Friday, March 4, 2016

Stitch Fix #4 Review

StitchFix clothes always look so pretty coming out of the package!
It's been awhile, but I decided to give Stitch Fix a go again, and I'm so happy that I did! I've gotten a few questions from friends curious about giving the service a shot, so I thought it was a good time to get my thoughts down.

This was my fourth Stitch Fix delivery, and as many reviewers say, I feel like my items have gotten better over time as I've provided feedback regarding what I do and don't like. My first two Fixes, I kept one item each time. My third Fix, which was right before our honeymoon, I kept three things, including a pair of jeans that I wear almost every day. And I'm in the process of making a decision on this current one...

Some of the basics to know: 
You pay $20 for a delivery that typically has 5 different items selected for you by one of the StitchFix stylists, usually a combination of tops, pants, skirts, dresses, and accessories, depending on what preferences you indicate in your profile. You try everything on, and then decide what you want to keep, and send back the rest in the mailer bag they provide. StitchFix charge your card for the remaining amount, and also provide space for you to give feedback on the items you didn't keep. They include a pricing sheet so that you can decide based on the cost of each item. There is a 25% discount if you keep all five items. You can sign up for whatever frequency of deliveries that you'd like, from monthly or bi-monthly to just ordering on occasion, which is what I've typically done.

A few things I've learned along the way:

Update your style profile often. Your style profile is the primary thing that the stylists look at when they are deciding what to send you and the more specific you are, the better. Size preferences, your preferred price points, items to send/not send, color and print preferences, business vs. party vs. casual, etc.  

Because I hadn't ordered in awhile, I was sure to update with my current sizes and needs. I also noticed they had some new questions, one of which I was super excited about. Petite sizing!!! I have loved some of the tops that they've sent me in the past, but because I'm a shortie with a short torso, they often looked way too long on me, and so I'd send 'em back. I checked this box, and in my current fix, 3 of the 5 items were sized for petites. Yeah!

Use a Pinterest Board to show what you like. There is an option in the style profile to include a link to a Pinterest board that the stylists can look at to see what types of items you like, and what style trends excite you. I went in and updated my clothing Pinterest board before ordering, and made sure to include current trends I liked, even pinning things directly off of the Stitch Fix boards or from other bloggers reviews. I also cleaned out things that I was no longer really that excited about. My stylist, Libby, noted that she went in and looked at my board, and used it to pull some particular items for me.

Be specific in what you are asking for and in your feedback on items. They tell you this over and over throughout the site - "the more we know about you, the better we can style for you." With each order, I've tried to note specific things I wanted. This time, I noted that I was looking to build back my wardrobe after losing some weight and purging quite a bit of my clothes. I asked for a new pair of jeans, noting that I had loved the last pair they sent me. I also noted that I was looking for some classic pieces, like a black or navy blazer. And they delivered on both! I also try to give very clear details at checkout on why I have returned something they've sent. This was too busy of a print for me. Loved the color on this top, but the cut was off for my body shape. The quality of this item just didn't seem to match the price.

Try stuff on in daylight, and try it all on. So typically my deliveries have come on weekdays, which means I'm often opening them after work when it's dark out. I try stuff on that night, but I've also learned to try everything on again in the morning. Stuff just looks different in daylight. I also try everything on, even if I open the box and see something that I'm instantly iffy about. Sometimes I've been right that something wouldn't work, and other times, I leaned in to the stylist's suggestion and found I really liked something that I never would have picked for myself.

Common questions:

What's the price point? It depends. As I mentioned earlier, you let them know what you'd prefer to spend per item. I usually note "as cheap as possible" for most categories. I'm not at a place where I can spend a lot of money on clothes.

Are there any downsides? Possibly. There is always the chance that you get a Fix that just misses the mark. I had one Fix where I wasn't in love with anything but did keep something just to not lose my $20. But I feel like there is more potential for that at the beginning, and that naturally happens less the more that they get to know you. I have also been sent some items that I liked but felt like were more of a $25 top you might find at Target or Forever 21 than a $40-70 top. Initially I also received quite a few dry-clean only tops, which is just not really my jam. I go to the dry cleaners about once every year and a half. I asked that they send me less of those, and I believe only one of the current tops I received is dry clean only. I do have a Dryel kit now though, which makes it easier to keep up with my dry-clean only tops.     

Want to see what I got this month? Here it is!

Green tab-sleeve blouse from Collective Concepts and Skinny Jeans from Kut from the Kloth
Purple, grey and pink chevron print top from Pixley
Navy, pink and white plaid blouse from Papermoon and Navy Blazer from Kensie

My initial thoughts?
This was my best Fix yet, and I'd love to keep the same stylist moving forward. This is the second pair of jeans that I've received that fit perfectly - and we all know how icky shopping for jeans can be. The green top is one of my favorite colors. Despite the fact it is super wrinkled and could spend some quality time with the steamer, I really like the cut and loved that it wasn't too long. Petite sizing for the win! I wasn't sure initially about the print of the chevron top, since I tend to stick to stripes or polka dots, but it fits well and is super comfortable and the print grew on me as I wore it. I also was willing to give the navy and pink plaid top a shot, although it wouldn't be something I ever would have picked up in a store. It looks awesome with the blazer, and would be a great piece for work or going out to dinner. And the blazer was a win all around! And to have all of my tops be the right length, yeah! This is the first time I am debating keeping everything. If I do, I'd basically be getting either the jeans or the blazer for free, with the 25% discount. Plus I have a credit with Stitch Fix, making the cost doable. 

I have until Monday to decide. What do you think? Which item is your favorite?

Want to try Stitch Fix for yourself? Here's my referral link. Full disclosure: If you do order a Fix, I receive a $25 credit. 


Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Whole30 Must Haves

My snack pack for attending a football game when I knew I couldn't eat anything in the stadium.
 I tend to approach Whole30 fairly simply for a couple of reasons. First, I am feeding not only myself, but also my husband, who does not do Whole30 with me. So I'm typically making something that accommodates both of our eating preferences. I also don't want to break the bank buying a whole bunch of specialty foods or ingredients that are only used for Whole30 recipes.

But there are some foods that I found to be totally worth it, that make life more delicious and stress-free. Some of these are things that make life easier, and others are things that feel like treats, which makes Whole30 feel a lot less restrictive.

1. Ghee/clarified butter - so glad that I found this. You can make your own, but that just sounded like a lot of work when I can find it at Trader Joe's. There are just certain foods that could use that buttery flavor, and so this was totally worth it.

2. Guacamole - watch the ingredients on store-bought guacamole, but know that guac got me through two Whole30 rounds for a reason. Your body needs healthy fats to feel full, and these are perfect for that. Costco has the huge packs of Wholly Guacamole singles, but I've also purchased single-serve guacamole from Aldi, Target, and other places too. One of my on-the-go breakfast items (almost every day) was dipping carrots in guacamole.

Whole Foods Gua-kale-mole is really good stuff.
3. Coconut Aminos - If you like to cook different meat and veggie stir frys, this is a great substitute for soy sauce. And one of my easy peasy meals during Whole30 is creating lettuce wraps with ground chicken or turkey cooked with garlic, ginger, and coconut aminos. Limited ingredient, super quick meals are totally my thing.

4. Chomps Snack Sticks - Okay, you might be able to live without beef sticks. Not me. I ate a lot of beef sticks prior to Whole30 (my coworkers can attest), and so I was very excited to find compliant ones. For days that I needed to pack some emergency snacks, these came in handy.

5. Almond butter - Almond butter became a little bit too much of a comfort food for me during the first Whole30 (I went through more than one jar...). There were times that I would get home from work and need a quick spoonful to give me a little boost before making dinner. This time I was much more mindful, and ate a lot less of it, but it was another great thing to keep on hand for those days that I needed a quick snack. Plus it's tasty with celery sticks or apple slices.

6. LaCroix - LaCroix has helped me kick my soda habit a few different times. It's become such a part of my daily routine that I'm known to show up at friend's houses with a LaCroix in hand. My alcohol-free version of BYOB, I guess?

7. Peppermint Tea - At our house we have developed sort of a nightly ritual where we drink a cup of peppermint tea after dinner while watching tv. It's become such a comforting ritual that I look forward to each night.

8. Fancy olives - One of my favorite splurges has been going to the Whole Foods olive bar and making a small container of mixed olives and roasted tomatoes. Total treat. And amazing salad topping that eliminates the need for a dressing!

Mmm. Briny and delicious.

9. Macadamia nuts - The splurge of nuts, but boy do I love them. Definitely in the treat category.

10. Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning - One of my favorite discoveries this time around was that my favorite cajun seasoning is Whole30 compliant. Since that moment, I've been putting it on everything - chicken, broccoli, potatoes.

Everyone has their own things that help them to make the program fit for them. My must haves may be totally different than yours, and have also varied some between my two Whole30s. For some folks it's Larabars, which unfortunately I can't eat. For others it's specific fruits or veggies - I ate a whole lot of kale salad and roasted broccoli this time around.

Have you done a Whole30? Do you have any must haves?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Second Whole30

Or rather, Whole 29. That's right. Full disclosure: I totally cheated on the second to last day.

It was stupid. I got through all of the crazy busy weeks, and thought I was doing so well that it wouldn't be a big deal to bake some dairy-filled, sugar-filled, grain-filled dessert treats for the students. And my willpower was just not as strong as I thought it was. I totally ate one of the frosted almond bars. And I felt sad. And mad. And disappointed. Mainly that I was going back to my all-or-nothing way of doing things, and that I wasn't going to be able to find a happy medium. Dreading that a week later, I'd be eating a daily Jack's pizza and feeling horrible.

But a good friend reminded me of a few things. First, to recognize the many accomplishments that I had made in 29 days. Also, that I had already done this once before, and proven that I could do it. Perhaps I didn't have to do a full 30 days again if I was able to retain the concepts. Okay, perhaps scarfing down an almond bar wasn't a win. But I had really worked on some good habits that have the potential to stick for awhile.

Then, I read these three posts (1, 2, and 3) in a series about what the creator of Whole30 eats, and how she incorporates the concepts into her daily life, but also where she gives herself room to eat non-compliant stuff. And I realized there is a way to do this that fits for my life, that may mean incorporating some foods back in that I'm missing and that are okay for my body, while still being healthy and feeling good.

This may be Whole30 compliant in ingredients, but holy giant omelet! This lasted 3 meals!
And so rather than dwelling on my mistake and going into a food-shame spiral (which I think we tend to do to ourselves), I want to highlight some of the major wins from this experience and some of the things that I learned about myself.

I can do this, even during my busiest time. Despite cravings and temptations, I stuck with this through the busiest times of my job where I was working many nights and weekends. There were days that I packed all three meals. I made it work. Which shows that with good planning and preparation, there is really no reason or excuse to not eat healthy. I tend to give in and eat lots of junk food during those times and use it as an excuse, but really that's when I need to have good healthy practices the most!

I got to make some delicious meals with my husband, family, and friends. For both rounds of Whole30, my husband and I had so many more family dinners together. And there were a bunch of times that we made meals as a team, whether grilling or making a pot of chili. Or doing a potluck with friends. And that's an amazing non-scale victory (NSV) to me!

Grilled bison steaks with chimichurri and lots of veggies that we made together
I feel amazing. After so many months of stomach issues, I feel great! I have so much more energy than I did before and my skin is brighter and clearer. And I managed to power through the cold that I got from being rundown with my schedule in just a few days, which I attribute to eating and drinking my way through it, with very limited meds.

I hit a number on the scale that I haven't seen since high school. I want to be clear that weight loss wasn't my primary goal for doing this. But it was very motivating to see that I could impact positive changes to my body through making more nutritious choices. And that boost in confidence is nice!

I still can go out to eat and be social. There are a number of menu items that I could work with to have a night out of the house. Which is awesome, because one of the challenges of Whole30 is the sheer amount of time spent cooking and cleaning. And breaks from that are necessary. I love spending less money on eating out, but it is nice to do every once in awhile. Especially with friends and family.

I didn't feel limited. Others assume Whole30 sucks. And they say "Ugh, that's why I don't diet." Or share "I couldn't do this because I couldn't give up X." And I probably would have said something similar too. But once I got past the first few days of not having half and half in my coffee, I didn't really think about it that way as I was making meals. For me, it doesn't feel like a diet. And once my thinking was reframed, there were a lot of things that felt like treats that were 100 percent compliant. Hello red grapes! So delicious. And while doing it, I also didn't think often, "oh my gosh, I can't wait to eat X again." 

I benefited from having lots of fresh veggies through our CSA and made a point to use almost all of them. I think that doing a Whole30 during the summer/fall is SO much easier than winter. Access and cost of fresh produce makes such a difference to having more variety of food items and keeping the budget in check. And I threw away a lot less of my CSA veggies than before. And now I need a plan for maintaining a supply of vegetables through the winter.

Making homemade veggie stock with leftover scraps from CSA veggies
I need to focus on the reintroduction phase. I totally skipped on this the first time around. I intended to do it better this time. And then I didn't. I jumped right into eating a few things that combined dairy and grain, making it hard to tell what made me feel like yuck. And that's the whole point of the process if you want to get better knowledge of how and which foods are affecting you. So that's my biggest goal post-Whole30. I'm not going to start all over, at least not right now. But I have been doing days of full-on Whole30, and then a Whole30 + dairy, Whole 30 + beans, etc. I think this will better help me pinpoint what I can reintroduce more regularly and know my body's reactions better.

I want to celebrate living a better life, with the occasional indulgences. I've been listening to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft, and one of their "Try This at Home" tips for greater happiness is to Choose the Bigger Life when making decisions. As I think about what this means for me and food, I know that my life is happier when it's focused on homemade meals with friends and family. Eating dinner at the kitchen table with good conversation with my husband (and usually some lingering cats). Making recipes with tasty ingredients and mindful eating. And I think there is totally room to eat other things. But I'd rather make the decision to eat an amazing pastry from the french bakery down the street on a delightful walk on a fall day with Chris, than mindlessly eat half a box of Cheez-Its because I'm procrastinating making dinner. Or to have one of the klejner that we make each Christmas as our family tradition rather than beating myself up about it, when it's something that is so special to me. 

If there is one thing I'm taking from this experience, it's that it's a work in progress. Change happens over time. 

I still have more reflecting to do. Stay tuned for more Whole30 thoughts. 

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