14 Simple Ways to Stick to a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy can help you lose weight and have more energy. It can also improve your mood and reduce your risk of disease. Yet despite all these benefits, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can be difficult.


Here are 14 ways to stick to a healthy diet.

1. Start with Realistic Expectations

Eating a nutritious diet has many benefits, including potential weight loss.

However, it’s important to set realistic expectations.

For example, if you pressure yourself to lose weight too quickly, your plan to achieve better health may backfire.

Researchers found that obese people who expected to lose a lot of weight were more likely to drop out of a weight loss program within 6–12 months (1).

On the other hand, setting a more realistic and achievable goal can keep you from getting discouraged and may even lead to greater weight loss.

Bottom Line: Having realistic expectations increases your chances of maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors.

2. Think About What Really Motivates You

Remembering why you’re making healthy choices can help you stay on course.

It can be helpful to make a list of the specific reasons why you want to get healthier.

Keep this list handy and refer to it when you feel you need a reminder.

Bottom Line: When you’re tempted to indulge in unhealthy behaviors, remembering what motivates you can help you stay on track.

3. Keep Unhealthy Foods out of the House

It’s really tough to eat healthy if you’re always surrounded by junk foods.

If other family members want to keep these foods around, at least keep them hidden, rather than on counter tops.

The saying “out of sight, out of mind” definitely applies here.

Having food on display in various areas of the house has been linked to obesity and an increased consumption of unhealthy foods (2, 3).

Bottom Line: Keeping unhealthy foods out of the house or at least out of sight, can increase your chances of staying on track.

4. Don’t Have an “All or Nothing” Approach

A major roadblock to achieving a healthy diet and lifestyle is “black and white” thinking.

One common scenario is that you have a few unhealthy appetizers at a party and decide that your diet is ruined for the day and proceed to overindulge in unhealthy foods.

Instead of considering the day “ruined,” try putting the past behind you and choosing healthy, unprocessed foods that contain protein for the remainder of the party.

This will help you feel full and satisfied, rather than stuffed and frustrated.

A few off-plan choices make very little difference in the long run, as long as you balance them with healthy foods.

Bottom Line: Rejecting the urge to judge your day as “good” or “bad” can prevent you from overeating and making poor choices.

5. Carry Healthy Snacks

Sticking to a healthy diet can be tough when you’re away from home for extended periods of time.

Unfortunately, when you get too hungry, you may end up grabbing whatever is available.

This is is often processed food, which doesn’t really satisfy hunger and isn’t good for you in the long run.

Having healthy high-protein snacks on hand can help keep your appetite in check until you’re able to have a full meal (4).

Some examples of good, portable snacks are almonds, peanuts and jerky. Also consider filling a small cooler with hard-boiled eggs, cheese or Greek yogurt.

Bottom Line: Take healthy high-protein snacks when you’re on the road or travelling in case you’re unable to eat a meal for several hours.

6. Change Diet and Exercise at the Same Time

You may have heard you shouldn’t change too many things at once when trying to improve your health. In general, this is good advice.

However, research has shown that when you make both dietary and physical activity changes at the same time, the results tend to reinforce each other.

In a study of 200 people, the group that began eating a healthy diet and exercising at the same time found it easier to maintain these behaviors than those who started with either diet or exercise alone and then added the other later (5).

Bottom Line: Simultaneously changing the way you eat and exercise increases your chances of healthy lifestyle success.

7. Have a Game Plan Before Eating Out

Trying to maintain a healthy diet while eating out can be very challenging.

Fortunately, there are ways to make it easier.

It’s best to have a strategy in place before you get to the restaurant, rather than being overwhelmed once you get there.


Apply This Skin Care Recipe Daily And Watch…


With thousands of people suffering daily from acne, eczema, redness, and dryness, it may seem almost impossible to bring back that youthful glow. But having gorgeous radiant skin isn’t impossible! With a few simple tweaks to your diet and skin care routine, you can have amazing skin.

Your skin is like the gatekeeper of beauty. It’s really the first thing that comes in contact with the outside world, environmental pollution, toxins and well, just about anything. In fact, the outermost layers of your skin are vital to your immune system.

Your skin has a hydro lipid barrier, which acts as a waterproof seal and also contains an acid mantle, which is a very thin film of acidic fluid that sits on top of the skin. This acidity is important and helps to neutralize bacteria and other contaminants you come in contact with.

Unfortunately, all chemical and synthetic skin care products disrupt this delicate hydro lipid barrier and acid mantle, leaving us and our skin vulnerable to disease, infection, and toxins, and increasing the risks of imbalanced skin (either oily or dry), wrinkles, acne, and other skin conditions.

Store shelves are filled with skin care products that promise flawless and radiant skin, reduced wrinkles and barely-there pores. Oh how marketing can lure us in! With photoshopped women who have not a single pore or blemish, its no wonder we spend hundreds of dollars to achieve the impossible.

Pore-less skin does not exist and many of these store bought brands contain the very ingredients that ruin and destroy our skin in the first place.

It really becomes a catch-22. We want radiant skin so we reach for chemical filled products, and in turn cause more damage which has us purchasing more chemical filled product. For years, I personally repeated this cycle over and over and finally stopped after doing my research.

It’s important to be able to decipher those chemical cosmetic ingredients. Here are 12 undesirable ingredients to watch out for:

  • Sulfates
  • Parabens
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Urea
  • Alcohol
  • Fragrance or Parfum
  • Polyethylene Glycol
  • FD&C Colors and Pigments
  • Water or Distillates
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Phthalates
  • Triclosan

So what should we be using on our skin?

Using pure plant oils is an ancient method of cleansing and exfoliating the skin that leaves the precious outer layer of the skin intact. This means more glow, radiance and youthfulness.

The anti-microbial properties of essential oils combined with the gentle dirt dissolving fatty oils and citrus oils lift away the daily accumulation of dirt, toxins and makeup while healing, not harming, the skin’s surface.


Essential Oils for Your Skin

There are many oils that can help to repair and tonify the skin. Some essential oils can be used “neat,” meaning they do not need to be mixed with a fatty, carrier oil, but I generally like to infuse jojoba oil, coconut oil, olive oil or sweet almond oil with a few drops of essential oils to cleanse and moisturize my skin. Here is a list of my favorite essential oils to use and have on hand:

  • Tea Tree – antibacterial and great for acne
  • Frankincense – antibacterial and incredible for regenerating skin, healing scars and fighting acne.
  • Lavender – great for itchy skin, scars and red inflamed skin.
  • Geranium – balances sebum and brightens skin
  • Cypress – reduces swelling and tightens skin
  • Immortelle – anti-aging, great for regenerating skin and adding suppleness

Try mixing the above Essential oils with these rich and nourishing carrier oils, which act as super heroes for your skin! The highly concentrated fatty acids in these oils help to heal the root causes of skin imbalances by regenerating the skin from the inside out. You can combine them with your choice of essential oils to create a unique blend for you and your skin:

  • Jojoba oil
  • Rosehip oil
  • Seabuckthorn oil
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Almond oil

Try the Oil Cleansing Method:

This method is an incredibly easy and effective way to clean the skin, remove makeup and heal imbalances. It may seem counter intuitive to cleanse the skin with oil, but “like dissolves like.”

We build up oil on our skin over the course of our day just from everyday simple tasks, such as eating, drinking, and exposing ourselves to air, wind, dirt, sun and the environment.

We want to wash away these impurities that have built up, but in doing so, we do NOT want to strip away the acid mantle layer and destroy our face of the good, natural oils which are protective.

The Oil Cleaning Method (OCM) does not leave your skin greasy and oily. In fact, after you finish washing, your skin will feel soft, supple and clean. It is one of the best ways to open the pores, gently exfoliate the skin and get the cleansing oils right into the skin to release any buildup.

It is important to note that in the beginning of using the OCM method, you may find your skin to be slightly oilier then usual. This will last only temporarily. I encourage you to continue with this method for at least 1 month to truly reap the benefits. Within the first week of using the OCM you will notice a significance difference in your skin, however, it is important to spot test as some people may react to certain oils.

Here’s how you do it:

What you’ll need:

  • 2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil, OR
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, OR
  • 1 teaspoon jojoba oil
  • Clean washcloth (100% cotton is ideal or hemp cloth)
  • Warm-to-hot running water

*You can mix the oils together or choose just 1


  • Heat water until hot, but not scalding. You want in between warm and hot.
  • Wet your washcloth in the water and gently wring out
  • Apply oils to your washcloth and gently massage onto face and neck
  • Rinse cloth. Rinsing your face is optional
  • Apply additional moisturizer by choosing from one of the 5 oils above mixed with your favorite essential oils.

*Note: if you’re wearing waterproof eye makeup, gently apply some of the oil over your eyes to remove your makeup

The OCM is a cost effective way to cleanse your skin, prevent breakouts and restore suppleness.

Happy Cleansing!

I Went On A Five-Day Nacho Diet, And I Actually Lost Weight


Eating happens to be one of my favorite hobbies.

So, as you can imagine, going on a cleanse diet that limits you to six bottles of liquefied kale sounds like a certain kind of hell I never want to experience.

That is exactly why I decided to try a nontraditional approach to dieting back in the fall. I ditched the green vegetable concoctions for an epic diet that let me eat tacos every damn day.

I went on a “taco cleanse” and actually lost weight by stuffing my face with those tortilla-wrapped bad boys for six days straight.

Unfortunately, I put a few pounds back on since weaning myself off tacos. (I know, who would have thought, right?)

So, I recently decided it was time to go back on another insane diet. But this time, I wanted to try a diet that was nacho average cleanse.

I opted for the taco’s messy fraternal twin and went on an all-out nacho diet.

The nacho diet was just like your typical juice cleanse, except for the fact I replaced those sh*tty drinks with all sorts of insanely tasty nachos.

Yep, for five days I stuck to a strict nacho regimen and said goodbye to alcohol and all other supplementary snacks.

I was pretty sure this diet wasn’t going to work, but at the end of day five, I did the final weigh in and discovered I had actually lost weight. Three pounds, to be exact.

But before you swear off all other foods for tortilla chips and cheese, you should probably know this diet made me sick AF and the nacho-induced nausea I experienced was definitely not worth dropping a couple pounds.

Yeah, sorry to rain on your fiesta.

I recently went on a “nacho cleanse” and only ate nachos for five whole days.


Unlike my previous taco diet, I actually made an effort to be somewhat healthy this time by eating out for some meals and also making healthier versions of nachos on my own.


I began my cheesy endeavors with a colossal plate of nachos piled high with chicken, guac and cheese from Vamos.


Later on, I whipped up some apple almond butter nachos…


…and finished up day one with some simple cheesy chicken nachos I made myself.


I wasn’t feeling so great when I woke up on day two, so I started the morning by finishing the leftover apple nachos from the day before. Later in the day, I hit up El Camion Cantina for some veggie nachos loaded with four different types of cheese.


By dinner, I was starting to feel pretty sh*tty. But, I managed to up my nacho count with a plate of homemade Irish nachos, then went to bed with a horrible stomachache.


I woke up on day three feeling marginally better, so I threw together some breakfast waffle nachos.


For lunch, I had the remaining Irish nachos from the day before. But at this point, I had such bad heartburn, I wasn’t really able to each much.


Then, I finished the day by basically forcing myself to eat some Al Pastor nachos from Taqueria Diana.


On day four, I felt like these nachos were actually trying to kill me.


I’m not used to eating a lot of dairy products, so the cheese was definitely taking a toll on me; it was even making my skin break out. I decided to do some damage control by noshing on a few “naked” veggie nachos for an AM snack.

For lunch, I had a plate of bell pepper pizza nachos…


…and I wrapped up the day by giving myself a pep talk and going in on a plate of nachos from El Vez.


Needless to say, I totally regretted that dinner decision because I was nauseated AF for the rest of the night.

I woke up on day five feeling absolutely awful. But I’m no quitter, so I started the last day off on a strong note by demolishing a heaping pile of apple pomegranate nachos.


This was followed by a mountain of Mediterranean cucumber nachos for lunch.


Finally, I celebrated the end of this damn diet with a victorious plate of homemade veggie nachos.


Five days and 15 plates of nachos later, I guess you could say the nacho diet was a success because I lost three pounds in the process.


However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend going on this diet because eating an endless amount of nachos will straight up make you feel like sh*t.

If we can learn one thing from this, it’s you can probably lose weight by eating almost anything as long as you cut alcohol and sugar out of your diet.



Which Diet Type Best Suits Your Needs?


There are plenty of diets to choose from these days. To find one that best suits your needs or goals — and which seems feasible — here’s a look at of some of the most popular diets of the moment.

The alkaline diet: banish acidity

The alkaline diet seeks to reduce the effects of foods that increase acidity levels in the blood when digested. The program claims to rebalance the body through a diet comprising two-thirds alkalizing foods (like green vegetables) and one-third acidifying foods (meat, cheese). Alkaline dieters can eat carbohydrate, protein and fat, but the focus is firmly on raw, seasonal produce, green vegetables and fruit.

Chrono nutrition: four meals a day

Chrono nutrition is based on the idea of respecting the body’s natural rhythms. Followers can eat what they like, but only at fixed times of day. So rather than cutting out certain foods, this diet — developed by French nutritionist Dr Delabos — puts different food groups in different meals. The day starts with a hearty breakfast including animal fats, followed by a dense, protein- and carb-based lunch, a sweet snack in the afternoon and a light meal in the evening to prevent excess calories being stored overnight. Dark chocolate is allowed every day, but not after 5pm.

Detox diets: cleanse and purify

A detox is more of a short-term program than a long-term diet. Detoxing aims to flush toxins out of the body. This generally takes around a week, and often starts with a phase of around three days where detoxers eat just one kind of food, usually with unlimited fruit, and lots of water and herbal teas. Cooked vegetables are progressively reintroduced, followed by protein (meat, fish, eggs) over the last two days.

The Dukan diet: go for protein

This diet is very strict in the foods it allows followers to eat, but these can be consumed in unlimited quantities. This controversial diet is a high-protein and low-calorie program that cuts fat and carbohydrate intake. This encourages the body to use up its fat stores (adipocytes) to get the energy it needs to keep muscles functioning. As fat stores are used, fatty acids are released into the bloodstream, making the liver and kidneys work harder. Weight loss can be very quick in the first phase of the diet — the attack phase — which lasts around seven days (approximately 5kg).

Low FODMAP diet: beat the bloat

Developed by an Australian nutritionist in 2005 for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, this eating program involves avoiding a family of carbohydrates called FODMAPs. FODMAPS are types of sugars that are poorly absorbed by the body. These are naturally present in certain vegetables, cereals, pulses, fruit, mushrooms, dairy products and certain “low sugar” products. Eating FODMAPs can lead to bloating and stomach ache after meals, as the sugars ferment in the intestine. Fruits allowed as part of the diet include bananas, grapes, grapefruit, kiwis, mandarins, oranges, passion fruit, pineapple and tomatoes.

Blood type diet: each to their own

For the American nutritionist James d’Adamo, people with blood types A, B, O and AB shouldn’t eat the same things to lose weight and stay healthy. This is due to the different antibodies developed in relation to the chemical composition of each specific blood group. Four different profiles exist. The “O group” should eat meat and vegetables but avoid dairy products and carbs. The “B group” should fill up on dairy products, green vegetables, meat and eggs, while avoiding chicken, corn, peanuts and lentils. The “A group” should follow a vegetarian diet, with lots of fruit, vegetables and cereals but no meat, beer, dairy products or beans.

The Mediterranean diet or the Okinawa diet: eating for longevity

Following the same diet as inhabitants of the Greek island of Crete or the Japanese island of Okinawa (home to the world’s highest number centenarians) is thought to increase life expectancy. The Mediterranean diet is based on the regular but moderate consumption of red wine, as well as tea, olive oil, plus fruit and vegetables rich in flavonoids and antioxidants which keep the heart healthy. The Okinawa diet is a pescetarian regime that includes vegetables, algae, wholegrains and legumes, fruit, high-calcium foods (broccoli, fish, yogurt, cheese, etc.), fish, seafood, and nuts and seeds rich in omega 3.

Paleo: eat like a caveman

This diet, based on what humans ate in the Paleolithic era, can help dieters shed up to 1kg of fat per week. Eating paleo involves excluding all cereals and dairy products, as well as beans and legumes, starchy vegetables like potatoes, fatty meats, salt, sugar, and all forms of processed food and fizzy drinks. Inspired by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the diet is based on lean meats, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and non-starchy vegetables, as well as all kinds of nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.).

Open Thread: Who Is Your Ultimate Beauty Icon?


A few years ago, I had an interview for a contract position at a Canadian fashion magazine. During the interview, the beauty editor asked me to name my ultimate beauty icon. Although I’d spent hours preparing for the interview (and had written a short list of possible answers to that very question), I totally drew a blank. Then I panicked and blurted out, “Daryl Hannah in Splash.”

I immediately regretted the answer. I mean, Darryl Hannah looked beautiful as Madison the mermaid, but I think that had more to do with her bone structure and less to do with any makeup she wore. Her crimped bangs really haven’t stood the test of time, either.

Of course, the situation could have been worse. I could have said “Hagrid” or “Lady from Lady and the Tramp” or something. The interview moved along, and I wound up getting the contract. All’s well that ends well, I suppose. But if I could go back in time, I might have done things differently. I might have named one of these women as my ultimate beauty icon:

Zoe Kravitz and Lisa Bonet

<> at Hollywood Palladium on February 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

This mother/daughter duo is so beautiful that it almost physically pains me. Whenever I see photos of Zoe on the red carpet, I obsess over her makeup. Last summer she did gold lips and geometric eyeliner for the Mad Max: Fury Road premiere, and I’m still not over it. And as for Lisa Bonet, well, she’s been doing the glowy skin and dark-lined eyes for years, and I love her for it.

Emma Watson


In my opinion, Emma Watson is the new classic—she always looks chic, timeless, and so elegant. Emma usually does a bold brow and dramatic lip, and I love that she doesn’t cover up her freckles.

The septuagenarian with purple hair


I used to work at a liquor store in Toronto, and one of my favorite regular customers was a woman in her seventies. She came in once a week to buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, and her naturally white hair was always dyed bright purple. She wore bright red lipstick and colorful clothing, and seeing her on a weekly basis was just a treat. I hope that if I’m lucky enough to be tossing back gin and tonics in my seventies, I do it with purple hair and red lipstick, too.

So, now that I’ve told you mine, I want to hear yours: who is your ultimate beauty icon? Let me know in the comments section below!

Black Women Fight Back Against Beauty Industry That’s Failed Them


Almost any Black woman who has wandered into a drug store has faced the same dilemma: Which shade of [insert product here] fits my complexion? Usually, this refers to the foundation laid as the base on a woman’s face, but it can also refer to lipsticks and blush.

The issue doesn’t just deal with makeup but, as many exasperated natural-haired women know, it refers to products for the mane as well. Though Black women have Shea Moisture and Carol’s Daughter, the masses of hair companies have only recently begun to pay attention to the unique beauty needs of Black women, according to Refinery29.

Thankfully, some women have newly taken control of how their faces are made up in the morning. Ofunne Amaka took to Instagram one day to demonstrate to other Black women how makeup swatches would show up on darker hues. Little did the fashion and beauty blogger expect, she was met with thousands of followers who appreciated her efforts. Now, Amaka is launching an app called Cocoa Swatches, after the same-named Instagram account. Because of thoughtful individuals like her, a change is being lead in predominately white beauty brands to demand more products for coarsely textured hair and melanin proficient women, according to Mic.

Lately, it seems that cosmetic beauty companies are taking notice and starting to implement changes, no matter how many decades late the change has come. According to Refinery29, L’Oréal launched a “Women of Color Lab” project in 2013 aimed at producing foundations which feature the wide ranges of Black skintones. The company acquired Carol’s Daughter in the next year, and in its press release announcing the move, the company touted Carol’s Daughter as a brand that “caters to a diverse, rapidly growing market,” as if that market – filled with Black consumers eager to consume products that work well with their tresses – hasn’t been sitting on the sidelines for all these years.

It’s been well-documented that Black women make up a bulk of the consumers in the beauty industry. According to The Huffington Post, the Black hair industry accounts for profits of $500 billion. That’s including the shift away from relaxers to natural hair. With all that money being spent, there’s plenty of financial proof that there is high demand for quality products catering to Black needs.

Where makeup is concerned, it’s clear that Black celebrities are being featured more prominently than ever as ambassadors across marketing campaigns for companies ranging from drugstore brands like Neutrogena (Kerry Washington) and high-end ones like Lancôme’ (Lupita Nyong’o). But it’s still taken so much time for these brands to feature makeup that includes a variety of skin tones. Washington wasn’t even able to find a foundation that matched her skin tone, according to Refinery 29.

One thing that holds beauty companies from including women of color is the idea that there needs to be specialization. According to Refinery29, Black products are always featured separately in the “ethnic” beauty section. Other times, the products are no longer carried by retailers due to issues of demand. Retailers and beauty companies alike should stop seeing Black women as the other and start seeing them as being in tune with other consumers of beauty products.

“They’re not categories,” said Desiree Reid, vice president of Iman Cosmetics. “They’re customers that are looking for the same thing every woman’s looking for when she walks down that beauty aisle.”

Once companies get on board with this line of thinking, Black women will see more honest improvements.

Study Says Diet Rich in Vitamin C May Help Prevent Cataract


Cataracts are like perpetual cloudy days, only they are in your eyes. Statistics say that over 50% Americans will develop this vision impairment condition as they turn 80. However, a new promising study published in the journal Ophthalmology suggests that a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables can help dodge the risk, unless you have a genetic tendency.

affecting vision and making it harder to see clearly as the person ages. Experts recommend that to prevent cataract from spreading from one eye to another, it must be treated before it gets worse.

For the purpose of study, a total of 1,000 pairs of female twins were recruited byresearchers from King’s College in London. Each participant was approximately 60-years-old who were made to fill a food questionnaire answering questions about their nutrient intake everyday.

With the help of digital imaging scan of every patient’s eyes, the researchers measured the development of cataract. The participants who consumed vitamin C and about two servings of fruits and vegetables every day had 20% less chances of getting cataract as compared to those who consumed less nutritious diet.

Researchers contacted 324 twin pairs in a follow-up ten years later. They discovered that the participants who reported consuming more Vitamin C in their diet now showed a 33% lowered risk of developing cataract as compared to those with less consumption of Vitamin C.

“The findings of this study could have significant impact, particularly for the ageing population globally by suggesting that simple dietary changes such as increased intake of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthier diet could help protect them from cataracts,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Chris Hammond, the chair of ophthalmology at King’s College, in a press release.

Japan’s high life expectancy linked to diet, study finds

The high life expectancy enjoyed in Japan is largely down to the nation’s healthy diet, according to a new study.

The population of the island nation, which has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, eat diets high in certain carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits as well as fish and meat.

Such foods make for a diet low in saturated fats, processed foods and high in carbohydrates gained from both rice and vegetables.


The Japanese government outlined a recommended food guide for the nation in 2005.

Around a decade later, researchers at the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo investigated how following the food guide affected the country’s mortality rate.

The team analysed food and lifestyle questionnaires completed by 36,624 men and 42,920 women aged between 45 and 75, who had no history of cancer, stroke, heart or chronic liver diseases. The participants were tracked for 15 years.

Researchers found that participants who closely followed the food guide had a 15 per cent lower mortality rate.

Such participants were less likely to have cerebrovascular vascular disease: a term used to describe conditions caused by problem with blood supply to the brain.


The study concluded: “Our findings suggest that balanced consumption of energy, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, soy products, dairy products, confectionaries, and alcoholic beverages can contribute to longevity by decreasing the risk of death, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, in the Japanese population.”

James DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute who was not involved in the study, told the Huffington Post: “We can learn a lot about how to be healthy from the Japanese, and it really comes down to ‘eat real food’ and ‘exercise.”

He added that the combination high quality foods low in saturated fats was particularly important.

Shattering Three Generations of Beauty Myths


My mother is an exceptionally beautiful woman who does not know it. Or, rather, she does not care about it and never has. Beauty is irrelevant to her. I remember as a child being hypnotized by something in her presence but not being able to name it. It was something deeper, fiercer, than the drunk, obsessive love a small child has for a mother who’s always working. I realize now: Oh. She was beautiful.

By the time I was born, I think the world had gotten used to my mother’s nonchalance about her beauty—certainly, when I was a child, it was never overtly mentioned. There was a portrait of her on my grandparents’ mantel—her high school senior portrait, touched up to look like an oil painting. My mother hated that picture. The photographer had assumed that that my mother was white, or maybe Italian with a tan, and so had shaded her skin lighter and recolored her eyes green. Oh, how my mother loathed that picture, but my grandmother kept it in a place of honor, and it did not move from the mantel as long as she was alive. After my grandmother died, the picture disappeared from our family’s possessions and I have not seen it since.


My grandmother, everyone agreed, was the beauty. My mother always said, “Oh, but Grandma was beautiful. She was like a black Liz Taylor.” My grandmother did care about her beauty, but not in a way that seemed obsessive. She liked fine things—thick Persian rugs and chandeliers and white Cadillacs and tasteful tea-colored antiques. She had all those things, plus a beautiful face and a very tiny waist and a blooming breast line, and she covered herself in well-chosen dresses and slacks (that’s what she called them, never pants) and leopard- and beaver-skin coats. It followed logic that a person who loved beauty like that would also be physically beautiful.

She was so pretty, we told each other, that when my grandfather was eventually hospitalized for Alzheimer’s and she would go and visit him, he would hold her arm tightly, not wanting the other men in the hospital to hone in. His mind was gone but her beauty remained; it shone even through the fog and the terror. Her beauty was stronger than his very loss of self.


We didn’t have mirrors in the house growing up. My sister likes to tell a story—once she said to my mother, “My friend’s mother doesn’t have mirrors because she says her kids are too beautiful and would become too vain.” “Oh, that makes sense,” my mother said distractedly. Then, after a beat, “Good thing we don’t have that problem here.”

She didn’t think we were ugly, to be clear. And I think at that point my mother was so used to her daughters’ verbal traps and insistent questions that she answered with jokes to privately amuse herself. We thought it was funny, too—we screeched with laughter, and still do, at this joke.

Me, she always told me my skin was beautiful. We had a ritual that lasted far too long, probably till I was 11 or 12. She wanted me to keep my skin beautiful. “You have beautiful skin,” she told me over and over. So much so that it was a shock, in my late twenties, to realize colorism was still very much a thing, to realize that some people secretly and not-so-secretly think my skin is ugly at worst or unfortunate at best. For my mother, my dark skin was a prize to be treasured.

Our ritual was this—after every bath, she dotted my skin with white lotion, like a pox, and then I would have to rub it in to keep my skin healthy and gleaming. I loved this ritual, probably because it was a time of day when I had her undivided attention. And also, being told that something you have is beautiful, so beautiful that you have to take care of it like a rare diamond or a temperamental show cat, is very gratifying. “Your skin is so beautiful,” she said, she says, even now, when I’m in my thirties.


My grandmother, the great beauty, was as dark or darker than I, darker than her daughter. Only recently I’ve found pictures of her in her twenties—impossibly petite and dainty in cinched belts and full skirts, very dark skin gleaming in the sun. A relative said once to me, proudly, “She was the first dark-skinned woman elected president of our community’s Jack and Jill,” and it seemed, has always seemed, a tainted accomplishment to claim. My grandfather was much lighter than her.

All of this, no one in the family talked about. Color was never discussed, not in the ways I’ve read about in other black American families. It wasn’t even mentioned, except in that positive way, in the longing of my mother’s voice: “Your skin is so beautiful.” I’m profoundly grateful that this subject was avoided when I was a child, that my instinct is always to go darker, that I’ve never once looked in the mirror and wished for lighter skin. I think of my mother’s portrait in its place of honor, the skin painted over to an almost sickly khaki, how my mother would roll her eyes at it.


My grandmother’s parents took pride in her beauty, just as she took pride in my mother’s and I take pride in theirs. When my mother was younger, my grandmother groomed her—debutante classes and white lace gloves. My mother knows how to set a formal table and which fork to use and how to sip from a bowl of soup. It was wished that she would marry well. My mother tells me that when she was in high school, if she was out at a party, my grandmother would call the house where the party was being held to check on her, and then ask her to stay on the phone and describe the scene to her. If no one answered when my grandmother called, she would ring the house over and over until somebody picked up, until somebody put my mother on the line.

There is a picture that I think sums them up perfectly—my grandmother, demure in a ’50s circle skirt, hair curled neat and glossy, smiling into the camera and my mother, her daughter, beside her, in dungarees, a blur, grinning, pigtails flying, the very picture of a tomboy.


When I reached adolescence, I became convinced that my mother wanted a different daughter than me, that she found me an embarrassment. By that point I had gained something like 80 or 100 pounds over the course of a year—a feat that felt as though it happened in a dream. I had always looked to my eyes exactly the same, but the doctor insisted that I had changed, that my skin was splitting open and folding over from the pressure. At this time, my best friend, my only friend by then, was a girl who was the physical opposite of me—tall and white and very thin. She could eat anything—garlic pizza for three days straight or drink nothing but Coca-Cola, and not gain a pound. It seemed my mother had this magical ability as well. But I did not. I remember thinking if I just didn’t care about it, my body would somehow sense my nonchalance and sigh and give up this campaign to humiliate me and in its final act of surrender, a kind of peace treaty between me and my gut, my body would give me the metabolism of the unconcerned. Worse than being fat, I felt, was caring about it, was trying to change it and failing miserably.


I gained the weight, in part, because I was on antidepressants. This was in the early 1990s, so understanding of antidepressants and teenagers was pretty minimal. I was given sertraline. I remember being unable to concentrate and I remember feeling sadder than ever. Everyone told me there must be something wrong with me for being so sad, despite the fact that a lot of depressing things had just happened to me in the space of a few months—we were evicted for the second time; my much-loved older sister left for college; we made what then seemed like a terrible step, a move into the projects; I was starting a new school without any friends and my former friends were, understandably, growing apart from me. Instead of talking about any of this, I was given sertraline, one oblong pill I was supposed to break in half and swallow every morning. I promptly started eating even more mindlessly until there were the hundred extra pounds. But I didn’t notice because I was so numb by then, I couldn’t feel any of it.

Despite all that extra weight, I was secretly convinced that underneath it I was a great beauty, like my mother, like my grandmother. I would lie on the couch and look at my reflection in the television. If I lay on my side and held my leg over my head and turned it just so, it became as satisfyingly shapely as my mother’s legs in shorts or my grandmother’s in her stockings. If I cocked my head to the side and let the fat of my cheeks shift back, there were my cheekbones, the same as my mother’s and my grandmother’s, high and dramatic and dangerous. I did these exercises furtively, when no one was in the house. I would have been mortified if I was caught. It was enough to know, it was deeply gratifying to know, that beauty was a possibility, dimly glimpsed in the concave, dull, black eye of a darkened screen.

Beauty is always coming. When I am 40 pounds thinner, when my dreads have grown long enough to lie flat all the way down my back, when the dress that I ordered arrives in the mail. Beauty is not in the here and now. Beauty is a future state.

I found out just recently that my grandmother’s effortlessness was all for show. “She was on a diet all her life. She was always gaining and losing weight,” my sister pointed out. And if I look at the old pictures, yes, I can see it. I remember her impossibly chic lunches of a single oversize scallop, fried on her stovetop and then laid on a gilt-rimmed antique saucer set on a crisp white tablecloth in her golden and cream-colored dining room. I think of how hungry she must have been. I think of her in a dusky living room, on a damask divan, dialing the number of a house one town over, waiting for her daughter to get on the line and describe to her what it feels like to be a pretty girl at a party.