But Really Though, I’m doing Sober October (kind of)

Happy Sober October friends!

If you are not a millennial and have no idea what Sober October is, all you need to know is that people have made a hashtag out of not drinking for the month of October.

The purpose of being sober differs for everyone but the hashtag allows participants to motivate one another and hold themselves accountable. I am unintentionally participating in Sober October because a couple months ago Brenton and I cut back on drinking. We went from drinking on a Friday or Saturday night to grabbing a drink with a friend maybe once a month. We did this because we realized that alcohol wasn’t doing us any good. As much as I love a nice glass of wine (and will still enjoy the occasional glass) cutting back on drinking has benefited me in multiple ways. I wanted to share those benefits with you just in case you needed that extra motivation to take an alcohol break. 

Reduced Anxiety

As someone with generalized anxiety I’ve learned that alcohol (and caffeine) are some of my worst triggers. Having a couple glasses of wine can take me from having a good time to worrying about the wildest things. I recently learned that having enough alcohol to feel like you had a drink the next morning (even if you aren’t hungover) can escalate anxiety for another 7 days. So while we were drinking two glasses of wine once a week I was basically escalating my anxiety and letting it simmer back down just to bring it back up again. Eliminating alcohol has not *fixed* my anxiety by any stretch of the imagination but it has helped reduce triggers. An added bonus is now that I don’t get drunk, I don’t get hangovers which means I no longer get anxiety induced shame-overs (if you don’t know what a shame-over is consider yourself lucky). 

Better Sleep 

I am awful at falling asleep. If I keep my sleep hygiene impeccable I still struggle to fall asleep at night. Adding alcohol to this mix was not helping. The nights we drank we usually stayed up later which caused me to sleep in the next morning breaking my normal bedtime/wake time routine. By cutting out alcohol I’ve been able to get myself in bed WAY before midnight every night and I wake up within an hour or two of my normal weekday wake time. 

Time Management

I honestly did not realize I wasted SO much time drinking and watching TV. We would get stuck in these mindless TV rabbit holes until the early hours of the morning. Now that I am able to keep myself to my weekday wakeup time I’m immensely more productive during the weekend. Eliminating alcohol has changed how I spend my free time and so far that allowed me to tap into my more creative side, work on personal passion projects and be conscious about my veg time. 

*Honorable mention to my skin clearing up. Now I’m not saying I’ll never drink again.

Honestly, I still have the occasional glass of wine or margarita if I feel like it but so far the pros of not drinking outweigh the cons. As someone who doesn’t drink at work events I can promise you that in a healthy work environment no one will care or notice if you decide to skip the booze and go for a soft-drink or water. So, even if you’re a few days late to the party – are you giving Sober October a try? 

But Really Though, I’m Addicted to Plants

Welcome to my Apartment Gardening Adventure!

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I have a plant problem (read: addiction). What started as a few succulents and an annual purchase of a mini Christmas tree at Trader Joe’s has rapidly morphed to a collection of green children.

I think this might all be my mother’s fault. She is a plant fanatic and has an amazing garden. She has gone so far as to dig up bulbs from my grandmother’s garden to plant at home. Then again, maybe she got it from her mother and we are just a family with an affinity for horticulture. Either way, I’m all in on plants. 

My new children are: 

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Prayer plant & my new favorite candle from Bath & Body Works.

Prayer plant: my Granny always had one of these in her back bedroom and I was mesmerized by the movement it makes throughout the day. It is also pet friendly which makes it perfect for our home. 

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I solely picked this plant based on it being dog friendly & pretty. No regrets.

Tradescantia Zebrina: I found this plant on Bloomscape and it just looked fun. I’m a big fan of its purple leaves. It’s also happy with low light and is pet friendly so another win in our book. 

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Found this snake plant at my local nursery where I accidentally bought more fertilizer instead of potting soil…

Snake plant: recent purchase but another pet friendly houseplant. I liked this guy because he was little enough for a shelf but long enough to make a statement. I purchased him at our local nursery. 

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House plant in the back with my poor sweet marigold & vinca prior to their untimely demise.

Houseplant: honestly no idea what this guy is called but I like how he looks. I do not think he is pet friendly so he lives up on the bathroom counter where corgi paws cannot reach.

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Fun fact: my first orchid fell in a toilet and continued to live for another year..they are resilient af.

Orchid: I usually buy an orchid every time we move. The last one we had was from a farmers market and died during the SB fires but this one seems to be doing just fine.  

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Pearls on the far left, Trader Joe’s succulents in the middle and poor marigold & vinca prior to their demise due to me buying the wrong potting soil.

Succulents: My only, surviving, outdoor plants right now. They prefer to be ignored and honestly that’s the best kind of plant in my opinion. 

Pearls: they get their own honorable mention because they are so fun looking. 

Lavender (not pictured): I joined our local nursery and bought a lavender…Brenton then dropped it on its head but one week in its looking okay! I’ll give an update once we know if I have killed it with my plant murdering brown thumb in a week or so. 

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Prior to its untimely death this is my marigold.
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And here is poor, dying vinca.

Vinca & Marigold: These were the cutest flowers I bought but they did not survive. See photos for evidence. 

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Famer Herman checking on his crops.

Honestly, houseplants are the best. I set a weekly reminder to water my houseplants & succulents and occasionally spray them with water if they look a little dry. I’m loving how the greenery improves my mood and that they help clear the air in the house. Any suggestions for what plants I should try next? 

Booksmart was the Best Movie of Summer 2019

I left the theater after seeing Booksmart and immediately texted my best friends from High School that I loved them.

Booksmart is a film that as soon as it’s finished, you immediately want to watch again. It is raw and honest commentary about the harsh reality of being a teen in today’s world and the importance of having a solid grasp on who you are. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a beautiful balancing act between the pain and humor of being an overachieving teenager. Wilde’s selection for the stars of the film, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, deliver an unbridled, honest, look into the life of Type A students and best friends. At first glance the plot appears to be about two high school seniors who were all work and no play utilizing their last night in high school to let loose; but after the opening scene it is revealed that this is more than a movie about high schoolers realizing they should have partied more. It’s about the importance of female friendships and how our self-judgement affects our relationships. 

Booksmart highlights the negative impact of holding other people to our standards without their consent. Beanie’s character, Molly, is self-assured, brilliant and wickedly funny but she lacks the ability to comprehend life from any point of view outside of her own. Kaitlyn Dever’s character, Amy, is her trusted bff, through thick and thin, who has dreams and goals of her own that she is afraid to share with Molly. On the very last day of school Molly learns that all the students she wrote off as dumb or partiers were just as successful as she was at getting in to good schools. Molly decides to correct this narrative by going out to the last day of school parties, and like it or not, Amy is joining her. 

The girls stumble through multiple parties, strange cab rides, adventures with their favorite teacher and high school level awkward situations. The highlight of their adventures is the omni-present Gigi. Wealthy, wishy washy, very abrupt and unpredictable – Gigi is the human embodiment of a triple Aquarius; weird in all of the best ways. Billie Lourd delivers Gigi as the alien of the high school, who can only cause a little harm, and serves as our protagonists’ sherpa on their adventures. 

I don’t want to ruin the rest of the movie for you if you have not seen it (idk what you are waiting for, STREAMING NOW!) but it is undeniably the best movie of Summer 2019.  It is not your average teenage makeover movie. There is not a dressing room montage scene (though there is a getting ready scene that involves blue jumpsuits). There isn’t even a magical hair style redo. Booksmart is a high school film that focuses on the power of female friendship, the importance of knowing who you are and allowing others to do what’s right for them. I IMPLORE you to go see it. If you already have, let me know what you think in the comments! 

I’m Ditching Diet Culture

I’ve made a major fitness mistake; I’ve been actively participating in diet culture.

Dietician Christy Harrison defines diet culture as a system of beliefs that worships thinness, promotes weight loss, demonizes certain foods and oppresses people that don’t match others picture of health. Diet culture is an oppressive fatphobic, food-phobic system. It teaches us that juice cleanses, 1200 calorie diets and excessive macro tracking are the only ways to be happy in your body. Diet culture is a joy thief. 

As someone who loves exercise and the fitness industry, I have fallen hard into the clutches of diet culture. I tried to become a booty builder and eat 1gram of protein per body weight. Then, I followed all the fitspo’s and copied their diets. Debated going vegan just to be part of the vegan body-builder movement. I #mealprepped and yet, none of it ever made me happier. Movement improved my mood but obsessing over what or when I ate never made my life feel full; instead it made eating in to a chore. 

Anti Diet Influencers

I’ve been sitting with this uncomfortable feeling towards diets trying to determine my next move.  It wasn’t until I saw one of my favorite booty builders Madalin Giorgetta go anti-diet culture that I realized I needed to dig deeper into this. Sad to say but it wasn’t until I saw an influencer, who had made most of her fame off of the fitness industry and being conventionally pretty (that I love and follow), throw it all away for this message. Her willingness to shake up her life for this message encouraged me to dismantle diet culture. Through her influence I realized that I have thin privilege. I will never be rejected from a job for being too fat. As someone with this privilege I need to use voice to speak out against diet culture and fatphobia. 

This sounds like a mission so to frame learning experience I’ve tasked myself with answering these questions: 

  • What does health/wellness mean? And why do we associate diets with health?
  • Why are we afraid of “fat”? What does fatphobia look like in our everyday lives?
  • Is body neutrality better than body positivity? 

Want to come on this journey with me? Let me know in the comments. 

Movement as Medicine – Move Your Body a Little

Movement as medicine and trying the Feldenkrais method. 

At 10:30am on a Saturday morning Brenton willingly accompanied me to a dance studio. Why? So we could try a Feldenkrais class. Feldekrais method is a movement class focused on moving your body in the most natural way. I highly recommend starting your day with a class like this if you can; it was so relaxing. 

This class, which revolves around small movements and lying on the floor, triggered a breakthrough for my relationship with movement. Little movements are just as important so we can use movement as medicine for our bodies and minds. Want to reap the benefits of movement? Carry on reading! 

Movement as medicine for the body. 

I have chronic upper back pain. What started as a tweaked shoulder at 18 has turned into years of massage therapy, doctors visits and tiger balm. I’m not a doctor, but I did notice my pain increased anytime I stopped working out completely. After doing a little research I’ve discovered that 80% of adults will experience back pain. According to the ACA one of the best ways to combat and prevent back pain is to move (“Motion is Lotion” is my new favorite catch phrase from this research). While lying on the floor in our Feldenkrais class the instructor reminded us that our movements did not need to be big, they needed to feel smooth and natural. I love the imagery this provides. When you move your body in a way that feels smooth, and only to the point where it is easy to return to your starting point, you are providing lotion to your tight muscles and joints. 

Not only is there some valid commotion about motion and our joints but there’s also validity in the importance of movement and our immune systems. According to this study as little as a 20 minute walk can boost your immune system. What I love about this is that it proves that small and slower motions are beneficial for the body. You don’t have to run a half-marathon to reap the benefits of movement in your body. 

The Feldenkrais Method

During a Feldenkrais class you dive in to the fundamentals of movement by laying on the floor and being lead through small movements, starting with the neck and moving down to the soles of the feet. The instructor had us go from moving one segment of the body to moving multiples at the same time. An example of this would be laying on the floor with your feet planted and your knees towards the ceiling, then moving your head one way and your legs another. With each movement we were told to focus on how our bodies felt; was it easier to move our legs and head to the left or right? How far over could we take our knees before we had to start using extra force? We built from there but the premise was the same, small, natural movements. 

Movement as medicine for the mind. 

Focusing on movement has changed my physical body significantly but it has changed my mental health even more. I find slow movement, like this Feldenkrais class or Yin yoga, excruciating at times because I JUST WANT TO WIGGLE AND MOVE. The small movements force me to live presently, and notice the smallest changes in my balance and focus. Classes like this are meditation for those of us who struggle to sit still. It’s amazing for my nervous system and creativity. 

My one true movement love will always be high intensity exercise. Whether its weight lifting, HIIT, or plyometrics creates dopamine, serotonin and all the happy hormones. This is amazing for my mental health because as Elle Woods said “happy people don’t kill their husbands”. 

Let’s move! 

So, have I convinced you? Assuming you have the privilege of being able to move, try moving! Go for a run, a walk, or just stand for 5 minutes in your house. Do it if you can and let me know how you feel! 

South and West by Joan Didion

I love Joan Didion’s writing style.

I’m going to preface this by saying non-fiction is not usually my jam unless it is a memoir written by a hilarious women (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Anna Kendrick, etc..). Reality is pretty bleak most of the time so I prefer to escape into a book that stretches my imagination and pushes me out of the normal day to day. But, I made an exception because Joan Didion is a literary goddess.

If you have not had the pleasure of reading one of Didion’s novels I’ll give you the cliff notes intro to Joan. She writes in a direct yet lyrical manner. She can make the mundane sound beautiful without removing the fact that it is still mundane. I’ll give you a little excerpt from the West section of the book:

“I am at home in the West. The hills of the coastal ranges look “right” to me, the particular flat expanse of the Central Valley comforts my eye. The place names have the ring of real places to me. I can pronounce the names of the rivers, and recognize the common trees and snakes. I am easy here in a way that I am not easy in other places.”

How gorgeous is that prose? It gives me chills and makes me feel at home at the same time.

Now that we are all caught up let’s dig into the book. South and West is a collection of journal entries from when Joan traveled to the Gulf Coast in 1970 and to San Francisco in 1976. The portion on the South is well over ⅔ of the book and it is mesmerizing. As a rebel by nature she commentates from the perspective of a baffled but genuinely curious Californian. Her commentary on the Gulf is heart wrenching, upsetting and wildly uncomfortable for me to read because there’s a level of acceptance at cultural stagnation.

What I loved about the South section was that she was able to observe the culture and people of this new geographic location while being true to herself. She does not give into the patriarchal society that constantly asks about her husband. Her husband is rarely mentioned in these notes; she aims her focus at the places they travel and conversations she overhears. At the end of South she has painted the picture that the Gulf is a tragic marshland, filled with creatures that would terrify tourists if they weren’t on display and with people who hold tightly to their status quo even if it is to their detriment.

The portion on the West is much shorter. It’s like a love letter to the state Didion called home for her formative years. Didion’s notes are speckled with self-awareness. She includes details on what her normal was as a child which juxtaposes the idyllic childhood of the South through access to cultures alone. California is painted as a place deep with history but without the same reverence behind it. Cultural trends come and go without much consideration for who they leave behind.

I absolutely loved reading through these notes for two pieces she never wrote. Her succinct tone in combination with her ability to identify the toxic symptoms of two cultures without coming off as callous is pure magic. The sections unintentionally explain America as a whole. The South is tied so deeply to their roots they are willing to sink in to the marsh with them and the West is untethered, willing to float off with the next exciting idea. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories from the view of an observer with heavy social commentary.

Have you ready any Didion? If so, what do you think of her style?

Fitness Program Review: I Tried Natacha Oceane’s CUT

I’ve flirted with many fitness programs. I’ve tried PIIT28, BBG, instagram booty builder workout splits (no judgement on these, they gave me some of my best results prior to this program), yoga and everything in between. Over the last couple years I have fallen in love with the weight room because of the results it gave me.

My newfound love of weight lifting led to started following fitness influencers. One of my absolute favorites is Natacha Oceane. As a former gymnast, I am a huge fan of plyometric movements to get my heart rate up and Natacha emphasizes plyo. After following Natacha on instagram I began throwing in a few of her functional or plyo moves in to my workouts with B. He tolerated them, so after a few months of adding box jumps and HIIT to our split we decided to take the jump and purchase Natacha’s 10 week CUT fitness program.

CUT is marketed as a program that will help you burn fat, gain muscle and not jeopardize your metabolism. I personally was interested in this program because I want visible abs and this seemed like my best option (Natacha is absolutely ripped!). After completing this program for the first time I do not have visible abs but I have gained strength and did not have to change my eating habits at all.

CUT is a unique fitness program. The workout split is broken down in five workouts, with an optional and a mandatory rest day. The workouts are broken into plyometrics, upper body & HIIT, lower body, total body and HIIT. Each week the moves in the workouts change but the pattern stays the same. These workouts are KILLER and the upper body & HIIT day is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. My favorite thing about these workouts is the variety. A total body day can go from pull ups, to jumping lunges, to push ups without skipping a beat. I get bored by doing the same moves every week so I loved that the variety kept me going through the 10 week program.

To complete CUT I had to purchase the following items because my gym did not have them.

**The following links are Amazon affiliate links.

Long Loop Resistance Bands

Needed for pull up assistance, glute kick backs, etc.

Barebell Pad

My gym does not have these available and without them I refuse to do hip thrusts

Cons

There are only two cons to CUT as a fitness program.

The first is that you have to have an hour or more to dedicate to the gym for each workout. This is great for endurance but can be difficult when you work a regular job.

The other complaint I have is that I was constantly running across the gym for the next move. I was running from squat rack, to a plyo corner, to leg press, then back to the squat rack for most of the workouts. This is fine if you go to the gym at 6am (like we usually do) or in the middle of the day BUT if you have to work out during peak hours this does not work. The few times B and I had to go to the gym after work we had to switch up the order we did the moves in so we could utilize equipment while it was open.

Contrary to my complaints I absolutely LOVED CUT and am already jumping back into it for a second round! Have you tried CUT or another workout program that you love?

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I’m a Gamer

Okay, so I lied. I am not a huge gamer, especially when it comes to single player games, but recently I’ve fallen in love with Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee! on the Nintendo Switch.

As I mentioned before, I’m not good at playing alone. If I am going to do a solitary activity it is usually passive. My favorite solitary activities are reading, taking baths, watching Youtube and scrolling through Instagram when I should be doing something else. Doing something interactive with a computer is not usually my jam I would much rather hang with humans (or Herman).  

Normally, when I play video games I get stressed. The gamer life is not ideal for my anxiety ridden self. Having to make real time decisions in a virtual world is overwhelming; isn’t it bad enough we have to do that in reality? As a pacifist in reality and virtual realities, I would much rather watch someone play a fighting game then play it myself.

But lately, this has all changed. I’ve become a Pokémon addict (dare I say, MASTER). Granted, I think a lot of my enjoyment comes from the sense of nostalgia since I loved watching the show as a child. But within DAYS of purchasing the game I had spent well over 24 hours with my Eevee. In true gamer style I struggled to put it down. I managed to find the game relaxing, entertaining and methodical much like the old Pokémon games we all played on Nintendo

What makes this game so calming to me is that battles are all turn based, meaning that I have time to plan my next move instead of just pressing random buttons and hoping I manage to hit my opponent. I find the story, especially the time spent exploring the cities and talking to other characters, engaging and exciting. My favorite part of the game is going on mini adventures to help townspeople in the places my Eevee and I visit.

There’s also a charming method to the game. In every city Eevee and I visit, we explore, go to the Pokémon gym and get a new Pokémon. The method to completing the game is very intuitive and it is literally impossible to do it wrong.My favorite aspect is that you can PET YOUR EVEE and it will give you presents. It’s like having a tamagotchi that doesn’t need to be fed or a furby that doesn’t yell at you to rock it to sleep in the middle of the night. I named my Eevee Herman, after our dear sweet corgi boy, and nothing brings me more joy than simultaneously petting Herman irl and Herman the Eevee at the same time.I will note that this game is designed for children which makes it the most fun for adults like myself who are not well versed in the video game tricks.

I am absolutely loving this game and struggle to put it down each night. I highly recommend this game to anyone who wants to try video games but isn’t ready for something fast paced. If you’re in possession of a Nintendo Switch and want something mellow and enjoyable give this a try and let me know what you think. Now I got to go, Herman needs some virtual pets!

Resolutions

Setting my goals for 2019 has allowed me to reflect on the last four years and how much my life has changed. My first couple years as a fully functioning college graduate were exhausting. In 2015-2016 I had no idea what I was doing or how anyone got to the point where they did not dread going to work everyday. I had no idea what I enjoyed or even who I was. I did not physically or mentally recognize myself. So in late 2016 my cousin and I started this blog and I thought of the project as an adventure to find something that brought me joy. My blogging partner restructured her priorities early 2017 so I decided to keep the platform and use it as a way to keep myself accountable for my 2017 goals of love and creativity as well as write about whatever the fuck I felt like that week. I desperately needed structure and to focus on myself so as part of my new year’s resolution in 2017 I set myself monthly goals and documented them here.

Flash forward to today and I am in a much better place. I live in a city that I love, with the same boy that I love and our baby boy that we love obsessively (please don’t tell him he’s a dog, he has no idea!) I’m more confident (thank you Sarah Knight for the Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck), I’m capable of so much more love, and I am insanely grateful for the hard work I have put in to be in this happier and healthier position.

In 2018 I set myself the goals of exercising frequently (done), meditating daily (I still missed days throughout the year but I definitely solidified the habit), reading and writing more (highly recommend this goal to anyone who is a former bibliophile looking for some joy in their lives), and living at my own pace with intention (a work in progress but it triggered a lot of self reflection and growth). Last January I specifically set myself the goal of finding new doctors in the city and completing the YWA January yoga challenge. I am happy to report that I now have a doctor for every aspect of my life and I am ecstatic to begin another YWA January yoga challenge this Tuesday.

I spent the last part of this year ruminating in the growth. I cultivated for myself being grateful for all of my progress and now I am ready for fresh goals and new breakthroughs as well as maintaining my progress. Ready for my newest goals?

In 2019 I want to:

  • Be present and patient with myself and others.
  • Shut down my chronic imposter syndrome and self doubt.
  • Continue my self care through the gym, yummy food, yoga, and meditation.
  • Continue working on non-career related milestones like reading, writing, dancing, tumbling, and community service. (Please sound off in the comments or DM the insta with any suggestions on this!)
  • Learn conversational Spanish.

The last one may be ambitious but what’s life without a challenge! Are you ready for the new year? Leave some of your goals in the comments!

Gift Guide for the Fitness Inclined

Oh the weather outside is frightful and your Christmas shopping list is not delightful so to make your shopping less stressful, read below read below read below!

Happy Holidays! I know the most wonderful time of the year is usually synonymous with the most stressful time of the year so to ease some of your shopping discomfort I’ve come up with a list of gifts that are budget friendly, easy to buy & will still have time to be delivered gift guide for any fitness lover in your life. I love giving people items that are cute & useful in their day to day life especially if they are setting intentions of practicing healthy habits in the new year. 

**All links in this blog post are affiliate links

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Resistance Bands!

Resistance bands & hip circles are the new cool kids at the gym. The instagram fitness community swears by these, especially if you need a way to up your leg day without upping the weight you are lifting. I’m a huge fan of these and for under $25 they are a thoughtful gift for your gym friend who’s trying to build a booty!

Leggings!

Queenie Ke makes amazing gym & budget friendly leggings. I have a black pair of these that I hold to the same caliber as my Gymshark leggings.

Gym Bag!

Any gym goer knows how much of a pain it can be to carry your water bottle, keys, IDs, warm-up clothes & whatever else you deem necessary for your workout. A nice gym bag is an amazing gift that can be both cute and functional. You can get creative and buy one in a fun color or stick to the classics like I did.

Water Bottle!

Single use plastic is out and cute reusable bottles are in. A reusable water bottle is a great gift because regardless of how many someone owns you can always use an extra. I chose this one because it was cute, well priced and BPA free.

Yoga Mat

Yoga mats are the BEST gifts. You can never have too many! Depending on what flooring I’m on I’ll use two at a time to cushion my achy old gymnast body. Bonus: they’re super cute!

Hope this helps anyone with a last minute shopping list that is a mile long! Let me know in the comments what your favorite fitness item is! Happy shopping!