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Minimalism

It’s no secret that we live in a consumer-driven world. It’s increasingly difficult to go about everyday life without encountering some form of advertisement. Whether it’s a logo, a commercial, or a brand promotion on Instagram, everywhere you go, someone is trying to sell you something. There’s nothing inherently wrong with advertisements, but more often than not, we buy things that we don’t need, because we’re led to believe that we need them.

Have you ever been guilty of buying something under the false notion that it will, for one reason or another, augment some aspect of your life? Odds are, you have. Don’t feel bad about it! It’s so easy to get caught in the figurative consumerism trap, because society tells us that in order to be successful, we need the big house and fancy car and everything else that goes along with achieving the “American Dream”.

But here’s the thing. The true meaning of the American Dream, the ideal in which any American citizen can have equal opportunity to find success and achieve their goals (regardless of their background), means that you’re allowed to pursue your own happiness in the way that you define it – not by anybody else’s interpretation. Freedom, prosperity, and success are how you define them.

That leads us to the following question: What are the things in life that you truly value? If you weren’t limited by time or financial constraints, what is it that you’d like to do with your life? Freedom means being able to access the things that bring your life happiness and meaning, without being held back by those constraints. More often than not, the culprits that are restricting us from living our ideal lives can be found in the form of debt.

Mortgage.

Credit card debt.

Student loan debt.

You get the picture.

We work really hard, to make a lot of money, to get approved for loans in order to pay for expensive things. Then we have to work even harder to pay off the debt that those loans accrued. It’s a vicious cycle. And the worst part? It gives us less freedom to focus on what makes us happiest.

But Allie! If only there was some sort of a tool that could help me eliminate the superfluous and unnecessary things from my life, so I could focus my time and energy into what gives my life meaning and value!

Well, reader, there is. I present to you ‒ minimalism.

Minimalism is a way of pursuing a happy, fulfilling life by getting rid of the excess and focusing on the things that are most important to you. What’s important to you, otherwise known as your values, may be different than the values of your friend or neighbor. Perhaps you’d like to spend less time at work to spend more time with family. Or maybe you’d like to travel more. Maybe you’re considering downsizing your home to reduce your cost of living. No matter what your story is, minimalism can help. 

There is a certain aesthetic that’s associated with the term “minimalism”. In fact, if you Google Image search the word “minimalism”, you’ll likely see thousands of photos of white walls, sleek furniture, and simple (if any) decor. Though often associated with style, minimalism in practice is much more meaningful than having an aesthetically pleasing home. To practice minimalism is to focus on the things in life that give you value, and to understand that perhaps those “things” might actually not be “things” at all. Minimalism is a tool to keep us on track towards the things that truly matter.

I was first drawn to this principle a couple years ago after watching the Netflix film “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”. The film, directed by Matt D’Avella, follows two former self-proclaimed “suit-and-tie corporate guys” as they travel the country talking about the benefits of minimalism.

These men are Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists. They strive to live “a meaningful life with less”. Less physical and mental clutter; less stress; less distractions. By getting rid of the unimportant things ‒ the things we think will make us happy but actually don’t ‒ we can make room for more of the things that actually make us happy: more time; more space; more freedom.

If you ask me, practicing minimalism is one of the most responsible things an individual can do. It allows you to break free of the consumer autopilot we all get trapped in. A common misconception about minimalism, however, is that it’s only about owning as little as physically possible. This has made popular by bloggers and YouTube personalities who post lists of every item they own, often having less than 100 physical possessions. Though that is commendable, it’s not practical for everyone. Minimalism isn’t about having as little as possible. Rather, it’s about the importance of everything you own having a purpose and value to you.

There isn’t one specific formula on how to become a minimalist. There also isn’t one type of minimalist. You don’t have to be an aspiring travel blogger or fit into a certain demographic to try minimalism. Personally, I’m a full-time student living in an urban area, so time and money is already quite limited. Still, practicing minimalism has allowed me to start paying off my student loans early, and travel overseas to Europe (twice) while on a college student’s budget.

How?

It’s simple. I’ve been able to do these things by letting go of what no longer brought value into my life, to make more room for the things, people, and experiences that do add value. 

I won’t delve into the step-by-step process of how I began to get rid of my unnecessary stuff. I’ll save that topic for another post. Rather, I’d like to talk about some ways that you, the reader, can start to adopt these principles into your life.

Like I said, there’s no one-size-fits-all on how to be a minimalist. You don’t even have to call yourself a “minimalist”. But there are many useful tools that you can begin to use to see positive change.

Take a minute to look around your home, or your room, or your car. Take a look at some of the items you have in your possession. Ask yourself: how much of what you own actually gets used, and how much of it is stuff that you keep “just in case”? You can even take it a step further. How many of those items require even more items to clean, organize, store, and maintain them? How many items are duplicates, such as extra coffee mugs, or pens, or water bottles, etc.? Sure, it’s helpful to have a couple extras, but it’s up to you to decide once it starts to get excessive.

It’s up to you to decide what does and does not add value.

Suppose, for example, you collect coffee cups. Or books. Or paintings. Or (enter whatever it is that you collect). If your collection brings you joy, and you truly get use and value out of the items in your collection, by all means, keep it! Don’t clear out all physical possessions in the name of minimalism. But be honest with yourself and ask the challenging question: do these bring me joy? 

If the answer is no, then you must decide if they are worth keeping.

This practice can be applied in many categories, not just physical possessions. These principles are used in many other aspects of your life, as well. Social media, relationships, diets, and even finances can be changed for the better with the help of minimalism. At first glance, you may not notice how much unneeded time and energy is spent in each of these categories. By making each of these life categories simpler, you’re allowing life to be a bit less complicated. And that’s a good thing!

Now, there are many common misconceptions that can sometimes cause minimalism (and minimalists) to be seen in a bad light. One of the most common, which many people believe, is that the intentional pursuit of less can only originate from a place of privilege. I’ve heard the argument that minimalists aestheticize poverty, by making it “stylish” to have less. There are many people who have no choice but to live this way, and it’s important to acknowledge your privilege if you come from a privileged background. With that being said, the average citizen shouldn’t feel guilty about pursuing a purpose-driven life with less physical and mental clutter.

But while we’re on the topic, let’s address the inevitable. Minimalism is not perfect. Minimalism is not a cure-all. 

Let me repeat that. MINIMALISM IS NOT A CURE-ALL!

That’s right. I’ve described a set of tools that can help you live a meaningful life, not the “key” or “secret” to eternal happiness and bliss. There’s really no way to ensure that. My life is still far from perfect, even while practicing minimalism. But that’s life. For me, the benefits of living a simpler life with less stuff eases some of the stress and anxiety that I used to have. Does that mean that I never experience stress and anxiety? Of course not! It does mean that the stressful times are fewer and farther between.

It does take significant change in your mindset and actions to see significant change in your outcomes, but I implore you to try. Determine what your values are, and the steps you need to take if you want to simplify your lifestyle to make room for what matters most. 

Project 333

Have you ever noticed how you tend to wear the same handful of things despite owning an entire closet full of clothes? It feels like you don’t have a lot of options, even if you actually do. I tend to gravitate towards my “favorite” clothes, and wear only a select few items consistently from week to week. That’s why I decided to try out Courtney Carver’s minimalist fashion experiment, Project 333. If you’re unfamiliar with Project 333, I give a brief rundown about the project in my most recent post about Getting Started with Minimalism.

Project 333 is, essentially, a fashion “experiment” (as a scientist, I use the word “experiment” loosely). Well… it’s more of a fashion challenge. The challenge is to have only 33 articles of clothing in your wardrobe over the course of 3 months. Sounds challenging, right? It means that you have to get creative with the clothing in your selected wardrobe. I’m always up for an interesting challenge, so I’m going to give this one a try.

This challenge is interesting to me for a couple reasons. For starters, I believe that having a smaller wardrobe will eliminate something called “decision fatigue”. Decision fatigue is the idea that as the quantity of decisions you make in a day increases, the quality of those decisions decreases. This is because your brain literally gets fatigued by the amount of decisions you have to make in a particular session – such as a shopping trip – and by the end of that session, you’re more likely to make choices that are impulsive or rash (such as buying candy in the grocery store aisle).

Some experts argue that you can limit decision fatigue by limiting the amount of choices you have to make in a particular day. That’s why many notable people, such as Barack Obama and Steve Jobs, would wear the same outfits each day. This project is based around the same idea.

I also hope that this project gives me more insight into my shopping habits. Not that I’m much of a shopaholic, but I do sometimes fall victim to fast fashion trends. Hopefully, this project helps me learn which high-quality clothes I can keep for years to come.

So here’s how I’m going to do it.

The Rules

  • For the next 3 months, you may only wear 33 articles of clothing. The 33 items will make up your “Capsule Wardrobe”.
  • It’s helpful to start by decluttering your closet (bonus points if you do it KonMari style). Sell, donate, or give away any clothes or accessories you’d no longer like to keep. For the remaining items you are keeping, start to build your Capsule Wardrobe.
  • Once you’ve done that, pack everything else up and put it away (preferably somewhere you can’t see them), and take them back out once the challenge is over.

My Additional Rules

Because I love to make my challenges “extra challenging”

  • If I need to buy a new article of clothing (i.e., to replace something that’s worn or torn), I must follow the one in, two out rule. Essentially, if a new item comes in, then two items must go out.

What Counts

  • Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Outerwear
  • Accessories (including scarves, hats, hair accessories, etc.)
  • Jewelry

What Doesn’t Count

  • Socks
  • Undergarments
  • Workout clothes (that are used only for working out)
  • Pajamas/lounge clothes (that are used only for sleeping and lounging)

And what doesn’t count specifically for me:

  • My trainer’s uniform (which consists of a uniform t-shirt and workout pants)
  • My Halloween costume (since I’m attending Halloween parties that are actually in November)
  • A backpack and a canvas bag that I use for work and school

And, finally, here is the list of 33 items that will make up my Capsule Wardrobe for the next 3 months!

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My Capsule Wardrobe

  1. Down coat
  2. Green utility jacket
  3. Black sports jacket
  4. Dark jeans
  5. Light jeans
  6. Navy blue cropped leggings
  7. Black cropped leggings
  8. Rain boots
  9. L.L. Bean boots
  10. Black sneakers
  11. Toms
  12. Short beige booties
  13. Black T-shirt (1)
  14. Black T-shirt (2)
  15. Green sweater
  16. Gray turtleneck sweater
  17. Maroon cardigan
  18. Beige cardigan
  19. Tan pocket t-shirt
  20. Purple v-neck t-shirt
  21. Light blue collared button-up
  22. White long sleeve shirt with black stripes
  23. Black v-neck bodysuit
  24. Gray ¼ zip shirt
  25. Northeastern gray ¼ zip
  26. Gray crew neck sweatshirt
  27. Patagonia
  28. Black belt
  29. Earrings
  30. Headband

I’m going to leave items 31-33 blank for now. They’ll likely fill up with either a scarf or gloves when the weather gets cold, but I haven’t quite decided what those will be yet. I also plan to give monthly updates on my progress, including any fashion fails (but hopefully there won’t be any). Comment below if you’re also interested in trying this project out. You can start at any time.

Here goes nothing!

Getting Started with Minimalism

So, you’re interested in starting minimalism. That’s fantastic! But what’s the best way to get started implementing minimalism into your life? It certainly seems like a daunting task, and can be difficult to pinpoint the right place to start out. Luckily, there are many challenges and methods, developed by professionals who practice minimalism, that are designed to help you get started. Here I’ll share some of the strategies that fellow minimalists have found to be the most helpful. Are you new to minimalism? I recommend you start here. Then, read on to discover three of the most popular minimalism challenges today, and my honest opinion for each.

1. The KonMari Method

Photo by John Weinhardt on Unsplash

The KonMari Method was developed by Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Method of Tidying Up. She also stars in the Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The KonMari Method is designed to help you declutter, simplify and reorganize your home by eliminating the things that do not spark joy.

The KonMari Method is effective because it urges you to tidy by category, not by room. The categories are as follows:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

You must gather all of the items that fall within a certain category and place them in a pile together. Doing this allows you to see the sheer amount of items that you own in that particular category. Once you’ve done that, your next step is to take each item, hold it in your hands, and ask yourself: Does this spark joy? If the answer is no, then it’s time to part with that item.

PROS:

The KonMari Method can be incredibly effective if done right. By tackling all 5 categories over the span of a couple days, you don’t have enough time for your space to become messy again. Kondo believes that if you do it right the first time, you won’t ever have to do it again.

CONS:

Tidying your entire home using the KonMari Method can be quite tedious and time consuming, depending on the items that you own. It takes time and energy to physically touch every single item that belongs to you and ultimately decide whether or not that item brings you joy.

MY THOUGHTS: 

The KonMari Method is sort of a hit or miss for me. It’s fantastic in principle, but not always realistic. There will probably be a few items that don’t necessarily bring you joy, but that doesn’t mean that you should get rid of them. My forks and spoons don’t spark joy, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll get rid of them!

I recommend using the KonMari Method as a guideline. Don’t feel pressure to discard every last thing that doesn’t spark joy, keeping in mind what’s needed for practical everyday use. Use your judgement. This is the most radial of all three challenges, so I recommend this for someone who likes to take a big project all at once, or for somebody who has the available time to tackle such a large task.

2. The 30-Day Minimalism Game

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

The 30-Day Minimalism Game is a challenge that was created by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus (a.k.a. The Minimalists). Essentially, the rules are as follows: Partner up with a friend or significant other, because this challenge is much easier to do with a little external motivation. On Day 1, get rid of one item. On Day 2, get rid of two items, etc. You get the gist of it.

By the end of Day 30, you will have gotten rid of a whopping 465 items (which may sound like a lot ‒ until considering the fact that the average American household has over 300,000 items).

PROS: 

This challenge is an excellent way to start decluttering because it builds momentum. If you’re the type of person who gets over-whelmed by large projects or sudden change, this may be a more comfortable start. You only have to part with a handful of items for the first few days. It gives you momentum for later when you’re parting with more items at a time.

CONS: 

It can be easy to “cheat” your way out of this game, depending on how you choose to define what “one item” actually means. For example, If you have a pack of 10 pencils, do they count as 10 items or do they count as one item? You have to determine that yourself, which can become tricky or confusing, depending on what you’re trying to get rid of.

MY THOUGHTS

Personally, I have not tried this method. By the time I had heard of the 30-Day Minimalism Game, I had already started practicing minimalism, so I had already gotten rid of most of my unneeded stuff. That doesn’t mean that I’ll never try it, however! I recommend this challenge for someone who prefers several small tasks over one huge one. I also recommend this for people who have a busier schedule, since it only takes a few minutes out of each day.

3. Project 333

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

Project 333 was created by Courtney Carver as a minimalist fashion experiment. For 3 months, Carver only dressed from a wardrobe comprised of 33 items, including clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and outerwear (but not including socks, underwear/bras, or clothes designated specifically for pajamas and working out). To try this challenge, pick 33 items. Be smart about what you choose! Pick a couple of staple items that can be paired with multiple different outfits. The items you select make up what’s called your “Capsule Wardobe”. Everything else gets boxed up and and put somewhere where you won’t have to look at them for the duration of the challenge.

After your 3 months is up, it’s time to decide what to do with the clothes you didn’t include in your capsule wardrobe. If you didn’t miss them at all, perhaps it’s time to donate them. If you need to, invest in a few high-quality staple pieces that will last you a long time.

PROS: 

Many people who have taken on this challenge state that the best part is being able to wear your favorite clothes. You don’t have to worry about “decision fatigue” in the morning, and laundry is easier. This challenge allows you to “test drive” some new minimalist principles without having to make any sort of radical change. After all, if 33 items is really too little for you, everything else is tucked away.

CONS: 

This can be more challenging depending on the climate in your area. Do you live in a colder region? If so, then you’ll probably have to dedicate a good chunk of your capsule wardrobe to things such as coats, boots, or other cold weather gear. If your weather is unpredictable and you’ve only planned for one type of weather in your Capsule Wardrobe, you may find this challenge to be more difficult.

MY THOUGHTS:

Project 333 really seems like an incredibly interesting challenge. In fact, I plan to try it myself starting next month (from November 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020). I do believe that this challenge can be suited for anybody, even if your personal circumstances might make it a little easier or more difficult than what Courtney Carver designed. This project isn’t supposed to be miserable. Carver says,

“This is not a project in suffering. If you need to create a version of Project 333 that works better for you, do it.”

Like Project 333, these methods of minimalism don’t have to be followed line by line. These are simply guidelines from fellow minimalists who have found lots of success by using these methods. If you need to tailor something to fit your preferences, do it! Especially if that means it will be a more effective method for your life.

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Welcome to Everything Alexandra

Welcome to Everything Alexandra: a space dedicated to talking about all things wellness. 

My name is Alexandra – but I go by Allie. If I had to come up with a few words to describe myself, I’d say that I’m…

  • A Student
  • A Scientist
  • An Athlete
  • A Blogger
  • An Extroverted Introvert
  • A Minimalist

…and much, much more – but there’s a good start.

Everything Alexandra is my platform for writing about many of the things that I find valuable and meaningful. I wanted to create an environment where I could talk about the topics that I’m passionate about. 

This website is my way to engage with a community who shares the same values as me: health, fitness, wellness, and above all, balance.

Learn More About Me

Explore

Letting Go of Insecurities

This is going to be a little different from my “usual” posts. I feel obligated to speak about this topic because I see it far too often, in myself and in the other people around me. For my entire life, I’ve been caught up in what others think of me. I constantly subjected myself to self-scrutiny, and not in a good way. I wanted to be liked. I became a perfectionist because I was afraid of what people might think or say about me if I failed. And that fear of failure prevented me from taking risks, in all aspects of life.

The problem in today’s world is it’s way too easy to feel some sort of artificial validation by the amount of likes, friends and followers you have. And for someone who wants to be “liked”, it’s dangerously easy to get caught up in social media. We use social media as our “highlight reel”, plucking the best, most glamorous, share-worthy moments of our life and putting them on display. It’s easy to create a false perception of reality, and it becomes easier to feel insecure about your own life. I’m guilty of falling into this trap, as well. Before I’d post on Twitter or Instagram, I’d pause and ask myself: do you think this will get a lot of likes? Will people actually like this? And if the answer was no, I’d refrain from posting.

To be honest, I was having second thoughts about posting this, too. What if they judge me? What if they think this post is stupid? But no. I will no longer allow myself to be a prisoner of other people’s judgement. Let me say that again. I will no longer allow myself to be a prisoner of other people’s judgement. I made that decision after having a particularly tearful breakdown to my boyfriend, all because I was fed up with my acne scars. My freaking acne scars. I was sick and tired of having to cover them up with makeup every day. I wanted to stop wearing makeup, but I felt forced to cover them up so people wouldn’t judge my less than perfect complexion. You see, for years, I thought my scars made me ugly; that they were something to be ashamed of. I felt like a slave to makeup. I thought, if I had the choice, I wouldn’t even wear makeup. But the thing is, I do have a choice. I can choose to fall victim to my own insecurities, or I can stop worrying about what other people are going to think about me, and focus on the more important things in my life.

This decision to relinquish my fear of judgment hasn’t come easy. It’s difficult not to care about something that once made you so insecure. The key is to surround yourself with non-judgmental people who make you feel good about yourself. I’m lucky enough to have a strong web of friends who care about me and my wellbeing, and an extremely supportive boyfriend who reminds me I’m beautiful even on my worst days. They give me the support I need to feel confident, proud, and fearless. But that didn’t just happen overnight! I had to let go of my fair share of relationships with people who dragged me down instead of lifting me up. It may take you a while to find that right group of people, but I’m telling you, they’re out there. Also, you should never feel guilty for cutting somebody toxic out of your life. That is an extremely brave, responsible decision and it’s not easy to do, but your mental health will benefit tremendously from doing so.

You also must remind yourself that these insecurities are all in your head. Instead of caring about how others view us, we should care more about how our actions make others feel. Instead of focusing on making the world like us, we should focus more on making sure our loved ones respect us. We should be proud of our accomplishments, instead of fearing our failures. Everybody has insecurities – even the most beautiful, successful, “perfect” people have their flaws. What’s important is that we embrace our flaws instead of hiding from them. Remember that you are not alone. We can all work to relinquish our insecurities together.

5 Beauty Products I No Longer Buy

If you are an urban dwelling student or young professional like me, odds are we suffer from the same consequences: things are generally more expensive, and space for things is limited. Or maybe you don’t live in the city, but you’re finding that you spend way too much time (or money) on the process of getting ready in the morning. I’ve found that I could seriously limit the amount of beauty products in my home to make my mornings easier. The less I buy, the more money and free space I have. I found that beauty products was one of the easiest categories to minimize because I could easily pinpoint what I actually use and need each day. I’ve been able to save lots of money by replacing some of my products with multi-functional or reusable items.

As you read through this, start to consider the similar changes that you can make, too. Look at the products that you use on a daily basis (or more importantly, the products you don’t use). Look at their ingredients. Are these ingredients helpful or harmful for your body? Can you replace it with a more natural or sustainable product? Better yet, can you phase it out completely? What are the benefits or consequences of doing this? These questions will help you streamline your routine.

On that note, here are five items I no longer buy, and what I’ve done instead to replace them!

Nail Polish

To be honest, I just love the look of my natural nails. Though I do think a freshly done manicure looks nice, but it’s never been something that I’ve had to have. Also, I’m the type of person who gets super frustrated whenever a nail chips or smudges, so I found it easier to just give my polish away after I noticed that it hadn’t been touched in well over a year.

DSC-0819.JPG

I still stress nail care, because I care about having clean and healthy nails. I just have a small nail kit with all the proper tools to keep my nails trimmed and clean, and that’s all I need.

Body Wash

I’ve parted ways with the potent body gels that you’d find on a Bath and Body Works front shelf. Instead, I use my magical bar of African Black Soap. This is also what I use as a face wash. Originating in West Africa, African Black Soap has been a “holy grail” product in the black community for generations. It contains an abundance of natural, beneficial ingredients, including shea butter, plantain peel, and palm ash. Best of all, it’s super cheap. A $4.99 bar can last me about 3 months. Though there are many places to buy African Black Soap, the ingredients can vary from batch to batch. For that reason, I buy mine from Shea Moisture, since it’s specifically formulated for acne prone skin. Shea Moisture also sell two other variations – one for severely dry skin and one for eczema/psoriasis.

DSC-0829.jpg

If you are going to use bar soap to wash your face/body, I recommend keeping it in a wired soap dish or something that lets liquid drain from the bottom. If water pools in your soap dish from your shower, it becomes easier for bacteria to manifest there, which is a recipe for disaster if you are using that bar of soap to clean your face.

Shaving Cream

This was the easiest change to make for me. I just can’t justify buying a can of shaving cream when my African Black Soap works extremely well for me. It hydrates my skin, and lathers pretty well. I also enjoy how it contains no artificial fragrances or perfumes that might irritate the more sensitive areas.

Tampons

I stopped wearing tampons and switched to a menstrual cup for three main reasons. First, it means that I no longer need to use a single-use, disposable product when I’m on my period. Though that may not seem like much, it’s a small step for me to cut down on consumer waste. Second, it saves me some money. I’m not going to be rich by not buying tampons, but it’s one less trip to the drugstore each month. And third, I will never have to worry about running out of tampons again.

There is a slight learning curve to using a menstrual cup. It requires some trial and error the first couple times you use it for it to feel comfortable, though I’d argue that the same concept applies to the first time you use tampons, also. Plus, my DivaCup takes up much less space than a box of tampons does.

Shampoo

You don’t have to have incredibly thick, curly, difficult-to-manage hair like mine to know that sulfates can be incredibly harsh for our skin. If you’re a fan of Queer Eye, you’ve probably heard Jonathan Van Ness’s spiel about how Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the same ingredient used to clean the car engine in a car. Yikes.

Long story short, sulfates can be quite drying, since they strip the natural oils from img-3506.jpgyour scalp that your hair needs to stay hydrated. There are also claims that SLS can have carcinogenic effects in high doses, but there is little current research to back those claims. But before you ditch the sudsy stuff forever, know that there’s a large variety of sulfate-free shampoos on the market that cleanse just as well. Even though I no longer purchase shampoo, I do own a bottle of OGX sulfate-free shampoo that I bought by accident (thinking it was conditioner). I use that to cleanse my hair no more than once per week, and I plan to only cowash (i.e. cleansing with conditioner) once the bottle runs out.

It’s also really easy to find sulfate-free shampoos! Since natural products are becoming “trendy”, most companies will heavily market that their products are sulfate-free. Just read the label quickly, or when in doubt, check the ingredient list.

Remember, these are all things I’ve chosen to eliminate due to personal preference. My hair type doesn’t need to be shampooed multiple times a week, but that doesn’t mean that yours is the same way. Don’t feel pressured to give up any of these products just because I have, or if your favorite celebrity/YouTuber/blogger has. Everybody is different. What you can do is personalize this approach to the products that you use. You might be able to make some cool hacks to simplify your day, just like me.

5 Key Steps to Form Healthy Habits

Why is it so difficult for us all to stick to a new habit? Every year, millions of Americans create a New Year’s Resolution, and these resolutions are discarded in a matter of weeks or months. It’s easy for many of us to start a diet or a fitness program, but what is keeping us from forming these healthy habits long-term? Is it a lack of motivation, forgetfulness, or that it’s “just too hard”?

The answer may lie within the Trans-Theoretical Model, a tool that can be used to assess one’s “readiness” to start a new healthy behavior. The Trans-Theoretical Model, or TTM for short, is a cyclic model with 5 stages. Here, I will outline each stage of the TTM, as well as some tips to continue moving forward in pursuit of your health goals.

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STEP 1 – Pre-Contemplation

Pre-Contemplation is the beginning stage of the Trans-Theoretical Model. If you are in the pre-contemplation stage, it means that you have no desire to change your behavior in the immediate future. A person in this stage will probably come off as resistant, due to the fact that they do not see a need to change. An individual at this stage is also not ready to change. The will to change must come from within in order for physical action to be taken. If you find yourself at this stage, it is helpful to think about some of the positive and negative impacts that your current behaviors have on your life. If you did decide to change your lifestyle and adopt new healthy habits, what are the short-term and long-term benefits? What, if any, are the consequences?

STEP 2 – Contemplation

Contemplation is the second step in the Trans-Theoretical Model. In the contemplation stage, you are aware of your actions and behaviors and you are thinking about making a change in the near future. At this point, no action has been taken to change habits, but you are aware that there is a behavior that you’d like to change. At this point, it’s so important to have relationships with people who will help move you forward on your journey. By having a friend or a community supporting you, not only will you have external motivation, but you will feel a stronger urge to hold yourself accountable.

STEP 3 – Preparation

Preparation is one step further from contemplation. The difference between Step 2 and Step 3 is that by Step 3, you are actively planning to make a change. If your goal is to be more physically active, the preparation phase might include buying a new workout outfit, or joining a gym. You have decided to make a change, and you believe that you can change your habits.

STEP 4 – Action

The action phase begins the minute you start actively making a change. This stage only lasts up to 6 months, where an individual will either move on to the next and final stage (maintenance) or move back to one of the previous phases mentioned. In this phase, it’s important to recognize what former stressors were affecting your previous behaviors. If, for example, you are trying to quit drinking, it may be helpful to avoid a certain bar that you used to frequent. It is important to develop coping strategies to manage those former stressors, so they do not influence you to fall back into bad habits.

STEP 5 – Maintenance

Maintenance is the final phase of the Trans-Theoretical Model. In this stage, an individual is still working to integrate these new changes until they become a regular part of life. An individual enters the maintenance stage after about 6 months of adapting a new habit. It is important, at this final stage, that you have identified your former stressors, whether they may be people, places, or objects. If you cycle back to an earlier stage, this is known as “Relapse”.

An important thing to note about the Trans-Theoretical Model is that it is a cyclic model, meaning that some people may fall into a cycle of starting new habits, ditching them, and trying again in a few months if they get discouraged or don’t see results soon enough. It takes time for a new habit to become regular, and most of the time these new habits mean adopting a lifestyle change to accommodate for these new behaviors. By being mindful of your own readiness, you will be much more likely to be successful in creating new healthy habits.

Maintaining Balance in Your Life

Welcome to the NEW AND IMPROVED web page for Everything Alexandra! It has been FOREVER since I’ve published a post on my blog, and I’ve been itching to create and share some new content. Since I’ve returned to Boston for school, I’ve been juggling my full-time education studying Chemical Engineering, work, and extracurriculars. Unfortunately, the Everything Alexandra blog has taken a backseat as I’ve focused most of my energy on my classes, and my priorities have felt soooo out of balance.

After I created the new Instagram page for Everything Alexandra, I noticed that the majority of my posts were about vegan food. Although I think that food and nutrition are a super important part of wellness, there is so much more that goes along with wellness, including mental health, that go unspoken about. Wellness is so much more than just nutrition and exercise (although I do believe that these are still super important), and it’s easy to get so caught up in the “physical” aspects of health that we forget to take care of ourselves on the inside.

I think one flawed perception of “wellness” is that people assume in order to be “healthy” you have to be happy all the time. But just like anything, life is a constant cycle of high and low moments. For every day that I drink a green smoothie for breakfast, do my cardio, get a full night’s sleep, etc., I’m bound to have a day (or night) where I don’t have energy because I’m lacking in sleep, or I decide not to go to the gym because I’m not feeling up for it. These highs and lows are bound to happen, because that’s life. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over one cheat meal or one missed workout or one bad day. But if you start to notice that the “good” days are few and far between, maybe it’s time to re-balance your priorities if you can, focusing your time and energy into things that are going to make you happier.

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Take some time out of your day to explore someplace new

That being said, you should never underestimate the power of a mental day. I repeat: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A MENTAL DAY. We all need a day, or two, or even just an hour, to relax and give our brains and bodies a break. Take some time to go for a walk, take a nap, or read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to but never had the time. We all deserve a break from the constant go-go-go of school or work. You’re listening to the master of spreading themselves too thin. Trust me, I know how it feels to be burnt out, and it’s unbelievably draining.

And I’m not alone. Many of my close friends and peers spread themselves unbelievably thin so they can “stand out” and have an impressive resume. I was one of them. I’m still trying to break that mindset, actually. But here’s the thing: by cutting back on all of the endless responsibilities, and choosing one or two really important things in your life to devote your time and energy to, not only will you feel less stressed, but your work will most likely improve and you will feel so much better. Remember, wellness starts from within, so we must take care of our mental selves just as much as we take care of our physical selves.

As we enter the Spring season, be mindful of maintaining balance in all aspects of your life. Maybe we can all try to leave the long, unnecessarily stressful days behind!

The Amazing Green Smoothie

A common misconception about green smoothies is that they have to taste awful in order to be healthy. Well that’s just flat out wrong! Though I do agree that some green juices and smoothies have a much more bitter taste (thank you kale and arugula), this smoothie is the perfect transition. I recommend using baby spinach as your choice of greens, especially if you aren’t used to the taste of kale. Plus, I personally think spinach blends better (AND looks prettier).

This Amazing Green Smoothie is pleasantly sweet, thanks to the natural sugars found in banana, pineapple, and mango. These fruits also give it a slightly tropical flavor (which makes it the perfect breakfast in the summertime).

For this smoothie, you will need:img_1010

  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup mango (fresh or frozen)
  • 1-2 cups almond milk (NOTE – more milk will be needed if using all frozen fruit, otherwise the smoothie will be too thick)

Now, it does matter what order you add your ingredients in. I like to blend up my greens first with the first cup of almond milk, blending on high power until it creates a smooth green juice. Then, I add the rest of my fruit and blend on high power until smooth. Sometimes a little extra milk is necessary to get the desired thickness.

I prefer to use frozen fruit because it’s cheaper, and it lasts longer in the freezer (so I don’t have to worry about it rotting). Because of that, I either move my pineapple and mango to the fridge to thaw overnight, or I just have to add a lot more milk. But the beauty of smoothies is that you can craft them however you like!

If you have any tips about green smoothies, or smoothie making in general, feel free to leave a comment!

Why We Should Stop Worrying About Weight

“The only way to solve the weight problem is to stop making weight a problem—to stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Weight is not an effective measure of attractiveness, moral character, or health. The real enemy is weight stigma, for it is the stigmatization and fear of fat that causes the damage and deflects attention from true threats to our health and well-being.”
– Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size

I remember the first time I weighed myself on my Wii Fit balance board. I was 11 years old, and I weighed 92 pounds. That was a healthy weight, according to the video game, because I had a BMI (Body Mass Index) that fell within the “normal” range. I didn’t really care much about this new information, because, well, I was a kid. I wasn’t supposed to care about my weight.

It had been a few months since I had last played the game, so when I turned it on, I received a message telling me I was due to weigh myself again. So I, now at 12 years old, stepped onto the balance board to weigh in. I watched in horror as the scale read…102 pounds, tipping my BMI from “normal” into the “overweight” range. This video game had just told me, a healthy, growing girl, that I was fat. And I believed it.

This set me off on a weight loss obsession. Unbeknownst to my family and friends, I kept a “weight loss journal” where I’d track my calorie intakes, create weekly meal plans, and write down my body measurements. I kept a folder of workouts from magazine clippings in hopes that I could use them to slim down my “thunder thighs”. I searched for how to control ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and I also looked for obscure weight loss diets, like the Japanese Banana Diet (yes, this is a real thing), where you’re guaranteed to lose weight if you eat a banana for breakfast every single day. I was consumed by weight loss when I didn’t have any weight to lose in the first place.

These behaviors continued throughout high school, and into college. I was terrified of the dreaded “Freshman 15”, so I would track every last calorie on MyFitnessPal, down to the teaspoon of sugar I put in my coffee. I obsessed over my FitBit statistics, refusing to ever take the elevator if I could take the stairs instead. I would feel ashamed every time I had cookies or ice cream or fast food, because these weren’t “healthy” foods. This wasn’t just some childhood phase that I would eventually grow out of. This was my life, and I couldn’t eat or sleep or exercise without wondering how it would affect the number on a scale.

The worst thing is, these obsessive behaviors are so widely accepted, and most are even considered “healthy” things to do, because they are done in the pursuit of weight loss. If you constantly worry about the number on a scale, or the circumference of your waist, and these worries are inhibiting you from living a happy life, is that really beneficial for your health? If all of this dieting and calorie restriction is causing you to be stressed and fatigued and miserable…is that still healthy?

I don’t think so.

It’s okay to eat that piece of bread, or the cookie, or the slice of pizza, or whatever. Eat whatever food makes you happiest. It’s also okay to have a garden salad for lunch and a cheeseburger for dinner (because I totally did that this week). Instead of focusing on the number of calories you’re consuming, focus on the nutrients your food provides and how it makes you feel, while still being mindful that you’re eating enough food to energize your body. And remember, it is never okay to judge somebody based on their body weight. Weight is not a direct indicator of health, and in order to achieve total physical, mental and emotional health, we must get over weight stigma and fatphobia. And no matter your shape or your size, you are beautiful.