How I lost 30 pounds by simplifying my life

I wore the same thing every day and said no to a bunch of stuff. And it actually worked.

Six months ago I embarked on an experiment to simplify my life. Here’s what I did.

  • I gave away all of my clothes, except for 7 sets of the same outfit, which I starting wearing every day as my uniform.
  • I made a rule to stop working late nights after my kid went to bed, unless it was to write.
  • I took the Twitter app off my phone.
  • I made a list of 3 priorities (self care, time with family, volunteering in my community), and starting saying no to everything that wasn’t on that list.

So what happened when I did that? Lots of stuff. I’ll now share some of the highlights.

I found exercise I loved

Spin class and running make me happy. My friend Tim Clarke and I started a regular practice of going to Soulcycle together. The music is great and I feel great when I go.

me and Tim celebrating our birthdays with a Soulcycle ride with our #SalesforceOhana

I also signed up and started training for the 2017 “Dopey” at Walt Disney World. It’s in January, and if you don’t know what it is, it’s a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon, over the space of 4 days. I’ve done a number of Disney runs over the past decade, so I’m super excited to go.

My daughter is also going to do the 200 meter dash, but she’s not the only one…

I got my parents to sign up for a 5K with me

My parents came out for TrailheaDX this June and we went hiking at Muir Woods the day before the event.

my parents out on the trail

They did a great job trekking around, and it made me think, why don’t they join me for the 5K at Disney World? My parents are in their sixties and have never done an event like this before, so it’s a big deal for them. They’ve started training and I’m looking forward to doing this with them in January!

I prioritized getting sleep

As it turns out, if you don’t get enough sleep, you might be too tired to exercise and you might not be as sharp at work or home.

Everyone knows this. And yet, so many of us still don’t get enough rest. So I decided to make getting sleep a priority. This meant that sometimes, I didn’t get things done on time. Or I chose not to do other things at all, including saying no to many requests that came my way. This last part was really hard to do, but it was essential.

I’ve learned that I’m no good to anyone if I haven’t gotten enough rest, and while I occasionally still put in long hours, those are now the rare exception and not the rule.

If you want to learn more about what good sleep can do for you, I highly recommend reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington.

I lost 30 pounds

All the exercise and good sleep meant my body got rid of what it didn’t need.

I found that making good choices regarding fitness and sleep spilled over into choices about what to eat.

I didn’t deprive myself — as you’ll see in a moment, I had oysters, drank beer, and ate cupcakes on my birthday — but I made consistent, quality choices with what I ate.

I went on 5 dates in a row with my spouse

For spring break, we could have gone on a trip as a family, and that would have been sweet, but we decided to simplify our vacation too. We sent our daughter to see Grandma and Grandpa, and Dave and I stayed home and went on 5 dates in a row.

We drove to Bodega Bay and had oysters on a Saturday.

yes, these were as good as they look

We went to Lagunitas Brewery another day.

hello, lovely

We went to the movies one night after I got off work. We may or may not have snuck beer into the movie.

our local theater, a historical landmark, where we may or may not have snuck in beer
We had a ton of fun together. We talked a lot about things that had nothing to do with our child’s playdate schedule or our grocery list or whether or not those brussels sprouts are organic.

If you follow me here on medium, you know how barf-inducingly, head-over-heels, “I’ll be looking at the moon but I’ll be seeing you,” in love I am with my spouse, even after 21 years of being together. But like many parents, we don’t get a ton of time with just the two of us. So 5 date nights in a row for us felt like winning the lottery. It was really great.

I found time to make stuff

I have one of those brains that has a hard time shutting off. I’ve found that the best way to get my brain to stop doing that is (1) run a very long distance, (2) write something, or (3) make something with my hands. I love to sew and paint and bedazzle, and I found time to do all of those things during my simplification experiment.

I worked on my daughter’s bedroom.

I gave my daughter space not to be girly, but she turned out girly — so I embrace the girly

I painted this chair with my mom.

yes, that is a unicorn playing soccer in a field of flowers

I made these bedazzled sneakers.

ooh la la

I am so happy when I’m holding tools in my hand and using them to make something. Simplifying and focusing meant I found more time for that.

I moved my family to Alameda

My family and I moved to the bay area last spring, and we didn’t know where to live. If you don’t live here, let me tell you — finding a place to live in the bay area right now is really hard. We liked the east bay the most, but it was really competitive. Being new to the area, we didn’t know where else to go. We settled in Marin, but that didn’t work for us. So we spent a year looking at neighborhoods, and ultimately decided on Alameda.

The only problem was, a lot of people wanted to move here. We went to 7–8 open houses every weekend for months and wrote several offers, but couldn’t seem to get into a house. Part of the problem was supply and demand, but I also was dead set on staying on a particular part of Alameda and wouldn’t budge. The result was months of frustration and feeling hopeless.

But that’s when the simplification experiment kicked in.

One night, my spouse said, “Why don’t we just try renting instead? And I know you don’t want to, but we should really expand our search area.”

There it was, in the clear light of day. The right question. As soon as we eliminated the pressure of buying and expanded our search area, it all worked out. We are now renting a great house in the area I refused to look at for months. Our daughter has a 0.5 mile walk to a top school, and I have a 1.6 mile walk to the ferry, along a bayfront path. It’s peaceful. And it’s really nice to be back in a more diverse environment again.

what it looks like when I’m coming home on the ferry

I volunteered at Impact Hub Oakland and Black Girls Code

I hosted 5 open office hours sessions at Impact Hub Oakland with several of my amazing colleagues, including Kieren Jameson, Leah Mcgowen-Hare, Ayori Selassie, and Lauren Grau, plus community members like Katie McFadden and TJ Warfield.

I love volunteering for Black Girls Code. So when they came to Salesforce for an event, I was excited to attend. I partnered with amazing photographer Peggy Peralta to showcase the girls and their parents on social media.

with Kieren and her girlfriend Aliah

I was honored with a “Chris Appreciation Day”

My colleagues and the community showered me with praise and gifts and a scavenger hunt and a super secret surprise party. Amber Boaz rickrolled me with a series of tweets, and all my colleagues dressed up like me in my “daily uniform.”

It was incredible. I felt so loved.
white shirt, dark jeans, cardigan, scarf

I got invited to share my story

People read my story and invited me to their events to talk about what I was doing to simplify and improve my focus. That was really flattering and made me feel special.

me doing my Meghan Trainor impression at the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner

And ultimately, I was pretty happy

It’s hard to measure happiness.

For the past few months, I have consistently been having a general feeling of wellness and contentment pretty much every day.

I also have had many days where I’ve felt amazing, like this day:

the day the wind hit my outfit just right out in the red rocks of Sedona

And this day:

the day I wore my sequin jacket to a work happy hour because radness

And this day:

the day I went on Road to Dreamforce dressed like Astro

And also this day:

the day we all dressed up like bananas on Angel Island

And this day too:

the day Leah interviewed me at TrailheaDX

And finally, this day:

the day at the park with my family

So that’s all rad. But was it all sunshine and unicorns and confetti?

No.

No, it wasn’t.

For starters, not all of my rules worked.

Not all of my rules worked.

So yeah, it’s super to make a rule like “I’m never working late again,” but I found that rule was too inflexible for how I work. Here’s why. Some people have a set schedule — I don’t. And I was focused pretty intensely on getting regular exercise, and that sometimes meant I took a longer lunch break for spin class or left work early for a long run. In those cases, I’d want to get back online later in the evening to finish some things up. And I was fine with that, because I was getting exercise, which brought me joy.

I also put the Twitter app back on my phone after the first 90 days. I’ve gotten better at using it less, and having it off my phone for 90 days was a great break. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it on after Dreamforce. We’ll see.

It’s OK to make a rule, and then drop the rule because it doesn’t serve you. If it’s not helping you, get rid of it.

Not all the stuff I tried brought me joy.

I took a tap dancing class in my first month. I stopped going after 3 classes because I didn’t like the instructor or his choice of music. He seriously did spirit fingers and jazz hands and I felt like I was in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical the whole time. Spoiler alert: I don’t like musicals.

I also decided to do a juice cleanse somewhere in there. Let’s just say that my colleagues have made me promise never to do a juice cleanse again.

Trying stuff is great. It’s also great to stop doing something that isn’t working.

Nothing happened overnight.

In fact, it took about 3 months for things to improve. What do I mean by improve? Well, I was making all these lifestyle changes, but I still wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was inconsistent in getting exercise. I struggled to say no to things.

The thing is, it’s really hard to make changes and have them stick.

But after the first 3 months, things started to click for me. At one point, I did 27 days of exercise in a row. I started sleeping better. And then everything else seemed to start working, too.

So, what’s next?

A bunch of you have asked me, am I going to keep going with my experiment? The answer is, yes!

If you find something that’s serving you, stay with it.

So yes, I’m staying with this. But I’ve decided to change up the outfit for the next 6 months. I actually have to because I dropped a size and my old outfit is now huge on me. So I’ve been shopping for a new outfit for the past few weeks and I finally have it picked out.

Now, Kieren Jameson said to me the other day, “You better not come to work in another white shirt.”

Well guess what, Kieren? I’m not coming to work in a white shirt. I’m coming to work in a black-and-white shirt.

For the next 6 months, I’ll be wearing:

  • Denim trousers
  • Black cardigan OR black blazer
  • Black and white shirt, preferably with something fun written on it

I’ll be rocking my fav sneakers again this time around.

I love my sneakers

And if you know me well, you know I am obsessed with scarves. So that’s how I’ll bring in some color.

these are a few of my favorite things

So that’s what happened when I wore the same outfit for 6 months

And now that I’m continuing with it, I can probably dispense with calling it an experiment. Now it’s just my new normal. Now it’s just my life.

Thanks for reading.
ready for the next 6 months