What living away from everything did to me

I have the terrible habit of re-reading old diary entries. I’ve been journaling for as long as I can remember, through happy times as well as the darkest times in my life, and I’m terrified that Giac will actually keep faith to his promise of publishing all my journals when I’m dead. (The fact that he’s so sure I’ll go first should probably scare me.)
A while ago I was tidying up the chest I keep all my journals in, and inevitably I ended up leafing through a few of them, including the one I was compiling just before moving to New Zealand. Since I had never been, I could only imagine what this place would look like, which was reflected in pages and pages of couldn’t-be-further-away-from-reality expectations. In my ignorant eyes, New Zealand was the place of never-ending summers, where I would live off coconuts and pineapples in my mansion on the beach.
Well.

One thing I got right, though, was that in New Zealand I would be away from temptations. That I knew: New Zealand was not going to be the same as London.
During my five years in the UK, I was constantly bombarded with ads and commercials wanting me to buy stuff; shops and malls were everywhere, promoting thoughtless consumerism. When I lived in Stratford I literally had to walk through Westfield, aka the largest shopping centre in freaking Europe, every single day on my way back home.
I’m contemplating this as I apply a nail polish that I probably grabbed without much thinking during an unplanned trip to Boots over lunch break. This would be a common occurrence in my previous London life: on any given day I would be highly likely to walk into Boots/Superdrug/Paperchase/Lush/H&M/you name it and buy things I didn’t need just because I could.

If I think about any of the possessions I acquired since I’m in New Zealand, none of them has been purchased on a whim.
First of all, I don’t have a stable income now, which is enough to prevent me from impulse-buying anything without mulling it over for weeks first.
Secondly, shopping in new Zealand is lame anyway. I simply don’t like any of the shops here (all three of them). All the chains like Glassons or Factorie, not to mention the infamous Warehouse, sell cheap, poorly made, unethical clothing I don’t want to have anything to do with. There is no such thing as Boots. Makeup is ridiculously expensive. Top Shop landed in Wellington and closed down in the space of less than a year. The first H&M in New Zealand is opening in EIGHTEEN DAYS OMG and although I will admit I am annoyingly excited about that I am also prepared for it to evaporate as swiftly as it appeared as soon as people realise how overpriced it’s going to be #livingonanisland

In my journal entries, I was well aware of my problem with consumerism, and expressed my trepidation of being about to move away from temptations. However, now that I’m here, I’ve experienced something strange. I remember, during my first months in New Zealand, being extremely annoyed by the lack of things. Even in Auckland, the biggest city in the country, I was disappointed with the absence of theatres and museums and shops. I mean, they were there, but they weren’t cool. They were nothing like London. And in spite of me thinking I was ready for this, once in New Zealand I found out that I really wasn’t.
I missed buying things. I missed cool shops like Whole Foods, Ikea, Waterstones and R.E.I. (I’ve been to the States a bunch of times). And those that did make it to New Zealand, like Lush or Lululemon, were so overpriced they brought tears to my eyes.

Fast-forward to now. I’ve been living in New Zealand for over a year. I’ve travelled for a few months, lived in a van, carried all my possessions in a backpack. I got very much into ethical living, Zero Waste, conscious consumerism. I gradually stopped being drawn towards what I would once consider temptations. When I walk down the main street in Welly and I pass shops and boutiques, all I see is useless stuff I don’t even want.
Back in London I would observe people’s outfits and wonder where I could get those clothes and wished I could look like that. Now I can’t help but notice that everybody’s wearing the same Katmandu raincoat and the same Adidas Stan Smiths and all I can think about is how I don’t want to conform to this sad homogeneity or to contribute to a fashion industry that promotes child labour and global warming.
As a result, I have become very frugal. I have bought things, but not without carefully considering if I actually wanted them and where they came from. I pretty much only shop second hand. I haven’t bought a single piece of makeup since I’m here.

And I freaking love it.

I’m pretty sure the initial phase of desperately wanting to buy and consume stuff was a reaction to finding myself in a completely different scenario that I wasn’t ready for, actually realising how freaking far away New Zealand is from everything else, and missing London a lot.
But I got over it, and now I really enjoy living simply. I don’t mind not having fancy kitchenware or house decorations. I’m happy that I can fit all my clothes in the wardrobe without the need for extra storage. Going out to eat has become a treat. I only pay to go to the cinema for films that I really want to see. I check out books from the library instead of buying them (although I have to admit I haven’t completely adjusted to this last one just yet). I still want a stable income but I want it because so I can put money in the saving to go travelling, not because I want to splurge on things I don’t really need.

I’m not saying I completely detached myself from the world of consumerism (a separate post on this is coming soon), but living away from temptations has definitely taught me that you don’t need a lot of stuff in your life, and that a lot of the things you want are probably not things you need. And if I personally surround myself with things I don’t need, I’ll probably end up getting rid of them anyway, so why purchasing them in the first place?

(Having said all this, I also have a list of things I want to buy when I’m in Europe over Christmas. But they are all things I really want and need. But this is a whole other story.)

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The MBAWYAO Series – Launch

Hello beautiful people who take the time to read this blog, today I want to talk to you about: MANIFESTING. This is something I keep on hearing about, and at first I was very sceptical because it always seemed to be brought up in relation to crystals and energy and vibrations. So I did some research and it turned out I was right all along: manifesting is horseshit.
If you google “manifesting”, the first result that comes up is this guy’s blog that describes manifesting as “the ability to convert the energy of our thoughts into a newly materialized form.” No offense, Wayne, but that sounds like a whole lot of crap to me.
In fact, I lost interest in my research pretty quickly, and stopped as soon as I thought I grasped the general idea and gathered enough knowledge to write a blog post about it. Basically, from my vague understanding, manifesting means acting as if what you want in life is already happening, until it actually happens. It means funnelling your “energy” and “intentions” into your “desires”, and if your “vibes” are positive enough the universe will give you what you want. (And if it doesn’t, you can always see it as the universe’s “mysterious ways” of letting you know that maybe you didn’t really want that particular thing in the first place.)

Now. I’m a strong believer in working hard as fuck in order to get what you want. I can sit on my ass all day manifesting that I am an acclaimed world-famous travel blogger and that I have long flowy hair and I live in a van in Colorado surrounded by Mexican blankets, but that ain’t gonna happen unless I actually write, wait, move and, well, buy Mexican blankets. Is that manifesting? Because to me, that is called acting.
I understand that, say, if I want to be a writer, then I write and write and write and send and send and send my stuff to magazines and publishers and then one day maybe I get discovered and then maybe I do become a famous writer. But that’s not the universe deciding to help me out, this is me acting towards my aspirations in life.
Is manifesting just a new hippie term for working your ass off?
In my opinion, if you’re using manifesting as an excuse to dawdle around until the universe throws money and success in your face, you’re a lazy bum; if you act as if your life were exactly how you want it to be, you’re working towards it.

Of course the whole energy thing is complete bogus. THERE IS NO FUCKING ENERGY and the universe couldn’t care less about your stupid ass. (In fact, the universe doesn’t care – period. It’s not a sentient being.)
However, I will give you this, Manifestors¹: doing all this research made me want to write down all the things I want in life. AND it made me want to start a new blog segment called the Manifest Series, except of course I don’t really want to use the term Manifest so I’m going to call it the MBAWYAO (Manifest But Also Work Your Ass Off) Series instead. In this segment, which I’m aiming to update once every couple of weeks, I’ll try to explore different aspects of my life, go deep and develop them and find out exactly how I want them to turn out.
Just yesterday I actually grabbed the biggest piece of paper I could find and I wrote down what I want my ideal job to be. Seeing it all there on paper made it so much clearer and real, and helped me realise what I need to work towards (see? Work towards. Not manifest).

I’m going to start off with an easy one: What am I passionate about?

  1. Travelling
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Reviewing books
  5. Teaching languages
  6. Zero Waste/sustainability
  7. Veganism
  8. Basketball
  9. Self love/positive mental attitude
  10. Yoga pants

This was easy because I didn’t really have to think too much about what to write down. I already knew what my interests are. The exercise would be, how am I going to implement them? What am I going to do with them? I’ll probably create a vision board or just print this list out and stick it in a place where I see it often, as a reminder that I should focus my attention on these things, because they are what truly makes me happy.

I’m going to confine manifesting to this: a pretext to and find out what I truly want in life. No crystals, no energy, no vibes. Just another expedient to torture my subconscious and overanalyse my poor synapses.

Hope you’re with me and till next time, fellow rational beings.

¹ I wasn’t sure about the spelling of this so I looked it up and of course somebody else had already come across the same issue. This website made me cringe so bad I almost deleted my blog post all together.

Book review – I’ll Give You the Sun

On my bedside table: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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Why I picked it up: I had been going through a YA fiction hiatus and needed an easy, non-committed read.

What it is about: Noah and Jude are twins. Noah the artist is constantly painting, either on canvas or inside his head, is shy and introverted, and is falling in love with the mysterious boy who lives next door. Jude and her cascade of blond hair spend their time surfing, jumping off cliffs and flirting with boys. In spite of being so different, Noah and Jude are inseparable. Until something happens. Except it’s not some thing, it’s a hell lots of things.

Noah and Jude drift apart, facing the fact that their lives are never going to be the same.

The story unfolds into a whirlpool of lies, secrets and hidden truths. As Noah withdraws more and more, Jude constantly feels like she has to save him, save his life, save him from himself. Until their paths cross again, and they both understand the need to join their two halves of the story and find their way back to one another.

Would I recommend it: Yep. This is not your typical YA story. The thing I appreciated the most is that Noah is gay and the book is not about that. He never questions his sexuality, he knows who he’s attracted to and he’s completely fine with it. Also I liked how the mother is portrayed: despite how the twins see her – especially Noah – she’s not perfect: she makes mistakes, she’s part of the problem, she’s one of the reasons the peace gets disrupted. Overall it’s quite a gripping book, not excessively cheesy and definitely deserves all the positive reviews it received.

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Sometimes I wish I didn’t know

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About a lot of things
That instead I know
And I can’t unknow.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About the male chicks on the conveyor belt
Gassed, grinded, crushed,
And the piglets’ tails
Cut off with no anaesthesia
And cows being raped
And their babies taken away
So we can drink their milk.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About birds covered in oil
And turtles strangled
By six-pack rings,
And about beached whales, dead,
With a stomach full of plastic.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About the Great Reef perishing
And ozone depleting
And ice caps melting.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
How much waste the average household produces
And that you can bring your own container
And how to make your own toothpaste.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About the sweat shops
And child labour
And where my clothes come from.

Sometimes I wish I could just live
Without worrying
About all this.
I wish I were able to drink my coffee
In a disposable cup,
Carry my shopping in a plastic bag,
Wipe the grease
From an egg and bacon sandwich
off my lips with a single-use napkin,
Oblivious to the cruelty
And the waste.

Sometimes I wish
I didn’t care.
But I do.

And so should you.

I finally found my ideal skin care routine

I’ve switched up my skincare routine recently and I’m so amazed by the results that I HAVE to share this with you.
I have normal to dry skin, super sensitive and annoyingly acne-prone. In spite of gingerly skipping through a pimple-free adolescence, once I hit my mid-twenties my skin exploded and I spent the past five or so years struggling with recurring, painful acne.
Needless to say, I tried everything: from drugstore remedies to dermatologist-prescribed medications, from stress-reducing meditation to mind-emptying running. Nothing worked. I had a brief acne-free window around the time I got married (THANK GOODNESS), but since I moved to New Zealand the zits irremediably came back.

Living Zero Waste and as minimal as possible also made me reconsider my approach to skin care. I didn’t want my bathroom drawer to be cluttered with dozens of creams and masks and cleansers. I did made an attempt at making my own face cream, however I wasn’t very pleased with the end result, plus I still have a bunch of products I’m trying to finish up, so basically I never got round to use it consistently and ended up abandoning the idea.
Then, about a month ago I had enough. I decided I was done spending time lathering my face with sunflower oil every morning, double cleansing every evening, spending endless hours looking for the perfect combination of moisture, glow and zit-repellent agents.

So I adopted a new skin care routine, which involves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

I wash my face with lukewarm water in the morning, just enough to remove eye boogers and wake me up. In the evening, I only wash it again if I’ve been sweating or if I feel like I’ve accumulated excessive dirt. I pamper myself with a face mask once in a while mainly because I still have two face masks that I like and I want to finish, but once they are gone I probably won’t purchase more.

The result of all this is that I haven’t had a single pimple since I stopped torturing my face. I still have some acne scars that are slowly fading away, but other than that my skin has never felt better. I went through a phase where it felt really dry and tight for maybe two weeks when I first stopped using products, but now it’s smooth and clear and I can’t fucking believe it.
I am currently going through my first PMS with clear skin since I can remember, which makes me wonder what hormones have to do with all this.
Another thing I’m doing – and I have no idea whether this is contributing to my skin improvement – is chugging a litre of lukewarm water with ginger and lemon juice every morning (and sometimes evening, as I quite enjoy it). Other than that, I have been trying to reduce my coffee intake (although I’m writing this in a Starbucks) and to incorporate plenty of hydrating foods, however I’m still eating shit most of the time which led me to the conclusion that probably food has little to do with what my skin looks like.

So there you have it. If you’re struggling with acne, I would highly recommend that you try leaving your skin alone for a while. It might do wonders – plus think about all the money you’ll save or how much lighter your toiletry bag will be next time you travel!

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Losing weight after anorexia – A very long post

Today I went to the gym for the first time in seven months. I had an ok workout, and at the end of it I thought I would weigh myself, just out of curiosity since I don’t have a scale at home and I’m totally oblivious to my own heaviness.

Turns out, I put on 4kg.

My first reaction was, Well, this explains why I can’t zip up my jeans anymore – a thought shortly followed by: I better run for longer than 20 minutes next time.
I immediately felt bad. Why should gaining weight be associated to something negative? Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?

What does it mean to want to lose weight from the perspective of someone who has suffered from an eating disorder?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, so today’s episode is the perfect occasion to finally talk about it.

Disclaimer: YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR WEIGHT. The number on the scale is not representative of what you are as a person. You are beautiful and worthy regardless of your weight.
(Also, I’m not going to talk numbers as I know that it can be triggering, plus everybody is different and the same weight will not look the same on different body types. Also, it doesn’t freaking matter. All I’m going to say is that I am currently 4kg heavier than I was seven months ago.)

If you know me in real life you’ll know that I’m a very short person, and any weight I put on or lose I can feel, and you can see. Now, I’m not too concerned about what I look like so much as how I feel. When I saw that number on the scale, I realised it wasn’t much of a surprise after all: I’ve been feeling that I’d gotten a bit heavier in the past months.

My weight has fluctuated a bit in the first couple of years after recovering from anorexia.
I was at my heaviest during my Masters in London, when the majority of my diet consisted of beer and cheese. Back then, I had a nice fat roll around my stomach, a considerable bum, and a chubby round face. Interestingly, that was also the happiest I’ve ever been, as I was surrounded by mega supportive people who couldn’t care less about how big my behind was, and it was the perfect environment to be after recovering from an eating disorder. I was also at my fittest: I was playing basketball every day multiple times a day, I could do 93 push-ups in one minute and I would run like the wind.
But in spite as being happy and fit as fuck, I knew that was not my ideal body weight. Most importantly, I knew I was eating a terrible, unhealthy diet. When  moved back to Italy after graduation, I effortlessly shed all the excess weight just by eating regular meals at regular times (and drastically reducing my consumption of beer and cheese).
That was the first time I realised how important it is to eat well. I learned how to fuel my body so it can work at its best, and since then my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I never felt like I wanted to get thinner, if anything I wanted to get fitter in times when I wasn’t exercising enough, but once I reached my natural weight I stopped giving it much though.

Fast-forward to now: I am quite active, I play basketball, do yoga and I have a job that keeps me on my feet all day. However, I have also been eating crap.
This is something I’ve been whining about in months: since moving to New Zealand my diet has drastically changed, I went from eating an abundance of fruit and veggies to living off bread and sugary cereals due to the fact that food and produce are quite expensive here. I’m also not drinking enough water and sitting down a lot – which is my own fault.
So I’m pretty confident in saying that this time round my four extra kilos are unfortunately not muscles. And on top of storing the crap I’m eating as excess rolls of fat, my skin has also been breaking out pretty badly, and my mood in general has been all over the place.

So, what am I going to do about all this? I’ll be honest with you: I do want to lose weight. But the reason behind it is that it doesn’t feel good. And here is the big difference between wanting to get thinner from an eating disorder’s perspective, and wanting to feel better in your own body from a healthy perspective.
When you suffer from anorexia, you don’t see yourself as you truly are. Even if you’re reduced to a bunch of skin and bones, you still see yourself as fat. You think you are horrible, disgusting and unworthy. In fact, you don’t think like that: your eating disorder does.
When you recover, you start developing a healthier vision of yourself. You look in the mirror and you see yourself for what you really are. You are able to close your eyes and picture your body exactly how it is in reality, and not a distorted version of it. If you’re gaining or losing weight, this is no longer a matter of life or death, it’s just something that’s happening, it’s your body changing, and you are able to recognise that. You exercise in order to get fit and strong and because you enjoy it, not in order to burn calories or to punish yourself.

And this is where I am now.

Can someone who has suffered from an eating disorder still want to lose weight? Yes.
Is it dangerous? Only if done in an unhealthy way.
Am I in a safe place to say I want to lose weight? Yes.

However. I’m not going to make losing weight my priority. The reason why I would like to shed these four extra kilos is because I know I am heavier than my natural body weight and I know I feel at my best when I’m a bit leaner and more toned.
I’ve never been on a diet and I’m not planning on going on one, if this is what you are worrying about.
What I’m going to do is put my health on the top of my priorities. I will focus on only eating fresh, clean food that has a nutritional value (fries don’t, cookies don’t). I will be organised and pack myself a healthy lunch instead of grabbing a pie and a giant cookie at the gas station every day. I will drink more water. I will bring my ass to the gym.
All of this I’m going to do because it makes me feel good.
This way I know that even if I don’t focus on losing weight per se, I probably will by simply cutting out the junk from my diet, getting my ass moving, and concentrating on my health.

Your body changing is completely natural and ok. You should not be freaked out by putting on some extra kg. However, it’s good to also get know your body and learn what makes it happy. And if you’re reading this and you do have a past with eating disorders, I feel you and I love you and I want you to be in a safe place. You are beautiful and worthy and you deserve to be as healthy and happy as you can possibly be.