He died at 27, and I only remember his smile

I lost touch with someone only to find out today that he died at the young age of 27, about to graduate Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School with a passion to make a difference. Shock and sadness are the expected reactions, but then I thought of all the times I spent with him, and realized my only memories – literally every single memory – is of his smile. And his laugh. Oh my gosh that laugh!

That passionate joy is what we each can only hope to leave in this world.

We didn’t know each other long but he left a smile in my journey.

Today, aspire to be the smile in a friend, acquaintance or stranger’s journey ❤️

TLDR. Society is the problem, not the picture on the left.

In the picture on the left, I had just lost 70 lbs, down from my high of 210 lbs at only age 13, 5’2” tall. I was so happy. I felt BEAUTIFUL. I felt proud of my weight loss journey. And I saw not an ounce of fat. That pink jacket fit like a rockstar. I could wear juniors styles for the first time in ages. People would see me and my mom and finally see me as the child, not the larger parent. My cheeks were rosy and my smile shining.

The picture on the right is also beautiful. I am 27 in this photo, 5’7 and wise enough to know my weight doesn’t matter. I’m more than a number. My beauty on the right has absolutely nothing to do with fitting a societally accepted size. It has to do with the confidence in the woman posed for the camera.

But society told that preteen she was fat.

And fat was bad. And weight loss was good. Society showed that teen in small, probably unintentional ways that losing weight was good. Doctors shoved health under the more easily explained heading of weight loss because it was a clearer goal to offer.

And as a doctor, I admit doctors are wrong to do that.

Weight loss is never the goal. Because that smile is not from losing weight. That smile is from walking for the first time since an chronic illness; it’s from feeling confident in who I am as a new bat mitzvah; it’s from a feeling of health and joy, not at all from a number on a scale I didn’t even step on that week.

So let’s agree to stop congratulating weight loss.

Let’s stop evaluating beauty by a size standard – in my eyes, these before and after photos show two equally beautiful ladies.

And let’s emphasize the beauty in a healthy smile. (A dentist’s tooth plug 🦷)

Let’s celebrate confidence.

The kindest thing you can do for yourself

Right now, I’m feeling strong. But when I saw this reflection twelve hours ago, I felt weak. I didn’t like what I had seen.

I was judging myself for not getting to bed (puppy parenting problems). I was tired and my self perception shifted momentarily because of that. For a minute, I didn’t acknowledge the beautiful woman smiling back at me.

But that beautiful woman never left. That beautiful soul never stopped smiling.

Our perception of ourselves tends to shift with our emotions and energy level. It’s natural! It’s imperfectly human.

Which is why – in sticky notes or phone memos – the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is place reminders in our lives of what we see when we are at our rested, fed and emotional best. Because that best is always in us, always reflecting back. Sometimes, it’s just hidden by a rainy minute or a hectic life (we all have one!).

But let’s start acknowledging that beautiful soul NOW:

Look in the mirror and tell that beautiful reflection how gosh darn gorgeous he/she is. Because YOU my friend (yes, all of you and all of my patients are ‘my friends 🙂) are stunning and a beautiful gift.

And it feels damn good.

True story.

I treated myself to a 305 Fitness dance cardio twerkout party and smiled the whole way through. When I left, I was still smiling and smiled at a homeless man on the street.

He said he was hungry, so I offered him a dinner at the McDonald’s right next to us. We bonded over McBurgers of one sort or another.

It was the highlight of my day. And all it took was a smile and a small act of kindness.

When you do good, you feel good. When you feel good, you do good. It’s a cycle that never breaks and it feels damn good.

So go out and make a difference in your community today, and treat yourself while you’re at it!

What beauty surrounds you?

Some mornings, we don’t need long posts. Rather, we just need silence to appreciate the beauty around us.

What beauty surrounds you?

In other news, one year ago Valentine’s Day, my valentine came home. He is part of the beauty that surrounds me. Here is a take back to my Valentine’s homecoming ❤️

How to love what you see in the mirror (it has nothing to do with fitness, hair, clothes or makeup!)

I picked up this bad boy at Barry’s Bootcamp. And I have to say, I love the fitness challenge message… when you take it out of context!!!

It’s easy to love what you see when you are meeting societal ‘standards’ of beauty – when you are losing weight, gaining strength, getting toned or lean or training for some sort of fitness event; when you are dressed in the latest fashion or just got your hair and nails done. I’ll admit, I find myself enjoying the mirror, too, in those contexts. I was trained to love that standard by our silly society.

But have you been to a women’s locker room lately?

No two women fit that ideal standard. In fact, the most beautiful women I know don’t! (The dame goes for men!) But their smiles, body positivity, optimism and self love radiate through the room. Their joy lifts everyone.

It’s so much harder and so much more beautiful to love yourself when you break those beauty standards- when you accentuate your cellulite, let the dark circles under your eyes show through, wear your favorite shirt because it’s comfortable and that feels right for you. It’s so much harder to #faceyourself and #lovewhatyousee when you let your imperfections show.

My legs have cellulite, my stomach and arms have stretch marks, my eyes haven’t been a shade lighter than dark grey since starting dental school. I get my hair cut a month or two later than I should because I’m busy learning pediatric dentistry and caring for patients. I love ice cream and will choose that over a workout in a heartbeat. And I’m proud of that, because I am doing that FOR me. I have the body of a tired and busy and incredibly grateful doctor and a woman who has overcome SO much to get where she is today. Whatever my size, whether my body shakes when I walk or stays tight and toned, I have learned (and have to keep reminding myself) to look in the mirror and – no matter what reflect sback – love what I see. Because that body is holding the beautiful spirit that is me.

So face yourself! Find at least one thing you love about your reflection. And say aloud to yourself, ‘I love what I see.’

You are stronger than a benchpress.

I’m carrying the weight of a pager and a puppy and I’m feeling strong. And not because of the two days of toning I’ve done lately 😅

In fact, strength has nothing to do with those two days at the gym. Strength is not about how much muscle tone you have to your body or how much weight you can benchpress.

Rather, strength is internal.

– It is having a hard weekend and pushing forward.

– It is having multiple responsibilities and seeking balance with a smile.

– It is seeing an obstacle and moving forward, and it is using your past to find determination and joy in the present.

Strength is filling the present moment with the beauty of your smile.

And embracing with gratitude how miraculous it is that you are standing here in this moment with this pain free smile.

What is your strength in this moment?

See the world through my ‘Yes, And’ eyes

This is my reality. Colorful. Joyful. Creative and fascinating.

What’s your reality?

I took this picture on my walk to work this Sunday morning. The sky was a gorgeous shade of sunrise. The trees were a beautiful landscape of winter. The patient I was walking towards was in the most challenging of circumstances as our team helped navigate a life-altering, life threatening medical decision. And I was tired from a full day and night of work with only an hour of sleep, and yet, I was inspired. I was honored. I was grateful to be on this walk to this patient on this Sunday morning.

Life can be stressful, tiring, overwhelming and chaotic.

Yes, friend, we can relate.

AND even in those moments of chaos, we can take a ‘Yes, and’ approach instead of the ‘Yes, but.’ Yes I am tired and this situation is very emotionally and physically hard, AND I am honored to do this work for this kind and scared man and with a generous and grateful team.

Here’s to a week filled with ‘Yes, and’ moments.