Friday, July 6, 2018

Thoughts on Budgeting, Happiness, Body Image, and Smoothies

Here are some things I've been thinking about lately that are too short to warrant their own blog posts:

// Personal budget
Even though I've been writing monthly budget posts, I haven't actually set a budget for the year. I think I am going to target spending $150 per month on clothes, calculated on an annual basis. So far I have spent $158.99 in April, $133.47 in May, and $161.36 in June, leaving me with $896.18 for the rest of the year (an average of $149.36 per month). Also I am budgeting $117 per month for my active hobbies ($42 for my gym membership + $75 for everything else per month). I spent $42.00 in April, $275.80 in May, and $265.55 in June, which leaves me with $469.65 for the year (an average of $78.28 per month). Looks like I probably won't be buying skis this year.

// Happiness
Last week I got lunch with a friend who I only see occasionally, and we were catching up. He graduated last year with his PhD and now has a big shot corporate job with good hours that pays generously. By all accounts, he's very successful and should be happy, yet he's been feeling apathetic about life and wishes he still felt the same sense of purpose that he did during PhD. Our conversation got me thinking about what exactly makes someone happy. From my own experience as well as what I've observed, happiness is having good health, feeling loved/accepted/supported by your friends/family/significant other, having enough money to be comfortable, having a sense of purpose in your life whether it be work or something else, and taking pleasures in the little things. What do you think happiness is?

// Weight gain and body image
In the past 3-6 months, I have gained about 5 lbs. You know the Freshman 15? This is the PhD Dissertation 5... While it's possible that some of the weight gain is muscle mass from climbing and running, I think most of it is just fat. I've been working longer hours, so I'm not cooking at home as much or working out as often. Also I use food as a pick-me-up/reward for working hard. As a result, I've been eating all of the things. I'm not super concerned about my diet at the moment since I know this arrangement is semi-temporary (on the order of months), and I can lose the weight the moment I get back to my normal routine. However, it is having a negative impact on my body image. For example, I find myself avoiding tighter clothes, because I don't like how they emphasize my stomach. I also find myself grabbing my belly flab in disgust a couple times a day, which I recognize is super toxic. I'd like to adjust my mental attitude and stop being so hard on myself until I find the bandwidth to actually lose the extra weight. Just not sure how yet. Also note that this weight gain may slightly impact my fit reviews in the near future (mostly for pants/bottoms).

Why I've gained weight (clockwise): buns from my favorite Chinese bakery, best BBQ I've had in my life, homemade Taiwanese beef noodle soup, homemade French toast, pad see ew, ice cream

// What I'm loving lately
1. Smoothies. I started making smoothies for breakfast. They're super quick to make in the morning (less than 5 minutes), I can drink them on the way to/at school, they're delicious, and they keep me full for a surprisingly long time (4+ hours since they're full of fiber versus 2 for cereal). My favorite smoothie recipes at the moment are banana berry (almond milk + banana + frozen strawberries + frozen wild blueberries + spinach) and dark chocolate cherry (almond milk + banana + frozen cherries + cocoa powder). I like sneaking spinach into smoothies, because hey, extra serving of veggies. You can't really taste it, and if you use blueberries, it disguises the color too. Dark chocolate cherry is great if you're craving chocolate but don't want the guilt, since cocoa powder is only 10 calories per tablespoon!

2. Yeti 20 oz Rambler. I bought this recently to put my smoothies in, and now I understand why people love Yeti. It really is a well-designed tumbler. Very sturdy and keeps your drinks hot/cold for hours. I have the magnetic-lock lid, which is spill-resistant albeit not spill-proof (it still leaks if you turn it upside down). Also, this fits perfectly in my European car's tiny cupholders (usually things either rattle around or you just can't put it in at all). Very happy with my purchase.

What are you loving lately? How do you cope with weight gain? What are your favorite smoothie recipes?


  1. I can totally relate to how much mental pressure comes from weight gain, weight (and the handling thereof). I'd like to think I'm extremely well-adjusted about these issues, but it's sort of an ever-present thing now that I've recently needed to do something about it (also thanks to a temporary forced lifestyle change like your situation sounds like!), and I still feel my brain sometimes going to some pretty unhealthy, toxic thoughts, even if they're not things I actually believe, by any stretch of the imagination. I guess it means that all the brainwashing in society and from advertisements/photoshop/celebrities about weight is insanely powerful!

    I'm not pleased with this being the case, but the best way for me to manage weight definitely requires calorie counting. It doesn't require being religious about sticking to target numbers (I can pretty much eat whatever I want on the weekends), and the target numbers are not harsh, but it does feel... silly... that less dramatic efforts don't work for me. (I think when one's diet is largely healthy, no soda, minimal fast food and processed food, has already cut down meat consumption, etc., and one has long had a sustainable and regular workout routine, but doesn't want to seriously kick it up a notch, there aren't a lot of great "easy, quick fixes" left!)

    1. I think you were the one who linked that "fat for an Asian" article some time ago. Anyway, I really identified with that article. I'm a perfectly normal weight by American standards (probably even thin), but my parents and other Chinese relatives always comment on it when I gain even the least bit of weight. Not the best for a healthy body image.

      I just started calorie counting last week using the MyFitnessPal app. I think it does somewhat make me stop and think about what I'm choosing to put in my body at least. Also it's been motivating me to work out on days that I've eaten unhealthy stuff. Really it'd be easier to just not eat it in the first place, because it takes forever of running to burn off even 250 calories!

    2. I have so many more thoughts about calorie counting, if you want to chat over email or anything! (It's a weird topic to get into too publicly outside of, say, the related subreddits because it's such a fraught topic and gets so wrapped up in unrealistic standards of beauty.) For me, I've had a good amount of success without being anywhere near as rigorous as people might assume a "daily calorie counting" approach requires, though at the same time, it is a pretty slow process and may sometimes require really long-term maintenance efforts (at least for someone fond of stress-snacking like me!).

    3. Yes, I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can email me at or DM me on Instagram. Definitely easier than commenting back and forth!

  2. For me happiness is in the daily life. Do I enjoy my work? Do I enjoy my meals? Do I enjoy every day and feel content? ultimatly do I fulfill my personal goal? So happiness largely depend on personal goals and values.

    1. I think that's a good perspective. It's just as important to be happy in your day-to-day life as it is to be happy in the long term (e.g. career, etc.). I think that daily joys are frequently overlooked when people think about happiness, or maybe it's that people don't necessarily stop to appreciate those little things.