Skin Overhaul Part III

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that in December of 2016, I embarked on a skincare journey, led by my dear high school friend whose skincare knowledge knows no bounds. I shared part one, which involved my first collection of carefully curated skincare products and not ad hoc Priceline purchases, and part two, where we introduced SPF and acid exfoliation.

Things had been cruising along nicely, until I received my next skincare update from the Wedding Skincare Consultant. I was informed I’d been taken as far as one can go on the affordable skincare options – the next step was going to involve shelling out some serious coin. But as we had discussed, the amount you’re willing to spend on a piece of clothing should reflect the amount you’re willing to invest in your face. And I am known to spend an embarrassing amount on a piece of clothing. So there you have it. The foray into the expenny world of skin care began.

Stage Seven: Retinols

This is where skincare became seriously technical. Retinol is the technical term for Vitamin A. It is an extremely effective ingredient for skin transformation – reducing pores, minimising wrinkles, reducing acne scarring and basically turning you into Heidi Klum. It is available in prescription form as retinoic acid (the pure form of the ingredient), or non-prescription (being the retinol, which breaks down into retinoic acid). As I couldn’t be bothered going to a doctor for a prescription, and also the prescription form is significantly stronger, I kicked things off with an off-the-shelf retinol product – the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil. As it goes for a cool $154AUD at Mecca, I began by purchasing the Power Couple duo for a more palatable $114AUD, which includes the Good Genes acid exfoliator, complimenting the skin hero process.

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First thing – how pretty are those bottles?

Now, serious and second thing. This product is considered an excellent introduction to retinols, as it is a relatively low dose, and also incorporates a face oil into my regime, which is more appropriate to use at night than moisturiser. I’ll have to get back to you on why…since I have no idea. But as always, I trust in my WSC, and I put my sleeping night oil to use for the first time last night.

As a result of incorporating these new products, my nightly routine underwent a shake up, and I am now incorporating using Luna and Good Genes, and taking two weeks off the previous acid pads while my skin adjusts. This has been particularly necessary because for no perceptible reason whatsoever, the entire left side of my face had an epic break out (particularly annoying because usually my pimples prefer the right side of my face so now I”m just a well-balanced acne extravaganza). So we’re allowing my skin to slowly adjust to this new reality over the next fortnight, before upping the ante with these new products.

Once we’ve adjusted to the gentler Luna retinol, I’ll be acquiring one of the prescription retinols. I’ll keep you posted.

Step Eight: Spot Treatment

While celebrating my WSC’s birthday, we ended the night with a face-care regime for me (I know, selfish). In the course of a magical pampering session, the Aesop Control gel was applied to my numerous breakouts, and worked wonders in drying them out and minimising their eruptive presence. While handing over my whole pay check for my retinols, I also hit up Aesop and purchased this little wonder ($23AUD at the Perth CBD store), and have been spot applying each time I’m randomly in the bathroom to reduce the breakout party.

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This is a convenient and affordable addition to the skincare arsenal, and I’ve been really happy with it. It is particularly great because it is clear, so I keep it in my handbag at work and reapply at sporadic intervals when I can’t possibly focus for another second.

So here’s to the next fortnight of retinols and upping the ante with the acid exfoliation. I should emphasise that after using retinols or acids, you should always use an SPF the next day – but of course, like me, you’re now in the habit of applying a strong SPF to your face every day before foundation, so that is of no particular concern.

I also wanted to emphasise that despite my very many mentions of the break out situation, my skin has become so much more hydrated and clear with each week of consistently smooshing these products onto my face. I had so many fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes, and thought that must be what happens at 26 – you become a wrinkly old prune and you can’t do anything about it. However, so much of that was purely reversible dehydration and irritation, and I’m so grateful I didn’t sign myself over to giving up and tapping out.

Of course, like any new area of knowledge, delving into skincare is complicated and there is more information out there than a normal person would know what to do with. All I can say is start slow – copy exactly what I have done if you like, and just go month by month in introducing new products. It is a surprisingly rewarding journey, and I also think is a really great chance to practice some productive self-care that will have long-term beneficial effects.

 

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Yet another challenge…

In the last few years, I have been the fitness industry’s dream client. There isn’t a fitness trend I haven’t bought in to, financially, at least once, that’s available in Australia – the Michelle Bridges 12wbt, the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guides (and app), the Ashy Bines Bikini Body Challenge… I’ve tried and failed at them all, testing the boyf’s patience over and over again as I declare proudly, ‘this is the ONE! this is the TIME I will make moves, and make things HAPPEN! No more crying because I feel fat, because I will be in control!’Then one week later I am crying because I feel fat, having ravaged the kitchen for every piece of chocolate I could find and feeling very much out of control. It’s my personal vicious cycle.

Despite hundreds of dollars and many failed attempts, I have embarrassingly signed up for another diet/fitness overhaul challenge, and it starts on Monday. This challenge runs for 9 weeks, and involves a relatively simple food program comprised of meat, vegetables, fruit and grains (how revolutionary!) and a work out program drafted to incorporate what you already do, and a defined set of work outs to meet particular goals.

My goals are very specific this time: do a chin-up/pull-up, and do double-unders. Obviously the key goals are ‘lose weight’ and ‘love myself in a bikini’, but those goals are often fleeting, as the dream bikini is mentally overridden by the tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. I’m experimenting with this concept of very specific and measurable goals, and maybe this time, we’ll see a change.

This 9 week plan sees me drink 3L of water a day, work out seven times a week officially (in addition to one day of yoga and one day of the fitness program I run for young lawyers, which doesn’t involve a hard core work out), and being very strict with eating.

How simple!! I think to myself, as I scarf down my uncountable amounts of chocolate, and scavenge the kitchen for spoonfuls of nutella. I can easily overhaul three key aspects of my life overnight with no slip-ups or mistakes! But the reality is there will be many tests, and many slip-ups. Key events I can currently identify include weekly lunch provided by work, which does typically involve a protein and salads, but certainly not nice clean fresh salads, more the caesar salad with extra dressing variety; drinks on a Friday night; and last minute coffee trips with colleagues (these are being replaced by long blacks, yawn). However I look at those events, now, without the difficult of craving and the sadness that comes with giving stuff up weighing on me, and think these are all such underwhelming reasons to be standing in the way of my dreams of a fit bod for our northern hemisphere holiday. Every time I “fail”, and enjoy the temporary moments of pleasure that come with a glass of wine or dessert, I think how much happier in the long term I would have been if I just stuck with the program and seen it through, both because then it would have worked, and I would have gotten the opportunity to celebrate my success of finishing something.

To do this challenge successfully will require commitment to preparation: a weigh in, a very big food prep event today, and every Sunday following. And washing my gym clothes more regularly. Unfortunately it will also require flexibility. Next weekend is a long weekend and we have already organised a camping and hiking trip with some friends. That will make it much more difficult to control what I’m eating (mix of peer pressure and minimal kitchen facilities) and naturally will make the following week so much more difficult as I lose the organisational time. This certainly isn’t the end of the world, but it introduces surprising hurdles very early on in the challenge that I wish I didn’t have to face. 

I truly intend to present to you some amazing before and after results from this challenge. I believe I have it in me to succeed, and do a pull up. and slim down. I don’t want to let the mental willpower be my downfall. 

Beyond the organisational strategies, I’ve read about and will be implementing some mental strategies to combat moments of weakness. Some that have worked for me in the past is using language to redefine yourself – instead of saying to yourself ‘I can’t eat that’, say ‘I don’t eat that’. It is an empowering way of not indulging in sweet foods because you don’t define yourself as missing out, but as a person who eats fresh foods and still has an abundance available to them. Others include waiting half an hour, going for a walk when hit by a craving, having a motto to repeat to yourself in times of weakness, and sticking up a photo of your goal somewhere prominent. 

I feel some kind of shame in announcing this health challenge, like I’m stringing you all along to support me in something that will inevitably result in failure. But I feel confident this time. And I hope I get to share my successes with you.

Health Challenge Update: Week 2 and the joys of meal prep

I can hardly believe it, but I’ve survived two weeks (and a day) of a legit health challenge. Although every day hasn’t been completely perfect, I have remained true to no added sugar, no carbohydrates and no alcohol, and generally kept up to date with exercise and meal planning and prepping.

Week 2 threw some hurdles my way. I had several meals out for work and friend commitments, which I managed to muddle my way through –  imperfectly, but with reduced food intake the following day to balance it out. I learnt that honesty is the best policy when it comes to complying with tough food intakes, and that on occasion you need to be flexible yourself with managing days where you may over-eat by balancing with a lighter day.

One of the best things I learnt this week is that nothing beats food shopping at a farmers market. Grocery shopping is one of the chores I absolutely detest; and while I’m lucky that the boyf usually picks up groceries on his way home from work, my large veggie intake and necessary weekend prep means most of the leafy greens need to be purchased on Saturday or Sunday. To make the process more tolerable, I’ve started going to local farmers markets, where you shop in the fresh air and feel a really pleasant sense of community when you fill up your canvas bag with fresh veggies. The atmosphere is really uplifting. Most of the markets I’ve been to have some live music playing, and kids running around being cute. Some have food vendors, and there is nothing like the smells of Moroccan dishes and freshly sizzling bratwurst  to wake you up and inspire you to nourish yourself in new ways.

I aim to immediately chop and store all my veg as soon as I walk through the door. This small bit of discipline keeps my mini kitchen from total disarray, and my fridge from falling subject to rogue rotting broccoli hidden in the back corners behind jars of weird sauce that I don’t remember acquiring. Some new kitchen toys have improved this process immensely, both for speed and enjoyability (my new favourite made-up word). And listening to music with the doors open and the morning breeze transforms meal prep from a chore to a joy…mostly. Unfortunately, there’s always dishes.

Week 2 has brought about some small but noticeable changes. As for the numbers, I’ve dropped 2 pounds (I prefer to weigh in pounds rather than kilos, since pounds go quicker…super lame lifehack) and 2% of my body fat. As for the non-number changes, I’ve seen my skin clear up, my eyes brighten and appear less tired (despite getting less sleep from all the early wake ups), my hair thicken and be less limp, and my posture improve. I’ve seen my body respond better to exercise, and I feel like I can push myself a lot further in the pursuit of improvement. Running has been easier, squats have been deeper, box jumps have been higher and backwards bear crawls have actually been survivable.

Week 3 has already tried to trip me up, with a late work finish making it extremely difficult to budge at 5.30am, when the alarm goes off and my work out gear sits on the lounge room floor, causing great guilt and despair. But digging deep in the hard moments makes the easy moments that much easier, and I’ve hit two work outs this week, and hit them hard.

Until next week,

E x

 

 

Health Challenge: Week 1 Review

So it’s probably time to share that I started a four week health challenge on 1 February 2016. It felt more appropriate to begin something nightmarish in February when the fun of starting a new year has worn right off.

The health challenge involves a pretty hectic food regime, based on the high protein low carb approach to eating, and working out nine times a week. This week one update serves a few purposes: 1. a reminder that I’ve survived one week, and only have to survive three more; 2. a recap of what worked and what didn’t; and 3. if anyone is thinking of undertaking something similar, some tips on how not to drive yourself insane.

Food

The biggest part of this challenge is the food. You eat often, and you eat a lot. My food day looks like this:

Morning: Nuts, 4-egg omelette with veggies (occasionally subbing in a smoothie), fish oil and protein shake.

Day: morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea consisting of meat and veg (with a little starch added for lunch); two coffees; one serve of magnesium (which I take as a powder mixed in water); as much water as I can reasonably drink.

Night: pre and post workout protein shake; dinner of meat and veg; chai tea (no milk).


Workouts

I attend my workout group four to five mornings a week. To make up the extra workouts, I go to the gym with my boyfriend in the evening where we will lift together, and then play a little tennis or squash (I’m new to both, he’s being very patient). I’m also starting to train for my second Ironman 70.3 race, so I’m incorporating a swim, bike and run a week.


What’s good?

  • Eating clean. I hated that phrase for the longest time, but there’s some credit to advocating for eating unprocessed foods. My skin has become clearer, I’m way more regular (ew, soz), and I feel much more energetic than normal when I rely heavily on Nutella and the $1 fundraiser chocolates at work.
  • Feeling energised. Exercise brings me the kind of positive endorphins I need to get through a rough work week, and feel motivated to only eat the clean food. Once I feel slumpy, all I crave is more slumpy food.

What’s hard?

  • Meal prep. The organisation required to make lasting through this diet is hard, and it can be your sole down fall, if you let it. I’ve found it necessary to shop on Sunday, then dedicate two hours on Sunday afternoon (even if I don’t need the full two hours), to chopping, slicing, dicing and cooking all the veg I need for the week, plus the meat for Monday and Tuesday (I prefer to eat my meat as freshly cooked as possible, and my freezer is too tiny to fit in the frozen peas and berries, as well as frozen meat).
  • 3pm. The dreaded workday hour when chocolate cravings hit you full force, and the fundraiser box on your secretary’s desk screams ‘eat me! it’s for charity!’. I get up, make a coffee or tea, refill my water, remind myself of my goals, and eat a carrot stick. But it’s hard, and it requires some serious will power.

Next week?

  • Week two will consist of upping the intensity of my training sessions, and incorporating more running and biking.
  • Food will remain on point. I have one work lunch where I will need to eat off a menu, but I will skip my afternoon snack, and thankfully we can preorder, so I’m going to order off the light menu for small portion size.
  • I have my first PT session to work towards my most stand-alone goal of the year: complete some pull-ups. I’m excited.

I’m looking forward to sharing my overall progress with you at the end of Fit February. It’s tough, but I’m finding it really empowering to be in charge of my food cravings and to avoid treating food as a reward.

Have you tried something like this before? Any tips, or anything you’d like to know? Let me know in the comments 🙂

E x

 

 

 

 

My approach to exercise

It is impossible to escape exercise and fitness as one of the foundations of 21st century millenial life. Exercising more/losing weight/being fit is goal at the forefront of most people’s minds. The number of people participating in fun runs, half marathons, triathlons and other “fit”events has increased enormously.

I am not immune to this trend – in fact, I love exercise. This is very lucky, as I also love food, and all of the “you can’t out-train a bad diet” truths aside, at the very least I’m committed to moving my body, which usually results in a natural desire to fuel it properly.

Anyway – a sermon on exercise and health is not why I am here. Rather, I wanted to share what I spend on “exercise”. Prepare yourself. It’s kind of mortifying. 

To start, I’ll lay out what exercise I do. I found an amazing group training group last year as a result of a Christmas gift from my parents. It revolutionised my attitude to exercise, and was the first form of fitness I actually stuck with, consistently, for an entire year. I saw changes I never thought possible, and I refuse to give up on that group now, after everything it has given me. 

I also recently joined a country-club style gym with my boyf. It is a 6 minute walk from our apartment, and has a huge gym, an indoor and outdoor pool (unfortunately not full sized, but we can live with that), tennis courts, squash courts, and, hilariously, a bar (in fact – two bars). 

The group training costs me $35.88 a week.

The gym costs me $34.50 a week.

So yes – I spend $70.38 a week on “exercise”. That’s approximately 7% of my weekly take-home pay. I note, for completeness and a better insight to my confessional, that my work provides me access to a free gym. 

 This total also does not include expenditure on the following, which I label “exercise incidentals”:

  • Activewear (maybe my most tragic weakness?)
  • Appropriate footwear
  • Triathlon entry fees (my next half ironman was a breathtaking $400, just to enter)
  • Fuel/nutrition (gels, protein powder, bars etc.)
  • Gear (tennis and squash racquets, tennis balls, gym bag, water bottles, sunnies, bike services, and so on)
  • Washing the never ending pile of sweaty outfits 
  • Pool entry for when I want to swim 50m laps (about $6/entry)
  • Game fees for netball (I won’t be playing this any longer, but last year it was $10/game)

You get where I’m going. I am a sucker for exercise, and affiliated activities. One of the motivations to track my expenses this year is to get an actual figure on what I spend on exercise. I’m convinced it’s a very high number. However, the only thing I could definitively tell you is what I spend a week on entry fees places – the rest disappear into cute amounts I can’t place, and can’t put an exact figure on at this stage.

I do note I labelled this category as “exercise” and not just plain old Exercise. That’s because to a large degree, this category is also Entertainment. Despite not being in a fantastic economic position, signing up to our country club was one of the best things the boyf and I have done for our relationship. The aforementioned shoebox apartment gives rise to strong feelings of claustrophobia sometimes, particularly when you live on top of each other. I always wanted to live somewhere with a pool and gym, but those options were significantly more expensive and more poorly located than our current place. We worked out we could stay at our place, and join the gym, and come out ahead by about $50 – $80 a week, and have access to better facilities than if we’d upgraded our place. 

We also found that this option gave us somewhere to go to get out of each other’s hair when things got a bit too much after long days or just general life stress. Even better, going together has given us a really healthy dimension to our relationship – we have fun conversations while playing squash that aren’t complaining about our day, and when we swim on the rooftop, overlooking the sparkle of the city while the sun sets, we feel grateful for each other and for the little things in the day. 

So at face value – I spend way too much on exercise. But I believe in investing in my health, and in my relationship, and the current set up achieves both of those outcomes. I definitely agree it can be done cheaper – there are thousands of work outs available free online, via apps or Pinterest or ebooks or Instagram – but unless you stick to them, they are useless, simply mental clutter. This category, for me, defines the “personal” of personal finance. I’m excited to share more about it as I transition into the second half of my twenties (nooooooooo!!!) and as I undertake a focussed approach to my finances in 2016.

Reflections

I bought a $2000 bike today.

I haven’t posted here for a long time, but this was the fact I wanted to start with. I bought a $2000 bike.

$2000 is a lot of money. The bike was brand new, and I always said I would only ever buy a second-hand bike on Gumtree and not waste my money. My (very nice) bike was stolen last week, as I lead up to the days of training for my first half ironman in November. I was devastated. That bike awas gifted to me from very generous friends. But did I need to replace it with a brand-new $2000 bike (adding in another $400 in helmet, water bottle racks, lights, a new lock, repair kit, pedals, cycling shoes…those thieving jerks really cleared me out). It rode nice. I feel good in that saddle. I’m really happy with my purchase.

But now I’m starting to question whether I’m allowed to spend that kind of money when I’m 25? Should I have saved it? Should I have picked a cheaper (less speccy) bike? Should I have just counted the $400 entry fee to the Ironman as a sunk cost and not bought a replacement bike?

I feel plagued by these kind of financial considerations all the time. I’ve had a few months of really losing control with my spending. My favourite personal finance blog, Blonde On A Budget, is now reporting on a second year of a total shopping ban. I cannot even fathom going on a shopping ban! I didn’t realise how thoughtlessly I shop – but it’s incredibly thoughtlessly at times. I have saved up a comfortable amount of money, which gives me a foolish sense of comfort that I can do things like buy a $2000 bike. But. Then I don’t have as much saved.

I have had a lot of financial confusions I want to start sharing again. I felt so much clarity when I was blogging about money. It kept me honest, and it kept money at the forefront of my mind. I look forward to reporting back again.

And I’ll keep you updated on how the bike rides. Fit is necessary!