Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good--and Work It, Girl!

Work It, Gal! embraces a three part philosophy for the working woman: look good, feel good, do good.

Every working woman--whether working in the home or in the office-- strives to find that perfect balance. Join the conversation as we dive into what it means to look good, feel good, and do good as we strive towards an overall balanced life. And more than anything, don't forget to work it, gal!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Do Good Deeds That Can Get Done In Under Five Minutes

Okay people, we’re all just a little bit swamped with all the things we have to do in our days to work it. Whether its work, school, running a household, or trying to stay in shape, most times it feels like we can’t breathe with all the juggling we do to keep all of our balls in the air. But doing good for others actually makes you feel better about yourself! And we can’t hate on that, now can we? In light of our super busy schedules as we try to take over the world, here are my top ten “do good deeds” that take less than five minutes. Reeeeady, set…go!

1.       Put coins in expired parking meters on your mad dash to work. If you live in LA or the surrounding areas, you know how notorious parking enforcement is. On any given day, you could be slapped with a hefty parking ticket for being a mere half minute late to your parking spot—and it can cost you upwards of $65 buckaroos. And for some unexplained reason, parking enforcement gets an inane pleasure in meting out parking punishment. I once had a parking enforcement officer burst into an all-out sprint across a busy street—no regard for the crosswalk, and in the face of oncoming traffic—to try to beat me to my expired meter. Save your fellow workmates the panicked mad dash to the street and drop a quarter in a few meters as you make your merry way to work.
2.       Buy the person behind you a cup of Joe. Okay admit it—we all indulge in this guilty habit called Starbucks at least once a week. And while we might need the extra pick me up (I love their hot chocolate—I can’t lie!) it gets a little spend-y. Next time you’re in line, do the person behind you a favor and treat them to a yummy cup of the good stuff.

3.       Feed a homeless person. Unfortunately, you’re likely to run into at least one homeless person in your day to day pursuits. The next time you head out for the day, grab a box of granola bars and hand them out when you come across someone a bit down on their luck, While we might feel a little leery about handing out cash, lest it be spent on unsavory enterprises, food always goes a long way towards filling the belly and the heart.

4.       Donate to KIVA. KIVA is the gift that keeps on giving. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can give a micro-loan to a small business owner in a third world country—allowing that person to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. The good news—your loan gets paid back to you over time. You can either recoup your money or reinvest it by funding another micro-loan with the repaid funds. The good news—you either get your money back or you can use the investment for beneficial tax purposes when you file during tax time—and no one I know has ever complained about a tax break!

5.       Hold the elevator for someone. It’s an unspoken rule that time is money and it follows that if we need to get somewhere, we need to get there fast. Often, we can’t fight the urge to push the “Close” button the second we step in the elevator, even as we see someone making a mad dash across the lobby to throw themselves through the closing elevator doors. Help someone avoid amputation by elevator today—wait that extra thirty seconds and make someone’s day.

6.       Dish out a genuine compliment. There’s at least one good thing you can notice about anyone on any given day, but most of the time we don’t take the time to point it out. But dishing out a compliment doesn’t hurt us any, and it might do someone else a world of good. So the next time someone gives a stellar presentation, or looks a little snazzier than usual at the office, a “Good job!” or a “Looking nice today” could be all it takes to add a little sunshine to someone’s day.

7.       Smile. Did you know that smiling is contagious? If you smile at someone, nine times out of ten they’ll smile back. And that just makes the world a happier place. So check—you just contributed to world peace in less than a second.

8.       Show appreciation. Remember that barista who served your latter? Or the grocery store stock-person who ran back to isle six for a fresh cartoon of eggs when you noticed that yours were cracked? The unfazed waitress who took down your finicky order and then split the check ten ways to Sunday without batting an eye? It might be their job to create an impeccable sugar free hot chocolate, run across a store for eggs, or get the chef to make an eggless omelet, but these guys are all too often taken for granted—because while we might expect the difficult or impossible, it’s their job to make it happen. But a simple “Thank you!” can go a long way to making these every day mini-heroes feel appreciated.

9.       Send a text or give a phone call to someone you haven’t talked to in a while and let them know what they mean to you. Do you want to do good and be happy while doing it? Studies have shown that telling people why they mean so much to you actually increases your feel good vibes just as much as it increases theirs. Check out this video below for some bona fide proof!


10.   Like, comment on, or share my blog, Work It, Gal! Last but not least, if you really want to do good today, like, comment on, follow me on twitter (@workitgal), subscribe to, or share the Work It, Gal blog! The do good vibes you’ll get from this do good deed speak for themselves.

Now that you’ve feasted your eyes on my quickie do good deeds for the day, I’ll let you get back to your super busy schedules and all that entails—but be sure to pick at least one good deed if you can! (Number 10 is my favorite—what can I say, I’m biased. ;))

Signing off,

Work It, Gal

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Just "Pushing Hard" Isn't Good Enough. #Feelgood

Why Just “Pushing Hard” Isn’t Good Enough. #Feelgood

The power of the push—aka drive; aka perseverance; aka willpower in the face of adversity. Do you have it?

"The push" is probably one of the strongest traits you could ever hope to acquire. It keeps you going when it seems like all is lost, and success, (in whatever form you imagine it), seems so far away. But it’s not just the “push” that’s important—it’s pushing through when life gets the hardest that matters.

When I think about “the push,” I think of that game Jinga, where you keep stacking blocks, one on top of the other, while strategically removing blocks from the lower levels. The idea is to climb increasingly higher with your block tower even as the difficulty of tower building increases and you are forced to make more strategic choices--and then suddenly the tower crashes. You, (or your teammate/opponent/friend), made one wrong move. The blocks are scattered about you. And you can either start again from square one, or say screw it. 

Jinga is like life. You can start again if you have to, keep pushing forward if you need to, or just say screw it.

With Jinga, in the beginning it’s easy to keep going. You keep building your Jinga blocks up, but your foundation is pretty solid. You're almost guaranteed to keep that tower standing in the early stages, as long as you keep putting on block on top of the other or, as in life, its one foot in front of the other. 

Likewise, early on in life, it all seems pretty simple-- if you study hard, you'll get that good grade. If you do X, you will get Y. With that straightforward formula in mind, I embarked on my early life, reaping the rewards as I plunged along. Sure there were pitfalls and setbacks, but there was always an ascertainable goal, a discernable and guaranteed mode of operation, and an almost certain outcome if I followed the simple formula. Once I graduated into adulthood, I realized that the formula isn't so simple.

You can work hard, but you might not get that promotion or raise, or you might not snatch up that stellar client. There are other factors to deal with—X doesn't always equal Y anymore. Other variables in the once simple formula might be A, B, and C—your catty co-worker, your dehumanizing boss, your crazy client. Office politicking might emerge, and quid pro quo may run rampant. Suddenly, your Jinga tower of life requires you to make more strategic choices, as the game gets further along and the tower gets a bit unsteady. You are forced to start thinking more strategically, and even if you keep pushing forward, one block on top of the other, one foot in front of the other, your tower can tumble and fall. There's no guarantee of success at the top. 

The key is to always start again, to push through, or continue--even when your tower might be mercilessly threatening to tumble down and crash.

Now this is where the Work It life lesson comes in. If there’s one thing that’s true about working it, it’s that when you want to see tangible results.  You want to see the fruits of your labors, whether it’s a gold star, a title, a diploma or—let’s face it— cold hard cash. Thus the positive reinforcement mechanism of our society has been drilled into your brain.

I took this X equals Y approach to heart with life—when it just so happened that the person I’d submitted my Honors Thesis to got hit by a bus and lost my Thesis in the jumble that followed, despite my panicked frenzy to compile my Thesis again, I got it done. I knew that if I turned in my Thesis, I would graduate with Honors. When I went on to law school and was hit with three consecutive bouts of serious illness in my first year, I still dragged myself to school almost every day, and peeled my sandbagged eyelids back with the tips of my deadweight fingers so I could read just one more case summary, because I knew if I passed my finals, I would graduate from law school.

Graduating from law school expanded on the X equals Y formula. I applied for my dream job, and despite a first and a second interview, and passing a performance exam with flying colors, I was passed over for the job. My X equals Y formula was broken. I’ll save you the spiel on the Jinga pieces that followed, but I will say this—life gets tricky. You might have to move your Jinga pieces a little bit more strategically. You tower might sway, and even tumble sometimes—but keep pushing. You may not get what you want, when you want it, or even how you want it—but you’ll get it. The good thing about Jinga is that there’s always a winner, and always a loser—but you’ll never be a winner if you don’t keep playing the game.

Signing off,

Work It Girl

Monday, January 6, 2014

The “Fat Monster” in You Head. 10 Tips to Kicking It In the Rear For The New Year.  #Lookgood
You all know what I’m talking about—you walk out of the house feeling pretty good with yourself; you’re put together, you’re “workin’ it.” You might not look like a runway model, but you look good. And then it happens: you catch a glimpse of yourself in a storefront window, you try on a pair of jeans in your favorite store and notice the bumps, bubbles and ripples that you didn’t notice the last time, you preview a candid photo someone took on their camera phone—and the fat monster emerges. You don’t feel as cute, as attractive, as good, as you thought you did when you walked out the door in the morning.

We all deal with this monster—the one that tells us we’re not beautiful enough. But beautiful enough for what exactly? Or better yet, beautiful enough for who exactly? Are we really measuring ourselves against conventional standards of beauty and finding ourselves lacking? Unsurprisingly enough, we are. So I have one thing to say to you about it. Stop it.

Just be you. Be beautiful. The word itself gives us some direction. BeYOUtiful. You betcha bottom (pun intended) I’m gonna be a little bit cheesy. Because our bottoms, our thighs, our hips, our gap toothed grins, our freckles, and our talls, smalls, and shorts are uniquely us—and no one else can top that. So heck yeah, it’s okay to embrace it. Heck yeah it’s okay to consider it beautiful.

In this same vein, there’s been a half dozen or so blog posts from women embracing their curves with titles like: How I learned to Love My Fat, Naked Body; My Fat, Beautiful Body and My Plus Size Life; Stripped: Learning to love a fat body…naked. This message careens in the opposite direction, seeming to advocate for loving your body and doing nothing to change it—even if it’s unhealthy. And that isn’t the greatest message to promote either.

The idea with being you, being beYOUtiful, is to be the best you that YOU can be. So if your fat naked body is the best you that you can achieve, then more power to you sister. But if isn’t, then don’t declare you love your fat naked body, but get in gear for the best you of the year, and love yourself in whatever form you are while doing it. At least that’s my resolution this new year. If you’re with me, climb on board and let’s check again in three months—after all, I’m getting MARRIED; here’s to sweating for the weddin’!

A few tips that I learned for kicking the fat monster in the gear that I’m going to try to implement this year:

1.       Don’t diet. There’s the Paleo diet, the Atkin’s diet, the gluten free diet, the vegan diet and a whole host of other diets out there. Unless you’re dieting for health reasons, chuck all those diets out the door. The hardest way to lose weight is to tell your body it can’t have something.  Suddenly chocolate, sugar or French fries are everywhere and you’re convincing yourself that this is the last time you’ll have it before you start your diet. Ten candy bars later, your jeans are refusing to zip. So don’t diet; lifestyle change it. (I’m not a doctor here, I’m just sayin’). Remind yourself that Carl’s Jr. isn’t running away; it’ll be there next week or next month, so you don’t have to have the last twenty hamburgers of your life today—or this year even. You can have a few hamburgers this year—and a few next year, and the year after that. And that’s okay! Your jeans will thank you for it.

2.       Find an exercise that you like, and do it. I know I live in the golden state where bronze, muscled bodies are as common as a penny in a wishing well. That doesn’t mean that all Californians love to work out; in fact, there are probably plenty of us who cringe at the thought of suiting up for the gym, even if we might love how we feel during or after our workout. My suggestion, find something you love and keep doing it. It might be basketball, swimming, snowboarding, biking, or yoga—whatever it is, if you love it, it doesn’t feel like a chore. As always, I’m a strong advocate for power yoga—I work up a “wring out your t-shirt” sweat, I tone, I don’t have to move too much, and at the end of the session I get a little nap. You can’t beat that for exercise.

3.       Step away from the cookie! (And other high calorie snack foods). One thing that I always made a point to do in my household was never have any easy access snack food. I’m a foodie. I admit it. And I have utter and complete lack of self-control when it comes to snack food. Granola bars-done. Cereal-done. Don’t even get me started on chips and cookies. Even yogurt and granola! So at some point along the way, I don’t even remember when, I just stopped buying it. My rule of thumb was I only purchased food if I had to cook it to eat it. The natural consequence? If I have to take time, energy and effort to cook food, it makes me think twice about whether I was really hungry or whether I just want to eat.

4.       Have healthy “go to” food ready for when you’re ready to gnaw your own arm off in hunger. As I’m going through and doing a posthumous on my skinnier life, I realize that I always ate eggs. It was my “go to” food when I was hungry. Scrambled eggs and toast took less than five minutes to put together, and when you slapped on a teaspoon of mayo for the toast, you had a yummy egg sandwhich in five minutes and less than 350 calories. Which leads me to my next tip…

5.       Determine the daily caloric intake level it takes to maintain your weight and guestimate how you measure up daily. So, little known fact—in order for me to maintain my weight, I have to eat 1200 calories a day or less. That is BRUTAL. Like seriously, super difficult. You can find your daily maintenance caloric intake on Livestrong.com or MyFitnessPal, the app. Keeping to my regular routine of African food (vegetable stews and rice) and my eggs sandwiches, or working out like pro when I occasionally deviated, I never had a problem with low caloric intake maintenance. When I started eating a more Western diet, all out that mini-me stuff went out the window. So now, knowing what I know, I either have to eat like a mini-me, or work out daily and burn around 500 calories to make it worth my while to eat like a boss. Otherwise, just give me two weeks, and my jeans will hate me. So, I’ve learned to guesstimate the calories in my favorite foods, and do a rough tally. I may not hit the gym all the time, but if my jeans start complaining, at least I know why! Which leads me to my next point…

6.       Keep track of your fitness—whether through your clothes, a scale, or pictures. Some people say don’t weigh yourself too often. I say (at least for me), that I need to weigh myself. Every. Single. Day. If I start off the day knowing what I weigh, I have better incentive throughout the day to keep the scale down for the following day. If I don’t weigh myself, I don’t hold myself accountable. Story time—my scale broke last year, and I was too cheap to go out and buy another one. When I finally did more than three months later, I had sticker shock at the new numbers. I learned my lesson on that one. But if you don’t love the scale, or it makes you depressed to see your numbers, measure yourself using clothes. I always knew when a certain pair of jeans fit me differently, or became uncomfortable, it was time to scale back! (Pun intended again. I know—I’m terrible at these!)

7.      Just say “NO!” to the random free junk food that comes your way. Another phenomenon that hit me once I entered the real world is that there is soooo much free junk food available! Free hot chocolate in almost every legal office I’ve been too, donut Thursdays and free lunch Fridays; seminars and committee meetings that offer free lunches and desserts, linger longer Sundays and meet and mingle Mondays—the list (and the junk food!) is endless. So just say no. It is sooo hard especially when you’re like “Free lunch!” Who wants to say no to that! But as a friend used to say, “Better in the trash (or anywhere else for that matter) than on my, er…ummm… Well you know what I mean.

8.      Chose this, not that. Before I even knew “choose this, not that” was a popular method (and book title) for staying healthy, I was implementing my own chose this not that modus operandi. It was water instead of soda, water instead of juice, water-based soup instead of cream-based soup, protein instead of pasta, chicken instead of beef. Unconsciously, I was thinking about wasted calories. Do I want to waste 300 calories on a soda, and have tiny meal, or do I want a real meal? Do I want to carb-load on pasta, or do I want to go with a lean protein? Although my “choose this not that” technique was unconscious, I wasn’t too surprised when the book came out years later.

9.       Avoid Eating Out. My mom was always saying, “Why do you want to go and buy food; there’s food at home!” As a result, I almost never ate out as a kid. It was a rare treat. And it stuck with me throughout college. Of course I went to eat out with friends, but it never occurred to me to run out to grab a bite to eat because I was hungry. There was food at home. Unfortunately, that practice ran away from me a few years ago, and I find myself picking up the phone to order a pizza or some take out more often than I like. So here’s to old habits not dying hard, but reviving this year.

10.   Chuck the drinks, sides, appetizers and desserts when you do go out to eat. Last tip of the day—avoid all the extras. I never really thought about it, but I rarely, if ever ordered fries with my burger, soda with my burger, appetizers with my meals, or desserts after my meals. My rationale was as much from a sense of frugality as it was from the sense that there was already so much food. I’d get no extra benefit (besides the psychological pleasure of eating) from loading it on. That dessert would be there tomorrow or the next day, so why load it all on at once? Again, I deviated from this path once I stopped living like a college student, but here’s to a new year and old habits!

These tips might not be perfect, but they worked for me in the past. I looked and felt good. For me. I’ve never been super thin—my rear has a life of its own and whether I’m a mini-me or just me-me, it creates its own shadow and resides in its own zip code. But I love me—I embrace me. And when you embrace who you are—you’re beYOUtiful YOU, others will too. So be your best you. And get rid of those monsters in your head. Happy New Years everyone! And here’s to the typical get in shape resolution of the year—Good luck!

Signing off,

Work It Girl