HOW TO SURVIVE A FLIGHT ABROAD ON A BUDGET AIRLINE

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When a flight deal pops up to travel from Los Angeles direct to Barcelona for $250 round trip, you book now and figure out the logistics later. My friend and I were on the phone as we hastily booked our tickets and when prompted to select seats, meals, and luggage, we said “no” to them all. You can spend $250 on a spontaneous trip to Barcelona, but as those basic human comforts came into question, adding them would have doubled our ticket price and that quickly kills the thrill of spontaneity. At $250, you can justify a random vacation. At $500+, you realize that ticket price can happen a couple of times a year on a non-budget airline and you’re better off planning out a great trip during the best time to go.

As the trip approached, it loomed over us how long the flight actually is. Twelve hours is an extensive amount of time to sit on a plane in an undesirable seat without food and beverages. In addition to that, seven days in Barcelona needed to fit into a carry-on bag with room for souvenirs. My friend and I talked and determined that if we had to add on one comfort, the most important one would be to choose our seat, which was an additional $34 each way.

On the day of the flight, we boarded the plane and sat “comfortably” next to each other in our two-person row. We survived the flight and learned a few things along the way, so I’ve put together a list of what I did or learned to do while flying on a budget redeye from LAX to BCN.

Food.

How much food do you typically eat in a 12-hour span? If you didn’t pay to get meals, you’d be crazy not to bring your own. The international terminal at LAX has a great selection of food, which isn’t something I’d typically say about airport food in general; however, my friend and I didn’t have time to grab food from Whole Foods as we had planned before our flight. International Terminal at LAX or not, airport food is always going to be better, and cheaper, than airplane food. I always recommend going with something healthy and filling, so naturally, I got a huge cheeseburger and fries from Umami Burger. Worth it.

Since the flight out was a redeye, I slept for about seven of the twelve hours and didn’t need much food. I had a shocking amount of protein bars in my bag and got by on one of those and a packet of instant coffee for breakfast. For something a little more satiating, I’d recommend bringing a packet of plain instant oatmeal and mixing it with nut butter. I also had jerky and nuts to keep me full and happy.

Drinks.

One major thing I took for granted on my frequent travels on Southwest is the free beverage service. Knowing I wouldn’t be getting my typical drink, I was under the impression that water would still be available, right? Wrong. If you didn’t pay for the food service, the beverage cart passed right by you no matter how desperately you tried to make eye contact with the stewardess. I pushed the call button to see if I could get a glass of water, and what she brought me probably contained three ounces of water. I could have brought it through security.

I pushed the call button a second time a couple of hours later and handed the stewardess my water bottle and asked if she could fill it up. It was handed back to me with the same three-ounce pour. Moral of the story – fill your water bottle in the airport before getting on your flight. I hope most budget airlines aren’t as strict on water as this airline was, but be prepared.

On two other occasions I asked for a glass of hot water to “take my meds,” and was promptly given a six-ounce cup of hot water that I used for Sleepy Time tea and instant coffee. Second thing to note – people will do anything under the threat of drugs.

Sleep.

I’m not one of those lucky individuals who can sleep on an airplane and feel well-rested. I can generally fall asleep on an airplane, but I don’t stay asleep on them. My number one tip here is to bring Ambien. If you don’t have a prescription, you’re missing out bring an OTC sleeping aid, or something natural like melatonin.

My second biggest tip is to create your own comfort. I bring my plaid pajamas that I change into before I go to sleep. I wash my face, brush my teeth, moisturize, and slip into comfy slipper socks. I got some looks walking back from the airplane bathroom donning plaid from top to bottom, but I’m pretty certain they were looks of jealousy. If you take an Ambien before you do all of this, I can assure you that you won’t care who’s looking at you.

You also need to bring a pillow. I used to use those U-shaped pillows you see everywhere, but they start to strain my neck. For this flight I tried the Trtl Pillow for the first time and I’ll never go back. Check it out, it’s amazing. I also bring an eye mask, earplugs, and a “blanket,” which is actually just a large scarf.

Sanitation.

Airplanes are petri dishes of human diseases. I once sat in front of a woman on a plane who was coughing and sniffling the entire ride. Lo and behold, I was in the ER the next day with a 104-degree fever and the biggest sense of loathing towards this lady. I could have picked up the flu from anyone, anywhere, but for the sake of this blog, we’re going to pretend it was from the lady on the plane.

We’ve all heard about air being recycled on airplanes and even though that’s not totally wrong, it isn’t the reason why so many people get sick when they travel. It’s the amount of people on planes that make them health hazards. People are circulated on and off with little thought towards deep cleaning. If one person who has the flu gets onto a plane, everything he touches potentially becomes contaminated – the seat, the window shade, the tray table, the handle to the lavatory, the seat backs he touches to maintain balance on his way to the lavatory, the Skymall, I could go on but you get it. There are so many people in close quarters on planes that it’s inevitable germs will spread.

Two things I bring on every flight are sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer. I’m that person who wipes down everything before settling down, including my seat. I use hand sanitizer throughout the flight when I feel the need to “freshen up.” I always pack Emergen-C and Airborne to take before getting on the plane, and I make sure to pack a small pharmacy of my own in case I get sick while traveling. It’s much easier to have a Pepto Bismol chewable with you than to go to a pharmacy in a foreign land and find the equivalent.

Entertainment.

This goes without saying, but I recently heard a travel horror story where a 30-something woman pestered her neighbor on a five-hour flight to Vegas because she was bored. She boarded the plane with the assumption that whoever she sat next to would entertain her the whole flight and maybe use the Wi-Fi, then proceeded to lose her mind when no Wi-Fi was available and the poor stranger sitting next to her just wanted to watch the show he downloaded on Netflix.

I once sent an email to a boss who was on a plane and started the email with, “In case your plane has Wi-Fi, here’s an update…” As soon as she landed, I received the following professional response:

“Wi-Fi on a plane? Are you f*cking kidding me!?!?!”

No ma’am, I don’t joke about Wi-Fi on planes. But now I know that there are some people in this world who either don’t know you can access the World Wide Web at 30,000 feet up, or automatically assume every plane they’re on is going to have it. Fun fact – if you’re on a budget airline, there probably isn’t going to be any Wi-Fi. At least free Wi-Fi.

Second fun fact – you can now download most shows on Netflix! Books are incredible. So are Kindles. If you’d rather have someone read to you, check out Audible. Every smart phone has access to a huge range of games. Download some. A lot of flights already come with in-flight entertainment, but in case yours doesn’t, there’s no excuse to bother the stranger next to you because you’re bored. Headphones are the universal “don’t talk to me” sign. Unless you’re the stewardess coming to bring me water. Side note, there’s generally a USB plug-in on long-haul flights, so make sure your charger is easily accessible.

Those are all of my budget airline travel tips for now, but there might be an update to this after I fly Norwegian in March. If you’ve flown Norwegian before and have any pointers, please leave them in the comments! For anyone else, what’s the one travel tip you live by? Tell me your favorite airplane snack, hack, or travel destination. And as always, thanks for reading and stay shameless!

WILL THIS SWEET OMELET REALLY MAKE YOU FORGET ABOUT THAT DONUT?

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I recently stumbled upon an article on Extra Crispy titled “This Sweet Omelet Will Make You Forget All About That Doughnut,” so naturally, my interests were fully piqued. Mainly because the author opted for the lengthy spelling of “doughnut,” yet went with the shorter spelling of “omelet,” but also because it takes a lot for me to forget about donuts and I needed to put this claim to the test. My thoughts and reaction to this recipe are below the instructions.

In a slightly off-topic rant, it irks me when I find a recipe online I want to try from a blogger, but then have to scroll through a wall of text in order to find the recipe. I’m going to start a revolution and put recipes towards the top of blog posts, mainly because people are hungry and don’t always want to know every detail as to why someone was inspired to make a certain dish. If you really want to know, that info will be provided after the recipe.

Recipe (from Rebecca Frisker at Extra Crispy)                                      FullSizeRender-1

2 eggs, separated

Pinch of cream of tartar

½ T sugar

Butter for pan

Toppings of choice (fruit, honey, powdered sugar, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Put egg whites into a large bowl with the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks (I used an electric hand mixer)
  2. Whisk egg yolks with the sugar. Fold egg mixtures together until combined.
  3. Melt butter in a pan on medium heat. Cook omelet for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
  4. Slide omelet onto plate and fill with desired toppings.

I don’t know where I went wrong, but my omelet looked nothing like that smooth, pale yellow masterpiece on Rebecca Frisker’s article. Nonetheless, my fiancé and I both really enjoyed this. Is it going to ever replace a donut for me? No, but if I’m craving something sweet in the morning, this would be a great go-to item. Since everything is about macros to me right now, let’s break it down:

A glazed donut from Dunkin’ Donuts is 260 calories.

31g Carbs • 14g Fat • 3g Protein

This sweet omelet (just the omelet and powdered sugar) is 194 calories.

9g Carbs • 11g Fat • 12.5g Protein

When looking at macros, the omelet is the clear winner. If you’re only looking at the caloric content of each and you’re craving a donut, get the donut. Otherwise this will only satiate you until you satisfy your craving. If you care about the amount of protein you’re getting and/or just want something sweet, try this omelet. I feel as though this is more of a replacement for a crepe than a donut based on the filling options along with taste and texture. Either way, this is a great sweet breakfast if you’re gluten free.

Cooking it was a breeze. I made two in a matter of 15 minutes, and they come out super fluffy. I followed the cook time in the instructions and it’s great if you like your eggs a little on the dry side. Next time I make this, I’ll probably scale it back a little.

If you’re making two, I’d recommend either making one large one and splitting it, or separately mixing the eggs for each. One struggle I ran into was keeping the eggs mixed together and pouring the combination into the pan without it separating.

We topped our omelets with fresh berries, a drizzle of honey, and a dusting of powdered sugar, but the possibilities are endless. The omelet itself was sweet, but mostly flavorless, so as a general rule, I’d say anything you can put in a crepe can be put into this. Nutella and banana, anyone?

This was a fun, little experiment and definitely something I’d make again. Let me know if you’re planning on trying it or if you have any other recipes I should know of! Thank you for reading and stay shameless!

HOW I LOST 30 POUNDS WHILE EATING DONUTS

Ignoring fads and embracing science

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In case you couldn’t tell, I have a fascination with donuts. Not just any donuts, either. I’ve made it my personal mission to find the best donut within reach, wherever I happen to be. Grocery store and pre-packaged donuts don’t do anything for me; if I’m going to put those calories in my body, it better be worth it. It’s the one area of my life in which I won’t tolerate mediocrity.

That said, after YEARS of hating my body, I needed to make a change, and as anyone who’s had a lifetime of body issues understands – dieting is the worst. There’s fad diets, crash diets, diets that tell you not to eat carbs, others that say to avoid fats, and guess what donuts have A LOT of? Carbs and fats. Plus, with so much misinformation coming out every year about what foods are suddenly bad for you, it becomes excruciating trying to keep up and be “healthy.”

Last year, I gave up gluten and added sugars for six weeks to slim down for a couple of weddings I was in, but once those came and went, the weight came back like it always does. In March this year, my friends and I booked a trip to Barcelona and I had a real heart-to-heart with myself.

“You’re sick of the way you look and nothing is going to change unless you do.”

But… donuts… And literally every other sweet thing on the planet. We can all give up something we love for a short period of time, which is why fad diets can be effective in the moment, but if your diet involves you giving up something you love in order to keep the weight off, you’re going to fail. Restrictions lead to binge-eating, which leads to hating yourself and more restrictions, followed by more binges. As someone who would constantly fall into this trap, I needed a way to lose weight without losing balance.

Enter science. No fads, no following studies that say something is good for you one minute and bad the next, no giving up food groups. One pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories, so to lose one pound of fat in a week, you have to burn 3,500 extra calories, or since cardio is the worst, eat at a deficit of 500 calories per day. Essentially, your total calories in for the week has to be 3,500 less than your calories out. As someone who hates math and treadmills, let me stress that if I can do this, anyone can.

I’ve read for years that people who keep food journals have the most success with weight loss, but I never heeded that tip because writing down literally everything that goes into my mouth sounds like the most tedious, time-consuming thing. And I’ll be honest, the first few weeks of logging were tedious. Even with an app that allows you to scan barcodes, import recipes, and can get nutritional information from many restaurants, it was annoying to pause after every meal and do it. But now it’s second nature and takes me 30 seconds.

A little disclaimer before I get into my tips – this is a method that has worked wonders for my weight loss and has contributed to many people hitting their body goals. It was developed by doctors and scientists, of which I am neither. I’m not a nutritionist or personal trainer and my only credentials for writing this post are that I’ve lost 30 pounds using this method. Use this guide at your own risk. That said, let’s get into it! Here are my 11 tips on how to shed weight without giving up the things you love:

  1. Know your TDEE. Otherwise known as “Total Daily Energy Expenditure,” it’s essentially the number of calories you burn in a day. For most of us, the majority of our TDEE is made up of our basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which is the amount of calories we burn by living and breathing. You could be in a coma and still be burning over a thousand calories just through normal bodily functions. If you combine your BMR with the calories you burn from physical exercise, that’s your TDEE. In order to maintain your current weight, you consume that number of calories every day. To lose weight, eat less; to gain weight, eat more.

 

  1. Determine your macros. There are different websites that do this for you, such as IIFYM and bodybuilding.com. I use a subscription service called Avatar Nutrition that takes my weight and body fat percentage each week and adjusts my macros for the next week to keep my metabolism working hard and prevent plateaus.

 

  1. Tracking app. There are many out there, but I’ve always used My Fitness Pal. As mentioned before, this step is what deters so many people because tracking can be a tedious process. Stick to it for a few weeks and it will become second nature.

 

  1. Measure your food. I cannot stress how important this one is. Measure EVERYTHING. When you’re looking at the macros on something, also check out the serving size. If you’re going to eat cereal and the serving size is one cup, measure out one cup. If you’re not used to this, it will probably shock you to see how much you’re over-eating. Most of us fill the bowl with cereal and add milk, which is probably closer to two cups. The most accurate way to measure your food is to use a food scale. I still use mine every day and it has helped me put serving sizes into perspective.

 

  1. Good carbs vs bad carbs. If you’ve been dieting for a while, you have had this shoved down your throat. You were excited when Chipotle finally got brown rice to make your lunch “healthier.” But here’s the thing – while there are added benefits of eating “good” carbs over “bad” carbs, like more fiber to help you feel full longer, your body breaks down food into three separate categories. Carbs, fat, and protein are all your body knows. It doesn’t process bad carbs as one thing and good carbs as another, it processes pizza and quinoa equally, but we all know it’s easier to put down three slices of pizza vs. an equivalent measurement of quinoa. Carbs are converted into energy and like with any macro, if your body doesn’t burn that energy, it will go right to you hips. This is why it’s important to hit your daily target.

 

  1. Treats, not cheats. This is where I allow myself to have donuts and is probably the most important part of flexible dieting! My macros tailored to my body’s current needs are 136g P/142g C/53g F. A glazed donut from Krispy Kreme is 3g P/31g C/14g F. If I want to have a donut one day, I can fit it into my macros by eating fewer carbs and fat in other meals, such as choosing a salad over a burger at lunch.

 

  1. Food is fuel. But it’s a better saying than “you are what you eat.” A chicken salad with dressing and a slice of pizza might have the same macros, but eating a big salad over one slice of pizza is going to keep you feeling full longer.

 

  1. Meal plan. I don’t mean this in the way of cooking all of your food for the week on Sunday and portioning it out. Although that is super helpful if you’re a busy individual, it’s not for everyone. Instead, figure out what you’re going to eat before you start cooking it. Put it into an app and make sure it fits your macros. This is a good way to avoid the disappointment of cooking an amazing meal, only to realize you went over on carbs by 10g.

 

  1. Protein. This is one of the most important macros because it builds and repairs cells. Muscles need protein – a lot of it! About one gram per pound of lean body mass. This can be tough for people to hit, but there’s a lot of protein options available making it easy to include in every meal and snack. My favorite lean proteins include egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, chicken, fish, lean ground beef, jerky, bison, venison, and elk.

 

  1. Shut out fake news. Pay attention to who is paying for the studies being put out in the world these days. A study about the horrible effects of artificial sweeteners might have been conducted by the sugar industry. Chemicals might not be the best thing to put in your body, but just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is good for you. Studies can be manipulated to have results that aren’t necessarily factual. (John Oliver has a great segment on this.) If having a cup of sugar free Jello at the end of the night satiates your sweet craving and keeps you within your macros, you’re not going to die.

 

  1. Fitness. This is my last point on here because it isn’t the most important one for losing weight, especially if the food aspect is already pretty daunting. Get used to tracking your food before diving in headfirst to working out. You’ll lose weight just by eating less food, and once you add in exercise, you can reward yourself by taking in more calories. Fitness adds drastically to your overall health, but it’s not the starting point of weight loss. I’ll have more blog posts on fitness, so I’ll keep this one to food. Long story short, don’t torture yourself unnecessarily.

 

Along the lines of not torturing yourself, know that tracking your macros isn’t going to be perfect every day, especially in the beginning. My advice to all people, whether you’re just starting this or have been doing this for months, is to first and foremost focus on the calories. A caloric deficit is the ONLY way to lose weight, so no matter what you’re eating, you’re doing okay if it’s 10-15% below your TDEE.

This is a SLOWWW process; you’re not going to wake up 20 pounds lighter in one month. Slow keeps your body happy and there’s less of a chance you’ll gain all of the weight back when you make adjustments like this. Tracking your macros, reading labels, and weighing everything out can be a tedious process, but I promise it becomes manageable. When I’d get frustrated with the process, I’d remind myself that it’s easier to put up with it and learn how to eat better than to be miserable about my weight. Things don’t change unless you do.

I still have a long journey ahead in achieving my fitness goals, but this is the only process I’ve found that let’s me live my life while dieting. I can have a drink or a donut and not feel bad about it and still lose weight. I’ve been on this journey for seven months now and I’ll never look back. If you’re reading this and you’ve been flexible dieting for a while and have any tips, please let me know! Or let me know if you’re about to start on this journey – we can all use a little bit of accountability.

Choosing a Blog Theme (and Other Ways to Take the Easy Way Out)

Do you ever sit on an idea forever, hoping some day to turn your thought into a reality, then five years later, stand up and see that idea you’ve been sitting on and realize nothing came of it? Same. Especially the part about sitting for five years.

I’ve written, trashed, and rewritten my “first blog post” a million times now. I’ve put so much pressure on myself to make this thing a reality that I struggle to write the perfect intro to what this blog will be about. I put less thought into getting a puppy than I have in starting a blog. Side note, I don’t recommend doing that.

So here’s the thing. I’m imperfect. This blog is going to be imperfect. Why set expectations so high with a killer first post, am I right? Always keep your expectations low and you’ll never be disappointed, says the girl who got WAY too hyped for the new Harry Potter book.

Sometimes this blog will be funny, other times it’ll be serious. I’ll share travel tips, recipes, and stories of me attempting to get my life in order. One day I might talk about fitness, and the next I might write a how-to on finishing an entire large pizza by yourself.

So then what’s the theme of Almost Shameless? I’ve wasted away hours of my life trying to put myself into one category, but here’s the thing. My interests are constantly evolving, which is why the term “lifestyle blogger” is the most lazy and beautiful description of a theme for someone trying to get their life together. I think most lifestyle bloggers have it figured out and I’m in the minority, but as someone who doesn’t have a single category I could go on about forever, lifestyle blogger it is!

I’m a 20-something female trying to discover my passions in life, and I’m starting this blog to hold me accountable by documenting all of the ups and downs. I’m going to be trying new things along the way, making mistakes, doing some succeeding but mostly a lot of failing.

Why don’t I just buy a journal and try to figure my life out using that? I know I’m not the only one out there who feels a little lost and is trying to find more passion and drive in life. I’m hoping to find like-minded individuals on the same path, to potentially inspire others to stop living a life of mediocrity, and/or to give those people who already have their whole lives figured out (down to the details of their funeral) some entertainment and an ego boost. Like when you’re watching reality TV and judging the people on it for the sake of feeling better about yourself. We all do it. Also, not saying this blog will ever make money, but journals only turn a profit once the author dies.

And there you have it, my first blog post. Thank you for reading, but mostly, congratulations for making it through. I have a lot of exciting things in the books I’ll be blogging about, so come back soon and have a wonderful day!

As promised, here are other ways you can take the easy way out today:

Feeling tired at the gym? Leave.

Don’t want to reply to a text? Update your Facebook status to tell the world your phone is broken.

Not in the mood to cook? Fake being sick so your loved ones bring you food.

Have any horrible suggestions of your own? Throw them in the comments!