Not to toot my horn or anything but I have a natural six-pack. Whether I exercise or not, it’s right there — showin’ out and off. Here’s the challenge, though — as I’ve gotten older, it’s been easier and easier for a layer or two of fat to cover it, so I’ve had to get real with myself about the fact that drinking IZZEs all day and eating ice cream late at night are not the way to go if I still want my natural six-pack to make an appearance.
Besides, the harsh reality is, belly fat isn’t exactly the best for our health. While it’s kind of a long story, there are basically two kinds of fat — there’s visceral which covers up our abdominal organs and there’s subcutaneous which sits right underneath our skin and creates a bit of a protective layer as well as helps to regulate our body temperature. Problem is, when either of these become too much, they can lead to things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain kinds of cancer.
That’s why, even if it’s not for aesthetic reasons, it’s important to monitor how much alcohol you drink, to balance your stress, to get consistent rest, to not smoke, to understand your family’s health-related history, and to watch your diet — so that you can do your part to keep your liver, stomach, uterus and other organs in your abdominal region is good condition.
As far as the diet part goes, there are several foods that you can eat that can help you to lose some of your belly fat (if losing some is currently one of your personal goals). So, are you ready to learn about which 10 foods can help to make that happen?
As far as nutrition goes, oatmeal is really good for you. It’s got an off-the-charts amount of manganese in it (191 percent of the Recommended Dietary Intake) along with fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin B. As far as other health benefits go, oatmeal contains antioxidants known as avenanthramides; these are beneficial because they help to lower your blood pressure. Oatmeal is also good for you because it helps to lower your blood sugar levels, can relieve constipation, and can offer you up a boost of energy too.
And why does oatmeal top the “belly fat burn” list? Well, thanks to the fiber in it, oatmeal can help to remove toxins that may be stored up, even in your gut area. Also, oatmeal has a soluble fiber called beta-glucans in it that can help you to feel fuller longer so that you’re able to resist the urge to eat junk food or snack on sugary stuff all hours of the day. So, if you’re ready to shed a few inches around your belly area, a bowl of oatmeal (with some fresh fruit like berries) can help to make that happen.
If you’re looking for a good dose of protein or Vitamin B, eggs have both. Some other things worth noting about them is they are full of “good cholesterol,” the choline in them helps to build your cell membranes and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin make eggs really beneficial when it comes to maintaining your vision.
And since eggs are such a protein-loaded kind of food (six grams per serving) and protein is what’s needed to build muscle, if while you’re trying to lose abdominal fat, you also want to gain muscle tone, a hard-boiled egg is always a good look.
Even though I have a fungal sensitivity (and mushrooms are indeed a fungus), I still have moments when I absolutely cannot resist them. I actually like them so much that sometimes I will pan-sear them with rosemary, butter, salt, and white pepper and…whew, chile! Mushrooms are healthy because they’ve got vitamins B and D, antioxidants, copper, and potassium in them. They are also good for you because they help to keep the cancer cells that cause prostate and breast cancer at bay, fight free radicals, lower cholesterol levels, strengthen bones and hair, and can even fight anemia.
Since vitamin D deficiency is directly linked to belly fat accumulation and mushrooms are a good source of this nutrient, if you’re a mushroom lover as well, you can see how it can effectively assist with getting your tummy down to where you want it to be.
4. Grass-Fed Meats
Because cows were meant to graze on grass, that’s why grass-fed meats are a lot healthier for you. That said, not only is grass-fed meat lower in calories, it’s high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and even electrolytes. And since it’s also antibiotic and hormone-free, you don’t have to worry about this kind of meat throwing off your hormones and packing on even more pounds.
Specifically, when it comes to your belly, grass-fed meats have an amino acid called leucine in them. It works alongside omega-3s to reduce bodily inflammation and produce lean muscle mass.
5. Raspberries and Blueberries
If nothing makes you happier than snacking on a bowl of fresh raspberries and blueberries (raspberries are at their best from June thru October and blueberries are at their peak from June thru August), you are already well on your way to doing your body a world of good. That’s because both fruits are high in vitamins C and K, antioxidants, fiber, and manganese. If you’re looking for foods that can reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, fight off free radicals, protect your skin from damaging UV rays, help to prevent UTIs (urinary tract infections), and help to fight heart disease, raspberries and blueberries are tough to beat.
Belly-wise, they’re dope because they both are low-calorie fruits that can boost your metabolism and curb your appetite in the process. So yep, eat up and on!
6. White Tea
If you happen to be a tea lover, make sure that you’ve got some white tea in your stash. It has lots of antioxidants in it. It helps to reduce bodily inflammation. It’s got fluoride, catechins, and tannins in it that can help to keep your teeth and gums in really good shape. It contains compounds that help to prevent and fight cancer. White tea even has compounds that can help to slow down the signs of aging in your skin.
What makes it truly amazing in the fighting belly fat department is some of the properties in it will literally block the formation of fat cells in your system while helping to increase the breakdown of fat at the same time. So again, if you don’t have any white tea in a pantry somewhere…what are you waiting on, sis?
7. Bell Peppers
There aren’t too many foods that I’m not a fan of; however, for those of you who are totally down for bell peppers any chance that you get, please drop a note in the comments and let me know why. I mean, purely from a taste standpoint because, when it comes to health benefits, I totally get it. Bell peppers are made up of 92 percent water yet they still are a pretty good source of fiber and protein, not to mention vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. Bell peppers are also full of plant compounds that are good for maintaining eye health and preventing chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Also, bell peppers are beneficial because the iron levels in them can reduce your chances of becoming anemic.
As far as belly fat goes, bell peppers are helpful, thanks to the fact that the compound capsaicin in them is not only able to increase the rate that your body is able to burn fat, it’s able to significantly suppress your appetite too.
8. Tart Cherries
The “technical” name for tart cherries is Montmorency cherries and, believe it or not, they are loaded with protein. Along with that, some other of its nutrients include fiber, vitamins A and C, manganese, potassium, and copper. Athletes like to snack on tart cherries because they’re able to reduce muscle soreness. Some studies say that tart cherries can help to reduce the pain that’s directly associated with arthritis and gout. They also contain melatonin which can make it easier to fall asleep at night. And the antioxidants in tart cherries are able to boost your brainpower.
If, like me, you like to eat cherries (their peak season is July and August), eat up because one study revealed that they are really good at reducing abdominal fat and decreasing fat mass overall.
I’m pretty sure that most of you know that pickles are simply cucumbers that have sat in vinegar for a good amount of time. This process puts pickles into the “fermented foods” category. This is great because fermented foods help to promote a healthy gut (check out “80% Of Your Immunity Is In Your Gut. Take Care Of It Like This.”). They also help your body to better digest vitamins B and K and improve your overall mood. Some other benefits of pickles include the fact that they’re full of antioxidants, they support your immune system remaining in top shape and they’re a solid source of potassium; this is great because potassium works to keep your heartbeat regulated while making sure that your muscles and nerves work as they should.
When it comes to belly fat, pickles are its enemy due to the fact that the vinegar in pickles is a consistent fat burner. Plus, since cucumbers are made up of 96 percent water, it’s a low-calorie snack that you can enjoy without any worry or guilt.
10. Dark Chocolate
The more I read and research the foods that are good for our overall health and well-being, the more I’m amazed by how often dark chocolate ends up on so many different lists. Did you know that whenever you eat the kind that contains no less than 65 percent cocoa, you’re taking in lots of iron, magnesium, copper, fiber, manganese, zinc, and antioxidants? All of these things work together to lower your cholesterol levels, increase blood circulation, reduce heart disease, protect your skin from damaging UV rays, improve brain function and keep your libido on track.
And how awesome is it that dark chocolate is good at reducing belly fat too? Thanks to the anti-inflammatory flavonoids that it has in it, it is able to reduce your overall body fat which is ultimately good for your stomach area in the long run.
Know what else I ain’t got no problem patting myself on the back about? I can make the entire hell out of some homemade eggplant parmesan! That’s why I can definitely vouch for the fact that it’s a great meat substitute/alternative (check out “10 Foods That Make Eating Less Meat...Easier”). Eggplant is also high in fiber, a pretty good source of protein and manganese and it has some potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins C and K in it too. Not only that but eggplant helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower your blood sugar levels and the phytonutrients can help to boost brainpower.
Eggplant is great at reducing belly fat because the fiber in it can help to remove excess waste and the protein in it can help to build muscles. So, if you’re looking for food that will be a perfect complement to your cardio and crunches, eating eggplant can never steer you wrong.
Quinoa is a grain that’s considered to be a superfood. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it’s got a ton of protein in it (eight grams per serving), along with lots of fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, iron, copper, and zinc. Quinoa is also good for you because it contains plant compounds that fight inflammation, amino acids that support your immune system and give you extra energy, properties that help to control your blood sugar levels, antioxidants that slow down signs of aging and, it’s a gluten-free food if you happen to be someone who has a gluten intolerance.
What makes it such a powerful belly fat fighter is the fact that quinoa contains a super high level of the neutral chemical compound betaine. That’s great because betaine increases metabolism and helps to inhibit the production of fat at the same time. Not to mention the fact that zinc and magnesium are two nutrients that fight against fat that likes to develop in the gut area too.
BONUS: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
At the end of the day, extra virgin olive oil is olive oil that has been processed the least so that you can get the most out of it. And what you’re getting are vitamins E and K, antioxidants that fight inflammation and properties that boost skin health, lower your blood pressure, improve digestion, help to prevent gallstones, slow down the aging process and so much more.
Since extra virgin olive oil helps to increase your metabolism, contains monounsaturated fats (these fats are actually semi-difficult to gain weight from) and it also has the polyphenol oleocanthal in it (it fights against inflammation in the gut area), cooking with this particular oil can work in your favor as you’re trying to get your tummy tight and right for the spring and summer seasons.
There you have it. 13 foods that are delicious to eat and great for dissolving belly fat…so that this summer, you can show that tummy off on a whole ‘nother level! (Be sure to send us some pics, chile!)
Featured image by Getty Images
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
How A Solo Trip To Antigua Helped Me Heal From My Breakup
Travel can hold a plethora of purposes, such as business, relaxation, and celebration, so when I booked a solo trip to Antigua earlier this year, I never imagined that my attempt to escape the NYC cold would end up being a journey of healing and finding myself again.
As someone who visited seven countries and 11 cities last year, travel has always been such an important aspect of who I am. And while I enjoy weekend trips with my girls or being laid up on a baecation, solo trips are more my speed. After taking my first solo trip seven years ago, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to explore a new city or country on my own and how much more I learn about myself during these adventures.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money or the ability to travel the world, so as an adult, I enjoy the freedom and resources to just book a flight and go. I never thought this would be something that would change or I’d have to sacrifice until I did.
A Break From Solo Travel
If you told me a couple of years ago that I would go two whole years without a real solo trip, I would've laughed. Solo travel was a form of self-care, a way that I could reset and rejuvenate. It was the one thing I felt I had control over, the one thing I had to myself. But then I started dating and became serious with someone who expressed discomfort with the idea of me taking solo trips. I remember a few months into dating, I was headed to Aruba on a much-needed solo trip, and he expressed how uncomfortable he was with this.
A part of it seemed to stem from genuine concern, which most of us solo travelers are used to. But I assured him that I was probably less safe living in the Bronx every day than I was going to Aruba. The other side of it seemed to be from a space of thinking that if I was with someone, I should be traveling with my partner and shouldn't need to take solo trips. At first, I was annoyed and offended. Anyone who is dating me, THEE Queen of Travel, will have to be okay with my travel adventures. I thought it was unreasonable and that he just did not get it.
But as our relationship became more serious and more in-depth conversations arose related to his feelings about this, I realized I would have to make a sacrifice for the relationship.
His comments about how the girlfriends of his boys never traveled alone and only traveled with their men made me question if maybe I did need to reconsider this aspect of my life as I entered a relationship. Was I being selfish and not understanding his feelings? Should I be less focused on solo trips and more focused on building our future and making memories together?
I compromised my love for spontaneous solo trips for the comfort of my partner and for the promise that those solo trips would be replaced by baecations, which I was all for. I wasn't happy about it, but I made the decision that I thought would work.
But not all instances of sacrifice have happy endings.
Reclaiming My Time
Fast forward two years, and 0 solo trips later, my relationship is ending. There's no sob story or terrible incident, I just truly realized that I was no longer fully happy, and this was not the relationship that I could see myself in 5-10 years down the line. While traveling was not the reason for the split, it definitely played some part in my decision. Throughout our time together, I skipped solo trips altogether and filled my time with girls' trips, two baecations, and visiting friends in other cities.
I thought that my time would be filled with more couple trips and vacations together that would keep me too busy to think about solo travel, but that wasn't the reality. And then there were always little comments about how much I traveled, especially if it wasn't with him, which left me feeling defensive or guilty just for taking a girls' trip with my best friends.
In the grand scheme of things, I need a partner who is 100% comfortable and secure with me traveling with friends or alone, even if I choose not to.
So here I am, single again. But I knew exactly what I needed. I had a week off of work in February and would need to leave cold NYC behind, so I did what I do best and booked a flight to Antigua, a destination I have been eyeing forever. I was excited to finally be alone with myself, on a beautiful island, with a mojito in hand and nothing to worry about.
I opted for The Royalton Antigua, an all-inclusive, as opposed to my usual Airbnb, because I truly wanted to unwind and not have to do much thinking and planning. This would give me the freedom to really enjoy my vacation on my own schedule and timing and have everything I needed at my fingertips.
I literally had butterflies while booking my accommodations. That is how much I needed this.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a sense of comfort that I had not felt in so long. Every single day that I spent at that resort, soaking up the sun, and all that Antigua has to offer, I began to feel lighter. Antigua is such a beautiful island and the people were so friendly and welcoming, so I immediately felt at peace.
Though my breakup was my choice and the right choice, I was still carrying around some sadness and heartache. But as the days went by, I spent time sitting on my balcony, journaling and reflecting on my life over the last two years, as well as what I would like it to look like in the next two.
I allowed myself to cry, to breathe, to forgive myself, and to heal. I woke up when I felt like it, ate when and where I wanted, and allowed myself the comfort of just being free.
I knew that I needed this trip, but the type of spiritual and emotional relief that I experienced was unexpected.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
I realized that giving up solo trips seemed like a small thing to me at that time, but in reality, I was giving up a part of my independence and a part of my own needs. And in the two years I spent without solo trips, nothing else was put into my life to replace that feeling. And so a part of me, the fun and carefree girl, disappeared along with it. During my trip, I spent time on the beach just enjoying the scenery and my solitude.
I did morning workouts on vacation, which is not my thing, but getting a sweat in while overlooking the ocean hits different than any gym. At the pool bars, the staff at the Royalton treated me so kindly and always made sure ya girl always had everything she needed. One thing about being beautiful on vacation, you will be taken care of. I even ventured off the resort to see more of the island and immerse myself in Antiguan culture.
And in the midst of this solo trip, I made friends with three Black women who were celebrating a birthday, and I ended up hanging out with them and partying into the night. It made me realize all the reasons that I love solo travel. The ability to be at peace and enjoy reflective time with myself, but also the ability to make friends and have a damn good time. Not to mention, while partying, I met a fine, tall, handsome man from the U.S. who was also vacationing, but that’s a story for another time...
The point here is that by the time I was headed to the airport five days later, I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was sad, or even happy for that matter, but because for the first time in a long time, I felt like me.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
There's a quote that I've always loved that says, "Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you've been all along." There are so many reasons why I feel that travel is not only an important part of life but a necessary one, and discovering more about who you are as a person is one of those reasons.
I didn't "find" myself on that trip, I already knew who I was. Rather, I awakened a part of me that I had allowed to be dormant for far too long.
Antigua reminded me of how much I love stepping off the plane in a new place and knowing that when I step foot back into the airport again to go home, I won't be the same person I was in that moment. I don't have any regrets about the decision I made, but I know that going forward, I'll be more intentional about compromising parts of me that I love so much.
I hope this inspires someone to reawaken that side of you that you've pushed to the back burner and let fizzle because that version of you cannot wait to shine again.
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Featured image courtesy of Robin D. Thomas