Put more life into your time

I planned to get a blog post written earlier in the week, but life happened (as it does) and I was delayed. This year, 2019, I am working on putting more life into my time, rather than lifehacking and multitasking and rushing to get more time into my life.

snail

This week, that looked like not working out. Because I made sure to get enough sleep, to rest a sore shoulder, and to be there for someone who needed me.

This week, that looked like practicing putting down my fork between bites and making sure to chew my food. Because I don’t have to eat so fast I can barely taste my food for the sake of getting back to work as quickly as possible.

This week, that looked like spending a few hours cutting bits of magazines out and pasting them to canvas. Because I’ve had a project in mind for weeks and I finally let it be okay to be “frivolous.”

I made homemade vegan mozzarella cheese and a homemade pizza this week, because I didn’t prioritize fast-easy-convenient. I prioritized trying something new. And it was delicious.

I hope this post finds you well and inspires you to take your time this next week.

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21 New Years Resolutions for Minimalists

Happy New Year!

dreams

At a time when most of us are plotting the course to become a Totally New Me, I’d like to remind you all that you are doing great already. You’re enough, just as you are, and you don’t need to lose 50 pounds or get a boyfriend or achieve a certain level of income to be loved or worthy or enough. That said, New Years Resolutions don’t have to be about absolute life changes. You might find that if you focus on small lifestyle focus areas, you’ll reap large-scale rewards. I’ve put together a list of minimalist resolutions to help you simplify your life and focus on what matters most to you.

A look back

Take a moment to reflect on the year behind you. I can say for certain that when I was approaching 2018, I could not have predicted anything that was about to change for me. In 2018, I realized I was living half a life in an abusive marriage, so I left. In 2018, I lost my stepdad. In 2018, I cut contact with loved ones who damaged my mental health. In 2018, I socialized and made new friends and developed two healthy and loving romantic relationships. In 2018, I discovered a new favorite restaurant. In 2018, I accepted a book deal and wrote a book. It was a BIG. YEAR.

Related: MarketWatch – What to do when your best year at work is your worst year at home

Self reflection and goal setting

To help you reflect on your year in review and find the areas you want to work on for the next year, I recommend finding a few minutes to focus and reflect. This guide can help you out with guided questions and printable sheets to brainstorm.

First, reflect:

  • Did you achieve your resolutions and goals in 2018?
  • Do you have unfinished 2018 projects? Why?
  • Did you take time in 2018 to make a plan for your goals? Did you give yourself the time and resources needed to accomplish your goals?

Then, prepare:

  • Set clear, definable goals with measurable progress and success
  • Think about how you’ll react if you don’t achieve your goals
  • Decide how you’ll motivate yourself to reach your goals

Decide on the areas you want to improve, and then focus your goals on those key areas. The smallest consistent actions can create big improvements.

On to the resolutions

Depending on your areas of focus, here are some resolutions you may be able to adjust to your needs for 2019!

Career

  • Get in early. Resolve to arrive at your desk 15 minutes early this year. Having a few minutes to slowly get your mind into work-mode will leave you feeling more productive and less rushed. This doesn’t mean spend an extra 15 minutes working! Spend this time to close your eyes, set an intention for your work day, and get ready to work.
  • Update your resume. The simple act of updating your resume and polishing your personal brand can help remind you of your skills and make you feel more confident. You don’t even have to look for a new job if you don’t want to – just looking at your credentials and experience on paper is a great reminder of how you’re doing in your career.
  • Learn more. Resolve to read a book or take a webinar or workshop related to your career on a regular basis this year. Check out resources like Lynda, which may be available for free through your local library. Lynda has courses about almost everything.

Physical Health

  • Go to bed. You need more sleep than you are getting, if you’re like most Americans. More rest means better health, regardless of how much you’re hitting the gym. Working out while your body is exhausted can set you up for injury and burnout, so prioritize getting your ZZZs. Try to keep a consistent bedtime and wake time to teach your body your new habits and rhythms.
  • Stretch daily. Rather than commit to a year-long weight loss goal that so few people achieve without a heap of negative self-talk, choose a simpler resolution. Wake five minutes earlier so that you can stretch before you start your morning routine, and perhaps you’ll see that just a small amount of movement can help naturally inspire more.
  • Hydrate. Resolve to drink enough water on a daily basis – this will have a huge and lasting impact on your health. You’ll have healthier digestion when your body is properly hydrated, and you’ll also notice healthier skin.

Mental Health

  • Go to therapy. If your medical insurance covers therapy, find a therapist! Even if you don’t feel like you need one. It can be extremely helpful to have someone to talk to who isn’t knee deep in your personal life. They’re a neutral third party and can help you find other areas of your life to work on.
  • Try mindfulness. Many apps are available to help guide a quick meditation during your day, or you could try keeping a daily journal to jot down some affirmations, intentions, and gratitude.
  • Add plants. Houseplants are one way to improve your mood and mental health. While they’re obviously no replacement for therapy or medication, being around plants and natural microbes found in soil can help boost the immune system as well as inspire joy and decrease symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Social Life

  • Say no. Minimalism is about what to exclude from your life moreso than it’s about what to include, including your schedule. Learn to say no to some social plans so that you can say yes to the ones you really want to attend, without burning yourself out or overscheduling.
  • Try a new place. If you’re a homebody who wants to try going out more, set yourself an easy goal like trying one new place or route per month.This could be going to a new cafe to read a book, visiting a different branch of your local library system, or even taking a different route on an afternoon walk. Just try something different.
  • Give compliments. I used to be pretty quiet in public places, always staying in the shadows while my sister rained rainbow sparkles of joy on everyone she crossed paths with. “Love your earrings!” “That dress looks great,” “Your hair is awesome,” etc. etc. etc. After I went on medication for depression and anxiety, I was less scared of being seen as weird in public by engaging with people I didn’t know. Now I love to tell a server that I love their eyeliner, or give props to a coworker for a job well done in our weekly meeting. Resolve to say something nice every day. It will change your whole outlook on life.

Generosity

  • Leave bigger tips. If you normally tip 20%, resolve to tip 25% at minimum in 2019. This is a great way to be generous and make a big impact with a small change to your current habits.
  • Support marginalized artists on Patreon. Find someone on Patreon who is marginalized in an area of life where you have privilege. Donate to them monthly for the entire year. (For example, if you’re a cisgender white person, donate to a transgender person of color).
  • Declutter for a cause. When you’re decluttering and minimizing in 2019, donate linens, business casual wear, formal dresses, unopened toiletries, non-perishable foods, etc. to local agencies, women’s shelters, and other charities that help people. Even stained or torn towels and linens can be donated to most animal shelters to be used as bedding or cleaning rags.

Finances

  • Minimize your budget. Go over your past few months of bank statements and see what you’re spending money on that you forgot about, don’t really use, or are not seeing a good return on. For me, this meant finally canceling my Beachbody Coach account. I kept it active long after I stopped selling workouts and shakes, because I got an occasional commission and felt like “passive income” was a good reason to keep it up. But I hated the clutter of my monthly budget, so I canceled it and freed up a whole segment of my budget that I no longer had to think about.
  • Go “No Spend.” Resolve to have a no-spend week or month a few times a year. During this time, use up items in your freezer and pantry, learn to do without online shopping for the period in question, and give homemade or pre-owned gifts to people if an occasion falls during your no-spend challenge.
  • Live on half. If at all possible, challenge yourself to live on half of what you make in order to achieve your savings or debt payoff goals as fast as possible. If you can’t live on half of what you make, challenge yourself to spend half as much as usual on something in your budget for a month.

Physical Environment

  • Donate once a month. Make a resolution to take (at least) one full box to the local donation center each month. This is a low-stress way to declutter and minimize all year long.
  • Try Project 333. This capsule wardrobe project challenges you to go three months with only 33 pieces of clothing and jewelry (undies and workout clothes excluded). This experiment can help inspire a closet makeover in your home and help reduce future spending on clothes, once you realize you don’t even wear most of what you have.
  • Commit to one area. Resolve to keep one small part of your home as minimal and simple as possible. Your minimalist save point. It could be a whole room, or it could be as simple as your desk or one nightstand in your bedroom. Just find one spot that you’ll keep to your minimalist standards on a daily basis all year. The joy of seeing it so nice will likely inspire a similar commitment to other areas of the home.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

13 Life Lessons from a Half Marathon

I recently did something way out of my comfort zone: I ran a half marathon. I spent weeks training, running miles and miles, preparing for this huge day. The day did not unfold ideally, but I learned a lot from the experience and hope any of you working on a fitness goal (whether or not it’s running-related), a business goal, or any goal can learn from my experience too. After all, it’s all about goals, progress, and pacing yourself.

shoes

  1. Ask for Advice: I spent a couple of hours in the days before my race browsing through Pinterest, asking in my running groups on Facebook, and chatting with a coworker who has run several half marathons to ask the very important question: What do I need to take with me for race day? The answers varied but they were all really helpful and helped me to prep a race day kit that had all of my needs covered. I could have made up my own kit and flown by the seat of my pants without too much hardship, but asking people who had been there before gave me different perspectives and things to consider that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. For example: A long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt from a thrift store that you don’t mind never seeing again. Many people tossed their sweats along the path to be collected later (many race organizers donate the unclaimed items), but I stalwartly tied my sweatshirt around my body to hang onto it. A volunteer took it for me at the halfway point and said it would be in the finisher’s tent — but when I realized I had forgotten it as I got back into my car after the race, I couldn’t have made my legs go back out there if I’d wanted to. Goodbye, sweatshirt — and thank you, people who have done this before me.
  2. Nothing New on Race Day: This was said to me several times as I asked for advice. Should I wear compression socks for the race? Should I try an electrolyte drink I had never tried before? Should I do this, or that? The answer was always the same: Nothing new on race day. With this advice in mind, I picked an outfit made up of clothes that fit comfortably and that I knew I could run in. I packed snacks I knew I could eat on the run without upsetting my stomach. I ate a typical post-run lunch when I finished (spoilers: it was Chipotle). This advice relates to many aspects of life. Going for a job interview? Don’t wear brand new makeup you might be allergic to, or new shoes that pinch you in ways you didn’t anticipate. Getting ready to pitch your boss for a promotion or raise? Stick with your usual communication style vs. an approach that’s recommended in a one-off article you read about negotiating at work. Wedding day? Don’t skip breakfast if you usually eat it, or eat something if you normally skip. When it comes to a big day you’ve prepared for… stick with your routine. The time to try a different approach comes later, when it’s not all on the line.
  3. Find a Focus: I like to focus on a positive affirmation when I am doing something new, or difficult, or anxiety-inducing. For this race, my ongoing messages to myself included “I trained to finish” and “Unafraid of toil.” More on training to finish in the #4, but “Unafraid of toil” is derived from the description of Hufflepuff house in the Harry Potter universe. No matter what you’re up against, having a go-to positive message can help you remind yourself that the stress is temporary and you’ll get through it.
  4. Done is Better Than Perfect: When I repeated to myself, “I trained to finish,” it was a reminder that I had trained to be able to run 13.1 miles. I didn’t train to do it fast, I didn’t train to win, I trained to finish. And finish I did – dead last. I was dead last from almost the beginning of the race, and I didn’t mind a bit. I got applause when I crossed the finish line and it was just for me! It was awesome to complete a run longer than anything I had done before — and though I was exhausted, sore, and cold from the rain, I was also proud of myself. No matter what project you’re working on, remember that done is better than perfect. Perfectionism will paralyze you into not even trying, because why bother if you’re not going to get it right, or be the best? I weigh over 200 pounds, I run a 15 minute mile, and I just completed a half marathon — you can do that thing that’s scaring you.
  5. Get Your Head in the Game: I was really distracted during my half marathon, because I had just dropped my husband off at the airport the day before and he wouldn’t be there to see me finish like we had initially planned. It was a sudden change of plans due to illness in the family, and I felt not only worried but guilty for being out doing this half marathon for myself when I felt I should have been at home babysitting the phone for bad news and crying. I did end up crying, when I passed the ten mile mark, making this my official longest run even if I hadn’t finished. But my husband adamantly wanted me to complete the race and would have been upset on my behalf if I had decided to quit before I started. “You trained for this, you deserve to run it,” he told me. He believed in me enough for the both of us and got me through the moments when I was out of my head. Stay in your head!
  6. Make a (Flexible) Plan: When I set out to do a half marathon, my planning went something like this: I’m going to do a 10K. I found a 10K race in early October. Better look up a 10K training schedule since I’ve never run that much before. Should I do a half? I found a half at the end of October. Can I train for a half with this 10K in the middle? OH MY GOSH I CAN! And thus began my plan. Things did not go according to plan, as I totally nailed the first week of training, started skipping cross training in week two, and had given up both cross training and yoga days by the third week. So I ran a few times a week for several weeks leading up to my 10K, and then the subsequent three weeks leading up to the half marathon I was in rare form. I ran four or five days a week, including a long run on the weekends (eight miles two weeks before the race, and ten miles the week before). I made it happen even when training didn’t go perfectly — but having the built-in reality check of that 10K assured that I would have to show up and put in the effort on my way to the big goal. You can break down any goal into manageable baby steps and just go one day at a time until you achieve it. (A 90-day goal setting planner like BestSelfCo can help you break down big goals into weekly and daily targets – use this referral link to get $10 off any purchase until 12/15/17).
  7. Hold Yourself Accountable: An accountability plan is crucial to achieving your goal, whether it’s a race or a debt payoff or getting your degree. I actually kept my half marathon goal pretty quiet, telling only a few close friends rather than making a big announcement on my social media pages. I did announce my 10K plan so that my sudden uptick in weekly runs didn’t rouse any suspicions, but I kept the half quiet because publicly sharing your goals can actually hurt your chances of achieving them. So when you’re working on a big goal, loop a few close friends in to help motivate and keep you accountable to your plan (pick the friends that will actually hold you to your word, not help you make excuses), but try keeping the big announcement to yourself until it’s done. You can also hold yourself financially accountable (like I did when I spent money on my race registration or like someone who commits to applying to college might pay their application fee, or like somebody might sign up to attend a conference or book a vacation they keep putting off).
  8. Make Things Fun: Finding a way to put a little pep in your step is always better than the alternative! When running, I like to listen to music or run with a friend so we can chat. Since I had no friends ready and willing to run a chilly, rainy half marathon with me at dark o’clock in the morning, I loaded up a playlist with over three hours of music and set on my merry way. My phone died after mile 11. See #6 to make a flexible plan, and pack a backup battery and charger if you’re going to be running multiple apps on your phone. I used Charity Miles and Map My Run as well as Spotify. For non-running goals and plans, you could build in rewards (a new lipstick for each week you declutter one room of the house, a three day weekend vacation when you pay off a credit card, etc.) to keep things interesting and engaging. Because slogging along with nothing fun to do is, well, no fun.
  9. Hydrate: Just, all the time. Go get some water. Yes, right now.
  10. Find Your Power Groove: You might have a song that gets you super pumped up, a snack that gives you energy (try Delish Fish!), or a time of day when you work at your most efficient and effective. Whether you’re running a race, writing a book, or painting a bedroom, take note of when and how you do your best work. While you can’t guarantee conditions on race day, you can make the most of the things you can control and keep yourself in a positive forward-moving state of mind and body.
  11. Know When to Quit: While I didn’t end up quitting the race, at the back of the pack you tend to acquire a helpful cop or two driving by slowly to ask if you’re okay. “Yep, I’m good,” you will say — but for a moment you might just think about hopping in the car and considering 11 miles as good enough. There is a time and a place to quit running — if you are injured, if you are over-exhausted (especially in the heat), if you are violently ill. And there is a time and a place to quit on other projects too — if your goals change and the project no longer makes sense, if you leave one job to start another, if you decide that you don’t even like zucchini anyway so who cares if you stop weeding the garden this summer (true story). Know when it’s okay to quit and do it with confidence — but make sure you do it for a reason you won’t second guess forever.
  12. Get Professional Help: Between my 10K and my half marathon, I hired a running coach via Thumbtack, which is a great resource to find local professionals for basically anything. He ran and walked with me for a mile or two, observing my gait and pace, answering my questions, and giving me practical tips to improve my training for the half marathon. His most important advice that I wouldn’t have figured out on my own: run more frequently. Rather than running three times a week, he advised me to run upwards of five or six times a week in order to effectively improve my pace. And it worked — when I started to run more often during the week, my pace improved and my long runs didn’t seem as arduous. When it comes to planning for a goal, you can probably figure a lot of it out by yourself. Or you could spend a little money and get a professional to help you get back the hours you’d spend researching and planning on your own. See a therapist, hire a business coach, even hire a freelancer to help you handle day to day tasks for an online business or website. There’s always someone who can help make it easier.
  13. You’re Competing With Yourself: My first lap of the half, I was behind these two older women who were literally power walking the whole time. And I was behind them until about mile 5. Five miles of constant running from the start line and I start telling myself, “Really, you can’t outrun the power walkers?” But then when I did catch up to them, it was time for my first snack break and a quick recovery walk. I chatted with them and they said they were so proud of me and I was doing a great job, and they loved my hair and my headband, and I was gonna do great. I went from envy to appreciation in no time. They wished me luck as I finally pulled ahead and onward before they finished their lap (they did the two person relay but did it together instead of one runner at a time). The second lap, I was on the heels of a young woman in a bright yellow jacket. Yellow Girl, I called her. She had been just ahead of me the whole race. At one point I caught up to her and pulled ahead. “Hi!” I said to her, excited for a little human contact. “Hi,” she said back, with less enthusiasm than I mustered. She pulled ahead and I didn’t catch her again. She finished a couple minutes ahead of me and I completed my half marathon in 3 hours and 23 minutes, dead last. And 100% victorious. Because I wasn’t racing Yellow Girl or the power walking ladies. I was proving I could run 13.1 miles. Success. Now I have a time to beat, because I will definitely be doing another half marathon, and I will be even more prepared.

A Choose-Your-Adventure 30 Day Self-Care Challenge

When I usually think of self-care, I think of weekend getaways (which I adore), mani-pedis (of which I have only had one in my entire life), and yoga classes (which are great, but spendy). But I also think of my evening baths “when I make the time” and my morning cup of coffee. Self-care doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t even have to cost much money.

I can more easily identify my ideal forms of self-care when I take the time to understand the choices I make that sabotage my efforts and goals. Like when I stay up much too late when I have to get up early, which in turn makes me skip exercise and reach for convenience foods or go out for lunch since I didn’t have time to pack – thus impacting my budget and my meal plan.

The opposite of this subconscious sabotage is having an evening routine to wind down (an epsom salt bath) with an early bedtime (by 9pm), thereby ensuring that I’m set up to do the things I do in the morning to care for myself.

Sometimes Self-Care Surprises You

I inadvertently upped my self-care game when an item I had been eyeing on Amazon was on sale for Prime Day a couple weeks ago. I bought a hammock for my front porch. The day it arrived, I set it up and spent over an hour in it with my laptop, working on a writing project. I used it every day for a week. Then I didn’t use it for a couple days and really missed it.

Relaxing in my hammock turned out to be what I needed to help me do lots of things, like:

  1. Reduce Distraction: When I am in the hammock, I have to go outside. So I’m not distracted by the TV or the cats getting into things or my phone ringing (when I choose to leave it inside). I do bring my laptop with me, which can be distracting, but not always, because it helps me…
  2. Write: I wrote every day for a week straight, partly in thanks to wanting to get outside into the hammock in the evenings. I always appreciate when my husband wants to spend time in the same room together, working on two different things, but the truth is that even just having him there can distract me, so it’s not always ideal if I’m on a deadline. The hammock allows me to get my work done (while relaxing and enjoying some alone time) so we can spend un-distracted quality time together at other times.
  3. Go Outside: It turns out it’s actually really nice to go outside and get some fresh air. I can even move the hammock around on the porch to get a little sunshine or stay in the shade. Our porch has some bushes in front so I have a pretty view of greenery, and I have a vague notion of getting a hanging basket or two to add some colorful flowers.

When I ordered the hammock, it wasn’t for self-care purposes. But it turned out to be just the self-care I needed. Sometimes I just go set it up for a few minutes to drink my morning coffee, which brings me to my next point.

Five-Minute Self-Care

The biggest challenge when prioritizing yourself is thinking that you don’t have the time. I understand. When self-care is driving to spend the afternoon with a friend, or take yourself to a movie, or go for an hour-long run, or take an evening bath, it seems like self-care takes up a lot of time. Time is something not everyone can spare in their busy schedule.

But what if self-care could take just five minutes?

What if self-care was five minutes you took in the afternoon to savor a square of high quality dark chocolate? It’s the ONLY thing you do for five minutes. That chocolate experience would be unlike the normal one of reaching for a candy bar and crushing it without even realizing it.

What if self-care was a five-minute guided breathing exercise that helps you center and prepare for your workday? Could you do it in your car in the parking lot before you go into the office?

What if self-care was a home-brewed cup of coffee in the morning, made before the rest of the family wakes up and starts needing you? Could you get up five minutes earlier to start this routine?

What if self-care was a yoga sun salutation in your pajamas before you make your bed? Just a quick check-in with your body to let it know you appreciate it and want to give it a good stretch to start the day.

Even people who don’t have time for self-care have five minutes. What could you do with yours?

#365DaysOfHammock

I’m committing to sit in my hammock for a minimum of five minutes per day, every day, for one year. And I’d like to invite you to join me.

Since not everyone has a hammock, the money for a hammock, or the space for a hammock, this is a choose-your-own-adventure self-care challenge. Commit to a five minute something that you can do for a whole year. It can be anything! It can be to read Harry Potter for five minutes a day, or to doodle or color for five minutes a day, or to meditate for five minutes a day.

But please, join me for five minutes. See what life looks like in a year when you give yourself five minutes.

I start my challenge tomorrow, because it turns out that July 22, in addition to being my sister’s birthday, is also National Hammock Day. You can start yours whenever you’re ready.

You can follow my hammock adventure on Instagram when you follow the #365DaysOfHammock tag. Look for me tomorrow!

What’s It Gonna Be?

Share your own five minute self-care challenge choice in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

PS. Mailing List in the Works!

I realize many of you want to subscribe to an email list, which I keep meaning to finish setting up on MailChimp. My goal is to have that set up by the end of July to share with you so I can keep in touch outside the blog!

 

 

 

Taking Back My Life

Coach Caitlin Reed has lost over 80 pounds in the last three years by making lifestyle changes with the help of Beachbody coaches and products.

Left, March 2012. Right, June 26, 2015.

Growing up, I was fat shamed. I routinely heard such sayings as “Okay, it’s YOUR body” (when I asked for a sugary snack), “How will you get a boyfriend when you eat like a pig?” “I’m going to put a voice recorder in your pocket on your first date to see if you burp; that’s disgusting,” and other such exciting phrases. We were made to eat our vegetables. Once, we were denied a promised trip to the movies because we ate popsicles before we finished bringing the groceries in. Food was a punishment and a reward when I was a child. It was used to control and to keep me in my place. My relationship with food was very much equated with my potential for relationships with men and how men would see me.

I was not bullied in school for my weight but I had very low self-esteem. I had learned that fat people don’t deserve love.

Fast forward to age 18 when I met my first real boyfriend. First kiss, first love, first everything. Including first husband. Despite my mother trying to tell me that there were some red flags I should pay attention to, I was hell bent on marrying the guy because I thought it was all a big mistake, a fluke, because I was fat and there was no way that someone would actually want to be with me. So we got married on June 26, 2009.

Three months later, I realized I had made a mistake. He’s not a bad person, we were just a bad match and I was nowhere near ready to be married. I didn’t know how to communicate because I had never seen a model of a healthy relationship to follow (no offense meant to my parents, but I never saw them fight… just suddenly they divorced). After 2.5 years of marriage I moved out in January 2012, armed with some newly grown self-confidence and the knowledge that I didn’t have to settle for a life that made me so unhappy.

In December 2011, I weighed 300 pounds, my highest weight in recorded history. What a reality check – I had lost all control. I needed to take it back.

Once I moved out and we got divorced, I began the work of “Finding Myself.” This included a new job, a new apartment, discovering Dave Ramsey and paying off my car, and paying all my own bills like a grown ass adult. Minimalism ensued because one of the easiest ways to make a radical change in your life is to get rid of everything you own.

Then a woman messaged me on Facebook and we began a friendship. She saw me post a question about vegan diets in a health group. And she was a Beachbody coach.

That patient, patient woman talked with me on and off for eight months before I decided to sign up and try this workout and Shakeology stuff she was telling me about. I signed up as a coach because I can’t resist a good discount. And it was great! I loved it.

For some reason, on Thanksgiving day 2013, I quit working out. Shortly thereafter I canceled my account to save money.

Patiently again, my coach kept supporting me, finally letting me know about a new program called PiYo. I wondered, “What if I actually stuck with it this time?” and I signed up as a coach again.

Guess what day the box arrived in the mail? It was June 26, 2014. An ordinary day of the year to anyone else, but to me it was a reminder of a life shed and left behind. It would have been my fifth wedding anniversary.

I tore that box open, popped in the DVD, and TOOK IT BACK.

That date is now mine. It is my anniversary to myself. It is a reminder that I am enough, I am beautiful, I am confident, and I am capable of doing anything I can dream. It is a reminder that “what if” is an amazing thing. June 26 represents everything good in the world to me, because it’s the day I took my life back for good.

The key, for me, has been practicing self-love and working on myself emotionally as well as physically. How can I expect to treat my body right if deep down I believe it’s not good enough for me, that it’s ugly or useless or horrible? You cannot make lasting changes due to hating your body; you make lasting changes when you love your body. Learning to love myself (body, mind, and spirit) has been huge for me.

It has been a year since I took it all back and I am happy to report that I did not give up in the middle of my workout. I completed PiYo. I completed 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme. I completed Combat and Pump. I am halfway through a 20 week TurboFire schedule.

I can honestly tell you that I love exercise and crave it like a drug. I can honestly tell you that my coach and my supporters in our accountability groups have changed my life. I can honestly tell you that Shakeology is worth every penny to me because of the way it makes me feel and the way it fuels my body.

Beachbody is how I took control of my life. Now I’m actively coaching and helping others take control of theirs.

Happy anniversary, Caitlin. I love you unconditionally. Finally.

THE STATS:
All time top weight: 300 lbs, December 2011
No measurements available from this time. I wish!!

6/26/14
Weight 256
Bust 48”
Chest 40.5”
Waist 44”
Hips 53”
Thighs 31” each
Calves 17” each
Right bicep 16”
Left bicep 15”
Neck 14.5”

6/26/15
Weight 213.4 (lost 42.6 lbs in a year, 86.6 since December 2011)
Bust 43” (lost 5”)
Chest 35” (lost 5.5”)
Waist 37” (lost 7”)
Hips 47” (lost 6”)
Thighs 26.5” each (lost 4.5” each)
Calves 15” right, 15.5” left (lost 3.5” total)
Right bicep 13.5” (lost 2.5”)
Left bicep 13” (lost 2”)
Neck 13.5” (lost 1”)

My advice to people who want to make a huge change in their life?
1. Never give up.
2. Love yourself.
3. Never give up on loving yourself.

3 Ways meal planning improves your life

Scenario 1: You get home from work and look around in the pantry and fridge to decide on dinner. You find a box of pasta and a jar of sauce. There’s even some spinach in the fridge you decide to add to your sauce. And you know you have italian sausages in the fridge from the last time you went to the store. You also plan to make a salad.

While you’re boiling the pasta, you dig out the sausages only to find that they have gone off and smell terrible. Oh no!

Scenario 2: You get home from work and look around in the pantry and fridge to decide on dinner. You see plenty of food but nothing looks like it goes together and you’re too tired to think about it. You throw your hands up in the air and order takeout.

After three days of this, you realize all your fresh produce has started to turn bad in the fridge and is no longer usable. Oh no!

Solution: Meal planning can help you prevent these and other kitchen problems.

I started meal planning in the past few months, and it has really helped me in 3 main areas:

  1. Budget
  2. Health
  3. Sanity

Meal planning for your budget

If you plan out meals and snacks for the week, you have a different frame of mind when you approach your food. You know that there is a plan, so you don’t just mindlessly snack and haphazardly throw a meal together. The plan helps you budget for your groceries and stick to the budget. It is so easy to wander aimlessly through the store and buy whatever looks good at that moment. But that method of shopping is not conducive to a strict budget or to balanced meals throughout the week.

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope method of budgeting, so all of our family’s grocery money goes into an envelope. When I am done spending, I’m done buying groceries for the month, so I really need to make it last. A detailed plan allows me to spend our grocery money in the best and wisest way.

When you plan your meals to help your budget:

  • Review your grocery store’s sales – plan meals involving foods you can get at a bargain
  • Comparison shop – this takes a little more time, but comparison shopping between a few stores can cut down on spending (especially if different stores have different items on sale)
  • Buy in bulk – shopping trips with multiple “staple” items may seem more expensive, but if you stock up on things in one trip you should just have to do a lower-cost maintenance trip the next week. These could be items like oats, rice, beans, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, potatoes, ketchup (yes, in my house ketchup is a staple food and I have made a vow to always have a supply in the house), or even freezable items like meat and cheese if they are on sale. Buying in bulk saves money in the long run and allows you more freedom with your week-to-week ingredients budget.
  • Do the math – Take your phone or a calculator with you and be a grocery nerd. Calculate out the cost per pound of pre-packaged items vs. buying from the deli or meat case. Compare sale prices to bulk prices. I recently opted to buy chicken breasts and legs separately instead of a whole chicken because the sale prices came out cheaper to buy them already butchered – and the whole chicken is usually the most frugal option! It always saves money to cost compare.

I also strategize and review my grocery budget before I even leave the house. Step #1: Meal plan. Step #2: Groceries we need to make the meal plan happen.

I break my grocery list into the following categories:

  • Produce (fruits and veggies)
  • Bulk (rice, beans, seeds, nuts, flour, sugar, refills of water)
  • Dairy (milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese)
  • Meat (Beef, pork, bacon, sausages, chicken, lunch meat)
  • Frozen (waffles, veggies, occasional ice cream)
  • Grocery (crackers, bread, tortillas, condiments, baking stuff)

Then I estimate the cost of each item, add up the total budget, and adjust as needed, removing items if necessary to get to my target budget range.

I know, personally, that if I just go to the store and throw things in the cart willy nilly, I will over-spend and probably bring home random items that don’t make sense to the plan. The plan will save the budget.

Meal planning for your health

When you plan out your meals, you can ensure a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat). I am a person that doesn’t enjoy many vegetables so I have to actively and purposely PLAN for my vegetables. I make it a goal to eat 3 servings of vegetables per day, on top of my morning shake that’s already full of vegetables. Meal planning also ensures that you are set up to create nutritious and healthy meals instead of just grabbing something weird from the back of your freezer that expired in 2007 and throwing it in the oven. Don’t eat mystery meals – planning allows you to cook healthy meals with less hassle.

When planning your meals, consider:

  • Vegetable servings: Try to get a couple different vegetables in with dinner. Bonus points for different colors! Corn doesn’t count, it’s a grain. Don’t just rely on potatoes all the time. Think about broccoli, carrots, greens, mushrooms, onions, peppers, squash, and more. Search for new recipes. Sign up for a CSA to get a share of fresh vegetables in the summer and fall, then plan your meals around them!
  • Protein sources: Be creative and resourceful with cuts of meat that can be re-used for other meals later. Recently, we purchased a pork shoulder roast. We made roast pork with roasted vegetables one night and pork carnitas with the leftovers. You can do the same with chicken – make baked chicken and use the leftovers for chicken salad, quesadillas, or soup. The possibilities are endless. You can also have an omelet bar for dinner one night and allow family members to pick their toppings like mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, crumbled bacon, and more. For a meat-free option, check out recipes for tofu, tempeh, beans, or protein-rich vegetables that can be the focus of the meal.
  • Healthy fat: Cooking with coconut oil is much healthier than refined oils such as soybean or canola. “Vegetable oil” is inflammatory and can do considerable harm to your body over time. Avoid hydrogenated and trans fats as well. To be honest, I cook most of my food items in bacon grease or butter. I also use coconut oil, and we use olive oil for salad dressings or low temperature cooking. Olive shouldn’t be used in high temperatures. I also strongly encourage the consumption of avocado and full-fat dairy if you eat dairy. Just remember: When you see the words “Low cal” or “Low fat” as marketing terms, replace them in your head with “Chemical shitstorm.”
  • Carbohydrates: I generally limit myself to about four servings of carbohydrates per day, things like rice, waffles, tortillas, corn, etc. These are simpler foods that break down into sugars in the body. Too much sugar is a bad plan for your health – it is the number one culprit for weight gain and inability to lose weight. I limit my sugar intake as well (including fruit) because sugar is a dangerous food for me. It can spark cycles of cravings for carbohydrates that are contrary to my goals. Carbs give us quick energy but meal planning helps you to plan out better quality meals so you don’t need a quick fix.

Meal planning also means packing your lunch, which will save you from take-out at your desk during the week. Fast food and restaurant portions are not doing you any favors. Pack your lunch for your health and your budget.

Meal planning for sanity

Before meal planning, we often opted for takeout simply because I was too exhausted to care about cooking. Having a plan is instrumental in reducing the stress of preparing a meal for the day (or the next day’s lunch). Now, when I get home from work, I wash my lunch containers and re-pack my lunch for the next day. I eat the same thing. Every day. Boring? Not really. Predictable, but it’s all food I enjoy so I don’t yet feel the need to change it. I plan out the food that will go in my lunch each day and buy it at the beginning of the week. I could go so far as to pre-pack five lunches on Sunday but I haven’t gone that far yet. Plus I don’t want to buy that many food containers to pack.

Meal planning for dinner allows for prep work to be done ahead of time. Say you’re going to make tacos on Monday and spaghetti on Tuesday. Maybe hamburgers are Thursday. You buy two pounds of ground beef at the store on Sunday, form half of it into patties, and freeze them. Brown the rest in a pan. You now have taco meat for Monday and sauce meat for Tuesday, and you won’t have to cook that hamburger during the week.

Foods you can prep in advance:

  • Wash, peel, and chop or shred vegetables for meals
  • Wash and portion snack items like celery, cucumber slices, grapes, berries, etc.
  • Cook meat for the week at one time and freeze or portion for later meals
  • Create crockpot meals, freeze in freezer bags for easy thawing and pouring into a crockpot (talk about sanity saving, this one cooks while you’re at work)
  • Soak and cook bulk rice and beans for the week
  • Shred or slice block cheese for sandwiches, quesadillas, omelets, etc.
  • Make fridge oats by mixing oatmeal, yogurt, milk, and fruit in a jar, placing in the fridge overnight, and having as a cold porridge (these keep in the fridge for a few days, or you can make a bunch and freeze, then thaw overnight)

An additional sanity saver when it comes to prepping meals? Move your sister into your home and let her mad kitchen skills create culinary wonderment for you to enjoy. Seriously, my sister moved in, and it’s awesome. She has improved my diet so much in just a few weeks of living with us – so many wonderful vegetables and tasty Nicaraguan recipes.

Tell me all about your meal planning adventures – do you meal plan? Would you like to?

Minimalist Weight Loss Program

I didn’t even know it was happening, but a couple years ago, I was steadily and sneakily gaining weight.  At doctor’s appointments, I was used to saying “Start it at 250,” but one day they had to move that big metal counterweight over to the next slot on the scale.  Ka-CHUNK. Over 300.  I was used to being stuck at 280, but where did an extra 20 pounds come from, and how could I make it go away?

Being fat, or large, or overweight, or obese, or whatever you want to call it – being fat doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy.  I believe in the health at every size movement and I believe that you can have a healthy lifestyle while wearing double-digit pants sizes.  However, I was not healthy.  Not only was I obese, I had low energy, I could hardly get up the stairs, and I was depressed.  Something had to give.  And I sure wasn’t happy with that big 3 in my weight.

I did workout videos.  I joined a gym.  I drank more water.  Blah, blah, blah.  I got back down to about 280 where I stayed for over a year.

Last year in the summer, I began a goal of taking a walk each day.  And I did.  It wasn’t always a long walk, but I took a walk every day.  It helped boost my mood and made me feel overall better in my body.  Sadly when the weather turned cold, I stopped going outside to walk.  So I joined a gym, and promptly ignored my gym membership.  I have gone to the gym 5 times in 6 months.

How, how, how could I focus on getting healthier and losing some of the excess weight?

As my regular readers know, I changed my eating habits a few months ago and reintroduced meat into my diet  after a year of being nearly-vegan.  I also cut gluten.  A funny thing happened as I started eating eggs and bacon (sans toast) for breakfast.  My pants got looser.   Diet change alone lost me about 15 pounds in about four months.

I was intrigued.  Now that I was eating a healthier, more mindful diet that was helping my body to thrive, perhaps exercise would help really kick it into gear.  I am still struggling to exercise each day, but I do find my body “craving” movement if I sit too long.  I want to get up and move, to go to the gym, to go for a walk.  Just incorporating a little bit of exercise here and there has lost me another ten pounds.

At last weigh-in, I was at 254.4.

Do I have a goal weight? No.  Well, sort of.  I have a target weight that I think I will end up weighing, but I’m not stuck on the numbers.  My goal is to be able to get up my stairs without breathing heavily.  My goal is to be able to jog a mile without stopping.   My goal is to provide a healthy role model for my friends and family.

Caitlin’s Minimalist Weight Loss Plan

Step 1: Food.  You cannot out-exercise a crappy diet.  Stop eating processed food.  At least 80% of your diet should NOT come from a box, bag, or jar.  Eat what makes you feel good, but eat real food.  Mostly plants.  High-quality meat, eggs, and dairy (from humanely treated animals).  If it says “low fat,” put it away.  (A) You’re not supposed to be eating things with labels in a box, and (B) the words “low fat” can be effectively be replaced with the words “chemical shit storm.”  No.

Step 2: Exercise.  Devote 30 minutes each day to intentional movement.  If you want to include household chores in your “movement” count, that’s fine, but really be moving for those 30 minutes.  Sitting on the floor sorting a box of stuff is not high-octane physical activity.  Be honest with yourself.  Go for a walk, go to the gym, run around in the yard with your kids.  Just MOVE.

[EDIT] Step 3: Water.  I cannot believe I forgot to mention how important water is to your health, wellness, and weight loss goals.  Your body NEEDS water, and many times what you think is hunger (cue mindless snacking!) is actually thirst.  I don’t always succeed at getting enough water in my day but I find that if I start early, I continue drinking it all day.  If I forget to get a cup from the dispenser at work in the morning, I’ll forget until lunch and then I am way behind.  I have read that you should divide your body weight by 2 to find the number of ounces you should drink.  If I’m 250, that’s 125 ounces of water that I need each day.

You do not have to join a gym or eat special diet food.  In fact, special diet food is mostly crap.  Joining a gym is great IF you want to spend the money and IF you will actually go.  I have not been utilizing my membership and I’m out $20 a month to stay at home and write blogs about why you should be exercising.

The importance of food

I write a lot about food.  I think food is miraculous.  We take in something from the earth, or from an animal, and turn it into fuel for our bodies.  When you understand the function of food, you appreciate the importance of good, healthy foods instead of processed food-like things.  I used to mow down candy bars, and now the sugar in a piece of fruit is sometimes too sweet.

The most important thing about changing your diet is that you understand it’s not “going on a diet.”  It is changing. your. diet.  Your diet is the food you eat.  Change the food you eat, change your diet.  For me, it’s quite simple to turn down food that I know is bad for me, because I simply do NOT eat those foods.  Hot dog at a fair? No, I can’t eat the bun and I am certain the meat doesn’t meet my standards.  Popsicle from the ice cream truck? No, I don’t eat processed sugar or corn syrup.  Doughnut at the office? Absolutely not.  (In fact, office visitors have started to bring me apples, strawberries, and salads instead of doughnuts).

I was told on a recent vacation that I would probably have to relax my rules s a little because it would be hard to find food that met my high standards.  Challenge accepted and met.  I didn’t eat a thing that I would normally avoid.  You just make a commitment to only allow certain foods into your body. And then you do it.  Once you understand that food has a direct impact on your wellness, you eat differently.  Or at least I do, your mileage may vary.

The moral of the story

I am apprehensive about sharing my weight on such a public forum, but it helps me to share my journey with my readers, even this journey.  When you don’t like something about your life, you need to change it.  I didn’t like weighing over 300 pounds, so I changed it.  I didn’t like weighing 280, so I changed it.  I have weighed at least 250 pounds since high school.  I am currently at my lowest weight in seven or eight years, and it’s great.  I feel more energetic, I have far less joint pain, and I feel happier.  My weight does not define me, but it is something I have to literally carry every day.  By deciding to change it, I am taking control of my life and my health.   It really is as simple as eating and moving.