I Tried The “No Effort” Diet

And I might be done with makeup?

07.20.16
OutfitDiet Man Repeller Feature

Leandra is on the no-makeup train, too, but Amelia is still obsessed with fake eyelashes

Sometimes preparing my meat prison for public consumption feels delightful and satisfying but other times it feels like filing paperwork in the dark with scissors for hands. In fact, I’d most often characterize my mornings by a mess of sluggish indecision and dispassionate effort. Long skin regimen. Boring makeup routine. Outfit pandemonium. Shoe and Sock Debate 2016. Existential crisis. Bag exchange. Key search. Outfit questioning. Hair confusion.

It’s quite the conundrum because, on the one scissorhand, I appreciate how makeup and clothing make me feel but, on the other scissorhand, maybe they could die in a fire and I’d be happier, you know? Maybe starting my every day off with a maze of decisions centered around my appearance exerts valuable energy and sets the wrong tone for my day.

The research says it’s possible. Psychologists call it “decision fatigue.” According to Roy F. Baumeister in his book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, “Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs, or illicit sex.” That is to say: our stores are limited and therefore we ought to use them wisely. It’s why Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012 that he only wears one of two suits: black or blue. Any more options and he’d be wasting a precious resource.

Would skipping my litany of early morning micro-decisions give me more energy for other stuff? Or, tangentially, might the saved energy quell latent anxieties and further enable me to let loose and relax? Be more at peace with my appearance and life in general? I wasn’t sure, so I put myself on a “No Effort” diet.

The rules were simple: I was to put no time or effort into my physical appearance for one week of work. I had to wear the same no-frills outfit every day and leave my face and hair as it was when I woke up. The week was a short one — we’d just celebrated the 4th of July — but if any part of me was worried four days wasn’t enough, it spontaneously combusted around Day Three.

The first day, I felt pretty excited about my little uniform. It consisted of a pair of Levi’s, an old white t-shirt and some flat black sandals. It was so very much lacking in frills that just looking at the photos makes my eyelids heavy. Con: boring. Pro: napable. I put it on with pride, like a kid on the first day of school. I washed my face because THAT SHIT IS CLINICAL, but that was it. Not putting on any makeup felt like skipping my chores. I was ready in five minutes and did my commute extra early feeling like an overachiever.

Day Two realizations were as follows: I already know what I’m going to wear again?! This is heaven. Why do I even wear makeup? What a waste of time! Nothing in my life is remotely affected by whether or not I put it on. Having a quick and painless morning routine is the stuff of enlightenment. I’m doing this forever!

I was at the self-righteous peak of the diet rollercoaster. You know the one.

And then Day Three felt a little different. I’d stayed up late to wash my uniform only to discover the dryer in our building didn’t work. Which is worse: being sad or pulling on damp jeans? Trick question! They’re the same thing. But if I was feeling a little bored and disenchanted by my outfit, I was still riding high on skipping makeup. I don’t have a particularly long routine, but not even opening the drawer felt like cheating or something. I started getting used to my bare face and wondered why I felt the need to cover it (even my acne!).

Day Four was when my unaware coworkers began to delicately ask me if I was doing a story. I assured them I was, but in hindsight I wish I’d said: “What do you mean?????” Lost shaming opportunity aside, I was firmly planted in the “over it” camp with regards to my uniform. I was bored. Listless. Much to my surprise and despite earlier suspicions, I am not always in a jeans and t-shirt mood.

By the end of the week, I was both ready to light my outfit on fire and ready to embrace a much looser beauty routine. I realized getting dressed, as long as I’m doing it from a place of self-expression rather than conformity, does not feel like a chore for me in the same way that makeup does. And, actually, the prospect of continuing to accept my face as-is (the diet) and getting to wear what I feel (not the diet) rang of freedom.

The “No Effort” diet came at a perfect time — one where I’m renegotiating my relationship with my appearance. One where I’m being hyper-vigilant about from where I draw my sense of self and worth and identity. Freeing myself from a set of arbitrary rules about how I needed to prepare myself for others helped me see them for what they were: arbitrary.

Sure, I’d introduced a different set of rules by way of this diet, but changing them up enabled me to better understand my relationship with them. Which is that putting on makeup doesn’t particularly make me feel like myself and changing my clothes does! At least for now. But those should never be treated as rules or truths for anyone else, because this diet taught me that no part of self-care is fun unless it feels voluntary and uninformed by what we think others need from us.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; collage by Lily Ross.

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  • Leandra Medine

    I must say, following her week of not wearing anything but jeans and a tee, she busted out the LEWKS — i’m talking sequins, leopard print…APRONS AS HEAD PIECES
    there is definitely some value in under stimulating yourself for a period for the purpose of coming back at it with fresh eyes and perspective. kind of like vacation as an antidote for burn out?

    • Aydan

      Yes! This is so interesting because this week I fell into a similar diet, instead it was black shift dresses (short sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, no sleeves) and either a jean jacket or a sweater. I did that for four days and now today I’m wearing a loud blue printed dress with silver shoes. Interesting how that works!!!

    • Haley Nahman

      Oooh like a meditation!

    • Nothing like a little fashion detox to reset your system and inspire you to try new things!

    • At my job I have to do semi-physical work and it’s really casual so I’m pretty much always in jeans and a t-shirt. When I go out on weekends I always get as glammed up as I can because I feel like I have to overcompensate for my casual work looks.

      • Ditto. I have to wear pants, tee, and sweater to work every day (and not fun things, I work in a wood shop) so on the weekends I go HAM. Except I can never get myself to put on makeup. It’s a whole other world to me & I like my face the way it is.

        • Haha I’m sort of the same way. If I have an hour to spare I’ll attempt winged eyeliner, otherwise I just wear lipstick.

      • Natty

        Yes!! If you have a M-F “uniform” for work (mine happens to be of the corporate variety) you’ll literally LIVE to get dressed up on the weekend. Last Saturday I found myself in full glam to go pick up the dry cleaning and buy cat litter. Not sorry about it.

  • Anne Dyer

    I love your writing style, it’s like a little vacation for the brain. And wet jeans feel like a drunk homeless man trying to hug your leg.

    • Haley Nahman

      L
      o
      l

  • Senka

    Just when one thinks you guys can’t get any better, you add Haley to your team and prove me wrong.

    • Haley Nahman

      *agressive cry emoji*

  • joanjet

    Great article but also WHAT ARE THOSE JEANS I NEED THEM IN MY LIFE

    • Haley Nahman

      Levi’s 512!!!

      • Morgan Elias

        From where?? ?

        • Haley Nahman

          I got them from a seller on Asos Marketplace — they were a fluke! D: But there are lot of good Levi’s on there you should poke around!

  • Alyssa G

    This is such an awesome idea – off what Leandra just said, I definitely think not making appearance-related decisions for a week allows you to be better off in the decision making process afterwards. I’m thinking of trying this on vacation this summer – it makes photographic documentation hilarious, because it looks like you did everything on one day!

    xx Alyssa
    VISIONS OF NYC // @alyszsa

    • Haley Nahman

      omg i know. did you like how day 4 was me = trash <3

      • Alyssa G

        Loved it ?

  • Kari

    Loved this!

  • dk

    Haley, I am so glad you’re part of the MR-Team. I enjoy your pieces immensely.
    On topic. Every now and again, I reread this article (http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a10441/why-i-wear-the-same-thing-to-work-everday/) that I have saved on my Pinterest. And every time I read it, I’m willing to through out all my clothes and start fresh with a white t-shirt and a leopard loafer (I will never through out my leo loafers). But as I am surely not the girl to wear a white shirt and a black pant 5 days out of the week, I used the article to construct a working wardrobe in manner, where I do not have to think about what goes with what. It does wonders for me as I also work in a very conservative environment (lawyer in Germany ain’t glamorous; a ruffles shirt is considered extravagant).
    So, the no effort diet has its perks. But I can only start to imagine how constructing it is for someone working in a creative space. I would never limit my off-duty wardrobe.

    • dk

      lol.. it think it’s time for me to create an account.. Oh, the mistakes I’ve made. “Throw” and not “through” (how did this brain f##t happen?) and “confining” not “constructing”. Sorry girls, foreign languages are hard.

    • I used to have a lot of anxiety about clothing (especially at work) and this article was an important read for me too. I haven’t gone as far as to create a uniform (kind of in the winter – I rotate sweaters and jeans) but I consciously tell myself to stop overthinking things. American public school instilled shame about wearing the same clothes in a row, but I no longer care about throwing on the same cardigan three days in one week

  • snakehissken

    I went through exactly this same thing! Last winter, I was so overwhelmed just before finals that I wore the same thing daily for almost three weeks. By the end, I was surprised at how crabby and depressed I was. I’m a science student and I NEED that creative outlet, you know?

  • Love this. Good reminder, and had a chuckle at your morning routine 🙂

  • Amy Mills

    remember that story that was circulating a year or two ago about that girl who chose to wear the same thing to work every single day? That ultra-cool Swede who worked in a creative agency in NYC?

    That story really resonated with me, as it was putting her creative focus on her job (with a relief for the weekends, obviously). I think it’s super attractive when personalities-visions speak louder on a person than the clothes they’re wearing. Plus I just find the idea of a really, really strict uniform so baller (esp one that includes a shoestring black tie around the collar…I mean)

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5fa1ddafed535a18997b2cf4b25085fe0303d2bb81602e06166dd16ff5b1d8f4.jpg

  • If there is anything I tried last year it was having uniforms, which mainly consisted of some kind of dark bottom (trousers, skirts, culottes) and a white or light grey top. I’d find myself bursting for some variety at least during the weekend or throughout other things like jewellery and make-up… Pretty sure if you’re a creative person who works in a creative environment, an uniform just gets freakin’ a-boring!

  • BK

    I had a similar experience when I was working on my thesis from home last year – for a fortnight the only people who saw me were my parents and the cat so I was happy enough to look like I’d fallen out of a tree, but then when I went to the city for a quick meeting with my supervisor it would take me an hour just to choose what brogues to wear.

    • HAHA same, although I would recommend investing in some nicer things for home-wear (or just buying comfy clothing that you can wear at home) and just wearing them on the street as well! Might not work everywhere, but I live in Berlin and street style is so casual!

  • Hannah

    You are my morning routine spirit animal. My shoe and sock debate stems from my lack of matching pairs of socks and my hair confusion is a constant theme in my life. BUT embracing the ‘give-no-fuqs’ attitude about at least ONE of those morning conundrums has really helped me. baby steps 🙂

  • Rory

    First off, I love the idea of wearing the same thing for multiple days! This was a nice article to read after a pretty stressful day.
    Also I have a quick (and maybe weird) question: is there anything you did differently when you styled you jeans on day two? I just noticed that they look slimmer (that could just be my imagination though). I recently bought a pair of loose fitting jeans and I love them but the ankles are HUGE!
    Anyways, I look forward to seeing more of you around!

  • Jen

    LOLs from the get go when you dropped ‘meat prison’ in the first line.

  • Natasha

    Loved this Haley!

    I interviewed three women who did this for the magazine I’m at. We gave them the same outfit to wear for a month – one had this lovely navy dress, another had a black skirt and white top I think, and the last had black trousers and a pink floaty top.

    A month seemed like ages to me and the one in pink was sick to death of her outfit by the end. Plus she was pissed because no one she worked with noticed that she was wearing the same thing! But the other two said that they loved it; they ended up trying out different accessories to change it up every day, which is less time consuming than having to do all your clothes.

    It seems like it’s a timing thing – sometimes you just need a break from that frantic thought process every morning, but still with the chance to have some fun.

  • Interesting. I find at the moment I’m experimenting in reverse. I feel like I’m coming out of a long period of being really resistant to taking effort in my appearance, after feeling that I’d placed too much emphasis and importance on it in light of other things.

    So at the moment I’m in this weird renaissance of !buying clothes that look nice on me! and !wearing make-up! and !feeling good about my reflection! etc. It feels like a relief enjoying how I look, because it undoubtedly impacts on how you feel. Sometimes I catch myself shaming myself for making any kind of effort with how I look, because I used to think that things like paying attention to your health, beauty
    and fashion were vacuous pursuits. Now I can recognise how damaging that thought process can be too.

    What I’ve learnt is that it’s important to recognise both sides of the coin, which is really refreshing when you’ve been neglecting that fine balance – taking care of how you look because you WANT to, not because you feel obligated, as well as not investing too heavily in your appearance in order to appreciate yourself outside of your externalities.

    My current theory is that it’s this constant tension between these ideas that is the sweet spot to be in.

    • Rachel

      very well said!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this, and THIIIIIIS is the problem I have with capsule wardrobes! In my brain I wish I could hit Peak Wardrobe and stay there forever and never get bored with a tiny number of pieces. However, it never works that way. I’d say the best No Effort Diet I consistently go through is having my period: I don’t give a fuck about compensating for how shit I feel with looking great for that entire week and it’s like a reset button on my entire appearance.

    For a whole work week I only wear black bottoms and a pair of dark jeans (like 3-4 pieces out of my wardrobe) and soft, loose tops to hide dat bloat and aid in comfort. I’m also not gonna wear intense shoes and opt for flats or sneakers. I don’t wear makeup because my skin usually has a freakout and zits pop up everywhere on my face. I spend extra time at night washing and exfoliating more than normal, which is probably taking the amount of care I actually should on my face. I actually never give a fuck about styling my hair so it’s just doing its usual thing. When that week fiiiinally finishes, I feel ready to rejoin the world a new woman.

  • I think fashion is indeed needed for self expression, as is make-up for some people. But no make-up seems to me a whole lot easier than basic clothes, because I would just get bored of myself…
    Alos; I loved this piece; great writing!!

  • Jessica

    I make a point to pick out my clothes the night before work and don’t allow myself to second guess it come morning. The bonus of this method is that in the evening, you are already tired from the day, and therefore not willing to waste anymore time on this chore than necessary. This helps avoids spending too much time on thinking about my clothes. And then I have more time in the morning for sleeping in.

  • midol

    Happy medium? When I was working in an office (not too casual not too smart) – I settled on a uniform of black trousers (any incarnation really) and button down shirt. ‘Cause it’s a me outfit (hello minimalist) and it was safe and appropriate. I could make it stylish (all black) or preppy or whatever. I could mess with the shoes, but again played it non-distracting. But I never had to think about it, and when something unexpected cropped up, I was ready. I accepted it as a uniform, but one I was in control of.

  • jessica marie

    Oddly enough, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I could easily wear the same black tank top and jeans for the rest of my life, but take away my ridiculously colorful eye shadow pallets and liquid eye liners and I’d lose the fun part of getting ready in the mornings.

  • Megan Rowe

    A MASTERFUL opening sentence.