Lent 2019

Happy Shrove Tuesday / Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras / Pancake Day / Paczki Day / celebrate indulgence with your Catholic friends day!

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Behold: paczki (pączki), full of goodness and served by your local Polish baker

My Lenten tradition of quitting a bad habit has a lot to do with how I build habits. Even though I abstained from a formal Lent challenge last year, I described why and how I started observing Lent as a tradition in my 2017 post:

Although I am not Catholic, I have been observing Lent in my own way for the past few years. Lent is the third time at the beginning of the year that I check in on how I am doing with my self-improvement (with my New Year’s resolutions and Chinese New Year reflections being the first two). I take a look at a bad habit that I really want to address and abstain from it. Completely.

What started as a show of solidarity with my Catholic friends has become an honest admission of a bad habit I have and a commitment to doing something about it in a way that works for how I motivate myself.

This year, I am giving up mindless social media scrolling. While I wish I could give up social media altogether, like I did back in 2011, the main reason I’m not doing so this year is that many of my friendships are sustained via touches on social media. Sending memes and animal videos is a big part of maintaining friendships in this day and age, and more so now that I’ve moved to New York and am unable to see most of my close friends in person anymore. I also find a lot of my conversations with friends happening in Direct Messages in a social media application that I’m extremely hesitant to ghost on.

The problem with how I use social media isn’t that I have conversation threads with people across multiple apps. The biggest problem isn’t even my likes-chasing when I post content. (But that is a problem.)

It’s the zombified state I fall into when I’m scrolling my feed just to scroll. It feels almost like I’m dissociating; I am numb and barely thinking when I scroll Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I am just grazing on information, registering it the minimum amount, and still draining myself a bit mentally. I don’t feel good when I do this, and my partner actually has to physically separate me from my phone when I get in the zone scrolling. (To attempt to put a positive spin on this: I no longer have to have my laptop shut on my dissociative Tumblr-scrolling days anymore…)

My rules for using social media during Lent will be:

  1. No scrolling at all if/when I open a social media site: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in particular, and includes autoplaying Instagram Stories
  2. No searching for content to discover, in particular Twitter Moments and Instagram Explore
  3. I am still permitted to post original content myself: posts, stories, tweets
  4. I am still permitted to interact with friends in Direct Messages
  5. I am still allowed to interact with friends’ content, but I can only discover that content intentionally
    • E.g. I wonder how my friend X is doing with their new cat, let me check their Instagram to see!
    • If, when I go to X’s profile, I see that they have also posted a Story, I can check that out

The big rule is NO SCROLLING. And if I keep posting content myself (like for the March Disneybound Challenge, which I’m barely doing, or my arbitrarily started March Mask Challenge), NO CHECKING for digital approval. The big goal is to use social media with intention, to close the app not feeling like a shell of a person but more connected with my friends, both my IRL friends and the Internet friends I only have because of these apps.

TL;DR This year, I am giving up mindless social media scrolling for Lent.

Many of my friends also like to incorporate an additive practice to Lent, taking this time to not just abstain from a bad habit but also to embrace a good habit they would like to practice more. One of my co-workers even does “Reverse Lent”, which is based on this concept and culminates with him and his friends sharing what they have added to their lives at the end: many pies baked, a long-neglected room finally painted, a blanket that was knitted over the course of the Lenten period.

So, in that vein, I will attempt to do some additive practices this year as well. My goal-setting may be getting a bit ambitious here, but I am much better at rising to a challenge for a finite amount of time than I am with keeping my resolutions, so it’s worth a try! I will be trying to work out every day of Lent. (Whether I will use those Sundays that Catholics typically do not include in the Lenten period as rest days remains to be seen…) As a backup goal, I will also be committing to doing my skincare every day of Lent. I tend to fall into a lazy routine of just splashing water on my face and slapping on SPF in the morning or moisturizer at night, but I want my skin to look great on my wedding day and I know I have the tools to make that happen. Plus, it’s good for me to take some time and do a routine, to step out of my thoughts and pat my face and do something for the sake of being kind to myself.

Are you observing Lent?
Is there anything you think you could cut back on, and if so, would you do better with moderation or abstinence?
How are you doing with any goals/intentions you’ve set for yourself for this year?

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Whole30 Reflections

Surprise! I completed a Whole30 recently, very belatedly completing one of last year’s resolutions in doing so. I’m sure you have a lot of questions, so let me just start from the beginning.

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Whole30 is a nutrition plan, aka a diet, that is intended to be a 30-day reset for your nutrition and digestion. The way I see it, the big picture goal of Whole30 isn’t necessarily weight loss. Rather, it’s for identifying if you have any digestive triggers that you may not have known about prior. For example, let’s say you frequently end meals with a stomachache, nothing major enough to have seen a doctor about and even minor enough that you just kind of accept that you eat too much or too fast and will have a bellyache afterwards. If you do Whole30, where you eliminate most major trigger food groups, and discover that you no longer have that feeling after you eat, you may have an adverse reaction, even if it’s minor, to one of the foods you eliminated. After the 30 days, you gradually reintroduce the foods group-by-group to see what elicits the bad reactions.

Yes, Whole30 is an elimination diet, first and foremost. The rules are about what you cannot have, and what you can’t have are:

  • Any added sugar. This means no cane sugar, of course, but also no stevia, honey, agave, maple syrup, Splenda, nada. The only sugar you can consume is whatever is naturally found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Any grains. This includes wheat, rice, corn, quinoa, etc. and anything that includes any grain products like cornstarch, etc.
  • Any legumes. No beans whatsoever, including soy, and no peanuts, and this includes soybean oil and peanut oil and any other products like soy lecithin (often used as a stabilizing agent).
  • Any dairy.
  • Any alcohol.
  • Carrageean, MSG, or sulfites.
  • Baked goods, junk food, or treats that are technically “compliant”. That means things like my 3-ingredient pancakes are out.

One final rule that wasn’t related to what you ate was no weighing yourself for the duration of the 30 days. The goal here isn’t weight loss.

Why did I do this?
Even I was a little bit shocked that I was doing the Whole30, if I’m going to be honest. My reasons were not for weight loss or even to identify trigger foods. My reasons were two-fold:

  1. In the weeks leading up to our vacation, Ben and I were eating out a lot. Way too much time would pass between cooked meals, and I was simply spending a lot of money (and time) eating out. I wanted to force myself to cook more of my meals.
  2. When we finally were on vacation, I wasn’t eating particularly healthily. Carbs on carbs on delicious carbs, but not a particular abundance of fruits and vegetables. I wanted to force myself to reduce my carb intake and eat healthier.

There are easier ways to get myself to eat healthier and eat out less, but I know what it takes for me to form habits, so I require some pretty severe changes to implement better habits.

Here are a few things I learned and felt during my Whole30:

I really like free food. Similar to other times that I’ve abstained from entire foods or food groups, one of the hardest parts of saying no to foods is when the foods are offered for free. It’s that inner college kid wanting to eat all that the world is offering to me without my having to hurt my wallet for it. The problem with this is that free food is rarely healthy. I said no to doughnuts, cake, chocolates, cookies, so many baked goods… I also said no to happy hour offerings like fries and tater tots and wings. (There was a reason I had to give up fried foods for Lent last year…) I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have cultivated a life where I have access to so much free food until I was turning it down.

I am weirdly satisfied by smelling the foods I can’t have… This weirded out my coworkers a lot but when they would offer me food I couldn’t eat, I would take a deep inhale and then move on. It seemed torturous to them, but I really did just like the smell. At one point, I purchased doughnuts myself to celebrate the autumnal equinox and I ate none of those doughnuts, I just breathed them in. But that brings me to my next point…

I may have set myself up for a weird mindset regarding my willpower. Exercises like this remind me that I have more willpower than I think I do, when it comes to food. Think about all the food I smelled and didn’t eat! (Once when Ben was sick, I made a McDonald’s run for him and had to smell that deliciousness in my car… I almost broke that day, to be honest.) But am I going to be that moron in the future who will go “Well, I know that I am capable of not eating this cake, but why put myself through more torture I’m going to eat all this cake”? I hope not!

Chinese restaurant obligations… really ruined me. You are not supposed to cheat on Whole30, as with any diet, but if you do, you are supposed to start over from day 1. I didn’t do this, so technically my Whole30 was ruined about halfway through and I did something more akin to two separate Whole15s. But I was celebrating with family at our favorite Chinese restaurant, a place where everything is cooked with soy and sugar and starch and rice, and I was heavily socially obligated to eat certain dishes as it was me that we were celebrating. I abstained where I could, for example, not eating any rice or noodles, but those meals were definitely not compliant.

I love cooking at home. I really really love cooking. I think I might love cooking more than I love eating the food I cook. There were nights when I would come home and just cook and cook and cook for hours and by the end of it, I was barely hungry. I felt so satisfied just cooking and cleaning up.

Compliant stuff can get so expensive. One thing I really dislike about Whole30 is they have this real about no pancakes and foods that are technically compliant but not in the “spirit” of Whole30, but the recipes and ingredients that the Whole30 folks endorse are often substituting veggies for pasta and doing things like using coconut aminos, which is soy sauce made from coconut nectar?? I don’t know how that’s so different from making pancakes with bananas and eggs, to be honest, but it is a great way to get people to purchase very expensive products. “Make your own almond milk!” they would say, but are you kidding me. Even making my own mayonnaise at home got cumbersome the few times I did it. I wanted to make my own ranch dressing, but I gave up when my mayo split and went to buy some compliant ranch. I felt like a quitter and didn’t feel like I was getting any particular benefits doing this.

I didn’t experience any of the extreme feelings that people online talked about. I did a lot of research prior to this Whole30, in addition to when I attempted Whole30 at the beginning of 2016. I expected to experience sugar withdrawal the first few days and then some kind of “tiger blood” sensation about halfway to three-quarters of the way through.
But I felt nothing. I didn’t feel better than before or worse than before. I still got migraines, I still had fatigue.

I didn’t feel any difference except in my goals to eat at home more and eat healthier. I really didn’t feel any of the health benefits that are purported with Whole30. I just felt like a lot of my time was going to preparing food and I was saying no to a lot of food I would have otherwise eaten. Otherwise… my life was the same, which was disappointing.

I didn’t do the gradual reintroduction. I took it easy the first 2 days but then tossed caution to the wind and ate as I liked.

I’m glad I did this because I enjoy preparing my own food so much, and I am glad I don’t need to use grains and sugars as crutches when I cook. I still make a lot of compliant meals for myself and for my family, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to.

Also, I’ll be sharing some recipes I loved making while I was on Whole30 really soon after I finish travel recaps, so stick around for those! I didn’t take photos of the food I made while I was on Whole30, but I did make an effort to make my food look good so that I would enjoy eating it more.

Would I recommend Whole30? ONLY if you suspect that maybe a food isn’t sitting quite well with your gut. Honestly, though, it was a huge inconvenience and I don’t understand how people felt such a big change and I felt… nothing. I think eliminating some of these food groups isn’t bad but Whole30 was really restrictive and it felt needless. I am also not actually a huge fan of some aspects of the community, so I did my Whole30 alone and on the down-low.

Do you have any food sensitivities that you’ve discovered? I know I have an issue with large amounts of lactose (so while I’ve never had whole milk, I probably shouldn’t start drinking it…) (I don’t like milk anyway so I’m not upset about it) but other than that I’m not really sure. I think if I eat a ton of carbs I get bloat-y, but I think everyone does?

Have you tried any diets and liked them? I don’t know that I like diets, but I like exercising some willpower over myself and trying new recipes. I really like the feeling of accomplishment and achievement when I deny myself delicious things, as masochistic as that sounds.

Lent 2017

Happy Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and Pancake Day to any and all who are observing!

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Although I am not Catholic, I have been observing Lent in my own way for the past few years. Lent is the third time at the beginning of the year that I check in on how I am doing with my self-improvement (with my New Year’s resolutions and Chinese New Year reflections being the first two). I take a look at a bad habit that I really want to address and abstain from it. Completely.

I’m the kind of person who has a difficult time doing my vices in moderation. I had to quit chips for an entire year in order to get myself to stop eating them by the family-sized-bag-ful.

In fact, giving up chips was a Lenten initiative a few years ago. (Before I sank into chip addiction and had to give it up without waiting for Lent to come back around.) Lent has been a great way for me to seriously tackle habits of mine. And it works. Really well.

  • I actually struggle to inhale chips the way I used to.
  • I don’t watch nearly as much television as I used to, and I am a child who was partially raised by television. I used to keep time based on when my shows were on. Luckily, I was too lazy to catch up on 6 weeks of shows for the multitude of shows that I was watching in 2015, and I haven’t caught up since. It’s a little crazy to think about how addicted I was to watching all of my shows and think about how lazy I am now with regards to television.
  • I blog on a regular basis now, thanks in part to attempting to do so regularly during Lent.

This year, I wasn’t sure what to give up for Lent until last week. I have been trying to work out and be more active. Along with that, I’m also trying to eat a bit healthier. But I did have a pretty bad day where I ate the leftovers of an appetizer sampler that consisted of mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and onion rings.

Basically, I inhaled a bunch of deep-fried food. And I felt absolutely sick to my stomach afterwards. Regardless of how healthily you are or aren’t eating, I think that eating that much fried food in 2 minutes will make you want to throw up.

So I decided it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for me to give up fried food for Lent this year.

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Goodbye, deliciousness.

I don’t feel as apprehensive about Lent this year as I have in past years, like when I was giving up McDonald’s and chips, or when I gave up television but had to let myself have 3 shows to stay keep me company.

However, I do realize this will be a challenge. Many of my favorite foods are deep-fried:

  • Potato chips! (Goodbye again, my loves.)
  • Yeast doughnuts! (Cake ones are fine, but those fluffy yeast ones are where it’s at.)
  • Chicken McNuggets! (You know what’s better than 20 for $5? 40 for $9.)
  • French fries! (’nuff said.)

But I think that going without these deep-fried bits of deliciousness for 40 days and change (I didn’t know that Lent doesn’t include the Sundays when I started out) will be good for me.

I will also be abstaining from swear words during Lent. I prefer not to swear at all, and yet somehow I wind up doing more and more of it until the next year’s Lenten period rolls around. So this year, no swearing during Lent and hopefully none afterwards either!


Do you give up anything for Lent?
What’s a vice you need to cut back on, if you’re more of a moderation
person?

Lent 2014

I feel I need to first mention that I’m not Catholic, nor am I a Christian.

However, I think that Lent, like New Year’s, is a great time to start new habits or break old ones while you have the support of friends who are also doing the same. I often find that the habits I form during Lent do persist after Easter has passed, which means that a) I had a pretty bad problem before Ash Wednesday and b) I have helped resolve that problem by a lot!

Some things I’ve given up in the past:

  • 2011: Facebook & Tumblr
  • 2012: Chips & McDonald’s (McDonald’s had gotten too convenient with their fries & sweet teas)
  • 2013: …?? Did I give anything up last year? I don’t think I did actually?

Huh, I don’t think I gave up anything last year. But the previous 2 years I remember being tricky. I missed event invites on Facebook. I ate chips with all my sandwiches and soups! (I have a real passion for chips.)

This year, although I’m a little late, with a little bit of encouragement from Christine & Karen, I am going to be mostly giving up television.

This is maybe going to be my toughest lenten period yet (even tougher than the sad days I had to say no to chips). I have been mildly addicted to TV ever since I was little. My daily routines were structured around my TV schedule. Wake up, watch Sesame StreetMagic School Bus, take a nap, watch Big Comfy Couch, watch Bill Nye, watch Saved By the Bell, etc. etc.

Like a mild version of him, minus the awesome cowboy garb.
(This reference isn’t lost on you guys, right??)

Today, this manifests as me having several shows that I watch each week. I only watch a couple of them when they actually air, which means I typically end up holed up in my room with my computer, watching things on Hulu, CBS, or streaming them from less reliable sources. I also occasionally binge watch shows. Recently, I just finished watching Secret Diary of a Call Girl and I am caught up on Hannibal now.

I have a problem.
I need to solve this problem.

So, I have decided I will allow myself three shows to watch, and I may watch TV socially. But no more holing myself in my room watching TV just to pass the time. (Why do I watch so much New Girl? I don’t like it very much!)

Right now, I’m trying to figure out what shows I will allow myself to watch and I will try to watch them when they air, to minimize temptations to click to the next show and watch TV for 3 hours on my computer. The list right now looks like this:

  1. Once Upon a Time is non-negotiable. It is a problem in and of itself, but I have been waiting for the mid-season premiere and Lent is not going to stop me from watching it.
  2. How I Met Your Mother is finally almost over and I want to see it through. I don’t love it as much as I used to, so we’ll see if this stays on the list.
  3. Hannibal is the newest show I’ve started watching, and I only started because I was too lazy to not watch the season premiere. (I was already sat in front of the TV and I didn’t feel like changing the channel. Do you see how problematic this addiction is?) We’ll see if I keep watching it or if I’ll pick something else.

Other contenders include: Big Bang Theory (next runner-up), Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Elementary, Modern Family, and Community (last runner-up). Also, it goes without saying that I can’t start any new shows.

<deep breath>
This will be a challenge, and it is meant to me.

In addition, I have been talking to some people about using Lent as an opportunity to add something of value and meaning to your life rather than trying to subtract something. My friend Jenn used the example of eating less beef or red meat. If you try to cut out red meat completely, you’ll likely eat a herd of cows on Easter Sunday. BUT, if you say you’re going to eat more turkey, it’s a bit easier to substitute a turkey burger for a beefy burger to reach that goal rather than turning down a beef burger with a pout on your face.

So! On that note, I am trying to snack healthier by just snacking on more fruits and veggies and making sure I eat fruits and veggies more often throughout the day. This goal will be harder to check up on, I think, but it will also be good for me.

This can’t be so bad if the creepy face is smiling. PLUS I have this plate in my house! Done and done.

(Also, I am aware that Sundays are essentially like “cheat days”, but I have pretty bad problems that require complete discipline. I won’t let myself have days to binge-watch TV. Or eat tons of chips.)

Do you typically give something up for Lent?
If so, what are you giving up this year?
If not, what are some habits you would like to increase/decrease in general?