Exercise, Mental Wellbeing, Targets

What does a ‘Good’ Day look like?

I’ve talked a lot about coping with anxiety and stress, and what to do with a ‘bad’ day. Following on from my post last week on staying positive, I’d like to continue that theme.

On a good day I feel awesome. I feel like a superhero. I feel like I could be sociable. Happiness and warmth radiates from me all day and I climb into bed at night content and satisfied with how I have spent my day. I look forward to the next day being more of the same. I wish most days were like this.

So what does a good day actually mean? Here’s what mine looks like right now:

Wake up early, fresh after a decent night’s sleep. Have breakfast and whizz through morning chores. Wash and BRUSH THE TEETH (A huge hurdle for me when I’m depressed). Check work emails, make good coffee and get dressed. Do hair and makeup. Although I work from home, I still get in to ‘work mode’ with my appearance on good days.

Have a productive work-day with my good coffee, squeeze in lunch with James when he comes in. Walk dogs after work, do yoga and then enjoy an hour or two of ‘me time’ (writing in my journal, playing Xbox, meditating, whatever) before preparing dinner. Eat with partner, spend a few hours with him and then write for the last part of the day. Double-check my WWs app to make sure I’ve filled everything in. Climb into bed, read for an hour and fall into a content slumber.

I’m easily pleased. I’ve found the things that make me tick. What you see above may look like the motions of an incredibly tedious day. I get that, and it probably is tedious to some. But productivity and covering all bases whilst doing enjoyable things does it for me.

I heard a quote recently along the lines of  ‘you are trading your life for today – so use it wisely.’ The above feels like a ‘wise’ day to me. I spend time making money. I make time for the person I love. I spend time outdoors in amazing scenery with three little animals that love me unconditionally. I exercise my body and my mind. I get to cook, read and create worlds for others to enjoy. And play computer games.

When I was a trainee manager I was taught the importance of learning what motivated people, and being objective with it. I’ve simply applied it to my own life. When we set goals for ourselves, it’s important to understand why we want it and what enjoyment we are going to get out of it, otherwise we might find it tough going to achieve what we desire. The worst part of my routine is getting ready. There’s no enjoyment in it, but I can’t walk about naked all day. (Well, I suppose I could…)

Even in a mental state of darkness, I try and adhere to these motivations because they might just make me feel a teeny-tiny bit better about my day. That’s why I set myself intentions last week to help me through. Here’s how I got on:

  1. Exercise and fresh air every day regardless of weather –I managed this 6 days out of 7, which included one day of freezing fog.
  2. Track food on my WWs app – Not so good here. I managed five days and bailed on a trip to the cinema on Sunday. Must try harder next week.
  3. Brain space – I haven’t ‘yoga’d’ every day, but I have meditated in between times or even taken a bit of quiet time to stare out the office window.
  4. Mid-Week weigh-in – Check! looking positive…
  5. Continue to Blog – Ta-daa….
  6. Take one day at a time –Still tryin’ 🙂

What goals and intentions have you set for yourself? Do you know the motivations behind them?

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Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss

Staying Positive

I’m trying. I really am.

During a ‘good’ depression, I can maintain my weight, but it takes every ounce of willpower and self-motivation (usually to the detriment of something else) to do it. Normally if things are ‘bad’ I’ll gain weight as I comfort eat out of emotional instability and boredom.

I’ve had a tough week. I’m still fighting with the weight I put on over Christmas and stopping smoking. I’m still too heavy to run on my duff knee.I’ve had some very frank conversations with my doctor which haven’t pleased me. My mood has started to tip downhill, and it’s not surprising.  Every year around this time I hit a cycle of depression and I can feel it. I usually occupy myself with a selection of my wretched personal attributes and wallow, hidden away from the world feeling guilty until it passes. I can’t do that this time. I won’t. This year is the year for weight loss. I promised myself. So I’m trying to remain super-positive to the best of my ability while I see out my black spell.

I’m not saying it will work and I’ll continue to lose every week, but it may help with damage limitation and I might have a few weeks where I lose a pound or so. I wanted to share the things that I’m consciously making the effort to do, because somewhere out there, someone else might be struggling too.

  1. Exercise and fresh air every day regardless of weather – Walking my dogs (even for 15  minutes) every day gives me a sense of purpose and helps lift my mood.
  2. Track food on my WWs app – This helps me to curb my emotional eating binges and remain mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth.
  3. Brain space – time to relax and reflect and leave the ‘guilty’ brain behind. Yoga every  day to help settle my mind.
  4. Mid-Week weigh-in – A gentle reminder not to lose focus!
  5. Continue to Blog – I clam up when I’m depressed, and I find it difficult to write. I’m going to do my best to produce a post every week for the next few weeks.
  6. Take one day at a time – Positivity and routine come easier when you don’t look at the bigger picture.

All of the above I’ll document as a tick-box list in my journal – this shows me a visual representation of how I’m doing and it’s something that I find helpful (Especially when I make it pretty with my coloured pencils 🙂 ). Here’s hoping I can get through the coming weeks with some level of success. I just keep telling myself that if I keep trying, keep bringing my mind back to my weight and keep positive, then I’m doing all I can.

 

 

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Stop Smoking, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

That Man

I had a loss at the scales this week, which was important for me. I also had an epiphany. It’s been an interesting week.

Writing my post last week very much finalized the fact that I don’t smoke any more. It’s the first time I’ve ever called myself an ex-smoker, and it sort-of felt like the end of a chapter. Closure? I don’t know. But it’s an end.

I pondered this as I walked my foggy path round the farm one day with the dogs. I’ve conquered something massive that has blighted my entire adult life. It’s quite liberating. It almost makes me feel like I can get on with the rest of my life and achieve the things I want to now that it no longer cripples me. And it did – financially, socially and mentally.

That made me stop and think. Sub-consciously I think smoking has been an excuse not to lose weight. That horrifies me. I did say I felt like a fraud and that I’d never lead a healthy lifestyle because I smoked. (Go on, look back at the last post – I did say it, didn’t I?) How long have I struggled with my weight? Have I been sneakily sabotaging my weight-loss attempts with a sub-conscious negative attitude for years? Uh oh. I have. That thought sent all of my nerve endings prickling and brought the familiar flip-flop stomach that I hate so much. Right there in the middle of my ‘safe’ place among the firs and needle-cushioned paths of the farm, I returned to self-loathing Gem in a flash. Anxiety went from zero to ten in less than a second.

And that’s how quickly my triumph of the last few weeks came tumbling down. I mean, reality check. I am horrendously overweight. I’m back to being ‘fat’. Too fat to run. All my clothes are tight. My underwear doesn’t fit. I’m unattractive. I’m never going to achieve the weight loss I’ve longed for. I’m useless. I can’t do anything right. I’ll never achieve the other goals in my life.

By the time I got home twenty minutes later, I’d mired myself in a self-created pit of pure hatred and spite topped off with negativity. It was time to retreat to one of my other ‘safe’ places – playing computer games. I needed to forget all the thoughts that had just destroyed my confidence.

I’m currently enjoying a zombie-mashing, button-bashing affair (Dead Rising 4 if anyone’s interested) on Xbox. I got playing with this American guy in multiplayer. I knew nothing about this man. Zero. After playing with him for two hours, I knew him well. He was very polite.

I could hear him smoking. He had a wheezy sort of breath which his microphone picked up when he spoke. He told me that smoking calmed him as he suffered with severe anxiety, and that was why he allowed himself to smoke. He coughed in a short, sharp rasp roughly once every six minutes. He told me that if a doctor told him he was dying of cancer, he’d stop, and he could stop no problem. Through other routes of conversation I established this man to be between thirty and thirty-eight. He lives alone. He drinks spirits because beer doesn’t get him drunk, and he can and does drink a lot. This man is overweight. I was this man.

It made me realize how far I’ve come. How much I’ve already achieved. What I no longer am. The habits I’ve dropped and how my life and attitude has changed. And that my earlier internal outburst (I realize that doesn’t entirely make sense) was out of proportion and very, very harsh. There was still a grain of truth, though. A chance that I might stay this way forever, or worse, return to being ‘that man’.

I took action. I have the tools, I know the rules. I no longer need food as a nicotine replacer, I am aware of that now. So, it’s time to boogie. I fired up my Weight Watchers app, and I’ve been tracking ALL my food and exercise properly. A few pounds off and I can run. I feel better already.

This isn’t about failing at weight loss. It’s about picking battles, timing and appreciating the positive steps that have changed your life. No matter how small. It’s those things that keep you positive and turn you, however slowly, into the person you actually want to be.

I’ve come a long way.

 

 

 

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Stop Smoking, Uncategorized

After 18 Years

Being hard on myself is somewhat of a hobby. Anything that I can use against myself, I probably will, and I have a few pet subjects that I’ll keep harking back to when I’m doing a bit too well generally. A fine perpetual example of this would be my weight.

My Dad asked me the other day if I was happy with the person I turned out to be. Surprisingly, I answered yes. I said I was happy with the person I turned out to be on the inside and that I’d consciously worked on that, but I was still working on the outside, which was less complicated and not as important.

If he’d asked me the same question six weeks ago, I’d have said ‘No.’

On the 5th of December, I stopped smoking cold turkey. I’ve smoked in some capacity for nearly 18 years and made numerous attempts to stop with nicotine replacement, classes, cessation programmes, the lot. The longest I’ve lasted is two months, and that was a New Years resolution a few years ago. So why am I mentioning this now and what’s it got to do with internal happiness?

The motivation to stop is usually the glaringly obvious health facts about smoking and the increasing cost of doing so. (A 20-a-day smoker will now spend up to £280 a month.) Stopping for me had very little to do with either.

I’ve not lasted as long as the last time I quit (yet). I don’t need to. I know that I’m done this time – I’m not ‘lasting’, I’m an ex-smoker. I’ve gone from strength to strength over the weeks, and I now know I’m not going back. Ever. I can honestly say hand-on-heart it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It really, really is. I’ve put on weight. Everyone knows that’s the last thing I want right now. There is no way I’m ever putting myself through those first two weeks of withdrawal EVER AGAIN.

Stopping for me was completely about the impact on my mental health. Smoking was one of those subjects that I could keep beating myself up about – I’m intelligent. Intelligent people don’t purposefully give themselves cancer and pay for the privilege. When it comes to running, I’m a fraud. Proper runners don’t smoke. I’ll never lead a ‘proper’ healthy lifestyle because I’m a dirty smoker. I struggle with social anxiety and quite a lot of the time I’m uptight about what people (even complete strangers) think of me face-to-face, and I assume they are searching for flaws and judging me. People seeing me smoking made me anxious. “What must these people walking past think of me?”

Because of this, I stopped smoking in my car over a year ago, when I bought a new vehicle. Six months later, I was no longer smoking in public, unless I was standing outside a pub having been drinking. I was ashamed. The anxiety far outweighed the pleasure of actually smoking in public. I’ve never smoked in my house.

One of the things that all the health groups tout is the ‘Amazing benefits’ and ‘how healthy you’ll feel’ after stopping smoking. I’m telling you now, it’s a load of crap. I don’t feel full of energy, I’m not sleeping better, (I had withdrawal insomnia for the first three weeks on top of my normal insomnia problems) the money I’ve saved has been spent on other things, and my skin still looks like that of a pubescent just before the school dance. Non-smokers morning breath is the most horrendous thing I have ever encountered. As a smoker, you know you wake up with a mouth like a stale ashtray. But that’s okay, because as soon as you’ve got some coffee, it’s going to be a fresh ashtray. As a non-smoker, oh my god… what IS that?

However… I am at peace with myself. I’m no longer killing myself a cigarette at a time. I have one less thing to beat myself up about. I have one less social anxiety to deal with. It made me answer my dad positively. After 18 years, that’s worth more than all the health benefits in the world.

“If you do not like where you are in life, move. You are not a tree.”

This is one of my favourite quotes just now. And I did it. I realised I’m not a tree.

 

 

Weight Loss

Mechanics of Weight Loss Pt. 2

Happy New Year to all my fellow writers, bloggers, readers and healthy folks. I thought it kind of fitting (unlike my trousers- ha!) that this second part has fallen in after the festive period. My intention was to post this much earlier, but work basically destroyed my life in December.

I digress. Part two is all about the bit I’m not so good at controlling – the eating. We’ve already discussed how exercise is a lifelong commitment to stay fit and trim. Monitoring food intake is exactly the same.

Some people are incredibly lucky and subconsciously self-regulate their eating. My partner is one of those annoying people. If he starts to gain weight, he just eats less, but he’s not thinking about it. It just happens for him. I asked him about it once and he had no idea what I was talking about. Needless to say James has never had a weight problem.

For the rest of us mere mortals I cannot stress the importance of food intake. I remember being out on a long run once with some of the chaps from my old running club. We were talking about being piggy eaters, and one response was, “If you run ten miles three times a week you can eat anything you want.”

I laughed so hard I nearly fell over. Apart from the unfathomable logic (to me a ten-miler is fine, but three times a week, every week just to eat and drink??) I pointed out that these gentleman had clearly never seen an Italian eat. I could destroy the calorie deficit of thirty miles in under an hour. Easy. Extremes of anything are not good.

So yes, although exercising helps to burn the calories, keeping track of what you eat is vitally important. It’s easy to over estimate activity and underestimate calorific values, or even the actual items you have consumed. How many times have you ‘forgotten’ about the wee biscuit you had with your tea, or the few chips that were left on the kids plates after dinner?

You know what comes next.

Write. It. Down.

If you do nothing else, write down everything that passes your lips. It has been proven that in going through the physical act of putting pen to paper, it makes us more aware of what we are consuming and in turn we become more mindful before eating something. It can also help to pinpoint ‘danger’ times for mindless eating and shows the pattern to our eating habits – I’m a nightmare between 3 and 6 p.m – meaning you can take steps to avoid mindless overeating.

Just like exercise, make it a habit. Practise it every day until it becomes second nature. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes. It makes you face up to your eating problems and tackle them head-on.

Now that Christmas is over and everything is back to normal, I’m going to take my own good advice and track, track, track. Maybe my trousers will become as fitting as this post?

 

Exercise, Weight Loss

Mechanics of Weight Loss pt.1

I wanted to share my experience. Over my three attempts to lose weight in the last ten years, I’ve lost over 126lbs – a small person. It’s a shame it wasn’t all at once and I gained in between.

The causes of being overweight are complicated, but the mechanics are simple – how much we eat and how active we are. Both of these are affected psychologically, and weight loss is usually more of a mental battle than anything else.

This week I’ve been thinking about activity. By nature I am not a sedentary person – I don’t like lying in bed, I enjoy being outside and have always loved playing games and sporting activities – I’ll try anything once. Laziness doesn’t appeal to me. Unless I’m reading a book. That doesn’t count, of course.

As a young child I played netball (which I didn’t enjoy all that much) and loved to run, which led to athletics as a teenager. At secondary school I played hockey and volleyball, both of which I was pretty good at. As an adult, I still enjoy running and recently have taken more pleasure in the daily chore of dog-walking.

If you are planning on leading a healthier lifestyle and maintaining a sensible weight for ever, you have to accept that exercise needs to be part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth. This fills some with dread. I know many, many people who are adverse to exercise simply because they hated gym class at school and are not ‘sporty’.

I want to dispel this image of exercise being ‘sporty’ pumped-up, greasy men lifting weights and teeny-tiny women clad in lycra spending every spare minute training and drinking kale smoothies. Exercise is for everyone.

The rules are simple:

1)  Do it regularly to build a habit.

2) Always set yourself new goals to help with motivation and improve fitness.

3) If you hate it, stop. Try something else.

That’s it. No ‘sportiness’ required.  Exercise takes many shapes and forms. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to keep yourself fit. Walking, swimming, running, archery, curling, whatever. The key is finding something that you enjoy, nay, love. It also needs to be realistic. But try. EVERYTHING. Age, free time and ability may dictate what you can and can’t do, but one of the joys of exercise is finding something, sticking with it and seeing progress. You see and feel yourself getting fitter. You feel better. You are motivated to push further. Starting off with a low-impact form of exercise often leads on to other things.

I’ve tried lots of stuff, and it helped me realize what I do and don’t like when it comes to exercise. I tend to lean towards hard, more aggressive forms of exercise (which I will contradict later, but never mind.) as it’s more satisfying for me. I feel kind of cheated if I’m not sweating buckets by the end and I don’t get that warrior/superhero feeling. But everyone is different.

I remember trying a body combat class once. I was relatively fit at the time, and bored with running. I thought, ‘I’ve got this, it will be cool.’ – wrong. I felt like a pudgy show pony being paraded round a ring. I’ve never been so uncomfortable and self-conscious in my life, and I didn’t find it physically satisfying. It’s nuts considering I’m happy to run out in public (at any size or weight), but it was just the way it made me feel.

Oddly, despite being more of a run/spin class kind of exerciser, I’ve found something different. A while ago, it was suggested that I take up yoga or pilates to strengthen my ‘bad’ knee and improve my core strength, which helps with running. I laughed a bit, the mental image of suffocating on my own boobs in some contorted position springing to mind. I did give it a go (I’ll try anything once, remember?) and I love it.

I wasn’t sure what sort of benefits I’d see, but it’s been amazing. I did an online beginners’ 30-day challenge – I didn’t ‘yoga’ every day, but slotted it in when I didn’t feel like running or the running conditions were poor, so it’s taken me 10 weeks to get through it. After two weeks, bending to pick things off the floor was noticeably less effort. Now, my knee and calves are not stiff when I get out of bed in the morning, even after a hard run the previous day. I bent over to brush under the shoe rack the other day and realised when I was down there that I was folded in half. Cool!

It has helped my mental health too. It’s hard work, no kidding, but it’s a different kind of hard. When I’m in Savasana (translates as ‘corpse pose’ – everyone’s favourite part!) at the end of a session, the sense of inner calm and peace is awesome. It actually quiets my brain. I didn’t think that was possible.

Even for a 10+ years runner, I’m still trying new and different forms of exercise and finding benefits. If you try, you can say you don’t like it for sure, and hopefully you find something you love, too. Yoga is definitely here to stay.

Healthy Eating, Targets, Weight Loss

Motivation Flotation

Motivation. One of the key ingredients to weight loss. Without it, it’s pretty difficult.

We all know that feeling whether our weight-loss journey has been (or is) long or short – the first few weeks of following a new plan or a ‘fresh start’ after a  period of indulgence. You’re fired up, ready to go, everything is precise, strict and you can visualize that sparkly, figure-hugging little dress on your smaller, tighter, more-toned body. The weight comes off quickly and you think you’ve got it in the bag and you CAN do this. Goal weight will happen. Some people even put a timescale on it. Some people achieve it without too many setbacks, although I’ve found those are a rare breed.

I’ve learned the hard way. What I’ve described above I realize is not motivation, it’s intention. I’m full of good intentions. Motivation is the ability to continuously follow through on those intentions and gather the strength to keep moving towards your goal even when you don’t want to.

My intention this year was to lose the weight I put on when I moved house and a little more, so that by the time Christmas rolled round (Yes. There. I said the C-word.) I would be at least a few pounds lighter than I was the previous year. My Christmas weigh-in last year put me just into a new number (12st 13) and no more. I thought that Christmas was my motivation.

Yet the other day with six weeks to go and weighing 13st 1.5, I stood in my kitchen stuffing handfuls of grated mozzarella into my mouth and washing it down with beer. I had no inclination whatsoever to cook, James was working late and I felt so fed up it was unreal. Beer lead to crisps, which then led to more beer. I knew what I was doing – I’m not stupid, and I’ve lost enough weight in my lifetime to know the difference between good and bad eating habits. My poor eating and mood continued for a few days and I’m now dreading the scales this week. My motivation had truly deserted me. Perhaps it was drowning in all the beer.

What’s wrong with me? I’m so close to that not-so-new number again – why would I not be motivated to eat well and get there? That’s the million-dollar question. I fee like answering that would give me the formula for motivation. I’d bottle it, sell it and be a very rich lady.

And that’s the point. I’m human. I’m not going to be 100% motivated one hundred per cent of the time. So what can I do to buoy it? Everything and anything I can. Draw a line. Change it up. Use support networks. I could do any one of those things.

I decided to use my journal and draw up a pretty page as a tracker, and use coloured pens to fill it in. It’s sitting open at my place on the kitchen table. This might sound like an odd course of action, but it works for me because I hate an incomplete page in my journal. On the opposite page I’ve stuck the photo of me last Christmas at weigh-in.

The other thing this whole episode reminded me to do was not beat myself up over it. So I’ve tried not to, I really have. It took some convincing, but I think I’ve managed. I’ve successfully steered my brain into thinking that every day I make better choices means a better chance at not gaining weight. If that’s what motivation looks like right now, then it’s bobbing at the top of the beer glass.