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.
I’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.
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.
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.
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 teaand 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.
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:
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.
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.
Forty-five minutes ago (at the time of starting to write this) I decided to go on a walk. I’ve been working from home the last two days and not really left the house. I’ve also been procrastinating a lot, not doing a huge amount of anything productive, and today I had too much caffeine. As a result my heart rate has been far too high and I’ve felt fairly anxious all day.
Over the last few days I’ve not been feeling wonderful. I’ve been talking to various friends and family about how if you’re feeling stagnant you’ve got to do something proactive to change that, you’ve got to seek out new challenges and adventures and search for what you’re passionate about. You’ve got to actively live, rather than just exist.
But for all my pep talks to other people, I’ve been feeling a bit down myself recently. I had a bleugh moment several days ago about my age and the fact that even though I graduated a good year and a half ago now I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything since then that I want to do, or even discover what ‘I want to do’ actually is. I became acutely aware that whilst I’m still relatively young, I’m getting older, and I’m not going to be young forever. If I want to achieve anything, I’ve got to start actually working towards whatever it is that I want to achieve. But then I thought: what’s the point?
The following night, somewhere in between sleep and awake, I had the sudden thought that I needed to tell my aunty Dodo something related to what I’d been thinking about prior to that, or that she’d like to know about it. It took a moment before I remembered that she died a few months ago. And, god, wasn’t that like a punch in the chest.
Earlier today I watched a TED talk on Youtube – Pico Iyer talking about The Art of Stillness – thinking it would be an interesting topic to talk about here. In the talk, which I will link to below so you can listen to it yourself, Iyer talks about how the way to develop more appreciative eyes is by going nowhere and just sitting still. He talks about how you need to take moments to reflect on your experiences and where you’re going, you need to sit still and switch off from everything else going on in your life sometimes in order to find out what moves you most and what makes you happy. Iyer says at one point that if you don’t sort your mind out, all you can give to other people is your exhaustion and your distractedness.
I found a lot of truth in what Iyer was saying. One of my biggest self-image problems over the last few years is the constantly recurring idea that I am a boring person with nothing about me that would interest other people. This isn’t true, but this way of thinking stems – I believe – from the constant procrastination and distraction that I’ve used to ignore that I feel dissatisfied with how my life is going right now. If you’re ignoring what you’re feeling, if all your thoughts are going on distracting yourself, no wonder you feel you have nothing of substance to offer anyone else. Life becomes passive rather than constructive or creative.
So, inspired by the talk, I decided to go on a walk this evening and get some fresh air. I chose my favourite 2.5 mile circular route and put on the Les Miserables soundtrack as it had been good while since I last listened to it. Over the course of the first mile I reflected on several different things that will probably make it to this blog at some point (or, I know will make it to this blog as they tie into a post already drafted), but eventually everything came back to feeling stagnant and impatient.
Impatient because I already know that I feel stagnant and I’m not doing anything with life at the moment that I feel passionate about. I’ve reflected on this many times, and I’ve come up with numerous ideas of how I can change this – see my Mission Statement (for Being 23) for an example. As I said in my last post, each journey starts with a single step and we should focus on that rather than being paralysed by the size of the journey, but sometimes focussing on that one step makes you feel like you’re hardly moving. That it doesn’t matter what you do because it’s not making any difference – whatever ‘it’ is.
I thought about how many people I know who feel like this at the moment, and how many tales I’ve read online of people of a similar age feeling the same thing. ‘Quarter-life crisis’ – is this a new thing? I feel like it must be. Growing up you hear about mid-life crises, about people who realise that their lives are half over and they’re not (or no longer) doing what makes them feel alive. But more and more recently you hear people in their early to mid twenties talking about a similar thing, adrift in uncertainty and dissatisfaction with life.
Part of it, I think, is to do with the way society treats growing up. From our early teens, the favourite question is ‘what are you going to do next?’ – what GCSEs are you going to take? And that’s important because that’ll affect what A-levels you take, which is extremely important because your choice of A-levels will influence what you can do at university and what you can do as a job, and do you have any idea what you want to be when you grow up?
No, I don’t. My dad is in his sixties and he has no idea what he wants to do when he ‘grows up’. And now I’m set free in the world where my path is chosen not by what comes next academically, but by what I want to do. Who knows what that is? We’re constantly told to follow our passions in order to lead a happy life, but I don’t know what those are.I’m young. I haven’t experienced enough of life yet, but I still feel like I should have some of these answers down by now. I mean, if in order to succeed you have to know what you want to do all the way back when picking your A-levels, how on earth am I going to “succeed” this late in the game?
My walk wasn’t really working. Yes I was getting fresh air and it was helping my legs recover from the exercise I did yesterday, but it wasn’t making the antsy feeling go away like I’d hoped it was. All it had succeeded in making me do was acknowledge that I wasn’t happy with where my life is at right now and feel frustrated at how slow change seems to be.
A mile in it started to rain. Big, lashing, freezing drops of rain – or maybe sleet, it did snow this morning. Rain teaming so hard I couldn’t see through my glasses anymore and I was quickly soaked to the bone.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
It’s just typical isn’t it? You’re ambling along pondering about how shit life can be, and in retaliation life rains on your parade. Isn’t it wonderful? For the following remaining mile-and-a-half I felt cold, wet, but unmistakeably alive. I could acknowledge that it is OK to feel sad, that I did feel sad, and at the same time as wanted to burst into laughter. Tomorrow’s another day. Life will go on. Things will change.
As I reached the bottom step of the staircase leading up to my house, looking forward to finally being warm and dry, the rain stopped.