Latest Posts


Like I mentioned in the Powersheets post on Monday, I have some more details to share about the goal I titled 'How Not to Die Year.' It does essentially boil down to a vegan year, but with a few more nuances. First though, the results of my food sensitivity test!

Food Sensitivity Test Results 

One of the things that John got me for Christmas was a food sensitivity test. I asked for it, of course, so I was very excited to send it back in and get my results. The one I got is from Everlywell (not sponsored but you get some sort of discount with that link if you want to try it out for yourself.) It's fairly straightforward - the kit they send includes two lancets. You prick your finger and place the blood drops on the card with your name on it. Mail it back in and your results come in just a couple of days. I couldn't believe how quickly it came. But yes, if you have issues with blood or needle pricks, this is not for you! I have no such issues so the whole thing took me maybe 5 minutes.

My results? Thankfully, not super highly sensitive on anything they tested for. But a few moderate sensitivities, which can still cause symptoms: cow's milk, eggs, cashews, brewer's yeast, clams, ginger, and yogurt. And to a lesser extent, mozzarella and white mushrooms. I guess I'm not surprised - cheese has always caused issues for me, and most people can't tolerate cow's milk, we all just have it anyway. Lots of reasons for that, from marketing to government subsidies, but that's a post for another time. And I never really ate eggs on their own, but it makes sense why so many desserts turned me off, especially cookies, since eggs are a main baking ingredient. Made my decision to have an all vegan year that much easier. I've never eaten meat, so the only real holdouts for being totally vegan were cheese and chocolate, both things that very much cause some digestive issues for me, along with headaches and flushed skin.

But the other foods on the list did surprise me, and for that, I'm glad I took the test. Because I never would have figured them out on my own through an elimination diet. I mean, cashews? I've never had a visible nut reaction so it wouldn't have even occurred to me to test myself for this, but cashews are the main ingredient in processed vegan foods, like vegan cheese and sauces! No wonder I always say 'I don't like vegan cheese.' What I really mean is 'vegan cheese gives me stomach pains and headaches' but I guess I only knew that information subconsciously. 

And brewer's yeast? I mean, why would I even consider that the problem. I knew certain beers were bugging me and causing headaches, but in America, beers are required to be yeast free so it's all filtered out. I assumed it was a gluten or sugar problem (in a fun turn of events, gluten is an absolute 0 on the reaction scale for me, I have no sensitivity to it whatsoever), but apparently the effects of the yeast in the beer before the filtering is enough to cause issues. It's also present in wine, which explains why I also get an instant headache from wine and dislike it so much. Oh, and it's in soy sauce, so it probably wasn't the high sodium in Chinese food that was bothering me, or at least not solely. It was this tricky brewer's yeast.

How Not to Die Year

This title comes directly from the book by Dr. Greger. I've mentioned this before, it's one of my favorites. As is the corresponding cookbook. At the end of the day, it's a book advocating for a plant-based lifestyle. Each chapter contains information on the leading causes of death for Americans, mostly diseases that can be prevented through eating the proper nutrients. Nutrients that come only from a well-rounded plant-based diet. And specifically through avoiding all of the bad stuff we already know leads to clogged arteries and more, like meat, trans fats, dairy, and processed who knows what. It's a fascinating read, and one that I'm working my way through again right now. This time with little sticky tabs to mark the most important passages.

Last year, I worked on the Blue Zone Living Challenge, which is very similar in terms of what to eat, but also emphasizes the importance of things like family and community connections, regular daily movement, and regularly de-stressing. I tackled these other aspects really well, but not so much the food aspect. So I wanted to focus on that this year, which made the How Not to Die plan a better fit, because it's much more detailed about the 'diet' plan. It's not actually a diet designed for weight loss, but a whole vegan diet based lifestyle change.

Although the book contains tons of scientific studies and detailed information, the author was able to condense it down into the Daily Dozen plan, and provides a free app to track your days by. It's incredibly straightforward. Each day, Dr. Greger recommends eating 3 servings of beans, 1 of berries, 3 of other fruits, 1 of cruciferous vegetables, 2 of greens, 2 of other vegetables, 1 serving of flaxseeds, 1 of nuts and seeds, 1 of herbs and spices, and 3 of whole grains. I would never remember the full count on my own so the awesome thing is, the app tells you exactly how much constitutes a serving, and offers a full list of foods to eat to cover that serving. Plus you get a nice little box for each serving to make a check mark in. It even includes space to check off your water intake, moderate daily exercise, and your B-12 supplement. 

Now, I may not hit every check mark every day, but the closer I can get, the healthier my eating habits. If I include all those things into my day, I wouldn't even have room in my stomach for anything else on the more unhealthy end, like cheese and processed grains! I'm someone who needs a lot of guidance and hand-holding in making my meal plan for the week, so something this structured is exactly what I'm looking for. Plus, the recipes in the cookbook (and I've loved everything I've made so far) note at the bottom which serving and how many of them they check off.

So this year, I'm mainly aiming to stick to a vegan diet so I'm not triggered into physically feeling bad by eating the things high on my sensitivities test. And the Daily Dozen plan is definitely the best way for me personally to make sure I'm getting the nutrients I need across the board, without feeling stressed and overwhelmed when making a meal plan. To consider this a win or give myself an A at the end of the year, I need to: (a) stick to a vegan diet, (b) cut out processed foods, even vegan ones like frozen fake meat burgers or nuggets, (c) take my damn vitamins daily and not sporadically like I currently do, and (d) end the year with completely normal blood test results. Which they mostly were this year, just insanely low on vitamin D and a little too high on some of the 'bad' markers.

If you have an vegan (cashew free!) recipes or meals that you love, please share. I'm always looking for new options.

Have you taken a food sensitivity test? What gives your immune system issues?

How Not to Die Year (and Food Sensitivity Test Results)

Friday, January 7, 2022

If you've been reading for awhile, then you'll know that I attempted to go 'no sugar' over the summer of 2021. And I did great all the way up to Halloween candy. Damn that candy. I don't even like it! It's just that addicting. So I decided to tackle this goal again, and get more months and good habits under my belt before the holiday season hits. No sugar 2022 it is.

No added sugar, I should say, because some whole foods are perfectly healthy for you but contain sugar (fruit! quinoa!) and are not off the table this year. But everything else is, because sugar, namely fructose, is poison. Don't believe me? You simply must watch the most interesting hour and a half video on YouTube. There are so many obesity related diseases rampant in America and no matter how many no carb, no fat, no meat, no ___ diets people try, Americans are still fatter and more unhealthy than ever. And it's directly correlated with sugar. (And seed oils, but I don't eat much of those anyway so one problem at a time.)

The No Sugar Science

Sugar, namely fructose, is highly addicting. The more you eat, the more you want to eat - the average American eats half a cup of sugar a day. Drinking something with fructose (juice or soda) before a meal actually makes you eat more. Unlike drinking a glass of water which fills the stomach the same way, but makes you eat less. So sugar itself may not be highly fattening, but it encourages you to eat so much more, leading to weight gain. And the cycle only gets worse because, like any other drug, the more you consume sugar, the more you need to get the same high and satisfy the craving. Which is why quitting cold turkey for an extended period of time makes the most sense - it's hard to just limit intake on addicting substances.

Sugar also lowers your immune system, increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol,  heart attacks, certain cancers, fatty liver disease, depression, dementia, and Alzheimers. I'm sure there's more - it's poison. There's a lot of science behind why the glucose in fruit is necessary for humans and why fructose absolutely isn't and blocks insulin but again, I recommend watching the video because science major I am not.

My Own Sugar Issues

Here's the thing I already know - added sugar makes me feel awful. It's an absolute migraine trigger for me. I started paying much closer attention to sugar. Vegan brownies made from dates? Delicious and pain free. Conventional brownies? Sugar crash, including pounding headache, within 30 minutes. It became clear that my issues were all associated with consuming added sugar. And looking back at 2020, when I couldn't seem to get headaches under control, they were highly correlated with sugar intake. When I intentionally started losing weight and eating better (October 2020), the headaches subsided, but it still took me until mid-2021 to make the direct sugar connection.

The added sugar in just about everything makes it really complicated. Bread, ketchup, pizza, tacos, salad dressing, frozen foods, etc etc - everything has hidden added sugar. Because that's what makes it taste good and keep you buying more, so companies keep on adding more. And I need to quit it. It directly over laps with my vegan diet I plan on talking all about in tomorrow's post, but since sugar is such a specific subset, I decided it needed its own goal and its own post.

My No Sugar Year Rules

I'm a rule follower by nature (enneagram Type 1 here, and an ESTJ), so I have to have a list to refer to. I'm also an obliger and extrinsically motivated, which means I need to post about it here and have other people read it in order to remain accountable. So here's what I came up with:

1. No added sugar. It sounds simple enough but sugar really is in everything, and under sneaky chemical names, so it can be tough when determining whether something processed fits the bill. It almost never does, so that means real food - more on that tomorrow. No sugar means: white and brown sugar, cane sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane syrup, honey, agave, fruit juice, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners. I'm sure there's more I forgot, so if I find myself buying something packaged, I need to research the ingredients list to make sure it's not hiding in there under another name.

2. Fruit is fine. Fruit is real, whole food, and it's good for you. It has fiber and nutrients that negate the bad effects of fructose, and fills you up before you even hit danger levels of sugar. So I'll be having fruits often, hopefully daily, but about 3 servings a day or less. (I actually don't like it that much so...) And like I said, a lot of whole, real foods have sugar, like quinoa. That's okay. Fruit juice is still the devil's drink though, no fruit juice allowed.

3. Medication and vitamins are exempted. Is there sugar in my Flintstones chewable vitamin? Sure tastes like it. But I'm not checking the ingredients list because it's the only multivitamin I can ever take regularly. Because I'm 7. So I'm giving myself an exemption for this, as well as any other medication I may need. Because almost all of it has sugar of some sort, but it's obviously not the same thing as a cup of ice cream.

That's it's, three simple rules! Simple in theory, at least, not so much in practice. But that's the point. Let me know if you think there are any hurdles or details I forgot about, so I can include them into my rules list. I love starting with a well-thought out plan.

No Sugar Year - 2022

Thursday, January 6, 2022

So last year, it was one of my goals to make 2021 a no spend year. And although I didn't overspend and in fact spent less than in previous years, it still wasn't the successful shopping ban that I had planned. There were a few reasons for it, reasons that I plan on tackling in advance this year so I can stick with the plan I had intended. Just in 2022 instead. And one of the main things was not being absolutely crystal clear on my personal rules, as well as not having any accountability or check ins. You'll see coming up next month that my goal check ins will be much more detailed, so I'll have a space to track my spending (among all my other goals too), plus I'll have the blog itself and you readers as accountability. 

So in order to consider this goal a win and give myself an A at the end of 2022, here's what I need to accomplish:

Rules for the Year

Spending allowed on:

  • Bills, which include electric, gas, water/city utilities, security system, TV/wifi, Netflix (though I'm starting the year with a Netflix gift card I asked for for Christmas, and that should cover the first 8 months), and health insurance. And anything car related like insurance and registration, but often my mom pays for these and in exchange, I pay when I take her dog to grooming every month and watch him for 6 months out of the year and pay for all the dog food and vet visits. It evens out.
  • Gas for the car, because I don't drive around randomly or for fun, so I'm never constantly filling up. Not something I overspend on. And other car needs like oil changes (probably due for that soon, now that I think about it...) and if I absolutely must pay for parking. My allowance in this category for something not totally necessary is two car washes this year.
  • Groceries, including household supplies like tissues, toothpaste, and vitamins, but I do plan on tracking this better and utilizing sales along with proper meal planning. And less waste.
  • Getting my hair done. I get highlights and I only do it twice a year. And it costs me exactly $400 for the year.
  • Dog expenses. Food, groomings, vet visits, all that fun stuff.
  • Cat and wildlife expenses. For the feral cats of course, which is just food. And I buy oats, nuts, and seeds for the birds, squirrels, ducks, and geese. The opossums get our scraps and leftovers. What can I say, I love animals.
  • Medical expenses. Obviously, any co-pays. And any medical needs like Advil or cough medicine - not like I'm buying those things for fun! I won't be adding any experimental vitamins or supplements. I know what works for me and what I need, so only the essentials unless recommended by my doctor.
  • Repairs. Should something get a tear or my phone stops working, I can get it repaired instead of getting a new one.
  • Gardening. We ripped out the giant bush/tree things in the front that I was allergic to and now I need to plant something new and we want to make it a black and red garden. Plus mulch and plants for the back. Things I hate spending money on but my mom loves this project so it's like spending on 'bonding time' really.

Absolutely no spending on:

  • Candles
  • Books, e-books, cookbooks, magazines
  • E-content, like Etsy downloads and online courses. This also includes phone apps, though I've rarely paid for any since owning a phone. But I'm trying to make a complete list here.
  • Planners, pens, other stationary
  • Home decor and other home items like dishes, towels, organizational bins, etc.
  • Coffee outside the house, unless I'm using a gift card.
  • Makeup, skincare, or haircare. I should have everything I need for the year other than when skincare or makeup runs out. I can only replace something once it's actually run out - so no experimenting or buying extras that aren't part of my current lineup. I specifically asked for Ulta gift cards for Christmas for this purpose. And no spending on getting my nails done or buying more supplies to do them at home. I have what I need to use up for the year and plan on getting new Dazzle Dry polishes for Christmas at the end of the year.
  • Clothing and accessories. Which would include underwear, shoes, scarves, jewelry, purses, etc. I think I'm all set but may need a pair of sandals for the summer. That would be the only allowance in the clothing category.
  • Witch supplies, unless it's absolutely necessary for the podcast/YouTube/patreon. I tend to expand the definition of necessary and write it all off as a business expense but that doesn't mean I'm not still spending money on it. 
  • Eating out/ordering in
  • Drinking
  • Entertainment
  • Junk food and sugar. I get John some snack type crap food at the grocery, which is fine for him, but off limits for me this year.
  • Halloween decor. A tough one for me! But I think we have everything I particularly want for decor and party purposes, and I don't want to get anything else until I display everything and see a real need. If there's anything new this year from my favorites (Spirit Halloween and Grandin Road) that I love, I'll put it on my birthday and Christmas wish list.

My allowances:

  • I'm allowed to spend on fun things like drinks/entertainment (street fests, date night, lunch with Betsy, a bar crawl here and there) only if I use 'free' money in some way. This means gift cards or money I earn online like through Swagbucks.
  • I'll need things to furnish the new upstairs: a king size bed, sheets and a comforter, a desk and desk chair, and possibly nightstands. Maybe a couple other things, but that's to be expected when adding on an entire new master bedroom and office area. But no decor items! Strictly the furnishings part.
  • Limited spending on hosting. We host Halloween (though it's been very small and low key the last two years, for obvious reasons), and we may host the 4th of July. There are obviously costs associated, like food, drinks, and ice, but my aim is to keep these costs low, use what we have, and not lump everything into 'hosting essentials' like random Halloween home decor.
  • Limited spending on goals. I have other goals this year that will cost money. Like getting married. Even without a wedding, at the bare minimum we have to pay for the marriage license (a bullshit racket in its own right, but that's a post for another time). There's also a few things on my 101 list that will cost money. But I still plan on keeping these expenses as low as possible.
  • Limited spending on gifts. I'm usually pretty good at finding deals so I don't spend a lot anyway, but since John is hard to shop for, I tend to go overboard at the last minute. I'm setting a budget for everyone this year and sticking with it. Under $1,000 for sure, but I'm aiming for under $500. I'll have a better idea and a more definite budget as the year progresses.

The Carrot and the Stick

Here's where I'm changing up something important: the cost of not following my own rules. You would think that since it's my money that I would automatically be driven to follow the plan. This is not the case. In all goals and goal setting, you need to know how you operate best to stay on track and I know that I'm (a) extrinsically motivated, meaning that I NEED outside accountability because I'm incapable of answering only to myself and (b) pressed by the stick, not the carrot. I'm much more likely to get things done if there's a punishment looming rather than a prize or just the pride of a job well done. Procrastinators will totally understand me, because you too have the instant gratification monkey and panic monster in your brain (best TED talk ever), and get stuff finally completed at the last minute because there's a real threat if you don't, like getting fired or failing a class. 

So my stick: having to donate the matching amount of whatever I spent that didn't follow my rules. $1 candy bar? $1 to charity. $40 dress? $40 to charity. Now, we donate anyway, donating itself is not a punishment, and we will still do our regular donations this year. But having to give extra that's based solely on the amount I spent on crap I didn't need? That will sting. Like Jay-Z said, if you can't afford to buy it twice, you can't afford it. To make it sting a little more, I'm letting Steph pick the charity at the end of the year. And we do not align politically so she could totally pick the DNC and I'd have to do it. Talk about motivation. (She wouldn't, she has much smaller/closer to home/more productive charities she always talks about, but still! Ball would be in her court.)

My carrot I haven't decided on yet, but there will be one. I'm working this year on rewarding myself for the things I accomplish so maybe I can learn to be more carrot-motivated. But I haven't worked out yet exactly what those rewards will look like. If you have any ideas, I'm all ears.

And that is my no spend list. Let me know if there's anything I forgot, because it's entirely possible. I looked at my last couple of months of spending to help me figure out the rules, but I could have missed some categories. Trying to be thorough here! Are you curtailing your spending at all this year?

No Spend Year - 2022

Wednesday, January 5, 2022