Dear Creatives: Here’s why self-care is not selfish

Photography by JP Hanney

“May this season reveal to you that your identity should not be bound up in your productivity, but your perceptivity. You’re more than these roles you perform.”

I took a break from blogging on my website for a little over a year. At first, it wasn’t intentional. Then, weeks and months started to go by and I simply couldn’t fix myself to sit down and write; I dreaded blogging and it was no longer a fun hobby. It reminded me of how I felt in school when I had a paper or an extensive project due and I would procrastinate until the last-minute, every time. Once I mustered the courage and strength to sit down at the keyboard to type, everything was forced–each word, each sentence, each thought. When this happened, I immediately thought to myself–WHY are you doing this? If you’re feeling burned out, why are you forcing it? Let it flow or let it go! Self care for me in this moment looked like taking a short break from blogging. I’m glad I did. Message: Less forcing, more flowing.

Seasons of creativity

As a creative, I’ve learned that creativity comes in waves. Some seasons I’m overflowing with ideas, thoughts, ways to get ahead, and full of motivation and energy to get things done. No, I don’t feel like I always have to be motivated to do things I love. Sometimes, your passion and drive will motivate you and propel you forward. However, when you’re in the midst of a crisis, creativity flows and sometimes it doesn’t. In my case, it didn’t. Last year I had a lot to deal with in my personal life that required the majority of my time and attention. In addition, I was still grieving the death of multiple family members– the closest being my grandmother who I paid tribute to in a previous blogpost (here). It was all too much, but  it was only for a season. I suspect that there may be creatives out there feeling the same way during the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s okay. It’s perfectly okay to give yourself grace and compassion during this quarantine, whether God has put it on your heart to be productive or create, neither is wrong. Remember, trust the spirit, not what social media or the world guilts you for doing or not doing. Message: Know the season you’re in.

Self care empowers your best self

I preach this all of the time! Self care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you. You cannot pour from an empty cup. As a matter of fact, what’s in your cup is for you and your overflow is for everyone else. If you don’t have overflow, it’s okay not to pour out, because you need it! Yes, this is an example of radical self-care and an important factor in your overall well-being. It’s easy to pour out when we don’t want to deal with our own stuff. But, if you take breaks and take a step back to care for self… it will certainly propel you forward and empower you to give to others 100 times over. Message: Sometimes taking a step back propels you forward. 

Remember your why

I had to dig deep and figure out why blogging and sharing became such a job for me last year. At the core, I drifted away from my  “why.” Why did I even start this platform to begin with? I literally went back to reflect on my very first blog post (here). Upon completing my reflection, I was reminded that My Living Spree blog was created to motivate and inspire people by sharing my self-care journey, with hope that they too would embark on their own self care journey (living spree).

Purpose over perfection

In all honesty, these are the negative thoughts that ran through my mind– How can I empower and inspire other people when I am not empowered or inspired? How can I help people become the best version of themselves when I am STILL becoming? Then, I realized that there is strength in vulnerability and sharing the journey. There are other people in the world who need to read my message and hear my story. And those who are also on the same path of becoming as me! None of us have arrived. Why? Because we are constantly evolving. Even if my message is only for one person, one reader, one viewer…it will serve its purpose. That is the true posture of purpose. I came to realize that it wasn’t about me being perfect, it was about me operating in my purpose. 

Find strength in vulnerability

What I learned is, I have to first believe in myself and in my brand before anyone else. Growing up, we were taught that being vulnerable was a sign of weakness. “Don’t let anyone see you sweat.” “You have to be tough and be strong no matter what.” This is one of the biggest lies I told myself and honestly that all of us have told ourselves. Especially (black) women. On the contrary, what I’ve found is that there is strength in vulnerability. There is power in sharing your story, because that is how God gets glory. That’s the true posture of purpose. Someone out there is depending on you to step into who you were called to be. It is by no mistake that you went through what you did and came out unscathed. It’s not enough for me to post beautiful pictures online and not tell the story behind them. That is selfish and self-absorbed. 

It is my belief that sharing my story will help others, because they will be able to see parts of themselves in my journey. It is my hope that you learn from me by staying true to yourself (who you are at the core) and trusting yourself. That is the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn during this journey. I have to leverage my platform in my own expression and stay unique to who I am. Comparison will lead you out of your purpose. If I can’t trust in anything else, I can and will trust in myself. Moving forward, I am betting on myself. Message: There is strength in vulnerability.

Top: Nastygal |Pants: ZARA

A message for creatives

  1. You are more than what you make
  2. Your productivity does not determine your value
  3. It’s okay to do nothing sometimes
  4. Not everything you do has to result in a product/service/outcome
  5. Not everything you make has to be important, significant, or good
  6. You can choose to not share what you create and make things just for yourself
  7. You can keep secrets to yourself, whether it’s not sharing upcoming projects, events, or techniques
  8. You are allowed to say no
  9. You are allowed to rest
  10. You must take care of yourself so that you can create

I hope this posts helps someone realize that sometimes a step back is a step forward. No matter where you are in your journey… KEEP GOING! Know what season you’re in and give yourself what you need to help you fulfill your mission. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

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The Secret of Maintaining Your Summer Body All Year Long

Photography by EmexFocus

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

The Journey

Exactly one year ago I completed a fitness challenge that helped me achieved some of my most amazing fitness results to date. As a matter of fact, you can read about #mylivingspree and my fitness journey HERE. For me, it wasn’t about transforming my body simply for a look, a photo, or finally getting into a bikini for summer. I wanted to transform my life and that’s exactly what I did.

Yes, I am proud to say that I was able to maintain my fit body for an entire year! Of course my fitness journey had its ebbs and flows and I didn’t appear “as lean” as I would like during some seasons. However, what mattered most is the consistency and effort with which I applied the principles I needed to succeed. Trust me, once you fully understand what it takes and commit to you goals day in and out, you will be well on your way to maintaining your fitness goals all year long. You must fall in love with the journey and the results will come.

Photography by EmexFocus

If you want to become the best version of yourself and maintain your fitness goals, you must develop habits that will eventually lead to lifestyle. Getting and staying fit isn’t about cutting carbs and calories, intense cardio sessions, avoiding restaurants, and drinking nothing but water. It is a lifestyle change that requires you to adopt a new, healthier mentality all around and ways to sustain and maintain in everyday life. I want to give you a few realistic tips on how to maintain and sustain your fit body not just for summer, but all year long. Please note, I am sharing tips that worked for me and my personal journey. It is my hope that they may help you as well, but ultimately always do what feels right for you and why works for you.

1. Establish A Mind and Body Connection

First, you have to commit to your fitness goals in your mind, then your body will follow suit. Therefore, understand that fitness is on a continuum and you are always actively working to maintain that lifestyle. Once your mind understands the importance of the new norm, your body will too! You will develop the desire to eat healthier on a daily basis, exercise more, and learn more about what your body needs and what it likes. This may seem simple, but trust me this is a major key!

2. Eat Clean

Yes, it is true that abs are made in the kitchen! Eating healthy is 75-80% of your overall fitness and it is the key to weight loss. No matter how much you workout in the gym, you likely won’t see much progress in your health and fitness until you learn to eat healthy. Having healthy foods readily available (or “meal prep”) is the easiest way to develop the habit of sticking to a nutritious diet.

Generally, I choose a source of lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey, etc.), a green vegetable, and a “good” carbohydrate (brown rice, sweet potato, etc.) for most of my meals. I plan to go into more details about sample meal plans, quantities and the best foods for maintenance in a future post. But for now, make sure to limit fried, greasy, and high fat foods for a “cheat meal” no more than twice weekly.

3. Cardio Exercise

Cardio is extremely important in maintaining your summer body as this is how you will stay lean. When choosing the most effective cardio for “leaning out,” you want to do something that will burn the most body fat. Examples of fat burning cardio workouts include 20-30 minutes of any of the following: riding the stationary bike, sprinting on the treadmill, climbing the stairmaster, rowing on a row machine, or performing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. My personal favorite cardio exercises are sprints on the treadmill and the stair master. I usually average 30-45 min of cardio 3-4x per week. This may increase leading up to summer or depending on my personal goals, so that I can burn more calories and combat weight gain.

4. Stay Consistent

If you don’t remember anything else, remember that consistency is key! This means if you fall, get back up! When you mess up, start over! Generally, don’t allow more than 2-3 days go by without working on your fitness goals in some way.

Next, don’t get caught up in what the scales says. Focus on how you feel, how you look, and how your clothes fit. No, I am not saying to never weigh yourself, definitely do so if you would like. But, I am saying that just because you don’t see a certain number on the scale doesn’t mean that you are not achieving results or that you are not healthy. It is only when we give up that we miss the results we desire! DON’T QUIT!

Photography by EmexFocus

5. Lift weights

If you want to preserve the curves all year long and stay tone, weight lifting is the answer! Lifting heavy weights helps burn fat and calories long after your workout is done. No matter how much cardio you do, toning only comes as a result of lifting weights. Trust me, you will want to continue the toning process at all times because fat and cellulite can easily sneak up on you!

I always thought that weight lifting of any sort would make me look bulky and masculine. If anything, it was the exact opposite—it enhanced my curves! I usually weight lift at least 3-4 times per week with weighted bars, dumb bells, or kettle bells. If you’re not familiar with weight lifting, click HERE for a 20 min Weight Training for Beginners Workout. I also plan to go more in detail and give examples of good weight training workouts in a future post.

6. Drink water

Drinking water has countless benefits for weight loss and overall health. It helps you get rid of bloating and weight gain; especially when you add detox aids such as cucumber, lemon and mint to your water.

I usually drink 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon daily using this super cool gallon water bottle from Amazon as a fun, accountable way to track my daily intake. Check it out HERE! If that seems to be too much for you, aim to drink AT LEAST half of your current body weight in ounces of water.

Photography by EmexFocus

7. Get adequate rest

Yes, you can maintain those gains in your sleep! Your body repairs and rebuilds itself while you are sleeping, contributing to your overall physical and psychological growth and recovery. Sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your body, so it is important to get more of it if you can! In general, it is good to aim for about 7 to 9 hours per night. Don’t feel like you always have to stay in the gym to get results. Sometimes rest is the best thing we can do for our bodies to achieve and maintain the results we want.

Don’t forget this!

As you can see, maintaining your summer body takes just as much, if not more, hard work and dedication as achieving it in the first place. Trust me, I’ve learned this first hand and I am continuing to learn what my body needs to stay healthy and fit as the seasons change. The major take away here is that you must be committed to making a total lifestyle change. Trust me, it is normal to have some ebbs and flows in your fitness journey. But, the key is establishing a routine, staying consistent, and staying focused on your overall goal–a healthy life, healthy body image and healthy mind.


P.S. because I love you and I am so passionate about you becoming the best version of yourself and maintaining a fit lifestyle, I am providing you with a free download: Ashley’s 10 Tips and Tricks to Get Fit!

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Step 1: Click here to complete the subscription form

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Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post! Comment below if you have ever been on a fitness journey or thinking about starting one! I want to hear from you! And don’t forget to share this post on your social media using the share icons below! ?

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Body Goals: The Fitness Journey That Changed My Life

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”

In the latter part of 2017, I felt a strong urge for change that would require me to develop mentally, emotionally, and physically. God wanted me to become stronger from the inside out. I also knew it was time for me to achieve the best level of fitness of my life. That meant working to achieve my maximum potential and becoming my own body goals. I wanted to be a better version of myself, for myself. I wanted to be healthier and see physical results, but little did I know my fitness journey would yield so much more. I would gain mental strength, self-discipline, and self-confidence like never before!

Taking it to the next level

My fitness journey initially began in 2011 after graduating college; therefore, I was not new to the “fit lifestyle”. I meal prepped almost every day during the week and I went to the gym at least 3 times per week. However, I would also “cheat” a lot on the weekends, indulging without any restraint. And of course, I hated doing cardio so I wasn’t making up for my mistakes. Needless to say, my fitness results waxed and waned over the years. I knew it was time to take it to another level if I wanted to be the best version of myself as I had set out to be. And I knew I could no longer “talk the talk” without “walking the walk”.

Bring on the Challenge

In December of 2017, I decided to participate in the 90 Day Fitness Challenge sponsored by Reggie Collier of RC Fitness in Houston. He was known to produce amazing transformations, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. But, when it was time to sign-up, I was nervous and fearful of committing. I knew it would be a life-altering process. I was afraid it would take over my life (it did), be too hard (it was), and that it would take me to the next level of accountability in my health and fitness that I knew I needed (it has). I also doubted myself and didn’t believe I had the self-discipline to follow through with it since I’ve never been able to hold myself accountable before. My trainer, however, saw something in me that I didn’t see and asked me to join the challenge. I said yes.

Left: December 23, 2017 and March 30, 2017

The Ultimate Sacrifice

From January 2 to March 30, I was tested both physically and mentally like never before! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I guess I didn’t realize how hard the process of “becoming” would be for me. Sometimes I cried during workouts (on the inside) and once I got in the car (on the outside). It required a commitment, fire, and grit that I’ve never had to display. From strict meal plans to skipped brunches, lunches and happy hours I learned the value of self-discipline. From waking up at 430am for fasted cardio and spending 4-5 hours in the gym every night for almost 6-7 days a week, I learned the value of hard work and sacrifice. And from juggling grueling workouts, a new business and my personal life, I learned the value of commitment and consistency. It was the ultimate sacrifice for sure!

No Magic Pill

I literally felt every bit of this transformation and proved to myself that I could complete the unthinkable naturally. Instead of waist trainers, I trimmed my waist running heart-wrenching incline treadmill sprints (my worst nightmare!). No fat burners, just fasted cardio. No protein shakes or supplements, simply a solid diet with natural sources of protein and nutrients. And of course lots of weight lifting and squats instead of butt shots (LOL). No shade to those who did it the other way, but it takes another level of discipline and dedication to achieve results with no shortcuts or “magic pills”. I am very proud that consistency and sacrifice yielded the best results for me. I also understand that I will need even more discipline and dedication to continue pushing myself to maintain my goals long after the challenge is over.

The Biggest Breakthrough

The biggest breakthrough, however, was the mental strength that I gained during the process. On days I didn’t want to go workout, I pressed on because I remembered that quitting was not an option and I had goals to achieve. I couldn’t let myself down this time; I had to prove to myself that I could do this. That I was stronger than what I thought I was all along. I realized that my mind controlled my body, instead of my body controlling my mind. I couldn’t allow how I “felt” to prevent me from unlocking my potential. I had to intercept those negative thoughts pretty quickly, so that my body wouldn’t follow suit. Charged with purpose, I got up and went to the gym—muscles aching and all! I told myself “no” during times when I desperately wanted to cheat on my diet and was tempted by the things I knew I couldn’t say “no” to before. I declined lunches, brunches, and other advances that I never would have because I knew that self-discipline was the number one barrier that prevented me from actually achieving my goals before. At the end of the day, the power of God, the weight of purpose in my life, and the support of loved ones closest to me kept me going.

Self-acceptance Over Everything

I also learned how to accept and love me unconditionally. No matter how I transformed physically, if I didn’t love and accept myself for who I was, then I would still be unhealthy. I learned to not envy other people’s bodies, but to enhance my strengths and embrace my flaws. I learned not to get caught up in other’s expectations and perceptions of me, but to set my own goals and smash them. I could decide if I wanted to be thicker or leaner on any given day, month, or year as long as I am healthy—both mentally and physically. And last but not least, I learned that I am everything God says I am—fearfully and wonderfully made.

The Butterfly Effect

I hope you understand that these same results are achievable, but with consistency and sacrifice. No time is “the right time”, except for NOW! Focus on becoming you own #body goals by enhancing your assets and embracing your flaws. You can do this, but it starts with one person… YOU! So many people want the convenience of a transformation, but don’t want to be inconvenienced. There is no secret sauce or pill. The key ingredients are hard work, dedication and the will within yourself. As you begin to see yourself transform physically, you will realize that the person you are becoming on the inside is far more powerful than any physical result could yield. Yes, I feel and look amazing and I am in the best shape of my entire life! I am beyond proud that I finally surpassed my personal goal weight by losing 15+ pounds and 6% body fat, but I am more excited about the immeasurable mental, spiritual and emotional strength I gained. I finally realized my full potential. I am a conqueror. I am powerful. I am unstoppable. I am my own #bodygoals.


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P.S. because I love you and I am so passionate about you becoming your own #bodygoals and the best version of yourself, I am providing you with a free download: Ashley’s 10 Tips and Tricks to Get Fit!

If you’re already subscribed to the blog check your email! If you’re not a subscriber, follow the steps below!

Step 1: Click here to complete the subscription form

Step 2: Once the form is completed, you will see a confirmation page

Step 3: Click the link on the confirmation page for the free download

Step 4: Get started!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post! Comment below if you have ever been on a fitness journey or thinking about starting one! I want to hear from you! And don’t forget to share this post on your social media using the share icons below! 🙂

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