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

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.

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.

$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.

Toxic.

Less than two weeks into the new year and I am still going strong on my resolutions to:

  1. Be kinder and
  2. Take steps to create a more purposeful life.

In order to have a more meaningful life sometimes you add things to it and sometimes you take things away. This includes: people. You can still love and care about someone, even if they are toxic. Just because someone hurt you or does not add value to your life, does not mean you cannot care about what happens to them. In order to grow we need to let go of what is stunting us. Some relationships fill us up and some drain us. In the recent years for me, letting go of toxic relationships has pertained to friendships.

In all honesty, there are times I have been the toxic friend. The friend that is super negative, co-dependent, or too self-involved, even the friend that ditches out on their friends when they get into a romantic relationship. I have been the bad friend, the one who did not really listen when my friend needed me or did not stand up for them when I should have or even talked badly about them behind their backs. I wish I could say that I have never been a bad friend, but that would be a lie.

People have kicked me out of their lives, and rightfully so. I have gone through many phases in my almost thirty years on the planet and not all of them were good ones. The way I learned how to be a good friend was when I lost nearly all of them in High School and did not have any for a time. I learned to build friendships from the ground up. I have had many years to reflect and learn how to be a good friend as well as when to recognize when someone is not being one.

More recently, I had the unfortunate task of telling a friend that I was distancing myself from them because I felt their actions were hurtful, inappropriate, and overall toxic. As a lot of women I am sure, I was taught to “be nice”; To “play along”, “not make waves”, and not hurt people’s feelings- even if meant they trampled all over mine. This was grilled into my brain from a young age and is still ingrained into American society. Society sees a woman who stands up for herself as a bitch. When really standing up for yourself and others is the opposite of being a bitch, it is being kind. The truth can be hard to speak, but when we are honest with ourselves and honest with others it lifts this invisible weight from our shoulders.

As much as I love the idea of honesty, I hate the idea of confrontation. Confrontation is like a pap smear: really uncomfortable, but necessary. Also, once it is over it gives you a peace of mind. There is nothing I worry more about than hurting people I love, which is why I do not want to have to tell them the things they are doing are affecting me negatively. On the flip side, if I was hurting my friend and I did not know because they did not tell me then I would feel worse.

Being vulnerable and bringing up uncomfortable topics is hard. Staying quiet and being treated poorly is also hard. Sometimes we have to make a choice of which hard we are going to deal with. We should always be honest, but let us not interchange being honest with being cruel.

There is never an excuse to be cruel, even if the person “deserves it”. When opting out of a relationship that is depleting, telling a person how you feel should be well-intended. Nothing is more hurtful when someone says a cruel comment and then follows it up with “I am just being honest.” The person you may be revealing your feelings to may not even know that what they are doing is affecting you, so why be a dick about it? If you are a good friend then you should be able to reveal your feelings from a place of love. Being able to say honestly what and why something is bothering you with intention instead of frustration will clear the way for either a relationship to be mended or for a clean break. If the response to your heartfelt feelings is silence, defensiveness, or continued bad behavior then it is your cue to walk away and move on without that person.

I am done apologizing or making excuses for people’s poor behavior. The fear of toxic relationships in my life outweighs my fear of confrontation. If someone is doing something to harm me or others, I am going to speak up. If nothing comes from me revealing my feelings in a heartfelt way then I do not need to feel guilty for not bringing that person into the next chapter of my life. There is the cliche saying that “Life is too short.” Well it is. It is too short, too wild, and too damn precious to waste on someone who drains the joy out of it.

Sometimes working on the relationship is what is best and sometimes letting go is. Minimalism is about rigorously selecting what we take into our future to create a better life. This includes shedding the things and people who create a negative environment instead of a supportive one. Friends are of the few choices in life we get to make, so let us choose wisely.


New Year, Who Dis?

Year 2019 has began, meaning that 2018 is a fading memory. The new year brings with it hope and resolutions for the future. Vows to get in shape, travel, volunteer, change careers, meet someone or leave someone, learn a new skill, etc. are made as promises to ourselves that this is the year will be different and we will become our best selves.

I try not to make any sweeping declarations of what I intend to change for the upcoming year. Usually when I do, I end up failing halfway through the first day of January. Example is telling myself I am going to stop eating junk food and workout, but then end up spending the day on the couch, nursing a hangover with a burrito the size of an infant.

In this moment it feels as though nothing in my life has changed the past year, but when I pause and really think about where I was January 1st, 2018 I realize so much has. I quit my dead-end job and opted for one that is pushing (and sometimes shoving) me out of my comfort zone. I nourished relationships with acquaintances this past year and those people are now some of my closest friends. I have also started being more honest and setting boundaries, telling people if/when they hurt me and separating myself from those who do not care that they do. I have also challenged myself to try new things and have stuck with those challenges and pressed on, even if it was hard (ahem, hiking to Everest base camp for example).

In 2018 I chose to forgo social media for 30 days. In this short span I noticed changes in my attitude and mental health stemming from cutting the excess that was making me feel inadequate. After discussing what I learned with a friend over brunch, she encouraged me to try to add or eliminate more things from my life for 30 days at a time. She even agreed to join me on the journey. So this year, I will do multiple challenges for 30 days at a time to either introduce things into my life that will add value or take away things that weigh it down. These challenges are meant to be (baby) steps into creating habits that will enhance my well-being and aid in curating the life I want.

The month of January I will be doing yoga every day for 30 days straight. There is a Youtube channel I subscribe to that does “Yoganuary” for the past two years in January. The instructor releases a new video every day for the month of January with yoga power, flow, or even just meditation sessions.. This allows me to do yoga in my living room where only my dog can judge me. There will also be some classes in my community that I will join throughout the month so I can experience yoga with live instructors and other humans. I just completed today’s Youtube session in my living room and am looking forward to the next 29 days of yoga. For this month I can honestly tell people that I do yoga instead of just pretending I do yoga but really just wearing yoga pants while watching Netflix on my couch.

So cheers to the new year and all the victories (and spectacular failures) it will hold. May you be taking steps, big or small, towards curating a more meaningful life this year. Please follow me as I stumble and fall flat on my bum, attempting to live this year with purpose. There are bound to be many incidents, but nevertheless I (and I hope you as well) will get back up and keep moving forward. Cheers to 2019!

30 Days Social Media Free

socialmedia

For the whole month of November, 2018 I took a hiatus from social media. For the past year it has become increasingly obvious that I had a problem with overusing social media apps and they in turn, wreaking havoc on my mental health. The moment I opened my eyes in the morning I would reach for my phone and just start scrolling. I put off chores, workouts, and other obligations in lieu of watching people post pictures of their breakfast or post about their 5th pregnancy. At night, I would turn the lights off and stick my head under the covers (so my husband would not see the light from my screen) and keep scrolling until I passed out (phone still in hand). I constantly woke up feeling tired, unrefreshed, and my mood and self-esteem were consistently low.

I did not make the connection that the reason for my fatigue and mental “fog” was due to my overuse. The blue-light screen plus hours of viewing other people’s lives instead of living my own is a potent combination. The weekend would come and I would have plans to clean, take the dog to the park, or have brunch with friends and instead would get sucked into my phone and then half the day would be gone. I would also find myself in despair after seeing all the exciting things people posted about their lives, homes, travels, and then I would feel inadequate about my own. Instead of getting off the couch and feeling inspired to create a life that I wanted, I would feel discouraged and spend the rest of the day moping around thinking “My life is never going to be that good, so why even try?”

The most memorable comparison I recall was being in Shanghai, China and was scrolling through social media and saw someone was in Patagonia, Chile and I thought to myself: “Wow, I wish I was there.” I was in the arguably the most vibrant, exciting city in the world and yet I was longing to be somewhere else just because someone posted how incredible their trip was going. Not to mention I was spending my trip on social media instead of soaking in the present city. I had to scold myself when I realized I was jealous of a person I barely knew’s trip when I was on a trip some people will only ever dream of.

That is when I decided I had enough. I decided to put a stop to feeding my spirit with things that were causing more harm than benefit. I decided for 30 days I was going to end the cycle of abuse I created for myself. I decided for the month of November to delete all my social media apps (including Pinterest and Poshmark, both of which I spent hours mindlessly scrolling through) off my phone and to not use them at all for 30 days.

The first week was the hardest for me. At night I wanted to come home from work and escape with social media. I went on a trip to Seattle the second week and had to stop myself from putting the photos I took on my feed. In the first two weeks, I constantly felt “the itch”. The itch was the feeling of need to reach for my phone and click onto my apps, which occurred multiple times a day. My hand felt almost naked without a phone in it (however, my thumb pain from scrolling improved). It was a habit I created that did not want to die.

Finally, around week two, I started noticing the benefits. I was sleeping better and waking up more refreshed, because previously I was up odd hours of the night on my phone. I started to feel less despondent about my life and more grateful. I really did not have a lot to compare it to so the choices I made or the things I experienced were not influenced by what the rest of the world was doing. I was more present with my husband and friends because I was not too busy playing on my phone. By the last week, I did not even miss being on social media. There are still apps I currently have not logged into since I deleted them.

Social Media, like most things, has its perks and flaws. Its perks are that is allows us to stay connected with the people we love, to market businesses, to share art, to meet new people, etc. Its flaws are that it keeps us from enjoying the present, distracts us from getting things done, encourages us to compare ourselves to others, to buy more things, and it promotes FOMO (fear of missing out) when we see with one click what everyone else is doing at that exact moment and wish we were there instead of here.

Life is not always sitting on a beach in Cancun, drinking margaritas topless. Sometimes it is standing in the messy kitchen, wishing for a nap, but instead yelling at your dog to stop barking, threatening that if he does it one more time you are going to throw him in the street. Sometimes it is sitting in your cubicle at work all day, trying to get through the hours so you can go home, flop on the couch and scroll through Netflix. Life is not always glamorous. For the most part it is not social media worthy. So why do we make it seem like it is?

Seems to be so much effort to make it look like life is a constant orgasm. We buy things we cannot afford to make it seems like our lives are more luxurious than they are. We travel places only to take pictures to show others that we went there and to make them jealous that they are not. We spend our time editing, brightening, styling, and cropping our lives so that they fit in a tiny square photo waiting to get approval from others by the amount of “likes” received

It is okay that sometimes I spend Friday nights watching television with my husband on the couch while other people are out at concerts, dancing and drinking with their friends. It is okay that I am not always #livingmybestlife and am riddled with anxiety and my house is a mess and I have a pimple the size of Texas on my chin while at the same time other people are in Spain on a yacht, making love to a buff guy named Enrique. It is okay because it is my life- real life. Sometimes real life is just okay, and that’s okay. Frankly, I am just glad to finally be living it.