Reclaiming #selfcare: a happiness project

I’ve been holding off on writing this post for several reasons.

I’ve written drafts, none of which felt right. I wasn’t in the right mindset, and I’m not totally sure I am right now. Tonight, I find myself at a cider bar sipping on ice water. The lighting is dim, Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album is on repeat through my rose gold headphones. Tonight, her music inspires me – basic, you say? It’s fine. This scenario doesn’t seem optimal for a blog post, but I’m not sure there’s ever a ~perfect~ time or place.

I’m here alone — it’s just me and the blinking cursor and bright screen that stares me in the face.

My inner monologue loves creating stories about the strangers that surround me. I’ve been told it’s “writer’s brain,” but I also think it’s a result of having constant thoughts spinning. The vibe in here is quiet — it’s chill. I wonder what people are thinking about me. The lone gal aggressively typing at her laptop in an out-of-season floral jumpsuit.

Who am I to these people?

***

My days of late have been jam packed with anxious thoughts. Will my business make it? Why doesn’t this guy want me? Am I eating the right food? Will I ever be a size zero? When will my debt go away? Am I taking on too much? Can I be better at life?

Can I be better at life?

My head repeats this question. It seems like a simple, yes” but how do I get there? How do I develop a better life with a shit ton of anxiety, limited funds and a busy ass schedule?

It seems like I’m faced with the impossible.

That’s how I justify it. A better life is just…impossible.

I usually rationalize this thinking in my head when I’m having shitty thoughts about my body while scarfing down a cookie. I will never be able to make this negative image about myself go away, not yet anyways. 

I tell myself that I’ll be better tomorrow. Tomorrow WILL be the day I make serious moves to being better at life.

The problem is, I’ve never really thought through it. I go through the motions, wash my face and apply expensive toner. I try to meditate every day but then get stressed about making it so routine and get mad at myself when I don’t make the time. I try to give up alcohol, light candles and apply essential oils and think, is any of this fucking working?

I try to define what self-care means to me and find my responses cliché and simply falling into the mold of what it should look like rather than implementing my own creative practices. The health & wellness world has turned into commodified industry that I simply cant’ keep up with.

Tap water is no longer good enough, spend the extra $2 for water with charcoal in it. Vital proteins are ~life~. Flexible dieting is #cool and you can still easily have six pack and eat cake – it’s easy! 

I’m not knocking these practices, I’m just saying it’s exhausting and overwhelming to keep up with. We’re promised all of these amazing results with an easy fix so we drink Kombucha for a day and expect to wake up looking like Blake Lively.

I’m rambling. I know. Rambling on WordPress is one version of self-care that never lets me down. I hope you’re still reading.

***

A few months ago I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Tbh, I usually toss books like this to the side because oftentimes self help books are too preachy for me and don’t speak to me like they do all the five-star reviewers on Amazon.

OMG!!!! THIS BOOK SERIOUSLY CHANGED THE WAY I SEE EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE!!! I AM FOREVER CHANGED!!! Really, Karen? I’m calling bullshit.

I’m not an avid book critic, but I will say Rubin’s book was fucking brilliant. A quick synopsis: a woman (Rubin) who has a perfectly fine life and is generally a happy human wants to make her life better — an no, she doesn’t turn in to a ~yogi~. Her journey isn’t an overnight fix, she makes small, manageable steps to make her life better. She sets a theme every month for a year and follows those guidelines while noting her progress. She has pitfalls and fuckups, but don’t we all?

But you have a great life! How can you make it better? 

*Newsflash* you can alwayyzzz make your life better. I want to take on my own happiness project — and UGH yeah I know that sounds cliché, but bear with me. I want to say with 110% that I’ll stick with all this shit, but the way my current brain works, I usually let it fall the wayside. The 34954357 times a charm, right?

There are aspects of my life that I want to tackle head on. Like, in my ultra nirvana, these are things that wouldn’t exist:

  1. Hating my body
  2. Questioning my self-worth when men screw me over/reject me
  3. Using food to solve my emotional turmoil
  4. Picking at my skin
  5. Having to put in extra EXTRA effort to be clean and organized
  6. Food as the enemy

I’m definitely leaving some out, but this is all I can think of at the moment.

In the beginning of the book, Rubin lays out twelve “commandments,” they aren’t specific rules like “stop dating fuckboys” but more so overarching principles in which she tries to live her life. You can view hers here, but here are mine. They might not make any sense to you, but they make sense to me and it’s all about me at the moment so get over it!! (jk)

  1. Think the way you want to live.
  2. Be kind.
  3. Know your worth.
  4. Eyes on the prize.
  5. You’ll figure it out.
  6. You don’t need him. Or him. So put down the damn phone.
  7. Listen to their story and don’t be afraid to tell yours.
  8. Breathe.
  9. Dig deeper.
  10. Get your shit done.
  11. Own who you are.
  12. Find your tribe.

****

Ok, so next is the tough part. Implementing these commandments into my every day life. In the book, she has a “theme” or focus, if you will, associated with every month. With each focus she has a set foundation of rules. I’m not much of a rule follower, so this will be pretty difficult for me.

How do I hold myself accountable? You guys, duh.

This sounds like a super basic thing to do — a journey to find happiness. But it’s more than that. It’s about claiming what happiness means to you, tossing the cliché self-care shit to the side and honing in on what YOU actually want to do.

Like, for example, I can’t get into yoga. I just can’t. Sure, maybe it’s all in the practice, but it stresses me out to become a ~yogi~ so guess what? I’m not gunna do it!!!!! I just won’t!!! Take THAT!

This blog series is going be uber honest — I already know I’ll have my pitfalls and shitty days. I’ll have more fuck-ups than I’ll probably be able to count, but it’s fine! All is good.

I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to share this happiness journey – a weekly blog post with updates, a daily Insta post maybe? Idk – I’ll figure it out.

***

So what’s up for this month?

Mindfulness.

I was going to start off with “health” but tbh I still need time to figure out exactly how I would tackle that one. Health is too broad of a term for me to personally define at the moment.

Have you ever started eating an ice cream cone, taken a lick or two, then noticed all you had was a sticky napkin in your hand? Or been going somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realize you haven’t noticed anything or anyone you met along the way?

I’m really really bad at focusing on the present. My mind is constantly going a million miles a minute and I know for a fact this impacts my anxiety levels, productivity & overall well-being.

You do too much, Beth. I hear this all the damn time. Between my business, bartending gig, running a women’s networking group, grad school & trying to stay sane, it’s a lot.

The problem isn’t the workload, it’s compartmentalizing the workload.

Breathe. Focus. Breathe. Onto the next.

Instead I’m like:

lethwif’pierh’oprj’wiorhaoire’oprk. Breathe, eat. ‘ih[oi’er’oierba;erione roiajr’ paorae.

Yeah, a whole bunch of shit going on in my head I can’t even put into words.

This goes for eating too. I’ve always been a fast eater. I hardly enjoy food unless I’m at a Michelin Star restaurant where the waiters create a mindful experience for you — explaining the tastes, senses etc. I’d love to do this all the time but I can’t afford a $250 meal every night lolz. 

So, ~being mindful~ how the fuck do I do that? I read a bunch of articles on this, most of them saying relatively the same thing. They offer advice and books to read up on. Like I said, the point of this personal happiness project is to create my own version of self-care. Sure, I’ll take advice from the “experts” or whatever…but I’m STILL NOT DOING YOGA EVERY DAY FOR 30 DAYS!

So mindfulness essentially is “being in the moment.” There’s meditation podcast I love that explains mindfulness as sitting in the middle of a road during rush hour. There are cars passing on each side that you’re very much aware of, but you’re choosing not to move. You don’t eliminate the distractions, but instead embrace them and integrate them into your practice. You can’t stop your brain from thinking, but you can learn how to channel it better.

Our reactions to the stressful events of our lives can become so habituated that they occur essentially out of our awareness, until, because of physical or emotional or psychological dysfunction, we cannot ignore them any longer.

SO – I gotta come up with rules for mindfulness this month. Practices that I’m almost 100% positive will be annoying to partake in, but generally, rules are annoying to me so I’ guess I have to swallow my pride for this project. Wish me luck!

After several articles and a bit of deep thought, here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Meditation 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes before you go to sleep. Yeah, IDGAF if you get home at 330am after a 12 hour shift. Do it.
  2. Go for a 30 minutes walk with Kevin every morning – no phone. No music. Just you and the sweet sounds of loud car horns and police sirens.
  3. Ten deep breaths before a snack, meal, etc. Think before you eat. Think while you eat. Slow, long bites. After your done, note how you feel.
  4.  While at work, perform a “body scan” once every two hours.
  5. Practice mindful writing once a day. 15 minutes of uninterrupted journaling.

***

My goal is here to be ~in the moment~ more. Focus on the task at hand without the distractions of everything else going on in my life. I don’t have any immediate plan to slow down my life & goals, nor do I really want to. That’s not the point.

I don’t expect to be a super zen monk by the end of these 30 days. Again, my end goal here is to just be better at life. I don’t know how exactly the above rules will change me and my life, but I guess there’s no harm in trying.

The following weeks I’ll be keeping you posted on how things are going – expect a handful of blogs and of course a bunch of Instagrams. Since I’m a thirst monster, follow me on Insta for the day-to-day scoop.

Funnn stuff to come! Thanks for reading.

X,

Beth

Day 9 without pizza…and I’m not dead?

There are certain things in life we can’t live without: food, water, shelter, love…and pizza (ok, maybe not).

Food and body image have been topics of many of my blogs recently…once upon a time I even claimed I was going to do paleo for 30 days (only to fail after day 4)…but started for all the wrong reasons. I’ve discussed my unhealthy relationship with the scale, food, among other issues that many women (and men) my age face in a world of high expectations.

Yo-yo dieting, calorie restriction, over-eating, under-eating, stress-eating, f*ck-this-stupid-f*ckboy-eating. My relationship with food has never been “top notch,” if you will.

Today almost marks an entire month alcohol-free and (almost) f*ckboy free! V exciting. I’ve also made it 9 days without any cheese, bread, sugar, leftover french fries, gum (whaaaaa!!), and coconut creamer in my coffee (imysm).

There’s processed shit in literally everything…but I guess working around it isn’t so bad. Before embarking on my very first Whole 30, I told myself I didn’t belong in the kitchen. Like, gender stereotypes aside, it wasn’t too long ago when I was exploding oatmeal in the microwave…

9 days in and I’m feeling…um, great? I don’t know. I haven’t been asked to be on Top Chef yet nor look like Kayla Itsines (yet?). I guess I haven’t noticed a significant change since changing my diet specifically. However, when I cut out alcohol…well, that was like a “why the f#@& haven’t I tried this before?!”

I wasn’t eating pizza every day (as much as I wanted to). I wasn’t binging on chips and fried chicken tenders whenever I felt like it. If that were the case, maybe I’d feel significantly different 9 days in. My diet was always relatively low-carb but looking back, I was indulging on more processed foods than I thought. The handful of fries at work. Two (or three, or four ) pieces of chocolate before bed. A slice of pizza on a random Tuesday.

It adds up.

However, none of these felt like indulgences. It got to a point where I was just eating it because I was either A) hungry B) bored or the worst… C) stressed.

It was usually B or C.

It got to a point where I didn’t feel like I was controlling the food I ate (regardless if it was healthy or not). It was controlling me. Consuming my thoughts, my perceptions, my anxiety. How many calories are in 2 cups of sweet potato? Is brown rice bad for you? How do cheat days affect weight loss? Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight? How many tablespoons of olive oil should you have per day? 

Past Google searches of Beth^ (like chill….)

We literally need food. And calories. And carbs. And fat. And pizza (ok, again, maybe not). I know all of this. I know I should be eating 2000 calories a day to keep up with my active lifestyle and not deprive myself. I know I should enjoy food and take it for what it is, regardless of how many grams of fat it consists of. If I can answer a text from a fuckboy who is far worse than any slice of pizza I eat, why can’t I just enjoy a freaking slice of pizza?

The rational (often ignored) thought process of Beth^

The ~booze-free lyfe~ has significantly lessened my anxiety, improved my sleeping habits, and #MadeSaturdaysGreatAgain amongst many other benefits. It gave me the courage to take on the Whole 30, something I could have never imagined myself taking seriously for longer than 3 days (for real).

I didn’t decide to start the Whole 30 to lose a bunch of weight, the same way I didn’t cut alcohol for those reasons. I mean, it’s a nice perk, but I just got to a point where I had to stop making all of these goddamn excuses for being unhappy with the way I looked and thought about myself and just do something about it.

I won’t go over every single rule of the Whole30, because there’s Google for that. But 9 days in and here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. The scale was the best fuckboy I could’ve ever ended things with. Prior to the Whole30, I was weighing myself compulsively at least every other day. Like clockwork. I wouldn’t even think twice about it. It just came as habit. 9 days in – no drunk texts, regrettable sleepovers, or contact whatsoever!!!! Weee!!
  2. MyFitnessPal can be effective, but not if you have an unhealthy relationship with food. Calorie counting is a “no-no” during the Whole 30, as they believe if you are putting clean, wholesome food into your body, there is no need to obsess over the calories, macros, micros, grams of fat, vitamin C percentage, etc. You mean 4 vodka sodas don’t hold the same nutritional value as 6oz of chicken?! But they are the same amount of calories!! Food is more than calories. It’s fuel. Treat it as such.
  3. Speaking of, 2000 calories is not that much. That number absolutely petrified me for so long. I was at my smallest when I was restricting myself to 1500 a day (while vigorously working out each morning and being on my feet at work all night). I lost weight, but gained it right back because my metabolism was outta whack. Eat!!!!
  4. If you’re hungry, eat. If not, then don’t eat. But, Bethhhhh that’s so hard!!!! Those Spicy BBQ Fritos thooo!!!!!! It’s hard to overeat vegetables, protein, and good fatty foods. My meals are big. I load my lunch with veggies (cooked with dat Chili Lime seasoning from Trader Joe’s–amazing), sweet potato, and chicken. Afterwards, I’m full, but not the gross full. Like, you know, the ugh is it kosher to unbutton my jeans rn?? 
  5. Eliminating your triggers is key. Alcohol was my trigger for shitty decisions. I’m not saying I’m going to be sober Sally for the rest of my life, but I knew I needed to take a step back to get my other stuff in check.
  6. Sit down at the damn dinner table. I’m so busy tho! No time for that! Yes, you probably do have time. In her book, Hartwig discourages “mindless eating.” Like, when you’re sitting and watching The Bachelor and suddenly dinner you made and the pint of ice cream you just purchased is randomly gone. That kind of eating. Sit down at least once a day, cook yourself a nice meal and just enjoy it. Simultaneously Instagram scrolling is also frowned upon, but like…I love the ‘gram too much to give that up any time soon.
  7. Stop striving for perfection. That was my mantra well before I started Whole30, but was a bit too lenient when my cheat meals turned to cheat days, my one drink turned to five, etc. Know your goals, know what’s preventing you from achieving them, but also recognize that it’s a process. Food-wise, I’ve had a “perfect” Whole30. I can say with confidence I haven’t ate, sampled, or drank anything that wasn’t Whole30 compliant. But the book also discourages nighttime snacking/snacking in general. Sry, I like my snacks. Maybe the craving to snack will go away, but I’m not counting down the days.
  8. Know your body and know what it needs, not what it craves. This kind of ties it all together. My body wants that slice of pizza (can you tell I like pizza?). It wants to step on the scale. It wants that pint of Bud Light during a Pats game.  Why do I want these things? Because I’ve actively taught myself to crave them. What’s the difference between a want and a need? Well, I know my body needs a snack pre and post workout to prevent a low blood sugar. It needs over 2000 calories when I run 8 miles. It needs fats, proteins, and carbs. It needs food. Food is not the enemy ppl!

Do I suddenly have this whole new outlook on life? Do I wake up every morning and say, “Damn, Beth, you look gewwwd.” No, I don’t. Like I said, changing habits is a process. It’s not a change to be expected overnight. You won’t drop two pant sizes in 7 days. You won’t suddenly loathe all things containing high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, soy lethicin, and cheese (which is like everything lolz), but you will begin to understand the effects it has on your body. Even if you don’t notice the physical changes right away, you’ll find peace in the fact that beyond the reflection in the mirror, some body part inside of you is saying “Omg, tysm. #Blessed 2 have u.”

It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about having a killer workout every morning or having the power to say “no” to pizza for the rest of your life. It’s about having a killer workout and saying “no” to pizza for the right reasons (those reasons do not include obsessively creating a larger calorie deficit).

Find your unhealthy relationships and change them. It does take work. A lot of work. And it’s tedious. Self-care unfortunately does not come natural to most, myself included. At times, I feel ridiculous for partaking in a “30 Day BodyPeace Movement” on top of no alcohol and no pizza. It seems sort of overkill, right? I used to think that way too. I soon realized you can never invest enough in yourself and YOUR needs. Whatever those may be. If it means giving up things that were once seemingly so integrated in your life and choices, then so be it.

I’ve had multiple messages from so many beautiful women who are in search of some sort of insight into this way of thinking. I wish there was a simple, universal answer. But, there’s not.

If there is, I haven’t found it yet. Pinky swear to let you know if there is tho!!!!!

Take care of yourself. Your body, your mind, your people. I can’t emphasize enough that it’s a process, not a solution. It’s taken years for me to develop this way of thinking and I’m still working on it. Every single day. I stopped sitting back and waiting for other people  to change and allowing setbacks and personal mistakes to define my next steps.

Be responsible for you. You can’t expect a healthy relationship with anyone or anything if you don’t have some sort of healthy relationship with yourself.

(Do I sound like Buddha or a fortune cookie? Maybe both?)

Pizza does not rule the world!!! U rule da world!!!