Leaving everything behind in India and landing in the United States with only two suitcases and $20 to your name, isn't a story that many people are able to tell. After speaking with Urvashi Pitre who lived that experience and has risen to create so many positive things in her life and a thriving cookbook empire, I can honestly say that it's a story filled with compassion, bravery and fueled by the want to help others.
At 20-year-old, Pitre arrived in the United States to fulfill a scholarship and even became CMIO of the largest ad agency in the country, but that is only where her story begins. To me, this remarkable feat sounds overwhelming, but she assured me that it wasn't. “You would think it would have been—but at 20 years old, you think you're invincible, “ she said. "I did have the promise of a scholarship, but I really had no idea if it would be enough to live on, when it would kick in, and more importantly—what I would do until it came through!"
Instead, she focused on the positive. “But I will say, then and now, I focused on what I did have," she remarks. "I had a great new opportunity ahead of me. I had the chance to start from scratch, to do what I wanted to do, to live on my own terms."
To know I could make it on my own, with no help from my family. Looking back, I seem to remember moments of great excitement and a sense of adventure—sparkled with occasional moments of sheer terror—but isn't that the hallmark of every great adventure?
"Influenced by spices from her world travels, she created extremely unique keto recipes that helped her lose 80 pounds." Photo Courtesy of Norwalk Reflector
Her biggest struggle? Navigating the everyday things that she wasn't accustomed to where she grew up. “It was less about steps toward a better life at first as it was just being able to negotiate simple things. I had never seen a can of Coke®. When I was handed one on a hot day, I had no idea how to open it! I hadn't seen a seatbelt in a car. I had no idea what a garbage disposal was or how to work a dishwasher, a washing machine, or a vacuum cleaner. All of this was 30 years ago when not only were these things not common in India, but we also didn't have the easy access information about life in the US that we do today."
“People think that most of us come here for a better life—and we do, or at least for a different life. But we also must learn to do things for ourselves we've never done before, things that were done for us in countries where labor is a lot cheaper than it is here. I had not washed dishes, done the laundry, cleaned the house or even picked up after myself until I came to live here. I was in for quite a rude awakening in that regard!"
Struggling for years with her weight, she eventually started the ketogenic diet (a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate lifestyle) and started documenting her journey through her blog, Two Sleevers. Like any smart woman, she took the skills that she learned from her advertising agency experience an applied them to her business. “I learned a lot about how to deal with the C-suite, how to present your company well, how to go out and find new business, how to partner with different agencies, each with their own specialties. But it's sort of like watching your parents—you also learn what you don't want to do when you're all grown up. I used that experience to help me decide what I would and would not do in my own company. For example, I decided I would not work with clients who were disrespectful, or who treated my staff badly. I would be selective about who I chose to partner with. I would stay involved in the day to day of the client work in a way that I could not be, as part of a larger company. Tasseologic has allowed me to create the type of company that I would have wanted to work at—and I'm so grateful to have had that opportunity."
Influenced by spices from her world travels, she created extremely unique keto recipes that helped her lose 80 pounds. Gaining the nickname, “The Butter Chicken Lady," she has created an online voice that has appealed to many (including her 25,000 Facebook group members) and is on her way to publish her second cookbook called The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook. Following a ketogenic diet myself, I'm in awe of the community she's built and love how her and her family has made her journey a group effort. The keto diet and instant pot have become two major things her life, which she was first introduced to after her husband had gastric sleeve surgery, as a way to change both of their lives and the way they were eating, forever.
"At 20-year-old, Pitre arrived in the United States to fulfill a scholarship and even became CMIO of the largest ad agency in the country, but that is only where her story begins." Photo Courtesy of Urvashi Pitre
“You can cut out most of your stomach and reboot your body chemistry—but if you're carb-sensitive like we were, and you don't cut out the carbs? Well, you'll gain all the weight back over time. So keto/low carb is not optional for me. It's what I have to do to keep off the weight I worked so hard to lose."
And the ease of the instant post made things so much better, too. “I bought an Instant Pot over 4 years ago, and the ease of electric pressure cookers over stovetop ones just appeal to someone like me, who loves hands off, stupid simple cooking that still manages to taste great," she shared.
Pitre has two crucial pieces of advice for anyone trying to lose weight, and keep it off, “first, with weight loss as with other things in life, you control your actions, not the outcome. Accept that you do not control what the scale tells you from day to day. You can only control what you put into your mouth. You can't control the rate of weight loss. Secondly, you will be “stalled" more days than you will show weight loss. In other words, you will lose weight here and here—but for most days, your scale will not budge. You cannot expect to see daily change. Focus on the trend and the trajectory—not on any given day or week or even two weeks. If you see an overall loss, you're doing fine." And my personal favorite bit of wisdom is that she always says to, “focus on what you can have. Don't fixate on the things you're giving up or can't eat. There's no can't, it's a choice you're making. You choose not to have things that will make you fat and uncomfortable. Speaking of choice, rejoice in the fact that you choose to eat so many delicious things, and yet lose weight. Focus on what you can have. It's a lot more fun."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.