It is finally here. The time of the year where every human on Earth with access to a social media outlet, blog, or smoke signals will tell those around them what they resolve to change in the New Year. The time when those around you (or maybe even you…yes, you!) signs up for gym memberships that will be cancelled come February 1st. You know what I’m talking about, right? The dreaded, yet insanely optimistic, New Year’s Resolutions.
I used to prescribe to the New Year’s Resolution philosophy. I drank that Kool-Aid for years, but recently? I have come to terms that I cannot simply enact a change in my life based on a simple turn of the calendar. Instead, I have more success in establishing goals – not resolutions – for the things I want to accomplish over the next 3, 6, 12 months. There’s no New Year, New Me here, but there is a valid appreciation for looking back at the last year to determine what did and did not work and looking forward to find new ways to improve upon the areas of my life I wish to direct more positive energy toward.
With that, let’s get to it.
This Year’s Take-Aways
At the beginning of 2019, I made two very large goals for myself. One was to take control of my finances; the other was to place more focus on my health. There was no measurable outcome attached to either of these goals outside of pay off credit cards or lose 20 lbs, respectively. As I wrote in The Get Right Year, these goals morphed so unexpectedly over the months that they look much different now than they did on January 1, 2019.
While I was able to pay off a portion of my debt (granted, a small portion) by being more careful about my budget and increasing income streams, I have essentially the same debt now as I did then. This is thanks to an increasing reliance on credit cards as well as medical bills I had not foreseen at the start of the year.
As I began to pay more attention to my health, my strict focus on finances became more lax. I noticed this the most when it came to my diet and now needing to replace no-no foods with options that were unfortunately more expensive as well as an increased amount of co-pays and bills associated with doctor’s appointments, blood work, ultrasounds, and the like. While I could beat myself up over the fact that I did not plan accordingly for these expenditures, that does not help me after the fact. I can only take it for what it is…
That is, circumstances will arise that are out of our control.
Even if I am disappointed about the state of my finances coming into the New Year, there is one thing I am very proud of. The real accomplishment this year has been my focus on my health. For the first time in my life, I have gone beyond just wanting to lose 20 lbs to desiring to care for my body and spirit in a means that it needs – and not solely for vanity’s sake. I think that’s a wonderful way to spend a year even if my bank account does not reflect the same care.
Goals for 2020
This year has been a beautiful example of the power of the universe and how things can change and morph right before our eyes. Like a wise woman once said two paragraphs ago, circumstances may arise that are out of our control. How we choose to react to these is important and speaks a lot about our character, our value, and our self worth.
I would not trade the frustrations of 2019 for anything. This year finally gave me the motivation I need to begin taking control of my life. With that in mind, I have laid out several goals for 2020 as they relate to health, wellness, and this little slice of heaven called The Holy Aioli.
1. Completely cut gluten from my diet.
My biggest challenge this year has been my diet. Not the vitiligo. Not the Hashimoto’s. My diet.
I have waffled between the incredibly restrictive Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and more lax Paleo diets – and even fallen off the wagon completely and eaten like an average American consumer. (Sidenote: They call the standard American diet SAD for a reason, and it’s not just because it’s a kickass acronym.)
When I first started AIP, it was to prevent the spread of skin depigmentation (vitiligo). Over the course of reintroducing previously banned foods, I realized my body could not tolerate a growing list of things like:
The dairy and soy* I have long known about. I’ve been lactose intolerant since my teens and soy-sensitive since I began developing eczema around my eyes from milk alternatives in college. The eggs** I learned about a few years ago after allergy tests, but never really tested out. I simply don’t have the taste for them.
When reintroducing these foods, I noticed a ton of symptoms reemerge that I have lived with for years without ever realizing that they were, in fact, symptoms. This includes fatigue and brain fog coupled with memory loss and confusion. This includes bloating and inflammation. This includes eczema and reddened/blushed skin. It even includes heightened anxiety and depression as well as panic attacks. I have lived with these for years, but just thought they were a normal part of getting older or attributed them to medication I was taking. It never occurred to me they were side effects of foods my body could no longer tolerate.
Even though I have listed a decently lengthy list of foods that are now no-no’s, why does this goal only focus on one? Let me explain…
In an ideal world, I will give up everything on this list. It is what will make my body and mind feel best. However, I know myself. I know how I react emotionally to being told something is completely off limits – and how I react when I slip up.
You know that feeling you get when you couldn’t care less about doing something, but then someone tells you cannot do it? You suddenly want it more than you have ever wanted anything.
Because I don’t typically eat soy or eggs, there’s no value in consistently reminding myself they are no longer allowed in my diet. A similar philosophy goes for foods like corn, chickpeas, dairy, and fennel. Because I only eat these foods in specific dishes (e.g., popcorn, tortillas, hummus, pizza), discovering healthier alternatives to these snacks is more worthwhile than badgering myself about making sure they stay far away from my plate.
Sugar is tricky. I find that when it comes to eliminating certain foods, I tend toward an all or nothing attitude. If my goal is to completely rid myself of sugar, then what will most likely happen is that the second I cheat or give in to the temptation of a cookie or latte, I will tell myself that none of this matters anymore and move on to heavier drugs…in this case, every slice of pizza this side of the Ashley River.
My best bet in this case is similar to my approach with the other foods – Focus on finding healthier alternatives rather than banning it completely.
This is the part of the story where gluten and wheat come in. Because it is in nearly every processed food imaginable and disguised in food labels by listing seemingly benign terms (like triticum vulgar or even the ever popular natural flavoring), it is difficult to avoid unless you either look very carefully or make everything from scratch. Most convenience foods contain it which is…well…very inconvenient. It isn’t quite as simple as finding an alternative to sweetener in a recipe or replacing popcorn with plantain chips. It requires more effort so it is the food I will need to focus on the most moving forward.
Over the next two months, I solemnly swear to be more mindful of the foods on my plate, find safer and healthier alternatives to gluten-heavy fan favorites, and cut out gluten from my diet with the goal of decreasing inflammation, reducing eczema outbreaks, and gain a clearer mind.
I do not currently plan to reintroduce it after the two month mark, but you know…saying two months versus until I’m on Death’s doorstep sounds less daunting.
2. Switch 80% of my beauty and hygiene products to those with more natural ingredients.
Along the lines of being more mindful of the foods I put into my body, I have also become more interested in the types of products I put on my skin. Like Lizzo, I am a die-hard fan of coconut oil. Like every mother of two entrenched in a pyramid scheme*, I am also an avid proponent of essential oils. Outside of that? I honestly don’t give these products as much thought as I’d like.
*Please note that I am neither Lizzo nor am I a mother of two, unless you count my cats as children. Then, that may be accurate. I also am not part of a pyramid scheme, but do know a quality line of fat burners and superfood drinks I would love sell you at half the price of retail that are guaranteed to get you from a size 12 to a size -2 in 30 days. Just join my Facebook group for more information.
This is a practice I want to put more energy towards over the next year, 2 years, 50 years. Like any good goal, it is not an overnight effort…hence the arbitrary, definitely-not-accurately-calculated statistic. 80% is a fairly vague approximation of the beauty and hygiene products I want to focus on the most over the next year. This includes…
- Face Wash
- Face Moisturizer
- Body Moisturizer (i.e., Lotions, Oils)
- Body Wash
Several of these I have already made some progress in moving to products with more natural ingredients. For example, the face wash I use primarily consists of tea tree oil and lavender oil; I occasionally use coconut oil for oil pulling (teeth) and a facial moisturizer; and my toothpaste/mouthwash are both a brand that include more natural ingredients than toxic ones.
On the other hand, a few of these goals make me nervous – shampoo in particular. In all my hippie dreams, I would love to go the no-poo route for hair care. However, I am not yet brave nor patient enough for such an endeavor.
What is not included in this list is makeup and cosmetics as well as hair dye. That 20% is a goal for another year…or decade…or lifetime.
How do I plan on tackling this? Well, thankfully Pinterest is on my side as well as a hoard of resources on the internet. What did people do before these marvels anyway?
For products like face wash, face and body moisturizer, and mouthwash, I will likely employ the handy dandy DIY. For the others, I will most likely go through trial and error with products that contain minimal ingredients and decrease the use of toxic chemicals in favor of ingredients that are plant based and sustainable. This is one of the goals I am actually really looking forward to most!
3. Decrease food waste.
Hello, my name is Jenn, and I am a food hoarder.
Anyone who has ever lived with me knows that I always have my pantry, fridge, and freezer stocked with food. I am a girl who believes in being prepared. I’m not sure why I do this, but I partially blame it on a family history of hoarding (that’s a story for a different time, but spoiler alert: I’m not the real hoarder here).
While having a kitchen fully stocked does mean I always have options, it can be incredibly wasteful. It is fairly common for food to go unused, be frozen for later (and then forgotten about and trashed), or spoil. Not only is it environmentally negligent, it is not kind to my bank account.
One of my biggest goals this year is to decrease the amount of food I waste. While I am still in the process of looking for more inspiration on ways to accomplish this, I do actually have a decent game plan so far. Want to hear?
- Only go grocery shopping when I have a complete recipe or meal in mind to avoid impulse purchases, buying random ingredients, or blowing my dollar dollar bills on snacks I don’t need. Since I live within walking distance of a grocery store (and a quick 5 minute drive from multiple stores), this is more of a practice in patience and mindfulness than anything.
- Bring my own reusable bags to the store. The City of Mount Pleasant passed a law this year banning single-use plastics, including plastic grocery bags. Majority of stores now use bags made of paper or a sturdier recycled material. Regardless, I typically carry reusable grocery bags in my car. I just…you know…forget to take them. By sticking to only using these reusable bags for grocery shopping and limiting them to one or two bags, I will be able to cut down on the amount of groceries I am able to buy at one time. Less food = less waste.
- Freeze vegetable scraps to make broth. I have done this in the past and am a huge proponent. When chopping up vegetables, any odds and ends that do not make it into the dish can be frozen in a marked Ziplock bag for use later. Likewise, any vegetables or fruit that look like they are about to go bad but I do not have a plan for will meet their end in the Hans Solo (carbonite, not Kylo) fashion. The vegetables will be used to make broth while the fruits can be used for smoothies.
- Compost. This is not something I have tried before, but am excited to begin! I recently signed up with CompostNow, a local organization that provides the means for households, work places, and restaurants to compost food and culinary waste. This week they will deliver my first composting bucket. Over the next week, I’ll throw in anything wasteful that is compostable, and they’ll pick up the bucket next week and leave me with a brand new one to keep the process going. Through my account, I’ll also have the option to track the progress of how much compost is created from my contribution so that is pretty neat as well.
- Implement one week each month to shop the pantry. Remember that insane stock of food I mentioned already in the kitchen? I plan to set aside one week each month where I do not set foot in a grocery store under any circumstances. If there is a recipe I want to make that requires ingredients I have on hand, I either need to purchase them the week before or wait until the following week. The mission, if I so choose to accept it, is to use up those foods lying about in my fridge, freezer, and pantry.
4. Establish a regular mindfulness practice.
Over the last year, I have embraced my crunchy side in full form. Thanks to facilities like still soul studio here in Charleston, I have had the opportunity to experience mindfulness practices that are new to me. Those like sound baths, group meditations, kundalini yoga, and cacao ceremonies.
While I love these rituals and find so much value in them, I have not yet succeeded in developing my own consistent mindfulness practices outside of the studio. Once I am in the comfort of my own home, my patience for sitting with my thoughts grows thin. Even my journaling practice is inconsistent at best.
My goal for the next several months is to find new ways to introduce these mindfulness practices – both meditation and journaling – into my routines. Several ideas for this include:
- Set aside 5 minutes before bed to write in my journal.
- Use quick resources like a gratitude journal or the 5 Year Journal to both write and pause to practice mindfulness and reflection.
- Take walks on the beach or on nearby trails with no music or audiobooks playing in my ear.
- Download an app that offers meditation courses and help tracks progress.
While none of the above is particularly effective unless I actually do them, I would like to make this practice a more regular one over the next few months. For someone who is constantly so wrapped up in her own head, taking a moment to clear out all the noise is extremely valuable.
5. Embrace walks and hikes as sufficient forms of exercise.
Did I mention 2019 has been a year of change? Over the last few months, I have had to adjust my approach to physical fitness after realizing that high intensity workouts may be contributing to my flares and symptoms. I am no workout junkie – guys, so far from it – but I have given in to the hype that the more tiring a workout is, the better it is for you. That is until my endocrinologist helped me realize that at this point, any workout no matter the fitness level will likely leave me dog-tired…which kinda sorta debunked my theory. In their place, I have tried to take more walks as a form of exercise and meditation.
While I do enjoy going on walks, my pride has always thought that they just are not enough. I should push my body harder, be faster, get stronger. In reality though, some days even walks are too much for me to handle.
My fitness goal for the next few months is to make walking and hiking a larger portion of my workout regime. This will be easy enough to accomplish thanks to the availability of beaches and trails nearby. I have also purchased both a Charleston County Park Pass and a South Carolina State Park Pass with the goal of going hiking at least once a week, anywhere across the state. Courtesy of the Hiker Babes, I will be venturing on a #journeyto100 to keep myself accountable – striving for 100 hikes in no particular time frame.
My thoughts on this goal? I would love to make it more specific. My first instinct is to proclaim 50 hikes will be had in 2020, huzzah! However, I know myself. Embracing this slower pace as a valid form of exercise and building up my endurance is a battle I need to conquer first before setting a number in stone. This I will focus on over the next few months. After which, I will see where I stand, the miles I have logged, and determine where I want to go from there.
Now that you know my health and wellness goals for the New Year, tell me about yours. What habits and rituals are you looking to introduce or even remove from your life in the light of the Roaring 20’s? xo