I spent the end of December thinking about what I would like to achieve in 2014. For the fourth year, I’m using a system that works really well for me. I split the year into 13 4 week chunks (I have a thing about starting on a Monday) and give each chunk a theme. At the end of the year I review these things and decide what to do for the next year.
Instead of simply listing things I would like to achieve, I choose to cultivate habits that will help me grow, and hopefully make my goals them more achievable. In the past I had taken on too much at once, and attempted to overhaul everything (as I’m sure many can relate). Countless bloggers and self help books will tell you – this kind of speed is hard to maintain, and eventually you will run out of steam.
I got a copy of Leo Babauta’s 52 Changes last year, an e-book which gives you one small habit to do each week. I experimented with a few in November and December and really liked them as a sort of grounding to everything else. For 2014 I went through and put them in the order that fit best with my 4-week themes.
“Chunk” 1 – Food
The first is always food. A product of the mass intake of sugar over the holiday period. Being well nourished is a good foundation for everything else, and my junk food addiction is a source of guilt. Well worth revisiting and seeing what can be changed.
The Four Habits:
- Week 1: Mindful eating
- Week 2: Eat more veggies
- Week 3: Let go of a vice
- Week 4: Eat real food
I’m also tracking the mindful eating with Lift as part of their Quantified Diet experiment.
Mindful eating is the key thing for this “chunk”. Being more aware of what I’m eating and why I’m eating it really helps me get food back in perspective. I want to eat healthier and this is a method I have had a lot of success with in the past.
Here are some things I wrote down at the end of January 2012, but never got round to posting. They may help you with your food goals/mindful eating! It helps me to reread it.
Healthy Eating – Written on 31/01/2012
Abstainers V Moderators
Gretchen Rubin has written a couple of times about the differences between abstainers, and moderators. Part of the problem I had in the past was that I was trying to be a moderator when I know full well I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I’ve never been able to have just one chocolate. It’s not a matter of willpower, I just think that these two different personality types are built in and they are very difficult to change.
It’s Just Food
I think that “it’s just food” is important as well. I was also trying to eat my way happy. Comfort eating, we’ve all been there. Finding different solutions to these patterns of behaviour is really important.
Tracking what you eat
I found in the past that I tend to be a bit lax with putting my meals into something like Calorie Count as I’m too lazy to go through the whole rigmarole. Photographing food is a much simpler way of keeping track and makes you more aware of what you’re eating.
I have a Tumblog I upload to when I’m photo-tracking. It gives me a visual record of my food, which I found helped me really see how much I was eating. It also meant my endeavours were public, and whilst I doubt the internet at large is interested in what I had for dinner, it was still able to be seen.
This visual record kept me accountable and I’ve found it really interesting looking back. It was so quick and easy to take the photograph and upload it, I find it useful to fall back on at times.
I got into the habit a long time ago, of eating my dinner in front of the TV. I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t receive live broadcasts, but I do re-watch old series on DVD. The number of times I’d watched Friends with dinner was getting a bit ridiculous. The habit had to go.
I live in a small flat, but my kitchen is large enough to accommodate a small breakfast table with two chairs. This seldom used table became the only place in my flat that I am allowed to eat. There’s no TV in the kitchen, only a radio/iPod dock.
I’ve found that taking myself into the kitchen and sitting down at the table to eat has really helped alter my perception of food. Focusing on the food, and food alone made me feel like I was taking the time to take care of myself. It slowed me right down, and in the case of dinner, provided a nourishing rest between work and my evening.
Taking the time to sit down and have breakfast there really helps kick start the day and this is perhaps one of my favourite habits.
Eating past full, serving large portions
Eating at the table began to solve the eating past full problem. As I was paying more attention to what I was eating, and slowing down to eat it, I noticed the full feeling a lot quicker and would stop long before I would in the past.
Cutting down portions helped too. I read somewhere a portion is what you could fit in your cupped hands. For meals where it was possible – pasta bakes, risottos etc – I served them all in a bowl rather than on a large plate. The bowl is only just larger than my cupped hands and I never heaped over the top of the bowl.
Astonishingly to me – I was always full by the end of my meal. In the past, when I cooked a pasta bake, it would last me two meals. Now it lasts me four.
Eating when unhappy/bored
The one thing I haven’t given up is tea. I love tea. LOVE. TEA. I do limit myself to two cups a day. If I don’t fancy tea, I love a mug of hot water.
Why am I telling you this? Well. It solved the “eating when unhappy” problem. The need to “feel full” as it were, was fed by a cup of something hot. I know I should wean myself off tea at some point, and that’s where the hot water can fill in. They both give me that warm, full feeling and somehow it always feels like a treat.
I’ve started doing other things – curling up with a blanket and reading is one of my favourite things to do. Generally, I’ve become more inventive with ways of cheering myself up. Surrounding yourself with happy, caring people is a very good idea as well.
Eating when bored has been a little more difficult to solve and it’s truly been a case of mindfulness. Instead of just eating, I’ve had to stop and question why I’m bored. Half the time I’m not actually bored.
In a work context, I may be designing something and get a bit of designer’s block. I’d usually get up and graze. Now I’m forced to confront whatever it is that’s bothering me. It’s helped me become a lot more focused with my work.
At home I just don’t let myself get bored. I made a list at the beginning of the year of things that need to get done and things I want to do (I use Wunderlist). Just little things and if I get to a point where I don’t know what to do, I pick something off of that. I don’t head straight for the kitchen, and things get done. Win, win.
Not going to the supermarket/running out of healthy food/not sticking to meal plans
This was always going to be a bit of a sticky spot, but I’ve actually managed quite well. I’ve made sure I’ve always got oatcakes and almonds to hand (my favourite healthy snacks). I’ve reduced my Tesco orders to once a month, and the three other weeks, there are a few small supermarkets nearby. They usually have enough of a variety of fresh produce to keep me going another week.
Meal plans is something I’ve been doing for years, and is why for the most part my main meal has always been quite healthy. I am a big fan of cooking once and eating it for a few days – but I do like that cooking once to be from scratch!
I do a rough meal plan for the month and get as much as I can from Tesco, so I only need to get the fresh bits in between. A lot of the meals I like to make only require a few fresh bits, so keeping lots of staples in the cupboards has been instrumental to keeping this going.
A good site for healthy, quick meals is Stonesoup. Jules has some really yummy ideas over there that don’t take very long at all.
Getting up in time to make breakfast
This relates a little to the above, because I was becoming a nightmare at breakfast. I love scrambled eggs on toast. I love yoghurt and nuts. Yet some days I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed to give myself enough time to eat either.
I finally caved in the pre-Christmas sales last year and bought a dawn alarm. A little sceptical, I’ve been amazed at how it has helped me wake up in a much gentler way. Getting up is a lot easier. I’d already forged quite a solid habit last year of getting up at 6 every day and it was only after going to New York and having jet lag play with my internal clock a little too much, that habit really started to crack.
With the dawn alarm I’ve been able to resurrect that habit, 95% of the time. This means I always have time for breakfast. If I don’t have breakfast, I’m hungry all day and more inclined to eat junk, so this was again, really important to keep me on track.
This was the toughest one actually. I was enjoying looking after myself and seeing the progress and whilst most people were supportive, I did find a few questions/opinions difficult to deal with.
How do you give yourself a treat?
I do other things. Food isn’t the be all of enjoyment. There are things I’d rather do than eat.
Why can’t you just have one [chocolate]?
I find it a lot less stressful to say a blanket “no” to everything, rather than “yes” to some things. If I just say no, I don’t have to think about it, I don’t have to um and ah over whether I can/should/will have it. I don’t need it to survive, I don’t need the stress of thinking about food.
That’s boring. I’d never want to deny myself of things I enjoy.
I actually feel like I’ve given myself a lot more love and attention now I’ve stopped medicating with food. I’m doing plenty of things I enjoy and don’t feel like I’m denying myself – I DON’T want the chocolate and everything that goes with it, therefore I’m not actually denying myself. The food I do eat is delicious and for the most part healthy.
You don’t need to lose weight
Thank you. This endeavour isn’t about losing weight (although I am enjoying that as a side effect). It’s about getting healthy, and removing an unhealthy relationship with food. If I was smoking you’d want me to stop, so let me try and stop my binge eating in peace. I want to get to where I feel happy and healthy. That’s all that matters.
At the end of the day, everyone’s always going to have an opinion. It’s the old “you wouldn’t jump off a cliff” scenario. I realise people find it difficult because it may force them to face up to some unhealthy habits, but I’m standing firm, and they’re starting to move on from it.
January (2012) has been a very interesting and successful month – I’ve lost 9lbs, started to regain definition in my face and around my collarbone, had flattering comments, found a dress suddenly become too big for me, had buckets more energy and been endlessly surprised by how simple it all was once I actually flipped the switch.
All of the ideas above are tools which have helped me through the first month of my journey to health. There’s tons of stuff to read online about this, at some point you just have to start doing. Start slow, stay accountable and celebrate your victories! – preferably not with a slice of cake 😉