On Progress and Perseverance

February Goal

Well will you look at that!

Back at the start of February I set myself a SMART weight-loss goal – to lose between 4 and 6.44 lbs over the next four weeks. I wanted to give myself a measurable and attainable challenge, as opposed to the attitude I’d had over the last year of needing to do ‘something’ without being specific about what ‘something’ actually was. I do still maintain that my overall goals are “to get fitter” and to lose “a bit of weight”, but if I don’t set myself actual targets then I can easily kid myself that I’m progressing more than I am.

So for the first time in over a year, I set myself a specific target, and I persevered. I signed up for a DietBet challenge – to lose 4% of your body weight in a month. Unlike previous attempts (this was the third try), I didn’t stick to a work-out plan for a week before giving up, I didn’t decide “I’ll lose 5 lbs” without giving myself a deadline or checking in and then realise four months later that nothing happened, and I absolutely made sure not to pretend I was doing more than I was. I didn’t drink two lattes a day and pretend that they didn’t impact me and that those takeaways were rare enough that they made no difference.

I persevered. I have now been tracking my food intake on MFP for 36 days in a row – more than I’ve ever managed before. This hasn’t made me suddenly eat like a rabbit or massively decrease my calorie intake, as you can see from the (absolutely delicious) picture below, I like my brunches. I think this one meal probably came to 1200+ calories.

Never mind an hour later, I didn’t eat again until 6pm, despite tucking into this shortly after 11am.

No, what the tracking has done is not allow myself to trick myself into thinking I’m eating healthier than I am. It’s stopped me eating as many takeaways, because I can’t hide from the number I’m having if it’s there in writing. I can’t have numerous days of higher calories and wonder why I’m not losing any weight. Basically, it’s kept me accountable to myself.

The other extremely useful tool in remaining consistent has been meal prep, and I’m not entirely sure that I would have met my goal without it. I’ve described my meal prep process from the other week in great detail in a previous post, but if you’re short on time here’s a more recent example of what I mean:

It’s becoming particularly apparent this week how vitally important this is going to be in my journey over the next few months.

What? What am I talking about? I’ve met my goal – can’t I now relax?

I’ve decided that no, I can’t. Since I have made progress and have started to make the little things (yoga, increased exercise, fewer takeaways) a bigger part of my life, I want to keep going whilst I’m in the swing of things. So exactly one day after my last DietBet ended, I started this:

Six-month goal

Now before anyone tells me that this is too much too soon, let me point out that this goal is over six months. Six months to lose 15 lbs, works out at 2.5 a month. That’s definitely a healthy rate of weight-loss that I believe is fairly maintainable.

However, this is where meal prep becomes vitally important. For the last two days, I’ve been craving junk food. I just want to go mad and order takeaways, despite knowing that if do they’ll be a disappointment, and one that my bank balance can’t really afford on a regular basis. It’s one thing to pay £10-15+ for a fancy entree in a restaurant. To pay it for something that’s bound to disappoint you is, quite frankly, a bit stupid. Hence why I’m trying to cut it out.

But the cravings have been there. I’m not entirely sure what’s causing it, other than the fact that I’ve been comparatively “good” now for a month and my mind is rebelling. Not that there’s anything “good” or “bad” about health, food and weigh-loss. It’s not a moral issue, it’s just something I’d like to do.

The only things that have been stopping me going for the phone (for an app of course, what is this, the 90s?) is the thought that I’m going for a nice brunch this Saturday, next Saturday and again two or three weeks after that, and the fact that my meals have already been made. I’m not going to waste something I’ve already made and risk having to throw it into the bin. I try to throw away as little food as possible.

I’m hoping these cravings will ease in time. In the meantime I’m going to keep planning and prepping.

I’m also going to continue with the 30 Days of Yoga challenge (now on day 22), the Blogilates’ 30 Day Thigh Slimming Challenge and the March of the POPsters Calendar. As it’s moving into spring, I’m also going to try throwing in a run here and there, and the sun will undoubtedly lure me towards the parks in the area. We’ll have to see how it goes.

The main thing is that I’ve made progress and I’m very proud of myself. I haven’t completed a specific target that I’ve set myself in who-even-knows how long. Not only did I meet my goal this time, but I’ve put systems in place that should allow me to continue in the same vein.

I’m starting to learn how to persevere, and that can only ever be a good thing.

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When the going gets tough, the tough get going

This writing consistently thing is harder than it looks. Where does the time go?

So, it’s 14 days into February, how am I doing with those SMART goals? Well, first of all, thank you for asking! The answer is… actually not too bad.

I definitely made a good start at the beginning of Feb. I was keeping an eye on my food intake and exercising more than usual, doing the Blogilates’ FABruary calendar, Blogilates’ 30 day butt lift challenge (I know, I know), and Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga challenge.

I experimented with things like this:

and this:

And for the most part I’ve been really good about not giving into the usual amount of takeaways or unhealthy snacks! Yesterday I walked right into Hotel Chocolat, stared at the selection I wanted to purchase for myself, and walked right back out. I then passed by the coffee shop that sells not one but two drinks I’ve been dying to try (an orange hot chocolate and a salted caramel latte), and then straight past Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, despite having craved one for weeks. I did give in and buy myself some M&S luxury hot cross buns though, because of reasons.

However, on the 4th February my sister arrived in the evening for a few days’ visit. The morning of the 5th, I woke up with a sore throat and a bit of a sniffle. On the 6th I was exhausted. By the 7th and 8th Feb, I had little-to-no energy, had strained my back from sneezing too much and had got through all the tissues in the house – so had a sore nose too. It’s now the 14th and I still have the cold, it’s just got slightly better.

On the days where I was at my worst, Sat-through-Mon, I just couldn’t face any exercise. I did continue the yoga challenge on Saturday and Sunday, taking it easy because I found it hard to breathe and was feeling a little dizzy, but Monday I was sneezing so often that I couldn’t face it. Tuesday I was just sore all over, and then Wed-Fri found me working in Reigate (so an hour and a half away). Given how early I had to get up on those days and the fact that I was still unwell, there was no way I could exercise in the evening. In fact, once I got back from work on Wednesday I ate dinner and had a 30 minute nap.

Oh, and did I mention that on Sun or Mon I managed to pull/overstretch my hamstring? That’s a thing that happened.

Somehow, despite the last week, I have continued to lose weight. On weight-in this morning, I discovered I was down from 161lbs to 156.8, down 4.2 lbs over Feb! I’m 99% sure that the first 2 or so lbs were water-weight as I lost them in about 3 days, but still this looks like good continue progress. To some extent, I’ve already achieved my Feb start goal – to lose at least 4 lbs. But since half of this was most likely water weight (as prior to initial weigh-in I was usually 159 anyway), I’m not going to count this as a win until I see what I weigh at the end of Feb.

The happiest thing about this is that I seem to have found a sustainable method of losing weight for the moment. I’m not massively restricting my diet – in fact, breakfast last Saturday came to over 1200 calories, the amount that some websites suggest you consume in a day in order to lose weight. But I was out for brunch, and when I’m at Dishoom I can’t help but get the same thing each time – keema per eedu, unlimited house chai, and this time I shared a plate of fire toast with my sister too because I fancied trying the “pineapple-pink-peppercorn jam, and tangy orange marmalade with star anise”. Needless to say, it was delicious, and I shall be going and eating all of that again.

Brunch last Saturday in Dishoom, Covent Garden. Making me hungry just thinking about it

A photo posted by Anna (@anna.bp) on

At first I was despairing about the fact I became ill during this SMART goals weigh-loss challenge. It’s just typical, it’s going to ruin it for me, I’m never going to make it, I should just give up. Blah blah blah, etc. But then I realised life is always going to be like this. I was lucky in that the first week of this challenge was very easy for me, I was feeling fit, I was motivated, and I had a light work schedule. That’s changed, but I can’t give up on something because things get a little harder. Life is always going to get harder. Every week there’ll be something new to challenge me. I can’t give up on my goals because of that. I just need to approach them differently. And when things do get easier again, jump right back into things.

I look forward to seeing what happens over the next two weeks!

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Mission Statement (for being 23)

As written in my Morning Pages, December 11th 2014:

This is the year that I can really throw myself into self-improvement and doing things that I want to do. I can and will lose the extra weight, both mental and physical. I will increase my fitness levels. I will write my blog regularly, and I’ll start off by uploading a post today or tomorrow.

I will become competent for at least a holiday in another language, working towards becoming conversational. I’ll travel more, and really try to live through every moment of my journey. I’ll be a better friend, I’ll socialise more and make new friends. I won’t automatically avoid office drinks or parties. I’ll read more books, and I’ll think about what I’m reading. I’ll take part in the book club with my mother, and encourage my sister to read books I’m able to discuss with her. I’ll watch more films. I’ll work on the tv show with Jamie.

Something will be written that will lead me one step closer to having a creative job. I will work on scripts, on novels, on my blog, on anything that can keep the cogs spinning. I will continue learning to draw, and I will take oil painting lessons. I will take more acting classes, and set a goal to complete by the time I’m 24. In the spring, inspired by those 23 year olds who have come before me and the music of my early teens, I will learn to skateboard. I will get over my concerns about drawing attention to myself in public. I will learn to enjoy myself freely.

I will do more yoga, and I will spend time on self-reflection. I will love and appreciate my family and friends and let them know how much they mean to me. Whilst I still have the job I do, I’ll stop coasting along and put effort into doing it well. I’ll learn more about the industry, and try to steer my career whilst I have it. I will make sure that work does not take over my life. I will try new things, have new experiences. I will make sure to keep a record of what I’ve achieved so that when I look back at the end of the year, I can be proud of all that I’ve done rather than wishing I hadn’t wasted so much of my time.

I am proud of what I did when I was 22. I started an MA and realised it wasn’t for me. That took bravery and courage to drop out and put my health and happiness first. I found a well-paid full-time job so that I could remain in London. I mostly recovered from depression and anxiety. I made new friends, I was a better friend. I picked up the viola again and worked on becoming fitter. I made a good start for myself. Now I need to continue.

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Resolutions

Several years ago I resolved on New Year’s Day that I would no longer make any New Year’s Resolutions, and for the most part I’ve kept to that. Rather, over the last few years, I’ve been starting any resolutions from that day, or the next Monday, or the next first day of the month, depending on what sort of resolution it was. The trouble with NY resolutions is that it’s all too easy to give up on them very early on.

For example, a few days ago I learnt about the challenge Veganuary, where you go vegan for the month of January (surprise, surprise). I’ve occasionally dabbled in veganism for a week every now and then (usually as a quick way of increasing my vegetable intake and a good way to learn a bunch of new recipes), so the idea appealed to me. It’d probably be a good way to start the new year post-Christmas chocolate binge. However, on the 2nd of January I will be flying out to Canada. Veganuary just isn’t going to work.

“But surely you can be vegan in Canada?” I hear you cry. Well, yes, I could be. But I’m going to stay with a friend who is decidedly not vegan, and I feel it would be rude to make the day I turn vegan coincide with the start of my visit. Aside from that, poutine is also definitely not vegan, and there’s no way I’m not going to try it. It just wouldn’t be right.

My point is that by the time I get around to being able to start Veganuary, it may very well be January the 17th (I’m away with work from the 12th-16th and have already told them I have no specific dietary needs). If this was one of my new year’s resolutions, I think I’d be pretty fed up with myself – nearly the end of January and nothing done yet! I’d feel bad, like I’d failed already so soon into the year, even though my reasons for not being able to be vegan until later in the month are sound.

So I’m not going to make it a new year’s resolution. I’m still not doing NY’s resolutions. What I am doing this year though, is setting goals with the start date being my birthday (which was back on December 11th). I decided I’m going to do the cheesily-named:

“Twenty-three, the year of me.”

Rather than setting a bunch of goals with the start date of my birthday or new year’s day, I’ve decided that there are certain areas of my life I’d like to work on over the course of this next year. There are things I want to have achieved or improved by the time I turn twenty four. Because I have an end-date rather than a start-date as my focus, I always have the ability to get back on track and still potentially make it to where I want to get. So if I decide to try veganism for a month, I still have most of eleven months in which to do it.

Now this doesn’t really work if you just procrastinate everything, which I’ve certainly done in the past. Despite saying several blog posts ago that I was going to start practicing yoga consistently, that hasn’t happened. I have started doing it again every few days in the last couple of weeks, but my plans for at least 5 or 10 minutes every day hasn’t happened. So I will be picking things that I will do “every x days from y”, with y being New Year’s Day in some cases. Whilst I have never completed a full thirty days at anything I’ve tried following a calendar for, setting myself a 10-day or 30-day challenge is a useful tool. Following Blogilates’ monthly calendars has vastly improved my strength over the last couple of months. Even if I don’t stick to it every day, I like being able to tick off the next step and see myself progress that way. If I had to come up with a new fitness routine myself every day or two I’d probably just forget about it.

So I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions, I’m making a full year’s resolutions. I’ve been saying for years now that it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what I want to do – I’m still young. And I am still young, but it hit me the other day that I graduated from university a whole year and a half ago, and I am no further in figuring out what will make me happy than I was back then. I don’t expect to have the perfect life at the end of the year, but I’m going to keep with my resolutions so that I am much closer to knowing what would be a ‘perfect life’ for me. And that means I’ll start some resolutions on January 1st, but I’ll also start some on January 17th, some on February 1st, some on June 28th, and so on…. I will keep re-starting as many times as need-be, because at the end of the day I’m working towards making my life a little better. The only person who will suffer if I fail is me.

What are those resolutions, you may ask?

Keep reading! I’ll be posting my (until this minute going-to-be-kept-completely-private) ‘manifesto for being 23‘ tomorrow. I hope you have a fantastic New Year’s Eve, and that next year brings you all you could possible hope for. I’ll be right there with you.

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‘Meditative’ Egg Muffins

Saturday (20th December) had been a day I was both dreading and looking forward to for quite some time. On the one hand, it was my first day of freedom – I finished work for the holidays on Friday and have a whole three weeks off that I need to figure out how to fill. On the other hand, I had a dentist appointment scheduled for 9.30am for two fillings and a thorough clean.

I’ve never had to get fillings before. In fact, every time I’ve visited the dentist in the past I’ve been told that my teeth were great, and it had been a source of great joy to me (not least because I could laud it over the rest of my family that I was the only member fillings-free). However, I’d always had some unsightly marks on two of my molars left over from when I was 14 and had braces. The one time I asked the dentist if they could be cleaned in any way she told me that I was out of luck. I was disappointed, but I got over it. Queue several years later, and I’m told that those unsightly marks aren’t just annoying discolouration, but actual damage to the tooth. Whilst I’d been lucky in that it hadn’t got too bad up until that point (so hadn’t caused me any pain), the location meant that if I didn’t get them filled, I could be looking at a much bigger procedure to ‘fix’ them at a later date.

I was fine about it all until about a week prior to the appointment, at which point I started to panic. A lot. I’m not a huge fan of needles anyway, but my biggest concern was that they wouldn’t work. Whilst I’ve had local anaesthetics in my gums before which have been fine, an operation I had on my big toes as a child was done with the anaesthetic not having worked properly – they kept topping it up but in the end I told them to just go on with it, because getting the injections was absolute agony. Seriously, for several years later, if anyone mentioned a needle my toes would automatically curl up as if they were trying to protect themselves. The night after that particular procedure, I was so traumatized that I couldn’t sleep, and even at age 11 had to crawl into my parents’ bed to try and get some comfort.

So yeah. Not a big needle or local anaesthetic fan.

This was added to the other fact that on one occasion when I was 14 and had an appointment to get my braces tightened, the orthodontist was chatting to his assistant and not paying attention to what he was doing, and chipped a bit of one of  my front teeth. I think it’s noticeable. He didn’t even realise he’d done it. Forgive me if I wasn’t looking forward to someone having a drill in my mouth.

By Friday night I was panicking pretty badly, so I decided to do whatever I could to calm myself down and get ready for the morning. Hence…

‘Meditative’ Egg Muffins!

(Makes 12-14)

IMAG0729 (2)

You will need:

4 sweet mini peppers (red/yellow/orange)
2 or 3 shallots
3 rashes of smoked back bacon
100g grated cheese (mix of cheddar and mozzarella)
8 eggs
sea/rock salt (I use pink Himalayan)
black pepper
pinch of mixed herbs

12-14 cupcake cases

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (~350F)

 I’ve had a thing recently about reading other people’s morning routines, and fantasizing about one of my own. At the moment, when I’m going to work, I get up about 25 minutes before I have to leave the house. I spend five minutes actually getting out of bed, fifteen minutes getting ready to leave, then five minutes grabbing all of my things and leaving the house. There’s no opportunity to have a cup of tea, or breakfast, or meditate, or do yoga, or anything that I might dream about doing first thing in the morning. The simple reason is that I would need to get up earlier – if I even got up fifteen minutes earlier (around 6am) I would be able to add a cup of tea to my day. But it’s hard starting a new routine when you haven’t already tangibly felt the benefits.

I decided that the best thing for me to do over the next three weeks was to have some sort of morning routine. I absolutely can’t get into the habit of going to bed ridiculously late and getting up in the mornings closer to lunchtime than to breakfast. It happens most holidays, but I was able to keep up a schedule the summer before last, so I know that it’s possible! Since on Saturday I would have to leave the house shortly after 9am, if I wanted a leisurely, relaxing morning beforehand I would a) have to get up earlier than I usually would at the weekend, and b) learn a new skill – prepping the night before!

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