Wednesday Walk: I Broke My Pledge
Buying something new, closing up Christmas, and the gut-brain connection
Welcome to Willoughby Hills!
As is typical every Wednesday, I’m bring you a smattering of topics that I hope will make you a bit more curious about the world around you and give you something to think about later. I call these Wednesday Walks, as it’s the type of conversation we might have walking down a path in the woods. Shall we take a stroll?
Mouse Trapped: #NoNewClothes- Week 39
If you’ve been following along with this newsletter for a while, you probably have heard me talk about the challenge I’ve been undertaking over the last 39 weeks to resist buying any new clothes for an entire year. It was inspired by a newsletter I wrote about Amory Sivertson, who did a similar challenge last year.
While I have avoided new clothes, I have allowed myself two second-hand purchases (a vintage Sears sweater and a used Patagonia flannel). But I ended up breaking down this week and making my first new purchase of the challenge. Sad face emoji.
As I mentioned in last week’s Wednesday Walk, I’m camping with my family at Walt Disney World for much of July. If you’ve ever been to a Disney Park, you know the feeling of perpetually being in a gift shop. Nearly every ride empties into one, Main Street USA looks like two blocks of distinct storefronts but it’s really just one massive souvenir store, and Disney Springs is a mall disguised as an “entertainment district.” There are even Disney Stores in the Orlando airport in case you somehow missed one while on vacation.
Having now traveled to Disney World many times over the years, we have learned to buy as little as possible in the parks and to instead make time to visit the Orlando Premium Outlets where there’s a store known as the Disney Character Warehouse. It’s one of the few places where surplus items from the theme parks are sold. Sometimes the items for sale are still available in the parks, but at a steep discount if purchased at the outlet.
The store can be a bit chaotic and usually features out of season merchandise. When we visited last week, it had lots of Christmas and Halloween items. But they were also offering an additional 30% discount on all clothing purchases.
These days, I’m not one to get suckered into a good deal for its own sake. I’ve described my standard for purchasing used clothing in past posts: the item must be unimpeachably good. That means the right fit, the right color, the right fabric. My standard for a new purchase is even higher.
Well, I found a shirt that I liked. And I went for it.
It features floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade, a classic parade that debuted in 1972 at Disneyland and has since run on both coasts. It happens to be the first parade that I ever saw on my first visit to the Magic Kingdom back in the 90s. I have fond memories of taping the parade on my grandpa’s 8mm camcorder that he let me borrow for that trip and listening to the CD that I purchased of the soundtrack over and over.
I had seen this same shirt selling for $60 last year on Main Street and considered purchasing it at the time because I liked the style and fit so much (this was before the No New Clothes challenge had started). Well, that same shirt happened to be selling at the outlets last week for about $18 after the 30% discount. They only had three of the shirts on the rack and they were all in my size!
I like that it has familiar icons to me, but that it can also be fairly generic to anybody who’s not a Disney person. There’s no giant Mickey Mouse face on it, for example. I would have no problem wearing this outside of a theme park.
I also like how it’s a bit eclectic. Each button is differently colored.
My birthday was also this week, and I supposed that I could’ve used birthday money on the shirt so it counted as a gift. I also could’ve asked my wife to buy it so it didn’t count as me buying it, but both of those options seem against the spirit of this whole endeavor.
As I’ve stated before when purchasing used clothes, the goal of this challenge is to be conscious of my consumption and to be mindful about what I buy. Even if I technically broke the code of this challenge, I feel okay knowing that I didn’t buy something brand new for full price. I bought it after it had moved to an outlet store and was discounted quite heavily. Had the shirt not sold after that, it could have been sent to be donated, shredded, or maybe incinerated, which happens to 10 million tons of clothes per year.
I don't love that the shirt was made in China or that it’s partially polyester (although it feels nice). Still, I felt like a good style, a good price, and the fact that I’ve cut my new clothing consumption to nearly nothing was enough justification for me to buy this, especially since I considered it last year at more than triple the price.
What do you think? Am I a hypocrite for buying a shirt that I like and will wear or would you have done something similar if there was something you liked? Let me know in the comments- I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Last week, NPR published an interesting story by Joanne Silberner about Calliope Holingue, a scientist at Johns Hopkins who used her own experience with mental health and GI issues as a teen to begin researching the connection between our gut microbiome and mental health.
I’ve written about the diet my family follows in the past and even interviewed Dr. Steven Gundry on the podcast in 2022. We have noticed in our own anecdotal experience that there is a strong connection between the foods that we eat and the way that we feel.
This is especially pronounced as we spend time here at Disney World. While we are in our RV and have a kitchen full of our foods at our disposal, it hasn’t been practical to eat every meal at “home.” We’ve been eating about one meal per day out, while cooking the other two in our RV.
Disney does a good job of accommodating food allergies and sensitivities, but our diet goes beyond that and it’s been impossible to fully follow it while in the theme parks. Even eating a mostly compliant diet, I still feel my energy levels and mood changing when I eat park food, and feeling better once I’m back at the RV and can eat a big scoop of sauerkraut or other probiotic rich foods.
Back to Holingue though, she and her team are looking at the connections between the gut microbiome and autism in particular. According to the NPR article:
“There's also been some compelling – if preliminary – research showing the link between specific gut bacteria and serious mental illness. Several studies have shown that fecal transplants rich with bacteria from depressed rats, as well as from depressed humans, can induce depression in recipient rats. In December 2021, a review of 34 human studies showed a similar pattern of bacterial species in the guts of people diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
What's next is to find ways to potentially treat psychiatric conditions through interventions in the gut. Last February, what might be the first case report of fecal transplants in major depression in humans showed that fecal transplants successfully alleviated symptoms in two people. More research is underway.”
The article goes into the details of how she’s helping children with autism, but I also found this section on how Holingue has learned to cope with her mental struggles through diet and vice versa:
“Managing my diet has been big. I'm very mindful of the foods that are more likely to cause a reaction. I've found that probiotics are helpful to me and I take them daily. And I have found it helpful to also work on my mental health. When I'm feeling better mentally and emotionally, my [digestive] health is better.”
The science of gut health is new and evolving, but again, for our family, being mindful of what we eat has been one of the most positive changes we could have made.
At the end of May, I wrote about the quirky New England chain Christmas Tree Shops, which spent two decades under the ownership of Bed Bath & Beyond. At the time, the chain was filing for bankruptcy protection and was planning to close 10 stores nationally as part of a restructuring, including a really funky one on Cape Cod.
Here’s what I said about the bankruptcy back in May:
“It’s unclear if the store closures at Christmas Tree Shops will be a way to tighten up the belt and will help lead them to prosperity, or if this is the first domino in a series to fall.”
We now have the answer, as Christmas Tree Shops has announced that the brand will be liquidating all remaining 73 stores in 20 states.
While I never quite appreciated the content of the store, I did enjoy some of their bolder architectural choices, like the Cape Cod location pictured above that looked like an English cottage or the store on Route 1 in Lynnfield, MA that resembled a New England fishing village.
I can’t say that I was a devoted Christmas Tree Shops shopper, though I do feel sorry for the employees that will be losing their jobs in this liquidation. It’s also yet another big box store to close recently, which will undoubtedly leave vacancies at strip malls. As I’ve written about with Sears Auto Centers being adapted, I hope the big box can adapt to meet our changing shopping and living needs.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below- I love hearing from you!
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Other Wednesday Walks
If you’ve missed past issues of this newsletter, they are available to read here.