How to Love Your Body in 2019

A woman stands outside, holding a mug. Text: How to love your body in 2019
original photo by Sandra Chile on Unsplash

It’s a new year, and that brings New Year’s resolutions. Losing weight is always a popular resolution; it’s the first or second most common resolution year after year. But what if, for 2019, you resolved NOT to try to lose weight? What if, instead, you resolve to love and honor your body at whatever size it is? To stop hating your body, stop thinking that you’re not good enough?

You can do this! I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a journey that usually takes years and hard work, but it will be so worth it. You will be so much happier, more self-confident, and more satisfied with your life.

I’m not a health professional or any kind of expert, but I can tell you what has worked for me and what continues to work for me as I unlearn fatphobia, self-hate, and the assumptions that society has taught me about size, beauty, and health.

 

Several frosted chocolate cupcakes on a plate.
Image from Pixabay

Don’t Diet

At all. Obviously if you have dietary restrictions because of allergies, sensitivities, religion, or personal ethics, keep those. And if you have a medical condition requiring a supervised diet, don’t do anything without advice from your doctor and/or nutritionist. But don’t diet to lose weight. No Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig (is that still a thing?), keto, Atkins, low-carb, low-fat, Zone, Whole 30, blah blah blah. No counting calories or fat grams or carbs. And remember, even if you call it a “lifestyle change,” if you are restricting your eating with the goal of losing weight, it is a diet.

A view over a woman's shoulder, showing her hair, as she reads a fashion magazine
Image by Pixabay

Stop reading “women’s” magazines

Do not read any magazine that mentions weight loss on the cover. Do not read any magazine that promises the secret to slimming down in X weeks, getting the perfect abs or butt or beach body, or losing a certain number of pounds (stone, kilos, etc). Don’t read about celebrity diets or workout routines. Don’t read about “bad” or “good” foods. Just stop. That also goes for TV shows, websites, YouTube videos, and the like. This is honestly the most important step (in my experience, at least). You will be amazed when you realize just how pervasive anti-fat messaging is in our daily lives.

If you still want to keep up on fashion and beauty tips, there are plenty of media outlets where you can avoid the fat hate. Try magazines such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, The Every Girl, and Bust; and blogs such as Jamie Je T’aime, In My Joi, and Musings Of a Curvy Lady. Explore tags such as #fatshion or #plussizefashion on Instagram. Even if you’re not big on fashion, go ahead and look at fat women wearing stylish clothes and flawless makeup. It’s inspiring to see bodies of diverse sizes and realize that weight and beauty are completely unconnected.

Two feet stand on a scale.
Image from Pixabay

Throw out your scale

If you can’t bear to throw it out because that seems wasteful or extreme, pack it away and put it in your attic or basement or somewhere you can’t easily get to it. Your scale does not tell you anything about your health, your beauty, your character, or anything that matters. You do not need to know the number on the scale. It doesn’t help you in any way. All it does is make you feel bad about yourself and encourage you to be obsessed with getting that number lower. There’s no reason for that. I know that for many people a bathroom scale seems like a basic household item that everyone should own, but it really isn’t. I haven’t owned one in years.

Learn about intuitive eating

This is a mindful practice based on noticing and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, respecting your body the way it is, and eating what you want, whether that’s a salad or an ice cream sundae. There’s more to it than that, of course, and I encourage you to explore books, websites, videos, podcasts…. whichever is your preferred way of learning. Here is a good introduction.

Focus on your health, not your size

Let me be clear: you do not owe anyone health. You don’t need to prove that you are a “good” fat person because you’re doing the “right” things. Having perfect cholesterol and glucose levels is not what makes it okay to be fat. A fat person who starts every day with a kale smoothie and an hour at the gym is no more deserving of respect and love than a fat person who is sedentary and eats a fast food burger and a milkshake for lunch every day. No matter your health or your habits, you deserve to be respected and treated well.

But, if you’re thinking “this is all well and good, but I need to lose weight for my health!” or if you just want to make some changes to be healthier, there is plenty you can do with a focus on healthy habits and not on your weight. Contrary to what you’ll read in most mainstream media, weight and health are only loosely correlated. There is a lot of evidence showing the validity of the Health At Every Size philosophy.

Find some form of movement that you enjoy. You don’t have to go to the gym, and you don’t have to be in pain to get health benefits from exercise. Walk the dog. Walk in the park. Dance. Ride a bike. Do yoga. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy, and move your body.

blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries
Image from Pixabay

Eat fruits and vegetables. This might sound dangerously close to diet territory. I’m not advocating that you eat broccoli when what you really want is cake. I’m saying eat the cake, and also eat whatever fruits and veggies you enjoy. Go ahead and eat your veggies with butter and cheese if that’s how you like them. Explore new fruits and vegetables. Try different colors and textures. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your food.

Drink when you’re thirsty and maybe a little more, but you don’t actually need to drink eight glasses a day. That’s just a myth. Try to get enough sleep.

A woman lies in a bathtub of white water, holding a book near her face.
Image from Pixabay

Take care of your mental health as well, whatever that looks like for you. That might mean seeing a mental health professional, or meditating, or enjoying a hobby or regular time with friends. One thing that is definitely bad for your mental health is berating yourself over your size, your food, or your exercise habits, so try not to do that.

Three smiling women in swimsuits take a selfie.
Image by Rawpixel on Unsplash

Stop postponing your life

Are there things you want to do but have been putting off until you lose weight? Do those things now! Buy that cute outfit, take that vacation, pursue that new job… whatever it is, you deserve to live a full and happy life now. Happiness is not something you earn with your size.

Let me reiterate, I’m not a health professional of any sort. And I’m not a spokesperson for all fat people. All I am is a fat woman who has spent some years on this journey of loving myself at the size I am. I stumble often. I have days when I’m not thrilled with my body. There are still parts I am learning to love. I’m still coming to terms with middle age and the changes it’s brought. All I can talk about is my own experience. I sincerely hope it helps you and that 2019 is a year of happiness and self-love!

 

A woman ooks over her shoulder outdoors. Text: How to love your body in 2019
Original photo by Eye For Ebony on Unsplash

9 Ways I’ll Be Using Less Plastic in 2019

A dumpter overflows with trash, mostly in plastic bags, some loose. Trash is on the ground around the dumpster. Text says:
Image by Pixabay

I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but one of my intentions for 2019 is to continue making small changes in my daily life to walk more gently on the earth, and especially to reduce my use of single-use plastic.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of these links, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You can read more about my advertising policy here.

Reusable grocery bags

After literally years of leaving my reusable shopping bags either at home or in my car, I am finally remembering to bring them into stores with me almost all the time. I use the kind grocery stores usually sell for a dollar or sometimes give away, and I find they work well for me. Not only are they green, but they’re stronger than plastic grocery bags, so I don’t have to worry about a bag being sliced open by the sharp edge of some cellophane packaging or splitting from too much weight. They also sit in my trunk without flopping all over and spilling their contents. If you’d prefer another type, though, there are many bags available for purchase, such as foldable bags in cute designs, or bags that are actually collapsible boxes.

   

Packing lunches

An open plastic container holds wrap sandwiches and grape tomatoes
Image by Pixabay

Along with plastic grocery bags, I’ve ditched plastic ziplock bags for the most part. I still use them for frozen foods, but when packing lunches or snacks I use either Sistema boxes (yes, they’re plastic, but they last for years. Much better than plastic bags or disposable plastic containers) or Lunchskins paper sandwich bags. These bags seal with a peel-and-stick strip and are perfect for sandwiches and dry snacks. I’ve noticed that Reynolds has started making paper sandwich bags, too, but I’m a sucker for the cute pictures on the Lunchskins ones.

       

I also use reusable water bottles. After trying a bunch of different brands over the years, I found that I really love Sip by S’well stainless steel bottles. They don’t have straws or any other fiddly parts that get lost or are hard to clean. Just a bottle and a cap. They come in cute prints, they last for years, and they are double-walled, so they keep your cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. They can be a bit pricey, but I usually buy them on sale. I’ve also gotten some knock-offs from Aldi, so keep your eyes peeled at back-to-school season!

   

Making Laundry Cleaner and Greener

I’m planning to ditch plastic jugs of laundry detergent in 2019. Homemade laundry soap is really easy to make, and the recipe is even easy to remember. It’s just one bar of soap, one cup of borax, and one cup of washing soda. You can probably find borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket, Walmart, or Target. Or you can order it from Amazon. Grate the soap with a box grater, and then stir the grated soap, the borax, and the washing soda together. If you want, you can add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Store the mixture in an airtight container, and use 2-4 TBS  (1/8 – 1/4 cup) per load. I’ve never had a problem with it dissolving in cold water, but if you do, you can just dissolve it in a cup or two of hot water and toss that mixture into the washing machine before filling it up with cold. (Or pour it into the liquid detergent dispenser if your machine has one of those). It’s safe for HE machines, too.

   

Shower solutions

stacked bars of soap
image by Pixabay

I’ve started using bar soap in the shower to avoid using plastic bottles of shower gel. This also solves the problem of having an inch of soap left in the bottom of the bottle that you can’t get to with the pump. Don’t you hate that? I suspect that manufacturers purposely make the pump tubes too short so we’ll buy a new bottle sooner.

Did you know that shampoo and conditioner also come in bars? I just bought a handmade conditioner bar on Etsy, and there are also a ton on Amazon. Once I finish my current bottle of shampoo, I’ll replace that with a bar, too.

You know what else is plastic and in my bathroom? My toothbrush. I just ordered a pack of bamboo toothbrushes, and I’m going to try to convince my whole family to switch.

I’m not perfect, and I know there’s plenty more I can do to help the environment. But using less plastic, especially single-use disposable plastic, is one step, and it’s not hard to do. If you have other suggestions for using less disposable plastic around the house, please let me know in the comments!

Twelve Perfect Gifts for Bullet Journallers

Bullet journalling is becoming more and more popular

In case you haven’t noticed, bullet journalling (aka bujo-ing) has taken the world by storm over the past few years. What is bullet journalling? In the simplest terms, it is a way of making your own planner in a notebook. The concept was popularized by Ryder Carroll, and his method is a simple system of lists with symbols and an index. The planner community (yes, that’s a thing) grabbed the idea and ran with it, and now most bullet journallers embellish their journals with artwork, stickers, color coding, washi tape, scrapbook elements, fancy lettering, and anything else you can imagine.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of these links, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You can read more about my advertising policy here.

If you know someone who bullet journals, or if you want to try it yourself, here are the perfect items to start with. Be warned, though: there are so many brands, styles, and sizes of notebooks, and bujo addicts can be very particular about which ones they use. If you’re buying a gift for someone who already uses a bujo, your best bet is to ask them which notebook they prefer to use.

First, of course, is the book that started it all: The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll.

Notebooks

Next, some notebooks. Moleskine and Leuchtturm are two classic brands that many bullet journallers love. Even within these two brands, there are different sizes, different covers, and different types of pages– lined, gridded (like graph paper), dot-gridded, or blank– so, again, you really want to ask before buying this as a gift for an established bujo-er. You can be slick and tell them you’re looking into bujo-ing and want a recommendation.

   

Scribbles That Matter is a popular brand that has a few things set up for you already. Their pages are pre-numbered, and they have preprinted pages for an index, a key, and even a pen test page.

Pens and Markers

For a simple black pen, my go-to is the Sharpie fine point pen. It’s a durable felt-tip pen that you can find almost anywhere, it dries quickly, and it hardly ever bleeds through paper. Another nice one is Pigma Micron. Micron goes beyond fine and extra-fine points to give you a whole range of points. Get the six pack and see which one you like best.

For writing and drawing fine lines in color, the pens you need are fineliners. The two most popular brands are Staedtler and Stabilo. I have the 36-pack of Staedtlers and I looooove it.

One of the biggest hits in the bujo world is the Zebra Mildliner pens. When I first started seeing the name, I misread it as “midliner,” which I assumed was a size between fineliner and a bold fat marker such as a chisel-tip. Finally I realized it was mildliner, referring to the mildness of the soft, pastel shades. The Mildliner comes in four sets: warm, cool, fluorescent, and a newer set with bolder (but still mild) colors; I’m not sure what the newest set is called. They are double-ended, with a traditional highlighter point at one end and a fine point marker at the other. They’re perfect for highlighting and coloring.

Washi Tape

Washi tape is a decorative paper tape that originated in Japan. Like masking tape, it is sticky but can often be repositioned, and it can be torn off the roll easily. The standard width is 15mm (about 5/8″), but skinny and wide versions are also available. It can be used to create borders or dividing lines, or to decorate anywhere in your bullet journal. There are SO MANY kinds of washi out there, with any kind of picture or pattern you can possibly imagine.

My Fall Bucket List

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of these links, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You can read more about my advertising policy here.

two wooden benches outside with fall leaves on the ground
image by Pixabay

Although it doesn’t feel like it in Charlotte (we’re supposed to hit 90 again next week), fall is here. This year, for the first time, I’ve decided to make a Fall Bucket List. I’m hoping that if I have a written list of things I want to do, the season won’t get away from me before I manage to do more than drink a couple Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. So here it is, in no particular order:

1. Go to to the Carolina Renaissance Festival. We used to go as a family every year, but it got too expensive, so we stopped. Every year the kids beg for it, and every year I really want to go… and every year I sadly give up on it. This year, I’ve decided we’re going no matter what.

2. Participate in Inktober. I’m going to take 31 pages or half-pages of my sketchbook,date them, and write the prompts on top, so I’ll remember to do it every day and I won’t have to stop and look anything up. I’ll be able to just draw, photograph, and post. Keep an eye on my Instagram if you want to see my Inktober drawings!

3. Go apple-picking. We’re so lucky in Charlotte to have farms and orchards close by. Some are even within city limits. So I’m going to go pick some apples, drink some hot cider, and eat cider doughnuts. If I’m lucky, they’ll also have a corn maze.

three apples hanging from a branch
image by Pixabay

4. Go to a pumpkin patch. I can’t just pick my own apples- I have to pick my own pumpkins, too! Or actually, let the kids pick their own pumpkins while I sip coffee and take pictures.

a field of pumpkins and pumpkin vines
image by Pixabay

5. Bake fall treats. If I’m going to pick apples and pumpkins, I’ll have to bake things with apples and pumpkins. Like apple muffins, apple bread, apple crisp, and apple pie. And then of course, there’s pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie. Since my husband can’t tolerate gluten, I’ll be making gluten-free versions of all these things. I’m looking forward to cozying up in front of the fire and enjoying some home-baked goodies.

a partially sliced loaf of pumpkin bread
image by Pixabay

6. Go hiking. Once the weather is cool enough that I don’t sweat as soon as I walk out the door, I’m going to start walking. With my husband, with the kids, with the dogs, with friends, and alone. Around the neighborhood, along the greenways, in the woods, and hopefully up some mountains. I want to exercise a lot more than I do currently, and I love being out in nature. Except for the bugs. I could do without the bugs.

7. Knit. I really want to knit a pair of socks this year. And maybe a cowl. And hats for the kids. And a couple of coffee cozies to use instead of those cardboard sleeves. And….

a ball of orange yarn
image by Pixabay

8. Make other fall crafts. As a matter of fact, I’m going to post some fall dollar store crafts soon. You might want to join my mailing list so you don’t miss them!

9. Make my home smell like fall. Pumpkin spice. Hot apple cider. Woodsmoke. Pancakes and maple syrup. Fall candles, fall plug-in oil thingies, fall wax melts, you name it, I’m here for it! My house is going to smell like an autumn wonderland.

10. Watch Halloween movies. Can you believe I have never seen Hocus Pocus?!

animated gif of three witches from the movie Hocus Pocus

 

6 Tips For Cutting Your Own Hair

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After months of hating my fried, dry, breaking, over-bleached
hair, I decided to temporarily give up on growing it long, and gave myself a cute, shaggy, modern mullet.

I’ve been cutting my own hair for at least a decade. I have no formal training. What I have is wavy (and thus forgiving) hair and a “fuck it” attitude. You can cut your own hair, too. I’m not going to teach you how to do that, but what I will do is give you some vital tips.

2013 bob

1. Do your research. Read and watch lots of online tutorials. Look at photos, drawings, and videos. Watch videos of people cutting their own hair as well as people cutting other people’s hair. When you think you’ve seen enough, look at more. While you’re still getting your hair professionally cut, watch your hairdresser and study how they cut your hair.

2. Use decent tools. Don’t cut your hair with the scissors from your desk drawer. Buy haircutting scissors from a beauty supply store such as Sally, or online from Amazon and use them only for hair. Proper tools make a difference.

Image by Jo Johnston

3. There are different schools of though about whether your hair should be wet or dry while being cut. Even professionals vary on this. Personally, I favor dry cutting, especially for beginners, because it’s much easier to see what your hair will ultimately look like when you cut it dry. Whichever you choose, remember that wet hair shrinks when it dries. The curlier it is, the more it shrinks. If you cut curly hair when it’s wet, you might see a difference of inches when it dries.

4. Start slow. Cut off less than you think you want, especially if you’re making a drastic change. To state the obvious, you can always cut more, but you can’t put hair back once you cut it off. Even if you decide to cut more two days later, it’s better than lopping off too much and instantly regretting it.

2016 pixie

5. To cut the back of your hair, you need either a trifold mirror or a patient friend who will hold a hand mirror up so you can see the back of your head while you cut.

6. Remember, it’s only hair. If you give yourself a bad cut, it will grow back.

Cutting Myself Some Slack

Today I was going to get up at nine, start writing at ten, work on reading with Luz at around eleven-thirty, and then make some very overdue phone calls. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with everyday life tasks such as paying bills, making various appointments, homeschooling my daughter, keeping the house semi-clean… you know, the kind of things that everyone else seems to do without even thinking about it. I decided my problem was that I didn’t have a specific time set aside each day for any of these tasks. When I set up my planner for this week (yesterday, because that’s another thing I have trouble keeping up with), I scheduled these tasks, and last night I made sure to set my alarm.

After waking repeatedly through the night, I pressed snooze for a whole hour this morning and woke up at ten. Sometime after eleven, I realized I desperately needed to grocery shop, but I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the store. I ordered groceries online for Publix to deliver. By the time I was done, it was past noon and I hadn’t eaten anything. I started making some food, which of course prompted two of my kids to ask me to make food for them, too. Finally, after a brief stint as a short-order cook, I ate my first meal of the day. This happens much more often than it should. I actually have a reminder set on my phone for 1pm every day to tell me to eat, because I tend to get busy and forget to eat until mid-afternoon.

After I ate, I did manage to make one phone call before realizing how much pain I was in. I mean absolutely severe physical pain. And that’s when I had to remind myself that sure, scheduling time for certain tasks would probably be helpful, but my trouble goes deeper than that.

See, I suffer from chronic pain and exhaustion that I’m pretty sure are due to fibromyalgia. I haven’t yet gotten a diagnosis (remember those appointments that I still have to make?), but I tick off most of the red flags and my primary care doctor thinks it’s likely. I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and over the past month or so I’ve weaned off one antidepressant and started another. Not only has this been absolute hell psychologically, but my physical pain has increased immensely. So today, my entire body is aching and my head is about to explode. You know how you feel when you have the flu? That achiness you feel throughout your bones and even your skin? Add a strained lower back, and that’s how I feel now.

I was feeling guilty for not sticking to my schedule, for not doing the things that appear to be so easy for everyone else. I had to stop and consciously adjust my thinking. I had to remind myself that I actually did accomplish things today. I bought groceries (they were delivered as I wrote this post). I made lunch for two of the kids. I made an appointment for my daughter to get a haircut. I took care of myself: I showered, dressed, ate, and took my medication. This is important; it’s not something I can always do. And now I’m lying in bed. I have my coffee, my sketchbook, and my knitting next to my bed on my Räskog cart. I took some ibuprofen. And I’m not going to feel guilty for having reached my limit.