<![CDATA[Southern Prep & Studying - HOME]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 16:35:43 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Summer 2017 Favorites]]>Thu, 06 Jul 2017 23:24:11 GMThttp://southernprepandstudying.com/home/summer-2017-favoritesFTC Disclaimer:  This blog post is affiliated with ShopStyle, and I may get commission for every link click/purchase of these products.  These opinions are solely my own and I would never recommend a product that I did not love and use on a regular basis.
Although we still have a few months left, Summer 2017 is ​coming to a close.  There's a month until classes begin, and then all of my Summer hopes and dreams come to an end (haha).  This Summer has definitely been busy - from having a Summer job to doing Summer classes.  Thankfully, I've decided to drop my last Summer class, so I have a month to recuperate before I begin my 18 credit hours next semester... wish me luck.  With Summer comes a ton of time to test out new items and experiences.  Here are a few of my favorites!
1.  My blonde:  This summer, I decided I needed a change.  I've wanted to go blonde since Hannah Montana came out in 2006.  I was kind of iffy about it because I didn't know how adding blonde into my hair would look, but I love it so much more than I ever thought I would!  If you are wanting to try something new with your hair, just do it!  The worst that can happen is that you'll either have to dye it back or grow it out!  At least you can say you did it!
2.  Not Your Mother's Blonde Moment Treatment Shampoo ($5.99):  With my blonde came the need for toning.  I was never extremely impressed with Shimmer Lights when I used it in the past with highlight or ombre, so I knew I wasn't going to use it this time.  I came across this shampoo in Target and knew I had to try it!  The violet pigment is extremely deep and dark.  I usually leave it on for about 1-2 minutes before rinsing and following up with my toning conditioner.  This is a great low-end/budget toning shampoo!
3.  Pravana The Perfect Blonde Conditioner ($19.99 for 10.01 oz):  This conditioner was recommended to me by my stylist, and I love it!  It definitely does help tone, and I might also try out the shampoo to see if it's a great high-end option for toning shampoos.  When using this conditioner, I put a shower cap over my head and leave it in for about 5-7 minutes (sometimes longer if my hair is needing a bit more toning).  It has also greatly helped the upkeep of my hair since it has coconut oil in it!  You can find this conditioner here.
4. Hot Tools Curling Iron ($49.99):  I've always had trouble finding a curling iron that actually worked with my fine, hard-to-curl hair.  Every curling iron would either not curl my hair, or would just randomly stop heating up.  When my stylist curled my hair after bleaching it, I loved it!  It made the balayage flow so well and just looked flawless.  I needed a curling iron that would actually work without frying my hair off.  One day, I was watching a YouTube video by Tori Sterling and she recommended this one!  Let me tell you... it works wonders!  It's also a lot more affordable than I initially thought.  You can find it here.
5.  Bath & Body Works 3-Wick Candles ($24.50):  I know these candles aren't some kind of new and amazing find, but I think Bath & Body Works has definitely stepped up its candle game this Summer!  The jars for the candles are so beautifully decorated and will make a great storage piece after I finish burning the wax.  The two scents I got are Rose Water & Ivy and Mineral Springs.  I love to light one of these while getting ready for work or just relaxing in bed.  BONUS:  right now (7/5/17), these candles are only $12.50!!
6.  LUSH Bath Bomb in Intergalactic ($7.75):  I've always dreamt of using a LUSH Bath Bomb, but because there aren't any stores around me, I never was able to.  I recently ordered the Intergalactic Bath Bomb online, and it far exceeded my expectations.  I didn't think LUSH Bath Bombs would be any greater than other ones in stores, but they definitely are.  The pigment in the bomb completely transformed my bath, and the smell lingered in my house (and on me) for hours!  I will definitely be buying LUSH Bath Bombs from now on!
7.  Kate Spade Cookbook ($34.00):  I'm about to move into an apartment style dorm at my university and know I will be cooking a ton.  To make it easier, I needed a cookbook. I didn't want just any old cookbook, though, I wanted something that fit my personality!  When I found this one at a boutique, I knew it was the one for me.  Not only does it have an adorable pattern, but the recipe section is also perfect.  There are many tabs/sections, and the actual recipe pages leave plenty of room to write down all of your ingredients and instructions.  I can see myself using this for many years on end.  You can find this cookbook here
8. Hunter Rain Boots ($150.00):  I've wanted Hunter rain boots for many years.  They're a stylish take on normal rain boots found in stores like Target, and are also very durable.  I cannot count the amount of times it flooded during school last year and I wished I had something to keep my feet from getting wet.  So, when I found someone local that didn't want her rain boots anymore, I was quick to swipe them up.  I love these and will definitely look into purchasing more in the future!  You can find these boots here.
9.  Tarteist Pro Glow Palette ($45.00):  This was another recommendation from Tori Sterling.  As someone with extremely pale skin, it's always hard for me to find a bronzer or contour product that didn't look like mud on my face.  I love the creme and powder contours in this palette because they are cool toned (so I don't look orange) and also aren't too dark for my complexion.  The highlight shades in this palette are also amazing!  Another plus is that this palette smells like cupcakes.  You can find it here.
10.  Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish ($9.99):  I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I've always had problems with my polish either chipping or smudging within a few hours of painting my nails. A coworker of mine recommended this line to me, and I'm so glad she did!  Not only does the polish dry fast, but it also stays intact way longer than any other polish I've tried.  These polishes are definitely worth the price, and I will definitely continue to buy them!   You can find this polish line here.
If you decide to try out any of these products, please let me know!  Also, if you have any products that you think I should try out, leave them in the comments!  I'm always looking for new things to try. 

- Lauren
]]>
<![CDATA[STEPPING BACK: ¬†KNOWING WHEN YOU'VE SPREAD YOURSELF TOO THIN]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:42:05 GMThttp://southernprepandstudying.com/home/stepping-back-knowing-when-youve-spread-yourself-too-thin​"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson 
I've always been an overachiever... everything I've been tasked with has to be done ten times better/faster than is expected of me.  With high school, for example, instead of graduating in four years, I graduated in three and had two years of college under my belt.  Now with college, I'm trying to speed along to get done with my BA before law school.  (And I'll probably be tempted to speed along with law school, as well.

Having an education and building a foundation for your future career or graduate school also means being well-rounded.  This puts on the pressure of being in a ton of student organizations, having a social life, having time to yourself, working, and still being able to succeed in your classes.  I went into this upcoming semester with a heavy load... I would be taking 18 credit hours, I would be President of Wishmakers on Campus (and then later found out that I would have to take over as President of another huge organization on campus), I would be apart of a Children's Miracle Network Danceathon, I would be working, I would be studying for the LSAT, I would be rushing to be in a sorority, and I would have to try to find time to relax and actually be a human.  Every time I thought of the work load I would have for the upcoming semester, I would go numb.  
How was I supposed to manage all of this without crashing and burning?  I'm at my university for my education, so it's not like I would put school on the back burner.  Work is still important since it brings in money, and I like the people I work with, so I wouldn't want to give that up.  The LSAT is coming up in less than a year, and it's the ultimate determining factor in whether or not I get into the law school I want with great scholarships.  So, that leaves the organizations.  I'm the type of person who hates breaking a commitment.  It's always hard for me to juggle caring for myself or caring for others.  I felt like if I left any of these organizations that I had committed to, I would be letting them down and they would hate me, but also, I would probably hate myself if I failed any of these classes and/or had a mental breakdown from stress.

This entire summer was full of trying to plan out how I was going to juggle all of this.  And while trying to figure it all out, I was also taking 9 credit hours to try to get my Latin courses out of the way.  Then, a week or so ago, a bomb was dropped on me.  Because of one of my organizations, I would be moving into my dorm in a month, and I would have to take on extra responsibility.  Moving back in a month also meant that my last Latin class would end 3 days before I had to pick up and leave.  I would be going without any sort of summer break.  I went numb when I found this out.  I remember going into my mom's bedroom and just falling to the floor because everything felt too heavy.  I knew I had to drop something.  It wouldn't be Wishmakers on Campus because that organization is my baby.  It wouldn't be any of my classes, of course.  It wouldn't be the danceathon because I care deeply about the Children's Miracle Network and the hospital we would be raising money for.  It couldn't be this organization because they had already lost one member, so I would just be setting them up for failure.  So, my decision was to drop sorority recruitment, even though it was something that I was extremely excited for, and I also dropped the last Latin class and would just take it in the Fall instead of another class I needed.

I thought this setup would be better for me.  After all, I had one less organization to worry about, and I'd have a month to just relax and work before classes started.  But then, every time someone would bring up the organization that was causing me the most stress, I would get defensive, irritable, and my overall mood changed.  I felt like I couldn't change this, though.  If I left the organization, I'd be dropping something that needed me, I'd be breaking a commitment, and I'd feel like a failure.  So, I was set in the mindset that I was going to stick with it.  

I noticed something, though, every time I thought about this organization, it felt like my world was about to crash around me, even though I had dropped two things that were important to me.  I didn't know how I would be able to put so much dedication into this organization and still pass all of my classes, even if I dropped the other two organizations that I cared deeply for.  Every time I would talk to a family member or friend, they would ask me "Is it even worth it?" and ultimately, my answer was no, but I had made a commitment.  I couldn't just go back on that oath, could I?  But what is an oath worth when you feel like a broken human being whenever you think about it?  I had a gut feeling that if I stayed in this organization, I would get a failing grade on a test and then have to leave them high and dry in the middle of the semester.  So, I decided to talk to my mom about it.  Once I spoke with her it was a pretty easy decision.  Keeping my GPA up and stopping myself from going insane heavily outweighed just wanting to keep a commitment.  So, I sent an email of resignation to this organization.  I felt like such a bad person afterwards, but it was what I had to do to make sure school and my own mental wellbeing would be my number one priorities.  

My point for this blog post isn't to tell you to quit things, but also, you should know that if you do have to step back from something, that's okay.  After stopping this organization, I also decided to remain withdrawn from my last Latin class so I could relax before school started up, and this decision killed me because it would put me two credit hours shy of being a senior in the spring semester, but it's what I had to do to keep myself sane.  

As an overachiever, it can be hard to step back and slow down in life, but sometimes it's what you have to do.  Remind yourself that you are human.  You will go through struggles and setbacks, and if you disappoint someone within those setbacks, that's okay.  You can't please everyone in life, but make sure to focus on who you are and what you need.  After all, if you spread yourself too thin, you will ultimately disappoint those people anyway.  It's better to step back before you get too deep into something.  

So, keep your head up and do what you need to do.

- Lauren


]]>
<![CDATA[AN EIGHTEEN YEAR OLD'S 52 REACTIONS TO HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL]]>Mon, 12 Jun 2017 20:11:44 GMThttp://southernprepandstudying.com/home/an-eighteen-year-olds-52-reactions-to-high-school-musical
Last night, I stumbled upon a Facebook video about High School Musical.  This video sparked my interest in watching the movie again (for the 5000th) time.  As a child, I was a High School Musical fanatic.  I owned 3 copies of the first movie alone (for some reason, I was convinced I needed the original version, the Remix version, AND the sing along... and yes, I did watch every single one multiple times).  Any time I hear that the movie will be on TV, I jump to watch it and sing along without any regrets or remorse.   I find myself enjoying the movie even more now than I did as a child.  I've decided to pull a Buzzfeed and disclose every single thought I had while watching the movie on Netflix last night (God bless Netflix for having HSM and HSM2, but can they get HSM3 sometime??).  
1.  Why did Troy not ask Gabriella where she lived when they were supposed to call each other the next day?  Why did Disney have to make it seem like the end of the world when Gabriella walked off?
2.  What kind of high school has that much school pride?  Is this a 24/7 pep rally?
3.  Why doesn't Sharpay get in trouble for sitting on Troy's desk?  Did her teachers not discipline her?
4.  Why did every single person have their ringer on in Ms. Darbus's classroom?  Have they ever heard of vibrate?
5.  I know this movie way too well for my own good.
6.  "Nice penmanship.":  The most savage compliment of all time.
7.  "The music in their shows isn't hip hop or rock."  Chad, have you ever heard of Hamilton?
8.  Troy's friends don't know he sings, yet they all casually break into song during practice.
9.  I wonder how many basketball teams used "Getcha Head in the Game" as apart of their practice warm up routine in 2006.
10.  The all-star Wildcat basketball team apparently only needed a practice 2 minutes and 28 seconds long two weeks before the biggest game of the season.
11.  Sharpay's nail tap after Gabriella corrected their teacher gave my 5 year old self life.
12.  "What temerity!"  @ Disney Channel, how do you expect your audience to know what that means? (btw, it means "excessive confidence or boldness, audacity")
13.  "Flinging balls for touchdowns."  A+, Ms. Darbus.
14.  Why does Disney Channel think cheerleaders live their entire lives cheering?
15.  Why does Sharpay walk like she's straight out of the disco era?
16.  Chad's shirt:  "I come with my own background music."  Why yes, Chad, you do.  This is a movie musical, after all.
17.  Why was there not a single teacher that shopped Troy to ask where he was going during his elaborate "shortcut"?
18.  "Was that a cellphone?"  Ms. Darbus, you've been teaching here for years.  You should know what the warning bell sounds like.
19.  Don't worry, Ryan, I loved your jazz square.
20.  Why was the entire school okay with siblings playing love interests in this musical?
21.  Is this musical going to have anyone but Sharpay and Ryan?  What about supporting roles?  Extras?  Are holograms and clones a thing at East High?
22.  What kind of school writes all of their musicals instead of buying the rights to another?
23.  Why was my high school cafeteria not like East High's?  Mine smelled like bat poop.
24.  "A saw?"  Yes, this guy plays a saw.  Brilliant idea.
25.  Sharpay's outfit in the "Stick to the Status Quo" scene was A1, but Gabriella had to go and ruin it.
26.  I don't even like chili cheese fries, but why couldn't my school have them?
​27.  Can I save Sharpay's scream as my ringtone?
28.  Poor Zeke just wants to bake, but no one will let him.
29.  How old is Ms. Darbus?  I always thought she was an elder when I was a kid.
30.  I looked it up.  She was 47.
31.  "Evaporate, tall person."  ME.
32.  The rooftop garden is so aesthetically pleasing.
33.  Why does the sheet music for "Breaking Free" not have any words?  How are they supposed to know when to come in?
34.  Troy randomly dancing to himself while painting boxes is 100% me at work (minus the painting boxes part).
35.  Look at Gabriella wearing those olive pants before it was a trend.  Vanessa was a trendsetter even before Coachella.
36.  Ha!  Coachella, Gabriella.  Coincidence?  I think not.
37.  Troy Bolton's ball drop was the 2006 equivalent of a mic drop.
38.  If I put Zac Efron in my refrigerator, will I stick to my diet plan?
39.  What does Gabriella use for her hair's volume?  I need it in my life.
40.  Everyone talks about "Gotta Go My Own Way", but not "When There Was Me & You", even though it was the best solo of all time.
41.  This song brings back so many memories of crushing High School Musical:  Sing It!
42.  I swear Gabriella has worn the same shade of blue three days in a row.
43.  Troy Bolton:  *checks nonexistent watch*
44.  "Exclamation point!"
45.  Why does Ryan not know what "Go drama club!" says?
46.  So was "Bop to the Top" a part of Twinkle Towne?  If so, I'd like to see Troy and Gabriella do their own rendition of it.
47.  Does the scholastic decathlon team not have a club sponsor?
48.  Remember the Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode where no one thought Maddie looked like Sharpay?
49.  Gabriella's mom's face when she sees them singing "Breaking Free". :')
50.  Troy giving Kelsi the game ball. :')
51.  WILDCATS SING ALONG YEAH YOU REALLY GOT IT GOING ON.
52.  Where did Gabriella get this dress?
No more thoughts were given because it is criminal to watch the "We're All in This Together" scene without dancing along.
]]>
<![CDATA[10 STATIONARY ITEMS EVERYONE NEEDS]]>Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:21:39 GMThttp://southernprepandstudying.com/home/10-stationary-items-everyone-needsFTC Disclaimer:  This blog post is affiliated with ShopStyle, and I may get commission for every link click/purchase of these products.  These opinions are solely my own and I would never recommend a product that I did not love and use on a regular basis
Stationary is something I find way too much joy in.  I'm the type of person who, when stressed, will literally sit down and write five pages of notes just about my undergraduate course plan (course descriptions and semesters offered included).  School shopping time was always my favorite because I could get all of the notebooks, pencils, and pens that I wanted.  Stationary is a great way to stay organized and look like an adult, even when you feel like you may not be.  I've rounded up a few of my favorite stationary items, and for my 10th (!!!) blogpost, I've decided to tell my top 10 stationary items!
1.  A Planner:  To me, a planner is essential for having an organized life.  How else will you be able to organize and plan out every event that you have coming up?  A planner is a good way to keep yourself from procrastinating or double booking yourself.  In the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie "New York Minute", Ashley's character was made fun of for having a planner, but in reality she had her life together.  Sure, you don't have to be as strict and detail oriented as her, but having a planner and keeping yourself organized will help you to succeed.  Some of my favorite planners are by Lilly Pulitzer ($22.00-35.00), Day Designer ($29.99-59.00), Erin Condren ($55.00-60.00), and Emily Ley ($58.00).  These planners are more deluxe, but you by no means have to purchase a super expensive one.  Target, Office Depot, and Walmart have planners for cheaper!  This past school year, I bought a $29.99 Day Designer from Target (picture below... excuse the stains on its corner.  My baby has been through a lot).  My next planner will probably be an Emily Ley one since they are more colorful and patterned than the Day Designers, but it still has the hourly breakdown of each day, which I love.
2.  Desk Calendar:  You may think that you don't need a desk calendar if you have a planner, but trust me, they're super helpful.  I just recently purchased one a few months back and they help me to be so much more organized.  I like to put my work schedule, class/test dates, and when I need to change out my pairs of contacts on mine.  During the school year, I also have organization meeting dates on it so I can make sure I'm not overbooking myself.  I like to have both a planner and a desk calendar because my calendar is right there in front of me while I'm getting ready in the morning, and also, I don't have to go through and search for that specific day in my planner if I'm needing to know what needs to be done.  I use my desk calendar for a brief overview of my day, and then my planner has the nitty-gritty details.  I have one from Target (I believe it was $8.99, but I can't find it on the website, so I can't link it).  There are plenty of cute ones that you can come across online, in boutiques, and other stores.  If you're looking for a more fun desk calendar, there are ones with coloring pages, like this one.  
3. Binders:  This one may seem like a given, but binders are so important, even if you aren't in school.  I like to have one for my organizations on campus, and also my classes.  They're a great place to compile every piece of paper that you need to keep for your job, your family, your budget, or anything else that you can think of.  I never really appreciated binders as a kid, but now they're my lifeline.
4.  Printables:  In the picture above, you might see that one of my binder covers is a Semester Planner.  I use these every single semester so I can know every little thing about my classes and have a easy go-to if I need to know where my classes are.  These printables are for everything you might possibly need.  There's daily planner sheets, monthly calendars, budget sheets, etc.  The best thing about them?  They're free!  Printables can easily be found on Pinterest, but my favorites are by The Organised Student.  They're also extremely aesthetically pleasing, so that's a plus!
5.  Notebooks:  This is another product that seems like a given, but notebooks are so necessary for keeping organized.  I love taking notes, so I have notebooks for everything.  I have one for work, one for organizations on campus, and then many for classes.  Notebooks can be found anywhere.  For school, I like using the Five Star 1-Subject Notebooks.  They're a bit more expensive when compared to storebrand notebooks, but I like them because they have a plastic cover.  Before I started getting Five Star notebooks, the covers would always break off after a few months and the paper inside would get screwed up.  The plastic covers of these keeps that from happening.  Also, I'm able to reuse these for both the Fall and Spring Semesters because there are so many pages.  Since there are so many colors, I'm also able to color coordinate the notebooks with certain courses/subjects.  I like to use college ruled paper since it makes my handwriting more neat, but the ruling of the paper is completely up to you!  If you want something less basic, stores like Target, Office Depot, TJ Maxx, Bealls, and boutiques have patterned notebooks that have a bit more personality.  The light pink and rose gold notebook in the pictures below is from Bealls and was $4.99.  The patterned notebooks will always be more expensive, but if you're wanting something that's more you and are willing to spend the money, go for it!
6.  Staedtler Tri-Plus Fineliners:  These things were a game changer for my note-taking.  I prefer a fine-tipped pen, and love for my notes to have color, so these were a dream come true when I found out about them.  They don't really bleed through paper, either!  These marker pens are also great for coloring.  I have the 36 pack currently, but will soon be upgrading to the 42 count pack so I can have more colors!  These markers are pretty expensive (at Target, the 42 pack is $40), but can be found for cheaper on Amazon!
7.  Lap Desk:  I don't know if you can count a lap desk as a stationary product, but since I use mine for school and blogging (and playing Sims so my computer doesn't overheat), I'm going to count it.  Mine is from TJ Maxx and was about $15.  I bought it about a year ago, so I don't think you'd be able to find this exact one anymore, but they're pretty easy to find online!  I have one that has legs so it doesn't have to sit directly on my lap and makes it a bit more comfortable for note-taking.  Target has a pretty nice wooden one for $24.50 here. If you're looking to find a lap desk, try Target, stores like TJ Maxx, or even online!  If you keep searching, you'll find one that's perfect for your needs!
8.  Stapler & Tape Dispenser:  Until I moved to college, I never realized how important tape and staples were.  I'd always just mindlessly use my mom's, and didn't even think of it as a necessity until I had my first essay and had to try to figure out how the heck to staple my papers together without a stapler.  If you're looking for a cute stapler or tape dispenser, Target has adorable ones!  The stapler pictured below is $15.99 from Target and is by Swingline.  You can find it here.  The tape dispenser is also from Target, but I was unable to find it to link.  However, Target does have this Marble Tape Dispenser that I find absolutely adorable, and it's only $9.99!
9.  Desk File Divider:  I just recently got this file divider (I believe it was from the Target dollar section), and it has made my life so much cleaner and more organized.  Instead of having papers strown all over my room and desk, I can keep them in this organizer and have them easily at my disposal.  Since I'm currently studying for the LSAC, I like to put my practice exams there so I can keep from losing them.
10.  Paper Clips & Binder Clips:  Paper and binder clips are another thing that I never really thought would be important until this past semester.  I had two huge research papers, and with research papers comes a ton of articles that can make your desk very messy.  I didn't want to staple any of the articles since it sometimes makes reading a bit harder (and when you have a 30 page article... a stapler is hopeless), so I decided to buy some binder clips and paper clips to keep everything together while still being able to easily read the articles.  These items may be something that you never really think about, but they're a game changer!
If you have any other suggestions for stationary items that I may have forgotten, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below!  I'd love to know about some more items that may make my life easier and more organized!

- Lauren
]]>
<![CDATA[HOW TO START YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY]]>Wed, 31 May 2017 01:23:49 GMThttp://southernprepandstudying.com/home/how-to-start-your-fitness-journey
It's that time of year again - bikini body time, and everyone is talking about getting fit to look good on the beach.  It can be hard to start getting healthy, especially if you are starting at a point of being overweight, or haven't exercised/eaten healthy in months or years.  You may feel like you aren't at a point in your life where you can make huge strides in getting healthy, but I promise you, you are.
I've always struggled with my weight.  I was overweight, then went vegetarian and did Blogilates everyday, and got to the perfect weight.  Then, in high school, I went through a lot of battles (including depression, thyroid problems, and other things), and ended up gaining all of my weight back.  During this time, I also stopped being vegetarian, and while I don't think this contributed a ton to my weight gain, I don't think it helped since my body does better without meat.  Because I gained so much weight in such a short amount of time, and was so vulnerable at that time, I developed a problem with bulimia.  My worst period of it lasted for about a year, but its effects remained.  Even after I got helped and stopped the actions, the thoughts remained.  I hated the way I looked, and if I tried to get back onto the train of working out and eating healthy again, the bulimic acts would start again.  Because I couldn't continue trying to get healthy without hurting myself mentally, I continued to gain weight.

So, three years later, I began college.  My university has a wonderful gym/fitness center, and its membership is included in my tuition, so I knew I had to keep that $40/semester from going to waste.  By then, I had gotten to a better place with my insecurities.  I had cut myself off from toxic people who were making me feel worse about myself, and was overall a happier person, so I started committing myself to going to the gym 3-4 times a week (then working out with dumbbells or bodyweight in my dorm if I felt particularly lazy on some days).  Now, I've lost 30 lbs and am still working on myself.  I'm in no way a fitness expert, but I know what works for me, and am here to give you tips based on my fitness journey.

1.  Listen to your body.  This is usually taken in a physical sense, and should be so you can prevent injuries, but I mean this in a mental sense.  There's no way to get completely healthy if you are struggling with an inner battle.  Focusing on weight loss or "looking better" while you are having problems with how you view your body and your comfort in your body can pull you even further into your struggles.  If trying to get fit is going to make you feel worse about yourself, take a break from it and get help feeling comfortable in your body.  It will keep you from harming your body more than you're helping it.

2.  Start your journey now.  Once your mental health is in check, start your fitness journey immediately.  Now, it may be midnight when you're reading this, so no, I don't mean you need to start running around your neighborhood now, but at least start planning what you will do to become more healthy, and start it tomorrow.  Commit yourself to starting at a certain time, and don't push it off.  Remember, the earlier you start your journey, the earlier you'll see your results.  Make a plan and commit to it.

3.  Find your niche.  You may not be a runner like some people are (I know I'm not).  The thought of running for miles on end makes me cringe.  Exercise should be fun.  If you hate what you're doing, you'll never be able to truly commit to it.  Personally, I like spin and/or rowing classes for my cardio.  It keeps my joints from being in agonizing pain, and still helps me work up a sweat and a higher heart rate.  As for strength training, I love pilates and just general (light) weight lifting.  If you do something you love, it'll never feel like work.  It'll become a hobby that you never want to stop.  Finding your niche is trial and error, but you have to try multiple things to find what you really love.

4.  Eating healthy is 80% of it.  You've probably heard that abs are made in the kitchen, and this is true.  You'll never be able to show off the muscles you've made in the gym if you're filling your body with junk.  That being said, stay away from fad diets.  They're made to make you lose weight quickly, but you'll also gain your weight back quickly.  You have to find your niche with food just like you do with your exercise.  Personally, I like to eat mostly fruits/vegetables, but I do allow myself to eat chicken (and occasionally, pork).  I stay away from beef at all costs.  Find what does best for you, and listen to your body.

5.  Numbers aren't everything.  If you are lifting weights and gaining muscle, you will likely also gain weight on the scale.  This can discourage people because they feel like they're making progress in their journey, but the scale tells them otherwise.  Don't listen to it.  Scales can be good, but they can also be very unhealthy.  Instead, measure your journey based on picture comparisons, measurements, and muscle mass percentage.  

If you fall behind in your journey, don't sweat it!  It's called a journey for a reason.  You'll binge on some junk food one day.  You'll skip your workout.  It's okay.  Just get back up and try again the next day.  I promise, you will get there.

- Lauren Abigail
]]>