There are plenty of things I like to gift myself: Chocolate. Foot massages at that Thai place. Pumpkin spice lattes (soy, of course). Kitchen gadgets. Fuzzy socks. Anything with avocado.

There are few things that I actually need though. In fact, I would call these things treats rather than gifts. A gift is something far grander. A gift doesn’t need to be tangible, but it most definitely should be substantial. 

The important thing to ask yourself here is,
“What do I long for most? – that I have the power to gift myself?”

So what can you gift yourself with?

  1. Grace. Be kind to yourself. When you put your foot in your mouth at a meeting, when you screw up a family member’s big day, when you’re late – again, when you look in the mirror, when you can’t squeeze into those old jeans, when you can’t finish a workout, when you know you should’ve, but didn’t; be kind. Turn off that barrage of hateful commentary in your head, and extend yourself some mercy. You’ll be surprised how light you feel. 
  2. Confidence. Take pride in whatever you’ve accomplished in your short time here on earth and don’t let the small things go unnoticed. It is so difficult for many to simply get up every morning and persevere through each moment of their day. Your struggles are your badges of honor, don’t short change them! There is always much more on the horizon to reach, accomplish, or conquer, but that’s tomorrow’s battle. Get ready for that battle by building your confidence from your past ones and how you’ve learned and grown from experiencing them.
  3. Honesty. Oftentimes, we let our emotions cloud our reality. Whether it’s regarding our health, our wealth, or our emotional well-being, we often lie to ourselves saying we’re OK, or we’re fine, or we’re trying our best, when we aren’t. Not really. Honesty is the foundation for integrity, proactivity, and success. Our truthfulness about who we are, what we do, and how we function is important because it allows us to see our reality and not build false pretenses that will ultimately hurt us in the long run. 
  4. Gratitude. Thank yourself. No, really! Sometimes it’s hard to be a present parent when work is at its busiest time of year, or to listen to a friend’s problems when you yourself have had a long, exhausting day. Much like you would thank others for their time, their energy, their knowledge, thank yourself too! The other side of the coin is to show gratitude to God, the Universe, Fate, or the Powers that Be. Whatever it is that you believe in, showing gratitude to someThing or someOne “above” for your lot in life is one of the most powerful things you can do because it is the most humbling. So give thanks, and give it often! 
  5. Letting go. Often times we hold on to slights against us or slights we’ve made against others. Whether it’s guilt or anger, pride or despair, letting go can be a difficult thing to do. But these emotions bind us, and we can only be free once we let them go. So let go of that hurt, that pain, and gift yourself with a sigh of relief. 
  6. Forgiveness. Maybe you’ve started noticing a trend here 🙂 Forgiveness is a part of letting go, and it’s so coveted because it is something so rarely given. We’re not built to be quick about forgiving or forgetting anything. The smallest of slights stick in our mind forever, but we’ve got to train ourselves to face those tough situations, people, or emotions, and come to terms with them. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings, your weaknesses, your mistakes. Forgive, and in time, forget. 
  7. Love. There’s a difference between learning to stop being your own enemy and loving yourself. Loving yourself requires active participation, it is not a passive act. Loving yourself is very similar to loving others. You take notice, and you begin to find things you like: physical things like the way you smile or crinkle your nose when you laugh, emotional things like how you show restraint when someone verbally attacks you, or mental things like how you persevere through a tricky problem at work to find a solution everyone can agree on. Pretty soon you realize how unique these things make you, and how you light up every time you notice them happen again. This is how our love for others grows, it is also how our love for ourselves grows. Gift yourself with taking the time to fall in love with yourself.  

This holiday season, in all your selflessness, don’t forget about gifting yourself with what you really need: a heart filled with ease and joy. Happy holidays!!

Hi y’all! Happy December! This month I’ll be posting every day until Christmas week with healthy recipes, holiday DIYs, articles for health, and more. That’s 20 posts! 

I’m also doing a GIVEAWAY! That’s right, you can enter to win a mystery gift basket full of my favorite health, nutrition, and beauty items worth over $150! 

I want to show you all how much I appreciate the love and support you’ve had for my journey with SPIRITPLATE. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is like us on Facebook AND like each post we share this month OR follow us on Instagram AND like each post there. This means you can enter up to twice times each day (by liking once on FB and once on IG) and you have until 11:59PM CST on December 20th to like each post. I’ll choose a winner randomly and announce on December 21st. You should receive your gift basket before Christmas!

To that end, I can’t believe that this time last week, we were gearing up for Thanksgiving, and now it’s already December! This entire year has just flown by, and the increasing speed with which life is passing just makes me nervous. Days seems so long when you’re a child, but as you get older the days seem to blur together. 

Healthy Holidays: How to Transition into WinterSomething that helps me mark the time, and slow it down if you will, is to be present with the seasons. I alter my lifestyle and daily rituals as the year transitions from spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter to spring. This supports my mind, body, and spirit in recognizing and being present with the changes happening around me. 

Here’s how I transition into winter:

  1. I sleep with the sun. The natural rhythm of your body calls for a slowing down during the winter – a sort of mild hibernation mode that requires that we get more rest.  Throughout the year, I try to rise and retire with the sun. This means I get up earlier and stay up later in the summer, and sleep in during the winter. Of course, our modern lifestyle means we do need to continue working late hours, but I bridge the gap by winding down after sunset. I turn off the bright lights in our home, set my phone, computer, and TV brightness to low, or turn them off, and I reduce the volume of these devices as well. Shifting to a darker, quieter, environment with less stimuli after sunset helps your body feel like it’s resting – which is exactly what it needs in the colder months!
  2. I eat seasonally. I try to incorporate produce that is in season, and reduce the produce that isn’t. Eating foods seasonally is not only more cost effective, these foods are built to provide you with the exact nourishment you need for the season. For example, bananas, berries, and cucumbers ripen in the heat of summer, and are rich in potassium and vitamins you need to rehydrate – exactly what we need in the hotter months. Squash, starchy vegetables like cauliflower, and citrus like limes and oranges are more abundant in the winter, providing high doses of vitamin C and minerals like iron and magnesium to keep us from getting sick in the colder, wetter months. 
  3. I eat for warmth. I incorporate more warming foods and spices into my diet, such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon. I add soups a few times a week, which gives me my needed vegetable intake but is also super comforting to warm up with. I also try to reduce or remove processed foods like oils, bread, and sugary baked goods from day-to-day meals, reserving them only for special occasions (Thanksgiving, Christmas) to prevent those extra holiday pounds, but stick to starchy carbs like rice, potatoes, and beans that provide sustenance and bulk to my meals. 
  4. I hydrate. In the summer, we tend to eat water-rich foods, but in the winter we tend to go for starchier, denser fare. This is our natural; our body thinks it will be cold and starved, and is storing up in preparation. To prevent dry skin and a proneness to the winter colds and flus, keep yourself hydrated. Don’t like water? Add a few lemon or ginger slices. Feel too cold? Drink your water hot. I usually have several cups of hot water a day, often with some kind of spice or flavoring – lemon, rosemary, turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon are my favorites. 
  5. I move. The cooling of our bodies in the wintertime means our joints ache a bit more, and breathing is a bit more laborious. We feel more lethargic, and while yes, we need to wind down, it also means that we should work out intermittently. That when we do exercise, we do so carefully, properly warming up and cooling down our joints to avoid injury. Adding yoga to your regimen is a great way to incorporate a slower, quieter activity that still gets your heart pumping and body sweating. Listen to your body and you’ll know if your muscles and joints need more or less work to remain healthy throughout the season.
  6. I get outside. Being outdoors in the cold air, even for a few moments, really helps your body feel “oh, yes, this is winter,” and reasserts your circadian rhythm. Have your lunch on a bench or at an outdoor cafe. Take a walk to go see holiday lights. Build a fire in your backyard. We are not cold-blooded, we do need the warmth and are right in seeking to stay indoors, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remind ourselves of the cold outside.
  7. I take a Vitamin D supplement. You may be getting outside, but the lack of sunshine-filled days means you still may not be getting enough Vitamin D to support a healthy immune system, control your blood sugar, and help you absorb calcium. Foods high in Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, cow’s whole milk and mushrooms of all kinds. Because I choose not to eat fish or dairy for both animal welfare and my personal health (heavy metals and disease in most fish known to cause cancer and birth defects, and the hormones in and acidity of dairy that interferes with my hormones, skin, bone density, and weight) I go for the mushrooms. Because mushrooms only provide 5% of your daily intake per serving, I also take a Vitamin D supplement. 
  8. I declutter. Like spring cleaning, fall cleaning is just as important. Wash your sheets and clear out your closet. Move summer clothing and linens into storage and bring out the heavier, warmer wares. Donate any excess clothing to a charity. Click here to read my post about setting up a minimalist closet. Rotate your pantry items to bring out lesser used grains and beans. Clean the freezer to make space for make ahead soups and stews. Put away the summer tools and clear out your garage to be able to bring your cars and bikes in from the cold. Having a clean garage also helps to keep away small animals and other critters that will seek your home for warmth. There are plenty of cruelty-free methods on the market now to deter these critters from seeking shelter. 
  9. I decorate. Having changed my linens, my clothing and my meals, the only thing that remains is to change my home or workspace decor to reflect the time of the year. In the summer, I love having greens, blues, and yellows around me to recall the summertime, but in the winter I go for the browns, golds and reds. My room is painted a pale blue gray with white and dark brown accents. To this I add greenery in the summer and beiges in the fall. I bring in the outdoors by using leaves, branches, and pinecones or other nuts and seeds to evoke the season. 
  10. I use aromatherapy. As part of my decor, and shift in eating habits, I also employ the use of seasonal scents to help me feel present in the moment. Remember, scents are inextricably connected to memory, so to feel connected to a certain time and place, using aromatherapy is a masterful way to feel grounded and present. In the fall, I use more sweet and spicy scents like vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin, and apples. In the winter, I love the scents of fresh evergreen or pine, burning wood, and amber. I have a few favorite candles and incense sticks I light nearly everyday when I’m working from home during the day, or winding down at night that help me connect to the moment. 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but was quite unsure how well it would be received. Talking about fitness, diet, and even weight loss is always such a touchy subject, and even I’m feeling nervous posting my progress photos for the world to see! I truly believe, though, that our struggles are often more similar than they are different, and if even one person can benefit from seeing my struggles laid out, then I think I can feel pretty good about that. SO. Here goes nothing.


My goal has always been to get stronger. I’ve always been a terrible dieter – I can never keep to any kind of short term regimen! And my spine history meant I always lived a sedentary lifestyle, never truly being an active person.

Until recently. After college, I decided I wanted to get fit. I wanted to aggressively rehab my spine, and superficially, I was always insecure about my “back fat” – which probably isn’t so much back fat as it’s just so much excess skin built up from being hunched over all my life. 

Gosh, this is hard to talk about. *Deep breath!*

I’m 5 foot nothing and quite curvy. I’ve never been massively overweight, but no one could ever call me thin either. I’ve always been…squishy.  My arms and legs are narrow, but my torso, hips, and bum always carry the majority of my weight much like the rest of my family. I’ve been about 103-5 pounds since I was 12, which I’ve come to realize is my comfort weight; I return to this weight naturally, no matter how active I am or how my food choices vary throughout the year. 103-105 is what I call my equilibrium weight.

So, I decided I wanted to get stronger, more flexible. I wanted more energy and I wanted to tone up enough to tighten the skin around my torso.  I enlisted the help of a private physical trainer. I went to Fitness Together (now Infinity Personal Training) and worked 1-on-1 with a trainer for a year before I got married. I didn’t gain or lose any weight at this time, though my body fat percentage went from over 26% to about 23%, and I felt SO MUCH stronger.

Until I got married.

At my wedding I was still the usual 103. One year later I was 111!

Now, some people say you should not to look at the scale, to measure your health and weight in other ways like from the way clothes feel, or how much body fat percentage you have, or by measuring to the inch the circumference of your arms, legs, belly, etc. Some people are right!

On its own, the number on a scale gives you nothing, no relevant information, unless you pair it with other information: your height, for instance, or other bodily measurements, your energy levels, your digestion, your ability or inability to do certain exercises, your flexibility, and a lot more.

So considering the way clothes fit me, the circumference of my belly (and other places), my height, and my weight overtime, I knew I had gained weight that was over my equilibrium state. According to the Body Mass Index chart, I was still considered within a healthy weight range for my height, but boy did I feel the difference! My joints felt the added pressure and my spine health began deteriorating again. I knew for my medical history, my self-knowledge about my body, that this weight was going to be detrimental to my health in terms of increased back pain and low energy – unless, of course, this added weight were pure muscle, which it wasn’t. 

A year later, about 10 months into actively trying to return to my equilibrium weight, I am now 104 lbs and just under 23% BF, and I feel incredibly better. My energy is back, I feel I can stand or sit or be active for hours before feeling any joint fatigue. And finally, finally, I can see a small difference in the skin of my back. 

My Fitness Journey | SPIRITPLATEBut what caused this weight gain, and shift in lifestyle? For one, hormones. Aly and I were now married, and our relationship *ahem* had changed, so my hormones were now behaving differently, thus regulating the way I processed nutrients differently. I was also taking the chef course at Rouxbe at this time; I was making lots of food and trying not to waste it by eating more leftovers than maybe I could have handled. And then I got a desk job; I was sitting all day, completely killing my metabolism.

So after feeling more and more miserable inside and out, from looking at recent photos and thinking ‘when did my face get so round?’ to feeling fatigued and achy all the time, I decided I needed to change something. 


At the start of this year I started eating better. I reduced my fried foods and sweets. I took lunch to work, made sure I parked my car far, went for evening walks with Aly (my chiropractor had said no running or jumping) and increased my water intake. I began recording my weight and body fat percentage using our FitBit Aria Scale. By February I lost 2 lbs. Great! But I didn’t feel much better and I hit a plateau going into spring.

In May, I decided to do Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG). It’s a 12-week training program that uses predominantly your own body weight as part of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I highly, highly recommend it. I’ve never been active in this way: really devoting 30-45 minutes every day 5x a week. My spine improved dramatically. I felt stronger and leaner everyday. The community built around the BBG is incredible, with women all over the world supporting each other and cheering each other on.  Unfortunately, I also managed to injure myself after completing only 8 weeks. I landed wrong on a split lunge and completely threw out my right hip. This was exactly what my chiropractor had told me not to do (jumping). I was just too eager and excited to continue the guide after seeing results in just a few short weeks. I’ve now resolved to listen to her when she tells me to take it slow!

A week after I hurt my hip, I was going to leave for international travel for a whole month. So while I did not continue to workout aggressively through July and August, I did walk a lot and stretch, trying to keep my muscles healthy with magnesium supplements and electronic pulse massage therapy. This helped immensely.

When I returned, around mid-August, I wasn’t allowed to return to Kayla’s guide. I took up mild yoga instead, stretching about 2-3x a day, and just walked whenever I had the opportunity, never pushing too hard. This seemed to set me up in a good rhythm, and that’s where I’m at now.

My Fitness Journey | SPIRITPLATE

(I have never been able to do a backbend in my life. I finally managed to do Wheel Pose this summer!)


As far as diet goes, I’ve eaten the same since the New Year:

  • I eat plant-based whole foods, as in no processed foods, except the occasional vegan cheese or tofu-based proteins. Once or twice a month I may eat something like oreos or cookies or chips. 
  • I eat three large meals, with minimal snacking in between, and I never skip breakfast.
  • I don’t drink sodas (never been a fan) and I don’t eat fast food. I will eat out occasionally (once every week and a half to two weeks).
  • My only caffeine consists of one cup of coffee every morning, black with a little agave. No caffeine after 2PM.
  • Most days, I eat dinner between 5-7PM, and sleep by 11PM. Before bed, I have a glass of hot water with turmeric and honey mixed in. If I’m hungry by bedtime, I’ve taken to mixing the turmeric and honey in hot almond milk instead of water. This usually satisfies me enough to fall asleep.
  • I generally have a large serving (or three!) of a dark leafy green or colorful vegetable with every meal.
  • I usually don’t have fruit after noon, I don’t drink alcohol regularly, and if I crave sweets I typically satisfy myself with a couple squares of dark chocolate. 
  • I never eat salad with a dressing; I use only salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

A typical day’s worth of food looks something like this:

After Waking:
Water + Black Coffee + Vitamins
Homemade Banana Nut Muffin + Green Smoothie
Soy or Coconut Yogurt, Banana & Granola/Muesli
Mashed Avocado on Toast with Sauteed Mushrooms
Grain + Green + Bean
(i.e. Daal, Roti, Pickled Carrots or Kidney Beans, Rice, Spinach)
Soup + Salad
Tofurky Sandwich with Arugula
Sweet Potato, Kale Salad, Beans
Grain + Green + Bean
(i.e. Pasta with Arugula and Chickpeas or Bean Tacos + Spring Mix)
Veggie Curry with Rice/Roti
Before Bed:
Turmeric and Honey in Hot Milk or Water

This system seems to be working for me. The probiotics in the vitamins and occasional yogurt have helped stabilize my stomach and reduce bloating. The turmeric honey mixture has been helping with my allergies and daily aches and pains resulting from my spine. The grain+green+bean idea ensures I get nutritionally dense foods, am balanced in my carb-protein-veggie intake, and avoid fried foods or high-fat sauces/dips. And of course the green smoothies – usually coconut water, banana, kale or spinach, and whatever fruit I’m craving, plus this protein powder – help to ensure I’m getting important vitamins and minerals. 

To see more examples of what I eat daily, you can follow me on Snapchat: ndjuma.


I mentioned earlier that I kept a record of my weight, body fat, measurements, etc as the year went on. I weighed myself once every month or so on our Aria scale which sends electrical pulses through your feet to determine your body fat percentage. I wrote all this down in a note on my iPhone that I could access easily.

(**Keep in mind, I am 5′ tall. so 100-110 lbs is within normal Body Mass Index for me. I could be completely ripped at 120 lbs and 15% body fat. Or I could be 25% body fat at 105 lbs. Dipping below 100 lbs is not an option for me, as either way you slice it, I’d be underweight. Be sure to look up your BMI (here) to ensure you’re at a healthy weight for your height. I do NOT recommend someone who is 5’6 for example attempting to get to 100-105 lbs. There is no way, no matter what BF percentage, that that is a healthy option!**)

You can see my recordings below:

Date – Pounds – %BodyFat – Clothing Size || Activity or Diet Changes

Dec 31 – 111.1 – 26.0% – S/4 || New Year 
Feb 04 – 109.5 – 25.4% – S/4 || Walking, reduced fat and sweets, eating early dinner.
May 01 – 108.7 – 24.4% – S/4 || Start of Kayla Itsine’s BBG. 
May 25 – 108.1 – 24.1% – S/2 || BBG Week 4
Jun 08 – 107.4 – 23.7% – S/2 || BBG Week 6
Jun 25 – 105.9 – 23.4% – XS/0 || BBG Week 8
Jul 20 – 105.8 – 23.6% – XS/0 || Traveling; walking, stretching. 
Aug 20 – 105.0 – 23.7% – XS/0 || Mild yoga, stretching.
Sep 15 – 105.7 – 23.2% – XS/00 || Mild yoga, walking, stretching, no desk job. Increased greens.
Oct 10 – 104.3 – 22.9% – XS/00 || Mild yoga, smoothie challenge in October.

And now for my progress shots.

Please understand that showing these images takes a lot of courage. I am very proud of my progress, but it’s also highly nerve-racking to show it!

Be kind, haha. 

My Fitness Journey | SPIRITPLATEDetails on these images:

  • I took these pictures in the mornings, after a glass of water, a glass of coffee (a natural diuretic), and a bathroom break. (Always go #2 in the morning to get the least bloated image of yourself when taking progress photos!) 
  • There are variations in the images based on phone and lighting quality and the height of my hand taking the picture. I have not photoshopped my stomach; you can see my terrible photoshop skills on where I’ve tried to erase the overlapping pictures to make space for my bum, haha.
  • You’ll also notice that my lack of physical exertion (no squats or lunges) recently has reduced my glutes mass from July to October, and my back is not as straight now as it was the May and July shots (less cardio).

The biggest change I see is not in my figure. It’s in my confidence. My lack of fear if someone says, “Let’s go for a hike!” or “Meet me at the gym!” is something I’ve never experienced before. My daily excruciating back pain has reduced significantly. You don’t know how significantly your demeanor changes when you’re no longer in pain. I am happier than I’ve ever been. 


So, how do I feel having made it to this point?

Well, to be honest I felt better in July, before my hip injury. I miss working out; the energy it brings is just so addictive. Being on a regular workout schedule, I felt unstoppable. It was something I never knew I could do before. While I have to take it slower and easier now, I’m not deterred in the slightest. I want to challenge myself to maintain my progress and get even more toned as we get into the holiday season, when I know eating healthy will be more of a challenge, and I’ll just want to hibernate, haha. I am hoping to return to the BBG workouts, and do more advanced yoga in the coming months.

I am so very proud of everything I’ve learned so far about my body and how remarkable it truly is – how quickly it can heal, how much it can really do!

I’ve learned that there isn’t anything that I can’t do if I set my mind to it, that hard work and discipline will get me anywhere I want to go. This is such a massive life lesson.

There is so much more I want to accomplish and the journey doesn’t stop here!

I realize this post didn’t have much ‘educational value’ in terms of cooking, nutrition, or fitness, but I hope this serves as an example that eating clean and exercising regularly can change your life, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And that, well, that’s priceless.

Please leave comments and questions below, I’d love to know your thoughts and how you’re doing on your journey to a happier, healthier you!


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | SPIRITPLATE

I recently wandered across a review of the New York Times bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Within moments, I bought the Kindle version and within hours, I had read it cover to cover, decided I needed a minimalist wardrobe and set to it. Aly found me that evening surrounded by a storm of strewn garments and trash bags, muttering to myself.

(This happens often. When I find an idea I like, I take to it immediately and wholly with little regard to what consequences such a decision would have to my day-to-day reality.)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is built on a simple idea: that decluttering your home happens only once and definitively, by discarding all possessions you do not need. To determine which items to keep or discard, one must hold or touch each item and answer honestly, “Does this item bring me joy?” If the answer is yes, keep it and assign it a space within your home – any other answer means you must discard it, either by trashing, donating, or selling the item. This process is called the KonMari method.

The KonMari Method is built on the premise that you should only keep those items in your possession that bring you pure unadulterated joy, and discard the rest. The possessions you keep must then be assigned a ‘home’ within your home – a place or space where it will reside when not in use. Thus if you ever remove the object from its home, it must be brought back. And if you come into possession of new objects, the same two steps must be followed – ask yourself does this object bring me joy? and then if it does, designate a new home for it. This way you only have to truly tidy up once, ever.

You may be thinking, what about bills? Heirlooms and gifts? Extra towels for guests? Marie Kondo has an answer for everything. She reasons with you like a stern nanny, telling you what you need to hear, often times ignoring what you want to.

Needless to say, in regards to my wardrobe alone (not counting the rest of my home), I produced four 13-gallon trash bags full of clothing to donate and sell, and another such bag for shoes alone. To say my closet was considerably lighter would be an understatement. I had left myself with about 40 pieces of clothing, including shoes and accessories, with about two of each kind of garment – two long sleeved shirts, two short sleeved shirts, two sleeveless shirts, two dresses, two workout pants etc, etc.

My Closet | SPIRITPLATEI stepped back and eyed my handiwork. I felt strangely in love with my (pardon the pun) stripped down closet and drawers, but I couldn’t place my finger on why.

The next couple of weeks flew by. I attended a birthday party, a two-day engagement party, a BBQ, a graduation and spent nearly every evening at my local jamat khana (church). I had long hours at work, three days volunteering at a local elementary school, a couple of work happy hours, and I worked out 5 days each week. Through all of that, I never once had trouble getting ready or picking out what to wear. I never once missed my discarded clothing or regretted my decision.

In fact, in the past month, I was astonished to find:

No one noticed. Not a single person in the last month has noticed my repeated outfits. No one knew I’d worn the same handful of tops all month with the same two cardigans and the same two pairs of pants (one of them jeans) in various combinations. This is a matter I’m very self-conscious about. I was admittedly fearful of the idea of someone noticing I was wearing the same things and passing a comment. The fact that no one did, and frankly, no one could care less, was refreshing.

I felt better about myself, physically and emotionally. I was only wearing a handful of my clothes prior to clearing out my closet. After wasting a significant amount of time looking through all my options, I’d select the same tried and true articles again and again. I constantly struggled with my self-image – putting on the rarely worn garments and lamenting on how I didn’t fit in them, or they made me look lumpy, before changing back into my usual picks. The strewn clothes on the floor after such difficult decision-making drove me nuts, and I hated having to pick them all up and put them back on hangers. I’ve had occasions where I’ve chucked a shirt or dress across the room in frustration. I had no idea how much time and energy was going into this daily process, or how much negativity about myself (ugh how can I look so disgusting in this?), my possessions (who the hell makes such restrictive pants?! I hate these!), and my home (I need a bigger closet, this isn’t enough!) I was generating. It was only when I downsized my wardrobe and experienced a complete lack of these instances that I realized how much lighter I felt. I got dressed in two minutes rather than twenty. As soon as I took off my work clothes I hung them where they belonged and got into my home clothes. No pants on the floor. No clutter. It dawned on me that all the clothing I was left with, no matter how few, were items that did bring me joy – I loved how they looked and felt and fit. This obvious fact was news to me. I only possess clothes I love to wear. What a novel idea!

My Drawers | SPIRITPLATEDecluttering my closet decluttered my mind. The thoughts once occupied with “What do I wear?” and “How do I look?” and their subsequent lamentations that followed, now had time and space to turn to other inquiries: “Can I get in a yoga sess before work?” “How about we meet earlier and catch up before the dinner party?” “Perhaps I could write a blog post on mindful eating?” “Will Tyrion meet the Queen of Dragons?!” In addition, I feel this has reduced my “decision fatigue”. Every morning, we have a set amount of decision-making abilities that is utilized throughout our day. This is why we often make the worst decisions by the end of the day when we’re exhausted and fatigued from deciding what was needed earlier in the day. Thus, minimizing decisions needed for other parts of our life saves our decision-making skills for more important things (i.e deciding what to wear vs. decision whether to work out or what to write). This is why Steve Jobs always wore the same thing day after day – he simply didn’t want to waste time thinking about it!

In the larger scope of things, this idea of limiting my wardrobe evoked an epiphany.
Limiting my wardrobe had, in many ways, liberated me.
Could this idea of “liberation in limitation” be applied to other aspects of my life?
Could I use it to truly enrich my life?

The answer, I was surprised to find, was: it already had.

Now before you go rolling your eyes about me bringing up my vegan diet again, hear me out. Let’s be real. Going vegan – going whole-food vegan – is no easy task. You do feel limited, if only initially. This new lifestyle is a vast departure from everything you’ve ever known or done. It creates a rift, a divide between you and your past self, your loved ones, your traditions, your social navigations. This is a difficult and oftentimes painful process. Like downsizing your wardrobe, downsizing your diet can be daunting. You no longer have the safety net of familiarity you once did. BUT, it is also a vastly enriching experience.

Since going whole foods, plant-based vegan, I have: far less bloating, more restful sleep, less general fatigue and more energy, a bearable and normalized menstrual cycle, no constipation and frequent motions, clear skin, shiny hair and strong nails. My mental focus has improved tremendously. I am no longer pre-diabetic, I rarely get sick and if I do I heal fast, and I recover faster from heavy workouts. Within the confines of this diet, I’ve learned to detect nuanced ingredients and subtle flavors, to recognize quality foods and use them to heal myself. I no longer emotionally eat or feel guilty for having an extra dessert or too many carbs, and I finally understand and take the time to really savor the process of eating and nourishing my body.

Knowing my thoughts and actions are aligned in my belief that no animal should be harmed for my benefit is the icing on the cake. There is a genuine peace in that, and I value it far more that I value the taste of a cheeseburger or the comfort of consuming the same foods my family does. I would have been unable to have these results and realizations by eating the way I used to: whatever I pleased.

Similarly, I would have never realized how much self-hate I was generating with an excessive wardrobe that did me no favors, or recognized what styles I loved, or noticed how much time, energy, and money I was wasting when I hadn’t limited my wardrobe. I wouldn’t have gained the same kind of self-assurance or confidence I have now that my personality speaks louder than my clothes.

You may think this excessive, too drastic a change, but consider the why and how of it:
Why and how are limitations beneficial?

Limitations foster focus and understanding. I can tell you 20 different uses for coconut oil. I now know what nutritional yeast, rhubarb, and psyillium husk are. I can tell you when polyester would be more useful than cotton, and how to pack the lightest, tightest suitcase you’ve ever seen. Having a limited scope forces you to focus on the options that are available to you, and learn more about them.

Limitations foster discipline and self-control. I’ve always had trouble making decisions. I sway when the wind blows. I’ve been told various times that I lacked a certain conviction. Placing limitations on myself allows me a sense of direction, and provides a stance to which I can adhere. It also lessens my decision fatigue, as mentioned earlier, in that I know I have limited options to choose from. Standing firm in my diet and my wardrobe (among other things) prevents me from reaching for that appealing, processed ice cream or for that far too expensive pair of shoes I know will give me blisters. This self-affirmation overflows into other aspects of my life where I am more apt at developing and sticking to my beliefs. This is so very important to me.

Limitations foster adaptability and flexibility. I know how to dissect a menu when I go to a steakhouse with friends.When you can no longer eat meat or have dairy, you find creative substitutes. Tofu and seitan provide the chewy texture you miss. Coconut yogurt pairs with your morning granola. Cashews find their way into every creamy concoction. When you have only one black dress shirt and one white dress shirt, you find new ways to spice them up with various accessories, make up, and jewelry. I know how to wear the same things five different ways. These skills have developed from limited options and availability. I travel often, and when I do, I’m not surrounded by my usual comforts. Even so, I am confident in my ability to adapt to new cultures and gastronomies, and be flexible when what I wish to eat or wear or do is unavailable.

Limitations foster creativity and innovation. From the ability to adapt stems the ability to innovate, to come up with creative solutions to problems that arise from limitations. For example, Aly’s mom loves making samosas – usually made of beef. Everyone in our family enjoys them and I did too at one point. She always wishes I would eat them now, and of course I refuse. Recently, I stumbled across an Asian-inspired crumbled tofu recipe that functioned as a variation of scrambled eggs. I thought, why not use that as a filling for samosas? So mom and I experimented, pressed and crumbled tofu, and marinated it in all the usual samosa spices, green onions, chilies, cilantro, etc, then wrapped the stuffing in the samosa pastry. When they come out piping hot from the fryer the result is incredible. Golden crispy on the outside and perfectly spiced and chewy on the inside, just like ground beef. Mom and I high-fived we were so thrilled with our experiment! This idea of making new associations within set boundaries has been true in all aspects of my life, including making art. When I have too many options I fail to be creative, to make any thought-provoking move. Within limitations, however, I find that I draw new connections, coming up with more creative and compelling ideas.

LaoTzu | SPIRITPLATELimitations can evolve into lifestyles. When we practice our limitations everyday, they become a habit, and soon they are no longer limitations but simply our way of life. The beautiful thing about self-limitations is that they are self-imposed and are subject to change. My journey into veganism began with a 30-Day challenge and mild curiosity, just to see if I could do it. It was a simple short-term self-imposed limitation that opened a whole new world for me. Likewise, I’ve adopted various other challenges: to drink more water, to meditate, to practice yoga simply to attempt to create a habit out of these things I wish to have in my life. To turn down coffee, or soda, or alcohol in favor of water may seem limiting at first – but what have a I gained from it? A daily habit of ensuring I’m hydrating enough, even if I do indulge in other drinks.

Tidying up my closet is a small part of the puzzle. I wanted a clean room, and I wanted to save time, effort and money. By down-sizing my wardrobe, limiting myself to a smaller selection and preventing myself from obtaining new additions, I’ve achieved some semblance of those goals.

I believe self-limitation is the key to unlocking the life you truly want for yourself. It’s about forcing yourself into a box so that you can focus and discipline yourself into creating a better version of yourself – one that can adapt to new situations, innovate on the spot, and do so with the grace of understanding.
“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
…and you have the tools to create it.