Thursday, October 15, 2015

5 Ways to Make Clean Eating a Habit

It's mid-October and I haven't been on the blog in over a month! What's with that?! Well it's been a busy month of birthday, visiting family and thanksgiving. Now that these holidays are complete I'm ready to get back into the clean eating and living. I've taken a bit of a break on the clean eating lately because I had convinced myself that I missed certain things. The problem is that I felt so much better while clean eating therefore it's time to hitch myself back onto that clean eating wagon. 

Now the difference this time around is that I'm taking a more realistic approach to the whole clean eating thing. I've realized that the way I did it back in July is hard to maintain over the long term. Since then I've been working on a way to sustainably eat clean over the long term and make it a lasting habit. I've figured out a few things that I've listed below that include being more realistic and compassionate with myself and enjoying my one life. Here's 5 things I've figured out so far about making clean eating into a lasting habit:

1. I can't cut out the foods I enjoy forever:
I really enjoy things like wine, cheese, cake and other delicious creations and com'n, who doesn't? So when I try to picture myself cutting these foods out of my life for the rest of my life I get really sad. I also know that trying to cut out the so-called "dirty" foods out of my diet forever will eventually drive me crazy (more on that in the next section). So instead I've decided to save these yummy, and supposedly bad for me, foods for special occasions like birthdays, weddings, parties, etc. But do realize this is a slippery slope of making non-special occasions into special ones for the sake of eating the special foods. To help yourself avoid this trap remember they're way more special and worthy of their deliciousness status when saved for special occasions.

2. I end up wanting the 'forbidden foods' way more than before:
So along similar lines as above; when I try to cut foods out it just leads me down the binge path because that's all I can think about. You know what I mean right...when you cut something out and tell yourself you can't have it or it's bad for you all of a sudden you can't stop thinking about that thing. It's a psychological concept called the white bear problem (aka: ironic process theory) in which you can't help but think of something you're trying not to think of and it drives us mad. So instead I try to trick myslef and get around this problem by telling myself I can have these foods just not right now and it does help. For me I find it's easier to cut these things out from my day-to-day diet knowing that they're not forbid foods but instead things that I choose to save for special times. 

3. When I change my language it helps to change my life:
Another way to trick myself into making better life and eating decisions without driving myself crazy is to change the way I talk to myself and others about food. As a society we like to push all sorts of food "rules" onto each other that are usually pretty arbitrary and often times dangerous. These "rules" get passed around like gospel from person to person without critical analysis and once they're out there it's so hard to change people's minds. Why is that I wonder...that's a question for another time. Anyways it's important to say things to myself like "I choose to not eat these foods out of love for myself and my health" instead of something like "I can't eat those foods because they go straight to my thighs!" See the difference? The words we use have a huge impact on our attitude and behaviours as well as those around us. 

4. I love food and it's an important part of my life:
It's time for me to get over the hate part of my love-hate relationship with food. I'm over fighting with my food and I'm ready to embrace the life-giving stuff that it is. Food: I'm just head-over-heels kind of thing in love with you and I'm ready to take this relationship to the next level...can we go steady? Food: I'm ready for the long term commitment, I want you there through the thick and thin, the good and bad and everything in between until death do us part. I'll stop hating you and fighting with you and you'll continue to fuel me and my life and make me feel good and happy. What do you say you forgive me? I think Food and I will be very happy together. :)

5. Being adaptable is the cornerstone of clean living:
I've realized that having a strict "can eat" and "can't eat" list always going in my head leads to neurosis and ruins the magic of life and living in the moment. There will still be times where I need to remind myself to go for the better option when presented with several options but I also have to be adaptable and let myself off the hook occasionally. When I was being so hard on myself about not eating clean and/or not living the clean life I was causing myself undue stress and for what? I was causing myself heartache all so I could fit into someone else's idea of health and/or beauty. Forget that: this is my life and you know me I'm all about figuring out what works for you when it comes to designing the life you want and that also applies to your health and diet. 

In conclusion, I'm going to give myself permission to be a human being and make mistakes and I'm going to stop being so hard on myself. I plan on continuing to enjoy myself and my life the way I want everyday and I won't let anyone else dictate what's right for me and my life. Something else that I remind myself of every time I forget: I'm beautiful and awesome no matter what size I wear or what the scale says. 

So from here on in I have a lot of plans for more posts having to do with living your best life. These will include: figuring out your own defintion of health, happiness and success; ignoring society's arbitrary healthy, fitness and beauty standards; how to live an uncommonly wealthy life as a shift worker; and so much more. Stay tuned for big things coming from me in the future! For now here's to your uncommonly wealthy and delicious life! :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August Health Challenge - Update

So I've been MIA on here for the last month or two and I miss it and this blog misses me. I posted a lot in June and I was successful in completing a health challenge in both June and July and then August rolled around. I guess I just needed a bit of a break because I haven't really been doing the August health challenge and I haven't been posting either. It's summer and I've been working hard and a lot lately so I guess I just wanted and needed a break.

I'm currently on the train back home after spending an extended weekend with family in my hometown. That was the break I needed and now I'm ready to get back into my life, which includes being responsible about my health and writing on this blog. So I've decided that the August meditation challenge is a write off and something I'll try again a different month and instead now I'm going to get back into the clean eating. Starting today I'm going to get back into eating clean and working out on the regular and I'll soon decide what my September health challenge will be. 

My clean eating plan going forward will include not eating gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar and processed foods with a slight exception. I'm going to give myself cheat days. Yes, you heard that right, in order to still live a happy and healthy life I'm going to allow myself one day a week, at most (less if possible), where I eat anything I'd like. This isn't an excuse to go crazy but it is a way for me to fit a social life into a healthy life. This means that I'll eat healthy and clean for most of the time and then I won't feel guilty having the occasional indulgence at family events, weddings, parties and going out with friends. I think this will also help keep me sane. 

This seems like the most realistic way to live and to lead a healthy life that will actually last a lifetime. I'm also going to try my best not to go too crazy on my cheat days. I'll still stay away from added sugars and various chemical additives but I'll allow myself to indulge in homemade goodies, wine, cheese, chocolate and the like. I'll play it by ear on what I can and cannot stand on these cheat days. For this week I've created a meal plan for eating healthy and clean and I have a party on the weekend so I'll save my non-clean indulgences for that day and then I'll go right back to eating clean the next day. I'll do a checkin next Monday to let you know how it goes. 

Another important part of staying healthy for me and continuing my weight loss journey is meal planning, portion control, food journaling and working out. I think one of these things may be related to my September health challenge, stay tuned for that. So for now I'll continue to plan healthy and clean meals for my week as well as experimenting with clean versions of some of my favourite foods and meals. I'll also continue to pack pre-portioned snacks for work and make healthy meals for my work peeps. I'm going to start getting serious about recording my food and my workouts. And finally I'm going to continue to do 3 days a week of weight lifting workouts and 2-3 days per week of cardio workouts that'll include running, stairmaster and swimming. I'm also going to look into joining a sports group in order to stay active and meet cool new peeps.

These are my health and fitness goals going into the fall and the last part of the year. My writing and blogging goals will include writing and posting on this blog a minimum of once per week. I've also been doing a lot in the planning realm that I've previously mentioned and I want to start creating videos for that side of my life. Another important goal for me moving forward is to start writing on the regular; this may include a daily or weekly writing goal or maybe I'll enter the NaNoWrMo again this year. I was unsuccessful last year but hey maybe 2015 is my year?! 

Keep your eyes on my social media and here on the blog and there will be periodic updates from now until the end of the year. In the meantime, as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Friday, July 31, 2015

July Clean Eating Health Challenge - Complete!

July is over and yippee I've made it! I survived eating a striped down 'clean' diet in which I cut out gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar and processed foods. I successfully stuck to a clean eating diet for 30 days and I'm here today to share with you what I've learned and how I'm feeling now that the month is complete. I've had some realizations this month, I've come up with some plans for my future and I'm starting a new 30-day health challenge for August that I'm going to share with you here.

I have a more thorough breakdown of how my clean eating month went over on the Shift Worker's Guide from midway through the month and a final wrap-up. Otherwise, here is my quick breakdown of what I learned this month and what I have planned moving forward.

What it was like to spend a month eating clean:

Honestly, this has been a month of ups and downs and trails and tribulations but it was overall a great experience that I'm very glad I embarked on. I wasn't always perfect and being a shift worker didn't make the challenege to eat clean and healthy any easier but I succeeded in completing it and I'm happy for that fact. Here are some quick points that stood out to me about this month's challenge:

1. I succeeded in proving to myself that I can maintain a healthy diet and life even while being a shift worker and that it doesn't have to be a chore.
2. It probably took me all month to truly withdrawl from years of eating refined white sugar and processed foods. It wasn't always a pleasant experience but it was well worth it considering all the benefits that I'm now exepriencing.
3. These benefits include: I now have more energy than I've had in a long time, my sleep habits and patterns have changed for the better, I no longer have cravings for junk food and it's easier to say no and avoid the bad-for-me foods.
4. Once the 30-day challenge was over I decided to give myself the weekend to indulge in a few things that I'd been missing over the month, such as bread, cheese, wine, chocolate, etc. and in doing so I'm now reminded why I embarked on this journey in the first place: I feel so much better eating clean.
5. I've decided that from now on I'm going to eat clean as my normal way of life. I'll continue to avoid refined white sugar, processed foods and alcohol while experimenting with reintroducing some gluten and dairy back into my life in moderation. I'll keep you posted! 

What does the future look like for me:

As number 5 stated above I'm going to make clean eating my new standard in the way I eat and live. I'm going to continue to blog and write about my experience with living a healthy life and share my recipes for turning classic comfort foods into healthy and clean versions. In that vein one of my goals for the future is to create a book that will serve as a starting point and guide post for others who are intertested in starting on the clean eating way of life. I want to create this book as something that will help others withdrawl from the junk they've been eating and make the switch to healthy with the help of guidelines, recipes, and tips.

I had a friend join me for a portion of this month in order to clean up his diet and he turned to me for advice and guidance throughout the process. He has so far experienced similar positive results from totally changing his life around when it comes to his health and that's something I and he want to share with you. In the near future you will see an interview with this friend of mine on his experience going from someone who knew nothing about clean eating to being a health rockstar.

Another plan I have for the future is to expand the Uncommon Wealth empire into another area of interest of mine. This is a fun thing that I've been thinking about for a while and I think it's about time I dove right in and got started. I've always been someone who has really enjoyed arts and crafts, organization and writing and I think I've found a way of life and a supportive online community that intersects all those interests. What I'm talking about is planners and the planning community. This may make no sense to you right now but this is something that I've very passionate and excited about. Do not expect to start seeing planner posts pop up on this blog but I will be creating a YouTube channel and accompanied social media accounts that'll be associated with the Uncommon Wealth title.

I know I was a bit MIA on the blog here during July but I've recommitted myself to this blog and I have some really exciting things in the works for the future so stay tuned!

New 30-day Health Challenge for August: Meditation

August has arrived and with it a new 30-day health challenge. For August I've decided to take a break from the diet and exercise focsued challenges to one that is more mental health related. As stated above I'm defintiely going to continue to maintain a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine, however I'm now going to add on an element that will help me balance another important area of my health: my brain.

I believe taking care of my mental health is so important especially being someone who is a shift worker in emergency services. I hear and witness too often how stressful shift work-type jobs in the emergency services are and can wreck havoc on a person's mental and emotional states and I'd like to find a healthy way to counteract this process.

I've dabbled with meditation in the past and I've felt like it has helped and when I've maintained a regular practice but I've been so far unable to make it a permanent part of my life. I truly believe that meditation and mindfulness is a beneficial practice and should be part of everyone's healthy daily routine. So for that reason this month I'm going to set myself a goal of meditating a minimun of 5-10 minutes a day in the hopes of setting up a regular meditation practice.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you learn how to meditate: for example just search meditation on Google and you'll be surprised what you can find. I really enjoy using guided meditations to help me and I currently have the and the Omvana apps on my iPhone, which allow me to download and use a variety of meditations, sounds and music for free or a small price to aid me in my meditations. If you are new to meditation check out Headspace, which is a website and a free app that explains in plain language and with fun cartoons how to meditate and make it a regular practice with the help of a free 21-day intro program.

I'm going to experiment with adding mediation to my morning and eveing routine and see which works best for me. I'll keep you posted on my progress but for now just get started: sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breath while letting all other distractions drift away for just a couple minutes...and viola you've just meditated! Repeat tomorrow, and the day after and then the day after that until wow now you're a meditator: welcome to the club! Feels great doesn't it? Let me know how you've done with meditation and any resources, tips or tricks you've found helpful in the comments below. 

Happy meditating and as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July Clean Eating 30-Day Health Challenge - Update

As my tradition was for my last 30-day challenge I would usually do a one week check-in at this point however I have some rather exciting news. Instead of the usual weekly check-in you're going to get a small check-in now as well as a mid-month check-in and a final monthly wrap up that I'll be guest posting onto another blog: Yippee!!

I'll be guest posting on the 'Shift Worker's Guide to Getting By'; due to the fact that I'm a shift worker and attempting to live a healthy life while doing so I'm going to be featured on this fantastic website. It's tough being a shift worker in general and even tougher to try to be a healthy shift worker. I'm looking forward to sharing my trails and tribulations of clean eating while working shifts on the Shift Worker's Guide. Look for that post midway through next week and to hold you over until then here's a quick rundown of how it's going so far.

So obviously I survived my first week of my July clean eating challenge and surprisingly it hasn't been as bad as I predicted. I did go through a bit of a detox (I'll spare you the gory details) and a caffeine withdrawal during the first 3-4 days in which I had a permanent headache but then as I emerged into day 5 I was feeling awesome and enthusiastic. I really think I can pull this off...what do you think?

I believe it seemed easier this time than previously times I've tried to eat clean because I already had a really good foundation going into this one from successfully completing the June green smoothie challenge. However, there were a couple of important points that were reinforced for me while doing this new challenge. The first being that planning and preparation are key, secondly the struggle is real when it comes to cravings and lastly that I can still eat the foods I love albeit in clean ways. Keep reading for some great online resources that I love and were super useful this week as well as a clean chocolate pudding recipe that helped me deal when a chocolate craving hit me hard on day 6.

Useful Online Resources:

Food Babe: a blog I've been reading for a while now and I think has a lot of great information and recipes for the label ignorant and nutrition uninformed. Food babe's way is a bit extreme; I've tried it before and I found it expensive, unrealistic and unsustainable, that is if you follow it to the letter. I think she has some great points and suggestions but you have to tailor it to your lifestyle and find what works for you. That's what I did!

Environment Working Group (EWG): When it comes to knowing which fruit and veg are worth buying organic check out the dirty dozen list and which ones you can get away with not buying organic check out the clean fifteen list.

Dawna Stone: her blog is all about the 'Healthy You Diet' and I'm currently following the free '14-Day Healthy You Challenge' on Facebook for access to great recipes and inspiration that's helping me through my clean eating journey.

Get Informed:

Another tidbit of advice for you: read labels, and read the back of packages and do your research because all companies (including the supposedly healthy/clean ones) are trying to pull the wool over your eyes and sell you the cheapest junk they can get away with. I've been interested in nutrition and the food industry for a long time and I've done for my own research for years and I've noticed many trends and changes as the general public has become more informed about what they're putting into their mouths. That is a subject for a separate post because there is a lot of information and I have some strong opinions concerning this area. In the meantime I'll say it again: read your labels and don't get tricked by the fancy language and packaging.

That's it for now, stay tuned for my guest post and for now I'll leave you with the recipe for my clean chocolate pudding and as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Clean Chocolate Pudding with Avocado:

1/2 Avocado, ripe 
1/2 Banana, ripe 
1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter, the all-natural just peanuts kind
1/4 cup Almond Milk
1 tbsp Honey**

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender (I used a Magic Bullet: love it!) Add extra cocoa or sweetness depending on your preference. Makes about 2 servings and for an extra treat top with a dollop of coconut whip cream: yum! Eat, enjoy and feel your cravings subside. Success! :)

**As a side note, I know I'm not doing sugar, however when I say sugar I mean the refined white sugar, but I'm also avoiding other refined and processed sweetener options like maple syrup, agave syrup and even some stevia. For the purpose of my clean diet I'm sticking to honey and certain pure stevia if needed. More research is needed on coconut sap/nectar.**

Thursday, July 02, 2015

30-Day Health Challenge - July

IIt's officially July and that means it's time for a new 30-day health challenge. As I previously mentioned I'm going to continue with my green smoothie habit from June and build on it with this new health challenge. 

Now due to the fact that July has 31 days and the first of the month is a holiday in my country: Canada Day, I've decided to start this challenge today on the second day of July. So what is this new challenge I speak of; well it's a nutrition and diet related one again and this time it's going to be actually quiet challenging. 

For the month of July I'm going to stick to a clean eating program. What does this clean eating program look like you may ask. Well here is it all lined up for you and for me in black and white below. 

July 30-Day Clean Eating Challenge: 
- Alcohol Free
- Sugar Free
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- Processed-Food Free

So yeah that's a lot of 'frees', so what can I eat:

- Meat: lean & minimal red meat*
- All fruits & vegetables*
- Grains: quinoa, brown & wild rice, buckwheat, other non-gluten grains. 
- Beans & lentils
- Nuts & Seeds

*hormone & antobotic free, etc meat and organic and local fruits and veggies as much as possible 

This means I'm going to start making most of meals for myself as well as many of the convenience health foods that I know and love. This includes making homemade almond milk, hummus, salad dressings and sauces to name a few. I look forward to expanding my kitchen repertoire. 

So yeah this is going to be a tough one and I'm totally prepared to go through a withdrawal/detox in the first few days at least. I've tried various diets like gluten-free, dairy-free or sugar free on their own before with varied success. This is the first time I will take on such a drastic diet change with all these changes all at once. 

I know I'm going to be ok though because I'm much better prepared this time especially after completing the June challenge. Another tough choice is that I'm going to start drinking tea again more so than coffee and I won't be able to have my daily piece of dark chocolate. I love coffee and chocolate so I think those will be the hardest parts for me. 

I can already feel the headaches and moodiness starting to hit as I start my first day of eating clean with a green smoothie with black tea for breakfast and a legume & sprout salad with green tea for lunch. However I can also start to feel the benefits of this healthy way of eating. 

I just have to remind myself that this is my health that I'm working towards, which is super important to me and I'm in this for the long haul. The short term pain will soon pass and I'm putting into place the framework for my overall health and wellbeing. 

In doing this challenge I'll also be continuing with my same exercise routine of lifting weights 3 times per week. I'm also going to ramp up my exercise with running and swimming 3-4 times per week on top of the weights. 

The reason I'm doing such drastic changes for July is because I'm working towards a physical exam that will really test my mental and physical fitness. More on that later...

What are some tricks that have helped you get through some truly gruelling life changes? It may be hard now but I know it'll only get easier and I'll be overall better off for doing it. Check back in a week to see if I'm still feeling the same enthusiasm towards this challenge. Until then here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge Complete!

Yippee! I did it: I've finished my first 30-day health challenge! The thing that strikes me now is how quickly it went by. I remember thinking 30 days ago that this was going to be a hard and long challenge, but now looking back; I realize it really wasn't all that bad.

What have I learned about myself and my health after doing this challenge?

I'm reminded that I'm capable of anything and that reminds me of a little piece of wisdom I was once given: "I truly believe you can accomplish anything when you make your mind up and set your sights on it." As said to me by a very wise teacher once upon a time. 

It's very true sentiment and l think I've forgotten this fundamental truth of my personality lately so it's very nice to be reminded. I know everyone has innate skills and abilities as well as limitations, however I believe the above statement can be true of all of us. 

What's that one thing that you can't stop thinking about in your quiet moments but that you've put on the back burner because 'life' has gotten in the way? Maybe it's time to revisit it and dust off those old dreams and ideas...I think so!

I've also realized that my quest for overall health and wellbeing is a lifelong commitment that will come about from the small and consistent planning and execution. I won't be perfect every single day but that's ok cause I'm not perfect, I'm human after all. 

This green smoothie and juice trend is something I think I'll be continuing with in my everyday life. I didn't set out on this journey in order to 'detox' or just do it for 30 days and then go back to unhealthy habits. No, the point of this health challenge was to test if the green smoothie thing was a feasible and useful health trend that I could add to my healthy living repertoire. 

The first 2 weeks were the hardest but once I was over that 2-3 week hump it was smooth sailing and I now feel like this has become an engrained and automatic part of my routine. I barely have to plan too much in advance anymore and I feel like I've worked out all the kinks in making them a regular park of my schedule. So yeah, I think this will definitely be something that I'll contine with, especially now that I've figured out some favourite recipes that I can continue to tweak and play with. 

I think the best thing that I can get out of completing this challenge is that I'm capable of so much more than I ever thought possible and it did really help to have the accountability of this blog and a social media community.

What's up next for my July 30-day challenge you may ask? Stay tuned and I'll be announcing that tomorrow: it's gonna be a big one! This is just the beginning of what will be many 30-day health challenges that'll help me create many lifelong healthy habits that I've struggled with for a longtime. I believe I've finally found a formula that works for me and I hope it can help you as well. 

Until next time as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday #tbt - Amsterdam

As the title suggests I'm starting a new series about my uncommon adventures in which I do a throwback on Thursdays, as is the tradition on social media, to my October 2014 European adventure. My first stop in Europe was technically London, but I spent so little time there at the beginning of the trip and I circle back around and cap it off in London that I'll talk about it later. Therefore, for my first installment of #TBT on the blog I'll be talking about Amsterdam.

What is a trip to Holland without the customary windmill pic? I started off my Amsterdam visit with a tour of the countryside. I visited a stereotypical Dutch village, rode around on a bike, visited a dyke, met a cow, watched some cheese and clog making and then indulged in a Gouda cheese tasting. What a wonderful start to the trip! :)

Next up was the wondering around the city during the day and checking out all the city's highlights. This included taking a tram ride through the city, pictures with the 'I Amsterdam' sign and walking past many important landmarks. I spent most of the day checking out the Rijksmuseum, which was awesome and totally worth it. I walked past other tourist trap-type places, but I didn't waste time standing in the long lines, including Anne Frank's House and the Van Gogh museum. What I really enjoyed was wondering around the city and checking out the Flower Market.

Amsterdam was very cute and normal seeming during the daytime however the city transforms at night into something totally different. The evening was spent wondering around the city once again and checking out the red light district and spending time in a cafe pursuing the past-time that makes Amsterdam so famous.

What struck me so about Amsterdam is how wholly it transforms once night falls. My suspicion is that the majority of people who live and work in the city are not the ones that I witnessed roaming the streets of Amsterdam after dark. I have no problem with the legalities involved in making Amsterdam famous in several respects but what did disturb me is the circus-like atmosphere of the whole thing. I found it so strange that someone's chosen profession has become such a tourist attraction and a spectacle the world over, simply because it's different. 

Overall I felt like Amsterdam is one of those cities that does need to be experienced at least once in one's life however now that I've been there and done that and gotten the t-shirt I'm feeling over it. If I am to return to Holland it would be to see more of the countryside and to explore other Dutch cities, such as Rotterdam.

The start of my European Trip 2014 was definitely an uncommon adventure into the heart of Amsterdam. Have you ever been to Amsterdam, what were your thoughts on the city? Stay tuned for more stories of adventure and intrigue next Thursday. Until then here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Top 10 Tips for Saving Money & Getting Out of Debt

I wrote a previous post about the kind of life that I'd like to design for myself starting now in my early 30's. At the end of that post I made some declarations of things that I need to start doing and continue to do in order to achieve this, my uncommonly wealthy life. Today I'm here to talk about the financial side of this dream. Today I'm talking about the wealth in uncommon wealth. 

I know that usually when I talk about uncommon wealth on this blog it's not really in reference to money and finances, but I'm not naive to the notion that money is a requirement of modern life. However, I do not believe that one's wealth is solely based on the amount of money in one's bank account. I think that true uncommon wealth comes from a self-approved and designed life full of rich experiences, relationships and joy.

Now I do realize it takes money to achieve many of these things and in the past I've made the mistake of trying to live a full life beyond my means and this has left me with considerable debt. I don't think debt is something that is a necessary evil of everyday life, I think that with forethought, planning and discipline, anyone can live the life they want within their means. And that is what I plan on doing going forward.

Today I plan on sharing my strategies for how I'm going to get to a better financial place. What this better place looks like to me is my debt totally paid off, savings in the form of an emergency fund and a growing retirement savings plan and saving money for the things I want to do instead of going into debt to do it.

10 Tips for Saving Money & Getting Out of Debt:
  1. Use Alternate forms of Transportation: If you can get way with it use transit. I'm fortunate to live in a city in which public transit is readily available and accessible. I pay a monthly fee for my transit pass, which is tax-deductible, and I don't have to worry about car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance. I've also signed up for a car-sharing service: Car2Go for those times when you just need a car. There's others: Zipcar, AutoShare and there's always a taxi or a company like Uber. There's many options for getting around that don't involve car ownership, and they're much more environmentally-friendly too.
  2. Make use of the library: Get a library card, it's free! With your card you can take out books, movies, music and download eBooks for free; as well as use the computer, internet and printing services if needed (sometimes for a small fee). 
  3. Make your own meals, coffee and snacks: I saved a lot of money when I switched from eating out and doing take out on the regular to buying groceries and making my own meals instead. It's budget friendly and healthy to make your own meals, snacks and drinks and bring them along to work, travel and even entertainment. The freezer is also your best friend because almost everything can be frozen and saved for later consumption, instead of wasted.
  4. Make cleaning supplies using cheap household items: Baking soda, white vinegar and lemons is all you really need to clean your entire house for cheap and bonus you're also being environmentally friendly.
  5. Have at-home spa days: I love a good pampering just as much as the next person but it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to get it. I've become a bit of a master lately at doing my own masks, facials and nails so I don't have to pay through the nose for someone else to do it. Best of all, it can all be done while binge-watching your latest TV obsession ('Orange is the New Black' season 3, anyone?)
  6. Find the free and cheap events and entertainment options where you live: There's usually all sorts of wonderful free or cheap but totally fun events going on if you just do a little digging. Movies in park, drive-in movies, movie cheap nights, concerts in the park, outdoor theatre, fringe festivals, street and art festivals, cheap nights at the museum/art gallery, 'prix fixe' events at restaurants, wine/food tastings/sampling, etc. So much to be found and so much to do: time to be a tourist in your own city! Also checkout cost saving apps/websites: Scene Points for Cineplex, Groupon, Living Social, etc. 
  7. Use of coupons, money-back apps and points programs: Using these are all great ways to save money on the everyday essentials if used correctly. You shouldn't just buy something just for the sake of buying it because you have a coupon or money-back offer, trust me I've gotten sucked into that trap before and it's a waste of money. Some points and loyalty programs are a waste of time, effort and money also if they reap little in the way of benefits or if you have to save up the points forever before you see any kind of benefit so choose wisely. Ones I like: PC Plus program, Checkout 51 and Flipp.
  8. Purge, sell and then only buy what I need and when I need it: I know that every girl has been susceptible to this at one point in their lives when it comes to buying beauty products, clothing, jewelry, bags and shoes. I've done it too: bought something because I thought it was cute, or thought I needed multiple colours, or I'd use it one day. Nope, you all know that you end up using and wearing the same favourite things over and over again so why do we do it to ourselves: keep buying crap that we don't actually need? Well no longer: I'm going to purge my stuff and then sell what I can, donate or throw out the rest and start from there. I'm going to wear and use things up and only buy more when & if they need to be replaced.
  9. Cancel subscriptions & memberships that I don't use: I cancelled my cable and I do not have a home phone. I put money into a good internet plan, cellphone plan and watch only Netflix. I don't use the Next Issue subscription I have so it needs to be cancelled and I need to cancel subscription boxes I'm currently paying into that send me stuff automatically every month; stuff I don't need. 
  10. Tell other people about my goals and get help and advice: By being honest with people about your financial predicament leads to some unexpected gains. I think sometimes as a society we are embarrassed to talk about money woes but when you start opening up about it you realize that everyone can relate and there's a lot of great advice and support that can be gained. Bonus: many of your friends and family will be in your corner about coming up with inexpensive ways to spend time together.
My next steps will include doing the necessary research to go from financially ignorant to financially savvy, setting up automatic withdrawals from my bank account into a high-interest savings account on pay days, consolidating my high-interest consumer debt and creating a realistic budget and sticking to it. Stay tuned for updates on my journey to financial freedom. 

What are some other ways that have helped you save money? Anything I'm missing, let me know because I'm always looking for ways to improve and add to this list. As always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Some other resources to check out that have helped me:
Squawk Fox - Sexy Consumer Advice
Daily Worth - Financial Advice for Women
'Money Rules' by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Green Smoothie Challenge - Week 3 Complete

Wow I can't believe I've already made it through 3 full weeks of this health challenge. I'm in the home stretch and things feel like they'll run smoothly from here on out, yippee!

It's that time of week again where it's time to share with you what I've learned so far at this point in the challenge, so here it is.

The third week has been by far the easiest one:

The first week was easy; and of course it was easy, I always find that the beginning of a new habit is the easiest because I have all this excitement and enthusiasm. Then as it gets hard and life and I get in the way, usually around the week 2 point, it then gets hard. I think the true test of whether I can really make the change and stick with it is if I can get through that second week hump. Once I complete that second week and I prove to myself that I am able to overcome any of the issues that came up then the third week feels like such a breeze. And that is exactly what has happened!

I feel like I've finally ironed out all the kinks in this health challenge:

Any issues I've had with planning, shopping and recipes I believe I've finally figured out at this point. I didn't have anymore gross smoothies this week and I think I've cracked the code on the best combinations for delicious green smoothies. When it comes to planning and shopping I've realized that it's easiest to buy frozen fruit and greens in bulk but only what I plan on using for the week. I had enough wasted and spoiled fresh fruit and veg that I didn't want that happened anymore so I decided to buy frozen fruit mixes and freeze bananas once they were ripe.

I realized I don't have to make all my green smoothies myself:

Another realization that was very helpful for me this week was that I don't always have to make the smoothies myself. When times are busy and it's impossible to make myself then there are a lot of great options for delicious and nutritious green smoothies. This is a great way to do it when traveling, for an example. I still haven't haven't figured out how to prepare the smoothies ahead of time without having them separate and get gross. It would be preferable for the early mornings to have them all ready-made; maybe something I'll have to try out during week 4?

I feel so much better each day that I have a green smoothie (or juice):

I know I've talked about this before but it must be reiterated how much better I feel while doing the green smoothie thing vs. not. I can now definitely understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the green smoothie/juice craze. I'm thinking this may have to become a normal part of my healthy routine even as the 30-day challenge comes to an end. I guess we'll see how I feel at the end of week 4.

For now here is another delicious Green Smoothie recipe that has quickly become my favourite:

1 cup baby spinach or kale
1 tsp each of flaxseeds and ground chia seeds
1 tbsp of veggie-based protein powder (I use a brown rice one)
1/2 cup orange juice (not from concentrate) cut with 1/2 cup water
1/2 banana (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup frozen tropical fruit mix (I prefer a pineapple, mango, peach & strawberry mix)

Blend the greens with the seeds, powders and liquids until well smooth. Add banana and fruit, blend again until desired consistency is achieved. Now it's time guessed it: drink and be healthy!

Enjoy and here's to your uncommonly wealthy life always! :)

Friday, June 19, 2015

What I'm Thinking about Today - The Past

After reading an article in the New York Times the other day about the small happy life and spending some time reminiscing with a friend, I find myself thinking about the difference between my mindset in my 20s versus now.

As I come close to the completion of my first year as a 30 year old I find my mindset has shifted a great deal as compared to that of my 20-something self. 

When I think back to some of the foolish childhood capers and misadventures I participated in it makes me chuckle and shake my head.

I smile to myself thinking about it now but I was once a bit of a rebel. I used to skirt authority just for the hell of it and many times this just ended up hurting me. 

Another memory that has caused me to smile to myself was the thought of the 'fun zone'. When I was younger I was witness to one after another of my friends and family members succumb to adulthood and inevitably leave the 'fun zone'. I swore to myself, and anyone else that would listen, that that would never be me, I would never leave the fun zone.

I also remember wanting to be rich and famous when I was young. I pictured myself partying with movie stars on yachts and flying around the world on private jets.

I spent the month of my 30th birthday galavanting across Europe with young people and I can say for a fact that travel did change me. This was the first trip of its type that I'd ever done and it lead to many eye-opening discoveries about myself and the world.

It makes me laugh to think that I was still thinking many of these things less than a year ago as I transitioned from a 20-something into a 30-something. It's striking how quickly my attitude has now changed.

I'll always cherish the memories of my childhood misadventures but I'm also glad those days are behind me. I still want to have fun adventures and great stories to tell but it'll be of a different kind. 

I still have that rebellious spirit in me, I'll never lose it, but the why and how of my rebellion has changed. I still have the need to do things differently albeit in more healthy and constructive ways. I still need to find my own path to things and I'll still pursue something just to prove the naysayers wrong but not at the expense of my health and sanity. 

I'm definitely out of the so-called 'fun zone' now, the one characterized by irresponsible decisions, sleepless nights and crazy boozing. Instead I find myself appreciating the small, quiet and happy life more and more everyday.

Now I feel myself grateful for my privacy and I find luxury in the everyday experience of having space and time for myself. I also appreciate the few quality friends and family that I do still have and I enjoy the occasional shindig with them.

When I returned from traveling in Europe I returned home with a new appreciation for home and the simple life. I came back from this trip with a renewed sense of life purpose and I was inspired by the things I did and saw. 

Right Now: 
When it's your birthday, people often ask: "do you feel any different now that your ___ age?" Usually the answer is a no but I can say for certain that this year I definitely feel different.

After all this reminiscing and thinking back to my Europe trip, I've realized what  I really want and value in life. Now I've come to some decisions about how to achieve my ideal simple and happy life. 

Decision Time:
I've decided that Im going to make this new city my home. 
Ive decided that I want the type of life that affords me the ability to travel the world on a regular basis. 
I've decided that I want a life that allows me to focus my health. 
I've decided I want a life that allows me the time and freedom to enjoy my loved-ones. 

Action Time: 
So now how am I going to go about achieving these life goals?!

Appreciate what I already have: a great job that pays well, has great benefits and amazing time off. 
Appreciation of my loved-ones and putting time & energy into nurturing those that are already in my life as well as pursuing making new connections.
Simplify and minimize my life as much as possible. 
Get my finances under control and live within my means. 
Continue to make my health a priority everyday. 
Continue to share myself and my gifts with the world in whatever ways possible. 

The ideal simple and happy life that I crave is a work in progress but I feel energized in the journey of living and working in a way that affords my uncommonly wealthy lifestyle. 

Updates and more posts to come about all of this, so stay tuned!  

What are you goals for your uncommonly wealthy life and what are you doing to get there? 

As always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life now and into the future! :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Green Smoothie Challenge - Week 2 Complete

Week 2 is complete of my June 30-day Green Smoothie Challenge and I have some more wonderful insights to impart that I've realized along this health journey. Remember at the end of week 1 when I said it was easier than I'd expected well the opposite is true at the end of week 2. Here's what I'm talking about:

Self-sabotage reared it's ugly head:

A couple days into week 2 I had an internal temper tantrum in the form of 'I'm sick of smoothies, I'm sick of health food, whine, whine, complain & whine, etc.' and so I took a day off from the smoothies and I ate a bunch of delicious, but not the best for me, food. The result: I felt like junk and I couldn't wait to get a green smoothie back into me asap and the next day that's exactly what I did.

I slipped up but I didn't let that derail the entire challenge:

I slept off the junk food coma and I woke up the next morning and got right back on the green smoothie train and I felt so much better for it. I forgave myself for the small dalliance into the land of forbidden food and I got back into eating healthy and taking care of myself. I also learned some important lessons from my slip-up.

Drinking green smoothies makes me feel great:

Having now completed over 2 weeks of drinking one green smoothie a day I can now understand why self-professed health addicts love them so. I definitely feel like drinking them is a great way to support my body's natural detox process every day. They're great for making me feel like I've reset back onto the healthy path after my junk food misadventure.

I AM capable of making significant habit changes:

I've tried in the past with varying levels of success to break bad habits and/or establish good habits and when I've not succeeded it's always an excuse for my Gremlin to beat up on me. Well screw you Gremlin, because I can do this and I'm proving it to myself and that stubborn Gremlin every day that I'm capable of making all sorts of positive and lifelong changes. It also reminds me that this is a personal journey with myself and the only person I'm hurting by not doing it is myself.

I'm excited to see what comes next on this first 30-day health challenge. Yes, you read that right, this is the first of many challenges that I plan on undertaking every month. Stay tuned for what I have planned for my next 30-day health challenge in July.

For now, here's another delicious Green Smoothie Recipe that I discovered this week:

1 cup baby spinach
1 cup coconut water
1 tsp each of flax seeds, ground chia seeds & veggie-based protein powder
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup organic Greek yogurt

Blend spinach, coconut water and the additives together until smooth. Add the fruit and yogurt and blend again until desired consistency is reached. Drink and enjoy! :)

Any suggestions for green smoothie recipes that you know and love, please share! As always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :) 

Monday, June 08, 2015

Green Smoothie Challenge - Week 1 Complete

I've completed the first week (7 days) of my June Green Smoothie Challenge. Now I'd like to impart some pieces of wisdom that I've learned from this first week of green smoothieness. 

I'm actually able to stick to something:

I've tried to do health, fitness or general life development goals in the past that I haven't completed or barely cared about, but this time it was different. I'm not sure what has made this time so different but it definitely feels different and that's awesome because it means I'm finally following through on a personal health challenge. 

It has been much easier than expected:

I had this notion going into this challenge that it would be so hard and that it would take so much work and disrupt my life in countless ways. The reality of the matter is actually so different than that; it has folded into my life naturally and lead to little disruption. Once again my expectations about a situation were incorrect and this time in a beneficial way. 

It's all about planning and sharing:

I realized early on in the challenge that I needed to plan ahead, not only when it comes to my grocery store trips but also my work and life schedule. For an example I went out of town this weekend to visit my sister and attend a wine and cheese festival and I made sure to give my sister the head ups about my challenge. In doing so it lead to a pleasant surprise: she was fully supportive and well stocked with kale, frozen fruit and almond milk. Awesome!

I haven't been perfect and that's ok:

I definitely had a day where I tried a new smoothie recipe and it didn't turn quite right. I tried really hard to choke it down but I probably only ate a quarter of the smoothie. I could've taken a negative look at this or made it an excuse to give up, but instead I composted the smoothie and scratched that recipe off my list and set out to find better recipes. 

Forgiveness of self is so important:

When making any significant life changes, no matter how big or small, forgiveness is a very important part of the process. Self-forgiveness is one of the most important parts of self-love and acceptance. I haven't set out on this health journey in order to berate myself, no I'm doing so as an act of self-love. 

This is a journey of self-discovery just as much as self-improvement and I'm having so much fun getting to know myself and my preferences better. Even though I've made some great and some not so great smoothies, I'm learning and doing and that's what life's all about, after all. 

I did discover one really great recipe that will now be added to my green smoothie repertoire and that I wish to share with you:

Berry Spinach Deliciousness:

Serves: 1
Time: 10-15 mins

1 cup baby spinach
1 cup almond milk 
1 tbsp flaxseed 
1 tsp chia seed (ground)
1 tbsp brown rice protein powder 
1 & 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries 
1/2 banana

Process the spinach, milk & additives. Once smooth add berries and banana and blend until palatable. Enjoy!

Have you ever done or are you doing a health challenge? If so let me know how it went and what you learned about yourself along the way.

Thanks for reading and as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Natural Beauty Life - Pure Anada Review

Inspired by a friend who sent me a message the other night to ask what natural facial cleanser & toner I use; I've decided to share my secrets with the world!

A Canadian company out of Manitoba that I first discovered last year while on a trip to visit my sister who was living in Winnipeg at the time. After picking up my first product of theirs; a moisturizer, I was hooked. I did some research and found where I could buy more of their products and I tried some samples. 

I buy my Pure Anada products via the Pure Boutique: that sells all sorts of natural, organic, vegan and cruelty-free beauty products. It's a great site because it has a lot of different products that I like using and they ship so fast; I usually receive my products within a few days of ordering. It's also a great site because you can get cheap samples of almost all the products they carry so you can try before you buy. That's what I did with many of the Pure Anada products that I now love. 

My favorite Pure Anada products:

Fruit Enzyme Exfoliating Cleanser:
I love this cleanser because it's a gentle exfoliant that works to clean up my skin without being too harsh. It doesn't lather like a typical cleanser containing SLS does, but it still works great. It's made with basic natural ingredients and biodegradable beads.

Purity Treatment Toner:
This toner is part of a line formulated specifically for acne-prone skin types and it's been great in helping me deal with my most recent breakout. It contains witch hazel, chamomile and willow bark and it smells like a margarita! Along with the toner I also use the Calm Hydrator from the Purity line and these two in combination are great for when I have breakouts.

Scentless Hydra Lotion: 
This product has a special place in my heart because it was my first Pure Anada purchase and I still use this as my daily moisturizer. It's light enough to go on under makeup and sunscreen and its scentless which is great.

Revive Serum:
This is an anti-aging moisturizer that I primarily use at night. 

Awake Eye Gel:
This product is great for those bags under the eyes and I use it in the morning and at night.

This is just the skincare products that I use from Pure Anada and they have many more all natural and cruelty-free products that are great, especially makeup: more on that later. 

What are some of your favourite all-natural, organic, vegan and/or cruelty-free beauty products?

Thanks for reading and as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

****Disclaimer: I am NOT receiving any kind of compensation from Pure Anada for writing this post. I will always inform you if such an arrangement is made.****

Thursday, June 04, 2015

What I'm Thinking About Today - Health

I started a healthy eating challenge that I talked about earlier this week on the blog. In doing so my primary goal is to lose weight and feel healthy. The problem is that I sometimes make myself feel bad about the fact that I'm not seeing faster weight loss.

This is not cool and I have to remind myself that I've embarked on a lifelong journey of eating healthy and taking care of myself and it's not just about the vanity of losing weight. I try not to get seduced by the media and social messages of skinny is better. I just want to be my best self everyday and if that includes some fat on my body, so be it.

So here are some reminders that help me, and will hopefully help you as well, when I'm feeling discouraged in my health journey:

Fat doesn't automatically equal bad:

I'm on a journey to be healthier and it's an unfair assumption to think that anyone who has fat on their body is somehow out of shape or lazy. I know a lot of fit, athletic and in great shape people who have fat on their bodies. There is nothing wrong with fat; it's a natural part of all bodies.

It's about more than the image in the mirror:

I'm building a strong and healthy body and that's a good thing no matter what it looks like. I'm eating food that will lead to better digestion, skin and a boosted immune system and these are all great things.  My body is beautiful and wonderful just the way it is, even with fat, just like all bodies. Who I am is not my body.

Take stock of how far I've come so far:

There are measurable changes like the fact that I've lost 10 lbs and a full dress size as well as the non-quantifiable changes like how great I feel now compared to when I started. I've gotten stronger, I'm in better shape and my digestion has normalized; all things that help in many different areas of my life. Another huge benefit is that I'm happier than ever before and it feels good to have a goal to work towards.

Self-love and acceptance is much more powerful than criticism:

I've never had success in making life changes by being highly critical of myself and berating myself with negative self-talk. On the contrary, when I finally accepted my life and body just as it was and decided to love myself for the imperfect person that I am, is when I finally changed. I started making healthy life changes as an act of self-love because I now know that I deserve it, no matter what my current circumstances.

Reminder to be thankful:

As human beings we have a natural tendency to focus on the negative and this can lead to some negative views on ourselves and our lives. I must remind myself that I already have so much to be thankful for. I'm thankful that I have the ability and access to a gym and food on the regular basis. These may seem like basics but they are huge privileges that a large proportion of the world does not have. I'm thankful everyday that I'm alive, healthy and free. What else could one ask for?

I'm enjoying the journey of eating well, working out, loving my life, doing what I love and spreading my message. I can't wait to see what life has in store for me in the future but life is real only happening right now and that is the part that I'm enjoying right now in this very moment. Life is grand. What is one small thing you can be thankful for right now?

Remember you are uncommonly beautiful no matter what the scale or media or society says. Spread the love and share your unique and truly wonderful self with the world.

As always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! <3 :)