How I save over 4 hours a day (your mileage may vary)

Who couldn’t use an extra hour a day? I will admit that the ways I save time won’t work for most people, but maybe some of this could be useful to someone.
1. I combine my commute with exercise. (savings: 1 hour)
I actually exercised pretty irreglularly before I changed my commute so it’s hard to say that I actually save an hour. I really just get an hour of stuff done that I wouldn’t normally do. If you counted the time I spent feeling guilty about not working out though, that would bean hour a day in adn of itself.
2. I combine weight lifting/stretching with work and TV (savings: 20 minutes)
I try to stand while reading or on the phone. I try to do squats and lunges while working as well.
Limiting TV is important for saving time. But I still love watching TV when I get the chance (The Great British Bake Off mostly). I tend to only watch TV while working or foam rolling or doing housework. It doesn’t constitute JUST dead time. I wouldn’t allow it.
3. I only eat one meal a day (savings: 2 hours)
This counts savings in planning for, buying, prepping, cooking and eating food and cleaning up for 2 meals. This also saves the time of digestion lethargy. Technically it could count the hours I spend working to save the money to pay for these meals too but that’s a bridge too far).
4. I limit time for decisions in the morning (savings: 20 minutes)
It took me years but I finally have a work wardrobe where I would be happy to wear any outfit from. I still have favorites and there are some that I would rarely reach for if given the option, but I will wear everything. This saves me time in the mornings because sometimes I just can’t make a decision and during those moments, I just pick the next thing on the line. And it’s fine!
5. I use dead time (20 minutes)
This includes playing a language lesson while I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready. I also carry a book so I can be prepared for inevitable metro delays. I listen to podcasts when doing particularly monotonous tasks at work.
Part of this involves having these things queued up. Whenever I hear of an interesting book, I immediately add it to either my hold list or to my later list on my library account. It will go on the hold list if there’s a long list of holds but it will go on my later list if I can get the book immediately and already have books at home or coming up on holds. Every week, library holds become available and my library lets me keep them out for 3 weeks each. This is often plenty of time when some books I just skim, or ultimately don’t like, and some I read and relish.
6. I limit social media (20 minutes)
Well for the rest of you this probably could save 4 hours a day, but the only social media habit I adopted was Instagram, which I scroll through weekly instead of daily.
Basically my tips boil doing to cutting out extras (some would say, necessities), limiting choices and multitasking.
What do I do with all this extra time? To be perfectly honest, if I didn’t bike to work, I wouldn’t work out during the day. So it’s not exactly like I have an extra hour a day – I’m just getting in an hour of biking that I normally wouldn’t. The same goes for stretching and foam rolling. Overall, I’m in much better shape and probably less likely to get injured. I guess it just means I can’t use lack of time not to exercise.
But I also always make time to sleep or just stare out into space and play. If I was just a machine and wouldn’t let a second go by unproductively, I would get too stressed!
What are your tricks and tips for saving time?

A (small) life hack for a better world

In Tools for Titans, Tim Ferriss interviews the comedienne Whitney Cummings, who mentions that she has a tattoo in white on her arm that reads “I love you” and it reminds her to speak to everyone with that thought in her mind.

In light of, well everything going on in the world really, but particularly Charlottesville, which I consider to be my second home, I hope that we can all try this out in our interactions with others, particularly including those with whom we differ.

I’m a type-A nut job so I am basically mad at everyone all the time. I tried it on my barista when she had forgotten about my order. I was getting peeved and I thought, I love you. And I thought about how much she must have going on, the irate customers she must face everyday, how low-paying the job is, how she was probably trying to do a great job but sometimes people just screw up. And I’ve definitely screwed up before, so who am I to judge?

Try it.

17 Meals to Cook without Going to the Grocery Store

Sometimes I feel like the laziest or most anxious person in the world but sometimes the thought of going grocery shopping seems like a huge undertaking. (In my defense, I don’t have a car and we’re currently under a monsoon watch.) Ditto going out to eat as a single person. And I’m really not a delivery kind of girl (never got into the habit). So what’s a girl to do but make meals with what she already has in the apartment she never wants to leave?
Thankfully, years of cooking and being single (and being too tired to go to the grocery store) has led me to be quite crafty with my meals. I once went a month without going to the grocery store and actually came out in the negative for grocery spending (I returned some spices I was never going to use). So long as I have eggs, rice and soy sauce, I’m pretty happy. Thankfully it doesn’t have to come to that very often.
Below are meals I can prepare for myself currently with ingredients in my pantry and fridge/freezer with the ingredients listed next to them. I will admit though that I will very soon run out of eggs and coconut milk/milk and greek yogurt, and without those options, the pickings will be much scarcer!

The Phrase that Stops my Emotional Spending in its Tracks

Maybe you can relate. I can typically see through the marketing hoopla of most beauty products. But when I have a pimple, or when I feel badly about my appearance, money is no object. I would be tempted to buy anything.
I was recently contemplating buying a $500 beauty gadget that zaps electric pulses into your skin and allegedly kills bacteria, sculpts your face and encourages the buildup of beneficial collagen. Or so it says.
All because I had a pimple.

Typically I have very good skin. I may get little clogged pores regularly but I only get pimples a few times a year. So when I do get a pimple, it’s all I can think about. And I always scour the internet for quick fix solutions, peering into photo after photo of flawless-looking models trying to discern their secrets.

 But typically before I fall into a vat of self-loathing, I try to tell myself this one phrase that brings me back to earth. It’s a phrase that keeps me from emptying my checking account every time I get a blemish.
Who told you you were naked?
 Let me explain.

Would you reduce your own pay for “equality?”

According to actress, Emma Stone:
In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair. That’s something that’s also not discussed, necessarily—that our getting equal pay is going to require people to selflessly say, ‘That’s what’s fair.’ If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life.
Let’s stipulate first that this is, of course, only happening because everyone is getting paid such gobs of money that the exact amounts may not make a difference. If a man did this at a working-joe level, I think we would all think that man was stupid. 
But even at these levels where money seems more decorative than purposeful, I have to wonder if this makes any sense as a path toward equality. Ok, first, what is equality? The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was meant to abolish wage disparity based on sex. I think this should be considered a phrase: “wage disparity based on sex.” It’s not that people can’t be paid differently – but that people shouldn’t be paid differently because of their different sexes.
 
So first off, I guess the question is, was there a wage inequality problem here and secondly, does this method solve it. 

What I’ve Learned from Eating One Meal a Day

what i've learned from eating one meal a day

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

I’ve tried Gen. McChrystal’s one-meal-a-day diet for two weeks. For me, it hasn’t been that difficult a transition. I had already started an intermittent fasting regimen a month or so earlier. I have learned a lot about my eating habits from this little experiment – that, spoiler alert- I think I will continue.

1. I am not in tune with my hunger or my body.

So many diets come up with newfangled ways to keep you from being hungry. This diet also kept me from being hungry – by not giving me any food.
I’ve never counted calories. According to my age, weight, gender and height, I should eat about 1,500 calories a day. Looking at 1,500 calories a day meal plans, this is way more food than I ever eat even on a normal 3-meal a day meal plan.
I would typically eat (when I was trying to be a good paleo dieter) a small chia pudding for breakfast, and then a salad for lunch and then meat and veggies for dinner. No snacking, no dessert. If I were to guess, I’d say I probably ate 1,200 calories a day. And I would exercise for an hour a day as well. And I did not lose weight. And then other reports say that 1,500 is way too low, even for sedentary females.
When I read about this diet, I had read that one could just get all daily calories from 1 meal instead of 3. As one would expect, you eat a lot more in 3 meals than 1. And at least for me, I eat less when I’m hungry than when I’m bored.
So when I got around to dinner having eaten nothing at all, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t starving. In fact, I was not hungry at all. I definitely ate far fewer calories than I had previously and with no hunger pangs. It should come as no surprise that I lost weight on this diet. But my energy was consistent throughout the day. Without my body working on digesting all day, I had consistent energy and no cravings.
It got me to thinking that maybe I wasn’t eating three meals a day because I needed it but because it was a habit. I never asked myself if I was hungry. I just ate at my scheduled times. My lack of hunger pangs was a huge red flag that I was eating too much and that had led to weight gain.

2. You may need supplements

Because I wasn’t eating meals, but well, I got thirsty, I would drink a lot of tea and water. Super healthy right? Well a few days in, I started to get very slightly lightheaded but I could tell it wasn’t for being hungry. I think it may have been that
 I needed to supplement with potassium, magnesium and calcium, which were low with the decrease in calories. Once I added some lemon water and sea salt to my water, it seemed to help my lightheadedness.

3. Counterintuitively, eating less makes me less hungry.

After a long day of denying myself food, I was delighted to treat myself to dinner. The totality of the diet was skipping breakfast and lunch – I didn’t give myself any restrictions for dinner. But when I sat myself down for my final meal, I wasn’t salivating. I wasn’t even hungry.
I had read that competitive eaters always eat before their competitions. It helps to stretch out their stomachs. I think my 3 meals a day regimen was stretching out my stomach as well so I would seem hungry consistently throughout the day. I had previously thought that I had needed to eat because I had felt hungry. But maybe I had just stretched out my stomach so much that I needed to eat to feed this larger stomach rather than the needs of my body.

4. People can get freaked out about this diet. 

There’s a joke about how you know if someone is a vegan (Answer: they will tell you). With this diet, it’s a bit hard to hide it. Someone will invite you to lunch, it’s very difficult to go out for drinks on an empty stomach or you’ll be quite impatient at dinner time.
But everyone I told about it was extremely intrigued. Most of the comments were that I didn’t need to diet and not to lose too much weight. Some worried that I wasn’t eating enough. Don’t worry – if I start to diminish to nothing, I will certainly eat before I perish!

5. I spent a lot of time thinking about food.

If you think theoretically about cutting out breakfast and lunch, it seems like at most it would save you 40 minutes a day with our rushed eating schedules. In reality, it seemed like I had so much extra time per day. It’s not just the time spent eating these meals (est. 15 minutes/day), but the time anticipating eating (10 minutes), figuring out what to eat (20 minutes), shopping for food (20 minutes) preparing the food (20 minutes) and cleaning up after (5 minutes). I could work through lunch (because honestly, what else was I going to do?).
Overall, I am saving time, money and food, while losing weight and reducing cravings. I’m more aware of what my body needs and wants. I think it’s a great diet for me and I’ll see how long I can maintain it.
What about you? Would you try a one meal a day diet?

A Controversial Way To Save Money on Groceries

controversial way to save money on groceries

Back in the heyday of my student loan pay off blitz, I would sometimes, as people do, forget my lunch at home. Or forget to make one. Now, a periodic $10 is not a big deal when you’re paying off tens of thousands, right? Right. Logical. But the hunger and the deprivation were making me illogical. On many of those days, I skipped lunch. I was cutting back on everything, and I didn’t want stupid mistakes to derail me.

Since that time, I have reversed course into thinking, yeah a $10 lunch here or there will delay your loan payoff by a literal minute, if that. Health is more important.

Now I still believe health is more important than money but I may be revisiting the idea that skipping meals is a bad thing.

A New Diet Plan

What I had found when skipping lunch was that it was unbearable to work for about an hour.  After the pangs stopped, I wasn’t hungry.  I didn’t eat a giant dinner to compensate. I wasn’t irritable. The only effect was that I felt guilty for skipping a meal and treating my health so flippantly.

After reading about intermittent fasting in a few publications, I decided to take the plunge.  I’m starting a diet whereby I only eat one meal a day, typically dinner. 

I’m sure this sounds disordered. But there have seen some studies that show that intermittent fasting might actually lead people to live longer. And General Stanley McChrystal eats only one meal a day. He has a much more demanding exercise regiment and a much more stressful job than I do. Here’s a man who needs more calories and likely does not have an eating disorder. If he can survive, then surely I can too.

There doesn’t seem to make any rhyme or reason why we eat three meals in a day. Looking at our primitive ancestors, they ate whenever they could. They didn’t have set meals. If given an abundance of food, it would still make sense to eat only when hungry, rather than by habit.

I’m not going to starve, darlings.

No one dies from starvation from having one meal a day. Or at least, one big meal a day. And I can foresee a lot of benefits.

Benefit #1: It relieves stress

After we stopped that whole hunting and foraging for food thing, you would think procuring and planning meals would be a breeze now. When I think about planning 21 meals for myself, it seems like a lot to wrap my head around. Each meal has to be balanced in terms of nutrition and I have to figure out where I’m going to eat it and when I’m going to cook it. Then I actually have to shop for and cook it. By forgoing two meals a day, I can focus all my energies on shopping for, preparing and cleaning up one great meal.

 Benefit #2: Reduced environmental impact

I’ve heard a number of people say that the positive environmental impact would be huge if people would eat one meatless meal a week. Well, by cutting out 2 meals a day, you’re cutting out potentially 10 meaty meals. You get all the environmental impact with none of the work (figuring out vegetarian meals can be hard!). 

Benefit #3: Spartanism can be pleasurable

I’m a bit of a masochist. I’ve run 2 marathons. I never turn on my air conditioning. In the winter, I bike to work so long as it’s above freezing. In the summer, as long as it’s below boiling. I had listened to this podcast entitled “Your Climate Controlled Life is Killing You” and it really spoke to me. I really was getting tired of the comfort. There’s that line in that Goo Goo Dolls Song “You bleed just to know you’re alive” and while that sounds perfectly emo and high school, it does make me feel more alive to suffer a bit.

On my morning bike rides, I’ve learned to enjoy this incredibly empty feeling. It’s not hunger. It’s just ….being. You don’t always have to feel completely full. You don’t even need to feel sated. You can function perfectly fine without thinking about food at all – when there’s no food to be digested and when you’re not desirous of any food. It’s at these times when your mind might actually be clearest.

But honestly, I suffer for maybe 10 minutes when I’m hungry. And then the hunger pangs go away. That’s the only difference between eating one meal a day and three meals a day for me.

Benefit #4: Weight Loss

I’ve had this stubborn belly fat for some time now. From eating one meal a day, my stomach shrank. I lost 10 pounds. I looked better, had more energy. My body wasn’t spending all of its time digesting food. Furthermore, I didn’t have to kill myself going to the gym to burn off excess calories I never should have eaten. Now I understand why they say that losing weight is about changing your diet,not about exercise.

Benefit #5: Hunger Control

I was on a budget cross-country flight with a friend. We left at around 4pm and would arrive around 9pm our time. We didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be any food offered on such a long flight. She had brought some snacks and offered them to me, but I was fine. I had had lunch. She devoured all of them and was ravenous when we arrived. This reminded me that I’m used to taming my hunger by now.

I’ve also learned to appreciate hunger. It’s not a bad feeling. I’m not hangry. I get the feeling that my body is starting to figure out it’s hungry but I’m more than my feelings. I’m in control of the way I respond.

Benefit #6: The Controversial Way I Save Money on Groceries 

And we come to the headline of the post – of course this will save money! While it seems like you would eat all the same calories you would have in one day, just in one meal, I ended up eating a normal sized dinner. Plus I don’t buy snacks or any other foods for breakfast or lunch. I doubt you’ll cut 2/3 of your food budget, particularly since breakfast tends to be a pretty cheap meal. But it’s impossible not to save money. Even if you ate out for dinner every day – say $10 a meal –  you would only spend $70 on food for the week and never have to cook. That’s quite a low number for eating out, and you could get it much lower if you cooked.

You can easily cut half your grocery bill (by cutting 2/3 of your meals). You’ll find that you don’t need to buy very much food. Eventually you’ll cut down on food waste, because you won’t need to buy as much food. You won’t need to go to the grocery store as often, cutting down on spontaneous shopping. You will cut down on gym memberships because you don’t need to burn off as many calories. It becomes a virtuous cycle of saving.

In the end, it’s just an experiment I’m doing to see what works. If I’m hangry and irritable and my hair starts falling out, you best be believing that I’ll stop.

What about you? Have you ever tried intermittent fasting or some other crazy diet?

Life Skill #58: How to Stay Married

how to stay married

Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

Let me get this out of the way: I’ve never been married. So I have no expertise at all on this matter. But, I will qualify by saying, just being good at something doesn’t mean you’ll be able to teach something. Also, this is the internet so take everything with a grain (or shaker!) of salt. I have no idea what I’m talking about – this is all conjecture. I’ll admit it up front.

What I’ve Learned About Marriage

My ex-fiance and I had read lots of books about marriage and taken premarital counseling. My parents and my ex’s parents never took premarital counseling. None of them were great communicators. They all argued and complained more than they perhaps should. My parents have been happily married for almost 40 years. My ex’s parents had an acrimonious divorce when he was a kid.

The same type of marriage yielded vastly different results. Granted, my parents’ marriage is never something that will be held up in relationship books as ideal but it works well enough for them. And for better, and likely worse, this is my model for a working marriage. I realized today, while refereeing a tiff between my parents, that this model is something my ex-fiance thought would lead to a very unhappy marriage. He wanted us to be better than our parents. Based on his worldview, this type of marriage would not end well.

Figuring Out How to Resolve Problems

I catch myself often when dating figuring out what are real dealbreakers and what are things that are just odd or novel to me. We can all understand that people face the world with their own preconceived notions of how things should work, particularly in relationships. We can all understand that we are ourselves colored by our childhood experiences. But coming to believe that my partner’s viewpoint is as valid as mine – that is not something I understand how to do yet.

What I’ve found to be the most meaningful marriage advice for me came from Will Smith, the actor, married 17 years.

If there is a secret I would say it is that we never went into working on our relationship. We only ever worked on ourselves individually. And then presented ourselves to one another better than we were previously.

How to Stay Married

So often in relationships, we think about what can be changed about the other person. We think about designing the perfect mate for ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing to realize that if there’s an argument, if there’s an obstacle, an impediment in their marriage, that the Smiths are focused on what they can actually change: themselves.

And then you just have to hope that the other person will stay. The more I think about marriage, the more I consider it to be quite a risky endeavor. This is not to say people shouldn’t take the risk. The advantages are sky high. But it’s like starting a business. You can put in a lot of work but the role of luck should not be underestimated.

But let me hear from you: what are the actual secrets to staying married?

Life skill #30: 7 Foods that make it easy to cook from home

*I’m beginning a series to teach life skills every adult should have.

Ideally, you would have gone to the grocery store and have tons of fresh veggies and defrosted meat at home. Or you would have prepped something and put it in your crockpot in the morning, ready for you when you get home. But most of us are not superhumans.

We know there are so many reasons to cook at home, from cost and time savings to health, improving your cooking skills, to being able to eat and relax in your own home with your loved ones. But there’s also quite a case for ordering takeout. After an exhausting day at work and facing the daunting tasks of grocery shopping, meal planning and washing dishes, and with options like Seamless at our fingertips, it can be hard to avoid the siren call of takeout or delivery. But after you have that meal, you’re really just setting yourself up for more days of Seamless delivery, and the food isn’t even that good. You know that you can make something just as good and twice as healthy by yourself but who has the time?

The secret to picking cooking over takeout is to make it as easy as possible to cook (and also hating all your takeout and delivery options) by having your kitchen stocked with ingredients to make quick and easy meals. They are all foods that you can keep in your pantry, fridge or freezer for weeks and you’ll be happy to have them the next time you are in a jam. Here are seven foods that will help you avoid Seamless.

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Note to Grads: Your Choices Now Determine Who You Will Be

Though my family grew up in New Jersey, my sister was a bandwagon Chicago Bulls fan. Can’t really blame her. Who didn’t like Mike? He was so much better than everyone else (including my beloved Knicks). What I didn’t learn until much later was that, once upon a time, he wasn’t the most amazing basketball player of all time.

As a sophomore in high school, he didn’t make the varsity team. Big whup, right? Well, it was a huge deal to him. Jordan would get into school well before the teachers to shoot baskets at his gym every day of the year. He made the team his junior year and became a star player, which led to college recruitment and the NBA.

Can you imagine if you had rebounded from a failure so seriously as a sophomore in high school that you worked every day for hours to get better? Where would you be now?

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