Revamp 2017

It seems like I only ever start writing here when I’m in the need for a refresh, when something sparks the part inside of me that screams “I need to get this off my chest” and wants someone else to hear it. Unfortunately, as with the event that sparked this entire site in the first place, this one apppeared completely out of the blue.

It’s nothing so dire as a death in the family. Instead, my manager told me that he’s resigning.

Let me start from the beginning.

Over the past year or so I have started to actually like my job. For majority of the past four years, with the exception of a few brief periods, I have simply ‘not minded’ my job, content with having a steady income that can support my lifestyle outside of work.

But this year two things have happened. The first is that as I’ve grown to become more knowledgeable in my field I’ve started to feel more secure in my abilities and more interested in developing in my area. I’ve had a manager for the past few months whom I really respect and look up to. I think his abilities are incredible and I found myself thinking that I would like to be just like him in a few years (although preferably a little less busy and stressed). Finally, after 10 different managers in under four years, here’s one that I’d be quite happy following for my next few projects, something I’ve only really felt like I could say about one or two prior line managers.

The second thing that happened is that work has started taking over more and more of my life. Gone are the days of a not-too-busy 9-5. This last week was more akin to 8-8, not including time travelling to and from Birmingham where I work at the moment (I live in London) which added up to a staggering 17 hours over the last week.

But I haven’t really minded any of this. I like the people I work with, I have a good manager who makes me feel like there’s lots I can do to learn and improve but that I’m also doing a good job and can be trusted with responsibility. I’m ok with work being the main part of my life during the week, and I can focus on everything else at the weekend.

And then my manager resigned. And this entire mindset came crashing down.

As I said, a large part of the reason I’ve been so happy at work is that I like my manager and I like our working relationship. Knowing that this will no longer exist in a few weeks and that I’ll have to get used to something new yet again has made me look at my work/life balance in a completely new light. I like the people I work with, I like the other managers on the project. I would still prefer to have my manager above any of the others.

I’ve realised that I’m as satisfied and happy with my life as I thought I was. I had thought I had a good balance between work and non-work and was quite happy to continue as I was. But my balance is off. I’ve been too work-focused, and now that something’s made work a little less enjoyable, I’m able to see the bigger picture again.

One of my friends has just moved to Vancouver. Another is moving to Toronto in two months. Another has moved a bit further out of London and I don’t see them as often. And I’m still here, not doing an awful lot other than working and not-doing-much at the weekends.

This upsetting the balance I’d found between work and non-work made me realise that if something doesn’t change, I could find myself seriously unhappy very quickly. If I stop liking work, how happy am I with what I’m doing outside of it? My friends are moving away, am I doing anything to replenish my social life? Am I satisfied with the things I’m doing and achieving outside of work? Will they make me feel fulfilled when work becomes just about the income again?

I didn’t really like my answers to these questions, so I’m going to do something about it.

….

The Plan

I’ve wanted to get this going again for some time now; I’ve opened and closed the webpage many times. How it’s been a year since I last even tried to start writing on a regular basis again, I just don’t know.

I’ve got a plan for what I want to talk about. I just keep having difficulty getting started.

Not only do I want to improve a number of different areas of my life, but I’d like to get better at expressing myself, at forming my opinions and being able to hold a conversation. So it is my current goal that this blog cover the following:

  • ‘Leveling up life’: Health/fitness updates, skill learning updates – I want to become more consistent in moving towards a healthier lifestyle, and share my journey to encourage others or at least show people a ‘what not to do’!
  • Book/film reviews/commentary – I need to read more and watch more and spend less time browsing social media. I’ve really enjoyed finding my old blogs and re-discovering what past me thought about various things, and I’d like to be able to do the same in the future.
  • Opinion pieces – I’m very bad at owning opinions or sharing them in a constructive way, for reasons I’ll discuss in the future. I’d like to get better at expressing myself and feel this could be a good way to do so.
  • Anything else I can think of – because why not?

I’m hoping that over the coming year I’ll be able to develop, critically and thoughtfully, and create a space for engagement, questioning and growth both for myself and for any readers. It sounds a bit pretentious, but hey, I’m writing a blog post here. I think a little pretension can be forgiven.

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Rebirth and Renewal

rainbow fountain cow

There’s really no correlation between this picture and this post

Surprise! I’m still alive!

So, that went well.

Despite the fact that several of the last couple of posts published on this blog discuss re-starts and a need for increased consistency in posting, you may have noticed that I’ve failed spectacularly in doing just that. Whilst I did indeed have several very good weeks following on from my last post in regards to improving my diet, exercise, sleep schedule etc… I quickly fell into the same problem that so many people have with the end of the year, when I let December and the Christmas holidays completely derail my progress.

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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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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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