Halloween, Whole 30

Hello!

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween. Chris and I are normally very low-key when it comes to big holidays and I don’t really enjoy the fuss of dressing up and going out for them (I’m a total wet blanket, I know). However, living in a place with only one season, I do tend to lose track of the days months and celebrating holidays helps to punctuate the passing of time.

So, we used colored paper to hang cutouts on the walls.

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And our cat, Dagâ, also helped.

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We made some spooky snacks, like this mummy pizza:

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As well as these severed fingers and monster faces:

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We also dressed in elaborate mustache costumes.

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Even though the weather is still warm and humid, our home definitely feels a little more autumnal with the decorations and festivities. We have been eating lots of pumpkins and warm curries and watching movies like Young Frankenstein and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Living in a new place encourages us to develop our own holiday traditions and it has been a really fun process.

Oh, I should also mention that we finished the Whole 30 program recently. It was a little anticlimactic since we sorta fell off towards the end when the Halloween treats were abundant.

Chris had joined the plan hoping to find new ways of incorporating unprocessed, local foods into our diet on a more regular basis. I joined hoping to learn if certain foods gave me troubles with digestion, energy levels, and my complexion. Our general impressions:

  • Completing the plan was reasonably easy and cheap due to living in Saipan. Things like coconut, fresh produce, and fish are affordable and easy to find, though there wasn’t much variety and that definitely wore on me at times.
  • We relied heavily on “throw together” meals. During the day, I would prep and cook most of our vegetables and meats. For each meal, we simply tossed things into a bowl and topped with some sort of seasoning or sauce. Ditto for lunches.
  • The repetition was sometimes left me feeling uninspired and bummed. We eventually indulged in a big sack of dry roasted almonds to shake things up a little.
  • Surprisingly, we really missed restaurants. Eating out has never been a huge part of our relationship, but it’s definitely one of the main forms of entertainment on island. I went out for coffee a few times, but abstaining from fun lunch dates did wear on us emotionally.

Regarding my specific concerns:

  • I undoubtedly found that I had more trouble digesting wheat, especially when consumed in concentrated quantities, like bread. Negligible things like soy sauce seem okay.
  • My energy levels remained impressively consistent, to which I credit the elimination of added sugars.
  • My complexion is still far from perfect, but I do think that eliminating dairy kept my skin a little clearer, especially during that TOM.

Where are we going from here? Ideally, we would like to eat Whole 30 foods almost exclusively while at home, but allowing little splurges when we’re out, especially now that the holidays are coming up :)

What are your thoughts on the Whole 30 plan?

Buddhism, Spirituality

Hello!

This is difficult to write, primarily because spirituality is deeply personal and I don’t want to offend, alienate, or cause discomfort for anyone. Additionally, it has never been a major part of my life and it’s strange to write about something without much experience. However, I do believe that mental and emotional health is an important aspect of healthy living blogs and, for that reason, I wanted to share some of my recent explorations. It’s a long haul, so I sprinkled in pictures of my cat and island. Please feel free to scroll to the bottom where there’s a little summary ;)

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While I was a teenager, I became disillusioned with the religion that I had grown up with. I don’t want to name it, but I was uncomfortable with its violent history, use of punishment to influence behavior, reliance on faith, and strict, male-dominated hierarchy. Religion wasn’t a big part of my adult life.
However, Chris and I visited Singapore recently, where I encountered Buddhist temples for the first time. I learned that Buddhism is a very large, very old tradition (here’s a nice, quick intro). Instead, I want to talk more about why I like it and what I have taken from it so far.

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Respect for the Well-Being of All Life

I love this idea. Of course, when it says “life,” it obviously means that you shouldn’t harm other people. But it goes further to include animals, the environment, and yourself. It argues that you can’t possibly begin to have compassion for others if you don’t first have it for yourself. I really believe this is at the root of so many problems in our lives (more).

Egalitarianism

The Buddha believed that women were just as capable as men in regard to their spirituality. This is upheld to various degrees based on different traditions. For example, in some schools, senior nuns must defer to novice monks. In others, men and women practice side by side and are afforded equal opportunities to contribute (more).

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Meditation

You guys know that I struggled with this in the past because there are always other things I should be doing – cleaning, studying, cooking, ad nauseam. This drive to stay busy gave me huge anxiety while meditating. Buddhism argues that this anxiety is the strongest argument for meditation. Without concentrated effort and practice, our mind will never stop this perpetual mind vomit of to do lists. Realizing that I was literally unable to turn this off, calm down, and stop obsessing…was a little scary (more).

Mindfulness

Studying Buddhism has definitely made me more mindful in little ways. While meditating, I’m more aware of sounds, smells, and sensations. While eating, I focus more on the tastes and textures of my food. While speaking, I often question if I truly believe my words or if I’m simply parroting something that I heard once (more).

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Gratitude

This one is hy-ooge. Buddhism really encourages you to examine your life and realize that it’s pretty rad. Consider how many gazillions of life forms exist in the world, from movie stars to cats to little tiny phytoplankton floating in the ocean. Isn’t it fucking amazing that we happened to be born as humans? Not just humans, but humans in a safe country, with shelter and food and education. What are the odds of that, really? Pretty cool (more).

One Last Thing

I didn’t write this because I think Buddhism is superior. Rather, I wanted to share something that, until recently, I had very little exposure to and I believe that it’s relevant to the physical and emotional well-being that I often discuss. In fact, Buddhism argues that people of different spiritualties can easily coexist, so long as we’re nice to each other :)

TL;DR – The Cliff’s Notes Version

  • I was unhappy with aspects of my birth religion.
  • What I like about Buddhism: It encourages compassion for all creatures, including yourself. It often treats men and women as equals. It encourages meditation. It does not proselytize.
  • What I have gained so far: Increased mindfulness and gratitude.

Spirituality – yay or nay?

What I Eat

Hello, hello!

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I have been laying lots of heavy posts on you guys lately, so I thought it might be fun to take a break and talk about everyone’s favorite topic – food!

Chris and I began the Whole 30 challenge on October 1, which puts us just over halfway through. Living in Saipan is actually really conducive to the program – fresh produce and coconut are abundant and cheap, while off limit items like dairy are quite expensive.

The program in a nutshell:

  • 3 meals per day.
  • Each meal: protein, veggies, fat.
  • No alcohol, legumes, added sweeteners, grains, dairy, MSG, carrageenan, or sulfites.

I’ve outlined below what we eat on a typical day. When I say “veggies,” I mean whatever I can find in the market, which is usually some combination of carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, eggplant, green beans, pechay (a dark leafy green), onions, or bell peppers.

Breakfast – An omelet with eggs, grated coconut, and veggies. We top it with a little kimchi and fresh lemon juice.

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Afterwards, we have papaya from the backyard and coffee.

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Lunch – A coconut milk curry with pork (a chop or ground), and veggies. Afterwards, I might have a banana or more papaya and iced green tea. Lately, I’m really into mashing ripe bananas with a handful of coconut and panfrying it.

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Dinner – A chopped salad with chicken, black olives, and veggies, sometimes topped with a fried egg.

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On the weekends, we’ll spend a little more time in the kitchen and have lemon tilapia with coconut and veggies instead.

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We do our best to follow the plan’s recommendation of 3 meals a day and minimal snacking, but I’ll grab a handful of almonds if I’m still feeling very hungry shortly after eating. I then try to make the next meal large enough to hold us over.

At no point have we followed the rules 100%, despite the plan’s very firm insistence. For example, our sunflower seed butter has a little bit of added cane sugar. While I know this will affect the clarity of our results, I’m still getting a good idea of which foods trigger certain problems like acne and indigestion.

The main struggle that we’ve encountered is diversifying fats and proteins. Residence in a place so heavily reliant on imports means that some foods are prohibitively expensive. Until recently, we had been using tofu as an additional protein, but legumes aren’t on the Whole 3 menu.

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At the same time, I’m also trying to rethink our food budget and our perspective on spending. You know that I’m unapologetically frugal, but did you know that Americans spend less on food than any other country? On average, US folks spend about 11% of income, while folks spend around 43% in Egypt. I track our own budget meticulously and, during September, we spent 21% of our income on food (both grocery trips and restaurant dates).

I think it’s great to be frugal in some areas (technology, clothing, entertainment, etc.), but when it comes to what we put into our bodies, I want to be increasingly conscientious and open to spending more on food than we would on other things.

Do you keep a food budget?