What I Want To Work On Wednesday

What is ‘What I Want To Work On Wednesday?’

A few days ago I was reading through my old blogs (there were at least two before this one) to both gain some inspiration on what to write about and, more importantly, see what my life was like a few years ago. It wasn’t long before starting this one that I last wrote in my previous blog – I started this one in November 2014, and the last post in my previous one was October 2014, although regular posting stopped around August – so I was surprised to discover that for the most part I feel like I’m reading about a completely different person. I was extremely surprised at how much I’ve changed and grown as a person over the past two years. As much as I tend to beat myself up a bit at the moment when I feel like I’m going off the rails (falling into bad food, sleep and exercise habits), ‘off the rails’ for me now is nothing like it was two years ago. I’m much better organised, much more confident, much more on top of my mental health – to name just a few things.

One thing I did do on my last blog which I think would be a good idea to start doing again here is the brilliantly named (and not at all overly wordy) “What I Want To Work On Wednesday”, where I’ll name a couple of small things I want to work on during the week ahead and check in on how the previous week’s tasks are going. This ties into my mention of accountability in my last post. It’s very easy  for me to completely lose track of time and my goals and ambitions if nothing or nobody is checking in on me or making me stop and think about how I’m doing. That’s how – just like this last month – I can suddenly stop and realise that it’s been over three weeks since I last did any consistent exercise, despite feeling like I’d just taken a day or two off.

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Pressure, Perfection, and Watering the Plants

Pressure, Perfection, and Watering the PlantsI’ve been having real difficulty starting this post today. The trouble isn’t deciding what to write about – if anything I have far too much that I want to share and discuss with you and part of the problem is figuring out how to get it into some sort of coherent form.

To start with I thought that now we’ve reached May it would be a good time to do a check-in for this year. Where has the time gone? It seems only yesterday we were discussing New Year’s Resolutions (or lack thereof) and setting intentions for the year ahead. That year is now one third of the way through, so it makes sense to see where we’re on track and where we’ve steered off-course.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

As I’ve stated before, my goal is for this blog to be a reflection or a record of my quest for health and happiness, one that I hope can eventually help you with yours.  Unlike some lifestyle blogs however, I want to remain honest and truthful throughout. I don’t think true inspiration can come from someone who never has a setback. Someone may seem like they’re living an idealised life, when really they’re just making smart decisions on what to show to the public. I’ve seen many fitblrs and blogs that end up that way.

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 Gif credit to schmidtsburg.

 

 

 

 

So in the spirit of being truthful, I must admit I’ve hit a stumble. I felt like I was on a roll last month, and decided to aim for an even bigger goal given that I’d successfully met my smaller one. But like with any journey at some point it gets hard, and at the moment I’m feeling like it’s just two steps forward and one step back. Initially I was going to say one step forward and two steps back, but the benefit of writing this blog is that I can see where I was when I started and that offers me much more perspective than memory alone.

For the last couple of weeks, starting not long after I wrote my last post, I’ve been struggling. Every day for about two weeks I’ve been massively oversleeping to the point where I sometimes feel sleep-drunk when I do manage to get up. I’ve not been eating as well as I could be. Exercise and yoga almost seem like foreign terms. And I don’t know what to do.

I know that the sleeping is the main issue. The only time that I didn’t oversleep was when my mother visited me for the weekend. We got up early and had wonderfully full and productive days which may or may not have included spending 4 hours in a bookshop and coming away with 13 new purchases between us.

Afternoon tea

Did I mention there was afternoon tea, too?

Sleep and I have always been not-quite-on-the-same-side. There have been large portions of my life where I’ve not been able to get enough sleep, and similar size parts where I’ve slept far too much. If I don’t get any sleep, after 36 hours I will start violently shaking, scaring all who are near me (yay for very long flights at stupid o’clock in the morning). If I don’t get enough, I’ll feel a bit like death warmed up the next day. But if I get too much, I will feel down and be completely unproductive for at least the next 24 hours, and it kick-starts a vicious cycle. Get too much sleep > can’t fall asleep at usual time > oversleep the next day.

Really I need to be asleep at some time between 11:30-12, and wake up between 7:30 and 8. Recently I’ve been getting up around 9, occasionally sleeping a little past that (thank goodness for working from home). Today I woke up at 10, which doesn’t sound particularly bad except that weekends are usually the one time I can make myself get up at a reasonable hour.

I just can’t stand it. Oversleeping means I don’t feel like doing anything during the day. I don’t feel like going out for a walk even though I know that will make me feel loads better, I don’t even like to think about exercise, and I want to eat all the comfort food. I just want to crawl back into that warm, sleepy blanket cocoon, even though I know that’s making me feel terrible.

But I do need to gain a little perspective. As I said earlier, it’s two steps forward, one step back – not the reverse. As much as I think I’ve been doing terribly the last couple of weeks, I haven’t really. My eating has been worse than it was last month, that’s for sure, but I’m nowhere near where I was back in November. I have done some yoga once or twice, and I’m making more of an effort to get out the house.

This article on How to Become a Morning Person has a couple of good pieces of advice that I technically know but don’t put into action. I’ve been setting three alarms for the last week in the hope that I will get out of bed with one of them, but I can turn all of them off without even sitting up. I’m going to have to start setting one on the other side of the room, so that I literally have to get out of bed to turn it off. I used to be good at eschewing technology before I went to bed, but recently I’ve found myself still on the laptop getting later and later.

The final piece of advice however, build a morning routine, is something that I long for but have really trouble setting up, and I think it’s linked to why I’ve been oversleeping in the first place.

I would love to have a morning routine. I’ve longed for ages to be the sort of person who can get up early, do some yoga, have time for a shower, cup of tea and breakfast before leaving to go to work. I’ve wanted the chance to do a bit of morning meditation, or writing morning pages, and many other things that I feel might make the day flow a bit more smoothly. But for the past year, I’ve had lots of mornings where I’ve had to leave the house early – either 7:20 to get a desk in the office for just after 8, or 6:45 in order to get the 7:30 train down south.

I can get up and get to work on time, but I always rush. I don’t get up early enough for anything more than getting ready and running out of the house – breakfast can be bought at the station or the office. As a result, whenever I had the chance to NOT get up early – e.g. most Fridays, I’d have a lie-in until around 8 or 8:30, in order to be online working from home by 9.

Recently though I’ve been working from home continually. There’s been no need for me to wake up ridiculously early, and to conserve sleep when I can. But my brain doesn’t seem to have realised that, and that is why I believe I had no problem waking up early when my mother was visiting – and we had brunch plans for first thing in the morning – but have major difficulty waking up during the week, when I don’t have to go anywhere and am working from home. As much as I want to build a morning routine, my brain doesn’t seem to have realised the benefits it would bring – because it’s not how I’ve spent the last year (or, to be honest, my entire life bar a few weeks here and there).

But I’m going to try and turn things around. I’ve been holding onto the bandwagon by a thread, I haven’t fallen off completely. Two weeks seems long enough to suffer and make things more difficult for myself, it’s time to put a bit of effort into climbing back on and making everything else a lot easier. My alarm clock is going to be put on the other side of the room. I’m going to make some early morning plans that I can’t back out of (Monday 8am tennis in the cold anyone?). I’ve got to bully myself into believing that showing up to my own routine is just as important as showing up to work on time.

We’ll see how it goes.

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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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