Nobody cares if you are Vegan, Paleo, or Gluten-Free. Here’s What Actually Matters.

 

Last year I interviewed Leila Burrows from the Pad Studios and she said something around dieting that really stuck with me:

“People spend so much time talking about what they are eating and they are not really paying attention to how they are acting in the world. It’s really not that interesting if you are gluten-free, or dairy-free, or alcohol-free…etc. It matters what you are saying what you are speaking, starting with the message that you say to yourself.”

I nodded fervently as she said this but also wondered why I hadn’t heard much of this before? It makes so much sense, but why don’t we acknowledge this more? We care so much about what we put IN our mouths but not so much on what comes OUT.

A vegan animal lover isn’t necessarily better than a person who loves chicken & waffles. And people who drink green juice over soda aren’t automatically good people. Gwyneth Paltrow once said that she’d rather “smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.” A statement like that helps no one. In fact, I think a judgmental statement like hers adds more harm than good. As much as I promote a healthy diet, I am not going to judge people’s character based on what they eat. It just doesn’t work that way.

First off, why are we so fixated on the way we eat? I think this phenomenon can be best explained with a story: Let’s say there is a woman named Anna; Anna has been dealing with major bloating, weight gain, and inflammation.  She’s consulted a few diet books and a nutritionist and decided she needs to go gluten-free in order to look and feel her best. She starts to surround herself with influencers who promote this diet, she begins to skip dinners with friends because the spots they choose aren’t healthy, and she finds herself making curt comments on her family’s food choices.  She silently distances herself from family & friends because they don’t follow her so-called healthy lifestyle. Why does she do this?

Well here’s the thing: change is hard, especially a lifestyle change. It can become all-consuming because it shapes most of your daily decisions – what can I eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner? How do I adjust my weekly grocery list change? Can my husband and I still go to our favorite places to eat? It’s really easy to get caught up in the “me me me” mindset when going through a major lifestyle change. In the end it’s uncomfortable, it leaves you vulnerable and possibly a little insecure. And those feelings are channeled in ways that may end up hurting others.

Your loved ones always want what is best for you but in reality, they don’t care if you are 10 pounds heavier or lighter, if you are vegan or paleo, or if you lift weights or run marathons. Those around you care about how kind you are, how much time you make for them, and how much respect you show.

We’ve all made mistakes before when we are trying to find the best versions of ourselves but it’s helpful to remember that there is no perfect diet or no perfect human being so it’s pointless trying to achieve that. My piece of advice: think more about what you do to positively contribute to society and less about how you eat. It’s very likely the two may go hand-in-hand but I think the first step towards positivity is much simpler.

Create & Cultivate Seattle With My Mom

sarika and akansha agrawal

create-cultivate-seattle

“Delegate when you can find someone who can do the task 70% as good as you.”  This quote was just of the few pieces of advice we heard at Create & Cultivate this past weekend. “We” you may ask? Why yes, I actually went to Create & Cultivate with my mom!

Create & Cultivate is full day conference for creative business women who want to “create & cultivate” the career of their dreams. As my mom and I are working on the recipe eBook together, this conference was a perfect way to kick-start the new chapter in our professional journeys. C&C was also sponsored by Microsoft, and if you recall, I just recently quit my job at LinkedIn – which happened to be acquired by Microsoft not too long ago. Life is funny at times.

It was incredibly meaningful for me to share this event with my mom. Back when I was a kid, my mom made the decision to stay at home to support our family and I knew it was not an easy decision for her. She had to forgo having her career which meant no meetings, events, conferences ( though we tend to complain about these things) to stay home with my brother and I. Create & Cultivate was my mom’s first ever large-scale conference! She’s a creative at heart, so I had a feeling that it would be a good fit.

sarika and akansha agrawal

The Feel:

While we are on the topic of firsts, Create & Cultivate was the first conference I attended specifically for women — that too creative women. With that, came a few interesting observations.

For example, while working in tech I was used to a very casual almost “vanilla” dress-code. However, the ladies at Create & Cultivate showed me a whole different side of conference attire with their finest and trendiest outfits.  It was kind of nice having an excuse to do my hair and makeup!

The conference itself was beautifully curated with fresh flowers and was perfect for Pinterest. Each sponsor such as Noosa Yoghurt, UrbanStems, and La Croix and each had its own booth with different interactive activities. And yes for all the Instagrammers there were a plethora of photo opportunities. Thankfully I brought my DSLR!

stella-dot-create-cultivate

As a health and wellness blogger, I noticed there was a CRAP ton of sugar at the conference. Does the “sugar n’ spice and all things nice” saying still apply to women? Breakfast was yogurt with granola or pastries, lunch was a sandwich with a tinyyy salad and then cookies. At our breaks we could stock up on candy and chocolate and then at the end there were cupcakes and more rose! Whew. I thought I had a sweet tooth but man this took it to another level.

Finally, based on my own observations at C&C – it seems like there are still relatively few ethnic minorities in the creative industry. At least at the welcome Happy Hour the night before I felt a little out of place (everyone looked the same!)  but luckily once we started chatting with people, that uneasiness was forgotten. Through our conversations we also learned that many attendees were moms which is not too surprising because the having the flexibility of running your own business is an attractive option when raising a family!

The Ladies:

We met bloggers, digital marketers, designers, and other small business owners from all across nation. It was interesting learning about the different stages each person was in with their businesses and what struggles and successes they have faced. It was comforting seeing that everyone has their set of doubts and struggles while trying to get their idea or business off the ground. Here are a few people I met:

Maxie Mccoy was the one who inspired to me to come to C&C in the first place.

maxie-mccoy

-So great spending time with my friend Neha, who is also a beauty blogger at nehabeauty.com

-I snapped a picture with Yvonne Orji from HBO’s Insecure!

yvonne-orji-create-cultivate

The Content:

At such a large event, I was not expecting to receive tactical business advice but to rather feel inspired and network with other women who had similar goals. Create & Cultivate served that exact purpose. The conference was divided into two tracks: Track 1 focused on growing your business and Track 2 was meant for content creators; my mom and I were in the latter. With the panels and keynotes we had the opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers such as Emily Schuman of Cupcakes & Cashmere, Doree Shafrir from Buzzfeed and Issa Rae from HBO’s Insecure!

Some panels were more helpful than others. For example, it wasn’t too helpful to hear advice from bloggers who started 10 years ago and admit they got lucky based on their timing. Nevertheless it was still interesting hearing their perspective. My two favorite panels were the one on snackable content: the intersection of food & digital, and one called “radically creative”. Here are some tidbits of advice we received:

  • “Delegate when someone can do it 70% as good as you” – Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon
  • “Saying no to this makes everyone say yes to something better “- Whitney Leigh Morris, The Tiny Canal Cottage
  • “I would encourage for us to charge double…if you delete creative from the world, it would become very boring.” – Anne Milan Alo, creative director at WE Communications
  • Always do things that scare you – Emily Schuman, Cupcakes & Cashmere

livestrong

Pro Tips for Create & Cultivate!
  • Bring healthy snacks! Nuts, baby carrots, protein bars. Although the food was cute, you are not going to get food with a lot of substance. As I mentioned there is a lot of sugar at the conference :).
  • Wear layers. Most of the conference was outside so if the weather is unpredictable, like it was in Seattle, you need to be prepared.
  • Ask questions during the mentor power hour and jot down your mentors email addresses after the session to keep that connection strong.
  • Take pictures, go to the beauty bar, drink some wine, meet new people, and have fun! It’s not supposed to be stressful.

Whew, I think this is the longest blog post I have written on Citrus & Gold but I clearly had a lot to say. I would 100% recommend this conference to anyone who has been thinking about going. I’d recommend to go with someone special and do your research to know what to expect! There really couldn’t be a better time to be in this industry :).

Why I’m Leaving My Job At LinkedIn

I haven’t talked much my full-time job as an Insights Analyst at LinkedIn much because it didn’t seem to be so relevant to a health and wellness blog (it kinda felt off brand, ya know?). That was my mistake thinking my personal journey doesn’t bring value to anyone else.

I want to share a bit more about me and my story because I think it’ll help you better connect to my mission and brand. And hopefully you find it interesting!

Soo my side hustle is going to become my full hustle. At least for now. I’m going to the wellness space for the next few months to see where it takes me next. Which means I’m leaving my job at LinkedIn in 3 weeks!

The background:

Like many of us in our mid-20s, I’ve always been someone who has had a plan and a set goal. It felt like life was all planned out for me until I started asking myself “Wait, is this how the rest of my life will feel like?” It was that nagging question that made me want to explore and take some risks. Which is odd because I’ve been so risk averse my entire life.

Though I may risk-averse, I am always honest with myself and those around me. If I’m feeling a certain way I can’t hide it. So when I started feeling a disconnected to my job (even when the company and the people were absolutely incredible) I knew I had to do something about it. I couldn’t fake it for much longer.

I knew I needed a change, and it took me a while before I figured out that I needed a HUGE change that makes me uncomfortable and pushes me to do something completely different. After months of thinking it through, I decided to quit my job to focus on my own wellness projects.

My wellness projects:

I have a feeling my journey will steer me in many different directions and there will be multiple ups and downs but there are three things in particular I want to focus on over the next few months:

+Growing the Citrus & Gold community: If you haven’t already checked out the C&G Girl Gang, you’re in for a real treat.
+Partnering with my mom to create a healthy Indian food recipe eBook: I’ll write a post on this soon!
+Gathering more knowledge: through certifications, consulting, and meeting others in the wellness space.

Sure I’m nervous, scared, and very uncomfortable but I’m also very happy & excited. This feels like the right decision and I am very grateful and privileged that I can take this leap. I encourage you to watch this space closely and I will be sharing many more updates and changes over the next few months. I can’t wait to take you along on this journey with me.

Blocking out the noise

I came back from India, went to Vegas for a conference two days later, got back to work after a month off, and started my gig teaching POP Pilates the week later. Tiring, fun, but doable.

The Noise

I also came back to a lot of other “noise” that was harder to manage. A long list of marketing emails telling me how to run my blog as a business, countless of fitness challenges popping up on instagram feed, and never-ending political posts on Facebook. Compared to physical busyness and real-life hecticness (did I just make up a word?), this mental noise was much harder to cope with.

The intangible content looming around in my email & social media was emotionally & mentally exhausting. What do I read, who do I listen to, and what do I focus on? Do I want to find ways to monetize my blog, do I need a new fitness regime, do I need to be fervently checking my news feed for the latest updates?

Or do I need to step away from it all and just listen to myself without any external influence?

The last couple of weeks, I’ve mentally blocked out unnecessary emails & posts. I’ve shared less on social media, I’ve digested less and really focused on what makes me happy on a day-to-day basis.

And thank god, its working. I’ll follow-up with another post on what specific steps I’m taking to block out the noise, reset, and focus on my own happiness.

P.S. here’s a picture of my grandma and I in India. Isn’t she adorable?

nagpur-india-grandma-me

Why Resolutions Don’t Work (and How to Fix Them)

Why Resolutions Don't Work

Why Resolutions Don't Work

New year, new me – that’s how the saying goes. But what do we really change about ourselves at the turn of a calendar year?

Let’s think smaller…what are you going to do differently TODAY compared to what you did tomorrow. Resolutions are not about next year, next month; they are about today and tomorrow, and the next day. They are on-going and take effort and time.

For a while I used to say “I am against New Year’s Resolutions” but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Resolutions in other words are new goals, habits and I am 100% in support of those two things. If done correctly, New Year’s Resolutions can be beneficial.

Here’s a few ways how we can see New Year’s Resolutions in a different light:

Before writing your resolutions for 2017, reflect and learn from 2016: Many of us so eager to think about the future without learning from the past. What did you well in 2016, what didn’t go so well? What were your priorities and goals and how have they changed? I personally found Maxie Mccoy’s 25 questions reflection workbook really helpful. It helped me reflect about topics I hadn’t thought about like “what money was best spent? And what money was wasted?”.

Don’t jump on the bandwagon: Marketers know that the best time to lure people into their product/service is in the new year when people are hoping to make change. Make sure whatever you sign-up for is what you need for yourself at the moment. For example, many of my friends & family are signing-up for different fitness challenges and I’ve been tempted. But I know my life doesn’t need another fitness challenge right now because there are other more immediate matters I’d like to address (for example, growing this blog!). If you half-heartedly commit to something that you really don’t want or need, you are going to fail.

Think short term: Let’s be honest, how many of us can focus on the same goals for an entire year (if you can, please do share because I’d love to learn your ways!)? For the majority of us, it’s almost impossible to create resolutions for a full year. I’d recommend breaking down your goals into shorter time frames. I like 3 months because that’s long enough to instill a habit and see some sort of results without losing track.

Create a system: Many times we write a goal and fail to think of a system of how we are going to achieve said-goal. It’s important to write concrete, habitual steps you can take to meet that goal. I actually learned this tip from my full-time job where we write our quarterly goals (OKRs – objective key results). Our objectives are high-level but the key results we write are measurable & quantifiable.

Keep them visible: If you are going to create new year’s resolutions make them visible so you are kept accountable. Write them down, post them somewhere you will see them frequently. I know it can be uncomfortable to see your resolutions right in front of your face, but it’s important to have a constant reminder!

Homework time: Revisit your resolutions and see what edits you need to make to make them happen!

I also won’t be a hypocrite. I’m going to write my goals down and paste them on my wall so I can see them – loud & clear :).

Citrus & Gold Year in Review: 2016

2016-best-nine-instagram

2016-best-nine-instagram

Like many people, I was interested to see what my “2016 best nine” were for Instagram. It’s a fun thing to do but it leaves much to be said about the year! 2016 was not just a year of smoothie bowls, overnight oats, and fun photo shoots. It was a year filled with many other amazing memories and events, and some not so amazing events and memories. Today I want to talk about the good, bad, and the ugly for 2016 (I’ve always wanted to use that saying!).

The Good:

Creating the Citrus & Gold brand: Early in 2016 I decided I want to take blogging more seriously and in June I launched Citrus & Gold. I’ve had the opportunity write about my passions, interview some amazing people, and host a couple of fun events. It’s taking some time for me to believe in myself 100% but I’m prepared for even more growth in 2017.

Getting Certified as a POP Pilates Instructor: For a long time I had been thinking “one day I will teach a fitness class.” I had no idea that would happen in 2016! The certification process were nerve-wracking and a little scary but also so fun! It was so worth it and if all goes well, I will start teaching a regular class at 24 hr Fitness by the end of this month!

pop-pilates

Traveling a ton: I feel enriched and nourished by the travel I’ve done in the past year. The places I visited include: Big Sur, New York, Chicago (twice!), Austin, Sedona, Yosemite, and Costa Rica. I actually just came back from Costa Rica a few days ago and I’m itching to plan my next big trip (well after my trip to Mumbai next week ;).

big-sur-mcway-falls

sedona-arizona-cathedral-rock

costa-rica-el-sabanero

The Bad:

Dealing with Health Issues & Anxiety: This past summer I was dealing with some bad gut issues and anxiety that had left me feeling exhausted and unhappy. Other than taking time to heal myself, what really helped me was working with a nutritionist. I had no idea how much the mind and gut are connected.

I actually took some herbal antibiotics last month to start the healing process (I’m thinking of writing a post on it soon – would you guys find it helpful?). I’ve learned that treating gut issues is a marathon not a sprint, so I know I will have to be patient and persistent.

Experiencing my First Running Injury: I’ve been an avid runner for the last 3-4 years and in 2016 I suffered my first running injury. Many experienced runners have had their own set of battles but this injury was a major bummer because it caused me to miss not one, but two half marathons! I started working with a physical therapist right after the injury so the recovery was manageable, but I’m still slowly trying to build up the mileage.

As I’m trying to get back into normal running mode, coincidentally, I was contacted by WholeYou to try out their Dynamover Knee Brace. I was pretty excited because the drugstore knee braces just weren’t doing it for me – they were too stiff and itchy, and never fit me correctly. The Dynamover Knee brace comes in six different sizes so you are virtually guaranteed to find one that fits (my size fell into the kids category – go figure :)).

wholeyou-dynamover-knee-brace

I’ve taken it out for short runs and I love how it feels more like a compression sleeve than a brace. It’s a lot softer and flexible. It gives the right amount of support without constricting your knee too much. Plus it looks way cooler than traditional braces! For a limited time you can use my promo code “CITRUSANDGOLD” for 50% off and free shipping (they have a money-back guarantee as well which is nice). If you have knee problems, I’d recommend trying it out!

The ugly:

My birthday was the same day “you know who” was elected as President. That’s all I need to say.

All in all it’s been a good year, even though there were some less than pleasant things we all had to deal with. Personally it was a year of lot of growth, which wasn’t always easy. There were many moments of self-doubt, confusion, and exhaustion – but that’s what growth is about, right? In 2017, I’m hoping to build on the “growth” foundation I created for myself in 2016.

What do you all have to share for 2016? Please do tell me :)!

*Psst! my review of the knee brace is sponsored post by Mirum Shopper. All opinions are my own.