Laying bricks

I remember reading once that life – and goal setting – is like laying bricks. Whether you want to build a cottage or a cathedral you have to put down just one brick at a time. There are no short-cuts, it just has to be done. Eventually you’ll build what you’re trying to build.

One of the dangers with this, of course, is that you can both lose sight of the bigger picture for focussing on the small things, and also get overwhelmed with how long the journey seems to be taking; how long you’re going to have to do what you’re doing in order to get there.

Recently I think I’ve been having a problem with the latter issue and have been focussing on the wrong things. I’ve talked about how I let things go around Christmas and fell into bad habits, and I link that often in my mind with the fact that I haven’t really lost any weight since this time last year. So in the last month or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about how can I lose the weight – should I be counting calories, paying more attention to portion size, fitting in a few more workouts etc… I’ve been so focussed on what can I do to lose the weight now that I’ve not really been thinking about it in a long-term sustainable way.

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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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“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.

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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.

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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!

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