The Childhood Calorie Dilemma Still Around In My Thirties

As a woman, I’ve grown up reading my fair share of women’s magazines. It started with Seventeen Magazine (which I began reading at age 12.)

But I was always a voracious reader even back then, so it didn’t stop there.  I began to devour Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue, Allure, and occasionally even Redbook. I couldn’t stop. When I got to college and discovered that the gym existed and was something I could do, I added Shape, Women’s Health, and Self Magazine to my repertoire.

The magazines were “fun” and “silly” but they were also addictive and confusing. I took their advice very seriously because I didn’t have any other information about diet and exercise. I’d never really thought much about working out and being thin before. I grew up in a household that ate dessert and drank soda with every meal, and my mother always cooked wonderful indulgent dinners for us every night.

It took until college for the magazine brainwashing to really kick in, but once I was living on my own, I began to really experiment with diets in order to be the ultimate in skinny. I went through all kinds of weird food phases.

  • I tried the Atkins diet where I only ate meat and cheese, and just butter alone…with no bread.
  • Then I tried the South Beach diet, which was a modified version of Atkins- so I could add some nuts to my meat.
  • I tried skipping dinner every single day until I couldn’t do it anymore.
  • I tried skipping lunch every single day until I couldn’t do it anymore
  • I replaced dinner with milk shakes
  • I went days without eating solid food and tried to live on liquids alone.
  • I tried eating soy sauce packets instead of food when I got hungry.
  • I tried to eat only fruit and vegetables and absolutely nothing else…except occasionally soy chips.

And there were probably many other stupid phases I don’t really remember. And during most of them, I made sure to go to the gym 5-7 days a week as well, because I figured that would help. And I never thought of myself as having any sort of disorder, because it was all “normal”…every woman was obsessed with being thin. Obviously, thin was the best thing to be. And I didn’t have an “eating disorder” because I was neither anorexic nor bulimic. But I was obsessed. I couldn’t think of much else besides what I did or didn’t eat. But of course, I knew I could stop at any time…

Throughout all of this, and beyond, my focus was never on being the strongest I could be. I never thought about food as making me strong and actually physically powerful. I thought about LACK of food as making me powerful…psychologically powerful that is…because being thin equals ultimate power, right?

So when I read the article 1200 Calories the other day, it almost made me cry, because the comments it makes about problematic marketing to women are so true. Even now. The marketing is just as bad now.

I hope that one day women’s magazines will all stress eating whole foods, building muscle, and getting strong, as opposed to just cutting calories and getting as thin as possible, but I don’t know if this will ever truly happen.

The author of ‘1200 Calories’ talks about how women have been taught from a very young age, through all sorts of media sources, that what we need to do is cut calories and starve ourselves. We’re taught that being as thin as possible is the ultimate perfection. We’re taught that eating low calorie food with no real nutrients and doing as much cardio as possible is the way for us to be sexy.

“Women’s magazine covers frequently use terms like “drop X pounds fast!” and “calorie-torching workout!” and “low-calorie foods.” Men’s magazines use keywords like “build,” “power,” and “strength. Think of all the potential that is thrown out the window when women deprive themselves of food on their quest to be thin. What great things could women accomplish if we weren’t fucking dieting all the time?! It’s saddening.” 

How sad is it that the message of going for actual health, building muscle, and being strong wasn’t a message I started thinking about until recently? How much sadder is it that I still barely believe that message to be true?

What can we do about this? How can we combat the harmful marketing to women that’s still going on strong right at this very moment?


In Praise of a Small, Happy Life

I’ve realized recently that our thirties are a kind of world-building decade. We figure out if and who we want to marry and settle down with, perhaps we gain some clarity on our passions and career goals, and maybe we have children. So while you’re creating your future, hopefully you’re at least periodically asking yourself, what do you ultimately want from your life, what’s your ultimate purpose? It’s a question we should probably ask ourselves more often, and we shouldn’t settle for surface answers.


I’m somewhat obsessed with this great existential question as I bet most of us are in some way or another. Personally, when it comes down to life goals, I toggle between wanting contentedness living a simple life with family, friends and a meaningful job but then wanting to be an incredibly successful writer that people adore. I suppose that’s the ego-driven part of me that wants to be special. When that ego driven side of me rears its’ head, I want to be someone who’s considered exceptionally talented and creative. Someone like Mindy Kaling. When I look at her Instagram feed, I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy – wondering why I haven’t gotten where she is. It’s more than just jealousy though, I also feel sometimes like if I don’t achieve that level of success, I will have failed. But when I step back and think about it, I know that not everyone can be a Mindy Kaling, and all of our journeys are our own. And maybe there’s a kind of vast journey continuum – where some of us are on smaller journeys – like indie films as opposed to sumer blockbusters.

So, this essay in the NY Times couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s a fascinating peek into how people find purpose in their lives.

The Small, Happy Life by David Brooks:

What does your small, happy life look like?

Really Awesome Credit Bureau Changes You Should Know About

I just wrote an article about credit card myths, and right afterwards, big news broke about some credit bureau changes happening in 31 states in the near future. A lot of the changes will be very helpful to consumers 🙂

Now that you’re in your thirties, make sure you’re keeping your credit report in extra good shape by checking it at least once a year. You can easily check it on a site like  Errors pop up in credit reports all the time and you want to catch them early before they damage your score. The new rules getting put in place among the credit bureaus should help stop these accidents from happening. Here they are:

  • If there’s an error on your file with one of the three agencies, that agency must notify the others
  • It will now take 180 days for medical debt to appear on your credit report. So if you have medical debt because your insurance is supposed to take care of a bill and things are still processing, the issue will get squared away before doing any credit damage.
  • The bureaus will closely track data furnishers who most often supply disputed info- so if an organization or debt collection agency is being disputed all the time by everyone, credit bureaus will get way more suspicious.
  • The bureaus have to educate consumers on getting access to free credit reports as opposed to paying for promoted credit reports.
  • You’ll get an additional free credit report provided to you if you’ve recently disputed a claim.

Thanks so much! Hope this all gets put into place! 🙂


Portrait of a Thirty-Something: Jennifer Harder

We are thrilled to present our fourth Portrait of a Thirty-Something interview with Jennifer Harder, a performing artist in New York City. Jennifer works as an actor, horn player, and a neo-vaudevillian (which if you haven’t heard that term, as I hadn’t, it means bringing back sideshow, circus, burlesque, and other live nightlife of yesteryear). I love how open Jennifer is about finding more peace with herself and how she’s learned to let go of seeking approval from others. Enjoy her interview, and a big thank you to Jennifer!

You can visit her website here.

Name/Age/Location: Jennifer Harder/34/Brooklyn, NY  AC_Portraits5B__033 as Smart Object-2 copy

Occupation: Performing Artist

What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of in your 30s so far? Feeling at home and at peace in my own skin has been something I never thought would happen. It’s glorious.

What do you NOT miss about your 20s? I don’t miss the striving for “perfection” that I thought was lurking around every corner.  I was fairly close-minded in my early years about what constituted “success” and what that then meant.  On nearly every endeavor, I hardly enjoyed the journey and when I got to the destination it seemed hollow and unsatisfying.

Looking back, what shouldn’t you haven’t been afraid of in your 20s? People! I was so afraid of what they thought, gaining their approval, disappointing them, being dismissed by them, etc.  We are all in the same boat; the idea that we’re somehow different or separated from one another is imaginary.  People are truly what life is all about: a full life is one in which you share your moments with each other.

Any surprises about what your 30s are like? My mind has expanded exponentially and I’m able to look back on my stories of mishap and adventure with wisdom and without judgement.  I never really thought my 30s would be any different, but am pleasantly surprised with the maturity and peace of mind I’ve found.

What do you find most challenging about this decade? I might be at a crossroads with my career and it’s proving to be both frustrating and illuminating.  I may be emotional one day and excited the next about where life might take me.

What are you most looking forward to? Be it tonight, next month or ten years from now! I’m looking forward to becoming more spiritual, which is another area I never thought I’d explore.  I’m also looking forward to trying new things and seeing new places.

What would you like to hear more about regarding the thirties. What articles would you like to read?  I’d like to hear stories of people who have changed focus in their careers.

Knowing the Difference Between Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Labor Day by Your Thirties

Today I overheard someone asking the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This was not a child asking- it was someone in their fifties

Last year on Labor Day, a friend of mine was wondering whether or not to thank the military. (Short answer- sure, thank the military- but not because of Labor Day. Labor day has nothing to do with the military- it’s about American workers.)

So in case you’re not sure of the differences between the holidays, but are too embarrassed to ask, lets clear up the confusion right now, anonymously 😉

Memorial Day: Memorial Day is for honoring and remembering military personnel who died serving their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of battle wounds. The holiday originated right after the Civil War and is always celebrated the last Monday in May because that’s when flowers are blooming to decorate the graves of the dead. Read more about Memorial Day here.

Veterans Day: Veterans Day is a day to thank EVERYONE who’s served in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime. The day is especially to thank living veterans for their service, and to really show that all those who served, and not just those who died, have done their duty. Veterans Day was created after World War I and is always celebrated on November 11. Read more about Veterans Day here

Labor Day: Labor Day is dedicated to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created in 1887 by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor. It’s always celebrated the first Monday in September. Read more about Labor Day here.

Hope you had a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

American flag flying in the wind

The Un-Official Start to Summer

While the summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st this year, Memorial Day always feels like the start of the summer ‘season’ to me. Maybe that’s because it’s when the beach lifeguards and the ice cream trucks came out at the long island country house my parents had. Year after year, memorial Day would mark the start of summer while Labor Day marked the end.

Since I moved to Los Angeles nearly two years ago, the start of summer hasn’t felt quite as pronounced as it did on the east coast. But for some reason, today it did. That’s probably because we went to Malibu and walked on a secret beach, and beaches remind me of restful rejuvenation when you can ‘reset’ yourself.


Trying to ‘scare’ Aaron but clearly it’s not working

The summer to me always feels like a time to try something new in a relaxed, exploratory and fun way. Personally, I’m really hoping to finally get serious about exercise and eating better. I just got over a bad cold/cough that left me hacking up a lung every night and losing my voice. I realized that if I had been in better health all along, maybe I wouldn’t have been sick for over a week. I also finally admitted to myself that I probably eat 1-2 serving of fruits/vegetables every day since starting graduate school, and that’s  not good. So this summer, I want to find a way to incorporate eating well/exercise into my life in an enjoyable way.

So, happy start of summer, everyone! Do you have any fun goals for this season?

Credit Card Myths You May Still Believe In Your Thirties

I feel like getting and keeping good credit is something that should be taught in schools. Otherwise you really have to dig to learn the ins and outs of the mysterious FICO score.

Then again, there are many financial topics that should be taught in schools but aren’t.


Just because I’m in my thirties doesn’t mean I was necessarily taught anything about the ins and outs of FICO. Most of my answers have been self taught.

So I’m here with some common credit card myths that I used to believe in the past. The only way to counter the misinformation that abounds about FICO scores is to provide some solid facts. Hope they’re helpful!

1. Applying for Credit Cards majorly damages your credit score

FALSE – Actually, applying for new Credit Cards will likely help your score in the long run because it will lower your debt-to-credit (or credit utilization) ratio and will increase your credit history. Applying for new cards temporarily lowers your credit score- but way less than you may think. The dip will usually be around 5 points. The long term gains you see will likely be much more than that.

2. You must carry a balance on your credit cards to build credit history and increase your score

FALSE- I really used to believe this one and used to wonder what the magic number was- should you carry a 5% balance? 1%? The answer is that you can pay off your cards in full every month and your score will only increase because of your better debt-to credit ratio.

3. Canceling your credit cards is good for your credit score

FALSE – If you’re an out of control spender, financial gurus such as Suze Orman recommend that you cut up your credit cards- but don’t cancel them. Canceling them will lower your all important debt-to-credit ratio, and will likely end up lowering your score. The only time you should cancel a card is when it has an annual fee that you don’t feel is worth paying anymore. It’ll still lower your score a bit, but it may be worth it.

4. Once you have a bad credit score, you can never fix it

FALSE- This is very untrue. Credit scores don’t really reflect how things are today- they’re a collection of happenings over the years. Missed and late payments and other score damagers will actually fall off your report in 7 years! So there’s likely very good FICO news in your future if you got off-track but now are back on.

5. Checking your credit report hurts your score

FALSE- I believed this one forever. But it’s just not true. If you check your own credit, it’s known as a soft inquiry, and doesn’t have ANY effect on your credit score. If someone else (a credit card issuer, lender, etc) checks your credit score, it’s called a hard inquiry, and that affects your credit score. But not by as much as you think (see Myth #1 above).

Hope this was helpful! These are the simplest myths, but I’ll be back with a part 2 very soon 🙂

3d rendering of a credit card cut into pieces

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