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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On Prepping Meals and Planning Life

Three days meal prep - turkey burgers and marinated sea bass

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I’m a little overwhelmed by how fast time seems to move. You put something off for a day and all of a sudden two weeks have gone by and you still haven’t completed that task. You get a job ‘just for now’ until you’ve got time to discover what it is you want to do and then it’s a year later and you’re no step closer to either having the time (because, job) or the money (it’s incredible how fast you get used to spending it once you have it), or the ideas for what to do in order to ‘find yourself’. What does ‘find yourself’ even mean anyway? I know exactly where I am – not exactly where I want to be right now, but living relatively comfortably in central-ish London.

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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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Cheesy Low-Cal Aubergine and Mince Bake

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m experimenting with setting SMART goals over February – goals that must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Given that my weight hasn’t really changed since gaining half a stone last February, I decided that my first SMART goal will be to lose some. I’ve tried several times over the last year, but my goal has always been “lose some weight”, and as a result I’ve not really had a plan to work on or stick to. I also don’t know how to evaluate that goal – I mean, if I lose a pound over a month, that’s SOME weight.

So in my other blog post I decided that I would try to lose 4 lbs over the course of February. That goal has changed slightly, but only a little. I signed up for a new Dietbet – because I haven’t learnt my lesson yet, so my goal for that is to lose 4% of my bodyweight over the course of February. Given that my starting weight was recorded at 161 lbs, that means I’ll need to lose 6.44 lbs. So to break down my SMART February goal,

Specific – Lose between 4 and 6.44 lbs

Measurable – I am currently 161 lbs, so if I am between 154.56 and 157 at the end of February, I will have attained my goal.

Attainable – I will need to lose between 1 and 1.5 lbs per week, so I will need to burn 5250 calories more than I consume. Watch what I eat and do some exercise and that should be reachable!

Realistic – I’m not going to be able to lose more than 1.5 lbs per week. It wouldn’t be healthy either.

Timely – I’ve got four weeks to complete this goal.

The last time I achieved something like this was nearly three years ago. I’m going to have to be much stricter on myself with regards to sticking to food and exercise plans if I want to see some results this month.

Speaking of food plans, I decided the best way to start February would be with pre-cooked meals so that I’m not tempted to call for a takeaway for at least the first week. My go-to takeaway is usually Italian, because sometimes I’m just craving the comfort of a large bowl of pasta. Whilst I don’t normally care too much about the numbers, I knew that I’d need something comforting, filling, delicious, but still lower calories than a 800+ bowl of pasta. I eventually came up with:

Aubergine and Mince Bake, aka Pasta-free Lasagne, or Moussaka-ish

(Serves 6)
Per portion: 322 calories | 16g carbs | 18g fat | 25g protein | 3g fibre

Aubergine and Mince Bake

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“Losing weight would be easy if it wasn’t so tasty”

Today I had the delightful opportunity to watch myself giving a presentation and then be critiqued by ten other people. Twice.

My ability to give a presentation aside (I improved vastly in the second – got rid of any nervous gestures with notes, was more open and expressive, etc..) – the camera doesn’t lie. “Where has Anna been for the last two weeks?” you might ask, also wondering about the non sequitur there. Well, quite frankly, I was busy gaining that double chin that I thought I’d got rid of but took pride of place in the video clip.

I exaggerate, obviously. I was paying far more attention to everything else about my presentation for the most part, since I’m spending two days learning how to improve my presentation skills. However I couldn’t ignore the chin, no matter how hard I tried. It seemed to appear every single time I opened my mouth.

There is no doubt as to the reasons for the appearance of a second chin. Over the last three weeks, I have gained weight. Whether that is actual weight or water weight remains to be seen, as I’ve not stepped on the scales in about a month. What was I doing in order to gain all this weight? Well, having a good time I suppose!

First of all came the winter holidays, the time that almost everyone I know puts on a few pounds. You can’t help it – there are days dedicated to eating a huge amount of food. In our family we don’t just have a huge Christmas dinner and then eat leftovers for a few days. First there’s a Christmas Eve buffet at my aunt’s house, in which my immediate family is notorious for turning up, being the first at the buffet and then leaving pretty soon after we’ve stopped eating. Christmas follows with a big fancy breakfast (usually smoked salmon and scrambled eggs), followed a couple of hours later by an enormous Christmas dinner and pudding (often more than one), then bits and bobs for dinner. That’s not including any chocolates that might have been opened during the afternoon.

Christmas is followed by Boxing Day, in which my family tend to have an EVEN BIGGER dinner. This is because Boxing Day is usually the day that our cousins visit. The dinner is very similar to Christmas dinner, but rather than just having one roast meat there is also the leftover meat from the day before added. More desserts, snacks and chocolates throughout the afternoon, and then a fairly large supper that evening whilst entertaining guests.

For the rest of the week that I spent with the family, I got into the awful habit of eating tonnes of chocolate just because it was there. This is the precise reason why I don’t keep it in my house. If I have it, I’ll eat it, even if I’m not hungry.

Then on the 2nd January I flew out to Toronto to visit one of my friends. In an extremely bizarre stroke of luck, when it came to buying my tickets economy seats were three times more expensive than business class for the flights I wanted, so I flew in relative luxury for the first time in my life! The first thing I got extremely excited about was the free food available in the airport lounge.

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As you can see from the picture, I started my holiday healthy with every intention to continue. After all the food I’d eaten over Christmas (and chocolate particularly) I was craving fruit and feeling fresh! However my enthusiasm for healthy eating quickly descended into a whirlwind romance with everything bad for me but delicious (see previous video).

It started on the plane. Three course meal to start – nothing unhealthy. Cheesy salad for starters, mushroom pasta for the main and a decadent chocolate and toffee pudding for dessert, followed by sandwiches and scones later on in the flight.

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Poutine topped with pierogis, sour cream and bacon quickly followed upon landing, as I was informed I couldn’t start a trip to Canada without trying their famous dish. What followed was a week of eating many, many delicious carbs. I had several pizzas, many dishes of pasta (usually with pesto), poutine twice more (once drizzled with truffle oil), quesadillas, shawarma, more fries, desserts, muffins, and I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something out of that list.

On top of all that heavy food, we managed to watch nearly two entire seasons of Supernatural in a week. Rest assured, we definitely did get out and see the city, and I very much enjoyed visiting the ROM and the AGO. But when it’s -30C or snowing very heavily sometimes you’re just going to sit inside and watch TV.

So over the last three weeks I’ve eaten a lot more than usual, and foods that I wouldn’t normally consume in such large quantities. I also drank less water, definitely consumed more salt and did a lot less exercise. Is it any wonder I’ve gained weight? I think not.

But I’m back now and more in control of what I’m eating and how active I can be. I decided that rather than keep my goals vague – “I want to lose the weight I’ve gained”, I’m going to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. So over the course of February I want to lose at least 4 lbs. It’s a small goal, but it’s a start. It means I need to lose just 1 lb per week. If I pay much more attention to what goes in my mouth and start doing more exercise again, that’s definitely doable. I will weight myself at the start of the month so we know exactly what I’m aiming for.

And since I’ve told you that I’m going to do it, I will be keeping myself accountable, and I hope you will too! Ask me about it, remind me, make me feel awful if I don’t at least work towards it! Check in with me throughout February to see how I’m getting on.

Now onwards to plan!

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