To New Beginnings

We just got back from our wedding trip to KL, Malaysia.

In the midst of jetlag, unpacking and hopping over zip locked bags containing toiletries (my bad), I remembered this blog that I’ve been neglecting of late.

I shall endeavour to write more from now on, now that I do have some free time again. The wedding went well. It was so nice to be surrounded by so many people from all over the world. We were so honoured that our friends and family took time to come by and give us their best wishes.

Our next project is furnishing the apartment properly and hopefully travelling. We already have our honeymoon trip booked. We chose New York again because we really loved our previous trip. Can’t wait to go there again. I have started researching gluten free restaurants to visit while we are there. If you have any tips, feel free to share.

Here’s to new beginnings!

Stuff I’ve learned lately…

A lot has happened in the past few months. You know how it is – you think you have a plan and some goals to achieve but life always shows you who’s the boss: definitely not you. They say smart people know how to make the best of what they have rather than pine after what they don’t have. In that aspect, you can say I’m trying to be smart.

Lately I’ve learned that…

  1. I’m gluten intolerant. After the elimination and provocation diet, coupled with tons of medical tests, I received my diagnosis mid-March. It has taken me awhile to deal with it as I am a huge foodie. I love food. It’s also one of the key things my husband and I have in common and something that we use to bond with our friends. I spent a few weeks being really, really sad about this diagnosis. In fact, I’m still kind of upset about it. It hits me at moments like when I see something I used to enjoy eating, or when I remember a childhood dish and think “I shall eat that when I’m back” and then I remember that I’m not allowed to eat it. Well, I could eat it but I would definitely see a reaction. I currently don’t have celiac’s disease but I have the gene for it – so I may develop the disease in future; which is very, very scary for me as I know people who have celiac’s and it is not easy. I seem to react to wheat in general so I am currently staying away from wheat entirely. I refuse to be down about this, which brings me to my second point.
  2. There is life beyond wheat. When I look back, I’m shocked by how much wheat I used to eat. I ate pastries, bagels, bread (all the time), pasta, wraps (my former favourite), pizza – you name it. On days when I felt a bit sad or stressed, my fix was to go for a walk outside of my office and grab a latte with soy (due to my self-assumed lactose intolerance) and a pastry. It wasn’t like I ate a sugar laden pastry all the time, but sometimes. Sometimes I had a muesli bar (also wheat) or a wholewheat scone. *Shudder* Today, the husband and I live off salads. We eat tons of vegetables so much so that we can no longer justify buying vegetables at our high end supermarket *cough* Meny *cough* because we eat a lot more of it. Instead we go to a quaint little grocer nearby and buy as much vegetables as we need. That way we save at least 20% on our groceries. The reason we do this is because health food is expensive especially in a city like Oslo. Almond milk, chia seeds, nut butter, erythritol (sugar alcohol), low carb seed crackers, gluten free bread mixes, protein bars/powder, sugar free chocolate, kale chips are all luxury items that are quite expensive at the health stores here. We also eat a lot of soups and baked fish as well poultry. I’m allowed 1 carb meal a day, beyond that I have to lead a high fat, lean protein lifestyle with little to no processed food at all. The reason I say “lifestyle” instead of “diet” is because I have been prescribed this lifestyle as a way to eat clean and maintain a high level of energy and a clear mind.
  3. I can no longer eat much sugar. My nutritionist wants me to avoid sugar as much as possible. This is doable, but it’s quite tricky because a lot of gluten free foods have sugar in them and sometimes you really want to eat a chocolate chip cookie or a Marie biscuit that you kind of have to ignore the sugar. I can’t, however, eat very sweet food anymore. I start to feel really guilty and worry about my skin. The more I stay away from gluten and sugar, the clearer my skin is. This also means I won’t be able to eat my wedding cake in July as it will contain both gluten and sugar. I’m trying not to feel bad about this, but it’s hard. I will also not be able to eat a large portion of the food that we will be serving our guests. I have less than two months to come to terms with this. So far, I’ve been repeating in my head “It’s just food”. It’s kind of working.
  4. I’m no longer lactose intolerant. This came as a surprise as the tests actually proved I was lactose intolerant. However, it seems that if I’m not eating gluten, I don’t react to lactose. That said, cottage cheese seems to cause some breakouts on my skin, so I am trying to avoid that as much as possible – even though it’s really tasty and energizing to eat cottage cheese with fresh berries as a mid afternoon snack. But, the best part of being able to tolerate lactose is being able to drink regular caffe lattes again. Nothing like milk with coffee – also helps that I get to save between 5 or 6 NOK as cafes do charge you extra for soy milk.
  5. Sushi will not always taste the same. Most Japanese restaurants only serve regular soya sauce which contains gluten. Hoisin sauce – which I would bathe in, if I could – has gluten too. So, when I eat sushi in restaurants that do not serve gluten free soya sauce, I eat it plain; without wasabi or soya sauce. It’s not bad, but it’s not the same. I’m also a huge fan of Vietnamese fresh spring rolls which are always served with Hoisin sauce as a dip. Man, I’m going to miss Hoisin sauce so very much.
  6. Nothing tastes the same anymore. My taste buds seem to have changed. I’ve always wondered if I had super taste buds but these days I can taste everything and the food just doesn’t taste the same. Some days, food tastes bland. Other days, it’s too spicy. In some ways, some dishes feel as if there’s something missing. There are dishes that taste really good, but generally I no longer enjoy food as much as I used to. Having to analyze everything you eat, having to write a detailed food journal for a good 3 months, having to dissect ingredient lists constantly really changes how you perceive food.
  7. I’ve actually lost weight. To date I have lost almost 11 kg by eating clean and working out. Previously I had a mostly stagnant weight for 4.5 years and it was so hard to lose anything. I built muscles and gained strength. I burned a lot of calories during workouts but my weight remained mostly the same. It was so frustrating until I started the elimination diet. Halfway through my elimination diet, the weight started to melt away. It was a surprise – one that I’m still learning how to accept as I don’t look like I used to look anymore. I feel like the same person, but also different.
  8. People are not always supportive when you do something they don’t really believe in or understand. I kind of expected this and it usually doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get a bit sad when some people around me are insensitive of my dietary restrictions or health choices. But I guess this is my journey and I cannot expect other people to understand it. They have their own journeys.
  9. My skin can heal. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and purchase all the wonderful skincare items people rave about. Most of them are not easily available in Norway but I have recently traveled to Washington for business and Berlin for leisure so I’ve stocked up on all the skincare saviours that seem to help my skin heal.Skincare saviours The Pai Rosehip Biogenerate Oil is the best facial oil I have ever used. It’s been healing my scars slowly but surely and it makes my skin feel alive again. REN’s Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Serum Oil is a soothing, anti-inflammatory serum that reduces the swelling around pimples and clogged pores. I use it everyday underneath my makeup. Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian is possibly the most soothing cleanser I have ever used. It cleans my skin without stripping off the natural oils and always makes my skin feel soft and clean. I do have to work this in properly into my skin and massage it for best results. Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner is an exfoliating toner that removes dead cells. I use this once a day to make sure my skin is thoroughly clean before apply serum. Perricone MD Citrus Facial Wash is what I use when I want to wash my face quickly especially in the morning or before heading to the gym. I never wear makeup when I’m at the gym as I’m afraid I will clog my pores even more. The down side is that I sometimes bump into people I know (Oslo is a tiny city) and I always feel a bit embarrassed about my appearance. If you see me around the city and I’m uncomfortable, it’s because I’m bare faced without my game face. The wash is really good and it always removes the last traces of makeup and grime left after I’ve used an oil based cleanser to remove my makeup. SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense is a newly acquired serum that I’m still learning how to use optimally. So far, I do like it as it seems to be reducing the amount of bumps I get on my face. Smooth, blemish free skin is still all I dream about. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t help it. Korres Pomegranate Moisturizing Creme Gel is a no nonsense moisturizer that works very well for my combination skin. I was lucky that a good friend’s Mom got this for me in Greece where it’s a lot more reasonably priced. Lastly, the Kate Sommerville Daily Nourish and Goat Milk moisturisers are very soothing and calming for my skin. They don’t cause any breakouts so far for which I’m very, very glad.

In a way, you can say I’m learning how to be me again and I’m just getting started.

20 Questions

Denise of CircuitsOfFever had this questionnaire and I figured I’d do the same as it’s always nice to write something different. So here goes…

  1. What are your greatest indulgences? Well fitting clothing, good skin care products, and make up products.
  2. What are three things on your last credit card statement? I don’t have a credit card and will never get one for as long as I can avoid it. The last three items on my debit card is likely the salad I had for lunch, facial cotton (they were 3 for 2), and raspberries from the supermarket.
  3. What is your biggest regret? Nothing, really. I try to live each day to the fullest and take things in stride. I don’t think anything has gone so wrong that I wish it had not happened. After all, when one door closes, another will open.
  4. What can you not miss on TV? I don’t watch actual TV, just Netflix, HBO, and some episodes online. My current favourites are Grey’s Anatomy (it’s hard to not watch a show that you’ve been watching for almost a decade), Suits, How I Met Your Mother, Elementary (makes me want to live in New York), Hawaii Five-O, Sleepy Hollow, and a few more I think.
  5. What brings you the greatest joy? A productive day at work, clean bedding, a good book,  and coffee at a nice cafe with the husband.
  6. What is on your bucket list? Travelling to Japan and also seeing the Golden Temple in Punjab.
  7. What is the best gift you’ve received? Diamonds from my mother and the chance to study Engineering in Australia from my father. Not to sound soppy or anything but I wouldn’t be where I am right now if my Dad didn’t give me the gift of education.
  8. What is on your perennial to-do list? Live more: read, travel, see, hear, experience, etc. I’d rather spend money on an experience than on a thing.
  9. What apps can you not live without? Instagram –  as there are some wonderful people I’ve met there recently who make me appreciate everything I see around me.
  10. What is your go-to karaoke/shower song? I don’t really do karaoke and I no longer sing in the shower. I don’t know why I stopped :)
  11. What superstition do you believe in?  Hm, not many. I can’t think of one right now.
  12. Of the seven deadly sins, which one are you guilty of? Probably gluttony.
  13. What charities do you support? No particular one but I do make donations to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.
  14. Who are your heroes? Not celebrities :) I’m inspired by successful people who can still be normal and completely unfazed by their success. I’m also very respectful of working women who balance their personal and professional life beautifully.
  15. What should every woman try at least once in her life? Enjoying your own company. I think we shouldn’t feel lonely in our own company because if we can’t spend time with ourselves, how can we expect other people to spend time with us?
  16. Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party? Lisa Eldridge, Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear cracks me up), Hugh Laurie and Bobbi Brown.
  17. Do you have a secret talent? I used to play the organ. I miss it every single day.
  18. Who do you follow on Twitter? Some friends. Some beauty bloggers. Some ex colleagues who are good friends. Some cosmetic brands. I try not to follow people who get upset over little things as I like my Twitter feed to be cheerful and positive.
  19. How did you make your first dollar? I worked in a bookstore when I was 17. It was not an easy job but very eye opening.
  20. What is one thing you wish you had known when you were younger? There are many different ways to be successful. You don’t always have to pick the toughest option.

What do you eat…

…when the list of things you can’t eat is longer than the list of things you can eat?

As I mentioned awhile back, I’ve been on an elimination diet. My elimination diet lasted for a good 11 weeks and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a long time. Kind of up there as when I wore braces in my teenage years. This elimination/provocation diet is based on a strict meal plan that my nutritionist devised for me, based on my blood work. It’s really difficult and it means that there’s very little chance of eating out or even eating a piece of cake. 90% of the food I eat is all made at home in my own kitchen. The rest of it is purchased either from health food stores or bakeries that specialise in this sort of food.

For my elimination diet, I can’t eat the following: dairy products, fruit (except for berries), wheat, gluten, yeast, sugar, corn, potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles, and oats. This cuts out a major chunk of my meals so the husband and I have had to be very creative with what we eat. Of course it helps that there are thousands of recipes on the Internet with ingredients that I *am* allowed to eat. Here are some photos of what I’ve been eating…

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Low carb toast spread with pesto then topped with parma, julienned carrots, alfalfa sprouts and dried cranberries.

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Omelette with capsicum and onions served with fried sausages and half an avocado.

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Thai style red curry with chicken and asparagus.

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Tandoori chicken salad with yoghurt dressing.

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Curried roasted butternut squash soup with coconut milk. Served with a slice of low carb bread.

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Fish Korma inspired by Jamie Oliver with Salmon. Served with Cauliflower rice seasoned with lime juice and coriander.

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Green Chili inspired by Jamie Oliver. This is similar to regular Chili con Carne but it has a fresher taste.

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Mushroom soup with soya cream

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Eggplant and chickpea curry with cauliflower rice

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A very green meal: Pesto coated baked chicken with steamed broccoli and asparagus

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Tandoori spiced baked chicken on a bed of greens with alfalfa, sesame seeds and spiced yoghurt dressing.

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Chickpea pancakes with picco de gallo and Greek yoghurt

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Tandoori spice marinated salmon fillet on a bed of greens with sliced raddichio, carrots and a handful of dried cranberries. Served with a yoghurt dressing.

About 3 weeks ago, I started my provocation diet. According to my nutritionist, the provocation diet is done when your system is in a more stable state. For me this was after ~11 weeks of being on the elimination diet. I’ve actually gotten very used to the elimination diet, though the provocation diet puts me on an edge. This is because the provocation diet is done for 5 days by including 1 ingredient that is possibly a trigger and then switching back to elimination for 2 days before going on another 5 days with the next ingredient.

My skin is slowly healing. But so far I have discovered some reactions to certain food. I’m not 100% sure if what I observed were indeed reactions; it depends on what my nutritionist says next, when I see her again. But it’s been an interesting experiment. “You are what you eat” has never been more true to me lately, than ever. I haven’t really sat in a proper restaurant and eaten regular food lately. There’s the odd cafe here and there where I only order 0.5% of the menu :) My taste buds are so out of whack it’s like nothing really tastes good anymore. Everything is bland and uninteresting. I no longer look forward to food any more, which is very strange for a foodie (or ex-foodie) like myself. It’s a bit embarrassing when people ask me “Hey have you tried that new restaurant” because I no longer have that luxury.

It’s also eye opening how much of sugar, wheat, gluten, rice syrup, lactose, etc. is in our food. Even regular ham slices have sugar in them. Bottled crushed tomatoes that you use to make pasta sauce has sugar in it.

I’ve lost about 8.0 kg so far which doesn’t seem like much but is actually a bit depressing for me. I feel like my features look a little strange. I know, how can anybody be sad about weight loss, you ask? It’s my clothing :( I love my clothes. I won’t lie, I have a lot of clothes because I love dressing up everyday. When we travel, I always try to buy something unique. I’m also not a huge fan of the clothing that they sell here in Oslo because I feel they’re not unique enough. You either shop in Zara, Mango, H&M or you buy really expensive designer items. My taste is somewhere in the middle and unfortunately the shops in Oslo don’t really cater for that. I usually shop in Gap, J Crew, Madewell, and Levi’s when we travel. I love simplistic, basic clothing with the perfect cutting. Nothing excites me more than a pair of perfectly fitting jeans. I actually live in jeans :)

My nutritionist explained that the mind has to get used to how the body looks – since it now looks different. I think I’m taking a long time here for my mind to adjust.

I don’t have a supermodel figure – never did – but I guess I’m on the path to becoming a better version of myself. A lot of very positive minded people say that you should think of yourself as “work in progress”. I guess I should probably start thinking of myself that way :)

When I started the elimination diet in October, I couldn’t workout at all. I tried to run for 40 minutes but had to stop 15 minutes into the workout as I thought I was going to die. I was gasping for breath and so, so tired. It turns out that the body takes some time to learn how to get energy from fat instead of carbs.  However, recently, I started working out again and it’s been going much better. I now have more energy than I used to. I also don’t really get much aches and pains any more. According to my doctor, previously I had a high level of inflammation in my body but now we have managed to reduce it. The other thing she mentioned was that the skin heals last. For now, I’m just waiting for that to happen *Fingers crossed* …

Still Kickin’

November has been one whirlwind of a month – complete with all the drama and chaos you can possibly imagine.

I spent 10 days in Kuala Lumpur and the husband joined me a few days later – we rushed around trying to get as many wedding planning tasks checked off our list. We met up with our wedding planner and did food tasting. Both were amazing – the wedding planner (we have no idea what we would do without her) and the food. The venue only let us taste 10 of our food items so we couldn’t taste all of it. But, what we tasted were definitely good and we were quite happy with the way the dishes seems to complement each other. So looking forward to the event, but then again, most couples say they didn’t really get a chance to savour their wedding food :) Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy your food on that day.

We picked up our wedding invitations and have slowly started sending them out. Our overseas friends are first up on our list because it takes awhile to plan a trip across the world and we really hope for them to have enough time to consider the trip. And, if you’re coming all the way to Asia already, why not add some other destinations to your trip as well, you know?

We successfully managed to legalise our Norwegian marriage certificate back home but there were some hiccups and we spent many days trying to iron them out – but then again, such is bureaucracy right? :(

We didn’t have any time to meet up with friends – but that’s one of the areas where I’m pretty bad at when I get home. It’s not because I don’t want to see my friends but it’s more because we have to please so many people and schedule everything around my family’s time that by the end of the trip we realise we left out so many tasks. This time it was all about the wedding. We wanted to make sure we did most of the things without bothering my parents or my siblings – who all have their own busy lives. I know I probably offended a friend or two but I really hope to make it up to them on my next trip home.

The husband rented a car this time to get a taste of driving around Malaysia – he seemed to enjoy it. I don’t really drive so I sat in the back seat while my Dad (kind as he always is) helped the husband to navigate the routes around KL.

So that was our trip. I plan to write more about my diet but that will be a separate post. I hope you’ve been well!

The Great Detox

I’m currently working with a doctor and a nutritionist on my skin health. I know it sounds very drastic to be doing this, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I just cannot seem to deal with my skin woes: acne and eczema. I honestly think that, that’s not how our skin should look like.

As mentioned before, I’m also done with taking medication to attempt to fix the superficial issues without addressing the underlying cause. So, with that in mind, I’ve undergone a huge battery of tests that now indicate a few things: I’m lactose intolerant and I’m also short of certain vitamins that I had no idea about. It’s funny how I’ve done various blood tests of the years to detect for pollen allergy and virus issues but no doctor actually told me that I had way too little Vitamin D.

Of course it doesn’t help that what I ate when I was young and what I eat now are completely poles apart. It seems I’m also very stressed. Well, I know from time to time, I feel quite stressed but it seems I have low cortisol levels that make it quite hard for me to be energetic.

So the ‘treatment’ is a form of alternative treatment where you don’t take medication. Instead you take supplements while changing your diet. Healing yourself by eating the right food. Now you know what I’m getting at :)

I’ve been prescribed a new diet: no sugar, low carb, no bread, no pasta, no yeast, no fruit and no dairy. There are some exclusions, but they aren’t many. Today marks my 1 week being on this diet and all I can say is: It is so, so, hard. You’re probably thinking “Come on Fieran, where’s your optimism?”

The challenge here is that I’m a foodie, a real foodie. I can resist sugar and stuff – most of the time – but I get my happiness from visiting cafes, treating myself to good food at restaurants, trading hole-in-the-wall eateries with my friends, etc. I think, some days, when I’m travelling, my sole goal is to locate a particular restaurant and devour at last 2 dishes off their menu. (Which explains why I’m fat :)) When you give up your home to move to different countries, pieces of your personality and habits chip away, revealing a citizen of the world. You absorb other cultures, languages, traditions, environments – but there are a few things that you hold dearly and won’t compromise on. I think my food habits, not eating beef, and the English language are factors that I hold very dearly and won’t compromise on.

Unfortunately, the food habits part needs to change. This diet is known as the elimination diet where you eliminate types of food and see how your body reacts to it. It’s said to be like a form of restarting your system to get a clean slate before these types of food are added back into your diet, one by one, (provocation diet) to detect which type of food is causing an imbalance in the body – resulting in bad skin.

So the first thing I’ve done is to count the days. I have to be on this diet for 6 weeks. But I’m also going home to Malaysia next month which means a full trip to Malaysia not eating any real Malaysian food. *cue sad violin music*

The next thing I’ve done is to not eat at the office canteen. That’s actually the easiest thing to do as I figured if I don’t see normal food, I won’t miss it. The husband and I have been cooking extra food for dinner and refrigerating it for my lunch the next day. The husband is kind of following the diet to make things easier (thankfully) – cooking two different meals is quite cumbersome. But he eats whatever he likes at work. So I’m one of those people who walks around the office canteen with a Tupperware, reheating my meals in the microwave. Then I sit at my desk and eat a quiet lunch.

I pack all my snacks with me too – almonds, almond butter, walnuts, unsweetened soy, berries, Stevia, low carb bread (ordered from a local bakery here) and sometimes home made Bounty.

I won’t be able to eat at most restaurants for now – but there are two nice cafes around my office where I can get a good salad for lunch. I’ve been frequenting one of them recently but I need to explore the other one soon for variety sake.

I’ve also been on a hunt for different types of recipes – it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet. I plan to make these Lemon Poppyseed Muffins soon by substituting the sugar with Sukrin and the Shortening for Butter (a certain type available here (Meieriesmoer) that I’m allowed to eat small quantities of). Oh I also get to eat yoghurt and eggs which makes it even easier to bake.

I think the universe is asking me “How far will you go for good skin health?” and to that my answer is “Quite far. Try me.” So I’m being tested. Let’s see how I fare.

The Path

Cobblestones on an evening walk

Cobblestones on an evening walk

It’s been about a month since we got our civil marriage done. The rest of July passed in a blur of moving madness: packing, cleaning, moving, more packing, more cleaning, more sorting — rinse and repeat. We now live in our own apartment. It’s such a nice feeling to know that this place is ours. I’m still unpacking, bit by bit. I still have the luxury of empty shelves and unoccupied drawers but I don’t know for how long this luxury will exist once I unpack everything.

The husband and I have a deal where we unpack a box or two each week. So far it’s been going well but we are still hopping over boxes or bags from time to time. Our coffee table arrived last week and it is kind of amazing. I didn’t think I’d ever be that excited about a coffee table. It was a gift from the husband’s family back in Germany. Wedding planning is still going on. We are currently working on our wedding invitations. We will also be heading back to Malaysia in November to do more wedding planning.

We’ve been cooking a lot. Mostly simple dishes that don’t require too much time so we still have time for the gym, movies, work, Netflix and HBO :) I’ve also been undergoing medical tests to determine what my health level is like and what I can do to improve it. It’s actually more for my skin than anything else. We’ll see how that goes.

Time does fly. Last week I got a promotion at work. It was a real pleasant surprise. I won’t lie – I am an ambitious person with huge career aspirations but I have also learned over the years that having a successful career does come at a price: time, health, patience, youth, friendship, etc. I’m still working on this balance. But it has been a really nice weekend basking in positive review and thinking how to treat myself. We might travel some place fun end of the year. Hopefully those plans take shape.

Hitched

Our rings

Our rings

The fiancee and I got hitched last Friday. We wanted the same date as our celebration back in Malaysia next year, and thankfully our paperwork went through easily. We were quite worried there would be a lot of red tape but there was minimal.

We will be moving in together end of this month and then the real planning starts for next year’s event. Right now we’re waiting for some missing pieces of furniture and I’m in the midst of completing packing up my apartment.

There’s a photo of our rings. I have crooked fingers :)

The Skincare Drama

Every time the weather changes, my skin goes haywire. As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been working on fixing my skin to a certain extent so I don’t have to pile on foundation and concealer to look a little bit less scary.

We all know acne is downright upsetting, annoying, heartbreaking and just disappointing. So, after 2 months of constantly watching my skin like a hawk, it’s finally getting better. I’ve figured out some of the ingredients in food and skincare products that have been irritating my skin. I know skincare is subjective and varies from person to person but these are what have worked for me so far. My skin is not perfect, but it’s healing and I’ll take this skin condition any day.

There’s a nice quote from Coco Chanel, “Nature gives you the face you have at 20; it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50.” I have no problem looking my age, really. As much as it irritates me that I have to grow older and deal with aches and pains in the future, I’d like to look my age. Not older, for sure.

1. Sulphate free, non-foaming cleansers

I was very inspired by Caroline Hirons who continuously evangelises non-foaming, creamy cleansers. As somebody with combination/oily skin, the most comforting feeling at the end of the day is using a very foamy cleanser to wash every single speck of impurity from my skin. But, I thought I’ll try a balm type of cleanser just to see how my skin reacts. I’ve been alternating with Emma Hardie’s Amazing Face cleanser, REN’s ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser [I think they were trying to see how many "Cs" they can put in a product name], and REN’s No. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm. These cleansers are wonderful. They leave my skin feeling moisturized, plump and smooth. I actually look forward to cleansing my face everyday, as cliché as it sounds. When I wear makeup, I wash my face twice. The first round is to melt all the makeup away, and the second round is to actually clean the skin. This is another tip from Mrs Hirons.

2. Using a flannel or a face towel

Sounds very old fashioned, right? To use a flannel or a face towel? Well, it works. I used to get a lot of bumps along my hairline as I think I wasn’t removing my makeup properly around that area. You think your skin is clean until you put a towel on it and then you see all the leftover makeup. *Shudder* I do have to buy quite a few pieces of face towels as I don’t like to re-use the same one for morning and evening. But you only get one face, so might as well invest in it.

3. Using primers without silicone

This one is a bit difficult for me as my favourite primers are chock-full or silicone. I’ve known that my skin doesn’t tolerate silicone very well, but I had less issues with it in Winter, so I went on to use my regular primers in Summer only to notice small, annoying bumps on my cheeks. So I now only use silicone free primers. MAC makes a nice one known as Prep+Prime Natural Radiance. I’ve also noticed that Laura Mercier’s Oil free Foundation Primer has silicone but it’s at a much lower level of the ingredients list (as Dimethicone) unlike my favourite Estee Lauder Matte Perfecting Primer.

4. Completely cutting out Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is just evil – at least for my face. I try very hard to avoid products with mineral oil in it as I get bumps almost immediately. Cystic ones too. *Heartbreak* One of the best foundations I have used is Illamasqua Skin Base. I tested it by chance in Sephora in Seattle last year and the colour match was perfect. I was using it until recently I noticed that there’s mineral oil in it. See ingredients here. I was gutted. The bumps on my skin made so much sense. Sigh, why big companies insist on making face products with mineral oil is beyond me.

5. Completely cutting out Dairy

This one is really difficult for me, because I love Cafe Lattes, cheesecake, etc. But I am also lactose intolerant so I barely eat dairy nowadays. I can’t do sour cream or heavy cream, but I can drink skimmed milk in small amounts most of the time. Now with my skin, I’ve tried to cut out skimmed milk as well. I have soy in my Cafe Lattes and sometimes just completely skip coffee in favour of green tea. It’s difficult but having clear skin is at a higher priority for now.

6. Omega 3 Supplements

I mentioned in my earlier post that I was taking Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend. It’s been two months now and I’m slowly starting to see improvements. My lips are no longer dry or flaky and my skin is clearer. Taking two tablespoons of raw oil post breakfast is a challenge. Especially if you’ve grown up eating delicious food and everything must taste good. But, the pros outweigh the cons, so I force myself to gulp the oil down. Any retching sound is unintentional. Heh ;)

7. Sunscreen

I have a love-hate relationship with sunscreen. I really like using it and am happy to invest the extra time to apply SPF50 before applying my makeup. But my skin hates it. Most of the sunscreen I have seem to break me out. There’s only one sunscreen who is kind to me and that is Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defence SPF 50. It’s quite difficult to get a hold of this product though because the other versions of Kiehl’s sunscreen seem to drive my skin crazy. I get huge pimples and small ones too and they are almost impossible to clear out.

8. Cutting out sugar

I’m sweet tooth. I love sugar. But my body does not. The less sugar I eat, the more patient, less-cranky and tolerant I am. I’ve actually seen a connection between my skin and eating a slice of pecan pie the day before. It’s *that* bad. So, I’ve been reducing my sugar intake. It’s like teaching yourself to eat – again. Reaching for fruit instead of sugary snacks. It’s not easy, but I’ve also read that sugar ages you. So I try to use that as a way to motivate myself to eat less sugar.

9. Alpha-H Liquid Gold

I use this AHA serum to heal acne scars. It works slowly but I do see an improvement. I use it twice a week as a night time treatment. It definitely has reduced the clogs in my pores.

So there you have it. I am not too happy about turning into a health freak, but I don’t want to take antibiotics for my skin, neither do I want to use harsh chemicals to treat my skin. This is the middle ground that I’m starting to discover. I do hope my skin keeps improving :)

Lately..

It’s been a trying month. In some ways I am so glad June is ending because it’s been a really rough month with so many things happening simultaneously. It’s like the universe is pulling me in so many directions and I don’t know which way to go.

I spent a huge amount of time this month doing the following:

  1. Taking care of my skin – Seriously my skin has been rebelling like crazy. I have gone off these antibiotics that I was on, off and on, for the past two years or so. My Mom wasn’t very happy about me being on antibiotics for so long as she said it could weaken my system on the inside. I figured she had a point, so I completely stopped my antibiotics. The first month was rough. No skincare product in my stash worked. My favourite cleanser was acting strange and my beloved Advanced Night Repair was just not working. To add insult to injury, La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo gave me a face full (OK, maybe two-thirds? I can’t help it okay, I have a big face.) of bumps that later turned into whiteheads. Talk about adding insult to injury!  The only thing that could calm my skin then was fresh yoghurt. Some days I mixed it with honey. It was so soothing. Then, the wonderful London trip happened and the universe gave me Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend. I was at Liberty, trying to find skincare that Caroline Hirons had been recommending on her skincare blog and ended up spending a bit more than 100 quid. Not everything was for me – some things were for friends. When the sales assistant gave me my shopping bag, she gave me another bag as well. A slightly heavy paper bag full of goodies. She mentioned that it was a Gift With Purchase. I had no idea that it was a special day at Liberty but then again there were waiters offering me champagne – I should have guessed. The thing about not drinking alcohol is that all these “perks” kind of slip away unnoticed :) Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend was one of the precious things in this paper bag. I’ve been taking this oil for the past 6 weeks and my skin is slowly healing. It doesn’t look amazing – yet – but I shall give it time.
  2. Cleaning out my apartment – I’m still nowhere near done packing but the place has been listed on the rental market and I sat around while the viewing was held. It’s very weird when people view an apartment that you lived in for almost 5 years. You have tons of people coming in and sitting everywhere. Using your precious makeup storage chest of drawers as a table, etc. It’s quite nerve wracking if you’re the type who loves your things a little too much — like me. On the upside, in about a month I would have moved out. This time, next month, the professional cleaners will be cleaning the apartment. It’s going to be surreal to move. Alas, nothing is forever. The only constant in life is change itself, I hear.
  3. Trying really hard to eat healthy. I love sugar. I just don’t say it out loud and constantly pretend like I don’t because I know it’s wrong. The only thing I love more than sugar is bread. But sugar and milk reek havoc on my skin so I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with both ingredients and I constantly battle the urge to eat them. It’s been a bit easier to cut milk lately as I’ve been keeping almond milk and rice milk in the fridge. The sugar part is getting slightly easier as I try to eat a bit cleaner than I usually do. I’m slowly cutting out all my pastries, swapping them for fruit instead. I usually drink 3-4 lattes a week. I’m going to try to reduce it to 1-2 lattes instead. Let’s see how that goes.
  4. Working. Enough said.
  5. Hunting for lighting and storage ideas for the next apartment. The fiancee already lives in the apartment that I will move into once we get registered here. But it’s not really fully furnished yet. There are some things missing and we have been spending most of our weekends walking around furniture and lighting shops, looking for “the lamp” and “the sink”. It’s been interesting, nevertheless as we realize that we do have very similar tastes – aesthetically pleasing yet functional. We found 1 lamp and have 2 more to look for. The sink is something that we are still deliberating on. If being an adult is picking out a sink instead of a handbag – I think I can do that :)
  6. Trying really hard not to travel. With the wedding just a year away, it’s become our second most important priority. The first one being furnishing the house. I’ve been resisting all these travel e-mails that come my way. It’s been really difficult as I love to travel. But traveling is not cheap and I need to save my vacation days for a trip to Malaysia end of this year to do more wedding planning.

So there, that’s what I’ve been up to, hence the radio silence :)

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