In Defense of Writing for a Newspaper

I am 22 years old, and I write for a newspaper. I’ve been asked many times over why I work in a “dying industry,” advised that I’ll soon grow cynical and hard-hearted, and told that I’d be better off doing anything else.

The industry, and my own choice to work in it, has been endlessly criticized. Finding a full-time job at a good paper that pays enough to cover food, rent and college loans has proven a Herculean task. And after seven months of working at the same newspaper, I’m still an intern. So why do I hold out hope?

During college, I repeatedly questioned what my place was in the world of journalism. I’ve always loved to read and write, and I’ve never questioned that. But with a concentration in magazine writing, my hopes were dashed when I realized that working in that sector was neither as exciting nor as fulfilling as I’d imagined.

With the urging of a few mentors who had worked at newspapers, I decided that writing for a paper might be the job for me. I sent out dozens of applications, and heard back from a tiny percentage. One paper decided to take a chance on me for an internship. Though it hasn’t been what I’d expected, it’s been a far greater blessing than I could have imagined.

In my months at the Review-Journal, I’ve never stopped learning. Some days are more exciting than others, but even slow days are a lesson in self-motivation. I speak with people from all walks of life, hearing new story day after day. Beneath the differences in background, race and heritage is a sameness; people hurt. People love. People feel. In a world filled with people who use cynicism as a shield against the pain of emotion, so many choose to care anyway.

This is why I write. I write for the people like me, the fighters who refuse to give up even when we’re told it’s the wise thing to do. I’ve spent plenty of time feeling bitter about my position and feeling that I deserve more. But when I pause to look around at what I get to do, I feel ashamed.

Some people go into work every day hating their job; the beginning of a new work week excites me.

Some people wonder if there’s a better job out there for them; I know this is what I am  meant to do.

And while some people will always choose negativity, I refuse to succumb to it.

That’s why I work at a newspaper. It provides a challenge. I, and everyone else who still believes in the fearless nature of journalism, will not be deterred. We fight on, in the face of endless criticism, because we believe in the importance of awareness. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the news, to ignore the suffering of the world. It’s easy to pretend our little bubbles are all that matter. But take another look.

This world belongs to the strong, not the ignorant.
It belongs to those who gaze unflinchingly into the chaos, and still choose to hope.


xx, Brooke

Why Did I Do A 5-Day Water Fast?

Hello dear readers,

This past week, I undertook something many have already called me crazy for: a 5-day water fast. You heard me right. Nothing but water. For five days.

Why did I do this? First of all, it’s not for weight loss. I became fascinated with the idea after I read about it here, here and here and a few other places too. For me, it will be a way to rest and recuperate emotionally and spiritually after a stressful and wonderful year. I plan on spending time reading and watching tv, and a lot of time in bed, while lightly exercising by walking and doing yoga, and otherwise carrying on with my life as usual.

I thought it was a fascinating process, and if you’re interested, you can read about my experiences below.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way, shape or form encouraging anyone to try this on their own. I spent many hours reading about this topic and researching it, and I chose to partake in a fast for the emotional, spiritual and physical benefits that I believed would accrue. I am physically and mentally healthy to the point where I do not believe this process will be harmful to me, and instead should provide valuable information about my body and mind. If this makes you uncomfortable, it’s your prerogative to navigate away from this page.

The week before:
The week before I planned to begin my fast, I cut out gluten, refined sugar, and caffeine. I didn’t completely follow this, as I indulged in some glutenous foods for the holidays, but the guidelines were meant to moderate my eating and prepare my digestive system for several days without food. Apparently going cold turkey straight from sugar and caffeine makes the fasting process much worse.

The night before:
I enjoyed this meal the night as my “last supper” before my fast. Yams, broccoli, steak and turkey. Oh, and not pictured is the stuffing, mashed potatoes and rolls I had. I went all out. I won’t lie, I’m beginning to feel anxious and wondering how long I’ll be able to do this.


Day 1:
I wake up in the early hours of the morning, fresh out of a dream…about fasting. I had dreamt I completed three days of my fast and still wasn’t feeling hungry, and they went by quickly. And then I woke up and realized I hadn’t really started. Sigh.

I begin my day by weighing myself on my new, handy dandy scale. It’s fairly high-tech, so I will use it as an aid to track my body fat percentage and body water percentage. Again, this is not for weight loss, but I think it’s important to monitor my weight and body fat. My body naturally seems to rest at around 141, and rarely deviates more than a pound higher or lower from that, so I don’t want it to dip too low.

I put in my height, age, gender, and choose the “athlete” option on the scale. The instruction manual that came with the scale defines an athlete as someone who performs 10 hours or more of aerobic exercise per week and who has a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute or lower. Bam. Me.

My initial weigh in stats after using the restroom:

Weight: 141
Body fat percentage: 19%
Water percentage: 56.6%
BMI: 22.3

The only thing that surprised me was my body fat percentage. In prior estimations, I’d confused BMI for body fat percentage, and thus estimated my BFP as 22%. This worries me a little, as I may not be able to fast for as long as I’d like if I lose body fat too quickly. But time will tell.

For breakfast (HA HA), I have a nice big glass of water. This morning, it was distilled water, but I will vary my water with mineral water, to get those trace minerals distilled leaves out. I also plan to have some herbal tea because I know I’ll go insane without any flavor and I love warm beverages, especially in the winter. *UPDATE: I stopped having tea on day

It is 9:26 a.m., over 14 hours since I last ate, and I feel fine. Slight rumblings in my stomach, but that’s normal since I frequently go this amount of time overnight without eating.

Throughout the day, I don’t feel much hunger, but instead fantasize about food since I know I can’t have it. I have a slight headache a few times during the day, but it’s during the long and winding drive to my grandmother’s house. I get some Pellegrino from Trader Joe’s on the way home, and it’s actually a nice reprieve from plain water. Day One wasn’t too bad.

Day 2:

I wake up in the wee hours of the morning after dreaming that I’d consumed a bag of popcorn. I was so convinced it was real, I fell back asleep feeling defeated. It’s only when I actually wake up, hours later, that I realize it was a dream (We don’t have popcorn in the house). Ah, anxiety.

When I awaken later, my stomach feels cramped. I immediately drink some water, and feel much better.

I weigh myself and find that I’ve lost three pounds from yesterday, and slightly upped my water weight percentage.

Today I have plans to attend a hot yoga class with my friend. I’ve signed up for a free week-long pass at CorePower Yoga.

When the class begins, I’m already sweating. The amount you sweat is partly genetic, so let’s just say I inherited the extremely sweaty genes. In the first few minutes, I feel lightheaded and a bit off-balance, but as the class progresses, I feel better and better, albeit a bit tired. When I step out of the studio, I feel revived; I am a new woman!

My friend and I decide to hit up the mall. About 45 minutes later, I’m exhausted. I go home, shower, and lie in bed for most of the afternoon, dozing off at one point.

A side effect of fasting has kicked in: I’m freezing. I pile on sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a fleece bathrobe with a knit hat on top, while sipping hot tea. Eventually I warm up.

When I get out of bed a few hours later, I’m lightheaded and not feeling great. I drink more water, which perks me up.


I have an appointment for a haircut, and I feel fine during. Something I’ve noticed is that when I’m bored, I fantasize about food more, which makes fasting much worse. I take a drive down to Newport Beach to check out the Christmas lights.

On the way home, I stop at the store because I’m craving lemon in my water. I also pick up some cold pressed juices for when I break my fast, and a few green bananas. I want them to be ripe in time for my first meal, something I eat all the time and have been craving nonstop: oatmeal.

Oatmeal cooked in vanilla almond milk with nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. With zucchini shredded in, because that’s how I eat my oats lately. Stir in some almond butter and top with a banana, and that’s the food porn that’s been running through my mind. Saturday morning can’t come soon enough.

Day 3:

I wake up feeling exhausted and thirsty. I lie in bed for an hour and a half after I wake up.

I weigh myself and find that I’m ~136 pounds. From what I’ve read, that’s not too bad; I’m hoping to lose as little as possible, hopefully not more than 10 pounds. It’s been over 60 hours now that I’ve been fasting, and I’m feeling optimistic at the halfway point. I feel more mentally alert than yesterday, but not to an extreme degree.

When I drink water, I feel much better. I talk to my friend on the phone for an hour, and I feel more focused than I did yesterday.

I watch several videos on The Atlantic‘s website, Senior Editor James Hamblin’s mini-web series If Our Bodies Could Talk. Now, normally I wouldn’t have the attention span for this, but today I watch one video after the next.

Later, I go for a walk on a trail near my house. Colors seem brighter, shapes, more defined, and I feel more tuned in to sounds. It’s great.

I meet my friend at the movies, and instead of struggling to stay awake, which is par for the course when I go to the movies, I’m focused and alert. And while she’s eating chicken fingers and fries next to me, I don’t feel the same cravings I did yesterday while inhaling the scent.

I round off my night by attending a restorative yoga class, which is basically holding stretches for several minutes at a time. My kind of yoga!

Day 4:

Today is supposed to be the day I begin to feel incredible. But when I wake up, I feel no different. After less than 9 hours of sleep (I’ve been sleeping 10-11), I feel no more exhausted than usual, but that’s all I can say.

At my weigh in, I’m 133.6, around 17.6% body fat.

I go back to bed and try to watch some Netflix (finally finishing the last season of the Vampire Diaries). I don’t know if it’s the screen brightness or the movement, but I begin to feel queasy. I head to the bathroom in case  need to throw up, and I feel lightheaded for a moment. As in, my vision nearly goes black for a few seconds. I suppose this is a side effect of electrolyte imbalance and getting up too quickly, because it subsides immediately. I’m afraid I may need to break my fast, which I’m more than willing to do if this feeling continues.

I don’t throw up, but I do crawl back into bed and feel queasy for a few more minutes before I begin to feel better. I’m able to type this out with no issues, and feel fine again within a half hour.

My mom tells me my face looks “drawn” although I haven’t noticed a difference in my physical appearance.

I go to the beach, then to the outlets near my house to catch up with a friend for some shopping. Yes, I bought a lot. Yes, it was all on sale.

I go home and spend the rest of the day in bed, breaking to go to a yoga class in the evening.

In the final shavasana (corpse pose), I feel incredibly relaxed, and come the closest to feeling enlightened as I have the entire fast. My body feels as if it’s soaring through the galaxy. Weird, I know, but that’s the only way I can think to describe it.

Day 5:

I wake up on the final day feeling excited. I’ve come so far, and I get to eat tonight!!!

I weigh in at about 10 pounds lighter than I began, and 2 full percentage points of lost body fat. This confirms the theory that your body will feed on your fat when you go into a fasting state. Whether I am able to maintain the fat loss over time is yet to be seen.

When you fast, your body switches from using carbohydrates to using fat and protein as fuel. Your metabolism decreases up to 20-25%, which means when you do eat again, your body won’t process it well if you overeat immediately after breaking a fast.

One concern is refeeding syndrome, which is rather uncommon, but does occur in people who have been malnourished for an extended period of time. Basically, it’s where you eat a lot and your insulin spikes and you die. Or have convulsions, go into a coma, or suffer from cardiac failure. (Did I mention that I don’t recommend trying this at home?)

To prevent that, I will break my fast with easily digestible foods. I have chicken noodle soup, with the idea that the broth will replenish my low electrolytes. Since I went to a movie before, I stop with my friends at Panera to get a bowl of chicken noodle soup. I have a few Brazil nuts, because they are high in phosphate, a chemical that’s especially important to replace in cases of malnourishment. And I have a glass of cold-pressed juice. This is what they start you back on when breaking a fast at TrueNorth Health Center, a water fasting center in California. I purposely choose a juice fairly low in sugars and mixed with water because of the concern of an insulin spike.

But after I eat this, I feel fine, and I want some bread, so I have half my baguette. And when I go home, I’m still craving something…so I have half a jar of chocolate coconut peanut butter and a ton of popcorn…sue me.

I wake up the next morning feeling full, but fine. I go to the gym for a light weights workout, and have the oatmeal breakfast I’d been dreaming of several hours later.


Final Thoughts:

I would definitely fast again. It was a great mental exercise that made me see food as an option.

Downsides: I read a lot about how people felt sharper and clearer, sort of enlightened even, during a fast. I was especially looking forward to seeing if that was true. For me, I didn’t particularly experience that. To a small degree, I did feel focused and alert, but it was minimal.

Many people who fast complain of headaches. Fortunately, besides a few light headaches throughout Day 1, I didn’t have that problem, likely because I cut out caffeine over a week before I began fasting.

Instead, I sometimes felt lightheaded and dizzy on days 3-5 when I stood up. I’m talking the kind of dizzy where your vision blacks out around the edges, which I’ve only experienced before when giving blood. Not the best sign. If I had fainted, that would have been a sign to stop fasting.

Another thing that didn’t happen: my skin didn’t magically clear up (a side effect most people tout). In fact, I had a small breakout. Annoying.

What I did learn was about my relationship with food. It’s more mental and emotional than physical. And now that I’m equipped with the knowledge of that, I feel better able to nourish my body, while working to understand the motivations behind my eating. Which is not to say I have a handle on emotional eating. But for me, learning a little bit more about my body is just a step in the road to leading a healthy, balanced life.

xx, Brooke

Autumnal Musings

It’s here, and it’s my favorite time of the year. Fall, autumn, or whatever you want to call it. I have the typical romantic notion of cozy sweaters, warm coffee (no, not hot chocolate or cider, COFFEE), apple picking and farmer’s markets, cool evenings and falling leaves. Of course, in Vegas we don’t exactly see or feel fall in those ways.

Sometimes I live in my own dream world of the way I want things to be. I romanticize many aspects of life because it makes them more vivid. But the danger in this is that I often idealize things and people, placing them on a pedestal they don’t deserve.

You’re probably thinking, woah Brooke, what does that have to do with fall? Well, after four years in the Midwest, I’m back in a place where my favorite season is essentially muted. How does that affect me? It makes me realize that there’s a deeper reason for my love of the season.

For me, fall is a concept that can be felt in a physical way. Similar to spring, it’s a season of change. It’s change you can literally see as pigment in the leaves brightens, then fades to brown, withering away and dying as the leaves fall. The weather left over from summer, bright and red-hot, gives way to cooler climes. The days become shorter and evenings come on more quickly. The sun shines less brightly during the day. And when I wake up before the sun, I wonder why I feel so tired.

This is the difference between fall and spring: fall is a season of decay; spring, a season of awakening. I know this because I feel it in my body. Autumn draws me into a haze of exhaustion, punctuated by changes in my geographical location, social and work environments and relationships. Everything seems to change in the fall. And while it’s fun and exciting, it’s also terrifying. Gone is my sense of comfort and confidence in my plans; it’s replaced by a fear for the uncertainty of the future.

Fall forces me to grapple with my demons. The flashes of happiness felt in the summer months overtake me less and less. But when I feel them, I’m almost blinded by the brightness of their intensity. Periods of depression leave me feeling aware, not mired in my inabilities.

For me, the season is a reminder that life cannot always be bright and wonderful. There are canyons and deserts to trek across, but I choose to see these challenges as obstacles that make the journey more fulfilling.

With change comes challenge, and with decay comes rebirth. Autumn is the season where I die to who I was and continue to realize who I am meant to be.

The Long and Winding Road That is My Fitness Journey

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would write about my interest in fitness and health. While how I eat and exercise are a huge part of my life, I’ve always been hesitant to talk about my habits or share anything related to this aspect of my life on social media. This is partly because I’ve rarely been confident in my appearance. Recently, I’ve become more comfortable in my skin, but I’ve still been hesitant to share my thoughts because I don’t want to seem like I’m “showing off.” I’m aware my progress isn’t visually astonishing. But I think I’ve finally hit the spot where I’m comfortable speaking openly about my health. After years of struggling not to hate my body, I want other people to feel at home in their skin like I now do. While I’ve certainly never been overweight, I’ve tipped the scales up to 20 pounds more than I am now. But my fitness journey was never necessarily weight-focused: it was centered around how I felt about my physique.

The first time I went on a diet, I was 13. I was flying to Oklahoma for my first travel swim meet, and I wanted to lose 5 pounds. So I successfully dieted my way down from 110 to 105 pounds in about a month. At the time, I was training with a group of mainly 14-16 year olds. These girls were more aware of their bodies and how they affected performance than I was, so I tried to emulate what I perceived as the best way to be a better athlete.

By high school, I was solidly uncomfortable with my body. I wanted breasts, and dreamed of having surgery in the future. I remember reading that soy products can increase estrogen, so I began drinking soy milk like it was water. Eventually, I hit puberty and gained fat on my breasts and hips, as well as on my thighs and stomach. Again, I wasn’t fat, but I felt fat. I quickly started to hate my body. Numerous attempts to diet didn’t result in anything other than my development of what the National Eating Disorders Association now recognizes as Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

Through high school, and up until the beginning of this year, I was constantly cycling between dieting and bingeing. I’ve completely cut out sugar, bread, dairy and meat at various points in an attempt to drop weight. While none of those diets lasted, they did result in intense cravings and the strong mental urge to indulge in fatty, greasy, high sugar foods. My favorite binge foods were jars of peanut butter, cartons of Oreos, pints of ice cream, sheets of cookie dough, blocks of cheese and slices of bread. I would usually combine several of these, withdraw to my room, and keep on eating until I felt sick to my stomach. I’d eat thousands of calories in one sitting, then repeat the process multiple times a week. The shame I felt from these episodes made me promise myself I’d be even more restrictive the next day. It usually worked for a few days or weeks, but I always ended up back in the junk food aisle.

During this time, I went from being a club to a collegiate swimmer, to then quitting the sport at the end of my sophomore year. This transition only made me more determined to regulate my diet more. But again, I only cycled back and forth between eating a “clean” diet and bingeing. Going out in the summer was hard; in my mind, crop tops were unflattering, shorts were too revealing and bikinis were the enemy. If you’re wondering why this post doesn’t contain more photos of me when I was thicker, it’s because I couldn’t find any; I deleted photos I deemed unflattering from my Facebook page.

What made me finally stop? A few things. Last summer, I began seeing a therapist for my issues with eating. I didn’t think it was helping because I continued my binges into the fall and winter. But they became less frequent. At the beginning of this year, for the first time since I can remember, my New Year’s resolution didn’t include plans to lose weight or get in better shape. It was simply to express gratitude more often, especially when I find myself thinking negative thoughts. I changed my focus from my body and weight to my mind and how I could rearrange my thoughts about my body.

I started dating a man who thought I was beautiful, who didn’t think I needed to change anything. He made me feel comfortable, and in turn, I began feeling more comfortable with my body. We indulged in delicious foods, but also cooked balanced meals together. And I found my body shedding weight as I trained harder and let myself enjoy my previous binge foods in moderation. I could keep a jar of peanut butter or a pint of ice cream around without devouring the whole thing in one sitting.

When we broke up, I took my emotions and used them as motivation to train harder in the gym. I began focusing more on weight training, and loved the results I was seeing. I followed bikini competitors and “fitness girls” on Instagram and Youtube. While I’m not interested in competing, the motivation and tips I’ve picked up from their content has been key in changing my mindset about my body.

I always hated my thighs, so thick that they rub together when I walk or run. Now I appreciate them for the strength they contain. My wide shoulders? They made me bigger and less feminine. Now I like them; I wear tank tops with pride, not self-consciousness. Though there’s still a layer of fat cocooning my abdomen, my stomach is flatter than it has ever been. I’m proud of how my hard work has paid off, but I’m more proud of how my attitude towards my body has changed. Even if I gain weight, which I’m almost certain to do in my lifetime, I hope I can embrace my body for all the wonderful things it can do.

What does my diet look like now? I’m not going to lie: years of bingeing took a toll on my system. I am sensitive to dairy, gluten and sugar-free sweeteners. It’s a struggle I’m still learning from. As a result, I eat a lot of vegetables and lean proteins, and limit my sugar and gluten intake. People tell me I eat weird all the time because of my penchant for cauliflower mashed potatoes and veggie stir frys. But while I eat very clean most days of the week, I also allow myself to eat what I’m craving. Ice cream, peanut butter and pancakes are definitely a part of my diet. Since I eat well most of the time, I no longer feel guilty or ashamed of eating these foods. I realized that a healthy diet needs to have balance. I eat a lot of vegetables because I LIKE them! If you don’t, find what works for you to feel your best and fuel your activities.

When I think back to all the things I’ve avoided doing, all the tank tops and shorts I wouldn’t wear because I convinced myself I was too fat, it strikes me now that it was all in my mind. I was never “too fat” to wear a tank top; I just believed I was. Every time I binged on foods, it was to comfort myself from the thought that I wasn’t good enough.

Today I worked out at the gym in shorts and a sports bra. I noticed the fat on my thighs and stomach jiggling in the mirror as I ran, and it bothered me a little. Then I realized: no one cared but me. The thighs with the extra fat? Those propelled me forward as I ran faster than anyone else on the track.

About two years ago, I sat in a Barnes and Noble reading a fitness magazine when the thought hit me: Will there ever be a time when I don’t hate my body? At that time, it felt impossible. Today, I can finally say that time is now.

What does traveling mean?

Three months. That was our longest road trip. When I was a kid, we traveled a lot, but never more than the summer my dad took his sabbatical. Our trailer became our literal home on wheels as we crossed from California to Massachusetts and back again. My parents wanted to grab at the last shreds of time where it would be possible to travel as a family. In the hazy memories of my mind’s eye, it was the best summer of my life. Some memories have faded considerably, but a few important things remain.

I’ll never forget the feeling of starting out on a trip. We would always leave 2 hours later than our planned departure, courtesy of my mother’s pack rat tendencies. But once we were out of the city, on a stretch of open, unknown road, that’s when the true adventure began.

Road trips can get tedious, but I don’t remember ever being bored back then. We’d play games and listen to stories from my parents. Most of the time, simply looking out the window at our surroundings was enough.

I suspect that I wasn’t the only one with an attraction to water, because we often drove alongside rivers and lakes. We set up camp by the water and spent hours playing and swimming. As a West Coast native, when I finally saw the Atlantic Ocean, I rejoiced because it was calm, nothing like the swelling and moody Pacific.

Not all my memories are so peaceful. We traveled through hailstorms, outran tornadoes and sped past blazing prairie fires. None of that compares to the horror of the bull, which has become a Wanser family legend.

We camped in an Arizona forest for the night, only to be awoken by lowing from what we later found out was a bull (my dad does a formidable impression to this day). The next morning, my mom told me not to wear a bright-colored shirt. Of course, I disobeyed and put on a hot pink shirt before walking outside. I rounded the corner of our trailer, only to come face to face with the bull. Convinced I was about to be attacked as punishment for my rebellion, I jumped inside the trailer and screamed, “MOM, THE BULL IS BACK!” Luckily, we were spared from his wrath; contrary to folklore, bulls are color-blind and not enraged by the color red. We later found out there was a watering hole right behind our campsite.

I learned more from these trips than to obey my parents. What struck me about America, even back then, was the sheer enormity of it. I’m convinced that you could travel to 50 different countries without running across the same diverse beauty that is integral to the identity of the American landscape.

Travel is about embracing something bigger than yourself. It’s listening to the wind whistle through the car windows, not choosing a radio station. It’s standing in a barren prairie and trying to understand what the people who crossed it 150 years ago must have felt. To travel the vast expanse of the United States is to know that we don’t just belong to the bubble of the city we live in.

Emerson once wrote that traveling is a fool’s paradise. I think he meant this as a comment on the importance of accepting reality and not wasting time looking for some magical existence, the metaphorical “greener grass.” He may be right about this. But sometimes it is essential to break from our own reality to learn something about the world. Some people travel to find themselves. I travel to find the world; in doing this, I find peace.