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.

Continue reading →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

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!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

“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.

IMG_20150102_113612

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.

IMG_20150102_143758 IMAG0759 IMAG0760 IMG_20150102_194215

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!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

The Journey So Far

I realised that whilst I’ve done an ‘Introduction to the Blog’ post, I haven’t really given an introduction to me personally other than what’s in ‘About the Author’. So here is a fairly quick overview of who I am and my health and fitness journey so far.

My name is Anna, I’m 22 years old and I live in London, although I currently work in Havant (just outside of Portsmouth) as a Business Analyst – a trainee technology consultant of sorts. In almost exactly one month’s time this information will be out of date, as my birthday falls on December 11th and I finish this project on December 19th (fingers crossed for a London-based role next time!).

Currently, this is me:

(Well, this was me in August. I look pretty much the same except I now have longer hair)

I’m 5’7″ (171cm) and weigh roughly 160 lbs.

I’ve weighed roughly 160 lbs for the last nine months now, and I would like that to change. Whilst I care more about my fitness and strength levels than I do my weight, I’m definitely aware that I inherited my dad’s family’s propensity for weight gain along with my mother’s appetite. If I’m not careful, I gain very quickly.

The difference between how active I was as a child and how active I was as a teenager is quite impressive. Between the ages of 2 and 10/11 I did several forms of dance, floor gymnastics, and swam quite a lot. I also ran around a lot whilst playing as most children do, and was a fairly hyperactive child. Unfortunately, as I started to grow up, I fell into the trap of not wanting to go to dance and gymnastics anymore because I was missing the television that I wanted to watch. Mum tried to keep me there, but ultimately failed, and so I quit my main form of exercise (we didn’t have P.E. lessons in primary school).

Prior to the start of secondary school I’d had a number of problems with ingrown toenails. This was the result of my dad accidentally standing on my foot a few years previously, or, as he likes to tell it, the result of me placing my foot under his. Around the time I started secondary school, aged 11, I had an operation on both feet in order to prevent me from getting an ingrown nail every again. Whilst it worked, I was unable to do P.E. lessons for some time, or any other form of physical activity, and by the point I could start again I was unfit and I hated exercise.

This hatred of exercise lasted throughout the remainder of my teenage years, except for a short period of three or so months aged 16 when I joined a dance class again. Whilst I really enjoyed the class, I had a lack of self-confidence and a shyness throughout. This meant that when the class re-started after Christmas break, I couldn’t bring myself to phone and find out the right day/time, and so never went back. I had also long since discovered the internet and computer games by this point, and basically spent my non-school waking hours sat in front of a screen.

Continue reading →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Recommitting to Yoga

A couple of days ago DoYouYoga.com published an article on The Cycles of Yoga Practice. The author talked about three recurring stages of yoga practice – the falling in love, the consistency, and the falling out of love.

Recently, I think I’ve been falling out of love with yoga.

I started practicing yoga consistently(ish) almost two years ago in my third year of university. Prior to then I’d dabbled once every few months or so, but for my 21st birthday I received my first ever smart phone, and a whole new world of apps was opened to me. I went on a bit of a “apps that could help me improve my life” binge, and quickly installed an app called Daily Yoga. From there I quickly got into the habit of practicing almost-daily, even if only for 5-10 minutes (which was more often than not).

Despite starting off with only very short sessions, I loved yoga. I was extremely unfit and had virtually no upper body strength, so five minutes including a minute and a half of downward dog was pretty much all I was able to do without my arms giving up. When doing the single run-through of a sun salutation using the app, you do two downward facing dogs. The first is held for thirty seconds, the second for a minute. At first, just fifteen or so seconds into the second DD my arms would be shaking, and I’d collapse soon after.

However, with commitment to practice, I gradually increased the length of time it took for me to collapse, until I was able to hold the second pose for the full minute. And I was then able to do a third, upon moving to the longer sun salutation session. When I did do a longer practice, it could easily last anywhere between forty-five minutes to an hour. These were rarer, but they did happen. I just loved what I was doing and loved feeling myself improve.

But life moves on and circumstances change, and I occasionally found myself not having practised any yoga for several weeks. Boy, could I feel it. I don’t know whether I hadn’t realised how much I was aching on a daily basis prior to yoga, or whether the pain was a new thing, but my body was not happy with me putting a stop to the practice. I was usually fairly quick to get back into practice as soon as I could.

Eight months ago I started my first full-time job, and five months ago I started working in a city two hours away from where I live. Initially I stayed in a hotel during the week, but for the last couple of months I’ve been commuting. This upheaval and change in circumstances pretty much brought my practice to a standstill, and whilst I’ve been trying recently to get back into a routine, I’ve hit a couple of snags.

Because of how infrequently I’ve been practicing yoga over the last year, in some ways I’m back to square one. I don’t maintain the flexibility I used to, and I no longer have the stamina for certain routines and poses. Having not touched the yoga app in about a year, having preferred youtube videos recently , a few days ago I went back to the five minute sun salutation. Roughly fifteen seconds into the second downward facing dog, my arms gave out.

Frustrating isn’t the word. If it weren’t for the fact that I know I love yoga, and it makes me feel better and it is immensely good for me, I’d have been tempted to give up. I certainly wasn’t tempted back on the mat. I felt like I should have been better than this, that I should be on more advanced poses, I mean, I’d been doing it for nearly two years now and…

At some point, I managed to tell my ego to shut the hell up. Yoga isn’t about how advanced the poses you can do are, it’s not about looking flawless whilst practicing, it’s about showing up on the mat. And I don’t do that. It can’t be surprising that I’m practically back to square one when it took weeks of consistently getting on the mat every single day in order to move away from that and see some “results” – whatever that means. Whilst it’s great to notice yourself improve, I also need to keep in mind that  no matter what I’m doing on the mat, the very fact that I’m there makes me feel better mentally, and keeps me healthier physically.

I’d been falling out of love with yoga not because I’d been having any problems with yoga, but because I’d been having problems with myself. I need to stop caring about what I “should” be able to do, and rather than even focus on what I can do, I need to concentrate on what I am doing. With this in mind, I did a 25 minute session yesterday – another from the yoga app. I wobbled a lot. I fell over a few times. I had to keep bringing my mind back to the moment, rather than getting frustrated over myself. But I got through it, my mind settled and I felt miles better at the end of it than I had done in weeks.

The fact that I need to bring consistency into my practice is one of the reasons I decided to make yoga one of the things I regularly talk about here. Keeping you updated on my practice will help to keep me accountable, and hopefully you can take something from my practice –  successes and failures both – that will help or inspire you in yours.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr