Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It seems there are two levels of friendship. One kind of friend accepts you as you are. This friend reaches out to you and makes no demands of change on your personality. Oftentimes, this will be a person you have known for a long time, such that you feel comfortable being who you are in your interactions with the other, though only to a point. Somehow, despite the mutual affirmation, there is a barrier that prevents the friendship from ever seeming full or round. This may not be due to a fault in either party; nevertheless, it remains the case that circumstances only allow them this type of connection.

On the other hand, the second level of friendship involves a stretching. While remaining very comfortable with this friend, at the same time you cannot remain static in your personality in order for the friendship to bear fruit. This does not mean that the friendship demands that you change who you are (that would make it no kind of friendship at all), but rather that the friendship does not allow you to grow complacent with yourself. In a way, your friend reaches out to you not simply where you are right now but also where you are going to be. This friend will accept your current state, and in fact accept it all the more deeply because of its orientation towards the future. At the same time, however, and without conscious effort, your friend encourages and challenges you to become a better and fuller you. Another aspect of this second kind of friendship is that the dynamism is mutual: one is not stretched more than another, but both grow in innumerable and complementary ways. Indeed, all friendship requires a growth in charity, yet the second kind sounds almost to the depths of the two friends' hearts. To use a common expression, the two "grow together"--and continue growing. The gift of this friendship is immeasurably valuable and necessary to us as we journey towards our true end.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Weight Question

Let me start by stating the obvious: this is a very sensitive issue! It's so sensitive, in fact, that it becomes a bit of a problem to decide what to say and what not to say on the question of what we should do about what we weigh. I think a couple first principles will come in handy here:

1. You are beautiful. This axiom comes first because it is most fundamental. You have to understand it before you continuing this discussion. That means, if you have an eating disorder of any kind, you need to stop reading now. I mean it. Go back to square one, look in the mirror, and realize you are beautiful.

2. Your health is more important than what you weigh. Stop tuning this statement out. I know we hear it over and over, but does it really sink in or do we just pass over it with a perfunctory mental "of course"? In fact, this key principle is very much tied into the first principle (you are beautiful), because after realizing your beauty and goodness your response should be a healthy love for your body, which implies certain demands. If you just want to lose weight to look more attractive, without regard to your ultimate state of health and vigor, you are a shallow person! You need to be willing to make legitimate changes to your diet in order to improve your health.

Having mastered these two principles perfectly, we are now ready to move on to some particular questions:

Do I Look Fat?

Yes. The answer is always yes to the person who's asking. If you are looking for fat on your body, chances are you can find it. It seems twisted, but even the thinnest people don't complain about being too thin--they claim to see fat somewhere on their slight and emaciated frames! So, the experience of feeling fat is universal. Moreover, it's also completely irrelevant. I say it is irrelevant because it is an emotional reaction. If you want to change something about yourself, you won't be able to do it based on emotional outbursts: your wahhhh, I'm faaaat feeling won't see you through daily jogs or cutting back on portions. Rather, you do it based on objective analysis and positive planning.

How Much Should I Weigh?

After careful analysis and research on the subject, the consensus is that the perfect weight for all women is 124.5 lbs.

. . . no!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is no number. It is entirely relative. I'm sure we all know that 140 lbs on one woman can look completely different on another woman, even if their respective heights are similar. Obviously, there are all different kinds of body types so that it is impossible to come up with an ideal weight. Scales are useless. I'm also not going to tell you to go to a doctor if you are perfectly healthy with no medical conditions--what a waste of time! Frankly, I don't know what you should weigh; it's something you are going to have to decide. You will find, however, that if you come up with an unrealistic number, the scale will become even more useless than it already is. If you want a general guide, try a Body Mass Index Calculator. If you come up as within normal weight, you really don't have to lose any weight at all if you don't want to, so don't worry about it and just keep principle #2 in mind.

How Can I Lose Some Weight for the Christmas Holiday?

Ok, now that we have gotten the boring stuff out of the way, this is the part where I get to subject you to my Magical Weight Loss Tips for Instant Success and Complete Insanity!

  • Exercise! Just do something, it doesn't matter what. I read a tip today that said to park at the farthest spot at work and at the grocery store to make yourself walk more. Whatever you do, don't make it nothing.
  • No Sugar. It all depends how much you want it. If you really do want to lose some weight, this will work: just don't eat any refined sugar at all for a month. It's a good discipline, too. See if you can make it work.
  • Drink Water Only. Self-explanatory.
  • Laugh more. Laughing works an incredibly important muscle in the inner stomach that causes swifter food digestion and processing leading to immediate leanness in the entire lower body. Highly recommended.
  • Whole grains. Whole grains make you happy. Seriously, the wonderful thing about whole grains is that they really are good for your digestive system, providing needed fiber that works almost as well as laughter. Plus, they feel more satisfying than refined grains, so that you don't need to eat as much.
  • Eat first more, then less. No one is going to lose weight if he does not eat breakfast. So if you don't eat breakfast, you're going to have to start out by adding this meal--eating more. Then, try to eat smaller portions at your other meals; don't have seconds--eat less.
  • Don't eat out. Making your own meals is a modern necessity. I have found no good way to eat out without eating too much, except to go to nicer, more expensive restaurants that have small portions. Even then, though, dessert can be so tempting. The best thing is to avoid restaurants altogether. If you have to eat out, try your best only to eat half of your entree and box up the other half. I usually fail at this, but it's worth a shot.

All this is not rocket science, but to many of us it's way more important and pertinent. :-) I don't know how to show people how to eat healthy foods. People often remark that my meals look healthy and good. My advice is just not to eat junk and gross foods (see list below). I don't want to focus overly on the negative, but it often does happen that once you cut certain foods you end up replacing them with healthy alternatives. Start craving your veggies.

Junk and Gross Foods
French fries
Soft drink
Pork rinds
Chicken-fried steak
Deep-fried Twinkies
Root beer float
Chips that leave colored powder on your fingers
Potato chips
Whipped topping
Things that come in boxes from the cookie aisle
Frosted cake

That's the end.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A lady should never diminish her confidence and sparkle for a man, nor for any other reason. For some, this principle need not be stated. Many women, however, find it a struggle to maintain their confidence amid difficult situations and emotional pulls. Confidence indeed is an elusive quality. You cannot gain it by trickery or by a handy mnemonic device (believe me, I've tried!). Nevertheless, confidence is a quality most central to our feminine vocation.

We can never stand still--we either progress in our lives or regress. For that reason, ladies must pay special attention to their own dignity and important role. A friend of mine remarked, "I'm so sick of all those femininity talks; all they do is say, 'You're a woman, yay!'" While it is true that we have to be careful to keep our reflections on femininity taut and to-the-point, at the same time there's a real sense in which repeated affirmation does help us. We need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how lovely and wonderful we really are. Of course, this means seeing ourselves from God's perspective, a difficult task.

Once we have that vision, however, confidence follows. Confidence follows from prayer. Even if we could have confidence without God, it would be vain. We would rush to build and to preserve vain things. We would easily be trapped in pride of material possessions and physical beauty. This is not true confidence. Confidence means to confide, to confide in God. From Psalm 83 we read, Beatus homo, qui sperat in te--blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee.

Coming back to how we live out confidence, we can remember that we are not frustrated. At some point, everyone feels a bit frustrated. When this happens, we see that some people are ready to play to our weaknesses. We must resist these people--true friends play to our strengths--and pray for them as well as for ourselves. Confidence is all about retaining control: not control of a situation, for that is almost always impossible, but self-control. To stay confident, simply keep in mind these words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." You have been given the abilities to enact beauty, to bring peace, to shower love; these tools are at your disposal at every moment, like arrows in the archer's quiver. Once you realize your gifted power, and live and breathe as God's precious one, you can exude the confidence that will make God and man alike smile for joy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ladies' Dress: The Color Spectrum

In this last of a three-part series on dressing not just with dignity but with downright beauty, we come to the most difficult topic of the three: color. I find it difficult to talk about color and matching because even up to a few years ago I still found myself struggling to resist the urge to wear colors that I knew didn't match. I don't think I'm the only one, though a lot of fortunate young ladies learn at an earlier age. It's almost like the moral life: first you learn what is right and wrong, and then you have to train your will to become sensitive to the least wrong thing.

The Color Spectrum

One of my co-workers believes that extremes serve well to illustrate a point, so I will begin with something tacky:

If you see nothing wrong with this combination of colors, please do not read on. The rest will not make sense. I want to give some hard and fast rules so that, not only clothes, but also other things in your life will not look inharmonious in hue.

Rule #1: Do not wear different pieces that are very similar in shade but do not match exactly.

I think 90% of color ugliness could be eliminated by adherence to this principle. (In fact, one of the main problems with the ensemble above is that it violates this rule.) I want to be clear: I am not saying that you can't wear light green with dark green or lavender with purple. I am saying that if you are considering pairing a pair of mid-range green checked pants with a mid-range green blouse that is not the exact same shade--and that generally means the two pieces are different brand names--don't do it! Wear a neutral instead. Examine this color wheel:

Neutral colors are those not found on our color wheel: black, gray, brown, navy, khaki, beige, silver, and white. What I'm saying in this rule is not to wear two shades that touch on one spoke. For example, the two outermost yellow shades or the two innermost violet shades. They may look good as a spectrum, but we must learn to avoid looking like a spectrum!

Rule #2: Do not pair two different bold, dramatic colors.

You will just look better all around if you follow this rule. If you wear a vivid purple top and a kelly green skirt, these two colors will technically match, because they are opposites on the color spectrum (see wheel above). Nevertheless, all that color is a bit hard on the eye. For that reason, we don't wear colors from two different spokes that are on one of the two middle grades of the wheel. This rule does not generally apply to pastels or to dark, wintry shades. Here is one tough case:

Rule #3: Do not wear too many different colors.

When I say don't wear too many different colors, I want to focus especially on limiting the use of non-neutral colors. It's usually a good idea to pair non-neutral and neutral colors rather than using all color spectrum shades (on the other hand, a tasteful outfit can consist entirely of neutral colored pieces). Perhaps three could be our perfect number here: for an outfit, do two non-neutral pieces and one neutral or two neutrals and one non-neutral--or just three neutral colors. All things in moderation. This brings up a question: what if I'm wearing a blouse, skirt, or dress with a multi-colored pattern? It's always safer to pair with a neutral! You may wear a color but it must match the pattern fairly exactly; but for heaven's sake, don't ever wear another pattern! You will not go astray by following these guidelines, but by defying my advice you may end up like the unfortunate people below:

Rule #4: Wear colors that look good on you.

This rule is so important, it could have been placed first. Each of us has our own particular skin tone, hair color, and eye color which makes the range of colors that look becoming on us unique. There is a well-known "seasons" classification that you can use as a guideline of what colors look best on you: here's a straightforward guide. Apart from that, a little artistic vision and psychology can help you find out even more quickly. You already probably favor the colors that look good on you and avoid the ones that don't, because when you wear the latter shades you look at yourself in the mirror and think, "Eh, not quite." This is your natural artistic vision. Also, your motivation to wear certain other shades might be that you have received compliments when you wear those colors--these compliments reinforce your psychological feeling in favor of those colors. All you have to do, then, is tap into that sensitivity to continue wearing the hues that you feel good about and shunning the undesired colors. Here is an example of an autumn-toned ensemble:

That's just about all the rules and advice I have on color. Of course, no rule is an absolute. Nevertheless, as with English grammar, you have to know the rules very, very well before you dare to break them. Working within some guidelines actually makes choosing outfits easier and faster. I hope this series has been helpful, and feel free to comment for more discussion!