staying grounded over the holidays

staying grounded over the holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful time to reunite with your friends and family over food and festivities. They can also be a major source of stress for those of us who have strained relationships with our loved ones, food, mental health, or anything else. For the people who need a little extra support to get through the holidays unscathed — we’ve compiled a list of advice from our be.come community to share here along with our well wishes. We posed the question, “how do you stay grounded during the holidays?” and here is what we’ve found:
  • Know that it is OK to decline and say NO to events/situations you know will be toxic for you.

  • Set boundaries at the BEGINNING of a visit with your family.

  • Call your loved ones if you don’t get to see them for the holidays.

  • Start early and make a checklist – then stick to it!

  • Try setting your intentions for the day each morning.

  • Try to remember that eating what you love doesn’t hurt you and won’t “set you back.” Remember that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed and not a time to punish yourself.
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  • Don’t have any high expectations on how things SHOULD go.

  • Go with the flow as far as plans are concerned. Some family members are sticklers for certain traditions and expectations, so save yourself the frustration and don’t overthink it!

  • Cook or bake! Busy hands settle a busy mind, right?

  • Make sure to spend time alone. Whether that means getting yourself a hotel room instead of staying with your family, or just taking an hour out of every day to go read a book. Have an escape when you need a moment to yourself. For those of us with overstimulating families, it can feel overwhelming if you don’t honor your need for personal space.

  • Prioritize movement and quiet time. Whether it’s a walk, a be.come routine, or meditation! Give yourself a little time to work out your anxiety. It will leave you feeling a bit more in control of a busy (and beautiful) season.

"It’s essential not to feel guilty about communicating your boundaries and limits to friends and family. I am an adult. This is how I keep myself safe."

    • Try to protect how much of your time is going into obligations. As an adult, you’ll have to make compromises, but try to stay cognizant of how much you’re compromising your personal peace for obligatory events, people, etc. Then, make sure you’re peppering in enough things that bring you joy and help you maintain balance. Sometimes people can be a little forgetful of the boundary between our time and theirs.

    • Get in touch with nature. Whether it’s a snowy walk in Michigan or a morning swim in Melbourne, go soak in the beauty of the outdoors.

    • Keep essential oils with you and use them when you get overwhelmed; tap your heart center and breathe; feel your feet on the earth (if it’s not covered in snow).

    • Have a consistent bedtime and wakeup time. It helps!
  • Take a hot bath with some lit candles and your favorite album playing.

  • Stay up late to watch TV & movies.

  • NAPS!

  • Know that the decision not to spend the holidays with your family is OKAY. If it causes you too much stress to deal with your loved ones during the holidays, try skipping it and visit home around late January instead. Respect your own boundaries and accept the fact that holidays don’t have to equate to family if it doesn’t serve you. 

  • If you’re spending the holidays alone, consider volunteering to feed the homeless at a shelter. Everyone needs a little care this time of year — pay it forward! 

  • And remember, the be.come project is always there when you need it!

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meet your demo babe ll sarah shares

meet your demo babe ll sarah shares

If you had told me two years ago that I was going to be a demo babe for the be.come project, I would have thought you were nuts. I was too busy being sick, very sick, horizontal on my parent’s couch, calling Social Security, watching “Shark Tank”, and holding on tight to Starr the dog. At 27, I could barely lift my head or feed myself. I felt like a stranger in my own body.

My job was working me to death. Literally. Like many start-ups, it was an extremely toxic environment. I was having multiple panic attacks a day. I couldn’t stop running to the bathroom. I lost 30lbs in less than two months. One morning, I got up for work, only to find that my body had other ideas. It had completely broken down – I couldn’t walk, move, or stand. I couldn’t eat or drink anything without it coming back up again. The vice-grip of pain was relentless – I was howling, shaking, and crying. I was scaring the shit out of my roommates and anyone within a 5-block radius.

My dad picked me up and took me home. After 15 years of remission, my Ulcerative Colitis had come back. Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack your large intestine. I call it “open-faucet-syndrome” – everything comes out of everywhere. My days were a kaleidoscope of extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, more vomiting, loss of appetite, cramping, chronic pain, more pain, muscle weakness, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and bleeding out of my butt. I had gone from a “healthy” working woman to a Skeletor-impersonator overnight. It felt like hell. It was my first flare-up as an adult and everything changed: I lost my job, my income, my health insurance, my apartment, my autonomy, and my dignity… (not that I had that much to spare) I was exiled to the ever-feared, little known, DoctorLawyerBureaucratTown, USA. I found myself in a hellscape of Social Security Disability, food stamps, and endless doctors’ visits. For the first time in my adult life, I was in way over my head. I felt like a kid again.

This wasn’t my first rodeo. I was first diagnosed with UC at age six – it was the worst juvenile case the doctors had seen. They decided to remove my entire large intestine over the course of three surgeries, which as a six-year-old, I was totally unprepared for. They left me to sport a colostomy bag – the hottest elementary school accessory. (Next to a Lisa Frank trapper-keeper.)

Growing up, it was easy to carry an Irish-Catholic-style shame around my illness. With my scars, I thought I looked John Hurt post-“Alien”. I hated talking about myself. I hated looking at myself. I made myself as small as possible. I’m terrified people will get fed-up and decide their life is easier, less complicated without me. When you’re sick, it’s easy to feel like a burden.

Sarah Sixt photo

Usually when I talk to people about my illness, I get: blank stares, or cancelled dinner plans, or: “But, you look AMAZING!” “You’re lucky you’re so skinny!” “Use it for your art.”

And to that, I say, “Thank you. I’m wasting away!”
 Mortality, am I right? It really freaks people out. God forbid my illness brings you a taste of your own fleeting time on this earth, Barbara!

Having an invisible illness is rough. If people can’t see the markers of illness on the outside, it’s easier to dismiss. The burden of proof is on me to explain myself to doctors and peers. When I do get through to people, I hear things like, “You’re so brave” or “You’re a survivor.” That drives me crazy. While those things may be true, I never really had a choice in the matter. That language is another was to dismiss my experiences by tokenizing me as a hero. It robs me of my full humanity. Deifying survivors maroons us on high pedestals we didn’t even ask for. Then, when we can’t live up to the expectations of imposed hero status, we’re labeled as bad victims. It can be maddening. I don’t want to explain myself in circles. I want to be seen exactly as I am. Honestly, the sexiest thing someone could say is, “I’m sorry. That sucks!”

Although I am great at taking care of myself on paper, I am not great at taking care of myself in practice. Making a commitment to yourself when you’re sick can feel like the worst. You have to “relax” and “listen to your body.” My body is always screaming, so what exactly am I supposed to be listening to? 

Being sick is a full-time job that you’re not paid for. I’ve been doing this my whole life, so at this point, they should give me a corner office and a 401k. I’m on the phone all day with the government, with insurance, with the state, with my pharmacies, and with my bank just to get my basic needs met. I have to advocate for myself because my life depends on it. Some days, I don’t leave the house. Some days, the only thing I’ve done all day is shower, or argue with my pharmacy for hours so I can get the medication I need to not die. Some days, I feel like I’m not doing anything with my life. Illness, money, and politics are often too gauche to talk about. It’s not really lively party conversation. It’s lonely. It’s isolating. It’s cripplingly frustrating. This lifestyle doesn’t leave room for a day job, a disposable income, going out, or self-care. Some days, I am stressed to the point of catatonia.

"whenever I feel small, depressed, burdensome, or angry, I leave it all on the mat."

I found the be.come project about a year into my flare-up. I was serving Bambi-on-the-ice realness – a spindly woman who could barely lift a gallon of milk without having to lie down. I had moved off of my parents’ couch and into my small room in Brooklyn, and I was desperate to bring fitness back into my life. I asked the Instagram gods for advice and they led me here. I could try before I buy and the monthly fee was inexpensive. I could think of a million excuses not to (I really like being horizontal), but I knew I had to make a commitment that I would show up for myself 1-7x a week.

I’m so glad that I did! Whenever I feel small, depressed, burdensome, or angry, I leave it all on the mat. It doesn’t matter if I can’t do all the moves or if I take the modification – I am doing something for me. I’ve gotten stronger, scrappier, and more confident. Bethany’s energy is contagious and after 25 minutes, I feel like a new woman. I even workout naked.

Through my illness, I’m still learning how to listen to my body. That’s really hard. Especially when I’d rather be doing anything else. My body says a lot of seemingly boring things like, “Let’s lie down again,” “Sorry, I can’t come out tonight,” and “Don’t eat that popcorn, you bitch.” It can be frustrating when I think I am healthier than I actually feel. My body doesn’t always do what I want it to do. I can’t always eat what I want to eat. My diet is extremely limited (I still mourn the loss of coffee). It doesn’t always feel the way I want it to feel. That’s okay. I am working on being more open and honest, telling the people I love what is really going on, asking for help, and asking for help again. 

Every day, I am working on defining myself outside of my illness. I am an actor, writer, content producer, and patient advocate living in Brooklyn. I’ve developed and presented lectures for medical students on proper pediatric bedside manner. I’ve written a 30-minute TV show about my life with a malignant brain tumor called, “Sick!” My first YouTube sketch, “Flashmob Breakup” went viral. I’ve worked on content advocating for people with disabilities. With all that is going on, it is hard to find even a sliver of a silver lining. But, I’ve learned to cook. I have a group of friends that are my people. I have an amazing and supportive partner. I am so honored to be a demo babe for the be.come project. 

I want to use my experiences to help others feel seen, heard, and validated. Advice from a Gutsy, Gutless Woman: 

Be good to yourself. We like you.
 Don’t wait for a doctor’s office to call you. Their offices are busy with patients, non-stop faxes, and insurance company phone calls. Be proactive. 

Friends and family don’t always know how to help. Just actively try! Flowers, a home-cooked meal, or a visit go a long way. Text messages don’t count. Seriously. 

If you have a disability or medical condition, tell your employer. Trust me! Speaking up may open the door to accommodations you may not have known about. Know the company’s sick-leave and time-off policies! It is illegal to be fired because of your disability, so read up on Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)! 

Open every envelope that comes in with your name on it! Keep all medical records and receipts. Nothing good comes from ignoring your mail. 

Illness can strip away the shiny parts of your personality. Cut yourself some slack. That’s okay! It’s perfectly fine to feel angry, sad, tired, very tired, scared, joyful, goofy – whatever! Just be you. Make sure you surround yourself with things and people that remind you how amazing you really are. 

Slay. Share. Repeat. We’ve got this. 

thanks sarah for sharing! you can follow @sarahsixt

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meet your demo babe ll kourtney shares

meet your demo babe ll kourtney shares

I’ve been actively be.coming for a full year, though I’ve been following Bethany since they launched the be.come project in January 2018. I signed up for the January project, but I was living in a small apartment that did not have any space for me to work out without hitting at least two pieces of furniture. Then I made a major life change in September 2018, left the relationship I was in, and moved into my own apartment. It was a devastating chapter in my life, but the be.come project was there for me as I rediscovered my independence. 

With boxes all around in my new place, I found my yoga mat, unrolled it, and decided to do something just for me. I opened the be.come project app and did my first routine. I checked in with my feelings. I can’t remember exactly what I put at first, but it definitely wasn’t anything positive. After? My emotions made a complete 180. I felt strong, motivated and confident. This was it. the be.come project ignited a new fire within me.

Kourtney photo

I had always been active my whole life. I was a cheerleader growing up. I loved movement; I loved dancing; I loved yoga. I still love those things, though it’s ridiculously expensive to workout in NYC, and it’s hard to plan to take a class before or after work. But give me my yoga mat, the be.come project, and the space within my own apartment? I’m all set! Bethany has made fitness truly approachable for anyone and everyone. I’m so happy to be a part of this community they have created.

This past year has been the hardest year of my life—along with grieving my relationship of seven years, my dad unexpectedly died among other personal losses that really challenged me in every possible way. I don’t like giving the year that much credit for being so horrible, as I still did experience joy, happiness and personal growth too. Through it all, the ups and downs, I always had the be.come project. Whenever I needed to do something for me, whenever I craved movement, and whenever I could recognize that I need to change my headspace, the be.come project and Bethany were there to help me work it out. I don’t work out to lose weight but rather the be.come project is what I do when I need to clear my head, improve my own mental health, and just feel like a strong ass, confident, motivated woman. When the experts say exercise makes you happy, they aren’t joking!

I’d say my favorite be.come project routines include the Superhero routine and the routine from March 18 with the leg bend switch thing (goes to Arianna Grande) and the X and T with our arms during the lunge (cause it feels so cheer-like to me!). I also love the Good As Hell/Lizzo routine! That one is a classic—bring it back ANYTIME!

"the be.come project was there for me as I rediscovered my independence"

My 34th birthday is coming up later this month (Scorpio season!), and inspired by my mom who does this, I’ve set a certain number of goals for the year—the number of goals I set will match the age that I’m turning. I’ll be 34 this year, so I’ve written down 34 goals for myself for the year ahead. When I turned 33, I wrote down on the list that I would workout regularly. At that point I had been be.coming for little more than a month, and I already knew this was the program that I could stick with. Of course, throughout the year, I’ve had some off weeks—whether I was traveling or sick. But I never beat myself up for those weeks when I didn’t be.come. I knew Bethany would be there on Monday with a new routine, and it’d be a new week where I could jump right back in. I have the same goal of sticking with the routine for this next year. And originally I was going to apply to be a demo babe when I turned 34. But something within me just said, “Do it now. Why wait?” So I applied. And not long after, I was in Brooklyn shooting alongside Bethany and my fellow demo babe, Sarah!

Being a demo was so much fun. It was such a positive, lighthearted environment. The crew was wonderful! Bethany is so encouraging and motivating, and Sarah is a total rock star! She and I are forever bonded by our shared demo babe experience! I was so proud of myself when the day wrapped. Getting through that fourth routine was harder than the other three, my body was shaking—but I did it! And I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Thank you Bethany for this truly one-of-a-kind community! It is so so so special.

Shoulder kisses to everyone!

My be.come favorites:

song we’ve used: Lizzo “Good as Hell”

be.come move: Superhero Pose! I’ve always done this before any big interview/presentation/etc. It really works!

part of your be.come session: Shoulder kisses and stretching at the end. Cause it means I did it!

thing you hear/see in a be.come session: When Bethany tells us that we can do it in the plank finale.

thing to wear when you’re be.coming: Yoga pants and a sports bra.

place to take a session: Always in my living room—though if we’re doing leg sweeps, I’ll have to move my trash can and an ottoman out of my way.

thanks kourtney for sharing! you can follow @kourtneywithak21

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humans we admire ll steph kimou

humans we admire ll steph kimou

To kick off our new series, humans we admire, the be.come project sat down with Stephanie Kimou, the founder and principal consultant of PopWorks Africa to learn more about what inspired her work supporting innovative African led development solutions on the continent.

jaime: What is your background and what led you to found PopWorks Africa?

steph: I began my career with an internship at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York; I discovered how family planning and reproductive health were essential to the success of all women, especially in places like my home in Cote D’Ivoire West Africa. This inspired me to dedicate my career to reproductive health, demography, and international development. Three years ago, I decided to strike out on my own, and founded PopWorks Africa, an initiative that focuses on supporting young African advocates to lobby and promote their advocacy. The goal is to improve access to family planning, creating impactful interventions in the 54 nations of Africa.

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jaime: Can you tell us a little about PopWorks Africa’s “Decolonizing Development” initiative?

steph: Knowing that international development, namely in Africa, is based on outdated, colonial, racist foundations, I wanted to change that. Following the Berlin Conference in the 1800s, wherein groups of white men sat together and decided how to colonize Africa, the creation of racist structures that ensured black people on the continent were treated as lesser individuals formed in Africa, not unlike the history of race relations in the United States. When these countries eventually gained their independence, they were still operating within these colonial constructs. Western nations started using the fact that they had access through former colonies to infuse certain countries with “aid,” which was given only to benefit their own political agendas. To date, these remnants of the racist colonial regimes mean that international aid organizations are run primarily by white men, and supported primarily by middle management white women.

Decolonizing Development is just like decolonizing education or any sector, including fitness. I see how the be.come project and Bethany are breaking down the white, patriarchal, cis-normative constructs within the fitness industry. The shaming and the sexism in fitness are products of colonization as well — this colonial mindset that beauty looks ‘this’ way. PopWorks Africa’s “Decolonizing Development” initiative aims to dismantle the racist norms that are happening within international development and to ensure that the work that is being done on the continent is being done by African people in service of African people. Essentially, taking the misogyny out of international development, taking the racism out of international development, taking the inequity out of international development, and replacing that with genuine African black leadership and expertise.

PopWorks Africa:
working to empower Africa's most precious resource:
its population

jaime: As you say, many social organizations on the continent crop up to exploit the citizens without providing any sustainable solutions. How is PopWorks Africa different?

steph: PopWorks endeavors to provide resources for young Africans who want to make changes in their community. We position ourselves as “resources for genuine African development activity” in an area where the systemic nature of racism has thus far made it so these empowered, young Africans haven’t had access to the resources they need to improve their family planning policies, girl’s education initiatives, or whatever else would benefit the communities.

jaime: How can the be.come project clients get involved? What is the call to action for our community?

steph: If you want to work in Africa’s 54 nations, or you have love for Africa’s 54 nations and you want to contribute to the already very innovative, amazing work being done by African people, it’s important to decolonize yourself. Start reading books by African authors and start absorbing research by African researchers and start listening to African music. We are all conditioned to elevate white male experts and what white people think is the most important thing, so the call to action is to expand your mind in terms of what we take in.

If you want to learn more, visit PopWorksAfrica.org

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words we wish for

words we wish for

In our series, words we wish for, we pose questions to the community in order to gain perspectives from individuals from all walks of life. In our second installment, we posed the question, “I wish someone told me _______ when I lost weight” and here are some of the responses. First, a note from Bethany: I wish someone told me that skinnier doesn’t equal more powerful. I wish someone told me food wasn’t the enemy. I wish someone told me that starvation and purging can lead to long term health issues. I wish someone would have hugged me. I wish someone would have listened. I wish someone would have sent help. I wish they didn’t say “wow you look great!” I wish they didn’t say “body goals.” I wish they didn’t ask, “what’s your diet?” In fact, I wish they didn’t comment at all. I wish they knew that the smaller I was, the more broken I became. That as my body dwindled so did my spirit. That I was chained to a size and felt imprisoned most of my life. I wish they knew my lies. I wish, I wish, I wish for a world where we are not judged by our body. Where thinness is not a prize. Where we understand that size is not directly related to health and that sometimes our skinniest is also our saddest. I wish for body-neutrality, meaning our body is nothing more than just that, a body…a vessel. A vessel which holds the good stuff, the stuff that makes us the incredible people that we are—personality, intelligence, humor, spirit, laughter, dreams and soul. I wish we knew we are more than a size. We are human beings, working to thrive. Not just survive. I wish someone told me…

+ That they wanted to know if I was okay.

+ The issues I have with my body don’t go away with the weight. Also, buying new pants is expensive…

+ NOTHING. I wish no one noticed or cared. 

+ I seem more confident.

+ Wow. You look healthy!

+ Are you taking care of yourself?

+ You don’t need to be thin to be loved by me.

+ People will be attracted to you because of your new energy, not your new shape… don’t get it confused.

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"when I was at my 'lightest/skinniest' weight, I was also at my 'lowest/most fragile' emotionally. when I look at pictures from that time, I'm not wishing I looked like that again. I'm proud I don't because I can only think about what was going on in my head then to keep me from eating. I haven't been on a scale since I started be.coming and I have no intention of ever getting on one again."
- @superdor

+ That the negative thoughts would still come, but they’d switch from “I wish I was thinner” to “oh my gosh, how do I hold this body in place so I don’t lose this?”

+ My worth is not tied to the number on the scale.

+ It doesn’t make you happier.

+ NOT that they were proud of me.

+ Hi! What’s the latest book you’ve read? AKA a conversation that’s not about my weight would have been nice.

+ Your life doesn’t get better. Your vulnerabilities don’t disappear.

+ That the loss on the scale doesn’t automatically mean an increase in self-love.

+ I hope you’re taking care of yourself from the inside out.

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