Intuitive Eating: Healing My Relationship With Food.

A week before the COVID19 pandemic made its way to the U.S., I decided I was going to heal my relationship with food. Little did I know I would be trapped in my home to deal with my feelings alone while simultaneously being bombarded with “at-home” workout videos and memes of how much weight everyone was going to gain during quarantine (otherwise known as the “quarantine-fifteen”). This was also the time I started stress baking banana bread and chocolate chip cookies daily. During quarantine I ordered the book Intuitive Eating by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and thus began my journey to heal my relationship with food and never diet again.

The saying goes “once you have seen something you cannot unsee it.” For me, this became diet culture. Diet culture is the mindset and pressure society puts on (mostly people who identify as female) to look a certain way to be deemed worthy. These attributes include: thin, white, fit, able-bodied, “traditionally pretty” and young. We are encouraged to live up to these ideals. The problem is most of us are not all or any of these things. How did I not realize we are all swimming in diet culture bullshit? Friends/family constantly talking about counting points and “diet starts Monday”, coworkers saying they are being “bad” when they eat a break-room donut while simultaneously talking about their low carb diets, my mom optioning for liposuction and injecting her face with poison because society told her she needs to be thinner and younger, being harassed by ads for weight loss diets, pills, workouts, and now detox teas that will make you poop your pants in order to reduce “cellulite and armpit fat”, and let’s not forget damaging sayings we spew out our mouths like “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” or “nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels” or dangerous compliments we give to people like “You look so good, have you lost weight?”

It is no wonder people hate their bodies. We are taught to hate them. I cannot remember the moment I decided my body was wrong, but I remember moments throughout my childhood and adolescence that set the tone. For me, I remember a girl in ballet saying I had a large stomach, so I made sure to suck it in during costume fittings. I remember my father being “concerned” about me gaining weight and making multiple statements about what I ate when I was in middle-school, so I hid food under my bed to eat privately. I remember a boyfriend’s friend telling me his sister referred to me as “[Boyfriend’s name]’s fat girlfriend.” I remember my mother talking about how much she hated her body meanwhile people unwittingly told me I looked like her. I remember my (now ex) boyfriend who said I would be a 10 out of 10 on the girlfriend scale if only I lost 20 pounds…

I cry as I write this. The memories still bring pain. People have had it worse, sure. Perhaps they were relentlessly mocked for their size, put on diets at age five, and starved, binged, and/or purged themselves relentlessly trying to control their bodies and make themselves small. Still, my story is another example of the relentless monster that diet culture is. Diet culture is similar to the COVID19 as in it does not care who you are, it comes for you. Socioeconomic status, race, weight, gender, it does not matter, it finds us and tells us we are both too much and not enough. Most people do not get through life unaffected by diet culture and are left with painful scars. I have done multiple diets, including my first one at age 14 where I drank a “master cleanse” tea that kept me on the toilet most of the day and at the end of the day I hid in the garage and ate cookies because I was starving. The fact that I traded years of self-love for hatred, hunger, depression, and shame to try to fit into society’s belief of what a woman should be makes my heart ache.

It is funny how quickly your view on things can change. Just a few months ago I did 30 days without sugar and grain believing I was being healthy, but really I was depriving myself. I missed out on shared meals with my friends and eating homemade deserts that I would have otherwise enjoyed had I not been on this “diet.” I thought it was a “lifestyle change”, which is still essentially a diet if it requires cutting out whole food groups. It was not sustainable. I had dreams about carbs and the moment the 30 days were up, I gorged myself on so much pizza that I was unable to sleep that night due to stomach pains.

Most of my life I assigned moral value to foods: “good food” and “bad food.” Whatever food I ate was associated with my moral value. If I ate the “good food” then I was good and if I ate the “bad food” then I was bad and would spend the rest of the day filled with guilt. If I allowed myself to eat anything on the “bad food list” then I would “make up for it” by working out extra hard and looking up the next “clean eating” diet/cleanse. I remember as a teenager pasting pictures of thin celebrities on my water bottle to “inspire me” to workout. The photos were not only photoshopped, but the shape of the bodies of these celebrities was not something I could obtain even if I tried my hardest, due to my genetics.

According to Traci Mann, a researcher and teacher of psychology at the University of Minnesota who has been studying eating habits, self-control and dieting for more than 20 years found that only 5% of dieters keep the weight off for a significant period of time. So essentially, dieting has a 95% fail rate. Can you imagine partaking in a medical procedure with a 95% fail rate? That would be insane! *You can read the full article here, which includes where to find her book Secrets From the Eating Lab.

Here is the thing: I am the 5%. In 2012 I lost a very significant amount of weight. I am not going to say how much weight because it does not matter. Since 2012, I have only gained a very small portion of it back in almost nine years. I was coming out of a deep depression and had found yoga and other types of movement and had started doing other things instead of using food to cope with emotions.

But here’s the kicker: even after getting to my “goal weight” I still hated myself. I hated myself even though I finally could shop “straight sizing” (sizes carried in most stores) and people kept complimenting how good I looked. Despite this, I was still a cluster of insecurity and upset that the weight loss did not deliver what it promised. I spent the majority of my time and mental capacity obsessing over which foods would cause cancer and weight gain and which ones would allegedly save me from them.

Weight loss promised me happiness, body acceptance, and health. I did not gain any of those things when I lost the weight. I temporarily felt happiness when my clothes were too big and when people complimented the way my body looked, but the feeling was fleeting. I still felt tired and sad. I still looked in the mirror and disapproved of what I saw. Even after the weight loss, I still had cellulite on the backs of my legs, stretch marks on my boobs, hips, and thighs, and still had curves in places society deems unacceptable. I still slunk under the covers to hide my body from my now husband when we had sex, sucking in my stomach and praying he would not see my thighs jiggle. I spent so much time overthinking of how he would perceive my body that I could not actually enjoy the intimacy.

Weight loss did not cure my negative body image. Even now after working on healing my relationship with my body and food I still do not love my body every day. However, I am grateful for all the things it helps me achieve and I accept that my body is the way she is and she will change with time based on a myriad of different circumstances. Since starting this journey I have seen improvements in my health that diets promised, but never delivered. For example, I just gave platelets two days ago and my iron levels were in the middle-average range for the first time in my life. My body knows what she needs and it is my job to finally start listening. I give her what she asks for which includes eating for nourishment and satisfaction, moving when she wants to and resting when she needs, building healthy relationships, and taking care of myself as a whole person, not just weight. Speaking of healthy relationships, something important is having a wonderful partner who has never once in our relationship said a negative thing about my body. However, the real acceptance and freedom comes from me. This journey is about me and what I decide and I have decided to give diet culture the middle finger for good.

Here is a (non-comprehensive) list of resources for more information about Intuitive Eating, body acceptance and Health At Every Size (HAES).

Related Readings:

  1. Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
  2. Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
  3. Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
  4. Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor
  5. Big Girl by Kelsey Miller
  6. Secrets From the Eating Lab by Traci Mann
  7. The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
  8. The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner
  9. Just Eat It by Laura Thomas
  10. Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe
  11. Eat to Love by Jenna Holl
  12. What’s Wrong with Fat? by Abigail Cope Saguy
  13. Body of Truth by Harriet Brown
  14. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker
  15. The Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith

Podcasts:

  1. Food Psych with Christy Harrison
  2. Iweigh with Jameela Jamil
  3. Redefining Health and Wellness with Shohreh Davoodi
  4. Food HeavenPodcast with Wendy Lopez and Jess Jones
  5. Nutrition Matters with Paige Smathers
  6. RD Real Talk with Heather Caplan
  7. Love Food with Julie Duffy Dillon
  8. You Can Eat With Us with Cara Harbstreet
  9. Nourishing Women with Victoria Myers
  10. Intuitive Eating for the Culture with Christyna Johnson
  11. Intuitive Bites with Kirsten Ackerman
  12. More Than What You Eat with Rachel Goodman
  13. The F*ck It Diet with Caroline Dooner
  14. How to Love You Body with Jenna Free and Lauren McCaulay
  15. Don’t Salt My Game with Laura Thomas

Self-Care & Mindfulness During Quarantine.

Unless you are Jared Leto back from an extensive meditation retreat in the desert then you are familiar with the Corona Virus Disease 2019 or COVID19. This pandemic has caused a good portion of the world to be confined to their living-quarters indefinitely. My city is no exception. Due to the nature of my work I have been forced to work from my home as well as self-quarantine. Per government orders, bars and restaurants, state parks, schools, and most businesses are closed. They even recently shut down the beach! Even if I wanted to go somewhere there is no where to go. When I drive downtown to the grocery store, the barren streets remind me of something described in a dystopian novel.

As an introvert, the first few weeks of being forced to stay home were amazing. I realize I am very privileged to be able to work from home and still be able to make money unlike a lot of my fellow Americans. For me, staying home in my sweatpants with my dog being able to read and practice yoga was a dream. Into the third week the novelty began to wear off and I started to experience “cabin-fever.”

In order to keep me (and my partner) sane I started to create a stay-at-home routine of things I never believed I had time for and now that I am home all the time I can do. With that being said, my caveat is that I am fully aware we are in a crisis and that just surviving right now is enough. This is not a vacation and I realize people are stuck at home working and/or taking care of kids, and can have numerous other concerns such as being jobless, homeless, in toxic relationships, and/or dealing with illness (mental or physical), etc. People may not have access to things I have listed and I understand that. The list I created is made up of things that worked for me to focus mindfulness and to get through this indefinite quarantine period without going batshit crazy.

  1. Read. Now is the time to dust off the books on your shelf that you had every intention of reading when you “found the time.” The time is now! Support local bookstores who do pickup or drop-off and purchase your favorite books or download ebooks from the Library. Reading is a beautiful form of escape from this uncertain time and a great way to learn something new.
  2. Listen to empowering podcasts. The best podcasts to listen to during this time are podcasts that inspire you or debunk COVID19 myths, teach you something, or ones that provide an escape from the terrible current reality. My current favorites are: Foodpsych, Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness, Food Heaven, Where Should We Begin?, By the Book, Unlocking Us with Brene Brown, and Fuck It Diet Podcast. I have been researching Intuitive Eating so most of my podcasts are related to that (more to come about IE in later posts).
  3. Unsubscribe from influencers or things that make you feel bad about yourself or do not align with your values. Again, I have been trying to heal my relationship with food and eschew diet culture so I block or unfollow influencers that promote weight loss or unhealthy supplements and those who post fat phobic content. This lately has also included blocking media outlets that sensationalizes the inaccurate COVID19 information. On the flip side, follow good news social media accounts or people who inspire you and make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Complete a puzzle, crossword, or brain teaser. Pull out that dusty puzzle sitting in the closet or borrow one from grandma and get to work. This is a great way to exercise the mind and take a break from social media and the news for a few minutes. Beware, one of my friends got tendinitis in her elbow from too much puzzling.
  5. YouTube a skill or new language. If you listen to episode 153 of Getting Curious an economist named Bradley M. Gold discusses tips on how to survive this pandemic and prepare ourselves for any future disasters or pandemics. One of the main tips is to learn a trade that you can use to barter with such as sewing, cooking, woodwork, etc. Another great way to keep from getting bored is to learn a new language that you can hopefully put to use once the travel bans are lifted.
  6. Gentle Movement. You do not need to start pumping iron or start running a marathon just because there is more time to do so and people keep posting push-up challenges on social media. However, one way to nourish yourself and to stave off anxiety is to move your body in a way that feels good. Support online fitness instructors like yoga teachers and do live videos or archived classes or just get outside and take the dog for a walk (if you are able to go outside and have the space to walk while social distancing). Fresh air is the best way to ward off “cabin fever.”
  7. Research something you’ve always wanted to learn. As I have mentioned I have been examining research related to health and intuitive eating. Have you wanted to learn the geography of the world or want to learn how to sew a button? Youtube is a great resource. Doing extra trainings to help for my job has also been helpful.
  8. Write letters or send thoughtful texts to loved ones. Being separated from the ones we love is the hardest part about self-isolating. Take the time to write the ones you love a letter expressing how grateful you are to have them in your life. If you do not have the stationary or stamps send them a meaningful text. Reaching out is the best way to feel connected and less alone.
  9. Volunteer. There is a limit to what we can do while self-isolating but The Red Cross and Meals on Wheels are two companies that are not shut down and are desperate for volunteers. Blood donations and drivers to deliver meals are much needed, especially now. You can look up the closest ones to your area to volunteer. There are so many ways you can reach out to your community. In my town, they had volunteers sewing mask kits for the hospital. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled for opportunities. Volunteering helps others, but also boosts our own satisfaction.
  10. Meditate/Pray. Taking just a few minutes to sit in silence in our uncomfortableness and focus on breathing has scientifically been proven to lift our moods. There are tons of online guided meditations and apps. It is amazing what kind of things come up when we just are and let things be. There are even meditations specifically for COVID relief.
  11. Journal/Write Gratitude Lists. Meditation can bring up a lot of emotions as well as living during a pandemic. The best way to deal with these emotions is getting them out and a great way to do that is to journal. The media and all the second-hand information we receive related to the pandemic makes it difficult to focus on the positive. There may be many reasons to feel despondent and stressed. However, in the midst of the uncertainty there are so many things to be grateful for. Every day I write just a few of those things and it helps keep perspective.
  12. Watch. My four year-old niece has named viewing television or movies “watch” and always asks to do so. If you are a parent do not feel guilty about letting kids watch more tv than you usually would allow, again these are not normal times! TV is also a great escape from reality and I enjoy watching old romantic comedies when I am feeling anxious. Give yourself permission during this time to watch TV or play video games if that helps with the uncertainty.
  13. FaceTime, Zoom, Call, or MarcoPolo with loved ones. It is lonely being isolated. I luckily have my partner and our pets, but it can be especially isolating for those who live alone. The best I have felt is when I did a Zoom date with my girlfriends and we all watched the dumpster trash show “Love is Blind” while drinking wine. It felt almost like we were together in person enjoying Happy Hour.
  14. House Projects/Declutter. Now is also the time to do those home projects you have been putting off or yard work that needs done. Youtube is full of great DIY tips! Decluttering, which for me is essential for minimalism, is a great distraction and way to perform self-care during Quarantine. Start going through your closets, junk drawers, garage, under the bed, etc. and ask yourself if the items add value to your life or are even necessary. Start piling up the items and once you have the okay-go-ahead donate or sell those items you’ve decided to part with to a local thrift shop or charity.
  15. Beauty Care. Face-masks, clipping and painting nails, foot scrubs, baths, etc. are all great self-care tools and distractions. I made myself a lip scrub and have painted my nails rainbow to please my niece. This may seem superficial, but anything we can do to take care of ourselves is worth a go. However, leave the haircutting to professionals! There are too many funny memes of people ending up with haircuts like Joe Exotic.
  16. Take a break from the news and social media. Delete apps, turn off the TV, and for the-love-of-God take a break from the news!! There is an abundance of information coming at us like a Tsunami and not all of it is accurate. Follow a few sources you trust, remember the media sensationalizes everything and take breaks from it throughout the day. What also helps me is following good news social media like @TanksGoodNews on Instagram. Good things are happening, even during a pandemic.
  17. Partake in online therapy. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, have an eating disorder, or would just like someone to talk to there are a lot of online resources with licensed therapists that you can do from your home either online or on the phone. A common online resource is TalkSpace. No one should have to deal with negative emotions alone! Therapy is best thing I have ever done for myself.
  18. Bake. The grocery stores are missing toilet paper as well as most baking ingredients every time I go. In times of stress my go-to is baking and I turn into The Barefoot Contessa in the kitchen. For me, self-care is baking cookies and breads and doing porch deliveries to my friends and family. I have also taken the opportunity to make a plethora of freezer meals for the future. Try something new or make something comforting, but whatever you do please do not feel you need to diet or restrict food intake. This is a damn pandemic and snacking more or wanting more comforting foods is totally reasonable!
  19. Rest. There are workout videos and diet shaming on any social media platform you log into. Again, this is not a vacation, this is a pandemic! You are allowed to rest (if you can) and not do push-up challenges or meal prep or DIY your whole home. The future is uncertain and scary so just resting on the couch, in bed, on your balcony or whatever feels good to you is acceptable. Productivity does not equal your worth, especially now.
  20. Just Breathe. We got this! The rain does not last forever and while times are so uncertain and scary our ancestors have made it through so much and we can too! Take a few moments to take a couple deep breaths and just do what you can to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you!

How to Keep Your Sanity When Living With a Non-Minimalist.

Things I identify as: a minimalist. Things my partner, Paul, does not identify as: a minimalist. For example, I have read more books in the month of January than Paul has read in his whole life, yet if you look at our shelves you will see only a few that are actually mine. Living with someone who has differing values can be frustrating. When I decided to journey down the road of minimalism, Paul was not down for the ride. He assumed minimalism was just a trend or another fad I was going to follow for a few days and then give-up and I naively thought if I started ridding our home of what I deemed unnecessary items that he would have no problem with it.

I was fully ready to go through my items and pair down to the things that mattered. I had been reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts and TED Talks about minimalism so I was ready to make the hard changes towards of a simpler life. Paul had not been doing the research and therefore when I started decluttering our house, he felt it was almost a personal attack. He was not ready to part with all his estate-sale trinkets or all of his late father’s possessions he inherited. The more I tried to push him the more stubborn he became. I became so frustrated with him that I would shut down or we would end up in fights. He felt I was not respecting him or his things (which I wasn’t). When I finally stopping nagging or trying to force him I noticed the steps he started taking on his own towards simplicity.

Paul is still not a minimalist. However, he has decluttered a lot of his items and has made habits towards a more simpler, meaningful life. We have had long discussions and our values align now more than ever before. Through all my mistakes of trying to force him into minimalism, there are a few things I have learned and wish I would have implemented sooner. In order to save you and your roommate, friend, sibling, parent, spouse, partner, etc’s sanity I recommend the following:

  1. Do not try to change them. Trust me I tried. I tried to convince, plead, argue and even threaten Paul to become a minimalist and my tactics did not work. You cannot convince someone to partake in something, especially a lifestyle change, if they are not ready (like the religious groups trying to convert you by knocking on your door). Trying to force my partner into minimalism was like trying to bathe a cat. It lead to multiple unnecessary arguments and strain on our relationship. People do things when they are good and ready on their own terms, not on yours.
  2. Do not get rid of their things without permission. I repeat, DO NOT GET RID OF OTHER PEOPLE’S THINGS WITHOUT PERMISSION. It may come as a shock, but people do not appreciate when others get rid of their things without asking. As a bad minimalist, I am guilty of doing this with Paul’s stuff. I have no trouble deciding what things other people should get rid of and am happy to toss it out for them, no problem. Needless to say, Paul was (rightfully) pissed when I got rid of his belongings behind his back and this (of course) lead to arguments. Everyone’s journey into a life with less is different and it is so important that the owners of the possessions decide what is worth keeping and what is worth parting with. It is not our job to worry about other people’s things so mind your own business.
  3. Do lead by example. This has proven the best way to inspire someone to live a life with less. When people see you living your life with more time, more money, and more joy they will undoubtably want to know how they can have these things as well. The more I kept quiet and just assessed my own life, purged my unnecessary items and set new goals, the more Paul started joining in. Just the other week he purged a huge portion of his DVD collection, something he had previously stated he never would do. When I kept focus on my own life, Paul saw the changes in me and reassessed his decisions. Like my dad always says “Preach always, but speak only sometimes.”
  4. Do discuss points of view. Be open with your partner (or whoever) about why you find meaning in a minimalist lifestyle and talk about the importance of a life with less stress. Discuss what you want your future to look like. Can selling some of your items or downsizing your house save money for a better future? Can removing toxic people from your life improve your relationships with the people who matter? Also, if there are disagreements about lifestyle, is there a compromise? Probably. Discussing what we wanted from our lives and for our future was the best argument for minimalism I could hope for. When we decided what we wanted, minimalism was an obvious road to take to get there and sparked the decision to create our budget.
  5. Do be patient and let that shit go. Like I said above, people make decisions in their own time, not yours. Waiting for someone to come around to minimalism can be frustrating, trust me. The less I focused on him and his things and focused on myself the more he changed. It took years and it is still a process. I know that if I just wait instead of nagging him he will make the decision on his own without argument and resentment, even if it is not on my timeline. I let go of feeling like I needed to change him and in turn he changed himself on his own.

Living with a non-minimalist when you are one is stressful. It is tempting to grab a garbage bag and start filling it with all their crap or try to change their habits, but that is not your job. Your job is to focus on you and the changes you are making towards a healthier, happier life with less. When you turn the focus inwards you will be amazed at all the outward changes in your life, including the changes you inspired for those around you.

Things I Stopped Buying to Live Within My Means.

I am sure the words “live within your means” is not an unfamiliar quote to most. However, what does “means” actually mean? Living within ones means is essentially spending less than or at least equal to the amount of money brought in. Simple, right? If you make $3,000 a month then you should not spend more than $3,000 a month. If only it were that easy. Advertisements, influencers, co-workers, friends, “The Joneses”, and social media in general make it difficult to not spend more than we make. Watching others and comparing ourselves to them and what they have makes it difficult to not want more. It has also become the norm to work 80-100 hours a week in order to afford a more “luxurious” lifestyle.

My husband, Paul is currently volunteering to gain medical hours and working less paying hours. So we are bringing in less money than we had been previously. This means we had to sit down and hash out a budget. A budget can feel restricting and to put it bluntly, it sucks sometimes. Watching our friends eat out most nights, buy things without worry, and travel multiple times a year can be hard. However, I have learned over the past few months of budgeting how liberating and powerful budgeting can be.

When I am on a budget I am forced to parse out what is important to me and what is not. I have to choose what things to spend my precious few dollars on versus saying yes to everything. This has helped me learn what I value most. I say yes to yoga classes, friend dates, snowboarding lift tickets, and items that I need. I say no to fast food, going to the movies, and every single item I like that I pass in a store or online. As someone who loves clothes, budgeting has helped me decide what items I really love/need and which ones I can go without. Budgeting reveals what I value. Budgeting also lifts the burden of debt from my shoulders. Paul and I may be making less money, but with a budget we are still able to nearly pay off our car loan and should be done earlier than expected. It is such a relief to pay down debt and a greater high than any shopping experience can bring.

In order to cut costs, I have created a list of (some of the) items I no longer buy in order to save money, stick to my budget, and ultimately live within my means. This list is not a be-all, end-all and is not a one-size-fits-all model. Like I said, everyone values different things and the list does not apply to everyone. This is what works for me.

Things I No Longer Buy to Save Money:

1. Take-out Coffee. 
I love going to coffee shops and I love getting fancy coffee beverages. However, I save it for very rare occasions like a date with a friend. Most people in the office I work with get takeout coffee (ie Starbucks) every single morning. If a person gets a $5 coffee 5x a week, that is $25 a week, $100 a month, and $1,200 a year! Even if you get just plain black coffee 5x a week for $2.50 a cup, that is $600 a year. I started buying bags of coffee for $9.99 (fair-trade and organic, so no skimping on quality) and brewing it at home. A 2 lb bag makes approximately 164, 9 ounce cups of coffee (about 17 cents a cup). I usually drink about 2 cups of coffee, so it ends up costing 34 cents a day. If I drink 2 cups a day, 7 days a week for a month, then the cost is approximately $9.52, and approximately $114.52 a year. This ends up saving $485.48 a year compared to black coffee at a shop.

2. Lunches out. 
Along with getting coffee everyday, a lot of people in the workforce eat lunch out daily. While it is tempting to just go run and grab something to eat instead of packing a lunch it saves money to make your own. Even if you are going the cheap route and eating lunch for $5 a day, it adds up to $100 a month. According to USA Today, the average person in 2017 paid approximately $11 to eat out lunch on working days. This adds up to $220 a month, which is over half as much as my monthly grocery bill feeding me and Paul. Bringing my lunch to work can sometimes be a pain to plan, but the food I am eating is more nutrient dense, makes me feel good, and saves money.

3. Books.
I love reading. I do it every single day, but yet I own very little books. Books are expensive, they take up a lot of space, and most books I only read once (Harry Potter excluded). This is why I go to the library and checkout books for free. I have found that I actually read more when I do not buy the books. When books have a due date, I am forced to read them instead of just leaving them to sit on my bookshelf collecting dust.

4. Manicures/pedicures. 
I love nothing more than a good spa day, however nail maintenance is a luxury I save for special occasions. The average cost in my area for a manicure and a spa pedicure is about $65 which if done monthly, adds up to $780 a year. There are other things I would rather spend my money on then something of little importance to me. A good clip and clear polish works well for me. Having nail care be a treat makes it even more special, especially with friends.

5. Excess bath-care products.
I think most of us have been guilty of buying too much make-up, shower gel, colognes, shampoos, lotions, and potions. Ads sell us items to make us look younger, tanner, sexier, thinner. Do we really need an elixir for our left elbow? At 30 years old I know what items work for me and which do not. I have a skincare routine that includes soap, witch hazel and argan oil- that’s it! I also use coconut oil to remove my eye make-up. I use my make-up until it is gone and then if I want something new, like a new color of lipstick, I research it and get something else and use it until it is gone. I do not feel the need to spend money on duplicate items and I try to stay away from marketed items that make users feel they are not enough in order to sell the product.

6. Gym membership. 
If you use the gym regularly and love it that is fantastic! I however, do not. I do yoga via classes or videos online and do my own at-home workouts or run outside. When I had a gym membership it was overall a waste for me. Doing workouts at home for free has been more beneficial for me and a great way to save money.

7. Subscription boxes. 
If you listen to a Podcast or click on any website you will likely see ads for subscription boxes. Boxes for skincare and make-up products, boxes for clothes, boxes for your beard, and even boxes for your dog. For example, FabFitFun costs $49.99 for a one-time subscription or $179.99 for an annual membership. So for $50 you are advertised to get a bunch of high-end products (which you do get) but most of the items are not needed or wanted. People I know who have done subscription boxes end up giving most of the stuff away or attempting to resell some of the items. Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace is full of items from subscription boxes.

8. Home decor. 
I am not going to lie, I enjoy wandering the home decor aisles at any store. I love nothing more than throw pillows and fuzzy blankets. I could spend hours sniffing candles and pretend redecorating my home. The problem is most of the items in the home decor section are not needed and honestly are overpriced. I have plenty of throw pillows, blankets, and candles. More than enough. While it can be tempting to want to make my home look like a Pinterest one, I keep away from the decor aisles in order to keep from mindlessly spending money on mass produced junk I do not need.

9. Fast fashion. 
This may be the hardest one for me. I have always and still love clothes. I love looking at people’s clothes, putting outfits together and when I was little my favorite thing to do was to put on fashion shows with my Barbies. The best way for me to save money is to not shop for clothes, especially new clothes or clothes made cheaply. I have started being really selective about when and where I buy clothes. When I do need something I try thrift it or shop Poshmark. I no longer buy clothing because it is on sale which saves money too. I am also in the process of creating a capsule wardrobe, which means I only shop for specific items I need. I have finally figured out my style and what works for me and what does not. I am able to appreciate trendy outfits without having to buy them for myself.

10. Alcohol. 
Brunch is one of my favorite outings, especially if mimosas are involved. I also enjoy grabbing a drink with a friend after work. The problem with mimosas and drinks after work (even if it is “happy hour”) is they start to add up. According to the Huffington Post, if someone only drinks on weekends, two drinks per day, it ends up costing about $2,500 a year. This does not include tips, Uber/Lyfts, or the 2 AM Taco Bell runs. You can also visit the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website to see just how much alcohol is not only costing you, but the economy too. I stick with my soda water or once in awhile I have a Kombucha, saving the alcohol for very special occasions. This not only saves my wallet, but my health too.

11. Movie tickets. 
The last time I went to the movies was with my niece to see Frozen II as part of her Christmas gift, otherwise I rarely go. Movies in my area cost $10-$13 and that is not including the $10 for popcorn. I honestly prefer to be able to watch movies in my own home and pause it so I can get up to pee or grab more snacks. I can get a couple months of unlimited Netflix shows and movies for the cost of me and Paul to go to one movie at the theater together.

12. Fast food. 
Like I said in the Alcohol summary, those Taco Bell runs add up. The last time I had fast food, the items were a McFlurry and he got a Big Mac with the total being $13. For $13 we could have bought a gallon of ice cream and most of the fixings for a burger (depending on the quality…). I do believe there can be a time and a place for fast food, but it should be far and few between. When I eat at home I save money and I feel so much better health-wise (aka: not feeling like I swallowed a brick).

13. Expensive/excessive gifts.
For Christmas, my family did a game exchange each person brought a board game and we did a “white elephant” game. All of us enjoy hosting game nights so a board game exchange ended up being perfect. As for my four year old niece and nephews, their favorite gift was a “toilet light” that lights up the toilet bowl different colors so you can see it at night. They saw the one at my house and loved it. My friends and I did not buy each other Christmas gifts (we never do) and neither did my husband and I. My husband and I prefer to put money we would usually spend on gifts towards a trip. Have you ever received gifts you did not want? I can guarantee you have. According to Fastcompany.com approximately $100 billion worth of products are expected to be returned from Thanksgiving through the New Year and an estimated 5 billion tons of returns end up annually in landfills. Buying (and receiving) gifts not wanted or needed is bad for the wallet and the planet.

14. Single use items.
This is items like paper towels, plastic bottles and paper napkins as well as kitchen gadgets that only serve one function. The only exception is my garlic press as 90% of my recipes call for minced garlic and it is a nightmare to have to do. As for single use items, I try to use reusable rags instead of paper towels and a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones, etc. It not only saves money, but it helps our earth mother as well.

15. Media.
Media for me means Blu-Rays, CDs, Magazines, in app purchases, speakers, tech gadgets, or unneeded smartphone upgrades. I prefer to use Netflix (and steal my sister’s Hulu account) and Spotify for television and music. I personally do not need the latest and greatest gadgets, even though I love my Google home mini (which I got for free). I upgrade my phone when it has reached its functional limit. Magazines I can also borrow from the library or read when I do got to the spa. I am still using my Macbook Pro from college, 7 years ago and it is holding up just fine.

16. “Just in case items.” 
These are items that are bought for a non-specific reason or date and may or may not ever be used. My mother-in-law comes to mind when I think of “just-in-case” items. She has an extra coffee maker and an extra Keurig “just in case” the two she has break. Not to mention she is a single woman and is the only user of both coffee machines. However, I think most of us can relate to “just-in-case” items. These items can be furniture for a house we may someday move into or clothes we buy in case we lose the weight we have been wanting to lose or buying a guitar in case when we retire we will want to play it.
The only just-in-case items I think are worth collecting is an emergency kit in case of a natural disaster. Apparently Oregon is well overdue for a massive earthquake, so having a “just in case” emergency kit is really a “just for when” kit.

17. Experiences I do not want to do.
When I turned 30 I told myself I was no longer go to do things I did not want to do. Now I know there will always be things I do not want to do like *cough* work *cough* cough* or doing the dishes. What I mean is I am a very agreeable person, to a fault. I will compromise a lot of the time and spend my precious extra time (and money) doing experiences I do not want to do just because I do not want to “let anyone down”. For example, a few friends invited me to see a play and I really was not that into it. I knew I would have a good time just because my friends were there, but I honestly did not feel like spending the money seeing a play I was not into. Not to mention I had plans to spend the weekend with my friends the next week. So instead of just forking over the money and seeing the play I declined the invitation. And you know what? The world did not end and my friends still like me. I also saved some money so I can enjoy a better experience with them at another time.

18. Individually packaged items. 
I have started buying the majority of my foods in bulk, which has saved me a lot of money. I get that a lot of states and towns do not offer bulk sections, which means this may not apply to everyone. Oregon has a lot of Farmer’s Markets and most grocery stores have bulk selections, which is really fortunate. Individually packaged or even precut items tend to cost way more than items bought in bulk or uncut fruits/veggies. Sometimes it is a pain to shop bulk or to chop items myself, but overall it saves money (and the oceans) and I get an excuse to watch The Golden Girls on Hulu while chopping.

This list is just some ways in which I save money, but there are many other ways I strive to live within my means. However, I am not perfect and I do not pretend to be. There are times when I buy a candle I don’t need or buy a zucchini wrapped in plastic from Trader Joe’s. I am called “the bad minimalist” after all. I still go and get my hair cut and colored by a professional because I am not ready for the grays to stay and I suck at doing my own hair. I am trying my best and I hope this post will inspire you to try yours. What items do you skip buying in order to save a few bucks? I would love more ideas and tips.

Talk Thirty to Me: The Year of Self-Love.

On December 23rd, 2019 I turned the big 3-0. When I was a kid I equated 30 years old with about the same as being 100 years old. Basically, 30 was “old as hell.” Even as an adult in my 20’s, I did not want to turn 30 because being 30 meant I was supposed to have my shit together, which I did not (and still don’t).

I’ve hated myself, especially my body since my teens. Growing up overweight I was teased, which made me even harder on myself. I lost 50 pounds in my early 20’s and I thought dropping the weight would make me love myself, but it didn’t. Underneath the excess mass I was still me and I still did not like myself. My 20’s were not only filled will self -loathing, but comparison as well. Comparing my clothes, my job, my likes and dislikes, my appearance (including my body, obviously) to everyone else and experiencing immense shame when I felt I did not live up to others.

So in my last few months in my 20’s, I decided my 30’s was going to be a different decade. I decided 30’s is going to be the decade of self-love. Self-love sounds very “woo-woo” and is often misconstrued as “radical” and involves a bunch of hippies sitting together in a circle chanting that they are goddesses while staring at mirrors pointed to their vulvas. Despite the stigma, self-love works.

Ways to promote self-love:

  1. Speak to yourself like a doting grandmother would. My, my, aren’t you a dish? How did I ever get so lucky to have someone like you in my life? Doting grandmothers having nothing but compliments to shower on us and are the ultimate hype-people. Anytime I am feeling down on myself I am going to pinch my cheeks and tell myself how cute I am and then knit myself a scarf. In all seriousness, speak to yourself like you would someone you love. Instead of picking at all your mistakes and perceived flaws, talk about your successes and joys. When you love you, you are able to love others.
  2. Journal. If you look up any tips on how to love yourself more there will always be journaling on the list. Journaling is a way to talk out ideas, frustrations or any other random thoughts that pop up into your mind. It is a great way to figure out emotions and discover things about yourself you may not have paid attention to. Journaling also gives me the opportunity to write down what I am grateful for. It gives me room to figure out who the hell I am because honestly, even after 30 years, I still have no idea.
  3. Minimize the time spent with toxic people. In this new decade I do not have time for people who make me feel bad about myself. I do not have time for people who make me feel exhausted after spending time with them instead of uplifted. I do not have time for people who put others down or consistently complain about their lives without putting in the effort to try and improve.
  4. Saying no. This is the big one for me. I promised myself that this decade I was going to stop saying yes to things I do not want to do. Invite to a wedding of an acquaintance I barely know? No. Invite to the bar on a weeknight when I am exhausted? No. Going to someone’s pyramid scheme party where I am going to get guilted into buying something? No. I am all for supporting friends and attending weddings of people I love and sometimes you do have to do things you do not want to do (like the dishes). I am referring to saying yes to things out of obligation or guilt or because I perceive someone may “feel bad” when they most likely will not. This includes saying no to things without an explanation or an excuse. I am giving myself permission to use “No” as a full sentence.
  5. Saying yes. In my post before I talk about say yes to things that scare us because it helps us grow. For self-care, it means saying yes to things that will improve your life, saying yes to opportunities when they present themselves and saying yes to leaving behind the things that weigh us down. When I am excited about something but also scared I know it is a good thing. I can freak myself out and talk myself into a negative tailspin of different scenarios in which I fail. However, so far in my life, when I have said yes to opportunities that excite, but scare me I have never regretted taking the leap.
  6. Exercise because it feels good not for the need to look a certain way. I used to exercise because I wanted to lose weight and so when I exercised I hated it. I did workouts I didn’t enjoy because I read that they burned the most calories. When I started yoga I enjoyed it and after I did it continuously I noticed my mood shifted, I felt happier, I had less anxiety, and I had less lethargy and slept better at night. Moving my body whether it is taking the dog on a walk or barreling down the side of a mountain on a snowboard makes me feel good! Just because I am not burning 800 calories in a workout does not mean I am not reaping benefits from working out. I am so grateful to have a body I can practice headstands with and run up mountains with. Now I do workouts because it makes me feel good not because I need to fit in a smaller pair of pants.
  7. Eat intuitively. Most of my life I have had a poor relationship with food. I have oddly had this panic that I will not get enough food so I would over eat until I felt I was going to burst. I would then try to compensate my binge tendencies by dieting and trying to starve myself, which would end with me being ravenous and binge eating. I have spent most of my life not listening to my body and hating it for not appearing like the airbrushed celebrities in magazines. When I started looking into intuitive eating and when I started paying attention to my body’s needs (yoga helped with this) my relationship with food changed completely and I was able to eat until satiated without binging and I stopped feeling guilt when I ate something I used to consider “bad food.”
  8. Limit social media. I am terrible about social media. I fall asleep scrolling with the phone in my hand and while I do draw the line at bringing the phone with me while I’m on the toilet, I spend too much time on it. When I spend too much time online I start the comparison game. I start thinking my life is not satisfying enough and if I just book a trip somewhere exotic or just buy a trendy pair of shoes then I will be happy. I used to get so despondent that I would just lay on the couch for hours scrolling mindlessly and then wondering why I felt so shitty. Social media has perks, but it has even more flaws. Limiting my time by setting timers or deleting apps off my phone is one main way to improve my mood. Another way I promote self love is unfollowing people or accounts that make me feel like I am not enough and following inspirational accounts instead.
  9. Spend time with people who inspire you and make you feel good. You know the people I am talking about. The ones that after you spend time with them make you feel like you’re tipsy and radiating warmth. The ones that make you feel filled with love instead of drained. If you do not have people like that in your life start searching and limit time spent with people who don’t make you feel this way. The best way to meet people like this is joining groups with people who share your interests. You can meet so many people by joining book clubs, hiking clubs, sport leagues, religious small groups, knitting groups, anime groups, mom groups, etc. Look up Facebook groups in your area or MeetUp app. I met one of my closest friends by signing up to be in a local ad where they needed a bunch of people to eat food while they took pictures and another through social media because we liked the same things.
  10. Gratitude. The number one way to promote self-love is to be grateful. To be grateful for the body I have, the life I have been given, and everything in-between. When I visited Tibet and was without my usual comforts, including a clean toilet and heat that did not come from yak poop, I realized just how damn lucky (and entitled) I am. Every night, I journal three things I am grateful for and in the morning I meditate. I have even started listing off the things I like about myself. I noticed the more I do this the more I appreciate (and take care of) the things I already have. I also noticed the more grateful I am the better my relationships are. My friends do not have to sit back and listen to me complain, instead we are free to discuss our joys and there is room to discuss ideas and dreams instead of filling our time together with moaning about piddly annoyances.

Year of Yes.

The Painted Hills- Wheeler Co. Oregon

If you have not read Shonda Rhimes’s book The Year of Yes then you need to hustle to your library or local bookstore and grab yourself a copy. I read this book over a year ago and think about the messages written by her on a near daily basis.

I tend to dislike the “self help” aisle as I associate the books with narcissists who write Pinterest-like quotes of inspiration for basic white girls wanting to get skinny or get over their tumultuous relationships.

My coworker and I were sitting in my hotel room sipping gin and sodas after a long travel and work day and she asked me how I became so adventurous. I was embarrassed to be asked the question because honestly I do not find myself all that adventurous. The most exciting thing I have done is traveled to Tibet to hike to Everest base camp. It is not as if I summited Mt. Everest. And in all honesty, if I can do it ANYONE can do it.

I have been lucky enough to travel to places like China, England, Italy, Japan, etc. but I feel a lot of people have as well. I never thought of it as an achievement. I recently went skydiving because friends of mine asked me to, but again I told myself that so have a lot of people. I realized most of the “adventurous” things I have done are just because someone has asked me to do them and I complied.

“Do you want to go skydiving?” Yes.

“Do you want to climb to Everest base camp?” Yes.

“Do you want to learn how to snowboard?” Yes.

“Do you want to do a 5 mile trail run in the rain?” Not really, but yes.

I realized the reason my coworker had perceived me to be adventurous was because I was really good at saying yes. There is a such a thing as too much yes, like being people pleaser and saying “yes” to everything someone asks of you. What I am referring to is saying yes to things that scare us. Feeling scared of an opportunity or an adventure and saying yes anyways.

This past year, without realizing it, I had said yes to almost every thing that scared me. I said yes when my coworkers wanted me to take the lead on our surveys, I said yes when my friends asked me to skydive, I said yes to being in a commercial for a jewelry store and I said yes to meeting up with someone I did not know to coordinate and host a charity drive. I said yes even though all these things terrified me because conquering fears is where the magic happens. When I said yes and did things even though I did not feel comfortable or ready I learned something and I grew. It also allowed me to feel more comfortable the next time something I was scared to do came up.

This past year of 2019 was about trying different avenues to improve my overall health. I spent 30 days at a time trying new things and learning about myself, what works for me and what does not. 2019 was about saying yes to commitments, to growth, to adventures and even to failures (if I at least tried something new). It was also about saying no to toxic relationships, bad habits, and clutter (physical and mental). The year 2020 will be about saying yes to self love and continuing on my journey into a more meaningful life. This next year is about saying yes to cultivating friendships with supportive people, nourishing my body and soul without judgment and shame, and making room (and time) for what is important while simultaneously weeding out what is not.

Cheers to 2020 and farewell 2019!

30 Days of No Sugar, No Grain.

Pizza, ice cream, and tacos are life’s joys. I love them all so much, but unfortunately they do not love me back. I have been struggling for months, even years with negative body symptoms, which I could not exactly pinpoint the cause. The symptoms are pretty vague and include: bloating, heartburn, gas, joint pain, headaches, phlegm, stomach pain, rosacea, fatigue, and a mix of constipation and diarrhea, etc. The list of sexy symptoms goes on.

I knew my diet could be better, but I just did not know where to start for elimination. In September, I did 30 days without dairy and my symptoms did not seem to relent. So for October, after watching the documentary Fat, both my husband, Paul and I decided to experiment by cutting added and refined sugar (including honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.) and grains (including corn, quinoa, rice, wheat, beer, etc.) from our diets for 30 days to see if we experienced positive results.

It sounds so simple to cut two things out of your diet, but the problem is sugar and grains are in nearly EVERYTHING. Sugar and grains are in drinks, pasta sauce, salad dressing, pre-packaged meals, etc. The list is overwhelming. Trying to find a restaurant that can accommodate these two restrictions was nearly impossible so instead we ate our meals at home. While our grocery bill may have went up, our savings did too because we were not spending money eating and drinking out.

The first few days were rough. This was not only due to craving sugar and the self discipline it took to refuse homemade cupcakes my coworker brought in, but because my body started to “withdrawal” from grains and sugar. The symptoms included stomach cramping, constipation, fatigue and irritability. So basically, nothing I was not already suffering from, but on a more intense scale. The one side effect I was not expecting was a random period. I have not had a period for years due to my Intrauterine Device (IUD) birth control, but switching to a high fat diet can cause a disruption with leptin and luteinizing hormones associated with periods. All the symptoms lasted only a few days for me.

The rest of the month I saw only benefits.

Cutting out grains and sugar was difficult the first two weeks but then it was like second nature. There were a couple instances of temptation. One was at a friends’ party where they made barbecue and multiple desserts and another was at a friend’s book launch where multiple hor d’oeuvres and wine were served. At the first party we were aware in advance and brought our no sugar, no grain sides and sadly avoided dessert. At the book launch, there was hummus and veggies brought out so I snacked on those while pining for the mini cupcakes. Overall, it was not as horrible as I prepared myself for. Paul and I did indulge ourselves for one day when a friend came to visit from Seattle. Oregon is known for its wine so we went wine tasting at a local vineyard. The tastings added up to about a glass. For food, we split a charcuterie board and ate the meats, cheeses, and olives; leaving the crackers behind. I felt deprived the first week, but for the other three I felt myself feeling content.

Staying home was the easiest way to avoid temptation. We only bought compliant foods and did not have to witness the copious amount of options outside of our house. We also made a point to tell our friends ahead of time in case any of them wanted to make dinner plans. After a yoga class when a friend of mine and I went out to eat, we were able to find a restaurant ahead of time that honored my food restrictions. 

On our day of freedom, October 31st (aka: Halloween), we went to my sister’s house which had bowls piled with brightly wrapped chocolates and other sugar filled treats. Paul and I were originally excited to be free from our limitations on Halloween because then we could indulge in the tradition of treats. Paul had a couple beers and I had: nothing. Not even a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I am never one to turn down chocolate (especially with peanut butter) but after 30 days without sugar I did not feel the need for artificially flavored candies. I wanted to save my splurge for something amazing, and I did days later (Danish strawberries and cream cake).

After the 30 days, Paul and I went out for our first NSNG meal with my sister and brother-in-law, who also eliminated sugar and grains for the month. We treated ourselves to pizza. The holy havoc the pizza wreaked on my stomach was unbearable. I laid in bed after dinner, crouched in the fetal position with a heating pad on my stomach for the rest of the night. I have had a few other gluten items since the 30 days without them, and for the first time in my life I experienced acid reflux and still do every time I eat it. Other symptoms I noticed were the achy joints, bloating, including swollen hands. The symptoms from gluten still have yet to abate.

I now know gluten is the main culprit of my symptoms. When I choose to eat it I have to decide if what I am about to eat is worth the symptoms that will follow. This mindset allows me to prioritize and only choose the treats worth the aggravation and skip the crappy items like store-bought cookies or crackers (things I would never normally skip) in favor of something delicious. Like minimalism, I get to choose the important things and filter out the rest. I keep the things worth having (aka: eating gluten for special occasions) and avoid the things not worth my time (aka: pie. Not my thing). Just like minimalism, diets and sensitivities are different person to person. Only you can choose what works for you and only you can choose what to avoid.

Rise & Shine: 30 Days of a Morning Routine

morning

Well I have taken quite a hiatus. Nearly four months of one from writing this blog. I would blame it on being “busy” but honestly it is more I have not pushed myself to write. Writing, even though it brings me joy, can be frustrating. It is also like having a second job and there are days (multiple days) when I do not feel motivated and instead of doing it anyway I give in to my lazyness and skip it.

I have had a lot of time to reflect these past four months and have taken time to really sort through my priorities for the life I want. I want to be productive. I do not mean busy. Productive to me includes rest, but it also includes perseverance towards the things that matter. This means working towards goals and sorting through my life meticulously spending my time on what it is important and abandoning what is not. Busy is what I do to distract myself from dealing with emotions or problems. It is also something I do to feel better about myself because social media tells me if I am busy then I am successful.

For me, in order to be productive I have to wake up and get to work. I have a tendency to lackadaisically waltz through life, hitting snooze on everything literally and figuratively. So my goal for the next 30 days is to stick to a morning routine that will set my day up for success and purpose.

I hate mornings. Sounds like something Garfield the cat would say in the Sunday comics section, but it is true. As much as I wish I was a morning person, I cannot seem to motivate myself to crawl out of bed when the sun rises with a smile plastered across my face (looking at you Cinderella….) I certainly envy those who do.

I have tried to set my alarm early, labeling it in my iPhone something cute like “Rise and Shine” (this is pre Kylie Jenner by the way) or even something motivational like “Get up and shower, you slob”. Still, I hit the snooze button, throw my hair in a bun, and then run out the door with hot coffee spilling down my hand and my lunch left on the counter.

I may not love getting up early, but I have learned that it is essential to making sure I can get ready for the day without feeling rushed or stressed. This way I spend the day feeling good, working better, and staving off the inevitable side effects of work stress. The key to being able to start my day off earlier is to wake up earlier. Not rocket science. Nothing starts my day off worse than hitting my “snooze” button multiple times and then realizing I have fifteen minutes to get to work.

The only way to wake up earlier and feel good is to go to sleep earlier than I want to. Again, not rocket science. People will argue that due to kids, work, insomnia, or any other laundry list of reasons, that it is impossible for them to go to sleep earlier than they already do. That may be true for some, but I believe for most the situation is similar to mine. I find excuses to stay up like binge watching episodes of my favorite tv shows or reading memes on my cellphone until odd hours of the night. Instead, I have started packing my lunch and picking out my clothes the night before and setting a bedtime and sticking to it.

For 30 days, starting November 1st, my simple morning routine will look something like this:

  1. Do NOT hit snooze. This one is going to be the hardest part of my day, guaranteed. I obviously lead a very privileged life. Hitting snooze means I am already procrastinating and sets up my day to be the same as my first moments awake. I will be waking up at least an hour before I usually would. This gives me time to complete the below items.
  2. Wash Face. I have never done this until recently. I started splashing my face with freezing cold water in the mornings and it (obviously) works. It is horrible, but it works and it wakes me up.
  3. Drink Water. Every night I will fill up my water bottle and set it on my bedside table. Then when my alarm goes off at its normal offensive morning hour, the first thing I do is lean over, grab it, and just start chugging to replace all the fluids I have lost while drooling and sweating through the night.
  4. Eat Breakfast. Seems so simple, it is literally in the name: break fast. Our bodies need fuel after a long sleep, we have to end the hours we went without fuel for our bodies. In the mornings I will take a breakfast to go or eat at home, regardless, I will eat. Breakfast will provide me enough energy to get through my morning and hold off the “hanger” until lunch.
  5. Meditate/Pray. Every morning I will take at least five minutes to meditate. Five minutes seems like such a short time, but I cannot sit still. Even when I am watching a movie I have to be doing something else. Five minutes to sit in silence can sometimes feel like torture. So I will start with five minutes and work my way up. This five minutes will also be time to pray. My anxiety significantly decreases when I talk to the big guy/gal upstairs and it is a wonder why I forget to do it every morning.
  6. Write. This morning I am awake and finishing up this post. Taking the time to sit and write takes more discipline than I usually provide myself. I keep wishing I was a writer and instead of doing the one thing writers do (write, obviously) I make excuses as to why I do not have the time. This is why I am setting a morning routine and waking up earlier, specifically to write. If I want to be better at something then I have to practice and the only way to practice writing is to write.

For the month of November I am going to see if the hype of a morning routine is all it is made out to be. While waking up early for me is a challenge, I want to improve my life and one way to do it is being more productive. To be more productive I have to stop laying in bed and scrolling through Instagram wishing my life looks like other productive peoples’ lives. If you read about successful people, one thing that consistently comes up is they wake up early and get going. I intend to test the theory and hopefully not cry in the process.

$how Me The Money.

Budgeting sucks. If only we could all live like multibillionaires and fling our money away on every desire and whim and never have to stress about making ends meet. If money only grew on trees as the saying goes. That would be the life. Sadly, most of us are not billionaires and money does not grow on trees. My fiddle fig leaf is just a regular tree, so I have to prioritize what I spend. This means a budget. If I choose not to budget and spend more than I make then it means: debt.

Debt is nearly synonymous with the “American Dream”. The mentality of “you can have it all”. Just open a credit card (or a few) and you can “afford” the dream car, dream house, dream gadgets, dream wardrobe, and also get yourself some Starbucks every single day. You can also take out $100,000 of school loans for a degree in dance and make it all back and more once you graduate…. or so it is portrayed. One does not even need to sign up to get credit card offers in the mail. They come pouring in like Harry’s Hogwarts letters at the Dursley’s (anything I can do to include a HP reference). It is so easy to go into debt and this is why we do. The media drowns us with ads screaming: “you deserve it!” and “treat yo self!” and it is hard not to listen.

Our friends and neighbors are able to have new cars, well-curated homes, wear the latest trends, go on vacation multiple times a year, and eat out every night so why can’t we? But, if we take a deeper look into people’s lives and budgets we may notice not all of them can actually afford their lifestyles. According to TheBalance.com, the average credit card debt in a United States household was $8,339 as of April 2019. That is just credit card debt, so no car payments, student loans, or mortgages included. I am incredibly lucky to have managed to pay off my school loans and to not have credit card debt, but Paul and I still have car payments, a mortgage, and other financial struggles. We are currently trying to pay for him to do post Bachelor classes so he can be accepted into a Physician Assistant program. This means he is working less and we are paying for courses therefore, we have less disposable income.

This is why we decided to come up with a budget. Each month we set aside money for the essentials: food, mortgage, bills, charity, etc. Then with the leftovers, we decide on how much “fun money” we are going to allow ourselves to have. The “fun money” is for us to do with what we want without the other having a say. This includes clothing, eating/drinking out, gadgets, movies, concerts, classes, etc. For us, we decided on $150 each. This amount may seem exorbitant to some and minuscule to others. It sounded doable to me at first until I realized my bad habits and just how much money I spend a month. Last month Paul and I started our budget and also went 30 days without buying unnecessary items and we ended up saving $800. EIGHT-HUNDRED DOLLARS! That is an insane amount of money for this middle class chick. Think of all the things someone could do with that amount of money. Think of all the dogs I could adopt with that money…

Love him or hate him, the hair sniffing Joe Biden said it right when he stated “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” I cannot even name the amount of times I have tried to tell myself I want to go on a trip because travel is what I value, but then end up ordering junk off Amazon instead. This seems to be a common theme. I overhear coworkers complain about being “broke” and how they want to have money to do something and then watch them go get coffee every morning and then go out to lunch every work day afternoon. As a collective society we kind of suck at budgeting and living within our means. I am speaking from the middle class. I realize there are a lot of people who are lower income and/or people who do live within their means and still do not have enough. It feels we get swept up in the advertisements and competition with one another that we forget what we actually value and want for ourselves.

Like I said, budgeting sucks and I am not very good at it. I am learning and failing and then learning some more. All I can say is I am better today than I was before. The budget has been a tough adjustment, but my eyes are now finally open to the amount of money I waste and now I have learned to prioritize. The American money guru Dave Ramsey, says “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Instead of spending my money on things I do not need, I am now spending it on what I value like saving for an upcoming trip with my friend or experiences with people I love. Budgeting can sometimes feel like a punishment, but with it is reward. A reward of delayed gratification, future possibilities, and overall financial peace. It sucks in the meantime, but is worth it in the end.

I Shop, Therefore I Am.

The last 30 days have been focused on appreciating what I already have by not buying anything unnecessary. This 30 day challenge has been the hardest for me so far. This past month I have been severely tempted but managed not to cave in. It was as if making a sweeping declaration not to shop inspired God to test me with all his might (total exaggeration). I have mentioned in previous post my problem with shopping as well as my inability to stay away from a “good deal”.

Well this month all the “deals” came flooding in. I had one friend offer their “wholesale” discount for one of my favorite brands and stated I could buy anything for the website at a steep discount. Then Paul’s friend offered us his employee discount for the company he works for, which includes over 50% off one of my favorite outdoor brands that carries workout gear (including the best yoga leggings). Then my sister-in-law got a few new vendors for the boutique she owns and received multiple adorable items for the spring collection, not to mention she gives me a “family discount” on all merchandise. Those were just some of the deals that came my way last month.

In the middle of May, our friends got a puppy and we wanted to get them a gift, so where did we go for discounted dog toys? Marshalls and TJ Maxx. The holy mecca of deals. Going in there was torture. There were pillows, candles, plant pots, shoes, clothes, and piles of household items I did not need but desperately wanted. Buying just dog toys for someone else’s dog was difficult to say the least. Full disclosure, however, I did buy oven mitts, yes mitts, because mine have been misplaced or destroyed and I was tired of nearly burning my fingers off using a towel. Paul and I agreed ahead of time we needed those. Otherwise there was no shopping for the 30 days. The final straw was the day before our “no buy” was over I was at the Saturday market with a friend and saw intricate handmade earrings that a vendor made to raise money for her son with Type I Diabetes. If there are three things I love it is: supporting local vendors/businesses/causes, handmade items, and earrings. I had to nearly be dragged away from the booth by my friend.

The three main things I learned from not being able to shop for 30 days were:

  1. Most things I buy on impulse I do not actually want. I realized the things I thought I really wanted that I could not buy I no longer wanted after a few days. There were things I told myself I would go back and buy after the 30 days were up, but once they were I realized I no longer even liked them. Going forward I am going to pause and wait until the next day to buy items. If I decide I really want it the next day I can go back and if not then I have saved myself some $$$.
  2. Just because something is on sale does not mean it is a good deal. Thrifting was my hobby and every time I found something for a “good deal” I would get a rush and feeling of euphoria. It is an addicting feeling. The problem was is I would buy things that I did not need or really love just because it was “cheap” and then I would feel guilty for buying something unnecessary. It is not cheap when I spending money on things that I end getting rid of or not using. Not spending money on things I do not need is the best “deal”.
  3. When I stop spending money on things, I have more money to spend on experiences and people. The last 30 days I made a promise not to shop, but it was also the start of Paul and my budget. We each had $150 to spend on whatever we wanted for the month of May, including going out to eat (fast food included), coffee and alcohol beverages, outings with friends, etc. We decided the set amount and agreed that once our money was used up that is all we get. Nothing makes you realize how much money you spend/waste like being on a budget. I managed to make it through the month, using my last $5 on May 31st. It may seem like $150 is a lot of money, but it is not when you are me and love to buy clothes and shoes. One pair of leather shoes can cost $150 alone. Instead of spending money on clothes, I spent it on coffee and brunch dates with friends, a weekend getaway to the beach for a friend’s birthday, and goat yoga with friends- which is literally yoga with goats climbing up on your back (very Oregonian). The money I could have spent on shoes I spent on quality time with the people I love.

When I think back to all the things I have bought and not used or liked it makes me feel a bit sick. I have been reckless with my money. Having a budget and not shopping for the last 30 days has really shown me just how reckless and impulsive I can be. When I did not have the option to shop I had to get creative by using what I already had or borrowing items from other people. The budget showed me how many things I could go without and taught me to prioritize what was important or what I could forgo. By not buying frivolous things I allow myself the opportunity to have funds for important things. Instead of looking at budgeting as a hardship, I now see it enhances gratitude, wellbeing, and highlights what is important. The delayed gratification and the work it takes to budget and to have self-control with spending is worth the effort when it means I can have a financially stable future.