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Coming Out [Again]: CHAARG’s Role In Reclaiming My Bisexuality

My name is Avery Collard, I’m a Team CHAARG CLC + was the founding Ambassador of Northeastern CHAARG, + a proud queer woman. I’ve known I was bisexual since I was 12 years old – I even have a page from my journal from 2012 where I detailed my feelings for a close female friend of mine. Growing up, being queer was as natural to me as walking or breathing.

I want to preface this article with this: I am aware that my experience as a queer woman does not begin to parallel other’s experiences – I grew up in Oakland, a place where diversity + love are celebrated, no matter what. Even before gay marriage was legalized, I saw queer couples + families everywhere I went. I also have the privilege of being white + straight passing, two aspects of my life that provide me protection from some of the discrimination so many people in the queer community face. I have never talked about what you’re about to read for this reason – I have big imposter syndrome when it comes to being an outwardly, prideful, queer woman because I have not had the struggle + the discrimination that my queer family has faced, + I feel that I am less valid because I have not had to push against odds – I just exist. I write this with that sentiment in mind, however I feel that it is important to share my story.

My friends will tell you they admire how secure I am in my bisexuality, + how much they admire my outwardness + confidence with my sexuality. However, the truth is – this was a normal part of my life until I moved to the east coast. I never “came out”, I just was Bisexual. I remember coming home + telling my Mom I went on a date with a girl for the first time, + without missing a beat she asked me how it went, what we did, etc. – as if it was any other date. Being bisexual was never a big deal. Only when I moved to Boston did I start to notice that queer was “different”, + that people would look at me differently because of my sexuality. Moving to Boston was a culture shock, but different in the way that most people would assume. Boston, when compared to my hometown of Oakland [right next to San Francisco] is very conservative in their views + their expression.

When I moved to Boston, there were three things that made it painfully obvious that queerness was treated as different.

#1] The first was when dating here, being bisexual was something I learned had to disclose, because for the first time in my life, that was a dealbreaker for some people. I was met with bi-phobic comments indicating that I was more likely to cheat + therefore unappealing, asking about threesomes, saying that they would hookup with a bi girl but not date her. I had to start vetting my dates + ensuring they weren’t homophobic or fetishizing my queerness for their own needs. I stopped going on dates with women for the first year + a half I was in Boston, because I was having dealing with being queer in a place where I felt like I was forced to come out + be judged again, + again, ++ again.

#2] When making friends at Northeastern freshman, I quickly discovered that I was the first openly queer person most of my friends had met. It’s hard to put into words how I felt that first year – every time I made a friend, I felt like my queerness was something that could either make or break the friendship. There were some friendships, particularly with males, where I felt extremely tokenized + alienated. My male friends also took my interest in women as an excuse to “locker room talk” around me in the thought that I could join in + bond with them. My freshman year I was constantly sitting in rooms of straight men, listening to them rate women’s Instagram pictures, plot hookups, share strategies for getting girls, + then would have to laugh + smile when asked my opinion or be met with a “come on, it’s not that serious”. I was the token gay friend that you could talk about girls with, + sometimes it felt like nothing more.

#3] My luck with female friends was no different. I joined a sorority my freshman year in the hopes of finding a group of women where I could feel supported + find my people. However, this was where I experienced my first real, obvious act of discrimination. When I joined a sorority, I didn’t fully understand how Bostoners + Northeastern students treated queerness. Northeastern + Boston have the façade of a liberal, accepting place. However, I quickly found that the “acceptance” was surface level, + that people looked at you differently after finding out you were queer. In my pledge class, I had two girls stop talking to me, sitting near me, + even looking at me after they found out I was queer. When I disclosed this to an older sister, she told me that they “probably didn’t think badly of me” + that it was “really in my head”. This incident helped me understand that there were people here who didn’t fit into the accepting façade – + that at the age of 18 I was going to have to navigate bi-phobia, alone, for the first real time in my life.

This was around the time I found CHAARG. CHAARG appeared to me as an inclusive, supportive place where women were empowered to be the best versions of themselves [spoiler alert: that’s completely what it is!]. I took a leap of faith founding CHAARG at Northeastern, doing it as much for myself as my community. I needed a place in Boston where I could be comfortably + unapologetically myself – which meant bisexual + proud. Through CHAARG, I was able to find myself + feel secure in my personality + self – which meant reclaiming my bisexuality in a place where it had previously been stifled. CHAARG provided me with a community, platform, + a family where I could be authentically myself without fear of discrimination or judgment.

The people in my chapter + around the country have never looked at or treated me differently after finding out about my sexuality. I have found it very similar to being queer in Oakland – I just exist. CHAARG was a refreshing breath of fresh air after a year in the cloaked homophobia of Boston. It is because of CHAARG that my life is the way it is today – without this community I would never have developed the confidence in myself to pursue my passions + live without fear of judgement. I will forever be grateful + in debt to this community for the happiness they have brought to my life – thank you for allowing me to be my true self <3.

[To any CHAARG member [or person!] struggling with their sexuality – even though you may not know me, my DMs are always open! Please reach out to me @avery.inchaarg if you ever want to talk or need support – I am here for all of you!]

Living Alone As A College Student: 5 Things I’ve Learned

I lived alone for five months in a tiny studio apartment, in a large populated city. Doing so was such an eye opening experience. I learned so much about myself, boundaries, mental health, + relationships. One thing people automatically ask when they hear I live alone is, “Are you lonely?” or “Don’t you get bored?” There is a huge difference between being by yourself + being lonely. Everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. Something not everyone gets to experience, that I feel everyone should, is living alone. Being able to do things alone without interruptions is one of the biggest perks of living alone! 

Here are 5 things I learned while living alone:

#1] This is a huge chance for some inner reflection + growth

When I began my journey of living alone, I’ll admit, I was very scared. This was my first time being fully on my own. Without roommates or family surrounding me. It was nerve racking, but also a little freeing. Coming home to an empty house is one of the best feelings for me. As someone who spends the majority of the day socializing + being on social media for work, it gets draining to have to come home to people + strike up even more conversations. With this new environment,  I was able to recharge my batteries by spending time alone. I’m a very independent person by nature, so I thrive while living alone. I was able to create a space that was mine + I was able to escape from the rest of the world. 

#2] I was in control of something for once in my life

I am someone who suffers from anxiety, which means part of my daily routine is feeling like I have no control over anything. I genuinely feel that every decision that is made for my life is impacted even a little by someone else’s control. I never truly feel like I have full control over my life. Except for when I started living alone. I could control everything. The temperature of my home, when I ate dinner, what music I listened to + at what volume. I controlled how late I slept in + how early I went to bed. I controlled everything + it gave me a sense of stability, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

#3] I learned to face some of my fears

Having anxiety, it also causes me to draw back + rely on others for certain things in life. For example, answering the door for our food delivery, making a phone call, or speaking with a landlord. Living alone forced me to practice these acts everyday + overcome those fears, even just a little bit. You also gain confidence knowing that no matter what, you will be okay on your own. I don’t need to fear dependence, because I know now how I am fully independent.

#4] Full freedom to be YOU

Do I put on a full performance every night when I’m in the shower? Yes! Living alone means I can be as loud as I want, listen to whatever music I want, with no judgement. It’s truly the one place where I can be myself, on my own, on my own terms.

#5] You are pushed to make more of an effort to see friends + admit when you are not okay

As someone who struggles with mental health issues, this was a huge fear of mine when living alone. What if I got really bad again + no one was there to help me or support me? + at one point, I did get really bad again. I found myself not reaching out to friends or family, relying on my own company + thoughts to get through it. I learned quickly that that was not going to work. I found my voice + reached out to friends + family, expressing that I needed help + got the support I needed. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between being alone + being lonely. But sometimes, living alone can lead to loneliness + you find yourself repeating unhealthy patterns. No one is there to force you to eat, shower, or get out of bed everyday. You have to be there for YOU + understand when you are hitting a breaking point. This is when it’s important to reach out to friends, leave your tiny studio apartment, get outside, + do something good for you. Break the pattern + continue breaking the pattern, no matter how many tries it takes. But don’t give up on yourself. 

So if you’ve ever wanted to live alone, go for it! It’s going to be hard work + you’re going to learn a lot about yourself. But you’ll also have the most amazing feeling of independence, self-growth, + love for yourself that you’ve never experienced before. While I loved living alone, I will be living with roommates for the next year. To be transparent, it is expensive + something I’m so grateful for this experience. It is truly eye-opening + something I believe everyone should experience at least once. 

*Disclaimer: If you struggle with mental health, we encourage you to check out our Mental Health Resource Guide

Fresh Summer Spring Rolls

As it is getting warmer out [or I should say HOT if you live in the South], cool refreshing recipes are always my favorite. What I love so much about spring rolls is the amount of variety +  creativity you can have with them: Have a favorite veggie? Add it in! Have a favorite fresh herb? Add it in! Have a favorite favorite fruit, add it in! Basically, almost everything raw tastes great in spring rolls, especially with my favorite peanut sauce [below!].

My favorite spring roll add ins are crunchy lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, fresh basil, tofu + avocado. Let me know your favorite add ins! Tag #CHAARGeats + @CHAARG.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 Cucumber
  • Mixed Bell Peppers [will use about 1/3 of each]
  • Iceberg Lettuce [romaine, butter lettuce would also work great here]
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 Block Firm Tofu
  • 1 Avocado
  • or, again, any veggies/fruits/herbs you like
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Peanut Butter
  • Fresh Garlic, *few cloves
  • 1 Lime
  • Rice Paper Wrappers

DIRECTIONS

#1] Cut 1 block of extra firm tofu into strips + place in a flat bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce [store bought or homemade] over the strips, + gently flip until the tofu is coated evenly. Let sit for 10 minutes + then air fry or bake until golden [for about 12-15 minutes].

#2] Prep your veggies. This is your time to get creative! Use any veggies [or even fruits] that you like, just make sure that they are in small enough pieces to be able to fit comfortably in the spring roll wrapper. Tip: herbs are great as well — especially basil, cilantro and chives.

#3] Make your sauce. Mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, a squeeze of lime, + red pepper/maple syrup if desired. Then add 2 tablespoons of water to get a more creamy consistency.

#4] Next, assemble! In order to use the spring rolls, I like to use a flat bowl filled with hot water to dip the wrappers into. You want to dip them in for a few seconds until they soften slightly. Make sure not to wet them for too long, or they will get slimy + make it hard to wrap. Next, lay it down + fill it with whatever toppings you have, then roll like a burrito!

#5] To eat, just dip it in your peanut sauce! Sweet chili sauce + sriracha are also great sauces for this. I also normally serve with sushi rice + seaweed + it is a great combo!

#6] ENJOY! Send us a pic of your spring rolls — @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats!

The Best Vegan Tacos

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to share my FAVORITE vegan tacos — made with homemade refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, + caramelized onions! Feel free to spice these up by adding more veggies like sautéed bell peppers or fresh lettuce. Add hot sauce if you like it spicy ; )
*Pro Tip… Turn your extra taco shells into chips to dip into your leftover guac + pico: Cut 5 tortillas into fourths, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, + coat with some taco seasoning + salt!

If you make this recipe, we’d love to see — tag us @CHAARG on insta + show us your creations!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 bundle of cilantro
  • 1 bag of limes
  • Bag of corn tortillas
  • 1 tin of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 white onions
  • 2 jalapeños

DIRECTIONS

#1] Caramelize 2 full onions. Cut the onion into thick strips + cook with 1 tbsp of oil + some salt. Place on pan on a very low heat for about an hour or until cooked down completely. You want to do this first because it takes the longest.
#2] Roast 2 large jalapeños + 1 cup of cherry tomatoes. Coat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil + 1 tsp of salt + bake at 375F until slightly soft. *Typically takes about 15 minutes.
#3] Assemble your pico de gallo! The longer this sits the better, so this is also best to do earlier on in the process. Mix together 2 cups diced cherry tomatoes, 1/2 onion [white or red works here], 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, lime juice from 1-2 limes [depending on what you like + how juicy your limes are] + salt to taste.
#4] Make your refried beans:

Blend 1.5 cans pinto beans, a few of the roasted tomatoes, 1 roasted jalapeño, 1/2 white onion raw, 1/2 of the caramelized onions, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp taco seasoning, 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, lime juice from 2-3 limes, lots of salt to taste. Place the contents from the blender into a small pot to heat. *Heat for 5 minutes, or until warm!

#5] Make your guacamole! Blend 2 very ripe avocados, 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, juice from 2-3 limes, 1/2 raw white onion, the other roasted jalapeño, a few cherry tomatoes + salt and pepper to taste.
#6] Assemble! Toast your corn tortillas by placing on a pan with a small amount of oil. I recommend double wrapping your taco [using 2 shells per taco] + layer with the refried beans, pico, guac, caramelized onions + roasted tomatoes. Top with some more fresh cilantro + hot sauce if desired.
#7] ENJOY!

Mental Health Podcasts To Check Out

Anyone that knows me knows that I start most of my stories with “so I was listening to this podcast…” It’s because I absolutely love them! Podcasts are an incredible resource to take in information about news, culture, sports, literally everything! Podcasts help us learn + grow, providing us with new ways to learn all sorts of information. 

In terms of Mental Health Month, we wanted to create a resource for podcasts all about different aspects of mental health + illness. Podcasts are an excellent way to connect with issues + hear more from those who have struggled with similar experiences. Some shows will bring on psychologists, authors + professors to educate listeners about the science behind mental illness. Other episodes might include the voices of therapists, psychiatrists, + other medical professionals to provide tips + resources as well as information for how people can get help. Some of my favorite shows include conversations from survivors + those still struggling to figure it out, so the audience can hear + connect with the hosts. 

Here are my 6 favorite current podcasts on mental health [+ my favorite episodes from each podcast!]:

#1] The Positive Psychology Podcast

The Positive Psychology Podcast works to bridge the gap between science + life by talking about all sorts of topics like mindfulness, gratitude, positive emotions + relationships. The podcast is hosted by Kristen Truempy, who discusses “positive psychology” a branch of psychology that focuses on helping people become happier. Who doesn’t want that? 

#2] Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Nora McInerny hosts this weekly podcast where she brings on different guests to discuss some of the low points of their lives. We hear from authors, athletes, celebrities + others on how they are *really doing* ++ their tips on making it out of these darker times in their lives. 

#3] Therapy for Black Girls

Bias is all around us, including in mental healthy + in therapy. Host Dr. Joy Harden Bradford connects with others on her educational podcasts who offer their expertise in the specific mental health issues facing women of color. Many of the episodes in 2020 discuss the challenging issues + conversations that need to be had while offering advice on how to be the best possible version of ourselves during times of crisis. 

#4] The Hilarious World of Depression

Obviously mental illness isn’t anything to joke about but this podcast tries to bring lighthearted humor into the mix. The podcast includes conversations between top comedians + the public radio host John Moe. The episodes try to fight against the stigma of this isolating disease, hoping to show listeners that you don’t have to fight depression alone. 

#5] Mental

Mental is hosted by a British podcaster — what could be better? The hosts bring on different guests who share their own mental health journeys in hopes to destigmatize illnesses such as anxiety + depression. The show hopes to host conversations that can be carried on out in the real world to continue normalizing mental health conversations. 

Of course we can’t forget about the The CHAARG Podcast! Be sure to tune in every other week to hear Elisabeth interview unique individuals with topics ranging from health + wellness, to professional development, to friendships + relationships ++ so much more!

What are some of your favorite podcasts? [mental health-related or not] Be sure to share them with us in the comments below or on Instagram using #inCHAARG!

More Than An Instagram Manager: What I Learned From My CHAARG Social Media Internship

Internships are such an important part of your college experience. Preparing for a career in the real world is no joke, + at the end of the day… so stressful! The number of times we listen to advisors + professors harp on how badly we need to get “real world experience” + to start to apply to many different internships — it’s scary! 

I didn’t even know where to begin when I first started hearing these things. Where did I want to intern? Could I do it while I was taking a full schedule of classes? Will it be possible during a global pandemic? How much time would it really take up? Did I even really want to be a journalism + public relations major? AHH! 

Being a CHAARG intern not only answered all of these questions for me, but it guided me in the direction in which I want to pursue my career + gave me a wealth of knowledge that I absolutely could not have gained in the classroom. 

When I applied to be a CHAARG intern, I thought I was applying for a small role. I knew I loved Instagram, so it would be cool right? I thought I was going to just be posting every so often, + listening in on some meetings. Little did I know, this opportunity was SO much bigger than what I thought. 

It was no joke. I truly did spend 10-15 hours/week working on different tasks + projects for CHAARG, while juggling a full course load, job, sorority, dance company practice, + a second internship. I will not say it was easy, but it was WORTH IT.

While being a CHAARG intern I have had the opportunity to:

  • Interact directly with a community of 45k+ people
  • Write for a published blog
  • Partake in marketing discussions
  • Assist in planning for major company launches like CHAARG Self-Love Club 
  • Learn how to analyze social media engagement + performance  
  • Gain access to graphic design technology that is used in the professional world [for FREE, I might add]
  • Pitch my ideas + create social media content
  • Listen to + communicate regularly with Elisabeth Tavierne, our Founder 
  • Create connections with Team CHAARG
  • Establish relationships with CHAARG girls on our social media team from across the country 
  • Watch + learn as CHAARG evolves not only on social media, but as a brand in an ever evolving world 

Many might even say that for a career in public relations + social media, these things are more important than what you learn in class. 

… + where did I do all of this from? My iPhone + laptop. INSANE! 

What was even better about this internship experience, + what I feel makes CHAARG a unique brand to intern for, is that my voice was valued. Despite being an intern, my thoughts, ideas, + input were considered as if I was any other higher up member of Team CHAARG. Unlike other companies, Elisabeth + Team CHAARG treated me as an equal. I was an important part of so many conversations + my ideas were always welcomed. It is not every day that you work with a company + founder who says “Okay, go for it!” when you present an idea for content on their national Instagram with 45k followers. 

We all know the CHAARG community is a special place, but being a CHAARG intern is THAT much more fulfilling. Elisabeth is so bright + passionate, ++ her energy radiates throughout the entire team. Yes, she was my boss, but she was kind, approachable + always wanted to give me as much valuable experience + opportunity as she could. 

The knowledge that I have gained in social media, marketing, + so much more from this internship is knowledge that many are unable to get until after they have graduated college, ++ I am SO incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity. I truly thank Elisabeth + Brittani for putting their faith in me, + giving me, the college sophomore who just knew she loves Instagram, this chance to shine. 

This is your sign, if you want to be a CHAARG intern, GO FOR IT! : )

Working To Be The Best Version Of Yourself: College Edition

Going to college is a completely life-changing experience, + most of us have a rough start. For many of us, it is our first time in a new place with new people, + it feels like we just went from being at the top as a senior in high school right back to the bottom as a freshman again. This might be your first time being able to completely decide what to eat, when to work out, if you should go to class, who you should hang out with, + much more. This might also be the first time that you start to struggle with things that you hadn’t before coming to college. This was the case for me, as my first few semesters of college really brought my anxiety + disordered eating to light.

Anxiety is something that I have struggled with my whole life, but I did not know that it was anxiety until I came to college + started taking psychology classes. I have always been a Type A person + considered myself a perfectionist, but I had never considered that it was because I had attached my worth to external factors. This included how well I did in school, how busy I was, how many friends I had, + so much more. When things did not go my way, I would experience many symptoms of anxiety that left me feeling emotionally exhausted + drained, but I did not know that was not normal until I came to college. In college, I would stress myself out about every single assignment that I had to the point where I would feel sick before exams + panic if I did not do well on them. I experienced my first intense panic attack a little over a year ago towards the end of my junior semester, when the stress of everything became too much. I remember trying to make myself super busy so that I wouldn’t have to think about all of the anxiety + stress I was going through. But, the thing about anxiety is that it doesn’t go away until you work through it. 

Disordered eating was also something I have always struggled with, especially growing up as a dancer for sixteen years. From a young age, women especially are exposed to ideal bodies + expected to look a certain way. This resulted in me starting to workout on my own with youtube videos at the age of 13 + making a tumblr account of skinny girls that I wanted to look like. I was always very active with sports, so I didn’t have to worry about my own workouts too much until coming to college. The first semester was rough, since I did not know how to go to the weight side of the recreation center + would force myself to use the cardio machines. I was also new to unlimited dining, so I immediately gained 15 pounds within the first few months of school. I still remember the time I saw a picture of myself from New Years Eve my freshman year of college + immediately burst into tears, that was the beginning of the downward spiral for me. I began to eat less + workout more ++ I was not fueling my body with what it needed. I started to lose the weight pretty quickly, so I kept doing it. I would “punish” myself if I ate badly by going to the gym to burn off the calories, + I really looked at working out as a way to be the smallest version of myself possible. 

All of this came crashing down at the beginning of my sophomore year, when I went out for the night, but I did not eat anything the entire day so that I could look better in pictures. I ended up getting extremely drunk after having little to drink + when my friends came to me concerned, I realized that I actually had a problem. I wasn’t able to talk to them about not my disordered eating + working out habits for a few months, but it was something I became aware of + wanted to fix. I did not want to keep punishing my body for the way that it looked + fighting a constant battle every time I ate something. I did not want to keep placing my worth in how little food I ate for the day + how much I worked out. 

I share all of this with you because I know that I am NOT the only college girl that has gone through struggles of anxiety + disordered eating. I know how common these challenges are. I know how toxic the environment of college can be in terms of both anxiety + body image. I want to share my story to remind you that you are not alone + show you that once you decide that you want help ++ you want to be better, you can be. So here are some things I have done/learned that have helped me heal my relationship with food + continue to help me when I struggle with anxiety:

There is something about connecting with someone else’s story + seeing their success that makes you more motivated to help yourself, I swear! It is also so helpful to understand what is actually happening when you experience anxiety or fall into disordered eating patterns, + that awareness is key to making a change! 

Book Recommendations 

#1] Letting Go of Leo by Simi Botic

#2] Badass Ways to End Anxiety + Stop Panic Attacks by Geert Verschaeve

#3]  Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Podcast Recommendations

#1] Manifest 

#2] The CHAARG Podcast [SO many amazing interviews ; )]

#3] The Babesment

I never realized the power of writing in my journal until I did the CHAARG Body Positivity Challenge two years ago + was encouraged to journal every day for 28 days. After this, I realized how helpful it is to just get your thoughts out of your head + onto paper so that they aren’t just bouncing around in there anymore. It takes away a lot of their power when you can look at them + try to imagine the advice you would give a friend if they were saying this to you.

I spent two years googling “therapists near me” but then telling myself that my problems were not bad enough to go talk to someone about it. I promise all of your feelings + problems are valid, + everyone deserves to talk to someone about it. I know that it can be a financial burden, so if you are in college I do recommend seeing what services your school has to offer!

One of the biggest things that helped change my relationship with food + my body was taking time to rest. This was something that I was forced to do once quarantine started + the gyms were closed last year, but it was a blessing in disguise. It was really hard for me to not be moving my body + to be eating more, which showed me that I was still not in a good mindset with my eating + working out. But once you actually take that time to rest [I mean at least a full week!], you realize that it doesn’t destroy all of your progress + you actually feel stronger. It shows you the benefits of giving your body rest + even if you are feeling scared to do it, doing it proves that you can.

This could mean waking up + doing the workout that your body wants to do that day, or starting a more structured program to help you stay motivated. For me, it was training for a half marathon with CHAARG Run Club. This was my second half marathon, but I followed a more structured program + tailored it to my needs. I didn’t beat myself up if I woke up + felt like I needed a rest day, I just adjusted the week so that I could do some stretching + move the running workout to a different day. I also started to fuel my body because I realized the difference it made when I was properly eating in my training. Not only did training for a half marathon help my relationship with working out, it helped my relationship with food + eating so that I now look at food as a source of fuel. 

Overall, there are so many things you can do to start working on yourself. This in itself can be overwhelming + make you not want to start because you do not know where to start. My advice is to pick one thing to start with + slowly add on from there. You are not going to change overnight + healing / recovery is not a linear process. You could be doing really well for a long time + then one hour, day, week, or month might be another low. That is okay, it does not erase the progress that you have made. It just means you are human. We will never be perfect + now is the time to realize that ++ stop expecting that from yourself : ) As long as you are focused on healing yourself + have that open mindset to always learn something new, I promise you will start to feel better.

Q+A On Intuitive Eating

Our first ever CHAARG x Intuitive Eating Course has started… but, *hopefully* this is the first of many courses! In this post, Julie Ohlemacher [our intuitive eating + body image coach for the course!] are answering all of your questions on the course + intuitive eating.

PSA: Bummed that you didn’t join? Add your name to the Waitlist to be notified on future intuitive eating courses!

.     .     .

How will the courses work?

The program is 6 weeks long — each week, Julie will walk you through her intuitive eating program, step-by-step via video content, to empower you to make peace with food, exercise + your body. Along with the weekly videos, you’ll get a weekly newsletter, meditations + action steps to help you embody the teachings you learn. You’ll also get access to our private Slack channel, where Julie will be to support you, answer questions + coach you through challenges. AAAND, you’ll have 4 opportunities to join Julie live for group coaching calls, where we’ll come together as a community to connect, learn + grow. You can check out the weekly content themes here!

How do you balance not restricting yourself with taking care of health conditions?

Great question! We’ll dive deep into the nuances of this within the course. With intuitive eating, we dial into having full-permission to eat any + all foods. This ultimately gives us the power to choose what we want to eat based on how we know it will make us feel. If you know that certain foods will harm your body due to a medical condition, you likely wouldn’t want to choose those foods from a place of love + care, rather than restriction. Truly, it’s a game-changing mindset swap that empowers everyone to have a healthy, peaceful relationship with food + their bodies! Intuitive eating is about honoring your own unique body, you are the expert on you!

It feels like body image issues are so common… I’m worried nothing will really fix it?

I totally get that. Body image issues are so common, because diet culture and the beauty industry [among others, woof] have a vested [billion dollar!] interest in us believing that our bodies are never good enough so that we keep buying their products. But there absolutely is a way for us to heal. The work here is about being empowered to choose our thoughts, beliefs + values. It’s about returning to our inherent worth. It’s about seeing ourselves as human beings, rather than objects. It’s about building resilience when body image triggers come our way. Yes: you can do it!

Have you worked with girls in eating disorder recovery?

Yes! Many! Typically they’re well into recovery, when they’ve gotten to a point where they know this is the next right step for them. Some will be working with an eating disorder dietician or therapist in conjunction with this work, too.

How can intuitive eating help with my tendency of overeating + mindless snacking?

Most of us overeat because our inner rebel is turned on. We think we’re being bad, + thus rebel + keep eating. We think we shouldn’t eat X, + thus rebel + keep eating. Or, we aren’t eating enough, + then when we DO eat, we feel out of control + can’t stop. Whatever the case, having food rules + a restrictive mindset is what causes us to eat past the point of fullness. When we make peace with food, we become empowered to eat in a way that feels good in our bodies. Eating past the point of fullness largely subsides! [*But remember, we’re human! Sometimes we may eat past the point of fullness as intuitive eaters, + that’s okay! This is never about being *perfect*]. As for mindless snacking — you’ll become more intentional with your eating, so that when you do want to snack, you’ll be present + enjoy it!

What should the takeaways of this course be?

While everyone will have their own unique experience with this course, we will be working towards:
+ Ditching the harmful all-or-nothing diet mentality
+ Reconnecting to your body’s wisdom, including being able to listen to + honor our body’s hunger+ fullness cues + cravings
+ Build deep + meaningful trust with our bodies
+ Develop respect for our bodies
+ Routinely nourish ourselves in an easy way that feels good
+ Build lifelong self-care practices from eating to exercise to mindfulness + rest
+ Shift into a place of body love + appreciation
+ Build an exercise routine that is based in love + gratitude rather than shame + fixing
+ Build resilience to combat hard body image days
+ Become more rooted in your inherent worth + value as a human being
+ Make peace with food + feel empowered to eat in a way that feels best to you
+ Overcome binge tendencies
+ Overcome food rules + restriction mindset to build a healthy relationship with food
+ Improve overall health + wellbeing: mentally, physically and emotionally
… +  many more!

I’m a little scared that if I commit to intuitive eating that I’ll eventually just overindulge… 

Totally get that! I was scared of that, too. Truly most people are! But the truth is: we *overindulge* because we have food rules. When we work through the evidence-based process of intuitive eating, we learn how to make peace with food + then feel empowered in our food choices. Would it be intuitive [aka feel good] to eat past the point of fullness all the time? Nope, that wouldn’t feel good! Intuitively, we don’t want to feel physically unwell. + thus, as intuitive eaters, we don’t often choose that. Just like it wouldn’t feel good to only eat pizza, it also doesn’t feel good to only eat kale. Intuitive eating is about helping ourselves feel as good as possible, as often as possible. It’s never about being perfect, but about living a life attuned to our bodies needs, to the best of our abilities. Making peace with food gives us the empowerment to do that with ease.

What are you looking forward to teaching the most in this course?

I love getting to empower women to free themselves from the trap of diet culture, from the constant stress of food rules. I love seeing women reconnect to their bodies, their intuition + their worth. They start living lives aligned with their core values, they start speaking up for themselves + living life on purpose. It may sound crazy, but these are all things we access as we break up with diet culture + do intuitive eating work. That’s what I’m most excited about. If I can help more college-aged women heal their relationship with food, body, exercise, + self, AND help them jumpstart their lives from this empowered place? Well, that lights my whole being on fire!

How did your journey start?

My journey started by hitting my own rock bottom [learn more about my story here!]. I was obsessed with exercise + had very strict [read: completely disordered] rules with food. Things had gotten too far… my pursuit of health was anything but. I had my wakeup call as a sophomore in college + began my journey of recovery. I thought having a normal, easy relationship with food + exercise would be impossible for me. How happy I am to say I was wrong. My life is so much bigger, healthier + joyful now that I’ve come out on the other side. It was a long road, but I did it, + I love empowering other women to do the same.

How is intuitive eating different from dieting?

Intuitive eating is literally the opposite of dieting. When we are on a diet, we are following someone else’s rules whether it’s how much we can eat, what we can eat, or when we can eat. With intuitive eating, we throw out the rule book [because we know it ALWAYS backfires] + reconnect with our body’s wisdom. We were all born intuitive eaters, this process simply returns us to that. Unlike a diet, you can’t fail intuitive eating. It’s not all or nothing. We see every time we eat as an opportunity to learn + grow. Intuitive eating allows us to be human [read: imperfect + messy!]. In intuitive eating, you no longer follow someone else’s rules, you become the expert of your own body + life. Only YOU know what feels good in your body + you become empowered to live from that place of empowerment. Keep in mind that intuitive eating is an evidence-based process. It includes 10 principles that all work together to support you in reconnecting to your body. There are also 100s of studies showing the positive health impacts of intuitive eating!

Any tips for intuitive eating while on meds with side effects that suppress hunger cues?

While it may be harder to eat fully intuitively while on meds that suppress hunger cues, we can absolutely support you in doing so. Even if you don’t have obvious hunger cues — we can work together to figure out what feels good in your body, as, even without the cues: your body still needs food! Every person’s journey is different, but we can meet you exactly where you’re at + help you find your own, unique way!

I have a family member who is constantly concerned with calories! Advice?

Always have compassion: we all live in diet culture, + it’s hard space to navigate! I fall back on this: every act is an act OF love, or a cry FOR love. So often, when we’re dieting [counting calories] it’s a cry for love. What I know to be true about intuitive eating, is that you have to be ready for it [at least a little!]. We can’t force others to ditch dieting + begin an intuitive eating journey. But we can plant little seeds during conversations… things like, “I’ve been learning about intuitive eating… did you know that counting calories often backfires + ends up hurting us? I thought that was so interesting when I learned it” — or something like that. You can also recommended podcasts, books, articles to gently introduce them to intuitive eating. OR — if their counting calories is harming you, then it’s time to set some loving boundaries, asking them to please not mention calories around you. We’ll get into this more in the program!

What are your tips on how to eat healthy while on a budget/with a busy schedule?

Yes! Intuitive eating will help you learn what foods [in all budgets] feel best in your body AND how to honor your body even when you’re busy! Sometimes it just takes extra planning + intention, so, for instance, readily having your favorite, easy, satisfying snacks available so that you can grab them on the go, +/or, being sure to have super satisfying meals that will hold you over if you know it’s going to be a crazy day! Sometimes it’s even about asking ourselves what are our top priorities in this current season of life + intentionally giving our time to those priorities [sometimes that may be things like exercise or mealtimes, + other seasons maybe not, that’s okay!].
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Want more? Listen to Julie on The CHAARG Podcast — Episode #110… one of our most downloaded episodes ever! : )

Our #1 Tool For Having A Healthy Relationship With Social Media

Social media has come a long way in a short time. Think about it… Facebook was created in 2004 + now it reaches over 2.7 billion people. When it first came onto the scene, many thought it was a fad + might just *blow over* like a lot of trends. But now, social media is changing the way people communicate, socialize, and even — the way we think. 

Pros:

  • Community — We as a CHAARG community have *so* many important ties in social media + it has brought us closer than ever in the past year! It helps people all over the world become connected + find support.
  • Entertainment — This might go without saying, but social media is also just funny! There are so many amusing + comical posts online [I love cat videos personally : )]. Especially when we’re bored at home — social media can be a great source for a good laugh!
  • Perspective — Social media is an important platform for creating social awareness + empathy in our country, especially over the last year. People were able to share their stories + come together to fight important issues.
  • Education — So many resources can be shared on social media, like recipes, travel tips, makeup tutorials, general chemistry lectures — literally everything you want to learn is on YouTube!

Cons:

  • Comparison — So many of us spend time comparing ourselves to others on social media, as our feeds are usually filled with thin, fit, + *idealized* body types.  We also compare our lives to what we see on the screen — feeling sad that we aren’t out doing exciting things like the people in our feed. We scroll mindlessly + compare what we see online to our own bodies + lives. 
  • Diet Culture — Social media can become a platform for diet culture, where unrealistic expectations of what we “should + shouldn’t do” + how we “should +shouldn’t look” are shared every day. Individuals with no qualifications can share their latest *diet tips* + *advice* to help us lose weight + feel better, right? But too often, these recommendations can replace our ability to make our own decisions about our bodies [+ the food we eat + the movement we choose]

The Balance:

Understanding both the positive + negative sides of social media can help us find a balance + healthy relationship with it. Social media needs to be something that we consciously choose to have in our life because we decide that it makes our lives better — so we should feel better when we use it! But, in order to get to this place, we need to spend time truly reflecting on how social media influences our wellbeing.

This activity has been our recent favorite tool for having a healthy relationship with social media. This is not an activity that is *one + done* — this is activity to come back to time + time again, whenever you think your social media relationship may need a reset. Let’s dive in…

For this activity, you will scroll through the first 20 posts you see on instagram [if Facebook or TikTok is your preferred social media… feel free to do this activity on that platform!] + describe them. You’re going to determine if each post falls in the *pro* or *con* side of social media.

When you are scrolling, ask yourself:

  • Is this one the pros of social media? Is this helping me find connection? Do I feel good after viewing this? Is this content entertaining or funny? Did I learn something or laugh? 
  • Is this one the cons of social media? Do I feel worse after viewing this content? Am I comparing myself [or my behaviors/decisions] to someone in this post? 
  • If it is a con, what’s stopping you from unfollowing this account? How would you feel if you didn’t see this content again?

If you think about it, social media isn’t supposed to make you feel bad! You shouldn’t feel negative about yourself when you are scrolling through your feed. You are choosing to have social media in your life, so be sure that it is something that is bringing you joy! 

After you are finished reflecting on the first 20 accounts, we recommend that you revamp who you follow! Remember: you are in control of your feed + what you see, so why not make it a happy one? How would your life change if you every time you opened your social media app you were only filled with joy + inspiration? 

If you want to go further with this work, here are some additional tips + reflections:

  • Have you ever had a successful social media detox? How did it feel?
  • Schedule time to use social media + times to step away!
  • Think before posting — “Why am I posting this?” Similar to checking in with your emotions when we are scrolling, check in with yourself before posting. What am I feeling before posting this? Will posting this make me feel better/worse? 

As always, whenever you feel that social media is impacting your mood more than it should, take a break! Social media should bring you joy + if it’s not, maybe we should put the phone down. 

*Light-Hearted* + Relatable Mental Health Books [with a 2021 update!]

**Below the original post are updated books for our 2021 mental health month guide! 

One thing I’ve learned through being open about my mental health journey is that it really helps feeling like you can relate to others. When you connect with a story, it can help you to feel heard + even give you the strength to share your own story or seek guidance.

When I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story, I felt this connection, as the author was describing situations I go through or thoughts I have but was never able to put into words myself — one of the characters even took the same medication I was on. Reading about mental health in a *light-hearted* way helped me to come to terms that it’s okay to feel this way ++ most importantly — other people feel the same way I do.

While you can find guidance + connection in self-help style books, but sometimes, these books can be too close to home + do more harm than good. The books below talk about sensitive, but important topics including anxiety, depression, suicide, addiction, + even spirituality, but in a way that’s easier to understand + relate to. You aren’t given advice or extreme details about mental illnesses, but instead, you can get a first-hand look at what it’s like to live with one:

#1] Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern

#2] Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

#3] What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

#4] Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

#5] How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew B. Newberg, Mark Robert Waldman

#6] Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

#7] Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

#8] Marbles by Ellen Forney

In honor of Mental Health Month 2021, we wanted to update our favorite book recommendations! With everything that happened this past year, having different outlets to learn more about others’ experiences is SO important. If you have read any of our book recommendations + want to share or connect with us, tag @CHAARG + use the #CHAARGBookClub!

#1] Hold Still by Nina LaCour. This book gives you a first-hand look at how mental illness can be so prevalent in a friend’s life, even when you’re unaware of the situation. The main character Ingrid commits suicide + her friend Caitlin decides to go through the journal to find out what happened. Caitlin shares her story about how you can’t always see what the people closest to you are feeling.

 #2] Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee. This book provides an honest insight into how mental illness can affect so much more than the individual, but all members of their family + friends. It shares the story of one sister who starts hearing voices + her family + friends who struggle to support her. 

#3] All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This book is not only a romance novel but also an inside look at how a relationship can change so much for someone struggling with mental illness. A crazy crazy coincidence brings together the two main characters → they almost throw themselves out of a window at exactly the same time. The story follows Violet + Finch throughout their relationship + how connection can be live savings to some with mental illnesses but how it can mask other’s situation. 

#4] The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Who doesn’t love a Brené Brown read? She shared what she’s learned in her research into the power of “Wholehearted Living”. Her story works to explore how we can cultivate courage, compassion + connection with ourselves in our everyday lives.

#5] First, We Make the Beast Beautiful:by Sarah Wilson. Wilson details her journey with her mental illnesses, including experiences that describe insomnia, bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, mania + bipolar disorder. The book delves into the scientific research, facts + figures behind anxiety disorders as well as Sarah’s individual experience + coping strategies. She recommends consciously exploring anxiety + accepting it to discover what it can teach you about the beauty of life.

#6] (Don’t) Call Me Crazy by Kelly Jensen. This book shares the stories of 33 people who have dealt with mental illness in some form. The stories work to destigmatize mental health by exploring the problematic word crazy, a misnomer often used to describe people who struggle with mental illness. The author shares commentary on why we don’t talk about mental health + illness enough ++why that needs to change.

 

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Going Plant Based: My Experience

I have always thought about going vegan… How could I do that? Where is the protein? Don’t vegetables get kind of boring? What about Chick-fil-a?! SO many questions, + it took some convincing, but here we are. I did it! I decided to try this plant-based thing out last semester while I was away at college… + I LOVED it.

Overall, the plant-based diet was so much easier than I expected it to be, + I learned so much about the benefits of eating only plants. Here are some of the major things I learned:

One of the biggest things that I questioned about the plant-based diet was increasing the amount of carbs in my diet. I was always under the impression that higher protein, lower carbs was the way to go, + this plant-based experiment definitely proved otherwise.

There is no need to be afraid of carbs! Carbs energize us, + we SHOULD be eating them, not avoiding them! Some of my favorite carb sources that I relied on:

  • Chickpea Pasta
  • Dave’s Bread/Bagels
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Fruits! [Bananas + Berries]
  • Oats

 

This was DEFINITELY where I saw the biggest difference in how I felt. It increased my motivation + energy in every aspect of my day. When I started consistently eating totally vegan, I found it easier to:

  • Wake up early
  • Workout 
  • Focus on school assignments
  • Stay awake + alert throughout the day

Aside from carbs, this was where I had the most questions. We are all trained to think that protein = meat, + this could NOT be more false. I highly recommend watching the Netflix documentary Game Changers, they explain this perfectly!

As explained in the documentary: Protein comes from meat, right? But… think about it… don’t the animals need to consume protein in order to give us that? Where do you think the animals get it from? How do they gain so much protein? You guessed it… plants!

It is SO fun to experiment with plant-based meat substitutes + different veggies, they can be made to taste EXACTLY like meat! One of my favorite recipes is Chickpea Salad [think tuna salad, but crushed chickpeas + vegan mayo!] Here are some of my favorite plant-based protein sources: 

  • Chickpeas
  • Tofu/Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Beans
  • Beyond Meat [Burgers, Meatballs, Ground “Beef”, etc.]
  • Veggies! Veggies! Veggies! [Broccoli, Mushrooms, Kale, etc.]
  • Nuts [Almonds + Peanuts, especially]

 

I really thought that I was going to miss some foods, for me, chicken was the hardest to let go of! Surprisingly enough, I did not miss anything at ALL! I found myself enjoying plant-based foods even more than typical foods.

Dairy-free cheese is one of these things for sure! I LOVE cheese, + after finding the right brands ++ cooking the right meals, I enjoy dairy-free cheese so much more! It tastes just as yummy, + doesn’t make me feel bloated.

I also found that so many restaurants are starting to offer plant-based options as well! My favorite– Sofritas at Chipotle… YUM! 

I still have so much to learn + discover in terms of the plant-based diet, but I have to admit, it was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I absolutely intend on continuing, + I am EXCITED.

Nothing beats getting excited about food + knowing that you’re still going to feel GOOD after eating it! 

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Have you tried going plant-based before? Tag @CHAARG + let us know! : )