Resolutions

Several years ago I resolved on New Year’s Day that I would no longer make any New Year’s Resolutions, and for the most part I’ve kept to that. Rather, over the last few years, I’ve been starting any resolutions from that day, or the next Monday, or the next first day of the month, depending on what sort of resolution it was. The trouble with NY resolutions is that it’s all too easy to give up on them very early on.

For example, a few days ago I learnt about the challenge Veganuary, where you go vegan for the month of January (surprise, surprise). I’ve occasionally dabbled in veganism for a week every now and then (usually as a quick way of increasing my vegetable intake and a good way to learn a bunch of new recipes), so the idea appealed to me. It’d probably be a good way to start the new year post-Christmas chocolate binge. However, on the 2nd of January I will be flying out to Canada. Veganuary just isn’t going to work.

“But surely you can be vegan in Canada?” I hear you cry. Well, yes, I could be. But I’m going to stay with a friend who is decidedly not vegan, and I feel it would be rude to make the day I turn vegan coincide with the start of my visit. Aside from that, poutine is also definitely not vegan, and there’s no way I’m not going to try it. It just wouldn’t be right.

My point is that by the time I get around to being able to start Veganuary, it may very well be January the 17th (I’m away with work from the 12th-16th and have already told them I have no specific dietary needs). If this was one of my new year’s resolutions, I think I’d be pretty fed up with myself – nearly the end of January and nothing done yet! I’d feel bad, like I’d failed already so soon into the year, even though my reasons for not being able to be vegan until later in the month are sound.

So I’m not going to make it a new year’s resolution. I’m still not doing NY’s resolutions. What I am doing this year though, is setting goals with the start date being my birthday (which was back on December 11th). I decided I’m going to do the cheesily-named:

“Twenty-three, the year of me.”

Rather than setting a bunch of goals with the start date of my birthday or new year’s day, I’ve decided that there are certain areas of my life I’d like to work on over the course of this next year. There are things I want to have achieved or improved by the time I turn twenty four. Because I have an end-date rather than a start-date as my focus, I always have the ability to get back on track and still potentially make it to where I want to get. So if I decide to try veganism for a month, I still have most of eleven months in which to do it.

Now this doesn’t really work if you just procrastinate everything, which I’ve certainly done in the past. Despite saying several blog posts ago that I was going to start practicing yoga consistently, that hasn’t happened. I have started doing it again every few days in the last couple of weeks, but my plans for at least 5 or 10 minutes every day hasn’t happened. So I will be picking things that I will do “every x days from y”, with y being New Year’s Day in some cases. Whilst I have never completed a full thirty days at anything I’ve tried following a calendar for, setting myself a 10-day or 30-day challenge is a useful tool. Following Blogilates’ monthly calendars has vastly improved my strength over the last couple of months. Even if I don’t stick to it every day, I like being able to tick off the next step and see myself progress that way. If I had to come up with a new fitness routine myself every day or two I’d probably just forget about it.

So I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions, I’m making a full year’s resolutions. I’ve been saying for years now that it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what I want to do – I’m still young. And I am still young, but it hit me the other day that I graduated from university a whole year and a half ago, and I am no further in figuring out what will make me happy than I was back then. I don’t expect to have the perfect life at the end of the year, but I’m going to keep with my resolutions so that I am much closer to knowing what would be a ‘perfect life’ for me. And that means I’ll start some resolutions on January 1st, but I’ll also start some on January 17th, some on February 1st, some on June 28th, and so on…. I will keep re-starting as many times as need-be, because at the end of the day I’m working towards making my life a little better. The only person who will suffer if I fail is me.

What are those resolutions, you may ask?

Keep reading! I’ll be posting my (until this minute going-to-be-kept-completely-private) ‘manifesto for being 23‘ tomorrow. I hope you have a fantastic New Year’s Eve, and that next year brings you all you could possible hope for. I’ll be right there with you.

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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.

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Introductions and Intentions

Hello!

Recently I found myself doing something that I figuratively hate more than anything: boredom eating. I was stuck at the office for the entire day without a single thing to do, and so ended up snacking mid-afternoon and polishing off a whole bag of chocolate-coated brazil nuts. I wasn’t even hungry! I realised that I needed something to kick me back into gear and keep me accountable, so lo and behold, a blog appears!

To be fair, that isn’t the only reason I decided to start this blog. I’ve tried numerous times before to keep one active, and failed, in part due to laziness and in part due to casting my net too widely for topics. If you can write about anything at all, I actually find it a lot harder to decide what to write. My dad had been talking to me recently about starting up a recipe/food blog since my family are getting a little sick of me talking about food so much, and I decided that it would be a great idea to combine the two – a food/recipe blog with a health/fitness blog. After all, they go so well together! Everyone knows that the most important part of fitness is what’s done in the kitchen.

To return to my recent boredom eating, I recognise that polishing off one single bag of chocolate brazil nuts isn’t really cause for concern. Yes, they’re high in calories and fat, but nuts are very good for you and the vast quantity as a one-off is fine. The problem I have is that it wasn’t a one-off. Lately I’ve been bad snacking all of the time – made worse, in part, by the fact that the main location to get drinks/snacks at work is a Starbucks. I’ve been consuming more than my fair share of sugary lattes and caramel waffles etc. recently, and giving into the temptation – I mean, if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I?

But the food problems don’t stop there. The increase in eating sugar and fat during the day has seeped into what I’m craving of an evening. I’ve started wanting to eat more comfort-food dinners, such as pies with mashed potato (which were delicious, but I can’t have all the time), or having poptarts, peanut butter cups, apple pie etc. after dinner where previously I would forgo dessert. Breakfast this morning was selections from the hotel full English, which worked out at around 880 calories. I can’t keep eating like this.

Luckily, in a very weird way, this last week was spent eating terribly at my parents’ house. I was visiting for several days for my great aunt’s funeral, and consumed excessive amounts of cake, pizza, chocolates, biscuits and pasta. By the end of the week, whilst I enjoyed my ‘holiday’ from healthy eating (although as I’ve already stated – what healthy eating?) I was desperate to eat a meal made entirely of vegetables.

Now this is not my parents’ fault. I am perfectly aware that when I visit them I snack too much on unhealthy foods, and I usually see it as fine because I eat well the rest of the time. But I was there last Tuesday evening – Saturday evening rather than just the weekend, and my diet the rest of the time leaves something to be desired.

Clearly I’ve managed to get myself back into a sugar addiction, hence the cravings. I’ve broken this addiction before, so I know I can break it again. I remember how happy I felt once I realised a few months ago that takeaway didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and I need to get back to that state. I’m not saying that I need to be 100% strict and never have nice things, but I need to rework my definition of ‘nice things’, and make sure that 95% of the time I am on track so that I can enjoy the other 5% to the fullest.

Which I fully intend to do at brunch this Saturday.

So how am I going to do this? At the moment, I’m not entirely sure. Stop drinking lattes maybe, go back on the tea. Bring in my own healthy snacks so I’m not tempted by caramel waffles. I should probably get back on the calorie counting bandwagon to keep an eye on what I’m eating (such as realising my breakfast was 880 calories). It’s been a while since I did it religiously so I imagine my estimating has got worse in recent months. I need to re-evaluate what a portion size is, and what keeps me fuller for longer.

But like I said, I’m not entirely sure what the best way to go about changing things is. There might not be a right way. There might just be lots of little things I can do that will add up to greatness, and I intend to keep track of that here. And who knows, maybe something I find will help you too!

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