to never have an understanding at this point, professionally, I couldn’t tell you what the standards for me were, and that killed me.

You want details? You’re not getting details. You don’t need details to understand that months of build up with lack of communication or direction and hostility,  in a career I once loved, led to anxiety attacks, flashbacks, binges and nights on the floor. It resulted in trying a new medication that led to a car accident. It’s not that I couldn’t do my job any more, it’s that I couldn’t do it there. I couldn’t force myself to stay in that environment and I’m lucky to have someone who understands that.


Everyone is saying this is going to be their year. Dammit, I believe that. I started reflecting in October. I reflected deeper in November over lattes and cookies – yes, I’m going to remind you that my coping was more than just going to therapy. It was journaling and trying a new coffee house. Giving myself a slight adventure out of bed and out of the apartment that cost less than $10 brought me to zero. It gave me a chance to people watch and obtain some interaction without actively having to put myself out there. It might not be how others cope, but making a plan – even a small one, helped me cope. I coped by finding structure in a new lifting program, but by December I was doubting myself and letting the doubt of others get to me. But I didn’t stop trying to create my path. I didn’t stop moving forward.

I read a lot. I write a lot. Shakespeare was so wise beyond his time.

In Hamlet, Polonius tells Laertes “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Junior AP English tells me this has more than one meaning.

It’s not just about being true and honest to those around you, but it’s about being honest with yourself. It’s about acknowledging when you need to step back, when you need to push forward and when you just need a change. It’s about knowing that you’ve done everything you could in the circumstances given.

This line could mean being true is doing the right thing and sometimes the right thing is putting yourself first.

2017 is about this.

I start a new job tomorrow. I go back to school in 10 days. I’ve adjusted my macros for a lower maintenance rather than a sliding range the past two weeks and competition prep for the spring and summer season starts in a few weeks. I feel ready. My head and my heart are working together this time. Timing can be everything and I’m taking my life back and giving it my all.

This blog series is going to be called This Above All because there’s a lot of changes coming, but it’s all for the greater cause, it’s all for the bigger picture. It’s all to be true to myself and give myself what I actually deserve not what those around me tell me I deserve.

I’m heading in a different direction than I could’ve ever dreamed of and I have never felt more ready to move forward than I do right now.

❤ Cristina